*Imagine in sing-song tone: Happy birthday to me, happy birthday to me; I accept comments as birthday gifts, happy birthday to me.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Ferry to Balboa Island, February 10, 2018 (Rey's POV)
Rey Bridger sits impatiently in the ferry as the waves carry her, far too slowly in her opinion, towards the island where she's going to 'let the past die' as Kylo would call it. Quite frankly, Rey believes the sentence sounds hypocritical coming from the man who was incapable of looking at a building without yearning for architecture to abandon the sleek lines of minimalism the majority of skyscrapers have used since the 1990s but that was Kylo for you: eloquent with a flair for the dramatic but not necessarily applying pertinence into the equation. The young woman, dressed in high-waisted pants and a crisp linen shirt taps her old school pencil at the cover of a diary recently gifted to her by Finn Windu, her best friend and brother in every way save biology who gave her the journal as a symbolic stepping stone to 'the bright future you always deserved'. it's a lovely gesture but Rey has no idea what to write. Drowning out sorrows in paper seems so...retro flamboyant, the action more befitting of a hipster than the filthy street rat she's always been. And what she's always been is nothing- The memory of her beloved's words come quick into Rey's mind, the soft murmur of Luke's melodic voice caressing her as his blonde with a touch of gray beard sent tickles down her neckline. 'No one is nothing Rey, nobody is from nowhere', the older man had told her as his hands carefully arranged her mud-colored hair into a braid. With that brief display of affection he'd unknowingly thrown a battering ram into 'You come from nothing. You're nothing, but not to me.*' (If Rey's honest with herself that was the moment she started to fall in love with him....) And just like that she knows what to write.
- I once saw a back-note for a fitness program book that said 'Humble beginnings do exist, but to begin, you must be humble'. Truth is, I still don't know what the hell a quote like that was doing in a book telling folks that push-ups and cutting off processed wheat from the menu was vital because they're too fat but it stayed in my mind because I liked how it talked about beginnings. For most of my life I've heard and seen people look down at humble or strange origins, probably because my story; my name and nearly everything that defined me was both. Apart from Finn, everything in my life regarding past operated in extremes: It was either something I had to cover up, bury it so deep that not even I could find it or something I had to yearn for, repeat as many times as possible. It wasn't until I met Luke that I learned both options had been flawed all along. You can't just kill the past, sooner or later everything you try to bury escapes its tomb. That doesn't mean you can repeat the days gone by, in the end Lewis Carroll had the right of it.*
- Most people have a clear point on where their life started but I've never been too sure about my 'origin story'. Except for the undeniable certainty of me being an orphan in eyes of the state my identity's mostly a blur. I suppose you could say I began in the Nevada airport where a janitor named Lor San Tekka found me as a baby, wrapped in newspaper that did very little to protect my two-day old body from the flu I contracted from that garbage can where the old janitor nearly had a heart attack upon seeing a baby surrounded with trash. That's where I start according to federal law, a sick and unwanted baby who got dumped in a hospital and then in a State orphanage. If we go by Kylo Ren's point of view then you could say my life really began in December 14, 2011, on foster home number twenty-two. That was the day I met Finn and Kylo, the first time I saw my best friend and my then-future-husband was when Mrs. Tenzin presented me to the other six children who lived with her already. Kylo's ears went red when I caught him staring without permission at me as I changed in the evening, it was the first time anybody her age had taken interest in the ugly little scavenger that kept looking for good parts to fix up the house phone and other minor details that her 'parent' hadn't bothered to change so of course I said yes when he asked me out at my 13th birthday-
Rey stops writing about Kylo once she's read the last sentence out loud. Seeing the situation with an adult's gaze has caused her to shed a negative light on the memory, on a lot of memories really. Like at her 15th birthday when he'd crept up over the window and sneaked into her room without permission and stayed there until she came back from school. (She lost her virginity to him that night because Maul, Mrs. Tenzin's actual biological child had tried to rape her at the high school gym, only failing because Rey was carrying a taser she'd recovered and fixed from the trash. Afterwards Rey had wanted to ensure the cult-loving sociopath wouldn't be her first time. Rey didn't tell anyone about the incident, Finn was at science camp and she knew Mrs. Tenzin would never believe the gutter rat over her son.) Kylo had been 17 then and his stares of admiration had changed into something that frightened her at times but she'd told herself that was lingering paranoia from Maul.
It didn't take long for Rey to wonder if having sex with Kylo was a different kind of mistake, it was only his 'I promise to never leave you' served to reassured her things would go back to normal soon enough in those days. He got more possessive after that, started fights with any boy that wasn't Finn, who was openly homosexual since he was 14, and monitored all her outings from school activities though that last one stopped after Finn took a job as a teacher's assistant trying to save money for college. Kylo loosened up a little after that and their routine almost went back to it's previous state, sex being the largest change now that her boyfriend had discovered the 'pleasures of the flesh' as the good book and Father Yoda called it. Rey didn't understand what was so great about sex in high school, as far as she knew illicit groping in dark corners followed by Kylo thrusting on top so roughly she bit her lip to stop herself from begging him to quit it was far from pleasant. Her excuse for him had been that it must have felt nicer for the person on top...God, she was such a mess. Maybe she will take Mister Calrissian up on his offer for an abuse-recovery psychologist. Just because Kylo hadn't hit her until their 'relationship' was in shambles didn't mean that they went their separate ways without any bruises.
The ferry stops and Rey picks her small bag and diary, hoping that the fact most of her things fit into one small hand-me-down won't seem too pathetic as she steps out into the beach. The same beach that was used for a painting in Las Vegas, Las Vegas... Rey smiles, takes out the journal and rips out the whole page with descriptions of abandonment and melodramatic assholes who couldn't even fuck properly. She sits on her suitcase and crosses her knee to write the real prologue to her new diary.
- Dear diary, my name is Rey Bridger and there are three things you need about me if we're going to have a healthy, open companionship for the foreseeable future.
- My best friends are Finn Windu and his partner Poe Dameron, if something should happen to me and these men are in danger, whoever finds you is obligated to help them through whatever trouble they found themselves in.
- I once believed that love meant staying and that was all that mattered , I've since learned that love is layered and from here on I will never again surrender to an idea of love which leaves me bowing to another's wishes but will instead walk hand in hand with a man willing to accept me in all my glory and imperfection.
- My life really began in Las Vegas this January, with a seashore painting, a pretty dress and an indecent proposal arranged by two men with good hearts and three people with black tar for spirits.
Satisfied with her entry, Rey stands up and continues on the path that she unwittingly started the moment she (jokingly) suggested going to Las Vegas with Kylo...
*I have so many issues with this 'romantic' quote in TLJ. Telling someone they're only valuable around you is not 'cute' or 'heart-melting'. It's degrading, you're undermining the other person's value by over-blowing your own. Whatever Kylo Ren offered in that moment wasn't love: at best it was codependency, at worst it was psychologically (And perhaps in the future physically) abusive.
Lewis Carroll quote: It's no use going to yesterday because I was a different person then.
Hands out tin cup: comments please?????
Warning: this chapter has material of psychological abuse from a significant other so if you're triggered by this then perhaps you shouldn't read it.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Tonopah, Nevada, January 23, 2017 (Rey's POV)
She's cleaning the dirt from her husband's shoes off the table when the doorbell rings to tell her Finn's arrived. (God, she hates that habit!!) Rey checks her wristwatch, she was sure the time couldn't have flown that quickly. Her calculations this morning said that she'd have more than enough time to leave the house spotless. The small arrows in her clock prove her math right since Finn was due at 2:15 and the wristwatch shows it's barely 1 pm in the afternoon. Her best friend must've missed her more than he said he did over the phone. Miss Bridger can relate, she misses Finn when he walks away from here in ways no written language can pronounce. Smiling, Rey figures the dirt is a minor priority now that Finn's here and rushes over to open the door.
"Hi Finn, how was your honeymoon with Poe?"
"Great, everything about Poe is.. wonderful. The only thing I hate about my husband is the fact he highlights how un-wonderful yours is."
Please God not again..."Finn...Do we really need to have this conversation right now? Can't you just tell me about your romantic road-trip?"
"Gladly, when I can rest in peace knowing you're with someone that treats you right and doesn't micro-control every aspect of your life or at least happily single."
The current debate is an old one, spanning years and road mileage and God-alone-knows-how-many-tears shed on both sides. In ninety-nine percent of all decisions Finn has stood by her choice, held her hand throughout the storm along with the sunshine. You want to sneak out past curfew and work at the gay bar to buy a 300 dollar dress for Prom?: I'll cover for you. You want to take advanced trigonometry as your free elective?: Guess I need to start studying. You want to pick the fridge's lock to eat the Cherry Garcia Ice Cream Mrs Tenzin hoards for her precious baby Maul?: totally worth it, I'll go get some spoons. YOU WANT TO MARRY KYLO REN?!?: DID YOU LOSE YOUR COMMON SENSE BEFORE OR AFTER YOUR VIRGINITY?!? Following the scream over the phone that almost shattered her eardrums, Finn flew all the way from Maryland to Nevada and begged her to call the whole thing off. 'He doesn't love you!!! Kylo can't love you!!! He'll never love you!!!' Finn yelled, his usually calm and smooth voice turned hoarse from all the screeching. Rey's not proud of how she quipped back "What do you know of love?' and left him crying as she entered the State Courthouse. (Kylo hadn't wanted to marry at a Church, despite the fact Rey was an Active Catholic and wanted Father Yoda to marry her since she was twelve. He said that religion was comfort food for the weak and childish, a God-fearing matrimony was unacceptable for two people whose strength was undoubted.)
For obvious reasons Kylo didn't like Finn's reaction to their wedding, he went as far as to label him a traitor and forbid his entry into whatever house he and Rey lived in. That's why all their meetings have to take place when her husband's at work and why she couldn't be present when Finn wed Poe, though she did manage to attend the rehearsal dinner and send the happy couple a gift. Finn's husband said there were no hard feelings, joking that his army uncles were so loud he might not have noticed her or anything but their crazy shenanigans until the ceremony was almost over. Rey's brief meetings with Poe have told her that he's a lovable rogue, devastatingly charming yet sincere in his desire to make the world a better place. If he weren't gay then Rey would have an enormous crush on him.
The young lady forces herself to stop daydreaming before she starts pondering about Finn and Poe's seemingly permanent state of lovey-doveyness happiness. There are bigger concerns right now than asking Kylo to stand instinctively from the couch whenever she enters the room. At the rate their bills are piling up they'll be lucky if the bank doesn't leave them without a single piece of furniture.
Rey and her husband had taken a loan for him to build a house, it was his dream house. At the time the young couple thought the slight recuperation of real estate since the 2008 crisis would be enough to keep them afloat and pay the loan amount. In the beginning things were working out but when the market lowered in 2016 their choice proved to be a grave miscalculation, half a year of eating peanut butter sandwiches and bananas with Kylo working three jobs and Rey squirreling the money she earns on her job selling houses and a second job moonlighting as a nocturnal instructor for an adult citizenship class they're still one hundred and fifty thousand dollars short. (Her second job is her sole joy at times because this way she can prevent nice couples like Kanan and Hera Dume who were the best foster parents Rey ever had, from being deported like the Dumes were. Maybe the next little girl will be adopted if she helps efficiently.)
At 2:45 in the afternoon Rey gets a call from Kylo which informs them he's coming home for lunch, cutting Finn's visit dreadfully short. Her best friend stares intently at the young woman, daring her to challenge Kylo without vocalizing a sound. Honestly Finn why can't you ever play along? We used to pretend we liked things we hated all the time in foster care to prevent Mrs Tenzin locking us in the closet all night. Besides Kylo's not that bad, sure he has a horrible temper but he takes it out on the dishware or the garden. My foster parent Unkar Plutt used to take it on me, compared to that cleaning up broken glass every week is a godsend. Not everyone can have their own Poe Dameron, furthermore not everyone deserves a Poe Dameron. Finn might not have any blood relatives but the man knows where he came from, not only that: Finn has family to be proud of. His great uncle Mace Windu was a hero in the second world war that died in the Civil rights movement. His parents were pro-bono lawyers that got killed for defending a miner against United Oil Company. (Finn's parents wanted him, Rey's probably wanted her to die.) Being a Windu means Finn has a legacy, it means he's somebody outside this tiny house with a leaky roof. Rey- Rey is worth nothing, she's nobody. Twenty-two foster homes and several scars that make wearing a bikini impossible are proof that she's not suitable for anyone, so why is it wrong if she stays with the only man who ever chose her? Kylo is willing to overlook the fact she's ugly and broken and stupid so why shouldn't she overlook his tantrums?
Finn cleans his coffee mug before leaving and gives Rey a hug large enough to last until his next visit, which they both quietly hoped won't be too long. Exactly thirty-seven minutes after Finn has gone, Kylo enters the house. As usual he leaves his shoes on the coffee table, forcing her to rush over and clean the dirt off before it stains the mantle - Oh wait her tea's on the corner. She places it on a safe spot and proceeds to wipe the mud.
"You took so long, are you getting lazy?..I'm just joking."
"I know darling but I'm a bit tired from my night classes. Most of the students are doing well...."
Her husband pats her on the head like a child, the only response she's going to receive on that aspect. Wordlessly he places his hand under her shirt and touches the scars on her back in a way that probably wouldn't hurt if she had normal skin like most girls.
Hands out tin cup: Comments please???
The trip to Vegas, also Luke enters the picture.
Same location, January 24 of 2017, 2am (Rey's POV)
Rey wakes up with a startle as she's shaken by her husband in bed. Please don't say you want to have sex right now darling, I just want to sleep until 6 in the morning though I'll settle for 5:30. Small mercies become manifest as her husband starts dressing himself in day clothes instead of taking off his pajama pants and fumbling with her long sleeved, ankle-length nightgown that according to Kylo 'makes her look like a nun'. Oh, maybe he's found another job and wants to kiss her farewell before leaving!!! That would be so nice of him, she hopes he kisses her on the forehead cause in Rey's mind forehead kisses are very much underappreciated. But Kylo doesn't move towards her once he's dressed, he just picks up the keys to the car and takes his wallet. After a brief period of quiet he speaks.
"You know that silly idea you had at dinner about going to Las Vegas?"
Yes, I remember that joke, you told me not to worry my pretty little head over the finances and reassured that you'll take care of me. You kissed my cheek, you did the dishes and told me you love before we went to sleep and it made me happy. Please don't wreck that memory Kylo...."What about it?"
"I was thinking that you had a good idea. Maybe it could work- with a few tweaks of course."
The young woman doesn't hear anything after 'you had a good idea'. She's too overwhelmed over the fact he actually chose to follow her advice (albeit jokingly given advice but still advice) without her having to subtly persuade him to seek different alternatives using sex as an instrument for negotiation. Kylo's sitting on the bed to put on his shoes is the only thing that stops Rey from pinching herself to makes sure she's not dreaming.
"Are we really going to Las Vegas Kylo?"
"Sure, as long as you stop asking stupid questions."
She keeps her mouth shut all through the three hours and eleven minutes it takes to reach their destination.
Las Vegas, January 24, 2017, 6pm-8:45 pm
Rey and Kylo manage to turn their measly ten thousand dollars into thirty thousand on the first hour gambling, due in no small part to Rey's card-counting. Technically speaking, card-counting isn't illegal. It's just frowned upon by the casinos who don't like non-millionaires to walk away with large quantities of money on a regular basis. The worst they can do is frighten her into leaving. Rey whispers the amounts into Kylo's ear in a low cut dress that she's not comfortable with but serves it's purpose of distracting the other men from noticing what they're doing.
The couple retires to their rented room at 7pm in order to avoid suspicion and also because Kylo is slightly drunk which means it's best to place her husband in bed where he won't accidentally gamble away their winnings. Still, Rey can't help but feel giddy tonight because she received so much attention from Kylo after they reached seventy-five thousand dollars. He praised her intelligence and trailed kisses from her hand all the way up to her shoulders in front of everybody. Even better, when they entered the room he continued to ruffle her hair like he used to at middle School, before he knew about rucking up nightgowns around her hips and thrusting over and over and he didn't once mention having sex!!! He actually complied when she blurted out that she wanted to snuggle!!! Needless to say, when Kylo drifted off into sleep at 7:15 she was ecstatic.
At precisely 8:00pm at nighttime, Rey steps out of their room. She'd discarded the black dress with a plunging neckline worn earlier this evening in favor of a plain white t-shirt and cream overall pants that have pockets large enough to fit a Scottish terrier. Maybe she should like revealing dresses a little more but Rey figures Alice Paul* didn't get force-fed raw eggs with feces in prison so young women showed their cleavage to the masses like cows auctioned to butchers. Personally, Rey prefers dresses like the ones Audrey Hepburn and Grace Kelly use back in the old 50s movies.
Walking alone, she leaves the crappy hotel and walks over to the Planet Hollywood Resort and casino where they'd recently won in poker. Truthfully, Rey doesn't quite know what she's supposed to do with her time here. Finn has work tomorrow so she can't call him and Kylo hides the car keys in different locations every time so she can't drive anywhere else. Plus, if she goes to the tables and gambles again they might not admit her. She's not exactly the 'catch' the guards had preened over now in her garage sale sneakers and Kmart socks. Yep, definitely best to avoid the cvrowds at the poker tables until tomorrow but the guard at the resort store seems much friendlier. The stranger's action of waving when he sees Rey in her 'blue-dollar' glory convinces the young woman that this part of the building won't throw her out or ask if she's a homeless person at first glance.
The resort store can only described as beautiful, a scene straight out of a Golden Age MGM film. In this brief moment Rey lets herself forget that she's not supposed to be here, if they want to imitate Hollywood then so can she and everyone knows that good cinema prides itself on make-believe. In the corner near the cash register lies a basket of mint-chocolates, the type waiters give away at Olive Garden. Rey looks around all the corners before pocketing a handful of the candies in her right compartment, she chooses not take any more and thus prevent abusing the kindness of the guard who let her in. Maybe she should leave a dollar? Content with her treats nonetheless,she takes photos of the jewelry with her cellphone. There's so many exquisite pieces: natural pearl earrings decorated with silver, garnet bracelets, sapphire and rose quartz rings that sparkle just right under the glass cases. Elizabeth Taylor's ghost could easily have a shopping spree in this store. Once she's finished her photograph jewel splurge Rey goes further into the ladies's section to take pictures of the dresses and admire the paintings. There's one dress in particular that enamors her at first sight: a yellow gown with an extra layer of golden rosebud embossed print lace that goes from the illusion neckline to the knee length trim, a pattern that fits perfectly with the ruched lace ribbon decorating its bodice.
If not for the long-time ingrained need to hoard every penny then she'd buy this dress in a heartbeat, but Rey's far too conscious of her budget to spend *2,991 dollars with 30 cents on a piece of clothing that she has no practical use for. It's not like she ever goes out anyways but there's no harm in pretending right? Right. Under that train of thought Rey places the dress's hook under her neck and bows to an imaginary prince as she make-believe dances on the beach shown in the landscape painting she's standing next to.
Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino gift store, 8:45- 9:30 pm (Luke's POV)
Two hours after Han and Lando dragged him into this stupid gambler's 'paradise' Luke Skywalker is fighting the urge to have Chewie pick him up and drive him home. Mostly because he knows Chewbacca will rat him out to Han and Lando, Chewie has been a great friend throughout the twenty eight years they've known each other but Luke knows that Han Solo's bond with the giant outweighs his own. Siblings, be they adopted or biological, trump friend any time with minimum effort. Anyone who isn't aware of that after a lifetime with Leia Organa is probably not paying attention to his sister's actions or is just a complete schmuck. While Luke's not sure if he's a one hundred percent nimrod the man can't say that he fails at listening to Leia.
Anyone who stares at the middle aged gentleman will look at him, glance at his tailored Armani suit and silk handkerchief with envy in their eyes like the old woman that muttered 'lucky bastard' half an hour ago or wistfully desire to trade places like the young couple that bumped into him ten minutes earlier. Completely unaware that Luke Skywalker would trace places with the lovebirds in a heartbeat to hug his deceased wife or son again, for a single day with Ben and Mara he'd spend the rest of his life in a cardboard box.
By all accounts Luke supposes he's spent his life adequately if not well. Fifty-three years and he's left behind more than anybody not counting Anakin Skywalker or Benjamin Kenobi expected. The farmer with a head for math that turned into a War hero and uncovered a corrupt business deal that went all the way up to the Pentagon, the war hero who somehow convinced the CIA 'interrogation technique instructor' of Libanon (who turned out to be to his biological father) confess his crimes and save thousands of lives in the process. The man who saved thousands of lives in a foreign country but was powerless to do anything but weep and hold his teenage son once they confirmed his wife had died at 9/11. Losing Mara had altered him, the pain was constant and seventeen years later he still misses her but it wasn't crippling, not in a permanent state. The 'We regret to inform you' letter saying that his son died in the 2003 Battle of Karbala, that was different. That was the soul-crusher, the gaping wound that makes it hard on March 30 when Ben died and especially difficult to get out of bed on January 24 when he was born. Perhaps, he thinks, my life story makes for a good movie or play but the reality of it is far less entertaining.
If I didn't value Leia's opinion so much then I'd be resting at home with dad. I hate the fact she knows me well enough to calmly declare lighting birthday candles on a cake while leaving tears in the frosting isn't what Ben would have wanted to celebrate his birthday. That was a low blow.
By 2008 his family had thought it was time to move on, barring Dad they all seemed to think he wasn't allowed to mourn forever and in some cases even suggested that he begin a new relationship. It's nice of them to suggest the possibility but truthfully, Luke doesn't think that women are crazy to start dating a tired old geezer with a prosthetic leg who's still taking anti-depressant pills. Lando says that his money changes that grim conclusion but Luke doesn't want someone to date him because he has a net worth of billions. He doesn't want to date anyone at all, some days all he wants is to kneel for praying and die in the middle of it. The first year without Ben on his son's birthday Luke almost threw himself off the family manor's balcony, only stopping himself because his niece and nephew were outside teasing each other. When he told that to his psychologist Luke's sister and brother in law started sending him on trips around the date to distract him from the pain, always telling him to 'enjoy yourself' before sending him off with a hug to somewhere non-depressed people would definitely like.
If Han and Leia wanted him to have fun then anything other than Vegas would be preferable. God knows that after the 92 incident where he spent a night in jail for punching George P. Shultz* he generally avoids gambling centers as a rule. (No Leia I don't regret punching the asshole and I don't care about ruining the family name!!) Furthermore, Vegas as a whole represents the hypocritical laws of capitalist liberalism allowing two worlds coexist: people who need money and can't afford losing, and those who've got enough to lose one million a night without even caring. Maybe they're running out of ideas? If anything Vegas makes him angry...This was probably Lando's idea, the man always thinks that the best place to entertain yourself is a place that makes you angry enough to start a fight.
The sight of his war buddy/business partner/brother in all but biology enjoying himself until he saw Luke trying to control a sudden chronic pain burst all but confirmed that theory. Luke wishes Lando hadn't noticed so he could still be on the tables instead of worrying about him as he sits down on a chair in some gift store with a sales person Luke knows Lando would charm under normal circumstances. In this situation all Lando did was have her unfasten Luke's mechanical leg that his nephew Jacen used once for hitting a boy who teased his twin sister and baby cousin back in third grade. Back when they were all happy. God, that seems so long ago-
"Hey Luke? You gonna be all right?"
You deserve a better friend Lando, one who'll listen to you in times like this without having to fighf off the melancholy. "Yes, I'll be fine. Thanks for asking though."
"No offense to you Luke but back in Baghdad you said 'I'll be fine' and three minutes you keeled over from blood loss so I'm fetching a doctor. Damn cell phone's out of battery. You stay put until I come back hear me?"
"Lando, I'm on one leg and I have nowhere to go. What do you expect will happen?"
"With a normal guy: not much? With you? I stopped trying to figure out what'll happen ages ago. Stay put or I'll call Leia."
Luke mouths 'traitor' to the aged African-American man who smirks as he leaves Luke on a chair with a cane Jacen and Anakin bought him for laughs. Lando being Lando, decided the cane gave him an extra layer of swagger and brings it to pleasure trips like this one. Still, he supposes there's worse places to leave someone than on a golden-age decorated store. Luke still hasn't forgotten Janson's disastrous attempt for loosening him up by leaving him in a brothel. (Why is it so hard for people to comprehend that he's a demi-sexual? He can't imagine how awful it must be for the asexual community.) At 8:55 pm Luke decides that Lando is probably verifying his medical file as well so he represses a wince, fastens his fake leg on as best as his aching hands allow and wobbly searches for that seaside painting Leia told him about when she visited this resort in 2011.
When Luke Skywalker finds the beach landscape he's taken aback, not by the portrait but by the young woman next to it humming Rodgers and Hammerstein's 'Shall we Dance?' as she twirls around in a golden gown that highlights the rich brown tone of her braided hair. A carefree smile highlights her features as the lady pretends to be holding a man's waist while dancing, perfectly content to waltz on her own. She looks so bright and playful and sweet. I'd like to dance with her- Wait a second;what am I thinking? I should be ashamed of myself, this girl looks younger than Ben would be right now!! Feeling disgusted with himself Luke starts to walk away, trying not to spoil the girl's night with the sight of a dirty, middle-aged man leering intrusively at her innocent fun. He fails miserably at this when his fake leg decides to unfasten itself and sends him tumbling down the floor. I think this is karma, if this is what I get for daring to glimpse at an angel like her then what does Lando get for all his skirt-chasing? Oh wait, he's friends with the whole Skywalker-Solo family. That's punishment enough.
"Oh my goodness!! Are you hurt?"
The question comes from the hazel-eyed beauty that caught his attention. Luke mentally begs not to have Lando come back at this moment because the guy will look at the compassionate young woman that's currently touching his beard to check for wounds and mouth 'nice job' at him. Her palms are calloused but still gentle as they carefully examine his features, sliding down to his arms and wiping the dirt off his suit as she proclaims him 'perfect' once he tells her that he's not hurt in any way. Odd, his chronic pain is softer now. The lady smiles and just like that Luke knows that he has to remind himself somehow that he's not fit to catch a glimpse of this girl, this sublime ray of light made flesh and bone needs to realize she's throwing pearls to swine by aiding me.
"My lady, I don't mean to be rude but could you please help me with something?"
"Of course: what is it?"
"My prosthetic's loose. Could you please fasten it properly?"
She nods and the smile never leaves her face, though he thinks that it'll fade soon when he sees the ugly mess of scar tissue that covers his right leg as she lifts up his pants to tie plastic to kneecap. He waits for the pity or shock or disgust to visualize themselves over her angelic features because she's too young to understand what it means to live with freak's skin, instead he receives an emotion most people confuse with pity but seldom recognize the difference between it until they've endured their own great loss: empathy, unfeigned and unconcealed as she fixes the artificial limb and helps him stand. He only succeeds in restraining himself from holding the young woman's hand in a romantic fashion because he notices a wedding band on her finger. Of course she's married, I don't know why I didn't ask if someone was in love with her. The real question is how is the whole planet not falling over heels with this sun beam.
"Thanks for the help Mrs?..."
"Mrs Ren, but just call me Rey. Everyone else does." Rey, a perfect match for her however you spell it. She's either a king or a source of unmeasured power, carrying the potential for life and hope and dreams.
"Well, it's been nice meeting you Rey. I hope you enjoy the dress."
"You saw me? Oh how embarrassing.."
"On the contrary, all it did was prove you have good taste both musically and fashion-ally. I hope this doesn't stop you from buying it."
"I wasn't going to buy the dress, I can't afford it."
"That's too bad."
"Yeah, but it's no big deal."
"I really think you oughta have the dress. Let me buy it for you. Consider it a thank-you gift for sparing me time on the floor."
"Oh no, I couldn't possibly ask you to spend this much money on me Sir. Have you seen the price tag? Your wife will kill you if she finds out."
So that's what Wes and Hobbie meant when they told him wearing a wedding band as a widower so long could give people impressions you didn't necessarily want. Huh, it's not that bad. Luke calmly informs Rey that his wife died on 9/11. The young woman doesn't respond with the typical 'i'm sorry' but comments that he must have loved her very much to still wear his wedding ring. It's an accurate guess, he did love Mara, she was the other half of him. Luke hopes that Rey's husband loves her as much as he loved Mara. Perhaps if fate had proved a tad more generous then Rey would have married Ben. The middle-aged man's confident his son would have liked her and Luke would have liked having hazel-eyed grandchildren. Luke doesn't bother correcting the cashier when he exclaims 'I hope your wife enjoys the dress' (It'd be far too awkward to explain that two people with wedding rings and purchasing an item together aren't involved. Plus, he doesn't want the cashier to think badly of Rey after she's been nicer than what he deserves.) Rey doesn't pressure him to do so either. She just grins bashfully at him as he hands her the shopping bag and laughs when he bows at the sunbeam that mortals call Rey.
"Thank you for this. If you ever need a citizenship teacher or a real estate seller in Toponah-"
"If the need arises then I'll look you up on the phone book. I promise Rey." Stop giggling, you're not making it easier for me to forget you.
"Try Facebook or Twitter if the phone book doesn't work out for you. Nonetheless, it was nice meeting you too. Sure you don't want to tell me your name?"
"No, I'm staying a mystery by choice. Keeps life a little more interesting."
"Maybe for you. For me names are important, having a name means that at some in your life a person cared enough to call you something beyond 'brat' or 'Mister' or 'Miss'."
"In that case you can call me...Colonel Brandon*. A name just for you to mark the occasion we met."
"Have a good night Colonel. I'll be sure to remember you."
She waves at him with her free hand as he walks outside out of the store, still flashing the smile that leaves him feeling.....happy. Truly, genuinely happy and just not faking it so he doesn't burden everybody with the somber weight that he wears like a second skin. It's a sensation that's avoided him for so long that it almost feels completely foreign, like a box of chocolates that takes you by surprise but you enjoy nonetheless. If she wasn't married then Luke would be tempted to go back and ask if Rey would be interested in going to the movies or whatever it is folks do on dates nowadays. He believes that she'd be the type to actually ponder the idea and tell him the truth gently, instead of saying yes while internally muttering 'pathetic old man' or exclaiming disgust immediately but alas, twas not meant to be. Either way, Rey's given him something to like about Vegas. She gifted him a memory to enter in the worst parts of the day or week that's free of tragic undertones, a memory that doesn't end with him saying to himself 'Poor miserable bastard. You have no idea what you're in for'. He still feels happy, Luke hopes the feeling will last.
"You sly dog. I knew you still had it in you." Quote Marlin from Finding Nemo: the happy's gone.
"Lando...How long have you been watching?
"Long enough old friend. Long enough. So what's your next step? Candlelight Dinner? Dancing under the moonlight? Family visit where Han and Leia and your old man all fawn over-Say what is that exquisite lady's name?"
"Her name is Rey and my next step is nothing." Oh come on Lando, don't look at me like I killed a puppy
"NOTHING!!! Luke, I know you have a tendency for self-flagellation but don't you think this is taking it too far?"
"You're exaggerating. As usual your flair for the dramatic beats common sense."
"Am I? Luke, the way you looked at her...It was love at first sight. And you don't dare lie to me and say you'll forget this girl come morning. I know you too well for me to buy it."
Luke sighs. "Whatever I feel doesn't matter. Cupid sent me a married woman and I'm a lot of things but a home-wrecker isn't one of them.
Lando places a comforting hand on his shoulder, it helps to abate the melancholy that threatens to return at full swing as they begin to walk back to the suite. By what Luke decides to be God or Satan torturing him, the two men see Rey at the fountain near their destination. Luke stops walking before he's close enough for her to see him and drinks in what he thinks will be the last time he ever sees the young lady. It's a pretty good image to have as the final impression: she seems human yet ethereal as the lights reflected by the fountain cause her sun-burnt skin to shimmer, humble yet unmistakably queen-like as her feet sway back and forth in a pair of old sneakers that have left behind better days, timeless yet endearingly childish as she unwraps a small mint-chocolate and munches happily on her treat.
Once the image is well and truly engraved Luke walks the other way to prevent running into her again because he knows she'll be kind and understanding and it will only serve to taunt an old tattered soul even further. Lando doesn't talk after that, not even when they enter their room. His friend just watches as Luke's hand ghost over the silver framed photo of his last day with his son. In the photo Ben's in his Sergeant uniform, dashing and young and with no clue that's he's going to die in two weeks. He can almost hear Ben saying 'So dad, I'm third generation Army Dad, does this mean my kid will decide to do something different like Uncle Wedge?' Luke had laughed at the question, now it just reminds him that there will be no more Skywalkers.
"Happy birthday Ben. I really miss you and your mother. I wish you'd been the ones to bury me."
At 9:30 pm (much later than usual) Luke Skywalker kneels at his bedside, says his prayers and drifts off into sleep after his routine shower and cup of green tea that used to be hot chocolate back when he didn't have insomnia, hoping that this year he won't wake up from nightmares of Ben's corpse rising from the coffin and asks 'Why didn't you stop me from going to war?!?' like he usually does on this night but at the same time wanting the nightmare to come because when Ben's bloody arms grab him halfway through the ranting it's the closest thing he has to feeling his son's touch.
(Unbeknownst to Luke Skywalker the same hour he goes to sleep is also the hour Lando Calrissian emails Han Solo, telling him to catch a plane and head over to Las Vegas ASAP so they can figure out a plan to prevent their mutual best friend from giving up the first non-familial person that made him smile for the first time in over a decade.)
*Alice Paul was the founder of the NWP(National Women Party). She was a key figure in the fight for female suffrage. Alice Paul was arrested several times by British and American police.
*Every price in this fanfic has been consulted by inflation calculators to give the cost equivalent to 1993 economic standards.
*George P. Shultz: Secretary of State under Ronald Reagan, he approved the Salvadoran Civil War, supported Pinochet and later he helped formulate the Bush Doctrine of preemptive war.
*Colonel Brandon is a fictional character in Jane Austen's novel Sense and Sensibility. He's 35 (old in Victorian standards) and a former military officer who was stationed in India. His countenance is rather grim and sad, hiding his good heart to most who don't bother looking past the dull exterior. He falls in love with Marianne Dashwood at first sight, though the 18 year old Marianne considers him too dour and not nearly romantic enough to be suitable company at first she eventually falls in love with him and they marry to live happily ever after. He acts kindly, honorably, and graciously towards the Dashwood sisters throughout the novel.
Hands out tin cup: comments please???
Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino, January 25 of 2017, 10pm (Rey's POV)
It's over: they'll be lucky to keep their shirts on after Rey's Galactic-size screw up. How did it go so wrong?....Rey and Kylo had gone back to the casino like they'd agreed upon yesterday. By 6 pm their seventy-five thousand had accumulated into ninety-one thousand dollars. She wasn't wearing an uncomfortable dress this time, Kylo didn't want the men to get any ideas now that some people had seen her 'magic' at work. Rey kept counting cards and performing mental equations at the poker tables in an old cardigan sweater that prevented her from shivering half to death like she did last night. They were so close, just forty-nine grand more and their troubles were over. But as the old saying goes: houses built in sand have no strong foundations, they'll end in rubble. Rubble was what they got when Kylo placed their winnings on Red when she meekly told him to go on black, though she hadn't told him she was certain that it would arrive on black so how was he supposed to know?
It's all my fault that it went to hell, I should have known where the ball would land. I should have argued better and stopped our money from being lost....Kylo lets her softly weep into his shoulder and says that he forgives her when Rey tells him that it was her incompetence that made them lose. At least he wasn't angry; she's too upset to clean up properly after one of his tantrums. Not to mention that the security guards would throw them both if he started breaking things. She's ruined everything but just for now. Come midnight Rey has a plan to win back at least some of their winnings with the money she'll get from returning that lovely golden lace dress Colonel Brandon bought her. Truthfully, she'd wanted to see the man again but he was nowhere to be found today and Rey couldn't go around asking for another man with her husband near so she'd resigned herself to never seeing him more than once. Maybe the Colonel wasn't human, maybe he was an angel like Clarence from 'It's a Wonderful Life' that was sent to grant her the means to make amends for her mistake and earn his wings in the process. After all, no human male in their right mind would even consider calling her 'My lady' as a first choice or smile so gently at her when she did what anyone else could have done. If so Rey hopes the angel is flying merrily in heaven now, she has no doubt he deserves it.
Plan firmly set in her mind, Rey walks around the part of the Casino she hadn't bothered to enter before: the obscenely rich people's part where players are handed little gold chips worth ten thousand dollars apiece. Kylo stays closely behind her, she makes a mental note to put some sleeping drought in his pre-bedtime glass of water so she can carry out her endeavor without him finding out about the golden dress since it would only serve to make Kylo jealous and angel or not Rey is not going to let her husband hurt the (rather handsome) sad gentleman that held her hand like Robert Taylor did Marlene Dietrich's. He'd been nothing but kind, God knows that quality is all too rare in the world. Courtesy shouldn't be rewarded with a bloodied nose or a broken arm.
The crowd gathered around a game between ten or so players catches the young couple's attention. Curiosity piqued, Rey takes a closer look at the two players whom most people are circling. She sees a scruffy-looking Caucasian man that she guesses must be in his early sixties and an African American man roughly the same age, though the latter is dressed a bit more glamorously than his gambling companion. Kylo beats her into asking about the identities of the two gentlemen? Mafia bosses? Old money gay couple? Okay, Rey admits she has no clue who they are. Thankfully this new acquaintance provides them with the answer.
"That's Han Solo, guy next to him is Lando Calrissian. They're both damn billionaires and lucky in love to boot. Solo's happily married to the head of Organa Industries and Calrissian gets more pussy than you can shake a stick at."
Upon hearing those words Kylo stares at the man with murderous intent and tightens his grip on Rey's small hand as the stranger replies that he didn't mean to offend. The stranger tries to dissolve the situation by offering to gamble but Rey knows her husband won't consider that a decent apology, far from it actually. Kylo orders the gambler to take a walk with him and leaves Rey alone to deal with the man. Based on the fact that his fists are complacently open and the hell-fire inducing rage only extends at eye-level Rey figures that Kylo will probably walk away from the argument with some money instead of a bruise from being kicked out.
Once she's alone Rey leans in a little closer, feeling slightly confident that nothing bad will happen. The game continues without any major changes until Mister Calrissian catches a glimpse of something in her direction that causes him to lay down his chips and walk the short distance over to Han Solo's chair. Lando whispers for a surprisingly short amount of time into his gambling companion's ear. Whatever he said to Mister Solo made his eyes grow bigger than saucers for a moment before his finely aged features return to their previous state of smooth composure. What did the man talk about anyway? It had to be something important to cause such a visible side effect-
"Excuse me ma'am." Who is Mister Solo addressing? I don't see anyone else getting up to stand. Wait is he talking to me?...
"Sirs, are you referring to me?"
"Yes, you in the sneakers and cardigan. Would you mind being our good luck charm? Lando's losing pretty badly. Of course nothing happens if you choose to say 'no'. I'm a gentleman or at least I try to be."
Rey studies the charming Han Solo who silently persuades her to say 'yes' with his deep brown eyes that probably wooed half the country into sleeping with him when he was Rey's age. She glances over at her husband who seems not to realize the offer, still busy haggling price tags. The older man's stare is focused but no residual traces of lust or greed inhibit the brown colored irises. But didn't Kylo say most men that age only wanted to look at her because they wanted to shag her? Mister Solo doesn't have any of those sinful expressions on his face; if anything he reminds me of the Colonel...With that comparison drawn Rey accepts his offer with a handshake. If Mister Solo's half as nice as the mystery gentleman then he might be persuaded to buy a house and she can cash in some non-begged for money. Han sends her a smile that would turn many a girl's cheeks scarlet.
At first Mister Solo wins a hand on his own. (She doesn't want to break his lucky streak so she keeps quiet instead of offering to count their cards. A quiet girl is always prettiest anyway.) Mister Calrissian wins the second hand and Rey starts wondering if maybe she does have just a tiny bit of luck tucked away somewhere. Then both men lose and Rey knows she was just kidding herself.
"Sorry. Guess I'm not that lucky."
"Oh come on kid. Don't beat yourself up, might be we're using the wrong tools. Do you like cards?"
"See, my fault for not asking sooner. What do you say we switch to dice?" Since when do non-gay men take the blame? Maybe it's a gentleman thing?
"I'm all right with that decision."
A bet is placed for twenty million as she kisses the dice with trembling lips. They fall from her hands so quickly that if someone had blinked they'd missed. Come on give me a seven, I need a seven.....Rey holds her breath as they continue their tortuously slow pace across the tables until finally they stop on-Stop on numbers two and five!! She landed a seven!!! The young woman's so happy about it that she hugs Mister Solo who (thankfully) laughs in a way that reminds her of Finn when she lets go and even says that she was the one to win that money for him as they hand him and Mister Calrissian each ten million dollars's worth in chips.
"You did great kid. That was unbelievable!! I'm tempted to befriend you now but first I gotta know something: what do you do for a hobby?"
Well, that's an odd question. Still, it's pretty harmless so there's no ill consequence in answering. "I like fixing cars in my spare time. Or at least I used to when I had spare time."
"Is that so? Then I like you. My father in law would like you too. I swear the man was born tied to an engine."
"You'll have to introduce me sometime. Especially if he has antiques, I'd love to-"
"Rey, what are you doing!?!?" Oh, there you are Kylo. Please don't scare away my new friend...
By Providence or experiences Rey can't begin to guess, Han Solo does what Rey's never seen a newfound acquaintance do before: look at her husband's death glare and be completely unfazed as Kylo shakes his hand a little too tightly. Rey watches Lando stare at Han quietly,no doubt assessing if the situation merits drastic measures. Fortunately, Han is quick to solve the situation by spinning two lies: one saying that he won a bet cause she told him the right cards and another saying that he was just congratulating her for winning a good bit of cash. (She nearly faints when Han slips a roll of least 30 Benjamin Franklins into her purse without Kylo noticing.) Obviously, her husband asks to see the money so Rey hands over the purse. Why did Mister Solo stare at her sadly when he saw her hand it over so quickly? Kylo counts the bills and smiles, he wraps his arm around her and tells her 'you cleaned up okay'. Then the surprises continue as Kylo apologizes to Han for the misunderstanding.
"Don't worry about it. You can make up for it while we all celebrate."
"Actually, we were just leaving."
"You're leaving?" Okay, this time the staring involves panic, not sorrow.
"We're on our way out. Goodbye Han, I hope you enjoy your vacation."
"No, don't do that. We got to celebrate. Let me arrange a room for you here."
"That's very nice, but..." Nobody's this nice without a catch inserted in the generosity somehow.
"I insist. Please, it's the least I can do after you won me twenty million. Okay? Really, just sign for it. Anything you want."
She sees her husband's eyes brim with the possibilities of a full-size bed and proper air conditioning and all the other luxuries they've been chopping off their daily routine one by one. The look on his face makes her consider the offered room but it's not until Kylo subtly pinches her in the more sensitive part of her back when Han's turned around that she vocally accepts. Han turns back to face them and Rey suppresses a wince.
"Oh, there's some lovely shops off the lobby. Have you seen 'em?- Hey you all right Rey?" Great, when I wanted the social workers to notice my foster parents were throwing beer bottles at me for fun and using my skin to snuff out crack cigarettes they failed to do so but now when I don't want Han to worry over a little pinch he does notice. Why couldn't Finn and I have him for a foster parent?....
"Yes, I'm perfectly fine. Just a little sore from a fall I had earlier."
If the older man's angry yet woeful gaze is anything to go by, Han doesn't believe her. Mister Solo performs his own death glare before kissing Rey on the cheek, his body language takes on a predatory aspect as he bids 'until later' for them both. When the manservants come to escort the young couple to their room half an hour later Rey clutches the ratty carpet bag where she hid Colonel Brandon's dress and places a key on the suitcase to prevent Kylo from finding it while he showers. Before going to sleep Rey begs God to send no more friendly older gentlemen that are kind but sad.
God, it seems has a different definition or a plan in store she can't see yet. Or at least that's what Rey concludes when her prayers are met with a pleasant yet currently unwanted dream of her meeting with the gentlemen that possessed a blonde and silver beard and really good sense of musical taste.
Hands out tin cup: comments please??.....
Her first impression of the Suite Mister Solo sends them to, is pure stupefaction. Sure, the man said that he would arrange a room for them, but Rey didn't think to connect 'room' with penthouse apartment with really soft eiderdown pillows which have chocolates on them and a huge bathtub with shampoo bottles that smell like lavender. She calls Finn to tell him about the unexpected boon, he tells her to be wary because nothing these rich people give ever comes free. Her best friend compares the wealthy class' gifts to a Faustian bargain. Personally, Rey feels Mr. Solo is incapable of carrying out that type of deal and she doesn't hesitate to say that to Finn. The young woman hopes the declaration will calm down his fears, instead she hears him yell to Poe that they should pack their bags and start driving to Las Vegas. I don't know what's worse: the fact he reacted so badly or my happiness stemming from the fact that this is our first telephone conversation which ends without a single reference to how I should leave my husband.
In contrast to Finn, Kylo is ecstatic with their new accommodations. He plops down his bags on the floor as if they belonged there and wastes no time inspecting the rooms. Her husband asks if she'd mind him swiping the Tiffany lamps to sell them later, Rey tries to gently remind that's stealing but only succeeds in being reminded how stupid she is. Of course it was a joke, only a nitwit would fail to interpret a casual tone and insinuate a federal crime- The door's knocking: who could it be at this hour? Kylo tells her not to worry about getting the door.
The person who stands outside the hotel room's door is a man who can only be described as geek-ish. Rey knows such a thing would be rude to say so she keeps quiet but the small figured, thin gentlemen dressed in a yellow suit that makes his glasses stand even more fits no other definition.
"Greetings, I am Sybil Threepio."
"Hi. Kylo Ren."
Mister Threepio is holding a shoe box sized package. Finn's words start echoing through Rey's mind as she waits for Kylo to ask about the object Mister Threepio has tucked under his arm.
"For Mrs. Ren, sir. A gift from Master Calrissian."
"Is that so? Thank him for us."
By the grace of God, the bespectacled gentleman fails to notice the heavy sarcasm in Kylo's voice and informs them of the gathering tonight at Mister Solo's suite at 11 pm, to which they are cordially invited. Rey gets the feeling that the British-sounding , bespectacled older man enjoys using long words just for the fun of it.
Her husband takes the offered package from Mister Threepio's hands with the grace of a raging elephant, which is to say none at all. He rips open the paper and examines the box which causes Rey to hold her breath once she sees the 'House of Dior' label on the sides. 'Please don't have a price tag outside, please little pair of shoes that I've yet to see: don't be the reason for my husband's next temper outburst.' Fortunately, her pleas are heard and Kylo sees no price tag inside or outside. He throws the box aside and it falls seamlessly into the carpet as mister Threepio continues to speak.
"If you can find the time in your schedule, he'd be most pleased as would Master Calrissian and perhaps even Master Skywalker-"
Kylo slams the door on him before she can ask who Master Skywalker. Rey hears the butler or servant or whatever the bespectacled gentleman is exclaim 'How rude!' as he walks away from the suite. Relieved that nobody's been punched, Rey hesitatingly picks up Mister Calrissian's gift for her and hopes that Kylo's lack of attention for it means that it's nothing too expensive. That hope falls down the drain once her eyes glimpse the sumptuous quality Champagne-colored satin heels with floral beige lace embroidery and embedded crystals that Rey saw on the store for 300 dollars.
"Don't bother with 'em. Nothing in your wardrobe goes with those shoes."
'You're wrong. I have a dress that goes perfectly with these shoes. But I didn't show it to you so you wouldn't go around the casino looking for a blonde and gray haired gentleman to punch. He's suffered enough after losing his wife the way he did.'
"Maybe I could use them for the party later tonight?"
"With what? The only dress you have that's remotely close to these blue-blood's criteria is still in the cleaners after you poured spaghetti sauce on it by accident."
'No, I did that on purpose so I wouldn't have to wear it again.' In hindsight, that was probably a stupid decision on her part. She won good money with that dress, the most money she's ever made in her whole life. Her husband knew that her body; while not exactly a supermodel's or any model's really, was still capable of grabbing men's attention. It gave her an advantage on the field, one she lacked later because of her own stupidity. 'I should have trusted my husband's choice; instead I decide to try winning with my brains. As if I was smart enough for such a thing.'
"Can I go to the party?"
"Sure, we can go. As soon as you explain to me where that yellow dress came from."
'Oh shit. Thank goodness I'd already put the price tag inside my wallet's secret compartment. Think Rey, what excuse is good? It was still quite early when he went to sleep yesterday- That's it, I can work with that piece of knowledge.'
"I bought it on a pawn shop last night. It's from the 1950s and they washed it before giving it to me. Wonderful right?"
"How much did it cost?..Rey, I'm not hearing any numbers."
"Two and nine."
"You spent twenty-nine dollars on this dress? No wonder your brain was off during the tables."
"Don't worry: I learned my lesson."
"Good. Now put on that old lady dress unless you want me to take it back?"
Rey puts on the flowing golden lace as fast as she can without breaking the beautiful fabric. The lace is softer in the first try than most of the scratchy, hand-me-down garments she buys from the Salvation Army. Finally, an outfit that doesn't need to be doused in fabric softener before she wears it! When she's put on the dress, tied her hair in a bun and strategically worn the matching shoes Rey feels...pretty. Like Cinderella after the fairy godmother's magic wand hit her with its spell.
Hands out tin cup: comments please???
Han Solo's suite at the Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino, January 25, 10- 11pm (Lando's POV)
"Come on old buddy: How come I have to play the devil's advocate? Can't you offer them the deal? If Threepio's being honest, which he always is, then he'll act like scum no matter who does the offering."
Han Solo shakes at his head at him, doleful as he ponders what to say. Lando gets the feeling his old friend has a serious motive behind his refusal to partake in this part of the plan. "Lando, the girl's not just miserable in her marriage. I got the impression Mister Emo Brat is isolating her, gaslighting her into having nobody but him in her life. Kid took a chance with me. If I show up with that deal, then she might not trust anybody ever again."
‘Damn it Luke, why do you always pick the hard cases?' He takes back the sentence, hoping it has no lasting effect on their lives because he's fucking pissed at the quiet version of Luke that just wants to die. He'd rather have the man who got chased by trouble and told the storm 'bring it on'. In all the decades Lando Calrissian has known Luke Skywalker, his supposedly accidental recruitment of mismatched rogues with one foot in hell has only faltered in recent times, when his depression blocked out everything.
Han Solo was one of those rogues: the small time black market dealer who got paid 10 thousand dollars in cash to drive Luke Skywalker, Threepio, a parrot named R2-D2 who'd overheard a corrupt business deal between an Israeli general and the CIA (and kept repeating it so he had a toy muzzle on) and last but not least military priest Obi-Wan Kenobi to the US embassy in the midst of war-torn Lebanon. If anybody had told Han Solo he'd end up breaking into a military prison to save Luke's long lost sister who was among the political POWs to be executed by Israeli forces and became the love of Han's life instead he would have laughed.
Same thing for Lando: if they told him he'd abandon his casino in the Middle East to spend a decade hunting down human traffickers.
Obi-Wan called it 'The Luke Skywalker effect': the urge to do the right thing which crept into your bones as soon as you met the kid. Luke made you believe there were no unwinnable situations, that it was never too late to develop a conscience. He turned monsters into people and people into heroes. If there is a God, Lando will never understand why he allowed men like Joseph McCarthy and Anakin Skywalker (Codename Vader in Lebanon torture chambers) to be outlived by their kids, but men like Obi-Wan and Luke spend years mourning what they lost through no fault of their own.
Truthfully, Lando Calrissian has never been a man of faith in the divine. Luke is the one who even now prays every night before going to sleep. Mara used to watch her husband's religious rituals with a keen fascination which never wore off in the twenty years they were married. If he closes his eyes, Lando can still hear his old friend hum a song whose origin Mara would only reveal to Luke as she presses her blood red locks in her husband's chest and teases him with so much love carried in the words he was accidentally overhearing. 'Did my sweet farm boy finish our bedtime prayers? Any chance you could say a prayer for me?' rolls off her tongue in the memory which ends with him leaving before it gets even more personal, more unapologetic-ally intimate in a form which goes beyond sex or physical attraction, and perhaps even beyond the frontiers of human sanity.
Moments like that is the reason why Lando hasn't set Luke up on blind dates despite the temptation. Though he has encouraged one night stands for a little tension release. What Luke and Mara had together was special, it was the type of relationship where sparks flew and colors danced in the other person's eyes. If Luke was ever going to be in a relationship again, it had to be with someone who brought the rainbow back into those charming blue irises.
SO Lando waited in 2001 and kept his eyes out for any hint of vibrancy on Luke's eyes until they lost Ben. He'd given up after that, much to his shame. None of the original gang had planned for burying their kids. Luke wasn't the only one brought low by the tragedy. So Lando had shifted the looking into distractions, events or sights which made Luke forget Ben wasn't here with them anymore. Nothing quite seemed to work and the older man was running out of ideas until finally when all hope was near extinction, the girl in the Las Vegas gift store recharged the happy rainbow in Luke's worn-down irises and shed the last twelve years off his face.
Perhaps it's wrong of him to place so much pressure on the girl's shoulders. After all, what guarantee do they have she'll replenish poor Luke's noble yet self-sacrificing soul? Rey is just a kid who grew up too fast, younger than Ben would be right now.
One who needs somebody to save her as well.
But then again perhaps the fact she needs saving will be the spark that brings back the man Luke used to be. If Lando knows Luke the way he thinks he does then the guy will see how a kind and beautiful woman is in the dragon's lair and teach her to use a sword so she can save herself from the monster. Even if Luke doesn't end up with Rey, once he sees how she's being treated he'll make sure the girl ends up with a better outcome. It will be a noble cause; quite frankly it's been far too long since anybody got to witness a Luke Skywalker crusade. The world could always use them.
Especially now, with this generation of cynics and undiagnosed mentally ill crowds that call Audrey Hepburn unsettling in her active chaser role on 'Love in the Afternoon' yet fawn over that creepy guy in the new Star Wars movie. He partially blames whoever wrote the Jason slasher films and 'reality' tv for the desensitization of the current youth's psyche.
"Master Calrissian?" 'Threepio, how long did I stay inside my head? Damn it, I'm getting old.'
"All the guests are waiting outside for you and Master Solo. Shall I tell them you're coming soon?"
"Yeah, just give us a minute. Were you able to convince Luke to come to the party?"
"No, sir. He was quite insistent on staying asleep after eight o'clock. Oh, now I feel so incompetent-"
Han chooses that moment to interrupt the faithful butler's dramatics. 'Please say something nice to the poor guy Han, Lord knows he did his best. If Luke inherited anything from Anakin Skywalker it was his stubbornness.'
"Hate to break it to you goldenrod, but you're not incompetent cause you can't get Luke out of bed, you're incompetent cause you didn't make Chewie drag him out of the bed."
"I beg your pardon Sir, but that would be against his consent. I have always sought to behave in a manner which is beneficial yet approved by my emplo-"
"Yeah, yeah. Go play with R2."
"R2-D2 is here?"
"He's in the back, in my room. Have fun, goldenrod."
"Oh. Thank you, Master Solo."
The comical sight which just unraveled before him brings a smile to Lando's lips. Good to know some things never change.
Spirits lifted by the decades’ long ritual of Han Solo driving Threepio's brain to hysteria, and then making it up to the man no less than a minute later, Lando Calrissian fixes the sleeves on his dress shirt and steps back into his native environment. The scenery is booze, women and partying: just the way he likes it. But right now impulses must be held back till further notice, until he finds Rey and her shitty greased husband, makes the bid for Rey which will make Lando throw up afterwards, and ensures Luke DOESN'T go to sleep at 8 a clock tomorrow, so they can pull off the scheme regardless of how much the intended benefactor protests once he finds out what they did.
When his old eyes finally spot her, Rey looks absolutely beautiful. His inner fashion designer purrs in delight upon seeing that she's wearing the shoes he bought her. As suspected, they go perfectly with the dress Luke purchased for the young lady who seems unsure of how to proceed in this 'colorful' scenario. Lando walks over to Rey, welcomes her to their 'humble abode' and hopes once this whole mess is over she'll understand why he had to resort to such extreme measures.
Hands out tin cup: comments please????
Sorry for the long wait: hopes this makes up for it.
Seconds after last chapter, Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino (Rey's POV)
Back 'home' in Tonopah, Rey thought men kissing girls on the hand was a rare thing, reserved for balls when decent intentions are present and serious flirting for a partner you desperately wanted in the altering indecent purpose. Colonel Brandon, Mister Solo and now Mister Calrissian have unintentionally done their best to rid her of that belief. All three men, one who may or may not be a heavenly being, pressed their lips on her plain Jane hands lacking the slightest trace of lust.
With a sincere smile, Mister Calrissian says, "So glad you could make it. Rey."
She watches Kylo from the corner of her eye, hoping he didn't see the millionaire's action just as he failed to perceive Han's quick gesture. "It's Mrs. Ren, sir."
"If that's you wish to be called then no problem. A sweet girl like you could pull off the worst of names."
Rey looks him dead in the eyes. "Is that how win over all those women, Mister Calrissian? Your silver tongue charms them?"
His laugh is a strange thing, amusement tingled with nostalgic airs. "Rest assured Mrs. Ren, I have no intentions of adding you to my impressive string of hearts."
Rey is appeased. "Good, saves you the hassle of a broken appendage or nose."
Lando moves out of her personal space. "Enjoy the party, I'm going to check on a friend."
The young woman's left wondering just what friend Lando could be referring to when she sees the bespectacled older man from before approach him with a parrot? 'Is that a real parrot? Oh, it's so pretty.' In a childlike moment of instinct Rey walks over and pets the beautiful bird, completing disregarding the fact it could bite her at any given moment. Both Mister Threepio and Lando stare in shock as the exotic bird the butler calls 'artoo' hops from his arm to Rey's, walks all the way up to her neckline and affectionately nuzzles the young woman. What a nice, harmless pet. It's a little cherub.
Mister Calrrisian's eyes lose their shock, replacing it with sarcastic flair. "Oh sure. The godless feather bed nearly rips off my pinkie when we meet. Doesn't matter that I brought him a mango, he still bit me. You come here with a pretty dress but no fruit and he's in love. What is wrong with that bird?"
Rey doesn't hear the sarcasm in those words. She barely registers the uttered sentence as her new feathered friend lets his shiny coat be petted.
After a few minutes Artoo hops back to the butler's arm and Rey extends her attention to the party. Her husband looks out of place with his cheap dress shirt and thrift store shoes. This whole place screams 'class' which is odd considering Vegas was founded by the mafia. She gets complimented for her dress, other women call it 'designer retro' whatever that's supposed to mean.
A lady calling herself Juana? Jaina? calls Lando uncle and informs him her father's going home to deal with a stock market situation. She gets a polite 'excuse me' as a response.
Mister Calrissian leaves her indefinitely. She munches on all the fancy food that clearly didn't come from the Walmart specials section. The young woman prepares herself a sandwich and wraps it up to put in her purse, proceeding to do the same with a few mint chocolates and a Perrier water bottle which convinces her rich people are crazy. 'Who in their right mind gives out free Perrier?'
She decides the only reason they can hand out Perrier the way her 'people' hand out soda, is cause nobody else is noticing them, preferring the alcohol freely distributed. Rey has lost count of how many ultra-expensive beer bottles have been emptied and thrown in the trash.
Her husband appears out of nowhere, soufaced and eyeing her plate. "What's this? You didn't think I was hungry too, after such a long day?"
She had, but she couldn't let him know that; so there was only one thing to do - surrender her plate. "Of course I do. This is your plate. If you don't like what I chose, then you can always change it."
"Silly me. Of course you're not a selfish pig. No way you're stupid enough to risk the only thing you got going. Can you forgive me?"
"Nothing to forgive, darling."
Kylo passes his free hand over her face, a brusque movement leaving little room for affection until she sits next to him. He keeps standing, his tall frame towering over her as he walks behind Rey and unties the young woman's bun, unraveling her chosen splendor of tonight in exchange for messy curls. Rey feels his breath, warm yet always chilled on her shoulders as Kylo whispers into her ear.
"Just remember, come tomorrow nobody here will give a damn about you. A few hours and they'll forget your name. To them you're white trash. They'll go back to their luxury and we'll go home without leaving any imprint in this one-time hall pass to their world. You're nothing and no one to anyone except me."
Rey tries to keep what she's feeling off her face but is not sure she is successful. 'That's not fully true, you're the only man who'd ever willingly be romantically tied with me but I know Finn cares about me. I wish you two could get along like when we were all teenagers....'
She wants to say these words out loud, openly denounce the bold declaration, but ultimately decides against it. While Kylo isn't violent towards her, he does hate being contradicted and Rey doesn't want to make a scene. The words of Unkar Plutt, her last foster parent before being sent to Mrs. Telzin, where she met Finn and Kylo, flash through her brain. 'Work hard, waste nothing and don't expect any touchy-feely crap from me'. She adds 'know when to keep quiet' to the list as she stands, appetite fully gone.
As Kylo eats, Rey dances by herself and shakes off a few men who try to pair up with her on the dance floor. The young woman stops to admire a copy of Raphael's Saint George and the dragon. She remembers enough from Unkar's pawn shop to tell a digitalized copy from a genuinely painted one, at a closer look this copy has the light imprints of the brush which show its past on canvas under some anonymous artist's tender care. The saint looks calm, pious and determined in his mission to protect the innocent. If only men would aspire to sainthood nowadays, if only the woman in the portrait could wield a sword so nobody would have to rescue her.
Her phone beeps, showing a text from Finn saying he'll be in Vegas by 4 cause he and Poe busted a tire. Rey erases the message from her phone, not willing to risk a tantrum over 'the traitor'. Three hours pass, the electronic clock shows 2 am in the morning and Rey's suppressing a yawn at 2:15 as Mister Calrissian plays poker with Kylo, the large bodyguard who never speaks looming like a dark yet not necessarily evil shadow.
Kylo doesn't much like the look of the guy. "Who is that guy, Calrissian?"
Lando gives a half-smile. "Someone who works for me, who has my absolute trust. He killed a man to save my life once.... Tell me: where do see yourself in say, five to ten years?"
Kylo smirks. "I wouldn't mind being a billionaire like yourself."
At that moment her husband lands a triple hit. His eyes go a bit darker. Rey thinks Mister Calrissian has developed a tick, though she can't ascertain as to why.
The billionaire raises an eyebrow as Kylo changes his position, cocky at what's he's just done. Rey can tell Lando's only pretending to be impressed.
"Nice shot. But beyond money: what would satisfy you completely? Let you sleep well at night?"
Kylo's face reminded her of a well-loved boy who was allowed to believe in Santa Claus, only to be told he wasn't real. "What? Are you saying you're not satisfied?"
Lando casually leaned back and shrugged. "Who is?"
"I am." Once they leave her mouth, Rey thinks the words come out as a pacifier more than an unshakable truth, probably because she's in need of sleep.
Lando ponders what he's going to say next. He casts a quick at Rey's direction and oddly enough the young woman thinks he's found an answer, if the way he stares at Kylo using his billiards cue to tell her she needs to come closer is anything to go by. His eyes seem relieved, speaking of some untold variable he thought he'd misread but has not. Kylo pokes her behind the table with the cue as she's finally standing next to him, Rey's known her husband long enough to understand when she's not invited to the conversation.
"I guess there's limits to what money can buy."
Lando stares at Kylo as if he's just been proclaimed the largest idiot alive. "Not many."
Rey shrugs before she crosses her arms. "Some things aren't for sale."
"You can't buy people."
Lando does the same but holds his arms defensively. "Easy for the white woman to say. Of course, these days it's backwards: I buy people every time it suits my purpose."
"That's just business, Mister Calrissian. It doesn't work that way when real emotions are involved."
"Pretty, kind and idealistic. Girl like you deserves a king or an angel."
'Please God, don't let Kylo think I'm promoting his behavior.' "Stop flirting, it won't change the fact it's true."
Kylo takes her by the shoulder, tracing backwards in a way which tells Rey he'll pinch the more delicate part of her spine if she keeps talking. "You'll have to forgive my wife. She's fond of silly romantic clichés."
Rey notices Lando's smile is fake now. Kylo either doesn't notice or doesn't care. "You agree with the missus?"
"I prefer to keep my mind open, so I don't agree but I don't disagree either. That way I never make naïve decisions."
She tries not to ponder on how her husband has just indirectly, or perhaps not indirectly, called her a silly girl reading fairytales. The young woman's repressed anger begs her to claw his face and yell she's not a love-struck, swooning damsel in distress. But in the end logic partially prevails and she just slams a fist on the pool table.
She can feel it start to dig in. "Calm down babe. You're gonna embarrass me."
"On the contrary, Mr. Ren: your wife has the moral reaction. You're embarrassing her."
She swears there's smoke coming out of his ears. "But I agree with Rey."
"Really? Then let's test the cliché."
He chuckles. "What? You gonna offer me a million dollars for a night with her?"
Lando almost throws his head back when he laughs. "Are you kidding? What's a million these days? No, I'm offering 24 million. But not for me; a friend of mine has expressed interest."
Lando replies that he's not kidding, advises them to take their time as casually as if he was counseling them what color to paint the kitchen. 'I don't understand, my gut said he was a good man. How could I be this wrong? How could anyone make this kind of proposal? More money than they've ever seen in their lives, at the cost of her fidelity.' The one thing poor or rich people can always keep close to their hearts. That last part seals Rey's mind on what to answer, she controls Kylo's hand before it punches Lando, half wanting to keep the moral high ground in all elements and half suppressing the wince from her pulsing backside.
"He'd tell you to go to hell."
Lando gazes in a quizzing manner. "I didn't hear him....Think about it, the night would come and go but the cash lasts a lifetime. Permanent security for a mere six to ten hours tops."
Her hands hurt as Kylo squeezes her in frustration for having denied his violent outburst, blowing a metaphysical punch in her fingertips. Ren's body has calmed down at the cost of her reddening appendage. His eyes tell a different story: they say he's selecting a punishment. 'Please don't choose the one I think you're considering-'
"Who would be the recipient?" 'Take it back; I'll be a good wife. I'll let you hit whoever you want but please don't do this to me!!'
Rey gives a mental 'fuck you' to the pitiful gaze Mister Calrissian sends in her direction. 'Who the hell is he trying to kid? Nice people don't bring young women to parties so they can pimp them out to disgusting rich men!'
“Tell him we'll be consulting with our lawyer for the terms."
"Of course. Anything else?"
Rey cuts in. "No, we're retiring for now. You should get some sleep sir, don't want to miss out on your next billion."
She's half running out of the room which has gone from to a fantasy to a nightmare. Once the young couple has reached their chambers, Rey starts packing her meager bag, thinking it was all too fitting she met an angel and a devil since both good and evil are rampant in this wasteland.
Kylo pulls the bag out of her hands. "What's wrong with you? We have a chance to better our lives and you're running away?!?"
"I won't do it, Kylo!!"
"I'd do it for you."
"Then go out there and ask if the recipient's bi!!"
"Rey, it's just your body. It's not your soul or mind. Think of all the good it would do us, no more debts, no more third jobs. Hell, this whole thing goes right and I'll be happy enough to invite the traitor back into our circle."
Rey's jaw drops. "If I do this, you'll let me Finn visit whenever i want?"
"If all goes according to plan, we'll have to let the past die, no reason why that can't include old grudges. We'll pretend it didn't happen to become what we were meant to be."
"So we just forget it ever happened?"
"And never speak of it, not even once."
Her husband engulfs her in his large frame, squeezing tightly with little restraint as he always does, while Rey looks to her plain lead ring. Her mind compares it the silver band in the Colonel's gentle hands.
Hands out tin cup: comments please???
Hux & Phasma Offices, Nevada, January 26, 7-7:45 am (Hux's POV)
Armitage Hux's current possible clients are far from the stimulating conversation he'd prefer, but sadly they're correct in their ideas on what the public want in film. Only a fool would attempt to bring a masterpiece like *Boris Pasternak's The Last Summer, and force young people to care beyond the latest snapchat. 'No. Let's pump out thoughtless comedies, or remake classics which were perfect in their original adaptations instead.' Hux is less than thrilled about the clientele of his business, but all too eager for the money in their pockets: so he fakes a smile an Oscar Winner could call genuine and gives the two screenwriters his upmost attention.
Hux is certain to keep his countenance pleasant and his body language neutral. "So, Mister Rivas and Miss Sloane, your last screenplay sold for half a million?"
Miss Sloane is quick to signal that it should have been two million dollars stating the public reception was proof of its worth. Hux boosts her up from his initial standpoint for using the facts whereas her writing companion manages to fall even lower by blaming the lawyer for caving in on them. It's only the arrival of his beloved Gwendoline which gives him the stimuli to seem enthralled by the argument and agree they do deserve, as Miss Sloane so eloquently phrased it 'someone who would step on their own grandmother for us.'
Phasma walks in the office that moment, saying the 'walking testament to raging stupidity' is on the line so please take the phone before I start plotting the many ways I can get him imprisoned. He excuses himself to the clients, internally gagging after he calls Kylo Ren an 'old college buddy'.
Ren's voice is as distasteful as ever. "Armitage?"
Hux wrinkled his nose like he'd smelled something unappealing "Ren, how are you? I'm delighted to hear from you but please make it quick. I'm in the middle of a meeting."
"Well, listen Hux we need you to close a deal."
"Oh? What kind of deal?"
"A deal of epic proportions."
He raises an eyebrow despite the fact Ren can't see it. "Go on."
Kylo sounded like the cat that got the cream. "We're in Vegas at the Planet Hollywood. We met Lando Calrissian. You know how he is?"
'Like I needed any further proof you probably graduated because the professors were terrified you'd kill them if they flunked you.' "He's number ten in the Forbes list, and a major entrepreneur. Also one of the biggest advocates against human trafficking in the world and a famous womanizer."
"Go on, Ren."
"He offered us twenty four million dollars."
'Oh! I knew he'd end up in the drug business eventually, though I'd always thought it'd be as a user.' "Twenty four million you say? And what exactly will you doing to acquire this sort of money? Sell your left lung along with your kidneys?"
He expects the answer to his question be a ton of cocaine or some sort of corporate espionage only Ren is stupid enough to take, without realizing the slightest mishap will ensure him six to fourteen months in jail. In the end, Kylo Ren sold something more irreplaceable: the wife both he and Phasma agreed he never deserved in the first place. The lawyer tries to reconcile the words with reality, trying to comprehend how anyone can butcher the only good thing they've got going for them so easily. Armitage Hux may be a soulless bastard but if anyone tried to buy Phasma in exchange for the Taj Mahal they can be damn sure he'd kill them all. You don't mistreat wives. That's what interns are for.
Hux's voice goes up a few octaves. "Ren, am I hearing this correctly? Calrissian offered you millions for a night with your wife and you agreed to it?"
Kylo still have the nerve to sound undeservedly pleased with himself. "Not for him, he wants for some work buddy called Luke Skywalker who hasn't had a date in eons. You'll have to add a section where we get the money even if he can't get it up."
A completely decent human being would spit on the phone and tell the recipient to go screw himself. Sadly, whatever chance he had of being a completely decent man was snuffed years ago by Brendol Hux's domineering ways so Armitage Hux does what his father raised him to do: Lie and pretend your only disagreement with the situation is the fact you weren't involved in it. He mentally swears to help the poor woman saddled with Ren drain every inch of those millions from Kylo's bloodstream by creating an air-tight divorce case for Rey Bridger.
"Ren, I don't know what to say. How could you do something like this?? How could you negotiate without me? Never negotiate without your lawyer. Never! For a woman like Rey, I could have got you at least thirty million!"
Apparently, it's only now Ren figures out you can haggle prices to millionaires, pathetic. "Obviously you could have bargained. You don't want to get screwed, and then screwed." I hope Skywalker still looks the same as his photograph in 2010 so your wife drools over him in front of you.
He notices Miss Sloane and Mister Rivas leaving the office. 'Damn it, Ren. It's bad enough you have to sell your wife; you take away my customers too?'
"Wait, this is only damage control. Two seconds please, have some biscuits."
Miss Sloane and Mister Rivas rush to assure him they're not leaving but instead want him for legal representation ASAP. Well, perhaps the winds will blow fairly after all for him and young Rey Bridger after all.
Front door of Luke Skywalker's suite at the Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino, January 25, 7- 8pm (Rey's POV)
Armitage gave her the contract to read. The young woman has never seen so many clauses in her life. She expected the one in case this Skywalker fellow was impotent (Kylo definitely insisted on it) and the clause in case she got pregnant was only slightly uncomfortable but Hux shocked her completely with the clause stating the money was theirs even if he died in the act. 'Where do they even get these ideas?' The only time she read anything like that happening was in some Mexican novel with magical realism where the lady swallows matches and burns herself alive after her lover's dead. Rey's pretty sure Hux would have thought the book too 'vulgar' for his taste so who gave him the idea? No matter, she best start the tedious process of removing thought from her mind now or else when the 'friend' comes she'll be painfully aware of what's transpiring.
'Treat it like a job, an unpleasant job which will be over soon. Steel yourself, pretend you're not there in the flesh. That your mind has transported beyond this or any man's reach. What matters is that when the job's done you don't have to worry about debts or see Finn in secret.'
Rey's mantra runs through her head like a prayer, making her wish for the rosary she'd thought too pure for the adultery which will take place in this apartment. Or is it adultery if it's done with both parties consenting? She doesn't know and asking Kylo will just earn her an 'I can't believe you're this stupid' look so it's best not to ask. Finn is unaware of the situation and she plans to keep it that way, she actually lied and told him Hux and Phasma were there to consult her for a divorce. It's the first time she's ever lied to him, she feels like shit just remembering the falsehoods which sprung from her tongue but he'll forgive her once they can see each other whenever they want. This way she can finally get to know Poe and all his other friends and crazy uncles and whatnot.
When Mister Calrissian (she refuses to call him Lando) opens the door for her and Phasma who decided to come along the suite is deceptively plain, no fancy clothes thrown around or any sign of wealth outside what came with the room is present. In fact the suitcase in front of the bed is closed, with only a small pouch beside a framed picture of a beautiful red haired woman with her equally red haired baby that's too adorable for words. Rey opens the bag when Mister Calrissian and Phasma aren't looking. She hopes for sea shells or some sort of chocolate but instead she finds pill bottles.
'What is desvenlafaxine* for? I've never heard of a pill with that name. I know Melatonin is for sleep but the other's purpose alludes me.
She's quick to put everything back in its rightful place as Gwendolyn's steel blue eyes come back to her direction. The pills fall under the list of things she'll never be allowed to think of again once the night ends. Slowly, almost trembling with a fear, she cannot allow herself to feel Rey lies down on the bed, placing her hand under the pillow. The sensation of familiar beads reaches her fingers, she takes them out from under the bed and finds an old purple painted wooden rosary. Rey sees it as a sign God will not see what transpires tonight as breaking her vows.
Lovingly, Rey places the religious symbol over the bed's covers whilst removing her wool knit hand me down sweater, followed by her t-shirt, then her jeans and finally her sneakers and socks. She's pondering whether or not to strip fully when Mister Calrissian exclaims in shock at the situation, placing both hands over his eyes. Who does he think he's fooling with that act? Nobody good buys married people for their friends to have sex with.
The young woman is unsure whether it's good or bad that after ten minutes she sees the older man retract a hand ever so slightly to view her nearly unconcealed figure, though he moves to face the wall when Phasma stares at him.
Phasma looks at his like she's so done. "Sir, continue your lecherous behavior and I promise you that my husband will ensure I don't go to jail for throwing you out the window."
Mister Calrissian almost manages to impress Rey by not gulping or showing any outward signs of fear at the prospect. He loses that chance when he says he'll go get the mysterious Luke whose humble personal touches to the room don't match up with a man who'd buy a woman.
The forty five seconds Mister Calrissian takes to retrieve her 'customer' seem a lifetime as Gwendolyn hands her a jacket in the meantime. Oh, if only she could look as unperplexed by the upcoming event as Phasma instead of the terror stricken expression mars her body and soul. Rey sits on the bed, clutching the rosary for dear life as footsteps approach, the door creaking open.
"Are you sure I left my anti-depressant here, Lando? I remember putting it on my wallet this morning- Rey?"
Colonel Brandon's sad and beautiful face looks upon her as if she was Botticelli's Venus, wonder and stupefaction warring in his brow until finally; he regains sense and realizes the woman lying in bed is no illusion.
Suppressing the little restraint she'd hoarded until now, Rey runs to hug him, unable to contain the joy of knowing God sent an angel to rescue her. The angel in question almost falls at the sudden impact of her but quickly obtains balance and proceeds to place a gentle, weathered hand across her maroon locks. A moment her mind can only describe as pure bliss occurs as she gently traces the outline of his arm, following his long pajama sleeves all the way up to the silver-gold mane.
"So Luke: you like my idea of entertainment yet? She's all yours for the night."
The trance breaks as abruptly as when the Marsh-wiggle placed his smelly hand on the enchantress's magical flames.
It is at this moment Rey learns Colonel Brandon and Luke Skywalker are the same person. The pure shock at these words show he had no idea what was transpiring. At the same time, her friend seems to only now realize she's wearing nothing but Phasma's red leather jacket and her best lingerie. Luke's cheeks turn red as tomatoes as he releases her from his gentle hold.
His gaze to Rey is sweetness made flesh and bone. The gaze he directs to Mister Calrissian once he lets her go and awkwardly zips Gwendolyn's jacket on is fury which makes Kylo's tantrums look like a baby crying. The owner of said jacket is staring quite appreciatively at Luke's chest, Rey has no trouble understanding why after she daintily crosses her palms across his torso.
She doesn't want to move them away. Unconsciously, Luke doesn't want her to either because he presses his hands over hers. "Lando: when you say 'she's all yours' please tell me you didn't throw thirty years of work in anti-human trafficking away and that she's only dressed so..scarcely because her clothes are washing."
Lando tried very hard to play cool, but some unease bled through as he shifted. "You're taking this too seriously. This was a legal, consenting affair in which nobody got kidnapped or saw their parents killed. All I did was ensure you and this lovely girl could have a good time together."
"You can't just buy someone for the night because I thought she was pretty!!"
"Again with the exaggerations, last time I set you up on a blind date."
For reasons Rey can barely explain to herself, let alone someone else, she starts laughing. Not the quiet, secluded smirk with a sound she's come to don so well but a full blown, giddy cackle she can't remember coming out of her mouth since her High School graduation.
Everyone reacts in complete opposites at the moment: Mister Calrissian stares gaping like an idiot, Phasma asks if anybody has a spare Valium and Luke just checks her temperature whilst rubbing her shoulders in what is probably the nicest (only) massage she's ever had.
This last reaction does the trick and replaces her 'hyena chuckle' as Kylo called it with a soft moan that's almost a purr.
She all but jumps out of his arms, trying to make peace with the situation and berating her wanton behavior. It would have been easier to go detach herself from the scenario if it'd been the lecherous old man they sold Luke as ,but how is she supposed to be cold and unfeeling to a man who's only ever behaved in the most genuinely courteous fashion Rey's known in her short, pathetic life? How is she supposed to ignore a kind soul so engulfed in sorrow his friend had to resort to extreme methods for setting him up on a date? Not that she approves how Lando did, but she can understand his reasoning a little better now. If she were Luke's lifelong friend then she wouldn't want him to be sad either.
The young woman puts her arms under Phasma's jacket, taking advantage of the huge garment to keep the chill out. Said jacket's owner taps Luke and Lando on their respective shoulders to get their attention after checking the time on her cell phone.
Straight faced, as though she did things like this all the time, Phasma says, "Lady and gentlemen, I think it's time for us to...take leave of one another. Calrissian are you coming or do I have to throw you out that window after all?"
At that moment Luke steps in. "A tempting offer but not as bad a punishment as what I have planned for him, Miss Phasma."
She raises a platinum blonde eyebrow. "Oh, and what do you have in store for your friend? A pool filled with electric eels?"
"Worse, I'm telling Leia exactly what he did here."
Rey doesn't know who or what a Leia is, but it manages to put the honest fear of God into Lando Calrissian's eyes faster than a twister's formed in Kansas. The older man leaves without a fuss, though at the end he seems almost happy he was threatened that way. What is wrong with all these rich people?
She's left completely alone with Luke, who is decent enough to hand her back the clothes she was wearing and actually stays in the closet while she changes even when she tiptoes next to the door.
Once Rey is fully dressed she tells Luke it's safe to come out, half wondering if he changed his wardrobe as well.
When Rey sees Luke is still in his pajamas she expects him to say nothing, shrug off her presence and go to sleep the way Kylo is prone to do. After all, she did disrupt his routine and even if she wants to make him happy that won't ensure he wants the help in turn. Sometimes it's better to just let people brood over things a few days, at least then they actually kiss you a couple of times during sex.
Instead he continues to unwillingly break her expectations by granting her a smile before opening the large window and inspecting the curtains. All right, she's officially lost in how the elite class works.
She tries out his name on her mouth. "Luke? What are you doing?"
He gives her a small smile. "Seeing if we can make a break for it by tying the curtains together."
She raises an eyebrow or two. "Like in the movies? Does that even work in real life?''
"Sure, Han and I did it to prevent Israeli capture in the Lebanon."
She's half inclined not to believe him, but then she figures he must have lost his leg somehow, and war wounds often lead to amputation. Rey bites her lip, hoping the pain clears things up enough to see straight. This only has the unwelcome effect of making her wish Luk-Mister Skywalker would tenderly brush his fingers over her face. Deciding this has gone far enough,Rey Bridger mentally proclaims that she'll treat this mess of a night as an opportunity to get to know a very charming man better and nothing more, starting now.
Almost tiptoeing, the young woman makes her way across the room to the balcony window her...sleep over friend is still half-contemplating as an escape route. He looks adorably bashful when Rey pats him on the shoulder to get his attention, younger than she ever saw him be. The view is pretty, Vega's synthetic rainbow of lights shines in all its gawky splendor.
"You like the view then?" Oh dear, why do my cheeks feel hot when he asked me such a simple question? Answer calmly, in a way that shows you're a dignified woman.
"It's all right, personally I'd like it if they added more blue to the mix." Why did I say that? Oh why can't the earth just swallow me whole?
Thankfully Luke is oblivious to the suggestion behind her not-thought-through-at all sentence. "I suppose that means you love the ocean, lots of blue there. Plus, you seemed to like that seashore painting back at the gift store.''
"Paintings like that are the closest I've gotten to any large water body not counting pools."
Rey sees a metaphorical light bulb turn on within Luke's head, a mischievous glint now present in his lovely blue eyes.
"Rey, I have an idea for what we can do tonight. Do you trust me?"
Yes I trust you, I don't know how or why but part of me trusts you more than my husband. "Mhmm"
*Boris Pasternak is best known for his book 'Doctor Zhivago' (thanks in no small part to the movie) but The Last Summer is a marvelous little gem of a book which I recommend to anyone who likes a good, tear-jerking novel.
*desvenlafaxine is an anti-depressant which also serves against chronic pain.
Hands out tin cup: Comments please???
Sorry for the lapse folks, rl has not been very inspirational and college is blood sucking.
You guys can thank Roxis for the new chapter since he gave me the plot bunny.
Also: this chapter is dedicated to my new niece who is sweet and adorable. Hope that when she's older she gets her own Luke Skywalker.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
An hour after last chapter: Bar of the Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino (Poe's POV)
The young Latino man asking for Rey's whereabouts while his husband calls every emergency room in Las Vegas is pretty sure any caffeine from the two Gatorades he drank on the way here is depleted. Not surprising, changing a tire in the freezing desert night, driving in turns through said freezing desert and trying to reassure Finn he's NOT going to find his bff drug-raped on some rich asshole's chaise are each exhausting tasks. Doing them all in roughly the same day brings a new definition to 'tired'. If the situation weren't so urgent he'd joke how at least his mug would make people swoon over the dictionary but right now all he does is splash some water on his face, wipe the tired off and keep asking folks if they've seen the girl on the photo.
Poe can't seem to keep the tired from showing in his body though. The photograph feels so heavy in his hands. "She's about 5'6, weighs 120 something pounds. Brown hair, hazel eyes and maybe motor oil in her hands? Tell me you've seen her please."
Another shake of the head, that makes no witness number ten. 'Damn it Rey, I really hope you're out for ice cream and turned your phone off for no reason. I'm getting worried, and not in the 'Drama Queen fashion' as you call it.'
Suddenly Poe feels a tap on his shoulder. Growing up with lots of older male 'cousins' and having a husband whose personal history necessitates permission to touch before any contact has the effect of having his first reaction be grab that arm and throw the person over his shoulder with a strength he'd be proud of in normal circumstances. Now the young man worries he may have guaranteed not knowing if Rey's all right.
He crouches down next to the individual now recognizable as a guy in tacky shorts and a Hawaiian shirt Finn would use to clean windows were it gifted to him. The man's beard is snow white, his eyes caught between deciding if they belong to a lethal predator or the nice old man kids in the neighborhood visit to hear stories. 'Please don't press charges on me, I'm just a tired army brat who wants to know a nice young woman's not in great peril.' "Sir, I'm so sorry. You have no idea how sorry I am-"
The older man laughs it off as he picks himself up. "Save it kid. I'd recognize an army kid's hold blindfolded. Listen, I think I saw that girl whose photo you've carrying around." 'Gracias Dios Mio'.
Poe suddenly feels like he's eaten a good meal, full of energy again. "Where did you see her? Who was she with Mister..?"
"Name's Rex, and I saw her heading to the rich people suites with a giant blonde woman and a ginger. The brown haired girl you're looking was dressed plain, but the ginger looked like some sci-fi dictator, if you know what I mean."
'Oh no.' "Yeah, I know what you mean. Did you see the girl after that?"
"The girl didn't go out but the blonde giant and ginger went off to the left area of the bar and met up with some black haired schmuck whose face I wanted to punch."
'Oh fucking Kylo wimp. What have you done?' "Thanks for the info." He grabs a napkin and writes his number on it. "Call me if you see the brown haired girl. Her name's Rey."
Having finally received news about Rey, Poe runs to the table in which Finn is crossing off hospital names. The list is filled with black marker and Finn's normally adorable face screams worry.Careful not add extra tension, Poe slides over to his side and lets Finn see him. He receives a watery smile in return.
Finn looked at him hopefully, "Did you hear anything?"
Poe was happy to answer, "Yeah babe, I got a lead on Rey."
Some of the tension's flung off Finn's shoulders, but his sinfully handsome partner is still stressed.
Finn perks up. "What did you find? Is she ok? Can I talk to her-?"
"Babe, it's not that good a lead. Come on, we gotta start walking before the trail gets cold."
Finn doesn't need to be told twice. Instantly the younger man follows his significant other's lead to the area mentioned by old man Rex. Once there, Poe's immediate problem goes from finding Rey to (unfortunately) preventing his husband lunging at Kylo Ren while said man? Is it even right to call him a man? Grima was more manly than him, at least that guy was smart, drinks next to the blonde giant and wannabe Hitler redhead Poe correctly identifies as Armitage Hux and his wife Gwendoline Phasma.
Poe has his arms around Finn holding him back before he charge in. "Poe, let me at him!! He can't afford drinking here, which means he did something immoral, and to do that he'd have to hurt Rey cause she wouldn't let him!!!"
Poe holds him tighter. "Honey you don't know that for certain. Let's just ask them where Rey is first and then we can punch him together, deal?"
Finn stops fighting to get at Ren. "Fine."
The walk to that long mahogany table is short, but for Poe it feels like they're swimming across an entire ocean, every step a mouthful of water they have to choke out to prevent drowning in these horrid waters. If Finn has the same urge to reach back for shore he doesn't show it. Instead the dark skinned man is as driven as Moses must have been when parting the Red Sea. Both men take a deep breath, hoarding the scum-free air for when needed.
Armitage Hux stands, acknowledging their presence. Phasma gives a quick nod of the head. Ren's face turns into 'oh great, the party's over'.
Phasma clearly pulled the 'nice guy' straw and greeted them with an icy smile. "Gentlemen, so good to see you again. What brought you to Vegas?"
Poe intercedes before Finn can yell at Ren or Phasma, internally hoping tomorrow he gets a chance to scream at people who deserve it without fearing the repercussions. The Latin American man puts on his most convincing smile and holds his punches for what he hope won't be too long. "The pleasure's ours for the company. ma'am. By any chance have you seen our friend Rey? She's the girl the guy sitting next to you used witchcraft to date and marry."
Upon hearing those words, Ren (predictably) stands up and tries to punch him. One swerve and bastard's aching hand later, Hux tries to stop his lips from curling into a smile. Good to know a sense of 'just desserts' isn't completely dead among lawyers.
As Kylo goes to put his hand in ice, Phasma changes her straws to 'tender, loving nurse'. It's quite convincing until she mouths 'you owe me big time' to her business partner/husband.
Armitage pours himself a glass of brandy, smooth as silk but with the eyes of a leopard. Though Poe hates to admit it, he and Phasma make a good pair of predators. None of them are under any illusions of their chosen life companions being anything but cunning, will-stab-you-in-the-back-for-a-million, schemers.
Looking down upon them from on-high, Hux asks, "Well gentlemen, shall we discuss business?"
Finn does't deign to play Hux's game. "Poe and I aren't interested in who you bought or bullied into submission this week. Either tell us where Rey i,s or I'm using your teeth as a necklace."
'Did he just roll his eyes at us after that? Damn Armie really is the Irish T-800.'
"Your friend is fine, or as fine as anyone who's been coerced into a horrible situation can be. It would be in hers, and our mutual interest you hear what's transpired."
The ginger opens his mouth to talk of a deal which basically consists of prostitution to a person Hux doesn't reveal as part of client confidentiality, made all the worse by the knowing consent of the maggot Rey calls husband. (Poe doesn't bother pretending he'll be able to stop Finn from punching the son of a bitch unconscious, much less that he'll deny any foul play on Ren). Oddly enough, Hux does acknowledge how fucked up the 'business proposition' is. He shows them divorce papers highlighting emotional abuse, stating Ren had taken advantage of his wife's trust and their precarious economic situation to undermine her psyche and get to agree to the deal which makes Poe's stomach churn in disgust. Finn looks at the files and says he is all too happy to provide more evidence of Ren as an abuser, going back all the way to when Rey was a teenager. Hux keeps any personal discomfort far from their sight, simply writing down Finn's testimony in black ink.
"Who was the bastard who thought up this thing anyhow, Hux? Ren's not cunning enough to make this on his own."
Hux sits up taller in his seat. "You're quite right, Mr. Dameron. This scheme is the brainchild of one Lando Calrissian."
Poe scoffs. "Now I know you're lying. I've known Calrissian since he was a child and he doesn't do human trafficking, he stops it."
"This was completely his affair, Mister Dameron. Calrissian signed in behalf of Luke Skywalker to have Rey for the night. If she's as smart as I remember, then she'll recognize just how little Kylo has satisfied her once she has a decent idea of what to expect from a relationship beyond Ren's mediocrity."
And just like that, the circumstances Hux has described become plausible. Uncle Lando deciding to endorse selling people is impossible but he might pick an... unusual method for getting a nice girl like Rey together with someone who'll treat her right. And if childhood memories of the blonde man gently teasing firecracker Aunt Mara are anything to go by then Uncle Luke is that sort of guy. Hell, Luke treats beggars on the streets better than Kylo treats Rey! But Uncle Luke would never hit on a married woman, even if the husband was a walking pustule. (No wonder Uncle Lando went to such extremes.)
With the knowledge that Rey is safe, Poe Dameron relaxes. The knots in his shoulders loosen just in time for him to listen to the glorious sound of Finn's punch colliding with Ren's ugly mug. Blood drips from Kylo's nose, a tiny rivulet flowing down to the carpets. And if Hux or Phasma see exactly which direction Finn afterwards as he ran in a way that reminds him of an 80's movie then their lips remain sealed.
Kylo scowled. "One of these days that filthy negro's gonna get what's coming to him."
'Yeah, sure,' was written all over Poe's face. "Sure, sure. We'll discuss that after Rey's honeymoon."
Kylo's laugh reminds him of a cartoon villain, and not in the cool Mark Hamill way. "Phasma will you listen to this idiot? He thinks I'm going to lose Rey to some geezer."
Phasma fixed Ren with a look. "I'm quite surprised at how calm you are. I'd be far less placid if I'd just permanently relinquished my significant other."
Kylo snorts. "Oh please, Gwen. There's no chance she'll enjoy a night with that disgusting old man. He's probably impotent. After this is over we let the past die and go back to being happily married."
She stares at him, wondering how anybody can be this dense.
"God, you don't realize just how much he'll point out your flaws. Next to a blue-blood Medal Of Honor winner who also owns a multi-billion dollar company, you're street scum standing next to gold. Skywalker is a billionaire with a house in Tuscany and five other houses across the US, you live in a crappy rent. Skywalker is charmingly sweet by nature, you have the charm of an ape. And that's without pointing out the fact you have unnatural large ears and a horribly disproportionate chest whereas the hint I caught of the 'disgusting old man' in pajamas....Let's just say if he decides Rey is too small then I'll offer myself up for free."
Ren turned on her, furious. "I thought you were on my side!!"
"I'm on reality's side, Ren."
'So long asshole. When all this is over you'll be in jail and Rey will know her worth.'
Same time, Huntington Beach (Rey's POV)
The two hundred miles crossed in Luke's hired helicopter went much quicker than the five hours google maps says a car drive would take under relatively traffic free circumstances. Some crazy part of her had hoped that Kylo'd come running out the ceiling and try to stop this from happening. That's what someone would do in the movies if their beloved was caught up in schemes of lust or wretchedness, and this evening has sounded like one. In truth she'd wanted Kylo but expected Finn yet neither came for her rescue.
Finn's non-arrival is understandable. Rey just hopes he went straight to sleep from the exhaustion of driving so long. Her phone powering off left her with no means to call him. Kylo should hurt but it doesn't. For some reason she feels relieved. 'Is it wrong that I'm not disappointed? Am I a bad person for not wanting to spend time with my husband right now?' The correct answer (if it exists) remains elusive to Rey. But when Luke shyly places his hand above hers as the pilot opens for them, offering to help her down like the gentlemen in swashbuckler films, said inquiry dissipates from Miss Bridger's mind.
Luke's palms are rough in a physical aspect, calloused around the edges but if one were to classify them by courtesy Rey thinks they'd be porcelain. It's an experienced touch, causing her to wonder if he's ever done this with anyone before. His wife maybe? A sister? The mysteriously beautiful redhead and her son trapped like a fly in amber via photographs? Whatever the case, she can't argue with the result of his tutor.
Huntington Beach is beautiful in every sense of the word. No polluted scent fills her lung, just clean salt overlapping in wonderful gray, sky blue and clover green all singing for a pearly moon which captivates her eyes. Innocently, the young woman takes off her sneakers and puts them on the far side of shore. She proceeds to do the same with her socks and folds her jeans, fully intent on splashing in the water. Rey's plan to just run head on into the placid nighttime waves are halted when noticing her benefactor? partner for the night? friend?- Miss Bridger picks the last sobriquet, on account of the decency he's shown her. Luke was nicer than lots of children in school whom she'd carelessly given the title in youth, why not think of him that way- is still as the pier in which the helicopter is docked for now. 'Well, that certainly won't do'.
Daring to presume that the older gentleman will not take it as offense, Rey gains hold of his arm. "Come on in, the water looks great."
Luke doesn't look so certain. " Yeah, I don't think that's such a good idea."
Rey thinks she knows what the issue is. "I took a lifesaver class back in tenth grade, so you won't drown if that's what you're afraid of."
Mister Skywalker rubs the back of his neck. "I'm sure you're more than capable but for the sake of some poor tourist, it's best not to give the uncomfortable sight of an amputee in the water."
Rey is incredulous. "That's on the top ten most ridiculous things I've ever heard."
Luke shrugged it off. "It's fine. Just part of life I guess."
But Rey wasn't about to let him. "Not right now, I'm people and I'm not uncomfortable with it."
She notices his eyes trail her frizzy hair, focusing a glance that's not sexual, or domineering the way Ren looks at her, but also isn't Finn's spiritual brethren glint of the eyes despite the sweetness present in both. This is a stare she doesn't how to identify, Rey only knows she likes being its recipient. For a moment the young woman believes he'll close the gap between them, lean his hand on the contours of her plain face. But then pale desert blue averts hazel green and brown, leaving Rey with a queer sensation on the pit of her stomach.
"You're not people, you're Rey."
'That's not a compliment. 'Rey' just equates to a plain face with an average mind and a few good curves. I'm not special, but he hasn't been around me long to realize that so he can mean it. I should just take it for what he wanted it to mean instead of what it does.' It is the thought that makes her smile, not the phrase. Poetic prose shouldn't be for no one, but it's no Canzionere so she can indulge in the seconds, hopefully.
Rey gets an idea. "Luke, if it's not too much trouble for you to hear, can I offer an idea of my own?"
Luke's not sure what to make of her expression. "Honestly? You didn't even have to ask. What do you have in mind?"
Her grin must be a little mischievous but Rey doesn't care. "Do you have a coin?"
The surprise on his face is amusing to watch "A coin?"
"Yes a coin. You know, circular unit of money."
Luke searches his wallet where lo and behold a quarter is found, readily handed over. "Mind explaining me what it's for?"
Rey held up the coin. "I figure since almost everyone kept dealing behind our backs these past two days, we should make a deal of our own and set terms first. Heads, I put my shoes back on and we'll just walk. Tails, you and I go into the water. Sound fair?"
Luke gave her a genuine smile. "Rey: everything you have and might offer right now is still going to be fairer than what we both walked into."
"True, so you flip or I flip?"
Once the words come out of her mouth she regrets it, picturing how different men (Finn isn't a man, he's his own category) in her life would react to the question. About five of her foster parents would snatch the coin from her and buy what her child mind had naively called 'funny dust' or 'angry bottles' which never brought anything good for her. Maul would take it from her, then tell everyone she was trying to steal from him and smile as his mother hit her for 'thievery'. Kylo would just laugh and say it was best he do it. 'We don't want to lose money right, Rey?' Why did she think such a plan would have a positive outcome-
She's brought back to reality by some sort of herb Rey hasn't smelled before. The vial in Luke's hand says it's elemi* oil. He looked concerned. "Rey, are you okay?"
Rey shook it off. "Yes, thank you for the magic spice. I think you should choose who'll toss. My judgment’s not the-"
Without a warning he presses the quarter in her hand, breaking almost everything she's come to expect from men. "The ball's in your court. Go on."
Her eyes stay closed as she aims low for the toss, not wanting to lose it to the all mighty ocean. It falls unceremoniously into the palm of Rey's hand but she imagines a cinematic orchestra playing in the 4 seconds the small object remains in air. Slowly the young woman opens her hazel irises to the sight of tails. With all the learned caution she can muster Rey shows him the way it landed.
Luke gives her a half-smile. "Don't laugh, it's been a long time since I swam."
Rey gives him a full one. "No I won't laugh. But I will race you."
Having given him the heads up, Rey proceeds to run over the waters’ outline while Luke's kneeling down to fold his trousers. The word 'Cheater' is mouthed by him, yet the merry twinkle in Luke's enchanting blue orbs relinquishes all seriousness associated to the 'declaration'.
Mister Skywalker does catch up to her eventually, when his and Rey's clothes are well and truly soaked by the water fights begun out of sheer playfulness combined with strategic thinking so he wouldn't beat her. Luke is very careful when he 'captures' her. Rey giggles as her 'captor' tickles her arms until she runs out of breath. While recuperating the human body's required amount of oxygen, she stops to admire her Colonel Brandon, as he'd called himself. Moonlight turns his greying blonde locks into a coronet of gold and silver, unfolding in artistically detailed polychrome. His skin seems to glow, as if fueled by some ancient wizardry whose name is long lost to time. A glow which somehow increases when he goes to sit beside the young woman, heightening the lush features of his lips as he shyly hovers a palm over hers. How flattering to gain more attention than Selene herself.
Before Rey's body can connect to her brain she brushes her own lips against his.
Luke looks both parts confused and pleased. "What was that for?"
Rey smiles warmly. "For taking me to the beach."
She's not entirely satisfied with the answer, but it makes the fluttering in her stomach partially cease so she'll make do with it. Their hands actually touch gazing at the night's celestial body. Rey feels safe and happy, and warm in spite of the breeze as she lays her head on Luke's shoulder.
*elemi oil is a good nerve pacifier, stimulant and anti-spasmodic. Naturalists recommend it for people with PTSD or panic attacks.
Hands out tin cup: comments please?????