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The war ends not in victory or defeat, but in stalemate that forces a truce. Both sides are punch drunk: out of men, out of ships, out of weapons, out of steel and plasma and bacta and infrastructure and everything that keeps life going. Too many planets lost, too many people dead, the will to fight eroded by loss and a surfeit of destruction.

The truce creeps up on them a day at a time, one ceasefire leading to another and another, First Order and Resistance meeting once and then again and again, their concessions and agreements formalised in writing even when there’s nobody with the authority or mandate to call them a treaty. They expand into exhausted peace negotiations that drag on and on for seven solar orbits until they become the new status quo.

There is no galactic leadership, not since Hosnia Prime was destroyed, but anybody with any authority washes up here on Yresh eventually. Years later there will be historical debate over how the treaties came to be negotiated here, on this Non Allied world of no strategic significance and close to nowhere, all rock and water and mild blue skies. The theories all seek to explain the evolution of military strategy and political ideology; supply lines, the Jedi and the influence of key figures, but Finn has a more prosaic answer: they were here, and nobody had the strength to go any further. He and Rey were with Leia that very first time she spoke face to face with General Hux, and they knew this was a sea change, that they were witnessing something monumental. But when the short, tense meeting concluded, he felt no sense of occasion.

Rey sighed, said, “You can hear the waves, even from up here,” and the three of them made their way down to the sea, squinting in the sunshine, to watch the waves until their shuttle came. That’s the real reason the de facto government is here: because seven orbits ago, Rey sighed and they all felt the pull of the ocean.

 

Leia leads them for the first solar orbit, Finn there with her every day, staring down the leaders of the First Order who destroyed planets and stole him from his family. There’s a collective intake of breath the first time he walks into the room at her side: glances are exchanged, datapads flicker into light as messages are exchanged. Leia presses her lips together in a suppressed smile.

The first time Finn clears his throat to get her attention and she turns to him, a murmur runs around the First Order side. They’re lying, and Finn knows it, and they know he’s telling Leia. She listens to him in private when the First Order aren’t there to see, agreeing or disagreeing but always listening. Now they are there to see, she turns in her seat, leans towards him, puts a hand on his arm, a full body demonstration of her trust in her star defector, Captain of the Resistance who knows all the enemy’s secrets. Maybe it’s petty to take such pleasure in it, but oh he does.

Leia leads them until the whole issue with the Jedi comes up. That’s practically the first thing the survivors agree on in that whole year, that the Jedi have no place in this peace process. Look what they’ve done, everybody says. Look what they’ve done to the galaxy.

Leia doesn’t wait to be pushed. She stands up at the head of the table, a tiny figure on the monitor but looming above Finn where he sits at her side. Everybody saw him cross the room to sit here right next to her. He doesn’t want there to be any doubt where he stands on the Jedi, or his loyalties.

“Some of you here have heard my resignation speech before,” she begins, “So forgive me if I repeat myself. You know what I have done, but I understand that others will judge me for who I am and for what my father did and what my son did. I would only be harming our cause if I tried to stay on in any kind of leadership role: it’s time to pass the torch.”

She glances down at Finn. He meets her eye, straightens his shoulders, looks back at the room.

It’s mainly Resistance here at the head of the table, with the remnants of the Republican government at the other end, fault lines even among allies. None of them have anything against Leia personally, they say, and that may even be true. But they all agreed on the no Jedi resolution, knowing or suspecting that she would not stay on once that decision was taken.

That’s what really brings it home to him that the war is all over, and this is something new. A general in wartime doesn’t resign because of who her family is: this is political decision not a military one, and Leia respects it as such. If they have politics back, then they aren’t at war any longer.

 

Seven solar orbits is a long time, to Finn. It’s long enough that the communal military atmosphere of the Resistance dissolves into something more settled, more civilian. The barracks empty out as the negotiating teams settle into their roles: disarmament, political settlement, truth and reconciliation. It’s hard to draft a treaty when you live in a hut that holds 12 bunks.

Finn is one of the last to leave. He’s never lived anywhere but barracks, and it’s Leia who takes him to visit an apartment on the other side of the archipelago. It sits out on the water, like most of the residential areas do, linked to the islands by floating walkways. The conference building the opposing armies have commandeered isn’t visible, but the tree covered hill that looms over it is, and the sea. The sea is everywhere, here. Lapping at rock and transparisteel, a tender blue in the morning that deepens to indigo in the heat of the day and softens to purple in the evening.

Leia leans on the deck rail as Finn peers into a plain white bedroom, an office, runs his hand over a couch that runs the length of the room. There’s a narrow kitchen that he has no reference point for: what does one person need in a kitchen? Is this too much space, or not enough?

He goes out to join Leia.

“I think you should take it,” she tells him.

She may not be leading the Resistance any longer, but he’s always trusted her judgement.

“Ok then,” he says. He can see water beneath his feet, hear it lapping against wood.

“I live just up there - ” she points along the walkway, back towards the island. “It would be nice to have company nearby. But don’t let that sway you.”

He does let that sway him, of course: Rey’s gone, he needs the company as much as she does. Maybe that was what she meant in the first place.

 

Civilian life is not something he ever expected to get used to. Officially he’s still a captain, but by the end of the first solar orbit, there he is, with an apartment and a job as second negotiator on the Disarmament Treaty team. Like a different person, who was born into a different life.

Routines grow up around him, this time ones of his own making. Nobody sounds reveille, nobody sets mealtimes. There is no organised transport: he’s free to walk, to pilot his own tiny hydrobike, even to swim if he likes. The doctor tells him it’s good for his back, so on calm days he does. Takes clothes and datapad in a watertight float and crosses the channel to the main island, past raft after raft of low houses like his own.

With practice he goes further, follows the line of the walkway and then breaks out across open water to the next island with its floating buildings stretching out into the water like tendrils. Fish flick past beneath him, and just once a huge lizard like creature bigger than he is overtakes him, undulating and muscular, and he stops dead in the water as his heart pounds somewhere between wonder and terror. He feels smaller out here with water stretching over the curve of the horizon than he ever has in the vastness of space. He was never this alone in space, not even once: a destroyer is a crowded place, and even a Tie fighter seats two. Space is so huge the human mind can’t accept it, shies away from what’s out there. Maybe all the horror of the war was just a distraction from that, of how big and empty the galaxy really is. When other people are shooting at you, you don’t have time to notice.

He’d like to ask Poe, actually. Poe’s been alone in space a lot, but it doesn’t look like he’s coming back here. A lot of the Resistance haven’t: negotiations don’t need an entire army, after all. Poe’s needed where he is on Coruscant. The war may be on hold, but the pirates, the aggressive non allied worlds and the cartels only see that as an opportunity.

After a while Finn realises he isn’t quite as alone as he thought. There are fish, and there are the Yreshi. They’re humanoid but not human, mammals with gills and sleek subcutaneous fat who live in apartments on the ocean like Finn’s and rent them out to the offworlders, but work in the water. When Finn swims past the pylons that anchor the walkway to the ocean floor, they stop what they’re doing to watch him. His stroke goes to shit under their observation, splashing like a hooked fish and barely making progress.

They don’t say anything, but he imagines the sound of laughter.

Next time he passes them they don’t look at him, and the third time one of them raises a webbed hand in greeting. After that he slows, waves first, treads water as they work on replacing some rotted slats. Why they build in organic material when they could make something permanent with duracrete or hydrasteel he doesn’t know, nor why they don’t use droids to make these repairs. They could, but they’ve chosen not to.

 

Finn eats dinner with Leia more often than not, and it’s reassuring to find she doesn’t have much more idea of what to do in a kitchen than he does. They work some things out together, or fail to work them out and walk back to the island in search of supper someone else has cooked. There’s no shortage of food here. A service industry has sprung up around the peace talks, local people growing rich on a demobbed military desperate to eat something better than ration packs, drink something better than home-distilled grain spirits as they look out to sea and tell each other this truce will last. That’s what the Resistance wants anyway. Finn knows what the First Order wants from the other side of the negotiating table, but away from that table he’s never really understood them. Some days he worries that the Resistance think he does.

First Order negotiators and their administrative teams live on the other side of the island, and Finn’s never set foot there. He’s swum past from a safe distance, focusing on his breathing and the smoothest possible movement of his body through water. It looks a lot like his side of the island: residential units docked to walkways over the water, all spiralling out from the steep rock of the island.

The two sides only meet in the echoing conference hall, and in some of the wilder bars and cantinas and restaurants that keep opening and expanding. There’s a delicate etiquette for avoiding people you have history with - eyes front, no hesitation, pretend they don’t exist, nothing ever happened. Finn mastered it early on, closes his ears to the First Order whispers as he passes.

If you want to stick to your own side there are plenty of places to go, and if you’re less picky whom you drink with there are others. You can get food and drink from almost any of the surviving planets and some of the vanished ones, for a price, and for a lower price you can eat fish plucked from the ocean at your feet and wash it down with pale cold resinous wine, the principal ingredient of which Leia promises him he is better off not knowing. It’s a deliberate overestimation of the delicacy of his palate, and every time she says it he raises his eyebrows and says, “Uh-huh,” until she laughs, but somehow he still forgets to ask anybody else what it’s made of.

At night, the streets on the island and the floating ones immediately surrounding it are loud with voices and brightly lit. Sometimes there’s singing: New Republican pilots’ drinking songs, popular music distorted through low grade audioprojectors and a creaky holonet connection.

Once when they’re leaving a restaurant so crowded people have spilled out onto the quayside, plates and drinks propped on windowsills and walls, he’s stopped in his tracks by a burst of song from childhood.

Impossible to tell where it’s coming from, and for all that he sits face to face with these people every day picking over clauses and sub-clauses and sub sub clauses, it raises the hair on the back of his neck. Something that isn’t nostalgia and isn’t horror shivers across his skin and into his bones, and he stands poised at the top of the steps to listen. Leia is holding his arm, and he tightens his grip on her just for a second before he feels her gaze on him. Leia doesn’t miss a trick.

“Stormtrooper song,” he says, light as he can. It was a long time ago, after all. “Well, cadets. Kids sing it.”

“Ah,” is all she says.

He’s heard Phasma died in the fighting over Naboo. Of the troopers he grew up with, not a word. Well. Poe killed Slip, Finn himself shot Nines. Who knows what happened to Zeros, or the rest of them? Everyone he ever knew in the First Order could be dead. They probably are.

In the third year, he gets drunk in one of the non segregated cantinas and goes home with another former ‘trooper, now a First Order file clerk. He never sees the guy again, and he never tells Leia, but he thinks about it for a long time afterwards. He’s never sure, not even years and years later, if it was a bad thing or a good thing or neither good nor bad.

 

Inevitably, fights break out. Nobody’s keeping tally but it seems drinks get spilled and punches get thrown between Resistance and Republic, who have always been on the same side in spirit if not in letter, almost as often as between Resistance and the First Order.

Finn’s not surprised to get jumped on a dark corner by six former troopers muttering traitor. He doesn’t know any of them personally but his very survival is a sore point to the Order; his rising prominence as Resistance negotiator a provocation. He may not be the only child soldier to have defected, but he’s the one who wrought the most damage when he went - what turned out to be the turning point in the war.

The only thing that does surprise him is that they set on him when he’s with Leia. She’s either a witness or another target to account for; either way, it’s sloppy planning.

The ambush is fast and he can’t keep track of where Leia is: he would have tried to keep her safe behind him, only they’re so clearly going for him that there’s no need. He hears her shout - anger, not fear - then all his attention goes on the men. He hopes she ran. He fights off three of them, dirty blows they should have seen coming, and leaves them groaning on the decking before the others get him down but not out. He’s got more than this, and just as he’s spitting blood, poised to leap on the guy with his back turned like an amateur, Leia reappears, a blaster in both hands and her jaw set grim. Anyone who doubts she’ll shoot is a fool, and it turns out these people are fools because one of them rushes her and falls back shrieking with a clean shot to the leg.

“I want name, rank and serial number,” she tells them flatly. “If any of my troops had jeopardised the peace process like this they’d be court martialled so fast they wouldn’t know what hit them. Let’s see if First Order discipline is all it’s cracked up to be.”

Maybe she’s using the Force to or maybe it’s just the force of character and reputation, but they all dully reel off a name and number and even the two still on their feet don’t move until First Order military police show up.

Leia takes Finn’s arm and whistles to herself as they walk back home.

In his tiny refresher she disinfects his split lip, dabs bacta where a punch has swollen his cheekbone, and he closes his eyes and tips his head back into the light so she can work, her hands cool and careful, gentler than any med droid. It’s almost worth getting beaten up for.

 

The in-fighting is worse. The First Order lose a man a week (and it is always a man) to drunken brawling among themselves, something about this inglorious stalemate setting them at each other’s throats. The Resistance isn’t quite so trigger-happy, but when a Republican captain turns up dead in the harbour Admiral Statura re-imposes curfew for an entire lunar cycle.

Leia says, flushed and terrifying, “If this is how we settle scores with our own side I don’t know why we even bothered standing up against the First Order: this is not what we stand for. I will know who is responsible for this if it’s the last thing I do.”

She may have no official authority here any longer, but when Princess Leia Organa speaks, people still listen. An unedifying story of a fight got out of hand emerges - old bitterness, hard words exchanged, a blow, a fall, a death. There are no more bodies in the harbour after this one, but who knows how scores are being settled on other worlds?

Resentment runs deep, both against those who appeased the First Order and those who deserted the Republic in favour of the Resistance. One erred in desperation to avoid war, the other in rushing into it, say the accusations.

“I got called a traitor today,” Poe tells Finn through a crystal-clear comm channel that same cycle in one of their sporadic calls. His gaze slides over Finn’s left shoulder and up as he says it. “Guy said I shoulda stuck it out in the Republic, shown a united front.”

Usually he’s all smiles, but today Finn can hear the bitterness, the distance he puts between himself and those words united front. Poe only wanted to do what was right - did do what was right, if you ask Finn. But right and wrong are subjective these days. It all depends on the company you keep, and Poe’s practically alone there on Coruscant, diplomat and symbolic military defence in one, trying to tempt the Non Allied Worlds to trade rather than raid.

Finn never knows when he’ll call: his schedule has its own biorhythms. Every few lunar cycles, sometimes less, with a weird knack for calling just when Finn is thinking of him but before he can ever put a call through himself - he always means to, and then Poe beats him to it. They mostly talk treaty progress, and politics, but there’s something reassuring about the connection, in the way Poe still reaches out to him even when they haven’t seen each other in years. His other friends from the Resistance send messages, sometimes, but Poe’s the only one to call. (Once he asked Leia if she thought Poe felt responsible for him, if that was why the calls never stopped entirely. She just raised her eyebrows at him and said, “Poe feels responsible for everybody, I should think. You’re - ” and then she closed her mouth and didn’t finish.)

 

The restauranteurs protest the curfew in the second cycle. Statura consults with Leia, and lifts it.

She takes Finn out to dinner that night, and with life come back to the streets and walkways they drink more than they mean to. Maybe everybody drinks more than they mean to. Finn and Leia certainly do, not just tonight but most nights. More together, sometimes alone too. It creeps up on you: one glass blurs into another, a warmth rising that soothes both aches and memories. Easy to not think too hard about it, lose track, finish the bottle. And then other nights they set out with intent and absolutely mean every drop.

It isn’t the first time they’ve drunk too much together, but with a bottle of Yreshi wine inside him he feels himself lurching into tragic confession, revealing things nobody ever needed to hear, and she listens to all of it like the sea breaking on a rock. To his shame he finds himself crying, and Leia puts her arms around him, tiny and desperately kind, murmuring shh, shh, shh, I know, I know, oh believe me I know. That’s in the third year. After that the curve of his mood seems to rise, and he gets used to the way the swim the morning after soothes his hangover.

Leia holds it better than he does. No tripping over the furniture or slurring her words, and certainly no tears, but eventually she talks too. About Han Solo, mostly, and things she wishes she had said or not said. Hardly ever about their son. Perhaps there’s too much to wish undone: where would she even start?

She speaks about her real parents and her birth parents, and never once asks if he’s requested his own records from the First Order archive. She doesn’t ask him about Rey, either, and he’s grateful on both scores.

 

Her friend Lando Calrissian comes through every few cycles, and Finn returns the favour and doesn’t ask. Lando does know what to do with a kitchen, but rather than learning Finn and Leia mostly just let him get on with it, watching the holonews of the day’s treaty decisions and stalemates, making notes now to save time tomorrow while Lando slices and sizzles and sings.

He’s possibly the most elegant and sophisticated man Finn has ever met: as well as fine dining, he knows about literature, music, politics, intrigue. When negotiations go into recess for a standard period, he insists both Finn and Leia come with him to Naboo. Finn tries to get out of it not because he doesn’t want to go - he deeply wants to go - but because he’s sure Lando is only asking him to be polite. Therefore the polite thing for Finn to do is decline, let Lando and Leia have a few days to themselves without him tagging along like an overgrown child.

But Lando’s politeness is an unstoppable force: Finn’s never stood a chance against it, and he finds himself in Lando’s very well-appointed shuttle next to Leia without really understanding how he came to be there. Oh, he knows perfectly well that Lando called for him in the morning and the three of them took a hydrotaxi over to the spaceport. What he can’t work out is why he didn’t manage to say no.

The trip is a success, anyway. While Leia meets with the local Alderaanian diaspora, Lando takes Finn shopping.

“A future leader can’t wear military castoffs all his life, you know,” he says, a hand on Finn’s shoulder to steer him into a boutique.

Finn chooses not to engage with the first part of his statement: Lando flatters everybody. It’s nice, but you can’t read anything into it.

“This jacket is not a castoff. It has a history. Poe gave it to me, it’s the first piece of clothing of my own I ever had,” is all he says.

Lando looks like he wants to say something like, then it’s definitely time you got a new one, but he doesn’t. He represses a smile, looks Finn and his jacket up and down.

“It’s rugged, I like it. But it doesn’t have to be the only piece of clothing you own, does it?”

“No, I guess not,” Finn concedes.

He can see the difference, in the suits and jackets in green, pale grey, purple that Lando gives him to try on. Quality cut and fabric do show: the man looking back at him in the mirror looks older, more sure of himself. Someone you’d listen to. Lando stands beside him, and his reflection nods at him in approval.

“I hear you’re making a name for yourself in the negotiations. You don’t have to dress the part, but it can help if you do.”

Finn looks at himself again, and slowly nods back. He won’t dress like this every day, but he knows the impact image can have around the negotiating table.

He goes back to Yresh with twice as much luggage as he left with.

 

In the fourth solar cycle, Iolo and Jess Pava come through. Finn’s leading his team now, first negotiator on the disarmament treaty, and it’s gratifying how proud they seem when Leia mentions it. Jess proposes a toast that sets the rhythm for the evening, and Leia leaves them to it after dinner, pleading age and dignity with a twinkle in her eye. They all protest but let her go.

“So yeah, we saw Poe,” Jess repeats once she’s gone, and knocks back a drink like it’s going out of fashion.

“Yeah, you told us. The security perimeter, pirates, representing what’s left of the Republic in the non-allied worlds…” The two of them had given it quite a speech over dinner, all eye contact and bags of sincerity: even in the grubby days of the truce, Poe Dameron is still a hero to his squadron. Finn gets it, in fact he’s almost insulted they think they have to convince him.

“And he’s doing ok?” Finn asks, sensing something else is wanted from him.

“Oh, yeah,” Iolo agrees, looking right at Finn. “Doing great. Living with this guy - the planetary administrator.”

“Uh-huh,” Finn echoes into the space they seem to be leaving for his reaction. “Well that’s good, that’s great, I’m glad to hear that.”

“I guess it’s serious...” Jess trails off. “I mean, you know how Poe is.”

It’s on the tip of his tongue to say, no, he really doesn’t know how Poe is. Not like this. How would he? He knows Poe as Commander Dameron, his comrade in arms, his friend. Maybe he’s a little too invested because he saved Poe’s life once and Poe got him away from the Order, but that’s it. He knows nothing at all about how Poe might handle his intimate relationships. Hell, until right now he didn’t even know if Poe liked men, women, both, neither.

Iolo picks up where she left of. “Yeah, he doesn’t mess people around. If he’s in, he’s in, right?”

“Sure,” Finn hazards. That certainly sounds right. When Poe commits, he really commits: Finn’s alive because of that.

Jess and Iolo look at each other.

“I’m gonna get another bottle,” Iolo announces.

Finn doesn’t remember the end of the evening, but he wakes up alone in his own bed with a headache and his credit chip present and accounted for, so he’s pretty sure he doesn’t have anything to regret.

 

**

 

That’s seven solar orbits. Enough time for life on the floating city to feel like normality, to believe the peace will stick.

Seven solar orbits until Coruscant votes for secession from what’s left of the Republic.

It’s a long time coming, of course - there are no surprises to anyone who’s been looking in the right place.

“I think they’re going to vote out,” Leia says one evening, cycles and cycles before the referendum actually takes place. She’s sitting on Finn’s couch, feet tucked under her, watching the holonews with a glass of pale wine in her hand. “I hope they don’t, but I think they will.”

“But they’ve been in the Republic from the very beginning,” Finn protests. He doesn’t disagree, but he also doesn’t want her to be right about this. The Republic may not be running things nowadays, but as an ideal it seems infinitely precious when the alternatives are the Empire or the First Order.

Leia shrugs, turns back to the news. “Han was from Coruscant,” she says.

Poe is on the news a couple times. A clip from five orbits back, when he testified to the War Crimes Commission. Finn was there with him - it was the last time they saw each other, in fact - and he remembers how composed Poe appeared and how he left immediately afterwards. Courtroom to spaceport without even a pause, getting away from the words he’d spoken in the most literal way possible. His testimony to the Commission had lasted a couple hours, running from Lor San Tekka to their crash back on Jakku, but the clip the Coruscant anti Republican campaign shows lasts less than a minute, where the advocate asks: “And what happened to the villagers?”

Even if it weren’t repeated on the news, Finn would remember the break in Poe’s voice when he replies, “Kylo Ren gave the order to -” and stops, jaw clenched, before he can finish: they leave his pause in real time, his swallow and the deep breath he takes to steel himself clearly visible. “He gave the order to kill them all, and I saw the troops open fire.”

There’s a second clip they use where Poe starts to describe what they did to him, on the Finalizer. Leia mutes it the first time it comes on and that’s fine by Finn.

This is all a matter of public record, Poe’s testimony given in open court like so many other people’s. Privacy or anonymity are granted on request, but Poe hadn’t asked for that. Finn can’t articulate why the clips make him so angry, when Poe himself was happy to speak in public. There’s an obscure taint of manipulation, that even though these are Poe’s words, this isn’t the use he intended for them: he gave his testimony for those people who died on Jakku, not to score political points in a secession campaign.

The worst of it is, Finn and Leia both understand why Coruscant wants out. After this war, there’s a kind of savage sense in turning your back on the rest of the galaxy, rejecting the Jedi, looking only inward. If Coruscant finds itself too poor and too bitter to sit through any more galactic bickering at the treaty table, who can blame them? Finn and Leia may share a belief that the tatters of the Republic are still the best way to secure peace, but that clip of Poe in his Republican uniform, telling the Commission how he was tortured - it leaves room for doubt.

Finn and Leia read all the opinion pieces, don’t meet each other’s eyes when speculation turns to the impact of secession on the peace process. There’s never been a secession before, but it doesn’t promise anything good. There have been attacks on offworlders, apparently. Vile words daubed on buildings.

Once Leia says, “If anyone can persuade Coruscant to stay, Poe can,” and Finn nods: Poe can charm anybody into anything.

So maybe nobody could have changed anything, because Coruscant leaves.

 

Finn and Leia stay up until dawn watching the live results come in on the holonet. Even once the outcome is clear, they sit there in silent dejection until every last vote is counted and their eyes ache. It shouldn’t matter so much, but a symbolic planet like Coruscant wanting out, preferring life alone in the vastness of space to what they’ve been trying to rebuild here, feels like the end of an era.

They call Poe once the result is formally announced. He might have been up all night too; he’s unshaven, grim-faced and serious, and the smile he drags up when he sees them doesn’t last. Finn’s glad, actually, that he doesn’t pretend with them.

Has it really been five solar cycles since they saw each other last? Even over the comm link he can see there are deeper crinkles at the corners of Poe’s eyes, more grey in his hair. He wears it shorter now, a salt and pepper undercut that’s closer to military than the dark waves he used to have. Those five cycles are on his face and in the defensive tilt of his jaw, they’re in the way his gaze skitters away at a noise off screen and then comes back with a brittle smile.

“Poe, I’m so sorry about this,” Leia says. “What will you do now?”

“What can I do? They’ve voted, they’re out, so I guess I’m out too. They don’t need me and they sure as hell don’t want me.”

“They do though, they still need defence, someone to stand up to the cartels - ” Finn begins.

“Nah, they’re done,” Poe says. Pulls his shoulders back, sits up straight like he’s done too. “They asked the Republic affiliated military to stand down. Got the notification as soon as the result was in.”

He glances off to the side like someone else has come into the room and scrubs a sleeve across his eyes, and for a second Finn wonders about the guy he was living with.

“They’re dumb and they’re wrong, but I get it. Two wars in 30 years, they don’t want guys like me whose whole family comes from that. I’m the old guard now, the bad old days. I gotta get out of here before someone kicks me out. Let them go it alone if that’s what they want.”

“So come here,” Leia says, leaning in to the projector as if she could get closer to him. “Leave them to make their own way now and come here.”

“Yeah! Poe, you should definitely come here,” Finn agrees, leaning in next to her. He should have suggested this earlier - they both should. Given Poe options before it happened.

Poe dredges up a grin for him. “Why, you need a pilot?”

Finn grins back. “If it’s you, always. I bet we could use a staffer who knows what happened back at the beginning, can cover the military stuff I don’t know. And we’re going to start inspecting the demilitarised zones soon, that’ll need pilots, right?”

“You have other skills we could use, you know,” Leia adds. “Diplomacy. Field research.”

“Yeah?” Poe’s serious now, which means he thought they weren’t.

“Yeah,” Leia tells him, and FInn’s glad this has come from her. Poe still believes what Leia Organa says: it’s written all over his face how much he wants to believe her. “It’s been too long since we saw you, Poe. Come here.”

 

It’s a long trip to Yresh and civilian transport is a shadow of what it was before the war. Poe has things to wrap up on Coruscant, can only estimate when he’ll be with them, and it turns out that Leia’s offworld when he gets in.

But that’s alright: Finn’s session finishes right on time to meet him at the spaceport. Poe isn’t expecting him: intergalactic travel isn’t an exact science any more than these tortuous negotiations are. Who knows when a ship from the Core will make it through the Hosnian debris field and the wrecks orbiting Naboo, or when the First Order will suddenly dig their heels in over the maximum permitted blaster range issued to a limited pool of infantry?

It’s not today, anyway. The spaceport live arrivals feed he calls up as the First Order team file out of the room shows Poe’s ship already in orbit, expected to land in an hour. Why not go and meet him? Leia would have gone, if she’d been here.

It’s a calm day, Finn could drive over on his own craft, but it’s a two seater. If Poe’s brought BB-8, or more luggage than a small bag, they won’t fit - as it is, the passenger has to sit behind Finn and hold onto him or end up in the water. Every time he’s driven Leia she’s laughed at him for his absurd caution, accused him of treating her like a fragile old woman. And that’s not untrue: with her arms around his waist, she feels tiny, birdlike, easily damaged. She’s also the only person who touches him. Why would he drive fast and rush through it, make her cling on in exhilaration when he could go slowly and let himself enjoy the human contact, pretend for a second it’s more than it is?

The worst thing is that she would hug him, if he asked.

But he never does, and the reason he gives her for his cautious driving is always the first one, not the second. Sometimes she borrows the little hydrobike and her speed leaves the water white and Finn with his heart in his mouth as he watches her disappear into the horizon. She’s about as fragile as a knife.

Finn takes the public hydrofoil to the spaceport, and when he gets there Poe’s ship has just landed.

Finn finds him hands in pockets looking up at the engine of a smart Corellian freighter with the harbourmaster, nodding and listening earnestly while she points and gesticulates. Finn just stands there and watches him, watches the harbourmaster respond to his interest, the sincerity of his attention in what she’s saying. Something she points out makes him laugh, and even from here Finn can see the sunbeam of crinkles at the corners of his eyes. Poe has aged really, really well: it’s worn him, purified him, sharpened the line of his jaw and all the good things that show through his face. It’s brightened his hair with silver and darkened his eyes, brought everything into relief so sharp Finn has to look away before he calls out.

And when he does, Poe’s head whips round and something even brighter shines through his face. A second later they’re flinging their arms round each other in the middle of the landing bay, and Finn has his eyes squeezed tight shut against a wave of emotion he wasn’t expecting.

 

They take the hydrofoil back to the main island.

Finn tells Poe, “You’re gonna love this - it’s the closest you can get to flying without flying. It goes really fast, and it doesn’t slow down to go round rocks.”

Poe grins at him. “Bring it on, buddy.”

His eyes widen along with his grin when the hydrofoil really gets up speed. There are seats, but like most of the passengers they’re standing up for the few minutes the trip lasts, hanging onto a rail at head height. That way you can see out the windows, get a feel for how fast the thing is moving from the fine spray of water it sends up.

“Look, we’re going around that rock now -” Finn points to his left, and Poe lets go the rail to get closer to the window just as the hydrofoil takes the turn. “Hold on!” Finn tells him but he only shoots a cocky grin over his shoulder as the hydrofoil turns, and a second later Finn catches him as he loses his footing, the solid weight of Poe in his arms a revelation.

 

It’s weird bad luck that practically the first person they see as they disembark is General Hux. In all these years Finn’s barely set eyes on the guy, and now here he is on this narrow quayside where they have no choice but to walk right past each other.

Finn might have ignored him anyway - it’s what you do here, when you encounter someone you have history with. If you aren’t starting a fight then you ignore each other, pretend it never happened, pretend they don’t exist. But Poe doesn’t live here and he can’t control his surprise. It seems Hux can’t either.

Hux hasn’t aged well. The climate on Yresh with its bright sunlight and sea winds isn’t kind to him: his face is red and his hair has faded so that he looks washed out, all one colour: he could be ten years older than Poe when Finn knows they’re almost the same age.

Hux stops short when he recognises Poe, the two of them acknowledging each other with nothing more than a glance. Poe doesn’t hold out his hand and nor does Hux. He just says, “Dameron,” as they make eye contact for a split second, then Poe’s turning away and Finn is more than happy to nod his greeting and farewell in one and keep walking.

They watch him walk away, stiff backed and limping - word is he was hit when the Order’s main base fell; gossip is more specific about where he was hit, but Finn really really doesn’t want to think about that. Poe shivers in the sunshine, and Finn puts a hand on his shoulder, easy as that. He’s here after seven years and Finn can do that.

“Poe. You wanna get a drink?” he asks, and Poe is smiling again already.

“You bet. Where’s good here? Show me the town, buddy,” he says, and Finn does.

They don’t go into every bar, but they give it a good go. Poe wants to try every local drink and taste every local fish, listens attentively to Finn’s recommendations or just lets him order for them both. He’s not so interested in the offworld places - it figures. This planet is new and interesting to him, but if anyone has seen the rest of the galaxy, it’s Poe. There’s a tightening of his jaw as they pass a Coruscant cantina, but he keeps walking and doesn’t say anything. Finn catches his arm and steers him towards another local place squeezed almost onto a cliff edge, and they lean on the terrace wall drinking something cold and fragrant as the sun sets into the sea on their left and the lights come up in the floating streets below.

“How’s it going here, really?” Poe asks as they stand there shoulder to shoulder. “Is this gonna stick, you think?”

“The truce?” If he’s honest, Finn tries not to think about it like that. He focuses on his section of the treaty, on getting the best possible outcome for one clause after another after another. The idea of peace, questions of the future once all this is finally done, are always there at the back of his mind but overwhelming if he lets them move forward. Unhelpful, ultimately, to hold a galactic overview in mind when the minutiae in front of him counts allowable parsecs between armed outposts, maximum troop numbers, the precise definitions of acts of aggression and self defence and the difference between them. Finn measures the strength of the truce in clauses agreed, in moments of civility with their Order counterparts in the canteen.

“I think so,” he says finally, aware that a faster answer would have been more reassuring; if there’s anything he wishes he could give Poe now, it’s reassurance. “It’s slow but we’re making progress, and I don’t see anyone with the energy to start fighting again.”

Poe pulls a wry face. “Peace of exhaustion, huh? Even after - what is it, seven years?”

“Something like that, yeah.”

Poe must know it’s seven years. He knows it as well as anybody.

“It ain’t glorious, but it’s better than war.”

Finn clinks his glass against Poe’s. “I’ll drink to that.”

They both take a drink. Finn looks at Poe’s arm resting on the wall next to his, and thinks he’d take a thousand years in a stuffy seminar room arguing sub clauses rather than go back to war.

“And Coruscant leaving the Republic, does that screw anything up?”

“I don’t see how. Membership is by choice, they’re free to go. Just because no one left before doesn’t mean the whole thing is doomed. I’m just sorry on your account -”

Poe waves it off, his hand in the air pushing back Finn’s words. “Nah, it’s fine. I always meant to come here, see you and Leia, and now here I am.”

“Here you are,” Finn echoes. His face is smiling without him asking it to, and Poe’s reflecting it back at him.

“It’s good to see you, man,” and he puts his glass down and wraps his arms around Finn, right there in the open air with the sea below them and the sun above them like there’d never been a war at all.

It’s different being out with Poe to the secluded dinners he has with Leia or the end of the day drinks with the other negotiators. They’re good people - a mix of Republic and Resistance, some military, some diplomats who were offworld when Hosnia Prime was destroyed. With enough wine in them they even talk about it, the lives and families they lost, a whole cadre wiped out. Give them long enough and drink enough, and everybody here has a story like that.

Poe probably has a story like that too, but he isn’t telling it tonight.

They stay outside where the lights dance on the water, until Finn offers to squeeze inside to fight his way to the bar. The air is thick with spice smoke and music he feels in his bones, and the bartender is rushed off her flippers. By the time Finn’s made polite small talk with one of the more accommodating First Order reps with his elbow in something sticky on the bar, and fended off an invitation from an especially intoxicated colleague he whose name he has on the tip of his tongue but can’t quite find, it feels like he’s been gone for hours.

Poe is more or less where he left him, but he’s not leaning on the wall any more, he’s dancing. With a group of Resistance admins Finn is sure Poe has never met before in his life, until he remembers how much of Poe’s life he knows nothing about. How would he know who Poe’s met before and who he hasn’t? He starts to make his way towards them, sees them beckon Poe over to sit with them with lingering smiles and friendly hands on his arm. But Poe’s already shaking his head, looking up to scan the crowd, and the moment he spots Finn making his way back with the drinks his whole posture changes, opening, brightening in recognition. Like Finn had been a lot further away than the bar, and he was glad to see him back - it feels like Poe’s been waiting for him.

The dancers drift off, and Poe stands there looking at Finn like he’s the sun coming up in the morning.

“Sorry, if you wanna - I don’t mind, if you - ” Poe’s shaking his head so he stops, then picks up, “Oh yeah, you - Iolo and Jess said you were with someone - ” He’s pretty sure that where Poe’s from, monogamous pair bonding is the norm.

“No, I’m - it didn’t work out. I’m not. With someone.”

Lost for an answer, Finn presses the fresh drink into his hand as if in consolation, studies Poe’s face for a cue to the right reaction.

“No? What happened?” he tries.

Poe shrugs, looks away and takes a drink.

“The usual, I guess. It wasn’t me it was him, he just needed some space, things had been moving pretty fast and he wasn’t sure - ” his mouth twists and he shrugs again. “He was one of the planetary administrators when his faction started campaigning to leave the Republic. And he was shacked up with a known Resistance offworlder like me. It looked bad.”

“It looked bad?” Finn echoes. He’s struggling not to let his surprise show.

“Well yeah, they didn’t want to get dragged into any more galactic wars. And there I was, reminding people of the war…”

“That’s - that’s really absolute bullshit, Poe,” he blurts out. “What a total jerk!”

Poe blinks at him, and then he drinks and laughs and coughs all at the same time and Finn has to put their glasses down on the wall and slap him on the back until he can breathe again.

“I guess he was, huh?” Poe says, eyes streaming, when he stops coughing.

“Yup,” Finn confirms. 

“But trust me on this Finn, if you ever get dumped, it kinda helps to blame it on politics. Not that you’re likely to get dumped.”

He must make a face: Poe reaches out, grips his shoulders. “Someone dumped you? Finn, buddy, I don’t wanna believe this. I had faith in humanity, man.”

It’s both ridiculous and patently sincere. That strange dichotomy of Poe’s somehow makes it the easiest thing in the world to nod and say, “Rey did. We tried being like that, but. She loves me a lot, just not like - that,” and he gestures somewhere at chest height as if the symbolic heart really could explain everything he and Rey shared and did not share. “So I stayed here, and she went.”

Poe’s eyes widen.

“Shit. I thought maybe - I know we don’t talk about, uh, much of that stuff, but guess I thought you just never said anything to her. She’ll come back, right?”

Finn shakes his head, then corrects himself and nods.

“She sends me messages. She’ll come back through this way one day, and we’ll see each other, and it’ll be, it’ll - it’s been a long time. It’ll just be good to see her.”

 

Poe stops for spice on the way home, “I don’t have to fly in the morning, you know the way home - I wanna get wasted. I haven’t gotten wasted in like, years,” he says, and his voice sounds well on the way already. Finn isn’t much better off, but he’s had more recent practice than Poe. They take off their shoes and smoke it with their feet in the water, lit up by the faint aquatic lighting.

“You know what else he said?” Poe says, the spice already loosening his words.

“What?” asks Finn automatically, then, “wait, who?”

“Gariel,” and he’s lucky Finn has been paying attention to the shapes his mouth makes when he’s pretending he isn’t unhappy, because Poe never actually told him this guy’s name. The one who chose politics over Poe. “He said - he said, it was really fucking exhausting being with me, because I was always being Commander Dameron, Hero of the Resistance, all the time. I was always being brave and inspiring like there was somebody watching, he said, and he felt like he was supposed to be my squadron. Like I was expecting the best of him and I believed in him. Only he never signed up and he didn’t want to be in my squadron any more.”

He takes a hit and sends the smoke out across the water. He’s very slightly cross-eyed when he looks at Finn.

“That sucks, man,” Finn says. What else can he say?

“Yeah. ‘Cause this is all I got, you know?”

“Yeah. Yeah I know. I mean, same. But what you got is good, man! You’re - you’re great, you know that, Poe?” He wants better words that this, something to match Poe’s strength and integrity, his kindness. Instead he puts his hand on Poe’s back, right up at the top of his spine where it’s almost the nape of his neck, strangely vulnerable with this short hair. Finn kneads slightly, adds, “You’re practically the best person I know.”

Poe squints at him. “Practically?”

“Yeah. I’ve got a top five,” Finn tells him, and that’s enough to make Poe lose it, laugh so hard he doubles over, leaning perilously close to the edge until Finn grabs his arm. He flops back onto the decking and lies there, giggling.

Finn half turns to grin down at him. Poe stops laughing eventually, holds up a hand to point at Finn. “I got a top five too,” Poe says, but then he starts giggling again, hand still there in mid air pointing at Finn until Finn grabs it and flops down next to him.

Everything is sharp and shimmering when they get up again.

It’s the best kind of wasted as they stumble down the walkway back to Finn’s apartment, the universe in perfect focus and the night sky hung up just for them. He throws an arm around Poe to steer him the right way and Poe leans into him, warm and heavy, like they’ve always walked everywhere like this, Poe’s arm round his waist the ballast to Finn’s arm over Poe’s shoulders. The rise and fall of the decking is in time with their heartbeats and their footsteps, and the water glows phosphorescent on either side of them like it’s reflecting all the stars in the galaxy. The sun set hours ago but there’s light inside him, pouring out.

 

He wakes up hours later on the floor, head resting on Poe’s stomach where he’s sprawled out on the couch. Poe’s still deeply asleep, doesn’t stir when Finn pushes his arm off and gets up.

“Poe,” Finn says, leaning over him. His voice is thick with sleep and intoxication. “Poe, there’s a bed in the study, you don’t have to sleep on the couch.”

With a wash of guilt he remembers he never did get around to making up the pull-out bed - does he even have sheets to fit it?

“Poe,” he repeats. His hand has found its way to Poe’s shoulder, warm in the night chill, shakes him.

“Afer brn,” Poe mumbles. Finn can’t tell if he’s speaking another language or just muttering in his sleep. His hand’s still on Poe’s shoulder. He squeezes once, gives another little shake.

“Poe, there’s a bed, man,” he says again.

“‘M stay here,” Poe says, turning his face into the back of the couch and curling in on himself as if he’s cold. He probably is: the temperature drops at night, mists drifting in from the sea that condense on everything they touch and leave it sparkling.

Finn is still drunk, wasted on spice, cold. He wants to go to bed - fuck, he has to be in negotiations in the morning. He can’t think what to do.

In the end he closes the windows against the damp sea air and drags a blanket off his own bed to drape over Poe. He says something that might be a thank you, and Finn touches him on the shoulder one more time before he lurches away and collapses into bed.

 

**

Finn’s head hurts in the morning. The swim helps, but it’s not his best day: his attention isn’t all there. He didn’t wake Poe when he left, just a note scrawled on a flimsy telling him to help himself to anything in the apartment and asking if he wants to meet Finn at the end of his worktime to get dinner together.

As the day wears on he is less and less sure whether he ever showed Poe where his team actually work. The treaty complex is huge: they could both walk around in circles and never find each other. The place is full of First Order military, and while he doesn’t think Poe starts fights, there are people here who might want to start fights with Poe. The war may have ended seven solar cycles ago but some names are still fresh in the Order’s minds, and Poe’s is one of them. Him turning up here might feel like a provocation to some.

But he’s worried for nothing. As his session winds up and he’s saving his notes, half listening to the discussion at his side about minimum passing distances between destroyers versus fighters, a text comm lights up his badge.

>>waiting outside room 395 hope that’s where you are

>>yes how did you know? Out in 5, he sends back.

>>asked at reception, Poe sends back.

They won’t normally give out room numbers to non-authorised visitors, but Poe always has been good at inspiring trust. Finn’s not even surprised.

All Finn’s negotiating team and half the First Order team see him hug Poe, so he has to introduce him. Having introduced him, he can’t find a gracious way not to join them for a drink when they insist. He’s the senior negotiator here today - most days, this last solar cycle, he’s the senior negotiator - so when he goes out with the others, he makes sure to pay for the round and leave early. No one can unwind with their commanding officer propping up the bar next to them. Well, team leader. This isn’t the military any more.

Poe and the Disarmament Treaty Negotiating Team are mutually charmed by each other, and tell each other stories of Finn’s virtues over rounds of drinks until he can’t stand any more.

“The thing is, the best thing, is when they tell us something that contradicts an earlier statement, when they’re trying to lie, you know? Finn always notices. Every. Single. Time. And you know when he’s noticed, because he never gets mad, he always says something like - in this really calm voice, so they don’t know what’s coming - he says, ‘thank you for explaining your position. I wonder if you could talk me through that in relation to what we discussed on whenever it was, in clause 67 regarding the base on the moon of wherever -’ and they just sit there with their mouths open, like, how does this guy do it - it’s amazing,” Sayrina is telling Poe, and Poe’s nodding energetically like he’s just about to join in with an example of his own.

“Right, thanks you guys,” Finn interrupts. “Much as I appreciate all this positive feedback, I’m gonna take the dashing Commander Dameron away from you now and go get some dinner. I’ll see you all tomorrow, ok?”

They protest - one more drink - no, get dinner here! But Poe’s already draining his beer and on his feet, shaking hands, telling them he’ll be here a while, he’s sure he’ll see them all again, it was great to meet you!

“Where are we going?” Poe asks outside. He’s standing loose, relaxed, eyes narrowed against the setting sun and ready to follow Finn anywhere.

They eat in a local place where Finn knows the owner - she’s married to the guy who first waved at him when he swam past their repair site. Finn comes here with Leia, sometimes: he’s gathered they think she’s his mother, but since no-one’s ever said so in front of her, he’s never felt the need to correct them.

She gives them a second bottle of wine on the house. It maybe won’t feel like a good idea in the morning, but right now it’s the best idea in the galaxy, to stay right here in this dimly-lit alcove where his knees keep bumping Poe’s and they’ve stopped apologising to each other for it, to have another drink, let the world blur around the edges. The only point of focus is Poe across the table from him, the sweep of his brow and the dark of his eyes, the flash of his teeth every time he smiles.

It’s a focus that lasts all the way home, a hyper-awareness of exactly where Poe is in relation to him as they walk, the warmth of his elbow against Finn’s as they smoke spice on his deck, looking out at the lights from the island and all its floating streets.

Somehow when they move inside it becomes more than focus, it’s a centrifuge, it’s gravity. The steps they take don’t matter when they’re pulled irresistibly together in the dark room, and when Finn stumbles back to the couch Poe’s with him, Poe’s in his lap, kissing him deep and desperate.

Finn’s holding onto him, sliding his hands up his shirt, down to his hips to pull him closer. Poe grunts something into his mouth, grinds against him and moves back, making room to unzip Finn’s pants, put the shocking heat of his palm around his cock for a glorious, eternal heartbeat or two before it all implodes and Finn is coming all over himself, clutching at Poe like he’ll fly away. Like they’ll both fly away.

He’s shaking, undone. Every place Poe’s touching him is transformed into some other matter, charged and electric. He tips Poe off him, sideways onto the couch and Poe isn’t expecting it, he grabs at Finn’s shoulders like he’s falling and lands with a huff of breath that Finn chases down, kisses out of his mouth. He just came but he’s vibrating in his own skin, compelled to keep touching.

Poe makes a soft sound of surprise when Finn unzips him, gasps when Finn takes his erection into his mouth, deep to the back of his throat, desperate for him. The water lapping the deck outside and Poe’s gasps are all he can hear, the only sound there is in the universe. The only thing that’s real, the only thing that matters, is when Poe jerks under him and his hands tighten in Finn’s shirt as he comes.

This time Finn falls asleep on the couch not the floor, sticky and wrapped around Poe, the taste of come still in his mouth. But he wakes up in the dark, cold, uncomfortable, unsure where he is, just like yesterday. Just like yesterday Poe barely stirs when he extricates himself and sits up.

“Come and sleep in my bed,” he whispers. “Poe. I’m going to bed. Come with me.”

But short of bodily lifting him up and carrying him, Poe isn’t going anywhere. Finn doesn’t want to move without him: he already misses the warm tangle they were in, but he can’t sleep the whole night balanced on the very edge of the couch. He has to lead negotiations in the morning.

“Poe,” he tries again, brushing his hair off his forehead. “We can’t both sleep here, I’m falling off the edge.”

Poe says, “Mmm,” and snuggles closer. It’s torture standing up and putting the blanket over him, but Finn does it. He’s a little unsteady on his feet, and he leaves the bedroom door open but Poe either doesn’t wake up or doesn’t understand the invitation.

 

**

 

Finn can’t keep still in his last session of the day. The focus he’s learned to bring to the negotiating table is hard to find in the face of the chrono on his datapad screen, his leg that won’t stop moving of its own accord.

He almost left a note for Poe when he tiptoed out this morning, not brave enough to wake him but needing to acknowledge what they’d done, that warm electric space in the dark. Only he didn’t know what to say, hangover and lack of practice making him stupid. What do you write at dawn to the friend asleep on your couch whose cock you sucked last night?

In the end he writes a message when they break for caf mid-morning, 20 words that take longer to draft than any clause he’s worked on. His palms are sweating when he sends it.

>> Hope I didn’t wake you up this morning. Should finish early today, see you back at my place before we go out?

He would have added more, but Sayrina and her First Order counterpart have their heads together, laughing at some transcription error a droid has made and insisting he look. It’s a small enough thing, but peace treaties are built on thousands and thousands of tiny things. Finn’s the team leader - he has to notice them.

It’s not till they’re wrapping up that he can check to see that Poe’s messaged him back.

>> No I can sleep through anything! I’ll be right here waiting for you

He’s pretty sure his face doesn’t change, but there’s nothing he can do about the thump his heart gives in his chest, pure adrenaline.

He stops to buy slick on the way home. He’s not presuming - maybe it was a drunken one-time thing, for Poe. Maybe he won’t even remember.

Poe’s sitting shirtless on the deck when he gets back, and he leaps to his feet and almost trips when Finn calls out.

“Hey! I was just -” he gestures around him like an explanation is required. “I was just sitting here doing nothing, actually. Waiting for you.”

“Yeah,” Finn says. “Doing nothing’s good sometimes. I sit out here in the evenings and - do nothing.”

He steps out onto the deck, tries not to stare too obviously at Poe’s bare chest. But then, Poe knew he was coming back here. Poe was waiting for him, if Poe didn’t want to be looked at, wouldn’t he have put a shirt on? He normally wears a shirt. Finn ran his hands all over the smooth skin of Poe’s back last night in the dark, but he’s never actually seen any more than his forearms before today.

There must be a step he can take, something he can say, something he should say, but language has run out. He starts to tell Poe about today’s meagre progress on the treaty, the not-quite-pleasure of seeing Sayrina share a joke with the enemy, but that isn’t what he wants to say at all. This is a moment that must be navigated in other ways, in incremental distances and glances. Finn lets his gaze drift from Poe’s face, admires the curve of his biceps, the breadth of his shoulders, dark hair on his chest speckled with silver, leading down his belly to where his pants sit low on his hips. All the places you don’t look at a friend.

There’s a different curve to Poe’s smile when he realises that Finn’s looking, more in the map of fine lines by his eyes. He leans on the railing, peers down into the water, showing Finn the nape of his neck, the pure line of his jaw when he comes to stand next to him. Too close for doubt, so close Finn knows he won’t have to put it into words because last night’s orbital gravity is back: Poe’s turning to face him, leaning in.

“You wanna go out right away? I’m not so hungry yet, I could wait some,” Poe says, bites his lip. His voice is lower. He meets Finn’s eyes, looks down to his mouth, up again. Blinks.

“Yeah. No, I mean, I’m not hungry yet either,” Finn manages. “Uh, you wanna - drink? Come inside, maybe?”

Shut up, don’t speak, Finn’s yelling at himself inside his head, but Poe doesn’t hear. Poe’s nodding.

“Sure, let’s -” 

They’re drifting into the apartment, close but not touching, a precise distance like magnets between them and a charge in the air. It’s cool and dim in here, shades half drawn against the sun, water making the light dance. Finn takes a step towards the kitchen where he might, conceivably, offer Poe a drink. Poe takes a step after him.

They both stop. Neither of them meant that step anyway: Finn comes back, and now they’re so close he has to do something, Poe’s not moving away, Poe’s waiting for him to do something so he does, he reaches out, puts his hand on the bare skin of Poe’s waist and Poe surges forward into his arms and kisses him.

Finn’s lived in this apartment for six solar cycles and he’s never kissed anybody in it until last night. And now, now Poe is kissing him deep and dreamy in the afternoon light and the whole place is transformed.

“Come in the bedroom,” Finn says later. They’ve been standing there for hours, lifetimes, kissing in the middle of the living room.

“Yeah, yeah, ok,” Poe mutters. He doesn’t let go of Finn, not even for the few steps through the bedroom door.

“I didn’t want you to sleep on the couch last night,” Finn’s panting. His breath has gone in the tangle of their bodies together, in Poe spread out beneath him. “I couldn’t wake you up, I didn’t wanna leave you out there -”

Poe’s flat on his back, Finn braced above him, opening and opening for the slick fingers Poe presses inside. He’s gazing up starry-eyed as Finn finally sinks down, thighs trembling with the effort to do it slow when he wants it now, all at once, everything. Poe’s eyes go wide, then his mouth, hands clutching Finn’s hips, compulsively tightening and releasing.

“Had such a crush on you when we first met, you wouldn’t believe,” Poe whispers, voice shaking. He pulls his knees up and Finn feels him, feels him slide even deeper inside. It hurts and it doesn’t, too full but not enough.

“Yeah?” He wants to say more, he has more than that, but Poe’s cock is lighting him up from the inside, a feeling that drives out language somewhere high in Finn’s chest.

“Oh yeah,” Poe bites his lip, blinking up at him. “Never thought I’d - we’d be - oh fuck,” as Finn starts to move.

He’s got to hope there will be another chance to do this slowly, because that big bright feeling all spills over when Poe touches him, just like last night: a few firm strokes and he’s helpless, unmoored, crying out and coming all over Poe, his belly, his chest, new stars of white lighting up the grey.

Poe gasps and thrusts up, again and again, back arching. He closes his eyes when he comes and Finn watches him, watches every change on his face, every rise and fall of his chest as he gasps and trembles.

 

Poe takes his hand as they head down the walkway back to the island for dinner. Squeezes, swings their clasped hands and skips to the side so he can look into Finn’s face, dazzles him with a flash of teeth and crinkled eyes.

After they eat, out on the walkway, Poe walks backwards in front of him, hands in his pockets.

“What do you wanna do now? You wanna get another drink, or…”

“Uh, I dunno,” Finn says. He doesn’t really want to get another drink. “What do you wanna do?”

“I’m kinda beat, actually,” Poe says. He looks down, then right up into Finn’s eyes. “We could just, uh, go back to your place, I guess?”

“Yeah,” Finn says at once, too fast. “Yeah, let’s go back to my place.”

They’re kissing before they make it in the door and Finn doesn’t even turn the lights on, he takes Poe straight to bed. Tumbles him down on his belly and Poe lets him, shimmies and lifts up as Finn pulls him out of his clothes, kisses the back of his neck, pushes his legs apart and fucks him slow as he can.

Poe sleeps in his bed, and in the morning they do it again. Poe sliding down under the sheets, sucking him off before he’s more than half awake, still blinking against the morning light and gasping at the pleasure of it until there are tears in his eyes.

 

It’s midmorning before they make it out of bed. Finn brings caf out to the deck where Poe’s sprawled in the sun wearing only a pair of shorts. He’s already tanned darker than when he arrived.

Finn hands him the binoculars. “Could you swim that far?” he asks, pointing to the distant island.

“Buddy, if I need binoculars to see it, I can’t swim to it,” he says with a grin. Poe’s smiling at him all the time: it’s bedazzling, distracting. Finn wants to say yes to everything.

“But I could drive that,” he continues, pointing at the hydrobike. “You swim, I’ll keep up in that.” The longing in his voice is so obvious that Finn almost laughs.

“You could, but you need a license. You haven’t got an Yreshi hydrobike license, have you?”

“A license? For that thing? I can fly an X wing upside down and with a concussion, Finn! I can handle a hydrobike.”

“I know you can man, but I don’t make the rules. The Yreshi say everyone needs a license. Sorry.”

Poe sits down on the decking and reaches out to where it’s moored, runs his hand over the sleek lines of the motor. Shakes his head like he can’t believe he is being denied this. Finn can’t tell if he’s genuinely disappointed or just messing around, or maybe messing around to hide the genuine disappointment.

“Hey look, we can go out if you ride with me - it takes a passenger,” Finn says. “You have to sit behind me and hold on, well, to me, but - ” his face feels hot. He’s already fucked Poe, felt Poe’s cock inside him, but inviting him to ride pillion is in a different sphere of intimacy, concentric circles bringing them closer together.

Poe’s smile slides all the way through the circles until they ripple inward, a spiral coiling them in towards each other. “Yeah, let’s do it,” he says, delight shining in his eyes.

The ride is blissful. Finn feels loose with sex, he needs holding together. He needs Poe to be wrapped around him just like this, chest pressed against his back, arms around his waist, thighs bracketing Finn’s. He does want to show Poe how fast it will go, but not as much as he wants this so he eases it out to glide through the water, slow and silent as they follow the walkway out towards open water and the island.

A small group of Yreshi are working on the underwater pylons at the very end of the walkway, and Finn slows as they approach so as not to make waves. He recognises them when he gets closer - Miyel whose wife runs the restaurant they ate in, Talesin, Suner. Finn still struggles with their facial expressions, but he’s pretty sure they’re smirking as Poe sits up a little bit straighter behind him on the hydrobike, makes an effort to at least pretend they haven’t been fucking for the last 12 hours straight.

“You forget how to swim?” Miyel calls out. “Don’t need that bike to get out here.”

“My friend does,” Finn tells him. “He only just got here. Needs to practice before he can swim this far. Poe, this is Miyel, and Talesin, and Suner.”

“Hey there,” Poe says.

“Ah, your friend you took to the restaurant,” the group nods: apparently where Finn eats dinner, and who with, is interesting enough for word to have spread.

“And you - more repairs?” Finn asks, neighbourly. “Didn’t you just finish here?”

“The storm last night,” Miyel says.

“What storm?”

That’s definitely a smirk. “Didn’t notice the storm, huh? It was already rocking at your place, was it?”

Poe’s shaking his head, grinning and rueful as he peers down into the depths to see what the Yreshi are doing.

“Maybe it didn’t get so rough at my end,” Finn offers weakly, starting up the hydrobike before they have a chance to tease him any further. Before his face betrays him and reveals just how much he likes it.

 

The island is barely even an island. Nobody lives here. There’s shallow water and sand so fine the tiny grains shine gold in the waves, turn the water green where it breaks on the beach.

They swim right around it, Poe a competent but unpracticed swimmer. Once they’re in the shallow turquoise water on the far side he turns on his back to float, one hand out mooring him to Finn. Until a wave breaks over him and he rights himself, moves spluttering and laughing into Finn’s arms. There’s no one anywhere near, just water and waves and the tiny island; no reason for Finn not to pull him in close and kiss until he’s dizzy with it. It wasn’t why he came out here, but now they’re here he can’t think of any reason not to let the waves push them up onto the beach and tug Poe down on the sand with him, touch him with cool hands until he’s moaning and begging.

“That’s not as comfortable as the holomovies make it look,” Poe says cheerfully in his ear as Finn steers them back on the hydrobike. He’s wrapped just as close as on the way out, arms around Finn’s waist and when he isn’t talking, he rests his cheek on Finn’s shoulder. “I have sand in places I don’t want sand.”

“Sorry,” says Finn. “What can I say, I got carried away.”

“No, no! Don’t be sorry, that was amazing! You’re amazing, buddy: I don’t know how you’ve stayed single here when you’re regularly all wet and wearing tight swimming shorts. People are just dumb, I guess. Blind, maybe.”

“I don’t usually take anyone with me when I swim.”

“Well, there you go then. They don’t know what they’re missing.” Poe’s arms tighten around Finn’s waist, and there’s a huge open feeling inside him. Something important in there is flying.

“Hey, you wanna see how fast this can go?” he asks.

“Oh yeah,” Poe says, somehow getting even closer. “You bet I do! Give it everything you’ve got.”

Finn twists the throttle, and with a purr the hydrobike leaps and accelerates, skimming impossibly fast through the waves. He’s never really felt the appeal of speed but now, with his skin still tingling with sand and orgasm and Poe warm against his back, it’s perfect, the exhilaration a reflection of everything he feels.

Poe whoops as he comes to a flashy halt by the deck, sending a shower of water up into the air in an instantly-vanished rainbow all over the walkway.

Finn turns to grin at him as Poe surges forward practically into his lap. “Ok we need to go inside right now,” he begins against Finn’s mouth, and Finn’s pretty sure he was about to be a lot more explicit about his ideas for what they should do inside, if Leia hadn’t stepped out on to the deck at that very moment.

A lot of reactions cross her face in a very short space of time, but all she says is, “Poe, it’s wonderful to see you!”

He holds the bike steady for Poe to climb off, and the military command structure seems a very long time ago as Poe, sandy, wet, and wearing only swimming shorts, leans down to hug her. It seems even further away when she smiles at Finn over his shoulder, a happy, private smile just for him.

Finn ties up the bike and tries not to listen as Poe straightens: the pleased tone of Leia’s voice and the glance Poe shoots over his shoulder as he murmurs something in response are more than enough to know he’s being talked about. He’s talked about a lot on Yresh, he knows that, but nobody else talks about him with quite this cadence in their voice of sharing good news, like a song everybody loves.

They go back to Miyel’s wife’s restaurant for dinner with Leia, but not before Poe crowds him into the fresher and drops to his knees as Finn slides his hands into his wet hair and desperately hopes the sound of running water covers his cries.

 

Miyel’s wife is all smiles, happy to see them back so soon and possibly updated on their hydrobike ride and the lack of distance between them. Finn’s honestly touched by her interest. “Poe,” he whispers urgently as she shows them a table overlooking the sea. “I can’t remember her name! I need to introduce you, but I can’t!”

Poe squeezes his arm reassuringly. “That’s easy. You tell her my name, I hold out my hand - is that ok? They shake hands, right? - and she’ll say hers. Works every time. You just gotta listen and remember it.”

Leia’s smiling at them, leaning back to watch as Finn tries it.

“I didn’t introduce my friend,” he says. “This is Poe, Poe Dameron. We were in the Resistance together.”

Poe holds out his hand. “Good to meet you,” he says.

“I am happy to know you,” she replies, taking his hand. “I am Ama.”

Later, two bottles of local wine empty on the table, Finn says, “I was thinking, next time my team goes for drinks, we should invite the First Order team too. Shouldn’t we?”

Leia frowns, then nods. “Yes. Maybe you should.”

“But if I’m the one to invite them, they might feel they have to say no. I’m the traitor, they’ve got an image to maintain, right?”

Poe pushes his empty plate aside, plants an elbow on the table as he leans in.

“What about me? Can I invite them, or will they just take a swing at me?”

It’s on the tip of his tongue to say, invite them wearing those swimming shorts and you’re good, but he doesn’t. Poe’s serious - well, not serious, this isn’t a serious dinner, this is a dinner where they’ve laughed over nothing, drunk a little too much, eaten from each other’s plates - but he’s sincere.

Maybe that’s the next stage in this stalemate, the truce, this peace that’s always a process and never a finished state. Leia Organa who’s lived through this once before to advise; Poe to charm them into more than two sides who only meet across the treaty table; and Finn who’s been on both of those sides, with every clause remembering everything they said and didn’t say and never raising his voice. It’s history, diplomacy, bureaucracy, now: nothing flashy, nothing to tell stories about, but so much better than before.

“I think you could invite them,” he says, and puts his arm around Poe’s shoulders just because he wants to.