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Bad Teachers

Chapter Text

‘It's gonna take a lot to take me away from you!’

Ben was sure a blood vessel was going to pop somewhere in his brain and he’d die of a stroke. He took a deep breath in through his nose; calm thoughts, happy thoughts, focus.

“O, she doth teaches the… tea-- torches to b-burn light-- bright!” The student read awkwardly, Ben cursed himself for having the students actually read the play aloud. He should have just put on a movie.

‘There's nothing that a hundred men or more could ever do!’

He could hear some of the students in the back start to giggle amongst themselves.

“So how would you translate this particular metaphor?” He asked from the front of the room. He fucking hated teaching Romeo and Juliet, damn district and their so-called “required” reading for sophomores.

‘I BLESS THE RAINS DOWN IN AFRICA!!’

There was another round of laughter throughout the class at the songs timing and Mr. Solo was certain he was going to have an aneurysm at any moment.

A student responded to his question without raising his hand, “It means Romeo wants to bone.” The class immediately cracked up at that, and Ben could feel his control of the situation steadily slipping.

“And that’s pretty much the extent of Romeo and Juliet,” Ben said sarcastically. “Mr Sanderson, thats a detention.” He was serious about that but could tell that particular student didn’t really care, they were all still shaking with barely contained laughter.

“Give me a minute, class,” Ben said already taking several long strides to the door and out into the hall. He could hear the scraping of chairs that signified they were getting up to watch what was about to go down. All of them had probably heard the rumors of his so called “Epic Meltdown” last spring and they were all wanting to see him blow a fuse.

It was only September 2, and this new Art teacher was really pushing to get a repeat performance.

He stormed across the hallway through the open door of the Art room. He almost missed his uncle, who taught his art classes like a guided meditation with quiet, thoughtful concentration... sans Toto.

“Ms Niima?!” he said sternly, announcing his entrance.

The liveliness of the art studio died down immediately as the steady synthetic beats of Toto started to fade.

Rey was towards the back of the classroom; she was caught off guard having been in the middle of singing into rounded sculpting tool like it was microphone in front of a gaggle of students. She stood up stiffly, dropping her hand to her side.

Ben pulled back on his anger a little, silently reminding himself to keep it professional with the new art teacher. He didn't need a repeat of that time he made a student teacher cry. “Can I have a word?”

She turned and punched the mute button on the decrepit boom box that was covered in paint and clay that had probably been there since before his uncle had been teaching this class. Good thing too, because Men at Work was starting to play and that was the last thing Ben needed to hear. “Of course,” she said looking a little nervous as she wiped her clay covered hands on the front of her apron and followed him back into hall.

Ben hadn’t spoken to her personally yet, barely knew anything about her other than she taught Art and her name was Rey Niima. He'd seen her a few times at the staff trainings over the summer, but he hadn't been in the mood to deal with new introductions, especially with the awkward arm cast he'd had to wear. He’d also heard that in the last week and a half of class she’d become pretty popular with the student body, probably because her classroom appeared to mostly be more of a social club than anything else.

As soon as he turned back into the hallway he saw the majority of his own students scrambling to get back to their seats after trying to eavesdrop. He walked back over to shut the door of his own classroom before turning back to the younger teacher.

She had a small smudge of clay on her cheek, almost as if she was the walking epitome of the free-spirited art teacher stereotype.

“If you don’t mind, can you turn down the 80’s lip syncing because some of us are actually trying to teach,” he said harshly.

Rey’s expression shifted from nervously apologetic to offended in an instant. “Excuse me?” she snapped.

“Yesterday it was the Beatles on their acid phase. Do you know how hard it is to keep a bunch of sixteen-year-olds focused to ‘I Am the Walrus’?”

“You could have just ask me to turn it down,” she said. Her hazel eyes darkened and her tone dropping dangerously. With her accent he found it almost strangely provocative, like he’d want to listen to her read Hemingway's love letters. With that weird thought in his head he completely lost track of his own temper. She continued without missing a beat, “But maybe if their teacher wasn’t such a lifeless knob they wouldn’t get distracted so easily.”

Ben was suddenly dumbfounded, “A what?” He didn’t know what he’d been expecting from her but he wasn’t quite prepared for what he got.

“You heard me,” she said and turned away in a huff. She marched back into her classroom leaving Ben standing uselessly slack-jawed in the hallway.

He stood there for a moment unsure what had just happened; he was almost impressed. He turned slowly back to his classroom, running a hand through his dark hair. When he looked up he saw several face peering through the window of his classroom door at him. Again, once seen, they scattered back to their seats in a rush. Ben gave a sigh, it was going to be a very long year.

--------------------

After her first encounter with Mr. Solo, Rey needed the upcoming three day weekend. It had been pretty embarrassing to be called out in front of her class like that, like she was some kind of misbehaving child. It had luckily happened towards the end of the day so she didn’t have to see much of him after that. Her planning period was during eighth period, so her classroom was empty of students and she could shut her door and switch to headphones to calm down. She ended up staying a little later to tidy up her classroom, hoping to not accidentally bump into him in the hallway.

She had heard the rumor about Ben Solo when she started, that he spent the summer in anger management classes after he punched out the driver side window of his car during an argument with her predecessor. Unfortunately, he’d done so in the faculty parking lot, with about 25 AP Physics students watching from the window of their overlooking classroom.

Luke had mentioned nothing about the confrontation while she’d been training with her over the summer, but he didn’t seem the type to gossip. He was also retiring to an island somewhere, so it’s possible that he didn’t care what Ben Solo did to his own car. But the rest of the staff wouldn’t shut up about it and were eager to fill their new coworker in on the details. He’d also been wearing a cast on his hand most of the summer during faculty training so she assumed it couldn’t be too far off from the truth.

She tugged her phone out of her bag and checked the time, she decided it was late enough that she’d be able to slip out unnoticed.

The hallway was empty and about half the lights were shut off. Ben’s classroom door was wide open however, and he was sitting at the desk at the front of the room grading papers. He didn’t look up, he looked too focused on his work. Surprisingly, he looked rather nice when he was concentrating on something, he had an interesting face that would be great for figure drawing. Rey shutdown that train of thought the moment she had it and quickly strolled down the hall before he noticed her.

She had to be at her other job soon and would need to hurry along anyway to not be late. Unfortunately her first year teaching salary didn’t pay enough to keep her fed and a roof overhead comfortably so she tended bar at a local pub called Kanata’s a few nights a month to keep herself above board financially. It was definitely an upgrade from the last bar she worked in, Maz was crazy, sure, but a fair boss and didn’t make her wear a skimpy uniform like Plutt.

Once she was seated in the front seat of her car she checked her phone, she had a text from Finn.

Finn:
‘Hey! You survived your first full week of teaching!’

The school year had started on a Wednesday so he was right even though it was the second week of classes. Rey smiled, she had been best friends with Finn since they met during their student teaching rotation a few years ago. He taught PE and his students affectionately called him ‘Coach Finn’ completely bypassing any kind of last name formality, just the way Finn preferred. It was thanks to him that she got this job, and she was truly grateful.

Rey:
‘Barely.’

The three little dots appeared as Finn was typing his response. She only had to wait a few seconds

Finn:
‘What happened?!’

She sighed and typed out a response, it was too much to explain over a text and it would probably be best to talk about it in person anyway. She promised to tell him all about it later then started her engine.

As Rey was pulling out of her parking spot she saw Ben emerging from the faculty entrance. In the late afternoon sun he looked calm, not at all the cracked school teacher that she’d interacted with earlier. She felt slightly bad for calling him a knob, the door to her classroom had even been left open so her students likely heard her.

He watched her drive past with an unreadable expression on his face before crossing the crosswalk. Rey tried hard not to think about him for the remainder of her drive to Kanata’s.

---------------

The bar was far from crowded that night giving Rey sometime to talk to Finn and Rose who’d surprised her by showing up to her work like they so often did. Maz let her run them up under her employee discount, so it was mostly about the cheap drinks but it was still nice to see them outside of school.

“So, you going to Poe’s Labor Day barbeque on Sunday?” Rose asked sipping her rum and coke, her basket of fries too fresh from the fryer to eat comfortably (that didn’t do much to stop Finn though).

“Of course she is,” Finn interjected, chewing with his mouth open because of the hot french fry that he hadn’t let cool, “Poe throws the best parties.”

Rey hadn’t decided actually, from the sounds of it most of the teachers would be there and it had a reputation for getting a bit crazy.

“I don’t know,” Rey said as she cleaned a glass. “I’m new and it might be weird--”

“Poe invited you! I was new last year, and I had a blast!” Rose said encouragingly, “I know it sounds a bit intimidating but I promise you’ll have so much fun.”

“And Poe’s got a pool,” Finn added as if it were a good thing.

“I’m not wearing a swimsuit and I don’t even know how to swim.”

“Details, details.”

Rey rolled her eyes at him. “Just how crazy does this party get? Am I gonna be able to make eye contact with my boss at Tuesday morning’s meeting?”

From the smiles on Finn and Rose’s faces she assumed she might not.

“Let’s just say, there’s a very strict no social media rule.”

“Yeah,” Rose agreed. “Those sweet, innocent, little angels that we all adore are insanely tech savvy and can definitely figure out a way around us blocking them.”

Rey snorted, “You both are doing a shit job selling me on this party.”

“You’re still going,” Finn said with a grin. Before she could insist otherwise, he changed the subject, “So what was the deal with the whole ‘barely surviving’ thing earlier.”

She’d almost forgotten, but now that her friend had brought it back up, she groaned. “It’s really no big deal, just had a run in with Ben Solo, the English teacher.”

“No shit? What kind of a run in?”

“The music in my classroom was too loud and he was ass about it,” she explained feeling a little embarrassed. “And... I didn’t really handle it the best,” she added feeling a little guilty.

Finn grimaced, “Eh, fuck him,” he said, “Honestly don’t know how Poe can stand him.”

“Wait, you don’t think he’ll be at the party this weekend?” Rey asked alarmed, setting the glassware down before she accidentally dropped it.

Rose and Finn exchanged awkward glances which was all the answer that Rey needed. “Nope, not going. Don’t need to deal with that mess on my three day weekend.”

“Maybe he won’t be,” Rose insisted.

“He did have that whole court mandated anger thing,” Finn added, "He hasn't been all too social since."

“No, dummy, that wasn’t court mandated. There wasn’t a judge involved, just the Superintendent and Principal Organa made him do it.” Rose stated matter of factly.

“And when did you become an expert?”

“Since he punched out a car window in front of my entire AP Physics class,” she said. “Made for an interesting follow up lecture, we calculated the velocity that his fist must be going in order to break the glass.”

Finn looked impressed by the tiny physicist’s sass. “How fast?” he asked amused.

“Don’t challenge him to a fist fight fast.” Rose looked entirely unperturbed by it as she plucked a fry from basket in front of them.

“I can’t believe I called him a ‘knob’,” Rey said in disbelief.

Finn nearly nearly spit up his beer. “You called him a what?”

“What did he say?” Rose asked excitedly.

“Nothing, I walked away at that point,” she said. Finn and Rose both burst out laughing at that. “It’s not that funny, if a student overheard I could get into a lot of trouble,” Rey said.

It took Finn and Rose a moment to calm down, “Doubt it, Organa loves you,” he said once he’d caught his breath. Rey doubted that Principal Organa liked her that much, she’d only just started. But they’d gotten along really well during her summer training.

“And Organa knows he can be bit of dick anyway, so she’ll probably understand,” Rose added.

Rey wasn’t quite sure what to say to that, they were probably right if she’d been involved with sending him to anger management classes.

“Still, come to the party,” Finn insisted. “If Solo is there, him and 'Hugs' will probably lurk in the corner somewhere plotting world domination or whatever it is they do on their free time.”

Rey sighed, Finn and Rose likely weren’t gonna take “no” for an answer. At least Poe had a cute dog that she could hang out with at the party if the people were terrible.

Chapter Text

Poe’s house was your standard suburban ranch style house in a neighborhood that was developed in the 60’s. It was located at the end of the cul de sac and was surrounded by primarily older childless couples. It was also outside of Corellia High School’s zoning district so whatever kids did live in the area, they weren’t their students. This made it a fairly safe place for teachers to be human beings outside of school.

Ben clearly remembered his old mentor drilling him with, “Don’t let your students catch you doing something that they aren’t allowed to do!” It was pretty good advice until you run into one of your students with their family while you’re trying to enjoy an R-rated movie in a theater or drink a beer in a restaurant. From his student’s perspective they probably thought all their teachers were just turned off and put in a storage closet at the end of the day.

No. Corellia High School’s teachers were definitely very human, as was often demonstrated when History teacher heartthrob, Poe Dameron hosted all of them for one of his trademark house parties.

Ben wasn’t much of a party person, but Poe was persistent and always invited everyone on the staff regardless of whatever teacher-cliques there were. It was at Poe’s insistence that Ben was walking up the familiar driveway for the sixth year in a row with a case of beer as his contribution to festivities. He definitely was not the first to arrive considering the limited parking space and the hum of voices and music coming from the backyard.

He approached the front door and rang the doorbell and listened as BB barked excitedly on the other side of the door. At least if his coworkers were all terrible he could hangout with the adorable golden retriever until it was a respectable time to leave, he thought.

BB’s barking mingled with laughter as the door opened.

“Oh shit,” Ben hissed under his breath when he suddenly found himself face to face with none other than Rey Niima, the Art teachered he’d called out and then who subsequently called him a dick.

Her smile fell the moment she realized who it was; for half a second he thought she might shut the door in his face but she didn’t. He’d had a feeling that she’d probably be there but didn’t expect to have to interact right out of the gate.

They were saved from having to say anything to each other when Poe came up behind her.

“Hey Ben!” Poe said smiling, “Come on in!”

Rey quickly side-stepped out of the way and slipped back into the kitchen without a word. He could hear the raucous laughter of the crowd that had gathered there and he figured that it was likely they’d already started in on the booze.
Ben greeted Poe and let himself in, making sure to pet BB on the head on the way in.

“There’s beers in the cooler out back and we’ve got some harder stuff in the kitchen. I’m grilling up some burgers which’ll be done soon,” Poe filled him in as Ben handed him the case he’d brought.

“Beer sounds good,” Ben said as he followed Poe out back.

He glanced into the kitchen to see a group of his fellow teachers. Rey had her back to him, laughing with Jessika Pava, the band director. The people in the kitchen weren’t really Ben’s crowd so he had an excuse not to stop in and greet anyone.

The backyard was mostly a patio with a grassy dog run to the side, there was a in ground pool at the opposite end with a few people splashing around. Ben used to be a competitive swimmer in high school, went to college on a scholarship for it, but the idea of getting in a pool in this situation didn’t sound all that appealing.

The crowd out on the patio and around the pool were more agreeable, at least for him.

“Hey Ben,” Dopheld Mitaka, the Algebra teacher, said cheerfully. Dopheld was the kind of guy that was too nice, usually let anyone, from other teachers to his students, walk all over him. He was notorious for letting his students get away with anything and his class was usually in chaos.

“Hey,” Ben said distracted by selecting a beer from the cooler.

“Oh look, Ben Solo has decided grace us with his presence,” Hux said from where he was sunbathing on a lounger. He was the complete opposite of poor Dopheld, bossy, demanding, antagonistic. And somehow everyone seemed to think the two of them were best friends, Ben wasn’t sure what that said about him.

Ben casually tilted his wrist just enough to spill the foam of his beer over the lip of the can right into Hux’s lap. The ginger jerked up in alarm at the cold liquid, “--The fuck, Solo!”

“Oh hey, didn’t see you there, Armie,” Ben responded conspicuously sipping his beer.

There was a collective chuckle from their peers, even Dopheld, who was terrified of offending anyone, chanced a smile. Hux grumbled loudly as he sat up to dab his lap with a towel.

“We were just wondering if you were ever going to show,” Phasma said from the edge of pool with her elbows perched on the on the side.

“Glad you did, Hugs was starting to miss you terribly,” Poe said from the grill.

“It’s HUX,” Hux stated loudly emphasizing the ‘x’.

“That’s what I said,” Poe said, smirking.

“But you did miss me?” Ben added sarcastically.

“Fuck you, Solo.”

Between Ben, Hux and Phasma they were what some of the other teachers jokingly referred to as the ‘Dark Side plus Mitaka’. They were an odd little clique, Ben and Phasma managed to reign in Hux most of the time, but it was only a matter of time before a someone lost their temper and threw a desk at him. They were more or less what you’d call friends, Ben didn’t really socialize outside of them and some of the other teachers, like Poe, who was friends with everyone. It wasn’t necessarily ideal but it kept things nice and uncomplicated.

Ben found a seat on a lawn chair next to Hux and made as much conversation as he had to. Poe finished grilling, offering up a stack of burgers before going around to let everyone know that the food was on. Once he was gone, they skipped the superficial small talk as Ben and Hux slipped into silently drinking and glowering.

It was a relatively good party until other party guests started to shuffle outside to the backyard with plates stacked with potato salad and burgers. A couple were going ahead with setting up a beer pong table, others were interested in the pool, and some started to toss a nerf football around. This probably meant more socializing for Ben.

He stood, grumbling to Hux about having to go take a piss. As he was heading for the sliding door back into the house he noticed that Rey was watching him, then quickly looked away when he saw her. She was talking to Rose Tico, the tiny ferocious woman that Ben still couldn’t make eye contact with due to the incident last spring.

He quickly dodged inside, things were in full swing and everyone was enjoying themselves thoroughly and were several beers deep. There was still a handful of teachers inside that had taken up in the kitchen and living room. They were having loud conversations about anything from their least favorite students to school board politics-- there was always a lot of brutally candid office talk whenever you put all these people together outside of school, it was pretty much to only time they were allowed to talk like that.

Ben made for the main bathroom only to be greeted by a locked door and a muffled “occupied”. He rolled his eyes and made his way downstairs to spare bathroom that was usually forgotten by most party guests.

It was empty, far away from the party. A little moment of peace before he would have to head back outside to inevitably watch some idiot do a cannonball into the pool or someone decide it’s a good idea to break out the Jaeger which was where all of Poe’s parties eventually ended up. Ben usually ducked out before things got too carried away, he was bad a socializing and decidedly more so when he was drunk, so he typically chose to avoid it all together.

He closed the bathroom door behind him and went about his business. When he made to leave, he tried the knob and quickly realized that it was uselessly barred and had utterly no give. He tried it again but came up with the same result. Panic started to rise up, he threw his shoulder into the door and jerked the knob again but that only accomplished a sore shoulder. Reality was starting to set in and he tried not to think about how foolish he would look when they found him like this.

With a deep breath he leaned in, “Hey! Anyone out there? The door is stuck,” Ben yelled through the door while pounding his fist. No response.

He could hear the faint sounds of the party but no one could hear him over the music.

Ben stood back, his hands went for his phone in his pocket but it wasn’t there. It must have slipped from his pocket when he was sitting down, he realized in horror. “Shit!” he hissed. He went back to banging on the door with renewed vigor, “HELLO! SOMEBODY OPEN THE DOOR!”

But again nothing, he was stuck.

----------------

The atmosphere of the party was loud and cheerful. Rey was starting to get a buzz and feeling pretty good, she had forgotten about Ben Solo who appeared to have left already. Poe’s cooking was simple but tasty and she had eaten her fill.

Rey happily participated in a rousing game of beer pong against Poe and won. Rose was the next challenger, and she took too long to set up her shots but always sank them flawlessly; with the alcohol addling her senses, she found herself soundly beaten. She retired from the Beer Pong game but Rose happily stayed on to continue to humiliate her peers with her superior skills.

Rose had been right, Rey was enjoying herself. She grabbed another can of beer from the cooler and wandered over to Poe and Kaydel who were standing next to the pool discussing the finer points of the latest episode of the Bachelor.

“Hey, Kaydel, you’ve met Rey, right?” Poe said as Rey approached.

“Only by reputation,” Kaydel said with a smile. Kaydel was the Administrative Assistant to Principal Organa, she handled almost every stitch of official paperwork that went through Corellia High. “Leia is already really impressed,” she added when Rey had a flash of concern.

Rey blushed, she didn’t realize she’d made much of an impression.

“You have Andy Scott in your Art 2 class, right?” she asked.

“Oh yeah, Andy’s really talented,” Rey said, which was true, “I’ve been considering nominating him and a couple other’s for the district’s Student Art Exhibition at City Hall.”

Poe and Kaydel exchanged knowing smiles. “He’s really turned it around this semester,” Kaydel said, “He had quite the struggle last year, nearly got expelled even but during his conference with Leia, he said that you were already his favorite teacher and that he wants to pursue art. His behavior has also really improved.”

“Really?” Rey didn’t know she’d had such an effect, but in hearing so her whole being felt warm.

Poe clapped her on the back, “And Finn said you were worried that your students didn’t like you, and here one of the most difficult kids at Corellia wants to be an artist because of you!”

“I think he may have just need someone with a new perspective, is all,” Rey said bashfully.

Kaydel was about to say something when suddenly a body crashed into Rey.

It felt like it was all happening in slow motion even though it was almost instantaneous. At one moment she was having a great conversation about one of her students the next she was falling into the pool. She didn’t yet know who’d run into her but they were also going to be very wet very soon.

Then she was under water. Her muscles contracted painfully as the water felt horrifically cold to her. She found herself flailing in the water, unsure which way was up. After what seemed like an eternity of holding her breath, her feet found the bottom of the pool and she was able to stand. The water was shallow enough that she was able to stand straight and her head was above water. She came up for air in a rush, coughing the up chlorine pool water.

“Oh my god, Rey, I’m so sorry! Are you okay?”

Rey blinked pool water out of her eyes, to see Temmin Wexley, the Biology teacher whom everyone called “Snap”, standing in front of her in the pool. To his credit he did look very sorry. A nerf football floated innocently past them.

Rey coughed again, “I’m okay,” she said as the shock of being dunked started to wear off.

“Rey! You okay?” Finn was kneeling by the edge of the pool next to Poe.

Rey nodded meekly like a half drowned mouse.

“Let’s get you outta there,” Poe said helpfully. She waded to the edge of the pool and was helped up by Poe, Finn and Snap.

Once she was out of the water, Finn rushed to grab her and Snap a towel. “I’m so sorry,” Snap was saying again, repeating himself several times. Finn reappeared with two towels, passing one to Snap and wrapping one around Rey’s shoulders.

“It’s okay,” Rey insisted, pulling the towel tight around her shoulders. She was shivering violently, and eager to get away from the pool, and get inside. It wasn’t a cold night but the air felt icy against her wet clothes and skin. It became clear that it was just a game of catch gone awry; Finn was also involved and looking guilty.

“I’m sorry too,” Finn said. She had the suspicion that he was the one who’d thrown the ball.

“It’s really okay, Finn, Snap,” she said again. “I’m going to go dry off though, I’m really cold.”

She let herself back into the house, dodging around the crowds in the kitchen and living room instead slipping downstairs into basement, hoping to find a bathroom away from the party where she could have a minute to herself to dry off. Her hunch was right and off the corner in the furnished basement there was a door that looked like it could lead to a bathroom. With a sigh of relief she hurriedly let herself in.

It was a bathroom, with the lights on though it didn’t seem that anyone had been using it because it was so segregated from the other areas of the house.

Suddenly there was a scrambling from the tub to her left.

“No! Wait!”

Rey jumped back into the door inadvertently closing it behind her.

She might have screamed but it was just Ben of all people.

“What the hell?” she cried out, trying to catch her breath.

“Please tell me the door didn’t close!” Ben said urgently. He’d been awkwardly sitting in the tub, leaning against the wall with his legs hanging over the other side. As soon as she’d appeared he stood up, albeit with a struggle due to his long legs.

Rey rolled her eyes annoyed, he was the last person she needed to be around right now. She turned to leave, but the she quickly realized that the door knob was jammed. In horror she tried again, desperately jiggling the knob.

Ben groaned audibly, sinking back into his seat in the bathtub.

Panic rose in Rey’s chest. This can not be happening!

“HELLO!” she yelled, banging loudly on the door. “Someone!! The door’s jammed!” she cried out.

“Good luck,” Ben said glumly from the tub.

Rey ran a hand through her wet hair, as the reality of what was happening was setting in.

“Do you have your phone?” Ben asked, a tiny bit of hope in his voice.

Like a tightly bound rubber band Rey snapped. “No! It’s at the deep end of Poe’s bloody pool! How do think I got like this?!”

Ben’s eyebrows shot up in surprise, “Jesus Christ! Sorry I asked,” he said raising his hands in surrender.

“Where’s your fucking phone?!” She demanded irrationally.

“Obviously not in here, otherwise you’d be trapped in here alone!”

“Oh you’re so helpful!”

She marched over to the toilet and sat down on the closed seat. This party was a terrible mistake and she knew it wouldn’t go well, and she let her friends talk her into it anyway. That wasn’t what she’d been thinking before she was unceremoniously pushed into a pool. Ben groaned slumping back into the tub, picking up a magazine and flipping it back open.

Rey was surprised to see him here.

“I thought you’d left,” she said, Ben gave a grunt in response. “How long have you been in here?”

He casually checked his watch, “About an hour, and sorry to disappoint,” he said, going back to the magazine.

“Oh my god…” Rey groaned burying her face in her hands.

“Yep.”

They sat in silence for a moment before he tossed the magazine aside having read anything remotely interesting. He let his head fall back, and Rey couldn’t bring herself to say anything else. She couldn’t think of how this could be any worse, she was trapped in a bathroom with a guy who, while she found herself frustratingly attracted to, was also an asshole and she was also soaking wet and dripping all over the place.

Ben glanced up at her, she must have looked pretty pathetic because he almost looked sympathetic. “There some extra towels in the cabinet,” he said, trying to be helpful.

“You went through the cabinets?” she asked.

“I also read all the shampoo labels,” he said sarcastically putting his head back against the wall again.

Rey was a little taken aback, he was simply trying to be helpful and she snapped at him. She stood up and pulled a few of the extra towels out of the cabinet. The one that Finn had gotten her was damp so she tossed it on the floor to soak up the puddle that had accumulated around her bare feet. She tried to get dry but without taking her clothes off to hang it was a futile effort. Her denim cut offs were uncomfortable and cold, and her blouse could stand to be rung out at the very least. But undressing with Ben there was out of the question.

She settled for just wrapping herself in a fresh towel over the top of her wet clothes. It wasn’t ideal but they’d eventually be rescued and then she could dry off properly.

If there were some tools in here, even just a screwdriver she could take apart the door knob or take the whole thing off its hinges. Rey started piecing through the cabinets, perhaps there was something there.

“If you’re looking for something to take the door apart with, don’t bother,” he said in a bored tone slouching further into the tub.

She grumbled and kept picking through the cabinets.

“Or ignore me, whatever,” he said.

“You might have missed something,” she insisted.

He decided not to argue with her, but she was starting to think he was right about the lack of anything useful when all she was able to turn up was a box of expired condoms. She quickly pushed those into the back of the cabinet under the sink again before Ben saw them.

After thoroughly combing through the medicine cabinet and the cabinet under the sink and coming up empty handed, she gave up and slumped onto the floor and wrapped the towel tighter around herself.

“Told you so,” Ben said.

Rey wanted to be angry at him right now, but she was just to upset with the entire situation. This was supposed to be fun, but it had taken a turn for quite the opposite. Now all she wanted to do was go home but she was stuck here with someone who hated her and she couldn’t even get properly dry. They could still hear the faint sounds of the party going on upstairs taunting them but they were forgotten here. Perhaps it was better this way, falling fully clothed into the pool in front of her all of her new co-workers was embarrassing enough, being discovered locked in the bathroom with Ben would probably be equally as embarrassing.

The situation all seemed very overwhelming, she felt cold, her clothes were wet, her senses were buzzing from the liquor, she had been humiliated in front of everyone, and then Ben Solo. The universe had decided to torture her utterly; she must have royally fucked up somewhere to deserve this.

Her eyes stung with tears and she realized in horror how much she wanted to cry in that moment. Oh no, Rey thought desperately, you can’t start crying now, not in front of him. The more she thought the about how terrible it would be to start crying right now the more the pressure built up behind her eyes until she felt like her head might pop.

All at once she broke down and then came the waterworks.

Ben sat up alarmed when he realized she was crying, Fuck, he thought. He awkwardly picked himself up from the tub, even though he wasn’t really sure what he could do. He was terrible at these kinds of things, even though he’d dealt with similar situations with students… not that he’d ever been locked in a bathroom with one of his students. Nor had he ever actually had to deal with the situation alone, usually there was another, usually female, teacher nearby to ask for help. Well there was a female teacher but she was the one crying and he was probably the one to make her cry in the first place.

He stood there awkwardly unsure what to say to her, “It’s ok,” he said, the minute it left its lips he could tell how stupid it sounded. He knew that he was going to be no comfort to her and he tried to think of what he could do to be remotely useful.

Feeling like a fool he turned around and started to pound on the door, “HEY OUT THERE!” he shouted. He could still hear the party, mostly the dull murmur of music. Most everyone was probably outside by the pool. “Shit,” he hissed. “SOMEBODY!! HELP!” he shouted uselessly. No one could hear him.

Suddenly there was a cheerful bark.

“BB!” Ben shouted.

Rey perked up, “BB!!”

Ben sank to the floor, laying down on the tile to peer under the crack beneath the door. He could see BB’s pink nose sniffing just on the other side. “BB! Go get Poe!” he said desperately.

Rey was suddenly at his side, tears forgotten for now. “BB! Good girl, BB! Find help!” she added.

BB barked happily and pawed at the carpet in front of the bathroom door. Then took off up the stairs. They both slowly sat up, neither wanting to admit that their chances were very slim that BB had actually understood them. But then again Poe did have a rather odd relationship with his dog, kinda like Lassie and little Timmy, so anything was possible.

Neither of them had anything to say really; at least the crying had seemed to work its way out of Rey’s system.

She was left feeling rather foolish but the pressure in her head was alleviated, she couldn’t believe she’d started crying. Ben was the first to stand up again, and he offered a hand to Rey to help her up. She took it, she let a small sniffle escape her and she wasn’t sure what to say other than a quiet, “Thanks.”

They went sat against the far wall side by side.

Once again there was a pregnant pause between them, neither knowing what to say. Finally Ben broke the silence, “I’m sorry I called you you out in front of your class,” he said.

Rey sniffed, “I’m sorry I called you a knob,” she said. “Truce?” She tentatively offered her hand.

Ben looked at it thoughtfully and then shook. “Truce.”

His hand was warmer than she was expecting and she was almost a little sad when he pulled away. Silence overtook them again but it was less uncomfortable this time.

Rey didn’t know when she dozed off, but it was a relief.

----------------

When the door to the bathroom finally opened Ben and Rey had both fallen asleep. Rey was slumped against Ben’s shoulder, drooling into his tee-shirt. Ben had his head back, mouth open in a quiet snore.

The door creaked on its hinges and Finn emerged bleary eyed from an evening of heavy drinking, his normally handsome features turned slightly green. He completely disregarded Ben and Rey who didn’t stir until he stumbled over their feet to crouch over the toilet.

Ben awoke, his entire body stiff from sleeping in such a position. Rey moaned in protest as he moved, her head still on his shoulder. They both came to rather quickly at the sound of Finn retching into the toilet bowl.

“What the--” Ben jolted up.

“Finn?” Rey murmured rubbing the sleep from her eyes.

Finn was too preoccupied to answer.

Ben glanced up at the door which was mercifully ajar, “The door!” he practically shouted with excitement. He leapt up in spite of his stiff muscles and rushed the open threshold.

“Hey Finn, careful with the door, the -- Ben?”

Ben nearly ran into Poe as he rounded the corner.

“Ben, we thought you went home?” Poe said surprised. “Rey? Where’ve you been? We’ve been looking for you.” Then a wave of realization came over his handsome features.

“We’ve been locked in your fucking bathroom!” Ben snapped.

A smile broke across Poe’s face which made Ben really want to hit him. “Oh man, I thought I said something to you, the knob is broken.”

“Yeah, I fucking noticed!” Ben growled.

“How long you been in there?” Poe asked laughing, clearly finding this whole situation hilarious.

Ben glanced down at his watch, it hadn’t been as long as he’d actually thought. It was still dark outside, and his watch read a little past 10 pm. So it’d only been about an hour and half since Rey’d been locked in there with him. He decided not to answer that, because it would probably just serve as some hilarious story that Poe would be telling come Tuesday in the teacher’s lounge; ‘did you hear how Ben got locked in the bathroom for three hours?’

He glanced back at Rey who was helping Finn, who was through the worst of it. In spite of what she’d endured tonight, she was actually taking care of her friend. She was damp, tired, probably still a little drunk, but for a moment she was radiant in the florescent light of the bathroom. Ben forced himself to look away.

“What happened?” she asked in relation to her friend.

“He got into a very competitive game of Beer Pong with Phas. He lost,” Poe said. “You ok, buddy?”

Finn nodded without a word, his color was starting to look better but he was likely done for the night.

There was always somebody at these parties, just like there was always somebody who fell in Poe’s pool.

Chapter Text

CHATTER

starryeyed_mai:

i’m hanging out at my boyfriends house across town and just learned that hes neighbors wit my TEACHER! and hes havin a party wit all my other teachers!!

Comments:

McShane: live chat that shit!

lucy_in_dah_sky: omg AWKWARD! lololol

OMGitsMaggie: wait ur bf is partying wit all ur teachers? lol

starryeyed_mai:

its my history teacher! hes super hawt! lol sory bae!
[download pic]

starryeyed_mai:

all of the other teachers are there! my physics teacher is really good at beer pong! omg!

Comments:

CosmoCoCo: omg! Of course she is!

lucy_in_dah_sky: u cna see mr. solo! HOT!

McShane: haha lucy ur crazy!

rahrah44: wow how do u stay focused when all ur teachers are ridiculously goodlooking?

starryeyed_mai:

i think they do this a lot theyre already talking about next time lol! @max_007 is so bored but this is awesome!

starryeyed_mai:

OH NO! ms niima just got knocked into the pool!!
[download pic]

Comments:

lucy_in_dah_sky: OH NO MS NIIMA!!

McShane: AHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

--------------------

“It took awhile to fish her phone from the bottom of the pool,” Finn said.

Snap Wexley nodded thoughtfully. “Poe and I tried to put it in rice but the damage was done,” he said gesturing to the box in his hand.

“I’ll help her restore her old backup on there, hopefully she actually ran a backup to restore,” Rose said. “It was nice of you guys to replace her phone, though.”

Both Finn and Snap looked guilty, even though it had been an accident they both still felt pretty bad that it had resulted in the destruction of Rey’s phone. Also, that it had directly resulted in her being locked in a bathroom with Ben Solo. Finn wasn’t quite sure which to feel worse about, and then there was the fact that she selflessly took care of him after all that. Rey’s a good friend, he thought sullenly.

They were all standing around in the faculty lounge, it was Tuesday and they were all waiting to funnel into the adjacent classroom that was designated for staff trainings and meetings. It was early in the morning, a little after 7 am, and classes were on a delayed start to give time for the weekly staff meetings.

Rey walked into the staff lounge carrying a to-go cup actually looking very rested and refreshed, a pleased smile on her face. Much to Finn and Rose’s surprise Ben entered immediately behind her carrying a matching coffee cup from the same coffee shop and a easy smile on his face. Finn and Rose exchanged alarmed looks.

Rey and Ben separated, with him heading off to converse with Hux and Mitaka. Rey approached them sipping from her cup, “What’s with those looks?” she asked.

Finn and Rose looked utterly flabbergasted, “Did you get coffee with Ben Solo?” Rose asked looking shocked.

“What? No!” Rey denied dropping her voice.

“So you both just happened to go to the same coffee stop that is nowhere near your apartment?” Finn asked, his eyebrows wiggling beneath his crisp hairline.

“I bumped into him the parking lot just now, and he’d brought me tea,” she insisted. “As a sort of peace offering after the party.”

“Umm,” Snap interjected looking a bit lost. The other three ignored him.

“Are you rubbing elbows with the Dark Side, Niima?” Rose teased.

“Yeah, I mean I know he’s got some pretty eyes but jeeze…” Finn added.

“I am not--” Rey said under her breath.

“Soooo--” Snap spoke up, clearly an unwitting participant in their current conversation.

“Are you sure? And how’d he know your drink order?” Finn pressed.

“It’s nothing, Finnley Nathan Rider,” she said, using his full name for emphasis.

As if on cue, Vice Principal Holdo entered the lounge looking stern, which was hard for her to accomplish with her lavender hair. “We’ve got a lot to discuss everyone, so lets get started.”

“Oh thank god,” Snap said relieved, pushing the box containing a new phone into Rey’s hands, “Sorry about this weekend, Rey,” before he headed for adjoined classroom/conference room leaving the three of them looking confused.

Rey looked down at the new phone in her hands, then looking up between Rose and Finn.

Finn rubbed the back of his head, “Oh yeah me and Snap when halves and got that for you, your old one didn’t make it.”

“Oh Finnley, you didn’t have to do that,” Rey said utterly surprised that they would do that for her.

Rose laughed, “Yeah, they probably did, Rey.”

“Well thank you,” Rey said. “I need to go thank Snap too,” she added as they started to head in to the meeting room.

“Maybe we’ll get you a lifeproof case for next time,” Finn said as he and Rose took seats next to her.

Rey looked around the room, Snap was on the other side of the room talking to Jessika. She made note to thank him for replacing her phone as she honestly hadn’t expected such a kind gesture. She hated to think how much money they’d spent. The nice thing was that, it was the same model as her old phone which was a earlier model so it was likely on the cheap end of the scale.

Her eyes landed on Ben who was sitting just to the left of Holdo scrolling through his phone and only half paying attention to whatever it was that Hux was yammering on about.

“Hey, anyone seen Poe?” Finn asked looking around. It wasn’t like him to be late.

Before either Rey or Rose could answer, Holdo flipped on the projector. “Kaydel, if you could get the lights, please?”

The young administrator looked very uncomfortable as she hit the light switch in the back of the room. That was she first Rey had seen of her that morning and by looking at the expression on her face, something wasn’t quite right. Principal Organa was usually at these meetings, heading them up instead of Holdo, but she was also notably absent.

Rey slumped nervously in her seat.

An image appeared on the screen that looked like a Chatter profile. Rey didn’t have an account but it was pretty familiar. This particular profile had a picture of a cartoon character instead of someone’s actual photo and had the user handle of ‘starryeyed_mai’ which Rey wasn’t familiar with. They’d posted numerous different inane updates, from what they’d had for breakfast and how they felt about the smoothie shop changing their hours.

Every last one of them looked utterly confused as to why they were being shown this, but it became painfully clear as soon as Holdo scrolled down to a specific series of updates that had been posted to the public profile.

i’m hanging out at my boyfriends house across town and just learned that hes neighbors wit my TEACHER! and hes havin a party wit all my other teachers!!

It was followed by a series of other Chatter uploads followed by photographic evidence of the entire staff’s merriment not even forty-eight hours prior. There were even comments, likely from other students, discussing everything that ‘starryeyed_mai’ had posted while watching them through a crack in the fence between Poe and his neighbors behind him.

They all began to shift uncomfortably but no one was quite willing to speak up. Rey could see her tumble into the pool with Snap, and her cheeks flamed as her own students happily reviewed the incident.

“So,” said Holdo finally, “As you can see we have a bit of a problem here.”

Suddenly someone snickered, heads turned to see that it was Hux. “Who’s Lucy, Solo?” he asked.

“Shut the fuck up, Hux,” Ben grumbled sinking into his chair clearly wishing the ground would swallow him up.

Rey looked back at the screen having been too caught up in the photos of her falling into the pool to look at anything else. This time she saw it, a user named ‘lucy_in_dah_sky’ had commented gleefully at Ben’s presence at the party followed simply by the word: HOT. Rey glanced back at Ben, who’s pale face was a brilliant shade of crimson.

“I bet that’s Lucy Harmon,” Phasma stated, looking like she wasn’t a fan.

“So who the hell is starryeyed_mai?” someone else said.

A murmur went through the staff, as they all started to discuss their theory as to which student of theirs might have ousted them all on Chatter.

“This is NOT a witch hunt for which students talk about their teachers online,” Holdo said sternly, silencing them all. “This is a lesson in your own discretion. Mr. Dameron is currently being reprimanded as the situation is evaluated. As for the rest of you, I hope that you realize that your actions outside of this building have as much consequence as they do inside it.”

They were quiet.

Finally Finn spoke, “How much trouble is Poe in?” he asked.

Holdo’s stern expression softened, “That’s up to Principal Organa and Superintendent Snoke to decide,” she said. “But now that all of you are aware it’s important that you all understand that we have to keep in mind that we are representatives of the school and the district.” The pink haired woman took a deep breath and continued, “As of yet the situation is contained, but if parents were to see this and complain, things could get very serious.”

All of this felt rather unfair, they weren’t doing anything illegal and they were in a private residence. Yet this was still apparently an issue all the same.

Suddenly there was the scrape of chair feet on the linoleum as Ben stood up suddenly and waked straight out of the room. Everyone turned to watch him leave, surprised and unsure what exactly was going on.

Holdo’s face shifted from confused to realization to alarm in a matter of a few seconds. She murmured a quiet “Oh my God,” and hurried out of the room after him. In moments the entire room was on their feet and eager to see what might be going down. Ben had a reputation for angry outbursts after all (even though as far as anyone knew it was just the one time).

Ben was on a mission and had the advantage of long purposeful strides over everyone else.

“Ben!” Holdo said loudly but he didn’t show any indication of stopping at all.

Ben stormed straight into the administrative offices across the hall and straight back into the Principal’s office. He didn’t even bother to knock.

“So we’re punishing people for what they do in their own homes now?!”

Rey couldn’t see him but she heard him from across the hall.

Holdo stormed in after Ben, “Leia, I am so sorry!” From where Rey was standing she could only hear her as well.

There was silence for moment, “Poe, you’re free to go,” she heard Leia give a breathy sigh. “It’s alright, Amilyn, I’ll take it from here,” she added. Poe emerged from the office looking guilty and uncomfortable.

“What, more anger management? What the hell is Snoke demanding now?!” Ben snapped. Even from out in the hall, Rey could almost feel a tremor of his anger. None of them had been expected to be dealing with any of this when they arrived at work today.

“Shut the damn door, Ben,” Leia said exasperated.

Holdo appeared from the offices, affronted by their gathering in the hall. “Well, there’s a lot to get done before classes get started, what are you all standing around for?”

At that they all scattered. Holdo could give off a distinct vibe of don’t fuck with me right now, and that was the sense that they were all getting. Finn and Rose fell in step behind Poe and Rey as they made their way to the Arts and Humanities wing, even though their own classrooms were on the other end of campus.

“Shit, Poe, what happened?” Finn asked urgently.

Poe steered them into Rey’s studio classroom as it was the closest. Rey gave a quick glance at Ben’s classroom door across the hall, the door was closed and the lights were off, it was dark except for the early morning light streaming in through the window at the back for his classroom.

The four of them piled in and Poe shut the door and checked his watch; there was still an hour or so until classes started but students would start flocking in to the common areas fairly soon.

“Well I’m not fired, or suspended. Mostly thanks to Leia,” he said trying to put a cheerful spin on it.

“Was that ever even an option?” Rose asked.

“The Superintendent is not happy, thought punishing me would demonstrate for the parents that he was taking the issue seriously,” Poe said with a shrug.

“For a party?” Finn said incredulously.

“For encouraging staff to participate in ‘debauchery’” Poe said imitating Snoke’s usual tone of disgust. Most educators in the district were not fans of the Superintendent already, his budget cuts were oppressive and he went after teacher’s unions with a vengeance.

Rose snorted in disgust, “Of course,” she mumbled.

Poe took a deep breath and crossed his arms. “Leia put her foot down, defended us,” he said.

“I can’t believe Ben spoke to her that way,” Rey said softly.

“I can,” Poe said nonchalantly. They all looked at him in disbelief and he suddenly looked like he’d said something he wasn’t supposed to. “Shit I forget that you guys don’t know,” he said. They all looked at him expectantly.

He rubbed the back of his neck, “Well I only know because Ben and I went to high school together.”

“Yeah and?” Finn said. That was actually news to Rey, but she was still new and unsure if this was supposed to be common knowledge among the staff.

“Well our mom’s were really tight,” he said. They didn’t know how to connect the points he was revealing but he didn’t look like he wanted to explicitly say what it was.

“You gonna make us play charades? What is it?” Rose demanded.

Poe sighed, “Fine, Ben’s full name is Ben Organa-Solo, he only uses Solo professionally so that people don’t accuse Leia of nepotism.”

They were quiet for a moment as the info set in. “Leia is Ben’s mom,” Poe elaborated.

“Yeah we got that part,” Finn said sarcastically.

“I can’t believe I called my boss’s son a knob,” Rey said horrified.

“You did what?” Poe laughed.

“Yeah and then you got locked in a bathroom with him and now he’s bringing you coffee,” Finn added.

“He brought you coffee?” Poe asked. He hadn’t been present before them meeting because he was busy being scolded for ‘debauchery’.

“It’s tea!” Rey insisted defensively like it made a difference.

“And how is it that he knew you prefer tea to coffee?” Finn said. That was actually a pretty good question and Rey wasn’t exactly sure how.

Rose scoffed, “Easy, she’s British, he just assumed all British people like tea,” she said simply.

“That’s a stereotype,” Rey said.

“Sure, Rey,” she said.

“Umm Ms. Niima?”

A quiet voice from the door halted the conversation; they all looked over as a sandy haired teenage boy dressed in hand me downs that were just a little too big for him stood in the threshold. He looked nervous to see four teachers instead of the one he’d been expecting.

Rey composed herself, “Hey Andy, what do you need?” she asked in her teacher voice.

Andy straightened his backpack, “My sister has to drop me off early to go to work, I was hoping I could work on my project before class.”

“Of course,” she said with a cheerful smile. The young sophomore nodded and walked over to his usually seat in the back.

“Don’t think we’re not discussing this further, Niima,” Finn said smirk.

“Yeah I want all the details,” Poe added as they all walked over to the door.

“Let’s continue this discussion over lunch,” Rose suggested, not helping.

“It’s a good thing that I’m on lunch monitor duty then,” she said quietly, shooing them out of her classroom.

“Don’t worry, Finn and I can fill Poe in without you,” Rose teased.

“I’ve got some theories about the whole bathroom situation,” Finn said thoughtfully.

“Out!” Rey groaned.

Her three friends were out the door but just before she could close the door behind them, Poe turned back. “Wait, isn’t it also Ben’s day for lunch monitor duty?” he asked quietly, so as not to be overheard by the young student who was busily setting up his supplies. Rey’s face turned ever so slightly pink under her freckles.

“You know what, I do believe you’re right,” Finn agreed, giving Rey a wink.

With that the three of them headed down the hallway leaving her at her classroom door looking slightly embarrassed.

--------------------

Ben was really good at starting arguments with his mother, decidedly less so at finishing them. He and his father had that in common. He’d started pretty aggressively, making a bit of a scene, as he often did so as a kid. But Leia was a professional, she had dealt with angry teenagers her entire working career, she’d also raised Ben, who was prone to tantrums since he came out of the womb, without batting an eye. He knew he’d lost as soon as she gave him that look of the top of her wire frame glasses.

“Benjamin Organa-Solo, sit down,” she grumbled as soon as the door to her office was closed tight and it was just mother and son.

He sat in one of the chairs on the other side of her desk but the very act felt like surrender.

“Snoke can’t--” he started to say.

“Snoke didn’t.” Leia said firmly.

She’d said it with such finality that Ben couldn’t think of anything else to say.

“I gave Poe a warning, Snoke wanted a suspension pending an investigation. And I told him there was nothing to investigate. No students were involved and it was off of school property, therefore not something that warranted such a severe punishment. If I started suspending my teachers for every little discrepancy outside of school I would have to teach all of these classes myself.”

Leia had an impressive lecture voice, he’d heard it so many times it made him feel like he was fifteen again. He’d always thought that his mother missed her calling and should have been a politician. “So your outburst is unwarranted,” she finished turning to the computer on her desk. “Now, did you eat breakfast?”

“What? Yes, mom, I ate breakfast,” he lied.

“So you had coffee?”

Ben groaned as his mother pulled an apricot granola bar out of her desk and placed it in front of him. He hated apricots. “I’m almost 30,” he said.

“Don’t remind me,” she said, “And you know how you get when your blood sugar gets low.”

Ben rolled his eyes and snatched the bar off the desk. He actually was a little hungry. He got up to leave but before he reached the door, his mother spoke again.

“And Ben,” she said, he turned again to face her, “Another offense like that in front of our colleagues and we’re going to have a lot more to talk about.” Her voice was low, serious and with a tone of finality. “Understood?”

Ben swallowed hard, this was the problem with working for his mother. “Understood.” He left the office feeling slightly embarrassed, especially when he had to exchange an awkward glance with Kaydel who was sitting at her desk looking surprised to see him emerge unscathed.

He made for his classroom in the Arts and Humanities wing, pausing ever so briefly to glance into Rey’s classroom across the hall. She was busy working with a student on some sort of art project. The cup of tea he’d brought her was perched on the corner of the work table next to her, he couldn’t help but smile at that. He quickly turned into his own classroom before she could catch him standing there and flipped on the lights. Things were exactly as he’d left them the previous friday, except for the custodian had emptied the trash and cleaned up the chalkboard.

He was unpacking his books when there was a soft knock at his door. Ben looked up to see Rey standing in the open doorway.

“Hey,” she said, there was a slight blush on her cheeks.

“Hey,” he replied.

“Are you okay?” she asked. She was probably referring to his outburst earlier.

Ben nodded, “Yeah, I’m fine,” he said, glancing at the granola bar on his desk next to his things. “Just wasn’t happy with the idea that Poe was in trouble for something all of us participated in.”

“Yeah,” Rey agreed. “But he’s not fired, so that’s good news,” she added.

“No thanks to Snoke,” he grumbled, feeling slightly guilty that his anger had been so missplaced.

“I’ve never met the Superintendent,” she said, “All I know about him is he cut my art budget by a third,” she was still a little bitter about that. She hadn’t even started and was already having to cut several of her lesson plans short.

“Count yourself lucky,” he said with a smile. “He’s an ugly asshole.” Snoke had cut most the arts and humanities budgets, including Ben’s.

Rey snorted a laugh just as the warning bell rang signalling that classes would soon be starting and the hall started to fill with students. “Well, I’ll see you at lunch,” she said before turning back to her own classroom.

Ben could hear several of her first period students greet her excitedly in the hall and she greeted them with matching enthusiasm. He watched as she plucked her apron off the hook by her classroom door and put it on, it looked so natural on her.

--------------------

“Ten bucks says they bone,” Poe said.

“No way,” Finn replied, “Rey can’t stand him and Ben can be a huge ass.”

“Finn has a point,” Rose said sipping from her pop can with a straw.

Poe was in the middle of peeling a hard boiled egg, which his table mates found disgusting. “You guys don’t know Ben all that well, though,” Poe insisted “Underneath that hard shell of an exterior,” he split the egg in half with his fingers for emphasis revealing the neon yellow yolk. “Is a soft gooey interior.”

Finn and Rose both looked repulsed by the physical metaphor. “That’s a hard boiled egg,” Finn said plainly, with no gooey center to speak of.

“That still describes Ben pretty well,” Rose said.

“And Rey hates hard boiled eggs,” Finn said.

“How do you know?” Poe asked with a smirk.

“Because she’s my best friend and I’ve seen her pick them off of a cobb salad before,” Finn insisted.

Poe rolled his eyes, “Then think of it like a Cadbury Egg,” he said.

“Still gross,” Rose said plainly, sipping at her soda.

They both looked at her, “I guess we’ll keep that in mind for Easter, weirdo,” Finn said with an eye roll.

“Who doesn’t like Cadbury Eggs,” Poe said in mock disbelief, Finn nodded in agreement.

“Adults,” Rose responded sarcastically.

“Okay, Poe, you’re on ten bucks says they don’t bone, because they don’t actually like each other,” Finn crossed his arms defiantly.

“I’m actually with Poe on this one,” she said.

“What?”

“Rey likes the bad boy persona, but she also wants a giant softie who shows up with her favorite tea in the morning and who’s reads poetry in his free time. Ben is pretty much a walking personification of Mr. Darcy,” Rose explained.

“See!” Poe said justified.

“Who’s Mr. Darcy?” Finn asked.

Poe laughed, Rose groaned.

Chapter Text

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After the excitement of the morning meeting, classes seemed to drag on until lunch. Ben stood at the chalkboard writing notes on Shakespeare. The school board had laid out a required reading curriculum, the only Shakespeare on the list for sophomores was Romeo and Juliet, which was overrated if anyone ever bothered to ask him--- no one ever did. So every fall he taught it, and every fall a fair few of his sophomores slept through it. He would prefer to teach MacBeth or Hamlet or Julius Caesar, Shakespeare was a literary genius and the only exposure they were gonna get was Romeo and Juliet.

He wrote the words ‘LOVE or LUST’ on the board in his tight, all caps handwriting. If he had to teach this, he was at least gonna teach some of the spicy bits. He turned back to the class to continue a lecture, “This is one of the more oblivious conflicts with ‘Romeo and Juliet’, and you could make the argument that Romeo and Juliet are truly in love, the best argument against this however, would be the fact the play opens with Romeo “madly” in love with Rosaline and marries Juliet the very next day.”

The hormonally raging audience had perked up a little at the word ‘lust’ written on the board, but their attention was quickly fading as Ben was talking. He glanced at the clock and saw that he only had another eight minutes left in class and then it would be lunch. Leave it to Ben to make 'Lust' uninteresting.

He plowed through the rest of his planned lecture, “And yet we call it the greatest love story of all time (it’s not). We’re encouraged to feel sympathy for them and one of the most compelling causes for that is Juliet and Romeo’s first kiss in Act One, Scene Four.” God damn, his students looked bored as hell now. T-minus five minutes.

“These 14 lines are a perfect Shakespearean Sonnet this means that it has three ABAB quatrains and a rhyming couplet.” Half the class looked lost and he was pretty sure that the other half were sleeping.

Three minutes.

A girl in the back, who rarely spoke up, timidly raised her hand.

“Yes, Alayna?” Ben asked, thank all that is good that one of these kids had something to say.

“Mr. Solo, have you ever been in love?” she asked innocently.

Jesus H. Christ, Ben was mildly horrified by the question. That went to a horrible place really quick; how is it still three minutes until this hellscape of a class is over!?

Ben struggled to find an answer because the honest truth was no.

Why the fuck is he looking at Rey’s classroom now of all times?! He could see her standing at the front of her class giving a talk about something Ben couldn’t hear, wearing a paint covered smock over her cream colored blouse. She was wearing a brilliant smile, and it looked so bright in her classroom.

Pull it together, Solo; “I believe we’re discussing Shakespeare at the moment, Alayna,” he said sternly.

But Alayna Jimenez was braver than most, and she stared him right in the face, “But how can you say something is love or not if you haven’t experienced it yourself?”

I fucking hate Romeo and Juliet, he thought rather bitterly. “Alright, can you say that you’ve ever been in love?”

Alayna looked a little unarmed by the question, she looked around at the classroom as if trying to come up with the answer. A whisper ran through the class, they were all paying attention now. She shyly shook her head 'no'.

"But you have a concept in your mind of what love is, yeah?" She nodded. "You can draw a conclusion of what love is vicariously what you read and watch, and you've seen depictions of love in media since your early childhood," he continued. "For the time being, that's what you'll have to work with until you do experience it yourself."

Then the bell rang and Ben breathed a sigh of relief as everyone started to pack up their things.

“Don’t forget to finish Act Two tonight, we will be discussing it next time,” Ben called out over their shuffling out of the room. He checked his watch, he was starving and wouldn’t be able to eat until after lunch due to his having monitor duty today. It was a dirty job but everyone had to take their turn with it. There were usually three to four teachers who would stand around and make sure everyone behaves themselves. It was incredibly boring to watch a bunch of teenagers eat.

Last year, Poe had made a game that all the teachers had participated in. It was pretty simple, just eavesdrop on their students until they overhear something unusual or awesome out of context and then share it on a sticky note in the faculty lounge. In that last week or so of the new school year, several sticky notes had already gone up. Coming back with a particularly good one was pretty much the only upside to lunch monitor duty.

Ben plucked his sunglasses from his desk, deciding that it’s too nice a day to wear a jacket.

He was closing his classroom up just as Rey stepped out to do the same.

“Nice shades,” she said, he couldn’t tell if she was being sarcastic or not.

“Umm, thanks,” he said awkwardly, “I’ve got monitor duty.”

“Oh, me too,” Rey said as they started down the hall to the cafeteria.

His cheeks heated ever so slightly in her presence, he hadn’t bothered to see who else was on the roster with him. There was a slightly awkward silence that settled between them as they turned the corner into the crowded area outside of the cafeteria.

“Did you like the tea?” he asked, immediately regretting it because it sounded stupid and a little creepy.

“How’d you know I like tea?” she was smiling so maybe not a creepy as he thought.

“There’s a half dozen boxes of tea bags with your name on them in the teacher’s lounge,” he said with a shrug.

“Oh,” she said, “I thought you may have just assumed that it was because I’m British.”

“Wait, so you don’t like tea?” Ben asked confused.

“Oh no I love tea-- Oh my god, that sounded so ingrateful! Thank you for the tea, it was really nice of you,” Rey said quickly.

There was another lull in their conversation but that was primarily because the noise from the cafeteria rose to a dull roar as the voices of the multitudes of students overlapped each other. Just inside the cafeteria doors was another teacher on lunch duty, Derham Boyce who taught Geography just down the hall from them.

Derham nodded politely, “We probably need a couple sets of eyes outside, it’s nice out so that means that someone is going to be up to something,” he said.

“On it,” Ben said dryly, vaguely gesturing to the sunglasses.

“I guess I’ll head out too,” Rey said with a shrug.

“Enjoy the sun,” Derham said cheerfully.

Ben and Rey wandered out on to the patio, “So is there anything in particular that we’re supposed to do?” she asked referring to their lunch monitor duty.

“Make sure no one dies?” Ben said with a shrug.

“Oh is that all?” Rey replied with a hint of a sarcasm.

Corellia High allowed only seniors to leave campus for lunch, everyone else had to eat at school. There was a standard cafeteria and a large shaded patio outside with a dozen or so picnic tables that were all already crowded with students. There was a large expanse of grass where students scattered out in the lawn to take in the sunshine. Lastly there was a small basketball court with two opposing hoops that no longer had nets. It was all pretty pleasant; warm and sunny, fall had yet to set in and it looked like the majority of the students were taking advantage of it.

They stood quietly for a bit surveying their charges; Rey supposed she could walk around as it felt kind of awkward to just be standing there, like some kind of prison yard guard. But they didn’t really seem to pay much attention to her or Ben. She couldn’t believe that she had to do this every other Tuesday, it was so boring.

“How was your morning?” she asked, desperately seeking some kind of entertainment.

“Don’t remind me,” Ben groaned. “The school board is making me teach ‘Romeo and Juliet’,” he added.

“That’s alarming, considering you teach English Literature,” she said with a playful smile.

Ben gave a soft laugh, “I know, I know,” he said. “It gets tiring, no one really seems to care much. They’ve all seen DiCaprio and Danes butcher it already,” he said.

“Teach them some Shakespearean insults, I’m sure plenty a couple of them would love to learn how burn their classmates in iambic pentameter,” she suggested casually.

That actually wasn’t a bad idea, he thought to himself.

“Or replace all the instances of ‘alas’, with ‘aw shit’ just to keep them on their toes,” she added less helpfully.

Ben snorted ungracefully. “‘Aw shit, Poor Yorick!’” he said.

“‘Aw shit, poor Romeo! He is already dead;’” she said smiling.

He laughed, “You can quote Shakespeare?”

“I played Mercutio in my drama club at Uni,” she answered.

He thought for half a moment then said, “‘Aw shit, what ignorant sin have I committed?’” he quoted incorrectly.

Rey laughed, she had an amazing laugh that did something weird to his insides. “Othello?” she asked. Holy shit she actually knew the reference. “Let’s see,” she said trying to recall a good one from memory, then her expression turned in an instant. “OH SHIT!” she exclaimed.

Ben jerked up in surprise, following her line of sight and saw the cause for alarm. He looked up just in time to see one female student grab another girl by the hair and swing her into the pavement of the basketball court. “OH SHIT!” Ben almost shouted at the sudden violent act.

Both him and Rey started forward immediately without much a plan as to how to stop it. The girl who’d been thrown down, a senior with curly brown hair, wasn’t hurt much because she was back up on her feet before Ben and Rey could get there and was throwing herself at the other girl.

The instigator, a junior with a long blonde ponytail, was caught off guard by the other girl’s quick recovery and got hit hard as the two girls tumbled onto the ground in a tangle of angry limbs. In the scuffle, the blonde had managed to dig her fingernails in the other girl’s face enough to draw blood. But the brunette responded with a hard slap to the side of the blonde's head.

Surrounding students were on their feet trying to get a good view as Ben and Rey intervened.

“HEY! Knock it off!” Ben roared as he went in to pull the brunette off the other girl.

An elbow made hard contact with the bridge of his nose causing an explosion of pain in his face.

The blow knocked the wind out of him as he fell back on his ass. He wasn’t sure where Derham came from, but thankfully he was there to finish what Ben had started.

His ears rang and his eyes watered and blood dripped into his hand. He could vaguely hear shouting, one of the girls was screaming about how the other one was a “slut” and to not come sniffing around her boyfriend again… Ben didn’t really care as he scrambled to his feet while his head was swimming.

He looked up as soon as his vision wasn’t blurring, his sunglasses had been destroyed and knocked right off and onto the cracked and aging pavement. There was a great deal of blood down the front of his face and his dark gray button up he was wearing. “Fuck,” he groaned.

The sight of him de-escalated the fight rather quickly when both girls realized that they were in a lot more trouble than initially thought.

“Both of you, to Principal Organa’s office, now!” Rey said in a tone that was dangerous and not to be questioned. It was scarier than when he’d called her out in front of her class and he was glad that that it wasn’t directed at him this time.

The girls looked shocked at sweet Ms. Niima’s sudden ferocity that they’d never would have expected from her. Turns out everyone’s favorite new art teacher could put her damn foot down.

“You heard her, Principal’s office,” Derham said angrily before escorting the two girls inside.

Rey hurried up to him, “Oh dear god,” she said, but the look on her face said it all.

“Aww shit,” he practically whined, the pain quickly intensifying. Rey coughed back a laugh because of their previous conversation but she knew that he hadn't said it on purpose.

“Are you okay, Mr. Solo?” a student asked.

He glanced over to see Lucy Harmon, and he immediately thought of the horrifying online exchange he'd been made to witness in the staff meeting they’d had that morning, chatter handle: lucy_in_dah_sky. That made it ten times worse.

“Ben, head back, pinch here.” Ben yelped at the instructions Rey was giving him. “Sorry, yes that hurts, I know,” she said. Her tone was oddly comforting but it didn’t ease the pain in his face.

Rey led him back inside, with him putting his head back and pinching the bridge of his nose. The parade through the cafeteria was a miserable one, a lot of starring and whispers. High schoolers were really good at exaggerating the truth and they were known to embellish, Ben would know after the incident last spring. Rey was kind enough to get some napkins from the lunch lady and gently pressed them to Ben’s injured nose. “Ow!”

“Sorry,” she said, “come on, let’s get you to the nurse.” She hurried him out of the lunch room where the throngs of students thinned out dramatically.

It wasn’t a particularly long walk to the office but it felt longer while he was getting ogled by surprised students every few steps.

Amilyn Holdo was sitting at the administrators desk when the group paraded into the office. “You two, sit,” Derham said sternly directing them to the waiting chairs across from what was normally Kaydel’s desk. “I don’t wanna see either of you even looking at each other.”

The pink-haired Vice Principal stood up shocked at the tattered appearance of the students but its Ben’s face that got the biggest reaction. “Good god! Ben!”

Leia’s door was propped open, so she heard the commotion and was quickly out of her office to see what all was happening. “‘Good god’ is right,” she said surprised as she eyed Ben up and down. “Rey if you could grab him some ice and sit him down in the staff lounge for a bit. Nurse Harter should be back from lunch soon. I’ll work on getting this sorted out.” Leia crossed her arms looking rather sternly at the two girls. “Come on, you two,” she gestured to her open office door.

“And Rey, could you grab some ice and some antiseptic ointment for Ms. Bria here,” Leia added as she watched the two trudge into the office. Amber, the brunette with the scratched cheek was looking particularly put upon.

“Of course,” Rey nodded as she guided Ben, who had to walk with his head back and bloody kitchen napkins pressed to his face, over to staff lounge.

There was a small number of teachers sitting around the faculty room, enjoying a nice lunch or a cup of coffee from the communal coffee maker, conversing pleasantly. Enter Ben, a bloody mess down his mouth and chin and wads of napkins stuffed in his nostrils.

“Shit!-- What’d you say, Ben?” Poe said first.

Ben glared at him, “Ha. Ha,” he said humorlessly, but his voice was nasally and it came out sounding like a cartoon character. Rey got him a chair to sit in.

“Aw man, I was betting that Hux was going to get punched in the face first,” Jessika Pava said from where she was leaning on the counter next to Phasma discussing the upcoming Girl’s Volleyball season.

“Year’s still young,” Phasma said casually sipping from her chrome colored novelty coffee mug.

“I didn’t get punched in the face. Rey, tell them I didn’t get punched in the face,” he said with a slight whine in his voice.

“Hang on, while I get ice,” she said ignoring him and hurrying off towards the nurses office for a first aid kit.

The rest of the staff looked at him expectantly. “So what happened?” Rose asked, continuing to eat her salad that she’d packed from home, unperturbed by the sight in front of her.

“I broke up a fight,” he said leaning back in his chair.

They perked up at that. “Nice who was it?” Finn said excitedly.

“Amber Downy and Bria Perry,” he said.

“See I told you, Bria wasn’t gonna put up with Amber getting cozy with Eddie Salazar,” Rose said around a mouthful of salad, waving her fork in Poe’s general direction.

“Since when was Bria dating Eddie in the first place,” Finn asked.

“They went to the same summer camp,” Phasma interjected helpfully.

“Ahh, summer camp was great,” Poe said fondly, then clapped Ben on the shoulder, “You remember summer camp, Ben?”

“Fuck You.”

“That means he does,” Poe said wiggling his eyebrows.

Rey reentered the room with an ice pack and more gauze for Ben. “Here, let me see,” she said, pulling Ben’s hand away from his face. “It looks like it’s stopped bleeding, but Leia says that you should go to Urgent Care for an X-Ray.”

“I’ve got class,” Ben groaned.

“Amilyn is gonna sub for you,” Rey said. Collecting a damp paper towel for him to wipe up some of the blood with. “Hey Poe, you’ve got planning period after this right?” Rey asked.

“Yeah, I can take him,” Poe said, finishing his coffee. Ben gingerly removed the kitchen napkins from his nose and placed them in front of Poe on the table and replacing them with the gauze Rey had brought them. Poe, Finn, and Rose all made hilariously matching face of utter disgust. That's for bringing up camp, Ben thought and even managed an innocent looking smile.

“Thanks,” Rey said gratefully, cheerfully ignoring what Ben had just done. Poe stood up from the table leaving the mess to someone else.

"Let's go get your head scanned, Benny," Poe said collecting his keys and heading out the door.

Ben got out of his chair, “Thank you, Rey,” he said nasally, following Poe out. Rey’s cheeks hinted at just a tiny bit of pink at the gesture.

“Good Luck,” she said awkwardly as he left. “Let me know if you come up with anymore good 'alas' lines on the way there,” she added, earning a few odd looks from their colleagues.

“Have fun getting irradiated!” Finn called back through the lounge door jokingly.

Everyone looked down at the bloody, snotty, napkins left on the table, waiting for someone else to clean them up.

"So Leia needs me for a statement," Rey said quickly then left the faculty lounge in a hurry.

Finn and Rose exchanged looks, "See this is what happens when you take bets on your friends' sex lives," he said jabbing his finger at the napkin.

Chapter Text

The entire teaching faculty was required to complete an “Activity Awareness Training” course online as a result of their “indiscretion” a week previously. It was an endless slideshow full of stock photos of smiling actors and redundant dialogue. Ben completed the whole thing by repeatedly clicking his mouse until it was finally over. It was almost criminal staff had been forced to waste their afternoon after classes to completing it.

Once he finally clicked through the last slide without reading, he stood up to stretch his legs and walk around his desk. He propped open his door to give the illusion of airing out his classroom but a part of him also wanted to see what Rey was up to.

She was on her phone, her voice carrying a trill of excitement. “Thank you so much Larma, this is so amazing,” Rey gushed. A brief pause as whoever Larma was responded. “Of course, I’ll have them packed up by Thursday. Thank you again.”

Ben tried not eavesdrop but found that he couldn’t help it. He walked back over to his desk and started packing up his things into his well worn leather messenger bag he had carried since college. Rey squealed with excitement as he was slinging his bag over his shoulder careful to avoid bumping his injured nose as he passed the strap over his head; he really wanted to know what she was so excited about.

They both appeared in the hallway at the same time, flipping the lights and closing their classroom doors. Rey looked elated, an infectious smile plastered across her face.

“Good news?” Ben asked casually. They weren’t necessarily friends, but they’d come into this friendly casual acquaintances stage that was bordering on a pleasant, possibly deeper friendship. There was also the fact that he thought her very clever and interesting and almost frustratingly attractive in very natural and honest way.

Rey’s cheeks flushed, “Oh, yeah. I umm… I have a gallery that is interested in my work,” she said with a modest smile.

“That’s great, what kind of work have you done?” he asked, he was genuinely curious. Her classes tended to range from figure drawing to pottery so he didn’t really know what medium she specialized in.

She looked a little embarrassed but also accomplished and modest, “I’m a sculptor. Ms. D’acy is displaying some of my ceramics in a gallery reception this weekend.”

The name Larma D’acy sounded familiar but he couldn’t place where he’d heard it. “Congrats!” he said smiling, adjusting the shoulder strap of his bag.

Rey couldn’t seem to stop smiling, “Thanks, I’m really thrilled,” she said. “Now I just need people to show up and buy a few pieces. It’s at Galleria D’acy on Friday evening if you want to come,” she added.

Ben rarely had plans and he hated socializing with most people but for some reason he immediately was inclined to accept. “Sure I’ll come,” he said, trying to maintain a casual tone. “Can’t guarantee I’ll be able to buy anything though.” Which was true, a teachers salary didn’t really leave a whole lot of room in his art budget.

“Oh no pressure, just maybe bring all your rich friends,” she joked.

“Great, gives me till Friday to actually find some rich friends.”

Rey laughed, it was light and genuine. “Me too, all my current friends are pretty much paid in hot lunch from the cafeteria,” she said. So she was like Ben in the fact that all her friends also seemed to be teachers here.

“So, how are you feeling?” Rey gestured at her own face, but clearly wanting to know how Ben’s face was healing.

The bruising around his eyes had faded which was the worst of it, but now it had started to turn yellow which he thought looked rather ghastly. The nose itself had been easily reset and the doctor had said that it was healing straight and would be back to normal soon, but for now he still had so wear the hard white bandage over the bridge to make sure everything stayed in place. “Feeling better, about 3-4 more weeks until I’m back to normal,” he said.

“It’s looking a lot better,” she said, trying to be encouraging, “I saw that at least Amber was back at school, she’s in my seventh period. But I think I heard Bria has another few days.”

“Yeah, she did break her teacher’s nose. And Amber was looking pretty guilty in my second period AP class,” he said with a slight smile.

“So are dramatic lunch duties something I should be concerned about for this year?” she asked.

“Only the ones with me,” he said lightly, they were officially stuck together every other Tuesday. She smiled.

He held the door for her as they left through the faculty entrance. “So I’ll get you an official invite to the gallery show when I see you tomorrow. Don’t forget to make some rich friends between now and then,” she joked.

“I’ll get right on it,” he said back as they headed their separate ways to their own cars.

Ben slid into the driver's seat of his silver sedan, only to find that his heart was racing and he felt like he could suddenly run a mile on the fly. It was only Monday and he had already made plans for his Friday evening.

------------------------

By the time Friday had come around, numerous friends and coworkers had agreed to come to her gallery show. Rey also offered extra credit for any student who showed up with a parent or guardian, which had been a suggestion of Finn’s. It felt a little underhanded to offer a grade boost in hopes for parents to shell out some cash to earn her favor, but if it worked then Rey wouldn’t have to fret over her rent or her studio lease or car payment this month like she normally did.

So why was she so nervous? She had spent the entire week worrying over what she would wear and what she would say. She could talk about her work all day but she wasn’t sure if she could sell it.

Rose arrived at her apartment, looking spectacular in a off-shoulder, cream colored blouse tucked neatly into a red pencil skirt. Her long black hair worn in soft curls over her shoulders. It immediately made Rey rethink the very teacher-esque outfit she’d picked out, and once Rose saw her she agreed that she needed something with a little more ‘swagger’.

They eventually settled on a black bodycon dress that clung to her hips and a high neckline and went to just below her knees. Rose had also selected a pair of strappy black heels from the back of Rey’s closet that she had forgotten she even owned and probably hadn’t worn more than once. Once she was all dressed she was certain that it was completely inappropriate to wear to a function where her students and coworkers might be present. But Rose insisted that she looked great and reminded her that this was a gallery show for Rey Niima the artist, not Ms. Niima the art teacher.

On the way to the gallery, Rey couldn’t help but think about that silly Activity Awareness Training that they’d had to do only a few days ago. What if Principal Organa showed up as she said she would and took offense to the tightness of her dress. Even in her overactive imagination the whole situation seems completely out of character for Leia, and rationally Rey knew that Rose was likely right, that the point was to see her work as an artist.

“Don’t sell that one vase I like,” Rose insisted as they arrived at the gallery, “I’ll buy it as soon as Elon Musk decides to make me his business partner,” she said climbing out of the driver seat of her compact car.

Rey laughed, “I’ll be sure to put your name on it.” She checked her appearance in the mirror one last time. Here goes nothing, she thought to herself feeling a little self conscious as she climbed out of the passenger seat of Rose’s car. It was nice of Rose to offer to drive and assist with getting ready, but now it felt like Rey had no easy means of escape and she was suddenly extremely nervous.

Walking into the gallery, Rey started to regret letting Rose talk her into her selected footwear despite how great the heels looked. She was going to be crippled by the end of the night, she was sure of it.

Once she was in the lobby, Larma D’acy, the owner and curator greeted her graciously with a feather light kiss on each side of her face. It wasn’t a custom that Rey had been expecting from the curator but she went along with it.

“This is my friend, Rose Tico, we work together,” Rey said quickly.

Larma greeted Rose in much the same way, “Welcome, my dear,” she said softly before turning back to Rey. “Now everything is underway. You’ll have to give a quick statement here very shortly. Nothing special, just thank everyone for coming and say a few lines about your work.” Rey nodded, but addressing everyone didn’t help her nerves.

Why was she so nervous?

Larma quickly left her there to talk hurriedly with her assistant. Rey looked over at Rose, “I’m starting to get really nervous,” she told her friend. From the look on Rose’s face she could tell.

“Don’t worry, I’m gonna go get you a glass of wine and it’ll help, okay,” she said. Rose quickly whipped her phone, typing out a text with lightning speed. “And good news, Finn is already inside hanging out with Kaydel and Snap and Poe is on his way as we speak. Oh and Jessika is coming and bringing her girlfriend.”

That news did help, her friends had all shown up to support her and it gave her a warm feeling in her chest. She briefly wondered if Ben had made it tonight, but she was too nervous to focus on him right now. They walked into the main hall of the gallery where guests had started to accumulate. Sure enough there was Finn and a few others from the school there who all greeted her excitedly.

“Rey, this is amazing!” Finn said excitedly upon seeing her.

Rey finally took a minute to look around, her sculptures were stood up on white square podiums under soft warm lights that made the specialty glazes she’d used glimmer as if inlaid with precious stones. An enormous amount of pride swelled up in her belly at the sight of her work on display; she could barely recognize it all under the genius exhibition of the gallery.

“Thanks,” she said through Finn hugging her affectionately.

There were more people here than she could have ever expected, the room was crowded with unfamiliar faces with a few familiar ones mingled in. She couldn’t believe that all these people would be here for her.

Before she could say much more, Rose was pressing a glass of chilled white wine into her hand, “Thank you,” Rey mouthed before taking a sip. Something harder might have settled her nerves a little more but the Pinot Gris would do for now.

There were waiters circling around offering up individual mouthfuls of what seemed a little too extravagant for what Rey created but for some reason also seemed to fit right in. This whole event was weird oxymoron that Rey couldn’t quite wrap her head around. She was a school teacher after all; she’d had a few gallery showings before but nothing quite like this.

“Look, bacon-wrapped shrimp,” Rose said nodding towards a passing waiter.

“Hold on a sec,” Finn said chasing down the unfortunate waiter.

“I don’t think I can eat, I’m too nervous,” Rey said to Rose watching Finn pile a plate up with prawns.

“Hey, you’re doing great, you look great and all this work that you’ve done is amazing,” Rose said encouragingly, “Deep breaths.”

Rey smiled and sipped her wine.

“So how long do you think it will take for a bunch of broke school teachers to eat this place into a bankruptcy?” Poe asked approaching their group as Finn returned with a tiny cocktail plate stacked well over capacity.

Rey laughed as Rose and Poe helped themselves to Finn’s plate without asking.

“Alright so the plan is still to convince some rich dudes to buy something,” Rose said around a mouthful of shrimp.

“Yep and if you see a student have them check in with me for credit,” Rey said almost forgetting her offer for extra credit. She was keeping a list on her phone of all her student that she saw tonight.

“And convince their parents to buy something,” Poe said, gesturing with a crustacean.

“Try the art collectors first,” Rey corrected, starting to get a little worried about her friends’ enthusiasm.

“And free dinner,” Finn added gesturing with his loaded plate.

“I knew the only reason you guys showed up was for the free food,” Rey teased, shaking her head.

“And because we love you,” Finn said. “Shrimp?”

------------------------

Ben wasn’t sure what he’d expected, he knew that Galleria D’Acy in downtown Republic City was fancy but he suddenly felt alarmingly unfancy in a place like this. He found himself thankful to have at least changed from his jeans to a pair of slacks and a nice button up but now he was feeling like he maybe should have also gone for the sports jacket too.

He sipped from his glass of wine, surrounding himself with a few familiar faces.

“Who’d’ve known Niima was this talented?” Hux said looking around, his expression impressed.

That was a complement as far as Hux was concerned. But he was right, Rey had told Ben pottery and ceramics but that description hadn’t prepared him for what he was seeing. The entire collection was incredible, bright blue and white crystalline glazes, organic edges reminiscent of waves cresting in the ocean. The pieces were ceramic but looked like they were made out of crashing water themselves.

Rey’s work was stunning. The darling art teacher was capable of turning common clay into something priceless.

“Says the man who finds the artwork in his dentist’s office impressive,” Phasma said. The high school volleyball coach looked like anything but. They knew that Phasma had expensive tastes and outside of school always looked impeccably fashionable. She fit right in with the art gallery crowd.

Hux was about to come up with a witty retort but was cut off when the owner of the gallery got up to make an announcement. Ben immediately recognized the woman as a friend of his mother’s but that was where the familiarity ended. He wondering vaguely if his mother had recommended Rey’s work, but upon seeing what Rey had put together it was likely that she’d impressed the right people all on her own.

“Hello and welcome all. Thank you for coming for this incredible reception tonight. It is with great pleasure to present the artist responsible for this remarkable collection, a local of Republic City, Ms. Rey Niima,” D’Acy said in light, breathy voice amplified by the microphone.

There was round of applause, but Ben found it hard to keep clapping when Rey stepped up on to the stage, smiling from ear to ear.

His heart raced at the sight of her. She looked like a work of art herself, in a tight black dress and heels that made her swagger with each step. Her arms and shoulders were bare revealing a delightful dusting of freckles that he hadn’t seen before. Her chestnut hair was pulled up into a intricate bun on top of her head, she looked like she would fit right in on any red carpet with paparazzi begging for her to look their way for a photograph.

Phasma leaned over to Ben, “You look like a fish, Solo,” she whispered, teasing him for his reaction.

The applause died down, and Rey flustered nervously for a moment to speak.

“Wooo! Ms. Niima!”

It was one of their students, she’d said she was inviting her students to give them exposure to professional art exhibitions and the work of a career artist.

Rey smiled and there was a small round of laughter in the crowd. “Thank you all for coming tonight, it is such an honor to be here.” She started, her voice a little shaky. “When I was a girl, I spent much of my childhood in and out of group homes and foster care. It wasn’t an easy upbringing by any means but it shaped me into who I am today.”

There was a slight murmur of surprise through the crowd, it seemed like not many of her colleagues were aware of her past, Ben included. She continued, her voice gradually becoming a little more steady and confident. “I grew up in a place that was almost all concrete, it was dreary and grey and I had to grow up very quickly. But one of the comforts that I found was picturing myself on an island surrounded by the sea on all sides. And that was what I wanted to bring forward in this collection. Again, thank you so much for coming tonight.”

There was a hearty round of applause and a few people almost looked a little teary eyed at the sentiment.

Rey stepped off the stage with a smile and rejoined a group that included Finn, Poe and Rose. Though many of their other co-workers were quickly making their way up to her to say hello and congratulations. Ben saw her hug his mother who was positively beaming.

“We, uh, should probably go say something to her,” Ben suggested awkwardly.

“Do you promise not to drool on the poor woman?” Hux said, Ben gave him a dark look. “Or lock her in a bathroom? She may not appreciate that on such a big night.”

“Fuck you, Hux,” Ben grumbled.

He tried to remind himself to keep things pleasant and casual, and not to make it weird. Ben waded through the crowd, which was fairly easy for him because he was tall and the broken nose seemed to intimidate people.

He finally made it over to a group of Corellia’s teachers with Rey in the middle looking radiant, making Ben swallow hard when she saw him and smiled.

“Hey, Ben I’m glad you could make it!” she said excitedly making her way over to him.

“I promised to bring my richest friends, but that didn’t work out so great so I just nicked Hux’s credit card when he wasn’t looking,” he said giving her a genuine smile, which likely looked a little odd considering the state of his face.

“Well that’s perfect then,” she laughed. “Thank you for coming it means a lot,” she added earnestly.

“Yeah of course,” he said. “You said ceramics but this is way more than I was expecting; this is incredible.” He felt like he’d heard the word so many times tonight and didn’t seem like enough to describe it.

Rey blushed like mad, “Thanks Ben,” she said, her hand reaching up to tuck a stray hair behind her ear in a modest gesture.

Ben was about to say something else when they were interrupted, “Excuse, Ms. Niima, you’re the artist correct?” said a tall man who looked like a used car dealer; he looked just a little too smooth, his dark hair slicked back and Ben could smell his cologne from where he was standing. “I’m Beau Garvey, Jenna Garvey’s father, she talks about your class all the time and how much she enjoys it.”

He shook Rey’s hand, and completely ignored Ben’s presence all together. “Oh,” Rey looked alarmed, “Is Jenna here?” she asked. “I told her to check in with me for extra credit,”

“Oh no, she is staying at her mother’s this weekend,” he said waving her off. “Anyway, I saw you at the New Year Orientation a few weeks ago and just knew I had to say hello,” he grinned at Rey with teeth that were almost too white. Ben may as well have been part of the furniture.

“Oh,” Rey replied, clearly not sure what to make of Mr. Beau Garvey, “Well thanks so much for coming,” she said putting on polite smile.

“You’re welcome,” the man said, “So do tell me about this piece here,” he essentially demanded, but punctuated it with a shady smirk. He gestured to Rey’s closest piece, a tall, narrow vase with a partially open side where white waves curved inward.

Ben tried not to look too put off by the man, but he’d heard of the Garveys before. The man and his wife had had a messy divorce last year. Jenna had gone from a sweet, well-meaning freshman to a deeply troubled sophomore whose parents had dragged her in front of a judge to settle a childish dispute between them. At the end of last year during freshman parent day, her mother, who’d shown up a little drunk on red wine had tried to come on to Poe to get a rise out of her ex-husband. It didn’t work and the whole situation had been awkward and probably deeply traumatizing to Poe.

Ben was also a child of divorce, he could sympathize but he’d never had to deal with his parents throwing themselves at his teachers. Probably because they were still holding out for each other in some weird dysfunctional way.

“So Ms. Niima, would you let me buy you a drink?” Mr. Garvey said, flashing a blinding smile and interrupting Rey mid way through her talking about her creative process with the piece. She was still holding a half full glass of wine in her hand.

Rey glanced over at Ben, a look of panic in her pretty hazel eyes. Ben could see how deeply uncomfortable she was now and how desperately she was seeking a way out.

“Hey sweetheart,” Ben moved in a little closer to her, “I think Rose was looking for you, she looked upset,” he said seriously.

Her eyes lit up, “Oh dear, I’m sorry Mr. Harvey, I should go deal with this,” Rey said, playing along. “Thanks for letting me know, honey,” she added, leaning up to give him a quick and sweet peck on the jawline before leaving. Ben’s cheeks flamed, as he barely managed to contain himself. He did manage to give Garvey a smirk as he took a victory sip his whiskey.

The older man (much older, likely at least 20 years on Rey) gave Ben a slightly disgusted look, acknowledging him for the first time since he interrupted their conversation. “The hell happened to your face?” he grumbled.

Ben was about to respond with asking what the hell happened to his, when someone came up and clapped Ben affectionately on the shoulder.

“You should see the other guy!” Poe said from beside Ben. The mischievous smile on Poe’s face was actually charming, putting the sleazy asshole in front of them to shame. “Anyway the set of Mad Men called, they want the Don Draper costume back.” Poe said, he wiggled his eyebrows and made it very clear that he wasn’t a fan.

Ben took another sip from his glass and Garvey stalked off grumpily.

“I saw him from over there and was gonna come in for the rescue but you beat me to it; glad you stepped in, man,” Poe said smiling. “I think Rey appreciated it too.”

“Yeah that guy’s an ass,” Ben said though he felt like he may as well be walking on air.

Poe laughed, “Yeah but have you met his ex-wife?”

Chapter Text

mitzi whitfield: DID YOU SEE THAT?

maile ankar: see what?

mitzi whitfield: ms. niima just kissed mr. solo on teh cheek!
mitzi whitfield: and i think he called her sweetheart.

maile ankar: no way. pics or it didn’t happen.

mitzi whitfield: this isn’t 4-chan mai!
mitzi whitfield: i think theyd be cute together!

maile ankar: i guess i can see it…

Rey nibbled on a date from the plate of hors d'oeuvres she’d snagged from a cocktail waiter. Now that she’d made it through the nerve wracking part of the evening she was feeling rather hungry but the offerings were hardly very sustaining. She felt like she needed a few moments away from the crowd, to sit and kick her shoes off. It had been exhilarating, but now it was getting overwhelming. Everyone wanted to talk to her, and know more about her and it was all wonderful but after the disastrous meeting with her student’s father it simply felt like too much.

She took another sip of her wine and leaned against the wall where she’d been sitting on the floor in an empty wing of the gallery. It had been roped off and so it was likely that she would have a least a few moments to herself.

The fact that her friends had come to see her and her work had nearly brought her to great big, happy tears. It felt like these people cared and were interested in what she was doing. That was a new feeling for her. Her childhood had been lonely. She’d been abandoned, made to live with strangers, scared to make friends because she’d eventually get moved somewhere new and would never see them again. It had been a relief to grow up and to have a say in where she lived.

If someone had told 17 year old Rey that she’d be standing up and presenting her artwork to a huge galleria of people, feeling loved and supported by all the people who had shown up simply because they wanted to, she may not have believed it. To see so many people excited on her behalf had been the most important part of the evening, and if she didn’t sell a single piece then it still would have been worth it for that alone.

Rey could still hear the low rumble of the crowd and the soft classical piano music that had been playing. She took another sip of her wine and smiled to herself. One good thing about her interaction with Mr. whatshisname had been Ben’s response. It seemed that once he realized that the man wasn’t a perspective patron he’d smoothly handled the situation, effectively giving her an excuse to get out. Rey may have over sold it with the little kiss on the cheek, but her courage had been bolstered by the wine and the fact that things were going so well.

It occurred to her later that a student may have seen-- there were several of them present. She decided she’d focus on that some other time. For now she stretched her bare feet out in front of her and relaxed. In a few minutes she’d put her heels back on and go back out there put on enough of a smile to get through the rest of the night.

“Rey?”

Her head snapped up, surprised to find that she wasn’t as alone as she’d thought.

It was Ben. Seeing him there made Rey’s cheeks heat up a little. “Hey.”

“Hey,” he said. “You know there’s a whole party for you going on, right?” he said approaching slowly, his hand tucked into his pockets and his shaggy dark hair falling in front of his eyes.

Rey smiled, “Just needed a minute, and my shoes are essentially torture devices,” she said. He gave her a smile that made her grateful for the low light of the abandoned gallery wing.

There was a tiny hint of concern in Ben’s eyes, “Everything okay?” he asked softly. A few weeks ago, Rey would have never thought he could have such softness, but now it didn’t seem so out of character.

“I’m fine,” she replied, “I’m better than fine, I’m just a little overwhelmed I guess.”

Ben came to sit beside her on the floor, “If it helps, you made it look easy out there,” he said. Which was being kind, from where Rey was standing, she stuttered her way through the entire thing. It wasn’t like she was bad at public speaking but she was used to addressing a bunch kids, which seemed a lot different from talking about herself to potential art collectors.

“Thanks,” she said softly. “And thanks for helping with that parent,” she added. “You didn’t have to but I’m glad that you did.”

“I’m glad that I was actually helpful then,” he said smiling. “Nice touch, calling him by the wrong name, by the way.”

“I what?”

Ben barked out a laugh, “You called him ‘Harvey’,” he said.

Rey looked slightly confused, “That’s not his name?” Ben’s shoulders were shaking with laughter, she felt her cheeks turned pink. “Well it was loud in there, and I’m pretty sure his daughter isn’t even in my class,” she said.

That just made Ben laugh even harder, as soon as he could collect himself he caught his breath, “God, that guy’s a creep,” he said.

“Why am I sensing a story that no one wants to share with me?” Rey’s eyebrows cocked.

“Jenna Garvey’s parents split up last year, pretty messy divorce, and she took it pretty hard. Some of the essay’s she wrote for my class were downright dark…” he said leaning his head back against the wall. “But anyway, towards the end of the year we had our Freshman Parent Day, where students came in with their parents to share their work from the year with them. Well Jenna’s mom showed up after one too many glasses of red wine and tried to get with Poe. I think Mr. Garvey is on some sort of revenge mission.”

Rey looked stunned, “Poor Jenna.”

“Yeah and I thought my parents divorce was messy,” he said. “Well, I guess my dad did sleep with my Civics teacher…”

“Oh my God, Ben!” she gasped in surprise.

Ben was laughing again like it was a joke, but it sounded downright traumatizing to her. “Rey, my mother was the Civics teacher,” he said.

“Leia taught High School Civics?”

“Poe must have told you,” Ben said.

Rey looked down at her bare feet extended in front of her. “Yeah, but I promised not to share it with anyone,” she said, wiggling her toes.

“It’s not that big of a secret,” he insisted.

“Still not mine to tell I guess,” she said, “Although I wouldn’t have called you a ‘lifeless knob’ if I’d known you were my boss’s son,” she added.

Ben laughed at that, and Rey couldn’t help but think that she like the way he laughed.

“So, did you come looking for me?” she asked, a little timid of the topic.

It was his turn to blush now, “Well, things are starting to wind down, I thought I’d come tell you ‘goodnight’ before I left,” he replied.

“Oh you’re leaving?” Rey couldn’t mask the disappointment in her voice. But he wasn’t wrong, guests were starting to leave and Rey should probably be there to see them out like a gracious host.

Before Ben could respond her stomach growled rather audibly. Rey’s face burned with embarrassment at the mistimed bodily function.

“Did you not get anything to eat?” Ben asked, cocking an eyebrow at her.

“Well, I was too nervous to eat at first. And by the time I started to actually feel hungry, well, the options were… limited,” she explained. She picked up her forgotten cocktail plate that had a couple pieces of a watermelon and blue-cheese canape that the waiter couldn’t seem to get rid of. “Watermelon?” she offered.

Ben stared at it, his nose scrunching and the sight of them on her plate. “I don’t know who dreamed those up, but they were clearly insane,” he said. Rey agreed with him; she’d rather go hungry.

“Well someone ate all the shrimp before I could get to it,” she said.

“Oh yeah, that was pretty tasty.”

“Don’t rub it in, Solo,” Rey pouted.

He laughed again, “Well are you ready to head back into the fray?” he asked.

Rey gave a soft sigh, “I guess, but you’ll have to help me up.”

Ben got to his feet and brushed himself off before offering a hand to Rey. His hand was warm and his grip was tight but not uncomfortably so. She couldn’t help but feel that her hand fit nicely in his. He assisted her up with ease, she could see the muscles in his forearm flex and she was grateful that he’d rolled his sleeves up to his elbows.

“Thanks,” she said softly. Her hand felt cold when she was no longer holding his, but she tried not to dwell on it too much. Ben was her colleague, a colleague that up until they were trapped in a bathroom together, she couldn’t stand. And now she wanted to hold his hand? I’m so fucking hopeless, she thought to herself.

Rey stepped back into her heels and immediately hated the pressure that they put on the balls of her feet. No wonder she’d only worn them once and left them in the back of her closet.

“Well I should be getting back in there I guess,” she said brushing herself off.

“Your public awaits,” Ben said as he walked her back into the main wing of the gallery.

---------------------

Ben was sitting at a light, drumming his fingers on the steering wheel, when it occurred to him. The flashing neon sign in the window of the deli gently illuminated the interior of his car. They were still open, they catered to the late night crowd that came in for hot subs after a night of bar crawling through some of the downtown pubs on the weekends. They had an amazing meatball soup that Ben had gone out of his way for on a number of occasions.

Before he could come up with a fitting reason not to, he found himself pulling into an open parallel space and hopping out of his driver seat. Dex’s Deli was pretty quiet, too late for the dinner crowd but not quite late enough for late night.

He stood in a short line and placed an order for a bowl of soup and a warm sourdough roll to go. It occurred to him that maybe it wasn’t to Rey’s tastes, or maybe she had allergies or something. But he was paying before he could talk himself out of it.

He took the bag from the woman behind the counter and stalked back out onto the street. Ben wasn’t sure if it was a good move but he was going for it anyway. It wasn’t right that she’d missed out on the food for the reception. She should at least have a decent meal. Oh good lord, I’m becoming my mother, Ben thought to himself in horror.

It only took a few minutes to get back to the Gallery. He pulled into a parking space and got out careful to keep the deli bag upright so as not to turn the bottom of the bag into a soupy mess.

“Hey, Ben, thought you were headed home?”

Ben looked over to see Poe and Finn standing around outside next to Poe’s car that he affectionately referred to as a “classic”. (Ben considered it rickety death trap but Poe refused to listen.)

“You went to Dex’s?” Finn whined, seeing the bag in Ben’s hands.

Poe laughed, “I’m pretty sure we just caused a city-wide shrimp shortage, how are you still hungry?” he said to Finn.

“I have a high metabolism,” Finn answered.

“Is Rey still around?” Ben asked.

Poe suddenly gave Ben a look that made him immediately regret asking, he looked as if he was gonna start singing about Ben and Rey sitting in trees. “She is, just inside wrapping up with the gallery owner,” he said, cocking his eyebrows suggestively.

Ben waved him off before starting back inside. On his way to the door her heard Poe say to Finn, “You’re gonna owe me ten bucks before we even get to homecoming.” Ben decided he didn’t want to know what they were talking about.

Rey was just inside the main doors, looking tried and she’d once again kicked off her shoes and was walking around barefoot. She was overseeing the packing up of the sold pieces for their prospective buyers. The music was off and the lighting brightened considerably. There were a couple gallery assistants who were cleaning up and putting things away.

“Ben? I thought you went home?” she said surprised but smiling.

Ben extended the Dex’s bag to her, “Thought you could use some dinner,” he said. He could feel a blush creeping up his neck and he hoped his coat collar was hiding it.

“What? Ben, you didn’t have to do that,” she said, her eyes lighting up.

“Well, I did. I go past Dex’s on the way home. And I felt bad that you got saddled with those watermelon monstrosities,” he said as she took the bag. “Hopefully you like meatball soup,” he added, hoping she did.

“I love it, I get it on my way home from Kanata’s all the time,” she gushed. “Thank you.” Her warm hazel eyes met his and he felt his adam’s apple bob nervously.

“No problem,” he said, giving her a soft smile. There was a quiet moment between them before he stuttered to fill it in, “Well have a good weekend, and I’ll see you Monday?”

“Yeah,” Rey nodded eagerly, “See you Monday, and thanks again for… well everything tonight.” she said, blushing in a way that set Ben’s stomach rolling with butterflies.

“Goodnight, Rey.”

“Goodnight, Ben.”

---------------------

ben solo: You made the paper this morning.

rey niima: People still read the paper?

ben solo: They keep leaving it on my doorstep. I don’t know why.

rey niima: Is it at least a flattering article? Or is it about the horrible crime spree I went on the other night?

ben solo: Well I’d say that it’s a pretty flattering article aside from the bit with the bank robberies.

rey niima: Ah. Not one of my finer moments.

ben solo: I can save it for you. You know, since you are a heathen and don’t read the newspaper.

rey niima: I would like to read it, so I guess I’ll let you save it. As long as we can put it in a scrapbook.

ben solo: Of course. How did your craft store trip go? Were you able to find a “lifeless knob” scrapbooking stamp yet?

rey niima: Still looking. ;)

---------------------

Ben usually dreaded Monday mornings but this morning he had a slight spring in his step. He stood around the communal coffee pot in the faculty lounge with Poe and Dopheld, BB sat patiently at Poe’s ankles, her tail flipping back and forth. Poe was holding Ben’s copy of the Sunday ‘Daily Republic’, the local newspaper for Republic City, reading the article on Rey in the Arts and Culture section.

“You know that newspapers are going digital now, right?” Poe teased his eyes scanning over the newsprint. A picture of Rey, beaming beside the centerpiece of her gallery show, looked up at them.

“I prefer print,” Ben said dryly.

“So does my gran,” Dopheld said innocently, he appeared almost confused by the sharp glare that Ben gave in response.

Ben rolled his eyes and grabbed the paper back from Poe. “You gonna show it to Rey?” Poe asked, there was his natural little smirk on his lips.

“Yeah, she said she wanted to see it,” Ben said, folding it back up. “Figured I’d see her before class,” he added turning to pour himself a cup of coffee before he had to head to his classroom for homeroom.

He bid goodbye to Dopheld as he and Poe started down Corellia’s Arts and Humanities wing, BB excitedly trotting along side Poe. “So, first it was bathroom confinement, then coffee, now Dex’s meatball soup and newspaper clippings,” Poe teased, falling into step beside Ben. “It’s getting pretty serious.”

Ben rolled his eyes, “We’re friends, it’s just being nice to friends,” he insisted. They turned the corner and the first thing Ben noticed was that Rey’s classroom door was open.

“I can’t remember the last time I paid for Finn’s meatball soup,” Poe said.

“Usually because you need someone to pay for yours,” Ben said.

Poe mocked offense, “Ouch, Solo,” he said as they came upon Ben’s door. “Sometimes, I think you’re the only one who gets me, BB,” he bemoaned dramatically to the golden retriever, BB barked excitedly.

Ben propped his door open and took a nonchalant sip from his coffee mug, “Probably,” he said dryly.

“Oh well, tell Rey ‘hello’ for me,” Poe said too loudly, enough so that Rey likely heard through the open door of her classroom. The history teacher and his dog continued down the hall for Poe’s classroom, leaving Ben standing in the doorway alone.

“Yeah yeah,” Ben grumbled to himself, flipping the light on and walking over to his desk. He set down his mug and turned back to the hallway. He strolled across the hall with purpose, the newspaper tucked under his arm.

The art classroom was open and well lit with natural light from the outside and the chorus of Elton John’s Bennie and the Jet’s was playing softly. Ben knocked softly on the open door prompting Rey to look up from her desk where she was looking through a large stack of sketchbooks. The moment their eyes connected, her’s lit up.

“Hey!” she said excitedly, her chestnut hair was down in soft waves to her shoulders. She wore a light blue button up blouse that looked amazing against her pretty sunkissed skin. Ben had to remind himself not to stare at her.

“Hey,” he replied, smiling, “You’re famous,” he added a bit awkwardly brandishing the paper. He walked it over to her desk on the far side of the room to hand it to her.

“Because appearing in the Daily now constitutes being famous?” she asked, reaching out to take the paper excitedly and examine the article for herself.

“Well, it’s more than I’ve ever managed to pull off,” he said with a shrug. “How’d the end of the show go? Any wealthy art patrons?” he asked.

Rey smiled, “I sold four of the ten pieces that were for sale,” she said, “Which is actually the most money I ever pulled in for a gallery show,” she added excitedly. “The gallery is going to display the rest through the week.”

Ben had absolutely no clue how much each piece cost, prices weren’t on display but he did find himself slightly curious. “That’s fantastic, Rey,” he said smiling, genuinely happy for her.

“Thanks,” she shyly brushed a stray hair behind her ear. Her ears were pink and Ben felt that weird butterfly feeling in his stomach again. “I’m glad you came,” she added.

“Thanks for the invite,” Ben said. “And I got to know you a little better,” he added bravely, not sure where the sudden burst of courage came from.

Her eyes were like sunlight through a forest canopy and he couldn’t help but feel as though she was the subject of sonnets written by literary titans. He hadn’t written any of his own work in years but her smile made him think he could again.

Where are these thoughts coming from? He asked himself, his nerve starting to fail him.

Rey smiled at him, “Well I think it’s my turn to treat you, how about coffee sometime?” she asked.

Was she asking him out on a date? Did she just beat him to the punch? Ben tried not to look as surprised as he felt, he wasn’t really very good about reading these situations. “Sure, coffee sounds great,” he managed to say, a slight nervous crack in his voice betraying him.

He was saved when the bell suddenly rang signalling the start of homeroom and students began filtering into Rey’s classroom. “Great,” she said. “I’ll come find you after class, then.” She said things like that and Ben was reminded why he grew his hair out: he’s ears were probably fire engine red right now. She had him at a complete loss.

“Not if I find you first.”

Ben wanted to punch himself in the face for how horrible that sounded, and to his horror there were several of Rey’s students now in earshot, giggling. At least Rey was still smiling, or was she laughing at him? It was hard to tell. He was usually so much better at this. Turning, he made his way to the door.

“Have a good morning, Mr. Solo,” Rey said from her seat at her desk as Ben was leaving her classroom, her face was lit up with a smile.

“You too, Ms. Niima.”

Chapter Text

-----------------

Rey was anxious-- getting through Monday had been difficult. It was a full day of resisting the urge to get up and go into Ben’s classroom between each class period with something inane to talk about. She settled on texting him; they made a plan to go for coffee after class let out for the day.

Once they’d made plans, Rey didn’t want to stop texting him but also didn’t have anything to actually discuss. She found herself fiddling with her phone while her class was working through studio time; she flipped through her ebooks saved to her phone. She recalled the inside joke that they’d started last week while he lamented how his students didn’t seem interested in Shakespeare. A mischievous smirk curled her lips as she found what she was looking for. Then she flipped back to her messenger app on her phone and found her previous conversation with Ben and typed out a new message.

rey niima: Aw shit, fifteen wives is nothing!

There was a quick bark of laughter across the hall that Rey immediately recognized as Ben’s. Several of her students looked up in surprise at the sudden outburst. She found it hard to contain her mirth at the thought of his own students and their confused expressions. She wanted to get up to see if he was blushing as much as she suspected.

rey niima: Ben Solo, aren’t you supposed to be teaching?

She concluded with a shocked emoticon, mostly because she knew he probably hated them. Several minutes ticked by before a response appeared on her phone.

ben solo: Silent reading. Why aren’t you teaching, Ms. Niima?

A tiny smile spread across Rey’s face.

rey niima: Studio time. And you’re distracting them from finishing their projects.

ben solo: Says the woman reading the Merchant of Venice in the middle of class.

Rey glanced up to see if any of her students were looking at her, she knew she was breaking the rules and for some reason it thrilled her.

rey niima: Be honest, how confused do your students look and how much are you blushing because of it?

Rey waited for his response, practically leaping at her phone the moment it popped up on her home screen.

ben solo: You’re downright evil… I like it.

Rey’s whole face flared dramatically and her heart hammered in her chest. This was Ben Solo showing a little bit of his supposed “dark side” and suddenly he had the upper hand in their little exchange. ‘I like it’. Rereading it on her phone screen made her want to bounce out of her chair and storm over there to show him exactly how “evil” she was. But that would be breaking one too many school rules so she restrained herself.

rey niima: Do you now?

-----------------

The remainder of their day went on much like that. By the time final period rolled around Rey found it almost impossible sit still, she spent the majority of her planning period decidedly not planning. Ben was giving a lecture in his American Literature class, which seemed to be the class that Ben was the most enthusiastic about.

Feeling mischievous, she spent the second half of her planning period hanging artwork in full view of Ben as he stood at the front of his class to lecture. She relished the tiny glances that he would chance in her direction. She would select each piece and hang it thoughtfully. If she had to bend over to pick up another piece of tape from the dispenser on the floor then so be it, but she made sure to do so slowly and gracefully. It wasn’t like she didn’t have a fully legitimate reason to be doing this task-- her first period figure drawing class was doing peer critiques, so their work would need to be on display.

She hummed lightly to herself, listening to Ben lecture across the hall.

“...There is no object so foul that intense light will not make beautiful.” Ben quoted Emerson in a deep tone of voice that sent a shiver up her spine. She saw him glance quickly in her direction. “By this, Emerson shows that nature shapes our own perception of beauty…”

Rey bit her lip, trying to focus on what she was working on but it was becoming increasingly difficult, especially as Ben was quoting such deep and beautiful prose. She could listen to him read all day; his soft baritone made her knees weak. He had a pleasant enough voice in normal conversation but when quoting literature it was a whole different beast.

She finished hanging the last of the student pieces and walked back over to her desk at the back of the room. The bell rang as she was clearing her desk, and the noise from the hallway became a dull roar as students busily made their way to their perspective bus lines or afterschool clubs and activities. As the noise started to fade, Ben appeared at her door ready to go with his messenger bag over his shoulder. He’d pulled on a cardigan with patches on the elbows that gave Rey some serious ‘hot for teacher’ vibes.

“I liked your lecture on Emerson,” she said with a smile.

“I think you were the only one paying attention,” he replied as she pulled on her jacket. Ben glanced at drawings she’d been hanging throughout his lecture, “I was wondering what you were up to all period,” he said looking over the drawings with interest.

She smiled as she wound her scarf over her shoulders. “I’m doing a peer critique tomorrow in my Figure Drawing class,” she explained grabbing her bag.

All of the drawings featured the same scene of a collection of pottery pieces from different angles. Rey found herself thinking about asking Ben to pose. He had such a great face for it but it seemed like a weird question ask out of the blue.

Ben turned away from the drawings with a soft smile, “You ready to go?” he asked.

She nodded eagerly, “Just have to lock up,” Rey said pulling her classroom keys from her coat pocket.

“And just where are we headed anyway?” Ben asked, arching one of his dark brows.

“I would hate to ruin the surprise,” Rey replied, a teasing lilt in her voice. She had a plan (a pretty good one or she thought so anyway). “But I promise it’s a place with good coffee.” She locked her classroom door.

“Is it Rebel Java?” Ben asked, “because they’re overrated.”

“Isn’t Rebel Java where you usually stop for your morning coffee?” Rey teased, remembering it was where he’d gone when he brought her a cup of tea.

“Convenience mostly,” he said with a shrug and a cocky smile.

“Way to make a girl feel special, Solo,” she said then adding, “And no, we’re not going to Rebel Java.”

They made their way out to the faculty parking lot, exchanging a bit of playful banter back and forth. Rey insisted on driving, because she was still not willing to divulge where they were going just yet.

Ben climbed into her passenger seat. He had to sit with his knees a little cramped as her little commuter wasn’t quite designed with someone of his height in mind. It was actually kind of adorable from Rey’s perspective.

“Next time, I get to drive,” he said.

Rey laughed, “Oh is someone already counting on a second date?” she said.

“That would be a third date; I’m counting being locked in a bathroom with you as our first.”

She scoffed but her cheeks betrayed a soft blush. “That’s no fair, I want a do-over,” she stated. Rey made herself focus on the road while she pulled out of Corellia High School’s parking lot and turned on to Coronet Parkway, the area’s main thoroughfare towards the suburban shopping hub that wasn’t too far from their school.

Corellia Heights was mainly a middle class suburb of Republic City, mostly residential except for a booming commercial area that was full of a few chain restaurants and department stores. It was also home to Empire Booksellers, a large bookstore with two floors and a cafe that sold specialty pastries and fair trade coffee. It wasn’t as niche as some of the coffee shops in downtown Republic City but it was a pleasant place to spend a cloudy afternoon.

She parked her car, “It’s not Rebel Java,” she said.

“Oh no, this is better,” Ben said smiling. “It’s like someone told you I liked books or something.”

“Well, Poe did mention an irrational hipster hatred of e-readers,” Rey teased.

“It’s not hipster,” Ben insisted, “I just prefer print.”

Rey nodded teasing, as she climbed out of the car, “Sure, Ben.”

“What’s your favorite book?” Ben asked as they were walking across the lot up to the front of the building.

Rey had to think for a moment. She had a few favorite books but it seemed like an intimidating question when you were talking to an English Teacher. “I don’t know, there’s quite a few,” she said with a shrug as they entered the store.

Outside the sky was dreary and gray and threatening to rain, but inside was filled with warm light and the subtle scent of ink on paper.

“Ok, pick out a book that is one of your favorites, and I’ll read it,” he said.

“Knowing you, you’ve probably already read it,” she said.

“Then I read it again, from a new perspective knowing that it is your favorite.”

Rey thought for a moment, “What if I make you read ‘Fifty Shades’ or something?”

Ben scoffed loudly at the thought, “Then I might start judging you,” he said but there was still a smile on his face.

“Alright, but you get to pick one for me too,” she said, curious to see what Ben would choose for her.

“Okay so ‘Old Man and the Sea’. Got it,” he said smirking.

“What? No!” Rey laughed giving him a playful shove on his shoulder. It was in that moment she realized that it was as if he was cut from marble and a bloom of color spread over her cheeks. She had the sudden urge to feel up his arm through his jacket but quickly withdrew instead. Luckily, Ben didn’t seem to notice or if he did he was good at hiding it.

Rey turned into the classical section mostly to hide the fact that she was blushing like mad. Ben followed her, “Classics? Interesting,” he said, lingering over her as she scanned the shelves.

“Hey, no peeking!”

“But I made up the game and that wasn’t a rule,” he said grinning.

“It has to be a surprise,” she insisted.

“Fine, fine,” he put up his hands in surrender. “What I had in mind isn’t in this section anyway.”

Now she was really curious because he seemed to have such a fervent devotion to the classics in his classroom. She had actually thought he might pick up Hemingway. Ben stepped away as she had insisted, leaving her to scan for what she was looking for. She quickly found it and plucked the small unassuming paperback from the shelf.

It reminded her of her copy back home, only hers was well worn from years of being carried around and reread again and again over the years. Her copy had a regency style portrait on the front, but this one was more simplistic, ‘Pride & Prejudice’ in embossed in fancy silver script across a dark grey cover. This was one of her favorites after all, that was the rule. Of course, Ben was an English teacher and likely already had a half a dozen copies laying around and could give a lecture on it in his sleep.

She could remember that little paperback being her refuge in a tumultuous childhood. Rey had idolized Lizzie Bennet’s devotion to her own happiness and fallen in love with Mr. Darcy while reading late into the night in the group home where she lived for a time as a teen. The more she thought about it, the more she decided that it was her favorite book and so it was the one that she’d present to Ben. In the scheme of things it would be hard pressed to find a book that Ben hadn’t already read, so he could reread Jane Austen’s works knowing that it had kept her head above water when Rey was a kid.

She tucked the book close to her chest and made her way over to the checkout counter, on the lookout for Ben wherever he might have gotten off to. Rey was already in line at the cashier when Ben found her.

“Hey, no peeking!” Rey tucked the copy of the Jane Austen novel behind her back.

Ben rolled his eyes dramatically, before putting the book he’d selected behind his back like Rey had before she had the opportunity to see the cover. “So how are we supposed to read them if we’re hiding them from each other?” he asked.

“I’ll give you yours over coffee,” she said.

They made their way to the front of the store where the cafe was situated next to large windows overlooking the dreary parking lot. It was hardly a spectacular view but then again, Corellia Height’s wasn’t known for its vistas. At the coffee counter Rey ordered an Earl Grey with a splash of milk and Ben ordered a large black coffee; Rey insisted on paying only after a little resistance from Ben about it.

They sat in front of the large window with their hot drinks and settled into easy conversation. Finally Rey brandished the plastic tote that covered her selected book for Ben.

“Alright,” Ben slid a small book covered in a plastic bag that matched hers across the small table top. She could tell by looking just at the bag that it wasn’t a particularly large book which made her even more curious.

Rey settled on watching Ben’s reaction to what she’d picked first, this game was becoming more and more nerve-wracking than she’d first thought. What if he didn’t like what she’d picked, or was bored of it?

But his reaction was a keen smile, “I had a feeling that you were a Austen fan,” he said.

“I’ve read it more times than I can count,” she said shyly.

“I was really disappointed when they pulled this from the required reading lists,” Ben said.

“They did?” Rey asked slightly surprised. It was through assigned reading in primary school that she came to be introduced to it. It seemed sad that there might be a student like her missing out simply because they didn’t know it was out there.

Ben took a sip of his coffee before responding, “Two years ago. It was bullshit,” he said. “I think whoever selects the reading lists hates anything with a remotely happy ending.”

“That’s really unfortunate, that book got me through being a teenager,” she said as she picked up the tote that Ben had given her. She opened the bag to find the slender paperback with green vines on the cover. In small gold letters on the lower right corner, the titled read: ‘The Selected Works of E. E. Cummings’. It was a book of poems written in a whimsical structure where the words themselves were arranged in such a way that seem as if to have its own meaning.

“The poet that decided to hell with English grammar rules?” she said inspecting it with interest. She knew precious little about the poet and was curious as to what made him Ben’s favorite.

“Rules are made to be broken. He said almost as much with structure and form as he did with actual words,” Ben said while she flipped to a random page and started reading a poem titled ‘If strangers meet’, finding herself wrapped up in it, having to read it all before she could bring herself to look up.

When she did her eyes met Ben’s. There was a softness there that made her heart skip but she played it off with a smile.

They sat in front of the window for hours, talking and laughing like they’d been doing so their whole lives.

The gray sky had begun to open into a downpour that it had been threatening all afternoon, finally making good on its promise. The warm light of the interior of the cafe juxtaposed dramatically with the dark rain coming down outside. Rey could have sat and ignored the rain in the dry safety of the bookstore cafe for a few more hours but the sudden deluge had sent several people scurrying inside to escape.

Among the newcomers to the cafe, were a small group of giggling teenage girls, shaking droplets of water from their hair and clothes while gleefully discussing their latte orders. Rey and Ben exchanged nervous glances immediately recognizing all three of them.

Before they could make a thorough conclusion about what the best course of action was, they were spotted.

“Mr. Solo?” A girl with a short cherry red pixie cut said excitedly, alarming her friends.

Ben was forced to look over, as they weren’t in any position to ignore them. A girl named Lucy Harmon came almost skipping up to there table, “Hi Ms. Niima!” Rey smiled and waved kindly while thinking about how this particular student was usually best in small doses.

Rey could see Ben’s jaw tighten and he straightened in his seat. They were going to have to make a run for it through the rain, weren’t they?

The other two girls hung back a little, obviously more shy than their friend.

“Mr. Solo, your nose is looking a lot better,” Lucy said cheerfully. Rey stifled a laugh which came out as a tiny snort. Ben didn’t look as amused.

“Thank you, Lucy,” Ben said awkwardly, trying to be polite while clearly fighting the instinct to run away.

Rey glanced down at her watch, “Oh Ben, we’ve got that district board meeting in fifteen minutes, so we should probably head back,” she said with a bit of mock urgency.

Ben’s brown eyes widened slightly, first with confusion and then he almost smiled, he checked his own watch, “Oh you’re right, Rey, we should get going,” he replied.

They stood up in a rush, gathering their gifted books along with the rest of their things. Rey put on a pleasant smile, “Sorry to have to leave so quickly girls, but we’ve got a meeting soon,” she explained hastily.

It was pretty clear that they were suspicious of her explanation but didn’t question it. “It’s okay, have a good night Ms. Niima, Mr. Solo.” A girl named Mitzi said with a sly grin on her face as Rey and Ben were heading for the door.

“G’night girls,” Ben said with a light wave, following closely behind Rey.

As soon as they were out of earshot he leaned into her to whisper, “That never gets less awkward,” he mumbled. He wasn’t wrong, it had been awkward and their exit hasty and graceless. And Rey sensed that their students knew something was up. But there was no actual rule forbidding teachers from being out in public together and as Ben had put it earlier, rules are made to be broken anyway.

They stopped at the vestibule entrance faced with a dramatic onslaught of heavy rain. Rey carefully wrapped the book of poems back into the plastic bag it had come in and held it close to her chest not wanting it to get water damage. Her cheeks warmed a little when she noticed Ben tuck the copy of ‘Pride and Prejudice’ into his coat protectively.

There was something oddly fun and exciting about running through the rain, they both exchanged quick nods as they prepared to run for Rey’s car. She made sure to unlock it with her remote fob before they had to start out into the downpour. Ben gave her the tiniest of smiles before they both took off running.

It was alarmingly cold, as most autumn rain storms are, but it was a short trip.

Rey practically threw herself into her drivers seat as soon as she’d managed to open the door. Ben did the same albeit a little more awkwardly due to his longer legs. The doors slammed and the rain thundered loudly on the roof of her car.

For such a short burst in the rain the both of them we soaked. Rey checked her book, which was unscathed, and she set it in her empty back seat. Ben tucked his own book into his leather bag which he’d left in her car to only take his wallet into the store with him.

They both settled into their seats panting, and then laughing inexplicably. They turned to each other, damp smiles plastered on both their faces. Rey’s eyes met Ben’s and the laughter slowly died down.

She couldn’t be certain who moved first or who initiated what, but suddenly his lovely full lips were on hers. His large hands moved to gently hold her face, his wet fingers softly wrapped in her wet hair. Her own hand slid up his chest; even through his shirt she could feel his tight muscle contract ever so slightly at her touch. She leaned over the center console into him, he was deliciously warm as they pressed together. His tongue slid over her lips and without a second thought she opened to him.

Rey suddenly felt too hot in spite of the chill in her wet clothes. She wasn’t unexperienced in such acts and it had been some time since she’d had this level of interest in a person. It took every ounce of self control not to straddle him right there. She managed to resist the temptation even while her tongue chased his and she held the material of his shirt in her fist. The rain continued to pound on the hood of the car, drowning out her soft moans into his tender lips.

After several long delicious moments, they seperated, the reality of what they’d just done slowly setting in. Breathless, Rey slowly sat back into the driver’s seat and started the car, running the wipers to clear the steam on the windshield they’d created. Her cheeks were hot and her heart raced. She wanted to kiss him again but this time she wasn’t as bold as they sat in odd silence in her stationary car. She finally dared a glance; he was as breathless as she was. His eyes were wide but there was the faintest hint of a smile on his face.

“You think they’re watching us from in there?” Ben finally asked nodding to the front window of the cafe. It was difficult to make anything out from here through all of the rain, but Rey could make out the vague shape of Lucy’s wild colored hair.

It wasn’t a joke, but Rey laughed anyway. They most definitely were.

-----------------

Chapter Text

CHATTER!

miss_mitz:TFW you see two of your teachers out on a date together! SOOOO CUTE! theyre SOOO PERFECT!!

Comments:


lucy_in_dah_sky: i dont think they were on a date… she doesnt even seem like his type...

miss_mitz: whatevs luce, they were eye bangin the whole time...

miss_mitz: annnnnd did u see how long they sat in the car before they drove off?

miss_mitz: they def werent goin to a meeting lucy!!

McShane: lucy just sad because because our hot teacher is RIDING SOLO!!! LOLOLOLOLOL!

lucy_in_dah_sky: your not funny shane.

McShane: whatevs lucy, IM HILARIOUS!

starryeyed_mai: i think you made that joke like a week ago.

rahrah44: seriously… how do you guys get any work done in that school???

It was overcast for lunch, leading to more students dining indoors instead of out on the patio like last time they were on monitor duty. Rey and Ben stood in the corner watching idly as several Student Council members were hanging pep rally banners. It was a newer concept for Rey, her personal experience was limited in the department of school spirit. She couldn’t recall ever being particularly proud of her school, it was just school. She had to wear a less than charming uniform, and there weren’t many extracurriculars to participate in the less desirable parts of London.

But this seemed like a whole different beast. Ben was doing his best to explain it, but he didn’t seem particularly thrilled at the concept. It appeared that the whole idea of it wore him out.

“Poe’s won the last three years in a row and he’s got a fat head about it too,” Ben said, crossing his arms over his broad chest. He was explaining some kind of competition between homerooms but Rey was thinking about his full lips on hers after they’d run through the rain just the night before.

“Student Council is probably going to ask you for an embarrassing photo for their leader board. It’s basically an excuse for students to laugh at their teachers,” he continued but Rey was only half paying attention, remembering his large hand on her cheek and her own hands in dark hair. It was frustrating to be at work and have to keep her hands to herself. She’d never felt so strongly about a person, and it had only intensified after last night. It hadn’t progressed past some spectacular kissing, and she found herself wishing it had. She’d laid awake for hours the night before, thinking about him and wondering if he’d been thinking about her.

“And don’t even get me started the whole Teacher King and Queen thing, I’m pretty sure Phasma’s volleyball players just intimidated everyone into voting for her last year. Those girls are beasts,” he said grumpily. Rey forced herself to focus on something other than his lips. But when she turned her attention to his brow she found that it was furrowed in a surly fashion and was just as delightfully distracting as his lips.

“Sounds like someone has a school spirit problem,” Rey said, taking a sip from her water bottle. She needed to cool off.

Ben turned to her with a smirk, “That’s rich coming from the woman who needed me to explain what a pep rally is,” he said. His eyes wandered down to her lips ever so subtly then flashed back to her eyes.

“I could have watched any teen movie from the last 30 years and probably gotten a better definition than what you just said,” she said. Which wasn’t too far off from the truth. So much of her perceptions of American high schools had originally come from the movies. It was until she started teaching high school that she learned that about ninety percent of it was all bullocks.

“Now you get to live it,” he said, “Not quite as fun as the movies though.”

“I think you’re just saying that because you always lose,” Rey said smartly followed by another victory sip from her water bottle.

Ben shook his head, “I don’t lose. That’s Hux. His homeroom has sabotaged themselves out of spite every year since they were freshmen. That should be a comfort to you, at least you’ll always be able to beat Hux,” he said.

“Excuse me, my homeroom students are delightful,” she said back.

“They’re also all freshmen,” he said “Freshmen almost never win.”

“They may not win, but I bet that my kids will beat yours by a mile.”

“Oh Niima, I think you’re underestimating just how crazy Spirit Week gets around here,” he said smirking.

“I think you’re underestimating how amazing my homeroom is,” Rey said, her hazel eyes flashing.

“Doesn’t change the fact that their intimidated freshies who don’t know the rules yet and their teacher just learned what a Pep Rally is. But if you wanna put your money where your mouth is then what are you gonna bet?” He said turning to face her fully. He was a full head taller but it was less intimidating and more thrilling for her, her lips curled up into mischievous smile as she matched his posture.

“Loser brings breakfast for winner’s homeroom,” she said fiercely.

“Breakfast burritos from Mos Eisley’s Cantina, and deal.” His previous grumpiness had faded considerably.

“Alright,” she said confidently and they shook hands to seal the deal. They both turned back to the lunchroom, turning their attention back to the pair of students working on the pep-rally banners. It occurred to her that she never experienced anything like this before and she could very well lose to Ben simply because she was new to all of this. But it was too late now and her pride wouldn’t allow her to take it back.

-------------------

Later that week....

It was the day of the big pep rally, and the whole school was abuzz with anticipation. Amilyn Holdo used an early staff meeting to discuss the importance of being gracious in the heat of the competition. Of course that went right over their heads because Poe was happily bragging about his homeroom’s three previous victories before the meeting was even over. Holdo also stressed the importance of actually sticking to their lesson plans so that actual work could get done this week.

On Friday mornings homeroom, Ben sat at his desk as a student council representative came to collect votes for Teacher King and Queen to be crowned at this afternoon’s Pep Rally. She also announced some of the Homeroom War guidelines and how their class could win the prize of a Pizza Party and “bragging rights”. Most of his juniors looked utterly bored to death.

“Whatever you do, please just don’t vote for Dameron,” Ben said lazily while reading his new copy of Pride and Prejudice. “His head is big enough as it is.”

There was small chuckle through his class as the StuCo rep collected their ballots. It didn’t escape Ben’s noticed that it was a student named Mitzi who had been at Empire Books on Monday and had seen him and Rey together. She glanced at him anxiously throughout her whole spiel, and was wearing a suspicious smile while she collected ballots. The look on her face made Ben a bit nervous, and made him wonder what all the girls had actually seen after he and Rey left. Through the rain and dim light it was doubtful that they’d been able to make out anything in detail. The kiss between him and Rey had been impulsive and foolish but damned if he hadn’t been aching to do it again every waking moment since.

Mitzi, the student council rep, collected the last of the ballots and left the classroom. Ben put away the book Rey had given him in his desk drawer and stood up and walked around to lean against the front of his desk. “Did anyone vote for Hux? You know he could use a win right now,” Ben joked dryly and surprisingly they all laughed.

“I know that a pizza party is great an all, but if you’re willing to settle for breakfast burritos all you guys have to do is beat Ms. Niima’s homeroom,” he said.

A couple of them exchanged glances with one another. A girl, Robyn, with thick plastic rim glasses spoke up. “Why Ms. Niima?” she asked skeptically.

“She and I made a bet: who ever’s homeroom beats the other, loser buys their whole class breakfast,” Ben stated simply. A few students perked up a little which was the most interest Ben had gotten from his homeroom in awhile. Food and movies, quickest way to a bunch of teenagers hearts apparently.

“And all we have to do is beat a bunch of freshies?” Erik Sanderson said, he was a bit of a class clown and a little slow.

“Freshies whose homeroom teacher went to a school like Hogwarts or something where they didn’t have ‘Spirit Week’.” Ben said.

His class exchanged curious looks with one another. “So all we have to do is do better than some freshmen and your girlfriend is gonna buy us breakfast burritos?” another student clarified.

“Exactly,” Ben said automatically, then the realization washed over him. “Wait what was that?!” he asked in horror.

“Breakfast burritos?”

“No! Before that?!”

The student, a burly sixteen year old name Kyle from the wrestling team, looked at him utterly confused. Ben started to wonder if he’d misheard when the girl sitting next to Kyle spoke up. “Mitzi Whitfield said that Ms Niima’s your girlfriend,” she said helpfully.

“Nice, Mr Solo!” Erik said from the back, the verbal equivalent to a fistbump.

It felt like all the blood in his body sudden rushed straight to his head, his heartbeat was roaring in his ears. This was not good. He fought desperately to come up with some form of damage control before it got worse but suddenly his brain could only produce the lyrics to Toto’s ‘Africa’-- and no the irony of that was not lost on him.

“Sorry guys, but Ms Niima isn’t my girlfriend,” he said trying to sound calm but the panic in his gut was boiling over violently.

There was an uneasy silence for a moment. Then finally, big dumb Kyle spoke up, “But she’s still gonna buy us breakfast burritos?” he asked skeptically. The rest of the class turned their gazes on him in disbelief.

“Yes,” Ben answered dumbfounded.

-----------------


robyn delgado: Mr Solo says that him and Ms Niima AREN’T dating. Tam straight up asked.

maile ankar: see mitz? i told you...

mitzi whitfield: well of course he isn’t just gonna admit it to his class… duh

maile ankar: idk they could just be friends…?

mitzi whitfield: he brought her coffee twice this week and things looked super intense at the bookstore the other day.

mitzi whitfield: and the gallery!! I heard him call her sweetheard

mitzi whitfield: **heart

maile ankar: yeah but you were the only one who saw that

mitzi whitfield: no! The y did it right in front of jennas dad!

robyn delgado: Don’t you think that he just called her that so that Jenna’s pervy dad would leave her alone?

mitzi whitfield: ….

mitzi whitfield: …. i guess…

maile ankar: maybe mr solo is jus nicer than he lets on?

-----------------

Ben spent the better part of the morning actively avoiding Rey out of the shame over what had occurred during homeroom. This was difficult for several reasons: one, it was the last thing he actually wanted because he couldn’t get her off his mind. And two, Rey herself made it hard by always being close at hand with a stunning smile and something clever to say. The location of their classrooms made them neighbors and with both their doors open they could lecture in full view of each other. Which was distracting as hell because she looked amazing today. She always looked amazing but he particularly liked it when she wore white, like she was today. And the tan slacks she wore were totally professional and yet accentuated her figure in ways that Ben didn’t know business casual could.

When she’d first got here he hadn’t noticed her all that much, but now he couldn’t get away from her and part of him didn’t want to.

During fourth period Rey primarily taught freshmen in a level one art class, and he was finally wrapping up Romeo and Juliet with his sophomores. He tried to not look in her direction while she sat at the front of her class letting them practice drawing her for their warm up sketches. It got easier to avoid distractions after they finished a ten minute warm up sketch because she was working her way around her classroom assisting various students with their on-going projects. It was a fairly short reprieve though, because after that the bell rang for lunch.

He was packing up his satchel when Rey appeared in the doorway to his classroom. “So my homeroom is really looking forward to you buying them breakfast at the end of all this. Our little bet was quite motivating,” she said with little smirk as she leaned against the threshold of his doorway.

Ben was immediately reminded of the disaster in his own homeroom this morning and he cursed internally for ever having made the bet in the first place. No wonder his students thought they were dating, this banter between them looked a lot like flirting and they’d been doing it constantly since her gallery show.

He found himself hoping that his own homeroom forgot the deal all together and he would quietly provide breakfast for hers and they could all go on with their lives. “Ugh, probably, most of my homeroom thinks their too cool for this kind of thing,” he said hoping that was actually the case. It had been every other year.

“Are you trying to lure me into some kind false sense of security, Solo?” she regarded him suspiciously.

“What, no,” he said defensively. He really did want her to win if it meant his class forgot everything about this morning. Of course these kids had extremely selective memory and they remembered every little embarrassing remark he’d ever made but conveniently forgot that their Shakespeare analysis papers were due today.

“Riiiight,” she said, “Well, anyway, lunch?”

They’d been eating together everyday this week except when they were on lunch monitor duty which they spent together as well. They were usually in a group so it didn’t seem that suspicious, but today was Poe, Rose and Hux’s monitor day and Finn and Phasma would be spend lunch helping get their athletes get ready for the pep rally this afternoon. That left Mitaka and that seemed risky because he was flighty as hell. What if their students saw them dining, just the two of them? What if their coworkers saw them? This all seemed like it could get out of hand very quickly.

“I’m actually taking my mother out for lunch,” he lied. He had in no way cleared that with Leia ahead of time.

“Oh, that’s really sweet of you,” Rey said. “Where are you going?”

“I um… hadn’t decided yet,” he said completely blanking on all restaurants within a 30 mile radius, “I’ll probably let her pick,” he added quickly, closing up his classroom as he was leaving.

They strolled down the hallway together but Ben made sure that there was enough space between the two of them so as to not give onlooking students any ideas. He bid Rey goodbye at the administrative offices while she headed into the staff lounge and let himself into the Principal’s office without knocking. He should probably make good on what he said and at least attempt to pry his mother away from work for a lunch hour.

Leia didn’t even look up from her computer where she was typing rapidly across the keyboard.

“I see you still haven’t quite mastered the art of knocking,” she said dryly.

“The door was open.”

“The door was ajar, you should still give a courtesy knock,” she responded. “Goodness Ben, who raised you?” She said sarcastically all the while not pausing what she was working on.

“I’m not gonna answer that,” Ben said.

“Smart.”

“You free for lunch?” he asked all at once. That definitely made her pause and she turned her attention to look at him. She craned her neck slightly as if to check to make sure he wasn’t being made to ask her at gunpoint or something.

Leia looked over him in a way that made him feel like he was a kid again. “Why? You’re not in trouble or something?” she asked. It was the second time in less than ten minutes that a woman he cared about looked at him like he was up to something.

“What? No. Mom, do I really have to have a reason to take my mother out to lunch?” he said exasperated.

Her expression softened, “Alright,” she said. “It may never happen again so I should probably take advantage while I can.” She stood up from her desk collecting her coat and purse. Ben rolled his eyes at the comment while her back was turned. She gave him a light slap on the arm as they left her office and a look that said ‘I saw that’.

“Give me a minute to grab something from the staff lounge,” she said seeming to remember something suddenly.

Ben sighed and followed his mother next door to the faculty lounge. He waited patiently outside the door while Leia walked in.

“Rey, are you on your own for lunch?” he heard his mother ask.

Damn, he was an ass, he didn’t realize he’d be leaving her to eat alone. He’d assumed that Jessika would be around and they seemed to get along really well. Then it occurred to him that Jessika Pava would be working with the Marching Band for the pep rally. Now he felt downright awful.

“Oh, I’m don’t mind,” he heard Rey reply quickly. He guiltily stepped into the doorway to the staff lounge to see her sitting at the small round table, her slender feet propped up on the chair across from her. In her hands was the book he’d given her and he couldn’t help but feel something pluck at the muscles in his chest.

“Well, why don’t you come out with Ben and I?” Leia asked with concern.

“Oh no, I don’t want to intrude,” Rey said.

“Nonsense,” Leia insisted. “You couldn’t possibly intrude. I’m making Ben take me to this little Italian take-away joint, do you like Italian? My treat.” Well that solved the mystery of where to go for lunch at least.

Rey looked a little embarrassed and unsure.

“You should come,” Ben said-- he hated seeing her eat alone and a guilty part of him wanted to spend more time with her even if it seemed like a very bad idea to be getting involved with a coworker. Of course, as far as demonstrating that they weren’t a couple, taking her out to lunch with his mother was probably the least convincing thing he could do. In fact meeting his mother was probably something that should have been reserved for after the third date at the earliest but that was difficult when she was their boss.

“Um sure,” she said awkwardly, straightening in her chair. “If you’re sure that’s alright,” she said looking between Ben and Leia.

“Of course it’s alright, dear,” she said turning to the counter and looking around, “Now where did I put that? Oh it’s fine, I’ll worry about it when we get back,” she quickly gave up looking for whatever it was.

Rey collected her purse that had been hanging off the back of her chair and stood shyly. As they were leaving Leia gave Ben a sideways wink that Rey couldn’t see.

Ben was utterly floored, how is it that after nearly thirty years this woman was still able to mess with him so easily. Had she planned on inviting Rey along? How? Did she find out about the date somehow? Oh dear God, he hoped that this wasn’t some kind of assessment of Rey. Ben tried not look too uncomfortable as the three of them headed out into the parking lot.

On the brief car ride over to the restaurant, Ben may as well have just been a chauffeur as Leia and Rey spoke animatedly about literacy requirements for Rey’s art class. She talked about her plan to have them write papers on an artist they researched while using different artistic elements in their critique, then Leia mentioned that something about how Luke and that’s when Ben stopped paying attention.

The restaurant was a little hole in the wall place that Leia was fond of, it had been a fixture in the neighborhood since Ben was in middle school. While his parents were getting divorced during his freshman year of high school, Leia often took him there after class in some kind of gesture to make it up to him-- when he wasn’t in detention that was, that was a tough year and he was prone to acting out. She seemed to think a scoop from the gelato cooler made it difficult to stay upset with her, and she’d been right.

The restaurant was mainly hot take away with limited seating outside, but they managed to snag a table for three and put in an order at the register inside.

Rey and Leia got along really well. They seemed to be perfectly pleasant at school but stepping out here Rey and Leia got to talking like they’d known each other for years. It was actually nice to see that it, that aspect of Ben’s relationship with Rey would be easy at least.

“I’m actually really looking forward to it, I’ve never been to a pep rally before. They do things differently in London so it’s all new to me,” Rey said.

“Corellia’s been known to take it pretty seriously in recent years. The Student Council puts on a good show, gets everyone involved. There’s lots of activities after the main performance, speaking of which… Ben did you bring a change of clothes?” Leia asked curiously.

“What?” Ben looked up from his meal confused.

“For the dunk tank, I saw your name on the sign up list in the lounge,” Leia said.

“The what now?”

“Yeah, I saw that but I didn’t know what it was,” Rey commented.

“Student Council rented a dunk tank this year, student’s pay a dollar to try to dunk their teachers,” Leia said. “Didn’t you sign up?”

“No,” Ben said flatly. There was no way in hell he’d be doing either.

Leia shrugged, “You should probably address that with Amilyn when we get back, I think there are several students looking forward to getting a shot at you.”

Rey visibly suppressed a giggle, Ben looked a little paler than usual, “Why me? Who?” Ben asked.

His mother looked at him pointedly. “I think you know who, Ben, and while I agree that Mr. Saxton got the grade he earned, him and his teammates have been carrying that grudge around for sometime,” she said.

“You were going to let the football team take shots at me?” Ben said incredulously.

“I thought that you were trying to mend bridges, bury the hatchet or something,” Leia said. “I thought it was a good idea, but I guess not. I’m sure Amilyn will clear it up for you,” she gave a sigh like he was disappointing her or something.

Rey at least looked sympathetic. “Who else is doing it?” she asked curiously.

“Well I noticed Poe was on the list, Gwen, Temmin, Finn, and Amilyn,” Leia said thinking. “I honestly don’t know how you didn’t know about it Ben, it's been up in the staff room for a long time. Student Council even put up flyers.”

In Ben’s defence he had been very distracted by a certain art teacher recently. He focused on lectures and Rey and everything else had just blended in with the background. “And no one said anything to me?” he said in disbelief.

“We all thought you knew,” Rey said with a shrug.

Ben groaned loudly-- he was going to back out obviously. They couldn’t force him to do it, but if everyone else already knew about it then everyone else would know about him backing out. This day was just not going the way he thought it would.

“It might be fun,” Rey said trying to be helpful, Ben groaned again.

“Well no one is going to make you do it Ben,” Leia said with a sigh. “Let’s not let it ruin our lunch.”

It was hard not to think about it as he tried to enjoy his hot chicken parma sandwich while they discussed the new freshman curriculum that they would be implementing next year.

When they were done they cleared the table themselves and walked back over to Ben’s car. He’d managed to sneak around and pay the bill while his mother was distracted with talking to Rey and she had already scolded him lightly for it. But as he was about to cross around to the driver side of the car Leia stopped and pulled him down to her height for a hug. Compared to him, his mother was tiny. She clocked in at more than a foot shorter than him, the top of her head (without the trademark elaborate updo) only came up to his mid chest. Even still she had no trouble making him come to her.

“Thank you, Ben,” she said warmly.

“You’re welcome,” he managed to say.

“And you should know, I really like Rey,” she said as she pulled away. She patted him fondly on the cheek which was currently burning. Rey was mercifully out of earshot but it still didn’t keep him from blushing. This was why he really shouldn’t fall for a coworker; now his mother had a way to insert herself into his love life.

“Okay mom, now you’re embarrassing me,” he said. Leia smiled and walked over to the front passenger seat. She gave a small wink before dipping into the seat and closing the door behind her.

On the drive back to the school, Ben grumbled moodily before taking a slight detour. He lived close enough in a small two room bungalow that he could afford the time to stop and grab something quickly. Rey and his mother looked at him confused but didn’t have time to say anything before he was unbuckling his seat belt and hopping out, leaving the car idling.

He grabbed what he needed and trudged back out to the car.

He wordlessly sat down in the driver seat and handed the unfolded but clean gym clothes to Leia to hold onto for the car ride. The upside to all of this was the small smile on Rey’s face when she realized what he’d done. Both his mother and Rey said nothing about it as he pulled his car back out of the driveway. Nothing like humiliating yourself in front a beautiful woman and all of your coworkers, he thought to himself as he drove out of his neighborhood.

Chapter Text

The entire high school was being released from their last two periods of the day to attend the pep rally. Ben returned from lunch with a bit of dread in his gut. He didn’t even bother to check if any students were trying to scope out him and Rey together. They weren’t necessarily late getting back but they weren’t early either and ended up having to rush back to their classroom before the bell rang. It didn’t escape his notice that one of his particularly observant students eyed him as he came walking through his door in a rush at the same time as Ms Niima went rushing into hers. So much for keeping the rumor mill at bay.

His last two periods dragged by without much to talk about, just the persistent pessimism toward the upcoming pep rally. He supposed it wasn’t the worst thing in the world but he couldn’t bring himself to be happy about it. Rey seemed to find the humor in it, so he decided he’d simply go for it for the singular purpose of not disappointing her somehow.

He did however want to know who volunteered him for this. By the end of fifth period he had a list of suspects and with his planning period right before the rally he had time to go over them all in his head.

Rey-- he doubted it, but it wasn’t impossible. She may have done it as a prank. At the same time she didn’t know what it was until lunch with Leia earlier and while she was playful and flirtatious this didn’t really seem to fit.

Finn and/or Poe-- most likely Poe. He was notorious for little pranks and he also had an enthusiastic homeroom that was way too excited about all of this. Then Finn, Ben wouldn’t doubt his involvement. He and Poe seemed to be attached at the hip lately and he also seemed to be a little defensive of Rey.

Then there was the possibility that someone on student council had done it to get some more money for the fundraiser. Apparently the whole football team was itching to get a shot at Ben after a bad grade in his class benched the quarterback last year. So he would bring in more money than teachers like Finn and Poe, who were pretty popular with the student body.

He gave a heavy sigh and checked the time, before he went went to change into the gym clothes he’d grabbed from home. He stopped to glare at the pep rally flyer hanging outside the faculty lounge; Rey and his mother weren’t kidding, they really were all over the place around here. It depicted a big wave rolling over crude cut outs of six faces, one of which his. The photo looked like it was taken from last year’s yearbook. He was the only one not smiling, probably because he hadn’t smiled for a photograph since he was twelve.

“You ready for your big moment, Solo?”

He looked up to see Hux making his way over, a sly smirk on his face.

That motherfucker!

Ben couldn’t come up with anything to say, but he knew one thing for certain: Hux was gonna pay.

“Glad you brought a change of clothes, I was a little worried you’d forget,” Hux said before proceeding past him in the direction of his classroom.

Ben’s brain was already starting to turn up a plan. “Hey, nice loafers Armie,” he said using a name he knew Hux hated, “Just make sure you stand well out of the splash zone so they don’t get wet.”

Hux glanced at his impeccable leather shoes and then back at Ben a little confused. He could tell Ben was planning something and there was a slight flash of worry. Ben simply smiled politely and walked into the lounge, leaving Hux looking nervous in the hallway.

He changed into his gym clothes quickly-- the rally was to start soon and he had to be back in his classroom to do a headcount of his homeroom before all the students would head to the gymnasium.

A little known fact about Ben was that he had nearly immaculate handwriting. He had been able to recreate his parent’s signatures by the time he was twelve and wasn’t caught until after he started high school (it was hard to pass off his mother’s signature when she taught right down the hall). He strolled into the administrative offices, which were mostly empty because of the impending rally, and reached behind Kaydel’s desk. He plucked up a pad of sticky notes from beside the phone and wrote out a quick note. It was not his best work but it would probably fool anyone who didn’t know better. After putting the notepad back by the phone, he peeked into Holdo’s office to make sure that she wasn’t there. He stuck the note to her computer screen where it wouldn’t be missed and turned quickly on his heel out of the office and into the hall.

He was part way down the hall when Holdo turned the corner with the student council President, Charlie Tran, tagging along excitedly. In all of Ben’s memory he didn’t think he’d ever seen the Vice Principal dressed so casually-- she always dressed eccentrically (the woman had pink hair after all) but always well tailored and professional. Here she was wearing a CHS t-shirt and pair of running shorts. It looked particularly odd next to the student council president who regularly wore bow ties as a fashion statement.

Holdo noticed him immediately, “Oh Ben! I’m so glad you signed up!” she said excitedly.

“Right,” Ben said awkwardly, “I guess I did.”

Holdo smiled, “Well we were just coming to fetch some things from my office and you probably have to get over to your classroom before they release everyone,” she said. “We’ll see you soon!”

“Can’t wait,” Ben said dryly to himself completely devoid of enthusiasm as they walked away.

-----------------

“Okay, now we’re gonna take a quick roll call and then we will head down the gymnasium,” Rey said aloud over the excited chatter in her classroom. Her homeroom was pretty casual: students perched on desktops and there was always a scramble to claim the cushy, armchair that was probably older than Rey was. At the moment three girls were piled on top of each other and had sunk into the sagging cushion, giggling excitedly. Her homeroom looked dramatically different from Ben’s. Across the hall everyone sat at their desk, not on top of them, and kept the chit chat to a minimum.

Once she was done taking attendance, she gathered her students up to leave. “Alright let’s head down, and before you think about sneaking off I am doing a headcount once we get there,” she said, managing to keep them from scattering like a herd of cats. Her students flooded into the hall at the same time as Ben’s. They all didn’t look nearly as excited as her own students and Ben himself had a pretty unenthusiastic look on his face.

“You’re not facing a firing squad,” Rey teased as they fell in behind their students.

“My own students are literally lining up to take shots at me,” he said.

Rey smiled, “Well you won’t be the only one, they also wanna dunk Poe and Finn,” she pointed out.

They approached the gymnasium that was starting to fill with students who were climbing onto the bleachers. Rey did a quick headcount finding that all of her students had made it. Ben appeared to be doing the same but seemed to have come up one short.

“Shit, I’m missing Erik,” she heard him say under his breath.

Rey knew of the student, but Ben didn’t seem to need her help looking. “Sanderson!” Ben yelled out in a surprisingly authoritative voice. The boy visibly flinched before departing from his group of friends and trudging back over to where Ben was standing with his arms folded over his chest.

“Sorry Mr Solo, just borrowin’ a buck from my buddy,” the boy said brandishing a crisp new dollar bill. He walked past Ben and Rey wearing a coy smirk.

“I’d hold onto that for a bit,” Ben said loudly as Erik Sanderson entered the gym with his classmates.

Rey looked over at Ben confused, “Why’s that?” she asked softly.

“Because I did a bad thing,” Ben said simply but he looked anything but guilty.

“Ben?” she eyed him suspiciously.

“I may have signed Hux up for this.”

---------------

The gymnasium echoed with marching band music. It made Rey’s ears ring but she smiled all the same, watching the marching band perform their routine. As they finished, the cheer squad came out to thunderous applause. Then the CHS mascot, which was actually a kid named Shane dressed in a cartoon suit depicting a large Falcon, ran out onto the floor. The Corellia Falcon bounced around enthusiastically firing a T-shirt cannon into the student body a few times.

The cheer squad wrapped up and the Student Council President came running out excitedly throwing up his arms as the crowd gave a near thunderous applause. Rey wondered briefly how good the acoustics must be in here.

“HEEELLOOOO FALCONS!!!” He yelled out taking the mic from its stand while Shane, the mascot, danced around him. The StuCo President gave a pretty good speech that got everyone excited and properly kicked off the festivities.

She watched as the cartoon falcon did a slam dunk off a small trampoline, the crowd roaring in response. "Let's give it up for the Corellia Falcons!" Loud hype music played over the gym's sound system as there was a sudden explosion of confetti over the entrance way. The football team, clad in their jerseys, came storming through a hand painted paper banner that read 'FALCONS' in large, navy blue letters. At the sight of them, the crowd went wild. The football team pounded across the gymnasium floor, whooping and cheering along with the crowd.

Then as the crowd began to calm down, the young student council president introduced this year's Homecoming King and Queen. They’d been elected in the spring among last year’s Juniors. Now they were Seniors and they looked like they’d stepped right out of a teen movie. Rey had both of them in her figure drawing class and if she hadn’t known them both personally, she’d have thought that their personalities matched the high school flick stereotypes. Dominic and Jessie announced their Homecoming courts, which consisted of the runner-ups and then a pair from each of the Junior and Sophomore classes.

It was a happy moment for a lot of the onlookers-- students cheered for their friends during the announcement of each ‘Lady and Lord-in-waiting’. With each name they called, a student would pop excitedly from the crowd and make their way down to join the rest of the court. They handed out tiara’s that were slightly smaller and less elaborate than the Queen’s and royal blue sashes. Rey had never seen such a thing in a high school except in the movies. It was such a foreign tradition to her but none of the other teachers seemed to notice how strange it all seemed.

The Homecoming Court exited stage right and Charlie Tran made his way back to the floor while the cartoon Falcon did the worm. “I know you guys are all itching to see this dunk tank!” he said into his mic. “And I can tell you it’s gonna blow that Ice Bucket Challenge we did last year out of the sky!” The crowd reared up, thoroughly hyped.

“But first we gotta announce Teacher King and Queen before we dunk them!” Students laughed and cheered loudly.

“Here we go,” Ben groaned next to her with even less enthusiasm than before. The teachers all seemed to be more or less indifferent, everyone was kind of expecting Poe to win. The position of queen was a little less obvious.

Rey was wrapped up in trying to figure out who was most likely to win that she almost missed her name being called out before it was drowned in a massive round of applause. Suddenly all eyes were on her and she wasn’t quite sure how to respond. Rey’s cheeks burned as she came to realize what was happening. Ben was right-- this was way more embarrassing than she’d thought it would be.

Nervously, at the urging of her coworkers, she stepped out amongst the other teacher and started walking across the gymnasium floor. It was suddenly a much longer walk than it had seemed to be previously. Rey had to remind herself to smile, wave, and not look so much like a scared little mouse running across the room. There was a huge round of applause as she stepped up beside the student council President. Shane, the student in the mascot suit, placed a plastic tiara on top of her head. It was mostly just a cheap facsimile of what they’d just crowned the Homecoming Court with.

The student body quieted down as Charlie checked the note in his hand. Rey noted a slight look of surprise on the president’s face but he refolded the note in his hand and carried on unphased.

“And your teacher King this year is... Mr Solo!”

Rey eyes flashed up to Ben’s shocked face still standing amongst the collection of teachers. She could see his face turning pink from where she was standing and she could tell that the last thing he wanted to do was march up there and let a cartoon bird put a fake crown on his head.

The round of applause started out slow and kind of confused but picked up momentum quickly, finally prompting Ben to unroot himself and start slowly making his way over to the middle of the gym floor. Rey clapped, relieved to not be the only one standing up there looking silly. She gave Ben an encouraging smile that he returned awkwardly. As Rey watched him, she noticed that he didn’t walk nearly as tall as he normally did.

Ben had to stoop slightly to allow the falcon mascot to place a gawdy plastic crown on his head. Shane danced away excitedly and went to do a cartwheel for applause. It must be easier to get up and make an ass of yourself when you’re wearing a mask, Rey thought to herself. But standing up here wasn’t as easy as the Homecoming King and Queen made it look.

“And there you have it, this year’s Teacher King and Queen!” the young president said enthusiastically. “Let’s give a great big round of applause for Ms Niima and Mr Solo!” There was a hearty cheer and Rey managed to give a wave as she and Ben returned to where the teachers were standing off to the side. Ben had already taken his crown off and was holding it. Rey let the tiara remain for the moment.

“Alright Corellia High!” Charlie Tran said bouncing around with the mic. Rey noticed a couple student council kids rolling out the dreaded dunk tank. It was a massive square tank on wheels, with a plexiglass wall around it and and water splashing up along the sides precariously. There was a levered bench that hung over the water that appeared to be attached to a small round target that would trigger a latch, dropping whoever was sitting on the bench into the water.

They rolled the tank into the designated place that had been previously marked off with tape.

“Now we had some last minute additions to the list of teachers you’re gonna get to take a shot at!” the young president said. Rey glanced at Ben, who was smirking at the back of Hux’s head. Poor Hux was completely unaware of what was about to transpire.

“Corellia High, let’s give it up for Mr Hux!!!” Charlie said enthusiastically.

There was a stir in the crowd before suddenly everyone was going to check there pockets for spare change. Now Ben wasn’t the most enticing target and all he had to worry about was a vengeful football team.

Hux blanched (which considering that he was paler than Ben was impressive). Holdo smiled over at Hux and nodded excitedly with a thumbs up. Several teachers reacted similarly, and Poe clapped him on the back excitedly.

Hux shook his head nervously, grabbing Holdo’s attention. Her expression faded instantly, “What?!” she mouthed horrified that Hux seemed to be chickening out.

The ginger haired Civics teacher turned around to glare at Ben. “The hell, Solo?!” he hissed. “You signed me up for this?!”

Ben smirked, “But Armie, signing people up for something they don’t want to do is wrong,” he said sarcastically. Hux’s eye twitched erratically and a vessel popped up in his temple.

“Uh oh, guys. It looks like Mr Hux might be getting some cold feet.” Charlie said, seeming to notice the new drama unfolding from where the teachers were all standing. “Let’s give him some encouragement--! MIS-TER-HUX! MIS-TER-HUX!”

That chant caught on and very quickly the entire student body of Corellia High was chanting along.

“MIS-TER-HUX! MIS-TER-HUX! MIS-TER-HUX!”

Hux looked utterly terrified by the massive chant thundering through the gymnasium. The students crowding to line up for shots at the dunk tank had suddenly doubled.

Holdo and Hux were talking urgently back and forth but Rey couldn’t hear what they were saying due to the crowd. She watched with interest as they stepped away from where the teachers were standing. Hux made a point to look back one last time to glare at Ben, who was now smiling.

Holdo hurried up to where Charlie and the Falcon were keeping the chant going. He paused as Holdo whispered something in his ear before both she and Hux hurried out of the gym.

“He’s gonna do it!” Charlie shouted excitedly into his mic and the crowd erupted into massive round of applause.

“But for now, let’s give it up for Mr Dameron!!”

The crowd cheered excitedly. Someone, somewhere shouted out loud from the crowd, “I love you Mr Dameron!” which made it a little difficult for Poe to properly showboat his way up to the tank without looking a little embarrassed.

Several students signed up to take a shot at Poe, he was a beloved teacher so it was all in good fun. Poe gave a few teasing remarks, egging each student on until one of Phasma’s volleyball players landed the shot sending him free-falling into the shallow tank. There was a roar of laughter as Poe popped up for air, shaking his dark curly locks out of his face. There were a couple of (what Rey hoped were ironic) wolf whistles as Poe climbed out of the tank soaking wet. He gave a charming smile and wave at the crowd as they cheered.

Next up was Snap Wexley, whose after school Science Club was eager to take a shot. Rey was reminded of Poe’s party, where the both of them had tumbled into the pool. She shuddered slightly at the memory. This was decidedly much better and hopefully didn’t result in anyone ruining their phone. There was a cheer for Snap when a student finally landed a shot on the target and he went tumbling into the tank.

Next was Phasma. She and her fearsome volleyball players took it so seriously that everyone else decided to simply get out of their way.

Finn went in next and like Poe there was a rush of students running to grab spots in line. It was mostly boys from his gym class but there was also a few of his basketball and lacrosse players. He got sunk the fastest thanks to an ace shot from one of his students. He sprang happily from the water gave a fierce splash that lapped over the edge of the plexiglass rim and sent several students delightfully dodging for cover.

Hux and Holdo finally returned. He was no longer wearing his normal finely tailored and clearly expensive attire. Instead he was wearing a CHS gym uniform that consisted of loose hanging shorts and an over large CHS athletic department t-shirt.

The chanting of ‘MIS-TER-HUX!’ resumed at his reappearance and he gave a nervous wave. He rejoined the dry teachers (the wet ones had been banished to the other side of the dunk tank to dry off).

But before Hux, it was Ben’s turn. Rey heard him give a mournful sigh.

She gave him a reassuring smile, “Break a leg-- but not really,” she said under her breath.

He managed a smile as well and handed her his cell phone. “Can you hold on to this for me?” he asked, having to talk over the crowd.

“Sure,” she said. He then left her and the rest of the teachers to walk across the gymnasium floor while trying to put on a brave face. Rey tucked Ben’s phone into her pocket. As she did she caught Rose eyeing her curiously.

“What?” Rey asked not really knowing what that look was for.

Rose smiled, “Nothing,” she said in almost a sing-song voice. Her face reminded Rey of the cat that ate the canary.

“It’s just his phone,” Rey insisted.

Rose smirked, “I didn’t say anything,” she said feigning innocence.

Like with the other teachers, the room filled with whoops and cheers for Ben as he climbed up onto the precarious bench.

Josh Saxton, Corellia’s star quarterback, stood down the shooting line surrounded by a group of football players who had pushed their way to the front of the line. Ben starred them down, Rey could tell he was chewing the inside of his cheek in annoyance with them. Rey didn’t have too many of them in her art classes. The varsity football team was made up of mostly seniors whose electives were filled up with athletics or mandatory tutoring to stay on top of their grades. Unfortunately it was pretty well known Josh Saxton was a bit of a bully, and was known to get his way with things.

The crowd stilled with anticipation, everyone seemed to be hyper aware of the tension between Ben and the football team.

Ben didn’t even flinch when Josh lined up his first shot… and missed.

The quarterback was clearly flustered and quickly pulled out a wad of dollar bills from his pocket but the student council member handing out tickets directed him to the back of the line. Everyone was utterly floored and Rey could see a sly smile form on Ben’s face.

Two more misses from football players before a small girl that Rey recognized from her homeroom stepped up. She was a quiet, mild mannered freshman, but she looked determined as she stepped up to the line. She clutched the bean bag projectile tightly.

“Go Allie!!” Rey shouted suddenly startling the other teachers around her with her outburst.

Allie looked over, smiled sweetly and waved to her homeroom teacher. Then wound up and with surprising ferocity hurled the bag at the target.

Rey watched as Ben went dropping into the tank and the target clanged loudly. There was a massive cheer from everyone save for the group of football players that were denied a shot. The young freshman was positively beaming at her accomplishment.

Ben popped dramatically out of the water, swinging his wet hair back out of his face. His wet clothes clung to his body, revealing the toned musculature underneath. Rey’s breath caught in her chest at the sight of Ben climbing out of the tank, his shirt clinging to his broad shoulders. He even appeared to be smiling as he took a towel from Poe and even offered a sportsmanly high-five to his dunker who by comparison looked absolutely tiny. Rey’s chest swelled with affection at the endearing display.

Ben joined the other very damp collection of teachers on the other side of the tank. Her eyes caught his and he managed an embarrassed smile.

It was finally Hux’s turn in the tank and the group of students ready to shoot were buzzing with excitement (and there was quite a few of them). Rey felt a little sorry for him as he crawled up on to the bench and sat facing them.

He flinched visibly at the first couple shots which all missed. After several more awry throws, it was obvious that the anticipation was starting to get to him. On tenth shot he began to really get anxious about getting wet.

“Oh come on! How could you miss that?” he cowed them.

But none of the students seemed all that perturbed by this. It then occurred to Rey that they were doing it on purpose to mess with him. She supposed that it wasn’t totally unwarranted, Hux’s class was known to cause a lot of heartache-- especially for seniors when it came to fulfilling district graduation requirements.

It was nearly sixteen shots in that they finally took mercy on Hux and actually hit the target, sending the ginger haired civics teacher sprawling haphazardly into the water. The crowd exploded with applause.

-----------------

The remainder of the pep rally went as expected. Holdo got dunked by one of her student council kids, then the tank was hauled out. There were a couple more announcements and more antics from Shane the Falcon. Then the marching band came back on and played everyone out. In spite of all the fun and excitement, Rey was glad it was over. Her ears were still ringing and the silly plastic crown was starting to make her head hurt.

The students had cleared out in a hurry, eager to start their weekends, so the hallways were nearly empty. She removed the cheap plastic tiara and the pin for being voted ‘Teacher Queen’. It wasn’t a terrible accomplishment for her first year teaching. The fact that they’d also crowned Ben ‘Teacher King’ made her blush slightly; he’d been absolutely right though, it had been embarrassing to get up there. She just didn’t have the bravado that Poe or Finn possessed to take these kinds of things in stride.

Each of Ben’s footsteps squished noisily on the linoleum floor as he walked beside her back in the direction of their classrooms. The sound made Rey smile and she burst out laughing before they made it halfway down the hallway. She teased him by mimicking the squelching noise, Ben rolled his eyes but he also couldn’t hide the tiny smile.

“Go ahead and laugh it up Niima,” he said.

He was soaked all the way through-- his gym clothes still dripping and his wet hair pushed back from his face. He still had the towel that had been given to him after getting dunked wrapped around his shoulders but it was now just as wet as he was.

“It’s just nice that it’s not me this time,” she said.

Ben pursed his lips slightly and stole a glance behind them. “No but it should be,” he said flipping his mane of dark hair with the sole intention of flicking water at her.

“Ben!”

He laughed and pressed the corner of the towel into her shoulder leaving behind a damp imprint. She gasped at the sudden cold pressure and jumped away from him, “Ben Solo!” she laughed. She paused to put on her best stern face she could manage but utterly failed as it cracked immediately into a wide smile.

He wrung out the edge of his shirt and flicked the excess water from his fingers at her. “Don’t you dare, Ben Solo!” she said once again her voice failing to even hint at sternness, her lips betraying her with a smile.

Ben’s eyes darkened ever so slightly, “Or you’ll do what?” he asked. His voice was slightly lower as he issued the challenge, his delicious lips curling slightly into a beguiling smirk. Rey couldn’t think clearly with what this darker Ben was doing to her insides, it was as if her entire chest cavity was empty except for hundreds of butterflies fluttering around erratically. She might actually stop breathing.

Rey didn’t have time to gather her thoughts and demand clarification before he suddenly had her wrapped in his arms. She let out an involuntary squeal of shock and delight as she was pressed against his wet torso.

“Ben! You’re soaked!” she cried through peels of laughter. The moisture from his black nike gym shirt seeped into her flimsy white blouse in seconds.

“And you’re warm,” he said into her hair, she could hear the smile in his voice now as she tried to playfully squirm away from him.

“You’re freezing!” she shrieked. Her hands moved to his chest as if to push away but she became distracted when her fingers met toned muscle and suddenly she wanted to melt into it. She was now thoroughly soaked thanks to Ben, but quickly adapting to the chill.

Feeling a sudden burst of courage, she turned and pulled his face to hers. They’d gone five whole days playing around this attraction that she knew they both felt and she didn’t think she could possibly go five more. Her lips captured his and he didn’t hesitate to match her intensity. There was something buried and desperate in the way his mouth met hers and her entire body burned to be closer to him.

It was incredible, right up until the quiet ‘ahem’ from down the hall.

They sprang apart instantly alarmed by a sudden audience, eyes wide like a couple of deer in headlights.

Holdo stood just a little ways down the hall, already changed back into dry clothes and she was padding her pink hair dry with a towel.

Ben and Rey stole a glance at one another, both wondering exactly how much trouble they were in. I can’t believe I just did that at school, she thought, fully expecting to be hauled into Holdo’s office.

“Please don’t let a student catch you like that,” she said with a sly look. “I really could do without another social media debacle and Finn’s going to have a hard enough time with the Sex Ed curriculum this year.” She calmly walked past them as they both gawked at her.

Rey couldn’t believe that they were getting off that easy. Had a student seen them it would have been disastrous, and yet Holdo’s advice pretty much amounted to ‘don’t get caught’. She and Ben exchanged surprised looks.

“Oh and Ben,” Holdo paused and turned, “Good job at the rally today.”

“Umm… thanks,” Ben said awkwardly, with a slight wave with the corner of his towel still draped over his shoulders.

There was an awkward silence between them as they watched their Vice Principal walk away.

“Um Rey,” Ben said finally. She looked over at him with an eyebrow raised. He gestured vaguely in the direction of her chest and looked away blushing. She stole a glance down to see that her white blouse had become nearly translucent and now her lacy bra underneath was clearly visible.

Rey gasped in surprise quickly covering her chest with her arms. “Ben, you knob!” she said blushing intensely.

“I’m a knob? You started it!” Ben replied playfully defensive.

“You were the one hugging me with your… wet… body,” she said as they hurried over to their classrooms. She snatched her coat hanging on the hook by her door and quickly throwing it on over her wet blouse. It would be a damp ride home but there were other matters to think about.

“You didn’t seem to mind a minute ago,” he said smartly, “and I distinctly remember you initiating.”

“And you reciprocated,” she said.

Their eyes met and there was a sudden electricity between them. Rey knew that if she didn’t leave now she’d be climbing him like tree and then they’d really be in trouble.

He smiled at her and she thought she might melt into a puddle.

“I should go dry off,” he said a little awkwardly. She could see the redness on the tips of his ears through his wet hair and she felt a sense of adoration. There was this strange urge to kiss the tip of each ear, which was something she had never even thought about before.

“You should do that,” she said in barely more than a whisper.

-------------

That night Rey laid awake in bed, unable to find sleep no matter what she did. She tossed and turned for hours trying literally everything to find some kind of relief.

In frustration she finally rolled over an picked up her phone from her bedside table where it was charging. She pulled up the text thread that she had going with Ben. Reading back over some of their older exchanges she found herself smiling like a giddy teenager. Her whole body felt like it was buzzing as she typed out a message to him. Rey ended up rewriting the message at least three times before finally hovering over the send button. She knew this all might go completely sideways but part of her didn’t care. She drew in a deep breath, closed her eyes tight and hit send.

Rey Niima: Aww shit, I think I like you.

Rey was horrified at first, how could she be so impulsive? It’s after one in the morning, she shouldn’t be bothering the poor man with these kinds of declarations while he’s trying to sleep. It occurred to her that he may already be asleep and then she’d have to wait until morning for a response. She definitely wouldn’t sleep without knowing what he had to say. She’d just screwed herself over with all this impulsive bullshit.

But then her phone vibrated in her hand and there was his response not even a minute after she’d sent it.

Ben Solo: I’ve literally not stopped thinking about you since you decided to play Africa way too loudly in your classroom.

Chapter Text

Mitzi Whitfield: can i tell you a secret?

Mitzi Whitfield: u have to swear to never tell anyone!

Maile Ankar: ok jeez… mitz i won’t tell.

Mitzi Whitfield: so i was in charge of counting the ballots for teach king n queen right…

Maile Ankar: i see where this is going…

Maile Ankar: mitz- did you stuff the ballot box so your weird teacher ship wins?!

Mitzi Whitfield: ok but in my defense ms niima won on her own!

Mitzi Whitfield: i just gave mr solo a boost

Maile Ankar: so who actually won?

Mitzi Whitfield: mr dameron

Maile Ankar: haa called it!

Mitzi Whitfield: seriusly! DONT TELL ANYONE!

Maile Ankar: ok i wont.

Maile Ankar: ok… max knows but he doesn’t even go to our school so it fine

Mitzi Whitfield: MAILE YOUR BF IS MR DAMERONS NEIGHBER!!!!!!!!!!

------------------

Ben couldn’t sleep the night after the pep rally, and once he received the message from Rey it was nearly impossible. Before he could stop himself, he responded far too eagerly confessing that she had been the only thing on his mind since they’d first met. His stomach did a flip when her response pinged on his homescreen.

Rey Niima: I like your lips…

Rey Niima: Well actually I like all of your face… a lot.

Even though Ben was laying in the dark, in his empty home, alone, he felt his cheeks heat up. All of his blood rushed to his head and he could swear that he felt his heart literally skip a beat as he read and reread her texts. He was in the middle of trying to come with a response that didn’t sound like a caveman wrote it when another message from Rey popped up.

Rey Niima: Oh and your body.

Was this woman trying to give him heart palpitations or something?

He’d never really thought of himself as particularly attractive-- his ears and nose seemed too big and he’d been lanky and awkward his whole life, but he’d always taken care of himself. He ate well and worked out frequently, even put in a few laps at the pool every now and then. So he knew that he was physically fit, just didn’t know that Rey had noticed.

Ben Solo: I’ve been thinking about your lips a lot too.

It was pretty bold and he instantly wanted to take it back but it was too late. Rey’s response was swift and he didn’t have to hold his breath for too long.

Rey Niima: What about my body?

He actually laughed aloud at first, startled that she had upped the ante of their little game. The truth was that he definitely thought about her body. Ben thought about her body and what it would feel like to be between her thighs. Even now he wondered what her body would feel like pinned beneath his with her legs wrapped around his waist. His thoughts spiraled into the fantasies he’d tried so hard to keep at bay.

Ben Solo: I definitely think about your body.

Was that too much? Should he apologize? He’s not cut out for this kind of thing. What the hell was he doing?

It was too late to turn back, he was in the trenches now. She wasn’t backing down just yet and the primal part of his brain didn’t want her to.

Rey Niima: Good, so we’re even?

On an interesting aside, Ben found himself oddly turned on by the fact that she used appropriate punctuation and grammar in her text. Fuck. He was odd.

Ben Solo: I guess we are.

Rey Niima: So, do you like me?

Ben couldn’t contain the sharp intake of breath. She knew damn well he liked her, and he knew she just wanted him to say it. He had to oblige.

Ben Solo: Hell yes!

He waited for a moment for her response. The three little dots bounced momentarily as she typed before a single word appeared as her response.

Rey Niima: Good.

Ben ached at the thought of her, his muscles tense as he thought of what he’d be doing to her were she in bed with him.

Rey Niima: I’m going to keep thinking about you…

Rey Niima: You’re more than welcome to keep thinking about me. ;)

Ben Solo: That’s good, because I already am.

He’d been ashamed of it before but now that he was pretty sure he had her permission, he shut out all the shameful notions he’d had. He tugged at the waistline of his boxers and kicked the sheet off of him. It took an embarrassingly short amount of time before the effects of his orgasm spilled over his hand, with Rey’s name on his lips.

It was just enough to push him into a pleasant and restful sleep.

-----------------

He awoke late the following morning to his phone ringing. At first his mind went to Rey, and his heart nearly leapt out of his chest. He rolled over in a rush to snatch his phone from the night stand to see that it was his mother. Maybe he’d dreamed last night?

With a groan he answered the phone and pressed it to his ear, falling back into his pillows.

“Good morning to you too,” Leia’s voice read with a hint of sarcasm. “You’re still in bed?”

“I didn’t sleep very well,” he said, his voice still laced with sleep. He slept fine but only after his exchange with Rey. He was still trying to decide if that had actually happened or not.

“Well I heard some interesting news from Amilyn when we went to brunch this morning,” Leia said. Ben could practically hear her smiling through the phone.

He sat up slowly, unsure if his mother was testing him or not.

“I had a feeling but I wasn’t sure if you were ever going to act on it or not,” she continued. Ben wasn’t sure if he wanted to be having this conversation with his mother or not.

With another tired groan, he covered his face with his hand. “I don’t know if this is the best time, mom,” he grumbled.

“Is Rey with you?” Leia asked intrigued.

“What? No! She’s not… Mom you are way too invested in my love life,” he said.

He heard his mother give an ungraceful snort. “I’m not getting any younger, Benjamin, and I want to be able to actually enjoy my grandchildren,” his mother said like it didn’t nearly make him choke.

“Jesus, mom!” he coughed.

“I’m just saying, don’t keep her waiting, women like that don’t stay available for very long,” she insisted.

Ben groaned loudly, “Seriously, are we really having this conversation?”

“Pour yourself a cup of coffee and go for your run, you’ll feel better. And say ‘hello’ to Rey for me,” Leia said brightly.

“Mom...”

“I know, I love you too!”

------------------

Rey had a shift at Maz’s bar on Saturday night. It started much like any other until a few familiar faces came in.

“Well hello, here for cheap booze again?” Rey asked with a smile placing three bar napkins in front of Rose, Finn and Poe.

“And your sage wisdom,” Poe said brightly.

“Ah so stereotypical bartender bullshit?” Rey replied.

Poe pointed, “that’s the one.”

Rey poured them a couple beers from the tap. Business was picking up a little so she didn’t have a whole lot of time to chat as the waitress put in several drink orders all at once. She was shaking a cocktail barely paying attention to the conversation between her friends.

When she was all caught up and cleaning glassware she rejoined the conversation.

“So Rey, how’s Ben?” Rose asked casually.

“Oh not this again,” Finn said.

“Don’t get mad because you’re terrible at reading the signs,” Poe said. “Give us the details.”

Pink bloomed over her cheeks. “What are you talking about?” she asked trying to sound as casual as possible.

Rose had her phone out and began reading aloud: “‘The feeling when you see two of your teachers out on a date together’ Exclamation point, exclamation point. ‘So cute’ All caps, exclamation point. ‘they’re so perfect’ All caps, exclamation point, exclamation point, exclamation point.”

“Where are you reading from?” Rey asked, the blush on her cheeks intensifying. She made a grab for Rose’s phone but she dodged out of the way.

“Moving on,” Rose said, “In response to a previous statement: ‘Lucy [is] just sad because our hot teacher is riding solo’ Solo is in all caps, likely a play on Ben’s last name, exclamation point exclamation point exclamation point. ‘L-o-l-o-l-o-l-o-l-o-l’ exclamation point.”

Poe’s shoulders were shaking with silent laughter, even Rey thought there was something rather comical of Rose’s dry presentation of the online chatspeak.

“Seriously where is this coming from?” Rey asked.

“Remember the student who broadcast Poe’s party on the internet?” Finn asked.

“Turns out all of her stuff is completely public and the girl has no filter,” Rose said.

“And neither do her friends,” Poe added.

Rey raised an eyebrow, “So you’re cyber-stalking a student?” Rey asked skeptically.

“More like they’re stalking you,” Rose said. “Check this out: ‘Just watched my uber hot--’ spelled with two t’s-- ‘teacher get dunked.’ Exclamation point. ‘Dripping wet, so hot--’ again spelled with two t’s.”

“That dunk tank was a terrible idea in hindsight,” Finn said shaking his head.

Rose continued, “In response: ‘Seriously Lucy, your obsession with Mister Solo is getting a little out of hand.’ Lucy then responds with: ‘It’s not an obsession, he’s just a handsome dude.’”

“So a student named Lucy has a crush on Ben?” Rey asked, then added “Seriously, this is starting to get weird and I don’t know how I’m supposedly involved in all this.”

All three of her friends immediately called her bluff.

“Continuing on,” Rose said, “‘Jeez Lucy, didn’t you hear? Mister Solo has a girlfriend now.’”

“Who?” Rey demanded a little too fiercely before she thought to stop herself. The texts from Ben last night, flashed through her memory. Was she the supposed girlfriend?

Rose stared at her as if to say ‘really?’. “Would you let me finish?” she clears her throat and continues. “So ‘lucy-in-dah-sky’ responds: ‘Oh my god, Mister Solo is not dating Miss Niima, get your facts straight’ exclamation point times twelve. Also ‘straight’ is misspelled’,” she said, her tone nonchalant.

Her three friends turned to look at her suspiciously. “So details, Niima. Let’s hear ‘em,” Poe says smiling.

Just then the waitress turned in a couple more orders at the bar and Rey rushed to prepare the drinks instead of trying to explain what was going on between her and Ben. They watched her expectantly as she poured several beers from the tap. “So far we’ve been on one date,” Rey insisted.

“Does that, or does that not include being locked in my bathroom together?” Poe asked thoughtfully. Rey shot him a dark look that only made his smile broaden.

“When did you guys go on a date?” Finn asked, “And how come you didn’t say anything?”

Rey loaded up a tray for the waitress to take to the table and wiped her hands on a bar towel. “It’s really no big deal,” she said shyly, focusing on wiping down the bar so that she wouldn’t have to make eye contact.

“That bad, huh?” Rose said.

“No!” Rey responded defensively. The looks on her friends faces made it clear that they’d stay till closing if that’s what it took to get some details. “Ok fine, it was a really good date! And I like him… A lot… happy?”

Poe and Rose wore a pair of satisfied smiles. Finn still looked like he had doubts, “I thought you two got off on the wrong foot?” he grilled.

“Well when you lock two healthy adults in a bathroom together--” Poe started.

“Would you drop the bathroom thing!?” Rey said as her cheeks blushed madly and she tossed her bar rag at Poe’s head. They were never gonna let her live that down.

Finn raised an eyebrow, “Wait is that really what happened?”

Rey sighed, wringing her hands in the bar towel nervously. “Hey Rey? Another round for table six,” the waitress said cutting into their conversation.

“Oh thank god!” Rey said immediately starting on the order of drinks. Unfortunately they were seated right in front of her bar station so escape from their interrogation wasn’t that easy.

“Did the date happen before or after the gallery show at least?” Rose asked.

“After,” Rey said simply, offering no further details while she mixed up a couple manhattans for the table.

“Coffee? Dinner? Movies? Mini-golf?” Poe asked.

“Do you honestly see that man ever playing mini-golf?” Rose interjected.

Finn actually laughed, “I would pay to see that! He’d looked three feet taller than he actually is!”

“You should take him mini-golfing for your next date and take pictures!” Poe agreed excitedly.

Rey rolled her eyes, “You’re all impossible.” She finished the order of drinks for table six and placed them on the bar to be collected by the waitress.

“Ignore these two chuckleheads,” Rose said leaning against the bar, “Tell us about the date! Your students already outed you so now we need details.”

“We went out for coffee at Empire Books, and we picked out books,” she said.

Finn looked doubtful, “That sounds like way less fun than mini golf, to be honest,” he said.

Rose smacked him on the shoulder. “Wait, did you guys pick out books for each other?” she asked. Rey blushed and nodded. “That’s so cute!” Rose gushed, “I want to go on a date like that! What did he get you?” Poe and Finn exchanged odd looks.

“A book of poems,” Rey said, “by E.E.Cummings.” She actually had it in her purse, it had accompanied her everywhere. She mostly pulled it out to read when she found herself with some down time.

Rose looked extremely pleased, “Have you gotten to the saucy ones yet?”

Rey’s cheeks burned, because she had found several rather erotic ones that had been mixed in with the rest of the collection. Her mind leapt to last night, being pressed against him and his hungry lips on hers. Then his later declaration that he’d not stopped thinking about her since they met and how his words had utterly wrecked her.

Rose’s lips curled into a knowing smirk. “You have!” she said.

“Who’s E. E. Cummings?” Finn asked and Poe burst out laughing.

“Seriously Finn, I swear you are a literary black hole,” Rose said shaking her head then she turned her attention back to Rey. “So then what happened?”

Rey shrugged. “We just got coffee and talked, then some students showed up and we left,” she said, which was a half truth. They also rain through the rain and made out in the front seat for her car but she wasn’t about to tell them about that.

“I stand by the mini golf idea,” Poe joked, or at least Rey hoped he was.

She felt her phone buzz in her back pocket and she immediately went to check it, unable to resist the idea of more sexy texts from Ben. Sure enough it was him and she turned away from her friends to respond.

Ben Solo: I’m still thinking about you.

Ben Solo: In case you’re keeping count.

It felt like Rey’s heart might pop right out of her chest as she reread his words. She wanted to leap over the bar in excitement. Her insides twisted with the thrill this game that they were playing.

Her friends immediately noticed the lovesick look that swept over her at seeing Ben’s name on her phone screen but she was too caught up in it to notice their quizzical expressions.

“You gonna share?” Poe asked optimistically.

-----------------

It was a strangely surreal feeling for Rey to look out across her classroom and see a large portion of students dressed like her. Several of her homeroom students wore paint splattered aprons, and neutral earth toned skirts and blouses underneath. What was even stranger was the fact that one of her students sitting up front was dressed in all dark colors and a sweater with leather patches on his elbows. He even wore a cheap black wig that looked vaguely like a poorly styled version of Ben’s hair. His girlfriend wore a denim apron with pockets full of paint brushes and covered in streaks of brightly colored paint. They sat close together, talking quietly and grinning like they knew a secret no one else did.

Rey didn’t know whether to be alarmed or flattered. What she did notice was about ninety percent of her sweet little freshman homeroom were participating when two student council members came by to do a headcount.

The theme of the day was to dress like your teachers.

Rey would go on to see more people dressed in painted aprons than she could possibly keep count of. Finn assured her it was just because she was the easiest to dress up as, and she supposed that was true. There were also a fair amount dressed as Phasma and a few that got a hold of some lab coats to dress as Rose.

There were also a couple Ben’s but they were a minority, most seemed to latch on to the one time that Ben wore the stereotypical academia sweater and went wild with it. By the end of the day it was almost cute, if a little odd.

Ben however had a different experience all together, there was some rather worrisome implications about your students suddenly all dressing in the same way as the woman he’d been having intimate thoughts about all weekend.

By the end of the day he was exhausted from dodging virtually every student wearing an ironic paint splattered apron (of which there was an obscene amount).

His cell pinged with an alert as he was leaving the teacher’s lounge at the end day. He opened the message from Rey to see a photo. It was of the Homeroom Wars leaderboard depicting Rey’s class in third place, Ben’s own homeroom was down in seventh.

Rey Niima: I can practically taste those Mos Eisley breakfast burritos. ;)

Ben smiled to himself as he turned down the Arts and Humanities hallway. He stared at the photo on his phone screen, specifically the picture of Rey used to mark her class’s place on the leaderboard. Student Council collected photos of teachers from when they were in high school to represent their homerooms during spirit week. Most were meant to be a little embarrassing but he couldn’t help but find Rey’s endearing and adorable. She was smiling broadly, wearing an oversized painting smock while proudly displaying her hands covered in bright orange paint. Her hair was done up in an unusual fashion with three buns lined up vertically from the crown of her head to nape of her neck. Most of the staff found the teenage photo of Ben to be pretty amusing, but his sour expression and painstaking straightened black hair didn’t have the same life as Rey’s. Although neither of them were nearly as funny as Hux’s awkward prom date or Phasma’s hair crimping phase from the late 90’s.

He smiled as he shut down his phone and tucked it into his back pocket to continue towards his classroom.

Ben turned into his classroom and was surprised to find Rey seated in the chair at his desk, idly reading the copy of Pride and Prejudice she’d gotten him. He’d been seeing her look-a-likes all day but nothing could hold a candle to the real thing. She was lounging in his swivel chair with her feet up on the desk.

“Has anyone ever told you, you read like an English teacher?” she asked, even though she didn’t look up he could still see her smile on her lips. She gently flicked a sticky note that was hanging past the edges of the pages.

Ben laughed, “It’s a curse,” he said while he carefully closed his classroom door. “You mean I’m the only one who takes notes for fun?”

Rey cocked an eyebrow at him, “The only one,” she replied, “But to be fair, you aren’t wrong about how unromantic it is to tell a woman how socially inferior she is,” she mused.

Ben carefully closed his classroom door behind him. “Well, I never claimed to be an expert,” he said smiling. Nevermind that he had a piece of paper from an accredited University that did indeed state he was an expert on nineteenth century English literature. He certainly wasn’t an expert on wooing women however.

“You’re also not an expert at winning bets, apparently,” Rey said closing the copy of Pride and Prejudice between her hands.

“It’s going to be interesting when all your kids can’t maintain the momentum throughout the week,” he said walking over to his desk where she was sitting.

Rey mocked offense, “They’re very motivated at the prospect of big, scary Mr. Solo buying them breakfast,” she said smartly. He leaned against the desk next to where she’d positioned her feet.

“What about big, scary Mr. Solo buying you dinner?” he asked.

“Oh, that was incredibly smooth Mr. Solo,” Rey teased, Ben couldn’t stop the blush that illuminated across his cheeks. “If I didn’t know better, I’d say you were attempting to distract me from winning our bet.”

Ben gave a sigh, “You caught me, is it working?”

“Yes.”

Establishing a date and time was probably the next step but like all their interactions in this damn building, they were interrupted.

“Hey Solo, you owe me a beer.”

Hux didn’t bother knocking, instead barging rudely into where ever he so pleased. “Oh good, you both still have your clothes on,” he said dryly upon seeing Rey seated at Ben’s desk. Rey’s cheeks flamed under her array of freckles and she quickly sat bolt upright at the intrusion.

Ben was annoyed mostly, rolling his eyes he stated, “Don’t owe you shit, Hux,”

“You know for an English teacher, your vocabulary is atrocious,” Hux said almost bored, “Come on, Mitaka and Phas are coming too. You can bring your girlfriend if you really want to.” Hux examined his fingernails briefly before lightly slapping the door frame for emphasis. “Happy Hour ends at six.”

Ben groaned and Rey tried to look sympathetic, “Sorry, as delightful as it sounds to hang out with Armitage all night, I’m going to have to pass. I’ve got a huge stack of sketchbooks to grade,” Rey said. “But have fun,” she added smiling.

“Don’t leave me with these people,” Ben said desperately, the look in his dark brown eyes was downright pitiful. Almost enough to make Rey change her mind, but one glance at the irritated looking Hux cured her of that notion.

“You’ll be fine,” she said encouragingly. She stood, giving Ben back the copy of the nineteenth century romance. Rey even leaned in a gave him a chaste peck on one of his blushing cheeks. “We’ll do dinner soon,” she added before leaving past Hux who was still lingering in the doorway impatiently.

Ben straightened, a forlorn expression on his face. “Ugh, let’s get this over with,” he groaned loudly as he grabbed his jacket.

“That’s the spirit, Solo,” Hux said sarcastically.

Chapter Text

Morning announcements always came on during the last fifteen minutes of homeroom. It was usually a production put on by the Corellia High AV Club and it sounded more or less like a mediocre radio show. But they sat through it regardless, no matter how boring or terrible it was. Half the time, her homeroom didn’t pay attention and Rey couldn’t fault them for it, she almost always wasn’t paying attention either.

But it was nearly the end of spirit week and her students had breakfast burritos on the line so they were hanging on every word from the announcer. Rey looked over the classroom, all of them were dressed up today. It was Falcon Pride day so everyone was encouraged to wear their school jersey’s and t-shirts as well as anything else that was their school colors.

The last two days she’d seen her students start to peter out like Ben had suggested they might. But for Friday, they were back at it with enthusiasm. Her classroom was a sea of navy blue and brick red. They’d gotten creative about it too, with face paints and temporary hair dye. One girl was wearing pom poms in her hair and another boy had an elaborately hand drawn falcon in puffy paint featured on his t shirt.

The student announcer made a joke about school lunch that wasn’t funny and there was a collective groan throughout her class.

“Alright everyone, the results of this year’s Homeroom Wars are in!” the announcer said and her class sat up excitedly. Her classes participation had been good, even giving Poe’s hot shot Seniors a run for their money. And Rey was more than certain that her class had decimated Ben’s based on their participation.

“In third place: Ms. Niima’s Freshman homeroom!” the announcer said enthusiastically. Rey was sad to say that her homeroom looked a little disappointed in the results. They’d done very well but it seemed that their midweek lull had gotten the best of them.

“And in second place—wait seriously?” the announcer broke character momentarily causing everyone to look around at one another confused. “No way?” Another pause as the announcer seemed to be talking to someone they, as listeners, couldn’t hear. “Alright then in second place is Mr. Dameron’s Senior homeroom.”

Rey was almost stunned, after all of Poe’s smug bravado about his class winning Homeroom Wars four years in a row only for them to come up short in their final year. Rey almost felt sorry for them. Finn and Rose were probably laughing it up right now. But that left the question of who actually won.

“And finally, in first place… can I get a drumroll please because it’s a doozy…” he paused allowing for something that sounded vaguely like drumming. “Mr. Mitaka’s Senior homeroom! … somehow.”

Rey actually burst out laughing and there was probably a collection of teachers throughout the school doing the same. It was such an unexpected outcome she couldn’t stop herself. She contained herself after the initial outburst however, as her students seemed to find it less amusing.

She stood up from her desk and walked to the front of the room. “Well you all look amazing and third place is nothing to scoff at,” she said encouragingly, hating to see them so disappointed.

“Is Mr. Solo still shelling out for breakfast?” One boy asked.

There was only a minute or two before the bell rang releasing them for their first period so Rey spoke quickly. “The deal was if you beat Mr. Solo’s class, and you all managed that by a landslide. So, yes, I’ll make sure he delivers,” she said happily and that seemed to cheer them up considerably.

Then the bell rang. While her students were distracted with gathering up their things, she chanced a glance over at Ben’s classroom.

“Hopefully I’ll be seeing you guys at the homecoming dance tomorrow night,” she said as they started to file out. “I’m told it’s going to be a lot of fun.” Rey was a tiny bit excited, having never attended anything quite to the same scale as everyone was making Homecoming out to be. She had to remind herself it was for the students and she was just a chaperone. Didn’t stop her from promoting it to her students; unlike Prom, Freshman were allowed to attend Homecoming without an invitation from an upperclassman so she was encouraging them to experience as much as they could.

There were a few pleasant ‘Bye Ms. Niima’s as the classroom slowly emptied.

She happened another glance at Ben who was now leaning in his classroom doorway looking directly at her with his lips curled in a smirk. As the last of her homeroom students left she stepped out into the hallway with her arms crossed.

“I won the bet,” she said.

“You won the bet,” he agreed with a sigh. “Those eager little freshies earned it.”

“You bet they did,” she replied smiling.

“We still on for tonight?” he asked, with a glimmer of something—hope maybe? Nervousness?

“Looking forward to it,” she mouthed with a smile. Her first period figure drawing students were starting to show up and she didn’t want to alert them to their rather obvious flirtations. He clearly got the message as he smiled broadly.

“It’s a date,” he mouthed back, beaming. Subtle.

-------------------

The teacher’s lounge was a flurry of activity when Rey arrived for lunch. As she had suspected, Rose and Finn were having a good laugh at Poe’s expense, it was probably an important lesson in not counting your chickens before they hatch.

“At least Dopheld isn’t the worst person to come in second to,” Rose said between peals of laughter.

“Seriously, how though?” Poe asked to no one in particular.

“His kids really went for it this year,” Rey let herself into their conversation as she sat in the empty seat between Finn and Poe at one of the little round tables.

“Have you seen Dopheld at all this week?” Phasma asked from across the room behind her newspaper.

Poe cocked an eyebrow, “The hell is that supposed to mean?” he asked, “Of course I have.”

Dopheld was an easy person to miss so no one could fault Poe for not noticing. The timid algebra teacher had blended in with the crowd of enthusiastic students all week. There was also the fact that someone had vandalized the leaderboard on Tuesday to the point where it had to be removed and it never got replaced. It made Mitaka’s come from behind victory all that more of a surprise.

As if on cue the man himself came walking in like he wasn’t dressed in the most outrageous fashion possible. “Hi guys,” he said to their table cheerfully. “How’s it going Phas?”

“You know you’re not allowed to speak to me when you’re dressed like that,” Phasma said in a dry tone not even bothering to look up from the newspaper.

Dopheld was hardly phased at the brush off, instead pouring himself a cup of coffee and turning back to the room. “Did you guys hear who won Homeroom Wars?” he asked cheerfully after he took a long slurpy sip from his coffee cup.

There was an awkward silence that filled the room.

Rose was the first break the silence as she suddenly burst into a fit of hysteric giggles, Rey felt laughter bubble up in her chest and she struggled to keep it contained. She didn’t want to hurt Mitaka’s feelings but the whole situation was so utterly ridiculous.

“That’s a nice tie, Poe,” Finn teased, picking at Poe’s red and blue striped tie, “Are those CHS colors?”

Poe batted Finn’s hand away absentmindedly all the while unable to take his eyes off Mitaka.

“What the unholy fuck are you wearing?” Poe demanded, utterly shell-shocked.

Mitaka-- unassuming, nervous, non-confrontational Dopheld Mitaka-- was dressed in a red and blue checkered suit. His face was bisected down the middle with face paint, one half red and the other half blue. And lastly, sat atop his head was unmistakably a chicken hat.

“What’d you think?”

“Did you lose a bet?” Poe asked in disbelief.

“I made a deal with my homeroom kids, I’d wear it if I could get all of them to participate every day,” Mitaka explained as if it was obvious.

Rose was straight up cackling and Finn looked over at Poe. “I think that’s how Dopheld’s class won,” he said obviously, a smirk cracking across Finn’s handsome dark features.

“But why the chicken?” Rey asked curiously.

“I couldn’t find a falcon,” Mitaka said.

That was when Finn cracked up, his shoulders shaking as he slapped his knee several times. Rey covered her mouth as if that would help contain the furious laughter that was threatening to spill out of her.

“What’s so funn—Mother of God!”

All eyes turned up to see Hux enter the lounge closely followed by Ben. Both stood there for a moment regarding the oddly dressed math teacher. Hux looked at Mitaka like he’d just insulted his mother while Ben recovered quickly. He strolled calmly over to the coffee pot and poured himself a cup. He turned around and leaned back against the counter.

“Congrats on the win this morning, Mitaka,” Ben said like he was commenting on the weather.

“Thanks, Ben,” Dopheld said appreciatively.

“You look absurd, you know,” Hux stated to Mitaka, going to pour cup from the communal pot only to realize that Ben had effectively drained it. “Damn it! Solo!” He furiously went about making another pot.

Communal coffee pot etiquette was hardly a concern of Ben Solo’s as his eyes connected with Rey’s from across the room. They’d been trying very hard to keep the rumor mill at bay, and decided they wouldn’t mention their impending dinner date to any of the other teachers. She was still smiling from the residual laughter from before but now a shy blush formed under his gaze.

“Well Dameron, hope your kids weren’t too disappointed,” Hux said casually.

Poe still had a sour look on his face, “Probably less disappointed than your kids when they found out they were stuck with you,” he replied crossing his arms.

Hux gave an audible “hrmpf” in response.

Rey and Ben were more concerned with each other, matching glances across the room. Everyone else had become background noise. His lips curled into a gentle half smile that made her breath catch.

Poe and Hux continued to exchange barbs with one another but Rey stopped paying attention. She took a polite sip of her tea never breaking eye contact with Ben, his dark chocolate colored eyes boring into her. She gently bit her lip. They were going out tonight, so they had to keep it contained until then but it was getting harder with each passing moment. The fact that they’d agreed to keep it a secret made Rey feel rather pent up with her thoughts. She desperately wanted to mention something to Finn or Rose but it was probably best not to. They would instantly tell Poe and then all three of them would right up in her business. What was happening between her and Ben was, for now, just theirs and the secrecy was damn thrilling. It was exciting to be standing across from one another in a room full of people with this raw attraction for each other.

“Hey, Solo, stop eye-fucking art teachers and pay attention.”

Hux snapped his fingers in front of Ben’s face, the sultry look in his eyes vanishing in an instant. Rey turned her eyes away blushing furiously. All eyes in the room quickly turned on either her or Ben questioningly. So much for secrecy, they were really terrible at this.

“Oh my god, look at the time!” Rey said pretending to check her watch only to realize that she’d forgotten to put it on that morning. “I’ve got that… art… thing…” she grabbed her mug and her stack of assignments she’d been intending to grade and quickly stood to rush off nearly knocking over Finn’s water bottle in the process.

Ben was glaring daggers at Hux, as if he was trying to find a way to throw Hux at the wall with his mind.

“Bye everyone,” Rey said with rushed cheeriness before hurrying out the door.

As soon as Rey was gone all eyes turned on Ben. “I’m going to remember this next time you drunkenly pick a fight with a guy twice your size,” he said darkly to Hux. Hux got just a tiny hint paler.

There was a collective “oooooooohh” from Poe and Finn.

-------------------

The plan was for Ben to swing by Rey’s apartment to pick her up for dinner, then head into downtown Republic City for a reservation at an exclusive, and what Ben hoped was impressive, restaurant. It had taken swallowing his pride to ask his mother for help with a reservation. Leia had a number of impressive connections throughout the city and beyond, which was odd for a former school teacher turned high school principal. Less odd for the daughter of the prominent former Senator Bail Organa, and there were numerous establishments that hadn’t forgotten the political dynasty that was the Organa family.

It only took one call from Leia and the restaurant manager was happily offering up what he guaranteed was a meal that would result in numerous grandchildren for her. It was the single most humiliating thing he’d ever experienced and he nearly cancelled it in favor of more meatball soup from the deli.

It was also why Ben was standing where he was at that very moment.

He checked his watch, there was still thirty minutes until he and Rey were due for their reservations and he was about five minutes from Rey’s apartment building and she lived much closer to central downtown than he did. So, there was still enough time to take a little precaution; he didn’t care how eager his mother was to have grandchildren.

Ben scanned the shelf quickly, finding a small package and plucking it off the shelf. He then made a beeline for the checkout counter.

He found a line that was only populated by one old woman buying several cans of cat food and got in line behind her, placing the package on the conveyor belt and pulling his phone out of his pocket to check for an update from Rey. Ben was starting to worry that he was being too forward with the condoms when a new message from the art teacher appeared on his screen.

The message was her asking how formal their dining arrangements were along with a picture of her holding up a dress in a mirror. In all honesty, Ben had barely seen the dress. Instead the focus was on the fact that she was undressed down to her underwear. She held up a pretty mid-thigh length dress to her chest but he could clearly see a bit her exposed hip behind it. She wore lacy black underwear and while only a small slice of her hip was visible in the photo it was enough to make Ben’s head rush.

Rey had to know the effect she had on him. She had to know how bad he had it now. That was no accidental little flash of skin. He did his best to not respond like an utter caveman; he couldn’t help the lovesick smile forming on his face.

“Nice, Mr. Solo!”

Ben instinctively tucked his phone out of sight. His stomach suddenly bottomed out as the situation suddenly turned into a teacher’s worst nightmare. He first glanced at the unassuming package in front of him. It was small and black; Ben had never been embarrassed by the gold foil ‘MAGNUM’ until that very moment.

“Oh, fuck me,” Ben groaned not even bothering to say it under his breath.

Without missing a beat— “Someone’s gonna be!”

Ben knew exactly who it was now, Shane McMasters, the god damn Corellia High Mascot. And just Ben’s luck, the crazy cat lady was holding up the line with some expired coupons. He could make a run for it, but would that be worse than just ignoring the little cretin?

Ben took a deep, calming breath and looked over at his student briefly. Sure enough, Shane McMasters stood there next to a much smaller boy who couldn’t have been more than twelve. He felt a brief flash of guilt for cursing earlier. Their arms were full of packages of junk food and soda.

There wasn’t a whole lot of things Ben could say to diffuse the situation. A horrifyingly awkward silence settled over them.

“You know, there’s an old guy who sells flowers around the corner, right outside our dad’s building,” Shane said helpfully.

“He’s nice but weird,” the younger boy added, Ben assumed he was Shane’s younger brother.

Luckily the old lady with the cans of cat food was done and it was Ben’s turn at the till. He stepped up paid as quickly as he possibly could.

“Have a good night, boys,” Ben said awkwardly, unable to make eye contact as he collected his change.

“You too Mr. Solo!” Shane said pleasantly.

Once Ben made it to the relative safety of his car he allowed himself to relax a little. That was as bad as asking his mother for help with the reservation for tonight’s dinner, no, worse. Ben wasn’t sure how he was going to face Shane in class on Monday, or if he had to see him at the Homecoming dance tomorrow night. He wondered if Shane was aware that Rey lived just around the corner from that particular convenience store as well. Hopefully not. He opened the package and tucked it into the center console of his car out of sight, taking one and slipping it into the inner lining pocket of his coat.

He started his car, knowing that he would be late if he kept sitting around fretting about what had just transpired. With a heavy sigh he decided that he could make an argument for setting an example by practicing safe sex. Now if he could just make himself feel like less of a lecher that would be great.

As he pulled up to Rey’s apartment building he noticed that there was an elderly man near the corner with a cart of fresh cut flowers. Rey lived in an area with a lot of pedestrian traffic so it wasn’t completely out of place but then he recalled what Shane had said. It was clear now that she lived in the same building as Shane and his brother. Knowing that didn’t make Ben feel any better about the situation, because now it seemed like Shane could easily put two and two together.

At the same time, it wasn’t a terrible idea either. Ben approached the old man who smiled at him with well-worn creases in his face. He had massive ears and was improbably short and stout.

“Fresh cut flowers?” he asked pleasantly with an unidentifiable accent. He looked Ben over like he knew everything there was to know about him.

Ben looked over the options unsure what exactly was a good choice. “What would you recommend?” he inquired.

The old man’s smile broadened knowingly, “For a special someone, are they?” he asked, his thick unruly eyebrows wiggling on his wrinkled forehead.

“Yes,” Ben affirmed.

“A classic choice, roses are. But deserve something truly special, this young woman does,” he said. Ben tried not to look uncomfortable with the strange manner in which the man spoke, he assumed the old florist was from somewhere overseas. The old man considered the choices before he went about plucking out an array of red and yellow flowers and arranging them expertly. His knotted fingers worked with surprising dexterity like he’d been doing it his entire life, and before Ben’s eyes he’d crafted a stunning arrangement of red and yellow tulips with a couple sprigs of baby’s breath and greenery. “There!” He wrapped the flowers in paper. “Red tulips signify your new love and passion and the yellow because your ray of sunshine, she is,” he said brightly handing the flowers to Ben, who stood there almost flabbergasted by the what he was sure was a magical florist.

“Thank you,” he managed to say as he pulled out his wallet and produced a couple bills for him.

He took his money without hesitation and chuckled, “Have a lovely evening, young Solo,” he said his odd chuckle leaving Ben to walk away with an armful of flowers.

Ben made it a few steps away before he realized that the florist knew him by name and probably shouldn’t have. “Wait! —” Ben turned to ask how the old man knew him but he and his cart of flowers were gone. He stood on the sidewalk looking around with a dumbfounded look on his face. The flowers were still in his hand so he didn’t just imagined the whole interaction.

Finally, he chalked it up to mishearing what the old man had said and gave a shrug. The flowers bolstered his confidence as he entered the shabby apartment building.

The elevator was out of service so he made for the stairs, climbing them two at a time. His excitement at seeing Rey was starting to mount with each flight of stairs. He was almost out of breath as he made it to the third floor and he forced himself to slow down and compose himself. He didn’t need to be running into Rey’s apartment all charged up.

Rey’s apartment was at the far end of the hall at number 327. He took a deep breath and knocked.

Ben heard Rey shout “Coming!” from somewhere on the other side of the door before it swung open in a rush.

She was wearing the dress from the photo, a lacy, structured number of a pale cream color that complimented her sun kissed complexion perfectly.

The moment he saw her a stunned “wow” tumbled from his lips before he could stop it.

Rey blushed slightly, “Do you think it’s okay for where we’re going?” she asked.

“You look amazing,” Ben said quickly. It didn’t really answer her question but she smiled all the same. “And these are for you,” he added forgetting the bouquet he was still holding and offered it to her.

“Ben, they’re beautiful,” she said clearly pleased. “Did you meet Yoda? I swear he’s some wise and magical being from another time or dimension or something,” Rey said stepping aside to let Ben into her apartment.

“The creepy guy selling flowers downstairs? Yeah, he’s definitely some kind of all-powerful space wizard who can read minds,” Ben agreed.

“He’s not creepy!” Rey insisted, “And he gives excellent life advice,” she added smiling.

Rey’s apartment was a studio, small but bright and cozy. She had a large sliding glass door that led to a small balcony with numerous potted plants and a couple hand painted chairs. Her bed was sectioned off with a folding divider for privacy and she had a small dining set and a functional kitchen. The whole place was filled with potted plants and crafty salvaged furniture. Ben could tell immediately that the place was Rey’s. It was lively and lovingly lived in and he liked it almost instantly even though his own aesthetic was so much different.

Rey found a ceramic vase that Ben assumed she’d made herself and started to unwrap the flowers. “Ben, these are gorgeous! Thank you!” she said and she rearranged the flowers into the vase with some water.

Ben buried his hands in his pockets, he knew his ears were turning pink while she admired the flowers. He now felt a little bashful for having bought them but didn’t regret it. Rey placed the vase full of tulips in the center of her little dining room table.

Then she turned her bright hazel eyes on him, she gave him an unreadable look that did strange things to his insides. He’d be lying if he said that he didn’t want to skip dinner all together and get right to kissing every inch of her skin.

He pushed those thoughts down and let himself simply enjoy how amazing she looked for her date with him. She stepped up close to him and practically challenged him to come the rest of the way to her. Ben leaned down a pressed a soft kiss to her perfect lips. It was chaste in comparison to their previous kisses but it satisfied them both for now.

“Shall we get going?” Ben asked. They were both a breath away from each other.

-------------------

[GROUPCHAT]
Shane McMasters: guess what i jus saw!?

Lucy Harmon: what now shane??

Shane McMasters: [image]

Lucy Harmon: EW! shane!! gross!

Mitzi Whitman: haha! creeper much shane?

Lucy Harmon: whyd you send us a pic of some dude buying condoms!?!?!

Shane McMasters: not just some dude- you cant see his face but thats mr solo!

Mitzi Whitman: OMG THEYRE MAGNUMS!!

Lucy Harmon: what???!!! where at?

Shane McMasters: at the corner market on coruscant blvrd

Lucy Harmon: why there? does he live near there?

Shane McMasters: idk but one of our teachers do for sure

Lucy Harmon: who?

Shane McMasters: ms niima.

Mitzi Whitman: ASDFREWSDF!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! [incoherent babble]

-------------------

Dinner was amazing, but Rey found herself worrying about how expensive it was adding up to be. She wondered if she should try to split the bill with Ben when she saw how many menu items were selling at ‘market price’ but decided not to bring it up until after they’d finished eating. Instead she ordered the pasta with the clearly defined menu price that was less expensive than what Ben had selected.

Rey had never had much in the way of money, she’d kept a full-time job since she was sixteen and lived as a starving artist for the entirety of her adult life. Of course, when she moved to Republic City and got her teaching license she knew that she was essentially sealing her fate when it came to being certifiably poor the rest of her career. Ben had a five-year tenure at Corellia High School, had been teaching since he graduated college with a BA in English. He wasn’t signing up to be flushed with cash either.

They were a couple of school teachers dining next to some of Republic City’s elite. They probably didn’t belong here.

Stop stressing and enjoy yourself, Dammit! She thought. But seriously, how the hell did Ben get a reservation here?!

“Okay, Ben, I have to ask just how did you get a table here?” she whispered, worried the people at the next table would hear and know they don’t belong. It didn’t help that Rey was almost positive the woman at the next table was the Mayor.

Ben looked up from baked salmon, his eyes met hers briefly then turned his gaze to the small centerpiece candle situated between them. He opened his mouth to respond but was suddenly interrupted an odd-looking bald man who looked like he’d gotten a bad spray tan. Ben glanced up surprised at the intrusion, Rey immediately assumed that the restaurant had caught on to them and were now kicking them out.

Suddenly the strange man was shaking Ben’s hand. Rey could tell from the look in his eyes there was an ounce of recognition there.

“Master Benjamin,” he said fondly, “I haven’t seen you since you were just knee-high. I was so very glad to hear from your mother, she sounded quite well. She mentioned you’d be bringing a date— oh! And there she is!” The man looked up at her like he was seeing her for the first time. “So lovely to meet you, miss!” The man was suddenly shaking her hand with the same eagerness that he’d had with Ben.

Rey managed an awkward smile as the handshake had a little too much eye contact to be comfortable.

“Allow me to introduce myself, I am Cedric Threepio. I’m the restaurateur and manager and very old friend of the Organa-Solo family,” he said. Rey noticed that Ben was making that face he made when he was frustrated or uncomfortable where his jaw clenched and his cheeks puffed out slightly. So that must be how he got the table.

“Rey Niima,” she replied introducing herself.

She was about to make a comment on how lovely his restaurant was but he cut her off. “So lovely to meet you Ms. Niima, it truly is. And Master Ben, I understand that you are a teacher now. How wonderful, following in your mother’s footsteps.”

Good god will he ever shut up? Rey thought as she smiled and nodded along politely. She could see a similar look forming on Ben’s face. Though she could sense that his patience was starting to wear dangerously thin. They might actually get thrown out after all.

“Oh, and do tell, how is Master Luke?”

Ben’s jaw noticeable tightened. “Retired,” he stated bluntly. Rey couldn’t imagine why Mr. Threepio would ask Ben of all people about her predecessor, Luke Skywalker. She knew she didn’t know the whole story but she was definitely aware that that seemed to be a touchy subject for Ben.

Mr. Threepio's odd smile faded ever so slightly. “Well good for him,” he said eagerly. “Well I’m so very thrilled to have you dining with us tonight, so I wanted to offer you a bottle of wine on the house. Might I add that the Varykino Estate Chardonnay pairs excellently with the salmon.”

“That sounds lovely!” Rey said all too fast before Ben could answer instead, she could see his jaw flexing. Also, there was the prospect of free wine and she couldn’t have Ben’s pride turning that down.

“Most excellent,” Mr. Threepio said reflexively. “I shall send over the sommelier at once!”

“Thank you,” Rey managed to slip in before Mr. Threepio kept talking.

“Well, it was most lovely meeting you again Ms. Niima. And so good to see you Master Ben, do give your mother my regards!”

With that the odd man with the bad spray tan and the unblinking eyes strolled off in an almost mechanical fashion.

“I think we just met a robot pretending to be human,” Rey said as a quiet moment passed between them. She could tell he was a little embarrassed, and that was the last thing she wanted.

Ben snorted ungracefully, laughing. “You know, I’m pretty sure I once told my dad that when I was eight.” He looked up at her, and his nervousness was immediately endearing. “So that answers your question… my mom got it for me,” he said embarrassed. “I mean, originally I was just asking for advice on where was a good place to take you and it ended with her telling me she’d already booked the reservation,” Ben explained.

Rey couldn’t help but smile at the thought of Ben asking his mother for advice. “So, she approves then? Of us seeing each other like this?” she asked. Rey desperately wanted Leia’s approval both professionally and personally. The fact that she was both Ben’s mother and their boss had complicated their courtship- it almost made Rey worry that she was breaking the rules or something. She wasn’t, Rey had gone so far as to look it up in the district employee guidelines after their excursion to the bookstore.

Ben however looked as if he was unconcerned with his mother’s opinion. “Holdo may have told her that she’d seen us after the pep rally,” Ben said, then taking a bite of his meal.

Rey’s expression faltered slightly, “Seriously? Wait are we in trouble?”

“It’s fine, Holdo and my mother have been close personal friends for a long time,” he said. “If we were in trouble we’d’ve known a week ago,” he added. He wasn’t wrong, punishment was usually swift when teachers behaved badly. Rey relaxed.

The sommelier arrived at their table with a bottle of wine as promised, he swiftly poured them each a glass and left the bottle behind for them.

“So how does a high school principal become friends with a luxury restaurateur?” she asked taking a sip from her wine glass.

Ben still looked a little uncomfortable, like discussing his family wasn’t something he did very often. “It’s kind of a long story,” he said. Rey watched as his cheeks puffed, a nervous tick that she found utterly adorable. “Leia comes from old money; my grandfather was a Senator. There some old connections there, most people know her as Bail Organa’s daughter. I don’t think she particularly likes that she’s the one who gave up on the Organa political dynasty but personally I prefer it that way,” he finished by taking a sip of wine from his own glass. “I don’t think I would have been very good as a politician’s son.”

Rey supposed she could see how that would have made for a more complicated upbringing. She wondered briefly if she should ask about Ben’s father, so far all she knew was from only brief mentions.

“So, Senator Organa frequented Mr. Threepio's restaurant?” she asked, connecting the dots about Ben’s family. She could sense that there was more under the surface but she didn’t want to push too hard lest Ben pull back.

“Something like that,” he shrugged taking another bite, “I think his picture is on the wall somewhere.”

Rey smiled, “Did you ever get to meet him?”

“He died when I was pretty young, I don’t remember much,” Ben answered. “What about you?”

Rey didn’t have grandparents, she didn’t have much it the way of parents either. “No, I never knew my grandparents, but I had a foster mother who was very grandmotherly,” she said trying to put a cheerful spin on it.

She could see Ben bite the inside of his lips, “Shit, Rey, I’m so sorry, I forgot.” he was clearly punishing himself quite intensely.

“It’s alright,” she insisted, “It wasn’t so terrible, I came out of it okay.” Rey didn’t talk about how she grew up, some of those wounds were still healing but she didn’t want Ben feeling sorry over it.

Ben didn’t look like it was alright, so Rey changed the subject. “So, you grew up here? Poe told me you both went to school together?”

“Yeah, we graduated from Corellia in the same year,” he said jumping at the new topic eagerly. “And before you ask, yes, he’s always been like that.”

“Like what?”

“Just a bit full of himself in a weirdly almost likable way,” he replied dryly.

Rey laughed aloud, “That’s called confidence, Ben,” she said.

“Is it?”

Rey continued to ask about Ben’s years at Corellia, learning that he played Hamlet in a production in his senior year and that he was also captain of the Corellia’s swim team. She also learned that Leia taught Civics, and that going to school with your mom everyday did not in fact improve your social standing with your peers. She could sense that he was leaving some details out in favor of expanding on the more rosy colored memories, but she decided he would tell her in his own time. Like how she might tell him more about her past when the time comes.

Before they knew it, they were talking over empty plates and the candle had burned down to a puddle of melted wax.

“Let’s get dessert somewhere else,” Ben finally suggested which sounded far more appealing to Rey than the pretentious dessert menu.

“Oh, let’s get ice cream!” she said happily.

Ben paid the bill, hiding the balance and passing it off to the waiter before Rey could see the damages. As they were getting up to leave, she noticed Ben glance around as if to make sure no one was looking. “What are you doing?” she whispered following his eyes.

Before she could figure out what he was up to, he was recorking the still half full bottle of chardonnay and tucking it into the side of his dinner jacket.

“What, don’t want it going to waste,” he said in a low tone but still smiling. It was his grandparents who were wealthy, not himself—he taught high school after all.

Rey snorted with delighted laughter and quickly surveyed the dining room again, “Well if that’s the case…” she said before grabbing the basket that still held a number of breadsticks that they hadn’t eaten and dumped them unceremoniously into her purse. Ben was starting to crack up, “What?! I’m a school teacher!” she said under her breath before skirting quickly out of the dining room like she was actually stealing something. Ben chased after her barely containing his laughter.

They made it uninterrupted into the parking lot before they both broke down laughing. They felt vaguely criminal even though they had done literally nothing wrong, except perhaps deny a busboy half a bottle of Chardonnay and some breadsticks. But it had been such a silly situation that they couldn’t help themselves.

As they recovered from their fit of mirth and the amusement at themselves started to fade, they found themselves standing at Ben’s car. Rey’s face almost couldn’t contain her smile as she leaned against his car. Ben was standing so close that the space between them was practically vibrating and she felt urge to cross it and bury herself in him.

Their eyes connected and the urge seemed to only intensify under his gaze.

There was a moment when Rey thought he might kiss her but there was a clap of thunder overhead that seemed to snap them both back to the reality around them.

“I think it’s going to rain,” was all that Rey could bring herself to say.

Ben smiled awkwardly, “We should probably get in the car then,” he said.

They retreated to the safety of the car; Rey was about to buckle her seatbelt but she stopped as a new idea crossed her mind. “Let’s skip dessert and go finish the wine at my place?”

The look in Ben’s eyes nearly blindsided her, so sweet and unsure, like he was holding back so much for fear of scaring her off. His face was one of the most expressive she’d ever encountered and it felt she was learning to read again with each minute expression that she discovered. “Are you sure?” he asked uncertain. They were both well aware where this would probably end up- terror and excitement roiled in her chest like the thunderstorm forming in the atmosphere above them.

Ben was giving her a moment to change her mind but she wasn’t going to. They were hurling themselves at light speed past a point of no return in both their personal and professional relationship. If she had any second thoughts, the little uncertain but hopeful question was his way of letting her know that she could hit pause if that’s what she wanted.

“Yeah, I’m sure,” she said softly.

It was raining by the time they got back to her apartment and that felt appropriate considering their previous encounters. Ben tossed his dinner jacket over Rey’s shoulders as they hurried inside to at least help her stay moderately dry.

It was raining particularly hard yet so they weren’t too wet when they made it to the lobby of her apartment building. A few wet curls clung to Rey’s cheeks and the tops of Ben’s shoulders were spotted and damp. He shook the moisture out of his dark curls, a habitual reaction but it set Rey’s heart hammering as if he had done so in slow motion.

Ben was about to turn to the stairs when she grabbed his hand and pulled his attention back to her. He was pliant in her hands, the distance between them closed in an instant. Lips met with an intensity that had been restrained too long.

Their trip up the three flights was filled with stolen kisses and wandering hands. They were both breathless by the time they reached her apartment and she fumbled with her keys as he planted a tender kiss on the sensitive flesh just behind her right ear. The intimacy sent a shiver up her spine and his large hands on her hips were all too distracting from the simple task of unlocking her door.

Finally, she got the key in the lock and turned the doorknob before turning back to Ben to find his lips with her own. She dragged him into the open door of her modest little studio apartment, her hands already tugging at the hem of his dress shirt and undoing how neatly it was tucked into his slacks.

Ben was so caught up in her eager lips and hands that he nearly missed his mark, as he set the bottle of wine from the restaurant on her little kitchen table. She dropped her purse somewhere between her kitchen and the room divider. His dinner jacket was haplessly tossed onto the floor beside her bed.

Rey fumbled with his damn tie before skipping it all together and attacking the buttons of his shirt to expose a narrow line of flesh underneath. His hands found the zipper of the back of her dress and nudging it down far too slowly. His fingers pulled at the separated edges of the zipper peeling the neckline away from her shoulders revealing a dusting of freckles over the tops of her breasts. The dress slipped down, pooling around her ankles.

Ben eased their lips apart to run his eyes over her sun kissed flesh laid bare. The look on his face was one of admiration as if she were a work of art. She could swear that she saw him soundlessly mouth the word ‘sunshine’, but she couldn’t be sure if it wasn’t her lust-addled brain playing games with her. He tugged loose his tie and yanked it unceremoniously over his head nearly catching his ears in the process.

She pulled him back to her, taking his plush lips with her own before laying a line of kisses up his stubbled jawline. He ran his hands up her sides, leaving sparks of electricity in their wake.

There was a sudden flash light from her window, intensely illuminating both of them for the briefest of moments. Before they even registered the lightning, it was followed by a deafening clap of thunder that seemed to shake her entire building to its foundations. Half a moment later there was a buzz of electricity and every light in her apartment suddenly went out.

Rey let out a startled gasp as Ben instinctively wrapped her protectively in his arms.

It took them both a moment to register what had happened before they both dissolved into relieved laughter. It was a moment to catch their breath and find each other in the darkness.

“So, I guess this means no Netflix?” Ben said and Rey couldn’t help the graceless chortle that spilled out of her.

“Best skip right to the chill then,” she said, her eyes adjusting to make out the angular lines of Ben’s face. Her hand found the hem of his shirt and her fingers brushed warm skin underneath. She heard him draw a sharp breath at her touch, pleased with herself she let her fingers find his belt. She undid the latch with eagerness.

There was something extremely exciting about doing this in almost complete darkness as if they were blindfolded. However, there is a reason why both partners aren’t blindfolded in those scenarios and they both found themselves fumbling over buttons and catches.

Rey quickly kicked off her heels so that they weren’t tripping over them in the dark, because falling in her tiny apartment could very well be disastrous. Rey knew her way around, but Ben may as well be blind on the other hand. She considered lighting a candle but she wasn’t sure she’d be able to find matches… or a candle for that matter.

Her hand found Ben’s as he managed to get the last of the buttons on his shirt. She traced his bare chest with her other hand up until she could pull his face to hers. She kissed him fiercely, their teeth clacking together as his tongue bade access to hers. He ran his hands up her sides, reaching around to release the clasp on her bra. The lacy black brassier came loose and easily slipped down her shoulders and she let it fall to the floor.

Rey was bare from the waist up, gooseflesh raising on her arms from the combined arousal and chill. She knew her bed was somewhere about a foot behind them. With an eager nibble on his lower lip, she broke their kiss and he gave a heady groan. His lips chased hers as she led him to her bed.

The backs of her legs met the edge of the bed and instead of sitting down she side stepped around him, turning him around so that his back was towards the bed. He made a brief sound of confusion before she pushed him backward. Ben stumbled back with a startled cry then landed softly onto her overstuffed mattress.

She followed him, giggling and straddling his thighs as he raised his hands trying to find her in the dark. His was somewhere in front of her, feeling blindly, “Damn it, where are you?” he asked into the pitched darkness. Rey laughed and leaned forward a little and his hand found her, his fingers carding through her long locks.

Now Ben was laughing because this whole business of fumbling in the dark must have looked extremely ridiculous.

The rain outside was starting to pound against the window, a musical backdrop to bumbling attempts at romance.

Ben sat upright suddenly, flipping Rey over onto her back. Rey let out a surprised gasp as he pinned her into the mattress. Making sure to distribute his own weight onto his hands, he ducked down to kiss the edge of her jaw. Rey wasn’t certain if he was trying to kiss her lips and missed due to the darkness but regardless he owned it, planting hungry kisses down her neck and over her exposed chest. His mouth paused to catch her nipple between his lips, drawing a soft moan from her lips.

He shifted his weight to tuck his hand into the front of her underwear tangling with the soft curls at her apex. She inhaled sharply as his fingertips brushed past her lips to gently stroke the tight little bead of flesh.

He released her nipple and moved back to her mouth to capture it with his own. Rey moaned, arching her back and rocking her hips into his hand. She was already wet, the thought of it putting heat in her cheeks.

“I wish I could see you better,” he said as their lips parted. Rey couldn’t find the words to respond at that very moment as his finger pushed into her and her breath caught in her chest. His thumb continued to circle her clit while he eased another digit past her entrance. Rey keened helplessly, her hips bucking involuntarily into his hand.

A pressure started build in her core. He curled his fingers up, stroking at the place that Rey could never on her own. She let out a lewd moan, “Fuck, Ben,” she sobbed as she felt herself rapidly approaching the edge.

“Say it louder,” Ben demanded softly in her ear, his were fingers merciless.

Rey could see stars behind her eyelids and her toes curled into the sheets. “Please! Ben!” she cried out louder. Her own release was right there, a spring curled too tight that she was sure she was going to burst.

Suddenly the dam broke as she turned her head into the pillow, a soundless, breathless wail at her lips. Her walls fluttered around his large fingers, he was ceaseless in his ministrations, riding out her orgasm until she was a panting mess beneath him.

She groaned as his fingers left her, feeling empty. His lips planted another soft kiss on her neck before his weight shifted away from her. Rey sat up, curious, “Ben?” Surely they weren’t done? Her eyes were starting to adjust so she could see his outline at the edge of the bed.

“Just a sec,” he said, feeling around in the dark.

He seemed to find what was looking for and blindly returned to her, his lips settling for whatever bare flesh they could find in the dark. He settled over her, positioning himself between her thighs. His lips softly pressed first to the area above her belly button, then her rib cage and breast, then her neck and jaw before finally finding her lips.

“Are you sure?” he asked softly, his breath warm on her skin.

“Yes,” she whispered back, “Please Ben.” Her voice cracked into a slight whimper. After what he’d been capable of with his fingers alone there was only one way to get back that incredible feeling of fullness. She wished she could see him in the light, his alabaster skin and russet eyes that made her weak in the knees. Her breath hitched in anticipation and as his weight adjusted over her. His hands went to her lacy panties, now damp from his earlier attentions, peeling them from her hips and down her legs.

She now laid nude atop her duvet, but covered in darkness. The thrill of not knowing where she would feel his hands on her next left her breathless. She could feel him adjust, kneeling between her thighs and realized that he was putting on a condom. She was relieved she didn’t have to ask but eager to have him inside her, she needed something to fill the hollowness that his hands had left.

She reached up for him, wrapping her arms around his shoulders. It was no secret that Ben was tall and broad but it had taken Rey this long to realize just how so. His weight, what he allowed to settle on her, was comforting and protective.

He aligned himself with her entrance and slowly eased in, her fingers tensed against his flesh as she adjusted to his size. In the darkness she wasn’t sure what to expect, but it would seem that Ben wasn’t lacking in any department. He was slow and careful, easing into her as she stretched open to him.

“Fuck, Rey, you’re so tight,” he breathed against her skin as he sheathed himself inside her. His head dropped beside hers, his breath in her ear and his hair brushing against her cheek. She wrapped her legs around his waist and rolled her hips, urging him on. She could feel the slight tremble in his spine as he pulled back only to thrust back into her.

His pace was slow at first, allowing her to adjust to his size before he began to pick up speed and become more erratic. Rey couldn’t help the loud, lustful moan that tumbled from her lips as he changed his angle, hitting a bundle of nerves that made her see stars. She gasped, her fingernails digging into his back. “Oh god Ben, don’t stop,” she cried out loudly.

Ben picked up the pace, no longer the slow languid thrusting he’d started with. Rey didn’t notice as her orgasm crept up on her. It happened suddenly, a mind-numbing release that made her spasm erratically around his length. It was all she could do to simply dig her fingers in; she couldn’t even hear the lewd sounds that caught in her throat.

Ben’s hand slammed into her headboard, scrambling for purchase as he came into her pulsing insides. He gasped for breath as the muscles in his back flexed under her fingers. They finally stilled, fighting to breathe the charged air around them.

In that moment the power flickered back on, illuminating them in soft warm light. Their eyes connected, their pupils blown up with arousal and satisfaction. Neither could find words; they were so close that they dragged the same air into their lungs and it felt as if Ben was under her skin.

Slowly, both shaky from exertion, they separated themselves. Ben pitched the condom into the wastebasket and sat at the edge of her bed. She’d been aching to see him in the light in his full naked glory and it certainly didn’t disappoint. He was all tight muscle under smooth, pale skin.

Rey sat up and crawled over to him. She ran her fingers around his side and up his smooth torso. His hand captured hers gently and held it to his warm skin as he let out a steadying breath.

She tenderly kissed a small pale scar on his left shoulder. “Please stay with me,” she pleaded softly. He seemed to choke on his breath and couldn’t form the words. He simply nodded before turning around and wrapping her lovingly in his arms. Rey was certain that she’d seen tears in the corners of his eyes but didn’t want to spoil the feeling she was sharing with him by asking why.

They turned the lights back out and tucked under the covers. The sound of the rain mingled with Ben’s steady breathing, almost instantly lulling her into the most restful sleep she’d had in years.

Chapter Text

Ben awoke slowly to the sound of someone moving around in Rey’s kitchen. Absentmindedly, he reached out to find her side of the bed empty. He groaned softly, not quite ready to wake up, wanting to wrap his arms around Rey’s warm body again and stay like that for the rest of the day. But she wasn’t in bed; he could hear the kettle on the burner starting to whistle and he knew she was up.

He listened to her take the kettle off the burner, she was humming an unrecognizable tune to herself that made his face crack with a smile. Soft light flooded Rey’s studio apartment from her large sliding glass door that led to her tiny balcony. Ben finally opened his eyes to glance outside, his eyes ached from sleeping in his contacts and blinked a few times to get them back into place. He’d need to do something about them but for now he would endure the dry eye. It was raining and dreary outside, not the violent thunderstorm that had knocked out the power last night. It was biting and cold, the kind of rain that made you want to spend the entire day indoors with a book. … Or stay in bed all day with Rey; he desperately missed her company between the soft sheets in bed beside him.

“Morning,” she said softly as she appeared from behind the divider that she’d set up to separate her bed from the rest of her living space. She was dressed only in a tiny pair of sleep shorts and an oversized sweatshirt. Her chestnut hair was piled loosely on top of her head with stray curls falling around her ears. The smile on her face was downright mischievous. If it hadn’t been for the two steaming mugs in each of her hands he may have pulled her back into bed with him and resumed the previous night’s activities.

“Morning,” he replied as she pressed a cup of hot tea into his hands. He begrudgingly sat up making sure to keep her warm jersey knit sheet pulled over his waist, as he didn’t have the advantage of getting up early to put on pants.

He leaned against her headboard, “You’re up early,” he said sipping smartly from his mug and enjoying the sight of her long, bare legs.

“You slept in,” she replied setting her mug on the bedside table next to him and carefully crawled on to his lap so as not to make him spill his tea. She straddled his hips with only the sheet and her sleepwear to separate them. He was already half hard just as was his normal morning function but having her so close stirred up memories of the night before.

“So, I don’t know if you noticed but the weather is perfect for staying inside,” she said, running her hand up his chest. He had to set his mug aside to keep himself from spilling in both their laps.

“I did notice,” he said as his hand slid up the outside of her thigh. He relished the feeling of his touch raising gooseflesh on her skin. His breath hitched slightly as she shifted her weight ever so slightly over him.

“I don’t even understand American football, so I really don’t think I need to go watch the game,” she said smiling.

“Of course,” he agreed. “It’s not that important of a game anyway, there are much more productive things to do with your time.”

Their lips came together softly and slowly. There was less urgency than there had been last night; they’d gotten back to her apartment all heat and passion, barely getting the door fully closed before they were on each other in a frenzy.

This time, they had all morning and there was a desire to take the whole morning reliving last night.

Her hand slid up into his hair as she shifted her hips slightly, bringing him to attention. Ben’s hand found the hem of her sweatshirt and gently caressing the skin of her taut stomach, making her gasp around his venturing lips.

He smiled into their kiss, his hands moved cautiously waiting for a signal that she wanted him to stop. But it never came. They broke their kiss just long enough for Ben to pull the sweatshirt over her head. Rey was completely bare from the waist up, and he took a moment to admire her. With the power outage he hadn’t been able to see her like this in the light. A flush of pink appeared on her cheeks and on her chest under the countless freckles that graced her skin. Ben wanted to kiss each one twice but instead his lips pressed keenly against the tender skin just below her jaw.

Rey’s gentle gasps and moans spurred him forward as he remembered the feel of her beneath him- he probably still had scratches down his back. With ease he flipped her on to her back and she let out a thrilled gasp of surprise. She wore a downright sinful smile that awoke an animal instinct inside of him.

There was hunger in his kisses now as he pressed his lips to her soft breasts before taking a rosy nipple into his mouth. He loved her breasts, small and pert and covered in freckles. Rey let out a sharp gasp at the sensation of his warm mouth on flushed skin as her fingers wound tighter into his hair.

Ben traveled further down at a torturously slow pace, intent on spending the day making her cry out his name until her neighbors complained. His lips pressed reverently into her skin, clearing a trail down her abdomen until he met the waist of her sleep shorts. He tugged them down and she wiggled her hips until she was free of them.

Now she was as naked as he was, her skin flushed and her lips slightly kiss bruised from the night before. For Ben it was almost like looking at the sun, too bright and soft and Ben couldn’t help but feel that he didn’t deserve her.

Her lovely hazel eyes were darkened with arousal as she lifted herself up onto her elbows to see what had made him pause.

“Ben?” she said, her voice barely more than a whisper.

He was positioned between her thighs, unable to keep from staring at her. “You’re beautiful,” he said finally, Rey blushed again brightly. It was her turn to be lost for words and Ben used that momentum to press a trail of soft kisses into the inside of her thigh leading to her apex.

It had been a long time since he had done this for someone and it took him a moment to find his bearings. He slowly dragged the flat of his tongue along her sex, coaxing a hitch in her breath as her fingers again found their way to his hair. Her thighs tensed over his shoulders as his tongue worked slowly over the swollen bud.

She let out a low moan, her head falling back against the pillows. She trembled beneath him, one hand fisting the pillow under her head and the other wrapped in his hair unintentionally pushing him deeper against her.

“Fuck, Ben,” she groaned as his lips sealed around her nub, his tongue flicking against her.

He didn’t pause, shifting only a little to press a finger into her entrance. She gasped loudly at the intrusion, her hips bucking slightly. He worked another digit, pressing tightly against her slick walls, then curling forward against the spongy flesh. Rey jerked involuntarily as his fingers brushed against the erogenous sweet spot.

“Fuck!” she cried out again, “Ben!”

His tongue doubled down on her clit, as he pumped his hand carefully lining up to brush against the same spot with a little more ferocity. Her thighs tensed closing over his ears, but he didn’t slow down or stop, if he suffocated then at least he went out in the best possible way.

Her walls clenched against his fingers and he could sense how close she was, boosting his determination to push her right over the edge. Ben looked up at her, their eyes connecting for a moment. There was a slight sheen of sweat on her brow and over her breasts, a look that delighted him.

A moment passed, and Rey’s face contorted beautifully, and she was no longer able to keep her eyes open. Her walls fluttered around him and she soundlessly opened her mouth before letting out the most stunning sound he’d ever heard.

Ben rode the wave of pleasure through with her before finally releasing her. She collapsed bonelessly into the mattress, panting furiously to catch the breath that she didn’t realize she been holding. He lifted his head and withdrew from her planting a wet, sloppy kiss against the inside of her thigh.

Rey suddenly sat bolt upright surprising him when she pulled him in for a fierce kiss; she tasted herself on his lips.

“That… no one’s ever done that for me before,” she said finally.

His brow furrowed, “Never?” he said before smirking mischievously at her. “Should I do it again to make up for lost time?”

Rey couldn’t help but laugh lightly, before kissing him again.

“I think we need to take care of you first,” she said pushing his shoulders over.

She took charge now, pressing him onto his back and straddling him again. He’d fucked her into the mattress last night now it was her turn. Her wet core pressed into his belly, as she bent down to press hot kisses into his chest and neck.

It was difficult to pause where she was, but she sat up again. He was rock hard, pressing against her backside. His hands slid up her thighs to rest on her hips.

She took one of his hands in hers and raised it to her face and softly laid a kiss to the inside of his wrist. The intimacy of the act floored him and his nerves nearly short circuited. She smiled, then leaned over to the bedside table where their mugs sat forgotten and growing cold, she opened the drawer retrieving a small square foil package before settling back against him. He wasn’t the only one who came prepared last night. In one swift motion she took the corner of the foil between her teeth and tore open the package. The act didn’t help his already almost non-functioning brain.

She readjusted and slid a hand between them, wrapping her fingers around his rigid member. A few quick pumps made him jerk against her then with painstaking slowness, she carefully unrolled the condom over the head of his cock. Then she lined herself up with him before slowly sinking around him.

He groaned, grasping her thigh tightly and resisting the urge to thrust up into her tightness. Starting slowly, rolling her hips in a deliberate pace that sped up as she went. Her breasts bounced with each snap of her hips, sending his brain into caveman mode. He sat up to plant his lips onto her breasts, she gasped in delight.

The new angle gave way to delicious friction against her already sensitive clit, sending her spiraling into another intense wave of pleasure. Her pace stuttered as she found herself struggling to hold on, grinding into him. The pressure mounted in her core and she was suddenly crying out Ben’s name without concern for volume. Her second orgasm peaked quicker than the first as she clung to Ben’s broad shoulders.

Her insides clenched around him and the tight ball of nerves in his gut suddenly unwound. He came with a choked sob.

They sat still, panting for breath, his cock softening inside her. They both knew they would need to separate but they still clung to one another unwilling to come apart just yet. Slowly Rey lifted herself from his lap and rolled over to her side of the bed. He turned away from her, sitting upright on the edge of the bed, removing the used rubber and tying it off. He stood, naked, and walked over to Rey’s tiny bathroom to toss it in the wastebasket before returning to her. She bit her lip, drinking in the sight of him standing in front of her bed in all his naked glory.

He was built more like an athlete than an English teacher. She remembered learning that Ben had been the captain of Corellia’s swim team during their date last night, and from the look of it he hadn’t stopped swimming.

He stood at the edge of the bed arching a brow at her staring. “You’re beautiful,” she explained smiling.

“That’s my line,” he said, crawling back into bed with her. His lips and hers joined softly as he settled beside her, their naked forms pressing together. She smiled burying her face in his chest and breathing in his spicy musk.

They laid like that for nearly an hour, talking idly about nothing of consequence before going in for a second round.

Both thoroughly spent and now a little hungry, they begrudgingly got up at nearly eleven and decided to take a shower together which was less than productive.

It was a quarter till noon when they got out, having wasted an enormous amount of water and done little in the way of getting clean. Ben put on his pants from the night before because that was all that he had while Rey put on a pair of leggings and an oversized sweater. He would have put on a shirt, but Rey insisted that she preferred him without. They both knew that they had grading to catch up on and work to get done, not to mention the dance that they were both supposed to chaperone that they’d have to be at least somewhat presentable for.

They busied themselves with the idea of making pancakes for a late breakfast but were finding themselves distracted before they got very far. There was far too much kissing and dirty talk for it to be particularly productive.

He was happily distracting Rey with his lips. His arms wrapped around her from behind as he located the sensitive spot behind her ear and nibbled softly at the delicate skin. She was still trying to stir up the batter, failing miserably when his hand dipped into the front of her pants and his finger found the little bud. She stopped stirring to grip the edge of her counter with a lewd moan that sent shivers down Ben’s spine.

“This can’t be sanitary,” Rey said breathlessly but she was hardly complaining. She shifted her grip along her counter nearly knock over the mixing bowl of forgotten pancake batter.

“Completely sanitary, we just showered,” he said eagerly burying his face in her chestnut hair and smelling the coconut shampoo from their shower.

“Oh god Ben, don’t stop,” she breathed.

“Never,” he said his voice dark with lust against her skin. He was rather fond of the idea of bending her over her kitchen table.

Just then there was a loud knock at Rey’s door, jolting them from their revelry. Both stood straight with a start, Ben woefully pulling his hand away. They were both silent for a moment hoping that whoever was knocking would simply give up and go away.

“Rey!”

It was Rose’s voice, they both exchanged nervous glances with one another. If they weren’t already outed to their coworkers, they were now.

“Hey! It’s Finn’s first big game as Assistant Coach, gotta go show him some love!”

That was Poe.

Rey groaned, “Shit, I forgot I told Finn I’d go to the game,” she cursed.

Ben was less than thrilled at the prospect of sitting through another high school football game and doubted (given his history with a particularly moody quarterback) that he’d even be that welcome.

“Hello Rey?” Rose called out again, “We’re gonna miss kick off. You in there?”

They pounded at the door again and Rey nervously pushed back at the loose curls that had fallen out of her messy bun. “Ben, I think I need to let them in,” she said under her breath so as not to let them hear.

“Why?” Ben whispered back. “Just pretend you’re not home,” he added.

“Seriously Ben, what if it was Armitage? Or Dopheld?” she asked.

Ben gave her a look, cocking his eyebrow nearly clear into his hairline. “Those fuckers know they’re not allowed in my house!” He stated bluntly, as if the two situations were remotely comparable.

Rey rolled her eyes, “You and your friends are so odd…” she said as she walked over to her door. Well, their morning had been perfect while it lasted but now it was over.

“You want me to hide in your closet or something?” Ben asked, his voice a little sharper than he’d intended.

Rey looked at him incredulously, “You seriously think I’d want you to hide in a closet? I don’t even have a closet!” Then much to Ben’s surprise she suddenly threw open the door to Rose and Poe. They were bundled up to brave the cold rain for a high school football game. Their eager faces faded quickly as they realized that they were about to get more than they’d bargained for.

“We had sex.” Rey stated matter-of-factly.

Ben stood there awkwardly as their eyes fell on him, he was pretty sure he could hear the second hand of Rey’s clock ticking in the palpable silence. It lasted for a few long moments before Rose’s voice cut the tension. “Damn! You sure that dude’s an English teacher?”

“I’m going to go put on a shirt,” Ben said now blushing furiously. He turned away to locate his white undershirt that had been carelessly tossed aside in the excitement of last night, pulling it over his head behind the privacy of the screen divider.

“I fucking knew it,” he heard Poe say, “Finn owes me money.”

“What?!” Ben and Rey said simultaneously, shocked to hear that their friends were betting on them.

“Are we going to the game or not?” Rose asked.

Ben couldn’t find his socks, scanning Rey’s floor, he might have to go without.

“Of course they are,” Poe said. “Ben, get your ass dressed so we can go!”

----------------

It was cold and wet.

Rey wished that she was wearing more layers, her coat felt dreadfully thin. She’d luckily had the foresight to grab the umbrella so at least she was reasonably dry. Ben was warm at her side, their thighs touching as they sat on the cold steel bleachers.

Phasma and Mitaka had spotted Ben and made their way over to say hello. Apparently Hux was “above” football and had no desire to brave the rain. But Phasma was another Corellia High coach and there was some kind of unspoken agreement that coaches attend each other’s games as a show of solidarity. Rey assumed Mitaka was there because he was the winner of Homeroom Wars and couldn’t not show up to support the home team. They eyed Rey and Ben curiously, but didn’t ask any questions out right. Phasma chastised Ben about actually coming to a school event that he wasn’t forced to, he gave it right back in their usual snappy banter.

Her understanding of the football game was limited, but even so she knew it wasn’t good for Corellia. Their side of the field was muted, sitting hunched from the cold rain and utterly unhappy. Ben, Rose and Poe tried to fill her in on the rules. But Ben was almost as clueless as she was, as Phasma kept correcting him on some of the more complicated aspects of the game. Once they started losing there wasn’t much to discuss.

For all their misery in the stands, Finn looked ten times worse. He was soaked, his sweatshirt and ball cap offering little protection from the rain. The lightweight waterproof layer he wore over it all was clinging to his shoulders. Every play ended in what looked like a tense exchange between himself and the head coach Moden Canady, a fair haired man with a perpetual scowl. Rey had little interaction with the head coach, but Finn had nothing pleasant to say about the man and Luke had warned her that he would give her a difficult time if anything she did interfered with their football game. By half time, he was communicating entirely by yelling and cursing loudly.

Corellia High was getting crushed; with a score of 28 - 3 at the end of the third quarter, it didn’t take an expert to know that it was pretty dismal. Some had left and Rey could tell Ben was itching to do the same but she had a feeling he was sticking around for her benefit. If Finn didn’t look so crestfallen, she might have left too but she held out to cheer Finn up in the wake of inevitable loss.

Rey turned to Ben, missing how warm he was when he’d been holding her that morning. This wasn’t how she’d seen their day going, but in the wake of it all he’d been a very good sport about it. Her hand found his and she gave him a small sympathetic smile. “Thanks for sticking around,” she said softly.

His large hand engulfed hers in a pleasant warmth and he laced his fingers with hers. “It’s ‘cause I like you,” he replied. Rey admired the way her hand looked in his.

Suddenly there was a clamor of the Corellia half of the bleachers leaping from their seats followed by a collective outcry.

“What happened?” Rey asked quietly.

“I wasn’t paying attention,” Ben admitted as they both were joining the crowd on their feet.

“Shit, he okay?” Rey heard Rose say to Poe.

On the other side of Ben, Phasma sounded off, “I’m going to go see if they need any help,” she said starting down the stairs. Rey scanned the field, it took a minute to notice a Corellia player laying prone in a huddle of his teammates. Finn and Canady were already halfway across the field, the referee was already there kneeling over the young man. There was a murmur of confusion through the nervous crowd.

“Who went down?” Ben asked, he wasn’t the only one wondering. It all had happen so quickly no one was very sure what had happened.

“I think it was Wendell Dunn? Maybe? I can’t make out the number on his jersey,” Mitaka said, squinting through the rain.

“Wendell? Really?” Rey said, he was a sophomore in her class, one of the very few football players in an art elective. He was the youngest player on the varsity team and he was a wonderful addition to Rey’s fourth period.

“I think?” Mitaka said, “It’s hard to tell,” he added after noticing the concern in Rey’s face.

“He got tackled?” Ben asked.

“Understatement of the century,” Poe said, “That roid-ed up linebacker practically bulldozed him.”

Rey didn’t know what position the linebacker was but she could guess which one it was based on the size of the player. There was an opposing player that looked far too massive to be in high school. He was lingering near the huddle, his helmet hiding his face. He towered over even Finn and Canady, but his head was bent as if in shame.

Wendell got up with the help of Finn and a few other players from both teams. There was a cheer from both sides of the crowd. It was almost impossible to tell what was happening or in how bad of shape Wendell was actually in. They couldn’t hear anything from this far away but it looked like Finn and Canady were now arguing.

Whatever the resolution was the players returned to their respective sides and even more surprising was that Wendell was returning to the field.

“You’re kidding?” Ben said in disbelief.

“Yeah get that kid to a doctor or something, a hit like that needs to be looked at,” Poe said furiously.

Finn and Canady returned to their side of the field, Finn’s face was darkened with a look that Rey had never seen on him. For a moment they exchanged a quick glance through the crowd. He still looked like a mix of anger and misery.

“What do you thinks going on down there?” Rose asked, her voice laced with concern.

No one had much of an answer.

The game resumed and the crowd was on edge. Most everyone was still nervously standing.

Rey’s hand brushed Ben’s warm fingers. In an instant, as if by instinct, he wrapped his hand around hers like it was simply the most natural place for it to be. It was one thing to tell Poe and Rose what was happening between them, but this was almost like a public declaration where every student could see. She squeezed gently and he returned the gesture comfortingly.

The play kicked off and it was obvious that something was wrong. Everyone was watching Corellia’s injured player even though he wasn’t in possession of the ball. He was running, then stumbling as the game continued past him. He came to a slow stop and pulled his helmet off, his face was horribly green-- a detail Rey could pick out from the stands. Suddenly he was doubling over and vomiting into the grass.

There was a collective gasp from the crowd. Finn called a timeout, an act that Canady clearly didn’t approve of but the younger coach didn’t stick around to care. Instead he was jogging across the field again over to poor Wendell. He was helping the injured player back over to the bench when Canady and the Ref met them in the middle. Again, the two Corellia coaches were arguing even more fiercely this time. Rey desperately wished she was able to see their faces better, maybe read their lips but the back of the Ref’s head was blocking her view of Finn’s face. Canady was beat red, completely incensed by Finn’s display of insubordination.

“What the hell--?!” Poe growled.

Things appeared to be escalating between Finn and Canady but the Referee stepped between them, effectively ending the argument for now. Wendell was pulled from the field and Finn walked him over to the bench to sit down. A woman met them at the bench and was fretting over Wendell anxiously, three younger children were in tow all looking worried and confused. Rey assumed they must be Wendell’s family, he’d mentioned having younger siblings in her class before.

The game resumed at Canady’s insistence but everyone was paying more attention to Wendell and Finn. The woman fawning over him was now escorting him from the field, leaving Finn standing by the bench. His jaw was in a hard line and he folded his arms over his clipboard.

It was a relief to see that Wendell was getting taken care of and Rey hoped that his mother was taking him to urgent care for what was clearly a concussion. Everyone seemed to breathe a little easier now.

Phasma returned with a sour look on her face and everyone looked at her expectantly as she resumed her seat between Ben and Mitaka.

“What’s going on down there?” Rey asked, leaning around Ben’s solid form.

The taller blonde looked a little annoyed but that seemed to be her typical composure. “Canady isn’t impressed that the assistant coach is calling the shots and making him look bad. Pretty sure he put Dunn back in the game simply as a petty power move,” she replied. “The poor boy had no business getting back out there, but Canady insisted he’d ‘walk it off’.”

“That’s fucking ridiculous,” Poe hissed.

No one could argue with that.

The game ended not long later with the away team scoring another touchdown, cementing Corellia’s devastating defeat.

“You’d think they go a little easier,” Ben said sullenly. There was a murmur of agreement amongst the teachers as they made their way down from the stands.

“Yeah, kinda rude to humiliate us at our own Homecoming,” Rose said following behind Rey as the descended the steps single file, weaving through the brooding crowd.

“We should check in on Finn,” Poe said taking up the rear.

They’d nearly made it down to the bench where Corellia’s team was gathered when they all saw Canady round on Finn. The older man jabbed at Finn’s shoulder.

“I don’t know who the hell you think you are!” Canady roared. “You come strutting on to my field and think you can turn this into some sort of popularity contest!”

Poe gently nudged past Rey intent on making his way through the crowd but there were too many nervous students and families in the way and tensions between the two angry coaches were escalating too quickly.

Finn’s face set in frustration and he clearly wasn’t going to take an insult from Canady sitting down. There was a tense moment where Rey was certain that someone would start throwing punches until a silver haired man stepped up to stop it from getting that far.

“What the fucking hell?” Ben growled next to her, then without explanation took off in the same direction.

“Ben?” But there were already half a dozen students between them. Where they parted easily for Ben it was much more difficult for Rey to find a path through them.

“And who the hell are you?” Canady rounded on the man who’d intervened.

Poe’d made it to them, putting a hand on Finn’s shoulder. Ben was hot on his heels with students scurrying out of his way. Rey was more focused on keeping an eye on what was going down between the two coaches. She pushed past several spectating students.

The man who’d previously intervened didn’t appear to be backing down, he had a charming swagger but walked liked he’d faced down much scarier men than Canady. “Listen, let this go before it gets out of hand,” Rey heard him say. He must be a parent or maybe even a grandparent of a student, she decided.

“‘Let this go?!’” Canady roared. “I won’t be disrespected on my own field by some boy!”

 

The man’s jaw set, his lips pinched slightly, a look that Rey was sure she’d seen before.

“Enough!”

The voice belonged to a woman, breathy but so ferocious that it made everyone immediately stop in their tracks. A strange mix of both terror and respect made Rey’s shoulders tense.

Leia appeared from behind the silver haired man, she was holding an off-white umbrella over her shoulder and was wearing a long coat of navy blue. Despite the utterly mundane setting, there was something downright regal about the woman.

“Principle Organa--?” Canady murmured, cowed into silence like the rest of them.

“Mr. Canady, we will discuss this in my office. I will not have Corellia’s staff making such a poor example in front of students and resorting to school-yard violence,” Leia said before any excuses can be made. “Mr. Rider, please see to it that our players get inside and get warmed up. They’ve earned it. If you could also follow up on Wendell’s condition and keep me informed, I would appreciate it.”

The anger in Finn’s face faded instantly, he nodded looking almost stunned.

“The rest of you,” Leia looked around at the student bystanders who’d gathered to witness the commotion. “I think you have a dance to get ready for and not very many hours to do it,” she said with a sternness that had them scattering, not wanting to be caught on the receiving end of all of five feet and one inch of Leia’s vehemence.

Rey finally caught up to Ben as the students quickly dispersed from the scene.

“Dad?!” Ben exclaimed in shock.

“What?” the word slipped from Rey’s mouth unexpectedly in surprise.

The man looked up and suddenly the resemblance was plain as day.

Things all got very confusing after that. Finn was rattled but okay, after Rey checked in with him Poe and Rose lended their support as they walked with him and Corellia’s players off of the field. Rey lost track of Phasma and Mitaka, but one would assume that they’d be fine on their own. Coach Canady was sent to Leia’s office to wait for her to probably receive quite the verbal beatdown. Meanwhile there was a strange sort of standoff between the Solo men, they certainly didn’t greet each other like she would expect of a father and son.

“The hell are you doing here?” Ben asked. Rey was more than a little alarmed at the sudden hostility.

“Your mother invited me, I had a long layover,” the man explained with a shrug. “Hello to you too,” he added.

“Since when do you hang out with mom on your layovers?”

“Oh, cut it out both of you,” Leia cut in between them. “I swear it’s like putting two tom-cats together.” They both effectively yielded, neither willing to test her patience-- especially with the previous tension between coaches. “It’s been a rough day and the last thing I need is you two at each other’s throats.” The principal's stern gaze turned on Rey and quickly softened, “It’s good to see you, Rey,” she said affectionately. “Please tell me this wasn’t your first football game, it wasn’t a very pleasant one,” she added, ignoring the tense looks being exchanged between her husband and son.

“Unfortunately…” Rey said softly, “In person anyway.”

“They usually aren’t so depressing, I promise. I’m going to go inside where it’s dry and get a cup of coffee, would you like some?” Leia said, already starting back to the main building on campus.

Rey glanced at Ben before nodding shyly.

----------------

Ben wasn’t sure how a day that started so perfectly, could go so sideways. He was damp all over, wearing an odd medley of his date clothes that had spent the night on Rey’s floor and what he could pull out of the gym bag he kept in the back of his car. He wasn’t wearing any socks and his feet felt sweaty and uncomfortable. He’d sat through the entirety of a high school football game in the rain with students that he made a point of trying not to see on weekends. He spent the whole time checking over his shoulder for the mascot bird who now had intimate details on his private life, but luckily even Shane seemed too depressed by the game to look at Ben with those empty cartoon mask eyes.

Then his father showed up, he’d been expecting to see his mother, but Han caught him off guard. When Rey and Leia started back towards the school, his father gave him a look as if he was impressed-- that didn’t help Ben’s current mood.

But suddenly all of that was worth it when he was standing alone with Rey in the teacher’s lounge, drinking a hot cup of black coffee. She smiled up at him with her soft lips and her perfect hazel eyes. The strands of her hair that had come loose from her bun were curled around her ears and her skin was faintly dewy from the humidity.

They were alone for the first time since Poe and Rose had interrupted their morning. “It’s too bad we have to be back here in a few hours,” she said as she absentmindedly twirled the drawstring of his hoodie in her fingers. “Otherwise we could pick up where we left off.”

Ben’s stomach practically flipped at the thought of what she was implying. But she wasn’t wrong, the dance started in about two hours then they had to chaperone a bunch of horny teenagers until ten o’clock. He wasn’t looking forward to spending the evening guarding a punch bowl from a couple dumbass kids wanting to spike it.

“You could come over afterward,” he suggested timidly. He was still a little worried that he might suddenly get rejected. The truth was he didn’t like the idea of going home alone tonight or ever again for that matter.

Pink softly stained Rey’s cheeks, “You sure?” she asked, a hint of hopefulness in her voice.

“Absolutely,” he said immediately.

Her smile widened, “Ok, but only if you’ll be my date to homecoming,” she said. Ben laughed, “That’s what you do at these things, right?”

“I mean yeah, sure, do you want me to pick you up and let my mom take too many embarrassing photos of us?” he said with a smile. “It might be too late to rent a limo but my mom might let me borrow her Buick.” Rey shoved him playfully, laughing.

“You’re making fun of me!” she said through a grin.

“Just thought you might like the standard experience,” he smirked.

“Now I’m picturing sixteen-year-old Ben picking up his date in his mother’s car, it’s adorable.”

“You might change your mind if you knew sixteen-year-old Ben Solo,” he said, “Bit of an asshole.”

Rey looked at him seriously, “Ben, all sixteen-year-olds are arseholes,” she deadpanned.

-----------------

CHATTER!

miss_mitz: well that sucked… but good news! my 2 fav teachers held hands xDDD!! CUTEE!

---Comments:
------lucy_ in_dah_sky:
pics or it didn’t happen.

------miss_mitz: and the award for bitter and delusional goes to….

------McShane: i mean yeah, remember what i said last night?

------starryeyed_mai: um MAGNUMS lol!

------sandman: wtf?

------McShane:yeah dude buys magnums-- like name brand n everything

------sandman: damn! so thats how that goofy lookin mofo got a hunny like that.

------McShane: right?!

------lucy_in_dah_sky: Ms niima is NOT that hot idk what u all see in her!

------miss_mitz: holy shit luce! u kno mr solo is like twice ur age and probably doesnt even remember your name?!

------miss_mitz: AND u used to like ms niima! she the nicest teacher at school!

------lucy_in_dah_sky: stfu mitzi!

------miss_mitz: how about u stop bein such a jealous bitch?

------McShane: jeezzus! Calm the f down u guys!

------starryeyed_mai: Shane is right!! calm ur titz! BOTH OF YOU!

Chapter Text

Rey marched through the rain-soaked parking lot towards Corellia’s faculty entrance. The rain had abated for now, but the sun had never managed to make it past the heavy cloud cover that hung over the city. Everything seemed to have a damp and dreary feel to it. She knew that Finn was horribly depressed over the game and it made Rey feel a little guilty that she was secretly thrilled for the prospects of this evening.

Instead of her normal purse, she had a larger bag slung over her shoulder packed with a change of clothes and a toothbrush. She’d also thrown in a handful of condoms; even if she was on the pill it didn’t hurt to be careful. And considering the last twenty-four hours, they’d probably make good use of them.

She carefully avoided the puddles in the parking lot to prevent her cheap but cute ballet flats from getting too wet.

“Rey!”

She looked up suddenly to see Rose, Finn and Poe making their way across the parking lot. Finn still looked upset, which dampened Rey’s enthusiasm for the evening.

“Hey,” she greeted, putting on her best smile mostly for Finn’s benefit.

“Hey,” Finn said, he gave a smile but it didn’t make it to his eyes. He clearly wanted to put what had happened earlier behind him and Rey couldn’t fault him for it. An awkward silence settled over the four of them.

“It’s Rey’s first school dance,” Rose said, trying to keep the conversation from going to the topic of today’s game.

Poe looked up surprised, “I thought they had Yule Balls or something where you came from?” he teased lightly. Rey gave him a light slap on the arm; it was enough to get a small but genuine laugh from Finn. That made them all feel slightly better.

They made their way through the faculty doors and greeted the few teachers standing around and unbundling after braving the dreary weather. Rey glanced around, seeing Ben’s coat on the hook and she couldn’t help the small smile on her face. Poe seemed to notice and give her a knowing look, accompanied by wiggling his eyebrows.

She wondered briefly if Rose and Poe had said anything to Finn, it didn’t seem like an appropriate time to bring it up but she also didn’t like the idea of keeping her friend in the dark. She was in the middle of hanging up her coat when Rose took her by the elbow. “Come on, let’s go have girl talk,” she said and Rey went without complaint.

They strolled out of the faculty coat room and down the hall, they avoided any student council kids there for set up and turned into the nearby girl’s restroom. Rose did a quick cursory glance around for any students before striding up to the mirror to check her appearance.

“I still can’t believe you’ve never been to a high school dance,” Rose said as she busily adjusted her long black curls. They were able to talk a little more freely without other faculty or students eavesdropping.

“I mean, they just weren’t that common place, they’re becoming more of a thing recently but they were still a pretty new concept when I was still in school. And I doubt they’re nearly as big of a deal there as you all seem to make this one out to be,” Rey explained thoughtfully as she inspected her own reflection in the mirror and checked her watch. “Besides this isn’t really for us,” she added.

“No, but still, you missed out,” Rose said as she finished up before turning to Rey expectantly. “So when are we gonna talk about this morning?” Rose asked.

Rey looked around the highschool girls’ bathroom to make sure there were no listening students, it was a force of habit as they’d already checked. It was still too early for the majority of the student body to be there, but there were still several student council kids wandering about working on last minute details before the dance was to start.

“You mean about the loss and how we best comfort Finn?” Rey asked. She knew what Rose meant but she dodged the subject. “He was so disappointed, and Canady is such a tosser--”

“Rey…”

“How do you think things went when Leia talked to Canady earlier? I left before I heard anything.”

“Reeeey…”

“Of course, Canady has always been a bit of a twit,” she continued.

“Finn’s fine, the game sucked, and you know what I mean,” Rose stated firmly.

Rey’s cheeks turned pink and she said nothing.

The physics teacher glanced around the room then smiled wickedly.“So how was it?” Rose asked.

“Rose!”

“What? You can’t blame me for being curious, the dude was shredded!” Rose wasn’t wrong, which made the blush on Rey’s face dial up to eleven. She wasn’t sure how to describe it but the memory of it made the air around her suddenly feel about ten degrees hotter.

“That good?!” Rose teased seeing Rey’s rather obvious expression.

“Good god, Rose!” Rey glanced around the room again even though it was quite clear that they were alone.

Rose grinned, “Stop me when I get to it,” she held her hands a few inches apart in front of her and slowly started pulling her hands further apart. It took Rey a second or two to realize what she meant, but by then they were ludicrously far apart.

“Rose!” she gasped pushing Rose’s hands down.

“Woah, no wonder you’re walking funny!” Rose laughed. “Okay, okay! I’m kidding! I’ll stop,” she said, still smiling.

Rey turned back to the mirror to check the state of her lipstick. “So,” Rose started again, “Are you going to see him again?”

Rey couldn’t help the smile that formed on her painted lips. “I’m going home with him tonight,” she said softly.

Rose looked at her with delighted surprise. “You fox!” she gasped. “That’s an overnight bag you’ve got, isn’t it?!”

“Maybe,” Rey replied slyly.

------------------

Robyn Delgado: I’m trapped in the bathroom!

Mitzi Whitman: lol u need me to come let u out hahhaha

Mitzi Whitman: or is this just u tryin to get out of helping with the snack table?

Robyn Delgado: No!

Robyn Delgado: Ms Niima and Ms Tico are talking in here. They don’t know that I’m in here!

Mitzi Whitman: no way! wat are they talking about?

Robyn Delgado: Your favorite topic: Ms Niima’s love life.

Mitzi Whitman: DETAILS WOMAN!

Robyn Delgado: Idk it’s just really awkward…

Mitzi Whitman: ROBBIE!!!!

Robyn Delgado: She saw someone last night or this morning or something.

Mitzi Whitman: someone?

Robyn Delgado: The only names they dropped so far were Coach Finn and Coach Canady.

Mitzi Whitman: WHAT??!!

Mitzi Whitman: i thot coach finn n ms tico were a thing?

Robyn Delgado: Really? I thought Coach Finn and Mr Dameron were a thing…

Mitzi Whitman: i jus dont see how coach finn and ms niima are a thing… *cries*

Mitzi Whitman: she seemed to hav such good chemistrt wit mr solo tho!!

Robyn Delgado: Dude… chill… I didn’t say that they were talking about Coach Finn. They could be talking about anyone.

Mitzi Whitman: wat else r they saying???

Robyn Delgado: She’s going home with him tonight.

Robyn Delgado: And apparently who ever it is they’re “shredded”

Robyn Delgado: According to Ms Tico.

Mitzi Whitman: omg!!! i gotta tell mai!!

Mitzi Whitman: meet me at my locker!!

Robyn Delgado: Did you miss the part where I said I can’t leave because then they’ll know I’m here??

Mitzi Whitman: its ok, i’ll wait!

---------------

To say that the gymnasium had been ‘transformed’ was the overstatement of the century. The theme was supposed to be “Under the Stars” but that simply meant string lights in a lattice over head and dark blue paper lining the walls to make everything look darker. Cut out stars covered in an over abundance of silver glitter hung from above but weren’t quite tall enough for Ben. They kept catching his hair and sprinkling his shoulders with a healthy helping of glitter. Despite how often he tried to brush it off it clung to him with a vengeance.

He left the gymnasium walking towards the staff lounge. Sometimes Poe kept a lint roller around for BB hair that inevitably got everywhere, and that seemed like a decent enough solution. He strolled in expecting to find the room empty but instead he found his mother.

She was leaning against the counter with a cup of what looked like tea in her hands but it seemed that she was merely holding it and had hardly drank any of it. He’d seen the look before but it had been years; he’d even been the cause of it.

“Mom?” he said getting her attention. It was one of those times when he actually noticed her age; she looked tired.

Leia looked up surprised, “Goodness, what time is it?” she asked.

“Almost six, they’re gonna start letting students in soon,” he said. “Are you ok?”

Leia scoffed, “Of course I am,” she insisted. “This business with Canady took longer than expected,” she said.

Ben wanted to ask if the head coach had been fired or suspended or something, but from the look on his mother’s face she didn’t want him to push. Ten years ago, that wouldn’t have stopped him but his relationship with her had evolved since then.

“Enough about that, I want to know how your date went,” Leia said waving her hand.

He coughed, “It went good,” he replied awkwardly. “What about your date?” he asked.

Leia cocked a brow over her horn-rimmed glasses. “Your father and I had a lovely dinner because the storm grounded his flight. Do you really want the details, Ben?”

The implication nearly made Ben do a spit-take. No, he most certainly did not want any further details. He busied himself with poking through Poe’s cubby box before producing the lint roller.

“So now he’s making time to come to high school events?” Ben asked using the roller to dislodge some of the glitter on his shoulders.

“Really Ben?” Leia gave an exasperated sigh. She couldn’t deny that Han had been largely absent for a lot of the things Ben cared about when he was growing up. But maybe now wasn’t the best time to be opening that can of worms.

Ben grunted in defeat, Leia clearly didn’t look in the mood to have an emotional tangle right now. He decided he wasn’t really interested in giving his mother a hard time.

“Thanks for helping with the reservation last night,” he said quietly, giving up on the glitter problem and putting the roller back in Poe’s box.

Leia softened, “Did Rey enjoy herself?” she asked.

“Hope so,” he said with a shrug, “She seemed to, anyway.” If he was reading the situation correctly, their date had been a fantastic success considering what happened after… or this morning… multiple times.

Leia smiled, “Good, she deserves a good night on the town,” she said. “You do too, you’ve been working too hard.”

Ben shrugged, “That’s what we do,” he replied. Leia had a look of pride in her brown eyes, something that came from your only child following in your footsteps.

“Are you going to see each other again?” Leia asked smartly.

“Yeah, we are,” he said, reminded of how he’d rushed through his home busily trying to make it look tidy enough for an overnight guest. He didn’t need to share that detail with his mother.

“Good, because I rather like this one,” she said with a wink.

“Me too,” he agreed simply.

They were joined by Finn as he came walking in, still looking glum, “Amilyn said you wanted to talk to me?” he asked.

Leia started, “Oh yes, Finn, let’s head over to my office,” she said, waving Finn past the door back to her office. Ben was a little anxious that the younger coach might be in some sort of trouble. According to Phasma, Finn had been adamantly against putting the player back into the game going so far as to argue the point against Canady.

The two men exchanged awkward glances as Finn followed Leia out of the room. He was sure it was just a technicality and to follow up on Wendell’s condition. But the dramatic look on his mother’s face from earlier and the fact that the whole situation could easily escalate if parents wanted it to made him worried. Ben and Finn were hardly friends as they usually ran with different crowds, but he was slightly concerned for Rey’s sake.

-------------------

Rey made sure to tuck her overnight bag under her desk in her classroom. For some reason she felt nervous. She and Ben had already scaled past all the major hurdles of a fledgling relationship: they’d been on several dates, their first kiss had been electrifying, she’d already seen him naked and he’d seen her-- now what? How do they define this? They weren’t a secret anymore, so there was no point in trying to hide it. Of course engaging in an over abundance of PDA would get them into serious trouble, but they could conceivably be a couple in public. There weren’t any formal rules standing in their way, in fact she’d learned that two teachers at the nearby Elementary school were tying the knot next summer and no one was batting an eye.

She wondered if she should ask Ben when they were alone tonight, would it be too much too soon? She didn’t want to be the kind of person who got needy immediately after sex, but she was also falling hard and Rey didn’t think she could slow herself down now even if she wanted to.

Rey was so wrapped up in her thoughts that she almost didn’t hear the knock on her classroom door. The man himself was standing there, an easy smile on his face that made her insides burn with nervous excitement. The memory of those plush lips of his on her most intimate areas was still very fresh in her mind and she’d be lying if she said she didn’t want him to bend her over a desk at that very moment.

That would be very inappropriate and would simply have to wait until later. If they were going to be an actual couple she’d have to be able to put those thoughts away during teaching hours.

“Hey, I was looking for you,” he said pleasantly.

“Oh?” she smiled.

“I think I may have taken a bad joke too far,” he admitted walking up to her desk where she was unwinding her scarf from her shoulders.

“And why is that?” she asked, noticing the clear plastic box in his hands. At first she’d thought he’d brought her food but then she realized that it contained flowers as he approached. She eyed the box curiously.

“This is silly,” he said blushing, before handing it to her.

She took the box in her hands looking more than a little confused. “Flowers?” she asked as she cracked open the container to get a better look at the small arrangement of white roses and baby’s breath. All at once she realized it was a corsage and suddenly her eyes were filling with tears.

Ben was caught off guard by her reaction and there was panic in his eyes. “Rey, I’m so sorry! I--”

“No, Ben, please don’t apologize!” Rey said, desperately trying to brush away her tears. “This is very sweet,” she insisted wholeheartedly. It was a kind gesture. Ben had been joking earlier about the typical homecoming experience, but it was all becoming clear just how much she’d not known growing up. While her friends were having all these little milestones she was still living in a group home. Rose’s words hadn’t affected her when they were said, ‘You missed out’ but it hit her hard now. She did miss out, not just on silly American traditions but on someone to share those milestones with as she grew up.

And here was Ben, looking terribly concerned that he’d done something to upset her when it was actually quite the opposite. It would be difficult to explain the feelings that she had right now so instead she stood on her toes to place a kiss on his lips. Confusion knit his brow but he didn’t hesitate to kiss her back. “Thank you,” Rey managed to say softly. “I’ve never gotten anything like this before,” she said.

“You don’t have to wear it if you don’t want to,” he said still unsure of himself.

“Oh I’m definitely going to wear it!” she nodded adamantly.

He reached up to brush back some of the tears that stained her cheeks. She gingerly lifted the tiny bouquet from the plastic box it came in. It was attached to a long silk ribbon meant to be tied to the wrist. Ben took it from her and carefully helped her put it on.

It made Rey think about her students-- how many of them were having a similar experience with someone who gave them butterflies surrounded by an adoring and proud family. Hopefully for them there were less tears. She imagined young Ben and how he smiled awkwardly for in a handsome suit with his equally awkward date while Leia insisted on taking just one more photo.

“Thank you, Ben,” Rey said again, smiling now.

There was a blush on Ben’s cheeks as his hand lingered in hers long after he’d tied the ribbon around her wrist. “You’re welcome,” he said softly, a little embarrassed. At some point she’d be able to find the words to tell him what this meant to her.

Faint perky beats of dance music began to play from the general direction of the gymnasium. “I guess we should get in there before someone spikes the punch bowl,” Ben reasoned, still holding her hand in his.

“That’s not actually a possibility, is it?” she asked with a doubtful look.

“With these kids, you never really know,” he said grimly. The man had definitely seen some shit.

----------------

Eddie Salazar: Dude… solo is like really guarding the punch bowl. And Bria’s gettin all pissy because i can’t dance with this stupid bottle in my armpit.

Josh Saxton: dude… chill. Tell ur gf to chill. Just go do it.

Eddie Salazar: u tell bria to chill n tell me how that goes & i thot u were gettin niima to walk by and get him distracted.

Josh Saxton: can’t. Her and Pava are firmly planted at the ticket table.

Eddie Salazar: well shit now dameron just showed up.

Eddie Salazar: nvm i’m ditchin’ this stupid bottle before i get caught.

Josh Saxton: NO MAN! Let’s ditch this dumb shit and go drink on our own

Eddie Salazar: Can’t. Bria won’t leave.

Josh Saxton: dude…. Leave her.

Eddie Salazar: fuck no dude, after tha whole amber fiasco, i gotta keep my nose clean wit dis girl

Josh Saxton: whatev man, i’m blowing this popsicle stand flip solo the bird for me.

------------------

Ben was swiftly reminded why he actually didn’t like chaperoning school dances. He didn’t even like attending them, supervising them was much worse. The music was too loud and he couldn’t believe what passed for dancing these days. And just having those thoughts made Ben wonder if he actually was the grumpy old man everyone made him out to be.

The sour look on his face worked in keeping most people from trying to make conversation. He was actually in a pretty good mood but you would be able to tell by looking at him. He was eager for the dance to be over and be alone with Rey again. He was a little anxious about her response to the corsage that he’d given her but didn’t want to push her for details as to what had set her off. Her teary face was replaying in his head over and over as he tried to analyze all of his own actions. Rey had insisted that she was happy with it and she was still wearing it. The only member of the staff wearing one; he knew people asking about it and he wondered what she was telling them.

He was a little remorseful that she’d been sent to the ticket table while he was delegated to stand guard around the dancefloor. It wasn’t surprising-- the fun, smiling, happy teachers were put up front to set a good vibe. Meanwhile the stern, intimidating teachers were sent to dark corners where kids were most likely to fuck around.

Ben wasn’t sure who he felt bad for: Hux, who was sent to guard the so called ‘make out’ corner or the students who were looking to make use of said corner. At least Ben’s primary task was giving Eddie Salazar a serious look that said ‘don’t you fucking dare make my night longer than it already has to be’ which sent the senior slinking away defeated.

“Jesus Ben, it’s not a funeral,” Poe said, he seemed to be much more relaxed than he was at the football game but then again so did everyone. Even Finn seemed to have lightened up after his talk with Leia, which was a good sign.

“At least at a funeral you don’t have to tell a bunch of teenagers to leave room for Jesus,” Ben grumbled. Not that he was actually telling them that. Hux probably traumatized them enough.

“True, what happened to good old fashioned swaying,” Poe laughed. Great, now Poe was making him feel old again, damn youths. “Speaking of slow swaying, I saw Rey’s corsage,” he continued.

Ben’s cheeks got hot and he was grateful for low lights. It wasn’t like Poe wasn’t in on their secret, Rey had practically shouted it at him this morning. “She made a joke about being dates to homecoming earlier. I didn’t think she’d wear it,” he said.

“Well, she’s rocking it,” Poe said with a shrug, “I always knew Ben Solo had a secret heart of gold under that broody exterior.”

Poe was clearly poking fun at him but it was hard to get annoyed when Rey was the topic of conversation. “Yeah, well don’t go spreading it around. I’ve got a reputation to maintain,” he said.

“Wouldn’t dream of it,” Poe smiled, “But I hope you know that all of your coworkers pretty much already know about it. Neither of you are particularly subtle.”

“I’m aware,” Ben groaned. He was glad for the booming sounds of today’s top 40 hits playing around them, as it kept students from over hearing them. The reasons for keeping secrets were becoming steadily overrun with his feelings for Rey. It was both thrilling and terrifying.

“Well if it makes you feel better, everyone thinks love-sick Ben is pretty cute,” Poe teased. Ben rolled his eyes.

From across the dance floor Rey appeared, she looked amazing in her simple floral print dress amongst the glittery taffeta backdrop of their students. She tucked a strand of hair behind her ear looking around the amateurish decorations that were typical of a public high school dance. Ben felt his heart jump into his throat, she still had the corsage on her wrist and the delicate white flowers highlighted the golden freckled skin on her arm. She was smiling, having a conversation with Amilyn Holdo that Ben couldn’t hear.

She made a glance around the room, her pretty hazel eyes finally landing on him. Maybe it was his imagination but he would swear that her smile widened ever so slightly. She bid goodbye to Holdo and was making her way through the crowd of students enjoying their dance. Poe noticed her from several paces away and a cocky grin spread over his face. “Hey, I’m gonna go find Finn. You two leave room for Jesus,” he said smiling.

He departed back around the edge of the dance floor past a row of chairs that lined the edge of the room. Ben wasn’t alone for long as Rey arrived shortly after his departure, looking happy and breathless. “This is a lot,” she beamed. “How’s the punch?”

“Not spiked,” he said unable to contain his own smile that broke through his grumpy facade.

“Good because I’m dying of thirst,” she said helping herself to some punch. “I had no idea how much effort some of these kids have put into this!” she added. It wasn’t a lie, kids whose parents could afford it put a tremendous amount of time into getting dressed up. There were several who looked like they’d spent hours that day in a salon getting done up for this.

“Just wait until we get to prom,” he said.

“Really?”

Ben nodded, Corellia’s prom was for upperclassmen only unless a freshman or sophomore were invited by an older student. It was held at a nearby event center, with professional photographers and with better decorations. Ben hoped that he might get out of chaperoning for that glitter covered nightmare.

Rey had a twinkle of excitement in her eyes. It made Ben wonder what it might have been like if they’d actually known each other during their school days. Rey would have made for a much better date to his high school prom than what he’d experienced, he might have actually even enjoyed it.

She had opened her mouth to say something over the music but was cut off by the a sudden disturbance on the dance floor. Both their heads turned in alarm only to be suddenly hit with a nauseating stench.

Ben’s hand flew to his mouth to block his nostrils from the offending smell. There was a mad rush to escape the persistent odor and the dancefloor erupted into chaos. It was clear that no one was quite sure what had just happened. He felt Rey tug on his sleeve to get his attention, he looked up and his eyes followed to where she was pointing. Holdo and Rose were trying to regain control of the room at the main doors.

They started in that direction but before they’d made even half way across the room the fire alarm split the air so loud that Ben was sure he could feel it in his bones. Even Ben wouldn’t be able to be heard over it. The alarm spurred a panic in the students as they fled through whatever doors they could, creating a bottleneck effect at the main entrance. Ben was finally able to wade through the crowd to get to Holdo who was trying to yell instructions over the alarm but it ended up being fruitless.

Ben glanced behind him to see that Rey wasn’t there and he couldn’t spot her in the crowd. A flash of worry sparked in his chest, but at the moment he knew that she couldn’t be his first concern right now. They were responsible for about three hundred panic students, and wherever Rey was at the moment was likely to best look after their charges.

Ben moved to the foyer in front of the gyms main entrance where the sounds of the alarm were dulled slightly and he was in full light and able to see and think a little more clearly. It appeared that everyone had forgotten fire procedure which meant there would be a half dozen fire drills in his future.

“No running!” he had to yell over the alarm as students spilled past him into the front grounds of the school.

“Ben! You and Rose get everyone collected and get a head count out front!” Holdo was yelling at him. He could barely make out what she was saying but he got the jist of it. Rose was close behind Holdo, she nodded and managed to head out the front door in the stream of students.

He lost track of her almost immediately, she was shorter than a lot of their students making it difficult to spot her in the crowd. They weren’t the best team for crowd control but they’d have to make due. Once he’d made it out into front lawn he immediately started getting attention of the confused students. He could finally hear himself talk, and made use of it by shouting orders getting students to sit tight instead of spreading into the wind unsupervised.

“Mr Solo, what’s going on?” a student asked.

“We’re still figuring that out,” he dismissed firmly. If he had to guess, someone was trying to get away from the smell and inadvertently opened an alarmed door. Someone may have also pulled an alarm in the initial confusion but it was hard to say.

“Solo!” he looked up to see the school resource officer, Tallie Lintra, approaching. She was in full uniform complete with kevlar vest and a buzzing radio, “Fire Department is in route,” she said seriously, “What happened?”

Ben shrugged going back to getting a head count of the collection of students around them. “Your guess is as good as mine, I doubt it’s an actual fire though,” he said.

Officer Lintra said something into her radio that he couldn’t make out; as if on cue Ben could hear sirens in the distance.

More students were popping out of seemingly nowhere making his task that much more difficult but with them more teachers to voice some authority. Phasma made in out the building and began the task of assisting Ben as a line of fire trucks began pulling into the parking lot.

It was barely controlled chaos.

Rey finally appearing from the front doors allowed Ben to breath a sigh of relief. Most surprisingly was the fact that she and Hux were helping a girl down the steps who appeared to be favoring one leg. Probably not the only casualty of tonight.

It was good to know that she was ok and he could focus more effectively.

The next few hours were long and tiresome. The Fire Department managed to get the alarm turned off and do a full sweep of the building. They discovered the source of smell was a prank stink bomb that had been dropped on the dance floor and that the alarm had been set off by someone using an alarmed door to get out. No fire, just a smelly gym and bunch of disappointed teens. There was a lot of calls to parents and coordinating of early pickups. After the fire department was able to clear the building were they allowed to go back inside.

Ben slumped against the wall, realizing how tired he was only after all the excitement dwindled down. He let his head drop back and his eyes briefly fluttered shut.

The staff would likely be dealing with the fallout from this for awhile, the thought of it exhausted him even more. He listened to the air conditioning overhead letting the white noise settle over the ringing in his ears. If Ben believed in such things he would have maybe thought it was some kind of curse. The game and then the whole homecoming disaster were almost too much for the span of one day. This morning he’d woken up in Rey’s bed, but that seemed like it might have happened a week ago. He wished that they’d spent the entire day there and skipped this whole damn mess.

“Hey.”

Ben opened his eyes to see her standing next to him, backlit by the fluorescent lights in a way that was almost angelic. She smiled at him, her hand outstretched to help him back to his feet. “You ready to go?” she asked softly. She’d taken her shoes off and was carrying them in her hand and she had a bag over her shoulder. On her slender wrist was the corsage he’d given her.

“Oh god, please get me out of here!” he said with a heavy sigh.

Rey laughed, a sound like wind chimes that made his heart race. He got to his feet feeling lighter than he had a night.

Cautiously he slid his arm over slender shoulders, unsure how she’d react to the contact while they were still at school. To his surprise she leaned into him, snaking her arm around his waist and closing any remaining distance between them.

Nothing had ever felt so natural to him, like she was the perfect shape to be beside him.

Chapter Text


 photo gift from rileybabe_zpsseezuz5g.jpg

Rey rested her chin on Ben’s bare chest, a sweet smile on her lips. She was a comforting weight to have sprawled over him and he held her there letting his fingers run little circles on the ridges of her spine. “What are you thinking about?” she asked idly.

“You,” he admitted without hesitation.

Her smile widened. “What about me?”

“How I want to know everything there is to know about you,” he said, tucking a strand of chestnut hair behind her ear.

“Alright what’s one thing you want to know and then it’s my turn,” she replied.

Ben thought for a moment, “Fair enough, so what made you want to be a teacher?” he asked. It seemed like a neutral place to start.

Rey was quiet, then started, “I think at first my main goal was to be an artist,” she said thoughtfully. “Then I had this teacher in Uni, Dr. Kenobi, who was a brilliant professor. He inspired people, the way everyone looked up to him and respected him and how he was able to become a part of his student’s lives… Something about that appealed to a little nobody from nowhere,” she explained.

“Nobody?” Ben asked confused.

“Me,” she answered softly. Her simple answer wrenched at something in his heart.

This woman, who had occupied his every waking thought since he’d first spoken to her and who had flipped his whole life sideways, thought that she was a nobody? The words felt so glaringly wrong to him. “You’re not nobody,” he said as his large hand gently cradled the side of her face. “Not to me.”

She was still for a moment, her hazel eyes searching his. “Ben,” she whispered softly, slightly stunned.

“You already inspire your students,” he said adamantly. “Hell, you inspire me,” he added. It wasn’t a lie either, since knowing Rey, Ben had started writing again and he was more patient in the classroom.

“Ben, stop it! You’ve got me tearing up again,” she said, quickly rubbing her wet eyes on the heel of her hand. Rey gave him a soft smile that made his heart race. “Besides it’s my turn,” she rolled to the side to nestle into his shoulder.

“Alright, I guess I agreed to that,” he said, shrugging slightly. “What do you want to know?” There were several topics that Ben simply didn’t discuss with anyone, and he wondered if he was quite ready to talk about them with Rey if she happened to go there.

Rey lifted her head, locking eyes with him. “What are we?”

The question hung in the air between them. It was something that Ben had wondered about himself as they’d been seeing each other for sometime now. For him the feelings were exclusive, Rey was the only woman he was interested in pursuing. Waking up beside her had been the bright spot in an otherwise dim and uninteresting life.

It was as if she had woken him up, colors were brighter, food tasted better, even sitting in the rain all day had been worth it simply to be next to her. Part of him wanted to dive right in, to tell everyone that Rey Niima was his girlfriend and that he was downright crazy for her. But another part of him held back, what if she didn’t feel the same? What if this was just a fun thing for her, and not as serious? He wasn’t sure how he would handle the rejection. All at once it became clear to him that Rey had the ability to utterly destroy him if the feeling wasn’t mutual. Fear suddenly gripped his chest as her lovely hazel eyes captured his.

Ben swallowed hard, “What do you want us to be?” he asked.

Rey looked thoughtful for a moment, “I just know that I like you, Ben,” she said softly. “I like this,” she gestured between the both of them. Ben waited for her to say ‘but’ and break him into little pieces. She continued, biting her lip nervously. “I guess I just want to know if this is serious?” she said quietly, her eyes dropping to his sheets.

He wasn’t sure how to respond, if he was too eager would that scare her away? If he hesitated would she take that as disinterest on his part? The truth was, he was absolutely crazy for her, he couldn’t take a breath of air without being reminded of her. When she wasn’t nearby he felt like he was missing a piece of himself. “I want to be with you,” he said softly surprising both of them with the earnest answer. Ben knew he should have been able to come up with something a little more romantic but it felt as if his brain cells were suddenly not firing like normal. Rey had this effect on him.

Her hazel eyes glittered brilliantly. “I want to be with you too,” her voice was barely a whisper. A quiet moment passed between them as the implications of what she’d said. Then all at once his mouth was on hers and he was kissing her fiercely. At any moment he thought he might wake up from this dream and all of it wouldhave never happened, but that wasn’t the case.

Rey’s tongue met his, her fingers finding their way into his hair and his hands circling her hips as she straddled his lap. They’d already had intense relations once that morning and yet Ben was back to full attention.

Rey’s lips followed his jawline to his neck to press a white hot kiss into his pulse point. “I want you,” Ben moaned.

“Then have me,” she sighed in his ear so softly that it sent an excited shudder down Ben’s spine. Her words bolstered his confidence as he wrapped his arm around her waist and flipped the both of them over, pinning her into the mattress. He was going to take his sweet time.

--------------

“Are you sure you have to go?”

Rey laughed lightly, “I’ve got to get the rent paid somehow,” she insisted while putting her hair up with the assistance of the passenger side mirror of Ben’s car. He pulled into a space on the curb in front of Kanata’s.

She wasn’t particularly keen on the idea of bartending that night, but when she’d agreed to work the shift she hadn’t necessarily planned on spending the previous night at Ben’s. Not to mention the whole Homecoming ordeal which had left both her and Ben utterly exhausted. They made up for it that morning but it also made it difficult to drag herself away from him to actually get any work done. Rey had also gotten a glimpse at the mountain of grading Ben had to do so she knew that she wasn’t the only one avoiding responsibilities.

Tucking any stray hairs back she turned to face him. He looked a great deal more tousled than she did, as if he had just rolled out of bed even though it was nearing two in the afternoon. His raven locks stood up at odd angles and his tee shirt was wrinkled as it had been sitting under a pile of clean unfolded laundry for several days. Most endearingly was his glasses, Rey wasn’t sure how she got this far without knowing he wore glasses or contacts but she liked this version of Ben. When they’d first met she’d assumed that he was always uptight and firmly pressed. Then she’d seen the inside of his home, stacks of books all over, newspapers piled up, and his work spread out over the dining room table. She’d almost imagined a clean white space, immaculate and serious, but what she found was very different. Now Rey couldn’t imagine Ben living anywhere else.

“Can I see you tonight?” Ben asked, his dark brown eyes making her heart speed up erratically.

“Yes,” she answered a little too quickly. “Why don’t you come over after I get off work and we can go to school in the morning together,” she added with less enthusiasm so not to sound too eager.

“I’ll pick you up here then,” Ben said.

“You don’t have to; I usually walk-- it’s only a few blocks from my building,” Rey replied gathering her bag over her shoulder.

“You walk home alone at night through the Takodana District?” Ben said alarmed.

“Usually, yeah, unless it’s raining or something,” she adjusted the strap of her bag to face Ben fully. “Besides, I’m not closing so it won’t be so late. Downtown is pretty tame at ten o’clock at night.”

Ben looked at her seriously, “Can I please pick you up from work?” he asked. Clearly this walking alone at night was bothering him. Rey’d grown up in some of the shadiest areas of London and this place could barely hold a candle to that. But it was nice that someone was concerned enough to volunteer to come pick her up.

“Okay,” she relented finally. “I get off at ten, I’ll see you then.”

She leaned in to kiss him and he responded eagerly, his tongue parting her lips gently and his hand finding the back of her neck. It took a great deal of self control to not crawl into his lap. Instead, she settled on wrapping her arms around his shoulders and dragging him back into her until he had to brace himself against the passenger door. Rey knew she didn’t have a lot of time to be fooling around like this so she parted from him remorsefully. They were both breathless for a moment, taking in great gulps of air between them.

“I’ll be here at ten,” he affirmed, he was still close enough that she could feel his warm breath on her lips.

“Ten o’clock,” she agreed. She couldn’t resist a quick affectionate kiss on the tip of his nose. “See you then.”

Rey could see something in Ben’s eyes but he held it back. “See you soon,” he replied. There was something unsaid there but she pretended not to notice. Instead she hopped out of the front seat and waved pleasantly back at him. He waved with an awkward smile as she walked up to the front of the bar and let herself in.

Kanata’s was a classy enough joint, the bar was edged in brass and the barstools were padded leather. It was a far cry from the last bar she’d worked, more reputable clientele and a much much better boss.

Maz Kanata herself sat atop a stool at the register setting up the till for the coming shift. “Rey,” she welcomed warmly from her perch.

“Hi Maz,” Rey greeted, walking over to deposit her bag under the bar.

“And how was Homecoming?” her boss asked.

“Terrible,” Rey replied.

“I heard that your team got their asses handed to them,” she said while counting bills to make change. “And that someone pulled a fire alarm at the dance,” Maz added.

Rey looked up from prepping her barstation, “How’d you hear about that?”

Maz lifted one of her thin brows over her bottle rim glasses. “I know everything that happens in this city,” she said knowingly. “And it was printed in the paper,” she added casually, vaguely gesturing at a newspaper at the end of the bar.

Rey was a little surprised that Ben hadn’t mentioned it to her, as he and Maz were the only two that still got their news from an actual newspaper. Then she remembered that Ben really hadn’t had a lot of time to actually read the paper between their insatiable sexual appetites that morning.

“There, your cash box is all set,” Maz said. “We had a pretty busy night last night so I doubt there will be as many tonight, but if it gets busy come get me,” her boss hopped down from her stool. The woman was extremely short, barely making it past Rey’s elbows, and yet she could manage a bar like none other.

“Thank you, Maz,” Rey said cheerfully.

“Thank you, Rey,” she replied kindly. “You’re quite the ray of sunshine in this place.” The bar owner retreated to her office to begin work on scheduling and payroll.

The compliment made Rey blush modestly as she went back to setting up to open the bar.

Things were pretty quiet for the first part of her shift. It gave Rey time to look over the article that Maz had mentioned. ‘Rough Night for CHS’ the title read. It detailed the teams devastating loss and the disastrous dance that followed.

Rey was about half way through the article when the door to the bar opened and her first patron strolled in. She refolded the paper and tucked it out of sight and looked up at the lone man settling at the bar.

Sudden recognition bloomed in the man’s face as she realized just who had sat down at her bar.

“You’re--” Han started to say.

“Ben’s father,” Rey finished. She could immediately pick out the little resemblances in his facial features that matched up with Ben’s. The man was grayer and little scruffier but the similarities in their mannerisms were uncanny.

Han smiled slightly, “And you’re Rey,” he said. “Leia mentioned you the other night.”

“Leia mentioned me?” there was a hint of concern in her voice.

“Only good things, I promise. Though I was under the impression that you were another teacher,” he said waving his hand a little.

“I am,” Rey replied, “It’s just that first year teachers are…” she hesitated.

“Drastically underpaid?” Han finished. “I know what I was like in high school, all of you are practically saints for what you put up with.”

Rey smiled, “So what can I get you, Mr. Solo?” she asked. It was a little strange hearing that name assigned to someone other than Ben.

“Whiskey. Neat. If you would be so kind,” he said. “And please, call me Han. Mr. Solo is my son.”

Rey nearly snorted a laugh but contained it as she poured a few ounces of amber liquor into a glass and set it in front of him. “So I thought I heard that you were here on a long layover,” she asked cautiously. Surely a layover wasn’t that long though and the weather had cleared up this morning bringing sunshine and a burst of autumn warmth with it.

Han shifted in his seat uncomfortably, “Just how much has Ben told you about me, Rey?” he asked.

“Honestly, almost nothing,” she replied. “I was a little scared to ask.”

Han didn’t seem all that surprised by her answer but a bit remorseful. “Well, I’m a pilot so a long layover seemed like a good enough excuse,” he said turning his whiskey glass slightly. “How is Ben?” he asked after a few quiet moments.

Rey was a little taken aback. “He’s good,” she said timidly, unsure if she was treading into some unknown territory of what appeared to be a very complicated father/son dynamic. But she could tell the man missed his son, it spurred an ache in her chest that she never had a father to miss her. “We had a bit too much excitement chaperoning the dance last night, so I’m pretty sure he’s just taking a rest for today,” she explained, feeling the need to give Han some kind of update while still respecting Ben’s privacy.

“He takes after his old man in that regard, Solos have a tendency to find themselves in too much excitement all the time,” Han said as he took a thoughtful sip of the amber liquid. “It’s good to see him with someone.” The older man paused thoughtfully and an awkward silence fell over the bar. Rey tried to focus on cleaning the already immaculate bar but she had so many questions she was too nervous to ask. From the look on Han’s face, he had a few questions too. “So what’s your story, Rey?” he asked finally cutting the palpable silence.

Rey was interested to hear a bit more about the Solo family’s draw to excitement but it appeared Han would prefer to know more about her. She doubted Ben would fill his father in on their budding relationship given how little communication there seemed to be.

It suddenly hit her that she was the official girlfriend of Ben Solo. This was her only opportunity to make a good impression with her boyfriend’s father, the stakes were abruptly much higher than she had anticipated.

“Not much of a story,” she said with a small shrug as she wiped down the bar top to keep her hands busy. “I teach art at Corellia, I’m from London, nothing particularly exciting.”

“You took over when Luke retired,” Han nodded.

“How do you know Luke?” Rey asked surprised.

Han laughed, “He’s my brother-in-law, or ex-brother-in-law, I guess. He introduced Leia and I,” he said as if Rey should have already known that. She looked at him stunned and his smile faded slightly, “Did Ben not tell you that?” he asked confused.

“So Luke and Leia are… siblings?” she tried to put together all of the mismatched pieces of this increasingly complicated family.

“Fraternal twins, actually,” he said.

Rey tried to figure how that was possible, now that it was pointed out to her she supposed that there was a resemblance between the two from what she could recall. Then she remembered Mr. Threepio at the restaurant the other night asking Ben how Luke was and Ben’s obvious distaste at the reaction. Then there was the whole incident last spring where Ben had lost his temper with Luke in the faculty parking lot for reasons that no one but Ben and Luke understood. Rey had assumed it was it was simply a disagreement between coworkers, now it seemed like a much deeper conflict.

“Ben and Luke didn’t get along much,” she said, still surprised and wondering when Ben was planning on filling her in on all this.

“They’ve been butting heads since Ben was a teenager,” Han said finishing his whiskey. Rey poured him a double without being asked. “He went to live with Luke while Leia and I were sorting out the divorce. Luke does all that meditation and yoga shit, we thought it might curb some of Ben’s anger issues while we were all transitioning. Didn’t quite go the way we thought it would,” he said with a shrug.

“I had no idea,” Rey said softly. She could see a hint of guilt in Han’s graying features, it painted the picture of an uncle when Ben likely needed a father the most.

“I doubt Ben brings it up very often,” he said, swirling his glass slightly and regarding it. “But this doesn’t tell me much about you, the woman who managed to snag Ben’s attention.” Han probed.

“I’m nobody special,” she said, Ben words from this morning ringing in her ears. ‘Not to me.’ The thought made her cheeks heat up the memory of how fervently he had said it.

“Seriously doubt that,” Han scoffed, “Leia wouldn’t speak so highly of you otherwise.”

Rey was flattered that Leia spoke highly of her to Ben’s father and her ex husband. She’d worried that she hadn’t made much of an impression. Han gave her a roguish smile that made it clear that he knew he was right. It was a smile that she’d seen on Ben’s face.

They conversed easily for another half hour. He told her about how Corellia Heights, now a sprawling middle class suburb of the city used to be home to lower class blue collar factory workers like Han’s father before widespread gentrification displaced them. That, like Ben, he’d attended Corellia High with Luke, that he’d fought like hell to get away from it as a boy and only to end up raising his son there later in life. “Funny how somethings come full circle sometimes,” he said with a nostalgic sigh. Rey wouldn’t know, she hoped that she’d never have to go back to where she came from.

“Ben told me that Leia’s parents were senators, why was Luke growing up in a neighborhood like that?” she asked after Han finished with a tale of how he and Luke narrowly escaped a gang of local boys who were responsible for a string of thefts and muggings in their pre-gentrified neighborhood.

“Luke and Leia didn’t find out that they were fraternal twins until they were in their early twenties,” Han explained. “They were adopted into two different families. Leia went to the Organas (who weren’t big fans of me by the way) and Luke was taken in his by their biological father’s step-brother, Owen.”

“They separated twins?” Rey said dumbfounded. She had some familiarity with the foster and adoption situation in London, from her experience they usually made at least a moderate effort to keep siblings together. Han could only shrug.

“No one is quite sure who made that call or what their reasoning was but eventually they found out about each other and reconnected, then Luke introduced us. I don’t think he was too thrilled that we started dating, her parents even less so,” he said. It didn’t surprise her in the slightest that Leia rebelled a little for Han. He was charming and with just enough of an edge to feel dangerous in an exciting way.

“Then what?” Rey asked intrigued.

“Luke and I were getting deployed, Leia was working in the State Senate then she found out she was having Ben and so we ran out and got hitched at the courthouse down the street. She had Ben while I was stationed in Yevin,” Han said mournfully. “First of many birthdays of his that I missed,” he added.

A perspective of Ben’s early life became a little clearer. She wondered what his side of the story sounded like, maybe their upbringings weren’t so different after all.

“Look at me, the last thing you probably wanted to do today was spend the afternoon listening to all the things an old man did wrong,” Han said.

Rey gave him a smile, “I’m a bartender, hearing about everyone else’s problems is what I do,” she shrugged. “Another refill?”

Han shook his head, “Probably shouldn’t but thank you,” he said. “I gotta call a cab for the airport sometime tonight,” he said.

“You’re not flying tonight, are you?” she asked recalling that he was a pilot.

Han waved it off, “Nah, I flew in on stand-by,” he said.

“I thought it was a long layover?”

The older man looked at her surprised. “You’re a sharp one, Rey. Good, it’ll give Ben a run for his money,” he shook a finger in her general direction. A mixture of pride and bashfulness bloomed in her chest at his comment. “But no, that was just an excuse to visit Leia,” he admitted.

Rey felt a little bad for pressing him, but he offered his hand across the bar. “It was nice meeting you, Rey,” Han said. She shook his hand with a smile. “Keep an eye on Ben for me, I know he doesn’t want his old man watching out for him but I got a good feeling about you.”

“It was good meeting you too, Han,” she said, remembering what he’d told her about calling him Mr. Solo. She released his hand to straighten the well as he laid a few bills on the bar.

“Keep the change,” he said with a smile and wave as he hopped off his bar stool and walked out the door.

Rey rounded back around to pick up the money he’d left only to be startled at the fact that it was a single hundred. Thinking that surely it was not what he’d meant to leave she snatched it up and hurried out the door after him only to find the sidewalk empty. Confused, she walked back inside unsure what to do with it, she supposed she could give it to Ben to give back to Han. She ran it up at the register, a ten would have covered the sub-par well whiskey and the change came out to a little more than $90. It felt wrong to pocket it, so she assured herself that she’d return it somehow.

The rest of her shift was less than exciting after Han had departed and it was as slow as cold molasses, which led to a great deal of cleaning and a little bit of time to read her book of poetry by E.E. Cummings that Ben had given her. She read each one at least twice and some several more times than that. There was even one that she’d marked with a sticky note; she opened the book to the marked page and read with a guilty but delicious feeling.

i like my body when it is with your
body. It is so quite new a thing.
Muscles better and nerves more.
i like your body. i like what it does,
i like its hows. i like to feel the spine
of your body and its bones,and the trembling
-firm-smooth ness and which i will
again and again and again
kiss, i like kissing this and that of you,
i like, slowly stroking the,shocking fuzz
of your electric furr, and what-is-it comes
over parting flesh….And eyes big love-crumbs,

and possibly i like the thrill

of under me you so quite new

The poem made her blush especially when she read it in Ben luscious baritone. She wondered if he would be interested in reading it in the bedroom, or would he find it too much too soon? Maybe she’d pull it out after they’d put a few more weeks into their new relationship before presenting the question.

She was half way through reading it a second time when the waitress approached the bar and put in an order for an Old Fashioned and another glass of Merlot. She set the book down at the bar and started making the cocktail. Rey was muddling the bitters and a sugar cube when the door to the bar opened and Ben appeared, her heart leapt into her throat with excitement. Even just seeing his face had set her nerves on fire.

He was dressed more fully than when he had dropped her off earlier, less like he had just rolled out of bed. His hair combed and face cleanly shaved, he was still wearing his glasses which Rey was becoming increasingly fond of.

They caught sight of each other across the bar and he smiled at her, she let herself finish the two ounce pour of Bourbon before practically skipping over to him to plant a warm kiss on his waiting lips.

“I missed you,” he said as their lips parted.

“You’re early,” she replied, happy to see him.

“Because I missed you,” he smirked.

Rey smiled then glanced at the clock behind her. It was only about half past nine but maybe she could get an excuse to leave a little early and let Emmie, the closer take over.

She wanted to mention Han but the words failed before she could find them. Rey decided to wait until later to bring it up. “Do you want anything?” she asked since he might be waiting for her.

“Just some water, sweetheart,” he said modestly. He would get over his aversion to drinking for free sooner or later. The pet name wasn’t lost on her either, the sound of it from his lips made the butterflies under her skin frill with excitement.

He settled onto a stool at the end of the bar where she’d been reading while she went about getting the rest of the drinks on order made and checked on the patron that was sitting in front of the tap. When she returned to Ben with a glass of water, he was reading her poetry, the book opened to the page she’d marked. Rey felt her cheeks heat up drastically.

Ben looked up from the provocative poetry a similar blush on his cheeks, “This one your favorite?” his dark eyebrows bobbed suggestively.

Rey floundered for a moment, unsure what to say exactly, the book was full of beautiful and more innocent poems that didn’t make her think about his hands in… places. Why did she mark that one again? “I-- ummm-- it’s just--” her mouth took off without her brain.

“It’s a good one,” he said, nearly making Rey’s legs turn to jelly. “Especially the last two lines: ‘and possibly i like the--’”

“Ben!” she gasped, clasping a hand over his plush lips and cutting him off before he got to the ‘under me’ part.

“Right, I’ll save it for later,” he said around her hand. Her face and neck flamed; so much for waiting to make that particular request. Ben looked rather pleased with himself when she released him. The bastard.

--------------

I like your body,” Ben said, his voice wavering with the thrust of his hips. “I like what it does,” he breathed next to her ear, maintaining the unfaltering pace. Rey keened, her breasts arching into his chest.

“Oh God, Ben!” Rey moaned, her fingers digging into his back, her breath hot on his skin.

He couldn’t stop now if his wanted to, “I like it’s hows,” he quoted “I like to feel the spine--” he cradled her small body against his, his fingers finding the ridges of her spine and ribcage. “--of your body and its bones, and the trembling,” he groaned, his lips against her smooth collarbone. His length sheathed itself inside her and his breath caught in his throat. Rey let out another beautiful moan, his name on her lips.

The knot in his belly was wound so tightly that he was on the very edge of completely losing his grip. He struggled to remember the words momentarily as he was rapidly approaching his peak. Rey tensed underneath him and he felt her spasm around his length as she came undone with soft cries of pleasure that engulfed him. That pushed him over the edge and he filled her insides with a groan.

He stilled, every muscle in his body sang with pleasure. His brain struggled to catch up to where he was, “-firm-smooth ness and which I will again,” he punctuated his words with a soft kiss on her chest. “--and again,” another kiss to her flushed neck. “--and again,” he kissed her breast. “--kiss.” Ben kissed her throat with feather soft lips.

Rey was steadily coming down from the high of release, she couldn’t help but laugh softly and sweetly as he peppered more kisses on her hot skin.

I like kissing this--” he said, pressing another gentle kiss onto the edge of her shoulder. “--and that--” his lips on her ear. “--of you.” He came finally face to face with her, taking her lips with his in impossible softness that made her tremble. Ben Solo was a closet romantic.

--------------

Maile Ankar: OMG i jus saw ur chatter post!!!

Mitzi Whitman: OMG IKR?!!?!
Mitzi Whitman: how flippin cute right?!

Maile Ankar: gotta admit Whitman, i had my doubts…
Maile Ankar: but ur right - they hella cute together

Mitzi Whitman: BEST HOMECOMING EVA!!!

Maile Ankar: i wouldnt say that too loud dude-- besides that it kinda sucked

Mitzi Whitman: yeah but it was worth it in the end

Maile Ankar: i still cant believe you got them holdin hands…

Mitzi Whitman: I KNOW!!
Mitzi Whitman: robbie tipped me off that they ms niima was leaving wit someone

Maile Ankar: and they didnt see u creepin in th parkin lot?

Mitzi Whitman: idk but so worth it!

Maile Ankar: lol mitz u creepin

Chapter Text

There had been something about Ben watching her dress that morning that was strangely sensual in a way that she hadn’t expected it to be. A morning of domesticity that made her heart pound furiously at what the future could be. Their future. Rey didn’t want to jinx them but it was thrilling to get ready beside him that morning. She could get used to it.

It didn’t go completely smoothly however. Shortly after their morning coffee and a light breakfast Ben realized that he’d forgotten his contact case and was forced to wear his glasses. Then on the way down her building’s stairs her heel snapped and, while Ben caught her from taking what would have been a nasty fall, they still found themselves having to run back up to her apartment to exchange her shoes. They were running a few minutes late when they hit a band of construction along Kessel Parkway that set them back enough that Ben wouldn’t have time to swing by his house and grab his contacts.

Rey chewed her lip thoughtfully as they were stopped in a line of cars waiting to progress through a single lane. “So your father came into Kanata’s yesterday afternoon,” she said testing the waters.

Ben looked up alarmed. “He what?”

She couldn’t tell if Ben was upset about it or not, “I should have said something last night, I’m sorry,” she added quickly. “It’s just that I think he left a really big tip by mistake, and I was wondering if you could maybe return it to him.”

An unreadable look settled over Ben’s features, perhaps bringing it up when they were stuck in traffic. He was painfully silent for a minute before sighing, “Keep it,” he said finally, drumming his fingers on the wheel.

“I think he just mistook a hundred for a ten or something,” Rey insisted.

“It sounds like something he would do,” Ben stressed quietly watching the SUV in front of them inch forward impatiently. “Did he say anything to you?” he asked, turning his head to catch her gaze.

“I think Leia may have told him about us,” she said, “And he talked a little about his time at Corellia.” She wondered if she should mention that he had told her about Luke and about their family history. Rey and Ben were so new still that it seemed wrong to start off by withholding and keeping secrets, hence why she’d brought it up in the first place.

“I’m sure she did, I don’t know what she sees in him sometimes,” he groaned turning back to face the unmoving traffic.

Rey wondered exactly what Ben meant. Han had come off as charming and roguish, he’d been interesting to talk to and almost exactly what she’d wished her own father was like if she’d ever actually known him. But seeing Ben’s reaction and remembering Han lamenting on how much of his son’s life he’d missed-- it struck a chord somewhere in Rey’s heart. “I’m sorry, are you upset?” she asked quietly.

To her surprise, Ben’s hand moved to hers. His long fingers intertwined with hers and rested gently in her lap. “No, I’m not upset, it’s just complicated,” he said turning to look at her again. She stared up at his dark coffee colored eyes that were covered with the black rimmed glasses, she could see a lifetime of his disappointment and her heart ached with sympathy.

When she was five, her mother had surrendered her to social services. Rey could vividly remember her mother’s face full of tears and her promise that she’d be back very soon. So Rey had waited every day for her return, changing foster homes and group homes always in a panic to her case manager that her mother wouldn’t be able to find her if she moved too often. She’d spent her whole childhood waiting for the too-young mother that never came back. Rey wondered how often Ben was promised a father who let him down. She wondered if her mother felt the same regret Han did.

Rey squeezed his hand gently as if to say she understood. Traffic finally started moving again.

By the time they made into Corellia High’s faculty parking lot, they were running a little late by teacher standards even though it would still be a few minutes before school grounds were flooded with students. Regardless Ben and Rey were all smiles as they got out of the car. Ben reached for her hand, taking it softly, his hand warm and firm.

As they entered through the faculty entrance their morning shifted dramatically. He dropped her hand as Kaydel entered the foyer looking nervous.

“Snoke is here,” she said urgently to them not even noticing that they had entered together.

“What? Why?” Ben demanded alarmed. Of all the mornings to be late. He and Rey exchanged anxious looks.

Kaydel shrugged, “I don’t know, he’s in Leia’s office right now. It might have something to do with Homecoming or maybe Canady?” That seemed a reasonable enough explanation.

“Thanks for the heads up, Kaydel,” Ben said, straightening his tie. The young administrator nodded and walked back out of the coat room leaving him and Rey in an uncertain silence. The last person he wanted to have to interact with was Superintendent Snoke, the man was the perfect example of a person who shouldn’t have become a teacher.

Bernard Snoke and Ben had a history: when Ben was in high school, Snoke had taught algebra as well as coached the swim team. His coaching style bordered on abusive so much so that it would make Canady flinch. Snoke was manipulative and cunning, able to dodge consequences by never leaving enough proof to validate any student that complained about him. He saw a lot of potential in Ben and often singled him out on a regular basis, lording his greater potential over other students resulting in him being alienated by peers.

After graduation, Snoke bullied the Board of Education to beat out Leia for the position of Superintendent. When Ben had gotten his degree, Snoke had offered him a job in his administration which he took even when his instincts urged him otherwise. It turned out to be a group of all men (Snoke was notoriously sexist) less interested in educating children and more interested in their own gains. Ben resigned a year later, and Snoke took it personally making it difficult to find work as an actual teacher. It was eventually Leia who stepped in and offered him the position at Corellia. It had been a miserable part of Ben’s life and one that he wasn’t interested in revisiting.

He pushed a hand through his hair, taking in a deep breath of air through his nose.

“Are you ok?” Rey asked softly, her small hand touched his arm and was immediately calming to the simmering anger at Snoke’s presence.

“Yeah, I’m fine,” Ben insisted, laying his hand softly over hers.

They made for the teacher’s lounge, to find several of their coworkers lingering anxiously.

Rose waved them over to where she was standing in the corner with Finn, they both had untouched coffee cups beside them that they seemed too nervous to drink. Rey hurried over to them eager for more details on what was actually happening. Ben tagged behind her, worrying the inside of his cheek in a nervous tick.

“Why is the Superintendent here?” Rey asked.

“Why isn’t he here?” Finn groaned.

“Is it about the dance?”

“That’s part of it, but not the only part--” Finn started.

“He’s interviewing Finn about the confrontation with Canady,” Rose finished.

“Well that was hardly on Finn,” Rey said.

“And there might be something else…” Rose looked between Ben and Rey nervously.

They looked at her expectantly, Rose bit her lip before pulling out her phone and showing it them. Ben took the device in his hand looking at it an angle so that Rey would also be able to see.

Ben felt his chest deflate when he saw that it was another inane Chatter exchange over a photo posted. It took only a second to realize that it was a photo of him and Rey in the faculty parking lot. It wasn’t like they were doing anything inappropriate, but they were walking to Ben’s car with their hands clasped together, Rey’s head was resting lightly on his shoulder. It was taken from somewhere to their left, faces clearly visible in the bright parking lot spot lights.

Their students hiding behind chatter handles were practically gushing at the display and blatant violation of their privacy. Ben could feel a prickle of anger in his spine.

“Well there’s nothing Snoke can do about that, not that it’s his business,” Ben said, containing the simmer of rage that threatened to boil over. There might be something that he could say about it being on school grounds and witnessed by a student… but would it be worth the trouble? With most superintendents, no, but with Snoke it was hard to tell.

“And who is ‘Miss Mitz’ anyway?” Rey asked taking the phone from Ben’s hand.

“My guess, Mitzi Whitman,” Rose said. “The name is pretty distinctive,” the physics teacher shrugged.

Both Rey and Ben had Mitzi in their classes but neither of them could recall seeing her at Homecoming at all, let alone in the faculty lot as they were leaving.

“I doubt that Snoke can even do anything about the photo,” Rey said, “I’m more worried about this interview with Finn.” She handed the phone back to Rose. Her confidence made Ben shift uncomfortably, she had no way of knowing about his previous interactions with Snoke.

“Don’t remind me,” Finn groaned.

“You did nothing wrong,” Rose said firmly.

“Yeah it was Canady’s call, not yours,” Ben agreed, but in the safety of his own mind he was still worrying over just how spiteful his old boss might be.

“Still not looking forward to it,” Finn replied. “He looks like he was run over by a truck, and he talks down at you.” A fairly accurate description. “And you know he’s not above punishing everyone for what one person does--” Also true, Snoke was known for scathing budget cuts throughout the district. Ben also wouldn’t put it past Snoke to change the rules in his favor out of spite.

“Where’s Poe?” Rey asked looking around, it was unusual to see Finn and Rose without him.

“Talking with Amilyn, Snoke showing up this morning has everyone all in a tizzy,” Rose said. “I don’t know what they’re talking about but I’m pretty sure it has something to do with that.”

Ben checked his watch, “Homeroom will be starting in a few minutes, we should probably get moving,” he said looking over at Rey.

“Let me know what happens,” Rey said urgently to Finn “As soon as you can, my first period is all open studio today.” Finn nodded looking like he might be going to face the firing squad.

Ben followed Rey out into the hallway, resisting the urge to take her hand in his own as students were starting to shuffle past. They turned down the Arts and Humanities corridor and made their way to their classrooms keeping a respectful distance from each other. Neither could find the right words to say to each other, their moods tainted by the dark cloud that was Snoke lurking in the main offices.

“Do you think that photo is going to be a problem?” Rey asked softly as they hesitated outside her classroom.

Ben shrugged, “I don’t know for sure,” he said. “But right now it’s more likely that Snoke is here about Homecoming,” he added seeing the concern in her eyes. He wanted very much to kiss her before they parted ways but there were too many students around.

“You’re right,” she said rubbing her arm. “I’ll see you at lunch? If you don’t spend your whole planning period watching my lecture on color theory from your desk, that is,” she teased gently.

He smiled, she had Art 1 during his planning period and the arrangement of her room meant that she lectured in direct line of sight of his desk. It made for a difficult planning period because it was easy to get caught up in watching her teach enthusiastically. “Try not to get too distracted until then, Niima,” he said with a wink.

“You wish, Solo,” she said back before turning into her classroom. Her homeroom freshman were beginning to pop up from all over and so were Ben’s juniors. Ben retreated into his own classroom. His desk was exactly as he’d left it on Friday afternoon, the only thing that had changed was that the custodian had emptied the wastebaskets and sanitized a few surfaces.

Ben tried to treat the morning like it was any other, but there was an undefinable anxiousness that had settled in his chest like things were about to go very wrong.

--------------------

Rey did her best to forget about the fact that the superintendent was currently in the building and to her credit her homeroom made it fairly easy. Her students were excitable and ready to ask numerous questions about the weekends events, Rey wanted to up front with them but the photo that was now being spread around social media of her and Ben made her nervous about being too upfront.

The good news is that her homeroom was made up entirely of freshmen so they didn’t often run in the same social circles as the upperclassmen that were the current suspects. It was possible that they had not seen it... yet.

Unfortunately her first period class that followed was was all juniors and seniors and she could immediately tell that they’d seen it. She steered away from most conversations right away, starting her figure drawing class with silent practice for ten minutes. Normally, Rey sat and did the practice sketch with them or modeled but today she sat at her desk frequently refreshing her school email for any notifications about any kind of debrief about this weekend.

Leia had sent out an email initially about the incident at the homecoming game with an update on the injured players condition and the dance: Wendell was expected to make a full recovery after a minor concussion and would be expected back in classes on Tuesday or Wednesday. Also that Canady is currently on unpaid leave while further consequences were being looked into at the district level. There was a follow up about the dance with details from the fire department about the fire alarm that went off and the stink bomb that had caused the initial panic. The fire alarm was believed to have been an accident, that someone had triggered an alarmed door attempting to leave. As for the stink bomb, there would be an assembly for students on the topic on Wednesday.

Rey had received the email Sunday morning, so far nothing else to determine why the superintendent himself was there or what his motives were.

Her first period transitioned into open studio time to focus on their midterm projects that were coming up, so Rey put on some music (quietly). She was helping where it was needed, offering guidance and advice as she moved around the room.

She was knee deep assisting a junior who was struggling with some foreshortening issues, when another student raised their hand.

“Mrs. Solo, can you help me this?”

“I’ll be over in a minute, Shane,” Rey responded automatically.

It took half a second to realize her mistake, as a quiet snicker rang out through the class. She could feel her cheeks heat up slightly. All at once the gravity of her response hit her. She had only just decided to call Ben Solo her boyfriend yesterday. Now she was answering to “Mrs. Solo”? What the hell had gotten into her? How did she possibly come back from this?

It wasn’t like she could simply just walk out of the classroom at that moment-- she was right in the trenches. Her entire class was now watching for her response to see how she’d react. As much as she wanted the floor to swallow her whole this wasn’t going away.

“There that looks much better,” she said to the senior she was currently working with. It didn’t; the proportions still looked off but they would address it more later.

Rey stood up straight, brushing off her skirt and walking over to Shane’s table where he was seated with a small group of his friends, all giggling eagerly.

“What was it you needed help with, Shane?” Rey asked kindly.

Shane was a handsome enough kid, a cocky grin and wiry athletic build that made him good at gymnastics and performing as the Corellia High Falcon. His parents were divorced and his father lived in the same building as Rey, they’d met at the mailboxes once or twice. Shane would spend the occasional weekend with his father and Rey had seen him around once or twice since the school year had started. Most of all Shane was a handful, so far one that Rey had handled simply by being the fun art teacher.

But it was clear now that maybe a firmer hand was necessary. Rey had grown up in foster care and had dealt with his type before, there was some pent up frustration below the surface that made him use the cocky persona to cover it up.

“Oh, I think I got it figured out actually,” Shane said with a too-smooth smile on his slightly chapped lips.

“Oh good,” Rey said, cheerfully. Shane turned back to his work but Rey leaned in. “And Shane,” she started, controlling her tone to one of deadly seriousness that made the young student’s head bolt straight up. His cocky grin melted right off his face and there was a momentary flash of fear in his eyes. “My name is Ms. Niima, are we clear?” she said firmly, her voice was dangerously low.

Shane nodded, his adam’s apple bobbing nervously.

Rey smiled, her face softening. “I’d prefer you address me as that from now on, ok?”

The room was devoid of any giggling now and the only sound was the crackle of the radio over the classic rock station it was tuned to. Shane nodded again.

Rey walked back to her desk and the class returned to working on their mid term projects. This was not how she wanted her day to go.

-----------------

Shane McMasters: dude… way to get me into trouble!

Maile Ankar: hahahahahhahahahahahha!!!! :P

Shane McMasters: dude how did ms niima do that??
Shane McMasters: that was fuckin terrifyin!

Maile Ankar: i think ms niima grew up on the streets or something jeeezus!

Shane McMasters: that was all ur idea to call her mrs solo

Maile Ankar: mitzi will shit a brick when sh hears about this

Shane McMasters: well thanks alot
Shane McMasters: pretty sure ms niima hates me now

Maile Ankar: like damn! U kno shes seen some shit…

Shane McMasters: prolly ran with a gang in england or somethin

Maile Ankar: u think?

Shane McMasters: prolly… idk

Maile Ankar: no wonder she and mr solo like each other

Shane McMasters:wtf are u talkin about?

Maile Ankar: well u kno solo’s done some shit…

Shane McMasters: hahahaha! Yea right
Shane McMasters: solos a pansy ass momma’s boy who writes poetry.
Shane McMasters: he acts all hard but i think niima could definitely use that essex boys gang knowledge to spank him in a fight

Maile Ankar: the what gang? And what about spanking?? Lol

Shane McMasters: jeezus mai, watch something other than crappy romcoms for once

Maile Ankar: for real tho-- do u think theyre into spanking?lol

----------------

Ben didn’t know why all of his morning classes had to look at him like he had something offensive written on his forehead. It was so nerve wrecking that he had to go check his reflection in the bathroom between homeroom and first period. It was just his normal reflection plus his glasses which he knew was news to most everyone. He almost always wore contacts and had since he was in his teens. Rey had insisted that morning that she liked them, that they gave him a very scholarly appearance. Ben was just reminded of having them be broken by bullies when he was nine, and again at fifteen during a schoolyard fight. After the second incident his mother finally allowed him to get contacts.

During his first period it became clear that it was indeed the glasses that had his students forgetting basic social skills.

“Mr. Solo, did you get glasses?”

“No, I’ve always had them, I just normally wear contacts.”

“Why aren’t you wearing your contacts?”

“Because I forgot to get contact solution.”

“You look like a professor.”

“Thank you, Kyle,” Ben replied in a bored tone.

He had a similar exchange in his second period that made him look forward to third period which was his planning period and the best time to watch Rey lecture which was his favorite part of his off hour. He settled at his desk at the front of the room as his second period students filed out the door.

He’d barely sat down when a tall figure appeared in the doorway sending several students scuttling away in terror. Ben glanced up and who he saw immediately put him back on his feet again.

Snoke.

“Ahhh, Ben Solo, it’s been some time,” Snoke said smoothly, inspecting the walls of Ben’s classroom with notable ire. “The sweet, young, administrator informed me that it’s currently your off hour.” The man was as tall if not even a little taller than Ben, he had sallow skin and sunken pale eyes. Snoke was entirely bald on top of his head and his skull had a prominent scar from where his hairline would be all the way to his right brow ridge. He’d heard Poe describe him as the “crypt keeper” which was rather fitting as far as Ben was concerned.

Despite Snoke’s ghastly facial appearance, the man was always dressed impeccably and expensively. Today he wore a tailored black suit and gaudy gold silk tie.

Ben had a decent trust fund from his Organa grandparents, they were politicians after all, but he’d lived fairly modestly (it also wasn’t as impressive as one would expect, taking a few hits during the market crash and he used a portion to make a downpayment on a house). He’d put most of it into savings until it seemed appropriate to put it to use, assuming it would be for his children’s college fund if he ever had any. Aside from that he lived off of his teacher salary and that wasn’t much. Most of his colleagues barely were getting by but stayed in their jobs because they loved it. Rey tended bar because she couldn’t cover all of her bills on her salary alone. And then there was Snoke, wearing a watch that likely cost more than her car.

“Mr. Snoke,” Ben said fighting the urge to spit the words out at his old boss.

“I hear you’ve taken some liberties with the sophomore reading lists this year,” Snoke commented casually scanning the literary posters decorating the wall.

Ben chanced a glance across the hall to see Rey. She was greeting her students at the door but she could clearly see something was up, concern lighting up her pretty hazel eyes. The end of passing period was signaled by the bell and Ben slowly walked over and closed his door. She didn’t need to be distracted by the monster that had come strolling into his classroom.

“I’ve made a few additions, as long as they get the required texts that’s not an issue,” he chose his words carefully. It was hardly something that the district would bat an eyelash at, so why was Snoke bringing it up now of all times?

“I’m simply concerned that you’ve taken on more than you can handle,” Snoke said with a sigh as if Ben was acting like a petulant child. “Given your history of stress induced outbursts and the various other distractions you’ve invited into your life.” Snoke looked up at where Rey’s classroom would be had Ben not closed the door.

Something about the way Snoke said it made Ben’s blood boil under his skin. He was bringing up Rey? As if it was any of his business to bring up?

“What do you mean?” Ben asked, at his side his fist clenched tightly.

“Ms. Niima is a lovely woman, yes, but I’m afraid I don’t expect her to last long. She is a most talented artist, but we will have to see how proficient a teacher she is,” he said. Ben could see the thinly veiled threat that Snoke had laid out; in the back of his mind he wanted to hit Snoke in the teeth. He tried to push those feelings down knowing full well that Snoke would throw the book at him for any wrong move.

“I don’t see what this has to do with Ms. Niima,” Ben stated firmly.

Snoke smirked, an ugly look on his thin, miss-colored lips. “Oh but I think you do,” he replied. “I have my staff monitoring for teacher missteps throughout the district that make it into the public eye. We must present as our best and brightest after all and I can’t be finding out that district employees have misrepresented themselves through a concerned parent,” he said, using a tone that made Ben feel like he was a child again. “It seems you and Ms. Niima have made quite the impression on your students, would you not agree?” Snoke removed his phone from his jacket pocket, casually flipping it on and presenting the now familiar picture to Ben.

“You see, Ben, I think you are a most talented and respected teacher. But it’s rather sad to see such wasted potential when you stoop to such lows,” Snoke gave a shallow sigh to keep the air of disappointment. White hot rage was burning in the pit of Ben’s stomach, he was dangerously close to the repeat of last spring that everyone was so keen to see if he had in him.

“Why are you here?” Ben demanded, measuring his words carefully so as not to lose himself in his budding anger.

Snoke gave a small chuckle, “Merely a warning for now, as I was once your mentor, I feel obligated to make sure you don’t stray from the path that is best for you,” he said. Ben nearly lost it in that very moment but he managed to contain himself. If Snoke stuck around much longer he wasn’t sure he’d be able to keep it up.

“I think I can handle it on my own,” he replied.

“The last time you said that to me, you ended up running to your mother for help. So please forgive my skepticism,” Snoke said baring his teeth in a satisfied smile.

It was obvious that he was goading Ben, trying to get an emotional response out of him. He couldn’t let himself fall for it. “Is that all you came to talk about?” Ben asked, he couldn’t contain the venom in his voice.

“Of course, Mr. Solo, just lending some professional council,” the older man said straightening his already impeccable suit. “I’ll leave you to your lesson plans then, do have a good day.” It was clear that Snoke didn’t mean it as anything more than a mocking formality so Ben didn’t return the sentiment, instead walking over and opening his classroom door. A signal for Snoke to kindly get the fuck out.

The superintendent took his leave, terrifying a young freshman who was in the hall carrying a bathroom pass. Ben finally let his fist unclench, his fingers aching.

------------------

Rey had never been so distracted while lecturing before. She’d watched the superintendent (a man she’d only ever known by reputation before but immediately recognized) walk menacingly into Ben’s classroom. Then to see Ben close the door between them put a vice grip on her gut.

She booted up the projector in her classroom to the slides she’d prepared on color theory. Her lectures were normally pretty brief but her Art 1 class was her most lecture “heavy” class. Teach the rules so that they could eventually break them.

A slide depicting the color wheel appeared on the screen at the front of the classroom. Rey had barely made it a few lines into her prepared lecture on color theory when a freckle faced freshman enter the room looking like she’d just witnessed the paranormal.

“Ms. Niima there’s a strange man outside!” she said urgently, holding the bathroom pass in her small hands. With all the recent terrible things happening in the news it wasn’t uncommon for people, students and teachers alike, to get a bit jumpy. Rey stood and walked over to peer into the hall to see the superintendent’s tall, thin frame retreating down the Arts and Humanities wing towards administration.

A slight wave of relief came over her, only that the so-called ‘strange man’ was only the superintendent but he was also finally leaving Ben alone. To her dismay Ben had once again closed his classroom door after Snoke’s departure and she couldn’t see him in his classroom.

“It’s alright, that was actually the District Superintendent Mr. Snoke,” she said. “Let’s get back to our seats, and we’ll get started, okay?” Rey tried not to think about what Snoke may have said to Ben or why he would have had to talk to him at all.

The photo kept coming to mind and she had to keep telling herself that this wasn’t a big deal. She wanted desperately to go talk to Ben but she couldn’t leave in the middle of class and was forced to get through the rest of her lecture as best she could. Recently her third period had become a bit like a game, she’d catch Ben’s glances from the corner of her eye and they’d exchange a secretive smile or two. She missed it desperately whenever she’d glance up and see his door closed across the hall.

As soon as the bell rang she quickly dismissed her class and hurried across the hall before any of their fourth period students could show up. Rey slipped quietly and firmly closed the door behind her. There was a narrow window beside the door but hadn’t been the right angle to check on Ben while she was teaching. It also meant that even with a locked door students would still be able to peer in on what was happening, so Rey resisted the urge to crawl into his lap and kiss him until he felt better.

Ben was sitting at his desk, hunched over with his head in his hands. His fingers were tightly wrapped in his hairline as if he was punishing himself and his glass had been carelessly tossed aside on his desk.

Rey moved slowly, “Ben?”

Ben’s head jerked up suddenly, making her jump slightly. His eyes were mournful, filled to the brim with regret and anguish. Just what had Snoke said to him? “Ben what happened, what’s wrong?” she asked desperately.

He was quiet for a moment, “It’s nothing, Rey, really,” he said though she didn’t believe him for an instant.

“What did Snoke say?” she asked, her voice firmer now.

Ben shook his head, “He was just coming to get details on the whole Homecoming incident,” he said.

“Then why do you look like that?” she demanded.

His mouth opened to answer but before he could form the words his classroom door open and a couple of students came strolling in, a gaggle of teenage girls all giggling excitedly amongst themselves.

“I’ll discuss it with you at lunch,” Ben said finally, resuming an air of professionalism.

Rey looked at him, part of her want to drag him off by the tie to talk about this properly. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the ‘proper’ way to behave in front of their student. “Fine,” she said, carefully masking the hurt in her voice. She walked out of the classroom without a backward glance at her new boyfriend.

Instead of going directly to her classroom, she turned down the hall toward the faculty restroom in the teacher’s lounge. She still had about six minutes left of passing period and she couldn’t face her students just yet. Turning swiftly into the faculty lounge, it took her a second to realize that Ben had followed her. Not quite in the storming after her way that one might expect, he’d managed to keep a calm enough pace to not alarm anyone.

She pushed open the door to the faculty bathroom and Ben pressed in after her. The faculty restroom was a single sink and toilet and properly locking door.

“Ben, what in bloody hell are you thinking?” she snapped. Rey had brought herself in there to quickly put herself back together after he’d shut her out. This was simply too much stress for a relationship so new and to think she’d been daydreaming about getting ready next to him in the morning for every morning in the foreseeable future. Now everything seemed to be against them, she knew in her gut that Snoke had gone to him to discuss the photo on social media and Ben was clearly hiding something. Now the man wouldn’t even give her half a minute of peace before she had to go face her own special group of teenage vultures intent on making her relationship status their own personal soap opera?

She was about to tell him to get out when his body was suddenly against hers, his lips claiming her mouth fiercely and his warm hands slipping up her blouse. Rey wanted to push him off but she found herself melting into him instead. Her mind screamed at her that this was wildly inappropriate, that they could be fired, that Snoke could still be lurking around some corner. But her body didn’t care about any of that as her fingers wound into his dark, feathered locks. He tightened his arms around her as if she might suddenly vanish and kissed her senseless.

When they parted, both of them were breathless but Ben held her to him. “Rey, please, trust me on this,” he said.

Rey wanted to trust him on this whole issue with Snoke but her instincts were screaming at her not to let him face it alone. They were both involved after all, she deserved to know what was going on. She looked at him with conflicted eyes that had started to gloss over with tears.

“Please, Rey,” he said, holding her face in his hands.

“Okay,” she murmured quietly no longer able to look him in the eyes.

He leaned in and softly placed a kiss on her forehead. It was such a tender gesture that she felt her chest tighten. Before he could pull away she pulled him by the collar, crushing her lips too his.

“Promise me, that this isn’t what’s going to ruin this for us,” she said as they broke apart.

Ben looked at her, his brown eyes locked on hers. His voice was steady and she could feel his warm breath on her cheek, “I promise,” he said.

Chapter Text

It had been a few weeks since Snoke his reared his ugly head at Corellia High School and things had settled more or less into a normal routine. The only difference was abundant mandatory fire drills that they’d had to do to appease district safety standards. They’d had two in the week following the homecoming that were only vaguely announced to the staff and a complete surprise to the students. There had been about one a week since, the fire marshall giving his stamp of approval for each.

They were mostly an annoyance for Ben, managing to keep his classes well enough in order so as to keep up a good evacuation time. But October was steadily progressing and so was the wet, cold, abysmal weather that came with it. The freezing rains were common for this time of year, so Ben tried to plan ahead enough to bring a jacket with him for their excursions outdoors but it didn’t always work out that way.

Like today, hopefully their last fire drill for awhile but also the wettest and coldest day of the year. Ben had just wrapped up roll call finding all of his sixth period students to be present and accounted for.

He was watching Rey do a headcount of her students wrapped in a puffy white parka with a blue lined hood that made her look like she was swimming in her coat. She hadn’t seemed to notice that he was watching her, wishing he could slip right into that ridiculous coat with her and share body heat. But that would be entirely inappropriate.

“Where’s Eddie?” Rey rose her voice as some of her class looked about in confusion. There was a hint of panic in her voice, one failed drill and they’d have to keep doing these stupid things well into December and that was the last thing that anyone wanted.

“Eddie Salazar?” Rey called out again.

Ben glanced around for the missing student. That little fucker, Ben thought, if he fucks this up for us.

Rey looked around, trying to spot one student amongst too many.

“I’m missing Amber Downy!” Ben heard Poe call out, he turned to see the history teacher looking just frustrated.

Ben did another visual check over his class, one of his students suddenly burst into tears. Brea Perry, the same student who had inadvertently broken Ben’s nose, was starting to blubber loudly. For a brief moment, Ben wished that it was one of his students that was missing instead, he was not well equipped for this.

“Shit,” Ben groaned under his breath. “Everybody sit tight a minute,” he called out.

Rey was still doing another hopeless recount, “It’s no use,” he said approaching her, “I’m betting he snuck off with Amber Downy to make out or something.” Ben must have said it louder than he was meaning to, because Brea Perry let out a loud wail as her friends moved in to lend their comfort.

“Ben!” Rey gasped, “Didn’t you hear that they broke up yesterday?” she said.

Ben had in fact heard that, and wasn’t the least bit surprised. Eddie Salazar was a bit of an asshole and Brea Perry was better off without him. The staff had been curiously discussing the recent developments of the Brea-Amber-Eddie saga for the last few days like it was a series on TV. He tried to be sympathetic but it wasn’t easy when the little urchins had done the same to him and Rey.

“Sorry,” Ben said, “but you do know I’m right, right?” he said quietly, trying to prevent himself from shivering in the cold.

“I know,” Rey hissed quietly. “But those little wankers couldn’t wait until after school?” She groaned. “I have to go report this to Amilyn,” she handed Ben her roll call sheet, “Can you keep an eye on them for me?”

Rey didn’t even wait for a response before starting off in Holdo’s direction catching up with Poe.

It took about ten minutes before the two missing students were found behind the bleachers by the football field in a compromising position. Not so compromising but enough so that everyone with half a brain knew what they were up to. Even worse was the fact that Holdo announced that they’d be having another fire drill in the near future which drew a collective groan from just about everyone.

Once school let out for the day, Ben made his way over to Rey’s classroom as was his usual routine to so that they would spend the rest of their afternoon together. Sometimes it was simply hanging out at either of their places and watching a movie and grading papers together over take out and red wine. Other times they actually bother to go out on a real date. Last night they had thought themselves pretty clever as they had gone to an R rated movie on a school night in the theater downtown and manage to avoid any and all of their students. Tonight, being that it was a friday would probably be a night in, which Ben like all the same and there was no waiting until they got home to get to the naughty bits.

“Hey, sweetheart,” he said cheerfully closing her classroom door. They knew they had to be careful about how they conducted themselves at school, but he allowed himself a pet name behind closed doors.

“Hey, hun, just let me finish inputting these midterm grades and then I’ll be ready to go,” she said, her face lit up with a smile but she didn’t look up from her computer.

Ben glanced around at the room, taking in how different it looked from how he knew it when his uncle taught here. The walls of Rey’s classroom were crowded with artwork from her students and reference posters. It had been rearranged so that students sat in groupings of six and there was a ragged looking arm chair with a white sheet hung up behind it in the corner likely for figure drawing. There were shelves lining the back wall stack with in progress pottery projects that ranged in all sorts of shapes and sizes. In spite of himself, Ben thought the classroom looked like a fun place to hang out and wasn’t all that surprised that Rey had become so popular in such a short time.

He was briefly reminded of Snoke’s threat a few weeks prior and he’d spent many nights since, lying awake at night trying to decide if it was right to tell Rey or not. Ultimately he hadn’t brought himself to do it just yet, feeling that the superintendent would have zero grounds to go after Rey’s job. It would be an uphill battle for Snoke, many of these students would not be so quick to let her go.

“Annnnd there!” Rey said excitedly, clicking her computer mouse dramatically. “Done!”

She stood powering down her computer for the night and grabbing her puffy coat from the back of her swivel chair.

“How did your midterm projects go?” Ben asked.

“Really good,” she replied as she slung her bag over her shoulder. “The mayor’s office is doing a district wide gallery next month and I think there are some really good submissions this year!” Rey looked so thrilled with some of the art displayed around her classroom. Ben felt a tiny sense of relief, Rey was extraordinarily good at her job and there was no way that Snoke would be able to justify firing her. Especially if he had to get Leia to agree to such a thing; Ben was pretty sure his own mother would adopt his girlfriend if given half a chance.

“That’s great,” he said, wearing proud smile on his face.

They exchange a very brief, chaste kiss on the lips before turning to leave. Rey’s classroom had lots of windows along the east wall that made for lots of natural light and good airflow, but it also made it easy for anyone on the quad outside to see in. Luckily, today’s weather sent most students running for indoors so the quad was decidedly empty.

“Did you hear about Poe’s Halloween Party?” Rey asked as she flipped the lights to her classroom off.

“He has one every year,” Ben said. “It’s only moderately better than sitting alone at home with all my lights off,” he added drawing a small laugh from Rey as they rounded down the corner. They approached a collection of teachers hanging out near the entrance to the staff lounge.

“What’s going on?” Rey asked curiously.

Finn and Phasma had been talking urgently to one another, or at least Finn looked like it was urgent, Phasma actually looked rather bored. Rose, Poe, Mitaka and Hux all stood around them, and Rey wondered vaguely if Finn and Phasma had gotten into an argument-- they didn’t always see eye to eye on things.

Rose looked around at them, she’d clearly been laughing which made the whole situation even more confusing.

“It’s Christmas come early,” Poe said teasingly, slapping Finn on the back.

“Vice Principal Holdo and Principal Organa decided to move up Sex Ed in light of what happened this afternoon,” Rose said amused. Finn dramatically rolled his eyes.

Ben snorted back a laugh while Rey still looked a little confused.

“And Coach, here, is infamously terrible when it comes to the Sex Ed curriculum,” Phasma said tiredly. “We were just discussing said curriculum when everyone else decided to involve themselves and here we are,” she explained.

“Some of those boys know way more than any kid their age should, I actually learned stuff last year!” Finn insisted. “It’s a damn warzone.”

“Oh please, it’s only a big deal if you make it one,” Phasma said.

“I don’t know, Finn’s kinda got a point-- I didn’t take Sex Ed as a kid and I turned out fine,” Mitaka said cheerfully with a shrug.

Everyone’s eyes turned to Mitaka in surprise, they all stood in stunned silence for a moment trying to process what the young man had just said.

“That explains so much,” Hux replied finally, shaking his head.

There was a murmur of agreement throughout the group of teachers.

“I got an idea,” Poe said helpfully, turning the attention away from Mitaka who was now blushing furiously. “How about all of you come over to my place for a few hours and we’ll all drink a few beers and ask Finn the kinkiest shit we can think of until he’s desensitized to it and then he can come back next week and face a classroom of horny teenage boys.”

Phasma shrugged, “That’s actually one of your more sensible plans, Dameron.”

“Thank you!” Poe said proudly.

“What?” Finn snapped, his voice a whole octave higher than normal.

“That’s a good idea!” Rose agreed.

“It’ll be entertaining, if nothing else,” Hux stated in a bored tone.

“No way!” Finn snapped throwing his hands up.

“I’m game!” Rey said, “Ben too.”

Ben groaned.

“Mitaka’s coming too because he needs the actual instruction,” Phasma affirmed as if it were obvious.

“I do?” Mitaka asked confused.

“You guys can’t be serious,” Finn bemoaned.

“This’ll be fun,” Rose said happily. “What time do you want us there, Poe?”

“Really?” Finn asked in disbelief.

“Everybody be there at six, and make sure to bring the gutter with you,” Poe replied excitedly.

“Perfect! I’ll bring chips and dip,” Rose said clapping her hands together.

“Oh your dip is the best!” Rey added.

“I’ll bring a veggie platter since you all eat like teenagers and are about three days away from scurvy,” Phasma said in her usual bored tone.

“Not if we put oranges in the margaritas!”

“Margaritas?” Finn’s voice cracked slightly.

Poe snapped his fingers, “Oh man, I wish I had the time to make my world famous chili.”

Ben rolled his eyes, “I’d barely call it palatable.”

“Seriously guys?” Finn groaned.

“And I’ll raid the condom stash in my office,” Phasma said, “But someone else needs to bring bananas.”

“I will,” Rey said helpfully.

“Oh please not the condom demonstration,” Finn’s face turned slightly green.

“Ok, it’s a party, none of you fuckers be late!” Poe said, looking at the group of teachers gathered.

“Language, Mr. Dameron.”

They all looked up as if they’d been caught in the act of something they weren’t supposed to be doing. Technically they weren’t…

Holdo gave them all a knowing smirk from where she’d appeared from the administrative offices, “Just don’t get plastered all over Chatter this time, please,” she said. Then she shouldered her mauve handbag and turned down the hall. Ben was sure that the woman had a sixth sense for trouble makers considering she’d already caught him and Rey in a compromising position after the pep rally a few weeks ago. It was a little ironic that she’d been warning them against making Finn’s job harder as it pertains to Sex Ed.

“Have a good weekend, Amilyn,” Poe said.

Holdo gave a casual wave without looking back, her heels clicking in her wake. They watched her leave, as soon as she turned a corner Poe looked back at them. “So… my house at 6?”

Finn gave a heavy sigh, “You’re all terrible people.”

---------------

Poe’s house was already rowdy when Ben and Rey arrived together. The first thing Rey heard upon opening the door was both Rose and Phasma shouting that women do not, in fact, pee from their vaginas. This was apparently news to both Hux and Mitaka, who both looked at Finn for clarification as he nodded knowingly.

“‘Bout time, you two,” Poe said cheerfully. “We were all sure you two had stopped for a quickie on the way.”

Both Rey and Ben blushed furiously. “No comment,” Ben grumbled snatching Poe’s beer from his hand. He finished it in a few gulps much to both Rey and Poe’s surprise. He was gonna need more alcohol if this was going to turn into a discussion of his and Rey’s robust sex life.

“Alright Ben and Rey are here,” Poe said. “Let’s start with female anatomy since clearly these two have never pleased a woman in their lives,” he said gesturing to Hux and Mitaka. Mitaka looked a little out of his depth and Hux simply looked annoyed.

Ben and Rey settled in on the crowded couch. None of Poe’s furniture matched and had likely been picked up from second-hand stores. They all sat around Finn who was seated on a displaced dining room chair looking uncomfortable. Someone had decided to give him the white board that was normally hanging on Poe’s fridge for reminders and grocery lists. Rey could only guess why. The coffee table was loaded an assortment of snacks that people had brought or raided from Poe’s fridge.

“Oh cheer up Finn, this will be fun,” Rose insisted cheerfully as she seated herself in a cushy papasan where BB quickly helped herself to Rose’s lap.

Finn rolled his eyes slightly. “Right, fun…”

“So why did Leia and Amilyn decide to move up the sex ed from January again?” Mitaka asked genuinely curious.

All of the teachers looked over at him, stunned. “I’ll give you a hint, Dopheld, it rhymes with ‘dingering’,” Hux said as Poe handed out another round of cheap beer.

“Dingering?” Mitaka looked confused.

“To be fair, I’m pretty sure all Eddie Salazar is actually capable of, is dingering,” Phasma said getting a round of chuckles.

Mitaka’s eyes went wide, “Wait? Eddie Salazar was fingering Amber Downy behind the bleachers?! I thought they were just making out?”

Ben suddenly snorted into his beer can, Phasma cracked a smile. Finn just looked disturbed. “Yeah,” he said, his voice short. “That’s why sex ed got moved up.”

“Wait?! Finn were you the one to catch them?” Rey asked.

Finn looked at her as if had just witnessed some unimaginable horror. That was all the answer they really needed.

“Okay, everyone, I know that sexually active teenagers are pretty much the most terrifying and problematic hazards that we as high school educators have to face, but we’re here for the solemn task of preparing one of our own to face it head on.” Poe said with bravado as he raised his beer can to Finn. “To Coach Finn.”

“To Coach Finn!” They all followed making Finn’s cheeks flame bright red.

“And here’s to hoping that Brea Perry doesn’t break Ben’s nose when she and Amber Downy inevitably cat fight again,” Phasma added. Ben rolled his eyes but instinctively went to touch the bridge of his nose.

“Yeah, let your gangster girlfriend handle it,” Hux said smartly sipping his beer.

“Okay, I wanna know who started that rumor?” Rey replied fiercely. “I’ve never been in anything even remotely resembling a gang unless you count the drama club at uni,” she added. Ben rubbed her back consolingly. It wasn’t all that upsetting, but she wasn’t used to being the subject of such an outlandish rumor.

“You should hear what the rumor mill has churned out about Hux,” Rose said, turning her pretty dark eyes on the ginger haired man and arching her brow.

Hux shifted uncomfortably, “None that bear repeating, Tico.”

“Remember when all the students were convinced you were the Zodiac Killer?” Ben laughed.

There was a round of laughter from everyone but Hux, the rumor was preposterous but served as a source of amusement for the staff for nearly the whole school year.

“As much fun as it is to blame Hugs--”

“HUX!”

“That’s what I said,” Poe insisted, “--For grisly murders that took place before he was born, it’s not sex ed and frankly Finn needs us.”

“I wish you would stop bringing this back to me,” Finn said. “I was enjoying that topic.”

“Dameron’s right, stop stalling,” Phasma stated. “Female anatomy-- and go.”

“Where do I even start on that topic?” Finn groaned.

“At the beginning,” Mitaka said helpfully.

“I don’t think telling them that God formed Eve from Adam’s rib is part of the curriculum,” Ben added rubbing his eyes.

“Well isn’t the forbidden fruit thing allegory for sex?” Rose said.

“It’s what?!” Mitaka looked stunned but this time everyone ignored him.

“You been reading the DiVinci Code again, Tico?” Poe asked playfully.

“None of that matters because it’s not in the curriculum,” Phasma explained, “I think what Dopheld meant was starting at the beginning of life of an individual,” Mitaka nodded.

“That’s not what he meant,” Ben groaned but no one paid any attention.

Finn took a deep breath and started to explain how conception worked, the sperm and the egg, zygotes, fetuses, it was all very clinical and a bit dry.

“Boo, get to the part about how vaginas work,” Poe teased making Finn flush.

“Aww but I wanna know about how penises work,” Rose whined.

“Those two apparently don’t know what a clit is, so for the sake of the women they sleep with you should probably start there,” Ben said pointing at Hux and Mitaka. Mitaka simply looked embarrassed.

“I do too know what a clit is,” Hux insisted.

“You know what, Ben’s right, you should start with them,” Rose agreed.

“Alright, Coach, draw us a vagina,” Phasma said. So that’s what the whiteboard was for.

Finn shifted in his chair uncomfortably. “Seriously, I’m not gonna be teaching them how to finger their girlfriends,” he said.

“Anatomy! Not fingering, Jesus Finn get your mind out of the gutter!” Poe said mocking offense.

Finn groaned loudly. “But Finn isn’t necessarily wrong. The clitoris is a pleasure organ, it doesn’t serve much purpose outside that. It’s for sensing and stimulation during intercourse,” Phasma said unembarrassed.

“Seriously?” Poe said. “I thought it was supposed to be a penis, you know… if you grew one as an embryo?”

“It is,” Finn said.

“Alright, draw the damn vagina, Finn,” Phasma ordered.

Finn shook his head turning the whiteboard towards himself and began drawing with the dry erase marker. Phasma leaned over to look and seemed satisfied enough the rest of them had to wait for Finn to finish. Rey could see him bite the inside of his cheek in concentration. They all waited quietly to for a moment as Finn finished.

He turned the board around to show a quick drawing of the basic structure of female genitalia. Rey and Rose both nodded as the diagram was fairly close to what they’d seen in their own experience if a little rudimentary.

Finn gave a dramatic sigh and pointed to the a small rounded part at the top of the diagram, “That’s the clitoris,” he moved the marker that he was using as a pointer down, “Urethra,” he looked pointedly at Hux and Mitaka. He moved the pointer down to longer, narrow, oval shape, “Vaginal opening.”

Mitaka was staring in disbelief, “That seems really complicated,” he said. Poor Mitaka, Rey thought, this all seemed like a lot of new information.

“It’s really not that complicated,” Finn said looking at his simple drawing.

“You didn’t take a look last time you…” Ben started and a look of panic came over his face.

“Not a good look…” Mitaka stuttered out nervously. Was he sweating? Everyone was looking at him expectantly.

“Guys?” Rose asked quietly.

Mitaka gulped and shook his head.

“No porn?” Poe asked curiously, no judgement in his tone. Mitaka flushed.

“Nooo, no, no… I don’t -- that’s not something I--” he looked around the room clear expecting judgement.

Phasma sat up from the recliner, suddenly she looked like the approachable, health teacher and coach that she was that her coworkers rarely saw. “Dopheld,” she said gently, “It’s nothing to be embarrassed about…”

“I’ve had sex with plenty of people,” Mitaka insisted, obviously lying.

“There’s nothing wrong with being a virgin,” Finn said. Rey could see that he had his coach face on. Should any of them be that person, which none of them appeared to be, Finn and Phasma would immediately shut down any teasing.

Mitaka groaned, “I’m a 33 year old virgin, of course there’s something wrong with me,” he whined.

“Not true!” Rey said encouragingly, “People decided to wait for all sort of reasons. And I’m sure there are plenty of people who would love to when you’re ready.”

Mitaka sniffed, “Thanks Rey.”

“And when you are ready, and only when you’re ready, and you’re with a person with a vagina,” Finn pointed to the clitoris dot. “That’s the fast lane to the big ‘O’.”

Everyone around the room nodded knowingly.

----------------

Finn seemed up to ease up a little after they got into it and Mitaka’s disposition brightened a little as he realized no one was actually going to chastise him. They passed around bottle of tequila and from there their little get-together descended into raucous laughter and lewd gestures. After an hour and several rounds of tequila shots the questions had started to take an outlandish turn and they had managed to inflate about half of the bright foil wrapped condoms that Phasma had brought.

The whiteboard was covered in scribbles of badly drawn sex positions and all at once they were discussing whether or the ‘Flying Monty’ was a sex act or not.

“You’re thinking of the ‘Full Monty’,” Ben insisted, the slightest slur in his voice.

“No I’m positive there’s a ‘Flying Monty’,” Poe said adamantly, the liquor making him over confident.

“That’s it I’m googling it!!” Rose practically shouted, no longer able to mind the volume in her voice.

“Ummm… Rosie… you’ve googled ‘Fullmore Montgomery’,” Finn leaning heavily on to Rose’s shoulder. Rey snorted a graceless laugh.

Rose gave a huff and carelessly tossed her phone aside. “Stupid google,” she grumbled. At some point during their ‘lecture’ Finn complained of the room chair being too uncomfortable and Rose invited him to sit with her in the papasan with BB. Now they arranged in a awkward tangle of human and dog limbs with BB laying happily across their laps, her bushy tail flapping against the edge of the chair’s wooden frame. It looked comfortable as long as no one needed to go to the bathroom-- which considering how much Rose and Finn had had to drink so far, was imminent.

“So what’s a ‘Simba’?” Mitaka asked.

“It results in a dead man,” Phasma deadpanned.

“Who told you about a Simba?” Finn demanded, “I need to have a talk with them!”

“It’s where you wipe your cum across your partners forehead and then crown them king of Pride Rock,” Hux slurred, he looked far less put together than he normally did. He was always so impeccably dressed that the in front of them man looked wrong with his shirt open and his tie tied around Poe’s head.

“I thought that was the Rafiki?” Ben said.

“Don’t you dare ruin the Lion King for me,” Rose threatened fiercely.

“What’s the one where you kill their dad and blame it on a freak wildebeest accident?” Ben asked drawing a crude laugh from Poe and Hux.

“You’re all monsters!” Rey said, rolling her eyes.

“Yes I am,” Ben said wrapping his arms around her waist and nuzzling into her neck. “And you like it.”

A condom in a shiney pink package pelted Ben in the forehead making him draw back confused by the sudden projectile. “Keep it PG you two,” Phasma said in mock sternness.

“Nothing about any of this is PG,” Ben exclaimed.

“Is anyone else surprised that Solo is the touchy, affectionate drunk?” Hux asked all of them.

“Not in the slightest,” Phasma stated. Rey gave them all a smirk and nestled herself into Ben’s lap.

There was another round of laughter followed by a drunken call for more tequila, which they all were fairly certain that they probably shouldn’t partake in but no one was refusing.

Poe raised his shot glass. “To Finn! Those boys aged 14 to 17 couldn’t be learning all this weird shit from a better teacher!”

“To Finn!” They all cheered enthusiastically.

“I’m not teaching any of this,” he replied to their toast bluntly. None of them listened to him.

“And to Phas! Who’s taken sex ed by the balls without fear every year!”

“To Phasma!”

“And to all those horny kids who are about to have the mood killed by all those horror inducing pictures of Syphilis and genital warts,” Finn added.

“Ewww!” Rose squealed.

“Mandatory video on venereal diseases,” Phasma informed them.

“Fun,” Ben said sarcastically.

And then they all threw back their shots.

Ben couldn’t remember much after that last shot as he woke slowly the following morning. It took a moment to catch his bearings, Rey was sprawled over him, her weight comfortable and warm against his body. His head was pounding from the inevitable hangover that came from too much tequila and cheap beer.

He looked around at his surroundings finding the familiar scenery of Poe’s downstairs bathroom. Why he and Rey decided to pass out there was beyond him, unable to follow the logic of his drunken self. They’d at least thought to bring a blanket though Ben wasn’t sure where it had come from. He shifted slightly noting how confined he felt laying in the in the bathtub and not wanting to disturb Rey.

Slowly, Ben wrapped his arms over Rey’s sleeping form and adjusted his shoulders. But even the small movement made Rey groan quietly. Ben froze and held his breath, waiting to see if she woke up. As much as he didn’t want to wake her up, he was getting desperate to sit up as the porcelain of the tub was putting uncomfortable pressure on his shoulder blades. He was also going to have to relieve himself very soon.

Rey stirred again, suddenly sucking in a deep breath through her mouth before jerking her head up. That was a mistake as the tequila that her system was still processing went straight to her head. She made a sound that was half way between a growl and a pathetic sob, then dropped her head back to where it had been resting on his chest.

“You okay?” Ben managed to say but it was painful and his voice was dry.

“I’m dying…” Rey whispered dramatically into his shirt.

“I gotta piss, Rey,” Ben said, clearing his throat.

“I might throw up,” she breathed.

“Me too.”

Rey took another deep breath and sat back up on her knees allowing Ben to sit up and alleviated the pressure in his shoulders. Rey’s hair was all over the place, stray hairs curling over her ears and falling in awkward kinks around her shoulders. The side of her face that she’d been laying on had faint lines across her cheek. She had some strands of hair stuck to her lips and her eyeliner was smeared around her eyes.

Ben smiled at her because she looked gorgeous as always.

“Oi, get up before I change my mind. I think I might still be a little pissed,” she said, leaning against the wall of the tub. Ben awkwardly rolled over the edge of the tub and landing gracelessly on his knees. He scrambled over to the toilet unzipping his jeans.

Rey laid back down in the tub without him, pulling the borrowed blanket over her head and making pitiful noises.

It took Ben a moment to realize that he was relieving himself in front of his girlfriend of one month. Not that Rey seemed bothered, she didn’t even really seem to notice. Was this a normal part of relationships? Get wasted at a friend’s house and wake up in the tub?

Ben shook himself off and closed up his pants and stepped up to the vanity to wash his hands. He flicked the water off his hands and opened the medicine cabinet. Scanning over the various over-the-counter medicines seeing what he was looking for and plucking up a bottle of Ibuprofen. He popped two in his mouth and swallowed. Then he took two more and found a beer glass that was laying sideways on the floor that they’d likely raided from Poe’s kitchen for some reason or another. He gave it a quick rinse then filled it with water that was cold as he could get from the tap.

Kneeling next to tub and admiring his girlfriend’s hangover nest in the tub. “Rey, do you want some pain killers?”

Her hand appeared from under the blanket, palm facing up expectantly. It was almost amusing if his head hadn’t been pounding. He placed the two round pills in her waiting hand and she drew them back under her blanket. “And water,” Ben added. Her hand reappeared to take the glass and she slowly sat up to drink.

She took several long gulps, draining it in one go.

“Thank you,” Rey said softly. Ben leaned over to kiss her forehead.

“Can we go home now?” Ben asked. He didn’t specify which home, it didn’t really matter they rarely went home without the other. Ben had just as much at her place as she had at his.

Rey nodded pushing her hair out of her face. “Yeah,” she said forcing a smile. “That was fun.”

“Yeah,” Ben grunted. It had been kind of fun, less than informative and not actually very productive but it had been fun to sit around with Rey and their friends and let loose.

Ben helped Rey stand and step out of the tub. They both looked disheveled and definitely hungover but they were both able to stand upright and walk unassisted.

It occurred to Ben that the last time they’d been there the door had locked from the outside and they’d been trapped. Reluctantly he tested the knob and with a sigh of relief the knob turned easily and opened to Poe’s furnished basement.

The downstairs couch was occupied by Hux sleeping soundly with an empty whiskey bottle in his arms. Ben and Rey snuck past him towards the stairs, ascending as quietly as the creaky steps would allow. The early morning light shined through the kitchen windows making Ben’s eyes hurt. With some difficulty, Ben managed to locate his phone and pulled up Lyft and order then a car back to Ben’s house. Rey took that moment of distraction to grab a carton of orange juice from the fridge and take a large gulp directly from the carton.

Ben restrained the laugh in his chest making it come out as an odd grunting noise. Wordlessly, Rey handed it to him and with a shrug he followed her example. The acidity and the pulpiness of the orange juice was immediately relieving and the Ibuprofen was starting to kick in. He handed it back to Rey who took another swig and put the carton back in the fridge.

“Should we say goodbye to anyone?” Rey asked bleary-eyed.

“Please no,” Ben replied, their driver couldn’t get here fast enough. “We’ll see them Monday, let’s just go the car’s only three minutes out.”

Rey shrugged, and took his hand as they snuck the rest of the way out of the house.

Outside was chilly but surprisingly clear. To their rather awkward surprise Phasma and Mitaka were standing at the end of Poe’s driveway. Ben and Rey froze in their tracks to watch the exchange. Phasma was getting into another Lyft car while Mitaka stood on the corner waving her goodbye.

“Thank you for everything, Gwen,” he said, a blush on his cheeks, “That was amazing last night.”

“Don’t mention it, Dopheld,” Phasma said, setting her purse aside in the seat behind her. “Seriously, don’t mention it.”

Mitaka nodded smiling, “Have a good day!” he said brightly as Phasma shut the door and the car pulled away. Mitaka turned down the sidewalk and strolled away whistling a tune with no melody.

“What the fuck did we just witness?” Ben said in awe.

Rey stared at where Phasma’s car had been, her mouth open in shock.

There wasn’t much time to process it as another car pulled up and this one was for them. They both crawled into the back seat after confirming it was the right car and sat there silently.

They were getting on to the Kessel Parkway back to Ben’s house in Corellia Heights when Rey finally broke the silence, startling both him and the driver slightly.

“Oh my god, Ben, I think they had sex!”

Chapter Text

CHATTER

miss_mitz: school was wild the other day #shameless #dudeitsafiredrill

Comments:


McShane: omg plz tell me this isnt about ur obsession wit our teachers

miss_mitz: NO! Its not.

lucy_in_dah_sky: yea mitzi’s probably what made them break up

miss_mitz: whatevs lucy

starryeyed_mai: she got a point mitz, i haven’t even seen them talking to each other in weeks

starryeyed_mai: which is kinda sad we could have called them niimo

McShane: haha #findingniimo

miss_mitz: they prolly just keeping things on the DL

lucy_in_dah_sky: or they broke up becuz u plastered their private lives all over chatter

miss_mitz: it was just a photo! LAY OFF LUCY!!!!1!

lucy_in_dah_sky: i heard the district sent some one to talk to them becuz of that photo.

rahrah44: yeah my little sister is in niima’s 3pd n she said that a creepy dude showed up to talk to solo

lucy_in_dah_sky: yeah apparently somethin was off wit ms niima the whole time. And when i saw her in 4th she looked like she had been crying

miss_mitz: i doubt thats related at all

McShane: idk mr solo has seemed different lately

McShane: and i haven’t seen him around ms niima’s apartment in a long time.

miss_mitz: shane -- ur only at your dad’s every other weekend, so youre prolly there less than solo is.

lucy_in_dah_sky: ur just making excuses now mitzi, way to blow it.

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Rey set her phone down feeling a little guilty. She felt a little bad that Mitzi was now getting so much flak from her peers about hers and Ben’s relationship. But it was satisfying to find that keeping things on the down low had successfully thrown most of the students off their scent. She’d managed to track down the problem Chatter accounts with Rose’s help and was able to keep an eye on things. It felt a little wrong to be lurking in the background of her student’s social media accounts but she told herself it was only to see what they’d been saying about her and Ben.

Ironically, they were off by a mile, Ben and Rey were going pretty strong. They’d even been hungover together by this point. Ben even held her hair while she vomited tequila and remnants of Phasma’s veggie tray the morning after the Sex Ed party. She’d clearly picked a winner.

The tequila hangover seemed to have lasted all weekend for the both of them. Despite unpleasant involuntary reactions to tequila, things between her and Ben seemed good. The incident with Snoke still tugged at the back of her mind, but there’d been nothing to come of it so far. Maybe it was as Ben had said, and it really was nothing to worry about. Rey buried her concerns for now and tried to focus on what was going well with them.

And things were good. Ben affectionate and romantic, she’d receive text filled with lines of romantic poetry while they were apart. Most of their time spent together was at home away from the possibility of being spotted by a wayward student. When they did go out they would frequent places in the downtown area, with trendy, hipster bars that carded at the door. It was easy to find some peace and quiet away from any watching eyes in the back of a dark night club.

Rey hadn’t slept alone in over a week, finding comfort in Ben’s bulky form in the bed beside her regardless of whether it was her place or his.

To anyone else, it might have seemed as if things were moving too fast, but it felt natural to Rey. Their one month anniversary (if you could call it that) came and went almost unnoticed and all of the sudden it was almost November.

It’d been an interesting week to say the least, Finn and Phasma started their Sex-Ed curriculum which had been a source of endless amusement for the staff of Corellia High. There’d been two more fire drills, both less exciting than the failed one that had prompted them. Everyone was all very excited for Poe’s upcoming Halloween party but also trying not to discuss any details in front of any student ears.

The biggest thing on Rey’s mind however was the upcoming dinner with Leia that night. Apparently, Leia had been pushing Ben for a dinner with the three of them all month before he finally broke down and agreed to it. Rey didn’t know why the thought of it was making her so antsy, she was certainly on Leia’s good side and seemed to have a happy blessing to be dating her boss’s only son. So why was she so nervous?

She had so far managed to not let any of the anxiety over wining and dining with her boyfriend’s mother show through into her classes. It was easy as her fourth period was mostly studio time and she didn’t have to do a whole lot in front of her class. It afforded her some time to grade some assignments from her third period and go over her plan for tonight in her head.

So far the plan was to hurry home, change into a nice yellow dress that was more appropriate for a dinner party than the smock-like blouse she was wearing that had a few stray paint stains. It meant there’d be a bit of a shuffle because Ben had driven them both to work because she’d slept at his house for the fourth night in a row and her nicer dinner party clothes were at her place. She lamented to think that all her house plants might be horribly neglected.

There was also the fact that they were going to Leia’s house, the very house that Ben grew up in. The mild thrill of getting a little more insight into the Solo-Organa household made her mind race. Ben was sort of tight lipped about his upbringing, details were sparse with him. Han had been a little more forthcoming but it felt a little like going behind Ben’s back. Also she didn’t really think that Han would be making an appearance at this get-together. As far as Rey knew it was just herself, Ben and Leia.

Rey was mentally distracted when the bell signalling the end of class suddenly came on. Jerking her from her thoughts as students shuffled about putting their things away and packing up to head to lunch.

“Don’t forget to do your practice sketches at home!” she hurriedly instructed to the students as they were leaving. Rey waited for the last student to leave before pulling a tupperware container with her lunch from her bag and her water bottle from her desk.

She wasn’t surprised that Ben was nowhere to be seen when she left her classroom. They’d agreed that as much as they would like to prance around the halls together, holding hands and giggling like teenagers, that it would be better if they were seen together as little as possible to throw off suspicion from their students. And as long as they weren’t overt in their PDA, they could be more open in areas where student weren’t often allowed. Like teacher’s lounge.

No teacher was particularly eager to welcome a student into the teacher’s lounge. It was agreed that it was a sacred teen-free space unless absolutely necessary, which it rarely was.

Rey turned the corner into the staff lounge and found Ben and Poe already seated at one of the small rickety round tables that were peppered around the room. She strolled over and happily planted a kiss on Ben’s temple. Ben leaned into it slightly, the corners of his lips turning up into a subtle smile while still maintaining a conversation with Poe.

Poe groaned, “Ugh you two are gross,” he said as Rey took her seat beside Ben. It didn’t escape anyone’s notice that they had matching tupperware from Ben’s kitchen that Rey had prepared for them the night before. “Just get married and get it over with already.”

Rey tried not to blush but it wasn’t working. She could sense a defensive response boiling up from Ben but he was suddenly interrupted--

“You wanna know who’s gross!” Finn said loudly, bursting through the door surprising all of them.

They all looked at him expectantly. He looked like he’d just sprinted a mile, his clothes were disheveled and had a slightly wild look to him.

“Hey Finn, how was Sex-Ed?” Mitaka said cheerfully as he entered the room, clearly oblivious to Finn’s fragile disposition.

So far as Rey knew, things had been going fairly smoothly on the Sex-Ed front all week. But today was likely the first day that they discussed the act of sex itself, making it the true test of success for the curriculum.

Finn, wild-eyed, turned on Mitaka in an instant. “How about you explain how to treat oral gonorrhea to room full of sixteen year olds,” he snapped. Mitaka’s face took on a horrified shade of green. Poe snorted loudly, trying to bury his laughter in his lunch. “And how many times did your students bring up female ejaculation? Because once word got out that that was a thing, they wouldn’t shut up about it?”

Mitaka’s expression was unreadable as if he might faint. Clearly, Phasma had neglected to bring up oral gonorrhea and female ejaculation during their rendezvous at the sex-ed party last weekend.

“How about this one,” Finn continued, “You ever heard of a Chicago Snowstorm? Because I didn’t until today and now I need a shower!”

At that very moment Phasma was walking into room drinking from her chrome water bottle. At Finn’s words she immediately did a spit take surprising everyone in the room.

“Wait… what’s a Ch--” Poe started.

“No!” Phasma almost shouted.

Looks of confusion passed around the uninformed members of the staff.

“Google it,” Poe commanded to Ben who gave him an unamused look.

“I’m not googling it in a school!” Ben snapped, “That’s how you get a little red dot over your house.”

“Do not google it, if you know what’s good for you,” Phasma added.

“How do you know what it is?” Poe raised an eyebrow.

“Oh please, I’ve taught Sex-Ed in a high school for going on seven years. I’ve literally heard it all,” she replied rolling her eyes.

Rey looked confused, “So how did a bunch of high school juniors learn what it was?” she asked. As soon as the words left her mouth she realized how naive it sounded.

Finn shook his head with a far off look in his eye as if he’d just come back from the war, “It’s days like these that I wonder if we’d be better off having never invented the internet.”

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Rey adjusted her coat a little and she’d be lying if she said she wasn’t a tiny bit nervous. Ever since Ben had called Leia to tell her that they were on their way, she’d been a bit fidgety with the knowledge that Breha Organa, Ben’s grandmother, would also be present. Ben had made a off-handed comment about breaking the old woman out of her fancy nursing home, which earned him a prompt scolding from Leia.

Everything that Rey knew about the Organas could fill a thimble. Leia’s father had been a Senator who passed away when Ben was still very young, and that the whole family were made up of a long line of Senators, Governors and Mayors. They were quite the political dynasty but that had all come down to Leia who stepped out of their shadow by becoming a school teacher of all things. Rey wasn’t sure how she’d made the jump from working as an aide in the Senate to public education but it seemed fitting.

But Breha was a former Governor in her own right and had been the outspoken wife of a Senator. Even in her eighties she was intimidating to have to sit down to dinner with. Let alone date her grandson.

“You look great,” Ben said, seeming to notice that she looked a little nervous.

“You too,” Rey replied with a smile. The man was always so effortlessly good looking, the tousled black hair and angled face coupled with the dark gray shirt with rolled sleeves and dark washed jeans made him look as if he’d just stepped out of a magazine ad. Or maybe Rey was a little biased. It felt like he became more beautiful every time she saw him.

Ben took her hand as they walked up the front steps of Leia’s stunning tudor style home. She lived just outside of Corellia’s school zone in a cul-de-sac of similar upscale homes. The luxury came from being raised in a political dynasty and Rey wouldn’t doubt it had been inherited. Most teachers wouldn’t even be able to afford to park their car in this neighborhood.

“It was my grandparents home, they left it to mom,” he said seeming to notice the look of awe on her face. All the homes on the street looked like they’d been built over a century ago so that wasn’t all that surprising.

As they approached there was suddenly a loud bark that came from the other side of the front door.

“I didn’t know that Leia had a dog?” Rey raised an eyebrow.

Ben looked equally confused before realization set into his features, “She doesn’t--”

The door opened and massive blur of brown fur came bounding directly at them. There wasn’t much time to react as the large hairy mass was suddenly colliding with Ben, his huge paws rearing up to plant themselves on Ben’s chest knocking him to the wet ground.

Ben let out a startled yelp, thankfully letting go of Rey’s hand instead of pulling her down with them.

“Chewie!” Came a shout from the house and Rey saw Han walking down the steps.

Chewie, the dog, looked more like a bear and was happily pinning Ben down to lick his face and neck in an act of obvious affection.

“Ben, are you okay?” Rey asked, peering around the massive furry hound.

“Gerowff me, you mutt,” Ben groaned managing to wiggle his way out from under Chewie. Rey struggled to contain a laugh that bubbled up in her chest.

Han joined them grabbing Chewie’s collar to give Ben a chance to get back on his feet. “Ya alright, kid?” he asked looking amused.

Ben got to his feet not immediately answering his father, he looked decidedly less amused by the whole situation. Due to the late autumn rains, Ben’s whole back was soaked and he’d left his coat in the car. His nice gray button up clung to the musculature of his back, which likely wouldn’t be pleasant to sit through dinner with.

“You live here again, or something?” Ben grumbled unhappily at his father.

“Just visiting, and dropping Chewie off for a bit,” he said with a casual shrug. “Hey Rey, how are ya, kid?” He smiled brightly at Rey. Ben looked a little perturbed by their sudden familiarity with one another.

“Wait? You two know each other?” Ben asked, brushing himself off as he stood.

“Yeah, we met at Maz’s place,” Han said simply.

Rey interjected, “I think I told you about it.”

Ben looked confused between the two of them and realization came over him that he’d completely forgotten that detail that Rey had shared several weeks ago, but it had been overshadowed by all that had happened shortly after that.

“What are you three doing standing around outside? My God, Ben, what happened?” Leia appeared in the doorway to the house. As if to punctuate Leia’s point, it began to drizzle from the overcast sky above them.

Rey’s anxiety was creeping up, was Ben upset with her about Han? She’d told him outright about it weeks ago, forgetting all about it was on him.

“Are you ok?” Rey asked, brushing at some wet strands of grass that still clung to his shoulders.

Ben paused for a moment, “Yeah,” he said finally. He looked a little bit miserable, but there wasn’t much she could do if he was going to keep it from her. She gave a brief sigh, and started to the house. Out of nowhere, Ben gently took her hand in his, surprising her with the sudden act of affection.

“This might be a little more stressful than I had originally thought,” he said.

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Breha Organa sat at the head of the table. The woman was old but not as old as Rey’d been expecting. Almost as soon as she’d entered the room Leia greeted her fondly, taking Rey into a warm hug as she stated how pleased she was to have her. Then Leia introduced her to Breha, her mother and Ben’s grandmother. The elder woman remained seated in her chair.

“Forgive me for not standing, the knees aren’t what they used to be,” she said, giving Rey a fond smile before taking her hand. “I hear you’re quite the artist,” she said giving Rey’s hand a gentle pat.

Rey knew that Leia had been adopted because Han had shared that fact with her. But there were several similarities between mother and daughter that Rey noticed almost immediately. The way they held themselves, tall and straight in spite of both of them being shorter than average. They also wore their hair in similar fashions, complicated knots and braids on top of their heads.

“Thank you, it’s nice to meet you,” Rey said, still feeling slightly nervous. Leia retreated to the kitchen to finish with dinner.

“Kier Domadi was an artist too, you know, Han,” Breha said suddenly. There was a collective groan from both Han and Ben.

“Kier’s a military historian, mother,” Leia called as she busied herself from the kitchen.

“How is he doing, by the way?” Breha asked. Han quite visibly rolled his eyes in front of them. Rey heard him grumble something under his breath.

“I honestly haven’t looked into it mother,” Leia called back.

Rey looked confused at Ben, “Who’s Kier Domadi?” she mouthed.

“Mom’s ex,” he said noncommittally with a shrug. Rey wished he’d been a little quieter with his response. “Gran likes to use his name to give Han shit,” he added.

Breha gave Ben a quick wink, as both Han and Leia scolded him for language. “Benjamin,go change for dinner, surely Han has something for you. Rey and I have much to discuss,” Breha said teasing, not at all phased by Ben’s damp attire. Ben and Rey exchanged nervous glances with one another. She would have been much happier to have him stay but Breha wasn’t wrong that he needed at least a fresh shirt. Ben gave a groan and Han stood reluctantly.

Breha patted the seat beside her and Rey sat obediently, it felt like she was in the presence of royalty. As if meeting Breha carried the same weight as meeting the Queen. Breha Organa was regal even as she was aging, her hair was the color of tarnished steel but it was clear that she had had raven locks when she was young. Her eyes were dark gray like a thunderstorm, a trait that Rey had never seen in another person before.

“Mother, don’t try to intimidate Rey,” Leia said appearing from the kitchen with a tray of bread and cheese to set on the table in front of them.

“Intimidate?” Breha asked in mock offense, “Why Rey is lovely, she’s exactly the kind of woman I always knew Ben would bring around.”

Leia looked unconvinced but Breha continued, “The men in this family always fall for women that are well out of their league and we love them anyway. Ben is no exception,” the older woman gave Rey a wink. “Just like I knew Kier Domadi didn’t stand chance against a scoundrel like Han.”

“Mother!” Leia scolded.

“Oh please Leia, Han knows who he is. It’s what I respect about him, but don’t tell him that, it’ll go right to his head,” Breha said. Leia rolled her eyes in exasperation before returning to the kitchen and returning a moment later with a few steaming tea cups and a plate of cheese and crackers. Rey appreciated that, a little comfort in all this familial strangeness that was Ben’s family.

“Anyway, I want to know more about you, Rey,” Breha insisted turning back to Rey, turning her stormy eyes on her. “Leia tells me you’re from London?”

Rey blushed a little, she was from the grittier of London’s boroughs well off the beaten trail for any tourists. She was sure that whenever someone thought of Rey growing up there, they pictured her living in the shadow of Big Ben in the classy gentrified neighborhoods of central London. That was hardly the case though and she took a large bite of some brie to avoid immediately having to describe her upbringing.

“Rey took over Luke’s position as the Art Teacher at Corellia, the students love her,” Leia said seeming to sense Rey’s discomfort.

Breha nodded, “And you’re a sculptor, I read about you in the paper,” she said fondly. Rey blushed, she’d forgotten all about the article about her that appeared in the weekend edition after her gallery show. “Ben showed it to me during one of his visits.”

Rey was stunned, she and Ben hadn’t started dating yet when that article came out. And yet he bothered to show it to his grandmother? It was almost sweet the more she thought about it. But also a little alarming that Breha Organa knew so much about her and yet she knew almost nothing about the elder matron.

“I’ve even inquired with your gallery patron about buying one to display in at the art’s center,” Breha said. “I’d buy it for my apartment but I always believed that art should be shared,” she added.

Rey sat up straight, “Oh Mrs Organa, that’s very gracious but--”

Breha cut her off, “Please, call me Breha, or Gran.” Rey had never called anyone ‘Gran’ in her life, no one had ever offered such a thing to her and it felt foreign to her. It hinted that Breha considered her part of the family already.

“Um thank you, Breha,” she said softly.

“Of course, Rey, talent like yours should be shared.”

At that moment Ben came lumbering down the stairs in a too tight band tee-shirt that must have been a remnant from his teenage days. He gave an uneasy glance at Breha and Rey sitting together with his mother at the head of the table. “You three look like you’re up to something,” he said.

“Of course we are,” Breha laughed, “I’m always up to something,” she teased.

Ben shrugged at her response, “Just don’t go corrupting my girlfriend, Gran,” Ben said sitting next to Rey. There was that word again, ‘Gran’, she imagined Ben calling her that his whole life and there was something warm about that that radiated in her chest.

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Leia’s hard work with dinner paid off and Rey felt almost uncomfortably full of the roast chicken and buttery potatoes and grilled vegetables. She’d had several glasses of wine in the time it had taken Ben to get through one, likely as he had planned on driving them home that night. Just when Rey thought she couldn’t eat another bite, Leia brought out dessert, a too rich pound cake to go with their after dinner coffee.

The conversation around the table had been fascinating, mostly because Breha had some insane stories of what happened behind the scenes in the political climate. She’d also known famous person after famous person and had sat down to dinner with numerous Presidents. Breha also seemed to enjoy teasing people, her favorite target seemed to be Han, expertly pushing his buttons after a few decades of practice. Han took it in stride, seemingly quite familiar with it. He’d even rib back a time or two but his responses were nowhere near as eloquent.

Rey gracefully excused herself from the table to go to the bathroom. “Just up the stairs, to the right,” Leia said directing her. The sounds of the dinner table conversation faded behind her as the made it to the stairs. She felt heavy from the food as she trudged up the stairs finding a bright white bathroom decorated with fuzzy dark gray towels and bath linens.

She finished her business quickly, finding a little bit of clarity from the wine after relieving herself. Her reflection in the mirror looked a little bit rosy cheeked but it wasn’t too noticeable. Rey straightened any stray hairs and flashed a tiny smile to boost her confidence. If she had to guess, Breha liked her. Or at least the old woman was really good at pretending to like her, which was possible considering she was a politician and was probably pretty good at pretending to like people she didn’t. But Rey preferred to think it was the former as she opened the door to the bathroom to descend the stairs and rejoin the dinner party.

That was when she noticed that the door across the hall from the bathroom was left ajar. Rey noticed the dark bedspread and the poster covered walls in a cursory glance and something drew her in. It was unlike the rest of Leia’s style of decor throughout the house and Rey gently eased the door open, curious to see more.

It didn’t take long to realize that the room was a time capsule of sorts. It was Ben’s room from when he was growing up. She stepped slowly inside to get a closer look at it all. It was exactly as she might have expected Ben’s teenage dwelling to look. Luckily, his tastes had improved but he still had a massive collection of Hemingway books on display.

Rey felt like she was trespassing, being in Ben’s childhood bedroom without him. Ben and Han were starting to raise their voices down stairs in the dining room and Leia was trying to mediate with the two of them and Rey supposed she might be missed soon. She peeked around at the room that Leia had left almost untouched since Ben had moved out more than ten years ago. The heavy metal posters stared down at her from the dark blue walls.

Her eyes fell on a thick senior yearbook tucked into the shelf. Rey had never had such a relic from her youth and she wished she had. Ben had been bashful about his grumpy class portrait that had briefly been on display during homeroom wars, but everyone had a childhood photo like that. She plucked it off the shelf to look over the hardbound cover. It was pretty plain, a navy cover adorned with embossed crimson falcon and the year in script.

Rey flipped it open finding Ben’s name in the appendices and flipping over to the first page listed. There he was, scowling up at her with his dark hair ironed to fall over his eyes. It wasn’t the same photo that she’d seen but it wasn’t more than a year or two off. This one he wore a suit and bow-tie that matched the rest of his male classmates while his female classmates wore a the same black off-shoulder top. Rey recognized it as the same type of senior portraits that were taken at Corellia High School now.

Beneath Ben’s name was the quote: “The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places.” - Ernest Hemingway. Rey snorted a little. It was a lovely quote for sure but seemed a little pretentious for a high school senior yearbook quote and stuck out like a sore thumb from what his peers had said.

Rey scanned through some of the other portraits, finding Poe’s with a laugh. The now high school history teacher didn’t look much different besides having no facial hair in high school. He was classically attractive with a charming smile fixed in place. He wore the same bow-tie and suit velcro cover as Ben and the rest of his classmates. “Poe just stole my girl.” - Everyone.

Suddenly Poe’s words about Snoke from the one time she ventured to ask were ringing between her ears. He’d been a teacher at Corellia while Ben and Poe were students there, so there would be a record of him in Ben’s yearbook.

Rey flipped to the staff’s portraits, there were numerous ones lining the page almost all were smiling happily back at her. Dragging her eyes down the page, she stopped on Leia’s own picture. ‘Vice Principal Leia Organa, Civics, Debate Team Coach, Model U.N. Sponsor’ was printed below a picture of a younger Leia next to a portrait of then-Principal Mon Mothma. She was without her signature horn-rimmed glasses that Rey most often saw her with and her hair was styled long with bangs trimmed neatly across her brow. She wore a wide smile that fit right in with the rest of the teacher portraits around her. Even with the black and white of the portrait, Leia’s eyes glimmered in a way that Rey immediately recognized from seeing her in person.

But Leia’s picture wasn’t the one that she’d been looking for. Rey scrolled further down the page before it immediately grabbed her attention. Snoke’s face glared back at her. The jarring scar that cut across his temple now was absent in the photo but it was plainly him. He was the only one not smiling in the row of teachers around him. ‘Bernard Snoke, Mathematics, Swim Team Coach’. A shiver ran up Rey’s spine and she nearly slammed the book shut and tucked back into it place on Ben’s bookshelf but something stopped her. She looked at the caption below Snoke’s portrait. It wasn’t his name or face or even what he taught that held her attention. It was just below all of that… Snoke coached Corellia’s Swim Team? The same swim team that Ben was captain of?

Rey urgently flipped to the athletics section of the book finally finding the page dedicated to the swim team, a group of six boys stood in a line, they were clothed in tracksuits likely reflecting CHS’s colors but it was hard to tell with the photo being in black and white. Rey found Ben’s face easily, he was the tallest on the team though not by as much as she might have suspected. None of them smiled, their faces all set in serious expressions that they may as well have been posing for a police lineup. Snoke was at the end of the line, wearing a tailored suit which was unusual for any high school coach.

Why hadn’t Ben told her about this? That his path had crossed with the Superintendent in such a way? She been given the vague answer that he’d used to work with Snoke at the district office, but this seemed so much more… familiar. He taught Ben, coached him, guided him through his developing teenage years and there was something sinister about it. Rey couldn’t tell if it was her own bias against Snoke or if the deep frowns on all the boys’ faces were really screaming at her for rescue. Even with medals hanging around their necks they looked deeply unhappy. Ben had failed to mention this to her and it made her wonder what else about the district superintendent he hadn’t shared. What they hadn’t discussed that day he’d appeared like the boogeyman at Corellia High.

“I’m going to go check on Rey,” she heard Ben say from the bottom of the stairs. Dinner was wrapping up and she’d been standing here longer than she’d thought. Reactively, she slammed the yearbook shut and tucked it back into its place on the shelf as she heard Ben’s heavy footfalls on the stairs.

The yearbook was tucked away just in time for her to pretend to be interested in the collection of trophies on top of the bookcase as Ben appeared in the doorway.

“There you are,” he said, a smile forming on his pretty lips. The same lips that Rey knew were keeping secrets.

Briefly her words failed her and instead she gestured at the trophies. Finally she managed, “You were quite the athlete.”

Ben’s eyes turned on the trophies and he shrugged. “I like swimming more now that I don’t have to compete,” he said nonchalantly. Which from the dark look on Ben’s face in the swimming team photo, Rey suspected his words had some deeper implications than he let on. “Anyway, it's about time to think about leaving,” he said. “Mom is about to take Gran home and Han’s already got one foot out the door as per usual,” he added, groaning the last part.

Rey nodded, forcing a smile. “I guess I should go say goodbye,” she shrugged. It had been a lovely dinner.

They trudged down the stairs together. At the bottom landing her hand brushed his gently and she caught his eyes with her own. She wasn’t sure what she was doing, but in one brief moment she tried to say it all across some kind mental bond that they’d forged. It was pointless, they weren’t telepaths with psychic abilities. The were just two normal people trying to navigate life like anyone else. But Rey took the words she so desperately wanted to say aloud but couldn’t, to mentally take shape them as if she could say it all with a look.

Confusion knit across Ben’s brow, like he knew she was trying to say something but couldn’t understand what. They both said nothing aloud, instead they were overtaken by Leia and Breha bundled up against the rain, eager to say their pleasant goodbyes unaware of what had just transpired.