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i am the storm (so wait)

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i. Private investigation is not always all it’s cracked up to be, Rey’s found. In the time that’s passed since she started up her business, most of the cases she’s taken have been less about murder and heroic rescues and heartfelt reunions and more about--well, stalking people to catch them with their pants literally down. Breaking the law, occasionally, in order to do so.

God, New York, sometimes--it might be the city that never sleeps, but Rey can say with confidence that it sure sleeps around.

She kind of wants to smack Nancy Drew a little. There is no way Nancy Drew keeps running into all those big mysteries all by her teenage self while Rey--who’s doing this for a living--keeps getting people like Unkar Plutt.

She looks at Plutt’s unconscious form, then at the broken glass she punted him through. She prods at his butt with her foot, and gets a distinctly pained moan from him in answer.

“Can we discuss your bill now?” she asks. “Preferably with less name-calling and hitting.” She eyes the broken glass and adds, “And I think I’m going to be upping my price a little. For repairs, you know.”

She’s pretty Plutt’s saying, fuck you, but it’s too slurred to tell.

Just outside, a kid with blue hair’s staring at her door in awe, jaw slack. He clutches a bag full of files close to his chest and says, “Holy shit.”

“Hi, Ezra,” says Rey, dusting her hands off on her pants. “Sorry about the mess, I’ll clean it up.”

“You just punted a guy through your door,” says Ezra. “Again.”

Rey hums, smiles at him and says, “Like I said, I’ll clean it up. I always do.”

“Yeah, right,” snorts Ezra, before he pulls the door open and walks inside Kanan Jarrus’s law offices, humming tunelessly.

Rey watches him leave, then hauls Plutt back through her door and into a seat, pats his cheek, and says, “Wake up, Plutt, you still need to pay me.”

--

That’s how Rey’s routine goes, for a while: wake up, buy a coffee, go to work. It’s a good routine, a great one, and it leaves her room to work on other projects as she sees fit.

She earns something of a reputation for herself--that’s what happens, she supposes, when you don’t try to hide that you have gifts. Or when there’s a viral video of you saving someone while dressed as a sandwich.

Not really the best impression to make on people--Rey still gets clients who ask if she still has the sandwich costume, enough that she’s got a script that she recites politely at them.

The point is, though, that her gifts are useful, especially in her line of work.

They’re also useful, as it turns out, when your neighborhood suddenly blows up on you.

She’s stalking Plutt when it happens--his ex came knocking, asking if Rey could please track him down and tell him to pay the fuck up for their kid. Rey’s always been a sucker for cases like those, so of course she’s got an eye on Plutt. She’s just waiting to get the drop on him when the ground shakes.

She grabs on to the railing to steady herself.

A block away, something explodes, loud enough to deafen Rey even from up here. She crumples to a sitting position, shuts her eyes and slams her hands over her ears to try and block out the ringing.

She breathes, slow, terrified. In, out, in, out.

(Breathe, Jones. Breathe.)

She opens her eyes, half-expecting to see aliens zipping through the air, half-expecting one of them pointing one of those--glowing spear-things at her.

Nothing. It’s just her.

She breathes out. “Get it together, Jones,” she tells herself, getting to her feet. People are streaming out of the buildings in droves, screaming and yelling, and Rey thinks she hears someone yelling about another alien invasion.

The sensible thing to do would be to stay put up here. No one would see her, no one would care, they’d all be too busy looking after themselves and their families to pay attention to one lone girl on a fire escape. She could wait it out up here.

She spies Plutt, staggering out of the building. More to the point, she spies Ezra, trying to push past him. She doesn’t have time to wonder what the fuck is Ezra Bridger thinking, visiting a bar, when she sees Plutt push him aside roughly, sees Ezra trip and fall and hears him scream.

He’s not going to get up in time, she realizes. Not when the crowds are this agitated, not when there are explosions going off--because there still are, she can still hear them, along with the unmistakable noise of gunshots.

She jumps down from the fire escape, landing in a dumpster. Thank fuck for dumpsters providing soft landings, really. She hauls herself out, runs to Ezra’s side as fast as she possibly can.

That’s--not a good angle for his arm, she realizes.

“You all right?” she asks. Plutt is getting away, but she’ll worry about that later. She’ll maybe even stick him with the bill again.

“My arm,” Ezra says, hissing through the pain. “Fuck, Kanan’s going to be so worried. And angry.”

“He should be,” says Rey, arms snaking under Ezra to lift him up, eliciting a pained noise out of him. “Shit, sorry. Keep still, okay?”

“I’m trying,” says Ezra. “What’re you gonna do?”

“Jump,” says Rey, hurrying into another alleyway with a convenient fire escape.

--

(An interlude:

Kanan says, “Fuck--Ezra, you okay?”

He says, “No, wait, you are definitely not okay, is that a cast, what were you doing--”

He says, “Kid, seriously, please never do that again, even Chopper was terrified.”

The sentient science project in question gives a series of pissed-sounding whirs that Ezra translates as no, I wasn’t.

“How’d you even get him inside the hospital, is what I wanna know,” says Ezra, pushing himself up to a sitting position. “And I’m fine. Rey saved me.”

Rey, who’s been keeping Ezra company at his bedside, smiles wanly at Kanan. “Sorry about your intern’s arm,” she says. “A former client of mine broke it in the panic.”

“Wasn’t your fault,” says Kanan, sliding into a chair.

“Did they find out what caused the explosions?” asks Ezra.

“Not yet,” says Kanan. “CNN thinks it’s gas, Fox News’ opinion doesn’t count as always, and personally I have a hard time believing this was anything but intentional.”

“Fox News’ opinion never counts, that’s not new,” says Ezra. “Where’s Hera? Sabine, Zeb, are they okay?” He doesn’t have to ask about Chopper, he can see him trying to terrorize some poor nurse that’s backing away from them. One day he’s got to do something about Chopper’s homicidal tendencies.

“They’re fine,” says Kanan, “I checked. Hera’s on crowd control, you can call her if you want after all this blows over.” He glances at Rey and says, “I can take over from here, thanks.”

“But don’t you have a case to deal with?” Ezra asks. “I mean, Tua’s not exactly gonna let you tear her apart in court.”

Kanan lifts his messenger bag up, and says, “That’s why I’m going to read up right here. The lights here work better than at the office anyway.”

“Everything here works better than at the building,” says Rey, dry as a desert, and Ezra can’t help but agree--if it wouldn’t piss Hera off, and if it didn’t mean going even more broke than he already is, he’d probably get himself injured in minor ways more often just to stay here for a bit. At least the air-conditioning works. “It’s a little more crowded, though.” She nods at the messenger bag, stands up to let Kanan sit down next to Ezra. “I have to go,” she says.

“Wait, Rey, you can’t--” Ezra starts.

“It’s dangerous out there,” says Kanan, “are you sure--”

“I’ve got to check on a few people,” says Rey. “My client, for one thing, and maybe catch up with the guy I was following. And anyway, I can take care of myself.” She takes her leather jacket off Kanan’s chair and shrugs it back on, but steps closer to lean closer to Ezra. “We’ll see each other tomorrow, Ezra,” she says. “I promise.”

Ezra breathes out, says, “Okay.”)

--

ii. Things change. Very rapidly.

Rey hears some things through the grapevine, about Palpatine’s empire crashing down spectacularly, about a spate of arrests that leaves Hell’s Kitchen’s police force even thinner than it already is. For the most part, though, she’s as in the dark about much of the case as everyone else, even the media--the FBI has classified half the details and the media’s blowing what they do have out of proportion.

But things change. With Palpatine’s stranglehold on them gone, along with too much of the police force, suddenly it’s as if the criminal underworld of Hell’s Kitchen can breathe again, and Rey finds herself having to step into more fights more and more often while trying to follow people around.

In retrospect, she supposes at least one of those fights was going to have a vigilante in the mix.

“Thanks for the help,” says Fulcrum--a black-clad figure in a mask that covers her eyes, a pair of thick white sticks hanging from a holster at her hip. “Sorry about the jacket.”

“It’s fine, you’re not the one who ruined it,” says Rey. She looks down at it and makes a face--great, that’s four hundred dollars straight down the drain. At least she’s bulletproof, getting blood on her jacket would’ve sucked even more. “By the way, I’m on the job, so I have to ask--have you seen a man with reddish hair walking by here? Shabby coat, red sneakers, ripped jeans? He was smoking a cigarette, I think.”

“I’m wearing a mask that covers my eyes,” says Fulcrum, “I didn’t actually see him. I did smell cigarette smoke, though, but there’s a lot of smokers in the city.” She perches on top of a dumpster and says, “Where does he usually go at night?”

“Mos Eisley,” says Rey. “That or Niima’s.” She waves a hand in Mos Eisley’s direction and says, “He was coming from Mos Eisley when I was tracking him, but he doubled back around here and then I heard you having trouble.”

“I wasn’t having trouble,” Fulcrum says, but there’s a playful twist to the curve of her lips. “What else can you tell me about him?”

“He wears cheap cologne,” says Rey. “Something my client hated about him. That and the frequent gambling.”

“Gambler, smoker, wearer of cheap cologne, frequent patron of Mos Eisley and Niima’s,” says Fulcrum. “Yeah, that narrows the list down pretty nicely.”

“Don’t beat him up too badly if you find him,” says Rey, as Fulcrum pulls herself up onto a fire escape with an unnecessary flip and twirl. “Just--let me know? Wait, do you need my number?”

“Mm, no,” says Fulcrum, tilting her head back towards her. She’s smirking now, devil-may-care. “I know where your office is, Ms. Jones.”

“That’s not creepy,” Rey says.

“What can I say, I’m something of an information broker, it’s my job to know things,” says Fulcrum, before she takes off into the night, leaving Rey alone with a bunch of unconscious thugs.

Information broker,” says Rey, incredulously. “That’s one way of putting it.”

--

Fulcrum does not walk in through the front door.

Obi-wan Kenobi does, though, looking somewhat concerned. Rey’s pretty sure it’s got something to do with the general state of her door.

“Are you never going to do anything about this?” he asks, gesturing to her door, which--yep, that confirms it. “I’d imagine you’d get a great deal more clients if you’d just get it replaced.”

“Says the guy with the cardboard sign that’s got stick figures on it, and you get clients just fine,” Rey shoots back, settling into her seat and setting the can of Coke down. “What do you need? If you need someone to do some investigating, I can probably lower my prices--”

“Oh, no, Han’s doing well enough on that front, unfortunately,” says Obi-wan. “This doesn’t have anything to do with me or anything my firm might want from you at all, Ms. Jones.”

Rey raises an eyebrow. “So why come here?” she asks.

Obi-wan shuts the door behind him, glances nervously about before he settles into a chair. “I’ve been in contact with Fulcrum,” he says, at last.

“That’s not actually a secret,” says Rey. That Fulcrum’s associated, sort of, with Tano & Kenobi is something of an open secret--they’ve had an important role in Palpatine’s downfall, and Rey suspects much of their information came from Fulcrum and her web of informants, scattered throughout Hell’s Kitchen. And from Vader as well, she supposes.

“That’s a reassuring thought,” says Obi-wan dryly. “She asked me to tell you that she tracked down your wayward soul to just outside of Bed-Stuy, and something about chimneys.”

“Any reason why she can’t just tell me that herself?” Rey asks, propping her chin up on her hands. “The front door’s open, after all.”

Obi-wan, in answer, nods to her window. Outside, the afternoon sun is roasting much of Hell’s Kitchen. “She’s more of the nocturnal sort,” he says.

“Makes sense,” says Rey. “At least she gets out of this heat, huh?”

Obi-wan huffs out a slightly sardonic laugh. “True enough,” he says, “from a certain point of view.”

Rey rolls her eyes, says, “Lawyers.

--

iii. Eight months after the collapse of Palpatine’s empire, Rey walks into her office from a morning run to find a man already inside.

She stops in her tracks, squints at him. Dark hair, dark suit, dark eyes--definitely a lawyer. And judging from the black snake-like cufflinks he keeps fiddling with, not the type she wants anywhere near her office.

Rey crosses her arms and says, “Who are you?”

“Someone who’s heard of your exploits, Miss Jones,” the man says, airily.

Rey’s hand slips to the pocket knife hidden under her jacket. “I didn’t think my exploits are worth hearing about,” she says, carefully. “You didn’t answer my question. Who are you?”

“Kylo,” says the man, after a moment’s silence. “Just call me Kylo.” He perches on her desk--her desk--and crosses his arms. He looks very, very off, in this tiny little office of hers, so very cold and impersonal against her plants and her books and her camera. “I’m here on the behalf of my superior,” he says. “You’ve caught his eye, Miss Jones.”

Rey hums. “I can’t imagine why,” she says, neutrally. “I’m a private investigator. There’s a ton of those in New York.”

“Not many with your gifts, though,” says Kylo.

Rey raises a brow. “Get to the point,” she says. “I don’t have all day.”

“My superior and I,” says Kylo, “would like to hire you as his firm’s investigator.” There’s something about how he says investigator that makes Rey think hired thug, makes her think spy. “You will be compensated fairly for your services, of course.”

Rey stares at him. Then she says, “Up front, what kinds of services do you want me to provide?”

“You don’t have to know that,” says Kylo, holding her gaze. Something in his tone--it slips away from her.

She doesn’t have to know that. She’s a private investigator, what does she know about a law firm’s inner workings? Better to leave that to the lawyers--

--no.

“Yes,” she says. “I do.”

And it’s as if a veil has been ripped away and she can see again, clearer this time. She can see the shock writ large across Kylo’s face, the barely-contained outrage that he stamps down just as quickly.

She wonders why.

“What kinds of services do you want me to do for your firm?” Rey asks. “It’s not a hard question to answer.”

“You’ll find out when you accept,” says Kylo.

And it’s so tempting. She almost considers, for a moment, because there are still bills to pay, and surely she could get out if she didn’t like it--though why wouldn’t she like it--

--no.

“I said up front,” snaps Rey. “If you can’t tell me what I’d be in for, then I’ll throw you out of my office.”

Kylo’s jaw sets, but he gives ground: “You would be asked to investigate other firms--as a precaution, you see. In these troubled times, my superior is not sure who to trust among his associates.” He spreads his hands and says, “And we are willing to compensate you fairly for your time.”

“Firms like Tano & Kenobi?” Rey asks.

“Ambulance chasers,” Kylo sniffs. “But they’ve proven themselves a risk as well.” He shoves his hands into his pockets and says, “We can bring order to the city. We can wash it clean, with your help.”

Order. It doesn’t sound so bad, now that she thinks about it. Hell’s Kitchen is a mess, the criminal underworld is blowing up beyond what the police force can contain, and for a second she almost, almost says yes.

Then she thinks of Palpatine’s broadcasts, of how he had presented himself as someone whose sole goal in life was to save his city.

What city? she thinks, suddenly, and it sounds like her own voice. With a start, she realizes: the thoughts she had before, the ones tempting her to say yes, hadn’t sounded like her own. Hell’s Kitchen is ten blocks.

She says, “Get out of my office. Now.

--

(An interlude:

“She resisted you?”

“...yes. She did. I underestimated her abilities and thought her invulnerable defenses were only in the realm of the physical.”

“That is unfortunate. But perhaps--”

“--sir?”

“Perhaps we do not need someone with abilities. Not if all we need is information.”

“I don't understand. Surely, I could turn her to our side--it would prove more difficult without the use of my abilities, but I could, and her skill in gathering information is almost unparalleled--”

“What if, however, we found someone who already had the information we needed? Someone on the police force?”

“The--police?”

“Palpatine kept an extensive file on each of the officers on the force, even those not under his employ. Perhaps one of them, especially one he could not turn, might prove useful.”)

--

Finn’s is one of the newer bars in the area--two months old by now, run by a former cop turned bartender. Rey’s found herself on the fire escape across the street, taking pictures of one or two patrons coming and going, but she’s never come inside before.

It’s a very nice bar. A very clean bar, Rey realizes, which is something of a surprise to her--bars aren’t usually this clean.

She sits down at the counter, waves the bartender over. “Whiskey,” she says, pulling out a twenty-dollar bill. “Strong whiskey.”

“Doing okay?” the bartender asks.

“Fine,” says Rey, raising an eyebrow. “Why?”

“Well, you’re new,” says the guy. “And the first thing you asked for was strong whiskey.” He leans on the counter and says, “I don’t wanna pry, but--did you break up with somebody? Really badly break up with somebody?”

Rey stares at him.

Then she bursts into a fit of laughter, and shakes her head. “No, no,” she says. “I’ve never been in a relationship. It’s just--I don’t get drunk very easily, but I don’t wanna go straight for vodka. I haven’t had that bad a day, just a creep in my office.”

The man blushes and says, “Oh--yeesh, you okay?”

“I’m fine,” says Rey. “Just threw him out.”

“Wow, must’ve been a really creepy guy,” says the man.

“You have no idea,” Rey huffs. “So--”

“Beer, yeah, coming right up,” he says. “So, uh, my name’s Finn. Finn Smith. I’m in charge here.” He pauses, then smiles, as if he almost can’t believe it. “I’m in charge.”

“So that’s where the name came from,” says Rey, propping an elbow up on the bar and leaning her cheek on her hand. “I’m Rey. Rey Jones.”

“Rey--the PI!” Finn says, and wow. Wow, he looks very nice when he smiles. “Yeah, I’ve heard about you. You’re a really good PI.”

“I didn’t realize I was building a reputation,” says Rey. “I’m just doing my job.”

“You do it really well,” says Finn, pouring her a shot of whiskey and setting it and the bottle down in front of her.

Rey huffs out a laugh, says, “Are you hitting on me?”

Finn shakes his head. “No, no,” he says, “I actually--I’ve got a boyfriend.”

“He must be a very lucky man,” says Rey. “He gets free booze.”

“Nope,” says Finn. “He pays like everybody else does. I gotta keep the bar afloat, after all.” He waves a hand at the bar in general, and Rey can see the pride in his smile. There are not many people, she thinks, who are this proud of a little Hell’s Kitchen dive bar. “But I did mean it. When I said you do your job really well.”

“I kind of have to,” says Rey. “And you do yours pretty well, too--I didn’t know there were bars this clean in the whole of Hell’s Kitchen.”

Finn’s eyes widen slightly, surprised. Then he smiles, and it makes Rey’s heart do a funny little flip in her chest. She smiles back, a soft hesitant thing, just a slight upward twitch of her lips.

He smiles even wider, as if he’s absurdly pleased with having made her smile even a little.

The weird thing is--she thinks the feeling’s mutual.

Finn’s got a very nice smile, after all.

--

(An interlude, a month after:

“Poe Dameron?”

“Who’s asking?” Poe asks, immediately on his guard. It’s never a good thing, when someone you don’t know calls your name from a dark alleyway.

“Come with me,” someone whispers, and somehow the order wraps itself around his heart, digs its claws into his lungs and drives out every other thought in his brain.

He has to follow it. No, he wants to.

Poe steps into the alleyway.

Kylo Ren smiles, knife-sharp.)

--

iv. Finn is a very nice man.

Scratch that.

Finn is one of the best people Rey has ever met, and a few months into knowing him she has become such a regular fixture at his bar that everyone now knows to find her there, when she isn’t at her office. It seems disturbing, probably, the amount of time she spends there.

The thing is, she doesn’t actually drink very much. At least, she doesn’t drink alcohol very much, at Finn’s.

She just goes to talk to Finn. Sure, sometimes she drinks, and on occasion she helps break up a bar brawl, but for the most part she just goes to talk to her friend.

And Finn listens, and talks back, and before she knows it, she knows he likes Star Trek and prefers Captain Sisko (something he and Poe have argued over, because Poe seems to like Kirk best) and he has a Roomba named BB-8 who has apparently achieved a degree of sentience roaming around the apartment, and he knows that she once got very sick and broke her coffee table stumbling around her apartment. Before she knows it, Finn’s wormed his way underneath her skin, into her heart.

One thing Finn hasn’t ever done before, though, is walk through her office door, looking worn and drawn and scared beyond belief.

Rey stands up, says, “Finn?”

“Rey,” he says, and he sounds desperate, terrified beyond belief, “Rey, I think Poe’s in trouble.”

--

She gets him water.

“Thanks,” says Finn, gulping down the whole cup as greedily as a man stranded in the desert. She wonders how far and how fast he ran, to get here--ran, because he’s exhausted and clearly so.

“Welcome,” says Rey, settling into the chair across from him. Usually, for clients, she’d be sitting behind her desk--but Finn is Finn, and right now she’s not talking to him as Rey Jones, PI. Right now, she’s just Rey, worried and determined to help. “You okay?”

“I should be asking you that,” Finn says, then he lets out a soft sigh and rubs the heel of his hand on his forehead. “Poe’s disappeared,” he says. “No note, no call, no text, nothing. I already called the precinct and apparently he’s on leave, which I’d be glad about if he actually said anything about it to me or to his dad.”

“I’m guessing he hasn’t picked up, either,” says Rey.

“Nope,” says Finn. “I just--I don’t get it. Sure, Poe’s been a little weird lately--”

“How weird?” Rey asks.

Finn squints at her. “Keeping a secret weird,” he says. “The kind of secret he didn’t want to keep--like he wanted to say something, but couldn’t quite bring himself to.”

Rey wonders, briefly, if dear perfect Poe isn’t so perfect as he seemed to be, but--Finn seems canny enough, seems as though he can tell when someone’s keeping something from him. And he’s worried about Poe. “Okay,” she says, “when was the last time you saw him?”

“A few days ago,” says Finn. “He was acting seriously weird.” He takes a sip from the glass, waves a hand in the air. “He was talking to BB-8--”

“From what you’ve told me that’s plenty normal for you,” Rey says.

“Not the stuff he was telling BB-8,” Finn says. “Something about recording Dog Cops--his favorite show, I don’t know why, but he wouldn’t have missed it for anything but really serious emergencies. And he’s been sneaking out lately--and don’t say it, I know what you’re thinking.”

“Did I say anything?” Rey huffs. “I didn’t say anything.”

“Look, I know Poe,” says Finn, and Rey decides charitably not to tell him how many spouses have said that to her before. “I know he wouldn’t do--whatever it is you think he’d do. I think he got caught up in something, and we need to find out what.”

“We?” Rey asks, standing up and crossing her arms. “Finn, I appreciate the help, but I’m the PI here. I can handle myself.”

“And Poe’s my boyfriend,” says Finn, standing up as well. “I know you can handle yourself. I’m saying that I can’t sit on the sidelines when Poe might be in big trouble--he helped me when I was, I can’t just run away like I did before.”

“There’s a reason why I don’t take my clients along--” Rey starts.

“Yeah, yeah, because they usually can’t handle the truth or they’ll get put in danger,” Finn dryly says. “Rey, I was a cop. I’ve seen and been in a lot worse, believe me.”

Rey sets her jaw stubbornly, fixes her steeliest look on Finn. “I can’t risk you,” she says. “Look--I’ll update you on any leads I find. But I can’t bring you along--if you’re right, and Poe’s found himself in big trouble, then I don’t want to be the reason why you get caught up in it too.”

--

(An interlude:

“So,” says Finn, out of breath and slumping hard against a wall, “that could’ve gone way better.”

“I told you to stay out of it!” Rey hisses. Her very expensive leather jacket is torn and scratched, yet she doesn’t look all that hurt for someone who was just in a firefight. Actually, for someone who’s just been shot at she looks pretty good. “Are you all right--”

“Fine, I’m fine,” says Finn, and even as he says it he’s pretty sure he’s got a concussion and his lip is bleeding and, oh yeah, Kylo Ren’s words are still rattling around in his brain. Jump off the roof.

He’d almost killed himself.

His stomach churns, a little. He wants to run--far, and fast, and now--from that voice, from how it dug its claws into his lungs and his brain and his heart and refused to release him from its vice-like grip. But if he runs--

If he runs, he’ll leave Poe to Kylo Ren’s mercy.

He can’t do that. He won’t.

“We’ve got to stop this Kylo Ren guy,” he says.

“Yes, I gathered that,” Rey says. “But you’re not coming with me, because you almost--”

“Killed myself, yeah, I know,” says Finn. “Ugh, thank god for dumpsters.”

“He might do even worse,” says Rey. “For some reason, I’m the only one who’s--immune, or whatever, to the shit he can do. I’ve got to stop him.”

“By yourself?” asks Finn. “Because, I don’t know if you noticed, you’re one person. And this Kylo Ren guy can convince anyone to go against you with just a--a word.” He lets out a breath, shakes his head, then glances down at what used to be Poe’s jacket. “Argh, rotten fruit,” he grumbles. “I can help.”

“He’ll hurt you,” she says. “Or Poe.”

“Which is why we gotta get Poe out and fast,” says Finn. “Hey, after this--I’m thinking Santa Fe. New York’s too full of--this kinda thing.” He waves a hand at Rey and adds, “Present company excluded.”

“Santa Fe’s overrated no matter what Newsies says about it,” Rey tells him, then she stands up and holds out her hand. “You need some help getting up?” she asks.

Finn nods, then grabs on.)

--

v. Poe’s apartment is--kind of a mess. A very controlled kind of mess, no doubt thanks to the efforts of Finn and BB-8 to keep it somewhat presentable, but a mess nonetheless, and the cause of it is currently curled up on the couch, underneath a pile of blankets.

Rey very gently steps over BB-8, who’s an orange-and-white Roomba beeping inquisitively at her, and sits down next to Poe Dameron, who pokes his bleary head up above the blankets.

“Oh,” he says. “Hey, Rey.” He smiles a little. “Sorry about the jacket.”

“You owe me about four hundred dollars,” says Rey.

“Soon as I’m off suspension I’ll pay up,” says Poe. A moment later he huffs out a breath. “I owe you a lot more than that,” he says. “You and Finn. If it hadn’t been for both of you, I’d--probably be dead. Or worse. You guys saved my ass.”

He’s so sincere it’s kind of disarming, and all Rey can think of is, so this is the real Poe Dameron. “If it wasn’t for you coming back when you did, we would’ve been screwed,” says Rey. “You all right?”

“Yes,” says Poe, almost automatically. Then he pauses, lets out a breath and says, “No. Or--fuck, I don’t know.” He runs his teeth over his lower lip and says, “I can think for myself again. If somebody tried to order me around I can tell them to go fuck off. I should be okay.”

“You did just get your mind hijacked by somebody else for months,” says Rey. “That would fuck with anyone.”

“Yeah, but--” Poe starts, then stops. “I should be okay. I mean, he can’t do shit to me now, where he is. But--how do I explain this?” He looks up at Rey and says, “It’s like--I don’t know, someone buried me alive in my own head, and sometimes I think I’m still trying to climb out.” He scrubs a hand over his face and says, “I’m not making sense.”

“No, I think I get it,” says Rey. “Sort of.” She inches closer and says, “So you’re not all right.”

“No,” says Poe, raw. “And I can’t go to work either.”

“Well, look at it this way,” says Rey. “You get to catch up on Dog Cops.”

Poe stares at her, then grins. “Yeah,” he says. “Yeah, I--I haven’t seen Dog Cops in a month. What happened--no, don’t answer that, I don’t wanna be spoiled.” He pushes the blankets off him, says, “Where’s my laptop, god, I’ve got to re-subscribe to Netflix--”

There’s an electronic wail from underneath the blankets, before BB-8 emerges, beeping irately.

“Sorry, buddy,” says Poe, scrambling off the couch and kneeling to pet the Roomba on the head, “I wasn’t looking--I know, I missed you too, bud.” He nods to Rey and says, “Oh yeah--BB-8, this is Rey. Rey, BB-8.”

“It’s nice to finally meet you,” says Rey, crouching down on the floor and deciding to just roll with it. She looks up at Poe, smiles, and says, her eyes on his face, “Finn talks about you a lot.”

And Poe smiles back.

--

fin.