It all starts with a recon mission to Coruscant— they'd left D'Qar early, leaving plenty of room for any possible hiccups, and landed with hours to kill before their scheduled meeting.

So Poe drags Finn out to explore the city's bustling downtown area, weaving in between the street vendors, tables laden with cheap jewelry and silk scarves and funny little trinkets that he's never seen before. Unlike Finn, who's overwhelmed by the chaos of it all, Poe navigates these streets effortlessly and confidently, buys them food to share before Finn can even think to ask, little bites of this and that— buttery rolls stuffed with cheese, meat kebabs that sting his nose with their spice, sweet toffees that instantly melt on his tongue.

Jostled by the sea of unfamiliar faces, Finn resists the urge to grab Poe's hand, anchor onto the weight of his fingers. Their togetherness is new, he reminds himself, and he isn't quite sure what they are to each other yet. What a relationship would even mean, if Poe wanted-

Finn stops at a display of pots of shimmery powder, slim golden tubes, coal black pencils, and delicate brushes, thinner than even his pinky finger. He runs his hand over the soft bristles without thinking.

Poe makes his way back to him; in his hurry, he'd left Finn behind. "Hey, buddy, everything okay?" When he sees what Finn's staring at, he cocks his head to the side, his lips curling in a smirk. "Something caught your eye?"

"What is this stuff?" Finn blurts out, before he can stop himself.

"Makeup," Poe says. "People put it on their faces, and it makes them look pretty." He wrinkles his nose. "Sounds really crappy when you put it that way, but yeah, that's pretty much the extent of my knowledge."

"So you've never tried it before?"

"I mean, Jess has definitely put lipstick on me in my sleep on more than one occasion, but I don't think that counts." He smiles fondly. "I guess it's not really all that useful when you spend half of your waking hours in a cockpit."

When Finn doesn't reply, Poe hastily adds, "But to each their own, right? If you're interested—"

"No," Finn says, too quickly. Poe raises an eyebrow. "I was just curious. Let's keep going."

Poe doesn't look convinced, but mercifully, doesn't pursue it. He laces his fingers through Finn's, and grins. "So I don't lose you next time."

Finn tries not to let on that his stomach feels like it's turning inside out, and lets Poe tug him back into the ebb and flow of the crowd.

Even though he's done it countless times, watching Poe land never ceases to amaze him.

With several dozen ground crew members running frantically around the landing bay, waving their colorful flags, Black One glides smoothly to touch down on the tarmac, coming to a graceful stop. Within moments, Poe's hopping out of his X-Wing with his helmet under his arms, BB-8 rolling behind him, grinning at a job well done.

Poe's face breaks into a radiant smile when he sees Finn, and not for the first time, it takes Finn's breath away. That raw, unbridled emotion betrayed in his every expression, the quirk of his eyebrows and the twitch of his lips and the gleam dancing in his eyes, his sheer inability to ever hide a single thing he felt.

In the Order, it would've been considered a liability, a weakness, but all Finn can see is strength.

Poe races over and throws his arms around him, burying his face in Finn's shoulder. Finn quickly examines him— no injuries, other than a few bruises and scrapes, a gash bandaged on his forearm— and sighs in relief. He looks exhausted, smudged with grime and smelling like week-old engine, but nothing a shower and a nap won't fix.

It's become a ritual, this coming together and pulling apart, and Finn's learned to wait up and watch the red dot of Black One blink across the radar screen in the control room, to pester the general about mission updates when he's out of comm distance, to wake up cold, the other side of the bed empty. To hold Poe tightly when they say goodbye, never knowing if this time is the last.

But Poe is here, alive and well, and it's impossible to think of anything else.

"How did the mission go?" Finn asks. He extricates himself from Poe's arms and bends down to pat BB-8 on the head.

Poe smirks. "As if you haven't asked the general a million times."

"Humor me, here," Finn grouses. "I'm trying to play it cool."

He flashes a thumbs-up. "It was flawless."

"Well, don't expect me to stoke your ego." Finn frowns at him. "Don't you have to go and debrief?"

"Nope, did it when I was coming out of hyperspace." He slings an arm around Finn's shoulders, batting his eyelashes. "I'm all yours. So, what are you gonna do with me? Carry me over the threshold? Give me a full-body massage?"

Finn grimaces. "Take a shower, and then we'll talk. You stink."

Poe just grins even wider, leans closer. "Come on, baby. You love it."

Finn gives in, pecking him on the lips. "Quarters?"

"Yes." Poe loops his arm through Finn's. "Any chance you'll reconsider the carrying thing?"

He shakes his head, trying not to smile. "You're ridiculous."

When Poe steps out of the 'fresher, a towel wrapped around his neck, wet curls plastered to his forehead, he taps Finn on the shoulder. "Before I forget— I brought something back for you."

Finn puts down his holopad, swings his legs over so he's sitting perched on the end of the bed. "You should've said so earlier."

"Then you would've gone through my stuff while I was showering," Poe replies. "I mean, you're such a thief." He gestures to the shirt Finn's wearing, a soft, worn thing pawned from Poe's closet.

"It looks better on me," Finn protests, tugging on the loose fabric.

"It looks ravishing," Poe assures him. "But my point still stands." He reaches into his bag, pulling out a drawstring leather pouch and tossing it to Finn. "Open it."

Finn tugs the bag open and lets the contents spill out on his lap- pots, brushes, pencils. Nearly identical to the ones that had caught his attention in Coruscant. "Where did you get these?"

"Well, I had some downtime before a meeting on Corellia, and I saw these and thought of you. And then I remembered it was our six months anniversary, and I just had to get them for you." He sits down besides Finn, taking his hand. "Happy anniversary, babe."

Finn stares at his present, completely dumbfounded. He hadn't even known that this was a thing— keeping track of how much time you've been together, buying each other gifts on important dates. He wonders what else he could be forgetting, what else he is completely clueless about.

"I didn't get you anything," he says, thickly.

And of course, because Poe's a saint that Finn doesn't deserve, he only shakes his head. "Hey, buddy, don't worry about it— I mean, things got pretty crazy after that, it kind of overshadowed everything that happened beforehand. I don't blame you for not wanting to remember."

They'd gotten ambushed after leaving the bar with the datachip they'd come to collect. During the mad dash to their ship, Finn had gotten shot in the thigh, Poe in the shoulder. They'd managed to leave the planet all in one piece, nursing their injuries with bacta patches, but the experience had left Finn shaken— it had been his first recon mission with the Resistance, and they had almost failed. A mistake that never would have been tolerated in the Order.

"Matching blaster wounds," Finn manages. "Super romantic."

Poe shoves him playfully. "If you want to do something for me, you should put some on. I want to see you?"

Finn shivers from the heat of Poe's gaze, the hope burning into him. But it feels too private, too shameful. "How about that massage?"

Luckily, Poe seems distracted by that. He flops down onto the mattress, bellyfirst. "Yes. Start with my shoulders?"

"Demanding," Finn tut-tuts, and begins to work out the knots in his muscles.

"Makeup?" Rey cocks her head to the side. "So he gave it to you as a gift?"

They're holochatting; reception's crappy from Ahch-To, the image flickering in and out of focus, but he can see her face, and that's comfort in of itself— being able to talk to the only person who's just as much of an outsider as he is.

"Yeah, for our six month anniversary or something," Finn replies. "You ever use it?"

"I saw it on travelers sometimes, but nope, never tried it myself," she says. "I mean, most of us were just concerned about getting enough to eat."

"Like, what does it even mean?" he complains. "I know it's supposed to make you look pretty and stuff- so does he not like the way I look or something?"

"That's ridiculous," Rey giggles. "You're definitely reading too much into it."

Finn groans. "See, I never know anything that's going on. I didn't even know that anniversaries were a thing. Everything here is so goddamn complicated— I'm gonna need an official rulebook to keep everything straight."

She shakes her head, barely concealing her smile. "You're making me appreciate it here more. There's just a lot of trees and cliffs and water, a grumpy master who barely speaks to me. So much simpler."

"Even with all of the Jedi stuff?" Finn shakes his head. "You're living the dream. Anyway, pretty soon you're gonna have to come back, and it's gonna be just as confusing for you."

"Well, at least you'll be there to help me," she says.

Finn brushes his fingers up against the screen. "Yeah," he says softly.

The makeup sits in the back of their 'fresher cabinet for a long time, untouched. Finn tries to convince himself that it's an unnecessary luxury, a pretty, frivolous thing that has no place in a war, but he finds his mind returning to it more than he'd like to admit.

Poe had meant the gift in an inside-jokey way, surely, a reminder of that first date before everything went to hell— but the way he'd looked at Finn, that hunger in his eyes. Sincerity and honesty and open, unconcealed want.

Poe's away during one of their base parties, a mission of at least two months, and Finn heads over to Jess and Snap's room, because Poe's friends are his friends and he doesn't really have anywhere else to go. Predictably, Jess is still getting ready and Snap is griping about it, waiting impatiently by the door. "Come on, Jess— if we don't leave now, all the good booze is gonna be gone by the time we get there."

"Og, quit bitching. Give it a couple hours, you'll be too wasted to know the difference." She's standing by the 'fresher mirror— doing her makeup, Finn realizes with a start— puckering her lips to smear pink gloss all over them. "Maya from Blue's gonna be there tonight. I gotta look hot."

"So what you're saying is that you're gonna ditch me later?" Snap says mournfully.

"That's the best case scenario," she replies, lining her eyes all around with black. "But hey, Finn's Poeless, he can still be your wingman. Maybe you two can get each other to stop moping."

"I am not moping," Finn protests.

"Pining, then," Jess amends, snickering at Finn's exasperated look in the mirror.

"What about me?" Snap demands.

"Oh, you're just a sad sack of shit." He looks aggrieved, but doesn't retort back, seemingly resigned to his fate. Jess just smirks, giving herself one last appraising look in the mirror, and struts out of the bathroom. She flips her hair over her shoulder, striking a dramatic pose. "How do I look, boys?"

She still looks like Jess, but a brighter, bolder version of herself— her eyes pop more, her lips catch the gleam of the overhead light. Her aura is different somehow, more loud, more confident, like she's taking up more space in the room. Incandescent.

"The same as usual," Snap says. "This better have been worth it."

"Your support means the world to me, Wexley," Jess drawls, sugary sweet, and turns to Finn. "What do you think?"

"Nice," Finn says, for lack of a better word. "You look...nice."

She claps him on the shoulder, and sticks her tongue out at Snap. "You see, Wexley, that's why Finn's got a man, and you're still hopelessly single."

"Fuck off," he grumbles, swinging a half-hearted punch, but she just laughs, dancing out of his reach.

Two weeks later, Poe's still away, the general doesn't have any more updates, and Finn's trying not to go half-insane with worry, whiling away the time he's not on duty the best he can. It's such a departure from the Order, where a minute not spent training or replenishing was a minute wasted, all of this free, unstructured time when he can do whatever he likes.

So he takes walks in the communal garden, fiddles with his holopad, plays dejarik with Jess and Snap, and tries to forget about the worry constantly gnawing at his belly.

Eventually, he runs out of things to do, and finds himself turning to the makeup, pulls each item out of the bag with shaking fingers.

Contrary to popular belief, to the whispers and rumors that follow him around the base, he's no stranger to beautiful things. They were rare, but tangible nevertheless— the sunrises he glimpsed during nighttime watch, the pinks and oranges and yellows soft and warm on the horizon; a snowflake landing on his eyelash, breathtaking in its transience; small, ordinary acts of kindness— sharing bread, giving a bunkmate your extra roll of socks.

(He misses it sometimes— the steady rhythm of his life before, before all of this never knowing if he's doing the right thing, the spotlight constantly blaring in his eyes, the murmurs and doubtful looks that still trail his every step, when in the Order, he'd just been a cog in the machine, utterly invisible— and hates himself for it.)

But before, those moments of beauty were stolen, hidden from the watching eye of the Order, stowed away in your pocket and never to be spoken of again. Here, they are everywhere he looks, celebrated and shared, worn on your face, battle armor.

Double-checking that Snap is away on escort duty, Finn works up the courage to knock on Jess' door, makeup bag in hand.

Opening the door, she brightens visibly at the sight of him, beckoning him to come in. "Finn! Whatcha doin' here?"

He follows her inside, blushing, and awkwardly shoves the bag into her hands. "Makeup. I— can you teach me?"

Jess carefully looks him up and down. "This isn't some kinky sex thing, right?"


"Because I know we don't really have that many rules around here, but getting involved in your CO's personal life?" She shudders. "Huge no-no."

"Nothing like that, I swear," Finn says hurriedly. "Just— something I want to try. Please."

He's still not used to asking for help- after his first few months on base, he's avoided it as much as possible. When he asks embarrassing, obvious questions- what's dessert, so I'm not gonna get court-martialed for forgetting to make my bed this morning— everyone always gives him that pitying look, that comforting pat on the shoulder. Poor, naive, ex-stormtrooper.

(Even Poe, when he doesn't catch himself— and Finn hates that itchy feeling of resentment, toxic in his belly.)

Jess just narrows her eyes at him. "Alright, then," she concedes.

Another week goes by, and barely a word from Poe.

"You just have to trust that he's out there, getting the job done," the general tells him, when Finn drops by her office for the umpteenth time. He wonders how she can still have so much faith, after all she's seen, all she's lost.

So he keeps her words in his mind, and throws himself into his work. He completes level after level of pathfinder training, sprints around the track until sweat blinds his vision, beats his personal record in the shooting range again and again.

And at the end of the day, when his bones feel like jelly, he takes out the makeup, spends hours staring at himself in the 'fresher mirror, trying to remember exactly what Jess had told him as he clumsily applies lines of coal black to his eyelids, streaks of glittery blue, smears ruby red onto his lips. Watches as his lines grow straighter, less smudged, watches himself transform into someone he doesn't even recognize.

It's like the helmet, in a way, a mask of impassive white, veiling his true self.

But really, he realizes, it's the complete opposite.

Because he's inhabiting beauty, not shunning it.

Because he's not hiding anymore.

Jess knocks on the door, to pick him up before another party. "Finn? You ready?"

He takes one last look at himself in the mirror before wiping his face with a washcloth, and the spell is broken. "In a minute."

"Just received a transmission from your man," the general tells him, when he bumps into her in the hallway. "He's on his way home. Should be arriving at around 1500."

His heart leaps. "Thank you, sir," Finn stammers, hardly daring himself to believe it. He has duty then, but as soon as he finishes—

"And you get the afternoon off," she tells him. "Consider it a reward for your hard work."

"Thank you," Finn finds himself repeating. "Thank you so much." He catches himself. "Sir."

"Careful, Corporal, or I'll start to think you're a suck-up." Her eyes twinkle. "Now don't you have to somewhere to be?"

He salutes her, and she waves him off, laughing as she ambles past him.

A half an hour before Poe's arrival, he gets a comm from the general. "Control room. Now," she orders him, clicking off before he gets the chance to ask what's going on.

Barely pausing to properly put his shoes on, Finn gets there in record time. "Reporting for duty, sir. What's the situation?"

The general turns to Admiral Statura, who heaves a sigh. "It appears that we've lost Commander Dameron's signal. We last communicated with him at 1354, but since then, it's been radio silence."

His throat closes up. "What does it mean?"

"He was flying over one of the moons in the Rhodrion system, when the transmission just cut out," the general tells him. "It's not official Order territory, but they're definitely not what I'd call friendly to our cause. He was most likely shot down by enemy cannons."

Finn clutches at the control panel to steady himself. "So is he—"

"Nothing's been confirmed yet- but there are a ton of bounty hunters there, and our best pilot is a huge prize," Statura replies. "Chances are, they've captured him and they're holding him for the Order."

"General," Finn says immediately, "permission to—"

She holds a hand up. "Not so fast, Corporal. Dameron might have a huge price on his head, but you- you're the ultimate prize. You're the symbol of insurrection, and the First Order would do anything to make an example out of you— I absolutely refuse to give them the opportunity. Do I make myself clear?"

The general holds his gaze, her eyes blazing, and Finn can only nod, swallowing back a gulp.

She turns to Statura. "Comm Black Squadron."

"Don't worry, Finn," Jess tells him, strapping on her helmet. "We'll get him back."

Finn looks at all of their faces- Snap, Karé, L'ulo— the determination in their eyes, and all he can do is trust them, these people who are fighting to save him. "I know."

Finn's waiting for them when they return, carrying Poe out of the fighter, nearly all them limping or clutching some wound. He rushes forward, but the medics and the droids keep him back, load Poe up on the gurney and rush him down to medical, Finn trailing behind them.

He can't see much, but he glimpses the deep gash on his forehead, the nub of bone peeking out from the jagged angle of his leg, and knows it's bad.

They push him into the operating room, and Finn awkwardly hangs back in the main med bay. Unsure if he wants to see, to know.

Dr. Kalonia just looks at him, and softens. "Usually, I'd kick you out...but you can wait here. Please, try to rest." She points to a nearby chair, stiff and uncomfortable-looking, before disappearing through the door.

Finn collapses gratefully into the chair. Leaning his head against the wall, he closes his eyes, prays for a bit of Force magic so he can reach out to Poe, just this once.

Someone's shaking him awake.

It's Dr. Kalonia. He snaps to attention, blinking out the bleariness in his eyes, and winces at the crick in his neck. "How is he?"

"A good amount of internal bruising, wrist fracture, broken leg, the works— but no reason to think he won't be alright." She juts her thumb in the direction of the operating room, her lips curling into a wry smile. "Why don't you go see for yourself?"

Hands shaking, Finn nods his thanks as he enters the room. A medical droid pokes at him a bit before letting him through; Poe's still sleeping, a bandage around his forehead, more on his abdomen, casts on his leg and wrist. Pale and gaunt and so eerily still. Finn just sits in the chair beside him and waits.

It takes him a while, but he rouses, bit by bit, cracking his eyes open to squint at Finn. "Water," he croaks.

Finn grabs the cup sitting on the stand and presses it to his lips, tipping it down his throat.

"Why are you so good to me?" Poe asks, closing his eyes. He looks so frail lying there; Finn's never seen him so subdued.

"You did the same for me," Finn says, remembers waking up from his coma to find Poe perched beside him, asleep in a chair. Poe, feeding him bites of food and sips of water. Poe, wrapping an arm around him and helping him stand, coaxing him through step after agonizing step. Everything, and more, that he'd give back a thousand times over.

Poe grins feebly. "Least I could do. You saved my life."

"I needed a pilot," Finn says. I needed you. He clears his throat. "How are you feeling?"

"Not spectacular. Got cocky, flew way too close to their orbit, got my ass kicked by a bunch of fuzzy monsters." Poe grimaces. "I think I've learned my lesson."

I should've been there, Finn thinks. I'm the one who's supposed to save you.

"Finn," Poe says, gently, squeezing Finn's hand. "Whatever you're thinking— just don't."

He shakes his head, to clear his mind, and gets an idea. "I've got a surprise for you."

When Finn walks in with his makeup on (nowhere near his best work, his fingers wouldn't stop shaking), Poe makes a strangled noise, shaking his head in disbelief. "Totally unfair. This was so not how I thought this would go."

Finn sits down on the edge of his bed, grinning. "What were you picturing?"

"Well, a lot more making out, for starters," he says mournfully. "Me not being a total vegetable."

Finn laughs, lacing his fingers through Poe's. "Verdict?"

"Amazing. Wonderful. Better than all my wet dreams combined," Poe declares. "All of the above."

"And they say romance is dead," Finn quips, leaning in to kiss him, something messy and beautiful altogether human.