The night was dark. Clouds covered the sliver of a moon that was the only hope for the aphotic sky. All life was quiet. Only the hoot of an owl broke the eerie silence. In the blackness below, two figures crept noiselessly, shadows in a fog, towards their destination.
"I can't believe we're breaking into Poe and Finn's place," Jessika giggled.
"Shhh," Rey hushed with a grin. She stepped forward to the window they had unlocked and cracked earlier that evening when they had 'dropped in to say hello.' Of course, they just needed to secure their plans to get inside undetected. Rey slid the window up slowly and quietly, taking her time so she wouldn't wake Finn or Poe.
They clambered inside the small apartment as gracefully as possible. Rey was a bit more accustomed to lithe movement, having grown up training in various martial arts under her father's expert eye. Jess, on the other hand, made some noise as she hoisted herself through the window frame, and landed with a light thud in the living area.
They both froze at the sound, ears perked for any noise from down the hallway where the boys' bedrooms were suspiciously still. Then, they heard a light rustling from a bedroom and they dashed behind the couch for cover.
The two girls peeked around the edge of the couch as a door swung open and a figure staggered down the dark hallway. He flipped the kitchen lights on as he turned the corner, and Rey's breath caught.
She'd always known Finn was fit, and she'd let herself imagine him shirtless before, but the actual image was far more satisfying. And it wasn't just shirtless. Finn apparently slept in only his underwear, and his briefs hugged his backside tightly, leaving little to the imagination. Rey's mouth dried, and she couldn't tear her eyes away as he walked over to the cupboard to grab a cup.
Rey knew it was creepy, staring at him as he got a drink of water, muscles on his stomach and arm tensing at the simple movement of lifting his cup to his lips. But she couldn't look away. Finn was a friend, growing closer by the day. But she'd always been attracted to him—and this opportunity was too tempting to just pass on.
Besides, with a body that good, there was no way Finn wouldn't want to show it off. He just happened to have a secret audience tonight.
After rinsing his cup out, Finn promptly turned the lights back off and retreated back to his bedroom, shutting the door behind him.
Rey startled at Jess's voice, having forgotten she wasn't alone. "Shit," Jess whispered with a smirk. "Seeing that boy almost makes me want to try out guys again. I can't imagine what you're going through."
Rey was grateful for the pitch black that hid her furious blush, which wouldn't have been so bad if not for the obvious truth to Jess's words. "You know it's not like that with us."
Even in the dark, Rey saw Jess's eyebrow quirk with disbelief. "And we're here because..."
"Because Finn moved my car and just about gave me a heart attack that it had been stolen," Rey whispered furiously.
Jess rolled her eyes. "Your car is worth fifty bucks."
It was true. Her car ran on a mixture of prayer and Rey's expert mechanical skills. She'd already called her uncle Han a dozen times to thank him for all the hours he'd let her tag along in his shop as he fixed all sorts of car problems.
"That doesn't matter," Rey argued. "I need that car, and Finn's got video of me freaking out now, threatening to immortalize it on Instagram. He needs to pay."
"Yeah, yeah," Jess answered. "Let's just leave out the part about you two being perfect for and crazy about each other."
"Yes," Rey stubbornly responded. She could admit to herself that she was attracted to Finn. But every time he gave any indication he might feel the same, he followed it up with the exact opposite. "Let's do leave that out. Now, come on—you obviously can't stay quiet so you stand guard, and I'll take out the lights. Finn works the early janitorial shift at the school, and it won't be all that fun getting ready for the day in the dark."
Finn hadn't meant to start a prank war. And he wasn't even sure if he had been the one to start it. After all, Rey had developed quite the amusing habit of taking his phone and replacing his home screen with random pictures and selfies. The images ranged from Jesse Pinkman in a big yellow meth-cooking suit to the hair monster from Looney Toons. But Finn's favorites were when he opened his phone to see her making a dorky face. He wasn't sure he could justify putting a picture of her on his own phone, so he loved it when she did it for him. And he was always sad when she replaced it with an image of Tobias Fünke painted blue or something equally absurd and amusing.
Finn supposed these little jokes she played on him didn't quite justify a full retaliation. And he hadn't even done it in response to her actions. It had been a spur-of-the-moment decision to move her car down the street, out of her view. They were set to go the latest Marvel movie with Jess and Poe, who would be meeting them there. Rey got home from the gym a few minutes later than expected, so she left Finn in her dorm room while she was showering. She had just left her keys sitting there on the table, and Finn needed something to distract him from Rey showering in the adjacent bathroom.
So, rather than letting his traitorous thoughts of following her into the shower take him over, he grabbed her keys and ran out to the street to play a simple practical joke. That he later filmed her priceless reaction was just icing on the cake—certainly not enough to start a war.
But war he had started, and the innocents were already getting hurt.
"I tell you Finn," Poe said animatedly, "That woman of yours is a menace."
"She's not my woman," Finn combated lightly. He sometimes wished she were, so he didn't fight too hard. But she deserved more than him. "I just love that her first prank backfired so spectacularly. Not really her fault, though. How was she supposed to know I switched shifts with Snap today."
"It is her fault!" Poe argued. "I walk into the bathroom this morning—no lights. Have you ever tried to shower in the dark, Finn?"
"Can't say I have," Finn grinned.
"It's harder than you'd think," Poe said, waving his hands around. "Dropping soap, fumbling with the cap of the shampoo, trying not to imagine it's someone else's hands doing the washing."
Finn laughed. "That part doesn't sound so bad."
Poe nodded in agreement. "I'm actually planning on trying it again sometime—you know, when I'm not late for my early class!" He sighed before continuing his tale of woe. "But that was nothing compared to trying to make breakfast with nothing but a street light coming through the window. Did you know she actually removed the light bulbs in the fridge, too? That...that vixen!"
"At least you have greater respect for Professor Îmwe now?" Finn suggested with a smile, so unbelievably happy about how the events unfolded that he couldn't fake being sorry for Poe if he tried. "Don't worry, I'll get her back.
"Get her back?" Poe asked incredulously. "She didn't even get you. It was bright and sunny out by the time your lazy ass rolled out of bed."
It had been the first time Finn slept in since he started his Junior year at Takodana University two months ago, and the irony of this prank falling on this day was not lost on Finn. "Well, I'll get her back for your sake, then, Poe."
Poe grinned back—for all of his talk, he wasn't truly upset with Rey. Finn knew he was far too laid back to actually find anything but humor in the situation. "Go get her, then."
Rey was rather furious that her prank didn't land. Well, furious was a little extreme. After all, listening to Poe describe frying eggs without light was rather entertaining. And Finn's gentle teasing at her botched attempt to get him back did make her smile. Not to mention she now had a nearly naked image of Finn etched into her memory to recall at various times and moods.
And Jessika had been threatened quite viciously to never reveal that last bit.
Nonetheless, Rey had missed her target, and it put her in a tough spot. She had delivered the last punch, so now it was Finn's turn. But Finn hadn't been hit, so would he not retaliate? And if he didn't, was she allowed to strike again? She really didn't want to stop their little game. And she was rather new to this whole college life. Were there unspoken rules to a college prank war, as innocent as this one was?
She'd done enough work in high school to technically be a Sophomore, and she'd taken a year after school to work with Uncle Han to save up some money for school. So she was only a year younger than Finn, but he'd been living this life for two years to her two months.
She was lucky enough to room with Jessika, who was from D'Qar and an old family friend of Poe. Poe had invited the new kids over for dinner one night, and that was when Rey had met Finn.
Rey hit it off with Finn immediately. He was bright, funny, and just the right amount of self-deprecating to put Rey at ease. Rey learned quickly that he was a diligent student, supporting himself through school with hard work and perseverance. Though he didn't talk about his past, she gathered that he hadn't come from an ideal situation. But he'd come out of it spectacularly, because the man Rey met was something to behold.
And she knew that was true in the physical sense now, too.
Rey shook her head and decided to call her dad. Not necessarily to ask him about prank etiquette, but just to get her mind off of Finn—it had been drifting there far too often lately.
She swiped down the contacts in her phone to get to 'Papa,' but couldn't find it for the life of her. How had she lost her dad's contact? Then she started scrolling up through the rest of her contacts more carefully.
Her eyes narrowed as she passed names like 'Goku' and 'Thor.' Then, her lips curled into a smile as 'Boaty McBoatface' and 'Haramabe' came into view. Finally, she lost it—she let out an honest-to-God snort—when she saw 'Kylo Ren,' her moody cousin's pseudonym that she and Finn had laughed over when they went to his art show together. Rey smiled at the memory, and how Finn had leapt to her aid when she hadn't wanted to go alone.
Rey wasn't sure how Finn had managed to steal her phone and replace dozens of her contacts' names. She also wasn't sure if she would go to the effort of changing them back. She rather liked the idea of getting a random text from 'The Last Airbender' and trying to figure out who it was.
She opened up her messaging app and looked for a recent conversation she had with Finn. Texting Finn was always curious, and a prime example of her friendship with him. Sometimes, they'd carry on long, funny conversations that kept her up until odd hours of the night. Other times, she'd drop him a text that he wouldn't respond to for a couple days. And when he did, he acted as though he hadn't just left her hanging. Rey doubted he had malicious intent, but it was these types of things that kept her from knowing just how he felt about her.
Finding their most recent conversation, she found that his own name was changed in her phone, as expected. She smiled and shook her head as she sent the text.
Your joke is a little conceited, don't you think? [2:15PM]
Hot Guy : Only conceited if it's untrue tho. Right? [2:17PM]
Rey laughed at his response, and though it hurt her to lie, she had to put him in his place.
Hmm. Hate to break it to you, Hot Guy...it's conceited [2:18PM]
Hot Guy : Nice joke. I guess it's time for me to prank you again, then? [2:20PM]
That does NOT count as my prank! [2:21PM]
Hot Guy : So you admit it was a joke?! [2:21PM]
Well...I don't plan on changing your name [2:24PM]
Rey panicked at the text and sent an immediate follow-up. A teasing tone was hard to convey in text. While she and Finn had grown closer as friends, their banter had been much more playful than sexual in nature to this point. In fact, Rey had no idea how Finn viewed her.
But I could be doing it ironically [2:24PM]
Hot Guy : I might just have to change your name in my phone too [2:24PM]
And what would that be? [2:24PM]
Hot Guy : Hot Girl, obviously [2:25PM]
Rey groaned. Now she wished she hadn't sent the second text to put ambiguity into her—and by extension his—meaning. But she smiled anyway, and started planning her next attack.
Poe leaned back and watched his friends happily. The four of them sat in Poe and Finn's kitchen—perfectly lit again, thank you very much—drinking hot chocolate of Finn's making. He felt bad for his latest prank, wherein he had packed fresh-fallen snow so high and hard around Rey's car doors that she had been late to work. So, in an attempt to placate Rey and prevent the pranks from escalating too much, he invited Rey and Jessika over for hot chocolate.
Watching the two of them, however, Finn might as well have just invited Rey. When she was around, they fell into their own little world. Part of it was that they liked to hear the other's reaction to the pranks in their month-long war. How Finn had begrudgingly made his lunches for a week with toasted bread because Rey had toasted his entire loaf of bread before putting the slices back in the bag. Or how Rey had screamed when she found a stuffed horse's head in her bed after she had gushed to Finn how much she loved The Godfather.
But the pair of them also fell into their own world because they just fit together. Finn held onto Rey's forearm as he regaled her with a particularly funny story from work that day that had Rey pealing with laughter, her smile brilliant.
Jessika caught Poe's eye and quirked an eyebrow with a nod at Finn and Rey. Her meaning was clear. Can you believe how perfect they are?
Poe nodded. He also inwardly sighed. The two had known each other for three months now, and it had been painfully obvious after one how into each other they were.
But after two years of friendship with Finn, Poe knew how slowly Finn let people in. He had a tough upbringing, and Poe didn't blame him. Even so, it was painful to not intervene and tell Finn to just get on with it already. He sent such mixed messages that Poe understood Rey's hesitation just as well as Finn's. One second he's holding her arm and hanging on her every word, and the next he's going days without talking to her and throwing himself into his schooling and work.
Finn was a very naturally caring and kind man, but his default reaction to getting close to someone was to retreat into his work and school. He had worked so hard to get to this point, and he'd continue to do so to get to his next goal. Often at the expense of a potential relationship. This prank war had given him an excuse not to retreat. It was good, light-hearted fun that allowed him to experience the give and take of a relationship without him realizing that's what he was building.
Poe had broken through over the past two years, and he just hoped Rey would be able to, too. She could give him things Poe never could. Watching Finn's eyes light up with joy when she walked in the room was evidence enough of that.
When Rey had tried to wash her windshield and the washer fluid came out crimson red, she had been appropriately frightened. So now, it was payback time. She crouched in Finn's closet, anxious for him to get home. Rey was rather impressed with her ability to get into his room. This was the second time she'd done it without Finn or Poe knowing.
The first time she was in here, she'd planned to replace all of Finn's pictures with some that her father had packed and she'd never hung in her small dorm. Namely, a couple pictures of their dog Artoo, a family picture, and one of Rey's High School graduation photos.
When she'd arrived in his room, she found it remarkably clean and bare. No pictures, no art. Just a spotless desk, a made bed, an organized dresser, and an orderly closet. So she'd just hung her pictures instead of replacing his.
When she arrived the second time, she was surprised to find that the only picture he'd taken down was the one of her family. Rey wasn't quite sure what to make of her picture having been in his room for the past week and a half, but she decided to go with flattered. And she'd tease him about it later.
She only had to wait in his closet for about ten minutes before he got home. Rey was fairly acquainted with his schedule at this point, so was unsurprised when he walked right back to his room, removing his coat to put into his closet. She got her phone ready, hitting the record button so she could catch his sure-to-be-priceless reaction.
He slid open the closet door, and Rey jumped forward with a loud "AHHH!" shout.
Finn did not startle as she expected. His eyes grew wide, but rather than jumping back with a high-pitched yelp, Finn immediately stepped forward, knocked the phone from her hands and pinned her arms to her side.
Rey had her own unique instincts, of course, and immediately brought her hands up and swiped Finn's arms away from her. "Finn!" she shouted, more startled by his reaction than he had seemed to be by her jumping out of his closet. "It's me."
Now Finn stepped back, eyes wide with terror. He gazed down at his hands, still extended forward, and his face morphed into an expression of disgust. He faltered backwards until he sat down roughly on his bed, and put his head in his hands.
"God, Rey," he managed, voice strained and painful. "I am so, so sorry. I can't believe I put my hands on you like that."
"It's not your fault," Rey said, her voice sounding a little stunned, even to her. "I shouldn't hav—"
Finn looked up from his hands and glared at her. "Don't you dare say this is your fault. No one should ever grab you like that, no matter what."
She didn't disagree with him. But she also didn't blame him one bit for a reaction that was clearly beyond his control. So she moved over to sit next to him and wrapped an arm behind his back and leaned against his shoulder as she squeezed him. "It's okay," she whispered.
He wouldn't look at her, and initially leaned away from her contact. But, slowly, he leaned back into her as his body began to shake silently. He brought his own arm around her so they embraced each other. She glanced up at his face to find a tear streak down his cheek. "I've tried so hard to move on—to leave my past in the past. But it's still a part of me, no matter how much I hate it and wish it wasn't."
Rey gave his arm a reassuring squeeze, but said nothing.
"I don't remember my parents," he continued. "There's a pretty crazy criminal organization in Starkil City. They adopt kids like me, and when we're old enough to start doing little jobs for them, we do. They fed us, educated us, and made it seem like our life was normal. If we get caught and have to go to juvi for a few months, it's not too big of a deal. They trained us not to squeal. But they were no family. No family would send kids out to do their dirty work.
"I ran away when I was fourteen, after my best friend Slip was shot and killed doing what my family told him to. I managed to get a couple cities away on the money I swiped, and I got a cleaning job here in Takodana. My employer, Maz...she started to ask some questions after a while and found out I was basically homeless, moving from hostel to hostel so no one would see me too much.
"She changed my life. She told me that she'd let me stay with her under one condition. That I go to school. And that's been who I am for over six years now. I work hard and I go to school, and I don't look back."
Finn released Rey, then, and scooted away from her slightly. "But apparently I haven't changed all that much. I'm so sorry, Rey. The things I experienced, that I did, growing up...it's still who I am."
Rey sidled right up against him once more and stubbornly pulled his face towards her. "Your past is a part of you—but it's a part that you've turned into something good. Hard-working, determined, a pure sense of right and wrong. There are instincts that might always be there, but the man above those instincts," she said, pressing her palm to his chest, "that man is in control, and he is incredible."
Finn's eyes softened and he pulled Rey into a fierce and desperate hug.
The practical jokes stopped. Finn's friendship with Rey did not. It grew much, much deeper. She understood him better than he'd ever hoped to be understood. They would spend hours talking about their pasts when they almost never had before. Rey told him about when her mother left her and her dad. She was hesitant at first because she felt it was so little compared to Finn's own past. But Finn wouldn't let her think that for a second. There was no reason to compare problems; just to be there for one another.
And Rey was there for Finn. He'd never felt so free, so himself, as when he was with her.
One night, after two weeks of replacing pranks with talks long into the night, Finn sighed extra dramatically on his couch, Rey nestled into his arms comfortably. Rey smiled at him, looking up from her place on his shoulder. "What?"
"I wouldn't trade our talks and my comfort with you for anything," Finn said while he smiled back at her. "But I have to say I miss waking up and not knowing what crazy thing you were going to do to me that day."
Rey's eyebrows shot up and her smile turned into a smirk, albeit one with a blush. Finn's words finally caught up to him, and he flushed deeply. His attraction to Rey had only grown over the past two weeks, but he'd gladly set any romantic feelings aside as the two grew immeasurably closer emotionally. But after a double entendre like that, he couldn't help but think about her doing crazy things to him in every way possible.
"I meant, you know, when you swapped the hot and cold lines in the sink, saran wrap on the toilet, mismatching shoelaces type of thing."
Rey amusedly nodded. "Yeah, Finn. I know what you meant."
"'Cause the pranks were fun," Finn continued, speaking faster than he normally would, as if the speed of his speech could put more distance from the place his mind was trying to take him. After all, he had a rather beautiful girl in his arms, on his couch, late at night, with his roommate asleep and dead to the world in another room. "And it was a fun, college-experience thing I've never really done before."
Rey turned her head, blocking Finn from seeing her smile at his antics. "Well, I could always prank you again if you wanted, Finn. Or we could try out some other college-experience things."
"Oh yeah?" Finn said, glad the conversation was moving on. "Like what?"
"Let's see...what do college kids do? Go to the football game, get drunk at parties, hook up with people."
"Well, football season just ended, and I've never liked getting excessively drun—" Finn's heart stopped, and Rey slowly turned back to him, her face anxiously studying his. He slowly smiled and reached forward to brush Rey's hair behind her ear. "That last one sounds pretty good, though."
She matched his smile and sat up a little taller to reach his height. "Oh yeah?"
"Been wanting to try that one out for a couple months now," Finn said, nodding. He cupped her face in his hand and brushed her cheek with his thumb. "I met a pretty amazing girl. She's beautiful, stunning really. She's hilarious and creative. She makes me feel like the best version of myself, like there is version of myself I can be proud of."
She leaned into his touch. Her smile was brilliant, her lips as tempting as they'd ever been. And they'd been pretty tempting. "I met this guy," she countered.
"Yeah?" Finn said, his breathing growing labored with anticipation. He leaned in slowly.
"I've never seen someone overcome so much, and come out so pure, so strong, so impressive. He's clever and funny, easy to talk to, and he's got the body of a god."
Their lips were less than an inch apart, but Finn pulled back sharply. "How do you know about my body?"
Rey flushed, but she was still smiling. "The night I was removing the lights, you came to the kitchen for a drink of water. Quite the show for my hungry eyes."
Finn started laughing—in another situation, he might have been a bit embarrassed. But considering where things were headed...
"Well, we'll just have to make sure you return the favor tonight," Finn said in a low voice before moving back in, and his lips met her smile.