Rey breathes out slowly, trying to settle her nerves. She pats down her bun, and her hands flutter about. Chewing her lip, she hesitates between grabbing a pen or crossing her hands firmly in her lap. She glances at the wooden door to her office, then looks at the clock to her right. They ought to arrive any second. She takes out her binder with yellow notepad paper and tries to fumigate the butterflies of anxiety flittering about in her stomach.
The oak door creaks open, and Rey’s heart thunders in her chest. She feels like a heroine in some cheap horror film, waiting for the monster to show up and tear her apart. She swallows. She really should stop demonizing this poor family. Sure, Finn had shadows under his eyes and kept waking up screaming in the middle of the night, but they couldn’t actually be that bad, right?
A large, oxford-clad foot pokes out from behind the door. Rey takes one last, desperate mouthful of air and forces a cheery grin. A huge hand soon follows after the foot. Her heart thunders in her ears. She can hear arguing in the hallway. Rey wants to roll her eyes, but bites her cheek. The door finally opens fully and Rey’s heart stops. She finds herself staring into a pair of all-too-familiar obsidian eyes. It's her grumbling, grocery-store giant.
He blinks back. His plush lips part. He gulps. Some emotion flickers across his face, softening it, before his pale face tightens back into an ivory mask with constellations of moles and beauty marks. He stands in the doorway, practically filling it with his girth. She bites back a laugh at the irony. He ducks inside and stumbles towards the leather loveseat.
Behind him strolls in a regal, aging beauty and a roguish, silver-haired man. His mother, Leia presumably, has a presence that draws the eye and sucks the air from the room. Meanwhile, the man, Han, has deeply cut laugh lines and the tanned skin of someone who grew up running about under the sun. He walks about as if he owns the place.
Both of them are arguing about something, but Rey can’t quite distinguish their words over her pounding heart. The two settle onto the couch, and Rey notes how they both subtly pat the other’s thigh and sit close enough that their hands touch. Rey schools her expression into a pleasant mask and continues to smile at the family.
The woman clears her throat and glares at her son, who somehow manages to make Rey’s oversized loveseat look like children’s furniture. His knees are drawn towards his chest and he practically spills out of the chair. In any other situation, Rey would probably dissolve into a fit of giggles at the sight. He clears his throat, but instead of talking just glances out the window with a mournful expression.
The woman sighs, pats her husband’s thigh once more, then twists towards her son and clucks her tongue. His shoulders tense. Rey sees him roll his eyes, but he clears his throat and opens his mouth to speak. Then, a flash of panic illuminates his eyes. He glances at Rey and the tips of his ears turn cherry-red. He swallows, snaps his mouth shut, and looks out the window. This time, his mother actually leans over the arm of the sofa and smacks him lightly on the arm. Her face twists into a scowl. Han just smirks and rolls his eyes at Rey, as if trying to enlist her to join his side and laugh at the pair. Rey keeps her expression neutral and waits.
“Sorry, work held me up. Things ran late. One of the clients...” he trails off, looking down at his hands and shaking his head. He chances a glance up at Rey, then turns back to the window. Despite the rich bass tones, his throat sounds hoarse from disuse; it conjures up the image of some old leather-bound tome covered in dust and sealed shut with spiderwebs.
He doesn’t seem like much of a talker. Her thoughts fast-forward to his scheduled visit for a private session the next day, Rey gulps. Her secretary and Finn's and scrambled to re-adjust her schedule in order to find him a slot tomorrow. Her Thursdays are usually booked solid, but Ben apparently didn't have a flexible schedule.
“You’ll have to excuse him. He prefers to sulk in the corner,” the woman scoffs.
She sounds exhausted, and the bitter twist of her mouth hints at decades of family feuds.
Rey nods cheerfully and pretends that she’s not mentally kicking herself for being cocky enough to step up to the plate and become their therapist.
“Anyway, I’m Leia. This is my husband, Han, and he’s Ben.” She gestures towards the giant from the grocery store. “We were a tad shocked when Dr. Trooper recommended we start meeting with you instead. I could have sworn we were finally starting to work out our problems under his guidance…” She trails off, glaring again at Ben, who snorted when she mentioned working through their issues. “Well, at least I’m trying, unlike you two,” she spits.
Ben chuckles and Han just rolls his eyes. Rey clears her throat.
“Well, it seems that you are conflicted over the effectiveness of Dr. Trooper’s sessions. Would you care to enlighten me? I want us to establish an effective healing environment, so truthfulness and open communication are very important,” she rattles off the statements and waits with bated breath.
Surprisingly, Ben talks first. “He was useless.”
“Benjamin Amidala Organa-Solo, you take that back! That nice young man was great,” Leia scolds.
Ben clucks his tongue.
After listening to that mouthful of a name, Rey begins to understand why Ben might not feel particularly generous towards his parents. A name like that carries the weight of numerous legacies; the consequential expectations that followed Ben must have haunted him throughout his youth.
For once, Rey almost feels grateful that she named herself: Rey Johnson, a nobody from nowhere with a last name picked randomly from a list of generic options. At least by having no relatives, she can avoid Ben’s problem: the forebear's of her name won’t loom over her shoulder, obscuring her in their shadows.
“Yeah, great at ducking,” he mutters.
Han grunts a laugh, and points towards Leia: "She throws things."
"You both are twisting that well-out of proportion! It was one time."
Suddenly that night last week when Finn and Poe threw pillows at her head and told her she’d be thanking them later makes sense.
“Both of you behave,” Leia commands.
Her eyes flash and Ben sighs and runs a hand through his hair.
“Why do you keep dragging us to these things, mother? It’s pointless,” he grumbles.
Han chortles and Leia shoots him a glance.
“Out of curiosity, what makes you feel that these sessions are pointless?” she asks.
Ben blinks up at her. His cheeks flush pink, then he sighs, and shrugs.
“Some things are just too broken; they can’t be fixed,” he mumbles.
Rey blinks. Sympathy tugs at her heart.
“Luckily for you all, I love fixing things,” she smiles.
Ben meets her gaze. His mask cracks and she notes the sadness in his eyes. The rest of the session passes by somewhat tersely. Leia tends to wheedle her husband and son into gruff, monosyllabic answers to Rey’s probing questions.
Meanwhile, Rey jots down her observations and comments in the binder. Ben keeps staring at her, but he keeps his mouth firmly shut for the majority of the session. Leia and Han dissolve into an argument over Leia’s obsessive need for order and a busy schedule. The two of them continue to swap barbed complaints for the majority of the session. Rey writes down workaholic under both Leia and Han’s names and a few theories as to why they both developed these tendencies as coping mechanisms.
She also notes the sneaky grins and flushed faces of the two as they argue. Rey stops herself from rolling her eyes at Han and Leia’s antics, but when she looks up, she sees Ben smirking at her with that unreadable expression warming his eyes again. Rey bites her lip. He risks a small smile, then returns to staring out the window and most likely wishing himself anywhere else.
Overall, she doesn’t want to start working on methods to explain and fix this patched up family until after she formulates a better understanding of their backstory and how they came to their current state of dysfunction: Han and Leia living in separate houses on opposite ends of the city, but refusing to divorce and Ben barely communicating with either of them, unless Leia drags him to a therapy session or shows up at his workplace with fire in her eyes and threats on her lips.
Rey finds herself sympathizing with Ben throughout the session. It’s becoming increasingly obvious that Han and Leia spent his childhood too preoccupied with work and playing coy to spare much thought to their silent son. Abandonment comes in many forms.
Rey pushes open the heavy pine door of Resistance and Finn ducks in after her. Poe nods and gestures for them to sit in their usual spot with the jerk of his head. Finn blushes, and refuses to meet Rey’s teasing eyes. So they wordlessly stride through the crowded bar and settle down on their wooden stools in the corner closest to the window. Poe saunters over with two glasses of Guinness and quirks a teasing brow. Rey just rolls her eyes and grabs her glass, while Poe continues to joke around by holding Finn’s glass slightly out of reach. Finn lazily reaches for it, and Poe dances away from him. The two men laugh and continuing their game.
Rey just sits, slowly sipping her beer and wondering if she should prod Finn to finally ask out Poe. Rose skips up to them with glossy menus, and Rey smiles at the younger girl who frowns and bites her lip when she catches Finn and Poe flirting like a pair of preteens.
“Hello, Rose. How are you?” Rey asks, trying to distract the rejected girl.
“Alright, a tad tired. November's always hell month, you know?” Rose smiles wryly.
Rey notes the shadows under Rose’s eyes and the general air of exhaustion surrounding her.
“I remember…” Rey sighs, nodding sympathetically.
She takes another sip of her beer.
“All those projects start being due and then everyone’s frantically trying to shove material down your throat…” Rose rants, shaking her head and plopping down on the stool next to Rey.
She swings her legs and rests her chin on her hands.
“It’s your last time though, right?” Rey asks.
“Well, I graduate after Spring Semester and I’m hoping to start grad school in the fall. So… Yes and no?” Rose leans on one hand and tilts the other back and forth.
“Where are you applying?”
“I’d like to be closer to my sister. She’s stationed near San Diego, so I’ve applied to several West Coast schools, but it depends on scholarships,” Rose sighs, going back to her previous pose.
She kicks the bar. Poe stops flirting to flash her a warning, but she just smiles and rolls her eyes once he turns back to Finn.
“Have you applied to be a TA?” A surge of directionless empathy overcomes Rey. If Rose studied psychiatry, Rey could offer her a paid internship or write her a recommendation letter; however, Rey has no qualifications in the field of aeronautical engineering, so instead she can only sit back and offer vague pieces of advice and sympathetic smiles.
“Yeah, it’s a good idea. I started emailing some professors with similar research specialities, like you said. Hopefully someone will want me.” Rose knocks on the bar with a wry smile.
“Rose, you’re a fantastic person and an excellent student. You’ll find a program that works for you.”
“Thanks. So, do you know what you’d like to order?” Rose twists towards her, jumping off the stool, and wiping imaginary dust off of her jeans.
“Probably just some chips.”
“Do you mean chip chips or fries?” Rose’s nose scrunches, while her pen hovers over her notepad.
“Oh, um… Fries, my bad,” Rey laughs.
“No problem. I just wanted to be sure. How’d you end up in the US anyway?”
“Scholarships and curiosity.”
“Huh… Didn’t your family worry?”
“No family,” Rey mutters, trying to pretend like announcing the news doesn’t feel like tearing off a barbed band-aid.
“Oh… Shit… I mean shoot… I’m sorry.” Rose’s eyes widen and she starts leaning towards Rey.
A jolt of panic makes Rey jump. She forces a smile and hopes that Rose won’t try to touch her.
“It’s alright,” she chokes out. “I…” she swallows, “I choose my family instead.” She gestures towards Finn and Poe.
Rose looks at the two and smiles softly, nodding to herself. Then she turns to Rey with her eyes alight.
“You’re always welcome to join the Tico family if you want!”
“Thanks, Rose. You’re a sweetheart.” Rey pushes the words out of her mouth.
Then she passes Finn a menu, and Rose turns her full attention to her oblivious crush. Finn blinks blearily. He glances at the menu, shuffles through it, then shrugs and makes Poe order for him. Poe just chuckles indulgently and pokes something into the POS system with a twinkle in his eye. Rose huffs, but Rey assures her that she’ll get the tip, so Rose smiles awkwardly and runs off to check on another customer.
Sighing, Rey turns to Finn. “You need to be more aware of others,” she tuts.
He just quirks a brow and shrugs. “What are you talking about?”
“Finn, you aren’t that blind. Stop pretending to be. Either tell her you're interested or stop stringing her along.”
“I don’t do anything though,” Finn deflects.
Poe chooses this time to go check on some other customers. Finn’s eyes follow him.
“Exactly,” Rey states.
“You know what I meant.” Finn rolls his eyes and tuts.
“Yes, I do. But doing nothing doesn’t seem to be helping her,” Rey points out diplomatically.
“Peanut, she’s young. She’ll find someone else and forget all about her little crush on me. Besides, if you’re wrong and she doesn’t have a crush, then I’ll just look like a douchebag if I talk to her about it. She doesn’t plan to stay here for her master’s, so why potentially ruin a friendship over this?”
“Do you think I’m wrong though?” Rey tilts her chin, challenging him to lie to her face.
Finn deflates. Resting his head in his hands, he stares at her through the spaces between the splayed fingers of his right hand.
“Rey… That’s not the point,” Finn mumbles.
“I know it’s not, but I also know that she’s had a crush on you for nearly two years, Finn. She deserves an answer.”
Rey tightens her jaw and glares at him. He just further deflates.
“Could we please talk about something else?” He whines.
“Well, I figured out why you and Poe decided to give me lessons on ducking,” Rey laughs wryly.
“Did they? On the first day?” Finn’s face lights up at the scandal.
Rey rolls her eyes. He just loves gossip.
“No, but Ben brought it up,” She giggles, her cheeks flushing magenta. Rey takes another sip of her beer and blames the liquid for the sudden warmth in her chest.
“Ben? Ugh… The demon. He’s the worst out of the lot of them,” Finn mutters.
He swallows a mouthful of beer and clunks the glass on the bar. “At least Han and Leia are decent people. They’re just terrible together. Ben though…” Finn shudders dramatically, then takes another swig of beer.
“I actually feel bad for him. It’s got to be difficult to grow up with parents too preoccupied with their careers and one another to spare you a glance. In a way, his own family rejected him. I can see why he has a difficult time trusting people,” Rey confesses.
Finn just stares at her as if she told him she genuinely believed that the Earth is flat. “You actually care about that monster?” He asks, voice raising in shock.
Poe glances over with a quirked brow. Rey waves awkwardly. “He’s not a monster,” she argues.
“Rey…” Finn stretches out her name, turning it into a plea.
“He has a monstrous temper… God, he was an ass when I bumped into him at the grocery store, but that’s different,” she concludes.
Her mind flips between the Ben from Takodana’s versus today’s Ben. Today he seemed more subdued and pensive. Perhaps she just bumped into him during a bad moment? Although Finn makes him out to be Satan himself.
“Wait… Is he grocery guy? Oh, that’s rich! You told me that you tore that guy apart! Did your whole mind reading routine and everything, yeah? No wonder he behaved. He’s probably terrified of you,” Finn rants.
He sits on the edge of his stool and eagerly awaits her answer.
“I don’t know… I can’t tell,” she mumbles, mainly to herself.