The first time Poe Dameron meets Ben Organa is the day his father takes him to the colony’s spaceport to see the single most beat up freighter he’s ever seen (and that’s saying something; top-of-the-line ships don’t exactly frequent an Outer Rim colony like Yavin 4). He is six years old.
“Dad, you’re not thinking of buying that hunk of junk?” he asks, tugging on his father’s sleeve. Kes and Shara Bey Dameron run a small shipping company, trading essential goods for the colony; most times his mother runs the flights to and from Yavin 4, while his father manages orders and shipments from their home office. Poe loves his father dearly, but he’d much rather trust his mother on any and all things starship-related.
Kes laughs and tousles his son’s long hair. “Don’t worry Poe—even if I wanted to buy it, it’s most certainly not for sale.” The freighter in question powers down, and a boarding ramp drops down onto the tarmac.
Poe pouts, his earlier concern forgotten. “Really? If I had a ship that ugly, I’d get rid of it straight away.”
“There’s a lot more to her than meets the eye, kid,” a voice calls from the depths of the ship, and a man wearing a blue jacket and a child with short black hair in his arms strolls down the ramp. “This right here is the Millennium Falcon.”
Poe’s eyes grow wide, and he runs up to the stranger; his father shouts, “Poe—!” but he barely hears him. “Really? Really? That’s the Millennium Falcon?” The questions spill forth, and he barely has time for a breath. “The one from all the stories? The Death Star, and the Kessel Run, and Endor, and…”
A heavy hand plopped onto the top of his head gets him to pause for a second and catch his breath. Poe takes the moment to look up at the stranger, and his eyes widen further as realization hits. “And that means, that means you’re Han Solo!” Poe has never been shy a day in his life, but even he’s abashed in the presence of a war hero, the kind even his father and mother talk about with respect heavy in their voices. He drops his eyes to the ground, and scuffs his shoe on the tarmac.
A hearty laugh draws his attention back up. “Easy there kid. But the answer to all those questions is yes.” Han Solo—General Han Solo—winks at him, and goes to greet his father, who shoots Poe a look. Poe winces; his parents may be good-natured and easygoing, but they can give a dressing down like only ex-military can.
Poe barely remembers the child in General Solo’s arms, until they’re back at his house, General Solo and his father are talking in the kitchen, and he’s in the playroom with the quietest kid he’s ever known. He opens his mouth once or twice, only for the words to die on his tongue when he meets the kid’s curious but absolutely piercing stare. Poe coughs, and hems, and haws, and idly shifts his toy X-wing around, all while feeling the burn of the kid’s stare on him, before he makes a decision.
“So… Who talks first? Do you talk first? Do I?” He pauses, then takes a moment to level a stare of his own. “Can you even talk?”
The kid goes from flatly curious to indignant in a heartbeat, puffing up like Poe’s squeaky Ewok toy. “Of course I can! But you’re being rude!”
Poe tilts his head in utter confusion. “Huh? But don’t you want to play?” He holds out his toy X-wing and shakes it at the other boy’s direction.
“Well yeah, but you’re supposed to introduce yourself first! That’s what my mom always says.”
Poe scratches the back of his head in mild embarrassment. Good manners aren’t exactly a priority in a place as roughly settled as Yavin 4 is. He drops his X-wing and sticks his right hand out, just like his father does whenever he meets a new client. “Sorry about that. I’m Poe Dameron.”
For the first time, the kid smiles at him, and he takes Poe’s hand for a short but enthusiastic shake. “I’m Ben Organa.”
Han Solo stops by once a month or so for the next two years. Sometimes Ben isn’t with him; most times he is. Each time they meet, the two boys catch up with Poe’s little faux pas: “So, who talks first?
Poe tells Ben all about the little goings-on in the colony: his days in the local school, the games of Rebel and Imperial with the schoolchildren, his forays into the jungle with his father, the handful of precious flights with his mother in her gloriously fast A-wing. Ben hangs on his every word.
In exchange, Ben tells him all about life on Chandrila, with a general for a father and the Chief of Staff to the Chancellor of the New Republic for a mother. Ben describes the veritable parade of politicians and VIPs that stop by his parents’ apartment, senators and representatives and chief executives. He talks about the breakneck pace of the city, the countless individuals of countless species from countless worlds all making their way. Last of all, he tells Poe about his personal hero, the last and greatest Jedi Knight: his uncle Luke Skywalker.
Poe can’t really comprehend the idea of a planetary city (“What do you mean there aren’t any trees?”), but heroes and Jedi? He understands those perfectly well. Especially Luke Skywalker, the second greatest pilot in the galaxy.
Ben’s baffled when he hears “second greatest.” After all, this is the man who took down the Death Star his first day in a starfighter. Who could possibly surpass him?
Poe sticks his tongue out at his best friend. “My mom, duh.”
The resulting “Nuh uh! Yuh huh!” fight sees Ben push him into the mud, but Poe doesn’t mind. The mud bomb he lobs into Ben’s face more than makes up for it.
The chewing out they receive from their parents (among whom the fiercest of all is surprisingly the tiny Leia Organa) is legendary in scope, but the look they share when they’re all but bodily thrown into the bath has Ben and Poe laughing so hard his stomach hurts.
Everything changes when Poe is eight, and his mom leaves for a routine trading flight. And she doesn’t come back. Poe waits at the spaceport the day she’s supposed to return. Then again the next day. And the day after that. Poe waits until the day the Millennium Falcon touches down, and General Solo comes out in his dress uniform, and Chief of Staff Organa in a solemn black gown, and Ben in a black suit just his size, and Ben gives him the single most stricken look he’s ever seen. Poe walks them all to his house.
Poe has never seen his father cry before, but that changes with eight simple words: There was an accident. Shara didn’t make it.
The funeral is held the next weekend. Practically the whole colony comes; Shara was a pillar of the community, a celebrated war veteran. It rains the way it always does on Yavin 4: torrential. The ceremony is quick: there’s no body to bury, and eulogies can barely be heard above the roar of the downpour.
Kes invites Ben and his family back to their home. Poe hasn’t said a word since talk of a funeral began; he brushes by General Solo and Chief of Staff Organa and Master Skywalker (and isn’t that a thrill, to meet the famed Jedi Master at last? But he can’t even begin to appreciate it), locks himself in his room, and flops on the bed, his face buried in a pillow, like he has every day this past week.
There’s a knock at his door. “Poe?” The voice is small and high, like only a scared child’s could be.
“Go away,” he mutters, though it comes out a little garbled through the pillow.
“You know you can talk to me, right?”
Poe doesn’t bother answering, though he pushes himself up and into a sitting position on his bed.
“So… Who talks first?”
Poe walks to his door, and puts his hand on the doorknob.
“Do you talk first? Do I? Cause I can talk for a pretty long time, you know. My mom says I’m just precocious, but she always gives Dad and my uncle this look, and—”
He opens the door.
He cries for a while, he thinks, and Ben holds him the whole way through. He tells Ben every story he has of his mother, every moment: every lullaby she rocked him to sleep with, every fairy tale and bedtime story, every lecture and exasperated scolding, every precious second she flew with him.
Ben tells him about the Force, about how all things are connected and one through the Force. How death is only an illusion, a simple physical separation. How one day, he’ll be together with his mother again, and how even now, his mother is still part of him. Poe doesn’t really get it, and he thinks Ben doesn’t really get it either, but the idea is comforting at least.
Partway through their heart-to-heart, he hears light footsteps coming up the stairs to his room, only to pause and turn around when a whispered “Later, Leia; Ben has it handled,” makes itself heard through the thin walls of his prefabricated home.
The next morning, there’s a knock on his door, and Ben groggily extricates himself from Poe’s embrace, his shirt damp with the lingering remains of tears and a little bit of drool.
His uncle’s at the door, and he drops to his knees to hug Ben tightly. “You did well, Ben.” Luke smiles. “You acted the part of a true Jedi.” Ben smile back proudly.
He wakes Poe up, and the two go down for breakfast. Poe looks better than he has all week, and he eats like he hasn’t for two. His uncle entertains them both—and Poe is more starstruck than Ben’s ever seen him—and Luke breaks into an uproar of laughter when Ben tells him about the “second-greatest” incident and the subsequent epic mud fight.
Despite the lingering air of tragedy, with his uncle and his best friend in the Damerons’ small kitchen with him, and the shimmering promise that tomorrow will be all right (or closer to it), Ben’s happier than he’s ever been.
His mother’s death energizes Poe like nothing else. Before, Poe was content with the sleepy pace of Yavin 4, the roar of the jungle rains in his bones, the smell of wet earth about him. When he was small, he dreamed of one day taking over his parents’ business. But now Poe wants more. Poe wants to fly like his mother flew, defending the innocent, fighting for something more.
He spends an hour in the school’s flight simulator every day; his evening hours are spent studying everything he needs to know about star charts and hyperspace and astrogation. He wants nothing less than to be a pilot for the New Republic both his parents fought for. Poe Dameron is growing up, and he is twelve years old.
The Organas visits become more infrequent, though instead Ben comes by with Master Skywalker more and more. Poe tells Luke all about his dream, and in return Luke regales both boys with stories of his own time in the Rebellion; he even recounts a few stories about their parents they had never heard before.
Later, at night as the boys prepare to sleep, Ben tells him about his own dream, to become a great Jedi, like his uncle and grandfather before him. He demonstrates his sensitivity to the Force, making Poe’s old toy X wing soar and glide all on its own. And he explains—with a little bit of heated frustration mixed with immense relief—that Master Skywalker is finally taking him on as his full-time apprentice.
Poe isn’t surprised; since the time they met, Ben has all but worshipped his uncle. But it’s the first time both their dreams are laid out in the open like this, and the weight of it all imposes a heady silence on Poe’s room.
“We’re going to make it together. You and me. Ace pilot and Jed Knight. Just like our families before us.”
More time passes. Ben’s visits become more and more infrequent, and Poe sadly finds that he has less and less time to mourn that. Growing up is a busy time, and takes its toll on them and their friendship both.
Poe is fifteen when he graduates with flying colors from Yavin 4’s local school, with the piloting certification and all the recommendations he needs to apply to the New Republic Starfighter Command. Most people would settle for the local New Republic Academy on Akiva, but since he made that promise with Ben three years ago, Poe has been anything but most people.
Poe applies to the Academy at Chandrila, no longer the capital of the New Republic but still an important Core world. And if it has the side benefit of letting him see his best friend for the first time in over a year, well…
His father comes with him, and it’s a good thing, for Poe is gobsmacked from almost the first moment they touch down on the planet’s surface. Kes leads him through the city, calling on favors and old friends to get them fast-tracked at the Academy. And when all’s said and done, and he and his father are signing the documents confirming his place at the Academy, Poe goes from gobsmacked to so elated he’s practically in low orbit.
Then Kes drives them to the richer parts of the cities, among skyscrapers so tall Poe can’t see either their base or their summits, and he’s more than confused. It’s only when they’re led through the swankiest residence he’s ever even dreamed of, let alone seen, and his father’s shaking Han Solo’s hand that he realizes what’s up.
Han winks at him. “Go get him, kid.” But the general’s face darkens and his voice drops to a serious whisper. “He could do with a friend right now.”
Poe stands outside a locked door. He knocks once. “Go away Dad. I don’t want to talk,” a complaint answers from the inside, accompanied by the sound of movement and rustling paper.
Despite himself (or perhaps because of it), Poe cracks a broad grin. “You know, this is kind of familiar.” Dead silence. “So, who talks first? Do you talk—”
The door is wildly swung open, and Poe jumps back in surprise—both from the sudden motion, and the appearance of his best friend. Ben’s shot up like a weed, despite being two years younger; Poe’s build has always been slight like the ideal pilot’s, like his mother, while it’s clear now that Ben will easily inherit his father’s height over his mother’s.
Poe barely gets another word out before he’s pulled into a crushing embrace, Ben’s face in his shoulder. He realizes with a little bit of surprise that Ben’s actually taller than him now, though they both still have some growing to do.
Ben pulls away, and wipes away stray tears. “Yeah, let’s talk.”
“You’re here for the Academy?”
“Yup! Getting a head start on my dream. Need to go to the best school if I wanna be the best pilot in the New Republic, after all.”
“Do you ever wonder if you’re good enough, Poe?”
“Well yeah, who doesn’t? But I don’t let it hold me back. What’s wrong?”
“I’ve been my uncle’s apprentice for three years now, but… It doesn’t feel like I’ll ever be good enough. For him, let alone my grandfather.”
“Your grandfather was Anakin Skywalker, right? Jedi General and hero of the Clone Wars? He died fighting for what he believed in. I know you’re more than brave and strong enough to live up to him.”
“I just… I want to make him proud of me.”
“No worries man! You remember our promise right? We’re going to be just like our parents, our family! I know you’ll make your grandfather proud. I’m sure he’s watching you from the Force and stuff right now.”
“…okay. Okay. You’re right. I’ll make him proud of me. I know I will!”
“That’s the spirit!”
“We’ll always be friends, right?”
“Then… Well, whatever happens…”
“Hey, don’t stress about that sort of thing. Oh, you know what? Whenever you get back from training with your uncle, you should show me all the cool stuff you’ve learned. You’re definitely going places, Ben Organa.”
“…heh. You’re right. Same to you, Poe Dameron.”
When Poe hears of the attack on Master Skywalker’s Jedi Temple, it’s like he’s been punched in the gut. And when he hears there are no survivors, that everyone but Master Skywalker himself was destroyed… It’s like he’s eight years old all over again. Only this time, there’s no Ben, because this time it’s Ben himself that’s dead.
The next day, when Poe can finally drag himself from his room to the nearest bar, he buys two lomin ales and pops them both open. He leaves one on the counter and takes a long swig of the other.
“Looks like you’re with my mom now. You’d better have caught up with her for me, you hear? Told her all about our dreams, our promises. So… Who talks first? Do you talk first? Do I? Because let me tell you, you’re in so much trouble for getting there ahead of me…”
Poe Dameron is the best pilot in the New Republic, and later the best pilot in the Resistance. He fights for the weak, the innocent, the defenseless, fights evil wherever it threatens. And more importantly, he fights for Ben, his best friend taken because he wanted to be a hero.
So when Ben’s mother asks him to join the Resistance, he resigns his commission in Starfighter Command the very same day. And when Ben’s uncle goes missing, Poe is the first to volunteer to find him.
And on Jakku, when confronting the monster that destroyed the Jedi, destroyed his best friend… Well, Poe hopes his best friend can hear from the Force and give him as much strength as he can. The familiar words find their way to his lips.
“So, who talks first?”