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even if we can't find heaven (I'll walk through hell with you)

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            Poe Dameron is nine years older than Finn, and sometimes Finn forgets it.

            It’s surprisingly easy to forget that they're not the same age when Poe is flirting outrageously with everyone in his immediate vicinity and trading filthy jokes with the other pilots, who are, for the most part, much younger than him, and Finn had always assumed that Poe was no more than four years older than him anyway. He had been shocked and more than a little intimidated when he found out the difference was nearly an entire decade. Finn doesn’t have a lot of experience with people who aren’t Stormtroopers or First Order officers, but he still understands that even among free people, Poe is something special.

            There is a kind of generosity to Poe that Finn has never before seen in a person. He cares about the entire Resistance, every single person, from General Organa herself to the newest, greenest recruit. Poe spends every minute of every day charming the pants off everyone in the base just by being his usual kind, dependable self, making sure everyone is taken care of. It’s easy to see why the Resistance regards him as their unofficial poster boy, and it’s not just because he’s so beautiful.

            (And he is so, so beautiful.)

            Finn has heard many stories about Poe Dameron’s bravery, his daring, his strength. Poe Dameron is the ‘Big Deal in the Resistance’ that Finn spent the whole time on Jakku and the Falcon pretending to be. But Poe never calls himself that, and always laughs it off when people extol his bravery; jokes that it’s just recklessness, or that anyone else would have done the same. No one believes him. Poe Dameron is Poe Dameron. He’s special, and every single person in the Resistance cares about Poe as much as he cares about them.

            If you saw Poe around the base, laughing and smiling and making everyone fall unwillingly in love with him, you’d be forgiven for thinking it was all natural, that he really was just like that.

            (Maybe he was, once.)

            But it’s not like the whole persona is an act, because it isn’t. Poe genuinely does care, and he wants to bring everyone home, and he wants everyone to be happy and whole and supported. But he’s not as carefree as he would have people believe. There are cracks, and Finn thinks that perhaps he’s one of only a few people who can see them.

            Poe Dameron is nine years older than Finn. Sometimes Finn doesn’t notice. Sometimes he does.

            Finn wasn’t around when Poe first made it back to D’Qar after escaping from the First Order, but he’s heard the stories. One night when Finn was in the medbay and Poe had fallen asleep on his chair by the bed, Snap Wexley came to check up on them both, and Finn asked how Poe made it back. Wexley told him about the trader who brought him back from Jakku, no questions asked, because he had known Poe’s parents and recognised his last name. About the way Poe barely made it down the ramp of the ship before collapsing, how Snap had to carry him to the medbay because he had gone into shock and had lost so much blood from the injuries he sustained in the crash. Wexley told Finn how Poe's heart stopped while the medics were working on him, how they nearly couldn’t get it to start again.

            Snap Wexley didn’t tell him about the psychological damage Poe sustained on the Finalizer, but Finn knows. Finn spent his first night out of the medbay in Poe’s room, in his bed, because they hadn’t got around to getting another bed for him, and both had been too tired to bother. But it was really nice, to be so close to someone else for the first time in his life. Finn had fallen asleep to the feeling of Poe’s breath ghosting along the nape of his neck, the warmth of him pressed against Finn’s back. Poe was still asleep the next morning when Finn woke up, so he made his way to the mess hall for breakfast alone.

            He sat down next to Snap Wexley, across the table from Jessika Pava, Iolo Arana and Karé Kun. As soon as Finn got settled down, Karé asked him where Poe was. When Finn said he was still asleep, the pilots’ shocked silence spoke volumes.

            “Poe slept through the night?” Jess asked, the tone of her voice a sort of hopeful incredulity.

            When Finn nodded, she’d said, “That’s the first time in weeks.”

            They were all so relieved, and it was then that Finn realised the depth of what had happened to the pilot aboard the Finalizer. The wild fear that had been in Poe’s eyes after Finn had lied about taking him to Kylo Ren suddenly had more significance, and it occurred to him for the first time that the only way the Order could have found out that BB-8 had the map is if Poe told them. He’d been there for hours before they sent in Kylo Ren, and then Ren was out within thirty minutes, with all the information they wanted. Poe hadn’t so much as bent under torture until they sent Ren in to literally Force the information out of him.

            Physical wounds can be disinfected, sewn up, healed relatively easily. But psychological wounds always leave deeper marks, and they take more than stitches and gauze to fix. Finn could see the symptoms now he was looking for them. He knew what they were: even Stormtroopers had adverse reactions to psychological trauma, especially those who didn’t take very well to the training. But instead of being offered support and treatment, anyone afflicted was simply sent to reconditioning. And if the problem persisted, they were…removed from duty. Permanently.

            (But things are different in the Resistance. They don’t have an easy fix for something like that, and they don’t want one. Everyone was horrified at the very idea of reconditioning when he first told them about it, and the more time he spends here, away from the Order, the more he agrees. He doesn’t want anyone to mess with his mind ever again. The idea of someone else’s mind being messed with, especially someone he cares about, is even worse.)

            Wexley had noticed Finn’s dismayed expression that day in the mess hall, and patted him gently on the shoulder, understanding the reason for it. “He’s getting better every day,” he’d said quietly. “Destroying Starkiller helped a lot. You do too.”

            Finn’s eyes had widened. “Me?”

            Snap nodded. “He cares about you.”

            Finn had shaken his head. “Poe cares about everyone.”

            “Yeah, he does.” Wexley agreed. “But it’s different with you. He wouldn’t be here if you hadn’t rescued him. He would be dead. But he isn’t, and he gets to wake up here on the base instead of strapped to a chair at the mercy of the First Order, and that’s because of you. As far as he’s concerned, every day he’s spent free since you got him off that ship is a gift from you.”

            Finn was stunned speechless, and when he looked across the table at Jess and the others, they nodded in agreement. Iolo smiled at him and said, “It’s true.”

            Poe Dameron is something special in the eyes of everyone who knows him. And Poe Dameron thinks that he, Finn, is special. Finn can’t quite comprehend it.

            Poe Dameron is nine years older than Finn, and sometimes that difference feels like a lifetime.

            For all that Finn’s life has been exciting and full of new experiences since he left the First Order, he’s got nothing on Poe. Poe Dameron has spent 32 years flying and laughing and loving and losing, and hugging and crying and falling and pulling himself to his feet.

            He’s okay, most of the time. He is universally loved by the Resistance and loves them in turn, and spends his days trying to make everything better, for everyone. But there are cracks.

            Finn still sleeps in Poe’s room, except it’s their room now. The two of them sharing was only meant to be temporary, since Poe is a commanding officer and is entitled to a private room, but Finn is glad that he hasn’t had to move. He likes not having to sleep alone, and thinks that Poe does too. The pilot has never admitted it, but he has also never said anything about finding Finn a room of his own, and every morning he wakes up a little easier, looks like he’s slept a little better, smiles a little sooner.

            But there are still cracks.

            Every night when they go into their room and leave the rest of the Resistance on the other side of the door, Poe will lean against the closed portal with his eyes closed and sigh, his shoulders slumping, as if he is shrugging off the weight of Poe Dameron, Hotshot Pilot and Hero of the Resistance.

            The first time he saw Poe do that, Finn was afraid that it was all an act, that Poe would be totally different when he wasn’t wearing that persona, but then Poe opened his eyes and looked at him, and smiled, and said, “You ok, bud?” and the relief flooded through Finn like adrenaline.

            Poe was still the same Poe that he had always known, and Finn understood that the persona wasn’t a cloak or a suit of armour that he wore to hide his true self from the world. It was a series of patches that he used to mend the cracks, in his body, in his mind. Without it, he was quieter, less cocky, more tired. But he was still Poe Dameron, and Poe Dameron still cared, and still wanted to make sure Finn was alright before he started taking care of himself.

            The persona is the first thing Poe takes off at night. Then he sits down to unlace his boots, and undoes the top half of his orange jumpsuit and slides it off, leaving it hanging around his waist. He stands up to put his boots at the end of the bed, and pulls off his undershirt, and Finn can see his back, which is covered in the memories of old wounds.

            Poe Dameron is nine years older than Finn, and the difference is written in the scars on the pilot’s back.

            The newest ones look like lightning strikes, reaching from one shoulder across and up to the other one, and then down to his hip, courtesy of an electrical whip that the First Order had been particularly proud to recreate, based on old, outlawed pre-Empire technology.

            (It was all they needed to get what they wanted out of their prisoners, and they no longer needed to send in Kylo Ren for any of them. Until Poe Dameron.)

            There are many scars, caused by a myriad of injuries. Finn’s only scars are the ones from Kylo Ren’s lightsaber. The First Order sent him into real combat only once, on Jakku, so he was never exposed to a situation that would leave him with scars. Other Stormtroopers had scars from their combat training, but Finn was always good enough at all of it that the most he ever got were bruises.

            He briefly wonders what Poe looked like when he had no scars, then decides that he doesn’t really want to know. Poe’s scars are beautiful, in a way, and Finn hopes that one day he’ll know all their stories.

            Poe stretches, turns back around and asks if Finn minds if he uses the shower first. Finn doesn’t, so Poe gathers his pyjamas and disappears into the fresher. He comes out later with damp hair, and Finn watches Poe hang up the jumpsuit, before he grabs his own pyjamas and goes into the fresher himself. When he comes out Poe’s hair is mostly dry and he is lying in bed, smiling at something on his datapad. Finn has his own bed on the other side of the room now, but he doesn’t always sleep there. He glances between the two beds, weighing the options, wondering if he should ask.

            Poe glances up, and beats him to it. "Are you sleeping there or sleeping here?"

            Some nights they're okay, and neither asks that question, and they sleep in their own beds. Technically, the asking of the question is never actually an asking, but a veiled admission: I need you close to me tonight. Sometimes the question is asked because one can tell the other needs it. Tonight is one of those nights. Finn feels the ache in his lower back, in his legs, the quiet protest of limbs still unused to a day of work after weeks of being bed-bound in the medbay.

            The lightsaber damaged his spine, not enough to fully paralyse him, but enough to make walking something that needed to be re-learnt, slowly. His right leg still doesn’t quite have it down pat, and he needs to use a walking stick so he mostly does jobs that allow him to sit down. He knows that no one thinks he’s a burden because his legs don’t quite work like they used to, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t feel like one.

            He feels the aches, and chooses Poe’s bed. The pilot shifts over to create more space for him, and puts the datapad on the bedside table. Finn lies down on Poe’s right and puts his head on the pilot’s chest. The medics have assured him that he will fully regain the ability to walk in due course, and that he just has to take it easy and be patient. Poe has talked about getting them both some time off and taking him to Yavin IV, to finish healing far away from all reminders of the war. Finn thinks that sounds nice, and hopes the General will allow it. Until then, Poe’s arms are his sanctuary. The pilot’s embrace is the only place where being damaged doesn’t feel like a bad thing at all, because Finn knows, is allowed to know, that Poe is too.

            “We’re all damaged,” the pilot had said one night, when Finn was frustrated about his legs. “Sometimes they can fix us quickly, and sometimes they can’t. All we can do is wait, and learn to ask for help when we need it, and try to carry on anyway.”

            (Finn knows that Poe knows that he knows, but they don’t talk about what happened to Poe on the Finalizer, not yet. Finn knows he’s allowed to ask about it, but he doesn’t. It never quite feels like the right time.)

            Poe Dameron is nine years older than Finn.

            Poe has lived, and Finn feels that by comparison, he hasn't lived at all. But in the dark of night, in the safety of their room on the base on D'Qar, when they are not An Ex-Stormtrooper and The Best Pilot in The Resistance but simply two men who saved each other, the difference between their ages and experience doesn't seem relevant.

            Finn’s head is resting on Poe’s chest, and he puts his right hand over Poe’s heart. He can feel the beat of it beneath the soft grey material of Poe’s pyjamas, and remembers Snap telling him how it stopped and nearly didn’t start again. Finn is glad that it did. He lived in a world without Poe Dameron once, and he doesn’t want to do it again.

            Poe reaches over to turn the lights off, and his other hand comes up to stroke Finn’s hair.

            Sometimes nine years feels like an unbridgeable distance.

            But then Poe’s arms come around him and hold him tight, and Poe’s heart is beating steadily under his hand, and Poe says,

            “Goodnight, Finn.” 

            And the sound of his name, the name Poe offered him, the first name he ever had that meant something, bridges the gap in a second, and the only thing that matters is that they found each other.