What is the point of all this?
He sat there, looking out over the waves washing slowly across the shore, watching as the ocean gave and took in an endless rhythm, the same rhythm it had followed since the beginning of time.
A hopelessness settled in his heart, a sensation that had been taking over far more than it should lately.
That was what the humans called it.
Weariness was what the council preferred.
Not an uncommon affliction, but still something that was frowned upon. It wasn’t something that most of them admitted often, but when they did, it usually meant they had been assigned to jobs that hadn’t been selected well enough.
It also meant relocation in most cases…
And that was something Ben wasn’t really keen on. He still liked his job. But there was something wrong with people these days.
Lack of Faith.
That’s what Vader called it. He found it a “disturbance that only hindered his lightworkers from executing their orders to full potential.”
Yoda simply called it doubt. Humanity had been exposed to the worst atrocities for ages. It had given the inhabitants of that beautiful blue-green planet reasons to doubt the old adage “Good always wins.” As far as most humans believed, there was very little good to be found in this day and age.
Ben was just as lost as most of them.
He still liked his job, but he didn’t love it anymore. It rarely gave him the fulfillment it once had. It rarely made his heart soar. Even now, at this morning’s assembly of their division on the beach, to send praise and sing to the Maker, he could not feel the same rapture he had once felt when that glorious sound reverberated on the wind. He joined in out of habit, not out of delight or need to praise.
When they were finished, he returned to their celestial headquarters for his next briefing. He would get a new assignment today. Perhaps that would lift his spirit somewhat. But during that briefing, a niggle of something undeniable wormed its way into his soul, making him feel apprehensive of this next gig.
This would be different. He could sense it.
Yoda had once told him he was extremely in tune with the Maker’s intentions. More so than others. It had been a slip of the tongue, but he had said it just the same. And now, at the start of this new assignment, Ben had an extreme sense of foreboding.
Something would happen.
Under normal circumstances he would try to talk to Hux about it. Hux was his fellow Lightworker, his confidant, his best friend. He was quite different from Ben, since Hux was always following the rules, always abiding by the textbook, always subservient. Ben had a penchant for walking the lines and blurring them slightly as he went, for bending the rules just a tiny bit, for turning a slight blind eye to certain details. Not the way it ought to be, but the way it was nonetheless.
He prepared himself for the day back at the headquarters, donning his usual dark garments.
Funny thing, that was. One that never ceased to amaze him, no matter how long he’d do this job. Humans had this tendency to depict angels as bright creatures, usually with large, almost intimidating white wings and halos. Light robes and long, luscious, wavy hair.
Well, at least they got the hair part right…
But instead, most of them wore dark robes, none of them had wings, and they definitely did not have halos… Especially those in the repatriation department.
He shrugged on his overcoat. His first assignment of the day was to retrieve a little girl called Susan.
He took his time, waiting until she was ready to go and leave her family behind. He talked to her a little more than he normally would to a charge, but he couldn’t help himself with these young souls. They were still so pure, so inquisitive and wholesome, untainted by the usual skepticism and sorrow life would throw at them. When he asked her his usual question—what her favorite part of being on earth had been—she was quite sure.
Pajamas. Onesies specifically. Preferably with footsies attached.
It made Ben smile whenever he thought of it, all through the other two charges he dealt with that morning. This fourth assignment was something else.
The man, a burly 54-year old shop worker, was about to pass on during a robbery. Ben had been looking on patiently, waiting for things to play out as they would.
When the man—his name was Dexter Jettster — got shot in the chest, things became hectic. They usually did when humans panicked. Only this time, things turned out in a different way then Ben had suspected. As soon as the robber left, a young woman rushed forward and took Dexter in her arms.
Ben was mesmerized by the mere sight of her. She had dark hair with hints of copper and chocolate, hazel eyes that shone and sparkled in a way Ben had never seen before. Her skin was bronzed and dusted with freckles, a sure sign of exposure to sun and sand in a regular fashion, and her frame was lithe though feminine. She made him feel like smiling despite himself. She shone like a beacon.
Immediately, she went to work, putting pressure on his chest wound and trying to keep his blood from seeping out. Her intent, her effort, and her obvious care for a person she did not know, moved him in ways he had not expected and could not fathom.
His intrigue was only heightened when he heard her speak.
“Sir, sir, can you hear me?”
“Yes ” the man croaked.
“Sir, can you tell me your name?” the young woman asked in a businesslike tone that hinted at a calmness she could not be feeling. The lilting British accent did something strange to his insides.
A warmth settled in his stomach, an odd tremor made him frown slightly. It rippled and shivered and curled, leaving him slightly breathless and strangely excited. It was quite… pleasant.
“Dexter,” the man said with a rattle.
“Nice to meet you Dexter. I’m Rey Kenobi,” she said.
Dexter nodded briefly, only to look past her and notice Ben standing there. Ben nodded to him, acknowledging that he wasn’t imagining things.
“He’s here,” Dexter whispered haltingly. “He’s come to take me.”
Rey frowned at the man, then looked in the direction Dexter was staring. She took a fortifying breath, and with a determination Ben had rarely witnessed she addressed Dexter again.
“Well, Dexter, do you watch Game of Thrones ?”
This drew Dexter’s attention back to her, if only briefly. He nodded once, his breathing growing more rapid and shallow, much to Rey’s dismay.
“Who’s your favorite then?” she said as she applied more pressure, blood seeping through her fingers despite her best efforts.
“Ar… ya,” Dexter said on a painful sigh.
“Well, that’s just absolutely perfect,” Rey said as she changed her seated position into a kneeling one so she could apply more pressure. “Do you remember what we say to the God of Death?”
Ben’s breath hitched at those words. And something odd happened.
The girl looked right in his direction, right in his face, straight into his soul it seemed.Determination shone in her eyes, the stubbornness stretched across her mouth and made her face scrunch up.
Ben felt her words slam straight into his heart. His mouth opened in surprise. He felt called out.
Can she see me?
But before he could blink, her attention was drawn back to Dexter. His breathing was getting more labored with every passing second. He moaned slightly and then made another visible effort to get his words out.
"It’s okay, Dexter. Not much longer now. It won’t hurt, I promise. And I’m right here," Ben whispered to the dying man.
Their eyes met, and Dexter understood. He responded with a calmness that usually befell mortal men when they realized there was no other way. It was a form of acceptance that was universal.
“It’s… time.” The man looked up at Rey and touched her face, accidentally smearing it with blood. “You… tried.. Thank… you.” He smiled at her and then sighed as his last breath left him.
He died in her arms, his blood smeared across her face, coating her hands and staining her clothes.
She didn’t know him, only knew his first name. Didn’t know if he was married or had kids, what hobbies he had or why or how long he had worked here. She only knew this man had liked Game of Thrones as she did, that he had been shot during a petty robbery, that she had fought to save his life despite the bad odds and that his death made her feel shattered and confused and so very, very hurt.
Fat tears began to fall down her cheeks and she started CPR even as she had to know he was already gone. The resuscitation seemed more of an instinctive reaction, more a way to cope than effectively bringing the man back. Ben just stood there, staring at her. He was confounded by her reaction, mesmerized by her determination and utterly enthralled by her beauty and light, despite her disheveled appearance. He had seen brave actions before, but never had he been quite this captivated.
“Will she be alright?” Dexter asked Ben from where they stood, looking down at the scene of his own demise.
“She will be,” Ben replied softly. “I’ll make sure of it.”
She was still holding on to the man, performing CPR when the ambulance arrived. She sobbed once, a single sound of pure sorrow amidst the chaos, as they peeled her hands away from Dexter’s lifeless body and took her to the second ambulance to have her checked out.
Ben took his charge back to the drop off zone, ending another assignment.He did one more repatriation but couldn’t get the girl off his mind. As he sat with Hux that night, on top of the cathedral roof looking out over the city below, he couldn’t stop the thoughts that constantly whirled inside his head.
“You’re remarkably quiet,” Hux said softly.
Ben stared off into the distance for a moment, looking up at the stars and felt that same niggle eat away his peace. He remembered the sensation he’d had when the girl saw him.
“Have you ever been seen?”
The ginger haired angel looked at him sideways.“What do you mean, ‘have I ever been seen?’” he asked quizzically.
“Have you ever been seen by anyone other than your charge?”
Hux’s eyebrows lifted as he mulled it over. “No. Although… They’ve sensed me multiple times, and one time a blind man asked me to pass the salt. He said he couldn’t see me, but he knew I was there. Why?”
“Earlier, when I was picking up a charge, there was a girl—well, woman really—trying to save him. She asked him about Game of Thrones , started spouting that quote about the God of Death, then looked straight at me and said ‘Not today.’”
“And you really think she saw you?”
“I’m sure she did. She seemed to stare straight into my soul. I’ve never experienced anything like it.”
The sensation he’d felt earlier, that strange ripple in his stomach, coursed through him again. The memory of her face, scrunched up in concentration, caused him to feel a warmth spread in his chest. His eyes grew softer, a little less focused, a little more lidded. He parted his lips, a soft sigh escaping them and he found himself lost in the experience all over again.
Hux sighed and cocked his head and contemplated things for a while. After a short silence, he spoke up, his tone gentle and soothing, much as if he were addressing a charge.
“So, what happens next? Are you going to inform the council? Tell Luke or Yoda?”
“I don’t know,” Ben sighed. “I feel…” He frowned.
“You feel what?” Hux prodded gently.
“I feel like I need to see her again.”
Ben’s head whipped up and he met Hux’s gaze. Open wonder, admiration, and anticipation shone in his dark eyes at the prospect of seeing that girl, Rey, again.
Even her name made him smile.
Rey of light…
“Ben, I feel like some caution is necessary. You are jumping to conclusions now. Do not act carelessly. Getting involved with humans is not a good idea in this time and age. You know what would happen if you… ”
“I have to go.”
And with those words, Ben disappeared.
He found her easily enough.
Her aura was curiously imbedded in his memory. For hundreds if not thousands of years, he had been picking up souls to take them back to the place where it all started. To take them back home . And although some of those souls had left an impression on him and had given him a few beautiful and heartwarming memories, none had moved him in the way hers had.
He found her on the back porch of a dilapidated little house, sitting on the steps. She was still wearing her bloodstained clothes. Her hands and face had been scrubbed clean, probably by the medics. But no one had been around to make her go inside, take a shower, put on clean clothes.
Had she eaten?
He listened in on her thoughts.
How could I not have saved him? I failed! If only I had been there a little sooner, if only I had applied more pressure, if only I could have made him hold on long enough for the paramedics to arrive, if only… if only… if only…
Tears were pooling in her eyes, but they would not fall. She had probably been crying for a long time, since her eyes were swollen and red, her cheeks blotched, her hair mussed and tangled.
A sense of compassion unlike he had ever known slammed into him and he could do nothing but respond. He reached out and put his hand against her cheek.
Rey’s face instantly came up, her features wide with surprise. Her breath hitched and once again, those eyes—those beautiful and mesmerizing eyes—seemed to burn right through him.
For a moment it seemed as if she saw him again. Ben’s heart soared, a strange hope coursed through him as that golden-hazel gaze seemed to meet his.
But then she frowned and shook her head as if she’d imagined things.
Ben couldn’t let it go. He needed to give her a measure of comfort. He conveyed soothing words, letting them enter her frazzled mind, almost as if they were nothing more than an imaginary conversation like one would have with one’s conscience.
“It’s okay. You did what you could. It was never up to you to save him.”
“But I know I could have saved him. If only I had a little more time, if only…”
“If only. If only. Those are the only words I have heard you repeat for hours now. You have nothing to regret. Your remorse won’t bring him back. You did what you could to the best of your abilities. That is enough.”
She cried out, sobbing hard and ugly. There was no way that anything she would have done could have saved him, and the realization hit her hard.
“What is the meaning of all of this? If I wasn’t meant to save him, then why was I put there? If I wasn’t meant to save him, why burden me with this kind of grief and sorrow?”
“I don’t know the answer to that. But I know that the Maker’s plan never fails.”
“I hope you’re right.”
A sensation unlike anything he had ever felt overcame him at the sight of this beautiful young woman in so much pain. A tightening in his own chest, a strange sort of desperation clawed at his insides and he wanted - no, needed - to find a way to console her. To be with her and make her pain go away or at least make it bearable somehow. For some reason, her grief seemed to seep right into his own soul.
It wasn’t like he had never seen a human suffer over the loss of a loved one, or even a stranger. But there was something about this girl that moved him so profoundly and he did not know why.
Driven by this inexplicable compelling feeling, he moved away from her and stood at the edge of the yard. He did something unthinkable. Something he could get in a lot of trouble for if the Council ever found out. Something that could have him demoted.
He made himself visible.
He took a deep breath, drew back his shoulders and acted to pass by the fence casually.
“Excuse me, Miss. Are you alright?”
Rey’s head popped up at the softly spoken question. She seemed surprised. Pleasantly so.
He knew what she would see.
A tall, dark stranger standing at the edge of her yard, just outside her fence. Nothing impressive.
His face was angular and unusual. He had beauty marks sprinkled across his face, irregularly patterned like stars scattered about the night sky. His nose was regal and straight, his mouth was too soft and wide. The only thing he’d ever been slightly prideful of was his hair. It was devastatingly luscious, even for angelic norms, as if it were made to be featured on some high-end shampoo commercial.
And then there were his eyes.
They were dark and soulful and gentle, and they looked so incredibly familiar to anyone gazing at them. They seemed to stare straight through people, right into their very soul, their very essence, even from a distance.
It seemed to take her breath away.
She quickly wiped away the tears and smiled through her misery.
“Yes, I’m fine, thank you.”
Ben frowned at the blatant lie. He knew it came from a sense of preservation and was usually reserved for women, but it still made no sense to him. Angels didn’t lie. They were unable to. Humans on the other hand…
“I don’t mean to be rude, but I beg to differ,” he replied. “You look like you just lost your best friend in the whole world.”
Those words caused Rey to tear up again.
“Actually, I didn’t know him at all,” she said with a watery smile.
Ben nodded, as a way to show her he understood.
“Sometimes the death of a random stranger can hit us just as hard, because it makes us realize how fragile life is.”
Rey cocked her head and frowned.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t catch your name,” she said as she stood up and took the few steps that lead to the fence.
Ben smiled softly, a tilting of lips barely worth the title of a smile. But it was a benevolent gesture. “I didn’t give my name.”
Rey frowned even harder at that strange reply. She looked as if she were getting ready for an argument.
Ben inclined his head briefly and continued in a soft tone.
“My name is Ben.”
No, it’s Ben…” He had to think quickly to come up with something plausible. “Solo”
Rey’s frown relaxed a little.
Ben’s cheeks colored, a soft pink hue tainting his cheekbones and he was unable to speak for the life of him. A mildly uncomfortable silence ensued.
“Well, Ben Solo, thank you very much for your philosophical view on life. I’m not quite sure what prompted you to believe I needed that kind of response, though.”
Ben was left staring at her. He did not understand what he had said that could have led to her reacting this way. He was fairly sure that this was sarcasm. Angels weren’t known for their great sense of humor, so sarcasm and irony were often lost on them.
“Are you being sarcastic?” he asked, confusion written all over his face.
This caused Rey to take half a step back in surprise. A smile spread across her face slowly, until she could not suppress a chuckle.
“My, you’re very perceptive, aren’t you?”
Her smile brought on his own.
“So I have been told, yes.”
Rey laughed at that, a huge, loud, belly-shaking type of laughter that was contagious and wonderful, and just as beautiful as the sound of the angels chanting praise at the rising of the sun.
They were left staring at each other for a few long minutes, the memory of shared laughter after such misery a pleasant vibe in the evening air.
After several moments of silence, Ben spoke up. “Do you want to talk about what happened?”
Rey looked up at him and his gaze was enchanting. His eyes seemed to pierce right through that protective shell she kept up at all times. The barrier to her heart, that impenetrable wall that kept her hopes, her dreams, her fears safe from the outside world, came crashing down as she stared into those dark, soulful eyes.
She found herself opening up without even realizing it.
“A man died in my arms today.” Her voice cracked and her eyes grew infinitely sad as she said it. “And I didn’t know him, and he didn’t know me, but to see someone’s light die in their eyes…” A single tear slowly ran down her cheek as the confession slipped from her lips. “And I did everything I could to save him and it just wasn’t enough. I’m a nurse. I take care of people every day, I assist them in their healing process, my people have died on me before, but never like this. I know everything I needed to save that man’s life, and I couldn’t do it…” Another tear fell from her eyes and she closed them as her agony came back to haunt her. “Have you ever felt so inadequate that it became paralyzing? Like no matter what you do, it’s never enough and you’ll never make a difference?”
Her words once again slammed into him.
Because now that he’d heard them coming from her, he realized that it was what he was going through. It wasn’t enough. He did feel inadequate. He could not sufficiently comfort those who were in his charge. But he needed to change her misconception.
“How do you know you’re not making a difference?”
She looked up at him with surprise plastered all over her face. “What do you mean?”
“How do you know that what you did wasn’t enough?”
She looked at him as if he’d sprouted horns and asked her to take off her clothes and dance naked in the moonlight.
“The man died, Ben,” she said, finality ringing in her voice. “He didn’t make it, no matter how hard I tried.”
“Just because he died, doesn’t mean your actions didn’t make a difference,” he said as he stepped closer. “Perhaps your presence alone was enough to lessen his fears, to know that he was cared for in those final minutes of his life.”
Rey snorted indelicately as she wiped her tears angrily.
“And you expect me to believe that?”
“Some things are true whether you believe them or not.”
Shock replaced the incredulity on Rey’s face. Ben hoped his words had sunk in, or at least would in the hours to come.
“Yes, well. Thank you. You didn’t have to stop by but you did anyway. I should be grateful for that. Now if you’ll excuse me, I think I should go inside. It was nice meeting you, Ben.”
“It was nice meeting you too, Rey.”
She turned around, walked inside, and closed the door.
Ben could have followed her unseen if he chose to. But she did not want his help or his guidance right now. He’d said enough.
He had gotten to talk to her, though, and she had seen him now —w ithout a doubt. The realization of that left him giddy and lightheaded. He needed to calm down, to get his bearings back, become level-headed once more.
He returned to the library, a gathering place.
It was quiet there, knowledge and poetry and words of mortals immortalized gathered together with a common goal —t o teach, to inspire others.
He smiled softly as he saw his peers, leaning over people, calming them and soothing and comforting them with their presence or a gentle touch. A massive jumble of man’s thoughts reached him, and it soothed him a little too. This amount of musings, this grand collection of voices murmuring while remaining unspoken always reminded him of his reason for existing. When he was here, confronted with all these people, these mortal men, he didn’t feel so insignificant. Here, because of them, he was reminded that he, and his fellow Lightworkers, were desperately needed to offer solace and comfort. Here, he could dispel the sense of being superfluous, a feeling that had been creeping up on him more and more over the past century or two. The touch of a hand on a shoulder, the whispers of encouragement and understanding would be enough to give them the boost they needed to keep going, and for a while it would be enough to keep him going.
He caught sight of a young woman in his peripheral vision, and for a brief moment he thought it was Rey. A second glance was all it took to realize it wasn’t her.
Disappointment unlike anything he’d ever felt settled heavily in his gut, and he suddenly felt as out of sorts as these humans quite often did, though he could not fathom why it would be triggered by something as ordinary as a mistaken identity.
His eye caught on a copy of Ernest Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast . His smile widened as he figured this was just what Rey needed to gain new perspective of things.
The next night, Rey was surprised by Poe as she entered her front door.
Ben, who had been tagging along unseen for the past hour or two, driven by his need to stay close to her, was even more surprised. And not in a good way.
“Hey!” she said as she walked up and kissed him soundly on the lips. “What are you doing here? I wasn’t expecting to see you!”
Poe smiled his most charming smile as he wrapped his arms around her waist.
“Well… I was in the neighborhood and I thought I’d pop by.”
“Oh, I see…” Rey responded slyly. Her smile faltered a little when she noticed her travel bag near the door. “And why is my bag packed?”
“I thought it might be nice if we took a little trip. We could go to your grandpa’s cabin, visit Lake Tahoe, enjoy the sun, hike a little…”
He nibbled at her earlobe, making her giggle in the process.
“Poe, I can’t.”
“Sure you can. We’re all set and ready to go.”
“No, I mean, I really can’t. I have plans for tomorrow.”
“So cancel them…” he murmured seductively against her throat.
Ben had to turn his eyes away. He couldn’t stand the sight.
Something was definitely wrong. Angels were not supposed to be envious.
His stomach did a slow somersault as he came to terms with this crippling emotion. Ben was starting to become startlingly familiar with the ways mortals dealt with things and how they were motivated to certain actions. Seeing Rey being fondled and kissed by this man made him feel strange. It resembled anger and hostility, but angels were incapable of such feelings, were they not? He was shaken from his own thoughts at the sound of Rey’s irritated words.
“Poe, stop,” Rey said with a sharp edge to her voice. “You can’t just come barging in here and expect me to drop whatever I’m doing and go with you on a hiking trip. That’s not how it works.”
Poe stepped back and looked at her.
“Is this about what happened the other day? I told you…”
“Yes, yes, you told me to get over it,” Rey interrupted him.
“That’s not what I said,” he said with a frown, his lips turned down in disgruntlement.
Ben frowned as he stood there, listening, watching in silence. His need to interfere grew stronger with every passing second, but somehow he managed to stick to the background as he ought to.
“But that’s what you meant,” she bit out. “A man died in my arms, Poe. His blood seeped through my fingers as I tried to stop him from bleeding out, to keep him from dying, and he did anyway. If I can’t take a few days to process that, then I don’t know what normal is.”
Poe let out a deep, long sigh and looked up at her with regret in his eyes.
“Rey, honey, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean for it to come across like this. I just figured you could use a few days off. Away from everything and everyone. Just you and me and nature.”
Rey took a deep breath, exhaled in a huff.
“Why can’t we just…”
She frownedhy couldn’t they just… what? She and gritted her teeth in frustration, the corners of her mouth pinching down. She was obviously sorting through her own thoughts, making up her mind as she went along.
It was very difficult for Ben to stay out of her head. It would be so easy. Just brush his mind against the edges of her consciousness and slip in, baring her feelings and thoughts as easily as one would draw open the curtains. It would be a piece of cake, and it would give him more insight into what she was trying to convey. But instinctively, he held back.
He knew that it was the wrong thing to do. He knew that giving in to this urge was deliberately going against every set of morals and the honor code among Lightworkers.
“Why can’t we just what?” Poe asked softly.
Ben watched quietly, studying this beautiful woman who took his breath away. Despite deciding not to meddle and read her mind, he could see everything that went on inside her. Her frustration, her anger, her sense of despair… It was all there, in the way her eyes flashed, in the way her mouth flattened, in the way she gestured her hands, down to the way she was breathing.
“Why can’t we just spend time together. Why can’t you just look into my eyes?” Rey shoved a hand through her hair, dislodging several strands.
“You want me to look in your eyes?”
“Yes!” she all but yelled as she threw her hands in the air.
“Yes! I want you to stare into my eyes. I want us to be together and just… be! You know? Can you do that?” Her eyes narrowed slightly, and that’s when Ben caught tail of something that was getting a little too close for comfort. Rey desperately wanted to connect to someone on a deeper level. Far deeper than what she obviously did with this Poe-fellow.
Poe lifted an eyebrow.
“Sure thing. Here we go.”
He leaned his forearms on the kitchen island counter and started to gaze into her eyes.
Ben watched closely as the scene before him unfolded. It was like a strange nightmare he could not stomach but could not look away from either.
He got the distinct impression she felt very little. She didn’t respond anything like when Ben had done it. He noticed the way her eyes barely widened. How her breath hadn’t hitched as it had when he had gazed into her beautiful hazel eyes last night. It was obvious she didn’t feel as if Poe were gazing straight into her soul. It didn’t make her feel wonder or awe or heat. It didn’t feel defining in any way. But then again, it couldn’t. Poe was a man. And Ben… Well, he was an angel. A celestial being, crafted from stardust and the Maker’s needs. Of course it could never be the same.
As a sense of pride and smugness washed over him, so did guilt and shame.
He wasn’t supposed to be this unstable. He wasn’t supposed to be this arrogant!
His mood transferred to Rey unwillingly. Irritation flashed through her like a lightning bolt and she responded instantly and fiery.
She made a face, scrunching her features in disgust and balling her fists and it triggered Poe.
“You can’t do it,” he said.
“I can’t do what?” she snapped irritably.
“You can’t ‘just be’. You can’t just stare into my eyes. We’re not that kind of people.”
“Are we now? What kind of people are we then?” she demanded.
“We are doers. We go after what we want.” There was a seductive hint to his voice.
“Oh really? And what do you want now?” Rey said with a chuckle.
Poe’s determination rung loudly in the air.
Rey’s smile was slow and wicked.
“Then you’ll have to catch me first…”
And with those words, she dashed right out the room, Poe following closely behind.
Ben was left alone, feeling unsettled and hurt and longing for acknowledgement.
Of course they hadn’t known he was there; he had made sure of it. But to actually see Rey, this girl who had become the main focal point of his existence in just a single day, who had entranced him so completely, go about her life as if they had never met was more painful than he could have imagined.
He disappeared, not inclined to stand by and listen to her make love to a man who didn’t suit her.
He went back to the rooftops, to sit back and ponder his existence, his purpose in this life, and to think through what his actions of late were trying to tell him.
Without a sound, Hux appeared beside him. “You seem in an odd mood tonight.” The ginger didn’t even look at him as he spoke.
“That’s because I am.”
“You’ve been in an odd mood for two days now,” Hux remarked dryly. “Does this have to do with that charge a few days back? Or perhaps, the girl who fought so hard to save him? ”
It stung, how quickly Hux had seen it.Ben pouted and nodded, feeling called out.
Ben thought of his charges. It had been very satisfactory for a long time. For ages, he had been content. But, not unlike the girl, Rey, he had started questioning the meaning of it all at some point. And now, he felt deeply doubtful, as if he were on the opposite side of his peers. He still got some measure of satisfaction from a job well done, knowing he had performed the task to completion and to the best of his abilities. But it wasn’t enough anymore. It was… kind of dull. Was it because of her? Was she the reason why he kept mulling over his own meaning in this story he’d been living for eternity? Or was there more to it than that? The truth of the matter was that she made him contemplate things and made him feel things - emotions stronger than any he’d ever had before.
“I cannot explain what she does to me.”
Hux turned to look at him, his gaze piercing and earnest.
“I think you can.”
Ben returned his gaze and couldn’t say another word for the life of him. Instead he just nodded.
“The question now is: what are you going to do about it?” Hux asked rationally.
“There’s not much I can do, is there?”
“If you know this, then why are you so gloomy?”
“Because I cannot figure out where to go to from here, how to get past this…”
The words were barely above a whisper, carried away on the wind. But the desperation that clung to them hung in the air like a thick mist.
Hux clasped his shoulder in a gesture of compassion usually directed at the humans they cared for.
“Maker never closes a door…” he said quietly, and Ben finished out of habit.
“...without opening a window somewhere, I know.”
“Trust it then.”
The two angels sat together on that rooftop, staring out over the city below as time slowly passed.
Rey woke up early and alone.
Poe never stayed, that was part of their deal. No strings attached, no messy emotional clutter, no clinging of any kind.
She lay in bed staring up at the ceiling as dawn was barely creeping up. She never slept well, and ever since Dexter died in her arms it had only become worse. Her mind instantly wandered to that stranger, Ben.
What strange twist of fate that they should have met that same day.
The way he had looked at her —a s if he had stared right into her very soul, as if he knew her every secret, doubt, and insecurity, and still could find no fault with her, as if there was nothing more precious in this world but her…
Unconsciously, she put her hand over her fluttering heart.
It was extraordinary. And she didn’t know if she would ever see him again. He’d never given her his number, never even hinted at wanting to get to know her better. And still…
She sighed mournfully and stared at her alarm clock. As she looked over, she noticed a book. She didn’t own it, and she noticed the serial number and QR code from the library.
Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast .
Out of curiosity she picked it up and started reading it. Time passed by and before she knew it, it was time to leave for work. But she took the book with her and she couldn’t help but read it whenever she had a few minutes to spare. When she saw Poe sometime during lunch, she thanked him and wanted to hand the book back, but he was as surprised as she was.
Doubt settled in then. How had the book gotten on her nightstand? There had to be a reason.
When she got home, she immediately fixed herself something to eat and began devouring the book again. Sometime past midnight, she finished it, a smile firmly planted on her face.
She slipped into slumber once more, and when dawn broke the night sky and the sun bathed the earth in gentle sunshine again, she rose, better rested than she had been in quite a while.
It was her morning off, so she had no place to be until later that afternoon. She decided to take the book back to the library.
The guy at the counter, Seth, told her he didn’t know but he could find out who had checked the book out. It would only take a few minutes, so Rey decided to look around the poetry section while she waited. She ended up in front of the Classics and admired all of Hemingway’s collection.
She found herself lost in thought for a spell or two, her mind unwillingly travelling back to that odd chance encounter with the handsome stranger, Ben.
He sure gave a new meaning to the phrase ‘Tall, dark and handsome’.The way his large frame dominated space. The way his beauty marks were scattered across his pale skin, contrasting in the most profound and beautiful way, like a star map.
That luscious mouth, so plush and inviting, parting in a smile that made her insides quiver deliciously. That hair! Sweet Heavens, that hair. And then his eyes…
As if conjured by her thoughts, he manifested before her very eyes.
A familiar voice sounded softly and when she turned around and saw who it belonged to, her heartrate shot up.
Realizing she was shouting, embarrassment tinted her cheeks, and she immediately lowered her voice.
“Sorry, hi,” she said more demurely. “What are you doing here?”
“I…” Ben hesitated. Luckily for him, Rey turned out to be quite the chatterbox.
“Do you work here?”
“Well, no,” he answered softly.
Rey noticed his rather large ears protruding from that gorgeous crop of glossy dark hair and felt her heart melt a little, because the tips of said rather large ears were tinged pink.
“What do you do then?”
He simply replied. “I’m a messenger.”
“Oh! That’s nice! So you run errands and things?”
Ben frowned. “Uhm… yeah, I guess you could say that.”
“It must be very satisfying, I suppose. To know you deliver messages and errands and to see the instant response.”
“It used to be. Lately, it’s been kind of boring. Very repetitive.”
Rey smiled. It reached her eyes and made them sparkle. The curve of her lips and flash of even white teeth made Ben’s stomach tremble. He was experiencing things he had never felt before.
“Now that I understand!” she said with gusto. “I’m at this place in my life where I need more challenges. Where I need more to drive me to do better than what I have been doing so far.” Her smile faltered slightly. “I haven’t been getting very far with that yet.”
“But you know what you want and what you need. I would say that’s a fair step in the right direction.”
Rey laughed softly. “That’s one way of looking at things.”
Silence descended. And although it wasn’t particularly uncomfortable, it made Ben feel even more awkward. He wasn’t used to small talk. His contact with humans was limited to discussing the steps involved with their demise. Not the kind of experience that could be applied right now.
“So,” he started haltingly. “Do you like Hemingway?”
Another brilliant smile graced her lips.
“I am starting to appreciate his work lately.”
“Really?” Ben said quietly.
“Yes. I just read this one paragraph the other day, and a lot of things seemed to fall back into perspective.”
The barest hint of a smile curved his lips.
“What was it?”
Rey smiled and launched into a perfect rendition, worthy of theatres and stages alike.
"But you knew there would always be the spring, as you knew the river would flow again after it was frozen. When the cold rains kept on and killed the spring, it was as though a young person had died for no reason.”
Rey smiled up at him and he gave her the oddest look. Like he knew something, like he was in on a big secret.
They discussed some other quotes from the book Rey had found and how inspiring it had been. How it changed her outlook slightly and gave her hope.
Several of the angels present walked over to the railing to watch the scene before them in silence. They did not know how to respond to this. They never judged, and they never questioned each other, but this was strange to say the least. So they observed.
“Well,” Ben started when they had discussed things thoroughly. “I should be going. I have more work to do.”
“Oh.” Rey’s face fell slightly. She hadn’t noticed time slipping by so fast. “I enjoyed our conversation greatly,” she said as she squared her shoulders.
Her disappointment seeped through him and he felt empowered by that strong emotion. Boldness dictated his next move.
“Perhaps we could meet again sometime? To discuss more of Hemingway’s work or just do something else?”
Rey’s face lit up and her smile was almost blinding in its radiance. “I would love to! When?”
A real smile crept by his defenses. “Say when.”
Rey lowered her eyes briefly. “Tomorrow evening? Around six? I'm off work by then,” she said hesitantly. “We could meet here and decide what to do from there. Maybe we could go to a market? Pick up some things and then cook them together?”
“That sounds like a great plan. I’ll see you tomorrow then.”
“Okay, great!” A blush graced her delicate cheeks and Ben found himself at a loss. “I’ll see you tomorrow. Bye Ben!”
With that, Rey turned and left. She peeked over her shoulders once, that great big smile still firmly in place.
Ben stood there, looking on. He heaved a great big sigh and smiled. He noticed the other angels among him staring at him oddly, but no one said a word. He merely nodded and left.
Ben’s impatience grew with every passing second. He needed to see her. Being away from her was agony, and he couldn’t fight it anymore.
So he stayed close to her side, following her around at work.
He silently watched on as she tended to her patients. Usually, there was very little to be done. Bandaging wounds, checking and making sure they took their medicine. He watched on as she talked with Rose, one of her colleagues. She obviously cared for her very much. He blushed as he overheard them talking about him. It lifted his spirits greatly, to know he was on her mind too. It only encouraged him to stick around.
At a certain point in the afternoon, she visited with someone called Han, a man who had just had open-heart-surgery, but who failed to see the severity of his affliction or the surgery he’d just had. He continued to joke around, got caught eating food that he shouldn’t, and refused to take things seriously.
He got scolded by both Rey as his wife Leia, and as they left the room to have some tea at the nurse’s station, Ben got the surprise of a lifetime.
“Just cause I can’t see you, doesn’t mean I don’t know you’re there.”
Ben turned his head towards Han, who was looking around the room as if trying to pinpoint where Ben was.
“You know I’m talking to you, Angel-boy…”
Completely flabbergasted, Ben blurted out. “How do you know I’m here?”
Han just chuckled.
“Trust me kid, I know a lot more about your kind than you think. Just tell the big boys up there that I’m not coming home just yet. This pacemaker they installed is working just fine. I still have a whole lotta livin’ ahead of me and I intend to live it fully, so you’ll just have to come back another time.”
Ben’s mouth just hung open. Unable to say another word, he just kept flitting from one thought to another.
“You’re still here. Why?” Han said.
When no answer came, he continued.
“Look, if you’re gonna stick around, at least show yourself. I know you can if you want to.”
“How do you know this?” Ben asked, confusion clear in his voice. But he did show himself as the man had suggested.
When Ben’s took on his human form, Han smiled.
“I’d forgotten how beautiful you all are…”
He reached under his mattress and pulled out a pack of cigarettes. As he took one out and lit it, he regarded Ben with undisguised curiosity. He drew in a deep puff and made a sound of delight as he blew out the smoke and lit a scented candle to mask the smell. When he was done, he looked back at Ben.
“So,” he said as he drew in another puff and let it out on an exasperated exhale, “if you’re not here for me… Then why are you here?”
He continued to study Ben in silence, and Ben let him, not uttering a single word. Han tilted his head and his smile grew sly.
“The nurse. You’re here for the nurse.” He stubbed out the cigarette and crossed his arms.
“You like her, huh.”
Ben merely frowned.
“I can clearly see your point of view. She’s a pretty little thing, that one. Much prettier than the other one who comes here. A little flat-chested for my taste, but all you need is a handful, am I right?” Han winked and let out a chuckle.
Ben tilted his head. He was confused.
“You’re wondering how I know so much?” Han stated quietly.
Ben nodded in response, still stunned into silence.
“If you get me out of this place for a couple of hours, I’ll tell you all I know. Do we have a deal?”
Ben took a deep breath. He hadn’t said much so far, but he was so surprised by this man’s observational skills that he couldn’t respond. But his curiosity won out, and so Ben helped him out of his bed and into some decent clothes. Together they took off.
They went to a diner not far from Han’s place. They sat while Han ordered a huge amount of fatty and sugary food, a large milkshake and a beer and wolfed it all down.
“I gotta tell ya, kid, I missed this kind of food! I had to go on this special diet to have that pacemaker installed… I’m supposed to lay off the fat and sweets for the rest of my life, but honestly, you only live once right…”
Ben’s curiosity could not be contained much longer.
“You said you know about us. How?”
Han smiled lopsided. With a twinkle in his eyes he replied dryly.
“I used to be one of you.”
Ben’s eyebrows all but disappeared into his hairline.
“One of us?”
“Yeah. I was one too. Before I fell that is.”
“And if I don’t believe you?” Ben retorted.
Han just smiled.
“You can move from one place to another with nothing but the wish to be there, you enjoy heights and can gather at the highest places in town, you speak every language in the world fluently, you have no sense of smell, taste, or touch, and humans can only see you when you want them to. Also, you are capable of reading people’s minds, like you’re doing to me right now.”
“But this is impossible…” Ben uttered.
“Son, you should know that nothing is impossible. Maker knows what he’s doing.”
“I don’t believe you,” Ben said softly.
“Well, some things are true, even if you don’t believe them.” Han winked and Ben was once again stunned into silence.
“How… What…” Ben stammered as a thousand questions flickered through his head. And in that moment, he knew that Han was telling the truth.
“You fell?” Ben felt like a parrot, but in all fairness, he couldn’t think straight.
“Yes, I fell. You see, the thing is, nobody up there thinks twice about what they’re doing. You just think that’s the way things are and that’s it. We spend eternity doing our jobs and never consider things could be different. We look down upon these humans, these creatures the Maker created so lovingly, and we never even stop to realize that we have what they have, if only we decide to.”
Intrigued, Ben leaned forward, his arms resting on the table before him. “And what’s that?”
Han smiled. “Free will, kid. Free will.”
“Free will?” Ben repeated again, like he was some dimwit who was incapable of forming coherent thoughts on his own.
“Yeah, kid, free will. It usually takes something drastic—or someone—to discover we have it too, if only we want it badly enough. We never realize we are so much like these mortals until we choose to see it. I mean, why would the Maker bestow something so wonderful on mankind, but not on us, who work for the good of Creation?”
Ben sat across from Han, quietly mulling it over in his head.
“When did you find out? And how?”
Han smiled gently and drew his wallet from his back pocket. He opened it and showed Ben a picture.
“Leia.” He said with pride. “My wife.” A great sigh escaped the man’s lips as he stared down at the face of the woman he loved.
“The day I met her, my life changed. Didn’t take me long to decide that she was worth taking the jump. So I did.”
“The jump?” Ben’s face was scrunched up into a semblance of doubt.
“Yeah, the jump. Literally.” Han said as he took a huge swig of his beer. “You go to a high building, focus on wanting to become a mortal human being, want it with every fiber of your being and you jump. You’ll land, and you’ll experience pain unlike anything you’ve ever know. You’ll bleed and hurt and you’ll need help, but you’ll be alive . And you’ll be able to be with her. But you need to be ready and willing to do it. It’s not for the faint of heart.”
“Right…” Ben said slowly.
Han was quiet for a few minutes, lost in his own thoughts or memories. Ben was apt enough to realize this was not a moment to intrude on him. Then, Han spoke up again.
“Do they still gather at the beach?”
Ben was still a little baffled by all that had transpired, all this information a random stranger was able to tell him about their kind. The idea of being able to transition from an angel to a mortal…
“Yes, every sunrise and sunset. Why?”
Han smiled wistfully.
“Will you take me there?”
And Ben did. He took Han to the section of a secluded beach where the angels gathered every morning and every night to give praise and sing and listen.They stood there, surrounded by curious lightworkers, the golden light of sunset washing over them.
Ben closed his eyes briefly and listened, then turned to Han.
“Can you hear them?” he asked gently.
Han stood there, his bare feet buried in the sand. He could feel the angels’ presence, but he did not see them, nor did he hear the angelic sounds he once had, a long time ago. Tears gathered in his eyes as he allowed himself a moment to mourn his former life but didn’t let it bring him down much.
“No, I can’t,” he said gruffly, the soft sheen of tears in his eyes. “I can’t hear them. But they can’t feel this…” he said as he stripped down completely and ran towards the waves.
“Han, wait!” Ben shouted and ran after him. Han jumped in headfirst, swam with passion and allowed himself to be carried by the waves, enjoying the way the water caressed his body, allowing the sensations to flow through his subconscious so Ben could pick it up.
When he was done, they both went back to shore. Han got dressed and they sat together side by side in the sand. Ben was the one who broke the silence.
“Looking back now, knowing all you know now, would you still do it?” Ben contemplated out loud.
Han sighed deeply and smiled up at Ben.
“Without a single doubt, kid.”
The day after that, Ben was still reeling.
He sat with Hux for a while, told him all that Han had said. They spoke in hushed tones, and debated the truthfulness of it all. They both decided that there was no reason for Han to have lied, nor was there any information that Han had divulged that was untrue.
“So, what will you do?” Hux asked Ben.
“I don’t know.” Ben sighed. “What I feel for her…”
“Then give it some more time.” Hux said logically.
“But what if I don’t have more time?” Ben retorted quickly.
Hux laughed at that.
“Ben… we are angels. We are immortal. If there is one thing we have, it is time. Infinity, to be precise.”
Ben looked at this angel beside him, his best friend and his confidant. His voice of reason when he lacked the proper mindset. And for once, he couldn’t completely agree with him.
“Hux, we are. But she’s not. Her time on earth is limited.”
Hux smiled, sincere with understanding.
“Then you know what you must do."
That evening, at six, Ben met up with Rey in the library. Together they went to a market where they bought several things. They sauntered past stalls of food, then strolled through the park as if they had all the time in the world.
They took a small break, sitting down on a bench overlooking the sunset. Rey took out a pear and took a big bite, making a small sound of pleasure.
Ben watched silently, fascinated with this young woman and her depth of feelings. He could sense it, the way she enjoyed that bite, how she savored the morsel. It prompted him to ask something he’d never even been mildly curious about.
“What does it taste like?”
Rey looked at him and laughed. “Seriously? You’ve never eaten a pear before?”
Ben shifted uncomfortably. He couldn’t lie, didn’t even know how, but he couldn’t very well tell her he’d never eaten anything before.
“I don’t know what a pear tastes like to you,” he said casually. “I’ve never seen someone react to it the way you do. So I was hoping that perhaps you might be willing to explain what it tastes like to you, and why you enjoy it so much?”
Rey tilted her head and seemed to study his face with great thought. “Well, uhm… okay.” she started hesitantly as she took another bite. With a small frown and the beginnings of a smile she continued.
“A pear, in my modest opinion, tastes like a slice of heaven. Treats from nature, my grandfather called them. They’re sweet and juicy,” she said on a giggle as she wiped at a small stream of juice that ran down her chin. “It’s the slightest bit on the starchy side and gets grainy when they ripen. I prefer mine hard and just a little unripe, so it’s still firm and crunchy and ever so mildly tart. When you bite into it, it just has this very satisfying sound. The flavor sort of explodes in your mouth and makes you eager to take another bite.”
And then she did.
And it made Ben laugh. That tightening sensation in his chest happened again, and he couldn’t get enough of the way her eyes crinkled at the corners when she smiled. He loved the tiny snorts she gave when laughing and adored the way she was completely uninhibited with him. They spoke some more, of pears and apples and citrus, of favorite foods and dishes and slowly strolled through the park without a care in the world.
They ended up at her small house, where Rey insisted on cooking him dinner. As she instructed him to cut up the lettuce, he ended up slicing through his fingers, something that didn’t even come close to wounding him since he was not made of the same stuff as humans.
Unfortunately, Rey had seen it.
Her nurse's intuition kicked in and took over. Without missing a beat she took his hand in hers and then stilled completely.
Wide eyes stared at him in shock.
“Why aren’t you bleeding?” she asked, eerily quiet.
“Rey…” Ben started, but she interrupted him.
“I saw you cut your fingers, you should be bleeding profusely. Why are you not bleeding?”
“Rey, I can explain, but I don’t think you would understand.”
Anger was taking over quickly, he could see that, but there was no avoiding this. She had found out and now he had to pay the price.
“Try me,” she said dryly.
“You’re not real, are you?” She was starting to hyperventilate. “You're just a figment of my imagination, a result of the traumatic experiences that I went through recently. You are nothing but a delusion.” She shook her head.
“No, That’s not true, I am real. I am not a figment of your imagination. Rey, I am sorry, I should have told you sooner…”
“Told me what?” she shouted.
Ben stared at her, at this woman who had captivated his soul.
“I’m an…” he started, and for the first time in his immortal life did he find it difficult to admit the truth.
“You’re a what?” she snapped.
With downcast eyes and a heavy heart, he spoke with a voice that was barely audible.
“I am an angel, Rey.”
Rey’s eyes almost bugged out of her sockets.
“An angel?” she sputtered.
“You want me to believe that you are an angel?”.
Ben could do no more than simply nod his head in acknowledgement.
“And you mean this literally or by figure of speech?” she continued in a sarcastic tone. “As in, you are a sweet person, people therefore refer to you as an angel, or you mean this as in you believe you are a true celestial being?”
Ben swallowed. He couldn’t answer her if the fate of the world depended on him.
They stared at each other for a few moments, the silence growing heavier and more uncomfortable with every passing second. Her anger started to mingle with disbelief and denial.
“You believe you really are an angel?”
He simply nodded.
She laughed and shook her head, tears gathering in her eyes.
“But,” she said and her face changed into a semblance of agony for the briefest of seconds, “I can see you, I can talk to you, others can see and talk to you. I have touched you — ”
“I know,” he cut her off, his voice twisted with pain. “I can take on a human form, but I cannot do what humans do. I do not physically hurt, I do not hunger, I do not tire. I cannot taste, or smell, or feel touch. I can make you see me, I can make you hear me, I can make you feel my touch, but I cannot respond in a similar way.”
“Then why did you choose to reveal yourself to me? Why do this then?” she all but shouted.
He took a deep breath, feeling cornered, and allowed himself to take a small leap of faith.
“Because I fell in love with you.”
Shock reflected in her features, and she was the one stunned into silence for once. After a few seconds, she seemed to regain her bearings. She walked up to him, a mixture of anger and rebellion in her eyes.
“You can’t feel? Not even this?” she whispered as she got up on her toes and pressed her lips to his.
Shocked, Ben just let his mind slide up to hers, trying to get a grip on her motivation, to find out what she was thinking and feeling, trying to make sense of her reactions.
She let her hands slide through his hair, pulling him closer still.
How could this not be real? she mused as her mouth covered his.
When they broke apart, she looked up into his eyes. What she saw there sobered her up quickly.
Sorrow and regret shone in those dark, captivating eyes of his. The corners of his mouth were pulled down. What he would have given to be able to feel that kiss.
“Rey…” he whispered.
He felt her resignation the moment her gaze met his. Kissing him had been a test, and obviously, he had failed horribly.
“Never mind,” she bit out. “I guess that solves everything then.” She stepped back and lifted her chin in defiance. “I’m sorry, but I need a man who is able to feel and enjoy it when I touch him. A man who can give me what I need. And it’s clear that you’re not him.”
She folded her arms over her chest protectively and steeled herself.
“I don’t want to see you again, Ben.”
“Rey…” he started as desperation clawed at his chest.
“Rey, please, just listen to me, I…”
“Goodbye Ben!” she said firmly and turned around.
Knowing he was being dismissed, he hung his head.
“Goodbye Rey,” he murmured softly and disappeared, leaving behind a stunned Rey.
They went through an entire week of ignoring each other.
He stopped following her as he had, but found himself appearing by her side whenever he wasn’t consciously paying attention to leaving her alone. He found himself at her work, or when she was cooking supper. He found himself sitting on the edge of her sofa, or standing near the edge of her bed when she couldn’t sleep once again. And it only showed him that he really did love her. That she was always on his mind, even when he didn’t mean to think of her.
Rey found herself torn between wanting to hit Ben over the head and missing him like a limb. She could sense him though. Almost as if she had finally pinned down the sensation to not feeling alone anymore and knowing it was him lingering close by. She could feel him near at the strangest times. She knew it was him instinctively, almost recognizing his aura, and came to terms with the fact that she had been sensing him specifically ever since Dexter died. And she was possibly even starting to believe the whole angel-thing, ludicrous as it might seem.
At the end of that week, she missed him so badly and felt so awful about the way they had parted that she couldn’t fight it anymore. She had gone to the places where she knew he went to sometimes. The beach, the library… He was nowhere to be found, or didn’t respond to her calling to him.
Just like today.
She was at home, alone in her bedroom, staring out the window and was overcome with sadness at the loss of contact with someone who had literally shown up and changed her life.
“Ben?” she whispered into the silence. “Ben, are you here?”
Desperation tinged her voice and she felt the hot sting of tears.
“Ben, please, if you’re around, talk to me. Let me know you’re here.”
“Ben?” she whispered brokenly.
She sensed him then. He walked up to her, but did not show himself. He did not speak a single word. But he did reach out and touched her cheek, and she felt it.
Her eyes grew wide at the realization, and she could feel his touch down to her very soul. As real and as soothing as the prettiest sunset after a long and tiring day. A watery smile graced her beautiful face and she leaned into his hand.
A single tear slipped down her cheek.
She smiled and closed her eyes, sighing with contentment.
“I missed you,” she whispered.
Rey opened her eyes and searched the room, desperate for the sight of him. When she realized he would not show himself to her, she was hurt, but she couldn’t blame him either. Her desperation grew as her doubts took hold of her. An irrational fear crept in, making her afraid that he would disappear. That she would be alone.
This past week had been a strange eye opener for her. She had realized she had been searching for a deep sense of connection with another being, a profound sense of belonging with someone, and oddly enough she had found it in the last place she ever would have guessed.
This… angel, had come to her in her darkest hour, had stayed with her when she needed him most, even if she hadn’t realized it at the time. He had come to her and comforted her, and turned out to be the sweetest, gentlest, and honestly, sexiest guy she’d ever encountered. In the span of a few days, she had unwittingly grown closer to him than to anyone else she had met in her life. With him, she hadn’t been afraid of ending up alone.
Terrified of being left on her own, she crawled into her bed, her next words whispered as reverently as a prayer.
“Stay with me, Ben. Stay with me tonight,” she spoke in a hushed tone. “Don’t leave me now. I need you. Hold me while I sleep. Please?”
She knew the exact moment he acknowledged her need. She could almost feel him crawl into bed with her, could pinpoint the second his arms wrapped her in his embrace. She felt the way his aura encompassed her in its warmth and light and compassion, and it gave her the sense of belonging and connection she had longed for so long.
Sighing at the exquisite sensation, she nestled in the invisible embrace and found herself slipping off to sleep with his name on her lips with a smile about them.
Rey woke up the next morning, with the sun high in the sky and the birds chirping away. When she looked at her alarm, it said 8:35am.
She hadn’t had a full night’s sleep in years.
As she stretched, she knew it was because of Ben. She hadn’t seen him, she hadn’t heard him, but she had known he was there. She had gone from not believing in the afterlife to having a very personal relationship with an angel.
She got up and prepared herself for the day. When she went into the hospital, she ran into Poe.
“Hey Rey, can you spare me a couple of minutes? There’s something I need to talk to you about.”
Rey looked at him, a deep frown marring her brow. He was rarely this serious, and he seemed jittery.
“Yeah, sure,” she replied softly as she put her hand on the dressing room door. “Just give me a second to put my bag in my locker and I’ll be with you.”
He took her to the rooftop of the building, the place they usually went when things had gone completely down the drain or when the chaos got too much for them.
“So…” Rey said once they got there and sat down in one of the deck chairs they had grouped together. “What did you want to talk to me about?” she started casually.
“Well…” Poe said as he ran his hand through his hair.
It struck her then. Poe reminded her of Ben. They both had dark, luscious, wavy hair. Full pouty lips, straight regal nose, high cheekbones. Dark, enticing and expressive eyes. Poe was a little more tanned than Ben was, but then again, Ben wasn’t as prone to UV as Poe was.
Little did she know that she had called out to Ben by letting her mind stray like that. As if conjured by her thoughts, he appeared on the edge of that rooftop, an unknowing spectator for the show…
“We’ve been through a lot together, haven’t we? You and I?” Poe started with a smile. “We’ve been seeing each other now for, what? Two years?” he said as he settled into the deck chair next to hers.
“Yes, something like that, I suppose,” Rey said flippantly.
“And lately, I’ve started thinking of some things. Big things. Like the future.”
Rey frowned slightly. Poe seemed nervous. Poe was never nervous.
“And?” she goaded.
“And, I’ve been giving it a lot of thought. And I believe you and I belong together. We’re a good match. We’re the same kind of people, you and I.”
“You mean, we’re both doers?” she responded, thinking back to their earlier conversation in her kitchen.
Poe smiled, dimple flashing. “Yeah, sort of like that.” He looked up at her from beneath his ridiculously long lashes as he took her hands in his. “What I’m saying here, Rey, is that I want to spend the rest of my life with you. Rey, I want to ask you if you will marry me?”
Rey’s face fell, her mouth opened in surprise.
“We can go to Reno, get married and then take a few days off at the cabin in Tahoe. Just the two of us, no big deal, no fuss. Just us. What do you say?”
Ben was standing near the edge of the rooftop, feeling as if his entire world had come crashing down around him. Despair and outrage and disbelief clouded his mind and his judgement to the point where he didn’t even think anymore.
Never in his entire existence had he felt such a myriad of emotions churning through him at once.
He looked back to where Rey was sitting with Poe. When he saw them holding hands, he instantly made up his mind.
He loved her.
Beyond anything else he had ever known in his life, he knew he loved her. And he wanted that chance to be with her. He desperately needed to find out if they had what it took. If she loved him back.
He morphed himself to a nearby building site, one with the tallest crane he knew of. He stood on top of it.
Full of purpose, he filled his head with memories of Rey, of all the people who had been in his charge, all his hopes and dreams and when the vision was clear, he just…
He allowed himself to topple off the edge, dropping down into the air and just…
His wish kept repeating itself in his mind’s eye.
I want to be a mortal man. I want to be human. Free will.
And he just kept on falling down, through a space and time continuum, unable to tell how much time passed.
He smacked into the earth with a vengeance, heat searing through him in a way he’d never felt before him.
Pain. This must be what pain feels like.
He was frozen in place for a minute or two, unable to move because every bone and fiber in his body hurt. When he was able to move, he looked around gently, trying to get his bearings back.
Sensory overload. This had to be what they called sensory overload. Because he was experiencing things in ways he never had before.
The sunlight was blinding, the summer heat was stifling, the smell of dirt was taking his breath away, something of a burning sensation was happening on his legs and his right hand that he did not fully know how to describe. Was this pain?
Ben briefly panicked. He had never in his entire existence felt so much. To top it off, he had a very strange taste in his mouth.
When he was able to get up into a seated position, he discovered the burning sensation and the taste in his mouth were both blood.
Completely dumbfounded, he just started laughing almost hysterically.
He had done it! He was human!
When he was done with his first assessment of his new mortal body, his mind became focused on Rey again.
He had to find her.
The only problem was he’d never had to actually walk before. He couldn’t use his angelic senses to locate her and transport himself to her this time. And on top of that, he was tiring —and fast
He wound up wandering through town, asking complete strangers questions, but no one answered him. Even though he was obviously hurt, no one even bothered to point him in the right direction.
At the end of the day, he just found himself sitting down on a bench and feeling the weight of the world on his shoulders in a way he had never been able to relate to in his Lightworker-days.
His first day as a mortal and he already felt defeated. He buried his head in his hands and tried to breathe away the pain, the fatigue, and the hopelessness.
Out of nowhere, he felt a presence appear next to him. The familiar gesture of a hand on his shoulder, giving him comfort and faith when he needed it most.
He allowed himself a moment to enjoy this kind of support, to be on the receiving end instead of the giving end. And he felt an insane amount of pride for all the times he had taken the time to give someone this small gesture. For all the times he had lifted someone’s spirits by simply giving them a pat on the back. Showing them someone cared, even when they didn’t think so.
Tears gathered in his eyes as gratitude befell him, and he knew who was with him.
“Thank you Hux,” he whispered.
And just like that the sun broke through the clouds, as if Hux were smiling back at him.
It gave him that final nudge he needed to start on his way again. This time, people were kinder. They showed him the way to the hospital, giving him directions and offering to give him a ride.
When he finally arrived at the hospital, he was all but frantic.
“I’m looking for Rey Kenobi! I need to talk to her!” he all but yelled at the woman behind the desk.
“Sir, I need you to calm down. I can’t help you if you don’t stay calm.”
Ben shoved a hand through his hair, wincing as he realized again that he’d hurt his head.
A medic arrived and tried to take him to an examination room, but he refused to budge.
“No, you don’t understand, I can’t stay calm! I need to find her, please go get her! Please go get Rey!”
“Sir, you’ve been hurt. You’ve wounded your head. We need you to calm down and tell us what happened so we can examine you properly and get you patched up okay?” the medic recited calmly, not even bothering to acknowledge Ben’s search for Rey. “Can you tell me what happened, sir?” the medic droned on in a professional, no-nonsense tone.
“I fell, alright? I fell, and I need her to know that I fell and I need to tell her now before it’s too late!”
When one of her colleagues arrived at that exact moment, as if sent by divine intervention, one he recognized from one of his visits, he latched on to her.
“Rose, thank goodness! Do you know where Rey is? I need to find Rey! It’s really really important!”
But Rose was completely thrown off by this total stranger knowing her name. As far as she knew, she’d never seen him before.
“I’m sorry, Sir, but I don’t know where Rey is, and I don’t believe I know you.”
“Rose, please, I need your help,” he whispered desperately.
“Yes, sir, you do need help. Unfortunately, my shift is almost done and I’m not assigned to ER duty today, so my colleague is going to help you. I wish you well.”
“Rose, my name is Ben Solo. I know you and Rey talked about me more than once. I need to find her and I know you know where she is! Rose, please?”
“I don’t know…” Rose said as she bit her lip.
“Rose, please !” He looked around frantically and then whispered to her. “Poe asked her to marry him, and I need to find her. I need to let her know she’s making a big mistake. I love her, I fell for her and I need to find out if she’d give us a chance.”
A soft sad smile curled at the corners of her mouth as she looked up at him.
“I’m sorry Ben, but she’s not here. She’s left for Tahoe.”
And just like that, he understood the meaning of the phrase ‘suckerpunched’.
All the air left him in one violent whoosh. He had to steady himself against the wall.
She went with him.
“I’ll tell you what,” Rose said as she walked up to him and slid an arm around his waist and brought him up against her with surprising strength for such a tiny woman. “I’ll get you cleaned up a little. And then when that’s done, I’ll call my boyfriend and ask him to give you a ride. You could be there in a few hours. What do you say?”
Ben looked down at her, her round face the epitome of friendliness and compassion, and he saw something in her he had never noticed in another human before. He smiled at her and whispered brokenly, “Thank you, Rose. You’re an angel.”
Rose simply laughed. “Tell that to Finn later and I’ll throw in some cupcakes.” And together, they hobbled over to the nearest nurse’s station.
Later that day, he found himself cleaned up, with a new set of clothes, sitting inside a large truck. Finn, Rose’s boyfriend, turned out to be a trucker, heading to Reno. But when Rose brought on the puppy eyes, he couldn’t resist and he had promised to take Ben as far as he could to Rey’s cabin. He knew where it was; they’d all spent a few weeks there last summer.
Finn was a funny, flamboyant kind of guy. He was also very open, sharing things that mortal men usually didn’t —h ow he had gotten to make a drastic career change a few years back, how he’d gone from the military into the trucking business, how he’d met Rey, how he’d thought himself to be in love with her, until he’d met Rose, how Rose completed him, how she could make him do anything, including straying from his original route with a two hour detour.
Ben slept, something he’d never done before, and found it quite refreshing. He woke up feeling stiff and sore, but like Han had said: very much alive.
After his nap, it didn’t take them long. When Finn stopped in front of a driveway that led into the woods, he announced they were there. Ben thanked Finn profusely and Finn wished him well, and with that, all was said.
And so he found himself, standing on the edge of that driveway, frozen with fear.
What if Rey was there with Poe? What if she had taken his offer? What if they had passed through Reno and had gotten married already? What if she just didn’t want to be with him?
His heart was heavy and he could barely breathe with all the doubt wearing him down. But somewhere deep inside he felt that tiny spark of hope rebel, just chomping at the bit to turn into a roaring fire.
And that tiny spark was what propelled his feet to take that first step down the driveway. And then another. And another. And another. And without really knowing how time slipped by, he found himself at the front door of a beautiful two-story cabin with a wrap-around porch and a stunning backdrop of Lake Tahoe.
Summoning up all the courage he had, he rang the doorbell. When there wasn’t a response, he panicked and rang again. Twice!
He was about to knock on the door when it opened.
Rey suddenly stood before him, shock and surprise evident in her lovely features.
The confusion in her face was as clear as the sun in the sky.
“What are you doing here?”
The sight of her almost brought him to her knees, dressed in casual jeans, a tank top, and a soft flannel shirt, her hair tied back into a simple ponytail. She looked fresh and wholesome. She was everything he’d never known he’d wanted.
She was brilliant.
His Rey of sunshine.
“You can’t marry Poe,” he blurted out.
“What?” she replied with her eyebrows drawn up.
Insecurity nagged at him, but he couldn’t stop now. Not when he’d come all this way. For her.
“You can’t marry Poe,” he said again after he took a fortifying breath. “I love you, Rey. And I think we owe it to ourselves to find out if this could work. And to do that, you can’t marry Poe.”
Rey crossed her arms in front of her chest and tilted her head to gaze at him. “Is that right?” she asked simply.
Ben swallowed past the giant lump in his throat. Insecurity and doubt were obviously a huge part of being human. He’s been one less than twenty-four hours and he’d already found that part out the hard way.
“Yes,” he said as he felt his entire body tremble with fatigue and nerves.
She took a step forward until they were almost toe to toe.
“Well, then…” she started quietly as she looked up into his eyes. “Lucky for you, I couldn’t in fact marry Poe.”
Once again, Ben felt the meaning of being suckerpunched. His legs all but gave out on him as her words penetrated his tired mind.
“No,” she said with a small smile at his obvious relief.
“What do you mean, why not? I thought you’d be happy about it, considering your passionate debate just now.”
“Well, yes, I am, but I’m confused,” he said softly.
Rey’s smile only grew wider.
“I could not marry Poe because I’m in love with you,” she said softly, her voice hitching slightly. “And even if we could never be together, it would have been wrong to stay with him when my heart was with you.”
“You love me?” Ben sighed brokenly. He didn’t even care how pathetic he sounded.
Rey nodded, tears streaming down her cheeks.
“I do,” she said confidently. “Now, are you going to come inside or are you going stay on the porch all night?
Ben smiled sheepishly and then let her usher him inside.
Rey quickly lit a fire in the huge stone fireplace and arranged blankets and cushions in front of it. She put together a tray of food and added a bottle of wine just for good measure. They sat down and talked, hushed whispers and gentle confessions. They spoke of Ben’s trip a little and ate and drank in silence. Rey made him take off his shirt so she could tend to his injuries.
Ben was soon overcome with fatigue, which was heightened by the sensations of having a full belly, his senses lulled by the wine and his comfort heightened by the fire and soft cushions. Never before had he felt like this, so, unused to these worldly comforts he nestled in front of the fire.
Rey caressed his face gently, careful not to reopen his wounds.Truly perplexed by today’s events, she couldn’t let the question go unasked.
“How did you get hurt?” she whispered as her face scrunched up in doubt and concern.
Completely unaware and already partially asleep, Ben murmured under his breath.
“I fell… I fell … for you.” And soon soft snores filled the air between them.
Rey was left feeling moved beyond words.
He had done it. He had fallen from Heaven.
A silent tear slipped down her cheek, and she found herself giving thanks to a Maker she hadn’t even believed in before, for allowing one of His or Her own to fall from grace and be with her.
I promise I’ll take good care of him as long as I live.
Even the thought was whispered, but the words were filled with gratitude and happiness. She settled in besides Ben and found herself drifting off in pleasant slumber soon.
Some three hours later, they both woke up gently. The sun had long since set, the fire was burning slowly.
Ben woke with Rey tucked in at his side, and the feeling of her skin against his was indescribable. Rey lifted herself on one elbow and leaned her head in her hand. She stayed that way for a few silent moments, just taking the time to study him, in all his mortal glory.
Her eyes were soft when she spoke, as she lifted her hand and touched his chest.
“Do you feel me now?” she asked, her voice nothing but a whisper.
What happened next was nothing short of a miracle.
The patch of skin where her hand lay, seemed to come alive. A thousand tiny livewires seemed to crackle and fizz underneath his skin. He could feel every tiny ridge of her fingertips as if it were blown out of proportion. Strange sensations overtook him, something nothing in the world or beyond could have prepared him for.
His breath caught as tiny little currents spread throughout his entire body. A strange feeling of anticipation coiled somewhere deep inside him. He felt goosebumps appear on his arms and neck and legs, the hairs standing on end as if they too were trying to see where this would take him.
A heavy feeling settled below his waist, a tightening of sorts and he was both in awe and slightly scared of his physical reaction to a simple touch combined with the look in her eyes.
He let out a huff and blinked rapidly several times, trying to regain some semblance of calm.
“Yes, I can feel you now.” His voice was rough and gravelly, as if he’d swallowed fistfuls of sand.
She looked down at him, her pupils blown wide, almost completely blocking out that gorgeous shade of hazel that had captivated him entirely.
“Good,” she whispered.
And then she let her hand slide over his chest slowly. She lowered her lips to his and kissed him and Sweet Maker, but that was something else! If Maker decided to take him back here and now, he could die a happy, contented man.
But then things got even better. Because strangely enough, his body apparently knew what the instincts were and feeling them for the first time made him almost dizzy.
When her tongue slipped past his lips, he could not contain the moan that bubbled up any more than he could keep his hands from reaching for her, for burying them in her hair and loosening that rubber band that kept it in its ponytail. In all of his enthusiasm, he kissed her back with all the passion he never realized he had. It resulted in accidentally knocking his teeth against hers.
He was startled by the unexpected flash of pain that rocked through him, but even more so by her exclamation.
“I’m sorry,” he muttered, full of remorse. “I didn’t mean to hurt you, Rey!”
Rey just laughed, and that laughter morphed into a giggle.
“Of course you didn’t,” she said with a wide smile.
“I’ve never…” He halted and could not meet her eyes as he continued. “I’ve never done this before. I… don’t know how.”
The confession sounded as if it had been cut out of him with a dull blade. Rey cupped his face and waited until he looked up at her with those big dark puppy-eyes.
“I know that, silly,” she whispered softly, with a gentle smile to take the sting out of her words. “Don’t worry about it. I’ll teach you. And we can spend the rest of our lives making it work.”
He swallowed hard to get rid of the giant lump in his throat, preventing him from taking a decent breath. He looked into her eyes and felt as if the entire world and all the mysteries of the universe were all wrapped up in this beautiful woman in his arms.
“I love you, Rey,” he said, his voice hoarse with emotion.
Tears misted her eyes as she caressed his bottom lip with her thumb.
“I know.” And as she lowered her lips to his again, she whispered: “Make love to me then.”
And then the world shifted and trembled beneath them as they explored each others’ bodies with relentless vigor and tenderness. Ben trembled with every touch, every kiss, every caress that Rey seemed to manage. He was overcome by sensations and emotions and did not know how to respond to any of it.
Rey encouraged his own exploration with soft moans and sweet nothings, hot whispers in his ears for him alone to hear. As he grabbed her breasts, he was a little too excited and squeezed a little too tight. Her hiss and her muttered “gentle” was enough to keep him in check, but it was hard when everything and anything she did drove him out of his mind. The feeling of her hard nipples pebbled against his tongue, the reward of having her arch up against him as he gently suckled, the unbelievable rush of excitement as he felt her guide his hand to the apex between her thighs, the feel of her heat and wetness and tightness around his fingers, the way she bucked against his hand and the way her inner walls clamped down on him… It was almost too much.
“Rey, I don’t know how I’m going to do this. I can’t…” His voice died as her teeth grazed his earlobe and he let out a rough moan.That sensation that had been weighing down in his loins threatened to overtake him. Like a rope coiling tighter and tighter, like a string that was being pulled taut, ready to snap any second.
“Don’t worry. You’ll last long enough.” Rey whispered in his ear and goosebumps broke out all over his skin. “I’m here.”
And with those words, she straddled his hips. He could feel her pubic hair brush against his manhood and his eyes all but rolled back in his head. He grabbed her hips tightly, his fingers digging into her skin. Then all he felt was her pulsing wet entrance at the tip of his head and then he felt like he had died. He was being slowly encased by her tight heat inch by inch and it was the most glorious, magnificent and aching sensation he imagined he would ever experience for the rest of eternity.
A glorious fit, their two bodies combined as if they had been created with the other in mind.
The sensation was compounded by a thousand times when Rey lifted herself up, partially rising off of him and exposing a section of his manhood to the slight breeze before lowering herself down again.
She continued like this, slowly picking up the pace as she went along. The faster she went, the more she rode him, the tighter his muscles became. Something was building. Something formidable, something unstoppable, and it filled him with pure dread.
When Rey noticed that he was closing himself off, she grabbed the sides of his face.
“Ben, look at me.”
He opened his eyes, eyes that had been shut tight with terror and gazed up at her with a kind of trust that took Rey’s breath away.
“Ben, it’s okay. Just let it go,” she said and smiled at him.
She moved above him slowly, and she could tell he was trying very hard not to look away, that he was really trying to listen to her.
His face twitched, almost as if he were in pain, and she knew what she had to do. She quickened her pace slowly, just a notch at a time, and felt him tense up beneath her again. She sat up straighter and planted his palms over her breasts. She whispered “Let go” as she made him squeeze her breasts and she clamped her inner muscles down on him.
The sensations were just too much for him and with an impressive roar, he finally succumbed to his very first orgasm. Rey was quick to follow, adding yet another layer of pleasure to something that already felt life-changing.
They sank down together, floating down from that amazing high they had just reached.
Rey wrapped her arms around him and held him close and they both fell asleep peacefully, happy to have found this very special kind of love, the true kind that would never fade. They were certain of it.
When they woke up, it was way past dawn. The sun was high in the sky and the promise of a beautiful day hung in the air.
They snoozed for a while, content to just be together, in each others’ arms with the promise of their future together obtainable at last.
When common sense told them to get up, they did so reluctantly and after making slow sweet love a second time. Rey sent Ben off to take a shower, while she prepared everything for breakfast.
That shower was another blissful feature that couldn’t be compared to anything the celestial realm had. The feeling of hot water pelting down on sore muscles, relaxing them and soothing them even as it was a fleeting thing… indescribable.
He got out of the shower and dried off, then put the clothes on that Rey had left for him on the bed. When he went downstairs, he saw the table all decked out, but Rey was nowhere in sight. A small note was stuck to the tiny vase in the center of the table.
I just realized I forgot something.
I’ll just run to the store around the bend and get it.
I’ll be right back. Wait for me.
A smile spread across his face as her words warmed his heart. He had made the right decision when he decided to fall. Nothing Heaven had to offer could compare to the happiness he had found in her arms. He would do it over again a thousand fold, just to be near her like this again.
But at the very time the thought flashed through his head, so did a feeling of undeniable dread.
He recognized it for what it was. It was that unique sense of intuition Yoda had spoken of.
Panic engulfed him as he quickly bolted for the front door. He was halfway up the driveway when he heard the crash.
“No!” he cried out and started to run as if the Devil were on his heels.
It only took him a minute or two to reach the road, but when he got there, the sight before him made his world stop spinning.
A truck was slanted across the road, effectively blocking all lanes. A woman and her bike were lying on the ground, both mangled and broken. He recognized Rey’s face instantly and was at her side in a flash.
“Rey! Rey, can you hear me? Rey answer me please!”
He was shouting at her, willing her to open her eyes. When she did, he almost died with relief, but it was short lived.
Her voice was weak, feeble at best. She was bleeding from a head wound, he could tell that she had broken several bones.
“Shh, Don’t talk. Just be quiet and everything will be fine. I’ll go for help.”
“No!” she tried to shout, but it came out just barely above her normal voice. “The truck driver is already calling for assistance. Stay with me, Ben. Don’t leave me now.”
She held on to his hand with all her might and he felt his despair pull at him from all sides.
He felt the angel hovering close, although he could not see him.
His anger spiked.
“No! Back off! Just stay back. Or so help me Maker, I will fight you with everything I have!” He shouted at his former peer, enraged by the fact that they would take her away from him so soon. Livid that they chose his best friend to do the job. As if that would make it less painful… “Back off, I mean it!” he cried out, frantic and with tears streaming down his face.
“Rey, sweetheart?” he asked tentatively. When her eyes fluttered and she looked up at him again, she smiled softly.
“Yes, my love?”
His throat almost closed up at the sound of that endearment, coming from her mouth at such a crucial time. Her voice so weak and feeble.
“Remember how I said I first saw you? Remember what I said that made you stand out?”
She frowned. “The… Game of… Thrones … thing?”
He laughed, even as tears ran down his cheeks in rivulets.
“Yeah, the Game of Thrones thing.” He caressed her cheek.
The sound of sirens could be heard in the distance. They would be here soon. He had to keep her conscious until they got here. Taking a deep breath and sounding more confident than he felt by a country mile and then some, he squared his shoulders and put up a brave front.
“Now it’s your turn. What do we say to the God of Death?”
Rey looked up at him and he saw sadness in her eyes.
“Dexter died, Ben.”
Anger rushed through him again at her lack of faith.
“You need to believe, Rey. Or it won’t work. Now answer me. What do we say to the God of Death?”
She caught sight of the entity behind him, he could tell by the look on her face. Resignation crept in her features as she gazed into his eyes. She nodded briefly and then whispered.
“So, this is how it goes?”
Ben felt panic and ice cold fear claw at his gut like nothing in eternity ever had. He had never realized up to this point, how incredibly sensitive and perceptive and intense humans could be.
He couldn’t ignore her question. But his throat was too thick and he couldn’t say it. He could only nod in affirmation as tears clouded his sight.
She took his hand and whispered haltingly.
“Then I’m not afraid,” she smiled brokenly.
The sound of sirens grew louder with every passing second and the flashing lights appeared on his peripheral view.
“Rey… Don’t leave me. Please…”
She smiled brighter, if only for a moment and her whisper was barely audible.
And then her eyes closed.
Panic flitted through him, as well as the innate feeling of being utterly powerless. Nothing he had experienced in his previously immortal life would have been able to prepare him for this. The paramedics arrived and sprung into action right away. It could have been minutes or hours while they worked on her, but Ben was in a daze. Completely unaware of time or space, just utterly consumed by the emotions that coursed through him, fear and despair being the prominent ones.
He sat in the back of the ambulance, watching helplessly as the medics kept Rey alive by machines. Horrible beeps and mechanical noises reached his ears, as well as the sound of the sirens and the screeching of tires as the ambulance rounded corners and sped up.
Rey was rushed into the OR and he was left standing alone in the hallway.
He was ushered to the waiting room by a nurse who did the best she could to soothe his frazzled nerves.
Don’t let her die. Maker don’t let her die. I’ll come back. I’ll do whatever you ask. I will give my life for hers. I will give up my last breath so she can take another one. I will do whatever it takes. Just keep her safe. Just don’t let her die. Not today.
His thoughts were all over the place, a hot mess of desperate mumbles. He repeated that same chant over and over again during the six hours it took for the doctors to tend to Rey.
The doctor, a young man called Mitaka, approached him at last.
Ben veered up off the chair at the mention of his name.
“Yes? How is Rey? Is she alright? Where is she? Can I see her?” he asked frantically, rushing the words out in one breath.
The doctor gave him a small smile.
“Mr Solo, please sit down,” he said seriously.
Ben could feel himself slowly start to hyperventilate. He needed to believe, he needed to stay positive, he needed…
He needed Rey.
“Mr. Solo, we managed to stabilize Ms. Kenobi. She is still in critical condition and all will depend on the next 48 hours. She’s not out of the woods yet, we are currently keeping her in an artificial coma to allow her as much recovery as possible. Although things are still looking bad, we have to be positive.”
The words hardly made sense to Ben’s tired ears, but somehow he managed to get the message.
“Can I see her?” he asked, his tone of voice barely audible because of it rough quality. Worry did that, apparently. “Please? Can I just see her? I need to see her…”
He was begging and he didn’t even care. Dr Mitaka just heaved a big sigh and conceded.
“Alright. But only just for a moment. There’s not much any of us can do but wait.”
Ben nodded but couldn’t keep the words from tumbling from his mouth.
“But I can be there for her.”
Compassion and understanding shone in the young doctor’s eyes and he led the way to the recovery room. Rey was hooked up to all sorts of machines and tubes.
The sight of her, so frail and vulnerable on that hospital bed, almost made his knees buckle. He pulled up a chair he found somewhere without even being aware of it and sunk down.
His hands found hers and he pressed his lips to them.
The doctor said something, but Ben didn’t even hear him. His focus was on Rey, and nothing could distract him. The door closed and they were alone.
Don’t let her die. Maker don’t let her die. I’ll come back. I’ll do whatever you ask. I will give my life for hers. I will give up my last breath so she can take another one. I will do whatever it takes. Just keep her safe. Just don’t let her die. Not today.
That same chant he’d been repeating for hours, just returned as if the interval with the doctor hadn’t mattered.
I love her, Maker. I’ll give up my life for hers. She still has so much living left to do. So much joy and happiness to spread. Don’t take her.
He felt him then.
Filled with bitterness and helplessness and an entire myriad of emotions, he could not hold back.
“Why?” he bit out. “Why would the Maker take her now? It’s not right! Is this punishment for falling? Is that it?”
He felt the benevolent smile before he saw it. Hux showed himself to Ben, and for a second it felt as if time stood still.
“You know that’s not how it works, Ben.”
Ben closed his eyes and tears escaped his closed lids. Emptiness filled him, sorrow swamped him, but being powerless about it was the worst of all.
When he opened his eyes, he had come to terms with it. Partially. Sort of…
“Is it you?” he asked calmly, almost devoid of those crazy emotions that had swirled in his soul until now. “Have you come to take her?”
Hux smiled. “No. She’s not my charge. I’m here for you.”
“Me?” Ben asked, dumbfounded.
“Yes, you. You did mention that you would trade your life for hers. Or was that just a ruse?”
Ben’s eyes grew wide. For a split second he couldn’t utter a single word, could not even react or process the notion. But then everything slammed into him and he stood.
“Yes, of course! Yes. Just let me take a moment to say goodbye…”
He turned to Rey, kissed her forehead and was about to whisper his final farewell, when Hux interrupted him.
“No human can truly let go. It’s very hard. Ultimately, they do let go because it’s inevitable; you do die and you do lose your loved ones. But while you’re alive, you can’t be obsessed with holding on. As Yoda says, ‘You must learn to let go of everything you’re afraid to let go of.’ Because holding on is in the same category and the precursor to greed. And that’s what a demon is. A demon is somebody that is absolutely obsessed with gaining more and more power — but for what? Nothing, except that it becomes an obsession to get more.”
“Angels are trained to let go. They’re trained since the beginning of creation,” he continued, “They’re not supposed to form attachments. They can love people- in fact, they should love everybody. They should love their charges; they should even love the demons. But they can’t form attachments because that causes greed. Greed is a source of pain and suffering for everybody. And the ultimate state of greed is the desire to cheat death.”
Ben immediately rebelled against these words.
“I am not trying to hold on out of greed!”
He lowered his voice when he feared the staff would overhear or that he would disturb Rey.
“And I am definitely not trying to cheat death!” he seethed. “I am trying to make you and her Lightworker and everyone at headquarters realize that this is not her time! She should be allowed to live to a ripe old age. She should be allowed to continue her work! Healing people! Both their bodies and their souls. She should be allowed to follow her dreams and start a family and die in her sleep when she’s in her nineties, smiling as she remembers all the good that she has done! That is what she deserves. And Maker help me, but if there is a way for her to do that by giving up the life I chose to lead, then I will do so without a moment’s hesitation. I would go with you now if it meant that she could live.
“Is that so?” Hux asked almost rhetorically.
“Yes!” Ben retorted sharply, not a single doubt in his voice.
“Tell me, Ben. If you knew what was going to happen, would you still have done it? Was it worth it?”
Sorrow filled his heart and Ben felt the wind go out of his sails. He looked back at Rey, so beautiful and fragile. Vibrant, despite being on the precipice.
“I would rather have had one whiff of her hair, one kiss of her mouth, one touch of her hand, than eternity without it. One.” Tears filled his eyes and clouded his sight as he hung his head in defeat.
They would surely take her from him.
They had only sent Hux to lighten the blow. Probably as a gesture of gratitude for all his years of loyal service.
Ben looked down on Rey, lying there so peacefully. If not for those machines, she would be dead. He knew it. And he could only be grateful for these wonders of technology that bought him just that sliver of extra time, however inevitable the future was.
He touched her hand, carefully ran his fingers through her hair and kissed her forehead delicately.
Ben whispered, “I love you Rey. Thank you for teaching me the meaning of mortal life. Thank you for showing me how to love. I’ll wait for you forever.”
His tears fell on her cheeks as he kissed her forehead one last time and then turned to Hux.
To his surprise, Hux wasn’t alone. Luke, his superior, stood beside him, as did the Archangel Yoda, the wise.
He was so shocked that he couldn’t utter a single word.
The trio stared back at him, smiling with benevolence.
“Congratulations,” Yoda said. “Convinced the council, you have.”
Ben just frowned and made a movement with his mouth but no sound came.
Luke crossed his arms across his chest and spoke confidently.
“You are a fallen angel, now a mortal man, and you did so out of love. Most of them are confused, and end up being the victims of this earthly realm’s many temptations. Most of them do not understand. You do.”
“Understand what?” Ben croaked, barely sounding like himself.
“The meaning of life, found it you did,” Yoda replied.
“It seems that because of this woman, you have indeed discovered the meaning of life. You have learned to love unconditionally. Without any sense of self-preservation. Without qualms. Without question. Without demands. You were able to put aside your own self for the salvation of hers. Most humans aren’t that selfless. Not even fallen angels.”
Ben felt hope blossom in his heart, so he fought hard to tamp it down.
“Do not fight your hope, Ben,” Hux said softly. “For your wish is being granted. Rey may live to a ripe old age, go after her dreams and start a family.”
Ben’s heart all but exploded with joy. Only the faintest wisp of regret that he would not be able to live that life with her slithered its way through, but he was quick to push that right back down to the deepest recesses of his soul.
He smiled through his tears and could do no more than nod his thanks.He cleared his throat several times and when he finally managed, spoke up briskly.
“So, let’s not waste any more time. Let’s go.”
He took a few steps in the angelic assembly’s direction when a single word from Yoda stopped him.
Ben stared at him in open surprise.
“Come with us, you will not. Stay with Rey, you must.”
“But…” he started but once again was interrupted.
“Stay with Rey, you must. Wake from her coma soon, she will. Need your help, she does. Share her future, your goal is.”
“You get to stay too,” Luke interjected. “You have shown us all that you are worthy. You will both live long and prosper, and you will find a way to teach others what you have learned. Together. Balanced. Thàt is your goal.”
Hux walked up to Ben and placed his hand on his friend’s shoulder, much like had before. Ben looked up into his eyes, blue as the celestial skies at noon.
“Be happy, my friend. And we will be here when you need us.” He nodded and then they disappeared, leaving Ben alone and confused.
Rey’s eyes opened and she made a sound. It made Ben turn around and when he saw, he rushed to her side.
Her eyes smiled up at him feebly, but it conveyed all he needed to know.
“We’ll be fine, sweetheart,” he said sobbing with relief and happiness. “We’ll be just fine.”
Rey just blinked slowly at his as if to say ‘I know’.
Ben caressed her hair gently and leaned his forehead to hers.
“Go back to sleep, sweetheart. You need to rest. And I’ll be here when you wake up.”
Ben sat down at her side as she went back to sleep. He praised the Maker, knowing now and forever that he would find a way to make people discover there were angels among them, ready to help whenever people needed them. Sure of a happy outcome, Ben put his head on the edge of the mattress and slowly drifted off to sleep with Rey, ready for his future with her.