No. No. Definitely no.
Rey Johnson sighs, and sets her phone down on the little table in her office break room. All around her, a low hum of conversation fills the wide, sunlit space, as her co-workers meet and chat and eat their lunches. She’d been working for Resistance Tech for a while; they were an up-and-coming software development company, and the job had been an amazing find for someone just coming out of her first tenuous experience with startups. Resistance was small, but growing rapidly. And they were out of their awkward startup phase, which meant that they had a great combination of clean work ethic, focused, competent management, plus kombucha taps in the break room.
Everyone was nice here, and all of her coworkers seemed perfectly normal, for the most part—most of her office was Betas, with a handful of other Omegas, like her, and even fewer Alphas—so why couldn’t she find a similarly normal Alpha when she needed one? Why were the suggested matches that came up on O-Match so… skeezy?
Prodding her spinach salad listlessly, Rey frowns. She has an app for her period, an app for her heat cycle, an app to help her match with clean, ostensibly normal, unmated Alphas in her area, and she still is shit out of luck.
Her heat was due in (she checked the pertinent app) three days, and it was looking like she was going to have to ride this one out on her own again. Literally.
Six or so months ago, Rey’d had to do just that. Her twice-a-year heats were fairly regular, thanks, in part, to the suppressants that helped regulate her normal reactive fluctuations. She would count down her little white pills, and then they’d run out, and then the heat would happen, regular as clockwork.
Centuries ago, before the advent of technology and medicine and science, Omegas and Alphas had been ruled by their biology, driven to mate and breed and bond against their better judgement. Pheromones governed behavior, or excused it, and left Omegas at the mercy of reactive biology; the strongest Alpha within range had the strongest claim over them. Wars had been fought, nations conquered, religions founded and altered, simply to explain away, or defer to, or moralize against pure, simple, biology.
Thankfully, the world was a little more enlightened now. At least, that was the theory, anyway.
Going at it alone—taking matters into her own hands, as it were—had been… well, bearable, but less than ideal.
When she’d first presented, back in high school, being an Omega hadn’t come as a shock. The blood tests were good these days, and the results were 99% reliable, and one of the few positive things about being surrendered to state guardianship at the age of five was that all her medical care was covered. So she’d received the two-page pamphlet sometime around the age of ten, gotten pulled out along with Rachel Wheaton and Merritt Andresson and Ami Esquivel for health class. The poor Alpha—there had only been one in her class of thirty-two—had taken his own, much larger booklet, with all the solemnity that a spotty, pre-pubescent Alpha could muster.
What was his name, anyway?
Rey picks up her phone again, switching to the O-Match app, hoping that she didn’t see a familiar face there.
Familiar is not what she was looking for. The less she knew about her prospective heat hookup, the better. Because the criteria went like this:
- No insane political rants on profile page;
- No weird Alpha-first ideological rants, either;
- No mate (that, perhaps, should’ve been higher on the list; the last time she’d found a heat match, the Alpha had started sobbing about his pregnant mate and Rey had consolingly moonwalked the fuck out of there);
- A recent, clean medical test;
- And willing to split the cost of a hotel room.
Really, it wasn’t that much to ask, was it?
“Hey, any luck?” Rose Tico slides into the seat opposite, putting down her own salad and bottle of iced tea.
Rey looks up, and makes a face. “No. And why do Alphas think I want to know their SoundCloud links? Why are so many of them amateur DJs? That’s literally not what I’m here for, honestly...”
Rose laughs, and uses her fork to mix in the dressing and toppings. “I’m sorry. Ugh, dating sucks so much, I can’t even imagine trying to… you know.”
Rey stifles a laugh as Rose blushes; a pair of their Beta co-workers had walked by, and like most people, discussing an Omega’s heat cycle in an office setting wasn’t exactly something that Rose was super comfortable doing. But Rey didn’t mind. It wasn’t like she was advertising her designation, or posting to the company-wide Slack channel: “Anyone in possession of a knot, please meet me in conference room seven on Thursday afternoon, thanks.”
The company she worked for was progressive, but not that progressive.
And besides, there were only four Alphas in the entire company, and none of them were in any way available, or of interest to her: one was the CEO, and mated, two were in upper management—which meant that technically, she couldn’t fraternize with them as per company policy, even if they hadn’t both been mated—and the fourth was… not a good candidate, either. For reasons.
Rey knew better than to fish in the company pool. And it really didn’t matter if that particular Alpha was tall, dark, unmated, and hadn’t ever sent her his SoundCloud link, Ben Solo was completely not an option.
Not for this heat, not ever.
Rey takes a bite of her salad.
“So Finn was thinking that he’d look for a little B&B, for next weekend,” Rose was saying, incorporating the little scattered tomato bits across her greens. “And he found this really cute place, but then the site said the owners have a cat.”
“Ah,” Rey says, chewing her bite. Finn was a little allergic, which they’d found out when they’d moved in together a month ago and tried to cat-sit for Finn’s co-worker, Poe. Beebee, a ginger tabby with more personality than sense, and driven Finn up the wall.
“So, it’s back to the drawing board for that,” Rose concludes. “I told him, we really don’t have to go anywhere, we can just stay in…”
Rose takes a bite of her salad and shrugs. Rey nods, like she understands, when in reality, she had no real way to relate at all. Her longest relationship had been with her Hitachi; staying in, or going out, or celebrating anniversaries… that wasn’t for her.
Yet another way that the life of an Omega—even a modern Omega, with apps and opportunities and nothing, really, holding her back—set her apart from everyone else, it seemed.
Compared to Betas, both Alphas and Omegas were rare. Omegas were maybe… a quarter of the population, and Alphas were even less than that. Finding a good Alpha? One who would actually make a good partner in more ways than just biology? It was impossible. Even for a one-heat stand. Maybe that was the problem; her standards were just too high.
For Rose and Finn, there were no judgements, no pressures. They could just… be together. They weren’t controlled by heats or ruts or biological imperatives.
Rose chatted happily about anniversary plans and dream vacations, and then the topic moved to work and the new-hires, and somewhere in between her last bite of hard-boiled egg and her last drink of iced tea, Rey feels a prickly of awareness tug at her senses.
She looks up; immediately, Rose stops. Even if she couldn’t sense it, or smell the scent of him, or feel the reaction of her own body to his proximity, Rose was still her friend, and she knew, by now, that there was really only one person in the office who elicited that reaction in Rey.
“It’s fine,” Rey says, looking back down at her salad before Ben Solo catches her staring.
She didn’t want to give him the wrong impression. Especially now, so close to her heat.
Ben Solo: Unmated Alpha, wunderkind developer, and noted cantankerous asshole, was not on her list. The idea of having to take his knot—and at this, Rey shivered, in a way that had nothing to do with the air-conditioning—and then walk by his standing desk on Monday was enough to make her toss her very healthy greens right back up into the bowl. He had a temper, a glare that could melt the carpet from the cube walls, and a scent that always seemed to have a sour, chemical undercurrent to it. Probably from his blockers, because most other Alphas had a mellow, not unpleasant scent.
“You know,” Rose says conversationally, “I honestly can’t decide if he’s weirdly handsome, or just handsomely weird.”
“I have no option either way,” Rey says, only a touch too hastily.
“Mmhmm,” Rose says.
Rey colors. “Just because he’s an Alpha—“
“Oh, I know,” her friend quickly adds. “You don’t have to explain it to me. I’m just saying…”
Rey laughs. In her mind, Ben Solo was neither of those things. Alright, it was true that his face was… it was definitely a face, with planes and angles and features that seemed contradictory, but somehow… worked… but that wasn’t the point.
Again, that sense of being watched flooded her veins. Rey clears her throat. “I’ll be fine this weekend. It’s not that bad, really.”
Rose looks at her, swiftly concealing a sympathetic expression. “I really wish I could help.”
“No offense, but you’re lacking some pretty essential equipment—“
“ Not like that!” Rose gasps.
Rey grins at her. Female Alphas were incredibly rare, but even if Rose had been one, it wouldn’t have been that helpful; Rey was, sadly, heterosexual.
“I’ll figure it out,” Rey says, picking up her trash and rising from the table. “I’ve got to get to a meeting in five.”
“Good luck,” Rose replies.
Rey gives her friend a little salute. They both knew she’d need all the luck she could manage.
“That’s not part of what we agreed—”
“Metrics says we need it by—”
“Then they shouldn’t be over-promising to the clients and expecting us to suddenly fill the gap overnight!” Ben explodes. “Fuck, these morons don’t even stop to ask us if we can meet—”
“It was in the brief two weeks ago!” Taslin replies, with—Rey privately thought—a significant amount of chutzpah for a Beta facing down an Alpha who was at least a foot taller than him.
“Then they should’ve sent that brief to us! Because it isn’t anywhere in—”
“Can you reasonably have something by next Wednesday?” Kaydel, the team lead, cuts across both of them. “Whether or not it was in the brief, is it reasonable to get something in the works by next week?”
Rey watches as Ben stills, and seems to force himself to relax back into his chair on the other side of their meeting-room desk. He nods.
“Good.” Kaydel makes a note on the notepad in front of her, looking over at Taslin. “And can you tell metrics that they’re going to have to adjust their timeline on the client side?”
“They’re not going to like it,” he says, scowling.
But Ben interrupts him: “Then they should’ve—”
Rey feels a shiver go down her spine at the look Ben fixes on her. It’s over in a flash—just a surge of raw, angry power—but it’s enough to send a jolt of awareness down to her core. Alphas didn’t like to be told what to do. They didn’t like to be bossed around, controlled, conquered.
Then, the anger on his face melts away. Back to the usual look of mild annoyance he wore. He nodded. And Rey knows, she just knows that nobody else in the room can feel it, but his scent fucking spikes then, even though the set of his shoulders, the carefully-neutral expression, would’ve told every Beta in the room otherwise.
He’s angry. Rey can smell it as keenly as burnt popcorn in a microwave—except… Ben’s scent never was that disgusting. Under the sharp, chemical scent of the blockers she assumed he used, it was actually quite nice, more of a… burnt-sugar, caramel-coffee scent. Somewhere on the border between dark sweetness and sweet darkness. Weird, Rey thinks. The chemical scent had been fading these last few days, at least to her. Rey crosses her legs, hoping against hope that her own oncoming heat wasn’t what was triggering his more forceful levels of rage today. It wasn’t like it was her fault. Her suppressants kept her heats regular, and they kept them to three days, tops; they regulated her scent and made it so that she didn’t attract the kind of attention that Omegas never wanted to attract, except in romance novels and certain genres of porn.
Rey shifts in her seat again.
Now is not the time to be chasing down that particular train of thought.
The meeting continues. Across the table, Ben Solo’s scowl deepens. His frown was the stuff of legends, and his temper was well-known and quietly regarded as an ‘Alpha thing,’ even though the other Alphas that Rey had encountered never even began to reach the levels Ben seemed to constantly be simmering at.
He resolutely does not look at her, either.
Good , Rey thinks, as she packs up her laptop and stands at the end of the meeting, half-distracted, still, by his scent and his scowl. You just keep ignoring me, and I’ll keep ignoring you. We’ll be right as rain so long as we don’t change a thing.
That evening, when she heads for the elevators, she sees Ben walking towards her, head down, frowning. His bag is slung over his shoulder, and his jacket is on—and the moment he sees her, waiting in front of the elevator, he diverts course, and heads for the stairs.
What an asshole, Rey thinks.
It’s definitely not the first time he’s done that, although this is, perhaps, the most obvious. Who understands Alphas, anyway; they’re mysteries, wrapped in enigmas, dusted with hormones and deep-fried in a vat of unquenchable rage.
And Ben, he’s a classic, textbook example. Rey doesn’t need his intensity in her life.
Rey was quite happy to steer clear of him, as long as he wants to be like… well, like that .
And he’d been like that ever since she hired on.
Always testy around her, always scowling, stomping, difficult. But he produced excellent code, so… maybe management was sympathetic.
Then again, maybe he just had someone’s incriminating photographs, and was holding them over their heads, who knew.
Rey takes the elevator down, the numbers ticking by as the metal box descends through the heart of the building, wondering at the fact that Ben Solo seems to be more willing to take twenty-seven flights of stairs instead of sharing an elevator with her. Either that or he’d just gone back to his desk to grab something, and planned to wait for the next one.
But Ben Solo is… dramatic. It’s maybe something about his Alpha nature. He’s exacting, talented—and he knows it. He barely restrains himself from announcing that he ought to be team lead, and everyone can see it; Rey hated that kind of shit, especially as a woman in tech. She respected Kaydel, had no problems with a Beta woman being head of their team. It grated on her nerves every time Ben said something, every time he spoke at all. She got this little… frisson, she supposed, although that wasn’t quite the right word for it. There’s something about the way he carries himself that made her feel as if he’s Lord Mansplain, come to condescend to the lesser beings and gift them with his Alpha wisdom.
Not that he actually does that. But still.
He left notes on her pull requests, correcting this, streamlining this…
Maybe his notes were right. Maybe. Most of the time—but that’s not the point.
Rey’s allowed one irrational dislike in this universe. It’s her God-given right, inalienable, and all that.
So no, Ben Solo isn’t an option.
“Hold the elevator, please,” Ben says, as he all but runs for it, sliding in just as Rey extends her arm to stop the sensor.
Well. This is new.
“Didn’t feel like taking the stairs today?” she snipes.
But then she turns to glance up at him, and there’s something in the expression he’s wearing—the dark glint in his eyes, the hesitant flush to his cheeks, the clench of muscle in his jaw—that makes her turn away, and halt her tongue.
The doors close, and the elevator begins its usual grinding descent.
Thirty-seven, Thirty-six, Thirty-five—
Rey hoists the strap of her laptop bag a little higher on her shoulder, rubbing at her neck, where her scent gland is just beginning the faintest twinges of the signal of her oncoming heat, which is due to start tomorrow. She’s tired, ready to go home and enjoy the weekend as best she can, all things considered.
Thirty-two, Thirty-one, Thirty—
Ben coughs, and shifts a little away from her, getting out his phone and fiddling with it. Damn, it’s unfair that he should smell so good. Rey takes a dangerous breath of him in, long and slow. This can’t hurt her, she thinks; she isn’t the first Omega in the history of the world to casually enjoy the scent of an Alpha, when enclosed in a small space with him for only a temporary moment. That burnt-sugar scent of him expands as it fills her—and isn’t that just the metaphor for everything she wishes she had this weekend—and Rey very nearly groans at just how fucking good he smells. It’s black coffee at a diner at one in the morning, rich and roasted and dark and sweet. It’s the lacy-crisp top of a treacle tart, molten and buttery beneath it. His scent is just… sinful.
If only Rey could have the scent, and the knot, and literally nothing else of him. That would be ideal.
Twenty-three, twenty-two, twenty-one—
This elevator is taking forever, Rey thinks. Her belly grumbles, eager for dinner, the pre-heat calorie binge urging her to go order enough takeout that the delivery guy will definitely include multiple packs of cutlery and a side order of judgement when he realizes there’s one person in her apartment.
Eighteen, seventeen, sixteen—
C’mon, c’mon, Rey thinks, glancing over at her dour companion, whose expression has closed off completely. He isn’t even looking at her in the mirrored walls of the elevator. He’s just looking down, at his shoes, steadily breathing in and out about as shallowly as he can.
Thirteen, twelve, eleven—
The elevator grinds to a halt.
Oh no, Rey thinks.
This cannot be happening.
This cannot be happening, this right here, mostly because it’s the plot to fully 45% of all of the Omega romance novels she’s okay-maybe-sort-of looked at in the store and has on her nightstand. Trapped together, snowed-in, stuck in a car under an overpass during a tornado, locked in together in a bakery, trapped in a museum after hours... It’s such a cliche, and she cannot, absolutely cannot have it happen to her.
Wide-eyed, Rey looks around the elevator, tucking herself into the corner opposite the Alpha whose scent is currently spiking, scenting the air with panic and rage and disbelief. If she’s suddenly overwhelmed by skittish Omega behaviors—fear of close-in spaces, worry about being overpowered, instinctively deferring to an Alpha in closest proximity—he looks even worse.
She stares at him, and, a second later, as if he can feel her eyes on his skin, Ben glares back at her.
“Someone will come, right?” Rey says. “It’ll start back up, or… someone will…”
Ben jolts forward, pressing the red Alarm button on the panel. Absolutely nothing happens, and Rey thinks, alright, maybe it’s an alarm that someone else can hear. This is a big building, with security guards downstairs, a maintenance crew, someone will call.
Ben jabs the Alarm button again, for good measure, and then fumbles at his cell phone, pulling it out of his jacket pocket. The growl of frustration he makes is almost enough to make Rey feel weak in the knees, and she hates, absolutely hates, that her body has this keen of a reaction to him.
She absolutely, positively, will not let her life turn into a cliche.
Her heat is due tomorrow. Not today, and she—she forcibly has to pull her hand away from the seam of her jeans when Ben growls like that again.
“No signal,” he says, looking back at her and—mercifully—not catching where her hand just was. “What about you?”
“What?” Rey says. “Oh, right.”
She finds her own cell phone, thumbs the screen lock, tries to lift it up in the vain hope that the signal will increase. Nothing.
She tells Ben as much.
At this, he growls again—her body cannot handle this, she just can’t—and fucking throws his phone at the wall. It shatters, little bits scattering everywhere, leaving a dent behind in the glass. It’s a wonder it, too, doesn’t shatter.
Instinctively, Rey cowers away from the force of this rage. She’s angry, too; the last place she wants to be is trapped on an elevator with the Alpha she wants to eat-slash-murder, but there’s no need to get all—
Ben sets his backpack down, now, crouching as he yanks the zipper open. She watches as he pulls out a little black pouch, like a… maybe like a testing pouch. Is he diabetic? He just opens it, and instead of a testing kit and strips there’s a row of vials, tucked securely into elastic straps. His hands tear at the vials, pulling the threads out as he readies one of them in shaking hands.
“What are you…”
He cracks the vial, bringing it up to his nose, breathing it in with a wince. Instantly, Rey recoils. The scent is sharp, chemical, just awful. Like someone’s just dumped bleach into a perfect apple pie, ruining it. She crouches down, too, back sliding along the mirror, as the foul scent fills the air. Covering over his.
And, she realizes, covering over hers.
Ben makes a soft, needy whine as he forces himself to breathe it in.
An emergency blocker, Rey thinks. That calms her, despite the sour scent and the wrongness of it. Good. She can think a little clearer, now that his scent isn’t covering her like a comforting blanket.
Then she looks back up at him, and she goes absolutely still. The realization hits her, as she takes in all the signs that are waving in front of her, like a big old red flag. The flushed cheeks, the anger, the—he’s in rut. Or very near to it. That’s what’s going on here.
This is worse.
So much worse.
Because every instinct in her body, every cell in her being, every pulse of blood in her veins, is telling her to submit to him. To soothe him with herself, to let him take her, claim her—
It’s only her willpower—and the sharp, unpleasant scent of the blockers—that keep Rey in her own mind at a time like this. She is no Omega to be tamed and mounted. No creature to be possessed, no balm to soothe an Alpha’s moods.
Thank god for those fucking blockers.
Rey is wedged into the corner, holding her laptop bag in front of her as if it would be any kind of a barrier. And diagonally from her, sitting under the panel of buttons, Ben slumps back, too, the vial still clutched in his hand. He looks up at her, fear and worry and an apology in his eyes.
“I’m sorry,” he says. “I didn’t—”
“It’s okay,” Rey says. “It’s okay—it’s just biology.”
Ben takes a hesitant breath. His shoulders slump down, weary, utterly defeated.
“I won’t hurt you,” he says softly. “I won’t.”
“I know,” Rey replies. And she does, somehow.
Nobody comes for them.
He prods the Alarm button again, waits by the speaker mesh at the bottom of the panel, wipes his face with his hand. Their scents in the air are cut through with the blocker’s acrid tang, and Rey tries to think of something, anything, that will keep her from reverting back to her animal hindbrain.
“Tell me something,” Rey says desperately. “What are you working on right now? I saw your PR on my—”
“I don’t want to talk about work,” he growls. And then, looking up at her, his expression softens. He understands, then, that she’s trying to distract him. Maybe trying to distract herself, too. “Sorry. I just…”
“When I was eight, I broke my kneecap when I fell off of my bike,” Rey says, grasping for the first thing that comes to mind, desperate for a feeling that isn’t fear or extreme arousal. “I was taking it down a hill, and I couldn’t stop very well yet, and I turned into a gravel road and just skidded right out…”
She mimes it with her hands, lifting them for him to see, making a psheeww noise with her mouth, as if that’s in any way similar to the sound of a bike on gravel.
He blinks at her. “Which… which one?”
“Oh,” Rey says, and she points at her left knee. This one.”
“Mm,” he says, and looks down at his waist. She can see his shoulders rising and falling. See the vial still clasped in his hand.
“Wh-what about you?” Rey continues, her voice a little higher than normal. “Have you ever broken a bone?”
“No,” he says. “No, I… no. Well, one time, at scout camp, I—”
“You went to scout camp?” Rey almost feels like laughing at this. The very idea that the sullen, long-haired, towering tree of a man across from her could’ve ever been a child—and a child in a scouting uniform, too, with merit badges and… probably a cute little bolo tie of some kind—is just delightful. There’s something about him that makes Rey think he just arrived, fully-formed, like he sprung from the head of Athena or something. She can’t even begin to picture him as a child.
“Yes,” he says, and although his voice sounds guarded, there’s the very faintest of quirks on his lips. “We were supposed to be hiking, and I snuck out of the group and fell into a ravine.”
Rey does laugh at this.
“I was stuck there for two hours—why are you laughing?”
“It’s funny,” Rey says. “I mean, it’s funny because you were found. Did you have merit badges.”
“I spent the entire remainder of that camp earning as many of them as I could,” Ben stiffly replies, but the corner of his mouth is still twitching at her laughter. “Fish and wildlife management, Cooking, Chess—”
“And you never fell into a ravine again,” Rey has to wipe tears from her eyes at the look on his face.
“No,” he says.
It shouldn’t be funny.
But it’s like everything is heightened, in the swirl of emotion. She wants to laugh, and sob, and scream, and tear her clothing off, and she knows that this distraction will only last for moments longer.
And the elevator still isn’t moving.
She takes a deep breath, which is—which is the wrong thing to do, because holy fuck on a stick he smells good. Rey realizes she’s staring at him, at his flush-stained cheeks, his full, parted mouth, his wanting eyes, and she looks down at her knees, drawing them up even closer to her chest, wrapping her arms around them.
Distraction , Rey thinks. I need a distraction.
She swallows thickly, wets her lips with her tongue, tries not to think about how good he smells, how perfect it would be if she could just… cross that divide, that chasm between them that can’t be more than a meter and a half of slightly-dingy elevator carpeting. She could just… bury her face in his neck, taste his scent, sweet and untarnished by the blockers, direct from the source. She could let him touch her, command her, claim her...
No no no no no, not here, not like this, not him—
“Ben,” she says softly, her pulse thundering in her ears, her pre-heat hormones running wild, wracking her body with feverish chills. He looks like he feels even worse. The blocker vial is crushed in his left hand, and she can see the way his chest expands with each breath, his shoulders rising and falling in steady, urgent cadence.
“Ben, I can’t—”
“Don’t look,” he says, fumbling with the fly of his jeans, dropping the vial to the elevator floor. “Rey, don’t look at me.”
“Okay,” she says, turning away, hiding her eyes, biting her lip at the way his scent increases. Why has it—Oh. Oh. He must have his fly down, now, Rey realizes. He must have his cock out, and she knows that Alphas in rut get… they get aroused, painfully so, and they are driven to… to fuck, to claim, to mate.
She’s just sitting here, not even a meter away from him, and he’s making these low, desperate noises, muffling them like he’s terrified of her, not the other way around.
“Ben,” she says softly, feeling a horrifyingly wonderful throb of need between her own legs. “D-don’t look at me either, alright?”
“Fuck,” is his only reply.
She can hear his movements now, the sound of fabric moving against fabric, the sound of his breath. It’s such a filthy, impossible collection of noises, and everything within her wants her to not only look at him, but to reach for him, to get on her hands and knees for him, to submit completely…
Her scent, too, must flare to life, because he groans again the moment she adjusts her legs. Her hand is tight and trapped beneath her jeans, between her underwear and her sopping-wet cunt. Rey curls her fingers into herself, needing a fullness, hours before a heat and needy, so needy.
Quickly , she thinks. Just get it over with, it’s just biology …
He growls when he breathes the scent of her in; Rey whines, lifting her other hand to cover her mouth. Desperate to come, desperate to come quietly .
He could just turn, and he could have her.
Hold her down on the floor, and fuck her, bite at her skin, break her completely. He could taste her—blood and sweat and come—he could claim her.
“Shit,” Rey whimpers, barely muffled by her hand.
Below, her two middle fingers work a tight, sharp circle on her clit, working her up to a peak that feels already as if it will shatter her completely.
He could have her, and she wouldn’t fight. Couldn’t fight—not with the way the edges of her heat work up into her, licking at her veins, pulling on her higher brain function. She would want it. Need it, even. She would let him do anything to her. Everything.
“Rey,” he says, his voice low and smoky and raspy with want. “Rey, fuck, please— ”
“Ben,” Rey hears herself reply.
“I want to taste you—” he says, and like that, Rey comes.
It hits her like a stab in the gut, the sound of his voice, the force of her pleasure, and almost feels as painful. Pleasure shakes her, shatters her, leaves her breathless and keening in the mirrored, too-bright elevator. His scent is too strong, and the blocker either has worn off or doesn’t even matter anymore, because he’s all she can scent as she tries to steady her heaving breath.
A gush of slick between her legs soaks into the denim, and Rey forces her hand away from her wet, tender skin. She could come again, but that would utterly defeat the purpose of this indulgence. She could trigger her heat like that, and that’s the last thing she wants right now.
Something tugs at her. Something, some invisible thread, that pulls her attention over to look at him. And she knows that she said she wouldn’t. She knows that he… that he asked her not to watch.
But the punch of arousal at the sight isn’t enough to make her turn away.
Ben looks up at her.
His cheeks are flushed, and his mouth is slack, and he’s tugging on his cock, one knee bent so she can see him, she can see —
“I’m sorry,” she says, and turns away, even though she wants, more than anything, to watch him come.
“Rey,” he grinds out. “Rey, please. Let me taste you. Just once. Just once. Please.”
She pulls her hand from her jeans, sits up on her heels and turns back, watching him, her heart pounding in her throat. Slowly, she extends her hand to him, drawn in by that power, that magnetism.
From the wild look in his eyes, Rey thinks, maybe he’s not immune to that pull either.
Because he leans forward, an awkward pose that ought to be laughable, but instead is one of the sexiest things she’s ever seen. He’s on his knees for her, one hand on his cock, one on the floor, and she raises her hand to his mouth, whimpering softly as his plush lips close around the dripping digits.
He sucks on them, making a low noise, a soft growl that reverberates through his body and strikes at hers like it’s the resonant frequency of her soul—Rey whimpers, her eyes caught up in his— and like that, he spills all over his hand, teeth nipping at her fingers, tongue swirling around her skin. Growling, grunting out his release with a noise that hits her in some primal, uninhibited portion of her brain. She whimpers as the suction of his mouth increases, feels his tongue sweep along her skin, sucking every last drop of her down as his come spurts out in thick, white ropes.
It is in that moment when the elevator begins to move.
It’s like in a fairy tale, Rey thinks, panic coursing through her as she struggles back to her feet, hands on the fly of her jeans. This is when the spell breaks. When the moment ends.
She turns away, wiping her hands on her pants, donning her jacket even though she’s roasting; she knows what she must smell like, now. How sharply her scent must be radiating from her body, if the scent of his is any indication.
Ben, too, fumbles for the pieces of broken vial, shoves it in his bag with the still-open kit, tucks himself back together. The elevator grinds slowly downwards; Rey sees the number change.
They say absolutely nothing.
As if silence is enough to cover over what’s just occured.
As if ignoring it will make it go away.
(It’s not. It’s definitely not going away.)
Rey knows that as long as she lives, she’ll never be able to get the sight of him out of her mind. Hunched, desperate, fist working on his cock, eyes pleading. His lips, wrapped around her fingers.
Coming for her.
Her Alpha, so helpless, so ready—
The elevator stops again, and Rey’s eyes flick up to the number on the panel. Third floor. The doors shudder, then open, and she’s never been more relieved to see the building maintenance folks, or firefighters, in her entire life.
“Everyone alright in here?” the maintenance worker—who Rey sees is wearing a lanyard with an ID badge which proclaims his name to be Steve—says.
Rey nods. But she can’t even form a reply before Ben is darting out the doorway, his long legs practically in a sprint to get away from the elevator.
To get away from her.
Stupid, stupid biology.
“Yeah,” Rey says, her voice shaky. “Yeah, no, we’re fine.”
The firefighters and Steve the maintenance guy are all Betas, Rey can tell. They know that there’s something up with the increase in scent, but they probably can’t tell what just happened. God, she hopes they can’t tell.
“Ma’am, do you require any medical assistance?” one of the firefighters asks her. His gaze is kind, and surely with his medical training, even a Beta could tell…
She shakes her head. There’s nothing that they can help her with.
What the hell just happened? Rey doesn’t want to think about it.
She heads home, and strips down, and stands under the shower until the water runs cold. Her body is racing, her thoughts hazy and disoriented. Her skin feels too tight, and her body feels… needy. Desperate.
Her heat has started, then. And she’s alone, again. Like always. With nothing but the memory of Ben Solo’s eyes, his mouth, his scent, to tide her over.
It’s not enough.
As it turns out, there’s no instructional guide that covers ‘so you’ve just rubbed one out in front of your unmated, in-rut, Alpha co-worker, in an elevator, and let him taste your come.’
No FAQ, no… health guide, nothing. Nada.
Funny thing, that.
Rey desperately wants to laugh at this, at the utter absurdity of it, but she’s currently laying on her side in the bathtub in her apartment, floating in cool water, trying not to cry from the needy, feverish chills that are wracking her body.
It sucks to have her body taken away from her, if only for a few days. It sucks that those handful of days seem like an eternity. It sucks that something so wonderful and pleasurable as sex can turn into this raging inferno inside of her body, that her entire consciousness seems like it’s been hijacked by a tiny, horny, evil jockey, who wants nothing more than to ride her like a show pony over to Ben’s place, so he can help her out, he’d help her, he’d be so good to her, he’d give her what she needed, what she craved, he’d—
Rey whimpers. She drags her right hand up from between her legs, where she’d been rocking slowly against it; even after the water, the soap, the shampoo from when she’d washed her hair after work last night, his scent still lingers. There, on the very tips of her fingers, where he’d tasted her.
There’s a molecule of him remaining, and the Omega inside of her wants to consume it. Hell, the Omega inside of her wants the Alpha inside of her too, apparently.
Isn’t that what all of this boils down to?
Rey takes her fingers away from her lips, and presses her eyes shut as the heat rises.
She can get through this, and she will get through this. She’ll conquer it the same way she’s done in the past: a tried-and-true cycle of vigorous masturbation, cold showers, netflix, and trying to catch a few minutes of sleep. And she’s already in step two of this cycle, since the cramps low in her belly and in her lower back woke her at approximately the ass-crack of dawn with her hand between her legs and the sheets wet beneath her.
Time for Netflix.
She’s definitely going to drain the water and stand up.
Okay, any time now.
Rey sighs, and eases over onto her back, pressing her spine down into the textured bottom of the tub. Her nipples stand out in little peaks above the water, and her hands search down, down, between her legs, where she’s aching and empty.
With the faintest taste of him on her tongue—or perhaps, it’s just the memory—Rey gives herself over to instinct. It takes almost nothing to bring herself off like this, in the cradle of the cool water, with her body already inflamed and swollen and needy.
She slides two fingers in, then adds a third, pressing up and against her walls as she rubs tight circles around her clit. There’s a vibrator and a selection of dildos and plugs in her bedroom, and eventually she knows she’ll need them, too, but she’s so overwhelmed by the memory of Ben, hunched over, working at his cock, looking at her like he… like he needed her, like she was the only one who could save him from himself.
It’s all she needs, really, to tip herself over and pour herself out into a nice, slow, rolling orgasm, right there in the cool water that her body is rapidly heating.
Catching her breath, Rey slowly slides her fingers out. She feels cold now, which is… good, all things considered. It means she’s bought herself just a few moments of time, a few precious minutes where everything is normal again.
Oh how quickly it fades.
Because Rey has to pause three times in the middle of one Netflix-recommended period drama, just to deal with the fire in her veins, and it ought to be a boner-killer to be watching a show where one of the leads looks entirely too much like Taslin… but it’s not him she’s thinking of, when she comes.
It’s a pair of pretty eyes. Dark ones, ringed with a lighter brown, changeable in the light. It’s the way his dark hair fell in front of his face, veiling and revealing his desperation. It’s his scent, breaking through the chemicals and covering her, filling her. It’s a full mouth, expressive and… and wrapped around her fingers. Calling out for her, begging for a taste. Rey’s not super into that, and especially not when she’s in heat, but for him… it’s easy enough to imagine what he’d do, to taste her again.
(Never mind that he, too, was acting based on instinct. Never mind that she knows he’d never let himself be cornered like that again, let alone take it farther. That doesn’t matter. She feels it anyway, and lets the mental picture unwind.)
It’s like he’s written on her veins, like he’s inside of her, every part of her but the one that matters.
Rey endures the remainder of her heat, and it lasts for the usual four days, tapering off to a weary soreness by Thursday. She digs through her fridge, pulls out the takeaway leftovers, and sleeps for twelve hours that night.
It’s not great.
But it’s bearable.
Rey thinks back to her first day on the job with Resistance Tech.
She’d known her resume had been… unorthodox, to put it kindly. But the recruiter had urged her to go in regardless, so she’d braced herself for yet another disappointing, bland interview, seated across the desk from a firing squad of tech dudebros who were all too eager to use her resume as nerf-gun target practice.
Instead, she’d been welcomed into the office with a smiling group of employees, seen to a round table with comfortable chairs, and asked very tech-specific questions such as, if she had to pick a patronus, would it be golang gopher or the docker whale, and why?
After the initial getting-to-know-you had been completed, the questions had indeed covered the aspects that would be more pertinent to the job. Rey had allowed herself to become excited about it at that point, growing more animated as she explained past projects, troubleshooting old code, working and re-working details until they were polished up and perfect. They’d already looked through her github and seen what she can do, and the questions reflected that. It almost seemed too good to be true.
Then, the bombshell.
“We just want you to know that right now, you are far and away our most qualified candidate, and we’d love to have you join the team,” her final, solo interviewer, a soft-spoken, lavender-haired woman in her mid-fifties had said. “And I also wanted you to know that your name was given to us through a program called Omega Connect. It’s an initiative to recruit and retain more Omegas in the tech sector. Particularly Omega Women.”
Rey tries to hide her recoil from this; she knows, and can sense, that it’s well-intentioned, but anything that even remotely smacks of an inclusion initiative or special help for Omegas takes her instantly back to the frustration of dealing with similarly well-intentioned programs all throughout her life. Like at university, for example, when word had gotten out about her scholarships (which she’d earned, fair and square, designation notwithstanding) and a group of Beta guys on her floor had taken to blaring the Top Gun theme at her every time she walked to her room in some kind of weird retaliation. Rey hadn’t figure out the connection until she’d heard them, one day, say that they felt ‘the need… the need to breed…’ with a pointed leer in her direction.
Oh so original.
Curiously, she’d only really ever felt threatened or unsafe around guys like that—Beta guys, with something to prove.
Rey had felt all of this in an instant, and the disappointment must’ve been clear in her eyes, and in her scent, because the interviewer had paused, and waited.
Like she understood.
Rey had taken a breath, then, and realized that the interviewer herself was an Omega. Her scent was softer, subdued, they way a mated Omega’s would be. But she’d scented safety, trust, and openness. Then, only then, had she allowed herself to relax.
“I’m… thank you, for telling me,” Rey had said. “I… I know you understand… I want to be hired for my skills, what I can bring to the team. Not because of what I am.”
The interviewer had smiled at this. “I do understand. The job’s yours, if you want it.”
All things considered, it had been nice to know.
And the interviewer, whose name was Amilyn, had become one of her favorite people in the office. Rey had learned that Amilyn was mated to a female Alpha, and the two of them had no children together, just one stepson from her Alpha’s prior marriage. Other than that, Amilyn kept her private life very private. Rey could understand why. There was a certain expectation, however unconscious, that Omegas were meant to behave in specific ways. Amilyn was nurturing, sure, but she wasn’t a meek pushover. Rey respected the hell out of her.
She knew, then, that it was possible to be an Omega, but not be shunted to the side or expected to leave as soon as she got mated. Yes, Omegas often did have more of a desire to be parents, but biology wasn’t destiny. She could choose her path, and not let it define her.
It felt refreshing to know that here, in a place like this, that sort of future was possible for her.
On her very first day in the office, Rey had been shown around to her desk, allowed to put her little pet succulent in a ceramic jar down next to her monitor, and been inundated with so many names and faces it was impossible to keep track of who was who. The office was overwhelmingly Betas, but there were a few other Omegas there, too. It felt nice. Like… coming home, in a way.
And then: Ben happened.
Rey had been coming into the breakroom from the back hallway in her second week at Resistance when she’d heard the word ‘Omega,’ and it had been so disdainfully spoken, so rudely intoned, that she’d frozen, just on instinct.
From the doorway, the snippet of conversation wafted out, along with a scent that was unmistakably that of an Alpha.
“...is obviously a diversity hire,” the Alpha was saying, his voice snide and dismissive. “They could’ve picked anyone—”
“You can’t say shit like that, Ben!” a second voice had said, while Rey ducked away, heading to the bathrooms, furious and frightened and halfway to crying.
Whatever it was they said next, Rey had no idea. Nor did she want to know.
She knew that some people thought of her like that—or, if not her, specifically, Omegas in general. It just stung to hear it spoken aloud.
Whoever that fucking Alpha was, she wanted to punch him, put him in his place, prove to him that she was better than all of his expectations. Twice as good, even. She would code backwards and in high heels and still run circles around whoever that fucking knot-head was.
She’d cried, then, and composed herself, blotting her eyes with a cool paper towel until she was back to normal. Mostly. Her mascara hadn’t survived, but it was alright. One shitty Alpha wasn’t going to ruin the best job she’d ever had.
Then they’d been formally introduced.
And Rey… hadn’t called him out on it. Because they were standing in the middle of the office, and she was shaking his hand, and it was big and warm and broad and he was tall, and smelled amazing, and his eyes were dark, such a beautiful dark brown, and she hated him, loathed him with every fiber of her being.
From the way his expression changed, she could tell that he could easily scent her dislike.
Breathe that all in, asshole. That’s the scent of a diversity hire who’s going to kick your ass.
“Rey, this is Ben Solo,” Poe Dameron was saying. “He was out last week at a conference, but he’ll be on the same team as you, so you two will be working pretty close together.”
Great, Rey thought, but she smiled, and shook his hand, and said, “It’s nice to meet you.”
He hadn’t even had the courtesy of replying. He’d just grunted, then pulled his hand away from hers, and practically stalked back to his standing desk.
Rey wanted to put some hand sanitizer on, just to get his scent off of her.
And that encounter had set the tone for everything between them.
She had gone to her corner, and he, to his. Everything had been fine until that damn elevator had stopped.
Everything had been fine, just fine, absolutely, positively fine, positively peachy, before she’d known what he sounded like, begging for her, needing for her, coming.
This changes nothing.
Rey simply refuses to let it change a single thing.
Rey takes the full week off, even though her heat is mostly over by Thursday night. She works from home on Friday, though, because nothing says productivity like making it all the way into the office for a one-day work-week when she’s spent the last four days high-fiving her vagina. Rey looks at her bleary self in the mirror that morning, grateful for PTO and heat leave, and tries to make the best of her sallow, tired appearance.
She’ll look, and feel better on Monday, she knows. For now, though, the dark circles and general weariness are visible, and she just… doesn’t want to deal with that.
If she’d had an Alpha with her, of course, this would be a different story.
Biology drives her to take a knot, to mate and breed and be claimed. It doesn’t give a shit about her career, about her wants and goals and desires. It wants her drowsy and knotted and full, being petted and praised, her belly round and her breasts heavy…
Despite the fact that she hates it, Rey can’t deny that what she craves is an Alpha. Not just for one heat, but forever. She wants to earn an Alpha’s praise and feel his teeth on her skin. She wants it, the way a moth craves a flame.
It’s dangerous. But she can’t deny it.
The very few times she’d had a Beta attempt to see her through a heat, it had been frustrating for everyone involved. She’s never been with an Alpha, let alone through a heat, but everything she’d read on the private Omega groups online said that it was… better than anything. A pore-clearing, crop-watering, credit-score-raising experience, taking a knot.
That was what had driven her to try the app to begin with. Well. At least she can try it again in six months, and see if there were fewer aspiring DJs and more decent human beings.
But for now, at least, that was over and done with.
Finally, she can focus on work.
Rey had shoved all of her sheets and pillowcases and everything into the laundry, and her washer was happily chugging away when she sits down on her couch and opens her laptop. Clean, comfortable pants and a soft sweater are good enough for now; she’s still a bit too sore for yoga pants and doesn’t even want to consider wearing a bra. She logs into her computer, then pulls up her company Slack and begins to scroll through messages. Nothing major had happened, and the incident teams had worked on something briefly on Wednesday, so there would probably be a meeting about it next week… then she scrolls down to the private messages and sees—
His name, and a little red dot, indicating unread messages.
Her stomach clenches, and maybe parts a little southward, too, but she steadies herself and clicks on his name.
Slowly, she reads through the messages there.
bsolo: Hey Rey, I wanted to catch up with you, when you were back online.
Sorry to bother you.
Have a good weekend.
The first one had been sent late last night, according to the timestamp… the second one, early this morning, and the third, not twenty minutes ago.
It’s… not exactly pestering. I mean, he has to know where she is, right? What she was doing?
Rey steadies herself again—this seems to be a trend in her encounters with him—and types back her reply:
rjohnson: Back online now. What’s up?
Almost instantly, she sees the ‘Ben Solo is typing...’ notification, down beneath the message bar. No turning back now. She braces herself for judgement, for blame.
bsolo: I wanted to apologize.
rjohnson: I’d say for what, but that would be disingenuous.
Besides, if you have to apologize, then so do I.
bsolo: I put you in an inappropriate position
Rey’s face goes hot at the thought of this clearly unintentional innuendo. Well, if he has to apologize for masturbating in front of a co-worker, then she does too.
bsolo: I didn’t know if you wanted to go to HR or not
About what happened
rjohnson: No, of course not
It’s not like you asked for that to happen
Rut, I mean.
Not that I was assuming you were in rut
Sorry, now I’m the one being embarrassing
bsolo: I was
bsolo: It’s okay; I took the week off, too. I’m WFH today
rjohnson: Are you feeling better?
She realizes immediately after she hits Enter that she’s basically just inquired about the state of his penis. Rey facepalms, groaning at her own stupidity.
bsolo: fine, thanks
Hey I know I’m not easy to work with
And I know I’ve been a dick to you since you hired on
rjohnson: Interesting choice of phrasing, but yes, you have
His typing message hovers for a while
bsolo: Fair enough.
bsolo: I apologize
That’s not who I am and
I can do better
rjohnson: it’s okay Ben
bsolo: I just know a little of what it’s like
Having people just assume what you’ll be like and who you are
and what you want
It was unfair of me to do the same to you.
bsolo: I’m not trying to make it all about me
See even when I type it sounds bad
rjohnson: No, I understand what you’re saying
I appreciate the apology.
rjohnson: why are you easier to talk to over chat?
I have a few theories.
Rey does, too. Maybe he’s the kind of guy who speaks before he thinks. Maybe it’s something else entirely. The apology does go a long way to changing her opinion of him, though. His ‘Ben Solo is typing...’ notification is up for a while, almost like he’s writing something, editing it, changing his mind. Rey waits.
When the message does come, all it says is:
bsolo: so, are we okay?
Let us never speak of this again
The weekend is great. By Saturday morning, Rey’s back to 85% of her normal energy level, and she meets up with Rose and Finn for a concert in the park and some killer street tacos. The sun shines down on them, makes her freckles come out, and she sips on a crisp, cold IPA and dances on the grass. On Sunday, she buckles down and does all of the rest of the apartment cleaning she’s been putting off, airing out the place, blasting music with the windows open, spraying cleaner on her shower and toilet and sink, wiping down her counters. She doesn’t exactly try to dwell on what happened, but it’s there, in her thoughts, and it’s not like she can delete parts of her memories.
Even if she could, would she?
It’s still up in the air.
Monday morning, Rey wakes refreshed and mostly ready to go. She chows down on two bowls of cereal and even decides to do her hair in something more than a bun. With a few extra minutes to spare, she puts on mascara and waits for her curling iron to heat up. Of course she’s so unused to actually using it, she drags it along the side of her neck as she’s taking the second curl off the barrel, but it’s only a little red, not a big deal at all.
She smiles at herself in the mirror after dabbing on concealer, preening, being a silly teen girl pretending to adult, and loving every moment of it. Then she double-checks that the curling iron is unplugged, brushes her teeth, and grabs her bag.
Time to head into work, and pretend like none of this ever happened.
It’s still a little taboo to mention things like heats and ruts in casual conversation, but it’s not like the rest of the team doesn’t know where she was. Rey can see it in their too-casual glances, the way they smile with their mouths first, before their sympathetic gazes adjust. It’s another well-meaning thing, and they’re kind about it, so she can’t hate them, or fault them.
Honestly, it’s weird, any way you slice it. But, it is what it is.
And she thinks it’s going to be even weirder, seeing Ben in the office, but it’s not. She just catches his eye as she walks to her desk, and he nods at her, and she nods back with a soft, ‘Hey, Ben,’ and that’s it.
Minimal awkwardness; crisis averted.
It’s only when she gets to her desk, gets logged-in and focused and finds her headphones, that she notices it. There’s a second little cactus, sitting beside the first one, the one she’d brought in on her first day at work. Hers had been in a small terracotta pot, but this one is in a really pretty, minimalist little planter, small enough to be cupped in one hand, geometric and clean-lined. It’s exactly the kind of thing she’d pick for herself, and the green of the spiked leaves stand in contrast to the deep teal of the planter, the edging of gold around the rim.
Rey looks up and surveys the office. Who could this be from?
Rey catches his gaze, and this time, she holds it.
He’s on the other end of the row, though, and she’s not going to get up and ask him and do it in front of everyone. So she pulls up Slack again, and goes to their private messages.
rjohnson: Is this… an apology cactus?
It was a prickly situation.
Rey rolls her eyes, but can’t fight the smile. She looks back up at him, sees the corner of his mouth quirk up in the barest hint of a grin.
rjohnson: you’re unbelievable
bsolo: It remains my singular aspiration.
Rey shakes her head at this, and looks away from him.
She tries very hard to focus on work. But her eyes keep darting to the little cactus on her desk. It’s easier to stare at than him, even if it is just as sharp and dangerous… It’s sweet, though.
She never really thought that, of all people, Ben Solo could be sweet.
At first, she thinks they’re both being very subtle about it. She’s not going to breathe a word of what happened in that elevator to anyone, and Ben sure as hell isn’t, either. HR violations, and all that. It’s not exactly in the handbook, what they did, but Rey is sure that it’d be under the general umbrella of inappropriate workplace behavior, even if it was mutually inappropriate. But they do manage to… restart their work relationship, in a sense, after his apology, after things change. And there’s no more glares, no avoidance, no careful choosing of alternative routes just so she doesn’t walk past him when he’s in a mood.
Subtle. She can do subtle.
It takes a while, but Rey starts to notice that other people in the office are aware that Ben’s warmed up to her. She doesn’t realize this is what’s happening, really, until other teams start including her on meeting invites when she’s maybe only tangentially connected to a project. They’re all meetings where Ben’s attending, though. And Rey starts to notice that not only is he a little more calm around her, he’s a little more calm around everyone.
He doesn’t snap at Taslin (as much.) Doesn’t protest when scope creep attacks and doesn’t complain about taking an additional three days of on-call duty. He still prowls around, but Rey figures that’s just the way he walks, with those long legs and that body… He is just a little bit more collaborative, a little nicer. Just a little. Enough that Rey notices.
And then, enough that Rey notices that it’s really only when she’s around.
Because she is pulled off onto some emergency and heading back from the break room with her salad and water when she sees, through the solid glass wall of the conference room, Ben standing up, yelling about—well, she can’t make out the words, but she can hear him in there. The whole floor can probably hear him. She just stands there, so startled by it, holding her lunch, watching him…
He turns, and catches sight of her.
He immediately sits back down.
Where did that come from. Rey doesn’t quite get it. But she’s in the business of formulating connections, clarifying, making things simpler and functional and more streamlined, and Ben Solo might not be a block of code, but he is something she can unpuzzle.
Or at least, attempt to.
He calms down, when she’s near. He watches her, even made sure to tell her that he hides her favorite flavor of bubbly water in the back of the fridge, behind the bottles of the healthy green juice that nobody likes but everybody pretends to. He got her a cactus—admittedly, a weird gift, from an outsider’s perspective, but one that she likes. Ben must’ve known that she would like it. She doesn’t quite know how, but it’s… thoughtful.
He watches her.
Not in a creepy way. He just… makes her feel aware, like he didn’t before. Not observed, but rather… appreciated. Noticed.
And his scent isn’t quite so terrible now, although the blockers remain in full effect. Post-heat, she isn’t so susceptible to the scent, to the pheromones, and she’s grateful for that.
Because if she was…
If she was, she might be in danger.
Not in danger from him , but in danger from herself. It’s like now that she doesn’t hate him, now that she sees all these things in him, she’s meeting him for the first time. And there’s so many tiny little pieces him that she actually… kind of… maybe… likes?
Not likes-likes. But he’s tolerable enough. (The diversity-hire bullshit still stings, Rey can’t forget that completely, but… the apology went a long way to soothing it.)
He’s funny over Slack. His jokes are dry and cutting but never mean. Usually self-deprecating. And he’s smart as fuck, now that she can see the intention behind his comments and suggestions. He’s much easier to work with when he’s physically on the other side of the room, but nine times out of ten, she knows she can send him a little message and look up and see him, with that subdued, private smile, not looking at her, typing his reply…
Rey’s not sure if she’s quite ready to call him a friend, but whatever it is they have now is better than disdain and aggravation. But all of this, with the rest of the office, the meetings? Rey doesn’t know what to make of it. It’s almost as if the rest of the office thinks—
Rey scoffs. No, that would be too far fetched. They can’t think that something’s going on between the two of them. Not the way they clearly detested each other up until about a week and a half ago. Maybe they’re just trying to involve Rey in different projects, see if she might be ready to move to a different team. She hopes that isn’t it, however; she likes where she’s at, now that Ben Solo isn’t a completely insufferable prick.
Glancing down at the little cactus on her desk, Rey smiles a little.
The gift is appropriate on so many levels.
Of course, his prick certainly isn’t little. Even with his big hand wrapped around it, it was distractingly thick, swollen hard and did he knot that time, when he was watching her, when he was tasting her, what would it feel like to touch, to—
“Hey, you wanna go to lunch with us, Rey?” Rose says, and Rey jumps, hastily switching away from her private messaging window, even though there’s nothing inappropriate on it.
“Sure!” she says, a little too brightly.
Rose gives her a look, and a smile. “Okay… Jess and I were thinking of going down to the food carts, but we could—”
“Yep,” Rey says, already gathering up her purse and locking her computer.
“—go anywhere, if you had somewhere in mind?”
“No, that sounds good.”
“Rey, is everything okay?”
Rey looks up at her friend. “Yeah. I just… I hadn’t realized how late it was. I’m hungry.”
Rose’s eyes dart over to the side, and then she smiles faintly, and looks back at Rey. “Okay.”
What is Rose on about? Rey can’t figure it out.
But as she gets her purse and follows, she feels a prickle of awareness on the back of her neck. Even before she turns, she knows who she’ll see when she looks back.
Ben. Still standing at his desk. Resolutely looking at his monitor, not her.
Well, whatever it is her co-workers think they see, it’s immaterial. Everything is over, it’s done.
It’s all completely fine.
Life goes on. As it usually does. Rey gets sick a few weeks later, just a cold, and she can work from home so she doesn’t get everyone else in the office sick. When she wakes, congested and miserable, Rey has the very briefest of little sad pity-parties, table for one, when she realizes that there’s nobody here to bring her chicken soup and pat her hair and tell her she’s eventually not going to be so intimately acquainted with the contours of her sinuses, and will one day breathe again normally. It’s the worst. Not cramping and heat-mad levels of suck, but awful in its own right.
And then, as she sits there in bed, under her own personal little thundercloud of a mood, Rey has the absurd idea that… if she asked Ben, he would bring her soup. She can almost picture him at her door, his hair a little disheveled, eyes filled with worry and concern because he’d run straight over, offering her a takeout container. She doesn’t know why she thinks this; he’s given no indication that he would, and she wouldn’t exactly call any of her other co-workers… that’s kind of the whole point to not going into the office. Avoiding spreading her germs around.
She shakes off the notion as absurd.
And she definitely doesn’t call him and ask, either.
It must be some kind of Omega thing, she reasons, as she stands under the steaming showerhead and lets approximately 478,000 gallons of mucous drain out of her face. Some Omega stereotype that she’s internalized, despite reason and logic and good sense. Heaven knows she’s heard enough bullshit through the years to soak at least some of it in. The stereotypical Omega is needy and emotional, even frail. They get sick more often, or so people say. They get anxious, until they take a knot, and are claimed by an Alpha, and are shown their place. Until they’ve got a bite, until they’re mated, they flit from one thing to another, easily distracted. They need a firm hand, steady guidance, control.
Babies; they all want babies.
Rey shudders at this.
Betas cling to the most outdated assumptions sometimes. They must think Omegas want to be… carried around on one of those sofa things with sticks and four strong men, so they can faint at the slightest provocation. Rey snorts, and shakes her head. Stereotypes are so weird.
Control isn’t what she craves.
Neither is four strong men. One would do, just one.
And right about now, what she craves more than that is a head that isn’t filled with mucous, eight solid hours of sleep, and the attention to focus on her projects.
If she’s completely and totally honest with herself, it would be nice, she thinks, to have someone around. It doesn’t even have to be an Alpha. A nice, Beta guy, with a good job and a sense of humor, someone who would get her quirks and not laugh at them, someone who would take care of her and… bring her soup, maybe. Someone to be there for her, when she was tired or sad or lonely. Not even just for sex—she knows a Beta guy would not be able to fully help her through one, but… it’s her fantasy, and she can dream—but for comfort, companionship. Touch.
Rey shuts the water off, slides the shower door open, and reaches for a towel.
The Beta dream-lover in her thoughts is as soft and fluffy as her towel, and it’s nice, if a little bittersweet, to create him from the aether. Now she only has to meet him, and everything will be—
—dark eyes, amber-ringed brown, looking up at her, as his mouth sucks needily on her fingers, as his hand pumps away at his cock—
Rey just about misses the shower mat as she tries to steady herself, the force of the memory buffeting away her tidy, gentle fantasy like gale-force winds blowing away a tiny waft of incense.
‘Don’t look,’ he’d said. ‘Don’t look at me—’
But she had looked, and she’d seen, and now it was imprinted on her brain, and the thought of him like that was the furthest thing from soft and comfortable.
Rey secured the towel around her chest with shaking hands, leaning both of them on the edge of the counter, catching her breath. She wasn’t in heat now, but her body felt… ready. Needy and empty, an echo of the urges that had gripped her when she’d been alone and horny and desperate for him—
No, not for him. For an Alpha. For a knot.
Not him, specifically, just...
You little liar...
Rey closes her eyes, and wills the thoughts away. Someone else, anyone else… there. That’s better. A nice, gentle, easy love, that’s all she wants. Someone to hold her hand, walk with her through the farmers’ market, to tell her jokes and watch movies beside her, to cuddle with her when her apartment gets cold…
She takes a breath, and opens her eyes. He doesn’t want her like that, and she doesn’t want, doesn’t need an Alpha. She can handle this.
Rey takes a DayQuil, and tries to focus on work.
Rey arrives late to a meeting about server provisioning, her coffee in hand, trying to slip into the back of the room unnoticed. Tensions are high, and Ben is at the other end of the table, and of course the only empty seat is the one she has to walk clear across the room to get to. He’s not yelling, not exactly, but he’s frustrated—Rey can scent him, can practically taste his emotions. It’s weird, and it’s also weird that as soon as she gets close to the empty chair, Poe Dameron stands up abruptly from his seat, and offers it to her instead.
His seat, directly beside Ben.
Rey gets it. They think she… something about her Omega-ness, will subdue Ben, rein him in. Something about this just makes her fume, as if that’s the only reason why she’d be useful in a meeting like this one… That’s not happening. Rey shakes her head a little, and pulls out the other chair, her original choice. Now Poe’s stuck standing, and he shuffles for just a second, before muttering something about the bathroom and leaving.
Ben looks over at her, catching sight of her mid-sentence. His eyes widen a little, and he must scent her frustration, too, because his shoulders hunch forward, just a little, as Kaydel picks up the topic and redirects it back to what’s on the meeting agenda.
Rey shifts in her seat, and looks down at her own notebook.
What is going on here?
It rankles her to think that she’s been reduced, yet again, to just an Omega. This time, because she’s useful. Another time, because of what she can be for someone, because of what she is, not who she is. Not her mind, or her heart, but her fucking designation.
And she must be throwing quite the scent cocktail, because when she looks back up at Ben, his face is tinged with red and his eyes have gone dark. He’s not watching her, but she can still feel him, in a way she can’t explain. She looks down at his hands, and sees that he’s fastidiously shredding the paper in his hands, dividing it in half, half again, half again, until it’s just a pile of little squares.
There’s a conversation happening between them, Rey thinks. Words only they can hear. But she doesn’t understand, doesn’t speak his language.
And she wonders, if she did, what would she hear?
It’s late, and the code is just not speaking to her, and Rey really ought to just pack it up and go home, but there’s a quiet sort of peace in the office when half of the lights turn off and people start to leave. Late nights like these make up for her longer lunches sometimes; it all comes out in the wash, anyway, and she’s got enough black tea to make everything make sense, and it’s only just past six. She’ll get this to a good stopping point, and then head home.
At six-thirty, Rey heads to the bathroom, stretching a little as she walks. The place is practically empty, and the lights in all of the conference rooms have turned off. At some point, the janitorial staff will show up to do their nightly rounds; she’s been here when that happens, and usually, that’s her cue to leave.
For some reason, when she comes back from the bathroom, Rey diverts course through the break room. There’s a kitchen area here, clean and white, and to the side, along a bank of windows that overlook the rest of the city, the row of tables where people like to bring their lunches—when they’re not busy eating at their desks.
She scents him there before she sees him.
Maybe she knew even before then who she’d find there.
“Ben,” Rey says, and he turns, looking up at her from his laptop, bleary-eyed and distant.
“Hey,” he says. “I didn’t… you’re here late.”
“Yeah, just finishing up.”
He looks back down, a little frown creasing his features. Rey sighs, and looks out at the city lights. Below her, the roads stretch out like rivers, ribbons of light, red and gold, from the cars as they pass by. In the distance, she sees the flash of a red light, and hears the muffled sound of the siren through the thick glass. It’s cold, and she feels warm, even in her light sweater and jeans. She takes a breath, and scents him—indecipherable, now. Funny. When it’s not rage or frustration, Rey can’t quite read his scent.
If life were like an Omega romance novel, this would be the part of the story where the hero says something eloquent. The part where the heroine jumps in with both feet, sure in her pursuit of what she wants. And if life were like a Slack channel, maybe he would say something eloquent. Make a joke, distract her. If life were like a novel, Rey would know what she wants.
Her body knows what it wants. It’s just that her mind isn’t completely in agreement.
Rey starts just a little as she hears Ben stand up, the chair dragging across the floor as he moves. She stands still as he walks up behind her—no, not behind her, he’s not going to mount her, for god’s sake, not right here in the fucking break room—and stands beside her.
Leaving a safe distance between them. But not far enough, Rey notes, that she can’t feel his warmth. And his scent, as ever, is an enticing distraction.
“I’m sorry about the meeting today,” Ben says. “I—”
“Are you the one who’s been adding me to all of these?” Rey says, and she turns, and looks up at him. It’s meant to be an accusing glare, but she melts just as quickly as her eyes catch his. And it turns into something else, something… liquid. “All of the meetings, I mean.”
“No.” He looks genuinely confused by this. “Why?”
Rey sighs. “Because I think someone… I think they think you get… calmer, when I’m near you.”
“I don’t feel calm right now,” he says.
His voice is low, and there’s absolutely no mistaking what he means by that.
Rey clasps her hands, and looks down at them, as if the answers are written on her palms. Her heart is suddenly racing.
“I’m sorry about the… yelling,” Ben says, his voice pitched just for her ears, even though there’s no one else in the room to hear it. Or to see them. Or interrupt them. “You looked scared, when I… and I don’t want you to be scared. Of me.”
“I’m not.” It’s the truth.
Ben tears his eyes away from hers, wincing a little, like it hurts, to look at anything but her.
“I just… I’ve got some shit going on right now… family shit, I should—it’s not an excuse, I just… yeah.”
“Oh,” Rey says. She straightens up a little, feeling foolish that she allowed herself to get lured into believing that it was all about her. “I didn’t know.”
“No, no, it’s fine,” Ben says, and he sighs, and rakes his hand back through his hair. “It doesn’t matter. Sorry you’ve got to deal with… that.”
Rey smiles at him. “If you want, I can go back to my desk and we can chat about this instead. If it’s easier to type, rather than talk.”
The corner of his mouth quirks up, the little patch of stubble right there that she would kiss, if she could, and—where the hell did that thought come from? Then his eyes get dark again, and he takes a subtle half-step back, widening the distance between them.
“I don’t… you don’t have to.”
Why is he running, then, if he wants her to stay? Rey doesn’t understand. There’s no documentation for this, no readme, no precedent for what she’s doing—
“I don’t want to go either,” she hears herself say. Her hands itch to touch, and if she’s wrong about this, if she’s misread it, then she’ll be hearing about it from HR tomorrow, but she can’t stop herself, can’t deny herself what she wants, just a little, just for now, just this—
Rey steps into him, rises up on her toes to close the distance between them, and presses her mouth to his.
He’s startled at first, hands flying away from her, trying to avoid touching her—but his mouth is soft and eager and open and hungry, so hungry as he tastes her. His tongue delves deep into her mouth, searching out the contours of her, every hidden, secret place, and Rey welcomes it, welcomes all of it. Rey’s hands go to his waist, feeling him, feeling the heat and the warmth of him, the deceptive solidity of his body under the crisp cotton of his dress shirt.
He groans again, and her whole body comes alive from the sound and feel.
Let me taste you…
Rey whimpers when he pulls back. His hands are still hovering above her, not daring to touch; beneath her fingertips he’s trembling faintly.
She feels it too.
“This is a terrible idea,” he says into her mouth.
“The worst,” Rey agrees.
But neither of them pull away.
His hands are shaking as they settle on her hips. Rey whimpers, and his grip tightens, just a bit. He’s towering over her, bending low to kiss her, taste her, drawing her close. They shift positions; her butt connects with the built-in table that runs along the windows, and god she hopes it’s sturdy, because he’s picking her up like she weighs nothing at all, sitting her on it, and her legs spread wide so he can stand between them.
She gasps as he presses his hips into the cradle of her thighs. Whimpers, when he trails wet kisses down her jawline, nipping over the edge of her throat, the edge of her scent gland. His hands span her hips, holding her flush to him, and she knows that if she had the power to magically disintegrate clothing right now, he’d be balls-deep inside of her, just like this, giving her what she craves. Knot-deep, filled to the brim with all of him, everything he can give her. She’s his, she decides—if only just for now, just for this moment. And, oh, it feels so good to let him touch her. It feels amazing to make contact, even if its clothed, subdued, restrained…
“Ben,” she whimpers, as his tongue drags across her scent gland, rough and then tender. Her hands hold him close, and she rolls her hips, chasing sensation, needing more. “Ben, please— ”
“Yes,” he says, breath warm on her damp skin, answering a question she doesn’t have the capacity to even ask; his left hand finds the button of her fly, working down her zipper. His hand feels huge when it slips between her skin and her tight jeans, and Rey cries out in bliss and agony when he finally finds her.
The noise he makes when he feels her there—
“Rey,” he says, like it’s the only word he knows, like her wet center has rendered him speechless.
He moves his hand a little, and it’s good, it’s so good, but it’s not enough. She needs more; the angle is all wrong, and she wants his fingers to delve deep, to find her and plunge inside, to fill her like she’s aching to be filled. All the while her hands clutch at his shirt, her entire body breathes him in, his mouth works sucking kisses with just the faintest edge of teeth against her neck.
It’s not enough, but it could be.
More, more, Alpha, please, more—
Rey doesn’t even realize that she’s begging for it, because he smells so damn good, and his scent is warm and soft and sharp and his body moves under her hands, a paltry imitation of what their bodies want so desperately to be doing right now, but can’t.
They could, though, a wild part of her thinks, as he growls in frustration that he can’t quite get his fingers inside of her, can’t quite go deeper. Rey sobs and holds on and whimpers like she’s been edging herself all day. They could do this, find a room, hell, find a floor, just—
Abruptly, Ben groans into her—then he pulls back, leaving her spread-kneed and panting, her entire body cold suddenly, as if she’s been plunged into a lake. She sees, immediately, why. The janitorial staff is there, wheeling their yellow carts past the doorway of the break room, headphones in, as always, but if they saw them, if they’ve been seen—
“I—” Ben starts to say, but he can’t make the words come out. His eyes are still dark, dark and wide and filled with a heady mixture of horror and desire.
Rey opens her mouth to speak to him, to comfort and console him, to reassure him that she was the one to initiate this, that there’s nothing going on here that she didn’t enthusiastically sign up for, but without another word, he turns, and grabs his laptop from the table, and practically runs from the room.
Running again, Rey thinks, her mind all confusion, her body alight and awake and aware. Slowly, she gets back down from the table, pressing her thighs together. Her shaking hands fix up her fly and adjust her shirt, pat her hair and run along the front of her, aching for his missing warmth. Her breasts feel heavy, nipples peaked, clit throbbing in frustrated arousal. She goes back to her desk, sees that her laptop is still there, her cold tea, her packet of crisps… but Ben’s coat, his bag, they’re not there.
Rey heads home, still rocking against the seam of her jeans as she closes her apartment door and drops her things on the sofa.
What the hell just happened?
She can't blame her heat for this, can't blame his rut, either. It was just... what she wanted, in the moment. What her body needed, that contact, that pleasure.
Rey groans, and tugs off her sweater. She pulls at the elastics in her hair, freeing it, feeling her skin radiating warmth in the cool night air.
What's happening to her?
Ben isn't at work the next day.
She gets hopeful, just for a moment, that he’s there, because she sees his leather jacket laying there by his desk, but he must’ve just forgotten it, in his rush to leave last night.
Rey is... grateful, but in a sad, strange sort of way. He's been offline, too. His status message reveals nothing at all about what he's doing, other than the fact that he's not at work. And his calendar, too, is all blocked out. It’s a conversation she isn’t ready to have—not in person, anyway. And yet she feels like she needs to clear the air between them, again. Or ask him why he stopped, why he ran.
I don’t know how I feel about you, but running away when I’ve just asked you to finger me in the break room is a pretty clear sign, Rey thinks, logging onto Slack and clicking on his name, reading back through their private message history. She can’t exactly type that, though, and her casual ‘Are you WFH today?’ has gone unanswered this morning.
Maybe it’s something to do with the ‘family stuff’ he mentioned. Rey doesn’t know.
At least she’s in early enough to get a jump on projects. Rey eats her breakfast at her desk and pushes all of those intrusive thoughts away, checking his empty messages, wondering, mind only half-focused on work.
When she goes by his desk on the way to talk to Jess about something, she gives in, though. Just for a moment. She picks up his jacket from the floor, holds it to herself for one, two deep breaths—then leaves it on his desk.
He must only wear the blockers at work, Rey thinks, because the Alpha scent of him is so much more concentrated in his coat. Mingled with the worn leather there’s spice and black coffee, musk and charcoal and… it’s indescribable, really, the scent of him. How does it agitate her and soothe her in equal measures? And… Why is she sniffing his clothing? It’s weird, and she knows it’s weird, but nobody sees her, and there’s no harm done.
Where is he?
It starts like a stomach bug, and it hits her out of nowhere in the middle of the morning that same day. One minute, Rey's deciding between which flavor of La Croix might be good to calm her faintly upset stomach, wondering if the egg and sausage sandwich she'd picked up on the way to work was spoiled or something, and the next, she's got her head in the trash can, revisiting breakfast. She heaves and heaves, body shaking with the violence of it—and then, as if that wasn't bad enough, Rey starts to feel beyond woozy, like she's going to pass out just by blinking.
What the fuck is happening?
It's like her first few, terrifying heats, she thinks, dazed, as she runs her hands over the feverish skin of her arms and tries to make sense of it all. Fifteen years old and cramping, needy for a thing she had no words to describe, not yet. Writhing on her bed, alone and scared, aching.
Alpha, I need you, please—
It shouldn't be happening. Not here, not at work, not like this.
Rose finds her, helps her to the bathroom, holds her hair back as she brings the rest of the contents of her stomach up.
She can't stay at work like this.
It’s worse, so much worse, than the elevator. Worse than white pants and her period, worse than being twelve and tripping with a bowl full of hot tortellini soup in front of her crush and the entire school in the lunchroom. Worse than the time she sent a paper to her professor with the temporary title of Mother Fucking Jane Austen Essay.
So, so much worse than all of that.
She needs to get back to her space, needs to be alone, to work through the ravaging, painful, horribly embarrassing feelings that have taken control of her body and mind. She isn’t safe here; this place is cold and sterile and wrong, and Ben’s scent is fading, and none of that should make any sense because this can’t be happening.
In her mind, his thick, perfect body is between her legs, and her back is lined up against cool glass, and she can feel the press of his hand between her slick folds. In her mind, nobody finds them, nobody interrupts them, and he takes her, right in front of her salad, right there, bent over the kitchen island in the office break room, knocking over the bowl of fruit and the container of granola, fucking her, pulling her hair, knotting her deep and tight and filling her with everything he has to give.
Rose offers to take her home, but Rey declines. Says she’ll manage, and somehow, she does, although it’s the worst drive of her life. She grinds against the seat while sitting in traffic. Puts on the radio, blasts the air conditioning as cold as it can go, but she’s burning up.
She gets home. Runs upstairs and slams the door behind her, finally letting the whimpering moan out of her throat, now that she’s safe. Standing in the entryway of her apartment, Rey winces as she touches her breasts. Every nerve feels like it’s on fire, and it’s clear now that her suppressants aren’t working. Something is wrong. Her rational brain is being shoved into the corner like a nerdy kid shoved into a locker, and she’s aching for it, desperate, frightened. Her heart is pounding, blood racing, and the first quick climax strikes her right there, just with one rough press of two fingers against her clit, standing shirtless with her pants around her thighs, muffling her cries with her left hand while her right hand tries to emulate the feelings Ben coaxed out of her.
What is going on?
The orgasm’s glow fades in seconds.
Rey kicks off her shoes and pants and stumbles into her room, leaning on the wall for support, and it’s cold, it’s not warm skin and heat and there’s no scent of him here, nothing here to comfort her.
There’s just her bed, and the top drawer of her nightstand. There’s just cold silicone as she slides it in, biting her lip, trying not to cry out.
The pleasure begins to build again as she fucks herself with the toy.
In her fantasy, spooling out in front of her like the ribbon of a shattered cassette tape, Rey thinks back to the image that hasn’t really left her thoughts since the moment it happened—except this time, he doesn’t keep his hands from her. This time, he looms over her in that elevator, bares his teeth at her, and she submits to him, lets him pick her up and wrenches her pants down, clawing at her skin, tearing at the seams. His hands are sharp, claw-like; they kiss and sting her skin. He fucks her on the elevator floor, makes her watch herself in the mirrors as she comes. Rey claws her own hands down her skin, leaving red trails in their wake. He’s never been violent, except against cell phones… he’s just loud, shouty, aggressive, defensive—but apparently her heat-addled brain wants full-on Alpha fury. All of the stereotypes, every single thing that’s raw and terrible and dangerous.
You’re mine, he’d growl into her ear. You belong to me .
“Yes,” Rey groans in response, begging her empty apartment. “Yes, Alpha, yes, I’m yours—”
This is wrong; she should feel ashamed, but she doesn’t—later, Rey thinks. She’ll feel ashamed of her instincts later.
She’s on her back now, but he’d have her on all fours, telling her what to do, taking her roughly. His hips would slap against her ass, his cock deep inside of her, so deep there’d be no division. No separation whatsoever, between them. There’d be no he and she, no Ben, no Rey. It’d only be a primal thing, pure and untarnished, complete.
Rey comes again, crying out as she clenches down on the unsatisfactory hardness inside of her. Ben wouldn’t be so cruel, he’d let her come, and he’d knot her and fill her and keep her on the edge, she just knows he would.
This is insane, Rey thinks.
Her legs are shaking as she lowers them to the bed, feet flexing, shivers of pain and frustration and hollow pleasure rippling through her body. Like a hit of a drug she never asked to be addicted to, this one takes the edge off for a little longer, dims the dark fantasies so she can surface from them, so she can breathe.
That wasn’t how it happened.
His dark eyes had been frightened, not feral. He’d been ashamed, afraid, pulled away from her, never harmed her at all. Rey slides the toy out of her slick, already-sore body, and tries to catch her breath.
He’d reached for… he’d had emergency blockers, that was what had happened. Rey closes her eyes and forces herself to think rationally, if only for a moment, before the next wave starts again. He’d broken one of the vials, blocked her scent, and she’d been safe. He hadn’t claimed her, fucked her, knotted her at all. Absentmindedly her hand creeps up to her neck, fingernails pressing in against her gland as she writhes and begs for the heat to wait, just a little longer. He hadn’t done those things, hadn’t given her what she needs…
“Ben,” Rey says softly, aching, the cramps in her belly beginning again.
She’s never been with an Alpha, and this feral, violent man is nowhere near the Ben she knows and—
But her brain doesn’t seem to care. It fills in the gaps, constructs it out of snippets of knotting porn and florid prose, and she’s a plucky Omega stowaway, discovered by the Alpha pirate king…
The book itself had been terrible, misogynistic, outdated trash that she’d found in the bargain bin and bought for a laugh. The pirate king had been golden-blonde and blue eyed, but in her twisted world it’s Ben, his hair pulled back from his face, clad in breeches and a doublet, billowing white shirt holding the raw, salt-and-spice scent of him. He’s taking her wrists in one large hand, dragging her out and binding her to the ship’s mast so that the whole crew can see her.
Omega , he growls at her. Look at you, so wanton, practically gagging for it, aren’t you? You’re so wet for this Alpha cock, aren’t you? Dripping with slick, just for me...
Rey bites down on her bottom lip, whimpering, past the ability to say no or yes or control where her thoughts go. She rolls to her front, forearms shaking as she buries her face in the pillow, hiding her shame from herself.
In her sick, lust-driven mind, Ben takes a wicked-looking dagger, slicing the rough, canvas trousers from her legs. Rey feels a gush of slick slide down the inside of her thighs at this thought. Seeing him come unhinged, it’s sick, and she wants it. She needs it.
Let me taste you…
“Fuck , Alpha, please!”
Ben would be here, he’d trail that wicked tongue up and taste her, devour her, she just knows she would.
But he’s not here.
And no amount of fantasy can summon him.
Rey sobs into the pillow. It’s unbearable. It feels like her body is on fire, like her marrow, her every cell is calling out for him.
A knot, she needs a knot.
Rey crawls up the bed, hands searching for the plug in the drawer. It’s lurid pink, glittery in a way that she knows Ben’s knot won’t be—stop it, stop it—but Rey thinks it might do the trick. The angle is odd, and there’s no comforting warmth, no scent, no reassurance, but she’s slick and wet and open for it, and it eases in between her walls, snug and tight.
Rey exhales, shaky and eager. The fire in her veins is more manageable now. Slowly, she begins to work her clit again—then, realizing with a cry that she can’t use both hands if she’s supporting herself, she flips back over.
Left hand on the toy, right on her clit; it’s mechanical, and if she surfaces from the fantasy—the pirate king, Ben, praising her as he fucks her, bending her over on his narrow bed as his knot begins to swell—it won’t be enough, but Rey gives herself over to it, hands guiding her home. This is what you need, Omega. This knot… mine, and no others. And now you belong to me, say it—
The button on the base of the plug fills it, expanding it, the pressure whiting out her eyes and giving her that almost-perfect sense of rightness, being knotted.
Rey exhales a shudders breath as she comes, her walls contracting around it.
Yours, Alpha, yours.
Rey can feel the orgasm wash over her like warm water in the bath, soothing and gentling her heat. It’s a false comfort, and she knows it, but it’s enough for her to function, if only for a little while. She lays there on the bed for a few seconds, catching her breath, before wiping her hands on the bed sheets, getting up on jelly-like legs and finding her way to her purse. She needs her phone.
The walk back to her bed just about takes it out of her, the way she’s so winded and wrung out, but with the knot plug still in, she can at least keep herself clear headed. She goes to one of her Omega forums, going through the subforum for solo heats—she snorts with sad amusement; if she had a Solo heat instead of a solo heat, she wouldn’t be having this problem. There’s the usual tips and sharing of advice, promo codes for the appropriate toys, not what she needs right now.
Rey goes back to the other forums, and searches for ‘Breakthrough Heat,’ waiting as her body pulses in rhythmic, pleasurable waves, while the search results return.
“When my Alpha was back from deployment, I had a breakthrough heat…”
“...anyone have success conceiving during a breakthrough heat?”
“Breakthrough heat on new med, anyone else?”
She clicks that third one, and scans it; no luck. It’s not the suppressant she’s on.
All of these examples are for mated pairs, Rey realizes. This is unhelpful. She wants to know why the hell she’s having this right now, as an unmated Omega, with a suppressant that heretofore has been working perfectly, when her last heat was only two weeks ago. There’s nothing here, though, to help.
Rey sighs, and sets the phone down on her belly. The pleasure rises again inside of her, but she’s still holding the knot, so it’s not so bad. She can handle it. She can focus. She can—
She can use her doctor’s helpline.
It’s such an obvious solution, Rey laughs. And she’s so glad there’s no requirement for video chat, just a breathless, distracted voicemail for the advice nurse, and a promise of a callback. If there’s something wrong with her, she’ll figure it out. She’ll conquer this.
She has to.
The doctor calls in a prescription for her, and Rey begs Rose’s help to go pick it up, as she’s in no condition to be leaving the house. Rose leaves it outside her apartment door, along with a grocery bag filled with ice cream, a container of pho, a foil-wrapped half-dozen of her favorite al pastor tacos, and a package of extra batteries. Rey maybe kind of wants to give Rose the biggest hug in the world after this; all of her fretting about not involving her co-workers in her… biological troubles seems to be unfounded—in Rose’s case, at least.
Maybe, Rey thinks, she doesn’t need some pesky Alpha at all. Just the idea of actually saying aloud to another human being what she’d moaned earlier is mortifying.
The emergency suppressant is a pair of pills; Rey’s instructed to take one immediately, and then wait an hour, and take the second one. No driving, no operating heavy machinery… she’s not likely to be stealing a forklift and making her way to Ben’s house, mostly because she doesn’t know of a forklift she can steal. And she still doesn’t know where he lives.
She takes the first one, eats all of the tacos, and lays down on her bed with a heating pad. Rey has to set the alarm on her phone to make sure she can take the second pill an hour later, and the alarm wakes her up, all confused and groggy and detached. She takes the second, and curls up on the bed.
The emergency suppressants are more like sedatives, but Rey welcomes oblivion with open arms. It allows her to relax, all of her muscles to unclench, and if her body still throbs and needs and yearns, she’s not conscious enough to be aware of it.
In the sedated sleep, she dreams—a smear of pictures, some real, some imagined, where Ben’s hand is down her pants, his mouth between her legs, his growl rough in her ear, his teeth on her neck. She begs for him, pleads with him, bargains. She’ll give him everything, surrender herself, debase herself, if he’ll just help her.
She doesn’t dream of his knot, which should be reassuring, but really isn’t.
When she wakes, who knows how many hours later, under the cover of a yawning darkness, Rey recalls each little shattered shard of her disjointed dreamscape with a sense of wonder. The heat seems to be over. Her body is sore, and she’s hungry but… it’s over.
Rey showers, and eats the soup, and dries her hair as she checks her missed calls and messages. Rose is concerned, and Rey texts her back straightaway, before realizing that it’s close to three in the morning. She sends in a PTO request to her manager and cites unspecified health issues, hoping that no further questions will be asked. She eats the rest of the pho, and when her hair is mostly dry, she braids it back, changes her sheets, and then collapses back into bed, and sleeps for seven more hours.
“Thanks for seeing me on such short notice,” Rey says with a slightly drowsy smile, perched up on the exam table in her doctor’s office.
Dr. Kalonia, a fifty-something woman with a stern face and rather severe salt and pepper bob, has a warm demeanor despite her otherwise polished, restrained appearance. Rey likes her, feels like she can trust her. And just being here is enough to begin to assuage her fears about what happened.
So far the symptoms haven’t returned. Rey’s still a little on-edge, though.
She picks at the edge of the wrap on her elbow, feeling the ache of the blood draw site.
“Well, we always have space for an emergency visit,” Dr. Kalonia replies. “And based on what you described, that definitely qualifies.”
“What do you think it was?” Rey asks. “Could my suppressants have suddenly failed?”
The doctor shrugs. “It could be that your dosage needs to be adjusted. You are reaching peak fertility, and it’s not impossible to theorize that your body might just be… metabolizing them, to keep up with that.”
Rey sighs. “Great. I’m really not ready for children yet. What options are available?”
“Right now you’re on the combo shot, suppressant and birth control, but if one is getting burned through, it’s also possible that the general hormonal changes are affecting the birth control as well,” Dr. Kalonia types away on her console, bringing up Rey’s chart, scanning it. “You had your last shot three years ago, and they’re typically good for five, but… we could get you on a singular birth control option, like a shot, or an IUD, if you’d like to avoid pregnancy.”
Rey nods. “Yes, please. I can’t risk it. If there’s an Alpha in radius, and if this happens again…”
Her voice trails off. The doctor looks over, sympathetic and… canny. “Is there… a particular Alpha in mind? Do you feel like you’re being… threatened, coerced?”
Rey shakes her head. “No. Well, yes, there is one in mind, but he… he runs away from me, every time we… and we’ve only, I mean it was one time, and we didn’t even… he wouldn’t… he just touched me…”
She can feel her cheeks heating up, her disjointed explanation making even less sense. Thank goodness Dr. Kalonia is an Omega specialist. A Beta, granted, but… one who ought to be on Rey’s side.
“I want the IUD,” Rey says, bypassing the topic completely.
“Alright,” the doctor nods. “I can do that today, if you’re alright with that?”
Which is how she finds herself on her back, about ten minutes later, with her feet in the cold stirrups, wincing just a bit as the IUD is inserted.
It’s not the most comfortable sensation in the world, but the pain is weirdly comforting. It means security, it means that she’s back in control, even just a little bit. She knows that all of the stereotypes have some grain of truth in them, and if this weird breakthrough heat thing happens again, who knows what she might be caught up in. All it takes is one slip-up, one situation, and she knows that an Omega’s hyper-fertility would change her life forever.
Rey definitely isn’t ready for that.
“There may be a little bit of bleeding and cramping,” Dr. Kalonia explains, as she closes Rey’s legs back together and pulls the paper curtain to give her some modesty. “You can take any painkiller, and use a heating pad. I’ve left some pantyliners here for you.”
“Thank you,” Rey says.
There’s a knock on the door. Rey looks up, grateful that the curtain is drawn across the entryway of the exam room so that nobody can just walk in and get a free show.
The doctor stands up, pulling off her gloves and tossing them in the bin, and says, “Excuse me for just one second,” ducking out behind the curtain.
Rey looks up at the textured ceiling, and takes a breath. It feels like there’s a lightness to her body, a… freedom, like a burden has been lifted. Already the minimal pain of the IUD insertion has lessened, and she smiles at the peace it gives her. She closes her eyes, and breathes deep again.
Everything is going to be fine. She can just feel it. This was a fluke, and she’ll be back on a suppressant, back to work, back to normal.
Dr. Kalonia comes back. Rey looks up, and the smile falls from her face.
“The bloodwork’s just come back,” the doctor says. “You didn’t have a breakthrough heat, Rey. You had a reactive heat.”
Rey blinks. “What... what’s that?”
The doctor sighs a little. “It’s… somewhat rare, to tell you the truth. Thankfully the screen covers it, some of the markers for it, anyway. It’s typically rare because… well, to be honest with you, Omegas who go into reactive heats typically mate with the Alpha who triggered it.”
“I don’t understand,” Rey says. “What are you saying, that… that someone triggered it? How?”
Dr. Kalonia sits down. “Suppressants work by blocking certain receptors from the most common configurations of Alpha pheromones. Most Alphas’ scents are covered by them, and in the case of yours, there’s fifteen markers that they cover. In any combination, so long as over half of them are blocked, your heat won’t be triggered. But we found traces of a unique Alpha in your system. One who only had two markers blocked. The one you mentioned earlier, the Alpha… have you two been sexually intimate?”
“I…” Rey feels dizzy, like she needs to lay down, even though she’s already fucking laying down. “We… he kissed my, my hand… and he… we… he had his hand… on me, but... we never had sex.”
“Are you in danger of coming into contact with him again?” the doctor says, taking out a pen from her lab coat pocket and making notes on the paper she was holding. “Do you encounter him, or even his scent, on a regular basis?”
“He’s my co-worker,” Rey said, distantly, think back to the jacket. Fuck. What the fuck. “We work in the same shared office.”
“Unless you’re interested in mating with him—unless he’s offered—the only way to definitively avoid another reactive heat like this one is to either avoid his scent and all contact, or to synthesize a specialized suppressant for you.”
The idea that she can’t ever seen Ben again, without losing control of her body… can’t ever enjoy his company, his jokes, his private smiles… she doesn’t want that.
And she’s just not ready, to be mated to someone. The dark glint of her heat-fueled fantasies seems to cast a shadow over everything that was good and sweet about that tentative thing they’d shared. How could she look at him and hide it in her eyes? How could she allow herself to… to be consumed by her biology? Being an Omega, everything that goes with it, it’s an intrinsic part of who she is. But it doesn’t define her. She can’t allow it to define her. Or else everything she’s worked so hard to achieve, everything she’s worked so diligently to prove, will be for nothing.
She can’t. She just can’t.
“Can you do that?” she says, dry-mouthed and frightened. “The… the specialized suppressant, how quickly can you do that?”
Rey hates how desperate she sounds. She hates, too, the fact that… this is where her terrified mind first arrives.
“We can do that, yes,” the doctor replies. “We can create a temporary one that would work for a week or two, maybe longer. But for anything beyond that, it would, require a blood sample, from the Alpha in question. There’s just not enough to synthesize it, drawing it only from what’s in your bloodstream.”
“Alright,” she says. “I can do that.”
The doctor nods at her, and gives her a reassuring, kind smile. “Okay. I’ll send the orders down to the lab.”
She stands up and leaves, then, and Rey is left there on the exam table, thoughts racing, mind all in a tangle.
Omegas who go into reactive heats typically mate with the Alpha who triggered it…
Would that truly be so terrible?
She presses her eyes shut, and thinks back to the way he’d run from her. That day, in the elevator. And again, in the break room, with the city lights stretching out behind her. He clearly doesn’t want that. And she cannot in good conscience force him to be around her, when she’s basically a ticking hormonal time bomb, waiting to go off, dragging him down with her, into something he doesn’t want.
Rey gets the temporary shot.
Her arm throbs all the way home.
And her thoughts, as always, offer no easy answers.
Now that she knows what this thing is, between them, it’s both easier and more difficult to approach Ben.
Easier, because it’s just chemistry now. It isn’t his eyes or his hands or the way his skin tastes, the way she knows he holds her, the feel of his tongue on her skin. It isn’t really what she wants. It’s just hormones, pheromones, chemical receptors and equations. Just a collision of factors over which neither of them have any control.
More difficult, because she knows this, and he doesn’t. Not yet, anyway.
rjohnson: Hey, can we talk in private later?
Are you free after lunch?
Just let me know.
bsolo : sure
Rey takes a breath, and looks up at him, standing at his desk across the row from her. She looks down at her plants, the pair of them, thriving under her gentle attentions, just to the left of her monitor. She’s always liked succulents because they’re so hardy and resilient, because they ask so little, and can be moved from place to place. They aren’t tied down, aren’t contained, like a tree or a bush or a hedge. They can adapt, like she can.
Seven to ten days of safety, Rey thinks. That’s what the emergency shot gives her. She can do this.
bsolo: what’s up?
rjohnson: personal question
I’d rather not do this over chat.
At this, Ben does look up, worry written on his features. He’s wearing a soft henley shirt today, with a touchable texture to it and a deep sea-green color that brings out the fair coloring in his skin, the contrast of his features. With the skinny dark gray jeans and the black boots, he looks good, but then again, he always does, to her.
When had that started? Rey has no idea.
She gives him as reassuring a smile as she can manage, and is grateful that the emergency suppressants will last throughout this conversation. Then, she can talk to him like a peer. Not like a shameless Omega, throwing herself at him, embarrassing herself.
When he finally joins her in one of the smaller, corner conference rooms—one few people use, or even walk by—Rey still feels a reaction in her body. Nerves, that’s all it is. Chemistry. An anomaly.
This is awkward.
She doesn’t feel anything for him, not like that…
It’s just biology. Maybe if she keeps repeating it, her mind will start to remember.
“Ben, I need you—”
His eyes widen at this, and reflexively, his hands clench and splay wide at his sides, like he remembers, too, the way her hips felt beneath them.
“—to provide a blood sample,” she finishes.
“I… I had a reactive heat a few days ago,” Rey carefully explains. “Apparently, the suppressants I’m on don’t… they don’t work, for you. For your scent.”
He swallows. Works his mouth like he’s chewing back whatever it is instinct is prompting him to say. The muscle in his jaw clenches. Rey is briefly—very briefly—captivated by the movement of his lips. His kiss had been drugging, dangerous… which is why she is doing this. He’ll thank her, when she’s not out of control, when he’s not in danger of… of doing something she knows he doesn’t want.
“Are you safe,” he asks, voice urgent, eyes dark and unreadable. “Right now, are you—I can go, if—”
“Yes,” Rey says. “I talked to my doctor, and she gave me a temporary solution.”
“Were you… okay?” Ben’s voice is low, barely holding back some raw emotion. “During—”
“I was fine.”
“Were you alone?”
Her eyes widen a little. He cannot be asking what she thinks he’s asking, can he?
“I was fine,” she repeats, in a tone she hopes is firm. “But for long-term, they need you to… provide a sample. If you’re willing.”
Up until this moment, Rey hadn’t even considered the possibility that he might not want to. But he’s run from her twice; how much clearer can he get?
“Is that what you want?” he asks, his voice very soft, uncharacteristically tender.
Rey doesn’t understand. “It’s… of course it is. Isn’t that what you want?”
He looks away. “It’s your body. I don’t think I really get a say in it.”
Rey feels a rush of pride and appreciation and… some other unnamable feeling, at this. But it’s a little hollow, a little sad. She tries to play it off with a laugh.
“That’s… pretty progressive of you, Ben.”
He looks up at her, and gives her a look that could almost be characterized as playful. “My mom’s an Alpha. If I said anything else, she’d know, and then I’d never hear the end of it.”
“Well,” Rey says with a faint smile, “Your mother raised you right, then. Thank you.”
“You’re welcome,” he says. “Where do I—?”
“Oh, I can message you the address for the lab,” Rey says. “It’s just… I wanted to ask you in person. You sure you’re okay with this?”
“Yeah, No, it’s fine,” he says. But he can’t look at her when he says it. “I know what it’s like… I don’t want you to… feel out of control, like that. I mean, I don’t know what heat’s like, but… yeah. It’s okay. If that’s what you want.”
What do I want? Rey thinks. She thought—was so sure—that she knew.
“Thank you,” Rey says. “I know this is… weird. And the doctor said it was really unusual, that most Omegas who—”
She stops herself, abruptly, remembering the other half of that sentence. He doesn’t want to be mated to her, and she’s not ready for it, so it’s not worth saying. Better living through chemistry. Carefully, Rey flattens her palms down the front of her t-shirt. It’s her favorite one: A navy, constellation-print raglan tee, worn with bright yellow jeans and her comfortable pair of dark gray Toms. It’s not anything special, though—no different from what other folks wear at the office, but the way he’s looking at her, Rey feels like she’s just stepped out in a gala dress, or something stunning, provocative.
One breath in. It should be oxygen, nitrogen, trace gases—but instead it’s Ben, all Ben. Part of her wants him to fight her on this, fight for her. She imagines him stalking toward her, possessive and intense, claiming her for all the office to see. Her back against the conference-room table, his mouth between her legs...
Omega hormones, nothing more, Rey reminds herself. She can’t allow her fragile heart to see anything more in his expression than just the effects of biology’s unsteady pull on them both.
“Rey, what happened between us...” Ben says—but it’s like the words are stuck in his throat, too.
Rey smiles again, and resists the urge to pat him on the arm consolingly. “I understand. We don’t have to talk about it. It’s fine.”
His brow furrows. “We don’t?”
“No, I mean… why would we?”
There’s that muscle in his jaw again. Rey watches him swallow, watches as he looks up to the ceiling, shoves his hands in his pockets, looks to the side of the room. Anywhere but her.
“No, it’s fine,” he says at last. “It’s fine. I’ll be there.”
There’s something else here, between them.
But like the wind, which moves and flows in invisible, unknown currents around them, all Rey can see is two bodies, moving in space. Avoiding a collision that undoubtedly would ruin them.
So she smiles, a little wobbly, and tries not to think about the implications of his… his submission, to her. Tries not to think about what it means, for an Alpha to be like this, only for her.
“Thanks, Ben,” Rey says softly. “I appreciate it.”
Ben goes and gives the blood sample the next day, after work; Rey gets the note from her doctor and from her insurance, a status update and an estimated date of delivery. It should be done, so the lab says, within the next four days. The emergency suppressant should last that long. She’s safe. And she ought to feel content about this, happy, but she doesn’t. Not quite.
She doesn’t really understand why.
Well, Rey thinks, add that to the long line of things I don’t understand about him, or this, or anything. Everything I thought I knew…
Work is work, though, and distraction is distraction. The ploughs through a chunk of wayward code, troubleshooting it and going back through versions past to try and see the issue from a new perspective, and finally, with a sense of unmitigated triumph, pinpoints the exact issue. Something pushed out to production, that wasn’t checked on the test server. It feels good, damn good, for things to be going her way, for once.
Ben is there at work the next day, but he’s distant. Back to the way things were, just like she wanted. Rey adjusts and moves her little cactus pair, wondering if they’re too far from the light, and she thinks about sending him messages, but there’s a permanent crease between his brows every time she looks up. So she decides against it.
Rey grabs lunch from downstairs in the building with Jess and Tallie, walking back to the elevators and trying not to blush when they remark on the weird dent in one of the walls.
She knows exactly how that dent was made.
But she doesn’t want to think about it, or anything else. There’s enough to be dealing with right now, and a reminder of all her embarrassing moments isn’t what she needs, on this otherwise productive, sunny day. She doesn’t want to remember his touch, or his soft, plaintive growls. Not that look in his eyes, or the desperation in his voice. Not the fear when the elevator had stopped.
Jess and Tallie say nothing; nobody knows, and it’s okay, it’s fine, everything’s fine.
She can keep it all a secret.
As the elevator rises, she glances up at the corner, and sees, with a horrified realization, that there’s a security camera on the elevator. Did someone see them? God, she fucking hopes not. If there’s a benevolent force in the universe at all, the recording of her and Ben that night will have gone to some backup tape, bypassed by a dozing security guard, never to be reviewed again.
The thought of someone seeing that makes her want to cry, or punch something, or both.
Rey follows behind Jess and Tallie as they walk with their lunch orders over to the break room, feeling strangely distant, isolated. Of course Jess and Tallie want to eat on that table, too.
The sun shines down on the buildings outside, slanting in through the windows, warm and comforting, filtered by the thick glass windows, but all Rey can feel is the ghost of Ben’s mouth on her neck, his hand on her—
And Ben… he still isn’t replying to her messages. Rey checks her phone discreetly, thumbing down to the screen where her last message sits, waiting, like bait or like an offering.
She should feel happy.
Everything is about to be solved. The supressant is in the works, and she’ll be back to work like any other Beta soon enough. She’ll be free from Ben’s chemical pull, and he’ll be free, too.
So why does her chicken shawarma make her stomach turn upside-down?
“Hey, Rey, I wanted to let you know,” Kaydel says, coming over to them and perching on the edge of the table, her Resistance Tech water bottle in her hand. “I know we were talking about sending both you and Ben to the ConstructiCon thing, but it looks like it’s just going to be Ben this year. He left this morning.”
“Oh,” Rey says. “No, that’s fine.”
“It’s nothing personal,” Kaydel is quick to reassure her. “It was just a budget thing. We’ve still got you flagged to go to the one in December, alright?”
“Sure,” Rey says with a smile.
Kadel smiles, too, and Rey turns her attention back to Jess and Tallie’s conversation. They’re talking about the latest episode of… something, Rey isn’t sure which. She tries to figure out through context cues, and ends up completely bewildered.
She takes a bit of her shawarma, and thinks.
Well, that makes sense, at least, if Ben is on his way to a conference. He must have turned his notifications off while he’s on his way there, or something. Rey’s not offended at all to be left out, last-minute, from this opportunity. After the few days she’s just had, she’s really not up to it, and her attention has been distracted ever since she had that conversation with Ben. If that heat had happened again, Rey would’ve been stuck in a conference hall when who knew how many other Alphas, which is a prospect more terrifying than going through it again alone.
And Ben’s the senior developer. It makes more sense for him to go, anyway.
Rey takes a steadying breath, and forces herself to focus on Tallie and Jess.
“...and he was inside the system the whole time, I mean, it totally was a callback to season two, the part where—”
“Exactly!” Jess agrees. “With the… the helicopters!”
“So do you think this is going to lead to them going back inside?” Tallie says—then she looks up, guiltily, at Rey. “Sorry, this is probably all spoilers! Are you caught up?”
Rey shakes her head. “No, it’s fine. I honestly don’t even know what show you’re talking about.”
Jess turns back to her, her face splits into a grin. “I’m not surprised. You really should watch it though. Counterpart, I mean. It’s got a really amazing story, this killer villain-hero romance—”
“It’s not a romance!” Tallie exclaims, setting her tuna salad sandwich down as a look of shock crosses her features. “No. Don’t tell me you’re one of those.”
“One of what?” Jess laughs. “One of those people who’s watched the show? You could cut the tension between Malik and Alaina with a knife.”
“He threw her into a cliff!”
“They were enemies in a war!”
Rey takes a bite of her shawarma, trying in vain to follow the conversation while having no idea what is going on.
“Alaina deserves someone who already is on her side,” Tallie says. “Not someone she has to… heal, or fix, or… whatever is going on with Malik and his arc this season. It’s just too contentious; I don’t see how it could work.”
“That’s what makes it so hot, though!” Jess interjects. "He was the one who came for her when the bunker caved in."
Tallie shaking her head. “I just don’t see it. If I were in her position, I wouldn’t want to deal with someone so… dramatic all the time. It’s like dating Ben, I mean, can you imagine? No offense, Rey.”
Rey starts at this. “None—wait, what?”
“Well, I mean… you and Ben…” Tallie smiles awkwardly, as if she’s just realized she’s gotten a bit too far ahead of herself, but Rey doesn’t follow at all. “There’s someone for everyone, I mean.”
Rey blinks. “What do you mean, me and Ben?”
“I thought you two were…” Tallie’s voice trails off. “I’m sorry, I… is this a thing? I didn’t know if we’re not supposed to talk about it.”
“Tall about what? ” Rey feels herself go ice-cold. Did Tallie see them, does she know, somehow, what happened between her and Ben? Both Tallie and Jess are Betas. Rey’s been trying so hard to be subtle, to keep this all contained, and the last thing she needs right now is office gossip.
“Well… aren’t you two… y’know, mated?”
“No, we aren’t!” Rey can’t even begin to form the words to express her utter disbelief at where this conversation has turned. “What made you think we were?”
“When you came in, and your neck was…” Jess gestures to her own neck, on the side.
Rey doesn’t understand. “He hasn’t… we haven’t—”
“We thought you two were just keeping it private,” Tallie says hastily. “We didn’t mean—We didn’t tell anyone, we just noticed the mark.”
“I burned myself on a curling iron!” Rey says, a little too loudly, because a group of co-workers who are currently engaged in what looks to be a Hearthstone battle on their laptops all looks up at her. She lowers her voice to an incredulous whisper: “Didn’t you two pay attention in health class at all? That’s not what a bond mark looks like!”
“Well the way you two make eyes at each other,” Jess says, like that’s anything approaching an explanation. “You were off, and he took leave at the same time, and we thought you two…”
Rey feels like it’s opposite day, and she’s just stepped into a parallel world. A world where her otherwise-sensible co-workers have suddenly gone round the twist, begun to hallucinate. They cannot be serious.
“We do not make eyes at each other,” Rey says.
“Well he looks at you like—”
“We didn’t mean anything by it,” Jess says, cutting across Tallie. “Seriously. We thought it was just an Omega thing. Or an Alpha thing.”
“It’s not an Omega thing,” Rey says, barely contained fury in her voice. “It’s not anything. We are not together.”
“We figured you two would want to keep a work relationship private,” Tallie finishes. “But if we were off the mark—”
“You were,” Rey says, sharper than she intends. The true explanation—the rest of the story, beyond the stupid curling iron, and whatever it is they think they’ve seen—is not something she’s going to touch with a ten-foot pole.
“Rey, I’m sorry,” Tallie says. “I… I thought… I’m so sorry.”
“We were waiting for an announcement,” Jess adds, like that’s helpful at all. “But we haven’t told anyone else, I swear.”
Rey looks down at her food. “Thank you. Please don’t. It would make things so awkward, and I just can’t…”
“No, no, I’m so sorry for even bringing it up,” Tallie says. Her eyes are wide, and soft, and genuinely chagrined. “We didn’t know.”
“Didn’t know what?” Rose says, bringing her gyro over and sitting beside Rey at the long, narrow table.
“Nothing,” Tallie says, and Jess says, at the same time, “That Rey wasn’t going to ConstructiCon.”
Rose looks between the two of them, then at Rey.
And Rey just… looks down, at her food. Suddenly she’s not hungry at all.
At just past four forty-five, Rose finds Rey in the secluded back hallway, on the way to the bathrooms. She’s in the cutest shirtdress, belted at the waist and scattered with a print of dancing geometric foxes on an ice-blue background, her hair back in the glossy, unfussy curls that Rose pulls off so well. Beneath the collar of her dress, Rey catches sight of Rose’s ever-present gold necklace, knowing that she’s probably the only person in the office who knows the story of why Rose wears it, her sister, her family…
“What was that all about?” Rose says. “With Tallie and Jess, at lunch.”
Rey sighs, and tugs at the elastic in her hair, sending her bun spilling down over her shoulders. She finger-combs her dark strands back, collecting them at the nape, binding it into a low half-bun.
“They thought that Ben and I were mated.”
Rose’s eyes widen. “Seriously?”
“But… you’re not, though?”
Rey blinks at her. “No, we’re not.”
“Oh,” Rose says, nodding like she knew that would be the answer. “Okay.”
“You didn’t think, after—”
“No, of course not,” Rose quickly clarifies. “I got the speech from the pharmacist, they thought the prescription I picked up was for me.”
Rey laughs at this, but it’s a laugh that’s halfway to a sob. This is all too much. Tallie and Jess are… they don’t know, can’t understand, how their clueless optimism could hurt so much. It’s not like you wanted it to be true, anyway, Rey thinks. If it’s harmless office gossip, then let it be that, and leave it alone. Rey fusses with the loose thread on the bottom seam of her chunky knit cardigan.
“I knew that couldn’t be true,” Rose continues. “I mean, you two hate each other. And he’s kind of a pain in the ass to work with.”
“He’s not,” Rey says, before she can even stop herself from defending Ben. “He’s… well he’s difficult, but he… He’s nice. I think he is just frustrated, sometimes, that he can’t implement the things he—”
“Are you defending him? Rose asks, wide-eyed and incredulous. “Ben, the guy you once described as, and I quote, ‘a tantrum in skinny jeans’? The guy you told me, over drinks, must’ve been voted ‘most likely to be a hot fucking mess’ in his high school yearbook? Ben? Nice?”
Rey shakes her head. “He’s been nicer to me lately. And no, I’m not defending him, because he’s a grown adult who can speak for himself. I’m just saying that… I know him a little better now. And maybe my initial opinion of him was… inaccurate. Maybe he’s the same as he ever was, and I just… People can change.”
“Yes,” Rose says warily. “They can. But… he’s only changed around you. I mean, you see that, right?”
“I do,” Rey says, and there’s more than a hint of resignation in her voice. “Believe me, I do.”
“You’re not the only one,” Rose confesses. “Seriously, though, if he’s bothering you, he’ll have to go through me next time. I’ll fight him in a Denny’s parking lot, I’m totally serious.”
Rey laughs at Rose’s intensity, not to mention the mental picture of five-foot-two Beta Rose squaring off against an Alpha with a foot and a hundred or so pounds on her. Even with all of that, Rey has a feeling that Rose would win. And she feels like bringing her friend in for a hug. “Thank you. He’s not bothering me. I can handle him.”
“Okay,” Rose says.
Rey heads home, weary from more than just work, trying and failing to resist the urge to check her message to him, again.
Well, that’s a clear signal. She should just let it go, and not let her doubts confuse her.
Instead, like an emotional masochist, she tortures herself, wanting more of him. Wanting anything. Rey goes online and pulls up the homepage for the ConstructiCon development conference, scrolling down until she sees the panel with Ben’s name next to it.
It’s research, she tells herself. This is work-related.
Rey tugs her bra off through her shirtsleeve and kicks off her shoes, sitting down on her couch and propping her laptop on the coffee table, on top of a stack of books she keeps meaning to read, but never gets around to opening.
She hits play.
The intro comes online after the conference’s logo, and there’s some milling around as the guests get into their seats. The noise settles down once the panelists go up onto the stage, however, and Rey starts a little when she sees Ben there, too.
He’s wearing a deep charcoal sweater, black jeans, his favorite boots.
He looks delicious, and why she knows they’re his favorites Rey doesn’t want to examine.
The moderator begins. Rey half-heartedly listens, and eventually gets up to change out of her jeans and into pajama pants, when it’s clear that the moderator is going to be going on for a while.
It’s a good talk, and an interesting topic, but she can hardly focus on it as soon as the other panelists begin to get their turn to speak.
And when Ben starts…
Rey can’t look away.
And it slowly dawns on her that this is… he’s in his element, here. In a strange sort of way, being given the chance to fully articulate his thoughts means that he commands the stage, even when he’s sitting down. His voice is oddly mild, even hypnotic. Warm and sweet, thoughtful and engaging, he’s easily the best speaker on the panel.
Rey finds herself learning in to catch his words, wanting more of him.
More of the conference, of course.
She gathers her wits, and listens more closely, trying not to stare at his mouth as he speaks.
The moderator cuts in: “...so, how do we approach this, then, choosing to innovate for the sake of innovation, or choosing to stay in a proven methodology when it’s only working to a portion of its potential? How do you make that call?”
“Well, I use a little thing I like to call the succulent theory,” Ben says, to a little bit of laughter in the crowd. “It’s not enough to provide features, you have to provide solutions, and solutions are adapted to their environment, to the situation at hand. You have to have full knowledge of what it is you’re fixing before you start to repair it.”
“Why succulent?” one of the other panelists asks. “Where did that come from?”
And Ben ducks his head, smiling, a little bashful in a way that wrenches at Rey’s heart.
“A very intelligent colleague of mine once said, you don’t fault a cactus for being sharp. You have to build from the known, sometimes, and not get bogged down on hypotheticals. You can’t get distracted by what something isn’t.”
Rey feels a flush of understanding wash over her.
She had told him that.
It had been a throwaway comment, in a meeting four months back, when they’d been butting heads on some project, some update. Rey doesn’t even remember the origin of the argument, but she remembers, with crystal precision, when it had been said. She’d said it out of spite, trying to make him understand.
She hadn’t realized that he’d even remember it.
Or what feelings it would conjure in her, to hear him say it, like this. To call her ‘very intelligent.’
“A good solution is… adapted to its environment,” Ben continues, with a downcast look, one that Rey sees through with heartbreaking clarity. “A cactus understands the variables. Low water, high temperatures… they know what they are. What they’re meant to do. And they don’t try to be something that they’re not.”
Overwhelmed, Rey taps the pause button on the video, and wipes at the sudden welling of tears in her eyes.
The camera had cut back to the wider shot as the panel’s moderator had leaned back into the mic, but Rey can still see Ben there at the long table, head bent, dark hair falling a little across his face. He’s shielded, just a little, from public view—and anyone watching would think he was just looking back down at his notes.
But Rey sees him—really sees him. And it’s painful to her that this is what it takes for her to understand.
They know what they aren’t.
For all his yelling, all his posturing and ferocity, Rey knows what Ben is. He’s an Alpha. By some chance of fate, or biology, or genetics, he’s been bred to lead and fight and crush those who would oppose him. He’s been given, through no work of his own, a taller body, a bigger, more muscular frame, a stronger sex drive… All those things which, a thousand years ago, might have made him a ruthless warlord, a conquering king, those things aren't necessary anymore. In the same way, science has found a way to mute all of the uncomfortable, dangerous, out-of-control aspects of everything an Omega is. It’s given her back control, and Rey’s only ever been grateful for that. These things, this medicine, it’s allowed her to create a life that’s something more than just someone’s possession.
But what else has it muted?
Rey wants to scoff at this. There are some, a small but vocal subset of traditionalists, who believe that any kind of intervention is contrary to natural law. Alphas ought to know their place, and Omegas, too. Alphas, lead, and Omegas follow, and Rey’s always chafed at that strict, repressive view. For the most part, Rey doesn’t care what people do, so long as they’re offered a choice in the matter. And she doesn’t necessarily believe that she’s… giving up something essential, some critical part of herself, when she regulates her heats and prevents herself from suffering. Just one taste of a reactive, true heat, and she was reminded of that.
Being out of control like that? It's terrifying.
That said, however, Rey’s never really stopped to consider what it’s like, for an Alpha. All of that rage, all of that… Alpha-ness, it’s got to go somewhere, right? Maybe if you push it down, and hide it, and cover it over, it’ll only emerge more sharply, more dangerously. And Rey could’ve no more stopped the tides from devouring a child’s sandcastle than she could’ve stopped her heat from rising.
He’s right. You cannot make a choice, cannot begin to implement a solution, without having all of the information.
Something nags at her gut, and Rey—getting up and standing in front of the fridge, scanning it for something to eat that isn’t a sad packet of Chinese hot mustard and a withered bunch of rainbow chard she’d optimistically grabbed from the farmer’s market—tries to pretend like she’s somehow immune from this trap. Of course she isn’t.
She’s charged ahead, too, without considering all of the variables.
Variables like… does she really want to cut herself off from him, from the potential of him, what he represents, what she secretly and almost shamefully yearns for? It’s the sensible choice, the logical choice, the easy choice, but… it feels wrong.
And yet not doing it, not getting the shot and burning him out of her system, it feels like she might as well trade in her wardrobe for modest blouses, bare her neck at the Alpha who offers her the most cows, and go live on an Alpha-first farmstead.
That’s not an option.
(Although she does entertain, for the briefest of moments, a charming mental picture of Ben Solo in a straw-brimmed hat and suspenders. He’d raise a barn for her, Rey thinks. A nice one, too.)
What’s the definition of a disaster? One of her professors had asked, back in CS 323, sitting in a stifling, asbestos-lined, basement classroom that hadn’t been deep-cleaned since the Clinton administration. Answer: a series of apparently harmless, minor mistakes.
Rey grabs some frozen dinner thing and pops it into the microwave, her thoughts turning over and over until the timer beeps. She drags the cardboard tray out and plops it onto a plate, carrying it back to her sofa. They’re supposed to be chicken verde enchiladas, but they look like sad little tubes of tragedy that haven’t been within fifty meters of a tomatillo. And she looks at Ben in the paused video for a long time, trying to understand which of those harmless, minor mistakes had set off this chain reaction. How she’d led herself to this result.
I don’t want you to go , she thinks. I don’t want you to leave me.
I don’t want to be immune from you.
I want… I want you.
But wanting isn’t enough.
The suppressant arrives on her doorstep on a Tuesday, nestled inside a secure and colorfully-labeled cardboard box, which surrounds a thick and absurdly over-packaged styrofoam container, inside which is a disposable cooling pack. Rey gets the tracking information the night before, brings it inside after she gets home from work, and tucks it into the fridge, for safe keeping.
She needs to read the instructions, if she’s going to be doing this.
Rey’s never had to give herself a shot before, but the instructions seem pretty straightforward; it’s a pre-measured, pre-packaged dose, and all she has to do is take the cap off, jab it into her thigh, and then move on with her life.
She reads the instructions three times, then goes and looks at the pack, in the fridge. It’s not that she’s scared of needles, even though this is new to her, and, yeah, okay, not the most appealing thing in the world. Somehow, she just can’t bring herself to do it.
Instead, she tucks it securely back in the fridge, and orders takeout from her go-to curry place.
She can always do it in the morning.
Except Wednesday morning arrives, and Rey realizes she’s completely slept through her alarm, and now has just ten minutes to shower, do something with her hair, get dressed, and make it to work. Normally Kaydel doesn’t particularly care when people get in, but there’s been an all-hands meeting put on the calendar for bright and early Wednesday morning, and Rey doesn’t want to miss it. She throws on whatever looks passable—a t-shirt with a forest-green abstract landscape print on it and her favorite ratty jeans—and speeds just a little, sliding into the meeting only a minute late.
Rose eyes her from across the room.
What’s up? Rey mouths.
So Rey looks to the front of the office.
“We’re sad to say, today is going to be the last day for one of our own,” Amilyn is saying. She’s wearing one of her favorite soft, draped, minimalist tunics, with the high-neck and subtle taupe color providing such a contrast to her lavender hair. “And we’re all going to miss him. Ben, you’ve been a great asset to your team, and to this company, and I’d be lying if I said you weren’t the best covert stepson in the whole building. Come on up, Ben.”
There’s a scattering of surprised gasps from the employees who hadn’t realized the connection; Rey’s one of them, though she muffles it well. Amilyn is… Ben’s step-mother? Then that means that she’s mated to Ben’s Alpha mother?
What a small fucking world, Rey thinks. Apparently she’s not the only person for whom this is brand-new information.
Not if the reaction in the crowd is anything to go by.
Did you know? Rey mouths back at Rose, who shakes her head.
No clue! Rose mouths back. Rose has been there for a year longer than Rey, and if she didn’t know, then basically nobody would.
Ben comes up to the front, serious-faced and reluctant. Amilyn is talking again, but Rey can’t hear her, because as she stares at Ben, the reality of it sinks in.
He’s not going to be here, to send her jokes or help her with troubleshooting. He’s not going to be there when she looks up to the other end of the row of desks, to cast his sardonic glare across the denizens of the office.
He’s not going to be there, to smile for her.
“Thank you, everyone,” Ben is saying. “I’ll really miss Resistance, and… I hope that our paths will cross again, sometime.”
That’s as much of a speech as he wants to give, and probably twice as much as anyone wants to hear; he isn’t well-liked, and he knows it.
And Rey feels frozen.
Ben ducks into Amilyn’s office and the crowd disperses, chattering away about this and that, about Ben, and the new tidbit of gossip. Rey goes back to her desk, and sits down.
Her eyes are fixed on the tiny cactus plant. The gold winks at her, mockingly.
She doesn’t understand.
Ben doesn’t come back to his desk for the morning, and the next time she sees him, it’s heading to the bathroom, and… Well, Rey can’t really follow him in there. She heads to the front desk, bypassing the break room and swiping a packet of crisps on her way, just to have something to fiddle with.
Waiting in the lobby, a short, silver-haired woman in a crisp navy pantsuit is scrolling through her phone. There’s something so quietly commanding about her. Rey stops herself short, scenting her almost instantly—Alpha. Familiar, in a way, but… it’s more subdued, and it’s different, in the way that Amilyn’s Omega scent is different from Rey’s or any of the others’ in the office, but… this has to be Ben’s mother.
And she’s… she’s tiny.
It just doesn’t compute.
“Mrs. Organa,” Rey says, when the woman looks up at her, when retreat is no longer an option. “Are you here to—?”
“My son has finally agreed to let me take him out to lunch,” the diminutive woman replies, smiling up at Rey. “Figures it’d be on his last day.”
Rey laughs softly at this. “They told us this morning. It’s all so sudden.”
“Yes,” she replies. “He was reluctant to take the headhunter’s offer but… you must be Rey.”
Rey startles. “Yes. How did you know?”
Mrs. Organa gives Rey a look. “Ben’s told me enough about you. Walk with me.”
Rey obeys. It’s hard to say no to an Alpha like Mrs. Organa. Rey’s got more than a little bit of a ladycrush on her: Businesswoman, philanthropist, and activist, Leia Organa has been leading the charge for political progress and innovation since before Rey was even born. Rey sometimes watches her famously fired-up speech before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation when she’s feeling sad about the world. Rey had never in her wildest dreams thought to connect her with Ben, of all people.
But now that she’s here, the resemblance—in scent, if not in stature—is undeniable.
Ben, Rey thinks, has his mother’s eyes. Those brown eyes that look straight through her now.
“So what exactly has Ben said about me?” Rey says, because she can’t help herself, and her nerves are getting out of control.
Mrs. Organa laughs. “Oh, just the good things, I’m sure. You were one of the rare people who managed to escape his rants unscathed.”
Rey smiles at this, nerves fluttering in her belly. “I suppose I ought to take that as a compliment.”
The older woman regards her with a keen look. “You should.”
“Mrs. Organa, I just wanted to say, you’re one of the most—well, inspirational sounds so cliche—”
“Call me Leia, please,” the other woman says, smiling up at her warmly.
“Leia,” Rey amends, realizing she’s gushing but completely unable to stop herself. “The work you’ve done, advocating for the the sustainable sciences bill…”
Smiling, Leia ducks her head a little. “Thank you. It was a hard battle, but it was worth it. And anyway, I could say the same for you. Anyone who can make my son look like that, you must be something special, too.”
She nods her head in the direction just behind and to the side of Rey, and Rey turns, seeing Ben approaching. He’s got his gaze on his shoes, but he looks up when Rey turns. The flush of warmth and delight when his eyes finally meet hers is… Rey smiles. She doesn’t exactly have time to process what Leia means, though, before she continues speaking to Ben directly.
“I was just telling Rey, here, that—“
“Mom, please,” Ben says, ducking his head a little.
Rey looks over at Leia, who is wearing a pressed, restrained smile, like she knows something Rey doesn’t.
“Alright, alright,” Leia says. “C’mon, lend a fragile old woman your arm.”
Rey smiles at their obvious affection; the interaction between them is as lovingly exasperated as it is tender. Ben rolls his eyes, but offers her his arm anyway. Rey noticed that Leia has been concealing an elegant wooden cane at her side.
“Nice to finally put a face with a name, Rey,” Leia says, as she and her towering son head to the elevators. “I hope to see you again soon.”
“Nice to meet you, too,” Rey says.
And she’s halfway back to her desk when she is confronted with two equally-distracting thoughts:
One: That she hopes, more than anything, that Ben and his mother take any other elevator but that one, and Two: that she’s sure that Ben’s mother has just implied they’d have some reason to see each other again.
Which, of course, is unlikely, now that Ben is leaving.
Rey sits back down at her desk, wishing—with a private little sadness—that she had a fierce, loving mother like Ben’s.
Wishing isn’t reality, though.
And Rey has work to do.
Rey has nothing but the most casual of interactions with him when he returns from lunch. It’s just project handoff meetings, how was lunch, where’s your next job taking you?
The answers to these seem to be, in order: lunch was good, and a fully remote position doing software engineering for GitHub.
“Congratulations,” Rey tells him, and his liquid-dark eyes meet hers with a muttered ‘Thanks’ before someone pulls him away.
Rey’s back home before she realizes that… today was the last time she’s ever going to see him. Their last words were so banal, so pointless.
This can’t be the end.
It just can’t be.
Why the fuck can’t they just talk to each other? He’s shown her what he looks like when he comes, had his hand down her pants and his mouth on her skin, but words, somehow, are the terrifying thing. An Alpha, she thinks, would fight for her, if he wanted her. But there’s something else going on. Ben’s sure as hell not afraid of a fight, has never been afraid to stick his neck out and make other people unhappy. This subdued, restrained version of him, this version of Ben that only she sees, makes her want to scream in frustration.
Want me, see me, fight for me—or if you don’t want me, then tell me, so I can know, and move on.
Rey opens her laptop and waits for Slack to come up. Sure enough, he’s online.
She takes a breath, and begins to type. Funny, how she’s always braver like this. Maybe, Rey thinks, he can be, too.
rjohnson: I didn’t get a chance to say goodbye today
Good luck at the new job
It was time
rjohnson: I think I made a fool of myself in front of your mom
bsolo: I doubt that
rjohnson: We weren’t trying to embarrass you
bsolo: I know, it’s okay
She tends to generate that reaction
rjohnson: It’s an Alpha thing
bsolo: No. just her
rjohnson: A little, though.
Sometimes it’s hard for me
To talk to you
So it must be genetic at least
bsolo: I’m sorry if I’ve put you off
That wasn’t my intention
rjohnson: No, I like talking with you
Chatting with you too
I’m going to miss you
Who’s going to make me laugh when Poe starts cursing in Spanish under his breath
About version control
bsolo: I’m going to miss you too
Rey pushes her laptop to the side, thoughts swirling with emotions, all the things she wants to say, but can’t. Tone is impossible over chat; she can hardly read him in person, and what if this is just wishful thinking. She gets up, goes to the fridge and finds a bottle of beer, cracking it open and taking a sip.
Maybe it’s liquid courage.
Or maybe she’s just thirsty.
The unused suppressant clinks against the door shelf as it rolls, taunting her.
Rey considers it for a moment, not touching it; she goes back to the sofa, and pulls her computer back onto her crossed legs.
Ben’s left another message for her.
bsolo: i'm sure you’ll be okay without me
Rey swallows down her drink. She isn’t okay.
It’s now or never. She sets the bottle down on her side table, and types what’s in her heart.
rjohnson: Did you leave because of me?
I realized that by staying, I was putting you in the position to have to fucking inject shit into your body and that wasn’t right
rjohnson: That’s not a reason to quit
And how did you know it’s an injection
bsolo: I looked it up
rjohnson: You looked it up?
bsolo: I was curious
And if me leaving was better than the side effects
Then I wanted you to be able to have that choice
rjohnson: What if I still do it?
bsolo: It’s your body
rjohnson: Ben, talk to me. I know things have been awkward,
and I know you don’t want this, but please
I’m just trying to understand
His reply hovers as a three-dot animation for several long seconds. Typing, then deleting, or just hesitating, she doesn’t know. Rey wonders if this is it—the moment where she’s messed it up for good. Suddenly she feels as if she needs something stronger than he beer.
Finally, the messages come.
bsolo: I do want you
I wanted you from the first moment i saw you
That’s why I was so afraid
That’s why things were so weird
I was afraid of what I felt for you
And what happened
What I did
Rey clutches her beer in her hand, feeling the cold condensation and the contrast of her heated skin.
She can hardly type her reply—misspells his name twice before she fixes it and hits send. It’s only three letters but it’s everything. Her whole world has narrowed to the perfect impossibly of this moment.
I do want you.
She takes a breath; it comes in more like a gasp.
I don’t know what to say
bsolo: You don’t have to say anything
I knew I ruined it back in the elevator
Now I’m making it easier on both of us
rjohnson: this isn’t easier
I mean I don’t know
I didn’t know
You didn’t ruin it
bsolo: It’s okay
You don’t have to say something you don’t mean
rjohnson: how do you know what I mean or don’t mean
Or what I want
bsolo: It’s fine
rjohnson: I want you
There. It’s out in the open: black text on a stark white screen. Rey wouldn’t edit the message for anything.
It’s the absolute truth.
And he has to know, has to understand, before he leaves her forever.
rjohnson: I want you
Ben i want you, but this scares me
Not you, but this
All of this
What I feel
Are you serious right now
rjohnson: yes I’m serious
What kind of question is that?
bsolo: Why didn’t you say
rjohnson: I didn’t know
I didn’t know how
I’ve never been with an Alpha before
I don’t know what I’m supposed to do
bsolo: can I call you
Rey cradles the phone to her ear, heart in her throat, picking up after the first ring.
“Rey,” he says. “I… I didn’t know.”
“Ben, I just… when I realized you were leaving, I couldn’t leave things like this between us,” Rey says, and she knows she’s gushing, knows she’s chattering away, words flowing out of her like water widening a crack in a dam. “I couldn’t let you go without saying… without at least asking, if you and I could… Ben, I’m gonna miss you so much, and I—I can’t use it, the blocker, and I know you went and gave the sample and you’re—”
“Rey,” he says again. “Tell me. I have to know. Do you… do you want—”
“I want you,” Rey says, and it’s halfway to a sob when she says it. “I want you, I’ve wanted you since… and I didn’t realize you could ever—”
“Rey,” he exhales her name on a shaking breath.
The thought that she’s rendered this brilliant man speechless—the thought that everything she’s been pining for, hiding away from her self this whole time… the thought that it was real, and he feels it too, it’s all too much.
“Come over,” Rey says quietly. “Please, Ben. I—I need to see you…”
“Rey, are you sure?” he asks, voice needy and dark and oh-so-enticing. “Because if… I won’t be able to… you know what you’re asking me, Rey.”
“Do you want me?” she asks—plain and honest, The was she should’ve been right from the start.
“Yes,” is his swift reply. “Yes, yes, Rey. I want you. I want you.”
She takes a slow, shaking breath, relief and anticipation and desire finally, finally overcoming the fear.
He wants her…
“Alpha,” she whispers. “Alpha, please, I want—“
“Give me your address,” he says, and the shift, just then, in his tone is enough to make her utterly weak in the knees. It's not the tone of a shy and fearful man. Not the tone of someone pretending to be a Beta. It's all Alpha. Steady and sure and confident.
Can heat start through a phone?
Rey feels like she’s about to find out.
After he hangs up, Rey stands there in the middle of her apartment, her chest rising and falling with each breath. She ought to feel nervous, but it feels… right.
Then she sees the abject mess of her place and the nerves come back in full force.
He won’t care, her rational mind chides her, but Rey gathers up the dishes and water glasses and chucks the beer bottle in the recycling bin in her pantry. She folds the blanket on the couch and fluffs the pillows and Ben’s coming here, he’s coming over, he wants me and I want him and this—this is—
Rey tears off her clothes and hides the laundry basket in the closet, making her bed, then blushing furiously as she imagines Ben laid out on her sheets. What will his body look like, beneath those well-worn jeans? All she's seen of him has been his hands, his face... and his cock, but things were too strange, too surreal, for her to process it. He's going to be in her space, her den. And the air isn't completely clear between them but... but she's never been more sure of what she wants.
And what she wants is Ben Solo. Fully Alpha, all her own.
This is real, this is real.
Omega instinct is kicking into overdrive, even though her heat is nowhere near due. She wants her space, her den, to be perfect for him. She wants to make her Alpha proud, show him she’s—
She needs to shower.
Will he like her, just the way she is: messy-haired and braless, sweaty from the day, scent undoubtedly spiking… does she have the time?
Her heart is racing.
Rey looks at the time on her alarm clock; it feels like hours have passed without him, like anytime is too much to be waiting for what she’s been aching for for weeks.
It feels like seconds have passed.
It’s only been seven minutes.
Rey decides on jumping in the shower, but gets in while it’s still cold, only thirty seconds wasted under the stream. She towels off and pulls on a sundress. Forgets her underwear entirely.
She goes to the kitchen, grabs a sponge and the all-surface spray, and gets scrubbing.
If he makes her wait any longer she’s going to polish the top of the formica down to particle board.
Alpha, please, Rey thinks, wringing the dishcloth so tightly she’s in danger of reducing it to shreds. Please, don’t make me wait...
Ben shows up at her door exactly twelve minutes later, wild-eyed, wearing his shirt inside out.
Rey smiles a little nervously as she opens the door for him, the scent of lemon and tangerine cleaning products (hopefully) covering over any residual mess of her place. She’s a clean person, but she’s also a human person. And the last thing she wants is for him to be repelled by her now.
Then again, the way his pupils dilate, maybe that’s not as likely as she’d assumed.
“Hey,” he says. “Are you… okay?”
“Yeah,” Rey replies, although her stomach is clenching now in a way that has nothing to do with the heat she knows is incoming. His presence is intoxicating, a cocktail of scent and want, finally away from prying eyes, office gossip, and her own goddamn fears… “You want to come inside?”
“I… I do, yes,” he bites his lips, works his mouth in that familiar, contemplative motion. “But if I come inside I… we… have you eaten dinner yet?”
“No,” Rey says. He’s right, too; she’d been so busy cleaning and getting her place in order, she hadn’t eaten anything and now her growling stomach must be loud enough for even him to hear.
“Do you want to get something?”
Rey smiles at him. “Is this a date?”
The smile he gives her is brilliant, warming her down to her toes.
“Yeah,” he says. And then his beautiful face turns serious. “How long do you have?”
Rey knows precisely what he means.
“The last one started… about four hours, I’d guess. Maybe more.”
“Time to eat, then,” he says, before adding: “If you want to.”
“I want to,” Rey says with a smile.
What she really wants, her body screams, is to drag him inside, let him drive her wild, take his knot and put an end to all of this uncertainty. But her stomach growls again, loudly. At this, Ben extends his hand to her.
She takes it.
They’re going to fuck later.
Rey can’t get this thought out of her head, as they walk through the crowd, like any other couple here, casually strolling.
They’re going to fuck. He’s going to… he’s going to knot her, share a heat with her, make her scream and come, finally, finally…
If this is how she reacts to simply holding his hand, the rest of what she wants is going to set the smoke alarms in her building off, Rey’s just sure of it.
The two of them head downstairs in Rey’s building, taking the stairs this time, because as much as she wants a repeat performance of that some time in her life, her body is already telling her that she needs to eat something... other than Ben.
There’s a little park, though, just two blocks away from her building. Rey loves to come down here sometimes with her laptop and work, and in the evenings, since it’s summer, there’s often music and little pop-up food carts, selling all kinds of delicious things. It’s a little balmy out, and Rey takes his hand as they walk, feeling her pulse sing with the nearness, the comfort. It’s nice, like this. And yet it also has an otherworldly quality to it, like she and Ben are suspended outside of time and space, like they’re something else, aware of their skin in a way that the mostly-Beta crowd isn’t.
Rey can’t say for sure.
She’s given up trying to understand what Betas want, feel, think, and experience. She isn’t one, and won’t ever be, and suddenly she’s happy, so happy, that she is exactly who she is. A Beta won’t have this connection, like she will with her—with an Alpha.
Ben isn’t hers yet.
But she chances a look up at his face, seeing him scowl as a tall, Beta guy pushes past them, harmlessly, and feels a certainty that he very soon will be.
“What would you like?” Ben asks her nervously, running a hand through his hair. “What sounds good?”
“You do,” Rey replies, without thinking.
Ben’s eyes darken at this, his hand in his hair styling, then slowly lowering back down. His other hand is still entwined with hers, and he turns, placing a hand on her hip, tugging her so she’s facing him, with only inches between them.
“Rey,” he murmurs, dipping his head close, kissing a tender spot behind her ear, just above her scent gland. “You have no idea what that does to me…”
Rey grins. “I think I do. That’s why I said it. Alpha.”
He makes a desperate, needy noise against her neck, mouthing at it, getting a little carried away with himself; Rey squirms, muffling a gasp, pulse spiking, the barest rush of slick making her inner thighs slippery with want. Her heat is coming, and if he… if he keeps this up, she’ll beg him to mount her right here, on the grass.
She threads her fingers through his hair, reveling in the softness for just a moment as his teeth drag over her neck one last time. One tug makes him groan again—Rey files that knowledge away for later—but a second one makes him straighten up.
He looks down at her like he’s just been concussed. It’s… adorable.
“Tacos,” Rey says.
He nods. “Tacos. Okay. Alright.”
Ben looks to either side, figuring out which cart has what she needs, with the determination of an Alpha who’s prepared to get his Omega the best goddamn tacos in the state. Hell, the world. He looks like he’s about to punch a shark in the mouth to get to some tacos. Rey follows his gaze, catching the eye of a disgruntled Beta woman, sitting there on the green with her two cute blonde kids. They’ve been gawping openly at Rey and Ben, and the mom looks utterly scandalized in a way that Rey knows, she just knows, is more about what she is than what they were doing. Rey just smiles at her.
We’re a part of your world, lady. Alphas, Omegas… if we were a Beta couple, you wouldn’t think twice about this. So get fucking used to it.
“Tacos,” Ben repeats, when he sees the cart. “Sit here. I’ll be back.”
Ben kisses her cheek, and then departs, a man on a fucking mission.
The park is set into a gentle slope, a half-circle of carts behind the green, facing down into a small modern amphitheatre-like space. Rey settles down on the concrete ledge of the park’s wide, terraced steps, leaning back, palms on the grass behind her, watching as Ben looks back at her from his place in line at the cart. The Beta man standing in line before Ben is taking his sweet time choosing, and Rey has to stifle a smirk at the way she can read Ben’s barely-repressed rage. The way he folds his arms across his chest, the way he looks back at her, as if to ensure that she hasn’t fled or disappeared...
How clearly she can read him. After all this time, this uncertainty. She’s just been fooling herself, trying to pretend like if she just ignores this, it’ll go away.
How much, she knows, they both want this.
Rey takes a breath, and fills her lungs with the mingled scents of the delicious foods from the carts along the perimeter of the park, the cut grass, the cooling evening air. He’d found a spot for her on the grass, set her down with a gentle kiss on her cheek and strict instructions not to go anywhere, and Rey wasn’t about to run away from him. Not now, not after this.
She’d worried, when they’d left her apartment, that things would be weird between them. Of course it is weird, going out on a date when there’s more than a promise of having him in her bed later. She’s been on dates before, been with Beta men, found love for a time and found pleasure. Even had a few short relationships, doing all the things that couples in the first blush of awkward affection do. Playful teasing touches, holding hands, talking about nothing in particular, enjoying each other’s company, and the promise of intimacy later.
Some of it had been nice.
It hadn’t all been bad, or disappointing. Even though none of them had worked out.
But what she was missing all along was this. This… connection.
A promise, of something greater.
Rey un-crosses and crosses her legs, wondering when her heat is going to start. There’s already an echo if it in her veins, something a little more distinct than memories. The emergency suppressant is keeping most of it at bay, but it’s been long enough since the shot, it’s bound to happen. Instead of a cold office wall, though, there’s warm grass and his scent still on her skin. Rey sits up a little, pressing her fingertips to the place where he’d kissed her. She imagines that she can scent him, even from so little a touch. Perhaps she can.
All of that anticipation, all of that need, she holds it in her hands between them, watching him as he picks up the order, comes back to her side, sits down carefully.
“I got you one of everything, I think,” he says, holding out the plate for her inspection.
Rey smiles at this, eyes widening at the sheer amount of food he’s brought her. “Thank you, Ben. I can’t eat this all, though. Which one should we try first?”
“Um,” he says, not looking down at the plate at all. “That one?”
She feeds him one of the tacos he gestures at vaguely, lifting it as an offering to his mouth, remembering an entirely different moment, feeling the promise of sweet pleasure course through her body.
Ages ago, at university, Rey had taken an psychology elective, and while it was mostly memorable due to the fact that the professor had one of the most unfortunate comb-overs in the history of hair, the aspects of Alpha and Omega behavior had been some of the most fascinating. In ancient times, Alphas would fight for the right to claim the most fertile Omegas. They would even present the kill, the inferior Alpha, to the Omega, as a sign of their power.
Rey didn’t want that; she was perfectly content with the tacos, and not at all interested in watching Ben tear through half of the assembled park guests with his bare hands... That said, there was something primal, alluring, powerful, thinking about all of his rage and strength and focus unleashed on those who would dare oppose them.
All of that power, and yet he’s docile as a kitten the moment she sets her eyes on him...
Rey shivers again.
“Are you close?” he asks, words soft and only for her.
Rey shakes her head. “No. But… it’s coming.”
Ben takes a deep, slow breath of her. His exhale is more feeling than sound, a low vibration in his chest that sends waves of pride down to Rey’s marrow.
“What does it feel like?” he asks.
Rey attempts, for a moment, to cling to him, only remembering at the very last minute that she’s still holding a taco in her hand. She sets it hastily down, and wipes her hands on the grass uselessly before placing her hand on his chest, so she can feel it again.
“Without you… awful,” Rey confesses. “I felt so alone. Everything hurt, and it ached, and I felt so empty… I needed you.”
“You have me…”
This is too much, Rey thinks. There’s some noise up front, some collection of people doing… something… but Rey can’t tear her attention away from him. She breathes him in: Fierce, dark and sweet, black-coffee-caramel, and up-close, undiluted, pure Alpha. Commanding and comforting—scent growing stronger as his arousal grows.
Apparently, she’s not alone in this.
Ben made a low growl and nuzzled his nose into her hair. “Christ, you smell so good right now. You always smell so good in the office, I could barely keep my hands off of you… or off of myself…”
“You thought about me?” Rey asked, the image of him, in the elevator, tugging at his cock and coming hard with his mouth around her fingers fierce and immediate in her mind. “Like that? You thought of me…”
“Rey,” he says. “Of course I did. That sound you made, when you came… I replayed that sound over and over in my mind…”
If they go farther than this, if she asks him here and now to elaborate, she knows it’s going to make the walk back home incredibly perilous, not to mention uncomfortable. Like tearing a boulder from the depths of the ocean, she pulls back a little, blushing.
His free hand comes up, tucking her hair back behind her ear. He smiles.
“I thought about you all the time.”
“Me too,” Rey confesses.
He trails his hand down her shoulder, down her arm, until he comes to rest it atop her hand still on the grass.
“Eat,” he says gently.
Rey nods, and picks the taco back up. Obediently, she takes a bite.
“Good girl,” Ben says softly. His thumb caresses the pulse at her wrists, and his gaze, first powerful, then hesitant, shifts like light on a river. Tenderly, he adds: “Is this okay? Can I touch you like this… do you want—?”
“Yes, Alpha,” Rey says. She wants, oh how she wants.
And his pupils go wide again. The fear abates.
“Take another bite,” he says.
Rey supposes that the tacos are probably delicious, but all she can taste is the richness of Ben’s Alpha scent as it fills and consumes her. His eyes never leave her face, watching her, turning this commonplace thing into something erotic, an act of care and surrender. He’s taking care of her; she doesn’t have to be afraid, alone, deprived. He’ll give her everything she needs.
And she’s probably never going to look at tacos the same way again.
She finishes the one in her hands, chewing, licking at the tips of her fingers.
Ben’s mouth parts, and he lets out a quiet, restrained groan.
Something low in her belly cramps, just once. It’s enough.
Soon, she thinks. And then: We cannot fuck in a public park…
She straightens up just a little, giving him her eye contact, making her motions slow and deliberate—not a retreat, she’s not running, she’s just giving them the few inches of space to remind them what’s possible now, and what’s yet to come. And Ben turns away, too, his chest filling and exhaling, breathing in the rest of the world, trying to keep his cool.
Rey looks down at their joined hands, on the grass.
“Ben, can I ask you something?” Rey says, reveling in the way her smaller hand fits so nicely inside his larger one.
“Why were you so… you’re not like any of the Alphas I’ve ever met.” Rey glances over at the stage area, seeing that they’ve set up some kind of inflatable screen, and a movie has started playing; everyone else is enthralled, and Rey didn’t even notice. “Even this, here now… and I’m not complaining, although… it would’ve been easier, maybe, if we’d just talked like normal people do, right from the start. But you’re so… careful with me. You were so shy, and cold.”
He sighs, and looks away for a moment, over to the screen where the film is playing. Then he looks back down, at their joined hands. “All my life I’ve always been… too much. Too loud, too tall, too demanding. I knew it was an Alpha thing. My mom—and her father—they knew it, right away.”
“I bet you were a big baby, then,” she says; it’s another Alpha stereotype, although she doesn’t know why she’s saying it. Maybe part of her brain, the Omega part, is jumping around from him to babies to their babies, and, wow, okay, maybe let’s not go there on their first date?
Focus, Rey. Focus.
He just smiles a little, and nods. “And apparently, I didn’t sleep for the first two years of life, either. Mom’s always liked to bring that one up. I had… night terrors. There’s a reason why I’m an only child...”
Rey doesn’t say it, but she remembers from her health sciences class that female Alphas often have trouble with fertility, too. She can’t imagine what that would be like, wanting, but not being able to have children. Especially since she’s likely to be on the other side of that, what with the typical Omega hyper-fertility.
And she just knows, just by looking at him, just by scenting him, that an Alpha like Ben would give her children, beautiful, brown-eyed daughters, sons who—
She clears her throat, and forces away these delusional thoughts.
“You always seemed like… you hated me,” Rey says.
“I didn’t,” Ben says swiftly. “I… I wanted you. But I knew you were something I couldn’t have. So I thought it would be easier if I put up that wall.”
“Ben,” she says, sweetly exasperated.
“I get these impulses, though. These urges. And I don’t want to feel the way I feel. But sometimes I can’t help it.”
“And it makes you afraid,” Rey says.
He nods again. His grip tightens on hers a little, and she squeezes back, reassuring.
“I think I understand.”
“I fell for you, right from the start,” he says. “You were so beautiful, and so intelligent, and… And I knew that… if I let these feelings out… you didn’t want—”
“I did, though!” Rey says, blushing under his praise before amending: “Well, not from the beginning. To be honest your ‘diversity-hire’ bullshit made me want to push you out the window.”
He covers his face with his hand, groaning. “I’m so sorry about that. I was an asshole.”
Rey just looks at him. Slowly, she reaches up, and gently takes his hand away from his face. His eyes connect with hers, then, and she can scent the lust and sweetness in the air, mingling with the grass and the night and everything surrounding them. For a moment, it feels as if what they have, what they’re standing on the edge of witnessing, is something sacred, something primal and earthy and consecrated. Even though people are around them, they feel alone, connected, secluded.
Slowly, she bends down, and kisses him on the cheek.
“I forgive you,” she whispers.
And Ben lets out a sigh against her skin. He turns his head, just a little, nudging her cheek with his nose, and Rey answers, angling her head so he can kiss her. It’s tender, so tender and sweet, and yet the contact between them is like sparks on dry kindling.
When he pulls back, Rey whimpers at the loss of him.
They cannot, absolutely cannot fuck in a public park, even if everyone around them is pretty well distracted by… whatever animated movie it is that’s on the screen.
“Even if you could never be mine, I wanted you to be safe.” Ben whispers, into her mouth. “Safe from me, from… what I wanted to do…”
“I just wanted to be normal,” Rey confesses. She’s never told anybody this. And it almost feels profane to admit it, like she’s rejecting herself, rejecting all he offers her. “And I don’t want to be safe, either.”
Ben, predictably, growls at this. He nips at her bottom lip, kissing her, tasting her, and oh yeah, they’re definitely going to get thrown out of a public park, but Rey doesn’t care.
“We aren’t like them. We don’t have to follow their rules. We can make this whatever we want it to be… what do you want, Rey?”
“You,” she gasps, as she feels the start of her heat now, a jolt of pleasure so close to pain that the lines are blurred. “I want you.”
They chase each other home, hands clasped, two blocks seeming like an eternity. Rey’s ready for him in a way she can’t express, and when she sags against the wall of her apartment stairwell, he doesn’t hesitate, just sweeps her up into his arms, and takes the stairs two at a time, at a run.
“Alpha,” she says, wrapping her arms around his neck, tucking her fevered face into the fabric of his shirt.
“You’re mine, now, Omega,” he growls. “I’ll take care of you... I'll give you what you need…”
Ben sets her down, more out of necessity than desire. Rey can tell by the way he moves, the way he stays so close beside her, that he really doesn’t want to let go of her at all. Rey heartily agrees—but practical matters must be dealt with. Like the door to her apartment. Which is still shut and locked. And as hot as it would be for him to kick it in and carry her across the threshold, Rey isn’t quite delirious enough to forfeit her security deposit.
Almost. But not quite.
His hand settles on her lower back as she fumbles with the keys in her dress’ pocket; her hands are shaking, and for once, he’s the one who is steady and sure.
Wordlessly, she hands the keys over. Ben unlocks the door; and she leads him inside. Into the comfort and safety of her own private world.
It’s all the same, exactly the same as she left it. Hazy and beginning to detach from her own conscious awareness, Rey looks around the room.
There are her throw pillows. There is her sink, her fridge, her magnets and photos.
There is her pile of scuffed trainers and ballet flats, the gym shoes she bought for running but never wears.
Her braided entryway rug.
Everything has changed. It all looks the same, when Rey captures it in an instant, and yet with his presence, it’s colored all the world with a new dimension. Fundamentally altered the way she perceives every item, every piece, ever thread of the fabric of her life.
This is right.
Rey looks up to him, and feels a purr of contentment at his expression. He’s pleased with her home, he won’t turn away.
He won’t leave her.
And Rey’s glad, so breathlessly glad, that her first Alpha heat parter is going to be Ben—not some faceless stranger, some hookup, someone from an app. It seems insane to have even considered it… perfect, perhaps, for another Omega. But not for her. It’s the difference between one paltry handful of stale trail mix and a gourmet meal. And even though she’s afraid of this, a little, as she brings him inside her apartment, she sees the fear and trust and love in his eyes, and she knows that she doesn’t have to be afraid of him.
The heat is rising within her, her body growing weak with need, a tension coiling low in her belly and slick all but running down her thighs; she’s about to lose control, surrender it completely, and this time, she’s not afraid.
Rey doesn’t turn on the lights. She just sets her purse down somewhere, her keys, instantly forgotten.
This is real. This is happening. All of this, this rush of joy and peace and sensory comfort, has happened in only a few heartbeats.
Finally, Rey thinks.
And her body yearns towards his.
The moment they’d crossed the threshold, the air had changed around them. Some primal power, some sense of completion fills the space now, and while Rey can’t usually scent herself as well as others can, she can now—now that he’s there, his dark-sweetness mingling with her more subdued vanilla and cream. She’s never smelled herself on him, and oh how she yearns to mark him and make him her own.
Just as she yearns for him to do the same.
She looks up at him, at his face, as she shuts the door behind them. There’s a clench of muscle in his jaw, and his pupils are black as a starless night.
Maybe her scent isn’t as subtle as she thought.
All those times, Rey’s been the one to initiate. She wonders, as the moment grows tense and heady with their mingled scents, if she’s going to need to give him some sign, some permission.
Then, before she can doubt him, before she can comfort and reassure him, he turns, and picks her up, two hands lifting up underneath her ass as he presses her back against the wall, kissing her like she’s been wanting him to for longer than she can say. Her hands come up around his neck, holding tight. His tongue delves deep into her mouth, and she opens for him, welcomes him, spreading her legs wide and feeling her slick, aching body press up against the front of his rough jeans. Rey holds him with her knees, feet locking behind him; she won’t let him leave her, even though there’s no chance that he would.
Rey grinds herself against him in what little space she can move, whimpering into his mouth, gushing wet with each pulse of her body; She’s going to soak him, make it undeniable, what they’re doing here; anyone else capable of it will scent her on him for days.
Or longer, some barely-conscious part of her brain echoes. At her neck, her scent gland throbs and twinges.
He rolls his hips against her, his wide body pinning her in place, eager hardness unmistakable through the fabric of his jeans. Rey holds onto him, and he supports her like she’s a cloud, kisses her like she might float away. Something is beginning. Something that started back when she first saw his face, when he was there, at her door. Maybe something that began months and months ago… Rey welcomed this, knowing what it could lead to. Eager for it, hungry. All the shaking, shuddering fear of her last reactive heat, alone and scared and consumed by fantasies and sordid comforts. But it’s so different, in this moment, with him there to ground her.
She doesn’t need a fantasy. Not when reality is like this.
Rey tries to speak, but Ben just kisses all of the words out of her mouth, rumbles with that predatory growl low in his chest, trails lips and teeth and tongue down the sharp line of her jaw. His hips hold her in place, just his hips and one hand, while the other, his left, rises to palm across her throat. He encompasses her, easily; just a little more pressure and she’d be light-headed from lack of oxygen, not just from his kisses, and she loves it, being held like this. Feeling his power, and surrendering. His thumb caresses just along the edge of her scent gland, which must be as red and swollen as her cunt by now, and just as greedy. Ben presses there, just a little, the pad and then the edge of the fingernail, rendering Rey breathless from his attentions.
He pulls back from the kiss, panting against her mouth.
She whimpers, wanting more—more than just a hand, a nail.
“Rey,” he says, as focused, as incoherent with need as she is.
And Rey threads her trembling hands up into his dark hair, and holds his mouth closer.
He lifts her easily, back coming off the wall as he carries her. They stumble the few feet to her bedroom. He sets her down on the bed and Rey’s got her hands on his fly before the second bounce of the springs.
“Need to see you again,” she murmurs. “Alpha, please.”
“Good girl,” he praises, barely aware of what he is saying, too; his hands rest on her shoulders for seconds before he grabs at the sundress’ thin straps. “My good Omega.”
The denim is wet from her slick, and the dress beneath her, too. She’s dripping for him, body making itself ready for the thick intrusion of an Alpha’s cock.
Rey’s been with Beta men before, and there’d been nothing, really, to complain about; it’d be nice enough, but Rey doesn’t want nice enough. She wants more than enough, all of it, everything.
She needs to see him. Get her hands on him.
He allows her to work his fly down. Lets her hands pull him from his boxer-briefs, hard and thick and wet with his own slick at the tip. It smears on her palm as she touches him, drips out a little, the clear evidence of his need—as if the cock, and the rest of him, wasn’t enough. Alphas, she distantly remembers, tend to create more pre-ejaculatory fluid—a way of ensuring fit and changing the pH and… Rey can’t remember the rest. It had all seemed so clinical, so sensible, back when she’d studied it as a theory.
This is so different.
And his cock… her hand doesn’t even wrap around it.
“I liked it, watching you,” Rey confesses, finally able to find her words, staring at the beautiful sight before her, wondering how in the world she will ever fit this in—and wondering why it’s not deep inside of her right this minute. “I thought about it… a lot.”
“Tell me what you liked.” He flexes his hands at his side, his voice tinted with just the faintest edge of command now, comforting Alpha authority; Rey can’t deny him.
“I liked watching you come undone,” she says, her hand working along his shaft, smearing his own slick there, pumping slowly. “I liked how... big you looked, even in your hands. I thought about… what it would be like, to hold your cock.”
He swallows, watching her, eyes flicking between her hand and her face, seemingly enthralled by both.
“When you looked at me—”
“I didn’t mean to,” Rey replies. “I just—”
Her words die away as his hand cards through her messy hair. Her apology unnecessary.
She leans forward, then, and licks a needy stripe along the sensitive head of him, reveling in the noise he makes when her wet mouth envelops him. He smells more himself down here—thick and pulsing in her hands, thick and sweet in the air. Rey brings her other hand up and adds it to his shaft, working in tandem as she jerks him slowly. Down at the base of him, just above the short, crisp hairs he’s trimmed a little down, she can feel his knot. Only a suggestion of one now—he won’t pop a knot until he’s inside, until she needs him, she knows.
“I can’t wait anymore,” Rey says—half to herself, half to him.
Normally she’d enjoy going down on a guy like this, sucking him until he spilled into her mouth—and some other time, she knows, she will. She’ll crawl over Ben and suck him and let him fuck her mouth and drink him down, every drop.
But that isn’t what he needs. And it isn’t what she wants.
Rey licks across his head again, tonguing the tiny slit that’s seeping for her, and she takes her left hand and places it on the revelation of his bare hip. He’s got his boxer-briefs pulled down just to the tops of his massive thighs, and his jeans are only a bit lower.
He’s wearing entirely too much clothing.
Rey can’t stand it.
She’s burning up, whining softly. She tugs at the shirt.
“Alpha,” Rey begs. “Please, let me see you—all of you.”
He takes his hands away from her hair, a loss that makes her want to cry out as flutters of need course through her veins in earnest now. But then with one sweeping motion, he tugs the shirt up and over his head, and casts it aside.
Beautiful isn’t a word that tends to be used for men, but Rey can’t think of anything better. Can’t think of much of anything when he shoves his jeans down, kicks them away.
When did he take off his shoes?
Rey doesn’t know.
At the sight and scent and taste of him, her body’s looped back into a spiraling vertigo. Up is down, and left is right, but Ben is here, he’s here, and it’s okay. She tries to shimmy back on the bed, but gets caught in her dress… tries to pull at it, take it off—the crisp cotton-linen blend feels like sandpaper on her skin, binding and constricting—but she can’t make her hands work. She tugs on the dress again, uselessly.
Then she doubles over, body seizing, cramping, overwhelmed.
The heat is undeniable. She feels like she’s dying without touch. Without him, without his knot.
“Alpha—” She shudders again, biting off a cry. Alpha, help me, I can’t—I can’t, not again—
Gentle, warm hands stand her up. She lets him undress her like a doll. He’ll take care of her; he’ll be so good, so good to her.
Rey leans in, turns her cheek and lays against his broad shoulder, breathing him in.
His scent steadies her. The cramps, the pain, the fear, it all subsides, for a few precious moments of clarity.
She’s bare before him, dress unzipped and pushed to the floor.
“Rey,” he says gently, one hand holding her, supporting her, the other feeling its way to the source of her desire. “What can I do to you?”
“Everything,” she answers, wishing she had words for this monumental feeling. “Everything”
“I’ve never been with an Omega before,” Ben says, almost reverently, although his voice is hoarse almost like he’s been screaming her name for hours. “I don’t want to hurt you.”
“You’ll only hurt me if you stop touching me,” Rey says. And then, turning a little to look up at his face: “Are you a virgin, Ben Solo?”
He smiles at this, a little bashfully. “No. It’s just… this is different. You’re different.”
“This is my first time too,” she says. “With an Alpha.”
“You waited for me,” he says, soft voice deepening, an Alpha tone of command.
And oh, she should hate the way that sounds—that possessive lick of pleasure, her Alpha, so proud of her, ready to claim what’s his—but she can’t find it in herself to care.
“Yes, Alpha,” she purrs, feeling his hand slide up, warm and easy, between her legs. She widens her stance for him, lets him touch. “For you, just for you.”
“Good,” he says, his voice low and dark with lust. “Good. You’ve been so good for me, Omega. Now I’m going to give you what you need.”
His broad hands find the edges of her labia, and it’s nothing at all to part them. There’s no preamble necessary, as wet and eager as she is for him; he slips two blunt, thick fingers in, body tilting as he tries to find the angle between them.
Ben’s arms are long, but he’s tall, and the angle is a little awkward. It feels good, but it’s not enough—and Rey cries out as he works them inside, feeling like she could very nearly come from this alone. But then it would be over, and she needs so much more…
Foreplay is redundant when every cell in her body is screaming for him.
The words won’t come, but inside, she’s begging, a steady stream of pleas.
She can feel the hard and straining length of him pressing against her belly, but he’s not inside, and she wants… she wants…
He pulls his fingers out, picks her up, and tosses her onto the bed.
Rey climbs backwards—not to get away from him, but to make room. Her legs fall open and he’s there between them, his hips between her thighs, wet against wet, a thick and steady pressure against her center.
The first two thrusts aren’t quite lined up correctly, the tip sliding up between her folds. He’s overeager, and she’s moving, anticipating the feel of him, holding her breath. Rey shifts beneath him, needy; she’s gonna scream if he doesn’t—
One long, steady thrust has him filling her all the way; he exhales, and their breath mingles in the space between their parted mouths.
Rey feels herself let go.
“Shit,” she says, softly, unaware of the sounds her mouth is making. “Ben, Ben—”
Her hands go to his neck, clinging to him, hips stilling to adjust to the thickness of him, the size.
It’s everything, everything.
“—okay?” he’s murmuring against her ear, head bowed. “Rey, are—?”
“Yes,” she says, high-pitched and uncontrolled. “Yes, yes, Ben, Yes—”
So he moves.
It’s slow at first. Easy and gentle, those first thrusts. But the tension quickly builds, and she feels the moment when the urgency overwhelms them both, when caution is discarded and the heat, pure and primal and ancient, takes hold.
Then, he fucks her.
It’s a duel, where death brings sweet release, a duel where both of them will be victorious. His mouth is on her skin as his hips piston into her, bed creaking loudly above their duet of cries and moans and promises.
dont stop, don’t stop
Her hands tangle in his hair, his teeth on her neck, pressing in and sucking bruises she knows will blossom before the night is over.
Rey, feel so good, so good
She feels drunk on him, high, split wide and yet complete, feeling his cock as he keeps his merciless pace, urging her towards completion—the first of many yet to come, now that they’re finally together. No longer ignoring the calls of biology and attractions and—
Ben, I need
—Love, yes, this feeling, this energy that fills her and consumes her, it’s not just biology, and she knows that, now.
He is hers.
It’s as simple as that.
He is hers, and she… she is his.
Come for me, Rey, Omega, sweet—
She cries out, and feels the climax pulse and surge and shudder through her body, a tectonic force that shatters her and rebuilds her all the same. Her hands grasp at his shoulders, sweat-slick and unable to find purchase until she blindly uses her nails to hold on. His groan—of pain, of pleasure, of both—is music, holy and reverent, echoing through the cathedral of her room.
Yes, she thinks. Yes.
“Oh, God,” Ben groans. “Oh God, Rey, I’m—”
She can feel it, the way his cock begins to thicken at the base. And he’s never done this before, never been able to knot an Omega like this, never—
Rey digs her nails in, baring her teeth and mouthing at his collarbone; it’s hard to get any contact, the way his torso is moving, driving him in, again and again and again.
The sound he makes, when she gives him her nails, her teeth, her tongue—
Rey’s still cresting the wave when she feels him slow, feels his hips stutter as his own climax approaches. Her walls tighten down on him, holding him, and instinctively she bears down, curving her back and drawing him deeper, deeper—
He’s going to knot her, Rey realizes.
For just an instant, the panic, the fear of the unknown, returns.
It’s too big, too much, and she can’t—
She can. She is. He’s groaning deeply, thrusting in one last time as his knot expands and fills her, thick and tight and impossible.
Rey feels her mouth fall open, slack with pleasure so intense, the very word seems inadequate. It’s like an orgasm, but different; tight fullness, the closest she’s ever been to another human being…
Ben cries out as the knot expands. He babbles something, praise or thanks or maybe just her name, and reaches down to hold her hips flush to his, shaking as he grinds his pelvis into hers. He’s pulled her a little up off the bed, her hips on the tops of his thighs, guided by instinct. Rey suddenders, all thoughts of fear gone from her fuck-addled brain.
Alpha, she wants to say. Did I do good, Alpha? She smiles as she watches his face, eyes shut, mouth slack, sweet, unselfconscious moans falling from his lips. His hair is a mess, and his face is flushed, and she’s never felt more love for anything, ever.
And Ben’s orgasm, it just keeps going. Rey, too, feels as if she’s extending that drawn-out afterglow, her body a little numb, almost, from sensation.
Ben falls forward atop her, after the feeling becomes too much; His arms shake as he tries to hold the majority of his weight off of her, but he’s spent, wrung-out the way she is, and so with one awkward but effective movement, he rolls them over so he’s on his back. Rey drapes herself across him, her head on his chest, legs spread wide on either side of his taut, perfect torso; the position lends a deeper, different feeling to the strangeness, the wonderfulness, of his knot locked deep inside of her.
So, this is what it’s like, she thinks with a smile.
Better than good, but she’s… she’s all out of vocabulary for the day. The week, possibly.
She nuzzles against him, and closes her eyes. His scent covers over her, his hands coming to rest on the back of her head, on the curve of her waist, even as his hips move slightly, rocking against her with the subtlest of motions.
Rey realizes she, too, is clenching around him, matching him.
Automatic response, she thinks.
She’s never in her life been more thankful for biology.
Slowly, they catch their breath.
“What’s it feel like,” Rey asks him, when they’ve dozed a little like this, still tied together and drowsy-drunk with sensation. “Inside me, I mean. What’s it like?”
He shakes his head, eyes a little glassy, but smiles. “Tight. Good. Perfect.”
“You feel perfect, too,” Rey says, smiling back at him. She knows she sounds a little drunk, but she doesn’t care. It’s like all of their barriers have dropped, and there’s nothing forbidden, nothing to fear.
There’s so many questions, so many things about him, about this, that she wants to know. But there’s no rush.
And she’s curious about other things, too.
She’s props herself up a little, sitting up as best she can, so she can look down at him, at the way they fit together. Rey traces her hands along his chest, watching as he shivers and flinches and smiles. God, she loves his crooked, perfect smile. Her fingers swirl down, spiraling around his flat, brown nipples, darting from beauty mark to beauty mark, cataloguing him and shelving all of this on permanent collection in the library of her mind.
“I always wondered what you looked like,” she says, absently, her palm flat on the musculature of his waist. “I always wanted to see… What’s this from?”
Rey’s running her fingertips along a thin, slightly-raised scar, across his collarbone.
“Mmm?” It’s more of a vibration than sound, but Ben opens his eyes and tries to focus on her question. “Oh. I caught a branch, while dirt-biking. I was twelve.”
Rey flinches in sympathy. She briefly considers bending down to kiss it, but the slightest flex of her abs makes her body clench around his thick, perfect knot again, and she shivers a little, watching his mouth fall open as she rolls her hips, chasing sensation.
She kisses her fingertips, then, and presses the kiss to the scar.
“And this one?”
It’s one on his side, a twisted, dime-sized mark.
“Burn,” he says. “An ember flew up from a bonfire… burned right through my shirt.”
She gives him a kiss on her fingertips here, too.
“Do you have any scars?” Ben says.
Rey shakes her head. “Just one ill-advised tattoo.”
His eyes widen a little. “You have a tattoo?”
Rey grins, and ducks her head.
In an effort to distract him, she flexes her inner muscles around him, watching with glee as his eyes roll back in his head a little, his waist flexing as his hips instinctively buck up. There’s not much further inside of her that he can go, but that… that reaction will never, ever get old. Rey smiles, and hums softly as she rocks a little, riding him. She’s lost track of how many times she’s come, lost track of time, too; it could be midnight or five in the morning or tomorrow, for all she knows.
Time doesn’t matter.
“Alpha,” Rey says, her hand sliding down to the slick-wet place where they’re joined. “I love how you feel.”
“Yeah?” is all he can manage, when she flexes like that again.
“Yeah,” she says, nodding, biting her lip.
For a moment, all she does is keep up the rocking, her fingers slipping between their bodies, feeling what she can. Her hand presses against her clit, and she cries out, surprised—which is ridiculous, because it’s not like she doesn’t fucking know where her clit is—as she begins to rub it in a slow, easy circle.
“Love to watch you ride me,” he says, voice low and almost overwhelmed as his eyes attempt to focus on her, what she’s doing. “Omega, my Omega, love to watch you…”
“Taste,” Rey says, and she offers her fingers to him.
Ben’s dark eyes open, and lock on hers.
This—what he had begged her for, that fateful day… Rey feels his knot move within her as he pushes back off of the bed, sitting up with her firmly seated in his lap. He must cross his legs beneath them, and Rey wraps hers around him. Then he reaches for her wrist, holds her wet fingers up, and—eyes never leaving her face—takes them into her mouth.
It feels like symmetry, like peace.
Slowly, his hips begin to grind against her. He lets her hand go, and Rey takes her spit-slick fingers down, pressing back on her clit as the need rises inside of her once more.
Ben tilts his head forward, hands cradling her close.
“Come for me, Omega,” he murmurs in her ear. “Can you be good, and come for me?”
“Yes,” Rey moans. It’s so awkward, but she would never disappoint him, and she needs this, too. How is he still there, thick and hard, inside of her? How many times tonight have they peaked and chased each other down?
“Good,” he croons, petting her hair as she whimpers with effort and need. “Good, so good. My Omega…”
“Alpha,” Rey responds, and she presses a kiss that’s mostly teeth against his swollen gland. “Alpha, Ben, I—”
His mouth closes over her gland, and Rey cries out as her climax spikes through her.
Yes, make me yours, Alpha. Make me yours, your Omega, yours.
It’s only after she comes she realizes she’s said these words aloud. Begged him to bite her, to claim her.
It’s only after his mouth has pulled back that she realizes, he hasn’t.
Thanks for hanging in there, folks! Hope you all enjoy the thrilling conclusion to our saga...
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Rey falls asleep on his chest, after; she’s lost count of how many times her Alpha has made her come, his knot still buried deep inside of her. Her body, still holding him tight. It takes so little to coax one out of her; like asking the sun to rise. It doesn’t hurt, doesn’t ache, except when she needs to come, and he makes her steady her breathing and wait for him…
But he’s good to her, giving and attentive. In the darkness he’s her only constant, besides the unsteady heat that rolls on like a storm-tossed ocean. His skin connects her to what’s real. His voice leads her back from the wilderness.
She’s not alone.
Again and again, she drowses on his chest; again, she wakes with fire in her veins, her hips rocking against him, grinds down until he gives her what she needs. Sometimes with his hands, sometimes with only his words, sometimes with both.
She loses count after the fifth time, but it doesn’t matter. Just being near him fills her with such a sweet contentment, she doesn’t feel the need to catalogue it. Each moment slips by in a dreamlike string of memories, like beads slipped onto the string of her consciousness, each one beautiful and mesmerizing, to be held up an examined more thoroughly at some later date.
(Because oh, she knows she will. These are memories she doesn’t want to forget, wouldn’t trade for anything.)
Yes, and good, and more— his voice, or hers, she cannot tell the difference any longer. It’s like their bodies, their scents, their very heartbeats have merged. The heat exists between them, a slow, lazy pulse, a primal throb as ancient as the earth. She gives him everything, offering him her gland, mouthing at his as she comes. He turns away, though. Kisses her instead. That’s nice, too. She’s dizzy on him, subsumed completely. Almost, anyway.
They are as close as two can be, without that one, final step.
Finally, after what might be hours or minutes or years, the heat abates—although she knows it’s more from their joint exhaustion, and not likely to truly be the end. Though tired, hazy eyes, Rey sees that the night outside has enveloped them, welcomed them into its raven-wing embrace. Ben’s eyes, too, are dark.
For now, though, she sleeps.
And so does Ben.
There’s a kind of balance to it—her body, holding his; his arms, holding her.
She sleeps. Deep and dreamless, perfectly content.
At some point in the darkness, she wakes a little to the feeling of his knot softening and slipping from her. How long it’s been, she doesn’t know. And whether this is the usual amount of time a knot lasts, she has no basis for comparison.
It doesn’t matter.
There is no comparison. Why would she ever need another Alpha to compare Ben to? The very thought of it is impossible.
Drowsy and sated, Rey frets just a little as he rolls her over, whimpering a little as he leaves the bed, but glorying in the feel of something soft and damp and warm between her legs. He cleans her gently, then tosses the washcloth away, before returning to bed and spooning up behind her, wrapping her in his arms.
He murmurs something against her ear, and Rey, half-asleep already, smiles. She doesn’t need to know the words to understand the meaning.
Her Alpha is here.
But the smallest fragment of her thoughts crave the one thing he still withholds. A bite, his claim, the contentment of the deep and abiding union between an Apha and his mate. She wants him, oh how she wants him.
Instead, she sleeps.
Morning comes, and Rey needs to.
She wakes, sweating, cold and shivering with a feverish ache between her legs, and at her throat. Every point of contact that her Alpha is not covering is a minefield of shattered nerves. She should hurt, between her legs; after what they’ve done, the intensity of it, the sheer size, it ought to hurt. Instead, only the absence of him hurts.
She needs him.
“Shh,” he says, tugging her hips back against his erection. “Shh, Rey, it’s okay, I’m here—”
“Please!” Rey hears herself sob, eyes half closed, the room fading in and out of sight. “Alpha, need your knot so bad…”
She squirms against him, trying to do all the work, and in response his wide hands tighten on her skin; a warning growl and a nip of sharp teeth at her shoulder makes her still. She doesn’t have to fight for this, doesn’t have to struggle.
And when she obeys, oh how she is rewarded.
Rey hears him curse as he fills her from behind, his thick cock finally sinking in. She’s so wet, but it’s like the first time again; he makes a guttural sound, a vibration that rolls through his chest and into her back, as he holds her flush against himself.
It takes three shallow, half-thrusts before he can fill her all the way, even as slick as she is for him.
“Fuck,” he says, breathless and feral. “ Fuck, Rey, you’re so right for me, you’re so good, so good…”
“Yes, yes,” is all she can manage to say. She’s made her Alpha happy; his pheromones cover her, envelop her, reward her as his hands grip at her waist.
From behind, like this, there’s an entirely different angle to his thrusts. The tilt of his hips into hers sends the blunt thrust of his cock up against the front of her walls, and each movement makes her see stars.
He brings her off like this three, maybe four times. They lay on their left sides, and his left hand comes up beneath her to grasp at her neck, while his right hand clutches her at her hip, then bands across her waist. It feels like his whole back bends to curve around her, like a crescent moon embracing its own shadowed dark. All Rey can do is take it, take him, let the pleasure burst and shatter and reform between her legs.
When he finally knots her, like this, it’s so right it almost makes her weep.
Rey shudders, feeling one long, drawn out climax roll across her, hearing the sounds of his pleasure in her ear. His breath is hot on her skin, and he licks at her sweat-dampened neck as his hips rock into her. The knot swells, and she holds him, locked together again. It will hold all of his come inside of her, she thinks. Fill her up with him until there’s no space for fear or doubt.
As he comes, he growls faintly, teeth just teasing the edge of her swollen gland. Why isn’t he—doesn’t he know, can’t he feel—?
It’s only then, when she hears herself chanting, begging him— please, please, please —that Rey understands.
He’s avoiding it, avoiding her gland, on purpose.
Her head swims, but she fights the drowsy feeling. Biology wants her to sleep, to lay content and sated in an Alpha’s arms. But her thoughts are too messy now.
She struggles, but finds the words eventually. And somehow, it’s easier when she isn’t looking at his face.
“You won’t mark me,” she says, some heightened moments later, when he’s shuddered his last burst of come, for now, into her depths. Her voice is almost a hoarse whisper, a feeling more than a sound.
Ben’s only response—he sounds as out of it as she feels, if their swirling alchemy of scent is any indication—is to growl softly, and rub his face against the back of her neck. Just behind, just avoiding where she wants. His stubble scrapes on her shoulder. Sweat from his brow streaking across her skin. She can feel him moving, and the pressure begins to build again.
“Ben—” Rey squirms, and tilts her head, angling her neck like an offering. “You don’t want me?”
She isn’t ashamed of how desperate her voice sounds, half-broken like a sob.
“I don’t want to hurt you,” he grinds out. “I want you… believe me, I want you—”
“ This hurts,” she exclaims, her hand climbing to her neck, pressing on the gland, then reaching further back, finding the contours of his face. Her thumb runs along his lips, and he nips at it, even as his own hand goes lower, between her legs.
“Shh,” he says. “I won’t hurt you, Rey. You’re being so good for me, Omega. So good.”
His fingers circle through their combined slick mess, rubbing her clit and making the words die in her throat. Moans replace them, and she goes boneless and incoherent as he tends to her.
It’s a distraction, and she knows it.
She’ll find a way to worry about it later.
The heat courses through her, burns through her veins like a wildfire and leaves nothing but cinders and memories. When she wakes on the morning of the… it must be the third day, Rey guesses… she feels achy and weary and back to herself again. Mostly. It’s a surprise, to know that the heat is over. After the whole reactive heat business, she feared that her heat would last forever, so long as Ben was there beside her.
Inside of her.
Feared, and hoped, in a sick sort of way.
Because if he was there, she would never have to face a world without him. She could let herself go, let his strong arms carry her. There was pleasure in surrender, and Rey had tasted it. Drunk deep from it, surrendered completely to the ancient, primal mystery of Alpha and Omega.
But when the time had come—when she’d all but begged him to do it—he’d rejected her.
No, she amends, as she pushes the blankets back from her shivering, tender body. He hadn’t rejected her. He simply hadn’t marked her. And that’s alright—it has to be alright, because it isn’t a fantasy.
Apart from a few fragments of memory, Rey’s just too tired and disoriented to recall the full heat. She stands on shaky legs, waiting for the dizziness to subside, then pads barefoot over to her bathroom, the effort monumental just to stay standing. Has she eaten? Yes, she thinks. Ben had brought her… something. A granola bar, or… she can’t remember. There’d been other things, too. For a moment, she forgets what it is she’d come in for, and she just places her hands flat on the countertop, leaning in, looking at her face.
She feels different, and yet nothing whatsoever has changed about her face, her eyes, her mouth… there are love-bites, though, all down her neck and her shoulders. Marks that bloom like a valentine’s bouquet. Her gland is still red, and unmarked. Unclaimed.
The apartment around her is silent.
This is it, then.
She… she asked him to come for her, to tend to her for the heat that his presence would trigger. Now, the heat is over, and he didn’t mark her, so… he must think…
Rey bites back tears.
This is fine, really. It’s what she wanted from the start, isn’t it? A one-heat stand, one to serve her and tend to her, and then get out of her life for good when his presence was no longer required.
No—that doesn’t feel right.
That isn’t at all what she wanted.
But she decides, for the moment, to just not think of it.
Rey’s mind feels sluggish and slow. Her stomach growls, and she looks at the bathtub in the mirror, wondering which need should take first place in the queue.
Bladder, she decides.
So she shuffles over to the toilet, and takes care of business. Whatever heat-related sensory dampening effects her own hormones provided are nonexistent now that the heat has passed, and her body aches and stings between her legs.
Stupid, stupid fucking biology.
Rey stands, and grabs her bathrobe from the hook by the door. It takes an inordinate amount of effort to put it on, and by the time the tie is belted securely around her waist, she feels almost like shambling back to bed and falling back asleep.
But the bed smells like Ben.
She doesn’t want to be there, to be reminded of him, and reminded of his absence.
He never asked for her reactive heats. Biology has undoubtedly clouded his mind, as well as hers. He never said I love you, and she… she honestly can’t remember if she did.
It’s in the past.
She can move forward, now, and… find a way to keep going.
Rey casts a longing look once more at the bathtub.
Food next, she decides.
With a hand on the wall to steady herself, Rey wanders out the bathroom and down the hallway, heading toward the kitchen.
The whole place smells like him, and Rey wants to hate this fact, but she can’t. It’s like he’s bled himself into the walls. And it will probably take weeks of airing it out to—
She stares into the kitchen, not believing her eyes. Slowly—whether out of relief, or incredulity, or sheer, unmitigated joy—she slumps back against the wall.
He’s asleep, sitting at her dining table, his head pillowed awkwardly on his bent arm.
He never left at all—unless she counts leaving their bed— her bed—which she doesn’t. She lifts her hand to muffle the sob that rises in her chest, lifting like a bird, wings of joy fluttering against her ribcage.
The moment the sound is free, his head pops up.
And then he looks at her, sweet eyes searching, startled—and stands up so abruptly that his chair falls over.
He’s beside her in three hasty strides. Embracing her, with just his unbuttoned jeans on and nothing else, and Rey sobs against him, letting him tuck her head under his chin as he rocks her and gentles her.
“You left,” she sobs. “You left me, you didn’t want me, didn’t—”
“Ben, I needed—”
His fingers trace the contour of her tender, unbroken gland, and she whimpers, and then relaxes. Her emotions are wild, and all over the place; she feels like a stranger to herself, grasping at something constant, something normal. The Alpha command in him is comforting, strong and sure.
“Let me take you back to bed.”
Rey nods, sniffling a little, and tries to take a step.
A moment later, Ben just picks her up and carries her. He has to turn and adjust as he comes through the bedroom door, and just as he’s turning towards the bed, Rey clings to him, and mutters something about taking a bath.
She looks up at him as he pauses, catching the clench of his jaw. He nods.
Ben sets her down gently on her feet, then crouches down beside her bathtub, finding the plug for the drain, running the hot water.
Rey slips out of her bathrobe and lets it fall to the floor as he tests the temperature.
When he turns, and looks up, his eyes darken with an almost predatory look. It makes certain flashes of her heat-spiked memories return to the forefront of her mind. Played out like a rough-cut film, all movement and need and sound, begging whimpers and low, pleasured moans.
She steps carefully into the bath.
Sits down, slowly, into the waters.
Ben stays there, crouched beside her massive, clawfoot tub, eyes fixated on the water still rushing out of the spout. He doesn’t get up to leave, and Rey reaches out, touching his arm as he leans it on the edge. At last, the water laps at her breasts. She leans forward, and turns it off.
Only then does he look up at her.
“Are you… feeling alright?”
“Yes,” she says. And she smiles, softly. Sensing his distress, his… embarrassment?
This must be what the books describe, she thinks. A subtle bond, formed between Alpha and Omega, when they—but they haven’t. So it must be her imagination.
“Rey, I’m sorry for… not being there, when you woke,” he begins. “I… I only sat down for a minute, and I—”
“No,” he says. “It’s not. I could scent that you were upset. I should’ve been there for you. I should always be there for you.”
Her gland throbs at this, a sad reminder of the fact that always isn’t guaranteed. Without a claim on her, she is free to go and live her life; without the same on him, he can find another Omega.
Rey shifts in the hot water, wincing. It hurts her heart to imagine it.
“Fuck, ” he says.
Rey looks at his face, sees the shadow of dark circles under his eyes, his downcast look. He looks so worn out, and all she wants to do is comfort him. Instead, she sighs, and smiles faintly at him.
“Ben, would you please go get my phone?”
His head snaps back up. “What?”
“Because then, you can text me what you want to say,” she continues. Her voice is soft, and a little sad. “Then you… you don’t have to say it.”
“That you… you didn’t want me,” she says. Like it’s painful to admit.
“Rey, no.” He shifts his position, then, eyes brightening with intensity as he leans his elbows on the side of the tub. “I couldn’t do it when you were… when you weren't yourself. I had to be sure. Even now, you’re—”
“I’m what, exactly?”
Ben stills, and looks at her. His gaze is soft, and knowing.
And Rey… there’s a wash of peace in his gaze, a sweet reassurance of his scent. Behind that realization is a cascade of sensory data—the warmth of the water, the sting of her body, the ache of her muscles. And the truth of his words.
She had not been herself. The Omega part of her had begged, shamelessly, for a knot and a mate.
The human part saw the wisdom in not irrevocably binding herself to someone.
This wasn’t the Middle Ages. People didn’t own other people—Omega or no. And hadn’t she always tried to prove that she was more than just her designation? More than just some Omega bitch, aching to be mounted and filled with children?
It humbled her to know that, even when she’d been out of control, Ben hadn’t crossed that line.
“I wanted to be sure,” Ben continues, letting his gaze briefly trail down her neck, to her breasts, floating in the water. “Because if we do this… if I do this, it has to be because you want me. All of me. Not because it’s a heat, or… I’m not a prize, Rey. I’m reckless and difficult, I want too much sometimes, and if these feelings grow I won’t know what to do with them.”
“You think you’re the only one to feel something?” Rey’s voice cracks with emotion, feeling his pain alongside hers. “The only one who wants?”
“I’m not trying to explain your feelings back to you,” he says. “I trust you. And I want you to trust me. I want to earn that trust. You and I… I want to see where this goes. But I want you, Rey. Not because you’re an Omega. I mean, I liked that…”
“I liked it too, Alpha.”
He answers her with a growl, dark eyes half-lidded as he leans, just a little, into her. Rey sinks down into the water, and lets it come up to just below her throat.
Ben shakes his head a little, as if to clear it.
“It’s… it’s not a no, Rey. It’s a not yet.”
“How traditional of you,” Rey says. She smiles.
Ben’s intensity fades a little, and he relaxes, smiling a little as well. “I would’ve thought that traditional, for us, would’ve been… me claiming you that day in the elevator.”
Rey lifts her hand, breaking the still surface of the water. Gently, she traces the line of her own throat, before reaching out and echoing the movement across his. Ben groans a little, and lets his cheek fall into her hand. He hasn’t shaved for the whole time they’ve been together, she realizes; his beard is prickly and coarse, a little longer about his mouth, but she doesn’t entirely hate it. She's just so glad to see him, here, it's hard to form an opinion. She can nag him about it later, she thinks.
Ben tilts his head slowly, and presses a kiss to the inside of her wrist.
“Let’s fall in love, Rey.”
How can she say no to that?
To those pretty eyes, those talented lips.
If she doesn’t love him yet, the look in his gaze gets her at least seventy-five percent of the way there. But he’s right, and she knows it. More than just heat, and need, and desperation, there has to be a foundation, so the pair of them don’t kill each other before her next heat starts.
“Okay,” she whispers. “Let’s fall in love.”
He lets her soak for an hour, or longer, renewing the hot water and draining the cold, and at some point, he puts on a shirt—the right way, this time—and buttons up his pants. Someone’s at the door of her apartment; he’s ordered food, she can smell it.
Rey smiles, and lets him get her out of the bath.
Ben eases her into soft pajama pants, a cute pair with little rain clouds on them, and a comfortable, ancient sweatshirt. Then he sits her down in a nest he’s made of her bed, and feeds her.
A bit of soup—tomato basil, creamy and perfect—and then a bit of pasta. Not because she’s incapable of feeding herself, but because he wants to give her everything she needs, everything she wants, before she asks for it. Alpha instinct is fierce and primal, not just to defend, to fight, but to care, to cherish their mate above all others. And no one’s ever cared for her like this before. Rey kind of loves it.
After all, the post-heat Alpha behaviors (Rey reads this to herself, almost laughing at the contrast between the dry textbook recitation and the warmth of his laughing eyes) are biologically optimized to ensure the Omega has the greatest chances of conception, and bearing healthy young.
(Rey tells him about her birth control, and he looks less relieved than she’d expected. And that’s… well, that’s an interesting subject for an entirely different conversation. Thought she has to admit that the image of Ben holding a pair of dark-haired babies in his arms makes her heart feel like soaring.)
All of her quilts and blankets have been nestled around them, and every moment it seems like he’s fussing with one of them, covering her feet, nuzzling contently against her neck.
The bath, he explains, washed off so much of their scent; he wants to make sure that every Alpha in a twenty-mile radius knows that she’s his.
Rey has absolutely no complaints.
When he leaves, Rey doesn’t feel the depths of aching loneliness anymore. It’s on their terms, clearly defined and understood. They can learn to be apart, and still be together. She hasn’t been abandoned, isn’t unwanted, and isn’t valued solely because of something that happened during heat.
She wants to get to know Ben. Wants to know him outside of work, outside of heat.
Over text, just minutes after he leaves, he vows to take her out on the town, and she threatens to take him dancing.
When he says, not a second later, that he’ll do anything but that, Rey is quick to respond that karaoke will be an acceptable substitute.
Ben snaps a photo of his own disgusted expression, and Rey laughs, and feels glad.
It’s like having Ben in her pocket.
Rey texts him this one afternoon, when she’s at work, back in the swing of things, still missing his presence at the standing desk at the end of the row.
His response is… well, she’s grateful that nobody walks by, or can read her messages. He has plenty of thoughts about the relative benefits of that location, and delights in describing them to her in detail befitting an engineer. Rey’s never encountered documentation for an orgasm before, but there’s a first time for everything.
It’s difficult, being away from him. But life carries on. Even apart, she doesn’t feel alone.
She goes to lunches with the girls, works on projects, has frustrating days and good days.
In the afternoons, they video chat, and talk about everything and nothing.
(It always was easier to talk like this, she thinks. And this time, it’s leading to something that feels right, and real, and inevitable in the way that sunrise is inevitable. Rather than… the inevitability of a meteor hitting the earth.)
She learns his favorite color. (He says black, and then admits it’s red; hers is blue, but she loves deep, inky purples, too. Or green. Maybe all of them.)
She learns his embarrassing childhood stories, and shares her own. When he finally asks about her tattoo, she blushes fiercely, and shows him, on the webcam. (“Were you as out of it as I was?” “You were topless,” he says. “What do you think?”)
After that, she learns what he looks like when he comes, just for her. She coaxes him through it, tells him he’s wonderful, so amazing, beautiful when he comes. Then she returns the favor.
Video chat is truly, truly an amazing thing.
But what surprises her the most is that all of the affection and want and need is there. Even as they talk and text and chat… it never really goes away, this thing she feels for him. And he confesses, it’s the same for him.
“There’s no one else for me, Rey,” he says, quietly, over the phone. “You’re it.”
She’s tucked into bed with his voice alone, and it’s absurd to call this a long-distance relationship, because they live in the same goddamn city. It’s not like he’s a galaxy away. She could find him any time she wants.
He could be here, any time he wants.
“You’re it, too,” Rey answers.
She falls asleep with the phone still pressed to her cheek. She has no idea how long he stays on the line, talking to her. But her dreams are filled with his voice.
Did he... did he sing?
The crease on her face, in the morning, makes her smile.
“I’m six days out,” Rey tells him, almost casually, as she’s sitting and eating her lunch in the park.
“Rey…” He says her name like it’s a question to which he already knows the answer.
Has it been six months already, since they last touched skin to skin? It seems like weeks, or years, or lifetimes. Rey sets the half-eaten carton of soup to the side, on the edge of the paper that had held the roll, before she’d torn it into bits to float in the soup. The wind is high today, and the paper flutters like it’s going to catch flight at any moment.
Rey can understand that feeling.
“I don’t want to wait any longer,” she says.
There’s people walking by her, going to work or going to lunch, on their phones, like she is. Drinking coffee, talking, holding their child’s hand as they look both ways, crossing the street—
“I want this,” Rey says, as the wind picks up her hair, caresses her neck the way she wishes Ben would. “I want you.”
“I want you, too.”
It’s even sweeter than she imagines, the taste of him in her mouth, when he urges her to do it, to claim him, to make him hers the way she’s wanted to from the start. It’s no wonder that she goes first—takes the first bite of the fruit that’s finally ripe and ready to be claimed. He wants her to be certain, and she is.
He groans and shudders and his knot pulses, her body tying them together as his jaw goes slack. Rey tastes him, fully tastes him, and it’s like something that’s been missing her whole life has just found its way home. He fills her, cock and scent and taste and—and she can feel him, the blurry, still-indistinct shimmer of his thoughts.
Ben feels… happy. His joy threads through her like she’s seeing a new color, adding another sense to the ones she’s known all her life. He’s elated, overwhelmed, and so desperately eager to mark her in return.
When she pulls back from the bite, it’s clear and defined on his skin. Red, and wet, but already starting to heal. It will be silver, when it does. Silver against his tan skin. She laves at it with her tongue, muttering her words of love, and praise, and how fucking honored and grateful she is, to mark him, her Alpha, at last.
For all the world to see.
She hums contentedly against his collarbone, and he draws her hair back from her neck.
Cradles her head in one broad hand.
“I love you,” he says, reverent, like a prayer, a promise. “I love you.”
Warm lips touch her skin. Soft hands hold her close.
His teeth break the skin at her neck. And the world, at last, is at peace.
And then a week later, Rey shows up at work, points at her neck and tells Tallie and Jess, "THAT's what a bond mark looks like, OKAY?"