The first time they meet, it is on a Monday morning in the east library, which is not Ben's usual hangout, but he needs to acquire some reference books there and gets his research work begun as soon as possible, so he wanders straight into the reading room on the second floor. Since it is close to midterm, it is mostly occupied, Ben is lucky to spot an empty seat at the far corner thanks to his advantage in height. His long legs also help him to beat someone else to get to that seat.
"Is this seat taken?" he puts the hand on the back of the empty chair and asks the other three students sitting nearby, just to be sure. The desk is strewn with various books, notes, stationery and identical coffee cups, all come from the popular campus coffee shop, Maz's Cantina, that practically fuels most students during examination weeks.
Someone murmurs no and the other two shake their heads, so Ben mutters his gratitude and puts his own cup of coffee and books onto the desk. People around him pay no attention to him as he sits down on the empty seat, takes out his laptop from the backpack, takes a sip of his coffee, and then begins to work.
Some time later, when Ben reaches for his cup next to his computer again, his fingers are met with empty air.
Surprised, he looks up and, at first glance, he finds that the student on his left side is holding his cup. The person must have mistaken it for their own since Ben recognizes his name on the cup, a partial "B" and an "E", through those slim fingers.
The second thing he notices is that the thumbnail is a bit rough around the edge. It takes one nail-biter to know another, although Ben has mostly got rid of that awful habit - he still sucks his thumbs when he is under stress, and the paper he is working is stressful enough - he remembers that the most common treatment, which is cheap and widely available, is to apply a bitter-tasting nail polish to the nails. Ben figures that's why those nails look so pink.
The third thing he notices is that the tip of the transparent coffee straw is currently sucked on by lips with the same pinkish shade. Ben stares as those pink lips rear back, showing him pearly white teeth that are gnawing the straw, his straw, which he himself has sucked on and nipped on several times for the past 15 minutes.
Then those lips close up again and continue to suck up the coffee with a pout.
Oral fixation or not, Ben is at a loss as how to approach the subject. How do you let people know that they have mistakenly drunk a stranger's coffee and consequently consume some of his saliva? And if he gets his cup back, throw the damn straw away, could he still drink the coffee which he really needs to power through his day, albeit that means he may inevitably have to consume a little bit of the other person's saliva too. Is there a social etiquette or health concern about two complete strangers exchanging body fluid via a cup of coffee?
The problem solves itself as that pout releases the straw with a soft pop. And then a pink tongue darts out to lick the upper lip, grazing the cupid's bow with a sheen. It seems those pink lips are obviously not the product of artificial makeup. He lifts his appreciative eyes and is graced with sun-kissed freckled cheeks and the most beautiful hazel eyes he has ever seen.
Ben unconsciously swallows and licks his own lips. He will not mind having a taste of those lips and exchanging body fluid with....
A soft cough stops Ben own train of thought, kind of throws him off the rail actually. Those hazel eyes are currently fixed on him. And in question, raised one eyebrow. Very nice-looking eyebrows too. In fact, Ben cannot find anything that is not perfect on that face. Too bad that a zip-up grey hoodie covers the hair and the neck. Ben wants to see more skin. He feels disturbingly annoyed and aroused at the same time.
Another cough, and Ben feels like a child caught with one hand in the cookie jar.... no, the hand, the cup, his cup.
Except that it isn't his. The slender hand has put the cup back onto the desk, revealing the letters "R-E-Y", instead of "B-E-N", on the front.
Ben's face turns red immediately. He is glad that his hair must have covered the red tips of his big ears. He casts his eyes back to the desk and finds out, somewhat dismayed, that his own coffee cup is sitting behind the screen of his laptop the whole time.
A sigh of relief and a sight of disappointment. So they didn't exchange body fluid. Stop. He groans inwardly and then glances back to the person next to him.
Wait a minute. Is that a blush?
They stare at each other for a hot minute, without saying a word. Light filters through the window and cast a lovely halo around Rey. And then the corners of those pink lips curl up, presenting him the cutest dimples. He decides that Rey is a really good name, an actual Rey of sunshine.
Ben returns the smile, careful not to show too much of his slightly crooked teeth. He ends up sucking his own upper lip inward, then reaches out his hand to turn his own coffee cup slightly on the desk, making sure that Rey sees his name "B-E-N" on the cup.
Rey nods slightly, biting the bottom lip that is getting a darker shade of pink. Very kissable, even bite-able, Ben can't help but wonder what will happen if a nail-biter and a thumb-sucker kiss?
Ben is about to open his mouth, when Pink Floyd's "Mother" starts to ring from his cellphone on the desk. It's Leia. He has to take this call.
The others look up from their books, annoyed.
"Excuse me," Ben mutters, looking at Rey apologetically, then grabs his phone and flees to the exit.
The phone call takes him longer than expected. 20 minutes later, when he finishes the phone call with his mother and returns to the reading room. The seat next to his is empty.
Ben looks around, trying to find any trace of Rey. But sadly, there's nothing left, even the cup with "R-E-Y" on it is gone, too.
"Where did Rey go?" he asked the remaining students.
"Who?" one of them asks. Both of them look confused. They are not acquaintances, then.
He returns to the same desk every morning at around the same time the following week, but Rey is no where to be seen.
The second time Ben sees Rey, it is on Instagram. Ben has been browsing his friends' feed when he comes across a familiar face.
The face is not in the center of the photos, though, because the two pictures were taken while Poe, his friend, was waiting for his car to finish getting an oil change.
The first picture is Rey, who was wearing a grey tank top, skinny jeans and a cap, in profile, adding oil to the car at the fill hole.
In the second picture, Rey was lying under the car, knees bent, replacing the oil filter. It only shows a third of Rey's body.
Ben zooms in, he can recognize those lips and chin anywhere. And then, there comes a surprise.
He is admittedly quite impressed by the tones, lean limbs exposed. The tan skin is prettily freckled.
And the butt, well, it looks firm and peachy.
Ben has always been an ass man.
The caption was:
One hell of a mechanic! Neatest #oilchange I've ever seen.
Ben checks again, but cannot find anything more about Rey.
It maybe just a one-time thing, but Ben decides to try his luck as he types in the comment section, asking about the location and the mechanic, because, first, he doesn't want to sound too much like a creepy stalker, and second, he really can use an oil charge.
Poe never replies.
The third time Ben meets Rey, it is outside the campus coffee shop, Maz's, a few days later after he saw the Instagram pictures. Rey, who is wearing the same grey hoodie and standing in front of the counter, a dozen yards from him, oblivious to Ben's call as the noisy coffee shop swamps his voice.
From his vantage point, Ben sees that Rey heads towards the library with a cup. A tall glass of water, he decides. At 6'3, Ben is basically taller than anyone within a 5-mile radius, but Rey is above average height. Slim figure cladded in skinny jeans and chunky boots. Ben admires those lovely long legs and bubble butt, and then comes up with an idea.
Several minutes later, Ben enters the reading room and sure enough, Rey is sitting at the same seat by the window. The grey hoodie has been let down, and the upper half of Rey's hair is pinned back. The down part of that dark brown hair reaches the back of a delicate neck which is wrapped by a thin grey scarf.
Grey suits Rey, what else rhymes? Ben thinks. Prey.
Rey is engrossed in a book while sucking on the straw. Those peachy lips make Ben swallows hard. Thankfully, this time, the other three seats are empty.
Ben puts the brown cafe paper bag on the desk, sits back on the seat next to Rey, who looks up at him, expectingly.
"Hi, I'm Ben," he begins. he carefully points at the name-marked cup in Rey's hand. "You are Rey, right?"
Rey nods, biting the straw.
"You, um..." Ben scratches his head, not sure how to continue. Then he notices the title of Rey's book. "An Introduction to Fluid Dynamics, you major in physic?"
"Yes, Aeronautical Engineering for my postgraduate, hopefully," Rey has a surprisingly smoky posh accent.
Ben thinks he's a bit in love with that voice already. "Wow, that's very ambitious." In a very male-dominated field, is what leaves unsaid.
Rey grabs the cup tightly, and then puts it back on the desk with a thump.
"I'm in Astrophysics, postdoctoral." His second postdoctoral, actually. Also, not a professor, nor on the tenure-track, totally available to date a fellow student, Ben hopes Rey gets the hint.
That earns him a raised eyebrow and a toothy smile. "It seems like we are both fascinated by the sky and the stars."
"Yes." Ben resists the urge to tell Rey that his family name is literally Skywalker and their bloodline is pumped by dark matter. Family stories come later, he tells himself and changes the subject. "I'd never seen you here before, except last time."
"Oh, I'm just a freshman."
That explains the fresh young face. He's about a decade older than Rey. Ben feels so much older than that.
A minute of silence. Rey goes back to read the book and Ben takes out his computer and continues his work.
After some time, Ben takes out his coffee cup from the bag, and then gets the straw from the wrapper. After popping the straw into the lid of the cup, he suddenly remembers, "You know, last time we were here, I thought you had taken my cup by mistake."
"That's why you had been staring at me intensely?" Rey looks up and then shrugs. "I thought you had a crush on me."
Ben nearly spits out the coffee. He sputters, "How... how did you know?"
"Guys don't look at me like that."
"Like you were going to eat me up."
Well, that is a very close description. Speaking of eating, Ben takes out the small jar of cookies from the cafe bag, tears away the seal on the lid. "Would you like something to eat?"
Rey's eyes lights up. "Maz's red cookies! How do you know those are my favorite?"
"Everybody loves Maz's red cookies. It's not exactly rocket science," Ben shrugs. "I'm just an astrophysicist, after all."
Rey takes a bite, enjoying the delicious cookies. "The quickest way to a man's heart is..."
"Through his fourth and fifth ribs," Ben finishes the sentence.
"Stars," Rey ends up snorting. "I like a man with a morbid sense of humor."
"So do I," Ben answers.
Rey looks up.
They stare at each other for a minute.
And then, Rey asks, "How did you know?"
Ben shrugs. "I'm cis male and pansexual, what about you?"
"I define myself as non-binary and demisexual."
"Good. The galaxy is too big for just ones or zeros. Pleased to meet you, Rey."
"The pleasure is all mine, Ben."