But this is how the story ends
Or have we just begun
To kiss away the difference
I know you hate this one
The Fray, "Where the Story Ends'
"I'll be back soon," Finn promises.
"We know you will," says a dark-skinned woman as Finn prepares to leave.
They don't think I'm a traitor anymore, Finn realizes. Well, some of them do. A third of the stormtroopers are locked up for now, still loyal to the First Order, and Finn hates that. He hates the fact that they're locked up even more than their loyalty depresses him.
The ex-stormtroopers still aren't ready to meet with General Organa, and even the few who seem like they'd be willing have deferred to Finn, saying he should try to strike some sort of alliance. But they're not giving themselves over to the Resistance's ideals. Not yet.
And that's okay, Finn reminds himself as he climbs back into his escape pod. It takes time.
At least, it did for him, and Poe and the others were patient as they waited for him to realize that not all causes were toxic. Not all things that may require giving your life sap it away. Some things—like his friends, like the Resistance—pump life through his veins even as they ask him to risk it.
Finn grins to himself as he flies towards Leia's ship. I did it. I really did it. "Yes!" he whoops, pumping his fist.
"Finn!" Leia runs to him and wraps him up in her arms, like he's a son of hers.
"I can't believe it all worked," Finn gasps out.
Leia shakes her head. "We couldn't have done it without you."
"Poe? Rey? Ben?" Finn asks. Bb-8 sidles up to him, sticking out that fiery thumb. Finn winks and gives the droid a thumbs-up back.
"They're on their way back. They claim they'll meet us at Coruscant." Leia sighs. "Snoke is dead, but other parts of the First Order escaped."
"Dammit," Finn groans.
"I wouldn't worry overmuch." Connix smiles. "Because we've received word that there's another insurrection of stormtroopers. I think it's spreading."
By the time they land on Coruscant, Leia's pacing back and forth, which does nothing to quell Finn's anxieties.
And then the Falcon swoops in, followed by dozens and dozens of X-wings. Finn sees Jess Pava emerge, and the Resistance tower erupts in cheers.
Luke bounds off first, followed by Chewie and a sullen, restrained General Hux, and Poe.
"Poe!" Finn runs to him, and in front of every member of the Resistance, everyone covered in sweat and grime and the metallic smell of battle permeating the air, Poe kisses him.
"I heard what you did," Poe gasps out. "That's—you're incredible, you know that, Finn?"
"People keep telling me that," Finn mutters, stomach flip-flopping. He doesn't like tis creeping feeling of praise, so he grabs Poe and plants his lips against his again.
"Yeah, and there's a reason for it," Poe says as he pulls back. Finn shrugs, but he can't wipe the smile off his face.
"Hux?" he asks.
"Our prisoner. For now. Phasma appears to have fled with some other officers, after Luke chopped off her hand." Poe sighs.
"We didn't actually bomb anything," Poe admits. "Ben killed him."
"Good for him."
"Eh…" Poe hesitates and glances towards Leia, where Finn sees Rey and Ben, with his head hung, conversing with Luke. "I think it wasn't as Jedi-like as we would have preferred."
"Still," Finn says. "It's a start."
"And the stormtroopers? Former stormtroopers?" Poe questions.
Finn relays the story. "I need to go back to them, give them some options, some direction."
"We might need them to square off against the First Order," Poe says. "Their choice, of course. But if any of them did want to…"
"I agree," Finn says.
Poe slings his arm around Finn as BB-8 rolls up to them, squeaking.
"Buddy!" Poe drops to his knees. "Missed you too."
"If I go," Finn says suddenly. "Will you come with me?"
"Me?" Poe's eyes widen.
"Well, if Leia thinks it's a good idea. The thing is, most of these men and women—they haven't seen a good example of, you know, relationships. Even friendships. It might be good to show them that—not to manipulate them, but to just show them, let them see and make up their own minds."
"I'd be honored," Poe tells him. "I'm sure they'll be working on setting up a new New Republic, and politics really isn't my thing. I had my share of that once." He grimaces at the memory. "Too much bullshit to wade through."
"I would say there's still work to be done. With the former stormtroopers, and with spreading the message that Snoke's gone, and such," Finn tells Poe. "Phasma can't lead them forever."
Poe pauses, a slow grin starts to spread across his face as he nods. "We're gonna do this."
Finn almost laughs. "Yeah?"
"I'm sorry," Ben says to his mother.
"Ben, sweetheart, I'm not mad at you," she tells him, clutching the sides of his face.
He shakes his head. "It wasn't right."
"It wasn't," she says, her eyes searching his like she did when he was a child and she must have been worried, so worried, about Snoke, and he kept their secret like Snoke told him, because she wouldn't like their conversations. Or so Snoke said.
Maybe he could have told her.
Maybe he can tell her. And maybe, she'll still love him.
She's holding him, and she knows what he's done, what he's capable of, and she's holding him and loving him and believing in him in spite of all of that.
If that's not enough to push Ben to search for the Light as zealously as he searched for the map to his uncle once, he doesn't know what could be. His mother's acceptance, his uncle's forgiveness, Rey's love—they call to him, softer than the Darkness did, but there's something driving him towards it too. He loves his mother. He loves Rey. He loves his uncle.
If you focus on that, he hears Rey's voice. If we both do, maybe that will help us choose the Light. If we focus on the people around us who love us, on each other, instead of the ones who abandoned me or who manipulated you.
Ben pulls away from his mother and meets Rey's gaze. He nods.
"I suppose I'll go back to my cell," Ben says aloud.
"For now," Mother agrees. She brushes the hair back from his forehead, and he manages to smile at her.
Rey follows him into his cell and takes a seat next to him. He takes her hand, stroking the bones leading up to her fingers.
"A lot more people are going to die," he says, thinking of Phasma right now, rallying what she can. He thinks of Hux, in another cell, and finds his distaste for the man has softened into a kind of pity.
"I know." Rey sighs. "A lot of stormtroopers did die. But it was their choice. They died doing what they wanted to do, fighting for something that they wanted to fight for, at last. "
It's different, Ben thinks. To choose. Still awful, still cruel, but some things are more important than life. Like Rey.
And like he was for his father.
"Don't be afraid," Rey says softly, pressing her palm against his chest.
He kisses her once, slowly, and pulls back. She guides him down on the cot, rumpled and stiff under his back. She lies down next to him, and he runs his fingers through her hair.
"I love you, Rey," he whispers, because there's nothing else he'd rather say right now.
"I know." She blinks. "I love you."
"I know." And he does. He doesn't understand it, but he knows. He knows through her words and the way she's looking at him, the way she came for him when he was a prisoner, the way she's forgiven him even though he doesn't deserve it. Their bond is really only extra.
"No reading my mind right now," she snaps, eyes twinkling.
"It's involuntary," he protests.
"Kind of," she acquiesces, and then she shifts closer, pulling off his shirt. "Someday maybe we won't be in this cell," she jokes.
"I'm not sure I would count on that."
Rey sighs and takes his cheek in her hand, tracing his scar. "I would." She doesn't know why and she doesn't know how, but she hopes.
A slight smile tugs at his lips, and he dives forward to kiss her. He holds her, still afraid that he'll lose her eventually, and yet those voices are quieter now, because she's here, she's under him, and she plants her mouth against his chest. He groans.
From the moment he heard about a girl, the Force whispered to him, and he didn't know why, but everything flipped and the Light exploded in him. And then when he saw her on Takodana... when he realized she wanted to kill him and felt a tremor of fear, felt compassion surging... when she tore apart his defenses on the Starkiller... when he realized who she was...
Rey arches and moans, her fingers digging into his skin. He doesn't care if she leaves marks, but he doubts she will. But she has left a mark, more glaring than the scar on his face.
He groans first, and then Rey. He lies beside her, and she presses her cheek against his shoulder. Ben's eyelids drift shut, and he falls asleep with Rey by his side and wakes up hours later to her still beside him, snorting softly.
He kisses her on the forehead to wake her up.
"Well, it seems like they trust you again," quips Poe as he sits with Leia.
"Indeed," sighs C-3PO. "About time, too."
R2 and BB-8 bleep.
"Well," Leia says. "That's good. Because we have word as to what Phasma is up to."
"She and the surviving Knights of Ren are trying to get an alliance with King Prana."
"Have you contacted her about Hux yet?"
"We're trying." Leia starts to smile. "But I think we have a better plan."
"What's that?" Finn asks skeptically.
"We'll bargain with Prana and get him to come to our side instead," Leia says. "His forces, combined with ours, with or without any new recuits, should be enough to take them down."
"Please tell me you're not handing anyone over to that nutjob," Poe says.
Leia laughs. "Don't worry, Dameron. No, I was thinking a trade. He likes wild animals, or so I have good intel that alludes to that." She winks at Finn.
Finn gapes. "If you're talking about rathtars—"
"Not hardly. But Chewie knows his list of rare creatures, and has offered to pay him a visit—with Maz—and make our offer. If Prana accepts our offer, he'll go on a mission—"
"I'm going with Finn," says Poe. "To help the stormtroopers—former stormtroopers. I can't—"
"I'm not asking you to."
"She's not," confirms Luke. "I'll be going."
"You?" Poe's jaw drops.
"I think Han would be proud," Leia says, smiling at her brother.
"And you trust him not to disappear again?" Poe asks, half-joking.
"I have a better idea," Luke says. "Put in my brain by Maz, of course." He nods at the small orange alien, cackling over something with Jess Pava and Snap Wexley. "I think it might call for smuggling two other Jedi out of here. You know the rest—the politicians who've survived—will never let Ben go, and he's got too much to stay cooped up for long. And I'm also going to track down an old friend of ours. Lando Calrissian. He might be more than willing to help us."
"Well," Poe says slowly. "If Ben and Rey are for it, so am I."
Finn nods, studying Leia, her mouth, her eyes for signs of twitches. "Are you okay with that?"
"I'll know he's okay," Leia says. "And it won't be the same as before."
"How do you know?" Poe presses.
"Because," Leia says. "He has Rey, and he has Han's memory."
"Thank you, Rey," Leia whispers as she hangs a medal hastily forged by some smith in Coruscant around Rey's neck, and Rey turns to smile at Finn, at Poe, at Luke, all standing around her.
"Thank you," Rey whispers to the woman who's become like a mother to her.
For years when she lay in that fallen AT-AT she called home, she worried it would be too late when her family found her. She grieved for all the years she knew were gone, but clutched the hope that there would be love in her future. She would think of an ocean to calm her racing heart.
The Force knew. The Force guided her to that ocean, to that island, to Luke and to Ben and to Leia and Finn. Her family even if not by blood. Rey smiles.
"So," Luke says as Ben joins them.
Rey traces the medal around her neck, still amazed. Ben deserves one, too. But the Resistance would never stand for it. She sighs. "Yeah?"
"I've been thinking a lot about what you've said, Ben," Luke says.
"What did I say?" Ben asks, smirking as he wraps his arm around Rey, his eyes shining with pride.
"About Snoke wanting you to use the Light and the Dark."
"Oh." Ben grimaces. "Yeah. It tore me apart."
"Well, he may not have been entirely wrong," Luke confesses.
"What?" Rey demands, her heart skipping.
"At the Jedi temple… there's a lot of lore about grey Jedi. They used both the passion of the Dark and the love and hope of the Light."
"I don't think I'm strong enough to even try that," Ben admits.
Hey, you're being brave, Rey thinks.
He kisses her over her ear.
"I don't know that either of you are," Luke says. "But I think it's worth gathering more information on. I think it's worth going back to Ahch-To for." Luke starts to laugh. "Before we have to track down all manners of wild animals."
"Are you proposing breaking me out?" Ben asks, eyebrows creasing.
"And becoming Jedi smugglers?" Rey adds.
"Temporarily." Luke holds up his hands. "No rathtars, and Chewie and R2 would join us. Your mother would join us as soon as she could," he tells Ben.
Rey looks at the man whom she wants to marry, the man she adores, flaws and all. Because he sees her, flawed and still scared at times, and soothes her fears like she soothes his. They stoke the Light in each other and choose not to follow the Dark.
"It'd make my father proud," Ben says with a snort. His eyes sparkle, and Rey starts to grin.
"Let's do it."
Let's return to the ocean of your dreams, she hears Ben telling her. It'll be nice to see it in person.
6 months later
"Hey hey hey!" Poe shouts into the transceiver. "How's it going?"
"Good. Prana was actually not as creepy as you'd think to Ben," Rey says. "Could be just that three Jedi was too much for him to handle, though. Plus Lando. He's kind of a badass."
"And Phasma?" Finn inquires.
"We think she'll surrender soon," Ben's voice comes through. "We hope."
"Leia says Hux is still miserable, but at least he's starting to talk a little more," puts in Poe.
"We're meeting up with her soon," Rey says. "Actually."
"Where?" Finn asks.
"Corellia," Ben answers, and Finn frowns.
"Han Solo's home planet," Poe whispers in Finn's ear, and Finn's heart lifts. You're going to be okay, Ben, aren't you?
"How's everything with you guys?" Rey asks.
"Making progress. Slow, but steady." Not that life working with freed stormtroopers hasn't been dangerous, because Finn's survived two assassination attempts and about eight drunk former stormtroopers with Poe's help.
But it's worth it. Akka joined them two months ago, with Jess. They're making progress, and every day, Finn reassures himself he's doing the right thing, and when he doubts himself, Poe reminds him.
"Hey," Poe says. "Can we get in on that reunion? It's been too long since we've seen you two, and we don't even know what you found on Ahch-To."
"It's more like what we're finding," Ben says. "Lots of old lore and such… it's fascinating."
"Yeah, yeah," Poe says. "So…?"
"Of course! We'd love to see you," Rey says.
"Is there going to be a wedding on Corellia?' Finn asks, suspicious. Poe's eyes light up.
"Why, are you getting married?" Rey teases.
"We'll see," Finn retorts.
"We'll see, too," Ben echoes.
"So," Finn says to Poe after they hang up. "Our Jedi buddies are doing all right."
"Yup." Poe smiles.
"Thank you," Finn says.
"For what?" Poe blinks.
"Seeing me as I am, and—all that's happened the past few months—none of it would have happened if you hadn't—if—"
"Hey," Poe says, taking Finn's hand and peering into his eyes. "We need each other. People need each other. Ben and Rey and Leia and Han and us, we need each other, and people like Luke and Lando need others, too. It's the only way we're ever going to keep peace. Through being close to each other, and ambassadors and senators getting to know each other as more than just senators and ambassadors."
"How likely do you think that is to happen?" Finn questions.
Poe winces. "It's worth a shot, even if we're the only ones doing it."
We can create our own peace in the middle of it all, Finn thinks. And we can always, always hope.
Because the galaxy's better with all of us in it.
He pulls Poe to him and kisses him. "You're incredible."
"So I've been told," Poe jokes.
The First Order told him attachments, empathy, love were foolish. History tells them that peace will be fleeting.
To Finn, those things are worth it anyways.
Thank you to all for reading!