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Cupcake Wars

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There are two kinds of heat in the world. There’s the dry heat of the desert, the sun scorching your skin, the air baking off the sand and rock around you. There’s oven-dry heat, baking your cakes at 375, baking your pizza in an open-mouthed brick-oven thing with flames in the back to make sure that it’s crisping the crust just right.

And then there’s I’m trapped in this conference hall and the air conditioning is broken heat. There’s there are a good five thousand people in this room and I’m not near an air vent heat. In short, there’s hell.

And Rey is trapped in hell.

And she has to smile.

“Hello, can I interest you in a butterfly cupcake?”

“No, ma’am, we don’t use any food coloring in our red velvet.”

“We’ve been open since 1958. Family run business.”

“And are you part of the family, dear?” the woman asks her and Rey wishes desperately that there wasn’t sweat running down her spine right now. At least her laugh is genuine enough, and warm, even if the question reminds her of her complete and utter lack of family.

“No, no. I’ve just been there for just over a year.”

The woman hums and disappears onto the next table, and then the next one appears, and then the next, and Rey has to smile and offer their vanilla-vanilla cupcakes to a very blonde woman with a rock on her finger the size of Lake Tajo.

“What do you think, Wilcoll,” the woman says after taking the smallest possible bite of the cupcake and passing it to her bored looking fiancé. He eats the rest.

“Delicious,” he says, his mouth still full.

“We definitely cater weddings,” Rey says. “On our website, we have some examples of what our wedding cakes—” the woman walks away and Wilcoll trails after her, “—look like.”

They didn’t even take a card.

She sighs and leans back against the wall for about four milliseconds before the next person appears, looking curiously at the display.

Rey doesn’t think of herself as an angry person. Heat doesn’t usually make Rey angry. She’d grown up in a desert, she’s a baker and if you can’t handle the heat, get out of the kitchen. It’s the humidity that she doesn’t know what to do with, making the air hang heavy all around her, making it feel like it’s harder to breathe. This room is humid from all the bodies in it and all Rey can think about is just how much she hates it.

On top of that, she’s getting tired and her voice is starting to wear down from all the talking. Poe had warned her this would be exhausting. And he was right.

Leia’s somewhere on the second floor, schmoozing with other bakery owners, and Han’s on the third floor, networking with caterers. And Rey’s stuck on the showroom floor. She barely even has time to say hi to Finn when he shows up with more cupcakes, all in insulated boxes so that the icing doesn’t melt in this horrible heat. He’s there to deposit more boxes and then head back to the truck, where there are more waiting because god knows the show floor didn’t give on-floor storage for the cakes and cupcakes.

“Yes, we can absolutely make that the size of a full-sized cake.”

“No, wedding cakes don’t have to be one flavor. We can do different ones for different tiers.”

“Nope—we’re only in two locations. On the Upper East Side and then down in Soho.”

“I need a break,” she hisses to Finn when he shows up next.

“I can spell you for twenty minutes probably,” he replies, resting his hand on the base of her neck and rubbing because he knows she gets tense there.

“Yeah—let me just—water and bathroom. I’ll be back soon.”

“Right,” Finn says with a brave smile and he turns to the next curious potential patron, a woman with about seven strings of pearls around her neck. “How can I help you, ma’am?”

Rey sneaks her way through show floor, passing display after display of bakeries. Some have patisseries, some have savories, some have doughnuts, and cakes, and pies, and tarts, and cakes cakes cakes, so many cupcakes. All colors, all shapes, all decorations. Chocolate work, sprinkles, candied flower arrangements—each more artistic than the last. Maybe one day, Rey thinks wistfully, an image of herself in her own bakery flashing before her eyes.

One day, but she’s not in any immediate hurry. She likes Naberrie. She’s learning loads at Naberrie. And who knows, if she sticks it out—

Well, she doesn’t let herself dream about that. Not while everyone still talks in hushed voices, as though it hadn’t been six years ago that it happened. They’re not looking for an heir to the empire right now. And it’s not like—even if they did look at her and go Ah, young Rey, the cupcake talent of all time and the perfect symbol of our future let us train you to carry this burden that it would be a replacement for—

There’s a line outside the bathroom that’s about nine miles long because of course there is. Rey takes a deep breath and texts Finn.   I might be a while. The line for the bathroom is frightening. She doubts he’ll get to see the text until she’s back. If his experience at the booth is anything like hers, he won’t have time to breathe, much less check his phone. But at least she warned him.

And of course there’s no line in the men’s room. There’s never a line at the men’s room. Because men have huge bladders and don’t mind peeing in front of one another or something like that.

That’s the thought that makes her realize just how tired she is, just how much her feet hurt, just how much the humid hellish heat of several thousand people in that show room is getting to her.

So maybe that’s why she does it—walks towards the men’s room and cracks the door and says loudly, “Anyone in here?”

There is no reply, so she steps in. It’s blessedly empty. And cool.

Turns out there are in fact stalls in the men’s room. Also urinals, but Rey beelines for a stall and locks it and sits down on the toilet and sighs happily as she begins to relieve herself. It’s the cool, more than the pissing, that makes her feel like she’s herself again. This bathroom is beautifully air-conditioned, probably because it’s easy to climate control a bathroom. There’s max like ten people in it. Except this is a men’s room, so there’s max zero people in it, while the line to the women’s room stretches on and on and on.

Rey is wiping herself when she hears the door open. The sound of the throngs of people making their way through the hallway fills the bathroom very briefly before silence, then footsteps, then the sound of a zipper, then the unmistakable sound of pissing and an accompanying sigh.

Shit, Rey thinks to herself. Or rather, thankfully, not shit, because he’s not in a stall so he’ll be quick about it and then she can sneak back out.  

She waits for him to finish, hears him wash his hands, and then hears the door open again. When it’s closed, Rey flushes, and exits the stall, planning to hurry to the sink and wash her hands and then high-tail it back to Finn.

Except the second she opens the stall door, the man who’d been pissing—who had been looking at his phone and had apparently not left the bathroom—turns around. He is very tall, and dark-haired, and wearing a dark shirt that has sweat stains around the pits. He, too, bears the signs of hell. Only then does she notice the little red starburst embroidered on his shirt pocket, and she’d recognize that branding anywhere. Snoke’s.

“This is a men’s room,” he says, his voice deep.

“I noticed—the line to the ladies was just—” He doesn’t seem to care.

“So? This is the men’s room.”

“Gender isn’t a binary, and gendered bathrooms are a waste of time and space,” she snaps back at him.

His eyes go wide for a moment as though he’d been completely blindsided by the comment and has no response prepared at all. Which is probably why he lands on, “Yeah, but that’s still cheating all those poor ladies waiting in line outside.”

Rey snorts. “Oh please—like you care about any of them.”

“You cut the line.”

“I was a visionary and I am on the clock and don’t have time to wait nine years to take a piss. So if you’ll excuse me,” she hurries to the sink, washes her hands. He holds the door open for her and she exits, hoping to get past him nice and quickly on her way back to the booth. But he’s tall, which means he has stupidly long legs and keeps pace with her easily. “Can’t you have the decency to let me flee in peace?” Rey snipes at him as they enter hell again. “Although I suppose that would have been too much to ask for anyone who works at Snoke’s.”

The man then does something more frustrating and takes a longer-than-necessary step so that he’s in front of her, landing her with an annoyed gaze.

“And what’s that supposed to mean?” he demands.

“Everyone knows Snoke’s a villain who steals and cheats his way to success. And you’re one of his lackeys.” She pokes him in the chest. She really just wants him to go away. Can’t she just go off and forget about this whole thing in a few days, or let it turn into a funny story she drunkenly tells when she thinks of bathrooms and is reminded of that time she went to the men’s room at a work convention.

“Who are you calling a cheater, given where you were just—”

“I wasn’t cutting the line. There was no line to any of those toilets. Not one. I checked. That’s a hell of a lot less offensive than cupcake thievery.”

The man snorts. “Cupcake thievery? What’s this bullshit?”

“Oh come on,” Rey says rolling her eyes. “Everyone knows he stole the Naberrie icing recipe. That was Padme’s grandmother’s recipe.”

The man’s eyes look up in an I can’t believe I am having this argument again sort of way and—truth be told—neither can Rey. They’ve made it into the main show room and it’s really hot in this convention room. She misses the bathroom.

“Snoke did not steal the icing recipe and you can tell Luke Skywalker to stop spreading lies or else Snoke’s gonna sic a bunch of lawyers on him and grind the last of the Naberrie bakeries into the ground where they belong.” He ends up shouting the last few words, the veins in his neck sticking out a bit, his ears going a bit red. A few convention-goers give him surprised and scandalized looks.

“Needed to get that out?” Rey asks him.

“Yep,” he replies, before his eyes harden again. “You’ll be out of business before the end of the year,” he says. “And then you’ll have to change your tune about Snoke’s unless you want to work at any of the other piece of crap bakeries in this city.”

“Snoke’s is a piece of crap bakery,” Rey fires back. “Which I knew even before I met the snakes who worked for him.” She pushes past him.

Behind her, she hears him call, “I’m right! Skywalker’s an old fraud!” but she doesn’t care. She weaves her way back to the booth with the skill of someone who has to navigate New York subways at rush hour.

The Old Fraud himself is standing behind the display and from the look on his face, Rey can see that her short break was not well-received.

“Where have you been?” he snapped.

“Bathroom.”

“For twenty minutes?”

“There was a line—what would you have preferred, that I piss myself in front of all the—”

“You have breaks scheduled. This is an important—”

“Hello!” Rey says brightly to the elderly woman behind Luke who is looking at one of the chocolate glaze cupcakes. “Those are some of my favorites.”

“You must have a taste for goodies at this point,” the old woman chuckles.

“I do.”

“Are they all your favorite?” the lady asks with a wink.

“Those are my particular favorites.”

“I’m back,” she hisses at Luke when the lady has gone off.

“You missed the rush, and we needed you,” he says. “Now they’re all off down the way at Snoke’s.”

“Yeah, well Snoke gives his employees bathroom breaks, so—”

“So you want to lose our business to a lying, thieving, fraud like that?”

“We’ll get them back,” Rey says. “They’ll come back. It’s a long rest of the day.”

“We better,” Luke says. “We better, or you’re gone. Got that?”

Rey won’t blame the hurt in her heart on the way that Luke berated her. She doesn’t let herself get hurt, even if it’s Luke Skywalker, who is a bit of a mentor to her, for all he’s grumpy and set in his ways. She knows he won’t really fire her if the day is less than successful. But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a black pit in her stomach that makes her want to cry for the rest of the day.

No, she’ll blame the heat of the room. The humid hellish heat of a million bodies, all hyped up on all the sugar they are trying. That’s the only explanation for how she ends up in the men’s room again with the tall man who works for Snoke’s who has literally lifted her off the ground because his legs are so long and he wants to rub his groin against hers.

“Stall?” she suggests as she sucks on his neck. She doesn’t know who’s going to come into the bathroom.

“Stall,” he agrees and he doesn’t even put her down as he carries her towards the closest one—ironically the one she had peed in earlier—his hands fumbling with the lock as his lips devour hers. He’s got really plush lips, she’d noticed that before, and they feel so very good against hers.

Which only makes her angrier.

“You feel—” he starts to groan into her skin but she cuts him off.

“No talking,” she growls and he pulls away. He’s got her pinned by the groin to a stall door in a men’s room and his dark eyes blaze into hers.

“Fine,” he says and that’s the last of it, he just ducks his head down and kisses her harder than he had before, and she thinks that he’s angry too. Good. This is hate sex. This is blowing off steam sex. This is trying to make yourself feel things again sex. This isn’t a time for sentiment, not a time for him to try and verbalize what she can tell just by how hard he is getting: that he likes this. That this is happening.

“I don’t have a condom,” he says and there’s a defiance to his voice—as though he’s unsure whether or not this falls into the category that has been pushed aside by Rey’s forceful no talking, but he’s pushing on anyway.

Rey reaches down into her pocket—a tricky angle while her legs are wrapped around his hips—and fishes her wallet out. She tugs a foil packet out from behind her credit cards and hands it to him.

Something flashes in his eyes—recognition, respect, disrespect—it doesn’t matter. What does matter is that he lets her down and gives her a once over.

“Your pants are going to be a problem,” he comments as he undoes his own and eases the latex onto his—Rey gulps; God that’s bigger even than the oversized vibrator she’d gotten herself last year on some Valentine’s Day sale. She undoes her own belt and begins to shimmy them down her legs and is halfway towards toeing off her shoes when he has swept her up again with a squeak, her back once again against the stall door, her feet flat against the door with her hips spread wide open with his hands under her ass, holding her up as he fumbles at her entrance.

“You’re going to have to fuck me because I can’t do anything in this position,” she tells him as his fingers trace her slit and goose bumps erupt across her skin. She wraps her arms around his neck for support because she doesn’t much like the idea of falling flat on her ass in a bathroom stall.

He snorts. “I can manage.”

“Good.”

His fingers probe her briefly, and then he looks down, trying to see what he’s doing even though there’s no way from this angle. It takes him longer than either of them want but when he’s in her, he’s in her and god this is—the way he pistons his hips against her like he’s on a sugar high, the panting and groaning and the slap of his thighs against the undersides of her ass and hamstrings, the way he’s pushing into her hard and fast and her heart is racing.

It’s not making love, it’s not even having sex, it’s fucking just fucking fucking, raw and dirty.

Rey’s tits—small as they are—are bouncing in the sports bra she’s wearing under her work shirt because of how fast they’re going and her fingers are digging into his broad shoulders. He is too far away to suck on his neck or try to kiss him, so she lets her head rest against the stall door and lets him just go because sometimes it’s nice not to have to do anything, it’s nice to just get fucked.

Which is why she’s surprised when his fingers fumble at her clit. She hadn’t had any expectations that he’d try to make her come. She doesn’t even think she needs to come, she needs to just feel this feeling of his dick pumping into her over and over again. And what’s more is he finds it, despite the weird angle, despite the fact that she’d called him a snake earlier and that she thought he worked for an evil cupcake thief, and he’d told her she was naive and—and—

And she’s coming on his dick with a whimper and—more embarrassingly—she does what she always does when she comes and tears start to leak out of her eyes. She hates it—how she cries at the drop of a hat, not because she’s emotional or anything it’s just that sometimes her body cries. He pauses, clearly a bit disturbed that she’s crying on his dick.

“Oh shut up and keep fucking me,” she tells him, and he does while she wipes her tears away and lets herself sink into the warmth of just having come until he lets out a guttural moan and goes still inside her.

Slowly, he pulls himself out of her, twisting and disposing of the condom in the toilet, even though Rey’s fairly certain you’re not supposed to do that. It doesn’t matter. He carefully helps her down from the stall and wow her hips had gotten stiff like that. She flinches slightly as she straightens her legs and tugs her pants and underpants back up her legs.

Then, before he can say something, she unlocks the stall door and leaves the bathroom without a word.

She doesn’t want cuddling, or confessions of whatever the fuck. It was just a hard fuck in a bathroom is all.

Her blood’s flowing, her head’s clear, and she has to get back to the floors.

Chapter Text

“Oh good, you’re here,” Luke says the moment Rey walks through the door to the Naberrie site on the east side on Saturday, making her freeze.  “You’re promoted.”

Rey blinks at him.

“The last time I saw you, you said I was lucky to have my job,” she says slowly.  Surreptitiously, she pinches herself to test if she’s dreaming.

Luke notices.  “You’re not dreaming, you’re promoted,” he tells her.  “I’m sorry about that.  It was very…hot.”

Rey gapes at him.  She had also felt like a different person at that conference. She’d gone and fucked someone from Snoke’s in the men’s room.  Rey’s frisky, and inclined to act upon her sexual impulses for sure, but that one felt a little bold even for her.

“What’s the gig?” she asks him.

“Han got himself into trouble,” Luke sighs.  “We had hoped he’d recover faster, but he had a second heart attack and—”

“He had a heart attack?” Rey can’t help how high her voice gets.  Luke is acting like he tripped or something.

“A minor one,” Luke says.  “He’s fine.  But the doctor is insisting he start taking it a little more easy and he’s using it as an excuse to flake on us.”  He rolls his eyes in a way that’s clearly supposed to convey fraternal love.  “Seriously Rey, he didn’t die.  He’s fine.  But we need a new orders and publicity person and Leia and I both think it’ll be perfect for you.  It’s five bucks more an hour at the moment, and depending on who we get to replace you and how much they cost, that might go up.  Congratulations, Rey.”  And he presents her with a vanilla cupcake with yellow icing that has congrats r piped on it very untidily.

“Thanks,” Rey says.  “So what do I—”

“This way,” Luke tells her and he leads her into what had been, until this moment, what Rey had always thought of as Han’s domain. 

It still has his effects in there—a set of gilded dice that are dangling off a desk lamp, a photo of him and Leia on the beach, and another of him teaching a little boy with big ears and a baseball bat how to line up at the plate.

Luke catches her looking and she looks away quickly.  She doesn’t know Ben Solo.  Couldn’t pick him out in a crowd.  But she knows that Luke doesn’t like to talk about him, doesn’t like to think about him.  He gets all surly every time his nephew comes up.

“Right,” Luke says.  “You’re responsible for any of our specialty orders—anything that comes in on the phone and via email or web-form.  Usually it’s low maintenance but it gets nuts in busy season.”  Wedding season, Rey remembers.  It had been one of the more stressful summers of her life.  She and Finn joked that the thin strip of store behind the display shelves were the “trenches” and they’d done their time there.  “And when things are slow, you’ll help with inventory things and store oversight.”

“And baking?” Rey asks.  Luke inhales slowly.

“Less of it,” he says, before adding quickly, “Not because you’re not good at it, Rey.  You are.  But this is a promotion and that means taking you out of the kitchen a bit.  Obviously if you want to bake more, we can try and work something out—especially while we look for your replacement.  But…”

“Got it,” Rey says, trying to ignore the way her stomach was tightening.  Why would she be upset by that?  She’s getting promoted.  She’s getting rewarded for her work.  They have faith in her.  In her organizational skills.  It’s not like they were ever going to ask her to pioneer a new cake for them.  They’ve been around since 1958.  “Thanks, Luke.”

“I’ll leave you to try and make some sense of Han’s system,” Luke says, half out the door again, his hand curled around the lintel and resting on the wall just inside the office.  “And hey—enjoy the cupcake.”

Rey waves the cupcake at him, peels the paper off the bottom off, and takes a bite.  It’s delicious.  Because of course it is.  It’s a Naberrie original.  Padme’s tried-and-true recipe.

Only for Finn would Rey stop by Snoke’s on her way to a party she’s not sure she wants to go to.  Only for Finn would she walk up to the counter at seven fifty-five pm, right as the store is closing, and ding the bell because whoever is working closing isn’t at the counter right now.

And then he appears, stopping dead behind the register as he locks eyes with her.  Had he been this tall in the convention center?  He certainly had looked this angry.  His hair is longer?  Or shorter?  His ears stick out differently from underneath it.  Probably because he’s wearing a hairnet disguised as a bandana.

“What?” he asks her before she can remember why she’s there.  “We’re closing soon, and I don’t care how nicely you ask, you have until eight to make the order.”

“I’m picking up an order, actually,” Rey says, doing her best to sound as prim and not as blindsided as she is.  “Should be under Calrissian.”

The man freezes.

“Calrissian?”

“Yeah,” she said.  “Should have been phoned in,” she pulls out her phone to read the text from Finn, “four days—” but the man has already disappeared and reappeared with the largest box of cake she has ever seen in her life.

“How big is this party?” she asks incredulously, staring at it.  Rey’s big, and strong, but she doesn’t actually think she can carry that box easily because she’s not confident that it even fits through doors.

“Knowing LCJ, probably bigger than anyone wants,” the man grumbles.

It takes Rey a moment, but then it clicks.

“LCJ—you know him?”

“Since I was in the womb,” he says darkly.  “I swear he only ordered this cake to make me pipe that fucking—well, you’ll see.  Hang on.  I’ll finish close up and help you with it.”

“I can handle it myself,” she says, trying to get the box off the counter.

“Sure, but let me at least open the door for you, as a lowly snake from Snoke’s should for a Naberrie princess.”

“Oh shut up,” Rey snaps at him and—viscerally—she remembers telling him to shut up and keep fucking her when she’d been crying. 

He shuts off the lights and grabs his coat.  “Hairnet,” Rey points out to him and he takes it off and pockets it before watching as she heaves the enormous cake into her arms and—just like in the bathroom—he gets the door for her.

“How do you know him?” he asks.

“We don’t have to do this,” Rey replies.

“Do what?”

“Awkward small talk because we’re going to the same party.  We fucked.  That’s it.  Let’s leave it at that.”

He snorts next to her.  “Have it your way.  Shouldn’t be surprised that Skywalker employs people who are just as judgmental as he is.”

“I am not judgmental,” Rey snaps.

“Oh, so you’re not judging me for working for Snoke?  Or do you treat all your one-night stands like this?”

“So what if I do?  It’s none of your business.”

“Suit yourself,” he mutters and doesn’t say another word. 

It’s a ten-minute walk to the train, which they take under the river to LCJ’s loft in Brooklyn.  It’s bigger than any loft has a right to be, and the party is already in full swing.

“So you do love me!” a black man with a broad grin who can only be LCJ says, his eyes on the man at Rey’s side.

“No,” the man replies dryly.  “And how the hell do you get this many people to show up before nine pm for a party?  In Brooklyn?”

“I am the party, darling,” LCJ replies and his eyes land on Rey.  “And who is this lovely lady you’ve brought me?”

“Actually Finn brought me,” Rey says and her eyes are already looking around for her friend.

“He’s not here yet,” LCJ tells her.  “He made a noise about how he was being held up.”

“Yeah, that’s why I have,” Rey says and she half-lifts the enormous box of cake.

“Right over here, my dear!” LCJ says and the guests part for the cake as Rey brings it in.

“Rey,” she adds as she slides it onto the table, realizing she hadn’t introduced herself.  “My name’s Rey.”

“Oh you’re Rey,” LCJ says giving her a one-over.  Then he extends a hand.  “Lando Calrissian, Junior,” he says.  Rey takes his hand and to he surprise, he doesn’t shake it but rather raises it to his lips.  “LCJ,” he says, “Junior.  Your Royal Highness.  Whatever you want to call me.”  The way he says it leaves an implied in bed that makes Rey bite back a snort. 

“Or you can just call him that bastard the way I always do,” says a man who is even taller than the Snoke’s worker still standing behind Rey and watching her.  He has tawny skin, and long hair that’s pulled back into the sleekest ponytail that Rey has ever seen, and deep-set brown eyes.

“And this is Lumpy,” LCJ says, patting the man on the shoulder.  She notes how high he has to reach to do it.  He’s not short, but standing next to Lumpy, he sure looks it.  “And I thought that bastard was Ben.”

“You’re both that bastard,” Lumpy replies.  He extends a hand.  “Waroo, please.  Only this bastard calls me Lumpy.”  He shakes Rey’s hand.

“Bastard, get over here.  We need to get a selfie to send to the parents,” says LCJ.

“We really don’t,” says Lumpy—Waroo—at the same time as the baker at Rey’s back.

“It’s my party, which means you two idiots have to do what I say,” LCJ says, circling his finger towards the ground in a way that implied right here, right now.  “Come on.  Hop to it.”

And the baker steps around Rey to stand on the side of LCJ that Waroo isn’t standing on.  LCJ hands him his phone and says, “You have longer arms.”

“Fine.  But I will only do it if you don’t send it to my parents.”

“Oh come on.  Still?”

The baker gives LCJ a stern look.

“You are one of a kind, Ben Solo.”

And Rey’s eyes widen in horror as the three young men take a few pictures on LCJ’s phone.  

Ben Solo.

I’ve fucked Ben Solo.

Oh fuck.

His eyes flick to hers for a moment and a slight smirk twirls at his lips as Lando says, “And now with the cake.  Come on.” 

Rey’s too busy staring at Ben Solo to even look at whatever the party attendees are reacting too as half of them burst out laughing and the other make the sort of oooohhh that a crowd will make at a sports game when someone misses a goal in a truly depressing sort of way.  All she can see is Ben Solo, who is holding out the phone again as he takes a selfie with—

She knows that Lando Calrissian is Han’s best friend.  He’s the only man that Rey has ever known to wear a cloak, which isn’t to say he’s the only man she’s ever seen wearing a cloak.  They’re in New York City, after all.  His son has the same broad smile, the same playful demeanor and it would make sense that he and Ben would have known each other as—Ben had said in the bakery before they’d grabbed the train—since the womb.

And Waroo—Lumpy—whatever it was he went by…

“Hey!”

“Oh thank god.”  Finn has arrived and Rey whirls around, prepared to drag him off to some corner and confess that she’d fucked Ben Solo and now doesn’t know what on earth to do, and that she probably won’t stick around the party very long because she fucked Ben Solo and doesn’t know what on earth to do when, because apparently that’s what happens now, she freezes.

There’s a short Asian girl standing next to Finn, her hair pulled back in a half-ponytail, her cheeks flushed a little as she takes in Rey taking her in and Rey knows exactly who it is without Finn having to say,

“Rey—Rose.  Rose—Rey.”

So this is Rose. 

Rey feels her lips pull back in something resembling a smile, but she doesn’t really feel it.  Rose doesn’t look like a graphic designer.  She looks sort of frumpy, actually.  Most designers Rey’s encountered tend to dress like they’re artists or something.  It’s oddly humanizing to see Rose dressed in brown coveralls, half-leaning towards Finn nervously before saying squaring her shoulders.

“Nice to meet you,” Rose says and for the third time that night, Rey is shaking a stranger’s hand. 

“And you,” she smiles.  She glances at Finn.  He gives her a half smile, his shoulders a bit tense, his hands jammed into his pockets. 

“And where’s that flyboy Dameron?” Rey hears LCJ say behind her and a moment later he’s giving Finn an engulfing hug and patting his back. 

“Couldn’t tell you,” Finn says.  “Lando—this is Rose.”

“Rose,” Lando says and, just as he had with Rey, he lifts her hands to his lips.  “As lovely as your namesake.”  Rose raises her eyebrows and Lando shrugs.  “Let me show you around the place.”  And he whisks Rose away.

“Sorry,” Finn says under his breath.  “I didn’t know if she’d want to come.”

“Want to…” Rey raises her eyebrows suggestively and Finn rolls his eyes before she even says the word, “Come?”

Finn sighs and his eyes land on Rose, who is now at the bar while LCJ fixes her a brightly colored cocktail.  “I should—”

“Yeah, go on.”

And it’s only as she watches Finn leave that she remembers that she knows no one at this party.  She was coming to keep Finn company, and to meet LCJ about whom she’d been curious for a while.  But now Finn’s got Rose to focus on and Rey watches as LCJ throws his arm around someone else Rey doesn’t know and lets out a raucous laugh. 

I could just go, Rey thinks.  I could Irish goodbye it.  Finn would understand.

But there it is again empty feeling in the pit of her stomach that she might not actually matter to anyone as much as she wants to.  And Rey’s always been the fight-or-flight type and she can’t tell if she’ll fight that feeling or flee it and the party as well.

“You ok?”

She glances up and sees Ben Solo standing over her, looking oddly concerned.

She lets out a hollow laugh.  “We are not going to be friends.”

To be fair, her actions don’t make her a liar.

To be fair, they’re not going to be friends, even as he’s got her pressed against another bathroom door while the thudding of the music outside pounds through the wood at her back.  At least she’s wearing a skirt this time.

They had ended up in the bathroom because LCJ’s bedroom was already occupied.  The simple fact that Ben had checked the room first made her wonder exactly what the nature of his relationship with his childhood friend was, such that he’d consider fucking some girl in his bed on his birthday.  The bathroom, though, is blessedly empty and miraculously still clean.

She gets a good grip on his shoulders and is able to rest her foot against the toilet as he drills into her the same way he had the last time she’d seen him, except somehow, for all it’s the same, it’s also not the same.

There’s music and noise on the other side of the door and the bathroom light is bright—unlike the dim stall at the convention.  Rey can see part of them in the mirror above the sink, can see the way her fingers are digging into his dark shirt, can see the way her mouth looks, hanging open like that as her head sort of lolls forward, the top of his—extremely muscled—ass as it pokes over the top of the pants that are slowly slipping down his hips with every thrust of his hips.

He feels so fucking good.  This feels so fucking good.  That even if she’s not necessarily liked, at least she’s wanted. 

He grunts into one particularly hard thrust and her foot slips on the toilet and she lets out a yelp and his hands tighten on her ass.  “Careful,” he tells her, but it doesn’t sound annoyed or angry.  He rubs her ass while her foot finds purchase again, while her arms tighten around his shoulders.  His lips brush over her forehead.  “Ready?”

“Go,” she tells him and he does and her eyes drift closed and she lets herself start moaning again.  Hell, she lets herself groan when he does what he had done so unexpectedly in the bathroom and rubs his fingers over her clit because it’s not like anyone will hear them over the party anyway.  And even if they do, who cares.  She only knows Finn. 

His touch is a little unpracticed, she notices this time around.  She’d thought it was the angle at the convention but now she just thinks it’s that he doesn’t quite know how to roll a clit properly between his fingers.  But he knew where it is.  An unlikely combination in a guy like him, but she supposes she shouldn’t be surprised that she’s surprised.  She hadn’t realized that he was Ben Solo, that he was the one who had caused his parents such hell, whose uncle couldn’t stand to have him mentioned anywhere near the bakery.  She was fucking Ben Solo—or he was fucking her.  She was letting him fuck her.  Again.  And he was making her come, again, loudly this time, and she’s gushing all over him this time because it’s a better orgasm than the one in the other bathroom.

And she’s crying again.  Because she always cries during sex.

He pauses again, just like he had the first time.  “Keep going,” she growls, rubbing at her eyes fiercely.  She looks at herself in the mirror.  Her eyes are bright and her cheeks are flushed and she looks lost.

He comes, takes the condom off and throws it into the trashcan by the toilet but before Rey can bolt he’s leaning against the door as he straightens his pants and shirt, his eyes serious.

“What?” she asks him.  “Are you going to keep me prisoner?”

“Are you ok?” he asks her again.

“I’m fine,” she says, trying to pull that trademark Rey bright smile onto her face.  “You don’t need to worry about me.  We’re not friends.  But I’m fine.  Thanks for the fuck.” 

It’s not enough to make him move.  There’s something about his gaze that—despite having fucked him twice—makes her feel as though there’s some sort of intimacy between them.  Like he can see through every bit of her down to that part of her that had pitted out when Finn had gone off after Rose and she’d felt so very alone.

“Really,” she says and her voice is soft, gentle, all the things that Rey can rarely let herself be.  “Really, I’m fine.  I’ll be fine.”

“You keep crying,” he points out.

“I just do,” she says waving her hands.  “During sex.  I do.  It’s really embarrassing.”

Ben nods slowly.  He looks like he’s about to say something but there’s a knock on the door and Rey hears LCJ calling loudly, “You two done in there?  Some of us have been imbibing and would like to relieve ourselves in a different manner.”

She hears laughter and Ben rolls his eyes and jerks the door open.  LCJ is so surprised to see Ben standing there right in front of him that Rey slips past him—she thinks—before he can take note of who it was that Ben Solo was fucking in his bathroom.

Chapter Text

Finn texts her right as she gets on the A.

 

Finn: I’m running late.

Rey: I’m on the train already.

Finn: Sorry—late night.

He sure looks like it when he arrives at the brunch place an hour later. His eyes are bloodshot, his face is more than a little hangdog and he winces because the music is too loud. Rey digs some ibuprofen out of her bag and hands three pills to him, which he downs with water without looking at the menu.

“Remind me,” he says quietly, “never to go to Lando’s parties ever again without an exit strategy.”

“Rose wasn’t your exit strategy?” Rey asks him. She’s looking at the menu and has a sneaking suspicion that she’ll be ordering food for the both of them. When Finn’s hungover, he loses most of his decision-making capacity.

“She was,” Finn says. “But she got a little too drunk and so she had her sister come pick her up. She’s spent the morning vomiting her guts out.”

“Never drink anything at LCJ’s—you did warn me about that.”

“I warned her too!” Finn says a little too loudly because his face splits in pain. “She just didn’t listen. And then Paige came and got her. Which I should have helped with but…”

“But you were too drunk.”

“What gave it away?” He gives her a wry smile. “I was browning out, I think. That tall guy—Lumpy? He makes an even stiffer drink than LCJ. Probably because he has the constitution of a mountain.” Finn shudders and takes a sip of water. “Nice guy, though.”

“Yeah, I only spoke to him for a moment,” Rey says, remembering the selfie that Lumpy, Ben, and LCJ had taken together right as she’d learned that she’d fucked Ben Solo.

“What can I get for you?” a perky waitress asks, appearing out of nowhere.

“I’ll have the waffles,” Rey says, “He’ll have the biscuits and grits with an egg sunny side up. And lots of coffee, please.”

“Thank you,” Finn groans when the waitress goes to take their order back to the kitchen, putting his face in his hands. “I’m never drinking again.”

“I’ll believe that when I see it,” Rey says, patting him on the shoulder. “I’m surprised that Rose drinks a lot.”

“She didn’t, she just has no tolerance and Lumpy and LCJ are a menace,” Finn says. Then, he takes a deep breath and Rey feels her heart pick up the pace because she knows—she just knows—what he’s going to say. “She kissed me. At the party.”

Her face splits into a delighted grin. “Oh yeah?”

“Yeah. I think she was too drunk for it to count? But I also think it counts. Does it count? How does consent work in moments like this?”

“You both were shitfaced, right?”

“Yeah?” Finn says.

“I think it’s fine? But I’d make sure to check with her before you kiss her again.”

“I was planning on doing that anyway,” Finn says. Then he takes a deep breath. “Yeah. She kissed me. She kissed me.”

“I told you it was something special,” Rey says smiling. Her own smile warms her far more than she expects it to. It’s not that she’d been possessive of Finn—though it’s jarring as all hell that there’s someone he’s interested in because he’s never been interested in anyone—but something had frustrated her about his and Rose’s new thing. She’d never really known what. She’d never really wanted to know what, afraid of what it would say about her and her friendship with Finn if she was able to pinpoint something bad. But whatever that frustration had been, it’s not there now as she watches him smile shyly at the mere concept that a girl he met completely by accident had wanted to kiss him—and that he wants to kiss her back.

“So when you said she’d been puking her guts out this morning, I assume that means you texted her?” Rey asks, shifting in her seat and leaning forward so that she’s a little closer to Finn.

“Yeah,” he replies. “Just to check in and make sure she got home safe and that she was feeling ok. Which she isn’t. But not because of me. If she’s feeling better we’re going to see a movie tonight.”

“Oh yeah?”

“Yeah,” he grins nervously. “The new Star Trek movie. She likes it a lot and I’ve never seen it and she promised she’d give me an intensive background for it over dinner.”

“Well someone was bound to turn you into a nerd,” Rey grins.

“Shut up,” he replies and considering his hangover, it’s almost playful.

“I call dibs on your wedding cake,” Rey says as the waitress arrives with their breakfast.

“As if I’d go to anyone else,” Finn says darkly. “I miss you in that kitchen.”

“It’s only been a few days,” Rey says. A few days that have felt like a lifetime, a few days where she’s spent hours trying to understand how on earth Han Solo’s head works because god knows his order system makes no sense at all. She’s considering rebuilding it, if Luke and Leia are ok with that. They did give her the job, after all.

A few days where it felt like she’d barely seen Finn at all, and now he has someone else he’s going to start going to movies with.

“Yeah, but it’s not like you’ll necessarily be back anytime soon, right? Like they’re not gonna demote you unless you fuck up majorly, and I don’t think you will. You’re too good at everything you do.”

Rey feels her face heat and sets herself to smearing butter on her waffles and pouring as much maple syrup on them as she can manage. “I’d still rather be baking,” she says. “I warned Bebe that I might bake her everything I can’t do at work anymore. She said she’d just bring it into the office.”

Finn nods understandingly. “Maybe it’s for the best,” he says, “That way you can actually be creative in the kitchen. Like, you were saying you were too tired to bake after work these days, so maybe this’ll help you get back to doing it.”

“I guess,” Rey says. The prospect is still daunting. She sighs and eats her waffle and immediately feels better. It’s sort of silly how much eating makes her feel better about things. She looks at Finn. “How’s the head?”

“Getting there,” he says taking a sip of coffee. Then, his eyes widen. “I forgot to tell you. Ben Solo was apparently at Lando’s party last night.”

Rey’s mouth goes dry. “Yeah—I—” but he keeps going.

“They’re apparently childhood friends. And he fucked some girl in Lando’s bathroom and then left. Asshole.” Finn adds with a roll of his eyes. “Didn’t even stay long enough to eat the cake that Lando asked him to make.” Finn rolls his eyes. “Fucker. He definitely stole that icing recipe for Snoke.”

“Yeah,” Rey says. Her mouth is still uncomfortably dry so she takes a sip of her water. “Yeah, he definitely did.”

“You couldn’t pay me to eat a Snoke’s cake,” Finn says. He definitely seems to have more spirit now that he’s got coffee and painkillers and hangover food in front of him.

“How do you know the icing’s the same, then?” Rey asks.

Finn gives her a look. “I have made how much icing at Naberrie? You think I can’t recognize it when I see it? You think my body doesn’t react to it whenever I’m in a twenty-foot radius?”

Rey snorts and keeps eating.

“Wonder who he fucked,” Finn says. “He’s sort of weird looking—how’d that happen so early?”

“No clue,” Rey says as she takes another bite of her waffle. It doesn’t taste as good as it had before.

“That smells good!” Rey hears Bebe call as she closes the door behind her. There’s the sound of her dropping her keys on the coffee table, her bag hitting the ground with a heavy thunk before she makes her way towards the back of the apartment and the kitchen.

“Taste,” Rey says, pushing batter towards Bebe.

“Salmonella?” Bebe says, a little anxiously.

“If you get it, I get it too. Taste.” Bebe dips her fingers into the remnant batter, swipes along the edge of the bowl, and then pops the batter into her mouth. She pauses as she looks at Rey.

“Is that…”

“Rosewater.”

“I was wondering…”

“Too strong?”

“Don’t make the icing too sweet,” Bebe says and Rey grins at her.

When she and Bebe had first moved in together, Bebe had had no taste for baked goods. Not much of a sweet tooth, was how the petite redhead had phrased it. Now, though, she has learned Rey’s rants of you can’t have an icing too sweet and a cake that’s too sweet you’ll overwhelm everything if you do that enough to at least be able to nod and smile and, apparently, suggest a not-too-sweet icing.

“Here,” Rey says and she hands the icing bowl she’d been working on while her cupcakes baked to Bebe.

“Is that green tea?”

“Matcha.”

Bebe’s eyes roll in delight as she tastes the icing. “This is unreal,” she moans. “When do you open your own bakery?”

Rey flushes. “I’m not going to open my own place,” she says. “I don’t have anywhere near enough cash for that.”

“Then at least sell these at Naberrie. Rose and matcha cupcakes? Are you insane? Every food instagram on the planet will be lining up outside your door.”

“I need to get the balance right,” Rey says. “If there’s too much rosewater in the cupcake…”

“Well, I will happily be your test vehicle any time you want to test your balance,” Bebe says with a wink. “And I’m sure Poe and the rest wouldn’t say no to leftovers if you start overflowing the kitchen.”

Rey grins. “Duly noted. Work was ok?”

And Bebe sighs and launches into a rant about specs that Rey can’t even begin to understand. Bebe’s clever, though anxious, and being the only woman on her floor—much less her team—frequently makes her feel like a token hire, which only spikes her imposter syndrome. “Artoo’s good, though,” she says. “I’m glad he’s looking out for me. He always has my back. Even when Niney starts trying to take credit for my ideas.” She makes an expression, and looks down at her hands. “You don’t mind my taking some of these into work?”

“I thought they were going to Poe and his den of thieves,” Rey responded at once. She’s barely seen Poe since he stopped working at Naberrie, but Finn still texts him a fair amount. They have trouble seeing one another, though, because of Poe’s new schedule—something that Finn tries not to let on how much it frustrates him. Bebe ends up at his place most nights, and sometimes Rey wonders if they’ll get married one day. They seem so devoted to one another.

“I want to make them like me more,” Bebe says. “And we all know the best way to someone’s heart is through their stomachs, right?”

“I’ve got your back, girl,” Rey says winking, and Bebe beams at her. That’s them, though. Even when Bebe doesn’t need protection, Rey does her best to protect her. There’s something that seems so breakable about her sometimes, or maybe that’s just projecting.

Rey’s timer goes off and they open the oven together, the scent of rosey-cake wafting out of the oven and the heat of it all making Bebe’s glasses steam up. Rey pokes the cupcake first with her finger, then with a toothpick and decides they’re done enough and takes them out of the oven.

“When was the last time you baked at home?” Bebe asks with a frown when Rey pops the tray of cupcakes onto the rack by the window to cool. “It’s been a while.”

It has been. When Rey had been working in the trenches, or in the kitchen at Naberrie, she had stopped feeling the need to bake all the time. She baked plenty at work. Now that she’s not in the trenches anymore, though…

She misses it—baking. The extra money is good but dealing with crazy customers via phone, email, Twitter, Instagram, Yelp, Uber Eats, and whatever fucking delivery system the tech industry comes up with next isn’t the same as being in the trenches with Finn, making sure that each of Padme’s perfect cupcakes has been iced delicately and to standard. She had liked that more than she’d realized until she wasn’t doing it anymore.

“Need to scratch the itch,” is all she says to Bebe with a shrug. “Don’t get enough of it done at work anymore.”

“Open your own bakery,” Bebe tells her. She tests the cupcake. Still too warm to ice.

“Maybe one day,” Rey says. One day is her go-to, the vague nebulous future in which everything is right, where her parents come back for her, where she’s surrounded by food she’s baked, where she has her own bakery and a whole host of friends at her side, where she feels settled in her life.

“Do you want to use the bathroom, or would you actually like a bed this time?” he asks her dryly when she comes through the door of Snoke’s and she stops dead in her tracks, staring at him.

“How close is the bed?” she asks. He raises his eyebrows.

“What, are you on the clock or something?”

“No, but if you’re going to drag me halfway across the city, I’d just as soon fuck you in the bathroom.”

He rolls his eyes. “Just across the bridge,” he tells her.

Which is how she ends up on her way to Brooklyn Heights in the back seat of a cab with Ben Solo.

She hadn’t really intended to do this. But she’d had an irate bride call her about an order that Rey had gotten wrong from Han’s incomprehensible order system, Finn had told her he was going to see a movie with Rose, Bebe was working late, Rey hadn’t baked anything since the cupcakes—too much rosewater, too much matcha, she’ll get it better next time she tries—and her paycheck doesn’t come through until Friday so she can’t go and buy the ingredients she needs to try making the lavender lemon bars that had walked into her head while the bride had shrieked at her about how the cake was supposed to be decorated with violets and not roses.

And she hadn’t wanted to go back to the empty apartment. Rey has spent too much of her life in empty apartments.

They don’t talk in the cab. Rey stares out the window at the dull orange lights of New York City as the cab drives across the bridge. She doesn’t know what Ben’s doing. Probably playing angry birds on his phone, or something equally obnoxious. You don’t have to like him to be fucking him, she tells herself. He is a grown adult who is capable of deciding whether or not to reject or accept your propositioning him.

And he’d accepted. So there it was.

“Up here on the left, right at the corner,” Ben tells the driver, who pulls over and Rey unbuckles her seat belt and gets out of the cab while Ben swipes his card in the reader. She goes to stand on the curb and a moment later, Ben joins her. “This way.”

He leads her into an older looking building that has a very narrow staircase. For a moment, Rey wonders if his shoulders don’t bump against the siding of it because they’re so broad, but he navigates just fine. He leads her up to the third floor, where he unlocks the door and holds it open for her.

When he turns on the light, the apartment is bigger than Rey had expected. Not huge or anything, but still bigger. Or maybe that’s because he’s sparse when it comes to furnishing and decoration. Either way, when she turns to look at him, to double check that they’re here and doing this, he asks, “Want something to drink?”

Which is how Rey realizes how thirsty she is. “Water would be great.”

And he goes into his tiny kitchen while Rey hovers and looks around. There are no photographs anywhere, no sign of anything sentimental. What were you expecting—he did walk out of his family’s life. She wonders if he knows that Han had left a photograph of him on his desk.

“Here you go,” he says and he presses a glass into her hand. She downs half of it in one. “What, don’t they let you drink in that bakery?”

“Today was an anomaly,” Rey grumbles. Then she looks up at him. “Are we doing this?”

He gives her a steady look and she wonders if she’s ever noticed just how expressive his eyes are before. One moment he’s looking politely concerned, then there’s a moment of derision, a moment of annoyance, and then there’s nothing there at all.

“Yeah, sure,” he says and he passes her, walking briskly towards the bedroom and tugging his shirt up over his head as he goes.

Rey freezes.

She’s seen muscular guys before. Not like—a lot—you don’t tend to go into baking if you want a ripped bod—but she’s seen them. She’s seen underwear ads, and Instagram posts, and guys at the gym.

She wasn’t expecting the way his back muscles rippled when he took his shirt off. Not even a little.

“What?”

She blinks. She’d been staring, her mouth slightly open. He’s turned towards her, now, and his chest is positively meaty, dark nipples that pop out of muscles that look like they’re fake because no one actually has muscles like that, do they?

He smirks.

And disappears into the bedroom.

Rey puts the half-finished glass of water on a side table and follows him into the bedroom, where he’s already taking his pants off in a business-like manner.

He has an eight-pack.

Well at least she knows how he’d been so easily able to fuck her against two bathroom doors.

She can feel saliva pooling in her mouth as she looks at him, can feel her breath coming a little shallower. He’s sort of weird looking, Finn had said over brunch. Finn can be wrong about things sometimes.

Rey’s not fully aware of how she gets out of her clothes. She doubts it’s elegant. Her shirt ends up on the floor, followed by her pants, which she takes off at the same time as her shoes and socks because she hadn’t thought this through. Ben’s just sitting there on the bed in his underwear, watching her silently. We should have done this in the bathroom, she thinks when her ankle gets stuck in her jeans because her sock didn’t want to come off properly.

When she stands up straight again, she sees his eyes go wide because she’d taken off her underpants with her jeans but she doesn’t waste a moment on the mild twinge of satisfaction that gives her because she’s tugging her sports bra up over her head, feeling what tits she has bounce a little in their newfound freedom.

Then she leaves the room.

“Hey, where are you—” he calls after her and she hears the bed shift as she calls, “Condom,” back over her shoulder.

He doesn’t follow her out and when she goes back into his room, he’s lying on the bed and his underwear is gone. He’s palming his cock a little bit, half-hard and he’s been in her twice already at this point, but whatever saliva had been pooling in her mouth is gone now. Her mouth is bone dry—which is ironic because she can feel how wet she’s getting just by looking at him like that.

“Are you coming over?” he asks her as she stands there, rooted to the ground.

She does with a half-glare, clambering onto the bed and straddling him, dropping the condom onto his chest for when he’s harder. His hand leaves his cock and is immediately at her hips and a moment later she feels him guiding her slit along his shaft. He lets out a half-groan of relief and she keeps sliding herself along him. His eyes are open, and hooded as he looks up at her. She’s sort of surprised that he’s staring at her face and not her tits, but then again her tits aren’t much to write home about.

She’s more surprised that she’s staring at his face and not his chest.

And suddenly he’s sitting up and grabbing the condom. He rips open the foil and she clambers off him so he can put it on a little more easily. He has huge hands, she notices as he rolls the latex down his shaft. Huge cock, huge hands, huge everything.

“Any preference for position?” he asks her.

“Anything,” she says, which is how she ends up on her hands and knees, pressing her face into his pillow as he fucks her vigorously from behind. His grip on her hips is firm, and this angle makes her stretch around him even more than she’s used to. Her heart is racing in her throat and she can hear him groaning and breathing heavily, can hear the smacking of their skin together, can hear the way his pillow muffles her own cries because this feels better than a perfectly balanced cupcake.

Has anything ever felt quite as good as the smooth way his cock sliding into her feels?

As if he’d read her mind, he grunts out, “Fuck this is perfect,” and Rey bucks her hips back towards him and his balls hit her clit right as his cock hits perhaps the deepest point it’s hit just yet and then her head is spinning and there are tears in her eyes as she comes harder than she’d come in either bathroom stall.

She’s still aftershocking as he pumps into her. His grip isn’t quite so tight now. One of his hands has moved from her waist to her spine, rubbing it up and down as though trying to soothe her. “I’m fine,” she tells him, though even to her own ears, it sounds watery. “Just—”

“Fuck you. I got it.”

But his hand doesn’t leave her back even as he picks the pace up again. He picks up the pace a lot, actually. Rey’s tits are positively jiggling on her chest so intense is his rhythm, and before Rey even knows what’s happening her body is convulsing again and she’s letting out another choked sob.

This one hits harder. Her clit is too sensitive every time his balls strike it and her heart is roaring in her ears—or maybe that’s Ben. Because he goes very still and she feels heat through the condom and she knows he’s done now too. Her cunt is still quivering around him, clenching and uncontrollable. He slowly extricates himself from her and gets off the bed. Rey lets herself fall forward completely, flattening herself against his comforter and letting herself breathe.

The tears have stopped flowing at least. The pillow is wet under her face, but the tears are done.

The bed shifts underneath her and a moment later, he’s lying there next to her. He doesn’t rub her back again. He doesn’t cuddle against her.

The problem with fucking him in his own bed means that there’s no real exit strategy. Both of the other two times, she’d just been able to leave and that was that. But now she’s naked, and it’s his house, and she should probably at least say thank you but right now she’s feeling too fucked to really think of anything to say.

“You can stay over if you like,” he says after a moment. “Or not. Up to you.”

She lies there for a few seconds. “Thanks.”

“Sure thing,” he says.

She does mean to get up. She does mean to get dressed and walk her way over to the nearest A station—not far from here, from the few times she’s been in the neighborhood—and take the train back to her empty apartment.

But instead, she feels warm, and content, and she doesn’t even notice when he finds another blanket because they’re both on top of the comforter, she just slowly, warmly, falls asleep.

Chapter Text

She wakes up with her head on a chest and a cock pressed hard against her leg and it takes her a few moments to realize exactly where she is.

Brooklyn Heights. Ben Solo’s apartment. Because he’d fucked her from behind the night before and they’d fallen asleep not touching but her head’s on his chest now, and his cock is hard.

She tilts her head up. There’s no point trying not to disturb him. If she sits up, the cold from where her body had just been will wake him, and besides—she has to get to work, and he probably does too.

He’s already awake, watching her.

“Sorry,” she mutters. “Didn’t mean to trap you.”

“It’s fine,” he says. “I can be late to work and Snoke can deal.”

He mentions Snoke’s name so casually and Rey is too groggy to glare immediately upon mention of his name. “What time is it?”

Ben tilts his head and she follows his gaze to a clock on the bed stand. Five forty am. Her phone alarm is going to go off in the next room in fifteen minutes.

His cock is still pressed against her leg, hard as iron and hotter than the rest of him somehow. “Do you want to…?” she lets her voice trail away suggestively and shifts her leg against his dick.

He blinks down at her, considering. “Then I’ll really be late to work.”

“Well, if you want Snoke to cockblock you, that’s fine,” she says, trying to hide the sting that she’s literally naked in his bed and he’s thinking about when to get to work.

Ben snorts. “Why not add that to the list.” She frowns. “Works me to the grindstone, doesn’t give me credit for my ideas but loves having me on payroll, and cockblocks me.” There’s amusement and frustration in his eyes. There’s defiance there, too, as though he’s begging her to ask it.

So she does.

“Then why do you work there?”

“Better than working for Luke by a mile,” he replies and any trace of amusement is gone. Rage and bitterness are on every line of his face. “Are we gonna?”

Which is how Rey decides to blow him, because she doesn’t particularly want to look at his face right now. His cock is the reason she’s still in his bed, right? So down his body she slides, not kissing his chest, just licking her way along his length and sucking him into her mouth.

He lets out a strangled groan and his hands fly to her head, weaving through her messy hair, his thumbs stroking along her jaw. She hears him shift slightly as she wraps her hands around the base of his cock and pumps it in time with her mouth, as she strokes his balls and tries to not care about any of the words that had come out of his mouth since he’d woken up. Fuck him offering her water last night, and a bed to rest in rather than a bathroom door to bruise her hipbones against. Fuck him for being willing to forgive Snoke all his flaws, but to walk out of his family’s life. He hadn’t even wanted them to get the selfie he’d taken at LCJ’s birthday party.

God fuck him.

His dick tastes so good, its skin soft against her lips, and she can hear him grunting and groaning and moaning and whatever up the bed.

Then his hands leave her head and for a moment she thinks he’s gonna pull away, ready to come.

But no—no he’s sitting up and he is pulling her lips off his dick and if he thinks he’s gonna get to fuck her, he’s going to have to live with disappointment.

Except his hands are on her hips and he’s shifting her around, pulling her hips, rather than her entire body, up the bed and she realizes what he’s trying to do and pauses. Yeah, she’ll allow for that. If they can make it work. His torso’s so fucking long. And she’s not going to lie, she’s dubious that he’ll actually be good at this, given how unpracticed his fingers on her clit had been the other night.

He’s not…great. Not bad, but not great. Too much licking at her vagina and not enough at her clit and also he keeps pulling her up closer to him which means she has trouble sucking him off. His torso is too damn long. “Can you lick my clit more?” she says a little breathily, taking her lips off his tip for a moment.

“Huh?”

“My clit.”

“Oh. Yeah, sure.”

It’s better. Better enough that she feels herself start to drip on his face and he makes a noise of surprise and she sucks on the tip of his dick and pumps the rest of it with her hand because that’s about as much as she can do right now if he’s determined to lick her.

He comes maybe thirty seconds later, groaning into her core, his spunk mostly filling her mouth but a little bit of it getting on her face. It tastes bitter and salty and that’s sort of refreshing, given how much of her life she spends tasting sweet.

She relaxes after that, watching his dick go slowly limp as he keeps licking her and it’s not long before the tears start to well in her eyes again and she sighs, and takes a deep breath before the orgasm rolls its way through her.

Rey is late to work.

Rey is never late to work, but Rey is late to work. The A heading north under the river is not behaving and by the time she gets to Fulton Street she’s already gotten a text from Finn asking if she’s ok.

Fine, she replies with an additional series of heart emojis. Trains are misbehaving.

I’ll let Luke know, Finn tells her. When you get here, please help. I’m drowning there are so many people.

She hurries into the bakery and there’s a line nearly out the door, people who are more likely waiting for coffee than cupcakes.

Rey darts behind the counter, grabs an apron from the peg just inside the kitchen, as well as a kerchief, and comes out with her best working smile in place. “Hi! What can I get you?”

She spends forty minutes helping behind the counter before the line starts to slow. When the bakery is mostly empty, Finn casts her a sidelong glance.

“Trains, eh?” he asks.

“Yeah,” she says.

“And it has nothing to do with that massive hickey on your neck, right?”

Rey slaps her neck. Ben had sucked on it a lot the night before, and Rey hadn’t particularly cared because she never gets hickeys—not ever. Except that, when she bends down to see if she can see it reflected in the display window glass, she can. It’s huge. And dark.

She groans.

“Might have been different from usual trains,” she mutters. She wishes she had a scarf. But it’s the middle of summer. She supposes she could drop the handkerchief down from around her hair to around her neck but somehow she thinks that would make it worse.

She groans.

“That means everyone who smiled at me this morning when I was getting them coffee and donuts…”

“Knows you were boning someone. Who were you boning?”

“It doesn’t matter,” Rey groans.

“He gave you a hickey the size of Nantucket,” Finn points out.

“Yeah, but it’s not a thing. It’s just…fuck buddy stuff. If I say it out loud, it becomes a thing.”

“He gave you a hickey the size of Nantucket.”

“And it’s not a big deal,” Rey repeats. “He’s not going to like…” a mental image she really wishes wouldn’t supply itself invades her brain—of her and Ben dressed very nicely, surrounded by flowers and cutting into a cake that looks suspiciously like the order she processed yesterday for the hellish bride, “It’s not like he’s my future husband or anything. It’s just sex. How was your date?”

Finn’s face changes immediately. His smile gets a bit shy and he looks at the door to the kitchen as though worried that his words will make it to the back. “It went really well,” he says quietly. “We kissed for real this time. No alcohol.”

“Finn!” Rey beams at him, “That’s wonderful!”

“Yeah,” he smiles back, reaching a hand up to scratch his head. “She initiated it. She—like—” he swallows. “She wants me. You know?”

Rey knows. Rey knows and she steps forward to give him a quick hug. “Speaks well of her judgement,” she tells him.

“Yeah. Now I just can’t fuck it up,” he replies.

“You won’t fuck it up,” Rey tells him firmly. “You’re a good man, and a kind one. It’ll be ok.”

Finn takes a deep breath. “Yeah. Yeah, it’ll be ok.” Then, with a broader smile, and a little more loudly, a little more firmly, “It’ll be ok.”

Rey returns to the tiny office in the back of the bakery and sets herself to reading through the orders that have come in overnight. Not many of them today, thank god, but there are three new Yelp reviews, a few tags on Facebook, and—

“Oh no.”

“What?” she hears Luke and Finn both call from outside.

“They’re opening another location five blocks from here.”

“Who?” Finn asks as Luke comes to the door and she can see in his eyes that she doesn’t need to explain.

And to think she’d fucked him that morning, and he hadn’t told her. Probably out of spite. It’s not like they’re friends. He doesn’t have to tell her anything, just like she doesn’t have to tell him anything.

“When?” Luke asks.

She tilts the screen of the old desktop around so that he can see the post on the Naberrie Facebook feed that much more easily. We’re delighted to announce that next month, we’ll be—

Luke inhales sharply and turns around, tugging his phone out of his pocket. “Leia,” she hears him say as he steps out of the office, out of the kitchen, and then, with a dinging of the bell, out of the bakery.

Rey stares at the Facebook post. It’s simple, there’s a picture of a cupcake with its artful Snoke’s sunburst on it. Five blocks away.

This site is their flagship, the one that Padme had built, the one they’re known for. But Snoke’s has the shiny, name-brand recognition and the to-die-for frosting, even though it wasn’t even his frosting recipe, it was Padme’s. How was it that Snoke’s was able to market so much better than Naberrie?

“How many new stores is this going to be in the past two years?” Finn asks quietly.

“This is their fourth, I think.”

“We’re gonna go out of business,” he says.

“We’re not,” Rey replies. “It won’t happen.”

“We closed seventy-seventh street last year,” Finn says, and Rey flinches. The sales at the shop on Columbus had plummeted last year when Snoke had opened a bakery three blocks south. “What if we close down a second one? What if we close down this one? We’re screwed.”

“We’re not. Just because they’re opening a location doesn’t mean anything. We still have plenty of…” but Luke’s come back inside, and he looks grim. He heads into his office at the back of the kitchen and closes the door.

“I don’t want to have to apply to Snoke’s again,” Finn groans. “I really don’t. I can’t go back there.”

“There are other bakeries,” Rey says.

“Yeah, but by the end of this, will there be? It’s a cupcake takeover of Manhattan.”

“It’ll be ok. Luke and Leia will think of something. Or I will.” She’s Han, now, isn’t she? Surely he contributed something. That was her job now, wasn’t it?

Still, anxiety pits in her stomach as she tries to get back to work. Regardless of what must be done, there’s only so much she can do right now, and she tries to keep her focus on her work.

A few more orders come through, and Rey finds herself brainstorming another cake recipe—almond and orange, but what to ice it with?—and before she knows it, it’s lunchtime and Finn pokes his head in the office and asks, “You got time to help? We’re getting a lunch rush.”

Naberrie is most famous for its cupcakes, its icing, its muffins and lemon bars and pies. But they do a solid business every day in coffee and paninis and they haven’t hired her replacement yet, which means the lunch rush is just as bad as rush hour coffee in the morning.

She’s so occupied with smiling her way through customer orders for the next two hours that she doesn’t even notice it when Han Solo makes his way into the bakery for the first time since his heart attack.

He’s standing outside her—his?—office, leaning against the doorframe, his gaze serious as he talks to Luke. He looks old. His hair is nearly white and his skin is hanging a little loose on his body. She wonders if that’s just because she hasn’t seen him in a while, or if it’s a consequence of the heart attack.

“Hey, kid,” Han says, patting her on the shoulder as she approaches. “Hear you’re doing great filling my shoes.”

“I hope so!” Rey says, her voice breathy. Too breathy. Breathy the way it had been this morning, and now she’s thinking about his son naked again. Han Solo is not a tall man, but Ben is huge. She wonders how that happened. Leia isn’t tall either.

“We’re having a cookout for the Fourth,” Han says. “You’re invited. Everyone’s invited.”

“I’ll be there,” Rey says with a smile.

“Good, good,” he says, stepping out of the way to let her into her office.

“You think this is him?” Luke asks quietly as Rey goes to check email again.

“Of course it is,” Han sighs. “What else could he have been talking about when we fought?”

“You didn’t mention a new place,” Luke says sharply.

“Yeah, well, there was other stuff on my mind,” Han replies. He sighs. “I really don’t know what to do with him. We’ve been trying to give him the space he says he wants. It kills his mother. But it’s like everything he’s doing is just to show…” His voice fades away and Rey is sitting frozen to her seat.

It wouldn’t be the first time she’s heard Han, or Luke, or Leia bring up Ben. But it is the first time it’s happened since she’d fucked him and now, suddenly, everything is clearer. And less clear.

She chances a glance up from her computer screen. Han is rubbing his face, clearly thinking.

“He’s just doing it to show he can,” Luke says dryly. “Because we never let him do it.” He says the last bit in a tone that sounds like he’s quoting and rolls his eyes. Better than working for Luke by a mile, he had said that morning, ignoring the things he was frustrated about working for Snoke.

“He could always do it,” Han said quietly. “And we didn’t.”

“You want us to turn into what Snoke’s—”

“That’s not what I’m saying,” Han says, holding his hands up defensively. “I’m just saying—well I don’t know what I’m saying.” He sighs. “And I’m sure the doc won’t like me even thinking about it. Gets my heart doing funny things.” Luke makes a concerned noise, but Han waves him away. “I’m fine. I’m fine. It’s not like he knew it was gonna—”

“Does he know?” Luke asks quietly and Rey sees him tilt his head slightly to check and see if Rey’s listening but it doesn’t matter because Han doesn’t seem to care.

“Does he know he gave me a heart attack? No. And I’m not gonna tell him.”

“Why not? He should know.”

“Because it’ll kill him, Luke, and he’s my son. I’m not going to kill my son.”

“No, you’ll just let him kill you,” Luke replies sharply.

“Don’t be so hard on the kid.”

“He’s not a kid anymore. And he works for Snoke. He chose it.”

“Yeah, he did,” Han says and his voice is oddly clipped. “That doesn’t mean he’s not still my kid, and I don’t still remember him coming into our room in the middle of the night crying over nightmares. He’s always felt things really deeply. I don’t think that went away. I just think he hides it. I’m not going to tell him he gave me a heart attack, ok? That’s that.” Han sighs. “You and Chewie. Both of you think he’s some sort of monster or villain or something. He’s a glorified baker who wants a cupcake empire. And he’s getting it by whatever means he deems necessary.”

“Soho? Really?”

Ben looks up from behind the counter as she bursts into the Snoke’s location in Hell’s Kitchen.

“They like cupcakes in Soho,” he shrugs.

“Oh yeah—as if that’s why you’re doing this.”

“They like cupcakes in Soho, and you know how I know this?”

“Because your mother’s bakery does so well there?”

“Because I seem to recall working at a bakery that did really good cupcake sales in Soho,” Ben shrugs. “We’ve had people requesting a Soho location for months now. We’re just giving the people what they want. It’s just business.”

“It’s more than just business and you know it,” Rey snaps.

“Really?” His expression is bemused, “And how would you know that?”

“Because I work with your uncle,” she snaps. “And your mother.”

“And my father,” he says, “Yes, I know who’s on payroll at—”

“Your father doesn’t work there anymore,” she snaps and then stops. Han had said he didn’t want Ben to know about the heart attack. But Ben’s reacted already, his head has jerked up and his eyes are on Rey and his gaze is so intense she has the distinct impression he’s trying to read her mind.

“What do you mean?” he asks slowly.

“You should call him and ask him,” Rey says.

He snorts. “My father and I aren’t on speaking terms.”

“Well, I’m not your go-between. I’m not your anything.”

“No, you’re just some girl who hates me but wants to fuck me anyway,” he says and derision is dripping off his every word. “What’s your deal? Can’t find anyone who loves you? Is that why you keep crying?”

“I just cry!” she shouts at him. “And it’s none of your business as to why.”

“No, you just had my dick in your mouth this morning and then show up this evening to shout at me. Why are you even here?”

“Why?” she asks him and when he raises an eyebrow, she presses on. “Why did you leave them? Why? They love you.”

“My uncle loves me?” His arms are crossed over his chest.

“Your father does,” Rey presses on.

“He said as much, did he? Right around the time he said he was quitting? What—is he applying to work here if he loves me so much?”

“You have a father who loves you and you’re just—”

His hands come down hard on the counter and he leans forward. “Sometimes things aren’t about love. Sometimes they’re about making yourself be who you were supposed to be and not what everyone thinks you’re supposed to be.”

“And who do you think you’re supposed to be? It’s not your name on the store, it’s Snoke’s.”

“Yeah, and Naberrie—”

“Was your grandmother’s store. And you took that icing recipe and—”

“Oh for fuck’s sake about the icing recipe. It’s a buttercream frosting. It’s not that hard to make a good buttercream frosting. It’s about the cake that’s underneath it.”

“Yeah, and Snoke’s cakes are too sweet for the icing.”

“Are not.”

“Are too.”

And he moves again—sharply, standing up to his full and considerable height and marching towards the kitchen. Rey follows him. “You just don’t want to admit it because you’re—”

And he’s shoving a cupcake at her. “Eat it,” he says. “Go on.”

She takes the wrapper off the bottom and takes a bite.

Until she dies, she’ll be able to recognize the exact ratio of confectioner’s sugar to butter in Padme’s icing recipe. But the cake—

“I’m getting a sugar brain freeze,” she tells him. “The cake is too sweet for the icing.”

He lets out an exasperated growl and says, “It really isn’t.”

“Well I guess you can have as much sweets as you like, but my head is doing that thing where you’ve had too much sugar and you need to eat a vegetable.”

“It isn’t.”

“I would kill for a potato right now. Or maybe some broccoli.”

And suddenly his lips are on hers again and the half-eaten cupcake falls to the floor because she’s caught off guard. He walks her backwards towards a wall that she assumes is there at the end of this row of metal baking trays covered in cupcakes. A moment later he’s got his hands up her shirt and under her bra. She mewls into his lips as he rolls her nipples between his fingers.

“This is violating health codes,” she tells him as his lips drop down to her throat again—the other side. She’s going to have matching, mirroring hickeys, isn’t she?

“I don’t give a damn about health codes,” he growls into her neck.

“Then maybe it’s good you don’t work for us anymore,” Rey gasps because he twists her nipples particularly hard and then leaves them—her bra pushed up her chest so they’re just hanging there a little awkwardly under her shirt.

“Maybe it is,” he replies, and his hands are now at the waistband of her jeans and Rey really should push him away. He could get fired for this. Or maybe that’s a good thing. “Besides, our health inspection was last week. I doubt they’ll be back anytime soon.” And he slides a finger into her, curling it up and rubbing. Her jeans are very much in the way, as is her underwear, but it’s like the first time in the bathroom—there’s no good way to get pants off when you’re pressed against a wall and he doesn’t seem to be wanting to move right now—at least not moving in a way that would take his hand out of her cunt. So she shifts a little and shoves the waistband of her pants and underpants down a little bit and tries to spread her legs however she can.

A second finger joins the first and the heel of his palm begins to rock against the top of her slit—too large to be focused on her clit exactly, but she can tell he’s trying. Which is why she brings one of her hands down from behind his neck—how had it gotten there? Why had her instinct been to wrap her arms around him?—to the button of his own jeans, which she undoes and sticks her hands down into the warmth of his underwear and wraps her palm around his cock. He’s ridiculously hard already, and she begins pumping him a little bit unevenly, jerking her hand up and down his flesh as he starts to moan a little bit into his neck.

“Condom?” he asks her.

“We used mine last night,” she tells him. The simple fact of that catches her off guard. This will be the third time in less than twenty-four hours. What is wrong with her?

“I really should get my own,” he says.

“Yeah, you should.”

“Basic chivalry. Open the door for women, pull out their seats for them, and get your own damn condoms.” He lets out a truly obscene groan and she feels him spurt out a little bit of precum that drips down to her fingers. She uses it to circle the tip of his penis which makes him start to buck his hips into her hand.

But it’s not as though she feels as though she has the upper hand—not at all. Because he has slid a third finger into her and she’s mewling too, now, and rocking her cunt against whatever part of him she can reach. Her free hand leaves his neck and grabs one of the metal trays on either side of them and she definitely grabs a cupcake by accident, but she doesn’t focus on that. She’s focusing on the way her skin is singing, the way he’s panting, the way that their hands are moving in time with one another—and, she suspects, their hearts too—and not the clattering of the metal tray and the way the cupcakes are shaking on it.

She knows she’s close when she can feel the prickle of her eyes, and when release comes, it’s with a sigh and a sagging against the wall while tears drip from her eyes again and her heart patters in her chest as though she’d just run a mile. Her hand around his dick is limp for a moment while she lets her orgasm overtake her and then recede. Then she begins to pull at him again, more vigorously than before because she’d just come, she might as well get all this over with.

She looks up at him, expecting his head to be thrown back, or his eyes to be closed now that he doesn’t have to worry about getting her off anymore, but instead he’s watching her and when they lock eyes, she sees something there for the smallest fraction of a second, gone as quickly as it had been there, so quickly that she isn’t even sure that she saw it because he lets out a groaned, “Fuck,” and he spurts, long streams of cum coating the right side of Rey’s shirt and a little bit of the wall behind them.

He leans forward against her for just a moment, catching his breath before pulling away and tucking his dick back in his pants. Rey licks the icing of the cupcake she’d accidentally grabbed off her fingers and then, for good measure, the cum that had dripped off her other hand. It’s an oddly good flavor combination—the sweet and the salty together.

“Why do you do it?” he asks her as she pulls her pants up her legs. “If you hate me so much, why?”

“I don’t know,” she says. “Why do you do it?”

She expects him to say I don’t know too, the words his father had said about him feeling very deeply making their way into her mind again.

But he doesn’t say that.

Instead, he looks her dead in the eye and says, “Because getting someone who hates me to fuck me makes me feel as though I might actually be worth the energy spent hating me.”

And he turns away and goes to the sink, where he wets a dishtowel to presumably wipe his cum off the wall.

Chapter Text

The weirdest part about New York City, Rey thinks, is that it is so huge that you’ll never find anyone in the sea of people…and yet you’ll still end up on the train with an acquaintance completely by accident.

“Rey?” She looks up from her phone to see LCJ standing there, his face curled in a half-smile. “Thought that might be you.”

“Hey Lando,” she says, tucking her phone into her pocket. “What’s got you on the A?” The A doesn’t go anywhere near where he lives in Brooklyn. He’s as Williamsburg hipster as it’s possible to get, while also somehow not even being a little bit of a Williamsburg hipster—a feat that the most Williamsburg of hipsters would die to achieve.

“Concert,” he says. “And what’s got you headed downtown at this hour?” That curl in his smile gets a little deeper. “Someone special?”

Rey swallows. She has no idea if LCJ knows that she was the one Ben was fucking on his birthday, but she wouldn’t be surprised if he’d put two and two together. It’s not like it would have been hard to, given that they’d shown up together and then she’d left right after.

“Meeting Finn and Rose for a movie,” she tells him. And the curl in his lip fades slightly as he nods.

“Right right right. And what are your thoughts on Rose? Is she worthy of our Finn?”

She likes how Lando says our Finn somehow. She barely knows him, but she knows that he and Finn met…somehow, and Finn speaks of him with the sort of closeness that Rey has only heard when he speaks about Poe.

“I think so,” Rey says. It’s still new, this whole not feeling weird about Rose thing. She likes it. She wishes it had always been there, so she wouldn’t have to examine all of the whys of it’s not being there before. “Finn’s careful with who he trusts.”

LCJ snorts. “That’s an understatement. But he has impeccable taste, as is proven by present company.” And that curl is back.

“Who are you seeing?” Rey asks.

“Hm?”

“Your concert—who are you seeing?”

“It’s a house concert. Someone Lumpy put me onto. Fusion of hip hop and Turkish prayer melodies.” He pulls out his phone and—without caring even a little bit that they’re in a crowded train car—begins playing the music. It’s certainly something, and Rey nods her head along to the rhythm. “Nice,” she says.

“I know,” he says. Then—“Ditch Finn and Rose. Let them have some privacy. Come join me. I can text Ben and see if he wants to—”

“That’s ok. Thanks,” she says at once. She does not want to see Ben Solo. She doesn’t want Lando to get the wrong idea.

His eyebrows twitch and the smile is gone. “You were with Ben, weren’t you?” he asks her and his voice is oddly sharp. “I wasn’t imagining you two fucking in my bathroom or anything?”

“We’re—it’s—complicated.”

Lando rolls his eyes. “This isn’t a Facebook relationship status. He’s one of my oldest friends in the world, and Finn trusts you so you’d better not prove that trust wrong.”

“It’s just fucking, ok? I don’t need to spend time with him and he probably doesn’t want to spend time with me. It’s nothing.”

LCJ’s face is completely blank. “Doesn’t sound particularly complicated to me,” he says at last.

“Maybe it’s not then,” Rey says. “Maybe I’m trying to keep it uncomplicated. Fuckbuddies is doable. Feelings are…” Lando laughs as she’s trying to find the right word.

“Feelings are indeed,” he says. “Well, you could come along and I wouldn’t text Ben. Hell, you, me, Finn, and Rose could all go together. It’ll be better than any movie that’s out right now.”

Rey considers for a moment, then pulls out her phone and texts Finn.

Rey: I met LCJ on the train. Want to go to a concert instead?

Finn: Of some music he’s picking? No. But if you want to we can do the movie another time.

A notification bubble on the top of her phone tells her that landocaljr has followed her on Instagram right as Finn’s reply comes through and Rey glances up, looking at him. He gives her a wink. She follows him back before replying to Finn.

Rey: No, I’d rather see you. But wanted to check.

“They’re out, so I am too, I’m afraid.”

“Another time, then,” Lando says. He has the good grace not to look too disappointed if he is. Rey makes to get off the train and he grabs her arm. “Don’t play with his heart,” he says seriously. “He pretends it doesn’t hurt him because he thinks that means it won’t hurt him. And I swear to god, it doesn’t matter how much Finn likes you, if you hurt him...”

And Rey can see from his sharp brown eyes that he means every word.

She doesn’t know why it takes her a full two weeks to go back to Snoke’s. She doesn’t really want to think about why. She’s sure there is a why. But not one she wants to examine.

She stops by at closing on a Wednesday night and finds him standing behind the counter, talking with a man who is even taller than he is.

He’s speaking when Rey slips in. “No, I don’t anticipate—” And he stops short, his eyes landing on hers. The man he is speaking to turns. His skin is liverspotted and his eyes are a clear bright blue that remind Rey—oddly—of Luke Skywalker’s.

“We’re closed,” the man says and his voice is smooth as silk.

“I know,” Rey says at the same time that Ben says, “No, it’s fine.”

The man looks back between them and arches—he doesn’t have eyebrows. She hadn’t noticed it. Perhaps that’s why his face is so odd to her. “Ah,” he says. “Well, then. If you’ll allow me to take just a few more moments of your time,” and he strolls towards the back.

Ben shoots her a look that says don’t go anywhere and she goes and sits at one of the empty tables.

Five minutes later, the man departs. She thinks it’s without giving her a second glance except when he is walking past the window she’s sitting by, she sees his gaze flit to her. It makes her feel uncomfortable, especially the way he half-smiles when he sees her watching him and doesn’t look away.

“So we’re still doing this, then?” Ben asks, and Rey starts out of her skin. His gaze is hard as he looks at her, and his jaw juts out angrily.

“Doing—“

“This.” He waves his hand between the two of them.

She stares up at him. It’s sort of hard to believe that he might be upset or hurt, but she remembers what LCJ said on the train, what his own father said about him, and she takes a deep breath. “Sorry,” she says at last. “It’s been busy. I would have texted, or something, but I didn’t have your number.”

He blinks at her. Then snorts. “Yeah, I was going to try calling you, but I didn’t have yours either.”

He pulls his phone out of his pocket, pulls something up on the screen and hands it to her.

She sees her own name at the top of the contact, and types in her number. Then she sends herself a text.

“Mine or yours?” he asks her dryly as he turns off the lights in the cupcakery.

“Yours,” Rey says. She doesn’t want Bebe knowing about this. She doesn’t want Finn knowing about this either. She wonders if Lando brought it up to him.

“Lando knows about us,” she says as they make their way to the A-train.

“Yeah, he wouldn’t stop cracking jokes about it at his birthday,” Ben says dryly.

“Does anyone else?”

“Lumpy probably does,” Ben says. “Though he will always pretend not to give a shit.” Ben rolls his eyes. “Arrogant prick. Though he’ll tell me I’m the arrogant prick. And Chance’ll just laugh.”

“Chance?”

“Lando,” Ben says. “He went by Chance for a long time. A nickname from his dad. He shed it when Chance the Rapper got famous. Said there could only be one Chance, and he knows how to make a graceful exit.” Ben rolls his eyes.

“Sounds like you’re all arrogant pricks,” Rey mutters, and Ben snorts.

“You’re not wrong,” he replies, leaning out over the tracks to check how close the train is. “We come by it naturally. Well—Chance and I do. Lumpy’s dad is a mensch, so I don’t know where he got it, unless it skips a generation. His grandfather did go by Icky, so.”

“It’s nice that you have childhood friends,” Rey says, sounding more wistful than she had meant to. Ben gives her a look and she looks away. The last thing she wants is for him to ask her what she means by that, and then trying to armchair psychologize her because she cries during sex or something.

“I guess,” he says at last. “Makes it harder to let go of.”

“Makes what—”

“My past,” he says. “I can cut my parents and my uncle out no problem.   They’ll pretend to respect me by respecting that choice. But you can’t ever tell Chance no, and Lumpy likes to be right so he’ll just stick along for the ride and tell me I’m an idiot at every opportunity.”

And there it is again—the reason she can’t stand him. That he’d just walk away from it all, that he’d just abandon them. That he speaks so casually about leaving his family behind.

They’re going to have really good hatesex when they get to his place.

She isn’t wrong.

They’re out of their clothes within four seconds of making it through the door of his apartment, and Rey can tell from the way he’s sucking on her neck that he’s in just about the same mood as she is—too pissed off to want to kiss on the lips, but too horny not to kiss. She doesn’t care. She really fucking doesn’t care.

He practically throws her on the bed after they’ve stumbled their way through his dark apartment, and for a moment, she thinks he’s going to stretch himself down on top of her, pin her to the mattress, but no. No—he flips her over and hoists her hips in the air the way he had the last time Rey was here and rubs his hands over her ass in a way that makes her arch her hips up towards them.

The smack is not wholly unexpected, if she’s honest with herself. It’s light, clearly not supposed to hurt her, and she lets out a hiss and buries her face into the pillow. He does it again, then rubs his dick along the seam of her. “Fuck you’re dripping,” he groans, bending forward and kissing his way down her spine. Are those his teeth on her ass? She twists to see if he’d actually bitten her, but he’s already sitting up again, ripping open a a foil to roll a condom onto himself. He smacks her ass lightly one last time before pushing in as deep as he can go.

She doesn’t know when she’ll get past it—the stretch of him inside her. Maybe it’s because she hadn’t fucked him in two weeks, or maybe it’s because this angle always makes her feel things in a different way. Either way, she’s grunting and he’s grunting, and the skin of his thighs is starting to slap against the back of hers and his grip on her hips is so very tight.

It’s the tight grip, more than anything else, that makes her do it.

Because this is fucking angry sex, right? That’s why he’d smacked her—even if it was supposed to be playful, even if she’d enjoyed it? Because they’re both pissed off?

When does she get to ride him?

So she pushes herself up to her knees, feeling his pace stutter slightly as she pulls herself off his dick and turns to face him. He looks thrown, wary even, and she grabs his arm and tugs him down onto the bed. He lies there, watching her, his hands limp at his sides.  She turns away from him, straddles his hips and guides him back into her.

Ok, so this is the first time she’s ever done it quite like this before. Usually when she rides, she rides facing him. But she doesn’t really want to watch him watch her cry again and besides, they’re both ticked off—it’ll just be easier this way.

She grinds herself onto him, one of her hands reaching down between her legs to circle at her clit, the other reaching up to cup one of her breasts. Behind her, she can hear him breathing, but he’s barely moving.

Oh for fuck’s sake, it’s basically the same position as the one they were just in, he doesn’t have to get huffy about it.

She does her best to ignore it, but when after a minute, he still hasn’t started moving his hips, she decides to take matters into her own hands and drops the hand from her breast down to cup his ball sac.

His hips jerk up underneath hers and he lets out a breathy, “Fuckkkkk,” and then they’re off to the races. He’s thrusting up into her, and she’s thrusting down onto him and heat is beginning to pool in her lower abdomen and her blood is starting to sing.

The trouble is that her legs start to get tired before either one of them is close enough to coming. Her pace slows not because she wants it to but because she can’t remember the last time she went jogging and that is when Ben sits up underneath her.

For a second, she thinks he’s going to flip her over again, that she’s going to have to fight him because she wants to finish on top, for fuck’s sake, except that he’s not flipping her over. He’s sitting up behind her and his fingers slide under hers to rub at her clit while the other arm snakes around her lower belly, pulling her flush against his chest. His lips are at her throat again, but she thinks she hears him murmur, “I’ve got you,” as his fingers strum at her clit and when had she thought he was bad at this? That he didn’t really know his way around her vulva? He must have been paying more attention than she’d given him credit for because his fingers are fucking magic right now, they have her gasping and crying, her chest heaving, her lips trembling and her head falling back to rest on his shoulder as she lets her orgasm roll along the length of his dick.

Her legs are shaking as she tries to extricate herself from him. He’s still hard, still isn’t done but he lets her off him, lets her topple sideways onto the bed next to him while her body flashes hot and cool with aftershocks before he kneels between her legs, hoists her hips up and—

She’s face up this time, looking at him. His head is bent as he pushes in, watching the way he slides in and out of her and she wonders what it feels like for him, to be inside her.

As if he’d known she was thinking about him, he glances up and his eyes lock with hers and Rey feels as though the air is a little lighter in her chest than it had been a second before. Why had she been angry at him, when he has eyes like that? She can’t—she doesn’t—

He is looking at her when he comes, his eyes rolling slightly before closing, his head drooping forward as he breathes throatily through the corners of his lips, and he crunches forward slightly, the muscles of his abdomen rippling a little bit before he goes still and pulls out of her.

He removes the condom and throws it into the little trash can he keeps by his bed, then he stretches out next to her on the bed, not touching her, not looking at her.

Rey swallows.

She knows, logically, she was pissed at him earlier, that she had reason to be pissed at him earlier. But right now, she doesn’t feel that at all. She feels light, and melty, and she wants him to look at her now, wants to look at him.

So she twists onto her side and cuddles up next to him, pressing her face into his arm.

He stills for a fraction of a heartbeat, then she feels the backs of his fingers start to brush against her thigh, as though he’s unwilling to move the arm between them now that she’s pressing her face to it.

How long they lie like that, she doesn’t know. All she knows is when she wakes his arms are around her, and hers are around him.

They find her replacement. It doesn’t take them long, all things considered, but it feels both too fast—for Rey—and too slow—for Naberrie.

The woman—named Jannah—is bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and it’s not long before Finn is showing her the ropes, talking to her about ovens and icing and customer service.

“And that’s Rey,” he says with a wink, pointing into the office where Rey is tearing her hair out over reviews left on Google. She did not sign up for this. She did not sign up for this. She was promoted to handle catering orders and weddings and bar mitzvahs—not fucking Yelp and Facebook and should they get an Instagram? Snoke’s has an Instagram with lots of lovely pictures of all their lovely cupcakes with their fucking stolen icing recipe. “Rey’s the best,” Finn says loyally.

Rey certainly doesn’t feel the best right now.

She feels the worst, actually. She feels small, because their Facebook posts don’t get enough likes, because people keep asking if they have a Twitter to follow, because they keep getting questions about their Upper West Side site that they had to close down six months before. She wants to be baking.

She wants to watch people smile as they bite into a cupcake. She wants to watch that moment that’s almost inappropriate where they groan with delight, their eyes rolling back into their heads—sort of the way Ben’s face goes when she goes down on him. She likes watching as someone’s day gets better because of something she did. It makes her feel like her own day is getting better too.

And to make matters worse, she hasn’t had a new idea for a baking idea in what feels like ages. What if staring at the internet all day makes her forget how to bake?

“Knock knock.”

Rey looks up and smiles.

Leia rarely comes into the bakery these days. Rey doesn’t exactly know what she does anymore. Networking or something. Continuing to exist as the family member who reminds everyone of Padme, the cupcake queen of New York. To hear Poe talk about it—before he’d left—she’d started distancing herself from the bakery after Ben had quit. But here she is, smiling down at Rey.

“I’d been meaning to check in on you,” she says. “How’s the new office suiting you?”   She looks pleased as she looks around.

“It’s all right,” Rey says.

“Just all right?” Leia asks carefully, looking at her with shrewd brown eyes. Ben’s eyes.

“I miss baking,” Rey says, glancing past Leia to where Finn and Keri are restocking the black and white cookies they sell mostly because they’re in New York and they feel morally obligated.

“Hmm,” Leia says looking down at her. “Do you wish you hadn’t gotten the job?”

“What?” Rey’s eyes go wide. The last thing she wants Leia to think is that she’s ungrateful. “No—no. It’s not like that.” Except it is. “It’s just having to learn to find time for—for something I liked.” Finn’s grinning at something Keri just said.

“All right,” Leia says carefully. “If it’s not what you want, just let us know. I don’t want to make it seem like we’re not listening to you.” The way she says it draws Rey’s eyes back to her. She’d never noticed how old Leia looks, her hair going grey, her body shrinking a bit from osteoporosis. But she has Ben’s long face and his brown eyes and for some reason it makes Rey say—

“Like Ben?”

Leia blinks at her, blinks back tears and looks away.

“Yes,” she says slowly.   “Like Ben.”

“What’s this one?” Bebe asks her when she gets home a little past nine. Rey is baking again. Today has been frazzling, but it’s getting better already just because she’s baking. It’s odd—she hadn’t ever felt this stressed working in the trenches with Finn, no matter how many customers had come along.

“Mango, ginger, and honey,” Rey says handing the cake to Bebe, who chews slowly.

“What are you doing for icing?” she asks, leaning back against the counter.

“I’m not sure,” Rey admits. “I was thinking maybe a cream cheese frosting for this one, but I hadn’t even started putting something together. I worry about the icing being too sweet for the cake flavors.”

“Yeah,” Bebe agrees. “It might overpower the ginger and you’ve already got a sweet cake with the mango and honey.” Rey scrunches her face in agreement. “Does it even need icing?”

“The trouble is I don’t think people would buy them without icing. Americans are bad about fruit cakes.”

“You’re not going to be selling these, though,” Bebe points out, and Rey sags a bit.

No, she’s not going to be selling them. She’s not even going to be eating most of them. They’ll end up going to Bebe’s office the way they always do and she’ll get a stream of texts tomorrow from her roommate, showering her with the appreciation of her colleagues.

“What’s wrong?” Bebe asks her, and Rey smiles at her.

“Nothing’s wrong. I’m fine.”

Bebe’s eyebrows are knit together. “Ok,” she says slowly.

“Just a long day.”

Bebe relaxes at that. “Yeah, you’re always at your most stressed when I come home to find you baking.”

“I’m not stressed,” Rey protests but Bebe shrugs and grabs another one of the mango ginger honey muffins from the silicon tray.

“If you’re not stressed, I’m not stressed.”

“That’s cheating. You’re always stressed,” Rey points out.

“Precisely,” Bebe replies as though she’s won the argument. “Was your stress lay unavailable?”

Rey’s eyes widen and Bebe rolls her eyes. “Oh come on. You’re my roommate. You think I don’t notice when you don’t come home?”

“How’d you know he was a stress lay?”

Bebe shrugs. “Intuition, I guess. Was he unavailable?”

“No, I hate him and I only fuck him when I need to,” Rey said, which made Bebe laugh disbelievingly. “It’s the truth.”

“Rey—you wouldn’t be fucking him if you hated him.”

“I would too,” she snaps back. “He’s a good lay.”

“You want to strangle people you hate, not—”

“Who says I haven’t tried?” she demands, her hands on her hips. Somehow, she imagines that Ben would be into that—her wrapping her fingers around his throat while she rode him. It would only enhance his hate sex kink. And he’d probably be the type to have an asphyxiation kink.

Bebe just gives her a look, though, and Rey sighs. “He’s an asshole, ok? It’s a good lay, but I don’t want to—” she scrambles for words. She’s not sure what to say.

“Get attached,” Bebe says. “You get attached to people really quickly.”

“I do not,” Rey glares at her.

“Me,” Bebe says holding up a finger. “Finn,” she holds up another. “Pretty much everyone at that bakery,” she holds up several more fingers, including two on the other hand. “You don’t want to get attached.”

The words ring in Rey’s ears as she finishes cleaning up the kitchen.

When she’s in bed, scrolling through Instagram as she tends to right before bed, she sees a picture of Ben in the middle of her feed, between two pictures of doughnuts. It’s a picture from LCJ’s account and he’s wearing sunglasses and is half-smiling, his hair blowing in the wind. It’s sort of devastating.

He smiles. It’s a Christmas miracle in June. #brothersfromthewomb #theyremysunglasses #hesasunglassesthief #thieverysinhisbloodlinejustaskmydad reads the caption.

Rey swallows.

You don’t want to get attached.

She toggles over to the text thread that she’d started, sending his name from his phone over to her when she’d gone to find him at Snoke’s the other day.

What would happen if she texted him?

That’s when she throws her phone across the bed. She’s not just texting him. She has his number in case she wants sex. Not for anything else. He’s an asshole who abandons his family. She doesn’t want anything from him.

Chapter Text

Rey: Did you do something to the oven?

It’s Rey’s day off and it’s not working. She wants to be baking something—anything—and the oven won’t preheat. She’s turned it off and turned it back on again for the past hour. She’s even unplugged it and plugged it back in. It’s just not heating up.

Bebe’s reply is immediate.

Bebe: No?

Bebe: Text the landlord.

Rey does, and the reply comes from Boba twenty minutes later.

Boba: Repair man coming Thursday.

Thursday.

That’s three days away.

Rey doesn’t think of herself as a particularly melodramatic person. She doesn’t think that she’s over the top. She’s good at waiting, she’s good at being patient. Except three days without baking feels interminable right now. Especially since that’s what she wants to be doing.

She doesn’t know why she texts Ben before she texts Finn. She knows Finn’s oven is terrible, but that doesn’t mean she wouldn’t use it. But it’s Ben she texts, not Finn.

Rey: Can I bake at your place today? My oven died.

He replies five minutes later.

Ben: And how do you propose getting into my apartment?

Rey: Don’t you have a spare key you keep somewhere?

Ben: This isn’t suburbia. This is New York City.

Ben: If you swing by the 28th street site, that’s where I am today. I’ll give you my key.

Rey: Thanks, I’m on my way.

It’s crowded when she arrives. Tables are occupied—mostly by students, or so it seems. People on computers, a few women sitting around a table with coffee, tea, and cupcakes. There’s no sign of Ben, though.

Rey: Where are you?

“Rey?”

And she jumps out of her own skin because he’s standing right behind her.

“Jesus,” she groans at him, her heart pounding in her chest.

“Sorry.” He doesn’t sound particularly sorry. He digs his hand into his pocket and produces a keyring. He takes a single key off it and hands it to her. “How long will you need the oven for?” he asks.

“Not sure. Might be a while.”

He nods. “I’ll be home by seven. If you’re done before then, let me know so we can do a key exchange.”

“Sure,” she replies. “I’ll see you later. And thanks.”

She’d been planning to bake brownies, maybe, but the second she’s in Ben’s apartment she changes her mind. It’s been a long time since she’s made bread, and especially if Ben’s not going to be back until seven—and it does seem like a waste of time not to stay until then so she can fuck him to thank him for the oven—she’s got time to make something with a long proving time.

It hadn’t occurred to her until she’s digging through his cabinets that Ben is a baker, too. He has really nice baking implements—a lovely rolling pin, good sized bowls, pans that gleam as though they’re new. She and Finn both only have things they’d picked up from thrifting, but these are lovely.

It’s been a while since she baked bread. She hasn’t worked in a bread-making bakery since college, and even then, they mostly had her run the cash register and not actually bake the loaves. She’d forgotten how much she enjoyed kneading dough. Ben has a Kitchenaid with a bread hook, and part of her wants to try it, but she also likes feeling the gluten form between her own fingers.

By the time she’s loading her loaves into the oven, she feels calmer. Better. Because baking makes her feel better.

It always has.

Rey’s always liked things she can do with her own two hands—she likes building, and taking things apart just to see how they work. Baking is just that, but with the added component of then being able to eat your creations. And that’s just the proverbial cherry on top.

Ben’s apartment smells like bread by the time he texts her.

Ben: You still there?

Rey: Yup.

Ben: I’m about to knock.

And he does. Rey opens the door for him and he freezes in the doorway, blinking as though he’s been struck dumb.

“Everything ok?” she asks him.

“Yeah.” He’s still standing there, blinking on the threshold of his apartment. Rey stands aside and he sort of drifts in. “That smells amazing.”

“Thanks,” she said. “You can have one if you like. I made a few.” And he freezes again, looking down at her—this time with narrowed eyes. “What?”

“Nothing.”

“Not nothing, you’re acting weird.”

“You don’t know me well enough to know when I’m acting weird,” he replies.

“Which is why you must be acting really weird, then,” she points out, hands on her hips, “If even I noticed it.”

“What kind of bread were you making?”

“Nice try,” Rey says, narrowing her eyes now.

They stand there for about thirty seconds, just staring at one another. “Fine,” he grunts out at last, “it was just this really fucking domestic moment of you opening the door to my apartment and it smelling like freshly baked bread, ok? Jarring and weird for someone who’s hatefucking me.”

“Yeah, ok,” Rey says and she turns away from him to go and crouch down by the oven. His oven isn’t coated with years of oven grime—it’s practically new, like he never bakes in it, not even to reheat stuff. The loaves need a few more minutes. She glances back over her shoulder and sees Ben going to the table by his bedroom door, where he chucks his wallet, his keys—

“Here,” Rey says, digging the key to his apartment out of her pocket and walking over to him.

“Thanks,” he says as he takes it from her and fiddles with it until it’s back on his key ring.

“No, thank you. I—thanks for donating your kitchen.”

He shrugs. “You seemed in need. What was up with yours?”

“Oven’s broken. Landlord can’t get a guy in for a few days.”

As if he hadn’t just told her how domestic it was to come home and find her there. As if she wasn’t likely going to give him a blowjob in a few minutes or something as thanks.

“Do you always bake on your days off?” he asks.

She sighs. “Not until recently. They took me off the kitchen to do stuff your dad used to do and I don’t get enough baking in now.”

“And they won’t put you back?”

Rey pauses. He’s looking at her with sharp, intense eyes.

“It’s a promotion,” she tells him.

“Sounds like you’re not happy with it.”

“Yeah, but it’s more money and I can bake—”

“Be careful,” he tells her. “They like doing that—telling you to be someone you’re not and then acting like you’re crazy for not wanting what they say you should want.”

“Yeah, but I’m not their son, so stop projecting,” Rey retorts. Immediately, she wonders if she’s crossed a line because his jaw tightens, his eyes harden.

“And they’re not your parents, so how about you stop idealizing,” he retorts.

“Go fuck yourself.”

“As if you won’t be fucking me later.”

“You like this, don’t you? Making me angry so I’ll hate you when we fuck.” But even as the words drip out of her mouth, even as he opens his to reply, she remembers the look on his face when he’d come home and his house had smelled like bread.

“You hate acknowledging the truth,” he shrugs. “And what I’m saying is the truth. Not my problem if you keep lying to yourself.”

“Except that you keep trying to get me to stop.”

That catches them both off guard.

Because if he didn’t care, he would stop, right?

He blinks at her and she blinks right back.

For one wild moment, she thinks he’s going to kiss her. Or cry. Or start yelling.

Instead, she gets, “Let’s talk about something else.”

“Yeah,” she agrees. She turns to look around the apartment, her eyes landing on his bookshelf and—

She bursts out laughing.

“What?”

“You have all the Harry Potter books.”

“Why wouldn’t I have the Harry Potter books?” he asks her, sounding confused as she goes over to the bookshelf. “I am a millennial. It’s like part of our blood?”

“You have them in Latin?” she practically screeches.

“Gift from my Uncle,” Ben mutters. “Why is this so funny to you?”

“You don’t seem like the kind of guy who’d like Harry Potter is all.”

“And what kind of guy likes Harry Potter?” he asks, crossing his arms over his chest. He seems deeply affronted by all this, as though Rey had struck a nerve.

“Sorry,” she says. “No—it’s just. You’re big and tall and rude and don’t talk to your parents. Who knew you had a soul?”

“Thanks,” he said dryly. “I seem to recall you knowing nothing about a soul by your choice, not mine, given that you’re the one who’s been insisting that we’re not friends.”

“We’re not,” she says.

“Look, everyone likes Harry Potter, ok? It’s not like…a sign of personality or whatever you’re so afraid of my having.”

“But you still have them. And in Latin, which your much detested uncle gave you. So you must really like them.”

Ben takes a deep breath. He looks deeply harassed, which is oddly endearing. “Look, he had a family that didn’t like or trust him, stuck to his guns and came out the better for it. He got me through middle school, just like however many other millions of people. I like Harry Potter.”

It’s as though he’s confessing a deep love for her, or something, the defensiveness in his voice.

“What’s your Hogwarts House?” Rey asks at the same time that he says, “Oh just don’t.”

“Did you want him to end up with Hermione?”

“Listen, Ginny was the right choice, no matter what Rowling says.  Death of the author is real,” he snaps and Rey looks up at him, wholly delighted. And he looks dazed again now, like when she had opened the door to his apartment, smelling like bread. “Ginny innately understood his trauma,” he says quietly. “She shouldn’t have—they had different backgrounds. And then she got possessed and she just got it. And she held it together so—” he takes a deep breath. His eyes drop to her lips, and all Rey can think is oh. “—well.”

“Just a regular crusty bread,” she tells him, and immediately he looks away and she turns on her heels to go back to the oven. “And I also made a honey loaf. You can have one of either. Or both. I made a lot of bread.” They’re ready to come out, so out they come, thank god.

“That sounds good,” he says and he’s looking away, his hands are jammed in his pockets.

“Should we have sex now?”

“Sounds great,” he replies at once.

And maybe Rey’s imagining it, but this time’s…well it’s different.

It’s slower, for one thing, and almost…no she won’t call it sweet, because he’s still fucking her raw, but there’s something almost electric between them, as though the distance between their skin creates sparks, as though the way they intertwine on his bed, in the apartment that smells like bread she’d just finished baking, is magical somehow.

She cries twice, and after they’re done, she lies there, sweating and breathing and staring up at his ceiling, not quite wanting to acknowledge anything because if she acknowledges it, it’ll shatter.

Except that rankles.

“I don’t hate acknowledging the truth,” she tells him.

“Liar,” he grunts.

“I just take a while to get there sometimes,” she says. “It hurts.”

“Yeah,” he agrees and his voice is gentle and he’s rubbing the backs of his fingers against her arm. “Yeah, the truth almost always hurts.   And not everyone’s a masochist.”

“You’re a huge masochist,” she snorts.

“I didn’t say I wasn’t,” he replied.

“Good, because the whole I like fucking someone who hates me thing is really telling. You should talk to someone about that.”

“Believe me when I say that my therapist has more than enough content to keep his job for the next fifty years.”

Rey takes a deep breath. “Do you really hate them?”

Ben swallows, his jaw working as though he’s chewing something. “No,” he says at last. “I hate what they made me believe of myself.”

This time, when Rey cries, she knows exactly why.

Rey is waiting for the train down to Ben’s one day when she feels a hand press on her shoulder.

She twists away from it, her hand tightening on her purse, and is met with a, “Careful now. I don’t want to hurt you.”

She recognizes the man at once. It’s hard to forget his height, the scarring on his head, or the way his piercing blue eyes seem to see right through her. She doesn’t like it.

“What do you want?” she asks brusquely.

If he had eyebrows—which, she notices now, he doesn’t—she’s sure they’d be twitching. Rude. She doesn’t much care. He put his hand on her shoulder as though he knew her. This is New York City in the twenty-first century. You don’t just do that.

“Rey, is it?” he asks her.

“What of it?” she says, squaring her shoulders a little bit.

He nods.

“Snoke,” he says, holding out a hand. Rey stares at it for a moment before taking it and giving it a quick shake.

“I feel as though we know one another already,” he says with a smile.

“Do you?” she asks. Does Ben talk about her at work? Does he talk about her to Snoke?

“In my own way,” he says. “Ben’s private, but anyone who distracts him quite as much as you have done…well, I feel as though I know you. I know him, after all, so I know what makes him…tick.”

Rey blinks. Behind them on the platform, the C arrives. She wishes it were the A, although knowing her luck right now, he’d get on the A with her. “Do you?” she asks at last.

“I do,” he says. “I know him very well. He’s like a son to me.” He smiles at her. She glares at him. She doesn’t care what Ben says about his family, Snoke doesn’t get to just pretend he’s his father. Not when Han Solo still loves his son, doesn’t want him to know he’d had a heart attack because he’s worried Ben will blame himself. “I want what’s best for him,” Snoke says.

“And what’s that, exactly? Isolating him from his family?”

“He chose that road himself.” She hates that sanctimonious smile. She hates how he hasn’t stopped smiling once since he appeared on the platform next to her. “Surely you’d want him to make his own choices? As his…friend.”

“What do you want?” she demands. She doesn’t want to play this game any second longer than she has to. “Surely you had a reason for coming over and talking to me?”

“Can’t a man make small-talk with an acquaintance?”

“Are we acquaintances?” she asks.

“We could be more,” he says simply. “I was thinking—come work with me.” Her eyes widen in shock. “It will be a fine opportunity for you to spend more time with Ben, and then he won’t be so distracted when he’s working. You’ll be there, as will his work. All his life, right in that little—“

“I’ll never join you,” Rey hisses. “I’d never leave them. And you don’t get to control his life.”

“I’m not controlling his life. I’m trying to make it better.”

“Are you really worried about him being distracted?” Rey flares, “Or are you just worried he’ll care about something you can’t control?”

The A arrives, screeching into the station before Snoke can reply and she pushes her way onto it, through the crowd, burying herself amongst the passengers.

She sees Snoke on the platform through the window, watching her again with his clear, cold, blue eyes. Had he really just offered her a job?

So that she’d stop distracting Ben?

The thought of it gnaws at her stomach.

She doesn’t like it—not at all.

She doesn’t break eye contact with him until the train pulls out of the station. Only then does she realize she’s trembling.

Finn: I should get her something, right?.

The text is innocuous enough, and without details, Rey has trouble remembering what it’s in reference to.

But Finn has always been able to read her mind and he clarifies almost at once.

Finn: Rose’s housewarming.

Finn: You’re still coming, right?

Right. Right right right. She’d been preoccupied with the oven replacement—it’s new and chrome and perfect—and then with double checking all of the orders that Han had noted before his heart attack to make sure they were exactly right because high summer and wedding season—and then there’d been Ben, and the weird way that his eyes were starting to get bright when they had sex like he was going to start crying. Rey had joked about it once, told him he was forbidden. Only one of them was allowed to cry during sex before it got pathetic. She did her best not to think about how she was starting to joke with Ben. As if they were something they aren’t.

Rey: Yeah. Saturday, right?

Finn: Yup.

Finn: Should I get her something?

Rey: In addition to the sweet, sweet love?

Rey: I can bake her something and we can say they’re from you.

Finn: That’ll do.

This time, when Rey makes the rose and matcha cupcakes, the balance is perfect. And she boxes them up in her old tupperware, and goes with Bebe to the train, where they find Finn.

Rose is living with her older sister in an old loft apartment. It’s mostly decorated, and mostly unboxed, and Paige’s friends are already drinking heavily and talking loudly. It somehow doesn’t surprise her to see LCJ standing there, laughing loudly as someone begins chugging their beer. It does surprise her to see Ben there, but there he is, looming large over the rest of the crowd, looking like he’d rather be just about anywhere else.

The second he sees her, his face changes. An oh thank god reaction, or maybe even genuine excitement to see her. But she gives him a look as he begins to make his way across the room to her and he freezes where he is.

Then she texts him.

Rey: Finn doesn’t know.

She watches him frown as he reads the text, watches as he shrugs it off and turns back to LCJ and she wonders if there’s a droop to his shoulders or if she’s making that up.

“Hi,” Rose says to her as she makes her way over to where Finn and Rey are taking off their shoes.

“Happy new home!” Rey says with a smile. She hands Rose the giant tupperware full of cupcakes.

“Thanks!” Rose says at the same moment that one of Paige’s friends lets out a drunken shout of pride at having finished his beer. “Sorry,” she says, “It’s…a little louder than I want it to be already. Paige’s friends drink a lot.   And I swore off alcohol after Lando’s party.” She makes a face.

“That bad?” Rey asks her.

“Well, not entirely,” Rose says and she gives Finn a shy smile. Finn returns it and tentatively reaches for her hand and Rey—

Something in her stomach does a thing. It’s like Finn is reaching away from her when he reaches for Rose. Like something she’d thought she’d resolved just…

He’s happy. He’s not going anywhere, she tells herself. But as Rose leads Finn to the counter to get Rey’s cupcakes set up, Rey decides that now is the time for alcohol.

And, if she needs it, adding the bathrooms-in-which-she-makes-Ben-fuck-her count go up to three.

“Rey, Rey, darling Rey,” Lando says, coming up behind her as she pours herself some whiskey. “How lovely to see your face again.”

“And yours,” she smiles up at him. “How do you know Paige?”

“Finn invited me,” Lando shrugs. “Seems to think I might match off well with his paramour’s sister.”

“And might you?” Rey asks, glad to think of anything other than the way that Finn is leaning close to Rose to make sure she can hear him. Bebe is chatting happily with Poe as the other two put the cupcakes on plates. Rey could be over there with them.   She could be. But she’d feel a fifth wheel. Like she doesn’t belong. Like she doesn’t have a place in the world they’re pairing off in.

“I’m considering it,” Lando shrugs. “She’s got a nice smile. Nothing like a nice smile.”

Rey tries to give him a smile and his gaze flickers. “Oh Benjamin, I think you’re wanted.”

“I’m—“ Rey cuts him off, but Lando’s already turned away from her to make space for Ben.

“What’s wrong?” Ben asks. His jaw is tight, and he’s standing a little weirdly, like he’s trying not to get too close to her. Why, suddenly, does she feel repulsive to everyone? She’d told Ben to keep his distance at least, but maybe she shouldn’t have. Maybe that’s why she’s feeling all weird. Feeling like Finn’s leaving her behind when he’d literally invited her to this party because he wants her here, because he wants her at his side as he tries to forge a new path with a girl he likes.

She takes a sip of her whiskey, filling her lungs with oxygen as best she can. She looks up at Ben.

And a moment later he’s taking her hand and leading her into one of the bedrooms, closing the door behind them. For a wild moment, she thinks he’s gonna throw her on the bed but instead he just wraps his arms around her.

Which is how Rey realizes she’s crying, because she is. She’s crying into his shirt and clinging to him and why is she crying? She’s not that upset. It’s not that bad. It’s not—

“It’ll be ok,” he tells her, and his hand is cradling the spot where her head meets her neck, holding her like she’s delicate, fragile—so unlike the way he holds her when he fucks her. “It’ll be ok.”

“I know,” she manages at last. “It’s just dumb. I’m just being dumb.”

He doesn’t say anything, he just keeps on holding her.

He’s warm. She’s always known that about him. From the moment she met him, he has been heat in her life—first in that overhot convention center, then in his bedroom, in his kitchen baking bread. She’d never really thought of heat as comforting before now. But as she hiccups her way towards calm, she realizes that it’s the steady warmth of him that’s calming her down.

Oh, she thinks, not for the first time, and probably not for the last. Oh no. Oh no. Oh no.

And she starts to cry harder again, her hands tightening in his shirt, as though afraid he’ll disappear because, horrifyingly, she’s realizing she is afraid he’ll disappear.

“What happens if I don’t hate you?” she asks his shirt.

For a moment, she wonders if he can understand her muffled mumbling.

She knows he does though, from the way he stops breathing. From the way the steady pumping of his heart jolts a little bit faster.

She knows what this is. Fight or flight. He’s going to run. Or maybe just be an asshole.

Instead he whispers. “Want to get out of here? Find a place to talk that’s not…” As if the party had read his mind, Rey hears someone shouting loudly on the other side of the bedroom door.

She nods against his chest and slowly, carefully, he unwinds his arms from around her. He presses a kiss to her forehead. “It’ll be ok,” he whispers to her, but it sounds more like he’s telling himself. Then he takes her hand and leads her from the room.

They don’t say goodbye.

She feels a little too numb to even react to the fact that Finn doesn’t seem to notice as she puts her shoes back on and disappears into the night, hand-in-hand with Ben Solo.

Half an hour later and Rey finds herself on Ben’s couch, wrapped in a blanket.

She doesn’t know why she’s wrapped in a blanket, but Ben had insisted on it. She’d spent most of the cab ride to his place half-crying, and hadn’t been able to let go of his hand. He’s making her tea in his kitchen and she’s staring at him.

Her eyes are tired. She’s cried more than she’s cried in years tonight. Sex crying doesn’t count. That’s just—it doesn’t count. She feels tired. She feels worn. And when Ben hands her a cup of mint and chamomile tea, she takes a sip and almost immediately feels better.

“You don’t strike me as a tea guy,” she says quietly.

“Or a Harry Potter guy. Almost like you make bad assumptions about me or something.” He says it gently enough, with a quirking smile. He’s trying to make her laugh, but all she can think about is that first time she’d met him, when she’d yelled at him that he worked for a snake and he’d yelled at her right back.

“Why is Luke a hypocrite?” she asks him.

He goes still, clearly surprised by the question. “He just—” He runs his hand through his hair. He has such good hair. Rey likes holding it when he fucks her. “He just is,” he says at last and he looks at her and there’s nervousness there. Like she’ll spit in his face, or tell him he’s lying. She reaches for his hand and he squeezes it.

“You don’t hate me?” he asks her.

She shakes her head. No, she really doesn’t. But she needs to drink her tea now, and stop crying because how many times has he seen her cry and she’s said it was nothing?

“My uncle,” he bites out at last, “spent all my youth telling me what to be. Telling me how to be it. You’ll take over the family business one day. You’ve got a natural talent for this. An aptitude. But god forbid the natural talent and aptitude also include business acumen and the second I try and actually use any of that talent and aptitude to make us competitive again, he tells me I’m overstepping, that it’s not going to work, that that’s not how we do things. So I’m sitting there—the heir to this cupcake empire—and I’m wondering—why? Why can’t I contribute in any way other than what they say? Back when I left,” he looks away, glaring at his kitchen for a moment, “They were all surprised. Why would you go and work for Snoke? Maybe because Snoke never told me that I’d fail before I’d even tried to succeed. And look what I’ve done for him.” He looks back at Rey. “Look how much he’s grown in the past five years. He may grind me to the bone and I basically have no life because of him, but his success—he couldn’t have done that without me and he knows it. That could have been Naberrie, but my uncle wouldn’t ever fucking listen to me. And now he thinks I’ve gone and betrayed him. No—I didn’t betray him. He pushed me out.”

Rey sits there, staring at him. He isn’t looking at her, but his gaze does drop down to their hands. “And my parents sided with him,” he says quietly. “He’s my dad’s best friend, and the sheer number of times I’ve heard them call each other a jackass to their face. But no. No, this time it was Luke knows what he’s talking about, Ben. And my mom—” he cuts himself off and now he’s the one blinking back tears. Then he shakes his head. “Anyway. Nothing quite like realizing they want a dream of you more than they want what you actually are. Snoke’s not the best to work for, but at least he sees me for what I am, and actually tries to foster my potential, rather than quash it.” Vividly, Rey remembers from the first morning that she’d woken up in his apartment, him complaining about Snoke taking credit for his work, mining him for ideas. Still more vividly, she remembers Snoke on the platform, telling her he thought of Ben as his son. He wants to control him. Every part of him.

She opens her mouth to ask him about it, but quite another question drops out of her lips.

“So you cut them out?” Her head’s hurting a bit and her throat is dry, and she thinks she’s a little dehydrated. But she still doesn’t understand it, and this she needs to understand. Somehow, she knows that if she asks him about Snoke, why he’s working there if he’s unhappy, he’ll ask why she’s still at Naberrie if she’s unhappy and she can’t quite bear to confront that question just yet. And she senses that if she were to tell him about that conversation on the platform, the way that Snoke had seemed to be trying to tighten his grip…somehow she doubts he’d listen. If anything, it might make him cling to his supposed independence that much more tightly.

“I spent the first six months after I quit getting phone calls from my mom,” he says. “She kept telling me to come back, to think about it, that I was overreacting. That they loved me. What that was—that fuckery they made me think I was—that wasn’t love. And I didn’t need that kind of love in my life.”

“But never talking to them again,” Rey begins but she doesn’t know where she’s going because there are tears in her eyes again. She just doesn’t understand. She just—“Do you really think that they might not listen to you now? If you tried?”

“I saw my dad a few weeks ago,” he says and his voice sounds hollow. “I saw him at that event—the one where we fucked the first time. Pretty sure that the reason I thought it was a good idea to go fuck a stranger in the men’s room was because he and I fought about it.   He wanted me to come home.”

“And you thought he was lying to you?”

“If they don’t acknowledge that I hurt, what’s the point? That’s just going back to something that’s going to hurt me again.”

“And if he knows you’re hurting?” she asks. “What if they all know you’re hurting?”

“You think they care? Just because they care about you?”

“How do you know they don’t if you haven’t talked to them in five years. I get you’re afraid—”

“I’m not afraid,” he interrupts. But he doesn’t say anymore, and Rey cups his cheek.

“You are,” she says. “You are so afraid that they’ll crush you. That you’ll break again and again and that everything you’ve tried to build for yourself isn’t anything at all.”

“Is that what you’re afraid of too?” he asks sharply and Rey goes still.

“I’m not afraid of that,” she says quietly. His eyebrows twitch and he opens his mouth, clearly prepared to argue with her about it, but she cuts him off. “I’m afraid of everyone leaving me behind like my parents.”

Whatever words he’d been planning to say die on his lips. And a moment later he’s tugging her into his arms, pressing her tight against his chest as tears start falling again. “Is that why you were crying earlier?” he asks quietly. “Because you thought I’d leave?”

“No,” she says. “I thought Finn was leaving me behind. And I know he’s not. I know it’s just a girlfriend. But it’s different now. Like this. The two of us. I don’t know. It hasn’t been the same since I got promoted. I thought it was the promotion, that I wasn’t baking enough, but maybe it was that I wasn’t seeing Finn enough. And—and—” And it’s stupid. It’s stupid. People leave jobs all the time. Poe’s working at a hotel now, and they’re still friends with him. They don’t see him every day but he’s around, and they text and—

Ben’s hand is stroking her hair as she cries.

“I guess I was crying because of you too,” she mumbles. “Because—”

“Because what happens if you don’t hate me,” he tells her, and he kisses her.

That’s when she notices he’s trembling. He’s shaking, and clinging to her.

She’s very used to crying around him at this point.

But she’d never thought she’d see him cry. Not once. He’s holding her like he’s drowning and she’s keeping him afloat, like he wouldn’t dream of leaving her behind.

They kiss, and kiss, and kiss some more. The desperation in his lips fades, eases into something steadier, something softer. His hands cup her face as she cuddles into him on his couch, and his touch makes her smile for the first time that night, makes her laugh because she’s kissing him. She wants to be kissing him, so she’s kissing him. And he wants to be kissing her.

She doesn’t think she’s ever really noticed his lips before. They haven’t kissed much, in all honesty. He’s sucked on her neck, she’s sucked his dick, and they’d kissed sort of in passing, but never really intentionally. Kisses because their lips were present, and in decently close proximity.

This is his lips against hers, his breath mixing and muddling with hers, his tongue parting her lips and twining with hers, and his lips are so soft. So, so soft, and she likes the way his nose is rubbing against her face, the way his hands are cupping her cheeks, massaging at the base of her skull as though trying to sooth—her? Himself? She’s not wholly sure. Both of them, probably.

She pulls him closer, wriggling out of the blanket he’d wrapped her in a little bit to pull herself closer to him. She holds him as tightly as she can and she swallows and he swallows and his eyes are really bright.

“Bed?” he asks her and she nods and they get up and make their way to the bedroom, hand in hand. Clothes—which so frequently shed themselves when the two of them are together—come off slowly. Ben kisses every inch of her skin as he helps her strip down, and she sucks on his shoulder, his chest, his stomach as he strips out of his own. Her hands brush across his skin—always so hot—and he groans and when he pulls her onto the bed, it’s on their sides, her leg hitched over his hip, his cock brushing against her.

But he doesn’t press into her. He takes a few breaths, steadying himself, she thinks.  Because getting someone who hates me to fuck me makes me feel as though I might actually be worth the energy spent hating me.

Has he ever fucked anyone who actually wants him to fuck them? He’d been a bit unpracticed, if enthusiastic, when they’d started. Did he ever think he’d find someone who would cry at the idea that he might leave, would press her face into his chest when she’s having a bad night because she knows he’ll try and make her feel safe?

And she’s crying again, her lips finding his, and clinging to him. She puts as much as she can into that kiss as she can—that she’s here for him, that he’s here for her, that they’re here right now and—and—

His arms tighten around her, his fingers digging into her hair, his tongue dancing along hers and his breath shuddering in his chest. She feels something wet against her nose and almost laughs amid her tears because he’s crying too. She’d thought it would be pathetic when she’d joked about it earlier, but it doesn’t feel pathetic. Or maybe it is, but she doesn’t care. She doesn’t feel pathetic for crying if Ben’s crying too. If the idea that she’d want him as much as he wants her is—

“You never hated me, did you?” she blurts out.

Ben pauses, his breath shaking and she reaches a hand up to brush the tears from his face. He licks his lips nervously, and his face twitches and she knows he’s about to say something brutally honest that she doesn’t want to hear, something that will make her cry more, or get angry and she doesn’t want to be angry with him right now. And she can tell from the way he licks his lips again that he’s afraid of saying something that will make her angry. So she kisses him, and she can taste it in his kiss—that he’d never hated her.

She can feel it in the way he is sighing against her, feel it in the way his hands are locking themselves in her hair, from the way he is brushing his feet up and down her legs, as if trying to just make her feel wanted in every way he can.

They lie like that for a long while. It’s probably the longest they’ve done this without being connected at the hip, but she’s lost in his lips and he’s lost in hers. Her hands—already so familiar with the contours of his back and his chest, memorize the lines of his face now as her tongue familiarizes itself with the taste of him, drinks it down until she forgets what her mouth tasted like without Ben’s tongue.

When her hand does, eventually, drop down between them to caress him, he makes a noise in the back of his throat and pulls away slightly. His eyelids flutter closed and his fingers slip between her legs and start to rub too. His touch is slow, light, gentle, all the things she’s unused to in bed with him.

Which is maybe what leads her to roll him onto his back and straddle his waist. She eases him into her and bends down, her hair falling into her face as her lips hunt for his again. He lifts his head slightly before his hands brush her hair out of their faces and he just cups her face while she starts to ride him—slow, and gentle.

She cares less about him being inside her than that he keep kissing her right now. She cares far more about her tongue in his mouth, than whatever it is their hips are doing. Their hips are doing something, but it’s an odd afterthought, and Ben—

Ben doesn’t seem to care either. He keeps holding her face, humming into her lips and every now and then taking deep shuddering breaths.

She doesn’t really know when she starts crying again. Long before the orgasm. Possibly when she notices that Ben’s crying again. Possibly when he whispers that she’s not alone, and she whispers back that he’s not either. All she knows is that by the time her body is flooding with heat, and pleasure floods her mind, her heart, her everything, her face is a red puffy mess again and Ben’s is too by the time she collapses forward onto his chest and lets herself listen to his heartbeat. It’s steady, his heartbeat. Even as he’s groaning and coming with a gulp. Steady and quick, then steady and slow—just steady. Steadying.

“Want to know a secret?” Ben asks her as she rubs her face against his chest. His hands are running up and down her spine, leaving shivers in their wake. She looks up at him. His eyes are still a bit red, still a bit bright, but his face is the most relaxed she’s ever seen it while he’s been awake. She nods.

“The icing,” he says slowly. “It wasn’t even originally Padme’s. She couldn’t tell anyone where she got it because she wasn’t supposed to be seeing my grandfather at the time, but it’s his mom’s icing recipe. Shmi Skywalker’s.”

And Rey starts to laugh, because it all suddenly just seems ridiculous and how lovely it is, to laugh with him, to feel his chest shaking underneath her as he, too, starts to laugh.

Chapter Text

Finn: You make it home ok?

She wakes to the text from Finn the next morning, her phone buzzing on the floor where it had fallen out of the back pocket of her jeans.

Rey: Yup!

It’s only a little bit a lie, but she feels guilty. Chances are, Bebe will know she’s off with her fuck buddy. She wonders if Bebe will connect it—that she and Ben disappeared together last night at the same time. She wonders if Lando will have told anyone.

Why don’t you want people to know? she wonders. She looks over her shoulder at Ben. His arm is thrown over his face, blocking out the faint golden light streaming through his curtains out of his eyes.

Because it’s mine. It feels like something to keep secret, to keep safe for the time being, before the scrutiny and judgement come rolling in. Because she knows that it will. She can just imagine Finn’s horror that she’s been fucking Ben Solo this whole time—much less that she’s…

She takes a deep shuddering breath and lets the phone fall onto his rug again. Then she curls up next to him, nuzzling into his neck and feeling his pulse beating strongly against her lips.

His arm tightens at her waist. He sighs. He pulls her close.

Time moves in a blur.

She spends most of the day in Ben’s apartment. She bakes him a banana poppyseed loaf that makes his eyes roll into the back of his head. He kisses his way along her neck and tells her a bit more about growing up with LCJ and Lumpy.

They kiss, they eat, they curl up on the couch and are quiet for a little while. She borrows his copy of The Prisoner of Azkaban because she doesn’t have anything to read but she wants to sit there, tucked against his side.

And then she’s at Naberrie, dealing with brides and birthday parties while Finn and Jannah joke around in the trenches. She still wishes she were out there with them, especially when one particularly intense mother spends a good hour and a half detailing her son’s allergies no fewer than four times.

She spends more nights at Ben’s than she does in her own apartment—and not just because he has an air conditioning unit, which gets more important as New York creeps its way towards July. He has a better oven, a shorter commute to the shop, and a bed that smells a lot like him when she flops on it for a nap. She feels safe there. Wanted. At home.

Things feel easier because of Ben. And she senses that he feels the same way about her too, because for the first time—ever—she hears him complain about work.

“He’s just an asshole sometimes,” Ben says as he cooks them both dinner. She likes watching him cook, watching him maneuver around the stove, pouring olive oil and spices into a saucepan to prepare it for what comes next.

“How so?” Rey asks, trying to sound casual.

“He’s a little…” Ben takes a deep breath. “He tells you he wants one thing done; you do it; then he acts like it’s not good enough. Like this Soho shop,” he says, stirring the veggies in the pan with a wooden spoon, “All the work that’s going into getting it set up—the lease, working with contractors, getting publicity out there—it was all well and good at the beginning, but now that things are coming down to the wire, he’s saying that my heart’s not in it.”

“Is your heart in it?” Rey asks him.

He glances over his shoulder at her. She’s sitting on the floor of his kitchen, a glass of wine in her hands. She almost never drinks wine, but she does with Ben. Ben’s got good wine, and he likes to drink it while he cooks.

“I might be…” he pauses and his eyes get soft as he looks at her. “I might be distracted lately.”

She grins up at him and raises her wine glass. Good. She likes being his distraction. She likes distracting him. She likes his attention, his arms around her, how she feels safe in his apartment.

“But—I don’t know—I don’t know.”

“I think you do know,” Rey says to him and he gives her an annoyed glare. “I think you just don’t like admitting it to yourself.”

Because he doesn’t.

Now that they’ve started actually talking about things like feelings and fears, his family comes up a lot. And not in the blisteringly angry way that it had when they’d started screwing on the side. In a confused way—first upset, then forgiving, then angry, then nostalgic.

He’s always felt things really deeply. I don’t think that went away. I just think he hides it. Han had said that when he’d stopped by Naberrie what feels like ages and ages ago. She gets it now. She sees it in the way his jaw sort of rolls and the way he’d clung to her and cried that night she’d said she didn’t hate him, and the way that she catches him looking at her sometimes, like she’s going to go up in a puff of smoke.

He finishes cooking in silence.

They end up in bed—as they tend to do—and after he’s made her come so hard she’d lost control of most of her abdominal muscles for a few seconds there, he asks, “You really think…”

“Think what?”

“That it might be different?”

She looks at him and sighs. “Maybe,” she says. “Isn’t there a compromise between the way thing were and the way things are?”

“Why do I always have to be the one to compromise?”

“Isn’t the point of a compromise that both sides have to change?” she shoots back at him. “They have to accept you and you have to accept them? No more trying to force anyone to be who they’re not?”

He doesn’t say another word before she drifts off to sleep.

“Want to go take a look at it?” Luke asks her when he stops by the back office.

“Look at what?” Rey asks. She’s knee deep in Facebook comments right now. They’d just posted pictures of their Fourth of July special cupcakes and everyone is very excited.

“The new Snoke’s site.”

Ben had shown her pictures on his phone the day before, but Rey gets up and a few minutes later she and Luke are walking through the humid heat.

They stop together on the street corner across the way, staring at the cupcakery. There’s a line out the door, and a sign in the window promising a free scoop of ice cream with a cupcake order today only. She sees people taking selfies, and is sure that Instagram is about to be flooded with more publicity for Snoke’s. It makes her sick, thinking about the Facebook comments she’d been going through that morning. There were plenty of them, enough that she’d felt good. But nothing like this.

“I’ll never forgive him,” Luke says bitterly.

“Snoke?” Rey asks.

“Ben,” he replies in a clipped tone.

And Rey flares.

“You know, maybe you should work on forgiving him more and acknowledging that you drove him away,” she snaps. “That success—do you really think it’s Snoke’s?” It could have been Naberrie.

Luke stares at her for a long while. Those clear blue eyes are so unlike Ben’s.

“You don’t know what you’re talking about,” he says at last. “Ben wanted to break everything we built—”

“Instead of letting it die the natural death that’s coming?” Rey demands. “Or do you want us to lose all our business? How is that his fault?”

She whirls and heads back to the bakery, her hands shaking. I’m going to get fired. I’m going to get fired. I’m going to get fired.

She finds, somehow, that she doesn’t care.

Luke doesn’t follow her back to the shop. He doesn’t return all day and by the time Rey is saying goodbye to the evening shift people and pulling her phone out of her pocket to text Ben, she wonders just how much trouble she’s in. Luke only ever doesn’t come back if he’s gone to talk business with Leia.

Ben: I just got invited to my family’s July 4th barbecue for the first time in five years.

Rey stares at the words. She’d been invited too—Leia had sent an email making sure that she and Finn and Finn’s guest all knew how to get out to Long Island.

Rey: Are you planning on going?

Ben: I don’t know. I want to, I think. But I don’t want to go without you because what if it’s terrible. Lumpy will be there and he’s such a fucking prick to me when Lando’s not around because he and his dad both think I betrayed mine.

Rey frowns. Somehow, she suspects this will only have gotten worse if Lumpy knows that Ben gave Han a heart attack.

Rey: Luckily for you, I’ve been invited.

Rey: So I’ll be there.

Rey: And if it’s terrible, we can both leave.

He doesn’t reply right away. Rey gets on the train and ends up back at her apartment before her phone buzzes again.

Ben: Sorry. Had to wrap up day one things.

Ben: It’s been a crazy day.

Ben: I bet you’re home already?

Rey: Yeah I am.

Ben: I can’t lure you to Brooklyn, can I?

Rey takes a deep breath before replying.

Rey: Want to come uptown?

Ben: You sure?

Rey: Yeah. Bebe’s at Poe’s tonight.

She texts him her address and then looks around the apartment.

It’s not exactly messy, but his apartment is much neater. For a moment, she’s tempted to franticly clean it, but no. No, she decides not to do that. This is me, she tells herself. And it’s not like it’s gross it’s just…lived in.

Ben arrives forty minutes later, looking so exhausted that when she steps into his arms, it feels like he’s dropping his entire weight onto her.

“Hi,” he mumbles into her hair.

“Hi,” she replies.

They don’t talk right away. They don’t move right away either, but when they do, it’s down her hallway, his lips on hers until he pauses and looks around and says, “I don’t know which one’s your room.”

She leads him into it and sits him down on the bed and settles herself between his legs and kisses her way down his stomach until she’s tugging him out of his pants. He’s not hard right away, but it doesn’t take him long.

She licks her way along him while his fingers brush their way through her hair. They feel unsure and when she glances up at him, her nose pressed against the side of his cock, she sees that his jaw is tight and his gaze is distant.

“Relax,” she tells him and his eyes snap to her.

“I—” he begins before cutting himself off.

He doesn’t really relax, but his fingers do tighten in her hair as and soon his uneven breathing gets a little more uneven and he’s choking out a groan and coming apart in her mouth, his hands clenching on her bedspread and his back arching slightly and that familiar relief that comes with his tangy bitter cum in her mouth spreading through her. She lets him go with a gentle pop from her lips and crawls up the bed to lie there next to him. He turns to face her and kisses her, lightly, gently, before taking a deep, shuddering breath.

“Sorry,” he mutters to her, pulling her into his arms. “I—”

“Needed that,” Rey finishes evenly. She kisses him again and his lips chase hers as she pulls away, his breath tickling at her upper lip.

“Yeah,” he said. “I like what you do to me.”

“I like what you do to me too,” she replies automatically, the words hitting her harder than she expects as her breath catches in her throat.

“You’re going? To the barbecue?” She can tell he’s trying to ask casually. She can tell he wants it not to matter, that he wants it not to hurt.

“Yup,” she says. “Finn and I are taking the train out at around noon.”

Ben nods before asking, slowly, “Finn still doesn’t know?”

“I’ll tell him,” she says.

Ben just shakes his head. “In your own time. I can pretend to bump into you on the train.”

“I’ll tell him,” Rey repeats. “I should have told him already. I should have…” her voice trails away.

Finn had never been anything but honest with her about Rose. From the get-go. I lied to him.

It crashes over her like a wave and she buries her face in Ben’s chest, trying to make the guilt go away.

 

Rey: Meet at Penn Station at 11:30?

Finn: For a noon train? Are you really wanting to spend more time there?

Rey: To arm ourselves with coffee?

Finn doesn’t question it more than that. He arrives a few minutes after Rey does, a shoulder bag out of which peeks a pair of swim trunks and a towel. He’s wearing sunglasses, even though they’re underground, and orders an iced coffee while Rey fiddles with the paper wrapper of her banana muffin.

She’d told Ben to come at 11:45. She has fifteen minutes.

“I have something to tell you,” she says in a low voice and Finn looks up at her over the tops of his sunglasses.

“Yeah?”

“Yeah,” she says. “I’m—” she looks around. “I’m seeing someone.”

Finn’s face cracks in a smile. “Look at you!” he says happily. “What’s he like?”

“Ben Solo,” Rey says, watching Finn’s brows crumple in confusion. “I’m seeing Ben Solo.”

She can’t see his eyes behind those sunglasses. She can’t see his shock, can’t see his anger, or confusion, or disappointment. She can’t see anything at all. She twists the paper between her fingers and it breaks.

Finn lets out a long, low hiss of air, and leans back against the counter of the coffee bodega in Penn Station. He doesn’t ask her if she’s joking, doesn’t ask her if she’s serious. He just stares at her.

“Ok,” he says at last, and he takes a sip of his iced coffee. “Ok.”

It stings.

“That’s it?” Rey asks, her voice sounding a little small.

And suddenly Finn’s arm is around her shoulder, squeezing her to his side. “What do you want me to do—flip a table? I don’t know him, I just know what people say about him. But I know you. And I trust you. And if he hurts you, I’ll kill him.”

“LCJ won’t like that,” Rey tells him.

“Then LCJ and I will have a problem, because you’re my ride or die.” Rey sags as relief washes over her. Finn doesn’t hate her. Finn’s still here. Finn’s not going to leave her behind.

“He’s the guy you’ve been fucking for a little while?” he asks.

“Yeah,” She replies. “How’d you know about—”

“Even if you didn’t show up with hella hickies and cum in your hair that one time—” Rey squeaks. “Yeah, there was cum in your hair. Bebe mentioned something to Poe, and Poe mentioned something to me. We all figured you’d get there in the end—telling us, I mean.”

“He’s coming to the barbecue,” Rey says and Finn’s eyebrows shoot up over the tops of his sunglasses.

“Is he now?”

“Yeah.”

“Just waltzing in?”

“His parents invited him.”

“Damn,” Finn says.

“Yeah.”

“And he’s coming?”

“I just said—he’s getting here in a few minutes.” Finn stiffens.

“He’s riding the train with us?”

She looks up, her brows furrowing. “Is that ok?”

Finn takes a sip of his coffee. “It’ll be fine,” he says slowly. “Just—thanks for the head’s up.”

Rey bites her lip and looks down at her phone. Almost as though he knew she’d be looking, a text from Ben sails through.

Ben: I’m by the LIRR schedule board.

“It’ll be fine,” Finn tells her firmly, even if he doesn’t sound exactly happy. “I’m just—you dropped a lot on me.”

“Sorry,” she mumbles. She can’t bring herself to look up and see the disappointment on his face, even if she can’t see his eyes.

“It’s fine.” Finn repeats. “Better late than never. Like I said—you’re my ride or die. Let’s go.” He shoulders his bag, and together, they leave the bodega.

“He’s coming for you?” Finn asks as they weave their way through the crowd, clearly trying to forge ahead. She’s grateful for that. If he’s asking questions and forging ahead, then she doesn’t feel quite as much like an asshole for not having told him sooner.

“He’s going because he wants to go,” Rey says. “He’s not—” Happy. “It’s not because of me.”

“It’s a little because of you,” Finn says with narrowed eyes. “Something tells me he wouldn’t even consider going if it weren’t for you.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Rey demands.

“Oh come on,” he laughs. “You have the same info I had until you started fucking him. Let’s pretend you haven’t been seeing him—would you honestly think he’d show up to his parents’ Fourth of July party, even if they invited him if you weren’t involved?”

“It’s not like that,” Rey says, because it’s not. She’s not making him do anything. She somehow doubts that anyone can make Ben Solo do anything.

“I doubt that very much. You kick his ass, don’t you?”

“Shh,” she hisses. He’s halfway across the dimly-lit atrium standing by the train schedules, but she can still see him. And even if there are hundreds of people between them, she doesn’t doubt he’ll know that they’re talking about him. Indeed, his eyes have landed on her and Finn, weaving their way through the crowd of people towards him. She sees his shoulders get tense.

“Hi,” she says, and she takes his hand. He’s looking down at her, as though he’s trying to read her mind. “Finn, Ben. Ben, Finn.” She smiles at both of them as hopefully as she can.

Ben extends the hand that’s not in Rey’s and Finn shakes it, nodding determinedly.

“Just waiting on Rose?” he asks carefully. Finn nods and tugs out his phone, but even as he does, Rey sees hands sneak around his waist, and Rose presses her lips to the side of his neck from behind.

“Hi, you,” she says softly, and then freezes, her eyes landing on Rey’s hand in Ben’s.

“Shall we?” Ben asks, cutting through the way that Rose is staring. Without waiting for a reply he turns and leads them towards a track.

“They haven’t posted the track yet,” Rey says.

He shrugs, but he’s not wrong. Just as they reach the entrance to the track, the sign lights up and there’s their stop listed right on the wall.

Ben navigates the platform and train with practiced ease, finding them a four-seat section facing one another to sit in which is sort of magical, given just how many people seem to all be trying to cram themselves onto this exact train. He sits on the aisle so he can stretch his legs out a bit, and Rose sits opposite him, since she doesn’t really need legroom at all.

It is blisteringly awkward. As the train shoots out to the Jamaica changeover, none of them really say anything at all. Finn and Ben glance at one another, Rose shoots Rey a combination of confused, commiserating, and are you sure? looks. And Ben’s hand is viselike in hers.

After they transfer trains at Jamaica, Finn mercifully asks, “You going to that thing of Lando’s this weekend?”

Ben grimaces. “Probably. Have to make up for picking my parents over him, which I vowed I’d never do again.”

And just like that, they’re small-talking. Awkward, awkward small talk, both of them focusing as much as they can on Lando Calrissian Junior, and as little as they can on the fact that Ben’s hand is in Rey’s. But it’s something. Rey tilts her head back against the seat, relieved and it’s only when Ben’s gently shaking her and telling her that it’s time to get off the train that she realizes that she’d fallen asleep.

Finn and Rose are already standing by the train doors and Rey looks up at Ben, who’s got her bag on his shoulder next to his. “Everything ok?” she asks him.

He half-shrugs. “Not the most painful part of my day, I’m sure.” His face softens when he sees the concern spread across hers. “It was fine. You snored and we made fun of you.”

“I do not snore,” she snaps.

“Listen, you snore a lot,” Ben says. “And it’s adorable, and I find it increasingly difficult to fall asleep in a quiet room because of it. But you definitely snore.”

The house is right on the beach, old and huge. The Atlantic rumbles against the sand and Rey sits on the beach with Rose and Finn, drinking a beer and laughing. To Finn’s absolute delight, Poe is there too and the two of them go off and splash each other in the water, laughing and joking loudly.

She doesn’t know where Ben is. She doesn’t know where Leia is. Han is grilling, and laughing with Lumpy and Lumpy’s dad. Lumpy had thoroughly ignored Ben from the moment that Ben had arrived, not that that had mattered much because Ben had gone off with his mother—Rey checks her phone—forty-five minutes ago.

“Dogs?” Han calls to them, waving his barbecue tongs in the air.

“Yes please!” Rey says happily, getting to her feet and making her way over to the grill. Han hands her a plate and rests his hand briefly on her shoulder.

“Thanks,” he says quietly.

“For—”

“He’s here because of you.”

“I didn’t make him come,” Rey says quietly.

“No,” Han agrees. “But you did chew Luke out one pretty good.”

“Where is Luke?” Rey asks.

“Back in Manhattan. Can’t tell if he’s huffy we invited Ben or if he’s trying to be penitent, but he decided last minute to stay at the shop and oversee sales. Doesn’t trust the newbies, since we got all our senior staff out here.” Han winks at her.

“How’re you enjoying retirement?” Rey laughs.

“Wouldn’t trade it for anything,” Han says as he puts hot dogs on plates for Finn and Rose. “The ticker’s doing ok, too,” he says, tapping his chest. Then he gives Rey a look. “Did you…”

Rey shakes her head. “Not mine to tell,” she says, giving him a look that she hopes says, Please tell him at some point, though. Han pats her on the shoulder again, and his gaze drifts past her.

Ben and Leia are walking along the beach in the distance. Ben’s hands are jammed in the pocket of his swim trunks, Leia’s hair has freed itself of her braids and is blowing a bit in the wind. They’re still too far off for Rey to be able to tell what their expressions are. Leia’s wearing sunglasses anyway, so it’s not as though she’d be able to gauge much anyway. But she watches them closely as she eats her hot dog, and it’s not long before they’ve reached the grill.

“Hot dog?” Han asks his son with a sort of forced bravado. Ben doesn’t say a word, but takes the hot dog from his father and covers it with mustard before going and standing out ankle deep in the waves. Rey watches him go. He hadn’t looked at her, hadn’t given her any indication of how the conversation had gone. Indeed, it was like he hadn’t noticed her at all.

“He ok?” Rey hears Han ask quietly.

“He’s Ben,” sighs Leia. “Is he ever really ok?” Rey’s half-inflating with indignation when Leia continues. “He’s trying, though. He’s listening, and—and I listened.”

“He’s not quitting that old monster any time soon?”

“He doesn’t seem any happier there than he did in his last few months at Naberrie. I don’t think he likes working for anyone, in all honesty.”

“Gets that from you,” Han says fondly.

“Or you,” Leia retorts. “He said he’d—he said he’d call more, though. So it’s a start. And—” she doesn’t continue though, and when Rey sneaks a glance out of the corner of her eye, she sees Leia watching her.   She sighs, and gets to her feet, throws out the plate she’d been eating on and wipes her hands on her legs before going to join Ben by the water.

“It’s cold,” she complains.

“It’s the Atlantic Ocean,” he replies a little tartly. She slips her hand around his waist and leans against him. He doesn’t lean back, keeps standing as tensely as if he’d been in a fight. Except he hadn’t been in a fight—he’d gone on a walk with his mother. But he hadn’t looked at her when he’d come back from it, and still hasn’t looked at her, and is standing almost like he doesn’t want her to touch him now.

“On a scale to we’re leaving now and we’re staying forever, how are you doing?” she asks him. She’s got a weird feeling gnawing in her stomach. It’s like he’s gone, somehow. Like he’s left her behind, even though he’s right there. She wants him to look at her.

He doesn’t reply right away, but he does tilt himself a little sideways to rest his head on the top of hers. It’s something, even if the rest of his body is still tense. “I hate that I don’t trust them to actually follow through on any of it,” he mutters at last. “I hate that I hear her saying we’ll try and listen more and all I hear is we didn’t mean to and you should accept that more than anything else.” He takes another deep breath, though. “But it was ok. I don’t know. If I believe her, it was really good.”

“But you don’t believe her.”

“I don’t know if she knows how to let me just be me. Like, I’m not going back to Naberrie. So what does that mean for her vision of me? She doesn’t know. I don’t think she knows how to let it go. All she ever wants to do is to fix stuff. Fix…me. And hell, maybe I’m broken, but I’d rather fix myself than have my mommy do it for me.” Finally, finally, he looks down at her. There’s almost a wistfulness in his face. “I like you kicking my butt.” Maybe it’s the forced smile on his face, or the way he’s still only barely touching her even though she has her arm around him but the words feel a little hollow. Like he doesn’t feel them, like he doesn’t feel anything at all. He just had a hard conversation with his mother, she thinks desperately. That has to be it. He’s just tired and feelings are hard.

And yet he’d clung to her as though afraid she’d leave when feelings were hard before. The weird feeling gets worse.

“I like you kicking mine,” she forces herself to reply. The salty sea-wind buffets a bit at her face, and she looks out at the horizon. The sky is clear, the sun is warm, her belly is full of food—all things that should set her at ease. Instead, she feels as though she’s about to fall.

“Something wrong?” Ben asks her. It’s unnerving, how quickly he’s learned to read her like an open book. And yet the question sounds empty, even now. If there’s concern there, it feels perfunctory. Or maybe that’s just what she’s expecting to hear because she’s so on edge?

“I don’t know,” she whispers. “Just a—a feeling. Does that ever happen to you?”

Be barks out a laugh. “Only all my life.” He kisses her temple. “And definitely right now too.”

She nods and takes a shaky breath. He’s just feeling really tired now. That’s all.

When they make their way back to the sands, she sits down with Finn and Rose and Poe and they drink their way through several beers. When it starts to go dark and fireworks flood the sky, she snuggles back into Ben’s arms, buzzed enough to have beaten that edginess into submission.

She dozes on the train ride back to the city, her head resting on Ben’s shoulder until she wakes and finds it’s resting against the window and Ben’s gone. When she looks around for him, he’s standing by the door, his phone pressed to his ear, talking quietly. Snoke, she knows somehow. It’s his day off, he shouldn’t be talking to Snoke. He should be here with her, relaxing, and easing his own stress from seeing his parents for the first time in ages, from trying to talk things through with his mother. Why can’t Snoke just let him be? Why did he get up to talk to Snoke when she’d been curled up next to him?

The weird feeling comes back as she watches him, her eyes prickling more than she wants. His back is to her and he’s so far away and for the first time since he came back from his walk with Leia, the words float into her mind and they are devastating.

He’s leaving you behind.

He’s not, she replies fiercely, rubbing her stinging eyes. He’s just tired. And a workaholic. He’s not leaving me behind. He wouldn’t.

Wouldn’t he? Everyone does. Even Finn.

When the train approaches Jamaica, Ben hangs up the phone and comes back to where she’s sitting “Cab back to mine?” he asks, and they leave the others with the train.

“Did it go away?” he asks her as he unlocks the door to his apartment.

“Hmm?”

“The feeling.”

Rey shakes her head. She wants him to pull her into his arms. She wants him to kiss her, or take her to bed, but instead he goes into the kitchen and pours himself a glass of whiskey. His hands are shaking a little bit.

Her stomach pits out.

“Ben?”

He takes a shot and looks at her and she’s never seen him look so frightened in his life. “I can’t get this thought out of my head,” he says at last. “And I’m scared of it, of what it means, but I’m more scared of letting it fester and go south and ruin everything.”

This is it. He’s leaving me, is all Rey can think. He’s leaving me, and everything, he decided it wasn’t worth it.

“Rey,” he says slowly. “I think we should start our own bakery. No Snoke. No Naberrie. I do the business stuff, you get to bake whatever the fuck you want, whenever the fuck you want. I want you to join me.”

No. He’s not leaving me.

He’s asking me to leave them.

Chapter Text

“What?”

It’s the only thing she can think to say.

“Listen,” Ben says and he rounds the kitchen island. Where before he’d looked terrified, now he looks determined. “You’ve been unhappy with things for a while. You’ve been antsy, you’ve missed baking. You told me you want to play with flavors more than you get to at Naberrie, and you want to be able to have ideas and share them with the world. You said that. You’ve got talent, Rey. You’ve got raw understanding of how this shit works. And Luke’s never going to let you do that. Not ever. It’s his way or the highway, so you’d never ever have a say. Isn’t that why you landed where you are to begin with? Because Luke—”

“Yes, but that doesn’t mean I should just—I don’t know. This is crazy, Ben. Crazy.”

“It’s not,” he growls. “Don’t say that.”

“And what happens if it fails?” Rey demands. “What happens if we—” break up, get married, grow apart, work takes everything over?

“I’d rather a glorious failure than keep feeling the way I’ve been feeling,” he says and he puts the empty glass of whiskey down on a table and cups her face between his hands. “Rey,” he says softly. “Think about it. Please.”

You want me to leave them, is all she can think. Her head is spinning and as he bends to kiss her, she turns her face away.

He freezes.

“You care about them that much?” he asks quietly and she can feel him trembling through his hands. They’re still on her face.

“I need to think,” she says. “I’m—I’m going for a walk.”

“Rey—” he sounds panicked now. Or angry. Both, probably. He gets angry when he’s afraid. That’s always been the problem, isn’t it? That he’s afraid of his family, that his family will make him hurt more, and it makes him angry?

“I’ll be back,” she promises as she peels herself away from him. Her heart is hammering in her chest, her mind is rioting. She needs air. She needs—

“What do you want, Rey?” he calls after her and she can’t look at him. He sounds like he’s crying.

“I don’t know,” she replies and it sounds like she’s crying too. “I—” and she turns around and stares at him. Yes, tears are actually in her eyes again. “I’ll be back, though. I won’t—I’m not leaving.”

Slowly, he jerks a nod. “I’m not leaving either,” he says. “Just—just come back, ok? Come back.”

The door clicks closed behind her and she goes out into the night.

Ben lives not too far from the Brooklyn Bridge, and though there’s a voice that tells her not to walk across the bridge at night—and it is very late—she finds her feet taking there. Manhattan sparkles like a city made of golden diamonds in front of her as she walks.

What do you want, Rey? He had asked her that. And part of the tears in her eyes are from not knowing how to answer that.

I want you to be happy, she thinks, and there’s a fierce joy and pride there—that he’d be willing to walk out on Snoke, that he wants to try and make something that’s completely his own, without legacy, without help.

I want me to… and tears are in her eyes again. She doesn’t know what she wants. She wants to bake, and laugh with her friends, and kiss Ben, and watch the delight in people’s eyes when they eat her cupcakes. She wants Luke to give her a fond and approving smile, wants to joke around in the trenches with Finn, wants—

Her phone is in her hand.

Rey: Hey, you around?

He doesn’t reply right away, but when he does it’s with a, what’s up? and she calls him.

“What’s up buttercup?” Finn asks, and it’s like a breath of fresh air. She’d seen him only an hour before, but now, it’s different.

“Ben wants me to quit Naberrie and start a bakery with him,” she says without preamble. Finn doesn’t reply right away. “Finn?”

“Sorry—yeah, I wasn’t expecting that,” he says. “One sec.” She hears the sound of him murmuring something—presumably to Rose—oh, now she feels even more guilty, they probably just got back, they probably were planning to have a nice night and now she’s—a door closes and Finn’s back. “He just asked you?”

“Yeah, sort of out of the blue,” Rey says. “I mean. It’s—he’s—”

“I’m assuming you’ve talked to him about baking and stuff, right?” Finn asks. “Like—I just found out about this today, but it seems serious enough, and he knows you want that, right?”

Rey frowns. “Not exactly,” she says. “He knows I want to bake more, that I like baking, and flavors, and that I want to grow, but I don’t think I’d ever told him I’d dreamed of having my own bakery. I mean, hell, it’s not like I’d ever thought that was anything more than a dream.”

“Except right now, when he’s presenting it to you on a silver platter,” Finn replies. “What’s your concern? Do you think it’s gonna put too much pressure on your relationship?”

“No,” Rey says. “Weirdly. I don’t. I think it’ll be ok. We know how to argue and not take it personally.” Might turn into foreplay, an unhelpful corner of her mind supplies.

“So then what?” Finn asks. “It’s not like you’ve been happy at Naberrie lately.”

“I don’t want to leave you behind.” There are tears on her face again, and she’s sobbing into the phone, staring out over Manhattan. Finn’s somewhere there. Far far uptown, in his cheap apartment, not far from the one she shares with Bebe. Or maybe he’s at Rose’s—in the room that she had cried into Ben’s chest in and had asked him what would happen if he didn’t hate her. Come back, he’d pleaded when she’d left.

She’s shaking so much that she sits down in the middle of the walkway. There aren’t other pedestrians right now. The fireworks of lower Manhattan are over, most of the revelries have moved to bars.

“Don’t cry,” Finn coos in her ear. “Rey, babe, don’t cry. Where are you?”

“On the Brooklyn Bridge,” she snuffles.

“What?” Finn’s alarm almost hurts her ears.

“Just went on a walk to clear my head. Nothing—”

“Ok, you’re just calling me crying,” he says. “He didn’t—”

“No, he didn’t. He just proposed it and then I got overwhelmed and went for a walk and now I can’t stop crying. I don’t want to leave you behind.”

“You’re not leaving me behind if you’re going off to chase your dreams, Rey. I won’t let you,” Finn tells her firmly. “I won’t let you not chase your dreams because of me, and if you think I’m gonna just sit here and let you ride off in the distance with Ben Solo as though I was never a part of your life, you’ve got another thing coming to you—specifically my hand to the back of your head.”

Rey laughs wetly and she can hear the smile in his voice. “You can’t be afraid to leave people behind, Rey. It happens. People grow apart and grow back together. People ebb and flow. But you and me, we’re eternal, no matter if we’re working together or not. Got that?”

“I’ve missed you,” she says, slowly getting back to her feet and turning back towards Brooklyn.

“I’ve missed you too,” he says at once. “It’s weird having—I’ve never—I don’t know that I’m balancing it right—the whole having a girlfriend and having friends thing.”

“Me neither. About Ben, I mean,” she says.

“Let’s not turn into those people who never talk because they have partners,” Finn says.

“Breakfast before work on Saturday?” she asks.

“You’re on.”

She heaves a sigh. The tears have stopped flowing.

“What if they hate me?” she asks.

“Leia and Luke? They couldn’t if they tried. You’re the least hateable person in the world. Didn’t you get Ben to actually show up for his parents’ barbecue today? Wasn’t that you? Rey, the miracle worker?”

“He did it, not me.”

“You just kicked his butt until he did. No wonder he wants to open a business with you. You’ll probably be an unstoppable force in the cupcake ecosystem of New York City.”

“If you want in, you just say the word,” Rey grins.

“Don’t you need to clear it with your business partner?” Finn asks.

“I’m fairly certain I can convince him.”

“Please don’t say that as though you’re going to use a blowjob as a convincing tactic,” Finn groans and Rey laughs again.

“You don’t need to be privy to the mechanisms we use to hash out agreements.” She takes a deep breath. It’s hot, and humid, and there’s a fair amount of exhaust coming from the cars that are passing her by. But she’s feeling better.

“You want to do it? For real? Like not to make him happy—but for you?”

She looks ahead of herself, towards Brooklyn. Brooklyn and Ben. Already, she’s imagining her cupcake recipes. She doesn’t even need Padme’s—Shmi Skywalker’s—icing recipe. It’s too sweet for some of her cupcakes anyway. But if they did use it for some, that’d be ok. It’d be different, if it’s her and Ben, wouldn’t it? Not stealing, but inheriting, transforming. Especially if Naberrie does go the way it seems to be going, they certainly can’t let Snoke be the only one using it.

“I think so,” she breathes. She can imagine a little shop—maybe they’d start off on the Upper West Side, or maybe in Brooklyn—far from Naberrie so they didn’t feel like they were poaching customers. “I…” she takes a deep breath. “Yeah. I get to pick my own path and yeah. I like it. The idea of it. And I think with Ben we might even stand a chance.”

“Your bakes would always stand a chance,” Finn says, “But he does have some institutional and business knowledge.”

“You won’t hate me for leaving?”

And Finn laughs.

“Girl, if I don’t hate you for dicking down Ben Solo for more than a month and not telling me, I’m not going to hate you for this.”

“I’m sorry—I should have,” she says.

“Nah,” Finn says and she can practically hear him shrugging. “Not like I didn’t gossip about him fucking you right to your face and call him weird looking. Sorry about that.”

“It’s fine,” Rey says.

“Yeah, but I doubt it made it easier.” Finn sighs. “He’s a weird dude. But Lando swears by him, and you like him, so maybe he’s worth me giving him a chance.”

And Rey’s heart swells.

“Let’s do dinner sometime. The four of us.”

“As if those train rides weren’t awkward enough?” Finn laughs. “Let’s figure it out. Don’t get me wrong, I love the idea of doing couple dates with you, but let’s just…not force anything just yet.”

“Deal,” Rey says. Her feet are moving of their own accord now. It’s as if Finn’s walking with her. “And I promise that no matter how busy things get, we’ll still—”

“You’re not gonna leave me behind,” Finn says for the millionth time. “I don’t think you have it in you to leave behind the people you love.” Rey’s throat tightens and before she can respond, Finn plows on, “That’s why he’s doing all this, right? Because he’s not happy and you weren’t going to leave him like that. Or let him stay like that. Whatever. I believe you when you say he’s kicking his own butt into doing this.”

“He is. It’s all him. I just…” and Finn’s words catch up to her. “I don’t want people I care about to be sad. And he was sad.”

“Are you sad?” Finn asks.

Rey gulps. “I’m…” she frowns. She’s always thought of herself as a happy person. As a kind and caring and bubbly person. Maybe what she’s loved about Ben was that she hasn’t had to be that. She could just be angry or…

Or sad.

“I don’t know,” she says quietly. “He makes me feel better, though. Safe. Sort of like you.”

Finn doesn’t reply right away. For a moment, she wonders if the line had cut out. “That was an amazingly kind thing to say,” he says at last.

“Love you,” she tells him.

“Love you too.”

“I’m off the bridge now. I’m going back to Ben’s.”

“Let me know how it goes. But like…tomorrow, because I’m ignoring Rose. If it’s bad, call me, but I don’t think it’ll be bad.”

She takes what feels like the first steady breath to fill her lungs since she’d woken up that morning. “I don’t think it’ll be bad either.”

Ben opens the door five seconds after she knocks on it and he looks like he’s been crying. His eyes are bloodshot, his face is a bit puffy, and his lips are dry, as though he’s been licking them, worrying at them.

Rey steps into his arms and holds him, kicking the door shut behind them. She hears him mumble something into her hair, feels his chest trembling a little bit as he tries to control what she imagines are more tears.

“I want to be clear about something,” she says. “Even if I were to say no to this, it wouldn’t—it wouldn’t be saying no to you. To us. Just to this.”

She feels him nod. She can hear him not saying but I need you to do this because he’d already said he’d wanted her to be the brains behind the bakes.

“But I want to do it,” she says. “I want it. For me, I think. I want to bake, and to explore, and to—”

He doesn’t let her finish. His lips are on hers and he’s picking her up and her legs snap around his hips for support. It’s a reverent kiss, a burning one, slow and deep and his tongue tracing every corner of his mouth. He tastes more than a little bit like whiskey but Rey doesn’t care.

“I thought you would,” he tells her at last. He doesn’t put her down. With her legs around his hips, she’s up a little higher than he is, looking down at him. “I thought—I thought you’d want to. But I was scared you wouldn’t and that it’d be one more thing I—” his eyes are bright. “I’m glad you want to. I think it’ll be amazing.”

“I know it will be,” Rey tells him. “Ben, it’s going to be—”

Like fireworks. Like sex. Like a dream that might come true. She doesn’t have to say it, though, because if she can read his face like a book, he can read hers too.

He doesn’t put her down as he walks them both back to his bedroom. She kisses his forehead, kisses his ears, his neck, his cheeks.

It’s incredible—this lightness in her heart. She hadn’t realized how heavy she’d felt until she stopped feeling heavy and she just feels as though every weight that she’s ever borne has vanished. Finn isn’t leaving her behind. Ben isn’t leaving her. She’s—

She’s moving forward. She’s in charge of her life, in charge of herself, and as Ben peels away her t-shirt—

Sand covers the bed.

“Oh fuck,” he mutters, looking down at it.

“Did you really think there wouldn’t be sand?” she asks. “We were on a beach for hours.”

“I—don’t laugh.”

But she’s laughing. She’d grown up in a desert, sand in her bed is nothing she’s not used to. She reaches a hand up and rubs her fingers through his hair and he practically sheds sand.

“Shower?” she asks him.

“Yeah,” he agrees. “I’ll…” his eyes are on the bed.

Rey grabs his hand. “We’ll figure it out later. It’s not a lot.”

“It’ll be there forever,” he grumbles.

“Probably, but that’s sand for you. Everywhere. Coarse and rough and irritating and everywhere.”

She sets the water temperature while Ben strips out of his clothes. He tugs her shorts and bathing suit bottom down her legs and she steps out of them and into the shower, and immediately, he’s pressing her against the tile wall behind them. Her feet slip a little as she tries to get onto her tiptoes to kiss him better and his hands are on her hips, steadying her before she’s even fully aware that she’d lost her balance.

She pauses and looks up at him and the words slip out of her lips before she can stop them.

“I was so afraid you were leaving me.”

He freezes and pulls away from her slightly. But it’s not like the beach this time. His eyes are blazing into hers, staring at her as though she’s the only thing in the world.

“That was your weird feeling? That I was leaving you?”

She gulps and nods.

“I was just overwhelmed by everything. My mom, and wanting to do this with you and—and my dad had a heart attack. But you knew that already, probably.”

She bites her lip and nods up at him. “I couldn’t tell you,” she says. “It—it felt wrong. Like gossiping or—“

“No,” he agrees. “I needed to hear it from them.” He swallows and his eyes soften as he looks down at her, water dripping down his face, down his neck.

He presses a kiss to her forehead, so gentle, so tender that she almost goes limp.

“I wasn’t going to leave you,” he whispers. “I wouldn’t. I won’t. Not ever. I love you too much for that, and god knows I’m not the noble if you love her let her go type,” he gives her what is clearly an attempt at a heartwarming grin, but it doesn’t quite land. His eyes are too honest, too vulnerable. “I don’t understand how anyone could ever leave you. It just doesn’t fucking compute.”

How she doesn’t end up in tears at that moment she’s not entirely sure. But she pulls his lips back to hers, and slips her tongue into his mouth, in the steam of the shower, somehow he tastes richer than he usually does. Or maybe that’s because she’s so incandescently happy.

How couldn’t she be incandescently happy with Ben’s arms around her, and hers around him, tracing every line of the muscles of his back as he sucks on her neck and water beats down on them?

He’s so hard against her stomach right now, and he bucks his hips a little bit but doesn’t try to push into her. They don’t have a condom on hand—they’re in his bedstand. Maybe she should look into some other means of birth control. She would love to feel him inside her without that layer of latex. She wonders what it would be like for his cum to fill her, to drip out of her cunt and down her legs. But for now, it’s him rocking his dick against the seam of her hips while he kisses her, his fingers stroking at her slit—studied to the point of mastery now—and her heart singing something wild, something joyful as he eases her towards the brink of tears.

A brink that she crosses and yet doesn’t cross.

The dampness on her face as she groans into his shoulder, bites at his collarbone—that’s not salty. That’s just shower water, not tears, and she’s a little too lightheaded to really process it with her cunt clutching at his fingers and her blood pounding in her ears.

Ben shuts off the water and grabs them both towels.

“I’m going to vacuum the bed,” he tells her as he towels off his chest and legs. His erection bobs in the air in front of him with the motions.

She snorts and he glares at her. “I just don’t want it there, ok?”

“I love you,” she says and he goes still.

“Yeah?”

“Yeah.”

He swallows. He’d said it earlier. It had been so wrapped up in so much else he was saying, and he hadn’t said it so simply, but he had said it. That he loved her. His eyes go bright and he pulls her into his lips again and she hums as he sweeps his tongue across hers.

“I love you,” he whispers. “And I’m going to vacuum the bed.”

“I’ll be right behind you. I have to pee.”

She doesn’t really. But he leaves her behind and she hears the vacuum in the bedroom and she wipes away some of the mist from the mirror and stares into her own eyes. They’re bright. Her lips are swollen from kissing and her cheeks are flushed from coming. But the white around the hazel is white. The last tears she cried had been on the Brooklyn Bridge.

For a moment, she wonders if she should fake crying when he, inevitably, makes her come again. He’ll read too fucking much into this and he’ll be annoying about it. Maybe not tonight, but at some point when they’re not both feeling so raw.

Then she laughs. It’s ridiculous. It’s just fucking ridiculous.

In the bedroom, the vacuum shuts off and Rey takes that as her cue to head into the bedroom. She drops the towel on the floor and shuts off the light and finds Ben lying on the bed, condom already rolled on, watching her approach. She stops by the bed and looks down at him, her mouth watering a little bit.

She leans down and rubs her nose against his. “How do you want it?” she whispers.

The first time they’d fucked on this bed, he’d grabbed her hips and drilled her from behind. It feels like a lifetime ago. She’d blown him because she didn’t want to look at his face the next morning. She’d cried how many times in this bed?

He’s beautiful, lying there like that, palming his cock lightly as he looks at her as though he’s been struck dumb. His eyes flit between her breasts, the thatch of hair between her legs, her lips, her eyes—never landing quite long enough for him to seem distracted by any individual part of her, and yet somehow he seems distracted by all of her. His wet hair is brushed back from his face and his tongue flicks out to dampen his lips.

“Just get over here,” he croaks at last and she does, straddling his hips and letting his cock ride up the seam of her ass for a moment while he sits up and buries his face between her breasts. His hands are tight at her waist as he nips his way along the inside of one of her breasts, up her sternum to her neck. She’d gone to work how many times with hickeys he’d sucked there? How he loves burying his face between her head and her shoulder, his lips to her pulse. Strange to know that amount someone, to know what they take comfort in amidst all the pleasure.

She runs her fingers through his hair, holds his head lightly against her as he kisses her.

“I love you,” he murmurs against her throat. “I love you, I love you, I love you.”

He’s shaking a little bit and she knows he’s crying, and she kisses what part of his head she can reach in this position—almost the shell of his ear it turns out. “I love you,” she whispers back. “I love you so much, Ben.”

And he sort of bends forward, lying her down against his legs, his chest pressed against her stomach, holding her as close as she can. His cock bobs and throbs against her ass and she flexes her muscles slightly to rub against it and he freezes.

“Did you just flex your ass around my cock?”

His face is so beautiful when he laughs. That picture she’d seen on LCJ’s Instagram—she should have known then that she was in trouble, because she had been. Ben’s whole face changes, lights up when he smiles, and when he laughs…well, her stomach does this sort of weird swoopy thing, and all she wants to do is pull him closer to her and he’s rubbing his face between her breasts, laughing happily, and she’s giggling too and squeezing her ass again and he’s laughing harder.

“Is that good?” she asks him.

“Yeah, I just can’t stop laughing.”

She does it again. “I like it when you laugh.”

He nips at her breasts again, and his hands are running up and down her sides now, his fingertips getting lighter and lighter and—

“No!” Rey shrieks, grabbing at his wrists and trying to pull them away. “No, don’t you dare.”

“Don’t I dare what?”

She’s wheezing and wriggling away from him—grinding down on his cock, she knows, but doesn’t care—because—“Stop tickling me!”

“Am I? I was just petting you?” He sounds thoroughly pleased with himself, though, and a moment later he’s giggling as the sort of laughter that is too powerful for you to make any noise at all fills her chest, her hands still trying to wrestle his away from her. But he’s strong and so she has to take matters—or rather, herself—out of his hands entirely.

It doesn’t work quite as she’d planned, the way she twists away from him. It ends up with her hitting her nose against the bed frame and him yelping because of the way her hips land on his dick, but they both end up breathless and laughing into one another’s lips as Ben decides it’s time and pushes himself into her.

“Truce?” he asks her neck again.

“As long as you keep your hands to yourself,” she laughs at him.

“What if I keep them here, instead?” and the pads of two fingers press themselves against her clit.

“I’ll…consider it,” she sighs into his ear and bucks her hips up, hard, against his. She can feel his eyelashes fluttering against her neck, and for good measure clenches her vaginal muscles around him, holding him tight, not wanting to let him go.

“Fuck I love you,” he groans again.

“I love you,” she replies at once. She loves being able to say it, being able to feel it. She loves that she knows it’s true, that he means it, that she means it, that what had started out as just fucking has turned into this. It makes her feel powerful. It makes her feel safe.

It’s sickeningly sweet, really, the litanies of love that they profess to one another, rolling around on Ben’s bed. That every time she rolls him onto his back, there’s a promise of love on her lips, that when he hoists her legs up to tighten around his hips, he’s loving her. There’s laughter and joy and so much love and when Ben does at last get close, there are tears too—his tears. They don’t stream down his cheeks, but there’s a choked quality to his words as he murmurs his love to her lips. Ben cries, but even though she didn’t in the shower, and even though he makes her come two more times before they collapse, spent, on the mattress, there are no tears in her eyes.

Ben notices, but he doesn’t say a word. He notices because he rubs his thumbs under her eyes, stares into them so deeply she wonders just how much of her soul he sees. He doesn’t say anything, but he does kiss her with purpose and pull her to his chest and there’s a mild smirk to his lips as he doses off, as though he’s a little too pleased with himself.

But at least he has the good grace to keep it to himself for now. And that’s enough, because it means that as Rey lets her body melt into his, lets her mind fade into exhaustion, she can smile, and know that if he’s smiling, it’s because he’s happy too.

EPILOGUE:

 

Rey’s phone buzzes in her back pocket as she’s pulling baking trays out of the oven. “Five minutes!” she calls to Bebe. Bebe is sitting on the floor of Ben’s living room, reading through menus for the nineteenth time.

“Still think you could up the price on these lemon bars,” Bebe says.

“I trust Ben,” Rey replies for the ninetieth time.

“Look, he’s wrong about things sometimes, like how you could be pricing these for ten bucks a pop and the masses would still buy them.”

Rey grins and fishes her phone out of her pocket. Ben’s at the site today, a fifteen-minute walk from his apartment, overseeing various installations and finalizations, and scaring the crap out of the contractor.

He needs the crap scared out of him, Ben had growled the night before when Rey had suggested that maybe it was taking longer to put the finishing touches on the shop because Ben was scaring the workers.

He’s sent her a stream of pictures—the kitchen, the oven, the seating area, the display cases.

Looking good, he said underneath.

And then, as she looks, another photo pops up.

Ben: Look who stopped by.

It’s his mom and dad, and—she can barely believe it—Luke, standing under the design that Rose had come up with for the windows and menus and boxes. Balanced Bakes. Ben is standing between his parents, his arms around both of their shoulders, and Rey can see the way his hand is gripping his dad’s arm, but is loose around his mother’s, that he’s still anxious about his dad’s health, no matter what the doctors say. He still doesn’t know that he was what led to Han’s heart attack. Rey suspects that’s a secret Han Solo would take to the grave rather than inflict upon his son.

Ben: They say hi, and want to take us out to dinner on Tuesday.

Rey: What about Finn and Rose?

Finn had laid dibs on dinner on opening night months before.

Ben: They said we can bring friends. You’ll want Bebe and Poe, yeah?

Rey: I think Bebe would murder me if she weren’t invited.

Ben: Likely.

Ben: Love you.

Ben: I’ll be home in an hour or so.

Rey smiles, and tucks her phone away before bringing her cream cheese, black and white chocolate brownies over to Bebe to try.

Bebe groans and her eyes roll into the back of her head as she bites down. “I’m coming. These are amazing. You’re a wizard. The hero we need, but don’t deserve.”

Rey grins and settles on the floor next to her friend and looks at the menu document one more time.

Then she snaps a picture of the brownies and sends to Ben.

Rey: Bebe says these are better than sex.

He immediately begins typing.

Ben: On the one hand, I believe her, on the other hand, I propose we do a side-by-side comparison when I get home.

Rey: A good plan. For science.

Ben: Obviously just for science.

Rey: Love you.

And she takes a bite of one of her brownies. 

Yes. Yes, this tastes perfect.