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Rey's Dos and Don'ts

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RDAD 1

Rey stares at the time on her phone again, confirming her fears that she’s only been here minutes, not hours, and sighs.

In her 19 years on the planet, Rey has come to learn many things about herself, and subsequently she has developed a list of “Dos” and “Don’ts” to make her life more enjoyable. It’s not like she’s written it down, she isn’t crazy, but the list is firmly ingrained in her mind regardless and right now, the third point in the right hand column is flashing a warning red colour, as if screaming abort, abort!

  1. Don’t go to parties hosted by douchebags.

She only came to this ridiculous post game booze fest in the first place because Finn had begged and pleaded (and later resorted to dragging her kicking and screaming by her ponytail that was still a mess from gym when his original plan failed miserably).

It was unfortunate really, because on this occasion her number three “Don’t” contradicts severely with her number one “Do”.

  1. Do always be a good and supportive friend.

The theory behind that one is that as an orphan with a questionable history of foster families and homes, her friends are the only family she has. She and Finn may not always agree on things, and his kind, sociable personality would sometime clash with Rey’s more cynical side, but for all intents and purposes, Finn was her brother and she’d do anything for him.

Including, sadly, breaking her number three “Don’t”.

So here she is, standing in some fancy kitchen, eyes glaring menacingly and arms folded around her in caution to anyone who might otherwise take her to be a potential hook-up option.

It does the trick, and most of the drunk frat boys give her a wide berth, opting instead for the safer pastures of giggling blondes and lash-batting redheads. That’s just fine with Rey.  She’s purposely giving off come near me and risk getting kicked in the balls vibes, and let’s face it, it wouldn’t be the first time.

Right now though, the most likely male to get pummelled by her fists tonight is Finn, who brought her to this hellhole and then unceremoniously dumped her in favour of seeking out the sexy Point Guard he’s been eyeing at basketball practice all year. Rey’s only consolation is that Finn will loosen up with a drink or two of whatever monstrous homebrew they are passing around and finally tell Poe how he feels so she doesn’t have to keep having long, drawn out, neurotic conversations with him about it over and over again until she wants to stab herself in the eye just to have an excuse to change the topic.

The problem with homebrew, or more specifically, with idiots drinking homebrew, is that the more of it they tip down their throats, the less susceptible they become to social cues and body language, such as Rey’s very helpful and not at all subtle scowls and crossed arms. She’s even got her jumper zipped up to her neck, so as to not offer the slightest suggestion of skin to the morons that surround her. In short, she couldn’t have been any more obvious without flashing a billboard with LEAVE ME THE FUCK ALONE written on it in bold, bright colours. 

It doesn’t seem to matter as one particularly bright spark - a tall redhead guy that Rey recognises as the Small Forward on Finn's team from watching his games - stumbles over towards her.

“Well, aren’t you just what the doctor ordered,” he says in what he likely thinks is a sexy simper, and yet in reality his drunken slur amplified by him inadvertently yelling in an attempt to be heard over the loud house music pumping through the house isn’t helping Rey warm to him.  “My physio thinks I pulled my groin muscle during the game and has prescribed a massage from a hot brunette. What do you say, care to help me out?”

His hand reaches out to skim her shoulder but it has barely made contact before she's sent him tumbling backwards with a firm push to his chest. His inebriated state doesn’t allow for his usual levels of coordination, so he stumbles and hits the floor, his behind making blunt contact with the tiles, producing a loud thud.

In her mind, Rey adds don’t put yourself in situations where you’re likely to be groped by sleazy assholes to her “Don’t” list.  If it isn’t already on there, it should be.

Out loud, she says, “I’m good, thanks. I’m pretty sure anything I’m willing to do will only make your groin feel worse,” to the scrambling pile of limbs with as much condescension as she can muster.

When he finally rights himself, his face matches his hair and he is visibly seething. It probably isn’t helping that a crowd is forming around them, their reactions alternating between gasps, jeers and laughter. 

“You little bitch,” he snarls at her as he gets back on his feet in several quick movements that remind her he is an athlete.

Rey feels her bravado falter slightly as he makes his way back towards her, all charm and swagger of his previous attempt abandoned, leaving only the rage and resentment of a bruised ego fuelled by alcohol. His anger seems to have refocused him, reviving his physical dexterity and she doesn’t think she could get away with pushing him over again.

Maybe she’ll be kicking someone in the balls after all.

The angry redhead advances on her, and just as she is backing away towards the kitchen bench and preparing to fight him off by any means necessary, a deep, commanding voice makes its presence known.

“Take a hike, Hux. You can’t blame the girl for not being attracted to your ugly mug.”

Rey’s head mirrors Hux’s as they both whip around in synchronicity, searching for the owner of the voice. It only takes Rey a moment to find him.

Ben Solo.

Captain of the X-Wings, party host extraordinaire and all around douchebag.

Of course it would be him.

Rey feels her mouth curve with distain as she takes him in, in all his tall, broad bodied glory, his dark hair and eyes smouldering as watches them, eyeing her more than Hux, she thinks. Then he smirks, and she knows.

It was a cruel twist of fate that one of her most favourite people of all time, her coach Leia Organa, could have created such an arrogant, irritating miscreant that seemed to love nothing more than causing trouble for people she cared about. Several months ago, he’d nearly gotten Finn kicked off the team for skipping training when he had a particularly tough Humanities exam to study for.  Snoke had been furious when Solo had pointed it out, and in the end the only thing that saved Finn was Poe telling Snoke he’d walk too if Finn lost his spot.

The only perk of his sudden appearance is the effect it is having on Hux. His face had gone from red to purple and Rey is sure she could see actual steam bursting from his ears.

“Ren, stay out of this if you know what’s good for you,” he hisses at his captain.

“If you know what’s good for you,” Solo counters, smirk still firmly in place, “you’ll take my advice and back off before you have to add broken nose to your list of injuries.  Let’s face it, sore groin and ass is probably enough for one day.”

“You wouldn’t,” Hux seethes, although a flicker of doubt in his eyes betrays his fear.

But Solo only laughs.

“You’re right, I wouldn’t. But she would,” he says, jutting his chin in Rey’s direction, “and I don’t particularly want to be cleaning blood off my floor.”

Rey watches as Hux deflates like a popped balloon before backing away and slinking off through the crowd that is just starting to disperse, no doubt intent on sulking in some corner for the rest of the night.

Rey takes a deep, steadying breath, glad he’s gone. If her childhood taught her anything, it was that alcohol created unpredictability and altercations with people under the influence were best avoided if possible. 

Unfortunately, one adversary has disappeared only to be replaced by another, as Ben Solo is still standing before her, eyebrow arched and smirk intact.

“You’re welcome,” he offers.

He’s baiting her. She knows this.  It’s not the first time, in fact, if Rey didn’t know better, she would think it was one of his favourite past times. 

She should just ignore him. Take his earlier advice to Hux and walk away.  She should definitely not engage.

She knows she shouldn’t, because it’s on her “Don’t” list at number two.

  1. Don’t engage in squabbles with Ben Solo.

Yes, it happens so often that it made her list. The list, after all, is about self-preservation, and nothing is better for Rey’s self-preservation than avoiding nasty altercations with Ben Solo.  Mainly because his tongue has proven to be sharper than hers on many occasions and it stings less if he gets the last word when she hasn’t really tried.  She can tell, by the increasing effort he puts into goading her into a verbal sparring match, that it also lessens his victory, and that in itself is enough to convince Rey to, for once in her life, hold her tongue.

Rey flashes him a smile that’s more salt than sugar and makes to push past him. Time to find Finn and beg him to let her go home, if he can look away from Poe for long enough to pay attention to her, that is.

She doesn’t get far before her escape path is blocked by a broad chest, his broad chest and she huffs in frustration before craning her neck to meet his eyes.  He’s the tallest on their team, making him an ideal choice for Center.  She’s watched him play, so she knows how well he moves around the court, particularly dangerous in defence.  Centers are normally big and slow in comparison to the other positions, and Ben’s definitely taller, but he has more agility than your standard Center, making him particularly perilous to the other team who always struggle to shut him down.

As Point Guard for the X-Wing women’s team at Galactic University, Rey knows she should be happy about this, purely from a team comradery perspective. But right now, all she can do is curse the man for being bigger and stronger than her, and maybe not quite faster – no, definitely not faster – than her, but still fast enough that he has somehow managed to trap her between the bench and the doorway.

He’s feeling very much like a predator to her overly sensitised mind that’s been on high alert since first setting foot in this place tonight and the rest of the party, with its crowd of chattering people, thumping music and flashing lights, is drowned out so she can focus all her attention on him.

Not for any sweet, mushy reason. This is about self-preservation, remember?

She’s close enough to him that she can feel his breath on her face. He’s standing steady and is clearly very much in control of himself, so she knows he must be one of the few at the party having a quiet night, drink wise anyway.  All she can make out is the faint smell of beer, which she can’t honestly say is repulsive.  In fact, the subtly sweet smell of the hops is oddly endearing.

Rey shakes herself sharply. Who’s been drinking here again?

“In a hurry, sweetheart?” he asks, and it’s all she can do not to slap the stupid grin off his stupid, stupid face.

“I thought you didn’t want to clean blood off the floor tonight, Solo,” she shoots back at him, before remembering “Don’t” number two and mentally kicking herself.

He hums in acknowledgement. “Mm, I wouldn’t put it past you, you are quite a feral little desert rat, aren’t you? Until I met you, I never knew Jakku could produce so much sheer ferocity in such adorable packaging.”

Rey feels her cheeks go pink and curses him, and then herself for responding so obviously, and then him again, because really this was all his fault and credit where credit was due and all.

She tries to push past him again, but he’s standing firm this time, not budging an inch at her attempt, and she scowls up at him.

Move, Solo,” she grits out through clenched teeth.

“In a minute,” he says, dismissing her command easily. “First I would like to know what you’re doing gracing my party with your infuriated presence, when it’s clear you would obviously rather be anywhere else.”

“Well, no one can say you aren’t perceptive,” she bites back, derision palpable on her tongue as she searches for another escape route. He seems to notice because his arm extends to the wall, blocking her in further.

And then he’s leaning over, his head dipping to get closer to her own height, but he’s leaning forward, which means he’s coming further and further into her personal space.

Rey swallows.

It’s just, the shortening of the height difference and gap between them has meant she has a clear view of his penetrating brown eyes that are locked firmly on hers. His smirk has relaxed somewhat, and for that, she’s thankful, but not really, because the dark, dangerous look he’s giving her instead isn’t much better, and it’s making her forget things, like how much she hates him, and what an ass he is. 

And instead all she can think is how right now, he is living, breathing sin unlike anything she’s ever, ever experienced before, and it’s doing strange things to the pit in her belly, and she is so sure she hasn’t drunk anything since she got to this god-forsaken party, but right now she can’t be quite sure.

She swallows again.

“Is it really so bad, being in my company?” His voice is like smooth liquid running through her veins, making her shiver and doing all sorts of terrible things to her faculties.

“Yes,” she replies when she finally finds her voice, but even though she’s found it, she seems to be missing part of it, because the word comes out quiet and stilted and it shouldn’t, because yes, yes, it really is so bad, being anywhere near the smug asshole.

But he’s still looming over her with sex in his eyes and she can’t seem to think about anything except whether that’s actually how he would look at her during the throes of passion and-

“Rey?”

But that’s not his voice, not the molten velvet voice of Ben Solo, it’s…

“Finn,” she calls back to her friend, who is making his way to her behind Solo’s wide body that is finally moving out of the way and out of her space and she’s not sad about that at all, no way.

Finn slips by Solo as he stands to the side of the entryway, flashing him a dirty look – probably just for existing – before returning anxious eyes to Rey.

“Rey, are you okay?” he asks, his hands grasping her arms in a comforting gesture. “One of the guys said Hux was threatening you.”

“Yeah, I’m fine,” Rey says, at the exact same time as Ben kriffing Solo pipes up with, “Don’t worry, I handled it.”

Finn spins around to look at him and she takes the opportunity to fix him with her best withering stare.

He only seems to have eyes for her.

And his smirk is back.

Bloody hell.

“Okay, it’s nearly nine-thirty, I think I’ve done pretty well. Time to go,” she declares, grasping Finn’s shoulder and pushing him through the gap between Ben and the wall while steadfastly ignoring his gaping face and incoherent questions. 

“Night, Sweetheart,” she hears behind her, which prompts another round of splutters from Finn.

She doesn’t look back at him.

She can’t. It would go against her number one “Don’t”, and she’s broken enough of those tonight.

So she keeps her eyes forward and starts forming a plan to distract Finn on the drive home from the whole messy situation by asking him endless questions about his progress with Poe.

Yes, that was sure to distract Finn. It would be a good distraction for her, too.

Get her mind off other things.

Other tall, dark, handsome, irritating, conceited, tempting things…

No, no, no.  She’d have none of that.  Self-preservation was key, and “Don’t” number one was clear.

  1. Don’t catch feelings for Ben Solo.

  

Chapter Text

It’s a five day round road trip from Chandrila to Yavin 4 and back, and Rey is looking forward to it even less than usual.

Both the men’s and women’s X-Wing teams will be playing at Rebel Stadium on Friday night, and until then all Rey has to look forward to is being crammed onto an old college bus with a bunch of people she has varying levels of regard for, with no escape save for cheap meal breaks and even cheaper motel rooms.

Luckily she got there early and secured a descent seat – close to the back next to Finn, with Poe and Kaydel in front and Jess and Rose off to the side. She doesn’t even have to deal with Phasma, her team captain, because she’s sitting further to the front with Bazine Netal and Snap Wexley.

Rey believes in making the best of crummy situations; she’s had to, with the amount life has thrown at her. But here, surrounded by her friends as they all happily chat away, Rey thinks that despite the uncomfortable seats with their worn fabric and lumps and the smell wafting through the bus from some idiot who obviously didn’t washed their jersey after the last game, this is almost perfect.

Almost.

Almost, because true perfection could only be achieved if Ben Solo wasn’t currently lounging like a twat across the back seat behind her, leering at her.

She hasn’t spoken to him since she fled his party last week, dodging Finn’s demands to know why she was in the kitchen with the Prince of Darkness instead of hanging out with the nice, normal people. Rey tried to defend herself by arguing she’d basically been a victim of abduction, but that only made things worse, and when Finn uttered the words Stockholm Syndrome, Rey finally decided it was time to crank the volume in the car and drown out his rant until it blew over.

She hasn’t really seen him either, except for a few times at practise, and even then, she hadn’t been looking on purpose.  He’s just hard to miss because he is taller than most trees.

Right now, he is sprawled across the extended seat opposite Hux, the two of them taking up enough space to comfortably – well not quite comfortably, because nothing is comfortable on this archaic bus, but somewhat easily – seat five fully grown adults, but they don’t seem to care and are happy enough to take full advantage of all that extra space and somehow everyone is fine with it because he’s tall, didn’t you know, and he needs the leg room and poor Ben Solo, how would he ever survive if he had to sit in the normal seats like all the other peasants?

Rey is so busy scowling at the injustice of it all that she has completely missed Poe’s latest joke, and has to just laugh along awkwardly with the rest of them to cover the fact she was preoccupied. It doesn’t really matter. Everyone has their undivided attention on Poe’s hilarious stories, including Poe himself, and no-one’s paying attention to her, which is great, because it means she can fume in peace.

Looking down the aisle, Rey spots Leia sitting at the front with the rest of the coaching staff, and from her position Rey can see her resolutely ignoring Snoke in favour of refining various plays with her assistant coach, Amilyn Holdo. It’s a well-known secret that Snoke and Leia despise each other, and on that point, Rey will only ever take Leia’s side. Rey will never forget that her life as she now knows it is all thanks to Leia for seeing something in her during a rare scouting trip to Jakku, pulling Rey from obscurity and gifting her with the only real home and family she’s ever known.

That’s probably why she sometimes resents Ben Solo. He comes from a long line of basketball royalty, Leia having been one of the first professional female players, whilst his father Han Solo was considered a god of the sport, even now continuing to ride on the wave of his fame by coming out with his own line of shoes and commentating on various shows.  Ben grew up in privilege, with parents who gave a damn about him and the world at his feet.  Yet despite all that, the only adult she’s ever seen him respect is Snoke.  He worships the ground Snoke walks on and does his best to pretend his mother doesn’t exist.

It’s unfair, really. Just another injustice to add to her long list.

Rey doesn’t think she’s ever even seen Ben give Leia a smile, always opting instead for icy silence with a noticeable lack of eye contact.

If only he extended Rey the same curtesy.

The trip is long, and even Finn eventually grows tired of Poe’s anecdotes – thankfully – and once the initial excitement of departure dies down, the bus goes quiet and people turn their attention to catching up on either homework or sleep – aside from Hux, the tosser, who has been snoring loudly in the back corner since the minute they took off. 

Rey is in the former group, because she’s never going to pass all her exams with her hectic game schedule if she doesn’t cram in every little bit of study she can. Her decision is supported by her number two “Do”.

  1. Do everything within your power to excel at school.

This one could have also been included under her “Don’t” column, as Don’t be a lazy dolt, flunk out of school and become a burden on society, but Rey believes in positive affirmations.

Finn, who has just as much homework as Rey, is somehow in the latter group, dozing softly against her shoulder in no time, clearly content to put his coursework on hold.

Rey thinks her team mates must share Finn’s philosophy on this today, because a quick scan of the bus informs her that aside from most of the coaches, everyone else appears to be in various states of naptime.

Well, almost everyone…

He must have some kind of radar to alert him to the fact everyone else is finally preoccupied, because no sooner does Finn drop out for the count, than Ben Solo has draped his long arms over the back of her seat and is leaning forward, way too far forward.

“What are you reading?” he asks.

Rey rolls her eyes.

“None of your business, Solo.”

She doesn’t have to look at him to know he is grinning.

“It’s not something dirty, is it? I wouldn’t put it past you.  It’s always the ones you’d least expect.”

Rey clenches her jaw, muttering under her breath, “You must be an angel, going by that logic.”

He doesn’t reply straight away, and she hopefully, stupidly, takes this to mean the conversation is over and returns her attention to her book. 

But it’s clearly not over, because suddenly he’s closer than ever and she can feel his warm breath on the back of her neck and dammit Rey, why do you keep forgetting “Don’t” number two?

“Mmm, not really…” he all but purrs in her ear, and Rey jerks forward because he is way too close, but in doing so her book has fallen into the aisle, and Finn is already stirring beside her, and the last thing she needs right now is to bring him into this.  Before she can reach for it, Ben extends his leg down the aisle and plants his foot on her book before dragging it backwards until it is within arm length circumference. 

Under any other circumstance, she would make a lunge for it, but Finn’s still perched haphazardly on her shoulder, so Rey can only look on helplessly as Ben picks up her book and inspects the cover, worn and dirty from its many prior owners since Rey can only afford to buy second hand books.

Mechatronics for the Evil Genius,” he reads the title, a grin blooming across his stupid face as he looks up at her, and she’s going pink again, she can feel it, and he’s laughing now, at her most probably.

“Give me that!” She regains enough of her senses to snatch the book back out of his hand. He doesn’t put up a fight, he’s already got what he wanted.

Evil genius,” he chuckles again, the sound reverberating from deep in his chest and hitting her squarely in her own. “I should have known. The ones you’d least expect, indeed.”

Rey huffs and turns to face the front again, smoothing her hands over the tattered cover. 

It’s really not as stupid as it sounds. She’d picked up the book after becoming fed up with the mountains of course-directed reading that focused purely on theory. Rey has always been more of a hands-on learner, and she’d been itching to get her hands on a more practical resource when Professor Kanata recommended her this one.

“I didn’t know you were studying Mechatronics.”

He says it so quietly she nearly misses it entirely, except the bus is dead silent now aside from the rumble of the engine and he’s leaning forward again, so his words don’t have far to travel.   For once, it doesn’t sound like he’s teasing her.  In fact, if Rey’s being honest, and if she wasn’t acquainted with the speaker so well, if she didn’t know what a big head he had, she would almost think he sounds…

Impressed.

Except that clearly isn’t the case since he’d been laughing at her not two seconds ago.

“Yeah, well,” she starts, attempting an air of haughtiness that sounds forced even to her own ears, “we can’t all bank on a footwear empire to carry us into retirement.”

She feels him pull back abruptly, and one glance over her shoulder tells her his signature grin is well and truly gone and he’s staring resolutely out the window with a very petulant pout. And it hits her.

She’s gotten to him this time. 

She finally got the last word. She did! Rey!

Ruffled the unflappable Ben Solo.

Maybe, in light of this victory, she should revisit “Don’t” number two…

She shoots him another quick look just to be sure, but it’s clear he is forfeiting this round, a black mood settling over him as he refuses to return her gaze.

And she should feel triumphant because she finally beat him, and she does, kind of.

Almost.

It’s just, it feels a little hollow for some reason. Probably because when he wins, even when he has annoyed her to the point of exasperation and she wants to slap the stupid smirk off his face, there is still a kind of warmth to the proceedings.  She’s annoyed, certainly.  Definitely frustrated.  But is she ever truly angry?

No, not really.

He, on the other hand, seems genuinely pissed off right now, and that wasn’t Rey’s intention, and she is slowly realising she’s well and truly hit a nerve.

She tries to catch his attention, so she can… well, not apologise, because Rey’s no good at that, but she can ease the tension somehow, if he’d just look at her.

After a minute or two, it’s clear he’s not budging.

Well, fine then. Let him sulk. He would not guilt Rey into feeling sorry for him just because he’s such a sore loser.

And Rey definitely does not feel guilty, because it’s true what she said, and even if it isn’t, he says way worse to her on a daily basis.

Except, now that she thinks about it, she can’t quite pinpoint a time where he’s insulted her maliciously.  It’s just a string of snarky comments meant to tease, but never injure.  He has never disrespected her by remarking on her lack of money, or her questionable upbringing. 

He does, of course, call her names that insinuate to both her financial state and foster care past. Over the past year, she has heard them all, as he has taken it as a personal challenge to come up with as many different combinations as possible, rarely using the same one twice.

Desert Rat, Little Scavenger, Fearsome Scrapper

But as each name surfaces in her mind, even they don’t feel offensive, because he always says them with such reverence that they almost come across as a term of endearment. 

Like he’s proud of her for what she’s overcome.

Like he’s fascinated by her.

And then there’s his favourite one.

Sweetheart.

He calls her that a lot. And she definitely doesn’t enjoy it.  Not one little bit.

But that could hardly be construed as insulting either. Presumptuous maybe, no, definitely, but certainly never intended to wound.

So yeah, maybe with all of this swirling around in her head and him pointedly ignoring her in favour of the mind-numbing countryside whirring by, Rey does feel the slightest twinge of remorse for insinuating he would ever coast through life on his parents’ inheritance.

Especially since she knows he’s checking out law schools in the fall, and she suspects he would rather become a janitor and clean the toilets at their university than forever be financially dependent on people he seems to regard with only burning resentment.

Rey bites her lip and curses her own thoughtlessness.

Then she remembers poor Finn, currently fast asleep on her shoulder, and remembers the look on his face when he came home distraught thinking his dreams had gone up in flames and recalls Ben’s part in the whole humiliating debacle.

So he’s not entirely innocent.

Definitely not an angel.

After chasing her own thoughts for several mental laps, Rey tells herself to quit overthinking it. She should just happy he has finally shut up for a minute. She’s sure he’ll be bothering her again in no time.

But he makes no attempt to end their stalemate for the rest of the bus ride, so they sit in silence and Rey fills the time by learning how to create a combat robot and reciting her number one “Don’t” ad nauseam.

***

Leia notifies the girls of their bunking partners whilst they start tucking into their dinner, a spread of lean proteins, vegetables, complex carbs and salads scattered across the large communal table.

Rose is bunking with Kaydel and Jess is paired with Bazine, which means Rey stuck with Phasma, who is currently eyeing her like something particularly rotten she’s stepped in. Not even Finn’s excitement at sharing a room with Poe can quell Rey’s unease. 

Her apprehension only grows when Phasma barrels her up outside the ladies toilets and informs her she has recently started seeing someone and has plans to stay with her new boyfriend each night of this trip, and will therefore be swapping rooms with his bunkmate after the coaches are tucked safely in their beds.

At least this explains why Phasma was so chummy with Wexley, the X-Wings’ big, burly Power Forward, earlier on the bus. They never seemed to have much in common before.

It is strictly forbidden to share rooms with the opposite sex whilst on an official team road trip. Phasma knows this, she is captain after all.  Rey certainly knows it. They could all be suspended if anyone found out, and she’s not one to break the rules at the best of times, let alone to appease Phasma and Wexley’s sex life, and she’s seconds away from telling Phasma to get stuffed.

However, then Rey remembers her number three “Do” since joining the team.

  1. Do your best to get along with your team mates.

As a rule, it makes sense, seeing as she spends so much time with them all, they’d be like her second family if she wasn’t already an orphan to begin with. And pissing off Phasma in particular is usually unwise, since she is known to be both passively aggressive and actively aggressive when she’s been crossed.

So she bites her tongue and mulls it over.

Later, when they are all sitting around before bedtime, Rey finds out from Finn that Wexley is supposed to be bunking with Mitaka – the team’s scrawny, jittery substitute – and relaxes. If she has to share with him for a few days, it will hardly be the end of the world.  She doubts he would try anything ungentlemanly, and even if he does, Rey can handle him.

Still, Phasma would owe her one for this.

Finn starts talking about Poe again, and Rey can tell he is nervous, so she cuts him some slack and nods along as he vents his neuroses. Across the room, she spots Ben Solo talking to Bazine

They seem to be chatting away about something or other. Bazine is laughing at something he said, and now he’s laughing too and it stabs at her guts somehow.  Some dark voice in her head wonders if Bazine has plans to sneak into Ben’s room tonight, leaving Jess to bunk with Hux. The thought makes her nauseous, and not just out of sympathy for Jess.

He must feel her staring, because suddenly his warm, chestnut eyes are on hers and he’s not laughing anymore.

And Rey can’t breathe.

It feels like eternity, but in reality it’s all over in seconds, because then he’s turning away. Apparently she hasn’t earned his smile tonight.

Rey thinks maybe she got her wish. Maybe he’ll start treating her like he does Leia, with cold indifference.

Rey doesn’t know why the idea stings so much.

***

Phasma sneaks out of their twin bed motel room just before midnight, leaving Rey to her first moment of true solitude since the start of this damn trip.

It’s been a long day, and the king single’s pretty average, but still a step up in the comfort scales from the bus. And Rey is tired, so tired, from the mental gymnastics her stupid head’s been doing all day.

But she’s got four more days to get through, and she’s going to drive herself bonkers if she keeps agonizing over every little thing she’s thinking and feeling about a certain big-headed individual, so she decides to empty her mind for now and try to get to sleep before Mitaka shows up and starts snoring or something.

Which is why Rey is half asleep, and therefore half dies from shock, when Ben Solo himself comes bursting, half-naked, into her room.

Chapter Text

Rey feels like she’s slipped into some strange, alternate reality while trying to fall asleep.

Because she’s pretty sure she’s lying in her bed, in her motel room, and yet you wouldn’t think so, given the way Ben Solo storms in like he owns the place, clad only in a pair of black boxer briefs and a grimace. 

He shuts the door behind him with a snap and collapses back on it, pressing his ear to the crack.

“What the hell are you doing here?!” Rey screeches, bolting upright in bed.

“Shhh,” he hisses at her indignantly before returning his attention to the door.

Rey yanks the low thread count sheets up to her neck - even though she’s wearing a tank top and shorts and is not nearly as naked as he is - and stares at him incredulously.  Because he’s acting like she’s just barged into his room half naked and told him to shut up. The nerve!

With nothing else to do, Rey takes him in. She’s never even seen him shirtless before now and it’s… well, it’s a sight, that’s for sure.  His brilliant eight pack is proudly on display, along with his toned, muscular thighs, and he has that ‘vee’ at the bottom of his abdomen that seems to resemble an air traffic controller waving Rey’s attention further down to-

Rey shakes her head furiously and tears her eyes back up to his face.

It’s clear he’s concerned someone has heard him moving about outside. He’s listening for something, straining his hearing to pick up any kind of noise from the hall, but it must not come, because after a minute he seems to relax and turns back to face her.

Rey gulps.

“W-Where’s Mitaka?”

His eyes narrow so sharply and he’s giving her such a dark, thunderous look that Rey cowers slightly.

What the fuck is that supposed to mean?”

And suddenly she knows how it must sound to him, what he must be thinking.

Rey scrambles for words, any words.

“Phasma! She- she’s been seeing Snap, and she said she was going to swap places with-”

Phasma,” Ben interrupts, scowl still in place, “has been hooking up with Hux since he moped on her shoulder all night at my party last week.”

“Oh,” Rey says quietly, because this is all so much to process. Phasma has been hooking up with Hux, the pompous creep, and is probably banging his brains out right now

Rey shudders.

Sex with Hux is something she doesn’t care to hear about or know about or think about, ever. And her opinion of Phasma has dropped through the floor at the very notion that she would crawl into bed with that asshole.

And then of course, there is her current predicament. Because Hux is obviously supposed to be bunking with Ben, and now Ben’s here, and as much as he frustrates her sometimes, she doesn’t hate him nearly enough to send him back into a room with Hux and Phasma going full coital.

Which means…

Which means he’s sleeping here. In her room.

With her.

Rey’s stomach does a flip.

Well not with her, she corrects herself.  It doesn’t help much.

He’s still standing before her, his back up against the door and his jaw working as he eyes her, giving nothing away.

The silence stretches as they regard each other warily. Eventually, he must tire of standing there, because his eyes flick from her own to the empty bed next to hers.

“May I?” he juts his chin towards the bed.

Rey can only nod. She doesn’t think any words would come out if she tried, and she doesn’t need it to be on her “Don’t” list to know she doesn’t want to be gaping at him like a fish.

He crosses the room in several wide strides and flops down on the single bed next to hers, his body still exposed and legs dangling off the edge. He makes no other attempt to move, resolutely staring at the ceiling, while she eyes him carefully.

Rey licks her lips, and then pretends she didn’t.

“Aren’t you going to get under the blankets?” she asks when she finds her voice.

“Why, am I bothering you?”

“No, of course not,” Rey says quickly, averting her gaze.

She's just trying to be helpful. It is summertime, and the days are absurdly hot at the moment, but in the motel room the air-conditioning is cranked up full bore and satisfyingly chilly in comparison. It’s not like it matters to her either way; let him freeze his bollocks off for all she cares.  

“I just thought you might be cold,” she finishes lamely.

“No, I'm pretty hot actually.”

Yeah you are, some traitorous part of Rey’s mind concurs.

“You don't want to catch a chill.”

Rey cringes as soon as the words leave her mouth. What a stupid thing to say.

Ben clearly thinks so.

“Just go to sleep, Rey.” he retorts, sounding very fed up, one arm flung over his eyes.

But Rey isn’t ready to go to sleep. She might have been able to quiet her thoughts if she had been alone in an empty room.  But now he’s right there, not two feet from her, and she’s never going to be able to sleep tonight if she doesn’t say something.

“Ben, about earlier...”

He cuts her off immediately.

“It's alright Rey, I get it.”

“No, you don’t,” she snaps, and then remembers she is trying to make amends here. So she tries again. “I didn’t mean- it's just, to grow up like that, with security, with people who- I’ve never… It’s just sometimes, I wish I had what you have.” It comes out stunted and quiet, because she’s not even sure she wants to be admitting this to him right now.  It could make everything ten times worse.

But he turns to look at her, his eyes intensely penetrating even with the room’s only source of light being the moonshine streaming in from the window.

“I could say the same about you.”

She blinks at him.

“What?” she asks, and she almost laughs, because the thought that he could be jealous of her is so ludicrous she doesn’t know what else to do.

He lets out an audible sigh and returns his gaze to the ceiling tiles.

“Sometimes I envy you, Rey. You've never had to live in anybody's shadow. Any legacy you make is yours, and yours alone. And when you go on to do great things, as you inevitably will, no one will ever question that you got there because of you, that you earned it, fair and square.”

His words hit her like a punch to the guts. And there is no ignoring the gnawing guilt this time.

“Ben…”

“Don’t,” he cuts her off quickly, clearing his throat. “It’s okay, you don’t… you don’t have to say anything.”

She could leave it. She could.  But she doesn’t.

“I think I do,” she says delicately. “I’ve seen how hard you work, how much you try. I know you’re going to do great things too, and I don’t think any less of you for who your parents are.” His eyes are back on hers, drawn to each other like magnets.  It’s intense, this… thing, between them.  Too intense for Rey, who feels a sudden urge to break the tension and make a joke, so she blurts out, “Plus it can’t hurt your game with the ladies. You can be a bit of an asshole sometimes, but I’m sure they fall all over themselves to get to you once they know about the honeypot.”

Rey holds her breath and mentally kicks herself, because she’s made the same mistake as earlier and made fun of something he’s clearly insecure about, and it didn’t sound as clever as it did in her head, and she just knows he’s going to take it the wrong way, and they’re going to be right back at square one.

But then he huffs out a laugh and Rey relaxes.

“Most of them do,” he concedes, the corner of his lips twitching upwards and his eyes twinkling in the moonlight. “Not all of them, though.”

Rey swallows hard.

They’ve rolled onto their sides to face each other, and he has such a beautiful face, so striking and sensitive at the same time, and he’s gazing at her with something that resembles awe and a fondness she doesn’t deserve, and even though Rey knows she needs to end this now, she never wants to look away.

“Goodnight, Ben,” Rey whispers, her chin tucked into her pillow as she peers up at him.

And just like that, she's earned a smile. His adorable, lopsided grin that she's come to regard as hers.

“Night, Sweetheart,” he replies softly into the space between them.

Rey tries and fails to bite back a smile of her own, a smile that consumes her, a smile that’s all his, so she rolls over, hoping he hasn’t noticed.

***

Ben is still fast asleep when Rey wakes in the morning.

He looks so peaceful, so innocent, with his curly inky-black hair falling in waves across his face and his full lips in a soft curve instead of his usual devilish smirk, and she doesn’t want to wake him, so she tiptoes her way to the bathroom to shower and change for the day.

The bathroom is tiny, so small she doesn’t know how any of the boys are going to manage.  There is a basin, a toilet and a shower, and all three are practically on top of each other, so she’s forced to lean one knee on the toilet seat while she brushes her teeth. 

Once the shower has been switched on, no part of the bathroom is a splash safe zone. Rey puts her underwear, jeans and shirt on top of the toilet seat lid, shielding her clothing from the water with the thread-bare towel provided by the motel, and steps under the steady stream of steaming hot water, praying for absolution.

Memories of the last twenty-four hours keep surfacing in Rey’s mind, replaying on a shuffled loop, over and over, disjointed and jumbled and torturous.

She’s slipped up, big time. She is realising that now.  It’s like all her rules had gone out the window the second she’d seen Ben’s bare-naked chest and her hormones had taken over.

She cannot let that happen again. Rey is nothing if not strong and resilient.  If she puts her mind to it, she can do anything.  And she can conquer this.  For sure.

She slips out of the shower and dries herself with the world’s cheapest towel and starts dressing, her underwear going on without too much hassle. But the bathroom is so ridiculously small, she accidentally knocks her jeans and the towel into the shower stall while attempting to wrangle her arms through the sleeves of her shirt.

Rey curses Galactic U and their shitty travel budget.

Her jeans are soaked and so is the towel, and she doesn’t want to soak her panties too by putting on wet clothes, and in the interest of not tempting fate she doesn’t even want to think about the concept of soaked panties in any shape or form.

So Rey peeks her head out the bathroom door and scans the beds.

Both empty.

He’s gone back to his room. 

Rey breathes a sigh of relief and slides through the door, making her way over to her suitcase to find a clean pair of jeans.

She hasn’t quite bent over when she hears someone moving behind her.

Rey spins around so fast she nearly topples over.

“Ben!” she shrieks, trying valiantly to tug her shirt down her thighs with limited success.

He must have been getting a bottle of water from the minibar, because he’s holding one in his hands, but now he’s combing over her body with those dark, sinful eyes of his that she could drown in and she thinks he’s definitely thirsty, but not for water.

Ben!” she shouts again, and this time she gets his attention, because he seems to come to his senses, and his gaze snaps from her long, bare, tanned legs to her face.  “Can you look away, please?” she asks in exasperation.

He does so immediately, clearing his throat and fumbling with the water bottle.

“How long were you standing there?” Rey demands as she pulls the first pair of pants she can find – a pair of blue exercise sweats – from her bag and throws them on with lightning speed.

“Long enough…”

Rey takes a deep breath and straightens, turning back to him. She’s pretty sure he’s been peeking.

Some part of Rey’s brain finally registers that he’s still only wearing boxer briefs, which means maybe he should have been the one screaming and shouting for her to turn around. At least she had a shirt on.

But he just continues to stand there, unashamed by his near nakedness and unbothered by her being there to witness it.

And he must be flexing or something, because truly, she knows he’s fit, but even he couldn’t be rippling like that without some extra effort.

He takes a step towards her, and Rey swallows the lump forming in her throat. But before he can take another, the door swings open and they both jump.

“On your bike, Ren. Get back to your room before Snoke starts prowling the corridors.”

Phasma is back, looking disturbingly chipper, and Rey want to gag when she remembers why that is.

Ben gives her one last look before dashing out the open door and Rey is thankful that Phasma heads straight for the bathroom, so she can sit on her bed and will her heart to stop beating so wildly, unobserved.

***

“Why does Solo keep staring at you?”

It’s the question Rey has been dreading all day. She had hoped no one would notice the constant heated looks and knowing smirks a certain someone keeps throwing her from the other side of the bus, but apparently it’s so obvious that even Finn has picked up on it.

Finn, Rey and the others arrived at the bus, luggage in tow, just before eight o’clock and managed to secure seats down the back again. Hux, Ben and Phasma were all running late for… various reasons… and are therefore riding up front today.

“Probably because he is Rey's new bunkmate,” Jess announces conspiratorially, and Rey wishes she would die with the fire of a thousand suns.

“What?!” Finn yelps.

“Jess!” Rey glares.

“Oh, I'm sorry,” Jess laughs, not sounding sorry at all, “but Bazine has been whinging about it all morning and it's too funny.”

“What the hell is going on, Rey?” Finn demands to know.

“It's nothing,” Rey starts weakly. “It's all Phasma’s fault. She wants to bunk with Hux.”

Poe makes a vomit face.

“I'll take Phasma’s place,” Finn declares. “Solo can sleep in my room.”

“Come on, Finn,” Rey sighs.

“I’m serious, Peanut. What if he gets lonely during the night and puts the moves on you?”

He says it with such a dramatic flair that Rey has to bite back a smirk of her own.

“Um, do I get a say in this?” Poe pipes up, his face showing he clearly prefers his current bunk buddy.

“Yeah, poor Poe,” Rey nods in agreement. “What if Ben gets lonely during the night and puts the moves on him?”

Poe and Jess both giggle at that, but Finn doesn't seem to find it funny. In fact, Finns face only darkens further.

“Since when do you call him ‘Ben’?”

Rey winces at her slipup.

“Rey…”

“Oh, stop worrying, Finn,” Poe interjects, slapping his shoulder good naturedly. “Rey’s a big girl, she can take care of herself. I’m sure if Solo does anything inappropriate, Rey will make him regret it very quickly.”

Rey plasters a smile to her face and nods as convincingly as she can, doing her best to ignore Finn’s skeptical frown and the cocky grin being thrown at her from another direction that makes her wonder whether she has it in her to make him regret anything after all.

***

By late afternoon they’ve arrived at the motel in Yavin 4, which will be their home for the next two nights. The rest of the day is already planned out, with a practice session scheduled before dinner and bedtime.  Tomorrow being game day, there will be no more travel, and they will have the whole day to rest and warm up before making their way to Rebel Stadium in the evening, the women playing first, followed by the men.

Rey and the others drop their things off to their new rooms and change for practice before hopping back on the bus and heading to their training gym.

One and a half days crammed on a bus has taken a toll on Rey’s joints, and she has to do an extra-long warm-up before she is feeling like her old self again, but once she is, she relishes the feeling the gruelling session has on her body, the burn delicious to her stale limbs.

By the time the practice games start, Rey's pushed herself harder than she’s done in a while. The women are on one end of the court and the men down the other, each playing three-on-three games on half a court.  While waiting out free throws, Rey finds her gaze wandering over to where Finn, Poe and Snap are taking on Ben, Hux and Mitaka.

She’s only really looking because Finn is there, and it has become a habit to watch his games out of support. Remember “Do” number one?

So really, she’s just being a great friend by watching Finn. And she does watch Finn.

She watches Finn defend the hoop against Ben, she watches as a foul is called on Finn for knocking Ben’s arm, and she watches as Finn watches as Ben makes both of his free throws.

She’s watching Finn, okay. So there.

She’s also watching Poe and Snap, as they storm down the court, trailing Ben only by a foot or two. They don’t catch up to him in time to prevent the shot Ben makes from the three-point line. It’s too bad, really.

“Calling Rey Jensen. Get your head in the game, girl!”

Rey’s head snaps back around and she sees Jess tapping her foot impatiently as she stands at the baseline, ready to throw the ball to the point guard. That would be Rey.

“Sorry, Jess.” Rey runs to the baseline and hopes she doesn’t look too guilty.

“Making plans for night two with your new bed buddy?” Jess teases, waggling her eyebrows as she passes her the ball.

Rey rolls her eyes as she starts dribbling the ball down the court to the centre line, passing the ball back and forth with Jess as they go.

“It’s not like that,” she says dismissively.

“Yeah, sure it isn’t,” Jess replies, sarcasm dripping from every word.

Rey is about to protest, when she trips on her own feet and goes flying across the centre circle, falling hard on her backside.

She sees Finn at the men’s baseline, and he’s seen her fall, and he’s heading towards her at a run, probably to help her, because he’s a good friend too.

But he’s too slow, because Ben’s already there, his arm outstretched to her, and Rey takes him up on his offer and grasps his hand firmly to pull herself up.

And the world as she knows it ceases to exist.

She realises with startling clarity that she’s never touched him before, skin on skin, and the feel of his palm against hers sends shockwaves through her entire body.

And she’s standing upright now, and she should be letting go of his warm, strong, impossibly large hand, but gods, she really doesn’t want to.

“You okay?” he asks, smiling down at her with a tenderness that unnerves her, his thumb gently massaging her knuckles.

Rey inhales sharply. Her left butt cheek is still smarting from the fall and her nerves are all over the place from the shock, but right now the only thing she’s worried about is the inevitable moment when she will no longer be touching him.

She feels eyes on them, the judging eyes of Finn in particular, and he’s already been observing her suspiciously all day, and a prolonged hand holding session with Ben in the middle of the basketball court definitely isn’t going to help matters, so Rey hastily jerks her hand away and plants it firmly at her side, ignoring the tingling sensation she continues to experience.

“Yeah I’m fine, thanks” Rey says, the words rushing out as she shifts from foot to foot and blinks rapidly.

Ben nods, his warm smile morphing back into his lopsided grin, and then he is leaning in further so only she can hear him.

“Careful, Sweetheart,” he murmurs, eyes dancing mischievously. “We don't want you bruising that cute, little butt of yours. Unless it’s for pleasure, of course...”

Rey’s jaw drops, and she should do something, yell at him or slap him or something, but all she can manage to do is splutter half formed syllables and gape like a goldfish, and maybe she should have made that a “Don’t” after all.

Before she can collect herself, he’s jogging away, throwing her a wink over his shoulder as he goes.

And people are still staring at her. Lots of people. Finn and Bazine and Jess and Leia and Snoke.

But she doesn't really notice, because she’s too busy watching him go and trying to process what the hell just happened.

And then, just like that, Rey knows what’s happened.

She's caught feelings for Ben Solo.

Rey knows something else, too.

She is well and truly screwed.

Chapter Text

As Rey stands under the shower jets in the women’s locker room, rinsing off the sweat and grime she’s accumulated from training, she devises a new plan of attack.

It is clear that the boat has sailed on the whole “don’t catch feelings” rule.  But the thing is, even if she does kind of, sort of, maybe have feelings for the captain of the X-Wings, she can never, ever act on them. Finn would never speak to her again, and her friendship with him, the bond they have that is the closest thing to family Rey's ever known, is way too important to throw away over some silly crush that will surely blow over soon enough.

It’s not like Ben really cares about her.  He’s a guy who gets everything he wants with relative ease.  The only reason he pays Rey any attention at all is because he sees her as a challenge, a game he hasn’t quite mastered yet.  If she was ever to give into him, he’d tire of her before the sheets had a chance to dry.

Anyway, even if he did care about her – which he definitely doesn’t, mind you- it's not like Ben and Rey could ever work in the long run. He'll be graduating in less than a year, and then he'll be off playing professional basketball, travelling the world, getting rich and famous and sleeping his way through hordes of attractive models and actresses and social media celebrities alike.

And Rey will be... still in Chandrila,  going to school with Finn and working at the local tech shop part time to pay for her second hand uni books.

And well, she'll only be going to school with Finn if Finn is still talking to her, and for some reason Rey doesn't think he will be if she hooks up with his – no, their – worst enemy.

Plus, Rey loves Finn, and imagining the look on his face if he was ever to learn of her betrayal is the stuff of true nightmares.

So it’s time for Rey to pull out her metaphorical red marker and make some adjustments to her list.  And just like that, a new number one “Don’t” is born.

  1. Don’t catch act on your feelings for Ben Solo.

As always, self-preservation is the aim of Rey’s game, and “Don’t” number one must be followed explicitly this time.

She only has three more nights alone with him to get through. Then she can go back to avoiding him around campus like the plague. She just has to come up with a strategy to make it until then.

The simplest solution Rey can think of is pretending to be asleep by the time he shows up each evening.  Ben and Phasma won’t be able to swap rooms until the coaches have turned in, so she could easily feign sleep when she hears him coming, maybe even add a little fake snoring for added effect. 

Should be easy enough.

Rey mentions the plan to Finn that night at dinner.  She obviously doesn’t mention the reason why the plan has suddenly become such an urgent necessity.

“You know, my offer stands.  Solo can stay with Poe in my room and I’ll sleep in yours.  At least then you wouldn’t have to put on this big act,” Finn tells her as he takes another bite of his chicken salad.

Rey feels like she should be nominated for some award with the amount of acting she’s been doing lately.  A little fake sleeping is nothing.

Instead, she opts for a safe answer.

“I’m not so sure that’s an option, Finn.  Did you see Poe’s face when you suggested it earlier?  He looked devastated!”

This finally draws a smile from Finn.

“So…” Rey prompts, nudging his shoulder with a sly grin, “have you made a move yet?”

“Not really…”

“Finn, what are you waiting for?  It’s so obvious he wants you to.”

“I know,” Finn sighs, training sad eyes on the spot across the room where Poe stands chatting to Leia.  “It’s just, I’ve never - you know - done this before.  I don’t really know what to say.” 

And Finn looks so lost, so anxious, that Rey is hit with a rush of affection for her friend.  She forgets sometimes, because Finn is so much better at socialising than her, that he’s come from a terrible home life too, given up at a young age, left feeling unwanted.  It’s one of the things they’ve always had in common, just one of the reasons why they clung to each other, grew to depend on each other so quickly.

She reaches across the table and gives his hand a reassuring squeeze.

“Just be honest and tell him how you feel.”

The irony of Rey being the one to give such advice isn’t lost on her.

Finn returns her smile with a small one of his own before shaking his head.

“I still don’t know why you didn’t just tell Phasma to put her sexy-times with Hux on hold until next week,” Finn says darkly.  “It wouldn’t be hard, I‘m sure I could put it on hold indefinitely with no effort at all.”

“It’ll be fine.  It’s only for a few more nights,” Rey replies, doing her best to reassure Finn as well as herself.

Just a few more nights.  Three.  Three more nights.

She has a plan.  Now she just has to follow it.

How hard could that be?

***

Ben is early.

Ben is early, and Phasma hasn’t even left yet when he shows up, still only wearing boxer briefs – grey ones, this time – and he clearly hasn’t been pushed out of his room tonight, he must have had plenty of time to put on some shorts or a T-shirt or something, but he hasn’t. And because Phasma’s still there, Rey hadn’t thought it was time yet to pull her little sleeping stunt, so when he arrives, she is still very clearly awake, brushing her teeth in the bathroom.

And there is another problem she has to deal with, because the air conditioning hasn’t been working since she got back to the room after dinner. 

The maintenance guy was extremely unhelpful when she informed him of the situation an hour ago – he doesn’t seem to care that she’s a hormone riddled nineteen year old having to share a room with a guy she’s desperately trying to stay away from, and she has displayed an appallingly low level of willpower so far, and she had therefore really been counting on layers, actual physical layers of clothing and sheets and blankets, to help her with the whole keeping her distance thing, because she’s certain she won’t get any assistance from Mr Tall, Dark and Underdressed. In the end, the maintenance guy had waved her off with the vague assurance of looking at it tomorrow and once again, Rey curses the school’s crappy accommodation budget.

So it’s one of the hottest nights on record in Yavin this year to date and she – no, they – will be without cooling all night long.

It doesn’t stop Rey from diving under the covers the second she has finished rinsing her mouth.

Ben tilts his head and arches a brow as he watches her do so from where he stands near the door, talking to Phasma.

Rey lies in bed, wondering if it would be too unbelievable for her to pretend to fall asleep now.  Maybe if Ben and Phasma take their time chatting?

In the end it doesn’t matter, because Phasma takes her leave of them not long after, and the door snaps shut behind her, and just like that, they are alone again.

She eyes him warily from her bed, the blankets pulled up to her nose this time, because she figures the less of her showing, the better.

He strolls lazily into the room like he owns not just the room, but the whole stinking motel, and let’s be honest, his family could probably afford it. Once he reaches the middle, he stops abruptly and scrunches his face.

“Woah, it’s like a furnace in here.”

“Aircon’s busted,” Rey replies glumly.

Ben walks over to inspect the unit on the wall, giving it a few thumps and fiddling with the remote for a minute before apparently giving up and disappearing back out the door.

“Where are you going,” Rey calls after him in spite of herself, before tucking her mouth back under the blankets.  Apparently she needed to be gagged now too. 

He doesn’t answer, and for a hopeful moment, Rey thinks maybe he’s decided her room is too stuffy to endure and that maybe he will go bunk with Mitaka instead.  Or maybe he’ll just go back to his own room and put some headphones on to drown out the sound of Hux grunting.

But the thought dies and her hope along with it as he comes back a few minutes later with a large bucket full of ice blocks from the machine in the hall, setting it down in the small space between the two single beds and placing a couple of water bottles in it before collapsing on the empty single.

Rey realises she’s missed yet another chance to pretend to be asleep.

“Gotta stay hydrated,” he grins, leaning down to grab one of the smaller ice chips and pop it in his mouth. “Big game tomorrow.”

Rey chews on the inside of her mouth and glares at him.  He is way too chipper about this whole thing.

He stretches out across the bed, folds his hands behind his head and looks over at her.

“Aren’t you warm?”

Yes, she is actually, she is boiling, but she’s not going to admit that to him.

“No, why?”

“It’s like, a thousand degrees in here and you’re wrapped in a blanket.”

“So?  Am I bothering you?” She throws his words from last night back at him.  He only raises his eyebrow at her.

“Kind of, you’re making me hotter just looking at you.”

“Well, don’t look at me then,” she snaps indignantly.

He rolls over on his side to face her and bites back a smiles.

“That doesn’t seem like the best solution to me.”

Rey ignores him and turns to face the ceiling, huffing and fidgeting as she tries to get comfortable.  He’s right, and she hates it, because yes, it is way too hot to be under a blanket, but she’ll be damned if she’s going to kick it off and leave her body on display for his hungry eyes.

“I bet the pros don’t have to deal with faulty climate control when they’re on tour,” she grumbles.

Beside her, Ben snorts.

“I think once you’re in the pros, you don’t even have to wipe your own ass.  They have people for that.”

She sneaks a peek at him through her lashes.

“No doubt you’ll know firsthand soon enough.”  Even to her own ears, she sounds sullen.

“Maybe, if they want me.” 

“I’m sure they will.”

He flashes her one of his famous, lopsided grins.

“Look at you, so confidant in my abilities.”

Rey rolls her eyes.

Ben looks lost in thought for a moment, and then his grin fades only to be replaced by a softer smile. “When I was younger, all I wanted to do was become a pro-baller like my Dad. Mom had already given it up by the time she had me, but we used to go watch all of Dad’s games, and the buzz and excitement was unreal to a kid like me, and everyone just worshipped him, and I remember thinking, this is what I want, this is what I want to be.”

Rey feels herself smiling too in spite of herself.  She’s never heard him say anything even remotely nice in relation to his parents.

“If Finn and I both get picked to play pro, we’re going to celebrate by renting out the penthouse suite of the Republica in Coruscant and eat cheesy pizza all night while watching the lights and hustle and bustle below,” Rey says wistfully.

And just like that, Ben’s face sours.

“Storm doesn’t have what it takes to make it in the pro league,” he declares bitterly.

Rey sits up abruptly.

“What is that supposed to mean?”

“He barely makes it to practice now.  How’s he going to handle it when he needs to be training over five hours a day, every day?”

Rey’s eyes narrowed sharply.

The thing is, it’s a touchy subject, this one. It’s the reason Finn hates Ben so much, and it spawned Rey’s first and maybe only truly negative reaction to him.  And they don't talk about it, they’ve never talked about it, but he’s the one that has put it on the table, so she’s going to say her piece.  

“He missed one training session.  He had a really hard Humanities exam to study for, which I’m sure you knew when you ratted him out for no reason at all.”

She’s breathing hard now, trying to keep her temper under control as it threatens to explode.

“Oh please,” Ben sneers, “I was in that Humanities class and I didn’t miss practice.  Probably because I actually studied instead of going out with my friends all the time. And he may have only missed one whole practice outright, but he’s always showing up late or half-assing the drills. I would have been doing him a favour if he’d been kicked. He doesn’t have the discipline to handle college ball, let alone pros.”

Rey bites her lip as the accusations come flowing in. 

The thing is, Ben kind of has a point.  Because while Finn has so many amazing qualities, while he is kind and caring and can get along with just about anyone, while he’s the best best-friend she could ever, ever ask for, he does have a tendency to procrastinate, something Rey calls him out on quite regularly.  It seems like betrayal to admit that now, though. 

So instead, she does what she does best – she gets defensive and redirects.

“I think you’re just jealous that Finn actually has friends that want to spend time with him. Maybe you would have some of your own if you weren’t so busy being Snoke’s lap dog.”

Silence settles between them, uncomfortable this time.

She tries to mollify herself that the allegation is at least half based in truth. Ben’s relationship with Snoke is certainly irregular, unhealthy even, with the way the older man tries to control his life, monopolising his time with endless gruelling training sessions and even regulating his spare time, seemingly influencing what he does and who he spends time with.  Rey’s also pretty sure Snoke’s manipulations are at least partially to blame for Ben’s deteriorating relationship with his parents.

Still, the knot in her stomach intensifies.

Ben tilts his head and stares at her for what feels like forever, the deadly silence stretching between them as his left eye twitches, his jaw working hard and the vein in his neck pulsating.

“Are you trying to hurt me, Rey?”

He says it so softly, so quietly, and what he says in itself, it’s unthreatening, vulnerable even, and if anything, she’s the one with the wounding words here. But as he pierces her with his withering stare, Rey thinks he’s never looked more dangerous.

She knows what this is. It’s a challenge.

It’s a warning.

She resolutely decides to hold her ground.

“Does the truth hurt?”

Ben studies her with steady eyes that bore into her very soul.

“Coach Snoke has always seen enormous potential in me.  He knows I’m capable of greatness and he wants to help me get there. I see no shame in that. And as for friends,” he continues, leaning over ever so slightly, “I believe some people enjoy my company more than they like to let on.”  Rey’s eyes widen as Ben gives her a humourless smile and continues. “It’s okay, I get it. It must be hard to admit to Grandma that you want the big, bad wolf.”

Rey jerks her head away in frustration and blinks back tears, the implication of his words clear and cutting in their accuracy.

“I guess the truth does hurt,” he mutters finally, before rolling away from her and smashing the off switch on the lamp, leaving her to do the same and bury herself in the blankets as she dwells endlessly on his words in the darkness. 

*****

Rey wakes up in the middle of the night on fire.

Her body has overheated as she slept, due to the multitude of unnecessary layers and the simmering heat of the room uncurbed by artificial refrigeration, and now it craves coolness, urgently.

In a frantic bid to cool off, Rey flings off the blankets, kicks off her shorts and tugs on the hem of her white cotton singlet until it is bunched up just below her breasts.

It helps somewhat, but it’s not enough. She still feels dizzy and uncomfortable, and her only thought, her only desire, is to cool down.

Finally, her eyes alight on the bucket of ice between the beds and she lunges. 

She doesn’t know how long she’s been asleep for, but she figures not long, because the ice has only partially melted, still mostly frozen to her touch and leaving a watery residue on her fingertips.

Seizing one of the larger blocks, she runs it over her forehead and down the side of her face and lets out a sigh at the instant relief it provides.  Then she swipes it over her other cheek, feeling the blush recede at the chill, and proceeds to run it along the left tendon of her neck.

There is a sharp intake of breath beside her.  It’s nothing, nearly inaudible, but in her heightened state, she catches it, and she feels his eyes upon her before she confirms it with her own.

He’s facing her on his side, as he was earlier, his pupils dilated as he studies her with that dark, penetrating gaze that makes her mouth dry and her panties wet.

The ice dissolves to nothing under her burning skin, forming a puddle that pools in the hollow cleft of her throat.

Rey has a choice to make.  Now would be the time to turn away and try to get back to sleep.  That’s the smart choice.  The sensible choice.  The choice in line with her plan and her new number one “Don’t”.

Or…

Rey reaches for a second ice block, and this time he mirrors her movements to retrieve one of his own, their hands grazing in the process. 

And then, just like that, they’re both lying on their backs again, heads turned towards each other, eyes locked steadfast, waiting for the other to move.

It’s a dangerous game.  They are skirting around the edges of something she’s not sure she’s ready for.

But she wants him, she does, and the harder she tries to fight it, the more it threatens to overwhelm her.  Right in this moment, she knows he wants her too, probably only because she’s convenient and half naked and there. But still, she knows.  She can feel it.

And she knows she shouldn’t be doing this, they shouldn’t be doing this. She is supposed to be asleep, or pretending to be, at the very least.

But for some reason, in her heat addled, sleep deprived mind, it seems like a great idea.  Like the only idea that’s ever been worth having.

And so, Rey moves.

Her eyes never leaving his, she drags the fresh cube of ice to her neck, gliding it over her skin, leaving a wet trail marking its path like breadcrumbs for him follow.

And Ben does follow, his gaze trailing every movement of her hand as it skims the icy brick over her collarbone and down to the peaks of her modest cleavage.

Ben lifts his own ice block to his mouth, tracing his full bottom lip with the frozen cube, his pink tongue darting out to sample it.

And there, in the quiet, moonlit sanctuary of the night, it’s as if their earlier argument never happened, the animosity between them evaporating in the heat of the room until all that is left is them, Ben and Rey, two people who cannot take their eyes off each other.

Their breathing becomes quicker, shallower, more ragged, and suddenly it’s not enough. Rey needs more.

She rubs her thighs together, desperate for friction down there, anxious for anything that will ease the tension building in her. 

As she does so, Ben’s hand moves lower to adjust his briefs.

She’s always been careful, so careful, not to look, not to stare.  And she’s had plenty of opportunities to do so, with his penchant for visiting her room in his underwear. But still, she never has.

Until now.

And now that she’s given in, now that she has granted herself permission to look, she can’t help but feast her eyes on him greedily, taking her time to study him meticulously with a hunger she’s never felt before in the pit of her belly.

Even with only the veiled blinking lights and shadows as her guide, she can tell how large, how impressive he is, so much like Ben himself, his manhood standing tall and proud and hard, stretching the soft grey fabric of his boxers, straining for attention.  For her attention.

And where Rey’s mouth was dry, it now waters.

He watches her take him in through heavy lids, and he must know she’s mesmerized, because the corner of his mouth quirks upwards ever so slightly.

Never one to be outdone and determined to regain the upper hand, she drags the ice cube over her nipple, her thin tank top darkening under the moisture.  A moan escapes her lips at the sensation, and he’s moaning too, his eyes ablaze and captivated by the pebbling little bud straining against the fabric, peeping through as the fabric sheers from the dampness.

Unable to stop herself, she gives her hardening nipple a firm pinch.

Ben growls, actually growls, loud and deep and animalistic, it feels primal, and then he's off the bed in an instant, and for a single, glorious second, Rey thinks he's coming for her. For an even longer second, she wishes he would.

But he doesn't, because instead he's stalking off to the bathroom, slamming the door shut behind him.

After a minute, she hears the shower running. And Rey, Rey who had a plan, Rey who knows better, Rey who should be asleep right now, should take the opportunity to do just that and finally keep up her end of the plan. 

She definitely should not shove her hand into her damp panties in an attempt to ease the ache that has been growing there since she woke up sweating, or maybe before that, when he showed up at her door in only his underwear for the first time the other night and introduced himself as her new bunkmate, or really, if she's being honest with herself, since she met him for the first time last year when he appraised her head to toe, slowly, methodically working his way down and taking his time to absorb every inch of her.

But now that she's finally alone, all she can think about are his full, succulent lips pressed against that ice cube, and the outline of his six pack she wants to trace with her fingers and tongue, and his words from earlier, spoken in his deep, velvety voice, about her ass, the way he’d called it cute, and insinuated the ways he could give her pleasure…

The thing is, Rey's never... well she’s never done much of anything, really. She’s seen things, growing up the way she did, things that always made her hesitant, made her prefer her own company over anyone else’s.

But in this moment, in her mind, she’s back in Ben’s kitchen, wearing only what she wears now, with her bare belly pressed against the smooth marble counter, and Ben’s there too, standing behind her, all broad, muscly shoulders and dark, sinful eyes, his rough, calloused hand stroking the sensitive skin on the back of her naked thigh, making Rey shiver.

And in her fantasy, he’s whispering things in her ear. Naughty, forbidden, delicious things, like “bend over, Sweetheart”, and “that’s it, little one”, and “I’m going to make you feel so good, you’ll see”.

And there, in the safety of her imagination, away from the critical eyes of her friends and her own better judgement, Rey is free to obey his every command, leaning further over the counter with her pert backside high in the air, ready for Ben to teach her just how much pleasure a willing and able partner like him can truly give her.

Back in the real world, the lesser world, in the stifling heat of the cheap motel room, Rey proceeds to make herself come with her own hand, as she’s done so many times, though it pales in comparison to the pleasure Ben’s gives her in her mind, and tonight, when the promise of more has never been more real, it’s just not enough.

Once she’s spent and partially satiated, she finally drifts off into an uneasy sleep.

When she does, the shower’s still running.

*****

Rey wakes in the morning to the sound of Phasma rustling through her suitcase, the bed next to her empty.

She showers and heads down to breakfast, the tension in her chest rising as she enters the dining room at the thought of seeing him again after last night’s… events

But she needn’t have bothered, because while she does spot Finn and Poe, the room is sans one male basketball captain.

Determined to get a good start to the day – it is game day, after all – Rey makes her way to the buffet and begins helping herself to a moderate serving of eggs on toast, when she feels a snake-like presence sidle up beside her, and stiffens.

“Ah, young Rey.”

Snoke’s breath wafts over Rey’s skin, making her skin crawl, and she moves over, trying to put some space between them.

He closes the gap immediately, the side of his wrinkled arm pressing revoltingly against her own. For all intents and purposes, they are alone, as everyone else is seated at the tables, chatting away, well out of earshot, and Rey’s alarm bells are screaming.

“I’m glad to see you have been spending time with my protégé,” he simpers. “I was beginning to worry that he wouldn’t heed my advice on the importance of indulging his… baser instincts… prior to a big game, but clearly he followed my instruction after all.  I’m sure even a scrappy little thing like you could make a decent scratching post in a pinch.”

Rey blanches, bile rising in her throat.

Snoke leers down at her with cold, calculating eyes.

“Did you think he actually had feelings for you?” He lets out a laugh, short and cruel. “Pathetic child.” And with that, he slithers away back to the table, leaving Rey breathing hard, momentarily frozen in horror.

The thing is, it’s nothing she didn’t already know.  It’s nothing she hasn’t told herself a million times before.  She knows Ben’s a player. She knows it isn’t real. That’s why she has a rule, that’s why she had a plan, that’s why she was supposed to stick to it.

None of this is a surprise.

So why, then, Rey flees the room with hot, wet tears rolling down her cheeks, she will never, ever know.

Chapter Text

Rey is fine.

Completely fine.

There’s no disputing that the ugliness of the morning had been unpleasant, to say the least. Had it caught her by surprise?  Certainly.  Had she wanted to vomit all over Snoke and his trashy gold velour jacket?  Definitely. Did she regret being so taken aback that she hadn’t had the presence of mind to punch him in his big ugly face? Absolutely.

But still, it was more the way he said it, than what he actually said.  That’s what Rey tells herself, anyway.  It was highly inappropriate behaviour for a person in a position of authority to exhibit, and Rey has half a mind to raise it with Leia. 

Well, she would, maybe, if the topic of the conversation hadn’t been Leia’s son’s sex life. It was, though, so Rey thinks she’ll just keep her mouth shut.

She’s had time to mull things over since the disaster that was breakfast and really, she hadn’t cried about it for that long. It was the shock of it all that had muddled up her emotions and left her a sobbing mess until she’d had time to calm down.  Now that it was all over and the situation had finally sunk in, Rey has been able to come to terms with the truth of it all.

She’s always known Ben was a player. She’s heard the stories, the way some of the other girls at school rave about him. She knows he’s had his sights on pros for years now, and what kind of player with an exit strategy and a path to fame and fortune wants to permanently saddle himself with some two-bit No-one from nowhere?  It makes no sense, and Rey, for all her faults, can be logical when she needs to be.

So whatever she thought she knew, thought she might have felt in those fleeting moments of weakness, it’s as meaningful as a puff of smoke in a strong breeze.

And now, she’s on the same page as everyone else again, caught up and no longer an ignorant moron. The stinging she feels in her chest is more a reaction to being proven such an idiot than anything else. 

It’ll subside, she’ll get over it.

In short, she’s fine.

Perfectly fine.

Sure, maybe she’s a little… off, for lack of a better word. Maybe she’s not acting quite as upbeat as her usual self, and maybe, annoyingly, some people are starting to notice, starting with Finn, who barrels her up on the bus as they head over to Rebel Stadium.

“Rey, what’s happened? What’s wrong?  He did something, didn’t he?  I can tell.  Dammit, I knew this was going to happen.  If he laid a finger on you, I’ll-”

“Finn!” Rey practically shouts to interrupt his agitated barrage. “Nothing happened, I’m fine.”

And she is. Fine.  She is totally fine.

“I’m pretty sure he was looking for you at breakfast,” Finn continues, shooting a dirty look towards the back of the bus where the subject of their conversation must be sitting. “He kept looking over, the prat.”

Rey chews on the inside of her cheek and stares resolutely forward.

Finn turns back around, and suddenly he’s giving her a dangerously suspicious look, like things are suddenly clicking into place.

“Hold on a minute, why weren’t you at breakfast?  One second you were there and the next-”

“I forgot I had a Physics paper due on Monday,” Rey invents wildly. “Only remembered at breakfast, so I just grabbed some toast and went back to my room to bash something out on my laptop.”

Finn nods, but still seems a little doubtful.

Rey should probably just tell Finn the truth. Tell him what Snoke said so they can rag on both him and Ben together.  Even now, she’s still protecting Ben for some reason, and she’s not quite sure why.

The thing is, it’s not like anything actually happened, not really. The ice thing, well, that was nothing, could have been just a fever dream for all she knows, and even if it was real, well, she’s pretty sure she started it.  And aside from the odd, suggestive comment, he’s been pretty gentlemanly. 

Some tiny voice in her head is asking why he locked himself in the bathroom after, well, you know, after the thing… Why hadn’t he come over and used her the way Snoke suggested instead of taking matters into his own hands as she suspects he did? 

But the voice is drowned out by a bigger part of her that is still ranting and raging about how senseless she’s been this whole week, a voice that’s shouting “See! See where opening yourself up gets you, you silly girl?”

In the end, Rey still says nothing, and passes the rest of the bus ride in relative silence.

***

There is some sort of commotion up ahead as they walk into Rebel Stadium, and it doesn’t take long to locate the source of all the fuss, because while he may be going grey, and a little shorter that he was in his prime due to the slight stooping of his shoulders, there is no mistaking that this man’s likeness is the same pictured on the box of any Falcon Air runners purchased in the country.

Rey feels Finn seize her hand, and before she knows what’s happening, she’s being dragged through the crowd to stand before the man himself.

“You’re Han Solo!”

The awe in Finn’s voice is evident, and clearly not even the man’s close biological connection to his sworn enemy could dampen his excitement at meeting The Han Solo, basketball extraordinaire, in the flesh.

“I used to be,” the man says gruffly.

Finn nudges Rey with his elbow and whispers excitedly and not all that quietly, “see Rey, I told you, it’s Han Solo!”

Han Solo, the basketball legend, rolls his eyes and then turns to face Rey herself – Rey, who grew up actually wondering sometimes if she was invisible, with the way people had a tendency to overlook her – and addresses her.

“So, you’re the Point Guard huh? The kid’s mentioned you.  Apparently you’ve got some skill.”

Rey’s tongue feels fat and useless in her mouth as she scrambles for something clever to say, and then, when nothing clever comes, anything to say, really.

“Thanks,” is all she manages, and weakly at that. It’s pretty pathetic.

Out of the corner of her eye, she can see Ben standing a little way behind his father, arms crossed and a strange combination of embarrassment, annoyance and curiosity streaking across his handsome face.

She hastily looks away.

Thankfully, they don’t have time to stand around making small talk and are soon all shuffled off by their respective coaches to get ready for their games.

The women are up first, so they have to get changed straight away in time for warmup.

The girls change into their shorts and jerseys. The others are already starting to filter out of the changing room as Rey finishes tying her shoes, and she’s just putting her things back in her locker when she hears movement at the doorway.

“Bloody hell, Ren. The guys’ locker room is down the hall.”

Rey freezes at Phasma’s words, the hair on her neck standing on end. She can feel him behind her, by the entryway. She can literally feel his eyes on her. 

“Yeah, leave Rey alone, Solo,” she hears Jessika say as she and the other girls head for the court. “She needs to focus, we’ve got a game to think about. Don’t need her getting distracted by your pretty eyes.”

Fucking hell.

“Don’t get excited, Pava, I won’t keep your Point Guard long,” Ben quips back as he stands aside to let them through.

And then…

Alone again.

It’s becoming an all too common occurrence.

She can hear him sauntering over, until he’s leaning up against the locker next to her, arms folded, looking down on her from his lofty height.

“You shouldn’t be in here,” she says.

“I know.”

He knows. Great.

Rey tries to bury her head further into her locker and ignore him.

“You weren’t at breakfast.”

It sounds like an accusation. Rey doesn’t like that.  It’s not going to fly. Not today.

“No, you weren’t at breakfast,” she shoots back. “I was there, bright and early.”

Yeah, Rey had definitely been at breakfast, even if now she wishes she hadn’t been.

He straightens a little, neck muscles straining and visible at the top of his black and red X-Wings jersey as he lifts his chin like the arrogant asshole he is.

“Yeah well,” he postures, his jaw working hard, “after I got back to my room I thought I’d take a quick power nap. Didn’t get much sleep after your little… performance… last night.”

Rey feels her cheeks burn scarlet and mentally curses everything and everyone even slightly responsible for bringing her to this moment, including Ben, Phasma and Hux, the maintenance guy who was too lazy to fix the stupid A/C, Leia who brought her to Chandrila in the first place, and most importantly, herself, Rey, who apparently couldn’t follow a few simple rules to save her life.

And yet somehow, even now, the memory of last night, of what she did right in front of him, of what she did after, of what she suspects he did, it does something to her. Her body is traitorous, sending flutters through her belly, straight to her core, willing her to indulge in the temptation he presents, and she has to fight the growing urge to rub her legs together.

Rey only sees one way to deal with this.

Denial

On every level.

“I’ve got no idea what you’re talking about,” she retorts as haughtily as she can manage, not quite daring to look him in the eye.

She slams her locker shut. If she can just get the hell out of here and off to warmup-

“Yeah, I’ll bet you don’t.”

There’s a tall, dark, handsome roadblock in her way, and she’s fully aware that he’s making full use of his body to keep her cornered, trapped.

“Move,” she growls. It’s not a request.

“We’re not done yet.”

She pushes his chest hard, but he doesn’t budge, the solid asshole.

“Get out of my way, Solo,” she says through gritted teeth.

Solo?  It’s back to that, is it?” His head jerks in frustration as he looms above her like a thunderstorm, crowding into her personal space with no care at all. Kriff, he’s an imposing sight. Why must he be so tall? “That guy must really be something for you to hold a grudge like this for the likes of him.”

He’s practically snarling, teeth exposed and eye twitching, but her own blood is boiling too, and the injustice of it all is tearing at her guts. He thinks this is about Finn, that she’s still angry about the dig he made just before bed last night. And how dare he, how dare he blame this on Finn, when Finn, for once, has nothing to do with it.

And it turns out, her outrage is enough to spur her on, and then things just start coming out with no filter or pre-thought and all the confusion, all the anxiety that’s been bubbling up in her for days or months or years even, finally has nowhere else to go, but out.

“I’d worry about your own people if I was you. Some of them are letting the team down, maybe you should blame them for letting the cat out of the bag and spoiling your fun.”

He blinks at her.

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

Oh, he wants to go there? Okay, she’ll go there, then.

Rey struggles to maintain some kind of semblance of control. She wants to appear calm and cold and calculating.  She wants him to think she doesn’t care, that none of this has touched her.  She wants her voice steady when she hits him with his failure.  She somewhat succeeds, although her hands are bunched up into fists at her side, but thankfully he’s not looking that far down.

“Your little act needs some work. Maybe next time, you can give your mentor a wink or a thumbs up or something when you’ve completed your mission, so he doesn’t spill the beans and give the game away before you’ve had a chance to win.”

“What the hell are you on about?” Ben practically shouts at her. She won’t shout back.  She’ll keep her voice steady.  She has to.

“You know... the game.  Snoke filled me in a little earlier than he should have.”

“Rey, I’ve got no idea what-”

“Oh, please,” Rey finally snaps, “don’t play dumb with me. I get it.  I get that you were just after a- now how did he put it- oh yeah, a scratching post, before your big game.  That really makes a girl feel special, by the way.  You’re lucky though, to have such a devoted coach, so willing to go above and beyond to get you laid.”

There. It’s out.

Rey braces herself. She has a feeling she knows what will come when he next opens his mouth.  Utter refutation and some amazing excuse that will seem to explain away everything, delivered like the smooth criminal he is.  He’s probably had practice with this, getting out of sticky situations with girls.  She has high expectations.

Maybe he’ll say Snoke made a mistake, or suggest that she’s made a mistake, misinterpreted it somehow, or, maybe, he would be really daring and just lean into it and ask if she felt up to being a scratching post after all.  Part of her almost hopes he does, so she can knee him in the balls completely guilt free.

Except…

Nothing seems to come.

Instead, Ben’s just staring at her like she’s suddenly grown three heads, and he certainly doesn’t look like a guy with all the answers right now. But she knows he is a good actor, he’s done a great job of fooling her so far and to be fair, it must have thrown him off, to have his little plan foiled like this.

The silence stretches between them, never ending, and his mouth is twitching like he’s about to say something, but actual sound never eventuates.

When he finally does manage to find words, it’s not what she’s expecting.

“He said what?” Ben hisses with such violence and menace in his deep voice that she involuntarily flinches.

It’s denial, but not in the way she expected. There’s no elegance to it, and nothing about his behaviour is demonstrating any kind of premeditation.

But maybe that’s his strategy. To give it all an unstudied feel.

Damn, he’s good.

“You heard me.”

His jaw is working hard, and he’s rubbing his neck in agitation, and truly, it all adds greatly to the image he’s trying to portray of a man blindsided by a lie.

It’s not helping Rey’s resolve though.

“And what, you just believed him? You really think I’d do that to you?”

He’s not doing anything to disguise his rage, and if she didn’t know better, she’d think some of it at least, is directed at her. Or maybe he’s sending something else her way.

The fury is palpable, excreting through his every pore, but in his eyes is something else, something she thinks she would maybe classify as… hurt?

Yes, that’s exactly what this is.

He’s acting like she’s hurt him.

Like she’s ripping his guts out.

“Why wouldn’t I?” she shouts back, but her voice breaks in the middle. “I know what this is, I get it.”

Something in Rey is faltering. That part of her that knows better, the part desperate to protect herself, the part that shut down the rest of her as soon as Snoke finished speaking.

Rey has always been an expert at self-preservation. She’s had to be. She’s always relied on that natural instinct to survive.  She’s nurtured it, cultivated it, let it grow big and strong within her, like a steady pulse, a beacon to guide her and save her from the world and herself. 

It doesn’t feel so steady now.

And Rey, to her horror, can feel wetness - hot and bitter and stinging - roll down her cheeks and blur her sight, making everything fuzzy.

Ben laughs, low and bitter and completely without humour, looking more pained than she’s ever seen him, and pinches the bridge of his nose, before looking her dead in the eye again.

“No, you really, really don’t.”

And that part of her that knows better, the part that wasn’t surprised by Snoke’s revelation, but instead nodded sagely and shook its head disapprovingly at the rest of her that had been hoping for the fairy-tale, the part that has been screaming at the top of its lungs since then how stupid she was to fall for such an obvious ploy, blocking out all other conscious thought, is suddenly dimmed and muted to the point where Rey can finally hear and see and remember other things.

Long, calloused fingers grazing against hers, inducing a shiver.

Soft smiles and cheeky grins and playful laughs, caused by her, meant for her.

The word Sweetheart, whispered in a deep, soft voice that makes her melt.

Warm brown eyes that see her, and only ever her.

It’s so painful, so excruciating, to truly believe it was all just a game. And right now, he seems as desperate as she feels, and the way he’s looking at her, like he’s imploring her, surely, surely it can’t all have been pretend.

And he’s too close, too close to her for comfort, because if she reached out right now, she could touch him, as if he is hers, like he maybe should be.  And right now, with the way he’s staring at her like a man on the verge of madness, she thinks he might let her.

And that thought leads her to one equally as dangerous.

She might let him, too.

“Rey…”

His breathing is visibly laboured and his right hand that was hanging by his side, isn’t by his side anymore, and instead it’s coming up, up, towards her, for her, and Rey has a choice to make.

In the end, she doesn’t have to act on her decision.

“Rey?”

Rose comes peeking round the corner, stopping dead in her tracks when she sees the two of them. “Game’s about to start.”

Rey jumps. Ben does too, the tense little bubble they’ve been trapped in burst in a second, and his extended arm sinks like the hope that had bloomed momentarily in her chest.

She can’t quite get herself to move. They’re both frozen, lost in some kind of temporal glitch caused by the flash of something that should have happened, but now probably never will.

Eventually, Rey comes back to herself enough to put one foot in front of the other, stumbling blindly towards Rose’s general direction.

“Coming,” Rey calls, hastily wiping her face and slipping past Ben on the way out the door.

Rey can vaguely make out the sounds of the crowd growing louder as she moves in step with Rose, but it’s distant, distorted in her foggy brain.

“Are you okay?” Rose asks hesitantly as they head down the hallway towards the court.

“I’m fine,” Rey replies.

She’s fine. Completely fine.

***

Okay, so judging by the way she’s playing, maybe she’s not completely fine.

They’re up by ten and there’s only five minutes left on the clock when Rey is fouled out. Rey’s never been fouled out before, but tonight just hasn’t been her night. The last one was stupid too, an offensive charge when Rey had the ball and lost her balance, whacking the arm of the girl trying to defend against her as she tumbled.

It was humiliating, to say the least, and a small part of Rey can’t help but cringe at the thought that Han Solo, who was sitting in the crowd somewhere, would come to the end of this game wondering if his son lied to him about her being such a talented Point Guard.

As she limps off the court, Leia meets her on the sidelines and puts a hand on her shoulder.

“Your leg okay?”

“Yeah, it’ll be fine,” Rey replies, trying her hardest to ignore the mind-numbing throbbing coming from her ankle.

Leia gives her a long, appraising look.

“There’s not much left in this game. Why don’t you head back to the rooms and take a shower.  Then get some ice on that foot of yours.”

Rey nods and swallows hard, her head drooping. Leia’s kind eyes and comforting hand say otherwise, and she’s fouled out, so playing isn’t an option anymore, but it feels a lot like she’s been benched.

Leia’s fingers flex and she gives Rey a reassuring squeeze.

“Don’t worry, Rey. Tonight just wasn’t your night. Maybe tomorrow will be.”

Rey certainly hopes so.

***

Rey limps back to the girl’s locker room, all the while wishing she’d never got out of bed that morning. Leia was right, tonight just isn’t her night.  This day seems to be the gift that keeps on giving, and it’s not done yet apparently, because as she rounds the corner she sees Ben, in practically the exact spot she left him an hour ago, and her breath catches in her throat.

“What are you doing here, Ben?” she asks flatly.

It’s just, she feels so tired. It’s like this duel, this dance, has been going on forever. She’s had enough.

Ben remains motionless. She wonders if he really has been standing here, stationary, through the entirety of the game. She thinks he probably has.  The men’s game will be starting soon.  He must have already missed warmup.

He looks different though, not the same as he did when she left him an hour ago. Where before he appeared wild and wounded and filled with rage, now he seems calm and determined and back in control, more like the Ben she knows.

Rey wishes she could be as unmoved as he appears to be, but his stoic behaviour only seems to exacerbate her own emotions, which are raging and shifting from anger to confusion to frustration to grief in fleeting patterns she can’t track or make sense of. All she knows is she’s tired, and sore, and she appears to be crying again, and it dawns on Rey suddenly that this would be the fourth time in two days that she’s cried over this man, and Rey never cries about anything, or anyone.  It only adds to the anger, and so the cycle repeats again.

“Haven’t you done enough?” she shouts at him, baring her teeth and breathing hard.

He still doesn’t respond, doesn’t lose any of his cool, but he makes his way towards her with slow, deliberate steps, his eyes never leaving hers.

Those dark, piercing eyes.

Rey’s resolve crumbles.

“What do you want?”

It’s barely a whisper, she can’t manage much more, and Rey stares up at him, tears pricking her eyes again, threatening to flood her face once more.

He takes a final step, closing the space between them, and his giant hand comes up to cradle the side of her face, his palm warm and soft and soothing against her skin and it takes every ounce of her strength to stop herself from leaning into it.

She almost succeeds.

Until…

“You. Just you.”

He says it with absolute conviction, it shows in his steady voice, in his solid, squared shoulders, in his eyes that never waver from hers.

Right now, in this moment, Ben Solo is a man who knows what he wants. And if she isn’t much mistaken, right now, what he wants is her.

And that’s her last coherent thought before his lips come crashing down onto hers and her whole world changes, forever.

Chapter Text

Later, many years from now, Rey will remember her life in two parts.

Before the kiss.

And after.

She’d be lying if she said she’d never thought about it, never contemplated what it might be like to kiss - and be kissed by - Ben Solo. It might have crossed her mind once or twice over the many months since they’d met.  Mainly because his lips are just so… kissable

But in all the times she’d imagined it, on the handful of occasions – okay, maybe more than just a handful – that she had allowed her mind to go there, she’d never really quite imagined this.

Because this?

Yeah, this is something else…

When they come together, it’s like a clap of thunder, a strike of lightning.

It feels rare, magical, dangerous, deadly.

It feels incredible.

When she remembers it later, it will come to her in fragments.

Large, restless hands on her, all over her, touching her, feeling her, making her want to scream.

Full, soft, wandering lips, on her, determined and unrelenting, claiming her.

That tongue of his, that wicked tongue that he’s used to verbally spar with her on so many occasions, finally employed for a better purpose. Its true purpose.  To taste her, to sample her, and leave her utterly unravelled.

But now, in the actual moment, her senses are in overdrive and it’s all happening so fast, yet somehow in slow motion, and for that she’s grateful, grateful for the moment extending endlessly, because she could live here in this moment, in this glorious moment, for all eternity.

The moment his lips touch hers, she knows in her heart, she knows with utter certainty, that she’s home.

She’s never had a real home before and she’s spent most of her life searching for one. How strange then, that she would find it here, in the arms of the man she promised herself she would never let close enough to hurt her.

He’s close now, though.

This newfound proximity to him has her consumed by the irresistible scent of him, of leather and spice, bergamot and sandalwood and something else that’s all him, all man, all Ben.  It’s heady and intoxicating.

He’s always been one of those people who smells good, no matter what he’s been doing. Even after a game, all hot and sweaty, with his glorious hair all out of place, he still smells phenomenal to Rey.

And now, he’s so close, and the essence of him is inebriating and inexorable, making it impossible for her to think straight.

Of course, those talented lips of his aren’t helping matters.

His mouth is hungry from the start, applying solid pressure from the moment it meets hers. He never struck her as a patient man, and in no time he is deepening the kiss, shoving his hand into her hair to pull her closer and seeking entrance with his tongue. Her own lips eagerly comply, equally as ravenous, and give way to him without a second thought, welcoming him in.

Home, where he belongs.

She must look a total mess, still sweaty and dishevelled from the game, but he doesn't seem to mind.

His tongue brushes hers and he moans against her, her mouth swallowing the sound. His grip on her scalp tightens, eliciting a whine of her own, and he takes full advantage of the situation to press for better access.

She’s not upset about it.

How can she be, when she feels this good.

He is making good use of those huge, magnificent hands of his, so rough yet so soothing, and boy, does he know how to use them.

They are everywhere.  Cradling her face, seizing it to pull her closer, then thrusting back under her messy bun to graze her scalp before moving lower, down the soft curve of her neck, over her shoulders, down her spine and back up again.

They are driving her wild under their ministrations, the pain in her ankle long forgotten.

Rey’s own hands start thinking for themselves and before she knows it they are tangled in Ben’s inky black tresses, revelling in the silky texture they present to her fingertips. It’s unfair, really, for a man to be blessed with such incredible hair.  Not that she’s complaining right now.

               Before she fully registers what is happening, he is walking her backwards into the row of lockers they were arguing against only an hour or two earlier, stumbling clumsily as he can only seem to spare the bare minimum of his attention to the task of moving them, the rest of it remaining firmly on her, and the wonderful things he’s doing to her.

He pushes her up against the cool steel with a delicious amount of force and instinct takes over as she uses the momentum to climb him like a tree, wrapping her legs around his hips.

This feels like home too.

His hands, those wondrous hands that have already proven to be so talented, rush to her aid and curve around her backside to lift her higher and draw her closer, a perfect fit, just like the rest of him.

Funny how the closer she gets to him, the more right it feels.  Like they are magnets snapping together, back to their natural state after being held apart for so long.

From her chest to her thighs, all she can feel is him, his heavy weight pressed against her so firmly she’s sure there’s no space left between them, but Ben seems determined to make doubly sure, and he pushes further into her, grinding himself deliciously against her where the core of her body meets his, sending ecstasy pulsing through her veins.

She breaks free of his lips and her head lolls to the side as she lets out a breathy moan. He makes the most of it, his eager mouth wasting no time before plunging down to explore the spot where her throat meets her collarbone.  Her moans turn to whimpers as he ruthlessly plunders the sensitive skin, licking and nipping and sucking. He shows no mercy, and there’s little she can do other than dig her nails deeper into his skin and hang on for dear life.

Rey,” he sighs into her neck, palming her ass through her polyester shorts.

Ben,” she returns breathlessly.

The sound of her moaning his name must do something to him, because he growls against her, and then his hips snap into hers in several quick, deliberate thrusts with a desperation she shares.  And it feels…

It feels good

So, so good.

It’s an understatement, really. Understatement of the year.

               No man has ever been this close to her. She’s never let them. 

Self-preservation was always more important than any superficial pleasure this kind of physical intimacy could hope to provide. She’d been tempted, every so often, usually more out of curiosity than anything else, but it had never been enough to overcome her own doubts, her own need to shield herself from any possibility of being hurt.

That’s what her rules had been for, after all. A last ditch attempt at protecting herself from some greater force she couldn’t regulate.  She always knew if she gave into it, into him, it would sweep her away into a wild, unpredictable current that she would be unable to control.

Now, though…

Now she wishes she’d never bothered. She would happily throw her stupid rules out the window and pretend they never existed, because this?

This was worth it.

For the first time in her life, Rey is alive. Truly living, as if he’s breathing life into her with every kiss.

It’s all so much, yet somehow not enough.

She wants more.

Needs more.

He does too.

But it’s not to be, because while it had long escaped their notice, as preoccupied as they had both been, Ben and Rey are still very much in the female team locker rooms, and while they don’t hear it over the sound of their own blood pumping in their ears, the footsteps of an outsider inevitably make their way towards them.

“Rey, are you okay? Rose said you seemed upset before the-”

Finn’s words cut off abruptly as he turns the corner and sees… well, she’s sure they make quite a sight, her and Ben, tangled together in a mess of sweaty limbs up against the lockers with flushed, guilty faces that break apart to locate and identify the intruder.

Rey loves Finn with all her heart, but she can’t remember a time where she’s been less happy to see him that this one.

Rey pushes urgently against Ben’s solid chest and he takes the hint, setting her back on the floor. She wipes her mouth hastily on the back of her hand and wishes the ground - which she’s just gone crashing back down to in more ways than one - would swallow her whole so she wouldn’t have to suffer through what was surely coming next.

Ben, for his part, runs a hand – a hand, Rey recalls, that was just seconds ago firmly squeezing her ass – through his tangled hair in frustration, the other planted on the row of lockers by her head. Rey notes that while he’s put a little space between them, he has still steadfastly positioned himself in-between Finn and herself like some kind of shield, his back to his team mate as he moves to pinch the bridge of his nose.

And Rey, well she can’t actually see for certain, but in her mind’s eye she pictures herself, red-faced with tear tracks that have only just dried, her bun that had already been in disarray thanks to the game now knocked completely to the side with most of it tumbling loose from the knot to form more of a ponytail, and cringes.

Finn’s face, however, says it all with absolute clarity – a mixture of shock, disgust and rage that distorts his ordinarily kind, gentle features.

Yeah, she’s in trouble.

“Finn, it’s not what you think-” she blurts out, scrambling for anything, anything at all, that can start to explain what’s happening here.

“No?” Finn all but screeches, his eyes bugging out of their sockets. “Are you sure, Rey? Because it sure as hell looks a lot like you’re hooking up with the devil.”

Above her, Ben huffs and rolls his eyes.

“Finn!” Rey snaps, because really, there’s no need for him to be so rude.

“Fuck off, Tweener,” Ben snarls back at Finn, clearly some kind of basketball reference that Rey thinks must be derogatory. “Just because you’re a glorified foot soldier with no real talent, there’s no need to take it out on the rest of us.”

Ben!” she shouts, rounding on him now, slapping a muscly bicep.  This whole situation is escalating quicker than she can contain it, and antagonising Finn further isn’t helping matters.

“Don’t worry, I know exactly what’s happened here, you piece of shit,” Finn continues, glaring at Ben. “You took advantage of Rey, you saw she was upset and vulnerable, and you thought you’d finally take your shot.”

Rey can’t help but bristle at the way this story depicts her as some idiotic woman who can’t think for herself. She’s just about to say as much when Ben shoots back, “You don’t know what you’re talking about, Storm.”

Finn isn’t deterred.

“Of course I do. She hates you.  We all do, but Rey especially.  She would never do this if you hadn’t caught her in a moment of weakness. Why do you think she has a whole list of rules dedicated to staying the hell away from you?”

Rey’s heart stops dead.

Because fuck, she didn’t even remember telling Finn about her stupid list.  Apparently she has though, because he definitely seems to know about them, and now he’s not the only one.

Ben turns sharply to face her.

“What is he on about, Rey?”

Rey thinks she might be sick. Her mouth opens, but no words come out, so she’s left standing there gulping like a fish out of water, and Finn takes it upon himself to answer for her.

“She has a list of shit she knows she should never, ever do.  Stuff like, Don’t allow Ben Solo to brainwash me into falling for his bullshit, and Don’t let Ben Solo put his slimy hands anywhere near me, and Don’t fall for Ben Solo’s ridiculous schemes to get me into bed.  You know – sensible, obvious things any girl in her right mind would avoid.”

Rey’s shaking her head, throwing Ben a pleading look, silently begging him to understand something she’s not sure she understands herself, obstinately ignoring the sting of salt swelling in her vision once more.

Ben hasn’t taken his eyes off her once through Finn’s little speech, but fuck, his bravado - always such a constant characteristic for him - is crumbling before her eyes, and for a moment, he reminds her of a small child who's been rejected once more and oh, it feels like her soul dies a little. How is it that he always seems to look so young when he is upset like this? She wants to scoop him up into her arms and comfort and soothe him until he returns to the confidant, arrogant asshole she’s come to know and l-

“Ben, it's not like that,” Rey sniffles weakly when she manages to find part of her voice.

But it is, isn't it? Or it was, maybe?

Except no, it really wasn’t. If she’d ever truly hated him, she wouldn’t have needed those rules in the first place. She would have had nothing to fear from him.

Her rules had always been necessary because of her weakness for him.

Because she liked him.

Because she liked him too much

And even at her deepest point of denial, she knew that to be true. She thinks a part of her had known all along.

It had been so much safer to block it out as a possibility, to cut herself off from the prospect of entering into some kind of relationship that she couldn’t control, where she’d be vulnerable, exposed.

 “Rey, get away from him,” she hears Finn shout, but it sounds like it’s coming to her from a vacuum, somewhere off in the distance, her own pulse thumping in her head drowns it down to nothing as she refuses to look at anyone but Ben.

“Ben, please…”

If she could just explain. If she could just get him to understand-

The sounds of jubilant chatter and laughter rings from the hall, and her team mates start filing in, a stark contrast to the previous tone in the room.

“We won!” Jess announces happily to the room, clapping Finn on the shoulder, clearly not sensing that she has interrupted something. “It was so close, too. Only three points in it in the end!”

Phasma, Bazine and Kaydel head straight for the showers, ignoring Rey and the two boys, but Rose comes over, warily eyeing the three of them who must appear to be caught in some kind of standoff.

“What’s going on?” Jess asks, suddenly catching on to the weird vibe.

No-one answers her.

There you guys are!”

Poe comes bounding around the corner at a jog, annoyance evident all over his face.

“I’ve been looking for you two everywhere!  The game’s starting in less than a minute and we’ve already had to go through the whole warm up with no captain,” Poe says sternly, throwing Ben a dirty look, “and Snoke is literally losing his shit out there.  Let’s go,” he finishes grumpily, and then shouts, “Now!” in exasperation when neither of them budge.

Ben moves first, giving Rey one last dark look before finally pushing himself off the lockers and storming out of the changing room without another word.

Finn waits for him to pass before rushing over to Rey, giving her shoulder what she’s sure he thinks is a comforting pat.

“Are you okay, Peanut?”

Rey shrugs violently out of his reach and glares at him, making him visibly flinch.

“Finn, seriously, we have to go,” Poe calls, pounding the doorjamb with his open palm.

Finn finally heeds his friend and follows Poe out the door with a forlorn expression on his face and Rey is left alone with Jess and Rose, who are both eyeing her like she’s some kind of wounded deer about to bolt.

“What happened?” Jess asks again with more gravity this time, looking from Rey to Rose and back again.

“I need to-” Rey starts, her head screaming wildly that she needs to find Ben, she needs to explain, and she makes to follow in the direction they left in but her ankle, the one she’d busted during the game, has apparently had enough of being ignored and is making its presence known by sending blinding jolts of pain through her body, making her stumble. 

Rose is closest to her and she quickly grabs hold of Rey’s arm to steady her.

“Rey,” Rose says in that quiet, gentle, lovely way of hers, “you really need to get some ice on that foot. Have a quick shower and change and then we can wrap it for you.”

“But I-”

“She’s right, Rey,” Jess interjects. “You have to take care of that first.  The idiot boys can wait.”

Rey sighs, because they’re right, of course.

It will just have to wait.

***

With Rose and Jess’s help, Rey heads to the bathroom and showers at lightning speed, just doing enough to wash the sweat away before getting out and making a beeline to First Aid. Ankle strapped and ice pack in hand, she limps to the court, finding a seat towards the front on the side of the stadium opposite the coaches and benches.

Rey can immediately tell that something isn’t right.

She’s watched the X-Wings play a million times. They might not all get along off the court, but on the court, they are a cohesive unit, seamless and in sync.

Tonight though, they seem all over the place, and when she gets there with seven minutes left on the clock before half time, they are down by twenty on the scoreboard.

Rey sees Finn has the ball at the top right side of the three point line and is assessing his options. Ben rushes into the keyway, calling for the ball, but Finn resolutely ignores him and passes to Snap instead, who is flanked by two opponents and can’t get his hands on it, and the ball turns over to the other team.

As they run back down the court, chasing the other team's point guard, Ben catches up to Finn, looking livid.

“Why the fuck didn't you pass to me? I was open,” she can hear Ben shout at Finn from where she’s sitting.

“I don’t feel like passing to an asshole who take advantage of girls when they are vulnerable. Especially when it’s my best friend,” Finn yells back.

“You don’t have a fucking clue, Storm.”

The other team score an easy two points, and Poe stands at the baseline, ready to throw to Finn so they can take the ball back down the court. Finn, however, is still near the center circle with Ben.

“Finn, come on, get down here,” Poe barks across the court. They are behind, there’s no time to waste.

But Finn ignores him, rounding on Ben again.

“I know plenty. I know she wouldn’t touch you with a ten foot pole if you didn’t trick her into it somehow.  She deserves better than a monster like you.”

And that’s the precise moment when all hell breaks loose in Rebel Stadium.

Ben closes the gap between him and Finn, seizing the smaller man by the front of his jersey and throwing him to the floor, landing on top of him.

It’s utter mayhem. The crowd screams and jeers, the umpires are all blowing hard on their whistles and Poe is cursing, the ball forgotten at the baseline as he runs to the fray along with Snap, the two of them doing their best to tear Ben and Finn off each other. Hux, for his part, keeps his distance, looking as bored as ever, flicking imaginary lint off his shoulder.

And Rey, Rey jumps to her feet in the stands, wincing a little at the pressure on her ankle, and tries to decide how damning it would be to run onto the court herself and throw herself between them.

When they are finally separated, the umpires call a technical foul on Ben and send him off, and he goes, storming off with loud stomps that echo throughout the stadium.

Rey can see Snoke, incensed to the point he’s practically spitting fire on the sidelines, jumping up and down and banging his clipboard on the chairs nearest him, and Ben barely makes it off the court before his coach starts giving him an earful.

“What the bloody hell are you doing, Ren?! Now isn’t the time to start acting like a deranged-”

But that’s as far as he gets before Ben, who has clearly hit his boiling point for the night, sends Snoke thudding to the ground with one solid, bone-shattering punch to his wrinkly jaw.

I know what you did, you sick fuck!” Ben roars, towering over the older man like a vengeful god of thunder and fury, his body visibly shaking with rage.

Leia’s on her feet too, standing not too far away from her son and fellow coach, and is shooting wild, anxious glances to someone behind her in the crowd.

Snoke looks up at Ben in bewilderment, and Rey doesn’t think she’s ever seen Snoke this disorientated. It takes him a good minute before he has collected himself enough to wipe the astonishment from his face and replaced it with a somewhat pale imitation of his usual derision.

“You’re finished, Solo,” he hisses venomously, rising a little on his elbows. “You’re through.  Your days of playing professional basketball are over.  After I’m done, no-one will touch you.  Now get out of this stadium!”

And Ben does just that, fleeing the scene without another word, stalking down the side of the court to the stadium’s exit and absconding into the night.

Rey shuffles through the rows of narrow seats and rushes down the stairs as fast as her ankle will allow, leaning heavily on the railing, hoping to catch him, but when she finally makes it into the cool evening air, Ben is nowhere to be found.

***

Rey sits on the cold, hard steps outside the stadium entry for what feels like hours, not really sure what else to do, before masses start filing out, the game obviously over.

The excited buzz of the crowd does nothing to brighten the shadow that has been cast over her tonight, and at this point she is just eager for it all to end so she can head back to the motel and see if Ben turns up there.

Not long after, both X-Wings teams come out, led by Snoke who is sporting a swollen blue jaw and a scowl the likes of which Rey has never seen, and Leia, who still looks very worried.

Rose finds Rey outside, and like an angel she has brought Rey’s things with her, handing Rey her backpack.

“Thanks,” Rey says quietly.

Poe comes bounding up behind her, followed not long after by Finn.

“Rey, we actually won! Can you believe it? Must have been our best comeback all season,” Poe hoots happily, slapping her on the back.

“Oh please,” Jess retorts, rolling her eyes as she reaches them, “you guys just got super lucky their best player jarred his knee fifty seconds into the third quarter.”

“Who cares, we won! All of us! Tonight, we celebrate!”

Poe, Jess and Rose continue on to the bus, leaving behind a tense Finn and Rey.

“Congratulations, I guess,” Rey says shortly, barely containing a glower. “At least some of us had a good night.”

“Look, Rey,” Finn starts, hand on hips, “I don’t get why you’re pissed at me. It’s my job to look out for you. That’s what we do, we look out for each other. If I didn't, no one would.”

“I can take care of myself, Finn. I've been doing it for far longer than I've known you.”

“Yeah well, apparently you can’t. I don’t know how you’ve forgotten this, but Ben Solo is an asshole. I mean, geez Rey, we used to spend whole nights talking about this, about what a horrible guy he was. I don’t get what happened.”

“He’s not…” Rey starts, breaking off in frustration, unsure of how to get Finn see past his prejudice. “He’s not what you think he is. What I thought he was.”

Finn shakes his head.

“I don’t believe this. It’s like he’s gone and fucked with your mind or something. What, two nights of sharing a room with this guy and he’s got you completely brainwashed? I mean, what the hell, Rey? We hate this guy.”

“No, we don’t. You might, maybe, but I... I don’t hate him.”

Finn stops short.

“So what, you... you like him?”

Does she?

Yes, yes she does. It’s pretty much irrefutable at this point, even with her powers of denial.

Ben Solo had wormed his way into her heart somehow, and she doesn’t think there is any way to dislodge him from it now.

“Yeah, I think I do.”

Finn doesn’t say anything, just openly gapes at her in disbelief for so long that Rey feels the urge to speak again.

“I get you have issues with him, I do. I know this can't be easy for you to process. But I’m not asking you to date him. This is my life, Finn. Not yours.”

“He’s not right for you, Rey. He’s not a good guy.”

“You don’t know him,” she repeats resolutely, crossing her arms.

“I know enough. I can’t believe of all the guys out there, you picked him. When you know how I feel about him, the kind of shit he’s done. What he did to me!”

Rey’s patience snaps and just like that, she’s done. Done with this fruitless conversation that’s going nowhere, done trying to reason with Finn, done trying to get him to understand, and suddenly she doesn’t care anymore.  She’s kept it all bottled up for so long, and now, she just needs to get it out before she explodes.

“Look, Finn,” she bites back, temper flaring, “you made a big deal about my list of Don’ts tonight. I don’t know if I ever told you about my Dos. My number one Do has always been to be a supportive friend, and I think I've done that pretty well over the years. I’ve always been there for you, I’ve always had your back, and I have been nothing but supportive of you and Poe, even though it meant I wouldn’t be your number one person anymore and that scared me. But this supportive friendship thing - it goes both ways.  This is my life, Finn.  It’s my decision.  And if you can't get behind me on this... well then maybe we aren't really friends after all.”

And with that, she trudges off to the bus alone, never looking back.

***

When she gets back to the motel, she goes straight to her room. The others will be celebrating tonight, and she can already hear them partying in the hallways, something Snoke – who would normally shut such an occurrence down – isn’t there to prevent as he’s shipped himself off to the hospital to see about his jaw, and Leia seems to be turning a blind eye to, perhaps preoccupied with other things.

Rey changes into her singlet and shorts, jumps into bed – under the blankets because the air conditioning appears to have been fixed and it is extra chilly in there tonight – and waits.

She waits for the tell-tale sound of the doorknob turning, alerting her to Ben’s presence, ready to come inside and commence their third night together.

No doubt he’ll be mad, maybe kind of like night one, but at least they will have the chance to talk, get this whole, big misunderstand straightened out, once and for all, so Rey doesn’t keep feeling like her heart has been torn from her chest and shoved half way down her throat.

Rey waits and waits, lying silently in the darkness of the room while lights flash through the gap under the door and people laugh and carry on outside.

Rey waits.

No-one ever comes.

Chapter Text

-- Two Years Ago --

Rey was nearly eighteen when Leia Organa came to watch a basketball game at Jakku High. What heavenly intervention brought her there in the first place, Rey will never know, but she came regardless and was therefore present to witness Rey play a stellar match against the only other local team where she scored twenty-two points, including two three-pointers.

She graduated a few weeks later, and at Leia’s behest, made her way to Chandrila to finalise her acceptance into Galactic University under a full basketball scholarship. Leia spent the whole morning taking her through it, filling out the various paperwork and answering Rey’s questions about the program. 

They were nearly finished when Leia’s office door flew open.

“The dutiful son is here for lunch,” a tall, ridiculously good looking young man announced as he sauntered into Leia’s office, stopping short when he saw Rey.

“Ah Ben,” Leia waved him in without looking up from her papers. “Good to see you punctual for once.  I’m nearly finished here.”  She then turned to Rey and indicated the papers with a little nod.  “I just need to take a copy of these and then we should be all done here.”

The woman, certainly in her late fifties - although still looking fabulous - rose from her desk with a natural, effortless grace and shot her son a wary look as she moved towards the door.

“Rey, this is my son, Ben. He can often be impolite and unpleasant, which I suppose I must take some responsibility for, even though I have no idea where he gets it from.”

 “You usually just blame the old man,” Leia’s son – Ben – retorted.  He had picked up one of Leia’s little ornaments from her book shelf, a miniature model plane of some kind, and was spinning the propeller in his large hands.

Leia threw him a look that clearly expressed how unimpressed she was.

“Please do your best to ignore him. I’ll be back shortly.”

And with that, she bustled out of the room with the papers that would change Rey’s life forever, leaving her alone for the first time with Ben Solo, who now appeared to be leering at her.

Lovely.

“So,” he started, setting the model plane back down and turning to face her fully, “you’re the girl I've heard so much about.”

Was she?

When Rey didn’t respond, he prompted her with curious eyes.

“So… Who are you?”

Again, she wasn’t sure how to answer. She didn’t much feel like giving this guy her full, comprehensive profile.  Plus, from his tone, she got the impression he didn’t really want one.  No, he was fishing for something.

She’d met people like him before. People with nothing better to do that tear others down. The more information she gave him, the more dangerous he would become.

She wouldn’t play into his game, so instead, she replied vaguely.

“No one.”

A flicker of surprise glinted in his dark, penetrating eyes, but he recovered quickly.

“Well that much is obvious.”

She’d seen that coming. It didn’t stop the annoyance piercing her gut.

He considered her, scrutinizing every inch, those dangerous eyes of his lazily perusing the angular planes of her face before travelling down her neck, surveying her body, and then down further, tracing the outline of her denim clad legs, until finally heading back the way they came to meet her eyes again.

It was clear he was used to intimidating people. It must have been second nature for a guy like him, his physical stature doing half the work, with his height and broad shoulders and crossed arms that showed off the bulging muscles of his biceps.

But Rey was not intimidated. She’d seen things in her life.  Real, truly frightening things.  It would take a lot more than some privileged, arrogant brat to scare her.

She didn’t cower like he undoubtedly wanted her to. She met his eyes dead on, jutting her chin out defiantly.

His tongue darted out to wet his lips.

Not that she noticed.

“Leia seems to find you interesting enough,” he continued, maintaining eye contact. “Where are you from?”

“Jakku.”

She didn’t elaborate.

He sniggered and shook his head.

“Of course.”

She didn’t ask him to elaborate either.

The silence stretched as he continued to eye her thoughtfully, his jaw working.

Finally, he spoke again.

“What's so special about you, that you've captivated the attention of the great Leia Organa?”

It was a question Rey would love to know the answer to as well.

She didn’t much feel like venturing a guess, so she just gave him a noncommittal shrug.

After a few more moments, he seemed to make up his mind. His attention shifted to his nail beds, as if trying to decide if his cuticles needed maintenance.

“Just a sympathy case, I'm sure. She does love having a goodwill pet project.”

Something about the finality in his voice, the dismissal of his gestures, it got to her. His superiority complex was truly something to behold, and it was very clear he had high standards that he believed few, if any, would ever live up to. But to just write someone off like that, and to their face in the rudest manner possible... well it was too much for Rey.

She didn’t have to prove anything to this man.

She didn’t.

But she would.

“You think you have me all figured out, but I think it’s the other way around.”

He drew himself up to full height and tilted his head to the side.

“Is that so?”

She hardened herself against him, a little determined smile quirking her lips, and nodded almost imperceptibly.

“And what exactly do you think you’ve figured out about me?” Ben asked, leaning back against the bookcase to appraise her, his eyebrow arched.

“You think you're the cleverest person in every room, even if you aren't. You enjoy making people uncomfortable using sarcasm and intimidation. And you think you know me, that I'm just some stupid girl from Jakku who would be nothing if someone important like you hadn’t stepped in and showed an interest in me. And you might be partially right.” She crossed her arms and narrowed her eyes. “But you don’t scare me. I've dealt with bigger monsters that you. You're not even a blip on my radar.”

She basked in the shock value of her words for a moment. He’d probably never had anyone talk back to him, especially someone so beneath him.  She’d seen it before. Great men who thought so highly of themselves, put back in their box by a little girl, and they just couldn’t take it. 

It had happened before, back in Jakku. Sometimes they did more than mope.  Sometimes they looked for retribution.  They needed to feel like great men again.  Sometimes they might even get a little violent.

She didn’t think he would. She was just waiting for his lip to drop.  For him to pout and brood and sulk like the spoilt little rich boy he was.

But that was not what happened.

Because in reality, he’d just stared at her in…

Awe?

Yes, that’s certainly what it looked like. His eyes had widened slightly and they were shining with a kind of wonderment she’d never seen directed at herself before.

And then, then his full lips shifted, quirking to the right, slowly spreading into a lopsided smile, and she realised with a jolt that he had dimples.

Her belly did a little flip.

The door swung open again and Leia breezed back into her office, papers in hand.

She eyed them both, first Rey, who was breathing hard with clenched fists and then her son, still leaning casually up against her bookcase, his face split into a wide grin now, and sighed.

“Ben, are you behaving yourself?”

“Always,” he smirked, his eyes never leaving Rey.

Leia handed Rey her copy of the papers and quickly ran through their next steps. Rey did her best to concentrate, to focus on Leia’s words, and not on her cocky son, who was still eyeing her like a hunter eyeing his prey.

“There are pamphlets in there to explain the campus housing, but if you have any questions, just give me a call and I can walk you through it.” Leia says as Rey fumbled with the papers that her future depended on and tucked them away into her backpack.

“Will do. Thanks again, Leia, truly!”

Leia waved away her gratitude.

“It’s nothing, I’m sure you will be a great new addition to the team and the university. Have a safe trip back, Rey. I’ll see you at semester commencement in a few months.”

She smiled back at her new coach and nodded, before heading for the door.

“Rey,” Ben called after her.

She turned back to look at him warily.

“It’s been a pleasure.”

He shot her a wink that threw her off more than his earlier interrogation ever could have, and she quickly fled, resolutely deciding to put Leia’s son as far out of her mind as possible.

She never really succeeded.

***

Thinking back on how this all started, Rey should have known from the start that it would all end this way.

Rey fidgets with her bag as she waits to board the bus. She stands a little way away from the others, not really feeling like talking to anyone, especially Finn.  Her solitude gives her the opportunity to look around for the one person she does want to talk to.

Ben hadn’t been at breakfast, and a quick enquiry to Jess told her he hadn’t been sighted at last night’s celebrations either.

It also appears he isn’t going to be on this bus, because he is nowhere to be seen.

There had been something between them from the beginning, something she’d never been able to quite put her finger on.

Until now.

She had thought she’d been so clever back then, thought she had him all figured out. She’d gotten some of it right, but most of it went woefully over her head in that first meeting.

But that was before.

Before she really knew him. Before she knew what he looked like when he laughed at something he truly found funny. How his face would light up with pure joy. Before she knew how vulnerable he could get when he felt unloved or unwanted.

Before she knew how he felt pressed up against her, moaning her name like a prayer.

The impression of him she’d cultivated on their first meeting was a rough sketch of the real Ben Solo. But she is nearly twenty now.  She’s long since learnt who he really is.

Underneath the strength and arrogance and sharp, cutting wit lay a man riddled with vulnerabilities. More sensitive than he lets on and more compassionate than he cares to admit, Rey knows that what Ben really seeks, more than anything, is belonging.

The same thing she wants.

The idea that he wanted that with her, that she wanted it too, and that she let it slip through her fingers?

Yeah, it stings.

It fucking burns.

She’s still scanning the crowd when Leia comes up to her, looking a little more tired than usual with the black circles under her eyes.

“How are you this morning, Rey?”

Rey looks over at her and tries her best not to cry.

“Been better, to be honest.”

Leia gives her a sad little smile and pats her shoulder.

Rey gets a glimpse of someone with dark hair moving out of the corner of her eye, and quickly angles her neck in that direction, only to see Poe walking past.

“Ben’s not here.”

Rey’s eyes snap back to Leia, who gives her a knowing look.

“He’s driving back to Chandrila with his father. Suspended players can’t travel with the team.”

“Oh.”

Right. He’s suspended.  Because he got in a fight with Finn over her.  And then punched Snoke, because of her.

The guilt gnaws relentlessly in the pit of her stomach.

Leia is quiet, but Rey can feel it.

She knows.

She knows what happened, or some of it at least, enough to know the part Rey has played in all this. Surely she must be thinking if she had never found Rey in Jakku, if she’d never saved her from that hellhole and brought her to Chandrila in the first place, this would never have happened.  Her son would be fine, still the golden boy and star player of the X-Wings, set for fame and fortune and greatness.

If it wasn’t for her, he’d be on this bus, happily heading home after a great win, preparing to fend of the sniffing scouts of the best pro teams.

What better way to thank the woman that gave her everything than to destroy her son’s dreams and future career prospects.

Rey swallows hard on the lump in her throat.

“I’m so sorry, Leia. This is all my fault.”

Beside her, Leia sighs.

“Ben had a choice too, Rey. That’s not all on you.”

“If it hadn’t been for me, he wouldn’t have had a choice to make,” Rey says quietly, feeling the truth of it. There was no escaping it.

Leia leans silently against the bus for a minute, deep in thought.

“My husband used to play professional basketball, as I’m sure you already know. He loved it, and he was great at it.  But it was also very hard, a tough lifestyle for someone with a young family.  It was hard on him, having to be away from his family, and it was hard on me, stuck at home alone with covered in baby vomit and dirty nappies with no-one to talk to except my child who couldn’t really speak back.”

Rey can picture it, such a different view of their life from the magical one Ben described to her only a night or two ago.

“In the end, Han had a choice to make. He could keep playing and bask in the shallow glory of it all, or he could come home to his family.” She takes a long pause before continuing.  “It took him a long time to make the right decision.”

She has never heard Leia sound so solemn about anything before, but it’s clear that this is a sore spot, something that has taken many years to forgive, and something that she can’t quite forget.

“There are more important things in this world than basketball, Rey,” Leia continues, clearing her throat. “Ben clearly thinks so, and for that, I’m grateful. I was beginning to worry he’d be blinded by the bright lights too and forget everything that mattered. That’s what Snoke’s been driving him to.  But maybe he’s not as far gone as I thought.”

Rey looks up at her, hardly believing her ears. Part of her is sure Leia is just trying to be nice, softening the blow to spare her feelings.

But then, she thinks of what Leia’s just told her and she sees a mother with a glimmer of hope. Rey’s not sure whether the idea that she is what the hope is based on is more or less terrifying than being to blame for destroying a man’s career.

Leia seems to sense Rey’s discomfort, so she gives her hand one more pat.

“Don’t worry, Rey. It will sort itself out,” she says, before heading to the front of the crowd to herd everyone onto the bus.

***

Rey ignores Finn’s eyes that follow her as she makes her way down the aisle past him and the others to secure a seat near the back of the bus. Her only neighbours are Hux – who snubs her completely before throwing on his sunglasses and snoozing along the back bench with his arms folded – and Mitaka, who sits parallel to her on the opposite side of the bus and tucks his head in a book.

Rey does the same, pulling out her laptop and her next lot of homework that’ll be due in only a couple of days and gets stuck in, intent on not wasting any more time on this awful trip.

Ben isn’t the only person missing from the bus. Snoke doesn’t appear to be travelling with them today either, and Rey wonders idly if he’s taken this opportunity to have plastic surgery in the hopes it might fix his hideous face.

They are a couple of hours into the day long ride to their final motel stop and Rey is a couple of pages into her essay on “Asimov's Laws of Robotics" when Finn slides into the seat beside her.

She stiffens, but doesn’t look up. He’s her brother, and she loves him like one, so deep down she’s sure she won’t be able to stay mad at him forever, but what happened last night is still fresh and raw and she’s not anywhere near over it yet.

He nudges her lightly, bumping her right arm with his left.

“Are you ever going to talk to me again?” he asks quietly.

“Someday, probably,” she replies, not looking up from the screen.

Next to her, Finn sighs.

“I thought he was taking advantage of you.”

Yeah, she got that.

“Well he wasn’t,” Rey retorts.

“Yeah, I get that now.”

They sit in silence, and Rey continues to outline the potential problems with Asimov’s second law when she hears Finn sigh again.

“I'm sorry, Rey.”

And just like that, she softens.

She saves her essay and shuts her laptop, turning to face her best friend who has never looked more contrite in the whole time she’s known him. Her chest still stings from the heartache of last night, but the burning anger fizzles as she remembers he only did what he did because he truly cares about her.  For a girl who spent so much of her life being unloved and unwanted, it’s a powerful thing, for someone to concern themselves with her wellbeing. 

It doesn’t make it okay, but it helps her understand.

“It's okay,” she says quietly, not quite looking him in the eye. “It's not all your fault. I should have been honest with you, about what was going on between Ben and me.”

Finn regards her inquisitively.

“Why weren't you?” he asks.

Good question.

“I don’t know. I guess I didn't want to upset you. I know how much you hate him.”

Finn lets out a little chuckle.

“I haven’t been very subtle about it, have I?”

Rey find herself almost smiling for the first time in what feels like forever.

“Yeah, subtle as a sledgehammer.”

Finn laughs again, and a somewhat comfortable silence settles over them for a minute or two, until finally he speaks.

“You were right though, Rey. This is your life. He might not be my favourite person, but if you think he’s the guy for you, I’ll figure out a way to get on board.”

Rey peers up at him, barely daring to believe her ears.

“Really?”

“Yes,” Finn nods firmly, putting an arm around her shoulder. “That’s what friends do.”

She returns his side hug with both arms, ducking her head against his shoulder, unable to contain her smile now.

“Thank you, Finn.”

They stay that way for a while, and when they break apart, Finn wipes a stray tear from her face.

She looks up at him, suddenly curious.

“What made you come around?”

“Well,” he starts, his attention suddenly consumed by his fumbling hands, “last night, during the party, someone made me realise that maybe I’d been acting a little selfish.”

“Someone…?” Rey probes, her eyebrow arched.

“Yes, someone might have given me a stern talking to, to prevent me from spending the night sulking in a corner.”

“Right,” she smiles slyly. “And did someone manage to get you into a better mood?”

“As a matter of fact,” he grins, “someone might have succeeded at that too, after making me feel like a bit of an idiot for not making the first move myself.”

Rey laughs.

“I told you Poe liked you.”

“Yeah, well I know that now!”

She shakes her head in exasperation, but her smile begins to fade.

Finn’s with Poe, and she’s happy for him. It’s been a long time coming.  But now, in the wake of the nightmare that was last night, it only makes her feel what she’s lost even more keenly.

“At least one of us will have a happy ending to this trip,” she mumbles, trying to keep her face from betraying her despair completely.

Finn sighs again.

“Rey, I honestly didn’t realise you liked the guy. You did a decent job of covering it up, trust me.  But he’s hasn’t been as inconspicuous.  Even I can see he’s into you.  I mean, I always thought it was more of a physical thing, but the way he reacted last night…  Well, let’s just agree the boy’s not very good at hiding his feelings.”

Rey shakes her head.

“That was last night. A lot has happened since then.”

“I don’t know,” Finn shrugs, “Solo doesn’t strike me as the kind of guy to be easily discouraged.”

“I couldn’t find him after the game, and now he’s suspended so he can’t travel with the team, and even if I manage to find him when we get back to school… I don’t know what to say to him,” she trails off, her voice thin under the lump in her throat.

Finn looks down at her, sincerity brimming in his eyes, and gives her hand a reassuring squeeze.

“Just be honest and tell him how you feel.”

She smiles in spite of herself, taken back a couple of days to a moment just like this one where the roles were reversed.

“That sounds like really good advice,” she says with a sniff.

Finn smiles back at her and shrugs a shoulder.

“My best friend told me that. What can I say, she’s a genius.”

“Yeah, clearly,” Rey laughs, shaking her head.

“So,” Finn says, clearing his throat, “are you going to fill me in on how this all started?”

And so she does, starting right at the beginning where she met Ben Solo for the first time in his mother’s office.

***

The rest of the bus ride passes quickly. She spends most of it filling Finn in on what really happened with Ben, and to his credit, he does his best to not appear judgemental or grossed out by it all.  She’s not expecting Finn to be Ben’s biggest fan, and she knows it’s going to take some time for him to truly get over the past animosity between them, but it’s a good start.

When they finally reach the motel, Rey feels exhausted, and she only makes it through half of dinner before excusing herself and heading for her room.

The sooner she sleeps, the sooner tomorrow will come, and with that, the end of this trip and the possibility of finding Ben around campus somewhere, so by eight o’clock she’s already tucked herself in bed, ready for sleep to take her.

Sleep doesn’t take her, because just as it’s about to, Phasma comes bustling in, flooding the room with blinding light and not making any effort to be quiet.

Rey waits for her to wash up and leave the room like normal, but instead of heading out like she usually does after changing into her sleep sweats, Phasma climbs into the bed next to her.

“Wh-what are you-”

“Hux and I broke up last night,” Phasma says shortly, and Rey thinks she hears the taller woman mutter handsy twat and cheating scum, before pulling a sleep mask over her eyes and flicking off the light switch without another word.

A mixed night for love then, Rey thinks sardonically, and then rolls over herself, eventually drifting off to sleep.

***

Sleep doesn’t last long.

She’s only been dozing an hour or two when the door to their room opens with a bang and Ben Solo, her Ben Solo, comes bursting in.

Light floods the room again and Rey bolts upright in bed. Beside her, Phasma swears and does the same, rubbing her eyes with her fists.

Ben doesn’t waste any time.

“Get out, Phas, I need to talk to Rey.”

Ben doesn’t look at her. He has eyes only for Rey.

“You’re not supposed to be here, Ren,” Phasma says.

“Well I am, so go find your boyfriend and get lost.”

“I’m not going anywhere,” she says snippily. “Hux and I are done and I don't want to see-”

“I don't care, get the fuck out,” Ben interrupts. “I've switched rooms for you plenty on this trip. Time for you to repay the favour.”

Phasma straightens her back, rising higher from her seat in the bed.

“And where am I supposed to go, exactly?”

Ben rolls his eyes and crosses his arms.

“Not my problem. Go sleep on the floor in Baz’s room.  Or hook up with Wexley. Hell, have a three-way with Wexley and Mitaka and let Hux watch. I truly don't give a fuck, just find another room. Pick any room you like, except this one.”

Rey watches the two captains face off against each other, a battle of wills, wondering momentarily which one will bend.

She should have known.

Phasma huffs and puffs, but eventually she hisses and throws off the covers, stomping across the room to grab some of her things before shoving past Ben on the way out.

Ben steps aside to let her past and then shuts the door, locking it behind him.

Chapter Text

RDAD 2

Rey can hear her heart pumping.

She can actually hear it.

Because Ben is here. He is here, standing before her, and they are alone, and she’s so happy to see him.  But he doesn’t seem as happy to see her, and that makes her nervous, that makes her terrified, and so her heart pounds in her chest like a drum, so loudly that she can hear it.

He’s over by the door, in a white T-shirt that is stretched deliciously over his broad chest and dark, faded denim jeans that sling low around his waist, and Rey thinks idly that this is the first time he has shown up to her room actually wearing clothes.

For Rey’s part, she had scrambled out of bed at Phasma’s exit, hesitant to get much closer since she is extremely conscious that she is only wearing her soft, silky sleep shorts and a singlet.

But she can’t chicken out now. She has spent the last twenty-four hours desperately wishing and hoping and praying for a chance to speak to him, and apparently someone has been listening, because Ben is here, he’s here, watching her, and whilst everything she’d rehearsed in her head seems to have disappeared like a puff of smoke, she has to say something. Anything.

“Ben, I-”

“No,” he cuts her off instantly. “It's my turn to talk.”

“But I was just-”

“No!” he repeats, sharper and louder and oh god, he sounds angry.

He’s going to tell her how much he hates her, how he blames her for ruining his career – which she totally did, by the way – and how he’s so sick of her that he can’t wait to never have to see her again.

She wants to vomit at the thought.

“Ben, please?” She tries again, because she is on the verge of a full blown mental panic now and all she can think is that he is going to end this before it has even begun, before she has even had a chance to explain.

He’s not having a bar of it, though.

“No, Rey, just shut up. I don't want to hear any of your bullshit excuses. Just, for once in your life, shut up and listen.”

He is pacing the room now, looking more rattled than she’s ever seen him. It’s his hair, she thinks.  It looks a little more wild than usual, like he’s been running his fingers through it repeatedly.

It looks a little like the way it looked after she’d run her fingers through it last night.

It’s not really a helpful thought to have under the circumstances, seeing as all it does is make her realise she is never going to get the chance to do it again.

Rey bites her tongue hard and wills herself to pull it together. She’s cried in front of him way too many times already on this trip.  She just needs to stand here and take it, take whatever’s coming to her.  She can do that.  She can look tough for five, maybe ten minutes, while he yells at her and breaks her heart.  It can’t go on forever. He will finish eventually and then, then he will leave, and she will be free to fall apart. 

He finally turns to face her, and takes a deep breath before starting the onslaught.

“For starters, your little ‘don’t list’ - is the stupidest thing I've ever heard.  And I usually bunk with Hux, so trust me when I say I have heard my fair share of stupid shit.”

Rey gapes at him as he starts pacing again, stopping occasionally to throw her a frustrated glance.

“Okay,” she says stupidly, but his head whips around the second she speaks.

“I’m not finished,” he snaps, and she sinks back into silence as he returns to his pacing. “Ever since I first met you, I’ve thought you were fearless.  Like an Amazon or something.  But lately, I’ve come to realise you’re not brave or courageous at all.  When it comes to anything important, you’re a coward.”

“Hey!” she interrupts, unable to stop herself. “I am not a coward.”

“Yes you are!” Ben bellows back, pointing an accusing finger at her. “You’re a coward and a liar.  This thing between us – it’s real.  It’s the realest thing I’ve ever known, and yet you ignore it and deny it and sweep it under the carpet at every opportunity.”

And Rey should be yelling back, she should deny his accusations and throw them back in his face, except all she can do is replay two words in her head, over and over again.

It’s real.

Not ‘it was real’, but ‘it is real’ – present tense.

Does that mean… Is it still?

Meanwhile, Ben’s still going.

“Every time we get close, you push me away. Every time I think we are finally getting somewhere, you drag us back to square one.  Your friends, your excuses, your stupid fucking list – they are all just ways for you to keep me at arm’s length, because you’re afraid that if I get too close to you, you might actually want me to stay.”

Rey swallows.

If he said this to her a couple of days ago, it would have all been true. But so much has changed since then.  She is not the same person she was before she set foot in Rebel Stadium.

She’s had time to come to terms with what she wants, perhaps nearly losing him gave her that clarity, or perhaps she’s been in denial for so long that this was just the straw that broke the camel’s back and forced her to come to terms with the inevitable-

That she had fallen for Ben Solo long before she ever made that idiotic list.

And now, now she can’t think of anything she wants less than to keep him at arm’s length.  On the contrary, she wants to wrap her arms around him and never let go.

Her fears of his rejection are slowly but surely evaporating with every word he utters, because whilst he is angry and irritated, he’s still here, still venting his frustrations, and that makes her hopeful that maybe, maybe, he hasn’t given up on her just yet.

But he’s rebuffed every chance she’s taken to interrupt him this far, and there’s not much she can do until he runs out of steam, so she stands tall and squares her jaw to him.

“Are you done yet?” she asks wryly.

“No!” he replies snippily, and he sounds so petulant all of a sudden that she nearly laughs, because it’s just so like him, like her Ben, to need to have the last word.

He rounds on her again, so tall and broad, and crosses his arms in a show of strength, but she’s not scared anymore. The only thing she’d feared was that he would give up on her.

“I've written you a new list,” he tells her. “A better list.”

Rey arches an eyebrow and waits for him to continue.

“Number three,” he recites, holding up three fingers. “Don't be a liar.”

She folds her own arms across her chest and taps her foot impatiently.

“Number two,” Ben continues unperturbed, motioning to his second finger. “Don't be an idiot.”

Rey chews on the inside of her cheek and wills herself to remain silent.

“And number one,” he says finally, raising a solitary finger. “Don't be afraid.”  She inhales sharply as his face suddenly softens and he takes a step towards her. “You don’t have to be.  It's okay, I feel it too.”

Rey bites her lip and struggles to stay still, her wildly beating heart begging her to move, to go to him, to run to him now, hold his beautiful, sad face in her hands and kiss him until he smiles for her.

But she wants him to be finished, to have said all he needs to.

“Okay, that’s it,” he finishes quietly, deflated from his rant and visibly shaking, “I’m done now.”

He’s said his piece. It’s her turn. 

There are so many things she needs to say to him. Confessions and apologies and explanations.

And yet, right now, there is only one thing she wants to do.

And so without wasting another second, she crosses the space between them – the space she has always so resolutely enforced to keep him at a safe distance – and hurtles into his arms.

Her lips are back on his, and his arms are back around her, holding her like she is all that matters, and the two of them are back where they are supposed to be, back where they always should have been.

And Rey, Rey is home.

*****

They’ve done this a grand total of two times now, but stars, she’s beginning to wonder how she ever lived without it, and how she could ever live without it again.

She has his face clasped firmly in her hands and she’s kissing him with a thirst she can only recognise from growing up in the desert. And Ben, Ben’s not fairing much better, him with his talented tongue and roaming fingers that can’t decide if they want to be in her hair – which he has pulled free of her bedtime ponytail – or her neck or her back or even lower still.

For her part, she doesn’t really care, so long as he is touching her somewhere

He moans into her mouth as she gently tugs at his wavy, black hair, and she takes the opportunity to pull him closer and delve deeper.

Rey just can’t get over how right this all feels, being close to him like this. She’s let him in further than she’s ever let anyone, and she knows she should be terrified.  That was always the point of her rules, to keep her from this exact predicament.

Except…

Except all she wants now is to get even closer.

Now it’s not enough.

Now she wants more.

“Rey,” he pants, breaking away from her skin with visible effort, “I need to know, are you in this? For real?”

“I’m all in,” she replies with complete certainty.

“No more running?”

“No more running,” she agrees, pressing her forehead to his as they catch their breath. The look of pure joy on his face is enough to make her want to kick herself again and again for putting this off for as long as she has.  They could have been doing this for days.

Weeks.

Months

Years.

Still, they’re doing it now, and she doesn’t intend to miss out on another minute, so she pulls him back down to her and whimpers when he bypasses her lips and makes his way straight for the crux of her neck. The sensation of his teeth lightly grazing the sensitive skin there is so much, too much, and she finds herself helpless to do anything other than bury her face further into his tousled mane, dig her nails into his shoulders through the soft cotton of his shirt and breath in the warm, comforting scent of him. 

Somehow even with her senses on overdrive, Rey is vaguely aware of him moving them slowly back towards her bed.

He pulls away again as the backs of her thighs hit the edge of the mattress and caresses her left cheek in his palm.

“Is this too soon?” he asks, his eyes dilated and lids heavy, the implication clear as his other hand squeezes her waist.

That little voice in her head, the one usually filling her mind with doubt, the one that has always been all too happy to point out every negative possibility, it’s silent now, beaten back by the warm, fuzzy glow that seems to be surrounding them both, and Rey, for once, has no hesitations.

“Don’t you think we’ve waited long enough?”

It must have been the answer he wanted, because something flickers in the dark pools of his piercing eyes, and without another word he spins her around so she is facing the bed and his lips find their way back to that spot in the place where her neck meets her shoulder.

There are no teeth this time, only soft lips and a supple tongue, and he slides the singlet strap down her shoulder to give him unencumbered access. She can hear herself moaning under his ministrations, and she knows it will be doing terrible things to that ego of his, something she will surely pay for eventually, but she can’t quite bring herself to care right now.

When his lips leave her skin, she whines in protest, but then she hears him sink to his knees behind her, and she does her best to keep her heart rate under control, she really does, but it’s a futile effort, because then she feels his hands grasp her hips before sliding lower, to the waistband of her silk shorts.

Rey gasps. She can’t help it.

“Rey, you have no idea, how many times I've imagined this,” he murmurs behind her, below her, as he toys with the elastic. “That morning when I saw you… God, I wanted to take you over my knee right then and there.”

Oh,” she whimpers, as he gives her ass a firm squeeze and a light pat through the material.  “I thought about it too.”

She doesn’t have to look around to know he’s smiling.

“Did you? Good.”

He gives her another squeeze before tugging at the fabric to reveal her panty-covered backside and slipping her shorts the rest of the way down her legs.

“Please, Ben,” she whimpers, not even entirely sure of what she’s pleading for. Something like what he just described would be good.  Her white cotton panties are cut high and she can feel his hot breath on the now bare skin of her ass cheeks, prickling her skin with goosebumps.

“Don’t worry, Sweetheart,” he purrs against her, tracing the edge of her panties. “There will be plenty of time for that later.”

He gives the fleshy part of her butt cheek a soft bite, and Rey all but screams, but then he's moving onwards and upwards, back on his feet and spinning her around to give a deep, frantic kiss before pushing her gently back onto the bed.

It’s a single, and much too small for the both of them to spread out on, but he seems intent on maintaining as little space as possible – something she is all too happy to comply with – and so when he follows her on there he kneels at the foot of the bed before her.

He leans back on his haunches and she pulls herself up too and tugs impatiently at his shirt. He laughs, but lets her help him whip it over his head, revealing skin and muscles and abs to her ravenous eyes.

“Your turn,” he smiles as she falls back on the pillow at his gentle nudge and he reaches for the hem of her tank top, dragging it up her body inch by inch until it sits just below her breasts.

He dips his head lower, planting a soft kiss on her collarbone, another on the top of her cleavage peeking out from the neckline of her singlet, and then a third on the rib bone just below the ridden up cotton.

“I thought about this too,” Ben hums softly, his right hand moving up to skim the side of her breast. “You nearly killed me that night, with the ice blocks.  If I hadn’t left when I did, I don’t know what I would have done.”

His fingers move to the centre of her breast and he pinches her nipple, the way she had herself that night, and Rey moans louder still.

“Do you like that?” he asks, watching her closely, taking note of how she responds. As he traces the stiffening bud with the tip of his middle finger, Rey’s head rolls back and she stuffs her fist into her mouth in an effort to keep quiet.

Ben must not like the idea of that, though, because he swiftly replaces his finger with his mouth, sucking the pebbled peak through her singlet, and she finds herself crying out despite her best efforts.

Satisfied with his victory, he moves back and pulls her singlet off the rest of the way, leaving her flushed and bare to him aside from her panties, her hair fanning out beneath her on the pillow.

He pulls back to take her in, his eyes roaming hungrily over her tanned skin, and she wonders if he knows he’s the first to see this.

“You’re so beautiful, Rey,” he confesses with a reverence she can hardly believe, and he leans back down to kiss her lips once more. As he presses his body into hers to deepen the kiss, the zipper of his jeans rubs against her clit, making her nearly shriek from pleasure, and then he is heading back down, planting a trail of kisses along the way – on her collarbone, the valley between her breasts, her bellybutton - until he reaches his final destination.

He fingers the elastic of her panties and looks up at her, waiting for a signal to proceed, which she gives by nodding fervently and biting her hand so as not to whimper. It’s all the approval he needs, and he pulls off the last garment protecting her modesty with gentle fingers, revealing her to him.

Rey can feel her cheeks turn pink under his heavy gaze and has to fight the urge to cover herself with her hands. She hadn’t prepared for this, not at all, and suddenly she is overcome with doubts and fears as to what he was expecting and how she compares to, well, others...

But then she hears him huff out a breath and a low curse, and he looks a little overcome himself, which she finds oddly comforting.

And then, then he’s touching her, touching her there, and all fear and insecurity and rational thought goes flying out the window and is replaced with sheer, unadulterated desire.

She has done this to herself plenty of times before, but it’s her first time being touched by a hand that isn’t hers, and as the pad of his thumb brushes against her clit, the pleasure is on another level to anything she has ever experienced and she worries stupidly that she may in fact die by the end of this.

He watches her intently as he goes, assessing his own performance by her reaction, but he needn’t have worried, because he seems to know just what to do, how to touch her, what pressure to use.

Rey feels his hand dip lower, and then he’s circling her entrance before pressing slowly into her with a single thick finger.

“God, Rey, you’re so tight,” he groans against her inner thigh, and she is- tight, but she is also wet, wetter than she can ever remember being, and the combination of the two feels incredible. “Has it been a while, Sweetheart?”

“You could say that.”

He must hear the tremble in her voice, because his fingers still and he looks up at her questioningly.

“I haven't really, every actually... you know...” she trails off, not quite able to meet his eye.

His hand pulls back and she is empty again as he raises himself a little higher on his elbows.

“Really?”

She nods and stares up at the ceiling.

“But… how?” he asks incredulously, and for a moment she feels like kicking him in the face or screaming in frustration.

“I don’t know,” she retorts and covers her face, her cheeks burning red now. “It just… never felt right. Never felt like the right guy. I don’t- I'm not the best at opening up to people, in any manner, in case you haven’t noticed.”

But then he is pressing another kiss to her inner thigh and some of her irritation melts away as she feels him smile into her sensitive skin.

“I have noticed, actually,” he teases, and her body relaxes as he draws shapes on her other thigh. “Well,” he continues, his voice suddenly low and gruff, “we don’t have to do anything else tonight. We have plenty of time.”

“But I want to!”

Part of her wonders if she should be more hesitant to do this, to do this tonight, with him, for the first time. It will be a big deal, it is a big deal, but she doesn’t think she is taking it lightly.  It’s not that at all. 

It’s just that for the first time in forever, Rey knows what she wants, and waiting… well, waiting is the last thing on that list. 

No more waiting. No more space.  No more running. 

She wants this.

She wants him.

“Rey...”

“No, Ben. Please?”

She hates how needy she sounds.

But she’ll get over it, because his hand is back, back tracing ecstasy inducing patterns on her clit and she sighs into the corner of the pillow and before long she is crying his name.

He groans against her belly and presses a soft kiss against her clammy skin.

Fuck, what did I ever do to deserve you?”

“I have no idea,” she replies archly, although surely some of the effect is lost by her quivering voice and the fact she is pushing herself up into his hand, desperate for the friction to continue.

He growls against her and the next minute he has climbed back up her body to whisper in her ear.

“Watch it, Sweetheart,” he warns, but his eyes are dancing.

“Or what?” she replies, the challenge evident.

He growls again and thrusts two fingers back inside her.

It’s a tight fit, his fingers are so much bigger than what she’s used to, but she’s sopping wet from how turned on she is and that pushes her past the discomfort and back into the realms of pleasure.

“That's it,” he hums into her ear as she moans loudly, his fingers establishing a steady rhythm, driving in and out of her until she can’t think. “Does it feel good?”

She whines in the affirmative.

“I know something else that will feel good.”

Then he’s gone from her sight, but she knows where he is headed by the trail of his breath on her skin, and in no time his mouth is joining his fingers to bring her to new levels of bliss, and god, why again have they not been doing this all week, or month, or year?

She gasps at the first swipe of his tongue against her slit, already sensitive from his earlier attentions. He takes his time, lapping at her delicate folds with the leisurely, unperturbed languor of a man thoroughly enjoying himself and the only impatience she encounters from him is his insistent hand that palms at her thigh, urging her to spread her legs wider, to open herself up to him further.

She starts squirming, and it’s becoming unbearable, because this is so much more than she’s used to. Even right before the point of climax, she can’t ever remember being this worked up, and she is genuinely not sure if she’s going to be able to come like this, it’s all just so intense.

But Ben’s strong hand pushes down firmly on her abdomen, forcing her to still, forcing her to take it, to let it hit her like wave after wave of something she can’t quite describe, something she can’t quite identify. It’s euphoria and madness at the same time, and just when she doubts that the two can ever come together…

Well, they do…

And it hits her like a tsunami.

Because he’s in her, moving faster, and on her, sucking harder, and she can’t breathe, and she’s panting his name like she’s only ever seen before in movies, and her hands are grabbing wildly at his hair, his shoulders, the pillow, anywhere she can reach really, and oh god, this shouldn’t be possible, but thankfully, by some miracle, it is.

He is unrelenting as she is swept away, maintaining the gruelling pace until she can’t bare it any longer and she has to push him away. He runs his hands up and down her thighs soothingly as she comes down from her high, looking up at her from his place between her legs, that dark, mischievous glint in his gaze shining through the mess of black hair that has fallen into his eyes through his efforts.

“So, you’re sure you’re ready for this?” he says finally once she’s herself again.

“Yes.”

“Okay, I'll go get some towels,” and he gives her inner thigh a wet kiss before getting up off the bed.

Towels?  Surely she hasn’t been that messy?

But then, she catches his train of thought – she’s told him it’s her first time after all - and cringes.

“I don't think you need to.”

He is half way to the bathroom when he turns back around to look at her.

“But I thought-”

She feels herself blushing again. Is he really going to make her spell this out?

“I haven't done it with anyone, but I- you know…” Except he doesn’t know, clearly, given the blank expression on his face, so she continues, “I-I've played with toys before.”

He gets it then, she knows, because his smirk making a triumphant return.

“Of course you have, my little mechatronics evil genius,” he croons.

She smiles too in spite of herself, her embarrassment forgotten.

Then he pauses again.

“I, ah- didn’t exactly come prepared, to be honest,” he admits, throwing a glance at his jeans that clearly have nothing useful in them.

“I’m on the pill,” she offers, and then winces again, waiting for another puzzled look for him. She doesn’t feel like launching into a long winded explanation about how all female Jakku high school seniors were put on birth control by the school nurse after a few too many incidents.

Thankfully though, he accepts it without question, probably too relieved to care, only replying, “I’m clean,” before he pulls off his jeans, followed by his boxer-briefs – black, because of course – and she finally, finally gets an uninhibited view of him in all his glory.

And it is.

Glorious.

His manhood stands large and proud, and again she is struck by how perfectly it suits him.  

He moves back onto the bed and she reaches for him, bending down for a taste, like the way he had her. But she barely gets her mouth around him before he hisses and pulls back.

“Not now, Sweetheart. There will be time for that later, too, I promise.”

She agrees, albeit reluctantly, and lets him lie her back down on the white sheets as he follows her down and readies himself.

“Are you sure about this, Rey?” he asks seriously, brushing a stray strand of hair off her face. “We really don’t have to do this tonight, if you’re not ready.”

She can feel him, poised at her opening. He’s ready, and so is she, so she tells him as much.

“I’m ready. I want this.”

She is in no doubt.

“If it hurts, you tell me.  Anytime you want to stop, you just say so, okay?”

She nods if only to placate him, but she knows they won’t be stopping.

And then, finally, Ben pushes into her, he’s inside her, and if she thought she knew what home felt like before, well it’s nothing, nothing, compared to this.

He bottoms out with a grunt, and gives her a minute to adjust to the ridiculous size of him inside her, stretching her. It stings a little, but it passes quickly, aided on its way by his gentle strokes and loving kisses, until finally she feels ready for him to move again. 

Not just ready; desperate.

Rey jostles her hips against him, urging him to continue, and he gets the message instantaneously, and before long he’s quickening his pace, one hand still near her face while the other moves lower to palm at her ass.

It all feels amazing, but then his hand travels to the back of her thigh and he hitches it higher, until one leg is over his shoulder, and yeah, this is even better.

“Fuck, Rey,” he groans into her neck, pounding her into the mattress, hitting harder and deeper with every thrust.

She feels helpless to do anything but lie there and enjoy, the sensation of experiencing it all for the first time overwhelming. He’s heavy on top of her, a solid weight pressing her further into the sheets, and she can’t quite believe how unbelievable it feels.  It’s beyond comprehension, really.

It’s all building to something, and like before, she’s not sure how it’s even possible, except now she knows it is, she knows what can happen, and that thought spurs her on as he takes her higher and higher.

“Ben,” she sobs against him as he hits that spot, the spot she never even knew existed until tonight, and then he’s slamming against it again and again and she’s not going to be able to keep it together much longer.

Neither is he, apparently, as his thrusts are becoming more erratic, the room filling with sopping sounds from where they are joined, and then his hand sneaks down to her clit, applying more of that delicious pressure from before that sends a shiver down her spine and hurtles her higher still, until there’s nowhere else for her to go and nothing else for her to do, but fall.

And she does, whiting out as something in her snaps and swoops and crashes over her with an intensity unlike anything she’s ever felt.

He follows her mere moments later, spurred on as she clenches around his cock, and he’s chanting her name and looking down at her like she’s the only thing in the world he’s ever wanted.

As they come down together, he doesn’t pull out, doesn’t move away, and she doesn’t want him to.

This feels more like home than any place she’s ever known. She’ll stay here with him for as long as she can.

*****

Dawn breaks not long after they finish round two.

They are cuddled together on the single mattress, Rey pretty much lying on top of him to enable them both to fit on the tiny bed.

She makes use of the time, of the quiet moments, to drink in her fill of his face, studying every angle, every line, every curve, committing them to memory as he dozes peacefully beside her.

A thought that has been bugging her resurfaces, something she’s long been meaning to tell him, and so she says in a soft voice, “Ben, I’m so sorry about your game.”

He stirs, but his eyes stay closed as he pulls her tighter to him.

“Don’t be. It was worth it, the look on his face.”

She snuggles into his chest and takes his hand in hers.

“You know I would never-” he starts suddenly, but she doesn’t need to let him finish.

“I know.”

Because she does know, she knows Ben would never use her the way Snoke was insinuating.

His arm squeezes her closer still.

“What’s going to happen now… with the suspension?”

“There will be some kind of hearing,” he replies. “I’ll get a chance to explain my side. The board might be interested to know about their head coach harassing my girlfriend.”

The word – girlfriend - used so casually by him, makes her breath catch in her throat and her stomach flip, but she can be casual about it too. She can be cool, she can, okay!

“I’ll probably have to sit out a few games,” he continues, “but I doubt there will be any permanent damage.”

“Good,” is all she utters, because his fingers start tracing patterns along her hipbone and she’s losing concentration by the second.

“Even if there is, it’s not the end of the world. I’m not even sure I want to go into pros next year.  Law school’s a good option, too.”

She nods, her eyes drifting shut as his talented hands continue their activities, but before they can get much further, round three is cut short by a sharp knock at the door.

Rey?” a voice calls from the other side.

Ben and Rey both bolt upright and stare at each other.

“That’s your Mom!” Rey shrieks at him as quietly as possible.

Another knock and Rey springs into action. She leaps off the bed and scrambles to pull on her singlet and shorts, forgoing her panties when she is unable to find them. Ben doesn’t seem to have the slightest inclination to move or dress, instead opting to lounge back on the single bed very much naked and become an avid spectator of her little reverse strip tease. Rey throws his shirt at his head - which he promptly ignores – and would find something else to throw at him too if she wasn’t in such a rush.

“Can’t you do something useful, like hide in the bathroom?” she hisses, glaring at him.

“But I’m so comfortable,” he drawls, giving her a shit-eating grin.

She doesn’t really know what to do. If Leia comes in, she’ll see Ben and they will be busted in a pretty compromising situation, not to mention the rules about sharing your room with the opposite sex while on tour.  Her only real option is to crack the door just enough to let her slip through and talk to Leia outside.

Before she can open the door, however, Leia’s voice once again floats through the gap into the room, volume raised unnecessarily high.

“Rey, I know you don’t have a boy in your room because that’s strictly against school policy, but if you happen to see Ben around, oh I don’t know, in the hall or something, can you please let him know his father is leaving and he needs to get his suspended butt to the carpark, quick smart!”

Rey feels simultaneously relieved and mortified, and barely manages to get out, “sure, I’ll let him know,” before collapsing against the door.

She turns back to Ben, who is still smirking, the prat.

“She totally knows,” she groans, heading back to the bed to slide in next to him.

Ben shrugs.

“Nothing ever gets past Leia Organa.”

She lets him pull her to him, enjoying the way he tucks her under his arm so she’s partially lying across his bare chest. It all just feels so natural, so effortless, like they’ve been doing this for fifty years.

“Your Dad’s waiting,” she mumbles into his collarbone.

“He’ll live.”

She smiles as he slowly strokes her upper arm soothingly and buries her head further into him, breathing in that scent that is so distinctly Ben and so incredibly intoxicating to her.

It’s all so relaxing, she barely registers when he clearing his throat.

“I want to see you again.”

He says it like he’s stating the obvious, but she can hear the vulnerability in there.

“Me too.”

“I’m supposed to be having dinner with my parents tonight. You could come too, if you want.  I mean, it’ll be boring, and my Dad will probably make lame jokes all night in between trying to embarrass the hell out of me, but we could go for a bit and then get a drink somewhere or watch a movie or something.”

She looks up at him with raised eyebrows.

“Isn’t it a bit soon to ‘meet the parents’?” she asks, but he merely gives her his lopsided grin.

“Haven’t we wasted enough time?”

“Well played,” she sighs theatrically, but really she’s desperately trying to bite back a smile.

He doesn’t bother trying to hide his.

They steal another minute or two before he sighs and extricates himself from her to wash up and dress. She stays put; it’s her turn for a show this time.

Once he’s fully dressed, he walks back to the bed and plants his hands on either side of her body, looming over her.

“Now, quick refresher; what's your number one don't?”

She rolls her eyes, but she still can’t help but smile up at him. It’s like a damned condition or something.

Don't be afraid.”

“Good girl,” he says, beaming at her indulgently.

She runs her hands over the soft cotton of his shirt and leans up to kiss him. When they break away, he cups the side of her face in his warm hand.

“You know, I've got a number one don’t, too. Do you want to know what it is?”

She nods.

“It’s ‘don't fuck this up’,” he says, leaning in again until his lips are only a whisper away from hers, “and I don’t intend to,” he finishes seriously.

His lips meet hers one final time, slow and deep and deliberate, and she knows neither of them ever want this to end, even though it must.

Part of her hurts, being parted from him so soon. However, for once, this isn’t goodbye, and it doesn’t really feel like one.  It feels like a promise of better things to come.

“See you tonight, Sweetheart,” he says, and with one last wink and a grin he is gone.

And Rey…

Rey is entirely sure he has taken her heart with him.

She’s not afraid, though.

He feels it too.

 

-The End-