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O Holy Night

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“You can’t tell anyone.”

Balancing the phone between his shoulder and ear, Ben chops a handful of carrots into tiny pieces. “Why can’t I tell anyone?”

He can hear Poe’s long sigh. “Because I’m not ready to come out with it yet.”

“So, you’re going to bring a date into the house, have them stay here for two weeks over Christmas, and not tell mom?” Ben asks, setting the knife down on the chopping board. He shakes his head. “And I thought I was the family disappointment.” 

“Shut up, asshole,” Poe says. Ben knows him well enough to know that he’s probably rolling his eyes. “I just need some time, okay?”

Ben leans against the kitchen counter. “Okay,” he sighs. “But if things go tits up, it’s on you.”

The sound of Poe’s laughter echoes through the receiver. “Can’t wait to see your grumpy ass. We missed you at Thanksgiving.”

Their mom had planned a family Thanksgiving meal - which Ben was supposed to attend - but he ended up staying at college instead, working on his PhD dissertation. Truthfully, spending time with the family isn’t really Ben’s cup of tea, and he tries to avoid it at all costs. Christmas, however, is one holiday that he just can’t get out of.

So, here he is – back in his childhood home, preparing dinner for his mom and dad, and trying to keep the fact that his adopted brother, Poe, is bringing someone home that he’s been seeing for months. Without the family finding out.

Because that’s going to go so well.

 

***

 

Poe is set to arrive with his two guests on the 19th, and it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize how monumentally bad this idea is. Apart from the fact that their mom is a goddamn genius and will be able to spot their relationship from a mile away, the rest of the family are as sane as his right-wing grandfather – that is, not sane in the slightest.

His grandfather and grandmother had arrived earlier that morning, and his uncle had followed closely behind. They’re staying for a week this year, and the thought of spending that amount of time with his decrepit relatives makes a shudder roll down Ben’s spine. It’s an annual Solo family tradition that no one can skip out on – he had learned this the hard way back in 2011. In all honesty, he’s a bit of a scrooge when it comes to the holidays – the extended family time, the horrible cheesy commercials, the food, the snow, the fake decorations. It’s all absolutely awful.

Despite his mom being pleased that Poe is bringing home additional guests, the house isn’t actually big enough for all of them. He doesn’t know where they’re being put, but he does know he’s been transferred to the sofa. The bloody sofa. He’s beginning to hate Poe’s friends more and more.

While the family unpack for the week upstairs, Ben decides to get some of his dissertation work done - he’ll fall behind if he doesn’t keep up with it during the holidays. When he gets into the living room, his mom is already sitting on the sofa, trashy romance novel in hand.  

“I can’t believe I haven’t seen my two boys together since last Christmas,” she gushes when he sits down. “I mean, I could have if one of them had decided to turn up for Thanksgiving.”

Oh, here we go. “I was busy, mother.”

His mom scoffs. “Too busy to spend time with your family over the holidays? I don’t think so, Ben Solo.” She sets her novel down on the side of the sofa, and clasps her hands over her lap, glaring daggers in his direction. “One day you’ll wake up and you’ll look around and realize that life has passed you by,” she continues. “You’ll have no girlfriend, no children, nothing to show.”

Ben rolls his eyes. “That’s not true,” he sasses. “I’ll have a PhD.”

“Let me tell you,” his mom says sternly, “you’re going to be a very lonely man if you don’t get your head out of your ass and meet a nice girl.”

Now, this isn’t the first conversation regarding his love life he’s had with his mother, and it definitely won’t be the last. Truth be told, there’s just no one Ben’s interested in. He slumps down further in his seat, pushing his laptop open. “I don’t have time to meet a nice girl, mom. I need to finish my dissertation.”

“Poe is bringing home not one, but two friends,” she replies. “He’s went to college and met people. When are you bringing home some friends for Christmas?”

“I have friends,” Ben says defensively.

“Then why haven’t we met them?” his dad interrupts, walking into the living room with a cold beer. He plops down on the sofa, changing the television channel to something loud and obnoxious.

Ben shrugs casually. “Maybe I don’t want to scare my friends off with my crazy relatives.”

“We would never!” his mom gasps dramatically, clutching her hand to her chest.

“Well,” Ben drawls, typing away on his laptop. “It would be just awful if you scared Poe’s friends away and I got my room back for the holidays.”

 

***

 

It’s nine o’clock at night on the 19th when a pair of headlights swing into the driveway, making his mom jump up excitedly, and rush over to the window. “They’re here!” she says enthusiastically. “Ben, come and help them with their bags.”

He looks up from over his laptop screen, groaning loudly. “Do I have to?”

“Ben Solo,” his mom scolds. “Get off that damn laptop for five minutes.”

He sighs reluctantly and stands up, stretching his arms up above his head and cracking his bones satisfyingly. His mother scurries to the front door, and Ben can hear as she opens it wide and greets the newcomers warmly. His grandmother, Padme, trails behind to see what all the fuss is about. Ben can hear a male voice saying

“- and the snow is so bad here!” 

He ventures out into the hall, and the first person he comes into contact with is a girl with his back to him. She’s struggling with her coat, but with persistence, eventually manages to shrug it off her shoulders. Figuring he should at least try and go with his mother’s orders, he approaches the newcomer.

“I can take your bags upstairs,” Ben offers. “If you want –”

The girl turns around to face him, and the rest of his sentence dies in his throat, replaced with an inaudible hngh. Ben has never made that sound before in his life.

“Thanks,” the girl grins widely, and he forgets how to breathe. Her brown hair is tied up into a bun, a few loose strands framing her face, and she looks like a literal angel – snowflakes dotting her hair and clothes. She’s wrapped up in a pink scarf, nose red from the cold, and Ben’s never seen anyone so appealing in his life.

Then he remembers exactly why she’s here.

This girl must be Poe’s girlfriend.

Ben wants to trash the place, or at least punch Poe in the face a little bit for bringing home the only girl he’s ever really been attracted to.

Poe pops up from behind her, clutching another boy’s arm. “Ben!” he says excitedly. “This is Finn.” He shoves the dark-skinned boy in front of Ben, and Finn waves awkwardly, giving him a shy smile. Ben waves back disinterestedly, not taking his eyes away from the girl.

His brother seems to be too caught up with his friend to remember to introduce his actual girlfriend, so Ben sticks his hand out. “I’m Ben,” he says, and she grips his warm hand in hers. His nerves are aflame. “And you are?” he manages to croak out after a second, his hand still clutching hers tightly. He never wants to let it go.

“I’m Rey,” she breathes, staring up at him with her big brown eyes. God, he’s doomed.

“Oh yeah!” Poe says, finally remembering his girlfriend. Their hands finally drop to their sides, and Ben misses her touch instantly. “This is Rey.” He gestures his hand to Ben. “Rey, this is my brother, Ben.”

Ben distantly wonders why Poe is reluctant to disclose the information that he’s dating Rey – she’s clearly perfect in every way possible. If she was Ben’s girlfriend, he’d be shouting it from the rooftops.

He has to keep reminding himself that this is Poe’s girlfriend, and absolutely under no circumstances can he go there – however, Rey doesn’t seem to be in any hurry to tear her eyes from him, either, and tension passes between them, making nerves bubble up in his stomach.

“Let’s get you to your rooms,” Poe says, after several seconds have passed with Ben and Rey standing in silence staring at each other, and they have to practically drag their eyes away from each other. “You’re taking Ben’s room, Rey.”

“Does he come with the room? Because that would be fine by me,” she whispers out the side of her mouth, and Poe laughs loudly.

Ben’s pretty sure he wasn’t supposed to hear that, and he tilts his head to the side, confused. He quickly brushes any stray thoughts away, thinking he must have heard wrong.

 

***

 

The two newcomers, and Poe, are exhausted after a long journey, so head up to their respective rooms straight away. While Rey takes Ben’s bedroom (he panics in case he’s left anything incriminating up there), Finn shares a bed with Poe, and it’s lights out pretty quickly. Ben’s a night owl, so he stays up late working on his dissertation.

In the morning, the smell of bacon rouses him from his restless sleep on the couch. Rubbing his eyes tiredly, he wanders into the kitchen; however, he stops short when he sees Rey sitting at the table. Poe is making bacon and pancakes behind her, and he turns around when Ben enters the room.

“Hey, big bro,” he says, flipping a pancake into the air.

Rey looks up from her newspaper, eyes widening when she sees him, and a dark blush stains her cheeks. She quickly diverts her attention back to the paper, and Ben can see her squeezing her eyes shut tightly.

Oh crap.

He’s forgotten to put on a shirt - not used to having guests other than family in the house. Oh well, can’t go back now. He pulls a chair out and slides into it, Poe slamming down a plate of food in front of him.

“Sleep well?” Poe asks him.

“Not really,” Ben grumbles, wincing as his back twinges from a night of sleeping on the sofa.

Rey scoffs down a bit of bacon, chewing loudly. “Sorry about that,” she says around a mouthful of food. “I can take the couch If you want?”

“Nah, it’s fine.”

“Thanks for offering up your room,” she says brightly, smiling at him like a literal ray of sunshine. He wants to correct her and tell her that he didn’t exactly offer his room, but he refrains, giving her a small smile back. Her breath hitches, and she’s about to respond when Poe clatters his plate down on the table, interrupting her.

“So, what’s the plan for today?”

“I’m writing my dissertation.”

“Boo!” Poe shouts loudly. Too loudly for eight in the morning. “Come out and play with us.”

“We’re going to the shops, and then Poe said we could visit this super cool arcade ‘cause I really like games,” Rey babbles. “You need to come with us it’ll be so much fun.”

“Um, I don’t know. I have a lot of work to do.”

“Come on, Ben,” Poe says. “You can take one day off.” He butters a pancake, and then shoves it into his mouth in one go. “I promise we’ll leave you alone tomorrow and you can do all the work you need to," he mumbles through his mouthful of food. Most people would find it hard to understand his brother as he chows down a whole pancake, but no, Ben has it down to a fine art.

Before he has a chance to respond, Finn blearily walks into the kitchen, pausing in the door frame.

“Hello, handsome,” Poe grins cheekily at him. Finn smiles in return, and Rey moves over one seat closer to Ben without hesitation, letting Finn slide into the chair beside Poe.

That’s weird, Ben thinks. Rey doesn’t even seem bothered, too busy eating her food and reading the newspaper, cup of coffee in her hand.

The four individuals chat amicably for half an hour, before Anakin, his creepy grandfather, comes down and disturbs them. “When I was your age I was out of the house by half six in the morning,” he mutters from his position at the fridge. “Lazy bastards, your generation are. Makes me sick to the stomach.”

“Yeesh,” Poe says. “We’re going, we’re going.” He stands up from the table, and beckons the group to follow him. “Let’s get ready and we’ll meet at the front door in an hour, got it?”

“I didn’t say I was coming,” Ben says, leaning against the kitchen door frame.

Rey turns around to face him, puppy dog eyes on full display. “Please come, Ben,” she says. “I would love to get to know you better.”

Jesus, how can he say no to that?

 

***

 

And that’s how he ends up plastered against the wall of the shopping mall, sweat beading on his forehead. He fucking hates shopping. Poe, Finn and Rey have wandered into a clothes shop, leaving him outside. He really can’t stomach this anymore.

After a few minutes, Rey comes out of the shop, approaching him with a sympathetic expression. “So, I spoke to Poe, and he said we should just head to the arcade.”

“Without him?” he asks, panicking at the thought of being left alone with Poe’s girlfriend.

“Yeah,” she begins. “Poe and Finn would like some alone time anyway, so they’ll join us in an hour or so.”

“Right.”

Poe wants Ben to take his girlfriend to an arcade so he can spend some alone time with his best friend? His brother sounds like a fucking dick.

The arcade is just around the corner from the shopping mall, so the walk only takes them ten minutes. The whole journey, Rey doesn’t stop talking, and he learns more about her in that short period of time than he’s ever learned about his college friends in five years. He learns about her martial art classes, and her time being an engineering student. He learns about her friendship with Finn – he had been the one to introduce her to Poe. For the first time in his life, he’s actually glad to be paired with someone who talks as much as she does, as it means he can take a step back from the conversation and just listen.  

When they reach the arcade, Rey runs over to the skeeball machine. God, she’s like a child at Disneyland. “I bet you I can beat you at this,” she says, grinning wickedly.

“I don’t think so,” he smirks, shaking his head. “I’ve got height as an advantage.”

“Well, why don’t we make a wager?” she says. “If I win, you need to come on another day out with us.”

“And if I win?”

“I leave you alone for the whole two weeks I’m here,” she says. “And you can do your dissertation in peace.”

Ben considers it for a moment. “Deal.”

 

***

 

Ben stares, mouth hanging open.

She has absolutely slaughtered him. Annihilated him. Crushed him.

Beaming triumphantly, she turns around to face him. “So, I guess I win,” she smirks. “Looks like you’ll be joining us on another day out.”

“How –”

“How did I do that?” she interrupts. Ben nods his head mutely, still in shock. “Finn and I used to play all the time when we lived together,” she says. “I used to spend every Friday night in the arcade on my block.”

“You’re amazing,” he breathes, staring down at her. He’s literally never met a more perfect girl in his entire life.

She bites her lip, light blush staining her cheeks. “I –”

Poe and Finn burst through the door, intruding on their moment, laughter booming throughout the tiny arcade. Ben wants to curse, but he refrains, knowing fine well he’s in the wrong – his brother can come and see his damn girlfriend, for goodness sake.

“Hey guys,” Poe beams. “Having fun?”

“I just handed your brother his ass at skeeball,” Rey says.

Finn groans loudly, patting Ben on the back. “Dude, never play Rey at skeeball,” he says. “She’s undefeatable.”

“Noted,” Ben coughs awkwardly.

The group mill about the arcade for a few more hours, playing each other at different games. As much as Ben doesn’t want to admit it, he’s actually having a lot of fun. Rey makes things enjoyable and exciting, and even Finn isn’t the worst company. Poe is the same as always, loud and boisterous and everything Ben isn’t.

Now, he just has to remind himself to stay away from his brothers' girlfriend for two weeks, and everything will be absolutely fine.

Chapter Text

Ben gets up early the next morning after another restless night on the couch, because his body has clearly decided that sleep is for the weak. Honestly, he’s just pleased to be the first person in the queue for the shower without someone banging on the door impatiently. When he eventually wanders back downstairs after spending a blissful hour under the warm spray, both his grandfather and grandmother are already sitting at the table.

“Good morning,” his grandmother says when he slides into an empty chair. She’s sipping at a cup of tea, newspaper balanced in the other hand. “Anakin, make your grandson some bacon.”

Ben’s eyes widen, remembering exactly how crispy his grandfather likes his bacon. “Um, no thanks.”

Before his grandmother has a chance to argue with him, Finn walks through the door, rubbing at his eyes blearily. Ben waves in greeting, standing up to pop some toast into the toaster. He stands with his back against the counter until the toast springs back up, buttering it quickly and sliding back into his seat.

His grandmother clearly sees an opportunity, turning her attention to Anakin. “I think Finn would like some bacon!”

Finn, unknowingly making the worst decision of his life, beams widely. “Yeah, that would be awesome! Thank you!”

While his grandfather busies himself with the bacon, and his grandmother meanders off to find his mom, Ben sits in an uncomfortable silence with Finn. He taps his fingers against the table, trying to think of something, anything to say, but nothing comes. Even though they had spent the whole day together yesterday, this was the first time they’ve been alone together, and Ben longs for the energetic personalities of his brother and Rey. From out the corner of his eye, he can see Finn chewing at his lip, clearly in the same position.

He really hates having guests over.

“So!” Finn says brightly after a few minutes, visibly not being able to take the quiet anymore. “What is it you do? I thought heard you talking about your dissertation yesterday.”

“I’m doing a PhD in English Lit.”

He nods his head, looking impressed. “I’m a Film major.”

Anakin slams down the plate of bacon. Finn eyes widen, taking in the burnt black chunks around the edges. “Looks, um,” he starts, and Ben can tell he’s struggling to think of a word, “–great.”

His grandfather grunts in acknowledgement.

“You’re younger than Poe, aren’t you?” Ben asks Finn. Anakin’s left to go and chop them down a Christmas tree, dragging Han and Luke with him. Luke’s a bit of a hermit, so his grandfather must have used some pretty powerful tools to persuade him to come out of his room.

“Yeah,” he says, picking the charred bits off his bacon. “I’m twenty-three.”

“What’s the age difference between Rey and Poe?” Ben asks, trying to feign disinterest.

“Well, Rey is twenty-one,” Finn says, chewing the bacon thoughtfully. “So, there’s a four-year gap between her and Poe.”

“And how did you meet Rey?”

Finn squints at him. Crap, I seem too keen. Ben quickly morphs his expression into something more neutral, and Finn’s suspicious looks fades. Ben breathes a sigh of relief. If he realizes I’m maybe a little too interested in my brother’s girlfriend, these next two weeks will be a disaster. Ben shakes off all stray thoughts immediately – he cannot be into Poe’s girlfriend. He’s the worst brother in the world.

Unaware of Ben’s inner turmoil, Finn begins to chatter happily again. “I met Rey through this group at college,” he says. “We both came from care homes, so it’s like this support group I guess.”

Ben gives him a stunned look – Rey hadn’t mentioned yesterday that she had been in care? But then he remembers a phone call he and Poe had during Poe’s first year at college. “Poe mentioned something about that group, too.”

Finn nods his head. “The group is mostly for people without a family at college, and obviously Poe has been adopted,” he explains. “But he still came to help out with food and drinks, which is where we met.” His face takes on a wistful look, a private smile twitching his lips upwards. “He tripped over my foot while he was carrying a box of juice,” he continues. “And voilà! We hit it off. We’ve been inseparable ever since.”

“I see,” Ben says grumpily. “Poe and Rey fit pretty well together, then?”

Another strange look is directed his way. “Well, yeah. I guess.”

“Great. That’s really great.” With false cheer, Ben musters a small smile.

“What’s really great?” says a voice from behind him. Rey breaks into a sheepish smile when he turns around to face her. “Sorry, couldn’t help but eavesdrop.”

“Gooood morning,” Poe yawns, walking into the kitchen and scratching his belly, thankfully interrupting anymore questions from Rey.

“You’re up before two,” Ben says in astonishment. “Are you dying?”

“Very funny.” Poe whacks him on the back of the head, and Ben grins into his empty plate. “I said I’d help the old man decorate the Christmas tree.”

Rey snorts with laughter from her spot rummaging through the fridge. She pulls out a carton of milk and sets it on the counter top while she flings open different cabinets to find a glass. 

“Well, you’re in luck,” Ben says distractedly, watching as Rey finds the right cupboard and reaches up to retrieve a glass, her pyjama shirt lifting up to expose the expanse of her back. “They’re out cutting it down just now.”

The younger boy groans. “I don’t want to decorate the stupid tree. I want to go do something fun.” Poe turns his attention to him, and Ben quickly averts his gaze from his brother’s girlfriend’s ass. “Tell me you’re helping us this year.”

“Absolutely not.”

“You never help!” Poe says, pouting. He clasps his hands together in a begging gesture, sliding into the seat beside him. “Please, I can’t do it alone.”

“You have Rey and Finn to help.”

“Actually, Solo,” Rey cuts in. “I wanted to cash in on that bet we made yesterday.”

Oh god. “What do you have in mind?”

Rey smirks devilishly.

 

***

 

“Rey, I don’t know,” Ben says uneasily, clutching his keys in his hands.

“Ben,” she hisses. “We had a deal!”

They’re standing in front of Ben’s car, snow reaching their ankles and Ben winces, knowing fine well he’s not going to be able to back out of this.

“I know, but Rey –”

“No buts, Solo,” she interrupts. “A deal’s a deal.” They climb into the jeep, and Rey burrows into the seat, pulling her hat down over her ears. “Thank you, though. I know you hate shopping,” she says thoughtfully. “I just didn’t have time to get anyone anything. And I can’t drive.”

“It’s okay.”

“It’s not like I have anyone to buy for anyway – just Poe and Finn,” she continues. “Perks of having no family.”

“Uh, yeah,” Ben says awkwardly. “Finn was telling me about it this morning.” He turns the keys in the ignition, starting the car up, and backs out of the driveway slowly. Luckily, his dad had shoveled the drive this morning, clearing it of all the snow.

“Was he now?” Rey grins at Ben’s uncomfortable grimace. “Don’t worry, you don’t need to be careful about what you say,” she says. “It’s not a touchy subject.”

“How did you cope?” Ben asks, clutching the steering wheel tightly. As much as his parents annoy the life out of him, he doesn’t know how he could survive without their support system – in fact, he doesn’t know how Poe would have coped if their parents hadn’t adopted him. He’s always been a mama’s boy.

“As soon as I turned eighteen I had to find somewhere else to live,” Rey says. “And my teachers had been pushing me into applying for college anyway.” She drums her hands against the dashboard of the car, watching the small flutter of snow fall from the window. “I applied, and I got in, and I moved into dorms,” she continues. “I hated the care home, so getting into college was the best thing that’s ever happened to me.”

“Do you miss any of the kids you used to live with?”

“Fuck no! The little shits used to steal all my stuff,” Rey laughs. “And no one wanted to adopt me, or even foster me.  I was a bit of a troubled child.”

Ben smirks. “I find that hard to believe.” Glancing over at her, he notices her biting her lip attractively, and he gets so distracted he nearly crashes into the sidewalk. “Oops,” he says when he gets the car back on track.

When they finally make it to the mall – alive no thanks to Ben’s driving – Rey drags him into the tackiest store he’s ever seen, telling him “they’ll definitely find a present for Poe and Finn here.”

There’s a crying baby Jesus doll in the corner of the room, making the worst noise known to mankind. Its face is misshapen, and Ben would go as far to say that it even looks kind of melted. He stops before it, staring down at the doll with a look of abject horror. “Oh my god, Rey look at this.”

Rey runs over to them, literally gasping when she sees the monstrosity. “Ben,” she breathes. “It’s amazing. We need to get it.”

He snaps his head round to face her. “We cannot get this.”

“Ben!” she pleads. “It’s funny!”

After ten minutes of begging, Ben finds himself carrying the atrocious doll out of the shop. “I can’t believe you talked me into buying this,” he says. “It’s awful.”

“How dare you trash talk our sweet child, Ben Jr.”

Ben rolls his eyes. “Oh, I’m sorry.”

“Say sorry to the doll.”

“I’m not saying sorry to a doll,” he scoffs. Rey gives him a cross look, and he sighs exasperatedly. He holds the doll at eye level. “I’m very sorry Ben Jr.,” he says sincerely. “I meant no disrespect.”

Rey laughs loudly, hunching over and crossing her arms over her stomach, making a few shoppers turn around. After she composes herself, they continue through the shops until they find one that displays an array of Christmas jumpers.

“Oh, I am so getting Poe this one,” she says excitedly. The jumper has a rather creative picture of Jesus riding a reindeer.

“It’s terrible,” Ben agrees. “He’ll love it.”

Honestly (and guiltily), he had forgotten all about Poe, and with the reminder, Ben’s mood sours. They pick up a few old movies for Finn, along with wine and a lovely hat for his mother. Ben had ordered all his presents online this year, and feels the burden of shopping lifted off his shoulders, trailing behind Rey as she breezes through all the shops.

After a few hours, they’re too tired to continue and find themselves a spot on a bench with some ice-cream. They sit in comfortable silence, watching the shoppers rush past to get their last-minute Christmas presents.

“I’ve had a really good day,” Rey says, licking the ice-cream off her spoon. Ben doesn’t find it distracting. He doesn’t.

“Me too.”

“Thank you for coming with me today.”

“It’s no problem.”

“Seriously. I know you hate shopping and I know you need to work on your dissertation,” she says. “I really appreciate you taking time out to help me.”

“Rey,” he laughs. “You don’t need to keep thanking me. I had a lot of fun.”

“Did you?”

“Yeah. I mean, the company was terrible –”

“Jerk!” She bumps her shoulder into his, throwing him off balance. “I’m the best company, don’t lie.”

“Okay,” he admits. “Maybe I like being around you.”

Her whole face lights up. That was so not a cool thing to say to your brother’s girlfriend!

“I really like being around you!” she grins. “You were pretty grumpy at first but I think I’ve managed to crack you open.”

“I’m not really someone that people want to get to know.”

Rey rolls her eyes. “You pretend to be really moody and grumpy but I know you’re really just a big puppy dog.”

“I’m not –”

Ben’s phone chimes with a message. It’s Poe, and he wants them to come back home to help the family put up the decorations.

“Come on,” Ben says, standing up. He puts his ice-cream in the bin and picks up some shopping bags. “Duty calls.”

They get to the car and shove the shopping unceremoniously into the boot. “I’ve got Finn’s present, Poe’s present, your mom and dad a present each, and a few things for the rest of your family,” Rey says as she climbs into the passenger side. “I think I’m sorted now.”

He gets into the driver’s seat and starts the engine. Ben’s mood starts to deteriorate the closer they get to the house, and he drives in a stony silence. Rey can either tell that he doesn’t want to talk, or is too wrapped up in her own thoughts, because she doesn’t press him for conversation and instead spends the drive with her eyes fixed out the window.

When they get home, Rey runs up to Ben’s room to hide all the presents so Poe and Finn don’t find them, and Ben flops down onto the couch, resting his head in his hands.

“What’s the matter with you?” his father asks from his spot on the couch.

Ben looks up, opening his mouth to respond, but then quickly closes it again when he notices the gigantic Christmas tree in the corner of the room. Jesus, how the hell did they get that through the front door? More importantly, “How are we supposed to get the star on top of that thing?”

“You’re freakishly tall. I’m sure you’ll manage.” 

Ben rolls his eyes, and he can hear his mom snickering from the kitchen. Traitor. “Where’s Poe?” he asks.

“Him and Finn are upstairs playing video games,” Han shrugs.

His mom comes into the living room with a mug of coffee. “They seem to be really into it,” she frowns. “I thought I heard some grunting and groaning up there.”

Anakin shakes his head, wooden pipe dangling out his mouth. “Kids and their games.”

“So,” his mom says when she nestles into the sofa. “Your father and I have noticed you’re a little bit down.” She takes a sip of her coffee, watching him intently. “Do you want to tell us why?”

He actually does want to tell them, he really does, but he knows that would result in him blowing Poe’s secret. He’s already a terrible brother – having a crush on your brother’s girlfriend is the shittiest behavior imaginable.

Ben contemplates it for a second, trying to think of a plausible excuse. “I’m just stressing over my dissertation,” he finally settles on. “It’s due soon and I’m worried I won’t have time to get it finished.”

“Sweetheart, if you need space to get it done then you can borrow my study,” his mom says.

“We know you’re not really a Christmassy person anyway,” Han finishes.

Ben nods his head slowly, feeling guilty at the lie. “Thanks.”

 

***

 

Rey drags the stupid doll into the living room later that night. “Dude, help me create a manger for Ben Jr.”

Ben – actual Ben – looks up from over the top of his laptop, frowning at her. “I’m busy.”

She gaps in mock offense, clutching her hand to her chest. “Too busy to create a bed for our child?”

Poe bounds into the room after her, holding a box full of Christmas decorations. Finn follows closely behind, and he’s got gold and red tinsel wrapped around his neck and head. “This is all very Gryffindor,” Finn says, examining the contents of Poe’s box.

“We’re a family of Gryffindor’s,” Poe grins. “Well, apart from Ben – he’d be a Slytherin. We used to joke that Ben’s actually the adopted one and not me.”

“You are pretty different from the rest of your family,” Rey says, and Ben feels the back of his neck flush.

“As if,” he scoffs. “We all know grandpa’s a Slytherin.”

“Very true,” Poe agrees, setting the box of decorations down on the floor. “Are you going to help us decorate the tree?”

“No,” Ben says hesitantly. He really wants to keep working on his dissertation.

“C’mon, dude. We’ve not spent any time together since I got home.”

Dammit. His brother really knows how to make him feel guilty. He sighs exasperatedly. “One hour and then I’m done.”

His uncle Luke comes down from hiding to put one bauble on the tree, and then disappears outside to have a cigar with Han. His grandfather doesn’t even offer his assistance, happily sitting on the armchair in the corner of the room, shouting instructions at them while downing glasses of whiskey. The young members of the family, plus his mother and grandmother, are the only ones really helping out.

It’s strange to be decorating the house, as Ben’s never joined in before – Poe has never managed to convince him. It’s different this year, though.

He sticks some bedding in a hamper for Ben Jr. and places the doll beside the fireplace. His grandmother screams when she first gets a glance of it (him?) which makes both Ben and Rey snort with laughter. He has to admit, it’s definitely the best fifteen dollars he’s ever spent.

“Why have you bought this hideous doll?” Finn asks them, staring down at it. Its eyes are facing two different ways. Ben shudders.

He is called Ben Jr.,” Rey chides, and then points to herself and Ben. “And he’s our child.”

“He’s –something,” his grandmother says lightly.

Poe cackles, stringing the tinsel over the fireplace. “I don’t know, guys –  I think it’s kinda cute. It’s nice to see Ben and Rey taking an active role in their child’s life.”  He wipes a fake tear away from his eye. “I never thought Ben would find a nice girl and become a father.”

Ben freezes, Christmas bauble hanging limply from his hand. If Rey was Ben’s girlfriend, he didn’t think he’d be too pleased with the thought of her sharing a metaphorical child with another man – although, it has been said before that he can become a little possessive. Maybe that’s just how their relationship works? Ben wonders how long they’ve been dating for – they were clearly friends before anything romantic transpired between them – and how they made the decision to enter into a relationship.

Watching them interact now, they really don’t seem very romantically involved. In fact, since they’ve arrived, Ben hasn’t seen Poe even touch Rey.

They’re trying to keep it a secret from the family, idiot, Ben’s mind supplies.

But Rey really should be with someone who treats her right, and who wants to shout it from the rooftops. Oh god, he’s such a shitty brother.

Here he is, questioning Poe’s relationship with his girlfriend, the sick part of his brain telling him that he’d be so much better for her. He’s so ashamed.

Brushing all thoughts of Rey aside, he focuses again on decorating the tree. He’s absolutely not going to jeopardize his relationship with his brother over a girl he’s literally just met, even if there does seem to be this crazy tension between them.

“Ben, sweetie,” his mother begins, drawing him out of his internal monologue. “I think we’re missing a box of decorations. Be a dear and go down to the basement and get them?”

He sighs. He really hates the basement. “Sure.”

“Someone should go down with you so they can get the light,” she says.

“I’ll go,” Finn offers, pausing in his attempts to pin the stockings on the fireplace.

“Nah, you can stay up here with me,” Poe says, bumping his hip into Finn’s. “Rey, why don’t you go down?” he suggests innocently, eyes flickering between the two.

What –

Before he has a chance to contemplate what’s happening, Rey is agreeing. Ben unlocks the basement door, shivering as a cold breeze envelops them, and leads Rey down the narrow staircase.

“Jesus, how much crap do you guys have down here?” Rey asks as Ben flicks on the light.

“My dads a hoarder,” Ben says. “He used to smuggle all these items from different places and then sell them.” He opens up a cardboard box, but it’s just magazines. “But he grew pretty attached to some of the items,” he mumbles, running a finger across some of Poe’s old high school trophies. “Now they’re all collecting dust down here.”

“That’s pretty cool,” Rey smiles.

“I guess.”

After a beat, she clears her throat. “It’s going to take us a while to find the decorations.”

“Yup,” Ben sighs. “All the boxes look the same.”

“Well, we better get started then!” Rey says brightly. She might just be the most optimistic person he’s ever met.

They sort through each individual box while Ben tries to remember how to hold a conversation. It’s not exactly as if he doesn’t have any friends. He met Hux and Snoke in his undergrad years of college, and they’ve remained by his side ever since – but they can’t exactly be summarized as best friends. They don’t really do much outside of college. Ben doesn’t think Rey fits into the same category as them.

Rey finds a box of photographs, pulling a picture of Ben as a baby out. “Oh my god, look at your ears,” she crows

“Oh no,” he says, grabbing the box out of her hands. “We are not looking through these.”

She laughs, pulling the box back. She picks up a photo of him and Poe at the beach. Poe is grinning brightly at the camera, holding up a bucket and spade in his hands. Ben is sitting sullenly, dressed in all black with his dark hair falling over his face. “You and Poe are so different,” Rey says, admiring the picture.

“We’re opposites in every way.”

She finds another photo and it’s his high school graduation this time. He’s all long limbs and torso, arms dangling awkwardly by his side, and his mother and father and Poe are standing beside him, beaming widely. Again, he’s the only one not smiling. “You really are a grump, aren’t you?”

“Yeah.” He picks up a photo of his mother and father when they were younger and spins it around to show her.

“Oh my god,” Rey gasps, snatching the picture from his hands to examine it closer. “Your mom and dad are literally beautiful.”

He smiles and she gives him the photo back. “We should get back to looking for the decorations,” Ben says, pushing the box to the side.

They begin to work their way through the boxes again, and the silence that stretches between them is more comfortable now. Ben can feel himself easing into her presence.

“How are you enjoying doing your PhD so far?” Rey asks after a few minutes.

“It’s okay. Hard.”

“I can imagine. I’ve been thinking about doing one too, but I don’t know if I can deal with staying in education for any longer.”

“Engineering must be pretty difficult.”  

“It’s the worst,” Rey scoffs, ripping open another box. “The only thing that makes it bearable is the pub beside my apartment.”

Ben smirks. “I’ve heard you engineering students like to party.”

“You bet your ass we do,” she says. “Poe tells me you’re not really a drinker.”

“No, not really.”

“Why?”

“I don’t really like losing control.”

“Ah. You’re a control freak.”

Ben scowls. “I’m not a control freak.”

“Dude, you so are,” Rey laughs. “It’s cute.”

They both freeze.

“Cute?” Ben breathes.

She nods her head shyly, cheeks dimpling. If anyone’s bloody cute, its her. He has to remind himself that this is Poe’s girlfriend. It’s like a siren is going off in his head, yelling do not touch, do not touch!

They finish looking for the decorations, a thrum of tension and energy transpiring between them both. He’s super aware of every movement she makes, every breath she takes. Turns out, Rey is finally the one to find the box and she crows triumphantly.

Ben attempts to pick it up at the same time she does and their hands touch. He yanks his hand away like Rey’s touch has burned him, and when she tries to meet his gaze, he very determinedly avoids eye contact. His heart is beating out of his chest, blood roaring in his ears, and he desperately wants to reach out and touch her again, but he knows he can’t.

Not yours, not yours, not yours.

She follows him back up the stairs and into the living room. The family continue decorating, and every time Ben meets Rey’s gaze, it feels like somebody’s passing an electric current through him.

This is so fucking stupid. What does he even know about this girl? He knows that she’s his brother’s girlfriend, that she’s an engineering student, but finds it difficult. He knows that she has an awful taste in decorations and sweaters, and that she loves being alone. He knows that she takes martial arts classes, and she could probably kick his ass if she wanted to. He would probably let her.

He definitely knows that she loves her friends, and that she cares about everyone she meets. Her optimistic attitude makes him feel a little bit better about life, and it makes him want to be better – less grumpy. He knows she has dimples when she smiles, and she looks beautiful in her pajamas, and she takes her coffee with two sugars and she likes her eggs scrambled and despite growing up in care, she still loves Christmas.

God, he’s so fucking screwed.

Before they know it, Poe finds some more boxes of decorations, and their simple Christmas theme turns into something much more. Ben’s been given the task of cutting out paper snowflakes, Finn has found a can of fake snow and is going crazy, Poe wraps tinsel around every inanimate object he can find, and Rey gets the booze out of the fridge, hitting play on a cheesy Christmas CD they’ve got. Even uncle Luke is down having a beer, and he helps Han and Anakin string lights around the porch outside.

Ben’s the only one tall enough to get the star on top of the tree. His mother passes it to him, and he reaches up on his tiptoes as high as he can manage, placing it gently at the top. When they’re completely finished, the family stand back to admire their handiwork.

“It looks like an elf has thrown up over the place,” Poe says.

Well, he’s not wrong. 

“I think it’s lovely,” his grandmother says sweetly. “It’s not often we go all out for Christmas.”

“We have to thank our guests for that.” His mother pats Finn’s cheek sweetly. “They even got Ben to help out.”

“I think that was Rey’s influence,” Poe mutters, smirking at him.

Ben balks. “Uh, I don’t –”

He trails off awkwardly. Poe’s looking at him knowingly, and Ben feels the back of his neck gather sweat. He hates himself.

 

***

 

After dinner–and a lot of alcohol-the family gather around in the living room to swap stories.

“–and then we broke in–”

“Your father was an idiot. He ended up accidentally pressing the talk button on the console.”

“–and they’re asking us if we’re okay–”

“–even though we just broke in!” Luke adds.

“–and I’m saying ‘everything’s perfectly alright now.’” His father holds his hand up to his ear as if he’s talking on the phone. “I’m just going ‘we’re fine… we’re all fine here… now… thank you.’”

“–and then he goes ‘and how are you?’ so politely,” Luke cackles. “Well, they knew there was something wrong straight away!”

“They said that they were gonna call the cops! So, I threw the console against a wall!”

“–and then he said, ‘boring conversation anyway.’”

The family hoot with laughter, and even Ben grins from behind his laptop screen. His grandfather looks like he’s about to burst with pride – he was a troublemaker, too. His dad and uncle were crazy back in the day, and his mom really wasn’t much better. They were all members of a hardcore protest group called ‘The Resistance’, which is where his dad met his mom.

“Did you get arrested?” Rey chokes out, wiping tears away from her eyes.

“Nah,” Han grins roguishly. “We hightailed it out of there – jumped into a river and everything!”

The comment brings fresh wave of hilarity. Finn’s champagne nearly comes out of his nose he’s laughing that much.

His mom snorts from her place on his father’s lap. “He was so scruffy looking.” She looks down at him fondly. “Still is.”

“We hated each other,” Han says, tightening his grip on Leia’s waist. “But she grew on me.”

“That’ll be right!” his mother laughs. “You were begging for me to date you! I kept turning you down.” 

His father waves a dismissive hand. “Semantics.”

“I think it’s time for us old biddies to get to bed,” his grandmother says, letting out a loud yawn.

When the old folks make their way upstairs, Ben runs up after them to get his sleepwear on. He comes back down, ready to bunk on the couch for another night, but he notices that Rey, Finn and Poe are still laughing and trading stories. And it doesn’t look like they’re willing to stop the party anytime soon – Rey’s bringing out another bottle of wine and dishing it out between them.

“Ben!” Poe slurs. Great. He’s clearly a little drunk already. “Have some wine?”

He looks at the uncomfortable sofa. Why can’t they just go upstairs so he can go to sleep? “Um, no thanks.”

Poe shrugs nonchalantly. “Your loss.”

“Why don’t we watch a movie? Play a few drinking games?” Finn suggests.

Rey ends up sticking in The Room, and then plops herself down beside him. Poe and Finn are looking pretty cosy on the love seat, but Ben doesn’t pay them any notice, too conscious of Rey’s arm brushing against his.

Half way through the movie, Rey has fallen asleep.

On his shoulder.

His eye begins to twitch. He’s at risk of losing control completely.

The credits roll at the end of the movie, and Rey is still snoring quietly from her spot. Finn and Poe both stand up, cracking their limbs and stretching their arms over their heads.

“We’re going to head upstairs,” Poe says. “You can take care of Rey, can’t you?”

What?” Ben half whispers, half shouts.

“Dude, she’s sleeping.” Poe rolls his eyes. “If you want to wake her, then you can wake her. But she’ll be grumpy.” Finn and Poe rush upstairs, giggling madly.

Ben is left with his girlfriend. This week was starting to become the weirdest week of his life. He shakes Rey’s shoulder gently, trying to rouse her from her nap.

She stirs, blinking her eyes open slowly and she stares up at him with wide eyes. “Oh, I fell asleep,” she says softly. “I’m sorry.” She yawns loudly, covering her mouth with her hand. She’s still leaning on his shoulder. “You’re really comfy,” she says, snuggling in closer.

His breath catches in his throat. “Um,” he struggles to think of something to say. “Poe and Finn have gone upstairs.”

“Mm, they’ll have fun,” she says sleepily.

Um. Okay. “Do you want to go upstairs?”

Rey gives him a dramatic sigh. “I suppose I must.” She untangles herself from his arm and stands up. “But I really don’t want to.” She shuffles towards the living room door, but before she heads upstairs, she says, “I’ll see you in the morning.”

Ben nods his head, staring at her with parted lips. He doesn’t think he’s alone in saying there’s a weird, charged atmosphere between them both. With one final glance, she turns away from him and climbs the stairs.

She was definitely flirting there, wasn’t she?

 

***

 

On the morning of the 23rd, Ben wakes up to find his uncle Luke staring at him. He’s sitting on the armchair, small frown on his face, and Ben feels extremely awkward. Should he move? Should he get up?

“Um, hello?”

“Ben,” his uncle says. “There’s a great darkness within you right now.”

“Um, okay.”

“The holiday period should not be spent in darkness.”

“Right.”

“The girl –”

“– Rey.”

“Yes, Rey.” His uncle waves a flippant hand. “You have a problem.”

Ben panics. “I don’t know what you mean.”

Luke levels him with an unimpressed look. “Listen here, son,” he says. “I’ve known you your whole life, and I know when you’re smitten.” Ben’s squeezes his eyes tightly shut. Busted. “Likewise, I know when Poe is smitten.”

“Luke, I don’t know what to say. It didn’t mean for it to happen, I don’t want to feel this way –”

His uncle holds a hand out to stop him. “Ben,” he laughs. “It’s a natural thing. You don’t need to be ashamed – I’m just happy you’ve finally found someone you can share that with.”

“You’re joking,” Ben says flatly. “It’s not natural to have a crush on my brother’s girlfriend.”

What? No – no,” his uncle frowns. “That’s not –”

“I know she’s the first person I’ve been attracted to, but I would never do that to Poe –”

“Right. No, I get that, but –”

“– and, to be honest, I’m pretty offended that you thought I would.”

His uncle gives him an exasperated sigh. “You’re the densest person I’ve ever met. Surely you’re not this stupid.”

First, he’s assuming that Ben’s going to stoop so low as to make a move on his brother’s girlfriend, and now he’s calling him stupid? Fuck that.

His uncle walks away, grumbling something about “dumbass kids and their dumbass decisions.”

 

***

 

He’s typing furiously at his laptop the next day, lost in thought and deep into the heart of his dissertation, when someone calls his name, distracting him completely.

What. Do. You. Want.” Ben swivels around, glaring at Poe and Rey. They both hold their hands up in surrender, eyes wide. “Sorry,” he sighs. “I was on a roll.”

“We were just wondering if you wanted to come to the market today with us?” Poe asks. “I need to get Rey and Finn a present.”

Come to think of it, he really needs to get them a present too. “Yeah, sure.”

Rey’s eyes widen. “Wow, I really didn’t think it would be that easy.”

Ben laughs, watching her intently. “I’m not all bad.”

“Oh, I don’t think you’re bad at all.” She bites her lip. Ben forgets how to look away.

Poe clears his throat, and the pair jump guiltily. “If you’re quite done,” he says. “We should go before the shops get really busy.”

The snow is coming down heavy again when they decide to make the trek to the mall. When they get inside, there’s snowflakes on Rey’s eyelashes. Her eyelashes.  “Okay, Finn and I will meet you back here in two hours.”

They go their separate ways. Poe drags him into the jewelers first and Ben winces, thinking he’s going to get Rey something really expensive and thoughtful. “Remember when we got mom’s wedding ring engraved for their anniversary?” Poe reminisces.

“Yeah. We’re the best kids.”

Poe laughs, browsing the glass case thoughtfully. “I was thinking of getting something from here.”

His face animates straight away, and Ben knows he’s spotted something he likes. He’s ready to mutter an excuse, not ready to see Poe buying Rey a fancy ring – he imagines her face lighting up when he gives it to her, throwing her arms around his neck. He kinda wants to murder someone. But when Poe calls the shop assistant over, he points to a plain band. It’s not flashy. It’s simple.

“It’s a little…manly?” Ben frowns.

Poe gives him a confused look. “It’s for Finn, dummy.”

“Oh.” Ben brightens. “It’s perfect, then.” 

“I was thinking of getting Rey a scarf or something.”

“A scarf,” Ben says flatly. “Don’t you want to get her something nicer?” She is your fucking girlfriend, after all, he adds silently.

“A scarf is perfectly acceptable.”

He’s getting Finn a ring, and Rey a freaking scarf? Something just isn’t adding up. “Right. Sure. But –”

The cashier comes back, ringing up Poe’s order. He hands her over the money, and she gift wraps the ring into a nice bow. It’s a good thing she has, too, because Poe has always been absolutely terrible at wrapping presents. Ben remembers one year his brother gave him a present wrapped in tin foil. Another year, he used actual wrapping paper, but there clearly wasn’t enough to cover the whole present, and Ben knew exactly what it was before he even opened it.

They leave the shop, but Ben is still confused. He really wants to say something to Poe about human decency in a relationship, but he doesn’t want to be that guy. They find themselves in a trinket store, and Poe picks out a scarf immediately. It’s nice. Really nice. But it’s not something you get your girlfriend.

“So,” Poe says conversationally while browsing the shop. “What do you think of Finn?” He tries on a pair of sunglasses, studying himself in the small mirror. “And Rey?” he adds, more like an afterthought.

“Finn is really great,” Ben says, taking the sunglasses off Poe’s face and trying them on himself. He bumps Poe away from the mirror, taking his place. “And Rey.” He struggles to think of a word to describe Rey. “She’s something else.”

“I knew you’d like them,” Poe smiles. “I’m really glad they’ve got your approval.”

“So, how long has this thing been going on for?”

Poe looks away guiltily. “Five months. Although, its been a long time coming.” He shuffles awkwardly. “I would tell the family, but it’s Christmas time – and you obviously know why I’m hesitant about breaking the big news when we’re all sat down for dinner, you know what I mean? It might cause an uproar.”

Ben’s doesn’t exactly see how it would cause an uproar, but if his brother doesn’t want to tell anyone then there’s not much he can do about it. It doesn’t stop his fists clenching at his sides, though. “I’m really glad you’ve found someone who makes you happy.”

“And what about you?” Poe asks mischievously. “I take it a certain someone has caught your eye?”

“No. There’s no one.” Bile rises up in Ben’s throat.

His brother frowns. “But I thought –” He stops himself, shaking his head. “Never mind. I don’t know what I thought.”

“What can I get Finn and Rey?” Ben asks, steering the conversation away from relationships.

Poe directs him to the DVD case, and he picks out a series that Finn has apparently never seen before, but wants to watch. For Rey, he finds the ugliest, tackiest Christmas ornament in the shop.

 

***

 

When they arrive home, Rey perches herself on Poe’s knee – it’s the first real display of affection Ben has seen for the couple, and it makes him sick to his stomach. He doesn’t know if he can sit and watch them being all lovey-dovey.

“You better have gotten me a good present today,” Rey grins, throwing her hands around Poe’s neck.

“Honey, you better believe it.”

A good present? He had gotten her a fucking scarf. If she was his girlfriend, Ben would have gotten her something amazing – something she would never forget.

But she’s not your girlfriend, a traitorous part of his brain reminds him.

Ben busies himself with his laptop, trying to drown out their loving murmurs. He fucking hates the holiday period.

 

***

 

It’s an annual Solo tradition that they hold a party on Christmas eve. Ben despises it. Its attendees are just the usual suspects – Poe used to bring a couple of friends over when he was in high school, but Ben has never brought anyone. Maybe next year will be different. He really doesn’t think so. It’s usually filled with board games, and charades, and a lot of drinking.

Last year his grandfather had gotten so drunk that he puked in a potted plant in their kitchen. His grandmother had to carry him to bed. The year before that, his dad had gotten so drunk that he stripped off and ran into the snow stark naked. That image is burned into Ben’s mind, no matter how hard he tries to forget it. There’s definitely a reoccurring theme from these parties: too much alcohol and too little common sense. It doesn’t help that his family are all wild troublemakers. Ben seems to be the only sensible one in the family.

For the first year ever, he actually makes an effort with his appearance for the stupid party. He spends a little too much time styling his hair in front of his mirror, choosing his outfit very carefully. He’s wearing a red sweater that he knows stretches over his muscles nicely – his mother had told him such – and black pants. When he wanders downstairs, his father tells him that he “cleans up well.” Whatever that means.

“Looking good, bro,” Poe says when he enters the living room, clapping him on the back.

“Thanks, I just –”

He freezes, spotting Rey. She looks incredible in a short, low cut black dress – her hair, for the first time, is cascading down her back in loose curls. Never in his whole life has he been this attracted to another human being.

She’s laughing at something Finn’s said, throwing her head back, but when her eyes lock on Ben she stops dead. The laughter dies in her throat, turning into a hard swallow, and then they’re back at their usual game of chess – back and forth, waiting for one person to make the first move.

“Ben.” His grandmother is snapping her fingers in front of his face, but he can’t even acknowledge her, too busy in this metaphorical dance he’s got going on with his brother’s girlfriend. “Can someone help me out here?”

“Poe’s been abducted by aliens,” Han says conversationally. “The little girl from the ring has come out the TV and killed your mother. They’ve cancelled Game of Thrones.”

“Huh?” Ben says eloquently, dragging his eyes away from Rey like dragging his limbs through quicksand.

“Nothing,” his father says, but when Ben looks over towards him and Luke, they’ve both got terrible grins on their faces.

Ben can tell the nights going to be rough when his grandfather starts downing his fifth glass of whisky, and his dads already moved onto doing shots of tequila with Rey. Apparently, she can really hold her liquor. His mom and grandmother are wine drunk, laughing giddily with Poe and Finn. There’s cheesy Christmas music playing over the laughter and conversation.

Ben is sitting on the windowsill wishing himself dead. He’s reading Pride and Prejudice, desperately trying to drown out the music and hysterical laughter.

His mother approaches him ten minutes later, two glasses of champagne in her hand. She hands one over to him. “I know you’re not a big drinker,” she says, “but I’d like you to share a toast with us.”

He hesitates, looking around the room. He really doesn’t like drinking, but Rey is sitting on Poe’s lap again and she plants a big, sloppy kiss on his cheek. He laughs loudly, pulling her into a tighter embrace. Ben doesn’t think he can sit down here all night without something.

“Give me it.” He snatches it out of her hand, downing it in one. Grimacing at the disgusting taste, he wipes at his mouth. “I’m getting another.”

He marches into the kitchen, ignoring his mothers shocked face, and pours himself a rather large glass. When he comes back into the living room, his mom is already standing up to make the toast.

“Every year we have this party. Every year we have everyone round for Christmas,” she says loudly. Someone has turned the music down. “But it’s never been as enjoyable as this year has and it’s not even Christmas day yet!” she smiles. “We have our guests to thank for that, I think.” She raises her glass high up in the air. “A toast, then – to our special guests. I hope you both can make it next year.”

Finn and Rey grin delightedly, and the room takes a swig of their drinks. Ben downs the whole thing. Again.

An hour has passed and it’s safe to say that Ben’s a little drunk. As the room spins around him, he thinks he must have a really low tolerance for alcohol, or something. He’s been talking politics with his grandfather, dancing with his mother, drinking beers with his father. It’s the most sociable he’s ever been in his whole life. So far, he’s managed to steer clear from Poe and Rey.

He knows that isn’t going to last.

And it doesn’t. Poe tumbles into the room with something hiding behind his back.

“What’s that?” Finn asks. 

“I got twister!” Poe says enthusiastically, brandishing the game from behind his back.

Rey springs up from her seat, wobbling slightly. They’re all pretty wrecked – drunk twister is so not going to be fun. “I love that game!” Rey grins, arms flailing animatedly. She wanders over to Poe, helping him unpack the box.

Finn moves the coffee table to the corner of the room, and Poe lays the plastic mat flat out on the floor.

His mother picks up the square board, spinning the spinner around experimentally. “I’ll shout out colors and such. I’m too old for this shit,” she slurs. She turns to him. “Ben, are you playing?”

In any circumstance, he would firmly say no. But in his drunken state, he finds himself stumbling over towards the mat, saying, “Of course I’m playing. I’m a winner.”

“Oh, I like drunk Ben,” Rey grins, folding her arms across her chest. “But I hope you know, I’m going to crush you.”

“Bring it.” He winks at her. Her cheeks turn red. He has no idea why he’s just done that.

 

***

 

Drunk Ben is insanely competitive and even in his inebriated state, he’s refusing to give up. It’s just him, Rey and Poe left on the mat now – his father had been eliminated by the second spin, and Finn went down shortly after.

“Poe,” his mother calls, spinning the dial. “Right foot red.”

His brother tries to move his foot to red, but it gets caught under his hand and he falls unceremoniously to the ground. “Ouch.” He leaves the mat rubbing his injured behind.

“Okay, it’s just Rey and Ben left.”

“Prepare to be defeated,” Ben mutters, hair falling over his face, ass in the air. He’s so drunk and he has no idea how he’s keeping up his position, but somehow, it’s working.

His mother whirls the spinner again. “Rey, right hand blue.”

Suddenly, Rey’s body is under his, her hand worming her way to the blue circle. Ben’s hand is also on a blue circle, so it means she’s directly beneath him.

He imagines all the other ways she could be pinned beneath him.

Oh no, no, no, Ben. Bad thoughts. Do not go there.

“Ben, left foot green.”

He’s starting to sweat now – he’s been holding his body up for far too long, and in his intoxicated state, his arms begin to wobble. “Oh shit,” is all he manages before he’s falling to the ground, crushing Rey.

“Oof.” It sounds like the wind has been knocked out of her. He’s worried that he’s hurt her, but then she begins to laugh gleefully – it doesn’t take long before he’s joining in too, head falling down beside hers.

He’s still on top of her, but he feels reluctant to move. Damn, he’s changed his mind – he totally loves being drunk. “I’m sorry,” he snorts. “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up.”

She huffs out a breath, twisting her neck around to face him. Smirking devilishly, she says, “Is that your phone in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me?”

Ben flushes, scrambling to his feet. She follows closely behind, but she’s still smirking at him – it’s disconcerting. How can she be flirting this outrageously when her boyfriend is literally right over there?

Poe throws his arm around Rey’s shoulder, bringing her into an embrace. “Looks like you win, peanut.” He grins widely at Ben. “Maybe next time, big bro.”

Ben looks Rey dead in the eye, the alcohol clearly giving him courage that he doesn’t usually have. “Definitely next time.”

He can see the way she sucks in a breath, eyes widening comically. A blush spreads upwards from her neck to her cheeks, and she bites her lip, looking down at the ground. This so, so wrong, but he just can’t help himself. He blames it on the alcohol.

After they finish the games, the dancing and talking resumes, and Ben is starting to feel a little bit more at ease with his surroundings. It’s definitely the alcohol. At one point during the night, Rey picks up Ben Jr. and dances with him around the living room. Ben's crush intensifies.

He’s leaning against the door frame of the living room, watching his family have fun. Even though they’re totally crazy, Ben loves them all the same. He can see Rey watching him as she converses vivaciously with Finn, and he gives her a small smile. She catches his eye, and then excuses herself strolling over to him slowly.

“You having fun?” she asks.

“More so than usual.”

“I noticed. You’re pretty drunk.” She wets her lips with her tongue, and Ben follows the movement. “I thought you didn’t drink?”

“I don’t. I thought I’d make an exception for this one night.”

“And how is that going?”

He thinks about it for a second. Could he have done this sober? Probably not. “Pretty well,” he answers truthfully.

“Oi!” His father is shouting at them. “You two.” Ben and Rey glance at each other, confused expressions on their faces. “Look up.”

They look up, and Ben freezes, mouth falling open in shock.

Fucking mistletoe.

How did he not know that was there?

“Oh no, I can’t,” Ben shakes his head, glaring daggers in his dad’s direction. “Absolutely not.”

“You don’t want to kiss a pretty lady?” his grandfather chimes in, staring at him crossly.

“It’s not that, it’s just –” He stares at Poe desperately, willing (with his eyes) for his brother to get him out of this. But Poe’s laughing loudly at them, nodding his head in agreement.

“Bro! Kiss her!” he shouts eagerly. “You’re under mistletoe. You know the rules!”

“I really don’t think this is a good idea.” Ben looks down at Rey, who’s looking up at him with big wide eyes.

“Well, it is the rules,” she says lightly, sucking in her bottom lip anxiously.

“Do it!” Poe and Finn shout simultaneously.

Alcohol apparently makes the decision for him, because he’s turning around and saying, “Okay.” He can’t even get the word out properly before Rey’s pouncing on him, taking his face in her hands, and kissing him without a second thought.

It starts out soft, just a quick brush of lips, but Ben finds himself unable to pull himself away. His brother is literally watching them, but he can’t think about that, doesn’t want to think about that. Ben’s hands slide to cup the back of her neck, and the kiss deepens as her fingers tangle in the back of his hair. Rey makes this little noise in the back of her throat that drives him absolutely wild, and he nearly forgets they’ve got an audience, ready to push Rey up against the wall and have his way with her. But then he remembers.

He’s making out with his brother’s girlfriend.

He forces himself to break away, still cradling her face in his hands. He looks at her, really looks at her, noticing the way her hazel eyes shine in the light, and the way her lips have become plump and thoroughly kissed.

He is so fucked.

She’s clutching his forearms, looking up at him with an expression that says ‘I was not expecting that but I’m totally on board with doing it again.’ Ben would be only too happy to oblige, but he flattens himself against the door frame, trying to get as far away from her as possible.

No one speaks. Even the fucking music has stopped. Ben’s never been more mortified in his life.

But then, Poe is hollering loudly, clapping his hands, and the rest of the family join in. He can actually hear his mother shouting, “That’s my boy!”

He wonders if they’d still be clapping and cheering him on if they knew Rey is Poe’s girlfriend. They’d probably be disgusted with him. But then again, Poe did tell them to do it, and he doesn’t seem to be angry in the slightest – in fact, he looks incredibly happy, smiling at Ben in a way he’s never seen before.

“I –” He doesn’t know what to say. Rey is looking at him with a hopeful expression. He doesn’t know what’s going on. “I need to go.”

He leaves and then promptly throws up in a potted plant.

He is his grandfather’s grandson, after all.

Chapter Text

Ben cracks one eye open, wincing at the small slither of light shining through the living room curtains. His head is pounding and he screws his eyes shut, unable to cope with the onslaught of sunlight. Truthfully, he doesn’t remember going to sleep. The last thing he remembers is throwing up in that damn potted plant.

He casts his mind back to the rest of the night, wincing as he sits up slowly on the sofa. What the hell happened? There’s too many blanks.

He thinks there was Twister. He knows there was alcohol.

He distinctly remembers dancing with his mother. Talking to his grandfather. Reading Pride and Prejudice on the windowsill.

And–

Shit.

Oh fucking shit.

Kissing Rey. In front of his brother. And his entire family.

What has he done?

Feeling absolutely mortified, Ben clutches his head in his hands. How could he have done that? To his brother?  To Rey? Jesus Christ, he’s a monster. He shuffles his way into the kitchen, carefully trying not to jostle his sore head, and grabs some painkillers out of the cupboard, washing it down with a glass of water. Not that he deserves his pain to be alleviated.

He’s really fucked up this time.

The clock reads 6am. It’s Christmas Day. He knows Poe will be down soon – he’s always acted like a big kid when it comes to the holidays – and his grandmother and mother will be down soon after. Ben contemplates sneaking out of the house, going back to college and just leaving a note behind. Can he do that? Or would that make him look even worse?

He really doesn’t want to be here when his family come downstairs.

He makes his decision and grabs his car keys off the hook on the wall, ready to make a break for it. He’s just about to reach the front door when a clatter of footsteps on the stairs stops him in his tracks. He’s so tense that his shoulders are practically touching his ears. The floorboard creaks behind him and he knows he’s been caught.  

“Where are you going?” a voice asks. Ben doesn’t need to turn around to know it’s Poe.  

Shit. “Um.” He can’t think of any reasonable excuse. “I was just going for a drive,” he says lamely. He shuffles around to face his brother, mouth twitching downwards when he sees the suspicious expression on his face.

“At six in the morning?”

Ben looks away. “Sure.”

“Right.”

They stand in awkward silence.

This is definitely the worst moment in Ben’s entire life. And that includes the time he asked out his high school crush in front of everyone and she threw a drink in his face.

Poe yawns sleepily, rubbing the edge of his yellow Sesame Street pajama sleeve across his eye. “You want some breakfast?”

Ben hesitates. How bad would it look if he just left now? With Poe as a witness? Pretty bad, he concludes. He doesn’t really think he deserves breakfast, though. “I’ll pass.”

“C’mon,” Poe grins. “I’ll make bacon. We can celebrate being the first ones up. Remember we used to always wake up first on Christmas Day?”

He remembers. “No thank you.”

His brother frowns. “What is your problem this morning? It’s Christmas! Cheer up.”

Not wanting to seem ungrateful, and not wanting his brother to hate him even more than he probably already does, Ben sighs. “I’ll have some bacon.”

“That’s the spirit!”

They head into the kitchen, pots and pans clattering against every available surface. Just as Poe is frying the bacon and Ben is making the toast, his mother and grandmother join them, chatting animatedly. His mom’s always been a morning person. Ben hates it.

“Merry Christmas, my two beautiful boys,” she says, kissing both of them on the cheek. “I’ll have some bacon, Poe.”

“Merry Christmas, mom,” Poe sings happily.

Ben busies himself with buttering the toast, feeling absolutely miserable. He just doesn’t want to be here – he’s fucked everything up with Poe and Rey. He feels the nerves bubbling up in his stomach at the thought of Rey coming downstairs, the smile dropping from her face as she spots him. She probably won’t want to talk to him. She’s probably disgusted.

Ben should really go back to college.

A light touch on his waist gives him a fright, and he turns around to see his mother wrapping her arms around him.

“You’re unhappy.” She rests her head on his chest. He awkwardly puts his arms around her, squeezing her tightly – he’s not exactly a cuddler. “I can sense it. It’s coming off you in waves.”

“I’m sorry.”

She releases her hold on him, turning his body around so that he faces her. “Don’t apologize for your unhappiness, Ben,” she says. “How can I make things better?”

He sighs, turning away from her. He begins buttering pieces of toast, desperate to escape the conversation. “You can’t. No one can.”

“Is it about Rey?”

The hand he’s holding the knife in stalls before he can reach the butter. “I’m just really stressed about my dissertation,” he snaps. “And no one is giving me peace to do it.”

Why is everyone adamant to talk about him and Rey? It’s starting to bug the shit out of him. Can’t he just be left in peace? Why does his mom want to try and set him up at every opportunity?

He can feel his anger building up, curling around his limbs like a rampant flame as he grips the knife tighter in his hand. He wants to punch something, or stab someone, or both. His mother, clearing sensing the rage crackling within him, places a delicate hand on his back, rubbing soothing circles against the material of his t-shirt.

“It’s okay,” she says. “I understand.”

They share a brief look, and Ben knows that she recognizes his worries are not just about his stupid dissertation. He takes a calming breath, counting to ten in his head. His mother breathes with him, watching him intently while using the techniques they both learned years ago at the anger management classes he was forced to take. He had a rough childhood when it came to his temper, and his mother always made sure that she was with him every step of the way – she even came to his classes sometimes just to understand what he was going through.

He doesn’t want to be angry. He doesn’t want to ruin Christmas for his family. “Do you want some?” Ben asks lamely, holding up the soggy piece of toast he had been buttering a couple of minutes ago.

His mother grins at him and holds her plate out. “If we eat quickly, we can do presents.”

“Before the madness commences.”

“Did I hear something about madness?” Poe interrupts, snatching a piece of toast out of the toaster and giving Ben an exaggerated wink.

Leia smiles, taking her plate and setting it down on the table beside his grandmother. “Ben and I were just talking about cooking the Christmas dinner.”

Poe groans. “I’m definitely staying out of the way.”

“Why?” his grandmother frowns. “We need every member of this family to help.”

Leia nods her head in agreement. “Or else it won’t work.”

“It’s like a damn military operation,” Poe grumbles.

Ben sits down at the table beside his brother and hands him the salt, watching with fascination as he practically uses the whole shaker on his bacon. The boy is definitely going to an early grave.

Half way through eating his bacon, Rey and Finn spring through the door eagerly.

“Merry Christmas everyone!” Rey grins enthusiastically.

There’s a chorus of “Merry Christmas’” in return as they both pull out chairs and join them at the table. Ben ducks his head, staring intently at his now-cold bacon and refuses to look at the girl across the room. God, he hates his life.

When the family are finished eating, and after Han and his grandfather have wandered downstairs, they move into the living room to open presents. Luke stumbles in a few minutes later, coffee in hand – the man has never been a morning person.

Reaching under the tree, Ben gathers the presents and hands them out dutifully. Poe and Rey begin tearing into theirs immediately, which is understandable – since Poe was younger he would always be overly excited on Christmas morning, ripping into his presents with more vigor than Ben’s ever seen. He thinks it might have something to do with him being adopted. Maybe Rey is the same.

Ben opens his presents, unsurprised to see that everyone has gotten him books, or smart clothes. His brother has gotten him a calligraphy set. Being the way he is doesn’t leave much room for imagination, and he routinely gets the same presents every year. Not that he’s complaining. He always finds use for the things he receives. And the calligraphy set is really cool – his brother knows him so well. Ben ignores the twinge of guilt he feels at this revelation.

He gets to his last present, which he guesses must be Rey’s gift from the way she’s looking at him with anticipation, biting her lip excitedly. He notices the present isn’t in the usual shape of book or clothes, and he shakes is softly. When it makes a rattling sound, he tilts his head, looking at her with confused expression. It’s pretty big.

“What–” 

“Open it,” she interrupts.

So, he tears into the wrapping paper, eager to see what she could have possible gotten him. When he finally gets the luminous pink sparkly paper off, he stares down at the present in awe.

“Oh my god,” Ben laughs.

She’s gotten him a miniature skee ball game.

“Now you can practice,” she says. “And maybe next time you’ll beat me.”

Ben feels along the side of the game, basking in it. This is definitely the coolest present anyone has ever gotten him. “Rey, thank you,” Ben says, picking up one of the miniature balls. “This is amazing.”

“I really got it for my benefit,” she teases. “If you practice, I’ll finally have some real competition.”

He smiles softly, smitten with his present – no one ever gets him things like this.

After they finish presents – Rey had been delighted to receive her tacky ornament, promising she’ll cherish it forever – his mom orders them all into the kitchen.

“Right boys and girls, playtime is over,” his grandmother shouts, frantically pulling out pots and pans from the cabinets.

“Han, you’re peeling potatoes,” his mom orders. “Luke, you and Anakin are making the apple pie.” She starts ransacking the fridge, getting all the ingredients needed. “Poe, you’re setting the table,” she says, turning around to look at him. “Finn, your job is to make sure Poe doesn’t touch any of the knifes, or food.” At Poe’s indignant “Hey!”, Leia waves a dismissive hand. “In fact, just keep him out of the kitchen entirely.”

“What would you like me to do?” Rey asks.

“You and Ben cut up all the vegetables,” his mom replies.

Great, now he’s going to have to spend the morning hip-to-hip with Rey. He’s one hundred percent sure his mom planned that on purpose.

There’s no room in the kitchen whatsoever, all the space taken up by the older family members doing the more important jobs. So, Ben and Rey take themselves over to the living room couch, perching down on the sofa to peel the vegetables.

They carry out their jobs in silence, tension building sweetly between the two. Ben is super aware of every move Rey makes, and he watches her out of the corner of his eye. She’s still in her pyjamas, cute fluffy ones with kittens on them. Ben thinks she’s never looked better.

“So,” Rey says after a while. “Are we going to talk about last night?”

Ben panics. “What’s there to talk about? I got drunk and threw up in a plant.”

Rey snorts, peeling her carrots a little more forcefully. “I don’t know why you keep avoiding the subject,” she mutters. “We kissed. Was it bad or something?”

His head snaps up, and he looks at her confusedly. “It wasn’t bad,” he says. “It was amazing. You’re amazing.”

“Then what’s the problem?” she asks.

“It’s just not right.”

“I don’t understand,” she snaps. “You want me, but it’s wrong? Why?”

His hand stills on the vegetable peeler. He really doesn’t want to be having this conversation, but he knows he owes her an explanation at least. “Listen, I can’t deny that I like you,” he whispers. God help him if Poe were to overhear.

“I feel it too.”

There’s a ringing in his ears. She likes him? “You do?”

She stands up, brushing loose strands of carrot off her pajamas. It really shouldn’t be sexy but Ben definitely thinks it is. She plops herself down beside him on the couch, taking his hand into hers. “Ben, you are literally hotter than the sun,” she says solemnly. “Like, hot burning.”

What? She thinks he’s hot? He’s never been called hot in his entire life – most girls don’t really see him in that way. Poe once said that he was “unconventionally attractive”. Whatever that means.

“Wait, are you flirting with me?” Ben asks.

Rey rolls her eyes. “Have been for the past couple of days but thanks for noticing.”

“You have?”

She laughs, dropping his hand. Ben mourns the loss immediately; however, it’s short lived – she trails her hand up his arm, stopping just before the sleeve of his t-shirt. He shivers at the contact, and Rey shifts closer to him. They’re so close that her breath fans over his face, the minty smell of toothpaste lingering near his lips. He looks down at her, and the way her pupils are blown wide.

He really wants to kiss her.

He’s going to kiss her.

The air around them is charged and he can feel his heart racing against his chest. He lets his fingertip dance across her bare leg, watching in wonder as it leaves a trail of goose pimples behind.

“I’m so glad Poe brought me home for Christmas,” she huffs, biting her lip.

And suddenly, it’s like a bucket of cold water has been dumped over his head.

Poe.

His brother.

His brother’s girlfriend.  

He feels sick. He’s the worst human in the world. And just like that, the spell is broken.

“I can’t do this to Poe,” he blurts, springing away from Rey before he can do, or say, anything stupid. “He’s my brother and we’ve been through a lot together.” At Rey’s confused expression, he continues. “You understand that I would never do anything to betray his trust?”

“No, I really don’t understand now. Is there something I’m missing?”

A throat clears from behind them. They swivel their heads around to see his father standing there, eyebrows raised. “Ben?”

God, he hopes his father hasn’t heard any of that conversation. “Yeah?”

“We need you to come and get the custard off the top shelf. You’re the only person tall enough to reach it.”

Ben rolls his eyes, standing up from his spot on the couch. In a way, he’s kind of relieved that Han interrupted the conversation. Although, a selfish part of his brain tells him that Rey feels it too, and if he were to make another move she wouldn’t say no. Could he do that to his brother? This is the first girl Ben’s ever liked. The first girl he’s ever been truly attracted to.

A part of him wants to be selfish.

A very large and dark part of him wants to say fuck it – he wants her, she wants him, why care about people standing in the way?

But as he’s passing from the living room into the kitchen, he spots a picture on the wall from summer fifteen years ago. Han had taken them both fishing – Poe had loved it, while Ben had despised being outdoors all day. Poe, well aware of Ben’s hatred of the outdoors, had given him his last reese peanut butter cup. It may sound like a small act of kindness, but it was the first summer Poe had come to live with them, and Ben wasn’t exactly adjusting well to the thought of sharing his mother and father’s attention. But Poe had been persistent, worming his way into Ben’s life and heart. Now, he can’t imagine a life without his little brother.

He can’t do this to him.

He needs to get over Rey.  

 

***

 

The cheesy Christmas album is on again when they all sit down for dinner. Ben has been placed directly across from Rey, and truthfully, he can’t stop sneaking glances at her. So much for getting over her.

He’s digging into his turkey when his mother and grandmother snort with laughter, drawing everyone’s attention to them.

“Boys,” his mother calls from the other end of the table, glass of wine in hand. Ben thinks she’s probably a little drunk already. “Remember Rose Tico and Phasma?”

Geez. How could Ben forget? Phasma was his childhood best friend who lived around the corner from him – they were as thick as thieves, never going anywhere without each other. However, they had drifted apart when Ben left for college, and Ben hasn’t seen or spoken to her since. Rose was Poe’s friend as a kid – the two of them were always following Ben and Phasma around, trying to get them to play. Ben would never let them join in, though.

“Yeah?” Poe asks, popping a carrot into his mouth.

“Well, they’re dating now!” Leia laughs. “Rose’s mother told me. Isn’t that a coincidence?”

Ben’s eyes widen. He can’t shake the image of Rose as anything other than a small girl who trailed after them all the time, never mind as girl who’s dating his childhood best friend.

“It feels like just yesterday your mother and I were running after the four of you in diapers,” his father adds, smiling thoughtfully.

Poe scoffs loudly. “As if Ben would ever let Rose and I play with him.”

“Maybe you could get together again?” Leia suggests. “You could introduce them to Finn.”

Poe sends his mother a perplexed look, and Ben can feel Finn stiffen from beside him. It’s probably not a bad idea – Ben would love to hear the story behind Phasma and Rose getting together.

“Uh, yeah I guess,” Poe shrugs casually. A little too casually.

Ben watches with fascination as his brother fidgets anxiously in his seat, staring down intently at his dinner. What the hell is wrong with him?

His mother frowns, glass of wine stopped just before her lips. Sensing the tension that has fallen over the table, she sets her glass down gently. “Is that a bad idea?” she asks. “I just thought you would have something in common.”

“Uh yeah,” Finn jumps in. “That would be cool. I’d love to meet your childhood friends.”

“See,” his mother says. “Finn’s okay with it.”

This dinner has just taken a very strange turn.

“I don’t know if they really have anything in common anymore,” Ben smirks, trying to diffuse the tension. “Phasma went on to do biochemical engineering.” He crunches down hard on a piece of parsnip. “You’re doing sports science. Is that even a real subject?”

Poe kicks him under the table, hard, making Ben clutch at his leg. “Ouch.”

“Don’t be fucking rude,” Poe smirks.

“Boys! No fighting at the table,” his mother scolds. She narrows her eyes at them, making sure the bickering has stopped before she begins talking again. “Anyway, I didn’t mean college,” she continues. “I meant that you’re all gay.”

What.

Poe chokes on his carrot, coughing loudly.

The table descends into silence.

Ben looks around, completely lost. He notices the way Finn’s grip on his knife tightens, and he can see his knuckles turning white with the force of it. Rey sips at her wine awkwardly, leaning as far back into her seat as possible.

His mother is looking around the table with a confused expression on her face. “What?” she says into the silence. “Have I said something wrong?”

“Gay?” Poe splutters, taking a large gulp of his wine to wash the carrot down.

Finn clears his throat. “I’m actually bisexual but thank you for the shout out.”

“You’re very welcome, dear,” Leia says, beaming at the other boy.

“Gay?” Ben repeats. “Gay?”

“Yes, Ben,” his grandfather says sharply. “You don’t have something against the gays, do you?” He’s looking at Ben with narrowed eyes, daring him to say anything negative about his brother. “I mean, it definitely wouldn’t be my choice in life but you can’t blame people for their decisions.”

Ben shakes his head. “I’m sorry, I’m not following.” He snaps his head around to face Poe, bewildered. “Gay?”

Poe’s mouth opens, and then closes again immediately. “I didn’t–”

“You’re gay?”

His father sighs exasperatedly, downing his whisky in one. “Yes, Ben. For the thousandth time, gay.” 

“I didn’t realize you all knew,” Poe says lightly. As if their mother hasn’t just dropped a bombshell at family Christmas dinner.

“Oh honey,” Leia says. “Of course we knew.”

His grandmother, still eating her meal, snorts loudly. “You’re not exactly subtle.”

“Right.”

“Gay.” Ben laughs loudly, startling the table. “I can’t believe this.”

“You have a problem?” Finn says, glaring daggers at him.

Ben shakes his head and leans back in his chair. “No, this is amazing.”

If Poe’s gay, that means he’s dating Finn. Which means he’s definitely not dating Rey.

Best. Christmas. Ever.

“I thought you knew,” Poe says, clasping his hands together on the table. “I literally told you in the shops.”

Realizing how stupid he’s been, Ben’s face cracks into a full-blown grin – the first genuine smile he’s had since he arrived at the house. “I thought you were talking about Rey.”

Rey?” Poe laughs. “You thought I was dating Rey?”

Ben glances at the girl, watching as her frown turns into a look of comprehension. She gives out a rambunctious laugh, hitting her hand against the table. The table watches on bemusedly as she throws her head back.

“Oh my god,” she says, once she’s calmed down. “That’s why you haven’t made a move.”

"I guess Rey and gay sound the same," Luke suggests innocently, shoving a roast potato into his mouth.

Everyone ignores him. Ben can't help but stare at Rey, mouth agape. She smiles at him, big and bright, and he feels his heart stutter in his chest. He can’t believe this is happening. He can’t believe this is his luck. They stare at each other. Ben’s unsure what he could possibly say in this situation. He wants to ask her out. He wants to say something witty. But she’s smiling at him in a way that renders him unable to say anything, never mind something clever that’ll sound cool.

“Ben,” Leia says, interrupting his anxiety-ridden thoughts. “Use your words.”

“Um,” he stammers, trying to think of a way he can ask her out without sounding like a total weirdo. “Me. You.” He can see his father put his head in his hands, clearly exasperated, but Rey is watching him patiently.

“Yes?” she prompts.

“Um –”

He’s extremely aware that every single person at the table has their eyes fixated on them both.

“Date?” Rey finishes for him, smiling brightly and relieving him from any further embarrassment.

Ben nods his head enthusiastically. “Yes.”

“Thank god that’s over,” Luke says, tearing off a piece of turkey from his fork. “Can we go back to dinner now?”

“I can’t believe you all knew I was gay,” Poe laughs. “I can now play Britney Spears without anyone judging me.”

“I will absolutely still judge you.”

Poe gives him an unimpressed look. “You better watch yourself, brother. Now that you’re about to start dating my best friend I could make your life hell. I’ll reveal all the embarrassing stories from when we were kids,” he smirks. “Remember the life guard incident?”

“You wouldn’t.”

Poe grins mischievously. “I would.”

“Oh, I definitely want to hear about this incident,” Rey grins.

“Maybe one day,” Ben coughs.

She winks at him, and the family goes back to their meal, talking amongst themselves. He looks around the table, marveling in the relaxed atmosphere that has finally settled over everyone. He watches Poe talking to his father and notices the way in which his shoulders have lost the tightness they held for the past couple of months. He looks lighter than he ever has, with an easy smile on his face.  

Ben’s never been prouder of his brother than he is in this moment.

The fact that he’s not actually dating the girl of his dreams is a nice bonus.

Said girl watches him over the rim of her glass, smiling coyly at him. He smirks down at his plate when he feels Rey’s foot touch his under the table.

Maybe it’s not so bad being home after all.

 

***

 

Epilogue - one year later.

“I don’t know why you’re freaking out. He’s obviously going to say yes.”

“He might not!”

Ben gives Poe an unimpressed look, but he can’t help feel a little sorry for him –  his brother is sweating profusely, pacing up and down Ben’s bedroom floor. Ben and Rey had come up to his room to get some alone time away from the family – being around them at Christmas time had become even more maddening now that both brothers had significant others. But alas, alone time was not meant to be. Poe had barged in moments later, interrupting a heavy make out session on Ben’s bed.

“Poe, you need to chill,” Rey says, fixing the buttons on her shirt and trying to pat down her ruffled hair.

Ben smirks, leaning back against the headboard. He watches Poe pace for a few more seconds before he takes pity on him. “Listen, dude. Finn is downstairs for the second Christmas in a row. He’s listening to our parents’ embarrassing stories about you. He helped dad put up the Christmas lights on the porch. He’s going present shopping with mom and gran tomorrow.”

“So?”

Rey sighs exasperatedly. “So,” she says slowly. “You’re going to ask him to marry you, and he’s going to say yes.”

“I can do this.”

“You can do this.”

“I’ve got this.”

Ben stands up from his place on the bed and walks over to his brother. “You’ve got this,” he says, slapping him on the back. “He’s going to say yes.”

“If he doesn’t I’ll blame you.”

“Fine,” Ben says, rolling his eyes. “But he will.”

The trio make their way downstairs. Poe and Rey are immediately beckoned by his father – apparently, they need to help him diffuse an argument between his uncle Luke and his grandfather. Something about politics that Ben definitely doesn’t want to get involved in.

“Sweetheart?” his mother calls from the kitchen. “Can you help me with something?”

“Sure.” He wanders into the room, shouldering off his jumper and plants it on the back of one of the chairs.

His mother peaks her head around the door frame, making sure they’re alone before she spins around to face him. “Is Poe going to propose to Finn?”

Shit. Busted.

Poe didn’t want the family to know until the last minute – god knows they wouldn’t be able to keep it a secret. The whole family, including Finn, would know before the day was out.

“Um, yeah,” Ben says reluctantly.

“When?”

“Christmas Eve. At the party.”

“And he wasn’t going to tell us?”

Ben winces. “He was. He just didn’t want the rest of the family finding out until it was absolutely necessary. You know what they’re like.”

His mother hums thoughtfully. “I guess that’s reasonable.”

He lets out a sigh of relief. “I can’t believe Poe is getting married.”

“And what about you?” she asks, eyebrow raised.

Ben looks at her suspiciously. “What about me?”

“When are you going to propose to Rey?”

“I don’t know.”

“Have you thought about it?”

Ben hesitates. “A little.”

His mother squeals delightedly, clapping her hands together. “My two babies, all grown up,” she says.

Suddenly, there’s a loud crash from the living room. Oh god, what’s happening in there? Has Luke and his grandfather’s fight gotten physical? He wouldn’t put it past them.

“You better go and see what’s happened,” Leia says, frowning disapprovingly. She goes back to making tonight’s dinner, leaving Ben to deal with the drama in the other room.

He jogs into the living room, bracing himself for an onslaught of arguments and shouting matches. What he doesn’t expect to see, however, is Poe crouched down on one knee, staring up at Finn with a hopeful expression on his face. Finn has clearly dropped his mug, bits of glass scattered around the living room floor. Ben takes in the scene – takes in his father’s face, wide with shock. Luke and Anakin’s argument has clearly been forgotten as they stare at the couple in the middle of the room. Rey is busy snapping pictures with her iPhone. His grandmother is reading a magazine, completely uninterested.

Finn, evidently unable to speak, makes an unintelligible noise in the back of his throat. He then launches himself at Poe, throwing his arms around his neck.

“I take it that’s a yes, then?”

Finn unhooks his arms from around Poe, staring into his face with so much love that Ben needs to look away. “Of course it is, dummy.”

After everyone has congratulated the newly engaged couple, Ben and Rey leave them to it, laughing when they hear his mother shouting at Poe and Finn for not waiting until she was at least in the room.

“I thought he was going to do it on Christmas Eve?” Ben asks Rey when they’re safely in the comfort of his room.

“Well, he was,” Rey grins. “Until we got into the living room and had to break up the fight between your uncle and grandfather.”

“I fail to see how that’s a romantic setting.”

“Oh, it’s totally not,” she smirks. “But Finn said something cute to diffuse the argument and then Poe just got this look on his face and before I knew it he was down on one knee.”

“Totally a spur of the moment thing, then?”

“Totally.” She straddles him on the bed and kisses him deeply, making Ben groan. “I think when you know it’s the right time, you know.”

“Yeah,” Ben says, gripping the back of her head and pulling her into another kiss.

He thinks he knows exactly when the right time is.

Well, if Poe isn’t proposing on Christmas Eve, he may as well.