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To Be Scared of the Ones You Love

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Blaster fire echoed around Rey, not a single bolt making it past her swinging saber. As she stalked down the hallway of the Star Destroyer, First Order officers ran away scared in front of her. Most were instantly killed by their own stormtroopers as Rey used the Force to turn their guns around at their own commanders, but she pulled one away from the friendly fire towards her. He was taller than she was, but with the way she held him with one hand clenched in the collar of his uniform, there was no mistaking who was actually looking down on whom.

“Where are they?” she snarled. There was no need to clarify who she meant; they would know.

“D-down the hallway, third door on the left,” the officer stumbled over his words in obvious fear. It was a testament to Rey’s self-control that she didn’t put her lightsaber through his belly right then and there. Instead, she shoved him down the hallway in front of her as a human shield and deftly stepped over his body when he fell, shot full of holes.

She cut her way through to the interrogation chamber where Poe was tied in a chair and Finn was taking advantage of the distraction outside by choking out a stormtrooper, not impeeded in the least by the binders on his hands. Careful not to add to the numerous cuts and burns visible on Poe’s arms, Rey sliced through the cuffs holding his wrists and ankles to the chair with her lightsaber. After Finn dropped the now-unconscious stormtrooper, he held out his hands and she cut through his binders as well.

"You help Poe," she ordered, having quickly assessed that the pilot would not be able to walk alone. Despite her words, the injured pilot levered himself to his feet quickly, not waiting for help from Finn. Instead, he actually flinched away from his boyfriend momentarily before slinging an arm around his shoulders for support. Rey was surprised, but she couldn’t take the time to analyze his reaction; every second they stayed on the Star Destroyer gave the First Order more time to scramble its TIES and attempt to cut off their escape. It was going to be a much steeper fight to get out than Rey and Chewie had encountered on their way in, where they’d jumped out of hyperspace right next to the Star Destroyer and landed in one of the hangars before any enemy fighters had the chance to mobilize.

Rey did her best to keep them moving as she led their way back towards the Falcon, but it was far harder with three people than with just her. Poe couldn’t put any weight on his right leg, and his limp slowed them down significantly. Him and Finn side-by-side was also wider than what the half-trained Jedi could easily defend with her lightsaber. On top of that, she was worried and distracted with her friends in harm’s way. Rey wasn’t like the rest of the Resistance; she was stronger alone.

Fortunately, by this point, the stormtroopers oeft alive were weighing the risk of being executed for dissertion against staying and attempting to fight a Jedi, and the ones with any sense were running away. Unfortunately, without the same risk of death for those manning the Star Destroyer’s ion cannons, Rey’s reputation wouldn’t help them as much onboard the Falcon. Poe must’ve realized this as well, as he shoved himself out of Finn’s grasp as soon as they were in the ship so that the ex-stormtrooper could go man the guns.

"Chewie! Time to go!" Rey shouted as the hatch closed behind her and she ran towards the cockpit. The Wookie had kept the engines running, used to quick escapes after so long with Han. They were out of the hangar before Finn had even reached the turret, and once he had, shooting down TIES was a breeze. It was hard to shoot and not hit one, what with them practically cluttering up the skies. The First Order really did hate the Falcon, and they were willing to spend the lives of many pilots along with ships they flew on the smallest chance of bringing it down. The famous smuggling vessel took a couple of hits, though more TIES took themselves out with friendly fire, but it wasn’t too badly damaged by them to outrun the slower ships and jump to hyperspace.

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Once they were safe in hyperspace, Rey didn't move from the pilot's seat. There was something wrong, something dark she had felt on the Star Destroyer, and though the feeling had lessened, it had followed them onto the Falcon as well. Her unease spiked at the shout from the back of the ship.

"Don't kriffing touch me!" The voice was hoarse but not hard to identify as Poe. A dozen possible scenarios sprang to Rey's head as she jumped up and ran to the back of the ship. All of them involved Kylo Ren; that had to be the negative presence she felt. He could have snuck onto the ship while she was gone and hid in one of the smuggler's holds. He must have known all of them, having grown up on the ship and presumably having played hide and seek as a child. Or the dark Jedi could have been Force-projecting himself on board through their connection, strongly enough for Poe to see. Or the pilot could be having a flashback to the last time he was held captive by the First Order, and the memory itself of Kylo Ren was strong enough to manifest the dark presence through his victim's mind. She snatched up her staff from where it leaned against the wall of the cockpit corridor as she ran past, wanting every advantage possible against her nemesis. 

There was no sign of Kylo. Instead, Poe was struggling to push himself up against the side of the hallway opposite Finn, one hand held up in a "keep back" gesture and glaring at the other man fiercely.

"Poe, I was just trying to help," the ex-stormtrooper pleaded. His single visible injury was a split lip, which stood in stark contrast to the bloodstains on Poe's shirt and the multiple burns, contusions, and cuts scattered over his tan skin.

“I’m not interested in your help ,” the pilot snarled back. He made it to fully upright, somehow, keeping his right knee bent and only letting his toes touch the ground. His tight black pants hid whatever was wrong with his leg, but it clearly pained him.  “I want you to get the hell-"

“What is going on here?” Rey demanded, feeling like she had walked into the middle of a lover’s quarrel. Which was weird, because the two of them usually didn’t fight. Sulk, yes, isolate themselves when things got bad, yes, but they didn't fight. Especially not when they’d just gotten home from a mission or gone through something together. Normally that made them lean into one another for comfort, tumble into each other’s beds, and, on one notable occasion, not make it that far and get a bit too intimate in the hallway. There was something wrong here, Rey could tell, something beyond the usual horrors of war. They both started talking at once, fast and unclear, and she only caught bits and pieces of what they each said.

“Everything he did-”

“I didn’t want to-”

"That traitor-

“They made-”

Away from him-”

“Stop,” Rey ordered, barely managing to keep the desperation out of her voice. The pain and fear emanating off of both of them was overwhelming, and she needed to hold it together because if she didn't, then all three of them were going to fall apart. “Finn, leave.” It was clear that the two men were only working each other up, so maybe if she separated them they would calm down.


"Now!" She snapped. Chewie, who had been standing behind a little ways behind her, took a half step forward as if to say "I agree with her decision and I'll enforce it if necessary." Finn looked between the three beings helplessly, eyes catching on Poe the most.

"I'm sorry," he whispered, voice thick with unshed tears, before turning and walking away. At a nod from Rey, Chewie followed him, leaving just the two human pilots standing in the hallway.

"You wanna tell me what that was all about?" Rey asked, attempting to channel Leia's stern but affectionate tone. She wanted to sound motherly and caring, but as these were both things that she had next to no experience with, the orphan chose the voice of the woman she knew she and Poe both loved as well as respected.

"He knows, and you don't need to," the injured pilot retorted sharply. He tried to take a step down the hallway in the opposite direction from where Finn had gone, but his knee buckled under him and Rey reaching out to catch him with the Force was all that kept him from face planting onto the durasteel floor. Poe had mixed feelings about the Force, she knew, which could spike into full blown panic attacks when it was used on him, but this time, thankfully, he barely even reacted. He just straightened up on his good leg, and Rey let go when she deemed him steady enough. In contrast, he flinched when Rey stepped forward to help him. Old trauma hidden below new trauma. "D-don't," Poe stuttered. "Don't touch me, okay?"

"Okay," Rey agreed. "I won't touch you, but you gotta agree to try not to like fall or stumble or pass out so that I have to step in and catch you. Deal? If you need to walk somewhere, use this as a crutch." The Jedi passed him her staff, careful to telegraph her actions and move slowly and calmly as she did so. Poe, whose relentless optimism never ceased to amaze her, smiled softly as he gently took hold of the crutch, though it shifted to a grimace when he took another step. He kept his feet under him this time, though, so that was an improvement. "You are going to the medical bunk, right, not just wandering around out of masochism?" Rey asked. Between that and her previous statement, she feared she was coming across as a little more harsh than she had intended.

"Yeah." His words were heavy, a resignation to the need for medical care that he normally avoided. He walked slowly, and after a painfully long time, he made it to the bunk and eased himself up onto it, letting out a somewhat shaky sigh of relief. Rey had followed behind him at a safe distance and stood carefully off to the side of the bunk so that he would not feel penned in. Now that she wasn't worried about him falling down and adding to his injuries, she could take the time to really look at them. He had been in civvies when captured, and his tan shirt was now ripped and stained with blood along both the collar and left side. His right eye was black and swollen and a long, shallow cut ran down his jaw. It was clean, not jagged, which meant he hadn't struggled against the blade, but there were no bruises on the other side of his face or his neck where rough hands might have held him still. His arms were covered in the distinct kinds of burns Rey knew came from high voltages. Poe pushed his sleeves down to cover them when he caught her staring at them, which only showed her another injury. This one was somehow worse to look at, probably because it could only be done intentionally. Seeing it made more hatred bloom in her chest and- oh. That's what the dark presence she felt was. It was her. She put that realization aside for later. Poe needed her now. After all, it wasn't like he could treat his own injuries, not when his fingernails had all been ripped out and the slightest movement of his hands had to be agony.

"Poe, I understand that you don't want anyone to touch you, but you need some first aid, so I have to-"

"No, no you don't!" The pilot snapped, any calm he had gained since moving away from Finn instantly gone. He looked about ready to jump down from the bunk, back onto his injured knee. "You don't have to do anything, no one is making you do anything! Not like…"

"Not like what, Poe?" Rey asked gently when he paused.

"Not like they did to Finn," Poe said softly. "They made him… . They made him torture me."

"Oh, Poe."

"Don't you 'oh Poe' me. I don't need your pity." The fight was back in him in an instant, and as he glared up at her with a fire burning in his dark brown eyes, Rey realized how he survived torture by the First Order twice. He was too stubborn to give in or give up. That was why they'd had to bring in Kylo Ren last time, and why this time, they'd made Finn torture him. To break his spirit. Kriff.

"What do you need?" She asked gently. "Besides medical care, which you're clearly not going to let me provide."

"I- I…" Poe stuttered before taking a minute to suck in a deep breath and collect himself. "I want to stop hurting. Could you find me some painkillers? Pills, please, no needles.”

"Yeah, of course." Rey scrounged around in the little cart of medical supplies beside the bunk, eventually finding some painkillers that didn’t seem to be too badly expired. She tore the package of them open, not wanting Poe to have to do it himself with his fingers the way they were. “Here.” She passed them over and then grabbed him a water pouch as well as it occurred to her that dry-swallowing with a sore throat wouldn’t be pleasant. She realized that his hoarseness was probably from screaming while he was being tortured. Maybe some of that rare Alderaanian tea Leia liked would help. “How bad is it?” she asked gently, referring both to his injuries and everything else too.

“Well, I didn't reopen any of the bleeding wounds during our escape, which was lucky, and I don't think there's any internal injuries, but that's about all I can say that's good news."

"What would make it better? Could I find you some medical supplies that would make you more comfortable?" She wanted to take care of him, goddamnit, and not being able to help was so frustrating.

"Some bacta or burn cream, maybe?" He suggested tentatively. "And some kind of brace for my knee? The rest can wait till we get back to base, I think."

"Let's see what I can find," Rey agreed. The bacta was easy to find, fortunately, and Poe spread some over the burns on his arms while she continued to search for something for his knee. Just as she thought they would just have to tape his leg to a splint to hold it steady, she found a brace in the bottom drawer. "I bet Han never thought his old creaky joints would help us in the future," she joked as she passed it to Poe, who didn't smile. He grimaced instead as he secured it around his injured knee, pulling it tighter than she herself would have with strength she hadn't predicted from his shaking hands. Lifting the injured leg carefully with one hand, he turned to the side on the bunk and lay down.

"That's… better, I guess," he said with a sigh, seemingly more just to reassure Rey than as an honest representation of his mental state. "How long will it be until we're back at base?"

"Couple of hours, probably. You gonna try to get some rest?"

"Yeah, I'll try. Don't… don't let Finn come sit vigil or anything. If I wake up and he's near me I'll probably have a panic attack, which I would like to avoid if possible."

"Okay, I'll keep him away. Do you want me to stay, or should I go too?"

"You can go. Pass me a blanket before you do?"

"Yeah. Sleep well. I'll wake you up before we land."

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Finn jumped to his feet when Rey came into the cockpit where he and Chewie had hid. He grabbed her by the upper arms, needing to hold something strong to reassure himself that the whole galaxy wasn’t falling apart.  “How is he?” he demanded.

Rey pushed him away hard enough that he stumbled back into one of the passenger chairs of the cockpit. Finn realized that he shouldn’t have done that, remembering that she didn’t like to be grabbed like that at the sight of her glare. For a split second he wondered if that would set her off; there was a fire burning in her eyes. But then she closed them and let out a deep sigh, and he swore that he could almost feel her releasing her anger into the Force.

“Poe is stable,” she said calmly after opening her eyes again. “No actively bleeding wounds or anything life threatening. I got him to put some bacta on the worst of the burns and we found a brace for his knee.” Finn could have breathed a sigh of relief at hearing that, except that Rey kept talking. “He’s pretty badly shaken up though. Calmed down some after you had left, but still wouldn’t let me touch him. Understandable, given what happened.”

Even as poorly versed in human interaction as the ex-stormtrooper still was, he recognized her subtle way of telling him she knew what had gone on in that interrogation cell. It suddenly felt like his world was collapsing all over again. The idea that Rey, his first, best, and one of his only friends in the galaxy, would think he was capable of that, of hurting those he cared about, was enough to make him sick.

“Rey, they made me ,” he said intensely, barely resisting the urge to reach out and grab her arm or hand again. “I refused at first, I didn’t want to do it, I never would have except that-”

“Finn, it’s okay,” she replied, laying a hand on his shoulder and pushing him to sit down in one of the cockpit’s seats. “I know you must’ve had good reasons for doing what you did. They put a gun to your head, or something.” She sat down in the other passenger seat, leaning in with her elbows on her knees so that her head was closer to his.

“Phasma, she knew, she knew the best way to hurt me was not to hurt me but to make me hurt others,” Finn continued to ramble. He had to get it out; if he kept all this inside he would explode. “I mean, she had to know I didn’t want to hurt people; that’s why I rebelled. I didn’t want to kill for them.” That, and that he’d seen a beautiful, strong, beat to hell pilot and wanted to be a hero for him. “They pressed a knife into my hand and told me to cut him. I refused, so they waterboarded him and made me watch. It was… kriff, it was horrible.” Even though he’d known they wouldn’t kill him, he also knew that Poe felt like he was drowning. He’d been able to see the fear in his deep brown eyes, and not just the dull fear that was often visible after small defeats or too much deep thought about the state of the galaxy. This was full out panic.

 “When they let him talk, he begged me to cut him instead. Said it would be better, that I could make it less scary even if they wanted me to hurt him just as much as they would have.”

Rey reached out and squeezed Finn’s hand and Chewie offered a growl that was not hard to interpret as sympathetic, even if he didn’t understand the words.

“At first, Poe held out so well. He, kriff, he was the one telling me that it was okay, that he forgave me, that he knew I had to. First couple of cuts, he didn’t even wince.” The jawline, so recognizable on wanted posters throughout the galaxy, had been the first thing that the First Order demanded that he damage, so he’d traced the tip of the blade down it as gently as he could, and Poe held so still. The pilot had whispered “I’m so sorry you have to do this,” in a moment of respite, his voice hoarse from screaming, when the words wouldn’t come to Finn through his too-tight throat. The stormtrooper leaned in to press their foreheads together in leiu of speaking, knelt down in front of the chair where his boyfriend was tied up. And then the moment ended, and Phasma made him rip out another fingernail, and Poe cursed him for the first time.

“But it, it wore him down,” Finn explained to Rey, dragging himself forcefully back to the present. He couldn’t let himself get lost in the memories. That wouldn’t help him or Poe. “By the second day, he didn’t seem to even differentiate between me and the other stormtroopers. At least when you came to rescue us, he let me help him. But- Rey, what if he never forgives me?”

Rey’s face fell, and oh god, Poe had said something to her about never forgiving him, hadn’t he? Or she had felt with the Force that any friendship or love they had shared was wiped out, erased by what Finn had done. He had lost one of the people that he cared most about.

“I can’t speak for Poe,” Rey said carefully, diplomatically. “But I don’t think he’ll hold a grudge forever. It will take time, that I do know, but he knows you’re a good man, Finn. He’ll come to understand and forgive you, and hopefully you can earn back each other’s trust.”

“Hopefully,” Finn agreed, not sounding at all hopeful. “I don’t want… I don’t want him to be scared of me.”

“Yeah,” Rey said, and Finn wouldn’t have noticed it if he didn’t know her so well, but she sounded sad. Or maybe scared? And not just about Poe’s condition. “Fear is the path to the dark side.”

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Leia waited and watched as the Millennium Falcon landed amongst the trees of Ajlan Kloss. How many times, she wondered, had she watched this ship land, waited for its ramp to lower and for it to divulge its precious cargo? Not the spice that Han and Poe used to smuggle but the passengers themselves. Chewie, Rey, Finn, Poe. Han and Luke. Whoever flew the ship, whether it was the Best Pilot in the Resistance or the Last Jedi, it was always the most anticipated return to base, the one greeted by the most people when it returned, successful more often than not, from missions. Today, though, it was just her and Doctor Kalonia. Rey had asked that she not let anyone know they were coming home or gather around the ship because of Poe, reporting that the tortured pilot was skittish with even her and Finn and wouldn’t want a crowd. Leia could see and feel it for herself as the two humans limped down the ramp.

Reaching out psychically, she projected a feeling of safety and love as strongly as she was able. Even as closed to the Force as Poe was, she knew he felt it as his eyes caught hers and some, just the tiniest fraction, of his pain and fear melted away. He still looked absolutely shattered. Rey supported his right, the side where one of Han’s orthopedic braces was strapped to his knee, and his bloodied left hand held onto her staff. The young Jedi herself felt troubled as well, and didn’t look Leia in the eye as the two approached. Kalonia stepped forward and brought the grav-stretcher with her so Poe wouldn’t have to limp over the uneven ground. The younger two women silently helped the pilot onto it, and Leia joined them to hold his hand as they walked towards the makeshift medical center of their jungle base.

She noticed his nails and wondered if he’d be wearing his flight gloves a lot more now. She noticed the cut down his jawline and wondered if he would be asking the girls in his squad for concealer. She noticed his knee and wondered whether he would walk with a limp. And she noticed the way he was shaking and wondered if he would be okay.

She didn’t say anything about any of it. Leia just sat quietly by his head and held him and stroked a hand through his hair as Kalonia moved about patching him up. She was careful with him, making sure to warn him whenever she was about to move suddenly or touch him, or if something was going to hurt. After everything that had happened in the Resistance and the galaxy in general, the doctor knew how to deal with trauma survivors.

When she was done, when all of Poe’s wounds were stitched, his burns were treated, fake nails carefully applied over his fingertips to protect them as they healed, Kalonia left and Leia stayed. She comforted him like she would her son, like he hadn’t let her after his time on the Finalizer, like neither of them had time for after Crait. She took his report when he was ready to give it, wanting to put some distance between himself and his emotions regarding the event. Taking his testimony, she was reminded of her own debrief after she escaped the Death Star with Han and Luke. That had been a crazy time for the Rebel Alliance and Mon Mothma hadn’t sat her down and asked for a full statement until after the super-weapon had been destroyed, which gave her a few days to collect her thoughts and feelings about not only interrogation and torture by Darth Vader but also the murder of her whole family and planet, everything and everyone she had ever loved. Her experience in the Senate had helped; her ability to talk dispasionately and force the words out even when they were hard was invaluable. Poe had no such training and had to stop several times and just breathe. Eventually he got through it and asked for some time alone. She left him with a comlink, its partner tucked safely into her pocket, before leaving to go find Rey and Finn.

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Finn was collecting his stuff from the room he shared with Poe when General Organa found him. He instantly snapped to attention when she knocked, heart beating faster because attracting the attention of a senior official was rarely a good thing in the First Order. The Resistance was different, though, Finn reminded himself, and Leia was not Phasma. She was kind the first time they had met, when Poe had brought him into the command center right before Starkiller, and since then she had never been anything but what the ex-stormtrooper assumed would be described as motherly.

    “You moving out?” She asked when he opened the door and she saw that he was packing. Finn shrugged, not feeling like he could trust his voice for a moment. “You think Poe isn’t gonna want you around,” she guessed, stepping around him into the apartment.

    “Why would he?” Finn said softly. He remembered back to when the pilot had first invited him to share a room. The younger man admitted that he was finding it hard to sleep alone, a.s he'd always been in barracks with the First Order, so Poe had helped him drag his bed down the hallway to his own room. Even in separate beds, being with Poe made him feel safe and protected and that only increased when, by mutual agreement, they shoved their mattresses together. And how had Finn now repaid that kindness, that love? With betrayal. "Leia, I hurt him ." Remembering it, remembering Poe’s screams and knowing he was the one that caused it… Leia must’ve been able to see his panic on his face or feel it in the Force because she stepped forwards to him and gently grabbed his hands.

    “Finn, you did what you had to do, like you always have,” the older woman said firmly. “Right now, you’re safe, and Poe is safe and you’re nowhere near the First Order.”

    “Yeah, yeah, okay,” the ex-stormtrooper breathed between hyperventilating.

    “You need a minute?” Leia asked, and was answered with Finn squeezing her hands and looking down. “It’s okay. You don’t have to be embarrassed if you need to cry.”

    “No, no, I’m okay,” he insisted, lifting one hand away from hers to wipe at his eyes. Leia sighed inwardly, because it was clear that he wasn’t, but it wasn’t her place to tell him what he needed. “Poe is, you said Poe’s doing okay?”

    Okay probably isn’t the word I would use right now, but he will be. We’re taking care of him; I came by to make sure you’re taking care of yourself too.”

    “I’m not the one who got tortured.”

    “No, what happened to you was arguably worse,” Leia said. “There’s two kinds of trauma I’ve encountered in this war; grief about what was done to you and guilt about what you did to others. I’ve got both and the latter is undeniably worse. Poe agrees with me on that.” Finn acknowledged that that was true; though the commander still had nightmares about Kylo Ren, it was Paige Tico’s name that made him freeze and Amirlyn Holdo’s that made his eyes go dark and his hands clench so hard that he cut crescents through the callouses of his palms with his fingernails. Well, he wouldn't be doing that anymore, not since Finn had taken a set of pliers to his hands. 

    “The First Order was trying to hurt me more than Poe,” he admitted softly to both himself and Leia. “Phasma especially.”

    “You gonna let her?” General Organa asked, the barest hint of a challenge in her tone. She had led two rebellions; she knew how to motivate Resistance fighters. Knew that even the nicest of them ran on the urge to bring down the people in power, the need to show up the people who had hurt them. And Finn, whose entire life had been controlled until he rebelled, was even more adamant in his desire to show up the First Order.

    “No. I’m done letting them win.”

    “Good. So tell me what help you need to deal with this."

"I-I can figure it out by myself. No need for you to go out of your way to help me."

Leia could slap him, she really could. She thought she had just talked him into acknowledging that it was okay not to be okay all the time and to accepting assistance when he needed, but apparently not. No, he was just as stubborn as every man she had ever known.

"Finn, I'm not offering help out of obligation or as a formality. I care about you and I know you enough to tell how much this is going to weigh on you. You draw a lot of your strength from other people and base a lot of your self-worth on being useful. Some of that was drilled into you by the First Order, but I think it's mostly due to you just being a good man who wants to help people. You have to look out for yourself first though, before you can take care of others. That is not a sign of weakness, but strength and wisdom. So tell me what you need. We can find a counselor for you to talk to, and if you either want to be taken out of the mission rotation for awhile, we can arrange that too.”

    “No! I want, I want to keep busy, if that's possible. I think for right now, I need new sleeping quarters and a new roommate?” 

Finn suggested, continuing to assemble his few personal possessions into a box so he could move out. “I think both Poe and I need to spend some time alone.”

    “Okay. Anything else?”

"Not that I can think of right now. I'll tell you though if there is."

"You want help moving your things?"

"No. I don't own much."

"Do you want company then?"

Finn shook his head. "Some time alone would be good right now."

"Alright. Remember that I'm here for you if you ever want to talk."

"Yeah. Thanks."

Leia left before Finn had finished packing up his stuff, so she didn't see him carefully consider a well-loved, carefully stitched-together jacket before leaving it laid out neatly on the double-wide bed