The Alderaan Audubon Society was very pleased to gain a futon at their most remote raptor conservation station in the interior of Alderaan National Park.
“This is fantastic, the volunteers will really appreciate getting to sleep off the ground,” Ranger Namit told the group.
Finn was still rubbing his back ostentatiously; the trail from the nearest parking to the cabin was a good two and a half miles, and not particularly well-maintained. Rey imagined that carrying her futon that distance had been difficult. This thought pleased her. Poe was taking it all in stride as a lovely day’s hike with his corgi, but of course he had not been doing nearly so much groveling over the past two months as Finn.
“I’m just glad I could find a good home for it,” Rey told Ranger Namit, gesturing to her futon where it now made up the sole piece of permanent furniture in the concrete and cinderblock cabin. There were sheltered mews outside for falcons in the last stages of rehabilitation and release, but the human volunteers had previously been expected to rough it.
“I can’t promise no sex has been had on this futon,” Rey felt compelled to admit.
Ranger Namit waves a hand in understanding. “Doesn’t bother me,” he said. “I spent yesterday trying to convince an endangered hawk to have sex with my hat.”
They stared at him for a second while they parsed that, then fell all over each other to demand details, pictures, logistics. Poor Ranger Namit had not been prepared to deliver an impromptu lecture on the love life of his babies, but gamely folded his hands behind his back and launched into an explanation of the Audubon Society’s efforts to breed the Lesser Spotted Kestrel.
Rose pulled out her phone to take notes. Rey wasn’t positive whether Rose was developing an interest in falconry or beginning to choreograph some kind of falcon-breeding-kink scene, but Rey felt a deep satisfaction that she would never have to find out.
The disposition of her futon meant that all of her belongings were out of her old apartment.
And she had a date with Ben at Ikea that afternoon.
* * *
Rey saw no reason to proceed any differently with Project: Relationship than Project: The Sexx (as her previous database had been titled). Ben seemed to think that mere time and proximity would be sufficient to smooth out any rough edges. Rey told him that he’d never get anything accomplished in life with that kind of task management and sent him a Trello notecard for a .csv deliverable of relationship goals by the end of the week.
The second list was nearly the same length as the first. Ben wanted the two lists integrated, which was a fun bit of coding for them both that first weekend after Organa House.
After a few late-night debugging sessions and a stress-relieving BJ in the second-floor Science Center lab, they had prompts that went a bit like this:
- Picnic on campus green; date
- With lingerie on, including but not limited to merry-widow and garter belt (REY)
- Explain family tree; discussion
- Dinner at restaurant with tablecloths, BEN TO PAY; date
- Reverse cowgirl; REY TO ACQUIRE HAT
- Abandonment issues, source of; discussion
These were not all complete successes. Ben packed the basket for their picnic, and Rey was highly suspicious of some of the foods he included. Cheese, in her experience, came in two varieties; white and yellow, and tasted generally the same regardless of the color, which was added during processing for aesthetics. Blues and greens meant it had gone off and should be discarded.
“It’s Roquefort,” Ben explained, waving it under her nose. The smell of it didn’t do anything to convince her otherwise, but when he smeared it on a bit of baguette with honey, she reluctantly tried a few bites just to be game.
“It’s gone bad,” Rey said, wincing. “Did the grocery store try to tell you it was still good? Don’t be embarrassed, I don’t mind doing the grocery shopping from now on…”
Ben just grinned at her and kept eating his spoiled cheese. It was a date, Rey thought. Nobody went to eat picnics on the green with their friends, or their fuck-buddies, or their lab partners. She, Rey Jackson, was on a date. A date involving spoiled cheese and the man she'd been sleeping with for over a month, but still. She dated.
Rey also told herself she was a bad person when her first thought was ‘I told you so’ after Ben broke out in hives. Of course, she attempted to render medical assistance thereafter.
“Stick your fingers down your throat!” she told him, wiping the remaining crumbs off her own fingers. “I don’t have a gag reflex but it’s not too late for you to save yourself from the cheese-“
Ben sneezed. “It’s not the cheese,” he said, eyes watering. “I’m allergic to grass.”
Rey looked around the green. There were dozens of other students enjoying the rare warm spring day, playing Frisbee, reading, and napping. Nobody who looked competent to handle a grass allergy, much less help her carry her boyfriend if he went into anaphylactic shock.
“Why didn’t you tell me?” she asked, packing up their basket and hustling Ben back towards his car. He sneezed again.
“In seventh grade I heard my dad complain to one of his friends when I went out for water polo instead of lacrosse,” he told her. “Being allergic to grass isn’t my manliest quality.” This was yet another metaphor for his entire childhood, so Rey didn't scold him again for holding back and focused on getting him to safety.
Rey drove him straight back to her apartment with her stash of Benedryl and dosed him into somnolence. He did not look very manly with his puffy eyes and running nose either, but she felt an unfamiliar and ferocious tenderness overwhelm her once he was passed out, snoring, on her futon.
Rey didn’t have a pet. Or younger relatives. Or anyone who had looked to her for care, that she could recall.
It felt a little silly to feel protective of Ben Solo. He was tall and broad and brilliant. Their professors did not treat him lightly. He was not jostled when they walked through the halls of their school.
But when Rey gazed down at him, she had the sudden wish that she could have met him earlier, and kept him safe. Not as a child, but as the woman she was. She wanted to cradle him in her arms as an infant. She wanted to wipe his tears as a lonely child. She wanted to embrace him as a young man and tell him that he was beautiful.
She laboriously rolled him over and climbed in behind him on the futon. She held him until he woke up.
* * *
The morning of their move Rey and Ben were surprised to find that their new apartment was not entirely empty.
On the center island of their new kitchen there was a Kitchenaid mixer matching their sleek silver appliances. (Ben’s VC funding had come through and Rey tried not to think too hard about the kind of investor that went in heavily on “Poacher: the Video Game.” Rey’s new job had at least come with a signing bonus sufficient to buy an Ikea daybed for the guest bedroom).
Rey was busy cooing over the long-coveted kitchen gadget and did not initially notice the small wooden recipe box next to the mixer. Ben opened it and began flicking through the yellowed cards within. There was a cheerful pattern of daisies around the edges of the cards, each of which was written out in a flowing cursive.
“Who?” Rey asked, not specifying the sender as opposed to the author of the recipe cards.
Ben cleared his throat. “My grandmother,” he said, showing Rey a card explaining the preparation of “Chicken La Fonda.”
“…Padme?” Rey asked after a moment, thinking back to the flowcharts Ben created to explain his lineage.
He shook his head.
“No, Jaina. Padme and Breha were governors. They probably had people cook for them all their lives.”
“…so it’s from your dad?” Rey asked, confused.
Ben put the card carefully back in the box.
“My dad, if he ever thought to give us a housewarming gift, would send liquor and cigarettes. No, must be my mom.”
Rey looked around the apartment in wonder. Their furniture wasn’t even in yet. Rose was still texting Rey’s phone about the progress of the movers back at Ben's old apartment.
“How did she know?” Rey wondered.
Ben snorted. “My mother knows everything. I’ll bet she knew before the office approved our security deposit.”
Rey ran an appreciative hand over the mixer.
“It’s, um, horribly intrusive. And kinda creepy. And she should have called you or something. And we can’t keep it, right?” she said, trying to keep the wistful note from her voice.
“I’ll allow the gross abuse of power as long as it’s for good,” Ben said. “It’s the Skywalker way.”
* * *
It took many months to make it through the new list. Rey and Ben found that some goals took more than one weekend to address. Some didn’t work at all (like 69: she fell on Ben’s face and gave him a bloody lip and they never tried it again).
“Address irrational fear of partner leaving,” for example, was not really a discussion but a work in progress.
“Fix friends/family so they’re less awful" also took some time and patience. Ben offered to pay actors to attend life events up to and including their engagement party or eventual wedding, but Rey preferred to read self-help books on communication and tell Finn how his behavior made her feel after a few rounds of Midori Sours at the campus pub. Finn matched her two drinks for her every one until he felt all her feelings and confessed every sin he’d ever committed against her or anyone else. Rey considered him appropriately punished after his hangover the next day. And delivering her futon to the Audubon Center. And helping her move. And giving her first refusal on the television until the end of their lease. And cooking her coconut rice whenever she demanded it (which was often).
However, eventually Ben and Rey came to the end of the list, long after the butt stuff and the mime sex and his grandmother's emerald ring.
“So, I got us something to celebrate,” Rey told her fiancé, handing him a wrapped package.
Ben didn’t give her many presents, since he’d known the difference between giving gifts and giving love since earliest childhood, and thus they’d passed many gift-giving occasions with the exchange of nothing more than home-cooked meals and sexual favors.
His expression was intrigued when he opened it, though, and it shifted rapidly to delight when he pulled the oddly-shaped device out.
“Is this…?” he said, turning it over.
“A custom-built tentacle dildo harness,” Rey said proudly. “With a detachable vibrator. For her. Well, for me.”
The tentacle end was soft, premium silicon, and the harness was adjustable. It was a high-end piece, and Rey was proud of the thought and design that had gone into it.
“I’d say you shouldn’t have, but really I should have ordered this that first weekend. I can’t believe we never added this to the list,” Ben said, wrapping his arms around her.
Rey leaned up to kiss the man who had been doing his best to make all her dreams come true since their first raid together.
“Wanna clean up and try it out?” Rey asked Ben.
Ben, who was as much about the butt stuff as he’d been since turning to the Dark Side of the Force, readily agreed.
When he was out of the shower and lubed up on all fours on their bed, Rey pulled up a very special soundtrack on her phone and connected it to the speaker.
“What video game is that?” Ben asked, frowning at the little Bluetooth hub. The 32 bits of sound tinkled merrily. It was the best the Super Nintendo had offered.
Rey shrugged, trying to keep her face from disclosing her glee. He hadn’t recognized it yet.
“Not sure,” she said. “It’s just nice and upbeat.”
She got herself rigged into the harness and swallowed an <umph> when she flipped on the vibrator. This little toy was going to get a lot of rotation, she already knew it.
She ran her hands over Ben’s taut ass, resisting the urge to pinch.
“Hey, what’ve we got here?” Rey quoted. Ben gave her a curious look—he had nothing she had not seen before—but still didn’t pick up on it.
“Gwee-hee-hhe, you’re up the creek without a paddle!” Rey continued, pulling out a blindfold she’d stashed under the bed for just such an occasion.
Ben didn’t resist when she wrapped the black fabric around his eyes, but he now looked mildly concerned.
“Um, sweetie?” he asked, but Rey was determined.
“Ink spell! Does this make me a bad octopus?” she demanded, tightening the blindfold around his head and letting him feel the tip of the tentacle at his ass.
She could feel the exact moment he figured it out. He tightened up.
“Oh God,” he said. “Please tell me this isn’t a Final Fantasy VI scene.”
“You’re a tasty morsel! I can’t wait to get my tentacles around you,” Rey replied, leaning in so that the tip barely penetrated him.
Ben’s laugh turned into a snort, and then a choke.
“Noooo,” he moaned in fake distress. “I played this game as a little kid.”
Rey rocked her tentacle against him, edging in bit by bit. It had to be deep enough now that he could feel the vibrations. His hands fisted in the sheets.
“I can’t believe I’m being fucked by Ultros,” he gasped.
“And I can’t believe I memorized all this dialogue,” Rey retorted, grabbing his hips and pulling them back toward her. “Don’t make me forget my lines. ‘Sploosh.’”
“I love you so much,” Ben sighed, shoulder muscles tightening as Rey gave a first hard thrust.
“I love you too,” Rey said. “’Sploosh. Seafood soup.’”