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can't turn off what turns me on

Chapter Text

 

 

can't turn off what turns me on

 

 

 

Profile: Sand_Scavenger
Designation: Omega (Female)
Age: 22
Location: Seattle metro

[picture of freckled woman squinting up at the Space Needle]

Seeking: Alpha assistance for non-suppressed heat cycle
Dates: August 8-11
Preferences: Willing to remain on blockers, hotel-only, casual-only.

 

Rey’s profile is on the UPCOMING HEAT NOTIFICATION list for less than ten minutes before the inbox deluge begins.

Knot pic. Knot pic.

Message: Hi sweet thing. gettin slick?

Message: short notice but for a hard heat i’m totally dtr

Knot pic. Dick, balls, and knot pic.

Message: Hey. Like to do you. Let me konw.

Knot pic.

Rey bangs her head lightly against her phone.

There is no part, absolutely no part, of being an Omega that she does not hate, but heat matching apps? They are the fucking worst. Worse than the stained panties, worse than the uncompensated work loss, worse than the shitty free-clinic suppressants that barely do jack shit compared to the high end stuff that Omegas with halfway-decent health insurance get access to. All those things suck, but motherfucking heat matching apps are the absolute goddamn worst.

She’s cranky. So sue her.

Message: your perfect. Thirty seconds later: hello? Thirty seconds later: bitch.

Dick pic. Knot pic. Lower abs pic with the tattoo Alpha Ride and an arrow pointing downwards.

It’s midnight. Her heat’s due in barely twenty-four hours. She shouldn’t have left finding an Alpha until the last minute, she knows that, but it’s such a nightmare finding someone new.

(Why did Poe have to go and fall in love? After two just-bone-me-and-shut-up Alphas in a row -- and before that, The Time She Didn’t Talk About -- Poe had been great. He was good to her: arrogant, of course, but he followed her rules, kept her satiated, and always made sure things were light-hearted. They had three really good cycles together. But then they got friendly enough that they started hanging out outside of heat… which is how Poe met Finn... which is how Rey lost both an Alpha and a roommate.

They just adopted a cat. Finn sent her a video earlier today.

She’s happy for them both. She really, genuinely is. Just... not right now.)

Knot pic. Knot pic -- and from the look of it, the owner needs to see a medical professional immediately. Tomato emoji, eggplant emoji, three water emojis, winky-face emoji.

Oh, for God’s sake.

Her glands are already itchy and she’s changed her underwear twice. Unless she wants to spend three days in writhing misery, she’s going to have to swipe right on one of these prize winners.

Message: Hi. I saw your post. I would like to have a conversation with you, if you’re willing.

Rey pauses.

Correctly spelled words, accurate use of conjunctions, capitalization in the right places, and no up front request for nudes?

On a matching app, that’s basically a unicorn.

“All right,” she mutters, shifting on her sofa. (Rey rescued it from a curbside three years ago, and it’s still the most comfortable thing she’s ever owned.) She clicks through to Mr. Good Grammar’s profile. “Let’s see what’s wrong with you.”

 

Profile: Kylo_Ren
Designation: Alpha (Male)
Age: 29
Location: Seattle metro

[picture of dark-haired, unsmiling man in sunglasses]

Seeking: Omega to assist in heat cycle
Dates: N/A
Preferences: N/A

 

Well, he’s not picky, she’ll give him that. And he’s dressed in his profile pic, so… that’s a nice change.

She kind of likes the look of him, too; Rey’s not sure she’d notice him when walking down the street, but the longer she examines his picture, the more there is to see. Then again, it might be her hormones talking. Before much longer any Alpha’s going to look like God’s gift to Omegas.

He’s online, too.

She swipes.

 

Sand_Scavenger : Do you go into rut around hard heats?

 

Waiting. Waiting.

Then--

 

Kylo_Ren : What do you mean by ‘hard heat’?

Sand_Scavenger : As in, not a soft heat. Obviously.

 

Waiting.

 

Kylo_Ren : I don’t know what that means.

Kylo_Ren : I haven’t done this before.

Kylo_Ren : I hope that’s all right.

 

Huh? Rey checks his profile again; it was only created two days ago.

Oh. She winces, suddenly feeling like a jerk. It took her weeks to figure out the shorthand; months passed before she realized ‘dtr’ meant ‘down to rut’, instead of ‘define the relationship’ like on the Beta app Tinder. If Kylo_Ren hasn’t used a heat matching program before, it makes sense that he’s a little lost. (It also makes sense that he hasn’t give up apostrophes yet.)

 

Sand_Scavenger : Soft heats are for Omegas on Concealatrex. The new pills with the variable hormones. So those ‘I’m extra horny but a good dildo will do the trick’ heats are called ‘soft’ on here.

Sand_Scavenger : Like softcore porn.

Sand_Scavenger : It’s kind of derogatory.

Sand_Scavenger : But any Omega who can pay for the latest suppressants can survive a little mocking.

Kylo_Ren : I see.

 

Okay, yeah. Rey’s definitely acting like a jerk. Which isn’t a good sign for their compatibility. But, then again… it’s not like he’s actually said anything to make her feel bad. She’s just ranting at him for no reason. Stupid hormones.

She continues:

 

Sand_Scavenger : I’m on the cheap stuff where if you don’t have an unsuppressed cycle every six months you develop immunity and it stops working at all. So the ‘if you don’t fuck me raw and tell me I’m a good girl I’ll lose my mind’ heats get labeled ‘hard’. Which is what I’m stuck with.

 

Then, to make amends for her abruptness before:

 

Sand_Scavenger : Don’t feel bad. Took me awhile to figure it out too.

Sand_Scavenger : And I’m sorry for being crabby. I promise I’m usually more pleasant than this.

Kylo_Ren : No need to apologize. The day before an Omega’s heat cycle is a biologically tempestuous time.

Sand_Scavenger : You sound like you’re reading from an instruction manual.

Kylo_Ren : I am.

 

Rey cracks a smile, in spite of her mood. All right, he’s funny. Point in his favor. (The other point in his favor is that her message box is still pinging with notifications, and if she reads ‘show me ur slick’ one more time she’s going to hand Finn a butcher knife and beg for a hysterectomy.)

He’s typing again.

 

Kylo_Ren : With regards to your original question, I’m on very strong blockers. As long as I take them, I don’t go into rut. Even around unsuppressed Omegas in heat.

Kylo_Ren : Which is not to say Omegas in heat don’t catch my attention.

Kylo_Ren : Or that you wouldn’t catch my attention.

Kylo_Ren : I’m sure you would.

Kylo_Ren : I assume that’s what you want.

Kylo_Ren : My attention, I mean.

Sand_Scavenger : That’s kind of the idea, yeah.

 

Okay, he’ll do. Rey swipes back to the app’s main screen, changes her notice to ‘filled’ (ha-ha), and deletes all the other messages clogging up her inbox.

 

Sand_Scavenger : I want you to stay on blockers the whole time. That’s a deal-breaker. Do you agree?

Kylo_Ren : I do.

Sand_Scavenger : Do not come near my mating gland. Do not touch it, do not smell it, do not put your mouth ANYWHERE near it, no matter what I say at the time. That’s not me, THIS is me, and the mating gland is 100% off-limits. Understand?

Kylo_Ren : Yes.

Sand_Scavenger : And the short notice isn’t a problem?

Kylo_Ren : I’m between jobs at the moment, so no.

Sand_Scavenger : There’s a decent heat hotel on Takodana Avenue. I’ll send you the address. We can split the cost.

Kylo_Ren : I’ll pay.

Sand_Scavenger : You just said you’re between jobs.

Kylo_Ren : It’s not an issue. Alphas tend to Omegas in heat. I’ll pay.

 

The independent, I-take-care-of-myself-just-fine part of Rey wants to protest. The Omega, I’m-almost-in-hard-heat part of Rey likes the assertiveness and the promise of her needs being met.

But, in reality, it’s the practical, I-don’t-have-a-new-roommate-yet-and-hotels-are-expensive part of Rey that gets the deciding vote.

 

Sand_Scavenger : All right. You pay.

Sand_Scavenger : I’m off work at 6, so tomorrow at 7, then? Shouldn’t start full-force until the next morning, so we’ll have a few hours to ease in.

 

(Working that close to her heat will be miserable, but she can’t afford to take off a single hour more than necessary. She’s going to be eating ramen for the next month as it is.)

 

Kylo_Ren : 7 is fine.

Sand_Scavenger : Okay. I’ll see you then.

Kylo_Ren : Wait

Kylo_Ren : You’re logging off?

 

Rey pauses just before closing the window. Frowns at the message.

And replies.

 

Sand_Scavenger : Was there something else?

 

Waiting.

Waiting.

 

Kylo_Ren : No. I suppose this is the customary level of communication.

 

Oh, right. First time with a matching app.

 

Sand_Scavenger : Yeah, usually. I mean, I’m an Omega going into heat. You’re an Alpha looking to fuck an Omega going into heat. That’s pretty much all anyone needs to know about each other on here.

 

Waiting.

Waiting.

Waiting.

 

Kylo_Ren : Yes. I imagine instinct takes care of the rest.

Sand_Scavenger : Exactly.

 

But because that feels unsatisfying, Rey adds:

 

Sand_Scavenger : But we can talk about our favorite movies during those couple sane minutes when we’re knotted. Sound good?

Kylo_Ren : Sounds good.

Kylo_Ren : May I know your name before we meet in person?

Kylo_Ren : Unless it’s Scavenger.

 

Rey snorts.

 

Sand_Scavenger : No, that’s an old joke. A bad one. From when I was a kid.

Sand_Scavenger : But sometimes you have to make fun of the past, because if it weren’t funny, it would just be true, you know?

Kylo_Ren : Yes. I do.

Sand_Scavenger : I’m Rey.

Sand_Scavenger : Who are you?

Kylo_Ren : I’m Ben.

Sand_Scavenger : I’ll see you tomorrow, Ben.

Kylo_Ren : I’ll see you tomorrow, Rey.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

 

“I think you left it too late,” says Finn. “Hell, even I can smell you.”

Rey drums her fingers against the armrest and glares through the wet windshield. “Still a few hours left before it’s bad,” she says.

The taillights in front of them wink off. The Toyota they’re behind crawls forward... all of two feet. Then, taillights back on.

“Though if we’re still in traffic by then,” she adds, “things could get exciting.”

“I don’t carry a gun anymore.”

“I have a taser.”

“Oh, yeah, that’ll help against a swarm of rutting Alphas. They’ll tear me apart to get to you. It’ll be like the Walking Dead, but with dicks.”

“Don’t be dramatic. And Alphas move a lot faster than zombies.”

“Not helping, Peanut.”

“Sorry.” Rey chooses not to mention that part of her doesn’t, uh, exactly hate the idea of a swarm of Alphas right now. Gross.

Finn’s right; she cut it way too close this time. But her boss is already pissed about her absence -- like Rey is going into heat just for the hell of it, rather than it being an unavoidable biological function -- so leaving early the shift before her three-day ‘vacation’ just wasn’t going to fly. And Rey has to keep this job. It’s hard to find employment in a country you don’t technically exist in.

Of course, an hour ago, it didn’t seem like that big a deal to stay and finish out the last Trans-Am. An hour ago, the only thing she could smell was motor oil.

An hour ago, she wasn’t stuck behind a fender-bender, reeking of pheromones so strongly she didn’t dare walk the last mile to the hotel.

The dashboard clock reads 6:25, which means it’s actually seven-twenty-five because Finn never bothers to set for Daylight Savings Time. Your Alpha will be displeased. The Omega side of her is freaking out already. He’s waiting and you aren’t there. He will not find you desirable.

They creep forward another two feet.

“What if he leaves?” she frets.

“Then we’ll call Poe.”

“I’m not sleeping with your boyfriend.”

“You already have.”

“That was before he was your boyfriend.”

“Rey, it really isn’t that big of a deal, okay? He and I talked about it, and--”

“It would be weird.”

“It’s not like we’ve never shared anything before.”

“Poe’s not a toothbrush.”

“You know what I mean.”

(They met four years ago in the Greyhound station, at three AM, two runaways counting out coins for the vending machine. Neither had more than sixty cents. They looked at each other -- just looked -- then wordlessly combined their money to split a bag of Planters peanuts.

And yes, since then, she and Finn have shared everything. Beds, cars, food, secrets. He even tried to help her through her first heat after The Time She Doesn’t Talk About, but it just didn’t work -- not only because Finn’s a Beta, but because that’s not who they are, convenient though it would be.

Nothing about her life is convenient.)

“I’m just saying,” says Finn, “I don’t want you to go back to meeting up with random Alpha assholes because of me.” He pauses. “I’ll… I’ll break up with Poe, if you want.”

“Now you’re really being dramatic.” Rey reaches over to flick his arm and hide the fact that she’s genuinely moved. “If it helps,” she offers, “this random Alpha asshole didn’t send me any knot pics.”

“Holy shit.”

“I know, right? Even Poe sent them when we first--”

“I did not need to know that.”

 

 

***

 

 

The rug is threadbare and the light fixtures are cheap, but Maz’s place has all the fundamentals of a proper heat hotel: soundproof rooms, industrial air ventilation, 24-hour laundry service. Which is why even though the parking lot is full, Rey doesn’t hear or smell a thing (other than herself) when she finally checks in at seven-fifty.

Maz, an Alpha of indeterminate age so short she needs a stepping stool to reach over the desk, takes a deep sniff and frowns at Rey. “You left it too late, kiddo,” she says. “Room 304.”

“I know, I know. Please tell me there’s someone else in there.”

“If he’s gone, he didn’t come out this way.”

“Thank God.”

She takes the stairs two at a time.

What if he doesn’t like you? (Oh, Rey hates this part of herself, the needy, clingy part that requires Alpha affirmation just to feel like she has purpose on this earth.) You shaved your legs, you put on mascara, but you’re almost an hour late, so what if he--

The key card almost falls from her shaking fingers, but on the third swipe she manages to get the lock open, slide in, and close the door behind her. “I’m so sorry I’m late,” she says immediately. “Traffic was terr--”

“Don’t be sorry. I’m not upset.”

And -- just like that -- sweet, blessed comfort. Peace of mind. All because some Alpha she’s never met before isn’t annoyed with her.

(Being an Omega is the worst.)

The Alpha in question is seated on the bed (which is sensibly bolted to the wall), but he stands… and stands… and stands. And Rey gets her first look at the guy who’s hopefully going to fuck her blind for the next forty-eight hours.

The Omega inside her almost keels over with joy.

Ben is, like, a medical dictionary’s definition of an Alpha. Very, very tall. Very, very broad. Very, very muscular (Rey can see that even through the black jumper he’s wearing). The picture from the app must have been an old one, because now he’s got a scar that stretches from just above his eye into his collar -- a scar that screams to her hormones This one has fought other Alphas and won, this is an Alpha’s Alpha, this one will fend off intruders and build a strong house and provide well for your many progeny.

Thank goodness she renewed her birth control shot last week. “Hi,” she manages to gasp.

He visibly swallows. “Hi.”

Oh, God, his voice. Take me now, Alpha.

Rey doesn’t break eye contact as she toes off her shoes, unbuttons her shirt, shimmies out of her leggings. Ben, he doesn’t move, but his pupils noticeably dilate with each article of clothing she removes.

She can see it. She can see in his gaze and in the line of his jeans how much he approves, but-- Tell me you like me, the primal thing inside her urges him. Tell me you like me. Tell me I’m good. Tell me you approve.

(Ugh, and this is her when she’s still ramping up. In six hours she’ll be saying crap like that out loud -- and meaning it. Seriously, being an Omega is just the worst.)

Rey kicks off her underwear. Slick, thick and slippery, smears across her inner thighs.

Ben inhales sharply -- then again. Slowly.

Tell me you like me. Please, Alpha, tell me I’m good.

She’s naked and he hasn’t even moved. What’s wrong? Doesn’t he know what to do, what she needs--

--ah, then--

--whatever the problem was, it’s gone now, because this Alpha’s hands are fucking everywhere. “You are…” He bends himself down, presses his face to the side of her throat. His fingers dig into the curve of her ass. “You smell so…”

So does he. “You stayed on blockers, right?” she gasps, pulling frantically at his clothes.

(Who cares! screams the Omega.)

“I did. Don’t worry.” One hand fists into her hair. His teeth graze the gland just below her ear, the one he’s allowed to touch. “Don’t worry, Omega.”

Oh, delicious relief. Yes, don’t worry. This Alpha will take care of you. You, Rey, who always has to take care of herself. It is okay now. You are okay now.

Yeah, Finn and Maz were right. She left it too long. A few hours ago, she and Ben could have at least had a conversation first, a glass of wine, something, but now--

Why, oh why is he not naked yet?

“Bed,” he says as she whimpers and tries to climb him like a tree. “Come here. Come with me and get on the bed.”

The wall is fine by her, but if the bed is where her Alpha wants her, then that’s where she’ll be, that’s okay too. Rey hops up onto the mattress without further urging and spreads her legs wide.

Look at me. Tell me this is what you want. Tell me I’m good.

He looks.

“Oh,” he says. Just that. Then again: “Oh.”

It’s not what she wants to hear, but words aren’t everything, and his scent is more than approving. And finally, finally, he is taking off his shirt--

--her mouth goes dry--

--and his jeans--

“Oh,” she says, in the same soft voice he had just used on her. “Oh.”

He’s above her without any further preamble. No exploration, no study, no teasing, just his thick, phenomenally hard cock (which she is very happy to have seen for the first time in person rather than via text) nudging against her sopping wet entrance. “Is this all right?” he asks, hovering over her. “Like this?”

Rey’s halfway into a hard heat; he could have her any which way and she’d be mewling in gratitude. But it feels good -- maybe not to the Omega, but to the rest of her -- that he asked so politely. “Yes,” she says. “Like this.”

He slides home in one thrust.

Oh.

Rey digs her heels into the bed, her nails into his shoulders, and prepares to be fucked through the floor, because oh my God.

But that isn’t what happens.

For a moment Ben does nothing more than breathe against her throat and tremble under her hands. Then-- one slow, experimental movement. Another. Another.

Please, Alpha, please, fuck me harder, tell me I’m--

“You,” he gasps into her hair, “are the best thing I’ve ever felt in my life.”

--and Rey’s coming so hard her vision whites out.

The best thing.

Then a moment later it’s so much better, it’s absurdly better, the pressure builds inside and all the right places are rubbed, pressed, are unyielding against her, she can’t take it but this is what she was built for, this is what she and he were made to do--

His hand slides behind the small of her back, lifts her closer as he pushes as deep as it’s possible to get. He makes nonsense noises above her, Yes and Good, something soothing, praising, helpless in his approval as he comes along with her for long, long moments.

Oh.

Yes. This is what she needed.

Exactly what she needed.

 

***

 

Several minutes pass before they are both still and silent. Finally he rolls them over and settles her on his chest; they are, of course, still locked together.

Well.

That was quick.

Not in a bad way. At all. But now they're at the awkward part… made extra-awkward by that whole lack of pre-sex talking thing.

Rey clears her throat. She tucks her head beneath his chin, as much to avoid eye contact as to enjoy the enthralling post-coital Alpha scent. “So. Hi, again.”

“Hi.”

“I’m Rey.”

“I certainly hope so.”

And they haven’t even kissed yet.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

 

See, the problem with being both an Omega and a person who taught herself to use a gas stove when she was six because it wasn’t like anyone else was going to feed her is that an Omega loves comfort, cuddling, and lots of skin-to-skin contact, while the girl stirring the canned peas knows that wishing for cuddles is a waste of energy and only makes you sad.

So Rey isn’t very… good… at the post-coital part of heatsex. This is the part where she is supposed to be still and satiated and content. This is the part where the Alpha is supposed to pet and stroke and do everything he can to contribute to that euphoric sense of well-being, because a Happy Omega is a Fertile Omega, and that’s the whole point of the stupid biological dance anyway.

And the Omega part of Rey -- yes, she wants to be held close.

The rest of Rey gets restless after about ninety seconds.

Which is really unfortunate -- because the stuck-together part, which is when the whole ‘clutch-the-mate-to-your-chest’ instinct is strongest in Alphas -- tends to last about half an hour. A long, awkward, fidgety half hour.

But then:

“Sit up. I want to look at you.”

Huh.

Well… okay.

It takes a moment to maneuver, but Rey manages to straddle herself across Ben’s pelvis without causing any significant damage. He’s still solid inside her (and this new position feels pretty damn good, actually) but has lost enough girth to allow for some wiggle room.

She sits up, and they study each other.

The lighting from the bedside lamp isn’t flattering. Mind, it’s hard to feel too down on yourself when an Alpha’s cock is eight inches deep in your cunt, but Rey feels like Ben’s gaze is lingering on where there should be shadows but aren’t, or where there are shadows that shouldn’t be. (Omegas aren’t supposed to have wiry muscles in their arms and legs. They should have wider hips, softer skin, much more generous bosoms. More than one person has told Rey as such.)

Am I good enough, Alpha? Rey’s whole Omega-ness urges him to respond to her, her inner walls fluttering where they grip his knot as her glands secrete imploring pheromones. Do I please you?

His lips part, but he doesn’t say anything.

She can’t read him at all.

After what feels like an eternity, his large hands grip her thighs. “Tell me about yourself,” he orders, and she instantly understands that, whatever he does day-to-day, this is a man accustomed to obedience. “Who are you, ‘Sand Scavenger’?”

“I’m an Omega,” Rey tells him.

His palms move to her hips, her waist; he traces the skin of her abdomen. “I know that. What else?”

“What else do you want?”

Warm, firm hands on her breasts. He’s not very gentle, but she’s not in a very gentle mood, so that’s fine. A callus on his left thumb scrapes against her nipple and she shivers. “I don’t know,” he mumbles. “Where are you from? What part of Britain?”

If Rey were capable of feeling doused in cold water right now, that would do it. It doesn’t matter that ‘where are you from’ is the first question most people ask; it still makes her jumpy every time.

But she’s building to a hard heat -- there’s really nothing that can turn her off. “London,” she lies vaguely, curling her fingers around his wrists to hold them in place. She rocks against his hips. “Keep doing that, please.”

“What do you do for a living?”

Another rock. There’s just enough room now to get a bit of friction, and oh, is it good. “I’m a mechanic.”

“Ah. That explains the smell.”

Rey blinks. “Rude.”

He cocks his head to the side. “Is it?”

“How would you like it if I guessed your job based on how you smell?”

“I very much doubt you could.”

“Hmm.” Challenge accepted -- Rey has always been good at reading scents. She releases Ben’s wrists (his hands go to the small of her back) and leans forward, stretching herself out languidly, taking advantage of this little bit of remaining time where she can still be coquettish enough to distract him from questions she doesn’t want to answer.

You’re an Alpha, I’m an Omega. That’s enough.

He has moles and freckles all over his face and chest. That scar draws halfway down his pec; she’s mightily curious about it, but she isn’t going to ask, that will only invite more personal inquiry. When she grinds down his breathing hitches.

(They’re about to start again, aren’t they. That quickly. Without really pulling apart first. He’s got quite a refractory period, even for heat, and Rey’s not complaining.)

She tangles her fingers into his soft, soft hair, and pulls it very slightly; he tilts his head back, exposing his throat to her. It’s an oddly un-Alpha-like move, but she likes it.

“Who are you, ‘Kylo Ren’?” she murmurs.

Rey nuzzles her face against the line of Ben’s jaw--

--and nips at his scent gland.

He grunts, grabs her hips, and starts fucking up into her as hard as their bodies will let him.

Her senses are full of Alpha from this perspective, her nose and her mouth and her bloodstream. She licks a line across his skin to taste what he’s feeling…

... oh.

Oh, that’s not what she expected at all.

But there’s not enough time to think about the cocktail of neuroses happening underneath her, because he’s dragging her to the edge again, and after all, this is why they’re here.

 

 

***

 

 

Still, after, she says: “Why are you so nervous?”

He stiffens. “I wouldn’t say I’m nervous.”

(Rey wouldn’t, either. ‘Nervous’ is the delicate way of phrasing it. What she tasted was a lot more like fear. Which is upsetting to her, as an Omega, because if an Alpha is frightened then something bad is happening/has happened/is about to happen.)

Her skepticism must be radiating out of her pores, because a moment later Ben concedes: “I am… slightly less than comfortable.”

“Oh.”

He is uncomfortable. You are not pleasing to your Alpha. He does not enjoy you.

A heartbeat later he’s holding her much tighter, cradling her in the kind of reassuring embrace that is unique between an Alpha and a disheartened Omega. “No, no, shh, no,” he croons softly. (Rey absolutely hates how good it feels to be shushed like a fretful child.) “I’ve upset you. Don’t be afraid.”

“I’m not afraid.”

“You smell afraid.”

“So do you. I don’t understand.”

“No, no, it’s all right.” He strokes her hair, presses a kiss to her temple. (It’s almost as wonderful as the orgasms. Rey does not know how to be soothed, but the Omega in her does.) “I’m…” He winces, then says, very formally, “I am distracted by concerns regarding your gratification.”

Wait.

What?

Rey lifts herself up (at least he’s not crushing her into the mattress, he’s huge). Ben doesn’t quite make eye contact. “You’re worried about whether I’m coming?” she asks in disbelief. “You know I’m in heat, right?”

“I’m aware.”

She shimmies her hips a little, emphasizing their connection. Seriously, they haven’t even separated yet, how can he possibly-- “Can’t you tell that I’m--”

“Of course I can,” he huffs. His hair has fallen back, now, exposing ears that add to the sort of unexpected handsomeness of his face. Ears that are turning bright red.

“So…”

“So, there are expectations to meet beyond-- I suppose I expected instincts to provide more guidance than--” He cuts off at her incredulous look, scowls, and bluntly says: “Being a good Alpha isn’t just sticking my dick in you.”

Oh.

Uh.

Rey’s starting to blush, too. What do you even say to that? “Well, you’re… I mean…”

He groans. “And now you’re getting upset again.”

“I’m not upset!” She is a little. “It’s just… okay, I know you said you’re new to hook-up culture, so you probably don’t--”

“I’m new to all of it.”

Rey shuts her mouth.

Then.

She opens it again…

...and shuts it again.

Now Ben is definitely avoiding eye contact, and his ears are almost purple. “I thought you knew,” he mutters. “I told you.”

He expected you to know. Your Alpha is disappointed in you. You are a poor Omega. He wishes he had chosen another. You are not good.

And yet, he’s still hard and hot and pulsing inside her.

So Rey, the six-year-old girl who stoically ate canned peas, the Omega full of hormones who just took an Alpha's virginity and is about an hour away from near mindlessness, does the only thing she can.

She bursts into tears.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

When Ben Solo returned to the States, at the top of his “Build A Semi-Sane Life” priority list -- well, after burying his mother, depositing his cash in an untraceable account, and finding a place to live -- was “have sex”.

Who he would be having sex with made no difference to Ben whatsoever. It wasn’t about romance or personal connection, it was about making a statement. (Specifically, a statement that said Fuck You to absolutely every aspect of his life up until now, with extra sprinkles of You Don’t Own Me to the memories of Uncle Luke and Snoke.) He was twenty-nine years old, he was his own man, he was an Alpha for fuck’s sale, and sex was a normal healthy activity that he very much desired to participate in and should therefore be part of his routine, hopefully with some regularity.

Which was all well and good, until Ben remembered that since sex would involve a partner, and this would be the first time he’d be doing it, and that any of his shortcomings would, by definition, have an audience.

And Ben did not like audiences for his shortcomings.

At all.

So.

It was a dilemma.

Thus Ben decided that, since he obviously wanted to have sex with a heated Omega at some point anyway, because what kind of Alpha doesn’t want to have sex with an Omega in heat, that’s the platonic ideal of sex, he may as well go straight there because there are apps for that now, which he hadn’t known before because he’d spent most of the last three years killing people in the sort of places where data reception wasn’t much of a thing, and anyway it wouldn’t have mattered because the First Order stopped giving him electronics after the third laptop he destroyed in a fit of temper, and none of that was really here nor there, the important thing was that Ben did not want to overthink this and so connecting with an Omega in heat seemed like the best way to go.

After all, heated Omegas weren’t hard to please. It was all just a matter of instinct and biology.

Simple.

But then… because he wanted to cover all his bases, just in case… Ben made what he would later realize was a fatal error.

He read a book.

 

***

 

Okay, several books.

 

***

 

Okay, several books and a few blogs.

 

***

 

Several books, a few blogs…

…and Reddit.

But that was it.

Because he wasn’t overthinking this.

 

***

 

Thankfully, by the time he’d made an account, put up a profile, and started actually messaging Omegas, Ben had refilled his prescriptions -- blockers, but also the extra stuff Dr. Holdo was always on him to take whenever he got that “Alpha Skywalker urge to control an uncontrollable universe.” (Holdo had known his family for a long time.) Which meant that when he started talking to Rey, Ben could make himself admit to her that he might not be… instantly knowledgeable. About everything.

It didn’t seem to throw her.

They set up their meeting.

So that was good.

And while he had added three extra miles onto his afternoon jog, he had not gone to the gym and attacked a punching bag until he dislocated three knuckles. Because people living semi-sane lives did not cause fitness trainers to piss themselves.

 

***

 

Ben had been celibate (sort of inadvertently so), but not innocent. He’d traveled the entire world, seen things he’d rather forget, done things he’d never tell anyone about. He’d dragged Armitage Hux, the biggest asshole of an Omega he’d ever met in his entire life, out of more situations than either of them cared to remember. (Luckily for them both, their mutual loathing ran far, far deeper than any basic primal drive. Phasma, a fearsome Alpha in her own right, finally took charge of Hux and managed to keep the rabid cur under some semblance of control; hopefully one day she would feel free to kill him, now that Snoke was dead.) He’d watched the nightmare dance of his two Alpha parents (something that shouldn’t have been possible, but never tell a Skywalker it can’t be done). He’d seen people pair up in the worst ways. He had plenty of examples of what not to do.

Now. How to do it right.

The common thread between all those books and blogs and really fucked-up Reddit threads seemed to be this: the role of the Alpha was to care for an Omega through their heat. If it were just about basic penetration, a vibrator with a knot attachment would do the trick.

Omegas, on a fundamentally biological level, needed more than that.

They needed a sense of safety. Assurance. They needed blankets, because most of them liked to nest. They needed to be reminded to eat sometimes. They needed to feel like the center of the universe.

And, of course, they needed to be thoroughly, thoroughly fucked.

(It wasn’t like the penetration part wasn’t important.)

Ben was fairly certain he could provide all of those things. Alphas had been providing for Omegas since the dawn of time, after all. The trick was in providing them specifically for Rey the Sand Scavenger, whatever that meant, whose preferences he did not know, who had barely told him her name. Rey the Omega -- whom Ben would be quite happy to make the center of the universe for a few days -- had not made clear what kind of shiny objects she preferred to hang in her nest. Metaphorically speaking.

Well. He wasn’t the best at conversation -- of all the traits he’d inherited from his nightmare of a family tree, charm had been the one to pass him by -- but he’d manage. Rey had made it clear they were going to meet up before her heat really set in. So they’d have time to get to know each other a little.

It would be fine.

 

***

 

Point being:

Ben Solo had not been prepared, at all, for Rey the Sand Scavenger.

 

***

 

“Please…”

“I know.”

She arches under him, keening. “Please, Ben.”

“You’re all right,” Ben says -- a little hoarsely, yes, but he still says it. Rey is solidly into her heat now, a gorgeous mess of hormones and wanton greed. And he'll happily deliver anything she asks for, but it's difficult when she's too far gone to even pay attention to simple mechanics. If she doesn’t stop moving like that he won’t be able to-- “You’re all right, Rey.”

 Her nails dig into his back. “I need you to--”

“I know.”

Alpha--

“Rey. Be still.”

Just like that, she stops. She looks up at him, eyes wide, panting for breath, hair sticky with sweat, quiet and obedient, and this is transcendent.

So, this is what she wants. She wants to be spoken to like a First Order recruit he’s bent on destroying.

He can do that.

“I’m going to help you.” He takes her hands from his shoulders, pins her wrists above her head. “I’m going to fuck you.”

(He’s smelled Omegas in heat before, but there’s no comparison between some random scent on the breeze and Rey, who was definitely lying about being from London, hot and soaking beneath him, full of his come already and literally begging for more. They’re not even in the same galaxy.)

“You don’t need to worry.”

Kind words, in the same tone he’d use to order someone’s death.

“I’ll give you what you need.”

Her expression is heartbreaking. “Promise?” she says, hesitantly.

“I promise.”

He slides in, she arches again, and fuck.

There are so many more things that Ben understands, now. He understands why people break worlds. Whole worlds. Just for this sensation.

He buries his face in the curve of her throat as he fucks her, because that’s where her scent is strongest, and where he can feel her moans vibrating against his lips. The little rough patch of her gland tastes earthy and exquisite in his mouth. This part is as natural as he hoped it would be; millions of years of evolutionary instincts are the perfect guide, and they tell him to hitch one of her legs over his shoulder and drive deeper, to fuck her into the mattress.

(The other part, it isn’t natural. He doesn’t know why she was crying two hours ago, and was too mortified to ask. He doesn’t know why she stopped and fucked him again, and asking now won’t do any good, because she’s only making sense for short stretches while they’re knotted. He doesn’t understand--)

“Oh, please,” she begs. There’s still something missing, for her. “Please--

“What do you want, Omega? Tell me.”

It takes a moment -- but shyly -- somehow shyly, with both of them stark naked and him inside her, his pelvis bruising her thighs with each thrust -- she says the most nonsensical thing imaginable: “Do you like this?”

Ben stops moving.

That is how absurd the question is.

“Do I like this?” He lifts his head, bewildered. Nearly offended, actually. “Do I like this?”

Rey blinks a few times, the hazy look in her eyes clearing a little. A very light blush rises between the freckles on her cheeks.

Then she looks away. “Never mind,” she mumbles.

Does he like this.

Ben pulls out, flips her over, and fucks back into her before she has time to draw breath. “Do you really,” he manages, clutching her hips for leverage, “need me to tell you how good this is?”

She gasps. “Yes, please.”

Oh.

That was meant to be rhetorical.

Ben has never felt his way through words -- throwing things, breaking things, yes, but Use your words, Ben, no -- but he can try, maybe not articulately, not now, but--

--if his Omega needs her Alpha to say it, then--

--she pushes her ass back against him, the curve of her spine dimpled and shadowed, he grabs her hair and the truth is dragged from him as his knot swells inside her: “I would kill for this.”

Rey chokes, and another gush of slick eases his way as he shoves himself deeper. “I would--” he bends over her, pushed to some place beyond honesty as her cunt grips him in waves “--I’m a monster, but I would do so much worse than I’ve ever done because you are so good, Sand Scavenger--”

Fuck, everything he ever thought about orgasms was wrong, too, because he didn’t know the universe could actually realign like this. He had no idea anything could feel as good as Rey wild beneath him, slick all over and crying out, thanking him for fucking her, for touching her.

As though it weren’t him who ought to be on his knees.

 

***

 

Being locked together from the back is much easier to manage than front-to-front; Rey spoons perfectly against his frame. She makes a contented little noise as he strokes her hair from the back of her neck.

Your Omega is happy. This is why you exist.

Yes. This is why he exists. This is that center of the universe thing.

Really, everything makes so much more sense now.

And Ben is thinking these pleasant, muddled, knotted-together thoughts…

...right up until he sees Rey’s mating gland, and the scars of teeth marks in it.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

Rey feels it -- literally feels it -- the moment Ben sees her mating gland. Before he freezes up. Before his scent changes to something distressed and vaguely aggressive. She knows before those things; she knows the second, the second he lays eyes on the bite mark. It’s like a sixth sense, now.

She always knows.

“I’m not mated,” she tells him.

A pause. “But--”

“I’m not mated. You’re not stepping on some other Alpha’s territory. It doesn’t matter.”

You are a bad Omega, the crappy stupid animal inside her says. Your Alpha is displeased. Your Alpha does not want to share. You are not giving him what you ought.

The stupid crappy animal voice can go straight to hell.

(Maybe she would have told him beforehand, if she hadn’t been late. The first Alphas after The Time She Doesn’t Talk About hadn’t noticed -- her hair was longer then, on purpose -- but Poe noticed, and he’d freaked out too, but then dropped it when she’d overridden every instinct in her heated body and told him if he said one word about it then he could stand in the hall with blue balls for the next two days. He listened and they were fucking again soon after, but still, it hadn’t been the best few minutes.

Still, though. He’d still looked, and often. She had known when he was looking.

So maybe she would have given Ben a heads up. Just to avoid something like this.

Or maybe not.)

She adds: “And it’s none of your business.”

Waiting. Waiting. Like the living equivalent of bubbles on a text message.

Finally:

“Okay.”

Rey exhales.

Soon, though -- much too soon -- he’s softened enough to slip out of her, and the moment he can disengage, Ben gets up from the bed and disappears into the bathroom. Even Poe hadn’t done that.

You are in heat and yet he can release you. You are not satisfying your Alpha.

(Tell those Omega genes they can fuck the hell off, Finn had said whenever she came back from treatments sore and scared. He was the only one she’d told. You’re more than your biology, Peanut.)

Rey hears the shower turn on. Ben’s washing her off.

Well.

That’s… that’s fine. That’s his choice. It’s going to be fine.

Except five minutes later Rey understands that it’s definitely not going to be fine, because there is no level of social discomfort that can compete with the speedball of hormones in her bloodstream right now, and she’s already starting to squirm against the sheets again. The mattress is thrice-coated-in-sealant (Rey is pretty sure they hose it down with bleach after each booking) and the wreck they’re making hasn’t soaked very deep; a Beta would probably be appalled, but Rey could coat herself in this mess and be all the happier for it.

The scent -- the primal, wild scent -- only helps to rekindle the endlessly indomitable ache deep inside her.

Come back, Alpha.

She might be more than her biology, but it still won’t be denied.

Please come back. I’ll be so good.

The bathroom door opens, and she can’t help it -- she curls into a ball and rolls over. She is going to maintain one teeny, tiny scrap of dignity; she is not going to whine and scratch for him like some kind of abandoned puppy at the pound.

At least, not until her uterus overrides her brain again.

Being an Omega is the. Fucking. Worst.

Rey can smell that he didn’t use soap; the level of relief she feels over such a relatively small gesture is nine kinds of absurd. But then another door opens, and oh God, he’s not really leaving, is he?--

--but no, there’s a rustle, and then he’s standing next to the bed, the heat radiating from his body. “Do you need these?”

She looks up. Ben is holding a pile of blankets from the closet -- cheap ones that can be easily shredded and replaced. She must look confused, because he explains: “I thought you might be nesting. You’re all wrapped up.”

Oh. She is wrapped up, isn’t she. “No. I don’t nest. Never have. But… thanks.”

He nods, and sets the blankets on the floor. Rey notes he is rapidly becoming… interested again. The sight makes her uncurl, spread her legs a little, push the tangled sheets out of the way. If she is a prisoner of her biology, there’s comfort in knowing she isn’t the only one.

Ben climbs back into bed, and the moment his hands make contact with her body, she moans. He makes a deep, pleased noise in response. “Rey?”

“Uh-huh?”

“What’s your favorite movie?”

She stops nuzzling into his throat. He tastes so good and she wants more of his scent on her skin. “What?”

“Your favorite movie.” Ben is on top of her again; his weight is the best, the absolute best thing. “You did say you would discuss it.”

Give him something, Omega. He couldn’t be clearer if he’d said it aloud. If not the story of your scars, something else. It would please him to know.

Her skin is on fire, now. Yes, she wants to please him. She wants to, she wants that--

He inhales sharply. “Never mind.”

--but she can’t think anymore. Thinking is gone because he’s inside her again, where he should be. He’s making a point of it this time, going hard and fast, putting his back into it, she wraps her legs around him and holds on for dear life--

“--don’t tell me, whatever you want, have whatever you want, take whatever you want--”

--she hears foreplay is a really nice thing that some people do, she’s never tried it, but she doesn’t want it during heat, she’s just so thankful that he’s fucking her like this, slamming into all the right places inside her and soothing that ache in a way nothing else can--

“--so good, little Omega, can’t you feel how good you are?”

(Shit, she would never have guessed he was a virgin. Awkward conversationalist, but this part is exactly the way it should be, why would she ever mind being an Omega when an Alpha like Ben is here taking care of her so well?)

He bites hard at her shoulder and she’s keening. “Good girl,” he gasps. “Oh, such a good girl, couldn’t be more perfect than the way you are, do you need to hear that?”

She does.

“Ah, you do.”

She really, really does.

 

***

 

Kung Fu Panda.”

“Hmm?”

“My favorite movie is Kung Fu Panda. It’s funny. And I like the turtle.”

“I’ve never seen it.”

“Oh, you should.” She can flat-out smell how pleased he is by knowing such a small piece of her life, but it’s just a natural Alpha thing, so she stops herself before she says something ridiculous like I have it at home, maybe when this is over we should-- “You never told me what your job was.”

“You never tried to guess.” He shifts a little, settles her more securely on his chest, strokes her back. Her lower back. “Besides, like I said, I’m unemployed at the moment.”

“Okay, what was your job? I’m too tired to guess.”

His hand doesn’t pause, but there’s a distinctly closed note in the way he says: “Let’s leave that for another time.”

Well, now she definitely wants to know. Which is hypocritical, of course -- she has no right to press, she has her secrets, he can have his -- but if he gets to know her favorite movie, then she should get something in return. It’s only fair.

Talk to me, Alpha. I want to know you a little, Ben.

“Do you like mushrooms?”

“Can’t stand them.”

“Me neither.”

 

***

 

After a nap and two orgasms: “Which Hogwarts house are you in?”

“I don’t know-- oh, that’s Harry Potter, right? I never read it.”

“Ben. Oh my God. Were you raised by wolves?”

“No, by my uncle. Mostly, anyway. He was a Jesuit priest; didn’t have a lot of kids’ books around.”

“Oh, wow.”

“Yeah. I thought maybe I’d be one too. A priest, I mean.” Ben pauses, and seems to realize that this is maybe a weird conversation to be having when they’re both covered in slick and semen. “It didn’t work out that way.”

“Clearly.”

 

***

 

Then later:

“Do you have any pets?”

“No. But my best friend and my Alp-- er, his boyfriend, they just got a cat, so it’ll probably be sort of mine.”

A long, long pause. “Do you like cats?” asks Ben, and Rey is grateful, so ludicrously grateful, that he let that go.

“They’re all right.” She takes a breath. “But, um… I did have a guinea pig for awhile, when I was a kid.” (She can give him this much. It’s okay.) “A neighbor gave her to me. I called her Porgie.”

“Cute name.”

“Uh-huh.” (It’s okay.) “The man I was living with, he said she cost too much to feed--” he said I cost too much to feed “--so he locked me in the bathroom and threw her out the back door. I’m pretty sure a hawk ate her.”

Ben is very still. “I see,” he says evenly. “How old were you?”

“Nine.”

Another long, long pause. “And this man you were living with: is he still alive?”

“I think so.”

“Would you like that to change?”

She can tell it isn’t an idle offer. Rey hasn’t dared to ask, but the line running down Ben’s face -- and the mark on his shoulder, the mass of scar tissue on his side, countless others scattered amongst the moles and freckles -- they obviously didn’t come from an accident. That should scare her. This should scare her. He should scare her.

And maybe he will, soon. But not right now.

Your Alpha wishes to protect you. He wants you to feel cared for and safe. Your Alpha would attack those who would hurt you or make you unhappy.

It’s enough to make the Omega in her beg for his touch again -- and he is quick, very quick to oblige.

 

***

 

And even later:

“All right, this is a really important question. Like, super important.”

“Okay.”

“So you need to prepare yourself. Are you prepared?”

“I think so.”

They’re on their sides, facing each other. Rey puts on her most serious expression. “Coke, or Pepsi?”

Ben looks at her for a moment. He’s got flecks of gold in his eyes.

He says: “Fanta. Grape flavor.”

And in between berating him for dodging the question, Rey can’t help but notice how his laughter transforms his entire face.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

Ben hasn’t slept more than four hours a night since he turned eighteen and got hired by First Order.

It had been tough at the time -- five mile run, training, training, thirty minutes to shovel as much protein in his mouth as possible, training, training, informational videos, protein, show the other recruits why even when you’re armed with an M9 it’s not a good idea to laugh at someone who carries his great-great-grandfather’s ancestral longsword because it turns out he can absolutely fuck your shit up with that thing, ten mile run, bed, then get up and do it again the next day -- but not too tough. Stamina in the face of sleep deprivation was something Ben had possessed a natural talent for, even beyond the usual standards for an Alpha. First Order -- and Snoke -- honed that skill into something nearly superhuman, which even now, three months after getting out, he can’t seem to turn off.

Sleeping isn’t his thing.

(Dr. Holdo gave him some pills for this, too. Something about how sleep is your brain’s reboot period, and how not getting any REM is a straight shot to permanent neurological damage. He hasn’t taken them yet. They’re on the ‘semi-sane life’ list, but the list is long.)

So Ben is doing just fine, even though Alphas are supposed to go into rut if they want to keep up with Omegas in heat. Rey’s been falling into catnaps off-and-on, which is supposedly very normal after the first eighteen hours or so, but aside from a few minutes here and there while tied together and blissed out, he’s stayed wide awake.

It feels right that way. Natural. He’ll keep watch so Rey can rest.

Only issue is, while he might not be sleepy, he is seriously fucking hungry. Which is a surprisingly major problem.

He’s not going to order in from somewhere, because he can’t imagine it’ll go over well if he demands a full genetic workup of the restaurant’s delivery team -- he has no intention of allowing another Alpha anywhere near his Omega. But he’s also not leaving Rey alone in this room. No chance. Not even long enough to cross the street and order a Big Mac. He’ll starve first.

(Fuck, sex is making him so dramatic, even by Alpha Skywalker standards. He’d like to say it’s just the heat, but Ben knows his family history; this is probably his life now.)

And what about Rey? Should she eat? He can’t remember if Omegas get hungry during heat or not, but they’re burning through massive amounts of calories, and she doesn’t have any natural fat stores. Every inch of her is lean and to the point. He doesn’t want her to get sick.

“Hey,” he says softly. She’s face down in bed beside him -- she’d fallen asleep mid-conversation and barely stirred when he rolled onto his back thirty minutes ago, only making a little distressed mewling noise when it seemed like he might be breaking skin contact. (Which, of course, he didn’t. Because that would be ridiculous.) “Sweetheart--”

--did he just call her sweetheart? Oh, fuck no, if there’s going to be a pet name it is definitely not going to be that one--

“--uh, Rey? Are you hungry?”

Rey mumbles something incoherent and burrows deeper into the sheets. Her hair falls to the side as she does.

And there, just there, deep in the lushly scented, silver-dollar-sized welt at the base of her skull… are white teeth marks.

White teeth marks he is not supposed to ask about.

“Omega. Wake up.”

She opens her eyes quickly in response to the firmer tone. “Hmm? What’s wrong?”

What’s wrong is that someone somewhere bit your mating gland and I do not like that and when you think of it you smell distressed and I do not like that either but I don’t know what happened or who to blame or how to make it no longer distressing. “Do you have any granola bars?”

Rey just blinks at him.

That is fair.

Because what kind of idiot looks at a naked Omega and asks for granola bars.

“I didn't bring anything to eat,” he explains lamely.

(He’s clearly not suited to interact with normal society. He should probably just pack up and return to the death-and-destruction business, which, psychological devastation aside, he was really good at -- but leaving your boss in two pieces on the way out is a notable black mark on your employment record, even in the world of contract mercenaries.)

Rey just looks up at him, though, and the way she does...

...food’s not that important.

Except his stomach betrays him. By growling. Audibly.

He has literally lost count of how many times he’s knotted her and pumped her full of his come -- and he can’t imagine stopping. She writhes and gasps when he tells her true things about herself, like how good she feels, and how good she makes him feel, and how good he feels making her feel good, and after when she's briefly relaxed she tells him true things like how she hates snow but loves rain, and then they start again. It’s a cycle he has no intention of breaking. Especially not because of hunger.

(If he were in rut he could go for days with every other biological concern taking a back seat, but the suppressants are doing their job. Also, the first time he’d gone into rut he was fifteen, which involved, among other events, jerking off in an ice-cold shower while his mom shouted explanations of Alpha physiology at him through the bathroom door. It’s not a great memory. In retrospect it may have been a contributing factor to his abstinence.)

The heated ‘fuck me, please’ expression clears from Rey’s face. She smiles sleepily instead. (Ben likes that look, too.) “Call the kitchen,” she says, yawning. “It’s number nine on the house phone. They’ve got a menu, if you don’t mind paying extra.”

Of course he doesn’t mind. Ben has no idea how much this hotel room costs, and he does not care. Money isn’t an issue. Government-contracted murder is nothing if not profitable.

The woman on the other end of the line -- not Maz, in that she doesn’t have an accent, nor does she sound vaguely annoyed -- offers something called the ‘Day Two Plate’.

“That'll work,” Rey tells him. “You’ll like it. No mushrooms.”

(Ah, of course. Of course she knows what to do, who to call, what’s good here. She knows the routine.

Because she’s been in this hotel -- maybe even in this room, in this bed -- with other Alphas.

It’s not new information, but that doesn’t mean the reminder doesn’t sting.)

“Will there be enough for both of us?” he asks Rey.

“I never eat much.”

He orders two.

 

***

 

The ‘Day Two Plate’, delivered by a bored-looking Beta, isn’t stuff he would have thought of -- walnuts and pecans, slices of salmon, skewers of cubed beef, yogurt with honey -- but he wolfs it down all the same. Rey, he’s pleased to note, is also eating quickly, as well as chugging pints of Gatorade so fast she might drown.

It’s all gone in minutes, and Ben feels like he could run a marathon. Or, more importantly, have more sex without getting light-headed.

He doesn’t wait for her to reach for him. “Get up.”

Rey frowns, confused. “Out of bed?”

“Yes.” She hesitates, and he adds, “Do it, Omega. Up.”

She almost falls to the floor in her haste to obey.

Ben swings his legs over the edge of the mattress, motioning her to step between his knees. The words Good girl almost come out of his mouth, but no, this time he’s going to make her work for it a little.

He leans forwards. Rests his forehead on her sternum. Breathes in their combined scent.

“Alpha?”

It makes him want to growl every time she calls him that. But. “You will use my name from now on,” he says coolly. “Not my designation.”

There are men who have fled countries at the sound of the tone in his voice. Rey? Her reaction is a caught breath and a trickle of slick running down her inner thigh. “Yes, Ben.”

That’s better.

(She’s said Please Alpha to others. He can’t change that, it’s not his to change, but he can sure as fuck make sure that right now she’s only thinking of him. Not whoever else she’s been with in this place. Not whoever left those teeth marks.)

“I’m going to touch you for awhile,” he tells her.

“For-- for how long?”

It won’t last. Not with her smelling like that and how hard he is already. Calories and hydration are beautiful things. “As long as I want.”

She moans.

Ben forces himself to be patient in a way he hasn’t before. He breathes deep, tastes her skin.  Iron control is not a trait anyone would ascribe to him -- he’s always been the worst example of the tempestuous Alpha, raining down hell with almost no provocation -- but he wants this. He wants to know every part of his Omega’s body. He wants to be able to map it with his eyes closed.

He turns his head and takes one breast in his mouth.

Oh.

There are bruises all over her throat and thighs. His back is probably clawed to ribbons. He holds her hips steady as he sucks more marks into her flesh, because otherwise she’d be in his lap all on her own, and it’s impossible that his life includes something that feels this good.

“Ben. Ben, please, I need--”

“Quiet, Scavenger.”

“No, no, please--” she lets out a choking whimper as he grazes his teeth across her nipple “--I have to, I have to, it hurts if I don’t--”

Your Omega is hurting. Help her.

He leans back, brings her with him, and pulls her down onto his aching cock without further preamble. She sobs with relief. “Thank you. Please, Ben, please fuck me.”

How can he deny her anything?

 

***

 

She apologizes afterwards. “I want to,” she says. (It bothers him that she won’t look him in the eye.) “But it just… anything except this--” she rocks against his knot, making him shudder with pleasure “--feels like a… I don’t know. A distraction. Like my body thinks I’m wasting time. Everything inside just aches. Being an Omega sucks, it really does.”

“I see.” He doesn’t, really, but then, he’s not an Omega. “Then tell me: what do you like when you’re not in heat? How do you like to be touched?”

(He’s not filing it away for future reference. He’s not.)

It doesn’t seem like such a weird question -- and is there such a thing as too personal, really, at times like this? -- but Rey ducks her head under his chin, avoiding his gaze. “I don’t know,” she admits haltingly. “I, uh… I’ve never done it when I’m not in heat.”

Oh.

“Sometimes I think I’d like to try it, though.”

Well, then.

That, he is most certainly filing away for future reference.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

The first half of heat is the one that everyone who’s ever read a Cosmo knows about. (“40 Tricks to Make Your Alpha Knot Harder!”) Constant boning, bodily fluids everywhere, screaming and begging and all that late-night-HBO stuff. And as much as it annoys Rey to be at the mercy of her vagina, well, it’s not all bad. Hours of orgasms can be pretty invigorating.

The second half, though. The second half.

That’s where things get genuinely embarrassing.

Before Rey dozes off for a proper, multi-hour sleep -- the one that always presages her Second Half, as she’s learned from hard experience -- she mumbles to Ben: “Ignore everything I say when I wake up.”

“What? Everything?”

“Everything that sounds stupid, I mean.”

“Uh… I…” Ben clears his throat, even as he pulls her closer to spoon against his front. She’s adjusting better to this whole cuddling thing. (Poe hadn’t been a natural cuddler either, and the other Alphas had been as determined as she was to keep it casual. But with Ben, it just sort of happens. She blames his scent.) “Rey, I would appreciate a finer point of clarification, if you please.”

But she’s out like a light.

 

***

 

And when she wakes up…

Mmm. Alpha.

The ache in her abdomen has mellowed into something less harsh, but more all-encompassing. Everything feels heavy.

Rey stretches, spreads her fingers, curls her toes. She reaches out, and, oh yes, Ben is there. Naked and in (their) bed. Wide awake and watching her.

Oh. He looks so…

“Hi,” she says.

“Hi.”

“What time is it?”

“Early morning. Very early.” He’s semi-hard against her thigh. “You’ve been out for about five hours.”

“Hmm. Did you stay up?”

“Yes.”

Alpha. Alpha, alpha, alpha. Watching over you while you sleep. Vigilant against predators. Making sure his Omega is protected. You will always be safe when your Alpha guards you.

Oh. Safety. Yes. Good.

Another gush of slick soaks her cunt.

Ben must smell it -- of course your Alpha can smell it, he is attuned to your needs, in spite of a rough beginning you have pleased him, you have been a Good Omega to him, and now he will reward you -- because he makes a quiet dark noise and moves to cover her. “It’s all right,” he murmurs, palms pushing apart her knees to spread her wide. “I’ve got you.”

Yes. Good.

Rey hooks her leg over Ben’s waist and pushes him onto his back.

He blinks in surprise, but his hands go to her hips all the same. “Like this, Omega?” he says, settling her against his now fully-erect cock. “This way, this time?”

But Rey isn’t paying attention. That is, of course she wants it this way, or any way, really. Of course she wants him deep inside her, swelling and throbbing and flooding. That goes without saying.

Just a moment, though. Just a moment to look him over, to--

“Wait,” she says as he reaches down to position himself. “Wait, Ben, please.”

He waits. He’s not happy about it -- visibly so -- but he waits.

So broad, Rey muses dreamily. Her hands explore his shoulders, tracing the solid curve of every muscle. Alpha, alpha, alpha. “You’re very strong, aren’t you.”

Ben frowns up at her. “I am,” he concedes, brow furrowed.

“You could carry me.”

“Yes.”

“Easily.”

“Yes.” He moves underneath her, his cock slipping deliciously against her wet folds, obviously trying to get her back on track. “Rey--”

She leans forward, presses a kiss to the pulsing artery in his throat. “You smell good,” she purrs, nuzzling one of his scent glands.

“So do you.”

“Not like you.” Oh, nothing could be like this Alpha, like Ben. He smells virile, he tastes virile, he’s covered in days of perspiration, both his and hers. She wants him to leave that scent all over her, leave it inside her.

His arms. His chest. She brushes every inch with her lips to make sure she’s not hallucinating.

Alpha.

"Ben," she whispers.

He moans in response, his hands reflexively squeezing bruises into her hips, sliding along the mess between her thighs in earnest.

Let him fill you up. The Omega part of her is urgently issuing orders now. Let him mate you. Keep his home. Bear his children.

They would be so strong, wouldn’t they? His children and hers. They could rule worlds.

She cups a palm against his face. Ben leans hard into her touch, nipping the inside of her wrist with sharp, uneven teeth. The scar that cuts his cheek feels rough against her fingertips. “How did you get it?” she asks.

“Get what?”

She licks a line down his neck, dragging her tongue along ruined tissue. The noise that rumbles through Ben's chest is inhuman. “This.”

This is an Alpha who has fought other Alphas and won. If you were his, no one would touch you. No one would hurt you. You would never be alone again.

“Why do you want to know?”

“I just do. Please, Ben--” she can't stop moving against him, against the hard ridge of the knot swelling at the base of his cock “--I’ll be so good, please, tell me if you… you…”

“If I what? Say it.”

She pulls back from mouthing at his chest to look him in the eye. His expression is…

Well.

It takes her breath away.

“Say it,” he repeats softly.

Her blood thunders in her ears. “Tell me if you killed someone, when you got that scar.”

“I did. What else? Why I did it?”

“Yes, yes, and-- and how.”

You would never be afraid again, Omega. Not with this Alpha at your side.

Ben grabs her, throws her over on her stomach. “All right,” he growls in her ear, mounting her from behind. His massive body is crushing hers into the mattress, God only knows what else he could do, if he-- “But you won’t want me after this.”

“I will, I will, I promise I will.”

He grunts, thrusts deep, and -- yes, thank you, thank you Alpha -- starts fucking her so fiercely she has to grab the sheets for purchase. “My father died,” he says, shoving a hand beneath her to grope her breast, “and I didn’t come home.

“Then my uncle died, and I didn’t come home.

“Then my mother died. And I decided to come home.”

God, she can’t take this, he’s too big and he’s fucking her too hard, she’s going to suffocate, she’s going to rip apart at the seams and it is absolutely--

“I told my boss I was resigning, because my mother was gone and she’d hated my job. But he said no. I’d given everything I had to him, and he said no.

“So I killed him.”

He’s starting to knot but he makes room to move, and take everything from me, Alpha, I will give you everything, I will open my body if you’ll always fight for me -- “He cut your face?”

“I sliced him in half before he knew he was dead.”

“Oh, oh--”

“One of his guards got me. But I killed them too.” His forearm is pressing into the bed next to Rey’s face, holding up what little weight wasn’t crushing her into the mattress. She rubs her scent gland against it then bites, hard, breaking the skin, and Ben moans, cock finally too swollen to fuck, locked deep inside and pulsing-- “I killed all of them, Rey. Then I came home and buried my mother.”

Rey comes with the taste of blood on her tongue.

 

***

 

She can’t keep her hands off him, after. Not for hours. He’s silent and bemused, but she doesn’t care, they keep fucking of course but she also just wants to touch him.

He’s perfect, really. Pale and battle-scarred and perfect. The crowning achievement of millennia of genetics, and he is here, with her, defending her through the defenselessness of her heat. He chose her to protect and guard and bestow with his seed.

Rey the Omega cannot imagine, literally cannot imagine, a better mate than this Alpha.

So it’s very disappointing when, several climaxes later, he refuses to bite her.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

Rey has never thought of herself as a coward, but there’s no way around the fact that the worst decisions of her life have always been made when she’s afraid. Fear’s just… not a thing you can afford to spend energy on when you’re trying to survive, so you do what you have to to make it stop. Sometimes that means facing what scares you.

More often it means running from it.

So as soon as she can -- almost the literal minute she’s able -- Rey bolts. “It was nice to meet you, Ben,” she mumbles, pulling on her socks. “Thanks for everything.”

She’s not looking at him, so she definitely can’t feel him staring at her. That’s not a thing, feeling people staring. It’s not. It’s just a… a heat trick. And her heat is almost over now, so it’s not a thing.

“You don’t have to go.”

Rey shuts her eyes and wills herself not to return to his side.

He’s unhappy, the Omega part whines. Your Alpha is displeased. He is not finished with you yet. You are not finished with him.

Yeah, yeah, she knows she’s not finished. She’s due for another six or seven hours of wind-down, probably. But she’s in control enough now that she can get outside this room, and that--

“Please. Stay.”

Please. Stay.

“I can’t,” Rey makes herself say, and reaches for her shoes. “I have… I’ve got to get back to work, tomorrow. I need to rest, and--”

“Then stay here. I’ll leave.”

“No.” God, she can’t possibly stay here, not with the (their) bed smelling the way it does. “No, that’s all right.”

He’s silent as she grabs her purse. “I suppose this is customary,” he says, dispassionate.

“Yes.” Yes, that’s a great excuse. “I mean, you know… hookups and all.”

“Right.”

“Anyway. Thanks again. Really. It was… I had a…” This was the best heat I’ve ever had and I have to run far, far away now. “Yeah. Um. Bye, Ben.”

And she waves. She actually waves at him, like she’s seeing an acquaintance off at the bus stop and not talking to the man who’s been fucking her for days, who’s sitting up in bed staring at her incredulously.

Shit.

With that, Rey flees.

 

***

 

Finn pulls up at the corner fifteen minutes later. She barely waits for the car to stop moving before she flings herself in it. “Go,” she says. “Go now.”

He floors it.

And, because he’s Finn, he reaches over to take her hand for the duration of the ride.

 

***

 

She has a little trouble walking up the stairs to her apartment, but Finn walks with her. He doesn’t comment when she strips off her clothes and leaves them in a pile on the floor on her way to the bathroom. She can hear him starting the tea kettle as she stands silent in the shower.

(She’d helped bandage Finn’s entire body after a guy from the Waco-style militia he’d fled from showed up, the one who beat him senseless and screamed Traitor! the whole time -- she’d come from behind and hit the guy with a brick, hard, then Finn had gotten the gun, and pointed, and fired, and they ran away, and when they came back he was gone but there was so much blood and they never saw him again and they threw the gun in the ocean and they were eighteen then, barely eighteen, so it doesn’t matter if they see each other naked.)

“Does Poe mind that you’re here?” Rey asks a little later.

Finn shakes his head. “Nah.” They’re on the couch, watching The Joy of Painting on Finn’s phone. “He understands. He did want to know, though, if we needed to go kick the ass of the Alpha you were with.” A pause. “Do we? Need to kick his ass, I mean?”

Rey burrows into the blankets, avoiding the question. (She left too early; the horniness has abated, but she wants to bed down, curl up, and hold on tight. She wants to be petted and cosseted and praised. She wants to eat chocolate and watch Hollywood rom-coms. It’s annoying.) “No,” she says. “He was okay.”

“You’re a sucky liar, Peanut.”

“No, really. He was… all right.” What a lie. “He was great, actually. But I… um…”

“You what?”

This is Finn. This is the first person she could stand to have physical contact with when not in heat. She can tell him anything. “I asked him to bite me.”

And because it’s Finn, her first friend, she doesn’t flinch when he swears, pushes her damp hair out of the way, and checks the back of her neck. “Shit, shit, shit-- okay, good, I’m looking and you’re fine. You’re fine, Rey.”

“I know. I think I’d notice if he’d actually done it, Finn.”

(Probably. Who knew for sure, though.)

“Well, thank fuck he didn’t.”

“I told him not to. I mean, before. I told him not to before I told him to. So, he listened. Sort of.” She pauses. “But I can’t ever see him again.”

“Yeah. No. It’s too bad, though, if you liked him.”

“I did.” Rey presses the hot cup of tea against her belly, because now it’s time for the ‘you know the whole point was to get pregnant’ cramps. The blood will start tomorrow. Being an Omega is the worst. “Which is why I can’t ever see him again.”

“Poor guy.”

“It’s better for him this way.” Rey crushes down the memory of Ben’s expression as he lay beneath her, saying words like good and perfect, and how Scavenger felt like an endearment from his lips.

Her profile had very clearly said ‘casual-only’.

“Besides,” Rey adds, “he said he killed his last boss.”

“What?!”

“And some other people, I think.”

“Oh, my God.”

“But it sounds like they deserved it.”

“Give me your phone, Peanut. I’m deleting that heat app right now.”

 

***

 

In the morning her pajama pants are soaked red, which is Rey’s cue to start up her next pack of shitty bargain-basement suppressants.

Another six months before she has to be an Omega again.

 

***

 

Her job is still there when she gets back; the head mechanic is never happy, unsympathetic Beta that he is, but Rey is too good to fire (and, just as importantly, works for too little). So she slides under a Sonata, grabs a lug wrench, and picks up where she left off. Just like she always does.

She gets paid in cash at the end of each week and buys packs of ramen, just like she always does.

She keeps the air conditioning off and watches YouTube tutorials, just like she always does.

This is fine. This is her life.

And if she sometimes feels a little different, in a way she hasn’t after previous heats -- like she’s missing out on something -- all she has to do is touch the raised scars on the back of her neck.

 

***

 

It takes another month (long enough for her to seriously worry that she’s going to go back to living on the street, because she’s not going to move in with Poe and Finn because there is no way that could work), but Rey finds a new roommate.

“No, it’s cool, I’m depressingly heterosexual,” says Rose Tico when they have the customary Designation Discussion. “Be as Omega-y as you want, it won’t affect me. As long as you don’t mind living with an Alpha.”

“It’s fine. I’m the same.” (Rey, like basically every Omega and Alpha, gets irritated by the prevailing Beta theory that designation trumps sexual orientation. It was one of the more tense exchanges she’d had with Finn when they first met.) “And I’ve been told I’m not a very Omega-y Omega, anyway.”

“Well, I’m not a very Alpha-y Alpha. We’ll get by.” Rose peers at Rey’s fingernails -- and lights up when she recognizes the motor oil underneath. “Oh, are you a gearhead too? This is going to work out great.”

This is how Rey makes her second friend.

 

***

 

She finally breaks, reloads the app, and tries to pull up Kylo_Ren’s profile.

It wasn’t customary, how I left like that. I was wrong to let you misinterpret what happened. I want to explain. We can meet for coffee.

Except Rey doesn’t want to explain. It’s none of his business. She barely knows him, after all.

(She knows he doesn’t like mushrooms.)

But she could make it a little less personal, at least. For them both. She could try. They can still never spend another heat together, of course, but maybe she could make it more… she could make it less…

It doesn’t matter. Kylo_Ren has deleted his account.

And she doesn’t even know his last name.

 

***

 

“Okay, so.” Finn takes a deep breath, which usually presages something Rey’s not going to like. “Poe had an idea.”

Oh, yeah, she’s not going to like this. “Go on.”

“Since you’re not going to use that sleazy heat app anymore--” Finn points at Rey as she makes a scoffing noise “-- since you are not going to use that sleazy heat app anymore, Poe thought he could introduce you to some of his Alpha friends.”

“Finn, come on--”

“No, listen. You trust Poe, right?”

“If I didn’t, I wouldn’t have let you move in with him.”

“Exactly. So, he’ll make sure it’s only reasonably good guys you’re meeting -- you know, for Alphas.”

“I resent that,” Rose shouts from the kitchen.

“You know I don’t mean you,” Finn calls back. “You’re the nicest Alpha there is.”

(Rose doesn’t respond, and Rey knows she won’t return to the living room until the blush fades from her face. Finn has no idea how he’s inadvertently captivated her roommate. Rey’s staying out of it.)

“Anyway,” Finn continues, “this could solve some of your problems, I’m thinking. You connect with an Alpha before you go into heat, get to know him, see if he’s compatible with what you’re looking for. Then, after you meet up a few times, if we’ve all determined he’s not a lunatic, you can go bone.”

“Dating,” yells Rose. “It’s called dating.”

“And it just so happens that Poe knows a guy.”

Oh, no. “Finn.”

“He’s a family friend. Just got out of one of those private mercenary company things. Totally unattached, stacked, looking to meet new people, and -- this is best part -- Poe says he's the worst liar in the world.” Finn beams. “A guy who can't lie to you. That's the best, right?”

She doesn't say I'm usually the dishonest one. “Sounds like a pity fuck.”

“No, sounds like a person it wouldn’t hurt to go get a drink with. All of us. That way I can scope him out and make sure he’s good enough for my Peanut.” Rey shoots him a side-eye, to which Finn just raises an eyebrow. “Like you didn’t go full court press when Poe asked me out. Even though you actually knew him.”

“Only sort of.” Dick size didn’t count. Unfortunately, though, Finn’s making a decent point: her next heat is only about three months away. It's time to start looking, and her luck of the draw has not been turning out very lucky. “All right. I guess.”

“Good!” Finn pulls out his phone and starts texting. “Don’t worry, Peanut. If you get so much as a whiff of douchebag off this guy or anyone else, they’re gone.” Then he says: “Rose, you’re gonna come too, right? You can finally meet Poe!”

A pause. “Yes,” a slightly strained voice says. “Yes, meeting Poe is-- is definitely something I’ve been looking forward to. Yep.”

Rey sighs.

Well, it can’t get worse.

 

***

 

And she goes on thinking that -- right up until four days later, when she walks into the bar--

--and sees Ben sitting at Poe’s side.

It can absolutely get worse.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

Ben Solo has always disliked Poe Dameron.

He disliked Poe when their moms made them play together as kids. He disliked Poe when they spent two months in the same tenth grade homeroom before Ben got shipped off to Luke for the last time. He disliked Poe when he’d get forwarded emails about Poe’s rising career in the Air Force. And he disliked Poe when he found out about Leia’s death through Poe’s Facebook page.

But, because he’s the person Ben has known the longest who is still on this earth, and because Poe Dameron possesses a truly supernatural ability to make people not hate him, Ben has never completely cut him from his life.

Which is why Ben actually answers his phone when the Caller ID flashes Smug Bastard, and why he agrees to meet the next day at (one of the) Starbucks across the street from his loft.

Poe buys Ben a mocha. Which irritates the hell out of Ben (he knows for a fact he has more than Poe’s entire net worth in his checking account alone) but that’s pretty par for the course.

Then they sit.

In silence.

For five minutes.

Until finally Poe bursts out: “So, who talks first? You talk first? I talk first? I hate when shit is awkward.”

Ben rolls his eyes. “We don’t have to talk at all, Dameron. But since you invited me, I assume you have something to say.”

“I’m trying to check up on you, is all.”

“You’re not my babysitter.”

“No, I’m your God-brother--”

“That isn’t a thing.”

“--so I just wanted to make sure you’re, I don’t know, adjusting well. To life back in the states, I mean.” Ben must be making a face, because Poe glares at him. “Look, douchebag, I loved Leia as much as you did--” (the more that you did is thick in the air) “--and I owe it to her to make sure you’re not falling back into your old habits, all right?”

This is ridiculous. “What, did you make an oath on her deathbed?”

“At least I was at her deathbed.”

It’s been six months since Ben left First Order, five months since he buried his mother, four months since he started medication and (admittedly irregular) therapy in an effort to get himself in order. These lifestyle changes are why he doesn’t start strangling Poe Dameron on the spot.

But he wants to.

(The memorial service was attended by thousands, but Ben kept the burial private. Poe had shown up anyway. I didn’t know she was so sick, Ben had said, and Poe replied with: She was in a car accident, her ex-husband and her brother were dead, and her only kid wouldn’t talk to her -- what, did you think she was just going to bounce back?)

Poe takes an aggressive slurp of chai. “So, since now you’re not working for a company of pure evil that totally betrays everything your family stood for--”

“First Order is a legitimate government contractor -- and an off-shoot of a group my grandfather started, but by all means, let’s not let the truth of my family get in the way of bullshit heroic mythology, that wouldn’t be the Skywalker way--”

“I didn’t say First Order wasn’t legitimate, I said it was pure evil--”

“And I didn’t say it wasn’t, so what’s your point?”

“My point is, do you have a new job? Or hobbies? Or friends? Or a goldfish? How are you spending your time? Are you okay, you childish dickhead?”

Other people in the Starbucks are starting to edge away. “Alphas,” one of the customers hisses to another, looking both fearful and disgusted, and Ben realizes the same moment Poe does that they’re both starting to reek of hostility.

Great.

This is definitely the sort of well-adjusted social interaction to which Ben’s been aspiring. Dr. Holdo will be so proud.

It takes a few minutes of deep breaths and quiet mocha sips, but eventually Ben can feel his metaphorical Alpha hackles lowering. “We were born in the same year,” he grumbles. “Don’t call me childish.”

“Ten months counts as older.”

“That didn’t work when we were kids and it won’t work now.”

“Whatever, buddy. What have you been up to? It’s a serious question, I swear I’m not just trying to get under your skin.” Poe grins. “That part’s a bonus.”

“Uh-huh.”

The fact is, Ben doesn’t have a great answer to the what have you be up to question. He hasn’t done much job searching because his skill set is very, er, specialized, and anyway he’s not hurting for money. No, he doesn’t have a goldfish. No, he doesn’t have any friends.

And I spend an inordinate amount of time trying not to think about an Omega girl who somehow made me reconsider everything I thought I knew about the purpose of existing on this planet without ever telling me her last name isn’t something he’s about to tell an asshole like Poe Dameron.

“I spend a lot of time working out,” says Ben.

“That’s obvious. Anything else?”

“I’m, uh… learning to cook. I guess.” Mostly by online tutorials and mid-afternoon PBS shows. His new loft has a kitchen and Ben’s never made food for himself in his life; it’s been ten years since he’s had anything that wasn’t cafeteria-provided, microwaved, or eaten from a wrapper, so he doesn’t even know what he likes. But it turns out he’s pretty good at jambalaya. “So that’s a thing.”

“Oh. Good. That seems… healthy. Probably.”

“Other than that I mostly talk to executors.” Ben makes himself shrug, like it doesn’t matter. “Lots of paperwork when your entire family dies in the same year.”

“Yeah. I remember when my mom passed. There was probate and shit. It was basically a full-time job.”

“Pretty much.”

“Sucks.”

“Mm-hmm.”

A beat. One that lasts just long enough that he thinks maybe the whole stupid conversation is over, and he can just go--

“So, any girls? Or guys? Or both? Or neither?” Ben keeps his expression neutral, which forces Poe to roll his eyes and be explicit: “Are you getting laid, pal.”

(Yeah, flipping a table would be good right now, but Use your words, Ben, is what his mother would say when he was five and had tantrums out of pure frustration, and Use your rage, Kylo, is what Snoke would say when he was twenty and had tantrums out of pure frustration, and either way destroying property because Poe wants to know about his sex life is just a short road to a lot of lawyer fees.)

“I’m not answering that,” he says instead. Then: “Are you?”

Poe’s whole expression lightens. “I have a boyfriend,” he says. “And a cat. Domesticity is great.”

Of course.

This is what comes of being experienced, and likable, and not someone who did demonstrably ugly shit for a living. (Though Ben would love to hear Poe detail some of his missions -- the ones with bombs that maybe didn’t always hit the right targets. Hypocrite.) Being someone like Poe Dameron gets you a boyfriend and a cat.

Being someone like Ben Solo gets you an awkward wave and a Thanks for everything.

“Is your boyfriend an Omega?” he asks casually.

(This is not fishing for how Alpha/Omega relationships work.)

“No. He’s a Beta.”

(See? Since he wasn’t fishing, this is not a disappointment.)

“I mean,” Poe continues, “I did the whole Omega hookup scene for a long time, and it was fun and all, but none of them were the right one. It’s not exactly the best way to find true love. And you don’t need all that mate stuff to be happy.”

(So this whole universe-realignment stuff is just a Ben problem. Or, rather, an Alpha Skywalker problem. Figures.)

“I don’t think the ‘Omega hookup scene’ is for me,” Ben says aloud.

Poe gives him a long look. “Yeah,” he says after a minute. “Yeah, I can see how that would be the case.”

“What does that mean?”

“Nothing. Just that my family’s known your family for ages, and your family is basically incapable of casual.”

This is not untrue.

(This is why he deleted his profile on the mating app. He did not do that because no one else looked like Sand_Scavenger. Hookup culture just isn’t his thing, is all.)

Ben gulps the last of his mocha. “Well, thanks for the check-in. Consider your parole-officer promise to my mother discharged.”

Poe just sighs. “Yeah, right,” he says mournfully. “Like it’s gonna be that easy.”

 

***

 

It’s probably creepy to jerk off in the shower to memories of a woman who only fucked him because of biological programming and ran off the second she could.

(Still, he muses as he takes his cock in hand, knot already swollen, it’s not like ‘creepy’ doesn’t suit him.

Ben is nothing if not self-aware.)

 

***

          

The texts from Smug Bastard come a week later.

 

      hey. come out w/friends to bar tonight.

                             Excuse me, what?

      i want u to meet someone

                             I don’t want to meet
                             someone.

      thats y i want u to meet someone
      because u don’t want to meet someone
      not healthy, pal

                             You text like a teenager.

      u text like my great-aunt
      its my bf’s best friend. shes nice.
      an omega. we used to have a thing.

                             Are you trying to give me
                             your sloppy seconds?

      thats gross
      look
      im taken and she needs a regular alpha
      shes not looking for anything too serious
      thats perfect for u
      ur too fucked up for a full relationship

                             Thanks.

      we both kno its true.
     
think of it as training wheels

                             Not interested.

      i already said u would b there

                             That's your problem.

      i promised ur mom

                             I refuse to believe you
                             promised my mother you
                             would find someone to
                             have sex with me.

      it was implied

                             I can get laid on my own.

      no u cant.
      it doesnt have to be her
      maybe u will like her roommate
      ben
      im not going to let this go
      ben
      ben
      ben
      ben
      i kno ur there ben
      ben
      ben
      ben

                             Stop blowing up my phone,
                             you asshole.

      were meeting at 9

                             Fine. But just this once.

      good
      really tho
      u will love her

                             Shut up.

 

***

 

Ben is well into his third beer -- which is helping mightily to tune out Poe’s unsolicited pep talks -- when Poe’s boyfriend arrives with two women.

Ben’s first thought is that Poe didn’t mention that he was robbing the cradle with this kid.

Ben’s second thought is that the short girl with the round cheeks is cute, but not his type. Because he has a type now.

And Ben’s third thought--

--well. He doesn’t have a third thought. 

At least, not a sensible, concrete one. His brain hovers somewhere in the vague vicinity of holy shit that looks so much like her until he realizes--

“Jesus, cool it,” Poe hisses to him. “You look like someone’s about to shoot you. People do not go for Alphas that stink like panic.”

And Ben has just enough time to growl back: “I am going to fucking kill you for this, Dameron--”

“Hi,” says the boyfriend brightly, sliding into the booth. “We made it.”

Poe beams at him like an idiot who gets to be enamored and has no reason not to show it. “Hey. So, dude, this is Finn, my boyfriend, and Rey Johnson--”

Johnson. Her last name is Johnson.

“--and you must be Rose, Rey’s new roommate, right?”

“Yep,” says the short girl. “That’s me. Rose Tico. And you’re Poe. I’ve, uh, heard a lot about you.”

“Good things, I hope. And this is--”

Ben,” Rey says.

Yes. That is his name.

She smells different when she’s not in heat. He can tell from across the table that she doesn’t have any of his scent on her anymore and Ben would like to fix that.

Finn frowns at them both. “Do you know each other?”

“We’ve met,” Ben says.

Rey leans across the table--

--Ben stiffens--

--and reaches past him to take Poe’s half-finished beer and chug it down. “Let’s order a pitcher,” she says, voice high -- around the same pitch as when she thanked him for pulling her hair, actually. “I think a pitcher or two would be good, don’t you? Maybe three? Or four?”

“Whatever you want,” says Ben.

Rey sprints to the bartender, Finn and Rose start talking, and Poe whispers to Ben, with an absolutely amazed grin on his face: “Holy shit, I’ve never seen heart-eyes before in real life. I told you you’d love her.”

And Ben kicks him under the table.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

Over the next twenty minutes it becomes clear that Rose and Poe have instantly clicked. The conversation rolls; it’s kismet, chemistry-at-first-sight, house-on-fire stuff. Finn is ecstatic; Poe can’t stop smiling; Rose has the same pink-cheeked look she always gets with Finn, and she keeps glancing back and forth between the two men with an increasingly hopeful and speculative expression.

In other words, one half of the table is in its own little world.

That’s great. That’s just great for them.

Because Rey? Is not doing great.

Instead of trying to do great, Rey is staying as focused on her beer as possible. She holds her alcohol well, but she crossed into buzzed territory awhile ago -- and she notices that Ben is keeping up. She notices everything that Ben is doing.

Which is fair, since Ben hasn’t stopped staring at her since the moment she walked in.

Every now and then she meets his gaze. The corner of his eye twitches when she does. Otherwise he’s aggressively stone-faced, and Rey is alarmed to realize that -- even though she’s not in heat -- she still finds him attractive.

Like, extremely attractive. Desperately so. She thinks she would even if she didn’t know what he looks like under that black jumper that is just a little too tight because they don’t really make sweaters for men built like him. She thinks she would even if she didn’t know what his hair feels like when it’s damp with sweat.

She thinks she’d find him attractive even if they really were meeting for the first time.

When the appetizers arrive they both reach for the potato skins and her finger brushes his. He jerks back like he’s been burned. She wolfs the skins down because an interpersonal nightmare will never stop her from eating.

And -- and! -- they haven’t actually started speaking to each other.

So. It’s marvelous.

Especially when, during one of the few moments the other half of the table remembers Rey and Ben exist, Poe playfully pushes his plate of nachos towards her with a comment about “knowing how hungry she gets” then turns back to his conversation with Finn and Rose with absolutely no acknowledgement that Ben’s entire body has stiffened and now he is looking very much like the kind of man who could stab an evil paramilitary employer for not giving bereavement leave.

Rey responds by gulping the rest of her beer and reaching for another pitcher--

--except Ben grabs it first, refills her glass, then tops his off as well. “Cheers,” he growls. It’s first word he’s said in the last half hour.

Oh, God. This is just too weird.

Rey excuses herself, scoots out of the booth, and practically sprints to the restroom.

 

***

 

You do not need to be nervous. You do not need to run. Your Alpha is here. Let him take care of you.

Rey splashes cold water on her face. “Shut up,” she mutters to herself. The last thing she needs is a bunch of Omega instincts fighting their way through the suppressants. It’s bad enough dealing with that shit during heat; if it starts trying to take over the rest of her life, she doesn’t know what she’ll do.

Which is why it’s important to get away from Ben as soon as possible. Maybe no one will notice if she--

Rey.”

Rey almost jumps out of her skin.

But it’s just Rose, crowding into the bathroom and locking the door behind them. “Wow,” she manages to say, breathless, eyes shining. “Wow. Is what’s happening out there real? I mean-- I just-- help! Give me some Omega insight, quick!”

“What does my being an Omega matter?”

“Come on, you notice and smell different stuff than Alphas do. And you’re Finn’s best friend and you’ve had sex with Poe--”

“Don’t bring that up, for God’s sake.”

“--so what do you think? Do you think I could-- that they could-- that we could-- are they into that sort of thing? Because I could totally--”

“Rose, if you’re asking me whether Poe and Finn would be down for a threesome--”

Rose squeaks.

“--the answer is, I don’t know,” says Rey impatiently. (She feels bad about being distracted, because this is potentially a very big deal and Rose has every reason to ask her for insight, but Rey’s about three inches from her own meltdown.) “I know that’s outside of Finn’s experience--” (she’s had sex with him too, which means that Rose is literally the only one at the table Rey has not fucked) “--but he’s pretty open to things. Poe too.”

“Yeah, but, are they open to it with me?” Now Rose is the one splashing cold water on her face. “Oh, my God, this is the best-worst feeling, Rey.”

“I guess so.”

Her tone must give her away, because Rose catches her eyes in the mirror, suddenly sober. “Wait, are things not good for you? I thought it was going okay with you and Ben.”

“What made you think that?”

Rose scoffs. “Aside from how he’s been gawking at you like you have a halo and you’re sending out Come fuck me pheromones?”

“I what?” Rey rubs one of the glands under her jaw and sniffs her palm. “Oh, hell.”

“It’s okay, I only noticed ‘cause you’re sitting next to me. I thought you were into him -- are you not? Do we need to go? Because we can go.”

“No, no. It’s fine.” It’s not fine, but she doesn’t want to mess up this newborn thing that Rose and Finn and Poe might have going on. Moments like that don’t come along every day. “Listen, I’m just going to go out the side exit. Could you…” Shit. What does she want Rose to do? “Could you give Ben my number?”

“Yeah, but… if you like him enough to give him your number, then why are you--”

So I can talk to him without sending out Come fuck me pheromones. “Just trust me, okay?” Rey smiles bracingly and pats Rose on the shoulder. “Now, forget about my stuff and go have fun.”

Rose squeaks again.

 

***

 

It’s pouring rain.

Rey slides into the alley, and is ordering a Lyft and applauding herself on this very adult and sensible course of action when she hears a loud crash from the other side of a dumpster.

“Fuck!”

Oh. Oh, shit.

Rey peers out from under the awning just in time to see a large metal trash can clang against the brick wall. “Ben?” she calls. “Could you stop that, please?”

The banging pauses.

Well, she’s going to get wet either way. Rey steps out into the rain and edges around the dumpster cautiously.

Ben is soaked to the bone and surrounded by overturned bins and split bags of garbage. It smells awful. He stares at her for a moment, then says, surprisingly steadily: “I promise this doesn’t happen much anymore.”

“That’s good.”

“I have a problem where I deal with inner turmoil by trying to control external circumstances. It’s a combination of Alpha biology and a particular type of OCD. Runs in the family. I’m working on it.”

“Okay.”

“The galaxy doesn’t let you organize it into a new order just because you’re upset, as it turns out.”

“It doesn’t,” Rey agrees.

“What are you doing out here?”

“I was going to go home.”

“Through the side door.”

“Yeah.”

“So you wouldn’t have to walk by me.”

“Yes. Are you drunk?”

“A little,” he concedes. “Are you?”

“A little.”

“I see.” A pause. “You should go back to your friends. To Poe.” Another pause. “I’m going to stay out here and keep breaking things for awhile, I think.”

“But it’s raining.”

“This is Seattle. I’m used to it.”

“I’m not. I grew up in Arizona. My parents left me at a pawn shop on Route 66 when I was four.”

Ben blinks. “Ah.”

“Yeah.”

“You don’t sound like it.”

“Whenever my accent started to fade I’d stay up for weeks watching Masterpiece Theater in the middle of the night.”

“Right.”

“The funny thing is,” Rey continues, starting to ramble, ignoring the sound of water sloshing through the gutters, “I’m sure my parents didn’t talk like someone from the BBC. But I didn’t know any better, and then it stuck.”

“How did you live?”

“The pawn shop owner kept me. I worked there. That’s where the Scavenger came from. Arizona is the Sand.”

“I thought you liked it when I called you that.”

“I did. I don’t have a real name anyway. I picked Johnson from a phone book. I don’t have a passport or a visa. I don’t exist in this country. I don’t know what part of Britain I came from.”

“Well, you shouldn’t say you’re from London,” Ben advises. “Anyone who’s spent time in the UK can tell it’s a lie. Your accent is… muddled. It sounds like nothing.”

Rey hangs her head.

Yes. She is nothing, isn’t she.

“Oh.” A couple of splashes as he kicks garbage out of the way, then Ben folds her in his arms. “I’m sorry,” he mumbles, stroking her back. “Shh. I’m sorry. I said the wrong thing again. I’m terrible at this.”

He smells like rotting lettuce, beer, wet wool, and Alpha; what’s more, she doesn’t hate it. Which is a very bad sign. She asked him to bite her. They are entirely too compatible and no good can come of that. “It’s all right.”

“No, it’s not. I don’t like it when you’re upset. It makes you…” He noses her hair to the side and breathes against her neck.

And stops.

Well, shit.

She really should have washed her throat before she left the bathroom.

Headlights flash down the alley, glinting bright off puddles, and Rey’s phone pings in her pocket. “That’s my ride,” she murmurs.

“Where are you going?”

“Home.”

His hands are heavy on her hips. “Why?”

“Where else would I go?”

“You could come to my home instead.” A beat, then-- “I would be there too, in this scenario. If you would like that.”

She swallows. “You said you were a little drunk.”

“So did you.”

“I’m sobering up.”

“Yeah. Me too. Rey, I want you to come home with me.”

Shit. Shit.

Her phone pings again. The driver flashes his lights. There is water running into her shoes.

“Please,” says Ben.

 

***

 

Rey texts Rose from the Lyft.


                            won’t be home tonite.
                            you can use the apt
                            since finn & poe’s cat
                            would hog the bed.

      OMG REY

 

And to Finn, she texts:

 

                            don’t forget condoms.

     peanut holy shit
     this might sound really weird
     but i think p and r like each other
     and i think im into it
     what do i do

                            i just told you.
                            don’t forget condoms.

     wait a minute
     where are u?

                             going to ben’s place.

     but i didnt talk to him first
     he’s okay?
     no whiff of douchebag?
     how do u know him anyway?

                             it’s a weird story.
                             we’ll talk tomorrow.
                             have a good nite.

     [tomato emoji]
     [eggplant emoji]
     [winky emoji] 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

Ben’s loft is amazing.

“I’m going to wash up,” he tells Rey, leaving her to gape at her surroundings. “Make yourself at home.”

Okay.

Exploring the exposed brick layout and sparse decoration is probably what Ben intended, but Make yourself at home has always, to Rey, meant Search the kitchen for food. She knows it’s not polite, and maybe one day she’ll be able to walk by a pantry without checking inside, but… baby steps. She’s only recently stopped shoplifting whenever she goes to the supermarket.

So she opens the refrigerator.

He’s got three different kinds of cheese with French names. There’s peppers, avocados, salmon fillets, kale, a half-finished bottle of white wine, and some sort of weird-looking berries that are probably supposed to go in a smoothie or something. It’s the stuff you have when there’s money for fresh ingredients and time to make them into a meal.

(Rey’s never had either of those.)

The weird-looking berries taste gross. Rey pours herself some wine into a coffee mug, since that’s what’s in the first cabinet she opens, and takes a sip. It’s not bad.

“I can order something in, if you’re still hungry.”

“No thanks, I’m good,” she says, turning. “Unless you… want…”

Oh.

Ben’s changed into sweatpants.

Just sweatpants.

That’s good, really, given how unhappy the Lyft driver had been about the wet garbage smell. But, still. She knows exactly how that chest feels pressed against her front, and her back, and her-- “Do you have something you could put on?” she asks desperately. “A t-shirt, or something?”

A moment passes -- then he says: “Of course.”

And Ben steps forward.

Which makes Rey step back. “What are you doing?”

“Putting on a shirt.” Ben points. “My closet is over there.”

“Oh.”

“I’m going to have to walk past you to get one.”

“Oh. Well. Um. Maybe… maybe not, then. It’s probably too warm for a shirt anyway.” (It’s not. It’s November in the Pacific Northwest. But her underwear is soaked through and she’s not sure she wants him to know that yet.) “So why don’t you just… stay over there.”

The line of his shoulders falls very, very slightly, but he nods. And stays put.

Okay.

Well.

Rey gulps a mouthful of wine. “This is a nice place,” she blurts out, desperate to say something not weird.

“Thank you. Please don’t drink too much of that.”

“Why? Is it poisoned?”

“No. But you can’t consent if you’re drunk.” A beat. “I have a couch I can sleep on. Or I can call you a cab if you want to go home. So there are options. But in the interest of honesty, Rey, I asked you here because I’m hoping you’ll allow me to fuck you again.”

Oh.

“If you want me to. Obviously.”

Rey looks down at her cup of wine.

And she takes another sip.

She hears Ben sigh -- very faintly, but still a sigh. “Right. Okay. I’ll call the cab.”

Another sip.

“But could you--” A long, deep breath. “Before you go, if you don’t mind, I’d like to know what I did wrong. Not tonight. I know what I did wrong tonight. Last time.” (She can feel him searching for the right words. In her skin, in her soul, she can feel it.) “I’m trying to learn from my mistakes these days, so… it would help me to know which parts you most objected to. So I can rectify them with future partners.”

Future partners.

Rey turns away and pours most of the Riesling down the sink. “I’m going to tell you some things,” she says, haltingly, “but I’m going to need a little bit of wine in order to do it, and I’m going to need to not look at you. Okay?”

A beat. “Okay.”

Another sip. There’s maybe, oh, four tablespoons left. She’ll have to space them out.

I can do this. I can do this.

“I hate being an Omega.” I can do this. “It’s the worst. Alphas and Betas are always Alphas and Betas. But Omegas -- it’s like being a werewolf, you just turn into this mess of crazy evolutionary drives that hurt and tell you you’re not safe and you’ll never be safe unless there’s an Alpha there to put his dick in you and put his baby in you and, like, bring mastodon steaks to your cave.

“And I don’t usually feel safe anyway. So that’s… not great.”

Another sip.

“And, um… I felt very not-safe when I had my first hard heat, because it was just after Unkar -- he’s the pawn shop owner I lived with -- told me that I’m in the country illegally.” It’s okay. I can do this. “I probably should have realized earlier, because it’s not like my parents would have… I mean… but I thought he had some kind of paperwork. He didn’t. He’d just been inventing numbers whenever we needed them. Even my birthday is just a random day he’d picked when I was five so I would stop bugging him about it--”

Something shatters on the other side of the room.

Then: “Sorry.”

(Again, she thinks his temper should scare her more than it does. But -- and maybe it’s the Omega in her, maybe not -- it feels so good, it feels so good to know that someone could be so angry on her behalf.) “You shouldn’t do that. You probably have nice things.”

“No, I only have cheap things and it’s for this exact reason. Nothing in here is irreplaceable except for you. Please continue.”

Another sip to distract herself from the warm feeling in her chest. “Anyway, I found out about that and I was really freaked out and then I had my first heat, and there was this one particular Alpha in town…”

This is hard. There’s a reason this is The Time She Doesn’t Talk About.

She shrugs. “We… did what you do… and I was scared and had that Omega-y need to have someone just, um, take care of me. So I guess I asked him to bite me.” She touches the raised scars on her mating gland. “He said I did. I don’t remember. It’s probably true. And he was in rut, and he couldn’t control himself, so he did.”

It’s pretty, the way the overhead light glints off Ben’s stainless steel sink.

Through what sounds like gritted teeth: “That’s not how rut works.”

Rey knows that. “He apologized later,” she hedges. “But it worked, so I must have wanted it--”

Another crash.

“--and it did feel right. To part of me. Like I belonged. But the rest of me-- I barely knew him. And once I did know him, I didn’t like him. So I took, like, two weeks worth of suppressants in one swallow and made myself run away.” She shrugs again. “I found a story about a program here in Seattle that was researching how mating proteins work. It said the doctors needed volunteers. So I just knocked on their door and asked them to fix me.

“It was long, and… not fun, but it worked. And they told me I’d never go into heat again, but I did. So after that I found random Alphas who I didn’t like too much, and who would stay on blockers, so I could just get through it and leave.

“But, um… I like you.”

Another sip.

“I didn’t think I’d ever ask anyone to bite me again but I asked you, and I’m really grateful you didn’t do it, so thank you, because I don’t want to be mated. Ever again. But it means my Omega-ness and your Alpha-ness are too compatible, and if we spent another heat together I might ask you again, and maybe next time you wouldn’t say no.

“The point to all this is that you didn’t do anything wrong. I’m sorry I let you think you did. But I can’t have any more heats with you.”

And there it is.

“I’m done,” Rey says. The wine is gone, but she got through it. “You can call the cab if you want me to go.”

The silence is long. Rey doesn’t dare turn around to see Ben’s expression. But she also doesn’t hear him unlocking his phone, so…

“May I ask a few questions?” His tone is so formal.

“Sure.”

“Where is the Alpha now?”

“I don't know. He didn’t want me to go, but he didn’t try very hard to stop me either.”

“Would you feel safer knowing where he was?”

“No. I don’t want to think about him anymore.”

“All right. Is fear of being mated the main objection you have to me?”

“Yes.”

“Then I don’t see the problem.”

Now Rey does turn around. “What?”

Ben is exactly where she left him -- a good eight paces away -- and still shirtless, and looking very calm for someone with a broken end table at his feet. “You’re not in heat right now, are you?” he points out.

“Well, no. But I will be. And I can’t-- Ben, you’re an Alpha. Why on earth would you be interested in an Omega who won’t spend her heat with you? That’s the reason for Omegas.”

“I don’t agree.” He takes a step forward. “It’s only three days every six months. I’ve spent my whole life alone. Three days won’t kill me.”

“Yeah, but I won’t be alone for those three days, remember?”

That pulls Ben up short.

God, being an Omega is just the worst. “I’d still need an Alpha,” Rey explains, slowly, and maybe a little condescendingly. But he needs to understand this. “I’d be with someone else, someone--”

“Someone like Poe.”

Ouch. “Yes. Someone I wasn’t as compatible with as you.”

(Ben looks slightly mollified by that.)

“I’ve tried getting through a hard heat on my own. It’s unbearable. And, no offense, but I can tell you’re not the kind of guy who’s okay with sharing--” (it’s maybe the most obvious thing about him) “--so we’re--”

“What about soft heats?”

Rey blinks. “What about them?”

“Could you get through a soft heat on your own?” He takes another step towards her. Only six paces now. “You said they weren’t as bad. ‘Extra horny but a good dildo will do the trick’, right?”

“You only get soft heats if you’re on the good kind of suppressants. I’m not.”

“Why not?”

“I don’t have health insurance. And I don’t have money. Ben, I’m paid in cash at a garage that looks the other way because I don’t have a visa or a green card or a social security number, I can barely pay rent, let alone--”

“How expensive are they? The good suppressants? Out of pocket, I mean.”

Rey tells him.

Several emotions flit across Ben’s face before he settles on general displeasure. “That’s prohibitive. I understand why you can’t afford it.”

“No kidding.”

“But I can. I’ll pay.”

For a moment, Rey wonders if she’s made a mistake, if she’s actually still drunk. Maybe the wine was spiked with something, maybe-- “You’re joking.”

“No. I really don’t joke very much. I’ve never been good at it.”

“Ben, you can’t buy my suppressants for me.”

“Why not?”

“Because-- because we’re not even dating! It’s incredibly inappropriate!”

“But we won’t get to date unless you have them.”

“Still!”

Ben frowns. “What if you got them from a clinic? At a price you could afford? Would that be okay?”

She can’t help it: she laughs. God, he’s so naive. She can’t decide if she finds it annoying or adorable. “There’s no Omega clinic in America that gives these out.”

“But if there was one?”

And Rey--

--Rey stops.

She looks around at Ben’s loft -- Ben’s loft which, in addition to being fashionable, is in the best part of Seattle. Top floor. Huge windows. Amazing view.

“Ben?” she asks slowly. “What’s the rent on this place?”

“I don’t rent.”

“The mortgage, then.”

“I don’t have one.”

There’s a sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach. “You’re rich, aren’t you. Like, really rich.”

Ben shrugs, but his cheeks flush pink.

“I-- look, I just want to be clear on this, because… are you suggesting that you might open an clinic that distributes subsidized high-end suppressants so that I will feel okay about going to a movie with you?”

“Yes.” A beat. “Is that weird?”

“A little!”

“Oh.”

Rey absolutely cannot wrap her head around this. Things like this don’t happen in real life, and definitely not to her. “But you just… we’ve… that doesn’t even…”

Five paces away. Four. “Rey, I’m the sole inheritor of three separate family fortunes. I devoted ten years to doing very lucrative work for very bad people and never took a day off to spend what I was earning. I learned all of my budgeting practices from a Jesuit missionary who drank yak milk because grocery stores are wasteful. I have an absurd amount of money and literally no idea what to do with it, so yeah, selling my grandfather’s stock options and my grandmother’s Tuscan villas to finance a clinic for low-income Omegas seems like as good a plan as any.” He pauses. “But it would probably take some time to organize, so I’d appreciate it if you’d just let me pay directly for your medication until everything is up and running.”

What the fuck. “Does this insane bit of philanthropy depend on my agreeing to fuck you?”

“No,” he says. “I think I like the idea on its own merits. My mother would have approved. But I do want to fuck you.” Three paces. “And date you, I believe.” Two. “And kiss you, which I haven’t actually done yet.” One. “If you would like that.”

Rey huffs out a resigned breath, which ghosts across his skin. “You can smell how much I want that.”

“I can,” he admits -- he’s half-hard already, sweatpants don’t hide much, “but I can’t smell if you would like it.”

No one has ever said anything like that to Rey before.

Certainly no Alpha.

“I’ve never had sex outside of heat,” she reminds him.

“Neither have I,” he reminds her.

“Right.”

“Also, I’m very, very fucked up. Very. Just to warn you.”

“I know. But I don’t think you’re so much more fucked up than I am.”

Ben smiles sardonically. “Have you ever killed anyone?”

Rey thinks of the man who shouted Traitor!, and the brick, and Finn throwing the gun in the river. “I decline to answer that question,” she says, and she takes the last step into Ben’s personal space, primly ignoring how his eyes widen in shock. His cock presses hard and heavy against her stomach.

Well, then.

“I would like it if you kissed me now,” she tells him.

He does.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

It’s been six months since he began his semi-sane life, but Ben has still not entirely adjusted to the fact that it’s illegal for him to kill people.

Things used to be simple: government agencies contacted First Order, then Snoke gave Ben a name, then Ben (sometimes with a team, more often without) eliminated that name. Occasionally there were complications: security personnel, law enforcement officers, people from other mercenary companies. If necessary, he could remove anyone he deemed to be in his way -- and First Order kept extremely loose definitions of both the word ‘remove’ and the word ‘necessary’.

He was very, very good at what he did.

And because it was under clandestine federal contract, it was all technically lawful.

(As time went on, Ben came to suspect that many names he received were not, in fact, from governments, but were instead from Snoke’s own prodigious list of enemies. That may not have been lawful. But Ben never asked too closely.)

Track people down. Eliminate them. Track more people down. Again. Again.

(Don’t break to sleep, or breathe, or find a woman, or call your mother -- but when you’re drowning in blood, you don’t feel like doing those things anyway.)

That was how he’d lived for ten years.

Now, though.

Now, when there is someone who should be dead -- someone for whom there is a very good reason they should be dead, and a very good reason Ben should be the one to make them that way -- Ben cannot just get his great-great-grandfather’s longsword out of the closet and go to work. Now there are consequences.

Even though Ben can’t think of anyone who deserves an end more than the Alpha who bit Rey and told her ‘he was in rut and he couldn’t control himself’.

Of course, Ben might be biased on the subject.

He will have to consider that at a later date. Along with solutions to the problem of this Alpha’s continued and presumably carefree existence that don’t involve Ben going to prison or Rey becoming upset.

“Ben? Are you with me?”

Speaking of Rey not becoming upset. “Yes,” he says, shaking away bad feelings and old instincts. He will let the past die. (He will kill it, if he has to.) “Yes, I’m here.”

“I think I lost you for a minute.”

“You didn’t. I promise.”

Rey gives him a slightly worried look -- but that smoothes away as he kisses her again.

He likes kissing -- a lot -- and he especially likes kissing the way they’re doing it now, in his bed, with Rey beneath him, twining her arms around his shoulders. While he’s still very much hoping to end the night naked and locked so deep inside Rey than it’s impossible to tell where one of them ends and the other begins, making out has an appeal all its own.

He likes the feel of her tongue sliding against his. He likes how her teeth nip at his lower lip. He likes being so close to her skin, where he can smell the secrets just behind her ear, the scents that tell him whether she’s nervous or calm, bored or eager--

--Rey breaks the kiss, turns her head to the side, and licks a long line up the column of his neck.

Ben’s hips jerk against the mattress.

“This is fun,” she purrs, mouthing at his own glands in a way that makes Ben see stars, “but I think I want to start fucking now.”

And there it is -- that Alpha instinct to provide, to give his Omega what she needs. “All right. Get undressed.”

Mumbling obscenities and a stuck dress zipper shouldn’t be as arousing as it is. But this is Ben’s life now.

(Skywalkers don’t do casual.)

Another moment of snapped hooks and shimmies, then Rey is naked -- in his bed -- and flushed, her arms over her head, her legs spread wide. Her inner thighs glisten and her arousal is thick in the air and this is it, this is what Ben was made for, it took him twenty-nine years to understand but now he does. “Go on,” she urges him.

It’s just like in the hotel, an Omega asking to be mounted. And, oh, he wants to.

But Ben can do better than that.

(He has read more books since then.

Fewer Reddit threads, though.)

“Shh.” He slides down the bed and presses a kiss to the inside of her left knee. “We don’t have to rush, you know.”

“We don’t?”

“No.” Another kiss, closer to her center. “We don’t. I would like to touch you first, if that’s all right.”

“Y-- yes. I guess so.”

Ben stops his progression and glances up. Rey looks -- well, not hesitant, but definitely confused, and that’s not good enough. Use your words, Ben. “I want to eat you out,” he explains. “Does that sound like something you’d like?”

Rey turns beet red, then flings a forearm over her eyes. Her scent spikes.

“Rey?”

“Yeah,” she mumbles thickly. “Go ahead.”

“You’re sure?”

(Ben has lived the last three months knowing that estrogen secretion triggered by her pituitary gland is the only reason Rey let him touch her in the first place. He wants more than that, now. He’ll have more than that or he won’t have it at all.)

“Very sure.”

(After all, if the only part of her that wants him is the part she hates, then what would any of it matter?)

This is the first time he’s used his mouth on a woman, but Rey tastes like something Ben is sure he already knew. Rey tastes like adaptive memory. And while she may not be in heat anymore, he still knows the scent of her climax, the feel, the sound. Even if he’d never seen her again, those would have stayed burned into his mind until the day he died.

So he doesn’t need fingers carding his hair to know Rey wants his tongue steady and slow, though he likes it anyway.

He doesn’t need heels digging into his shoulders to know to graze his teeth very gently, though he likes it anyway.

He doesn’t need nails scratching the back of his neck to know to kiss her the same way he kissed her mouth, with soft purpose and focused attention, though he likes it anyway.

All he needs to do is listen, and remember.

 

***

 

“Okay,” gasps Rey after she shatters around Ben’s fingers for the second time. “Okay, that’s… that’s enough, stop, that’s enough. Please.”

Ben obligingly pulls back, rubbing his cheek against the inside of her thigh as he does. Leaving the smallest scrape from his five o’clock shadow -- and scenting her, just a little, with the side of his throat.

Ben Solo was here.

Rey raises herself onto her elbows. “Are you all right?” she asks, glancing down at him.

“Yes.” Emotional discipline might be something Ben is only starting to learn, but physical discipline? That, he’s had for years. He once fought six men with a shotgun blast through his side; ignoring his throbbing cock for a few minutes is no hardship.

“Good. That was--” she shakes her head a few times, breasts rising and falling as she still fights to catch her breath “--nice.” And she smiles. At him. “That was nice.”

“It was,” Ben agrees. “I like your taste.”

Ah. That… came out far more direct than he intended. And maybe a little bit weird. It sounds like he’s commenting on a sandwich, not a paradigm-shifting sexual act.

But Rey--

--she flushes. “Thank you,” she murmurs.

Oh.

“I do,” he says again, testing the waters. “I like it. You taste good to me.”

Rey shivers.

So it wasn’t just a heat thing. “Do you want me to tell you more?” asks Ben, moving up her body. He presses a kiss to her navel and uses his palms to spread her thighs even wider. “Pretty little Scavenger, do you want me to tell you how good you are?”

“Oh, God.”

He pushes off his sweatpants. “Is that a yes?”

“Yes. Yes, please.”

For her -- for Rey, for this sun-bright girl the fates and random social media algorithms have dropped in his lap, for her, Ben will learn to be articulate. “I’ve been everywhere,” he tells her, biting at the line of her sternum, “absolutely everywhere, and I have never seen anyone I wanted as much as you.”

Rey moans.

(At first, he’d resigned himself to seeking another partner -- because after his experience with Rey, Ben had no interest in returning to a lifetime of celibacy. The world was wide; surely, he’d told himself, surely there was someone in the universe who could dull the memory of the freckled Omega who had single-handedly rearranged his galaxy.

Yeah. No.)

“You left, and all I could think was, We’re not done yet.”

“Oh--”

“Look at you.” He traces the underside of her breast with one finger, then follows the same path with his tongue. “Is this what you want? To know you’re so powerful, and flawless, and fuckable, to know that you are so very good you can bring someone like me to my knees?”

“Ben--”

“Oh, it is.” The peak of her breast is firm and pebbled against his lips. He groans as her legs wrap tight around his waist. “Well, know it, then. All I dream about is you coming on my cock. You’ve ruined me for other women.” He kisses his way up her chest, drags his teeth along the scent gland on her neck, bites at her gasping mouth. “Now tell me what you want from me.”

“Ben, please--

“Say it, Scavenger.”

“Fuck me. Please fuck me.”

The power is mind-blowing. He’ll never recover from this. “And if I do?”

“I’ll be good.” Rey arches up under him, wanton but not mindless-- “I’ll be so good, I promise, I’ll be so good, I’ll be all you need, please--

Her words cut off with a gasp as he pushes inside.

I’ll be all you need, she said, and he has no reason to doubt her. She’s so soft, and slick, but very very tight, she's not as open as she was in heat, can she even-- “Are you all right?” he says, pressing kisses against her hair.

She nods, but she’s wincing.

“We don’t have to.” Maybe she’ll let him jerk off on her stomach, or her breasts, or use her mouth on him--

“No, it’s okay, just… not too deep, to start.” She tilts her hips a little and he can’t help it, he groans, it’s almost embarrassing how little it takes for her to undo him.

But, again, years of physical discipline counts for a lot. He’s not a callow youth, and she’s not flooding the room with pheromones. As long as she doesn’t come around him (because yes, that would be it) Ben can fuck her as slowly as she likes.

So he does.

And this new thing -- this unhurried, steady thing -- is as world-changing as any animalistic rut.

(Is this what making love is like?)

After a few minutes something gives, and Rey sighs in relief. “Okay,” she says. “More.”

He can do more. “Hold onto the headboard,” he orders.

She does, and he licks at her jaw, and gives her more.

Soon she’s wailing beneath him, breathless words like harder and deeper and unformed cries echoing beautifully in his ears, and Ben feels the tightening in his gut that means his body’s patience is at an end. “Do you want me to knot you?” he manages to say. “Can you--”

Yes. I can. Please.”

And it’s true -- she can.

 

***

 

Ben wakes the next morning long before Rey does. Sleep is still not the easiest thing -- five hours is a good night for him -- but Dr. Holdo says that’s an improvement, and it will only get better.

With Rey in his bed, better is an understatement. But that’s probably not what Holdo meant.

She’s warm against his chest, snoring more than a little, and this is a great time for Ben to start sorting out some of the things he needs to do next. (He’s most organized at sunrise.) A clinic is definitely something his mother would have liked -- probably Luke, too, though Ben cares less about that.

(You learned all the wrong lessons, Luke had said, looking disgusted and ashamed. I failed you, Ben.

It wasn’t untrue. Years of praying, studying, doing service in the poorest slums of the world, and Ben hadn’t come away with the spiritual certainty that Luke always seemed to radiate. Ben came away knowing that life was cheap, no one could be saved, and there was almost certainly no God.

And yet it didn’t occur to Ben that this would stand in the way of his taking orders until Luke laid it out and asked him to leave.

Now, though -- now, after accepting that he would never see Rey again only to have her delivered to his side by sheer happenstance, Ben is possibly ready to reconsider his beliefs. Not about the Holy Trinity, but maybe that there is a force out there bigger than him that brought them together and thinks it’s okay for a monster like him to have something good in his life.

Maybe.)

The nightmare bureaucratic tangle of his inheritance is still months away from resolution, but the big picture has recently come into focus. Anakin Skywalker’s tainted fortune, which Ben’s mother had never touched, would be difficult to liquidate, but would also arguably be the most appropriate to use for a philanthropic project. Let it do some good.

Ben’s phone is buzzing.

If he wants to reach for it, he will have to move Rey.

Not gonna happen.

There are other options, too. Ben’s not wild about the idea of breaking into the Organa stocks and bonds, but as approximately forty handwritten snail-mail letters from Mr. Charles Pio the Third, Esquire, caretaker of the Amidala Estates, could attest to, the Skywalker money had also concealed parts of his grandmother’s family holdings. Apparently there were literal royal jewels that had sat in Swiss banks for decades, so that could--

Ben’s phone buzzes again.

Oh, for fuck’s sake. He shifts the absolute minimal possible amount and grabs it off the night stand.

It’s Smug Bastard. And it looks like Ben has missed more texts than he thought.

 

      finn is coming to ur place
      sorry
      tried to stop him
      rey didnt answer
      r u there
      ben
      if u hit my bf ill break ur hands

 

What the hell--

And right on cue, there’s a pounding at the front door. “Open up! Open up or I’ll call the cops, you psycho Alpha dickhead!”

Ben can’t remember what the laws are in the state of Washington, but he’s still pretty sure he can punch this kid with impunity. But Rey wouldn’t like it, so. No.

When he opens the door Finn is there: five feet and nine inches of Beta male that Ben could easily stomp into the ground. But the kid doesn’t seem to know that, or doesn’t care. “Where’s Rey?”

“None of your business,” says Ben.

“She’s not answering her phone.”

“It’s six in the morning.”

“She always answers her phone. I know you took her, so where is she?”

“Go away.”

“I’m not leaving without Rey!”

“You’re starting to annoy me, kid.”

“Am I? So what? What are you gonna do, huh? Go all Alpha-Hulk on me? Get bent. Rey!”

“Finn?”

Goddammit. Now Rey is up and dressed, which is precisely what Ben was trying to avoid. “Good morning,” he grumbles, adjusting to the fact that they are not going to be having breakfast in bed. (Which would be a very semi-sane life sort of thing to do, he thinks.)

Finn -- to whom Ben is taking a very serious dislike -- shoves his way into the loft and runs to Rey’s side. “Are you all right?” he demands.

“Yeah. Yeah, I’m fine.” Rey’s eyes meet Ben’s. “I’m good, actually.”

(Fuck. They definitely could have had breakfast in bed.)

“You didn’t answer your phone,” Finn says again. “And you didn’t come home.”

“How do you know that?” A beat. “Is it because you woke up there?” Another beat. “In Rose’s room, maybe?”

“I… uh… this isn’t about me--”

Rey bursts out laughing, and Ben heads off to take a shower. Alone.

 

***

 

“What’s your number?” Rey asks before leaving, ignoring that Finn is scowling at them both from the doorway like some crazed brother turned bodyguard.

Ben gives it to her.

After she leaves -- with just a kiss on the cheek, because of their audience -- Ben gets a text.

 

      this is sand scavenger.

 

He saves it to his favorites.

 

Chapter Text

 

When Ben was twelve, during one of the last full summers he spent with his parents, he went through a brief but intense epic fantasy phase. He read Tolkien, Jordan, Peake, LeGuin -- skipped Harry Potter, that was for babies -- but his favorite was A Song of Ice and Fire (yes, before the HBO series came out, thank you).

He liked the Omega dwarf, who should have been the lowest of the low but was too smart to be anyone’s pawn. He liked the bastard son of the north who got sent from his family and would one day prove himself even though he was just a Beta. He liked the dragons, who didn’t care about designation and answered only to the right blood.

(He also liked that no one had realized yet that maybe these books weren’t as kid-friendly as C.S. Lewis. Uncle Luke would have a heart attack if he knew what the Lannister twins did together.)

There were Alphas in the stories too, great kings and queens who conquered everything they saw and re-made the world into something they could control, something that made sense to them. He loved those parts.

Until the day he came to the following--

“Every child knows that the Targaryens have always danced too close to madness. Your father was not the first. King Jaehaerys once told me that madness and greatness are two sides of the same coin. Every time a new Alpha Targaryen is born, he said, the gods toss the coin in the air and the world holds its breath to see how it will land.”

--and he heard his father’s voice in his ear. “Wow, that guy must’ve hung out with a lot of Skywalkers.”

Ben had slammed the book shut and glared at Han Solo. “Do not read over my shoulder.”

Han had just laughed, and gone off to continue arguing with Leia in the next room.

The fantasy books lost their appeal, after that. Three weeks later Ben was sent to Luke for six months, in Lhasa that time, then back with Han and Leia when they tried to re-re-reconcile, then back to Luke in Buenos Aires, then just Leia for awhile, then Luke again…

...until Ben turned eighteen, burned his bridges, and joined up with First Order.

Every time a new Alpha Skywalker is born, the world holds its breath to see how it will land.

He never did finish reading Martin.

 

***

 

When Rey was twelve, she kept a lot of junk in her room. Unkar knew about it. If he’d thought she was holding on to anything valuable, Rey knew he’d take it all, but he didn’t care as long as it was too broken to sell.

If it shuts you up, he said when she carried away some scratched DVDs. But don’t let me catch you slacking off when we’re open.

Rey loved to watch movies at night, because it helped drown out the sound of Unkar snoring across the hall. She kept a TV from the dump that only needed to be kicked a few times to turn on, and a DVD player that played as long as you spat on the tray once in awhile. She’d usually have to skip a scene or two because otherwise it would freeze up, but still. It all worked.

The movie that played best was Kung Fu Panda.

“To make something special, you just have to believe it’s special.”

She took the handle of an old broom and, whenever Unkar wasn’t looking, swung it around the junkyard, in what she thought was kung-fu style. She hit trash cans. She struck sofas. She bashed in the only unbroken window of the Ford Falcon that had been there since the day Rey arrived.

With this, she could be special.

“What are you doing out here?” she heard one day.

Rey had dropped her weapon and spun around. Unkar glared at her from the gate. “Nothing,” she said.

(Pretending, she thought.)

He didn’t buy it. A moment later he yanked the broom handle from her grip and examined it. “Stupid,” he grumbled.

Then -- to her shock -- he shoved it back into her hands. “Keep it,” he told her. “And get good, because if you think I’m paying for suppressants you’re got another thing coming.”

Rey felt the patch on the back of her neck that had appeared a few months before. She knew what it meant. “Thanks,” she had said, kind of moved.

Pain exploded in her cheek less than a heartbeat later. Unkar, for all his bulk, moved fast. “But don’t ever think about using it on me, girl. Now show me what you got done today, and I’ll decide how long to unlock the pantry tonight.”

To make something special, you just have to believe it’s special.

It could be hard to believe.

 

***

 

Months later, Rey finds the sword while snooping in Ben’s loft.

She should be better about respecting privacy. But scavenging habits die hard, and you never know where something important or interesting or worthwhile might turn up. In Ben’s case, it turned up in the closet, behind his dress shirts.

It’s huge, and looks heavy hanging there on the wall. Rey doesn’t know much about weapons, but she’s got a sixth sense for quality, and this? This is the kind of thing someone should have displayed in a place of honor, not--

“Leave it alone.”

Rey spins around, knocking several hangers down in the process. Ben’s out of the shower, in a towel, and -- he doesn’t usually look at her like that, or speak to her that way. “I’m sorry,” she says instinctively.

His expression softens. “I don’t want that to touch you,” he tells her. “Not ever. Do you understand?”

She doesn’t, not really, but she nods all the same. “Why is it in your closet?”

“Because I don’t like looking at it.”

“Then why don’t you get rid of it?”

“Because I like knowing it’s there. Besides, it’s an heirloom.”

“Oh. That-- that must be neat. Having heirlooms, I mean. Having things that you know your family touched.”

Ben looks at her for a second. Maybe two seconds.

Then his expression changes again, to something harder for her to read, and: “Rey. Come here.”

Well, all right. Rey steps into his arms and accepts the embrace, even though she’s confused by the sudden shift. His skin smells wonderful, that nice safe reassuring Alpha scent that makes everything feel like it’s going to be--

--wait, her cheeks are wet--

--oh, for God’s sake, she’s crying again, isn’t she.

(Her parents have been gone for nineteen years. It’s time to stop feeling sad about it. But she feels so much sadder in general these days, but also happier, she’ll just start laughing for no reason or realize she’s sobbing -- being with Ben has opened up this squishy place inside her that was covered in scar tissue for so long and now there’s just all this stuff pouring out, even when she’s not heat-hormonal. Being loved hurts a lot sometimes.)

“Let’s watch a movie,” she says after a few minutes.

“Okay. Go pick something out, I’ll get dressed.”

Rey presses her forehead against his chest. “You can skip the getting dressed part.”

(Cuddling with an Alpha is, like, ten thousand times better when you actually like him. And being soothed is maybe a little bit nice. She’s starting to consider letting herself get very slightly used to it.)

“How about this.” Ben’s voice is so deep she can feel it against her skin. “I won’t put on clothes… as long as you take yours off.”

“Deal.”

 

***

 

Two days later Ben calls Connix, the woman who’d worked as his mother’s personal assistant for years and therefore became the perfect person to manage all the vaguely formed philanthropic ideas Ben had no idea how to execute. “Add therapists into the budget,” he says.

“Uh. Sure. How many?”

“I don’t know-- ask Holdo, she’s still consulting for you, right?”

“Technically she’s consulting for you. This is your project, Mr. Solo, and I’m really touched by all the confidence you have in me, but are you sure you want me to--”

“My mother trusted you. That’s enough.”

The silence on the other end of the line speaks volumes to Ben. Sometimes he forgets he and Poe aren’t the only ones who miss Leia Organa. “Okay,” Connix says. “Thank you. And you’re positive the cost isn’t an issue?”

There’s another letter from Pio on Ben’s desk right now, with pictures of a castle by a lake in northern Italy that somehow everyone had forgotten about. There are already offers coming in with more zeros than Pio can fit in a single line. Ben still repairs his socks with needle and thread because that’s how Luke taught him. “Yes, I’m positive. Any Omega who needs therapy gets it.”

Connix promises to make it happen.

 

***

 

It took Finn until almost midnight on the day he picked her up from Ben’s to wrap his head around what happened. (Though, to be fair, this was in part because they’d both fallen asleep on the couch around ten and not woken up till suppertime. It had been a long night for them both.) And he more or less reacted how she’d expected: pointing out that Ben had an unsavory past (to put it mildly), he was way too into her way too quickly (not that she wasn’t totally deserving of love-at-first-sight), that the only independent knowledge any of them had of him came from Poe, who’d called him a dickhead more than once (but Poe had thought Ben was okay to bring to the bar, so that had to count for something).

But the news that Ben had offered to pay for better suppressants made Finn turn quiet. Then he told her to take it.

Rey asked if that meant she’d be whoring herself for drugs.

Finn reminded her that when they’d been living in alleys and abandoned warehouses, sleeping in shifts just in case someone tried to jump them during the night, they’d both considered prostitution. It was just dumb luck that they’d found a place they could afford before it came to that.

Rey asked what she’d do if she and Ben didn’t work out.

Finn said that even if no clinic was ever built she still wouldn’t be any worse off, medication-wise, than she was before. And he reminded her there were no prizes in life for making yourself suffer when you don’t have to. And he also reminded her that she was his Peanut and he was her Peanut and they’d always have each other, even if things dove back to rock bottom. Especially then.

Then Rey asked what happened between him, Rose, and Poe the night before.

Finn squealed into a pillow like a little girl and they stayed up till sunrise laughing.

 

***

 

“Don’t say it,” Rey tells Ben the first time he walks through her front door. “Don’t even say it.”

Ben shuts his mouth.

And he’s very good -- better than Rey expected -- for about, oh, five minutes, when he says: “There’s exposed wiring in the ceiling. This place is a death trap.”

“It’s not that bad. I fixed up a lot of it.”

“Uh-huh. And what happens during thunderstorms?”

“It gets a little exciting, I won’t lie--”

“Jesus Christ.”

“Oh, don’t be such a snob.”

“I am not being a snob. It’s not snobbish to worry that my Omega might be electrocuted in a…”

Ben trails off. Then he looks away and makes that face where he puffs out a breath because he knows he’s said the wrong thing and doesn’t know what words to use to fix it. (Rey’s gotten very familiar with that face.)

He doesn’t call her Omega when she’s not in heat. And even then, it’s only over the phone, when he’s saying beautiful things as she fucks herself with the toy with the knot attachment and Concealatrex is amazing, it’s an absolute wonder drug, but that’s the only time he ever says my Omega.

She never said he couldn’t, but she’s always appreciated the thought.

“I think it’s a little bit condescending,” Rey says slowly, “that my Alpha thinks I can’t repair basic circuitry.”

Ben’s ears turn pink, but they keep arguing anyway, right up until Rose gets home and tells Ben she’s an Alpha too and she’ll zap his ass with her stun gun if he doesn’t quit complaining.

(But the fight doesn’t really stop until she moves in with him after the building is condemned six months later. Which Ben swears he had nothing to do with.)

 

***

 

Phasma slips into the booth like it’s totally normal for a six-foot woman wearing six-inch designer heels to be in a diner at three in the morning on a Tuesday. “I’m only here,” she says, “because I was in the area anyway.”

“Hello to you, too,” says Ben. “How have you been?”

“Busy. You left an enormous mess for us to clean up, you know.”

“I had to do it.”

“Bullshit.”

“Okay, fine. I wanted to do it.”

Everyone wanted to do it, you selfish prick. What gave you the right to jump the queue?”

Ben takes a sip of coffee, and says: “No one else would have succeeded.”

(Phasma -- and everyone else in First Order, and rival companies, and rival governments, and at least forty-eight of the top 100 most powerful people on the Forbes list -- would happily have gutted Snoke herself. But Snoke didn’t let people close enough to get that chance… except for the boy who came to him broken, the boy he then demolished, tore down to the foundation, and remade as a personal instrument of death. Ben Solo, he trusted.

Unfortunate for him.)

Phasma humphs. “And with a sword,” she says derisively, which from her means That pile of bodies was the most impressive fucking thing I’ve ever seen.

“No one ever expects a sword.”

He should have.”

“That’s true. How’s Hux?”

“Alive,” says Phasma.

“Too bad,” says Ben.

“Indeed. But I assume you didn’t invite me here to talk about the past.”

“I did, actually. Just not mine.” Ben glances out the window, and sees his own face reflecting back. He’s gotten used to the scar. “Phasma, I need a favor.”

He only swore to lead a semi-sane life, after all.

 

***

 

You are not satisfying your Alpha. He wants more from his Omega, and you are not giving him what he needs.

The drawback of the new suppressant is that the stupid Omega instincts are a little louder in day-to-day life. It’s the tradeoff that keeps them from running the show every heat: a gentle up-and-down through the cycle, rather than going from zero to sixty in a matter of hours.

Rey can live with that. And it’s quiet, most of the time. Hormonal nudges instead of demands.

You were made to be mated. You were made to open your body and give your Alpha everything. That is what he wants. That is the purpose of an Omega. You are not behaving as you ought.

“What’s wrong?”

Rey shakes her head. “Nothing,” she says, laying her head on Ben’s lap. There’s a Julia Child marathon on and it’s beyond absurd how much they’re both enjoying it. “Just a little crabby.” She pauses, then elaborates: “My heat’s coming up.”

“I know.”

“And I… um… I don’t have my apartment anymore.”

“True.” A beat. “Will you be going to a hotel?”

“Yeah. That makes the most sense, probably.”

He strokes her hair, very gently, as Julia explains how to flip potato pancakes. “I’ll make a reservation.”

Your Alpha is displeased.

“It has to bother you,” Rey blurts out. “I know it does.”

(Julia’s pancake falls on the stove; she didn’t have the courage of her convictions.)

“You’re an Alpha,” Rey continues. (Ben’s taken his hand off her head.) “Please don’t lie to me and tell me you’re fine not fucking Omegas in heat.”

“I want to fuck you,” he replies steadily.

“Maybe you don’t. I’m the only one you’ve had, so maybe it’s just that you don’t know any better--”

“No, Rey.”

“You have to want to mate someone!”

“No.”

Your Alpha is very displeased. Stop, Omega.

“And even if I let you -- even if it worked! I don’t know if it would work! -- I wasn’t good at being a mate anyway!” (This is an ugly part she never thinks about except during the hormonal mess of heat, and even then, not often.) “He never came after me, I mean, I know I ran away, and we didn’t like each other but he did mate me and then he didn’t even try--”

Ben stands up so abruptly Rey almost falls off the couch. He leaves the room. Rey hears something crash in the hall.

He will not care for you, if you do not give him this. He will not protect you. He will not make you safe. Your Alpha will find another Omega.

A fat manila file slaps down on the coffee table.

“He’s dead,” Ben says flatly.

Rey sits up, wipes her face, and stares at the envelope. There’s several labeled tabs sticking out of the side. The first one reads Thomas Edo in neat font.

“And no,” Ben adds, “I didn’t make him that way. He tried to fuck another Alpha’s mate three years ago and got stabbed for it. He had no respect for anyone. He was garbage, Rey, and you are not. Not to me.”

The file is at least an inch and a half thick. Rey can’t tear her eyes away. “What else is in there?”

“Everything.”

Everything. “Have you read it?”

“No. Only the files on him and on Unkar Plutt.” Ben’s mouth twists. “He’s still alive, but my offer to change that stands.”

Her parents. Her parents are in that file. Her birth place. Her real name. The tools to become a citizen, maybe. Everything she is is sitting in an envelope on Ben Solo’s coffee table.

“Why?” she whispers.

“Because you’re my Omega and I want you to be happy,” he says, in that cold, distant tone he uses when what he’s saying is everything to him. “This universe should be a place where you don’t feel alone, Rey. And I will make it that way whether you want to be mated or not.”

(Julia Child reforms the potato pancakes and tells the audience it’s okay if it’s not perfect, it’s your kitchen, no one needs to know.)

“I don’t feel alone when I’m with you,” Rey tells Ben. “And you-- you’re not alone either, you know.”

Ben blinks. “This isn’t about me,” he says.

But Rey stands up, walks around the coffee table (she’ll look at those files eventually, when she’s ready, but not now, not today) and wraps her arms around Ben’s middle.

Neither of them are accustomed to her initiating hugs.

But after a moment, he figures out how to hug her back.

 

***

 

Rey never returns to the heat hotel on Takodana Avenue.