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I. 

 

There is no Ray in the Resistance LinkedIn Network. 

Or: there is one Ray in the Resistance LinkedIn Network, but that Ray is white haired, clearly nearing retirement, and very much a he. Most definitely not a pretty girl with large hazel eyes, a smattering of freckles on her nose, and a wide smile that knocked out Ben’s cardiovascular system in less than a second.

Fuck.

He is considering whether to hurl his laptop out of a window or down the stairs when it occurs to him that ‘Ray’ might a nickname. He tries 'Renee', 'Rebecca', 'Raegan', and approximately seventeen different spellings for 'Rachel'. She is nowhere to be found, so Ben stoops even lower: he logs into his Facebook profile for the first time in ten years (his password is apparently still ‘IHateYouDad85’, which has him headdesking in shame). He combs through his mother’s friends one by one, and—still no Ray. Not his Ray.

Maybe her name is not Ray at all. Maybe she was high (she was hanging out with Dameron and Finn) and slurred her words so bad that Ben misheard ’Susan’ or ’Ashley’ or ’Jessica’. Maybe she deliberately lied—after all, why would you even introduce yourself to someone after accidentally spilling half a Wine Spritzer over his shirt at a random work party? Maybe she doesn’t even exist, and Ben’s brain conjured her up: the deathly embodiment of the combination of his filthiest fantasies and deepest fears. He falls asleep on the couch in the living room, dreaming of British accents and the scrunched up face she’d made when Dameron had pulled her away. 

The following morning, while he is rummaging through his cupboards for some ibuprofen, his phone pings with an email. It appears that the night before one Rey Johnson visited his LinkedIn profile.

 

 

II.

 

It’s fortunate that the headquarters for Resistance and First Order are in the same skyscraper, and even more so that Ben and his mother are finally on speaking terms again. Or perhaps it’s not. Perhaps it’s the exact opposite: highly unfortunate. That when he's on his way to bringing Leia one of those macaroons she loves in an attempt to make up for having been a shitty son in the past decade, he must run into her.

Rey Johnson. Structural engineer. Junior associate. Dream dweller.

She recognizes him immediately; hugs to her chest the manila folder she is carrying and walks up to him with a smile that Ben may or may not have masturbated to for the last two weeks.

“Hey.” She stops right in front of him and bites her lower lip. Ben cannot breathe. “You probably don’t remember me, but I’m that girl who dumped her very cheap drink on your very expensive-looking shirt at Leia’s birthday party. I’m Rey, by the way.” 

And I, his brain provides, have thought about nothing but you since the moment I first saw you.

“Ben Solo,” he says. But his voice sounds gravelly and unused, and he has to clear his throat.

“Oh, I know.” She is still smiling. Ben is starting to get hard in some places and very soft in others, so he nods curtly.

“Excuse me.” He can feel brown eyes on him as he steps around and then past her; he can feel the blood in his fingertips, the ground shake and shift.

“Are you flushed?” his mother asks when he steps into her office, looking at him with a worried expression. “You’re not coming down with the flu, right?”

He shakes his head silently and hands her a small paper bag. When she splits the macaroon in two and offers him half, telling him that he looks skinny and underfed and a little too pale, he forces himself to swallow it down.

 

 

III.

 

She used to be a foster sister of Finn’s, who is the fiancé of Dameron's, who is a protege of Leia’s, who is, of course, Ben’s mother. A needlessly tangled web of connection to explain why he finds himself sitting next to Rey at a wedding, watching Finn and Dameron stumble through their first dance as they both try to lead and refuse to follow. The song is, bafflingly, Gangnam Style.

“It’s what was playing in the club the night they met,” Rey explains while hiding giggles in her palm. She recently cut her hair to a wavy bob that makes her look even younger; it has Ben’s fingers itching to caress her throat. “I can’t believe they went through with it.”

I can’t believe that you exist in the same world as I. I can’t believe that you smell like apricot and almond blooms.

“Hey,” she turns in her chair until she’s facing him. “Poe mentioned that you’re training for that marathon? The one in March?”

Ben nods. He has been in Rey’s presence exactly four times since their first meeting three months ago, but he has not been able to produce more than twenty cumulative words with her around. This girl, who looks like a fairy and even sparkles like one, dries his mouth and hardens his cock to a point where he can’t quite function.

“I am, too. And I was looking for a training buddy. Would you be interested?”    

On the dance floor, Dameron is pointing suggestively at Finn while mouthing, ‘Hey, Sexy Lady.’ The guests cheer them on and lift their smartphones, ready to take videos and snap pictures. Rey’s knuckles, Ben thinks, are a little white where she is gripping the stem of her chalice. 

When he nods there is something akin to relief in her eyes.

 

 

IV.

 

He can’t stop himself. He just can’t. 

First it’s something small—ultralight no-show athletic running socks, which are ridiculously expensive considering that they’re goddamned socks—then something a little larger—a fancy foam roller and pizza-flavored nutrition gels that look positively disgusting but he somehow knew she’d find delightful—and then it’s a fancy GPS watch that can do more things than Ben’s Tesla. 

He gives them to her unwrapped, still in their store plastic bags, in the pre-dawn hours of the morning. He gives them to her after they have stretched but before they start their run, and then savors her pleased smiles for miles and miles. The first time he tries to make an excuse (“I was buying them for myself and I thought you might want some, too”) but after that he doesn’t bother. Rey doesn’t seem to need the lie, anyway.

Her delighted gasps feed him more than any sport drink, fill him better than any protein bar. He runs faster when she’s happy. His lungs are larger when she keeps up with him, his muscles readier. His heart marches steadier if her shoes beat the ground next to his own.   

Ben has never been good with words; Rey, it seems, doesn’t mind learning his language.

 

 

V.

 

There is something about runners’ feet. And, by extension, about runners’ shoes. It’s not fully rational—lungs and quads and knees and core muscles are just as important to a race, after all—but there is something special about feet, and that’s likely why it’s not until two weeks before the marathon that he gives her the running shoes. 

It feels a little too intimate. Too forward. He rummages around his exercise bag, because he can’t quite look at her while he listens to the crinkle of the box being opened. It’s fine though, he knows what she’s seeing: the same shoes Ben owns, the ones she has been admiring for months, but instead of black they’re light blue, with cotton candy pink strings. 

It might be too much. Excessive. He might have presumed. He probably shouldn’t have—

“Ben.” She sounds breathless. She wraps her fingers around his wrist and tugs at him until he’s facing her. She is, he notes, not really smiling. “Ben.”

“You can swap them, if you want. If they don’t fit, or if you don’t like the color.”

She shakes her head. It’s not like her, to be so silent.

“And you don’t have to use them for the race. It’s up to you—”

She shakes her head more forcefully, and he falls silent. She is, maybe—maybe she is trying to collect herself. Thinking of something to say. Something important. Or maybe she just really hates the color—she’s not a fucking sixteen year old girl after all, what adult woman even likes pink

“Ben. Thank you so much.” Relief floods him because she’s smiling now, which means that he can smile too, and let his muscles unclench. He can also lean forward when she makes to hug him—not a common occurrence but not the first time, either—and stay still as she wraps her arms around his neck and squeezes harder than ever before. He can put his hand on her upper back and hold her, support her when she makes to lean back on her heels and—

He just didn’t expect she’d press a kiss on his cheek. Or he wouldn’t have turned his head until his lips are right under—

“Oh.” She lifts her fingers against her mouth, eyes wide and liquid. “Oh my god. I’m so sorry.”

Ben’s lips are tingling. Burning. They are too full and all too dry, and he has to wet them with his tongue.

“I’m sorry,” Rey repeats. “I didn’t mean to…”

To. She didn’t mean to.

“It was an accident,” she adds. A little weak. “I’m sorry. It was an accident.”

Ben nods. And what tumbles out of his mouth is: “I hate accidents.” Right before he leans forward, pushes Rey against the wall with one knee between her thighs, and proceeds to. Very much to.

Rey sighs inside his mouth, and his brain and soul quiet.

 

 

VI.

 

The hotel was Ben’s idea, and only because the race is just out of town enough that the drive had seemed a little excessive on the same day they ran twenty-six miles. The outdoor pool, however, is one hundred percent Rey. 

It’s a chilly night, so much so that he wouldn’t be surprised if the water were frozen, but she doesn’t hesitate before stripping off leggings, marathon tee and sports bra and jumping inside. Icy drops splash on his face, and he has to wipe them away with his hand.

Rey emerges, sputters a couple of times, and then pushes her hair out of her eyes. It’s long, almost to her shoulders again. “Ben! Come in!”

He stares at her speechless. Horrified. Besotted. “Are you crazy?”

“It’s actually really nice!” 

“You are crazy.” He shakes his head. 

“Pleeeease,” she begs before ducking underwater. At first there are bubbles reaching the surface, but several seconds pass and she is still not coming back up.

“Rey?” 

The moon is high, but he can’t see her very well. The pool area is poorly lit and she’s been under for—what now? Half a minute? And Ben can’t quite remember, but—did she ever mention knowing how to swim? Not that he can recall. In fact, she’d said at least once that she wasn’t into triathlon, and even though she hadn’t elaborated on why it’s possible that…

He barely toes off his shoes before jumping into the water. He doesn’t even feel it, the shock of the freezing temperature. A couple of strokes and he’s next to her, pulling her to the surface and making sure that she is—

Smiling?

“Ben.” Her lips are wet. Her grin is delighted. “I knew you’d come around.” A small frown. “Why didn’t you take off your clothes, though?”

“Because—I thought you were drowning.”

She wraps her whole body around him, arms to his neck and thighs at his waist, his sodden jeans and belt digging into his muscles. Even coated in icy chlorine she is warm and soft, the perfect sum of everything he’s ever wanted.

“Rey?”

“Hmm?”

“Why are we in this fucking pool?”

She giggles in the hollow space behind the lobe of his ear. “I don’t know. I wanted to be in water, and this seemed like a good option.”

He pulls back to hold her gaze. “You know that the hotel has, like, seven hot tubs, right?”

She doesn’t stop laughing—not even when ben hoists her on his shoulders and carries her inside. 

 

 

VII.

 

It’s such a class act, fucking the love his life for the first time in a semi-public hot tub, after they’ve run a race in record time and have been up and about since six am. No condom, either. Just his dick pushing inside her tight little cunt, even though she is definitely too small, even though she would have needed more prep, even though she gasps sharply every time he gains as little as half an inch. 

Ben is such a class act. 

“I’m sorry,” he breathes in Rey’s ear, an umbrella apology for all the things he really shouldn’t but will end up doing to her tonight anyway. On top of him, her knees propped on the bench and around his hips, she simply shakes her head. Her eyes have been closed since he first nudged the tip of his erection inside her. She is wet, but also very snug; it was a while ago.

“What are you sorry for?”

The hot water laps gently around her waist, around that spot on her abdomen where, should he press his palm, he would probably feel the head of his cock. A couple more upwards thrusts and he’ll be balls deep. He’s not quite ready for it yet, so he lifts his hands up to pinch her hard little nipples. She begins to moan, and he likes the sound so much that he adds tongue and mouth and even teeth. “Because I’m never going to let you go.” 

Something inside her yields, and he’s in so deep. So deep. Her thighs flush with his hip bones, the swollen lips of her cunt pulsating with blood against him. She seems absent, too overwhelmed to move for a long minute. But she begins to grind on him, sloppy circles trying to get friction inside her channel and on her clit. It should be Ben’s job getting her off, he should use his thumb or the heel of his palm to rub her to orgasm, but he is coming already, and Rey, Rey is clenching so hard around him that his vision blurs at the edges.

“Please,” she whimpers, wrapping her arms around his neck, “don’t ever apologize for that.”

  

 

VIII.

 

It’s not just that she doesn’t snore: she barely breathes. She is curved into his chest with a hand under her cheek, and it still takes Ben a whole minute to discover the rise and fall of her shoulder, the quiet pattern of her heart.

He likes it, that she’s such a quiet sleeper. Maybe because she never seems to rest otherwise, maybe because she’s so loud and brilliant in his head all the time. Maybe because he can look his fill, for once. He can study her round ear and slender wrist, her mouthwatering little tits, her creamy thighs still beaded with his semen. The perfect arch of her foot. He can learn her and memorize her and carve a space for her within himself, a space she’ll never have to leave unless she wishes to. He can change himself and the world around them, he can destroy and rebuild entire universes to her exact specifications, and when she—

“Ben.” She smiles and curls further into him, but doesn’t open her eyes. “Go to sleep, ‘kay?”

As he drifts off, he dreams of apricot blossoms and the dimples just above her ass.

 

 

IX.

 

She is fascinated by the pile of books on his bedside table—I can’t believe you don’t have an e-reader… Should I get you an e-reader for your birthday?—and spends several minutes going through them, reading the blurbs on the back and delicately tracing the glossy covers. Ben is not sure what to do. So he just stands in the center of his own bedroom, wondering if loosening his tie or taking off his suit jacket would be too presumptuous, ordering himself not to stare at her like a creep. He rocks on his heels like a ten year old in PE class. 

Then she holds a book up and smiles at him. “What’s this one about?”

Ben tries to remember. “Um. A poet.” He scratches his neck. “Who saves the world.”

“Is it any good?”

He shrugs. “I enjoyed it a lot.” 

“Nice. Thank you, it’s like having my personal librarian.” She bats her eyes at him, flirtatious. “Can I borrow it?”

He nods. “Sure. I’m done with it, you can have it.”

He expects her to stand and slide it in her backpack. Instead, she rolls across his king sized bed and sets it on the table next to the other side. 

It feels, Ben thinks, like a claiming of sorts. 

 

 

X.

 

She reads ‘Bluebell’ on the gallon of paint and her smile immediately turns into a small frown. A small frown that deepens into a vertical line between her brows. Ben wants to trace it with his thumb more than he wants food or water or air, but her lips are pressed together in a thin line, too, and her eyes are narrow. So maybe that is not a good idea.

“Is everything okay?” he asks. Dameron and Finn’s nursery is still empty of any furniture. The words echo and bounce against the walls, and Rey… Rey doesn’t answer.  “I can get another blue if you don’t like it,” he offers. “They had something called Skyfall that—”

“Why blue?” she asks, looking up from the Sherwin Williams can. She is still frowning. “Why does it have to be blue?”

“I thought Finn and Dameron were having a boy?”

She stands, right in front of him, hands to her waist and frown etched even deeper. “It will probably be assigned male at birth. That’s it.” She takes a step closer. “You don’t know he’s going to be a boy. And neither do I. He’ll get to decide what he wants, and imposing a gendered color on him might not be what Poe and Finn want. Since this nursery is a surprise for them we should not assume.” Her arms are folded on her chest now, and she is—she is even closer. Ben briefly considers telling her how beautiful she is, how enchanting. How much he loves her. Instead he opts for:

“How about I go switch the blue with yellow?”

She pushes up on her toes and smiles against his lips. “Personally, I am partial to mint green.” 

 

 

XI.

 

He buys three macaroons now: one for Leia (plain) and two for Rey (chocolate covered). He sits with his mother while she eats hers, sipping his black coffee as he listens to her complaints about Threepio’s new paleo obsession. Then he stops by Rey’s office on his way back to First Order, but finds her gone. 

As he sets the brown paper bag on the center of her desk, he notices a small framed picture of himself. He is laughing at the camera.

 

 

XII.

 

She tosses a piece of her hot dog bun at the squirrel who’s been loitering about and eyeing her eagerly, and then leans back against the bench. “Your mother stopped by my office this morning. Asked me when I’m going to make an honest man out of you.”

It’s obvious that she’s just saying it to get a laugh out of Ben. They both hate Mondays—they hate Mondays so much, especially after a weekend spent in bed ignoring the rest of the world—but these lunches together help them get through the day.

“I’m so sorry.” He rolls his eyes. “She doesn’t mean anything by it. I’ll tell her to stop.”

Rey shakes her head. “Why? I don’t mind. I like her.”

“Yeah, but this is a bit too much for anyone.” He reaches out and squeezes Rey’s hand. “I’ll talk to her.”

She cocks her head. “Why do you think it bothers me?”

“Because.” He huffs out a laugh. “I doubt people want their boss to harass them into marrying their son.”

“You think she’d need to harass me into it?” She seems puzzled. “You think I don’t want to marry you?”

“No.” He waves the hand that is not holding hers. “I mean. No one would want to marry me. But the point is that you work for her, and she needs to be more professional.”

“Are you serious?” She is smiling, but also blinking curiously, and Ben regrets not killing the conversation the second it started. 

“Rey, it doesn’t matter.” He shrugs, because it’s so simple. “I’ll take what you can give. What we have is fine.” I will feast on scraps of you, he doesn’t add. I don’t deserve more, anyway.  

She studies him for a moment longer, and then looks back to her lap. Biting the inside of her cheek, she opens the five dollar bottle of Dasani that he bought for her from the street vendor. She unscrews the cap, takes a long sip, and then fiddles with the plastic ring underneath with a few muttered curses. Her smile is triumphant when it finally comes off.

“Rey? Is everything—?

She tugs his hand into her lap. She first tries his ring finger, but his hands are paws, and the little plastic circle is too small to fit anywhere but on his pinkie. Even there, it scrapes the skin as Rey works it past his knuckles. 

Once she’s done she looks up at him with liquid eyes. “Ben Solo,” she says. Her smile might be mischievous, but her voice is not quite steady. “Will you marry me?”