“It is my passionate belief there is no contradiction whatsoever between a trust in the planetary entity as the key building block of intergalactic order, and a generous and open mindset to the rest of the known worlds," the lead planetary administrator of Coruscant is saying.
“Coruscant is not some bit part, some supply ship on the interstellar stage, we are a protagonist running a truly intergalactic external policy: one that does not drag our people into another war or exhaust our natural resources. Important though migration from across the Republic has been, we had to have control.”
Finn listens impassively because it’s his job to listen impassively. The delegation from Coruscant has come to negotiate trade treaties and some kind of mutual arrangement for citizens from across the Republic still on Coruscant, and their own people on other worlds. Not an impossible challenge by any means, a solar cycle after their vote to secede from the Republic: a reasonable order of business, even. In theory. If the restored Republic can make an acceptable, lasting peace with the First Order, surely they can make a trade deal and agree residency rights with one core world.
In practice, it isn’t as easy as that.
For a start, Finn has heard this speech before, or one very like it. It must play well domestically, to the half of the planet who voted for secession, and now it’s been recycled and delivered to him as Republic Envoy leading these talks. He drums his fingers once on the tabletop then makes himself stop. Everyone is playing a part here, Lead Planetary Administrator of Coruscant Eresa Lai and her delegation as much as Finn and his diplomatic team. And his part, right now, is to appear to listen attentively to a speech that’s aimed at an audience all the way back on Coruscant.
He’s dealt with worse people. The diplomats and politicians are committed pacifists, they say. All polite, personable, well dressed - good-looking, even. Sure of themselves. And what they’re asking for is completely impossible. The Republic Defence Force at their beck and call with no financial contribution, trade terms like they had before they left, Republican funding to repatriate offworlders leaving Coruscant, guarantees that Coruscant citizens on Republican worlds will have their rights respected but take no quota of refugees in return.
Movian Gorv, one of the deputy administrators of Coruscant, takes over. His brief is the reciprocal rights they want, and this is familiar stuff too: their desire for lasting peace, the post-war drain on Coruscant resources and services thanks to their generosity in taking in so many offworlders, the threat this poses to planetary culture and infrastructure. Stars forfend anyone should see isolationism or xenophobia in a decision that is purely economic! All they want is peace, now and in the future!
“What numbers are we talking about? Are they leaving voluntarily?” Finn asks.
“Yes yes, completely voluntarily, completely voluntarily. Post secession, people just feel happier returning to their roots,” Movian Gorv assures him.
“Mm,” Finn says. He writes down returning to their roots (!!!!!), I believe every word this guy is telling me, not hurrying. Only when he’s made his note does he look up again. “And those from the planets that were destroyed? The refugees?”
Movian Gorv clears his throat, a minute sound. “Arrangements are being put in place,” he replies, a voice that oozes and slides. “But of course there’s paperwork - proof of origin, that sort of thing. Otherwise people will lose faith in the system.”
“Mm-hm.” Finn doesn’t break the silence by asking for details. He’s not the one here expecting money and preferential treatment: this delegation could walk out right now and Finn’s team would shrug and go home early. They have no interest in creating a diplomatic incident, but the New Republic really doesn’t need anything at all from Coruscant.
They say they hate the First Order, and perhaps they really do, yet something in their conviction reminds Finn of them. That air of superiority, that they know better than you what should be done, how galactic affairs should be managed for the good of all. Their certainty that turning their backs on the Republic is the best way to ensure peace.
“May I ask where you’re from, originally?” Movian Gorv asks.
“No idea,” Finn tells him, leaning back in his chair and not breaking eye contact. “The First Order took me from my family when I was a baby. I grew up as a Stormtrooper.”
He hears his deputy Sayrina re-cross her legs, out of the corner of his eye sees her smooth back her hair and carefully not smile. The Coruscant delegation go sort of still.
“Ah,” says Gorv.
Poe comes home while he’s in the shower. Over the noise of the water Finn hears him call out cheerfully, then a minute later there’s a cool draft in the fresher and his head appears round the corner of the screen.
He’s flushed and sweating, his hair just long enough to be curling: he must have been running. Finn likes to swim and Poe will often go with him, but left alone, he prefers dry land to water. This is just one of the things Finn now knows about him that he didn’t know before. He also knows now that Poe needs to shave every day, that he takes his caf with three sucrose tabs, that he’s lived here for over a year and barely owns a thing. He just doesn’t seem to acquire stuff - he doesn’t get attached to objects, and they slip through his fingers somehow, lent or misplaced or given away.
He was going to get his own place, when he first decided to stay on Yresh. He’d been in the Republic Defence Force or the Resistance his entire adult life, it was time he got somewhere to live that wasn’t just assigned to him, he said. And Finn kept saying he’d clear out the office so Poe could have it. They were already sleeping together, but it felt important to offer Poe his own space, a room he could call his own. If pressed, Finn could not have said what he thought Poe might do with this space, and then he never did clear it out, never did make up the bed in there. If Poe had asked him to, of course he would have done it, but Poe never did. Poe slept in his bed, made love to him in his bed, and offering the other room might have implied he wanted that to change.
Poe looked at two apartments that he didn’t rent before Leia intervened, told Finn gently but firmly to do the decent thing and either ask Poe to move in or kick him out. He’d answered her shortly, stung at the implication that he’d - what, been leading Poe on? Letting him stay because it was sexually convenient, an easy lay living in his apartment?
The next time Poe told him he was going to see another place, Finn nodded very earnestly and asked him to stay. “I like sleeping next to you,” he’d said. “Waking up with you - all of it. Please stay here.”
Turned out Leia knew what she was talking about.
Poe’s face sort of flickered before he said, “Really? You sure?” and Finn nodded and said, “Yeah, completely sure.”
A second later Poe had knocked his chair over and was in Finn’s lap. It all escalated pretty fast from there: Poe had slid down to his knees and Finn got a blowjob in the kitchen for the first time, and once he could stand up again Poe fucked him deep and fervent against the counter, neither of them even noticing the shades were still open until long after they’d finished. Hardly anybody ever came by, but still.
“Hey!” Poe calls over the noise of the water. “You going out?”
“Yeah, got the formal dinner with the delegation from Coruscant I told you about.”
“Shit, that’s tonight?”
“Yep, that’s tonight. You want to come? Plus side: Sayrina and Iono are coming, I think Calir is bringing Zin. Downside: the delegation from Coruscant are coming too.”
Poe sighs theatrically. “There’s always a catch. If I wanna see you all dressed up, I gotta make smalltalk with politicians from Coruscant?”
Finn shuts the water off and Poe’s hand appears round the transparisteel screen, holding out his towel. “Difficult decision, huh?” he says.
“That ain’t difficult at all,” Poe grins as he steps out, watches appreciatively as he dries off. “Course I wanna come.”
“Sure? I didn’t commit you, you don’t have to. Maybe listening to Coruscant go on about enduring peace and planetary sovereignty isn’t your idea of a good time.”
Poe’s only here rather than there because half of Coruscant has too much to say about their damn planetary sovereignty. He’d groaned theatrically when Finn first told him which delegation he’d be dealing with this week, and his views are pretty clear when Coruscant and their hard stance on offworlders and refugees come on the holonews. It affected him personally, but that’s not why he objects.
It isn’t his main preoccupation right this moment though: as the steam clears, Finn can feel Poe’s gaze on him like a physical thing. He’s just standing here wrapping a towel round his waist, and the way Poe looks at him it’s like he’s done something miraculous.
“Hey no, you always show me a good time,” Poe says, stepping in close.
Maybe Poe just intended to steal a kiss then head into the shower himself. But once he’s here in touching distance, light sheen of sweat on his bare arms, Finn can’t help wanting more.
His wet towel and Poe’s sweaty running clothes end up on the bedroom floor, and it’s Poe who shows him a good time. Pulling Finn down on his side and sliding into him achingly slow, kissing the back of his neck and jerking him off in time with the rocking of his hips until Finn’s shaking and falling apart in his arms.
Poe stays cuddled close afterwards, chest pressed against Finn’s back and his arm around Finn’s waist. They ought to be getting ready. Any second now Finn will get up, get dressed, show Poe the guest list in case he knows any of them. Check his messages, the summary of the day’s news. Any minute now he’ll do that, but just for a moment this is for him. Water lapping outside, refracting sunlight onto the bedroom ceiling. Poe’s breath warm on his shoulder, Poe’s hand in his: everything he wants is right here.
He closes his eyes and they lie there entwined until finally Poe stirs, yawns and says, “I need a shower, I guess.”
“And I need a second shower,” Finn says, rolling over to face him.
“Mm. Sorry about that, buddy,” Poe kisses him on the shoulder and sits up. His hair’s standing on end and he doesn’t sound sorry in the slightest.
The official transport is waiting by the the deck by the time Poe comes out, shrugging into a smart overcoat it’s hardly ever cold enough to need. Finn’s yelled, “Poe, come on, the boat’s waiting!” and “You’re gonna make me late!” and given up and is chatting to Timir at the helm when Poe finally emerges, bright eyed and freshly shaved, smelling of bergamot and looking like a totally different person from the man who dropped his dirty clothes on Finn’s bedroom floor an hour ago.
“Ok?” he asks, and it’s not clear if he means his outfit or Finn, but the answer is yes to both.
“Worth waiting for,” Finn murmurs as Poe slides onto the seat next to him and the boat pulls away with a smooth hum of the engine. “You look great.”
“I clean up nice,” Poe agrees, lacing their fingers together. “The Republic Envoy’s consort’s gotta look the part.”
Everything seems to look the part tonight. The sea has turned dark blue as the sun sets in orange and pink cloud - winter here on Yresh is mild, with sunsets that fill the whole sky with colour. Lamps are starting to come on along the floating walkways as their boat docks, little pools of light in the air and just below the waterline.
In the last moment before he has to play the impassive diplomat, Finn puts his arm around Poe, pulls him close. When he kisses Poe’s jaw his skin is cool and smooth and still smells like shaving foam. His lips can feel Poe smile, the shift of bone and muscle just beneath the surface.
For a fancy dinner like this, most Finn’s team have brought their partners too. If you take the Coruscant delegation out of the equation, it could almost be a social occasion. Finn spends more of his free time with them recently - maybe it’s Poe’s influence. They like Poe, and he likes them.
“Hey Poe, how was the dispute on Itari? You get back today?” asks Calir.
Officially, Poe’s leading the Republic peacekeeping efforts in the quadrant: half on charm and diplomacy, half on small scale strategic intervention. Pirates, smugglers and cartels are a breath of fresh air after the First Order, he says: you know where you are with people who’ll shoot you in the back for a handful of extra credits. There are First Order sympathiser fringe groups out there too, but these days they go running from the best pilot in the Resistance.
“Yeah, just in time for the free dinner,” Poe says.
“There’s no such thing as a free dinner,” Zin mutters darkly. “If you can’t eat it in your pyjamas and tell the other guy what you really think of him, it ain’t free.”
“Hey man, you can tell me what you really think of me, I can take it,” Poe says. “And you can come over in your pyjamas any time, you know that.”
Zin points at him and scowls, “I like you, Dameron, and maybe I will. It’s these stuck up Coruscantis who make it hard work.”
“Yeah, I know.” Poe claps him on the shoulder as they accept a drink from the serving droid. “But some of them are ok - they didn’t all vote for this. I was stationed there before, you know.”
“Stationed there till they kicked all the offworlders out,” Zin says flatly. It wasn’t literally all the offworlders - and whether it ever will be is one of the things they’re debating on this trip - but it wasn’t a popular decision in the rest of the Republic. How could it be? This isn’t the same as an Outer Rim, Non Allied world keeping itself to itself, orbit inviolate. This is more like a divorce, ugly politics growing up in the empty places where the pictures used to hang, through all the unvoiced feelings that had been hiding in the dark. They said they wanted peace, away from the Republic’s wars, but it’s turned into something else now.
“Yeah,” Poe says. “The faction in charge now are not the good guys.” Poe doesn’t go on about it exactly, but it’s a far more succinct expression of his opinions than Finn gets in private. They’re anything but in private here.
A moment later they’re back on duty as the Coruscant delegation arrive, soberly splendid in evening clothes that exude a well-judged air of prosperity. Nothing left to chance: they’re the world everybody wants to do business with, their clothes say. Market rumours don’t entirely concur: all the more reason to get the image right tonight.
At Finn’s side, Sayrina holds her head high, smiles her most official smile. They’ve worked together long enough that she doesn’t have to say anything for Finn to see she doesn’t like these people any more than he and Poe do, but she’s going to sit down to dinner with them all the same. No such thing as a free meal.
Finn puts a hand on Poe’s shoulder as Eresa Lai approaches them, regal in dark red and eye-catching black jewels.
“Welcome, Eresa,” he says. He’s got his own official smile on, the Republic host to a visiting delegation. Yresh may have been considered a backwater when they settled here, and the Republic’s budget struggling to raise every credit, but this room is naturally impressive - white stone columns holding a high domed ceiling and surrounded by water on three sides, the sun setting and light shining from the floating streets. It makes you feel the part, to represent the Republic here.
“May I introduce my partner, Commander Poe Dameron,” he says, hand in the small of Poe’s back. “Poe, this is Eresa Lai, Lead Planetary Administrator of Coruscant.”
She inclines her head, holds out a languid hand. “I know Commander Dameron from when he lead the Republic defence forces on Coruscant,” she tells Finn. “How nice to see you again, Commander.”
“Likewise,” Poe says, taking the offered hand. He doesn’t even grit his teeth, just inclines his head politely as if he’d left Coruscant of his own free will and at the time of his own choosing.
Finn’s on diplomatic autopilot now: Poe’s come with him to enough of these things that they know all the steps. Finn touches him again to get his attention as another member of the delegation approaches, and as Eresa Lai moves on to greet Sayrina and Calir, he’s already speaking - “Gariel, welcome - let me introduce - ” before Poe actually turns.
“Oh!” he says, at the same time as the guy from Coruscant stops dead and exclaims, “Poe.”
Finn looks from one to the other as they don’t offer each other their hands for just a fraction of a second too long. Then they’re both scrambling to recover, shaking hands with their fingertips as Finn mentally skims the biography he has for the man - planetary administrator, committed pacifist who supported secession but didn’t actively campaign for it - who the hell is he to make Poe react like this?
”How are you?” Gariel says, shifting his weight from one foot to the other then back, and stilling. “I didn’t know you were on Yresh.”
“Uh, yeah, been here since - after the secession,” Poe replies. “Finn and I served together in the war - I told you about him, we’re -” his hand sketches a curve in the air towards Finn and back to himself, a shape where words might go. “And I’m working here now.”
Poe turns to Finn, face a blank. “Finn, this is Gariel. I was with him. On Coruscant,” he says.
There are a lot of other things he could say, but he doesn’t need to. Finn remembers all of them, every half-embarrassed shrug and involuntary wince. And now the person they refer to is standing in front of them holding a glass of imported champagne. Everything Poe has ever said about this man takes on a new significance; throwaway remarks change colour and texture until they’re bright and spiky.
The day’s negotiations are backlit with it too. Finn had Gariel down as second tier, a genuine pacifist, more impulsive and humanitarian than the ruthless strategic focus shown by Eresa. But now he’s rewinding, reassessing, newly aware of how the man looks, his poise and unease, the cut of his suit, the half a head height advantage he has over Finn and Poe. Every time he didn’t speak.
Poe’s talked about him before, of course. It was never a secret that he’d been in a relationship with someone on Coruscant. Finn knew his first name, but there had never been any reason for Poe to tell him the family name, no reason for Finn to suspect that this man who sat across the table from him discussing refugee quotas and reciprocal rights for Republic citizens could have fallen asleep next to Poe, made love to him, eaten breakfast with him, called him late at night to say he missed him. Left him when it became politically embarrassing to be living with him. He remembers Poe with a twist to his mouth saying, he was shacked up with a known Resistance offworlder like me. It looked bad.
Later, Poe had added, but I should have ended it. I’d never have even let it get started, if I’d known the way they were going with this bullshit - the refugees, the shit with the offworlders...
But you didn’t know the secession would go this way, Finn had said. No one did - it was all about peace at first.
Yeah, well. There’s faith in people, and then there’s too much faith in people, Poe had muttered, and Finn had pulled him down and kissed him over and over till he smiled again.
Every breakup is difficult, Leia says. Even before you add intergalactic politics to the mix.
“Well. I guess the galaxy is smaller than we think,” Finn hears himself say. It’s his Stormtrooper voice, not his diplomat voice and he hasn’t used it for years and years.
“Maybe we’ll have a chance to catch up later in the evening,” Gariel offers, and Finn doesn’t know him well enough to tell if he’s saying it to steer them through this awkward moment and will avoid Poe all night, or if he actually means it.
“Sure, yeah, great,” Poe says, nodding.
The worst thing is, he doesn’t know if Poe means it either.
There’s a seating plan for the dinner, and Finn isn’t sitting anywhere near Poe. The protocol team decides who sits where, and unless he knows in advance he needs to be near a particular person or far away from another, Finn lets them do their job and doesn’t interfere. Tonight isn’t any different - they know what they’re doing, Finn trusts them, he will take the seat assigned him and speak with the Coruscantis they’ve seated next to him.
It’s Gariel, of course. If Finn were preparing the seating plan, he would have done the same. Finn smiles tightly at him and is actually glad when Eresa Lai takes the seat on his other side and almost immediately starts to explain to him about the importance of planetary border control in maintaining intergalactic relations.
Gariel doesn’t say a word all evening.
There’s music and restrained entertainment after dinner, and Finn finally excuses himself from Eresa’s lecture and Gariel’s tense silence. He wants very much to go straight to Poe’s side, but he has to speak with Cleja Iren of the pacifist coalition, sound out in the privacy afforded by background noise whether all the factions are really as united as Eresa says in their desire to withdraw even from the Republic’s trading agreements, and she’s right there. He can’t let the moment pass. In front of the others she’s toeing the party line, but there may be a different story if he can speak to her alone.
A little later he catches Poe’s eye from across the room and gets a crinkle of the eyes and a half wave before another group block his view.
Sayrina and Morvian Gorv come to join them, and the conversation ends up back at post war security, refugees, equitable distribution of survivors. How many of them are genuine and how many are former First Order looking to avoid war crimes charges. Almost none of them, thinks Finn, and nods noncommittally as Gorv repeats the question in that oh-so-reasonable tone they all share. Of course you agree with us, it says. Any rational being must agree with us, and only a fool takes refugees at face value. “There are people playing the system - pretending to be from the worlds that were destroyed. Masquerading as children to win sympathy! Can you believe it?”
“Until we receive statistics from an independent body as we requested, I’m not sure I can believe it,” he says blandly.
Gorv shakes his head, apparently grieved at Finn’s inability to see the greater truth beyond the statistics. And then he’s off again, this time warming to the subject of the unbearable pressure on Coruscant infrastructure, the Republic’s war and its survivors equally to blame.
The next time Finn scans the room, there’s Poe at one side facing the water, profile clear against dark windows and the sprinkling of lights, talking to Gariel. He looks perfectly relaxed, but Poe’s very good at looking relaxed even when he isn’t. Finn would need to be standing much closer to see that tension in his jaw that gives him away.
Whenever Finn allows his focus to stray from his own conversation, Poe and Gariel are still there in the corner. After a while Poe is leaning against the pillar. He’s nodding a lot. Each time the servo droid passes, Gariel flags it down, solicitously takes two drinks. Finn can’t hear what he’s saying, but he looks like a man wanting to make a good impression, trying to convince; leaning forwards, using his hands a lot. Poe barely moves.
Finn can’t decide what to do. Poe knows how to get himself out of a conversation he doesn’t want to be in. This isn’t the war, Finn can’t go charging in to save him even if he did want out. There’d be no way to avoid the implication that such an interruption was personal.
Across the room, Poe’s still leaning against the pillar, arms folded across his chest. He doesn’t lean against things, as a rule, when he’s listening to people. He leans forward, towards them, shows his attention with his whole body.
“Sayrina,” Finn murmurs, turning towards her so they can’t be overheard. She turns to him immediately, but not so fast that it looks interesting to the Coruscantis talking bilateral agreements. Nothing to see here: just housekeeping. “Could you go check Poe’s ok? He knows that guy -” he doesn’t point, just implies with a sideways glance, “- but just make sure he doesn’t need an out, yeah?”
She waits a beat before looking over, and even then only her eyes move. Wrinkles her nose and nods. “Yeah, sure. I’m on it.”
Maybe Finn can’t easily interrupt, but that doesn’t mean no one can.
Outwardly he rejoins the conversation, making noises in all the right places. Privately, he’s watching Sayrina weave her way through the small talk and politics until she reaches Poe and Gariel. Sees her professional pantomime hi, so sorry to interrupt - Poe, when you have a moment, could you - what will she say? It’s easier to find a pretext when it’s a colleague: Poe, with all his experience and everything he’s seen across the galaxy, may be an asset to these talks, but tonight he is not here as Finn’s colleague. He has his official role as one of the Republic’s most senior defence force officers and he could be on the guest list for that reason alone, but that wasn’t what Finn was thinking when he asked if Poe was joining him tonight. He was thinking how Sayrina brings Iono and Zin brings Calir: the people they live with, the people they love. Someone to go home with afterwards, not their colleagues.
They may work side by side, but it’s been a long time since Poe was just Finn’s colleague. What word did he use to Eresa Lai, to Gariel - partner, did he say? Consort, Poe called himself earlier. When they’re alone, Finn has other words that he whispers, others that he only thinks.
Whatever Sayrina says, it works. A moment to wrap up the conversation, and then she and Poe are crossing the room again. He loses sight of them in the crowd.
He doesn’t find Poe again until the Coruscant delegation have left and the Republic team are drifting out to the quayside for their boats home. Poe’s standing in the arched doorway leading out, squinting back into the hall. His face clears when he sees Finn.
“Ok?” is all Finn has time to ask, a quick clasp of hands, before they’re caught up by Calir, Sayrina and Iono, and join the group by the water.
“That guy liked Poe alright,” Sayrina’s saying. She’s holding Iono’s hand. “If I was gonna pick one I guess he’s the best looking, but not good looking enough to get stuck talking to him for an hour, right?”
She likes Poe; she’s smiling at him, expecting him to join in the joke. She went in to rescue him from a party bore, like he’s done for her, and that’s all there is to it.
Poe makes a face that’s an approximation of a smile. It’s over so quickly Finn’s left with just the afterimage of his teeth.
“Which one? Gariel?” someone asks.
“Yeah, the tall one who got him in the corner,” Sayrina says.
“What, he can’t get any hot offworlder action back home any more, he’s trying his luck here? Poe’s way out of his league.”
“But you knew him on Coruscant?” asks Sayrina before Finn can divert the conversation.
“Uh, yeah. Yeah,” his gaze flickers to Finn, back towards the others. “We were together for a while.”
The pause is barely noticeable, but Finn notices. Poe turns towards him, doesn’t meet his eyes. Rubs the back of his neck.
“Shit,” mutters Zin.
“Sorry,” Sayrina says quietly, touching his arm.
“Eh. Was ages ago,” Poe shrugs. “No hard feelings. I practically forgot about how they kicked me off their planet.”
“Their loss,” says Calir gravely. He likes Poe too.
“Our gain,” adds Sayrina.
My gain, thinks Finn. He doesn’t say that though, not in front of everyone. He just puts his arm around Poe’s waist, feels him sway then relax into it.
“What does he want now?” Calir asks. “Was it, ‘please baby just give me one more chance, you may be from offworld but I can’t live without your free trade agreement and experienced defence force’?”
Poe laughs out loud, brings his hand up to lay it on top of Finn’s. Finn has the feeling they are all looking at him, making sure he’s in on the joke. He isn’t quite sure, yet, but if Poe’s laughing then he ought to be too. Not right now, he’s missed the beat - smiling will do. Next time, he’ll laugh.
“Yeah, you know what, it was quite a lot like that,” he says. His voice is a little slurred, just a very little, and he leans heavily into Finn before straightening.
They all gesture Finn and Poe into the first of the official boats to pull up.
“Take your boy home,” Sayrina insists when Finn tries to stand aside and let someone else go first, and they all chime in until he acquiesces.
“I’m forty, you know that right?” Poe protests as Finn holds a hand out to help him in. “I’m older than him. Years older than him.”
He stumbles into Finn’s arms as he steps in - it’s an everyday hazard, on Yresh, falling into somebody else on a boat - but it doesn’t usually happen to Poe. He’s sure-footed, knows instinctively how to jump on the rise of wave.
“We know,” Sayrina says. “But you’re still his boy, aren’t you?” Poe mock-salutes her. Presumably that’s a yes.
It’s cold now night has fallen. At least, it is after standing still on a quayside in evening clothes. In spite of the yellow glow of the lights that give the illusion of warmth, the wind is cool as the boat zips along and damp and gets into your bones. It isn’t far, but it’s far enough for Poe to be shivering.
“Didn’t you have a coat?” Finn asks.
Poe squints at him. “Uh - yeah, I did. Musta left it.”
“I’ll get it for you tomorrow,” Finn promises. “You want mine?”
He’s already starting to shrug out of it when Poe stops him, moves in to hug him so Finn can’t get his arms out of the sleeves without pushing him away. “No. Then you’d just be cold,” he mutters and Finn doesn’t argue. Poe’s idea is better. He will get the coat in the morning, but for now he’s glad of the excuse to sit this close, to put his arms round Poe and hold him. When Poe rests his head on Finn’s shoulder he smells like Coruscant whisky and still, faintly, of bergamot.
Finn drinks a glass of water in the kitchen without turning on the lights, refills it for Poe. Turns back to fumble in the drawer for alcohol tablets. When he comes into the bedroom, Poe is stretched out on top of the covers half undressed, already snoring.
Finn stands in the doorway and watches him, the vulnerability of his bare feet, the uneven rise and fall of his chest.
Finn’s up in the dark in the late winter dawn. When the sun rises the sea will sparkle and people will sit outside the cafes and cantinas, eating and drinking, but that won’t be for another hour. Poe’s rolled onto his stomach, doesn’t wake at the sound of Finn’s alarm, doesn’t appear in the fresher with caf as he sometimes does while Finn showers. Finn makes it himself, and dresses in the light from the passageway so as not to disturb Poe.
He hesitates in the kitchen: he’s early, no need to rush out yet, but why stay here if he isn’t going to wake Poe? It’s not like Poe would mind, so why is he standing here with more caf than he can drink himself?
He puts his bag down and takes his shoes off again, and fixes Poe a cup. The room smells faintly of alcohol when he goes back in.
“Poe,” he whispers. “Poe, I’ve got to go in a minute but I brought you caf.” He puts the cup down, touches Poe’s back just between the shoulderblades.
Poe grunts, a geological sound of moving landmass from deep in his chest. His body curves very slightly towards Finn, like a plant moving into the light.
After a moment he groans and rolls over, reaching out to grab Finn’s hand and hold it against his chest. He’s sleep-warm, eyes still closed, hair a wild tangle. Finn wants to crawl into the bed beside him, and he could, if he’s fast: get him off quick and dirty, wipe his mouth and go to work. Let Poe go back to sleep with the memory of Finn’s mouth on him. He could call in sick, if he really wanted. What’s the worst that would happen if he just got undressed again, took Poe in his arms and did it properly, turned the lamp on so they could see each other? He’s not the only negotiator in the restored Republic.
Instead he sits on the edge of the bed holding Poe’s hand and doesn’t move.
“Ugh,” Poe mutters after a moment. “Thanks. What time is it?”
“Just after 8, but I won’t be back till after you’re gone tonight.”
Poe’s flying back to the unrest on Itari: two trade cartels competing for one port. He’ll only be away one night.
“Oh, right,” he mumbles. Then he drags himself up to sitting, takes the cup Finn passes him and sips it slowly. His hand shakes and Finn takes it back from him.
“Yeah. Drank too much,” he says. “I’m too old for these diplomatic parties, man.”
Finn kisses the top of his bowed head. “What are you doing before you leave?”
“Not much. Sleep more. Throw up, maybe,” Finn snorts an inelegant laugh and Poe leans in, buries his face in his neck. “Yeah, I’m the best diplomatic trophy boyfriend you could hope for. Bet you wish you were hanging out with me today.”
“I do, actually,” he tells Poe’s hair. The rest of him smells like sweat and yesterday’s whisky, but his hair still carries the scent of his styling product.
“Liar. Even I don’t wanna hang out with me today,” he mumbles. Finn rubs his back, kisses his head again. He ought to say something, but he doesn’t know what. There’s nothing wrong. Poe’s sitting up in the bed they share, breathing against him. It’s all he wants.
“Finn,” Poe begins, and doesn’t say anything else.
“The end of the night, I got a bit of a blank. there isn’t - ” he says. There’s a scratch in his voice until he clears his throat, continues: “There isn’t anything I need to apologise for, is there? Like, I didn’t say anything dumb in front of your team?”
Finn holds him just a little tighter, lets his thumb slide under the hem of Poe’s t shirt. “Well, you snored really loud in the night…”
Poe grunts out a laugh. “Sorry, man.”
“But apart from that, no. You’re good.” It’s true. There’s nothing at all for him to apologise for. He talked to a Coruscant planetary administrator, drank a bit too much. Probably nobody except Finn even noticed he was drunk.
Finn can just see the chrono from the corner of his eye. If he’s going, he has to leave now.
“I gotta go, Poe. Think of me, in a pointless trade negotiation while you’re throwing up.”
Poe squints up at him as he stands, squeezes his hand before he lets go and flops back against the pillows.
There’s an atmosphere in the room when talks recommence. Sidelong glances and low voices.
Finn watches Gariel more than he should. It’s hard to imagine the real person behind the official: did he make Poe laugh? Bring him caf in bed? Lend him books, argue with him, talk politics? The file says the man supported secession out of long-held commitment to pacifism, and it’s true he’s never said a word against offworlders - all the talk about floods of refugees has come from the others. Poe says Gariel left him, but if this is the company he keeps, Finn can’t imagine the relationship could have lasted long. Poe joined the Resistance when most of the New Republic still thought the First Order was a harmless fringe group. He’s always paid attention, and there isn’t a neutral bone in his body.
Poe said I told you about him, but how exactly did he talk about Finn to Gariel, back on Coruscant? He’s heard Poe talk about him, it can’t have been bad, but he wishes he could pull every word out of this man’s head, scrub away everything Poe ever said. He wants to be a blank, inscrutable, for his real face to be a mask. Poe’s told Finn very little about this person who might know his whole history.
At lunch he excuses himself to look for Poe’s coat. Not that he says that. He says, “I’ll be back with you shortly,” with his blandest smile. That’s one of Lando’s tips; never explain, never try to justify it. If you’re sure it’s the right thing to do, just do it. Not that retrieving his boyfriend’s forgotten coat can be called the right thing to do, exactly, but he’s keeping a promise.
Once in the afternoon Gariel looks up, catches Finn staring at him. They both look away at once.
It’s almost dark when he gets home, the lights of the floating city dancing and the water loud against the walkways with a rising wind.
Finn hangs up Poe’s coat and stands for a long moment in front of the closet, his own things to the right, Poe’s to the left. He’s got more than Poe - he’s Republic Envoy now, he can’t get by on two suits and some swimming shorts. Still, there’s enough of Poe’s clothes to leave no doubt that he lives here. Different styles, different colours, slightly narrower cut. They can share a few things, but mostly Poe’s shirts look too tight, too attention-seeking on Finn, and Finn’s tailoring apparently really is cut for his shoulders alone. Finn straightens the collar on one of Poe’s jackets, and pushes his own stuff further right so Poe’s can hang properly. He has to shove it hard to make room. Poe’s never complained, but the distribution of space isn’t really fair. He can see that now.
Poe’s washbag is gone from the fresher, the towel he must have used this morning almost dry. The cup Finn brought him in bed is sitting unwashed in the sink. Finn starts to runs the water, then shuts it off and leaves the cup where Poe left it.
Leia’s watching the holonews with a glass of wine at her elbow when he taps on the door, cool wind blowing down the back of his neck. Her apartment is all soft lamplight and simple furniture, almost as familiar to him as his own.
“Come in,” she calls without even looking round. “Grab a glass and help me drink this.”
“Did you actually know it was me, or would you drink with anyone who came round?” Finn teases, snagging a glass on his way in and dropping onto the couch beside her.
“I’d drink with anyone who came round of course,” she replies. “But I know Poe’s offworld, so the odds were pretty good that it was you.”
She gestures at the screen. “Your delegation is in the news. How are you getting on?”
“Getting nowhere,” he sighs, leaning back. “They want all the perks of being part of the Republic with none of the cost or responsibility. We’re wasting our time so they can go home and say they’ve taken a tough line with us, then they’ll come back and waste our time again in a couple of lunar cycles with a proposal that will look reasonable just because it isn’t quite as hardline as this one.”
Leia represses a smile and tucks her feet under her. “I can see I have nothing left to teach you about politics. I don’t know why you even come round here any more.”
“Also the guy Poe used to live with is on the delegation,” he blurts out.
Leia freezes, then puts her drink down and turns very slowly to look at him.
“Yeah. Didn’t know it was him till I introduced him to Poe at the dinner last night. It was - um. Awkward.”
She winces. “I can imagine.”
“He seemed as surprised as Poe was. Then he spent half the evening pouring whisky down him in the corner, while I listened to Eresa Lai go on about the beauty of planetary sovereignty.”
Leia nods, fills Finn’s glass and hands it to him like she thinks he needs it, which he doesn’t. He’s fine.
“She knows their position is weak. She’s using every advantage she can get.”
“Who, Eresa? You think she knew Poe was -” with me, he wants to say, but doesn’t - “here on Yresh?”
“He -” it’s stupid, but he stumbles over the name. “Uh, Gariel, really didn’t seem to be expecting to see him.”
“Maybe he wasn’t, but I should think she was. Too much of a coincidence, wouldn’t you say? She includes Gariel on this delegation and undermines the awkward pacifist in her coalition as well as unnerving the Republic envoy.”
Finn holds the glass and doesn’t drink any of it. The wine is deep gold, liquid sunshine in his hand against the dark outside. Leia’s instincts are good. As soon as she says it, he’s sure she’s right.
Who passed the word along, he wonders? Diplomatic small talk that travelled? Poe’s famous still, the best pilot in the Resistance even in a galaxy that doesn’t need a Resistance any more. And Finn has a reputation of his own, the defector who led the peace talks, one of the most high-profile officials of the restored Republic. He can imagine the gossip, among those who know their names. Did you know, Poe Dameron’s on Yresh now? Or, who’s that guy that Finn’s started bringing to functions? Or something uglier, more invasive? He’s heard that, too, delicate insinuation and crude speculation both about other people’s lives. What would they say, First Order sympathisers, about him and Poe? I hear Finn’s bending over for Dameron. They kicked him off Coruscant and now he’s fucking the defector.
Leia leans in to him. Puts her arm around him and squeezes.
“I know. I know, Finn, believe me I do. It’s horrible to think that people are talking about you like that, but you’ve got to remember that it isn’t really you they’re talking about at all. Everything that is intimate and private, they don’t know any of that. They’re making it all up.”
“Yeah,” he mutters, rubbing his eyes. “I know. I know they are.”
“That’s your advantage, Finn. They think they know you, because people end up believing the gossip they spread.”
“Poe said he’d told him about me. That guy -” he has a name, Finn reminds himself. He has a name, Poe loved him once. Poe must’ve whispered that name in the dark, called it with that lost desperate look he has when he’s about to come. “Gariel knew who I was, even if he didn’t know Poe was here. I’m the idiot who got caught out because he didn’t ask for the personal file.”
She lets go of him, tilts her head to look at him. “And what would you have done differently, if you had known?”
Finn smiles at the very idea of suggesting Poe not come to the dinner, to appear to be hiding or avoiding someone. Poe approaches everything head on: he can tread oh-so-softly, but he doesn’t go around.
“Nothing, I guess. I could have warned Poe so he knew what to expect, but that’s all.” What would Poe have done differently, if he had known? Not shaved, worn different clothes, held Finn’s hand as they went in? Kissed him in front of a room full of Coruscant diplomats and politicians? Hardly.
A gust of wind makes the window rattle, and Leia uncurls, crosses the room to latch it. Storms are rare here and this isn’t one. It’s just the depression at the solstice, bringing low pressure and cooler air.
There’s a stiffness to the way she moves in the cold: he ought to have been the one to get up and see to the window. She’d even let him, if he didn’t say anything.
“But it must have been uncomfortable for Poe, seeing him again after that public spectacle they put him through when he left Coruscant,” she says as she comes back to sit down.
“What public spectacle?”
“The handover ‘ceremony’. You didn’t see it?”
Finn frowns, thinking back. A solar cycle and a half ago, a ceremony Poe and Gariel took part in - it sounds vaguely familiar. He was wrapping up the peace treaty - not that they knew then that it was in its wrap up phase - happy at unexpected moments with the knowledge that Poe was on his way. And then when Poe got here, he didn’t offer many details about the last days on Coruscant and Finn didn’t press. There were other things to talk about. Two days later Finn had taken him to bed, and the dirty politics of secession had no place there.
When he shakes his head she says, “It was on the holonews. I’ll find it.”
Her fingers fly as she inputs search terms, and then she’s calling up a clip, shifting close beside him so Finn can see the datapad too.
A bright day on Coruscant; early morning, from the angle of the light. One of those wide, elegant city squares typical of the core worlds, filled with people except a path through the middle marked off with crowd control barricades. What looks like a duraglass bottle comes flashing through the air to smash on the marble flagstones and the noise of the crowd grows, swells with approval.
He has seen this before. He remembers it now. It’s in the files, one more reason why the Republic is reluctant to offer any concessions now.
Five figures in Republican uniform appear, start to make their way across the square, and the roar of the crowd increases. Another bottle smashes; not close, but the message is clear.
“There, that’s Poe,” Leia points to the man at the head of the tiny delegation. Obviously it’s Poe: he didn’t even flinch as the shower of shards flashed in the sun.
“Thank you, I recognise him,” Finn says and she turns to glare at him. “Sorry.”
“Which one’s Gariel?”
Finn leans in, finds him with the other planetary administrators on the dias. “That one.”
He hadn’t known that, when he saw watched the first time. Had just seen Poe and a group of Coruscant officials who might have been strangers to him.
Leia squints at the screen, zooms in on Gariel’s face: he’s half a head taller than Poe, about the same age, blue eyes. A face Finn found pleasant, until yesterday evening.
He feels Leia turn to look at him.
“Well. You’re much better looking,” she concludes.
Finn snorts, pans out so it’s no longer Gariel’s face filling the screen. He watches as Poe leads the Republic Defence Force officers out to be ceremoniously dismissed. He exchanges a few words with the Coruscant officials, salutes, and turns to leave again. If you didn’t know him, didn’t know his history with one of the men up there, all you’d see was a perfect display of a well-run military standing down at the democratic will of the people, unarmed and impassive in the face of a crowd that could become a mob in the wrong hands.
Finn’s always known Poe had nerves of steel. It was almost the first thing he learned about him. But to see them needed in peacetime, to carefully not react to the provocation of a planet they thought of as allies -
“I didn’t know that was Gariel up there with them,” Finn says slowly when the clip ends.
Leia turns to look at him.“I doubt if he was the instigator - he was one of the pacifists, by all accounts. His party certainly weren’t whipping up mobs, anyway.”
Finn just grunts, carries on staring at the screen. He can imagine being in Poe’s place, but not knowing that it was someone he used to love standing up there, letting it happen.
“Is it so important?”
“Important enough to tell you.”
“I’ve been in politics,” she says with a shrug. “This was political. And maybe he doesn’t mind so much looking bad in front of me.”
“What? He doesn’t look bad, why would you say that?”
Leia raises one eyebrow and looks at him. “I don’t think it looks bad either, but you can see how he might feel it wasn’t his proudest hour, can’t you?”
“What’s not to be proud of in a peaceful withdrawal from a planet when its democratic leaders ask you to go?”
Leia holds up her hands. “You don’t have to convince me, Finn.”
Finn stares at the datapad. The finished clip has gone back to the first frame, waiting for someone to start it up again or move on. Poe and four officers Finn doesn’t know are frozen midway across a square built of golden stone and duraglass. If Finn reaches out to touch the screen, they’ll start walking again. As the crowd watches, Poe will climb the six steps to where the Coruscant government representatives are waiting to dismiss him and the defence force he leads. He’ll salute them, bow his head to each of them in turn. One of them is the man he used to live with, but if you didn’t know it there would be no way to tell which one. They’re all impassive, and Poe repeats the same gesture to each of them in turn.
He’ll turn and walk back down the steps, and the other officers will fall into step behind him. The crowd will jeer and hiss as they cross the square, shadows sharp and dark in the early light. It’s hard to make out words, but the tone is clear - these people are secessionists out to celebrate. They don’t want offworlders here. Gariel’s faction may have voted to leave the Republic to save themselves being dragged into future wars, but the company they keep has other motives.
Finn can imagine what Poe’s face must have looked like that morning: eyes front, jaw clenched. You’d need to know him well and be standing close to know it got to him.
What was Finn doing, on that sunny morning? Sitting across the table from the remnants of the First Order, wrapping up clause after clause of the disarmament treaty, probably. He doesn’t know the time difference with Coruscant. Maybe Poe had already spoken with him and Leia, agreed to join them on Yresh. Maybe their call came through afterwards. It hardly matters, but he wishes he knew.
Finn’s careful not to stay too late at Leia’s. She knows him too well.
The rest of the evening he had meant to spend writing up some of his notes, but in the end he leaves the files unopened and pours himself a drink. There’s Coruscant whisky, the typical diplomatic gift from the delegation in a heavy ornate bottle. Poe likes it - once he said it was the only thing he missed about the place - but the stuff he drinks comes in a plain flask. Finn drinks from that one instead. Then he searches for the handover ceremony on the holonet, and when he finds it he watches it four times. Four times, Poe crosses the square in the morning light, doesn’t flinch when the bottle breaks. Bows to Gariel and the others. Walks away, unarmed, through the mob.
Finn stretches out on the couch after that and the next clip plays automatically. It’s the Coruscant secession campaign broadcast, the one where they use Poe’s testimony about Jakku, and he watches that one too. The way it’s edited, close up on Poe’s face, you can’t see the public. Finn was sitting on the same side they’re filming from anyway. The camera view is what he saw.
The holonet can’t read his mind. It’s just showing him content tagged ‘coruscant’ ‘secession’ and ‘poe dameron’. Finn’s braced for it when the next clip starts. Of course it’s the other secession campaign broadcast, the one where Poe tells the court what they did to him on the Finalizer, the one Leia always muted. Finn doesn’t mute it. He watches all the way through, all 25 seconds of it. He watches it a second time, and then he makes himself turn off the datapad and go to bed.
Finn is sick of the Coruscant delegation by the end of the day.
Everything they’ve come to negotiate for is impossible, and they won’t give ground on any of it. It may be their strategy, to come in with unworkable demands in the hope that the things they really want look reasonable in comparison, but Finn can’t shake the impression they really think the rest of the galaxy owes them this. The right to live in their bubble of peace, to cherry-pick people, resources, trade partners, count on Republic defences, all without taking a single refugee or paying a single credit for it.
Eresa shows her teeth a lot when she smiles. All her gestures are poised, considered; her face hardly moves even when she speaks forcefully Someone must have coached her to look good on camera, where it’s important to be still. Today she’s in deep blue, silver at her throat: she projects authority, security, a safe pair of hands to return Coruscant to its rightful place in the galaxy, safe from the wars of the Republic.
At least, that’s what the voters back home have been promised. Finn can’t agree to anything she wants, but that’s her problem. It’s a long time since anyone ignored his words so thoroughly in a negotiation, so confidently refused to compromise in their own best interests - again, not Finn’s problem. If they won’t pay in and take their share of displaced people, there’s nothing the Republic can do for them.
Gariel barely speaks. The pacifism that is his remit has barely been mentioned, and he’s leaning back in his chair or head down, scribbling in his datapad most of the time. Finn’s careful not to look at him too much, not after the uncomfortable second of eye contact yesterday. He avoids the man as they enter and leave the seminar room, and Gariel appears to do the same.
Does he know he’s mainly here because he used to sleep with Poe? Several times during discussions Finn notices him staring out of the window at the ocean and thinks, yeah. He knows. He probably didn’t when he set off from Coruscant, but he knows now.
The negotiations are winding up, nothing achieved and no common ground. As Eresa makes her closing remarks, all the usual platitudes about intergalactic partnership and valuing each other’s differences, Finn catches Sayrina rolling her eyes. He has to look away, fast, to be sure he can keep his own face under control. Gariel is gazing fixedly at the polished table before him. His face twitches as Eresa continues with, “the vote in favour of planetary self determination is in no way contradictory to a close relationship with the worlds of the Republic.”
Maybe that’s what they want to hear, back home - peace and security, on their own terms. Finn’s not buying it.
The Coruscantis don’t leave until the morning, but there’s official entertainment for them tonight and Finn won’t see them again. Not until the inevitable next round of talks. There’s no avoiding a handshake with Gariel as the two sides make their farewells. Finn gives him a firm grip and his diplomat’s smile, and gets the same in return. He was steeled for “Give my regards to Poe,” or even a deniable insinuation, but Gariel inclines his head and says nothing.
Eresa’s grip is hard and dry.
“We knew this would be a long process, and I am sure next time we meet we will make more progress. An agreement is in everyone’s interest, but feelings are still running high.”
Finn offers her his blandest face. “I’m sure they must be,” he replies. “We will observe the political situation on Coruscant as we do on so many non allied worlds who want to trade with us. When your mandate allows you a more flexible approach, we will be happy to see you here again.”
She’s an excellent politician. She doesn’t even blink.
He grabs one drink with his team, all of them loud and exuberant with the release of tension. There may have been no open hostility, but Finn wasn’t alone in feeling talked down to. Even if they could, no one’s inclined to cut the Coruscantis any kind of deal.
“You can’t go already,” Calir protests when Finn gets up to leave.
“I can,” he tells them. “Poe’s on his way back, I’ve got to meet him at the spaceport.”
Which isn’t entirely true: he doesn’t have to, but he wants to.
There’s a chorus of awws - the group apparently decided early on to play this as the great love story of the ages, and now everything Finn does is considered proof. Normally he laughs with them, quietly basks in this image of himself they reflect back at him. This time though, he’s frayed from the negotiations and it takes an effort to play along. They mean well so he does it, but it feels like he’s doing something dishonest.
It’s dusk when he reaches the quayside, sun almost set behind the island and the rising bank of cloud fading from pink to purple. It might rain, later.
Someone’s sitting with their feet dangling over the water right next to his hydrobike, a silhouette against the sky. As he approaches the figure looks round, leaps up, and then it isn’t just a figure in the dusk, it’s Poe calling out, “Finn!”
There’s no need to hide his delight. Poe’s kissing him, the shape of his smile a tangible thing against Finn’s mouth, hands tight on his arms.
“Hey!” he says when Poe lets go. “I was coming to meet you! You got in early?”
“Yeah. I was gonna head home, but then I saw your hydrobike was still here so I waited.”
Coming out of a session to find Poe waiting for him is one of the small pleasures Finn takes most delight in. The other times he’s come, he’s been waiting inside, the first person Finn sees as they step out into the wide corridors of the conference centre. Finn could ask why he didn’t come in, but then Poe would either have to lie to him or tell him the truth, and just now Finn’s too happy to see him to want to hear either.
“You want to go home now, or maybe get something to eat?” he asks instead.
Poe holds up a bag. “I saw Ama. She gave me this, and seeing as it’s one of the three things I know how to cook, I was thinking I could make you dinner. Whadda you say?”
He’s still smiling, impossibly good-looking in the deepening blue of the evening.
“Sure,” Finn says, fishing the keys out of his pocket. “And if you’re cooking, I guess it’s only fair to let you drive.”
Poe catches them in his left hand, grinning. “I know the Republic’s in safe hands with you, buddy. You got a natural sense of justice.”
“I found your coat,” Finn tells him as Poe slides efi fish into a pan in their tiny kitchen. He’s changed out of his formal work clothes, poured them both a drink, and is leaning against the counter watching what Poe does. He’s not helping because Poe said there was nothing that needed doing. He doesn’t need to be in here at all.
Poe’s shoulders tense then relax. “Thanks,” he says with a glance up through his lashes. “Where was it?”
“They had it in the cloakroom. Said they found it on one of the chairs. They were keeping it for you. Akina was.”
“She’s cool,” Poe smiles. “That was nice of her.”
He stirs for a moment, glances over at Finn again. Straightens. Finn can see his throat move as he swallows.
“Sorry about the other night,” he says. “I shouldn’t have drunk so much. It was - weird. Seeing people from Coruscant. Him. Being there. You know.”
Poe’s normally good with words - nothing fancy, but he listens to people and knows how to get them to listen in return. He chats, puts everyone at ease, always has the right thing to say. When he offers Finn a half-formed sentence, an unfinished statement, he’s getting something most people never have.
“Yeah. For me too,” Finn agrees. Poe’s not looking right at him so he doesn’t look right at Poe. He watches his hands instead, slim fingers gripping a wooden spoon. All the cooking utensils are made of organic material, on Yresh. “But you’ve got nothing to apologise for. It was, I should have. Um. I should have checked the names. Shown you the list.”
Poe shrugs, half smiles.
“I didn’t ask. I just thought I could wing it through anything, whoever they were. I’m good at that, I think on my feet, you know?”
“Yeah, I know.”
“But I coulda used some time to prepare for that. For, uh, Gariel being there. I wish I coulda told you before you were sat across the table from him.” He’s stirring very intensely, and his words are addressed just to the right of the pan sizzling in front of him.
“I’m meant to be good at coping with the unexpected too,” Finn says.
“And you are, but you don’t need extra from me.” Poe finally glances over at him. “I’m meant to give you, like, the opposite of that.”
“Most of what I know about these people is what you told me, Poe.”
“Yeah. I meant - ” he shrugs, flicks the pan so that the efi fish jump and hisses. “Nah, never mind. It was just weird for me, I didn’t want to make it weird for you while you’re working.”
Hands in his pockets, Finn moves to lean against the counter next to him. It’s just a single step, from one side of this kitchen to the other. He watches Poe stir. Efi fish needs a lot of stirring.
“Leia reminded me about the handover - ceremony. Thing. He was at. The day after the secession vote.”
Poe pulls a face. “Ugh, that.”
“She said you didn’t mention it to me because you want me to think well of you,” Finn says.
That gets a proper grin out of him, making his eyes crinkle and his teeth flash white.
“You only just getting that now?”
“Well - ”
“Nah, I didn’t deliberately not tell you, I just didn’t think about it that much. It was - humiliating, I guess, that he was up there, but it coulda been worse,” he drops spice into the hot pan, steps back as it spits fragrant oil. “Woah! Uh, shit - ” Finn presses the heatproof cloth anxiously into his hand, but he just waves it at the smoke and turns the heat down.
“You know, we didn’t sleep at all that night, when the secession results came in? The defence force, I mean. We thought they might do something dumb like arrest us, or fake a coup or something. And if they did, we weren’t gonna get dragged out of bed and arrested in our pyjamas. I don’t mean him, but - he couldn’t have done much to stop it. Even if he wanted to.”
Finn nods, waits for him to go on. He can imagine it. Even here on Yresh, the sense of upheaval, of the centre breaking apart, had been palpable. The impossible had already happened, who could tell what else might happen when the heroes of the Resistance have reason to fear their own side?
“So then when all they wanted was to kick us offworld in public, that didn’t seem so bad. It wasn’t so bad - no one got hurt, everything was peaceful. Peaceful enough, anyway,” he amends. “It was just me who felt like a dick, saluting the guy I used to wake up next to, who was so desperate to have peace at any price he picked secession over me and left me ‘cause I was politically embarrassing. He threw me off the planet, in front of cameras from across the entire galaxy. I mean that’s a bad breakup, man.”
He makes a huff of breath that’s probably supposed to be a laugh, and Finn steps in close behind him, slides his arms around Poe’s waist, rests his chin on his shoulder. It’s an exaggeration, of course - Gariel never had the authority to throw anyone off the planet, but when you’re walking up the steps towards him with a mob at your back, it probably doesn’t feel like that.
“Why would I think badly of you for that?” he asks softly.
“Cause I was a fool ever trusting him, and when you make dumb decisions sometimes it’s your own fault when there’s fallout.”
“Mm,” Finn says, tightening his embrace.
“Don’t make your sceptical diplomat noises at me,” Poe retorts, wielding the wooden spoon menacingly over his shoulder even as he leans back, letting Finn take some of his weight.
“Mm-hm,” Finn echoes. “If you want to take personal responsibility for the corrosive political climate on Coruscant then of course I respect that…”
“Yeah, but listen, Finn: one of the things I do - the things I’m meant to do - is get people on board. Persuade them to, uh, to trust me, to believe in what we’re doing - that’s what I always did.”
“Yeah. You do do that.”
“Except on Coruscant it didn’t work,” he pauses, and Finn both hears and feels the deep breath Poe takes, the tension that turns his muscles rigid. “And you wanna know something else?”
“Yeah, what?” he says. Not quite his diplomat voice: perhaps its off-duty brother. Very calm, interested but not emotional.
Poe puts his free hand on top of Finn’s and goes back to stirring the food. He’s concentrating very hard, turning every single piece with a flick of his wrist.
“I deserved it. What he did, kicking me out because I was from offworld, that walk of shame in front of the cameras.” Finn fights his instinct to protest there was nothing shameful about it, just waits for the rest with his hands clasped together around Poe’s waist, the warmth of Poe’s stomach against his palms and the heat of the stove reaching his knuckles.
Eventually Poe rests the spoon on the countertop and says,“Three years, I was with him. I shoulda never let it get started, but - I don’t know what it was. I was, I guess I was lonely, and he was - nice. Commitment to peace sounded like a good thing. He was interested, and I let him make a move on me. ‘Cause I was so sure the war was over, that Coruscant was on our side, that I never thought - ah, shit. Until they were campaigning - not him, but he wasn’t doing anything to stop them. I shoulda stopped it a lot sooner. Soon as the pacifists started making noises about how secession might be a good thing. But he got in there first, saved me the trouble.”
He turns in Finn’s arms so they can see each other. Poe’s the bravest person he knows, and he’ll look Finn in the eye while he says this. “You know my best pilot in the galaxy thing, right? He’s a pacifist but he always said it too, like that was the best thing he could say about me -”
Finn has a flash of Gariel panting it in the dark, in bed, the transgressive thrill of the pacifist getting off on fucking the best Starfighter pilot in the galaxy. He holds on to Poe a little tighter and pushes the thought away.
“- so maybe I believed my own rep, you know? I really thought that no one who had me would buy all that bullshit about the offworlders, decide to support secession in spite of it. But he did. He did. He ended it with me so he could stand with his party, make sure no one could turn around and say but hey, aren’t you doing that Defence Force guy who blew shit up in the war?”
Poe takes a deep breath, lets it out in an angry exhale. “You know what else? He didn’t even tell me they were using my testimony in their damn campaign spot. I saw it on the fucking holonet, like it was nothing to do with me.”
Finn nods. “Yeah. So did we. Me and Leia.”
“After I gave evidence here, that time I saw you? We weren’t together yet, but he went to meet me at the spaceport when I got back to Coruscant. He drove me home, bought me dinner, and that was it. Wanted to make sure I was ok. And I still think that was for real - I guess he already knew what went down, and he really did want peace that lasted. Stop anything, uh, anything like what happened to me - stop it happening again.”
That’s one point on which Finn can agree with him. 813 times, the interrogation droid asked Poe the question. The IT unit proceeded to apply methods 2265, 6304, 6633 and K8-A4 to the prisoner. The prisoner reacted violently to procedure K8-A4 and nearly swallowed his tongue. The IT unit increased the neuroshock amplitude. Finn knows even without the interrogation report. He could hear the screaming, feel it vibrating through the durasteel corridors of the Finalizer, through his own bones: the sound of another human being in pain, the sound of what the First Order did to Poe. A lot of time has gone past, but he hasn’t forgotten. Poe still has the scar by his right eye.
“But that wasn’t what I testified for. That wasn’t the point of the story, they cut it where it was just the Finalizer, and that wasn’t even why I was telling them! It wasn’t about what happened to me, that wasn’t what mattered.”
“No?” It had mattered to Finn. It still matters to Finn, but this is Poe’s story. The emphasis is his to decide.
“No! It was - it was about you, about you shrugging off everything they wanted you to do, getting me outta there when you didn’t have to. Completing my mission. Just, proving to them that everyone chooses. Everyone. You make your own choices and you stand by them, and if you could do it when you grew up with the First Order, Finn - there’s no free pass for anyone who’s just going along with it. There’s no free pass, man.”
He means Gariel, of course, but just as clearly he means himself, too.
“You never just went along with anything in your life, Poe,” Finn tells him. He hasn’t known Poe his whole life, but he’s pretty damn sure all the same.
“Huh, yeah, well. Maybe I was starting to,” Poe mutters. “I should have known better. I shoulda been a better judge of character, not trusted him so fast - if I’d made mistakes like that in the war, I’da been dead. Other people woulda been dead.”
“And if you’d been too cautious, it would have been just as bad. You trusted me with, like, no evidence at all, so - ”
“Yeah, and you’re practically the best person in the galaxy. You skewed the data - I shoulda adjusted my expectations. Not everyone I meet is gonna be like you, but, you know,” he looks down, bites his lip. “I thought about you a lot. Maybe that crush I had, that wasn’t just when we first met...”
Leia’s said as much. He’s always carried a torch for you.
-He never said that, Finn had protested, smiling.
-He didn’t have to.
Poe’s gazing at him, a frown line between his eyes. “I didn’t make - I didn’t make the best choices. About him or, or in the way I, in the way was with him. It’s not a good way to treat someone, even if their politics turn out to suck. You stay away, you don’t get involved and think about someone else. So yeah, I kinda deserved it.” He takes a deep breath, like he’s about to jump and adds: “So if you’re thinking about someone else, that’s ok, that’s only fair - ”
“No,” Finn’s already shaking his head, cutting him off before he can say any more. “No, Poe. I’m not, I’m not,” and he’s kissing Poe’s jaw, his ear, anywhere he can reach with Poe holding him so close. “I’m thinking about you, I should have thought about you more before we went to the stupid dinner - ”
Poe’s arms around his waist tighten and he brings their mouths together, kisses Finn desperately. Finn kisses back deep and wet, just as hungry for it. Slides his hand up Poe’s shirt, pulls their hips together and holds on tight. Of course there are words he could use, arguments about how Poe isn’t responsible for what another man chose to do, how Coruscant pacifists aren’t the same as the isolationists howling about floods of offworlders ravaging their planet.
And he will: later, he’ll make the rational arguments, and Poe will listen to him, carefully and thoughtfully, like he always does. But now, this isn’t about the logic of it. It’s about the sting of how Poe feels, the hunger in the way he’s touching Finn now.
So Finn doesn’t say anything. He lets Poe kiss him until his lips sting with the burn of Poe’s stubble, until they’re both breathless and hard, grinding against each other. He only lets go to turn the heat off under the food, then brings his hand right back to where it was in the small of Poe’s back. Moves down to his ass, and Poe makes a small desperate sound and presses closer.
“I wanna go to bed,” Poe mutters, “want you to fuck me,” and kisses him again like he can’t stop for long enough to go anywhere, not even ten steps to bed.
It’s Finn who eventually pulls away, and it takes effort with Poe blinking at him in surprise, his lips wet and parted. If he hadn’t specifically said bed, Finn might have gone for it right here. Bent him over, worked him open with whatever slick they have in the cabinets here, given him all the intensity he needs. Maybe it’s not just Poe who needs it.
It’s not quite dark in their bedroom and Poe lets himself be led. He doesn’t get undressed, he just pulls Finn down on top of him so they can carry on making out. It’s urgent, clumsy, like they’ve forgotten they’ve got all evening, all night, all year for Finn to unbutton his shirt and help him wriggle out of it, for Poe to fumble between them and get Finn’s pants open, stroke him clumsy and wonderful through his underwear.
Once he’s got Poe naked, sprawled out on his back and gazing up at him, Finn tries to slow it down. Pushes Poe’s knees gently apart, runs his hands up his thighs as Poe shivers, slicks him open like he was trying to get him off like this. Until Poe’s clutching the sheets and sweating, his legs spread, hole wet and open as he grinds down on Finn’s fingers, breath hitching. Everything about him is open, waiting, wanting. His cock is hard against his belly and Finn wants to do this forever, hold the moment where it’s just the two of them and nobody can see. Of course Poe’s done this with other people, with Gariel, but that doesn’t matter: his gaze keeps flickering up to look at Finn. Finn’s here now, this is just for him, and he wants it for as long as it’s on offer, for as long as he can stand it.
Finn’s the one who breaks first. “I wanna be inside you,” he pants, twisting his fingers and watching Poe writhe, his hips twitch.
“Already are,” Poe grins, breathless.
“Smartass,” Finn says. Leans in to kiss him, lets his cock slip almost into place, sliding in the slick between Poe’s thighs to press against his hole.
“Yeah. Do it,” Poe whispers. “I want you, do it.”
He tilts his hips up and Finn’s sliding into him, just like that, fucking him with Poe’s hand sweaty on the back of his neck, holding him where he can kiss him sloppy and off centre as he wraps one leg round Finn’s waist, urging him on.
Finn’s trying to do it slowly. He wants to feel Poe shake and come apart under him, feel him coming with Finn’s cock inside him. But he can’t hold out: his spine’s gone liquid, all his bones are melting as orgasm builds, and he’s not competing against anybody, not really. Poe used to live on Coruscant, he used to sleep with someone else, just like they used to be at war. A whole lifetime ago, Finn used to be a Stormtrooper. Everything’s different now.
“Fuck, Poe, sorry, I’m gonna - ” he manages, and even as Poe’s babbling, “Yeah yeah yeah go on, go on, come in me, come in me, please...” he’s already coming, shooting deep inside his body as pleasure washes over him, lights him up from the inside.
He doesn’t want to pull out, but he’s going soft and Poe’s rock hard cock is digging into his stomach. So he slides his fingers right back where they were, feeling Poe even slicker, hotter, fucked open and dripping with lube. He works his fingers in and out, his own come sliding out, glistening in the dark hair that whorls around Poe’s crack. There’s enough of it to make an obscene wet sound when he pushes a third finger in, and Poe groans, a smoky sound that ends in breathless vowels. He grabs his cock, arches his back when Finn leans in to lick at the head, Poe’s thumb rough against his tongue and then the silk of his cockhead is sliding into his mouth. Poe’s offering it to him, holding himself at the base as Finn sucks him off and works his fingers deep into his ass.
He sits back once, making Poe moan in frustration, and looks again at the mess leaking out of Poe’s ass, coating his fingers and starting to drip onto the sheets. Uses both hands to spread him wide, watch his hole twitch and clench with nothing inside him before he slips his fingers back into that clutching soft heat. Poe’s hips move lazily, fucking himself, making more come slide out pale against Finn’s hand.
“I love looking at you like this,” he whispers, and Poe groans, twists and reaches for him. Finn only just came and he’s starting to get turned on again already.
“Finn,” Poe pants. “I need your mouth, keep doing that and give me your mouth. Make me come, please, Finn, make me come - ”
So Finn does: dips his head to swallow Poe’s dripping erection, and when he feels him start to come he lets go so he’s just licking at the shaft as Poe jerks with a sob, shooting all over himself, ass clenching helplessly around Finn’s fingers.
He can’t help reaching out to run his fingers through the come on Poe’s belly as Poe lies there, eyes closed and still panting. Finn half expects him to bat his hand away, try to close his legs to contain the mess, but he doesn’t. He grins when he feels Finn touch his stomach, languidly pulls one knee up to give him a better view of the come leaking out of his crack, sprawled on the rumpled sheets and letting Finn see him, touch him, look as much as he wants.
When Finn presses the pad of his thumb over his hole, Poe rasps out, “You want something to keep that in?”
He freezes, caught out. He’s making this weird. “Sorry,” he murmurs, taking his hand away and kissing Poe’s hip. “I made a mess of you…”
Poe smiles without opening his eyes. One of those lopsided goofy smiles that hardly anyone gets to see. “I think I’m into it, buddy.”
He feels himself flush hot all over, and just like that he’s all the way hard again. Fuck it: Poe’s offering, why would he pretend he doesn’t want this? He leans up on his knees, stretches over Poe to grab the plug he knows is in the nightstand. He doesn’t mean to let his erection brush against Poe’s ribs but it does, and Poe has time to give him a couple of firm, perfect strokes before he finds the plug.
Poe sighs when he slips it in, blinks up at him and spreads his legs even wider, unashamed. Finn twists it, watches him twitch, can’t help stroking himself with his other hand. Twists it again to feel the slick slide of it, the wet noise of lube and come that Poe begged him for. Come in me, come in me, please.
“Nothing in my mouth yet,” Poe murmurs. He licks his lips, deliberately provocative. “You wanna get up here, see how I look with it dripping outta my mouth? Or I could get on my knees right down there, where you can see my ass in the mirror while I suck you off -”
Finn’s arousal sparks and catches, from a growing heat to fire in the blood. He’s so turned on he can’t think, can’t answer, just moves blindly forward on his knees to press his erection into Poe’s waiting mouth. It’s blissful, sinking into that wet heat, Poe’s lips stretched around his shaft, eyes bright as he gazes up. Poe grips his hips, never looks away as Finn thrusts in and out. Finn touches one finger to the corner of Poe’s mouth and Poe groans around his cock like he’s the one getting off.
When Finn comes, it’s half into his mouth and half across his lips and chin. Glistening strands spilling out, white against red, brown, the black of his beard coming in.
He collapses next to Poe, weak with pleasure.
“I love you so much,” he pants, and rolls over to kiss the taste of himself from Poe’s mouth. Poe sighs into it.
“I mean it, Finn. You’re the best person in the galaxy,” Poe murmurs, and Finn kisses him again and again.
Neither of them moves when the door buzzes. It must be Leia: she’ll get the hint when they don’t answer.
Then it buzzes again. A third time. Not Leia, then.
Finn lies there until it buzzes a fourth time, then he groans and sits up. Poe’s still stretched out across the sheets, debauched and so beautiful he can’t look away. There’s nothing he wants more than to just stay here, never move again, pretend that nobody’s at the door, that the Republic Envoy doesn’t live here.
“I’ll get rid of them. Please don’t move, don’t clean up, just - stay like this a minute, will you, please?”
Poe grins, lazy and sated, mock salutes him. “Just get back here quick.”
The first shirt he finds is Poe’s. There’s another one, his own, right next to it, but this was the first one his hand touched so this is the one he’s wearing. New Republic Defence Force: Black Leader it says. He’s had it a long time.
The last person Finn expects to see on his doorstep is Gariel, turned half-away as if Finn’s taken so long to come to the door he’s already giving up.
Seeing him is like the shock of cold water in the face: Finn doesn’t gasp as he crashes out of his blissful sex haze, but it’s close.
“Ah, sorry to disturb you so late, Envoy,” Gariel says in a rush, almost stumbling as he turns back. Then he gets a hold of himself. “It won’t take long, but I wonder if I could speak with you, and Commander Dameron. If he’s here.”
Finn’s wearing Poe’s shirt, probably reeking of sex with him. He feels like he’s glowing with it, luminous with how Poe touches him. How Gariel found out where they live is another question, but the whole planet must be able to tell Poe’s here.
“Just a moment, please,” Finn says. Doesn’t ask him in and closes the door on him. This is where he lives. He’s not a diplomat in his own apartment, and he’s not inviting this man inside while Poe’s lying in bed.
Just like he asked, Poe hasn’t moved. There’s come drying on his chest and chin, plug still in his ass. He looks almost asleep.
“It’s Gariel,” Finn announces, and that wakes him up all right. Finn shouldn’t have just blurted it out like that. “He wants to talk to us both.”
“What the fuck,” he says, sitting up.
“Yeah,” Finn shoves his hands in his pockets, takes them out again and sits down on the bed next to him. “He’s waiting out on the walkway - I didn’t say yes or anything. What do you think?”
Poe frowns, blinks. “I dunno. Uh,” he rubs his eyes, scrubs a hand through his hair. “Fuck. Why is he here now?”
“Didn’t say,” Finn reaches out to link his fingers loosely through Poe’s. “I didn’t ask.”
“Whadda you think? If there wasn’t the, uh, personal stuff - ”
If there wasn’t the personal stuff, of course he’d speak to Gariel. The timing is appalling, but if he’s found where they live and come here, presumably there’s something important he wants to say.
He sighs, “Let’s hear him out. But we don’t offer him a drink, don’t even ask him to sit down.”
Poe chews on his lower lip, looks at his knees, their joined hands. Then he groans and raises his head.
“Ok then,” he says wearily. “Diplomacy is a drag, man.”
He moves to get up, and makes a small sound of surprise when he feels the plug shift inside him. They look at each other. “I should take this out, right? Clean this off me.” he gestures at his chest, his face. It sounds more like a question than a statement.
Finn pauses. “I’d rather speak to him now, get it over with. If you just wipe your face, the rest won’t really show, once you’re dressed,” he says carefully.
Poe’s grim expression brightens into a grin and he leans in to plant a noisy kiss on Finn’s mouth. Finds his pants and underwear on the floor, and chooses one of Finn’s shirts. Maybe Gariel won’t even notice, but Finn does. He knows which of them Poe’s getting dressed for.
While he dresses, Finn goes back to the door, gestures to Gariel to follow him in. Doesn’t ask him to sit down and a second later Poe joins them. “Hey,” he offers to Gariel, but doesn’t go to shake hands.
He doesn’t sit down either as the three of them eye each other with the width of a rug between them, Finn and Poe shoulder to shoulder on one side of it, Gariel on the other.
“I’m sorry to interrupt you at home,” Gariel begins, and neither Finn nor Poe says anything gracious.
He is interrupting, and Finn does mind. He wants to be alone with Poe, to still have him stretched out naked in their bed. To see the plug he’s wearing, not just trust it’s there under his clothes. This is an intrusion, a blurring of the boundaries between the most private of his life and the most public. Maybe that boundary is always blurred, but the illusion of it is important.
“I came to offer my apologies. To assure you that not all of Coruscant is united behind Eresa Lai’s desire to seal the planet to offworlders and reject the displaced people.”
Poe’s eyebrows shoot up.
“And I wanted to apologise to you,” he says to Poe. “You were right. I didn’t want to see it, but the secession campaign was not motivated by pacifism. You were right about where it was going, and I should have listened to you. But you seem - happy. Here,” he glances at Finn, his meaning clear, “and I’m glad.”
There’s a small silence. Finn feels Poe look over at him, catches the hint of a smile. He doesn’t want to gloat and he guesses Poe doesn’t mean to either, but yes. They’re happy. A feeling they don’t put into words that shines a light on everything they share, illuminates even the darkest corners of the past. He wants very much to reach out and touch Poe right now, but settles for brushing the back of his hand with the tips of his fingers.
“I don’t know if I’ll be included in the next delegation, now that the element of surprise has gone,” Gariel continues. “I assume you were supposed to find me more troubling than you did. I just wished you to know that I will be doing all I can to build public opinion in favour of the Republic and in favour of openness to its people from other worlds. I may not hold this post much longer, but while I do I will be working to repair the damage from the inside. Trying to temper some of the extremism.”
He doesn’t stay long after that, and when he leaves they do shake hands. The past is the past; some pasts can’t be overcome, and some can.
Finn follows Poe into the fresher and into the shower, eases the plug out and runs soapy hands all over him, washing all the traces from the hair on his chest, from between his legs. Poe holds still and lets him do it, leans back into his embrace and comes with a sigh with Finn’s two fingers inside him, Finn’s hand wrapped around his cock.
By the time they’re clean and dressed the food is cold, and a fine rain is falling outside. Rain is infrequent enough on Yresh that they throw open the doors to the deck in spite of the damp, eat standing up looking out at water falling on water. They’re both starving.
“ ‘s better like this,” Poe says, mouth full.
“When you go to bed in the middle of cooking and reheat it later. They should put that in the recipe.”
“What about people who live alone?”
“That’s tough for them,” Poe says sadly. “Guess they’ll have to do something else while it marinades.”
“Guess so,” Finn agrees.
They eat in silence for a while watching the rain dripping from the roof until Finn asks, “You think he’ll have any influence on them, really?”
Poe shrugs. “His political star ain’t exactly on the rise. Maybe when they realise they can’t kick out the offworlders and get the trade deals they want from other planets, they’ll start listening. Might take longer than his career’s got left though. It’s political suicide, one way or another.”
“Yeah. Brave of him, if he sees it through. I think it’s the right thing to do.”
Poe turns a solemn smile on him. “You rescued a Resistance prisoner from certain death and stood up to the whole First Order.”
“It’s not a competition, though, is it?”
Poe just takes another bite and carries on smiling at him, starry-eyed in the phosphorescence on the waves.
A lunar cycle later, Coruscant holonews carries a small feature on proposed legislation protecting the residency rights of the remaining offworlders. The fragmented opposition calls it too little too late; the hardcore secessionists condemn it as riding roughshod over the democratic will of the people of Coruscant. It isn’t predicted to pass into law.
It is the right thing to do, though.