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You're the only love language I need

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Rey trains her focus on a single raindrop outside the window, following its journey down the glass to the sill outside.

A clap of thunder reverberates above her head and a tear falls from her eye. A single tear to match that one, single raindrop.

The dreary weather outside couldn’t match her day more perfectly.

A trembling finger wipes away the tear from her eye as she steals another glance at the large yellow envelope.

How desperately she wishes it was something other than what she knows it is.

A note from a long-lost friend-

A letter from her adoptive parents all the way on the other side of the world-

An invitation to a fancy photography event, where she can glam up and show her hunky husband off on her arm-

Rey rests her head gently against the glass as the reality of the situation hits home.

Unfortunately, it’s none of those things.

Unfortunately, she knows in her heart that the envelope holds her divorce papers – the ones her husband kindly dropped off while she was at work.

Rey had known it was coming, but the pain of seeing the envelope edged under her door had hit her much harder than she’d ever anticipated.

She’d opened the door and picked up the envelope, noting Ben’s tidy handwriting on the front.

He’d simply written Rey – succinct and to the point, she thought.

Before she’d even taken her shoes off or thrown her bag away, she’d sunk limply to the floor.

The tears flowed more freely in that moment than they had for the past few weeks since she’d heard him finally give voice to what she knew he’d been thinking-

‘I think we should get a divorce’

7 words that had shattered her heart into a million pieces.

‘Why doesn’t he love me?!’ she’d cried out on the tiled floor of her front entry.

I just can’t do this anymore’, is all he’s said.

But, why?!

She hadn’t gotten any answers yet, but deep-down Rey knew she shouldn’t beg him to stay, as much as she was tempted to.

It had only begun as a trial separation, Ben moving to his mate Finn’s house for some space, and yet one month later Ben still hadn’t come home.

Rey wasn’t even sure how you went about getting a divorce these days, it’s something she’d never even contemplated for her and Ben.

She’d always thought they’d be together until they were old and grey, not that they’d be appearing in front of a judge to end their marriage only 4 years after saying I do.

Begrudgingly, she’d picked herself up and dusted herself off to relocate the envelope to the kitchen bench.

 

Turning away from the gloomy window, she leans over the bench and stares at the papers, 3 weeks later and still unopened.

Why even open them?

‘Because I need you to sign them’

Don’t I have to be there with you when it’s made official?

‘No. I’ll get a copy of the certificate to you’

He hadn’t even called her, she’d had to ask him through a series of brief text messages.

Rey was beside herself, her heart pounding and tears falling freely once more.

How could a divorce be made official simply because a husband wants it?

What about the wife? Does she have any say in this at all?

It’s a quick appearance before a judge and then you receive a certificate in the mail – that’s it.

As simple as that.

Except, it will never be as simple as that.

Rey still loved Ben and she wanted to make this work, and for that reason-

-she’d already decided she wasn’t going to sign.

 

~~~~~~

 

Finn hears the familiar sound from the other side of their guest bedroom door.

It’s his best mate Ben – crying.

Again.

Finn isn’t sure what to do. His Dad had always told him that real men don’t cry, but this was different.

He knew Ben, Ben was his closest mate.

And Ben was a real man, so why shouldn’t he cry when he’s unhappy?

Plus he’s not just unhappy - he’s heartbroken.

Ben’s been staying with Finn for 4 weeks now, having hardly left their spare room except to eat, and a few times to shower when Finn yelled at him because the stench was unbearable.

Fine’ he’d grumbled, Finn noticing how unkempt he was beginning to look, dark circles under his eyes and a thick beard covering his chin.

Ben had always been a good-looking guy – hot, the girls Finn knew would always call him.

smouldering – hunky – mysterious

He could think of a thousand other descriptions he’d heard his female friends whisper about Ben, but that wasn’t really the point.

And yet here Ben was, 28 years old and miserable, on the brink of a divorce with his wife of four years.

 

We have to do something, Finn’ Rose urges her husband as Ben emerges from his room to make the short trek to the bathroom, shirtless in only a pair of checked boxer shirts.

Finn realises this is the first time Ben’s been up to shower without him having to practically break down the door.

The bathroom door closes and Rose sinks into the chair, taking her husband’s hand.

Finn’ she urges more forcibly this time. ‘He’s miserable. And I can’t stand it anymore

He’s not going to work, he’s lazing around our house and eating all our food and to be honest, it’s driving me nuts…as much as I love him

And what about Rey?’ she continues, her head dropping to her propped-up palm. ‘I can’t even get in contact with her and I need to make sure she’s alright

Finn nods sympathetically. He knew everything Rose was saying was true, but he didn’t even know where to begin with trying to fix it.

He can’t stay here forever’

Finn knew that. He did.

He and Rose had only been married two years themselves, but they were wanting to start trying for a family, something they’d felt they had to avoid while Ben was there.

So’ Rose starts, stepping up to grab coffee from the pot. ‘I’m taking this’ she points out, pouring the coffee into her travel mug ‘and I’m going for a drive to see Rey

Finn sighs, leaning back in his chair - he knows what’s coming next.

And you’ – here it comes – ‘you need to get Ben back to his normal self, and he needs to start pulling his weight around here if he’s going to continue to stay with us’

She glares back at him. ‘Ok?’

Finn nods again. ‘You’re right honey, you are

I’ll do my best, ok? That’s all I can do

Then an idea hits Rose. ‘I can’t believe I didn’t think of this before…

Finn looks a little confused as she sits her coffee aside to dash to the bedroom. She’s gone no more than 2 minutes when she returns, plonking a book down in front of him.

Finn glances down at the cover.

The Five Love Languages

Read this’ she says with a wink. ‘Trust me

Maybe you could read it together?

Finn makes a face at the book, flipping it over to read the back. ’Is this one of those stupid self-help things, Rose? Because I dunno…

I’m not sure this is what Ben needs right now

Finn doesn’t tell his wife that he found this very book a few years ago, and he’s already read it cover to cover.

He also doesn’t tell her that it had really helped him in their own marriage.

Rose shrugs. ‘Have any better ideas?

Finn looks at her with resignation and a large sigh. ‘Nope. I got nothin

Ok then’ she says sweetly. ‘Can’t hurt to give it a try, right?

Ben trusts you, if anyone can get through to him, it’s you

Finn sighs again, Rose grabbing her purse and keys from the bench. She makes her way over and leans over her husband’s shoulder.

I can’t bear to see them apart any longer, babe. They’re our friends, and we need to see if we can fix this

Just then Ben exits the bathroom and heads out to the living/dining area for the first time in almost 4 days.

He stands before the two of them, clean shaven and fully dressed in casual sweatpants and a tight black tee.

His hair now sits just above his shoulders, having grown quite a bit since he first arrived.

Finn has to blink a few times to make sure he’s real – the man standing in front of him a starkly different man to the one who’s been inhabiting their apartment for the last month.

Ben, hey’ Rose says sweetly, stealing a shocked glance at Finn. ‘Want some coffee?

Thanks’ he responds, taking a seat at the table across from Finn.

Finn glances up and catches Ben’s slightly red eyes, the pair smiling briefly at each other. Finn can’t even remember the last time he saw Ben smile…

Pouring a cup of coffee for Ben, Rose places it in front of him and wraps her arms around his shoulders.

Good to see you up and about’ she whispers.

And it’s good to see that beard gone’ she remarks to Ben as she bends down to plant a kiss on Finn’s cheek, offering a brief wave as she leaves.

Well, I’m off. Bye boys!

No one likes my beard’ Ben mutters, shaking his hair from his eyes.

Rey does

It leaves Finn’s mouth before he has time to think about it, recalling how Ben had revealed to him once just how much Rey loved his beard when he’d-

Yeah, probably a little inappropriate to bring up right now.

Finn clears his throat uncomfortably, Ben making a face while eyeing the book on the table.

What’s that?’ Ben peers over at the cover with his eyes squinted.

Oh. Some book Rose thought might help you guys

Ben leans back in his chair with a sigh. ‘I wish it was as easy as reading some book…

He runs a nervous hand through his hair, shifting in the chair. ‘But you know what I did realise today?’

‘How much I really miss her

Finn’s relieved to hear him finally admit it.

I miss the way she smells. I miss waking up to her hair on my pillow’ he muses, staring aimlessly out the dining room window.

He pauses… ‘I miss her smile, I miss her laugh, I miss just having her around’

‘And yet, I’m still here

Finn simply nods not wanting to interrupt Ben because he’s finally talking about it. But Ben is looking at him as if he maybe wants his advice.

Finn takes a deep breath and leans forward on the table. ‘Do you still love her?

Ben’s eyes are still focused out the window, the curtain blowing in the slight breeze.

Yeah’ He says it so softly Finn can hardly hear it.

Is there anyone else?’ Finn regrets even asking, but it was the first thing he’d thought of when Ben first called him, especially knowing how attracted the women in his life were to the guy.

Not that he ever thought Ben would cheat on Rey, but he still felt he needed to ask.

Ben turns back and stares at him as if he’s insane, blinking once, but he doesn’t hesitate with his answer.

And he sounds almost offended that Finn would even ask.

Of course not

That’s certainly a relief.

Ok, so…’ Finn turns his hands up. ‘What are you doing here then?

Ben stands and walks over to the window, moving the curtain to look outside. It’s probably the first natural light he’s seen in a few weeks.

I really have no idea’ He turns his head to look up the street. ‘I guess I just don’t know how to fix this

He makes his way slowly back to the table and slumps in the chair looking more than a little lost.

Finn continues to try and get answers from him, but he doesn’t want to push him so far that he’ll retreat straight back into his shell.

Do you mind if I ask what the problem is?’

Ben glances up.

What you’re unhappy with? That might be a good place to start?

Ben hadn’t yet told Finn anything about his plans to divorce Rey, or the reasons behind it.

He’d simply called him that fateful day to ask if he could stay for a while, and Finn was his mate so of course he’d said ‘for as long as you need’.

But he’d only anticipated it being a few days, not one whole month.

It was only Rose who’d found out from a mutual friend of theirs that Ben was planning to end their marriage, and as far as they knew, Ben still hadn’t told his wife why.

Ben blows out a breath and sinks back in the chair, his huge legs manspreading and his hands falling between.

He looks defeated.

His focus is on something behind Finn, but Finn just sits and waits for him to continue, playing with the cup handle in front of him.

Can we?’ Ben asks, standing to gesture to the living area. They grab their coffee mugs and head to the couch, sinking down in unison.

Ben sighs twice, and then it all starts coming out.

It just isn’t…fun anymore, you know? I miss what we used to have

Ok’ Finn nods. ‘So, what was that?

Ben sighs again. ‘Well, we used to go out on dates, and stuff

You know. Laugh, have sex, the things normal married people do

Yeah. So, what changed?

Ben’s eye rise to the ceiling and then down again, his jaw working from side to side.

Everything, really

Rey’s too busy with her photography business for one, and these gallery showings seem to be happening most nights now

And the sex? Pfft. I can’t even remember the last time, to be honest

She’s always got a headache. Or the time before that she had photos that urgently needed printing – as if that couldn’t have waited half an hour…

Finn’s mostly silent while letting Ben vent, but he also wants to ask questions so he’ll open up more, hoping it won’t come across as too self-helpish

Can I ask you another question?

Ben turns to face him now. ‘Sure

If you had to list the one thing in your marriage you absolutely cannot do without, what would it be?

Ben leans back and stares blankly at the wall for a minute or so, turning his head back to Finn.

If I say sex, you’ll smack me right?

Finn shakes his head, his mind casting back to what he’d read in the book sitting on the dining room table.

Actual sex, or all the other stuff that goes along with it?

Ben’s lashes flutter as he thinks about his answer. ‘It’s not just the sex…it’s everything physical

It’s the whole physical side of our relationship’

‘I need hugs, I need kisses, I need to be touched and sex is just the end result of all that

He pauses. ‘Well, on a good night anyway

The two of them laugh together.

And it’s not like we don’t do that stuff, just not as much as I’d like

Finn knows how this next sentence is going to be received, but he says it anyway. ‘Your Love Language is physical touch, Ben

He sounds like a counsellor when he says it and he’s trying not to laugh, but Ben isn’t laughing.

All he does is groan. ‘Geez, Finn. This isn’t about some book. It’s about much more than that

Finn gets that. ‘You’re right. It is about more than that. It’s about you, and Rey

But I’ll tell you something, I have actually read that book and I think you’ll find it’s saved more marriages than it’s ruined

The sound that leaves Ben’s mouth is that of a resigned growl and he places his right-hand palm up toward Finn. ‘Lemme see it then. What have I got to lose?

Finn grabs the book from the table and hands it to Ben, resting back on the couch to drink the rest of his coffee.

Ben leans forward and places his empty coffee mug onto the coffee table, resting his elbows on his thighs.

He flips the book over in his large hands, reading the back before flipping to the list of Love Languages inside the front cover, reading them aloud.

Receiving gifts Quality time Words of affirmation Acts of service (devotion) Physical touch

He’s silent for a while, reading the few paragraphs written below while chewing nervously on his thumb nail.

Finn looks over at him and Ben shrugs. ‘I mean, it makes sense

Yeah, it does

So you’re physical touch. But with most people there’s usually one primary and one secondary language

Ben screws his face up and looks over at Finn.

Hey, hey. I know I sounds a little…soppy. But just go with it, ok?

What do you think your second one is?

Ben scans the list again. ‘I’d say…’ he pauses to debate two options before settling on one. ‘Probably words of affirmation

Finn nods, because that’s his too.

I love Rey telling me I’ve done a good job with…whatever, or she’s proud of me for achieving something

Or that I look so good she wants to take me home and have her way with me

Finn cracks up. ‘Yeah, I think any human male loves hearing that

Ben looks a little concerned. ‘But is that selfish? Like I know she shouldn’t have to do those things just to make me feel better about myself?

But that’s kinda the whole point’ Finn places his empty mug down. ‘The point is that you both know each other’s language and you use them as a way to make sure the other person feels loved and appreciated in the relationship

So it’s a win-win really. Once you know what Rey’s are, that is

Finn continues. ‘Ok, so your marriage. What else do you miss?

The fun has gone, you know? The laughs, the teasing

I miss that stuff

We’re both too tired and almost leading two separate lives

Ok, so. Want some more advice?’ Finn asks, still hopeful.

Sure, can’t hurt. You might even come up with something that’ll help, heaven forbid’ Ben retorts, playfully punching him in the arm.

Finn is just happy he’s starting to see a little of the Ben he used to know creeping back in.

Well, not meaning to brag but I am happily married to a very, ahem…satisfied wife, if I do say so myself

Ben’s his mate, he doesn’t want him to feel like he has all the magical answers, he just hopes he can help him thrash it all out.

Ben laughs and lets out a long groan, settling back into the couch. ‘Right, ok. Lay it on me

Alright, so. Out of all the things you just mentioned, what are the ones you absolutely cannot fix?

Ben left eye twitches. ‘Uh…’ He takes a minute to think about his answer, going over the issues he just mentioned.

I guess…none of them are unfixable

Well, that’s a good start

So, next. Which one do you want to fix the most? Besides the sex part

Ben huffs a laugh. ‘Uh…the fun stuff?

Ok, so how can you do that?

Ben turns to stare at him. ‘Me?

He nods again. ‘Yeah, you. What can you do to fix it?

Why do I need to be the one to fix it? It takes two, doesn’t it?

Yeah, it does. But Rey doesn’t even know what the problems are yet, does she?

So maybe it’s best you try and make some changes, then she’ll know you’re serious about putting in the effort

If you want to get this marriage back on track, that is?’ Finn lowers his head to try and catch Ben’s line of sight.

Ben’s head springs up. ‘Yeah, yeah. Of course I do

Plus, you issued the papers, she didn’t

Ben nods slowly. ‘Yep, you’re right. Again

‘But when it comes to fun, I don’t even know where to start to be honest

Well what did you enjoy doing before it became…not as much fun anymore?

We used to go out to dinner all the time, I loved that’. Ben fidgets with the empty cup in his hand.

Dinner and a movie, or just dinner. But Rey’s been so busy recently, we haven’t really had time

All I ever do is sit at home now while she goes out to her gallery showings

Finn grabs his mug and walks it back into the kitchen, Ben following and plonking down on the stool.

Does she ever ask you to go along?

Ben nods. ‘Yeah, all the time

So, why don’t you?

Ben just stares blankly back at him, his jaw working in that way that it does. ‘I have no idea…

Finn thinks Ben might finally be starting to realise that the issues in his relationship are not just up to Rey to fix.

Ben simply shrugs back at him. ‘It’s just her thing, I guess’.

Well, do you want to share things with her, or just do your own thing? Cause as far as I can see, doing your own thing isn’t making you happy either

Ben leans back on the stool and crosses his arms.

Plus there’s no reason you can’t take her out to dinner before her showing, is there?

Finn can see his face change as he slowly nods his head. ‘Huh

Man, you’re good at this. You should be a counsellor or some shit

Finn’s turn to laugh now. ‘Yeah, dunno about that but I just know you have to work together, or it’ll never work

Trust me. Our marriage hasn’t been perfect either, and we’ve certainly had our moments, but I’ve learnt two things I will share with you

Ben leans forward, now interested.

One – it has to be give and take. From both of you. Compromise, as they call it

The second is – happy wife, happy life

Yeah’ Ben says. ‘I’ve heard that second one so many times, so I guess there must be something in it

Right then’ Ben stands to his full height, rolling his neck around to stretch it. ‘Well, Rey has a show tonight, I think?

He steals a glance down at his expensive watch and nods his head. ‘Yep, tonight

This is definite progress.

And?

And…’ he says, scratching the back of his head before glancing back at Finn. ‘I should go?

Ben nods, essentially agreeing with his own decision. ‘I should go. I’ll surprise her

You should take flowers too

Ben glances at him, raising an eyebrow. ‘Flowers?

Finn shrugs. ‘Can’t hurt. Women love flowers

Ben walks up and gives Finn the largest bear hug, Finn groaning as his humongous body engulfs him.

Geez man, enough!

Ben pulls away with a grin. ‘If this works, I owe you big time

Oh’ he says as he’s walking away. ‘Do you mind if I stay a bit longer though? I mean, I don’t think she’ll want me going back straight away. Maybe I’ll see after tonight?

Yeah man, that’s fine. No rush

Ben smiles. ‘Thanks man, I really do appreciate it

Finn knows he does.

Oh, and do you mind if I borrow your black bowtie?

Finn turns and puts the cups in the dishwasher, smiling to himself. ‘Sure thing. Just make sure you return it this time

Ben’s response is just to wave over his shoulder as he disappears into the spare room.

 

~~~~~~

 

Grabbing the blind cord to turn it slowly, bright light from outside filters into the spare room Ben’s been inhabiting for the last month.

He makes his way over to the mirror and stands up tall, smoothing down his crisp white shirt before tightening the belt on his black suit pants.

Getting dressed up for a ritzy night out isn’t his favourite thing to do, but he reminds himself that this is for Rey.

If they have any hope of making this marriage work, he needs to start changing things up - a night at Rey’s photography exhibition the first thing on his list.

And flowers – he makes a mental note to grab flowers on his way.

He looks down at his shiny silver wedding band, twisting it nervously back and forth around his finger. Thinking back to their wedding day, it’s hard to believe they’re where they are now.

Did they rush into it too young?

He hadn’t thought so then, and to be honest, he didn’t think so now.

Were they even well suited?

Ben knew that second question was a waste of time. There had never been another girl he’d loved as much as Rey.

They had things in common, but they also had differences and he didn’t think that was anything out of the ordinary - that was pretty much describing every other married couple he knew.

The sinking feeling in his gut was that he was in fact the problem, not Rey.

And the other sinking feeling was that by asking her for a divorce, he was taking the easy way out.

And blaming things on her was just avoiding the real issue. He was the one that was unhappy, so it was up to him to work at remedying it.

Taking a deep breath, he sprays some dry shampoo into his shoulder length hair, working the wave at the front just the way Rey likes it.

He hasn’t heard her mention his hair for a long time now, and he misses the way she used to run her hands through it as they lay in bed at night, just talking.

He straightens his bowtie and buttons his cuffs, pulling his black jacket from the chair nearby.

Time to get this show on the road.

 

~~~~~~

 

Why am I so nervous?

Rey takes a deep breath and enters the gallery, the lights flickering to illuminate the dark space.

She’s had plenty of exhibitions before, but this one was different. This one was the first once since her world had fallen apart.

Since the papers had arrived.

Since her heart had been broken in two.

Rey loved her photography more than anything, but the rest of her world was crumbling, and it had taken all the strength she had just to even get out of bed this morning.

She would’ve preferred to be at home watching a trashy movie in her PJ’s and Ugg boots, if she was being honest with herself.

All she wanted was what normal people had – a husband who would support her hobbies, engage in them and enjoy them with her.

Every night she hoped Ben would rock up to one of her shows and surprise her, but she knew now that that would probably never happen.

Stop brooding and get on with it the little voice in her commanded. She really hated that voice…

She straightened her shoulders and headed out the back, dropping her bag onto the chair in the office.

A happy, smiling picture of her and Ben stares back at her from the small mahogany desk. It’s her favourite, the one where Ben’s smile makes her heart melt.

The one where his arms are wrapped securely around her waist with his nose nuzzled into her neck, telling her silently that he’ll always be there and that everything will be ok.

Except, everything is far from ok.

It’s hard to believe that photo is only 4 years old, life having changed immeasurably in such a short amount of time.

How had life started so grand and ended…like this?

But this isn’t the end, Rey, that little voice again. It’s not over until you sign those papers.

Deep down she knows that’s true, but this was mostly up to Ben. If he didn’t want her anymore, she couldn’t force him to love her-

-as much as she might want to.

Rey turns on her heels and heads out into the gallery to check everything’s in order, deciding it’s probably time to start forgetting about Ben the way he’s forgotten about her.

Except that’s the voice in her head talking – it’s not what’s in her heart.

In her heart, she still aches for him.

 

~~~~~~

 

Why am I so nervous?

Ben sits in his car outside the gallery watching small groups of guests mill around outside the front entrance, a burly security guard manning the front door.

He grabs the massive bunch of flowers and the lanyard Rose had kindly lent him from the passenger seat, looping it around his neck, careful not to mess up his perfectly quaffed hair.

The security guard holds the door open for him as he enters, the quiet of the outdoors a vast contrast to the hum of chatter and soft music playing inside the gallery.

Ben steps inside, the door swinging closed behind him.

He takes in the scene before him, his mind flicking back to the day Rey first signed the lease. She’d been so excited to see her dream finally coming true.

It’s what she’d worked so hard for, and Ben felt immediately ashamed that this was only the second exhibition of hers that he’d ever been to, the only other one being the day she first opened.

His eyes scan the space and he spots his wife, standing near one of the largest black and white portraits.

She’s talking happily amidst a small group, one lady placing an arm around her shoulder in a congratulatory hug.

Ben decides to try and blend in, which is hard when he’s as tall as he is, but he doesn’t want Rey to feel pressured to talk to him if she doesn’t want to.

He knows how much he’s hurt her, only now it’s different. Because now, he’s here to make amends.

It’s only then that the group of women disperse, and Rey is left standing alone.

Ben takes in the sight of his wife, looking as stunning as he remembers.

But then again, she always was stunning. She always took his breath away.

She could easily be slotted into a frame herself and hung on the wall, she looks that beautiful.

Ben takes a step and stops, he can’t understand why his feet won’t move.

This is his wife, they’ve been married 4 years and together for a lot longer, so why does his heart suddenly feel like it’s going to explode?

He takes a long, deep breath and his feet begin to move again as he approaches her with flowers in hand.

Rey turns and catches his eye as he nears.

Initially her mouth drops open and then she must realise, because she closes it just as quickly.

She’s glowing under the soft studio lighting, her hazel eyes glistening like the clear lens of her prized Canon camera.

Ben?’ she breathes softly as he comes to stand in front of her, his chest heaving.

Hey

He bends down and places a soft kiss onto the top of her head, handing her the flowers and quickly shoving his hand nervously back into his pocket.

These are beautiful. Thank you’. Rey looks up at him and then back down at the flowers, twirling the bunch around to look at it.

She stands back and takes him in, her eyes travelling over him top to toe, Ben nervously waiting to see if she approves of his attire.

You look handsome

She goes to take a step closer, before quickly stepping back. ‘But then again, you always do

Ben flushes with embarrassment. He realises then he doesn’t tell her enough how beautiful she really is.

You look…gorgeous

Rey is more than a little surprised by his comment, her pinky finger brushing his gently as though she’s reaching for his hand.

‘I didn’t think you’d come

The soft touch of her skin sends a jolt through him, and he now realises that a month without her touch is something he never wants to live through ever again.

Ben sighs, pulling her in close. And she lets him, although she’s not sure she should be.

He breathes into her hair, the sweet smell of shampoo filling his nostrils.

I’m sorry I haven’t supported your passion before now…but I plan to make up for it

She glances up at him with another look of surprise. ‘Do you really mean that?

Absolutely’ Ben nods, swallowing the lump in his throat.

Rey pulls her hand away suddenly. ‘I guess…time will tell?

We should talk though’ she continues, looking around as people gather nearby. She steps away from him as another group of her friends approach, some of whom he recognises.

He can’t really blame her for not being more affectionate, grateful for now she’s at least touched his hand and accepted his flowers.

Ben acknowledges the group and then Rey is busy talking again, so he shuffles away to begin his lap around the gallery.

He shucks his jacket and hangs it on his arm, his left hand shoved deep into his pocket.

She said we should talk, so that’s something.

He’s so proud of Rey in that moment, his head turning to take note of the many people who’ve come to the exhibition, more entering as his eyes pass over the prints dotted on the rustic brick walls.

She has a real eye for photography, Ben has never denied that, and her style is definitely unique.

It’s obvious she prefers black and white subjects too, a multitude of animal and portrait prints making up the majority of her collection.

Ben spots a mutual friend in the corner of the room so he heads on over to say hello, finding himself caught up for the next half hour with mindless chatter. His stomach rumbles so he excuses himself and makes a beeline for a tray of canapes.

They’ve been circling the room at regular intervals and although he eats as many as he can, he decides he’d better stop at McDonald’s on the way back to Finn’s, just in case.

He knew there was a reason fancy events just weren’t his thing, although he stops that train of thought as fast as it comes, reminding himself again that this is for Rey.

The last of the zucchini quiche bite slides down his throat as a pop of colour catches his eye from the other side of the room.

Teal, if he’s not mistaken. One of his favourite colours, when he’s not wearing black, which he usually is.

He makes his way over to the other side of the room, freezing like a deer in the headlights when he finds himself staring back at…

Himself.

To say it’s a little odd to see yourself plastered giant-size on the wall for everyone to look at would be a serious understatement, especially for someone as shy and introverted as Ben.

He wants to look away – after all, it’s weird to stand and look at yourself, isn’t it? Surely it is. But instead, he steps forward for a closer look.

The colour catches the eye and he can’t believe he’d forgotten about this shoot he’d done with Rey.

He crosses his arms and studies the print, remembering the day now as clearly as it was yesterday.

 

~~~~~~

 

Ben, trust me. This colour will look great on you

Rey stood in the hallway with the teal sweater held up, the length of it almost as big as she was tall.

Ben laughed, pretending to look over the top of her. ‘I can hear someone, but I can’t see anyone’ he joked, Rey dropping the sweater lower to huff at him.

Funny! Will you please just try it on? I need to get this done so I can get it printed for the exhibit next week

And yes, I know it’s not black’ she continued, walking toward him. ‘But just trust me, ok?

How could he ever say no when she was standing there looking up at him the way she was?

Well the fact was he couldn’t, so he didn’t. ‘Ok, fine. I’m keeping these black jeans on though

Rey stood back to take him in, summing him up from top to bottom.

Mm’ she hummed ‘I think that might actually work. So yes, you may

Thanks boss’ He steps forward and lifts her chin for a kiss.

He flashes her a wink as he shucks his navy sweater in exchange for the teal one, Rey heading back to their print-covered dining table to sort through photos for her upcoming expo.

Ben heads into the bathroom to adjust himself in the mirror, and he’s surprised to realise he likes this colour a lot more on him than he thought he would.

Maybe colours weren’t so bad after all?

He runs his hand through his hair to get his trademark wave back, standing back to take himself in.

Babe?’ he calls through the open door. ‘Come take a look

Next thing he knows she’s at the door. She stops and rests her head against the doorframe, Ben noticing she’s now chewing on her bottom lip.

She steps forward slowly and turns to look at his reflection in the mirror.

Wow’ she breathes. ‘I knew this colour would look amazing on you

And it really makes your eyes pop

She steps right up to him, her fingers trailing down the front of it. ‘It’s so soft, too

Actually’ She goes to leave but stops and smiles, flicking her hair back over her shoulder. ‘Wear it back to the bedroom, and then take it off…otherwise it’ll get ruined

Ben’s a little confused. Hadn’t she just asked him to try it on so she could take some shots?

He does as he’s told and makes his way back to their room.

He gets his answer when he finds Rey laying on her side on the bed, patting the patch of mattress beside her with that look in her eye.

Her top is off and she’s just in her bra.

Ohhh.

Seems a new teal sweater is all it takes, Rey carefully removing it and placing it on the chair by the bed before making short work of the rest of his clothes.

They make slow, sweet love in the heat of the afternoon sun, lying breathless and sated afterwards.

Mm’ she hums, sounding rather satisfied, her finger tracing his defined pecs.

I told you that sweater was a good idea

 

~~~~~~

 

I told you that sweater was a good idea’ the soft, sweet voice comes from behind him.

Ben turns, and she’s back.

Do you remember the day I took that shot?

God yes’ Ben remembers how the evening shoot had ended too - once again, in the bedroom.

He cocks his head to the side to study the photo, Rey admiring her work.

That colour really makes your eyes pop. I really love it

It’s one of my favourites

Rey?’ Almost as soon as they start a proper conversation, she’s being summoned by a man standing across the floor waving at her.

Ben’s eyes narrow as he nods toward him. ‘Who’s the guy?

Oh, that’s Poe. He’s the subject of my next series of prints

Ben’s brow creases in confusion. Rey swallows and looks over toward the other man, before turning back to Ben.

I’m branching out’ she simply says, turning to walk away. ‘He’s a nude model

Nude?!

Ben doesn’t think, reaching out to grab her arm to stop her. ‘You do nudes now?’ he asks, maybe a little angrily. ‘Since when?

She glares at him and then at his hand on her arm, which he begrudgingly releases. ‘Like I said, I’m expanding my portfolio

With some random guy? You have a perfectly good husband, you know…’ he mutters, trailing off at the end.

Except he’s not sure why he even said that – it’s not like he’d offer to do it instead…

…or, maybe he should?

Rey hands go to her hips and she looks mad, lowering her voice to an angry whisper.

Do I, Ben?

Because from where I’m standing, I have a confused husband. And a husband I haven’t seen for weeks, and an envelope with divorce papers in it

Ben’s shoulders slump. He knows he’s in the wrong here.

She’s a photographer and a grown woman. She can photograph who the hell she wants, whenever the hell she wants.

But he can’t help feeling like a wounded bull.

She waits for him to respond but he doesn’t, so she begins to walk away and he grabs at her again, his grip softer this time but still firm.

Hey’ he says, heart pounding in his chest. He’s about to put himself way out of his comfort zone, but if it brings them back together, then he’s willing to do all this and more.

Photograph me instead

Rey stills to blink up at him.

Ben’ she sighs, the man still calling out to her from across the room. ‘You don’t even like having your photo taken with your clothes on…

I’ll do it for you

Rey waves to the guy to shut him up and looks back up at Ben. ‘You’ll pose nude?’

‘For me?

You realise people will see these photos? They’ll eventually be up on the wall, like these’ She motions to the walls currently surrounding them.

Ben gulps and nods, unsure why he suddenly feels this is absolutely something he needs to do to try and win his wife back.

Will they see…you know, everything?

Rey tries not to smile too wide, for the first time in a long time picturing her husband’s naked body at her fingertips and just how much she’s really missed it. ‘Only what you want them to see

Then, let me do this

For you

She stares up at him, tempted to move the soft curl that’s fallen into his eyes, but resisting.

Mulling over the possible options in her mind she realises now she wants this too, but she’s slightly confused.

Ben has never shown any real interest in her photography before, so why now?

Jealousy, maybe?

Guilt?

She takes a deep breath and decides it could be a good idea after all.

Photographing her husband naked should be much easier than photographing a random stranger, right?

Ben waits, dearly hoping she’ll agree with his mad plan. If he wants to get back into her life, she needs to know he’s serious.

Ok, Ben

Come around tomorrow night at 7, if you’re serious? And we’ll go from there

And with that, she’s gone.

Ben hightails it out of there, sucking in a deep breath of fresh air on the outside steps.

This is not how he thought this night would end. 

 

~~~~~~

 

'Ben! Wait!'

Ben hears a voice from behind him as he's climbing back into the car, the door still open and his keys in his hand.

'I was hoping to catch up with you'

The figure comes closer, now visible under the streetlight - it's Kaydel, one of Rey's old high school friends. He'd heard stories about her from Rey and from all reports she's trouble, but he'd only met her twice that he could remember.

'I heard you and Rey broke up' she says with a gleam in her eye. Ben sighs, stepping out so he can speak to her properly.

People are leaving the gallery he notices out of the corner of his eye, as Kaydel's blabbing about something he only catches the end of.

'Yeah, so he left and now I'm single too. So I was thinking...' She flicks her hair and steps closer to him, essentially caging him in against his own car.

'I always thought you and I would be good together, you know?'

Ben's wondering the best way to get out of this situation. 'Kaydel I'm not sure what you've been told, but Rey and I are still married'

She reaches up and runs her hands through his hair, Ben attempting to push her off gently without being too forceful, but she won't budge.

It's at that moment he looks across to the doorway of the gallery and he sees Rey - she's on the steps staring back at him.

He knows how bad this must look, but there's nothing he can do about it now.

Her face drops and she watches on in horror for a moment before heading back into the gallery, the door closing behind her.

Ben's still frozen on the spot, Kaydel finally pulling away when she doesn't get the attention she's after.

Things were just looking up and now, this? 

Kaydel eventually gets the message, leaving in a huff as Ben slumps in the driver's seat with his head in his hands.

He's not sure how he's going to explain this to Rey tomorrow.

 

Chapter Text

Ben knows he’s awake well before he should be. In reality, it feels like he only just drifted off.

Groaning loudly, he pulls the covers back up and steals a glance at his phone clock, his eyes squinting to adjust to the blue light in the darkness.

1.58am

If there’s one thing Ben is, it’s a sound sleeper - so much so that not even a passing freight train would wake him up.

He has no idea why he's awake, flipping onto his back to listen for noises. And then he hears it.

It’s a soft thumping noise, intermittent against the back of his headboard, slowing for a moment before starting again.

Rolling onto his other side he takes a deep breath and tries to block it out, but it seems to be getting louder.

Finn and Rose’s room is right next door to his, but surely they wouldn’t be awake at this hour?

‘Oh god. Yes!’

Oh…shit.

It’s been a long time between drinks for he and Rey but it’s not like he’s forgotten what sex is.

He glances at his laptop and headphones all the way on the other side of the room, briefly contemplating getting up to grab them, but he’s far too lazy to leave his comfy bed.

Ben’s instant reaction is to raise his clenched fist and bash on the wall to get them to shut up, but then he realises how rude that’d be.

One – this isn’t even his house, it’s theirs.

 And two – just because he’s not getting any doesn’t mean they shouldn’t.

He knows he’s not going to get back to sleep until they're finished, so he pulls himself up against the headboard and closes his eyes, listening to his mate and his wife having sex in the next room.

Finn! Ohhh baby, yes!

Ben’s rather impressed by the noises coming from Rose, the thumping on the wall increasing behind his head.

Surely he’s gonna come soon?

He shakes his head and tries to think about anything other than what’s going on next door, choosing to imagine he and Rey at it instead. If he’s stuck awake, he may as well make the most of it.

Is it weird to get yourself off while listening to your friends getting it on?

Probably, but desperate times and all that…

Sex with Rey was unlike any other woman he’d ever been with.

She wasn’t as…adventurous as other lovers he’d had, but they knew how to please each other and she was so attentive to what he needed – when they actually got around to doing it, that is.

Which hadn’t been much lately.

Maybe because you asked her for a divorce, dickhead.

You could be having sex with her right now if you hadn’t fucked it all up.

It hits him then that tonight is the night he’s meant to pose nude for her, if she’ll even have him after the incident with Kaydel.

Kaydel.

Ben sighs as he realises his hand is down his pants and he’s currently thinking of…Kaydel?

What the hell?

He groans and pulls his hand out, pretty disgusted with himself.

It’s weird to get off with your friends having sex, and it’s certainly a no-go to get off thinking about someone you aren’t even interested in – especially when you’re a married man - so he shoves his hand under his butt and sits on it.

Finn eventually comes, much to Ben’s relief, so he quickly dashes to the bathroom to pee before returning to bed to try and get back to sleep, not waking again until after 6.

 

Rose and Finn are kissing in the kitchen when Ben finally drags himself out for breakfast, the PDA only coming to an end when he takes a seat at the kitchen counter.

You guys look happy. Good night?

Can’t help yourself, can you?

Rose steals a glance at Finn, and he shrugs. ‘Yeah, no different to normal

Hmm. That’s not what I heard…

Ben glances over at the bench and notices flowers and chocolates, and a massive love heart balloon he’d somehow missed when he walked in.

Shit. Did I forget your birthday Rose?’ Ben can’t believe he’d forget, he had them all listed in his phone calendar and he hadn’t received a reminder-

Rose laughs, cuddling up to Finn. They look so cute together and he’s a little jealous…

No. But you’ll know about it if you do

Phew.

It’s Valentine’s Day

Oh.

Ben hates Valentine’s Day - he always has.

Just another bloody holiday so the shops can make money, the lovers can do what lovers do and the single people can feel like they have no-one.

He’s never been into it, and to be honest he hates today a lot more now he knows what day it is.

Finn’s busy pouring cereal into the bowl and Rose is fixing coffee, and Ben’s suddenly lost his appetite.

A day full of happy people and romantic gifts is just not what he needs right now.

Rose looks at Finn, and then back to Ben. ‘I know you don’t do Valentine’s, Ben…

You can say that again.

But maybe…’ Finn is eyeing his wife, taking a tentative sip of coffee from his steaming mug. ‘Maybe today would be a good day to do something…

She can’t mean…

For Rey, I mean

Yep. She does.

His initial reaction is to say no, but what if he actually stopped to think about it? Would Rey want him to do something for her?

She’d never really shown much interest in it before, apart from dropping hints about no gifts, which he always thought meant no gifts – but maybe no gifts meant please buy me something?

Yeah, you’re right. I hate it. But, can I ask you a question?

Of course’ Rose nods, taking a seat at the table behind him, Ben spinning the stool around.

When a woman says no gifts…what do they mean…exactly?

Rose can’t help but laugh, but Finn chimes in first. ‘Lemme guess. You think no gifts means no gifts?

Ben nods, making a face.

Uh, wrong! No gifts almost always means please buy me something…anything so I know how much you love me

Or show me you love me. Take me out to dinner, or a movie. Just do something

Right babe?’ Rose agrees, and Ben realises he’s doomed.

All these years he’d believed Rey didn’t want anything when she actually did? Why hadn’t she just said so?

It’s not the first time in his life he’s realised he knows next to nothing about women, but maybe now he’s starting to figure them out he can do something about it?

He can only hope it’s not too late. After last night’s Kaydel incident, he wouldn’t blame Rey if she never spoke to him again, even though it wasn’t at all what it looked like.

He has some serious making up to do, he knows that, but first he needs to make sure she’s even speaking to him.

And he needs to explain last night to her – not what she saw, but what really happened.

I offered to pose nude for her next series of portraits

Rose’s mouth drops and Finn spits out his coffee, scrambling for some paper towel to clean it up.

You did what now?!

Ben groans and rubs his eyes with his hands. ‘Oh god, I don’t know. I thought it was a good idea at the time, and she had this other good-looking guy she said was gonna do it, and I just….I panicked

Is this the same guy that hates a simple selfie?’

Ben’s nodding along.

With his clothes on?

Still nodding.

‘Wow, that’s brave man. Are you still gonna do it?

Ben has no idea. He has no idea if he wants to, but he also has no idea if Rey even wants him to now.

I honestly don’t know. It’s meant to be tonight, so…

He sighs deeply and stands to push the stool back in. ‘I need to get in touch with her and see what the go is, then I’ll go from there

Although Kaydel probably ruined any chance I had…

Rose and Finn look at each other and then back to Ben, Rose sighing and speaking for the both of them.

Kaydel? What did she do now?’ Ben had forgotten Rose also went to school with Kaydel, so she’s probably heard all about her.

That girl’s trouble, Ben. Don’t go anywhere near her, I beg you

I didn’t. She basically accosted me in the carpark across from the gallery and of course Rey happened to be watching…

Rose looks disappointed, and he can’t say he blames her.

Trust me Rose, I’m not interested in Kaydel. I want Rey, and I’ll do whatever it takes to win her back

Including posing nude if I have to

Rose can’t help but laugh. ‘Well, I’m really glad to hear that. But I might have to give that opening night a miss…

They all laugh at that, Ben wondering if he’ll even get to go through with it. ‘Yeah, well, can’t say I blame you

I’d hate to show up this big guy here’ he says with a wink at Finn.

Rose cringes, rolling her eyes. ‘Ok boys. Put the rulers away. I gotta get to work

Finn and Rose finish their breakfast and Rose leaves for work, Finn having a rostered day off. The boys thrash it out on the Playstation for a few hours before Ben gets restless.

Lately he’s sick of being bailed up inside, desperate to get out and get some fresh air.

He could go back to work but he’d finally gained the courage to call them and ask for some personal leave, briefly explaining his situation. Thankfully, they’d been more than accommodating and he’d organised to return to work in 2 weeks.

2 weeks to get himself back to reality, and 2 weeks to get his marriage back on the rails.

Would it be enough time?



~~~~~~



Ben hits the streets early with a to-do list. First stop on his list, the barber.

His hair had gotten so long and unruly when he was locked up in the guest bedroom, it’s time he had it chopped…just a bit.

It was his prized-possession after all, so there was no need to go completely crazy.

Second stop – a gift for Rey. He had no idea what to buy her, but he was thinking jewellery and he hoped the store attendant would be able to advise him more on the subject.

jewellery – chocolates - card

He zips from shop to shop and eventually has everything on his list.

Next stop? Rey.

Just thinking about her these days has his heart racing. Why didn’t it feel that way when they were living together in married bliss?

 He really couldn’t understand it. No-one had ever told him marriage was hard.

They really hadn’t.

The engagement period, the months leading up to their wedding – it was all focused on the happiness that comes from marriage - but who’s there to tell you about the hardships?!

About the times you doubt yourself and the times you won’t feel so in love?
About the times you’ll argue and often won’t speak for hours?
The times you want your own space to do your own thing?
The times your significant other won’t want sex because she’s tired, or she just doesn’t feel like it?

No-one talks about those things, and in his opinion they should.

Ben realises now he’d basically given up when it all got too much, when instead he should’ve been pushing through the hard times – with Rey.

Not alone.

He’s so angry with himself for not seeing it sooner but he knows it’s no good feeling depressed about it – he can only look to the future and try his best to fix the mess he’s made.

Bags in hand, he heads back to Finn and Roses’ to get ready for the next part of his plan.



~~~~~~



Rey doesn’t work Thursdays.

Ben knows it’s her one day off during the week, and the day she likes to lounge around the house in her active wear.

God, he loved those days – watching her parade (no she wasn’t parading, she was just acting normally come to think of it) around in those tight little leggings and tank tops…

Trying to put those images out of his mind is hard. Harder now he’s here, out the front of their apartment.

Has she already seen him through the window? Would she even open the door if she knew it was him?

Only one way to find out.

Checking their mailbox on the way through the lobby he’s surprised to find it full of marketing material and mail from a week ago.

Rey was always the one who loved to collect the mail. There wasn’t a day she wouldn’t practically run to the mailbox hoping to find something interesting, usually coming back upstairs empty handed and disappointed.

A sinking feeling settles in his stomach as he climbs the stairwell, that familiar building smell reminding him of all the things he used to love.

Home.

The home they’d moved into after they were married-

The home they’d dreamed of bringing their kids up in-

Would they even have kids now?

He just wasn’t sure.

One thing he does know for sure – the woman that opens their apartment door is a far cry from the woman he left over a month ago.

Ben’s heart breaks when he sees her.

His wife.

Far from the glamourous woman of the photo gallery the previous night, she opens the door with messy hair and ill-fitting trackpants, dark circles evident under both eyes.

His first instinct is to bolt.

He doesn’t want to see her like this – had he made her this way?

Had him leaving had this effect on her?

He can’t even bear to think that that may be the case – his heart just couldn’t take it.

His second instinct is to grab her. Grab her in his arms and tell her how sorry he is and pledge with everything he has to promise it’ll all be ok.

But he can’t.

He left – he put her in this position.

Ben knows he has no right to feel anything but remorse and shame for his actions.

Rey doesn’t say a word but thankfully for him, she holds the door open and allows him back inside his own place.

But it’s not the place he left.

They weren’t perfect, but their house was always reasonably tidy.

Now there’s clothes on the couch and a pile of dirty dishes in the sink, things Rey wouldn’t have stood for over a month ago, either telling him to get off his ass and do them or just doing them herself.

He takes a seat at the dining table. Rey doesn’t sit right away – in fact she looks a little stunned.

Neither of them say a word for a few minutes, Rey going about her business as if he wasn’t even there.

Ben can see it’s going to be up to him to break the ice – and if he’s not careful, he could break their marriage even more if he makes just one wrong move.

I’m sorry, Rey

It’s the only thing he can think of to say.

He knows it won’t fix everything, but surely it’s a start. And it’s not just words – he sincerely means it.

Rey looks up at him from the pile of clothes she’s folding. Her face seems to soften momentarily, but it’s short lived as she goes straight back to what she was doing.

And you’re early, Ben

Early?

Oh.

Shit.

Uh…I wasn’t sure if we were still doing it? I was just dropping in to see how you are…

Her eyes raise and lock with his. ‘Why? Are you going back on your word?

If looks could kill.

No way. I’m still up for it, if you are?

Ben thought he might have gotten out of it after last night but in true Rey style, she’s obviously going to hold him to his word.

Probably to see if he’s going to be truthful from now on or if he’s going to make promises and then go back on them…

You know…like marriage vows?

Well, we’ll have to do the shoot tomorrow now because I have plans tonight…

His wife has plans on Valentine’s Day?

With who?

But we can work on some poses and things right now…if you’ve got no other plans?

Ben doesn’t have any other plans. In fact, he’ll stay for as long as Rey will let him.

 But he’s curious about her plans.

Are you going out?

Yes. If you must know I’ve got a hot date…you know, seeing as my husband has moved on with another woman already

He can feel her rolling her eyes at him, even though he can’t see it.

There it is.

He was waiting for her to bring it up, and it didn’t take long. Ben sighs and moves closer, Rey taking a step backwards and looking up at him.

He could grab her and kiss her for days, but instead he simply explains what happened.

Rey. It really wasn’t what it looked like

She cocks her head at him, with her hands on her hips. ‘It wasn’t? Then what exactly was it, Ben?

God, she’s so adorable when she’s angry.

Kaydel approached me after your showing, just as I was getting into the car

Yes, she basically propositioned me but no, I didn’t even consider it. Not for one second

I told her I didn’t know what she’d heard, but that you and I were still married’

Ben sighs deeply and sinks into the chair once more. ‘That’s it

Rey moves from the laundry basket to the dining table, leaning over the back of the chair. ‘Is that the whole truth, Ben?’

‘Yes. I swear to you – that’s it

She tentatively takes a seat opposite him, her head propped on her hand. ‘Well, thank you for being honest

Ben can only smile back at her.

And yes, I believe you. Because Paige was two cars behind yours, and she saw the whole thing. I guess I just needed to hear it from you.

There’s several moments of silence when they’re both just at the table staring at each other before Ben just has to ask.

So…are you really going out tonight? With some guy, I mean?

Rey blushes. ‘No. Well, yes I’m going out, but not with any guy

Rose and Finn invited me to their Valentine’s dinner date, and I said I’d go. I know, I know…it’s a bit weird, but I really feel like a night out so…

You should go’ Ben’s just happy she’s getting out of the house again, even though it’s not with him.

Although the next thing on his to-do list is to ask her out on a date, so hopefully she’ll say yes when the time comes.

I have something for you

Rey looks hesitant. ‘You…do?

She peers over at the bag he’s just lifted up onto the table. ‘What is it?

It’s just a little something’ Ben stands and walks around behind her, Rey still seated at the table.

Happy Valentine’s Day

A quick look over her shoulder is all he gets, but he can see a hint of a smile as she opens the bag to look inside.

She opens the card first, Ben holding his breath to see if she likes it as much as he did.

It’s so nice to hear the laughter that follows when she reads it – it’s been so long since he heard her laugh.

Ben!

He can’t help but crack up himself. He’d laughed in the shop when he bought it too, attracting a few odd looks.

The front of the card is perfect for a photographer and reads: I shoot people, and sometimes cut off their heads

He loved it this morning, and he still loves it now.

Sorry, sorry’ he manages to get out in amongst the laughter. ‘I just thought it was perfect

It really is. I love it

She goes eerily quiet as she reads what he’s written inside, Ben’s heart racing.

Rey,
Your previous husband pretty much sucked…but the newer model will be much more reliable, I can promise you that.
I’m sincerely sorry for the heartache I put you through, and I hope you can forgive me.
I realise now what an idiot I’ve been and I hope we can stay married forever.
If you’ll have me?
Love always, Ben x

Rey lays the card back on the table to turn and look at him. ‘Do you really mean that?

Every word

Rey knows it’s going to take a lot to truly believe he means what he says, but she’s starting to feel a little more hopeful about their future.

She reaches into the bag to pull out the tiny jewellery box inside, flipping the red lid up. Inside is a beautiful silverstone crystal miniature camera pendant on a silver chain, Rey instantly falling in love with it.

It’s so beautiful’ She undoes the catch to put it on, but Ben stops her. His hands clasp around hers and Rey stills, the feel of his skin on hers making her heart race like it did last night when their hands touched.

It’s silly to feel this way about her husband of all people, she’s sure – they’ve been through a lot together, but everything is feeling new again.

Ben takes the necklace and places it around her neck, shifting her hair to the side to do it up at the back.

Rey cradles the small pendant in her fingers as it shines in the sunlight.

I really love this, Ben

Thank you

He takes a chance and bends down to rest his head on her shoulder – and he’s thrilled when she doesn’t pull away.

You’re welcome

Ben talks softly next to her ear. The ear he’s now desperate to nibble on…

I’m sorry I haven’t done V Day before now, but I honestly thought you weren’t into it. But I want you to know that I’ll be doing it from now on

Rey totally surprises him, turning to plant a soft kiss on his cheek…and that’s all he needs.

A simple kiss from his wife is everything right now.

She pushes her seat back and Ben pulls away.

So…do you love me enough to take your clothes off?

Ben knows that wasn’t meant to sound as sexual as it did, but even so he was not ready for the way he’d feel hearing her ask him to take his clothes off.

Even though it was actually him that offered himself in the first place.

His heart pounds and there’s a stirring below – a stirring that will be completely embarrassing if she’s meaning she wants him to do this now-

Which, from the way she’s looking around for her camera means she does…

She’s only mentioned him taking his clothes off and his dick is already hard. It’s going to be a tough assignment, he has no doubt.

Yep. Yes, absolutely

Are we doing this…now?’ he asks, looking around their apartment.

Where exactly does she want to do this anyway?

In the loungeroom with the curtains open in the middle of the day? Surely not.

In the bedroom? God, he wishes.

All he can do is await further instruction.

Rey finds her camera amongst the mess on the couch and flicks through the settings as if she’s going to take a few happy snaps, and it’s no big deal.

But it’s a big deal to Ben…and it’s looking to be a big deal to his dick, which is now making itself known in his pants.

Rey hasn’t noticed that part yet thankfully, but she’s assessing the apartment for the best place, cocking her head from side to side while deep in thought.

How about just here?

Uh…in the kitchen? I don’t think…

Oh god, you’re right. That wouldn’t look so good’ she laughs to herself. ‘Shit, ok…

She looks around for a little longer, leaving Ben standing there with a growing hard-on.

Ok, this might sound weird but…would the bedroom be ok?

Ben swallows nervously and tries to think of anything unsexy to stop what’s happening in his pants.

The bedroom?

The bedroom they’ve slept in? The bedroom they’ve had sex in?

I mean, why would that be weird?

Um…I guess?

Rey nods, happy with her decision. She walks past Ben and gestures to the bedroom, only now noticing the sheer terror on his face.

He tries his best to take a long, deep breath to calm his nerves.

Hey, just relax. Nothing I haven’t seen before

She’s right. What’s the big deal?

Rey walks the hall and turns left into their bedroom, Ben still rooted to the spot. He hasn’t moved and she pokes her head out the door, camera still in hand.

Ben? You coming?

His feet begin to move, and he eventually finds himself in their bedroom.

It hasn’t changed at all and he’s not sure why he was expecting anything different, although a part of him had wondered if Rey changed everything after he left.

He does notice one thing she’s changed – the quilt cover on their bed.

Ben had bought a black one by accident a few years ago and he loved it, but Rey cringed every time that was all she had to put on the bed…yet here it was.

Had she been sleeping with it on because…maybe it reminded her of him? He tries not to get his hopes up, but he can’t help but wonder if that’s the case.

Rey is bent over in front of him, smoothing out the bed covers and adjusting the pillows into some sort of order.

It’s taking all the willpower he has not to push her down on the bed and have his way with her, but he knows he can’t.

If he keeps doing what he’s doing and showing her with actions how much he loves her, maybe they’ll get to that eventually.

He hopes.

Rey finishes adjusting the bed and moves to the end to stand back and assess her work. She’s nodding to herself. ‘Yep, ok. I think this could work

Ben?

Yeah?’ He looks over at her and she gestures to his clothes.

You’re, um…you’re wearing a little too much for a nude shoot

You want me nude like…right now?

That’s the general idea of a nude shoot, yeah

Ben’s confused. ‘Aren’t we just getting the setup sorted? Do I have to be naked for that?

By the look she’s giving him, yes.

Yes, he does have to be naked for that.

It occurs to him then that she could just be doing this for a bit of payback, and if he’s honest with himself he’s not angry with her if that is the case.

He said he was in this for the long haul, now it was time to show it.

 

~~~~~~

 

Ben decides the best course of action is to get naked as quickly as he can without over-thinking it.

Sure he has a hard-on that just won’t go away but she’s right, it’s nothing she hasn’t seen before.

Hell, it’s nothing she hasn’t had inside her before. More times than he could count.

And oh, how he wants that right now.

Before he knows it his clothes sit in a pile beside him, and he’s completely naked in front of his wife. He’s unsure what to do with his hands, so they hang awkwardly by his side.

He looks at their bed, then back at Rey who looks to be averting her eyes anywhere except below his abs, it seems.

Where do you want me?

Rey thinks she might be more nervous than Ben right now.

It’s been so long since they last had sex, and seeing her husband stark naked and vulnerable, it’s making her want him like she used to want him.

 No. This is not what this is.

Sure, he looks hot and his body is ripped but that’s not why he’s here.

Rey takes a deep breath and moves toward him, looking between the bed and Ben. ‘Uh…maybe just lie down on your side? We’ll see how it looks and we can adjust as we go

Rey tries not to stare at her naked husbands’ perfect body, but she can’t help it.

She misses his body, she realises now. Shortly after the divorce papers arrived, she’d resigned herself to the fact that she’d never have sex again after Ben.

But maybe it didn’t have to be that way?

Ben takes his place on the bed, awkwardly lying on his side with one large hand casually covering his bits.

Rey smiles to herself while he’s not looking. He looks so cute and awkwardly nervous, and it’s a surprising turn on.

If she doesn’t start this shoot soon, she knows she’s about to do something she might regret.

She’s still angry with him. And hurt. It’s not like the hurt has just gone away.

She knows it’s a mistake, but her heart is taking over her head and before she knows it the camera sits on the bedside table and Rey is joining her naked husband on their bed.

 

~~~~~~

 

Ben must sense it coming, because his hands go up in front of him as if to say bad idea. But Rey isn’t sure she could stop herself if she tried-

-the first touch of their lips after so long almost making her melt into the bed.

She can feel the confusion in Ben, in the way his lips are working against hers. It’s not rushed or passionate like it once was, it’s slow…and unsure, almost painful.

It’s certainly painful for Rey. She wants to cry, and she can feel the tears pricking her eyes while she forces all the hurt and despair he’d caused her deep down to concentrate on what she wants right this minute.

She wants Ben.

Needs Ben.

Craves Ben.

More than anything she’s ever needed in her life, she needs him.

Her clothes are now on the floor and before she knows it her hands are in his hair, and she’s hearing those noises from him she’s been recalling every lonely night since he left.

It’s wrong – it’s so wrong. It’s not going to help them work through any of their issues, but Rey doesn’t care.

She’s not even on birth control now, having stopped taking her pills a few weeks ago and she should tell him but she doesn’t – and he doesn’t ask either.

She aggressively pushes Ben down onto the bed on his back and grabs his length in her hand, and before she has time to consider the consequences, she sinks down onto him.

The groan he gives her is one of relief – and she feels it too, throwing her head back and arching her back as she rides him the hardest she ever has.

And Ben lets her, his mouth still slightly open in surprise.

It’s everything she needs right now, and she doesn’t want to stop, as much as she knows she should.

No birth control and no condom is risky business and she should stop him now – it’s not too late-

-but as quickly as it begun, it’s over.

Ben comes inside her and she instantly feels sick, collapsing down onto his chest in tears. She doesn’t bother hopping off him because whatever is done is done now.

Neither of them say a word - they lie together and hold each other in silence.

There’s so much to talk about, so many things they need to sort out, but for now Rey doesn’t want to think about any of it.

For now, for just this moment in time, she has Ben back-

-everything else can wait until tomorrow.

Chapter Text

It’s around 9pm and Finn’s busy typing away on his laptop when Ben enters. Instantly he can see he’s unhappy about something.

Rey had renegged on the invitation to join Finn and Rose that night after all, he’d received a text to tell him as much, so Finn was curious as to what had transpired.

And it seemed he might be about to get the answers.

Ben takes a seat at the table and slumps down in the chair.

How'd it go with Rey?

We slept together

Oh. Not exactly the answer he was expecting.

Finn opens his mouth to speak, quickly closing it again. He knows he has to be careful here – one wrong sentence likely to send Ben spiralling back into depression and back into their spare bedroom.

Ok…not ideal

Ben glares back at him. ‘No shit

But also, not the end of the world. She’s your wife, after all

Except to Ben, it does feel like the end of the world - at least right now. ‘I fucked up, man. Plain and simple

He plays aimlessly with Finn’s charger cord. ‘How could I be so stupid?

Finn closes his laptop and removes his glasses. ‘Like I said, not the end of the world. And it takes two to tango, so you shouldn’t be too hard on yourself

Ben stares blankly into space.

How'd it end up…there, though? If you don’t mind me asking. I thought you were going to pose for that new portrait thing?

Ben looks back at him with a casual shrug. ‘That’s just it…I don’t even know. I gave her the gift, which she said she loved, and then she tells me to strip for the practice shoot

Finn nods along. ‘So what happened after that?

Ben drags his chair backwards, crossing his long leg over his opposite knee in a fruitless attempt to feel more comfortable. ‘I didn’t even see it coming

One minute she’s telling me to get on the bed and pose, the next she’s naked and literally climbing on top of me

Finn surprised to hear Rey was the instigator, knowing what she’s recently been through. ‘Hang on. She initiated it?

Yeah. But what does it matter?’ Ben’s brow creases. ‘I could’ve stopped it…I should’ve stopped it

I could’ve at least stopped to use protection…that would’ve at least alerted her to the reality of what we were about to do.

'But it’s like it all happened in some trance, or something.

You didn’t use protection?!’ It shouldn’t have sounded so accusatory, but it’s out before Finn can stop himself.

Ben knows exactly what Finn’s thinking, he didn’t even need to hear him say it. ‘Well, she’s on birth control anyway so, it’s fine

It’s not exactly fine, but Finn can tell Ben wants it to be fine, so if telling himself that helps him believe it then he’ll give him that much.

I went to try and work things out and now? I think it did more harm than good. What if she never speaks to me again, and we never get the chance to work this out?

He gets up to wander over to the window. staring out into the street. ‘Now she probably hates me, and it’s all my fault

It’s not all your fault, Ben. Rey is as much to blame as you are’

‘Yeah, break-up sex is never really a good idea but we’ve all been there

Ben glances over his shoulder. ‘You’ve been there?

Ok. Not me exactly but, most of us have been there

Ben huffs a small laugh. ‘Trust you to have never been there, Mr Perfect

Uh, I’m far from perfect but still, that’s not the point. I’m sure Rey feels just as bad as you do. She’s probably beating herself up the way you are right now’

‘Have you heard from her since?

Nope, Nothing. I texted her after I left but she didn’t respond

Well, don’t give up on her now. If you’re still keen to get this marriage back on track, keep letting her know you care. It’s probably exactly what she needs to hear right now

Finn’s right.

Ben decides he’s come too far to give up now. Yes, it was a mistake - a big one - but there’s nothing he can do about it now and he’ll still do everything he can to get his wife back.

Or he’ll die trying.

~~~~~~


5 weeks on

Armitage adjusts the last of the prints, standing back to admire the stunning new portrait display in preparation for opening night.

Everything is in readiness.

Catering prep is underway in the tiny kitchen out back, all the frames have been straightened and meticulously dusted and the glass in each frame sparkles.

There’s just one thing missing.

Hux glances down at his watch, meeting Mitaka’s eyes with intrepidation. ‘Do you think she’ll even show?

Shortly after his phone pings, and he pulls it from his pocket with a resigned sigh, again expecting a no show.

Still not up to it.
Please take care of tonight?!
Really sorry.
Rey.

She’s not coming, is she?

5 weeks, and as many missed shows. Hux is seriously worried now and he’s sick of picking up the slack.

His job was only ever meant to be a 3-week gig while Rey got her life back on track, but 5 weeks later there’s still no sign of Rey and no sign of anything changing.

And frankly, he’s fed up.

He doesn’t get paid nearly enough to take this crap. In fact, he doesn’t get paid at all. He’s been doing it as a favour for his friend, but friendships can only be stretched so far.

Hux returns his phone to his pocket and shakes his head. ‘I think we both already know the answer to that


~~~~~~


What am I going to do, Rose?!

Rey sits on the couch in tears, hardly able to speak between sobs. Rose is by her side, a gentle hand rubbing at her back.

Just breathe, Rey. We can deal with this…whatever happens. I’m right here

But what if I AM pregnant?! What am I going to do? Ben doesn’t want a baby. Our life is a mess and a baby isn’t exactly going to fix that’

‘How could I be so stupid?

Rose continues to rub her back, again reaching for the box of tissues which is almost empty already.

Wanna know what I think?

Rey’s breathing breaks between sobs, and she turns to take her friends hand. ‘Yes. I always want to know what you think

Ok’ Rose grabs another tissue to dab at her friends’ eyes, Rey’s breathing slowly beginning to return to normal. ‘I think…that Ben still loves you

Rey sniffs and reaches for another tissue to blow her nose. ‘Then why did he send me divorce papers in the first place?

Rose’s hand extends to Rey’s knee. ‘I think he made a mistake, and I’m pretty sure he realises that now

And he’s been trying to make it up to you, to show you he’s serious about getting you back, and that this’ she says with a wave of her hand ‘is just a little bump in the road

Rey turns to her with a sad pout. ‘You know, you really shouldn’t talk about little bumps right now

Rose’s eyes go wide. ‘Oh god, you’re right! I’m so sorry! That was really insensitive

Rey can’t help but let out a small laugh, the first time Rose has seen her smile or laugh in a few weeks now.

No, it’s fine. I know what you’re trying to say

Rose grabs the falling blanket and pulls it back up over Rey’s knees. ‘But I also think…you need to let him back in

I can’t

You need to though, and I know you can’ Rose turns to face Rey. ‘Babe, he’s so worried about you – trust me, I know

I see the way he mopes around our place, and I’ve heard him say over and over how he just wants to hear from you’

‘To know you’re ok

Rey knows Rose is right, but she can’t bring herself to see him. Because seeing Ben means she’ll have to tell him about the situation, and then she’ll have to tell him there’s a possibility she’s pregnant.

And her biggest fear is that he’ll hate her, and she’ll have ruined any chance at reconciliation.

He’ll hate me though

Rose hopes that’s not the case. ‘You don’t know that. He’ll be angry, sure and to be honest – he has a right to be

Rey swallows, knowing everything Rose is saying is true. Because when it comes down to it, she should’ve told him before they slept together and he should’ve used a condom, so they’re both to blame.

But you don’t know how he’ll react after that. And you won’t know until you tell him

Can you be there when I do?

Rose wants to be there to support her friend, but she really thinks this is something Rey and Ben need to talk about between themselves. ‘I can if you like, but it’s really between the two of you

But I’ll be on standby in case it all goes south and you need me. You know I will

Rey thinks that sounds like a fair deal. She’s been cooped up in their place for the last 5 weeks, hardly venturing outside for fresh air, and hardly even leaving her bed.

She’s neglected work, Rose and Finn, and Ben. Everyone she cares about.

Maybe it is time she took a shower and went to see her husband.


~~~~~~


Rose has offered her place to Ben and Rey for the afternoon, her and Finn taking a short road trip to give them some space to talk.

Rey didn’t want to see Ben at their place, sick of the sight of it after the last 5 weeks, and it was probably safer not to tell him in public in case he lost his temper.

Although Rey desperately hoped he wouldn’t. He had a habit of losing his temper and he’d promised to work on it so this would certainly test that.

It’s 12.30 when Rey arrives but she can’t bring herself to knock, her stomach sick with nerves.

A warm shower, some makeup and a walk in the fresh air had her feeling like a new woman, until she stood outside apartment 42 now unable to move.

There was a fair chance once Ben found out, he’d never want to see her again and she knew that.

A million awful thoughts had occurred to her in the lead up to their meeting, but one scared her most of all. She was desperately afraid that once he found out, he’d think she did this on purpose.

That she trapped him into getting her pregnant.

That he’d think she hoped a baby might fix this mess, as if it ever could.

It was far from the truth, but she was petrified that’s what he’d think. So much so she now stands frozen and afraid in the hallway.

Ben must think she’s not coming because she hasn’t moved for 5 minutes, and the next thing she knows the door opens and he’s there.

His eyes go wide in surprise and Rey can tell he’s startled to see her. ‘Hey

Rey swallows and stares back at him. ‘Hey

I was starting to think you weren’t coming’ He stands back to hold the door open. ‘You can come in, you know. I don’t bite’ Ben attempts a smile, but Rey doesn’t return it.

She pushes past him and into her friend’s apartment, a fresh bunch of flowers in the vase on the dining table.

Rose.

She knows her friend has put them there for her, and it makes her smile. If Ben never wants to speak to her again after this, she knows she’ll at least have Finn and Rose.

Time to rip off the bandaid.

She removes her bag and slings it over the back of the chair, wringing her hands nervously.

Ben makes his way over to her, his hand outstretched. The minute it makes contact with Rey’s shoulder she shudders and quickly moves out of his grasp.

Ben looks immediately apologetic. ‘God, I’m sorry. I just-

Rey cuts him off. ‘Please Ben, sit. I need to tell you something

He takes a seat and crosses his hands, ready to listen. ‘Ok. I’m listening

You’re not going to like it…’ She’s trying to prepare herself for his reaction when, in reality she has no idea how he’s going to react.

Why don’t you let me decide that?

Rey takes a seat opposite her husband, unable to meet his eyes, instead staring off into the distance. ‘That night we slept together…

Ben clears his throat. ‘Yeah, about that. I wanted to say I’m sorry-

Ben, please. I need to get this out

He nods. ‘Sorry. Go ahead

Rey takes a deep breath. ‘I lied’ She bravely meets his gaze, his eyebrows raised in confusion.

About?

Well I didn’t exactly lie, but I wasn’t truthful either. That night we had sex…’ She ducks her head, afraid of what’s to come.

‘I wasn’t on birth control

There. It’s out there now - nothing more to hide.

Ben is silent and she’s almost scared to look up, until she can’t take the silence anymore.

When she looks up again, she can see that he’s angry.

Hang on’ He pushes his chair back aggressively and stands to tower over her, his eyes narrowing. ‘You’re telling me you let me sleep with you, without a condom, and you weren’t on birth control?

He’s fuming.

I…I’m sorry. I know I should’ve said something but-

Were you trying to get pregnant?!

It’s just as she feared – he thinks she’s done this on purpose, but nothing could be further from the truth.

She hadn’t planned any of this.

You thought a baby would fix this mess?

He doesn’t even let her respond, and he's not sure if he's angry about this or it's just built-up anger from weeks of hurt coming to a head.

'Rey, I’m doing everything I can to fix this and then you throw this at me?’

‘How could you?

Rey can’t bear to sit still anymore, standing to brace herself against the chair.

She stares him down now. There’s no way she’s going to take the blame for all of this.

Now, hang on! To answer your question, no. I didn’t plan this’ Ben stares back at her, shaking his head.

And by the way, Benshe says pointedly, with extra emphasis on his name ‘it takes two, so you can’t go blaming all of this on me

Ben raises his voice several octaves. ‘But a baby isn’t going to fix this, Rey. Don’t you see that?!

Rey makes a face and raises her voice back at him. ‘I don’t even know if I’m pregnant yet-

His eyes look like they might pop out of his head, his hands running through and clenching in his hair. ‘Fuck! You don’t even know yet? Why haven’t you taken a test?

Rey’s scared now, she hasn’t seen Ben this angry in a long time.

His anger was something he promised he’d work on, yet here he was - one little issue quickly blowing up into a full-blown argument.

She’d missed a lot about him lately, but she hadn’t missed this.

How many periods have you missed exactly?

Rey’s mouth drops open and she glares up at him, hands firmly on hips. ‘It’s literally been 5 weeks Ben, so one. And to be honest, that’s really none of your business

He shakes his head, almost in disbelief. ‘Excuse me? How is our baby none of my fucking business? And I’m still your husband!

There’s no baby!’ she screams back, throwing her hands up in frustration.

Ben huffs and seemingly starts to calm down, maybe for once realising that yelling and arguing never solve anything.

Well the fact is, there could be. And you need to find out, because if there is we need to deal with it

Rey takes a step back and turns to grab her bag from the chair - she can’t take much more of this.

She came to own up to what she’d done, and it seemed they couldn’t even have a rational discussion anymore.

What was even the point?

Deal with it? And what does that mean exactly, Ben? Because if there is a baby I’m not getting rid of it. I can tell you that right now

I’m not saying that…but don’t I have any say in this at all?

Rey sighs deeply. ‘Well, it seems you’ve been having all the say lately. The say about our marriage, for one. Because you asked for a divorce, remember?

She steps right up to him. ‘You actually organised papers to end our marriage, or have you forgotten that?

Ben’s fists curl as if he’s trying hard to control himself. ‘Of course I haven’t forgotten

He takes a deep breath and runs a hand through his hair. ‘And I apologised for that, remember? I made a mistake and I owned up to it

Like I just did!

You should’ve told me before we had sex, that’s the whole point

Rey is done. There’s just no reasoning with him.

She grabs her bag and heads for the door, opening it before she yells back at him, not even noticing Finn and Rose standing just outside.

And you should’ve worn a fucking condom!’ she yells so the entire building can hear, stunned when she turns to leave and sees her friends standing there.

Rose and Finn glance nervously at each other, and then back to Rey.

Everything ok here?’ Rose tries to get her friend’s attention. ‘Rey?

Rey is close to tears. ‘No. And I was just leaving’ she tells Rose, trying to push past her to make a swift exit, but Rose’s hand reaches out to stop her.

Babe, we’re here now. Please don’t leave when you’re angry

Finn heads in to check on Ben, now sunken on the couch with his head in his hands. He’s not sure what’s gone on while they’ve been away, but he doesn’t think Rey should be leaving in the state she’s in.

Maybe they can finally help them sort it out, if they can get them both in the same room. Anything is worth a try at this stage.

Rose guides Rey back into the apartment and they take a seat at the table, Ben and Finn staying put on the couch for the time being.

Surprisingly, out of all of them, Ben is the first to speak after several minutes of silence.

He gets up and makes his way over to Rey, who’s sitting with her arms crossed and a frown on her face.

I’m sorry I yelled at you’ He says the words as he sits down and reaches for her.

She wants so badly to accept his hand and for all the hurt to go away, but she keeps her arms folded.

Are you really? Because I’ve been hurt before Ben, and we can’t keep doing this. We can’t keep hurting each other

She steals a glance at him. ‘It needs to stop

Ben goes to defend himself, quickly realising that’s not the way to handle this.

You’re right. You are

Rey unfolds her arms and crosses her hands on the table in front of her. Ben tentatively moves around to take a seat beside her, mimicking her hands on the table.

I can only promise I’ll keep trying not to hurt you, and I hope that’s enough because-

He glances to Finn watching from the couch to Rose, and back to Rey, twiddling his fingers nervously. ‘Because I love you

And I want this to work

Rey softens at his words. But she knows he loves her, she just needs to see it now. But when she stops to think about it, she realises he really is trying.

He showed up at her gallery showing, which he hadn’t done in forever.

He offered to put his nude body out there for the world to see, even though he’s one of the shyest people she knows when it comes to doing anything in public.

And he’d bought her a beautiful Valentine’s gift even though he hates Valentine’s Day.

And what had she done?

Rey feels ashamed now. Maybe he’s the one putting in all the effort? Rey swallows her pride and her cheeks flush. It’s about time she apologised too.

And I’m sorry, too

Ben smiles softly.

I’m sorry for not being honest with you. I’m sorry for yelling just now, and I’m sorry for not trying as hard as you have been to fix this marriage-

‘-even if I didn’t break it up to begin with

Ben lowers his head. It’s a low blow, but he knows he deserves it.

And we both need to work at this, not just you. I’ll start putting in effort now too…if you’ll consider anger management counselling

It’s probably not the ideal time to bring this up, but it’s something Rey’s been thinking about. Then again, maybe it’s the perfect time to bring it up?

Ben opens his mouth to speak but stops himself, considering what Rey has just said and realising it’s something he really should do, whether he wants to or not.

Or maybe’ Rose pipes up ‘you could do marriage counselling instead, and go together?

Rose has a friend who’s a counsellor, so she knows it’ll probably be the best way to kill two birds with one stone.

Ben and Rey stare back at her and she shrugs. ‘I know it really helped Finn and I a while ago

Rey turns and meets Ben’s gaze. ‘I guess…it wouldn’t hurt?

Ben nods. ‘Yeah, ok. I’m up for it if you are

 

~~~~~~


One week later they’re back in their apartment.

Did you ever think we’d find ourselves here?’ The question startles Rey, and she doesn’t really know what to say.

Did she think her husband - her life, her everything - would one day file for divorce? No.

Did she think in her wildest dreams they’d be doing a pregnancy test for a baby they hadn’t planned on? Never.

Their marriage counsellor had suggested Rey take the test as soon as possible and that Ben be there when she did, to show they were in this together and to be a support to one another.

So that’s how they find themselves here.

Rey perches on the toilet with Ben standing outside the door. They’d decided Rey would do the test alone, and then they’d wait together for the results.

Rey flushes the toilet and hands the test to Ben so she can wash her hands. Ben looks like it might physically burn him, the look on his face when it lands in his hand one of complete fear.

He brings it into the bathroom and lays it on the vanity top, Rey perching herself on the side of the bath, Ben closing the door to lean arms-crossed against it.

He sets the timer on his watch, and they wait.

3 minutes.

Neither of them say anything the entire time, Ben fidgeting nervously and beginning to get on Rey’s nerves, the beeping of Ben’s watch jolting her back to reality.

Rey takes a deep breath and reaches for the test, but just as she does Ben’s hand comes out to stop her. She shoots him a confused look.

Wait’ is all he says, covering the test and holding her hand as he takes a seat on the edge of the bath beside her.

I just wanted to say that…I’ve thought a lot about this in the last few days and’ he turns to look at her. ‘Whatever happens right now, I’m not going anywhere

Rey swallows, desperate to look at the test results but also keen to hear what he has to say.

Even if we’re about to have a baby?

Ben squeezes her hand even tighter. ‘Especially if we’re about to have a baby’

‘I said I was willing to do whatever it takes to win you back, and I meant it. I’m not going anywhere

It’s everything Rey needs to hear – she can only hope he means it. ‘Well, thank you

She leans into him and his arm comes around her shoulders. ‘Ready?

Ben nods, his Adam’s apple visibly bobbing in his throat as he swallows. ‘Ready

Rey’s slender fingers open to reveal the single blue line.

All the anticipation and stress die away when they see the negative result, but Ben’s surprised at what replaces those feelings.

Disappointment.

He’d mentally prepared himself for a baby, and now?

Are you ok?’ Rey stares back at him through long lashes, Ben realising just what he’d put her through in that moment.

Amazing how a close shave can make you realise what’s really important in life.

Rey stands and deposits the test in the bin. ‘Can you stay for a bit longer?

Yeah, of course

She turns to him and grabs his hand to lift him off the bath, as if he couldn’t have managed it himself. ‘I think we should talk

Okay…

Like, really talk

Right.

Ben follows Rey into the loungeroom where she takes a seat on the couch, throwing her legs up onto the coffee table as he takes a seat beside her.

So, I’ll start…

Ben taps his foot nervously, playing with the frayed edge of the couch.

Ben?

He turns and sees Rey has turned her body toward him and then he remembers what the counsellor had said in their first counselling session after noticing their body language toward each other.

Pay attention to someone when they’re talking to you, even if you’re not interested in what they have to say. And don’t turn away - because it’s rude, and it shows you aren’t really listening

Ben turns and makes sure he keeps eye contact as she’s talking.

You remembered

He smiles sheepishly. ‘Yeah

Ok so…firstly’ she starts, looking directly at him. ‘I wanted to say I’m sorry

Rey you don’t have to-

She raises her hand in front of her to let him know he needs to stop talking. ‘Ben, please. Let me get this out

Ben simply nods.

I know I wasn’t the one that filed for divorce, but…I see now I definitely contributed to you feeling alone in our marriage’

‘I want to apologise for that, and I want to start changing things so you never feel that way again

So’ she reaches over and grabs his hand, rubbing her thumb back and forth over his fingers ‘I need to know exactly what you need that I wasn’t giving you…so I can work on fixing it going forward

Ben immediately thinks back to his Love Language conversation with Finn, and the things he’d told his mate were missing in his marriage.

Now it was time to tell his wife.

Somehow it was easier to talk to his mate about it because it didn’t really concern him – now he has to talk to his wife he’s suddenly worried about what she’ll think.

Be honest. If you don’t tell your partner what you want, how can you expect them to know?

More words of wisdom from their counsellor flash in his mind. Physical affection and sex were the most important things on Ben’s list, but he feels if he brings them up right now (after they’ve just taken a pregnancy test) she may think he’s just another guy who wants sex all the time.

So he broaches his response carefully.  

Well, firstly. I don’t want you to think I’m saying this just because I’m just a guy, and everyone knows what guys want, apparently’ he says with a roll of his eyes.

Rey cocks her head in confusion. ‘Ok…

But you asked me to be honest, so I’m being honest. The first thing I need more of…is physical affection

Huh’ Rey leans back against the couch, still maintaining eye contact, and Ben would swear she’s blushing. ‘You mean sex?

Ben shakes his head. ‘Not just sex. All sorts of physical affection

I don’t think you have any idea how much I love it when you just come up behind me and wrap your arms around me

I know. It’s something so simple, but it makes me feel loved. It lets me know you care about me

Rey’s mouth drops open a little. ‘I always thought you hated that…because you always flinch when I do it

Ben’s brow creases. ‘No, I love it. I flinch because I never know it’s coming and it startles me, but in a good way

I could honestly let you hug me all the time and I probably wouldn’t even need sex…

Rey smiles smugly. ‘Somehow I don’t think that’s entirely true…

Ben laughs. ‘Ok, so I still want sex. But the point is…I love those little things’

‘I’m happy to snuggle up with you and cuddle, or kiss. And I love it when we’re naked in bed with our hands all over each other, or you run your hands through my hair, or you pay attention to my ears. I love all of that’

‘And I don’t just love it, I actually crave it

Ben swallows nervously. ‘All those little things show me you love me…and I guess, we got so busy, we lost all that along the way…

Rey leans forward, tucking a stray lock of hair behind his ear and his breath hitches. He wants to grab her and hold her so badly, but he doesn’t want to force her to do anything.

Rey moves closer and turns her body so she can snuggle into him, pulling his arm around her.

Ok. I’ll remember that

The next minute she’s leaning up for a kiss and pulling his lips down to meet hers. Except she doesn’t kiss him right away, she uses some sort of pure torture and rubs her lips gently back and forth against his.

Ben resists every fibre in his body screaming at him to devour her, instead concentrating on his breathing and relaxing to let Rey take the lead.

And the moment their lips connect again, it’s a gentle kiss, her hands slowly working their way into his hair with a gentle caress.

Ben thinks he could possibly live off this and this alone, their most recent kisses hurried and frenzied, and this the complete opposite.

Rey pulls away a little lost for breath. ‘Do you like it when I kiss you like that?’ she asks with a whisper.

Ben nods and plays with a loose strand of hair that’s fallen over her ear, whispering back to her. ‘Exactly like that

And then she’s sitting back and looking serious again. ‘Ok, so. Sex

I know that’s been an issue recently, and I think that’s mostly my faultbut sometimes life just gets in the way, you know

Ben sighs. ‘I get that, I do. Life gets busy. But Rey, I’m not gonna lie….I need more. I want you, and I want to have sex with you’

Rey smiles and catches his eye, so he emphasises his point with a wink. ‘Lots of sex

A crimson flush sweeps up her neck and over her cheeks. ‘Can I say something? I know I’m blushing, I can feel it so…probably best I say this now

Ben grins. ‘I love when you blush but yeah, please do

Her hands go up in an attempt to cover her face, but it’s no good. Rey takes a deep breath and for once is honest with her husband.

It wasn’t just tiredness…

Oh?

So, it’s me?

But it’s not you either, so don’t stress’ Her hand stretches out and rests gently on his thigh. Ben blows out a breath, wondering what it is if it isn’t him.

I want more….’ She’s careful with her next words. ‘…types of sex?

Ben blinks a few times and tries to register what she’s saying. ‘As in, it’s boring?

Rey laughs. ‘It’s never boring, as such, it’s just…I’d like to try different things, and do it in different places sometimes’

Now she has Ben’s full attention, and he can’t help himself. ‘Uh, hell yes. Sign me up for that shit

He can’t believe she’s never told him this before. Rey laughs again, studying his expressions this time. ‘Really? You don’t think I’m…weird, or something?

Hell no’ Ben replies, shaking his head. ‘Definitely not. I mean, I’m a little surprised we’ve been married a few years now and you’ve never told me this but-

Rey goes to apologise, but he stops her. ‘The main thing is that you’re telling me now

He playfully nudges her in the side. ‘So, what are you doing later? Maybe we can we start tonight?

She playfully slaps him in return. ‘No!’ But…if you keep playing your cards right then, as soon as I’m back on birth control we can

Ben shrugs. ‘Sounds fair

I think there’s a few things we need to work on before we get back to sex though

Rey’s right, but he needs to know if there’s anything else she wants that he hasn’t been giving her. This marriage can only survive if they both put in the effort, he knows that now.

Ok, so now you tell me. What do you need from me that I haven’t been giving you?

And before you do’ he says, Rey cheekily pretending to count all the things out on her fingers. He clears his throat. ‘Before you do, can I just say I’ve realised one of the things already and I’m working on it…

A pensive-looking Rey sits beside him.

Your photography

Oh

Yeah. I never supported you, even though I thought I was supporting you just by letting you do your own thing…if that makes sense?

It kinda does

But I see now that you feel supported when I’m physically there to support you, and I just want you to know that I plan to attend every show I can from now on

Rey breathes a sigh of relief. ‘You don’t know how happy it makes me to hear that, Ben’ She looks him directly in the eyes. ‘No, really. That’s exactly what I want, and I know you came to my last show, so thank you’

‘I got a really nice surprise seeing you there

Ben earns himself another Rey smile, and he just wants to see her smiling all the time now. He’s back in hook, line and sinker and there’s no way he’s letting her go again.

He has no idea now why he ever did.

And I promise to cut back on my showings. You earn enough money to keep us going and I’ll help, but I need to cut back I think. For the sake of our marriage, if nothing else

Yeah. That sounds like a good idea

 ‘Speaking of…you did offer to be my nude model’ How could he forget? ‘Are you still interested?

Ben rolls his tongue around in his mouth and bites his lip while he thinks. ‘Yeah. If you can keep your hands off me?

It only takes a few seconds for the blush to once again creep over Rey’s face. ‘Shit, I wanted to say sorry about that. I took advantage of the whole situation and it could’ve been….well, I could be pregnant right now and to be honest that’s the last thing we need’

Ben laughs. ‘But the point is, you’re not. And I was just teasing’

‘I wanted it as much as you did. So yeah I’m still willing to do it - minus the sex, of course

Deal’ Rey replies with a sharp nod. ‘And what about the moving in part? What do you think about that?

Ben casts his mind back to their last counselling session, where they’d been asked if they were still living apart.

How do you expect to be able to work things out if you’re not physically together? I suggest moving back in as soon as you can, Ben so you can focus on working things out together.

Ben’s desperate to move back in, now well and truly sick of living with Finn and Rose in that small guest bedroom. He knows he’s upset their lives for long enough.

But at the same time, he doesn’t want to rush Rey if she needs longer to work through things.

I, uh. How do you feel about it?

Ben, I never wanted you to move out in the first place…

I deserved that one.

So…you do want me to move back in?

Yes. I do

‘Ok then. I’ll pack up my stuff today and move back in, tomorrow? If that suits you?’

‘Great. Cause there was a big spider here last night and I’m not sure if it’s dead, or if it ran away and is crawling somewhere behind the couch’

Ben cackles. ‘Oh, right. So you just need me back home to kill spiders, is that it?’

Rey screws up her nose and giggles. ‘Well, yeah. That and a few other things…’

‘Oh well’ he says with a chuckle. ‘At least I’m useful, that’s the main thing’

‘And tomorrow night, I’m cooking’

‘Ben, I-‘

‘I know, I know. I’m not the best cook but please, let me do this?’

Rey can see he’s trying so as much as she knows Ben can’t cook, she knows she needs to let him do this. It’s the effort he puts in after all – not so much the end result.

‘Alright then. Will there be dessert?’

Ben smiles smugly. He really can’t help himself - and it earns him an eye roll from Rey. ‘Slow down tiger. Like physical dessert…actual dessert’

Right now she’s digging herself into an even bigger hole, and Ben’s loving it.

His eyes go wide. ‘Physical dessert? What does that entail exactly?

‘That we can eat! Geez’ She can’t help but laugh though, and that’s Bens main aim – to see her laughing and smiling again.

Mission accomplished.

Once the laughter subsides Rey sighs deeply. ‘I have missed this. This banter between us’

Ben’s probably missed that most of all, apart from Rey herself so he agrees it’s nice to finally be getting back to how they used to be.

‘Me too. More than you know’

‘You’re welcome to stay for dinner tonight if you want? It’s just Chinese takeaway but, still’

‘Great’

‘Ok, so I’ll order later. Are you busy now or did you want to stay and hang out? Netflix and chill?’

Rey realises then what she’s said. ‘Without the chill, of course’

Ben stifles a laugh. ‘Of course’

‘Alright, Set it up. I’ve just gotta dash to the bathroom’

Ben watches Rey leave the couch, stealing a glance at her ass as she walks away. Hey, he’s only human.

He smiles to himself as he grabs the remote and toes his shoes off, kicking his feet up onto the coffee table.

Life finally feels like it’s starting to return to normal.

~~~~~~


‘I’m gonna miss you man’

Finn’s standing in the doorway watching Ben pack his bag.

‘No you’re not, but thank you for saying it anyway’

Ben walks over and lays a hand on his mate’s shoulder. ‘Seriously though. I really can’t thank you enough for putting up with me for the last few weeks. You’re a legend’

‘Well, thanks. But you haven’t been so bad…’

Ben cocks his head at his mate, knowing full well that’s not true.

‘Ok, so sometimes you were but still…I’ll still miss you’

Ben can’t resist one last jab before he goes. ‘You know one thing I won’t miss?

Finn shrugs.

‘Hearing you guys getting it on next door’

Ben walks over to the wall above the bedhead, knocking on it. ‘You have really thin walls by the way, did I ever mention that?’

He offers Finn a wink and earns himself a death stare. ‘You little shit! You could’ve at least said something’

‘Pfft, no way. It was the only action I was getting, so I was quite enjoying it’

Finn scoffs with a shake of his head. ‘Typical. I was trying to keep it quiet, but Rose’ Finn gives him a look. ‘You know how women are…’

Ben huffs a laugh. ‘Mate, she was lovin' it, so whatever you're doin keep it up’

‘Yeah, ok’ Finn turns to leave. ‘It’s been a pleasure as always, Ben. Don’t let the door hit you on the way out’ he calls over his shoulder, heading back into the hallway.

Ben chuckles as Finn leaves. He’s not sure why he enjoys stirring people so much, but he does. He always has.

But deep down, if he’s honest with himself, a part of him will miss being here.

 

~~~~~~

 

Ben adjusts the heavy bag on his shoulder and raps on the door twice, nervous but excited about moving back home with Rey.

It’s been over 2 months since he moved out, and he’s desperate to get back to some sort of normalcy.

Rey opens the door with a smile and he walks inside, stopping only to bend down to give her a small peck on the cheek.

Welcome home

Ben drops his bag and stares into their apartment, Rey closing the door behind him.

Thanks for giving me a second chance. I promise I’ll do my best this time. Do-over?

He starts to turn back to her, suddenly feeling Rey’s arms wrapping around his waist.

He flinches and hears her softly laugh behind him, her arms only squeezing him that much tighter.

She remembered.

Ben smiles to himself, soaking up the feeling of her body against his. She feels comfortable and familiar-

-she feels like home.

Mm’ she whispers. ‘Do-over

Chapter Text

Life can change in the blink of an eye.

Everything you’ve known, everything you’ve ever dreamed of and every direction you thought your life was heading? Sometimes it’s all thrown out the window when life has other plans.

And sometimes what's to come is far worse than you could imagine.

 

~~~~~~

 

What happened??

Finn has only just walked in the door of the Solo’s apartment, a solemn expression written all over his face. Rose knows immediately that it’s not good news.

You’d better sit down, babe’ he says gently, guiding her to the closest seat by her arm.

As soon as she’s seated her hands go up to her mouth. ‘No’ she whispers in exasperation. ‘Tell me he’s ok, please. Tell me he’s coming home to her?

Finn reaches for her hand and swallows the lump in his throat. The same lump that’s been there all throughout Ben’s sentencing that afternoon.

I wish I could…

No, no, no’ Rose replies almost breathless, her head shaking in disbelief. The tears are already beginning to fall.

Rey has been through so much already’ she cries. ‘How is she going to get through this too?!

Finn will be the first to admit he has no idea, but he feels like Rey will need their support now more than ever.

As for Ben? Finn has no idea what to think anymore.

 

~~~~~~

 

Rey crosses her legs and steals a nervous glance around the waiting area. If she could curl up and die, she’d probably find that preferable to sitting in a prison waiting area for the chance to see her husband.

Her husband who, 2 months ago, had returned home to repair their broken marriage - a far cry from the divorce papers that had arrived on her door that fateful day.

Her husband who is totally innocent yet sitting in a jail cell alone and, more than likely, afraid.

The sick feeling that’s been sitting in her stomach for the last 2 months is still there, and she knows it’s unlikely to go away anytime soon.

She’s not even sure how she’s survived this long.

As she scans the room her heart sinks for the children waiting to see mothers/fathers/relatives - so young they probably can’t understand why their loved ones are away and can’t come home.

Rey is so much older, yet she still can’t comprehend why her husband is behind bars and she sits home alone.

She’d honestly thought that alone time was over once Ben moved back, but sadly neither of them could’ve anticipated what was to come.

How could they have ever predicted that Ben would be accused, and convicted, of an assault that had never happened?

How could the court have taken the word of one woman and still put him behind bars, all based on her so-called diary accounts?

How could Rey not be allowed to be in court as a character witness for her husband? Who knew Ben better than his wife?!

So many questions, yet she was getting no real answers.

And there was only one person to blame for this entire mess-

-Kaydel.

 

~~~~~~

 

The first time Rey tried to visit Ben she was told her name wasn’t on the list.

Another day spent in tears.

The second visit was the same.

Rey couldn’t understand why Ben didn’t want to see her. They’d literally just started to get back on track and they’d both been making an effort – why was she now being left to handle this alone?

She had no parents to lean on and Rose and Finn could only do so much. Somehow she needed to start sorting her life out and that was proving to be a massive task with Ben locked away.

After a 20 minute wait it comes time for her group to visit. Paperwork filled in and identification checked, the warden gathers them together further down the hall, the noise of the waiting area now behind them.

The stocky security woman begins by going over the rules and regulations for their visit, and Rey wonders how many times a week she has to go over this same speel and how boring that must be.

She tries not to focus on the gun in her holster, instead choosing to pay attention to what she’s saying.

After their security checks and pat-downs they’re led down the hallway and across a large courtyard to the visiting area, starkly lined with plastic chairs and tables and minimum furniture.

Rey takes a seat at a vacant table to wait for Ben, careful to keep her head down to avoid attracting unwanted attention. She hates this place already.

Stealing a glance around the room her eyes meet those of a man covered in facial tattoos, and there’s no mistaking his eyes now focused on her small chest.

She looks away and folds her arms to obstruct his view, not daring to look back in his direction.

Even though she isn’t overly blessed in the chest department she figures when you’ve been in jail for a while you’ll take pretty much anything you can get.

Rey averts her eyes and instead trains her focus on the doorway, her foot tapping nervously under the table. One by one the inmates, dressed in plain pants and matching tops, filter into the room.

Her nerves suddenly increase tenfold. It’s been weeks since she’s seen Ben, and this is the first time she will have ever seen him in jail attire, and she’s not sure she’s ready - if you can ever be ready?

It’s not the most attractive outfit and Ben would despise wearing it, she knew that for sure, but she figured it was practical at the very least.

The moment he walks through the door her heart nearly stops.

He’s certainly not the same husband that walked back into their apartment all those weeks ago, excited about making amends for their broken marriage.

Instantly you can tell he’s lost weight, his face drawn and his eyes sporting puffy bags.

She’d been praying he’d been eating and sleeping well, but the man she sees in front of her tells a very different story.

Ben takes a seat opposite her and it takes him a while to even look in her direction, his eyes trained on the small boy sitting on his mother’s knee at the table next to them.

The young child is smiling and laughing as his mother tickles him, his out-of-place laughter drawing eyes from around the room. His father, Rey assumes, watches on.

The mother attempts to reach for his hand, quickly earning herself a swift reprimand from the nearby guard.

No touching’ he yells to the room, his tone stern.

Rey’s heart drops. She’s devastated she’s in this situation herself, but she can only imagine how hard it must be for a mother to bring her child to this place.

Even though they're here for contact visitation, actual contact is limited – a quick hug hello or goodbye the only real contact they are allowed with the inmates.

Rey had already decided she’d save her hug for her goodbye. For now she wants to make the most of the time with her husband.

Ben?’

His head turns back to her and he stares blankly, almost as if he’s looking right through her. And then he speaks, his voice gravelly from lack of sleep and who knows what else, a certain sadness evident in his tone.

I told you not to come

Rey wants to protest. She’s come all this way to see him, to support him in this awful place, and all he can say is that he doesn’t even want her here?

How dare he.

And he hadn’t specifically told her not to come. Sure, the first two times she’d tried she was told she wasn’t on the list, but she’d assumed that was a mistake.

Seems it wasn't.

She quickly decides however, that now is not the time to be angry at him. This could be the only contact they have for weeks, and she doesn’t want to waste another precious second – even if he doesn’t want her there.

There’s so much she wants to say, so much she wants to tell him, so why is she struggling to find the words?

The first two times I tried to visit, I couldn’t…’

He flicks the hair from his eyes. It’s shorter than it was when he first went in and Rey figures he was forced to cut it.

It makes his ears more visible now and although she personally loves them, she knows just how much he’d be hating them on display and knowing his history he's probably copping flack for them too.

She wishes he’d maintain eye contact, but his eyes are currently trained behind her.

Because I didn’t put you on the list

But, why?’ Rey just doesn’t understand. Why wouldn’t he want to see her?

Because I didn’t want you to see me like this

Now he chooses to make eye contact, his head shaking slightly. ‘But you just couldn’t help yourself, could you?

Rey opens her mouth to speak, quickly closing it again while fighting back the tears threatening to spill over.

This isn’t the Ben she knows.

It’s not the Ben that had moved back in, and it’s not the Ben she married.

This Ben is sad and angry, part of her wanting to run out and never come back, the other part wanting to spend as much time here as she can - even if the things he’s saying are hurtful.

Don’t cry. Don’t. cry.

She brings her hands up onto the table, nervously fidgeting with her fingers. ‘Then why did you put me back on the list?

He leans back in the chair to stare aimlessly out the window. ‘So I could tell you I don’t want you to come back here. I’ll see you when I get out

What’s she meant to say to that?

How is she meant to tell him how much she’s missed him? How the lonely nights are driving her slowly insane?

How is he meant to know that most nights are spent crying herself to sleep? Does he even care?

Why hasn’t he asked about what’s going on outside here? Has he forgotten there are people out there that care about him?

People that are counting down the days until he gets out?

Rey puts it down to the situation he’s in and tries not to judge him too harshly. What’s some more hurt added to the hurt she’s already endured?

She joins Ben in staring out the window in the silence between them and briefly wonders how she’d cope if she was in his position.

Maybe she wouldn’t want to see people either? Maybe it would be easier to pretend life wasn’t going on as normal outside these walls?

Maybe having everyone else's freedom shoved in your face would only make it that much harder?

And maybe Ben was so focused on surviving this that he couldn’t put any effort into something as simple as a normal conversation with a loved one.

How are you going anyway?

He jolts her from her thoughts as they hear the 2-minute reminder about their time coming to an end.

Uh…

What am I meant to say? Good thanks?

I’m getting by’ is the only thing she can think of, adding a small fake smile to try and make herself feel better.

Because she is getting by…just.

Good’ Ben nods, his eyes flicking back between the guards and the table, Rey noticing his fingers twisting around where his wedding ring should be.

And with that, their time comes to an end. Ben stands as soon as the call is made and Rey can’t help but feel that hurt again.

She wants to yell at him. Wants to grab him and shake him out of the daze he’s in.

Deep down she knows all she can do is wait until he gets home and hope there’s no more nasty surprises headed their way.

Others around them begin hugging goodbye so Rey moves to hug Ben, although her hug isn’t exactly returned.

She wraps her arms around him tight and breathes him in, desperate to kiss him or run her hands through his hair. Desperate for any sort of comfort she can provide for him, even if he doesn’t want to accept it.

But a hug is all she can give and about all she thinks he’ll accept.

He loosely hugs her back, as if he can’t bear to hold her for too long before pulling away. He swallows, and Rey can tell he’s fighting back tears.

Please…don’t come and see me again. It's too hard

Rey knows he’s saying it to protect himself, so she nods her agreement. ‘4 more weeks and you’ll be home’ she says as he touches her affectionately on the arm, before turning to walk away.

He glances back only briefly, just long enough for her to quickly mouth I love you and then he’s gone.

He disappears through the door and Rey wants to scream. Wants to cry. Wants to run back and grab him and never let go.

But she can’t. She has to leave there without him and that’s the reality of the situation.

A sense of dread fills her knowing what she has to go home to-

-nothing.

A quiet apartment and an empty bed and she’s not sure exactly how she’ll survive.

4 more weeks.

 

~~~~~~

 

Finn, please come to bed. It’s late

Rose is standing in the doorway, smoothing down her bed hair. ‘There’s nothing you can do now

Nothing that can’t wait until tomorrow

The laptop lid slams closed and Finn drops his head down onto it.

The last few nights have been the same, with her husband up until all hours researching Ben’s case, looking for anything that might help exonerate him.

I know him, Rose. There’s no way he did this

There’s gotta be something I can do? I can’t just sit here while he’s behind barsIt’s not fair

Rose takes a seat next to him. It’s not like she’ll be getting any sleep tonight anyway, she may as well stay up rather than go back to bed alone.

I feel guilty even sleeping in our comfortable bed. My mind keeps flicking back to him, alone in that cell. Or maybe he’s not alone? Maybe he’s sharing with some rough guy who could beat him up if he says the wrong thing or looks at him the wrong way. Maybe-

Rose places a gently hand over his mouth. ‘Finn, please

She removes her hand as soon as he stops rambling, moving it to rest on his arm. ‘You’ll drive yourself crazy with maybe’s

The fact is, there’s nothing we can do for Ben right now. He’s served the majority of his sentence already and he’ll be out in 4 weeks

As hard as it is Ben doesn’t want to see Rey, so we need to be there for her. She needs both of us right now more than ever

Finn knows she’s right. Why is she always right?

He leans back in the chair with a deep sigh, hands rubbing at his tired eyes. He knows it’s a fruitless effort, all this time spent researching the law, but it’s been helping fill the time when he can’t sleep if nothing else.

He can’t sleep? He hates to think how Ben’s coping.

I think it’s time you went and saw him

Finn shakes his head, but Rose is persistent. ‘I really think you should. You might get some of the answers you want and if not, it should at least help put your mind at ease

Another deep sigh from Finn, accompanied by a large yawn. ‘Maybe you’re right, although he might not want to see me either

He glances to Rose and notices she’s smiling. ‘Well I thought it might come to this, so I called them earlier…

‘…and you’re on the list

Finn smiles back, resigned to the fact that it’s really his best option at this point.

 

~~~~~~

 

He’d swear he knows the inmate currently sitting opposite him in the visitation area, his guests currently occupied with the vending machine giving him a clear view.

Their eyes meet and he studies him again before looking away. Older and more sinister, but he’d swear it’s someone he went to school with.

He’s not sure what the protocol is here. Smile and say hi, how’s things? Somehow that doesn’t feel appropriate.

Luckily he doesn’t have much time to think about it before Ben’s headed his way, his slightly too large jail attire hanging from his more slender frame.

Finn can tell he’s lost a lot of weight since he’s been in here, his bulk now fading away to nothing more than a shadow.

It’s a real shock to see him like this.

His mind flashes back to their time in middle school, because that’s what this current Ben reminds him of – the one he spent his childhood with.

Ben was his mate all through school and the one he always got into trouble with. They had their own fight club for goodness sake, but as much as they loved to fight their plan was never to end up in jail.

And sadly this isn’t another childhood memory, this is real life.

Jail has been hard on him already, Finn can tell, Ben now taking a seat opposite him. He looks tired.

Finn decides to make general chit-chat and not discuss anything too heavy unless Ben asks.

Hey man

His incarcerated mate stares back at him with tired eyes, running a hand through his much shorter hair. He only answers with a simple ‘Hey

So, I won’t ask how you are…

Ben's eyeing him. ‘You look bigger than when I saw you last

Finn glances down at himself with surprise. ‘Do I?

Yeah. You been workin’ out?

Finn can’t help but laugh at that. ‘Uh, no. Definitely not. You know me, man…I hate exercise

True. You do look bigger though…

Finn can only shake his head and shrug. He hasn’t been doing anything different in the last few months that he can remember.

Maybe it’s because I’m fading away that everyone else looks…bigger somehow

He really is fading away.

Are they even feeding you properly? You look like you could use a decent meal

Yeah, enough. I never really feel like eating though

So what do you do all day?

Ben looks pensive. ‘I do a bit of woodwork, I write. Sometimes we’ll exercise. I try to eat and sleep, but those things seem to take too much effort

That’s only while you’re in here though. I’m sure once you get out life will slowly get back to normal?

Mm’ Ben mulls. ‘What’s normal?

He’s staring aimlessly out the side window. ‘Just when I think life is getting back to normal, I get hit with something else

I sometimes wonder why I even bother trying anymore. I think life hates me

Finn tries to see things from Ben's point of view. ‘Life definitely doesn’t hate you, but I can understand how you feel that way. And frankly, lately your life has sucked

Ben looks like he hadn’t expected Finn to agree with him.

But on the flip side, you have a wife. You have family and friends that care about you, and you were just starting to get your life back on track. Don’t let this ruin all that too…it’s already ruined enough

Yeah, maybe

It's silent for a bit before Ben continues the conversation. ‘You'll never guess who had the gall to call and request a visit?

From the look he's given, Finn assumes Kaydel. 'No way

Ben nods. ‘Fuckin cheek, hey? If I never see her again, it’ll be too soon

Yeah. Wow...'

'How was your visit with Rey the other day? I haven’t seen her since and I’ve been meaning to ask-

Don’t ask, man. I fucked that up too’ Calloused hands rub at Ben’s eyes.

Meaning?

She came to see me and I basically told her I didn’t want her here, and not to come back

Poor Rey.

Why? I thought you’d be dying to see her?

Because I thought it would be easier. To not see her. It’s too hard

I get that…but have you thought about how hard this has been on her?

Ben stares back at him.

Ben, seriously. She hasn’t been eating, hasn’t been sleeping. Rose had to practically break down the door to see her

She’s heartbroken. Just when she thought she was getting you back, you’re gone again

Ben goes to respond, but he cuts him off. ‘I know that’s not your fault, I’m not saying it is. I’m just saying, even if you don’t want to see her, she wants to see you. And I think you should let her’

‘She has no family, and only Rose and I. And a husband in jail. How do you think she’s feeling right now? Like her whole world’s fallen apart

Don’t be the one that breaks her, Ben

Ben’s eyes begin to glaze over. ‘You’re right. You’re fuckin’ right’ He shakes his head as if all of this is just occurring to him. ‘I’ve been such a prickI didn’t even stop to think how she was feeling, I’ve been so preoccupied with myself

Finn understands. ‘I get that, I do. We hate that you’re in here and there’s nothing any of us can do about it, so you have a right to feel that way’

'I guess I’m just saying…don’t forget the people who love you, because they hate that you’re in here too

He can see that their conversation is registering with Ben, so if that’s the best thing that comes out of today then his visit will have been totally worth it.

I should write to her…

Great idea. I think she’d love that

Just keep in contact Ben, that’s all you can do. Because trust me, you’re gonna need her more than ever when you get out of here

Ben knows that’s true. He’s petrified he could lose his job and who knows what else once people find out he’s done time.

Those things he has no control over. But the loved ones he does have control over? He can definitely work at keeping those.

 

~~~~~~

 

Another red line through another day on the calendar. Rey stares back at the wall, her heart heavy with longing.

20 days.

20 days and Ben will be back home where he belongs.

Some days it feels like she’ll never survive his forced absence, but then (looking back) she remembers how quickly the last few months have already gone.

If she’s survived this long, she can survive another 20 days.

Returning to the laundry, she throws the latest load of washing into the dryer and leans back against it to wait.

Wonder who’s washing Ben’s underwear?

Rey wonders a lot of things about jail. What do they eat? Do they get to go outside much?

What does Ben do to pass the time during the day?

All questions she’d wanted to ask when she last saw him but never got the chance.

And she worries about him.

Maybe if Ben’s up to it when he gets home she might get some answers, but she expects he’ll just want to forget all about it, and who could blame him?

The dryer hums away and she heads downstairs to collect the mail. Every day she hopes for a letter from him, and every day she’s left disappointed.

So imagine her surprise today when she tosses the advertising material aside and a small white envelope remains.

It’s so plain it stands out, just a small postmark along with her address on the front. And she’d swear that’s Ben’s writing, although she tries not to get her hopes up.

Flipping it over she sees the prison postmark on the back, confirming it’s from Ben. She races back upstairs with her heart pounding in her chest.

Entering their bedroom, she jumps onto the bed and crosses her legs, staring at the letter on the mattress for over 5 minutes.

What if it’s bad news? What if he says when he gets out he’s not coming home? What if-?

Rey decides she can only ask what if so many times before she needs answers and, good or bad, those answers can only come from Ben.

With shaking fingers she lifts the letter and slides her nail under the flap to open it, pulling the page out and discarding the envelope to the side.

It's definitely Ben’s signature scrawl. He used to practice calligraphy when he was younger and it really shows. He has such beautiful handwriting and Rey wishes he’d write her more letters, although preferably not from behind bars.

The tears are already starting to fall as she begins to read-

Dear Rey,

Firstly, I’m sorry.

I know I’ve been saying sorry an awful lot lately, but for as long as life sucks and I keep hurting you, I’ll continue to say I’m sorry. There’s so many things I need to say to you, but the last time you were here I sent you away. Yet another thing I’m sorry for.
I sent you away because I couldn’t bear to look at you and I’m sorry if that sounds hurtful but it’s the truth. You came to see me and all I could see in you were reminders of everything I’d lost.

That probably sounds selfish and maybe it is, but that’s how I felt. However, that was then. I’ve had a lot of time in here to think since (not much else to do really) and I’ve decided it’s time I stop feeling sorry for myself. It’s time I focused on life once I get out.

If you’ll still have me, which I hope more than anything you will, I hope we can get straight back into normal life. What’s normal? Don’t worry, I’ve been asking myself the same question. Normal life to me is you, and me. Beyond that I really don’t know, but that’s something we can hopefully work out together.

By the way, you’re back on the list if you want to visit again before I get out. If not, I’ll see you when I get home.

Better go. My cellmate ‘s snoring loudly but it’s late and I should close my eyes, even if I can’t actually sleep.
Can’t wait to be back in my own bed…with you.

Ben x



Rey wasn’t sure what she was expecting from him exactly, but it wasn’t that.

She can tell by the way it’s written that he’s had time to think about what he wanted to say, and that he’s taken the time to write it all out for her. That has to count for something.

And just like that she's back on the emotional rollercoaster, the one she’s been riding for the last few months - and today is just another bumpy ride.

Right now she wishes he was here so she could hold him and tell him it’s all going to be ok, she feels if she could get her hands on him she’d hug him and never let go.

The tears flow freely now. She falls back onto the bed and lets it all out – her hand slung over her eyes. It must be 10 minutes of solid crying before she decides she can’t waste another day in tears.

Ben wants life to get back to normal and if she’s honest, she wants nothing more than that.

Once he’s home they can work out the details but for now she needs to be ready for his return.


~~~~~~

 

Hanging up the phone Rey drops it to the counter, slumping to the floor. And it must be the last of the tears that fall because she’s surprised she has any left to cry.

One brief call from Ben’s lawyer and her whole world is thrown upside down again, except this time it's good news.

Ben’s coming home two weeks early.

Seems Kaydel has grown a conscience and finally admitted she fabricated the whole thing, and now she’ll be the one facing charges.

There is some justice in the world, after all.

Rey’s not sure how to feel. She’s shocked, elated, scared, nervous about how Ben will be when he gets back. Right now she needs to vent to someone, so she grabs the phone and calls Rose.

They talk for over an hour and she feels so much better by the end of it, the two of them making plans for later that day when Ben's released.

Finn will collect him and bring him home and they'll all have dinner together. Rey agrees that’s the best plan and it will hopefully help Ben settle in at home.

She decides then that she’ll cook, desperate to do anything to pass the time. She chooses Ben’s favourite, curried chicken and rice. A short trip to the market and she’s back home and straight into it, apron on and mess everywhere.

She’s knows she’s not the best cook, but she does try.

And takeout just won’t cut it tonight - she believes her husband deserves a decent home-cooked meal after what he’s been through.

 

The moment Finn arrives home with Ben it’s like neither of them know what to do. Finn heads to the lounge-room to greet Rose, but Ben stands just inside the door, taking in their apartment.

Rey can’t help herself. She just wants to hold him, hug him, let him know she’s here and everything is ok again. She takes a few tentative steps toward him and his arms come out. She snuggles close against his chest, throwing her arms around his waist.

And this time he returns her hug, his arms holding her tight as if she might disappear if he lets go.

Finn and Rose can only watch on, content to let them have their moment.

Ben takes his time breathing Rey in. He’s been dreaming about this moment for the last few months and thankfully for him it’s come earlier than he had hoped.

His hands card loosely through her hair and she murmurs against him.

He’s so much thinner than she’s used to and she feels the need to get food into him quick smart.

Peering up at him, she smiles. ‘Welcome home

He smiles back at her, his hand gently tracing her cheek. ‘Thanks babe. I'm glad you're still here

She grabs his hand and pulls him toward the table where the meal is spread out. She hasn’t held back.

Curried chicken and rice, naan bread and tiramisu in the fridge for dessert. Rey figures he might not eat a lot now, but she’ll have leftovers on hand for the next day or so when she’s sure his appetite will return.

Dinner is a rather quiet affair, but Ben engages in the conversation. They manage to get a laugh or two from him and he settles in more as the night wears on, almost back to his old self.

He changes into more comfortable sweatpants and a t-shirt after dinner and settles on the couch with Finn, Rose and Rey still seated at the dining table.

The boys are talking amongst themselves and Ben seems happier than when he first arrived. Rey sighs and looks over at Rose.

Rose smiles back at her. ‘Well babe, he’s finally home. And he looks happy enough?

Rey turns to look back at him just to check he’s still there. ‘He’s so thin, Rose. He’s hardly been eating or sleeping, he looks…I don’t know. He’s not the Ben that left here

Rose reaches for her hand. ‘I know, but it’s early days. Give him a bit of time to settle in and he’ll start eating again, trust me. And hopefully he’ll be back to normal before you know it

I hope you’re right. I miss the way he used to be

I know. But don’t forget, he’s still the same Ben

She knows Rose is right. His physical appearance may have changed but she also needs to remember what he’s been through.

Rose stifles a yawn and steals a glance at the clock. ‘Wow, it’s getting late’ She stands to clear their glasses, calling to Finn. ‘Babe, we’d better get going

Rey knows they can’t stay forever. Soon enough it’s just going to be her and Ben and she needs to get used to that again.

Are you sure you’ll be ok?’ Rose asks as Rey joins her at the sink.

Thanks babe, we’ll be fine. I’m pretty sure he’ll be ready for bed soon anyway, and I am too. I must say It’ll be nice to not have to get into an empty bed tonight

Rose smiles. ‘I bet. Well, just give me a call if you need anything. Or if you just need to talk. You know I’m always here

And, just be gentle with him ok? He’s been through a lot. I’m sure it’ll take him time to adjust

Rey gives her friend a massive hug. ‘I know, I’ll try. Thanks for everything…and I mean, everything

Anytime

Finn and Rose leave and then it’s just the two of them again.

Ben joins Rey in the kitchen, loitering as she works. She’s rinsing the dishes and popping them in the dishwasher. He offers to help, but she’s got it under control.

Next thing he’s behind her, his nose nuzzling into her neck. ‘I wanted to thank you for dinner. Best meal I’ve eaten in a long time

Rey smiles to herself. ‘You’re welcome

I might take a quick shower and hit the hay. I’m exhausted’ He pulls away and turns to leave. ‘You coming?

She looks back at him. ‘Yep. I’ll just finish up here and then I’ll be in

He nods and heads down the hallway. She wonders then if he was asking her to shower with him, although she figured it was way too soon to be intimate again as he’d only just gotten home.

She decides then that the dishes can wait.

Her husband’s home and that’s everything she’s wanted for the last few months. She wants to spend time with him.

Ben’s finishing up in the shower when she enters the bathroom in her tank top and sleep shorts to remove her make-up and brush her teeth. She has a mouth full of toothpaste when he turns the shower off and draws the curtain back, reaching for a towel as he steps out onto the bath mat.

He dries himself then drops the towel by his side, staring back at his naked form in their large mirror. ‘Fuck. I hadn’t realised how skinny I’d gotten

Spitting into the sink Rey lifts her head to meet his reflection in the mirror.

She’s shocked to see he looks even thinner with his clothes off and she can’t help her mouth dropping open. ‘You’re fading away to a shadow, babe

Ben looks down at himself.

But don’t worry, I’ll fatten you up in no time

That draws a smile from him. ‘If you keep cooking like you did tonight then yeah, I don’t think it’ll take long

Rey’s missed his body so much and she can’t help but take him in. Ben notices her staring, reaching his hand out to her.

Accepting it, he pulls her to him. Her hands initially fall around his neck, but he moves them down and places them on his bare chest.

She feels like a virgin all over again and this is her first time, her body abuzz with nervous energy.

He wants you to touch him.

It’s as if he realises she’s confused so he nods his approval with a whispered 'It's ok'

Looking up as his eyes close, his body begins to tremble. She lets her hands glide slowly over his pecs and down where his defined abs used to be. They’re still there, but they need some work to get back to what they were.

Right now she doesn’t care what he looks like, or how he's treated her in the past, she just cares that he’s home.

His entire body shivers under her touch and she takes her time, her fingers skimming his lower torso. She runs her finger through the small patch of dark hair below his belly-button, his cock hardening before her. She wonders then how much farther he wants to go.

Maybe she should stop, before they both do something they may regret, but Ben seems to want this.

He grabs her hands and she freezes, looking up at him. But he continues to move them, down. Down to his cock, now risen and leaking between them.

The sound he lets out as she touches him is almost a whimper, Rey gathering the pre-come pooling at the tip. She tastes it on her finger, tempted to fall to her knees right then and there before deciding it might be too much, too soon.

Her mind immediately flashes back to the night of the photography practice shoot and she knows she can’t push this like she did last time. She'll let him guide her.

Caresses his length gently, she smoothes her hand up and down. She can’t tell if the look on his face is one of pleasure or pain, maybe both, his eyes screwed shut and his mouth slightly open.

His breathing grows more rapid as she feels him fully erect and his hands again reach for hers, this time pulling them away.

He stares down at her now, speaking in only a whisper. ‘We should go to bed

Rey nods and he leans down to kiss her forehead. He grabs another towel to dry his hair and throws on some clean boxers, Rey finishing up and leaving the bathroom before him.

She dims the lights and climbs into bed, Ben joining her soon after.

His body is warm and his skin soft. The mattress sinks as he settles in, his arm wrapping around her as he presses his entire body up against hers.

He’s home.

Rey can't help but smile as her eyes flutter closed and her husband’s breathing settles behind her.

This is all she’s wanted for so long, Ben back in bed with her and a decent night’s sleep. She’s got one, now she’s hoping it’s not long before she gets the other.

I love you so much’ he murmurs against her hair, his body warmth just the comfort she needs for tonight.

I love you too’ she whispers back, her eyes falling closed.

It must only be minutes and he’s fast asleep with Rey following soon after, neither of them stirring until late the next morning.

And luckily for both of them, it’s the weekend.

 

~~~~~~

 

When Rey wakes fully Ben’s already up, the sun creeping through the crack in their curtains. She stretches and rolls out of bed, shucking her tank top and shorts to pull one of his shirts over her head.

She's always loved wearing his clothes and she wants to now more than ever. It's been a while since she felt this refreshed, a full night’s sleep just the thing she’d been missing.

To her surprise Ben’s cooking breakfast, the distinct smell of waffles or pancakes drawing her out into the kitchen. And there’s Ben in his t-shirt and boxers, his back to her as he busies himself in the kitchen.

She wants to creep up behind him and hold him the way he likes, but she figures that might be a bit too much of a surprise after a stint in jail. So instead she tiptoes in and takes a seat on the stool behind the breakfast bar.

Sitting quietly she watches him and it’s not until he turns around that he notices her there.

Morning’ he says with a smile, eyeing his shirt on her. Amazing what a night's sleep can do - he almost looks like a new man.

When did you get up?

About 5 minutes ago’ she grins back. ‘That smells so good

I thought it was about time I cooked you breakfast. Hope it’s ok? I have no idea how this thing even works…

He casts a concerned eye at the waffle maker. ‘And I left the baking powder out ‘cause I couldn’t find it, but I don’t think it’ll matter

I think it might.

Rey can’t help but laugh, knowing he means well. ‘Hm. Let's see

She hops up to investigate, lifting the lid and bending over to eye the dark contents. He’s cooking something, but it certainly doesn’t look like waffles.

Ben can’t help but stare, his wife's navy panties clearly visible under his shirt as she’s bent over with just a hint of ass-cheek on display. He wants to grab her and carry her back to the bedroom to make up for lost time but he’s trying his hardest to have a bit of self-control.

He’s not even sure sex would be a good idea this soon, but he’s not sure how much longer he can hold out either.

Grabbing a spatula from the caddy Rey attempts to pry the sad-looking waffle from the pan but it’s no use, it’s stuck fast. ‘Did you spray it first?

Ben stares back at her blankly. ‘No. Was I meant to?

Rey giggles and rolls her eyes, and Ben’s in love with her all over again. She looks so adorable in their kitchen in his shirt and her panties and he’s about to lose all his inhibitions.

He flicks the waffle maker off at the power and grabs the spatula from her hand, throwing it into the sink.

'Ben!'

He spins her around and threads his hands up under the back of her shirt, pulling her in close. Wasting no time he hoists her up and a shocked squeak falls from her mouth as she loops her legs around his waist.

Rey leans down to initiate the first kiss and it’s soft and tender, but the want from both of them is more than evident.

Ben pulls away first, adjusting her against him. ‘As much as I love watching you bend over the waffle machine, I think there’s a much better way we can spend our first morning together

Her eyes go wide, and she bites her bottom lip. Rey's no idiot, she's pretty sure she knows where this is headed.

I-‘ She pauses and takes a deep breath.

We can, but you should know I’m not on birth control'  She made the mistake of not telling him before, she's not going to do that again.

'I plan to go back on it, I just haven’t gotten around to it y-

He quiets her with another burning kiss as he continues to carry her down the hall. Her hands run through his hair, stolen kisses from both of them at every opportunity.

Any condoms left?

Mmhm’ Rey nods, kissing him again. ‘Bedside drawer

Perfect. Although we won't need one just yet'

He carries her the rest of the way to the bedroom and drops her gently onto the bed, climbing over her. He kisses her like a man starved, the last few months apart almost a distant memory.

Unbuttoning his shirt on her, he pulls it open to kiss every inch of her bare skin, his wife now breathless underneath him.

Rey closes her eyes and feels him hook his fingers into her panties, lifting her hips as he makes quick work of sliding them down her legs.

She lets her legs fall apart, hearing him gasp. He doesn’t start on her right away and she figures he’s taking his time to soak in the moment.

It’s been too long since he last went down on her, but that doesn’t mean she hasn’t craved it every day since.

As much as she loves sex with Ben, he’s so good at this that everything else pales into insignificance.

His mouth is pure magic. The way he kisses her thighs and ankles, the way his tongue works everywhere but where she needs it, ensuring she’s dripping wet for him when he finally takes her in his mouth.

She’s not sure how much more of this teasing she can bear, almost writhing on the bed with anticipation.

His hand comes to rest on her pelvis to hold her in place and that’s when she feels the first swipe of his warm, wet tongue against her slit.

Ben moans at the same time she arches her back, pushing herself against his face. He's hardly even started, but it’s mind-blowing and she wants to scream.

Oh god! Ben!

Ben hears the noises she makes and grins to himself, setting to work on the swollen pink lips he’s been dreaming of for so long, working her with his tongue.

She tastes just as good as he remembers and he's not going to waste time being gentle.

He owes her a lot - he knows he does. She's been so patient, and understanding. He can't believe how lucky he is, and also what an idiot he's been.

Sex with his wife can wait, but this? This right here is worth every lonely night away from her.

And what a shame he’s got a lot of making up to do.

Chapter Text

Ben, you don’t need to keep apologising

Ben quickly moves to the side of the bed, standing to pull his clothes back on in a mad hurry.

Even though Rey is telling him it’s fine, she’s lying - because it’s not fine. He’s been home all of 4 weeks and she’s experienced every emotion known to man in that time and he’s only experienced two – happiness or anger, with little else in-between.

This is only their second attempt at sex since he got home and both times he hasn’t been able to perform. Rey can tell it’s killing him and she’s tried to get him to understand that he’s had a lot going on and it could just be stress but he won’t hear of it.

Put simply, he feels like a failure.

It’s not fine if I can’t even satisfy my own wife

As he pulls on his jeans, he’s not even able to look her in the eye. Throwing on a clean shirt he runs a hand through his bed hair. ‘Fuck this, I’m going for a walk’

And don’t wait for me for breakfast, I’ll get something while I’m out

Rey props herself up as soon as he’s gone, stretching across the bed for her phone. Tears prick her eyes and at that very moment she’s just so tired of crying.

She’d hoped her crying days were over now that Ben was home and that chapter was behind them, but she realises she’s so emotional these days it doesn’t take much at all for the tears to flow.

She’s been texting Rose like crazy lately and she doesn’t know what she’d do without her. Rose and Finn have been her rock. Ben? More like a large stone in a wildly-rushing stream - tossing and turning and unable to settle down.

He’s booked in to join her for counselling tomorrow but from the mood he’s in right now Rey senses she’ll be going alone.

Again.

And it’s hard to effectively participate in marriage counselling when your own husband doesn’t want to be there.

In fact, it’s near impossible.

After texting back and forth for almost half an hour Rey decides she’s taken up enough of Rose’s time. She places her phone on silent and heads to the bathroom for a long, hot soak, climbing from the bed to pull on her robe.

The heater in the bathroom quickly takes the chill off the room while the spa bubbles away, Rey taking the chance to assess her swollen eyes in the mirror. And it’s not just her eyes that are puffy. As she places her robe on the hook and undresses, she notices she’s just feeling blah all over.

She’s bloated because her period’s overdue, tired from a lack of sleep and just all around grumpy.

With a long, deep sigh she dumps half a container of bubble bath into the stream before sinking into the warm bath. It’s sheer heaven and it feels so good she may never leave. Resting her head back to close her eyes, she dreams of better days.

Her mind wanders back to their wedding day, a place she hasn’t gone for a while now. Everything had gone so perfectly, and they’d envisioned the rest of their lives much the same-

How wrong they’d been.

That’s not to say she wouldn’t have married Ben had she known what lay ahead, because there’s no-one she’s ever loved more than him. And that’s why you make wedding vows after all, isn’t it? In sickness and in health, in good times and bad - completely and forever.

She still feels that way even if the life she knows now is nothing like she had imagined.

The one thing she does know for sure? As long as they both keep fighting for their love, they’ll eventually make it out the other side.

 

~~~~

 

Ben walks as fast as his legs can take him.

He’s not sure where he’s going or what he wants to do, he just knows he can’t go back to the apartment. At least not until he calms down.

It may not be the best way to handle his anger but it means Rey won’t have to put up with it and to him that’s the main thing. She’s been through enough already and it’s not her fault he can’t control his emotions.

No. This is something only he can fix.

He ponders a visit to the doctor. Maybe they’ll have some magic potion to help him perform in the bedroom but he doubted it’d be that easy.

Maybe it was stress, but he’s unsure how to stop stressing when he doesn’t even feel like he’s stressing half the time. Sounds silly, but it’s how he feels.

Just when he’d thought he was doing ok, little things had started to set him off. He’d contemplated calling Finn to vent about his latest problem but deep down he knew he couldn’t put his mate through anything more than he already had.

There was only one thing left to do-

-and he had no idea what it was.

 

~~~~

 

Deep down he knows he shouldn’t be back here, but he has nowhere else to go and no-one else to turn to.

He could call his parents but then he’d have to explain the whole situation from start to finish and that was the last thing he needed right now. Plus they weren't on speaking terms anyway, so what point would there be?

Maybe he'd tell them one day - just not today.

 

~~~~

 

Mate, you don’t look so good

Finn holds the door open and lets him enter their apartment, Rose grabbing her bag and scooting past them both with a quick peck to her husband’s cheek.

Sorry Ben, late for work. It’s good to see you again though!

Rose closes the door behind her, photo frames shaking on the wall from the force and then it’s just the two of them.

Everything ok?’ Finn can already tell something’s up from the look on his face.

Ben slumps down on the couch, his head falling back against the cushions.

I wish I could say yes, but no

He’s silent for a while and Finn waits patiently for him to say what’s on his mind, the loungeroom all but silent save for the faint ticking of the clock on the wall.

Do you wanna talk about it?

He does and he doesn’t.

I guess?

Ok. Well you know whatever it is, I’ll listen. No judgement here

Ben knows that but it doesn’t make talking about the issue any easier.

Finn decides he should start.

How have things been with you guys? I haven’t seen you for a while

Ben sighs.

‘It started out ok, but lately not so great’ He twiddles his thumbs as he talks. ‘I’m struggling a bit. And it’s with little things I had no problem with before, like eating and sleeping. Just can’t seem to get back into any sort of rhythm. Sometimes it feels like I’m still inside

I know that’s stupid, but it’s the way I feel. Like I’m still a prisoner, in a way? And now there’s another issue to add to the list, as if I didn’t have enough problems to deal with

Go on, you can laugh

Finn makes a face. ‘Why would I laugh?

I dunno. Cause I’m a freak?’ Ben shrugs and lets out a nervous laugh himself.

So what’s the other issue? Is that what you came to get off your chest?

Yeah, if that’s ok? It’s personal but II don’t care at this point and I really don’t know who else to talk to

Finn nods. ‘Personal is fine. I can do personal

Ben decides he should just come out and say it, no point beating around the bush.

Have you ever struggled in the bedroom?’ He works his jaw nervously, sighing heavily.

You mean, to perform?

Ben nods, feeling his cheeks blush slightly.

You probably wouldn’t believe it, but yeah’

For real?

‘For real’ Finn laughs. ‘Before we got married I had a lot of work stuff weighing me down and I’d lay awake half the night stressing about it. I’m assuming that’s all this is? A stress thing?

God, I hope so. The thing is, I don’t feel stressed if that makes sense? Like I still think about prison and I’ve had trouble sleeping, but that shouldn’t affect my dick, surely?

You’d be surprised. Stress can affect all sorts of stuff, even when you think you’re not actually stressed. You’re probably just putting too much pressure on yourself’

Ben knows he’s definitely putting too much pressure on himself, fearing any small slip-up and he may lose Rey again.

‘You’ll never guess what helped me’

Finn’s right, he probably wouldn’t.

‘Yoga

Ben’s turn to laugh now. ‘You’re kidding. Yoga? Like downward dogs and stuff?

Downward dog’ Finn corrects him. ‘And yes. I do it every morning now and it helps keep the stress at bay. Honestly, you should try it

Mate, have you seen me?!’ Ben points to his body as if Finn can’t see him sitting right there. ‘I doubt this sasquatch body could even stretch like that

You’d be surprised. I’ve got a DVD here if you wanna give it a go?’

‘What, now? I’m not exactly dressed for yoga’

‘Well that’s not gonna get you out of it, and yes now. Look at me, do I look busy?’

Finn hops from the couch to grab a DVD from the bookshelf, throwing it in Ben’s lap. ‘There’s tight yoga pants and low-cut tops, if that motivates you?

Could definitely make it more enticing…

And you won’t know until you give it a go. It’s either that or meditation and to be honest I can’t see you sitting still long enough to meditate

He’s probably right there.

Masturbate, yes. Meditate? I don’t think so

Ha’ Finn laughs. ‘Well you know that helps too

Yeah. If I could get it up that is, which is kinda why I’m here

Good point. So, yoga?

Ben flips the DVD cover over. ‘I dunno man. It’s not really me

Look what do you have to lose? At worst it does nothing and you’re no worse off. At best it helps you relax and get back to having sex again

Ben’s coming around to the idea slowly but surely.

Alright, I’ll give it a go. Our secret though? Tell anyone and you’re a dead man

Yeah, yeah. Fine’ Finn rolls his eyes dramatically as he shoves the DVD into the player.

Shortly after he disappears down the hall to his room, returning with yoga mats in hand. ‘You can use my spare but don’t you dare get ass sweat on it

Ok that’s gross’ Ben shucks his sweater and lays it over the arm of the couch, settling on the mat with his legs outstretched.

Finn hits play and a middle-aged woman pops up on the screen.

Ben really can’t believe he’s about to do this. He’s always thought yoga was more a woman’s domain, he had no idea men even did it. But it was worth a try if there was any chance it’d help him relax in the bedroom.

What more did he have to lose?

He does his best to pay attention and follow the instructions but at several stages during the DVD he either falls on his face or stretches a muscle beyond what any normal muscle should be stretched, collapsing on the mat by the end of it.

Feel any better?

Glancing over he sees Finn beaming back at him.

Shit that was hard work. But I do feel more relaxed already

Ben sits up to stretch out.

You can borrow this if you want? Keep it as long as you want

Thanks for the offer, but no. I can’t let Rey see me doing yoga

That draws a groan.

Why not? Knowing Rey I don’t think she’d care what you were doing as long as it’d mean she’d get the old Ben back

Uh, cause it’s a girly thing?

Finn rolls his eyes, relaxing back on his elbows. ‘You, my friend, have a warped idea of what men and women should do. Not sure where that comes from, but there’s nothing wrong with yoga. Men do it all the time

Yeah well, blame my father and uncle for that. I never had great role models growing up, so I don’t know this stuff’ Ben reaches over to punch Finn gently in the shoulder. ‘That’s why I have you

Fair enough, but you can learn if you want. Just think of how much better you feel now. I’m sure you wanna feel that way more often

He does.

Well yeah, of course

Then suck it up princess

Ben grabs the DVD cover and launches it at him, Finn ducking at just the right time to narrowly avoid it connecting with his face.

Ok. Still need to work on your aggression but, one thing at a time

Standing to full height, Ben stretches his legs out. ‘I better go, Rey’s probably worried about me

Did you tell her you were coming over?

Not exactly?’ Ben grabs his sweater and keys, running a hand through his yoga-damp hair. ‘And I know I should’ve, so I’ll probably cop it when I get home

Just talk to her man, seriously’ Finn rolls up the mats and sits them aside. ‘Just keep letting her in or you’ll lose her for good

Are you sure you don’t want this?’ He wiggles his eyebrows and waves the DVD cover in Ben’s face. ‘Go on

Against his better judgement, Ben grabs it and hides it inside his jacket. ‘If I must. But remember, not a word to anyone

Finn makes a zipping motion over his lips. ‘Secret’s safe with me. And let me know how you go, yeah?

 

~~~~

 

Where were you?! I tried calling 3 times

Rey’s standing over the pot of spaghetti sauce, stirring madly. She’s angry and Ben knows she has every right to be.

He knows he really should be better at communicating by now.

‘Sorry. I got walking and then I ended up at Finn’s’ He sinks down onto the stool by the counter. ‘I know I should’ve called

Turning to regard him, she has her hands-on hips and an adorable scowl on her face. ‘You can’t just keep going AWOL, Ben. I didn’t even know if you were coming home for dinner

I know. I said I was sorry

All well and good but maybe stop doing it so you don’t have to keep saying sorry?

She turns her back now to continue stirring.

Ben really hadn’t expected her to be this upset and maybe that was the whole problem. They still had very different ideas of what was important when it came to communicating and so inevitably they kept on clashing.

He knew he had to try harder to understand how his actions made her feel.

Making his way over he reaches his arms around her waist. Initially she attempts to wrangle out but he holds her steady.

Hey, I really am sorry. I’ll try and do better

Her petite frame relaxes against him now.

‘I keep hearing you say that Ben, but actions speak louder than words

I know, I know they do. And I’ll try, I promise

He pulls back and reaches over her shoulders and she ducks out of the way.

Here, let me do that. You go grab some wine and relax

Rey begrudgingly retreats to the pantry to grab a bottle of red, popping the cork to fill two glasses on the counter while Ben stirs the sauce, careful not to let it stick.

Careful it doesn’t stick

He turns to give her a smile. ‘Don’t worry, I got this

Rey takes another sip of wine while she continues to watch him. She can’t really complain when he offers to help cook but she’s always struggled to sit back and hand over control so she adds that to the list of things she needs to work on.

Busying herself preparing another pot for the spaghetti, she hovers next to him while the water boils.

So what did you get up to at Finn’s?

Ben’s not sure just how much to tell her. He told Finn he didn’t want anyone else to know, but Rey isn’t anyone else. And if he’s serious about communicating properly with her then that starts with complete honesty.

Promise you won’t laugh?

I can never promise that, Ben. You know I laugh at the stupidest things

She’s not lying, she really does.

I was talking to him about my…issue

Ben continues stirring, turning the temperature down to a simmer.

Oh. It’s not a big deal, you know

She meets his gaze now.

Even if it’s not to you, it is to me. Anyway, he had a suggestion which he thought might help

Oh?’ Rey turns to rest her back against the bench, looking up at him with interest.

Yeahwould you believe yoga of all things?

Rey’s face lights up instantly. ‘Yoga? Ben, I love yoga

He really had no idea, she’d never even mentioned it before. He stops stirring while keeping an eye on the simmering sauce.

Since when? I didn’t know that

I did it all through college and I loved it, I just stopped one day and never got back into it

It’s then she starts giggling. ‘Oh my god. You? Doing yoga?

He can see she’s trying to picture the sight.

It’s kind of hard to picture

Ben laughs along with her now. ‘Yeah, was for me too cause you know I’m all limbs. But I actually enjoyed it

Really? Wow. Do you think it might help?

Dunno babe. I guess we’ll see, huh?

He flashes her a cheeky wink and she smiles again. ‘It did help relax me so I figure I should stick with it and see how it goes

You should’ Rey stirs the spaghetti one final time before straining it into the two bowls. ‘Maybe we could do it together?

Ben loves that idea but he thinks Rey could be more of a distraction than a help - especially with her ass in the air beside him - or even better, in front of him.

I dunno. You’d be a major distraction in yoga pants, lemme tell you, so probably not a great idea. After all I’m meant to be relaxing, not getting turned on

On the contrary husband’ She bumps her hip gently into his. ‘Aren’t you meant to be getting turned on? So maybe it is a really good idea?’

Maybe she’s right? This could be just the thing he needs for his dick to show interest again. And if it means he gets to stare at his wife in tight leggings, then there’s definitely no harm in trying.

You could be onto something there’ Ben grabs the sauce from the plate while turning the heat off. Rey hands him the bowls one by one and Ben follows behind with sauce.

Wanna eat on the couch?

Rey grabs her glass of wine and motions to the loungeroom.

Yeah, why not

They retreat to the couch and kick back to relax, Rey flicking the TV on before she sits down. She stretches her legs out and they come to rest on Ben’s thighs, the two of them settling in for the long haul.

What’s this crap?’ Ben slurps a mouthful of spaghetti while Rey watches his mouth work.

Crap? It’s 50 Shades

’Oh god. 50 Shades of lame from what I’ve heard

Rey rolls her eyes. She’s seen this one before but she knows Ben hasn’t. Part of her is tempted to turn it off, the other part tempted to keep it on. There are things in this movie she’s imagined doing with him, but she’s never had the guts to tell him and maybe now isn’t the best time anyway?

The closest she got was telling him she wanted to try different things in the bedroom (back when they first talked about what their issues were) but she’s starting to wonder if he’s forgotten about it, because the few times they’d had sex since it was just the same as always.

Which is not to say it’s not good, because it’s great, it’s just that Rey wants…a little more. Considering what he’s currently going through though she doesn’t exactly want to push her luck.

She decides it safer to throw a few hints out and see if he picks up on them.

In one of the first raunchy scenes in the movie, Christian strips Ana’s underwear before going down on her, Rey adjusting uncomfortably on the couch.

She’s watched this with girlfriends before but she’s never watched it with a guy and she’s certainly never watched it with Ben.

Chewing on her lip she steals glances out of the corner of her eye, the noises from Ana quickly turning her on. Rey’s imagining Ben going down on her while she stands up – something she’s also wanted to try - sure her underwear will be soaked by the end of this movie, as it usually is.

Ben’s twirling spaghetti onto his fork pretending he’s not watching but Rey knows he is, she can see his eyes flicking to and from the screen.

Do you reckon it feels better that way?’ he muses.

His question surprises her. She swallows and turns to look at him, the TV light flickering in the disappearing light from outside.

What do you mean?

Like that’ he nods to the TV. ‘Standing up

He turns to look at her. ‘Do you reckon it’d feel better if I did it like that?

Rey has no idea but she can imagine standing and bracing herself on his shoulders to look down on him between her legs would be pretty amazing. It might be a simple thing or even a boring thing for most other people, but Rey knows it doesn’t take much to spice things up so she’s willing to start small.

There’s nothing wrong with the way you do it now’ she shrugs. ‘But I wouldn’t be against giving it a go?

Ben blinks back at her, smiling. ‘We definitely should

He doesn’t mention it again, eating in silence and watching the rest of the scene before eventually getting bored with the entire movie.

It’s half over now and Ben’s busy washing up, seeing as their dishwasher is on the blink, Rey still snuggled on the couch.

She does notice it go strangely quiet in the kitchen when certain sex scenes come onscreen and she can’t help but smile, although she eventually gets tired of sitting by herself.

Standing to flick the TV off she returns to Ben in the kitchen. He’s now tucking into a bowl of cereal – because they only ate over an hour ago – Rey soaking her dish in the sink.

Might head to bed’ she informs him, Ben nodding as he crunches another mouthful. She reaches up and plants a quick kiss on his cheek. ‘Night babe

Night. I’ll be in as soon as I’m done here

Rey flicks the lounge light off on her way through. Their bedroom is fairly cool tonight so she pops the heater on and the electric blanket, just to make sure it’s nice and toasty when she gets in.

While undressing she rummages through her drawers for something clean to wear to bed. Spying the sexy red number she wore on their honeymoon she wonders if it might be a bit much for a night at home. Hearing Ben is now in the bathroom she quickly pulls it out to try it on.

Throwing her clothes to the floor she slips it over her head and assesses herself in the mirror. It’s a little depressing that she’s put on weight since she last wore it but she’s glad it still fits.

The barely-there lacey shorts are a little tighter than they once were but she does a twirl and is more than happy with the result. Hearing Ben approach she makes for the bed, unsure why she’s afraid he’ll see her in it.

Unfortunately for her, Ben arrives just in time. If it made a sound, she’s sure you’d be able to hear his jaw hit the floor. She’s just pulling back the covers when he’s over to her in a flash, his arm reaching out to latch on to her wrist.

Standing nervously in front of him, his dark eyes travel the length of her body.

Wow’ he breathes. ‘I haven’t seen you in this since our honeymoon

I know, it’s been a while. It’s a bit tighter here but-’ Rey tugs at the shorts, trying to pull them down.

Rubbish. You look just as good now as you did then. Better, if that’s even possible

Ben holds her shaky hands in front of him. A smile appears as if an idea has suddenly popped into his head, Rey watching as he sinks slowly to his knees.

Her heart beats a little faster as he stares up at her, his large hands moving up under the hem of her matching singlet to the band of her shorts.

Ben, you don’t have to-

Do you want me to?

He’s still staring, patiently waiting.

Rey takes a deep breath and nods back at him, biting her lip nervously. Ben’s hands are warm – she assumes he’s just washed them – and her breath hitches as he slips the red lace down her legs.

Stepping out of them he throws them onto the bed, his hands now gripping her thighs. Her legs are shaking already with this new position not one she’s used to.

Turn around baby

Rey briefly wonders why he’d be asking her to do that, but she’s up for new things so she does as he says.

Closing her eyes she turns back on and tries to settle her breathing, feeling his cool breath between her legs. They’ve always done this lying down so this is new for both of them.

Ben tests the waters, dipping a finger in first. Rey embarrassed by just how wet she is and now she’s back on it’s a whole different feeling now she can’t see what he’s doing.

Rey’s never been bold enough to tell Ben how much watching other people have sex does it for her. It’s a sure-fire way to make her wet and he’s about to find that out.

One of his long fingers pushes inside, his hand twisting slowly so she feels every movement.

Ah’ she gasps, the movement more than she can take already.

Do you have any idea how wet you are?’ he mutters as he stretches her wide with another finger, working them in and out of her with ease.

Rey can’t bear to answer. She knows all too well.

I think you do know’ he remarks. ‘If I didn’t know any better, I’d say watching that movie made you this wet

Did it, Rey? Did watching that make you this wet for me?

Yes’ she breathes as he continues to work at her.

‘I see’ He pulls his fingers from her and licks them, Rey unable to watch. She wants him to stop teasing and go to town on her - why is taking so long?

‘Please, Ben. I need this’

‘Oh, you need this huh? What do you need exactly? Tell me’

Ben’s never been like this before. As long as she’s known him he’s always been keen to get stuck into it rather than tease her like he is now. Maybe watching that movie with him wasn’t a good idea if this is the kind of torture she’s in for from now on.

It’s exciting and new yet excruciating, all at once.

She feels him part her butt cheeks and lower himself to find the spot he’s after.

‘Please, Ben’

He has a little chuckle to himself hearing that, his large hands holding her steady.

‘Seeing as you asked so nicely’

Rey has never wanted his mouth on her as badly as she does now. She wants everything – every stroke of his tongue, every suck of his lips, every drop of her come in his mouth.

All of it.

He’s not being gentle but she doesn’t want him to be. Tonight she wants everything he can give her and more.

His strong tongue works inside her as his hands hold her in place, her legs already beginning to shake. He’s humming as he goes, and she can tell how much he’s enjoying it.

The noises he’s making and the unsteadiness of the position she’s in gets her closer to the edge the harder he works.

She’s vulnerable and completely at his mercy, more than she ever has been before, but she knows now this is how she wants it to be. All the filthy dreams she’s had in her head, she wants them all with Ben.

She knows he can give her what she needs if she’d only ask.

Ben, Ben’ She can’t help but urge him on, her head falling backwards and her hands reaching behind in an attempt to brace on his shoulders.

Everything they’ve ever done before has been amazing, but this is a whole new level of want she hasn’t felt before – and she’s hoping he feels it too.

He pauses briefly to make sure she’s ok. ‘How you doin’ up there?

Mm. Don’t stop

Close?

He knows damn well she’s close, but of course he’s decided to tease her some more.

She slaps him playfully on the back, the only part she can reach in a hurry.

Oh, that close?’ He pulls back to pry her swollen lips apart so he can tickle her clit with his tongue, Rey feeling her legs begin to buckle with his head shoved between her legs.

Thank god he’s holding her up or she would’ve easily collapsed by now.

Ben!

Mm?

I need-‘ She can’t even tell him what she needs but he knows. She needs to come.

Working her clit, he dips back to lick some more slick onto his tongue, moving back to her clit to suck it between his lips. It’s just what she needs, Rey chasing her climax as her eyes screw shut and she senses the flood.

The noises Ben makes are filthy and not dissimilar to the sound of him slurping his spaghetti earlier, his mouth open to catch her as she comes. He continues to work her until Rey reaches down to pull at his hair, prying his mouth away.

She collapses forward onto the bed and she can hear Ben licking his lips. Settling back into the mattress with a long groan she throws her hand up over her face.

That orgasm was so much better than anything she’d had before, sex or otherwise. She couldn’t even make herself orgasm like that. He’d gone down on her so many times before but nothing had been as good as that.

As her breathing settles and her legs regain feeling, he’s crawling up the bed, flipping to his back to lie next to her.

He lets out a contented sigh and Rey smiles to herself, slowly rolling over to face him. His lips shine with her slick and she’s so tempted to kiss him, but she’s never done it before.

She’s always wanted to taste herself on his lips, but she was never sure how he’d feel about it.

Moving closer she reaches out to trace his bottom lip with her finger, Ben kissing it softly. She moves in closer still and moves her lips to his, pausing at distance to gauge his reaction.

Ben cocks his head, his eyes shining in the darkness when he realises what she wants to do.

It’s ok, you can kiss me’ he whispers and Rey’s relieved.

She tests it out by pulling his bottom lip between her teeth, his growl encouraging her to just go for it.

So she does.

Opening her mouth slightly she kisses him hard, dipping her tongue deep inside his mouth. He opens to accept her and works his tongue with hers. His groaning matches her moaning and she’s surprised she enjoys the taste of herself this much. She had no idea it would taste that good.

When she finally pulls away, Ben’s grinning back at her.

Did you like it?

Rey blushes now, realising what she’s just done. It still feels a little gross but if she’s honest with herself she really does love it.

She licks her lips suggestively and smiles back at him. ‘Not bad

Ben laughs softly. ‘Not bad? Best taste in the world

Stop it’ She hits him playfully but he’s enjoying it too much to stop.

Cmon you taste good, you know you do

Stop, Ben’ She’s still embarrassed but she’s loving that he’s loving it and she knows it won’t be embarrassing the more times she does it.

Seriously, you should bottle that stuff

Ben!’ She climbs on top of him and starts hitting him, albeit playfully.

Ok, I’ll stop, I’ll stop!’ He ducks the hits but grabs her hands to stop her, the two of them cuddling and laughing.

Rey can’t remember the last time she had this much fun in bed. Sex is great, they’ve had lots of sex, but she can’t remember playing and laughing like they have tonight.

It’s the most fun they’ve had in a while.

Rolling off him to catch her breath, Rey is still smiling.

I’m not bottling it, that’s so gross

Ben cracks up again. ’It’s really not and you shouldn’t be embarrassed about it

Oh?’ She props herself on her elbow. ‘Like you shouldn’t be embarrassed about what happened the other day?

Ben’s demeanour instantly changes, his tone suddenly more serious. ‘Rey. That’s completely different

She realises now that’s probably an end to the fun.

She had to go and ruin it again.

I know, I just meant-

I know what you meant. But, lucky for you-’ He grabs her hand and moves it down under the covers, Rey feeling the hardness there.

His face breaks out into that famous smile again.

We’re back in business

You tricked me. That’s cruel’ She gives him a little squeeze and his eyes flutter closed. ‘But we should make the most of it while we can

Mhm’ he nods, his eyes remaining closed as if he dares open them he’ll deflate in an instant. ‘We definitely should

Rey shuffles down the bed and takes the covers with her, making short work of his boxers.

His eyes suddenly fly open. ‘Babe?

Mm?

I need to be inside you

Music to her ears. Rey smiles and crawls back up the bed and into his arms, sighing against him. ‘Ok

Ben pulls himself half up against the headboard, pulling Rey back over onto his lap, her legs straddled either side. She sits up and pulls her singlet over her head, Ben’s hands on her as soon as she’s naked.

God I love these’ he murmurs, gently squeezing a breast in each hand. Rey would usually close her eyes and let her head fall back to enjoy the feeling but tonight she wants to watch him.

She focuses on his hands, watching them squeeze and cup until he pulls them away to replace them with his mouth, his lips working one nipple then the other.

After giving them plenty of attention he pulls back and looks thoughtful. ‘Remember when we first talked and you said you wanted to try different things?

He remembered.

Yeah?’ She reaches down to play with his hair, running her hands through his soft, dark waves.

Well, anything you wanna try right now?

His question catches her off guard. Of course there’s things she’s thought about trying but nothing immediately comes to mind. She wishes she’d had more time to think now.

She wracks her brain to try and come up with something.

Ok, there is something but it’s not that exciting

Uh, excuse me? If you want to do it, then I’ll do it. I don’t care how unexciting you think it is

Rey leans down to kiss him.

As long as I get to be inside you, I’ll do whatever you want

So’ He tickles her ribs to make her laugh. ‘What is it?

Rey decides to show him instead, telling him to lie down on his back.

Ben lays back and props the pillow up a bit so he can get comfortable. Clambering over him Rey turns around to settle her ass near his cock, which is thankfully still hard. She knows she needs to stop mucking around and get to it so she grabs his length to angle it toward her entrance.

Sinking down slowly she’s sure to look back at him as she does.

Ben lets out a slow, deep breath.

Fuuuck babe’ He places his hands either side of her hips and helps her sink down the rest of the way, the angle already better than her normal cowgirl position.

I get to perv on this ass the whole time? Shit yeah

Rey smiles proudly to herself. She does love the little comments he throws out that make her feel loved, make her feel beautiful, especially in the bedroom. She really could listen to him say those things all day.

Lifting herself slowly she sinks down again, a low groan coming from her husband. So she does it again to gain the same reaction.

Speeding up a little she realises this angle is just the right angle she needs and it’s rubbing her in all the right places. Rolling her hips around and around is so much more pleasurable than she pictured it would be, but she finds she gets tired much faster.

Leaning back she lets her hands rest on Ben’s chest and she props herself upwards to let him thrust up into her. This is a much better angle and it gives her arms a brief rest. Usually she’s in a rush to come but she’s enjoying this far too much to even be worried about that.

Ben reaches around to cup her breasts and the feel of him twisting her nipples while he thrusts up into her is one of the best things she’s ever felt.

She hates to think how many positions are out there hey’ve never even thought of trying.

I feel like I should be doing more’ Ben remarks as he continues to thrust, every penetration moving Rey closer to her climax.

Can you continue to do that? Please?

What’s that?

My nipples. Can you keep twisting them, like you were before?

Yeah of course’ His hands reach around again and he twists just so, Rey knowing now that’s what she’s going to need to finish off.

Ohh’ she moans. ‘This is good, Ben. Why have we never done this before?’ She keeps meeting his thrusts, getting closer and closer to the edge with each one. He’s almost pulling out each time and it’s that that’s really doing it for her.

She hears him softly laugh. ‘I have no idea

I’m close. I just need something – ah – something more

What do you need? Talk to me

I don’t know – ohh – I think-

She glances down and it hits her. She knows exactly what she needs now, and she can’t believe she hadn’t realised it before. This new position gives her the perfect opportunity to work her clit and she can’t believe she’s been neglecting it the whole time.

Moving her hands from his chest she leans forward to brace her left hand on his leg so she can use her right to work her clit.

And it’s just what the Dr ordered.

Ohhh’ she moans, shuddering with the flashes of pleasure as she rolls her finger around the sensitive bud. ‘Ohh yeah’

Ben’s never heard her so loud before and now he just wants to hear it all the time.

That’s it, baby’ he coaxes, unsure where this sex voice is coming from. He’s never been very vocal in the bedroom but now he finds he wants to be.

Good girl. You’re doing so good. I think you’re almost there

Hearing Ben encourage her is doing wonders.

Almost. Keep - ah - keep doing that’

He holds her hips to help guide her down over him in quick succession.

‘Yes – yes – yes

Ben feels like he’s about to come just from hearing her voice, hoping to at least hold out so they can come together. He screws his eyes shut and works to slow his breathing, but he can feel it threatening and he’s unsure whether he’ll be able to stop it.

Gonna come’ she groans. ‘Come with me, Ben’

Ben’s ready to let go, just as soon as he feels her pulse around him.

It’s when her head falls backwards and she arches her back with a groan that Ben knows it’s coming. He continues to thrust while still encouraging her through it.

Good girl – that’s it – come for me

There’s gotta be something in this kind of talk because the minute Ben feels that pulsing around his cock he lets go, holding her down while he pushes in as far as he can go, Rey riding her orgasm out on top of him.

As their climax finally subsides Rey falls forward onto his legs, Ben slowly getting his breath back.

I’m so sore’ Rey moans, her tanned back with a slight sheen of sweat. ‘Wow that was good

I think that’s the hottest sex we’ve ever had’ Ben muses, wiping the sweat from his brow. He’s not sure why he’s sweated so much seeing as he wasn’t really doing anything, but he figures it’s the atmosphere they created.

The talk (they’ve never really talked much at all during sex before but that changes now), watching her naked back and her perfect ass the whole time, her hips moving in that sexy circular motion while she rode his cock to her climax-

Certainly a night they wouldn’t be forgetting in a hurry.

 

~~~~

 

Two weeks later and they’re back at their third counselling session.

If you asked them both they’d say things are going pretty well, but it’s only once the topics of problem-solving and communication are raised that they realise their current solution to their recent problems may not be the best one.

Since Ben arrived home there’s been plenty of arguments and disagreements but recently they’ve always resulted in the same solution and they know it’s not the best way to handle things.

Tell me about the last argument you had

It’s a simple question but Ben’s slightly embarassed to admit that it was over something rather trivial – cereal.

Rey had forgotten to grab more cereal at the store when she said she would, even though Ben knew she’d already had a hard day and her head just wasn’t in the game – but regardless, he’d lost it anyway.

Disagreements and getting upset are normal’ they’re told, ‘but the important thing is how you resolve it. How did you resolve this particular situation?

Ben remembers exactly how they’d resolved that particular situation – he’d taken his wife right there on the kitchen counter and it was some of the hottest, most spontaneous sex they’d ever had.

Uh’ He glances at Rey and she looks away, so it’s left up to him to answer.

With sex?

There’d been more sex than conversation in recent weeks, although the conversation during the sex? That had been really good.

They’d tried several new positions and they were both comfortable enough to be vocal about what they wanted and what they liked, and it had absolutely done wonders for their sex life.

Unfortunately the other issues were still there.

And did that resolve the situation?’ the counsellor asks and Ben figured she already knew the answer to that.

He can only shake his head and screw up his nose. ‘Not exactly. Cause there still wasn’t cereal when I wanted it’ he shrugs.

He hears Rey laugh and he glances over to her rolling her eyes and smiling, her cheeks slightly flushed.

It’s great that you’re enjoying sex again but unfortunately you need to focus on the issue itself and deal with it at the time, rather than ignore it and hope it goes away. Because let me tell you, it’ll more often than not still be there afterward

Her advice makes perfect sense but putting it into practice is going to be the hard part.

They’re handed some homework before they leave.

I want you to use this notebook to make notes of the disagreements you have between now and your next visit. Also write down how you go about resolving them and we’ll discuss how you’ve gone next time you’re here

Although Ben hoped he’d never see homework again after school finished, he figures for their marriage he’ll make the effort.

After all, how hard could it be?

 

~~~~

 

Ok we’ve put it off long enough. We just need to get in and get it done

Ben pauses the spoonful of cereal before it hits his mouth, milk dripping down onto the counter. He turns to stare at Rey as she enters the room to make this unexpected announcement, noticing she’s hiding something behind her back.

What have we put off exactly?

Rey brings her camera out from behind her back, pretending to take a shot of him eating. Ben pulls a cheesy face and she clicks the button.

The nude shoot, remember?

Ohhh, that

Yes that. So, get naked

Ben huffs a laugh. ‘Can I finish my cereal first?

Yes you may

Ben had actually forgotten all about his promise with so much on their plate, but he had made the promise and now it was time to deliver.

Rey saunters up to grab a spoon from the drawer before dipping it into his bowl then into her mouth, licking stray milk from her lips.

Do we have to do it now though? I mean I haven’t even showered yet

He’s not trying to put it off, he’s not, but he really needs to shower especially if his naked body is going on display for all the world to see.

‘I thought we could just do a few practice poses. You know, like-‘ she trails off and Ben smiles at the blush creeping over her face. ‘-like last time

Like the night we tried it and you jumped me, you mean? That night?

That night hadn’t exactly gone to plan. He’d come over to help prepare for the shoot, but they hadn’t actually gotten any shooting done.

He’d been briefly naked on their bed before Rey had taken matters into her own hands and the shoot had been all but forgotten. It was so hot he wondered what the chances were of it happening again…

Yes’ Rey replies, her face still flushed. ‘That one. I have some poses in mind so as soon as you’re done with breakfast, we should get down to it

Ben likes bossy Rey.

Alright, I’m done’ He places his bowl into the sink and then he’s beside her again. ‘Bedroom again, or?

Hm’ Rey rubs her chin with her hand, surveying the apartment. ‘Maybe best we don’t. I was thinking in here would be ok, if we just move the coffee table?

Yep’ Ben agrees. ‘As long as we lower the blinds, cause I’m not sure the neighbours on the other side of the street need me putting them off their breakfast

Ok, deal’ Rey laughs. ‘Good thinking

She busies herself rearranging the furniture while Ben undresses.

She droops a large white sheet over their TV after deciding it’s safer to put Ben there and photoshop the background later, rather than have his shadow visible through the blinds to the world outside.

Should I do push-ups or something? I feel like I should look ripped at least

He’s now standing in only his briefs in the middle of the living room. He already looks like a Greek god carved from marble, so Rey has no idea why he’d think he needs to put more work in.

Moving closer, she pushes him a little more to the centre, sure to let her hand trail softly down his chest.

Are you kidding me? Your physique is ripped, Ben. You don’t need to do a thing, trust me

He can’t help but lean in for a kiss. ‘Ok. I trust you

He looks to deepen the kiss as his hand trails low over her waist, but Rey pulls away.

Nice try’ She moves backwards to focus the lens on her subject, adjusting the settings to get the perfect shot.

Ben hooks his hands into the band of his underwear and stands regarding her.

You don’t have to be naked while we’re working out poses if you-‘

His eyes are locked on hers as he lowers his briefs and steps out of them to kick them away.

‘-don’t want to’ Rey finishes. ‘But I can work with this

Of course she can do this, she’s a professional.

Alright, so. Poses

Rey does her best to manouver Ben without touching him too much. She’s mindful that if she touches him too much then this shoot will likely end up much the same as their first attempt and right now they just need to knuckle down or it’ll never get done.

For the first one I need you with your right profile to the camera

Ben turns so his left side is facing the camera before realising and readjusting.

Ok. So raise your right leg up, like on your toes

Ben screws his face up, but Rey reassures him. ‘It’s fine. Your toes won’t be in the shot, it’s just to cover your bits

Yeah, good. No-one needs to see that

He regards her with a smile. ‘Present company excepted, of course

Of course’ Rey smiles back. ‘Ok, so raise your left arm up and bend it at the elbow

Ben does as he’s told, awaiting further instructions.

Perfect. Now sit your hand on your head. No, a little further back. Ok, now kinda grab your hair?

Ben grabs his hair a little too aggressively so Rey helps him adjust to how she wants him before standing back to admire her work.

He looks good, really good. She wishes she had some oil or something because she’d rub it all over his torso for that golden glow, but sadly she doesn’t have any.

She does keep it in mind for the actual shoot, however.

Ben stands patiently in position while Rey snaps away, moving from the left to the right to try out different angels and assess what looks best.

She does enjoy the little peek of ass she glimpses when she moves to the left, so she jots it down in her notebook for later.

What’s that?

Just where I write notes on practice shoots, mainly so I don’t forget what I want when the time comes

Cool. Can we change it up now? My thigh is aching

Rey laughs and nods. ‘Yep, I think we’re done with that one

Ben relaxes his body to stand up straight.

I was thinking the next one we could do sitting down? I’ll grab my prop box

Rey returns from the bedroom to place the box in front of the TV, Ben eyeing it cautiously.

You do see the size of me? Will that thing even hold my weight?

He really has now idea how his massive body will fit on that teensy box.

I hope so’ Rey laughs. ‘We’ll see how we go

Rey puts a towel down and Ben takes a seat on the box.

Ok, this is weird. I feel like the biggest idiot

Babe, will you please relax? You look fine. Now I need you to look sultry and I need you to manspread

Ben’s eyes go wide. ‘I’m sorry what?

Manspread. You know

I know what manspreading is. I’m just not sure it’s gonna look that good while I’m stark naked, that’s all

Will you at least trust me and try it?

Ben rolls his eyes and shakes his head with a pained groan. ‘If you say so. You’re lucky I love you’

Yes, I am

Rey smiles as his large legs spread and she cops a full view of his flaccid penis. This time she chooses to ignore the massive beast and focus on helping him pose to cover it.

So for this one we don’t actually want to see everything

No shit

Rey gets the giggles now.

So can you cover it? With your hands?

Cover what?

Your…bits

My bits?

Rey’s hands go to her hips. She knows what he’s playing at by the smirk on his face and she refuses to give him the satisfaction.

Yes, your bits

Ben’s eyes narrow. ‘My cock?

Dammit Ben. Yes, your fricken cock!’ she all but huffs, and he starts to cackle.

Should’ve known this would be a bad idea

Here he is perched on this tiny box, with his legs spread and his arms resting on his thighs, cock hanging thick and low between his legs-

Sorry, I just love hearing you say that

No shit. Now behave or we won’t be doing this

Is that meant to be a threat, cause-‘

Rey takes a few steps forward, bending down in front of him. She lifts his arms and grabs onto his hands, moving them down to cover his cock, mainly for herself so she doesn’t keep getting distracted by it.

Ok now stay still

The flash blinks and Ben makes a face.

Ben! That one was good. You ruined it

She takes a few more snaps and his faces get worse with each one, Rey a frustrated mess by the end of it.

I’m trying to take this seriously

Ben was to start with but now he’s tired of sitting, tired of standing, just altogether tired of posing.

He stands and moves over to Rey, wrapping her in his arms. ‘It’s just practise though right, not the real deal? I was just playing around

Rey sighs into him. ‘I know. But this is a big deal to me, Ben. I’ve never done nudes before and this will be up for everyone to see, so it needs to be perfect

Ok’ He pulls back, reaching down to play with a lock of her hair. ’But we’re just practising, aren’t we? I promise I’ll behave for the real shoot. You have my word

And anyway, if you wanted it to be perfect…’ He motions to his naked body. ‘…why pick me?

Cocking her head, Rey regards him. ‘You say that like you aren’t good-looking

I’m not

Excuse me? Yes, you are. And you need to believe in yourself

He wraps her up again. ‘I’d rather talk about how beautiful you are

Ben holds her tight and hums into her neck. ‘You’ll make an amazing mother one day

Rey stills before pulling away, her tone immediately changing from soft to almost angry.

Why would you say something like that?

Ben’s akin to a deer in the headlights.

He’d meant it in the kindest way possible but it was immediately obvious Rey hadn’t taken it that way.

Why would I say that? Because you would be

Ben, don’t. Please. We still have so much to work out, you can’t go saying things like that

Hey, I’m sorry if I said the wrong thing, but I was being honest. You would be a great mom

Rey glares back and he can only shrug.

But fine, I won’t mention it again

Thank you. I think we’re done here anyway, so I’m gonna head to bed

It’s not even 8pm. Rey has never been to bed that early in her life so something is definitely up.

Ben grabs the towel from the box to sling it around his waist as Rey disappears down the hall, leaving him alone on the couch and wondering what the hell he’s done.

Maybe he shouldn’t have bought up the subject of kids when they still have so much more to work out, but it’s out there now and he stands by the fact he meant it. Things may not be perfect yet but he’s certainly in this for the long haul, so it was only natural to figure kids into the equation eventually-

Wasn’t it?

They’d always talked about having kids so he wasn’t sure when that had changed for Rey, but he’s learnt his lesson and he decides he won’t broach it again.

Deciding he may as well head to bed early himself, he sinks under the covers as Rey exits the bathroom looking a little pale.

Is everything ok?

Rey sighs deeply as she hops in and pulls the covers up, snuggling her head down into the pillow.

Do you wanna talk about it?

Her back is still turned and she’s shaking her head, so he figures that’s a no.

Not really. Maybe tomorrow. I’m really tired, Ben

Ok, no worries. Night

He leans over and plants a soft kiss on her cheek and he hears her sigh again.

Night

 

~~~~

 

The following morning he’s woken by frantic knocking at the front door.

Rey’s still asleep and he doesn’t want to wake her before she’s ready so he begrudgingly pulls himself from the bed to throw his sweatpants on, foregoing a shirt to actually get to the door and make the knocking stop.

I’m coming, I’m coming’ he mumbles, flinging the door open to see the last person in the world he was expecting.

So you are still alive. I did wonder

Ben rubs his eyes to make sure he’s not imagining things. Unfortunately, he’s not.

Mom? What the hell are you doing here?

Nice to see you too, Ben. I heard you were having some troubles, so I thought I’d better come and make sure you’re ok

Can you keep your noise down? Rey’s still asleep. And why? You never cared before, so why care now?

Leia gives him a look he hasn’t seen for years and one he thought he’d long left behind when he moved out of home all those years ago.

I’m still your mother Ben and I’m here to help. Are you going to invite me in or should I just stand in the hallway all day?

Ben’s tempted to close the door in her face, but she’s here now. And he supposes he should be thankful.

His mother is one thing - he can tolerate her in small doses - but if his father were to show?

Then that’d be a different story altogether.

Chapter Text

Neither of them seem willing to start the conversation, so Ben busies himself in the kitchen.

He should offer her tea, coffee, something at least but instead he sticks his head into the pantry, looking for biscuits that probably don’t exist anymore.

Rey only baked fresh cookies two days ago, although he has a feeling they’re gone already – he did make short work of quite a few that same night and between the two of them they likely devoured the rest.

Leia on the other hand sits quietly at the dining table while surveying the apartment. She’s never even been here before but unbeknownst to Ben she’s here to make amends.

Ben sighs and decides it’s finally time to break the ice. He doesn’t want to be rude but he’s not going to be over-friendly either.

His mother made her bed a long time ago.

Drink?

Leia glances over the back of the couch. ‘Just tea. Thanks

Ben on the other hand decides he’ll need a coffee – a strong one – Leia seated quietly as he approaches the couch with mugs in hand.

He hands her the drink before taking a tentative seat, fanning the hot mug with his hand.

Why are you here, Mom?

Leia finishes her sip before lowering the mug to cradle it in her lap. ‘Because I wanted to see my son

Ben doesn’t waste time with formalities, he knows there must be more to it than that.

Did you know I’ve been inside recently?

Leia nods, her eyes still on her drink. So she did know? That makes it worse.

I did. And I’m so sorry I didn’t come to see you. Did your father?

Pfft’ Ben almost spits out his mouthful. ‘I think we both know the answer to that

Maybe he didn’t know?’ His mother regards him now and Ben just shrugs.

Do you need to talk about it? I’m happy to listen’

Nah, I’m good. I’ve been talking to Rey and the counsellor. I’m all talked out

Counsellor?

For once there’s no judgement in his mother’s voice. If Ben didn’t know any better, he’d almost think what he is hearing is concern.

Marriage counselling’ Ben nods. ‘Yes Mom’ he continues, glancing over at her. ‘I guess I did turn out to be the failure you always thought I’d be

Leia opens her mouth to reply but Ben’s hand goes up to halt her.

Whatever you’re going to say, don’t. You haven’t been here through the roughest few months of my life and you just waltz in here and expect to play happy families? That’s a whole new low, even for you

Leia’s face drops, her voice softer. ‘Ben, I never wanted you to be a failure. I had no idea you even thought that

Screwing his face up he leaves the couch to close the hallway door. If they’re going to have this out then he doesn’t want to wake Rey.

It’s almost 10am and she’s still in bed asleep which is concerning, but he decides to let her stay in as long as she needs.

Grabbing his mug he paces in front of the TV.

I was never good enough in your eyes. You always wanted me to be better, to be more than I was, and I couldn’t keep up. That’s why I left home in the first place

Ben, I’m sorry if you felt that way, I really am, but I only ever wanted the best for you. So did your father’

He glares at her now. ‘That’s a lie. Dad was never interested in me. He was always more interested in work, we both know that. If he wanted the best for me then he should’ve been there when I needed him, but he never was. In fact, he still isn’t

Leia crosses her legs to watch him pace. ‘Your father does cares about you, despite what you might think. He travelled so much because he wanted you to have everything in life. I probably made him go. I had a comfortable life I wanted to keep and him working made sure we kept it that way, but I did all of that for you’

‘I didn’t want you to have a life like mine, I wanted more for you

Ben can’t believe what he’s hearing. He’s felt this way his whole life and he’s only just able to talk about it now and she thinks he’s been wrong the whole time?

I’m sorry Mom, but I just didn’t feel that. You were always so busy with your friends and Dad was always away. I was the one home alone. I’m sorry if I thought you didn’t love me, but how else did you expect me to feel?

Leia sighs deeply. ‘I honestly didn’t know you felt this way, Ben. And I hear you say your father was away a lot but like I said, that was for us’

‘For me but also, mostly, for you

Well, didn’t do us a lot of good, did it? I moved out of home the minute I was old enough and as for you? He left you Mom, in case you’ve forgotten

Ben sighs, taking a seat once more. He’s not sure where this conversation is going but his mother doesn’t look like leaving anytime soon so he may as well get comfortable.

You’re right, he did. But there was a lot more to that than you know. Trust me

Then what? What’s a good enough reason for leaving someone you’ve committed your life to?

The minute the question is out of his mouth he realises it’s hitting a little too close to home. How could he say something like that when he almost did the very same thing to his own wife?

It’s a much-needed wake-up call, that’s for sure.

His mother turns away to stare out the window, the soft curtain blowing in the breeze and distracting her attention briefly.

Your father had an affair, Ben

His mouth drops open as his mother’s revelation. Why was this the first he was hearing of this, all these years later?

I had no idea

He feels pretty awful now.

And he didn’t leave us, I told him to go

Why would you do that?

It’s unfair to ask his mother that, he knows it is. He has no idea what she went through, what she felt, how they dealt with it all but he’s trying to find a reason somewhere-

Anywhere. Anything so this will make sense.

Because we tried to work it out and we couldn’t. It was just a one-time thing he said, but it took me a long time to get over it. You know your father, so nonchalant about everything. He tried to get on with life but I couldn’t. I needed time

Every time I looked at him, I saw the hurt he’d caused all over again. And I saw the type of role model I didn’t want you to have

Leia turns back to him now. ‘I’m sorry I never told you why until now, I just had so much to deal with I couldn’t even focus on being a good mother. It took everything I had just to pick myself up each day and put on a brave face

Ben can understand that but now he’s struggling with the fact they never really talked about anything and she had to go through all of it alone. Surely he could’ve helped in some way had he known?

You don’t need to apologise, but I’m glad you told me. And I’m sorry I assumed all this stuff without ever actually talking to you about it. That was selfish, and wrong

But you know us Solo’s, we’ve never been much good at talking. That’s been an issue with Rey and I too

His mother’s eyes go wide before he continues.

Don’t worry, I won’t be making the same mistakes. I’ve been making them the last few years and I’m done. We’re in this for the long haul now

Well, I’m very glad to hear that

A gentle hand comes to rest on his leg and he flinches.

His mother never touches him. He’d always shy away from a simple hug so this is new to him but he thinks he could get used to it.

Communication is key, for sure. Rey made me see that and the counsellor made me realise it too, so that’s definitely a good thing

You sound like you’ve been through a lot yourself recently. And even if you don’t believe it, I’m so sorry I wasn’t there for you. I had no idea it’d gotten so bad. Are the two of you ok now?

He can’t help but sigh again. This talking stuff really takes a lot out of you.

We have good and bad days, more good than bad lately though so that’s something’

After I hit rock-bottom and got back up I decided no more feeling sorry for myself. The most important thing was saving my marriage and working at being the best husband I could be for Rey

Leia sits quietly, taking it all in. He’s just about to offer her another drink when Rey stumbles a little groggily into the living room, Ben leaving his mug to dash to her side.

‘Hey you’ he whispers, brushing the bed hair from her face. ‘You really don’t look good. Have you been asleep the whole time?’

He helps her to the other couch and she sinks down into it, waving briefly at Leia who looks more than a little shocked to see her daughter-in-law in such a state.

Honey, what’s wrong? You’re not coming down with the flu, are you? You look awful

Ben throws her a look.

I’m sorry that sounded rude. I just meant you don’t look well at all. Ben, make the poor girl a hot cup of tea, will you? I’ll grab a blanket and turn the heat up. It’s getting a bit cool in here

Leia’s up searching for the linen closet before Ben bothers to stop her. He nods in the direction of the hallway.

First on the left, Mom. Thanks

He plants a soft kiss on Rey’s head, and she groans.

God babe, I had no idea you were this bad’ he apologises, squatting to her level. ‘I let you sleep in ‘cause I thought you were just tired, but I would’ve been looking after you if I knew

Rey groans again. ‘I’m ok, really. I threw up a while ago, but I felt a bit better after. I’m exhausted but apart from that I’m fine, really. You can stop fussing

Ben smiles. ‘Never. You’re stuck with me I’m afraid. I’ll make you some tea and Mom will be back any second to fuss over you too I’m sure, so play nice

He flashes her a wink as he heads to the kitchen and she whispers after him. ‘Hey, I actually like your mother you know

Well good, cause she absolutely adores you

Leia returns with two blankets while Ben’s busy in the kitchen. She lays one over Rey’s legs and the other over the back of the couch. Leaning down she places the back of her hand on her forehead to check her temperature and Ben shakes his head.

A small flare of jealousy rears its ugly head briefly before it dissipates. Even if he never got this kind of attention when he was younger, he’s at least glad she’s here now to help with Rey.

Has anyone around you been sick lately?

Rey shakes her head, grabbing a hold of the mug from Ben’s hands.

Not that I know of. Ben hasn’t, and I haven’t been around anyone else that’s been sick. I’m hoping it’s just a 24-hr thing

Leia nods and takes a seat on the couch with Ben joining them again, freshly made drinks in everyone’s hands.

Any other symptoms?

Such a motherly question Ben thinks, rolling his eyes.

Rey thinks briefly before shaking her head again. ‘Not really. No headache or anything, just nauseous and exhausted. That’s about it’ she shrugs.

Huh’ Leia mutters, smiling at both of them, Ben’s brow creasing. He can tell she’s up to something, he just doesn’t know what it is yet.

How often have you been nauseous dear?’ Leia asks, glancing at Ben who wonders why she’s even asking. It’s not like Rey has pneumonia or anything.

The last few mornings, but it usually passes and I’ve only thrown up once’ Rey sighs, pulling her legs tightly against her chest.

Her answer goes straight over Ben’s head but not Leia’s. ‘How many mornings exactly, do you remember?

Mom’ Ben groans, glaring at her. ‘Look we appreciate your help, but you don’t need to interrogate the poor girl

Rey giggles and Leia frowns.

Just trying to help Ben. If you want my opinion I think Rey’s-

Mom, please’ Ben says, much more sternly this time. ‘It’s not that we don’t appreciate the concern’ he continues, stealing a glance at his wife. ‘But the last thing you want when you feel crappy is a thousand questions, so can you please just leave it?

He can feel his mother seething but it’s his family and he’ll handle it.

Very well

Leia finishes the last of her drink and stands to take her mug back over to the kitchen, grabbing her bag from the back of the dining chair.

I should go anyway

Rey grits her teeth at Ben who screws up his nose before standing to walk to the door and say goodbye, Rey staying put on the couch.

I’m sorry if that was rude’ he says, meaning it for once.

No, no, it’s fine, I get it. Look, I’m staying in town the next few days if you want to come and see me? Here’s the address

She hands Ben a hotel card and he shoves it into his back pocket.

No worries. I’ll see how I go

Bye Rey’ Leia waves, blowing her a kiss. ‘You get plenty of rest, ok? And make sure this one looks after you’ She glares at Ben and he takes the hint.

Don’t worry, I will

Rey waves goodbye before letting her head rest back against the couch and her eyes fall closed.

Leia drops her voice to a whisper, leaning into her son. ‘Mind if I have a quick word?

Ben rolls his eyes but she grabs onto his arm. ‘Please Ben. It’s important

Ok fine’ he whispers in reply.

Babe, back in a sec ok?

Rey doesn’t even open her eyes, her hand flailing to let them know it’s ok. Out in the hall Leia’s expression grows serious rather quickly.

I know you don’t like me meddling, Ben but I can’t leave here without saying this. And trust me, I know the signs

Ben stares down at his shorter mother. ‘What signs, Mom? What are you talking about?

I think she’s pregnant

Who?

It’s Leia rolling her eyes now.

Rey, of course

Ben blinks at her comment before huffing a laugh. ‘Mom trust me, she isn’t

How do you know? Have you been having sex?

Well duh

Then’ She’s glaring at him now, her eyes making her point very clear. ‘Listen, all the symptoms fit that’s all I’m saying. What you do about that is up to you

She pulls back and sighs, a smile quickly returning to her face as she gets lost in her own thoughts.

Wonder if they’ll call me Grandma or Nana?

Mom, please stop. Rey’s not pregnant ok? I appreciate your concern but it’s probably best you go. I’ll catch up with you when Rey’s feeling better

Leia takes the hint finally, turning to begin making her way down the steps.

In 9 months, you mean’ she quips, waving her hand and calling ‘bye Ben’ before disappearing out of sight, but unfortunately for Ben not out of mind.

 

~~~~

 

The minute she’s gone he curses her for even putting the thought into his head, returning to Rey in the living room.

He sinks back onto the couch and wonders if he should really dismiss his mother’s suggestion so quickly-

With all they’ve had going on, how would either of them handle a baby if Rey really were pregnant?

Sorry about her’ he mumbles, Rey’s eyes still closed.

Mm, sok’ she mumbles back, stretching her neck out before opening her eyes. ‘She’s just worried that’s all. It’s completely normal for any mother, or mother-in-law for that matter

Ben smiles and settles his head back, Rey closing her eyes again.

Wish my parents cared that much’ she muses, Ben immediately sensing the sadness behind her words.

Rey and her parents have never been close, and now they’re on the other side of the world and farther away than they ever have been but Ben hopes they’ll reconcile one day.

He hasn’t had much to do with his own parents but at least they still care, and they still check in on him from time to time. He can’t imagine what it’s like to have no-one at all.

He wishes his mother hadn’t said anything about Rey being pregnant though, because now it’s all he can think about.

Rey is resting and he finds his mind wandering – back to his childhood, back to the life he had growing up, the absent parents, the arguments – but also the good times.

And there were still plenty of good times.

Maybe the life he didn’t have growing up he could create with a family of his own? Make up for all of the mistakes and things that went wrong?

Or was that just false hope? He knows deep down that’s no reason to bring a child into the world, but he finds he’s getting more and more excited by the prospect the more he thinks about it.

That’s when he knows it’s time for a distraction.

Checking on Rey to make sure she’s comfortable, he slips into the bathroom for a shower. Being naked under the water has a way of washing away all worries, it’s one of the things he loves most after a difficult day.

He takes his time, washing his hair and even using bodywash for only the third time in his life. It’s Rey’s favourite and even though she’s ill and won’t be interested in any action tonight, he does it for her anyway.

Plus. She’s right, it smells so good he can kind of see what the attraction is.

The shower helps distract him for a while and then thoughts about family pop right back into his head.

Shutting the water off, he whips a towel around his waist and sets about shaving. He knows it’s a task he’s neglected in the last few weeks so it’s probably about time.

Shaving his face smooth, he applies some lotion and leaves the bathroom to find Rey awake and in the kitchen. He walks up behind her with a gentle tug to her hair.

Hey you

She has a mouthful of cereal and from the way she looks to be enjoying it, you’d think she hadn’t eaten for a week.

Got your appetite back, huh?

She nods with her mouth full, chewing and swallowing before going back for more.

It’s weird ya know

What is?’ Ben pours a cup of coffee before leaning with his back to the bench, eyeing his wife as he takes a sip.

Well, you know me…I never eat cereal. But now it’s like I’m almost craving it’

Ben almost spits out his coffee but he manages to control it, clearing his throat and busying himself with toast.

You ok?

Rey cocks her head to watch her husband.

Yep, all good. Just choking on coffee, you know me’ He laughs it off, but Rey believes there’s more to it.

She sets her bowl onto the counter, jumping up onto the bench opposite kicking her legs while staring at him. Ben pretends he doesn’t notice but he can feel her eyes on him.

Babe, can I talk to you about something?

She’s twiddling her thumbs and biting her lip nervously, so Ben gives her his full attention.

Buttering his toast he turns to her, biting the corner of a piece. ‘Yeah, shoot

She takes a deep breath before finding the words she wants to say.

‘It’s about me being sick. And it’s about cereal

His brow creases in confusion. ‘Do you think it’s cereal making you sick? Cause you should really stop eating it if-

No, no’ she laughs, shaking her head and smiling back at him. ‘It’s not that. I just wonder if…

There’s a long silence and Ben wonders how long it’ll go on for. He’s pretty sure he knows what’s coming but there’s no way he’s jumping the gun and risking saying the wrong thing.

Once you say it out loud it becomes real and if that’s the case then he needs her to say it herself.

I think I’m pregnant

Ben swallows the toast before he chokes on it but he doesn’t leave her hanging for a reply.

I think you are too

She seems a little surprised at that, her cute nose scrunching in that adorable way that it does.

You do? How come?

That’s what Mom said before she left this morning, and I’ll be honest, I haven’t stopped thinking about it since

He sets the toast down and moves over to her, wrapping his arms around her neck and kissing her nose. ‘I just didn’t say anything because saying it makes it…real

I don’t know if I am yet though, it’s just a feeling

I know’ he nods. ‘We probably should find out though

First I wanted to say sorry for the other night, when I went off at you

That’s ok. Apology accepted

Rey sighs deeply. ‘I had a feeling the day before and when you said I’d make a good mother it just became real really quickly and I kinda freaked out

Ben tucks her hair behind her ears. ‘It’s ok, all good

Ok so. First things first. How would you feel if I am pregnant? Be honest. Tell me what you’re feeling

Pulling back he’s sure to maintain eye contact, knowing this is one of the most serious conversations they’ve had.

Honestly? I get more excited the more I think about it. And right now, I can’t stop thinking about it

Rey nods, taking in what he’s telling her. ‘We’ve been through a hell of a lot, Ben. Do you think we’re ready to be parents?

He can only shrug his shoulders. ‘Is anyone ever really ready to be a parent? Sounds to me like a lot of it is just making things up as you go along

Yeah, I agree. Do we have enough room for a child though?

What do you mean? We have a spare room currently full of junk. It’d make a perfect nursery

Rey nods. ‘Ok. What about money? Can we afford it?

I’d say yes? I earn enough and we have money set aside, so I think we’ll be more than comfortable. You can even give up work if you want

Her nose screws up at that. ‘Mm, dunno. I still love my photography and it’s something I can do even when I’m the size of a house so’ she shrugs. ‘I could still work for a while yet

Ben smiles, reaching his hands for her stomach. ‘I actually can’t wait for you to be the size of a house

That earns him a swift slap on the arm. ‘Ben. It’s not going to be fun you know. Morning sickness. Swollen ankles. Leaky boobs. I’ve looked it all up, I know all the gory details

Leaky boobs? That has me intrigued

Yeah, and not in a good way! Like, leaking milk’ Rey laughs, making a face.

Ben couldn’t care less.

Whatever weird things your body does babe, you know I’ll find some way to make it sexy

Her head tips back and she releases a long groan. ‘Ugh, that’s so you

Yeah but you love me

Rey grabs him around the neck and pulls him in close, planting a kiss on his mouth for each word.

Yes – I – do

That’s all we need then’ Ben replies when he pulls away. ‘As long as we have enough love for each other and enough love for our child, we’ll be alright

You make it sound so easy!

Nah not really, I’m scared shitless. But you know, I figure that’s all part of it. So, speaking of…do you wanna go and grab a test now? Find out for sure?

Rey sinks her tooth into her bottom lip, screwing up her face. ‘Can we wait? Please?

Ben tries not to show that he’d rather know as soon as possible. If he lets her do this in her own time it’ll all go a lot more smoothly, he knows that to be true.

But Rey senses his disappointment.

Hey, tomorrow though. I just want one more night to just be us. Even if there is a baby in here already’ she replies, touching her belly with her hand.

‘I kinda want one more night of not knowing, if that’s ok?

Ben can understand that.

Of course, that’s fine. I guess I can wait one more night for you to call me Daddy

He flashes her a wink, wiggling his eyebrows.

Babe, no! I won’t be calling you Daddy’ she cackles. ‘Not in that way anyway

Aww, why not?’ He pouts, trying his best to look adorable.

I’ll call you Daddy as a Dad though

Yeah, fair enough. I can live with that

He pulls her down from the bench, promptly carrying her to the bedroom.

Hey, what are you doing?’ she asks as he places her gently down onto the bed.

You need to rest

Ben, it’s 1 in the afternoon. I feel better, really. And I’m probably not even pregnant

Well you could be, so you should rest

Don’t tell me what to do’ she responds, pulling him down next to her as they both laugh.

Pulling him close for a kiss, they get lost in themselves for a while.

No talk of babies, or life-changing decisions.

Just the two of them.

 

~~~~

 

The idea comes to Ben at 3am the next morning as he lays awake listening to the soft sounds of Rey breathing.

And now that it’s got a hold of him, he just can’t let it go.

They haven’t done the pregnancy test yet but that’ll happen later today and regardless of the outcome, he’s decided he’s going to go through with this and there’s a bit of work to do to make it happen yet.

No matter how hard he tries he can’t get back to sleep so he eventually quits trying altogether, throwing his sweatpants on and creeping out to the loungeroom.

He flicks the living room lamp on and grabs his laptop, sinking down onto the couch.

The faint hum of a city garbage truck is about the only sound he can hear, flipping the lid to his laptop. He sets to work right away.

And he’s still there after 6am when his eyes flick up to catch Rey heading to the bathroom. She notices the light on and stops, frowning at him before heading his way.

How come you’re up so early?

Wandering over he makes a spot on his knee for her, closing the laptop lid before she sees what he’s looking at.

He takes her hand and smiles. ‘Nothing to concern you. Well, it might concern you…but it’s a surprise

Her face lights up almost immediately.

Ben, you know how much I love surprises. And now that you’ve told me you’re organising one, you know I’m gonna be on your case about it’

Go for your life’ Ben nods, putting on his best I don’t care face. ‘But this is a good one, a really good one, and I’m sorry but I’ll be keeping very tight-lipped

Rude’ Rey pouts, ‘but I guess that’s fair. So you’re thinking I’ll love it?

Oh I know you will. How come you’re up anyway? I thought you’d be sleeping in

I actually feel good this morning’ she smiles in reply before her face drops and she glances back at him. ‘Which isn’t great, because it means I’m probably not pregnant am I?

So you want to be? You want this baby?

Rey takes a deep breath and nods slowly back at him. ‘I do. I think I’ll be devastated if I’m not pregnant now, even though I’m trying not to get too excited

Hey’ He reaches out to stroke her long hazel hair, combing his hands gently through it to untangle a few knots. ‘Whatever happens, I’m not going anywhere ok? Baby or no baby’

‘You and me, we’re in this for the long haul. I hope you know that?

Nodding quickly, she grins. ‘I guess that’s all that matters then, isn’t it? The rest will work itself out

Exactly right babe

They talk for a while about what they’ll do if they’re pregnant and what they’ll do if they aren’t, how their lives will change and how their love could change along with it.

But the important things is Rey knows Ben’s committed now, so she feels much more relaxed about the outcome, whatever it may be.

As long as she has him, she knows she’ll be ok.

It’s just after 7am when the conversation comes to a lull.

Alright’ she announces, hopping up from his knee to stretch her hands above her head with a yawn.

Think I’ll hit the shower and freshen up. Then we should take a test, so we know one way or the other

Agreed. You shower and I’ll get dressed and grab one from the store, how about that?

Perfect, thanks’ she replies, leaning in for a kiss. ‘Oops. Sorry about the morning breath

Ben can’t help but laugh at that. ‘Since when has that bothered me?

He manages to pull another smile before Rey heads out and down the hall.

He sings out after her. ‘Want me to bring back breakfast?

She mulls it over briefly before he says the magic words. ‘Croissants. Coffee…

Ok, yes please! Sounds amazing

Done

Love you’ she calls back, blowing him a brief kiss before disappearing into the bathroom.

Ben returns to the bedroom to throw a shirt on and grab his wallet and keys, running a quick hand through his hair to make it a little more presentable for the outside world.

As he unlocks the front door, he allows himself to think things might finally be looking up.

It’s a dangerous trap to fall into but lately counselling has been going well, they might be about to start a family and he’s even started on the path to reconciling with his family, which is something he thought would never happen.

In a hurry to get out the door and get the test, he fumbles the keys from his pocket before dropping them onto the floor, the door swinging open to nearly hit him in the head as he’s bending down to pick them up.

His breath hitching when he reaches full height again.

Standing in the doorway is someone he really hoped he’d seen the last of-

Kaydel.

 

~~~~

 

You’ve got a real nerve showing your face around here

Ben’s voice is stern but he’s still in shock. He can’t believe the nerve of her, showing up at their apartment after what she’d put them through.

'You should leave, before my wife gets out of the shower

Moving to close the door in a hurry, Kaydel’s quick enough to prevent it closing with her foot.

Ben, just hear me out, please?!'

He should’ve known getting rid of her wouldn’t be that easy.

Chapter Text

Stepping out of the shower to wrap a towel around her dripping body, Rey hears voices in the apartment.

She hurries to dry and dress before leaving the bathroom, thankfully feeling much perkier than before. As she nears the living room she realises Ben’s talking with a woman because it’s definitely a woman’s voice she can hear.

It’s not his mother, she can tell that much, but nothing could prepare her for what she sees when she pads closer to their dining room table.

It’s Kaydel.

Both voices cease as she nears, Ben rising from the table to walk across and greet his confused wife. A gentle, reassuring hand reaches for her bare arm and she immediately wrenches it away - hatred, fear and anger all bubbling to the surface at once.

How dare this woman come into their apartmenttheir home – after what she’s put them both through-

How dare she.

Ben reaches for her again, lifting her chin to force her to look at him instead of Kaydel.

Babe, it’s ok’ His voice is low and deep, close to a whisper but not quite, his grip strong and sure.

She says she’s here to apologise

Apologise?! Bit late for that now.

Taking a long, deep breath she tries to calm the storm inside her head. There’s so much she wants to say, so many things she wants to let this woman know-

How she tore apart their lives when they were working so hard to get back on track-
How she made up nasty lies which landed her innocent husband in jail-
How she slept night after lonely night on her own when Ben should’ve been by her side-
How Ben had spent time in jail for a crime he hadn’t committed, how it had changed him, changed them-

And for what it’s worth, I think she’s genuine

The words sting, more than she ever thought they could.

Ben believes her?

But why? How could he??

Maybe she should hear Kaydel out - hear what she has to say - but what if it doesn’t make things better?

What if this will only upset her again after she thought she was done crying over it?

What if it upsets Ben?

She knows she can’t afford to take the risk.

You need to leave. Now

Her voice is confident, yet still it shakes.

Kaydel stands and turns to Rey, her eyes glassy with tears. Rey can’t tell if they’re real tears or fake ones and right now she honestly doesn’t care.

How dare you’ she starts, Ben tugging at her arm once again. She’s not sure what he expects her to do? Let this woman walk into their house so they can all pretend she didn’t ruin their lives?!

Not on her watch.

Ben, please?’ Kaydel pleads, glancing over Rey’s shoulder at him.

Don’t you dare look at him’ Rey spits, the sudden nauseous feeling in the pit of her stomach returning at a most inopportune time.

Please. I just wanted to talk. Say I’m sorry, that’s all. Then I’ll go’ she sniffs. ‘You have my word

Everything seems to hit Rey at once and she makes for Kaydel but Ben grabs her, strong arms around her waist to hold her back.

She’s like a caged lion clawing to be set free and thankfully Ben is holding her back or there’s no telling exactly what she’d do.

Rey collapses in Ben’s arms and he guides her to the floor.

Sinking to her knees it all starts to come out. The hurt, the anger, the loneliness, the near divorce, the lonely nights apart from Ben, her parents all the way across on the other side of the world-

All of it.

It hits her in a flood of tears and here she is, sobbing and broken on the floor.

She probably should’ve guessed this would come one day but it’s a kind of emotion she’s never felt before. It’s like everything was bubbling on the surface and one look at Kaydel and it’s all boiling over.

Rey wishes it wasn’t happening in front of Kaydel, but she knows she couldn’t stop it if she tried.

Ben doesn’t know what to do, he’s never seen Rey like this before. All he can do in that moment is sink down beside her and rub her back to help calm her down.

Hey, It’s all going to be ok’ he says over and over, Rey crying and struggling to breathe.

Ben’s worried about her now & Kaydel? Kaydel doesn’t know what to do. She sinks back into her chair and hangs her head in her hands.

Ben doesn’t know what to do with one crying woman let alone two so he’s praying Kaydel won’t crash on him too.

All he knows is it’s Rey he’s concerned about and Rey he needs to be there for.

Hoisting her from the floor he all but drags her to the couch and sits her down, her head hanging in her hands and her breathing stuttered but calming slowly.

Babe, you need to calm down’ he whispers. ‘Just breathe

Rey does what he says because it’s all she can focus on right now, her breathing. Her stomach churns and she’s sure she’ll be throwing up soon but for now she manages to hold it down.

Ben stays with her, kneeling at her feet on the floor, large hands rubbing her thighs in steady strokes until she calms. It takes a few minutes but eventually she lays her head back against the couch and the tears stop.

God you scared me’ Ben tells her, rising to pull the blanket from the back of the other couch and cover her legs with it. ‘Are you ok?

Rey takes a long deep breath, wiping away the last of the tears. ‘I’ll be ok’ she manages to get out, reaching his hand.

He holds both her hands in his and rubs soft, small circles over her skin with his thumbs.

I need to talk with her, babe’ he whispers ‘so we can get rid of her. Is that ok? I don’t want to make this any harder on you than it’s already been

Rey doesn’t want to talk to Kaydel, but she knows she can’t stop Ben. Maybe she’ll say her piece and go? She knows there’s only one way to find out.

It’s fine’ she nods. ‘But I can’t bear to look at her, so I think it’s safer I stay here

Ben rises and plants a soft kiss on her cheek. ‘I completely understand. I’ll be right over there, ok? Sing out if you need anything, anything at all

She nods again and he offers her a resigned smile heading back to the dining table.

Taking a tentative seat opposite Kaydel, she stares back at Ben with bloodshot eyes but he can’t bring himself to feel sorry for her – not after what she’s done.

Is Rey ok?’ she asks, glancing briefly back to the living room. They’re far enough away that Rey likely won’t be able to hear what they’re saying but close enough Ben can keep an eye on her.

She will be. She’s been through a hell of a lot’ he says pointedly. ‘But she’s strong. We’ve survived this far

He doesn’t mince his words. He wants Kaydel to know exactly the hell his wife has been through lately.

He’s not worried about himself, he’ll be fine, he’s only worried about Rey.

I’m glad. I honestly never meant to hurt her

Ben tries to control his temper, his jaw working as he listens to the woman who put him in jail try and explain her actions away.

I was in a really bad place, Ben. And I know that’s no excuse, I know that now. But back then I was miserable, and I saw you and I just’ she pauses now, hands wringing as she searches for the right words.

I just…wanted you

Even though you knew I was there that night for Rey? That we were working at getting back together?

’I didn’t know that then, I swear. I heard you guys had broken up and I’ve had a crush on you since high school and I…I don’t know. I thought maybe we could work?

Ben’s eyes can’t roll back far enough in his head.

I know, I’m an idiot. Trust me, I know. You belong with Rey. We never would’ve worked out

You got that right

What about the lies? Why on earth would you say I assaulted you when I didn’t? You had your hands on me, you initiated that whole thing that night and I clearly told you Rey and I were still married

Her head shakes and she looks…dejected. Defeated.

I don’t know. I honestly don’t. I guess I wanted to hurt you? Wanted you two to be as miserable and I was and it was wrong. It was totally wrong

How could you do that? To us? Did you hate me that much?!

No, no, not at all! Look, it was all my doing and I take full responsibility. I know that doesn’t change anything and I know I can’t take back the time you lost with Rey…but if the only thing I can do to make up for it is to say sorry, then I’m here to say sorry

I’m sorry. I’m really, really sorry

Even though it would be easier to hate her and not accept her apology, Ben can tell she means it - can see it in her eyes.

He steals a glance at Rey and she seems to be resting or sleeping, one of the two, so he’s immediately relieved. He really doesn’t want her to go through any more pain.

Unsure what to say to Kaydel he leans back in his chair and crosses his arms, mulling over what he should say, if anything.

I don’t expect you to say anything Ben, I don’t. I just wanted you to know how sorry I am and that I’ll stay away from both of you from now on. You won’t have to worry about me anymore

With that she stands, grabs her handbag and makes her way to the front door.

Ben follows, because he’s not sure what else to do. He knows he should forgive her, they’ve discussed this in counselling several times. He knows what he has to do, but he’s not sure he has the strength to do it.

Kaydel pauses at the door and he’s not sure what she’s waiting for exactly.

A small part of him wants to forgive her. He knows it’s the decent thing to do and he knows it will help him move on, help his marriage with Rey…he knows all of that-

He decides he needs to do it as much for himself and Rey as he does for Kaydel. He really doesn’t see any other choice.

I forgive you’

The words are out there now and he can’t take them back even if he wants to.

The look she gives him is one of utter relief and if he’s honest, he feels it too.

It’s like a massive weight has suddenly been lifted from his shoulders and he can finally move on from this chapter of his life and into the future with Rey.

Kaydel lets out a deep breath, tears filling her eyes once again.

You didn’t have to do that…but, thank you

He simply nods back at her, holding the door open and waiting for her to leave.

I wish you and Rey all the happiness in the world, I really mean that

Ben’s not sure whether she means it or not, but it doesn’t really matter anyway.

Bye Ben

He watches her leave, making sure she’s gone down the hall before he closes and door and sinks back against it.

It’s over.

When he returns to the living room, he finds Rey asleep on the couch, her head resting on her shoulder. She looks so peaceful he doesn’t dare wake her, pulling the blanket that’s slipped down back over her legs.

As he takes a seat on the other couch he catches the Love Languages book out of the corner of his eye. He’d sat it there for weeks now, hoping to finally get a chance to read the whole thing.

Glancing between his wife and the book he figures now is as good a time as any. He settles in and opens the cover to the inside scrawl.

Engrossed in the book with over an hour having sailed by he’s alerted to the sound of Rey waking up, a loud yawn and her legs stretching out and nearly hitting his enough to stir him from his book.

Ben?

Mm?’ He sits the book aside and looks over at her. ‘Hey sleepyhead

Has she gone?

She turns to survey the dining table and Ben reassures her.

She has. She said how sorry she was’ – Rey scoffs – ‘and I told her I forgive her. Then she left. She said she won’t be bothering us again

Rey’s mouth opens to protest before she thinks better of it. She lets out a long sigh, leaning forward on her legs.

And you believe her?

I do, babe’ he nods back at her. ‘She seemed sincere to me. And I forgive her. We need to move on now and that’s the only way I could see it was going to happen

So I think’ he continues, standing to walk over to her to bend down to her level. ‘We can move on from this now and get back to you and me and this baby. Sorry…possible baby

Sounds good to me

Rey sits up and grabs his shoulder. ‘We need to do a test so we know for sure. Did you get one?

No. Was on my way out when Kaydel arrived so I didn’t, but I can now?

Can I come with you?

Yeah, course you can. I’ll wait for you to get dressed and then we’ll go

He stands to offer her his hand, pulling her from the couch and into his arms.

It’s all going to be ok, isn’t it?’ Rey asks, burrowing her face into his chest. ‘Please tell me it’s all going to be ok

It’s all going to be ok. Promise. Whatever happens we’ll be in it together. We can do this

Her head pops up and she smiles for the first time that day. ‘We can do this

We can do this’ he repeats. ‘Now hurry up and get dressed cause I really need to know when you’re gonna start calling me Daddy

Rey screws up her nose and slaps his arm. ‘I told you, I won’t be’ she retorts before poking her tongue out.

Uh huh’ Ben nods. ‘We’ll see

 

~~~~


6 months on

Ben wakes in a cold sweat for the second time in 2 weeks.

Throwing himself onto his side, his leg accidentally careens into Rey’s thigh and she stirs but thankfully stays asleep.

It’s early, and the last thing he wants to do is wake her when she desperately needs rest.

Blowing out a long breath and pinching himself to make sure he’s truly awake and the nightmare is over, he repositions himself on his back.

Daring to close his eyes once more he prays the images he just witnessed are ones he’ll never see again – whether in a dream or in real life.

In fact, it was wrong to even label it a dream – it was a nightmare, plain and simple.

Rey had been laying on a table in a white room, a sterile white room that reminded him too much of some of the décor from his time in jail, a time he’d sooner forget.

She’d been screaming in pain, agony was probably a more accurate word. The screaming became louder and louder as the pain she was in intensified - and Ben couldn’t get to her.

Clawing at the door like a caged animal, there was simply no way in. He could see the whole nightmare unravelling in front of him, but he was helpless to stop it, helpless to get to his wife-

He couldn’t stop the pain. He couldn’t save her.

He’d heard the cry from the baby, only seconds into the world and it was at that moment that Rey had stopped screaming.

Not only had she stopped screaming, she’d stopped breathing.

And not only that, their baby hadn’t made a sound.

Not the sharp piercing cry he’d expected to hear when a newborn entered the world. In fact there was no sign of life at all.

Tears poured down his face as he screamed at the doctor through the closed window to do something.

But they did nothing.

They’d resigned themselves to the fact Rey had gone, their newborn lying motionless on the table.

He’d screamed and screamed at them until he was hoarse and couldn’t scream anymore but it was like they hadn’t heard him.

Just as the doctor picked up the baby and he’d heard the sharp cry he’d been waiting for - it was over.

He awoken dripping in sweat with his heart pounding in his chest, unaware whether it had all been real or a terrible nightmare.

Thankfully, as he becomes aware of his wife sleeping soundly beside him, he breathes the longest sigh of relief.

It was only a dream.

And now, even though his eyes are closed and his heartbeat is finally slowing, he knows there’s no way he’ll be seeing any more sleep tonight. He can’t take the risk of the nightmare picking up where it left off.

Instead he drags himself out of bed and throws on a shirt from the floor, creeping out so not to wake Rey.

Finding himself in the living room at the godforsaken hour of 2am, there’s not much he can do. He feels the need for coffee, but the kettle would wake Rey.

He debates turning the TV on, even though he knows at that hour there’ll be nothing decent on anyway. With nothing else to do he finally resigns himself to the couch.

Flipping open his laptop he jumps on the net to surf for a while. He has a massive surprise planned for Rey and although it’s taken quite a bit of planning and preparation, he’s almost got it sorted.

Finn and Rose are the only other two people who know about it and that’s only because he needed their input and frankly there’s no way he could’ve pulled this off without their help.

Busy finalising the last of the arrangements, the next time he steals a glance at the clock it’s just after 4.30 am. His stomach is growling and he really should eat something but he’s not exactly sure what.

It’s still a bit too early for cereal as he’ll be eating it for breakfast soon enough, but an extra bowl couldn’t hurt, could it?

As he leaves the couch to head to the kitchen he hears movement down the hall. Their bedroom door squeaks as it opens and Rey pads across the hall to the bathroom.

Ben smiles to himself, having all but lost count of the amount of times she uses the toilet these days.

Ben, stop laughing’ she’d say with the prettiest of pouts when he couldn’t help himself. ‘I can’t help it

And she’s right, she can’t. He knows she can’t.

Just under 3 months until the birth of their first child and it hasn’t exactly been easy. But it’s been mostly an enjoyable experience and surprisingly it’s bought them closer together than ever before.

It’s possibly been more enjoyable for Ben than Rey, but he adores her rounding belly and he simply can’t keep his hands off it.

He desperately wants to feel everything - every kick, every hiccup, even when nothing is happening he wants to feel it. Even though he knows it’s driving Rey mad, not even that will make him stop.

Hearing the toilet flush and Rey heading back to bed he decides to join her.

Did you get up?’ she asks when he’s back in the quiet darkness, snuggling her head down into the pillow.

Yeah, don’t worry about me. You go back to sleep

He should’ve known that’d only make her worry.

Another bad dream?

Ben sighs. He really doesn’t want to talk about it, he’d rather just pretend it never happened.

I’m fine babe, really. Don’t worry about me

I always worry about you, Ben. It’s my job

Yeah and it’s my job to make sure you get enough rest for two, so please go back to sleep. I’m fine

 

~~~~

 

Interrupted on the phone for the second time in the short conversation, Ben gestures to Rey that he’s going to take it out in the hall.

Plodding down the internal stairs one by one he reminds Finn how important it is to get everything just right.

Seriously Ben, we have it under control. Will you stop worrying?

You know I’m gonna worry, Finn. I want this to be the most perfect thing she’s ever experienced in her life. That’s how perfect I want this to be

Finn laughs and Ben can feel him shaking his head through the phone. ‘Perfect, yeah we got it the first ten times. Just trust us, will you? You’ve got enough to worry about. What about the showing tomorrow night? You ready for that?

Ben groans out loud. ‘I don’t think anyone could be ready for naked photos of themselves on show for the world to see, but it’s done now so. I just hope no-one I know turns up

‘We’ll be there with bells on! he hears Rose shout down the other end of the line, briefly cringing at the fact his best friend and wife will see his privates on display.a

Ugh, don’t remind me

Rose pipes up again. ‘I can’t wait actually

Babe!’ Finn yells back and he hears the two of them laugh down the line.

What? I’m just being supportive Finn, that’s all. It’s not like I actually want to see Ben’s dick, geez!

Ben can’t help but cringe again.

Ok, ok. It’s not my dick exactly…it’s artfully and tastefully done, so Rey assures me. Anyway enough talk about my dick please

Alright, alright’ Finn laughs. ‘Text us the last of the details and Rose and I will make sure everything is perfect for next week, you have our word. And we’ll see you tomorrow night anyway in case you’ve forgotten to tell us anything

Yeah true. Ok, thanks guys. I better get back inside before Rey gets suspicious

Ben says his goodbyes and breathes a long sigh of relief as he ends the call.

He just needs everything to be perfect.

 

~~~~

 

Who were you talking to?’ Rey asks as soon as the apartment door closes, Ben unsure just how much he should say.

He can’t exactly tell her what he was talking about or it will ruin the surprise, and he can’t lie either because he’s done lying to her. So he goes for something in between.

Just chatting with Finn and Rose

Not a lie.

Oh, Everything ok?

Yep’ he nods. ‘Everything’s fine. I just had something to…organise, that’s all

Not a lie either.

What are you up to, Ben Solo?

Rey walks over and stares up at him, her hands placed softly on his chest. ‘You’re up to something, I just don’t know what it is

Ben debates telling her everything – but no, he can’t.

It’d ruin everything if he did.

He smiles, stroking her cheek gently. ‘Maybe I am, but I can’t tell you what it is. But you’ll love it, trust me. Do you trust me?

Of course I do

Well good. That’s all you need to know then

Ok. If you say so’ She gives him a look, but she doesn’t press for answers.

Anyway’ he says, turning the conversation away onto another important subject. ‘We really need a crib for the nursery. Up to hitting the shops?

Yup! I’m desperate to get out of the house

She reaches for her cardigan thrown over the back of the chair. ‘And can we have a look at all the cute baby clothes, pleeease?

Ben wouldn’t dare say no. Normally he despises shopping but for some reason shopping for baby clothes is different. He just can’t believe how small they all are.

Can we swing by the gallery on the way? I just need to check a few things for tomorrow night

Ben’s eyes go wide at another reminder of tomorrow and it draws a laugh from his wife.

Relax. I told you it’ll be tasteful, and it will be

I trust you with my life, you know that right?

Rey rolls her eyes dramatically. ‘Ben it’s a male body. People have seen them before, countless times

Not mine they haven’t!’ he protests. ‘Are you sure there’s not like a little peek of it you missed when you looked them over? I’d hate for my mother to show up and wham bam there’s her son’s dick on full display

Yes, I’m sure’ Rey laughs. ‘And do you really think Leia will come?

I’d hope not, but you never know with her. It’s precisely the kind of thing she would come to

Well if she comes, she comes, there’s nothing you can do about it. We did invite her after all

No, you invited her

Well’ Rey protests, ‘I kinda felt I had to!’ Her hand waves as if it’s only minor details they’re discussing.

Anyway there’ll be no peeks because there’s no such thing as a peek with you, Ben. You’re not exactly small’

Babe, if that’s meant to make me feel better,it doesn’t

Her eyes roll again. ‘I said it was tasteful Ben. Then again…I guess I could’ve missed something?

Rey grins with a cheeky wiggle of her eyebrows.

I know you’re only joking around, but I’m still worried

Will you relax?’ Grabbing her purse and throwing his jacket at him, she practically pushes him toward the door.

It’s going to be amazing. You’re going to be amazing. That’s all you need to know

Ben groans the whole way down the stairs but it’s no use – the display is tomorrow night whether he likes it or not and no amount of groaning is going to change that.

 

~~~~

 

Just Ben’s luck the small gallery is filled to the brim that night.

He has no idea who all these people are, surveying the crowd for people he knows, thankful he hardly finds any.

As he watches the door that keeps opening and closing as more people filter, his eyes land on the two people he’d hoped more than anything wouldn’t be here tonight.

His mother - and not only his mother - his father too.

If the floor could open up and swallow him right now it wouldn’t be a moment too soon.

How his parents of all people could want to come and see their only sons’ naked body on display is completely beyond him, but it’s far too late to escape now.

Taking a deep breath, he remembers the promise he’d made Rey – that he’d be at every showing she had, regardless of the content. He’d willingly signed up to this so now it was time to suck it up and get it over with.

After all, how bad could it be?

Is Ben here?

He hears his mother’s unique voice over the buzzing crowd but he keeps his back turned hoping Rey won’t find him and he can just blend into the crowd.

Unfortunately when you’re a 6.2 and a bit sasquatch there’s simply nowhere to hide.

Rey is behind him and tapping on his shoulder before he can formulate a getaway plan, his mother and father in tow.

Ben’ his mother exclaims, glancing around the room then back at him. ‘You’ve drawn quite a crowd, I see

Now would be a really good time to run.

His father has the nerve to place a hand on his shoulder. ‘Looking good, son. Looking really good’

Ben assumes he’s talking about the photos but he doesn’t really know, and to be honest he doesn’t really care.

He hasn’t seen his father for years now and he has no idea how much he knows about what’s been going on with he and Rey, wondering just how much his mother would’ve told him.

He’d also be lying if he said he wasn’t wondering why they’re here tonight…together.

All Ben can offer is a resigned smile and thankfully Rey picks up the signal, excusing them and walking with him to a quieter corner of the room.

Are you ok? she asks, obviously as confused as he is.

I honestly didn’t think they’d come…and certainly not together

I know babe. But you can do this, I know you can. Do you wanna go and get a drink and I’ll amuse them?

Would you?’ he asks, thankful for such a caring woman at his side. ‘Thank you, I really appreciate it. Do you want anything?

Rey pats her belly and smiles. ‘No alcohol obviously, but a drink would be nice. Thanks

Done

Ben heads over to the bar as Rey heads back to his parents. Watching on while he waits for the drinks he can see his parents congratulating Rey on the baby, his mother’s hand finding her belly more than once.

She looks thrilled, but then she did predict it well before they knew.

He realises then he hadn’t actually called them and told them officially, but he really didn’t feel he had to. They didn’t care about his life for so long, so it’s not as if he owed them anything.

Ben, man’ He feels a heavy hand on his shoulder and turns to see Finn and Rose standing behind him. ‘You look good up there. This place is packed!’

Rose is nodding eagerly behind him. ‘Damn Ben. And look at the women here, I think that’s pretty telling

Finn gives her a look and she laughs and shrugs. ‘Geez you gotta let me congratulate the guy on his physique babe, c’mon. He’s a model now

Ben certainly doesn’t think of himself as a model by any stretch of the imagination. He’d made Rey a promise, possibly in haste, and he’d delivered on it. End of story.

It was fun at the time, and shooting had been fun too, but he was glad tonight would be the last of it.

Shaking his head, Finn has to agree. ‘Yeah, ok. You look good…damn good. Showin’ me up a bit here

Ben feels his ears blush. He’s never been good at taking compliments and especially compliments on his naked body when he’s only ever heard them from Rey.

It’s more than a little uncomfortable.

Rey is suddenly rushing over, greeting Rose and Finn with hugs and kisses before pulling at Ben’s arm.

Babe, I’ve got exciting news! But you have to come with me. I just need to do some quick thank you’s and I’d really like you with me, if that’s ok?

He lets out a long groan before reluctantly agreeing. He can tell by the glances from people here tonight that most already know he’s the model in the photos.

He’d wanted to wear a cap and hoodie to hide but Rey had quickly put an end to that and seeing how everyone was dressed tonight he was thankful she’d forced him to dress more appropriately.

He loved that about her.

Rey grabs his hand and Ben leaves his drink with Finn while he follows her to the front of the gallery.

She clears her throat and tries to yell over the crowd, but her voice is nowhere near loud enough. Ben’s just about to attempt to get their attention when a loud whistle comes from the back of the room.

It’s his father, of course.

Bit of shoosh please!’ he yells, everyone’s attention immediately turning to the diminutive woman and her petrified and embarrassed husband at the front of the room.

Hi everyone’ Rey waves as people’s voices lower and they mill towards the two of them. Ben swallows, feeling his face flame.

He despises being in front of people so the sooner he gets this night over with the better.

I’m Rey the photographer, as you may already know, and I just wanted to say thank you all for coming tonight. This means so much to me and my husband

She motions to Ben and he gives an awkward wave.

And I want to say an especially huge thank you to Ben for agreeing to pose for me. It wasn’t easy for him to put himself out there but c’mon…he should show off a body like that, shouldn’t he??

A few jeers and whistles come from the back of the crowd and Ben’s really ready for that hole to swallow him up. He knows Rey’s only trying to be nice but he really just wants to be home in his jammies on the couch.

So, that’s about it from me, short and sweet’ Rey laughs, reaching again for Ben’s hand. ‘But I do have some exciting news before we go…

She pauses dramatically and Ben has no idea what’s coming next.

Will it be good, or bad? Will she put him on the spot and ask him to pose for some other shoot he’s not prepared for?

Ben looks petrified, so I’ll put him out of his misery

God please do’ Ben breathes, gaining a few awkward laughs from the rest of the room.

So, as you know all these prints were for sale tonight…

As if anyone would actually buy one Ben thinks to himself.

And I’m thrilled to announce that an anonymous buyer called the gallery half an hour ago and bought the whole collection!

Ben’s eyes couldn’t go any wider. People are clapping him and he’s in total shock.

Who on earth would want a whole collection of nude shots? Of him?!

He just can’t believe it.

He glances at his parents first but if they bought them then they’re certainly not giving anything away-

Finn and Rose? They’d been there for him every step of the way and he probably wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for them, so if it was them then there’s no way he could let them go through with the sale.

As the crowd disperses Rey tries to catch his attention.

Can you believe it babe?’ She hugs him extra tight, her protruding belly making contact with him before the rest of her does.

He holds her tight, nuzzling his nose into her hair. ‘No. Who would do that?!’

The grin she gives him tells him she knows exactly who it is, but she won’t be telling him.

Were they really anonymous?

Rey considers her answer. ‘Yes? But I had to give them our bank details so they could make the payment, so I may know who it is from the name on their bank account. But trust me when I say it’s probably easier if you just…don’t know?’

He immediately wants to disagree, but she’s right. What good would knowing do? He really couldn’t bear knowing exactly who would have his privates in their possession for the rest of time anyway.

Yes, she’s definitely right. Safer he never finds out.

You’re right. I think I’d rather not know

He tries to forget all about it but the rest of the night he finds himself eyeing people and wondering if they’re the one.

Then it dawns on him that the person probably called because they couldn’t be here tonight, so really there was no point trying to work it out.

They’d advertised this event in the local newspaper so when it came down to it, it could be anyone.

Ben spends some time chatting with Finn and Rose about next week and the rest of the night passes quickly by.

His mother and father head off early and he doesn’t fail to notice his father taking his mother’s hand as he lets her out the door. Surely they couldn’t be back together after everything they’d been through?

He guesses he’ll find out for sure when he sees them next week.

Rey decides she wants to head home shortly after his parents leave and Ben is more than happy to leave early, Hux and MItaka kindly agreeing to close up.

Rey looks exhausted and Ben knows she needs her rest.

They say their goodbyes and climb into their SUV a little after 9pm with Ben in the driver’s seat.

I think it went really well, don’t you?

Rey yawns, stretching the seatbelt over her expanding belly.

Yeah, considering

Considering what? You looked amazing! We did good, babe

He supposes she’s right. People came, they saw and someone bought the entire collection so he couldn’t really argue it had been a successful night.

He was just happy for Rey it worked out so well. She loved her job and he couldn’t help but beam with pride.

Rey yawns again, her head settling back against the headrest as Ben pulls their car away from the curb.

I cannot wait to sink into bed. I’m so exhausted I could sleep for a week

Although he doesn’t doubt her for a second, Ben’s more than happy to let Rey sleep for the next week.

As long as she’s not still asleep come next Saturday.

No, he’ll definitely need her wide awake for that.

Chapter Text

~ACTS OF SERVICE~


Friday arrives and Ben’s a bundle of nerves. Up before the sun with his pregnant wife still sleeping he’s keen to cross the last few items off his to-do list.

In around 5 hours he’ll meet with Finn and Rose to go over the finer details for tomorrow although he still has a fair bit to get done before then.

Also on his morning to-do list is breakfast for Rey, although he knows that won’t be needed for at least another hour yet.

Yanking open the curtains in the living room Ben settles on the couch in a small patch of morning sun, extending his legs out to pull his laptop up to rest on his thighs.

First thing to attend to is his emails. He quickly replies to the one email he was expecting, a long yawn escaping as he types, his mind still waking up and sleep still calling him.

After spending an hour online and successfully checking some of the items from his list, he remembers breakfast. His plan was pancakes and berries but in the rush of organising his surprise he’d forgotten to check that they had all the ingredients in the pantry.

In the end he settles for cereal and coffee instead, everything ready to go when Rey eventually drags herself from the bathroom to the living room a half hour later.

She’s looking particularly adorable in pyjama pants and one of his shirts, one he figures she must’ve grabbed from the floor by the bed by how crumpled it is.

There’d been complaints recently about how warm she’s been at night, so she’d resorted to sleeping naked which Ben certainly didn’t have a problem with.

In fact, pregnancy had been treating them both relatively well. Ben had assumed the sex would dry up and he’d prepared himself for that, but the last few weeks his wife had been exceptionally horny so they’d been making the most of it.

They’d quickly worked out which positions were best with her growing belly and even though they’d had to alter a few of the things they’d normally do, it’d been fun. It was a whole new phase in their life and Ben was thrilled they’d been able to discover new things together.

In saying that it certainly wasn’t lost on him that if he hadn’t worked hard to repair his marriage, he’d probably be living at home with his parents or out on the streets right now.

Life had been tough, at times downright unbearable, but they’d managed to come out the other side relatively unscathed and he desperately hoped all the nasty surprises were behind them.

Rey stretches her arms above her head, his shirt rising just enough that he gets a cheeky peek at her pregnant belly.

Morning my beautiful girls’ he teases cheerfully, Rey yawning widely as she waddles around to the bench he’s standing at. Her arms fall around his waist and Ben lifts his arms to allow her to snuggle in.

Babe, I told you not to get your hopes up

She’s right, he shouldn’t, but he really can’t help it.

As much as he’d love a son he thinks he’d prefer a girl. He also knows as long as it’s a healthy baby with 10 fingers and 10 toes they’ll be luckier than some and of course he’ll be grateful regardless.

I know. I’m just teasing

Rey knows he is and maybe she is too. She’ll be happy with a healthy baby no matter the sex - she just wishes it would hurry up and arrive!

There’s gotta be something I can do to bring on labour, surely?’ she groans, pulling away to rest against the bench.

Well there’s a few things we could do but it’s way too early and plus I’d miss you being pregnant

His hands come to rest on her stomach. ‘I want you pregnant for the whole 9 months

Ben’s so proud of this baby – proud they made it together, a fact that daily blows his mind.

Ok for you. You’re not the one with swollen ankles, a body that feels like it’s on fire and a bladder you can’t control

I know, hon. Not long now

Ben is sympathetic but at the same time he loves all those things probably as much as she hates them.

It’s roughly 3 months before they meet their little one, but Ben’s aware it probably feels like an eternity for her.

She eyes the bowl of cereal, spoon and coffee mug on the counter.

Are you making me breakfast?

I am. Take a seat

Hopping onto the stool while Ben grabs the milk from the fridge, he places it beside her bowl then busies himself making coffee from the machine.

Sorry. I’d planned pancakes but I forgot to make sure we had everything’ he muses, one eye on the machine and one on his wife who’s busy downing her cereal with gusto.

I don’t care as long as it’s food. And thank you, that’s really sweet

She’s speaking with her mouth half-full but it’s adorable. There’s not much she does that he even bothers getting upset with these days. Life’s too short for such little annoyances he’s realised.

After she devours the entire bowl and drinks half her coffee, she notices Ben hasn’t eaten a thing and she’s about to dig into her second bowl.

Aren’t you eating?

Ben wants to eat - he’s starving - but a nauseous feeling has settled in his stomach and it won’t go away. As much as he’s trying not to think about tomorrow and all the things that could go wrong, he can’t help it.

Nah I’m fine. I’ll eat when I see Finn and Rose

Oh yeah, I forgot. Maybe I should come with you?

He’d love to have her along but there’s no way she can find out what he’s up to, not when he’s so close to revealing it all.

Truth is, he’s fast running out of excuses.

I won’t be long, promise’ He leans over and kisses the top of her head. ‘And you probably should rest before tomorrow

Why do I agree to these things again?’ she groans, shaking her head. ‘I swear Rose could talk me into anything

Ben tries not to smile. ‘It’ll be fun, won’t it? A massage and some girly time? I think it could be just what you need’

Rose’s plans are all part of his larger master plan for tomorrow, but he still can’t tell Rey that.

I guess? Maybe I could just lounge around the house today. Washing basket is full and I really wanna clean out those drawers…

Babe, I swear there’s almost no surface in this place you haven’t cleaned yet

I have been on a bit of a kick lately. I guess it’s that nesting thing they talk about

Standing to place her bowl in the sink Ben sweeps her into his arms. ‘I love your nesting and your swollen ankles and your protruding belly. I love all of it

Rey glances down and notices his usually long shirt is not as long on her as it used to be.

I know. I’m gonna hit the shower. Wanna join me?

He really should get more things crossed off his list-

Nah, you go. I’m just gonna finish up here

He turns to find her walking away, quickly pulling his shirt off and flinging it around her head as she turns to face him, her enlarged breasts far more than even he can resist.

He’s only human.

Her body has filled out so much while she’s been pregnant and although she’s repulsed by it most of the time, it’s been having quite the opposite effect on Ben.

You sure about that?

Rey smiles and wiggles her swollen boobs and he can’t resist any longer. He’s behind her in a flash, dirty dishes and other plans all but forgotten for now.

On second thought, you probably need a hand to clean those hard to reach areas so I probably should join you. It’s really the least I can do

Rey grabs his hands and pulls him along behind her down the hallway and into the bathroom, Ben’s important plans put on hold while he takes care of his husbandly duty.

 

~~~~

 

He’s 10 minutes late to their agreed meeting but he blames it on Rey. She can be really distracting when she wants to be.

Finn and Rose are already seated in a corner booth, their chosen burger joint packed ahead of the normal lunch hour rush. It’s always been one of Ben’s favourite places for good food and coffee and he’d have to admit he’s hungrier than normal today – possibly because he ate no breakfast.

Sorry, sorry, sorry’ he apologises, sliding into the vacant spot next to Finn. ‘Got caught up doing stuff

Rose regards him with her head cocked. ‘Uh huh. Stuff? Riiight

There’s nothing he can hide from that woman, he’s almost sure of it.

Yeah, you got me’ he laughs, having been caught out. ‘You guys ordered?

Finn nods. ’Yup, 10 minutes ago. We knew you’d have enough on your mind. Just burgers and fries, the usual

Sweet. Thank guys

Are we ready for tomorrow?’ Rose asks as she swirls the menu absentmindedly on the table. ‘I’m nervous we’ve forgotten something

Blowing out a breath Ben certainly hopes so. ‘I guess as long as Rey gets there on time, that’s all that matters

Finn leans back, running his finger up and down in front of his mate. ‘Uh, who’s this guy and what have you done with Ben?

I guess I just realised I’ve been stressing over this and I’m done. It’ll be perfect as long as Rey’s there and that’s all I care about

Reaching out to rest her hand on his bare arm, Rose is reassuring and calm. ‘I’ll make sure she gets there, don’t you worry

Thanks Rose

He means that, he really does.

She looks thoughtful for a moment. ‘I’m so excited, she’s going to love it. I think this is the best idea you’ve ever had, Ben

‘I think it might be’ Ben agrees.

Their food arrives and they dig in, going over the last of the arrangements for tomorrow while devouring every crumb on their plates.

Once everything is settled they part ways and say their goodbyes although there’s still one final stop on Ben’s list before he heads home.

Lunch had gone a tad over the time he’d allowed, which he was grateful for in a way because it meant less time waiting at the airport.

After far too long spent trying to find a park and too long walking around trying to find the correct gate, he finally makes it inside, sinking into one of the lounge chairs while nervously tapping his foot as he keeps an eye on the arrivals screen.

According to the times flashing above his head it’s only 45 minutes before two vital people in his master plan arrive. As long as he can get them safely to their destination and keep them hidden from Rey until tomorrow, everything else should be a piece of cake.

 

~~~~

 

An incoming call from Rey alerts him on his way home, Ben hitting Bluetooth to talk while he’s driving. Traffic is moving at snails’ pace anyway so there should be no problem concentrating on two things at once.

He leans one hand casually on the steering wheel with the other resting on the centre console. It’s a warm evening out and with fine weather forecast for tomorrow he’s feeling good about pretty much everything.

Hey bub, what’s up?

He notices almost immediately she’s been wondering why he isn’t home yet, but he can’t exactly tell her he got caught up at his parents because he hadn’t even told her he was going there.

Keeping secrets sure is hard work.

You on your way home? I’ve cleaned the entirety of this apartment and I forgot all about dinner

Creeping ahead in the long line of traffic he smiles at her absentmindedness.

Yeah, me either. How about I grab some takeout on the way home? What do you feel like?

Rey lets go a blissful sigh, obviously loving the fact she won’t need to cook after all. ‘I’m actually craving Mexican. Tacos, chimichangas, the works. What do you feel like?

I’m happy with Mexican. Traffic is slow as, so I’ll take the back route and grab it on the way

I knew there was a reason I married you’ she giggles and he’s now trying to picture her on the other end of the line.

Hey…’ he decides he wants to picture her exactly. Traffic is still crawling so he may as well do something fun to pass the time.

What are you wearing?

Ben’ He can feel her rolling her eyes. ‘Aren’t you driving?

Uh huh’ he nods even though she can’t see him. ‘Indulge me, I’m bored

I’m already in my jammies. My plaid bottoms and your black t-shirt. This is really comfy by the way, I think I’ll live in this until baby comes. It’s plenty big enough

His smile grows larger now. He adores her wearing his clothes and he finds it amusing his shirts are large enough for her and the baby.

He also loves when he wears his shirt next and it still smells like her, even after it’s been washed. It’s absolutely one of his favourite things.

PJ’s before 6pm, huh? Sexy

Mhm, very. What are you wearing?

She laughs, trying to play along. Except she saw him before he left the house and he’s been in the same thing all day.

I think you know the answer to that

What about underwear?

She’s got him there. Ben racks his brain trying to remember what he put on earlier but he’s at a loss.

I honestly can’t remember. Something black no doubt’ he laughs.

Now there’s a shock. Hey, can we have sex tonight? I’m still horny

Ben knows he doesn’t need to remind her that she’s always horny lately.

Course we can. Whatever you need

Are you ok with all this sex? I know I’ve been extra horny lately, but I can’t help it. I don’t want you to get sick of it though

She asks like it’s a serious question and he has no idea how to respond. He’s a guy – he loves nothing more than sex with Rey every day if he can get it - there’s no way he’d ever get sick of it.

I don’t think you need to worry about that, my dear

Ok. If you’re sure

Absolutely sure. Look, I better go as I’m just near the turn off. I’ll see you soon, ok?

No worries. Love you!

Love you more

 

~~~~



A single ray of sunlight shines through the crack in the curtain of their room, illuminating Rey’s peaceful face as she sleeps. The clock by their bedside shows 6.35am and although still early, Ben’s hoping Rey won’t be sleeping in late today of all days.

Rose is due around 9am to steal her away and help her get ready - although Rey won’t know she’s getting ready for anything as such. To her it would simply seem like some girly time with Rose, full of pampering and (Ben hoped) plenty of laughs and nothing more.

He had everything crossed she wouldn’t suspect anything was out of the ordinary until later in the day at least.

It’s after 7am before Rey stirs and Ben takes the opportunity for some snuggles.

Morning wifey

Sighing into him Rey pushes her back against his front.

Morning’ she yawns, causing him to yawn in return.

He’d love to be able to stay in bed with her. She’s warm, and he just loves to lay there with his arms around her huge belly but he has things to prepare and he needs her gone.

You getting up?

He’s greeted with a groaned response of no and her warm feet rubbing against his bare leg. Ben knows they’ve still got a little time up their sleeve, but you can never be too careful. He’s watching the clock like a hawk this morning.

Rey flips onto her back and Ben snuggles his head gently onto her stomach, listening for any sound. He can feel some slight movement but no kicking.

I’m so over being pregnant

I thought you were enjoying it?

I guess it’s been mostly ok, but I just want to meet this little one. And I can’t do that while it’s stuck in there

She pats Ben’s head instead of her stomach and he laughs.

I can’t wait either

Almost as soon as he finishes speaking Rey feels a hard kick.

Babe! He knows your voice

Ben lifts his head to stare back at her, hand resting on her stomach with her hand guiding it to the exact spot.

He gives her a curious look. ‘You said he

They both have a habit of saying he/she instead of it and it just slips out - it’s nothing intentional. They’ve had this discussion many times and it comes down to the fact they’ll both be happy as long as it’s a healthy baby, regardless of gender.

I still have a feeling it’s going to be a boy, not sure why

Hm’ Ben’s not so sure. ‘We keep changing every day though, so who really knows. All I do know is that you have to get up and get ready ‘cause Rose will be here soon

Rey throws her head back in protest. It’s so warm and comfortable in bed, the thought of dragging her body from the warmth is not exciting her one bit.

Aren’t you looking forward to it? About time you got out and got some pampering

Another groan.

But it’s so warm here. Can’t I just stay a little longer?

Shaking his head, Ben steals yet another glance at the clock. There’s time, but it depends how long it’s going to take her to get ready and lately it hasn’t exactly been a quick process.

You can stay but I’m gonna get up and shower

Pulling himself from the bed he plants a kiss on her forehead as she snuggles down and pulls the covers back up.

K. Wake me if I’m not up when you get out

Yeah, no worries

Ben knows that’s exactly what’s going to happen. She’ll be out to it when he comes back and he’ll still have to drag her out.

Letting the warm water wash away his anxiousness, he goes over everything he’s planned in his mind, step by step, to make sure he hasn’t forgotten anything. He’s about to cut the water when he hears the door open and Rey peers in, much to his surprise.

Can you leave the water on?

Course. Here, lemme help you in

Shucking her pyjamas she reaches out her hand. Ben takes it and places his other hand on her side to guide her into the shower so she doesn’t slip, manoeuvring her in as he slides out.

He busies himself shaving and Rey starts washing, singing some song he’s never heard as he tries to concentrate and not cut himself.

Eyeing her through the foggy, wet glass her silhouette makes him smile, a sense of pride flooding him as he remembers he had a part in making her that way. However small a part it was.

Of course, she notices him watching.

Are you smiling cause I’m fat?

Rolling his eyes in the mirror he continues with the task at hand, turning his face side to side to ensure he gets a clean shave. Can’t afford any cuts today of all days.

You’re not fat, you’re pregnant. With our baby. That’s why I’m smiling

Right answer’ she laughs as he watches her hand disappear between her legs, quickly turning his attention back to shaving. He knows he can’t afford to get frisky with her now – time’s tight today and there’ll be plenty of time for that later.

Hurrying to finish shaving he leaves her in the shower, listening to her sing while he rushes around to pack a bag while she’s occupied.

He takes a moment to listen at the door. It’s a catchy song from what he can hear, and she’s always had a pretty good singing voice but there’s a sense of sadness that accompanies this song and he’s unsure why.

‘Cause every time I breathe I take you in
And my heart beats again
Baby I can’t help it
You keep me drowning in your love

Every time I try to rise above
I’m swept away by love
Baby I can’t help it
You keep me drowning in your love

He makes mental note to ask her about the song at a later sate, realising he’s fast running out of time.

Quickly rifling through the drawers (something he wouldn’t do under normal circumstances but to make this work he really has no choice) he finds underwear, pyjamas and a few random items of clothing and stuffs them into the empty backpack.

Shoving the backpack under the bed right as the shower ceases, he busies himself in the living room so she doesn’t suspect anything.

It’s no more than 5 minutes later when she sings out from their room.

Babe? Have you seen my black underwear?

He briefly remembers shoving some black underwear into her bag but surely those aren’t the ones she’s looking for? What are the chances?

Making his way to the bedroom he leans against the doorframe. She’s busy rifling through the drawers and he hopes she’ll just settle on something else and not bother looking too hard.

I swear I only washed them the other day. They were right here

Can’t you just wear another pair?

I guess. But they’re the comfiest ones I have, and they don’t ride up my ass like the others

She sighs, looking genuinely disappointed and making Ben wish he’d packed something else – although there’s no possible way he could’ve known they’d be the exact ones she’d want.

They can’t all be too small?

The look she gives him tells him he’s wrong.

Most of them. I haven’t gotten around to buying anymore, so I’ve just been wearing the same 2 pairs mostly. Oh well, I can’t find them so not much I can do

Phew.

Plus I can’t stand around looking for them ‘cause Rose will be here soon

She busies herself dressing while Ben watches on.

I’m sure they’ll turn up. You’ll have forgotten all about them once you’re on that table getting all your aches and pains massaged away

How did you know we’re getting massages?

Shit.

He’d told Rose to pamper her - massage, nails, hair, the works - but she didn’t know he knew.

Lucky guess?’ Ben shrugs. ‘Pretty sure pampering always includes a massage, doesn’t it?

He hopes he hasn’t accidentally given something away but thankfully Rey’s too busy trying to get her pants over her legs to really think too much about it.

Rose is there to collect her before they know it and Ben’s finally free to get the rest organised without disruption. One of the most important parts of his plan is now underway and in only a few hours Rey will finally find out what he’s been keeping from her.

 

~~~~

 

Rose, why is it I’m only just finding out about this now?’

Rose knew this would be the hardest part of today, but Ben had strict plans and she’d agreed to them so she’d be damned if she was going to be the one to mess this up.

So what if she had to tell a few little white lies along the way to make it seem believable? She figured Rey wouldn’t mind once she found out what was really going on.

As far as Rey knew Rose’s sister Paige was starting up a new photography business and had planned a maternity wedding shoot for this afternoon, inviting Rey to model bridal wear with Rose as a bridesmaid.

Rose only hoped her friend wouldn’t question it too much and just go with the flow, but she really should’ve known it wouldn’t be quite that easy.

I’m sorry! I meant to tell you but it slipped my mind. I’ve had a lot going on lately

And I haven’t?!

Rey knows she shouldn’t get upset with her friend, but her emotions have been all over the place lately and sometimes they just get away from her. It’s something she’s not proud of but it’s true all the same.

Dress in hand, Rey caresses the soft, white fabric. Maybe this wouldn’t be as bad as she thought? She’d been feeling pretty frumpy lately so it couldn’t hurt to get dressed up, could it?

She was always keen to help a fellow photographer in need. And she did enjoy the pampering earlier so having her hair and makeup done could be fun? Even if she only looked glam for a few hours it had to be better than nothing. It certainly had to beat lounging at home on the couch watching daytime telly.

Did you find one you liked?

Poking her tongue out in jest, Rey sighs while eyeing the dress on the hangar. ‘This one, I think? But I need to try it on, it probably won’t even fit

She groans again and Rose joins her at the rack. ‘Go on then. I think it’s perfect, but I want you to be happy with it

Why does it matter if I’m happy with it? It’s not my shoot

Because…’ Rose has to think fast. ‘Because you’ll be in it for a few hours, so it needs to be comfortable. And you’re not gonna be happy in a dress that’s uncomfortable, that’s why

Rey has more questions, but Rose is behind her now, pushing her gently toward the dressing room.

Go on. You won’t know until you try it on

Rey decides there’s no point fighting it. Instead she heads to the largest dressing room, hanging the dress on the hook so she can pull the curtain across for some privacy.

The dress slips easily over her head and floats gently to the floor, the fabric so stunning and soft. The bodice is fitted yet comfortable and she’s able to wear her maternity bra underneath with no issues so that’s definitely a bonus.

The small, delicate sleeves add to it making it comfortable yet still pretty and elegant.

Rey assess herself in the mirror and likes what she sees. If she was ever going to get married while pregnant for real, she’d definitely choose a dress like this one.

Twirling a few times, she cocks her head and smiles. She feels like a true princess and she was right – turns out this was just what she needed. The earlier massage had done wonders for her sore back and legs and dressing up while pregnant had so far been surprisingly enjoyable.

Maybe today would turn out to be a good day after all.

She debates whether to snap a pic and send it to Ben. She has a feeling he’d love to see her all dressed up, reminding him of their own wedding which now felt like a lifetime ago, but Rose interrupts.

Got it on? I’m dying to see it

Placing her phone back on the seat bench Rey adjusts the dress one final time before pulling the curtain across.

Rose’s reaction is clearly genuine. She gasps, her eyes widening before they trail down the length of the dress and back up to her friend’s face.

Holy smokes! You look…wow. You look stunning

Rose steps in and rests her hand on her friend’s pregnant stomach.

You look like a princess. A very pregnant princess

Rey blushes slightly at the attention but she has to agree – she does look kinda stunning – she just wishes Ben could see.

Alright’ Rose glances at her watch, sliding the curtain back across. ‘If you’re happy with that one, we should get going. We’ve still got hair and makeup yet

Begrudgingly removing the dress Rey replaces it with her comfy maternity jeans and shirt, surprising herself by looking forward to getting back into the dress as soon as she can.

She knows she’s silly for feeling this way – it’s not her dress, it’s simply on loan – but she can’t help it.

Next stop is the salon.

Rey has to leave the chair three times during the two hours to relieve her bladder but apart from that it’s been fun. Her hair now sits pulled high on her head, a small row of tiny white flowers woven into the soft braid at the back.

It’s similar to the way she wore her hair on her own wedding day and deep-down Rey knows that’s probably why she’s chosen this particular style again today.

It just feels…right.

They change into their dresses in the back room of the salon which Rey thinks is slightly odd, but the women there don’t seem to mind - it’s almost like they knew it was coming.

She’s surprised by the lengths Paige has gone to to make this feel like a real wedding, her eyes agape when a stretch limousine arrives for the two of them.

Things are getting weird now and as much as she tries to push the feeling down, Rey can’t help feeling there’s something more going on.

She just wishes she knew what it was.

 

~~~~

 

Ben thought he’d been nervous at other times in his life but turns out this surprise is a whole new level of anxiety he didn’t even know existed.

Would it all go according to plan?

Would she love it as much as he hoped she would?

Would she actually want to renew their vows?

Ben certainly did, he felt it was the absolute right thing to do after all he’d put them through, but he’d never asked Rey because he couldn’t - that would’ve ruined the whole surprise.

And right now he was definitely doubting the entire idea.

What if she’d changed her mind about him in the last few hours and she’d leave him alone at the alter?

She’d been so emotional lately, what if she just ran out in tears?

He couldn’t live with himself if he upset her again. Maybe it’d be best to just call the whole thing off?

Blowing out a breath his hand comes up to wipe away the thin sweat creeping over his brow as he adjusts the collar of his wedding tuxedo for the tenth time in the last hour.

Thankfully the tux only needed slight adjustments before he could wear it again after all these years, but that was only because he’d bulked up so much. At least that’s what he told himself anyway.

Finn notices how nervous he is, a reassuring hand landing on his friend’s shoulder as he stands beside him, guests beginning to file into Rey’s small studio.

You ok bro?

Ben tries to steady his breathing but it’s getting harder by the second.

Not really. Was this a good idea? She’s gonna hate me for springing this on her. Why did I even do this?

Ben, breathe. Rey is gonna love it. Just trust she loves you and everything else will sort itself out

Ben sincerely hopes he’s right. He takes a moment to glance around the space, admiring how beautiful it looks. He’s not much into decorating but he can tell how much work it’s taken to get it looking like a proper wedding setting.

Rose has truly done the most amazing job of decorating.

The small, intimate space is now lined with 24 white chairs, the aisle in between scattered with rose petals leading to the most stunning wedding backdrop Ben’s ever seen. Soft pink, silk fabric hangs down to the floor, elaborate flower arrangements hanging from the entire front piece, their first names displayed on the fabric in brilliant gold cursive font.

He couldn’t have pictured it more beautiful if he’d designed it himself. And thankfully he hadn’t – he’d left that part to Rose, Hux and their friends and he couldn’t be happier with how it’d all turned out.

Ben’s parents are seated front left, Rey’s parents front right. The remainder of the chairs fill slowly, the majority of guests greeting Ben with a handshake and congratulations before they move to take their seat.

He’d managed to keep the service itself simple and the reception too – canapes and cocktails with a few non-alcoholic options for his pregnant wife, of course.

As nervous as he is, Ben can’t wait to see the look on her face. Glancing at his watch yet again he realises the time is near.

25 minutes and she’d be here.

 

~~~~


~WORDS OF AFFIRMATION~


Where are we going exactly?

Rose directs her attention from the window back to her friend. ‘You ask a lot of questions, you know that?

Sorry’ Rey frowns. ‘I just can’t help feeling you’re up to something, I just don’t know what it is yet

Me? Never!’ Rose’s hand flies to her chest and she clutches it in fake offense.

Rey glances down at her current state, pregnant stomach protruding under the soft wedding gown she’s dressed in, feet currently squashed into heels that are getting more uncomfortable by the minute.

Cramming into heels however low is definitely not the most enjoyable thing when your ankles are swollen, that much she does know.

Rey glances out the window. She knows this area well, it’s where her gallery is located, she’s just not sure why they’re headed this way.

Did I tell you how amazing you look?

Rey smiles back at her friend. ‘Only about a thousand times. What about you? You look amazing too! I kinda wish the boys could see us all dressed up

Selfie?

Ok. But just one, not 10’ Rey laughs, adjusting her hair in preparation. ‘I know what you’re like

At least now Ben will be able to see her all dressed up, even if only in a photo. Although Rose doesn’t take just one of course, she snaps at least 6 before Rey swats her hand and makes her put her phone away.

Their driver takes a right into the street where her gallery is situated, and Rey cranes her neck to look ahead. The streets are lined with cars and there’s people heading inside although it’s not even meant to be open.

Rose…

Rose takes a deep breath.

What’s going on? Why are we stopping here?

This is where the shoot is’ she responds very matter-of-fact, as though it’s the stupidest question ever.

At my gallery? Why didn’t you tell me?

Rey had no idea they’d be in her personal gallery for this shoot. The nagging feeling hasn’t gone away and she can’t help feeling there’s something more going on.

Because you didn’t need to know. Now c’mon’ Rose says as the car comes to a slow stop at the curb out front. ‘We need to get going

Rose gets out first, moving around to help Rey out of the limo. Stepping out onto the sidewalk, she steadies herself on her heels and smooths down the skirt of her dress.

It’s just after 2pm and it’s a warm afternoon, clear blue sky with hardly a cloud in sight.

Rose heads to the studio door and opens it, giving some kind of sign to someone inside.

Now Rey knows there’s something going on and when Rose closes the door and stands in front of her, grabbing her hands in hers, Rey’s almost sure there’s no shoot happening.

Which means-

Do you love me?’ Rose asks, her grip strong, eyes pleading almost.

Yes. What have you done?

Do you trust me?

You know, I’m not so sure now’ Rey laughs. ‘Now I know you’re up to something

Rose pouts.

Ok yes, of course I love you. Now dammit Rose, tell me what’s going on!

You’ll see

Rose winks, adjusting her dress. ‘Just know I love you, we all love you and…you deserve this

Deserve what exactly??

It doesn’t take much to make Rey emotional these days and she can feel tears building even though she has no idea what’s going on.

She has no choice but to trust her friend.

Rose pulls the door open a second time and steps inside, Rey following along behind and soon realising she knows all these people – every single one of them.

She can see Ben up front dressed in his tux – the one he wore for their own wedding if she’s not mistaken – Finn flanking him with the hugest grin on his face.

Are they part of the shoot too?

Rey feels so confused.

Accepting two bouquets from someone nearby Rose hands one to Rey, who glances down to study the flower arrangement – the bouquet identical to the one she’d had for her own wedding.

Hux stands just off to the side, snapping photos madly and Rey attempts to smile among the confusion.

Ben organised all of this, by the way’ Rose leans across to whisper. ‘All for you

Familiar strains emanate from the speakers either side of the room as Rose leaves her side and begins to walk slowly down the aisle ahead of her.


Who knows what tomorrow brings

In a world few hearts survive
All I know is the way I feel
When it's real, I keep it alive

The road is long
There are mountains in our way
But we climb a step every day

Rey focuses down the aisle at Ben and the tears start to fall. She’s not exactly sure what this is as they’re already married, but she can only trust Ben knows what he’s doing.

And it doesn’t take him long to notice just how confused she is. He simply winks and smiles to let her know it’s all ok.

Rey moves at last, making the slow trip up the aisle to her husband as ‘Up Where We Belong’ continues to play, all eyes now trained on her. This is one of her favourite songs and it’s certainly not helping keep the tears at bay.

Love lift us up where we belong
Where the eagles cry
On a mountain high
Love lift us up where we belong
Far from the world below
Up where the clear winds blow

She truly loses it when the walk nears its end and the two most important people in her life, besides her husband, stand off to her right.

Rey hasn’t seen her parents for the longest time and for Ben to get them here just for today? That means more to her than anything. The tears flow freely now as all of this begins to sink in.

As the music fades and Rey makes it to the end of the aisle, she turns to Ben and stares up into those gorgeous dark eyes of his.

Wow’ he mouths in a barely-there whisper, his eyes taking her in. He steps closer and a finger comes to her cheek to wipe away the wet trail of tears.

I got you’ he reassures her with a nod, Rose stepping up to take Rey’s bouquet to allow Ben to take both her hands in his.

You’re trembling’ he notices. His voice is still a whisper but it’s calming, it’s always had that effect on her.

So are you’ Rey whispers and he smiles again.

Ben, what have you done?

Rey steals a glance at the waiting crowd, all hushed now.

You’ll see

He flashes her another wink, gripping her hands tighter so she feels more at ease.

Guests wait expectantly and Ben blows out a long, slow breath before he begins speaking.

Rey, you are the love of my life

The tears hadn’t really disappeared, but she can already feel them returning. The way he’s gripping her hands and staring directly into her eyes reminds her exactly why she married him in the first place.

Because he’s her rock, and he makes her feel safe.

Geez’ Ben’s fumbling to find the right thing to say.

‘I’m actually pretty speechless right now, seeing you looking so…I mean, wow. Am I right?!’ he gestures to the guests and they cheer and whoop, blush creeping over Rey’s made-up cheeks.

‘So yeah, I can’t even remember any of the vows I had memorised

Many laugh in sympathy now at his nervousness.

I guess all I need to say to you is that I love you, I’m sorry for everything I put you through and I was hoping we could renew our vows right here and now, in front of everyone we love’

‘I again commit my life to you, my all to you, ‘til death us do part

Rey hears several sniffles from the crowd, looking to her mother who is now dabbing tears from her cheeks. They’re tears of joy.

The two of them exchange knowing smiles and Rey knows above all her parents will continue to support her no matter how far away they may be.

She dearly hopes they’ll be staying on for a while after today because they have a lot of catching up to do although she still can’t believe they’re actually here.

So, in front of our family and friends I promise, again, to love you, to support you and to stand by your side no matter how tough times get. Because I know now that no matter what life throws at us, as long as we have each other, we can make it

And there’s no one else I want to share the complications of life with but you, my sexy wife

Ben’ Rey manages to get out before she loses it completely. She reaches up with her arms around his neck and pulls him close, their soft breathing the only sound between them as their noses touch.

They embrace, simply holding each other for probably too long, but no one makes a sound aside from the few guests crying.

Ben steals a glance at his parents and his mother is crying too, and if he’s not mistaken his father is even tearing up.

Finally pulling back, Rey fights back the tears because she knows it’s probably time she spoke.

Ben’ she sniffles, wishing she had a tissue on hand. Ben is prepared though, reaching into his pocket to hand her one.

My husband, love of my life

She’s not exactly sure what to say so she decides it’s safest she just speak from the heart.

We’ve learnt so much in the last few years, not all of it good, but here we are – still as much in love as ever and with a baby on the way

Ben grins before stating in front of everyone-

Can you believe we did that?’ He reaches out and his large hand comes to rest on her stomach.

His comment earns more laughter and Rey can only shake her head and smile.

Life is crazy sometimes but you’re right, as long as we stick together we can get through anything. And no matter what comes our way, there’s still no-one I’d rather do life with than you’

I love you Rey Solo’ Ben says, hand still resting on their unborn child, the product of their love for each other.

And I love you Ben Solo

So can I kiss you now?

Please do’ Rey replies, applause filling the small space as Ben cups her cheeks in his hands and bends down to join her lips with his.

Finn and Rose holler the loudest and it’s the best feeling in the world, the newly-renewed Solo’s sharing a slow, passionate kiss and not caring who’s watching.

When they finally pull away Ben raises their joined hands high in the air to more cheers before they make their way back down the aisle as he slaps hands with whoever sticks theirs out.

Rey has never seen him so happy, her mind briefly flashing back to when he’d been anything but.

Her feet are killing her now so once they reach the end of the aisle she attempts to bend down and remove her shoes. Ben directs her across to an empty chair at the side of the room and the guests begin to mill among themselves.

He helps her into the seat before helping to remove her heels.

Rey sighs in bliss at the feel of bare feet and instead of simply setting her shoes aside, Ben stays down at her feet and massages both her ankles.

I can’t believe you did all this for me’ she tells him, resting back in the chair. ‘I knew something was up with Rose, but I had no idea it’d be…this’ she gestures to the decorated space.

I nearly slipped up a few times but looks like I did ok?

He stares up at her, Rey leaning forward to cup his chin. ‘More than ok, babe. Thank you

You deserve all this and more, you know that right?’ Ben stands and pulls her from the chair as one of her favourite songs begins.

Dance with me?

Although her feet are sore, she really does want to dance with her husband and this song is one of her favourites. It’s James Morrison’s ‘I Won’t Let You Go’, one of the songs she listened to endlessly during the hardest times.

Except from this day on Rey’s sure it will hold new meaning. Happy memories rather than sad ones.

Ben leads her to a vacant part of the floor, pulling her in as tight as he can with her stomach in between. They sway to the music as guests stop and watch on, Rey getting lost in the safe arms of her husband.


If there's love just feel it
And if there's life we'll see it
This is no time to be alone, alone yeah
I won't let you go

Say those words
Say those words like there's nothing else
Close your eyes and you might believe
That there is some way out
Yeah

Open up
Open up your heart to me now
Let it all come pouring out
There's nothing I can't take


Rey hopes today is an indication of how their life will be from now on, her safe in Ben’s arms no matter what’s happening in their life. But she still knows now to always expect the unexpected.

They share another kiss as the song ends and the guests applaud.

We should probably go say hi to your parents

Rey had almost forgotten they were there.

Ben points them out across the room. His own parents are currently chatting with them so he leads Rey over bare feet and all.

Honey!’ her mother gasps, grabbing her daughter in a tight hug. ‘Come here

Rey can’t do anything but accept her embrace and cry, her father wrapping his arms around the two of them while Ben fights back his own tears at the sight.

Han extends his hand and offers a firm handshake to his son. ‘You did good, kid. Real good

Thanks Dad. And thanks, both of you, for coming

Are you for real? We wouldn’t have missed this for the world

Han grabs Leia’s hand and Ben eyes the two of them.

Are you two back together?

Han shrugs and Leia nods. ‘Seems you’re not the only one who had some making up to do’ his mother comments and Ben tries not to think about his parents doing it even though he’s sure that’s not what she meant at all.

Deep down he’s glad they’ve worked things out because he was sick of the fighting and the two of them playing him off against the other. It’d still take some getting used to though.

‘I guess congratulations are in order for you too then?

The three Solo’s share an embrace much like Rey and her parents before he steals Rey away again.

After a quick trip to the bar, Rey happily accepting a glass of non-alcoholic bubbles, they steal some time alone in the small back office.

Resting on Ben’s lap Rey allows her feet to dangle just off the floor.

We should be out there chatting with everyone, Ben

I know. I just want you all to myself, I’m greedy

They enjoy some alone time, sipping bubbles and discussing the day before Rey stands and pulls him from his comfortable spot.

C’mon. The sooner we do this, the sooner I get you all to myself for real’

Rey winks and Ben gets the message loud and clear.

I know this is like a wedding, but I want you to know I don’t expect sex tonight. Not if you don’t want to

Rey’s hand fly to her hips. ‘Who says I don’t want to? I have big plans for tonight I’ll have you know

Is that so?

Mhm’ Rey‘s sure to whisper directly in his ear. ‘After you help me out of this dress, I’m gonna get on all fours and I want you to fuck me so hard and deep that our baby can feel it

Ben pulls back and his mouth drops. ‘Fuckin hell, babe. You can’t say that to a guy when he has to look his parents in the eye. My dick’s already decided he’s ready right now

He guides her hand to his pants and it’s obvious he’s hard already.

Maybe I could take care of that real quick?’ she purrs, rubbing the hardness under his pants to make him even harder still.

Ben knows what his head wants but his heart is taking over and telling him to make the most of the time with their guests, as much as the tent in his pants is telling him otherwise.

He lets out a long sigh. ‘I’d love that, but I think we should wait. We should really go and socialise a bit more before I whisk you away

Yeah, you’re probably right. I should go and thank Rose and Finn for a start

Why don’t you go on and I’ll…’ Ben glances down at his suit pants. ‘I’ll be out in a bit

Rey winks and eyes his tented pants one more time with a smile before heading out to make a beeline for her friends.

She can’t thank them enough, with hugs a plenty.

You guys!

Rose looks sheepish, her hand around Finn’s waist. ‘Hey you! Gee, a few times there I thought the jig was up, but we got there in the end

Honestly, I can’t thank you enough for everything. And I mean everything’ Rey emphasises, embracing them both as tight as she can with her stomach in the way.

For organising this, for being there for me’ She pulls back to look at Finn. ‘And you. For being there for Ben. Both of you, but you especially Finn. We probably wouldn’t be where we are right now if not for you and that book. Oh, and yoga

Finn chuckles. ‘It’s really the least I could do, Rey. I’m just glad you guys made it. Because if you can’t make it there’s no hope for the rest of us

Rose jabs him in the side. ‘Oi, speak for yourself

Well I’m not planning on going anywhere babe’ Finn tells his wife. ‘So, I hope you’re not?

Rose’s head shakes adamantly. ‘No way buddy. You’re stuck with me

Anyway, it’s Ben you should be thanking’ Rose informs her friend. ‘This was all his idea, from start to finish, we just…prettied it up a bit

Don’t worry, I’ll be sure to thank him later

Rose eyes Rey’s bulging stomach and offers her hand for a high-five, the two of them giggling. ‘You go girl’

Finn can only roll his eyes. ‘Well I’m glad. You guys enjoy your night, ok?

We will. And thanks again. Best friends a girl ever had!

They share another hug before Rey waddles off to find her parents. Ben’s already there, chatting away and laughing, Rey eyeing his pants from a distance before approaching now she can see it’s safe to do so.

Sidling up to her hubby she wraps an arm around his waist and rests her head against him. She’s suddenly feeling tired although she tries not to yawn in front of company figuring that wouldn’t be a good look.

After making the rounds and chatting with most of their guests, Rey’s keen to whisk Ben away. Plus she’s keen to get out of her dress – however pretty it is she’s just ready for her PJ’s and to put her feet up.

She’s not sure where they’re going tonight but she wants some more alone time with Ben to thank him properly.

Her parents are staying on for two weeks, thanks for the generous hospitality of her in-laws so thankfully there’ll be time to catch up properly in the days ahead. For now, she just wants Ben.

This time she can’t help a yawn escape and of course he notices. It’s barely dinner time but he can tell she’s exhausted.

Ready to go?’ he whispers out of earshot.

Yeah. Is that ok?

Absolutely. Let’s go

 

~~~~


~GIVING GIFTS~


So, are you gonna come in or just stand there?

Ben’s standing in the middle of a living area the size of their entire apartment, dropping their bags onto the plush lounge. But Rey’s too afraid to move for fear of making a mess or breaking something.

Ben’ she breathes, slowly walking down the hall of the expansive and expensive penthouse apartment. ‘How much did this cost?!

You don’t need to worry about that’ is all he says, making his way from the lounge up the hall to the bedrooms.

It’s all paid for, we just have to enjoy it

That’s bedrooms – plural. Yet there’s only two of them.

Rey wonders just how far this place goes.

It’s early evening and the sun is beginning to set. Part of her already wishes they could spend longer than one night here, but then she thinks about just how much this place would cost and she’s grateful they even get to enjoy it for as long as they do.

Following Ben down the hall she finds him sprawled on the King size bed in what she assumes to be the master bedroom.

Holy…

As she walks in, she’s stunned by how grand the bedroom is.

This must’ve cost a fortune. Who paid for this?!

I told you not to worry about that. It’s a wedding gift. Or more like a vow renewal gift, I guess

But Ben

Ben is up and standing in front of her before she can finish, his firm hands landing on her shoulders.

You ask too many questions, you know that?

That makes her chuckle and she’s a little embarrassed.

Yeah. Rose told me that earlier but

But nothing’ His hands move to grab her wrists. ‘Please just enjoy it? For me? You deserve it

Ok

In a few weeks you’ll be pushing a baby out, our baby. I think you deserve a little more pampering

She supposes that’s true, although she tries not to dwell on the actual birth too much as it’s a pretty daunting thing to get her head around.

She decides to stop over-thinking it and just enjoy it.

 
 

~~~~


~PHYSICAL TOUCH~


Walking toward the bed Rey’s desperate to feel how soft the mattress is, but there’s no way she could fully enjoy it as dressed up as she is.

Help me out of this dress?

Ben’s eyebrows go up and there’s that trademark smirk. He obviously remembers her promise from earlier.

Fuck yes

His hands come up and her zipper slides down, Rey pushing the sleeves from her shoulders so the dress pools at her feet.

Holy hell, babe

No question he’s now noticed the lingerie Rose had made her wear. Rey had questioned it several times, but Rose had insisted it was a gift so she’d just gone with it.

Now she knows it was all a part of the larger plan.

She turns so he can get a good look at her in it, her hands flying unconsciously to cover her stomach. But Ben’s having none of that. He steps forward to pull her hands away, his own hands coming to rest there instead as he eyes her up and down.

I knew you’d look beautiful with a baby growing inside you, but I don’t think I had any idea how beautiful

Rey smiles up at him. ‘As much as you might like me in this underwear babe, it’s really not that comfortable and I’ve been in it most of the day. I really just wanna get naked

That seems to please him immensely.

Oh I’m more than happy for you to get naked

Reaching behind to unhook her bra, Ben hooks his fingers into the band of her underwear and makes short work of stripping them down her legs before flinging them across the room.

He stays crouched and it’s obvious what he’s thinking, but it’s her turn to look after him for a change.

Rey knows today shouldn’t just be about her, it should be about the two of them. And it’s finally time to repay him.

No’ she says, tugging at his hair. ‘On the bed

Ben peers up at her with a frown. ‘You don’t want me to take care of you?

You’ve been doing that all day. It’s time I took care of you. Now, on the bed

She points to the bed and Ben complies, shucking his jacket and tie and throwing them over the closest chair before jumping on the plush mattress.

Rey lies down and calls him across but he looks a little unsure.

How do you plan to do this lying down?

Straddle my face’ she replies rather matter-of-fact and his eyes widen.

You sure?

Absolutely. Let me do this for you

Ben shucks the rest of his wedding outfit, his briefs the last to disappear. Palming him until he’s hard enough Rey signals for him to straddle her face and he obliges.

Lucky for you I’m horny as’ she muses as he settles over her and backs up until his cock is right in her face. ‘And I plan to go to town on you

Ben groans as she moves her mouth up to engulf him. Although only gentle at first, she can already sense him resisting the urge to thrust.

Pulling back she encourages him. ‘Help me out here?

I don’t want to hurt you

You won’t. Please? I’ll let you know if you do

He obliges fully and Rey gives her husband everything she has until his knees are shaking against the mattress, the feel of him thrusting into her mouth from above a new sensation she could definitely learn to love.

There’s no doubt Ben could be rougher than he’s being right now but it’s the first time they’ve done it in this position so she can understand his hesitation.

The part she loves the most is how he keeps trying to rear back and kiss her stomach in between his moaning and groaning.

When he comes it’s with a relieved grunt, the warm spend coating the inside of her throat, Rey swallowing as best she can before wiping the rest from her lips.

While Ben stays in position to catch his breath, a few stray drops drip from his tip and she catches them on her tongue.

He eventually moves from above and joins her on the bed, the two of them on their sides with him snuggled against her back.

You’ve got 5 minutes’ she tells him - half joking, half serious.

Mm?’ He doesn’t even lift his head.

5 minutes and then I’m gonna get on all fours and I want you to fuck me and fuck me good

Another groan and Ben sighs into her back, his legs stretching out. He takes up almost the length of the mattress even though it’s the largest bed they’ve ever slept in.

5 minutes’ he mumbles.

She gives him a jab in the stomach.

‘Ow! What was that for?

Don’t you go to sleep on me

‘As if I’d go to sleep with that offer on the table

And boy does he fulfil his husbandly duty not 10 minutes later. She wanted him to go hard though so she’s certainly not complaining. Turns out it was just what she needed.

The perfect end to the perfect day.

 

~~~~

 

The night before their due date and Ben wakes to an empty bed just after 2am in the morning, distinct noise coming from the nursery down the hall.

This nesting thing has really gotten out of control.

Where would the crib look better?’ Rey asks, having just pushed it to the opposite side of the nursery. ‘Here, or there?

Ben rubs his bleary eyes as he leans against the doorframe, running his hands down his face while squinting in the bright light.

Babe. Can’t this be done tomorrow? You should be resting

It started a few weeks ago and it’s mostly been a nightly occurrence, Rey up and busying herself with all manner of unnecessary tasks at godforsaken hours of the night and early morning.

The first few times Ben laughed it off and let her go, however he envisioned making the most of uninterrupted sleep before the baby arrived and Rey was currently affecting that plan.

Go back to bed, I’ll be fine’ she waves him off but Ben’s having none of it.

It’s not like I can sleep anyway while you’re making noise in here

He walks to the crib and wraps his arms around her shoulders, but she shrugs him off choosing to focus on moving the tub of toys and a few books to the opposite corner instead. Another unnecessary move in Ben’s opinion.

Fine, I’m going back to bed. But the doctor said you should be resting, and you won’t get much sleep once the baby comes. You should be making the most of it while you can

He states the obvious, but it doesn’t help. Rey is being her stubborn self and staying put so he soon gives up and crawls back into bed, hiding his head under the covers to try and block out the noise.

He only stirs again at 3.15 when Rey joins him back in bed. She snuggles into him this time and he extends an arm and pulls her close, the earlier disagreement all but forgotten.

Do you think the baby will come tomorrow?’ she whispers, wriggling her ass against him. ‘They hardly ever come on their due date

Ben doesn’t even bother opening his eyes, he’s too tired.

Knowing our luck, yes’ he muses, holding her close and wrapping his arms around her protruding stomach in case it’s the last time he ever gets the chance.

Better get some sleep then

Now there’s an idea. Why didn’t he think of that?

Get some sleep babe. Love you

Mm, love you more

 

~~~~


~QUALITY TIME~


Sure enough, Rey’s water breaks in the car on a ride to the supermarket the very next day so their outing soon turns into a rushed detour to the emergency department.

Thankfully Ben had been at her to pack a bag for weeks and she’d finally complied not 3 days ago. He’d also had the forethought to throw said bag into the back of the car that very morning which thankfully had now saved him another round trip.

Watching his wife give birth 7 hours later is truly the most exciting, most terrifying experience of his entire life, Ben’s stomach dropping every time Rey screamed at him in agony and squeezed his hand until it was sure it would fall off.

The doctor even asked him if he wanted to cut the cord.

It won’t hurt him?’ Ben worries, eyeing his newborn son who hasn’t yet cried.

Babies were meant to cry, weren’t they?

He’s assured cutting the cord won’t hurt him so he gives it a go. It’s a lot tougher to cut through than he’d anticipated but he manages to get the job done.

Their little boy is moved to the side of the room, Ben checking on Rey before craning his neck to check what the nurses are doing with him.

They clean him up and rub his chest and it’s then they hear it – that piercing scream Ben’s sure they’ll be hearing more of in the coming months.

That sound from other people’s children? He couldn’t stand it.

That sound from his own son? It was music to his ears.

Other’s people’s babies are sometimes ugly and a little funny looking too, but when the nurse brings their son over to lay him in his Rey’s arms, he’s the most perfect human baby they’ve ever seen.

And he’s truly theirs.

Ben can’t imagine a more beautiful sight.

The nurse moves away and he leans over Rey, peering down at the little face staring back at the two of them.

You did so good, babe’ he reassures her while clearing her sweaty forehead of hair. ‘Damn good. I’m so proud of you’

Rey can’t stop staring at their newborns tiny, pink face.

He’s perfect, Ben

He really is. We made him, you know

Rey can only smile. ‘You just love saying that, don’t you?

Damn straight! He’s our best achievement, wouldn’t you say?

He absolutely is

We made him’ She repeats his words back to him and their tiny son, running her finger gently over his cheek. ‘We still need a name though. What does he look like to you?

They had a few names ready to go but looking at him, Rey’s not sure any of them fit.

He looks like a baby’ Ben shrugs.

How did I know you’d say that?

The nurse comes to remove their son, promising to return with him as soon as she can.

Planting a kiss on Rey’s cheek Ben ducks out while the doctors finish up, calling Rey’s parents first before his own.

He’s disappointed Rey’s parents couldn’t have stayed longer after the vow renewal, but they’d reassured them they’d take another trip as soon as Rey was home from hospital so he was looking forward to them seeing their grandson for the first time.

Ben can’t wait to show him off to anyone and everyone.

His son. Their son. He still can’t believe they made him, and he figures it’s just one of those things that never quite sinks in.

Next he calls Finn and Rose and they go crazy with congratulations, promising to visit the next day once Rey’s settled in her room.

The next few hours are pretty much a daze, Ben dozing off by Rey’s side as the sun sinks low through the window of their private room.

Rey’s sore from giving birth and she looks wrecked but when dinner arrives she digs in like her usual self, little Solo sleeping soundly in his crib by the bed.

His son’s first attempt at feeding had been a mild success according to all reports, Ben thoroughly fascinated to watch it all take place and help where he could, which really wasn’t a lot.

Changing his first dirty diaper had been an experience and one he wasn’t sure he wanted to get used to, even though he knew there’d be plenty more dirty diapers ahead and they’d only get worse.

Listen to him

Ben places his ear over the crib while eyeing Rey, now sitting up with several pillows to rest against.

He squeaks. It’s the cutest thing

It really is. His little squeaking while he’s sleeping and the little cooing noises he makes fills his heart with a love he didn’t even know existed.

Rey just smiles as she watches the two of them together. Ben hasn’t even held him yet but he wants to, although he’s scared because he’s so tiny.

You can hold him if you want, he won’t break

I’m scared I’ll drop him

Rey understands that. She’s held babies before, plenty of them, but she knows Ben hasn’t.

Just make sure you put your hand behind his head when you lift him up and support it when you hold him, that’s about it. It’ll take a while before he gets strength in his neck’

She makes it sound easy enough, so he decides to give it a go. Reaching down he untucks the blanket and cradles a hand behind his son’s head and one at his bottom, gently lifting him up and out of the crib.

Ben feels a swell of pride as he stares down at the little bundle, shaking his head in amazement yet again.

I can’t believe-‘

‘-we made him?’ Rey finishes, chuckling to herself. ’If you say that one more time, I swear…

Ben walks cautiously to the window and pulls back the curtain to stare out, glancing between his son and the outside world.

Moon’s really big tonight’ he muses before turning to talk directly to his sleeping babe. ‘See that buddy? There’s a whole big world out there just waiting for you

Rey shifts to get more comfortable, laying back on the soft pillows. Seeing Ben holding their little one she feels like her heart might burst with love. It’s something she’d pictured many times since she found out they were pregnant, but seeing it was so much better than she’d imagined.

And you can go anywhere and do anything you want, within reason’ Ben continues, stroking the baby’s soft face with his finger. ‘Except dating. You can’t date until you’re 21 and even then Mom and Dad have to approve her first. And she’s gonna have to be someone really special to date any son of mine

He won’t be dating for a while, babe. I don’t think you need to worry just yet

Like I said, not until he’s 21

They share a laugh right as their nurse comes in to do yet more checks. She kindly mentions it’s time Rey try feeding again but Rey’s hesitant to wake her sleeping child who still needs a name.

Luckily as Ben places him down on her chest he stirs and promptly starts crying, his tiny screams only silenced once he’s happily sucking at a nipple.

While Rey’s feeding the nurse checks to make sure she’s doing it right before toddling off to help another mother, Ben taking a seat and turning his attention back to finding a suitable name for their child.

Righto, kid needs a name. There has to be something’ he ponders, trying to recall the multitude of baby books he’d read leading up to the birth. ‘I always liked Jacob

Rey looks up from feeding to consider it. ‘Hm, Jacob Solo? I love the name, I’m just not sure it goes with Solo. Doesn’t roll of the tongue. We both liked Lucas…does he look like a Lucas to you?

Ben screws his nose up. ‘Not really? He just looks like a baby really…the cutest baby in the world though, that’s not up for dispute

I think we’ll know it when we hear it, we just haven’t heard it yet

Ben agrees, he just wishes that would hurry up and happen because he’s already sick of calling him he.

That Love Languages guy? The one that wrote the book? What’s his name?’ Rey asks. ‘Maybe we could name him after him?

I don’t think so’

Why?

Cause his name’s Gary

Oh’ Rey laughs, glancing back at their son. ‘Yeah, nah

We aren’t calling our kid Gary, babe. Apologies to all the Gary’s out there. But you’re on the right track. It should be a name that means something to us, don’t you think?

Agreed

Giving up yet again Ben decides to go through the clothes Rey had packed in case she needs him to bring anything else when he returns tomorrow. Pulling out items he lays them on the foot of the bed as she watches.

I have no idea why I packed those’ Rey muses, pointing out her favourite jeans. ‘It’s not like I’ll be fitting back into them anytime soon. Think I was just feeling nostalgic

‘I’m sure it won’t take long to get back into them. Anything you want me to bring in when I come back tomorrow?

Eyeing the items Rey shrugs. ‘Don’t think so, I’ll only be here another two days

As Ben repacks her bag his eyes fall onto the tag on his wife’s favourite jeans and it hits him.

He turns to Rey and holds the jeans up, a proud grin spreading across his face. ‘Ok, this might sound crazy but hear me out. How about Levi?

Rey’s brow creases. ‘Levi? After Levi Strauss?’ She glances between their son and her favourite jeans, deciding the name surprisingly suits.

Levi’ she repeats. ‘Can you look it up? See what it means?

Ben pulls his phone from his pocket, making himself as comfortable as he can on the edge of the bed.

Let’s see, Levi’ He’s busy scrolling his phone. ‘Ah, here we go. Hebrew meaning is…joined in harmony

Rey smiles and they both look down at their little guy.

Levi’ Rey says yet again. ‘You know what? I actually love it

And joined in harmony? I mean look at us. If this ain’t a picture of harmony, then I have no idea what is. And he has just joined us. And we joined to make him so…

Ben shrugs and Rey laughs heartily.

Can’t argue with any of that. Levi. Yep, done. It really suits him and I actually love it

Ben breathes a sigh of relief, his arm falling around Rey’s shoulders. ‘Why don’t we just have James as his middle name? Was a favourite of yours right from the start and I really don’t mind what his middle name is

He secretly hopes she’ll agree because thinking of names turns out to be really taxing work.

Levi James Solo. It’s pretty perfect

Finally, that’s settled.

Little Levi James is of course completely unaware of the name they’ve picked for him but when the nurse visits next they finally get his crib tag filled in and Ben’s quick to take a photo to send to their families.

 

~~~~



Two days later and they’re finally back home.

Ben carries the capsule inside to set it on the floor of their room. They’ll all be in the same room at least for a while and probably longer if Rey has anything to do with it.

Later that night as Rey’s propped up feeding Levi in bed, Ben joins the two of them, fresh and relaxed from his recent shower. Rolling onto his side he props on his elbow to watch the two of them.

Look at us all domesticated

His son has a great appetite and he’d expected nothing less when it came to his wife’s breasts. He certainly doesn’t look ready to give them up anytime soon.

Like father, like son.

I know, right? There were times I thought I’d never get this’ Rey responds, turning to look at her husband. ‘Thank you for sticking around

Ben doesn’t know what to say. She never would’ve had those doubts had he not left and almost divorced her in the first place, but that’s not a time he wants to go back to and he figures she doesn’t either.

Thank you for taking me back. You could’ve rightfully kicked me to the curb, but you didn’t and I can never repay you for that. I was a total jerk and you still loved me

You’re a hard guy to stop loving, that’s all I know’ Rey muses with a smile. ‘Luckily for you

Yeah, luckily for me

 

~~~~

 

The first night back home and neither of them get much sleep, Rey constantly checking to make sure Levi’s still breathing and Ben stirring every time she gets up to check on him.

Yet they’d invited Finn and Rose over for dinner and tired or not they were committed to enjoying themselves.

Rey chooses to stay away from wine while she’s breastfeeding, but she still joins Ben in a toast with her own non-alcoholic beverage.

To Levi’ Ben beams proudly, raising his glass as the others clink theirs with his.

To Levi!’ they sing in unison before each taking a swig.

Rose moves to the bassinet where Levi is sleeping soundly after a recent feed.

I sure do love this little guy

Hey, don’t go getting any ideas’ Finn remarks with a wink at Ben behind her back.

Ideas? Babe, I’ve been clucky for years!

I know, I know. It’ll happen one day

Yeah’ Rey chimes in. ‘No rush. Enjoy your sleep while you can, I say

Ben nods enthusiastically in agreement.

Removing their son from his bassinet, Rey passes him to Rose. Seeing a photo opportunity Ben grabs her camera from the table to quickly snap a few candid shots while the three of them are occupied.

As he places the camera back down on the table he catches sight of the Love Languages book still on their coffee table. He’d managed to read in sparingly in the weeks leading up to Levi’s birth, but he was still keen to finish the rest.

Glancing between Rey, Levi their friends and the book Ben smiles as he takes another sip.

As hard as things had been in the last few years, they’d still managed to come out the other side with perseverance, understanding and a whole lot of love.

And to think Finn’s book suggestion had been a driving force behind where they found themselves today - he never would’ve picked that in a million years.

He now had everything he’d ever wanted – he’d just had to work a bit harder for it.

And even though he hadn’t realised it before – although he wishes he had – the important thing is that he realises it now.

Sometimes the best lessons in life are also the toughest.

 

~~~~

 

Hey, that song you were singing in the shower the morning of our vow renewal. What was that?

Babe, that was such a long time ago. Can you be a little more specific? My memory ain’t what it used to be

They share a laugh and Ben racks his mind for more detail of that particular morning.

All I remember was something about…water? Or drowning?

Rey appears bashful, her cheeks now rosy as she cradles 10 month old Levi in her arms.

Oh yeah, Drowning. By the Backstreet Boys. Why?’

Didn’t even know you were into the Backstreet Boys’ Ben chuckles, joining her on the couch.

I’m not really but that song…’ she pauses now, running her hands through Levi’s growing dark hair. By the look of it he'll have long, luscious hair just like his father and for that she's grateful.

That song got me through some of the hardest times without you and I just love it. I used to listen to it over and over. Belt it out, down on my knees, crying my heart out

She can tell hearing this is a shock to him, but she’s simply being honest. She’s told him parts of this before but she thinks he only now understands the gravity of it.

After I left, you mean?

She reaches for his hand. ‘Yeah

Shit. I can’t even say how sorry I am that you had to go through that

Hey, you’ve apologised enough and all is forgiven, ok? And even though that song used to make me sad…I can sing it now and it doesn’t make me cry. That’s a step in the right direction, I’d say

Definitely. Well, I’m glad because I hate seeing you cry. We should really sit down and talk about all of that one day’ he muses, resting his arm around the back of the couch. ‘Everything we went through

Sure, but there’s no rush. Maybe when this guy turns 21 and moves out of home

Oh he’s never moving out, didn’t I tell you that?

A roll of her eyes accompanies her laugh. ‘Yeah, yeah. Whatever you say. Like I said, there’s no rush. We’ve got forever, right?

Absolutely. You’re stuck with me now. Sorry

Glad to hear it, babe. Because that’s just the way I always wanted it to be

THE END

*The 5 Love Languages ‘The Secret to Love That Lasts’ is the #1 New York Times bestseller by author Gary Chapman. For more information on the 5 Love Languages and how to apply them in your own relationships, visit www.5lovelanguages.com <3