By the time Finn wakes up, Rey is long gone, vanished into the cold dark reaches of space, seeking Luke Skywalker, seeking destiny.
Poe tells him that she’s gone, that she kissed his forehead before she left, that she’s alive and well and off on her quest.
Brave and beautiful Rey. She’s gone. His last memory of her is in the snow, teeth bared, face bathed in scarlet light. The stink of his blood, the charred flesh, Kylo Ren’s cruel feral smile , oh how he had smiled as Finn screamed how he had smiled --
(Finn has nightmares. Of course he does.)
Anyway: landlocked he may be, and nightmare-wracked, and missing Rey so much that it is a physical pain -- but he is alive, he is here, he is cared for. Poe has not left his side. He still wears the jacket. He has friends.
Poe pulls him close. Affection is given so freely here! Hugs were grounds for discipline in the Order; but the instant Finn realises that they are not just tolerated but outright encouraged he becomes an incorrigible snuggler, pushing himself into arms everywhere, relishing the warmth of skin, the beat of another’s heart.
He’s drunk on skin-on-skin contact, on faces. He’s giddy with the number of faces he can see; he remembers when seeing the faces of his fellow troopers was a rare treat, a speck of gold in a mess of blood and shit, and now faces are abundant, glorious. Smiles and frowns and laughter and tears: the luxury of expression!
The first time he got drunk, he pulled Jessika Pava close, mapped her face with the pads of his fingers, marvelling how soft her skin was, how delicate her brows, how flimsy the flesh of her eyelids was when compared to the jut of her jaw, how gorgeous her eyes were, how deep and bright; how when she smiled her face crinkled up just-so. When he let her go, she was flushed pink.
Poe was staring at him, something unreadable on his face.
Finn had grinned, huge and bright, “Force above, you’re all so beautiful,” he said, pulled Poe close, did the same, scrubbed his palm against the pilots stubble, rough as -- as something. He hadn’t been able to think of a comparison. Instead he had booped Poe on the nose, just to watch his eyes cross in confusion.
Anyway. Later, Pava had said -- a little nervily -- that she was actually seeing someone, and it was all very flattering but -- well, he might not know what it meant but --
“Didn’t mean to flirt,” Finn said, “and I do know what flirting is. We just, uh. We did it a little differently?”
“Sharing rations, mainly. Or taking shifts for each other. You weren’t allowed sexual contact -- but that didn’t really matter, the meds took care of that sort of thing --”
Finn dreams they cut him open and find the Stormtrooper armour beneath his skin.
He dreams that it shines through, beetle-shell white and glossy with his blood. He dreams that Kylo Ren flays him in long, slow strips, smiling all the way.
He dreams the General comes to him and she is holding a Stormtrooper helmet in one hand, and she sneers buckethead and empties the helmet by his feet and it’s sometimes his head, sometimes Nines, sometimes Slip.
He dreams Hux shows up, with blood pouring down his chin. His eyes are rathtar-yellow and his hands are claws. He dreams Ren opens the door and lets him in. He dreams that Phasma stamps on Rey’s head until it --
-- he dreams, that’s the point.
But worst of all is when he dreams that Poe comes to see him and says, “We’ve got all we need, trooper. Time to go. We don’t need you anymore. Why would we want a defector? Why would we trust a traitor.” Dream-Poe is affable when he says this; almost kind. “You’ll never be a rebel. You’ll never be a rebel because you’re a Stormtrooper. All you can ever be is what they made you.”
From the former dreams, he wakes sweating in terror.
From the latter, he wakes weeping.
“Finn, you need to take it easy.”
Finn’s not pouting. He’s not . But he’s not used to being so inactive: the First Order demands constant exertion, and the first day he spent doing nothing but socializing felt like a shameful waste.
“My back’s almost better --”
“No. It isn’t. We replaced your spine with bionic implants, and they need time to adjust-- if you knock them out of kilter, we’re back to square one. The problem with the Resistance is that we don’t exactly have a surfeit of med-tech. Got to do it the old-fashioned way.”
Finn does not say: troopers with broken spines would have been neatly, kindly, gently put out of their misery.
(Not really. It was cold and efficient, without even a goodbye. But that was kindness under the Order.)
Instead he says, “You’re off flying missions, Rey’s training to be a Jedi and I’m --” he gestures at their shared quarters, “in the last three weeks my schedule has been physio in the morning, get drunk in the afternoon, and gossiping with pilots in the evening.”
“Sounds like you’re living the dream.”
“Well I’m not. What’s the point of me? I just sit around all day! I’m not doing anything useful , I’m not helping --”
“I hate not helping ,” Finn snaps, hot with anger -- and ashamed.
Excessive emotion is a sign of weakness --
And that’s something Phasma taught him and that’s where he learned shame and will he ever ever ever leave their lessons behind --
“Hey. Shh. Shh, it’s okay. It’s okay. Did Pava ever tell you when I broke my leg, couldn’t fly for a fortnight? I was intolerable by the third day. They used to up my pain meds just to get me to fall asleep so I’d stop shouting criticism out on the comms -- they’d made the mistake of putting me in a room overlooking the flight-deck, thought it would calm me down…”
Poe pulls him into a hug. Finn relents, because anger is no match for Poe’s hugs: they are a thing of wonder, and probably the antidote to the Dark Side. The pair huddle on Poe’s bunk, and Poe tells him stories of the Resistance, of General Organa, of Han Solo, of Cassian Andor and other heroes.
And then he tells the story of Bodhi Rook.
(Poe, by this point, is in Finn’s bed, his head resting on Finn’s shoulder.)
And Poe Dameron, Poe Dameron is beautiful and kind and wild and holds the stars in the palms of his hands; he’s effusive and affectionate and warm as his home-planet -- but he is an idiot because why in the name of the Force did he not tell Finn this story from the start .
The imperial pilot who saved them all, the imperial pilot that could not be squashed, no amount of conditioning or cruelty could dim his kindness -- Finn’s tight and trembling with excitement and by the time the story ends there are tears on his face, and he sits bolt upright (Poe flails, whines -- where did Finn go -- realises that he’s whining, tries to maintain his dignity, and realises that Finn isn’t paying him the slightest bit of attention, all in one breath. It’s, uh. It’s a rollercoaster of a moment.)
“Why didn’t you tell me this sooner?” Finn says. “He -- Poe, he was like me, he was just like me!”
Not just like me, Finn corrects, internally -- I’m not dead. Yet. But --
“It -- it just, um. I mean, everything’s been so busy, I didn’t think you had time to listen to me ramble about the past.”
Finn smacks his shoulder. “I always have time to listen to you,” he hesitates, then adds (all in a flurry): “Ramble about the past, that is. Yeah. Listening to rambling about history. The past. Rambling. From you, Leia. BB-8. Definitely.”
Smoothly covered, Finn. Ten out of ten, well done.
Poe dreams of his father and wakes with hot, itchy eyes. His left arm is cramped under Finn, his neck cricked from falling asleep staring at him -- and he hears Kes Dameron’s voice at the back of his head, off to fight with that she-wolf Organa, that warhawk that sithspawn --
You fought with her you loved her --
Aye, I fought with her, but she won’t let the past be the past she won’t forget, she won't forget, not forgetting was what killed your mother, it killed your mother and it will kill you --
Just as well she didn’t forget--
Because the First Order’s the Empire reborn? Yeah. Sure. Paranoid warmongering --
You’re blind --
You’re delusional -- it’s not the same we live in different times --
Some things change, evil doesn’t, the sign are here, it is HAPPENING AGAIN --
Go out that door and never come back y’here me if you go out that door you never come back, Organa's war killed your mother, it killed your mother and it will kill you --
Papa, Papa it is happening again -- know your history --
I KNOW my history and the history is dead and gone like your mother and that was her fault too that was Organa’s fault her and her war --
Papa it is -- the signs -- how can you not know it is happening again -
Kes Dameron stayed on Yavin Four.
He’s buried there.
The Order did have entertainment: holofilms, music, books.
They all had one of three plots:
- Brave Stormtrooper regiment defeats impossible odds, defeats decadent Senate/vicious native species seeking to stop the force of progress/evil rebels from the First Order. The leader of the regiment will never remove their helmet and will, at some point, make a big speech about how important it is to have a cohesive identity as a unit, not to think of oneself as an individual -- because that is selfish and decadent and rebellious and bad for the Order/trooper/world. Lots of explosions. Stirring music.
- Brave First Order citizen infiltrates decadent Senate to steal valuable information. The Senate is extra decadent. The word ‘decadent’ is used so often that troopers no longer have ‘hear the word decadent and drink’ as a rule in their drinking games because then they would all die of acute liver failing (not the most dignified way to go -- but also not the worst). Evil man/woman/alien of intermediate gender tries to seduce the brave citizen. Citizen gives a long speech about the importance of loyalty to the First Order, then shoots the would-be seductor. Possibly dies in getting information out. Lots of explosions. Stirring music.
- Thinly disguised biography of General Hux. The hero is always ginger, over six foot and absurdly muscular and defeats the decadent Senate/vicious native species seeking to stop the force of progress/evil rebels from the First Order through his amazing leadership skills. The film is basically one long speech with lots of explosions and stirring music. (Yes, Hux is a First Order pin-up despite looking like some kind of constipated rodent. Pickings are slim. Troopers seeking an outlet for their chemically-limited desires have a choice of him, Phasma, or attempting to find a helmet sexually attractive. Finn’s pubescent fumblings were traumatising on a number of levels.)
So: Finn knows what the picture of a shirtless man is meant to be advertising (ROGUE ONE: THE STORY OF HEROES proclaims the title). He’s just not sure why Poe is presenting it to him.
“It’s a film poster,” Finn says,”with a shirtless man on it.”
“Not any shirtless man,” Poe says, indignant.
“...no?” Finn says.
“This is Cassian Andor,” Poe says, something like religious reverence in his voice, “He was the --”
“--intelligence agent who got the Death Star plans, I know,” Finn says. Ah yes: this makes more sense. “The one you told me about. Thanks!”
What a thoughtful and lovely present, he is about to say, rolling the picture up -- but Poe grabs at him, joy turning to horror in a heartbeat. “No! Don’t roll it! This is a first edition, you’ll hurt it .”
He takes it from Finn’s hands with tremendous delicacy.
“It’s the last one left,” he says. “There was a factory in the Hosnian system that just churned them out after Endor -- poster after poster, Han and Leia and Luke and -- well, every hero the Empire had tried to squash. Cassian Andor was always one of my favourites -- second favourite,” he adds, at Finn’s rather dubious look, Finn who knows full well that Poe has a locket with Leia’s picture in it. “And I got this when I was very little. Had it on my wall all through the Academy. And I took it with me when I joined the Resistance.”
He lays the poster on the bed. Cassian Andor: a strikingly handsome man, posed with his chin tipped up, staring at some distant horizon, coat flapping open to reveal sweat-glossed abs.
“Thought you might want to see the film,” says Poe.
“Great! Shall I ask Pava -- “
“They’re all busy!” Poe says quickly. “They have training tonight -- “
“Aren’t you meant to train with them?”
“But you’re the squadron leader -- “
“They can manage without me,” Poe says, grinning, slinging one arm over Finn’s shoulders. “Movie night!”
There were thousands and thousands of films made about the Rogue One martyrs, but most have been lost.
Starkiller didn’t just destroy the Senate.
It burned the factories that produced tacky memorabilia. It burned the Hall of Memories, the Museum of Martyrs, the Graveyard of the Brave. It burned the holodiscs and the archives and the holofilms and --
(Ask Poe. He’d say: look, the Hosnian system wasn’t the only place where we kept our records, but it was the main place because we didn’t think it would happen again. We didn’t think.)
And so the films made when rebellion was something to be celebrated have, by and large, vanished. BB-8 has a database of about a dozen of the best of them.
Finn and Poe watch all of them. And in the wee hours of the morning, when they have finished, Poe turns to Finn and says, softly, “I’m sorry. I forgot -- “
“So did they,” Finn says. “You said --”
“I know. I -- my Papa told me the stories, and Leia, and droids and they -- “
“They all mention Bodhi. So he was real. Are you sure? They didn’t make him up? You didn’t?”
“Force above,” Poe says, sitting up (leaving his spot -- sprawled over Finn’s lap -- isn’t easy, but he does it, because he is a saint .) “Of course I didn’t. I’m sorry. I didn’t realise -- I --”
“They wrote him out.”
“Not all of them --”
“No. But they gave half his story to Jyn, or Cassian, or -- or anyone but an imperial pilot. They didn’t want him there. They wanted the victory all to themselves, because rebels and imperial pilots don’t work together, and defectors don’t matter -- “
“Finn,” Poe says; he’s standing on the edge of a chasm, it feels like, and things he’s worked so hard at are coming unstitched in his hands and he doesn’t know how to make it better --
“No. No, it makes sense. Because the Rebellion had to be founded by rebels and the Force and --”
“And that last one, that one had Luke tell them where the plans were hidden through a Force dream, because Force-fucking-forbid he isn’t in it -- “
“-- Finn --”
“He sacrificed everything -- everything -- and they forgot him. They forgot him.”
That night, Finn sleeps alone.
He dreams that Phasma kills Rey, that Kylo Ren and Hux snigger over the body, that Poe tells him we don’t remember defectors you will not be remembered there is no point none at all --
“Bluh -- “
Three days after the Film Incident and Finn has barely seen Poe at all. And now he’s in his room.
Poe in his room is normally the start of every single -- ahem -- nice dream he has, but he can’t forget how the Resistance forgot, how Bodhi Rook died in an explosion, died having given everything; how Bodhi was kind and good and noble, even as everything in his life told him not to be -- how the Empire told him you will obey and he said no no I will not and blew them all sky high --
-- how he did all of that, and in three of the films they replace him with an intrepid beautiful fictional rebel girl who infiltrates Galen’s laboratory to get the message out.
(In one she -- pale-skinned, red-haired -- had shot down an imperial pilot, laughed, said all Empire boys are good for is dying and they had cheered, they had cheered).
Knuckling the sleep from his eyes, Finn manages a slightly more coherent: “Wha?”
(He’s heard the stories. He’s heard of the Ewoks, trooper helmets for drums. He remembers Slip. To say his feelings are conflicted is an understatement.)
( All Empire boys are good for is dying -- )
(He gave everything, kept the faith when the darkness tried to drown him and you FORGOT HIM)
(they had cheered when the pilot had died)
“I got you a present,” says Poe, and drops the smallest droid Finn has ever seen onto the bedcovers. “Her name is ANG-24.”
Finn cups his hands. ANG-24 rolls into them. She’s the same basic shape as BB-8, but a dull grey.
She chirrups a greeting.
“Oh,” Finn says. “Thanks?”
Other questions tilter on the tip of his tongue, mainly centred around WHY HAVE YOU BEEN IGNORING ME YOU FLYBOY PIECE OF SHIT but he doesn’t say them.
( all Empire boys are good for is dying)
“I dreamed about my father. He never remembered -- he didn't want to. He had it in his head that dwelling on the past poisoned the future. He thought that...that the dead were dead, and it didn't matter how we remembered them. He didn't -- he wouldn't have cared about Bodhi Rook, or the stories, or anything like that. He wouldn't have cared -- and, uh, that got me thinking about, about what we do with the past, about what kind of -- of message we send. And um. Um" Finn reaches up, takes Poe's hand. Poe's smile is stretched tight. His voice wobbles a bit as he says, "Angie? Can you play the thing for me?”
Angie chirrups assent, then beams forward an image of a veteran Finn has met, briefly: a grumpy bastard called Shannah Yzetta, who was with the Rebellion before the Resistance, the sort of man who was probably given a blaster to cut his teeth on; he’s never known anything but war. He says, “Bodhi Rook was the bravest man I ever met,” and that is how it starts.
Five hours of footage. Finn doesn’t move for any of it, doesn’t notice when Poe cuddles up to him. Tears spill down his cheeks and he doesn’t wipe them away.
Rebels: the old guard, the ones who remember, the ones who were there. The ones who fought alongside Rogue One, the ones who knew Bodhi Rook not as some footnote but a live, breathing soldier. A hero.
“--he was scared,” says a woman bent-backed over her cane, “so scared, fidgety and wild-eyed -- but he fought. He did the right thing. Even though he was scared witless, he did the right thing --”
“--Saw tortured him,” says an alien with a heavy helmet, “I remember. He had us throw him to -- oh, I can’t remember the name -- the tentacle monster thing. It sucked all the information out of his skull. He screamed and screamed. And he didn’t stop saying I am the messenger and Galen sent me and I wouldn’t have blamed him for turning against us, but he didn’t. He told us how Galen was kind to him when no one else was, how the Empire burns its pilots out on stims, sends them out without shields, how Galen helped him get off the stims, how Galen inspired him. Every fucking chance he got: Galen, Galen, Galen --”
“I never met him.” says Leia, “but he was the one who named Rogue One. And you know, normally we reuse call-signs; but that one was never used again, because we wanted to memorialise it. Now that I think about it, maybe we should have kept it in circulation. Because we need to remember him.”
Afterwards, Finn kisses Poe. He doesn’t have the words to express his gratitude, and this is the Resistance, where affection is so freely given.
Having said that --
“Just so you know, since I don’t know if you’re completely up to date on romance rituals here, you’re only ever allowed to kiss me now.”
“Sounds fair,” says Finn, and leans in again.
Three standard months later --
I hate her! BB-8 bips, furious. She’s taken away our Finn, she’s a-- she’s a hussy! And he learned that word from C-P30; he even has the same prissy fluster to his beeps that Threepio has to his entire body.
Poe laughs, grabs BB-8 into a hug. The other pilots muse how he gets quite so ripped when they only ever see him sleep, eat and fly: here’s the answer. He has to be strong enough to pick up, and cuddle, a droid who is much heavier than he looks.
“Finn still loves you. He still loves me! He still spends time with us. He’s just got to be with ANG-24 when he’s working -- she is his recording droid.”
I can record! I can hold over a billion terabytes of information --
“Hey, hey,” Poe soothes, leaning against his X-Wing, snuggling BB-8 closer. The droid bips indignantly. “ANG-24 is so little and young; she doesn’t have any friends. Finn’s being nice to her. You wouldn’t want to take away her friend, would you?”
Appealing to the droid’s better nature helps. BB-8 beeps guiltily. She is very new, he says, and it must be nice for her to have an important job --
“Precisely! She’s the droid of the Resistance’s foremost historian! But you have the most important job of all. Don’t you? Don’t you? Who’s my favourite astromech droid? Is it you? Is it?”
BB-8 trills in delight, attempts to roll up to Poe’s face to boop his eyestalk against Poe’s nose -- yes Poe taught him to do this, yes it is adorable -- and the movement unseats Poe, and they both tumble onto the floor.
And, just across camp, Finn settles down to write the first chapter of his book on the Rebellion --
Bodhi Rook: Why We Must Not Fo rget
Finn no longer has nightmares.
He dreams of a pilot, soaring towards the sky, a shooting-star, a hero: remembered, valued and, somewhere -- wherever it is souls sail to when they leave this plane -- happy.