The first odd thing Rey notices about her coworker Kylo Ren is that he never takes lunch.
To her, meals are the most important time of day and it baffles her that someone could never eat during their eight hours on the clock. She supposes he could be eating at his desk when she’s not paying attention or eating large meals outside of work, but everyone else takes lunch in the breakroom or goes out to eat while he stays behind. He also always declines anyone’s invitation to get drinks or dinner after work. She frequently offers him a granola bar from the stash in her desk but he always politely turns it down.
The second thing she notices is that he always wears long sleeves, even during the summer.
Chicago’s summers can be hot and humid and while Rey is used to the heat, having grown up in a desert, she cannot stand the feeling of swimming through the air. She understands keeping a jacket in the office because the air is regularly on too high, but Kylo always wears a long sleeved, dark colored shirt. She knows they’re nice shirts because of how often they take the same cramped elevator up to their floor.
The third thing she notices is how sharp his teeth are.
This she finds out accidentally one day when she jokes about Shakespeare’s dick and Kylo laughs louder than she’s ever heard before. He usually sticks with a small chuckle, frequently at the expense of someone else’s failure, but he gives her joke a full bodied laugh and quietly says under his breath, “He sure did like his sex jokes.”
When she does an internet search and sees that Chicago is number two on the list of “Best Places for Vampires to Live” she decides to do some more digging. Rey emerges hours later, finishing on a lengthy article outlining common traits of vampires in fiction and she really realizes just how odd Kylo Ren is.
A week after that, she’s paired up with Kylo for a project at work. Their boss Amilyn tells them she’s partnering them together because they are the best two she has and their company needs this new client.
Kylo is reserved but professional towards her. However, she can’t help but feel like he’s judging every decision she makes. Three days into the project, she calls him out on it.
“Look, I know I haven’t worked here as long as you have, but I do know what I’m doing.”
He slowly blinks at her a few times before responding. “Of course. You are one of the best sales people here. It’s just sometimes you make choices I wouldn’t.”
“Working together means compromise. We both bring our best and work it into a cohesive presentation from there.”
“I apologize. I don’t often work with others.”
“I know. Your people skills are lacking. You need to work on them before our presentation.”
He simply nods, but afterwards Rey does notice him making efforts to be kinder and listen more. But perhaps he now listens a little too well.
“What on Earth are you listening to?” Kylo has stopped going over the numbers and is staring dumbfounded at Rey.
She unplugs her earbuds from her laptop and lets the music blast into the office. “Only the greatest hits from the 80s.”
“I prefer to listen to things from the eighteen-eighties.”
Taking her own advice, Rey decides to compromise. “Alright. On even days, I pick the music. On odd days, you pick the music. Deal?”
“Deal,” he replies with a grin.
Over the next week, she shares the best upbeat songs of the past forty years while he provides more mellow classical pieces. The two moods are quite different but each adds a certain something to the work that makes it go by quickly.
Finally, the presentation is set and they’re ready. The clients are ushered into the meeting room by Amilyn and from there Rey and Kylo fall into an easy rhythm. Their presentation goes perfectly. The clients are visibly wowed and Amilyn looks very pleased. When they stop talking, the clients immediately ask questions about how soon the contracts can be signed and when work can start.
Rey and Kylo share a smile before diving into paperwork and handshakes.
As Rey is leaving that evening, she walks past Kylo’s office where he’s still working. She stops outside his door and clears her throat. “Nice job again on the presentation. You really did great.”
He sets down his pen and looks up at her. “I couldn’t have done it without you, Rey.”
She nods and then takes a step towards the exit before turning back around. “Hey, do you want to get a drink? You know, in celebration.”
Kylo looks down at the papers in front of him then back up at her. “I would.”
He gathers his things and grabs his briefcase before turning off the light and falling into step beside Rey.
It being Friday evening, the bar’s a little crowded and loud already, but they manage to find a table near the back. Rey orders a pint of beer and some sliders while Kylo just gets a glass of red wine.
They begin with going over their presentation and their plans for the project going forward.
Once they’ve exhausted that conversation, Kylo is the first to speak, “Any plans this weekend?”
“I see you’ve been working on your people skills,” Rey smiles into her pint before answering. “Going to the Farmers’ Market tomorrow, might pick up another plant, but nothing else really.”
“I...have a lot of plants. Want to see them?” Before Kylo even really has a chance to respond, she’s pulling out her phone. She scoots her chair closer to his and begins scrolling through her pictures, introducing him to all her plant babies.
“This one is Ruth Bader Ginsburg, she’s a peace lily. And this one is Sally Ride, an artichoke agave. That tall one in the back of the picture is Cleopatra, a fiddle leaf fig.”
“Are all your plants named after famous women?” Kylo’s look doesn’t have any teasing to it, but Rey can’t quite make it out.
“They are, yeah. I started collecting plants when I was young. I moved around a lot as a kid but I ended up living in New Mexico before moving here. It was nice to have some green in the desert and having these heros around helps keep me inspired.” Rey quickly takes a long drink once she’s finished speaking. That’s the most she’s really ever told anyone about her past.
Perhaps sensing her discomfort, Kylo doesn’t ask any more about her background. He instead offers, “I’ve never owned a plant in my life.”
Rey smiles again. “I need to split my snake plant--Britney’s getting too big for her pot. Want to become a plant daddy?”
“I don’t know the first thing about taking care of plants.” Kylo’s eyes are a little wide. Rey’s never seen him less than absolutely composed at work.
“The only way to kill a snake plant is to overwater it. They’re like the easiest houseplant to take care of. And I could give you my number in case you had any questions.”
Kylo blinks a few times before nodding, “Yeah, I’d like that. My apartment could use some green, I guess. You promise I won’t be able to kill it?”
“Pinky promise. I’ll help you.” Rey holds her hand out to him, pinky extended. He hooks his finger around hers and it feels like a bolt of lightning has gone through them. Her skin prickles and somehow she feels more hopeful than she’s ever felt before. The touch leaves her mouth dry and wondering what the rest of Kylo feels like.
“Want to leave?”
“Please.” Kylo responds and ushers them out of the bar via a hand of the small of her back.
They end up naked, curled around each other in Kylo’s bed. His place was closer to the bar and he doesn’t have a roommate, unlike Rey. His hand is idly moving across her back when she’s the first to speak. “Can I ask you a question?”
His hand goes still and she can feel him tense a bit beside her, but he calmly answers, “Anything you’d like.”
“Are you a vampire?”
He’s quiet for a few long minutes, before relaxing back into the bed and replying with a simple “Yes.”
Then it’s Rey’s turn to be quiet for some minutes as she processes. He didn’t immediately kill her which she takes as a good sign. She props her head on her hands on his chest. “Can I ask you some more questions?”
Kylo smiles back at her, “Of course.”
“Do you have any special powers?”
“Only being a giant asshole.”
“Do you have poison?”
“Do you sparkle in the sun?”
“Did you get all your vampire knowledge from the Twilight saga?”
Rey buries her blushing face into his chest before mumbling out, “It came out when I was at an impressionable age.”
“You read and watched them all, didn’t you?” She somehow manages to bury herself deeper and blush even more. “I’ll take that as a yes. You ever read about Dracula or Nosferatu? The Blade franchise or Van Helsing? Anything from Anne Rice or Stephen King?”
She shakes her head before lifting it to guility look at him. “I’ve heard of the Vampire Diaries?”
He gives her a grin and presses her closer to him. “Well, I suppose that makes it easier to explain to you what I actually am. To start, Twilight got most of it wrong. It did get the human food thing correct, though. I can eat it, but it’s unpleasant. But no, we don’t sparkle in the sun, nor do we combust, but it’s very uncomfortable. My diet consists of animals and some—er—donations from blood banks.”
“How old are you?”
“I was born around 1560, but I don’t know exactly when as records weren’t the greatest. I do remember becoming a vampire clearly, though. In 1589, I lost my parents and my uncle, the only family I had. I went to a dark place and met Grand Master Snoke in a gambling hall. He offered me freedom from my human feelings and in my depths, I would have done anything to not feel anymore. So I took him up on the offer, not really knowing what he promised.”
He interrupts her, “Please, call me Ben. It’s my birth name, Ben Solo. Humans get suspicious so it’s necessary to change names and move every eighty years or so.”
“Ben.” She likes the sound of his name, the way it feels in her mouth. “Ben, the vampire who turned you didn’t explain anything?”
His face becomes a mix of sadness and anger, “No, he only promised me greatness and power. Once he turned me and I realized the monster I was becoming, I regretted it. At the time, vampires only existed by draining humans, but Snoke had lied to me. My humanity has never fully left and I became increasingly disgusted by myself and the coven’s methods. I wanted to be done with it all, but it is very hard to kill a vampire. So I left my coven and made my own place in the world.”
“That sounds so lonely. I...I don’t have anything as big as that, but my childhood was lonely, bouncing between foster homes. I never really made friends because I didn’t ever stay in a school for very long. Since then, I’ve tried to never get close to people because they could leave me at any time. It’s different, but I understand loneliness.”
“You’re not alone, Rey.” He’s looking solemnly at her and she feels so exposed even though they’ve been in bed together the past three hours.
“Neither are you.” Since she first started working with Ben, she’s been attracted to him. Pulled to him somehow. Maybe it was their mutual loneliness or possibly something more, but now that they’re together, they would never have to be lonely again.