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Better Late Than Never

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Rey Johnson keeps an eye on the entrance of her high school gym, as she watches her ex-classmates file in.  She sees many familiar faces but not the one she’s both hoping and dreading to see.

 

“Nervous?” her friend Kaydel Connix asks, taking a seat next to her at the table Rey is sitting at.

 

“You know I am,” Rey says.  She turns away from the entrance and sees Kaydel looking at her with wariness in her eyes.

 

“You’re sure this is something you want to do?”

 

Rey nods.  “I have to. He deserves to know the truth.”

 

“Yeah, but are you sure our five-year reunion is the place to do that?”

 

“I’m not just going to tell him while we’re out on the dancefloor, Kay.”

 

“How areyou going to tell him then?” her friend asks, before taking a sip from the drink she’s brought with her.

 

Rey swallows.  “I’m not sure.”

 

Kaydel’s eyes go wide.  “You’ve had five years to figure out how to tell him, and you still don’t know?”

 

At that moment, Kaydel’s high school sweetheart and now husband, Poe Dameron, approaches them.

 

“Don’t know what?”

 

Kaydel turns to her husband, who has taken a seat beside her. 

 

“Rey’s not sure how she’s going to tell him.”

 

Rey.”

 

Rey puts her head in her hands and take a few deep breaths. 

 

“I know. I know,” she mumbles into her palms. 

 

Kaydel puts a hand on her shoulder.  “Well, you better figure it out soon because guess who just walked in.”

 

Rey lifts her head and once again turns to the entrance.

 

There he is.

 

When Kaydel had told Rey a month ago that Ben Solo had RSVPed to their five-year high school reunion, Rey couldn’t believe it.  As far as Rey knew, Ben hadn’t been in touch with anyone since he left for college five years ago.  Not even her.  Especially not her.

 

Rey and Ben had been best friends turned high school sweethearts.  They’d met in their freshman biology class. It then took them an obscenely long time to admit they had feelings for one another, but by the end of their junior year, they were finally together.  Rey had thought everything between them was perfect, she even thought she’d marry him after they graduated college, but then, just weeks before they were both set to start at Coruscant University, Ben had ended things with her.  He told he’d gotten a full scholarship to Chandrila University and that he’d be going there instead.  Rey had asked why they couldn’t try to maintain a long-distance relationship, but Ben, with a rather surprising amount of indifference, had said he had to leave the past behind and start anew.  He said goodbye to her that day and she hadn’t heard from him since.

 

Seeing him now is strange.  Based on the way he fills out his suit, he’s definitely outgrown all of his adolescent lankiness. He also seems taller than she remembers, and he’s grown out his hair to where it covers his adorably large ears and reaches just above his shoulders.  She’d thought he was attractive when they were eighteen, but now, at twenty-three, he’s striking.

 

As if he knows she’s staring at him, his eyes meet hers and he offers her a hesitant wave.  She does her best to smile back, and he must take that as a sign of encouragement because suddenly he’s making his way to her.

 

“Oh, shit,” Kaydel whispers, as he walks toward their table.

 

“Deep breaths, Rey.  Deep breaths,” Poe tells her.

 

“I know,” Rey says, heeding her friend’s advice and breathing in through her nose and out through her mouth.

 

Seconds later, they’re standing in front of each other. His soulful brown eyes are locked on her hazel ones.

 

“Hey, Rey,” he says softly.

 

“Hey, Ben,” she replies, her voice just as quiet.

 

“I’m glad you’re here.”

 

“I’m glad you’re here, too.”

 

They continue to just stare at each other, neither able to find more words to say.

 

Finally, Kaydel must take pity on them because out of the corner of her eye, Rey can see her elbow Poe, who suddenly steps up to shake Ben’s hand.

 

“Good to see you, Solo,” he says, extending his hand.  “It’s been a hot minute.”

 

Ben takes Poe’s hand and shakes it.  “It has, hasn’t it?”

 

Kaydel then steps in to give Ben a polite hug and kiss on the cheek.

 

“How have you been, Ben?” she asks.

 

“I’ve been well.  How about you?”

 

Kaydel grabs Poe’s hand and shoves their matching wedding bands in his face.  “We got married.  Last year.”

 

“Congratulations,” Ben says, smiling.  “That’s fantastic.”

 

“It is,” Kaydel sighs happily.  

 

“And you, Rey?” he asks, his eyes returning to hers. 

 

“And me?”

 

“Are you…married?”

 

As nervous as she is, Rey can’t help but laugh.  She hasn’t even dated since Ben.  The life she leads isn’t conducive to dating.

 

“No.  No, I’m not married.  I don’t really have time for that at the moment.”

 

Ben nods.  “Yeah, same.”

 

A small wave of relief rushes over her at this piece of information.  Perhaps it’ll make what she has to tell him the slightest bit easier.

 

“Well, now that the fantastic four are reunited,” Kaydel says, pushing them toward the crowd at the center of the gym, “Let’s go mingle!”

Rey meets Ben’s eyes again, and they share a fond smile of exasperation over Kaydel and her never-changing exuberance. 

 

***

 

Ben pretty much remains at Rey’s side for most of the night.  Occasionally, he’ll wander off and have a conversation with someone, but for the most part, he stays by her.  Most of their conversations consist only of small talk, and when Ben tries to go more in depth, Rey manages to find a way to shift the conversation back to safe, boring topics.  She knows it can’t last like this forever, but she just needs to summon a little more courage.

 

About an hour and a half later, Kaydel pulls her away from Ben and drags her into the ladies’ room.

 

“You haven’t told him yet,” she says bluntly.  She’s frowning and her hands are on her hips, and though Rey has at least six inches on her friend, she’s actually quite intimidated by her right now.

 

“I just need a little more time to work myself up.”

 

“No.  You’re as ready as you’ll ever be.  If you’re going to tell him, you need to tell him now.  Don’t keep putting it off.”

 

“I know,” Rey says weakly.  Nerves roil in her stomach.

 

“Well, get to it then, girlfriend.”

 

When Rey finds Ben again, he’s talking to their insufferable ex-classmate, Armie Hux.

 

“Hey,” she says, tapping Ben on the arm.  It’s the first time she’s touched him five years, and that realization freaks her out.

 

Ben turns away from Armie.  “Hey, what’s up?”

 

“Can I talk to you for a second?”

 

“Sure.”  Turning back to Armie, he says, “Nice talking to you, Hux.”

 

Hux nods stiffly, and Ben follows Rey, as she leads them out of the gym.

 

“Where are we going?” he asks, once they’re out in the quiet hallway.

 

“You know,” she says, smiling through her nerves.

 

“The art room?”

 

“The art room.”

 

Their high school art room was where Rey and Ben had spent many secretive romantic moments.  The room was usually unlocked to students and was often without teacher supervision.  Rey, who had taken many art electives during high school, would spend a lot of her free time in the room, and Ben would often join her, leading to many tender moments between the two of them.

 

When they reach the room, Rey finds the door locked. Without saying anything, she removes a bobby pin from her hair and finagles the door open.

 

“Bingo,” she whispers, opening the door.

 

Ben chuckles behind her, and then follows her as she walks into the room. 

 

She’s hit with a massive rush of memories as she surveys the room around her, and her heart begins to pound as she realizes exactly what it is she’s about to do.

 

“So, you wanted to talk?” Ben asks, sitting down on a wooden stool. 

 

Rey sits on another stool opposite him and nods.  “Yeah, um…yeah, we need to talk.”

 

“You’re right.  I know it was five years ago, but I probably owe you an explanation for my behavior.”

 

Rey looks up from where she has begun digging in her clutch for her phone.  “What? No.  No, that’s not it.  Well, I mean, maybe we should talk about it at some point, but first…”

 

“But first?” Ben questions, a line forming between his dark eyebrows.

 

Rey lets out a shaky sigh.  “But first, I need to tell you something.”

 

Ben nods slowly.  “Okay…”

 

Rey unlocks her phone and taps on the photos icon with a shaking finger.  She scrolls through for a second before finding the picture she’s looking for.

 

“Rey?”

 

Rey meets his eyes.  Her heart is drumming so violently in her chest now that she fears Ben might be able to hear it. 

 

Wordlessly, she hands him her phone.

 

Puzzled, he takes it and looks down.  She watches carefully as his eyes go wide and he looks back up at her.

 

“Rey,” he whispers, “Who am I looking at?”

 

“Your daughter.”

Chapter Text

“My…daughter?”

 

“Her name is Emmeline, but she goes by Emmy.”

 

“I have a daughter?”

 

“Yes,” Rey says, biting her lip.

 

Ben looks from her back to the picture she had pulled up on her phone.  It’s Rey’s favorite picture of her daughter.  Emmy is sitting in the grass in their small backyard.  Her curly black hair is blowing ever-so-slightly in the wind, and she’s flashing her gigantic and adorably crooked smile.  

 

“She looks just like me,” he comments, completely in awe as he further studies the image.

 

Rey lets out a trembling laugh.  “She does.  She has my ears though.”

 

“Yeah.  Thank God for that."

 

“There’s more pictures.  Swipe right.”

 

Ben does as she suggests, and Rey watches his face soften as he scrolls through more pictures of Emmy.

 

"She’s beautiful.”

 

“She is.”  Rey swallows a lump in her throat.

 

“Why didn’t you tell me?”  He’s still looking down at the phone.

 

“Because you wanted to ‘leave the past behind,’” she says quietly, quoting his words from five years ago.  “You ended things and made it clear that our lives weren’t supposed to intersect from that point on.”

 

“Did you know you were pregnant when we broke up?”

 

She shakes her head.  “No.  I found out a month later.”

 

“You must have been so scared,” he says, finally looking up at her.

 

“I was terrified.”

 

Rey.”  His voice breaks.  It’s subtle, but she catches it.  “I wish you would have told me.” 

 

“I couldn’t.”  Tears begin to well up in her eyes and she knows it’s only a matter of time until they fall.  “You seemed so set on starting over without any baggage from your past.  And despite you breaking my heart, I still loved you and wanted you to be happy.  Tying you down with a kid would have gotten in the way of everything you had planned for yourself.”

 

“I’m so sorry.”

 

“No.  Don’t apologize.  If I would have told you, I know you would have dropped everything to be there.  I hadn’t decided until very recently that I was going to tell you at all.  I really fucked up handling this whole thing.”

 

A few tears escape from her eyes and she swiftly wipes them away.

 

“We both fucked up,” he tells her, his eyes returning to her phone and looking through more images.  Every now and then, he’ll stop at a photo and really examine it before swiping to the next one.  It makes her heart both swell and ache.

 

“Can I see her?” 

 

He hands her the phone back, and she glances down at the image he’d left it on.  It’s a photo she took of Emmy just last week, enjoying an ice cream sundae.

 

“Of course.”

 

“Tonight?” he asks.

 

It’s about a forty-five-minute drive back to her house, and Emmy’s definitely asleep by now.

 

As if he can read her mind, he says, “I know she’s probably asleep.  I just…I want to see her, Rey.”

 

Rey holds his gaze for a moment and then nods. “Okay.”

 

Relief floods his features. “Thank you.”

 

He then pulls out his phone and begins typing.  “You said earlier you live in Jakku, right?”

 

“Yeah.  Why?  What are you doing?”

 

“Getting a hotel there for the night.”

 

“What?  Why?”

 

“I live in Chandrila now,” he explains.

 

“Ah."

 

“Yeah, I don’t like driving too late at night, and that’s too long a drive to take in the middle of the night.”

 

An idea occurs to Rey and before she can stop herself, she says, “I have a blowup mattress.  I could set it up in my office.  That way you could see her tonight and meet her tomorrow.”

 

“Are you sure?”

 

Ben looks so…happy, and Rey knows there’s no way she could change her mind after seeing the look on his face.

 

“Yeah.”

 

“Okay,” he nods.  “Okay, great.  I’ll follow you back to your place in my car then?”

 

“Sure.”

 

They make their way back to the gym and quickly say goodbye to everyone.  Kaydel whispers in Rey’s ear that she expects an update as soon as possible, and Rey promises to do so.

 

Moments later, they’re in the parking lot, exchanging numbers in case they get separated on the road.  Well, for that, and because their lives are likely to converge tremendously from this point forward.

 

***

 

“You have a nice house,” Ben comments as they walk up her front steps.

 

“Thank you.  It actually belongs to a friend of mine.  I rent it from her,” Rey says, as she unlocks the front door.

 

When they step inside, the babysitter Rey hired for the night pops up from where she was dosing on the couch.  Rey watches as the teenage girl’s eyes go from her to Ben, and it’s abundantly clear to Rey that the girl has the wrong idea about what’s going on here.

 

To her credit though, she stays professional.  “Emmy was perfect, Miss Johnson.  She went to bed at 7:30 without any fuss, and she fell right asleep.”

 

“Thank you, Tallie,” Rey says, digging in her clutch for cash.

 

“I got it, Rey.”

 

Surprised, Rey turns to see Ben reaching for his own wallet in his pocket.

 

“No,” Rey counters.  “No, I’ve got it covered.  Thank you, though.”

 

She quickly hands Tallie her money and walks the girl out to her car.  When she reenters the house, Ben is standing right where she left him.

 

“I’m sorry,” he says.  “I hope I didn’t overstep.”

 

Rey shakes her head.  “No, it’s okay.  I appreciate it.  But I’ve got a good job.  Engineering pays quite well, you know?”

 

She smiles as she says it, in hopes of easing the tension between them, and to her relief, Ben smiles back.

 

“I’m glad things have worked out so well for you.”

 

“Yeah.  I have my friend Maz—the woman I rent this house from—to thank for that.  She pretty saved my life five years ago.  She owned the coffee shop I worked at my freshman year.  I came into work sobbing the day I found out I was pregnant, and she immediately took me under her wing.  She went with me to all of my prenatal appointments, let me stay with her when my dorm kicked me out, and was with me when I gave birth.  And then afterwards, she was always available to babysit or just there to take Emmy off my hands if I needed a few minutes to myself.  She’s the reason I was able to graduate on time and get a good job.”

 

“Rey…you’re a superhero.”

 

She chuckles.  “No, Maz is the superhero.”

 

“Maz sounds like a fairy godmother, but you, Rey—you’re fucking wonder woman.”

 

She’s grateful the lights in her living room are still low because she’s certain she’s blushing now.

 

“Well, regardless…”

 

Ben’s still looking at her with amazement, and then Rey remembers why they’re here.

 

“Come with me,” she says, gesturing for him to follow her out of the living room and down the hall.  “Stay quiet, okay?”

 

“Okay.”

 

She leads him down her hallway to Emmy’s room.  The door is closed, and Rey quietly opens it and steps inside.  Ben follows right behind her.

 

She walks up to Emmy’s bed, clad in unicorn printed sheets, and looks down at her beautiful four-year-old daughter.

 

"Here she is,” Rey whispers, admiring her daughter’s small sleeping form.  

 

The monumental moment is not lost on Rey, and from what she can tell, it’s certainly not lost on Ben either.

 

Ben just stares at Emmy.  Rey watches him, waiting for him to say something or for his expression to change, but he continues to just stare at Emmy as if he can’t believe she’s real.

 

Moved by the moment and by Ben’s expression of sheer astonishment, Rey takes a step closer to him and lightly touches his arm.  “That’s your daughter, Ben.”

 

“She’s perfect,” he whispers, not taking his eyes off of her.

 

“Yeah,” Rey says, her voice catching.  “She’s pretty great.”

            

He continues to gaze at his—their—daughter, and when Emmy stirs the slightest bit and lets out a small groan, Ben huffs out a quiet laugh.

 

“Thank you, Rey.  Thank you for letting me see her.”

 

“You’re welcome.”

 

“If you’ll let me, I promise to be there for her—for the both of you—from this moment forward.”

 

“Of course, Ben.”

 

They both just stand there for awhile, content to just watch their daughter sleep, before finally deciding it’s time to start setting up for bed.

Chapter Text

When Ben wakes up in the morning, it takes him about thirty seconds to remember where he is.

 

He looks around to get his bearings and his eyes are immediately drawn to a white desk with an 8x10 frame on the top.  Inside the frame is what is clearly a professionally taken photograph of a beautiful little girl.  Her black curly hair is done up in two high pigtails and she’s smiling a toothy smile at the camera.

 

His daughter.

 

Emmy.

 

He can’t believe he’s a father.

 

Ben had known seeing Rey for the first time in five years would be a whirlwind of emotions.  He had prepared himself for it.  What he hadn’t prepared for was finding out that he was the father of a four-year-old girl.  That was a whole other set of emotions, the main one being absolute shock.

 

When he’d asked Rey why she hadn’t told him, she’d quoted his words from five years ago back at him.  He had made it very clear to her that he had wanted to leave the past behind, so Rey, thinking she was doing what was best, had elected not to tell him she was pregnant.  Honestly, he couldn’t even be angry at her for it.  He had broken her heart and ceased all communication with her.  What was she supposed to do? 

 

Then, before he realized what he was doing, he was asking Rey if he could see his daughter that night.  And to his amazement, she’d said yes.  

 

That’s how he’d winded up here, sleeping in Rey’s home office on a blow-up mattress.

 

He rises from the lumpy mattress and quickly pulls on his pants he’d worn the night before, having slept only his boxers and undershirt to sleep.  After buttoning up his dress shirt, he runs a hand through his unruly hair and exits the office.

 

Ben finds Rey in her small kitchen, making pancakes.

 

“Good morning,” he greets, his voice still scratchy from sleep.

            

Rey turns from the stove and offers him a small smile. “Morning.  Did you sleep well?”

 

Ben shrugs.  “All things considered.”

 

Rey bites her lip.  “Yeah, same.”

 

“Did you need any help with breakfast?”

 

“No, we always do pancakes on Sundays,” she tells him.  “She’ll probably come bumbling out here any minute screaming for them.”

 

Ben smiles at the mental image and then asks, “Have you figured out how you’re going to tell her?”

 

Rey opens her mouth to speak, but just as she does, Ben hears footsteps come from down the hall.  He turns toward the sound, and moments later, he sees a small girl, dressed in purple and blue polka dotted pajamas, enter the room and then freeze when her eyes meet Ben’s.

 

“Mommy…who's that?”

 

Rey turns off the stove and steps towards their daughter.  Ben watches as she kneels in front of Emmy and brushes a black curl away from her face.

 

“This is Ben.”

 

Emmy continues to look at Ben suspiciously, and Ben awkwardly waves.

 

“He’s your daddy, Em.”

 

Emmy’s eyes go wide.  Rey motions for Ben to join her.  He kneels next to Rey and sticks his hand out—what else is he supposed to do?

 

“I’m very happy to meet you, Emmy.”

 

Emmy eyes him warily for another second before throwing her arms around him.

 

Ben gently folds his arms around her and something just clicks.  It doesn’t feel foreign like he would have thought, like he had feared.  In fact, nothing has ever felt so right.

 

When they separate, Emmy says, “C’mon, Daddy, Mommy made pancakes.”

 

Her little hand takes his and she leads him toward the circular kitchen table.  Ben allows himself to be led, completely in awe of his daughter.

 

Rey grabs the plate of stacked pancakes and bottle of syrup and places them on table.  Ben watches as she prepares a plate for Emmy, cutting up two pancakes and drizzling a modest amount of syrup on top.  She hands the plate to Emmy, who excitedly digs in.

 

Without any prompting, Emmy jumps into a conversation with Ben about her life.  Like her mother, she loves art; particularly, she loves drawing unicorns.  She points proudly to one of her drawings, which Rey has displayed on the fridge.

 

“Very pretty.  I'm impressed,” Ben comments.

 

Emmy grins.  “I drew that one when I was still three.  I’m much better now.”

 

Rey chuckles at her daughter’s precociousness, and Ben meets her eyes across the kitchen table.

 

“Thank you for this,” he mouths.

 

Rey smiles and nods.

 

After breakfast, Emmy wants to take Ben to her room and show him all of her toys.  Ben looks at Rey with panic in his eyes, which she correctly interprets as him needing to get going but not wanting to turn her down.  She nods reassuringly and halts Emmy.

 

“He’s actually got to get going, darling,” Rey says, putting the dirty dishes in the sink.  “He lives a long way from here and needs to get back home.”

 

Emmy looks from her mom to her dad, a confused expression painted on her sweet face.

 

“You’re not going to live here?”

 

Ben’s heart sinks as he tries to come up with the right thing to say, but thankfully Rey swoops in and saves him.

 

“No, sweetheart, Ben isn’t going to be living with us.  We’re not together.”

 

“Together?” Emmy asks, cocking her head to the side.

 

“We’re not…married,” she explains further.  “Your dad lives at his own place.”

 

“But we can see each other again real soon,” Ben blurts out.  Emmy already has his heart and the thought of letting her down in any way causes a massive ache in his chest.  

 

It’s only after he’s spoken that he realizes he and Rey never discussed future plans.  They haven’t discussed much of anything actually, except for the fact that they share a daughter.  

 

Thankfully, Rey looks at him and grins.  “That’s right.  Maybe we could go to the zoo next weekend, if you’re free?”

 

“I’m free,” Ben answers immediately.

 

“Great.”

 

“Great!” Emmy echoes.

 

They make plans to meet at the Zoo in Coruscant at noon the following Sunday.  Ben realizes he can’t remember the last time he’s been so excited about something.

Chapter Text

Instead of heading straight back to Chandrila, Ben finds himself stopping back in Coruscant to visit his parents.   

In trying to leave the past behind, Ben had put a lot of distance between himself and his parents when he left for college.  For four years straight, he’d only call them on birthdays and holidays and would only go home to visit once or twice a year.  The rest of the time he spent in Chandrila, studying for class and training under his mentor, Arthur Snoke.  After graduation, Snoke offered him a spot at his financial firm.  The position was what Ben had been working towards for four years, and at first, he’d been thrilled.  But slowly, he discovered that working full time with Snoke and his other employees was soul-sucking.  It was after a particularly rough day at work that Ben drove straight to his parents’ house, fell into his mother’s arms, and apologized for being such a shitty son for almost five years.  Since then, Ben had been making a sincere effort to call and visit them more often. 

At almost every visit, his parents would do their best to talk him into quitting, but Ben couldn’t bring himself to leave the firm yet.  Snoke, as harsh as he could be, had helped Ben achieve so much at such a young age and had promised him greatness if he just stuck to it.  The salary was also hard to beat.  So, Ben, much to his parents’ frustration, remained at Snoke Financial Group.

When he gets to his parents’ house, he knocks on his door and moments later, his mother, Leia, answers.

“Ben!  What a surprise!”  His petite mother pulls him into a massive hug before pulling him back and taking a good look at him.  “What’s wrong?”

“What?” Ben asks, startled.  He shouldn’t be shocked by his mother’s six sense.  She has always been able to pick up Ben’s feelings, even those he thought he’d been able to hide, but the fact that he wasn’t in the house two minutes and his mother already knew something was up was slightly alarming.

“You’ve got that look in your eye.”

“Oh, um, yeah…”

Leia gives him a suspicious look before pushing him into the living area where his father is sitting on the couch with their dog, Chewie.

“We’ve got a visitor, Han,” Leia says to her husband.

His father stands up from the couch, Chewie following right behind him, to shake his son’s hand.  “To what do we owe the pleasure?”

Ben swallows and looks from his dad back to his mom.  “I need to tell you guys something.”

“Well, sit down,” Leia says, gesturing to the recliner, before joining her husband back on the couch.

“So, what’s up?” Han asks.  “Everything alright?”

“Um, sort of,” Ben answers, as he pets the top of Chewie's head.  Ben had spent the whole car ride here trying to figure out how to tell his parents, but he still hadn’t managed to find the right words.

“Stop being cryptic, Benjamin,” Leia scolds.  “What’s going on?”

“I, um, I have a daughter.”

Leia’s eyes go wide and Han snorts.

“You have a daughter?” his father asks, his eyes gleaming with, of all things, mischief.

Ben can’t help but smile a little.  “Yeah.”

“Holy hell,” Han responds, chuckling and slapping his knee.  “And who’s the mom?”

“It’s Rey.”

“Rey Johnson?” his mother asks. 

“That name is a blast from the past,” his father adds.

“Yeah, Rey Johnson,” Ben confirms.  

His mother’s gaze on him sharpens.  “But you two haven’t talked in, what, close to five years?”

“That’s correct.”

“So, your daughter…”

“Is four,” Ben finishes.

“We’re grandparents, Leia.” Han is still laughing and nudges his wife in delight, but Leia’s dark brown eyes are still focused on Ben.

“I’m guessing she told you last night at your class reunion?”

“Yes.”

“And she waited so long because…”

His mother (and his father) always loved Rey, but he understands why his mother’s apprehensive now.  At only twenty-three, Ben is rich and successful, and it isn't completely crazy for someone to pop out of the woodwork, claiming he fathered a child in hopes of getting some of his money.

But Rey isn't just someone and it's abundantly clear that looking at Emmy is all anyone needs to do to confirm she's his.

“Because I was an asshole.  Because I broke up with her before college and told her that we needed to leave what we had in the past.  We talked for the first time in five years last night.”

“And I thought we had it bad,” his father comments, and a little jolt of guilt shoots through Ben’s veins.  “At least we got phone calls.”

“Poor Rey,” Leia says, her voice and face immediately softening.  “Is she doing okay?”

“Yeah.  She’s doing great actually.  She works as an engineer in Jakku.”

“And your daughter?” Leia questions.

Ben pulls out his phone to show his parents the pictures Rey sent him.  Quickly, he finds them and hands his phone to his parents.

“Her name is Emmy.  Emmeline actually, but she goes by Emmy.  I met her this morning, and she’s perfect.”

Han and Leia’s faces light up as they take in the pictures of their granddaughter.  Ben sees a few tears leak from his mom’s eyes and she swiftly wipes them away.

She looks up from the phone.  “She looks just like you, Ben.”

“With Rey’s ears, though,” Han adds, his eyes still on the picture.

Ben chuckles, his own voice watery all of a sudden.  “I know.”

His mother looks back down at the photograph.  “Can we meet her?”

“I’ll have to talk to Rey.  Honestly, we haven’t had much of a chance to discuss the logistics of this whole thing going forward.  We did make plans to go to the zoo next weekend though.  Maybe we could meet up with you guys afterward?”

“We could have them over for dinner,” his mother suggests.

“I’ll talk to her.”

Han and Leia proceed to bombard Ben with questions about Emmy, and he does his best to answer them.  He doesn’t have answers for all of their inquiries, but every time he is able to provide them with an answer, it’s like he’s providing them with the world’s greatest present. 

When he finally leaves the house just over an hour later, Ben feels happier than he’s felt in a long time.

Chapter Text

The following Thursday, Rey is helping Emmy dry off after her nighttime bath when her cell phone, sitting on the bathroom countertop, begins to vibrate.

“Can you get dressed like a big girl?” Rey asks, standing from her kneeling position.

Emmy nods, and Rey quickly hands her daughter her pajamas before reaching for her phone.  She sees that it's Ben and her lips quirk upward.

“Hello,” she answers, turning around and keeping an eye on Emmy as she dresses.

“Hey.  I was just checking to see if we were still on for Saturday?”

“Yes, definitely.  It’s all Emmy’s been able to talk about all week.”

She hears Ben’s deep chuckle from the other side of the line and pictures him smiling the crooked smile he passed down to Emmy. 

Rey remembers when Emmy smiled her first true smile at about three months old.  Rey, who had already been struck with emotion when her daughter was born with a full head of black hair, was overcome when Emmy first smiled because she immediately recognized it as Ben’s.  It only became more apparent that her daughter had inherited her father’s smile as she got older and her baby teeth grew in.  Eventually, Rey began to see it more as Emmy’s smile as opposed to Ben’s, but every now and then, Emmy would just look at her and Rey would see Ben once more.

Pulling her out of her memories, Ben replies, “Oh, good.  I can’t wait to see her. And you.”

“And we can’t wait to see you,” Rey says, watching as her daughter begins to struggle as she attempts to pull on her pajama top.  “Ben, hold on one moment. We’re just finishing bath time and Emmy’s having some difficulty getting dressed.”

“Okay.”

Rey sets the phone on the counter and goes to help her daughter.

“I can do it!” Emmy giggles as she gets tangled up in the sleeves.

“Sure, you can, sweetheart, but I think you could use a little assistance.”

Emmy continues to giggle as Rey helps her untangle herself and get her pajamas on properly.

“Your dad’s excited to see you at the zoo,” Rey tells her daughter as she helps her pull down her shirt.

“I wanna show him the giraffes!”

“I’m sure he’d love to see them.”

“What’s his favorite animal?”

“I don’t know.  You’ll have to ask him.”

“I can’t wait!” Emmy exclaims, now all dressed.  She excitedly runs out the bathroom and Rey shouts after her that she’ll be ready to tuck her into bed in a few minutes.

Rey picks up the phone once more.  “Okay, I’m back.”

“You know what my favorite animal is,” he says, clearly having overheard she and Emmy’s conversation.

Ben loves wolves.  Rey has known this since their sophomore year of high school.  He sometimes used to wear this super nerdy shirt with the face of a wolf on the front of it.  Rey would always tease him about it, but he always took it in stride.  And when he found out that she’d never seen his favorite childhood movie, Balto, he’d invited her over to watch it.  They were still just friends back then, but Rey remembers how they sat closer together on the couch than two friends normally would. 

“Yes, I know,” she answers, unable to stop the smile that’s forming on her lips.  “It’s a wolf.  But I figured you could tell Emmy that yourself on Saturday.”

“I would love to.” 

“Great.  So, we’ll see you at eleven?”

“That’s right.  But, hey, before you go—one more thing.”

Rey leans against the counter.  “Okay…”

“I told my parents.  If you’re comfortable with it, they’d like to meet Emmy.”

Han and Leia. 

Rey hadn’t even thought about how Han and Leia would take this.  Immediately, she pictured the fierce ex-senator Leia Organa-Solo scolding her for keeping Emmy from them.  An uncomfortable knot twisted in her stomach.

“Oh.”

“They offered to have you two over for dinner after the zoo.  They still live in the same place, so it wouldn’t be too far of a drive.”

She sighed.  “I just don’t know, Ben. You don’t think that maybe it’s a little too much too soon?”

“It’s completely your choice, of course, but they’d really like to see you both.  They miss you, Rey.  And they really want to meet their granddaughter.”

Just then, Emmy swings open the bathroom door.  “You coming, Mommy?  I want to read the new book we got.”

“Just a second, Em.” 

“Hurry up!” Emmy exclaims before leaving the bathroom once more.

“Sorry about that,” Rey says into the phone, following behind her daughter and making her way to her bedroom.  “She’s ready for her bedtime.”

“It’s no problem,” Ben tells her.  “Look, just think about it.  I don’t want you to feel pressured.”

Rey stands in the threshold of Emmy’s room, watching her daughter flip through the pages of the book she got at her school’s book fair earlier in the week.  She’s reminded for the millionth time how lucky she is to have such an amazing child in her life.  She’s also reminded of how awestruck Ben had been last week when he had met Emmy. 

Han and Leia deserve the opportunity to see how amazing their granddaughter is too. 

“Actually, Ben.  Tell her we’d love to come.”

“Really?”  He sounds so excited.

“Yeah.”

“Rey, they’ll be so happy to hear that.  I’ll call them right now.”

“Great.”

He must be able to detect some of her apprehension in her voice because he asks, “Are you absolutely sure?”

“Yes.  I mean—“ she steps out of her daughter’s room for a second and goes back in the hallway.  “—it’s not that I don’t want them to meet Emmy or for Emmy to meet them.  I’m just…”

“Just…”

“Just terrified of your mom.  Is she supremely pissed at me?”

“What?  No, Rey, she’s not,” he responds, his voice soft.  “She understands why you didn’t tell me.”

“And Han?”

“He thinks it’s all hilarious.”

Rey laughs and some of her nerves melt away.  “Of course, he does.”

Mom.

Ben must be able to hear Emmy shouting in the background because he chuckles once more and says, “I’ll let you go.”

“Thanks.  We’ll see you on Saturday.”

“See you then.  Good night, Rey.”

“Night, Ben.”

Chapter Text

As Ben walks toward the zoo’s ticket booth, he spots Rey and Emmy standing beside it, hand-in-hand and waiting for him.

 

Emmy, who is wearing a white and blue sundress with a matching blue bow on her head, notices him first and begins waving excitedly with her free hand, and he, of course, waves back. When he reaches them, Rey lets go of Emmy’s hand, and Emmy reaches her arms out to hug Ben.

 

“Oh!” he chuckles, taken by surprise.

 

He bends down to properly hug her, and she squeals with delight. When they pull apart, Emmy grabs his hand and starts to tug him toward the zoo’s entrance.

 

“Hold up,” he says, still laughing a little at Emmy’s excitement. “I need to buy my ticket.”

 

“We already took care of that,” Rey says, handing him a pass.

 

Ben frowns. “I was going to treat you.”

 

“Next time,” she says.

 

Before he can comment about next time, Emmy pulls him once more toward the entrance, and moments later, the three of them are enjoying the zoo together.

 

Almost like a family, Ben thinks.

 

***

 

When it’s a quarter to twelve, they make their way to the giraffe exhibit for the noon feeding. As they walk, Emmy can’t stop talking about how giraffes are her favorite animals and when she asks Ben what his favorite animal is, she’s very disappointed to learn it’s only a wolf.

 

“It’s just a big dog,” she says, looking up at him in what Ben interprets to be confusion over why anyone would choose such a boring animal to be their favorite.

 

“It’s a dog, but even cooler," he tries.

 

Emmy looks unconvinced.

 

“Do you not like dogs?”

 

“I love dogs!” Emmy exclaims. “I really want one, but Mommy won’t let me.”

 

“Oh, well, I have a dog, actually. Well, my parents have a dog.”

 

“You have parents?”

 

“Yes, sweetheart,” Rey replies, smoothing the hair on Emmy’s head affectionately. “They’re your grandparents.”

 

With excited, wide eyes, Emmy looks at Rey and then at Ben. “Wow.”

 

“We’re actually going to meet them for dinner later on,” Rey tells her.

 

“Yeah, so you can meet them and my dog, Chewie.”

 

“Awesome!”

 

They enter the small amphitheater that faces giraffe exhibit. Emmy runs to the front, while Ben and Rey grab a spot toward the back.

 

“I can’t believe Chewie’s still around,” Rey says, as they sit down on the wooden seats. It’s shaded, so she lifts her sunglasses on top of her head, and Ben can see her hazel eyes for the first time that day.

 

“Yeah, he’s not allowed to die,” Ben laughs. “My dad won’t let him.”

 

“I wonder if he’ll still remember me,” she says in a soft voice.

 

Ben turns to her, but she’s looking straight ahead, watching Emmy talk to another child sitting at the front. She smiles a little, presumably at her daughter’s incredible extroversion, but even so, he can see worry lines crease her forehead and he knows she’s anxious about something more than just Chewie remembering her.

 

“I’m sure he will.”

 

Rey just nods, still looking forward. She begins to tap her foot on the ground, a nervous habit she’s had for as long as he’s known her, and he decides to take a stab in the dark about what’s bothering her.

 

“Don’t be nervous about dinner.”

 

She turns to face him but remains quiet.

 

“I told you they’re not upset with you,” he continues. “They’re really happy, actually.”

 

Rey bites her lip, clearly lost in thought, before finally sighing and responding, “I know. But still. I used to be so close to them. And then we broke up, and I didn’t know how to still talk to them and not you, and then I found out I was pregnant, and—“

 

“Rey,” he says, putting a hand on her shoulder and hoping that the touch isn’t overstepping a boundary. “Trust me. They’re nothing but excited to see you again and to meet Emmy. There’s no bad blood. I wouldn’t have asked you to come over if I thought for a moment I was leading you into some kind of ambush.”

 

She looks down at the hand and her mouth curves up into a hesitant smile. Taking a deep breath, she nods as most of the worry vanishes from her eyes.

 

“Okay.”

 

“Okay?”

 

“Yeah,” Rey says, nodding some more.

 

Before he can say anything else to assure her or alleviate any remaining anxiety, a zookeeper gets on the microphone and begins the feeding demonstration.

 

Ben watches Emmy drink in every word the zookeeper is saying, and when zookeeper goes to ask the audience a question, Emmy’s hand immediately shoots up to answer.

 

A low chuckle escapes him. His daughter is just so eager about everything, and he’s endlessly charmed by it.

 

Rey leans over and explains, “She’s seen this a million times. Honestly, she could recite this whole part herself.”

 

When it comes time to get a volunteer from the audience to help feed the giraffe, Emmy’s hand shoots up once more. To her—and Ben and Rey’s— delight the zookeeper chooses her and has her come forward and stand on a small set of wooden steps. He then hands her a cup filled with animal feed. The cup is big enough that it’d fit comfortably in Ben or Rey’s hand, but because Emmy is so small, the zookeeper has to help her hold the cup.

 

As the giraffe, which has now noticed Emmy has food, is approaching, Ben digs his phone out of his jeans. Just as the giraffe sticks its snout in the cup, Ben snaps a picture of the scene.

 

He looks down at the moment he’s captured and is utterly delighted at how wonderful the picture is. Emmy, with a massive smile plastered on her face, is lifting the feeding cup as high as she can with the help of the zookeeper, while the giraffe digs in.

 

Rey leans over his shoulder. “That’s a great picture.”

 

“It is,” Ben replies, still admiring it.

 

“It’s the first one you’ve ever taken of her.”

 

Ben looks up at Rey, who has what he hopes are happy tears in her eyes. Their eyes remain locked for a moment, as they both take in that this is a special moment, one of hopefully many more firsts.

 

“I’ll send it to you,” he tells her in a soft voice.

 

Rey clears her throat and brushes away a lone tear that has escaped. “Thank you. I’d like that.”

 

***

 

“It really is a fantastic picture,” Rey comments, glancing down at her phone as the three of them walk toward the exit at the end of the day.

 

“It is,” Ben agrees. It’s already his lock screen photo and when he gets home he’s going to print out the picture and frame it.

 

“You know, I’ve been thinking…Emmy should ride with you to your parents’ house.”

 

That catches him off guard.

 

“Oh, um. You’re sure?”

 

Rey chuckles, reaches out, and squeezes his bicep. “I trust you with our daughter, Ben. I’m pretty sure you’ll be okay driving her twenty-five minutes to your parents’ place. Plus, I think it’d be nice for the two of you to be together one-on-one.”

 

Emmy’s a few steps ahead of them, skipping around with just as much energy as she had when they got to the zoo hours ago.

 

“Emmy!” Rey calls.

 

The little girl stops in her tracks and turns around.

 

“Yeah?”

 

“Do you want to ride with your dad?”

 

Not even bothering to properly answer with words, Emmy runs towards them and launches herself at Ben, who is basically forced to pick her up.

 

Another first.

           

“So is that a yes?” Ben laughs, reveling in the feeling of his daughter in his arms.

 

Emmy buries her head into Ben’s shoulder and squeals.

 

“That’s a yes,” Rey confirms, leaning in to kiss her daughter on the arm as they make their way out of the zoo gates.

Chapter Text

Rey parks her car just behind Ben’s car in the Solos’ massive driveway.

 

The house, on the outside at least, looks exactly the same as it had five years ago, all the way down to the flowers in the garden. The familiarity brings a smile to her face, which momentarily dulls her anxiety.

 

Ben told her not to be nervous, but Rey can’t help but be. She’s seeing the people who were basically her parents for four years for the first time in half a decade and she’s introducing them to the granddaughter she’s kept a secret from them.

 

She gets out her car and goes to help Ben take Emmy out of her car seat.

 

“How was the ride?” she asks him.

 

“It was good,” he replies, stepping to the side to let her take care of Emmy. “Emmy’s quite the conversationalist.”

 

“She really is,” Rey laughs, pulling Emmy into her arms and then onto her hip. “You ready to meet your grandparents?”

 

Emmy nods vigorously. “What's their names?”

 

“Han and Leia,” Ben answers, as they begin to walk to the door.

 

“She doesn’t mean they’re actual names,” Rey explains to Ben, laughing. “She wants to know what she’s supposed to call them.”

 

“Oh. Um, well, I guess that’s for you guys to figure out.”

 

“I’m sure your mom already has a name picked out for herself,” she says fondly.

 

Ben chuckles and knocks on the door, before turning to Rey and Emmy. “I’m sure she does.”

 

Before Rey can take one more moment to mentally prepare, the large door is flung open, and there stands Leia Organa, looking as regal and as intimidating as she did the day Rey met her.

 

“Come in!” she exclaims, opening the door wide and inviting them in.

 

Rey puts Emmy down once they’re standing in the foyer, and Leia immediately goes down to one knee.

 

“Hi, Emmy.” She’s grinning from ear-to-ear, and her eyes are as heartfelt as they’ve ever been. “I’m Ben’s mom, your grandma.”

 

“Hi, grandma,” Emmy repeats, clearly sounding out the word in her mouth.

 

Out of the corner of her eye, Rey sees Han approach. Leia motions him toward Emmy, and like his wife, Han crouches down to greet his granddaughter.

 

“And I’m your father’s pops.” Han’s voice is gruff, but there’s a definite undertone of warmth.

 

Ben snorts at his father’s choice of words and says, “You can call him that if you want, Emmy.”

 

Emmy nods. “Pops.”

 

Han chuckles, clearly delighted.

 

“We’re so happy to meet you,” Leia tells her. “Your dad said you liked unicorns, is that right?”

 

"Yes!”

 

“Well, Han—I mean, Pops and I found some unicorn toys at the store that we want you to have. Pops also pulled down some of your dad’s old toys from the attic. We thought you might enjoy playing with them while you’re here. Would you like that, Emmy?”

 

“Yes!” Emmy exclaims again, now practically vibrating with excitement at the thought of all these new toys.

 

Han laughs. “Great, kiddo. They’re just down that hall.”

 

“I’ll show her,” Ben jumps in, taking Emmy’s hand.

 

Rey manages to catch his eye just before he leads Emmy out of the foyer, and he gives her a look that says It’s going to be okay.

 

And then, just like that, Rey’s alone with Han, who is wearing his usual mischievous smirk and Leia, who Rey is pretty sure has tears in her eyes.

 

Before Rey has a chance to say anything, whether that is an apology or even just a proper greeting, Leia is pulling her into her arms and hugging her tightly.

 

“It’s so incredibly good to see you again, dear.”

 

“It’s good to see you, too, Mrs. Organa-Solo.”

 

"Leia,” the older woman corrects. “Please call me Leia from now on.”

 

“Move, Leia, I want a turn to hug the mother of my grandchild.”

 

She blushes furiously at Han’s words, but if he notices, he doesn’t comment. He simply pulls her into a hug, just as kind and just as tight as Leia’s had been.

 

“We’ve missed you, kid,” he tells her.

 

“And we’re so happy to have you back,” Leia adds.

 

Is she back?

 

Sure, Emmy will be seeing a lot of her grandparents from now, but Rey assumed most of those visits would be with Ben only, not with her as well.

 

When Han pulls back from the hug, Leia takes her hand and leads her through the foyer and into the living area.

 

“I hope lasagna is good for the two of you. I remember it used to be your favorite, but I wasn’t sure about Emmy,” Leia comments, as they enter the living room.

 

It’s just like walking into the art room for the first time in five years. A flood of memories rushes through Rey’s head, as she takes in how similar everything around her is. They’ve still got the same couches—one of which is the couch where Ben and Rey first got to second base. The mantle is still decorated with those childhood pictures that Ben hates, although Rey also spots an addition: a picture of them together from their senior prom. She’s shocked that a little piece of her has stayed up in the house all this time, and for a moment the guilt of keeping Emmy away from her grandparents returns.

 

Thankfully her attention is then drawn to Ben and Emmy, who are both on the ground in front of the sofas, playing with Emmy’s new toys and Ben’s old ones. Out of her periphery, Rey sees Ben look up to watch the conversation between Rey and his mother.

 

“I still love lasagna,” Rey answers, “And thankfully, Emmy’s not a picky eater.”

 

“Wonderful.” Leia claps her hands together before sitting on the ground with Ben and Emmy.

 

Han comes up from behind Rey and pats her on the back. “She’s been looking forward to this all week. We both have.”

 

Rey offers Han a small smile and then joins Emmy, Ben, and Leia.

 

***

 

Rey’s nerves are all but gone by the time they sit down to eat.

 

Leia, as per usual, dominates most of the conversation, asking Emmy about preschool and her interests as well as asking Rey about her college experience and about her job, but Emmy certainly gives Leia a run for her money.

 

Any time there’s a silence, even if it’s only a second or two, Emmy breaks it by asking Leia and Han every question she can think of from How old are you? to Why are there so many extra chairs at this table?

 

It’s only after they finish eating that the nerves return, thanks to Leia asking Rey to help her clean up in the kitchen. Ben, who remained quiet over dinner unless directly spoken to, catches Rey’s eye for the second time that night and offers her an encouraging smile.

 

Rey follows Leia into their expansive kitchen. Leia says she’ll wash and Rey can dry, and they get to work cleaning the dishes and serving plates. They clean in silence for a few minutes before Leia finally speaks.

 

“I believe Ben told you already, but I wanted you to hear it from me: Han and I are not at all upset with you.”

 

“Oh, um…”

 

“Ben has hurt a lot of people,” Leia continues, handing Rey a plate to dry. “We barely saw him for five years. It seems his mentor, now boss, convinced him that the only way to be successful is to leave behind everything he ever had any love for and focus solely on school—and then work.”

 

“I had no idea…” Rey’s heart aches for Han and Leia, having gone through the same pain she had.

 

“He’s only just learning that it doesn’t have to be like that. Han and I keep trying to convince him to leave Snoke’s company, but he won’t. Ben says he owes Snoke after everything he’s done for him. I don’t like it, of course, but at least we see him regularly now. I guess, all this to say—I understand why you didn’t tell Ben—or by extension, us—about Emmy.”

 

Rey’s vision blurs as tears sting in her eyes. She looks up from the dish she was drying and speaks in a soft voice, “Thank you.”

 

Leia takes the clean dish from Rey’s hand and puts it down on the counter. She grabs Rey’s hand in her own, her hand wet from all the washing, and squeezes it.

 

“After you and Ben broke up, Han and I gave up any hope of ever having a grandchild. But Rey, you have given us the most wonderful gift. And all I ask is that you let us love Emmy, that you let us see her and play with her and take her places and spoil her the way all grandparents want to spoil their grandkids.”

 

Rey’s tears have begun to fall. Leia is softly crying as well.

 

“Of course, Leia. I want Emmy to have a family. I want her grandparents to be part of her life.”

 

Clearly overcome with emotion, Leia pulls Rey into her arms and hugs her tightly.

 

“Thank you, sweetheart,” she tells Rey, her voice thick. “That means the world to me.”

 

When the dishes are cleaned and dried, Rey and Leia join Han, Ben, and Emmy in the living room. Emmy and Han are on the ground, playing with her toys, while Ben is snapping pictures with his phone. When the women walk in the room, Ben carefully looks between them.

 

“Everything okay?” he asks gently.

 

“Yes,” Rey replies, smiling.

 

She joins Ben on the couch, and he shows her all the photos he’s taken of their day.

 

Suddenly, Emmy looks up from her toys and gasps.

 

“Daddy! Where’s the dog?”

 

Ben chuckles and then looks at his parents for his answer.

 

“We put him in the bedroom,” Han tells Ben. “We weren’t sure if she was scared of dogs or not.”

 

“She’s not,” Rey confirms.

 

Han gets up from the floor and claps his hands together. “Alright, let me go get him then.”

 

As Han leaves to go let Chewie out of the bedroom, Leia says, “He’s very big, Emmy.”

 

Emmy’s eyes go big. “Like Clifford?”

 

“Not quite as big as Clifford,” Rey laughs.

 

“A little bit smaller than a wolf,” Ben adds, scooting off the couch and getting down on the carpeted floor with Emmy. He sees one of Chewie’s chew toys within arm’s reach, grabs it, and hands it to Emmy. Not for the first time, Rey is impressed how good Ben is with their daughter. “This is one of his toys. Why don’t you give it to him when he comes out?”

 

Emmy takes it from him and examines it before her attention shifts to the sound of Chewie’s loud tread as he rushes into the living room.

 

Chewie, a purebred Newfoundland, has definitely aged since Rey has last seen him. Previously completely black, Chewie’s face now has a significant amount of gray. He’s also gained a few pounds, making him even larger.

 

He first goes for Ben, licking him and demanding attention. Ben appeases Chewie for a few seconds before bringing the dog’s attention to Emmy, who is watching with wide eyes.

 

“This is Emmy, Chewie,” Ben introduces.

 

Chewie immediately gets in Emmy’s personal space, and Emmy clearly loves it. She squeals with laughter as Chewie licks her face and then goes for the toy in her hand. Emmy puts up a good fight, but Chewie quickly pulls the toy away.

 

“What do you think, Emmy?” Leia asks, from her recliner.

 

“I love him!”

 

To Rey’s surprise, Chewie brings her the toy next.

 

“I think he remembers you, Rey,” Ben tells her.

 

Rey laughs before taking the toy from Chewie and throwing it to Ben. Chewie runs right back to Ben, who then throws it back to Rey. They gone like that for a little while, playing keep away with Chewie’s toy. Emmy finds this whole thing hysterical and eventually they include her in on the game, exciting Chewie even more now that he has a third playmate.

 

***

 

When it’s time to get going, Han and Leia walk Rey, Ben, and Emmy to the door. After goodbye hugs are exchanged, Ben, Rey, and Emmy walk out to their cars, where Ben returns Emmy’s car seat to Rey.

 

Once Rey gets Emmy settled in her seat, she steps aside to let Ben say goodbye.

 

He leans into the car and Rey can see Emmy wrap her small arms around Ben’s neck. Ben leans into the hug. It’s genuine and sweet, and Rey knows she will play this moment over and over in her head for days to come.

 

With their goodbyes completed, Ben shuts the car door and steps out of the way.

 

“Thank you for today,” he says. “It was the best day I’ve had in a long time.”

 

Rey leans against her car, casually crossing her arms, and smiles. “I’m glad. It really was a great day.”

 

“Maybe we could do something like this again sometime soon?”

 

He sounds so hopeful, and Rey is encouraged to bring up what she’s been mulling over pretty much since she told Ben the truth a week ago.

 

Rey nods. “Yeah. Actually, I’ve got a meeting for work in Chandrila this Thursday. Would you like to maybe get a late lunch then? We haven’t really had a chance to talk about…the logistics of this whole thing, and I think we owe it to ourselves and to Emmy to talk about where we go from here…as a family.”

 

“Yes, let’s get lunch,” Ben replies, without any hesitation. “I agree; we definitely should sit down and figure out some of these details.”

 

“Great. I’ll text you later in the week so that we can work out a time and place.”

 

“Sounds good.”

 

She pushes off the car, ready to head to the driver’s side, when Ben reaches out with his arms.

 

He’s trying to initiate a hug, she realizes.

 

“Oh,” she chuckles awkwardly, stepping into his embrace.

 

It’s a quick hug, nothing more, but as she’s in Ben’s arms, Rey realizes that it’s the first time they’ve done this in five years.

 

He feels the same, if not a little more muscular. He still hugs with his whole body, not holding anything back, and he still squeezes her tightly with his arms. He smells the same, too, which is a strange comfort.

 

When they pull back, before she has a chance to say anything, he says, “If you wouldn’t mind, could you text me when you get home? Just so I know you both got home safely?

 

Her heart warms. “Of course.”

 

Chapter Text

Five years ago…

 

Rey is out of the house and running excitedly towards Ben before he even makes it to her front door. They meet half way, and she practically jumps into his arms. Ben lifts her up and spins her around a little, and she giggles, ecstatic to be back in her boyfriend’s arms after a week apart--a week that seemed more like a month.

 

Ben’s hugs are just…the best. He puts his entire body into the hug, squeezing her around her middle. Rey’s certain there are few things she loves more than being pressed against his sturdy chest. She’s always felt safe and steady in his arms, even before they were dating. And heavens, he smells amazing, too.

 

With his new summer internship, Ben now travels to Chandrila five days a week. It’s intense, Rey knows, with Ben getting up a little after five in the morning to make the just over an hour long drive from Coruscant to Chandrila and then often times not getting home until close to eight. Usually, they’d see each other practically every day over the summer, even before they got together, but with Ben’s new schedule, their time to see each other is reserved for weekends.

 

“I missed you so much!” she exclaims when he puts her down.

 

Ben pecks a quick kiss on her lips and then wraps an arm around her waist, leading her back to his car. “I missed you, too. This week was nuts.”

 

“Yeah?”

 

"Yeah. I’m exhausted. But, like, a good exhausted, you know?”

 

“Hmm, yeah,” Rey responds, as he opens the passenger side door for her and she gets into his car.

 

Once he’s in the driver’s seat and starts up the car, he continues, “I feel like I’m learning so much. My brain constantly hurts, and I’m being pushed harder than I ever was in high school, but I feel like I’m going to be so far ahead of everyone else once I actually get to college.”

 

“That’s great,” Rey says, grabbing the hand Ben isn’t using to drive. “I wish I had my own car, so I could come visit you one day for lunch or something. That way I could see you more than just on the weekends.”

 

Ben nods thoughtfully. “That’d be awesome. But hey, we’ll be together every day again once college starts.”

 

A thrill runs through Rey’s body. Rey cannot wait to start college. She’ll be out of her foster father’s house and living in a dorm one building over from Ben. They’ll be the closest they’ve ever been to each other. It’s going to be amazing.

 

They drive back to Ben’s house, where they change into their swimsuits and lounge around in the pool. Ben continues to talk about his internship, and how his mentor, Arthur Snoke, has apparently taken a special interest in him.

 

“He’s given me so much responsibility,” Ben tells her, as he spins Rey around on the inflatable floating tube she’s laying in. “He even wants me to travel with him two weekends from now to Corellia so that I can observe him closing a deal.”

 

Rey sits up in her tube and looks at Ben. “Two weekends from now? That’s my birthday.”

 

“I know,” Ben winces. “I told him I’d have to think about it. I won’t go if you don’t want me to.”

 

Rey bites her lip. She doesn’t want to be that girlfriend who tells her boyfriend what he can and can’t do. But she’d really like to spend her eighteenth birthday with her boyfriend. He’s the most important person in her life, after all.

 

“I mean…”

 

“I won’t go if you don’t want me to,” he repeats. “But, if I do go, I promise I’ll make it up to you when I get back.”

 

He slowly runs his hands up her knees to her thighs, and she can’t help but giggle even as that now familiar heat pools low in her stomach at his suggestive promise.

 

“Well, if you promise to make it up to me,” she says, leaning forward so that she’s close to his face.

 

“I’ll more than make it up to you,” Ben replies, before kissing her, slow and hot. When he pulls back, it’s only the slightest bit, and he whispers, “My parents are going out of town for the Fourth of July. And the firm will be closed, so I won’t be in Chandrila. You could spend a long weekend here. It’d be just the two of us.”

 

Rey’s heart is racing at the mere thought of three full days completely alone with Ben. They’ve been alone together plenty of times, sure, but three full days?

 

Rey answers his invitation by closing the small distance between them and kissing him once more. And then Ben, always a little too eager and a little too mischievous, pulls her off the inflatable tube and into the water.

 

She squeals, and Ben laughs as she splashes around trying to get her balance.

 

“I love you,” he tells her, grabbing her waist and pulling him toward her in the water once her feet find the bottom of the shallow end of the pool.

 

“I love you too,” she says, wrapping her arms around his neck and grinning.

Chapter Text

Monday comes way too soon for Ben’s liking.

 

After the amazing weekend he had, Ben was dreading going back to work. But he’s here, sitting at his desk, bright and early at eight in the morning, rummaging though papers his assistant Mitaka, who gets to work even earlier than he does, has left on his desk.

 

He’s got a lot of work to do, but occasionally, he’ll pause and just tap his phone so that he can look at his lock screen. Every time he does, he smiles at Emmy's wide, crooked grin as she feeds the giraffe at the zoo.

 

He’s actually in the middle of looking down at his phone when there’s a knock on the door.

 

Ben looks up, startled, and sees his boss and mentor, Arthur Snoke, standing outside his glass door.

 

He motions for Snoke to come in, and the older man does.

 

Arthur Snoke is ancient. Ben’s not sure how old he is exactly, but he’s got to be at least in his seventies. Despite his age though, Snoke is sharp as a tack. He misses nothing, his beady dark eyes constantly scanning everything around him.

 

“Have a good weekend, Benjamin?” Snoke says, sitting down in the chair opposite Ben’s desk and unbuttoning his suit jacket.

 

“I did, sir,” Ben replies, knowing better than to mention what he did on Saturday.

 

Ben’s not comfortable with Snoke knowing about Emmy, especially since he’s partially the reason Ben didn’t know about his daughter in the first place.

 

Snoke nods slowly, his eyes seeming to do a full body scan on Ben. Ben, who has great posture to begin with, sits up even straighter.

 

“I trust you worked at least a little bit,” he says, the right side of his mouth curving up into a sly grin.

 

Ben swallows. “Of course.”

 

“Glad to hear it,” Snoke says. “I wanted to stop in to discuss your performance.”

 

“Okay, sir.”

 

Ben knows, after his summer as an unpaid intern, four years as a paid intern, and one year working for Snoke Financial Group that Snoke doesn’t like to schedule meetings with his employees. He likes to ambush them.

 

It’s terrifying.

 

Snoke links his fingers together and creates a steeple with his index fingers, which he then presses to his lips. He looks at Ben thoughtfully for a second and then says, “Your performance over the past year has been outstanding. You’ve worked hard and have risen to every challenge I’ve given you.”

 

Ben relaxes infinitesimally. “Thank you, Mr. Snoke.”

 

“So far, you’ve lived up to every expectation I’ve had for you. Because of this, I’d like to start considering you for a promotion.”

 

Ben allows himself the smallest smile. “I’m honored.”

 

Snoke nods again, also smiling the slightest bit. “You’ve earned it. I’m going to start giving you even more responsibility over the next few months. If you continue to rise to the occasion, you can expect a promotion by the new year.”

 

“I promise to work hard and rise to the occasion, sir.”

 

Snoke stands, and so does Ben. “I trust that you will. From the moment I met you five years ago, you’ve shown such promise and potential. Even when you were just a young intern, I recognized that you were special, Benjamin.  You were the brightest intern I’d ever taken on, and you just seemed to have a natural grasp on this business.  You've understood since day one what it takes to be a competitive member of this firm. Why do you think I made those phone calls to get you that scholarship to Chandrila University?”

 

Snoke pauses for a moment, but Ben doesn’t answer his question. He knows it’s rhetorical.

 

“I needed you close, needed you to continue spending time with us here, so you could learn the ins and outs of our firm as thoroughly as possible that way when you joined us after college, you’d have a full grasp. And I’m confident that you have. So, I’ll say once again, I trust that you will rise to the challenges I’ll be giving you.”

 

The older man sticks his pale, wrinkled hand to Ben, who shakes it firmly.

 

“I will, sir. Thank you again.”

 

“You’re very welcome,” Snoke replies, now making his way to the door. “I know you won’t let me down.”

 

Once Snoke’s gone, Ben sits back down, feeling completely on top of the world.

First Emmy and now a promotion? Most days at the here are grueling, and often times, just short of miserable. But a promotion would mean more influence and more freedom within the firm. And more money—more money he could use to take care of Emmy and Rey.

Things haven’t been this good for him in a long time. Probably not since…well, since he’s reunited with Rey.

 

And then speaking of the devil herself, his phone pings and Ben sees she’s sent him a message. He unlocks his phone and sees a text she’s sent along with a picture. Her text reads “Morning bedhead. I took this pic this morning and thought you could relate :P .” Ben clicks on the picture so that it takes up his entire screen. Emmy, clad in polka-dotted pajamas, is smiling up at the camera. Her curly black hair is a wild mess, sticking out every which way, much like his does in the morning.

 

A bark of a laugh escapes him, and he immediately muffles it with his hand, lest someone ask him why he’s laughing.

 

He keeps staring at the picture, unable to believe that this beautiful, enthusiastic, darling child is his.

 

Ben’s spent maybe a total of ten hours with his daughter, and he’s completely in love with her. He wants to give her everything, and when he meets with Rey on Thursday, he plans on offering up as much of his money as she’ll accept. And now with this pending promotion, he’ll be able to provide even more for her.

 

He eventually gets back to his day, though he still continues to peak at his phone every few minutes, now taking in the new picture Rey has sent him. Every time he does, a smile tugs at his lips.

 

Yeah, for the first time in a long time, things are just really good.

Chapter Text

Rey is already seated at the small, round table when Ben gets to the restaurant for their lunch. She’s looking down at her phone, but as he approaches, she must sense him because she looks up at him.

 

He smiles, and he’s momentarily struck by how weird this is—getting lunch with his ex-girlfriend, who he previously hadn’t spoken to in five years, to discuss the logistics of co-parenting their daughter.

 

“Hey,” he greets, sitting down in the chair across from her.

 

A slight frown crosses her face. “When I suggested we get lunch, I was thinking some place like Chilis. This place is too nice, Ben.”

 

Ben shakes his head at her, chuckling. “Don’t worry about it. I’m treating.”

 

Ben.” Her frown deepens.

 

“You bought my zoo ticket. Now, we’ll be even.”

 

It’s not exactly true. Their lunch will likely cost triple what his ticket to the zoo had cost, but Rey’s face softens a little nonetheless.

 

“Okay, fine.”

 

Soon after, they order, Ben frowning when Rey tries to pick the cheapest thing on the menu: the Caesar Salad.

 

“I’ve never known you to order a salad,” he tells her, cocking an eyebrow

 

“You’re really going to fight me on this?” she asks, raising an eyebrow of her own. The annoyance in her voice is, thankfully, minimal. It’s more of a challenge than anything else.

 

Ben glances up at the waitress, who is standing awkwardly between them, and then looks back at Rey.

 

“If you really want a salad, by all means, get a salad. But I’m getting a rib eye. Rare.” He tells this last part to the waitress, who diligently writes his order down on a little notepad.

 

Rey sighs heavily and closes her menu. “Fine. I’ll get the rib eye, as well. Medium rare, please.”

 

Ben smiles at Rey, and she rolls her eyes at him in response, though he can detect the hint of a smirk on her lips.

 

They talk casually until their meals are brought out, and then Rey brings up why they’re really here.

 

“I guess first off,” she begins, “You should tell me how much involvement you want to have in Emmy’s life. Really, I guess we should have had this part of the conversation before you actually met Emmy, but I think we were both just so overwhelmed that night, and I didn’t really think everything through.”

 

Ben finishes chewing a piece of his steak, swallows, and replies, “I want to be as involved as you’ll let me be. And I know my parents feel the same.”

 

Rey smiles thoughtfully. “Yeah, your mom told me she wants the chance to spoil Emmy like all grandparents want to spoil their grandkids.”

 

“Yeah, they’re smitten with her,” Ben grins. “But how could they not be?”

 

“She’s just as taken with them,” Rey says, before stabbing a piece of steak with her fork and putting it in her mouth. And then, in typical Rey-fashion that Ben is so happy to see has remained the exact same, with a full mouth of steak she adds, “She’s taken with you too, you know?”

 

Rey’s words make Ben so happy that he could almost cry.

 

“I’m so glad,” he says sincerely. “If you’re cool with it, I’d actually love the opportunity to spend more time one-on-one with her.”

 

Rey nods. “Yeah, that’s something I wanted to talk to you about actually. I don’t know what you’re living situation is like, but maybe she could start spending the occasional weekend with you, if you’d like? That is, if you have room for her.”

 

Ben, who lives in a very large, very nice apartment, replies, “I’ve got a three bedroom apartment. I use one of the extra rooms as my office and the other as a storage space. I could easily turn that room into her bedroom. It’s a nice size, about as big as her room at your place.”

 

“That could work,” she says thoughtfully.

 

Ben, who had planned on bringing up the idea of Emmy staying with him occasionally, had been little nervous about Rey’s reaction, so he is beyond pleased that she has not only brought up the idea, but seems to like it.  So now, onto the next topic:

 

“Something I wanted to talk to you about—and please just let me get this part out—is money.”

 

He sees Rey’s hands tighten imperceptibly on her utensils, but she remains quiet just as he asked.

 

“I know you do well for yourself, and I know you’re extremely proud of the life you’ve built for the two of you. Hell, I’m proud of you.”

 

To his surprise, she blushes a little, as she’s mid-bite on a forkful of mashed potatoes.

 

“I’m not asking you to let me throw money at the two of you, but I’d like to contribute. I know the topic of child support can get...awkward, or even contentious, but I don’t see anything wrong with me helping out.”

 

“I won’t accept much,” she says stubbornly. “Emmy doesn’t need fancy things.”

 

“I know,” Ben is quick to respond. “I don’t want to spoil her. We can save that for my parents.”

 

Rey’s lips twist upward at his joke, and he takes this as a good sign to keep going.

 

“I just want to do my part, Rey. To contribute.”

 

She nods very slowly. “Okay.”

 

Ben exhales, thankful that that wasn’t quite as difficult as he’d expected it to be.

 

They continue to work out more minute details of this new arrangement until Ben gets a text from his assistant, Mitaka.

 

Frowning, he reads Mitaka’s message: Where are you? Snoke just dropped off a stack of work on your desk that he expects to be done by the end of the day.

           

“Everything okay?” Rey asks.

 

Ben looks up from his phone and sighs. “Yeah, my assistant just texted me. I need to get back to the office.”

 

Rey’s eyes go wide. “You have an assistant?”

 

“Yeah,” Ben says, returning his phone to his pocket and catching the waitress’ eye so that he can bring the check.

 

“I didn’t realize you were so fancy,” she comments, a smirk playing on her lips.

 

“I’m really not.”

 

“But Ben, you have an assistant.” Her smirk becomes a full on grin. “I don’t have an assistant.”

 

“Trust me, you don’t want one. He’s more a nuisance than a help.”

 

The waiter delivers the check to the table, and Ben swipes it before Rey can make any attempt to grab it. Now, he matches her grin.

 

“Sneak,” she mutters, though she’s still grinning.

 

He quickly pays, and then they leave the restaurant together. Ben walks her to her car and when they reach her vehicle, she says, “Emmy’s attending a birthday party next Saturday. It’s for one of her preschool classmates. If you’re free and interested, you should come. Maybe the three of us could go get dinner afterward?”

 

"That sounds great. I should be able to go.”

 

The idea of attending something as mundane as a preschooler’s birthday has never sounded so fun to him.

 

“Great! I’ll text you the details when it gets closer.”

 

“Okay,” Ben says, and then because it seems like the natural thing to do and because they’ve done it once already, he opens his arms to hug her goodbye.

 

He’d noticed her hesitance last time as they stood in his parents’ driveway, but this time, to his delight, there is no hesitance. She easily steps into his arms, and they hug.

 

When they break apart, Ben says, “Be safe getting home.”

 

Rey nods. “I will. Have a good rest of the day at work. And tell your assistant hi for me.”

 

Ben laughs despite himself.

Chapter Text

“Rey, who keeps texting you?” Rey’s co-worker and friend, Rose Tico asks, as they work in their shared office.

 

Rey looks up from her laptop and over at Rose. “Huh?”

 

Rose rolls her eyes at Rey’s obliviousness. “Someone’s been blowing up your phone all morning. You have a boyfriend you haven’t been telling us about?”

 

Rey snorts, as she picks up her phone from her desk and unlocks it. “No, it’s, um. It’s Ben.”

 

"Ben? As in Ben Ben?”

 

Rey looks up from her phone, having not yet actually read the text. “Yes.”

 

"I didn’t realize you guys were talking regularly.”

 

 Rey and Rose had been friends since they met their second semester of freshman year when Rey was seven months pregnant. Rose knew all about the Rey and Ben situation, Rey having divulged the full story over the years. Rey had not, however, updated Rose on the last week. Rose knew that Rey had told Ben about Emmy and that he had met her, but Rey hadn’t yet told Rose about the zoo trip, Emmy meeting her grandparents, and their lunch the previous Thursday.

 

She just felt…weird about it. Rose had listened to Rey vent and sometimes even cry over the years about the whole situation, and Rey just had a feeling that Rose wouldn't approve of her seeing Ben regularly.

 

“Yeah, we are. He wants to be involved in Emmy’s life.”

 

Rose looks skeptical as she tilts her to the side. “Really?”

 

“Yeah, we’ve talked about Emmy starting to spend some weekends with him. He’s been sending me pictures of paint swatches and furniture and toys for her room.”

 

Rey finally looks down at the message and sees that Ben has sent her the link to a gorgeous—and probably very expensive—light pink and gold painted toy chest. His message reads, “Would Emmy like this?

 

Rey smiles and types back a response, “It’s beautiful. I think she’d love it! But please don’t spend too much money on this stuff. Remember, we’re saving the ‘spoiling’ for your parents.”

 

“Rey!””

 

She looks up from her phone to see Rose staring at her, her skepticism transformed into exacerbation.

 

“Did you hear what I said?” her friend asks.

 

“Oh, no, I didn’t,” Rey winces.

 

“I said, how are you not mad at him? You were mad for so long.”

 

Rey shakes her head. “No, I was hurt for a long time. I mean, I guess I was mad too. Ben broke my heart, almost out of the blue, and didn’t even want to do the minimum to keep in touch. But over time I realized that being mad at him over the Emmy situation wasn’t exactly fair. I could be as pissed at him as I wanted to be for breaking up with me like he did, but I never told him about Emmy, so really, I didn’t have a right to be mad at him about the Emmy thing, did I? I never gave him the chance to choose to be in Emmy’s life. Maybe the Ben of five years ago would have stepped up to the plate or maybe he would have left me to raise her by myself. But I will never know because I made that choice for him. But now, he does have the choice, and he wants to be involved, and Rose, it’s the most beautiful thing. He loves her so much.”

 

She hasn’t even realized that she’s begun to cry—she’s been doing that a lot lately—until Rose hands her a tissue from the box on her desk.

 

“Thanks,” she mumbles, wiping her eyes.

 

“I’m glad he wants to be involved, Rey,” Rose says, keeping her voice gentle. “Just be careful, okay? I don’t want you to get hurt again—because now it’s not just you that you have to worry about…it’s Emmy too.”

 

“I know.”

 

And she does know. Rose’s words echo the thoughts that have played in her mind quite often recently. But as she continues to remind herself: Ben wants to be involved. Every step of the way he’s shown, not just with words but with actions, how much he wants to be involved in their daughter’s life. He’s still the same man he was before they broke up. She’s seen evidence of that on display whenever he’s with Emmy. He’s kind, affectionate, and generous with his attention. So, while Rey may be the slightest bit wary, she trusts Ben.

 

“As long as you know,” Rose replies.

 

Rey’s phone pings again, and Rose just snorts this time. Rey picks the phone back up, unlocking it and opening the message. This time Ben’s sent her unicorn wallpaper.

 

Too much?” the text reads.

 

Rey chuckles to herself as she responds, “Maybe a little bit, but I’m sure she’d love it.”

 

He replies back instantly, “I never thought I’d have this much pink in my apartment.”

           

This time Rey’s laugh is much louder, so much so that Rose calls out her name once more. Rey, now with cheeks tinted pink, looks back at her friend.

 

Rose gives her a look, one that reiterates be careful.

 

Rey nods before sheepishly returning to her work.

 

***

 

During her lunch break, Rey sits in the break room with Rose and their other friend/co-worker Finn Storm. Like Rose, Rey had met Finn in college. For the first three years of school, the three of them were an indestructible trio; however, senior year, Finn got drunk and confessed his feelings for Rose to Rey. Rey, having known early on that Rose harbored a crush for Finn, encouraged him to ask Rose out on a date. He did, and almost two years later, they were now engaged.  

 

“So, Rey, Rose told me you and Ben are talking a lot,” Finn says, before taking a bite of his sandwich.

 

Rey shoots Rose a look. “I’ve literally been with you all morning. When did you have time to tell Finn?”

 

Rose, whose mouth is currently filled with salad, picks up her phone and waves it a little bit.

 

“Ah.” Rey rolls her eyes. She supposes she can’t expect Rose to keep things from Finn since they’re engaged, but she would have liked to have been able to tell Finn on her own terms.

 

He could be very protective of her—even more so than Rose—and the last thing she needs is Rose and Finn ganging up on her and warning her that reconnecting with Ben is a bad idea.

 

Rose and Finn, both coming from happy households, don’t understand what it’s like to not have a family. Rey never had a family, and she’ll be damned before she stops Emmy from having one—one with a loving father and doting grandparents.

 

“So, what have you been talking about?” Finn inquires.

 

“Just Emmy, really,” Rey tells him. “We’re working out a plan for her to start spending occasional weekends with him. He’s working on getting a room set up in his apartment now.”

 

To her relief, Finn’s expression softens a little. “That’s…good. I hope it works out for the three of you.”

 

“Thank you.”

 

The conversation thankfully turns away from Ben for the rest of lunch, but as they’re throwing away their trash and preparing to head back to their desks, Finn speaks up again.

 

“You know, Rose and I have been wanting to set you up with someone for years now—“

 

“I know,” Rey grumbles, already hating where this conversation is going. They made so many attempts in college, but Rey always turned them down.

 

She loves her friends dearly, but they’ve had this conversation multiple times and it’s exhausting.

 

“But now that Ben is in the picture and Emmy’s going to be spending some weekends with him, maybe it’s a good idea to start thinking about dating again. We know some guys we could set you up with.”

 

Rey sighs. Just to shut her friends up, she says, “I’ll think about it.”

 

They are both delighted, and thankfully, that’s the end of that conversation.

Chapter Text

It's a cool autumn afternoon when Ben gets to the park where the birthday party is being held.  He immediately spots Emmy, whose dark hair is in two high pigtails that bounce on her head as she runs around the grassy field with her friends.

 

He smiles to himself, pleased to see that she has friends, and begins to scan the crowd for Rey. He spots her under a small pavilion talking to a man, presumably the father of one of the other children here. The man is standing close to Rey, and he’s got a charming grin that Ben really doesn’t like painted on his face. Ben stares, continuing to watch them talk, and something within him jolts when he sees the man lightly touch Rey’s upper arm. It’s familiar, just short of affectionate, and Ben suddenly finds that he really, really doesn’t like this man.

 

Just as he’s about to walk over to Rey, and maybe wedge his way between them, he hears a familiar voice shout Daddy. He turns and sees Emmy running toward him at breakneck speed.

 

Now a little more comfortable with how to interact with his daughter, he immediately scoops her up when she reaches him.

 

“Mommy said you were coming!” she exclaims in his arms. “It’s Hanna’s birthday! She’s my friend.”

 

“That’s wonderful!”

 

“Do you want to meet her?”

 

“I’d love to. Just let me go say hi to your mom real quick, and then I’ll meet her. Does that sound okay?”

 

“Yep!” Emmy says, popping the p.

 

Ben puts Emmy down, and she hurriedly runs back to her friends. Ben turns to make his way over to Rey and finds that she’s already looking at him. It seems Emmy’s excitement drew her attention. Ben smiles and waves, and Rey returns both his smile and wave. To Ben’s displeasure, that man is still standing at her side.

 

“Hey,” he greets, as he reaches the pavilion.

 

“Hey. I’m glad you could make it. And as you can see, Emmy clearly is too.”

 

“I’m glad I could make it too,” Ben says. “I’ve been looking forward to it. Work was rough this week.”

 

Rey’s smile deflates the tiniest bit. “Well, at least it’s the weekend now.”

 

What Ben doesn’t tell her is that he’s got a stack of papers to go through when he gets home later tonight.

 

“Hey,” the man Rey was talking to says, inserting himself into the conversation and offering his hand for Ben to shake. “I’m Scott Thompson, Lilly’s father.”

 

Ben has no idea who Lilly is, but he takes the man’s hand and gives it a firm shake anyway. “Ben Solo.”

 

“Nice to meet you, Ben,” Scott replies. “And you are Emmy’s…?”

 

“Father,” Ben says proudly, not bothering to keep the superiority out of his voice.

 

“Oh.” Scott’s brow wrinkles in confusion.

 

Rey awkwardly pats Ben on the back. “Ben and I were together in high school.”

 

“Ah,” Scott says, things clearly connecting in his head. His charming smile returns, and Ben finds that he suddenly sort of wants to punch it off his face

 

Okay, where did that thought come from?

 

"I told Emmy I’d meet her friend,” Ben says, gesturing back toward Emmy.

 

“Oh, great!” Rey exclaims. “I’ll come with you.” Then, she turns back to Scott and says, “It was nice talking with you again, Scott.”

 

Scott looks a little disappointed, but he replies, “Yes, it was, Rey. Hopefully we can talk again soon.”

 

“Maybe so,” she says cheerfully, before taking Ben by the forearm and leading him toward Emmy and her friends.

 

She lets go of his arm once they’re out of hearing range and lets out a groan.

 

“Something wrong?” he asks, glancing over at her.

 

“You rescued me back there,” Rey tells him. “Of Emmy’s preschool class, Scott and I are the only single parents. He seems to think this means we should be together.”

 

“Has he asked you out?” He tries to keep the hungry curiosity out of his voice, but he’s not sure he’s succeeded.

 

“Not overtly, thank God. He always just implies that we should get Emmy and Lilly together for play dates, when actually, Emmy doesn’t really like Lilly. She’s kind of mean kid.”

 

Ben relaxes a little. He has no right to be jealous, and he’s not. But Rey shouldn’t have to put up with stupid assholes if she doesn’t want to.

 

After a quick and somewhat awkward introduction between Ben and Hanna—Ben is only just figuring out how to interact with his kid; he hasn’t the slightest idea how to interact with other people’s kids yet—Rey and Ben settle on a park bench, still within eyesight of Emmy but somewhat far away from the pavilion where most of the other parents are socializing.

 

“The other moms don’t like me very much,” Rey says, by way of explanation as to why they’re not joining the other adults. She offers this information up without any prompting from Ben, so when she says it, he’s taken off-guard.

 

“What? Why?”

 

He turns to her, but her eyes are fixed on Emmy.

 

She snorts out a laugh, and even after five years apart, Ben knows Rey well enough to know there’s no heart in her laugh.

 

“Why do you think?”

 

“I have no idea,” he answers honestly.

 

She faces him. Thankfully, her eyes are dry, but there’s still sadness in them.

 

“They don’t like me because I’m a single mother who had her child when she was nineteen. I mean, look at all of them, Ben. You can tell they’re not in their early twenties, just as they can tell that I am. They’re married and have proper families.

 

“But that’s bullshit.”

 

“Maybe.” She shrugs and returns her attention to Emmy. “But it’s true. Most of them talk down to me, if they even deign to speak more than a few words. The only one who treats me with any kindness is Scott, and that’s because he’s the only other single parent at these events, and he just wants to go out with me.”

 

She says it so matter-of-factly, but there’s no doubt that the actions of these shitty, judgmental parents hurt her. He wants to reach out to her—put a comforting arm around her shoulder or give her hand a gentle squeeze—but he doesn’t. He’s not sure if that would be well received, and he doesn’t want to do anything that might make Rey even the slightest bit uncomfortable.

 

So ultimately, he just says, “Well, they don’t know what they’re missing by not talking to you.”

 

“Thank you, Ben,” she replies. She’s still facing ahead, but Ben catches her eyeing him out of her periphery.

 

***

 

After the party and before Ben has to return to Chandrila, the three of them go out for pizza. Emmy is on a sugar high from the cake and ice cream she had at the party. She keeps squirming in her seat and every once in awhile she’ll hop out of her chair and walk around the table. Rey has to keep warning her to sit down and sit still, but it only does so much.

 

Ben, hoping he can maybe distract Emmy and get her to sit still, tries to engage her in conversation, but today Emmy’s just too hyped up to talk to him. She’s just gotten out of her chair for the fourth time, this time to wander around the pizza parlor, and is currently playing with the jukebox in the corner of the restaurant. Ben’s disappointed in his inability to keep her attention. It’s never happened before.

 

"Don’t feel bad,” Rey tells him. “She gets like this sometimes. You can’t win against sugar.”

 

Ben chuckles. “Maybe if I tell her I’m planning to paint the walls in her room black instead of covering them with unicorns that’ll get her attention.”

 

“Yeah, black walls are pretty awful,” Rey snorts.

 

"Hey—I repainted over mine long before we started dating,” Ben says, defending his barely-there emo phase. He wasn’t really ever committed to the look. Thinking back on it, he’s pretty sure he was just trying to get his parents’ attention.

 

“Yeah, to navy blue. That’s not much better, Ben.”

 

“Well, the walls in my room now are cream-colored. Is that better?”

 

“Definitely,” she answers. And then her eyes drift from his to where Emmy is across the restaurant.

 

Emmeline, get back here now!”

 

Ben follows Rey’s glare to where Emmy is now jamming her little index finger on the same two buttons, making the pages inside the jukebox flip back and forth over and over again.

 

“She’s going to break it,” Rey mumbles under her breath before getting up from their table and marching over to Emmy.

 

Ben watches, fascinated, as Rey fusses at Emmy before picking her up, and carrying her back to the table. Emmy’s usually joyful face is now pouty, having been scolded in public. They return to the table and Rey places Emmy back in her seat.

 

“You’re going to sit still in your chair and behave now, right?” she says, her voice firm but not angry.

 

Emmy nods, her bottom lip sticking out now.

 

“Good.”

 

Rey returns to her chair and turns to Ben.

 

“Sorry," she sighs.

 

He shakes his head, smiling a little. “Honestly, I found it kind of endearing.”

 

To his surprise, Rey rolls her eyes, completely unamused. “Then I’ll let you be the one to discipline her next time.”

 

Ben’s about to correct her, about to tell her that it wasn’t Emmy’s behavior he found endearing; it was Rey going into mom mode. He finds it absolutely charming, quite frankly. But before he can say anything, the waiter arrives with their two pizzas, and they dig in.

 

***

 

 By the time they finish eating, Emmy has crashed. She’s tired, her chin resting on the tabletop, and distracted with a picture book Rey keeps in her purse.

 

“So, when do you think you’ll have the room ready?” Rey asks.

 

Ben tilts his head from side to side, thinking. “Two weeks, I think. Work is busy right now, but I’ve hired people to do most of the heavy lifting, both figuratively and literally.”

 

Rey nods. “Great. Are you cool with telling her soon?”

 

"Sure,” Ben replies. “We could tell her tonight. I could show her some of the pictures I sent you on my phone.”

 

“That sounds great.”

 

The waitress comes with the check and hands it to Ben. Rey tries to swipe it away, but Ben’s too quick for her.

 

Rey huffs. “I can afford pizza, Ben.”

 

"So can I.”

 

She rolls her eyes but concedes. “Fine.” And then under her breath, she mumbles, “I guess I should get used to it.”

 

Ben’s eyes shoot up to meet hers. “What?”

 

Rey’s face goes pink and then in a lower voice, she says, “Um, two of my friends. They want to start setting me up.”

 

Ben doesn’t know exactly what he was expected, but it was definitely not that.

 

“Really?”

 

“Yeah. So, you know I don’t really date, mostly because of Emmy. But now that she’s going to be spending more time with you, my friends think it’s time I start going out with people.”

 

He nods, taking this all in, all while trying to ignore the weird feeling in the pit of his stomach. “So, have you been on any dates yet?”

 

“No, not yet. They’ve only given my number to one guy, and we’re waiting to go out until Emmy spends a weekend with you.”

 

“Well, good luck,” he says, not sure how much he means it.

 

“Thank you,” Rey says, a soft smile on her lips. And then her brow furrows. “Is this weird? This is weird, right?”

 

He’s pretty sure he knows what she’s referring to, but he asks anyway because he wants to hear her say it. “What is?”

 

“Us,” she replies, pointing between them. “Us talking about this.”

 

“We’re adults,” he shrugs, attempting to play it cool. “It shouldn’t be weird. You’re going on a date. That’s great.”

 

Her smile widens and she seems to exhale a little bit. “Thank you, Ben.”

 

As they leave, Emmy, who is studiously ignoring her mother, latches on to Ben’s hand. Ben looks over at Rey with an apologetic look on his face, but Rey just huffs out a laugh and shakes her head.

 

The three of them walk out to the parking lot, first heading to where Rey’s car is parked. When they reach the car, Ben picks up Emmy and glances over at Rey, who nods her head.

 

“Emmy, how would you feel about spending the weekend with me at my place?”

 

Emmy’s eyes go wide and she looks over at Rey, all previous pouting forgotten. “I can do that?”

 

Rey chuckles, rubbing her daughter’s arm and winking at Ben. “Of course, sweetheart.”

 

All of Emmy’s energy returns and she screams in excitement.

 

He spends the next five minutes showing Emmy pictures of her new room on his phone. She’s obsessed with the unicorn wallpaper, proclaiming it as awesome, and in that moment, Ben feels like an incredibly proud parent.

Chapter Text

Two Fridays later, Rey picks up Emmy from preschool and rushes home. She sets Emmy down in front of the television and quickly goes to her room to get ready.

 

Emmy is spending her first weekend with Ben, and Rey...Rey is going on her first date.

 

The plan is to drop Emmy off at her grandparents’ house where Ben will pick her up; they agreed it was a good midway point for them so that neither would have to drive quite as far. Once she drops Emmy off, she’s driving back to Jakku to meet this guy Rose and Finn set her up with for dinner and drinks.

 

Looking in her closet now, Rey realizes she has absolutely nothing to wear. Hell, the nicest thing she owns is her college graduation dress, a simple forest green one shouldered dress that goes just above her knee. She supposes this is what she’s going to have to settle for.

 

She slips it on, along with a tan pair of wedges, and quickly runs a curling wand through her hair. Lastly, she touches up her makeup, before returning to the living room, finding Emmy exactly where she left her.

 

“Ready to go, Em?”

 

Emmy nods excitedly in response, her grin almost blinding.

 

On the way to the Organa-Solo house, Rey goes over proper behavior with Emmy for the thousandth time that week.

 

“You’re going to be well-behaved for your dad, right?” Rey asks, eyeing Emmy from the rearview mirror.

 

"Yes,” Emmy says seriously from the back of the car.

 

“And you’re going to ‘thank him’ for anything he gives you?”

 

“Yes, Mommy.” This time Rey hears a little bit of exhaustion in her daughter’s voice.

 

“And you’re going to be good for your grandparents too?”

 

Now the exacerbation is obvious. “Uh huh.”

 

Grinning, Rey decides she believes her daughter. “Okay, good. I’m sure you’re going to have a great time.”

 

When Rey pulls into the driveway, Ben’s already on the front porch waiting for them. His face lights up when he sees them, and he waves at them and starts to make his way over.

 

“Hey,” she greets, as she gets out the car.

 

She doesn’t miss the way his eyes quickly scan her over before they quickly snap back to hers. “Hey.”

 

“We had a talk on the way here about good behavior,” she tells him, as she goes to the back door of the car to let Emmy out. “She’s promised me she’s going to be good.”

 

Ben chuckles. “I’m sure she will be.”

 

Rey unbuckles Emmy, who promptly hops out the car and hugs Ben.

 

“I drew you a picture at school,” Emmy tells him, as he picks her up.

 

“Oh, yeah?”

 

Emmy nods. “It’s in my bag! Mom!”

 

“I’m working on it, Em,” Rey says, grabbing both Emmy’s backpack and small rolling suitcase from the car.

 

“Here, let me help.”

 

Ben puts Emmy down and taking both bags from Rey.

 

“It’s in there,” Emmy says, pointing to her backpack. “In there!”

 

Before Rey has a chance to tell her daughter to calm down a bit, Leia comes out the front door.

 

“Hey, you two!” she greets from the porch.

 

Emmy totally forgets about her drawing and the backpack and sprints over to her grandmother. Leia’s face lights up as she does, and by the time Emmy reaches her, Leia is already on her knees, ready to pull her granddaughter into a massive hug.

 

Rey glances over at Ben, and they share a smile.

 

With Emmy now on her hip, Leia walks over to Ben and Rey and says, “You look nice, sweetheart. That color looks wonderful on you.”

 

Rey goes pink and looks down at her dress. “Thank you, Mrs. Orga—Leia.”

 

"You’re most welcome. Did you want to come in for a moment?”

 

“I would, but I’ve actually got somewhere to be.”

 

“No problem.” Then to Emmy, Leia says, “Why don’t you give your mom a hug and a kiss goodbye?”

 

Leia puts Emmy back on her own feet, and Rey leans down to hug her daughter. “Remember what we talked about? You’re going to be good for you dad and grandparents, right?”

 

"Yeah,” Emmy says, as they pull apart.

 

“Good. I love you.”

 

“Love you too.”

 

Rey plants a quick kiss on her daughter’s head before standing up. “Why don’t you let your grandma take you inside?”

 

Emmy is happy to let Leia do that. Grandmother and granddaughter join hands and with one last wave goodbye, they head back in the direction of the house.

 

Once they’re out of earshot, Ben, who still has both Emmy’s backpack and suitcase in his hand, comments, “You really do look nice.”

 

If she had turned pink at Leia’s compliment, she goes absolutely red at Ben’s. It’s only natural, she reasons, that her body responds to a compliment from her ex-boyfriend, who also happens to be the father of her child. It’s not conscious; it’s completely instinctual.

 

“Thank you.”

 

“You’ve got your date tonight?”

 

Rey bites her lip. “Yeah.”

 

“Nervous?”

 

Why not be honest?

 

“Very.”

 

His face softens, as if he's charmed by her nerves.  “Don’t be. Just be yourself.”

 

“Great advice,” she chuckles, crossing her arms over her chest.

 

“I mean it," he says emphatically.  "You’re you. Be yourself, and I’m sure you’ll be fine.”

 

She softens, uncrossing her arms. “Thank you, Ben.”

 

“You’re welcome.”

 

He doesn’t say anything else, and neither does she, and for a moment, they just stand there. It’s slightly awkward, but they’re both sort of smiling at each other.

 

Eventually, he clears his throat and says, “You should probably get going. You don’t want to be late.”

 

Rey nods. “Yeah, you’re right.”

 

They’re still standing by the car, and Ben opens her door for her.

 

“If you need anything, don’t hesitate to call. If she’s being bad, don’t be afraid to put her in timeout or take away a toy.”

 

“I’m sure she’ll be fine,” he laughs.  "Don't worry about us."

 

She gets in the car and gives Ben one last, heartfelt look. “Take care of my little girl.”

 

“I will,” he smiles warmly before closing the door for her and tapping on the roof of the car.

 

***

 

The date goes…okay.

 

Rose and Finn’s friend Kyle, a redhead with bright blue eyes, is fine. He’s a perfectly fine man with his soft-spoken voice and good manners and his job as a data analyst. He’s just incredibly boring. About halfway through the date, it becomes clear to Rey that there won’t be a second one, and at the end of the dinner, when Kyle shakes her hand goodbye, it’s obvious that he is on the same page.

 

On her way home, she gets a call from Rose.

 

“So, how’d it go?” She sounds so excited, and Rey hates letting her down.

 

“It went fine. Kyle’s nice, but he’s…” She doesn’t want to hurt Rose’s feelings by saying her friend is boring, so she goes with, “not for me.”

 

Rey can practically hear Rose’s face fall. “Oh. Really?”

 

“Yeah. Um, Rose, I’m just curious…what made you think that we’d be a good match?”

 

For a second, Rose doesn’t respond. Rey waits patiently for a response and then, “Honestly, Rey? He’s one of the few good single men Finn and I know.”

 

“That’s it?”

 

Rose sounds guilty when she replies. “Yeah.”

 

Rey sighs, as she turns into her driveway. “Rose, you don’t have to set me up, you know?”

 

“I know! But you’re so great and you’re still young, and you shouldn’t have to be single when there are great men out there who would totally be into you.”

 

“Yeah, but I could meet someone naturally. It doesn’t have to be a set up.”

 

“Rey, how many guys in our engineering classes asked you out?”

 

“I don’t know—“

 

“I do. There was Nathan, Peter, Xander, Josh—“

 

“Okay, okay, I get it,” Rey groans. “But they didn’t know about Emmy. They never would have been interested if they’d known.”

 

“You never gave any of them a chance though!” Rose counters. “I don’t know, Rey. I just think you might be looking for excuses not to date.”

 

“Okay, fine.” She’s still sitting in her car in her driveway. She’s so ready to be done with this conversation, get inside, change into her pajamas, and relax. “You’re allowed to set me up with one more person. Will that make you happy?”

 

“Yes! Yes, it will.”

 

“Great,” Rey says. “One more guy, and then that’s it.”

 

“Deal.”

Chapter Text

 Ben’s weekend with Emmy has been outstanding.

 

After dinner with his parents on Friday night, Ben drives Emmy back to Chandrila, where he puts the picture Emmy drew for him on his otherwise bare stainless steel fridge (it’s a picture of Ben, Emmy, and Rey all holding hands, and Ben finds himself looking at it almost incessantly throughout the weekend) and then shows her the fully decorated room on which he spent almost all of his free time over the past few weeks. To his absolute delight, Emmy loves her room, and they spend the rest of the evening digging through her fully stocked toy chest, Ben trying to keep up with all of Emmy’s make believe games she’s crafted with her new toys.

 

The next day, he takes Emmy to the Chandrila Children’s Museum, where he, of course, takes a million pictures, a few of which he sends to Rey. They get to the museum just as it opens and spend the entire day there, only leaving when the security guard alerts them that it’d be closing in five minutes. From there, he takes her out to a kid-friendly diner and then back home where he introduces her to Balto, one of his favorite movies from his childhood. Emmy, to his disappointment, doesn’t make it through the entire movie, but she does fall asleep against his arm, which totally makes up for it.

 

Wanting to keep some familiarity between Rey’s house and his, Ben makes pancakes for breakfast Sunday morning. After, they drive back to his parents’ house for lunch and so that Rey can come pick Emmy back up.

 

Currently, Ben is sitting on the couch in the living room with his parents and Emmy. His father relaxes in his recliner, his eyes glued to the football game on the television. Ben half-watches the game, but the other half of his attention is on his mom and daughter.

 

Leia is sitting on the opposite side of the couch and Emmy sits on the floor in front of her with Chewie by her side. Leia’s hands deftly move through Emmy’s curly black locks as she weaves a complicated braid into her granddaughter’s hair.

 

When Leia catches Ben staring at him, she winks and says, “I guess I should probably teach you how to do this too, shouldn’t I? I’m sure you don’t remember from when you were younger.”

 

Ben thinks back to his adolescence and memories he hasn’t thought about in years fly through his mind. “I used to practice on Rey a bit. But I never got that good at it.”

 

“We’ll work on it,” Leia tells him, smiling, before turning her attention back to Emmy.

 

“Okay,” Ben chuckles.

 

When the doorbell rings, signifying Rey’s arrival, both Ben and Emmy jump up from their seats. Emmy sprints to the door, with Ben following close behind.

 

“Mom!” Emmy exclaims when Ben opens the door.

 

Rey bends down to give Emmy a big hug. “I missed you so much, sweetheart.”

 

“I missed you too. Dad and I had so much fun!”

 

“I can’t wait to hear all about it.” She pulls back from the hug and her eyes take in the half-completed braided crown on her daughter’s head. Looking up at Ben, she asks, “This is beautiful. Did you do that?”

 

“Oh, no. My mom’s been doing it.”

 

“I thought so. You were never really good at braiding,” Rey says, smirking at him, as she carefully touches the braid on her daughter’s head.

 

“Hey, I got pretty good at French braids!” Ben counters, pretending to be affronted.

 

Rey lets out a chuckle. “Eh, you were okay.”

 

“I want to see it,” Emmy whines, her parents’ current conversation going over her head.

 

“Here,” Ben offers, picking Emmy up and walking her over to the decorative mirror on the wall in the foyer. “See it now?”

 

“I look like a princess!” Emmy gasps, eyes wide.

 

“You do,” Ben agrees, putting Emmy down. “Why don’t you see if Grandma can finish it real quick?”

 

“Okay. Coming Mommy?”

 

“In a minute, sweetheart,” Rey tells her.

 

They both watch Emmy make her way back into the living room. Once they’re alone in the foyer, Rey says, “You two looked like you had a great time. I enjoyed getting all those pictures.”

 

“I’m glad. Did you have a good weekend?"  He pauses for a moment, then adds, "How was your date?”

 

Rey wrinkles her nose. “It was…fine.”

 

Ben tilts his head to the side. “Just fine?”

 

“Yeah,” she sighs. “He was just really boring.”

 

Ben’s not sure what to say. On one hand, he’s bummed that Rey didn’t have a good time on her date, but on the other hand…he’s sort of happy about it. The idea of Rey being with someone else is an unpleasant one. But that’s only because he doesn’t want another man in Emmy’s life, trying to take the place of her father.

 

At least that’s what he’s been telling himself all weekend whenever he thinks about it.

 

Before he’s able to summon a response, Rey continues, “Then Saturday, I called Poe and Kay to see if they wanted to go out for drinks, but apparently Kay’s got this really bad stomach bug, so they couldn’t. Then I called two of my other friends, Finn and Rose—they’re the ones who set me up—but they were having their own date night. Then I realized, damn, I’m only friends with couples.”

 

Ben lets out a chuckle. “So what’d you wind up doing?”

 

“I drank a bottle of wine and fell asleep on the couch at 11:00 p.m.”

 

“Sounds…fun?”

 

“It was amazing, actually,” she says, grinning and lightly touching his arm. “Thank you for taking her this weekend.”

 

“Thank you for letting me. We had so much fun. I can’t wait to do it again.”

 

“How does the weekend after next work?”

 

She squeezes his arm a little before letting go, and he instantly misses the feeling of her small, familiar hand on his bicep.

 

“That’d be great. I’ve already thought up a million more things for us to do.”

 

“That’s wonderful,” Rey laughs.

 

“Do you want to stick around for a bit? We’re just watching football. Well, my dad’s watching anyway.”

 

Ben recalls countless Sunday afternoons where Rey would come over and watch football with his family. While he and his mother mostly just tolerated the game, Rey would get just as excited as Han, yelling at the television when bad calls were made and pacing the room when the game got close. He’d always loved how at ease, how free to be herself, she’d been with his family.

 

“I’d love to,” Rey replies.

 

Rey and Emmy stay past the end of the football game, through dinner, and don’t leave until the sun begins to set.

 

As he waves goodbye to them as Rey backs out of the driveway, Leia comes up behind him and puts an arm on his shoulder.

 

“It’s good to have her around again.”

 

“Yeah,” he says softly, eyes still following the car. “It is.”

 

“You seem happier, too.”

 

Ben turns to his mother. There’s a look in her dark brown eyes, a wise and knowing one.

 

“I am,” he replies.

Chapter Text

The following Wednesday, Emmy’s preschool has a half-day due to parent-teach conferences. Rey takes off of work early, goes to the conference, and is delighted to hear that Emmy is excelling both academically and socially.

 

With a few extra free hours in the day, Rey decides to take Emmy to Coruscant to visit her beloved friend Maz.

 

Rey had worked at Maz’s eccentrically decorated, independently owned coffee shop all throughout college. A quirky, windowed and very wealthy older woman, Maz could have retired to Naboo and spent the rest of her days at the beach, but instead she decided to pursue her lifelong dream of owning her own coffee shop. In fact, it was one day in mid-September of her freshman year that Rey came into work at the shop, sobbing because she’d just taken three pregnancy tests that had all come out positive. Maz had immediately put her arm around Rey’s shoulder and escorted her into her office, where she insisted Rey tell her everything. And after Rey did, Maz helped her come up with a game plan. She attended all of Rey’s doctor’s appointments, let Rey stay with her after her dorm kicked her out, and was even with her when she gave birth to Emmy. In addition, she helped Rey get on her feet after she graduated from college, conveniently allowing Rey to rent the extra house she owned when the old tenants moved out.

 

Maz had been with her through it all, and Rey viewed the woman as somewhat if a mother figure, especially since she did not have a real mother of her own.

 

As Rey and Emmy walk into the coffee shop, Emmy runs straight to Maz, who is scrubbing a table in the front corner of the store.

 

“Auntie Maz!” 

 

Maz turns, looking at Emmy as the child approaches her at breakneck speed. “Whoa, slow down there, sweet pea. You’re not as small as you used to be and I’m certainly not as sturdy as I used to be. I very well can’t have you knocking me over, can I?”

 

Emmy practically skids to a stop. “No,” she agrees.

 

"Very good then,” the older woman says, before adjusting her coke bottle glasses and fixing her gaze on Rey, who approaches Maz at a much more appropriate speed. “And what are you two doing here?"

 

“It had just been a little while,” Rey explains. “So, I thought we’d come visit.”

 

While that was true, it wasn’t the whole truth. Rey knows it is well past time to tell Maz that she had reconnected with Ben.

 

“Wonderful!” Maz exclaims, clapping her hands together. “Now what can I get you two today?”

 

Rey waves Maz off. “Oh, I’m fine.”

 

“Strawberry drink, please,” Emmy says immediately.

 

Maz looks down at Emmy and smirks. “You mean strawberry iced tea, sweet pea.”

 

Rey chuckles. “You don’t need to get her anything, Maz.”

 

“Of course I do,” she responds, winking at Emmy as she makes her way to the counter. “Anything for my favorite girl.”

 

After Emmy has gotten her drink, the three settle at one of the larger tables that is usually reserved for groups of five or more. It's still the early afternoon, so there aren’t too many clients, allowing the three of them to use the table and allowing Maz to take a few minutes to relax and leave the few duties to the one barista currently working.

 

"So, how is pre-school?” Maz asks Emmy seriously, as Emmy slurps her drink.

 

“Good. We play lots of games.”

 

Maz nods sagely. “Playing games is very important.”

 

“She’s learning a lot too,” Rey adds proudly. “We had parent-teacher conferences today and her teacher said Emmy is shining.”

 

“That’s wonderful. And what about you, Rey? How’s work?”

 

“Work is good. Same as always.”

 

“I bet you don’t miss working here though,” Maz teases.

 

“Oh, I miss working here all the time,” Rey answers truthfully. “The real world is tough.”  

 

Maz lets out a chuckle. “That it is.”

 

Rey and Maz fall into a conversation about both Rey’s work and how things are going at the coffee shop. Emmy remains busy with her coloring book and crayons that Rey brought for her.

 

Rey is working up a way to tell Maz about Ben. She’s just trying to find the perfect segway. But then Emmy, in true four-year-old fashion, shoves the picture she’s just finished coloring in Maz’s face and says, “This is for my Dad.”

 

“Dad?” Maz asks, looking from Emmy to Rey.

 

Before Rey can answer, Emmy continues. “Yeah. He lives in a really tall building at the top, but it’s far away.”

 

“He does?”

 

This is directed solely at Rey.

 

Rey bites her lip and then says, “Yeah. He lives in Chandrila. Emmy stayed with him last weekend.”

 

Maz’s eyes widen, almost comically behind her glasses. “I didn’t realize you two got in touch.”

 

"Yeah,” Rey replies quietly, before delving into the whole story.

 

With Emmy distracted with her coloring book, Rey tells Maz everything, from the moment they reconnected at the reunion all the way to Emmy’s first weekend with Ben. Maz listens, never interjecting and only nodding her head slowly every once in awhile. It’s one of the things Rey loves most about Maz: she never feels judged, only listened to.

 

When she finally finishes her spiel, Maz pushes her glasses up her nose, places her elbows on the table, and leans forward.

 

“Well.”

 

Rey inhales, waiting. She cares more about Maz’s opinion than anyone else’s.

 

“I’m proud of you, Rey.”

 

“You are?” she asks, not yet exhaling.

 

Maz smiles warms, placing her hand over Rey’s. “Yes, darling, I am. I know it couldn’t have been an easy decision to make, letting him back into your life and into Sweet pea’s life, but   it sounds like you’re both handling this like mature adults.”

 

“You’re not going to tell me to be careful?”

 

“Do you think you need to be told to be careful?”

 

“No.”

 

“Then I won’t tell you. I’ve watched you over the last four and a half years, Rey. You have good judgment. And you love Emmy more than anything. I believe that if you have to make another tough decision, you’ll make the right one.”

 

“Thank you, Maz,” Rey says, pulling her phone from her bag.

 

She shows her friend the picture on the lock screen, a picture of Emmy, Ben, and her in Han and Leia’s living room. The three of them had been sitting on the floor, playing with some of Ben’s old toys when Leia snapped the candid picture. Both Ben and Rey had been caught off guard, but when Leia showed them the picture, they both insisted she send it to them.

 

“Oh, he’s a handsome one,” Maz comments, taking the phone from Rey’s hand and examining the picture. “And you were right, Emmy looks just like him.”

 

Rey laughs. “Now you can finally see it for yourself.”

 

“You should bring him here one day. I’d love to meet him.”

 

           

“Maybe I will,” Rey says, seriously considering it.

 

***

“Mommy, can I ask a question?” Emmy begins when they’re on the car ride home.

 

“Of course, sweetheart.”

 

“How come Aunt Maz doesn’t know Dad?”

 

Rey glances in the rearview mirror at her daughter, who is looking right back at her, meeting her eye.

 

“They just haven’t met yet. Maybe we can bring Dad to visit her soon.”

 

“Yeah, but you always say Aunt Maz is our family. And Dad is our family too. Right?”

 

“That’s right.”

 

Rey checks the rearview mirror again and sees Emmy’s confused face, clearly still not understanding.

 

“Maz is family because she took care of me when you were in my tummy and then after when you were born.”

 

“And what about Daddy?”

 

Rey pauses. How does she explain to Emmy that Ben is her father because he just is? Rey’s fairly certain Emmy wouldn’t question why Ben is part of her family if he’d been around since the beginning. Of course, that’s not really his fault, but it makes explaining everything so much more complicated.

 

“He’s your dad just like I’m your mom,” she finally says.

 

“But I didn’t know him when I was born,” Emmy counters.

 

“That’s correct.”

 

“How come?”

 

This is a question Rey knew would more than likely come eventually, but was really hoping wouldn’t. She fully plans on explaining in more detail when Emmy’s older, but for now, she’s hoping a very short version of the story will suffice.

 

“Mommy and Daddy weren’t getting along when you were in my tummy.”

 

Emmy’s face falls, and it breaks Rey’s heart.

 

“Oh.”

 

“But we get along now. And that’s what matters, Em.”

 

Emmy nods and thankfully appears to be out of questions for the time being, but her dark eyes still seem sad.

Chapter Text

Five years ago...The Fourth of July...

 

“It’s a shame it can’t be like this all the time,” Rey sighs against Ben’s bare chest, once their breathing has returned to normal.

 

Ben chuckles, as he runs a hand through her chestnut brown hair. “Maybe we can find a way for my parents to go out of town more often.”

 

Rey laughs, before pressing a kiss to his chest and then adjusting herself in his bed so that they’re face to face.

 

“Maybe after a year or two in the dorms we can get our own place.”

 

“Maybe,” Ben replies. He hasn’t yet told her that Snoke’s trying his damnedest to convince him to attend Chandrila University. He doesn’t like to think about the idea of being separated from Rey, so he tries not to. Then to change the topic, he says, “I’m just glad you’re not sick anymore. It would have really put a damper on this so far amazing weekend.”

 

“Me too.”

 

Rey had been sick on her birthday, the weekend he was out of town with Snoke. According to her, she’d spent the whole weekend in bed, feeling miserable, and of course, her shitty foster father couldn’t be bothered to do anything about it, so she’d wound up calling Ben’s mom to bring her to the doctor’s office.

 

“Thankfully, I’m all better now,” she continues, getting out of bed and reaching for his wolf t-shirt on the ground, the one she always makes fun of him for wearing, and slipping it on.

 

“Where are you going?” he whines, already missing the feeling of her pressed up against him.

 

"To pee. I’ve been on antibiotics for, like, a week now. I really don’t want to be stuck taking more because of a UTI.”

 

Ben snorts. “Okay, fair.”

 

“But when I get back, maybe we can go back down to the pool and watch the fireworks. It’s getting dark. We wouldn’t even need to put on clothes….”

 

He smiles wickedly. “Sounds like a plan.”

 

From his doorway, she blows him a purposefully saucy kiss before heading down the hall.

 

Still relaxing in bed, Ben reaches for his nightstand where his phone is. He’s barely checked it all day, as he and Rey have been busy swimming and lounging around the pool, among other things. He opens his e-mail, and his heart sinks when he sees he has one from Snoke.

 

Benjamin,

 

I’ve attached some documents to this correspondence that I’d like you to review and summarize for me. Please respond with your summarizations by 11:59 p.m. tonight.

 

Arthur Snoke

 

Ben opens the attachments and skims through them. There are about fifteen pages total of information Snoke expects him to look through.

 

Sighing, he reaches for both his boxers and his laptop, slipping the underwear on and firing up the computer.

 

“What are you doing?”

 

Ben looks up and sees Rey leaning against the threshold of his door with her arms casually folded across her chest. She looks so good in that t-shirt of his, and he has to focus his mind on the task at hand.

 

“I just got an e-mail from Mr. Snoke. He needs me to review something for him.”

 

Her face falls. “But we were going to watch the fireworks. And go skinny-dipping. And you said you wouldn’t have to work this weekend.”

 

Ben stands from the bed and approaches her. “I know. I’m so sorry, Rey. It’s a last minute thing.” He puts his hands around her waist and pulls her into him, but she’s still stiff in his arms. “It shouldn’t take all night. Let’s put on a movie, and you can watch it while I work on this real quick. And then when I’m done, we can go down to the pool. Or we can just go straight for round four.”

 

She softens in his arms ever so slightly as she corrects him, saying, “Round five, actually. Twice this morning, remember?”

 

He chuckles softly and places a quick kiss to her neck. “You’re right. Please don’t be mad. I promise I’ll work quickly.”

 

She pulls back to look him in the eye. “I’m not mad. Just…bummed that we’ll miss the fireworks.”

 

“You can still go watch them,” he suggests, though when she frowns, he realizes that was the wrong thing to say.

 

“I wanted to watch them with you,” she sighs. “It’s romantic.”

 

“What if I take my laptop outside, while you watch them?”

 

She bites her lip, thinking about it for a moment, before nodding. “Okay.”

 

“Perfect, then,” he says, letting go of her. “But I’m definitely going to need you to put your clothes on. Or at least pants. You’re too distracting when you look like that.”

 

Her face breaks into a blinding smile, all white teeth and dimples, and she laughs. Ben’s certain it’s the most wonderful sound he’s ever heard.

Chapter Text

“My tummy hurts,” Emmy tells Ben, tugging on his sleeve as they enter the movie theater.

 

It’s Ben’s second weekend with Emmy, and for their Friday night plans, he had decided to take her to the one screen theater in Chandrila that was holding a special showing of The Lion King.

 

“No popcorn then?”

 

Emmy’s face scrunches up in apparent indecision, but eventually she shakes her head. “No popcorn.”

 

“Okay, no problem. If your tummy still hurts after the movie, we can maybe call Grandma and see if she can recommend something to get for you.”

 

“Not Mom?” Emmy asks, as they walk past the long concession line and into the theater itself.

 

Like last time, Rey had been all dressed up when she had dropped Emmy off. She hadn’t mentioned going on another date and Ben didn’t ask, but he assumed that was probably the case. He’d hate to have to call her while she was out with a guy.

 

“Grandma took care of me when I used to get tummy aches. She knows all the tricks.”

 

Emmy frowns but doesn’t say anything.

 

They sit down just as the previews start. Emmy watches in silence for the first three trailers, but then she turns to Ben and asks, “Are you and Mommy not getting along?”

 

“What?”

 

Emmy bites her lip in a way that is so much like Rey and says, “Mommy said you guys didn’t get along when I was a baby.”

 

Ben’s completely taken off guard and as he’s wracking his brain for an appropriate response, the dancing concessions appear on the screen singing, Let’s All Go to the Lobby.

 

“We’re getting along just fine,” he tells Emmy in a whisper. “Let’s enjoy the movie for now, okay?”

 

Emmy nods.

 

“How’s your tummy feeling?”

 

“Still hurts.”

 

“Okay. If it gets worse or if you need to use the restroom, let me know, okay?”

 

“Okay.”

 

***

 

Timon and Pumbaa are about to start singing Hakuna Matata when Emmy leans over and tugs on Ben’s shirt.

 

Ben looks over and sees she’s got tears in her eyes.

 

“My tummy really hurts,” she whispers, just as tears spill over.

 

Ben swallows hard and nods. “Okay, let’s get you out of here.”

 

He takes Emmy’s hand and leads her out of the theatre. Once they’re in the lobby, and he can properly see, Ben is struck by just how terrible Emmy looks. She’s pale, has tears steadily running down her cheeks, and is grimacing like she’s in the worst pain of her life.

 

Ben kneels down in front of her so that he’s at her eye level. “Are you sure it’s just your tummy?”

 

"Yeah,” Emmy wails. “It really hurts.”

 

Internally, he’s starting to panic. If she had a stomach bug, Ben thinks he might know what to do, but Emmy hasn’t asked once all night to go to the restroom. She just continues to stand there, crying with her hand touching the lower right side of her stomach.

 

Then it hits him.

 

“Em, does it hurt right there?” he asks, gently placing his hand on top of where she’s clutching her abdomen.

 

Emmy nods tearfully. “Yeah.”

 

Shit.

 

***

 

On the way to the hospital, Ben calls his mother. She confirms that taking Emmy to the emergency room is the right next step and tells Ben that she’ll be on standby if he needs her.

 

He calls Rey next, but she doesn’t answer. He leaves a message and a text, trying not to sound too frantic, but he’s sure he hasn’t succeeded.

 

Meanwhile, Emmy is in the back of his car, crying softly.

 

“It hurts so bad,” she sobs. “I want Mommy!”

 

“I know, sweetheart,” he answers, going for calm and epically failing. “She’s going to call back soon, I promise.”

           

When they get to the hospital, Ben is given a million forms to fill out. Emmy sits next to him in the waiting area, crying softly. All he wants to do is comfort her, but he needs to fill out these forms so that she can be seen.

 

First, the form asks for her name.

 

Johnson, Emmy.

 

Then the form asks for a middle initial. Ben freezes, embarrassed that he doesn’t know his own daughter’s middle name. He makes a quick decision, ultimately deciding that middle names are not important and that not putting an initial down will not stop Emmy from being seen by the doctor.

           

But the next line of the form asks for a birthday.

 

Fuck.

 

Ben can obviously do math. He suspects Emmy must have been born sometime in March, but he doesn’t know the date. Quickly, he checks his phone again to see if Rey has called back; she hasn’t. So swallowing all of his embarrassment over not knowing his own child's birthday, he leans over to Emmy.

 

“Hey Em,” he says in a low voice, “When’s your birthday?”

 

“March 11,” she answers through a stream of steady tears.

 

Out of the corner of his eye, he sees a woman sitting across from him, staring at him and frowning. Ben’s so relieved that he has a birthday to put down on the form, however, that he pretty much ignores the judgment coming from her.

 

Rey still hasn’t called him back, and after he turns in the (mostly) completed forms, he calls her again. When she doesn’t pick up, he calls his mom once more.

 

“I still haven’t gotten in touch with Rey,” he tells her. He’s gone around the corner of the waiting room, where he can still keep an eye on Emmy but can also talk privately.

 

“Do you know where she is?”

 

“I think…” he sighs, pinching the bridge of his nose. “I think she’s on a date.”

 

“Oh.”

 

“Yeah. I guess she doesn’t have her phone out. And we could be called back to see the doctor at any minute.”

 

“Okay,” Leia says in a way that Ben can tell means she’s about to take charge. “Let me try and get in touch with her. You worry about Emmy. I’ll keep calling and send her your way when I get in touch with her.”

 

Ben lets out a shaky exhale. “Okay, thank you.”

 

“You’re welcome, sweetheart.”

 

His eyes fix on Emmy, who has curled up in the plastic blue chair, looking utterly miserable.

 

He feels a lump form in his throat. “Mom, I’m scared.”

 

“Ben, breathe. Children get sick. It’s going to be okay.”

 

“I just wish Rey was here,” he says, and to his own surprise, his voice breaks. “I feel so useless right now.”

 

“You’re not useless. You’re Emmy’s dad. Just be her dad. We’ll get in touch with Rey.”

 

“Okay.”

 

“Keep in touch, okay?”

 

“I will.”

 

“I love you, sweetheart.”

 

“You too. Thanks, Mom.”

 

Ben returns to Emmy.

 

“It hurts, Dad!”

 

She starts to wail, and all Ben can do is pull her into him and nestle her against his chest. She cries, loudly, and soaks his shirt through with his tears. With the hand that’s not holding her against him, he strokes her hair and does his best to offer her calming words.

 

Chapter Text

Rey’s second date is going significantly better than the first. She’s out with a guy, Rob, who’s both handsome and infinitely more interesting than Kyle. They talk for hours at dinner until it becomes clear that the wait staff really wants them to leave.

 

Rob escorts Rey out of the restaurant with a hand placed gently on her lower back. It’s a weird feeling, for sure, but not an unwelcome one.

 

“There’s a nice bar nearby. Would you want to get a drink?”

 

A grin grows across her face, pleased that he's enjoying the night as much as she is. “Yeah. Yeah, I’d like that.”

 

“Wonderful,” he says, smiling as well. “We can walk if you wouldn’t mind it.”

 

“Not at all.”

 

When they get to the bar five minutes later, the bouncer outside asks for their IDs. Rob, who’s two years older than Rey, pulls his out of his wallet and hands it to the man, while Rey digs through her clutch for hers. Before she finds it, however, her phone lights up and she sees she’s got multiple missed calls.

 

“Shit,” she curses, pulling her phone out and seeing that she’s got three missed calls from Ben as well as three missed calls from Leia.

 

“Sorry ma’am, but if you don’t have your ID, I can’t let you in,” the bouncer says.

 

“No, no, it’s not that,” she says, her voice beginning to shake with worry. She looks up at Rob. “I’m sorry. I’ll meet you inside in a minute. I’ve got to make a phone call.”

 

“Everything okay?” he asks.

 

“I’m not sure,” she answers, already pressing Ben’s icon on her phone to return his call.

 

“I’ll wait out here with you, then."  He’s nice enough to give her some space and not crowd her.

 

Rey’s heart beats frantically in her chest as she listens to the slow ring of the phone.

 

When he doesn’t answer, she immediately scrambles through her contacts and calls Leia’s number. Thankfully, she picks up on the first ring.

 

“Oh, thank God,” Leia says.

 

“What happened?” Rey asks. She begins to pace in slow circles in front of the bar.

 

“Ben had to take Emmy to the hospital,” she calmly tells Rey. “They’re pretty sure she has appendicitis.”

 

“Oh, my God,” Rey gasps. Rob looks at her, concerned, but she barely notices. “I called him, but he didn’t answer.”

 

“They’re probably in with the doctor now,” Leia explains. “He took her to Chandrila General.”

 

“I can’t believe I missed his calls.”

 

“I’m sure he’ll call you back at any moment.”

 

And then, as if Ben had heard his mother’s words from miles away, Rey’s phone beeps, signaling someone else on the other line. She pulls her phone away from her ear and sees that it is, in fact, Ben calling.

 

“Leia, that’s him. He’s calling. I gotta go.”

 

“Of course, sweetheart.”

 

Rey doesn’t even say goodbye to Leia, before she taps her finger to her phone to connect to Ben.

           

“Ben!”

 

Rey,” he breathes, sounding just as panicked as she feels.

 

“I just talked to your mom. What's going on?”

 

“They just got her test results back. She’s got appendicitis. They’re going to do emergency surgery.”

 

“When?” Rey practically chokes out.

 

“Soon. In a few hours.”

 

“Okay, I’m leaving where I am now. She motions to Rob and then starts walking back in the direction of his car, not even bothering to wait for him. “I’ll be there as soon as I can.”

 

“Okay. Be safe.”

 

“I will be. Tell her I love her so much.”

 

“I will.”

 

They hang up. At this point, Rey is practically jogging to her car. Her heels make loud clacking sounds against the pavement.

 

“What’s wrong?” Rob asks, keeping up with her pace.

 

“My daughter has appendicitis. She’s with her dad at the hospital. She’s going to have emergency surgery.”  

 

“Oh, my God. I’m so sorry, Rey.”

 

“I can’t believe I didn’t check my phone. I didn’t look at it for hours.”

 

“I’m sure it will be okay. You can't beat yourself up over it.”

 

His words are meant to be kind. Rey knows this. But for some reason, they strike a nerve in a major way. Because she is beating herself up over it. And she’s also beating Rob up over it because he had distracted her, had made her forget that she was a mom and that moms are always on duty.

 

“Don’t tell me not to beat myself up over it. She’s my child,” she chokes out. It’s meant to sound more snappish, but Rey’s so upset she can’t properly muster any anger.

 

“Okay, you’re right. I’m sorry.”

 

When they finally get to his car, he drives her back to her house. They don’t speak the ride back.

Chapter Text

Emmy has been admitted into the hospital and is awaiting surgery. Ben’s been trying to distract her with coloring books he bought from the gift shop, but she keeps crying and asking for Rey, and the medical personnel keep asking him questions he doesn’t know the answer to.

 

"Has she had surgery before?”

 

"I don’t think so, but I’m not sure,” he answers. He wants to call Rey, but she’s driving—and likely speeding—and it’s the middle of the night, and he doesn’t want her to get in a wreck. “Her mother will be here soon. She’ll be able to tell you.”

 

"Okay, what about an allergies?”

 

"Not that I know of,” he replies, wincing at his lack of knowledge. “I swear her mom is on her way.”

 

And then the surgeon comes in to explain the procedure and get the consent form signed, and Ben starts freaking out, wondering if he’s even allowed to sign the consent form. He’s not her legal guardian; Rey is.

 

Thankfully, it’s at that moment that Rey finally arrives.

 

“Mommy!” Emmy shrieks, as Rey appears, looking disheveled and terrified.

 

“Emmy,” Rey cries, running to her daughter’s bedside and wrapping her up in her arms. “I’m so sorry, sweetheart. I’m so sorry it took me so long.”

 

 “Thank God,” Ben breathes.

 

“You’re her mother?” the surgeon asks, clearly unmoved by all of the emotion in the room.

 

“Yes,” Rey says, weepily as she settles herself at Emmy’s side and puts her arm around her.

 

“Great, now maybe we can actually gets some answers.”

 

Ben feels sick with guilt.

 

***

 

It’s nearly one in the morning by the time they roll Emmy down the hall and in the direction of the operating room. Rey and Ben follow at their daughter’s side until they reach the automatic doors with a big sign attached that reads Staff Only.

 

“This is our stop, Mom and Dad. We’ll take good care of her and we’ll keep you updated,” a nurse in green scrubs tells Rey and Ben.

 

“Thank you,” Ben says, though his eyes never leave Emmy.

 

“We love you,” Rey says, placing a kiss on Emmy’s forehead.

 

Emmy has been softly sobbing ever since they removed her from her room, and all she can let out in a response is a watery, “Love you too.”

 

They roll Emmy into the back, and Ben and Rey both just stare at the door, completely lost. Finally, almost like zombies, they drift towards the chairs in the waiting area.

 

As soon as they sit down, Rey bursts into a fresh set of tears. This time, Ben does put his arm around her—almost automatically—and to his surprise, she burrows herself into his side.

 

“I should have had my phone on me,” she cries softly. “I’m so sorry, Ben.”

 

He looks down at her, startled. “What? Rey—“

 

“It was in my purse the whole time. I should have had it out on the table, or at the very least, had the ringer on, I—“

 

“No,” he soothes. “No, Rey. Don’t do that to yourself.”

 

She blubbers incoherently, shaking her head against his upper arm.

 

“Rey, you’re not the one who should be feeling guilty,” he tells her. “I was filling out the paperwork…I didn’t know Emmy’s middle name. I didn’t even know her birthday.” Now his voice cracks, but he pushes through. “I had to ask my own daughter when her birthday was.”

 

Rey lifts her head to look at him, wiping away a few of her tears.

 

“Faith,” she says quietly. “Her middle name is Faith.”

 

Ben lets that sink for a moment before speaking.

 

“Emmeline Faith. That’s beautiful.”

 

Rey nods, agreeing. “Yeah, it is.”

 

As she settles back against him, he asks, “How did you decide on Faith?”

 

Rey shivers, whether due to the cold temperature of the hospital or the question, Ben is not sure. It feels surprisingly natural to squeeze her tighter, and his heart warms as she presses even further into his side.

 

“I was terrified leading up to Emmy’s birth,” she mumbles, into his bicep. “My friend Maz? The one you called a fairy godmother? She was driving me to the hospital, and I just…lost it.”

 

Guilt so strong washes over Ben that it almost makes him feel physically ill.

 

He should have been there for her.

 

“But Maz was calm,” Rey continues. “She kept telling me, in the gentlest voice, ‘Darling, you have to have faith that everything is going to be okay. Have faith. Have faith.’ So, when it came time to figure out a middle name, Faith was just... burned into my brain.”

 

“I wish I could have—“

 

“It’s okay, Ben,” she says, cutting him off. She lifts her head from his arm and looks up at him with such softness that Ben, who is already on the verge of tears, wants to just sob. “It’s not your fault. Not really, anyway. You didn’t know.”

 

“I caused you so much pain though.”

 

A couple tears finally fall from his eyes.

 

Rey reaches up and gently brushes them away. “Just don’t do it again,” she pleads in a whisper.

 

They fall into silence for a while; in fact, Ben’s pretty sure Rey is drifting in and out of sleep. Ben, though, is way too wired to sleep. He won’t be able to even think about resting until he knows Emmy’s made it out of surgery okay.  His mind just races with thoughts—with old memories of Rey, the few memories of Emmy he has, and all of the ways he feels he failed her. And then he remembers something Emmy had said earlier. Something he definitely feels he needs to address with Rey.

 

“Hey, Rey?” he whispers.

 

She stirs against him, taking her time as she lifts her head up to look at him.

 

"Yeah?”

 

“Emmy…she said something earlier. She said that you told her that we didn’t get along when she was a baby.”

 

Rey lets out a ragged sigh. “I did.  What did you respond?”

 

“I told her that we’re getting along fine now.”

 

“She was asking me about family and why you weren’t there when she was born,” Rey then explains, shaking her head. “It was the best I could come up with. I was hoping she’d be a little older before she started asking these questions. And I was hoping we could sit her down together to answer them.”

 

“If she’s asking questions now, then we definitely need to sit down with her soon.”

 

“Yeah,” Rey agrees. Then, to his surprise, she takes his hand and quickly squeezes it before resting against him once more and falling back asleep.

Chapter Text

Rey jumps to her feet when she sees Emmy’s surgeon coming out of the Staff Only-marked doors and walking towards her.

 

Ben had just run off to look for a vending machine, as it was nearing three in the morning and they both were in desperate need of caffeine. Right now though, as the surgeon gets closer and closer, she wishes he were standing here, by her side so that she had something steady to hold on to.

 

When the surgeon gets within talking distance, he smiles. “Everything went well, Ms. Johnson. Emmy’s being wheeled to Recovery as we speak.”

 

A tsunami-sized wave of relief crashes over Rey, and, damn it, she really doesn’t want to start crying in front of the doctor again.

 

Swallowing down the lump in her throat and willing the tears in her eyes not to fall, she says, “Thank you so much. When can we see her?”

 

“Very soon. She’ll be in Recovery for a little while and then will be brought back to her room. You and your—you and her father are more than welcome to wait there.”

 

“We’ll make our way there now,” she tells him, barely noticing the surgeon’s near slip up.

 

Out of the corner of her eye, she sees Ben frantically approaching, a bottle of Coke in each hand. She turns and tries to give him a reassuring smile, but she’s so overcome with relief—and then with the added image of seeing Ben rush towards her, Rey just breaks. The tears start falling again in earnest.

 

“Rey,” Ben says, his voice shaking. He takes in her red, tear-streaked face, puts an arm around her waist, and turns to the surgeon.  “What’s wrong?”

 

“Nothing,” the surgeon replies calmly. He must be used to hysterical parents. “Your daughter’s surgery went off without a hitch. She’s on her way to Recovery now.”

 

“She’s okay, Ben,” Rey says, as if the surgeon hadn’t just spoken. “Emmy’s okay.”

 

Ben pulls Rey fully into his arms. “Thank God,” he mumbles into her hair.

 

***

Emmy sleeps most of the morning, but Rey and Ben don’t. They just sit in her room, with the TV on low, and watch her chest rise and fall.

 

A little after lunchtime, Han and Leia stop by with balloons and a gigantic stuffed teddy bear for Emmy as well as lunch for Rey and Ben. Emmy, excited by her presents and her grandparents, perks up.

 

She’s sitting up in bed now with her new stuffed teddy bear, named B.B., while Leia, at Emmy’s request braids a crown into her hair. Ben stands beside his mom, watching her movements, while Han and Leia sit on the opposite side of the bed and watch.

 

“She used to do that to Ben’s hair too,” Han comments to Rey, using a low voice so Ben won’t hear him. “The kid hated it.”

 

Rey snorts out a quiet laugh.

 

“I know it means so much to her to be able to do this with Emmy.”

 

Rey turns from Han to watch Leia work through Emmy’s hair, but her attention quickly turns to Ben who is studying his mother’s hands with rapt attention. It’s a touching image that makes Rey’s heart feel tight in her chest.

 

Emmy catches Rey watching them and says, “Grandma, you should do Mom’s hair too, so we can match!”

 

“I would love too, sweetheart, but what if we let your dad practice on her? That way he can do it perfectly when he braids your hair?”

 

Rey’s suddenly wide eyes meet Ben’s.

 

“Yes!” Emmy exclaims. “Daddy, do Mom’s hair!”

 

Han is chuckling beside Rey, and while Rey knows this isn’t some scheme Emmy and her grandparents have concocted ahead of time, it sort of feels like that at this moment in time.

 

Ben’s cheeks are tinged pink and his voice is hesitant when he says, “Only if Mom wants to. She’s had a long night.” And though he’s still talking to Emmy, he directs his attention to Rey and adds, “She might not want some fool clumsily tugging on her hair.”

 

It’s true that Rey—and Ben—have gotten almost no sleep since Emmy’s admission the night before. Still, there’s something incredibly soothing about the idea of Ben running his fingers through Rey’s hair.

 

“I don’t mind,” Rey shrugs. “You might as well get some practice in.”

 

Ben’s jaw works for a moment before he nods and starts making his way over to the small plastic loveseat she and Han had been sharing. For his part, Han practically leaps out of his seat and goes over to where Leia is.

 

Rey turns around, facing away from Ben, and reaches up to take her hair out of the messy bun it’s been in for the past twelve hours. She shakes her hair loose and runs her fingers through the frizzy tangles.

 

“Mommy, your hair looks so bad,” Emmy giggles.

 

"See, Ben, there’s no pressure. It can’t look worse than it already does,” Rey jokes, trying to keep any possible tension at bay.

 

Ben huffs out a small laugh, while Han and Leia both cackle. But then he starts running his fingers through her hair, gently unknotting the tangles, and Rey is suddenly taken back in time to boring study halls senior year where Ben would sit behind her and sloppily braid her hair or lazy weekends where he’d try the more intricate braids in private that way if (when) they turned out disastrously no one else would be around to see them.

 

“I’m not hurting you, am I?” he asks, his voice quieter, more intimate than she’d expect.

 

“Not at all.” Her words come out just as softly. “It feels nice.”

 

***

“Oh, you two match,” the nurse observes cheerfully, an hour later when she steps in the room and sees Rey sitting beside Emmy in her hospital bed, both of them with braided crowns on their head. Emmy’s looks significantly better, but Rey’s isn’t as bad as she’d expected. (Leia may have helped touch it up at the end)

 

Han and Leia had left a few minutes before, but Ben, of course, is still here, sitting in the chair closest to Emmy’s bed.

 

  “So, what’s the word?” he asks.

 

The nurse smiles. “Dr. Styles is going to come check up on her soon, but it’s looking like she might get discharged tonight.”

 

“Fantastic!” Rey exclaims, before kissing Emmy’s head. “That’s wonderful news.”

 

“It is,” Ben agrees.

 

Sure enough, Emmy is discharged late that evening, and the three of them make their way back to Ben’s apartment. At first Rey had entertained the idea of driving home, but Ben had convinced her to stay at his place, citing both her and Emmy’s exhaustion.

 

“I don’t think a long car ride back to your place is what either of you need tonight,” he’d told her.

 

She knew he was right, so she’d agreed.

 

Once they’re back at his place, Rey gives Emmy a gentle bath in Ben’s unsurprisingly luxurious tub, and they tuck her into bed, capping off the night with Ben reading a story.

 

Emmy’s not the only one captivated by Ben’s storytelling. Rey is, too. Ben’s deep voice goes high when acting out certain characters in the children’s book and his face becomes so expressive, and Rey feels as if he was made for this life of fatherhood.

 

After they both kiss her goodnight, they quietly shut her bedroom door and find themselves lingering in the hall.

 

“I’ll take the couch,” Ben says. “You take my bed.”

 

Rey’s brow furrows and she shakes her head. “You mean that awfully uncomfortable-looking leather couch I saw in your living room? The one that you’re at least half a foot too long for?”

 

“It’s fine,” he tells her. “It’s one night.”

 

“No. No, you take your bed. I’ll take your couch.”

 

“You just called it awfully uncomfortable-looking,” he reminds her. “Just take the bed, Rey.”

 

The idea of sharing the bed crosses Rey’s mind, then. They’re adults for God’s sake, and surely the bed’s big enough that they likely wouldn’t even touch. Not to mention, they’re both so exhausted, neither having really gotten any sleep in over a day, that surely they’d both just pass out as soon as their heads hit the pillows. And it’s not like they haven’t shared a bed before.

 

Rey bites her lip, trying to strategize the best way to suggest this without it seeming like a big deal, and Ben must notice her pensive expression because his eyes narrow curiously.

 

“What?”

 

Rey shrugs before crossing her arms over her chest, going for casual. “Nothing. I was just thinking…if you’re cool with it, we could just share the bed. I mean, you’ve probably got at least a queen-size—“

 

“King, actually.”

 

“Right,” she nods. “And that’s definitely big enough for the both of us. And we’re both so tired anyway, and I don’t think either of us would sleep well on the couch.”

 

“You’re okay with that?”

 

“I wouldn’t have suggested it if I wasn’t.”

 

He seems to have to think about it for a moment, but eventually he nods his head. “Yeah, okay. That should work.”

 

From there, they both prepare for bed. Rey showers, reluctantly removing Ben’s braids in the process, and then changes into a black t-shirt and red jersey shorts that Ben let her borrow. And as they both brush their teeth in the master bathroom, Rey is relieved to see that, at least for tonight, Ben’s nighttime attire includes a shirt.

 

Together, they walk to the bed, and it strikes her that they naturally go to the same sides they had slept on when they shared a bed as teenagers. Neither comment on it though.

 

Ben turns off the lamp, which had been the only source of light in the room and then settles in the bed with her. It doesn’t escape her that the last time they had shared a bed together was the weekend when Emmy was surely conceived.

 

But that’s another thing neither of them comment on.

 

“Good night, Ben,” she says into the darkness, as she snuggles into the pillow.

 

“Night, Rey.”

 

She hears him turn to face her. There’s ample room between them and the room’s almost completely black, but she can feel his eyes on her. She smiles to herself before closing her eyes and drifting to sleep.

Chapter Text

When Ben wakes up, he’s much closer to Rey than he had been when they’d fallen asleep. No part of him is touching her, but he’s close enough to make out her freckles, brought out in the morning light that peaks through his blinds.

 

With Rey still asleep, Ben gets to just look at her. There’s so much about her that’s exactly the same as it was five years ago—her kind smile, the way she bites her lip, how she often gesticulates wildly when she speaks. And yet, there’s also something about her that’s completely new, completely different from five years ago. There’s a fierceness in her eyes now that she didn’t have back then. Ben supposes it must come from motherhood. It's intense and it’s beautiful, and he’s loves her like this.

 

Shit, where did that thought come from?

 

Before he can examine his wandering mind or begin spiraling, Rey’s mouth twitches and with her eyes still closed she says, “I can feel you staring, Ben Solo.”

 

He shakes his head, huffing out a laugh as Rey slowly opens her eyes.

 

“You’ve got a six sense or something?”

 

Her lips quirk upward. “When it comes to you? Probably.”

 

It’s been five years, and yet he believes it. They’d always known each other better than anyone else had.

 

“It’s Sunday, you know,” she then adds.

 

Ben nods against his pillow. “Yeah. I’ve got pancake mix in the pantry. The tradition won’t be broken.”

 

Her smile is soft and sleepy as she replies, “I like that you’re a part of this tradition now.”

 

“Me too.”

 

They’re speaking in voices just above whispers, despite the fact that Emmy’s in her room with her door closed and there’s no risk of waking her up. But there’s something about the intimacy of laying in bed together in the early morning that lends itself to low, gentle voices. The whole thing pulls at Ben’s heartstrings.

 

The taut heartstrings nearly pop when her soft smile becomes a little bit shy, and she says, “I haven’t shared a bed with anyone other than Emmy since you, you know?”

 

“Yeah?”

 

She’s implied as much, telling him she didn’t really date, but ever since reconnecting with her, he’s wondered if she’s been with any other guys. Her comment doesn’t fully confirm that she hasn’t slept with other men, but it definitely leads him to think so.

 

“Yeah. Emmy’s been my whole life. There hasn’t been room for anyone else.”

 

He bites the bullet and asks the question. “Not even—“

 

“No,” she cuts him off, clearly anticipating what he’s going to ask. “Not even that.”

 

Ben’s mind flashes back to one night in college during his sophomore year he’d met a girl at a bar and taken her home. It had been a wholly unsatisfying experience, and he swore to himself to never do it again.

 

He hopes she won’t ask him the same question he’s just asked her, and thankfully, she doesn’t. Instead, she continues talking.

 

"The guy I went out with on Friday was really nice.  The whole date actually went really well, I think.  But this whole experience with Emmy has just put me off on the idea entirely. I’m not sure if I can be a mom and someone who dates. At least not while Emmy’s still so young.”

 

As much as Ben selfishly doesn’t like the idea of Rey seeing other guys, he knows it’s not fair that she does this to herself. She deserves companionship. He tells her as much.

 

“What happened Friday with Emmy was a freak incident. You shouldn’t let it deter you from dating. You deserve to be with somebody and to be happy.”

 

Before he can stop himself, he reaches out and pushes back a lock of hair that has fallen in her face. It’s an instinctual gesture and the tenderness feels appropriate in the moment, but as he’s drawing his hand back to himself, he’s wondering if he’s made a mistake. Rey’s eyes, however, tell him he has not.

 

“Thank you, Ben.” Her voice is throaty and even softer than before.

 

“You’re welcome,” he whispers, wondering if she’s thanking him for his words, the gesture, or both.

 

She just looks at him for a moment, and it drives him crazy that he can’t read her mind or even decipher her expression. What he needs no help deciphering, however, is how beautiful she is in this moment. He’s always found her beautiful, from the time they were teenagers to when she walked back into his life last month, but there’s something about consciously recognizing it right now as they lie in bed after experiencing this intense experience together as parents that just strikes him.

 

He still loves her, and he’s not sure he’s ever stopped. Maybe that’s weird because before last month they hadn’t spoken in five years. But she hasn’t changed at all, except that now she’s a mother—the mother of his child. And the way she’s provided for their daughter all by herself only makes him love her more.

 

It’s both comforting in its familiarity and terrifying because the realization hits him so suddenly, and he has no idea what he’s going to do with this information. For now, all he can do is show Rey how good of a father he can be to their daughter, while hopefully continuing to deepen their own relationship.

 

Perhaps Rey senses a change in the atmosphere around them because she suddenly sits up in bed, and though she’s still smiling, her expression seems a bit more guarded than it had been a moment ago.

 

“We should probably get up and get those pancakes started. I don’t think it’s a good idea to have Emmy find us in bed together.”

 

“Yeah, you’re right,” Ben agrees.

 

 

***

 

As Ben gets started on pancakes, he can’t help but sneak little peaks at her as she faces away from him, getting coffee ready for the two of them. She’s still in the clothes from last night that he let her borrow, and he finds he really likes her in his kitchen, among his things, in his clothes.

 

She used to wear my clothes, he remembers fondly, before shaking the thought away and returning to the griddle.

 

“What?” she asks a moment later, placing her hand on his shoulder.

 

He turns to face her. “Huh?”

 

“You had this big goofy smile on your face.”

 

“I did?”

 

She grins up at him and nods. “Yeah.”

 

“Oh.”

 

“What were you thinking about?”

 

“Nothing particular,” he lies, shrugging. “I’m just happy Emmy’s okay.”

 

“Me too,” Rey replies.

 

“And that we’re okay.”

 

Rey’s eyes widen, but just as she opens her mouth to reply, they turn at the sound of feet pitter-pattering in their direction.

 

Ben watches as Rey steps away from him to go greet Emmy just as she’s entering the kitchen. She’s not really supposed to pick her up right now, so she bends down.

 

“Morning, sweetheart. How are you feeling?”

 

“Hungry,” she mumbles.

 

“Good thing we’ve got a ton of pancakes coming,” Ben says.

           

When Ben’s got a more than sufficient amount of pancakes stacked on the plate, the three of them settle down at the kitchen table and dig in.

 

It could have been like this all the time, he thinks. Maybe it still could be.

 

“Mommy, look at the picture I drew,” Emmy says, mouth full of pancakes, as she points to the lone picture on Ben’s refrigerator.

 

“Oh, it’s lovely,” Rey says to Emmy. Then to Ben, she adds, “I’d never actually seen it before.”

 

“It’s the three of us,” Emmy explains.

 

“I can tell. It’s very good, Em.”

 

“She’s obviously going to be an artist, just like you,” Ben comments.

 

Rey chuckles, shaking her head. “I’ve barely done anything artistic since high school.”

 

Ben, who had just been about to take a sip of coffee from his mug, puts it back down and frowns. “Why not?”

 

She gives him a knowing look. “Kind of hard to find time, you know?”

 

Ben wants to kick himself. Obviously, it’d be hard for her to find time to draw or paint when she was raising a child and going to school full time. He’s such an idiot.

 

Rey must be able to tell what’s going through his head because she reaches out and touches his forearm with undeserved gentleness.

           

“I know what you’re thinking. It’s okay."

 

He nods, not trusting himself to say anything at this moment, before returning to his breakfast.

 

***

 

To Ben’s delight, Rey and Emmy spend the entire day at his place. They mostly lounge around, watching movies or playing with Emmy’s toys, and Ben’s not sure a day could be more perfect. Unfortunately, as the sun begins to set, Rey announces that she and Emmy should probably head home. Ben wants to offer one more night at his place, but Rey deserves to sleep in her own clothes in her own bed, so he doesn’t say anything.

 

“Next time we’re all together, we should talk to Emmy about our situation. You know, since she’s been asking questions,” Rey says, while they’re alone. She’d just told Emmy to run to the restroom before they make the drive home.

 

“Yeah, you’re right,” Ben agrees.

 

“Halloween’s this Friday, you know?"

 

Ben shakes his head.  "No, I didn't realize."

 

Halloween wasn't something Ben had really thought about in years.

 

"You should come.  We’re just going trick-or-treating in the neighborhood, but it’ll be a good time.  Two of my friends usually come with us every year, but maybe you could stay in Jakku for the night and we could go to breakfast and talk to Emmy in the morning."

 

His first holiday with Emmy.

 

“I’ll be there.”

 

"Wonderful!" she exclaims, clapping her hands together and holding them to her chest.

 

“Sure. Though we should probably work out what we’re going to tell her.”

           

"How about I call you later in the week and we can figure everything out?”

 

“Sounds perfect.”

 

As they say their goodbyes, Ben bends down to give his daughter a hug and a kiss on the cheek. Then he stands to hug Rey goodbye. Unable to stop himself, he kisses her on the cheek as well. When they pull back, he nervously examines her face for a sign that the kiss wasn’t okay, but Rey just smiles at him.

 

“Thank you for taking care of us this weekend,” she tells him, as she takes Emmy’s hand in her own.

 

Ben wants to laugh. She’s kidding, isn’t she? If anything, he should be thanking her. For everything. For raising their daughter on her own for four years, for loving her as she has, for letting Ben get to know his daughter over these past few weeks.

 

“Of course, Rey. I’d do anything for you two.”

 

“I know you would,” Rey replies, her voice soft and her eyes warm.

 

After helping them get settled in Rey’s car, Ben watches the two people he loves wave at him as they drive back to their home.

 

Chapter Text

It’s not even seven a.m., and Ben is already at his desk Monday morning.

 

After Rey and Emmy had left Sunday evening, Ben checked his e-mail—something he hadn’t done all weekend—and had discovered that Snoke had e-mailed him late Friday night, telling him he needed to have a report on one of their prospective clients prepared for Monday morning.

 

Ben had freaked out and spent half the night working on the report—something that probably would have taken him most of the weekend had he gotten started on it Friday—before crashing for a few hours and then getting to the office Monday morning before sunrise.

 

He knew the report wasn’t his best work, but he was nearing its completion, and his anxiety was finally starting to mellow out. He’d likely complete it before Snoke called him into his office, thank God.

 

A little before eight, his assistant Mitaka enters his office, holding a coffee.

 

“Oh, you’ve already had one,” the man says, taking in the empty Starbucks cup on Ben’s desk.

 

“Several actually,” Ben says, pointing to the wastebasket near his desk, where two more empty coffee cups have already been thrown away. “But I’ll take that one too. It’s been a long weekend.”

 

Mitaka hands him the coffee, and Ben takes a grateful sip.

 

“Thank you, Mitaka.”

 

“No problem, sir. I’ve e-mailed you your adjusted schedule for the day. You’ve got a meeting with Mr. Hutt at 9:30. But before anything else, Snoke just arrived and said he will be stopping by your office shortly.”

 

“Fuck!” Ben exclaims, slamming his hand on his desk so hard that it knocks down the coffee cup he’d just set there.

 

Mitaka is just standing there like a deer caught in headlights. Ben’s been known to get a little agitated at times, but he’s never behaved like this before.

 

“Fuck,” Ben repeats, this time muttering it as he quickly picks up his coffee cup. Thankfully, it hasn’t all spilled. “Mitaka, go get me some paper towels, please.”

 

“Right away, sir.”

 

Mitaka brings back paper towels a moment later before scurrying out of Ben’s office. As Ben is sopping up the spilled coffee, there is a knock on his door. Ben doesn’t even get a chance to say come in before Snoke enters the office.

 

“Good morning, sir,” Ben says, tossing the wet paper towels into his wastebasket.

 

“Had a spill, Benjamin?”

 

“Uh, yes, sir.”

 

Snoke looks down at the wastebasket and notices the additional cups in there. The right side of his lips twitch upward as he sits in the wide leather chair opposite Ben’s desk and leans back, making himself comfortable.

 

“My work kept you busy, did it?”

 

Ben nods. “Yes.”

 

“Well, let’s see what you have, then.”

 

Ben turns the screen of his desktop toward Snoke. He meets his boss’s eyes and says, “I should be honest with you, Mr. Snoke. I was unable to complete the assignment. I’ve completed about 98%, but I haven’t quite finished. I’m sure I can be done within the next hour or so.”

 

Snoke’s eyes go dark, and Ben’s blood chills. He’s only been given this look a handful of times, thank goodness, but he's seen others be on the receiving end, and it’s terrifying. Snoke is a good boss—the man has taught him so much and pays him better than any other person one year out of college would be getting paid for Ben’s job—but when his eyes go black like this, Ben fears his boss’s wrath.

 

Snoke clears his throat and speaks very slowly. “And why have you not completed what I asked? You had all weekend, did you not?”

 

Ben purses his lips, debating the best course of action.

 

Did you not?” Snoke asks again. His voice is still at an even, appropriate volume, but he injects enough severity in it that he doesn’t actually need to raise the volume.

 

Ben’s never wanted to tell Snoke about Emmy. He’s never felt comfortable sharing that part of his life with his boss, especially since Snoke was the one who convinced him it’d be for the best if he ended things with Rey. But now, he might not have a choice. Snoke is always strict about work, but even he would have compassion for Ben’s young daughter’s emergency surgery.

 

“I’ve recently learned that I have a daughter,” Ben begins. Snoke’s gray eyebrows rise, but his expression is otherwise inscrutable. He doesn’t say anything, so Ben continues. “She’s from my relationship with Rey—my…high school girlfriend, if you recall.”

 

Snoke nods. “Go on.”

 

“It’s all very new. Fortunately, Rey has been gracious enough to let me spend time with her. She was spending this past weekend with me, and I wound up having to take her to the hospital because she was having severe abdominal pain. She had to have an emergency appendectomy, so I spent most of my weekend at the hospital and then taking care of her at home. The minute she left with her mother, I got to work on your assignment. I’ve been working on it ever since, and like I said, I believe I can have it completed within the hour.”

 

Snoke nods again, fixing Ben with his intimidating stare before finally breaking out into a slow smile. “Well. Congratulations are in order, I suppose. I imagine it must have been a shock to learn you had to a child that is, what, four years old?”

 

“Yes, sir, she’s four. And yes, it was a gigantic surprise. But a wonderful one.” Ben can’t help but smile as he says this last part.

 

“I’d imagine so. Do you have a photograph?”

 

Ben picks up his phone from his desk and shows Snoke his lock screen. It’s still the picture of Emmy feeding the giraffe at the zoo.

 

“Beautiful little girl,” Snoke comments mildly. “She looks just like you.”

 

“She does.”

 

Snoke eyes the picture a moment longer before clasping his hands together and inhaling. Ben knows this is the moment of truth.

 

“Naturally, I’ll let this slide, Benjamin. Your child’s health is, of course, paramount to the silly work I asked you to complete for me. But I should warn you: I won’t be so generous next time. Not if you still want to be considered for this promotion, that is.”

 

“I do,” Ben is quick to say.

 

“I’d hope so. Especially now that you have a child to be concerned about. This promotion…I don’t think I need to tell you how good this promotion will be for your bank account. You could send your daughter to the best schools, the best universities. She’d be set for the rest of her life. Imagine how wonderful that would be, especially as her mother, if I recall correctly, came from nothing. She grew up very poor, correct?”

 

“Yes, sir.”

 

“Well, with this promotion, your daughter will certainly not have to grow up that way. But, Benjamin, you have to earn this promotion first. I can’t just give it to you, you understand?”

 

“Absolutely.”

 

Snoke stands then, and Ben is quick to rise as well. “I don’t put my faith in people lightly. You’ve been around long enough to witness this for yourself.”

 

“Yes,” Ben confirms.

 

“That applies to you as well. Don’t let me down.”

 

“I won’t.”

 

Snoke nods once more, and then without another word, he strides out of Ben’s office.

 

***

It’s past eight on Wednesday night of that same week, and Ben is still at the office. Snoke has assigned him even more work, and Ben knows it’s imperative to have it all completed on time.

 

He’s elbow deep in Snoke’s indecipherable notes when his cell phone rings. He groans as his focus is completely broken, but then he sees it’s Rey calling, and he snatches the phone up immediately. 

 

“Hey,” he says into the phone. “Is everything okay with Emmy?”

 

“Hey!” she exclaims, sounding happy to hear from him. Hearing her cheerful voice makes him happy, something he really needs right now. “Everything’s fine. She’s doing well and even went back to school today.”

 

“Oh, okay good.”

 

“Yeah. So, I thought I’d call you tonight, so we could discuss everything before Friday?”

 

“Everything?” His mind feels empty, with the exception of numbers and Snoke’s chicken scratch notes.

 

“Yeah. You know, like what we’re going to tell Emmy when we sit her down this weekend?”

 

Shit.

 

He’d completely forgotten about that part. He’d been working so hard so that he could actually make it for trick-or-treating on Friday that he forgot Rey had wanted to talk to him before hand.

 

Running his free hand down his face, Ben sighs. “Rey, I’m so sorry. I can’t talk right now. I’m drowning in work. Can we try for tomorrow, maybe?”

 

Rey sounds disappointed when she replies, “Yeah, of course. I’m sorry to hear you’ve got a lot of work.”

 

He smiles at her kindness. Her words just make him lighter, make him feel like he’s not about to light a fire to all of this paperwork he’s been staring at for hours. Her words remind him that he’s doing it for a reason. For Emmy. And hopefully, if she’ll let him, eventually maybe for Rey too.

 

“I appreciate it.”

 

“Okay, well, I’ll let you go then. Talk tomorrow?”

 

“Hopefully,” Ben says. “Have a good night. Give Emmy a kiss for me.”

 

“I definitely will. You have a good night too. Take care of yourself, okay?”

 

His smile grows wider. “I will.”

 

When they hang up, Ben gets back to work, reinvigorated with purpose.

Chapter Text

Rey is helping Emmy dress up in her purple and pink fairy costume, trying to keep her irritation and worry at bay for her daughter’s sake.

 

Ben never called her Thursday, and she hasn’t heard from him at all today either. She texted him around lunchtime, asking if he was still coming for trick-or-treating, and she hasn’t received a response yet.

 

On one hand, she’s aggravated at Ben for not responding, especially after all they’d been through this past weekend. She’d really thought they’d made a breakthrough in their relationship. She’d seen the old Ben she’d known and loved in high school—a devoted, selfless, and kind man. And though she’s hesitant to admit it to herself, she’s pretty sure she’s beginning to warm to him in a not-just-friends way. So it kind of pisses her off that he has yet to call her back or respond to her texts.

 

On the other hand, however, she can’t help but be a bit concerned.  Maybe it's the mom in her, but there's an irrational part of her that fears that something is wrong with Ben or that something has happened to him. But, she rationalizes, she’d certainly hear from Leia or Han if that were the case.

 

As if Emmy can pick up on her thoughts, she asks, “Is Dad still coming trick-or-treating with us?”

 

“I’m not sure, sweetheart. If not, we’ll definitely send him some pictures of you in your fairy costume. I know he’s going to love you in it,” Rey answers, trying to keep her voice light.

 

Emmy frowns. “Can we call him?”

 

“I guess we should,” Rey answers.

 

Together, she and Emmy sit on Emmy’s bed, while Rey dials the number. It rings, and to Rey’s surprise, Ben picks up after the second ring.

 

“Hey.”

 

Rey can tell from the sound of his voice that she’s not going to like what Ben has to say.

 

“Hi,” Rey greets.  “I just wanted to call and check in. I’ve got Emmy right beside me, and we were both wondering if you were still heading our way.”

 

“I’m a fairy!” Emmy exclaims, doing so loudly enough that Ben can surely hear her.

 

Ben’s sigh is audible over the phone. “I was actually just about to call you. I’m so sorry, Rey. I can’t make it. I’ve been working nonstop all week, and I’m still behind. Snoke has just flooded me with work this week.”

 

Snoke. Fucking Snoke.

 

Rey heaves in a deep breath, calming herself. “Emmy’s going to miss you.”

 

“Shit, I’m going to miss her too,” Ben says, and even though Rey is aggravated, the distress in his voice makes her heart ache. “I’ll miss you as well.”

 

The ache gets heavier.

 

“I’ll miss you too, Ben,” she says in a soft voice.

 

“He’s not coming?” Emmy asks, pulling at the sleeve of Rey’s sweater.

 

“I’m afraid not, Em.”

 

“Can I talk to her for a minute?” Ben asks.

 

“Of course,” she tells him. Then to Emmy, she says, “Your dad wants to talk to you. Come find me when you’re done, okay?”

 

Emmy nods, still pouting at the news. Rey hands her daughter the phone and leaves the room just as tears fall from her eyes.

 

Rey walks quickly to the bathroom to grab some tissues to dab at her eyes. Where these tears came from, she’s not sure. Perhaps it’s just seeing Emmy disappointed? Perhaps it was the sorrow in Ben’s voice as he told her he was unable to come in. Maybe it’s also that Rey wanted to see Ben a little bit as well.

 

There’s a knock at the door as she exits the bathroom. Today at work, she’d invited Finn and Rose to spend Halloween with them, a last minute thing she'd decided on after she still hadn’t heard from Ben. She figured she and Ben wouldn’t be talking to Emmy about anything important without discussing it amongst themselves first, so she took the opportunity to invite her two best friends to spend the holiday with them. Best case scenario, Ben would come and they’d all go trick-or-treating together and then put Emmy to bed so that the adults could watch a movie or something, and Finn and Rose could finally meet the elusive man they’d heard so much about over the years.

 

Worst-case scenario, Emmy would have her godparents around to hopefully distract her from the fact that Ben couldn’t make it.

 

Unfortunately, the worst-case scenario is the actual scenario, and now Finn and Rose have more ammunition against Ben.

 

Rey answers the door, and her two best friends stand before her: Finn in a pirate costume complete with a hook and eye patch and Rose in a witch ensemble that’s a bit sexy but still appropriate for neighborhood trick-or-treating.

 

“What’s wrong?” they both ask at the same time, clearly taking in her red eyes and sad expression.

 

Rey shrugs, while trying to smile. “Ben can’t come.”

 

They both frown. Finn opens his mouth to say something, but then Rose gives him a look and he shuts it, which Rey’s thankful for because she doesn’t need her disappointment in Ben deepened by her friend's anger.

 

“That’s okay. It’ll still be a good time,” Rose says diplomatically as they enter her house.

 

“Yeah,” Rey says, shutting the door behind them. “You’re right. I’m just going to change into my costume quickly and then we should be ready to trick-or-treat. I want to try and go before it gets too dark.”

 

***

Rey is passed out on the couch when she is awoken to a knock on her door early the next morning.

 

Finn and Rose had stayed late, the three of them sharing two bottles of wine after Emmy went to bed for the night. She didn’t actually get particularly drunk, but because she doesn’t drink regularly, her tolerance is low and the sound of a loud knock irritates her already throbbing head.

 

“I’m coming!” she shouts, her voice scratchy from sleep and drinking.

 

She disentangles herself from the sole blanket she had been sleeping under and pushes herself off the couch. Once on her feet, she straightens her pajamas—a t-shirt and sweatpants—and then makes her way to the door.

 

When she looks out the peephole, her heart stutters.

 

She undoes the lock at lightening speed and throws the door open.

 

“What are you—? You’re here?”

 

Ben, who somehow likely looks worse than she does, lifts up a plastic orange jack-o-lantern filled with candy and smiles, looking a little guilty.

 

“I am.”

 

“You’re about twelve hours late,” she tells him.

 

Ben’s arm drops and he sighs deeply. “I know. And I hope it’s okay that I’m here now. I just—I’d been looking forward to this all week, and I was crushed when I couldn’t make it. I worked all night so that hopefully I could spend at least some of the day with the two of you. That is, if you don’t mind.”

 

Rey still has some residual annoyance over Ben canceling last night, and him showing up at her doorstep.

 

Sensing her agitation, Ben continues, “You’re totally within your right to tell me to leave. I won’t be upset.”

 

Rey stands in her doorstep, eyeing both the exhaustion on Ben’s face and the jack-o-lantern filled with candy that he clearly brought for Emmy. Sighing, she nods and steps to the side, gesturing for him to come in.

 

Ben’s face breaks into a giant smile as enters the house. Rey closes the door behind him, and Ben throws his arms around her, embracing her in a tight hug.

 

“Thank you, Rey,” he whispers in her ear, and the sincerity in his voice—along with the hug—melts away most her annoyance.

 

“You’re welcome,” Rey replies, as they pull apart. “Emmy will probably be up soon. I’m sure she’ll be ecstatic.”

 

“She sounded so disappointed on the phone last night,” Ben says, as he begins to dig through the jack-o-lantern.

 

“She was. My friends Finn and Rose came trick-or-treating with us, and she talked to them about yo practically all night.”

 

“Well, hopefully I can make it up to her,” he says, before pulling a full-sized Kit-Kat bar from the plastic pumpkin. “And hopefully. I can make it up to you too.”

 

He offers her the candy, clearly remembering she likes that particular one. There’s a tightness in her chest as she accepts the candy.

 

“Thank you,” she says, and the softness in her voice surprises her.

 

“I hope it’s still your favorite.”

 

“It is.”

 

She looks up from the candy bar and meets his eyes. His smile, wide and relieved a minute ago, is much more tender now. He holds her eyes, and she suddenly feels shy under his gaze.

 

Before either can say anything or before the moment becomes too charged, Emmy comes wandering out of her room, rubbing her sleepy eyes. Her small fists come away from her eyes, which widen when they land on her father.

 

Daddy?”

 

“Hey, sweetheart,” he greets.

 

Rey watches as Ben and Emmy close the space between them. Ben lifts her up and twirls her around, Emmy giggling and squealing the whole time.

 

Letting them have their moment, she goes to the coffee table where she’d left her phone and snaps a picture of them together. Putting it in a message to Finn and Rose, she types, “Look who surprised us this morning!”

 

Ben puts Emmy down, kneels down in front of her, and hands her the jack-o-lantern. “I’m sorry I didn’t get to go trick-or-treating with you last night, so I got you this.”

 

Emmy’s eyes go impossibly round at the pumpkin filled with candy.

 

Wow,” she says in awe.

 

Rey clears her throat, trying to fight the grin tugging at her lips. “No candy until after breakfast, Em.”

 

Ben stands up. “Actually, I was hoping I could take the two of you to breakfast.”

 

Emmy goes to Rey and tugs on her hand. “Mommy, please. Please can Daddy take us to breakfast?”

 

Rey won’t lie. The idea of greasy breakfast food right now sounds really nice right now. And spending the morning with both Emmy and Ben, as a family, really sweetens the deal.

 

She loses the fight against her smile and nods. “Yes, he can take us to breakfast.”

 

Emmy is screaming with delight, while Ben whispers thank you to Rey.

 

“I’m just going to pop an aspirin and shower real quick, and then I’ll be ready.”

 

As she undresses in her bathroom, her phone dings with a response. It’s from Finn.

 

Glad he showed up.

 

There’s nothing wrong with the text, per se, but Rey knows his usual texting style, and something about the response is off. She had been hoping for Ben to win Finn and Rose over last night, but then he hadn’t shown up, which she knows became another strike against him. If she had to guess, Rey would say Finn and Rose were unimpressed by Ben’s gesture.

 

Stepping into the shower, she sighs and vows not to worry about it for now.

 

 

***

 

“Emmy, do you think you’ll ever get sick of pancakes?” Ben teases, as their orders are delivered.

 

Ben had gotten a spinach and mushroom omelet (and lots of coffee), Emmy got pancakes and bacon, and Rey had gotten the meat lovers special consisting of bacon, ham, and sausage as well as a side of pancakes. Ben had raised an eyebrow when she had ordered, and she’d stuck her tongue out playfully in response.

 

“No,” Emmy replies with the utmost seriousness. “Pancakes are the best.”

 

 Ben makes to steal her plate from her, and she swats him away, giggling as she does so. At this point, any frustration Rey has toward Ben is washed away. All it takes is seeing Ben goof around with Emmy, and Rey practically forgets why she was aggravated with him in the first place.

 

“She definitely takes after you,” Ben says to Rey between bites of his omelet.

 

“What do you mean?” Rey asks, mouth full of ham.

 

Ben laughs and motions to their daughter who is stuffing her face with pancakes.

 

“She eats like you do. I’m not sure she’s even chewing.”

 

“Oh, stop,” Rey says, elbowing him. “She just appreciates a good meal, that’s all.”

 

“Actually,” Ben says, leaning in a little closer to Rey, “Speaking of good meals, I wanted to ask you something.”

 

“What?”

 

“I was wondering if you’d like to go to dinner on Friday night. Just the two of us.”

 

Oh.

 

Oh. Wow.

 

Doing this, doing this with him, would undeniably be a big step. It wouldn’t be like the two dinner dates she’s been on; it’d mean more. Just this one dinner would mean so much more. And because of this, even though she wants to go to dinner with him, she’s scared. Not just for herself but for Emmy. Because what if it didn’t work out? They get along now as co-parents, but what if—

 

“Rey,” he says, putting a hand over hers on the table. He must be able to sense her apprehension. “Just one dinner. And we can discuss how we’re going to approach talking to Emmy about what happened between us, just like you wanted. I’ve already asked my mom, and she’d be happy to watch Emmy on Friday.”

 

Rey looks at him, really studies him and sees a cycle of sincerity, hope, and nervousness flash across his face.

 

“Okay,” she answers, and her voice comes out in a whisper. “I’d really like that.”

 

Ben grins, all wide and boyish in his delight, but before he gets the chance to express the excitement he so clearly feels, Emmy interrupts, “Why are you whispering?”

 

Ben and Rey, whose eyes are still locked, both start laughing. Emmy, who doesn’t like being left out of anything, begins to laugh as well.

Chapter Text

Snoke continues to hurl extra work at Ben, which forces him to get to the office before sunrise and leave close to midnight to ensure he could have this night off.

 

Almost miraculously, Ben manages to slip out of the office at four in the afternoon on the day of he and Rey’s date. As he passes his assistant’s desk, Mitaka gives him a wary look.

 

“You can go home too, Mitaka,” Ben tells him sympathetically, standing at his assistant’s desk located right outside of his office.

 

“I’m not sure I should, sir.”

 

“Well, it’s either go home early or stay at your desk and do nothing because I’m leaving. Why don’t you go on and enjoy the rest of your Friday.”

 

Still looking a bit cagey, Mitaka finally nods, and Ben pats the man on the back before continuing to make his way to the exit.

 

Once in his car, he heads straight for Coruscant, not even bothering to stop home and change first. He’s got on a nice suit already, after all.

 

About halfway through he drive, Ben feels his eyes begin to get heavy, so he rolls down the windows and turns up the music. He’s barely slept all week, but he’s sure once he sees Rey, he’ll wake up.

 

They’d only talked once this week. Rey had called to ask about a time and as well as what she should wear. He’d suggested she dress nicely, privately hoping that choosing a somewhat fancy restaurant wasn’t too much for a first date. Neither had actually used the word date, but Ben believed it to be and he hoped Rey did as well.

 

It’d be a stark contrast from their other first date, which had taken place at a pizza joint near Ben’s house. Leia, after having found out that they’d finally admitted their feelings for one another, had offered to pay for them to go to a nice restaurant, but Ben and Rey had just wanted to go to their favorite pizza place, the one they’d been to a hundred times before.

 

Ben had actually originally inquired about that restaurant, but his mom had told him that it had shut down about three years ago. So after learning that that wasn’t an option, he’d decided to plan a proper first date.

 

After exiting the highway, he quickly stops at a floral shop and picks up a bouquet of flowers for which he had placed an order before making the final bit of drive to his parents’ place. Rey’s car is already parked on the street when he gets there, and a weird tinge of nervousness twists in his stomach.

 

That’s new, isn’t it?

 

Walking up the steps of the front porch, he takes a deep breath and gently pats the sides of his face, both in an attempt to get rid of nerves and to give himself a jolt of energy. He really should have gotten a coffee after picking up the flowers, but he didn’t want to be late.

 

Exhaling his deep breath, Ben lefts himself in the house and calls out, “Hello?”

 

“In here, sweetheart!” Leia replies.

 

He follows the sound of his mom’s voice and finds his parents, Emmy, and Rey in the living room. His father and Emmy are on the floor, playing with Ben’s old train set, while Rey and his mother share the couch as they chat.

 

He has just a moment to look at them before they notice him, but a moment’s all it takes for him to recognize that Rey looks…breathtaking

 

She’s wearing a wine colored dress with lace overlay that falls just short of her knees. Her hair is done up in a bun that’s sort of messy but also somehow looks elegant.

 

She sees him before his mother does, and she turns to him and her smile is so bright, Ben feels as if she’s the sun shining on him and all he wants to do is bask in her warmth.

 

“Hey.” She stands from the couch and makes her way over to him.

 

“Hey yourself,” he says. And then in a slightly lower voice, he adds, “You look beautiful.”

 

Rey turns a delightful shade of pink and bites her painted lip. “Thank you.”

 

By now, Leia, Han, and Emmy are all getting up to greet him, so he has to turn away from Rey for the moment. He hugs his mother, shakes his father’s hand, and scoops up Emmy for a big hug and kiss.

 

“Mommy said you’re going to dinner and that I can’t come.”

 

Ben chuckles as he gently smooths the black curly hair on top of his daughter’s head. “That’s right, sweetheart. But I’ll see you all weekend.”

 

“And Mommy?”

 

Rey steps in. “No, Em. Remember, I told you that you’re spending the weekend with your dad?”

 

“Oh.” Emmy’s brow furrows in confusion.

 

Rey puts a hand on her daughter’s arm and gives it a little squeeze. “Don’t worry, you won’t even know I’m gone.”

 

She then places a kiss on Emmy’s hair, and Ben puts her down.

 

After reminding Emmy to behave for her grandparents, Ben and Rey leave with Ben leading Rey out of the house with his hand hovering at her lower back.

 

When they get to the car, he opens the passenger door for her, but before allowing her to step inside his car, he ducks in and grabs the bouquet.

 

“These are for you.”

           

Rey’s mouth parts in surprise as she takes the flowers from him. “Wow, Ben. They’re beautiful. Thank you.”

 

“You’re welcome. I’m glad you like them,” he replies as he helps her into the car.

 

“I really do.” Her eyes don’t leave the bouquet.

 

Talk comes easily throughout the drive and at the restaurant. Rey talks about her workweek, and Ben delights in how much she lights up when she talks about the project she’s currently working on. Frankly, he’s also a bit jealous because work has been hell for him lately, and when Rey asks him about his week, he deftly skirts around the topic by asking about Emmy’s school week.

 

From there, conversation turns almost exclusively toward Emmy, not that Ben minds one bit. Ben loves both talking about his daughter and listening to Rey talk about her, even when she’s telling him the more mundane stories like their newly developed habit of singing show tunes together during bath time. Rey has an infinite amount of stories about her and Emmy’s day-to-day life, and Ben not only enjoys them but also enjoys the way Rey tells them. Her face becomes so expressive and joyous when sharing all of Emmy’s milestones, quirks, and memorable moments.

 

Tonight is no different, however, as the night goes on Ben finds himself struggling to pay attention to even the most interesting stories. He’s just so tired, having only got an average of four hours of sleep every night this week. And the dim lights of the restaurant are doing nothing to help the situation.

 

It gets worse when he starts eating. The more he fills his stomach, the more the waves of exhaustion crash into him.

 

“So,” Rey begins, as she swallows a bite of her pasta and momentarily sets her fork down. “You think it’s time we talk about how we’re going to discuss this situation with Emmy?”

 

Ben nods, taking a sip of his coke and praying that the caffeine will shake up his system enough to have this important conversation with her.

 

“I think it’s extremely important to emphasize to her that we get along now. Before anything else, I want her to know that there’s no animosity. She knows that we…didn’t get along when she was younger, and I think that’s an adequate explanation for now, but I want her to hear from both of us together that we get along now.”

 

He nods again, trying desperately not to focus on the tired, droopy feeling that sits behind his eyes.

 

Ben’s certain he hasn’t been this tired since college. He’s pulled late nights for work before, but preparing for this promotion has been particularly draining.

 

It’ll all be worth it soon, he reminds himself.  

 

“Ben?”

 

“Huh?”

 

Rey frowns, and it’s an expression Ben never wants to see on her beautiful face.

 

“Did you hear what I just said?”

 

“Oh, um. No, I didn’t. I’m sorry.”

 

For a moment the frown is softened with a touch of concern. “Is everything okay?”

 

“Yeah. Yes, everything’s fine,” he quickly replies. “It’s just been a long week.”

 

“Should we discuss this another time?”

 

“No, we’ve put it off too long. The sooner the better, I think.”

 

She seems reassured by this answer and continues. “What I said was of course we’ve already both separately told her that we get along now and obviously she’s seen us together, but I want to sit her down together to tell her this as well.  And then I thought maybe we could explain that families come in all different shapes and sizes. There are a few children’s books I’ve found online that I thought could help with that.  What's most important, I think, is that we do all of this together.  A unified front is important.”

 

“I agree,” he tells her, before looking down at his drink.

 

To his mortification, a small, involuntary groan slips from his mouth when he realizes that there is only ice left in the glass.

 

Rey’s frown is back.

 

“Are you sure everything is okay?”

 

“I just didn’t realize I was out of my Coke.”

 

Warily, she says, “Yeah, you’ve been guzzling it all evening. I don’t remember you enjoying soda this much when we were younger.”

 

“It’s the caffeine,” he sighs, running a hand through his hair and tugging at the strands a bit. “In fact, I think I’m going to order a coffee when the waiter comes over.”

 

“And you’re sure you don’t want to continue this conversation at another time? You seem distracted and you’re clearly tired,” she says. He’d probably have noticed the slightly edge of annoyance that’s beginning to color her tone if he hadn’t been trying to make eye contact with the waiter.

 

“We present a unified front,” he says, as the waiter looks his way and Ben motions him over to the table. “I think we’ve got it figured it out.”

 

“But you really haven’t said anything about it. And really, you’ve barely said anything at all over the past thirty minutes. You’ve just sort of nodded your head at the things I’ve said.”

 

Her voice is steeped in agitation now, and it’s impossible to miss. Ben meets her gaze and finds that her expression matches her voice. She looks not only annoyed but also disappointed. He's let her down tonight, and in that moment, he hates himself.

 

Rubbing a hand over his face and sighing, “I’m so sorry, Rey.”

 

He can’t get anything else out because the waiter approaches them. Ben orders coffee and asks Rey if she’d like that or dessert. She quietly declines both.

 

When the waiter’s gone, she says, “Once you drink your coffee, we should probably call it a night that way you can get back to Emmy and head back to Chandrila. I’d hate for her to be riding in the car with you when you’re so tired.”

 

Ben almost flinches at her words and the resigned tone in her voice.

 

“I’m really sorry, Rey. I worked so hard all week so that we could enjoy tonight.”

 

She just nods. Her frown isn’t as deep, but her disheartened expression cuts his heart to pieces.

 

“I know I’ve let you down,” he adds earnestly. “And believe me, that’s the last thing I wanted to do.”

 

“I was really looking forward to tonight,” she says quietly. “And not just to discuss how we were going to talk to Emmy. And while I appreciate you working hard this week to make sure tonight could happen, it’s kind of pointless if you’re not mentally present, you know?”

 

Fuck.

 

“I know, Rey. Things at work should slow down soon, and then I’d really like to make it up to you?” he all but implores.

 

Her face is impassive, but she nods, and he feels some relief in that.

 

***

 

The ride back to his parents’ place is quiet.

 

The coffee did manage to wake him up a little, but it’s clear the mood for tonight has been dampened. He knows he needs to make it up to her somehow, and he decides to start brainstorming tomorrow morning on how to best do so.

 

When they get back to his parents’ place where Rey had left her car, Ben lingers in the driveway. Emmy is surely already asleep or close to it, so they dismiss the idea of Rey going inside to kiss her good night.

 

“I’m going to spend the night here, so don’t worry about me driving home tonight.”

 

Rey gives him a tight, only somewhat reassuring smile as she begins to make her way to her car, parked on the street. The bouquet is thankfully still in her grasp, so at least there’s that.

 

“Rey,” he starts, as he follows behind her, determined to not end this night on a complete downer.

 

At the sound of her name, she stops where she is and turns to him.

 

“You deserve more than whatever the hell tonight was. I’ll be…better next time. I’ll be awake and focused.” He steps forward and takes the hand that’s not holding the flowers. Squeezing it, he adds, “I promise.”

 

Her voice is quiet, barely above a whisper, when she replies. “Okay, Ben.”

 

Ben squeezes her hand again and his gaze bores into hers. “Everything I do from now on is for Emmy and you.”

 

Rey doesn’t reply. She just wraps her arms around his middle, while Ben takes the opportunity to tuck her head under his chin.

 

They stand like that for a long time, neither saying a word.

Chapter Text

“We just redid the entire back patio,” Poe tells Rey at brunch that Sunday.

 

“Yeah, we’re going to string up lights, set up a fire pit, and have a fully stocked bar,” Kaydel adds, mouth full of scrambled eggs. “You really have to come this year, Rey.”           

 

Rey sits at a small table, enjoying her brunch with Kaydel and Poe in Coruscant late Sunday morning. She hasn’t seen them since their reunion, and they’ve both been clamoring to find out what exactly had happened between her and Ben that night, so the three made plans to get brunch before Rey headed over to Han and Leia’s to pick up Emmy.

 

Her friends are currently trying to convince her to come to their annual New Year’s Eve party. They have one every year, but Rey has never gone before because of Emmy.

 

Rey takes a sip of her mimosa and nods. “I’d like to,” she says thoughtfully. “Maybe Leia and Han can watch Emmy this year. I’d have to make sure they don’t have their own plans though.”

 

“Ben could come too, of course,” Poe says. “If that’s something you think you’d want.”

 

Kaydel nods her head at her husband’s statement and leans forward the slightest bit. Her perfectly lined brown eyes are wide with curiosity, and Rey preps herself for the onslaught of questions Kaydel has surely been holding back since they sat down nearly an hour ago.

 

“How is everything going with Ben?”

 

“Things are…pretty good, I guess. He’s fantastic with Emmy.” Rey can’t help the smile that spreads across her face as she relays this piece of information. “Truly, he’s a natural with her, and it…kind of breaks my heart that I didn’t allow him the opportunity to know her when she was a baby.”

 

“But?” Kaydel, who clearly senses there’s more, probes as she places a hand on top of the one Rey has resting on the table.

 

“Kay,” Poe chides his wife lightly, though Rey knows Poe is just as interested.

 

“Well, for a moment—and it really was just a moment—things were looking…really promising.”

 

“Promising.” Kaydel quirks an eyebrow.

 

“Almost like we could maybe be together again.” She pauses for a moment, allowing her mind to play out that past Friday night and how…off it had been. “But I think I got caught up in old feelings and rushed into the idea because we’re definitely not there. Ben’s got some stuff going on right now, I think, and right now making sure Emmy is taken care of is the most important thing.”

 

“Very sensible,” Kaydel says, before sipping her blood Mary.

 

“It’s good that you’re getting along though,” Poe adds, and Kaydel nods in agreement.

 

“It is,” Rey concurs.

 

After brunch, Rey drives over to Han and Leia’s. When she arrives, she’s surprised to see that Ben’s car isn’t there. Leia greets her at the door and invites her inside.

 

“Where’s Ben?” she asks, walking through the foyer and stopping just short of the living room, where Emmy sits on Han’s lap as he reads her a book.

 

Leia purses her lips and shakes her head in a way Rey could only describe as exacerbated.

 

“He left early this morning. He had to go into work.”

 

“On a Sunday?”

 

“His boss apparently called him in for an emergency meeting.”

 

“Snoke?”

 

“Snoke,” Leia confirms, rolling her eyes. “I swear, I better not ever be left alone in a room with that man.”

 

Rey huffs out a half-hearted laugh.

 

“The man had Ben working all weekend. Ben and Emmy have been here since Friday night.”

 

A heavy feeling sets in Rey’s stomach.

 

He keeps saying work will slow down soon, but the amount of work Ben is doing seems excessive to Rey. It also reminds her of what happened in the last few weeks of their relationship.

 

Towards the end, whenever they’d hang out, Ben would be on his laptop, doing work for Snoke. Rey had been naïve about it then, chalking it up to grunt work given to all young interns and believing it’d all be over by the time they started college, but now she knows better. Now, she’s beginning to see it’s been like this for Ben, to varying degrees, for five years.

 

“Did he take any breaks at all?”

 

Leia’s brown eyes, so much like Ben’s, look sad when she responds, “Not really. He’d eat breakfast with us and tuck her in at night, but he mostly spent the weekend holed up in his room. Han and I kept Emmy entertained. Not that we minded, of course.”

 

“Of course not,” Rey says, glancing once more at her daughter and Han. Han finishes reading the book, closing it, and drops a kiss on Emmy’s head.

 

Rey could never understate how grateful she is for Han and Leia. They’ve welcomed her back with open arms and have been completely devoted to Emmy. And she has absolutely no problem with Emmy spending time with them. As someone who grew up with no family, Rey is delighted that her daughter won’t experience the same loneliness and isolation she had.

 

But Rey fears this becoming a pattern. She fears Ben passing Emmy off to his parents. As she’d told him on Friday, it’s about being present.

 

Leia must see the look on Rey’s face because her voice takes on a slightly hopeful lilt when she says, “He told me he’s up for a big promotion. That’s why he’s working so hard. He says things will slow down soon.”

 

Five years ago, it was an internship of a lifetime, today it’s a big promotion, but what will it be next?

 

Han scoops up Emmy in his arms and brings her to Rey, who is still standing with Leia at the entrance of the living room.

 

“This one’s a little bookworm,” Han tells Rey as he hands Emmy to Rey.

 

“She is,” Rey agrees, pressing a kiss to her daughter’s head. “Did you have fun with Grandma and Pops?”

 

“Yes,” Emmy grins. “Pops took me to the library. We got so many books.”

 

“You did?”

 

Emmy nods excitedly. “We read them all!”

 

“Oh wow!” Rey exclaims, as Han catches her eye and winks. She mouths “thank you” to him in response.

 

“Leia told you that we spent the weekend together?” Han asks. His voice is casual, but Rey can sense something frustrated lying beneath.

 

“Yep.”

 

Han just shakes his head, and Rey watches as Leia loops her arm around her husband’s as if in a gentle reminder to not get worked up in front of Emmy.

 

She and Emmy leave shortly after. Emmy naps most of the way home, and in the quiet of the car, Rey contemplates texting Ben when they get home, but ultimately she decides against it for now. It’s only been recently that things have taken a turn, so Rey isn’t going to say anything yet. She’s going to give Ben the benefit of the doubt. Not only does he deserve it, but Emmy does as well. And she hopes, she hopes with every fiber of her being, that what happened Friday was a wake up call for Ben. That this weekend will be the end of the all nighters at the office, the exhaustion, and the nonstop weekend work. She hopes, not for her own sake but for Emmy’s, that Ben realizes the pattern he’s falling into and rectifies it.

 

Of course all of this complicates her own feelings for him as well. But she knows her own feelings have to take a backseat—for how long, Rey doesn’t know. She just knows that Ben needs to figure out what’s going on in his own life before she can even begin to entertain the idea of something more again. Friday had proven that. They both owe that to Emmy.

 

She worries though. She worries because last time things got like this, Ben left. So how can she know with certainty what he will do this time?

Chapter Text

It’s a Friday night, and Ben should be with his daughter. Instead, he’s in a generic hotel room in Yavin for a business trip on which Snoke asked him to accompany him.

 

He’s known about this trip for over a month now, so it wasn’t as if a surprise to Rey that he wouldn’t be able to take Emmy this weekend; however, Ben still feels incredibly guilty based on everything else that has transpired over the past few weeks.

 

He’s not naïve enough to believe that things are fine with Rey. He knows she’s upset with him, and he’s just hoping that she can hold off a little longer because then things will be better. He’ll have a promotion, a higher salary, and more control over his hours.

 

Sighing, he reaches over from the bed to the nightstand, grabs his laptop and opens Skype, as he and Rey had previously planned. A few moments later, he’s connected and greeted with the site of both Emmy and Rey sitting on Emmy’s bed with Emmy sitting between Rey’s legs. While Emmy’s smile is almost joyous, Ben thinks Rey’s looks a bit tight. It causes a nervous knot to twist in his stomach.

 

“You called right on time,” Rey tells him, skipping any greeting. “We just finished getting ready for bed and are about to read a bedtime story.”

 

“Oh!” Ben says, using the indulgent voice he usually uses with his daughter. “And what did you pick out to read, Em?”

 

“Green Eggs and Ham,” Emmy answers proudly.

 

Rey’s smile becomes both a little more genuine and little exasperated as she says, “They made green eggs and ham at school on Wednesday, so it’s been her bedtime story choice for the last three nights.”

 

Ben, wishing so badly he could be there in person with his two favorite girls, chuckles. “It’s a good choice. Though I’m partial to One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish.”

 

“Oh, Ben. One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish is so last year,” Rey says with mock seriousness.

 

Ben watches as Emmy’s face starts to get that tired, pouty look that Ben’s come to know so well and tugs on Rey’s arm.

 

"Mommy,” she whines.

 

“Okay, okay,” Rey soothes, glimpsing at the camera of whatever device she’s using and giving Ben a grin that he can tell is only for him. “You ready, Dad?”

 

“I am,” Ben answers, settling against the pillows he’d previously put up against the headboard.

 

Rey begins reading the Dr. Seuss classic, and Ben is just as enthralled as Emmy is with how Rey reads the book. About two-thirds of the way through, Emmy begins to shout along with Rey, “I do not like them, Sam I.”

 

“C’mon Daddy!” Emmy encourages. “It’s not hard!”

 

He nods, chuckling. “You’re right. My bad.”

 

The rest of the story consists of the three of them yelling the famous phrase at the top of their lungs. Ben wouldn’t be surprised if the people in the room next to his can hear him, but he doesn’t care. He’s having a blast, and he only wishes he could be there in person.

 

When the story ends, Rey sets the book and the laptop she’s using to talk to Ben on Emmy’s nightstand. The laptop is faced towards Emmy, so Ben can see Rey tuck Emily in for the night. Ben watches as Rey kisses the top of Emmy’s head before affectionately brushing some of her curls with her hand.

 

“I love you, sweetheart. Sweet dreams.”

 

She then steps aside so that Ben can wish his daughter a goodnight.

 

“I wish I could be there, Em. But I’ll see you Sunday, okay?”

 

“Okay,” Emmy replies, her head already resting on the pillow and her eyes already looking like they’re fighting to stay open.

 

“I love you. Good night.”

 

Emmy yawns as she attempts to get out “night.”

 

His view then changes as Rey picks up the laptop from Emmy’s nightstand and carries it into the living room.

 

Once she’s settled on the couch, the smile that Rey had kept on her face while they’d been talking with Emmy disappears completely. Ben feels his stomach drop in nervous anticipation of what she might say.

 

“You’ll really be home on Sunday?” she asks him, raising an eyebrow in suspicion.

 

“Yes. Mr. Snoke and I are coming home on the same plane, so unless I get delayed, I’ll be at my parents’ for Sunday dinner.”

 

Rey nods, though she still looks skeptical. “Good. We’ll see you for dinner then.”

 

Trying to lighten the mood, Ben reaches over to the floor beside his bed and lifts up a fairly large stuffed giraffe. Yavin has one of the best zoos in the country, and while Ben hadn’t had time to actually go to the zoo, he’d had Mitaka stop at the gift shop to buy the nicest stuffed giraffe he could find. Ben had been pretty damn pleased with the result.

 

“I got this for Emmy,” he says, showing off the giraffe.

 

The tiniest smile appears on Rey’s face, but her voice still sounds a little stilted. “That’s very nice, Ben.”

 

“You think she’ll like it?”

 

“You know she will. She’ll wind up sleeping with it and probably take it to show-and-tell next month.”

 

Ben’s heart warms at the idea of his daughter showing off a gift he’d gotten her.

 

"Good. I’m glad.” And then remembering a conversation he had with his mom earlier today, he says, “I don’t know what you and Emmy’s usual Thanksgiving traditions are, but my mom wanted to let you know that you both are invited over for dinner. It’ll just be the three of us, plus you and Emmy if you guys can make it.”

 

Rey’s face actually lights up at this, and some of the nervousness in his gut dissipates.

 

“We’ve never actually had a proper Thanksgiving before. We’ve always just watched the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and ordered Chinese food. Everyone else spends the day with their families obviously and we’ve been invited to few dinners, but Emmy’s so young and I didn’t want to inconvenience anyone.”

 

“Well, you have a family now, and we’d love for you two to be there.”

 

Her smile is nothing but genuine as she replies, “If I remember correctly, Han makes fantastic stuffing.”

 

Ben wants to smile back, but her comment inadvertently dowses him in guilt. The last Thanksgiving he’d spent at his parents’ house was the last one Rey had gone to as well: the one their senior year of high school. He’d always chosen to stay on campus during the short November break, which, of course, he regrets greatly now.

           

Maybe she sees the guilt in his eyes because she changes the subject. “Anyway, how are things on the trip?”

 

Rey’s computer shakes a little as she adjusts her position on the couch and repositions it on her lap.

 

“Good,” Ben shrugs. “I’m in meetings most of the day tomorrow, and then Mr. Snoke is taking me to his favorite restaurant here.”

 

He doesn’t miss the way Rey’s face scrunches up in disgust at the mention of Snoke, but he doesn’t comment.

 

Just hold off a little longer, he begs her in his head. Things are going to get better soon.

 

“Well, I hope you have a successful trip. Emmy definitely misses you.”

 

“I miss her too. And you.

 

He sees her swallow as she nods, and her voice is just short of a whisper as she answers, “Yeah, I miss you too.”

 

He wants to tell her he loves her. As they wrap up this conversation, it only seems natural to let the only woman he ever loved and the mother of his child know that he loves her, but he doesn’t. Now isn’t the time, he knows. They’re on Skype, and she’s still a little frustrated with him, he can tell.

 

“Well,” he says, clearing his throat. “I’ll let you go. But I’ll see you Sunday?”

 

“I hope so,” she replies, her voice still uncharacteristically soft.

 

Just a little longer, Rey, he pleads again.

 

***

 

The next evening, he and Arthur Snoke sit at a corner table at an overly expensive, dimly lit restaurant.

 

Ben watches as Snoke browses the wine menu. His boss has been quiet most of the trip, except when they’ve been in meetings. Snoke isn’t particularly loquacious in general, rarely wasting time with unnecessary small talk, but Ben thinks he’s been particularly quiet over the past two days.

 

Eventually, Snoke picks out an expensive bottle of red wine. He orders two glasses and then orders both he and Ben the same dish—his favorite, he tells Ben.

 

They relay the work they’ve done this weekend, and Ben thinks this is just a normal dinner with his boss, just like dozens of others he’s had over the years. But just as they’re finishing up their meals, Snoke turns the tables.

 

“Benjamin, I have to say the work you’ve done this weekend is a great improvement from the rest of your more recent work.”

 

Ben frowns, confused. “Excuse me, sir?”

 

His boss shakes his head and a near venomous smile appears on his wrinkled face. “Your work has been subpar lately. As has your work ethic. You left early a few weeks ago; don’t think that went unnoticed.”

 

“I only left, sir, because I had finished all of my work early. I stayed late the rest of the week so that I could leave a little early Friday.”

 

“Even so, the work you performed that week was not your best. It’s very obvious that you, as you just said, performed a lot of it while half-asleep.”

 

“That’s not what I said at all, sir,” Ben grits out, working to restrain the anger he feels at Snoke twisting his words.

 

Enough,” Mr. Snoke hisses, his voice dangerous and low. “I am your boss, am I not? I took you under my wing when you were a just a teenager who thought he might want to work in finance. I fostered the natural gift you had and helped you get into an impressive university at the last minute. And when you graduated, what did I do? I offered you a job. A job that many people much older than you would be jealous of.  And why did I do it, Benjamin?”

 

Ben doesn’t say anything, thinking the question is rhetorical.

 

Why, Benjamin?”

 

Ben’s heart pounds in chest as he responds in the calmest voice possible, “Because you saw something special in me.”

 

“Exactly,” Snoke says, his voice beginning to take on a warmer tone. “I saw your desire for greatness. Your desire to be more than the son of a failed politician and an auto shop owner.”

 

It’s a wonder Ben doesn’t punch his boss in the face. It’s only the promise of the promotion that he’s been working so hard for that stops him.

 

“Am I wrong?” he asks when Ben says nothing.

 

Ben shakes his head, ashamed because, at one time, that was the truth. “No, sir.”

 

“I didn’t think so.”

 

“I’m sorry, Mr. Snoke,” he says. “I did not believe my work to be subpar or I never would have sent it your way, I swear.”

 

Snoke nods slowly. “What did I tell you five years ago? Do you remember? I had taken you out to eat to celebrate you going to Chandrila University. We sat at a table very much like this one. Do you remember, Benjamin?”

 

“I do, sir.”

 

“And you listened.” Snoke smiles proudly at him for a second before continuing. “But now, it seems you’ve forgotten.”

 

“I will not abandon my daughter, sir,” Ben tells his boss, surprising himself with how fiercely the words come out.

 

Snoke chuckles and is quiet for a moment as the waiter comes to take away their empty plates. His eyes never leave Ben’s though, and Ben works hard to maintain steady eye contact with him. Once the waiter leaves, Snoke takes the last sip of his wine and speaks once more.

 

"Of course not. Not when your pending promotion would be so beneficial to her. Which reminds me. I’m meeting with the other higher-ups soon to discuss it. I’d hate to have to report that you just aren’t up for it.”

 

Ben’s stomach roils with nausea at the comment.

 

“Will I have to tell the others that you aren’t up for the promotion?” Snoke asks, raising a gray eyebrow.

 

Ben can’t speak for a second. He literally feels like he might throw up.

 

“Benjamin?”

 

It’s all Ben can do to remind himself of the life he’ll be able to give both Emmy and Rey once the promotion is in effect.

 

“No, sir. That won’t be a problem.”

 

“Good,” Snoke says, removing the cloth napkin from his lap and beginning to carefully fold it. His eyes focus on the napkin as he adds, “I’d hate for you to have to find a job somewhere else. Especially since references are so important in this field of work.”

 

Snoke places the now-folded napkin back on the table, and his eyes meet Ben’s once more. There’s something dangerous sparkling in them.

 

“So, we’re understood then? Your work ethic will return to what it previously was, and I’ll be able to present you to the others as the right man for the promotion.”

 

“We’re understood, sir.”

Chapter Text

Five years ago...

 

Ben rides in Mr. Snoke’s town car in a complete haze.

 

His mentor continues chatting about how much he’ll learn at Chandrila University as they drive back to the office from the restaurant Snoke had taken Ben to for lunch.

 

It had started out as a celebration. Snoke had not only gotten Ben accepted into the prestigious Chandrila University, but he’d also gotten Ben a full scholarship, and thus demanded that they celebrate with a lavish lunch at his favorite restaurant.

 

But around the time the main course had been served, the conversation had swerved from general celebration to more serious advice. Actually, Ben thought, it wasn’t even really advice at all. It was more of a command dressed up as wisdom.

 

"Benjamin, you must know that this acceptance into Chandrila University along with the extension of your internship at Snoke Financial Group is going to take up a great deal of your time.”

 

"I know, sir,” Ben had replied. “And I don’t take your faith in me lightly. I look forward to making you proud.”

 

Snoke had smiled, and Ben had been pleased to bring out such clear delight in his usually reserved mentor.

 

"And I’m sure you will. But I think you must begin to consider what it will take to accomplish this.”

 

"Sir?”

 

Snoke had taken a slow sip of his wine and set the glass down on the table before fixing Ben with his dark eyes.

 

"Greatness doesn’t come easily, Benjamin. It takes dedication and a single-minded focus. Do you follow?”

 

He nodded, supposing he did, though he couldn’t predict exactly where this was going.

 

"And that kind of dedication, that kind of focus comes with a price. It comes with sacrifice. It comes from letting go of distractions.”

 

Snoke fixed him with a look so strong that Ben was certain he’d never forget it.

 

“And I hate to say it, Benjamin, but I think you’ve got a few major distractions in your life. Three, to be exact. Let’s discuss the first two first: your parents.”

 

Ben nodded again, his mind playing about to a few days ago when he had told his parents that Mr. Snoke had managed to get him a full scholarship to Chandrila University.

 

“You told me they were…less than supportive when they learned the news of your decision to switch universities, correct?”

 

"Yes, sir.”

 

“And why do you think that was?”

 

Ben paused, not wanting to admit the embarrassing truth to his boss.

 

“Benjamin?” Snoke prodded.

 

In a quiet voice, Ben responded, “They said that my last minute admission was…strange. That there was a wait-list that was pages long, and for me to just surpass it and to get a scholarship to boot was suspicious.”

 

Snoke tsked and shook his head. “Here’s the thing, Benjamin: influential people can do influential things. Yes, I used my connections to get you into the university, but that was only after I saw your natural talent for the financial world. Imagine my surprise after learning you hadn’t applied there in the first place. Frankly, that’s a travesty. Which brings me to the third person.”

 

Ben’s heart stuttered to a stop in his chest. He was now getting a clear idea of where this was going, and it was very unsettling.

 

"Your girlfriend is attending Coruscant University this fall, is that right?”

 

“That’s right, sir,” Ben answered.

 

"Which, of course, is where you were supposed to attend before I intervened. And may I ask if your girlfriend’s attendance at this university a factor in you choosing the school as well?”

 

Ben could feel his voice getting quieter, getting more submissive with each answer, and yet he couldn’t seem to stop it from happening.

 

"Well, Rey never would have been able to afford Chandrila University. She was already going to have to take out a lot of money in loans for Coruscant. And since we decided that we were going to college together, there was no point in even applying to Chandrila.”

 

Snoke nodded his head slowly, seeming to take that all in. “So, you’ve got these parents who’d rather you attend a second rate university and a girlfriend who is doing nothing but encouraging that. You’ve surrounded yourself with people who don’t seem to support your dreams because they’ve got their own motives.”

 

Ben wouldn’t put it like that, but…

 

"Do you really think these are the people that you need to surround yourself with during these next four rigorous years?”

 

Snoke had raised an eyebrow at that, as if he dared Ben to challenge him.

 

“You see, as you get older, you begin to put your priorities in order. This summer I’m proud to say I’ve watched you as you’ve begun to do that. But you’re not there yet. You still haven’t fully left the past behind. Your parents and your girlfriend—they belong in your past, Benjamin. They’re holding you back, don’t you see?”

 

In a voice that was nothing more than a mumbled whisper, Ben finally spoke, “But they love me.”

 

Snoke leaned forward at the table and gave Ben a sympathetic look. “If they love you, then they’ll understand. They’ll want what’s best for you. And clearly, so far they haven’t seemed to want what’s best for you if this whole university situation is to be considered.”

 

Back in the car, Ben reviews he and his mentor’s conversation. He supposes Mr. Snoke made some sense. You had to make sacrifices in order to achieve greatness. But the sacrifices Mr. Snoke was asking him to make were so extreme. He couldn’t just cut off contact from his family and Rey.

 

Snoke must have seen the distressed look on Ben’s face because he stops his spiel about how wonderful Chandrila University is and pats Ben on the shoulder.

 

“You’re making the right decision, Benjamin,” his mentor says in an uncharacteristically gentle voice. “Your parents will still be there when you graduate, should you feel their presence necessary in your life.”

 

And Rey? Ben thinks, his heart breaking as he pictures his beautiful girlfriend the way she looked the last time he’d seen her. She’s been wearing a yellow sundress (his favorite) with her hair in two French braids. And, of course, she’d had a radiant smile on her face the entire day, as it was the first time she’d seen him since their Fourth of July weekend.

 

She's practically glowing, Ben had thought.

 

And now he pictures what her face might look like when he tells her that they need to break up. He can’t bear it.

 

It’s as if Snoke can see inside his head because he squeezes Ben’s shoulder with the hand that is still there. “High school relationships never work out, son. They’re nice distractions when you’re young. But as you grow up, you begin to realize that the type of relationship you had as a child doesn’t transfer to adulthood. Trust me. I’ve seen it time and time again.”

 

Ben nods silently, while swallowing the lump in his throat that will surely find its way back to the surface when he’s alone in his car later this evening.

Chapter Text

The Monday before Thanksgiving, Rey calls Leia to ask what she should bring for their Thanksgiving dinner. Leia insists that Rey doesn’t need to bring anything. (“Just that cutie pie grandchild of mine,” she says, making Rey laugh.) But after Rey pushes a little bit, Leia asks if she still knows how to make the apple crumble pie she’d brought the few times she’d celebrated Thanksgiving with the Solos back in high school.

 

“I haven’t made it in years,” Rey confesses, “But I still have the recipe.”

 

“Wonderful,” Leia tells her. “Bring that then.”

 

So Rey spends Wednesday evening in the kitchen carefully following the recipe she hadn’t even glanced at in five years. She lets Emmy help to the extent that she’s able, which mostly consists of her daughter dumping pre-measured ingredients into the mixing bowl.

 

Because Emmy is four and prone to messes, she naturally gets a little flour on her face, and Rey can’t resist snapping a picture. She sends it to Ben with the caption, Preparing for tomorrow.

 

Rey tries not to be bothered by the fact that he finally responds back She’s adorable! at 2:30 am.

 

She’d been relieved when Ben had, in fact, made it back for dinner the Sunday of his business trip. It had been a completely lovely evening. Emmy had attached herself to Ben the entire time and Ben, who had actually been completely awake and unencumbered by work, couldn’t keep his eyes off of Emmy either. The only time he did actually readjust his gaze was when he looked at Rey. And each time he did, it was with a mixture of affection and supplication.

 

Rey had tried to put the past few weeks behind her after that night, but she still had an uneasy feeling lingering over her.

 

On Thanksgiving morning, Rey gets Emmy up early and dresses her in a black cotton long sleeved dress with orange and blue flowers printed on it and then puts a matching orange bow in her curly black hair. For her part, Rey changes into a maroon sweater, her nicest pair of skinny jeans, and brown booties. She remembers how back in high school Thanksgiving had been a particularly nice affair at the Solo house, and she doesn’t want to disappoint.

 

The drive to Coruscant is surprisingly fast that morning, and when they park, Emmy squeals in excitement when she notices that Ben’s car is already in the driveway.

 

They let themselves in and make their way to the kitchen, where Rey hears voices, but as they get closer, Rey realizes those voices are actually tense and sound argumentative. She and Emmy walk into the room and find Leia and Ben there, both frowning until they see Rey and Emmy. Leia’s frown immediately transforms into the welcoming expression of a hostess, but Ben’s face is much slower to change. Eventually, he smiles and greets them, but Rey thinks she still sees something distressing in his eyes.

 

Emmy, as she almost always does now, flings herself into Ben’s arms, while Rey goes to hug Leia.

 

“Is everything okay?” she mumbles into her ear.

 

When Leia pulls away, Rey is on the receiving end of a look she cannot decipher, and Rey knows that somehow that means the answer to her question is no.

 

“Ben,” Leia begins, focusing her attention on her son. “Why don’t you take Emmy and Rey into the living room, so Emmy can catch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. I recorded it from the beginning for her.”

 

Rey watches as Ben gives his mom a terse nod and, without another word, leads Rey and Emmy out of the kitchen and into the living room.

 

When they enter the room and Rey realizes that Han isn’t there, she asks Ben, “Where’s your dad?”

 

“Hiding in the garage,” Ben mumbles, settling on the ground beside Emmy who has gravitated toward Leia’s old dollhouse that she took out from storage a few weeks ago for Emmy to play with while she’s at their house.

 

“Hiding?” Rey asks.

 

Ben gives sort of a half shrug before turning his full attention to Emmy who has started setting up dolls in various rooms of the dollhouse.

 

Rey, who has also chosen to sit on the floor with Ben and Emmy, watches them play together. Normally, she’d be captivated by the image. Her heart would warm and occasionally she’d even find tears prickling in her eyes because Ben is so good, so natural with Emmy. But she can’t find it in her to be endeared to the moment today because she knows something’s off.

 

No, not off. Wrong.

 

Leia and Ben were clearly arguing in the kitchen before she and Emmy arrived, Han is apparently hiding out in the garage, and Ben is very clearly agitated by something.

 

At some point, Ben glances over at Rey, and he must be able to tell that she can tell that’s something’s not right because he frowns, before running an affectionate hand through Emmy’s hair and saying, “Stay in here, Em. I need to talk to your mom for a sec, okay?”

 

Emmy, distracted with her dolls, just nods, not deeming it necessary to even meet his eyes.

 

Ben leads Rey into the hallway, so they can have some privacy and keep an eye on Emmy. She watches Ben’s jaw twitch, a telltale sign that he’s nervous or can’t find the words he needs to say, or both, and something in Rey, whether it be nerves or some part of her subconscious that already knows what he’s going to say, snaps.

 

“Spit it out, Ben.”

 

He runs a hand through his hair. “I have to leave in a little over an hour.”

 

“Meaning—“

 

“Meaning I can’t stay for dinner,” he sighs, his eyes full of contrition.

 

Rey’s voice comes out harsher than she’d expected when she says, “So, you’re missing Emmy’s first Thanksgiving dinner with her family? For what? What’s the reason?”

 

“Some of the work we did in Yavin fell through. I have to go to try and fix it.”

 

“So, they’re sending you? They couldn’t find anyone else to go?”

 

Ben winces. “Normally, Mr. Snoke would go, but he’s out of the country right now.”

 

Snoke,” she hisses. She’s really trying her hardest to keep her voice down, but the anger keeps rising inside of her, and it’s about to be all consuming. “You realize that everything, everything bad in your life is because of him, right? Please tell me you realize this, Ben, because I’m not sure you do.”

 

Clearly trying to placate her, Ben takes a step toward Rey and puts a hand on her shoulder. He’s obviously upset by all of this too.

 

“I know, Rey,” he tells her, but Rey’s not sure she believes him because he continues, “But his mentorship led to a job, which will soon lead to a promotion, which will allow me to provide for Emmy so that she’ll never want for anything. So that neither of you will want for anything.”

 

Rey shakes Ben’s hand off her shoulder and takes a step back.

 

“I told you, Ben. I told you when we sat down for lunch that day: Emmy doesn’t need fancy things. I don’t either.”

 

“I know that.” He’s becoming more frantic as he runs his hand through his hair a second time and takes a deep breath. “But I want to provide for her—for both of you. Rey, I feel so guilty all the time about not being there for you over these past five years, and the least I can do to make up for that is to provide for you both financially. We’ll be able to go on family vacations, we’ll be able to afford the best schools and universities for her, she’ll—“

 

“We don’t need that, Ben. I don’t want you to feel like you have to make up for lost time with money. You can make up for lost time, by being there for your daughter.”

 

He opens his mouth to speak, but she cuts him off.

 

“I didn’t go on family vacations. I didn’t attend the best university. And I think I turned out pretty damn fine.”

 

“Yes, I know,” he replies, sounding like he’s grasping for anything to hold onto at this point. “I’m not saying you didn’t, Rey. Obviously, you did, but—“

 

No,” she snaps, and this time it does come out as a yell, a broken one, but a yell nonetheless. She inhales sharply, gathering herself for a moment as Ben just stares at her, terrified.

 

“I didn’t have all those nice things,” she tells him. This time her voice is low, but it’s also shaky, and she’s also got tears her eyes, and any minute now they’ll start falling, and she’s not sure she’ll be able to stop them when they do. “Having nice things never mattered to me. You know what mattered to me? What mattered to me and what I didn’t have? A family. All I ever wanted was a family. And that’s what I want for our daughter. And every day I regret that I kept her from you for the first four years. But now you’re in her life, and you’re so wonderful with her when you’re here, but you’re so often not here. Or if you are, you’re not here mentally.”

 

“I promise this won’t go on forever,” he says desperately.

 

And now the tears begin to fall. “I wish I could believe that, Ben, but I’m not sure I can. It’s already begun to feel like last time. I can’t…” her voice cracks and she furiously wipes away the falling tears before taking a deep breath and continuing, “I can’t have you leave us. You keep making excuses on behalf of this man, who ripped you apart from your family once. How can I know you won’t do it again?”

 

“Because I won’t,” he tells her fiercely, his own voice breaking on the last word. Hearing the emotion only makes her tears worse.

 

She takes a moment to compose herself, looking down at the hardwood floor and taking a few deep breaths. She doesn’t want to hurt Ben, but she refuses to let Emmy get hurt in all of this. And Ben has to know that.

 

Finally, Rey meets Ben’s eyes again. Her heart breaks when she sees that he’s started crying too, but she knows she has to push through.

 

“I won’t keep you from her,” she tells him, summoning every ounce of strength she has to get the words out. “I won’t do that to you again, and I definitely won’t do that to her. But you need to make a decision about how involved you want to be in her life because I won’t tolerate you continuing to cancel previously made plans, and I won’t tolerate dropping her off weekend after weekend to find out that you spend the entire time working. So, you need to decide if you want—no, if you can be a regular part of her life, or if you are only capable of doing holidays, birthdays, and occasional visits.”

 

He reaches out for her again, but she takes another step away from him and shakes her head. Ben flinches, almost as if he’s been slapped.

 

“I want—“

 

Rey puts her hand up, halting his words. “No. I don’t want to know right now. I need you to think about it. Truly think about it. Because once you give me your answer, I won’t let you change your mind. Emmy deserves more than that.”

 

Ben swallows hard, eyes burning into hers, but she doesn’t let up and eventually he nods.

 

“Now, I think you need to go back in there and spend the little time left you have with your daughter.”

 

Again, Ben nods. He then wipes his eyes and makes his way back into the living room. Rey follows behind him to find that Han has joined Emmy in her game. He looks up at both of them when they return, but he doesn’t say anything, only scooting to the side to make room for Ben and Rey.

 

About an hour later, a town car arrives to bring Ben to the airport. He’d told Emmy about fifteen minutes before that he had a last minute work thing come up and had to leave. For her part, Emmy pouts and gets all teary eyed, and Rey can only watch sadly as Ben does his best to placate her by making promises that she prays aren’t empty.

 

The whole family goes outside to say farewell to Ben. He hugs his mom and dad first, both interactions obviously stiff. Clearly they’re very unhappy with this development as well. He then kneels down to hug Emmy, who wraps her small arms around his neck and pleads with him not to go.

 

“I have to, sweetheart,” he tells her. “I wish I didn’t, but I do. I promise you I’ll bring you back an amazing gift. Maybe something else from the zoo there? Would you like that?”

 

Emmy nods, still pouting as she unwraps her arms from his neck and steps back. Ben places one last kiss on her forehead and smoothes the hair on the top of her hair.

 

He then stands, and Rey’s eyes lock with his. He looks at her, a man lost, and in a soft voice, Rey says, “Have a safe trip.”

 

“I will,” he says, sparing her one last desperate look, before turning and making his way to the town car.

Chapter Text

Five years ago...

           

Rey sits on a stone bench outside her dorm building, looking down at her phone. The screen is open to Ben’s contact information. She is only a finger touch away from calling him.

 

It’s been about fourteen hours since Rey discovered she was pregnant.

 

She’d realized she’d missed her second period the day before, but she’d always been irregular. It wasn’t until nausea woke her up this morning that Rey realized something might be very wrong. She’d bought three pregnancy tests on the way to work and taken them all in the drug store’s bathroom. When all three came back positive, Rey’s mind went blank for a solid minute before she collapsed on the dirty floor in tears. She still considered it a miracle that she was able to pick herself up and go to work.

 

It was there that her boss, Maz, had noticed how distraught Rey was and had ushered her into her office. The older woman sat with Rey for hours, asking her what she wanted and then helping her come up with a game plan moving forward.

 

“Are you sure you’re not going to tell the father?” Maz had said at the end of their hours long conversation.

 

“I don’t think I can,” Rey said, fresh tears returning to her eyes.

 

Maz had studied Rey for a moment. Her boss’s eyesight may have not been sharp, but in the short time Rey had known the woman, she’d sometimes fix Rey with this stare, and Rey just knew the older woman had some strange ability to sense things not seen with the eye.

 

Finally, Maz nodded. “Okay. You have to do what you think is best.”

 

Somehow Rey had managed to work through the rest of her shift before heading back to campus, which was where she finds herself now, sitting outside her building and trying to decide if she should, in fact, let Ben know that she’s pregnant with his child

 

Rey supposes that in retrospect she should have seen the breakup coming. Whenever Rey got to see him that summer—which wasn’t often—he’d be on his laptop, doing work for his internship. Even worse, Ben had become increasingly more distant as the summer went on, and whenever she’d ask him what was wrong, he’d assure her that everything was fine. But deep down, Rey knew. She knew Ben better than anyone, and she could tell that everything was not fine. She’d just assumed his internship was stressing him out or working him too hard; she had no idea that he’d been thinking about breaking up with her.

 

It had been an overcast day in early August when it happened. He’d come over to her place and they sat together on her front porch. And before Rey knew it, Ben was throwing around words and phrases like “doing a lot of thinking,” and “future” and “for the best.” She’d started crying before he finally got out the words, “We need to break up.”  

 

She’d argued with him, almost fought him on the idea of a long distance relationship, but Ben had been adamant, citing the need for a “clean break.”

 

And then when it was all over, when Rey had no fight left in her, he’d left. Left without even giving her a hug goodbye. He’d seemed so heartbreakingly indifferent.

 

She remembers his face of indifference now as she stares down at her phone, her finger hovering over the call button.

 

She compares that look of indifference to the small icon picture of him that she has saved for his contact information. It’s a picture of him from their senior prom. He’s laughing hard, at what she can’t remember anymore, and his eyes are adorably squinty and his smile is delightfully crooked.

 

This baby she has growing inside her is just as much his as it is hers. And for that reason, he deserves to know. His parents, who had been like second parents to Rey as well, deserve to know too.

 

He’s less than two hours away at Chandrila University, her mind supplies. You could call him and he could be here on this bench with you before midnight. The two of you could figure this thing out. Maybe he’d be so happy, he’d be smiling just like he is in that picture.

 

But then once more Rey recalls the look of indifference Ben had had on his face when he walked away, and she just can’t fathom the possibility of telling him and seeing that look on his face again. Of telling him and having him tell her that he wants nothing to do with this baby. She’s not sure she could bear that.

 

And he’d said he wanted to leave the past behind, hadn’t he? He’d talked about them both starting new lives on their own, even saying they’d be better off that way.

 

A teardrop falls from her eyes and onto her phone screen, as she makes her final decision. She hastily wipes it off on her jeans before taking a shuddering breath and pocketing her phone.

Chapter Text

Emmy has already been dropped off at his parents’ house when Ben gets there Friday afternoon. Rey had apparently chosen not to wait around to see him.

 

He’s been sick over their fight ever since it happened, and he hates that he’s in this position. He wants to quit, he does, but that would mean giving up five years of loyal work, relinquishing an excellent salary that he can use to his daughter’s benefit, and possibility getting blacklisted from the financial community by Snoke. It’s more complicated than Rey realizes.

 

“How was your week, kid?” Han asks him.

 

They’re standing in the living room, half-watching as Emmy picks up her toys and puts them in a wooden toy chest, which now has a permanent residence in a corner of the Organa-Solo’s living room.

 

Ben groans.

 

“That bad, huh?”

 

“It was just…exhausting.”

 

Han glances over at Emmy, appearing to make sure she’s sufficiently distracted by her task, and then lowers his voice to respond to Ben. “You give any more thought to quitting?”

 

Dad,” Ben says sternly. He doesn’t want to get into this with his father right now. He just wants to take his daughter home and enjoy what little free time he has with her.

 

“I’m just saying, Ben, I’m not—“

 

His mother appears, then, putting her small hand on her husband’s shoulder.

           

“Han. Not now.”

 

His father opens his mouth, as if to argue, but then Leia gives a firm shake of her head, and he clearly realizes that to continue would not be a smart move.

 

Leia then turns her attention to Ben, giving him a small smile. “How are you doing, sweetheart?”

 

“Tired,” he answers.

 

“Do you think you need to stay the night?” she asks gently.

 

“No. I’ll be okay.”

 

“You’ve got work to do this weekend?” his father asks. Ben can sense the lingering disapproval in his tone, but ignores it for the sake of his mother and the sake of Emmy, who’s just about done picking up her playthings.

 

“A bit.”

 

His father frowns but thankfully doesn’t say anything.

 

Though they haven’t said it outright, Ben knows his parents are on Rey’s side concerning all of this. Like Rey, they don’t realize how complicated the situation is.

 

Goodbyes are slightly tense between Ben and his parents, as he and Emmy leave. Thankfully, Emmy seems immune to it, as she giggles at how Han tickles her while she’s in Ben’s arms and how she promises Leia a new drawing for her refrigerator.

 

For tonight, he decides to put on a movie and work from the couch so that he can at least try to spend time with Emmy.

 

Once home, he and Emmy settle on the couch, him with his work computer and Emmy with the teddy bear Han and Leia had given her during her hospital stay. He pulls up his recently purchased Netflix account, goes to the children’s section, and scrolls through movies, waiting for Emmy to find one she likes.

 

Moana!” she exclaims when she recognizes it on the screen. “I wanna watch that.”

 

Of course Ben’s never seen Moana, but he’s heard Emmy talk about it multiple times with such great enthusiasm, so he presses the button on the remote and starts the movie, half-watching the cartoon and half-working on various assignments from Snoke.

 

***

 

Unfortunately, the next day Ben wakes up to an e-mail from Snoke with even more work for him to do and, thus, cannot even devote half of his attention to the various movies Emmy wants to watch or to the games she wants to play.

 

After fixing her breakfast, he tells he’s got important grown up work that needs to be done. For a moment, Emmy looks disappointed and like she might start pouting, but it’s gone a second later, and she just nods her head before returning to her room to play with her toys. Ben tries not to let the look of disappointment linger in his mind as he works.

 

He stops working, of course, to make her dinner.

 

“I’m Mrs. Claus,” she tells him out of nowhere, as they eat the pizza Ben had ordered for them for dinner.

 

Ben looks at his daughter, confused. “What do you mean, you’re Mrs. Claus?”

 

“In the Christmas play!” she explains, dark eyes lighting up. “It’s the main girl part!”

 

“Oh, that’s wonderful, Em!” Ben says proudly.

 

She grins for a moment before her face contorts in disgust. “Yeah, except Grant is Santa, and I don’t want to be married to him.”

 

He has no idea who the hell Grant is other than he must be some boy in Emmy’s class, but he laughs at his daughter’s words, though it’s clear from her face that she doesn’t find this the least bit amusing.

 

“It’s only pretend, right?”

 

“Yeah.”

 

“Well, nothing to worry about then, right?”

 

Emmy thinks on it for a moment and then nods in agreement.

 

“Are you gonna come?” she asks, a moment later.

 

“Come to the Christmas play?”

 

“Yeah. Mommy said she was going to take off of work to come.”

 

Ben runs a hand through his hair, frustrated by the fact that this play has to be in the middle of the day when he—and all other parents!—are working. It’s not that he wouldn’t love to see the play, but taking off of work in the middle of the day and driving all the way to Jakku would be such an ordeal. He can already picture the look on Snoke’s face if he leaves work in the middle of the day, citing a preschool Christmas play.

 

“I can try, Em, but I can’t make any promises right now.”

 

A small frown forms on her face as she looks down at her pizza, not saying anything else on the matter.

 

Finally, at the end of dinner, Emmy speaks again, asking if they can watch another movie.

 

“I’m sorry, sweetheart,” he sighs, hating to let his daughter down twice in under five minutes. “I’ve still got a lot more work to do.”

 

“You work a lot,” she observes.

 

Ben lets out a half-hearted laugh. “Yeah, I do.”

 

Her face is heartbreakingly earnest as she asks, “Can I help?”

 

“Not with this,” he tells her. “I wish you could help me, though. It’d make all of this a lot more fun.”

 

Emmy frowns but doesn’t argue and chews her pizza for the remainder of dinner as this contemplative look crosses her young face. She looks so deep in thought, and Ben can’t help but wonder what a four year old can think so intensely about.

 

As he’s putting the dirty dishes in the sink, Emmy asks, “What about Balto?”

 

Ben turns to his daughter, who is still sitting at the kitchen table and looking up at him innocently.

 

“What do you mean?”

 

“Can we watch Balto?

 

“Emmy,” he says patiently. “I’ve got a lot of work left to do.”

 

Emmy sighs, clearly exasperated by how dense her father must be. “But it’s your favorite movie,” she tells him. “You said so.”

 

“Yes, but we’ve already watched it.”

 

“I fell asleep,” she insists. “Please Dad. Please!”

 

Ben does the math in his head, trying to estimate how much later he’d have to stay up if he stopped working to watch the movie with Emmy. He probably wouldn’t get to bed until a little after two in the morning. Emmy usually wakes up in the morning around seven, so he’d only be getting about five hours of sleep.

 

Biting his lip, he comes to a decision. “Yes, okay. We can watch it.”

 

Emmy’s face breaks out into an face-splitting grin. Rey has said that Emmy has his smile, but the toothy grin she’s currently displaying is all Rey. Ben’s heart twists at the expression as he steps away from the sink, scoops his daughter up in his arms, and leads her back into the living room.

 

He gently drops Emmy on the couch, gets the movie set up, and then settles beside his daughter, who decides that there is too much space between them and scoots until she’s resting against him.

 

“You’re not going to fall asleep on me now, are you?”

 

He gives her a comically stern look, all scrunched eyebrows and turned down lips, which she totally sees through because she giggles and says, “No!”

 

“Okay,” he replies, still teasing her with suspicious, narrowed eyes.

 

It turns out, of course, that neither of them can stay awake through the entirety of the movie. Ben wakes up some time later to the sound of the movie’s main menu music on loop and to his daughter fast asleep against his arm, similar to the last time they tried to watch the movie.

 

He chuckles to himself for a moment before his smile is softened by the sweet image of Emmy resting against him.

 

It’s not lost on him how Emmy had instantly taken to him. She wasn’t apprehensive or scared; she simply accepted him into her life like it was the simplest thing in the world. He’s so incredibly lucky, and tears well up in his eyes as he thinks about the possibility of not being a regular part of her life.

 

Rey had told him to think hard about what level of involvement he thought he could have in Emmy’s life. He’d never leave his daughter—he’d rather die—but he understands why Rey’s scared. He hates it, but he understands. And he knows why she’d given him the ultimatum, telling him he had to decide whether he could be a full-time dad or birthdays and holidays one. She wants him to make a decision so that Emmy is not in limbo, so that she can get used to whatever normal will be.

 

He just wishes Rey could hold on a little longer before she makes him give his answer because of course he wants to be a full-time dad. He just has to jump over a few more hurdles at work, and then he can be a full-time dad who can provide for both his daughter and Rey.

 

Sighing heavily as he tries to push the memories of that conversation from his mind, Ben stands and carefully lifts a sleeping Emmy into his arms and carries her to her room.

 

In the dark room, he places her down on her bed and covers her with a single blanket before leaning down and placing a kiss to the crown of her head and going to switch on the unicorn nightlight in the corner.

 

With just the hazy glow of the nightlight illuminating Emmy’s sleeping figure, Ben stands in the doorway, admiring his sleeping daughter. He’s taken back to the first night he saw her, at Rey’s house after the reunion. He’d been awestruck at the sight of his sleeping daughter and, in that moment, he knew he’d do anything for her.

 

And that’s still true today.

 

Is it? A voice in his head asks.

 

Yes, he swears.

 

The whole rest of the night as he’s knee deep in work, that first night seeing Emmy sleep in her bed plays on a loop in Ben’s mind, and when he goes to bed just before three in the morning, it’s the last image he sees before he falls asleep.

Chapter Text

“What do you and Emmy usually do for Christmas?” Leia asks Rey, as she, Emmy, Leia, and Han sit around the large table in the Organa-Solo’s dining room enjoying dinner that Sunday afternoon.

 

To no surprise of Rey’s, Ben is absent from this dinner. She’d seen him very briefly when he dropped Emmy off, and they’d exchanged tense hellos and quick words about the weekend. In front of Ben, Emmy says, “Dad had to work a lot, but we watched Balto together!”

 

Ben clearly tries to smile at Emmy’s words, but Rey can spot the wince he’s attempting to hide. He’d left quickly after that, and though he didn’t give a reason as to why he wasn’t staying for Sunday dinner, Rey knew. She wasn’t ready to hound him for the decision yet; she just hoped he’d been giving some thought to their conversation at Thanksgiving.

 

“Nothing much,” Rey answers Leia. “Some years we’ve attended a church service with my friend Maz on Christmas Eve, but Christmas day has always just been the two of us. Last year we opened presents in the morning and then saw a movie in the afternoon.”

 

Leia smiles and puts a hand on top of her husband’s hand that’s resting on the table. “Well, our home is open, of course. Now that I’m completely out of politics, I don’t throw that big Christmas Eve party like I used to. We just attend a service on Christmas Eve before coming home and watching a Christmas movie. Then, of course, on Christmas day, we do presents and have a nice dinner.  My brother even pops up some years.  We’d love for you and Emmy to spend it with us.”

 

Rey nods politely at Leia's offer, though after dinner when she’s alone in the kitchen with Leia, helping her with the dishes, she expands her response.

 

“I’d really like to,” she tells Leia earnestly. “But I think maybe I should check with Ben first. I’m sure you’re aware of our…argument on Thanksgiving.”

 

Leia dips her chin in acknowledgement as a broken-hearted expression crosses her face. “Yes.”

 

“I’d really like to though,” Rey tells her. “I just think maybe I should talk with Ben before I commit.”

 

“Of course. You know I’d hate to get in the middle of what’s going on between you two, although I must admit I think he’s being an absolute idiot about the whole thing.”

 

“I understand his intentions,” she admits, her voice soft. “I’m just…”

 

Rey doesn’t finish her sentence, just lifts up her arms and shrugs as tears begin to burn her eyes.

 

“You’re frustrated and afraid,” Leia finishes for her. “I understand.”

 

Rey bites her lip, begging the tears not to fall, and nods. “Yeah. I…I want so badly to believe him. And I think he really believes what he’s telling me…but I can’t risk Emmy getting hurt.”

 

Leia puts the dish she’d been cleaning on the nearby rack to dry and wipes her hands on a dishtowel before pulling Rey into a hug. The older woman holds Rey in a tight embrace, and then Rey doesn’t even bother to fight the tears falling.

 

“No matter what happens with Ben,” Leia tells her, “Han and I will be here for you and Emmy. You both have been such blessings in our lives, and we will always be there for the two of you.”

 

“Thank you,” Rey responds, as the tears flow freely now.

 

“Of course, dear.”

 

Rey holds tight to the woman who was a mother to her all throughout high school. The woman who opened up her home to her, long before she and Ben started dating, and immediately made her feel like part of the family.

 

They pull apart, and as Rey wipes away tears with the sleeve of her sweater, she sees Leia gracefully brushing away a few as well.

 

Leia clears her throat, her smile returning, and claps her hands together. “Now. Emmy mentioned something to us before you got her about her playing Mrs. Claus in her school’s Christmas play?”

 

“Yes,” Rey chuckles, grateful that Leia has chosen not to dwell anymore on the previous conversation. “Her preschool is putting on a small holiday recital before the kids get off for winter breakfast. I was going to mention it to you both this evening, but it seems she already beat me to it.”

 

“She sounded very excited,” Leia says.

 

“She is. I’ll send you the information. I need to mention it to Ben too…though I doubt he’ll be able to make it.”

 

“Emmy already told him apparently.”

 

“Of course, she did,” Rey says, sighing because she hates the idea of her daughter being heartbroken over Ben’s absence at the recital.

 

Leia, likely guessing what’s going through Rey’s head, says, “Han and I will be there, I promise.”

 

“Thank you.”

 

Later that evening once Rey and Emmy are back home, Rey texts Ben a picture of the poster advertising the holiday recital that had come home in Emmy’s backpack earlier in the week. He responds back with a simple Thank you, Rey.

 

Rey sighs, unsurprised that he didn’t make any sort of comment as to whether or not he could attend, and then goes to bed, where she has fitful dreams of herself and Ben in tense moments from both the past and present.

Chapter Text

Ben’s day starts off well. Snoke shows up at his office a little after nine to comment on the improvement of his work over the last few weeks. It doesn’t completely assuage the guilt he’s been feeling, but it does make him hopeful about the promotion that is coming soon.

 

The morning meeting with Snoke also gives him a boost of energy, and he finds himself working both fast and efficiently throughout the day. At the rate he’s going, he thinks he might actually make it out of work at a reasonable hour.

 

Unfortunately, a few minutes before four, Snoke makes another appearance in his office, and immediately Ben knows that’s something’s wrong. Snoke rarely, if ever, visits Ben’s office more than once in a day.

 

As Snoke settles down in the chair across from Ben, Ben closes his laptop and pushes some of his papers to the side, giving his boss his full attention. Snoke’s expression is indecipherable. One minute, Ben thinks the man looks sorrowful, but the next, Ben thinks he sees a glimmer of pleasure in his dark eyes.

 

“What can I do for you, Mr. Snoke?” Ben asks.

 

Snoke leans back in the chair, and Ben once again sees a little spark of delight in his boss’s eyes; however, this time he also spots something more sinister in the expression.

 

“I’ve just come back from a meeting regarding, among other things, your pending promotion.”

 

Immediately, Ben’s heartbeat picks up speed. “Oh?”

 

“Yes,” Snoke confirms. “And, Benjamin, I’m so sorry to tell you this, but after much consideration, we’ve decided that there’s going to be a slight delay on it.”

 

Ben’s racing heart screeches to an abrupt stop. He can’t even get the words Excuse me, sir? out before Snoke continues.

 

“We’ve decided to do some restructuring, so it’s looking like the promotion will be closer to mid-spring.”

 

Ben is so shell-shocked that he still can’t respond.

 

“That won’t be a problem, will it?”

 

Somehow, he manages to find his voice. “It’s not a problem, per se, sir. It’s just my—“ Ben stops abruptly when he sees his boss’s expression darken.

 

“Your what, Benjamin?”

 

Ben shakes his head. “Never mind, sir.”

 

A small grin slowly creeps up on Snoke’s face. “I know this is inconvenient for you and your family.” He waves his right hand dismissively when saying the word family. “But as we’ve previously discussed, I’m sure you recognize that the benefits outweigh any minor setbacks.”

 

Do they, though? Ben wants to ask.

 

Instead, he just nods.

 

“I can see you’re disappointed,” Snoke continues. “Believe me, I understand that this is not ideal. But I just need you to hold on a little longer.”

 

Ben’s blood freezes in his veins at Snoke’s words. It’s the same phrase Ben has been using for almost a month now when he begs Rey to be patient with him. And while Ben had meant the phrase sincerely, the words sound twisted and disingenuous coming out of his boss’s mouth.

 

“Can you do that for me, Benjamin?”

 

Ben swallows hard. “Yes, sir.”

 

“I knew you could,” Snoke smirks, clearly pleased, before shaking Ben’s hand and leaving.

 

The minute Snoke leaves, Ben feels his entire body go into panic mode. He becomes sweaty, his heartbeat picks up, and his vision blurs. He spends five minutes taking calming breaths that only do the tiniest bit of good while telling himself that no one ever got anything accomplished by panicking. But in his head, all he continues to see are Rey and Emmy’s disappointed faces as he continues to not be there for them the way he should be, and the cycle of panic starts again.

 

He quickly rises from his chair, gathers up his things, and rushes out of his office, barely realizing he’s doing so. He thinks he sees Mitaka give him a wary look as he passes by his assistant’s desk and he knows it’s possible he will report him to Snoke for leaving early, but Ben can’t think about that right now. He has to get out of the building that’s become his prison over the last five years, and he has to get out now.

 

Almost on autopilot, he drives to his parents, just as he had after he’d experienced his first truly horrible day at Snoke Financial Group a while back.

 

Though he has a key, he knocks and when the door opens, his dad is staring at him, concern etched into his weathered face.

 

“What happened, Ben?”

 

***

 

He sits with his parents in their living room. Ben and Han hold mugs of coffee, while Leia’s mug is filled with tea. His parents listen as Ben explains to them what happened earlier today and as well as the tense meeting he’d had with the Snoke a few weeks ago.

 

Once upon a time, before he had fully grasped all that he’d be losing, Ben had been able to put on a stoic face. He’s apathetically told his parents that he didn’t care if they supported his decision to go to Chandrila University. He was going and that was that. And though it had completely torn him apart, he’d managed to act completely indifferent when breaking up with Rey. But now, as he explains to his parents all the bullshit he’s been put through and will continue to be put through over the next few months, Ben can’t help but become emotional. His voice cracks and his eyes sting with tears, and at one point, Leia gets up from where she is to sit beside her son and rub his back.

 

When he’s done, he lets out a massive, shuddering sigh, and then his mother sets her mug to the side and embraces him.

 

“You need to quit, sweetheart,” she says when she pulls out of the hug.

 

“It’s just…easier said than done,” Ben responds miserably.

 

“The way you’re living right now is not sustainable,” Han tells him, his voice filled with what Ben recognizes as tough love.

 

“If I quit, I’ll have nowhere to go. Snoke Financial Group is the only place I’ve ever worked. And Snoke has connections all over. He could easily make it so that I can’t find work somewhere else.”

 

A thoughtful look crosses his mother’s face as she asks, “Do you think his influence extends all the way to Jakku?”

 

Ben shakes his head. “I doubt it. It’s too a small a town.”

 

“Well, maybe you could find a job there, then,” Leia suggests. “You’d be closer to Emmy and Rey that way.”

 

“Hell, you could even start your own business,” Han adds.

 

“Dad,” Ben sighs, exacerbated. “At least with my job now, I can support Rey and Emmy.   Throwing away this career on the off chance that I could have my own company that, maybe if I’m lucky, doesn’t fail in the first two years is too risky. “

 

“I’d say failing your family is worse,” Han says sharply.

 

His mother gives his father a stern look before returning her attention to him. “If you fail, we’ll be here for you. Money isn’t everything. Rey doesn’t care about that. Emmy certainly doesn’t care about that.”

 

It’s then that the dam finally breaks. Tears begin to fall from his eyes and pretty soon he’s heaving sobs into his mother’s shoulder as she holds him close.

 

“I just feel so guilty,” he cries. “I wasn’t there for five years. Rey went through that pregnancy and the first four years of raising Emmy alone and with so little support. I thought the least I could do was make it up to her—to both of them—“

 

“Ben,” Leia soothes, her voice soft and maternal. “When you play with Emmy, that girl looks at you like you hung the moon. That’s how you make it up to her. By being there.”

 

Rey had told him something similar when they’d fought on Thanksgiving, but he’d been too absorbed in trying to balance work and life and too blind to see past his own guilt. But now, as he’s reached this breaking point where everything feels like it’s about to come crashing down, he realizes both Rey and his mom are right.

 

He’s been an absolute idiot.

 

“If Rey has let go of the past,” his mom continues, “Then you must too.”

 

He pulls back from his mom’s embrace and wipes his eyes and noticing that both of his parents have tears in their eyes as well.

 

“I’ve messed up so badly.”

 

“But it’s not too late,” Han tells him, getting up from his recliner and coming to sit on the other side of Ben. “Quit Snoke. Don’t go back there. Emmy’s Christmas recital is tomorrow. Just tell the old man to fuck off and come see your daughter perform in her little play with us.”

 

A wave of guilt crashes into him when he realizes he’s forgotten about Emmy’s recital.

 

“I can’t just not show up tomorrow,” he sighs miserably, running a hand through his hair. “That would make things a million times worse.”

 

Han looks like he wants to argue Ben’s point, but thankfully his mother intervenes before Han is able by taking Ben’s hand and squeezing. “You do whatever you think you need to do to get out of there.”

 

He nods, eyes down in his lap. The thought of showing up to work tomorrow makes his stomach churn violently. Is he just supposed to march into his boss’s office tomorrow and quit on the spot? Would putting in two weeks save any of his dignity? How does he even begin to go about ending the only professional relationship he’s ever had?

 

“I’ve got to handle this delicately,” Ben tells his parents, eyes still down. “If I do, maybe there’s a small shot of managing to stay in Snoke’s good graces, at least a little bit.”

 

He looks up at his parents then to find skeptical expressions on both of their faces. His father, clearly displeased that Ben isn’t outright going to tell Snoke to fuck off, looks like he still wants to say something, but his mother takes her husband’s hand and nods.

 

“Just find a way out, son. Find a way out and soon.”

 

“I will.”

 

Chapter Text

Rey stands outside under a small umbrella at the entrance to Emmy’s preschool, waiting to meet Han and Leia.

 

It’s a cold and drizzly December morning, and as much as Rey hates to admit it, the weather sort of matches her mood. The closer the calendar has been getting to Christmas, the worse she’s been feeling. Ben’s pending response to Rey’s question looms over her head, and she knows she’s got to demand an answer from him soon. She can’t leave things in limbo like this, but she hates that the culmination of it all has to take place during the holidays.

 

She pulls her pea coat closer to her body as she spots Leia’s sleek BMW sedan pull into parking lot. She waves to Leia and Han, and when they get out the car, Rey’s heart jumps when she sees Han carrying a bouquet of pink roses.

 

They really are the biggest blessing, she thinks.

 

After greeting one another, Rey leads them to the small cafeteria, which has been transformed into something like a theater with rows of fold out chairs and a platform acting as a stage for the children to perform on.

 

They find three seats near the front and talk pleasantly while they wait for the show to start, all three of them avoiding the topic of Ben’s absence until a man taps Rey on the shoulder and asks her if the seat to her right is taken.

 

Rey turns and her eyes meet Leia’s. The older woman sadly shakes her and presses her lips together in a way that is so much like her son, and Rey finds herself having to swallow a sudden lump in her throat as she turns back to the man and tells her that no, the seat is not taken.

 

A moment later, the lights dim and about a dozen kids filter onto the stage.

 

Emmy, dressed adorably in a red dress with and a Santa hat as Mrs. Claus, is center stage with the young boy playing Santa Claus, and Rey is able to forget everything else.

 

The children open the recital singing their best rendition of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer accompanied with the appropriate hand gestures. While some of the kids seem shy or like they don’t really remember the words or hand motions they were taught, Emmy clearly sees this as her time to shine. Rey frantically pulls her phone out of her purse to record some of it for posterity…and for Ben too.

 

When the song is over, everyone in the audience claps, before their teacher leads them into the next song I’m a Little Snowman.

 

From there, the kids, dressed in various holiday themed costumes, take turns reciting short poems in groups of two or three, and when it’s Emmy’s turn, she and the boy dressed as Santa step up to the mic and Rey captures their performance on her phone.

 

“His hair is white/his suit is red/he wears a hat to cover his head/he laughs this way: Ho! Ho! Ho!/And drives the sleigh through sleet and snow.”

 

Emmy performs the poem with a wide, animated expression and when she’s done, she looks so damn pleased with herself that Rey almost laughs.

 

The recital lasts just over thirty minutes, and at the end, all the kids join hands and, at the direction of their teacher, bow. Everyone in the audience gets to their feet to clap and wave to the children, and Rey, sitting close to the front, is able to easily get her daughter’s attention.

 

Emmy’s face lights up like the Christmas tree placed in the corner of the stage, and she waves enthusiastically to Rey. Her eyes then bounce to Leia and Han, and she happily waves to them as well.

 

Just as the teacher starts ushering them offstage, Emmy’s gaze goes somewhere beyond Rey and she starts waving frantically.

 

Confused, Rey looks behind her in the direction Emmy’s looking at, and her breath catches at what, or rather who, she sees.

 

Ben.

 

Ben is there, standing in the back of the cafeteria dressed in what’s clearly a work suit with an overcoat over his arm, and glowing as he waves back to Emmy with his free hand.

 

Leia must follow Rey’s gaze because a moment later, Rey hears her gasp, “Oh, thank God.”

 

Rey turns to Leia. “You knew?”

 

Leia, whose eyes have already started to shine with tears, shakes her head. “I had hoped, but I didn’t think he’d actually come.”

 

By now, the kids are off the stage and set free to go search for their families. Emmy comes sprinting towards Rey, Leia, and Han, shouting their names.

 

“I did it!” Emmy exclaims.

 

“You did!” Rey agrees, pulling her daughter into her arms and resting her on her hip. “You were amazing.”

 

“You really were,” Han agrees, leaning in to kiss Emmy’s cheek. “I’ve met the real Mrs. Claus, and I’ve got to say the resemblance is uncanny.”

 

Rey chuckles as Emmy looks at her grandfather, confused. Leia, playfully rolling her eyes, elbows her husband and takes her turn to hug Emmy and hands her the bouquet of flowers they brought.

 

“You did beautifully, sweetheart. We’re so proud.”

 

Emmy’s crooked smile takes over her an entire face at the praise and flowers.

 

“What do you say, Em?” Rey encourages.

 

“Thank you,” she complies, before twisting in Rey’s arms. “Where’s Dad? I saw him clapping.”

 

“I’m here.”

 

With Emmy still in her arms, Rey turns at the sound of Ben’s voice.

 

Up close, Rey observes that Ben doesn’t look as polished as she’d expected him to look. In fact, he looks a bit harried with his tie both loose and crooked and his hair slightly mussed and damp from the weather. But despite his appearance, he’s beaming at them.

 

“Daddy!” Emmy exclaims, extending out her arms and asking Ben to hold her. “Did you see me? Did you see me be Mrs. Claus?”

 

Ben reaches out to take Emmy from Rey. “I did! You were so wonderful, Em. The best Mrs. Claus there ever was.”

 

“Really?”

 

“Really,” he confirms, finally meeting Rey’s eyes and offering her a small smile. “Hey.”

 

Her heart clenches in her chest at his gentle greeting.

 

“Hey,” she responds.

 

She has a million questions she wants to ask him: Why didn't you tell me you were coming? Did you catch the whole recital? What does this mean?

 

He looks like he wants to tell her something, like he might already know what she wants to ask him and like he might have answers to her questions. But with Emmy in his arms, there’s no way to have the conversation they need to have, so for now they can only stare into each other’s eyes, a million words between them.

 

Leia then inserts herself between them and puts a hand on Ben’s shoulder. “I was thinking we could all go to lunch,” she says to both Rey and Ben. But then fixing her look on Ben, she adds, “Unless you have to get back to work?”

 

Ben visibly swallows and shakes his head. In a low voice, he says, “No. No, I don’t.”

 

He returns his gaze to Rey, and there’s a weight to it this time. She understands what it means, and a little breath escapes from her.

 

He gives her an imperceptible nod before returning his attention to Emmy. “So, what do you say? Should we take the star of the show out to lunch?”

 

Emmy giggles and nods her head ecstatically.

 

“Well, let’s get to it then,” Ben grins.

Chapter Text

Lunch, courtesy of his parents, is a pleasant if not slightly stilted affair. His mom uses her best diplomatic skills and his father keeps Emmy giggling, but there’s a tension that surrounds Ben, Rey, and all of their reactions.

 

She’s smiling at him—thank God—and he can tell that her smile is genuine, but there’s so much that hasn’t yet been discussed. And he’s itching to discuss it all with her. Based on the look in Rey’s eyes, she’s itching to talk about it too.

 

As they’re finishing up lunch, Rey gets up to take Emmy to the restroom. Left alone with his parents, Ben decides to ask for his parents’ help, but Leia—being Leia—is already a step ahead of him.

 

“Why don’t your father and I take Emmy out for ice cream after this? That will give you the chance to talk with Rey.”

 

He fucking loves his mom.

 

Sighing in relief, he responds, “That would be great, Mom. Thank you.”

 

Leia shakes her head and smiles fondly. “I’m just glad you’re here.”

 

“You made the right call, kid,” Han adds.

 

“Thanks, Dad.”

 

“So, are you gone for good?” Leia asks.

 

“Yes. It’s a whole story. I’ll explain it later.”

 

Leia nods, looking relieved. “Of course. I’m proud of you, Ben.”

 

He feels a warmth in his chest at his mother’s words. He knows he’s done the right thing, but hearing the genuine pride in his mom’s voice gives him further confidence in his somewhat rash departure. And hell, then he sees Emmy running back toward the table, a massive smile on her face, and it completely confirms his decision.

 

Of course, Rey is following right behind, looking exasperated as she uses her mom voice to tell Emmy not to run.

 

He wouldn’t want to miss this life for the world.  

 

***

 

Without any explanation, Rey seems to immediately understand the point of Leia and Han taking Emmy off of her hands for a little while. After switching her car seat into Leia’s BMW, Rey and Ben both give Emmy quick kisses goodbye and tell her to behave for her grandparents. They’re then left alone in the parking lot with no distractions between them.

 

“So, what now?” Rey asks.

 

“Let’s go somewhere,” Ben suggests. He looks up at the sky, relieved to find the weather has cleared up and the sun has come out. “The park, maybe?”

 

Rey nods. “Yeah, okay.”

 

They take their separate cars to the same park where Emmy had attended that birthday party a few months back and wind up on a bench that’s positioned perfectly in the sun.

 

“So what happened?” Rey asks, wasting no time.

 

Ben lets out a shaky sigh and, looking Rey straight in the eye, says, “I quit.”

 

“You quit?” Her voice is both a whisper and a gasp, and her beautiful eyes are as wide as they’ve ever been.

 

“I did,” he confirms. “What’s been happening over the past month really got me thinking. And yesterday was just…a really bad day. It was what solidified the decision for me.”

 

Was it really just yesterday that Snoke told him that his promotion would be put on hold? It seems like a lifetime ago. Certainly, his life has completely changed over the last 24 hours.

 

He goes on to explain to Rey how Snoke had delayed his promotion and told him to hold on a little longer. He tells her how he left work and went straight to his parents’ house and cried in his mother’s arms. Ben can see the tears glistening in Rey’s eyes as he talks, and he’s working very hard not to cry himself.

 

And then when he tells her that he hadn’t been planning to quit this morning, her brow furrows.

 

“So what happened?” Her voice remains soft as she puts her hand on his shoulder.

 

“I got to work this morning a little before eight, and Snoke was in my office, waiting for me. He chastised me for running out of the office yesterday after our meeting. He called me weak, said I was disappointing him, and he wasn’t getting out of me what he invested, and I just...I lost it, Rey. I quit. I didn’t even pack my things, just grabbed my bag and my jacket and left.”

 

“Oh, Ben.”

 

She’s crying again as she wraps her arms around him. “I’m sorry you had to go through that, but I am—“ her voice breaks, “—so happy.”

 

He’s crying now too, not even bothering anymore to fight it, and rubbing circles into her back as he says, “No, I’m sorry, Rey. I’m so sorry. For the past few weeks and for five years ago. I never want to do that to you and Emmy again. I promise I won’t.”

 

“Thank you,” she chokes out.

 

They pull apart, and he takes both her hands in his. They’re small and a little cold from the weather but feel right in his grasp.

 

“I feel like I lost my soul for five years,” he tells her. “The day I broke up with you was the beginning of it. I didn’t allow myself to feel what I had done to you. I thought I had to be stoic because if I allowed myself to feel any of the pain, I’d just collapse, combust. But seeing Emmy sleeping in her bed that first night…it changed everything for me, Rey. I knew I could never go back to being that soulless man again. Obviously I still had some kinks to work out. I’m sorry it took so long.”

 

“Better late than never.”

 

He lets out a wet chuckle. “And I’m sorry you and Emmy had to be a part of that.”

 

“I forgive you. Of course, I forgive you.”

 

He reaches up to wipe a tear from her cheek and pulls her back into a hug.

 

I love you he wants to add. But he knows that this is not the time. Not when she’s only just let him back into her life. Now, he’s got to re-earn his way back into her heart.

Chapter Text

Rey’s not sure if she would have expected things to instantly change after Ben quit his job, but they do. He immediately springs into action, putting his place in Chandrila on the market and temporarily moving in with his parents while he looks for place closer to his family. Though Rey and his parents are thrilled with this move, Emmy has no problem expressing her disappointment that her fancy room is no longer. A lot of her stuff from his place is put in a spare bedroom at Han and Leia’s, while the remainder is put into storage with the rest of Ben’s belongings.

 

Since Emmy’s holiday break has already begun, Ben drives from Coruscant to Jakku every morning to watch Emmy while Rey goes to work. Sometimes, they spend the day at Rey’s house, but other times he takes her out around town in Jakku or in Coruscant. And then when Rey gets home, the three of them spend the evenings together.

 

One afternoon, Rey meets Ben and Emmy at the small mall in Jakku, and they take her to meet Santa Claus. It’s Emmy’s first time, and she is so excited she doesn’t even complain once when she has to wait forty minutes in line. When it’s finally Emmy’s turn, she happily skips up the steps and allows herself to be lifted onto Santa’s knee. Rey and Ben hide their chuckles as they listen to their daughter tell Santa how she played Mrs. Claus in her school play before excitedly rattling off all the things she wants for Christmas. And then it’s time for Emmy to smile for her picture with Santa Claus, and when she’s done, Rey and Ben purchase way more copies in way more sizes than necessary.

 

Afterward, they meet Finn and Rose for dinner. Rey’s nervous about Finn and Rose meeting Ben as the two of them have been following the recent chain of events very closely and are wary of Ben, but it only takes two minutes of seeing how Ben interacts with Emmy for him to win them over. She gets a simple text from Rose later that evening that says, We approve!

 

Another afternoon, Rey and Emmy take Ben to meet Maz at her coffee shop. Rey can tell that he’s a little nervous, mostly because Maz is the closest person Rey has to family, but when they arrive at her place, Emmy grabs Ben’s hand, drags him inside, and proudly introduces Auntie Maz to her Daddy.

 

Rey watches as Maz gives Ben a quick onceover before wrapping him in an embrace. Ben slowly and awkwardly puts his arms around the tiny woman, and Rey can’t help but laugh when she sees Maz squeeze him even tighter.

 

When they pull back, Rey watches Maz wave a finger at Ben and asks, “You’re going to take care of my girls, aren’t you?”

 

With the utmost seriousness, Ben replies, “Absolutely.”

 

Another evening, four days before Christmas, Rey and Ben take Emmy to an extravagant holiday light display at the park in Jakku. It’s one of the few fun events the small town has to offer, and Rey has been taking Emmy for three years now.

 

They walk through the park, with Emmy in between them, holding both of their hands. She freely expresses her like or dislike of all the different decorations and demands that both of her parents give their opinions after she shares her own.

 

About halfway through the park, they stop at a little stand that’s selling kettle corn, and Ben buys the three of them a bag. They settle on a bench, Emmy still snuggled between them, to snack and chat.

 

With a mouthful of kettle corn, Emmy looks at Ben and then at Rey and says, “This is the best Christmas ever.”

 

Rey meets Ben’s eyes over Emmy’s head, and the two share a meaningful look before Rey puts an arm around her daughter and squeezes. “I’m so glad to hear that, Em.”

 

She looks at Ben again and sees his light brown eyes are bright.

 

Later that evening, they return to Rey’s house where they tuck Emmy into bed together. After, as Rey walks Ben out, she grabs his hand, stopping him from reaching the front door. He turns around, eyes going straight to her hand on his before looking up at her curiously.

 

Rey, whose face has suddenly grown warm, gives his hand a quick squeeze before letting go.

 

“What Emmy said earlier, about this being the best Christmas ever? It’s probably the first one she’ll actually remember, and I’m glad you’re here to be part of it.”

 

“Me too,” he replies.

 

Rey steps forward and pulls Ben into a hug.

 

Naturally, they’ve talked about Emmy a lot recently, but they haven’t yet talked about them.  She’s not oblivious to the way he’s been looking at her lately. Tonight especially, she’d caught his soft eyes on her multiple times when he thought she wasn’t looking. She’s playing it safe right now though, despite the warm feeling that comes over her every time she catches him staring. She knows he’s not going anywhere; it’s not about that. She just feels like they’ve only just begun to act like a family again, and they’ve got to work out all those kinks first. Everything is too fragile right now to begin to make any serious progress in their personal relationship.

 

She’s begun to think about it again though. She’s starting to let herself hope again.

 

And sometimes when Ben’s attention is solely focused on Emmy, she allows herself to gaze back at him.

 

           

***

As Leia had previously told Rey, on Christmas Eve the whole family goes to a Christmas service before returning the Organa Solo house to watch Home Alone. It’s close to ten by the time the movie ends, and Emmy has fallen asleep against Rey’s side. Thankfully, Rey and Emmy have arranged to stay in the guest bedroom tonight so that they can wake up in the morning and open presents as a family.

 

After turning off the television and switching off all but one lamp, Leia and Han rise from their seats, both looking affectionately at their slumbering granddaughter.

 

“You guys heading to bed soon?” Leia asks.

 

Rey and Ben both look down at Emmy, then at each other, before returning their attention to Leia.

 

“Yeah,” Ben answers.

           

“Just don’t want to move her yet,” Rey adds in a quiet voice.

 

Leia nods, smiling softly. “I understand. She looks so peaceful.”

 

Han directs his attention to Ben.

 

“Do you need any help—“ Han pauses and lowers his voice, “—putting out the presents?”

 

Ben shakes his head. “No. Thank you, though. I’ve been looking forward to doing this.”

 

Chuckling, Han nods. “Okay, Santa. You do your thing.”

 

After quick kisses, requiring Han and Leia to bend down to the three of them since they’re still all sitting on the couch, Leia and Han depart for their bedroom upstairs, leaving Rey, Ben, and Emmy in the dim living room lit only by a single lamp.

 

“Looking forward to tomorrow?” Rey asks, voice soft. She’s not looking at Ben, instead choosing to admire her sleeping daughter, still dressed in her dark green velvet Christmas dress.

 

“You have no idea, Rey.”

 

She then glances up at Ben to find that he, too, is gazing at their daughter.

 

“I appreciate you handling most of the Christmas shopping.”

 

Ben reaches over and brushes a stray curl from his daughter’s face and then replies, “It was no problem. I suddenly have a lot more time on my hands…might as well be useful.”

 

“You’ve really been wonderful this past week and a half.”

 

“I’m being a father,” he emphasizes, meeting her eyes. “I don’t deserve praise for doing my job.”

 

“You’re probably right. But I thought you should know, regardless.”

 

“Quitting that job was the best decision of my life,” he tells her, running a gentle hand over the top of Emmy’s head.

 

Rey hears the earnestness in his voice, and her heart sings. She’s glad he’s not having doubts about his decision; she didn’t think he would. But still, she’s glad.

 

“I agree.”

 

Emmy lets out a tiny whimper, and both of their gazes drop to their daughter. Rey chuckles softly and asks, “Help me with her?”

 

“Sure,” Ben responds, standing up and carefully lifting Emmy into his arms.

 

Together, they head upstairs to the guest bedroom, where Ben carefully deposits Emmy’s sleeping form onto the bed. Rey pulls a pair of Emmy’s pajamas from a dresser drawer and hands Ben the bottoms so that he can help her.

 

Carefully, so as not to wake her, they change Emmy out of her fancy Christmas dress and into a pair of pajamas that has Christmas elves printed on them. They were an early Christmas gift from Maz, and Emmy had insisted on wearing them when she opened her presents on Christmas morning.

 

Once she’s changed and tucked into bed, Ben lingers for a moment, and Rey watches his lips twist a little, knowing he is debating whether or not to say something.

 

“What?” she asks.

 

His lips part ever so slightly, as if he’s about to speak, but then he presses them together once more. Shaking his head, he answers, “Nothing.”

 

He takes a few steps toward the bed, leans down, and gives Emmy a kiss on the crown of her head. Rey’s heart clenches, but before she even has the time to consciously acknowledge the touching moment between Ben and Emmy, he approaches her.

 

Not saying a word, Ben puts his hands on Rey’s shoulders, leans in, and presses a kiss to her forehead. He immediately pulls back and gives her a tender look.

 

“Goodnight, Rey. See you in the morning.”

 

She doesn’t find her voice until he’s reached the door. It’s only then that she whispers out, “Night, Ben.”

Chapter Text

The sun isn’t out yet when Ben wakes up. Still in his childhood bed, he reaches for his cell phone, which has been charging on his nightstand. His phone tells him it’s 5:53 in the morning. He chuckles softly, recalling how when he was a child, he’d wake up early on Christmas morning, sneak downstairs, and take inventory of his presents under the tree, speculating as to what they could be.

 

Today, as an adult, Ben finds himself more excited for Christmas morning than he ever was as a child. And, of course, that all has to do with Emmy. Well, almost all of it has to do with Emmy.

 

After tucking her in with Rey last night, Ben had gone downstairs and laid out all of Emmy’s Christmas gifts from Santa. He also set out the Christmas gift he got Rey. He’s been quite nervous about it, afraid that it might be too intimate of a gift to give to someone who you’re not in a relationship with—even if that someone if the mother of your child.

 

Shaking away some of his nerves, he gets out of bed and starts his morning routine.

 

After he’s showered, shaved, and gotten dressed, he goes downstairs to find his mom and dad in the kitchen drinking coffee.

 

“You guys are up early,” Ben comments, going immediately to the coffee pot to pour himself a cup.

 

“It’s been a long time since we’ve had a little one around to watch open presents,” Leia replies. “It’s exciting.”

 

He turns, leaning against the counter with his coffee mug in his hand and faces his parents. “I’m excited too.”

 

“That’s being a parent for you,” Han chuckles, raising his mug to Ben.

 

His relationship with his parents is just another part of his life that has completely changed since he quit his job. He’d feared living with them again might cause them to bicker or fight, but both of his parents have been generous and supportive. Not once have they brought up the past, told him he should have quit sooner, or judged him in anyway. He’s not too surprised his mother has managed this, but he is surprised about his father. Han has always had much more of a hard time holding his tongue, but instead of voicing every opinion he’s had, he’s just been there for Ben.

 

After he finishes his first mug of coffee, he helps his mom make breakfast for everyone, and, by the time they’re done, Emmy is rushing downstairs with Rey following behind.

 

“Morning,” Rey says through a yawn as she reaches the bottom of the stairs.

 

She looks like she’s still half-asleep, and Ben finds her incredibly endearing like that. Without thinking twice, he grabs the mug of coffee he’d made it for her a few minutes prior and brings it to her.

 

“Morning,” he greets, handing it to her.

 

Her eyes light up at the coffee mug. “Thank you. Someone kept me up all night. She kicks in her sleep.”

 

Ben snorts. “I’m sorry.”

 

"Nah, it’s fine,” Rey grins. “I was expecting it.”

 

They eat a quick breakfast—very quick in Emmy’s case—before the five of them gather around the massive green Christmas tree in the front room.

 

Then the excitement begins.

 

Emmy insists on opening her presents first, getting all kinds of toys, clothes, and books from Santa, her parents, and grandparents. One book she’s particularly fascinated by, much to Ben’s pleasure, is Charlotte’s Web. He had gotten her the book, as it had been one of his favorites as a child. In fact, he’d tried to find his original copy, but, to his disappointment, he’s fairly certain he must have thrown it out when he’d moved out the house to go to college.

 

“Why is the girl hugging a pig?” she asks.

 

“We’ll have to read the story to find out,” Ben answers, grinning. “We can start tonight if you’d like.”

 

“Yes, please.”

 

Ben revels in Emmy’s enthusiasm as she opens her presents, and he gets the opportunity to share a secret smile with Rey every time Emmy opens one of the presents she’d put on her list to Santa.

 

When Emmy finishes opening her presents, everyone else gets their turn. To keep her engaged, Emmy is put in charge of picking which present gets opened next.

 

The first gift she chooses is a large rectangular present, wrapped with shimmering silver paper. She doesn’t even need help determining who is supposed to open it. Instead, she hands it immediately to Ben.

 

Ben thanks his daughter as he takes the present from her and looks down at the little tag stuck to the center.

 

TO: DAD

 

FROM: EMMY AND REY

 

He looks back at his daughter, who isn’t even attempting to hide how excited she is, and then looks over at Rey, who is watching him with anticipation.

 

“Go on,” she encourages, nodding at the present.

 

Ben, never one to tear apart wrapping paper, carefully unwraps the present to find an 8x10 collage picture frame with two drawn pictures inserted side by side.

 

“Oh, my God,” he gasps, staring down at the pictures.

 

On the left is a simpler picture, obviously drawn by Emmy, of herself, Ben, and Rey. It appears as if Emmy’s drawn them at the zoo based on the figures that look vaguely like animals in the background. On the right is a very similar drawn image of the three of them at the zoo; however, the picture is much more developed, looking as if a real artist had drawn it.

 

He looks up and meets Rey’s eyes. “You drew this?”

 

“We both did!” Emmy answers for her, but Rey nods in response, smiling almost shyly.

 

“I love it,” he says softly, eyes falling back to the frame. “Thank you so much.”

 

“You’re welcome!” Emmy exclaims happily, scooting to sit next to him so that she can explain her drawing process.

 

Presents continue to disappear from under the tree until there’s only one left: a small box that Emmy pulls from the back.

 

“Be careful with that one,” Ben warns Emmy gently.

 

"I will,” she says. “Who’s it for?”

 

“It’s for Mom,” he answers, a tinge of nervousness sneaking into his voice.

 

Emmy then hands the present to Rey, who looks up at Ben with an indecipherable expression for a moment before carefully unwrapping the present.

 

“Open it!” Emmy demands, once Rey holds a small, now unwrapped, jewelry box in her hand.

 

Rey does, and Ben watches with baited breath.

 

She gently opens the box and takes in the delicate bracelet resting inside.

 

Ben had only had a faint idea of what he wanted to get Rey when he’d gone shopping last week. He knew he wanted to get her a nice piece of jewelry, and he wanted to incorporate Emmy in some way.

 

When he’d told the jeweler that, he’d nodded knowingly and said, “Oh, so you want a push present?”

 

“A what?” Ben had asked blankly.

 

“It’s a present men get their wives—or girlfriends—after they’ve had a child. That’s what you’re looking for, right?”

           

Ben had blushed because, yes, that was—inadvertently—what he was looking for. Except Rey wasn’t his wife or girlfriend, and he had no clue what a push present was until thirty seconds ago. Despite this, Ben had worked with the jeweler until they’d found a piece they were both happy with.

 

As he watches Rey pull out the bracelet now, he sees surprise and then affection flash across her face as she examines it’s closer.

 

“It’s beautiful, Ben,” she says, and her voice is a little quieter than it had been previously.

 

“It really is,” his mother agrees, smiling at her son.

 

Not to be left out, Emmy adds her contribution as she stares at the bracelet in Rey’s hand, “Why are the diamonds different colors?”

 

“They’re not diamonds, sweetheart. They’re gemstones,” Rey says, looking at Emmy and then at Ben, “In fact, I think they’re our birthstones. Is that right?”

 

Ben nods. “Yes.”

 

With the jeweler’s help, he’d decided on a thin white gold bracelet with an infinity symbol in the middle. Within the holes of the symbol were the two gems: aquamarine and ruby, Emmy and Rey’s birthstones, respectively.

 

“It’s so pretty!” his daughter admires. She goes to reach for it, but Rey gently pulls her hand back. “We have to be careful, okay?”

 

Emmy nods, pouting a little, before she is distracted by Han, who recruits her to help clean up all the wrapping paper.

 

His three uncles—Luke, Chewie, and Lando—arrive soon after and all fawn over Emmy, who obviously loves the attention and the presents they all bring her. They’re also all delighted to see Rey again. At one point, Ben looks over and sees Rey deep in conversation with Chewie. They’d always gotten along really well, he remembers. And when he hears her call him ‘Uncle Chewie,’ just as she used to when they were back in high school, he feels an incredible warmth fill his chest.

 

She has family again.

           

After dinner, his uncles all leave, but Rey and Emmy stick around, and the five of them watch Elf. Surprisingly, Emmy doesn’t actually fall asleep during the movie, which Ben believes to be the result of adrenaline from the day.

 

When the movie ends, Rey announces it’s time to head back home, and Emmy begins to whine.

 

“None of that,” Ben tells her, voice gentle but stern, as he scoops her into his arms.

 

“But I want to stay,” she sulks, wrapping her small arms around his neck and digging her head into his shoulder.

 

“You’ll see Dad and Grandma and Pops soon,” Rey comforts, pressing a kiss on Emmy’s arm before they all make their way to the front door. “Dad’s going to keep watching you when I have to go back to work in two days, okay?”

 

She’s still pouting, face still burrowed in Ben’s shoulder, but she mumbles out, “Okay.”

 

Having already packed all the presents into Rey’s trunk, all there is to do is say goodbye. Leia and Han give both Rey and Emmy hugs and kisses first, and Rey thanks them for the amazing day.

 

“No, Rey,” Ben hears his mom say as she hugs Rey, “Thank you.

 

They then head back inside to let Ben say goodbye on his own.

 

Ben helps Rey put Emmy in his car seat and then blows raspberries on her cheek—something he’s never done before—to get her to smile. It works, thankfully, and she giggles.

 

Then more seriously, he kisses his daughter on the forehead and tells her how much he loves her, before shutting the car door.

 

It’s then just him and Rey standing there. Technically, nothing has really changed about their relationship, but at the same time, it feels like everything is changing.

 

“I just wanted to say again how much I adore this,” Rey tells him, lifting her wrist and gently shaking it a little.

 

“You deserve it,” Ben tells her earnestly. “Everything about Emmy, everything she is…is because of you.”

 

She takes his hand and gives it a little squeeze. “And everything she will become is because of both of us.”

 

At that, he can’t help but take Rey in his arms and hold her against him. Without hesitation, her arms go around him and she presses her face to his chest. He will never be over how lucky he is that Rey is in his life once more, that she has let him into her life once more, and that she’s given him the profound opportunity to be Emmy’s father.

 

“Thank you,” he whispers into her hair as he continues to hug her tight. “Thank you, Rey.”

 

He’s certain for as long as he lives, he’ll never stop thanking her.

 

She’s silent for a moment, simply resting in his embrace, before pulling back a little to meet his gaze. Ben notices her eyes are glistening, and he knows his are as well.

 

Ben is sure Emmy was right a few days ago when she said this has been the best Christmas ever.

Chapter Text

After making babysitting arrangements with Leia and Han—something Leia and Han were more than eager to do for multiple reasons—Rey and Ben make plans to attend Kaydel and Poe’s New Year’s Eve party.

 

She’d mentioned it to him one evening as they sat on her couch, talking. As they had become the pattern while Emmy was off from school for the holidays, Ben would drive to Jakku in the morning to watch Emmy while Rey went to work. Then most nights when Rey got home, they’d have dinner together, perhaps play with Emmy a little, before tucking her into bed, and ultimately winding up on the couch, talking mostly about the future.

 

They never talked about the idea of their future, of course, but they talked about Emmy’s a lot. They’d speak about what they wanted for Emmy and what their goals for her were, and Rey was always so happy to find that she and Ben’s hopes for their daughter lined up.

 

But one night as they curled up on opposite ends of the couch and chatted, Rey had brought up the idea of going to Kaydel and Poe’s party.

 

“They have it every year, and I never go,” she’d told him. “But I was thinking that maybe we could ask your parents to watch Emmy for the evening and that maybe we could go together.”

 

Ben’s eyes had lit up at the word together. “I’m sure my parents would love to babysit.”

 

On the evening of New Year’s Eve, Rey changes into a short navy metallic dress she’d bought earlier this week. When Emmy sees Rey all dressed up, her eyes go big.

 

“You look so pretty, Mommy,” Emmy comments as Rey helps her into her car seat. She sighs and says, “I wish I could go to the party.”

 

Rey suppresses a chuckle as she buckles her daughter in. “I’m sure you’re going to have a great time with Grandma and Pops. I know they’re looking forward to spending time with you.”

 

“But you and Daddy are going to a party.

 

“Darling,” Rey counters, rubbing a freshly manicured hand across the top of her daughter’s head, “Sometimes Mommy and Daddy like to go to grown up things. Just like sometimes you just want to play with your friends. Sometimes we do too.”

 

Emmy seems to accept that…at first. But about halfway to Coruscant, Emmy chirps up, “Are you and Daddy going to get married?”

 

Rey, whose heart momentarily stutters in her chest, looks into the rearview mirror at her daughter’s innocent face.

 

She’d be lying if she said the thought hadn’t crossed her mind more and more lately. They were still so far away from that though. They weren’t even dating. But she had continued to allow hope to blossom in her mind and in heart, and she was secretly keeping her fingers crossed that tonight might be the night where things changed between them.

 

Still, she can’t explain the complexities of all of this to her daughter, so she settles for a half-assed answer she hopes her daughter would buy.

 

“Em, marriage is a very important thing. It’s not something people decide to do after only a short period of time.”

 

Through the rearview mirror, Rey watches her daughter frown, seemingly more in confusion than genuine disappointment, but thankfully, she doesn’t say anything else on the matter.

 

Ben is the one to open the front door when Rey and Emmy arrive, and when he sees Rey, his expression almost mirrors the one Emmy had made when she first saw Rey.

 

He can’t seem to find words for a second, as he continues to take her in, so Rey, trying her best to keep her blush at bay at both his reaction and how handsome he looks in his suit, greets him. “Hey.”

 

It’s enough to shake him out of his stupor. “Hey.” And then he looks down at Emmy. “Hey, you. Ready for a fun night with Grandma and Pops?”

 

Emmy sighs. “Yeah.”

 

“She wanted to go to the party,” Rey explains, winking at Ben.

 

“Ah,” Ben says, scooping Emmy up into his arms and kissing her cheek. “Trust me, sweetheart. It’s just going to be a bunch of grownups. There won’t be any other kids around. You’re going to have a lot more fun here.”

 

Emmy’s still wearing a bit of a pout, so Ben blows a raspberry on her face, which gets her laughing immediately.

 

Rey will never get over how naturally and how quickly Ben took to being a parent, and she takes a mental snapshot of this small but sweet moment between the two of them to save for later.

***

 

Poe and Kay’s party is nice—much nicer than one would expect a party to be that’s thrown by two young adults in their early twenties. Like they had told Rey, they built a large beautiful deck in their backyard, where about two or so dozen people congregate. There are a few faces from high school Rey knows, and she and Ben chat stick close to one another and chat with some of their former classmates.

 

At some point in the evening, they wind up talking to Poe and Kay, the latter excitedly referring to them as the fantastic four just as she’d done at their reunion of few months ago.

 

Rey is thankful that neither of them asks about Rey and Ben’s status, but she definitely catches Kay’s eyes curiously wandering between them multiple times.

 

At one point, Ben seems to notice that Kay’s champagne flute is empty, and he motions to take it from her.

 

“I’m going to get another myself,” he tells her. “Let me get you a new glass too.”

 

Rey watches as Kay quickly glances over at Poe. They share a smile, before Kay hands her glass to Ben.

 

“Just sparkling cider, please, Ben,” she says, still grinning.

 

Ben clearly hasn’t put together the pieces, but Rey has.

 

“Oh, my gosh,” Rey exclaims. “Are you…?”

 

Poe puts an arm around his wife and pulls her to his side. “Yes. Only a little over a month, so we haven’t told anyone yet.”

 

“You’re first actually,” Kay adds, beaming.

 

“Wait…” Ben starts, keeping his voice low. “You’re pregnant, Kay?”

 

Kay laughs, further snuggling against Poe’s side, as she answers. “Yes.”

 

Ben’s face lights up and his smile grows so big, Rey would almost think he was the one expecting.

 

“I’m so happy for you two,” he says. “Being a parent is the best thing that has ever happened to me.”

           

He meets Rey’s eyes as he says the last part, and she smiles back up at him, momentarily getting lost in the joy in his eyes, before remembering they’re not alone and returning her focus to her friends.

 

Eventually, Poe and Kaydel have to go talk to their other guests, so Rey and Ben wind up alone, standing on the edge of the deck, looking out into the dark night that is decorated with the occasional flash of color from fireworks.

 

After awhile, conversation between them begins to slow, though the silence between them is comfortable. Rey’s content to just be in Ben’s company, sipping her champagne and enjoying the sporadic fireworks.

 

“I think I’d like more,” Ben says in a quite voice, just before a handful of pink fireworks light up the sky. Then as the fireworks subside, he adds, “Actually, I know I would.”

 

Rey turns to Ben, who is still looking ahead. She doesn’t have to ask what he’s talking about. She knows exactly what he’s referring to. She’s sure he’s been thinking about it ever since Kay and Poe told them their big news.

 

In a voice just as quiet as Ben’s, Rey responds, “I would too.”

 

Ben’s head immediately turns to hers, and his expression is filled with such hope that it very nearly stops her heart.

 

Neither elaborates on the specifics of what they’ve just said, but Rey hopes to make the implication clear when she takes Ben’s hand, resting on the wooden rail of the deck, in hers.

 

After a moment, Ben speaks, “I’m glad we did this. It’s been a nice night.”

 

“It has.”

 

Ben glances down at his watch for a moment and then back up at Rey. “But I think I’d like to ring in the New Year with you and Emmy.”

 

Rey nods as she squeezes his hand. “Yeah, me too.”

 

***

 

When they get back to Han and Leia’s, they find them both asleep in the living room on the couch with Emmy, also fast asleep, between them. The television is on low and broadcasting the dropping of the ball. The countdown on the screen says they’ve got fifteen minutes until midnight.

 

Ben gently shakes his parents awake to tell them that he and Rey are back, and in the process, wakes up Emmy, who is completely delighted that her parents have returned.

 

“I thought we could watch the fireworks at midnight in the backyard,” Ben suggests.

 

Han and Leia share a look and then shake their heads in unison.

 

“We’ve seen enough midnights. You three enjoy it,” Leia tells them.

 

At about five minutes to midnight, Ben, Rey, and Emmy go into the backyard to watch the fireworks that are already going off without stop.

 

“Is it time yet?” Emmy asks eagerly from Ben’s arms.

 

“Not yet,” Rey answers, glancing down at her phone. “Just a few more minutes.”

 

“But why are there already fireworks?”

 

“Because people are excited,” Ben tells her, bouncing her a little on his hip for emphasis. “People get excited about starting the new year.”

 

“Why?”

 

“Because they think of it as a chance to start over, to do better than they did last year.”

 

Emmy’s four-year-old mind seems to consider this for a moment, and then she nods. Rey knows her daughter doesn’t really understand her father’s words, but she is endeared by the charming way her brow furrows as she thinks about it.

 

At 11:59, Rey sets a timer on her phone, and at ten seconds to midnight, the three of them count down together, Emmy’s voice growing louder and more excited with each number.

 

Happy New Year!” Ben and Rey exclaim, and Emmy follows, shouting it a second after them.

 

Ben plants a kiss on Emmy’s cheek and says, “We love you Em.”

 

“I love you too,” she answers, before Rey stands on her tiptoes to peck at her daughter’s other cheek a few times.

 

Emmy giggles at Rey’s repeated affection, and she says, “Why are you kissing me?”

 

“Because it’s what you do on New Years,” Rey explains before giving Emmy one last kiss.

 

“Oh. So do you kiss too?” she asks, innocently glancing between her parents.

 

Rey and Ben look at each other, both deer caught in headlights. Ben sort of tilts his head to the side, as if to say Should we?

 

To be frank, Rey would like that very much. But it’d be their first kiss in five years. Hell, it’d be her first kiss in five years. And Rey doesn’t want their first to be a quick peck in front of their daughter. She wants more.

 

At Ben’s expression, Rey bites her lip for a moment before nodding quickly. She takes a step toward Ben, and quickly kisses him on the cheek.

 

“Happy New Year, Ben,” she says, her voice coming out soft and low.

 

“Happy New Year, Rey,” he responds just as tenderly.

 

They stay outside for a few more minutes until the fireworks start to die down. For all the excitement a few minutes ago, Emmy seems to tire very quickly, her head falling to rest on Ben’s shoulder.

 

As has become the habit, they bring Emmy to the guest bedroom where Emmy and Rey sleep when they stay over. Together, they change her into her pajamas and tuck her into bed. She’s asleep the moment her head hits the pillow.

 

When they’re done, Rey walks with Ben to the door of the guest bedroom.

 

Rey tenderly touches Ben’s bicep as she whispers, “I’m glad I got to start this new year with you and Em.”

 

“Me too.”

 

Then, taking a deep breath for courage, she adds, “I want to spend the rest of them with both of you too.”

 

He doesn’t respond, and for a brief moment, Rey is scared she said something that perhaps she shouldn’t have, but when she glances up into his eyes, she sees there is nothing to be scared of. He keeps looking at her, his eyes searching hers for something, and though Rey doesn’t know exactly what he’s looking for, she hopes her face displays the warmth, affection, and openness she feels toward him.

 

And then he leans in. It’s slow enough that it’s clear there’s no hesitancy in his intention but still slow enough that he’s giving Rey time to back up if she wants. She doesn’t. Instead, she tilts her head, and closes the gap between them.

 

It feels just like it did five years ago, but somehow even sweeter. It feels more mature, more meaningful, and it feels earned.

 

It’s been years since they’ve kissed, but their lips move together in a familiar way, one with no reluctance or doubt, although Rey would be lying if she said there wasn’t a new layer of desperateness added to it as well.

 

His lips slide over hers before quickly prodding them open, and as they continue to kiss, his hands, which had previously been cupping her face, begin to travel up and down her sides, while Rey’s hands grip Ben’s dress shirt, keeping him close.

 

When they finally do part, Rey doesn’t let Ben pull back completely. She keeps her forehead pressed against his, not ready for the intimacy of the last few moments to end just yet.

 

“I’ve wanted to do that for so long,” he says, his voice a breathless whisper.

 

Rey gently touches her fingers to her lips before replying in a soft voice, “I’m so glad you did.”

 

He smiles at her admission as tears begin to glisten in his eyes. “I want this, Rey. I want this and you and I want to be a family. I know how much is at stake here because of Emmy, but I lost you once, and I couldn’t forgive myself if I didn’t at least try to get you back.”

 

“I’m back, Ben,” she responds in a trembling whisper as her arms wrap around his neck and her fingers begin to tangle in the hair at his nape. “I want what you want. All of it.”

 

“I won’t let you down, Rey. I promise.

 

“I believe you,” she answers, before closing the space between them once more.

 

This kiss is slower than the first and doesn’t last for nearly as long, but it’s filled with just as much, if not more, feeling.

 

“Are you going to bed now?” Ben asks, as their lips part.

 

Rey sighs, laughing a little. “I’m going to try. Emmy’s a kicker.”

 

“Right,” he says, still holding her close. “I remember you saying that at Christmas.”

 

“It’s not that bad though.” Her fingers are still playing with the hair at his nape as she speaks. “I’m used to it.”

 

“Do you want to stay in my room?”

 

Rey quirks an eyebrow, and despite the hall’s dim lighting, she’s sure she can see his cheeks go pink.

 

“That’s where Emmy happened, you know.”

 

There’s no hiding the positively fluorescent color of his face now.

 

“Rey, I may want more kids, but I’m pretty sure I don’t want to make them in my childhood bedroom.”

 

Truthfully, she’s relieved that this isn’t a proposition. Ben is the father of her daughter and someone she lost once already, so she wants to take her time. At least for now.

 

“So, just to sleep then?” she confirms.

 

“Just to sleep.”

 

“Then, yes. Yes, I’d like that.”

 

***

 

Rey startles awake to a knock on the door.

 

“Ben!”

 

It’s Leia’s voice.

 

Rey, finding herself encased in Ben’s strong arms, turns in his embrace to face him.

 

“Ben,” she whispers, as she pokes one finger at his chest. “Ben.”

 

She watches as Ben’s eyes flutter open.

 

“Your mom is at the door, calling for you,” Rey tells him.

 

Ben nods and then raises his voice. “Yes, Mom?”

 

“Emmy is looking for Rey. If you…find her, could you let her know?”

 

Ben grins down at Rey as she feels her cheeks heat up.

 

“I will! Thanks, Mom.”

 

“No problem,” Leia responds from the other side of the door. “Also, congratulations to the both of you. Now, don’t go screwing it up this time, Benjamin.”

 

They hear her chuckle as her footsteps disappear.

 

“I won’t screw it up this time,” Ben tells Rey. His previously sleep eyes are wide with earnestness and fills Rey’s heart with an overwhelming amount of warmth.

 

“I know you won’t,” she tells him, pressing a kiss to his chest.

 

In response, Ben kisses the top of her head, and Rey sighs happily.

 

“As much as I want to stay here just like this, we should probably get up before Emmy starts asking questions,” Ben suggests after a moment, as he removes his arms, and his subsequent warmth, from Rey.

 

Rey, unable to stop herself, reaches out for Ben and pulls his arms back around her, as Ben laughs and decidedly does not protest. “Just a few more minutes.”

 

Then she kisses him soundly because she can.

 

Chapter Text

By the end of January, Ben has found both an apartment and a small office space in Jakku, not even fifteen minutes away from Rey and Emmy.  Taking his parents’ advice, he decides to start his open financial advising business, a decision that not only pleases his parents but makes Rey happy as well.

 

With his new apartment, he and Rey set up a more equal custody schedule, alternating weeks.  It really doesn’t matter much though because the three of them spend almost every day together.

 

There are some days though, where Rey and Ben hire a babysitter and go out on dates.  When they’re together with Emmy, they’re very careful to not be overtly affectionate—Rey insisted on this so as not to confuse their daughter—but when it’s just the two of them, it’s a completely different story.

 

One night in particular when Ben is dropping Rey back off at her house, he can’t seem to stop kissing her goodnight.

 

“Ben,” Rey says breathlessly, pulling away from him.  “I have work in the morning.”

 

Ben responds by pulling her face back to his and quickly kissing her once more before whispering against her lips.  “I’m trying to make up for lost time.”

 

It becomes apparent to both of them very quickly that what is between them is just as real as they both had hoped it would be, and after a long, thought out discussion, the two of them sit down with Emmy and explain to her that her mom and dad are boyfriend and girlfriend.

 

“Like before?” she asks, looking between them.

 

“Before?” Ben asks, brow furrowing.

 

“Grandma said you were boyfriend and girlfriend when you were younger. And that’s how I was born.”

 

Ben’s eyes go from Emmy to Rey, who is both blushing and trying not to laugh.

 

“She said that?” Rey asks.  She’s clearly attempting to bite back a smile.

 

Emmy nods.  “So, does this mean you’re going to have another baby?”

 

Now, Ben is the one that’s blushing.

 

“No, sweetheart.  No babies on the horizon,” Rey tells her, before kissing her on the top of her head.

 

Ben decides he’s probably going to need to have a talk with his mom very soon.

 

***

           

He proposes on the Fourth of July. 

 

They, along with Emmy, had spent an absolutely perfect day with his parents at their house, swimming in the pool and barbecuing before changing out of their bathing suits to enjoy the fireworks.  They hold hands the entire time, and once the fireworks are over, Leia quietly tells Emmy to come inside with her and Pops, leaving Rey and Ben in the backyard alone.

 

Rey should think something of it, but she’s doesn’t.  There have been so many perfect days just like this one that Rey thinks today is like all the rest.  But Ben’s determined to make this one extra perfect.   She and Ben keep holding hands as they sit on the edge of the pool, their legs dangling in the water.

 

They talk about the last Fourth of July they spent together—the one where Emmy no doubt was conceived.  Ben makes a joke, nudging her shoulder and calling it a memorable night.  Rey laughs, agreeing with his sentiment.

 

Then he says, “Do you want to make this Fourth of July memorable too?”

 

Her face scrunches up in confusion for a moment before Ben pulls a small blue velvet box out of his pocket.

 

Ben,” she gasps in a whisper.

 

He takes one of Rey’s hands in his free one before pulling her up so that she’s standing.  He then gives it a quick squeeze before getting down on one knee and opening the box.

 

“First you were my best friend.  And then you were my girlfriend.  Then you were the mother of our child.  Then you were my girlfriend again.  Now, I want you to be my wife.”

 

Ben pauses there to take in a big gulp of air.  He’s determined to get through this speech without crying, though it’s becoming harder by the second as he feels the way her hand is shaking in his and sees the way her eyes have begun to water.

 

“Rey, you are the most magnificent woman I know.  Not only are you compassionate, gentle, and patient with our daughter, but you’re those things with me too.  You made me be a better man for both you and for Emmy.  I thank God every day that I realized what I had before I lost it again.”

 

His voice has started to quiver, so he pauses again and takes a few deep breaths.  Rey has silently begun to cry, but she is smiling brightly through her tears.  He yearns to stand up and wipe them away, but he’s determined to get through this speech first and slip this ring on her finger.

 

“I dreamt of marrying you from the time I was seventeen.  You are the first and only woman I’ve ever loved.  Rey Johnson, I am so grateful to have my love returned, and I hope that you will make both seventeen and twenty-four year old me the happiest man in the world.  Rey, will you marry me?”

 

“Yes, Ben,” she says between sobs as she nods her head emphatically.  “Yes, of course I’ll marry you.”

 

Ben then opens the box and shows her the ring inside: a medium sized solitaire cushion cut diamond (from his grandmother’s jewel collection) on a platinum band.

 

Truthfully, Ben would have liked to go even flashier, but he knows that’s not Rey’s style.  This ring, though, he had shown to Kay and Rose, and they had both voiced their approval.

 

Rey seems to approve too because before he has the chance to slip it on her finger, she is sinking to her knees so that she is his height.

 

“You’re supposed to stay standing while I do this,” he jokes, his voice still wavering a little.

 

She shakes her head and laughs, her eyes dancing as Ben puts the ring on her left ring finger.  The moment it’s on, she grabs the sides of his face and pulls him into a kiss.

 

“I love you so much,” she tells him as they pull apart.

 

“I love you too,” he replies, before pulling her into him once more.

 

For a moment, they make out like teenagers at the pool’s edge just as they had six years ago.  But then they hear the back door open, and Emmy comes running out to join them, so they pull apart.

 

She runs into Rey’s arms and looks between her and Ben.

 

“Did it happen?” she asks, her eyes wide and sparkling with unrestrained excitement.

 

Rey looks at Emmy and then to her new fiancé, and then back at Emmy. 

 

“Daddy told you he was going to do this?”

 

Emmy nods, clearly pleased at knowing something her mother did not know.  “He said it was a very important secret.”

 

Ben laughs before giving his daughter a playfully stern look.  “What she’s not telling you is that she found the ring one day after digging in places she wasn’t supposed to be.  So really, I had no choice.”

 

“Oh, Em,” Rey chuckles. 

 

Emmy doesn’t even bother trying to look sheepish as Rey ruffles her hair and plants a kiss on her cheek.  She just looks between her parents, beaming.

 

 

***

 

They don’t wait long to get married, deciding on the first Saturday in November for the wedding date.

 

As much as Leia would have liked to have planned an extravagant wedding, Rey and Ben keep it small.  They decide to have a small ceremony at Leia’s church.

 

The ceremony, in both Rey and Ben’s opinion, is perfect.  There is no wedding party, and only forty or so people are invited.  As the ceremony starts, Ben stands at the altar and first watches his daughter, the perfect flower girl, walk down the aisle.  She takes her job very seriously, holding herself like a princess would.  When she gets to Ben, he kneels down and gives her a hug.

 

“How’s Mommy?” he whispers in her ear.

 

“She keeps laughing and crying,” Emmy says, giggling.

 

Ben laughs, giving her a quick kiss on the cheek before standing up.

 

Leia, who is seated in the front row next to Han, steps forward to usher Emmy away and gives Ben a quick wink as she does so.

 

Then Ben is left alone on the altar together. 

 

Suddenly, the music changes, and everyone in the church stands.  The church doors open, and Rey steps out looking like every dream he’s ever had.

 

She’s stunning in a simple, strapless white gown with lace overlay.  From down the aisle, her eyes meet his and she offers him a watery smile, which he returns the best he can because suddenly he finds his own eyes are wet.

 

She walks down the aisle slowly, never taking her eyes off of him, and with each step she makes, Ben’s heart beats a little faster until finally they’re together at the front of the altar.  Both are outwardly crying now, though they also have ridiculously wide grins on their faces as well.

 

He takes her hands in his, giving them a little squeeze, before they both turn their heads to the minister.

 

Rey isn’t the only one whose name changes that week.  A few days after the wedding, Ben and Rey finish the paperwork so that Emmy becomes Emmeline Faith Solo.

 

***

It’s an early morning in April, a year and five months after their wedding, when Rey wakes Ben up by pouncing on him in their bed and frantically shaking him awake.

 

“What the—Rey.  What the hell are you doing?”

 

His head is still against the pillow and his eyes are barely open.

 

Rey, who is still in her pajamas, waves a small stick in her hand and doesn’t say anything.

 

Slowly, his eyes open and then widen at what Rey holds in her hand.

 

A pregnancy test.

 

A positive pregnancy test.

 

He jolts up in bed and takes the stick from Rey, looking at it for a long time.  Finally, when he looks up, he sees tears streaming down Rey’s face.

 

“Are you sure?”

 

Rey laughs and quickly swipes her cheek with the back of her hand. 

 

“I mean I’m not sure sure.  But I’ve taken four of them this morning.  All positive.”

 

“Oh, Rey,” he begins, his voice beginning to tremble. 

 

He puts the test on his nightstand and then pulls Rey into his arms.  One hand rubs her back while the other cups the back of her head.

 

"I’m so happy, Ben,” she whispers in his ear.  “I never thought I could be this happy.”

 

He squeezes her tighter against him.

 

“After all that happened when we were younger, I never dreamed that you and I could be a family.  A real family.  A growing family.”

 

“It’s because you gave me a chance, Rey.  You gave me a chance and you believed in me.  It’s all because of that.”

 

It’s her turn now to squeeze him, which she does for a moment before pushing him on his back and climbing on top of him, where she showers him with kisses.

 

***

 

It’s this weird thing where Ben both wants Rey to stay pregnant forever and wishes she could just have the baby already.

 

He loves getting to experience all the things he didn’t get to experience the first time around.  He loves going to the doctor appointments with her, loves going out in the middle of the night to buy whatever she’s craving at the moment, and though he hates seeing her sick, he loves that he gets to be the one to hold her hair back on the days when the morning sickness is bad.

           

At the same time though, he’s ready to meet his new child and hold him or her in his arms. 

 

And then one night eight or so months after Rey had awoken him with the big news, she shakes him awake in the middle of the night and says, “Ben, it’s time.”

 

“Time?” he mumbles, barely coherent.

 

“My water broke,” she says.

 

At that, his eyes pop open and take in his heavily pregnant wife attempting to strip the bed.

 

She looks so calm, while Ben finds that his heart rate is rising by the second.  He then has to remind himself that she’s done this before.  He, on the other hand, has not.

 

He jumps out of bed and helps her strip the bed.

 

“I’m going to call my mom and tell her to meet us at the hospital to come take Emmy, okay?”

 

“Sounds perfect.”

 

“Can I get—do you need anything?  Should we go?  Want me to call her in the car?”

 

Rey laughs at his franticness.  “Ben.”

 

She steps around to the other side of the bed and puts a hand on his shoulder.  It’s then that he realizes he’s actually shaking a little.

 

“Ben,” she says again, using the same soothing voice he’s heard her use when talking with both Emmy and their unborn baby.  “Take a deep breath.  Everything’s going to be okay.”

 

He does as she says, taking in a deep breath and then exhaling it.

 

She stands up on her tiptoes to kiss him, losing her balance a little in the process.  Ben steadies her with his hands on her waist and kisses her back.

 

When she pulls away, she’s smiling widely.

 

In that same gentle voice, she says, “Call your mom.  Then we’ll wake up Emmy and get her dressed.  Then we’ll head out.  Okay?”

 

Ben nods, taking in his glowing wife.  “Okay.”

 

***

 

Not for the first time, Ben thinks his wife is a superstar.  She’s sweaty and exhausted, but she refuses to give up.  She keeps pushing, letting out either wild screams or pained whimpers when she does.

 

“You’re almost there, Rey,” the doctor encourages from where she is between Rey’s legs.  “Just a few more pushes.”

 

Rey lets out another howl and squeezes Ben’s hand.

 

“You’re so close, Rey,” Ben tells her, before pushing a few stray hairs off her face with the hand not in hers and kissing her sweaty brow. 

 

“Crowning!  Do you want to come see, Dad?”

 

He really wants to, but he also refuses to leave Rey’s side. 

 

Rey must be able to sense this though because looks at him, tears in her eyes and says in a breathy voice, “Go see.”

 

“You sure?”

 

She smiles and gives his hand a much more gentle squeeze.  “Just come right back.”

 

Ben quickly goes to the foot of the bed where he can see his child’s poking out of Rey’s body.

 

“Oh, my God,” he whispers in wonder.

 

“Get ready to push again, Rey,” the doctor says, and Ben takes that as his cue to return to Rey’s side.

 

He takes her hand once more and watches, awestruck, as Rey uses all of her might to push their child out into the world.

 

“It’s a boy!” the doctor exclaims, holding their baby up for him and Rey to see.

 

The baby is pink, covered in fluids, and has lungs stronger than Ben thought possible for a newborn. 

 

He is perfect, Ben thinks.

 

He’s unaware that he’s crying too until one of the nurses in the room who had been holding one of Rey’s legs hand him a tissue from her pocket.

 

“I always come prepared,” she says, winking.  “Congratulations, Dad.”

 

He takes the tissue, wiping his eyes.

 

Their baby boy is quickly wiped down and assessed before being handed to Rey, who places him gently against her breast.

 

He watches as his son—his son—suckles, and though his hands are itching to hold him, he knows this moment between mother and child is incredibly important.

 

“What did you want to name him?” Rey asks after a few moments, her eyes never straying from the infant.

 

At that moment, their newborn son detaches from Rey’s breast and begins to shriek.

 

“Oh, do you want your dad?” Rey coos at the infant before lifting him up and offering him to Ben. 

 

“Hold him, Ben,” she encourages.

 

Ben takes the baby, still crying, from Rey and holds him carefully in his arms, just as he’d practiced.

 

The love Ben has for this child he’s only just laid eyes on is overwhelming.  He remembers what it was like seeing Emmy asleep in her bed for the first time, and being amazed at how you could fall instantly in love with another person.  It’s no different this time, as he stares at his crying son in adoration.

 

“He’s quite the little roar,” Rey comments, and Ben notes both the affection and tiredness in her voice.

 

“He does,” Ben agrees, chuckling.

 

“Do you know what you want to name him?”

 

“Me?”

 

“Yes, you,” Rey says, letting out a breathy laugh.  “I named Emmy.  It’s your turn.”

 

Ben continues to gaze down at the wailing baby in his arms and then lets out another little chuckle.

 

“How about Leo?”

 

“Leo?”

 

“Like Leo the Lion.  Since he’s got such a strong roar.”

 

He takes his eyes off his son to look up at his wife and watches her consider it. 

 

“I love it,” she says, after a moment.  “And it’s not too far off from Leia either.”

 

“I hadn’t even thought of that.  Now, my dad’s going to be jealous,” he jokes.  “We might have to make his middle name Han.”

 

“No,” Rey says, lifting her hand and placing it on Ben’s forearm.  “His middle name is Benjamin.”

 

At Rey’s words, his eyes once again fill with tears.

 

Leo Benjamin Solo.

 

***

 

About a half an hour later, Ben goes out into the waiting area to usher in his parents and Emmy.

 

Emmy, now seven, skips excitedly down the hall ready to meet her little brother, her grandparents and Ben walking fast to keep up with her.

 

When she opens the door to Rey’s hospital room, Ben watches as Emmy freezes and her jaw drops at the sight of her new little brother in her mom’s arms.

 

Ben steps up behind Emmy and lifts her into his arms, something he doesn’t often do anymore now that she’s gotten a bit older, before carrying her to the side of the bed.

 

“This is Leo,” Rey tells Emmy, looking up at her.

 

“He’s so small,” she says in awe.  “But your tummy was so big!”

 

All four adults in the room share a chuckle.

 

“He’s going to get bigger real soon,” Leia comments, rubbing her granddaughter’s arm affectionately as she steps up beside Ben so that she can peer down at her new grandchild.  Han stands right behind her, looking over her shoulder.

 

“So, his name is Leo, huh?” Han asks.

 

“Leo Benjamin,” Rey replies.

 

Leia lets out a soft gasp and covers her mouth. “Oh, that’s beautiful.  He is beautiful.  You two did a wonderful job.  Once again.”

 

Ben smiles at Rey before breaking her gaze and looking between his two children, admiring them and how perfect they are.  A combination of warmth and paternal pride threaten to overwhelm him, as he once again renews the promise he made to himself, to Rey, and to his children that he will always be there for them.  That everything he will do for the rest of his life will be in service to them.

 

“Sweetheart,” Rey calls, breaking him from his thoughts.  “Why don’t you show Emmy the present Leo got for her?”

 

Ah, that’s right.

 

He and Rey had gotten Emmy a very nice doll that was meant to be a big sister present from her new brother.  They’d both heard that it helped to make the transition easier for the older sibling.  After putting Emmy down, Ben grabs the wrapped box from inside one of the bags they had taken with them to the hospital and hands it to his daughter.

 

“This is from your little brother,” Ben says.  “He got you a gift for being such a good big sister.”

 

Emmy’s eyes go wide at the rectangular gift in her hand, and she immediately tears the wrapping off.

 

“It’s awesome!” she exclaims, staring down at the doll.  She’s been very into playing house with her three baby dolls ever since Rey got pregnant, so he and Rey had figured this would be the perfect gift. 

 

“Do you want to tell him ‘thank you?’” Rey asks, just before a yawn escapes her.

 

Emmy nods and approaches her new little brother in her mom’s arms and kisses him on the forehead.

 

He’s certain it’s the sweetest image he’s ever seen.

 

His father puts a hand on his shoulder and comments, “You’re a lucky man, Ben,”

 

Ben looks back at his father, and both men now have tears in their eyes.  It’s the first time he’s ever seen his father cry.

 

“I am,” Ben agrees.

           

“Why don’t I get a picture of you four?” Leia suggests.

 

Ben quickly wipes his the few stray tears that have fallen and nods.

 

Rey motions for Ben to help Emmy onto her hospital bed with her and Leo, which he does before standing on the side of the bed.

 

As his mom is pulling out her iPhone to take the picture, Ben’s gaze travels to Rey, who is smiling as widely as he’s ever seen.  Her eyes look down at their son, then at Emmy, and then back up to him.

 

Look at us, her expression says.  Could you ever have imagined?

 

He shakes his head at her silent question.

 

“Alright, you guys,“ Leia calls, bringing their attention forward once more.  “Ben, if you could move just a little closer.”

 

Ben nods before leaning in closer to the three people he loves the most and smiling the biggest smile for the camera.