They died when you were two and a half years old — a specific number you were quite proud of at the time. Illness and famine were plaguing your clan; situated on the coast of the Great Acid Sea of Iridonia, your small, fifty-family clan was suffering a disease spread through the creatures usually caught from the shores. With your primary source of food inedible, your clan had to rely on what meagre finds your hunters and gatherers could procure.
Even then, the soil wasn’t good for growing, nor was the perpetual twilight that shrouded this side of the equator. Any animals that lived in these parts were small and scrawny, as no larger animals dared venture too close to the acidic shores, fearful and knowing of the monstrous amphibians lurking within. Even repulsor fields couldn’t correct millions of years of genetic coding.
The council of Elders began rationing food to families as they saw fit, and there arose arguing, infighting, and distrust. Fights broke out in the streets on a daily basis over scraps of food, or the suspicion that one family had more food than another did. Your parents did what they could to keep the peace in your neighborhood, but eventually the disease turned into an epidemic and there was no way to ensure order. People were dying left and right. The plague took half of the Elders overnight and soon the entire clan descended into chaos.
People began to point fingers, fear took the place of common sense, and the will to survive that made the Zabrak people so strong turned into a deadly force. Single-minded survivalists raided homes for food and medical supplies. They killed those suspected to have the disease in attempts to prevent its spread. Eventually, things became so desolate and desperate that other neighboring clans began to interfere. Those same survivalists took this as a declaration of war and began slaughtering any non-clan member who came within a few miles of the village.
At the peak of these proceedings, your family decided to pack their things and leave. They didn’t even get as far as the village gates; a group of thugs appeared, slew them, and took everything of worth to them. You were left in the square, alone and afraid, with the bodies of your parents. You don’t remember much of what they looked like. Perhaps a flash of your mother’s hair, splayed over the pavement, mixed with the blood flowing from her head. The shape of your father’s horns, which caused his already-broken neck to twist at an upsetting angle.
You don’t remember much of your parents.
Luckily, your aunt and uncle from an off-world colony caught wind of the situation. They hurried back as quickly as they could, fought tooth and nail past the insurgents, and found you wandering the streets, shaking and practically dead to the world. They took you with them, away from the fighting, death, and disease. Away from your home and your parents. Your new home was with them, they said, but you could never seem to grasp the concept.
They took you with them back to their colony, which you eventually learned was actually the base of an underground force simply called the Resistance. After about a month or so of mental evaluations and psych tests, the Psytechs finally released from the medical ward, deemed healthy enough to socialize. It was there you spent most of your formative years, learning how to interact with people and how your presence affected others.
Mostly the children avoided you, because you were stern and quiet and kept to yourself. It was hard making friends with them when they thought your horns were weird and your lack of eyebrows and eyelashes unnatural. You didn’t know what their parents were teaching them, if anything, but their opinions were less than educated. They were children, of course, so they didn’t know any better. They didn’t have their own opinions — they merely repeated the opinions of those around them. So, you put up with their teasing and tried your best to be civil with them, as your aunt and uncle asked of you.
One day, however, a particular child went against the norm of his peers and approached you. He stuck out his small, five-year-old hand and gave you his name. Poe Dameron. Though cautious, you gave him your own. He didn’t push you to play with him when you refused, merely left you with an open invitation and a smile. Later, when the other kids found out about his befriending you, they teased and mocked him. They ran him off in tears.
You confronted them immediately, threatening to punch them in the nose if they ever bothered him again. They didn’t believe you and continued poking fun at both you and Poe. But you were used to their insults and so you punched the nearest one in the nose. Their face immediately exploded with blood and they all ran away, screaming. They didn’t bothered you or Poe again.
As your aunt and uncle scolded you that night, you promised yourself that Poe would never find out. He was too kind. He’d hate you if he knew. So, you made sure he never found out.
A few years later, when you were five and Poe was eight, he began taking flight lessons. You were too young to join him, but he told you all about the things he learned in class and showed you his datapads and texts on the subject. Though the thought of spaceflight amazed you, you found it hard to hold as much interest as your friend. He could hardly breathe without telling you some other great fact about spacecraft or the like, possibly stemming from his idolization of his own pilot mother.
Since his classes often distracted him, Poe had less and less time for you, which meant you plated by yourself more often than not. Eventually, your aunt and uncle enrolled you in a martial arts program held for agents of the Resistance to keep you busy. It wasn’t as if they intended you to join their cause and fight for it in the future — although that’s what most Resistance-born babies did. Children on Iridonia began learning some type of fighting skill around the same age, honing their bodies to match the mental strength most Zabrak possess. Therefore, it was more of a tradition than a preparation for the future, and you found yourself enjoying it.
You were a diligent student, of course, and learned things much faster than your older counterparts did. This advantage could be contributed in equal parts to your indomitable spirit and the fact that your young body was more malleable, but most were just excuses the adults exclaimed when you tossed them onto their backs. They grumbled and tried to play your talent off as beginner’s luck, but even as the class advanced to moves that are more difficult, they never once bested you in a spar. Aunt and Uncle were proud as could be, seeing their niece growing and adapting the way a true Iridonian Zabrak would.
One day, after your class, you met with Poe outside in the grassy field where the kids usually played. He recalled all that he could from his flight lessons — which, to be honest, was pretty much the entire lecture — and then you shared what things you’d learned, as well. Martial arts weren’t as jargon-heavy or knowledge-based as flight school, however, so your part in the conversation was short. Despite that, Poe looked as if he couldn’t be more interested in what you had to say. He stood up once you finished, holding out his hand to help you to your feet.
“Why don’t you give me a demonstration?” he said.
You smiled at him, the only smiles you were really handing out those days. “Okay. Sure.”
Then you proceeded to throw him onto his back. He wheezed, the toss having forced the air out of his lungs, and you stood over him and apologized. The older boy waved his hand and got up; assuring you that he was just testing you. The second time, he promised, he would show his true strength. Poe looked so determined and so sure that he would win. His fierce, unwavering fortitude touched you deep in your independent, little soul.
The second time, you let him win. You decided, as you lay there staring up into his grinning, reddened face that he would never know.
When you were twelve and Poe fifteen, you realized you’d developed a bit of a crush on him. He was kind — still is — and handsome — still is — and your best friend — still is. There was hardly any question on whether or not you fancied him. Even so, it hardly seemed appropriate for someone of your stoicism and dourness to display such emotions freely; you’d be made fun of from one end of the galaxy to the next.
Not to mention the possibility of Poe not liking you back. If he didn’t have the same feelings for you as you did for him, then surely your friendship would fall apart. He’d feel awkward and probably a bit guilty that he didn’t return your crush, which might lead to an even worse outcome; a pity date. The thought of that alone was enough to make you outwardly flinch and want to smack yourself for even considering having feelings for him. However, it’s not as if you could have helped it. Crushes were crushes, love was love — there wasn’t exactly a way to control that. Still isn’t.
So, you kept your adoration to yourself, which made it all the harder to be around the affectionate young man. Poe was quite the touchy-feely kind of guy. He’d hug you even if he barely knew you, or wrap an arm around your shoulders as he strolled with you down the hall. It was difficult not to show your absolute elation when he grabbed your hand while excitedly dragging you toward the tarmac, eager for you to watch his first takeoff.
Watch you did, with one heart in your throat and the other your stomach, still thinking about the feel of his hand in yours, but also fearing for his life as any sane person would. Yet, the moment he took his seat in the cockpit, it was obvious that was where he belonged. He was flipping switches and pressing buttons in rapid succession and, though you vaguely knew the process through his many years of explanation, you were positive you’d be completely lost in the sea of controls.
His first takeoff was smooth and beautiful and, if you didn’t know any better, you’d say a seasoned professional performed it. Poe went the extra mile, circling around the tarmac once or twice and executed a few stylish rolls. Needless to say, you were impressed, as were the other flight students beholding the spectacle with you. They all cheered and, spurred by your friend’s success, you called out his name, too, waving your arms in hopes that he’d see your show of support. Though he was flying too fast to be sure, you thought you saw him wave at you while he pulled around for his landing. He could have been waving at everyone for all you knew, but you liked to pretend it was especially for you.
When he finished his first ever flight, he practically burst from the cockpit, laughing and yelling, telling his flight school friends how awesome it was. You stood at the back of the crowd, sending him that smile reserved solely for him, and laughed when his eyes finally connected with yours. The young pilot jumped from the ladder of the X-wing and dashed through the crowd. He threw his arms over your shoulders and squeezed you into his chest. Startled, you returned the gesture as effectively as you could in your baffled state.
He smelled like, well, he smelled like Poe. Engine oil, fuel, and a just a hint of some mystery spice. You decided at that moment that you could die happy. You also decided that he would never know you just thought that. Nobody would.
Seven years later, you were nineteen, Poe was just shy of twenty-one, and you were sneaking out of the base. Poe invited you out with a few of his friends from flight school, saying that some of them managed to get their hands on some alcohol and that they were all going to share it in celebration of his birthday. It wasn’t much like you to participate in such revelry, but Poe had given you that look with those big eyes of his and you couldn’t refuse.
The two of you slinked past the guards on night patrols, hiding in the shadows from the spotlights set across the runway, and slipped into an unused hangar mostly undetected. Poe’s friends were there already, dance music thumping softly from someone’s portable speaker playing as loud as they dared. They cheered at his entrance, though their mirth cut short when you followed him through the door.
You weren’t exactly popular, even seventeen years later. If anything, you’d grown less popular as time went on. They weren’t as xenophobic toward you as they’d been in the past, but they found new ways to isolate you from their group. Excuses that had nothing to do with your species, yet still managed to exclude you from every activity imaginable. Too boring, too stiff, too mean looking, too silent, too creepy, too weird. You’d heard them all before. Immediately, you felt the uncomfortable urge to leave.
One of the other pilots pulled Poe aside. With your finely tuned hearing, you could still make out most of what they were saying.
“…d I could invite anyone,” Poe said, confused.
The other whispered something exasperatedly, “…but I didn’t think you’d invite the Zabrak.”
You nearly rolled your eyes. The pilot spat the word as if it were poison on his tongue. You liked to think those in the Resistance were all open-minded and most were. This particular group, though, had some sort of vendetta against you. They never acted this way towards your aunt and uncle. Probably because you punched that one kid in the face all those years ago. Yeah, their nose never did heal right….
Quickly tiring of the suffocating atmosphere, you announced your departure, turned on your heel, and left without gauging the others’ reactions. You didn’t care if Poe followed or not; he didn’t have an obligation to be your friend any more than those other people did, and you wouldn’t hold it against him. Folding your arms stubbornly across your chest, you trudged across the cold, windy fields, pretending the breeze caused the tears trailing down your cheeks as you wipe them away.
You’re almost back to the base when footsteps approach and a hand clamps down on your shoulder. Your automatic reaction is to grab their arm and twist it behind their back, rendering them immobile them while you went for whatever constituted as a head. A quick look over your shoulder proved that it was only Poe, and you relaxed. He held a finger up to his lips, raising his other hand to reveal the alcohol his friends planned to share. A grin spread across your face as he told you how he shamed them for their behavior of you and took the drink as reprimand. No one had stopped him as he left to follow you.
Laughing softly and shaking your head, you suggested that the two of you drink inside. Though the stars were lovely, it was rather chilly and you weren’t quite hoping to develop a cold. The two of you sneaked back to your room, where you laughed, drank, and sang into the wee hours of the morning. At some point, he fell asleep on your shoulder as the two of you sat on your bed, propped up against the wall. His hair fell in his face, soft with sleep, and you couldn’t help but lean down and plant a small kiss on his forehead.
Six years later, you were drunk again, having celebrated your near-death experience at the hands of the First Order. The scouting team surprised your own as you combed through a dense, jungle planet on the outskirts of the Ahakista system, searching for a group of force-sensitive natives rumored to live there. While they weren’t in any immediate danger, the Resistance knew it was only a matter of time before the First Order descended upon and killed them. So, as per usual, General Organa sent you to seek them out and offer protection. A group of Stormtroopers intercepted your search party, and you barely defeated them by the skin of your teeth. You brought back those whom were still alive for questioning, and then went straight to Poe.
You told him of how your mission went, how a shot from one of their blasters almost tore through your chest, and how clumsy you were and how you almost died. You cried. He procured some swill from who-knows-where. You both got drunk.
Somehow, things ended up with you kissing him, and he kissing you. Fortunately, you found enough presence of mind to stop before things escalated. Poe then promptly fell asleep and you tucked him safely into bed, stumbling your way back to your own room.
He didn’t remember anything the next morning, and you made sure he never knew.
Now, four years later, you wonder if Poe really knows the true you. Well, no, of course he does; most of your secrets only have to do with you being an idiot. It’s not as if you’re hiding some horrible facet of your personality. He already knows how much of an ass you can be when you’re irritated, or how to push your buttons just so he can take joy out of seeing you angry. He knows exactly what to say to get your hearts racing, exactly what joke to crack to make you laugh, and he knows — oh, how he knows — that you don’t like to dance.
Yet, he still stands there, one hand held out invitingly; eyebrow raised imploringly, mouth twisting into a devilishly handsome smile. Yes, he knows exactly how to twist you around his little finger. You drop your hand into his, rolling your eyes with a small smile at his antics. Poe spins you around the dance-floor and you do the same for him, having more fun than you can ever remember having. Because he’s here, alive and whole, and he came back to you just as he promised. You both went up against all odds, against the First Order, against death. And you won.
Eventually, the two of you tire and you stumble over to the nearest table, breathlessly laughing. He reaches across the table to grab your hands, eyes shining with happiness. You glance away shyly, eyes landing on the door as another pair of partygoers enter the room.
“Let’s take a walk,” you shout over the music. “It’s kind of stuffy in here.”
Not to mention the darkness outside will make it harder for him to notice how nervous you are. He agrees, and the two of you head out. It’s breezy and warm, a pleasantly neutral temperature that reminds you of your first few years on Iridonia. That life seems so far away now, so disconnected with who you are in the present. You were born there, yes, but you grew up here, on this planet, with these people, with Poe. Glancing over at him, you can only wonder at how easily your thoughts always return to him. Noticing your gaze, Poe grins, wrapping an arm around you and pulling you into his side.
“See something you like?” he inquires, mouth tilting in a smirk you don’t need adequate lighting to see.
Huffing at his playful flirting, you reply, “Hardly.”
“Oh? That’s too bad.” He draws closer, until his nose nudges the shell of your ear, and you have to strangle the urge to lean away. “Because I see something I like.”
Heat floods your cheeks, but you strive not to give in to his teasing this time. Instead, you clear your throat. “Oh, yeah? Like what?”
Surprised — usually you’d push him away and scold him by this point — Poe comes to a stop, facing you without a change in proximity, hands running gently down your arms. Goosebumps rise where his fingers brush bare skin and you absolutely refuse to make eye contact. Laughing slightly, he speaks.
“Well, I see…beautiful skin.” His fingers move slowly, sweetly over your shoulders, up the column of your neck, stopping when they trace the outline of your face. “Quite the striking jawline. Cheekbones fit for the gods.”
He sweeps his fingers upwards, lightly dancing across your cheeks. Surely, he can feel the accumulating there, even if he can’t see it. Poe’s hands travel higher still, whispering over the edges of each horn atop your head.
“A set of perfectly loveable horns. This one’s my favorite,” he says, lightly tapping the protrusion centered just so on your forehead. You let out a chuckle at this, the first sound you’ve made since he began his ministrations. Encouraged, Poe continues, running his hands over the crown of your head to back of your skull and the small ponytail gathered there. “And have I ever told you how much I like how you do your hair? Very attractive.”
“Auntie tells me it makes me look intimidating,” you mutter in response.
Poe keeps smiling. “And intimidating is hot.”
“You’re an embarrassment.”
“I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
His hands move onwards, twirling around your ears. “Adorable ears.” Then further in, trailing up your nose. “Pinch-able nose.” He does so, for good measure, causing you to growl and thump him on the shoulder. Poe laughs again, even as his fingertips begin tracing your brow bones, circling around your eyes — now captivated by his own — and his voice softens considerably. “Eyes that…say everything, with just one glance. That make me feel whole, safe. They make me wonder what I ever did to meet someone like you.”
Mouth dry, you barely manage to croak out his name. A finger ever-so-subtly tracing your bottom lip prevents you from continuing. His gaze is still glued to yours and you can’t think of anything to excuse yourself from this moment as you usually would; no clever justification, no important appointment, or family dinner. You’re not even sure if you want to think of one at this point. You’re so tired of running away from him, running away from your feelings. It’s about time you stood up and faced them. Swallowing thickly, you wait for Poe to continue, or do something other than stare at you like that.
Like you’re the only star in a vastly empty sky.
“Extremely…kissable…lips…,” he murmurs, face slowly approaching yours.
You practically launch yourself at him, effectively destroying the small distance between your mouths, unable to wait another second. He nearly tumbles backwards at the force of your kiss, but you know he expects nothing less of you. Poe regains his balance, wrapping his arms about you to anchor you in place. Blind hands fumble through his hair, grasping it and trying to pull him closer through space that no longer exists. Though there is hunger in the kiss you share, it is different from the kind that auntie warned you about when she first learned of your crush; it is the hunger of two people whom denied themselves this type of affection for years, the hunger of two souls wanting nothing more in that moment than the comfort of the other.
Truly, in this moment, you could die without any regrets. Not that you want to, per se, but if there weren’t a choice in the matter….
After what feels all at once like an eternity and not long enough, he pulls away, eyes shining with starlight. You lips feel much too light without his, as if they’re missing some important component. They move much too quickly now for you to stop.
“I love you,” you say brightly, with so much confidence that any lifeform — sentient or no — would be able to discern the truth of the statement.
Poe never stops grinning, even as he says, “I know.”
He smothers the “ass” you bite out in response with another kiss, and you can’t help but wonder if he truly did know all along. If he knew about your steadfast defense of him, your weakness to his determination, your crush that slowly blossomed into the unshakeable foundations of love. As he begins swaying with you beneath the night sky to the distant sound of music, you decide that, yes, he did.