Poe hated his words. He hated them. And this was saying something, because, as a rule, Poe didn’t hate anything, really (Jess called it “irritatingly relentless optimism”).
But nevertheless, he hated them. There were only so many times someone could say “I’m sorry” before bitterness begins to take hold on a guy.
“I’m sorry, am I interrupting?”
“I’m sorry, I wasn’t looking where I was going.”
“I’m sorry, have we met?”
“I’m sorry, you are - ?”
“I’m sorry, what did you say your name was?”
“I’m sorry, do you work here?”
“I’m sorry - ”
Poe had heard practically every iteration there was, but he could never help the small jolt of excitement every time someone new said those words to him. That was what caused this animosity toward the words. Because at the end of the day, Jess was right. He was an optimist, a romantic even, and he couldn’t help but get his hopes up every time. And every time, he was let down.
“I’m sorry… do I have the wrong office?”
Poe’s head snapped up from where he’d been sitting at Jess’s desk. The girl who’d spoken was obviously an undergrad, maybe 20 or 21. She was all wide-eyes and bright smiles, despite the grease that was covering her hands and smudged on her face. Maybe this time?
“No, you don’t, I’m just an intruder,” he told the girl with a grin. He paused, searching her face for any sign of surprise or recognition, but there was nothing. He sighed inwardly, before getting up from behind Jess’s desk. “She’s in the faculty lounge. I’ll go get her for you.”
Poe headed down the hall to the lounge, where Jess had disappeared to get them coffee around ten minutes before. He walked in the room, only to see Jess yelling profanities at the espresso machine.
“Jess. Jess. JESS.”
“What, Poe? Can’t you see I’m fighting a losing battle against this goddamned transformer?”
“Jess, you’re head of the engineering department. How is it that you of all people can’t figure out how to work a coffee machine?”
“I’m an aeronautical engineer, not a...coffee engineer.”
“Once again, I am astounded by your wit. Anyway, there’s a girl in your office.”
“Oh god, did she have a textbook in her hand? I can’t handle anymore overexcited undergrads. It’s only the first week, for christ’s sake.”
Jess paused. “Yeah? I’ll see about that.”
As they walked back down the hall, Poe turned to Jess. “You know, if you were fighting against an evil machine, it would be a decepticon, not a transformer.”
She opened the door, and the girl stood up from where she’d been sitting. Jess took in her grease-stained hands, her dirty tank top, her messy bun, and her big brown eyes, before putting her foot in her mouth in record time: “Holy hell, you are cute.”
The girl’s eyes got almost comically wide, and she flushed beet red. “Oh- I - well - ... Thank you, Professor Pava?”
Poe and Jess both froze, gaping at the girl. They stared for several moments.
Poe had known Jess for nearly ten years, and had known the words written across her clavicle for nine. When he met her in the Air Force, he had berated Jess for going into the military instead of heading into the academic field. Jess had punched him and said that there were more important things. When they’d been discharged and she’d been offered a position in the engineering department at Columbia University, he’d followed soon after to head the international relations department. So, now that Jess had been ‘Professor Pava’ for several years, they’d both been waiting for her soulmate to make an appearance. And here she was.
Once Poe had picked his jaw up off the floor, he started laughing. “Your words are Jess calling you cute? That’s incredible.”
This seemed to snap both women out of their stunned stupors. Jess grinned, swiftly crossing the office and pulling her soulmate into her arms, lifting her off the ground and swinging her round. They were both laughing and crying, talking so animatedly that Poe honestly couldn’t have kept up if he tried. He quietly backed out of the office, closing the door as softly as he could.
Poe smiled, his genuine happiness for Jess combatting the pang of longing in his heart. He and Jess had both been waiting longer than was usual for their soulmates, and it had been nice to have someone else in the same boat as him.
Now he was even more alone in this.
Jess’s soulmate’s name was Rey, and she was adorable. She was a sophomore in the mechanical engineering department, which Poe found hilarious. In the five years they’d been working at Columbia, they’d never thought that Jess’s soulmate might have been one of the students (“She’s a sophomore, Poe! A sophomore! I could have found her a whole year earlier!”): they’d always assumed it would be a visiting professor or a speaker.
Poe had always known that soulmates filled the empty places in your heart, made you whole. It was in every movie he’d ever seen, every book he’d ever read. But Jess and Rey made him finally understand.
The thing about Rey was that Jess was already halfway in love with her, and it had been barely a month. The thing about Rey was that Jess hadn’t even realized how unhappy she’d been until she’d found her. The thing about Rey, was that Poe adored her. And that had been the final piece of the puzzle for him. A soulmate couldn’t just be someone to love and keep you warm: they had to become a part of your life, like a jigsaw locking together. For over a decade, Jess had been the most important person in Poe’s life, and vice versa. It only made sense that he and Rey would get close as well. Rey didn’t just make Jess’s life a little brighter: she fit in it, like she was always meant to be there.
Which is why Poe didn’t mind that she was suddenly everywhere: if Rey was a huge part of Jess’s life now, she was a huge part of his. Their duo became a trio, and the change was natural and easy. Already it felt as if she’d always been with them. Several times Poe would start to ask Rey if ‘she remembered that time…’ only to realize that, no, she wouldn’t remember ‘that time’, because ‘that time’ had been three years ago.
Poe walked into his office at eight o’clock, planning on getting some paperwork done before his class on Cold War espionage at ten. He wasn’t even fazed at the sight of Rey sitting behind his desk, highlighting a textbook. Why she didn’t just go to the library, he’d never understand. Maybe she liked how close he was to the faculty lounge, and therefore coffee machine?
“Rey, I actually use that desk, you know. In fact, I was planning on using it. So, if you would be so kind, I’d like it back now.”
Rey looked up at him, humming thoughtfully. “Why is Jess’s office in this building? The engineering department is in the one across the quad.” So that would be a ‘no’ on the desk front, then.
Poe sighed, grabbing his paperwork out from under her textbook and plopping himself onto the old couch settled along the wall. “Because Jess whined about having to walk across the quad so often that Professor Kun just gave up and offered to switch. Speaking of Jess, why don’t you use her desk? It’s literally 30 feet away.”
“Because if I use her desk, I’ll end up doing the fun stuff instead of the necessary stuff.”
Poe groaned. “I do not need to hear about the ‘fun stuff’ from you. Jess already tells me way too much.”
Rey grinned. “You’re just jealous.”
Poe leveled her with an unimpressed look. “Of the whole soulmate thing? A little. Of your all-access pass to each other’s lady bits? Absolutely not,” Poe was possibly the least straight person who had ever lived. At least, he thought so. Jess was a close second.
He left it at that, turning his attention to his files. The faculty in his department were required to give him the syllabi from all their classes for review during the first few weeks of the semester. He hardly ever gave them any serious attention: it was mainly for the sake of keeping his paperwork in order. Poe flipped through the files, before huffing in irritation.
“What?” Rey asked, not even looking up from her textbook.
“Phasma - sorry, Professor Phasma - hasn’t given me the syllabi for her classes,”
“So? Go ask her for them.”
“Okay: 1. You’ve clearly never met her - I’d never willingly interact with her; and 2. She’s teaching a class right now. I’ll shoot her an email.”
And he did. He sent it off, and he spent the next few hours quizzing Rey on engineering crap that went right over his head and bored him to tears.
When he returned from his class, he was exhausted. The class itself was only two hours, but the students… Poe rubbed his temples. It was one thing to be overeager. It was another thing entirely to be overeager and completely stupid . If he heard one more eighteen year old call Russians “the Reds” or talk about how his lessons related to the newest James Bond movie he was going to lose his shit. At least Rey had left. He could lie down and take a nap before his office hours later in the afternoon. He threw himself down on his couch, set an alarm, and promptly passed out.
When he woke up two hours later, it was to the smell of coffee. He looked over and sure enough there was a coffee steaming on his desk, next to a stack of papers. Poe sat up with a groan, his blanket falling off as he stretched his - hang on. He hadn’t been using a blanket. The one he usually draped on the back of the couch had found its way around his shoulders and over his feet.
He shrugged, heading over to his desk to grab the coffee. Jess had probably stopped in at some point, and taken pity on his tired soul.
He leaned over to take a better look at the papers. It was a stack of Phasma’s syllabi, with a note attached to the top:
Hey Professor Dameron,
Phasma asked me to drop these off after class. I hope you don’t mind that I let myself in. You looked pretty tuckered out, so I left you some coffee.
If you have any questions about the syllabi, let me know. Thanks!
-Finn Trooper (Phasma’s TA)
At the bottom of the page, Finn had left a phone number. Poe took a sip of the coffee while he pulled out his cell. He paused. It was delicious. How the fuck had this kid figured out his coffee preference just from one glance at him?
[To: Finn the TA; 2:12 P.M.]
Hi Finn, Poe here. I just wanted to thank you for dropping off the paperwork. The coffee was great, by the way. Thanks!
He received a response in minutes.
[From: Finn the TA; 2:15 P.M.]
Hey Professor Dameron! It was no trouble. You looked like you could use it. By the way, you should consider turning up the heat in your office: it’s freezing in there.
Poe grinned at the text as he walked over to the faculty lounge to get his lunch. So Finn must have been the one to give him that blanket. He typed out a response once he was sat back behind his desk. It would be nice to have a little distraction while he graded some papers from his freshman seminar. God knows he would need it to get through some of them.
[To: Finn the TA; 2:20 P.M.]
I’m clinging to summer for as long as I can: don’t make me give up on it just yet. What class do you TA for Phasma?
[From: Finn the TA; 2:20 P.M.]
Fair enough, haha. I’m the TA for her class on Modern Fascism and the one on the Evolution of the Military Industrial Complex. Although for the latter it’s less TA-ing and more straight up teaching.
Poe raised a brow.
[To: Finn the TA; 2:23 P.M.]
Wow. That’s intense stuff. You don’t strike me as the Hitler Youth type though...
[From: Finn the TA; 2:25]
Hey, it’s not like I chose which classes I worked in. By the way, I can’t even begin to tell you how flattered Phasma would be to be compared to such an ‘authoritative, intimidating and influential’ figure. (...Even if he was arguably the most evil person who ever lived)
[From: Finn the TA; 2:27 P.M.]
Please don’t tell her I said that.
[From: Finn the TA; 2:27 P.M.]
She is a truly frightening woman.
Poe actually laughed out loud at that. He was going to like this guy.
[To: Finn the TA; 2:28 P.M.]
Don’t worry, your secret’s safe with me. I’m her supervisor, and even I’m terrified.
“Is it too soon to ask Rey to marry me?”
“Jess, you’ve been together for a month.”
“But we’re soulmates .”
“Jess, you can’t propose to Rey just because she saved you the comics section of the newspaper.”
“But Poe, She’s so thoughtful that way,” Jess sighed, looking down at Garfield dreamily.
“You’re revolting,” Poe said, not even glancing up from his phone.
( If theoretically, a student wrote a paper and called queer people ‘the gays’ the whole time, what would you do?
Depends: What’s your stance on angry powerpoints?
That’s satan’s font.
I know. Make them suffer.)
“Poe, I’m gonna ‘revolt’ against you if you don’t start paying attention to me. What are you, twelve? No texting at the dinner table.”
Poe did look up at that, giving Jess’s laptop on the table a pointed look. “Our dining room isn’t exactly a five-star restaurant, Jess,” He said, gesturing with the slice of pizza he was holding.
She sighed, getting up to presumably throw away the empty pizza box, when -
“Aha!” She snatched Poe’s phone from out of his hand. He had presumed wrong, apparently.
“Jess, give it back!”
“Nope. It’s high time I gave my investigation to the mystery person you’ve been texting for the past two weeks.”
“Does it count as investigating if I’m right here, and if you did the easiest thing possible?”
She ignored him, scrolling through his texts. Poe’d be more annoyed, but in all honesty, he’d done much the same to Jess in the past.
“Finn the TA? Who’s TA is he?”
Jess stared at him, horrified. “Are you insane? Anyone who willingly associates with Phasma has got to be a serial killer.”
“He’s not. He’s actually really funny, and kind - ” At Jess’s widening eyes, he started scrambling. “- of a nerd! He collects blasters from Sci-Fi movies. What a loser, am I right?” It was a terrible save, and he knew it. Damn.
Finn did collect blasters, though. He had four different kinds of Star Trek ones. He’d sent Poe a picture of his collection. It was awesome.
“You’re sweet on him,” Jess said, eyes lighting up.
“No I’m not, I just like him - I mean, as a friend. It’s a friend-crush, not a real crush,” Poe said, flustered. He paused. “Also, ‘sweet on him’? What is this, The Brady Bunch ?”
“Poe, this is great! The last time you were interested in someone -”
“I - Yeah,” Jess smiled at him softly. Then she scowled, whacking him upside the head. “I swear to God, Poe, if you found your soulmate and didn’t tell me - ”
“Jesus, Jess, I’ve never even met him!”
“We’ve only ever texted. I don’t even know what he looks like.”
“Yeah I know. Dangerous territory, don’t get my hopes up, blah, blah, blah. I told you, it’s not a thing. I don’t have a thing.”
“You don’t have a thing.”
Jess looked at him, unimpressed. “Well, you should meet him soon, before the thing you definitely don’t have for this guy gets any bigger.”
They ate in silence for a time, until Jess spoke up again.
“Okay, I hear you on the marriage thing, but do you think she could move into the brownstone with us in a few months?”
Did you know Phasma has friends?
No shit, really?
Yeah. She and Professor Hux get lunch after that fascism class every Wednesday.
There’s also a guy named Kylo who shows up sometimes?
...of course she’s friends with Kylo.
Do I want to know?
Not even a little.
Imagine a man who never left 2005. A man whose bible is the collected works of My Chemical Romance. A man who not only looks like a myspace asshole, but IS a myspace asshole. A grown up, whiny, pissbaby, who throws tantrums like they’re baseballs.
Maybe Phasma and Hux want him to upgrade his douchebaggery to full-blown intimidating asshattery.
Well, if he’s gonna learn from anyone it might as well be the masters.
“Rey, office hours are usually intended for the students who are, you know. Actually my students.”
“As a teacher, you should welcome all students who seek out your aid.”
“Even if they’re engineering students?”
“I’ll have you know I took a sociology class last year.”
“I run the International Relations department.”
“Only in the broadest sense,” Poe said, leveling Rey with an unimpressed look. She’d barged in during the first fifteen minutes of his office hours, set up camp with some coffee and four textbooks, and gotten to work.
“Look, you can still conduct your meetings. Just ignore me.”
“Somehow I don’t think my students will want to discuss their grades with you lounging on the couch next to them.”
Rey rolled her eyes at that, turning back to her book. Poe went back to grading his students’ papers. It was incredible, how many students seemed to get all their political knowledge from reruns of The West Wing or House of Cards .
His phone went off, and Poe smothered an excited grin, afraid Rey would notice. He checked his messages under his desk surreptitiously.
Open your eyes, Poe. Just accept the truth.
Finn. Jar Jar Binks is not a Sith Lord.
Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth.
Sherlock Holmes, idiot.
“Finn the TA?”
Poe jumped, startling so badly he knocked a textbook off his desk. “Stop reading my texts over my shoulders. It’s rude.”
Rey ignored him. “You know, my roommate Finn is a TA for Professor Phasma.”
Poe froze. He turned to Rey with wide eyes.
“Is that the Finn you’re texting about Star Wars ?”
“Poe,” Rey said, irritated at his bewildered staring.
“I’m sorry, it’s just - I’ve been texting this guy for two months now, and now I’m finding out that he’s your roommate ?” Poe couldn’t believe this. “But he’s a grad student in the political science department. How did you two even meet?”
Rey shrugged. “He tried to help me when I was getting mugged last year. I didn’t need it, but I’m glad he did. Apartments in Manhattan are expensive, and I wasn’t about to go back to campus housing.”
Poe smiled at that. That sounded like something Finn would do.
She glared at him. “Yes, Poe, I was fine, thanks for asking.” Rey leaned over him to pull up her facebook page on his desktop.
“...what are you doing?”
She didn’t even look at him, typing in her password. “Well, if Finn is the TA that Jess says you’re mooning over, then - ” She stopped mid-stroke. “Oh my god,” Rey turned to him, pointing an accusatory finger. “ You’re the text guy! God, I thought it was some kid in one of his classes. You’re the reason he’s constantly smiling at his phone like a dope. Sometimes I can hear him laughing down the hall at whatever dumb joke you’ve made. Honestly, you two losers deserve each other.”
Poe ignored her. Thinking about Finn getting dopey about him would only lead to madness. “Jess has been talking about the TA I’ve been texting and she didn’t tell you his name?”
“She forgot what it was. He's cute, you'll like him.”
“Yeah, well, you tell Jess that it’s not either of your - oh.”
Rey had logged in and pulled up a picture of an extremely, extremely good-looking man. He could have stepped out of an issue of Vogue Magazine or off a Paris runway, but there he was, lounging on a couch with Rey in a ratty Columbia sweatshirt.
“I told you he was cute.” Rey said with a smirk. “You really haven’t met? How does that work?”
“...sorry, what?” He was still stuck on the picture.
“How have you been flirting with someone for so long and not met him? You haven’t even tried?”
“I’m not - ”
“Well, do you want to meet Finn now that you know he’s cute?”
Poe turned to glare at her, offended. “I’d want to meet him even if he was the fucking elephant man, Rey.”
“Then why don’t you?”
Poe sighed. “It’s complicated.”
Rey looked at him thoughtfully. “Jess says you’re scared. That you don’t want to get your heart broken again.”
He dropped his head into his hands. “Do you often talk about my love life with Jess?”
“Well, we are madly in love. We’d like you to be too. It seems like you’re doing pretty well on your own, though,” Rey said, giving him a supportive pat on the back.
“Okay, well can you support me later. I have a meeting with a frantic senior in 20 minutes, and you definitely won’t be able to help me advise him about his thesis on...” He paused, lifting his head and flipping through the papers strewed about his desk. “...the breadth of Cult influence on minors in the post-Cold War era?”
“Well, I said he needed advising.”
Is being a real-life person as terrifying as it seems?
Nah. Then again, I’ve been a real life person for like ten years, so the scary stuff was a long time ago.
Finn, you have an entire year of grad school left. And after that, I’m more worried about the world being ready for you than you being ready for it.
The thing was, Jess wasn’t wrong.
Poe’s heart had been broken before, and it had been bad. Catastrophic, even. It had been his second year in the Air Force, and he’d fallen in love.
Poe had been walking through the base he’d been stationed in and someone had barged into him head on. Poe had crashed into the side of a helicopter.
“Watch where you’re going!” He’d yelled, furious.
The man had stared at him. “...I’m sorry.”
And that had been that. Poe had found his soulmate.
And god, he’d loved him.
Snap had been witty, and capable and charming, and Jess had liked him well enough. They worked well as a team on flight drills, and on the few overseas missions they’d been assigned to together. It hadn’t been like the movies, where lightning struck and suddenly Poe was in love, but the months it took to get to that point had been some of the best of his life. He’d never been so happy.
That is, until Snap had met his actual soulmate.
It was the curse of Poe’s words, it would seem. Snap had said ‘I’m sorry’, naturally responding to being yelled at, and Poe had jumped to conclusions. They both had, in all honesty. That was the problem with having generic phrases as your soulmarks.
Snap had taken his nieces to the aquarium, and come back with a different soulmate. Poe had yelled and screamed and cried and begged. There must have been some mistake, he’d said. You must have misheard her, he’d said. But instead of ‘I’m sorry’, what Snap had said to his soulmate had been ‘I know I wasn’t looking where I was going, but have you seen that turtle?’
And there was nothing Poe could have said in the face of destiny. No matter how much poetry that destiny had lacked.
Three years they’d been together, been in love, and Snap hadn’t even tried to stay.
That had been five years ago, and Poe’s heart had been put back together, albeit slowly and painfully. Jess had been with him through it all, sometimes sellotaping those broken pieces back in place herself.
So when she’d told Rey that Poe was afraid to meet Finn, she wasn’t wrong.
Poe was terrified. That he would get even more attached than he already was, and it would fall apart. That he’d get his hopes up, just like he had with Snap. That he would meet Finn, after months of talking, only to find out what he already knew: Finn wasn’t his soul mate.
There was no way he would get that lucky.
Poe had been convinced for some time now that the ‘I’m Sorry’ on his wrist was actually an apology from the universe. I’m sorry - you don’t have a soulmate.
Better luck next life.
Who cries while watching Men in Black? It’s Men in Black.
You cried during Up!
Everyone cried during Up. YOU cried during Up. No one cries when they watch Men in Black.
Tommy Lee Jones erased his memory and Will Smith was so sad and handsome. What do you want from me?
I don’t know. Maybe a higher standard for shedding tears during movies?
Man, wait ‘till I tell you about the Emperor’s New Groove.
“Classes end for the semester in two weeks.”
“Your point being?”
Jess threw up her hands, exasperated. “You have to meet him. It’s been four months!”
“Jess - ”
“Don’t ‘Jess’ me. I’m right on this one, and you know it.”
“Listen, it’s not - ”
“When’s his birthday?” Jess interrupted, a determined look on her face.
Poe paused. Where the hell was she going with this? “March 17th.”
“What’s his favorite food? Color? Movie?”
“Pad Thai, Orange, and Star Wars .” Poe said, growing suspicious. “Look, Jess, what does this have to do with - ”
“What’s his family like?”
“He grew up in foster care, not that it’s any of your - ”
“How many kids does he want when he’s older?
“Three or four, plus a few cats and dogs.”
Jess just looked at him.
“How long are you going to pretend you’re not totally in love with him?”
Poe sighed, looking down at his hands. He didn’t answer. There was nothing to say.
“Text him. Ask for a meet up. Have Rey introduce you. Hell, have me introduce you. Worst case: you’re not soulmates and you’re madly in love anyway.”
“Jess, do you remember the last time I was in love with someone who wasn’t my soulmate?”
“That was completely different, Snap - ”
“We’re not talking about this. Drop it.” She glared at him, before sitting back behind her desk, typing furiously. Poe groaned. “Jess, come on - ”
She shook her head, not even looking up from what she was doing. “I’m dropping it. Go sulk somewhere else until I stop being mad at you.”
“When will that be?”
“Probably around lunch.”
Rey says we should just meet up already.
She’s been saying pretty much the same thing to me. Except you don’t have Jess harping on you as well.
Sure I do. Jess is at my place all the time.
Yeah, but you don’t live with Jess.
And you don’t live with Rey. So...do you want to get coffee some time?
More than anything.
Then why don’t we?
Because it’s extremely unlikely that we’re soulmates, and I don’t think I could handle losing you when you find yours.
Poe, you’re not gonna lose me.
That’s what I thought last time.
Poe left his office in a foul mood. He’d been grading papers with Jess, and had already had to mark four D’s. At least they had their final next week. That ought to bring up their grades, if they studied.
Of course, his mood only worsened when someone crashed into him, knocking his papers out of his hands and on to the snow-covered ground. The guy immediately crouched down to help pick them up. He looked up and - holy shit. If only Jess could see him now.
“I’m sorry,” Finn started, looking flustered, but he never got to finish that sentence, because Poe busted out laughing. The kind of hysterical laughing that makes people nervous, makes people wonder if there may be a screw loose somewhere in a person’s head. He couldn’t stop. Every time he looked back at Finn, he would start all over again, because this was too much. It was too funny. There was no way, no way Finn was his, but the universe just loved to mess with Poe.
It was like a cruel, cosmic joke.
Poe turned to Finn, who was still crouched on the ground and looking completely bewildered, with a small, sad smile. He chuckled, shaking his head.“God, Finn, if you really were my soulmate…”
Poe trailed off with a wistful sigh. He looked down at the ground, trying to collect himself. Towards the end there, that laughter had been a little too close to the edge of tears. Suddenly, there was a pair of shoes in his eyeline, just in front of his own. And a pair of dark hands grabbing his.
Poe looked up to see Finn beaming at him, tears in his eyes.