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Bunny Hill

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It was nearly the end of a long, tedious day at work, and it was only the first day. Opening day, as they call it at a ski resort. Kylo sighed, helping yet another small kid onto the chairlift. How he got stuck with the bunny hill lift on the first day of the season was a mystery to him. Most of the time, newer lift attendants would be stationed at the chairlift at the ski school area. Lifties who had been there a long time only had to work it a few times a month. Somehow, the universe was punishing him. Or the owner, Mr. Snoke. Whichever. Same thing. After Kylo had stopped helping Snoke terrorize the land owners surrounding the resort in an attempt to buy out their properties to expand, Snoke seemed hellbent on making Kylo quit. He couldn’t legally fire him for not being the muscle in his side projects, but he was making it very tempting to quit his job as a lift attendant and work elsewhere.

There was really only one thing keeping him at First Order Mountain. Or only one someone, rather. Rey. She worked in the ski school as an instructor, and Kylo had been enamored with her since he first laid eyes on her. She’d begun working only last season, and although they didn’t talk much anyway, Kylo had missed her terribly over the summer. When the ski season was over, he worked at a lumber company, clearing woods in southern Ontario where they lived. Rey worked at a local bakery during the summer. Thankfully, his workload as a lumberjack allowed him a large daily calorie intake, so he didn’t gain any weight despite his nearly daily visits to the bakery. He usually came up with some sort of excuse, like he was taking some bread over to his parents’ house, or he would pick up a box of donuts for the guys at work. He was worried that Rey saw through it, but she was always nice to him. Nicer than he deserved.

Now that the ski season had rolled around again, he’d get to see her every day. They only had full staff meetings with lifties, rental, patrol, and the ski school employees once a week, but he managed to run into her quite often. Lifties and ski school instructors shared the same locker room, and he managed to get a locker near hers, but not so close that it seemed intentional.

“So you’re back this season!” she said to him in that damn adorable chipper mood of hers on the first day back.

“Yeah,” he responded meekly, too intimidated to say much.

“It’s nice to see a familiar face. It looks like there’s a lot of turn around in the staff this year.”

“Snoke probably scared a lot of people off,” Kylo said with a frown.

“Hm,” she said, cocking her head in curiosity, “he doesn’t scare me.”

Kylo hoped that was true. That Snoke hadn’t found some sort of purpose for Rey yet, and was leaving her alone.

“I’m glad,” he said seriously.

Rey turned back to her locker, grabbing her gear for the day.

Before Kylo turned to leave, a sudden urge made him say something that maybe he shouldn’t have said.

“Hey…”

“Yes?” Rey asked, turning back toward him with that cute, innocent expression.

“If he ever does, tell me.”

“You mean Snoke?” she asked.

“Yeah.”

“But-...”

“I gotta go,” he interjected, already regretting saying too much. He practically ran from the locker room, not waiting to hear if she was calling out for him.

 

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That Kylo guy was weird. Why would Mr. Snoke scare her? Sure, he wasn’t the warmest, fuzziest guy, but Rey had dealt with much worse people before. You don’t age out of the foster system without meeting some really shitty people. She could handle Snoke. He didn’t even really seem to know her anyway. She’d only been on staff for one season, and hadn’t done anything in particular that would attract his attention. She was a good ski instructor. She was still only Level One, the lowest certification within the national ski instructor association, but she was planning on passing into Level Two that season, which would give her more credentials to teach intermediate skiers. Now, she mostly got never-evers and beginners, most of which were children. It was a good thing she loved kids. It made her job enjoyable.

She scoffed as she closed her locker, wondering if Kylo thought she was some sort of weak-spined doll, unable to hold her own against a mildly intimidating boss. It was out of character for him to say something like that to her. He was normally really nice. Quiet, but nice. She’d first noticed him last season. There were some good looking lifties, but he was definitely the hottest, at least to her. He had sort of a smoldering, brooding thing going on. She'd become even more attracted to him over the summer, when he came into the bakery in his flannel, sleeves rolled up to expose his forearms. She never got to see that kind of skin in the winter. But she noticed he didn’t really talk much with the rest of the staff. He was a bit of a loner. She also never saw him on break. The staff’s breaks throughout the day were scattered, so it was unlikely for them to have break at the same time often, but she’d never even seen him once in the cafeteria or the locker room during the day. The most she saw him was at the beginning or end of the workday, and when he was working the chairlift on the bunny hill, where she taught most of her lessons. Sometimes she would purposely avoid eye contact with him, just to make it seem like she didn’t notice him every time she went up the lift. She always noticed, though.

“Rey- don’t forget that you're on schedule to clean up the locker room today,” she heard a slick voice say from behind her.

She turned around to find none other than Armitage Hux staring at her from across the room. She couldn’t stand that guy. For some reason, he thought he was in charge just because he’d been working as an instructor the most number of seasons. But he wasn’t- Mr. Skywalker ran the ski school. Hux was just a bossy prat. And sometimes got way too up into her personal space. She couldn’t decide if he was hitting on her or trying to bully her.

“Yes, I know,” she replied in an even tone, hoping to end the conversation.

“The liftie scheduled for clean up today is Ren. Sounds like a riot- having to spend extra time with the staff freak,” Hux sneered, stalking toward her.

“Do you want me to wait for you, make sure you finish up ok? I could take you to dinner afterwards…” he said lowly, invading her personal bubble.

Really? It was opening day and he was already annoying her.

“No thanks, I’ll be fine,” she said curtly, shoving her way past him with a shudder. What a creep.

Hux always seemed to slip Kylo into conversation, spewing out what seemed like well-practiced insults. He said he hated the guy, but if that was so, why did he always bring him up? Sounded like a crush, if you asked Rey. The idea made her blush. She wouldn’t blame him for having a crush on Kylo. He had a bad boy with a heart of gold aesthetic that was hard to resist.

She checked the daily schedule on her way out of the locker room. It looked like people were hitting the slopes eagerly on the first day of the season- she had two private lessons and a group lesson. Busier than normal for the beginning of the season. It normally didn’t pick up so much until it got closer to the holidays. But Rey was thankful- more lessons meant more tips, and she was saving up to buy a motorcycle in the spring. She probably should prioritize replacing her shitty car which only made it through the snow to work about half of the time, but the motorcycle wouldn’t leave the front of her mind. It was impractical, but Rey was tired of having to be practical. She was forced to be practical her entire life, having to fend for herself as a child. She deserved something completely unnecessary but completely awesome.

She trudged out of the locker room with her skis and poles, making her way to the ski school meeting area to find her first client. Out of the corner of her eye, she could see Kylo arguing with Ms. Phasma, one of the staff managers. She saw him let out an exasperated sigh as he hung his head and turned around to walk toward the bunny hill. No wonder he was in such a bad mood, he was stuck with what everyone on staff called the “shit lift”. It was the chairlift that serviced the beginner’s hill where most parents took their small children and where ski instructors brought newbies to learn how to ski. This meant that the lifties would have to slow or completely stop the chair basically every other person, lifting kids on and off the chair, picking them up out of the snow when they fell off face-first. It was hard work lifting kids all day and helping beginners untangle their skis when they inevitably failed to get off the lift gracefully. Rey felt bad that he’d be stuck working it on the first day of the season, when everyone was trying to get their ski feet back under them by starting on the bunny hill. He’d be busy today.

Rey let out a little chuckle as she remembered how ridiculous he looked dealing with kids last season. He lifted them up as if they were baby with a dirty diaper, as far away from his body as possible. For some odd, unknown reason, they all loved him. Even some of the older kids managed to convince him to help them onto the lift despite being big enough and experienced enough to do it themselves. Rey guessed it was because he didn’t coddle them. Kids can tell when you treat them like an equal, and Kylo always spoke to them like they were adults, like they mattered. He was probably completely ignorant of how much the kids loved him and how often they asked Rey to go on whichever lift he happened to be working that day during lessons, and that kind of made Rey like him even more. Was it weird for her to imagine her coworker as a dad? That was doing weird things to her mind.

Chapter Text

Before she knew it, Rey’s work day was over. Satisfied with her quality of teaching and the tips in her pocket, she made her way to the locker room. As Hux had so graciously reminded her earlier, she was the instructor on schedule to clean up the locker room at the end of the day. It was a duty that rotated through each staff daily, meaning she’d have to do it every few weeks. How she got stuck with it on the first day of the season was beyond her.

At least Kylo Ren was the liftie scheduled to do it with her. She didn’t mind him. She kind of even liked him, maybe even a little too much. Finn, a fellow ski instructor, was her only close friend on the resort staff, but Ren made the list of acquaintances with whom she got along. They had a certain playful dynamic between them that always left Rey a bit confused as to her feelings for him, leaving her wondering if he also had a crush on her or if it was one-sided. Some days he teased her and joked with her, some days he remained silent and brooded in the corner. Some days, he even seemed kind of dangerous.

“Hey, Rey” he greeted her as she entered the locker room, where most of the staff was still changing layers and packing their things away. Not so dangerous today, apparently.

“Hey,” she said, shooting him a smile. “How was opening day?”

“Well,” he scoffed, hanging his uniform jacket in his locker, “you saw I was stuck on the bunny hill lift. I’ll just let that speak for itself.”

“Yeah,” she answered, opening her own locker. “Sorry about that, you had to pick up the kids I had today like a thousand times.”

“Not your fault,” he responded in that tantalizing deep voice of his, looking back at her with a friendly grin. A grin that was far too handsome on him. “You had your hands full with that group lesson. Three never-evers for one instructor? What was Luke thinking?”

“I guess he thought I could handle it,” Rey said, frowning at Kylo’s dig at Mr. Skywalker. As her boss at the ski school, he was actually a mentor of hers in many ways.

“Hey,” he said quietly, leaning toward her to regain her attention, “you did better than anyone on this staff would have done, that’s for sure.”

“Not true, but thanks,” she said, appreciating the way he looked into her eyes when he spoke to her. His brown eyes always changed with the light- sometimes dark and serious, sometimes rich and pensive, sometimes bright and jovial. She could easily get lost in them if she wasn’t careful. She wondered if people often complimented him on them. He didn’t really seem to have any friends on staff. Maybe he had a girlfriend he hung out with instead. A weird pang of emotion made her wince, but she was unable to identify it before a slimy voice called her from across the room.

“Rey!” she heard over her shoulder, looking behind her to find Hux yet again making his way over to her. She turned back toward her locker and sighed, an action she was sure Kylo didn’t miss.

“Don’t let Ren torment you tonight,” he said loudly as he came up right behind her. She looked over to see Kylo frown at Hux, anger brewing in his eyes. “He lacks what most people consider proper social decorum.”

“You know, Hux,” she said, spinning around to face the pest, “the only person tormenting me right now is you.”

Kylo remained silent as Hux released an evil cackle.

“You are too much, Rey,” he said. “My number is on the staff phone list on the bulletin board. Give me a call when he freaks you out, I’ll come and rescue you.”

“Fuck off, Hux,” Kylo said as he closed his locker behind him. Although Hux was tall, Kylo was even taller and more muscular. Rey certainly wouldn’t be messing with Kylo if she were Hux.

Hux clucked his tongue before responding.

“Now, now, Ren,” he sneered, “Mr. Snoke wouldn’t like it very much if he knew you were using such foul language at his resort, especially at another staff member.”

Rey could practically see the laser bolts Kylo was trying to fire with his eyes at Hux. Rey knew that something was up between Kylo and Snoke, but she didn’t know what. It sounded like Hux knew, and was using it to get under his skin.

She grabbed Kylo by the arm, pulling him toward her as she dragged him away from Hux before he got himself into any trouble. His hand accidentally grazed her thigh as she began to pull him, and she tried to dismiss the burning feeling it left in its wake.

“Catch you later, Armitage,” she said, guiding Kylo away from the ginger prick. Thankfully, Kylo softened in her hold, letting her lead him away.

She saw him make eye contact with her hands on his arm, and something in his expression flickered for a moment before it went neutral again.

“What an asshat,” he muttered under his breath.

Rey couldn’t hold back a chuckle. For some reason, she wasn’t really scared of Kylo. She had noticed that many of the other staff members seemed to give him a wide berth, and no one went out of their way to talk to him. She felt kind of bad for him, maybe his harsh exterior made it hard for him to make friends. She’d grown up in some rough families, so someone like Kylo didn’t phase her.

“Tell me about it. You’re lucky you’re not on the ski school staff with him. He’s such a dick I’m not even sure how he still has a job.”

“I’ve think I’ve got an idea,” Kylo said, peering back over in Hux’s direction darkly. Another secret that Rey wasn’t in on, then.

“Should we get started?” she asked, releasing his arm with some regret. It had felt really good in her hands.

“Yeah, alright.”
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Kylo watched Rey unlock the custodial closet and start pulling out the cleaning supplies they would need to tidy up the locker room. He couldn’t help but feel smug that he was on the schedule with her, not Hux. But even more satisfying than annoying his enemy was the fact that he got to spend more time with her. Let’s be honest. She was hot. But even more than that, she was different. Kind of like him, but in a less emo way. He wondered if she would ever go for a guy like him. He didn’t know of any relationships she’d been in since he met her, so he didn’t even know if she was into guys.

“Do you have a preference?” she asked him.

“What?” he asked, pulling himself out of his pondering.

“Do you have a preference?” she repeated, “Vacuuming or wiping things down?” She pointed to the vacuum and the supplies she’d just pulled out.

“Whatever you don’t want to do is fine with me.”

She nodded and took the vacuum for herself and plugged it into the closest outlet.

“Mind if I play some music?” she asked, waving her hand toward the ancient speakers someone had donated to the locker room ages ago, retrofitting them with an aux cord.

“Sure,” he said. “Go ahead.”

He watched her plug her phone into the cord, scrolling through some options before putting on David Bowie. He couldn’t help but smile. It was so British of her.

“Way to be a cliché,” he teased her.

She rolled her eyes at him with a smile.

“And what would we be listening to if we hooked up your phone- My Chemical Romance?”

Ben threw his head back with a rare hearty laugh. It was amazing how quickly she could improve his mood. His facial muscles were usually hardened into a frown of some sort, but they always got a work out from Rey.

“You got me- I won’t pretend like I didn’t listen to them when I was a teenager.”

“Don’t lie. You still listen to The Black Parade,” she quipped with a playful grin that was way too cute on her.

“Leave me alone,” he said, accompanying it with a smile to let her know he wasn’t serious. In fact if she never left him alone again he wouldn’t mind.

She chuckled as she turned on the vacuum, starting her path across the room. Kylo picked up some towels and multi-purpose cleaner. He started with all of the countertops and surfaces near the lockers., but he couldn’t help but look behind him to look at her every so often. After a while, it seemed like she must have gotten a bit warm, because she took off her hilariously oversized sweatshirt, leaving her in a tight little t-shirt and athletic leggings. Jesus Christ. Her outfit and her cute 3-bun hairstyle made her look impossibly sexy for having just worked a full day on the mountain. Kylo whipped his head back around, not wanting to be caught staring.

After a while, the vacuum powered down behind him. He was so focused on not turning around to look at Rey that he didn’t even hear her approach him from behind. He nearly jumped in surprise when she reached around him to grab a roll of paper towels off of the counter. He controlled his reaction, watching her slim wrist disappear quickly back behind him. He could only imagine how close she had been to his body. He suppressed a shudder.

They continued to work wordlessly, letting Bowie fill the space. Occasionally, he’d get a glimpse of Rey dancing a little bit to a particularly catchy song, and he’d have to conceal a smile. He smiled more around her than he did anyone else, and she wasn’t even trying to amuse him. She was dangerous.

They finished far too quickly, packing all of the supplies back to the closet.

“Well, that was fun,” Rey said dryly. “At least we won’t have to do it again for a while.”

“Yeah,” Kylo responded, trying not to sound too excited for their next clean up together.

They returned to their lockers, grabbed their belongings, and headed out to the parking lot together.

“I’ll see you tomorrow,” Rey said, her breath vaporizing in the cold outdoor air. She gave him one last shy smile before turning toward her car.

“Yeah, tomorrow,” he said sadly.

Kylo let out sigh as he settled into the driver’s seat of his SUV. He’d go home to his empty apartment, and probably drink until he fell asleep and dream of Rey in her leggings. Fuck. He started his engine, letting it warm up a bit before shifting into drive and pulling out of the parking lot.

He threw a last glance up to his rearview mirror, and saw Rey standing in front of her car with the hood up. Kylo immediately swerved around and drove up to her. He killed the ignition and hopped out of the car quickly, not enjoying how cold it had gotten since the sun had set.

“What’s wrong, you need a jump?” he asked as he approached her.

“Yeah, I do,” she said, looking damn near close to tears. “I’ve got some cables in the trunk, this happens all the time.”

Kylo felt bad that her car was so… well… shitty was the only word for it. And he resented that she apparently had to get it jumped frequently- for some reason he didn’t like the idea of her stranded on the side of the road somewhere or in an empty parking lot. He opened the hood of his SUV while she retrieved the cables from her trunk.

“Thanks again,” she said as he hooked up the cables to his battery. “Sorry to keep you here late like this.”

“It’s no problem,” he responded, hooking the other ends under the hood of her car.

“I really need a new car.”

“You should talk to my dad,” Kylo said before he could stop himself. Damn.

“Your dad?”

“Yeah… Han Solo? He owns Solo Cars in town? He’d probably give you a good payment plan if you say you’re a friend of mine.”

“Han Solo is your dad?!” she asked, a look of awe crossing her face. This is why he shouldn’t have said anything. People liked Han Solo, people were interested in him. And Kylo despised all the attention he got for being his son. It was a nightmare for an introvert like Kylo to be a part of his family, with the mayor of the town and a former American NASCAR star for parents. That’s why he had changed his name in the first place.

“Yeah,” he replied curtly before hopping back in his driver’s seat to start the engine. Rey took the hint and sat in her own car to do the same. She tried several times to start it, but it wouldn’t concede. Kylo turned off his own before getting out of his SUV to adjust the cables and try again. Still no satisfying roar of her engine.

“Fuck,” he heard her curse loudly from her driver’s seat, hitting her hand against the wheel. He shouldn’t have been amused by the situation, but hearing her curse in her little British accent was just too cute. He watched her take a deep breath, as if trying to calm herself, before she stepped back out of her car and into the cold.

“Sorry for wasting your time,” she said to him as she approached his open driver’s side door. Kylo turned off his ignition before stepping out into the cold with her.

“Don’t be sorry- I’m just sorry your car isn’t working.”

“I’ll figure something out,” she said, unhooking the cables and wrapping them around her arm in a loop before sliding them back into her trunk.

“Can I give you a ride home? It might be easier to deal with this tomorrow in the day time. At least it won’t be so cold.”

“No, I can’t do that to you. I’ll figure something out,” she said, her cheeks flushed from what Kylo assumed was probably a mix of embarrassment and windchill. “You go ahead.”

“Rey,” he laughed, “I’m not leaving you out here in the cold with no car. Let me give you a ride home. It’s no problem.”

She looked up at him with her expressive eyes, blinking at him a few times before giving in with a soft smile.

“Ok, thanks, I appreciate it.”

Chapter Text

Fuck her shitty car. Rey didn’t have the time or cash to deal with it. At least Kylo was still there when it wouldn’t start. Otherwise she would’ve had to call Finn, who lived clear on the opposite side of town. She probably would have felt too guilty to even call him and make him drive all the way back to work. She probably would have ended up walking the 10 km back home in the cold.

“So where do you live?” Kylo asked as they pulled out of the parking lot in his SUV. She was grateful that he had cranked up the heat and even grabbed her a blanket out of the backseat to wrap around herself. He really was kind, no matter what people said about him. Not to mention how warm his hand was as it made contact with hers when he handed her the blanket. His hands were big, just like the rest of him. Not that she noticed.

“I’m at the end of Kensington Ave., do you know where that is?”

“Yeah, I do. So you live in a house?”

“Yeah, I inherited it from a great uncle of mine who passed away a few years ago. There’s no way I would be able to afford one myself. I didn’t even know I had any family until the attorney looked me up and found me.”

“You don’t have any family?”

She paused. She hadn’t really meant to bring it up. It was embarrassing to talk about, and it usually led to awkwardness she tended to actively avoid.

“No, I don’t. Just me.”

“Oh.”

Awkward silence. She really didn’t know how to respond to an ‘Oh’. Usually people tried to apologize or sympathize. At least Kylo wasn’t doing any of that.

“So is that when you moved here? When you found out about him?” he asked after a few moments.

“Yeah. I was considering selling it, but I didn’t exactly have anywhere to live at the time anyway, so I figured I’d move up here and see if I could find work. I’m currently fixing it up, so I might sell it once I’m done and downsize to something smaller.”

“That’s smart,” Kylo said, a slight twinge of surprise in his voice. Rey tried to not take it personally.

More awkward silence ensued for a few seconds before Rey took the initiative to restart the conversation.

“What about you? Where do you live?” she asked, glancing over at him. It was hard not to appreciate the way the moonlight illuminated his profile. Some people would probably think his nose was too big, or his brow line too pronounced, but Rey thought he was kind of beautiful. You know, if he wasn’t so emo all of the time.

“Why?” he asked with a smirk, “Planning on stalking me?”

“I was just trying to make conversation, Kylo,” she quipped with a grimace. Finn was much easier to get along with. Kylo had a weird combination of darkness and humor that was hard to understand sometimes. He was… intense.

He let out a sigh before answering.

“I live sort of near the hospital, in the Riverside apartment complex.”

“Oh… I know where that is. There’s someone that lives there that orders a lot from the bakery, I had to make a ton of deliveries there over the summer.”

“The bakery delivers?!” Kylo asked, his voice going up in surprise. It sounded funny compared to his normal deep timber.

“Yeah,” she said smugly. “Now that you know, you won’t have to come in every day during the summer.”

“I don’t know about that,” he responded with a laugh. “I come in for the experience.”

“What does that mean?”

“If I didn’t come in person, I wouldn’t be able to see you.”

Rey turned her head to study his face. Was he serious? And even more importantly, was he flirting with her? Why was his face so unreadable?

“Theoretically,” she said, trying to conceal her baffled confusion, “you would still see me if I was the one making the delivery.”

“That’s true,” he said, “are you sure you’re not trying to stalk me?”

“You’re the one who just said you come to the bakery to see me!” Rey said, a blush building.

Kylo surprised her by laughing.

“I was just kidding, Rey,” he said, glancing over at her in her angered state, throwing her a devastatingly handsome grin.

Rey turned her head back toward the window, determined to not let him see her heated cheeks.

“So,” he resumed after a minute, “do you want a ride to work tomorrow morning? You know, since you won’t have your car?”

Rey hadn’t thought that far in advance. She could call Finn, but Kylo did live much closer to her, and he was offering.

“If it wouldn’t be too much trouble, I’d really appreciate it,” she said quietly. She didn’t like relying on people’s help for anything, but she really didn’t have much of a choice.

“It’s no problem,” he said lowly. “What time do you usually like to get at work?”

“We have our first check in at 7:30.”

“Damn, that’s early.”

“Yeah…” she said quickly, “I know that’s a lot earlier than liftie check in, you really don’t need to get up early just to give me a ride.”

“It’s cool,” Kylo said, reaching over to give her arm a playful shove, “I offered. I’m usually up then anyway, I’m an early riser.”

“Me too,” she responded, “if I’m not working by the time the sun rises I feel useless.”

“I usually work out in the morning before heading to the hill.”

Rey tried really hard not to imagine Kylo working out. From the small glimpses of skin and muscle she saw during the summer under his tight plaid flannel, she knew he was probably ripped.

“I’m afraid if I did that, I’d be dead by the end of the day. Lifting people off the ground all day is enough exercise for me,” she said.

“I can imagine,” Kylo said with a smile. “I’ve seen you lifting people twice your size before. I think you’re strong enough without any extra workouts.”

Rey suddenly felt embarrassed that he’d probably seen her struggling to lift her students off of the ground. She wasn’t the most graceful person in the world.

“You watch me during my lessons?”

“I watch everyone during their lessons,” he answered. “Keeps me entertained.”

That made sense. Being a liftie was very repetitive. She was sure watching beginners wiping out on the hill was probably the best part of his day.

“Well,” she said, “if you ever fall, give me a call and I can help lift you up. It’s pretty much my specialty.”

Kylo laughed softly.

“I don’t know, Rey. I don’t think you could lift me.”

“And why is that? You just said I was strong!” Rey sputtered.

“You are. But I’m a lot bigger than you. And probably heavier than most due to muscle. I wouldn’t want you to hurt your back or something.”

The reminder of their size difference made Rey bite her lip. She was strong for her size. But he was nearly 40 cm taller than her. And, as he so humbly described, very muscular. It didn’t take much imagination for her mind to wander and consider how easily he’d be able to lift her.

“Whatever,” she said, just to be contrary, “if I listened to men every time they told me I couldn’t do something, I’d have a sad life indeed.”

“Ok, ok,” Kylo conceded with a grin, “next time I fall, I promise to call you and you can prove me wrong. How’s that?”

Rey raised her head triumphantly. “Looking forward to it.”

Were they… friends now? That was the sort of thing she had with Finn- some sort of standing joke or bet. It felt like that’s what friends did. She didn’t really know. She hadn’t had many friends when she was in the foster system. Mostly just what she would classify as allies- other kids in the system who looked out for one another. But she had Finn now, and she was also friends with Rose, who worked at the bakery year-round. She had introduced her to Finn and they very quickly all became friends. She wasn’t sure how well Kylo would fit into their little group. Finn would probably hate him.

She wrapped the blanket he’d given her around her body tighter, pulling her knees up to her chest to encase herself in heat. She saw Kylo turn his head slightly to look at her, making a curious expression before he turned his gaze back to the road. She rather liked being driven around. It gave her a chance to stare out of the window. And it was nice being in an SUV, it was much higher than her sedan and it made her feel like they were levitating over the road instead of driving on it. She leaned her head against the window, watching a few snowflakes whizz by, adding to the deep snow their town already had. Her eyes began to glaze over as they crossed the bridge near the hospital. The soothing sound of the car’s engine was calming to her, and before she knew it her eyelids became heavy… it was getting hard to keep them open....

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How Rey had managed to fall asleep within the span of two minutes was beyond him. She’d fallen asleep only 1 km away from her house. Kylo put the car in park and looked over, just watching her for a moment. She looked so at peace when she was asleep. Her knees were tucked up into her chest, and she had pulled the blanket all the way up to her chin, so she looked like some sort of giant lumpy egg with her head popping out. He felt bad that he had to wake her up. She must have had a long day.

He reached over to lightly touch her shoulder.

“Rey,” he said quietly, trying not to startle her, “we’re here.”

He watched her mumble something before adjusting her head and continuing to sleep.

He stroked her shoulder through the blanket.

“Rey, time to wake up,” he said a little bit louder.

She woke up at that.

“Kylo-” she said as she opened her eyes, frowning.

“Yeah?”

“Why are you grabbing my boob?”

Kylo’s eyes widened and went down to where he was touching her through the blanket.

“Shit!” he said, whipping his hand away from her.

“I’m sorry,” he said, “I thought it was your shoulder!”

“It’s ok,” she said with a sleepy grin, picking her head up off of the window and slowly unwrapping herself from the blanket. She shivered as she peeled it off of her and began to fold it.

“Thanks for the ride,” she said, handing him the blanket. “What time should I be ready tomorrow?”

“What?” Kylo asked, darting his eyes away from her chest which he had just touched back up to her face.

“What time are you going to pick me up?”

“Oh…” he said, “how about 7:15?”

“Works for me,” she said, reaching for the door handle.

“Again, I’m really sorry. For… you know… grabbing your…”

Her melodic laughter carried through his car, and flowed its way into his heart.

“Next time just buy me dinner first,” she said before stepping out and closing the door behind her, giving him a wave before turning toward her house.

Surely she had to be joking. Yeah, that was definitely a joke. But it didn’t stop Kylo from trying to remember what her ‘shoulder’ felt like before he realized it was, in fact, most definitely not her shoulder.

Well that went well.

He watched her let herself into her house and turn on a light before he pulled away and turned around at the dead end of her street. It was pretty dark, he wondered if Rey ever got scared or lonely living at the edge of the neighborhood, her house facing the dark forest. Probably not. She really didn’t seem like someone that was scared of anything. Based on how she had been willing to walk home 10 km at night, alone, he was probably way more concerned for her safety than she was, which was a weird revelation to have. He hadn’t imagined her living alone in a big house like that. With no family. No family anywhere. Damn.

He wasn’t exactly the most social person, but he wondered if even he was less lonely than her. At least he had his parents, who he didn’t exactly always get along with but at least tolerated. And he had Poe. They’d been friends since they were young, and had done everything together. He worked in ski patrol at the resort during the winter and at the lumber company with Kylo during the summer. They got to hang out every day in their secret spot during lunch and breaks. They were polar opposites in many ways, but their friendship was stronger because of it.

He knew Rey had at least one friend. She was always hanging out with another instructor at the resort. Not Hux, thankfully. A young black guy named Tim, or Lyn, or Finn or something. When had he become so invested in her personal life? It was one thing to be attracted to someone that was hot, but he never so actively thought about someone like this before. It was probably an obsession he should shake. He didn’t need anyone else. He preferred to be alone. But all that impatience and disdain he normally got when he had to interact with most people was absent when he was with Rey. That had to mean something. Maybe it was a sign. Or whatever. God, he was sounding to start like his crazy Uncle Luke. He pushed the ideas out of his head, and reminded himself that she probably didn’t even think about him at all, and that she would probably be creeped out if she knew how much he thought about her.

He pulled up outside of his building, trying not to miss the way Rey’s little body had curled up in his passenger’s seat. He’d give her a ride tomorrow- a casual ride. And try not to touch her breast again. Yeah, that was a good idea.

Chapter Text

After trudging his way up to his apartment and pulling his snow-heavy boots off, Kylo poured himself a well-deserved glass of whiskey. He took a seat on his old, worn-out couch in the living area of his apartment– tumbler in one hand, phone in the other. He sipped on his drink while he listened to the line at the other end of the call ring.

“Hey, kid. What’s up?” Han’s voice cut through the phone.

“Hey, not much. You?”

“Can’t complain, can’t complain. Although your mother has me putting up Thanksgiving decorations already, a week early!”

Kylo could hear Leia shout something unintelligible but snarky-sounding in the background.

“Your mother says hi,” Han translated.

“Tell her I say hi back.”

“Will do. How was opening day?”

“More crowded than expected,” Kylo said, “we have almost all the trails open already. Uncle Luke expects the ski school to have a really busy season.”

“Snoke still terrorizing the staff?”

“Pretty much.”

“Your mom hates that guy. He keeps trying to coerce people into selling their land to him, and she’s had to work overtime to keep him in check.”

Kylo’s mom had been dealing with Snoke and his cronies for decades, ever since she became mayor. The guilt is what had led him to eventually quit working for Snoke in a brute capacity. He just couldn’t take being up against his family anymore. He still worked at Snoke’s ski resort, but a large fraction of the town did, and at least he wasn’t still directly contributing to all the stress Leia faced at work.

“So what can I do for you?” Han asked.

“Well…” Kylo admitted slowly, “I kind of need a favor.”

“I had a feeling,” Han said, “it’s not often you call without being asked.”

“Whatever, so can you help me or not?”

“What is it?”

“It’s...” Kylo said carefully, “my friend. My friend’s car broke down in the parking lot at the hill today. I was wondering if you could send someone out there tomorrow to take a look at it.”

“Whose car? Poe’s?”

“No.”

“You said a friend. You have friends other than Poe?”

“Shut up. Nevermind, if you’re going to be difficult about this– …”

“All right, all right. Don’t get your panties in a twist. Of course I’ll help. I’ll send someone out tomorrow. What’s his name?” Han asked

“Her name is Rey.”

“Her?”

“Yes.”

“Ohhh, I see how it is.”

“See how what is?”

“It’s a lady friend,” Han said gleefully. Kylo could practically see the smug look on his face.

“It’s not like that, Dad.”

Sure it’s not, kid.”

“She’s just a friend,” Kylo said sternly.

“Do you hear that, Leia? Ben’s got a lady friend!” he heard Han yell away from the phone.

“Damn it, Dad…”

“A what?!” he heard his mom yell, her clacking footsteps getting louder in his ear.

“You’re on speaker, kid,” Han said, much to Kylo’s horror.

“Who is she? Do I know her?” Leia asked, getting straight to the point.

“No, Mom, she’s just a friend. That’s it. She works at the ski school. Her car wouldn’t start in the lot today after work. So I was just asking Dad if he could help us– help her out.”

“Ben, you’re 26 years old and not getting any younger,” Leia said loudly. Kylo hoped the whole neighborhood wasn’t hearing their conversation. “How else are you going to give us grandkids? At least ask the girl out!”

“I’m not having this conversation.”

“Calm down, kid, we’re just teasing. I’ll get someone out there tomorrow to take a look. Have her leave the car unlocked and the keys in the ignition. Send me a photo of it in the morning so we know what to look for,” Han said, finally responding to Kylo’s inquiry.

“Thanks, Dad.”

“What kind of car is it?”

“It looks like an old Ford I think. Small sedan. Beige.”

“Got it. You think she’ll go out with you if we fix her car?”

“Goodbye.”

“We will talk about this later, Benjamin Solo! I’m going to ask Luke about her!” Leia hollered into his ear.

“Bye,” he said quickly before hanging up. Every interaction with them was like getting teeth pulled. It’s why he only saw them in person once a week at maximum. And only for like an hour or two. Anything more would drive him insane.

He gulped down the last of his drink, wondering if it would be possible to put himself up for adoption at the age of 26 in order to find less embarrassing parents.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP

Rey smashed her alarm with her hand, bringing a blissful end to the beeping. She hadn’t slept well at all. And now she was a bit too warm, too flushed. She threw back the blankets, letting the chilly morning air hit her body. She’d practically sweat through her nightshirt, and her hair was stuck to her neck. She couldn’t remember the last time she felt quite so worked up.

Her dreams hadn’t brought her any rest, only stimulation. They featured long, dark hair, a large head between her legs, and a distinct lack of any real-life satisfaction.

She glanced over at the clock. 6:45. Perfect– just enough time to rub one out and quickly get ready before Kylo came to pick her up.

Kylo. Crap. He had long, dark hair.

She couldn’t deny that he had probably inspired her dream. She was so tightly wound that pretty much anyone that had given her a ride home would be featured in a sexy dream at this point. She really needed to get laid. She hadn’t had sex since she moved up into Ottawa, which was nearly a year and a half ago. In a smaller town, it was hard to justify hooking up with people– you’d probably end up seeing them all the time whether you wanted to or not. Rey just didn’t want to be known as the new girl who slept with everyone. At least not right away. Besides, it was hard to meet people with how often she worked. And she usually had a self-imposed policy of not sleeping with coworkers.

This kind of accidental celibacy was really taking its toll, it seemed. She stared up at the ceiling for a while, and found she couldn’t even remember sex. Not literally, of course, but it had been so long it was basically like she’d forgotten.

Glancing over at the clock, Rey was horrified to read it as 7:00. Where had the last fifteen minutes gone? She was supposed to be using that time to… relieve herself. Great, now she’d have to work the whole day wound up like this. God forbid she had to teach any men even remotely close to her age. She reluctantly pulled herself up and out of bed. She only had fifteen minutes to get changed, get her stuff ready, and grab a quick breakfast. As she glanced in the mirror, sticking her toothbrush into her mouth, she could see the full consequences of her frustrated nature. Her cheeks were bright red, and her eyes were glassy. Great. She splashed a large amount of cold water on her face, desperate to make herself look a little less sex-crazed.

She pulled her hair up into her usual three-bun style and made her way downstairs to her poorly-provisioned kitchen. It was lonely, living in such a big house with no one to share it. Her whole life, she had dreamed of having a real bedroom all to herself, a large house she could run around and call her own. Now, it was depressing. She didn’t have enough belongings to fill it out, so most of it was left empty. She burned her tongue on a bowl of microwave oatmeal and chugged a glass of orange juice, just finishing as she saw the lights of Kylo’s SUV pull up in front. The sun hadn’t risen yet, which meant it was extra cold. She threw on her final layers before heading out the door and locking up behind her.

“Hi,” she said as she pulled open the passenger side door and climbed into the seat.

“Hey,” Kylo said as she shut the door.

As soon as the door closed, a waft of something spicy and a bit musky hit her nose, Christ he smelled good. He must have just showered. He mentioned last night that he worked out in the mornings. Rey couldn’t help but wonder if it was an aftershave she was drooling over or just an abundance of his natural pheromones, invigorated by the exercise. She had to wiggle in her seat a bit, pressing her thighs together.

“Sorry again that you had to come out early just to pick me up,” she said, wringing her hands together. She still felt bad that she had to be there half an hour earlier than him and that he would have to wait around until his start time.

‘It’s no problem. I was up. I’ll just… sit by the fireplace in the lodge until my check in,” he said as he pulled away from her house.

“Is that where you normally go on breaks?”

“No,” he said. Rey noticed his brows furrowing slightly at the question.

“Oh,” she said. The mystery of why she never saw him around during lunch or breaks was still unsolved.

“Where do you go?” she asked, her curiosity getting the best of her.

“On break?”

“Yeah.”

“Well,” Kylo said, before the tension in his face broke and he let out an unexpected laugh, “it sounds kind of stupid saying it out loud, but my friend and I have a secret spot where we hang out.”

A friend? Like a girlfriend?

“Oh. Anyone I know?”

“Poe Dameron,” he answered, “he’s on ski patrol. Dark hair, kind of short, really loud and obnoxious?”

“The name sounds familiar,” she said, a weird sense of relief cutting through her. Not a girlfriend. But maybe his boyfriend? Although he probably wouldn’t be describing a partner as loud and obnoxious.

“Oh,” he said suddenly, “I forgot to mention. My dad is sending someone out to the mountain to look at your car today. Figured it would be good to get it looked at during the day so it might be ready for you by the time you get off.”

Rey’s jaw dropped a bit before she found the wherewithal to close it. He had done that for her? It was maybe the nicest thing anyone had ever done for her. She couldn’t hold back the deep blush that colored her cheeks. She was embarrassed, she was thankful, she was shocked.

“Kylo…”

He looked over at her when she hesitated.

“Yeah?”

“You really didn’t have to do that.”

“Why not? You need your car, right?” he asked, confused.

“Yeah… it’s just… thank you,” she said. She hadn’t done anything to earn his kindness. It gave her a weird feeling. She didn’t like to be in debt to anyone, and Kylo was helping her time and time again for no reason.

“Don’t thank me. Thank my dad. I just made a call.”

“Still, that’s really nice of you.”

He glanced over her again, and she couldn’t quite read what was behind his slightly concerned, slightly baffled, kind of tender expression.

“It’s really no problem,” he said, a note of finality in his tone, as if he wouldn’t accept her thanks.

Rey studied his profile as he drove them to work, perhaps staring a bit too blatantly. But it was hard not to when she was so physically pent up, and so emotionally vulnerable from his kindness. And when they were in such close proximity together in the car. He was tall and broad– and that appealed to the primal instinct within her that suggested maybe he’d be good at protecting someone. Or attacking.

“My dad said to unlock your car and leave the keys in the ignition. Someone will be by while we are working and take a look at it.”

Rey was wary of leaving it unlocked and with the keys in the ignition– she’d grown up hoarding all of her possessions close and locking everything that she could. She had to remind herself that she now lived in a nice town with a low crime rate and nice people that did things to help one another.

“Sure,” she responded.

Rey recognized the cars parked in the lot as those of her fellow ski school staff members as they pulled up, they were always first to arrive besides the overnight snow grooming staff. Guilt popped up again, and she apologized again to Kylo for making him arrive early.

“I’m only a half hour early,” he said with a mildly exasperated tone as he killed the engine, “I really don’t mind.”

Rey nodded, deciding to respect his tone and not repeat her apology. She hopped out of the passenger side, where no other than Armitage Hux was passing by on his way to the locker room.

She saw his eyes glaze over her before he stopped mid-stride and did a double take. She saw him look between her, the SUV, her again, and finally to Kylo walking around from the driver’s side. His nostrils flared and a deep frown appeared on his face, as if he had smelled something foul.

“Rey,” he said, not able to conceal a tone of disgust in his voice. “Good morning.”

“Morning, Hux.”

“Hello, Ren,” he said, his eyes narrowing as he looked over to Kylo. “What brings you here so early?”

“Gave Rey a ride,” he said simply. Rey could tell by his posture and resigned look that he didn’t want to engage with Hux. They must have some sort of history, and Kylo looked like he was done with it.

“Why didn’t Rey drive herself?”

“I’m right here,” Rey snapped angrily.

Hux turned to her, and she could see him consciously try to soften his expression.

“Did you need a ride this morning? You could of called me, Rey,” he said softly, in a slimy voice.

“But I didn’t,” she responded, putting a hand on Kylo’s back to steer them away from Hux. She took off quickly, making it clear that the conversation was over.

What was with Hux? He’d been annoying last season, but it seemed ten times worse this season, and it was only the second day. And what did he have against Kylo?

“Sorry about that,” she heard Kylo mutter as she marched them to the locker room. She realized her hand was still on his back, and snatched it back.

“Why is he being particularly deuchy recently? And why doesn’t he like you?”

“Kind of a long story. He’s sort of my arch nemesis.”

Rey thought he was joking at first, but one look at him told her that he was serious, and that made her laugh harder than she would have at the joke.

“What?” he asked, looking at her struggling to breathe from laughter.

“Your– arch nemesis? What are you, a superhero?”

“Probably more like a villain,” he said with a smile, seeming to understand how absurd he sounded.

“And that makes Hux what, Superman?”

“No, probably just a rival villain.”

“You’re ridiculous,” she said, but with a smile.

She waved goodbye to him as she walked into the meeting room for the first ski school check in of the day with Luke. He waved back and stood there for a moment with a melancholy expression, sort of reminding Rey of a puppy being left at home alone by its owner. She wished he was coming into the meeting too, and that she could sit next to him, maybe whisper things to him that would make him chuckle, or watch him roll his eyes at one of Hux’s many interjections.

Chapter Text

Kylo loved working the G chair. It was on the back of the mountain under some black diamonds and double black diamonds, which meant it was never very crowded, he didn’t have to help any kids onto the chair, and he could blast music on the old boombox without any parents complaining. It mostly served the chill, experienced skiers and boarders and the occasional visitor who had mistakenly took the wrong trail and ended up on the difficult side of the mountain, whom he would assure that they could reach the other faces from the top of the chair.

Yes, it was the best chair to work. There was only one bad thing about it─ he wouldn’t see Rey. Lessons were taught on easy and intermediate trails, so he never saw any instructors under the G chair unless they had some time off and were skiing for pleasure.

It began snowing around mid-morning, which at least helped alleviate some boredom. Snow meant that Kylo would have to shovel the loading area of the chair now and then to keep it clear, and used a broom to dust snow off of the chairs as they whizzed by. He wasn’t a chatty lifty, but there were a few regulars that would say hi to him, or make small talk about the weather. All in all, it had been a pretty good day thus far.

He was just about to be relieved for a break when someone in a bright blue ski school jacket came flying down the trail directly under the chair. They were clearly an excellent skier. As they got closer, Kylo recognized the purple stripes on the white helmet─ it was Rey. Kylo’s heart jumped a beat. He hadn’t expected to see her again that day, and found himself smiling, which was weird.

“Hey, Kylo!” she yelled as she skied right up next to the terminal, clipping out of her skis.

A couple that had been skiing the back face all morning zoomed into the loading area, and Rey patiently waited for Kylo to load them before responding to her.

“Hey!” he said, a bit more enthusiastically than anything else that morning. “What brings you over here?”

“I was looking for you!”

“Why?”

“I don’t have any more lessons this morning, and my next isn’t until later in the afternoon. Thought we could hang out.”

Kylo had to restrain the smile threatening to break out on his face. His neck was getting warm under his gaiter.

“How did you know I was back here?”

“I ran into Ms. Phasma and asked,” she said, “and she told me you’re going on break soon, too.”

“I am.”

“So…?”

“So…….. what?”

“Can I please, please, please see your secret break spot?” she said, clasping her hands together in a pleading gesture.

“Uh, you really want to?” he asked, surprised.

“Yes!”

“I think you’re overestimating how cool it is… even the locker room is nicer.”

“Yeah, but you’ll be there.”

“Did you just call me cool?”

“Maybe,” she said, raising an eyebrow at him.

“You’re just saying that to see the spot, aren’t you?”

“Yup!”

“Ok,” he laughed, “Ryan will be here in a few minutes to switch out. I’ll be taking a snowmobile from here, so you could ski over and meet me?”

“Where is it?” she asked, waving her hands around with an adorable excitement.

“Meet me at the bottom of the C chair.”

“Will do!” she responded enthusiastically. Without further ado, she ran back to her skis to clip in and loaded herself onto the G chair, turning around to look back at him as she ascended. He gave her a wave, stomach feeling anxious as he thought about being alone with Rey in his tiny secret break spot. She was just a girl, why was he feeling this way?

As soon as she was out of sight, Kylo heard the familiar roar of a snowmobile engine approaching the chair. He turned around to see his coworker Ryan pull up to the terminal, hopping off of the vehicle.

“Hey, man.”

“Hey, Kylo. Doing all right?”

“Best chair on the hill.”

“Ain’t that the truth.”

“See you in an hour,” he said, rushing to the snowmobile as soon as Ryan was in position, not wanting to waste a single minute of time he could be spending with Rey.

“Later.”

Kylo took off, going much faster than he normally would. He had to slow down on the higher-traffic trails, nodding to the skiers that waved at him. He pulled around and saw the C chair in the distance, and looked up the hill to see Rey floating down toward him, carving her way down the trail with immense control. Kylo was an alright skier, having basically grown up at the resort, but Rey was clearly more technically skilled than he.

He parked the snowmobile just as she came to a stop at the bottom of the chair.

“Rey!” he yelled, gesturing her to ski over to him. Her head whipped around and his heart clenched at the smile that she broke into before skating toward him.

“Hi! So where is this spot?”

“Just over there,” he said, pointing to the tiny, old, out-of-service ski patrol hut on the edge of the woods that had been empty ever since Kylo could remember. It’s entrance was partially obscured by overgrown trees that nobody had bothered to trim.

“The old ski patrol hut?” she asked, tilting her head to the side, unclipping her skis and hoisting them over her shoulder.

“Told you it wasn’t anything exciting,” he said as they started walking together.

“I didn’t even know you could get in there. It’s not locked?”

“It is,” Kylo said with a grin, “Poe managed to nick a key when we were teenagers. We’ve been hanging out in there ever since.”

“It’s amazing.”

“You’re joking, right?” he asked looking at the decrepit roofing and stained siding as they walked toward it.

“No! It’s weird, but I love little places that you can call your own. Somewhere private…” she trailed off, frowning.

“What’s wrong?”

“I just realized that I’m intruding on your private space,” she said, looking genuinely concerned.

Kylo laughed.

“It’s an essentially an old closet, Rey. Trust me, you’re not intruding.”

“If you say so,” she said, still looking worried. “Will Poe mind?”

“Nah, Poe would love you.”

Rey didn’t respond, and turned to find her looking at him with a curious expression. He reached into his pocket to extract his copy of the key and unlock the door, holding it open for her to watch her face as she entered.

It wasn’t much- it was a glorified closet with a counter and a few chairs Poe and Kylo had managed to sneak into it several years ago. Electricity no longer ran to it, so it was always cold, which had lead them to hoard old blankets and keep them in the hut. They had a few random items they’d collected over the years─ a few flashlights, some old magazines, a chess set from when Kylo had tried to teach an impatient Poe to play, a few mismatched decks of cards, some random tennis balls, and a makeshift hammock that Poe had hung from two of the ceiling joists. They had a box they kept snacks in, although they’d always freeze and get hard. Kylo had eaten more hard granola bars over the years than he could count. There were a few empty six-packs, and a tiny basketball hoop they’d nailed into the far wall.

It was scrappy, but Rey was looking at it like she’d just entered the cave of wonders. She took off her helmet and gloves and placed them gently on the counter, peering out of the window that illuminated the hut in gentle natural sunlight.

“This is awesome!” she exclaimed, looking back at Kylo through the doorway. He really didn’t understand why she was so excited.

“If you say so,” he responded, stepping in behind her and closing the door. “Care for a seat?”

“Can I lay in the hammock?” she asked, eyes wide.

“Sure. You’ll probably fit in there better than me. I’m too tall for it.”

She practically jumped the two feet over to the hammock, and pretty ungracefully climbed in.

“Blanket?” he asked. “There’s no heat in here.”

“Please,” she said.

Kylo grabbed their best blanket and went to toss it at her, but her eyes were already closed in comfort.

“You’re welcome to sleep,” he chuckled, “but we have a strict every-man-for-himself policy in here. You’re responsible for waking up in time for your shift.”

He walked over to the hammock and awkwardly lay the blanket across her. Just as he was bending over to adjust it, she opened her eyes. Her face was inches from hers, and it made him jump back in surprise.

“Don’t worry, I’m not sleeping. Just really comfortable,” she said, tugging the blanket around her.

Kylo grabbed a blanket of his own, wrapping it around himself as he sat down in his usual chair.

“I’m glad you like it.”

“Do you ever get lonely in here?” she asked, turning herself in the hammock so that she faced him.

“Not really,” he answered honestly. “I’ve never been… much of a people person.”

“But you like Poe.”

“Yeah, we’ve been friends since we were kids.”

“That sounds nice.”

“Yeah, I guess it is.”

A moment of silence filled the hut before Rey spoke again.

“Thanks for showing me your secret lair.”

“I guess it’s not so secret now,” he laughed. “Don’t tell anyone about it, will you? If Snoke ever found out anyone was in here he’d for sure knock it down or change the locks.”

“My lips are sealed,” she said, smiling.

She was definitely the cutest thing that had ever been in their little hut. Kylo liked the way she looked in their hammock, cuddled up in a red blanket. They ended up talking for the entire hour, conversation flowing freely between them with an ease with which Kylo was completely unfamiliar. She didn’t seem to care about his awkward blunders or sometimes too serious demeanor. She looked at him like she was really listening, and cared about what he was saying. Kylo wished it hadn’t taken them a whole year to become friends. Before he knew it, a quick glance at the clock told him that he had to return to work.

“I’ve gotta get back to the chair,” he said with a sigh, trying to hide just how much he didn’t want to leave. He grabbed a protein bar from the snack box, having completely forgotten to eat lunch during his break.

“Oh…” Rey said, pushing the blanket off of herself as she began to sit up in the hammock.

“You can stay here,” he blurted out, his hand reaching up to smooth out his hair. “I mean… if you want.”

“You don’t mind me staying in your spot?”

“No,” he said, “I mean, no, I don’t mind. Feel free. The door locks behind you, so make sure you don’t leave anything in here when you leave.”

“Thanks, Kylo,” she said, giving him a soft smile that made him look at her lips. “I hate to take advantage of your hospitality, but Armitage is being a real dick today, and I’d rather just avoid him if possible.”

Kylo’s heart sunk at the knowledge that she hadn’t willingly come to be with him, she was just avoiding Hux.

“I get that,” he said, trying not to betray his hurt. He quickly turned toward the door to hide his face. “I’ll see you later.”

“Yeah,” she said behind him, with a softer, more tender voice that made him wince. “See you later.”

Chapter Text

Rey’s best friend Finn always managed to brighten her day.

“...and then he told me the only reason he was doing the ski lesson was because his parents promised him ice cream if he behaved. I honestly don’t blame him, you could make me do just about anything if you promised me ice cream…” he finished his story as they walked into the locker room.

“Whew,” he said, “long day.”

“Lots of lessons?” Rey asked.

“Yup. You?”

“Only a few. I had a long break in the middle of the day.”

“Really? I didn’t see you in the cafeteria for lunch.”

“I got lunch a little late,” she answered honestly, leaving out the part about Kylo’s hijacked hut. It wasn’t her secret to tell. And he’d been right- it had been nice to have some alone time. She’d spent her whole life alone, so she thought she’d be sick of it, but there was something to it that calmed her.

As if he’d heard her thinking about him, Kylo walked through the door of the locker room, shaking the snow off of himself like a dog before approaching.

“Hi,” she said meekly to his scowling face. Apparently he was moody again, resorting to the usual somber expression she saw him sporting. He nodded at her instead of responding.

She saw Finn look between the two of them after their exchange, or rather lack thereof, raising an eyebrow.

“Uh, Kylo,” she said as he passed by her to his own locker. “Have you ever met Finn?” she asked, introducing them.

“I’ve seen you around,” Kylo said quickly, making brief eye contact with Finn before turning back to his locker.

“Yeah…” Finn responded, “same. Nice to meet you.” Finn was always polite, even when people didn’t deserve it.

Kylo grunted instead of returning the sentiment. Rey tried to glare at him, but he kept his eyes fixated on his locker as he hung up his staff jacket.

“Well, Rey, I’ve gotta head out– you sure you don’t want to come with me and Rose to the movie?” Finn asked, still looking warily at Kylo.

“I’m sure. I need to deal with my car. You two have fun.”

“Ok, call me if you end up needing a ride.”

“Thanks.”

As soon as Finn left, Rey spun around and walked right up to Kylo.

“Is there something wrong with Finn?”

Kylo finally turned toward her, eyebrows furrowed.

“No,” he answered, “why?”

“I was just wondering because you basically just ignored him when I tried to introduce you.”

“Oh,” he responded, eyes widening a bit in understanding, looking behind him as if Finn might still be there for him to greet. “Sorry, I’m a bit distracted.”

Rey took a deep breath and tried to take it a little less personally. He had told her he wasn’t a people person, maybe his default mode of interaction was a bit rude.

“It’s ok,” she said. “Nevermind. Just thought I would introduce you two. He’s like my only friend… so…”

“Oh,” he repeated, looking at her with those same wide eyes. She stared for a moment, again appreciating their depth and brightness.

She thought he might say something else, but he just looked at her. She turned toward her own locker, grabbed her regular boots, and sat down on the bench to take off her ski boots. The blissful relief of taking ski boots off after a day on the mountain was a feeling like no other. Pretty much as good as an orgasm. Well, almost. She closed her eyes after she unbuckled them and pulled them off, leaning her head back against the wall and basking in the sweet feeling. When she opened her eyes, she found Kylo looking at her, his jaw slightly open, his hands frozen in the air with his personal jacket in them.

“What’s wrong?” she asked, confused by his staring.

“Nothing,” he said, as she watched him swallow and quickly put on his jacket, eyes blinking several times.

She continued her routine of switching her layers and packing up her ski equipment when Kylo sat on the bench next to her.

“So I think someone from my dad’s shop was here earlier. For your car?” he said.

“Oh!” she exclaimed, somehow having forgotten about his family’s unwarranted act of kindness.

“He texted me saying that it should be good to go. They put in a new fuel pump and a new battery.”

“What?!” Rey sputtered. A battery wasn’t too bad by itself, but fuel pumps were expensive. There was no way she could afford that in addition to the motorcycle she’d been dreaming of for the summer season.

“Yeah, he said to call if it stops working again.”

“How much do I owe him?” she asked, terrified of the answer. She had just started to build up a small savings for the first time in her life, and this was going to eat up a large chunk of it. She was not looking forward to going back to a paycheck-to-paycheck lifestyle, praying that no emergencies popped up.

“Oh,” he said nonchalantly, waving a hand. “Don’t worry about it.”

Don’t worry about it? What did that mean? Was he so rich that he just assumed that she could easily pay for a fuel pump and installation without batting an eyelash? She had to work for every cent and every privilege besides the old house that she had inherited from family she didn’t even know she’d had.

“I…” she stammered with embarrassment, “do have to worry about it… it’s sort of out of my… out of my budget.”

“Oh,” he said, placing one of his massive hands on her shoulder, “I meant… like… don’t worry about it as in it’s on the house.”

Rey’s jaw dropped. There was no way anyone could be this generous just for the hell of it. She’d always taken care of herself because people tended to screw you over once you got comfortable accepting their help. No one was in it for free, and she’d learned that the hard way.

“No… I can’t let you…”

“Really, Rey,” he said seriously squeezing her shoulder gently, “Han is always looking for an excuse to look like a hero. You’re actually doing him a favor.”

“I don’t feel comfortable owing anyone anything,” she said, standing suddenly in a panic, shrugging Kylo’s hand off.

Kylo held up his hands in a surrendering position, but remained seated as he looked up at her.

“You don’t owe anybody anything…” he said slowly, clearly trying to tread lightly around her.

“I’ll go to his shop tomorrow,” she said quickly, “I won’t be able to pay it all up front but I can work out a payment plan with him.”

“Rey,” he said more urgently, “really, it’s fine…”

“I can take care of myself,” she snapped, looking at him more firmly.

A few moments of silence and an intense stare-off passed before he finally looked down. She didn’t feel any triumph in winning.

“Ok… but don’t say I didn’t warn you when you go to the shop and he won’t let you pay.”

“We’ll see,” she answered tersely.

She watched him as he looked at his hands for a few more moments before he looked back up at her.

“Do you mind if I at least come along and make sure it starts up?” he asked quietly.

Rey felt bad for snapping at him when he looked at her like that and spoke to her more softly than he spoke to anyone.

“I… uh… yeah. Thank you,” she responded awkwardly. She stood for a moment before remembering that she would need to move her body to do so, quickly picking up her stuff, returning a few items to her locker, closing it, and heading toward the door on the parking lot side. The heavy footsteps behind her told her that Kylo was following. He stopped just outside of the driver’s seat door as she climbed in.

She opened the unlocked door of her old car, finding the keys in the ignition. She closed her eyes as she turned them, praying to the auto gods that it would start. She really just wanted to go home without having to get a ride from anyone.

Thankfully, the engine roared to life, quickly quieting to a soft purr. Rey let out her breath, her head falling back in relief.

“Thanks again for all of your help,” she said to Kylo, opening the door so that she could hear him.

“You’re welcome,” he said seriously, giving her one of his signature nods. She was starting to recognize his different nods– one to say hello, another for goodbye, one to express affirmation, another to signify understanding. He sometimes seemed to prefer communicating with as few words as possible, not wasting air on things that didn’t need to be said.

Rey plastered a smile on, feeling bad for snapping at him twice in the locker room. She hoped he couldn’t tell it was fake.

“I’ll see you tomorrow,” she said, keeping the door open to give him an opportunity to say something, anything that might lead to more conversation.

Kylo stood for a moment, looking as though he might say something, but eventually walked away without a word toward his SUV. Rey groaned, wishing she knew how to deal with people better. They’d been getting along so well until she must have said something wrong in the hut, and again in the locker room. Just when he had started to open up. No wonder she had so few friends.

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“So what do you think?”

“What do I think?” Poe asked, taking a swig from his beer, eyes on the hockey game on the TV. “It sounds like you have the hots for her.”

“What?” Kylo said, glaring at his friend sprawled out in his favorite spot on his couch, “What? No, that’s… that’s not what I asked…”

“I’m sorry, what was the question again?”

“I asked you why she freaked out like that when I told her not to worry about the car repair!” he exclaimed, grabbing a beer of his own out of the fridge and plopping down into the recliner.

“Oh… right…” Poe said, swinging his legs off of the couch and onto the ground, finally turning to look at Kylo. “Well, if I had to guess, based on what you told me about her, it sounds like she probably doesn’t have much. No family? Old car? Moved here basically for the free housing? Maybe she’s not used to people doing her favors or buying her stuff. Maybe she just doesn’t know how to respond to that.”

“Oh.”

“But what do I know? She’s your girlfriend,” Poe asked with a mischievous grin.

“She is not.”

“Didn’t you stalk her at the bakery last summer?”

“No.”

“Whatever, man.”

“We’ve talked before, but giving her a ride yesterday when her car broke down was really the first time I got to know her.”

At this, Poe choked on a mouthful of beer, nearly spitting it out.

“You’ve known her a day and you let her in the hut?!?! You never let any of my boyfriends in the hut!”

“Again, she’s not my girlfriend,” Kylo said. But he did feel bad now that he thought about the situation. “Sorry. I promise you’ll like her.”

Poe leaned back on the couch, looking back at the TV. “Whatever man, at least you’re making friends now I guess.”

Kylo wanted to retort, but Poe was right. He really only had one friend, and it was kind of a miracle that Rey was actually still talking to him on purpose. Although the whole car thing was probably mostly the reason why. And he supposed she was probably mad at him for not meeting Finn properly. And for trying to give her the car repair for free. Shit.

“About that... she probably won’t be around anymore anyways. I think she’s pissed at me.”

Poe frowned over at him and pointed a finger.

“Oh no, no, no, you bring a girl into the hut, you make sure you stay friends! I’m not letting you push her away like you do with everyone else!”

Leave it to Poe to bare his deepest insecurities out in the air for everyone to hear.

“Have you ever tried being a not-so-surly version of yourself?” Poe asked. “Maybe people would respond to that.”

Kylo didn’t want to change himself just to make friends. That seemed unproductive, and he didn’t need friends anyway. He was fine by himself.

“Rey has always talked to me regardless of the surliness.”

“Which is even more of a reason to make sure she sticks around.”

“Fair enough,” he admitted.

He picked at the label on the beer bottle, trying to figure out exactly the circumstances that may have upset her over the past two days that were his fault, and things that she seemed to like. Was making friends always this difficult? How was Poe so good at it? He figured he better apologize to her for something, but he wasn’t exactly sure how to go about doing that. Apologizing wasn’t something he did very often. Or at all.

It would be so much easier to just close himself back up and go back to ignoring everyone but Poe at work. But somehow Rey had managed to weasel her way into his thoughts, really ever since she first showed up at the mountain a year ago. But it wasn’t until yesterday that he was able to make more than just small talk with her. And now he was addicted.

Chapter Text

Rey decided to give Kylo some space. Maybe she’d come on too strong– asking him to show her his secret spot, introducing him to Finn. Maybe he was just being nice by asking his dad to sort out her car, maybe she had just imagined that it was some kind of offer of friendship. Maybe she was just so affection-starved that any kind gesture made her overeager. She’d probably made him uncomfortable, especially when she freaked out over the free car repair. She still didn’t intend to let them not charge her, but she should have acted a bit more thankful for the help and the way he set up the repair for her. Knowing her, she would have kept trying to fix it herself and would still be without a functioning vehicle.

The next day was cold, way too cold for so early in the season. The kind of cold that froze your entire nasal cavity and made your eyelashes crunchy. Thankfully, her lessons for the day were all with skiers who could at least stay upright and move along at a reasonable pace, so she was able to keep warm by skiing around. She’d been tempted many times last season to buy the fancy rechargable boot heaters that fit over your ski boots, but they were pricey and she wouldn’t need them every day. They would have helped on chilly days like this, though. She couldn’t imagine being a liftie on the particularly arctic days of the season, they couldn’t even move or ski around to keep warm. They just had to stand there for hours. At least they were usually out of the wind. She thought of Kylo standing by himself at a lift, all by himself. She felt bad before remembering that he much preferred to be alone over having to talk to strangers.

Her plan to give Kylo space lasted almost the whole day. She’d managed to avoid him in the morning, rushing to retrieve her gear from her locker and getting out on the hill as quickly as possible. To her advantage, he wasn’t working at any of the chair lifts on the beginner hills where she taught. But at the end of the day, he was there in the locker room, standing at his own which was nearly directly next to hers. And he saw her just as she walked in, so it wasn’t like she could just walk back out.

She smiled at him as she approached, trying not to smile too big– friendly, but not too friendly. He nodded in return, which completed their usual exchange from before the night he gave her a ride. She wanted to say something– it was becoming difficult to stick to her plan. It took her three tries to unlock her locker, distracted by his large, warm presence next to her. When she finally opened it, she turned toward him, succumbing to the urge to say something.

“Hey, I–…”

“Look, Rey–” he said at the same time as he turned toward her.

They both laughed at the blunder, the corners of Kylo’s mouth tilting upwards in a rare show of amusement.

“You go first,” she said.

“I just wanted to apologize for yesterday… I realized I sort of took over the whole situation with your car without asking you. I didn’t mean to tell you what to do…”

“It’s alright,” Rey interrupted. “I wasn’t very gracious in accepting your help. I really do appreciate what you and your dad did. I just can’t let him serve me for free, I hope you understand.”

“Yeah,” he said, nodding again. “I get it. Sorry.”

“Stop saying sorry.”

“Ok. Sorry.”

He winced as she laughed.

“My dad asked me to ask you if your car is still working well,” he said, pulling out his phone and pointing to it.

“It is! Please thank him for me, I won’t get a chance to go to his shop until I get a day off next week.”

“Will do.”

She watched him type out a text, amused by the way his large fingers seemed to struggle operating a touch screen.

“Your turn,” he said after he finished, shooting a small smile at her. It was so rare for him to smile that anytime she caught a glimpse of one her heart melted a little bit.

“I… um…” she stammered. “Oh! Right! I wanted to thank you again for showing me the hut yesterday. Sorry if I made you show me your secret spot if you didn’t want to.”

“Oh,” he said, picking up his jacket out of his locker. “Don’t worry about it. It was fun. Just don’t tell Poe how easily you convinced me.”

“If I ever meet him, I won’t,” she assured him, sitting down on the bench behind them to take off her ski boots.

“Do you know your schedule for tomorrow?” he asked, turning around to face her. “Poe and I have the same breaks tomorrow, so we’ll both be in the hut if you want to meet him.”

“Are you sure? I don’t want to intrude.”

“Yeah, I’m sure,” he said, a surprised look on his face.

For a man that was so opposed to meeting Finn the day before, he sure seemed earnest for her to meet Poe. She knew who he was, of course. He was the young, handsome guy on ski patrol, the one that always made loud comments during the weekly resort staff meetings. How someone like that was friends with Kylo was beyond her. Kylo would never say something loud enough for everyone to hear in a million years.

“I’ll have to check, we don’t know our final schedule until the morning of, but if it’s still this cold tomorrow I’ll probably have a few breaks.”

“Ok, well, feel free to come by anytime.” He seemed sincere.

“Ok, I will.”

Maybe she hadn’t misread the signs. She was worried that her attraction to him made it seem like every little thing he did or said was an invitation to be his friend, but at least in that exchange he seemed to genuinely like her. Maybe she needed an objective opinion. She’d have to ask Finn.

She looked at the back of his head as he turned back toward his locker to organize his belongings. He pulled on a black (of course) beanie over his hair that still managed to look good even after spending a day being frozen by the subzero temperatures and under a Stormy Kromer that looked way too cute on him. She pulled her own messy hair into her three buns after taking her helmet off, wondering if she could ask him what products he used to keep his so nice.

She was just about to stand up and put her things away when Hux and two other instructors he hung out with came in. She watched as his eyes zeroed in on Kylo and he marched over to him.

“So, Ren. Good day on the hill?” he asked loudly, but in the least polite tone Rey had ever heard. His two cronies stood behind him, glaring at Kylo.

“Fine,” Kylo answered crisply, back to wearing the same scowl he always wore. Rey hated seeing it.

“Snoke asked about you today. Planning on avoiding him forever?”

“I’d like to,” he answered, slamming his locker door shut. Rey flinched at the loud bang.

“Pfft,” Hux scoffed. “You won’t work here for long with that kind of attitude. It won’t matter who your mother is.”

“Good talk, gotta go,” he replied, quickly turning and heading out the door without a second look back. She hadn’t even gotten a chance to say goodbye.

“Just don’t crawl back to me when he comes for you!” Hux shouted after him, rage flashing across his face.

He started to turn to face his comrades, but spotted Rey on the bench, where she had been hoping to stay unnoticed until he left.

“Rey!” he said suddenly, his expression turning to one of embarrassment before he managed to school it back to neutral. “Sorry you had to see that. Ren doesn’t know how to treat anyone with respect.”

Rey frowned.

“I don’t know Armitage, it seems to me like you’re the one with no respect,” she said fiercely. Maybe Kylo was her friend or maybe he wasn’t, but she at least could judge Hux’s character, and there wasn’t a good bone in his body.

“You’re defending him now?” Hux asked, eyebrows raised. “Has he managed to corrupt you into thinking he’s a good person?”

Rey paused at that, wondering what he meant.

“He hasn’t done anything,” she settled on, “you’re the one bothering him.”

Hux walked toward her slowly in a predatory fashion. If she hadn’t grown up fighting kids bigger than her in the foster system, she’d be scared. But Hux was a rich momma’s boy if she ever saw one, with a bark worse than his bite. She remained seated, unfazed.

“Don’t let him get in your head, lovely. Let me deal with him.”

At that, she stood up, knocking him with her shoulder as she walked toward her locker.

“Honestly Hux, where do you get off telling me what to do?”

“I’m just trying to protect you, beautiful,” he said in a tone that was anything but sincere.

She grimaced at her locker, resisting the urge to throw up.

“Protect me from what?”

“Oh, so you don’t know?”

She really didn’t want to fall for the bait, but she couldn’t help it.

“Know what?” she asked, turning back around.

“That he’s… dangerous,” Hux answered with a creepy smile.

“Doesn’t seem that dangerous to me.”

“Perhaps he’s convinced you that he’s changed, but deep down he’ll always be dark.”

At this point, Rey had no idea what he was talking about. But she was done pandering to him.

“I’m leaving, Armitage, go play your little games with someone else,” trying to look like she couldn’t care less.

“You come to me if he does anything to you!” he tried to command her as she walked out the door.

“In your dreams!” she shouted back, slamming it behind her.

“Ugghh!” she yelled once outside, kicking up a bootfull of snow as she entered the parking lot.

“Rey?” she heard a voice ask from her right.

“What?” she snapped, sick and tired of dealing with men for the day.

She turned to see Kylo there, nearly obscured in the quickly onsetting darkness of night.

“Did Hux say something to you?” he asked, looking worried.

“Is there something you’d like for him to say to me?” she asked angrily, looking at him pointedly. Why couldn’t people just say what they mean?

Kylo looked hurt by her anger, which felt a bit like being stabbed in the stomach.

“No… I just…” he mumbled, looking down.

“What is it, Kylo? Why does Hux keep harassing you and why am I being dragged into it?” she asked, unable to keep her frustration at bay.

“I’m sorry,” he said more a little more boldly, looking up and stepping toward her. “I used to work for Snoke with Hux and he’s been a dick about it ever since I quit. We did some pretty shitty things and he won’t let me forget it. But I’m just not like that anymore, and pretty much the only thing I can do is ignore him if I don’t want to get fired from the resort.”

Rey still didn’t quite understand, but she’d have more time to process it later.

“Ok,” she said after a moment.

“O...k…?” he asked, looking confused.

“Yeah, ok. I don’t really care what you did. I just don’t want to be involved in whatever is between the two of you.”

Kylo glared back at the door of the locker room, as if he was ready to go back in and fight.

“Yeah,” he said, “I don’t know what his thing is with you. He’s always annoying, but he seems particularly annoying when it comes to you. He probably saw you talking with me or something and decided to terrorize you just to get to me. Or maybe he likes you.”

“What a child.”

“Yeah, maybe we shouldn’t talk.”

“What?”

“If it gets Hux off of your back, maybe we shouldn’t talk,” Kylo said, looking down at her feet instead of her eyes.

“Do you… not want to… talk?” she asked, bruised by his suggestion. Hadn’t they just had a pleasant conversation minutes before?

“No, I–” he hastily clarified. “I like… hanging out with you,” he admitted to her shoes.

Rey really wasn’t one to talk about her emotions, so the encounter was starting to embarrass the crap out of her. She knew Kylo probably felt the same way– the dude usually never even spoke to anyone unless it was to grunt or yell something rude.

“It’s settled, then.”

“What is?” he asked, looking up.

“Hux can go fuck himself. He can’t dictate who my friends are. And I really don’t care what he says about you.”

Her heart soared at the little half smile Kylo gave as he looked down again, shaking his head as if to hide his expression.

“Alright,” he said with finality.

“Good,” she said.

They stood there for a moment, unsure of how to end the conversation. Rey had realized pretty quickly that she was going to have to be the one to guide their interactions. For being older than her, Kylo sure wasn’t any better in the social skills department.

“Well,” she said, “I’ll see you tomorrow. Hopefully I can stop by the hut and meet Poe.”

“Yeah, hopefully,” he repeated, nodding.

“And don’t think I’ve forgotten about your promise– if you fall, call me so I can show you that I can, in fact, lift you.”

“I think I’d need your number for that,” he said, confidently pulling out his phone and handing it to her.

Her breath caught for a microsecond, thankfully too quick for him to notice. If he was interested in her like that, it would have been bold. But he wasn’t. He was just asking her for her number because they were friends. She put on a calm front as she typed her number into his phone, handing it back to him when she was done. Their fingers brushed as she did, and the hairs on the back of her neck stood on end like they did anytime they touched.

“See you tomorrow,” he said, shaking Rey out of her stupor.

“Yeah, tomorrow,” she responded weakly. Before she could stop herself, she slipped her arms under his to loosely wrap him in a hug. Just to say goodbye, like how any friends would. He didn’t seem to respond at first, and for an instant Rey was petrified that she’d made a fool of herself. Thankfully, she felt him reciprocate around her shoulders, patting her between the shoulder blades twice before letting go.

“Bye,” she said quickly, turning around abruptly and speedwalking to her car. She didn’t look back.

She threw herself into the driver’s seat, hastily starting the engine to turn on her nearly non-functional heating system. The moisture from her breath instantly vaporized with every exhale, quickly fogging up her windows. She cranked on the dash fan, waiting for the visibility to improve. She pulled her phone out of her pocket to see a missed text.
It read simply:
Unknown Number
Kylo Ren

Chapter Text

“I fucking patted her on the back,” Kylo said to himself, reliving the incredibly awkward hug he’d had with Rey minutes prior. Somehow, he’d managed to get into his car without punching something in aggravation and embarrassment. Rey had hugged him, and the best he could do was pat her on the back.

“Like she was a dog,” he said, shaking his head, rubbing his face with his hands. He wasn’t usually so awkward with women, he usually didn’t have to try very hard. His dark demeanour typically did all of the work for him, and he wasn’t mad about it. It attracted a very certain type of girl, and they usually weren’t into hugging.

So no, he didn’t have a lot of experience hugging anyone except his mother, who forced him into embraces. He wasn’t exactly a huggable type– most people were actually kind of scared of him. So when Rey had sprung one on him, he didn’t have any sort of response prepared. She was always unpredictable, and he hated that. Or maybe he loved it. He wasn’t sure.

“You’re killing me, Ren,” he muttered, starting the engine. He accelerated out of the parking lot before anyone got a chance to see him talking to himself.

He took the long way home, needing some time in the cool air to think. Much to his distaste, he realized Poe was right. He couldn’t give up now. She’d called him her friend, which had to mean something. Although he knew he tended to read too much into things– a weakness of his. There was a part of him that wanted a friend, desperate for companionship. He’d always had Poe, but he was so lonely. But he also knew for a fact that he didn’t want to be just her friend. It was a delicate balance– did he settle for being her friend but always pining for her, or sacrifice the chance of a perfectly good friendship by making a move? It was so confusing. Rey was nothing like the girls he normally went for. If anything, she was pretty similar to his mother. He shuddered at the thought. Ok, he was never going down that train of thought again.

He pulled up to his building, where he’d be spending another night alone. There was a certain comfort in it–the familiarity of loneliness. He’d rather be alone than have to spend time with people that didn’t matter to him. He’d always been alone– an only child of busy parents, a solo studier at the local college while Poe attended uni down south, roommate-less since he was 18, a defector from Snoke’s mob. It was familiar, but it was getting old. As he unlocked his front door and turned on the lights in his sad little apartment, he found that he’d do anything to have Rey sitting on his couch, arguing with him over the hockey game. Instead, he’d spend another night alone, rereading the same books he always read, waiting to go to sleep.

 

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It was a beautiful morning. But for some reason, Rey was nervous as she skied down under the C chair toward the old, out-of-service ski patrol hut that Kylo and Poe used as a secret hangout. Sure, Kylo had told her to come by if she got any breaks between lessons, but she found herself more and more anxious each time she saw him. It should make sense– she knew his large, looming presence and his sullen, gloomy persona scared most of the staff. But she had never been afraid of him, or anyone. No, something else was making her feel this way.

She unclipped from her skis, leaning them and her poles up against the side of the hut facing the woods to hide them from passerby– she’d hate to be the one that got them kicked out of the spot they’d had for years by drawing too much attention to it. She glanced around, making sure no one was watching as she approached the door and knocked. Not two seconds later, the young, handsome Poe opened the door, offering her a huge smile. She was nearly taken aback by how striking and commanding he was up close.

“You must be Rey. Quick, come in,” he welcomed her, poking his head out the door to survey the surroundings. She figured he must have been checking for anyone watching.

“Hi,” she said, immediately noticing Kylo lounging in the same chair he’d been in the first time she’d been allowed in the hut. Although it was a normal-sized armchair, he still looked too big for it. His thighs extended well past the seat, and his shoulders were nearly wider than the top of the back of it. She tried not to stare as she took off her gloves and her helmet and placed them on the counter.

“Hey,” he said, leaning forward as she walked in. If anyone else looked at him, they wouldn’t have noticed the way his eyes shone. While the rest of his face was stoic, his eyes communicated that he was happy to see her.

Poe closed the door behind them, placing a hand in front of Rey to introduce himself.

“I’m Poe,” he said with his dazzling smile, shaking the hand she extended in return.

“Nice to meet you,” she said, unable to resist smiling back. There was something magnetic about him. His rough, boyish features conveyed honesty, and made you believe you could tell him anything.

“So Kylo tells me you’ve been here once before. Welcome to our humble abode yet again.”

“Yeah,” she said, glancing over at Kylo, whose eyes were now very much not shining. “Thanks for having me, I love it. It can be so hard to find a quiet place here.”

“I can imagine with ski school that you must need a break from people once in a while,” Poe said.

Rey looked back at him, appreciating his understanding.

“Definitely,” she said. “I love teaching, but I’ve spent most of my life alone, so I really value my space and quiet time.”

“Kylo’s the same way,” Poe said, nodding his head toward his friend. Rey looked back at Kylo, who was looking at the floor near her feet.

“Would you like a seat?” Poe asked politely as Kylo remained silent.

“Yes, thank you,” she said. “Standing around in ski boots is the worst,” she added as she tried to gracefully sit down in an old, once-soft, purple velvet chair next to Kylo’s. It ended up more as a flop, and she sunk so far down into the ancient chair that her feet left the ground.

Poe laughed at her as he sat in his own chair, and she even saw Kylo’s mouth turn up in amusement as she tried to pull herself back out.

“Sorry,” Poe said between bouts of laughter, “I should have warned you about Old Bertha. She tends to swallow you. You should probably just stay down there– we’ll help you get out when your break ends.”

“You knew this would happen,” she directed at Kylo with a frown. Her feet dangled helplessly in the air, ass so far down in the chair it might never be found again.

“Maybe,” he said, his mouth tensing in effort as if trying to keep a smile back.

“You guys are the worst.”

“Hey!” Poe said, propping his feet up on another wrinkly chair next to him, “Consider it initiation for hut privileges. You’re a Hut Boy now.”

Kylo groaned next to her, covering his eyes with his hands.

“You call yourselves Hut Boys? That’s adorable.”

“You hear that, Ren?” Poe asked, throwing a spare tennis ball from the counter at Kylo, “The first and last time anyone will ever call you adorable.”

Rey blushed– she hadn’t meant it that way, but there were certainly some things she found adorable about Kylo. Thankfully, she found that he was blushing even harder than her when she snuck a peak over at him. He threw the tennis ball back at Poe with gusto.

“How did Kylo make such a delightful, lovely friend anyway? Did he blackmail you?” Poe asked, miraculously catching the pelted tennis ball and shooting it into the mini basketball hoop screwed into a ceiling joist.

“No,” she said defensively as she saw Kylo glare at Poe. She knew he was kidding, but it bothered her for some reason, maybe because she knew it would bother Kylo. “I don’t know… we’re… just… we had…” Why could she not think of anything?!?

“We both hate Hux,” Kylo said, saving her. She supposed it was one of the first things that ever led them to talk to each other, but she hoped he knew that wasn’t the only reason she liked him.

Poe laughed, seeming to accept the answer.

“Ah, that skinny, pasty motherfucker. He really needs to get that stick out of his ass.”

“Yeah. He seems to take some perverse pleasure in tormenting me daily,” Rey said, shuddering with loathing. “My friend Finn sometimes has to hold me back from snapping at him.”

“You’re friends with Finn?” Poe asked earnestly.

“Yeah, do you know him?”

“No… I… not really,” he said, looking flustered and running a hand through his hair.

“We both started on staff last season,” she said with a smile, “and quickly realized Hux was an ass.”

“Want me to spook him?” Poe asked animatedly, as if he would jump up and defend her right in that moment. “We can’t have him messing with another one of our Hut Boys.”

At least now she knew that Poe knew what was going on between Kylo and Hux. She was glad he had someone to talk to. She looked at him, expecting to find him embarrassed again by the use of ‘Hut Boys’, but instead he was just scowling at Poe.

“I can take care of it,” he said lowly, leaning toward Poe an inch. Poe expression faltered a bit, a questioning look appearing for a microsecond before he smiled again. What was that about?

“I’m fine,” she said, hoping to diffuse any tension. “I’d drop him in about two seconds flat if he tried anything.”

Poe raised his eyebrows at that.

“Woah, feisty. No wonder Kylo likes you.”

She wished the chair would swallow the rest of her. Poe hadn’t meant it like that, but damn if she didn’t wish it were true.

“So,” Kylo said loudly, rising from his chair. He grabbed a scrappy-looking deck of cards from the counter and pulled up a rusted metal stool between their three chairs. “Anyone for cards?”

“I’m in,” Poe said, taking his booted feet off of the chair and sitting up. “Rey?”

Rey looked between the two of them, suddenly embarrassed. She didn’t know any card games. She’d once found half of a deck under the couch in a group home she lived in when she was a teenager, but she pretty much just looked at the symbols on them and used them to scrape dirt out from under her fingernails.

“Sure,” she said, tentatively.

“Rummy?” Kylo asked, shuffling the cards in his hands.

“I don’t know that one,” she said, fiddling nervously with the zipper on her jacket.

“How about poker?” Poe suggested.

“Sorry…” she said, wincing, “I actually don’t know any card games.”

“You don’t know any card games?” Kylo asked, baffled.

Rey swallowed back the lump in her throat, shaking her head.

“We’ll teach you!” Poe said enthusiastically. “Let’s just start with War.”

Rey listened carefully as Poe explained the simple rules, but kept sneaking glances at Kylo, who was staring at her unabashedly. Did she have something on her face?

“And that’s it,” Poe finished. “Deal us in, Kylo.”

Rey’s hands trembled as she watched Kylo’s large ones distribute the cards. They looked soft yet leathery, like they’d keep hers warm.

“Ready?” Poe asked when they each had their stack. “Draw.”

Kylo won the first round, beating out Poe’s 3 and Rey’s 9 with a Queen. The luck of the draw was on his side as his pile grew and grew while Rey’s and Poe’s dwindled.

“I declare an alliance!” Poe said after a few minutes.

“Hey,” Kylo said competitively, “no alliances!”

“Don’t be such a spoilsport, Ren. Rey– let’s join our stacks and make an alliance.”

“Oooh,” she said, looking at her pathetic pile which had no chances of beating Kylo on it’s own. “I like the sound of that.”

“And thus the Hut Boy Rebel Alliance was formed!” Poe shouted, handing his stack over to Rey, which she added to her own. “It’s a trick his mom taught me,” he added in a whisper.

“You’ll never defeat me,” Kylo said with a wicked smile. “I’ve got all of the power cards.”

“We’ll see about that,” she said, refusing to back down from his dare.

In the end, Kylo still won.

“Every time!” Poe shouted in frustration, throwing his hands in the air. “It should be statistically impossible to win even the luck–based games!”

“I’m Han Solo’s son,” Kylo said, shrugging. “I’m genetically designed to win card games.”

“Speaking of Han,” Poe said, turning back toward Rey, “are you coming to Thanksgiving?”

“Thanksgiving?” she asked, confused.

“Yeah,” Poe said as Kylo shook his head furiously. “Thanksgiving at Kylo’s parents’ house this week. We’ll be there.”

“Wasn’t Thanksgiving like a month ago?”

“Kylo’s dad is American, so they do it twice. Something about ‘American tradition’ and ‘football’ and stuff like that.”

Rey looked over at Kylo, who looked mortified.

“I don’t want to invite myself…”

“Nonsense,” Poe answered, “I’m inviting you. You can be my guest. There will be a bunch of people, you won’t be intruding.”

Rey watched Kylo glare daggers at Poe, who wasn’t paying attention.

“Well…” she said, tempted to give in to Poe and his irresistible cuteness.

“She’d be my guest,” Kylo blurted out, making them both turn toward him. “I’m the one that introduced you.”

“Excellent,” Poe said, not skipping a beat. “You’ll be Kylo’s guest, then. It’ll be fun, trust me.”

“Ok...” she said, not sure exactly what was happening. She supposed she was joining them for American Thanksgiving? What an odd turn of events. Kylo looked deeply uncomfortable, which is not what she wanted.

“You really don’t have to invite me…” she started.

“You’ll love it,” Poe insisted, “Han makes us watch the Mountain Lions game on TV and we all eat way too much of Maz’s pie. It’s a good time.”

“Lions,” Kylo muttered.

“What?” she asked.

“It’s just the ‘Lions’, not the ‘Mountain Li–’ ok you know what? Nevermind. Yeah, Rey, you should come. No pressure, though. I mean whatever.”

Poe threw an indecipherable look over at Kylo. Did they want her to come or not?

“Uh… sure. What should I bring?”

“Just bring your enchanting self, Rey,” Poe said, plastering a smile back on his face. She saw Kylo roll his eyes in her peripheral.

“I’ll bring something,” she argued, refusing to freeload off of Kylo and family for even a second longer. First the ride, then the car repair, then the hut, then Poe, and now Thanksgiving? It was like she was gaining a second life from befriending Kylo. And what had she given him? Nothing.

“That’s Thursday, right?” she asked. Kylo nodded. “That should work for me. I have Thursday and Friday off anyway.”

“Starts at 1:00,” Kylo said.

“So early?”

“Early enough for the football games. Food will be served all day, but dinner will start later in the evening. It’s an… event,” he said with a sigh. Rey figured he probably hated such a thing– a whole day’s worth of social activity. Maybe she would find a way to cheer him up.

“Ok. I’ll be there. Can you text me the address?”

“Sure,” he said, pulling out his phone.

Rey looked back at Poe to see a self-satisfied smirk on his face. The guy was like a cartoon character.

“Weelllllll,” he said, pushing himself up out of his chair and onto his feet. “I’ve gotta get back on the clock. And I need to go hit the john and the cafeteria before I do. Catch you two later.”

“Bye!” Rey said, “It was nice to finally meet you!”

“Likewise, Sunshine,” he said, winking at her before closing the door behind him.

Rey looked back at Kylo, who was just finishing typing out his parent’s address.

“Ok,” he said, “sent.”

“Thanks,” she said, feeling the corresponding buzz in her pocket. “It sounded like Poe was really excited but I totally get it if you don’t want me to come…”

“No!” he said forcefully. “I mean,” he lowered his voice, “no, it’d be cool if you came. My parents are just... they’re kind of crazy. So... just warning you.”

“I’m sure they’re not crazier than any of my foster parents.”

Kylo nodded at that, and she realized that there was no way to gracefully respond to that.

“Hey, at least I’ll get a chance to talk to your dad, about my car.”

“Yeah,” he said, clearing his throat. “Don’t let him talk your ear off about it, though. He won’t ever stop talking about cars if you get him going.”

“I’ll be careful,” she said, laughing.

She reached over, grabbing the deck of cards that were still in his hands. She slowly rifled through them, glancing at each card.

“What are you doing?”

“Making sure you weren’t cheating,” she joked.

“Hey!” he said, grabbing the cards back and holding them away from her. She tried not to shiver from the warmth of his hands.

“That’s not fair!” she argued, “I can’t reach over when I’m stuck in this damn chair like this!”

She wriggled her arms and legs in the air in demonstration.

“Ok, you helpless child,” he teased, standing up. He stood in front of her and grabbed her flailing hands. “Time to get you out of Old Bertha.”

With one swift pull, he managed to extract her from the armchair, flinging her toward him with too much momentum. She ended up crashing into his chest, grabbing at him frantically as she struggled to find solid footing in her clunky ski boots. With an ‘oof’ expelling from his chest as she knocked into him, Kylo wrapped his arms around her to steady her. A few clumsy steps later, she managed to upright herself, and was able to fully comprehend just how close she was to him, pulled tight against his body. She felt his warm breath on her face as she looked up at him. After watching his Adam’s apple bob, her eyes carved their way up his jaw, across his full lips, over his nose, and up to his deep brown eyes that seemed to glisten with the light coming in from the solitary window of the hut.

The spell was broken when they heard the door suddenly open from the other side of the room.

“Forgot my fanny pack…” Poe said loudly, stopping in his tracks when he spotted the two of them.

They jumped apart quickly, as if scorched by the contact. It was the closest they’d ever been to each other. Even closer than their awkward half-hug the evening prior.

“Thanks for helping me get out of that death trap,” Rey said quickly, pointing to Old Bertha.

“No problem,” Kylo responded instantly, rubbing the back of his head with his hand and looking everywhere but her.

“No canoodling in the hut!” Poe said with a smirk, snatching his ski patrol fanny pack from the counter and fastening it around his waist.

“Oh… we weren’t…” she started.

“That’s not…” Kylo explained.

“I don’t want to hear it!” Poe said sternly. “I forbid it!” he shouted as he exited again. Rey could have sworn she saw him smile.

“He’s always like that,” Kylo said as the door closed. “Ignore him.”

“Yeah,” Rey said in a forced casual tone, “ok.”

“Unfortunately my break is about over,” he said, gesturing to the old clock on the wall. “But again, you’re welcome to stay here if you want. I’ll make a copy of the key for you sometime this week so you can come whenever.”

“Really?” she asked, surprised.

“Well, according to Poe, you’re a Hut Boy now,” he said, closing his eyes in embarrassment of the term.

“It’s an honor,” she said, mock curtsying as gracefully as she could in her ski boots.

“Don’t do that,” he grumbled, heading for the door.

“What did you say, Lord Hut Boy?”

“Shut up.”

Rey couldn’t help but smile as he closed the door behind him. Her face hurt from how hard she was smiling. Woah, what a weird feeling.

Before she could process what a bad decision it would be, she sunk back into Old Bertha, sighing. She knew she’d eventually struggle getting back out of it, but she needed to sit and think about Kylo. She’d never been to a family holiday before. Finn usually went east to visit his cousins, and she wasn’t good enough friends with Rose to ask, not that she’d ever work up the courage to ask. But here she was, going to what sounded like a family holiday with two people she’d only recently met or got to know. She wondered what real parents were like, especially with adult children. Did Kylo have any siblings? He never mentioned any, but then again she barely knew anything about him. Just that she liked him way too much for her own good.

She threw her head back against the soft cushion Old Bertha provided, tracing the old wooden beams of the hut ceiling with her eyes, wondering what they had seen of Kylo as he grew up here. When had he gotten so lonesome, so isolated? It was a miracle he had Poe, but Rey got the impression he was not one to give up on people easily. She wanted to be there for Kylo the same way Poe was, to let him know that he wasn’t alone. That there were people just as lonely, or even more so, than him. People like her, that didn’t belong anywhere, or to anyone.

She looked over at his chair, imagining him sitting there, looking at her. Would it be so far-fetched for him to like her as more than just a friend. She craved touch and affection, as much as she tried to convince herself otherwise– that she was fine on her own. But she wasn’t. And he was just so fucking handsome and so kind even if he was a bit spiky around the edges. She’d always been attracted to danger, so it only made him more attractive to her. She closed her eyes, trying to imagine him smiling at her with those mischievous eyes of his.

Chapter Text

The night before the American Thanksgiving at Kylo’s parent’s house, she had Finn and Rose over to play their usual board games and sip cheap wine in front of the fireplace in her living room. She had only furnished the half of the room near the fireplace, but it was cozy. Having them over made her house feel less huge, less lonely. She’d considered asking them to move in with her, and would have charged them far less than their current rents, but she kept telling herself that she’d finish fixing it up and sell it, and wouldn’t want to make them move out. Now, nearly a year and a half after moving in, it was still nowhere near ready to put on the market. And despite finding it sad and empty, she couldn’t bring herself to sell it. Her family had lived here. Or at least a great uncle. Sure, she’d never met the guy, but the fact that the house was her only connection to a possibility of belonging made it special, and something she couldn’t quite convince herself to give up.

As they played Monopoly on the small rug in front of the fireplace, Rey asked Finn and Rose if they knew anything about American Thanksgiving. Rose, who had family in New York, piped up.

“It’s pretty much the same as regular Thanksgiving, just a different day. And there’s a huge parade in Manhattan that they broadcast on TV,” she said.

Rey nodded her head, pretending like she was familiar with what people did on ‘regular Thanksgiving’.

“Why?” Finn asked.

“I’m… going to the Organa-Solo’s house tomorrow for it.”

“Woah,” Rose said, a look of wonder on her face. “The mayor’s house? How did you get invited to that?”

“Their son invited me.”

“Who’s their son?” Finn asked, throwing another log on the fire.

“Kylo Ren – the liftie who was rude to you the other day when I introduced you,” Rey responded with a smile, remembering the awkward encounter.

“That guy is the mayor’s son?” he asked, huffing.

“Yup,” she said, sipping her wine. She understood the surprise. He was nothing like his mother.

“Did he invite you like… as a date?” Rose asked, looking excited.

Rey nearly spit out her wine, instead choking it back.

“No,” she said around coughs, feeling her ears heat up, “no. Just as a friend. Actually, technically his friend Poe invited me. It’s a big gathering apparently.”

“Poe as in ski patrol Poe?” Finn asked earnestly.

“Yeah, do you know him?” Rey asked.

“Not really,” Finn responded, looking down, shuffling through his Monopoly money.

“He’s Kylo’s best friend,” she informed him, reaching over to the bowl of pretzels to grab a handful.

“Sounds like it will be fun!” Rose enthused, sipping from her own glass.

“Yeah, I guess…” she said, looking into the fire and biting her lip.

“What’s wrong?” Finn asked, familiar with her expressions.

“I guess I’m just...nervous,” she responded, smiling timidly. “I’m not great in large social settings, it’s a bit overwhelming for me. I can do ski instructing because I have some sort of purpose, but the thought of a party is kind of intimidating.”

“Hey,” Rose said, reaching over to rub her back gently, “it’ll be great. If a purpose makes you feel better, than make one!”

“What do you mean?”

“Give yourself from tasks! Like, try to learn one thing about each person there. Or count how many times a particular word is said, or make bets on the football games or something.”

“That’s a good idea,” Finn said, nodding appreciatively.

It was. Rose was truly a saint. She’d practically adopted Rey when first moved to their town in northern Ottawa and started working at the bakery. She had a strong maternal instinct and knew how to connect with people in a way that made them comfortable. Rey had been slow to open up, but she found it easy with Rose. She had honesty and kindness that Rey had never known before.

“I could do that,” Rey said, smiling at her. She’d have to come up with something when she got there and assessed the situation.

She looked between her two friends, thankful that she’d found them, and for some reason they’d stuck around. Rey wondered if it would ever be that way with Kylo, or even Poe. Her newly discovered yearning for friendship left her craving more. Relationships were a new concept to her, and she couldn’t get enough. She wanted something with Kylo, she knew it. His attractiveness and ability to make her smile in his own sinister, weird way confused her. Just the thought of him made her insides heat up, rendering the fire redundant. She was too unsure to tell Finn and Rose. She still guarded her heart strongly, afraid of rejection. She’d have to keep herself in check, not allow herself to swoon over him just because he was being himself.

“Isn’t Kylo the guy that Hux hates?” Finn asked, reattaining Rey’s attention.

“What? Oh, yeah.”

“Well,” Finn scoffed, “the enemy of my enemy is my friend I guess.”

“He’s actually nice, at least to me. He apologized to me that he was rude meeting you, wish he would do the same to you,” she said, looking back into the fire.

“Rey…” Finn said, glancing over at Rose conspiratorially, “are you sure you don’t like Kylo?”

“What? No! I...I don’t… we’re just… it’s not like that!”

That was convincing!” Rose giggled, making Rey throw a pretzel at her.

“What would be so bad about liking him?” Finn asked.

Rey honestly did not know how to respond, mouth gaping, looking for an answer. It wouldn’t be… she supposed. Except for the possibility for rejection if she ever acted on it. And she liked having him as an ally, as a friend.

“Let’s just keep playing,” she said instead, picking up the dice and rolling. She tried to ignore the looks Finn and Rose gave each other as she moved her piece across the board.

The next morning, Rey got up early for once on her day off. She hadn’t anticipated having big plans for her first day off of the season, but here she was – awake and baking bread for the American Thanksgiving holiday at Kylo’s parents’ house. She wasn’t much of a cook, having grown up eating whatever she could scavenge, but working summers at the bakery at least had her well-versed in bread. She even had her own sourdough starters and everything. She wasn’t very familiar with what was normally served at holiday meals, but she figured a rosemary focaccia seemed festive enough. It had a pretty brief proofing time, so it was perfect to make in a morning. She didn’t have a mixer, but that was fine because she preferred to knead by hand anyway.

By the time noon rolled around, she’d been so consumed by bread-making that she hadn’t given a single thought to her attire. What did people normally wear for holidays with family? Was she supposed to dress up? She didn’t even have nice clothes. She whipped out her phone to text Kylo.

To Kylo
hey, it’s Rey. what’s the dress code for this thing? formal?

She rifled through her closet, searching for pieces of clothing that didn’t have some sort of food stain or holes in them. Why didn’t she own any nice clothes? Now that she had an income, she should really invest in some. Clothes had never been a priority for her growing up, but now she was a functioning adult, and really should at least own a nice pair of slacks or something.

Her phone buzzed in her pocket with Kylo’s response.

Kylo
Definitely not formal. I’d recommend something with an elastic waistband – my mother won’t rest until you’ve eaten so much you can’t walk.

To Kylo
she sounds awesome

Kylo
You’ll be begging for mercy by the end, just warning you.

To Kylo
you’re so dramatic

Kylo
That’s sort of my thing.

Rey snorted. Kylo was many things, but at least he was self-aware. She set down her phone, relieved that she wouldn't be underdressed. Kylo didn’t really seem like the type to care too much about appearances, but she was still anxious about embarrassing herself in front of his parents, especially since she’d never been to a family holiday before, and didn’t even know the first thing about American Thanksgiving. Keeping Kylo’s suggestion for a flexible waistband in mind, she pulled out some stretchy black leggings that had had pockets on them to make them look less like leggings and more like pants, and a longer grey sweater that wouldn’t cling to her stomach. She slipped on her nicest pair of shoes- some clean-ish blue loafers that at least didn’t have any holes in them.

She tried her best to apply the minimal makeup she owned, fiddling with a dull eyeliner and some mascara, attempting to look less like a teenage boy. It was one thing to look that way at work – almost no one tried to keep up appearances on the mountain. But the thought of spending a whole day with Kylo without the safety of her helmet or facemask left her feeling exposed.

Was she… nervous? She really never got nervous for anything. She was normally tough and gritty, and was never really afraid to take on anything that came her way. But just thinking about Kylo in normal indoor clothes, strewn across a sofa made her throat tighten microscopically, and her top teeth dig into her bottom lip. This was ridiculous. Attraction aside, everything would be normal, like hanging out with him and Poe in the hut, which she’d already done several times that week. She even had a key for herself, which Kylo made for her. Hut boys. Friends. Yeah.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

“BEN!” Kylo heard his mother scream from the kitchen. “You told Rey to come at 1, right? This isn’t going to be like that time you invited your high school girlfriend to come for the minimum amount of time possible, right?!”

“First of all,” Kylo shouted back, walking briskly toward the kitchen. He needed to make this clear yet again. “Rey is not my girlfriend. Just friends. Secondly, yes, I told her 1,” he said, trying to make eye contact with Leia as she darted to and fro across the kitchen.

“Good,” she said, not acknowledging that she understood his correction. “Be a dear and grab the quiche out of the refrigerator and pop it in the oven, will you?”

He sighed as he did as he requested. Stupid Poe. Now Rey would be subjected to the embarrassment that was his parents. Part of him was anxious in a good way to spend nearly the whole day with her, but the other part was dreading exposing her to his family. What would she think of him after today?

Han strolled into the kitchen, followed by Maz and Chewie, longtime family friends. Maz owned the busiest local bar, and Chewie was Han’s right hand man at the auto shop.

“Is Poe here yet?” Han asked, stealing some grapes out of a bowl while Leia wasn’t looking.

“He’s on his way,” Kylo answered.

“And your lady friend?” Maz asked.

Great. Apparently his parents had told everyone in the galaxy about Rey.

“Rey. Just a friend,” he emphasized. “She’ll be here at 1.”

“A pretty friend,” Chewie mumbled mischievously.

“You know her?!” Leia asked, whirling around from her position at the sink to question Chewie.

“She works at the bakery,” he shrugged. Everyone knew that Chewie had a sweet tooth.

“Anyway,” Kylo said, about ready to die. “I’m going to chop up some firewood for later.”

He bolted out of the kitchen before anyone else could interrogate him. No doubt they would talk about him while he was gone. As an only child to parents with lots of family friends, all of the attention tended to be laid on him. For good and for bad. Maz, Chewie, and his Uncle Luke all knew everything there was to know about him, from when he was potty-trained to his first girlfriend to when he worked for Snoke. There was no escape.

He grabbed an axe from the garage and switched into some steel-toed boots. Splitting wood always helped him release energy. And he had enough nervous energy to chop down an entire forest. Summers were usually a low-stress time for him because of all of the manual labor he got to do at the lumber yard. Winters tended to leave him a bit more tightly wound. He got to work, hauling logs from the stockpile at the edge of the yard toward the house, splitting them one-by-one into usable sized chunks. It was therapeutic for him – the swinging of the axe, the sound of the wood splitting. It was like music.

He saw Poe pull up on his motorcycle, an old Harley Davidson his parents had left behind. They were always in some random country doing humanitarian work, even when Poe was a teenager. So he was more like a brother than a friend, practically living at his parents’ house during those years. He was pretty sure Leia liked Poe more than him, which was fine. Less attention on him. He waved over at him as he made his way into the house. Not long after, his Uncle Luke pulled up in his old pick up, having to help his ancient border collie R2 out of the front seat. They also waved over at Kylo. Luke had built the area’s only Buddhist temple, so people came from all over to attend. His parents had tried to get him involved, but it wasn't for him. It caused more tension between him and his uncle than it was worth, so they both decided it would be better for their relationship to let it go.

Kylo continued to split wood, definitely more than was needed. But he needed a way to preoccupy his mind and blunt the edginess concerned with Rey. He liked her so fucking much, which became worse each time they hung out. She’d been coming to the hut for nearly a week now, and he had a hard time keeping his hands to himself and respecting their friendship by not ruining everything. Every once in a while, it seemed like she could possibly be attracted to him too, but then everything would go back to normal, so it was probably just his imagination. He didn’t know how much longer he could just pretend he didn’t want her. Would he have to spend the rest of his life like this? If anything, today was definitely not the day to do anything about it. His family would never let him hear the end of it.

After a while, his coat became too warm with all of the labor. He tossed it off, reveling in the feeling of the cool air against his skin under his flannel.

A few other cars pulled up as he continued to haul more logs toward the house. One of his mother’s coworkers Mr. Ackbar and his wife, Han’s old friend Lando, and Mr. Threepio, their elderly neighbor who was kind of annoying but very loyal to their family.

In the middle of splitting his second pile of wood, Kylo spotted Rey’s old sedan park across the street. He stopped to watch as she ducked out of the front seat and fumbled around in the back, retrieving some sort of basket. He had told her not to bring anything, but she hadn’t listened. He loved that she purposefully disobeyed him, for some reason.

“Rey!” he shouted, waving his hand at her, trying not to look to enthusiastic.

She whirled her head from side to side, searching for the source of the call. When she spotted him, her face split into a wide grin that made his own mouth smile in return. She closed the doors of her car and crossed the road, walking straight toward him at the side of the house.

“Hi,” she said, once she was close. “Firewood?” she asked, waving her free hand at the piles of timber.

“Yeah,” he said, “I’m almost done if you want to wait, then I can take you inside,” he said. He really didn’t want to unleash his family on her without any defence.

“Ok,” she said, smiling again.

She looked so damn pretty with her hair up in those three buns, in tight pants that hugged her fit legs. He had to expend a lot of effort to look away and keep chopping.

“Poe’s here,” he said between swings. “But I’m not sure if you’ll know everyone else. A lot of family friends. They’re nice though. Well, most of them.”

“Hopefully they’ll like me,” she said.

He stopped chopping to look at her. That was definitely not what he had meant.

“They’ll love you,” he said firmly, “I was actually just going to warn you that they will probably do their best to embarass me, as usual,” he added, turning back to his pile.

He saw her shift and blush out of the corner of his eye. Was she nervous to meet them? Why would she be? She was literally the best person he knew.

She let him fly through the rest of the pile in silence. He could feel her eyes on him, which made him nervous. If he wasn’t so experienced, he would have probably missed a swing by now.

When he was done, he wiped his forehead with the sleeve of his flannel.

“Ok, that should do it. I’m just going to load some into the wheelbarrow and put it on the porch.”

“Do you need any help?” she asked as he picked up the wheelbarrow.

“Nah,” he answered. “I’m good. Wouldn’t want you to get dirty.”

Rey’s eyes went wide. Had he offended her by refusing her help? He quickly stacked the blocks and kindling into the wheelbarrow and threw his coat over his shoulder, nodding his head to her as he started toward the porch.

“Do you watch the NFL?” he asked as he emptied the load onto the elevated platform of the porch.

“The what?” she asked.

“The American football league,” he answered.

“No,” she answered, “I don’t even really know how football works. My schools had teams but I never went to any games, and I didn’t have TV growing up.”

“Oh,” he answered inelegantly. He always managed to bring up topics she was unfamiliar with because of her history in group homes and the foster system. He didn’t intend to, and it always made him sad to learn about what he had apparently taken for granted and she had never experienced.

“Well,” he said, trying to recover, “don’t tell my dad that. He will spend the entire day trying to teach you and then convert you into a Detroit Lions fan.”

“That doesn’t sound so bad,” she said happily.

He shamefully realized that maybe she had never had a dad that tried to control her interests. How he continued to say the wrong things astounded him.

“That’s about it,” he said, restacking the last of the firewood. “Let’s head in.”

He stepped in front of her to open the door for her, gesturing her inside. Hopefully Poe would help him out today and help defend her from the onslaught of his family. It was going to be a long day.

Chapter Text

“Thanks,” Rey said as Kylo opened the front door of his parent’s house for her. She was already a bit overwhelmed. She had pulled up to the house only to find him chopping wood – a real-life, visual manifestation of all of her lumberjack fantasies she’d had about him ever since she learned he worked at the lumber yard in the summers. And then he’d made her sit and watch while he did it. He clearly had no idea what he was doing to her, which only made him more attractive. He’d been breathing hard, sweat forming on his brow as he wiped it off with the sleeve of his flannel, his thick brows furrowed as he swung the axe.

She wiped her feet on the mat inside the doorway as he closed the door behind him. She was still holding the basket with the bread she made, anxiously awaiting an introduction to his parents, to whom she would offer it.

“So, this is my parents’ house,” Kylo said behind her as he toed off his dirty boots.

“Should I take my shoes off?” she asked.

“You don’t have to. You’re welcome to if you want, though.”

She kept hers on, not wanting to make herself too comfortable on the verge of rudeness.

At that moment, a mini hurricane in the shape of a petite woman with an elaborate updo of graying brown hair stormed into the foyer. She immediately beelined toward Rey.

“You must be Rey,” she said, reaching out to hold Rey’s arms in greeting as her hands were occupied by the basket.

“Hi, Mayor Organa. It’s so nice to meet you,” she said.

“Please, call me Leia. There will be no discussion of politics on my husband’s favorite holiday. Come in, come in,” she responded, tugging on Rey’s arms to lead her into the house.

Rey looked back at Kylo, who looked very resigned to the fact that his mother was whisking her away. He shrugged his shoulders and nodded to indicate that he would follow.

“I made some bread this morning,” Rey said, extending the basket toward Leia.

“Oh, honey. That’s very nice of you. Focaccia? Wow. You should teach Ben how to bake bread,” she said without breathing, taking the basket from her as they entered the crowded kitchen where people were already gathered, laughing over drinks.

“Ben?” she asked as she took off her coat.

Leia turned around with a scowl. Thankfully it was directed at her son, and not at her.

“You haven’t even told the poor girl your real name?” she demanded sternly, taking Rey’s coat from her and hanging it on the nearest hook.

“I hadn’t gotten around to it...,” he said, avoiding eye contact with Rey.

“Your name is Ben?” she asked incredulously. ‘Kylo’ was such a cool, sexy name. She thought it matched him perfectly. ‘Ben’ was just… cute. She probably should have wondered before why his last name was ‘Ren’ and not ‘Organa’ or ‘Solo’. Now she supposed he made up a new last name to add to his fake first name.

“Where did ‘Kylo Ren’ come from?” she asked.

“It’s a nickname I gave him in high school,” Poe interjected loudly as he entered the kitchen. He pulled Rey into a big hug as a greeting. “It kind of just stuck after that.”

She saw Kylo roll his eyes at him as Poe released her.

“Where’s Han?” he asked. “Already watching the game?”

“He’s in the living room,” Leia answered.

Poe grabbed a beer from the ice bucket on the counter and promptly exited the kitchen, presumably to join Han.

“So Rey, you work at the ski school with Luke, I hear?” Leia asked, shuffling some plates of hors d'oeuvres around the counter.

“Yes,” she said. “It’s my second season.”

“He says you’re a very good instructor.”

“You know him?”

Leia laughed good-naturedly.

“He’s my brother,” she responded. “He’s around here somewhere, or maybe he took his dog for a walk.”

Rey turned around to frown at Kylo. Why didn’t he tell her stuff like that? This whole time she’d thought his real name was Kylo. She’d only learned of his parents a few weeks ago, and apparently he’d declined to tell her that her direct supervisor was his uncle. Did she even know him at all?

Kylo at least had the sense to look a bit ashamed. It was hard for her to stay angry at him. She’d never had the luxury of having family problems, but from what she heard about them they were not to be taken likely. She’d let him get off easy.

Thunderous footsteps made their way down the hall, followed by the appearance of someone Rey actually knew in the kitchen.

“Chewie!” she exclaimed happily, greeting one of her favorite customers from the bakery.

“Rey!” he said, bringing her into a bear hug. Chewie was always warm and gave amazing hugs. He had a twisted sense of humor that amused the bakery employees to no end.

She was relieved to see a familiar face.

“Ben hasn’t scared you away yet, has he?” Chewie asked, giving Kylo a walloping pat on the back.

“Uncle Chewie…” he said, groaning.

“He’s your uncle too?!” Rey asked angrily. Was he related to the whole town?

“He’s not my actual uncle,” he said, shrugging Chewie’s hand off of his shoulder. “He just acts like one.”

“Welcome to our gathering, Rey,” Chewie said, smiling at her. “It’s nice to have little Ben invite a friend for once.”

“Ben would you be a dear and grab more beer from the cellar, please?” Leia asked as another man walked into the kitchen with a bowl of something. “And tell your father to get the first batch of the meat onto the grill.”

Rey’s hand reached out with a mind of its own to grab Kylo’s hand as he began to turn around. Was he just going to leave her alone with all of these people? Her social anxiety was kicking in. She looked at him with what she was sure was probably a pathetic expression. Kylo squeezed her hand in return, gesturing toward the doorway with his head, eyes wide.

“I’ll help him,” Rey said, following his lead.

Kylo tugged her away before anyone could order otherwise. She let go of his hand as soon as they entered the hallway.

“Sorry about all that,” he said, leading the way to a staircase.

“No, I’m enjoying it! Everyone is so nice. It’s just a lot of people,” she responded.

“It is,” he agreed. “My mother is way more social than me or Han. She invited half the neighborhood.”

“I like her,” Rey smiled.

Kylo looked back at her with a mysterious smile of his own before starting down the staircase to what Rey assumed was the cellar. He flicked a switch on at the bottom that illuminated the unfinished space with a single light bulb. He grabbed a few six packs which he handed to Rey before stacking two cases and picking them up himself. Rey led them back up the stairs, trying very hard not to imagine the way her ass was perfectly in Kylo’s eyeline. Hopefully her sweater was doing a reasonable job at covering it. Or not, she decided on second thought, trying to subtly sway it without looking too weird or purposeful.

They packed the ice buckets and coolers in the kitchen with beer before Kylo led her toward another side of the house to summon Han.

The living room was full of men, all sitting or standing with a view of the TV, where the NFL game was playing. Rey knew Poe, and of course Chewie, who had migrated there from the kitchen, but didn’t recognize many others.

“Dad,” Kylo said.

“Just a minute,” the man in the largest arm chair said, keeping his eyes glued to the television.

“Mom wants you to start up the grill.”

“I’ll start it on the next commercial break,” he said, still focused on the game.

“Ok, just know that you’ll have to endure Mom’s wrath alone. I’ve done my job,” Kylo responded, raising his hands in the air in a gesture of surrender.

Rey laughed, amused by the interaction between father and son.

At the sound of her laughter, Han’s head finally turned toward them.

“Is this Rey?” he asked, standing. All of the other men groaned when he walked in front of the TV as he approached them.

“Yup,” Kylo said, introducing them. “Rey, my dad Han. Dad, Rey.”

“It’s so nice to meet you,” Rey said earnestly, “I can’t thank you enough for helping me out with my car last week.”

“It was my pleasure, kid,” Han said, shaking her hand. “My guy I sent out there said that it was a real mix-and-match under the hood – did you do that all yourself?

“Yeah,” Rey said somewhat proudly, “I pretty much scrapped the whole car together out of a junkyard. Unfortunately, none of the tools or anything were mine, so since I moved up here I haven’t really been able to fix anything on it.”

She saw Kylo’s eyebrows raise in surprise.

“No kidding,” Han said appreciatively. “If you ever need a second job, we can always use more hands at the shop.”

“Really?” Rey asked. “That would be great! I don’t really have the money up front to pay you for the fuel pump and the battery, but if I could work off the debt…”

“No, no, no,” Han said. “You don’t owe me a cent for that. Ben’s friends don’t pay.”

“But I’ll feel really bad if…”

“I won’t take your money, kid. End of story. Putting up with Ben here is payment enough,” he said, lightly punching Kylo on the arm. Kylo rolled his eyes, making him look exceptionally like a teenager. Rey had to smirk to avoid giggling at him.

“That’s very nice of you,” she finally conceded. “And thanks for having me over today. I’ve never celebrated American Thanksgiving before.”

“You’re in luck!” Han said happily, shaking Kylo by the shoulders. “This guy started the brine on the turkey last night. We’ll have all the normal Thanksgiving fixin’s plus a whole lot of grilled stuff. Speaking of which, I better get that started before Her Royal Highness comes out here and kills me.”

“Do you need any help?” she asked.

Kylo shook his head violently from behind Han’s shoulder.

“Well, I could always–”

“Sorry, dad,” Kylo said suddenly, stepping out from behind him and grabbing Rey’s hand. “We’ve got other stuff to get ready.”

He turned back toward the crowd in front of the TV.

“Poe, we need your help,” he said.

“Righto, Ren,” Poe responded, popping up.

“Don’t cause your Mom too much trouble,” Han yelled at them as Kylo led Rey and Poe out of the living room. They quickly darted from room to room, Kylo still grasping Rey’s hand. Once they were in an unoccupied room, he dropped her hand, sighing in relief.

“That was a close one,” Kylo said.

“Tip number one,” Poe said to Rey, looking around as if to make sure they were alone, “never ever offer to help Han with grilling. He’ll ask you to watch it for a minute, but he won’t return, leaving you stuck on the grill for the rest of the night.”

Rey laughed at the serious expressions on her friends’ faces.

“Noted,” she said. “Anything else I should know?” she joked.

“Number two,” Kylo said seriously, “don’t play my parents’ friend Lando in cards, he’s a dirty cheater.”

“Good thing I don’t know any card games,” she reminded him.

“Number three,” Poe added, “never ask Mr. Threepio an open ended question. It should be illegal to be as boring as he is, and he’ll talk your ear off.”

“How about I just hang out with you guys and you can keep me in line?” Rey suggested.

The guys looked at each other for a moment, as if they hadn’t thought about that as an option before.

“Fine by me,” Poe said. “But you may want to stick with Kylo so he has someone to keep him company. I actually enjoy talking to other people.”

Kylo scowled at him. At this point, Rey wouldn’t put it past him to stick his tongue out. It seemed being in his parents’ home was reverting both of the guys back to being teenagers.

“How about I give you a tour of the rest of the place,” Kylo suggested, turning back to Rey.

“I’d love that.”

“I’ll be in the kitchen,” Poe said. “I think Leia is letting people dig into the appetizers soon and I heard Ms. Holdo is coming – I love driving that lady crazy.”

Kylo chuckled as Poe strode out of the room. Rey liked seeing the way the corners of his eyes crinkled up with he laughed or smiled. Was it really so bad to appreciate his good looks?

He looked back at her with a renewed smile.

“Let’s go upstairs,” he said, pointing to a nearby staircase. “I’ve got something I think you’ll like.”

Rey tried not to stare at his rear end as they ascended. At the top of the staircase, Kylo led them down a short passageway to a beautiful, antique looking wooden door. He looked back at her again before turning the handle and swinging it open, waving Rey inside.

Behind the doorway was perhaps the most quaint and perfect library Rey had never seen. The room wasn’t large, but every inch of the walls was covered in bookcases, floor to ceiling, filled to the brim with multi-colored novels, sets of encyclopedias, and even children’s books.

“Wow,” she whispered.

“I know you said you like quiet spaces,” Kylo said softly behind her. “This was always my favorite quiet place growing up.”

Rey marveled at the ornate cases and trim work, the well-worn jewel-toned rug, the picturesque window overlooking the front yard. It smelled like old books and pine, and somehow felt warmer than the rest of the house. She walked around the circumference of the room, running her fingers along the spines of hundreds of books she was dying to read.

“It’s beautiful,” she choked, fighting back tears. She imagined a young Kylo, curled up in one of the armchairs in the corner of the room, nose buried in a book. She would have killed for a childhood like his. She turned around to find him, and was surprised to find him looking at her with a tender expression that she couldn’t read.

“What’s wrong?” she asked quietly.

Kylo shook his head, expression fading.

“Nothing,” he said.

“This room is amazing,” she said, letting her eyes wander to the ceiling, where intricate wood patterns curved and swirled into a decorative floral masterpiece.

“I’m glad you like it,” Kylo said, stepping toward her.

She closed her eyes for a moment, taking in the strong, comforting scent and feeling the warmth of the sunlight streaming through the window. Yes, she liked this room.

She opened her eyes to find Kylo in front of her, watching her. He was so close that she could see the fine texture of the fabric of his shirt, the short stubble of his beard, his long eyelashes.

“Where to next?” she asked, trying to diffuse the situation before she did something stupid like touch him.

He blinked a few times before clearing his throat.

“There’s a balcony around the corner that has a nice view of the neighborhood,” he suggested.

“Sounds lovely.”

Neither moved for a moment, seemingly caught in some sort of magnetic push and pull between them. Neither wanted to break the fragile air around them.

 

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

She was so close, glowing in the sunlight illuminating the library. Kylo could smell her, could see individual threads of wool in her sweater. All he wanted to do was wrap her in his arms and kiss her for the rest of the day.

But that was absurd. They were only recently friends, and Rey had shown absolutely no interest in being anything else. But she looked so soft in the gentle lighting, so at home in the library. It was clear she felt the same way about it as she did. They were the same in so many ways, but wildly different. She made him a better person, he thought. She was beautiful, and she liked him for who he was. It was so tempting not to kiss her.

“Where to next?” she asked suddenly, breaking him out of his reverie.

“There’s a balcony around the corner that has a nice view of the neighborhood,” he said, trying not to betray any feeling other than hospitality.

“Sounds lovely,” she said.

Yes, you are, he thought. They stood still for a minute, Kylo not willing to pull himself away quite yet. After a moment, he realized he was probably intruding on her space, and reluctantly stepped away.

“It’s just this way,” he said, turning back toward the door and out into the hallway. He listened to her footsteps falling behind his as he led them toward the French doors that opened up onto the balcony.

“We don’t have to go out,” he said, “it’s pretty cold out.”

“I want to,” Rey said determinedly, opening the doors and stepping out into the weather.

Kylo followed her, suppressing a chill at the frosty temperature. They stood at the railing, looking out over the neighborhood, an advantage of a two-story house in an area full of one-story ranches. The wind nipped at Kylo’s ears, and the sweat he’d garnered from chopping wood was freezing viciously on his neck.

“You aren’t cold?” he asked Rey, shocked at her perfectly comfortable posture.

“It makes me feel alive,” she said cryptically, sweeping her gaze across the rooftops in front of them.

“Hey, you two!” Kylo heard shouted from down below.

Han had the grill set up in the front yard, just beside the porch. Upon listening more closely, Kylo could hear the familiar hum of the radio Han used to listen to the football game while he grilled.

“I thought you were too busy to help with the grilling!” he yelled up at them, waving around a metal spatula.

“We are!” Kylo shouted back, grinning. “I’m giving Rey a tour!”

“Isn’t it a little cold for a romantic tryst on the balcony?” he yelled.

Kylo should have known Han wouldn’t be able to keep his mouth shut.

He heard Rey snort from beside him. Clearly, she thought the joke was funny, and not at all embarassing due to potential feelings that might exist. Thank god.

“Ok, ok,” he said to Rey, “let’s head inside.”

Rey smiled at him before walking back through the double doors and into the house. It was such a captivating image, her strolling through his parents’ house. He could easily picture her as part of their family. His family was known for taking in anyone and everyone in need of a place to belong, and Kylo so desperately wished she would want to belong with them, with him. When he’d first met her a year ago, he’d thought she was cute. Now, he liked everything about her – her laugh, her weird interest in jellyfish (apparently she watched a lot of Planet Earth), the way she worked with the kids on the ski slope, how she looked bundled up in a blanket in their hut.

It was torture to be too chicken to do anything about it. He didn’t really have any other friends besides Poe, and he didn’t want to ruin one that had become so good so quickly. He’d settle for friendship with her over nothing at all. As they passed the second floor fireplace, he imagined them sitting in front of it, his arms wrapped around her as she settled her back into his chest. He’d be able to smell her hair, to kiss the side of her neck as they warmed themselves by the fire.

Instead, he led her back down the stairs to rejoin the party. There were more people than ever, and the thought of having to go through the rounds of greeting everyone was daunting. They’d ask the same questions they always did – was Snoke giving Kylo any more trouble? did he have a girlfriend? was he going to take over Han’s shop when he retired? He really didn’t know how to answer any of these.

Before they exposed themselves to the masses, Rey tapped his arm to get his attention.

“Thanks,” she said quietly, reaching her hand up to pat his shoulder. “Thanks for showing me around.”

“No problem,” he said, resisting the urge to grab her hand from her shoulder and kiss her knuckles.

Much to his surprise, her hand glided up his shoulder to his neck, where she gently squeezed, her fingers curling into a lock of his hair. He shivered, and he knew she felt it.

The moment was over before he could process it – she withdrew her hand and turned toward the kitchen, looking back at him to make sure he was following. He’d follow her anywhere.