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Maybe, I'm Afraid

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He finds himself smiling at the sound of her voice drifting into the hallway, singing as she cooks.

Ben wanders into the kitchen Saturday morning, still rubbing his eyes against the light. “Morning, Rey.”

Rey turns, plates in hand. “You want breakfast?”

She always cooks breakfast in pajamas and bare feet. Ben grins. “Sounds great.”

It's the ease with which they fill each others' space.

“I made waffles. And there's fresh strawberries, if you'd like some.” Rey smiles as Ben takes the offered plate, piled high with golden squares.

“I never say no to strawberries.” Rey gestures toward the bowl of cut fruit, setting the syrup and sugar bowl on the table as well.

The small, pleased hum whenever their fingers touch.

“Let's go for a drive,” Ben says around a mouthful of soggy waffle.

Rey smiles at the thought. “Oh! That sounds great.”

“Perfect. Picnic lunch?”

The way she always looks so much more vibrant than anything around her.

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He knows he's staring again. He's not sure he cares.

“Ben? What is it?”

Ben pulls a few blades of grass from the ground, tearing them into pieces to occupy his gaze. “Nothing. Just thinking.”

He's caught up in the way her hair whips around in the wind today.

“About what?”

Ben sighs, tosses the shredded grass over his shoulder as he shrugs. “I don't know. Nothing. Everything. I don't know.”

He watches Rey in the edge of his vision as she stretches out beside him, lacing her fingers beneath her head to look at the clouds.

The way the sunlight makes her eyes shine steals his breath.

“You always have such a way with words,” she jokes.

Ben sighs again and lays down in the grass too. “Yeah, that's it. I'm tongue-tied.”

He looks at Rey then, and sticks out his tongue like a child, making her giggle.

He hopes he gets to spend forever watching the slow smile spread across her face.

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It's the confusion he feels sometimes, late at night.

Ben shuffles barefoot into the front room to find Rey reading on the couch.

“You should be sleeping,” Rey admonishes and turns the page of her book.

Ben picks at the hem of his shirt, mumbling, “Pot and kettle, Rey.”

Maybe there's something to this.

“Such a weird expression.” She sets the book in her lap, and Ben can feel the expectant gaze without even looking up.

“Yeah, maybe.”

Ben looks at her finally then: mostly hidden in shadows, book resting in her lap and hands gently wrapped around the armrest, a small smile on her face.

Maybe that's hope in her eyes.

Ben watches Rey watching him, a revelation blooming in his mind.

“You want to sit and talk? Since we're both awake.” Rey shifts in her chair, gesturing to the couch.

But the moment is past, and Ben doesn't know what he's doing anymore.

“No...actually, I'm gonna try for more sleep.”

“Oh. Goodnight, then.”

Maybe it's not.

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It's the pain on her face as she turns away.

“What are you doing?" Ben doesn't know why he asked that, of all things.

Rey is carefully arranging her clothes into a suitcase.

It's pretty obvious what she's doing.

“I'm leaving, Ben.”

The hard edge to her voice as she speaks.

“Why the hell would you do something so stupid?!”

Ben gestures wildly, scowling all the while.

“Stupid?! Never mind, Ben. It's irrelevant.”

It's the way she looks everywhere but to him.

Ben grabs her by the arm, turns her forcefully so her can see her face.

“Irrelevant? What the fuck, Rey?!”

She doesn’t pull back, only stares him down like she does everyone else.

“It doesn't matter, Ben.”

She unwraps Ben's fingers with his opposite hand and turns away again.

The shadow on her face as she says goodbye.

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It's the anger at the silence.

“I left for a reason.”

Ben's trying not to yell. Really.

“What the fuck is that supposed to mean?”

It's the loneliness.

Rey doesn't answer for almost a minute.

“It means I'll return when I have a reason.”

Ben's mind isn't offering anything useful. He swears his pulse is pushing 200.

“Goddamnit, Rey!”

It's the emptiness.

“Don't try to find me, Ben.”

“Rey, please!”

Ben hears her sigh, and then there's silence.

It's the regret.

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It's the dreams.

Ben wakes suddenly, tearing himself from his dream. He throws back the covers of his bed and swings his feet off the side.

“That's the third one this week. Damn it.”

He drags a hand through his hair, breathing slowly to calm his pulse.

“Get a fucking grip,” he growls at himself.

Can't get her out of his head.

Ben leaves his room and wanders toward the kitchen. It's 3am, but he doesn't think he'll be able to get back to sleep this time.

He digs his phone from the pocket of his pajamas, hoping for a voicemail or even just a text or a missed call. But, no, of course there's nothing.

It's been 2 weeks since Ben had last spoken to Rey. Three weeks since she’d packed and left without an explanation, as though she'd expected Ben to just understand what the problem was.

He still expects to find her around every corner of the house.

His thumb hovers over the call button, thinking about this latest dream. The others had almost been more like memories replayed as he slept, but tonight's was different.

He'd seen Rey walking ahead of him, and hurried to catch up, arm outstretched to catch her by the shoulder. But the quicker he walked, the more the space between them had widened.

So he tried running, and eventually wrapped a hand around her arm just above the elbow, wheeling her around sharply – only to find her face simply blank. No features to speak of: no bright hazel eyes lit with humor, no fiercely radiant grin.

It was enough to shock Ben awake and leave him trembling.

Enough to push him into a decision.

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His breath catches at the voice on the other end of the line.

“Hello?” Rey sounds like she'd been asleep, and for a second Ben wishes he had waited to call.

“Rey! Finally. I mean, uh... hey, Rey.”

“Ben. It's 4am, and I asked you not to call me. What is it?”

“Ah, well, actually, you said not to try to find you. But I had to call.”

His heart races as the words tumble in his mind.

“Ben,” Rey grumbles. Ben can almost picture her, laying in bed with the phone in one hand and her other arm thrown over her face in frustration.

“Sorry, sorry.” Ben chuckles. And then, before he can stop himself, he says, “I need you to come back.”

He finally, finally gets it.

“We talked about this, Ben. I left for a reason.”

“Damnit Rey, no, we didn't talk about this. That's the fucking problem,” Ben sighs, “and I'm sorry. I want you to come back. I miss you, and I'm fucking sorry.”

For a moment, there's silence, and Ben thinks she hung up on him.

“What else?” Rey asks, quietly.

“Wha—what else? Um,” Ben stumbles over his thoughts, because he wasn't prepared. He knows what he wants to say, what he needs to say, what Rey needs to hear, but he didn't expect he'd have to say it right away.

“Ben?” Rey sighs. “Never mind, Ben.”

“No, Rey, wait! Fuck, I'm such an idiot, okay? I'm an idiot, and I'm sorry, and I miss you. And... and I fucking love you. So come home already...please.”

He almost misses the answer from the other end of the line. A soft, whispered, “Alright.”

It's Rey.