People needed time to grieve. Leia knew that. They had lost good people: all but seven of their X-Wing fleet. There were no bodies to send home to the friends and family of those who were lucky enough to have homes and family beyond the Resistance. The memorial fires on D’Qar burned long into the night.
Han Solo was farewelled with full military honours. Leia had pointed out that he didn’t hold any rank with the Resistance or even the Republic, anymore. Akbar had stared at her, with that look she was going to have to become used to again (the one she’d seen too much of after Luke left, and after Alderaan). At least he didn’t try to comfort her: he simply said it would make their people happy.
She had the medal from Yavin 4, still. They lay that on the pyre, in lieu of a body. All the rest, the assorted medals and commendations… Force only knew where they’d ended up. Leia stood straight and unmoving until the ceremony ended. Then Chewbacca brought her a chair, and she sat throughout the night while the assigned guard fed the pyres. Chewbacca sat with her, which she’d expected. And so did the girl Rey, who had left her unconscious friend’s side for the occasion. Rey didn’t try to talk to her, for which Leia was grateful.
People need time to grieve, but war allowed little time for that. Leia had to pull the girl away from her friend, and send her off in search of Luke.
‘I can’t go with you,’ she said. ‘I’m needed here. It has to be you,’ she said, gesturing to the saber the girl carried with her everywhere now. ‘And you must have a teacher.’
The girl blanched a little at that, but held her chin high. She understood: if she was the one the lightsaber called to, then she must go.
Leia did not mention that it sang in her mind, too. It sang old, sad, songs, ones that reminded her of a boy from the desert who had needed training. It whispered to her, while the girl stood before her and knew nothing of it, and it knew her. It knew who she had been and who she might have become. It had known her father, too.
Chewbacca wanted the girl to take the Falcon, but he offered to stay behind himself. They could send some other pilot with Rey. (Poe would be the obvious choice.) Leia insisted that Chewie go. At least she could give the girl that much. The saber, the ship, the droid, and Chewie. It would be enough. And the map. Rey had the map, and Ben did not, and so if there was any justice in the galaxy, she would reach Luke before Ben did.
Perhaps Luke would be moved by this girl, this stray from the desert through whom the Force hummed like music. A girl with no family, to bring back the man who’d turned his back on his.
As often as he could, Poe Dameron sat by the bedside of the man who’d saved him, not once, but twice. Oh, he knew, logically, that Finn hadn’t saved him on Starkiller Base. Finn had gone there in the first place for Rey, and the stunt with the explosives had been Han and Chewbacca’s idea. If Finn had saved anyone he’d saved the galaxy at large, and Poe was a pretty small drop in the bucket of the galaxy.
The fact remained that Poe would have made that run over and over again until he came down in a flaming wreck, and when he came down he’d have done his damnedest to be sure he crashed into the oscillator. Plenty of pilots had died in enemy fire. Poe had survived that by luck, but he’d have gone down under his own power, rammed his ship into the oscillator and hoped like hell it was enough.
He would have, except Finn and Chewbacca got there first and blew out the solid structures that had kept the oscillator impregnable. So Poe had fired his torpedoes and pulled up, pulled out into orbit around the imploding planet. And, impossibly, miraculously, the Falcon had followed not long after.
‘I’ve got eyes on ‘em,’ he’d crowed, and he’d meant they’re alive and I’m alive and I’m giddy with it.
Not everyone was alive, though. They were all hurting: everyone on D’Qar base was an open wound and a celebration all at once. Poe found himself talking, guiding, assigning jobs and giving orders, and it helped. He clung to the illusion of people, squadrons, functions coming together under his hands. Pava struck up a terribly ill-advised liaison with Snap. Ill-advised, as in, Poe had it on good authority that Pava and men did not mix well. People clung to each other in grief. Poe clung to the unconscious Finn and told himself that grief passes. In time.
They’d lost Han Solo, when they hadn’t even had time to adjust to having him in the first place. Poe stood among the ranks for Han’s funeral. He didn’t look around him, because he had better parade discipline than that. And he didn’t need to look around, to know the Resistance were farewelling a man they hadn’t known. A legend. A general of the old Alliance, a man they all knew of and hardly knew.
Hell, Poe had hardly known him, and Poe had fucked him thoroughly in the ass on two separate occasions.
He hardly knew Finn, either. He was acutely aware of that. Finn wasn’t dead - he seemed to have a knack for not dying, Poe admired it - but Poe couldn’t shake the feeling that something was wrong. There was something terribly unfair about the fact that Poe’s life went on, something close to normal, while Finn had to lie there unconscious, without even the company of the girl he’d risked everything to rescue. He was going to wake up (he was, Dr Kalonia promised, it was only a matter of time) and Poe would be all he had. Finn had saved Poe, but he’d saved Rey, too, and why on earth should Poe be here and not Rey?
And then it became possible that he might not be there. He should have expected it. They were short on ships and munitions, and if Hux’s intention in imploding Hosnian Prime had been to dry up the Resistance’s supply lines, then he’d succeeded. So Poe shouldn’t have been surprised when he was called into Leia’s office and given a task: sweet-talk a squadron of old N-1 Class fighters out of the Queen of Naboo.
Poe remembered their last trip to Naboo; remembered the inquisitive young handmaiden who had apparently been the Queen in disguise. She was certainly sympathetic. He was the obvious choice, other than Leia herself - and she needed to be either here or wherever the Navy moved itself to regroup.
‘No,’ Poe said. ‘I can’t.’ He reconsidered. ‘I don’t want to leave Finn. I don’t want him to wake up alone.’
He could have left Finn with Rey. More than that: if Rey had been here he might have been intruding. But Rey wasn’t here, because Leia had sent her out in search of Luke. Poe didn’t know quite how he felt about that; only that he would have gone if Leia had sent him, but she hadn’t. He ought to feel relieved. It had been a relief, when he’d come back from Jakku, that she’d asked nothing of him beyond his job and offered him nothing beyond courtesy.
‘Commander,’ Leia said. One hand twitched, and he thought she might be going to touch him; she adjusted her shirt instead.
‘General,’ Poe answered her. ‘Please. Just let me have this.’ She couldn’t have helped him when the First Order took him, he knew that. She couldn’t have helped him, but Finn did.
Leia stood in front of her desk, an arm’s length from him. She held herself straight, and Poe could see she wore grief not as a burden but a robe of state. He saw her, and he wanted nothing so much as to go to her, lay his head in her lap, and say ‘I’m here. I’m alive. Let me help you.’
‘Commander, you know as well as I do, there’s no one else I can send.’
Poe did not answer, merely nodded. He wasn’t being asked to help her: only to do his job.
Poe went straight to medical when he got back from Naboo (fighters secured: a proper squadron of ten, with a handful of trained mechanics into the bargain). Finn wasn’t awake: logically, it had been unlikely he would come to while Poe was gone, not with injuries like his. Anyone else would have been transferred off-base, but Finn had no legal identity in the Republic, and the nearest Republic medical station was overrun with refugees from the Hosnian disaster anyway.
That and, Poe suspected, the Resistance did not want anyone else getting hands on what information Finn might have when he came to. So here he was, swathed in bacta patches and looking exactly as he had when Poe left. Except now there was someone sitting in the chair Poe usually occupied.
Poe stopped in the doorway and stared, a little bemused. C-3PO, the General’s protocol droid, was sitting by Finn’s bedside. He had his charging station plugged into the wall next to the bed, a data pad in his hand, and was giving every appearance of being settled in there for some time.
‘Oh, hello, Commander,’ C-3PO said, looking up as BB-8 rolled over to his feet, bleeping and whirling in enthusiasm. Ever since R2-D2 had woken up, BB-8 had decided C-3PO was the coolest droid around, barring said R2-D2. Poe had already given his droid plenty of shit for its ridiculous robot crush. ‘You will be pleased to know your friend is healing steadily.’
‘Has he woken up yet?’ Poe asked. And then, ‘What are you doing here?’
‘He has not,’ C-3PO said, ‘but his life signs are normal and response to physical stimuli is increasingly reliable.’ Poe walked further into the room, and BB-8 rolled over to bump gently against his leg. ‘And I am here,’ C-3PO went on, ‘because General Organa does not wish young Finn to wake up alone.’
Poe blinked at that. ‘She asked you to… he doesn’t even know you!’
‘He has met me,’ C-3PO corrected. ‘Most people find me somewhat memorable. And I am perfectly able to manage the General’s correspondence from here.’
‘I suppose you are,’ Poe said. He had no idea what Finn would think if he woke up to C-3PO fussing over him: but then, he had no idea what Finn would think if he woke up to find Poe waiting for him, either. ‘Look, contact me or BB-8 if he wakes up when I’m not around, okay?’
‘With pleasure, Commander.’
‘Thanks, C-3PO,’ Poe said. He made a vague gesture with his hand, fighting down the impulse to pat the droid on the shoulder, or possibly hug him.
‘Thanks are not necessary,’ C-3PO said, pompously, reminding Poe why he prefered working with astro-droids. No one could accuse BB-8 of being officious.
‘General? Ma’am?’ The enquiry followed the rap on her door, and the hesitant voice was at odds with the confident knock.
Leia hadn’t expected to hear from Poe until the morning. She knew the transport was back, of course: she had a feed on her datapad that did nothing but keep tabs on ships coming and going from D’Qar base. But it was late, and he’d already transmitted the details of the N1 deal.
‘Come in,’ Leia said, activating the sliding door by voice control. Poe came inside: he was in civvies, but stood awkwardly in parade rest. In the middle of Leia’s sitting room. She was alone, at least, with no one to witness this irregular encounter. Entirely alone: Threepio was in medical, so she hadn’t even the dubious benefit of his company.
‘General, I’m sorry to bother you at night,’ Poe said. He was keeping his face pretty well impassive, but from the posture she suspected he might be regretting a hasty decision to come here.
‘Have you something urgent to report?’ It was possible there was something about the Naboo mission he hadn’t been able to transmit, after all.
‘No ma’am,’ Poe said. ‘I wanted to thank you. I met Threepio, and… well. Thank you.’
Leia gave him a small smile. ‘This couldn’t wait until debrief tomorrow?’
‘Uh,’ Poe said. ‘I should. Yeah. I should just go. I’m sorry.’
It wasn’t fair on him, Leia thought. She wanted, very much, for him to crack through the layers of distance that had come up between them. But it wasn’t his fault if they no longer shifted easily between professional and personal. It wasn’t her fault, either, but the wish that she not have to reach out was a selfish one. It was a selfish wish that wanted to salve her grief at the expense of his pain.
‘No,’ she said. ‘You shouldn’t go.’ He looked at her, solemn-faced, and waited. ‘If you wanted to thank me personally, you should start by not calling me ma’am. And for the love of stars, stand easy.’ It came out tart, nothing like the gentle words he deserved. Nothing like the warm concern she would have managed tomorrow, in a regular briefing.
Poe relaxed a little, but not enough.
‘No, sit down,’ Leia said, gesturing him into a chair. ‘I’m serious, if you’re here on personal grounds, then sit down.’
Poe sat. Leia leaned up against the edge of her desk, directly in his line of sight.
‘I mean it,’ Poe said, after a moment. ‘Thank you. You didn’t…’
‘I know I didn’t have to,’ Leia cut in. ‘But you were right, the boy shouldn’t have to be alone. And,’ she added, ‘I should have told you I’d take care of that.’ She had a suspicion that, had Poe been anyone else, she’d have made that promise easily and automatically, rather than taking two days to make up her mind. The thing was, she didn’t do it because Poe was right about Finn, or because the way to keep your personnel was to make sure someone looked after the things that were important to them when they couldn’t. She’d done it because leaving Finn alone hurt Poe.
‘Maybe,’ Poe said, and she suspected all of those things had gone through his mind, too. Then he smiled, just a small flicker of a smile. ‘Tell me instead why you delegated Threepio, of all… beings?’
‘Efficiency, I’m afraid,’ Leia said. ‘Humans are harder to spare than droids.’ Poe nodded, accepting that, and Leia felt moved to give him more. ‘Threepio is… surprisingly good company in hard times,’ she said. That’s why it had taken two days: she wanted his company for herself. ‘He’s been with me a long time. He can answer almost any question your boy has, when he comes around, and he’s… well. You realise Finn has been through some serious trauma?’ Poe nodded. ‘He may have some erratic responses and reactions when he comes to. I thought a droid might provide consistency, without being overwhelming. Threepio can be peculiar, he’s not a standard-issue protocol droid, but he has more patience than most human beings.’
‘That makes sense,’ Poe said, relaxing a little into his chair. ‘Thank you.’ He was silent for a moment, looking at her. He looked better than he had since he came back from Jakku, Leia thought. Sober, but less tormented. She would feel better if she thought it was the off-base mission that had done it. More likely, time, and now knowing his friend had someone else watching out for him.
‘I couldn’t go back for him,’ Poe said, evidently crossing whatever boundary was keeping him from speaking. ‘On Starkiller. We knew they’d got in, they set up the final bombing run for us, but… I couldn’t go back.’
Leia wasn’t surprised by this, exactly. She’d recruited him on the basis of the Yassira Zyde incident, which had marked him out not only as reckless and passionately loyal to the Republic (rather than to its chain of command), but also as a man who cared what happened to his comrades. That was good. They wanted that, in the Resistance. They had too few people to lose anyone because some pilot or soldier lacked the grit to go back for the weak. And yet. Since Jakku, Poe had been taking it too far. Leia could see that, had seen it when she debriefed him, but there was little she could do. She’d put him in a position where he couldn’t count on his comrades for backup: this was the result.
‘You were flying a one-man ship,’ Leia reminded him. ‘Even if you could land, you couldn’t rescue four people.’ Three, really. Han had been dead by the time Poe took out the oscillator; but Poe hadn’t known that.
‘If I could have landed, I’d have gone back for Finn,’ Poe said. ‘I might not have taken back off again, but I’d have gone back.’
‘For Finn,’ Leia said, giving herself to parse that. It wasn’t about practicality: in practical terms, Finn would never have taken off without the girl, and the Falcon would have been - had been, in fact - a far better chance of evacuating.
‘For Finn,’ Poe said. ‘I wish…’ he stopped, swallowed. ‘I wish I could say I’d have brought Han back for you if I could.’ He wasn’t looking at her anymore, but up at the ceiling above him.
‘No one expected that of you,’ Leia said. ‘You’re a fighter pilot, not a rescue operation.’ And Han would have come back to her, if it weren’t for Ben, but she needn’t make that Poe’s problem.
‘No one expects…’ Poe looked up at her, briefly. ‘But I would have. For Finn. If Chewie hadn’t got them out...’
‘I’m not sure whether you’re trying to tell me you regret Han’s death, or that you’re a suicide risk if we separate you from Finn,’ Leia told him. Poe stared at her for a second, then laughed.
‘Kriffing hell,’ he said, covering his face with one hand. ‘Neither. Both. Probably not the second one. Oh hell. I’m a mess.’ Not for the first time, he reminded her of Luke, a much younger Luke, before age and responsibility and failure had worn him down. Poe had the same recklessness, and like Luke, he had never bothered to master the art of cynical self-defensive posturing.
Maybe it was the likeness of Luke in him that propelled her off the edge of the desk and into his space. It was easy, surprisingly easy to reach out to him. She tangled her fingers in his hair. Intimate, and yet it kept the space between them open. Poe leaned into the touch, dragging in a shuddery breath.
‘I didn’t come here to go to pieces on you,’ he said, looking up at her with a flicker of a smile. Leia didn’t say what came to her mind first, which was that it would be a nice change if someone did go to pieces on her. Everyone treated her with extra caution right now. She couldn’t blame them, but it was wearing.
‘Why did you come here, Poe?’ she asked. She wasn’t sure what answer she wanted from that. If he said he wanted comfort from her, she’d have to downgrade her estimation of his intelligence. No one was awarding Leia Organa awards for maternal instincts. Especially not right now.
‘To thank you,’ he said, and she thought that might be the end of it. Then he looked up at her again, drawing a slow breath. ‘To thank you, in a personal capacity, and find out… if we have any personal capacity left.’
The fact she was combing her fingers through his hair probably answered that.
‘Quite a question to ask a lady two weeks after her husband died,’ Leia said, and although her hands were gentle in his hair, the words came out sharp. Poe jerked back a little, angling himself to face her directly.
‘No! I don’t mean sex, or any of that,’ he protested. ‘I wouldn’t ask that right now! Or, ever, if you don’t…’ He stopped, closed his eyes for a second, and started again. ‘I like your company. I’ve missed it. I thought… can I do something for you, something other than just my job?’
It wasn’t the most eloquent proposition Leia had ever received, but it did seem sincere.
‘Despite Jakku?’ Leia asked. ‘Despite what my son did to you?’ She hadn’t had time or capacity to dwell on that, since the battle of Starkiller Base, but she did remember Poe’s face the day he’d come back, the look of revulsion, and the question, Can you read minds, too?
‘Yeah,’ Poe said, looking down at his hands for a second and then back up to her. ‘Despite that.’ She liked that he didn’t bother denying it was a factor.
‘I could use a hug,’ Leia said. The problem with being in charge was that people tended to keep you at arm’s length. The last person to touch her, she thought, other than shaking her hand, might have been the girl Rey when she left with the Falcon.
Poe looked up at her for a second. ‘I can do that,’ he said, sounding raspy. He stood up, and what started out as a sensible sort of hug turned into an embrace. Leia was clinging. She hadn’t meant to cling. Poe cradled the back of her head and let her cling.
‘The problem with this is,’ she said, into Poe’s shirt, ‘I might not let you go.’
‘I can probably cope with that,’ Poe said, softly.
When she looked up at him, she wasn’t entirely certain she planned to kiss him, but he was smiling at her like she’d given him some sort of gift. She had to stand on tip-toes to kiss him, but she was used to that. He bent down easily enough, tucking her snug against his body and kissing back for all he was worth.
‘So,’ Leia said, against his cheek. ‘That not-asking-about-sex-right-now thing.’
‘Not asking,’ Poe said, kissing the side of her neck. ‘You want a hug, I can do that. You want to kiss me extensively and then call it quits, I can do that too.’
Leia tightened her fingers in his hair, eliciting a sharp whine, and kissed him harder. ‘I propose you kiss me extensively and then take me to bed,’ she said, the next time she pulled back to breathe.
‘I can do that, too.’
She ran the conversation back through her head. ‘I’m asking. Would you like to do that?’
The corners of Poe’s mouth twitched with amusement. ‘I would, yeah,’ he agreed. Then, leaning in to suck gently at the skin underneath her ear, ‘First, kissing extensively, am I right?’
‘Something like that,’ Leia said.
They ended up in her bed, with Poe between her legs and his arms curled around her shoulders. It wasn’t fast or desperate: it almost wasn’t fucking at all, just little motions of their hips, pelvises grinding together and the satisfying girth of his dick shifting inside her. Leia buried her face in Poe’s shoulder and tried not to be grateful that she didn’t need to look him in the eye.
Orgasm surprised her, a sudden rush that had her grabbing Poe by his ass and pulling him down hard into her. In its wake she shivered and clung to him, swallowing down the sense of desolate loneliness that washed in as the last of the orgasm faded out of her.
Maybe Poe sensed it, because he drew back a little, trying to look her in the eye. She turned her face into his arm instead.
‘Don’t stop,’ she hissed at him, sensing the question before it came. ‘Don’t.’
‘Okay then,’ Poe said, and there was a warm note in his voice - not smug pleasure, no, something more like fond amusement. ‘I won’t.’ He shifted up onto his knees, gaining leverage to pull out and slide back in. Still slow, but with the full length of him, now.
Leia found herself whimpering, pushing back against him with needy little keening noises. She observed this, and the fact that her upper body twisted away so she could bury her face in the pillow, as if from a distance. Poe had most of his weight on one arm, and was using the other to hook her knee up so he could fuck into her deeper and harder.
‘Hang on,’ she heard herself saying. ‘Hang on, can I…’ She scrambled a little, sliding off him and getting her legs tangled up with his arm at the same time.
‘Oh, turning over, yeah, you can do that,’ Poe said, now behind her. Leia twisted around far enough to look at him - funny, that’s what she’d been trying not to do for the last however long - and he was gazing down at her with that look of disproportionate awe she’d let herself grow fond of.
‘For the record,’ she said, voice shaky. ‘I know who’s fucking me, I’m not trying to pretend. I just…’
‘I get it,’ Poe said, and then, with a low laugh, ‘believe me, I get it. You wanna do this again some time, you can fuck me into the mattress and we’ll call it square.’
‘Deal,’ Leia said, turning away from him. ‘Contingent upon you doing a good job here.’
‘Yes ma’am.’ He slid inside her again as he said that, punctuating the ‘ma’am’ with a snap of his hips.
‘What’d I say about calling me that?’ Leia demanded. It was easier to talk like this, head turned to one side on the pillow.
‘Force of habit,’ Poe said, keeping the pace steady. ‘I call all the women I fuck like this ma’am.’
That surprised a laugh out of Leia, even as she canted her hips and pushed her ass back against him. ‘I bet you do,’ she said, and the words came out in a rush, forced out by a deep and hard thrust. She gave up talking about then, and along with it all sense of time. She was barely even aware of Poe as a person, rather than as warmth and pressure and force where it was needed, by the time he gasped out something about not lasting much longer.
She didn’t have words for that, just a high keen and desperate rocking back against him as he thrust. He must have got the message, because he didn’t bother trying to back off, just kept going until he collapsed, gasping for breath, across her back. He tried to roll off after a moment, but Leia caught his arm and kicked one knee out from under him, bringing them both down into a warm, sweat-sticky sprawl with Poe spread half over her.
Time passed. Leia considered, and rejected, the idea of getting up.
‘I meant that,’ Poe said, apropos of nothing. ‘About you fucking me into the mattress. For the record. I have the requisite equipment.’
Leia snorted, undignified, into the pillow. ‘So do I.’
‘Thought you might,’ Poe said, shifting around so that he was lying beside her instead of on top of her.
Leia sighed, stretching a little. ‘Might be better to use yours,’ she said. ‘Mine’s caked in dust in storage somewhere. It was sort of… a one-user item.’
‘Ah,’ Poe said, one hand drifting up her side in a slow caress. ‘We don’t have to…’
She leaned over and kissed him. ‘I think,’ she said, nestling into his side, ‘I would like something to look forward to. Pegging you sounds like a good start.’
‘Any time you like, galactic emergencies permitting,’ Poe said, kissing the top of her head.
‘How’s next Thursday?’ She picked the day more or less at random. The point wasn’t Thursday, in particular. The point was agreeing to even so short a projected future. Now might be the worst time she could have picked to try for that, but she really did want something to look forward to. Something more tangible and easier to achieve than galactic peace, or the restoration of her family.
‘I know I’m not as busy as you, but I haven’t memorised my calendar a week in advance either.’ Poe hesitated a moment, evidently thinking similar things about agreements and consistency. ‘But yes, Thursday sounds great.’
‘I’ll have Threepio cross-check our schedules,’ Leia said, into his chest. ‘He’ll blow a circuit, it’ll keep me amused for at least half a day.’
‘You keep that droid around to torment him.’ Poe sounded impressed.
‘Of course,’ Leia said. And then, feeling reckless, she added, ‘Stay. Please?’
‘Mmm,’ he said, into her hair. ‘I have to show up for debriefing early tomorrow.’
Leia smiled against his skin. ‘Oddly enough, so do I. I’ll wake you.’