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Your Pretty Little Heart

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He fits the stereotypical personality profile of a general surgeon so perfectly that Rey is almost tempted to laugh at the cliché of it all.

Almost.

He is arrogant, impatient, and a terrible communicator. Ridiculously Type A. Self-centered—so much so that he’s been working in the same department for years and has yet to bother memorizing the names of the nursing staff. He doesn’t walk—he stalks. Out of operating rooms, down the hallways, into the nurses station. Taking up half of the space, with those ludicrous shoulders of his. He barks a few orders, and then he’s gone again, just like that, leaving the room somewhat transformed by his absence.

There are weird, disjointed urban legends about him that cannot be true, but feel as if they might be: he once was so mean to a promising trainee physician that she dropped out of medicine and now runs a food cart; he cackles whenever he performs an incision; and Rey’s personal favorite, that he was the first to come up with ‘The operation was a success, but the patient died.’ The longer she observes him, the more plausible they all seem.

He doesn’t believe in wearing a lab coat, even when it’s freezing and he’s in his scrubs—come on, they have got to be cold. And the surgery residents—why are exactly half of them in love with him, while all the others are scared shitless? It just doesn’t make any sense, since he’s moody and off-putting and brooding, all the time, because apparently being done with your fellowship, making heaps of money, and looking like something out of a poster for med school recruitment aren’t enough reasons to crack a smile once a week or so.

Ah. And yes.

Of course, he is an Alpha.

It’s not that Rey is surprised. When she decided to move here for her fellowship, Luke invested some serious time into preparing her for what she would find—Ben Solo—and how terrible it would be—very. It’s just that—seriously. Who acts like that? Rey has worked in this hospital for less than a week, hasn’t even exchanged one single word with him, and already she wants to scream it at the top of her lungs, to tattoo it on her forehead, to invest her savings in some epic skywriting: 

Rey Johnson, MD, loathes Ben Solo, MD, with the intensity of a thousand suns.

And then—then someone actually introduces them.

 

 

It’s Poe who has the dubious honor, and Rey will concede that the way it goes down may not entirely be his fault, but he sure goes about it in the worst possible way.

“Have you met our new internist? New fellow. Cardiopulmonary,” he tells Ben Solo in that carefree manner he has, halfway through showing Rey around the surgical clinic.

Solo is just standing there, scribbling something on a patient’s file, looking even taller from up close—and next to Poe. For some reason, his surgical mask and cap are still on, even though in a six feet radius there are about twenty separate wastebaskets he could have thrown them into.

“No.” Solo’s answer is muffled through the mask, and how he knows that they haven’t met before Rey truly has no idea, since he doesn’t bother to lift his eyes from the file.

“Doctor Rey Johnson. She started a few days ago, newly moved from—hey, wait a minute. Rey, wasn’t Luke Skywalker your residency supervisor? Aren’t you guys related, Ben? What are the chances, right?”

In Poe’s defense, he probably couldn’t have known.

Normal families don’t have the intergenerational rifts that the Solo-Organa-Skywalkers enjoy, and if Rey hadn’t heard Luke bitch about Ben breaking his mother’s heart by shunning a century-long family tradition of internal medicine to go into surgery approximately… yeah, a billion times, she probably wouldn’t have known either.

Except that Luke is not famous for letting go of things, and judging by his general demeanor, Rey would guess that neither is his nephew. It’s a Kennedy—no, worse, Kardashian-level of drama we’re talking about here. And Poe just unceremoniously threw Rey in the dead center of it.  Luke and Skywalker must be triggering words, because Solo looks up from whatever crucial thing he was busy writing to stare at Rey. He lowers his mask until it pools around the column of his throat—tense, why is his jaw always that tense—and stuffs his cap into his left pocket, all the while keeping his gaze on her.

For some science-defying reason, his hair looks really great and not smushed at all. Go figure.  

“You worked with Luke?” he asks her, after a pause that feels too long, and it occurs to Rey that in all her previous distant observations of him, she failed to catalogue his voice.

It’s a very—a very… good voice.

She also didn’t quite appreciate how handsome he looks. How striking.

How strikingly handsome.

What was the question?

“Uh—Yes, I did.” She swallows, because her mouth is dry. And then she also bites her lip. And then, then she realizes that Solo is staring at her with what could be contempt, or maybe just that baseline churlishness of his, and that the silence is stretching a little to thin, and Poe is clearing his throat, and maybe her answer was a little bit curt, and no one, not even this guy, deserves to be treated rudely, and so— “Nice to meet you, Doctor So—”

“Another excellent internist then, I assume,” he says, his very good voice pitched low and dripping sarcasm.

Rey freezes. Okay. So much for that.

She straightens her shoulders. “I think I am a good internist, yes.”

“If you are, that would have to be despite Luke’s mentorsh—”

He stops mid-word, eyes widening in—something. Disbelief? Rey can tell the exact moment in which he smells past the industrial-strength disinfectant, and the cleaning agents, and the standard chemicals that are everywhere in the hospital—and suddenly gets to her.

He inhales. Once, twice—the second time more deeply than the first—and then stares at her from head to toe, his pupils visibly dilating. Though his feet remain rooted to the ground, he somehow seems to get closer to Rey—to position himself between her and Poe.

It’s not physically possible. It must be some kind of Alpha trick, because he hasn’t even moved, Rey is sure of it.

“You’ll find that things are different here than with Luke. Omega.”

It makes her recoil.

The way he says it, calm and low—it’s technically not an insult. People address each other by their designation all the time—maybe not in the workplace, maybe not on their first meeting. Maybe not while they’re crowding the other person with their pheromones. Because now Rey’s noticing him, too: strong and warm and heady... Alphas always smell good to unmated Omegas, it’s a law of biology as ineluctable as cell division, but this Alpha smells even—

It’s technically not an insult, and if Rey were to go to HR and report this conversation, the entirety of this exchange, no one would find anything wrong with it. Practically, though…

Rey takes a step further into him. “How so, Alpha?”

Solo’s nostrils flare, and Rey realizes the crucial miscalculation—because if after centuries of oppression and disenfranchisement Omegas still try to advertise their designation as little as possible, Alphas… yeah. Alphas' greatest pleasure is being reminded of what they are. Rey supposes that it would be hers too, if she were in a position of power 24/7. If her kind hadn’t gained voting rights less than one hundred years ago. The smell intensifies, musky and dark and rich and—this guy is obviously an asshole, and Rey could totally punch him right now, right in the face on that giant nose of his. Except that a stupid, ridiculous, Omega-y voice inside her suggests, why don’t you try licking him instead? Right where the collar of his scrubs ends, there’s that pale skin that—

Solo’s pager goes off with a loud sound, and he reaches for it exactly as a nurse appears behind him. “Doctor Solo—we have an emergency in 243A.”

He exhales and straightens even taller, pinning Rey with one last look. “Excuse me.“

She feels like she can’t quite breathe until he’s finally out of sight. Beside Rey, Poe—Poe, right, Poe, Poe’s still here—crosses his arms on his chest and makes a show of pondering over the situation.

“Well. That went well, didn’t it?”

Rey keeps on staring in the direction Solo disappeared. Without him clouding her surroundings with pheromones, it’s easier to make her brain function with some semblance of normalcy. “He’s obnoxious.”

“Yep,” Poe nods cheerfully. “Unfortunately, he’s also this hospital’s golden boy and the best thoracic surgeon I’ve ever had the displeasure to meet, so you might want to try and stay out of his shit side. Just so that he actually shows up when you request him for a consultation.” A short pause. “Though judging from how that went, that ship might have sailed.”

Rey has about twenty years of education stuffed under her belt, so that she’s not sure why the most articulate response she can think of is, “Ugh.”

“I know.” Poe nods sympathetically, clearly trying not to burst into laughter. “Ugh.”

“I loathe Alphas,” she mutters, mostly to herself.

Poe clucks his tongue. “Now, that’s very un-Omega of you.”

“Always with the posturing.”

“Not always—I mean, often, yes.”

“Dumb and entitled, that’s what they are. Arrogant. And stupid.”

“Well. That’s hurtful.”

It takes a second for Rey’s brain to catch up with the fact it’s Poe she’s talking to. “Oh—No, no I didn’t mean you. I’m so sorry—”

He grins. “Nah, don’t worry. I’m not particularly proud to share a designation with Ben Solo, either. And to be fair, he is pretty far on the Alpha continuum. You might want to remember, though, that he’s the cardiopulmonary transplant guy here, and he’ll probably be attending on a bunch on your patients.”

Suddenly, the entirety of situation dawns on Rey. She started her fellowship less than a week ago, and she’s already had weird public stare down with one of her more senior coworkers—worse, with Luke’s nephew, who happens to be an Alpha.

She looks at Poe, horrified, and covers her mouth with both hands.

“God. I just had a pissing contest with a colleague. On my fifth day. And now he hates me.”

Poe is pleasant, and kind, and even handsome, but he’s absolute crap at hiding just how much Rey’s misery amuses him.

“There, there.” Poe pats her back. “It’s not the end of the world. Solo hates everyone, anyway.”

 

 

Ben Solo might hate everyone, but he makes it abundantly clear that he hates Rey just a little bit more.

“It’s not personal,” Poe insists when she goes over to his and Finn’s place for a dinner of boxed mac and cheese—apparently, neither has any intention to cave and learn how to cook. “Solo’s an equal opportunity asshole, you gotta give that to him.”

Rey remains unconvinced, and collects the evidence.

There is that time she catches him rolling his eyes after she asks a perfectly legitimate question during grand rounds. And that other time, when he happens to pass by Rey right as she is explaining to first-year residents the possible pitfalls of differential diagnosis of hematuria—and he snorts, loud and clear, that dick.

There is the fact that whoever decides on-call rotations must hate her—or maybe Rey’s just that lucky and most of her patients end up needing the kind of surgical operation that Solo is so good at. The result is the same: an inordinate amount of time spent in his presence. And Ben Solo might be good at his job, but he is very bad pretending to have basic social skills.

There is that very aggressive, very inappropriate, very loud exchange of opinions in front of the entirety of the nursing staff, in which he throws a medical chart at Rey because her handwriting is not pretty enough. Things are said in the ensuing chaos, things like, “You must have forged your medical license, because you clearly are unable to write,” and “Oh, I’m sooo sorry, I will make sure to calligraph the word ’prostate’ next time.” Rose, the pretty, kind, Beta head nurse, stares at them with a slack jaw.

And then.

Then there is the way he smells to Rey. Like something she would bathe into and roll around for hours, delicious and dark and comforting and just stupendous. Something Rey would gladly drown in and never even look back. It’s absolutely, tragically wasted on Ben Solo, that delicious Alpha scent. And it’s almost amusing that Rey must smell pretty much the very opposite to him. At least judging from how he seems dead set on being on the opposite side of any room she’s in, or the way he studiously avoids touching her. Once, while they’re riding an elevator to the fifteenth floor, she notices him trying to breathe with his mouth, as if he were about to gag on her smell, or something equally dramatic. Rey tells herself that it’s not hurtful at all, that he’s just being his snobby, pretentious self, and when someone steps in on the eighth floor she makes a point of inching a little closer to him. Just to disgust him that much more.

Choke on my smell, you insufferable prick.

“I told you he’s a dick,” Luke gloats the first time they talk on the phone, sounding weirdly close—as if he weren’t three timezones away from Rey. “I have no idea who he gets it from.”

“Actually—" she wedges her phone between shoulder and ear and pours the pasta in the colander, "—he reminds me of you.”

“I’m gonna get on a plane come murder you, kiddo.”

“I’m serious. I mean—he’s logarithmically more intense than you, but that might just be an age thing. Since by now you’re an old fart, and all that.”

“I’ll make it slow and painful.”

“You’re both Alphas. You are equally sassy and irritable,” Rey continues, ignoring him. “And you both think you’re always right.”

“And I’ll feed your remains to the pigeons.”

Rey laughs, thinking of how surreal it is, that the uncle is the closest thing to a father she’ll likely ever have, when she can’t manage to be in the same room as the nephew for more than two minutes without wanting to stab him.

Life’s just weird, sometimes.

 

  

He must be really exhausted, because he doesn’t seem to notice Rey—or to muster is trademark mildly nauseated expression—when she slips into the consulting room. He just continues staring ahead and pressing gauze over the gash on his right forearm. A good portion of his scrubs are stained dark brown with what is probably his own blood. Rey forbids herself form noticing how young and deceptively harmless his odd, handsome face looks when he’s at rest, and crosses her arms on her chest.

“Well, well, well.”

He looks up at the sound of her voice, and for a moment his eyes widen in an expression that looks a lot like panic. Which—wow. He must really, really find her repellent. By the time he speaks, his gaze is blank again. “Could you get me a nurse?”

Rey ignores him. “You’re having quite the night, I heard. Was the guy completely crazy, or what?” 

“Probably just high." Ben shrugs those shoulders of his—mountains, they are mountains. "Something went wrong with the anesthesia—he’s back in surgery, now.”

“Heard you knocked him out.” Quite athletically, according to the nurses who were in the operating room. A sight to behold, Rose told Rey, more than a little impressed.

Ben doesn’t answer, all his attention focused on the apparently strenuous task of pressing the gauze to his forearm. “Can you please send in a nurse? I’ll need about ten stitches.”

Rey steps further into the room, and—yes. Now he’s definitely looking panicky.

“I’m surprised you’re not taking care of them yourself?”

“I’m right handed.”

“Mmm.”

“Can you please call in one of the nurses?”

“I can suture, you know.”

“I have no doubt.”

“And Luke wasn’t the one to teach me, in case you’re worried about my technique. I learned in med school.”

He huffs, humorless. “I doubt Luke could suture to save his own life.”

“Good. Then I’ll just stitch you up and—”

“No.”

Rey has to remind herself not to grind her teeth. God, he's just—Damn Alphas. “It’s late—there’s currently one nurse who can suture on this floor, and she’s busy with patients. I can take care of you.”

“Send her in once she’s done.”

Rey lifts one eyebrow. She doesn’t mind, she tells herself, that for some reason Ben finds her so objectionable that he won’t accept something as banal as the most minor of surgical procedures from her. Though she has to wonder how it feels, to despise someone so much that walking around with a gaping wound might be preferable to spend three minutes in their company.

“Oh—You mean when you’ve bled dry? Also, don’t think that she’s in a hurry to come help you. This is what you get when you’ve spent the past five years terrorizing the nursing staff.”

“I’ll wait for another one, then.”

“There’s no reason, since I—”

“Send in a nurse, Omega.”

Rey’s first instinct is to nod. To just back out of the room, and do exactly as the Alpha tells. She actually shift her center of balance, prepares to step back. Lifts a foot. It’s a compulsion of sorts, and there’s not much Rey can do about it, since there’s something inside her genetically predisposed to crave the pleasure of doing exactly as an Alpha says.

But it’s nothing more than instinct, and Omega or not Rey remembers that she knows better.

Her jaw sets. “No.”

He makes to hop down the table. “Then I’m going down to the ER—”

“Oh, stop it. They’re busy with real, actual problems—just sit down and I—”

“Then I’ll do the sutures myself. I don’t want—”

Fed up, Rey plants her hand in the exact middle of Ben’s chest, and pushes him back until he’s sitting on the medical table again. He’s twice as large as she is, and his muscles—he’s an Alpha, which means that his muscles have a firmness that Betas’ and Omegas’ can never really achieve, no matter the workout regime. Which in turn must mean that Rey’s move only succeeds in stopping him because he simply is too stunned to think of doing anything about it. His scent spikes, as intoxicating as usual—more, God, even more—enveloping Rey until she has to physically force herself not to gulp it in any longer.

It’s such a cruel joke, that he’s probably about to vomit or something, just because Rey is less than a foot away from him.

“Listen, I know you hate it, just…” Just hold your nose for ten minutes. “Just let me patch you up. Please.”

He looks at her, working his jaw in that way Rey’s starting to associate with him. A sequence of emotions runs on his face, all too fleeting for Rey to identify, until he settles on what looks like a combination of resentment and resignation.

“Just—be quick.”

Rey busies herself—retrieves more gauze, pours the antiseptic, and then returns to stand in front of him as she puts on her gloves. Here, she is dying to tell him. I’m holding my nose, too. You and your stupid scent. When she wraps her hand around the back of Ben’s forearm, he jolts visibly and presses his mouth in a thin line. His flesh feels warm to Rey, even through the latex.

“You know,” she says, trying to lighten the mood, “you could at least pretend to be grateful that I—”

“Just—Please.” Ben’s tone is mostly impatient, but underneath there is a hint of—what is it? Rey tries to pry what it is out of his eyes, but he looks away, staring at the anatomy poster hanging on the wall.

“Fine,” she mutters.

Whatever.

Rey spends the following ten minutes working in silence, making a point of not looking up at him. When she’s done with the last suture, he hops down the bed and hurries out of the room, without thanking her or saying goodbye.

Whatever, Rey thinks once more, deliberately ignoring the intensity of the scent he left behind.

 

 

“I’m just minding my own business.”

Finn is huffing and puffing on the treadmill beside Rey’s, sweat darkening his green t-shirt and making his skin glisten. He still manages to nod sympathetically in Rey’s direction.

“Literally—I’m just trying to make sure that this dude doesn’t bleed to death.”

Finn tries to take a peek at Rey’s monitor. “Right—how fast are you going?”

“Eleven point seven. Not to be dramatic, but I’m trying to save his damn dominant arm, and he hates me so much that he’d rather die than get sutures from me.”

“Should you—I can see you’re worked up, but should you maybe decrease your speed a bit?”

“I just want you to know,” Rey says, reaching for her water bottle as she lowers the speed by point two miles per hour, “that if I my dead body is found in a ditch, it was probably Ben fucking Solo who did it. And he loved every minute of it.”

Finn just looks at her and shakes his head. “Noted.”

 

 

It gets exponentially worse, and the tragic part is that—in a way—it’s all Rey’s fault.

Because she assumes that everyone else left the conference room the very second the meeting was over; because she is walking towards the door while checking Instagram on her phone and wishing that she, too, was hiking in Colorado with her friend Kaydel; because there are no excuses for not noticing Ben Solo, human brick wall, heading in the same direction as her—and no justifications for ruinously bumping into him.

“Hey!”

When Rey lifts her eyes he’s staring down at her, looking appalled at being this close to her. Absolutely horrified.

“Oh, sorry, I didn’t see y—”

“Can you watch where you’re going, or is it too difficult?”

“I said I’m sorry, I was distracted and I—”

“Are you even on suppressants?”

It makes Rey pause in her apology. She is almost positive that Ben asked her if she’s on suppressants, but it’s clearly not a thing any sane, fully-functioning human being would do, which means that he probably said something else, something that only sounds similar, maybe that rhymes with—  “What?”

“I said, are you on suppressants?”

Nope. He really said that.

“I—What?” Of course she’s on suppressants. She’s an Omega working as an MD, not a housewife trying to get pregnant. “Do you think this is a polite question? Because if so, you might be due for a sensitivity training refresher.”

Ben steps—just a little—closer. He is wearing a black henley under his scrubs, and Rey does not allow herself notice the way his biceps stretch it.

“Are you on suppressants?” he repeats, somewhat more intensely, and this time there is that Alpha push behind the words, the one that is bloody unfair and yet makes Rey want to do exactly as he says. And then maybe even thank him for the privilege.

Damn Omega genes.

“Yes,” she grits out sullenly. At least she manages not to whimper Yes, Alpha—not her best moment, but she’ll take what she can get.

He nods, looking unhappy. “You might want to consider stronger drugs, then.”

What? “Why?”

“Because.”

“That’s—I—Do you even—” Rey sputters out, and then takes a deep breath to calm herself. It’s a mistake—God, he smells so good. He smells unbelievable. Why does he find her so revolting that he has to ask her to take stronger suppressants, she has no clue. But she can ask. Again. “Why?”

“Because we need to work together, and things are not working out for me at the moment.”

This. Prick.

“Then maybe you might want to consider stronger drugs—”

I have.” He cuts her off. It’s the way his jaw is working, in the press of his lips, how much it costs him to admit it. “I have been upping my dose every week until—” He stops abruptly. His hands are surgeon’s hands—sure, precise, calm. They move with purpose and economy, and they always, always know what to do and where to be. Except now, apparently, since they are nervously smoothing the tissue of his scrubs down his flat torso. His scent wafts to her in a fresh wave, and it’s—intoxicating. “I’m on blockers. The maximum dosage. And your scent—it’s still…” he swallows visibly, and presses his lips together before pushing out the word. “Distracting.”

“Come on, Ben. There is no way my scent is so disgusting that it distracts you from your work.”

Ben looks at her like she just sprouted a second pair of eyes.

“It’s not disgusting.”

Then why does he—

Oh.

Oh.

Oh.

“You mean…”

Oh, Lord.

Ben is almost wincing. Almost. He looks very pained. “Yes.”

“So… not—not bad?”

He squeezes his eyes shut and keeps them closed, looking as if all the pain and worry and suffering in the world has just been thrust upon his shoulders.

“Believe me—it’s bad.”

“I’m s—” She catches herself before apologizing. “I… I think it’s you. The other Alphas haven’t complained.”

“What other Alphas?” Ben asks derisively, and—yeah. He makes a valid point, because all the other Alphas around are just not in the position of noticing her. Poe is mated with Finn, or as close to mating as an Alpha and a Beta can get; Phasma is probably straight, and thus would have no interest in Rey, even if Rey were to go in heat under her nose. And most of the others are far enough from their prime that they either wouldn’t notice Rey, or they’d just be able to make themselves not care.   

Still. Rey has worked with plenty of unmated Alphas, and she has to treat Alpha patients every single day, and no one ever complains about her scent. It’s not as if she’s irresistible, some kind of super Omega—actually quite the opposite, judging from the amount of Alpha attention her Omega friends would get back in college or med school, in the rare occasions when Rey forced herself to go out clubbing with them and act her real, demographic age.

“Well—I’m not the only Omega working here. There’s Hannah, and that woman who comes in for consultations from gerontology, and—”

“The other Omegas are not a problem.”

“Why am I a problem, then?”

He studies her for a moment, lips pressed into a thin line. “I don’t know.”

Then again, maybe he does know. And maybe Rey knows, too, because it’s not as if she hasn’t noticed Ben. It’s not as if he doesn’t smell a little better than the other Alphas do. It’s not as if she doesn’t get where he’s coming from, which is why she can’t quite hold his gaze and her voice is weak when she confesses, “I’m already on maximum dosage.” Which is a little more than she should be taking, anyway, considering her height, and weight, and that she’s not a teenager anymore.

Ben looks at her in disbelief and then pinches the bridge of his nose.

“Fuck,” she thinks he mutters, but it’s too low for her to hear it.

Though he’s probably over-reacting. Surely. It’s not like this is going to be a problem. She’s not going to go in heat or drag him into a rut—not as long as she is on suppressant, because they are absolutely foolproof. So if he finds her—distracting—yeah, well, they just need to deal with the discomfort, and—

Alphas and Omegas work together all the time, right?

Right?

“Is there anything I can do to, um, help?” she asks, and doesn’t realize what exactly she just offered until he lowers his hand and looks at her again, lips slightly parted, a spike of pheromones lighting up the air between them. Her dumb, treacherous body reacts instantly, starting to prepare for something that—no, no, no, it’s not going to happen. And Ben. Of course Ben immediately picks up on it, nostrils flaring and pupils dilating and he’s even leaning a little more into Rey as he stares at her mouth.

Rey steps back, and her body—it is not happy about it.

“I—I didn’t mean that. Obviously.”

“Obviously,” he repeats, with an inflection that sounds vaguely disappointed—thought it could just be Rey’s brain tricking her. It probably is. For sure. All systems are not nominal.

“I don’t—”

“It’s okay.” Now he’s stepping back, too. “Listen, just—just keep taking your suppressants, okay? I’ll think of something. Or… someone.”

It’s not until he’s gone that it occurs to Rey to wonder what he means when he says ‘someone’.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

“You guys probably just have really great chemistry, that’s all.” Poe is grinning. Really, no one who derives so much joy from Rey’s misfortunes should be allowed to call himself her friend. “I mean, Solo is an Alpha. And you are an Omega. It’s biology.”

“You’re an Alpha, too,” Rey mutters into her soup.

“He’s taken.” Finn doesn’t even bother looking up from his laptop, busy with who knows what. Poe blows an air kiss at him and Finn pretends to catch it and stick it to his cheek, all while continuing to type with his right hand. Rey would really like to roll her eyes at the scene, but she’s charmed despite herself.

“It doesn’t make sense. We hate each other.” She doesn’t like the whininess in her voice, but then again, there’s heaps of things Rey doesn’t like but simply can’t help. Ben Solo is only the latest, most unwelcome addition.

“Oh—it doesn’t mean anything. I told you, I’m pretty sure Solo hates everyone. So either he never gets laid, or he’s learned to divorce fucking from liking.” Poe cocks his head, pensive. “I’m honestly not sure which one it is. Would be curious to find out.”

Rey sighs and leans back in her chair. Next to their table, a five-year-old throws a piece of broccoli at his brother, who bursts out crying. Rey is not sure why Poe always insists on having lunch in the Children’s Hospital cafeteria, but she thinks he might be trying to send a message to Finn regarding their family planning. Finn is oblivious as ever, and takes a bite of his sandwich while proceeding in the writing of the next great American novel. Or something.

“He said he’d take care of it. He said he’d… think of someone?”

“Ah.” Poe nods. “He probably just means that he’s going to try to fuck this thing out of his system with someone else,” he explains, utterly unfazed. His tone must be a little too loud, because the mother sitting at the nearby table gives him a scathing look.

“Wait—someone else?”

“Yup.”

“Like... another Omega?”

“Maybe. Or—literally anyone else.”

“Wait—so, because he’s compatible with me he’ll go have sex with someone else?”

Poe shrugs. “Yeah, I mean. I do it all the time. Sometimes there’ll be an Omega who smells really good to me, you know? I just save it all up for when I go home to Finn.” He winks at Rey. “He’s actually happy about it. Right, babe?”

Finn doesn’t look up, nor he looks particularly happy. “Sure.”

“It’s just—it’s an Alpha thing. We can’t help it. I mean, it’s also an Omega thing I’m sure. No?”

Not really.

Or not as far as Rey would know, since the one person she’s had sex with was a Beta, what now feels like a million years ago, back in undergrad—before med school, and her internship, and then her residency began eating up her life and dissolving even the most evanescent hope for meaningful social activities. Like holding friendships with non co-workers. Or dating. Or, you know.

Getting laid.

Rey adamantly refuses to subscribe to the ‘all Alphas are assholes’ school of thought—she’s convinced that Ben Solo must have come by his stellar insufferableness on his very own merit—but she’s never been too fond of them, either. Yes, she’s biologically programmed to be compatible with them. Yes, they smell nice. Yes, having one around can be pleasant and comforting. But so are hot chocolate and kittens, and way less likely to try bossing her around—except maybe the kittens. Overall, way more worthy of her time and attention.

Then, again. To Rey, no one never smelled quite as good as—

“Hey.” Something occurs to her. “You—The whole getting, um, turned on because an Omega is around… it doesn’t happen to you when you’re with me, right?”

He raises his eyebrows. “Well, as a matter of fact…”

Rey leans back, horrified, and Poe’s face splits into a grin. “Nah, just kidding. I mean—you’re awesome and all that, and your scent is as good as Omegas’ always is, but it’s so suppressed that I can barely detect it—and other than that you smell absolutely ordinary to me. As plain as flour. As boring as an the common cold. As dull as— ”

“Ok, ok. I get it.”

“I gotta say, though, I’m really enjoying seeing Solo doing his very best not to breathe when you’re in the room. Almost makes me like the guy. Relatable, and all that.”

“He doesn’t have to. I mean, he smells good to me, too, but you don’t see me being all dramatic about it and—”

“You should stay away from him.” Rey turns to Finn to find that he’s not staring a hole into his computer screen anymore. Instead he’s looking at Rey with a sort of earnest intensity that seems at odds with his previous disengagement with the conversation.

“Well, we work together, so—”

“Yes, but other than that.”

Rey is not sure how to respond. “Of course.”

“Just—take care of yourself, okay?”

Rey nods.

 

 

Two days later, Rey’s off a thirteen-hour workday and heading for the elevator when she sees them in the hallway.

Phasma is standing next to Ben—she’s so tall, why are all surgeons so tall in this hospital—showing him something on a clipboard. She points at it every few words, and he is nodding, clearly absorbed in the conversation. For once, he’s not rolling his eyes, or sneering at something someone is saying—okay, fine, at something Rey is saying.

Phasma leans into him and adds something conspiratorially, something brief that must also be witty, at least judging from the way her lips curve upwards. Ben lifts his head to look at Phasma, and—it’s been weeks, weeks since Rey moved here, weeks since she started working in this hospital, weeks since she’s met him, and yet right now she’s seeing his smile for the very first time.

Rey’s heart jumps in her chest. He looks…

She turns on her heels, and takes the stairs down to the parking lot.

 

 

The woman is frazzled, and tired, and worried about her husband’s conditions, and at nine PM the thoracic surgery clinic is not where anyone wants to be—not even Rey. Which is why she tries very hard to sound reassuring and not at all annoyed when she has to repeat the same exact thing for the eighteenth time.

“As I said, this is not a high-risk situation. We do have a few more tests that we’d like to go through—”

A few more?”

Rey so wants to point out that the patient has been hospitalized for less than twelve hours. But the woman is an Alpha, and Alphas don’t react well to being told… pretty much anything, really. “We are progressing as fast we can to—”

“We are going to have him moved to a better hospital.”

Oh, boy.

“There is no better hospital,” Rey says, and there is a strange echo to her words that makes her pause for a moment—until she realizes that she spoke at the very same time as Ben, if a little less rudely. Standing tall right next to her, arms crossed over his scrubs, he looks like he’s ready to stab the patient’s wife with a scalpel. Isn’t it nice, when the hospital scheduler and cruel, merciless fate conspire together to force Rey to simultaneously deal with unreasonable patients’ relatives and Ben Solo at his moodiest?

“There must be. I mean, you sure have no idea what you’re doing, since you can’t figure out what’s wrong with my husband.” The woman looks assessingly from Rey and Ben, and then from Ben to Rey, and then—she chooses her target. She points at Ben with her finger, in that aggressive way only Alphas can get away with, and turns to face Rey. “Well, clearly he knows what’s going on, since the surgery went well, but aren’t you the one who’s supposed to be figuring what the hell is wrong?”

Oh, boy.

Rey squares her shoulders. “It’s a process of elimination. It can’t be rushed, especially considering—”

“Well, you should be be faster.”

“It has nothing to do with me—laboratory analyses have standard durations that cannot be—”

“The you should run faster analyses.”

“It’s—No, the diagnostics we are running are the ones we need to exclude—”

“Then maybe I want to talk with someone with more experience than you.”

Rey sighs. “I can certainly put you in touch with other—”

“No.”

Rey startles at the firmness in Ben’s voice. More surprisingly, the woman startles, too.

“Doctor Johnson is one of the best physicians available. Talking to her this way won’t get anything done faster, and surely won’t make it easier for her to find out what’s wrong with your husband. If you want to move him so that he can be treated elsewhere you’re welcome to do so, but be aware that any risk to his health will skyrocket.”

Ben turns on his heels and exits the room, leaving the patient’s wife to stare at him with bulging eyes and a slack jaw. Rey nods once at her, equally dumbfounded, and follows him out of the room before she recovers enough to start yelling again.

“What was that?”

Ben doesn’t lift his eyes from the patient’s records.  “How’s the cell count in his CSF?

“Um… I think she’s pretty pissed at you.”

“I’m pissed at her, so it works perfectly. The cell count?”

“It’s—within range.” Rey watches Ben nod, his eyes still skimming the medical records. “You realize that she’s going complain and make this an infernal pain in the ass for—”

“She won’t.”

“How do you know?”

Ben lifts his eyes to meet Rey’s, and she can’t possibly look away. “She won’t.” Just like that, inexplicably, Rey feels immediately calm and reassured.

Damn Alphas, and the things they do.

Damn Ben Solo.

“Okay. Okay, um…”

“Let me know when the labs come in.”

“Sure.” Rey bites into her lip. She hates to say this, but she kind of has to. “Thank you. For what you said in there, I guess.”

“Oh.” Ben looks away, to a spot somewhere above Rey’s head. “It may actually be the truth,” he pushes out somewhat sullenly, as if it costs him a lot. “I still think that your patient notes are horrifying. You are the most disorganized physician I’ve ever met, and I’d fire you on the spot just because of your handwriting. If it were in my power.”

The left corner of his lip is—Rey might be seeing things and in dire need of an ophthalmologist, but it really looks like it’s curling up.

Was that—a joke?

Out of the blue, Rey feels a a laugh bubble out of her throat. “Right.”

Ben is smiling back at her, and it’s more of a smirk than anything else—but still. The whole thing has Rey completely, utterly transfixed, and she forgets how to breathe.

Good thing, then, that it doesn’t last long. He immediately looks away and takes a step back.

“I’m gonna go—I have surgery early tomorrow. Try not to let her murder you.”

Rey nods. “Okay.” And then it occurs to her that— “Shouldn’t you tell me not to murder her?”

He’s already walking away from her, which makes it impossible to see his expression as he answers. “True. You are way more savage than I ever thought an Omega could be.”

Rey watches him leave, listening to his steps echo in the empty hallway and feeling oddly proud of herself.

 

 

He’s not that bad.

Maybe.

That is, he’s still horrible, just possibly not quite as horrible as Rey initially thought.

Maybe he doesn’t know the nursing staff’s names, but he does seem to listen to what they have to say, and even Rey has to admit that as an Alpha, he could probably get away with being way more condescending.

Maybe he’s outstandingly mean and rude to interns and residents, but he also steps in when the rest of surgical unit, usually Snoke or Hux, are being even meaner and ruder.

Maybe he’s not exactly warm and empathetic towards patients, but unlike most surgeons Rey has met, he actually takes the time to talk to families and social workers about discharge dispositions.

Maybe I was unfair, Rey thinks as she makes her way to a staff meeting. Or prejudiced.

She enters the conference room to find it already packed, and immediately zeroes on the donut box open at the farthest end of the tables. She cranes her neck—one left. Cinnamon. Perfect!

After all, all she ever thought she knew about Ben was second-hand, from Luke; Rey trusts Luke a lot, but she has to admit that he is not exactly an unbiased party. It’s very possible that her first impressions of Ben were highly influenced by what she was told before even meeting him, and—

Just as Rey begins reaching for her donut, one large hand snatches it from under her nose. She looks up—and up, and up—to see Ben Fucking Solo taking a huge, savoring bite into it.

I hope you die, Rey thinks as her stomach rumbles. Of leprosy, or something equally painful.

The way he smirks at her before turning around makes it obvious that he knows.

 

 

It’s not that she regrets agreeing to go to a bar with Jessika.

It’s just that she really regrets agreeing to go to a bar with Jessika.

Thing is, there aren’t so many female Omega doctors that Rey can easily forgo the opportunity to strike up a friendship. The problem is that the more time Rey spends in Jessika's company, the more she has to wonder if their interests are just not… compatible.

“What about those two?”

Nope.

“I don’t know, Jess. They look awfully…” predatory. Yucky. “… Alphas.”

“I know!” Jessika nods enthusiastically. “I like the guy in the blue sweater. You up for taking the other one?”

Not particularly, no.

“I’m not sure about this.”

Jessika shifts her attention from the Alphas to Rey and tips her head. “What’s wrong? I thought you said you were trying to get out more. Meet people.”

Not really. Kind of. Sort of.

Maybe?

For the longest time, Rey regarded sex and romantic relationships as a colossal waste of time. Nothing more than distractions she didn’t need and that would end up sidetracking her from what really mattered—work. Now, though… most of her friends live on the opposite side of the country, and her fellowship is not nearly as mind-numbingly draining as her residency or even med school were, and the fact that she spends a large portion of her spare time staring at Poe and Finn sucking faces—it all makes Rey think that maybe, just maybe, having someone to go catch a movie with, or to text that she’ll probably get home three hours late, it might almost be nice.  Or even… yeah.

Rey would settle for someone to have sex with, once in a while.

It’s just, this… this picking-up-dudes business. The whole dating game. The covert looks. The forced laughter. The drinks. It all feels exhausting, and a little ridiculous, and the exact opposite of whatever it is that Rey wants—not that she’s made up her mind on anything.

Not to mention the fact that Jessika seems to be obsessed with Alphas.

“I do. I am. Still, whatever guys we—I guess I’d be more comfortable if they weren’t Alphas.”

Jessika stares at her, puzzled. “Why not?”

“Because.” It really should be obvious. “I’d rather not. I like Betas better.”

“How can you like Betas better?”

Rey shrugs. “I don’t know. More… manageable?”

Jessika’s eyes narrow and then widen, as if hit by some sudden realization. “Oh my God. You’ve never had sex with an Alpha?”

Rey flushes, and for a moment is tempted to deny it. No, of course I have. I’ve had sex with a dozen Alphas. At the same time. During my heat. They were all in rut. It was soooo great. It seems like a lot of effort, though, so Rey just shakes her head and bears Jessika’s disconcerted face stoically—and to be honest, Rey isn’t sure why she is so surprised. Omegas and Alphas are relatively rare compared to Betas, and while mating is infinitely more biologically compatible between them, it’s not as if designation is the main factor to consider when starting a relationship. Statistically speaking, there are far more Omegas mated to Betas or to other Omegas than to Alphas, and if Rey ever decides to settle down she just knows that she’ll belong with the overwhelming majority.

Because, Alphas.

“Rey. You need to correct that. As ASAP as possible. Stat. Tonight. Immediately. Now.”

“Yeah. No.”

“I’m serious. You don’t know what you’re missing.”

From nowhere, Ben Solo’s face comes to mind—the way it looked two days ago as he kind-of sort-of smiled her her. That oddly alluring thing he does with his jaw when he’s mad, which happens to be all the freaking time. His scent. His marvelous, epic, life-ruining scent.

And, of course, his absolute Alpha dickishness.

“You mean, being looked down on and constantly treated with condescension and superiority?”

Jessika sighs and leans forward. “Listen. I deeply believe that Alphas have a collective historical responsibility in the systemic oppression of Omegas—and even Betas. Trust me, I hold them accountable and will call them on their bullshit whenever I can. However—” she lowers her voice, “—we are biologically wired to enjoy having sex with them. It’s 2018. You can have sex with an Alpha, love it, and it can happen on your terms. And yes, most of them can be douchebags, but believe me: it’s usually worth it.”

What a terrible, terrible time for Rey to be still thinking about Ben Solo.

“I don’t know. I—don’t think it’s a good idea.”

“Why? You’re not committing your entire future—we’re literally talking about one single night. Of very good sex.”

“Well, I’m not sure I’m a one-night-stand type of person.”

“Pfft. There is no such thing. Just find an Alpha you like and see if he’s interested—and trust me, if he’s isn’t mated he will be.”

It must be the alcohol, that’s making Rey think odd things. She only had a beer, but she also slept six hours in the previous two days, and maybe going out was a terrible idea to begin with. The words seem to flow out before she can think them through.

“What if it’s someone I don’t particularly get along with?” What if it’s someone who doesn’t like me? Rey means.

“Who cares? You’re an Omega. He’s an Alpha. You’re fucking, not getting married.”

Fucking.

“But—should there at least be some kind of… I don’t know, mutual respect—”

“Rey, Rey. Rey. You’re so overthinking this. You’re a doctor, you know the biology behind it. It’s all about pheromones—it doesn’t matter whether you have diverging opinions on Spaghetti Westerns or support different NHL teams.”

Rey takes another sip of her beer and then sets it back on the table, biting into her lower lip. It seems… impossible. And yet Jessika’s reasoning makes sense, and clearly it works for her. Not to mention that Rey is not interested in mating, or in settling down any time soon. Just in feeling a bit less… A bit less lonely. Having some fun. Living a little. This—this might be exactly what she needs, no matter that she wouldn’t have let herself consider it until less than an hour ago. Hell, less than ten minutes ago.

She inhales deeply. “You’re right. Probably I am. Overthinking this, I mean.”

Jessika is surveying a group of dudes who just entered the bar. “You definitely are.”

Rey nods, feeling herself reach a resolution that tastes simultaneously wrong and thrilling.  

“Okay.”

“Okay?”

“Yes. Okay.”

Jessika’s entire face lights up. “Okay, so—I’m gonna go for blue sweater, and you can—”

“No. No I…” Rey’s mouth is dry all of a sudden. “No. Not those guys. I already have someone in mind.”

 

 

Chapter Text

 

Rey has to wait until they are completely alone, which takes days.

Nine days, to be precise, in which Rey has time to think and rethink her stupid, delicious, harebrained idea about a billion times. She almost backs out of it twice, three times, four, and then... Then she and Ben will end up in the elevator together, or she’ll catch him giving her a side look that lasts too long, or even worse—he’ll accidentally brush against Rey as they are consulting about a patient, and Rey cannot help but remembering Jessika’s words.

Biologically wired, she'd said. You don’t know what you’re missing.

In the end, Rey accepts that they’ll probably never happen to find themselves alone again, just because for once it’s something she actively wants, and she resigns herself to go look for him in his office. She spends about thirty-five minutes agonizing over her lack of makeup, and how lanky her hair looks today, and whether it would be better to do this with her lab coat on or off. Then she makes peace with the fact that the one attractive quality she possesses in Ben’s eyes is her smell, and that he probably would never have looked at her twice if it weren’t for it. So she decides to just head upstairs in her scrubs, keeping her hair pulled up in the three buns style she favors when she’s not strictly on duty.

As she is riding the elevator, she tells herself that it has nothing to do with the fact that it frees the glands on each side of her neck. They are minor scent glands, anyway, and she is perfectly decent. By all standards.

When she knocks, the, “Come in” is immediate. Inside the small office, Ben’s smell is so thick that Rey wonders if this is how it feels, being run over by a truck. Suddenly, something inside her pulses, as empty as a drum, and she has to press her legs together.

She really hopes this conversation goes well, because… Because.

“Hi.”

“Who died?” Ben asks uninterested, keeping his eyes on the monitor.

“What? No one, I don’t think.”

He continues typing. “Are you lost, then?”

“No. No, I—can we talk? For a minute.”

He lifts his eyes, looking at her with suspicion. “Why?”

If Rey didn’t know better she’d think this Alpha—who’s a foot taller than her, and twice as large—is scared of her. Or something equally un-Alpha-y.

“If you give me a minute, I’ll tell you.”

A pause. “Fine,” he says, as sulky as usual.

Rey steps in and makes to close the door behind her.

“What are you doing?”

“Um… closing the door?”

“No—you can’t.” There is a hint of alarm under the steel of his tone.

“Why?”

Because.” He says it in his Alpha voice; it has an even worse effect on Rey than his everyday voice—which is already pretty bad. For a brief moment, Rey is tempted to apologize and back out. Then she remembers why she’s here, and powers through.

“It’s a bit of a delicate matter. I think we’ll want the privacy.”

“And I think we don’t want to be together in a space with inadequate ventilation.”

“It’s just for a few minutes.”

“No.”

“Believe me, you don’t want people overhearing this.”

“I really don’t care as long as—”

Faster than he can stop her Rey steps in and closes the door behind herself. She immediately leans back against it, palms flat on the smooth wood. Ben just stares at her, eyes wide.

“Please,” he says, calm and serious.

“Just a minute. I—I’ll stay here, out of your way.”

Ben squeezes his eyes shut for a handful of seconds. When he opens them again, his expression has hardened.

“Suit yourself. You were forewarned.”

Rey nods, and takes a deep breath. His scent is still overwhelmingly powerful in the small office, and it’s also beginning to mix with hers, which makes something throb sweetly somewhere deep in her abdomen and—

Yep, maybe he had a point. Maybe this should be over as quickly as possible.

“Do you remember that thing we talked about?”

Ben rolls his eyes. “Yes. The thing. Of course.” He turns to stare at his monitor again.

“In the conference room.”

“Is this about your patient with the bronchial inflammation? I told you, we can’t operate until—”

“No.” Rey swallows. “No, it’s about… the sex.”

At least, it gets his attention. He swivels in his chair until he’s facing Rey again, eyes widening. “What?”

“That conversation we had about—”

“I am very sure you and I have never talked about sex.”

“You said—you said you…” Like the way I smell. Like me. Maybe want to sleep with me? Though, to be fair, Rey is now realizing that he never said any of these things. That she might have catastrophically misunderstood their whole conversation, and yeah, she is suddenly one hundred percent certain that this, being here, was not her best idea after all.

Actually, it may very well be her absolute worst to date.

“You said you find me… distracting.”

Ben’s expression closes off, and he clears his throat. “I am positive that the word sex was not uttered once over that conversation.”

Right.

“Yes. I mean—no, it wasn’t, but…” Rey takes a deep breath. “It could have been.”

Ben goes absolutely still. Rey can’t read anything in his face—absolutely nothing.

“It could?”

“Yeah. If you—if you were interested. Hypothetically.”

“Hypothetically.”

“Hypothetically.”

A pause; too long. “You made it clear that you weren’t. Interested.”

Rey thinks back to their conversation. She didn’t quite—she doesn’t believe she ever said she wasn’t. Yes, maybe she also didn’t say she was, but what does he expect her to—and he was the one who said he’d go find someone else, anyway.

“I wasn’t then. But—I am now. If you still are, I mean.”

Suddenly, it occurs to her that what she is saying could be vastly misinterpreted. Maybe Ben thinks she’s being a typical clingy Omega, trying to find a mate to ensnare and tie herself to. Not that all Omegas are clingy, not by any means, but that’s the stereotype, and Rey most definitely doesn’t care to be the one who perpetuates it. Now with Ben Solo, who’d probably rather perform cardio-thoracic surgery on himself without anesthesia than voluntarily spend time in Rey’s company. Unless what they do in that time only involves—

“It would just be—I’m not saying we should go on dates or anything like that, of course.”

She expects him to look relieved, but for some reason his expression only hardens.

“Of course,” he says, and there is an edge of bitterness in his tone.

“We would just… You know. I mean, it sounds like we’re compatible.”

“Compatible.”

“Yes. And I haven’t… Not in a while. So it would be convenient if—”

“I am.”

“You are?”

“Yes.”

What? “You are… what?”

“Interested. I am very interested.”

Ben stands from his chair, and while he doesn’t exactly move closer to Rey the office is small enough that the air displacement causes his scent to slam into her like some sort of avalanche. Rey’s hands close into fists.

“Oh. Good. Good, um, so am I.” God. Could this be any more awkward? Could she be more awkward. Could Ben be any less helpful? He’s just standing there, staring a hole into her and—he’s actually licking his lips, now.

“Good.”

“Okay, so. How do you propose we… um…” Rey makes to run a hand through her hair, and then remembers that it's tied up. “I guess we could meet somewhere, outside work, and—”

Or not.

Probably not, because—She’s not sure where the kiss comes from, but it’s nonetheless there, Ben’s lips on hers after he—he must have crossed the space between them, he must have, but Rey didn’t see him. Doesn’t matter, because her legs somehow know what to do, since they’re wrapped around his hips. He’s helping her, hands under her ass to lift her up and press her tighter against himself—

Close, how are they so close all of a sudden?

He groans, or maybe she does, and he must feel how wet she is, even through her scrubs and his scrubs and all the layers underneath. He must be able to smell it, as open as he has her, as parted, all that delicious, steady pressure on her cunt as his palms drag her even closer. Distantly, Rey wishes her body would show a modicum of restraint, but his tongue, the taste is—it’s perfect. He always smelled good—not generic-Alpha, biologically-salient good, but phenomenal. Now, though, now he’s everywhere, inside her and outside and seeping through her skin and soaking her brain and—

“Here. I can fuck you here.”

It sounds like a great idea. A fantastic idea, and Rey pulls him down again, to her mouth, though she lets him stray to the scent gland on her throat when he seems to prefer that, when he moans as he licks the one on the left and then suckles on it and then one hand slips underneath her scrubs and drifts upwards to her breast and—

The noise of a cart in the hallway yanks Rey out of the moment.

“Okay, maybe—Ben, maybe not here…”

He shuts her up with another kiss, and it’s as if Rey can feel the pheromones entering her bloodstream. This is—too much. Unsustainable. It’s crazy, that they managed to avoid this, this, for weeks. They are barely breathing, now.

“You’ve been ruining my life since—”

“Ben—Ben, please, I—” Rey plants her hands on his shoulders. Alpha muscles. Everywhere. So hard. So. Much.

“Shhh. Shh, I’ve got you, I—” He bites her on the neck, lightly, his erection dragging against her, and for a second Rey thinks, knows, that she’s going to come—just like this, just like—

“We have to stop—Ben—”

He's not listening to her, not even close, too busy smelling her and licking her and biting her everywhere that is accessible, too busy pressing her further into the door and fusing their bodies together and making her—even more wet, how is that even possible? But there are people, and this is a hospital, and it’s the middle of the day, and this is not the place, and he needs to—

Stop.

Some kind of deep-rooted instinct has Rey lift her hands to the column of his neck, wrap them around it. Ben stills in the act of sucking at her collarbone, just long enough that Rey can push his head back. Catch his eyes with hers.

Seamless and ancient, something inside her takes over. Rey presses a soft kiss into his cheek and runs her thumbs back and forth over both his glands. He looks immediately soothed—more than that, spellbound. Utterly captivated by her touch.

“Rey,” he whispers, short of breath.

She kisses his cheek again. “We can’t do it here. But—later. Whenever you want, Alpha.”

It seems to work. Ben nods, slowly, and gently lets go of her, disentangling her thighs from his hips until her feet touch the ground, his grip soft and lingering. He takes one—small—step away from her and then just stands there, chest heaving, and Rey—she has saved lives, and held her own in a world that never gave her any advantage, but in all her years she has never, ever felt such power.

“We're... There are people…” she starts to explain, and Ben nods. For the first time since she met him, his expression isn’t impatient, or annoyed. He just seems oddly… at peace.

“Yes.”

He reaches for her, and for a moment Rey thinks that he’s going to draw her to him again, and then yes, they are going to fuck in this office and the entire floor, the entire hospital will know, and who cares? But his hand reaches around her, and his palm, heavy and warm, comes to rest on her superior trapezius, rubbing rhythmically through her clothes.

Rey stills.

Her world stops. Everything, every single nerve in her body seems to reroute—to center on the wet, thrumming pulse fluttering between her legs.

“I’m going to lick this,” he promises, voice low and steady.

Rey can’t breathe. The scent glands on her neck, they are sensitive, have to be—but the mating gland on her upper back… yeah.

That’s the one.

The one she never lets anyone touch—not ever her college boyfriend, because it just felt wrong.

The one whose existence Rey tries to forget about, because it’s just too much sometimes. There is so much tied to it—a whole host of shameful, forbidden feelings and fantasies that she’d rather not linger on. Just like that, with barely five words, Ben manages to position himself at the center of every single one of them.

Or maybe he was there all along.  

“Yes,” she says staring into his eyes.

He nods, and Rey can smell how pleased he is. How much she pleased him, with just one word.

He leans further into her, his nose dragging in the spot between Rey’s throat and her collarbone. Rey is so transfixed by the sensation that she doesn’t realize the main intent of his gesture—reaching past her to open the door, and let some pheromone free air into the office.

Surprisingly, it actually helps dilute the pressure. By the time Ben straightens and takes a step back, Rey can almost think again. His hair is messy, sticking up on the left side of his head, and he has never looked more handsome.

“Later, then?”

Rey exhales, wishing his hands were still on her.

“Yes. Later.”

 

 

‘Later’ turns out to be much later than Rey expects—and judging from the way Ben looks at her during staff meetings, or as they pass each other in the hallways, much, much later than he wants.

First, Rey is on call for two weekends in row, and two weeks ago she wouldn’t have cared a whit, but now the fact that they are on non-overlapping shifts seems like a cruel, painful joke.

Then Poe gets sick, and Rey has to cover for him, and he might give off the impression that he breezes effortlessly through life, but he’s clearly in charge of a million patients; Rey’s workload quadruples instantly. One of the patients needs a surgery consultation, and it’s an interesting enough case that the entire surgical unit decides to come see the imaging results and give their opinion. Ben is there, too, and has a twenty-five minute argument with Hux before rolling his eyes and slipping out of the room. As he walks past her, Rey could swear that she can feel his long fingers brush against her lower back.

Or maybe she’s just slowly going out of her mind. Both options seem equally plausible.

Then Ben has early morning surgeries for—she doesn’t even know, but it feels like at least three geologic eras, long like the one in which Earth was mostly lava with a couple of bacteria and hard-shelled creatures, and Rey and Ben are both horny, but not horny enough that they’d risk him doing his job while sleep-deprived. Rey finds herself thinking that she will really, truly go mad, just at the memory of what little happened between them in his office that day.

And then—then.

They both have a day off. At the same time.

 

Ben <Tonight?>

 

Rey was supposed to call Luke tonight, because they haven’t talked in weeks. Also, there are about twenty papers she should really read if she wants to keep practicing evidence-based medicine—and she sort of does—and she hasn’t done laundry since… she’s not sure since when, but she’s down to her last three pairs of underwear, and they’re all in neon colors. One has a hole on the right buttock that she’ll need to mend.

It doesn’t even matter.

 

Rey <Tonight.>

Ben <My place or yours?>

 

Rey thinks about it for a moment. On the one hand, her place would make her feel safer. More at ease, for sure. On the other, her apartment is small enough that it would get saturated with Ben’s scent in a matter of minutes—and there’s no telling how long it would take to get that out. Rey’s not that sure that she wants to risk being reminded of Ben’s existence for weeks on end, especially if the whole thing goes… poorly.

 

Rey <I’d rather meet at your place>

Rey <If that’s okay?>

 

Ben texts her his address.

 

Ben <Should be home around 8>

 

Rey’s hand tightens around her phone as she wills her heartbeat to slow down.

 

 

She really just happens to end up in the elevator with Jessika, and if they find themselves chatting for a few minutes in the parking lot, well… It’s not as if Rey has that many friends, anyway. Or as if she couldn’t use the advice.

“Do you remember—what we discussed the other night? About… Alphas.”

Jessika beams at her. “Ooh, yes! I do remember.”

Rey wills herself to stop fidgeting with her lung-shaped keychain. “Okay, so… I’m meeting someone. Tonight.”

“No way!” Jessika smiles as her tone drops low. “Anyone I know?”

Maybe. Possibly. Probably.

To be honest, working in the same hospital there is just no way Jessika hasn’t at least heard of Ben Solo, which is why it’s probably a good idea for Rey not to mention him.

“No, I don’t think so.”

“Does he—”

“Jess, is there anything in particular I should expect? I don’t know… something I should know? How do… how do these things usually work?”

These things.

Between Alphas and Omegas.

Jessika opens her mouth, clearly ready to launch herself in a detailed monologue, and—Good. It’s exactly what Rey needs, if she wants to keep up with Ben Solo. Some details, some idea of what kind of ridiculous, over the top Alpha posturing is likely to happen together with the sex, and maybe some tips on how to—

Abruptly, Jessika closes her mouth shut. When she opens it again, it’s clear that she has changed her mind on what to say.

“You’ll have to find out for yourself.”

She pats Rey on the shoulder and goes to unlock her car, a secretive smile playing on her lips.

 

Chapter Text

 

She’s surprised to find that Ben lives in a family-friendly neighborhood five minutes from hers, in a house that is as un-surgeon like as they come—with a slightly too cluttered porch, and a paint job that sorely needs a touch-up, and real, actual signs of someone living in there. There is even a yard, and a cat in the yard—a beautiful calico, who looks up with mild interest as Rey parks in front of the garage, and then goes back to lazily licking her paw while Rey takes a few seconds to collect herself before ringing the doorbell. Rey wonders if the cat is Ben’s, or a stray, or just the neighbor’s pet. Probably the latter, since Ben really doesn’t strike her as the nurturing type.

Then he comes to the door and—It seems impossible, but Rey wonders if perhaps she underestimated the effect they have on each other.

Rationally, she knows that something must have happened between the time Ben motioned her inside and the moment she found herself pressed into his mattress, his smell all of a sudden so strong that Rey can actually feel the slick trickle down her inner thigh. There are vague, fragmented memories—leaving her purse and car keys on a flat surface in the entrance; telling Ben that no, she doesn’t want anything to drink, thank you; nodding her permission as he cupped her nape in his large hand, Adam’s apple bobbing as he swallowed heavily.

Yes. Yes, you can kiss me. And everything else, too.

And then—now. This. Ben, fully dressed on top of her, naked. Spreading her wide open, holding both her hands above her head—Alphas, Alphas and their delusions of control—his mouth obsessed with the pounding glands on each side of her neck. His jeans must be soaked with her slick, and he should be disgusted. At the very least, the rough material should be painful against Rey’s cunt, swollen as she is—but she just wishes she could feel him, skin to skin, and he would be so warm.

But no.

Take these off, she told him earlier tugging at his pants, and he laughed—he actually laughed at her.

If I take them off, it’s over. Let’s make this last a little.

He travels down her body, holding her wrists with one hand, while the other worries at the nipple he’s not licking; his grip leaves white imprints on her waist, and his mouth sucks a bruise onto her hipbone. Finally, he spreads apart the lips of her cunt to get better access.

“The scent of you. I thought I was going mad.” He licks at her, a wide, broad stroke that has her arch against his grip and make an animalistic sound. She is going to die. Here. Now. And she doesn’t even mind. “I thought about quitting. I thought about fucking you anyway, no matter what you said.”

People have gone down on Rey before, but this—it’s like he’s trying to eat her up. Like he wants to consume her, in the way he licks her inner thighs dry, sucks on her cunt as if to take her inside himself. And Rey—she wants it, too, whatever her Alpha asks for. Her eyes are closed, but every once in a while she feels the bed shift, and she knows he’s touching himself, pumping his hips into the mattress, trying to alleviate the pressure. She wonders if it works. If it’s enough, for him. It’s not for her, none of this is, and there is a sense of panic spreading inside her, a fear that nothing might ever be.

Out of nowhere, a wave of insecurity hits Rey, and she considers begging him. Imploring him to stop immediately, to continue forever. Confessing that she’s never done this, not with an Alpha—and she simply knows that Ben would think that anything else just doesn’t count. Rey would probably agree with him. The impulse dies on her lips when he presses a warm hand on her abdomen, grounding her, and suddenly the emptiness is almost bearable.

Almost.

Rey moans.

“Shh. Omega.”

“I want to—”

“I know.” A kiss on the jut of her hipbone. “Me too. Shh”

He is naked, too, the next time they kiss, somehow looking even larger than he does when dressed, when they are standing next to each other in the hospital hallways. Their scents are starting to meld together, impossible to tease apart, and suddenly Rey begins to understand years of biology textbooks. Something meant to be, that’s how this feels. Something right, bigger than Ben or Rey.

He lifts his head from her throat to meet her eyes.

“No knotting, I assume?”

Addled as she is, it takes seconds for Rey to understand the question; when she does, she has to pause, reach for whatever logic she has left. The idea of him knotting her should probably be upsetting to Rey, even disgusting, if only because then she’d be stuck to Ben Solo and all his… Alphaness for an hour or so, and that’s just not something any rational part of her should want.

Except that Rey really, really wants it.

Problem is, Rey has no idea. She has no idea whether it’s something that is usually done only between bondmates. Or between people who at least reciprocally like each other—which is clearly not what’s going on here, since whatever non-completely sexual attraction Rey is developing for Ben is clearly one-sided. Rey wishes she could dial Jessika and ask what the proper etiquette is, but this—here—is not the time nor the place, and given how she’s feeling at the moment it’s entirely possible that she couldn’t put the words together, anyway.

All she can do is go by the little cues Ben is giving her. And he doesn’t seem particularly interested in knotting her, not judging by the carelessness of his tone, by the way he asked her like it’s already a done deal.

So Rey swallows her disappointment and just says, “Thank you.”

Ben nods, expression blank, and his head dips lower for a sweet, chaste kiss to her lips that feels jarring, considering that the head of his cock is already in line with her wet opening, already making room inside her.

“Ask me,” he tells her, voice husky but calm. “Ask me, Rey.”

It’s stupid—it’s the kind of porn movie talk that Rey would normally laugh at, except that it’s not, except Ben doesn’t sound cocky. He just sounds like he needs her to acknowledge this, and maybe it’s some kind of Alpha-Omega type of thing, because Rey finds that she needs to say it just as much.

“Please.”

It feels so good, and she feels so full, and penetrative sex never did much for Rey before anyway, but right now she could come just from this—just from the wet sounds, Ben sliding in and out, and hitting all her walls and driving her absolutely out of her mind. Dazzling, this. Rey hangs onto his shoulders and begins to move with him, trying to speed up the rhythm, trying to make this enough, make it more

Ben stops, and she whines.

He chuckles, but it’s strained. One of his hands comes up to Rey’s throat, fingers stroking one of her glands, pressing a finger into it. It subdues her, for a moment.

“You have to be quiet for a minute, or I’ll come.”

His shoulders are broad and slick with sweat, and Rey can barely hold on.

“You can—It’s okay.”

“It’s not.” His breathing is shallow. “If I come, I knot. And if I knot, I won’t be able to go as deep—”  he punctuates the word with a thrust— “as you need me to.”

I don’t care, she wants to say. The idea of him coming inside her seems like the solution to all of Rey’s problems, at the moment.

“Ben.” Alpha. She is begging. For… something. For him to continue, to hit that spot, to tell her what to do.

“I’m here.”

He really is. He contains her, and fills her up, and soothes her, and when her body snaps and her mind whites out he’s holding her close, balancing her, guiding her through it.

Alpha, she doesn’t say. Alpha.

He loses it, then. He grunts, and bites her at the base of her throat, and then grunts again before pulling out just a bit the second before he comes, just enough that his knot doesn’t lock them together while he’s emptying deep inside her. When Rey looks up, his face is scrunched up as if under great effort.

“Unreal,” he gasps when he can speak again. “This is unreal.”

She has to agree.

 

 

Rey is still breathing hard, coming down from the rush of pleasure, when Ben turns her so that she’s laying on her tummy.

She should probably object, or at least ask what he’s thinking he’s doing, but her mind must have retreated into some sort of Omega space, because she has to bite her tongue to avoid thanking him profusely just for putting his hands and his smell on her.

He touches her a lot, everywhere, in a way that seems to be more instinctual than premeditated—and that’s probably just another Alpha thing, Rey thinks. He pushes her hair back from her face and runs his thumb on one of her neck glands. He entwines his fingers with hers and then licks the inside of her wrist. Wherever he may stray, he keeps returning between her legs, where he made a mess of her not five minutes earlier, trying to push his come back inside her with his long fingers. It must be Alpha behavior, Rey thinks, drowsy. If knotting is out of the table, this must be the next best thing. Pure Alpha biology, nothing but.

It stands to reason, then, that the fact that Rey wants nothing but lie bonelessly and take it is some kind of Omega reaction to it.

Nothing but.

“You’re so beautiful,” he mumbles almost to himself, and Rey knows that he doesn’t really mean it, that it’s the hormones—this odd, unexpected, off-the-charts compatibility. She knows better than to read anything into it, but still, something tense inside her relaxes. It’s as if her entire existence has been made entirely better by the fact that this man, this Alpha, finds her worthy of been looked upon.

Ben leans forward, until his mouth is in line with her ear. “I want to fuck you again. Okay?”

Yes. Please. Whatever you want, Alpha. Rey nods silently into the pillow, and is surprised when Ben presses a soft kiss into her cheek.

“Thank you.”

She’s not sure she’s ever heard him say the words, before.

He uses his knee and his hand to open her thighs wider and then—then he just sinks in. His knot isn’t in full anymore but it hasn’t quite gone down yet, and he can’t shove inside her as deep as Rey senses he’d like. It doesn’t matter though, because his cock is as hard as it was earlier, and long enough, and the position affords him an angle that more than makes up for it.  

Pleasure floods Rey, and she immediately clenches around him, muscles fluttering to keep him inside. As if he had any intention to go anywhere.

Ben leans on his palms and thrusts once, a handful of times, grunting in that deep way of his that makes Rey’s body produce even more slick. The bed must be drenched by now, with his and her fluids. A complete disaster.

Exquisite.

When Ben bends to her, Rey expects him to nip at her nape, or to focus on the scent glands on her neck. She hopes he will—it’s what brought her off earlier, the feeling of his teeth and his mouth and his cock on her, inside of her, overwhelming her, making her feel whole for—for what seemed like the first time. She is surprised, when his lips press into her left shoulder blade as his thrusts become slower and more shallow. This is good. This is incredible. She could live like this, in this precise moment, for—

She first feels his nose tracing her mating gland, and they both moan, both loud and both in surprise. Ben stills his hips, as deep into Rey as he can possibly get at the moment, and when he speaks she can feel his warm breath, his full lips moving against the fragile skin of her gland.

“You won’t believe how much I’ve thought about doing this.”

A shiver of pleasure licks up Rey’s spine, parting her lips. She probably wouldn’t. Since she hasn’t let herself think about this, not at all.

He licks her, he licks her, there, and her “Oh,” sounds too reductive, too soft for what is going on inside her, for the barrage of fire across all her nerve endings. He licks her again, with a deep guttural moan, his right hand stroking the side of her breast just roughly enough that she can feel it. And then he licks her once more, and this time he actually runs his teeth across the skin of her gland. All of Rey’s internal muscles clench around him—except that he’s big, so big, there is nowhere for them to go, and then—it crashes on her.

Ben groans and stays still, allowing her to ride her orgasm. His cock—she couldn’t bear this, if he were any larger. And yet—it almost doesn’t seem to be enough. It’s as if something is missing, even as her entire body shakes with pleasure.

“Good. Good little Omega.”

He says the words against her gland, almost sweetly, and Rey—Rey is going to die. A wonderful, delicious death. Depraved, all of this. Filthy. Beautiful.

Ben waits until most of the aftershocks have subsided before leaning into her again and murmuring in her ear.

“You did good. You did very good.”

He bites softly on her lobe, and Rey thought, hoped she was finally done, but her cunt clenches once more as if trying to squeeze all the pleasure out of this. Out of him.

“I’m going to finish now, okay?”

Rey nods blindly, and braces herself against the pillow.

 

 

She wakes up from a deep, dreamless sleep to something tickling the skin of her left cheek, and Rey’s fourth foster home, the one that seemed okay at the beginning but then later… nope, not thinking about it—in her fourth foster home the pet to people ratio was ridiculously high, which means that she knows what she’s dealing with well before opening her eyes.

“Hey, kitty.” She yawns. 

Something meows in response and—it’s the calico, the one Rey saw yesterday minding her business in Ben’s backyard when—

Ben.

Rey sits up in bed, fully expecting to find him next to her.

And yet, not too surprised to find that he’s not.

His side of the bed is obviously slept in but empty, cold to the touch when Rey reaches out. Rey pets the cat once, twice, and then a dozen times more when she starts purring. Then it occurs to her that it’s morning, and that she’s stark naked in Ben Solo’s bed, alone. A sense of uneasiness grows in her chest, and she slips out from behind the sheets—ouch, ouch, ouch, everything bloody hurts—to look for yesterday’s clothes and put them back on. To say that they are scattered is a vast understatement.

Once she’s decent she makes her way downstairs, kitty in tow, and tries to remember which hall they took last night to get to the staircase. She was too busy to notice—clearly—but the house is not so large that she can easily get lost. Rey passes what is probably the sunniest living room in the history of bay windows, what looks like another living room with five different couches, and finally enters a kitchen that is as wide as her whole apartment. Rey notes with relief that the cat bowl is full—she’s not sure how Ben would react to her snooping around the kitchen to find his stash of Meow Mix.

Ben.

“Ben?” she says tentatively, voice loud enough to carry. There is no answer. Rey listens carefully for the sound of a shower running, or a TV. Of any presence at all in the house. There’s nothing.

He’s clearly not home.

In the entrance, Rey finds her purse and her phone—conspicuously devoid of messages from Ben. She knows he’s not supposed to be working today, so maybe he’s gone for a run, or to get coffee, or whatever it is that Ben Solo does on his mornings off. Kick puppies, maybe. Could be anything, since he's probably a very busy man.

Still, it’s telling that he didn’t bother waiting for Rey to wake up. Or waking her up himself. Or texting her. Or… something.

Not that it matters, Rey tells herself. This was sex. Very good sex. Excellent sex.

But just sex.

Suddenly, she feels a wave of embarrassment at the idea of what he must have thought last night, when Rey fell asleep next to him.

Clingy Omega. Overstaying her welcome.

Getting ideas.

The thought that he probably spent the hours until morning wishing Rey was gone, and that he left his own house to escape her company—it completely obliterates any lingering feeling of euphoria from last night, making Rey absolutely miserable.

Stupid. Just—stupid.

Feeling disgusted with herself, Rey pets the meowing cat one last time, and then lets herself out.

 

 

She sees him next two days later.

He’s wearing jeans (black) and a henley (black) and carrying a windbreaker (black—no, it’s actually dark gray, how daring of him) which probably means that he’s leaving work. He’s about to enter one of the elevators when he spots Rey in the hallway—and surprises her by not scurrying away to avoid her. He actually steps away from the opening doors, which puts him straight in Rey’s trajectory, which means that he wants to talk to her, which means that… Rey is not sure.

It must be something about a patient, undoubtedly.  

This is fine. This is absolutely fine.

Rey tries to scrounge up a smile, fully knowing he won’t bother returning the favor.

“Hey.”

“Hey.”

His voice. God, his voice. She has forgotten nothing, not one word that he has said to her that night. Not one.

“How are you?”

“Good.” A pause, which he makes use of to cross his arms in front of his chest. And then to uncross them. Not very decisive for an Alpha, but Rey can sympathize. This is uncomfortable. And weird. And not very pleasant. “You?”

“Good.”

He nods. “Good. Good.”

They don’t seem to be quite back to before—before. The first few weeks, when they could barely stand to be civil to one another. But they’re not really acting like people who recently had sex so many times that Rey lost count, either. Then again, he left his house at six AM so he wouldn’t have to deal with her the following morning, so maybe this level of awkwardness is exactly what they deserve.

“Do you—are you going home?”

“I am.”

“Okay. I don’t want to keep you.”

Ben nods. There is a pause that stretches too long, and—

“Okay. I’ll see you around, then.” He presses his lips together. “Bye, Rey.”

He’s almost walked past her when the words rush out of her mouth, and Rey will later reflect that it might just be the way he says her name, in that tone that she can’t quite identify, that compels her to speak.

“I was wondering if—would you like to, maybe—do that aga—”

“Yes.”

Did he say—yes. He said yes?

“Yes?”

“Yes.”

“Yes to…?”

“Yes.”

Rey’s exhaled laugh is pure relief.

“Do you maybe need to think about it?” she teases, and—since when does Rey tease him?

“No.” Ben’s response is dead serious. “I’ve thought about it already. A lot.”

There are a million implications to his words. Each one is—delicious. Rey feels her smile die on her lips.

“Okay. Good.”

“Good.”

Great conversationalists, the both of them.

Ben looks down to his shoes, and then back up to Rey. “When are you off tonight?”

“Ten.”

“Can you—Do you want to come over?”

She really shouldn’t. She needs sleep, and she still hasn’t done most of her laundry, and also, maybe—this is stupid, but just maybe she should play a little hard to get. Not that Rey’s deluding herself that Ben cares about her in any way, shape, or form that doesn’t involve sex, but he did make her feel like she mattered less than nothing the other morning, and Rey should probably return the favor and pretend that there’s something else she’d rather do. That she has a life.

And yet.

“I’d love to.”

 

 

Chapter Text

 

Rey never spends the night again.

She learns quickly that it’s best to leave immediately, right after they’re finished. Waiting longer is tempting, because… yeah. But ultimately it’s counterproductive, since leaving the warmth of Ben’s body and the combination of their scents on the sheets becomes significantly harder as time goes by. Ben clings to Rey for as long as she decides to stay, usually arranging her so that she’s laying on top of him while he’s still hard inside her—an unsatisfying, crude approximation of what would happen if he allowed himself to knot inside her. But he lets her go without a fuss when she makes to stand, and Rey suspects that, deep down, he is relieved that she won’t be making any more demands on his time.

He never bothers seeing her out—usually too busy checking his email, or playing Farm Heroes, or doing God knows what else on his phone to lift his eyes, while Rey begins padding around his bedroom to look for her underwear and the rest of her clothes.

Once or twice she catches him staring at her as she moves around the room, head still on the pillow and lips parted, some undecipherable expression in his eyes.

“What?” she asks, self-conscious.

“Nothing,” he says, and his expression hardens as he looks elsewhere.

It’s obvious that he doesn’t much like having Rey around if they are not having sex—or are just about to—so she always tries to make the process of getting out as quick as possible, sneaking a couple of pets to Ben’s cat and telling herself not to dwell too much on what she’s doing in this house.  Since she genuinely has no idea, why she keeps coming back.

Except that she knows. She knows it very well.

The whole… thing, it’s not something they can hide. From anyone.

Ben never scents her on purpose, or at least not as far as Rey can tell, but it’s only a matter of weeks before she begins smelling like him, and only a little longer before there is an undercurrent to his own smell that speaks loudly of frequent interactions with an Omega. A specific Omega. How Ben deals with it, Rey has no idea. It is entirely possible that he just doesn’t care, since Rey highly doubts that he thinks of her when she’s not naked in his immediate presence. And Rey… denying what’s going on between them would be pointless, so she doesn’t bother trying.

She can pinpoint the exact moment in which Poe smells Ben on her, immediately before rounds on a Wednesday morning, after a Tuesday night spent—

“Wow.” He whistles softly. “It’s getting stronger.”

“Stronger, what?” she mutters, knowing exactly what. Knowing that no amount of time in the shower can erase the fact that she probably smells like Ben on the inside, at the moment.

“I mean, I tried very hard not to say anything, but now it’s a bit on the nose.” He chuckles. “No pun intended.”

Rey shoulders slump, and she gives up on pretense. “It’s just—It’s not what you think.”

“Oh. You mean you two are dating? About to get married? Looking for a place to move in together? Setting up a 529 for the kids?”

“No! No, we’re just…” Rey lowers her voice, “…doing it.”

“Then it’s precisely what I think.” Poe winks at her. “I’m just glad you’re getting laid, dude. Hopefully he’s getting it good and regularly enough that he’ll stop being such an asshole all the ti—ouch.”

“Poe!”

“What did I say?! It’s not like the two of you aren’t the olfactive living proof that you spend most of your free time boning.”

“Oh my God.” Rey feels her cheeks heat and covers her eyes with her hands.

“Cheer up! People were talking about it a lot, but now they’re all about Finch fainting like a sack of potatoes during that botched gallbladder surgery.” Poe pats Rey on the arm and then hastily withdraws his hand. “Shit—Is Solo going to want to beat me up, now?”

“No, but I will.”

Finn doesn’t take the news as gracefully as Poe does; there is a mix of are you crazy? and what did I tell you? and really, Rey, really? Ben ‘Asshole’ Solo? But he settles down soon enough, with a somber stare and a low, earnest, “Be careful, please.”

He does have a point. Rey has managed to spend the entirety of her life being alone and yet never feeling truly lonely—even back in the UK before she won her scholarship, while she was going from foster home to foster home; even during MS1 and MS2, when she didn’t manage to make any decent friends because everyone was so competitive and just plain nuts; even when most of the people around her got mated or got married and had kids, Rey never really felt like envying them. It’s not that she doesn’t enjoy the sense of camaraderie that comes from having friends, but it’s as if ultimately there was always something inside her that set her apart. The recognition that, in one way or another, she was different, and that deep down, being on her own was for the best.

It’s a new feeling, craving someone’s company. Especially when this someone doesn’t seem to think very highly of Rey, and Rey herself can’t quite make sense of her own wishes. She can’t deny that she often—too often—finds herself thinking of Ben, and struggles to tease her own attachment to him apart from an Omega’s reaction to an Alpha.

Biologically predetermined, and all that.

It would be better to end this, Rey tells herself often. Though i t’s useless, of course, and even a bit foolish, because she is starting to suspect that her only way out would have been never starting this.

But it’s too late for that, and things continue as they are for months.

 

 

He doesn’t come to the door when she rings the doorbell, which is unusual. A first, actually. After a minute spent trying to remember whether she was actually supposed to come over or she just dreamt about making plans to meet, Rey takes her phone to call Ben. A text delivers as soon as she unlocks the screen.

 

Ben <Door should be unlocked>

Ben <Living room>

 

By now Rey is familiar enough with the layout of the house, but she still frowns as she steps in, wondering why Ben didn’t come open the door himself. He usually does, and about half of the times he says hi? and how are you? and even did you want anything to drink? before putting his hands on her.

The other half, he doesn’t bother.

She comes to an abrupt stop on the threshold of the living room, as soon as she spots him.

Sitting on the couch.

Trapped underneath approximately ten pounds of cat.

Looking like he’s a bit annoyed by the situation, but also clearly pleased with having been chosen as the ideal location for a late afternoon nap.

Rey opens her mouth. Closes it. Opens it once more.

“Um. Should I come back another day?”

Ben looks up, suddenly noticing her presence.

“Ah, no—No, she’ll move soon enough.” He hesitates, looking back into his lap. “I’ll move her. I just…”

Rey knows exactly why Ben doesn’t want to stand. She’s never owned a pet, but several of the foster homes she was raised in did, and she is familiar with the uncomplicated pleasure of receiving affection from a pet. What’s absolutely mind-boggling is to think that Doctor Ben Solo, unfeeling jerk extraordinaire, would be, too.

So she tells him: “Don’t. I’m not in a hurry.”

Which leaves them, at least temporarily, in a bit of an odd situation: Rey in this house with Ben, without being busy doing the one thing the do best in each other’s company. It means… conversation, probably. Which—it’s just not something they do. Ever.

“So...” Rey looks around and clears her throat. “Is the cat the Alpha of the house?”

Ben just glares at her. With that resentful expression, and a cat in his lap, he looks like the parody of some old-style supervillain, and suddenly—Rey can’t help giggling.

“Just saying. You’re looking pretty submissive, over there.”

“Shut up.”

Feeling more at ease, Rey walks up to him. She is wearing a dress because—because. Really, she could probably come over in scrubs, or in her ratty leggings with a hole on the left knee, and he likely wouldn’t care nor notice, so she’s not sure why she sometimes makes the effort of looking nice before driving here. Putting on eyeliner, and all that. It’s probably one of those Omega things. Yet another one that Rey’s only now discovering about herself.

Lucky her.

Ben is sitting right next to the couch’s armrest, and there is an open book face down on his left. Without much of a choice, Rey opts for lowering herself on the floor in front of him, kneeling so that she is facing the cat. She lifts her hand, scratching lightly behind soft ears.

“What’s your name, sweetheart?” Rey has been meaning to ask Ben for a while. It just didn’t seem to fit within the parameters of… whatever this is.

“Rian.”

She looks up at him, surprised. “Rian?”

Ben sighs. ”I gather you are aware that calicos are always females?”

Rey tries hard not smile. “I gather you didn’t?”

Ben sighs and Rian’s purring intensifies under Rey’s fingers. She scratches a little harder, and is rewarder when the cat pushes her little head into Rey’s hand.  

“Why Rian, though?”

“I don’t know.” Ben shrugs, sounding just a touch self-conscious. “I didn’t mean to adopt her. She started hanging around more and more, and then the neighbor’s kid asked me what her name was, and a resident named Rian had paged me a minute earlier.” Ben thinks about it for a while. “In hindsight, it wasn’t my best moment.”

Rey smiles, and leans forward. Ben’s smell immediately hits her, but not—not like an avalanche, not like it usually does when they find themselves alone and they’re about to have sex. It’s more of an enveloping, calming blanket.

“Hi, Rian,” she whispers. The cat blinks lazily and leans a bit into Rey’s face.

The silence stretches, not quite uncomfortable but not easy, either, and after a while Rey motions to the book next to Ben with her chin.

“What’s that? The handbook of how to make second year residents cry in the bathroom stall after rounds?”

Ben rolls his eyes. “I just said the truth.”

“Mmm. I hear it’s a bestseller.”

Ben gives her a flat look. “He should toughen up,” he says, but he also lifts the book to show Rey the cover.

“No way—are you reading The Silmarillion?”

“Rereading.”

Rey perks up. “You a Tolkien fan?”

“A bit,” he says, non-committal.

A bit. On a hunch, Rey looks around the sunny room, her eyes coming to rest on the tall bookshelf behind the television set. It’s close enough that she can make out the titles of most volumes—Roverandom. The Hobbit. The Fellowship of the Ring. The Book of Lost Tales.

Wow.

“A bit, uh?”

“Yes. A bit.”

Right.

“Elves or Dwarves—who would win in a fight? I say the Elves.”

“What—no. Maybe if it were Noldor from the First Age, then the Elves might win, but in an open ground battle they—” Ben stops himself, horrified as he takes in Rey’s smiles. “If you tell anyone, I’ll say you made it up.”

Feeling almost giddy, Rey continues petting Rian. “What’s your favorite book of his?”

Ben’s eyes slide to The Silmarillion, and Rey nods. Then there is a short pause in which he presses his lips together in that uniquely Ben Solo way of his, and after that: “What about you? Have you read any of—?”

“I’d probably go for The Silmarillion, too. I like the Elves, and everything is so epic. But I was also always very drawn to The Children of Húrin, I loved that it’s just dark enough. Also The Hobbit, of course, it’s so much fun, I think it’s the one I’ve reread most often—” Rey notices how Ben is staring at her, as if she sprouted two more heads in the past five seconds or something, and realizes that she’s babbling. Oops. Well, not her fault. Tolkien will do that to her. “I also like that trilogy. The one about the rings?” she adds, trying to distract Ben from how lame she surely sounds.

He lifts one eyebrow. “Never heard of it.”

“I forget the title.”

He almost smiles. “Too bad.”

All those past months Rey spent wondering if the man even had an interior life, and he was a Tolkien fan all along. This is almost paradigm-shifting.

Ben looks around the room for a few moments, searching for who knows what. Then his eyes return to study Rian, who’s starting to move her tail around and stretch a little in his lap. Ben’s cheeks look a little red. It must be because of the heat; they’ve basically had no spring this year—went from inches upon inches of snow to terribly hot and terribly humid, all in a couple of weeks. Not that Rey’s complaining.

“They’re showing the movies,” he says eventually. “Director’s cut. At a small nearby theater. In two weeks.”

“Oh—At the Englert? Yeah, I know! I actually promised Jodi a bunch of favors to get her to cover my on-call shift so I can go.“

He lifts his eyes to hers. Is he flushing? No, he can’t be. “You’re going?”

“Yep.”

“Oh.”

“Believe me, it was a feat to find someone who’d go with me—it’s like people don’t want to watch four hours worth of hobbits traipsing around, or something. In the end Poe and his mate—you know Finn, right?—they said they’d go if I buy them drinks beforehand. And afterwards. And during. Anyway, this other friend of theirs is going, too. A guy I haven’t met yet. Supposedly big into Tolkien, too.”

“Oh,” Ben repeats, seeming vaguely… who knows. Maybe just annoyed? Likely at her blathering, Rey would guess—this is definitely not what he signed up for when he texted her earlier today. Rian seems to pick up on it, too, because she stretches gracefully for a long moment and then decides to leave after throwing Ben a slightly disgruntled look, tail waving in the air. They both turn to follow her progress until she’s out of the room—likely headed for the kitchen after her hard afternoon labors.

And then. Then they are alone.

“Hey,” Rey tells Ben, still kneeling on the floor. Looking up at him.

His scent is spiking a bit. Like this, from this angle, he seems even bigger than usual. Even more handsome, the lines of his face more slanted and exotic. Apparently, it’s possible.

“Hey.” His voice is soft, and rich, and—God. Suddenly, Rey cannot figure out how it is possible that they still have their clothes on. That her hands are not on him, that he’s not inside her.

Yet.

Rey lays her palm on Ben’s knee, feeling warm, solid muscle through his jeans. She looks up at him to ask for—something, permission probably—and he doesn’t respond, expression as inscrutable as it so often is of late. He’s holding her gaze, though, which can’t mean no, right? Emboldened, Rey moves her hand up his thigh and even higher, until it reaches the seam of his pants. She unbuttons his fly, and he doesn’t waste time asking her what she’s doing, or why. His cock—she noticed it was already hard when she started this, could even smell his arousal, but it’s getting even longer now, and longer still as the back of her fingers brush on it through the heavy material.

“May I?” she asks, before taking him out through the opening of his boxer-briefs. The Alpha at the end of the sentence is mute but implied, and he hears it as clearly as if she had screamed it. His nod has her fingers move quickly to free him, and then—then she’s not looking up at him anymore, but it doesn’t matter, because his hands are on her throat, fingers twined in her hair and thumbs running over her glands as she takes him as deep as possible until she can feel it, pulsating deep inside her.

His approval.

His taste—they’ve never done this, though he always, always insists on going down on her before they have sex. And now Rey knows why. She knew before, really, having read enough medical texts on pheromones and bodily fluids and mating and everything that is related, but now she knows. Now, she can’t get enough, and her throat catches on the head of his cock so many times that he has to wrap his fingers around her hair in an attempt to soothe her. He stares at her throughout, lips slightly parted, a mix of wonder and uncertainty in his face. Every time he grunts—yes, yes, perfect—a fresh pulse of slick pools inside her cunt.  She is so taken by what she is doing, the ache between her legs becoming more intense, her panties soaked and irritating her skin every time she shifts, that it takes her long moments to realize that—

Rey leans back. “Your, um—knot—”

“What about—Oh." Ben’s Adam’s apple bobs, and he wets his lips. "Yeah, it does that, when you’re nearby. Just ignore it.”

“What should I—”

“Nothing,” Ben says, impatient. He tugs at her shoulder. “Just—come up here. I want to fuck you.”

No, Rey thinks. Not yet.

She leans forward, spurred by something she probably couldn’t say—it’s red, his knot is red and hot and huge, and it carries so much of his scent—and she parts her lips to lick it, just the tip of her tongue against his skin.

Ben’s hands tighten on her hair almost painfully, and Rey’s eyes move up to meet his. He looks shocked. Dazed and shocked.

“Was that… painful?”

“No. Just—you might want to... avoid it.”

“Why?”

“Because it’s—Shit.”

Rey licks at it again, this time a broad, purposeful stroke, suddenly feeling—powerful. Relishing the control she has over Ben, for once. Alpha. Alpha, am I doing well? Something inside her wants to ask. Rey pushes it down and focuses on Ben’s knot again, speaking against it, tickling it with her breath. Ben’s hands are shaking minutely.

“What’s going to happen, if I continue?”

“You know what’s going to—ah.”

Rey parts her lips and suckles on Ben’s knot, and he—he just loses it. Completely. Not in a loud, vocal way, like he sometimes does. There is a shift in his scent, sudden and overwhelming, his head thrown back and some deep, Alpha sound coming out of his chest, and then—then he is coming silently, his seed trickling down the head and the shaft as Rey struggles to keep up with it. His thighs flex as his hand tightens on Rey’s nape, holding her there, close enough that she can’t escape.

I’m here, Alpha. Mouth still stretched around him, Rey looks up at Ben as he meets her gaze, slowly coming down from his orgasm. I’m here. He exhales shakily and gentles his touch, thumb trailing to Rey’s cheekbone as she finishes swallowing and licks him clean. It feels as if his pheromones are already running in her bloodstream, making her want to squirm even as she is now, sitting back on her heels.

Ben—he notices.

“God. You’re beyond belief,” he tells her, and Rey doesn’t quite know what he means by that. “Come here.”

“I—” Suddenly, Rey feels embarrassed about what just occurred. About what she just did. About how wet she is.

“Come on.”

”Maybe—“

“Please. I can smell you. Let me fuck you.”

He has her dress off before she is aware of having said yes. Rey sinks on him like butter melting, reveling in the way he groans, groaning herself. This is—not a position they’ve experimented with, and even with all her natural lubrication he feels larger than before. A little too large for comfort, stretching her just on this side of pain, his knot pressing against her folds whenever she bears down. It’s simply too swollen to slip inside her, but Rey closes her eyes and pretends that it’s possible—that he could thrust up and lock her to himself, and then spend long minutes just—there. Coming inside her.

It makes Rey lose her mind a little, and she thinks Ben likes it, too, because his hands slide from her breasts to her waist to her ass, to hold her as flush to himself as possible, and his breath becomes louder and quicker against her ear.

He wants you, a voice inside Rey whispers. He’s your Alpha, and he wants you, and he is pleased to be fucking you, and—

When she comes it’s not gradual—no warning tremors or tingles creeping up her spine, no blooming warmth in her abdomen. The blinding pleasure rushes through Rey unexpected, shapeless, with no beginning and no end, so intense that Rey feels undone, unbound and adrift. Without thinking, without meaning to, she parts her lips and bites Ben on the curve of his neck, trying to hold on to him.

Even with her brain as sluggish as it is, it takes her less than five seconds to realize what she just did. An Omega’s bite has no real biological consequence, but it’s still a bite, with plenty of meaning attached to it, and—Ben can’t be happy about this.

Rey immediately makes to pull back when his large hand settles on the back of her head and holds her in place.

“Stay—” he pushes out, and then he’s coming, too, flooding her to overflowing, and for several moments they are so close that she cannot say where he ends and she begins.

Dangerous, all of this. Magnificent.

They come down from the high slowly, Rey pressing wet kisses into the spot she bit for one last time, relieved to notice that she didn’t break the skin. When she manages to lift her gaze up to Ben’s, his expression is fuzzy and dazed.

Rey almost feels the need to reassure him—though of what, she doesn't know.

“I—”

He doesn’t let her finish, covering her lips in a slow, deep, thorough kiss that makes everything in Rey’s body reach a state of peace. It’s heavier, more involved, more contact than there usually is between the two of them after sex. But then again, today was—odd, for sure. Unusual.

Beautiful.

“I don’t know what it is, with you,” Ben says against her mouth. The words are addressed to Rey but not really directed at her, a musing that seems to escape Ben’s usual tight guards—perhaps temporarily out of order because of the sheer intensity of what just happened.

“Why does it have to be me?” She sighs, and then kisses him again on the mouth, delicate and sweet. “Maybe it’s you who’s… hypersensitive.”

“Yeah. I'm really not.” He doesn't seem defensive—just his usual, painful honestly. Even without being able to see his face, Rey can feel his lips curl up into a small smile. “I can’t believe you’re on the maximum dose of suppressants.”

Rey stiffens.

“Well. I am.” It’s not as if she would lie about this. “Poe says he can barely smell me. So it must be you.”

“Poe’s an idiot. A decent doctor, but an absolute idiot,” Ben says moodily. And then adds, “It’s going to be a problem, when you stop them.”

Rey stiffens even more. “Well, good thing that I’m not going to stop them, then.”

“Oh. Have you—recently?”

“No.”

Arms still wrapped around Rey’s waist, Ben leans back against to couch to better see her face. He looks puzzled.

“When do you usually go off suppressants?”

“I don’t.”

“When have you last—”

“I never have.”

A heartbeat. “You should.”

“No way.”

“Rey—you have to stop your suppressants. At least for a cycle.”

“I—What are you talking about?” She pushes against Ben’s shoulders and tries to pull away from him, but he keeps his grip tight around her, and he’s so much stronger than her that he doesn’t even budge. Not to mention that he is—of course—still hard, and still inside her. It makes for some impossible maneuvering.

“Rey. You know the science. You must have read the literature.”

“I don’t care about the literature.”

“You’re a physician. It’s evidence-based medicine. Power up PubMed and do a quick search.”

“For what?” Rey asks, sullen. “For ‘nagging voice inside my head; am I going crazy or is it just proximity to Ben Solo?’”

He is not amused. “For best heat practices for Omegas. If you don’t allow your body to go through heats regularly, you run the risk of—“

“There is no such thing as best practice—every Omega is different, with different needs and—”

“But there is. You should have one heat per year, at the very minimum—”

“And you should stop telling Omegas what to do with their lives.”

Ben quiets down, staring at Rey testily. When he talks again, Rey’s still well on her way to getting really, really mad.

“I’m not trying to be a dick. I’m just saying that there are meta-analyses that show with incontrovertible proof that—”

“—that Alphas and Betas really enjoy telling Omegas what to do with their bodies.”

Curious, how part of Rey knows that she’s being unreasonable—that she’d probably be baffled if she were in charge of a patient in her situation, stubbornly refusing to do what’s best for her regardless of potential health risks. Still, this… this, it's not something she enjoys dwelling on, and having Ben Solo—or any other Alpha—tell her that she should make herself go through a heat, and be vulnerable for days on end without family or social support, without anyone to take care of her…. Well. That’s a bit much, at the moment.

Ben seems to realize it, because he stares a hole through her for a long moment and then—he just shrugs, seemingly uncaring. “Suit yourself.”

“Thank you. I will.”

And then—then Ben does something that surprises her. He leans forward, and then even closer, one hand traveling up her spine and coming to rest right on top of her mating gland, its weight warm and solid.

“But if you decided to have one, I’d help you.”

Rey’s breath hitches from the pleasure of it—the words, his eyes, his hand. She can’t quite wrap her head around the nonchalance with which he can do something so… filthy.  “I’d fuck you right through it.” He presses a kiss on her throat—not quite on her neck gland but less than an inch away, and his voice becomes even deeper. “I’d take care of you.”

He is so close. He smells so incredible. He fucks her so well, and when he moves to lick her neck gland Rey is almost tempted to say yes, yes, I’ll have a heat if that will please you, Alpha. Yes.

But that’s something… intimate—a little too intimate for two people who barely talk when they’re not at work, who meet once a week or so just to have some very excellent but ultimately meaningless sex.

What they are has a name. Fuckbuddies, and with more emphasis on the fuck than the buddies. Not that Ben has problems remembering that. It’s Rey, who’s not very good at it.

With effort, Rey manages to lift herself away from him. She swallows a whimper at the loss of him from inside her, at the combination between the sudden sense of emptiness and the pleasurable friction on her sensitive walls. She has to clear her throat before speaking.

“No need. But thank you, stud.”

On her upper back, her mating gland is throbbing, waiting to be acknowledged again, begging Ben for any type of attention. Rey ignores it, conscious of the remnants of what they just did as they spill down her thigh, and begins looking around for her underwear. She has a vague memory of Ben throwing something to his right, but—

His long fingers close around her wrist. His other hand travels up her leg, uncaring—no, seeking the messy mix of fluids that is coating it. The mess that he just made inside her. His palm rests on her inner thigh, quietly possessive.

“Say it. Say you’ll come to me if you decide to have one.” Ben’s voice is low, but the calm intensity in his eyes makes Rey shiver.

“I’m not going to—”

“Say. It.”

There is that something, behind the words. That something that tells Rey that this is very important for her Alpha—no, no, an Alpha, not her Alpha—and that she should not refuse him. Rey could probably fight the impulse, but she finds that—she doesn’t really want to.

“I will, Alpha.”

Ben nods, satisfied, and lets her go.

 

 

“Ah. It’s you, then.”

Dr. Snoke has always given Rey the creeps, with his yellowish skin and those sunken cheeks and that slow, malignant laugh he sometimes lets out when one of his residents gives the wrong answer after being quizzed during rounds. He is, in Rey’s modest but unwavering opinion, the prime example of the worst possible reason to decide to become a physician: very little interest in helping people out—and a whole lot in cutting them open and making a lot of money in the process.

Still, he is the head of the surgical unit, and skilled at his job, and the fact that Rey was always repelled by him never really mattered, because he’s close to retirement, and as an internist she was always fairly unlikely to register on his radar as anything more than, say, that girl who scarfs down three donuts in a row in the occasional staff meeting.

Except that, as it turns out, having some very excellent sex with Snoke’s protege is the number one way to get noticed.

“It’s you, then.”

Rey almost drops the cup of instant ramen she’s been filling with hot water. It’s after ten on a slow day, and Rey hasn’t seen anyone on this floor in the past twenty minutes. She wasn’t expecting for someone to enter the doctors’ lounge—least of all Snoke, who doesn’t strike her as the type to… lounge.

“Um… me? Doctor Snoke, I don’t believe we’ve been formally introduced. I’m Rey Johns—”

“That Ben has been stinking of.”

The ramen cup falls to the floor with a deaf sound, its contents splattering around Rey’s feet. Rey is too shocked to pay attention to them.

“What—”

“I’ve been wondering.” The way he stares at her… Rey is dressed from head to toe, and still she wants to cover herself. “I thought you might be a great beauty, or something of the like.”

One doesn’t have to be the master of reading subtexts to understand that Snoke considers Rey anything but.

“Dr. Snoke, I don’t know what—”

“I wonder, what he sees in you.” As he steps towards her, Rey realizes that he is much taller than she ever realized. He also doesn’t appear frail at all, despite his advanced age. He moves closer, and Rey feels revulsed, and crowded and… nervous, a little. So she squares her shoulders, exactly as he comes to stand in front of her and inhales deeply.

“Ah—yes. I do see what it is about you, now.”

“This is highly inappropriate.”

“A willing Omega.” Snoke’s upper lip curls up. “How clichéd. So Ben Solo is just an Alpha, after all. I think I expected better of him.”

Rey clenches her jaw. This is—why this, this… man thinks that he has the right to talk to her this way, she has no idea.

“I am done with his conversation.”

He ignores her so thoroughly, it’s like Rey never even opened her mouth. His nearness is—simply revolting. And the condescension in his tone, it makes her skin crawl. “You must know, that you have nothing of value to offer to someone like him.”

Anger explodes inside Rey, and she has to clench her fist not to shove Snoke away from her. “Apparently I do have something he wants.”

He chuckles. “Oh yes. Yes, you do. But I said, of value.”

Rey freezes.  

“Someone like Ben Solo might find the occasional plucky Omega charming, but it can never last long. Of course. It would be ludicrous to think otherwise.” Snoke raises his hand to pat Rey’s cheek in a grossly patronizing gesture, and—it’s like being sucker punched. Rey has trouble breathing, moving, even thinking. His scent is—repulsive. Horrifying.  “Oh, you don’t say? Did you think you meant something, to him? Did you think he cares?”

Briefly, Rey squeezes her eyes shut. She hates this. All of it. The smell around her. That she put herself in this situation to begin with, because—because, because of sex. That someone as disgusting as Snoke might feel allowed to treat her this way.

That he’s probably right.

Whether Rey thought Ben cared or not is immaterial, because the fact of the matter is that she has started to care. When she promised herself, over and over and over, that she never would.

Rey hates this, and hates herself most of all.

She takes a step back, at the same time swatting Snoke’s hand away from her face. “No. No, I didn't,” she tells him, hating how bitter her voice sounds.

“Excellent.” The affectation in his tone is gone, now. One could cut diamond, with his words. “It would be a pity, for a young thing like you to get her pretty little heart broken.”

 

 

Chapter Text

 

Ben <Tonight?>

 

Yes.

Except.

Except that after the last time, and after whatever that was with Snoke, and after some soul searching, Rey told herself that taking this whole thing slow might be for the best.

Which probably means—no.

Another no, after a couple of polite, firm, painful nos last week, and after he had been gone the week before to give a bunch of overpaid guest talks somewhere, gifting Rey with seven horrible, blessed, mercifully Ben-free days... and after the week before that, in which Rey was out sick, stuck in bed with the worst case of the flu since childhood, stupid from the drugs and barely able to lift herself out of bed.

Ben was actually nice about it, somehow finding out her address and showing up to her doorstep to bring her what was probably the most expensive chicken soup one can buy in this city. Sitting across from her at the small kitchen table and staring fixedly at her until she’d eaten most of it.

A bit annoying, too.

Not excessively, since he doesn’t quite annoy Rey as much as he used to—well, he does, with his snarky comments and that unbelievable scent and that ever-suffering expression of his, but she is mostly used to it by now. No, the problem was that having Ben in her apartment, even that briefly, meant that the smell of him lingered for days and completely short-circuited Rey’s brain, making her think laughable things—like that he cared for her, while in truth he was surely only acting out of some weird Alpha sense of duty. Don’t let the last Omega you had sex with die from the flu, or something like that.

Hence the way she had kicked him out of her place as soon as she was done eating.

 

Ben <Tomorrow works too>

Ben <after 9 PM>

 

She should just tell him no.

No, and we shouldn’t see each other again outside of work. Because this whole thing—it was supposed to be just sex, but I’m not sure my brain knows that anymore. And although you are a dick, maybe you’re not as horrible as I thought, and I really can’t run the risk of falling for someone like you. Maybe I am nothing but the proverbial stupid, proximity-seeking Omega, but that doesn't mean that I have to act like one.

She really should just tell him no, no more, and be done with all of this.

 

Rey <Sorry—busy. Raincheck, okay?>

 

She has to close her eyes when she presses send.

 

  

The first sign is that—she feels hot.

Which wouldn’t count as a real sign, except that Rey is always, always cold, and now she’s wearing short-sleeves at eight thirty in the morning, while everyone else is in coats or windbreakers.

Weird, Rey thinks. It’s actually a really nice, seasonable spring day. Not chilly at all.

And then she doesn’t think about it anymore, because the ER calls in for an emergency consultation and she needs to slip on that damn, suffocating lab coat anyway.

The second sign is during the consultation, when the patient—mid fifties, Alpha, probable acute respiratory infection—grabs her butt.

He just—grabs her butt.

Which, again, wouldn’t even be a real sign, because sadly it’s not the first time and likely won’t be the last. Except that the man does it very aggressively, in front of his wife, in front of his kids, and he really didn’t strike Rey as the type who would. Not to mention that when one of the orderlies comes to restrain him he screams something about damn Omegas, asking for it, and goes completely red in the face. The Beta nurses helping Rey just look at each other and shake their heads in disapproval. One even pats Rey’s back in a nice show of support, but something just feels weird and wrong about the whole thing.

The third sign—which, Rey really should have picked up on that one—is that she hasn’t eaten anything in twenty-four hours. She notices when she finds three granola bars and yesterday’s sandwich still in her locker, which is starting to smell a little like her fridge did during the first couple of years of her residency, and—she just can’t remember having dinner last night, or breakfast this morning. Yet her stomach isn’t growling and—okay, this really should have tipped Rey off because it’s just not like her to forget about food. It does make her stop and think for moment, but she ends up convincing herself that did eat but went into some kind of fugue state, and if this happens again she’ll probably have to go find one of the clinical psychologists—shudder—and ask for an eval or something.   

The fourth—it’s not even a sign.

It’s just Poe’s horrified expression as he stares at Rey, the look on his face telling her exactly what is going on.

“Are you—? Rey.”

“What?”

“You’re going into heat.”

She rolls her eyes and looks away from him, tapping at her phone to search for that email she sent herself with a list of things she absolutely needed to get done by two days ago. She’s sure she missed at least five.

“Funny. You have way too much spare time, my friend.”

“No—I’m serious.”

“Uh-uh.”

“You smell like you’re going into heat.”

Thing is—Poe sounds serious, unlike… every other time Rey has talked to him before, pretty much. Which is what gets her attention, and has her look up at him.

“I can’t. I’m on suppressants.”

“Well, you are. Smelling, I mean.”

“But I can’t be.”

Poe looks like he doesn’t believe her.

“Did you forget a dose, earlier this month?”

“No.”

“Well, you must have.”

There’s a cold feeling creeping up her spine now. Odd, since the palm of the hand currently clutching her phone is definitely sweating.

“I’m one hundred percent sure I haven’t. You’re probably just—”

“Okay, okay, I don’t even—” He closes his eyes and pinches the bridge of his nose. Then he starts again. “Listen, Rey, I realize we’ve only known each other for six months or so, but I get attached to people really easily, and—you’re like a sister to me. A little sister. Age-wise, not height. Since you’re as tall as me. Anyway, you’re one of my favorite colleagues, and probably the best internist in this department, plus I’m very happily bonded, and—”

“Poe—what are you talking about?”

He takes a deep breath.

“You’re clearly going into heat. And I am having thoughts about you that I really don’t want to have. Not about you. Which means that you need to go home. Immediately.”

“No. I—It’s not possible.”

“It’s happening.”

“It’s happening to you. I am on suppressants. There is no way I—”

Suddenly, it occurs to her. And—

“Fuck.

Fuck.

Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck

“You forgot a dose, didn’t you?” Poe does love feeling smug, doesn’t he.

Rey, on the other hand, wants to cry. Or to kill herself for being so fucking stupid. Or—God, both. At the same time.

“Fuck.”

“Listen, if you just missed a dose this is probably not going to be a real heat—”

“No, no, I—the antiviral drugs.” This is—the worst. The absolute worst. "When I had the flu. They interact with…” Rey can’t even bring herself to finish the sentence.

Poe is staring at her, open-mouthed. “Of course they interact with suppressants, how do you even—you’re a physician, Rey!”

Rey would thank him for reminding her, but she’s too busy covering her mouth with both of her palms. She can’t remember ever screwing up something so badly. Not recently and—nope, not at all.

This is… astonishingly horrible.

“Wasn’t there a New England Journal of Medicine paper on antivirals and their long term effects on hormonal something or other? Hey—don’t they neutralize suppressants for several cycles?”

Rey buries her face in her hands. Her, “Shut up” sounds way too muffled for the mess she’s experiencing, even to her own ears.

Poe—fuck Poe. He’s—he’s basically laughing, now.

“Oh, Rey. This is—It’ll be okay.”

Rey doesn’t lift her head. “No, it won’t. I’m going into heat.”

“Yeah, but look at the pros. You get automatic time off work. And heat sex is good sex, no? Do you have someone to call?”

Rey’s blood has been boiling hot without relief since this morning, but as she takes in Poe’s words it freezes in a solid block.

She’s going into heat. Which means—it means that she really should—God.

Yes—maybe she does have someone to call. A face comes to mind, and a name, someone who once said that if Rey were to have a heat—

No, no, no, no no. No. Absolutely no. Swipe left. Abort mission.

No.

Rey shakes her head.

“Oh. I mean, I guess I would be happy to—”

“Poe.” Rey looks up at him, appalled.

“—but Finn would cut my dick off with a rusty knife. Unless he decided to join us, too, but…”

Poe!

“Right, right.” He is scratching the back of his neck, looking sheepish. “Right. Horrible idea.”

“Wasn’t I like a sister to you, until three minutes ago?”

“Yeah, well.” He grimaces. “Thing is, you don’t smell like anyone’s sister, right now.” His tone is a little pained. “You really need to leave. And call someone to help you.”

“Can’t I… Can’t I do it on my own?”

Yes. Yes, Rey knows that Omegas go through heats on their own. It’s not deadly, or maiming, or anything nearly as dramatic. It’s just that by all accounts it’s…

Terrible. The absolute worst.

Apparently, Poe has read the same literature, because he’s sympathy-wincing. “You really don’t want to do that. Not for your first heat, for sure.”

“I never said it was my first heat—”

“Rey, you’re basically in heat and I had to tell you what’s going on. And I’m an Alpha mated with a Beta, so it’s not as if I have lots of recent experience myself—hey!” He lights up. “Hey, can’t you ask Solo to help you? Are you still doing that sex buddy thing with him?”

Yes. No. Kind of. Definitely trying to quit, but…

“Not really.”

“Well—still, he won’t say no. Between us, I doubt he gets laid that much, considering the fact that he’d have to socially interact with people to get to that stage, and I just can’t imagine he’d be down for it, given his sunny personality—”

“Poe!”

“What? I’m just being honest. Maybe I’m wrong. Anyway, you should ask him.”

God.

Rey can almost feel the way Ben’s hand closed on her wrist the last time they were together. I’d take care of you, he’d said. And then—then he’d said other things, too.

“I don’t want him to think that I’m trying to...”

She has no idea how to explain the situation to Poe. How to put it into words for herself.

“Trying to?”

“I don’t know. Sharing a heat—it feels like more that what we… I don’t want him to think that I’m trying to get him to…” Really be with me, or something.

Rey can’t even bring herself to utter the words.

Poe leans forward to clasp her shoulders, and then—he must get a whiff of Rey and realize his mistake, because he immediately straightens and takes two whole steps back.

“Rey, believe me. He won’t be thinking anything like that.” He’s looking a little worse for wear as he retreats even further, startling when he bumps into the wall next to the door. “In fact, he likely won’t be thinking at all.

 

  

Rey stares at her phone for more time than she has to spare, pondering over the fact that when she unplugged it from its charger this morning she never, ever would have thought that she’d be back home five hours into the workday—or that she’d use it to make this particular phone call.

And yet. Here she is.

Making the call.

“Rey?”

Wherever Ben is, it sounds like there’s a mix of construction, a cocktail party, and even a TED talk happening around him, and Rey—sitting in the quiet of her apartment, Rey is already regretting this. All of it.

Every. Single. Part.

“Ben. Um, is this a bad moment?”

“Are you okay? What happened?” He sounds a little worried. Or maybe he’s just irritated that she’s calling him at noon on a workday. Hard to tell, with him.

Everything’s hard to tell, with Ben Solo.

“I—nothing happened.”

“What—Why are you calling?”

“I… maybe I wanted to say hi?” She tells him, and—why is she trying to make a joke?

God. Maybe the inopportune sense of humor is courtesy of this truckload of estrogen that’s swimming inside her body. Hopefully it’ll be gone after this stupid heat business, and Ben won’t feel the need to scoff at her—like he’s doing right now, perfectly audible even over the noisy background.

“You’ve never called me before, not once. And you’ve been avoiding me for weeks.”

“I have not.”

Though she has. Of course she has. Since it seemed like a good idea, for self preservation and putting stuff in perspective and all that.

For all the good it has done her.

God.

“What happened, Rey?”

This is… hard. Painful.

“Listen, this is going to be weird—”

“Wait a sec—are the labs in there? Okay, leave it, please. What were you saying?”

Rey stands from the couch and walks to her window. It’s meant to give her something to do, to help her release the tension, but it only succeeds in reminding her exactly what’s going on … down there.

Which is a lot, and not made any better by how deep Ben’s voice sounds on the phone. How warm. How—

Just perfect.

“So—this might sound weird. And you don’t have to say yes.”

“I probably won’t, then.” There is the noise of a door closing in the background. Someone—a woman’s voice—saying what sounds like “Bye, Ben,” though Rey can’t make out the words very clearly. Then, nothing.

Rey takes a deep breath.

“I think... That flu I had a while ago? You probably don’t recall, but I was sick and—”

“Three weeks ago.”

“Oh. You remember.”

“I do have a functioning hippocampus. What about that?”

It’s okay. It’s okay.

“Well, I had to take some drugs. Antivirals. And I think they might have had some… contraindications.”

A pause. Wherever Ben is, it must be somewhere private, because the call is much quieter now. Rey runs a hand on her nape, trying to figure out how to finish explaining what happened without sounding like a complete idiot. The gesture makes the material of her shirt pull and rub against the hard points of her nipples. They feel sore, and so do both the glands on her neck.

The one on her upper back—Rey is trying not think about it. This—intellectually, she knows that this is going to get worse, but—there is no way this can get more intense. No way.

“Are you okay?”

“Yes. Yes, just—I think they ended up interacting with… with other drugs I was taking.”

Rey really, really wishes Ben would figure out the point on his own, using that super brain of his that everyone keeps yapping their mouth about. To be fair, though, it’s probably a little too much to ask, considering that this is way off his specialty—and much more in Rey’s domain of knowledge.

And yeah, look how much that’s helped her.

“What—are you calling for a medical consultation?”

“No. Ben, I…” She sighs. “I think I might be about to go into heat.”

There is silence on the other side of the line, a very deep, very silent silence, and—this really cannot be a good sign. Which is why Rey tries to fill it, possibly making the whole thing worse. “Actually, I’m sort of sure I am. Positive, really. Anyway. No pressure here, none at all. But I was wondering… I was wondering if maybe you would be interested in helping me out.”

The last five words come out rushed, with no pauses in between—though it doesn’t really matter, because there is no way Ben hasn’t gotten the gist of what Rey’s call is about by now, the magnitude of what she’s asking. Yes, he offered to see her through a heat in the past. But at the time they’d just finished having sex, and the air had been full of their combined scents, and only a jerk would hold someone accountable for something promised in a moment like that.

A jerk, which Rey apparently is.

And Ben not only has every right to say no, but he probably should, since it’s just not possible that he doesn’t have something else planned out for the next three days or so. Which means that Rey should sit down on her couch again and start making a list of other, more feasible options. Smarter options. Finding another Alpha, or going online and ordering some kind of sex toy and hoping it’ll be delivered in the next ten minutes or so, or maybe—maybe she could meditate this stupid heat away. She’d read somewhere that some Omega Buddhist monks are able to do it. Can’t be that hard, right? If Rey passed neuroanatomy, she can do anything.

Still, no matter what she chooses, none of this should be Ben’s business, nor his responsibility. She shouldn’t have called him to begin with.

“Actually—I’m so sorry. You don’t need to—”

“I’ll be over in ten minutes.”

The line drops out.

 

  

The first thing Rey does is assure Ben that her birth-control shot is up to date—not that she has demonstrated any trustworthiness when it comes to her reproductive health. At all. But this was one single shot, and she’s ninety-nine percent sure she didn’t screw it up.

The second thing she does is apologize profusely, telling Ben that she is so, so, sooo sorry about making him come all the way over here, that she owes him a huge one, and that truly, Rey isn’t exactly thrilled about this whole mess, and this isn’t her ideal way to spend a few precious days off work, either.

Ben is not very gracious about it. He listens to Rey with an increasingly irritable expression and then he nods once, curtly.

And then.

Then, he crowds her against her coat rack and orders, “Shut up,” before kissing her, and kissing her, and kissing her some more, his giant hands cupping her face as one leg slips between hers, rib cage pushing against her breasts, pinning her to the wall until she’s just stuck, held there, and it feels as if he’s the only thing between Rey and the outside world. He’s wearing scrubs with very little underneath (Alphas always run hot, according to Poe) and Rey changed into thin sweats as soon as she got home and realized the state of her underwear—of her everything, really—and pressed against each other, like this… they are almost, almost close enough.  

His scent is—too much. Spectacular. Even more than usual, and not only—not entirely, maybe not at all because he’s the most Alpha of all the Alphas who Rey has had the dubious pleasure of meeting. It fills her lungs immediately, and saturates her brain, as if to reassure Rey that yes, this is right, this is good, and that no, there is no way she is ever going to have a heat with anyone else.

Ben pulls back less than an inch, breath hot against her lips.

“You’re so wet—I can feel it. Even like this,” he tells her, voice low and full of wonder and something else, and Rey—Rey registers the words and snaps out of it just enough to push against his chest.

Ben looks mildly outraged, but he takes a step back.

He does this, Rey has noticed. Respecting her boundaries. He’s the Alpha here—so much larger and stronger than her, he could force her into anything. But somehow it’s as if all the power were on Rey’s side when they are together. Which—weird.

“Listen, I—I think I should shower.”

He half laughs, and makes to grab her waist again, hands slipping under her shirt to close around her waist. They almost span it completely.

“No, really—I… Ben, I’m a mess.”

He pulls her closer.

“You’re…unbelievable.” He inhales deeply against the skin of her throat. “This is going to be unbelievable.”

Rey manages to wrestle herself away from him. It’s no small feat, considering that she didn’t really want to—and neither did he, from the way he’s looking at her.

“I really need to wash up.”

“What—no. Don’t shower. Ever again.”

“I—yes. I’m going to. Can you…” God. God, he smells good. Extraordinary. Ben Solo, the perfect drug. “Can you… make yourself at home? I have… probably stuff in the fridge?"

"What?"

"And Netflix and HBO, and—”

“Do you even—Rey, you’re almost in heat. Your body is…” A pause, in which he searches for the right word, “...beautiful.”

It’s somewhere in his expression, in the impatient, frustrated way in which he closes his eyes, that he finds the description utterly inadequate.

Still.

“I’d rather shower.”

He opens his mouth again, clearly mind-boggled, and for a moment she thinks he’s going to yell at her like he yells at his residents, at his superiors, at his nurses, at his patients, at the hospital administrators, at… everyone, really. But he just presses his lips together and says, “Suit yourself.”

She walks past him, trying to avoid touching him, ignoring the way he vibrates with that energy of his, the way his fists clench as he lets her go. She’s almost inside the bathroom when it occurs to her that she should say something. Before she’s too far gone.

“I—I’ve never had one, before. A heat, I mean. So you’re going to have to… help me. Tell me, how to…” Yeah.

How to.

“Neither have I.”

“Of course you’ve never—You’re an Alpha, but you’ve been with Omegas in heat so—”

“I haven’t.” There is something disarming, in the way he says the words. In the way he’s staring at her from the end of the hallway, the clear brown of his eyes almost painfully honest.

“What to you mean? I thought you…”

“It’s fine, Rey. We’ll figure it out. God knows that I—” He stops himself, leaving her to wonder what exactly it is that God knows. Suddenly, Ben looks… tired? Resigned? Rey’s not sure anymore. “Just go shower.”

Rey closes the bathroom door and then slumps against it, wondering for the millionth time how, why, wherefore she screwed up this monumentally.

No matter what temperature she sets, the water stings her skin—the glands on her wrists and the sides of her neck are sore, her nipples two hard points, breasts achy and too full. The patch of skin on her upper back is on fire, and it seems to throb and pulse in time with the hollow feeling pooling in her lower belly, and—God. Rey wishes she could just chop it off. That, or she’ll go insane. She’s still drying herself, hasn’t finished showering more than two minutes ago, when she feels her womb contract, and a new pulse of slick slowly trickles down her leg.

She bites her lower lip and dries the mess with a clean towel, fully aware that of all her battles, this is the most lost.

When she pads into the living room wearing plaid pajama pants and her Middle-earth t-shirt, Ben has turned on the TV and is watching Season 2 of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Rey’s favorite. He mutes the show as soon as she walks in, inhaling deeply in her direction.

It’s weird, this heat business. Unexpected. The little Rey thought about it growing up, she always imagined it would be completely out of control, but right now, in this very moment—it’s not that she’s not horny. Because she absolutely is. It’s not that she wouldn’t let Ben do… anything, really, to her. It’s just that at this point, after this shit of a day that isn’t even halfway over yet—

“I think I’m mostly tired.”

Ben nods, his Adam’s apple moving as he swallows.

“It’s normal, no? Pre-heat hormonal fluctuations.” He seems to hesitate. “Come here.”

Unable and unwilling to stop, Rey walks closer, and he pulls her firmly on his lap, her legs across his own, and—he’s so huge, his whole body. She can feel how hot, how hard he is under her ass. And yet, there’s something different in his atmosphere—not the usual nervous, intense energy she’s used to receive from him, but something soothing and calming. Exactly… yes.

Exactly what Rey needs.

She fits her head under his chin, and it takes her long moments to realize that his chest is vibrating minutely, something between a low, deep hum and a purr that immediately has Rey’s bones liquify. This is right, it tells her. This is where you are supposed to be. And Ben—Ben is supposed to be here, too. With her. Taking care of her.

An Alpha, taking care of his Omega.

“The antivirals—it’s a long-term thing.” His voice feels even lower than usual under her ear.

“Mmm?”

“The interaction with suppressants.”

“Ah—yeah. Maybe. I don’t remember how many doses I took, but… I might have one more heat after this one, no matter what.”

Ben nods, and his chin brushes the top of her hair. Rey can’t resist—she angles her head until she can reach his left neck gland and licks it once. A small, focused pass of her tongue that has the purring intensify.

“I’ll be there.”

Rey closes her eyes, wondering what this weird pressure behind her eyelids is. Surely she’s not about to cry, just because he offered to help her out with her next heat. Though—maybe all these hormones are messing with her, and she actually is? God. She hopes she isn’t. Ben—he’s not a nice man, not by any definition of the word, not by any stretch of the imagination, but now. Now he’s almost breaking he heart.

“There might be no need. If I’m lucky.”

You don’t have to, she means to say. I didn’t mean to screw this up. I’m sorry.

About the heat, of course. But really, she’s just as sorry about all the rest.

I thought I could do this, with you, and not care. But now I do, and now you’re here, and who knows what’s in your head, and I just don’t know how to—

“Shh. Rest, Rey.”

She falls asleep in a heartbeat.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

When Rey wakes up, she is so hot that she just knows she’s going to die.

It’s not—not hot like she felt the day before. And not hot like the summer of MS1, when the temperatures were so horribly high that all stores ran out of ACs and even fans. This is different, this is worse, as if she was being held under a boiling jet of water by invisible hands—except that the water is inside her, scalding her from within. Which makes no sense, because she simultaneously feels hollow, as empty inside as she’s ever been, her brain, her lungs, her belly, even her hands trying desperately to reach, to contract around something and meeting with absolutely nothing.

It hurts.

She needs to stand up.

Bathroom. Painkillers. Maybe a shower—her whole body revolts—no, no, no. No shower.

No water.

Okay. But she at least needs to figure out what’s going on, and painkillers are the first step to clear her stupid, foggy head, and—here, yes, good, now she’s managed to lift herself up from the bed and even to put the sole of one foot to the floor, which means that with some effort she should be able to do the same thing for the other foot and then even—

“Where are you going?”

The voice is scratchy with sleep and deep and perfect and it almost smells, it smells like Ben—Ben Ben Ben Ben Ben—and the clenching that’s been going on inside Rey, which was already the worst, the absolute fucking worst, it becomes about a million times more unbearable.

She needs to get to those pills, stat, or she’ll pass out and she won’t—

A hot, heavy arm—AlphaAlphaAlpha—loops around her waist from behind and pulls her back, annihilating all of Rey’s bed-leaving accomplishments thus far.

“Rey—what are you doing?” The sheets rustle in the semi-darkness. “It’s the middle of the night, you—”

He falls silent. For about five seconds. And then he speaks.

“Oh, fuck.”

“What? What, I—”

“You are—” He’s breathing heavily, which doesn’t make much sense because he only just sat up—then again, it took Rey four attempts to get to that barely-out-of-bed stage, so she probably shouldn’t be the one to judge. “You smell… ready. Really… ready.”

Ready? What does that even—no matter.

“I can’t—I really can’t—please let me go—”

“No.” He pulls Rey backwards, until the heat of his chest scorches the skin of her back through thin cotton. It’s—harrowing.

Sublime.

“Please—”

“Shh.”

“I need to go and—”

“No—Rey, no.” Again, yet again, Rey must be missing entire chunks of time, because somehow she ends up on her back, hands pinned to each side of her head. 

She arches up. And moans. “I don’t feel well—”

“Okay. It’s okay.”

“I think I need to…” Rey has no idea. Her mind is scorched blank.

“You need to be fucked.” Ben’s tone is not lecherous—no attempts at seduction, here. Just the facts, evenly stated, and it scares the hell out of Rey, because he’s right, and her body is pulsating, throbbing, as tense as a violin string, a mess of slick running down her thighs. And this—

This is how she’s going to die, Rey is sure.

“Please.” She is whining, now. She is squirming under him, with his cock, his huge, perfect cock leaking on her stomach even through her clothes and God.

God.

“I’ve got you.” Ben stares at her as she wriggles underneath him, pupils as large as they can dilate, but he—he is calm. Or maybe not calm—his eyes are glassy and his hands are clutching her too tight and she can see the depth of every breath he takes in the way the line of his shoulders rises and falls, but—here, Ben is in his element. Rey can’t stay still; she’s needy and hot and confused, and he’s the very opposite—steadying her twisting hips, grounding her with a nip to her throat, just forceful enough to make her moan and bite back the words, Please. Alpha, please.

Ben—he is taking control of this.

Of her.

“Easy.” His voice.

“I don’t—Please, make it stop. I don’t know what to do.

“Shh. It’s okay. I’m going to—God, you feel amazing.”

Rey groans, and shimmies her hips, and clenches around nothing but hot air a few more times. By the moment she manages to open her eyes again, Ben has her completely naked and is holding her thighs apart with his knees, and Rey should feel embarrassed, but she has to—she wants to show her Alpha. She wants to see him look at her, and God, the way he’s staring at the mess that she has become—it’s as if he’s spellbound, lips parted, breath coming even faster than a few moments earlier. His underwear is pushed low on his legs and his hand is gripping the base of his cock and it’s clear that he was on his way to something else—maybe to fucking her, he said he would fuck her, was he serious when he said he’d fuck her, did Rey just imagine it, because please, please, please, she will do anything, anything at all—but he got sidetracked by something.

By…

“Rey. You—sweetheart.” His voice is hoarse. He hesitates for a moment, and then his fingers leave his cock to trail up Rey’s legs. Trace the crease between her thigh and her abdomen. They both exhale as he parts her folds, and it’s like a hot knife cutting through butter. He touches the rim of her hole with his fingers as his thumb strokes her clit, looking dumbstruck, like he’s having a hard time wrapping his head around this. “This is so—much. You really, really need this, don’t you.”

It’s not a question.

The small part of Rey’s brain that is still functioning wonders if this slick fetish he seems to have is common to all Alphas or something uniquely Ben’s. From the way he’s looking at her cunt like he’s found the holy grail, Rey would guess a bit of both. And then—she doesn’t want to guess anymore, because he’s bending down and licking her, tongue flat and wide as if he’s trying to drink her up, and it’s not that it doesn’t feel good—it’s maddening, it’s incredible—but it’s not what Rey needs.

“This hurts—stop, stop, stop, please, will you—”

He must understand, because next thing Rey knows is that he’s on her, smelling like heaven, chest crushing her breasts and pushing in. And in. And in. And in. And that’s the hilt, but he still slides further, and Rey goes from painfully empty to painfully full.

“This is good,” he tells her, stupefied, and it’s clear from his tone that he doesn’t mean good.

I don’t have the words, he means, to say how beautiful this is.

There is no room left inside Rey. For anything.

“I know.”

He works the arm he is not leaning against underneath Rey’s rib cage to pull her tighter, flush to himself, and Rey wonders if she has ever been this close to anyone before. If he has.

Probably not.

She can’t do much except hold onto him as he begins to move, feeling the slick heat of his sweat beneath her palms, the firmness of his muscles against her short nails. His thrusts are delicious, pounding, but there’s only a handful of them—so few, too few—before he begins to slow down, before he’s too large to slip in and out with ease anymore, and Rey wants to scream, to groan in frustration, you said you would fuck me, you said you would take care of me, but the words won’t come out because of the pressure—inside her, where his knot is expanding steadily, so large and fat, and outside, his hips and balls against her, his hands crushing her wherever they can reach, his lips against her slack mouth—and then.

Then.

He is locked inside, impossibly large, unyielding, and Rey’s orgasm swells in waves—first sharp contractions in her abdomen that have Ben bury his head in her throat and moan against her gland, and then a rush of heat and spasms that makes her hold onto him as tight as she can, a trembling mess of tears and sweat on her face. When pleasure crashes against her, unforgiving, the relief is instantaneous.

Bliss. This is—bliss.  

When it’s Ben’s turn, he comes for whole minutes. He growls into her skin, all his muscles tense and flexing, and then just lets go, eyes squeezed shut as he releases over and over in long, heavy spurts, grinding against her hips as he moans and groans and whispers nonsense that Rey should know better than to take seriously.

Take itAll of it.

Your cunt is so tight.

I’ll see you through your heats, every single one.

And then, after everything.

My come’s so deep inside you, you’ll never get it out.

Rey is too sated and happy to care about the fact he can’t possibly mean any of this.

When he’s spent the last of what he has, he slumps on top of Rey, knocking the wind out of her.

“Fuck—I’m too heavy, sorry.” He shifts and maneuvers them until he’s on his back, Rey on top, still locked fast inside her. She should probably ask how long they are going to be connected, how long he thinks the heat is going to last, maybe even worry about whether he already wishes he weren’t here and hates Rey for forcing him into this mess. But he’s so large, and warm, and solid underneath her—a perfect Alpha—that it’s impossible to feel anything but one hundred percent content. He’s still hard, and every once in a while his cock twitches with aftershocks, making Rey shiver in pleasure and reach to lick both of his neck glands.

“You did good,” Ben murmurs, voice even lower than usual as he runs a lazy hand down her spine. “I am very pleased.”

Rey can tell that the words have a deep history, that Ben is pulling them out of some primitive, Alpha part of his hindbrain. He must be, because the Omega inside her hums with happiness, and Rey tries to get closer, tighter against him—inside his skin, that would be ideal, right now.

You did good. A voice inside her preens. You pleased your Alpha. You are worthy.

For precious minutes, Rey is wholly at peace.

And then, the fires begin again.

 

 

He fucks her for three days straight, and it’s not that Rey loses count of how many times—it’s just that keeping track would have been impossible, with the way the pleasure bleeds into more pleasure until the simple act of Ben pulling out of her to get food, or water, becomes foreign and upsetting to her. To Ben, too, considering that he can’t seem to let Rey out of his sight for more than a few seconds at a time.

Not that she cares to be.

Rey's bedroom is a disaster. When the messy combination of their fluids becomes too much, Ben haphazardly wipes it away from her inner thighs with a corner of the sheet. The bed is soaked halfway through the first day, but Ben’s growl when Rey offers to get fresh beddings is not entirely human, and his response is to fuck her twice in a row without letting her come up for air.

Rey thinks she gets it. Her room, her entire apartment—it smells so good, it’s almost scary, to think that a time existed when their scents weren’t completely enveloping it.

They talk. Sometimes. Other times they just lay there, tied together, kissing infinitely or just staring and tracing each other’s skin—freckles, they are freckles, why is Ben so obsessed with them? Often, though, they talk—small, disjointed conversations about funny and inconsequential things, like that time Rey had to retake the MCAT because she was so sleep-deprived from waiting tables at night that she conked out in the middle of the test. Or that in MS3, Ben signed up for a half-marathon but ended up running a whole one because he followed wrong race.

Several times, he tells her in a wonderstruck tone how beautiful he finds her, how warm and soft and wet and fuckable and perfect, and Rey is not so stupid to think that it means anything, but it’s hard to care even if it doesn’t, when it feels as if they are the only two people in the world. It usually leads to the next bout of sex, anyway, and—it’s not as if she doesn’t desperately need it.

The little she eats, he feeds her by hand. Slices of apple and peach, some juice. The perfect foods, foods she never chooses but right now somehow craves, and it occurs to Rey that she couldn’t have bought any of it, which means that Ben must have brought it over.

“What about work?” she attempts to ask once, as he’s feeding her a segment from an orange that he just peeled. As it turns out, Rey loves oranges.

“Fuck work,” he says, distractedly. He is staring at her mouth. Again. Rey wishes he’d let her use it on him, but he doesn’t seem to have the patience for it. Not now.

“No—I mean it. Today’s a—” Wednesday? Thursday? The blinds are down, and Rey has no idea how long they’ve been in here. Not enough, for sure. She’s not done with him, and he—he is definitely not done with her. “What about your patients, don’t you have to—”

“It’s fine.” She is still chewing, but he leans over to kiss her softly on the lips. “I’m here.”

He’s taking care of you, an Omega-sounding voice inside her head whispers. He’s perfect. He’s the ideal Alpha.

Rey quells it.

One time, only once, he groans and flips her around and starts fucking her from behind, and it’s heaven, it’s even deeper this way, it’s otherworldly—and Rey feels pride that she can take all of him now, all inside her. He palms her breast and leans forward and that’s it—just the whisper of his breath on her mating gland takes her right to the verge of coming, a mix of ecstasy and pain that has tears running down her face, and if he doesn’t touch her there, if he doesn’t lick her, if she cannot feel his teeth inside her Rey will—

Ben pulls out with a growl, turning Rey over until she’s on her back and then sliding inside once more, chest pressed against her front as he pins her to the bed.

“No, no, no, no, stay, what are you—”

Her Alpha bites her on the neck, and Rey immediately quiets down, that combination of pleasure and unsatisfied agony still radiating from her mating gland. It’s much later, when he’s released inside her and they’re knotted together on their sides, his fingers trailing on the skin between her shoulder blades, that he tells her.

“I can’t be trusted. Around this.”

Rey nods, and tries to burrow deeper inside him.

 

 

 

The last time is on the fourth day, and Rey’s smell has shifted just enough that she knows that—it's almost over. She still wants him though, like she did before this heat and like she will afterwards—forever, probably. So she says nothing and lifts herself up, up until she’s on top of him, her knees on either side of his hips, her palms planted on his huge chest.

She thinks that Ben must know, too, that they’re near the end, because his hands close around her waist until they’re covering it completely, and he seems unable to look away from her as she works to take him inside her.

“Whatever you need,” he husks at her with difficulty, as he strokes her clit and then the place where they are joined. “Whatever you need, you come to me.”

She nods silently, and sighs as she finally manages to sink herself down to the hilt.

So full.

Her hair is a curtain around them, letting some of the sunlight filter inside but effectively trapping his—their—incredible smell between them. Ben’s thick cock fills her beyond comfort, until there is nothing, nowhere inside her that is not molded by him.

“There is no way I’m fucking you without knotting you. Never again.”

His voice is warm and rich and deep, and Rey thinks that there is a lot that she could say to that, especially now that the fever is abating, but the words just won’t come out.

It’s closest she has ever felt to belonging.

 

 

She knows he’s gone before fully waking up, no matter that his scent is all over the apartment, on the sheets—even inside her.

That’s why you usually meet at his place, an obnoxious voice reminds her. Because Alpha scent lingers, and infiltrates, and sticks—and Ben’s does so more than any other Alpha Rey has ever met. It probably will take forever to get it out of her home. It will still be driving her out of her mind in weeks.

This is really putting a dent, Rey thinks ruefully, in the whole ‘no strings attached’ thing.

She’s not sure how she expected to feel after a heat, but absolutely great wasn’t it. A headache, maybe, or muscles aching at the very least, but well rested and ready to run a road race—no, she did not see that coming. Her body feels spectacular.

Rey wonders how Ben felt, right after. Before leaving. This was Rey’s heat, after all, and Ben was there to help, but he didn’t have to. Maybe he got bored, on the second day of non-stop sex.

Maybe that’s why he left.

Rey truly has no idea what the etiquette is, for moments like this. Maybe she should ask Jessika. Or even Poe, since he seems to know bloody everything, damn his smug face. But then again, it doesn’t really matter, because Ben said that he doesn’t have much experience with heats, either, which means that probably when he decided to leave he did so because… he wanted to.

Which is—fine.

Absolutely fine.

It’s not like she thought that he’d—He’s doing what he wants to do, which is not being around Rey after being around her for so long, and it's absolutely—

It hits Rey all of a sudden, that the wetness trickling down her neck is spilling out from the corners of her eyes.

“Shit.” She hastily wipes her cheeks with the heels of her hands, wishing she were still asleep. “Shit.”

 

  

The next time Rey sees him is weeks later, when she’s furiously scribbling a note in a patient chart while waiting for an elevator going up—why is everyone headed down today? She looks up and finds him standing in front of her, not even a second after the ping that signals the opening of the doors.

Ben has a five o’clock shadow and bags under his eyes, and his hair looks—long, and he smells so good and comforting that it’s all Rey can do not to drop the clipboard in her hands and just plaster herself against him, bury her face in his chest and bite into his muscles and beg him to scent her and—

“Hey.”

His. Voice.

Unsure of the state of her vocal cords, Rey just raises a hand and weakly waves at him.

And then… they just stand there, not three feet apart, regarding each other warily.

They haven’t talked in so long. There was… yeah, there was that, and then there was a conference, and Rey had a training to attend, and for some reason their shifts don’t overlap anymore, and Rey has been meaning, wanting, needing to get in touch with him but he left, he just left after her heat was over and they were done and sometimes she can’t sleep at night if lets herself think about it and she just doesn’t know if he—

“Ben—you coming?”

A short distance away from them, Phasma sounds mildly irritated. Though Phasma always does, so.

Ben seems to jostle himself out of—of whatever that weird staring moment was—and nods.

“Yes.”

He follows Phasma and walks past Rey, without ever stopping to look back.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

Rey has been in too many hospitals, for too large a chunk of her life, to not recognize that she is in one as soon she opens her eyes.

What she doesn’t know is how she got here, since her last memory is deciding to make her way downstairs to ask about that weird post-op PET scan of her patient’s lungs, and then—nothing. Well. Something, probably. Rey strongly hopes not to be dead, because if the afterlife looks so much like her regular life she’s going to have to file a complaint—

All of a sudden, a smiling face positions itself between Rey and the ceiling she is staring at.

“Doctor Johnson. I’m Nurse Cole.”

Neither the face nor the name are familiar—this is not someone Rey knows. So…

“Where am I?”

“Hospital.”

Right.

“Yeah, um—which one?”

The nurse chuckles. “The one you work in. You’re in Radiology—you briefly lost consciousness.”

“I—what?”

“Low blood sugar. You were given a glucagon injection.”

“Oh.”

Rey tries to remember the last time she ate. Not at dinner. And not at lunch, since she had to guest teach a class for the biology grads, and then the students wanted to know what exactly is going to be in the exam and wouldn’t leave her alone for ages. Maybe breakfast—did she have breakfast, or… no, she was leading patient rounds, and doesn’t really remember having breakfast. Surely she must have eaten something today—

“How do you feel?”

Disoriented, a bit. But… “Fine.”

“Good. You should be fine now. We’ve called your mate, just in case.”

Rey sits up a bit and looks around, because—what?

“What?”

The nurse turns and begins puttering around the room. “Your mate. He’s on his way.”

“My… My mate?” A mate? God, does she have retrograde amnesia? What is— How long—  “How long was I out?”

“Oh, just a few minutes.”

But—but the nurse said mate.

“I think I might have some sort of memory loss…”

Nurse Cole stops in the act of taking off her gloves and turns to look at Rey.

“Really?”

“What day is today?” Rey asks.

The nurse clucks her tongue. “Nu-uh. That’s my line. You doctors really do make the worst patients, don’t you?”

“I—”

“Today’s date?”

Rey has to think about it. “June four?”

The nurse beams at her. “Correct. You get to go home, Doctor Johnson.”

“What—did I hit my head?”

“Nope. Someone was right behind you and caught you.” She pats Rey on the cheek, simultaneously brisk and motherly. “Don’t worry, we told your mate that it wasn’t anything serious, so he wouldn’t worry sick.”

“I don’t—What mate are you—”

“He’s not on your records, by the way—your listed emergency contact was entered months ago. Someone named Luke who has a West Coast phone number? But don’t worry, we have an Alpha nurse on the floor, and she recognized your scent right away. Still, you should really update the paperwork.”

The paperwork?

Her scent?

“What are you—”

“Rey.”

She turns her head towards the entrance so quickly that she almost pulls a muscle, and—

Of course.

Of course, of course, of course the universe hates Rey and would send her an Alpha nurse with a great sense of smell who takes it upon herself to call Ben, all because Rey forgot to bring her trail mix to work.

Of. Fucking. Course.

She hasn’t seen him in days, not since that awkward meeting in the hallway, and now—this. God. Rey sits up straighter, wishing the floor would just—open up and swallow her. Or Ben. Or the both of them. Separately, though.

“Ben.”

He walks up to her, expression inscrutable—is he worried? Is he mad? He can’t be worried but it almost looks like he is right now, so maybe—he’s probably just pissed. He comes to a stop right beside the bed, and from this angle he looks like he’s about ten and a half feet tall.

“You okay?”  

“Yes. I—I’m totally fine, you really didn’t need to…” Come here.

He studies her for a few moments, and then—Rey’s breath catches, when he steps a little closer and lifts his hand to push the hair back from her brow; when he cups her nape, and bends down just enough to press his warm lips in the center of her forehead.

Because, the thing is.

They don’t exactly kiss. Which is to say, they kiss all the time, but not when they’re not… And not since they—not since her heat, when they…

When he…

It really must be to keep up some sort of facade with the nurse, though why Ben is not berating her for assuming that he and Rey are mates, Rey has no idea. Probably because explaining stuff feels like work, and it would require him talking to people, which Rey knows for sure he deeply loathes. For some reason, somewhere along the way, she seems to have started to like that about him. His honest, unabashed dislike of most forms social interaction.

“Doctor Solo, Doctor Johnson can go home. Do make sure that she eats more regularly and gets some rest, though.”

Rey almost winces at the nurse’s chiding tone. Ben’s going to yell at her, now. And at Rey, too. He’s going to tell them that there is no reason he should give a fuck about any of this, and that he’s here to work and not to baby-sit some idiotic Omega who just can’t seem to get her life together, and maybe even don’t tell me what to do

“I will. Thank you.”

Oh.

Okay, then.

As soon as the nurse is out of the door, an uncomfortable silence falls on the room. Rey tries to look someplace that isn’t Ben—her hands, or her lap, or even the wall are all good options—and Ben seems to shift away from her a little.

Though one of them is going to have to say something, sooner or later, and—

“You still smell like me, apparently,” Ben tells her, and Rey could try to interpret his tone, but—

God. God. This is—the worst. On so many levels. He must hate her, right now.

She shakes her head. “I am so, so, so sorry. This is—terrible.”

He looks at her for a few moments and then nods, lips a thin line. “Terrible.”

He just stands there, with his usual moody, sullen expression, and out of the blue Rey feels a frisson of irritation in response. Yes, this sucks. But Ben is the one who seemed obsessed with scenting her during her heat, and to a lesser extent before then, too—and it’s not as if scenting is mandatory, to have a good time in bed. He didn’t have to spend minutes, hours licking all her glands—and yeah, Rey technically didn’t have to let him, but he always initiated it, always. He can take his annoyance and stuff it where the sun doesn’t shine.

“Ben, I’m really sorry—but I don’t like this any more than you do.”

It’s apparently the wrong this to say, because now—now he looks mad, on top of sulky.

“Yeah. Well, sorry if my presence here is inconveniencing you.”  

“No, I—that’s not what I meant.” Damn it. “Please. I just—I know that it’s bullshit, this ‘mate’ thing. I’m as annoyed as you are.”

Ben just stares at her for a few seconds and then breathes deep, chest expanding, large shoulders lifting up and then down again, and—God, did he have to be so big? Rey hates this stereotypical Alpha bullshit. The room they’re in already smells delicious to Rey, like every other room he’s spent more than a handful of seconds inside. It’s really messing with her brain.

“You might want to choose an emergency contact.” Ben has averted his eyes and is examining his own feet. “Someone you actually want to see, if you do end up on your deathbed.“

Rey wonders if what he means is, someone who would actually care, if you were on your deathbed. Though maybe… maybe not. His tone sounds tired, not snarky. Resigned, Rey thinks, but it’s surely just her impression. There are splotches of something darkening his scrubs, and Rey wishes she knew how long he’s been on shift. If he just got out of surgery. If he’s been sleeping poorly, lately.

Rey definitely has—not that the two things are likely to be in any way related.

“I do have one. It’s just that Luke is too far away to…” It suddenly occurs to her that mentioning Luke in Ben’s presence is probably not the best idea. Shit.

His jaw sets. “Right.”

God, he must hate her. She hates herself a bit, too.

“I will. Change my contact.” To Poe. Or Jess. “And—thanks for coming.” She swallows around the dryness of her throat. “I’m really sorry.”

“You mentioned that, already.”

“I know, I’m sor—”

She catches herself just it time, and—

Suddenly, the awareness blooms in her head. That…

This, this is Ben. He is here. Rey has been wanting to talk to him again for weeks, and yes, this is the worst possible situation, and he probably hates being here, but it doesn’t even matter, because he’s here, and he’s speaking to her, and he’s looking at her, and you know what?

Who cares.

Rey smiles up at him, because she feels like it, because she wants to, and—his mouth twitches in response, just a little bit, a nothing-smile that means everything to Rey.

Her heart melts.

“Sorry. About being sorry.”

He shakes his head minutely.  “Come on. I’ll take you home.”

“Oh, no. No need. I can—”

“Rey, there is no way the nurse will let you drive. You just fainted.”

“I’m fine. And they don’t need to know—”

“Do you hate the idea so much?”

Again, that air of resignation in his eyes, that Rey can’t quite read or interpret.

What’s going on, Ben Solo? Is there anything I can do?

“No. No, I’ll—Well, you live super close, anyway, right?”

“I do.”

Why do you look so sad?

“Okay. Thanks. I'll need to go get my stuff first.”

Ben nods. “I’ll come with you.”

The drive home is quiet, but not unpleasant. Rey dozes off in the passenger seat, soothed by the baritone of the NPR host, by the fuzzy rhythm of the lamplight filtering in and out of the windows of Ben’s car. Once he’s parked in the garage below Rey’s apartment building, he wakes her with a warm hand on her thigh, and Rey surfaces out of a light sleep with a smile.

“We’re home?”

“Yes.”

He walks her upstairs, hand steady on her lower back, sticking a little too close—probably afraid that she’ll feel woozy again and faint and get some kind of head injury that’ll take twenty hours of neurosurgery to fix. He also insists on unlocking her door himself when they’re in front of her place, and then—then he doesn’t even follow her in once it’s open, and Rey is home now, which means that Ben is going to either go back to the hospital or head for his place or… or whatever else it is that he does when he’s not with her.

Which is all the time, of course.

“Thanks,” Rey says, and at least it’s not I’m sorry. She’s oddly pleased. “Did you, um, want something to drink? Or eat?”

He shakes his head, and stays put just outside of Rey’s entrance. She should be glad, since it took ages to get the smell of him out of her place before, but—

Come in. Please, please, please. Come in.

“You should get some rest. And eat.”

“Yes. Yes, I will.”

He doesn’t look like he wants to leave, either, but she can never tell with him.

Never.

“Was there anything else you needed?”

“Nope.”

“Okay.”

“Okay.”

He’s nodding now, and she is, too. And then they’re just staring at each other, and he’s about to leave, was going to leave two minutes ago, probably shouldn’t even be here to begin with, and Rey—

She’s not sure what drives her to do it—reaching out for him until the sleeve of his Henley is between her fingers, the skin of his wrist warm and familiar under hers. She’s also not sure what makes her tug at it, a pitiful, childish gesture that must reveal how terribly needy she is.

How desperately head-over-heels for him.

Here, she’s said it. It’s out. Floating around her head, now.

When Rey has the courage to look up, Ben is staring down at her, lips parted, and there is a war on his face, some kind of bloody, merciless battle that Rey is not privy to; for a moment she is positive he’s going to answer, No, Rey. No, to the implicit question she’s not even sure she’s asking. But he doesn’t. He seems to come to some sort of resolution, to acquiesce, and he leans forward to kiss her on the mouth, soft and chaste, nothing like the aggressive, out of control kiss he gave her in this very spot, right before her heat began in earnest. This is short, and sweet, and it only deepens when Rey goes on her toes to return it in full, burying her fingers in his hair and humming her bliss.

At least she has this, she tells herself, too relieved to finally be with him again to be bitter about it. At least he likes her scent and maybe even her body enough to stay.

For tonight.

It’s different, from all the other times. It lasts longer, for once, longer than it ever has before. Ben seems to take years to undress her, losing track of his progress to stare at the skin he just uncovered as if he’d never seen it before. Even when he has them both naked on the bed he seems adamant to pace himself, to savor and linger, to touch everywhere—no matter how much Rey may attempt to sway him. His cock leaks in her hands, on her thighs, between her legs, and he still won’t get inside her, he still won’t fill her up, and Rey—she teeters there, dying on the edge, refusing to beg and then doing it anyway.

Please.

Then, it’s slow. Thick and huge and delicious and thorough but slow, slowly inside and slowly out, and then too slowly back inside again, Ben stopping too often to lick at her nipples and scrape his teeth on her glands and to just stare at her, and Rey will go mad, would go mad, but he twines the fingers of both hands with her own, and that, only that anchors her to reality. When the time comes, he allows his knot to swell and engage until he’s locked deep inside her, and without the fever and the dizziness of her heat there is—a poignancy, to it.

How can this mean nothing? Rey thinks, mind liquid from the heart-cutting pleasure. When it is everything. This is—

Her orgasm hits her and she falls, and he falls, and they fall together, clutching sweaty skin and gasping in each other’s mouths. Neither of them says one single word. Even Ben, usually all growls and groans and the occasional low-muttered obscenity, just presses down on her and comes silently.

They kiss afterwards, as they wait for the swelling to subside. It’s long, drugging kisses that would have been more appropriate as a prelude to sex, and there’s an edge to them, a mix of desperation and worship that has hot, fat, stupid tears run down Rey's cheeks. Ben kisses those, too, his expression unreadable through Rey’s watery eyes, and then—then he only feels large, not enormous inside her, and he can finally slip out of her, so—naturally—he does. On her upper back, Rey’s mating gland aches and throbs, a miserable soreness that has her dread the moment he will leave her apartment.

What’s left, then? What’s left, when you’re gone?

Rey is boneless, with no energy left to move, and can’t help but lie there, staring at Ben’s back as he puts his jeans and shirt back on. Whether he realizes, she doesn’t know. If he does, he doesn’t seem to mind, and when he’s fully dressed he returns to sit on Rey’s side of the bed, his palms on each side of her head as he looks down at her.

“Do you want me to get you some food?”

That would be lovely, Alpha. “No, thanks.”

He’s staring at her. “Anything else you might need? A blanket?”

Stay. You are so warm.

“No. I’ll go shower in a while.”

“I’ll carry you.”

“No—Thanks, but I’ll do it later.”

He hesitates, as if reluctant to tell her what to do. “You shouldn’t. You should just rest.”

Lazily, she raises one hand to trace the angles of his face, admiring the way his cheekbones slant, his beautiful almond shaped eyes, the fullness of his mouth. A few months ago, when Rey had just moved here, one of the nurses he’d just yelled at for an infiltrating IV or something of the like had called him weird-ass looking behind his back. Ugly as sin, she had said. Even back then, Rey had never understood what she was talking about.

Look at him. Just—look at him.

“Are you going back to the hospital?”

He shakes his head. “Tomorrow morning.”

It’s not her business to ask, but Rey feels so lethargic now, so loose, that using her frontal lobe to censor herself for so small a question is well beyond her capabilities. “Where are you going, then?”

“Home.”

“Mmm. To sleep?”

“Probably.”

“And eat?”

“I’m not hungry.” He eats so little. For someone so big.

He does steal her donuts, though.

“Will you go to bed right away?”

He shrugs, but doesn’t move away. Rey’s hand is on his cheek now, cupping it. Her thumb traces his lower lip, and he is—shockingly—letting her. “I might read a bit.”

“Work stuff?”

He shakes his head and—was that a kiss to the tip of her finger? No.

Impossible.

The Silmarillion?”

The side of his mouth curls up. He smells like—everything Rey has ever liked, rolled into one. She could die happy, right now.

“I’m almost done with The Two Towers.”

“Oooh. That’s a good one.”

“My least favorite in the trilogy.”

“Really?”

“You can read all about my opinion on it in the twenty-three page, single-spaced book report I turned in to my seventh grade teacher.”

Rey has to laugh.

“Ben, I think you might have a problem.”

He—yes, he is smiling. Bashful, bittersweet, but it’s a smile. “Is it you?”

Rey laughs again, and from nowhere a crazy, stupid, idiotic, fantastic, ridiculous idea springs into her head. Actually, probably not from nowhere. Likely from the same spot that prompted her to grasp his sleeve only moments ago, and to tug him all the way to her bed.

Don’t do it. Don’t do it. It’s stupid. He’ll say no, and you’ll regret it. And even worse—he’ll know.

But her frontal lobe is currently shot, and for some reason, now, this very moment, with Ben within her easy reach, with Ben acting as her Alpha would—it’s the least alone Rey has ever felt. And she really, really, really wants this. So much.

“Hey, you know that hospital fundraiser? Next month?”

He grimaces, and Rey chuckles.

“That bad?”

“It’s very….” His eyes move around as he looks for the right word, and then settles for, “Performative. A waste of time.”

“Mmm.” Rey’s fingertips are playing against his five o’clock shadow, now. Pleasantly scratchy. She is curious to know how he’d look, if he grew a beard. Surely not more handsome than he currently is—that would be impossible. “These things usually are.”

“These things are fucking terr—”

Rey smiles as she pushes her fingers against his lips to hush him. He lets her, because while he might be a wild beast most of the time, today he seems to be mostly… domesticated.

“Are you going?”

“I don’t exactly have a choice. I am sadly not on call, that night.”

“Oh.”

It’s her moment.

The perfect moment to ask.

Do you want to go together? With me?

She could maybe couch it in a way that would be acceptable to him. Maybe.

Holdo said we’re highly encouraged to bring dates. To pretend that we have some semblance of work-life balance, or something equally unrealistic. We could stay very little—I’d eat my weight in hors d'œuvres, and you’d probably nibble on half an olive while making scathing remarks over the hospital executive board or the staggering waste of money and time that the entire event is, which I’d pretend not to find funny and true. Then we’d go home and have a forty-five minute argument over whether HBO’s adaptation of A Song of Ice and Fire should have followed the books more closely, and after that we’d do this thing that we do so well, that is supposed to be just fucking, even though tonight, a few minutes ago, it felt like something completely different.

It felt like—

“Are you?”

Rey blinks. “What?”

“Are you going?”

Or.

Maybe. Maybe, if I asked you, you’d say no. And maybe you’d be appalled at the very thought, and for a moment, just for a second, before you can hide it—because you might act like an asshole most of the time, but I’m starting to suspect that you actually work at passing for one quite a bit—I’d see it in your eyes, and my heart would break in a million pieces. And I’d think back to earlier tonight, to when you said that the idea of being mistaken for my mate is terrible, and to those times when you clearly couldn’t bear being with me the morning after, and to the plain, simple fact that you’ve never really expressed any interest in being with me when sex wasn’t involved.

Rey lets her hand fall back onto the mattress.

“We have to, right?”

Ben nods. “We do.”

They hold eyes for a heavy, silent stretch that feels too full but probably isn’t. Then Ben straightens away from her and stands, a giant in her small bedroom. Rey feels immediately bereft—at the loss of both his scent and his warmth.

Ben clears his throat. “I guess I’ll see you there, then. Maybe.” His lips press together as his jaw tenses.

A second ago, Rey was touching those lips. A second ago, she was in his arms.

“Maybe.”

Ben leaves with a lingering look and a brief nod, without saying goodbye.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

The second heat—Rey immediately recognizes it.  

When she wakes up bathed in sweat at the end of an unseasonably cold early-summer week, hair plastered to her forehead and mouth as dry as it’s ever been, she knows to call her supervisor, and the hospital scheduler, and even Poe (“Well, well, well. You’re really getting into this whole ‘taking time off to fuck’ thing, aren’t you?” “Shut up, Poe.”)

Then, when she’s satisfied that everything is in place, she dials Ben.

Rey is not—unhappy, about the situation.

Nor happy, come to think of it. It’s not ideal, not by a long shot, but this thing for Ben, whatever it is—it’s clearly not going anywhere, and avoiding him hasn’t done her much good, anyway. If a heat is what Rey needs to get a few days in his company, within parameters that he finds acceptable, or at least tolerable, well…

Rey is proud, but not that proud.

Ben doesn’t pick up the phone on her first try, and then—still nothing, for about one hour.

And then two.

And then five. And then, then ten, and then Rey begins to panic, because her heat hasn’t started in earnest yet, but this time—the thing is, this time she knows how bad it’s going to be, how violent, and just the thought of going through it alone, or even worse, with an Alpha she doesn’t care for, an Alpha she hasn’t been with, an Alpha who’s not Ben—

No.

Just, no.

The mere idea is making her feel as if she’s about to throw up the food she hasn’t even been eating.

When it’s been twelve hours since the first call, she swallows whatever pride she has left—very little, apparently—and drives straight to Ben’s place. Back when they still… yeah, back then, she was here often enough to know that he rarely ever bothers to park his car inside the garage. So that when she finds that the driveway is empty, she knows to immediately turn around and head for the hospital.

Maybe he’s in surgery. Maybe he lost his phone. There are a million reasons for Ben to not be picking up, a million explanations that do not involve him actively trying to avoid Rey. He said that he’d help her, and—he seemed to like the sex, last time. At least some of it. Maybe.

Rey is not sure anymore, and tries not to think about it too much.

To no one’s surprise, the rate of Alphas among surgeons is some four-hundred percent higher than in the general population. Rey doesn’t smell that heat-y yet, she doesn’t think, but she still tries to make her way to the Surgery doctors’ lounge as quickly as possible, hoping to avoid being noticed. It’s late enough that she doesn’t meet anyone except for two Beta nurses, who look at Rey suspiciously until she realizes that her badge is hanging inside out. When she straightens it so that the word ’DOCTOR’ in capital letters is visible, they smile faintly at her and go back to chatting about someone named Maz, who is reportedly making a lot of money selling homemade soap on Etsy.

There is only one person in the doctors’ lounge. Which is very good.

That one person, however, is Hux, which is—horrifically bad.

Hux is British, like Rey, which should have made for a nice bonding opportunity but never did, for no reason other than the fact that Hux is… Hux. The first time Rey heard him present a case study during a joint staff meeting, she’d felt a strong need to be reassured that her accent wasn’t… like that.

“I don’t sound like him when I talk, do I? Please, tell me that I don’t,” she’d whispered, horrified.

“Well…” Poe had snickered and bit into his apple.

“Oh, come on.”

Finch had patted Rey on the back. “Don’t worry, Rey, you most definitely do not sound like someone forcefully shoved a curtain rod up your assho—”

“Shhh.” Phasma had turned to pin them with one of her stares, and Finch had apologized softly. 

So, yeah. Hux is not the person Rey was hoping to find, or to be alone with, or to talk to, ever, but she only has to ask him one single question—and then she can leave, and not interact with him for the next three months or so.

“Doctor Hux?”

He looks up from his phone, still chewing on what looks to be a piece of… carrot cake? Gross.

“Yes?”

“I’m looking for B—Doctor Solo. Is he around?”

Seemingly without any hurry, Hux wipes his mouth with a napkin, and then stands to walk to the trashcan to throw it away. Calmly, he dusts a few crumbs off his hands, and—again, very calmly—he turns to face Rey.

“Doctor Johnson.”

Right. Yes. It is her name.

“Yep. That’s me. Um, Doctor Solo? Do you know where I can find him?”

Hux’ mouth—Rey can’t quite figure out whether he’s smiling or grimacing. It’s—weird.

“Why are you looking for him?”

“I just—” For a moment, Rey is taken by surprise. None of your business. “Is he here?”

Hux says nothing, and just continues studying Rey with those small, mean eyes of his until she feels deeply uncomfortable, and Rey—she is just about to say something, like how nice it would be if he could graciously point her to a nurse or someone else who could help her find Ben when—

“You stink.”

He says it while staring at her, upper lip curled up, looking mildly sickened by her presence in this room—in this hospital. In the universe. His tone is so carelessly insulting that Rey makes the semi-conscious decision of taking a step back, fully realizing for the very first time that—shit.

Hux is an Alpha, too.

Ugh.

“Where is Ben? I’ve been trying to get in touch with him.”

Hux—he stays put where he is. Looking obnoxiously calm.

“Have you?”

She tries to keep the irritation off her tone. “If you could help me find him. It would be great.”

The way Hux holds her gaze—it makes her skin crawl.

“How is it that you would like me to help you?”

Rey almost recoils. Almost. “I—I really need to talk to him. It’s urgent, so—”

“I bet it is.” Hux sniffs in the air once more, and his grimace of disgust intensifies.

Calm. Stay calm.

“Do you have an emergency number, or can you tell me if—”

“You don’t have his cell phone number, Doctor Johnson?”

“I do, but—”

“And his pager?”

“Yes, but—”

“And he’s not answering either?”

This is—needlessly unpleasant. Unfair. And yet.

Rey has to unclench her jaw before speaking. “No.”

“I don’t understand how I can help you then, Dr. Johnson. You know how to find him—if you haven’t been able to, it is entirely possible that he doesn’t want to be found.”

Something heavy sinks into the bottom of Rey’s stomach.

Because—

It’s possible. Isn’t it? Ben told her, several times, that he’d help her out, should she have another heat. Which means that—But maybe that was… before. Before he lost interest in her, before her first heat that perhaps he didn’t quite enjoy as much as Rey did, before he realized that the entire freaking department of Radiology is now convinced that they are mated and expecting triplets, or something.

All important events, come to think of it—all events that occurred after Ben’s promise.

And yet. Ben—he wouldn’t. He wouldn’t leave her alone to—

Her voice is shaky when she speaks. “He’s not aware that I’m about to…”

She doesn’t need to finish. Hux knows. And Rey knows that he knows. How wonderful, all this shared knowledge.

Hux cocks his head. “Isn’t he?”

He can’t possibly, Rey wants to retort. There is no way he could know that I’m about to—

Except that there is, of course. Ben knows when her last heat ended, to the minute, and this one is beginning like clockwork, and anyway it has never happened before, Ben not answering his phone for so many hours, not even with a text or a short I’ll get back to you ASAP, and—

It dawns on Rey that what Hux is saying might very well be true. It’s painful, and horrible, and this monster is clearly relishing it way too much, but it’s also—

True.

Rey swallows her tears.

“Thank you. I—I need to go.”

Whether Hux answers anything to that, Rey has no idea. She leaves the hospital in a daze, trying to force her brain away from what just happened.

Twelve hours later, her heat begins for real.

 

 

 

She’s been back to work for less than three days when she sees Ben again.

Discounting the… dismay caused by Ben disappearing the very second Rey’s body had stopped pumping out pheromones, the aftermath of Rey’s first heat had been completely painless—a touch of dehydration and a few pounds lost, but overall Rey had been able to go back to work the very next day and pick up exactly where she’d left off.

This time… no.

This time, Rey feels as if there is an evil little man standing inside her head, alternating between screaming himself hoarse and playing the drums on every single bone of her skull; this time, she has problems keeping down fluids, and all her muscles are aching, all of them at the same time, not to mention that she can barely hold her eyes open. Taking a couple of days off work would be fantastic, but as enlightened as it is, the hospital doesn’t believe in giving leave for heat recovery. Not a big deal, since only people who are so foolish as to go through a heat without a partner ever really need it, anyway.

Which would be Rey, of course.

Turns out, the peer-reviewed articles were right: going through a heat without an Alpha is doable. Absolutely survivable. No long-term consequences for the Omega, probably.

The fact remains that it’s absolutely excruciating. Agonizing. Rey feels—the worst. In living memory.

Poe—thank you, thank you, thank you, Poe—helps her manage the situation. For some reason that Rey doesn’t plan to investigate, he knows that she spent the past few days alone without even having to ask, and makes a point of ensuring that she isn’t attending to the trickiest patients, covers most of her on-call shifts, and also checks on her notes to makes certain that she hasn’t written down anything too far fetched, since “malpractice lawsuits are a pain. If it goes to court, you have to wear a tie. Don’t make me think about it.

When Rey sees Ben again, she is… tired.

Too tired.

It’s late, and he’s standing in the entrance of the doctors’ lounge, saying in his coldest, most surgeon-like voice, “I need a consult. It’s urgent.”

Rey looks up and their eyes meet—and then, immediately, Rey’s flitter away, back to the lab results she was trying to make sense of. Because she really, really isn’t ready for this.

Will likely never be.

Next to her, Poe puts down the apple he just took a bite from and stands. “Sure. What’s going on?”

“It’s pulmonary.”

“Great. I love lungs.”

Except that Poe doesn’t. He love kidneys. Nephrology, that’s what he’s good at. Rey’s the lung guy, here. In this room, anyway.

“Really.” Ben sounds already mildly irritated, and the conversation is less than ten words in. Rey forces herself not to look up again, to continue scanning her patient chart. To take a deep breath.

“Yep.” Poe is smiling. “All those capillaries. And the alveolar sacs. Mmm, lungs.”

There is a silence, in which Rey is mildly—and then less than mildly—afraid that Ben might maybe punch Poe. And then, a surprisingly restrained: “I’ll take Rey. But thanks.”

A sound of feet moving, and Ben must be coming towards her, because—

The sound stops abruptly.

“Rey can’t do it.”

“Why?”

“She’s not well.”

Now—now she has to lift her eyes. Poe and Ben are both talking about her as if she weren’t in this room, and she is, which is why it’s not as if she can pretend not to hear what’s going on. Not to be right here. So she does lift her eyes, and—Poe is standing in front of Ben, who is looking at her from above Poe’s head, which is admittedly not a very hard thing to do. His expression is as illegible as usual.

Intense, though. It’s as if his eyes are zooming in on her.

“What’s wrong?”

The question is, unmistakably, directed at Rey. She opens her mouth to make up something evasive. The flu. A cold. Indigestion. Syphilis, Ben. You should really get tested.

Of course, Poe, fucking Poe, is faster.

“She just had her heat and she's feeling like shit. And I know pulmonary stuff, I can help with—”

It happens quickly—too quickly for Rey’s sluggish brain to track it properly or to react in any sensible way.

Without warning, Ben explodes into motion. He shoves Poe out of the way and in less than three strides he’s leaning into Rey, inhaling deeply, and—what the hell is going on!?—Rey really, really, really should be trying to get away from him but she doesn’t need to or want to—she can’t, he’s here, he’s close—so she just sits there, passive, allowing him to take her smell into himself as if to dissect it and study it and parse it and sift through it, looking for who knows what—

“Dude—leave Rey alone! What are you—”

Ben must find what he’s looking for, because his nostrils flare and then—

He draws infinitesimally closer, and for a moment—the emotion, the anger in his eyes, it scares her.

“You had your heat,” he hisses at her, too low for Poe to hear him. Almost too low for Rey to hear him.

This—It doesn’t make any sense, but Rey feels the illogical compulsion to apologize to Ben. I’m sorry, Alpha. Forgive me. A stupid, instinctual Omega reaction to an Alpha’s rage, irrational and nonsensical—since she has absolutely nothing to apologize for, especially to Ben Solo.

She had her heat and suffered through it. So sue her.

Ben—for a fraction of a second, Rey truly has no idea what he’s going to do.

But, no—he’s already pulling back, straightening until he’s towering over her, his jaw clenching like crazy when he moves away from Rey and tosses the file he’s holding on the table. It lands in front of her with a deaf sound, startling her in the chair.

When Rey looks at him again, his eyes are empty of any emotion.

“I need to know if you think it would be safe to operate. Send the chart back with your comments when you’re done looking at it.”

Rey doesn’t let herself breath again until he’s well out of the room.

“The fuck was that?”

Poe is—oh, right. Still here.

“I…” Rey shakes her head, trying to swallow past the lump in her throat. “I don’t know.”

“Fucking Alphas. So damn aggressive.”

”You—You’re an Alpha, too,” Rey points out, trying to sound like she’s not shaken by what just happened.

Poe comes to sit next to her, taking his apple and turning it in his hand without biting it again.

“Fucking Solo, then.”

Nothing to add to that.

Except that now, now Poe is frowning, and looking at Rey with narrowed eyes, as if trying to puzzle her out or something equally uncomfortable.

“Rey.”

She looks away, motioning to the file Ben dropped with her chin. “I really need to go through this chart. Like, five minutes ago, apparently.”

She doesn’t pick it up, though. Because: “Rey. Why didn’t Solo see you through your heat, this time?”

God. God. She really, really doesn’t want to discuss this now. Or ever.

So she just rolls her eyes and scoffs a bit. “What a disgustingly Alpha thing to say. So patronizing. See me through my heat, as if I were—”

“Yeah, yeah, I know.” Poe gestures with his apple as if to say, moving on. “But why?”

Rey has to bite the inside of her cheek to avoid screaming. Or crying. One of the two, anyway.

“He was busy.”

“Ha. Bullshit. No Alpha is too busy to see an Omega through a heat.”

Thank you, Poe. Twist that knife, will you?

She takes a deep breath. “Because he didn’t want to. And because he’s a dick.”

Poe is silent for a moment, staring a hole into her. And then: “Yeah, well. One of those two things is true, anyway.”

Whatever. Rey’s head is pounding. Has been for the past ten minutes.

“Can we—not talk about this, please?”

Poe is still looking at her, still studying her as if she were some super-interesting podocyte under a microscope, and Rey has the odd, extemporaneous thought that for some reason he looks very handsome, when his expression is so grave and focused. She thinks of lightening the mood by making a joke, something like, Being serious suits you, Dameron. You should try it more often. But the words, stupid words, they just won’t come out of her stupid, constricted throat.

“Rey.” Poe cocks his head, and his voice—it’s so soft. Too soft. “Why are you crying, Rey?”

I’m not. What are you—

Rey lifts her hand to touch her cheek, and feels the wetness beneath her fingertips.

 

 

It’s not the words that surprise Rey, but the fact that they come in Rose’s usually level-headed voice.

“I’m going to murder his ass.”

Rey comes to a stop on the threshold of the nurses station as a chorus of at least three hell, yeahs and one what a jerk soars into the air, wondering if it’s wise to proceed any further. It’s not that she’s scared of the nursing staff, it’s just that…

She’s scared of the nursing staff. As any wise person should be.

“Um, hi?”

Rose looks in Rey’s direction and walks up to her. “Oh, Doctor Johnson. Was there anything you needed?”

“Just—Did everything work out with Mr. Heckers’ discharge? I know he can be… challenging.”

Rose smiles. “Smooth as always. Thanks for checking in.”

Rey nods, and hesitates for a moment before asking, “Is everything okay? I couldn’t help but overhear the… murdering bit.”

Rose shakes her head and waves her hand dismissively. “We had to help with surgical rounds, this morning.”

“Oh.” Rey nods, pretending to understand.

“Doctor Solo was in charge.”

Rey’s heart skips a beat at hearing his name. “Ah. I see.”

Ben has been… unpleasant to work with, recently. Which he always was, always, but now there is an edge to his usual impatience that has most of the staff on their toes.

Except, of course, Rey. Since he’s been avoiding Rey like the plague.

“I’m sorry to hear that.”

Rose shrugs. “No problem. We’re used to it, by now. And at least he’s leaving soon, so that’s something to look forward to.”

First, Rey thinks she didn’t hear correctly. So she repeats the sentence in her head, once, and then once more, and—yep. That’s what Rose said.

Leaving, and soon.

It takes a moment for the words to register, but when they do—the floor shifts beneath Rey’s feet, somersaults, and then clicks back into place, leaving her stomach a little queasy and… everything else unchanged. Rose is still standing in front of her. Still looking at her with friendly, unconcerned eyes.

“He is?” Rey is surprised by how level her tone sounds. How normal.

“Mmm?”

“Leaving?”

“Oh. Yeah, it sounds like the hospital’s retention offers weren't good enough for him, or something like that. Doctor Snoke is pissed—he’s been grooming him to become the head of the surgical unit for years now. I mean, rumor has it.”

Rey’s mind is reeling. Rose is going entirely too fast.

“The… retention offers?”

“Yeah, for his… Oh. Maybe you didn’t know?”

“No.”

“He got a job offer from Johns Hopkins—that’s where he went to med school, back in the days.”

No, it’s where he did his residency, Rey automatically corrects Rose in her head. But doesn’t say anything, because that’s really not the point. The point is—

“And he’s going?” Why does Rey’s voice sound so feeble?

Rose shrugs. “Probably.”

“When. When is he leaving?”

“I don’t know—I’m not sure it’s set in stone, yet. Lots of kinks to figure out, I bet.”

Rey nods, feeling as if a bucket of freezing water was just poured on her head. Without any forewarning.

It’s okay, though. This really doesn’t concern her. He—it’s not as if there was any hope for—and the way he acted before her last heat, and then that scene after—and he was never, never going to care about her, anyway, Rey has been trying to stop lying to herself over and over and over again, and now is the time to finally do it. There’s no difference, absolutely no difference if Ben is here or in Baltimore. Actually, if he were to leave, that would be for the best, since Rey would finally not be exposed to that awful, terrible scent of his, and the way he looks at he, and his shoulders in the hallways, and—

Ben is leaving.

Ben is going somewhere she won’t be able to—

Ben is—

“Hey, didn’t you—weren’t the two of you dating, or something?”

Oh, God.

Rey can barely bring herself to answer. “Or something.”

“Right. Nothing serious, no?”

Rey shakes her head, weakly.

“You always used to smell like him, I remember now.” Rose leans further into Rey. “You still kinda do. Though I might be wrong—Beta and all that. I’m horrible at scents.” She smiles sweetly, and it’s all Rey can do to whip up a lackluster smile back at her.

“Anyway. I won’t miss him. Or—well, I’ll miss his surgery success rates. And that he’s good at his job. And he is one of the easiest doctors to track down in an emergency, you have to give him that.” Rose pauses for a moment, as if thinking this through for the first time. “Ok, so maybe I’ll miss him a little bit, but I’ll be glad not to be yelled at for breathing too loudly or forgetting to cross a ‘t’ on a chart, or something equally tragic.” Rose glances at Rey. “You’ll probably be happy, no? I mean, he’s rude to most of you MDs, too.”

Rey nods blindly, without quite knowing what she’s doing.

“Of course. I… I will see you later, okay?”

Rey walks out of the room, without listening to Rose’s reply.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

It takes Rey three—no, four—no, three tries, but she finally manages not only to open her purse, but also to take her phone out. She can’t help feeling an inordinate amount of pride at the thought of her accomplishments and at her excellent fine motor skills, but there are still two considerable problems to overcome.

The first one being that—she cannot quite remember what she wanted her phone for, anyway.

Oh, well.

The second is that Jessika is talking to her, saying something between giggles that sounds like it’d be delightful, if only Rey could understand it.

Which—she can’t.

“What—Jess. What was that?”

“What was—What?”

“The thing. That you said?”

“I don’t remem—Ah, yes. Another drink. Do you think we should have another drink?”

“Oh, another—Yes. Yes, splendid idea.”

They laugh then, for several minutes because—this is splendid, as Rey said. This is fun. Some small, nagging part of Rey keeps circling back to the fact that she should probably feel really guilty about being completely shitfaced at a fundraiser, but the truth is that there is something wildly satisfying about getting pissed at the expense of your employer, and Rey lost any sense of dignity three cocktails and forty-five minutes ago.

Life is good.

So Rey laughs, and then Jess laughs, and then they go to the bathroom together to pee and end up staying in there for an inordinate amount of time, debating the pros and cons of Jess texting her ex (there are exactly zero pros, but she texts him anyway) and then they laugh some more, and when they are on their way back to the garden, to that bench that they’ve decided is their spot—someone intercepts them.

No, they bump into someone. A guy, a guy who’s so tall—almost as tall as…nope, not quite as tall—and also quite handsome, but Rey has never met him and he smells like an Alpha in a slightly unpleasant way. He asks her… something.

What is it that he is—Ah, yes.

“Dancing. Would you like to dance?”

His voice is deep and Alpha-y and for some reason it really rubs Rey wrong, and yes, dancing would be lovely, but not with this guy who smells and sounds a little off, so maybe—

“Yes. Yes, she would!”

Rey really can’t remember saying anything, just a combination of Jess pushing her forward and the Alpha cupping her elbow and leading her in the direction of the small orchestra. She’s not incredibly happy about the fact that he’s—hugging her, and swaying to the music with her, and telling her in that patronizing Alpha way that she’s very beautiful (which is true, but only because Jess spent two hours doing her makeup) and what is such a pretty Omega doing here? Oh, interesting, so Rey actually works at the hospital? She must be the most beautiful nurse in the whole building complex.

Rey sighs, kind of wishing that none of this was happening, wishing she could make it stop, but her brain is around ninety-eight percent alcohol at this point, and—

“I’ll take her from here. She probably shouldn’t be dancing.”

Oh, Poe. This is Poe. Dragging her away from the slightly gross Alpha.

“Thank you,” Rey tells him, so happy to be sitting next to Jess again, on their bench of friendship.

“How did the two of you get so wasted? Everything’s watered down, here.”

“We’re not wasted. Just happy,” Jess says, and then she hiccups.

And then, they’re giggling again.

Rey lifts her eyes to look at Poe and—she can’t help herself, she has to smile at him. He is so handsome, Poe, so smart, and such an incredible friend, and Rey is not sure she can move at this point, but if she could she’d hug him. And make him hug her back. Because this is a great night, and Rey’s feeling great, which is a nice change from her recent usual, which mainly consisted of tired, and sad, and regretful, for reasons that she can’t or doesn’t want to remember now.

Then Poe says something, but he’s not talking to Rey. He’s talking to Finn, who’s equally awesome, and Rey loves him a bunch, too.

“We need to get these two home. Jesus. Is this how being a parent is going to be like?”

“I don’t know, babe. You’re the one who wants to have seven kids.”

“Yeah. I’m changing my mind as we speak. Can you go get him?”

“Go get who?”

“Finn." Poe's tone sounds a little reproachful. "You know who.”

Rey is kind of happy not to be part of the conversation, because she can’t make sense of it, and she’s too busy thinking God bless alcohol.

God bless alcohol, God bless alcohol, God bless alcohol.

She’s repeating it in her head thirty more times when—something. Something happens, but Rey is having issues tracking down events, so she just gives up and leans her head on Jess’ shoulder, and listens to her mumble all the dirtiest mnemonics for cranial nerves. Maybe someone else comes to stand in front of the friendship bench. Maybe that someone brings an insanely good smell with himself. Maybe that someone is saying Rey's name, repeatedly, sounding a little worried, asking why she’s smelling like some… ’asshole’, is the word he uses.

Who cares. Rey is about to fall asleep.

There’s that other voice, too—Poe. Poe, she really, really likes Poe, did she mention that, soooo much, what an outstanding dude Poe is—saying things that are macho-like and weird sounding, “What game you are even playing with her?” or something equally idiotic. It kicks off a prolonged conversation to which Rey doesn’t pay attention, but it sounds very boring and very posturing and very Alpha-y. Rey doesn’t much care, though, because the person who just came to hang out smells really good, like—really good, rich and spicy, and why is it so familiar to Rey?

Oh—Ben.

The source of the smell is Ben—Rey should have known, since it’s not as if anyone else has ever smelled even half as incredible to her. But it doesn’t matter who he is. As long as he stays here, and continues smelling like that. As long as she can take in a lungful or two or a million and store it all up for the rest of her life, then Rey is happy to—

The conversation almost escalates to a fight, and then pipes down, and Jess is still humming. Something warm and huge and solid wraps itself around Rey and lifts her up, and she has always hated being picked up, and bridal carries are ridiculous if you’re past seven, and not an efficient way to carry a human being because they can cause spinal or neck damage, and in the current situation they only serve in perpetuating stereotypes about helpless Omegas and omnipotent Alphas, and—

This actually feels nice.

“Nice. This is nice.”

“Shh. I’m taking you home.”

There are lips tickling Rey’s temple, and the smell is even stronger. Mmm—heaven. Except that—

“No—I have to have another drink. I promised Jess.”

“You don’t need another drink. And neither does Doctor Pava.”

“I can’t leave without her—she’s my date.”

“Dameron and his mate are seeing her home. Since her apartment is on their way.”

Rey yawns.

“Fine.”

That’s fine. It really is fine. This is what Rey is going to do: She’s going to store up Ben’s smell, and then fall asleep dreaming of him, or, even better, of some version of him that doesn’t despise her. It’s a fantastic plan. It will be perfect. Just peachy.

Except that Rey is hungry.

How are they already in the car? When did they—?

“Can we get ice cream on the way?”

Ben stops in the act of buckling Rey’s seatbelt and looks up at her.

"What?"

"Ice cream. Can we?"

“No.”

Mmm. Rey takes off her heels and folds her legs under her body, turning for a better look at Ben as he starts the engine.

He is violently good looking, in that suit.

“Why?”

“I don’t think it’s a good idea.”

“Is it because I didn’t say please? Because if so, please. Please. Please, please, please, please, please—”

“Rey.”

“Pistachio. And chocolate. Are my favorite flavors. In case you were wondering.”

The corner of his mouth is maybe twitching upwards, or maybe Rey is just drunk. Maybe both?

“I wasn’t.”

“Well. Now you know what to get me.”

“We’re not getting ice cream.”

“Why?”

“Because I’m driving you home.”

“Soo… basically, we’re not getting ice cream because we’re not getting ice cream.”

“Basically.”

“That is very re—re—recur—”

“Recursive.”

“Yeah.” Rey leans against the headrest and feels her smile widen. “Very recursive of you.”

She is sooo happy that he gets her.

A warm hand envelops hers, and—wow, it can’t be, it’s simply not possible, Rey must be forgetting something, but it feels like the very first time in her life that she’s held hands with someone.

It’s very lovely. An experience to repeat, for sure. Maybe Ben will want to—

“You’ll be home soon, Rey. Just close your eyes, okay?”

Rey does and falls asleep, feeling content for the first time in weeks.

 

  

She wakes up to a pounding headache, an itchy nose, and no idea of where she is.

For about two seconds.

Then the memories begin trickling in—Jess, the cocktails, the little black dress she dug out of her closet. Forcing herself to have a good to time, to be young, to not care, even though there is nothing be merry about, because—

Ben.

Rey opens her eyes to find a green-eyed cat staring at her, making herself at home right on top of her sternum.

“Rian.” It comes out faint and muffled.

Rian remains precisely where she is, faintly purring.

“Long time no see, but I do need my trachea to survive.”

Rey’s own voice is barely more than a whisper, but it sounds so loud to her own ears that she almost makes herself wince. Rian must realize and take pity on her, because she kneads Rey’s throat for a short moment and then haughtily turns away to head for her favorite spot on the windowsill.

Rey breathes deeply and sits up.

“Thanks, buddy.”

Judging from the light, it must be some time around mid-morning. Rey has been in this room—many, many times before, though not recently. Not that anything has changed since the last time she was here. The space is still just a little less neat than Rey would have expected Ben Solo’s room to be—workout clothes hanging on the chair by the desk, a couple of Rian’s toys scattered on the floor, stacks of books cluttering half of the available surfaces. The side of the bed Rey didn’t sleep in looks… not quite untouched, but almost. Rey knows from experience that Ben is not the type of person to ever make his bed, but—she inhales once—it definitely does not smell as if anyone recently slept there. Let alone done anything… more than that.

Rey, on the other hand... Rey smells—terrible. She really smells disgusting, under the residuals of alcohol and the faint traces of sweat. Like some odd Alpha whose face she can barely remember—oh, dancing, they danced—and yikes. Truly, yikes. This scent is nothing like—

Ben is nowhere to be seen. Not when she lifts the covers to find that she’s still wearing her dress—surprisingly comfortable to sleep in, but then again, it’s a basically a camisole—nor when she pads to the en-suite to wash the makeup off her face and to rinse her mouth. It doesn’t make her overall scent any better, and before she heads downstairs Rey has to take a minute to tell herself that… it’s fine.

This is fine.

Clearly she wouldn’t be smelling like this if she and Ben had done anything Rey swore to herself she wouldn’t do again with him, which means that all of this is—fine.

Fixable, for sure.

She finds him in the kitchen, sitting on a stool and typing away at his laptop with an ‘I prescribe Coffee’ mug by his right hand. He looks—solid. Present. As incredibly handsome as he always is. Which makes Rey, with her crumpled dress and her crazy hair and her slightly unmanageable life, feel even crappier.

“Hey.”

He stops typing and looks up from the screen, first to Rey’s face and then, immediately, to some spot above her head.

“Hey.” A heartbeat. “Do you want some coffee?”

Rey’s stomach turns at the mere thought of it.

“No, thanks.”

He nods. “Are you okay?”

“Yes—I…” She smooths her dress down, because even if the wrinkles are beyond salvageable, at least it gives her something to do with her hands. With her body. “I don’t really remember what happened after my… fourth drink, I want to say?”

God. This is mortifying. She’s an adult. Pulling stunts she knew to stay away from when she was a teenager.

“I’m not sure, but judging from how out of it you were when I found you, I’d say you had about four more.” His voice is remarkably free of judgement, which surprises Rey, but also doesn’t. This is Ben, after all. Magically capable of oscillating from insufferable prick to really great guy. With whiplash speed. ”I told Dameron I’d drive you home.”

“Oh. Thanks.” Rey deliberately tries not to dwell on what she could have done or said the previous night. Hopefully nothing. Hopefully the alcohol made her just incoherent enough. “Why, um… Why didn’t you take me back to my place?”

“I tried. I did. But I couldn’t find your key in your purse, and you weren’t being exactly cooperative, so…”

“Oh. Oh, crap.” She can feel her cheeks heat. “I think Jess might have it. But—my downstairs neighbor has a spare, and she should be home. Can you—”

“I’ll drive you.”

Rey bites into her lip, and it occurs to her how badly Ben must want her out of his way. It’s a Saturday morning. There are sure to be several million things he’d rather do than having to baby-sit this random colleague of his with whom he once used to want to have sex.

“That would be… great. Thank you.”

“You can shower, before.”

“Oh.” Rey wants to. That Alpha’s smell on her—it’s truly revolting. But she also wants this to be over, because right now, being here, with Ben… yeah. No. “Thanks, but there is no need. It can wait.”

“It doesn’t have to.”

“It’s okay. I’ll be home soon enough, and—”

“Please. Just—shower it away. Okay?”

His expression is soft, almost pleading. It’s—something completely new from him, something Rey hasn’t seen before, so she hastens to nod.

“Okay.”

For less than a second, he looks immensely relieved. Then, his expression is blank again.

“I’ll drive you, after.”

He gets her some of his scrubs—maroon, which is an awesome color, though oddly not what the hospital uses for surgery—and under the jet of hot water Rey has to force herself to ignore how telling it is, that they slept together for weeks, months even, but neither of them ever left one single stitch of clothing at the other person’s place. Not that they’d had any reason to. As she pulls on the pants’ drawstring until the waistband is ridiculously scrunched together, she considers that she probably won’t even need to see Ben to return the scrubs, since the hospital usually takes care of washing them.

Good, she thinks. For the best.

And then, How depressing.

He’s talking on his cell phone about a biopsy when Rey steps back into the kitchen, barefoot and clutching her dress in her right hand, reflecting that if she’s going to have to wear heels and four-sizes-too-large scrubs as she asks her elderly neighbor for her spare key … then so be it.

It’s no one’s fault but hers.

Ben lifts one finger to signal her to wait. One minute.

Rey nods and leans back on one of the stools, trying not to be creepy and stare at him, looking around the room, and—it’s right in front of her. On the kitchen island, together with a stack of papers and takeout menus, immediately under her eyes.

A letter from Johns Hopkins. Addressed to Dr. Ben C. Solo. Still in the envelope, but Rey—Rey knows.

Her stomach sinks.

“Sorry about that.” Ben fiddles with his pager for a second and then clips it to his jeans. “You ready to go?”

Rey gets to her feet, cradling the scrunched up ball of cloth that used to be her dress against her chest.

“Is it true, then?”

He looks up at her. “Mmm?”

“That you’re leaving?”

He averts his eyes.

“Yeah.” He doesn’t sound that happy about it, weirdly enough. He sounds absolutely nothing about it, to be honest. But this is Ben, and Ben doesn’t really do happy, so there’s that to consider. “Yeah, I think so.”

When? Why? How can you—

“So, Baltimore?”

He nods. He’s standing, now, and she’s standing in front of him, and this is a little awkward and—more than a little painful. They don’t seem to work together much, lately, and—it occurs to Rey that this could very well be the last time she sees him. Since he’s not exactly the type to want a going away party thrown at him. Actually, he’s absolutely the type to not show up for his own going away party.

“Yes.”

“It gets really cold there, doesn’t it?”

“Fairly, yes.”

He really doesn’t need for Rey to tell him, “Make sure you get a good coat,” but she does anyway. Because she’s stupid, and doesn’t know how to let go of this conversation, and also—also, maybe she doesn’t want to. Maybe she’s afraid to.

“I will.”

That’s it. He’s going to drive you home, now. You’re standing between him and the entrance, so step aside. Or better yet, turn around and get going. You know the way.

Though—and maybe it’s just the alcohol—Rey’s feet must not be well connected to her brain, because they remain rooted to the floor. Her stupid, idiotic mouth, however—it opens up of its own free will.  

“I’ll—” Be sad. Probably. Surely. Think of you long after you’re gone, because you’re just—you’re so— “—miss you.”

Ben—Rey’s not certain what she expected him to do or say in return, but Ben—he surprises her. Because… he laughs. Once, and low. More like a silent huff, but still.

He laughs.

Which, all considered, seems unfair and a little too cruel. Even for Ben at his worst.

Rey is confused. “What?”

He shakes his head, as if to say, Nothing. Don’t you worry your pretty little head, Rey, and looks pointedly not at her.

“Are you ready to go? I can drive you now.”

And like that—just like that—it’s not okay anymore. This is not fine, and something remarkably un-Omega inside of Rey seems to awake and lift its head and demand to be allowed out. And Rey—she lets it speak up, for once.

“No. No, I’m not ready to go.”

Rey’s tone is firm, so much so that it surprises her—and Ben, too, judging from the way he looks at her, eyes widening in silence.

“You know, Ben, no matter your…” It’s crucial that you don’t start crying, Rey. Very important. If you can hold a low plank for five minutes, you can manage not to burst into tears in front of this man for the same amount of time. Easy peasy. Just breathe. “No matter your feelings for me, at the very least you can refrain from mocking me when I’m saying something nice to you.”

Ben—he actually has the guts of looking somewhere between offended and surprised.

“I’ve never mocked you.”

It’s Rey’s turn to laugh. “You—you literally just did. I said—I told you I’d miss you, and you—you laughed.”

Ben frowns. “Why are you mad, now?”

“Because—I just told you that I—because I meant it. And you laughed at me.”

“Rey.” His expression shuts down, and—Why—What business does he even have, looking away? Looking almost sad? “I think I like you better when you’re honest.”

“Honest? I—” She’s so close to spitting out, I have never been anything but honest with you. But it’s not quite true, is it? She has… omitted. Quite a bit. And as she realizes it, the shining, righteous anger she was working her way towards immediately deflates, leaving Rey feeling almost...

Empty.

It doesn’t matter. None of this matters, because he’s leaving, which means that the only thing she can do is take a deep breath, and—maybe—be honest, now, at the end at least, and just tell him the truth.

“I really will miss you, Ben.”

Ben averts his eyes. “We should go.”

God.

“You—Why is it so hard for you to believe me?”

His jaw sets in a line so hard, Rey can see it shift under his skin.

“I don’t know, Rey. You tell me.”

His tone is—No. A newer, brighter version of the rage Rey just worked her way out of slams back inside her. She has—The past few weeks, the past few months, and the nightmare of her last heat, and all those hours spent thinking about this man and wondering if he could ever, would ever—when what he thinks of her is that she wouldn’t even be honest about something as small, something as important as—

No.

No, this is it.

This is just

No.

“Thank you for letting me crash here.”

Rey spins on her heels and strides in the opposite direction from him, towards the entrance.

“Rey, what are you—”

“I’ll get myself home. Have a good life.”

Fuck off, Ben Solo. Fuck off to Baltimore, have the terrible life you deserve, and I look forward to never ever having to—

“I had everything under control. Until you.”

Rey halts in her steps, taken aback by—his tone. His words.

The fact that he’s speaking to her.

What is he—

“I knew you’d be a problem the second I saw you. And I knew you’d fuck me up the moment I smelled you.” There is that again, that huffed, silent laugh, the same sound as a few seconds earlier, and Rey—she finally realizes what rubbed her so wrong about it. It’s—utterly humorless. Rey turns around, and his face is… “The extent of it, though, I just never really…” Ben’s eyes leave hers and slide down to the floor. He’s shaking his head, and there is a small, self-deprecating smile on his lips. “Congratulations, Rey. You managed to take me by surprise.”

Rey—she cannot comprehend Ben’s words.

“I—what?”

He exhales, once, heavily. Collects himself.

“Let me drive you home. And then you’ll never have to see me again.” He’s holding her eyes, as he adds a soft, earnest. “Please.”

Rey is—dumbfounded. It takes her three attempts before her mouth opens and starts working properly.

“You… what you just said. Is it true?”

Ben doesn’t answer her. Just stares at her, and there are islands in his eyes. Rey moves towards him, one, two steps, and Ben—he actually steps back. As if he’s afraid of Rey, or something equally ludicrous.

“Can we not do this?”

“No. No, I—can we please do this, Ben? Because—this is news to me.”

God, why is she crying now?

And why is Ben smiling again, that sad, humorless smile?  

“Come on, Rey. You made it clear from the very beginning, that I was to expect nothing but an Omega to fuck. But you must have known that I…” He trails off, and—

Rey’s heart is breaking.

For him. For her. For—

“I… I didn’t. I don’t.”

He shuts his eyes tight. Then opens them again, and—he’s almost successful. Any emotion Rey might have seen in them is almost wiped away. Almost.

“Yeah, well. It doesn’t matter now. And you don’t—you never owed me anything, anyway.” A deep intake of breath, Ben’s chest rising and falling, and then he’s making his way towards the door. “We really should get going.”

He’s just past Rey, and—

No.

On an impulse, she snatches his wrist, and Ben, who is ten times stronger than she is—like every single other time Rey has initiated contact with him, he just follows her lead and immediately stops, as if waiting for a sign from her.

How did she not notice this, before? No, she did notice—how did she not understand?

It doesn’t matter. It’s not the point, right now. Right now, Rey needs to figure out what to say. How to say it.

“I always hoped—I always wanted you to—” Care about me. No, more than that. But it seems like a stupid thing to say, and her head is spinning like a top, a million stray memories from the past few months swimming around it, fragments of their times together, and there is nothing she can do except hold onto one, one that happens to be particularly futile, and reciting it to him. “I wanted to ask you out. I tried to—Last night. The fundraiser.”

Ben looks uncomprehending. And then surprised. And then bitter, cold again, and getting icier by the second.

“Rey, you don’t have to pretend—”

“But I did. I really—I chickened out and—”

“This is unnecessary. We should go.”

“—I was so afraid you’d say no, but—”

“Rey, just—”

“—I really wanted to go with you and—”

You had your heat with another Alpha.”

He’s not—not quite yelling at her. But the violence behind his words almost scares Rey into retreating. Almost. Then she parses their meaning and feels a wave of outrage that drives her to do just the opposite. She steps into him until they’re almost touching.

“What? No.”

“You can’t—” Ben straightens and pulls back from her, and—why is he so angry? She is the one who—

“I had my heat on my own.”

It’s as if Rey’s words are some sort of bomb. She throws them in the space between Ben and herself, and for a moment—nothing. There is a delay, in which the two of them continue staring at each other, Rey’s chest heaving, and then—what she just said explodes, deafeningly loud, swallowing the silence.

Ben blinks several times. “You had—” Stupid. He looks stupid. “What?”

“I went through my last heat by myself. That was fun, by the way,” Rey mumbles, wiping the tears from her face and telling herself that she has nothing to be embarrassed about. “I tried to—I called you a million times, and I went looking for you, and then Hux said you probably didn’t want to—” Her voice breaks, and she just can’t continue.

Ben is staring at her, dumbstruck. “He said there was no need to get in touch with you. He said you’d gotten the consult you needed from him.”

The consult? “What?”

“Hux—When I found your messages I tried to call you back. And Hux—he was there, he said not to bother.” The way Ben speaks, slowly and intently—it’s clear that he’s not lying or dissimulating. He’s working out what happened in this very moment, for the first time. “I was leading surgery. For hours.”

Oh.

“Oh.”

Ben stares at her, visibly swallowing. “I am going to kill him.”

If it were anyone else, Rey would think this a figure of speech. But Ben’s voice is so calm, so matter-of-fact that Rey feels a shiver running down her spine.

“Ben—it’s okay.”

“It’s not. My m—You had a heat on your own.”

There is so much she could say. It’s okay. It didn’t really last that long. It wasn’t that bad.

In the end, she opts for the truth.

“You weren’t around.”

Ben inhales sharply in the silence of the room. He moves closer and cups Rey’s cheeks with both hands, large and warm, lowering his face until their foreheads are touching.

“Why would you believe him? How could you not know that I—that you…” Ben’s voice trails off, and for a moment Rey lets herself be enveloped by his smell. It will be alright, it tells her. I have you. “You must have known.”

No. No, she didn’t. She doesn’t. Or maybe she does? Maybe it was there all along?

“You always—left. The first time we—and then after my first heat. I…”

The lag, it’s like she’s speaking a foreign language. Like Ben has to translate the words in his head before he can answer.

“You kept saying—how much you hated it. Having me there. The idea of having me around to see you through your hea—”

Don’t—why do you Alphas keep saying that.”

Ben just looks at her, calmly. “Because it’s what it is.”

God. Rey squeezes her eyes shut.

“The first night—you left after the first night, too. At your place. It was like—”

“I had an emergency surgery. After—that first morning. I left a note. Asking you to wait for me. Asking you if I could take you out, when I got home.”

Oh.

Oh, no.

“I didn’t—I didn’t see a note. I didn’t…” Rey presses the heels of her hands into her eyes. No. No, no, no. “…look for one.”

When Ben speaks again it’s against her temple, his voice so low that Rey wonders if he’s talking to himself.

“You were so warm. And you smelled—you smelled like me, finally, and you made that small noise when I got out of bed.” His thumbs are stroking the glands on her neck now, slowly driving her crazy. This. This—it’s happening. “Getting out of that bed was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I couldn’t get you out of my head.” He presses his lips at the base of her throat, and then adds, “I tried, too.”

“What?”

“Asking you out. I tried.”

“You did?”

Rey feels him nod.

When? she wants to ask. How? But really, what’s the point, now. When they have missed so much. When Rey has been stupid, and so has Ben, but maybe—maybe there’s still hope.

Rey inches back, trying to catch his eyes with hers. Her heart is beating so fast, too fast considering that she’s standing still.

“Can we maybe… start again?”

There’s still time, right?

Ben just looks at her, as if unable to speak. Then, after a pause, he nods. He looks—overwhelmed. Speechless. But he’s nodding, which means that—Yes.

Yes.

Rey really wishes she weren’t crying while doing this, but here goes.

“So, just for the record: if you asked me out right now, I would say yes.” Something occurs to her. “Actually—scratch that. Will you—Ben, will you go out with me? For… dinner. Though I know you don’t really eat, so even for—a movie, that would be great. Whatever movie, really, it doesn’t even have to be good. Or we can go to the park and sit on a bench, or stay in your living room and play with Rian, or we could have sex—we could totally have sex, I hope we have more sex, I love having sex with you, but I would also love it if there could be a little bit more dating, in this thing we’re doing, because—”

His hand slides to her nape and he kisses her—close-mouthed and hard. And then, as if unable to stop himself, he kisses her again, more slowly and more deeply, one hand slipping under her—his—scrubs and pressing into her lower back until she’s arched into him.

He tastes—phenomenal. Like every single thing Rey has ever wanted.

“I don’t want to go home,” she says against Ben’s lips.

He presses a kiss against her cheek, and answers, “Good. Good, because I don’t want to take you home.”

And then he’s kissing her again, his hand traveling up her spine to her mating gland, palm hot and heavy against it as her rubs it to push her into himself, and he’s so hard against her stomach, and his scent—it’s spiking so much, but different from before, sweeter, stronger, better, and any moment now Rey is going to—

Wait.

Wait.

She bites Ben’s lower lip to get his attention, and he groans into her mouth—but immediately stops kissing her.

“Can this work?”

He must know, what she means. He must. Because the hand on her gland tightens for a second.

“I don’t know.” Rey pulls back, and he’s—there’s the faintest quirk, on his lips. “I’m not sure I can get over the fact that you write the worst patient notes I’ve had the misfortune of reading with my own two eyes.”

Rey is speechless for a moment, and then—she beams up at him, and he looks so beautiful, through her tears. “And you’re still needlessly ill-tempered and rude to the nursing staff. And mean to everyone.”

He’s nice to her, though. He likes her. He said as much—well, not said, but he implied it. Maybe he even—his tone, and the way he looks at her, it all makes Rey think that he might—

“I guess we’re even, then.” He is still smiling. Pushing a strand of her damp hair behind her ear and looking down at her like she’s something important for him. Like he can finally allow himself to stare his fill.

“I—I really…” like you, Rey wants to tell him, but her chest feels too tight. It’s the truth, the pure, unadulterated truth, but it still doesn’t seem like it’s enough. Like it’s the right words. “I want to know you.”

She can tell what hearing this does to Ben from the way he swallows heavily and looks away. At the same time, his hands press on her back, over her gland and at the base of her spine, drawing Rey into his chest until she can’t quite see his face anymore, no matter how much she wishes to.

“I can think of nothing but you, Rey.” It’s in his tone, how hard it is for him to push out the words. He buries his nose in her hair and inhales deeply, his fingers tightening on her, pulling her impossibly deeper into his warm body. “All the time. I think of you all the time.”

Rey lets herself sink into him.

Wild.

This thing, with this man, is going to be absolutely wild. And beautiful.

She smiles into his chest. “I guess we’re even, then.”

 

 

Chapter Text

 

Rey is furiously scribbling a note in a patient chart while waiting for an elevator going upstairs—why is everyone always heading down?—when she looks up and finds him standing in front of her, barely a second after the ping that signals the opening of the doors.

He looks…

Maybe one day she’ll get used to the way he looks. Maybe one day the breadth of his shoulders won’t be a big deal, and her eyes won’t catch on the steep angles of his face, and it won’t surprise her how much she has to crane her neck to look at him.

Seems unlikely. But maybe.

“Hey.”

Maybe one day she’ll get used to his voice, too.

Unsure of the state of her vocal cords, Rey just raises a hand and waves at him. And then… they just stand there, not three feet apart, and Rey should probably not be staring at him, not this much, but—with the way he is, no one can tell her that this is her fault, and it’s not like he isn’t staring at her, too, lips parting like he’s about to say something, though maybe he’s just surprised to see her here, and—

“Ben—you coming?”

A short distance away from them, Phasma sounds vaguely irritated. Though that’s Phasma ninety percent of the time, so. Ben seems to jostle himself out of this... this staring thing, but doesn’t turn to look at Phasma. Doesn’t take his eyes off of Rey’s.

“Go ahead. I’ll be there shortly.”

Rey doesn’t turn, either, but there’s the noise of someone huffing, and then walking away, and then—Ben takes a step closer.

“Hey,” he repeats.

It’s softer. For some reason the tone of his voice sounds completely different, when he’s talking to Rey. Though it might just be Rey’s impression. Hard to say, without a spectrogram and a detailed acoustic analysis. Still, he really does sound softer. And the way he smells…

This time, Rey actually manages a weak, puny, “Hey.”

Good effort, Johnson.

“What time will you be done today?”

“Eight.”

He nods, and she gets a little lost staring at one of the glands on his neck. To be precise, it’s the one Rey may or may not have spent several hours licking, and maybe even biting a little, last night. And the night before. Last week, too. It’s currently sporting a faint yellow bruise, one just detectable enough that Rey is feeling a twinge of embarrassment at the moment.

“Um, what about you?”

“Seven.”

“Ok. Are we still—?”

“Yes. I mean, if you still…?”

“Yes.”

Yes, yes, yes. Yes.

“Should I come get you?”

“Yes.” Wait. “No, I’ll just come find you.”

He nods. “I’ll wait for you in my office, okay?”

Rey nods, too.

So much nodding. And Ben, Ben keeps staring at her, and maybe he’s rocking a bit on the balls of his feet, but maybe he also inched a little further into Rey’s space, because now—

She could almost kiss him easily, they are so close. Just go on her tippy toes, and he’d still be too tall for her, but he’s usually great at leaning forward just a bit, just enough that Rey can reach him, and with the way he’s staring at her mouth she’s sure he wouldn’t mind it, except that—

It was Rey’s idea, that stupid rule. No kissing at work. When she’d come up with it, Ben had just frowned and said, “Fair enough,” clearly thinking that it was anything but fair. But, to his credit, he’s been trying hard not to look too grumpy about it, so that Rey should really not be the one to go ahead and break it.

Still.

He is staring at her mouth.

“Okay. I guess I’ll see you at eight, then?”

He presses his lips together and nods. “Okay.”

“… Okay.”

His mouth twitches, and Rey—she has to smile up at him, too.

Their fingers brush against each other as he walks past her.

 

 

In the few weeks after Ben and Rey start… doing this thing they’re doing now—“Dating, Rey. You idiots are dating. Should I spell the word for you? I’ve seen you write ‘laparoscopic’, so I think you’re ready.” “Poe, you’re way less funny than you think you are.”—three things happen.

Snoke retires; Ben retracts his resignation and takes over as head of the surgical unit; and Hux… Rey is not sure what happens to Hux, but when she tries to get in touch with him for a follow up on a surgery he performed weeks before, she is told that he doesn’t work at the hospital any longer. According to scuttlebutt he’s not living in the States anymore—but according to scuttlebutt Rey used to be married to Kate Middleton’s brother, and that is patently false, so who knows where Hux really is.

Not only Rey is not so stupid to think that Ben had nothing to do with this, but she’s also smart enough to avoid bringing up the topic and inadvertently reminding him that for a couple of days he seemed very intentioned to commit a murder. Or two. Everyone is alive and no one is in violation of their Hippocratic Oath, for now at least, and that’s the way Rey likes it. Also, she kind of enjoys the fact that Ben is sticking around and not rotting in prison—in fact, she kind of enjoys that he’s in the same room as her right now. Propped against the wall on the opposite side of the room from Rey’s seat, listening intently to Dr. Akbar’s talk, raising his hand to ask whether baseline endothelial progenitor cell level was accounted for in the statistical model being presented—it wasn’t, of course it wasn’t—and then, when the topic veers towards boring internal medicine stuff that he cannot possibly care about because they don’t involve chopping people into pieces, looking around the room and finding Rey.

There is… no beacon of white light shining onto the room. It’s not like the world stops spinning, or a choir of angels starts singing, or anything quite as dramatic. And Ben—he’s just looking at her. Holding her gaze. Not even smiling, not really. Not trying to get her attention. And yet, inside Rey a warm and pleasant feeling blooms and flourishes and has her lips curve upwards and—

Something sharp and elbowy hits her in the ribcage.

“Ouch!”

“Get a grip,” Poe whispers.

“What?”

“How old are you two, anyway?”

Rey frowns. “What? Why—”

Poe rolls his eyes. “The heart-eyes. In public. I’m going to puke.”

“I was not—”

“Shhh.”

Phasma turns to pin them with one of her stares, and Rey apologizes softly. Under the table, she pinches Poe’s thigh in revenge.

 

 

Rey’s forehead is touching the floor, one leg folded under her waist while the other is extended behind her, when she hears the noise of someone coming in from the front door. She would stand and go check what’s going on, she really would, but it took her no less twelve attempts to get into this position without feeling like her lower body is about to tear in two very separate parts, and she strongly feels that at this point she should maintain it for at least a couple of minutes.

Beside Rey, Rian’s ears perk up. She stands, and yawns, and stretches—with considerably more grace than Rey could ever manage—and then trots happily out of the room. A few minutes later, there is a sound of someone rummaging inside cupboards, the clink of dry food spilling into a bowl, and then—silence. Rey is considering trying to extricate herself when the voice—it’s simply unacceptable, the way it sounds—has her look up.

“That can’t be comfortable.”

Ben is leaning against the doorjamb, and the way he’s looking at her—for months, months, she was sure that he despised her. Now—he’s still so hard to read, sometimes. Most of the time. But…

“I don’t think being comfortable is the point of yoga.”

He nods, thoughtful. “Clearly, the point is dislocating one’s joints.”

Standing from the mat without pulling anything crucial is a tricky business. Rey tells herself that she probably doesn’t look as awkward as she feels and walks up to Ben, pausing for a moment before going on her tippy toes to kiss him on the mouth. She is sweaty, and gross, and probably smelly. The kiss was just meant to say hi, not to become a thing, but Ben immediately spreads his hands on her back and pulls her into himself, so maybe it doesn’t bother him too much.

“Hey.” A heartbeat, and then she adds: “I let myself in. Do you, um… mind?”

He shakes his head, and his mouth twitches. “I thought you might. When I gave you my house keys.”

He feels so… nice. It’s such a stupid word, but all of this—being with Ben, having him hold her, having him tease her… it’s so nice. Rey didn’t know anything quite as nice existed, before this.

Before him.

“How was your day?”

“Long. Stupid.” He touches her chin with his fingers and holds it as he kisses her again, a replica of the brief, hard peck she planted on his lips a few seconds earlier. Except a little more lingering, and also maybe a little softer. “Yours?” His breath teases her lips.

“Good. Fine.” She thinks about it for a second, and—she wants to say it, but she’s not sure, and maybe he’ll think that Rey is a bit… yeah. Thing is, Rey really is, a bit. A lot. So maybe she should just—Oh, what the hell. “I missed you.”

Ben’s lips part, and it’s possible that his breath hitches a tiny bit. It’s a couple of seconds before he manages to answer, “Me, too.”

God. He smells—so good. Even better than he used to. The best.

Rey smiles at him. “I’m all sweaty. I need a shower.”

“So do I.” His mouth is curling up, and Rey—she used to think that he didn’t know how to smile. “There might be tiny pieces of bowels stuck to my fingers.”

“Eew.” With a laugh Rey makes to back away from Ben—who doesn’t let her, and just picks her up to carry her into the bathroom. And then she’s naked under the hot jet of water, trapped between Ben and the cold tiles of the shower, wet fingers struggling to hold onto his shoulders as her legs wrap around his waist. She feels—

“Okay?” His breath rasps against her ears and his palms dig into her ass, angling her just so. Arranging her to his liking. “Should I—Is this—”

“Yes.”

Yes, yes. Him. Inside her. Simultaneously too much and never enough. The friction of his cock rubbing against her muscles, the sense of pressing fullness, the not-wholly-human noises he makes as his knot begins to swell. The mess he reduces her to, every time—it’s unbearable.

“More?” He’s making an offer. Or maybe he’s just begging for permission.

Rey drags her teeth over his gland and savors the way Ben shivers in response.

“Please.”

 

 

It doesn’t occur to Rey for a while, that she could stop taking her suppressants. Not for a couple of months, and not until she complains to Jess about the price of her prescription increasing.

“By twenty percent. It’s ridiculous. Bloody pharmaceutical companies.”

“Wait—what?”

“The suppressants. It’s almost as if no one gives a shit about Omegas’ reproductive health—oh, wait, that’s exactly what is going on in this stupid coun—”

“Are you still on suppressants?!”

Jess’ tone gives Rey pause.

“Yeah. Of course.”

“What do you mean, ‘of course’?!”

Rey frowns. “I… what is going on? With this conversation? Why are you looking at me like that?”

“You mean, like an Omega who’s in a relationship and still taking freaking suppressants?”

Oh. But… “I… is that not what usually happens?”

Jess sighs and massages her temples, which—it seems like an overreaction. What can Rey have— “No. Omegas in committed, exclusive relationships usually don’t. Which—you are, right?”

“I—”

“Don’t even answer that. I’ve seen the way that poor guy looks at you. It’s kind of embarrassing.”

Rey isn’t sure what Jess is referring to, but she might have a point. Rey and Ben are not exactly good at the whole exchanging words thing, but even Rey knows that if she were to ask him for confirmation that they indeed are in a committed relationship he’d probably yell at her. Or, more likely, glare at her and then two hours later yell at one of his residents under some pretext.

“I’m just shocked that he hasn’t asked you to go off them, yet. Like, astonished. Stunned. Flabbergasted. Aghast—”

“I don’t know, Jess. Why would I stop them, anyway?”

It’s not a good question, because—

“Oh, I’m not sure—maybe because they’re expensive, they’re harmful in the long-term, they pollute the environment, they lower your metabolic rate and overall energy, they mess up your sleep patterns, the lower your sex drive and your partner’s—”

“I’m used to it.”

“Yeah, I’m used to shaving my armpits every other day, but that doesn’t mean that my life wouldn’t be twenty times better if I didn’t have to do it.” She cocks her head. “I’m considering laser. Any thoughts?”

Jess makes a fair point, but Rey still wouldn’t mess with something that has been working for her for well over a decade, now—if it weren’t for Ben. And the way Ben stares at her sometimes. To be precise, at night, when he sees her reaching for her pills. First, towards the beginning of their thing together, into her purse—and then, later, on the bathroom shelf he told her she should really use for her stuff (“Only if you want to. You don’t have to.”)

Ben stares at her and doesn’t say anything, and it’s not as if by now Ben is an open book to her—anything but, really—but even so, this one seems like a particularly loaded stare, with feelings and opinions and maybe even needs that he’s not voicing packed behind it, and Rey can’t shake off Jess’ words.

“I’m just shocked that he hasn’t asked you to go off them, yet.”

So she spends one week, two, three, without a clue on how to bring it up, because—words. Again. And then, one night, he’s brushing his teeth next to her, and she’s counting how many pills she has left for this cycle, and when she looks up she can see it through the mirror, they way he is glaring at the small box in her hands. Which is why words just spill out.

“Do you want me to stop them?”

A beat, and then—

‘What?” Ben asks, even though it’s clear that he understood the question (he is the worst lier she's ever met). And then he makes a show of not looking at her, and of rinsing his mouth and toothbrush as if it’s the most engrossingly pleasurable activity known to mankind.

Which—it really is not, so Rey just repeats calmly, “The suppressants. Do you want me to stop them?”

It’s as if every single stretch of flesh in Ben’s body goes still, utterly rigid, and he’s wearing—nothing, really, only boxer briefs, which is why Rey can tell with disturbing precision that all his muscles are tensing, one by one. And—it’s a lot of muscles.

“I—” he starts. And then stops. And then: “It’s your body.”

Which is true, of course. Very true. But there is something… rehearsed, in Ben’s response. Not completely sincere. Which makes Rey want to smile, and turn to face him, and cross her arms in front of her chest, because out of all her pastimes calling Ben Solo, MD, out on his bullshit is by far the most entertaining.

“Ben. You tell me what to do with my body every single day. Actually, often you don’t even tell me, you just pick me up and do whatever you want with m—”

What? No, I don’t! I—” He sputters, almost comically appalled. And then he exhales and his shoulders slump a bit, expression pained. “I… can’t help it. I’ll—work on it.”

Even without Ben having to explicitly tell her, Rey knows by now. That he is not any happier about being an Alpha and what it entails than Rey has ever been about her Omega designation. And yet—

It’s not quite that simple anymore, is it? The expectations that stem from the biology of what they have always been, and what they are to each other now—the two things are so closely interlaced that one cannot be teased apart from the other. Rey cannot really hate herself for being an Omega, if that’s what makes it possible for her to be Ben’s Omega.

And, for now, that’s all there is to it.

“I don’t want you to—You don’t need to work on it. But… Do you want me to stop them?” She asks again, softly. “I mean—You can think about it. Maybe you need time to consider what that would—”

“No. Rey.” His eyes squeeze shut for a second. “I’ve considered it.”

“Oh. So you’ve … ” It occurs to her that maybe—maybe he just doesn’t want her to. Maybe she’s pressuring him into—Oh, no. “Never mind. Forget about it.”

It’s fine. Really. It doesn’t even matter. There can be so many reasons he doesn’t want her to go off suppressants, reasons that have nothing to do with him not liking her. Which—it’s obvious that he likes her, enjoys spending time with her, but maybe he’d rather do something other than baby-sit an Omega in heat for three whole days every other month, or maybe all that sex is just exhausting since he’s the one doing most of the grueling work, or maybe—is it possible that they’re not as committed as Rey thought? She doesn’t think so, but—   

Ben must be getting better at figuring out the catastrophic ways in which Rey’s mind can spiral, because he mutters something subdued and almost inaudible, and immediately pulls her closer into himself, until her cheek is pressed against the warm skin of his chest and his voice vibrates under her ear.

”Rey. I’ve fantasized about flushing them down the toilet,“ he mumbles resentfully.

Rey is confused. “What?”

“Your fucking suppressants.”

She pulls back to look at him and catches his gaze.

“I don’t think there’s anything I want more than you going off them.” He averts his eyes. “Well, maybe something,” he adds under his breath, but it’s not meant for Rey’s ears, clearly.

“Wait. So… you do want me to go off them?”

"I..." It seems like a pretty straightforward question. Except that Ben… “I really do. But…” Ben is not making much sense.

“But?”

“If you have a heat, I’m worried that…”

She waits for him to finish—which of course he doesn’t, because he’s just as bad at this as Rey is.

Words.

“That you? Oh—You can’t take the time off? Because—”

“No, no, I—” He huffs out a laugh. “I can. I would.”

“Okay.” Phew. Good. And Rey could probably leave it at that, except that she really wants to be honest for once, wants him to know that— “Because—I never got around to telling you, but I really enjoyed my first heat. The one we spent together. It was…” Unbelievable. The best three days of my life, perhaps. I did not know sex could be anything like that. I didn’t know anything with another human could feel like that, and yet it did, and my heart aches a bit just to think about it. “…nice.”

Look at Rey. Putting on her big girl pants. Using her words. Well, some words.

Ben, on the other hand, he’s just staring at her, and—is that a red flush, spreading on his cheeks? Why is he standing there, with his arms by his sides, not saying a single thing? It’s not like him—well, the not-saying-anything part kind of is, but not the flushing, not usually, and—

Oh.

“Is it that… You didn’t like it?”

Ben’s looking at her like she’s slowly murdering him with a toothpick, or something equally gruesome. He wipes his hand down his face. “I… I liked it, Rey. ”

Okay. Okay, then. If he liked it—

“So… does that mean that you do not have a problem with me going off the suppressants?”

He studies her for a moment, cheekbones still dusted with red, and then—Rey thinks that she sees him sigh.

“No. No, I don’t.”

 

 

“Let’s sit over there,” Poe tells Rey while she’s still in the process of paying for her sandwich and highly caffeinated soda. Jostling her lunch, her credit card, her badge, and her pager is challenging enough that she doesn’t turn to check where over there even means before saying, “Sure, just give me a sec.”

So it’s Rey’s fault, really, if she and Poe are now sharing a table with…

God, this is the worst.

There’s Phasma; and that bunch of young, ridiculously athletic-looking surgeon bros whose names Rey hasn’t quite memorized yet but who seem to follow Ben around like they’re ducklings who’ve imprinted on him, or knights at his surgery court (they are all Alphas, because why wouldn’t they be?); and, naturally, there’s Ben himself. Sitting there. Minding his business. Eating his sandwich in silence.

Until Poe interrupts him, and: “Hey, guys. Mind if we join you?”

No one says no, of course. But. No one invites Poe to sit down, either. In fact, they all just look up and stare at him with varying levels of hostility, and yet there Poe is, pulling back a chair and not-too-gracefully sliding in it. Letting his tray fall on the table with a too-loud sound. Donning his best shit eating grin.

The little asshole.

Phasma stops chewing long enough to ask, “Are you using the royal we, now, Dameron?”

“What? No—Rey’s with me. Here she comes.”

Rey waves weakly at the horde of Alphas and sits between Phasma and Poe, wishing with all of herself that Poe didn’t see it necessary to involve her in these let’s-fuck-with-the-surgeons missions that he likes to launch every once in a while. Ben briefly looks up from his lunch and his eyes meet Rey’s, and—his twenty-four seven expression of annoyance softens a bit.

Okay. A lot.

Then his gaze falls on Poe, and it hardens so much that Rey has to wonder how it is even possible that Poe is still living and breathing and did not burst into flames on the spot. Seriously, how?

“So, you guys cut open anyone, recently?”

Rey—she doesn’t groan, but it’s a close thing.

“Found anything interesting in, say, a gallbladder, this morning? I heard gallbladders are full of fascinating shit.”

Every single person at the table looks ready to do Poe some serious bodily harm. Who could blame them, really.

“Hey, be honest: have you guys ever forgotten your car keys inside someone's skull?”

Rey is really torn. Part of her wants to laugh, but it might seem like an endorsement of Poe’s dickishness, and the smallest person sitting at this table is probably twice as big as Poe. It’s not a side that she wants to pick.

“As the frat boys of the medical world, what are your favorite hazing rituals—”

Rey almost cries with relief when a pager—no, two pagers beep around the table. Everyone checks theirs with identical frowns, and for a few moments there’s a lot of clipping and unclipping going on. Then Ben scarfs down the last of his sandwich—one of these days, soon hopefully, Rey will stop obsessing over the way he eats, over what he eats, over whether he eats enough, but for now she could stare at him chewing and swallowing food for hours, and God, God, God. She has it bad.

Ben stands, and without a word one of his minions—Chase? Is it possible that his name is Chase? Is it possible that the surgery dudebros are all named Chase? It feels plausible—takes one last sip from his coffee cup and follows suit.

“Hey, Solo. My dude, this was fun. We should do it more often, lunch all of us together—”

“See you, Dameron.” The clear subtext is, Keep this up and I will fuck you up, Dameron.  

Rey bends her head and hides her smile in her cup of soda—and that’s why the warm, heavy touch of a hand on her nape, right under her hairline, takes her by surprise. Not because by now it’s not intimately familiar to her, but because… Yeah. They are very much in public.

It lasts very little. So little. A second, maybe, really just until Ben has walked past their table. It starts on the back of her neck, and then slides down to—okay that is the top of her gland, and it does pause there for a brief moment, press deliciously into it, but it’s through Rey’s clothes, so it’s not indecent or anything. Totally harmless. Pleasant. Rey is dying to lean into it, except that when she lifts her eyes—

Alphas. They’re all Alphas, these stupid surgeons, and Poe is too, and they all saw Ben, Ben Solo—Ben. Solo.—touch her, touch her like that, and they’re all either gaping at her or at Ben’s retreating back, because—of course. Or course, they all noticed.

Stupid, nosy, hypervigilant Alphas.

Poe is smirking. “Well, either that was a shameful and glaring case of workplace sexual harassment—”

“Shut up, Poe.”

“—or you guys should really consider calling your firstborn after me.”

Rey digs into her sandwich and throws a pickle at him, pleased when it lands in the center of his forehead. With the corner of of her eyes, she can see Phasma’s mouth quirk in—approval, maybe? A moment later, one of the Chases pushes a cluster of grapes towards her.

“In case you need something else to throw at this idiot,” he mumbles.

 

Chapter Text

 

 

From: Human Resources

To: Rey C. Johnson

Re: Emergency Contact Information

This is a reminder that all Hospital employees must enter emergency contact information for use by the Hospital in crisis or emergency situations. To submit this information, please log into your employee account and follow the instructions below. Up to two emergency contacts may be submitted. If you have already submitted an emergency contact and do not wish to change it, no action is required.

 

Rey moves to the following emails—a call for papers on fatigue in MS, three labs that need to be reviewed, her gym membership expiring—already?—Grand Rounds tomorrow (“Please note that the location has changed”), Kaydel sending pics of her baby dressed up with an adorable little lab coat for her kindergarten Halloween party—and then…

Rey bites into her lower lip, logs out of the email app and into her employee account.

 

 

“You love her.”

“I do not.”

“It’s not something you need to be embarrassed about, Ben.”

“Right. Because I do not.”

“You do. You feed her. You feed her very expensive, unnecessarily organic food.”

He sighs so hard that Rey can almost feel the air displacement. And he’s not even sitting anywhere near her. “I also installed a hummingbird feeder in the backyard. Does that mean that I love every single hummingbird in the known universe?”

He’s impossible. Just... impossible.

“You let her sleep on your face.”

“I do not, in fact. I try to kick her out of bed—you’re the one who lets her sleep between us, and when I reach for you I find this hairy lump of—”

“You scoop up her poop. Every day.”

Ha. Ben clearly doesn’t have a good rebuttal for that, because he just narrows his eyes and mumbles, “I tolerate her.”

Rey stands up from the kitchen table to get herself a glass of water.

“It’s okay. You love her, but you don’t have to admit it to me. As long as you admit it to yourself. And as long as you tell Rian, every once in a while.”

She must be developing superpowers, because even without looking she just knows how hard Ben is rolling his eyes. She opens the freezer to figure out why the ice maker isn’t working, and finds—

“No shit!”

“What?”

“You have pistachio ice cream?”

Ben’s attention was on Rey up until a moment ago, but when she turns she finds him staring at his laptop, typing fast with those stupidly graceful hands of his.

“Why? Would that be further evidence that Rian is my one and only love?” His tone is dry.

“First of all—she is. And—No, pistachio is my favorite.”

“Is it.”

“Yes.”

He’s still not looking at her. “Mmm.“

“Did you know?”

A small smile, Rey thinks—is it? Yes. But Ben doesn’t answer her. He’s so weird, sometimes. Ben is. Rey loves it, and she’s not quite sure why. Or maybe—

“Can I have some? Ice cream, I mean.”

“Maybe.” He tilts his head and makes a show of deliberating. “If you stop falsely accusing me of having feelings for this cat I’ve been unwillingly saddled with.”

“Fine. I was wrong. You clearly cannot stand her. Do you want some, too?”

“No.”

“Of course. I can’t believe I asked.”

It takes Rey two good minutes to find a stack of bowls, all because she doesn’t want to give him the satisfaction of asking where he keeps them—and because even if she did, he probably wouldn’t know. Two weeks ago she found not one, but two unused blenders still in their boxes in one of the cupboards—after he’d insisted for months that he didn’t own one. At least he had the good grace to look a little sheepish.

She stands on her tiptoes, not quite able to reach. “Why are your bowls so up high?”

“Why are you so short?”

“I’m not short, I’m actually tall for—”

She almost startles when she realizes that Ben is standing right behind her, arm stretched out above her as he transfers a bowl to the counter. Halfway through, his nose nuzzles the crown of her head in a very deliberate, most definitely not-accidental fashion.

It’s… lovely.

“Here.”

The bowl clinks when it makes contract with the marble surface.

“Thanks.”

Ice cream, then. Rey knows for sure that Ben buys whipped cream for Rian, because he doesn’t care about her, and she also saw some Hershey’s syrup somewhere in the back of the fridge a while ago, which means that this is gonna be awesome. Though, for some reason, Ben is still standing behind her.

Rey smiles. “You changed your mind? I’m happy to share. Since it’s technically your ice cream.”

Silence. But—Ben is moving a bit closer, right hand coming to lean against the counter until he’s effectively trapping Rey against the edge, his breath—it’s not loud, but louder than earlier, definitely a little louder that it should be considering that he’s just standing there, and his scent is—

“Ben, what—”

“Shh.”

It takes her... too long, really, to realize what is happening. And in the end, what tips her off is just the fact that he raises his left hand, until it’s—not directing touching it yet, but almost framing that patch of skin between her shoulder blades. Rey's mating gland. Which—it’s usually not visible of course, but this is an old tank top, not designed with Omegas in mind, and the back collar is a bit low. Earlier, after her shower, Rey pulled her hair up in a bun, and—

“Ben?”

Silence.

It’s possible that Rey should have thought this through a little better. She tries to spin around, but Ben doesn’t move an inch, and he’s really, really big, and really, really strong, and it’s clear that he really, really wants her to stay put, and Rey—she is not scared, not of Ben, but she’s also not wholly sure what is going on, and has a feeling that maybe he doesn’t either.

Her tone is barely above a whisper, when she repeats, “Ben—”

“Quiet.” His voice is soft.

In front of Rey, a drop of condensation slides down the ice cream container and pools at the bottom. Behind her, Ben lowers both straps of her top and presses a soft kiss on the skin he just uncovered. Her shoulder. The curve of her deltoid. The muscle stretching over her scapula. It’s unmistakable, how hard the column of his cock is as it digs into the small of her back. How heavy.

“Ben, what are you—”

“Shh. I’ll just… I’m just going to…” He speaks against the skin of her shoulder blade, and then straightens without finishing the sentence. The added, “Please,” is clearly an afterthought.

“The ice cream is going to—”

His thumb—it just grazes it. Rey’s gland. It just runs back and forth across it, but Rey—

She whimpers.

The pleasure—it’s instantaneous. It always is, when he touches her there, but right now—the edge is just a little sharper. It shoots from her gland like a shock wave, making Rey’s skin heat and her cunt clench and her bones liquefy, forcing her to lean forward over the counter in search of some—any—support. Ever so slightly, her body pushes back against Ben’s, and even through his clothes and hers she can feel his knot already swollen—nestled in the cleft of her ass, and he is leaking on her, wet and sticky, and the smell of him

Ben makes a low sound deep in his throat.

This—this is new. Whatever this is, it probably cannot end well.

He grinds into her, once, tentatively, and it feels so out of place and dirty and so exquisite, and—

Fuck. Rey.”

They both freeze, both on some razor-sharp edge, far closer to coming than they should be. Not three minutes ago, they were sitting at the table. Not even touching. Talking about something innocuous that Rey can’t even remember, because her mind is now a dripping mess. Now—now Ben’s hand is sliding down between their bodies to free himself, to lower Rey’s shorts just a little, until the heat of his cock is scorching her skin.

Her visions spots, and—he grunts. Loudly. And Rey—she writhes a little, and she moans, because she can feel his breath, and can tell exactly where his lips are now. Where they’re headed.

What are you doing to me? she wants to ask, skin on fire and heart a drum in her ribcage. The pleasure is knee-buckling. What are you going to do?

Ben must be reading her mind, because he murmurs, almost tenderly, “Let me. Omega,” and there’s that Alpha weight behind the words, the one that Rey knows he tries hard not to use on her, except that Rey—she is drenched.

“Ben.” Yes. Please. As you wish.

And then—he’s doing it, he’s rocking his hips against her and his lips are parting and his tongue is licking one broad stroke over her gland. He groans his pleasure, and Rey gasps and think that this is it, this is what’s going to break her beyond repair, this is going to end her, but—it get worse.

A rasped, “Like nothing else,” and then he begins sucking on her, nibbling on what feels like uncovered nerve endings, and Rey can hear herself moan as she feels a gush of slick running past the hem of her shorts and down her thigh, and she is thrashing against him, desperate, about to implore him to just

There is no build up. No forewarning. She’s just coming, and coming, and coming, wonderful and painful as she clenches around nothing, grinding back onto the swollen knot that should be inside her. And then, when Ben groans and presses the heel of his hand against her clit, she just—comes more, harder, and—

There isn’t a word for this. Not to describe the pain of this knife-sharp pleasure.

With a sound of pure frustration, Ben’s head lifts, and his teeth close around the gland below Rey’s ear and bite there. Hard. Surely breaking the skin, and Rey’ll probably have a mark tomorrow, but that’s not what makes her want to scream. The problem is that—

That’s not it, she almost whines, still submerged into her orgasm. That’s not what you want. She can almost taste it, Ben’s disappointment at the crude imitation. It’s there, in his white knuckled grip on the counter. In the way his chest presses into Rey’s her gland.

Alpha. I am so sorry. Let me fix this.

Though maybe, even though it feels all wrong, maybe this is good enough for now. Because something snaps, and Ben’s thrusts become more forceful, uncontrolled and uncoordinated, and the sound that comes out of his chest the second before he lets go, it’s something from an animal. Then—for a long time, Ben’s come floods Rey’s skin until it pools on her lower back, his cock pulsating between them as his fingers clutch her firmly to himself.

After that, it’s calm. Or as calm as it can be, with Rey still shuddering and her hands trembling and her heart exploding in her temples. Ben’s mouth licking up small traces of blood from the line of her throat, and maybe it’s just her impression, but it feels as if it’s hanging between them, the thought of what if.

What if you took what you wanted, Alpha?

Rey’s cheeks feel sticky and hot and salty. She wants to turn around in Ben’s arms, to be able to see, to look at him, but—

“Stay still.” Ben’s voice is deeper than earlier, and scratchy, infused with that Alpha tone, again. And then— “I’ve made a mess of you.”

Though he doesn’t sound like he minds. The opposite, really, judging from the way he moves back just a little, as his long fingers swirl into his come and smear it around in some sort of rudimentary, attempted marking. Rey can’t see him, but he seems entranced by what he’s doing, and her Alpha—he asked her to be still and to be good for him, and Rey knows by now that that’s what she was made for. It’s late at night, just this side of midnight, late enough that the traffic on Ben’s street has long silenced. The room is noiseless except for the buzz of the appliances, so quiet that Rey’s gasp feels loud when his dripping fingers move up to her mating gland and—

He is—

Oh.

Oh.

“Shh. It’s okay. Let me.”

Ben spends minutes coating it with his semen, and whether this is… a thing between Alphas and Omegas, whether it’s acceptable, Rey has no idea. All she knows is that it’s as soothing as anything has ever been. It feels obscene, and right, and good, like something imagined, and after a few moments she bends forward and arches her neck to give him better access, releasing herself into her body and in the hands of her Alpha.

Ben’s ”Mmm,“ oozes approval. “Good little Omega. Stay like this.” His tone sounds faraway. Wonderstruck.

It lasts long, quiet moments, until something seems to click with him. Then it’s as if Ben manages to make his way through the dense thickness of what just happened and return to himself. Or, more accurately: as if the part of him that he likes to show when he’s with Rey, the part that he allows out, is finally in charge again.

“Shit. Rey. I didn’t mean to…” He lets her turn around now. He looks… resigned. Apologetic. Satisfied and proud, too. Her mercurial, complicated Alpha. Rey just wants to hug him. “I am sorry.”

“No. No, I… It’s fine.”

He shakes his head. But also says, “I… maybe don’t shower for a while. Okay?”

Rey nods. Whatever you want, Alpha, she wants to say. To promise. And even as the haze of sex—of whatever that was—is fading, she really does mean it. She always means it. Ben bends down to kiss her, and Rey can taste faint traces of her own blood mixed with his pheromones. Perfect.

“You okay?” He asks.

“Yes.” It not until many moments later, that it occurs to Rey to wonder whether he is, too. She reaches up until she is cupping his face. “You?”

Ben nuzzles his face in her hand, and says nothing.

 

 

“What do you mean, he’s an Alpha?!”

Kaydel’s voice is so loud that Rey has to move the phone away from her ear.

“I don’t think there are any meanings except for the one.”

“Hang on—I gotta put Hannah down.” Rey takes a sip of her tea as she listens to the sound of Kaydel—Kaydel, who when they were roommates once got so drunk that she peed in Rey’s walk-in closet—being a mother. “Okay, I’m back. How long has this been going on?”

“A while. I mean… Officially, only a couple of months.”

A pause. Kaydel has always been very skilled at reading through Rey’s deflecting lines.

“What about unofficially?”

God. Rey couldn’t say, even if she wanted to. “Longer than that.”

“Mmm. So… is he like—no babe, don’t put that in you mouth… good girl—is he, like, a Beta-y Alpha? Is that why you ended up with this guy?”

Rey has no idea how to answer that. Ben would like to be, probably. But in truth he… “No. No, he really isn’t.”

“Why, then?”

Rey wishes she had a simple way of explaining Ben and the past year to Kaydel. Hell, even a complicated one would work, at this point. “It just… kind of happened.”

“It just happened.”

“Yup.”

“Rey. Oh my God.”

Through the phone, a young voice in the background repeats Oh my God in the same overdramatic tone, making both Rey and Kaydel burst in laughter.

“Okay…” Kaydel takes a deep breath, clearly trying to recover. “Wow. I always thought that if you’d ever end up in a relationship, it would be with one of us. A Beta. Or maybe another Omega?”

So did Rey. “Yep.”

“Is he a doctor, too?”

“Yes. A surgeon.”

“Is he huge?”

Out of the blue, Poe pops into Rey’s mind. “Not all Alphas are huge.”

“Okay, but is he?”

“Yes.”

God. Will I like him?”

Rey smiles. “No. Probably not.”

“Figures. Does he have a gigantic di—”

“Kaydel.”

“So, are you going to let him mate you?” A pause. “God, I can’t believe I just uttered these words out loud. To you.”

“Yeah, well… I’m as shocked as you are.”

Except that… maybe she’s not. Not anymore. This thing, with Ben… it feels… good. Natural. Organic.

“So, are you?”

“Mm?”

“Going to let him mate you.”

Ah. “I’m not sure.”

“What do you mean, you’re not sure?”

“I…” Rey bites into her lip. “I don’t know. We haven’t really… discussed it. I don’t know that he wants to do that with me, anyway.”

“Oh. Isn’t that what Alphas are all about, though? Mating the Omega they’re in a relationship with?”

“I… Is it? I don’t know. I don’t think so.”

“Mmm. I don’t know, either. Maybe I’m wrong. Okay, so… How does the knotting business work?”

 

 

Once the suppressants are completely flushed out of her system, Rey goes into heat with little forewarning. Ben is on her a lot for days beforehand, but he always kind of is, so it’s difficult to say whether it’s more frequently than what they are used to.

All Rey knows is that one day she’s sitting at her desk when Ben knocks on the door of her office, surely with the idea of producing a fully-formed, complete sentence, but all that comes out is, “Do you want to get co—”

He stops. Just like that. Then his nostrils flare, and his pupils swallow the light brown of his eyes, and a moment later she’s—still sitting in her chair, but her scrubs have come off, and he’s—

Licking her.

On his knees in front of her, palm digging into the flesh of her thigh as he holds it over his shoulder, he is licking her with deep groans and wet noises and a single-mindedness that speaks of a religious experience.

It really blows Rey’s no-kissing-at-work rule out of the water, doesn’t it.

Rey lets herself sink into the pleasure, and there are… a number of overwhelming, mind-altering orgasms that he pushes her through, and then a number more, and then Rey has to force his head away, because—this level of intensity, it could kill her. Kill them both.

For a moment, Ben resists, looking like he might protest. Then he licks a stripe across her inner thigh and leans back, reluctantly wiping his mouth with the back of his hand. Maybe Rey should… reciprocate the favor? Though the offer seems a bit too late, because when he sits on his haunches there is a visible wet spot on the front of his scrubs, and the smell in the room, the smell clinging to him, it’s just unmistakable.

Except that, of course, he’s still hard.

He’s going to be hard for… God. Days. And Rey is going to be…

“Do you want me to… Should I—” she motions at his midriff inchoately, and Ben just shakes his head.

“No need.” He stands and adjusts himself, his erection huge even in his huge hands, with what Rey personally thinks is little success. But who is she to tell, anyway.

“So…. It’s happening, right?”

Ben lifts one eyebrow. “I believe so. I like to think that I wouldn’t have assaulted you in your office, otherwise.”

“Oh. Should I—I should go home, shouldn’t I?”

Rey stands, too, and Ben immediately pulls her into the solid wall of heat that is his chest. Whether it is a coincidence, that his palm falls and presses on the dead center of her mating gland, Rey has no idea.

“Yes.”

“I can go to my place, and then—”

“No.” It seems to surprise even Ben, how aggressive his tone is. “Go to mine. Just, wait for me. I’ll—Finish up what I need to do and arrange stuff for the next few days, ok?”

Rey nods, and makes to step back—except that Ben doesn’t quite let go of her. Actually, he might have moved her a tiny bit closer. Gripped her a little bit harder.

“Ben.”

“Yeah. Yeah, I—”

He bends down to kiss her for what feels like a thousand years, his hand a comforting weight on her nape, and—it hits Rey then, how momentous this is. That this person, this man, this Alpha, is going to take care of her. Wants to take care of her. Without Rey even having to ask.

A first, for her.

You’re not alone, Ben’s kiss is telling her.

I know. I know, and neither are you, Rey thinks, reaching up to cup his face in her hand.

It seems hours later, when she is finally allowed to pull back.

“I’m gonna go home.”

Ben nods down at her. And he is… still not letting go of her.

“Ben…”

He grimaces. “Actually… Can you just wait in here? I can… get changed quickly, get everything organized, and then come get you and take you home.”

“It’s okay. I can get myself home.”

Ben ignores her. “And you should maybe lock the door when I go out. Just in case.”

That seems excessive. “I’m not in full heat yet, so—”

“I know. I know, but—” Ben winces. “Please. Just… say yes to me.” He sounds pained, and Rey hears the unsaid. Or I’ll go crazy.

She goes on her toes and kisses his incredibly kissable lips once more, feeling so full of love for this man that she’s bursting at the seams.

“Of course, Alpha.”

 

 

It’s different, from her last heat.

Which—okay, thank God it’s different from her terrible, horrible, miserable last heat, but this is even different from her first. Ben was with her then, as he is now—except that now he’s really with her. This time he’s truly here, and the heat doesn’t feel like—not quite like something that Rey is going through, something Ben is helping her with. It feels like theirs, and Ben—he acts like it, too.

He asks things of her, like it’s his right to. Little things—on your knees, wider, lift your hips, forehead on the pillow— and larger things—easy, quiet, patience, wait—and Rey… she revels in it. In his directions. In the fact that he feels allowed to give them to her. And then thinking becomes too difficult and she is begging him to please, please, please. Could he please just—

“Please.”

He is—there. Rubbing his cock against the swollen lips of her cunt. Up and down. And up. And down. His breathing is heavy and loud, and how he can restrain himself from just sinking in, Rey cannot comprehend.

“Why are you not—” The head of his cock hits her clit and Rey’s brain halts in overload. Her heart, too—it’s over, this is over, this feels so good that her body simply cannot process it. She is going to explode.

“I don’t know.” His voice is a shade deeper than usual. Hoarse. Awed. “I don’t know. Once I start fucking you, I’m not sure I can—”

Good, she want to tell him. You don’t need to stop. Ever. But it’s unnecessary, because—Rey’s hips angle just right, and Ben was holding his cock against her drenched opening, and with all that slick Ben didn’t really think his grip was secure, did he?

He slips inside with a surprised grunt, just a little too big for her, and then—it really is out of his control. He folds over until his teeth close around her neck gland, as if to hold her in place, and Rey—she tries to hold on, tries to be quiet, tries to be good for him, but she is coming after exactly three thrusts, clenching around him with mortifying whimpers as she fails to center herself and stave off the blinding rush of sensation. Every centimeter of Rey’s skin is ablaze, and she’s beyond language, and this is too much, too good, too far deep inside, but Ben’s still fucking into her, stretching her to near pain.

“I dream of this. Of you.” His hands are shaking as he pushes her loose hair away from her nape. He bends down to lick her, his mouth sliding down until—yes, yes, there, more, and Rey just comes again, harder, the pleasure crashing through her as Ben’s come fills her to overflowing and his knot locks him deep inside. ”At night, you lie next to me and—Ah, fuck, Rey—and I still dream of you.”

It continues this way for three days, and Rey hadn’t realized the concessions Ben had made during her first heat—maybe out respect for her inexperience, or perhaps because he hadn’t felt that he could demand what he needed.

This time, though.

This time it’s better, because he fucks her more, he fucks her harder, he fucks her the way he so clearly wants to. This time he doesn’t hold back, and Rey is always on her knees, or on her tummy—Like the good, fuckable Omega you are, he whispers in her ear two hours into her heat—and Ben never, never lets go of her unless she is begging for a break. His fingers are warm and sure as they wave through Rey’s hair to move it of the way, as they clutch at her and shift her and position her so that he can reach deeper, knot her fuller, fill her to bursting. And his mouth—it’s always there, on her mating gland, teeth scraping and tongue licking and lips sucking until the stimulation is too much, and Rey’s so sensitive there that she has to implore brokenly—please, stop, give me a minute. Ben turns Rey’s head then, and kisses her sweetly on the mouth. And then, after precisely a minute, he starts again, and it’s as if with each time his teeth sink a little deeper into her skin, and his groans become a little louder, and his grip on her gets a little tighter. As if his control gets a little thinner.

Rey should probably be scared, and yet—

Let go.

Let go, let go, let go.

Do it.

It continues for three days, and then—then the tide shifts. They can breathe again, and it’s almost over. The last time, he spins her until he can look down at her, and he fucks her slow and quiet, running his hands over the swell of her hips, thighs, breasts. The friction, the sense of fullness, they are so fantastically good that her vision blurs at the edges. Ben takes her apart and puts her back together, makes her cry and licks away her tears, and then they kiss, messy and wet, and he murmurs, “Do you even know?” in the hollow of her throat. “Do you know how much I—”

Then nothing. Maybe he simply doesn’t continue. Or maybe, maybe the raw pleasure burns out Rey’s mind.

 

 

When Rey wakes up on the fourth day, the light filtering through the half-open blinds is soft but bright, and Ben is sitting on the chair next to his bed—the one that usually houses the pile of laundry that he never bothers folding. He is leaning forward, his elbows on his knees and his hair covering his eyes, but he looks up at Rey with a small smile when he hears the rustle of the sheets.

“Good morning.” Rey’s vocal cords feel long unused.

“How are you?”

Great. Incredible. Never better. “Good. You?”

Ben just nods, as wordy as usual. There is a glass of cool water on the bedside table, which cues Rey on how incredibly thirsty she is. As soon as she sits up to reach for it, Ben makes an instinctive movement towards her—and then abruptly stops himself with an impatient grimace. It takes Rey’s sluggish brain several sips to puzzle out his reaction. To understand how odd it probably is for him, not being the one who's providing directly for her, for the first time in days. Rey smiles at him reassuringly (It’s okay. It’s okay, Alpha), but Ben doesn’t notice, too busy staring hostilely at his own fingers, clearly displeased by the involuntary gesture.

It’s okay, Ben. I know you.

“Are you—do you have work?” He is, surprisingly, wearing clothes. Well, pants.

Ben looks up. “No. Not tomorrow, either. Today’s a Saturday.”

“Oh—Awesome.”

He nods, though it doesn’t look like he agrees. It doesn’t look like he feels awesome, or anything near that.

“Are you… You don’t seem happy.”

Ben just wipes a hand down his face, and doesn’t answer. Though Rey didn’t really ask a question, and Ben rarely talks when it’s not strictly necessary, so.

“We need to talk, I think.”

“We do?” Rey sits up straighter, feeling the tangle of her hair fall dawn her back. She holds the sheets up, so that they cover her breasts—for some reason that she can’t quite name and that is undoubtedly ridiculous, since by now Ben has seen her and touched more times than she could possibly count. I’m memorizing you, he even told Rey once, when she jokingly asked why he kept running his hands over her, inside her, sometimes for what felt like hours at a time that frustratingly led nowhere. With my fingers.

Still, now, after the past three—no, four days, she is… probably disgusting. Badly in need of a shower. Though Ben’s not staring at her like she is. Quite the opposite, actually. But Rey smells more like him than like herself right now, and that probably plays a huge part in his patience with her general yuckiness.

“Are you… okay?”

“Yes.”

”Okay.” Rey wets her lips. “I mean, you seem… weird, but…”

From the bed, Rey can see the depth of his sigh in the way his muscles shift under his skin.

“My control is… compromised.”

Rey doesn’t understand, not immediately. Because Ben looks calm. Ben usually is calm around Rey—like every Alpha around his Omega—and now he is definitely under control. The choice of words, too, seems a little… odd. A tad dramatic, even for him.

“Compromised?”

“Not what it should be.” He swallows. “Not what it needs to be.”

“Oh,” Rey says, in what she hopes passes for an understanding tone, though—she doesn’t really understand. Not at all. She is obviously missing something, and feeling a bit dumb, and— “I—sorry, I don’t think I know what you’re trying to say.”

He sighs, eyes on the parquet between his knees. “I stopped myself, this time. But…”

What is he saying? “Stopped yourself from wh—Oh.”

Once Rey gets it, she feels even more dumb. The focus of her attention shifts to herself, her own body, and—her mating gland feels tender, used, but… no stinging. It’s obvious that no blood was drawn. That there was no real bite. Their scents, they are unchanged. Even though—

My control is compromised.

It comes back little by little, the way Ben was on her glad for the past few days. The single-mindedness. The insistence. Rey thought—she’s not sure what she thought. That it felt incredible. That she liked it. That he liked it because it felt so good, good enough to not think about its meaning, or its long-term consequences too much. Rey sure... Yeah. Rey sure wasn't thinking. Suddenly, Ben’s hesitance when she asked him to go off suppressants comes back to her, and—

“Oh,” she repeats, softly.

“Yeah.” Ben’s smile is rueful. “I’m sorry.”

Oh, Ben. She shakes her head. “There is nothing to apologize for. You haven’t—you didn’t…”

He nods. And then there is a long, quiet moment.

“Rey. If you’re not sure…” He briefly closes his eyes, as if trying to gather himself. “If you’re not sure, you should probably go back on suppressants.” His hands are trembling. And Rey—she can see why, now. It’s probably unheard of or something, for an Alpha to ask his Omega to deprive him of something he was biologically programmed to crave since well before his birth.

Then again, Rey is not his Omega, not really, and that’s the crux of the matter, isn’t it?

“You want me to go back on suppressants?”

It takes a while for him to respond, but when he does Rey has the impression that he is choosing his words very carefully.

“I want to be able to give you what you want. Every last thing.”

It feels like Rey’s gland is throbbing, now. Clamoring for some attention. Whether it’s true or only an impression due to the topic at hand, Rey has no idea.

“What about you?” She asks softly.

He stares at her, uncomprehending. “What about me?”

“What do you want?”

“That’s not important.”

“It is to me. Do you want to—”

“Yes.”

“You don’t know what I was going to—”

“Everything.” The clear brown of his eyes—it hides nothing, this morning. “I want everything you can give me.” His jaw works. “But I need you to be sure.”

 

 

Chapter Text

 

I am, Rey wants to say. Daily. I am sure.

And she is.

Except that she shouldn’t be, because it’s only been a few months, and he is—amazing, in that horrible, moody way of his. Rey’s life, Rey’s entire world is all the better for him being in it. But. He’s also intense, and all-consuming, and sometimes she wonders if she’s going to lose herself, if he’s going to slowly diffuse into her like tea in hot water, until all of Rey disappears, and—it worries her, how much she feels for him now that the dam has broken and she’s allowing herself to. It’s something that could easily sweep her over, and—maybe, swept over is not the state she wants to be in.

Ben knows. He seems to know all of it, even without Rey being able to put it in words, without her having to stumble her way through what would probably be incoherent, poorly-worded, rambling explanations. And when Rey goes back on suppressants he doesn’t say anything—just patiently kisses her on the forehead, and then on the cheek, and then once more, on the mouth.

Rey feels, deep in the marrow of her bones, that it will all work out.

The sex is still incredible, and a lot, and Ben is still incredible, they are still incredible, except that now Ben seems to be obsessed with making an effort to get them out of bed for more than a few minutes at a time—to make room for more. And for the most part he’s successful.

It’s simple stuff. Dating, Rey supposes Poe would say. Lunch together. Dinner. Laser tag, once—okay, twice. A movie, which they both hate with a passion.

Ben takes Rey out to his favorite burger joint, where he polishes off two burgers and a million French fries under her flabbergasted stare—What? He eyes her defensively. I’m hungry. He signs them up for a 5K. And then for a 10K. And then Rey signs them up for a half-marathon and forces Ben to download a training app, because this is fun. He brings her to a couple of dive bars that he oddly seems to like, a little out of the way, and gets her sloshed on shots of Vodka until her fingers are sticky and the Red Hot Chili Peppers cover band doesn’t sound quite as terrible anymore. Then he listens to her ramble about how Sauron is not really evil and could really use a redemption arc for hours. Maybe he even gets a bit drunk himself, because he seems to have problems pronouncing Isildur correctly, and he definitely gets handsy on the cab ride home.

He takes her hiking. Over the weekend, he brings her to places close to the city, familiar places where he’s clearly been a million times, and she’s delighted to find that he runs out of breath and asks for a quick break just a little before Rey absolutely needs to. His lips are chapped from the cold air as he bends down to kiss her, hands solid and warm through the thin material of Rey’s windbreaker. She even works up the nerve to ask, “Who did you use to come here with?”

“Mm?”

“Before me, I mean.”

Ben gives her bewildered look. “No one. Why would I bring people to such a beautiful place?”

Rey’s heart beats a little faster against her ribcage.

Flushing a little, he introduces her to the one family member he’s still on speaking terms with—“Aunt Qi’ra, this is Rey. My—Um, we work together.”—and even though Rey is not sure how, or even if they are related—“I’m not certain, either. In my family, you learn early not to ask.”—it’s clear that they’re very fond of each other.

“He looks happy,” Qi’ra tells Rey when Ben’s pager goes off and he has to excuse himself to call the hospital.

“Oh. Does he?”

“It’s difficult to tell, with Ben, isn’t it?” Her accent—it sounds British, but Rey can’t quite place it. And something tells her not to ask.

“A bit. Sometimes.”

Qi’ra nods. She is stunning, really. And for odd some reason, after over one hour in her company Rey still can’t figure out her designation. “It’s because he rarely is. Not much of a reason to be, I guess. Now, though…”

They fall silent when Ben returns into the room, his hand warm on Rey’s shoulder as he announces that they have to go back immediately because: “Idiots. They’re all idiots, the people we work with.”

It takes weeks, but Rey finally gathers the courage to ask about the whole deal with Luke, and Ben—initially he is just close-mouthed and sullen about it, and Rey has to tease him out of one of his horrifically bad moods, which, as it turns out, she is pretty good at. But that night, when her back is flush against his chest and she’s about to drift off to sleep, when she can’t see his face, Ben opens up and tells her, quietly, about the way it went down all those years before, and how Luke acted, and Ben’s parents siding with his uncle, and—

Rey is incensed. She is murderous. She calls Luke the following day and yells at him for the entire duration of her break, and that’s how Luke finds out about Rey and Ben, and—

Luke laughs.

He has the gall to laugh, to call her kid in that condescending way of his, and to hung up on her.

This fucking family.

Rey tells Ben things, too. Little by little. She leaves small cues, like mentioning the fact that she does not have a good international phone plan, because there’s no one in the UK that she needs to call on a regular basis. Some comments about the scholarships on which she originally came to the US. A vague, “No need for presents,” because her birthday is probably not her real birthday (Ben gets her one anyway, and although they’re both on shift until way too late that day he takes her out for midnight ice cream. And—oh my God—even has a small scoop of vanilla himself.) He simply nods, expression open and limpid, when she says that no, she doesn’t have any Christmas family traditions that she particularly wants to continue, but she’d totally be down with taking a day off for Hanukkah and spending it in bed with Ben if that’s what he’d like to do to celebrate. "Thank you for asking, though." Ben doesn’t pressure Rey for more than what she needs to share—which is very, very little. But he builds… habits, for her. Traditions. He molds his life—just a little, just enough so that Rey can carve a spot for herself in it. It’s cozy and welcoming. It feels like home, and Rey can’t imagine ever wanting to leave it.

She tries to ignore her gland, and the way it aches and throbs so sweetly sometimes, especially—always—when Ben is nearby. So does Ben—with mixed success. When he can’t help himself anymore he always asks, usually panting and squeezing his cock through the cotton of his boxer briefs, already tented and stained with precome.

I’m going to lick it. Maybe bite a little. Okay?

Can I touch it?

Please, let me come on it.

Rey always says yes, because—she wants him to. She really wants him to, and it’s not as if she could conceivably pretend otherwise. But Ben never takes her yes for granted, and Rey—she notices.

I need you to be sure, he’d said, and he just waits until Rey is.

 

 

“Why aren’t they taping the patient’s eyes shut during general anesthesia?”

It takes a moment for Rey to think up an answer. Probably because comfortable as she is, lying on Ben’s giant couch and nestled on top of his equally giant body, it’s easy to space out and lose track of time and her surroundings. Plus, Rey’s seen this episode about a million times. A billion. She’s not exactly paying attention.

“Mmm. I guess it wouldn’t look good on TV.”

“But it’s wrong.” Outraged. That’s what he sounds. Personally insulted. Rey nuzzles Ben’s sternum and hides her smile into his chest, feeling slightly guilty when his arm snakes tighter around her waist.

“I don’t think Grey’s Anatomy ever cared about getting it right, Ben. It’s more about the characters. The interpersonal drama.”

“But what about corneal injuries?”

Rey tries very, very hard not to laugh. Since Ben probably wouldn’t appreciate it.

“It’s okay. I mean, it’s a show. They’re not actually doing cardiothoracic surgery here.”

“This is appalling,” he insists, sounding every inch the eleventh-generation MD that he is.  

“You’re right. You know, we don’t have to watch this, Ben. Let’s just switch to the news or—”

She reaches forward to grab the remote and—Ben stops her hand, pulling Rey deeper into himself, arms wrapped around her torso until she’s effectively trapped between his legs.

“No.” His expression is affronted. “Leave it.”

Rey smiles knowingly, sinking back against him. She could live here. In this exact spot.

Which—it reminds her of something she’s been meaning to bring up. She twists her head a bit, until she can almost look him in the eyes.

“My contract is up.”

Ben frowns. “At the hospital?”

“Ah, no. So, my landlord called today. My lease is up in a month, and he wanted to know if I’d like to renew—”

“No.”

Rey’s heart skips a beat.

“No?”

“No renewing,” he tells her, tone firm and resolute. And then he gently pushes her head back onto his chest. “Jesus Christ. Are those interns practicing surgery on each other?”

And that, is that.

 

 

“I think we—Ouch! Not my toe, Rian, please—I think we’re lucky.”

Rey says it to Ben as they are—unsuccessfully—trying to hold Rian down to apply anti-worm medication on the back of her neck, and it’s clearly a new experience for Ben, not being able to yell at someone into treatment compliance. They are both already covered in scratches, and Ben got bitten on the ear a minute ago, and the cat is screeching, which is probably why his, “Are we,” sounds a little drier than it needs to be.

“We are."

Ben... is that a grunt?

"I could have hated you,” Rey explains.

“Rian, this is for your own—You ungrateful—”

“I mean. Despite the fact that we’re—” Rey lets go of the cat to wave inchoately between the two of them, trying to indicate all that they are now, and—Rian, the sneaky little bugger, jumps at the chance and scurries under the couch, likely never to be seen again. Or until mealtime.

“Oops. Sorry.”

“Nah,” Ben says, and gestures to her not to worry about it. “She was about to poke my eye out, anyway.”

“My point is, you smell… good, and everything, but still. I could have just hated you.”

“You did.”

“Not really.”

Ben lifts one eyebrow.

“Okay, maybe. At the beginning. In my defense, you can be very hateable. Especially at first sight.”

He lifts his eyebrow higher, and Rey smiles at him.

“But—after everything, I could have just not liked you. You could have—I don’t know, been against single-payer healthcare, or not known the difference between Voyager and Enterprise, or wanted to go clubbing every weekend. Owned a pet tarantula. Or actually, truly been an insufferable dick, instead of a very grumpy dude who just pretends to be one.”

Now Ben is looking at her with a mildly outraged expression. “Did you just call me a dude?”

Rey ignores him. “And the same is true of me—I mean, you probably wouldn’t be here with me if I’d never heard of Tolkien, or if I were into homeopathy, or if I felt that root beer is an acceptable type of beverage, or even—”

Without any warning, Ben leans forward and kisses Rey. Maybe it’s to shut her up, maybe he just wants a kiss—whatever it is, Rey loses herself a little.

He pulls back, less than inch. “I would.”

“What?”

“Be here. With you. I could educate you about Tolkien, and the homeopathy bit would be hard, but…” He shrugs his stupidly gigantic shoulders, and then kisses her once more, softly. “Root beer is excellent.”

Rey shudders. “Ew. Americans are so gross.”

Ben gives her an almost-smile and one last peck, and then, lighting quick, he turns to catch Rian as she tries sneak out of the room.

 

 

“I need to tell you something.”

Ben waits until he’s finished pulling out of his driveway to look at Rey and ask, “Is it about the state of my garden?”

“No.” Though Rey turns to study Ben’s yard until they’ve driven far enough that it’s no longer visible from the car. “I mean, I love this jungle thing you’ve got going. That will-I-or-won’t-I be bitten by a rattlesnake feeling that I get when I come home after sunset.”

“I am to please.”

He most certainly doesn’t.

“Actually, Mrs. Truman’s daughter—Is her name Olive or Olivia? I couldn’t quite understand when she introduced herself, and now it feels too late to ask.”

Ben adjusts the car’s A/C vents so that the hot air is flowing towards Rey. Since she’s always, always cold, and he never is. Of course.

“Who’s Mrs. Truman?”

“Your neighbor. Your neighbor on the left.”

“The redhead?”

“No, that’s Dr. Sacks. The medievalist. Mrs. Truman is blonde. Blue eyes.”

“Ah. So her name is Mrs. Truman?”

“Yep. What did you think it was?”

Ben shrugs. “I don’t think I ever wondered.”

“How many years have you been living here, again?”

Rey knows precisely how many years. And Ben knows that she knows, because he suddenly reaches to turn on the radio.

Rey shakes her head. This guy. “Anyway, her daughter offered to mow your lawn, for, and I’m quoting, ‘less than a landscaper would charge you.’ I think she’ll be a great businesswoman one day.”

“Will she.”

“Yep. We should nurture her entrepreneurial spirit. Should I tell her yes?”

“Sure.” A short pause. “No one in the neighbor has ever offered to mow my lawn before.” Ben sounds a little resentful, which for some reason makes Rey want to chuckle. It’s unfair of her, of course. Totally unfair. Poor Ben. He really doesn’t know.

“I wonder why.” She tries to keep her tone neutral. “I mean, you are so outgoing and cordial and approachable all the tim—ouch!”

She’d totally pinch him back, if he wasn’t driving on an icy road. And if his hand wasn’t currently massaging her inner thigh to rub away the sting—which really wasn’t that bad to begin with, Rey has to admit, and it’s so nice to have him touch her like that, to have his warmth seep into her flesh. Making her feel like maybe this horrible, frosty winter morning is almost bearable.

She closes her thighs to trap his hand, and suddenly it comes back to her. The thing she wanted to say.

“The conference I’m going to. Next week. Remember?”

“Yes. Was it canceled?” Ben’s tone sounds hopeful, and—it’s not that Ben doesn’t want Rey to go. It’s just that it’s obvious that he’d rather she stayed. Here.

With him.

“No.”

“Considerably shortened?”

“No. I—Luke is going to be there.”

There is a quiet moment then, in which the NPR journalist talks about the importance of taking race into consideration when discussing designation-specific issues, and then begins to say something about Omega men and women of color that Rey would really love to listen to—except that the atmosphere in the car is now a little too tense to concentrate, and the only non-freezing part of her body is her inner thigh. Courtesy of Ben’s gigantic, solid, present hand.

And then the quiet moment ends, and he says:

“It makes sense.”

Rey nods. And she should probably answer, but she doesn’t know what to say, so she’s relieved when he continues.

“You’re both pulmonologists. It makes sense that you end up at the same conferences. Just like lots of other pulmonologists.”

Right. “Right.” He’s giving Rey an out. A way to end this conversation. And she could take it. They wouldn’t have to talk about this. Which would be ideal, since neither of them particularly enjoys talking about an infinitely long list of topics, which Luke sits at the very top of. But… for some reason, Rey has the impression that she’d be doing them both a disservice. So she takes a deep breath, and— “Right, but… the other pulmonologists are not your uncle. Luke is.”

Ben exhales. “He’s not. He’s your mentor, though,” he counteracts. Not really sounding happy about it. Which isn’t saying much, since this is Ben Solo, but he sounds maybe a little less happy than usual. He removes his hand from Rey’s thigh, and her heart stutters a little. But it’s only to shift gears, and the warmth is back before Rey can really miss it.

“I know you guys… I know it’s bad. And if this is a deal breaker I won’t go, but this conference is huge in my field and—”

Ben turns to her with surprised look. “Of course.”

“Of course?”

“Of course you’re going. Luke’s your mentor. And this is your job.” He sounds a little affronted. “I’m not going to ask you not to go because ten years or so ago he—” Ben stops himself abruptly, and—they are still ringing in Rey’s ears, the things Luke told Ben during their last fight years ago. I wish I had been there, Rey wants to say. To tell you that they’re not true. None of it is. They don’t have to be. “I’m not going to ask you not to go to a conference because my family is fucking dysfunctional, Rey.” The, no matter how much I’d like to is implied. But Rey almost doesn’t hear it, because his hand is squeezing around her inner thigh in reassurance, and—she maybe thought this conversation was a clusterfuck waiting to happen, but so far it has actually been… pretty nice.

Go figure.

“Okay, well… I’ll bring back a nice present, okay?”

Ben snorts. “The conference tote bag?”

She sticks out her tongue at him. “Probably. I’ll throw in the program, too. Maybe my name tag, if you’re good.”

“You’re too kind.”

“I know. You don’t deserve me.” Rey leans forward and turns up the volume of the radio to catch the end of the bit about Omegas and intersectionality. So that she almost misses them, his soft words and his serious, thoughtful expression.

“I really don’t, Rey.”

 

 

Chapter Text

 

Luke snorts, leans back against his seat, and takes a swig of his IPA—all without interrupting his stare for even one second—and Rey thinks that perhaps she should feel intimidated, but she really is not. Maybe it’s because it’s only been a year since she last saw him, but he already looks so much older. Maybe it’s her deep conviction that only a very insecure person would act the way Luke did with Ben, which reduces him a little in her eyes. Or maybe it’s just the knowledge that this man doesn’t hold her professional career in his hands anymore, which makes his power plays less scary and more amusing.

“I can’t believe you fell in love with my asshole nephew.”

Rey lets the remark go and sips on her own beer, because nothing would tip Luke off the fact that he’s right more than Rey arguing with him over his choice of words, and she isn’t quite ready for anyone to know precisely how she feels about Ben Solo.

She is not sure that she’s ready to verbalize it to herself, really.

“I just cannot believe it.”

“You mentioned that already. Once. Or five times.”

“I disapprove.”

Rey forces herself to smile. “How lucky, then, that I have not asked for your approval.”

Luke ignores her. “My offer to walk you down the aisle, however, still stands. If only for the pleasure of seeing Ben as pissed as only I can make him.”

Men. Alphas. “That’s very mature of you.”

He snorts, again. “Oh, is that what you see in Ben? Maturity?”

“First of all, you haven’t talked with Ben since he was in his early twenties. You have no idea how mature he is or isn’t. And you have to admit that your family has been just as horrible to him as he’s been to you.” More. Much more.

“I admit no such thing.”

Rey rolls her eyes and pushes down the sleeves of her too-thin sweater. It’s not that here on the coast it’s much colder than back home. It’s just that—Ben and the impressive amount of heat he generates are usually standing close enough to Rey that she doesn’t really have a chance to notice the temperature. “Whatever. Let’s agree to disagree.”

Luke smirks gleefully—probably thinking he just won an argument Rey wasn’t even aware they were having. “Let’s. But do come to me if he starts bothering you, when you break up with him.”

It startles Rey a little. Even makes her laugh around a mouthful of beer. “‘When?’”

“When. It’s a temporal adverb. It means at what point in time—”

“It’s pretty bold of you, to assume that we’ll break up.” Or that I would be the one to break up with him, Rey wants to, but doesn’t add.

Luke's face is... God. Was he always this patronizing? “Rey—I know you. You’re not the kind of person who can be happy in an Alpha/Omega pair. You hate being told what to do—I should know, I tried for years. And Ben…” Luke shakes his head. “Listen to me, most Alphas are assholes, and he’s not one of the few good ones. He loves being in control. ”

It’s not a lie—none of it is. Quite the opposite, in fact; all the pieces of the sentence Luke just laid out before Rey are shiny and true and correct. And yet, for some reason they seem to fit very poorly together.

“Maybe,” Rey tells him, not feeling like having this conversation. She lowers her eyes to stare at the contrast between the pallor of her hands and the dark wood of the table. Maybe. All fair points. Although—

Rey thinks back to the night before, and to Ben driving her to the airport. To the way he’d really tried to smile at her as she had grabbed the strap of her duffel bag; and how he’d gripped the steering wheel until the skin of his knuckles had turned white.

She thinks of that afternoon a few weeks ago, when she’d told him about her plans to go play racquetball with Poe, and that they’d probably go get a beer afterward. “So you might not want to wait up for me.” Ben had just nodded and kissed her forehead, and made an excellent show of pretending to be asleep when she’d come back and slipped into bed, just a little buzzed, even though Rey could feel him vibrating with relief.

She thinks of the fact that Ben yields a great deal of power in the hospital, certainly more than Rey does—who doesn’t, after all?—and yet his first instinct when he couldn’t stand being around Rey anymore had been to remove himself, and not her.  

She thinks about the phone in her pocket. About how it’s been remarkably silent in the past twenty-four hours—and yet every time Rey has texted Ben with even the most stupid, inconsequential of messages, he has answered within a handful of seconds.

And then, then she thinks of the first time they’d talked, really talked. Of how close they’d come to simply not, how their first real conversation had been the product of several moments of serendipity. Rey getting completely hammered—God—at a work party, and then forgetting her house key at Jess’, and then somehow saying words that pushed the right buttons at the perfect time without knowing that they would. That night, after everything, Ben had pressed his forehead against Rey’s, and for the first time she’d heard the hesitation in his voice. “I don’t know—any of this. I have no idea if I can… I’m probably going to fuck this up.”

Back then, all those months ago that now feel like years, Rey hadn’t known what to answer. So she’d just held Ben tight, as tight as she could, and hoped that he could smell it on her, the reassurance that she wanted to offer. If the same were to happen today, she’d know exactly what to say to him.

You’re acquitting yourself very nicely, Ben Solo.

Rey thinks about all of this, and makes her decision.

 

….

 

Rey texts Ben that she’ll be back on Sunday night, but not the time or the details of the flight, because she knows that his surgery schedule begins atrociously early on Monday mornings. She goes as far as deciding to take an Uber over a cab, even pulls up the app on her phone—and yet, somehow, she’s not at all surprised to see him leaning back against a wall in the arrivals area, coat open all the way and arms crossed on his chest as he glares at the people around him for… daring to exist in his peripheral space, or something like that. Rey stops before he can spot her, and for a brief moment she just takes him in.

He really hates people, doesn’t he.

She’s not quite sure when she began finding the thought so incredibly endearing.

When she’s out of the security zone he must immediately pick up her scent among the airport throng, because he turns to look at her, and suddenly his expression softens with something that looks a lot like relief—a disproportionate amount of relief, considering that they last talked this very morning.

His, “Hey,” sounds a little moody, but mostly weary, and Rey tells herself that that’s the only reason she decides to completely bypass the customary pleasantries and just—

She walks right up to him, goes on her toes, and crosses her wrists behind his head, pulling him down to her until she can nuzzle the gland in his neck.

“I’m so happy to be back,” she says into his ear, and then presses a kiss into the line of his jaw. “It was a long five days.”

Ben buries his nose in her neck, behind her ear, grazing her gland with his teeth, licking it in a way that is… probably surreptitious enough, but definitely illegal in several states. At least in public.

“It felt like a fucking year,” he tells Rey, and the slight edge in his voice makes her feel right at home.

 

 

She has been back for less than a week when she wakes up to—

It.

It’s not quite a dead weight on her back, but definitely a hand holding her down, spanning her waist and pressing her front into the soft mattress, forcefully enough that Rey has no hope of extricating herself, and she would think it’s a nightmare, she would panic, she would scream at the top of her lungs, but—Ben’s scent is swirling all around her, so strong, so loud, enveloping her with little whispers of home, safe, safe, you’re wanted and cared for, home, and also, because this is Ben: fucked. Fucked. You’re about to get fucked.

Hard.

When Rey went to sleep last night Ben hadn't been home yet, which is why for once she is actually wearing clothes to bed, panties and one of his old t-shirts—except that she’s not dressed anymore, not really, since strong fingers have twisted her underwear well past her knees and another hand is lifting her shirt up, which—it seems unnecessary, since her cunt is right there, wet and open and swollen and really ready for him, but—ah… ah, ah, fuck, that’s not—

Oh.

That’s not what he wants. His teeth—his teeth, they’re already up there, grazing the skin of her mating gland as he positions his huge, leaking cock against her, clearly about to sink into her, to break her flesh, to bite into her and draw blood, to end this once and for all—   

“Ben,” Rey moans, meaning to implore him, meaning please, please, please—do it, just do it, but—

It has the opposite effect. Because Rey hasn’t finished formulating the thought—a mess of I’ll die if you don’t, and I beg you, and I’ll do whatever—when she notices the cold air wafting on her back, and the weight that was pressing her down into the bed—Ben, Ben, Ben—is now gone and standing in the middle of the room, his stricken expression clearly visible thanks to the owl-shaped night light he installed for Rey after she confessed to being afraid of the dark.

“Ben—what—” Rey’s inner thighs are glistening with slick, and her gland is pulsating in time with her clit, full of blood and pheromones, and—

He needs to come back. Come back here, and finish this. Finish them. Not to stand there, feet away from her, completely naked and wiping a hand down his face even as his cock looks so hard and angry that—that has to be painful. Because that’s a knot, and it’s as swollen as Rey has ever seen it and dark and shiny, and—

“Ben.” Rey tries to force herself to think. “Ben, are you okay?”

No. Maybe. He’s just staring at her, chest heaving, just like Rey’s chest is heaving, and it occurs to Rey that his expression is… scared. More than that—for the first time, he actually smells scared. Scared of—

“I don’t know what… I thought it was a dream, and—shit.” His voice is so gravelly. He runs a hand through his hair, and Rey notices the perspiration on his forehead, clinging to his temples. “I’m sorry, Rey.”

He wasn’t awake, she realizes. He woke up halfway through… through…

She sits up on her knees and slides his t-shirt down to cover herself. Her panties—she tries to pull them up, but they’re… not quite torn in two, but…

She kicks them off and just tosses them to the side. “No—It’s okay.”

He shakes his head, skin absurdly pale. “It’s not. I have no idea what—”

“Ben. It’s okay.”

“I’m sorry.“ He takes a step back. Another. “You need to get away from me.”

Away from—?

It's absurd. Rey huffs a laugh. And her mating gland—if it could, it’d be laughing, too. “I don’t.”

“You do.”

“Ben, I really don’t.”

“I almost—”

“I’m not on suppressants anymore.” She blurts it out too quickly. And maybe even too loudly, because the words seem to bounce off the walls of the room and echo for whole minutes.

Ben goes... absolutely still. “What?’

She takes a deep breath. “I stopped them. Again. That’s probably why you… Why you couldn’t…”

“Oh.”

“I was going to tell you, but… there was that multi-vehicle crash and the shooting and we barely saw each other, so I couldn’t…”

Again, Ben wipes his hand over his face, looking—absolutely desperate for a second. A deep panic that he’s clearly trying to hide widens his eyes. Then he manages to switch it off, his expression mutes and shuts down—and he’s in control again.

A true Alpha. Not feeling the feelings, taking care of his Omega. All-powerful. Shouldering responsibility, and similar bullshit.

“Okay.” He nods with some effort, and swallows visibly. But he looks calm, now. Reasonable. “Okay, I—that’s fine. Then, I’ll just need to…” He falls silent. Probably because they both know that he’s already on blockers—he needs to be, all young Alphas are—and that barring introducing a great deal of physical distance between the two of them, there isn’t much Ben can do if Rey decides to keep off suppressants. “Ah… It’s not a problem, I can—”

“I’m sure.”

Ben blinks. Slowly. Twice.

“What?”

“You said… You said you wanted me to be sure. Well, I am. Sure.” Her mouth feels dry. “That’s why I stopped them.”

His Adam’s apple is… moving a lot.

“You’re sure, about—”

“Yes.”

He looks at her—just looks at her, for… ten minutes, or something. One hour. Half a second.

“Rey.”

“Will you—please, Ben, will you come back here? Sit with me?”

It’s like he’s walking through water, how long it takes for him to get back to bed. To sit gingerly on the edge of mattress, giving Rey his back and barely turning his head towards her. Every move is slowed down and overly cautious.

“Are you sure?”

Rey scooches closer to him. “You mean, am I sure that I’m sure?”

He shakes his head, in obvious disbelief. But she is witty, if she says so herself, and at least she has managed to make him smile, even if just a little, and that’s all she ever needed from life anyway. Ben doesn’t even push her away, when she decides to swing a leg over his to straddle him, her knees coming to rest around his hips.

She just wants to be close to him, now that he looks so incredulous. To comfort him, and maybe wipe that astonished frown off his face. She really doesn’t mean for this to become sexual, but—he’s still hard, of course. And now, his cock is exactly against the folds of her bare cunt. Which is… yeah. Still embarrassingly wet with slick. He gasps in pleasure, quiet, eyes going a bit glassy. Rey has to bite her lower lip and swallow a moan. Remind herself of the topic at hand. Focus. This feels good, but focus.

This, this is important. He needs to believe her.

“I am very sure. That I am sure. I am very sure that I am sure that I am sure. Should I reiterate how sure I—”

His hands slide under his shirt and grip around her waist, too tight. Or—one hand does. The other is gripping her ass, fingers grazing her folds, and Rey—she would probably not be so wet, if he weren’t smelling like some kind of extract of Alpha, her Alpha. If he weren’t staring at her like she’s the goddess of the moon or something equally preposterous. If suddenly he didn’t look so raw. Vulnerable. Like his life and death and happiness all depend on her.

“Ben.” She says the words against his parted lips.

And he—“Rey. Rey, I—” He still looks—insecure, a bit. Hesitant. Unconvinced. So Rey leans forward, until her mouth is by his ear, and tells him—

“I want you to do it. To bite me. To really bite me.” She leans a bit more into him, until her breasts are crushed against his chest. “There.

Rey cannot claim to know how this feels to Ben, but the tightening of his grip on her, the throbbing of his already full knot against her folds, the way his jaw starts working—he cannot quite process this, she thinks. She is positive. His eyes are glazing over, and the muscles in his neck are tensing, and he’s clearly saying, “Rey,” except that his voice doesn’t sound like his own.

So she continues.

“You can do it now, if you want,” she whispers against his cheekbone, and in response his cock twitches and jerks. But Ben just shakes his head a bit, as if meaning to deny this to Rey, to deny this to himself

Not now, Ben? Are you trying to say no? Really?

Rey leans back, just enough to be able to see the hazy brown of his eyes. He looks… struck stupid. Like he’s making his way through the situation slowly. With difficulty. So she slides her hand between their bodies, down, further down, past his abs and the head of his cock and even his knot—is that a grunt?—and cups his balls, the exact way he has taught her he likes.

Ben whimpers and closes his eyes.

“Alpha. I could take off my shirt. And turn around.”

Rey’s fingertips play lightly with his sac, just a little. It’s barely a touch, really, but one wouldn’t think so, judging from Ben’s harsh intake of breath. From the red flush dusting his cheekbones. The way he squeezes his eyes shut for a moment, the grimace of almost-pain as he struggles for control.

He doesn’t seem like he is. In control. He seems like he’s about to snap like a branch in a hurricane and—Rey wants to find out when, how soon, how badly he is going to lose it. How glorious it’s going to be.

“I could bend forward the way you taught me—in my last heat. Remember? And you could put this inside me, if you wanted, and then you could…” She hesitates over the word. Turns it around in her mind as if appraising a piece of art, just as her fingers skim the ruddy skin of his knot and make Ben’s head fall back. She finds that she likes, no, she loves the sound of it, so she lets it blossom and swell inside her head before finally saying it. “You could mate me.”

A loud, hard gasp. Teeth biting—too hard, drawing blood from Rey’s collarbone, and fingers digging into the flesh of her waist almost painfully, and then, just like that—he is coming, like a river in flood. Soaking Rey’s belly and covering her in his scent and—the noises that he makes. He looks completely destroyed by the pleasure. Taken apart. Undone.

He’s a wild animal. Her wild animal, now.

Soon.

“I’ve got you,” Rey whispers with a soft kiss on his hair. “All of you.”

I love you.

 

 

Chapter Text


It’s Kaydel who brings it up first, and Rey has accumulated many, many regrets in the almost three decades of her life, but informing her friend of Ben’s existence is somewhere up there, in ninety-ninth percentile.

“So… How does the whole thing even work?”

“What do you mean?”

“He just… bites you?”

Oh. “I… I think so?”

“Mmm. Okay. And what do you have to do?”

Rey opens her mouth to answer and realizes that—it’s actually a pretty good question.

Isn’t it.

A good question for… Jess, maybe. Even though she immediately points out to Rey that she’s never been mated.

“Obviously. Nor I have any intention to, thank you very much. I like to keep my options open. Extremely open.” Jess takes a bite of her Veggie Delite (American cheese, extra spinach, light mayo). “But the spike of oxytocin triggers—”

“No—I know that.” Rey stares into the depth of her bag of Doritos. It’s a valid, more pleasant alternative to looking at Jess. “What about… What about the ritual?”

“The rit—Oh.”

The ‘oh’ is so restrained and… and un-Jess-like that Rey can’t help but look up. Sure enough, Jess is blushing. Bright red. Like a traffic light.

Hell is probably freezing over, or something.

“I honestly have no clue what happens. A… Um, a bite, I assume.” She shrugs, and appears to recover a bit. “I do find it ridiculous that there isn’t more literature about it, though. I wonder why Alphas and Omegas get so secretive, once they get shackled. Why does all this designation-specific stuff have to be so hush-hush, like we’re three competing masonic grand lodges? Also, did you just call it a mating ritual?”

“Ah… yes?”

God. Did your boyfriend say that?”

“Ehm…”

“Don’t answer that. Mating ritual sounds so upper middle class, it has Ben Solo written all over it.”

Rey is tempted to go sit in a corner and rock herself a bit. “Um. What about your sister?” Jess has several—one who’s an Omega, she mentioned once. Who mated very young. They must have discussed how that happened—Jess must have been curious. If it were Rey, she’d have asked a million questions, for sure.

No, you wouldn’t have, a voice reminds her. You swore left and right that you’d never ever voluntarily touch an Alpha, or let one touch you—until less than a year ago, that is.

Rey silences it.

“She must have told you… something, at least.”

“Not really. And I’m not going to ask my little sister about her sex life.”

“Okay, but… Something?” Rey hates it a bit, how whiny she sounds.

Jess seems to think about it. And then bites into her lower lip. “I heard that—The bite. I think that it…” A pause, in which Rey is gripping her knees under the table. It’s what? Painful? Terrible? Nice? Jess wipes her mouth with a napkin, and then takes a sip of her drink, and then nibbles on a piece of cucumber that fell out of her sandwich, and then—Rey is going to scream, now. “…It scars.”

“It… scars?”

“Yep.”

“It scars.”

“But June—my sister. She didn’t seem to mind.”

“She didn’t?”

Jess shrugs, again. “Listen—I used to change her diaper. I’m not going to ask her about that time she had heat sex with her Alpha and he bit her mating gl—”

“Okay. Okay, fair enough.”

Rey hits rock bottom a few days later. When she stoops to asking… Ugh.

Poe.

“Oooh.” His smile is positively lurid. “Doctor Johnson, I am delighted that we’re going to have this conversation.”

Rey winces. “Poe. Please. Don’t make this weirder than it has to be.”

He chuckles. “I mean, I don’t know much about it. It’s not that common, these days. Since there’s kind of few of you guys, anyway.”

”Of us?”

“Omegas.” Poe takes off his stethoscope and throws it in his locker, where it lands over what looks like six months worth of dirty scrubs. “Few Alphas, too. And even fewer Omegas who end up mating with Alphas. Twenty-first century, fight your genetics, defy society's expectations, and all that. You know?”

Rey does know. “But they must prepare you guys, right? Tell you what you have to do, when you present. Just in case you end up in an Alpha-Omega pairing.”

“Not really. You know how this shit goes. Lots of intra-designation pseudo-secrets, and sex ed is basically nonexistent in public schools. In private schools too, since they usually have some kind of religious affiliation. And if your parents are Betas, you’re fucked and just try to learn as you go. I mean, by that logic, they would have told you, too, when you presented.”

Rey isn’t sure that she wants to discuss British foster care with Poe, or to point out that when she presented she didn’t exactly have a decent school system at her disposal. Or, come to think of it, parents.

“So—if Alphas don’t know, and Omegas don’t know… How are two people even sure that—?”

“I have no idea. Heats are fun, but I’m really glad Finn’s a Beta. Solo, though—isn’t his family, like, exclusively Alphas since the thirteen hundreds, or some shit like that? He’s probably got it covered. Plus, it’s not like he can do it wrong. It’s a bite, no?”

Right. Rey averts her eyes. “Yeah, but what about me?”

Poe slams his locker shut and leans against it. “What about you?”

“What if I am doing it wrong?”

“Wrong?”

“Wrong.” What if I disappoint my Alpha, Rey means, but would rather die than say out loud.

Poe crosses his arms on his chest. “Rey, I don’t think you get it. It’s obvious to any sentient being that you can’t do anything wrong in Solo’s eyes. The man let you put a sticker of a kitten on his pager. He declined to head the best transplant team in the world to stay here with you. During staff meetings he spends half of his time staring at you like you shit liquid platinum—”

“Yes, thank you, Poe.” Rey will not blush. It’s probably not true, anyway. Surely not true.

Poe cocks his head, looking at Rey fondly—like she’s a little crazy but in a nice, endearing way. This is Poe in a nutshell: condescending, a little patronizing, but ultimately caring and well-intentioned. A good guy. Therefore, Rey will not punch him in the face.

“Honey, I wish I could help more.” He claps her shoulder with a friendly grip. “Just, don’t worry about it. You’ll know soon enough. And when you do, you should tell me. For science.” His smile widens, and he winks. “Feel free to give me a play-by-play as it happens.”

 

 

She won’t, though. Know. Rey won’t know soon, and most definitely not soon enough, because—

They decide to take it slow.

Actually, they decide nothing. Ben decides to take it slow, while Rey—Rey just wishes that it was done. That it were happening, at this very moment.

It’s time, that Omega-sounding voice inside her tells her. Your Alpha wants to. And you agreed. Because you want to. So it’s time.

Rey asks him on a quiet Sunday afternoon, while Ben and Rian are lying on the couch reading a case study and Rey is finishing up her yoga routine. She lifts her head after a good five minutes of child’s pose and—it’s obvious, that Ben isn’t really reading anymore. Where, what he is staring at.

“When?” she asks, and her voice sounds trembling and insecure in the quiet of the room.

Ben averts his gaze and looks back at his article. “Later,” he tells her. “Is Chinese okay for dinner?”

Except that later never comes—not that week, not the following week, and not the one after—and Rey tries to respect his wishes like he always respected hers. She really does. But then she finds herself begging him—please, do it, just do it—as he presses his palm into her pelvis and licks between the folds of her cunt. “What are you waiting for?” She asks over the filthy, wet sounds of him bending her down and fucking her over the breakfast island halfway through dinner. She implores him—now, now, Ben, now—when he abruptly pulls out of her and flips her over on the mattress, and then brings himself off on her belly and spends long minutes rubbing an impressive amount of come into her skin. She pleads some more as he bites her everywhere—that is, everywhere but there. He nibbles at the glands on her wrists, licks the ones on her neck, sinks his teeth into her shoulder blades and it's a pale imitation of what they both want. Rey begs him, and begs him, and begs him, and it doesn’t work, because Ben is clearly dead set on ignoring her.

So she thinks it through, and decides that the time might have come to play dirty.

“I think about it a lot.” She tells him casually on a Tuesday morning as she’s pouring herself coffee. “And when I think about it—” a plopping sound as she drops a dollop of honey in it, “—it turns me on.”

Rey feels her cheeks heat up and almost winces, because—maybe this is what passes for sexy conversation nowadays, but it’s the most uncomfortable thing she has ever done, she’s clearly not any good at it, and God, could lightning strike her on the spot? Please?

Except that when she finally gathers the courage to look up at Ben, expecting to find him either bent in two from laughing or completely weirded out—he’s staring at the honey bear in her hands more intensely that he needs to, and she can see it in the stiff line of his back, in the white of his knuckles, that he’s not… unaffected. That he’s thinking about what Rey just said. At least considering it.

Then, abruptly, he turns away to pour dry food into Rian’s bowl—even though he must remember that he already fed her, less than ten minutes ago, less than five—and when he faces Rey again his expression is… wiped clean. Almost calm.

“I’ll go… wash my face, and then we can head out, okay?” His voice is not quite level.

There might be something there, Rey thinks. So she continues to try to force Ben’s hand—one less-than-innocent half-sentence here, high buns and low-backed tops there—and there is quite a bit of visible swallowing, and lip biting, and sharp intakes of breath on his part, but in the end he does…

Nothing.

Absolutely nothing. It’s as if having been granted permission to bite her is what gives him the strength not to do it—and as if acknowledging that it’s precisely what she wants has dried Rey’s willpower and patience. Or maybe the problem is just that…

“Have you changed your mind?”

Frowning, Ben looks up from the stack of envelopes he’s been opening for the past five minutes.

“What?”

“If you don’t want me anymore, you can say it. You’re allowed to change your mind.”

“Change my mind?”

“Or if you still want to be together, but you just don’t want…" Rey steadies her voice. "If you don’t want the mating. Because—”

In the span of a second, Ben’s expression goes from bewildered to full-on panic. “What? No. No. I have not changed my mind.”

The thing is, Rey didn’t think so. Because that's not quite how Ben has been acting. Except for the fact that—

“You’ve been putting it off, though.”

He holds her gaze for a long moment, but Rey can’t read him. “We’ll do it on your next heat,” he says eventually. Which is something he’s said before, but—

“No. It’s—forever. Weeks from now. Maybe months—My cycles might be all messed up, for all we know. My last heat came unpredictably.”

Rey notices, then. The way he’s pressing his lips together, the tension in his shoulders, the fact that he’s looking at the envelope in his hand instead of at Rey’s eyes.

He’s not happy about waiting, either, she realizes. This is costing him, and he is making an effort, so much so that he’s doing a really poor job at disguising it.

I can win this, Rey thinks. We could be mated in ten minutes. In five.

The couch dips under her weight as she sits next to him. Then she leans forward, until her forehead is touching his, and they are sharing the same air, and his breath is—it’s already catching.

“Let’s just do it now. Right now.”

He inhales sharply. “We can’t.”

“We can. We really can.”

“Rey.”

“Alpha. Please.”

“Rey…”

She slides even closer.

“I’m going to take off my shirt. And then kneel right here in front of you.” She points at the floor between his legs. “And then I’ll do what you want me to do, and hopefully you’ll want to…” She takes a deep breath. “Ben. It feels so good, when you touch it. I can’t even imagine if you were to bite it—”

Ben scoots back until there are several inches between them, looking slightly dazed. It would be an impressive move, especially after Rey’s full-blown attack, except that one of his hands has risen to Rey’s upper back and it’s—not quite on her gland, but in its general proximity, rubbing roughly back and forth until—now it is on her gland, and Rey moans and Ben… he looks positively distressed. Struggling.

“That’s not how things are done.” His tone is hoarse.

Rey can’t quite parse language. “What?”

“The custom is that… matings happen during Omegas' heats.”

Rey frowns through the haze. “What? Is that why you don’t want to—”

“It’s important. It’s tradition.”

It’s—?

Rey leans back, suddenly amused. “That’s how—really, Ben, tradition? You’re a traditionalist now?” She shakes her head. “Are you part of some kind of weird conservative Alpha preservation group? Are we going to—Are we going to have a wedding, too?” Even through the throbbing on her upper back, Rey starts laughing at the thought. “Am I going to wear white? Is Poe and Finn’s daughter going to toss rose petals? Are we going to start clicker training Rian so that she can be the ring bearer?” She is really cracking herself up, now. “Is Luke going to give me away? Will we exchange vows and read poetry to each other? Because—Ben, where are you going? I was just kidding!”

He’s already out of the living room, so maybe that’s why he isn’t bothering to answer her. Or maybe he’s really mad at her for making fun of him, though that would be a teensy bit out of character by now, since he’s gotten pretty good at putting up with Rey’s teasing. Rey’s wondering if she should go hunt him down and perhaps try to mollify him with a kiss or two when he returns, pausing at the threshold for a moment, and—he doesn’t look offended, but his expression is somewhere between sheepish and annoyed, and—

Adorable, this man of hers.

Cute.

God, she’s truly crazy about him.

Fine, then. She’ll wait for her next heat, if tradition is what he wants. 

Rey smiles at him and looks at his eyes, so that when he comes closer and holds his hand out to her she almost doesn’t notice that there is something in it. Something that looks small in his large palm, like everything else does. But—unlike anything else, it makes Rey’s blood rush to her cheeks and pound in her ears.

Because it’s—

It’s—

A ring.

A very beautiful ring.

“It was my grandmother’s. It’s—I had it sized for you.” His jaw is working. Also, he’s still not meeting Rey’s eyes. Which is for the best, because Rey—she has no real idea what is going on, but the little she does understand is making her heart beat like a drum in her chest. “I’d like it, if you wore it.”

Rey is pretty sure that he’s asking something, something important, something large and momentous enough that it really needs a verbal answer from her. At the very least, a little more than the sharp intake of breath and the silent, scalding tears that are currently running down her cheeks.

Too bad, then, that all she can muster is a clumsy, watery nod.

Though maybe it’s enough. Ben is smiling, now, as he slides the ring on her finger with the same precision and attention he reserves for highly delicate surgical procedures. And then his hands come up to cup her cheeks, and he’s wiping the tears away with his thumbs, staring at Rey in an odd way. Like she just gave him a gift, a great gift—the one gift he truly wanted.

“Okay, then.” His voice is soft as he leans in for a kiss.

 

 

Considering that their first five—ten? Twenty?—interactions where borderline fights (or exchanges of thinly veiled insults, or outright fights) it’s curious, how little they argue now. Or, Rey supposes, it’s curious how little desire to argue with her Ben seems to have, even when she’s in a horrible mood and says deliberately inflammatory things like, “Sometimes you can’t solve everything by cutting people open, Ben” or, “Do you think there would still be wars, if Alphas went extinct?” or, “Cursive is a waste of time.”

Ben sees through her better than he has any business to. He narrows his eyes, gives her one of his looks (Really? Is this the best you can do, Rey? How about you also mention the size of my ears?) and then proceeds to ply her with stashes of junk food that he produces out of mysterious hiding places around the house. Though sometimes, when Rey’s really at her nastiest, he just picks her up and fucks the crabbiness right out of her.

“I think he’s just... mellowing out as he grows older,” she tells Poe over lunch, while failing to eat her burrito with any kind of grace.

“Rey. Since he became chief of surgery two administrators and one member of the executive board have quit without notice. And I’m pretty sure the other day I saw one of the nurses poking at a voodoo doll that looked like him.” He looks pointedly at Rey. “He’s still an asshole. He’s just not an equal opportunity asshole anymore.”

Privately, Rey thinks that ‘asshole’ might be an exaggeration. And yet, the day it happens she and Ben are right in the middle of a fight, and—

“You’re being an asshole.”

He crosses his arms in front of his chest. “Yes. I am.”

“Stop being one, then. Please.”

“If you’ll stop being unreasonable—”

“How is wanting to keep my cat safe unreasonable?”

“She’s been an outside cat for her whole life.”

“Then she was unsafe for her whole life.”

“Come on, Rey. She’ll be bored out of her mind if we keep her inside.”

“She won’t. We can buy her cool cat furniture. And we could still—we could fence the garden, or get her a leash and walk her around the neighborhood—”

Ben snorts. And then presses his thumb and forefinger into his eyes, bending his head—clearly to avoid laughing in Rey’s face. “I’m not going to walk my fucking cat. In front of the neighbors.”

“Ben. You’d be so cute.”

“Not happening.”

Rey glares at him, and then she punches a few words into her phone until she finds—

She lifts her arm until the screen is right in his face. Under his huge, stubborn nose. “See?”

“Rey—”

“Read it. Read the abstract. Cats who are allowed outside die earlier, have higher rates of severe illness— ”

His hand wraps around her wrist.

“Rey.”

“—and of debilitating injuries—”

Rey.”

The last one is different, from the other Reys. It’s an Alpha’s Rey, calm but demanding. It has her immediate, undivided attention.

“Yes?”

“I think it’s time.”

Time?

Rey blinks slowly. Then she turns to look at the clock—the one with the owls that she bought in undergrad at a flea market and that moved with her for the past ten years, and will you look at that. Now it lives in Ben’s kitchen.

It’s nine twenty-three. On a Saturday morning.

Time?

“Time?”

“Rey. Your scent. It’s shifting.”

“My—” Oh. Oh. “Oh. It’s… early.”

Ben nods. He’s staring at her neck, now. His eyes are a bit unfocused. “I was hoping…”

Who knows, what he was hoping. Because his voice is trailing off, and his gaze is trailing, too, down to her lips, lingering on her breasts, and then moving to trace her hips—

“Ben?”

He immediately looks up.

“Sorry. Sorry, I…” He notices that Rey is smiling at him, and smiles back. A bit. “You haven’t changed your mind, have you?”

He phrases it a little lightly, like a joke, but the undertone—it’s clear, that the question is for real.

No. Of course not.

Rey makes to open her mouth and say it, but it occurs to her that….

She looks at him squarely. “I have one condition.”

Ben’s breathing has sped up, and his pupils are huge, and he's leaning into her, and—he really doesn’t deal very well with Rey being off suppressants. And in heat, to boot. It’s all a bit much for him, and he doesn’t even hesitate before saying, “Anything.”

“I want Rian to be an indoor cat.”

Ben nods, and his eyelids drop as he bends down to kiss her. “Don’t think I don’t know what you’re doing, but—fine.” He nips at the base of her jaw, and then licks the same spot. Twice. “Anything.”

Rey backs down a little, because she still can—even if barely—and he did say ‘anything’, so it seems like a good moment for Rey to mention that—

“And I want to adopt another cat, too. A kitten. If it can get along with Rian.”

Ben frowns. “Rey, we’re not getting another—”

She licks her lips, a little because they feel dry, a little—okay, Rey really wants a kitten and Rian could use a friend—attempting to be sexy and suggestive. No point in not trying to take advantage of this hormonal perfect storm.  

“Please,” she begs while batting her eyes.

She can almost see Ben’s brain liquefy in real time. He doesn’t seem to breathe for several long moments, and his cheeks, his neck even, they are almost crimson.

Wow. I’m really getting away with—

Ben shakes his head forcefully, and then leans forward to kiss Rey on the mouth.

“No. But nice try.”

 

 

Ben tilts her hips higher. As a result, he slides further inside. And as a result, he bumps into some place inside Rey that she either wasn’t aware of, or had forgotten about. As a result, she makes a very embarrassing sound.   

“How is this?” His voice feels foreign, even after months of listening to the filthy things he tells her during sex. He seems like that much more gone, today. Like he’s finally about to cross a line. Already has, maybe. “Good?”

Rey nods fervently into the pillow. He is touching her—more than usual. The heel of his hand first, and then his fingertips between the lips of her cunt, and—it’s not that it isn’t nice, but Rey really doesn’t need the added stimulation, because just having him inside her, the heavy feel like a hook behind her bellybutton—she is going to come any moment. Any second. And they haven’t even begun, not for real.

“I still can’t believe it, how ridiculously tight you are.” He says it between heavy breaths, as he arranges Rey a bit more to his taste, so that she’s still on her knees but her hands are pressed against the head of the bed, supporting her weight. Initially she doesn’t understand, but then she realizes that it brings her gland—the gland, the one that today they have yet to mention or openly acknowledge—so close to his mouth. Easy to access without having to lean over too much.

Easy to access without having to stop fucking her.

Rey knows—or, she thinks she knows that that’s his intent, because he started touching it as soon as he began thrusting inside her, slow and maybe too deep. A little painful, in that pleasant way it always is. Ben’s thumb, already wet with her slick, is circling around it, back and forth and back again, his calluses catching on the soft skin between her shoulder blades and setting off thick waves of heat. Gradually driving Rey out of her mind.

Do it, she thinks of ordering Ben. But he’s her Alpha, and all she wants is to beg him. Please. I will do what you tell me, but please. Then he grunts, and he says, low and guttural, “Good. Yes,”—Yes, yes what, Alpha?—and Rey feels a fresh pulse of slick dribble down her leg. It makes her dizzy for a moment, but it also quiets her down. Reminds her what her job is, here: to take it.

Whatever her Alpha wants to give her.

“I started thinking about this the day we first met.” Ben’s hand moves away from her gland, and Rey whimpers in protest—so loud—as he straightens her and pulls her back into his chest. “Shh. It’s fine, sweetheart.” His palm massages her tummy for a moment, a soothing, incongruously innocent gesture. Rey wonders if he can feel himself, anchored deep inside her, filling her to bursting. Her vision loses focus, and she has to close her eyes.

“Do you remember? You were talking about Luke. I kept imagining it. Bending you over and doing you in the hallway. Show that other Alpha to keep the fuck away from my mate.”

That other—Ah. Poe. He’s talking about Poe. This is important, and Rey should be paying attention, but it would be so much easier to keep up with what Ben is saying if his fingertips weren’t circling around her clit. His other hand is on her breast, worrying at a nipple, small pinches followed by kind caresses, to make it all better. The stimulation is just too much. It’s coming from everywhere. Ben has to stop. Give Rey a break. Let her come down from this high, or she’s going to—

“I went home that night, with your smell stuck in my nose, and I made myself come thinking about biting you. Hadn’t done that in—God, months. Years.” He has angled his head a little, and his breath is warming the gland on her neck, and it all feels so right, so perfect—Rey’s cunt is even tighter, even wetter as it grips around Ben’s cock. He sucks in a breath. “I didn’t last a fucking minute, Rey. I never do.”

Rey moans, a longing, shocked sound. You should have done it. Should have bitten me then, her brain screams, though it’s an absurd thought. She’d have been outraged. She would have killed him. Reported him. Right?

Maybe. Impossible to say at the moment.

“I would have loved that,” she gasps out, and that, that she is certain of. “Whatever you want, Alpha.” It’s not Rey talking anymore, not quite—it’s that Omega part inside her, the one that she used to never let out. The one Rey despised, once upon a time. The one who’s running the show, now.

“Rey. You are so… I cannot believe you let me fuck you.”

And yet. She does. He’s sliding inside her right now, the friction equally terrible and delicious. She can feel the weight of his balls against her cunt, and he’s so deep that he’s grazing her cervix now, making her eyes cross.

“I cannot believe you’re going to let me mate you.”

All of this, it feels more talkative than Ben usually is. In bed, and out. Ben, who so clearly loves her more than anything else in the world, but hasn’t told her yet and likely never will; who never volunteers anything about himself; who is obviously terrified of losing her, and yet has been forcing himself to give Rey outs from this relationships for the past year. Ben and his lingering touches he can never quite control, Ben and the unsaid behind his silences, Ben and the beautiful, heartbreaking way he looks at her when he thinks she isn’t noticing.

Memorize this moment, Rey tells herself. You will want to remember, later. But it’s impossible, her mind spinning until she’s dizzy with it, and—maybe it doesn’t matter.

Maybe it’s okay.

“This is forever.” It should scare her. Make her balk. But it only feels comforting.

Good. Finally. “Yes. Alpha.”

Then, his attention shifts down, and his hips stutter a bit. Simultaneously reverent and filthy, the way he licks across her mating gland. The way he sucks at it, as if to leave a mark, it sounds so wet, almost as wet as the noise of him sliding in and out of her. He’ll break the skin, any moment now, and Rey has never, ever wanted anything more than this.

Than living up to his expectations, and being good for him.

Ben’s thrusts slow down, and his knot is—there is always an instant, short and sweet, when she thinks that it’s too much. That it’s not going to work. To fit. That moment before the pleasure kicks in in full, when Rey thinks that she might tear, when the fullness and the pressure become unbearable. This time, though, this time that moment lasts longer, and Ben’s knot feels fatter than ever before, and Rey fears that maybe they’re not compatible after all, that maybe—

Ben cups Rey’s cheek to turn her head, and then waits for her to open her eyes. “Okay?”

“It’s just—so big,” Rey manages.

There is nothing Ben can do about it, but he wraps his arms around her waist, and digs his fingers into her skin, and with his lips pressed against her temple he waits. And waits, vibrating with the tension of holding back. And then Rey arches her back a little, rolls her hips, and—something inside her seems to become pliant, to give in, and Ben comes to be fully seated inside her. Locked.

Complete, this is what she is. Complete.

They both hiss at the burn, Rey because it’s too tight—perfect—and Ben because… who knows why, but his hands are getting hungrier, careless, cupping her breasts as he molds Rey to himself.

“You’re so good. I just want to keep you here forever,” he pushes out, voice raspy against her hair. “Naked in this bed. To fuck you and mark you and take care of you. Maybe put a baby in you.”

Rey’s gland—her entire body is reduced to it. Tiny pulses of anticipations, connected with her cunt and clit, clenching and releasing. And maybe it works, maybe Ben’s pulled to it, too, because he pushes her forward just a bit, just until her weight shifts, just so that his mouth is finally where it’s supposed to be.

“Fuck.”

Rey whines in response.

“Tell me yes. One more time.”

How is he still thinking? How is is he not— “Alpha, please—”

Many things happen. Rey’s orgasms blooms and crests. Her muscles squeeze Ben’s cock tight, even tighter than before, and through the blur of it she can feel Ben’s gasp, the sharp exhale scalding her gland as he begins coming inside her, long spurts that have her full and swollen in no time. And then. Then, it’s as if whatever has tethered him to this hopeless control of his for the past year abruptly strains and snaps and—he bites down.

Hard.

And deep.

He draws blood, and Rey—she tries not to scream, because she knows that he’ll think he’s hurt her, but the truth is that the sudden pleasure is terrifying, an instant flooding of every single one of her cells, and Ben is being—rough, maybe a little too rough in the way he tries to make even more room for himself inside her, in the way she’ll have purple bruises tomorrow, but Rey barely notices because her body is resplendent. Gleaming with ecstasy. The world whites out around the edges and she’s whispering, “Ben. Alpha. Thank you.” The words are slurred.

Her mind goes blank with pleasure. This is why they call it a claiming, then. How appropriate. Her smell, it’s already changing. Into something else. Something more right, something—Ben. Ben.

Everything is Ben.

The sound he makes is punched out of him, and Rey can feel it, how stunned he is by all of this. He thought he knew, but this—this is not quite it. He is groaning through the haze of their pleasure, through the perfection of it. “It’s done,” he manages to say, and even though they’re spoken into the skin of Rey’s gland, it’s clear that the words are for himself.

It lasts—Rey doesn’t know how long it lasts. Just that it feels like a long time before Ben could conceivably pull out, and still he doesn’t. He eases Rey on the bed and angles her head until he can kiss her, and kiss her, and he continues kissing her for so long that his knot swells again, and her cunt is spasming, and—

The bed is a mess. Rey is a mess.

“Don’t move,” he tells her, as if Rey even wanted to. She feels anchored here, too full of everything, and pleasantly warm. An odd kind of warmth, coming from the inside. “Don’t move. Just… let me.”

Rey complies, happy and sated, tucked safely into the curve of his body. They’ve been like this before, probably more times that she can count, and yet it somehow feels more intimate now. Infinitely better.

Jess is right. It’s hormones, just hormones. Oxytocin. A lot of estrogens. Vasopressin. All of this, this… overwhelming sweetness between them, it boils down to displaced chemicals. Strings of letters and numbers that could be neatly written down on a legal notepad. How extraordinary, that a handful of middle school biology lessons translate into the two of them, lying in this bed.

Truly spectacular.

Ben seems equally dumbfounded, because his throat works as he swallows, and then his full lips tease the skin of her cheekbone. “You’re mine, then.” His words are dripping amazement, and satisfaction, and contentment, and—

What a supremely stupid, nonsensical, Alpha thing to say. People don’t belong to anyone. Omegas don’t belong to Alphas, mated or not.

Plus, he’d be hers just as much.

Rey smiles up at him as Ben pushed wet strands of hair away from her forehead. He wipes tears from her cheeks, while their sweat and Ben’s semen are already cooling on her skin. And yet he’s here with her. Keeping her warm.

“Yes.”

 

 

Ben halts a few steps before the entrance, brow creased in a frown.

“This place is in shambles.”

Rey wants to disagree, but it’s… sadly, a fact. “Mmm. Maybe we should donate?”

Ben nods. “Yes. Let’s. Let’s go home and check out their website, I’m sure they have instructions on how—”

“Nuh-uh.” Rey slides her fingers up his forearm and grips his elbow. “I’d say nice try, but it was actually pretty lazy of you. You can do better.”

“Better, like what?”

“I don’t know. Pretend your pager is beeping, maybe?”

Ben’s eyes widen and he immediately pats the back of his jeans. “Now that you mention it…”

“I checked the schedule. You’re not even on backup call.”

He curses under his breath. “I should have just put on Battlestar Galactica reruns. On a loop.”

“Oh, that would have been an excellent move. Next time, do that.” She takes Ben’s hand and tugs him through the old wooden door, towards the reception area. A woman, an older Beta, lifts her eyes from the book she’s reading and looks between the two of them, a slightly distrustful expression on her face.

“How may I help you?”

Rey simply smiles. Next to her, Ben sighs, but it’s a touch too theatrical to be taken seriously. His hand climbs up Rey’s spine and comes to rest on her scar—his favorite spot, these days. He looks at Rey with that perennially irritated expression of his, lips pursed, and—

Once upon a time, Rey thought this man obnoxious and insufferable. The worst. Now…

He’s still horrible. Terrible, really. But look at the two of them.

The universe works in such mysterious ways.

Ben sighs again, pulls Rey into his side, and turns to the woman behind the desk.

“Hi.” His tone is resigned, but he’s smiling. Just a little. The perfect amount. “My mate and I would like to adopt a kitten.”