Lots of it.
The stench of childbirth, a smell that he’ll never be able to forget. Piss, shit, sweat, who knows what else.
Bazine’s face. Pale, drenched in perspiration, her delicate fox-like features contorted in pain as the life fades from her hazel eyes.
I did this to you. You’re dying because of me. Because I couldn’t be fucked to wear a condom that night. You slapped me and screamed in my face when I dared to mention the option of an abortion, but aborting the child wouldn’t have led us here, would it?
Then again, our relationship would have been fucked either way. We’re too much alike. Too stubborn, too cruel. We weren’t made to last, even though I love you so fucking much. Heartbreak would’ve happened sooner or later - and now it’s here.
These thoughts consume him, though they do nothing to block out the sound of a long, drawn out beep from the heart monitor.
The sound of an infant’s frightened wail as it enters a new world with no mother.
Just a fucked up asshole of a father who’s too much of a coward to even show it an ounce of affection.
Ben startles awake from the dream in the dark.
It’s a dream he’s often had these past five years.
Sometimes the dream follows exactly what happened: Bazine dies in childbirth, leaving him overwhelmed and out of his depth with a newborn.
Sometimes it’s even worse: Both Bazine and the baby die, and Ben decides to kill himself, too.
Only one time has the dream not turned into a nightmare. It’s the memory of that dream in particular, more than any of the others, that haunts him:
Him. Bazine. Happily married. Raising their baby in a stable, healthy and loving home. A home that’s full of peace, laughter and hugs rather than shouting matches, physical fights that end in hate sex, or broken objects hurled across the room in a blind rage.
It haunts him because he knows beyond a doubt that would have never happened, even if Bazine survived. That level of picturesque is unattainable. Now more than ever.
A rustle of blankets tells Ben that he isn’t alone in his bed. He suppresses a sigh, breathing out through his nose as he turns over onto his side.
Bazine’s very last words to him had been the name she wanted their son to have.
But she had been cut short. Ky—
Then nothing. He never found out whether she meant to say something more than that. But he couldn’t bring himself to go against Bazine’s last request. She’d just given birth to their child. Their baby. He just — he just couldn’t do it. Their relationship may have been doomed from the start, but he couldn’t do that to her.
So Ky had stuck, and after a spelling mix-up thanks to some incompetent nurse, an ‘e’ had been added to the end.
Two bright hazel eyes, so much like Bazine’s, blink up at him through the scant light of the room as the silence stretches between them. He’s always watching, always waiting for Ben to speak first. Wise and perceptive beyond his tender age. He’s always been this way, even as a baby. Quiet, withdrawn, fully aware of the fucked up parents he was born to.
“Bad dream?” Ben asks.
A nod and a sniffle in response. He’s been crying.
“Did you wet your bed again?”
A vehement shake of his head no, his shaggy dark hair flopping over his eyes.
Ben reaches out, brushing the hair off Kye’s face. The boy leans into his touch, moving closer to cuddle against him. Something seizes painfully in Ben’s chest.
Kye listens and obeys, but his eyes - they’re filling with tears again. Shit. Turning him away when he’s like this would only do more harm than good. As gently as he’s capable, Ben explains:
“You can sleep here tonight but that’s it. You’re a child now. Not a baby. And children sleep in their own beds even when they have nightmares. Do you understand?”
Kye nods again, pulling the covers up and over his chin. Another pitiful sniffle, but he closes his eyes this time.
Ben waits for the quiet snuffling that lets him know his son is asleep. Then, with practiced ease, he locates the pill bottle tucked into the topmost drawer of the bedside table.
He swallows two pills, then waits for a hopefully dreamless sleep to overtake him.
He knocks out so well, he completely forgets about the parent-teacher conference the next day.
He’s halfway to work, weaving in and out of New York City traffic, when Mitaka’s name flashes up on the Bluetooth screen of his car. His assistant never calls him when he’s driving unless it’s something important, so he grudgingly accepts the call, blinking furiously to stay awake. He’s still so fucking drowsy and in his rush to leave this morning, he hadn’t been able to take anything to get his brain going at the speed he likes.
“Mr. Solo, I just received a call from your son’s teacher, Miss Niima.”
“And? What does she want?”
“She wants to know your estimated time of arrival for the meeting today, Sir. It was supposed to start at 7am just before school, but she says Mr. Trooper dropped your son off today, not you.”
Ben checks the time on the dashboard. It’s 8:03. Fuck. He’s known about this parent-teacher conference for awhile. Has been dreading it, too, ever since Mitaka let him know that Kye’s Kindergarten teacher - Miss Niima - wanted to have a ‘chat’ with him. Not Kye’s nanny Finn Trooper, who’s more of a father figure to Kye than Ben has ever been. No, she’d specifically asked for ‘Kye’s father’ - and so he agreed to meet with her to discuss what he’s almost certain is something about his son’s lack of speech. It was only a matter of time. A normal five-year-old can’t shut the fuck up even if they try. Kye can’t even manage to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’.
It’s a sore subject for Ben. He knows it's his fault. Kids need love and attention and Kye doesn't get that from him. From Finn, absolutely. From Leia? Yes. From Han? Debatable, but he has the right idea. Funny how the shittiest parents can turn out to be surprisingly okay grandparents. Sometimes Ben wonders what type of grandparent he'd be. But he doesn't intend to stick around that long. Once Kye overcomes this speech thing, once he's a grown man and has a life of his own...Ben doesn't know what he'll do. Buy an island somewhere, probably. Drink until he's numb. Drown himself in the crystal clear ocean.
Until then, though...he has to financially provide for his son. It's the only thing he knows how to do, and he does it well. But it seems no amount of money can easily solve Kye’s lack of speech. Ben has tried everything. Finding a full-time nanny to keep the boy company. Filling his room with books and toys and games that supposedly promote language skills. Sending Kye to the best speech and language pathologist in the city. Sending him to a child psychologist, too. Nothing has worked so far. He feels like a failure because of it, and relaying all of this to a fucking Kindergarten teacher is only going to rub salt in the wound. That conversation can wait just a bit longer.
“Ask her if she can reschedule for later today. 4 or 5.”
“I will, Sir,” Mitaka says, as dutifully as ever.
“And...tell her I’m sorry. I’ve had a lot on my mind about work.”
It’s the truth. As Editor-in-Chief of First Order, one of the top men’s magazines in the U.S., he’s never not busy. There’s a reason he has to medicate himself and often. No normal human being works oftentimes 20+ hour workdays. No normal human being stays up until 3am approving fashion spreads for next month’s issue, only to wake up a handful of hours later and do it all over again. He’s the epitome of a workaholic. There’s no use denying it. He just is. He throws himself into his work with reckless abandon because the alternative - actually being fucking present in his son’s life - is too much for him. Emotionally, mentally, physically, everything. He doesn’t know how to do it. So he simply doesn’t.
Maybe Kye will resent him for this lack of involvement as he grows older, just as Ben resents his own parents - but at least it will build character. Ben learned early on how to live independently, how to get ahead based on his own merits, how to rely on no one except himself.
He hopes, prays that Kye will be able to say the same thing, someday.
Ben manages to get to Coruscant Academy at a quarter past 4 that day. He’s not sure when the school lets out, exactly - Finn would know - but as he walks the empty halls, breathing in the smell of crayons and paint, it’s pretty obvious that no one else is here.
Thanks to the map near the front office, he finds his way around the maze of hallways easily enough. The kindergartners have their own wing; a long stretch of hallway that’s labeled “Kinderbugs”, sporting green colored walls with hundreds of painted butterflies, caterpillars and ladybugs dotting the surface. The clashing colors give him a headache, and the door to Miss Niima’s classroom at the very end of the hall isn’t much better. It’s covered with yellow construction paper sunflowers, pictures of children’s faces in the middle of each one. Ben finds Kye’s near the bottom. To his surprise, Kye is sporting a huge, infectious grin on his face. He’s never seen Kye smile that big. It’s like he couldn’t help but smile at whoever took the picture.
She’s one of those teachers, then. The one that kids fall in love with. No wonder Finn says that Kye cries whenever he has to leave school each day.
“Jesus Christ,” Ben mutters, rapping on the door. Time to get this over with.
The door flings open and with it, Ben swears that his breath leaves his body.
She’s young. Younger than the middle aged spinster he was picturing in his head. She has on a gaudy, oversized rainbow sweater tucked into a frankly ridiculous pair of acid wash blue jeans painted with gold stars. Her hair is pulled up into some bizarre three-bun style, sunflower earrings adorning her ears and on her feet, she’s wearing converse. Converse! But there’s no denying that she’s strikingly beautiful underneath all the unattractive eccentricity.
She’s just his type, in fact. A small, hazel eyed brunette. Like Bazine. Except where Bazine was mercurial and oftentimes unfriendly, Miss Niima looks warm and welcoming, her smile making his own cheeks hurt just looking at it.
“Hi! You must be Mr. Solo. Come on in, Kye and I were just playing dinosaurs while we waited—”
Ben frowns. “He’s still here? His nanny - he should’ve taken him home by now.”
“Finn? Oh, yeah, we’re close friends, believe it or not. He stopped by earlier when school ended but I told him to go on home, since you’d be coming here anyway. I hope that’s okay.”
It isn’t okay. At all. It’s presumptive. He feels even more out of the loop now. Stupid. A shit excuse for a parent for not keeping track of his child’s whereabouts. Which he is. He is undoubtedly shitty. He doesn’t like being reminded of it, though.
But the way she’s scrunching up her nose in an adorably apologetic expression...it catches him off guard, and he can only nod as he follows her into the room. It’s just as loud and chaotic as her door decorations. Child-sized brightly colored tables and chairs everywhere. A banner reading “Hooray for Kindergarten!” lining the windows, outside of which he can see a playground. Oversized books on a reading stand, a mound of pillows and bean bag chairs near the front whiteboard, and messily colored drawings littering the walls and her small desk. It’s a nightmare. Like a Sesame Street muppet vomited and shat rainbows everywhere.
In the center of it all, cross legged and hugging an armful of stuffed dinosaurs to his chest, sits Kye. His bright smile fades when he sees Ben approach and he lets go of the dinosaurs, pushing them behind his back. Like he’s ashamed to have been seen playing with them. Ben doesn’t know why that realization stings so bad, but it does.
The stinging feeling continues when Miss Niima crouches down to Kye’s level and Kye leans into her, sighing softly. Like she’s his lifeline, his safety net, his protector against the monster that Ben feels like right now.
“It’s okay, honey. You aren’t in trouble. Your dad is here because I just wanted to talk to him about a few things, okay?”
Ben watches, transfixed, as her hands gesticulate in practiced motions while she talks to his son. Kye focuses on her hands intently, like he’s studying the different motions and committing them to memory.
“What’s happening? What are you doing with him?” Ben asks, feeling like he’s encroaching on a private moment between them which is just absurd. It’s his son.
“Kye and I,” She emphasizes Kye’s name, making sure to include him in the conversation, continuing to move her hands as she looks back and forth between him and Ben, “Are using sign language to speak to each other.” This time she looks directly at Kye. “You’ve learned a lot of words since we’ve started talking to each other this way, haven’t you?”
Kye nods enthusiastically and raises his fist, making a bobbing motion. Miss Niima mimics him, smiling broadly before she continues gesturing, “Yes. You’re a smart boy. Do you want to show your father some signs that you’ve learned?”
Kye’s smile fades again as he looks in Ben’s direction. He bows his head and then shakes his head no. Miss Niima presses her head against his, speaking in a low tone. “No? I think he’d be really impressed, Kye. You can show him how to spell your name! Wouldn’t you like that? Or - or you could spell out ‘Dad’, couldn’t you? Hm?”
“I don’t want him to do any of that. And I don’t want him learning signs, period. I enrolled him in this school to get a top-of-the-line education to get him into a top-of-the-line college someday. None of this special shi - stuff,” He amends, more for the teacher’s sake than Kye’s. Kye has heard him say every curse word under the sun. If he could speak, he could probably say them all.
Miss Niima stands up again, her sunny smile from before no longer there. Kye looks between the pair of them with rapt attention, sticking his thumb into his mouth.
“Put your thumb away. We’ve talked about that,” Ben snaps.
Kye immediately obeys, balling his small hands into his lap. Ms. Niima frowns at this, looking increasingly uncomfortable. Good.
“Mr. Solo, can I speak to you privately for a moment, please?”
“Anything you need to say to me can be said in front of Kye, too. Without using signs. He has two functioning ears and can hear us fine. So let’s talk.”
She bites the inside of her cheek, though her tone remains light and friendly. “I don’t think that’s a good idea, Mr. Solo.”
She stares back at him for a second, her eyes narrowed and her nostrils flaring. Ben feels oddly satisfied. Beneath her chipper smiles and stupid sunflower earrings, there’s a sleeping dragon. And he’s just woken it up. He’d much rather see this side of her, the ugly side of her. Because ugly he can deal with. Rude and angry suit him just fine. They’re his version of normal. None of this ridiculous ‘sunshine and rainbows’ bullshit.
Schooling her expression into a pleasant one yet again, he watches as she kneels back down beside Kye, signing as she speaks softly. But he can hear her.
“Kye, why don’t you go over to the reading center and put on headphones? You can listen to one of your favorite books. It’s in the cassette player right now. Any guesses what it is?”
Kye does another sign and Miss Niima answers with the fist bobbing motion again. “Yes, Corduroy! Just press the button you usually do and it’ll start playing! I’ll only be with your father for a moment okay? We’ll be finished before you’re even done.”
Without any more encouragement, Kye sprints over to the reading nook and plops down on a bean bag chair, pulling a battered red book and an ancient cassette player towards him. He shoves on a pair of oversized headphones then leans back in the chair, his eyes glazing over as he follows along to the audiobook.
Ben scowls, turning to face Miss Niima again. She’s openly scowling right back at him. Something possesses him to poke at her a bit more. It’s what she deserves for undermining his authority with his own damn son. Who the hell does she think she is, anyway?
“I’m surprised this school doesn’t provide you with higher quality technology, Miss Niima. I could make sure each student in your class has the latest iPad model stocked with all sorts of audiobooks. All you need to do is ask.”
Her scowl deepens. “This school is very well-resourced, thank you.”
“I know it is. I’ve donated handsomely so that every classroom is well up-to-date. So why isn’t yours?”
She visibly bristles at this not-so-subtle display of his power and money. “I prefer cassette tapes and hard copies of books. That’s what I grew up with. That’s how I learned to read.”
“Don’t you think some children would prefer to live in the 21st century?”
She doesn’t reply to that, just stares at him in open disdain. “I’m glad you’ve been able to show up, Mr. Solo, no matter how many hours late you are.”
“I didn’t reschedule. You did. You left me with no choice but to wait,” She checks her wristwatch, “Over nine hours later than the prior agreed upon time.”
“I have a very busy work life, Miss Niima. I can’t exactly drop everything and come whenever his Kindergarten teacher needs me. These sort of tasks can be delegated to his nanny.”
She wraps her arms around herself, looking hurt, but she still bites back, “Well, if this sort of thing is beneath you, Mr. Solo, excuse me for taking up your valuable time. I’ll talk to Finn about this tomorrow.”
“I’m already here, aren’t I? You might as well just tell me.”
She gnaws on her lower lip for a moment, considering, then lets out a breath, like she’s decided to just get out with it. “You’re well aware that Kye is experiencing some speech delays.”
“Yes. That’s why I’ve enrolled him in this school. The child psychologist recommended it. Said he’d do well with other children in a smaller class size. Is that not the case?”
“No, no, that’s...that’s exactly what he gets here, yes. And he’s already making so much progress already, it’s incredible. He’s incredible.” She smiles at that, her posture relaxing just a bit. “But, Mr. Solo...our school has an option to give him one-on-one lessons with a speech therapist, right here in the classroom. Rose Tico - she’s fluent in ASL, much more fluent than me, and I think she could bring him up to speed in no time at all—”
“No. No. I told you before, he doesn’t need that. He needs to learn to speak. Like normal. I want to hear his voice. Can your speech therapist manage that? If not, I don’t see the point. I’ve already taken him to very qualified specialists outside of the school and nothing has worked.”
“But that’s why this could work, Mr. Solo! He loves it here. He feels at home. I think he’d be a lot more receptive to speech lessons if he could have them right here in the classroom where he feels safe and knows me, knows his classmates.”
This is exactly what he’d dreaded when Kye started school. He had a feeling that some teacher, some nobody who’d only known Kye for a limited period of time, would start meddling, start making all sorts of recommendations like goddamn ASL while never getting to the crux of the issue. Ben knows Kye can speak. He knows it deep down. And all of this coddling...it’s only going to serve as a crutch. At this rate Kye is never going to adapt and Ben can’t let that happen. He won’t.
“He’s fine how he is. I don’t want him to be exposed to - to shit like this. Just give him a normal education like the rest of your students and he’ll catch up.”
“You can’t know that!”
“I do. I know it’ll happen because I’ll make it happen.”
She uncrosses her arms, color blooming in her cheeks. “You can’t just - just make your son fit into a perfect little box! He’s five and you’re in denial about how much help he really needs. And you’re just too...too ignorant and selfish to consider that maybe he needs a different approach! You’re not the first parent to give me trouble, Mr. Solo, and you won’t be the last either. But I’ll be damned,” She breaks off, choking on her words, then gets right up in his face, poking him in the chest. “I’ll be damned if I have to see a bright young boy like Kye held back because his father is too much of an idiot to see some sense!”
For once, Ben is speechless. He can’t think of what to say. Even during the foulest fights with Bazine, he always had cutting words to throw back at her. He always stood his ground, never backed down.
But Miss Niima...he actually feels embarrassed. Chastised. Ashamed of himself. Humiliated. He’s been put in his place by a Kindergarten teacher, of all people, and that makes him furious. Furious at her, furious at himself, even furious at Kye for being the source of this argument.
Without another word to Miss Niima, he walks over to Kye and yanks his headphones off. Despite the boy’s protests, how he starts flailing his arms and kicking his legs, Ben picks him up.
“We’re leaving, Kye.”
Kye starts to cry in earnest but he doesn’t pay him any mind, or Miss Niima telling him they aren’t finished with their discussion yet. He doesn’t give a damn. If he doesn’t leave now, he doesn’t know what he’ll do.
All he knows is that this is definitely not the last time this Human Headache of a teacher will give him shit about how he raises his kid - and the school year is just barely into September.
He is way, way too sober for this bullshit.
...I haven't been able to get this idea out of my head. This is a very, very different Ben Solo than I'm used to writing, and this is just a way darker fic in general than I'm used to writing, too. Addiction is a touchy subject for me because my sibling is a recovering drug addict (5 years clean and I'm SO proud of them). That said, this is my way of working through some issues related to their addiction and how it affected me and the rest of my family.
...But I'm the ultimate sucker for an HEA, so of course this will still have one lol.
Hope you enjoyed this first chapter. Let me know what you think?
Thank you to my trusty beta and wonderful friend Michelle. I cannot recommend her writing highly enough. It is just *chefs kiss* Go and give it a read!
“I can’t feel anything.”
“You will. You just have to be patient.”
“I’m not patient.”
“Don’t I know it,” Bazine grumbles, taking his hand and pressing it against the side of her belly.
She’s five months pregnant but with her waifish frame, she seems a lot more than that. Ben had thought that she’d be upset about the changes her body is going through, but she seems...happy. Happier, rather. To everyone's surprise and especially his own, pregnancy suits her. Her face is more rounded, color in her cheeks, her bones not so visible. And she loves the baby. Talks to it daily, rubs her stomach over and over like it’s a genie lamp.
Ben isn’t comfortable seeing her do this. At all. Guilt roils away in his stomach still. They aren’t equipped to have a baby. Financially, yes. The child will have every material possession it could possibly want. But Bazine is only half a year out of fucking rehab for an eating disorder, for God’s sake, and Ben...he’s, well…
He runs his middle finger under his nose, grateful that Bazine is preoccupied with getting the baby to kick again. She hates when he’s like this. Hates when he’s high. Normally she won’t shut up about how much she hates it. She fights him, obsessed with finding and destroying every pill, every eight ball, every ounce of liquor he’s hidden away in the great expanse of their penthouse apartment. Now, though…
“Do you feel him?”
“Huh?” he asks, his feverishly racing thoughts coming to a temporary halt.
Determined, she presses his hand harder against her stomach, her face screwed up in determination. “Right...there. He’s kicking. You should feel a little flutter.”
He doesn’t feel shit. What he does feel is antsy. He needs to take another hit soon and get back to work, back to the spring editorial spread he’s been working on for fucking ages. With Snoke’s impending retirement and announcement of his successor, Ben is prepared to give up everything, even his fucking soul, if it means he can become Editor-in-Chief. If it means he can beat Armitage Hux. If it means he can be more than Creative Director. Ben knows he can do it. He just needs to focus. To keep work on his mind until what he wants is his. He’ll have all the time in the world for this familial shit once he gets promoted.
So he keeps telling himself, anyway.
Leaning down, Ben presses a kiss to the top of Bazine’s head.
“Yes. I feel him. I feel him kicking,” he lies.
The drive home to the apartment is quiet, as it always is.
Kye doesn’t normally ride in Ben’s car. He doesn’t have any sort of kid music for him to listen to, so he makes do with classical. At every traffic light, every slow down, he watches in his rearview mirror as Kye traces raindrops down the window, keeping time to the tempo of a Chopin étude.
Bazine would know which one. She’d always been musical. Always singing, always playing any number of instruments with a natural born skill. But her passion was violin. She would’ve had a long and illustrious career of it, too, if she hadn’t chosen modeling over her spot in the New York Philharmonic. That’s where he’d first met her. One solo in Camille Saint-Saëns’ “Danse Macabre” was all it took for him to be spellbound, desperate to catch another glimpse of the violinist who’d made him feel something for the first time in years.
He’d stuck around and asked for her after the concert, not taking no for an answer when other members of the ensemble told him to leave. Eventually he found her, kissed her until she was begging him for more, and took her home to his bed.
And yet he wishes he could go back to that night they met and reverse it. She’d been magnificent. Young, bright eyed, fire in her blood, not yet exposed to the ugly underbelly of the fashion world. By introducing her to it, he’d destroyed her.
Miss Niima reminds him so much of that Bazine. The spirited, wild-hearted Bazine with stars in her eyes. That’s what makes the schoolteacher so goddamn dangerous. As his fury fades, he’s left with a curiosity about her instead.
Who are you?
What is it about you that makes people love you so much?
What makes you so electric?
He doesn’t stop thinking about her for the rest of the evening.
Or later that night, before his nightcap of benzos and booze, when he fists his cock to the image of her tied down, splayed across his bed, wearing nothing but those little sunflower earrings.
...Or the next morning, when he touches himself to the thought of her yet again.
...Or the day after that.
“I met your friend the other day.”
Finn is in the middle of making a sandwich for Kye so he doesn’t immediately respond, but when he does, it’s with a poor attempt at nonchalance.
“Oh yeah? Who?”
Ben meets his gaze across the large kitchen and raises an eyebrow. Finn swallows, growing visibly uncomfortable as the seconds tick by. Yes, he knows. He knows who Ben is talking about. That guilty look says it all.
“Kye’s teacher. Miss Niima.”
“Oh - oh yeah. Rey.”
Rey. Fitting, that. Miss Sunshine and Rainbows must feel oddly smug, having a name that so perfectly matches her bubbly personality.
“How long have you known her?” Ben asks, and he’s pleased to hear how casual the question sounds to his own ears. He’s fishing for information, yes, but he’s not being obvious about it.
“We’ve been good friends for a few years now. We knew each other in high school but we reconnected once we both moved to the city.” Finn breaks eye contact, cutting the sandwich into triangles in the way that Kye probably likes.
“You didn’t think it was important to mention your relationship with her before now?”
Finn stills at that, “Well, it - it never really came up, Mr. Solo. I only realized myself when the school sent home that Open House bulletin. I was so excited to see Kye in her class. She’s great at her job. He’s in really, really capable hands.”
Ben doesn’t know the Open House bulletin that Finn is referring to, but now he needs to see it. Maybe it’ll have more information about her on it. Her email. Her school phone. Maybe even a cellphone. He tucks that bit of information away for later, taking a sip of his coffee.
“Did she tell you we had a bit of an argument?”
Finn lovingly removes the crust off of each sandwich triangle, popping the scraps into his mouth and chewing slowly. Like he's holding off on answering, which tells Ben all he needs to know about whether or not Finn has talked to Miss Niima - Rey - since the little spat.
Before he’s able to pry anymore, Kye comes barreling into the kitchen, his socks sliding against the marble floor as he wraps his arms around Finn’s legs in a hug.
“Hey, little dude! Your sandwich is ready. PB&J, just how you like it. Are you sure this is what you want for dinner?”
Kye nods solemnly, taking one triangle off the proffered plate that Finn is holding. He then pushes the plate back into Finn’s arms, gesturing for him to take the other half.
“Aw, thank you buddy, but you need to finish both halves. We need to make sure you’re eating enough, little guy. How about I whip up some guacamole and carrots too before I leave for the night? Maybe some soup?”
Kye shakes his head no, pouting a little, and Finn laughs, ruffling his dark hair. “Come on, Kye. Work with me a little. Don’t you want to grow up big and strong like your dad?”
Kye meets Ben’s eyes then, his small mouth downturned in a frown. He’s always so animated, so full of character since he can’t express himself in a normal way, that Ben has an uncanny ability for picking up what he’s thinking. And his atypically shuttered expression right now says it all.
No, I don’t want to grow up and be anything like my dad. Because my dad is scary.
Why does that bother him so much, that his own flesh and blood is afraid of him?
Why does it hurt, when Ben knows it won’t do Kye any favors to grow close to a parent who is as unstable and volatile as he is?
Unwilling to examine it any further, Ben leaves the kitchen and secludes himself in his office upstairs for the rest of the night to work, all thoughts of his son and Miss Niima banished from his mind.
It’s New York Fashion Week, arguably the busiest time of the year in the fashion industry.
Men’s Fashion Week was held earlier in the summer but as figurehead of First Order, he’s still invited and expected to attend the events that feature menswear this week. Making appearances at shows and afterparties to rub elbows with other publishers means less time spent at the office doing grunt work on next month’s issue, which translates to more time he’ll have to spend at home making up for it.
...More time that he’ll have to spend in the same living space as Kye, but never interacting with him.
That is, without a doubt, the worst part about working from home.
Catching glimpses of his son as he plays legos with Finn in the living room. Having rushed, forced dinners of delivered food, the scrape of forks and knives on plates the only sounds they make together. Hearing Kye cry through the walls at night, once Finn goes home and the boy realizes he’s by himself again, without anyone for company in a massive apartment fifty floors up from the outside world.
Kye is young but he already knows that he can’t rely on his sorry excuse of a father for anything. For emotional support. To play with him. To make him home cooked meals or tuck him into bed.
Ben tried to parent when Kye was a baby, tried as much as he could despite how fucked up he was, but only managed for a short amount of time before he gave up. Leia had stepped in when he was floundering, but once things grew even more tense, once she started all that talk about custody and Kye moving in to live with her, Ben put a stop to it and found an actual nanny. He couldn’t care for his son, not in the way that he deserved, so the very least he could do was find someone else who could.
Maybe it was selfish to not let Kye go. The thought of him anywhere else, though - with an adopted family, with Han and Leia, or in the foster care system - it terrified Ben back then as a new and struggling father, and it still terrifies him now. So he does what he can to make sure that never happens, while still maintaining a distance between him and his son. It’s their own, screwed up version of normal. Sometimes, Ben wishes he knew how to change it.
Most of the time, though, Ben is convinced this is for the best. He wouldn’t have the job he has now, the security he has now, if he’d chosen to focus on his son rather than his work.
Besides, he doesn’t think that Kye has any memories of Ben taking care of him. Kye doesn’t miss him. Kye’s entire world revolves around Finn, revolves around Han and Leia. They’re the people he knows that love him, that can care for him, that can give him kisses and hugs when he’s upset.
And that’s just fine with him.
...Most of the time.
It’s always, always ‘most of the time’.
Not ‘all of the time’. And that discrepancy, that’s what keeps Ben up at night when Kye cries in the next room.
That’s what makes it so hard to sleep, what makes it necessary to drug himself so he finally can.
Ben rubs at his temples, the glare of the bright runway lights serving as a cruel reminder that he’s running on fumes at this point. Not even thirty minutes into the Tom Ford show and he already wants to leave from here and sleep for ten years, but he knows he’ll never be able to. He’s lucky if he gets a solid three hours each night.
“You look like shit,” Edward Snoke murmurs from beside him, though the man keeps his eye trained on the models marching down the runway. From an outsider perspective it would look as though he’d just made a remark about the clothing, not the physical appearance of the current Editor-in-Chief for the fashion magazine he used to run. Used to, but he’s like a fucking cockroach. So widely respected and known in the fashion industry that Ben can never get rid of him completely. Now a chairman of Empire Publications, the mass media company that owns First Order, Snoke will always be a looming presence in Ben’s life. That is, until the withered old shit finally kicks the bucket. That day cannot come soon enough.
“Lots to do, as I’m sure you know from experience,” he mutters back.
Snoke clicks his tongue at that. “Yes, but I never looked so disheveled while doing so. Fix your pocket square, for God’s sake. There are cameras everywhere.”
Ben glances down at his suit. His pocket square is barely off center but he adjusts it anyway, stifling the curse he so badly wants to aim at Snoke.
“How’s the brat? Is he the reason for those bags under your eyes or are old habits creeping up on you again?” Snoke asks, and Ben’s hackles immediately raise. This is yet another reason why he always tries to keep Kye at arm’s length.
Snoke has made it no secret over the years that he thinks Ben’s decision to keep his child was a mistake. He views Ben’s parenthood as a weakness, something that’s holding him back from reaching his full potential.
And yet the man has always harbored a fascination for Kye as well. He sends him birthday cards and Christmas presents, and he’s even offered to fund Kye’s tuition if Ben sends him to a ridiculously expensive private school upstate. There’s no way in hell that's happening, no matter how many times Snoke brings it up, but it still unsettles Ben to no end.
“No, he’s fine. And I’m fine, too.” That second part is definitely a lie, it always is, but he’ll gladly repeat it one thousand times over if it means he can convince himself it’s true and by extension, Snoke as well.
“You know I’m always here to help, Solo. Whatever it is you need. Whether it’s taking the boy off your hands, or moving you to the very top of the waitlist for that rehab facility in East Hampton, or—”
The tap on his shoulder from Mitaka couldn’t have come at a better time. Ben makes a mental note to request a significant pay raise for him. God knows the man deserves it.
“So sorry for the interruption, Sir. Mr. Trooper just called me. Said it’s urgent. Would you be able to call him back or should I tell him you’ll respond at a later time?” Mitaka murmurs in his ear.
Finn only calls him occasionally to keep him updated about things to do with Kye and when he does, it’s never anything serious. Kye running a fever. Kye falling down and scraping his knees at the park. Kye needing a flu shot before starting school. Things like that. In all the years he’s been Kye’s nanny, Finn has never once let anything serious happen to him.
But he’s also never called Ben’s assistant with an urgent message, either.
“No, that’s fine. I’ll call him back.” Ben turns back to Snoke, finding the man’s sunken, watery eyes on him. “Excuse me,” he states, rising from his seat. He can feel everyone else staring, too; it’s bad etiquette to leave during the middle of a show, but he can’t be fucked.
“I trust everything is alright?” Snoke asks, and Ben offers only a tight smile in reply.
Once he’s out of the show, out of Spring Studios and onto the busy streets of Tribeca, he immediately calls Finn, swallowing back the panic he feels as the phone rings out.
But finally, Finn answers.
“Answer your fucking phone on the first ring,” he spits, well aware he’s being a hypocrite. He hadn’t even known that Finn had called until Mitaka said something. Still, he’s angry. “I pay you too damn much to let the phone ring out, Trooper.”
“Sorry sir, sorry. It won’t happen again. It’s just— I’m kind of preoccupied—”
“Where’s Kye?” Ben asks, and his voice sounds distant to his own ears. “What’s wrong?”
“He’s fine, he’s right in the other room.” Finn sounds hushed, like he’s trying not to speak too loud, and Ben’s temper increases tenfold.
“Then what the fuck are you calling me for? My assistant said it was urgent.”
“It is urgent, sir, it’s...” Finn sighs, then tries again, “It’s - it’s the ACS, Sir. They just stopped by. Said they wanted to speak to you. They got an anonymous report—”
“The Administration for Children’s Services. The—” Finn breaks off, like he’s scared to continue. “The city’s child welfare agency.”
Ben can’t remember hanging up the phone on Finn. He can’t even remember the ride over to Coruscant Academy. He’d been too blinded by rage to think straight, and now that he’s here, where he knows she is, it’s even worse.
How fucking dare she?
How dare she make a fucking report about him?
How could she do something like that, based on one single interaction, one brief period of time where she’d seen him interact with Kye? What does she think he does to his son? Hurt him? Beat him? Abuse him?
Just thinking about it makes him violently sick to his stomach, so much that he actually does throw up in one of the school bathrooms before he can make it to the Kindergarten wing. It’s almost comical, how small the toilets in the bathroom are compared to him, so he has to vomit into one of the sinks instead.
When he looks at himself in the mirror afterward, he visibly flinches.
Maybe Snoke did have a point. He does look like shit. Hair a mess from how much he’s run his hands through it, dark circles under his eyes, the tiny pinpricks of his pupils making his eyes so dark he looks possessed. Wild. Feral.
No one fucks with him this way.
Least of all a Kindergarten teacher.
He storms out of the bathroom, easily finding his way to her room again. The hallway is deserted once more, all of the children having gone home for the day, but the light under her door lets him know she’s still here. Because of course she is. Her job isn’t over when the school day ends, oh no. She’s so much of a goody-two-shoes that she probably stays here until dark, working on stupid lesson plans to make sure that every precious child in her class is happy. And if they aren’t, she fucking files reports on their parents. Like she did to him.
He bangs on the door until she answers.
Once she gets a look at who is on the other side of the door, at who has come to pay her a little visit, she tries to shut the damn door in his face.
But he’s faster, stronger. He pushes his shoulder against the door with brute force until she yelps, leaping away so that he can charge inside. He slams the door behind him and locks it, his eyes never once straying from her.
She’s backed into the corner by her desk and she looks scared. Frightened. Like a little doe with her wide eyes and freckles. Fuck her.
“Mr. Solo, this is unprofessional, I need you to leave immediately—”
“Shut the fuck up.”
As he advances on her she darts over to her purse on the desk and pulls something out, brandishing it at him.
“If you come any closer to me I’m going to use it,” she threatens, her voice shaking.
He takes another step closer. “I’d like to see you try.”
Her lip quivers. “I will. I swear I will. And I’ll call the police after.”
“I’d deal with you before they even got here.”
She starts to actually cry. “What is wrong with you? Why are you doing this?”
“Why did you do it?”
“Do what?” she wails.
“You know what. Don’t be a fucking idiot. Why the fuck did you call Child Protective Services on me? Do you know they came to my place this afternoon? Just a short while ago? Huh? When I wasn’t even there? They could have—” He cuts himself off before he’s able to say it. They could have found the drugs. He hides them, keeps them well out of reach of Kye, but one look in the medicine cabinet of his bathroom would have been incredibly damning. He has enough in there to wipe out an army.
She wipes at her eyes with her shoulder, still holding the can of pepper spray at arm’s length. “You don’t - you don’t even know it was me! Those reports are anonymous.”
“Who the fuck else would it be, Rey?”
“You don’t - you don’t get to call me that!” She squares her shoulders, a little bit more of her bravado back.
He can change that.
Another step closer and she’s trembling again.
“Put the pepper spray down and let’s talk.”
“I could wrestle you for it but it wouldn’t be pretty. Put it down.”
“No! You’re a psycho!”
He laughs at that. “Yeah, probably. But you know what I’m not? A fucking child abuser. I would never, ever hurt my boy like that. Do you understand me? I’d rather kill my fucking self that lay a hand on that child.”
She lowers her arms when he says that, her guard lowered just a little. Ever defiant, though, she juts out her chin when she speaks back to him.
“Abuse and neglect can take different forms, Mr. Solo. It - it doesn’t always have to be physical. Trust me, I’ve lived it.”
“I’ve lived it too. You’re not fucking special.”
Tears well in her eyes again. “If you know what it’s like, why in the world would you treat your son the way you do?”
His temper is rising again, rising so much he’s shaking, but the reality of what he’s done has finally hit him. He’s stormed into a classroom. On private property that probably has cameras on every hallway. Threatened a teacher. All of that could be used against him. The investigation with ACS is still open, and it will remain open if he keeps this up. It goes against every natural impulse to stifle his anger, but he has to.
“He’s well provided for. You’re friends with his nanny, surely you know this. He never goes hungry, he has his own room filled with books and toys. He sees his grandparents often and he’s always with Finn. Always. From the time he wakes up to whenever I get home from work. Does that sound like an abused, neglected child to you?”
“He’s scared of you! And you order him around like he’s a dog, not a child! In the handful of minutes I observed you interact with him, I saw so many red flags. So many. And I’m - I’m mandated, by law, to report whenever I suspect abuse and neglect are at play.”
He swallows back a curse, running his hands through his hair again. “So it was you.”
She swallows nervously, but she nods. “Yes.”
He already knew, of course, but to hear confirmation...it’s too much. What the fuck is he going to do? They’re barely into the school year and she’s already filed a report against him. He’ll have to change schools. Pull Kye out of this environment and place him somewhere else. Back to square one, no progress made with fixing his son.
“I’m - sorry for this. What I did today. I shouldn’t have,” he tries, but he doesn’t even believe himself, and by the look on her face she doesn’t believe him for a second, either. So it’s time to bargain instead. “What can I do? To make it up to you?”
She scoffs, shaking her head. “Why are you asking about me? I don’t matter. It’s your son who does. Can’t you see that? Can’t you just...agree to let him learn at his own pace, in his own way?”
“Would it get you off my back if I did?”
She doesn’t answer immediately and he can tell she’s thinking it over, that she’s conflicted. That she’s still scared he’s going to do something to her.
Finally, she says, “I have to report these things. I have to. And I’ll - I’ll do it all over again, too, if I have any reason to believe that Kye isn’t being taken care of. But if you show me that isn’t the case...if you allow your child some freedom to learn, to express himself in a way that works for him...then yes, I won’t give you trouble.”
He’s out of options. He needs time to process all of this, to decide what to do about Kye’s education. In the meantime, what she’s proposing will have to work. If he doesn’t cooperate, he could lose his son altogether. And that can’t happen. He won’t let it.
“Fine,” he agrees.
She seems satisfied with that answer, or as satisfied as one can be with an angry parent who just strong-armed his way into the classroom.
“Fine,” she echoes, then nods towards the door. “Now...get out. Before I change my mind. Before I call the police and make things even uglier for you. Don’t think that I won’t.”
God, she’s beautiful in her self-righteous anger. Beautiful and magnetic, mesmerizing, like a new kind of drug he can’t say no to. He wants to fuck her. To make her scream. To own her, possess her, so that it feels like she’s in his mercy instead of the other way around.
These are the thoughts that consume him as he leaves the school that day.
By the time he’s home, he’s already made up his mind.
He’s going to ruin her life. Not in an obvious way. Not in a way that would immediately jeopardize the fragile, begrudged understanding they now have. Not in a way that would end up with him losing his kid.
But he needs her to pay.
To regret ever crossing him.
Yes, he’s fully prepared to ruin her fucking life.
Because he’ll be damned if he lets her ruin his.
STRAP IN, Y'ALL!!
I'm gonna be a broken record saying this but please do remember this will end in a HEA. Lots to unpack before that point, though. I hope you'll stay with me even when it gets pretty bleak.
My beta and friend Michelle has made a playlist for this fic! Go and check it out 😊 Thanks Michelle!
And thank *you*, readers, for the incredible response to this fic so far. I was so nervous to post this because as I said last chapter, it's so different and darker than my other writing. But you've given me the confidence to continue it and push myself! That means so much to me 💜💜
TW this chapter for drug use and obsessive/stalking behavior
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
It starts off with a simple Google search of her name.
He finds her on Facebook. On Instagram. On Twitter. No sign of her on dating websites, though, which is oddly satisfying. A large part of him bristles at the idea of there being a boyfriend or lover. Of someone regularly having access to her body, to her innermost thoughts, her desires, her larger-than-life smiles, her scornful frowns.
Most of her profiles are private, but he doesn’t let that stop him. It’s as simple as finding a picture of some stupid hipster with blond hair and horrible glasses and using him to make a fake account on all platforms. ‘Matt’, a twenty-something engineer who lives in the West Village, befriends a few gullible acquaintances of hers, and that’s all it takes for her to accept his request when he finally sends it. Because ‘mutual’ evokes a sense of comfort, a sense of safety. A mutual follower, a mutual friend. It’s that easy to dupe her.
Once he has access to her social media, he looks through all of the information that’s available to him.
She’s nearly 10 years younger than him. 24, soon to be 25. She graduated top of her class from a smaller college in New Hampshire, because of course she did. Little miss perfect then received an additional certification in early childhood special education. That would explain her adamant use of sign language with Kye and wanting students to ‘learn at their own pace’. Utter horseshit.
That’s only the beginning.
The more he follows her, the more he learns about her, and he is equal parts disgusted and intrigued by all of her personality quirks.
She loves children. Really loves them. She’s always humble bragging about what an honor it is to teach a new generation of young learners. She posts pictures of her students’ drawings on her Instagram. She shares articles on her Facebook about the importance of early intervention, social-emotional learning, and attachment parenting. Even though she doesn’t even have any fucking kids of her own. She just...gets off on taking a holier-than-thou stance on child rearing. Any way but her way is wrong, vile, and damaging, and she doesn’t care who knows it.
She's a foodie and constantly tweets about what she’s eating, but she keeps in shape by doing ridiculous things like goat yoga and Zombie 5ks. She likes to bake, she goes to trivia every Tuesday at her local sports bar, and she’s passionate about supporting small businesses and thrifting clothes. She’s also an unrepentant nerd. In fact, she flaunts it. She watches Doctor Who. She loves comic books. She takes actual, unironic pride in being a Gryffindor, and even saved up to visit The Wizarding World of Harry Potter for her 21st birthday. Who the fuck does that shit? Her, apparently, because she has two whole fucking photo albums devoted to it.
He hates her.
He hates how open she is about everything. He hates how much she smiles in photos, how relentlessly optimistic she is, how she makes it no secret that she loves her life and the things in it.
...Yet this hatred does nothing to stop him from saving a video of her enjoying a frothy beer at a bar and then shamefully masturbating to it for the next several days, thinking about her eating his cum with the same level of enthusiasm...
Or downloading every single tagged picture of her in a bikini or yoga pants or low cut top and doing the same damn thing.
It only spirals downward from there. What starts out as a way of locating her exploitable vulnerabilities and weaknesses turns into a full blown obsession with everything about Rey Niima. He spends hours upon hours studying her. When he wakes up, he checks to see if she’s posted anything new. Before he tries to sleep, he does the same thing. He dreams about her constantly, and they turn increasingly sexual each time. He’s committed her entire body to memory. Wide hazel eyes. A freckled nose which, he finds out, used to be pierced in college. Pink lips, perfect teeth. Small tits, a toned stomach, a surprisingly thick ass. All of this features heavily in the dreams he has about her.
One morning, he even discovers that he’s rutted against his pillows and ejaculated in his sleep — something he hasn’t done since he was fourteen.
In the blink of an eye, she becomes a newer, more alluring addiction for him. Even better than his job. In some ways, even better than drugs. He finds himself checking his phone during business meetings, during fashion shows, during dinners that he should spend with Kye...even times when he has the apartment to himself and should be catching up on work.
That’s how he finds out that she’s going to a club with her friends one night.
Finn has requested the weekend off, so Kye is at Leia and Han’s until Monday morning when they’ll take him to school. Ben had hoped to make the most of this alone time by working interrupted, but those plans go to shit when a new post from Finn pops up on Instagram. Once he sees that Rey is in the picture, smiling widely and holding up a peace sign, Ben quickly clicks on it.
The caption reads:
Night on the town for this one’s birthday! First stop: CantoBightNightClub for some drinks and dancing. #ReybieTurns25 #LetsDoThis
Ben scoffs. He has, unfortunately, heard of Canto Bight. He’s been there many a time, in fact, and he’d vowed to never step foot in there again after a particularly horrible bender of a weekend where he’d woken up alone on the roof, robbed of his wallet and phone, lying in a pool of his own vomit—
He shakes his head, willing himself not to think of that.
Rey - she’s there now. He could go and find her there, easily.
Find her and…
With unsteady hands, he makes three little white lines on the glass countertop of the coffee table in his living room.
Then he rolls up a well-used Hamilton bill and snorts up all of the powder until his nose burns.
He doesn’t have to wait in the long line outside the club before getting in; the bouncer takes one look at Ben’s Rolex and Gucci suit and lets him bypass everyone. Ignoring the shouts of protest from the people who had been next in line, he shoulders past them.
The thumping, booming bass of the club’s music vibrates around him, strobe lights near blinding in their intensity, but he has a razor sharp focus, determined to catch a glimpse of her.
And he does, after only a few minutes of searching.
She’s on the main dancefloor, surrounded by a group of friends including Finn. Laughing, dancing, looking like she’s having the time of her life.
Ben keeps his distance for awhile, deciding on a strategy. He can’t approach her just yet. She’s with friends and he’d rather her be alone. It’ll take a bit of manipulation on his part to make that happen. So he climbs the stairs to the VIP area on the upper level where he has access, knowing it’s the best vantage point to see nearly everyone in the overpacked club.
Then he waits, never taking his eyes off her. Not that she’s hard to miss; she’s wearing a tight little dress made of sequins that reflect light every time she moves. An easy target. Easy prey, he thinks to himself. But that’s not entirely accurate, is it? She’s more headstrong and stubborn than the women he usually picks up in places like this. He doesn’t have to work hard to get them sucking his cock or spreading their legs.
With her, he will. It’s been a couple weeks since their standoff, and she doesn’t strike him as the type to forget or forgive so quickly. It’s going to take a lot of charm, flirting, and offers of drinks to make her even tolerate his presence.
But he can do it. He’s up for the challenge. Because he’s decided he’s taking her home tonight. He can’t keep living like he has, pathetically stalking her social media for small little peeks of her, not when he can have the real thing.
He’s always been selfish, always been greedy, has always known what he wants and how to get it.
And he wants her. Desperately. All of her. To fuck and to ruin. His skin crawls and his cock aches with how much he does, and he’s not going to stop until he has her pinned to his mattress, fucking her rough and hard like he’s dreamt of doing time and time again. He’s not going to stop until she’s screaming his name, split open on his cock, begging him for more like a little slut instead of the angel she likes to think she is.
Thirty minutes later, when one of Rey’s girl friends pulls her off the crowded dance floor in the direction of the equally crowded bar, Ben seizes his chance.
Taking the stairs two at a time, he tracks them down. They’re both struggling to get the attention of the bartenders, Rey’s friend more so as she’s petite, standing on her tiptoes to see over the other customers. After several minutes of this and no luck ordering drinks they split up, going to opposite ends of the long bar for a chance to squeeze in.
Ben smiles. Perfect.
The friend is wearing jeans, the outline of her phone obvious through the back pocket. Ben sidles up beside her, waits a few seconds, then reaches to grab her phone when she leans forward over the counter.
He’s out of sight, her phone powered off and tucked into his suit jacket, before she even turns around to punch the unlucky man who she mistakenly assumes has grabbed her ass.
With that diversion in place, Ben weaves his way through the pack of bodies to where he knows that Rey went off to.
He locates her quickly, her sequins like a beacon to his coke-addled brain. Then he finally, finally makes his move, coming right up behind her, leaning close so she can hear him.
She turns around so fast, she spills the drink that she’s holding all over herself and him.
Eyes big as saucers, her facial features morph from fright to disbelief when she looks up at him, realizing who she’s just bumped into.
“Shit!” she repeats, clutching her now empty plastic cup to her chest. “You scared the shit out of me!”
“Apologies. I suppose I deserved that. Still, a Tequila Sunrise is much better than pepper spray,” he jokes, making a show of wiping off his designer suit. He has so many suits that ruining this one means nothing, but it’s a way to earn some immediate sympathy from her.
And much to his satisfaction, he does earn it. She’s still standoffish, still wary of him, but it’s a start.
“Oh, crap - I’m sorry. Uh - here’s a napkin?” She holds up an already soaked cocktail napkin and he grins, in the way that he does to pull women. And it works. She blinks in quick succession and then averts her gaze like she’s flustered. The strobe lights cast everything in an unnatural neon hue so he can’t see if she’s truly blushing but he’d bet on it.
“I’ll buy you another drink for ruining yours.” It’s a statement, not a question, but she shakes her head quickly.
“No, I’d rather you not. What - what are you doing here?” she shouts, to be heard over the noise.
To take you home, he thinks, unable to help himself from getting a closer look at her now. The sequined dress and black strappy heels she’s wearing are cheaply made, probably from some tacky retailer like Forever 21 or Fashion Nova, but they do their job of accentuating her figure and displaying her assets. Her hair is down around her shoulders, slightly wavy, and she’s even given herself a smokey eye and pink lip. The overall effect is very alluring, he has to admit. Alluring in a different way than her oversized sweaters and converse. Like day and night. He can’t wait to smudge her makeup and rip off all of her clothing but for now, he has to keep playing his game and answer her questions.
“I do have a personal life, you know. Looks like you do too,” he says, raising his brow.
“Yeah. Yeah, I do.”
“Teacher in a nightclub, though. Bit unusual.”
She frowns at that. “It’s not like that. I don’t go clubbing a lot.”
“Oh? Don’t you?”
“No, this is my first time here. It’s—” She brushes lingering droplets of drink from the front of her dress, and his eyes linger there too, on the scant cleavage that he can see. She’s nervous, he realizes, even though it looks like she’s already had a few drinks. Even though she stood up to him twice at the school. Nervous because she senses the tension between them? The undercurrent of desire?
“It’s what?” he asks her when she isn’t forthcoming with a reply, despite knowing what she’d meant to say. He’d fucking stalked her, after all.
“It’s my birthday. I’m here with my friends. They talked me into celebrating big this year since it’s my twenty-fifth and...well, they were successful.”
He pretends to act surprised. “Happy birthday! Enjoying it so far?”
Her frown falters, like she’s not used to seeing this nicer side of him, but she doesn’t appear suspicious. Her guard is down because of the drinks.
“I can’t complain,” she shrugs.
“Then how about that drink? To keep you enjoying yourself.”
“No thanks, Mr. Solo. I’m good.”
He deepens his voice just a bit more and leans in close, like he has a secret to tell her.
“It’s Ben. And I insist. Anything on the menu. In fact, you should ask the bartender to make you the most expensive drink with the most expensive liquor. My treat.”
She shakes her head no again, backing up to re-establish some distance between them. “That’s nice of you, but I need to go find my friend Rose, she’s probably ordered already—”
“It’s not every day a woman turns twenty-five. Live a little. I’m offering, I can afford it, you will certainly enjoy it. Get a taste of the finer things. Then I can help you find your friend? You’ll need backup. It’s a zoo in here.”
That gives her pause. She bites her lip, considering, as she looks over her shoulder, probably looking for her friend. The same friend whose phone he’d stolen. The sight of her pearly white teeth tugging on the glossy pinkness of her lip goes straight to his cock.
Determined, he presses, “How about this, we can go to the VIP area on the second level? You can see everything from up there. The servers bring you drinks, too. That way we can look for your friend and you don’t have to push and shove for a chance to flag down a shitty bartender.”
This suggestion grabs her dwindling attention again.
“Wait, you’re a VIP?” she asks, tucking a piece of hair behind her ear, then grimaces. “Oh God, what am I saying? Of course you are. You’re the CEO of First Order! ”
“Editor-in-Chief. Not quite the same thing. Been researching me, have you?”
She splutters at that, caught off guard. “Well, it’s - it’s common knowledge! And I already knew before, when I first reconnected with Finn - he told me - I don’t - I haven’t, like, looked you up online or anything!”
He genuinely laughs at that. If she knew how much he’s looked into her, she wouldn’t feel so embarrassed. “Relax. I was joking. So how about the drink? Consider it my dysfunctional way of making up for what transpired a few weeks back. I know it won’t solve everything, not even close, but...maybe we can start off on the right foot this time?”
She looks over her shoulder again in search of her friend and then sighs, meeting his eyes appraisingly.
“One drink. That’s it.”
Ben smirks. He’s got her.
One drink turns into several, after he orders two rounds of birthday shots for her. Then she agrees to sit down with him on one of the leather couches in the VIP area while she calls her friend and looks for the rest of them in the crowd below.
“It keeps going to her voicemail!” she laments, sipping the Tequila Sunrise that he’d replaced for her. “It’s my birthday, why isn’t she answering? And my texts aren’t going through, either! The signal is shitty up here!”
“Have you tried calling your other friends?”
“Finn picked up once but it was useless. The bass is so loud I couldn’t make out what he was saying!”
She looks genuinely distressed, and he feels an unexpected pang of sympathy hit him suddenly. Maybe it’s the alcohol in his own system, or maybe the cocaine waning, but he’s feeling far less vindictive than before. In fact, he actually feels a twinge of remorse for taking her friend’s phone. He’s succeeded in getting her alone which was his plan all along, yes, but now he’s less sure of himself. Is this right, what he’s doing? It doesn’t feel right. He’s built up a version of her in his head these past few weeks to hate, but he’s struggling to feel anything close to hatred for her now.
She feels soft sitting next to him and smells like sunshine and she’s actually smiled at him tonight, in spite of everything he’s done to her, every threat he made that day in her classroom and every barb he’d thrown and God, why is he so much of a damaged human being that he’s trying to actively damage someone else, too? Someone who he knows is pure of intent, someone he knows deep down is a better person than he can ever hope to be? What does that say about him?
That he’s fucking disgusting, that’s what. That he’s disgusting and horrible and should just kill himself because he’ll never amount to anything more than an a widower who contributed to his wife’s eating disorder and death. An absent father. An addict. And as if those three traits weren’t damning enough, now he’s also a fucking stalker who manipulates women into spending time with him.
He’s nothing but a sorry, sad excuse for a man, who does everything he can to avoid that unfortunate truth, including taking drugs. And he can’t even do that right, either. He should know by now that mixing uppers and downers makes him overly emotional yet here he is, three sheets to the wind and crashing from a coke binge, so full of self-loathing that he feels like he could choke on it.
“Fuck,” he mutters, shoving his hand into his jacket’s pocket. His fingers brush over her friend’s phone and he almost takes it out, but then he feels something else he’d forgotten about. Something else he’d stowed away in there.
Both yellow with a smiley logo stamped on them.
“What is that?”
He realizes too late that he’d taken them out in front of her. He has two fucking ecstasy tablets in the palm of his hand and he can only stare back at her, blinking stupidly.
Not stopping to think about whether it’s a good idea, he pops one into his mouth. He can’t keep feeling this way. He needs a pick-me-up. Rolling on E will help him.
“It’s antacid,” he explains, once he’s swallowed it down.
Her eyes go wide. “Acid?”
“Oh.” She takes another sip of her drink, missing her straw the first time. She hiccups, then holds out her hand. “Could I have the other? I get bad heartburn when I have too much liquor.”
Shit. Shitshitshit. “Uh...that’s...that’s probably not a good idea.”
Her brow furrows in an endearing way. “Why not?”
“Oh, piss off, let me have it!”
She plucks it from his hand before he can make his dulled down reflexes stop her.
And he watches, horrified, feeling like the room is in slow motion, as she tips back her head—
“Rey, wait!” he yells.
—and drops it into her mouth.
“Fuck!” he yells again. “FUCK!”
“Ugh, why was that so bitter? Aren’t Tums sweet?” she grimaces, smacking her lips in distaste. She reaches for her drink to wash the taste away but he stops her, panicked.
“Don’t! Don’t drink. You can’t drink anything, do you hear me?”
“But it’s my birthday!” she pouts.
“You can’t fucking drink with ecstasy! It fucks with your body’s salt levels, goddammit! Do you want to die?!”
“W-what?” She gapes at him, her hands reaching for her throat. “What ? What did you say? Ecstasy?! You gave me ECSTASY?! ”
“You took it from me!”
“You said it was Tums!”
“I fucking lied!” he roars, beside himself, but the music drowns out the noise. No one else up here is aware of what’s just happened. Not one of the hundreds of people on the ground floor, either. Just him. Just Rey.
Whose lips are trembling now, her eyes filling up with tears.
“You’re a fucking MONSTER!” she screams back, then throws her drink in his face.
He’s momentarily stunned, so stunned that he isn’t able to immediately grab for her when she stands up on wobbly legs and rushes towards the stairs.
Forcing his body to work, he follows her as fast as he can down the stairs. She’s quick for a drunk person, God she’s quick, but her dress shimmers in the club’s frenetic lighting, helping him keep track of where she’s headed.
So when she disappears to the very back end of the club that leads to the outdoor pavilion, he has no choice but to follow her. He’s gotten them into this mess and he’s going to get them out, or he’ll never be able to live with himself.
...so that happened LOL
Interested to see what you guys think about this chapter. I went back and forth between how I wanted it to go but ultimately, I needed them both to be on the same level of altered reality so...this is what I came up with. Huge thanks to Michelle for always encouraging me to be brave with my writing choices. She talked me out of some doubts I had and for that I owe her my firstborn. She's also writing a fic for Dadam's "You Need A Teacher" collection called "Seducing Mr. Solo". HIGHLY RECOMMEND!
I also have to plug a round robin-style fic that me and my fellow Dadam writers participated in. It's a Great British Bake Off AU called "When I Kneaded You" 🥖❤️️
Ben had a few ideas how his night would go, but none of his plans involved chasing after a freakishly fast woman while drunk off his ass, trying to convince her to throw up. The ecstasy he uses is strong as shit and only takes thirty minutes to kick in for him, so he knows it’ll be even less for her. It needs to be out of her system quickly so she doesn’t absorb it. Time is of the essence, here - but holy fuck is she fast. Must be all of those Zombie 5ks.
“Get back here!” he shouts at her, trying to weave in and out of the crowd outside as quickly as he can.
Canto Bight is one of the largest nightclubs on this side of Manhattan, and he sends up a curse to whichever dumbfuck architect designed this sprawling place as he runs after her past the main pavilion and into the pleasure garden. Yes, a fucking pleasure garden. This entire place’s gimmick is that it’s a futuristic twist on 18th century London nightlife, complete with an outdoor entertainment space designed to mimic Vauxhall Gardens.
Rococopunk, it advertises itself, and he’s never hated that expression more than he does right now. Fuck Canto Bight, fuck Rey Niima, fuck him, this is awful.
Up ahead, he sees her suddenly veer off into one of the many side paths amongst the rows and rows of hedges. There’s only one way out; turning back around onto the main pathway, so she can’t escape him anymore. Thank God. He’s getting fucking winded sprinting this much. He’s already got a stitch in his side. He presses his hand against it as he turns the corner, catching another glimpse of those sequins—
And then: unspeakable, painful burning in his eyes, so much that it feels like his skin is boiling off.
“FUCK!!!” he screams.
It all happens so fast after that.
One second he’s standing upright albeit staggering, coughing violently, blinded and wanting to claw his eyes out. The next he’s been flipped over onto his back so hard that the breath is knocked from his lungs.
She’d fucking pepper sprayed him then thrown him onto the ground like a sack of potatoes. Like a bag of sand. All six foot three, two hundred pounds of him. While wearing a dress and heels.
What the fuck kind of Kung Fu movie has he stumbled into? And where in the fuck had she been hiding that pepper spray, in her fucking underwear?!
Ben pushes himself up onto his elbows, his ribs aching, gasping for breath. He’s never had them broken before so he doesn’t know what that feels like, but something isn’t right. At the very least, he’ll be badly bruised. Worst case scenario, he’s punctured a lung. Gravel digs into his exposed skin, his swollen shut eyes are screaming in pain, and there’s a ringing in his ears but they still work well enough for him to freeze when he hears her voice.
That, and because a stiletto heel is being pressed into his Adam’s apple.
“Move and I’ll fucking end you.”
“Fuck, cunting shit of a fuck—!”
She grinds the heel just a bit deeper, showing him just a hint of the damage she could really inflict to his windpipe, and Ben immediately shuts up.
“You have five seconds to tell me how to undo what you did or I’ll pepper spray you again,” she seethes.
“Throw up!” Ben rasps.
She guffaws. “That’s rich coming from you, you’re like a manchild!”
“THROW UP, I said THROW UP, not grow up, FUCK!”
The heel is removed from his throat and Ben exhales raggedly, letting out the air he’d been holding. He lays there in the gravel, stunned, the smell of cigarette smoke, alcohol, and weed from the nearby crowd intermingling with the overwhelming smell of pepper in his sinuses. Nearby, he can hear her gagging.
“I can’t do it! How do you do it?!”
“Back. Back of the throat. Wiggle your fingers,” he manages to get out, his own throat on fire.
More gagging, and then she starts crying.
“I can’t! Help me! Help!”
He hears her move back towards him and then feels her grab at his arm, pulling his hand up to her lips.
Oh shit. Nononono, don’t do that, no—
Just as quickly, she shoves it away. A small mercy.
“Ugh, the pepper! You rubbed your eyes!”
What the hell was I supposed to do?, he wants to say, but he doesn’t have the energy.
She curses under her breath, like she’s mentally preparing herself, then grabs at his hand again.
“Do it! Quickly!”
He tries to jerk his arm away this time but she’s strong, or at least stronger than he is at the moment.
“Don’t make me,” he hisses.
She pulls on his hand. “Do it!!”
He doesn’t want to tell her the truth.
My wife used to beg me to do it when she physically couldn’t make herself vomit anymore. She used to scream, cry, descend into panic attacks if food wasn’t out of her fast enough. I spent far too many nights on the floor of our bathroom beside her, helping her through it, the stench of bile inescapable.
“Please?” Rey tries again, sobbing, her voice sounding desperate now. “Mr. Solo - Ben - please!”
Fuck. Fuck everything. He can’t say no to her. Just like Bazine.
Wordlessly, he blindly feels for the back of her neck, placing one of his hands there to steady her. With the other, he pushes past her lips. Her throat closes up against the invasion, but he shoves his fingers further back with practiced ease, then moves them up and down. He’s done this so much, he could do it in his sleep. So much he has nightmares about it, and he knows this experience is only going to add to that tally.
But it works. When he feels her body tense up, hears her gag, he rolls out of the way onto his side.
She retches behind him. It isn’t a lot. He doesn’t even know if it’s enough to have removed all of the E from her system. He estimates it’s been about fifteen minutes since they’ve both taken it, so she’ll know soon enough whether the vomiting worked. They both will.
Ben tries to open his eyes and he’s able to this time without searing pain, although his vision is still cloudy. He can see the faint outline of her, along with those fucking sequins, but not much else.
Moaning quietly, trying not to throw up himself, he closes his eyes again, spots dancing in his vision from the multicolored lights strung up above them.
After awhile, the pain goes away. Both in his eyes and throughout his body from the fall. Nothing hurts now. Quite the opposite. He feels wonderful. Even the gravel beneath his back feels good. Like a sort of exotic massage. Something people would go to the spa and pay a lot of money for but he gets to experience for free. Right here. Maybe Canto Bight isn’t so bad after all.
Ben spreads his arms out, sighing, then brings his hand to his nose, wiping away the snot that’s accumulated there from the pepper spray. Fuck, that feels so good. He rubs at his nose again, not bothering to contain the blissful groan that escapes past his lips.
“Are you guys okay over here?” a voice calls.
Ben startles slightly at that, sitting up to see who is speaking. No one he recognizes. Some guy in a neon green brocade waistcoat and pink wig, carrying a tray of what looks like jell-o shots. An employee of the club, then. They all have to dress up in costumes.
“I’m fine. So good. Enjoying the night. How are you?” Ben asks.
The employee just stares at him, not answering the question, then nods at Ben’s lap. “Is she okay?”
Ben’s gaze flicks down. “Oh.”
Curled up against him, using his knee as a pillow. She isn’t asleep; she’s blinking, lashes fluttering against her cheeks, and her mouth parts as the silence stretches on.
“I’m okay,” she mumbles. “I’m okay. I’m really okay.”
Ben looks up at the employee again, repeating in case he didn’t hear. “She said she’s okay.”
She’s still here. She hasn’t...left. Why hasn’t she left? He thought that she would have by now. Gone back inside the club and found her friends, getting the hell out of this place. Instead, she’s by his side. And that can only be for one reason. She’s high, too. Subdued, out of it. Not herself. Not the girl who’d blinded him and knocked him on his ass. Who wanted nothing to do with him.
Slowly, taking care, he brushes a lock of hair from her face. Her hair is unbelievably soft. Spun silk. And it smells incredible. The same sunshine smell as the rest of her. A mixture of sunscreen, ocean waves, and...childhoods spent at the beach. Life was simple then. Always with nannies, never with his parents, but he was happy nonetheless. Happier. Not so complicated. She reminds him of all of that.
To hold back tears, Ben clears his throat at the same time that the employee does too.
“If you’re both fine, would you mind moving to a different location? We have plenty of outdoor seating available and we like to keep the walkways clear.”
“Sure, yeah. Sure. We’ll get up in a minute. Thank you.”
Seemingly satisfied with that answer, the employee lingers for only a few seconds more and then goes on his way, leaving them alone again.
“I feel so strange. Even saying words feels strange. Like how if you write out a word too many times it stops looking like English.”
Ben looks down and finds her staring up at him. Her makeup is smudged, from crying or because she threw up he can’t say, but that doesn’t matter. She’s beautiful. He’s struck by her beauty, the force of it robbing him of breath.
“Is it normal to feel this strange?” she asks.
“No. You’re—” He wets his lips, deciding how to break the news to her as gently as possible. “Rey, I think you might be rolling. I couldn’t help you. The vomiting didn't work. I’m - I’m sorry.”
If he weren’t so high, the knowledge that he’d failed her would cut deep. The guilt would ruin him, and maybe that still might happen in the morning when he doesn’t have chemicals coursing through his rotting system, making him feel emotions he can’t experience naturally. For now, though...the happiness, peace, and contentment wins out over anything else. If he had to guess, she’s probably feeling the same thing.
“Oh.” Rey is silent for a time, digesting his words, and then does something he isn’t anywhere near prepared for: she starts rubbing her cheek against his leg, over and over, like she’s a kitten. “I was so afraid of how it would feel. But it feels good. You feel good.”
That wrenches at his heart at such an unexpected way that he feels the tears well up again. What had he been thinking, trying to hurt someone like this? Trying to cause her harm? She was right about him. He’s a monster. And she’s an innocent, much in the same way that Kye is. She sees the world through a softer lens, sees the good in people. Even for those who don’t deserve it, who have done her wrong before. Like him.
“Rey, I’m not a good man,” he tells her, stroking her hair again, letting it anchor him. “I’ve done a lot of things that I’m not proud of.”
“Everyone has their dark sides.”
“No, I mean...tonight, even tonight, I’ve done things that I shouldn’t have.” It’s torture, disentangling his fingers from her hair, but he has to show her the phone he stole. Her friend’s phone. He has to tell her how awful he’s been, looking her up online for weeks. Following her here.
She catches his hand as it’s halfway to his jacket pocket, clasping it between both of hers. They both gasp at the contact, feeling the same thing. Her hands are so warm and soft. The hands of a nurturer, the hands of an angel. She’s an angel.
He doesn’t realize he’s said that out loud until her face lights up in one of those megawatt smiles and oh God, her laugh - has he ever heard her laugh? Like bells chiming, calling him home.
“Oh, hey - don’t cry,” she soothes, sitting up properly. She touches his face, fingers caressing his cheekbone, collecting his tears. And then…
Then she wraps her arms around him in an embrace, and hugs him. It’s too much. It’s too much! But somehow, not enough either.
“You haven’t been given one of these in awhile, have you?”
His shoulders rack with sobs and it’s the best feeling of his life, this release. He shakes his head no, wrapping his arms around her to hug her back, and inhales deeply, letting her into his senses, letting her surround him.
“I forgive you,” she murmurs, rocking him back and forth like he’s a child.
“How - how can you say that, when you don't know what I’ve done?”
“Shh. Tell me later. Not right now. Let’s stay in this moment. Let’s put everything else behind us. Do you hear that song?”
It drifts overhead, its slow tempo and almost eerie chords so different from the thumping, upbeat music that played inside of the club. It’s beautiful, and haunting, and when she pulls him to his feet and coaxes him to follow her deeper into the garden, to locate where the music is coming from, he follows. Like a moth drawn to a flame.
They find a smaller dance floor in a stone courtyard, surrounded on all sides by lush foliage and tents where club members lounge, drinking and smoking. Everyone dancing looks possessed, most of them probably high on similar mood enhancing drugs.
Ben has never been much of a dancer. In fact, he usually avoids it. But Rey asks him to - urging him to follow her into the crowd of writhing dancers, all of them lost in their own pleasure - and he can’t resist her.
They sway to the music, chest to chest, giving themselves up to it like everyone else around them. While they dance, Rey looks up at him intensely and he stares back at her, losing himself in the hidden depths of her eyes. There’s pain there, a fragility, but also a steel strength. God, she’s so strong. In both body and mind. Strong where he’s weak, soft curves where he’s all sharp edges and angles. They complement each other - almost too much. So much that it would be dangerous, explosive, if they gave in to this tension between them. He feels it, and he knows she does, too. Hazel eyes searching, pink lips parted.
But Ben has never done well with temptation. Dangerous and explosive are the status quo for him. They’re his normal, what he seeks out, what he craves.
So when she kisses him softly, he returns it with the full force of a hurricane, the song fading out as they press against one another, seeking friction that will inevitably lead to something much more than a kiss.
Never meant to hurt you, no
Never meant to make you cry
I’m so sorry, honey
For what I’m becoming
They take a taxi to his place. They can barely keep their hands off each other on the ride there. The need to touch her is so strong, so intense, that it’s nearly unbearable to be apart for long. But they make it the entire way, somehow, and when they do, it’s Ben’s turn to pull her along after him. Past the doorman and into the lobby, down the corridor to the elevator, and up fifty floors to his apartment.
She stops short when she enters, still holding onto his hand.
“You live here?”
She looks around in wonder, like she’s never seen a place like this before. Maybe she hasn’t. A teacher's salary won’t give you an apartment like this, no matter how hard you try.
He’s never given much thought to it, but it is nice. Open space, vaulted ceilings, marble countertops and floors, an excess of windows. It’s too far up to see the skyline unless you stand right by them, so he takes her to the best view: his bedroom.
“Wow. Just wow,” she breathes, her fingers tracing the window glass over and over, leaving streaks from her fingerpads. He stands behind her, covering her hands with his own so they move as one.
“What do you think?” he asks, mouthing at the skin of her neck. Her pulse flutters underneath his lips like a butterfly’s wing.
“I’m usually afraid of heights but...it’s beautiful. So high up. Everything below you, nothing above. I wonder if this is how God feels? How angels do?”
He doesn’t know. He doesn’t feel like God when he looks down at the city below him. He usually feels...empty. Detached. This is the first time in awhile that he’s been able to fully appreciate the cityscape that comes with the exorbitant price tag attached to this place. Mostly due to the wonders of E, but it’s also because of her. She makes him feel things that he’s avoided or dismissed as inconsequential.
“Do you ever get lonely, being so far removed from it all?” she asks.
He knows Kye does. But Ben would be lying if he said no. Lying doesn’t come so naturally to him in the state he’s in right now. Ecstasy is aptly named. It makes you lower your defenses, transforming you into the person you should be, if you were insanely happy all of the time. And what he should be doing is telling the truth. Every instinct is calling out for him to be honest, be open.
“I do get lonely. A lot,” he confesses. “And I cope with it in all the wrong ways.”
She turns to face him. Raises her hand to caress his cheek, again and again, her fingertips featherlight on his skin like she’s committing him to memory. He practically melts into her touch. He would do anything she asked if she were to keep touching him like this forever.
“I get lonely too, sometimes. It’s hard not to in a city this big. You have to find places, people that you connect to. Anything else...it’s just filling the hole that loneliness digs, but not helping you out of it. Connections ease the loneliness altogether. Connecting. That’s what is important.”
Connecting. He can feel himself connecting to her. Every passing second, it feels like an invisible thread between them is tightening, sewing them together. Like it’s fate, that they’ve ended up finding each other. So what if it’s dangerous, so what if it’s fucked? Right here, right now - it feels so incredibly right.
He picks her up with little effort, the faint pain of his fall from earlier only an echo, and takes her to his bed. He’s thought of her being here, of course, but every feverish fantasy pales in comparison to the real experience. And he finds that he no longer wants the rough, dispassionate fucking he imagined. No. He wants to open her up, explore her body. Give her pleasure instead of take it. She deserves it. She deserves to be treated like she matters, like she’s important. Because she is.
“I don’t - I don’t really have experience with this,” she tells him, sighing, as he first takes her heels off, then kisses his way up her spread legs. “I’ve never…”
She trails off, sighing again, when he licks at her thigh crease. Then the other, repeating this several times. Unable to help himself, he licks a stripe up the seam of her panties, too. She smells fantastic, that sunshine mixing with her womanly musk. His tongue catches on the outline of her clit through the fabric, the little pearl already so hard for him.
Fuck. He has to see her bare. He just might die if he doesn’t.
Pulling her panties to the side, his mouth waters again at the sight of her perfect pink cunt. So wet, her folds glistening with arousal. She’s tiny. He doesn’t think he could fit more than one finger inside of her without a stretch. His cock throbs in his pants at the thought.
“Oh - Oh God,” she breathes, when he slots his lips over her clit and starts to suck, hard. “Oh God. Oh God Oh God. That feels...so good. So good,” she keeps murmuring.
Her fingers tangle in his hair, and he takes that as a sign to keep going. He runs his index finger along her slit several times, entranced by the texture. It’s sufficiently wet with her own slick when he finally pushes it inside her white hot heat. He feels her walls clamp down on him immediately, keeping him close, as he starts to rub her inside, feeling for that place that will heighten her pleasure.
When he finds it, he knows; she cries out in rapture, bucking her hips up, but he doesn’t lose his pace, continuing to suck and finger her until her thighs tremble around him.
“I’m gonna - Ben, I’m—”
His name, past her lips, make him lose his resolve. He wants to see her come, wants to help her experience the euphoria of an orgasm, but he wants to join her, his own need so insistent. Sometimes ecstasy can interfere with an erection, but that isn’t the case for him right now. He’s aching, so hard that the movement of his pants and boxers against his skin makes him cry out, too. And when he starts rubbing his cock against her cunt, her slick guiding the way, he feels like he’s about to explode, the pleasure is so intense.
He drags his length along her slit, each thrust making them both shudder with passion, his cockhead hitting her clit with each pass. His precum mixes with her wetness and it becomes so slippery, he has to keep himself propped up on one hand while guiding his cock through her folds with the other.
Rey comes first. She wraps her legs around his waist, grinding against him, and throws her head back. The sight of her in the throes of her passion, crying his name repeatedly, sends him over the edge, his orgasm so sharp and intense he tastes blood in his mouth. And as he paints her cunt and her stomach with his spend, gasping for breath that just won’t come to him, he’s hit with a life altering, mind bending realization.
He hasn’t succeeded in ruining her, and he never will. And he doesn’t want to anymore, not after this, not after tonight. She - she’s ruined him instead. For any other person. It’s her. It’s only going to be her.
He passes out soon after, their clothing still halfway on, holding onto her for fear that if he lets go for even a second, she’ll slip through his fingers and be gone forever.
When he wakes up several hours later, it’s to the sound of crying.
He’s disoriented. Not quite sober yet, not quite the worst come down he’s had in his life - he’s groggy as all hell, though. Turning over in his bed, the light from the bathroom makes him squint.
She’s up. Why is she up? It’s - he looks at the alarm clock on his end table - five in the fucking morning. What is she doing in there?
Rolling out of bed, he pulls up his disheveled clothing. The pain from earlier, when she’d knocked him on his ass, is back with a vengeance. He’s sore all over and it hurts to walk, so he slowly limps to the bathroom. The door is just slightly ajar and he pushes it open, squinting again as the full force of the bright fluorescents hit him.
Then the full force of what he sees in front of him hits, too, and he swears his heart stops beating.
Rey. On the floor. Clutching her knees to her chest, her eyes swollen and red from crying. And the large medicine cabinet in his bathroom - flung open. Bottles and bottles of pills on the counter. Baggies and packets of drugs. She’d taken everything out from its hiding place, laying it all out in the open.
Confronted with the sheer enormity of how much it is...he feels dizzy.
When she lifts her head and spears him with a glare so intense and full of rage, holding up her friend’s phone that he’d completely forgotten about, that dizziness is replaced with fear.
“How dare you?” she whispers it, but the impact is like a knife to the stomach, and he knows, deep down...he’s already lost her. And that knowledge, paired with the paralyzing, turbulent guilt building inside him—
He thinks it might actually kill him, this time.
Now accepting theories for where Rey hid that pepperspray LOL
I hope you enjoyed this chapter. I'm still catching up on comments, but I appreciate all the feedback and thoughts about Ben. I know he's an absolute mess right now and has done things that are very worrying. Take care of yourselves and know when to step away if it becomes too much, because it's going to get worse from here. He needs to hit rock bottom before any major change occurs.
The song Ben and Rey danced to this chapter is called "What I'm Becoming" and is in this fic's playlist! Give it a listen, I am absolutely obsessed
BIG THANKS to sofondabooks and my bae Keely for giving me two lovely graphics for this fic!! Look at that picture of Kye 😭 Just how I imagined him. You two are both so kind and encouraging and Idk how to handle it ❤️️
Every morning, Rey stands outside her classroom and gives her Kindergartners three choices of a greeting: a thumbs up, a high five, or a hug.
Every morning, Kye Solo, the boy that Finn nannies, opts for a hug.
It is, secretly, Rey’s favorite part of the day. She cares deeply for all fifteen of her new students, but there’s something about Kye that tugs at her heartstrings. He lingers during each hug, his tiny chest heaving out a sigh as Rey rocks him side to side, and she has to keep from crying every time.
The boy is very bright. He knows all of his colors, all of his shapes, can match an animal to each letter of the alphabet when she prompts him. He’s also incredibly kind and perceptive, whether it’s sharing his crayons, helping others up when they fall down, or making sure to play with students who still seem a bit homesick. His social and emotional skills are outstanding, in fact, and she knows that’s in no small part due to Finn’s influence. But there is one area of Kye’s development that is far below that of his classmates: his speech.
Rey already knew that he struggled before meeting him; Finn prepped her well before the first day of class to be patient and understanding, because Kye couldn’t verbalize his wants and needs like other students. Although she quickly gets the hang of understanding his mixture of hand signals, head gestures, and drawings that he uses to communicate, Kye’s frustration with himself is clear. He knows he’s different, that he can’t speak back to his friends who talk to him, and that breaks Rey’s heart.
Never one to back down from a challenge, she makes it her mission to teach him sign language. Her own skills are rusty, not having used it with much frequency since her ASL courses in school, but she stays up every night trying to familiarize herself with as many expressions as possible. And the results are so, so worth it. Within a few weeks of signing to him and teaching her other students a few phrases, Kye blossoms under her eyes.
He can ask his friends how are you? , what’s wrong?, and his favorite: do you want to play with me?
He can tell her what his favorite book is - Corduroy, or bear book, as he signs it - and ask her to read it aloud during storytime.
One time, during a one-on-one lunch they spend signing with each other, he even signs You’re my friend.
“You’re my friend too, sweetheart,” she says back to him, signing along. Kye beams at her with his slightly crooked baby teeth, offering her half of his apple slices. Rey hastily wipes her tears away when he turns his attention back to his own lunch.
His progress continues throughout August and by the first week of September, Rey knows that she needs extra help. Kye is such a fast learner that it is only a matter of time before his ASL eclipses her own. Rey’s close friend Rose Tico is Coruscant Academy’s speech therapist, and she had already met with Kye briefly to give her recommendations.
“He does need help, being nonverbal. You were right to refer him to me,” she murmurs quietly outside of Rey’s classroom one day while the students nap inside. “Good news is, he should qualify for services no problem. Once his IEP is in place I can work with him during class. Honestly, I’m surprised his parents haven’t asked for an evaluation yet. Tuition here costs a small fortune, you think they’d be on top of their kid’s education, no?”
Rey worries at her lip. “It’s just his father. He’s...very busy, from what Finn has told me. I halfway wonder if he’s involved in Kye’s schooling at all.”
Rose winces, understanding. “Shit. Well, it does happen sometimes, regardless of how rich or poor the parents are. Either way, you’ll need the father’s consent for Kye to get the help he needs. Should be fairly straightforward once the paperwork is sorted, though.”
But it isn’t straightforward at all.
Rey goes to Finn first, asking for him to reach out to Mr. Solo. Finn tries that, but apparently the man is so scarce that he never has a chance to talk to Kye’s father for more than five minutes at a time.
“He’s definitely reachable by phone, but I’d probably get fired if I gave you his personal cell. He’s c-r-a-z-y about things like that,” Finn tells her over the phone. His spelling out words is indicative that he’s with Kye, and Rey’s frustration softens just a bit at the thought.
“Okay. Well, I don’t want that to happen. Does he have an assistant? Secretary? Anyone I can contact who can make sure that a meeting is set-up?”
“Technically I’m not supposed to give out his PA’s number for non-business calls, either, but it’ll put you in touch with him at least. I’ll text it to you when I get home. I’m at the library with Kye right now. You’ve really got him hooked on bear books, huh?”
Rey smiles, remembering the way Kye’s eyes light up whenever he gets to read Corduroy. “Tell him I said hi, and to check out as many bear books as the librarians will let him.”
Rey is lulled into a false sense of security when she manages to get a hold of Solo’s personal assistant named Mitaka fairly easily. He helps her schedule a parent-teacher conference with Mr. Solo for the following Tuesday at 7 a.m., an hour before school.
But when Tuesday rolls around, Finn drops Kye off like he usually does, no parent in sight.
“What happened?” she asks, crestfallen, even though she knows. Mr. Solo has forgotten about the meeting. Either that, or he just couldn’t be bothered to show. Neither of these possibilities bode well. She’d been hoping, praying, that this process would go quickly and smoothly for Kye’s sake.
Finn sighs. “He was in rare form when we left this morning. I meant to ask him, but Kye was so excited to come here today that I just - I just didn’t want to spoil his good mood by bringing it up with Solo. Kye gets antsy when his dad is angry. I’m sorry, Rey.”
Rey tucks that alarming bit of knowledge about Kye’s reaction to his father’s anger away - at least for now. She can deal with it later. “It’s okay, Finn. You did the right thing, focusing on Kye. Look, he’s happy as a clam over there.” They both turn from the doorway, watching as Kye dutifully puts his tiny bookbag away in his cubby and runs to join a pair of students who are playing house at the toy kitchen. “We’re starting a unit on dinosaurs today, that’s probably why he was acting so excited.”
Finn affectionately nudges her shoulder with his. “Nah, he’s excited because he loves you, Rey. Being here, with you, with his classmates…it’s his happy place.”
That should make Rey happy too but instead, she’s unspeakably sad. If this is Kye’s happy place, what is his home like? What kind of man must his father be, to not even show up to an important meeting about his son’s welfare?
Determined, Rey places a stern phone call to Mitaka right before class starts, not taking no for an answer when he gives her the option to reschedule for another day. Another day isn’t good enough. It needs to be today. She asks for Solo’s time of arrival repeatedly until Mitaka eventually relents, promising to call her back ASAP with an update.
The update isn’t what she’d hoped - Solo wants to move the meeting to 4 p.m. - but he’s sorry for doing so, or so his assistant says. It’s a start, and feels like a triumph considering the loops she’s already had to jump through.
It’s nearly a quarter past four when there’s finally a knock on the door.
Rey look up from playing dinosaurs with Kye, and he does as well, his eyes going from the door back to her.
“Be right back,” she assures him, standing up. “You keep on playing with Rex, Spikey and Brach, okay?”
Kye nods at that, signing yes, and returns his attention to his toys.
School normally lets out at three and Finn had arrived around then to pick Kye up, but Rey made the quick decision for Kye to stay for this meeting. It is about him, after all, and he hadn’t seemed to object one bit to staying at school for longer. Neither had she.
It’s been nice, spending some quality time with him. They’ve already been on the Kindergarten playground’s swing set out back, drawn with chalk all over the sidewalk, and now they’ve come up with a really elaborate story about the stuffed dinosaurs going to see a movie. Kye had giggled along when she made ridiculous voices for all of the dinosaurs and hearing a vocal sound out of him, even though it isn’t speech, gives her hope. Hope that this will work out, hope that Mr. Solo will at least listen to what she has to say.
Steeling herself, Rey opens the door.
Her first impression of Mr. Solo is that he is nothing like Kye. They’re like night and day. It isn’t physical, the difference, but in their energies.
Their physical resemblance to each other is undeniably strong, so strong that it’s a bit eerie how much they look alike. She sees where Kye gets his dark locks, his mouth, his nose, his facial structure. She realizes this is how Kye will look like as a man, as a grown up. Tall, broad, all muscles.
But that is where the similarities between them end. Where Kye emanates pure childhood sweetness and joy, Rey gets the immediate sense that Mr. Solo - this titan of a man - doesn’t have anything pure or sweet or joyful about him at all. He looks like hell, despite the sleek navy business suit he wears. Like he hasn’t slept in an age. And his eyes...those aren’t Kye’s shade of hazel. They’re like whiskey mixed with fire, molten, full of so much hidden depth and danger that she feels an uneasy feeling crawl up her spine as he stares at her. It makes her want to run away, to back off and retreat like a threatened animal.
She stamps that feeling down, though, mindful that Kye is still here. She’s doing this for him. To advocate for him. She’s not going to chicken out despite her sudden nerves.
“Hi! You must be Mr. Solo. Come on in, Kye and I were just playing dinosaurs while we waited—”
He doesn’t like that, immediately interrupting her, nostrils flaring. “He’s still here? His nanny - he should’ve taken him home by now.”
So he at least knows his child’s schedule well enough to realize Kye should have left school already. That’s...well, it’s not ‘good’ - knowing your child’s location should be the bare minimum expectation of any parent - but it’s adequate. Shows that he has a modicum of involvement.
Rey decides to push a little more, perfecting an air of apologetic innocence and confusion as she explains why his son is still here, despite it being a calculated choice on her part. To her surprise, he doesn’t raise any issue with that, instead following her into the classroom, and her guard lowers a little bit.
Until she sees the way Kye reacts to him.
His open, expressive face is shuttered, like he’s withdrawn into himself, as he hurriedly pushes the stuffed dinosaurs behind his back. Like he’s embarrassed to be seen with them, like he doesn’t want his father to know that he plays with toys.
And the red flags keep popping up from there, especially when she tries to explain the situation to Kye, kneeling to his height to better communicate with him. Kye sighs against her like he does during their morning hugs, and Rey immediately understands - he feels safe around her, feels relief. He doesn’t feel that around his dad. Finn’s words echo in her head. Kye gets antsy when his dad is angry. Well, she’s not going to let that happen.
In trouble?, Kye signs, and Rey is quick to sign back, shaking her head.
“No, it’s okay, honey. You aren’t in trouble. Your dad is here because I just wanted to talk to him about a few things, okay?”
“What’s happening? What are you doing with him?” Mr. Solo interrupts, and Rey bristles. He’s talking about Kye like he isn’t even in the room.
“Kye and I are using sign language to speak to each other. You’ve learned a lot of words since we’ve started talking to each other this way, haven’t you?” she asks Kye, making a point to involve him in the conversation.
That seems to perk Kye up a bit. He nods back, signing yes to her, but deflates again when she asks him if he wants to share what signs he’s learned. Another red flag.
Still, she tries to gently coax him out of the shell he’s withdrawn into. “I think he’d be really impressed, Kye. You can show him how to spell your name! Wouldn’t you like that? Or - or you could spell out ‘Dad’, couldn’t you? Hm?”
What happens next is what she’d feared all along: Mr. Solo doesn’t want anything to do with the sign language. He doesn’t want Kye to learn it, and he doesn’t want Kye to use it to communicate. He’s in complete, utter denial that his son needs help. He’s an idiot. A selfish, willfully ignorant excuse for a father. Even worse, he begins to take his frustration out on Kye, snapping at him to stop sucking his thumb. Red flag again. She thought it would be a good idea to include Kye, to make him feel seen and heard, but it’s obvious that any further involvement on his part will be to his detriment.
“Mr. Solo, can I speak to you privately for a moment, please?”
He straight up refuses, arguing that anything that she needs to say to him can also be said in front of Kye, and Rey gets even angrier. He thinks he can act this way? In her classroom, in front of his child? He’s an even bigger idiot than she thought if he thinks she’ll allow that. If he wants to fight dirty, fine. She can do that, but not with his child in the thick of it. That’s a hard line she won’t cross.
Leaning down to Kye’s level again, she goes against Solo’s demands and suggests that Kye go to the reading center and listen to an audiobook of Corduroy. He happily obeys, looking more than a bit relieved to do something else.
When she looks back at Solo again, he’s just as angry as her. He tries to get under her skin next, flaunting his power and wealth. Telling her that her classroom is dated. She doesn’t care about that, she doesn’t buckle under the insults, even though they sting. He’s trying to change the subject, to make her inferior, but she’s not going to let him. Fuck him.
They continue on back and forth, getting even more riled up, and Rey is grateful that Kye can’t hear what his father is saying about him, because it’s hurtful. It’s ableist. All this talk about wanting his child to be normal, to speak like any other kid - it’s vile, so vile that when Solo says he’ll make Kye catch up to his peers, Rey loses her temper entirely.
“You can’t just - just make your son fit into a perfect little box! He’s five and you’re in denial about how much help he really needs. And you’re just too...too ignorant and selfish to consider that maybe he needs a different approach!”
Shaking all over from her fury, she gets right up in his face. This close, she can feel his body heat, can smell his expensive cologne, can even see the specks of gold in his eyes. She doesn’t let any of that distract her.
“You’re not the first parent to give me trouble, Mr. Solo, and you won’t be the last either. But I’ll be damned—” She pokes at his chest, wanting him to hurt, hurt just as much as he’s hurt his son by not giving him the attention he so desperately needs. “I’ll be damned if I have to see a bright young boy like Kye held back because his father is too much of an idiot to see some sense!”
Chest heaving, choking back tears, feeling like she’s close to throwing up, she waits for Mr. Solo to fight right back—
But he doesn’t this time. He just...stares at her, like he’s caught off guard, his expression blank.
Then he walks straight over to Kye, pulling off his headphones. Kye is startled by this and grows visibly upset. She’s never seen him this upset. He kicks his arms and legs out but he’s small, so small that Mr. Solo easily picks him up despite his struggling.
“We’re leaving, Kye.”
Kye’s face screws up, bursting into tears, and he reaches his arm out to Rey over his father’s shoulder, willing her to help him. To take him. She rushes after them towards the doorway, heart in her throat. This is her fault, her fault, Oh God, she went too far—
“Mr. Solo, please, we aren’t finished discussing what you came here for!”
He slams the door on the way out, leaving Rey stunned, the echo of Kye’s cries ringing in her ears. Her legs give out, shaking, and she collapses on the linoleum floor of her classroom.
She’d failed Kye. She’d failed him. She’d tried to fight for him, to help him, to—
Sobbing, she pulls her knees to her chest, giving in to her own pain
That night, she calls the city's Administration for Children's Services.
She may be unable to help Kye directly now, her power being limited as a teacher, but she is not going to give up if she suspects abuse or neglect. And there had definitely been warning signs. Enough to alarm her, enough to give her a sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach.
The report she files is, thankfully, anonymous. She doesn’t tell Finn she does it. She doesn’t tell Rose. She doesn’t tell anyone. In time, Mr. Solo may suspect it’s her, but he won’t be able to prove it.
Even if he does...it’s a risk she’s willing to take. She can take care of herself. It’s something she’s learned to do from a very young age. Too young. She had to, when no one else would.
And now that she’s an adult, she’s going to be the kind of person that her younger self needed. She’s going to be that person.
These next couple chapters will be from Rey's POV. Some will be events that have already happened but will hopefully give more insight into her character. Then through her POV we'll continue on past The Bathroom Incident™ that happened at the end of last chapter.
Some terms, if you're unfamiliar:
IEP: Individualized Education Program. It is individualized depending on the child's special education needs.
Administration for Children's Services: New York City's agency that handles abuse/neglect investigations, foster care, and juvenile justice
Thank you to Keely for this chapter's gorgeous moodboard!