Not everyone knew this about Finn, but he was competitive. Like, really competitive.
Poe thought it should have been obvious. No one got scores like Finn showed on his records without having a deep desire to succeed in everything they turned their attention to.
But, and it got more obvious the more Finn integrated into life on the base, the novelty of his presence was wearing off a bit and people tended to underestimate him.
Not everyone of course.
Not the General. Finn was called in regularly to attend top briefings to give his opinion on First Order movements, or intercepted codes, or the best routes for supply runs to avoid nasty surprises.
Not the slicers. They’d gained a deep respect for Finn’s almost preternatural ability to slice their codes once he’d done it about five times in a row without looking very impressed.
But since Finn had been brought in unconscious and hadn’t been allowed to take part in actual battle operations or simulations while he healed up, he’d been slotted in for the majority of the base as a tactics person, rather than someone who’d be in command on the field.
The pilots, of course, were sick to death – “Yes Poe, actual death!” Snap had moaned once – of Poe’s rhapsodising about Finn’s shooting accuracy during their escape from the Finalizer.
“You don’t get it!” Poe had tried to explain his excitement once again. “He’d never even been in an TIE fighter before and he managed to shoot us free from the moorings! While we were under heavy fire! That’s ridiculous!”
“You’re ridiculous!” Came the chorus from his squadron as a pillow launched extremely accurately from the sofa caught him in the face.
Really, where had respect for superior officers gone?
But for the majority of the base, Finn’s heroics on the Starkiller had been somewhat overshadowed by Han Solo’s death and, of course, the whispers about Rey had only grown with the news that Skywalker had been found and was returning to base. And with the excitement of that return itself, Finn seemed to have slipped into the shadows.
Poe tried to tell himself it didn’t matter. Finn had settled in better than he’d hoped in the months since he’d woken up. The rehab process had been painful and long but he barely needed the support braces they’d fitted him with anymore. Poe had felt so fiercely glad the first time Finn had put a strong hand in his and levered himself up to stand without them, he’d had to whoop and yell to cover up the suspicious hoarseness in his voice.
Perhaps it was also Finn’s hesitations over interpersonal protocol on the base that lead to people being overtly solicitous of him. To the point of tooth-grinding frustration. Poe couldn’t be mad about people being nice, but he hated watching the tension in Finn’s back grow when someone assumed he couldn’t operate a holotable for a game of Dejarik.
Finn had kicked a stone quite emphatically on the way back to their adjoining quarters that day. “I was just asking if there was a schedule for them. I know how they work.” He’d said quietly. “They were treats, you know.” His lip curled a little scornfully at a memory Poe couldn’t touch. “You got those sometimes.”
Poe could only reach out blindly in the darkness to offer some comfort, stuttering a little when he missed Finn’s arm to settle on his hand instead, raised a little and clasped in a tense fist.
Finn startled at the touch too.
Poe had a moment to wonder whether he should draw away before Finn’s hand loosened and flipped over, fingers lacing confidently with his own.
“I can… I can speak to...” Poe tried clumsily. He was always so shit with words at these times.
“No” Finn’s answer was sharp and short. He squeezed Poe’s hand a little before loosening his grip. “It’ll just make things more… awkward. Just leave it, yeah?”
Poe nodded dumbly, missing Finn’s warm grip.
So it really wasn’t up to Poe to run interference.
— And while he was regularly accused of being… protective…. “You’re a bigger mother hen than a Varactyl with a nest full of young ‘uns”. Shut up, Jess! —
He knew when to back off.
Rey, however, clearly did not.
“I thought Jedi-in-training were supposed be you know, calm and meditating and shit.” Jessika whispered to him as they passed by the newly arrived pair having a… spirited… discussion in the training rooms.
“The General said Master Luke was trying a new approach,” Poe said doubtfully, glancing back at Rey’s rather disrespectful face.
“Well…” Jessika paused a little. “If she starts wearing black all the time and looking like a bantha peed in her food, we’ll know this time, hey?”
Poe’s laughter was ugly and startled out of him, but once he met Jessika’s eyes he couldn’t stop, bending over and wheezing with it until his eyes were wet. She knew about his nightmares, the really ugly ones he couldn’t forget and couldn’t shake off with the morning light. Joking about them felt like lancing an ugly wound, painful but oh-so-necessary.
“Yeah buddy,” he straightened and clapped her shoulder forcefully enough to make her stumble in turn. “We’ll know.”
Rey, as it turned out, was also shit at interpersonal protocol. As Poe realised the first time he came into the mess hall and found her sitting huddled in the corner of a table by herself.
“What’s up?” He left the question light so that she could ignore it if she wished.
But Rey didn’t ignore it, flashing a look of half-impatience, half-frustration up at him. “I don’t know how rations work here. I mean… I’ve been having meals with Master Luke and he talked about me needing credits... I think he forgot when he went to see the General today.”
Poe felt a little annoyed that no one had thought fit to tell her go to the quartermaster to get set up.
Typical Luke Skywalker, his mother’s voice seemed to echo in his ears.
“And I’m hungry. I don’t usually fight for food but I could, right now.” Rey’s grip tightened on the staff that rested next to her.
“Err… no need for fighting.” Poe decided to nip that impulse in the bud.
“Is that another thing they don’t do here?” Rey’s question was sharp and Poe was suddenly reminded of Finn, though he was more adept at hiding his frustration now.
Poe decided to skip trying to be soothing. It had never really worked on Finn either. “The General frowns on us fighting for food, yes. Not enough of us, are there?”
Rey nodded, seeing the logic of the statement. “Finn said something like that too. But he had to go to medical and I’m hungry.”
“Can’t have that!” Poe winced at how hearty he sounded but soldiered on. “Come on, you can get some stuff on my account for now and we’ll get you sorted out later. You get a set amount of credits per month, depending on rank and any bonuses from special missions, but everyone gets enough for the basics.”
Rey’s ears seemed to perk up. “What’s my rank?” She asked curiously.
“Yes, well…” Poe considered the situation for a moment. “You don’t technically have a rank, I guess, so we’ll let Master Luke sort that out, okay?”
“What rank do you have? Finn said you’re the best pilot in the resistance.” Rey tracked his movements carefully as he demonstrated how to slide his data-card through the credit reader and select two standard meals.
Poe usually batted away such compliments laughingly but Rey’s directness stripped it of hyperbole. In fact, if he wasn’t reading it wrong, there was definitely a bit of challenge in the statement.
He grinned at her as they moved to the end of the line and waited for their meals to arrive. “I can fly a fair few things. And my rank is Commander.”
Rey smiled back a little hesitantly but he seemed to have passed some kind of test. However, he lost her attention conclusively once the meal-trays arrived and couldn’t help but gape a little as she set about demolishing it. A standard portion was considered pretty generous by humanoid standards but Rey clearly had no issue finishing hers off, even glancing speculatively at his plate after hers was wiped clean.
Poe nudged it towards her but she shook her head. “I already owe you for this. You said I could have credits?”
Poe contemplated waving the offer away but the steely glint in her eyes warned him to be careful. “That was five credits,” he said baldly instead, knowing he’d passed another test when her shoulders released a little more tension. “And yes, if you’re officially joining the Resistance there’ll be credits depending on what you can do.”
Her eyes lit up then, “I can fly! I can fix things.”
Poe laughed a little at that and then raised a hand in placation when her eyes narrowed again. “I’m sure you can! But you’re like…” He waved his hands expansively, “A Jedi! I’m sure you don’t need to find ways to be useful.”
Rey shrugged a little angrily at that, “I’m something but I don’t think even Master Luke knows exactly what. And anyway, I’m not just that either. I… I mean Finn...” She trailed off flushing a little. The first clear tell Poe had seen from her.
But, well… it was Finn. Poe could understand.
“What about Finn? Do you think he’s something too?” Poe asked carefully, only to be the focus of Rey’s suspicious glare once again.
“He’s… he’s more than… than something.” She stumbled a little before scowling, not at Poe but clearly frustrated with herself. “I mean he saved my life. He came back for me. No one… I owe… I mean I want to pay that back.”
“He saved my life too.” It felt good to say the words to someone else who understood.
Rey had looked up at the words, the angry red fading from her cheeks as she met understanding in Poe’s face. “He said you escaped together...”
Poe brushed that aside. “That came later, but he saved me first.”
Rey frowned again. “Has he let you pay him back? He won’t hear anything from me. He just yells about the fight with Ren and then finds excuses to leave! Like Ren has anything to do with what’s between us.” Her tone was clear about what she thought of that.
Poe had to laugh at that, leaning back in his chair a little. “No, he hasn’t. He’s very annoying about that, I’ve found. But credits isn’t the only way to pay people back.”
Rey nodded. “There’s food and clothes. But he has those. You gave him that jacket but I don’t have anything that’ll fit.” Her huff of breath was vaguely accusatory.
Poe gave himself a moment to be warmed by the fact that Finn was still wearing his jacket before concentrating on the annoyed sand rat in front of him. “You could look out for him. You know like friends… allies.”
Rey looked skeptical. “He’s strong and skilled with a blaster and trains well. I don’t think he needs that.”
Poe shook his head. “Not physically, I don’t mean. But like, you guys are both new here, right? I know our ways can be a little… frustrating.”
Rey nodded then, a little darkly. “Fidgety,” she muttered.
Poe bit his lip to suppress a smile. “Right, fidgety. Finn feels that too, I think. But he’s not as ...” Poe searched frantically for a word that communicated ‘as fractious as a loth-cat’ in a nicer way, “good at bargaining, as you. He likes people too much.”
Rey nodded again, Poe’s words clearly having given her pause. “He doesn’t bargain nearly enough! He would have given that Guncta-offspring of a trader ten credits for that cloth on last market day because he liked the colour!”
Poe’s lips were gonna end up bitten off at this rate. “Well, blue does look very nice on him, wouldn’t you say?” He parried lightly.
Rey’s eyes had narrowed again, but this time in a different kind of evaluation.
Poe let her look, leaving his expression open and unguarded.
She smiled a little then, soft and private. “I offered to make a shirt for him,” she said softly, like it was a confession.
Perhaps it was.
“Clever.” Poe smiled back. Something seemed to have settled between them
Rey moved to get up and then stilled once again, clearly wanting to make sure she’d understood. “Is this what you mean by allies? Helping him?”
Poe tilted his head up to look into her eyes, trying to choose his words carefully. “Finn’s a survivor. He’d be fine anywhere.” He ignored her impatient nod. “But his heart... it’s so big.”
He paused again, trying to find a way to talk about the horror of life in the First Order that Finn had let drop, usually in such a matter-of-fact way that had made it worse somehow. He’d tried to just listen, but it was hard not to try and offer some kind of comfort. Rey had her own scars he knew but…
Poe was a military commander. He’d known what the Order did for a long time. He’d watched the General try to talk about it when arguing with the Republic about the need for direct action. But the mission briefings and dry military intelligence had never been so intensely personal before Finn had talked hesitantly about being ten years old and taught to shoot a blaster.
He tried anyway. “Honestly, I have no idea how they didn’t touch that. But he’s always so careful of people. I… think we can be careful of him, a little?”
Rey nodded firmly then. “Yes,” she seemed to be speaking almost to herself. “He would give half his portion away even if he was hungry.”
She looked down then, a little fiercely, a little ashamed. “I wouldn’t…. I didn’t.”
Poe didn’t smile at that, taking the information with the seriousness with which it was offered. “You’d give it to him, wouldn’t you?” This time he waited for her to gesture impatiently in agreement. “Well then, that’s what’s important.”
Rey gripped her staff a little tighter as she straightened. “I understand,” she said, low and fierce, before nodding at Poe and walking away.
Well, that was job well done. Right?
Finn liked the Resistance a lot.
He was grateful for them for taking him in and for giving him a chance to help stop the horror of the Order before it ruined more lives. He loved working with the slicers in the quiet coolness of the comm base. At first, it had been the easiest way to distract himself from the pain of his back during rehab, but soon enough it had become a bit of refuge. Plus he was bloody good at it.
He wasn’t hiding, okay?
But equally, if he had to hear one more overly-simplified and slightly pitying explanation about life on base – Do you know what off-days are? – when he’d just asked how scheduled leave worked – We had rotations – he was going to go full-Ren.
His grumpy internal monologue brought him up short at that, a guilty giggle escaping before he could tamp it down. And just like that, the familiar bad-wrong rush of nostalgia for his old troop threatened to overwhelm him.
He let his head drop into his hands, as if frustrated by a piece of code, to give himself a moment to pull himself together.
He wondered if he’d ever be able to explain the sickening tug of it to someone. He didn’t miss the Order. But kriff he missed Slip. And Zeros. And Nines.
When he’d had nothing, he’d had them. And it hadn’t been enough. He had so much more now.
He was jerked out of his reverie by BB-8’s cheery tones as the little droid rolled up without seeming to care about the noise levels enforced in the comm base.
The other slicers were quite used to its presence though, since it’d decided to pretty much attach itself to Finn during his convalescence, so only a few warning hisses were heard in response.
Finn tapped it on its head gently, unable to repress his gladness at the distraction. “We’ve talked about this, BB!” he whispered.
boop-boop-boop Came the unimpressed, if quieter response.
“What’s up? Is Poe looking for me?” Finn felt even better at the prospect of seeing him. And, come to think of it, he was hungry too.
BB8 beeped affirmatively, and added that Rey was looking for him too.
Finn grinned in delight. Both his friends together was a treat indeed.
“Where are they?” He asked, rising to his feet and picking up his jacket.
BB8 lead the way out, beeping quickly. “Oh Okay, at the training fields? Cool, I’ll just get some rations first then. What? They’re gonna eat there? Is that allowed?”
Finn cursed himself a little for the instinctive question as soon as he’d asked.
Don’t keep asking whether things are allowed, had been an early rule of thumb.
But thank the Force it was only BB-8 who just answered questions of protocol regardless of their awkwardness.
He let himself break into a jog towards the training areas, relishing the way in which his body was finally feeling its own strength after months of support braces.
He got there a little out of breath, but enjoying the burn of that too, and looked around to spot Poe and Rey. He saw them on the far side of the first ring and moved to join them, only to be startled by a shout of warning that had him spinning in place, senses on full alert.
Seemingly out of nowhere he saw a disk come speeding towards him, slightly serrated edges gleaming wickedly in the noonday sun. He could have avoided it by throwing himself away from its trajectory, but that might have meant it hurting someone else.
Instead, he leaned into its arc, estimating its speed and curvature even as he raised his hands. He half-heard startled shouts, automatically dismissing them as irrelevant, before he snapped forward, both palms coming together in a fist before punching down once, sharp and strong. He hit the disk precisely, sending it crashing down to the soft ground between his feet where its velocity was absorbed harmlessly.
He looked up to realise the silence wasn’t just a product of his own concentration. The whole field was staring at him in shock, and he felt heat rise in his cheeks at the attention. He bent down to pick up the disk, vaguely intending to return it to the guilty party who’d made a mistake with the target shooter, clearly identifiable as holding the gun on the other side of ring.
But suddenly the silence was shattered by synchronised whoops and two pairs of hands spun him around. He already knew whose they were, their matching energy singing to him subtly, and so he allowed himself be shaken with glee and let his slightly smug laughter bubble out.
“KRIFF! DID YOU SEE THAT?!”
“FINN, THAT WAS AMAZING!”
“DID YOU SEE THAT?!”
Finn felt almost lifted up by their pride and glee, their hands running over him with so much warm possessiveness he felt enveloped in it.
“Well, that was lucky.” A voice broke through Finn’s bubble of happiness, its drawling vowels clearly edged with hostility.
He looked over to find the owner of the target gun now standing quite close to their little group, eyes narrowed and lips pursed. He was a pale, tall humanoid man. Finn had a feeling he was a newish recruit. He didn’t recall him from any of Poe’s introductions at any rate.
He was about to just hand the disk back without comment when Rey stepped forward, practically bristling. “Yes, lucky for you he was there. Watch where you’re aiming that thing.”
The man bristled back. “It was an accident. I warned him, didn’t I?”
“Oh well is that...” Rey started forward and Finn decided it was time to intervene. He touched her arm gently but it was enough to snap her attention to him. He smiled coaxingly, trying to indicate how not worth their time this was. “Come on, Rey, BB-8 said there were rations and I’m hungry.” He then turned to the hostile soldier and offered the disk back. “No harm done. Just go to the range next time maybe.”
The man took it from his brusquely but silently, having obviously noted Poe’s presence behind them as well. As Finn turned away, however, he heard a quiet mutter.
“Like you could do it again.”
He knew Rey had heard it too, from the swell of anger in her aura that was threatening to combust, but this was his fight.
He turned smoothly, taking Rey’s hand in the same motion and squeezing it a little in warning. “What did you say?” He asked politely, but too pointedly for the man to back down.
And sure enough, he didn’t. “I said you couldn’t do it again. All that whooping and hollering over a lucky break.”
“Care to bet on that?” Finn shot back, surprising even himself. He hadn’t made a bet in years. Not since they had been put in advanced training and told that games were for children, not warriors.
“You bet on things where you come from then...” The soldier’s words echoed his thoughts so uncannily that Finn felt disconcerted for a moment.
“Where I come from,” Finn repeated the words with just enough emphasis to make the man flush with embarrassment. “No, where I come from... I win them.”
The crowd which had been looking at the soldier with distaste ever since the initial challenge whooped a little at that. “So what’s the bet then, Finn?” someone called out. Finn looked up to see Snap Wexley grin encouragingly at him.
He grinned back. Snap was cool. “If I can catch ten of those things, would you agree I wasn’t lucky?”
The crowd drew a breath as one. Ten was a lot!
The soldier knew he couldn’t back down though. “Fifteen,” he challenged brazenly.
The crowd murmured angrily.
But Finn just laughed. “Fifteen it is! I bet a month of special rations. And you?”
The soldier shuffled his feet, well and truly caught now. “The same,” he said grudgingly.
“Hey now, Dexler,” Snap’s voice rang out again. “You’re the one throwing challenges around so maybe you need to sweeten the pot. What about that neat little speeder you got? Or can’t you back up your big talk?”
The man, Dexler, Finn assumed, seemed to want to object, but finally nodded curtly.
Snap walked forward, seeming to have deemed himself referee. “Okay then, fifteen shots to be disposed off by Finn. Who’s gonna shoot them? No, not you, Dexler, wouldn’t be fair. Okay, Gylmarr, you’re up.”
Finn relaxed as the fine-boned Cathar moved to take the target gun from Dexler. He’d always liked Gylmarr, her calm and easy presence a balm in the medical wing where she doubled as a medidroid tech. She wouldn’t go easy on him but he wasn’t going to get any nasty surprises either.
The crowd had now melted to the edges of the training ring, leaving only Finn, Poe, and Rey on one side as Snap beckoned Dexler and Gylmarr to the other. He turned to his companions, suddenly worried they might think him reckless, but met identical expressions of glee in both pairs of eyes.
“You’ve got this!” Poe was practically vibrating with excitement as he gripped Finn’s shoulder. Rey too couldn’t seem to keep her hands off him, punching him lightly on the other arm.
“I think you’re supposed to be talking me down or something, Commander and Jedi,” Finn told them laughingly.
“Oh, please,” Rey huffed. “Master Luke says it’s good to finish challenges and you didn’t start anything.”
Poe nodded, his eyes twinkling with mischief. “Good for base morale to have some friendly competition!”
Again Finn felt buoyed by their belief in him, swaying forward to hug them… Maybe even more… before he caught himself.
Not the time.
From the looks on Poe and Rey’s faces though, his intent had been pretty clear.
“Okay, time to kick some butt!” Finn clapped his hands and waved them away, before turning and nodding to Snap that he was ready.
Snap nodded back before clearing his throat and announcing loudly. “Okay everyone, terms are fifteen targets to be neutralised. Targets will be fired ten seconds apart and everything stops if Finn misses or is injured. No distractions allowed.”
Gylmarr had taken her place at the end of the ring, target gun positioned on her shoulder and pointing straight at Finn.
Snap checked once more that they were both ready and then raised his hands. “Okay, ready… And… GO!”
The hush was almost unnatural as the first shot rang out, the disk coming curling straight towards Finn. He knew the edges were serrated, one wrong move and he’d be in the medical wing again with a pretty nasty cut. He shook off the tiny bite of fear and lunged forward, once again using his clasped fists to knock the spinning circle into the ground.
And there was the next one right on its heels, and the next and the next… Finn weaved and ducked, letting his awareness of their flight paths dictate when to twirl and kick them away. He’d never questioned what gave him that extra half-second of response time before he’d met Rey, putting it down to luck.
But now he was beginning to wonder.
No time for that now though as the… tenth, he thought… disk sheared towards him. This one was going to be tricky he could tell, Gylmarr clearly testing him more. The trajectory was more curved than the rest, the disk bobbling a little as it spun straight toward him at around waist-height. He let it come, feeling two heartbeats speed up almost in concert at the back of his mind.
He exploded into action, leaping up from his crouch at the exact moment he needed to intercept the disk with its edge tilted away from him. It worked, the impact thudding through his arms as it spun away to thunk against the earth five feet away from him.
He dispatched the next three almost in the same gliding movement as he moved closer to Gylmarr, knocking them away before they could curve into their flight path fully or dip disconcertingly low. He was sweating now, his back muscles straining a little.
Two more to go.
He looked up to see Gylmarr smile a little, showing teeth, and knew she was going to change things up. “How about the last two together, big deal?” She tossed out.
This time Finn did let his laugh ring out, he kriffling well was going to be a big deal in the Resistance.
“Hit me!” He challenged back.
Glymarr growled her approval and let the last two disks loose one after the other. They came barreling toward him almost too quickly to anticipate.
Gathering his strength to his core he leapt up, higher than he had before, giving himself enough room to arrow down again, his left leg kicking away the first disk and his clasped fist smashing the second one to the side. He fell to the ground in a perfectly balanced crouch before rising again, fists raised up in victory.
The rest of the world seemed to snap back into focus then and the roar of the crowd — it had gotten so much bigger than at the start — crashed over him. Snap was on his left side, raising his arm higher and yelling incoherently in his ear. And that was Gylmarr on his right, growling her approval as she too clasped his arm. He’d never felt this kind of rush before, a hundred people at least cheering him on and there… there were Rey and Poe running in to hug him, their pride and approval the most heady of all.
For the first time since he woke up, Finn felt the same thread of camaraderie that he’d felt in brief moments with his squad wind through him again. It was new and young and oh so fragile, but with Poe and Rey practically barreling him to the ground in their open joy, their yes, love evident, and they were all going to do something about that very soon... The thought flickered more strongly it ever had, deep in the most secret part of his soul.