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Because & Despite

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Several people ran about the streets, cars lining up and honking loudly. From up above, Rey could pinpoint some of people she knew worked in the building rushing off into cabs or crosswalks.

Leaving. Going. Departing.

Jealousy was her friend as the city glowed alive as the evening feed into the dead of night. Fridays were always busy and vibrant, Rey counting the lights dancing across the way. Coruscant never slept, the city life impossible to contain with the massive buildings and dream chasers. One could enter Coruscant and never be heard of again— anonymity at its finest. Both a beautiful and unfortunate quality to behold.

Of course, Rey’s experience with the city was mostly from the confines of the office. While it’d been a blessing to receive her job right out of graduation, a rare occurrence for the majority, Rey knew little of the city. Even after living there for nearly three years, she remained a mere acquaintance to its happenings and locations—except for Rebels Stadium. Her other home away from home.

“Go,” Rey mumbled, sitting on the ledge of the window. Her jam-packed notebook and planner sat on her lap, opening to the following weeks schedule. Pen laid forgotten on top, Rey stopping her work mid-sentence. Her eyes trailed after a tall man jogging to the edge of the side walk, hailing a cab with the precision of a lifelong city dweller. She watched as he swiftly entered the cab, disappearing from her sight. “Be free…while I sit and wait for my impending death.”

Her head dropped against the window with a thud, her glasses sliding further down her nose. Slowly her eyes began to droop…

Rey!

She flinched, catching her planner before it tumbled to the floor in a ridiculous mess. Blinking quickly, Rey hopping off the ledge and scrambled to her boss’ office. Nearing the corner of the doorway, Rey slowed down, brushing her flyways from her three buns behind her ear.

Standing taller, she entered.

Sitting perched at her desk, Gwen Phasma typed away on her bright red laptop. Her thin lips pursed as she regarded Rey silently, icy blue eyes consuming her appearance.

“You should be exhausted and ran over here—not all put together,” she remarked, unamused by her young assistant. “No one likes a snob, Rey.”

“Yes, ma’am,” Rey acknowledge, refraining the urge to salute. Instead, she tucked her planner close to her chest. Patiently waiting for Phasma to give her list of demands and changes.

Click-clack of her trimmed nails against the keyboard filled the room. Phasma paused, lifting a perfectly plucked eyebrow at Rey. “Why are you just standing there?”

“Right,” Rey nodded, deciding not to comment on Phasma’s ‘don’t speak unless spoken to rule’ while she writing. Flipping open her planner, Rey turned to the list of matters to address with her boss. “Um, Missy sent an invitation to her baby shower for the 30the ,”

“Send her my best regards and a gift, but decline,” Phasma interjected, “Baby showers are disgusting mother and pastel hybrids, no thank you.”

“Jackie and Carl, your friends,” Phasma rolled her eyes at the mention of the couple, “Need to reschedule their Saturday dinner plans with you. Their son has the flu.”

A aggravated groan left Phasma, “Not again—seriously the boy needs to grow up and learn germs exist.”

“He’s five—kids get sick,” Rey muttered, earning a sharp glare from Phasma. Fearing for her life, Rey cleared her throat, “Anyways—uh, then Megan is waiting on your RSVP and needs to confirm if you will be willing to share a room with—”

“I am a grown woman with my own thriving business,” Phasma stated tersely, kicking her feet up on the edge of her desk. “I will not be sharing a room with a woman I hardly know like some school girls because I am not bring a plus one—idiots,” she scoffed, wavering her hand at Rey. “Send warm regards and decline—I don’t need this bullshit.”

“Got it,” Rey answered, writing notes furiously on her notepad. Her scrawl became less and less refined as the hours became later. “Do you need me to order dinner?”

“Yes, get it from that one place with the mac and cheese—the one with the guy, who wore the blue that made his eyes pop?” Phasma vaguely ordered, reaching into her desk drawer. With a flick of her wrist she tossed Rey her fitness watch. “I forgot the wear it again during workout—you know what to do.”

Almost tripping over her feet, Rey caught the watch. Slipping it on, she started shaking her wrist out. “I’ll call for your food right now,” she said, heading out of Phasma’s office.

“And get whatever you want,” her boss called out monotonously, “I know you haven’t eaten at all today.”

Rey bit back her smile; sure Phasma was more of a drill sergeant than a boss, but sometimes she was okay…maybe even cared.


 

“Hey…so I can’t make it out of the city tonight,” Ben muttered over the phone. Glancing over his shoulder, he frowned at the brownstone he waited in front of for the last half hour. “I got stuck working late—again.”

His mother huffed, “Ben—you do realize you can’t make promises you can’t keep?”

He dropped his voice, “Mom, I know. I’m not doing this on purpose, I promise. I said I would visit—I will visit as soon as I can.”

“This is the third time you’ve canceled,” Ben huffed, his head falling back. “I am not getting her hopes up again—”

“I understand mother, and I am trying,” he stated stoically, trying his best to not let his temper get the best of him. “Working, then quitting, then working again for the same company is not an easy task.”

“Son—”

Doors behind him swung open, the snot nose ginger briskly exiting the building.

Ben’s jaw set at the sight of his boss.

“Mom, call you back, got to go,” he said quickly, hanging up the phone before his mother could respond. Shoving his phone in his pocket, Ben spun around to face Armitage Hux.

“Solo, where is my juice?” The other man stood tall, head held high, yet remained shorter than Ben no matter how much he tried.

Reaching into his messenger bag, Ben handed Hux a green looking juice. He spent a good twenty minutes putting together the drink, Hux declaring he did not want to drink ‘store bought juice’ but ‘rather hand-squeezed and blended to perfection.’

Twisting the cap open, Ben gagged at the smell. Baby food didn’t even smell this bad.

Hux snatched the bottle, doing his best to knock the thick juice back like a smooth drink. A grimace snuck on to Ben’s face as he watched Hux’s pale face flush from utter disgust.

“Here,” Hux groaned, handing Ben the bottle and taking the handkerchief waiting at the ready for him. He wiped his mouth, as he spoke to his assistant. “We need to go back to the office to finish up some paper work, and I have a conference call later with some part in the world.”

Ben rolled his eyes at the lack of knowledge Hux possessed; he had a conference call with their branch in Japan a little after midnight. Sometimes Ben wondered if he never left if he would be in Hux’s position, Snoke promoting him rather than his immature and unknowledgeable colleague.

“Alright, do you want me to order dinner?”

“No, I just had my juice. Why would I have dinner—are you trying to ruin my diet?” Hux grumbled, moving past Ben to the waiting town car.

Following after Hux, Ben rolled his eyes.

He needed to think big picture—big picture and soon this hell would be over…hopefully.


 

Rey jogged up and down the building lobby as she waited for the delivery guy to show up. With only a few minutes before closing, she was able to slip in her order before they shut down the kitchen. Her mouth watered with anticipation for her avocado burger and truffle oil fries.

Checking Phasma’s fitness watch, Rey found herself only a few steps short of reaching the goal.

She could do this—especially when sustenance was on its way.

Seeing a man with a paper bag and cap on his head made Rey’s heart soar; she was starving, running late that morning then rushing around the city to take care of Phasma’s dry cleaning. She needed food and food needed her to consume it.

She jogged up to the man, opening the lobby door to reach him.

“Hello, good sir. You are an absolute saint!” She cried out, digging into her back pocket for Phasma’s company card. From behind her the elevator pinged. The man she saw earlier hailing a cab rushing past her  to the door with his cell phone pressed to his ear. Tall with a shock of longer black locks, he’d be a surprising sort of handsome had it not been for his downturned mouth. Turning her gaze away, she focused on deliveryman with her beautiful food. “Here.”

The man frowned, shaking his head. “We only take cash.”

“What? No—I’ve order from you guys plenty of times, and paid with card,” Rey informed him firmly, waving the card in her hand for emphasis.

“No cash, no food,” the man stated plainly with a half shrug.

Rey’s eyes fell back to the tall, dark haired man. She needed to get Phasma her food before she became disgruntled and hangry. “Hey, you!” She called out. He didn’t turn to her, speaking on the phone with a mildly annoyed expression. “You massive human being!” She tried again, this time the man turning to her with a fully annoyed expression, knowing she had been referring to him. “Do you have cash?”

“I got to go,” he said into his cell phone, “I’ll call you tomorrow, don’t stay up too late.” He hung up his phone, striding over to her with four steps, “Excuse me, but that was personal call that you rudely interrupted.”

“I promise I’ll pay you back.” She clasped her hands under her chin, gazing up at him with a bright smile.

Unaffected  by her, his gaze fell on the paper bag.  His lips pressed together in thought, considering the situation.

“What do you have in there?”

“Bacon-Cheddar mac-n-cheese and avocado hamburger with fries.”

The tall man crossed his arms, starring down at the guy, “And you only take cash, correct?” The delivery man nodded. “Perfect, I’ll take it.” He reached into his back pocket, opening his wallet.

Watching with a gapping mouth, Rey’s voice finally caught up with her thoughts. “Hey! What the hell? I ordered that food!”

“And now, I’m buying it,” he answered simply. The exchange happened without further ordeal, the deliveryman leaving while the rude tall man took her food. “Should have had cash on you.”

On that note, he turned on his heel heading over to the elevators. Stunned and perturbed, Rey chased after him, cutting off his path.

Out of breath, she pointed to the bag while balancing her other hand on her knee. “I—I ordered that food—it’s for my boss, I can get fired if I don’t have it!”

He did not seem quiet bothered by her declaration, reaching past her for the elevator button. “Now it is dinner for my boss, because I can get fired if I don’t have it. Learn quick kid, you need to always carry cash.”

Rey stood back up, hands on her hips. “I do! And don’t call me kid—after all you were the person who didn’t order before closing,” she smirked, crossing her arms over her chest proudly. “So technically we were both screwed there, mate.”

Titling his head to the side, he squinted at her. “You’re not going to leave me alone until you get this food, huh?”

Rey shook her head with a smug grin, “Nope. As my grandad says, I am persistent and patient.”

He didn’t laugh like most do; in fact he stilled appeared annoyed by her presence. Rey was beginning to suspect this was his default mood.

Craning his neck back with slight groan, he dropped his gaze down to her, “Fine. We’ll split since it was technically a group effort. Take the mac and cheese.”

“Thank you!” Rey cheered, snatching the bag from his grasp. “I promise, I will pay you back. I have cash at my desk,” she assured him. Her hand hesitated over the separate container for the truffle fries—the delicious concoction was meant to be hers, but she really owed the guy. Setting it aside, she pulled the mac and cheese from the bottom before handing him back the bag. He took it back, the two now entering the opened elevator. “I’m Rey Kenobi by the way,” she stated, pressing the tenth floor button.

“Ben Solo,” he said with a resolute nod. He pressed the thirteenth floor button and took a step back. He glanced down at her to find her looking at him oddly. “What?”

“I’m usually the last one here at night,” Rey said, confused as to why there was another human being stuck at the same building as her. She and Phasma were always last to leave, Rey needing to be smart with her commute home when it came to public transportation. Usually, she was stuck paying for a cab.

“Nope, can’t be,” Ben declared, “I’m usually the last one out, Hux does not understand how business hours and overtime work. Quite the imbecilic.”

Rey rose an eyebrow, “That’s a bold statement to make about your boss.”

He pursed his lips, “Well, I’ve known him long enough to make such judgements,” his eyes focused ahead on the increasing floor numbers. The elevator doors pinged open, he glanced back down at her, “And I believe this is your floor, Rey Kenobi.”

She stepped forward, unable to help but look back at him. Though few words, she found this tall, tired and annoyed man intriguing. Maybe because he was stuck in the same situation as her—an overworked assistant. Or maybe because she had a thing for tall guys with dark pretty eyes. She wasn’t too sure if it was one or the other, or both.

“Oh, by the way,” Ben called out as she left the elevator the doors beginning to close, “I saw you eyeing those truffle fries. I’ll do you a favor and eat them,” he teased, eyes lighting with amusement at her yelp of indignation.

Rey’s jaw dropped as she watched Ben Solo’s smirk disappeared behind the doors.

Face pitching in frustration, she marched in the direction towards Phasma’s office and her desk. Rey needed to find her wallet and pay back the conniving bastard.

Chapter Text

“Goddamn it,” Ben muttered as he juggled his phone between his ear and tried to open is apartment door. The key was lodged in, but refused to turn nicely. A issue he attempted to fix with the landlord that repeatedly was ignored. Usually, Poe was home to get the door, but Ben could not hear his roommate moving about the apartment nor did hear the thrumming of George Michael. That meant no one was home, at least he didn’t need to get to his room through the fire escape.

He just needed to figure out how to twist the key without breaking it.

The call went to voicemail once more.

Groaning, Ben thumped his head on the door, waiting for the tone. “Hey mom, just calling to let you know I might be free tomorrow morning since tonight ran so late. Maybe we can all do a Skype chat? Call or text me back to let me know, and I’ll work my schedule around it. Thanks, bye.”

He’d been lucky enough that Hux decided to move the conference call a bit early, about an hour, but not enough for Ben to actually get a train ticket to his mother’s back in Chandrila. He felt guilty about the turn of events even though he had little control over the matter.

Tucking his phone into his pocket, Ben twisted the doorknob again. With a couple of sharp wiggles and jigs, the key turned. Ben forcefully swung open the door.

Entering the apartment, Ben threw his keys into the key bowl in the entrance. Shutting and locking the door behind him, he shuffled in the dark with skilled practice. Crossing over to the sofa, he dropped his bag down and plopped himself on the cushions. All the tension and stress of the day began to seep out of his bones the longer he sat in puddle of exhaustion. While desired to drink a beer to further sooth him, the idea of trekking the few feet seemed unimaginable once sitting down. Eyes drooping, Ben allowed his head to lull…

“Hey dude.”

Ben nearly jumped out his skin, frantically looking for the voice. A bright light clicked on, revealing a cheeky Poe Dameron sitting on the recliner opposite Ben. The two men had been reluctant friends while growing up, their mothers’ friends and therefore forcing the two boys to participate in play dates and go to family dinners with each other. Which was stupid until they were adults forced to go out into the real world and neither knew anyone they could absolutely trust in the city. This then led to sharing an apartment until Ben’s abrupt departure four years back.

Living together again was an adjustment, but one Ben did not frown upon. Poe didn’t haven to welcome him back, however he did with a few conditions. One being Ben was to be out of the apartment at least a weekend out of the month for Poe to peacefully woo his current suitors. Initially, this had not been an issue due to Ben planning on returning to his mother’s on the weekends. After all, it had been one of the stipulations on his return to work; to visit as much as feasibly possible. 

Unfortunately, this had not been working out. Ben found himself at Hux’s beck and call for all hours and days of the week.

“I thought you’d be in Chandrila by now, all snug in bug,” Poe commented lightly.

Ben rolled his eyes, “Nope, had to be present for a conference call to Japan—he made me make cue cards.”

Poe’s jaw dropped, slowly morphing into a stunned grin. “You—you mean like giant cue cards that are used in television?”

“Yes,” Ben deadpanned.

“I need to meet this fucker,” Poe declared, “Maybe he can donate some art supplies to my school, give kids in need an outlet if he has an arts and crafts fund for his assistant.”

“Hux interested in philanthropy? I doubt it,” Ben rejected the notion. He tugged at his tie, loosening the knot enough to lift over his head. Tossing his tie aside, Ben eyed his roommate warily, “I thought you would have had someone over.”

Poe scoffed indignantly, “Just because I’m gay doesn’t mean I constantly have dudes over.”

Raising an eyebrow, Ben rested his forearms on his knees, “Poe, it has nothing to do with you being gay, but you being the biggest flirt in existence.”

Just then Poe’s bedroom door creaked open, a tall man with shocking blonde hair shuffling out of the room. His roommate winked at the guy as he walked himself out of the apartment, “Call you later!” The door firmly closed shut behind him.

Poe turned back to Ben with an apologetic wince.

“See,” Ben waved to the door, where Poe’s suitor, or better yet, hook-up left. “I knew there was someone here, I could feel a disturbance in the apartment.”

“Okay, I did have a guy over—but he was good looking and I thought you were going to your mom’s for the weekend,” Poe shrugged helplessly, not entirely ashamed by the situation. “I don’t see the problem.”

Fondly, Ben shook his head, “One day you will meet someone who will change all this,” he pointed in his roommate’s direction.

“You just pointed at all of me.”

“Exactly,” Ben stated bluntly, standing up from the sofa. “Wake me up when I’m dead!” He announced, shuffling to his bedroom on the further end of the hall.

“Too late for that buddy!” Poe called back with a sadistic grin.


 

“Go, go, go, go!” Rey cheered quietly, shoving popcorn into her mouth as she witness the soccer ball soar over the field. Sipping her beer, tears began to pool in her eyes as her team made another goal. “You got this—you got this,” she chanted between sniffles, hastily wiping her nose with her sweater sleeve.

A prerecorded soccer game played on her laptop, one of the many she happened to miss while running around for Phasma. An ironic occurrence considering Rey work for a sports website, bit she often found the focus falling on American Football, basketball, or baseball, rather than the good ‘ole international sport of football.

Eating another handful of popcorn, Rey perked when she heard the front door open.

“Hey, how was the date?” Finn called from the entryway, the clack of Rose’s heels followed not long after him. The sweet couple rounded the corner a moment later, both elated from their little outing of dinner and a movie.

“Oh, great,” Rey’s voice dripped in sarcasm, “he and I are going at on the couch right now.”

Frowning concernedly, Rose dropped herself on the lounge chair across from Rey. “Sunshine, you didn’t go?”

Groaning, Rey flopped to the side of the couch. “No, Phasma kept me until a little after ten, at that point why would I call my seven o’clock date to see if he’d still want to go out?”

Sighing softly, Rose offered a small smile. “I’m sorry.”

“Enough about me,” Rey waved off, sitting up right instantly with a devilish grin, “How was your date?” She asked eye ping-ponging back between the two.

Finn and Rose had been friend’s for a couple of years before deciding to finally just date each other and not be awkward ducks. They’d been going strong for a couple of months, Rey seeing Finn in her and Rose’s apartment far more than she seen him when they were short-lived foster children with each other.

Rose shrugged one shoulder, gazing up fondly at Finn standing behind her, “Great.” Her friends' stared adoringly at one another, their fingers intertwining giddily.

Feeling her heart give weight, Rey’s grin diminished, yet she hid well under the pillow she clutched to her chest.

“Awesome, I love that you are in love,” she commented lightly to the couple, “I never thought I’d see the day Finn Tropper decided to be in a stable relationship.” Her pseudo brother was known to be flighty the moment a relationship got a little too serious, ending it swiftly before anything could progress further.

Rolling his eyes, Finn released a flat chuckle, “Funny.” Pressing a quick kiss to Rose’s temple, “I’m going to get something to drink, you want anything?”

“A water’s fine,” Rose watched her boyfriend leave towards the hall. Turning back to Rey, she noticed her roommate’s downturned mouth and drooping eyes. “Hey, hun, it’s gonna happen for you.” Standing up, Rose crossed over the coffee table and sat beside Rey. Motherly, she wrapped her arms around her taller friend, resting her head against Rey’s shoulder. “I promise your guy is out there.”

Leaning back into the couch, Rey held Rose’s arms in place, “Its not that…I just hate being this girl sad because she is not in a relationship—I know relationships aren’t everything. I just have all this love and care to give and…” she trailed off, not wanting to finish her thought.

Squeezing Rey closer to her, Rose gazed up Rey with gentleness only a truest friend would possess, “Someone is going to get all that Rey-love and he’s going to love all of it, because he will realize how special it is to be loved by such a hardworking badass.”  

“Thank you,” Rey mumbled, untangling herself from Rose. Reaching forward, she resumed her recording, feeling Rose brush away fly-aways from her three messy buns.

“Ugh, I need to change my clothes,” Rose grumbled, “This dress sucks everything in, including my ribs.”

Rey chuckled as Rose pulled herself up and went to her bedroom, her roommate able to go from encouraging friend to stubborn mess in a few seconds.

Picking up her bowl of popcorn, Rey resumed her viewing. Chewing happily, Rey nearly choked on kernel when a high pitched scream came from down the hall.

Leaping off the couch, she ran for Rose’s room, halting the moment she made it to the doorway.

Down on one knee, Finn shakily put the ring on Rose’s left ring finger. 

Oh, god. Was he...?

Spinning around, Rose shrilled again, “I’m getting married!”

“We’re not old enough to get married,” Rey mumbled catatonically, her words lost over the yelps of joy and cries of excitement from Finn and Rose.

Standing up, Finn captured Rose in his arms, the two giggling uncontrollably in their embrace.

From the doorway, Rey forced a large smile. The panic in her eyes radiated brightly; she hoped her friends were too clouded with impending wedding bliss to acknowledge her inner freak out churning,

Rey became keenly aware of their situation, as she stood there in her old college sweater and waffle patterned pajama pants, make-up smeared from the long work day. Meanwhile, Finn and Rose were blinding in their happiness, still dressed nice from their casual date. Happy, in love, in jobs they liked

“Congratulations!” Rey exclaimed, her voice edging on frantic.

Rushing to her, Finn and Rose pulled Rey into their hug, squishing her in the middle like a child.

Maybe, in a weird way, she was their child. Constantly looked after by the two, their unfortunate third wheel when the occasion arrived, and brought into their fold of warmth with care.

Those two dorks were her family. Possibly the only family she’d ever have once her grandfather passes away. Being down on her own matters did not seem to be as important as Finn and Rose getting married.

Hampering down her own loneliness, Rey jumped giddily with her newly engaged friends.


 

Stopping by his desk Monday morning, Ben found a bright blue sticky-note attached to his monitor along with a twenty dollar bill shoved into his pencil holder. Picking up the note, he rose an eyebrow at the scrawl.

For the dinner. Now I don’t owe you :P

  • Rey, G. Phasma’s indentured servant

Stifling a chuckle, Ben pocketed the note.

“Solo, what the hell? Where is my coffee?” Hux called out from his office, his apt hearing picking up on his assistant’s arrival.

Clenching his jaw, Ben briskly turned on his heel and into his boss’ office, coffee in hand. He had to walk two blocks further when he found out Hux’s usual coffeehouse was closed for cosmetic renovations. Then he needed to make another detour when he found out the closest café did not have the gluten-free bagels the ginger haired man ate religiously, despite not have any dietary restrictions. An extra-long commute and attempting to complete work on his phone and laptop had been a challenge, especially when he ran several ridiculous tasks at once, such as confirm pick-up for dry-cleaning, take Millicent out on her kitty play date (Hux ignoring Ben’s sever cat allergy), and see to completing Hux’s brother’s research for his middle school science project.

Then there was filing the lawsuit Hux claimed against the waiter who accidentally dripped condensation on his pant leg. He was on the phone for an hour with Hux’s lawyer, which was another battle of its own nature.

Ben’s morning had become longer and more complicated than usual, however all his paperwork and tasks were miraculously performed in a timely fashion.

“Here you go,” he placed the to-go cup on Hux’s right, along with his poppy seed bagel. “I also called your father to let him know you will not be attending his, uh, seventh wedding.”

When the invitation came in the mail, Ben tried to intercept the intern. The poor soul had no idea what was coming when Hux viciously ripped the floral invitation into shreds and stopping on its confetti-like remains. The fragile intern was effectively fired, and left with his tail between his legs. Ever the materialist man, Hux then ordered Ben to completely redecorate the office since it had been tainted by the dreadful event.

Not looking up from his work, Hux grunted in acknowledgement, picking up the bagel. Silently he inspected the baked good. With a sneer he handed it back to Ben, “There are too many poppy seeds. Pluck them off until it looks evenly dispersed.”

Biting on the inside of his cheek, Ben took the bagel and marched back to his desk. Painstakingly, he removed poppyseed by poppyseed off, ignoring the snickers of his co-workers as they passed by his desk.

Glancing at the clock, Ben huffed quietly.

Only five more hours and he’d technically be off the clock—however off the clock, was never off the clock. Especially if Hux happened to be in one of his moods; his father getting married once again set the anal man off kilter.

Picking up his phone, Ben typed a quick text.

Miss you. Call you tomorrow.


 

From behind her desk, Rey’s eyes drifted to the digital clock on the edge of her computer screen.

9:16PM

Phasma was working another late night, but Rey remembered to pack along snacks this go around. Munching on a granola bar, she peeked over the lip of her desk. Adjusting her headset, she sat alert as Phasma and her guest were walking out of the office.

“Please let me know if you have any other questions, I’ll be happy to help,” Phasma assured the girl with a bright smile, hugging the shorter blonde woman.

“Oh, thank you so much,” the girl gushed, clutching her binder and folders closer to her chest.

“Anything for a Nautilus Alum,” the taller woman grinned brightly, “Have a nice night, Mara.” Phasma ducked back into her office, her stride confident even in the late hour.

Stepping towards Rey’s desk, Mara dropped her voice, eyes bouncing adoringly between Phasma and Rey, “It is so amazing you get to work with her.”

“Ah, Phasma is brilliant,” Rey agreed with her own secret grin. There was a reason she jumped at this position the moment she heard it available. Gwen Phasma was a legendary sports writer, her greatness must have oozed into all her colleagues and subordinates. If Rey wanted a foot in the door in sports journalism, this was the place to be.

Now if only she’d pitch an article to Phasma without turning into an emotional pile of goo. 

“Honestly, I would kill for your job,” the girl joked, before leaning over with a conspiring gleam, “I can’t believe she agreed to be my mentor.”

A coldness of disappointment pitted in Rey’s chest.

She’s been working for Phasma for nearly two years and her boss never brought up the idea of mentorship, even while knowing Rey was interested in journalism.

Smiling tightly and toothlessly at Mara, she nodded once. “Like I said, she’s brilliant.”

Watching the girl leave, Rey focused on the clock once more.

9:20PM

“Rey, I’m going to take a nap, it’s been a day. Wake me before midnight,” Phasma called out from her office, Rey seeing a throw blanket getting shaken out from the open door. “Use music—that one song with the bada-boom bass—gradually, like a wave.”

Phasma’s orders meant she was going to stay until three in the morning, Rey subjected to the office for possibly a full twenty-four hours. At least this meant she’d have a break, not necessarily full sleeping time, but enough to actually breathe without Phasma potentially breathing down her neck.

“Yes, ma’ma!” Rey answered back, setting the alarm on her phone for 11:25PM.

Two hours. She had two hours to kill, possibly find a late night snack…or maybe pay a visit to the other soul in the building.

Ben Solo seemed like he could use the company whether he liked it or not.


 

Rubbing away at his eyes, Ben squinted at the computer screen. His game of Solitaire was progressing well, setting a new record for the week…and it was Monday

Another late night at the office as Hux worked on projects meant Ben had to stay seated at his desk. Part of him was tempted to invest in a desk chair massager, but knew his boss would throw a hissy fit about aesthetics.

Swiveling a bit in his chair, Ben picked up his notepad, a smaller sized Rhodia Pad. He flipped it open to his last used page, a loopy ‘p’ and ‘a’ joining together in a fluid motion. Reaching into his messenger bag, he dug around for his calligraphy pen. A hobby he picked up as a teen due to his mother sending him to calligraphy and art classes during the summer. Calligraphy became Ben’s little escape from the world.

From Hux, his mother, his father, his—

“Hey, that looks awesome! Who’s—”

Ben slapped his notepad shut. Turning his gaze to the girl from the other day, he rose an eyebrow. “None of your business,” he stated matter-of-factly.

Her lips pursed, not entirely pleased by his cold deflection. Not that he cared. It is easier to ignore new faces than grow accustom to them, especially those of a young woman who’d probably switch jobs before the end of the year. Unlike him, who was stuck in a constant limbo. Never knowing if he’d finally move up in the company, get better hours, maybe better pay, and finally become a fully responsible adult.

“O-K,” she articulated sharply.

The three buns lining the back of her head bounced with every little movement she made. A girlish hair style, however Ben found the twists of her hair oddly endearing. His own mother knotted and bundled her hair in odd buns and braids as a young woman. Seeing the painstaking effort on the girl caused a stir of nostalgia within him.

Stepping back, she pulled up one of the chairs from a nearby desk. She kicked off the ground and rocketed herself over, missing his waste bin by a hair.

“What brings you here at this late hour?” The girl asked, resting her chin in the palm of her hand.

“I can ask you the same thing, considering you don’t work on this floor,” Ben remarked, leaning back in his chair. He tilted his head to the side, unable to recall the girl’s name. He merely labeled her as the girl and scavenger in his mind. Mostly because she looked practically ten years his junior, and her hunt and bargain for cash gave her the latter dub. “And…you are…”

Rey smiled mockingly at him, kicking her feet up on the edge of his desk. He resisted the urge to shove her electric blue sneakers off, her feet a bit too close to his paperwork for comfort. “What? You don’t remember the name of your Knight in shining armor?”

He squinted at her, unamused. “You are not my ‘knight in shining armor’. I am a prince who does not need saving, thank you very much.”

“Wow,” she gasped, her eyes widening in delight “You seriously referred to yourself as a prince,” before he could protest at his snarky comment, she rambled on through, “I mean, you do have the arrogance of one, so I can see the appeal,” she shrugged, as though considering the thought.

“I didn’t mean to refer to myself—it’s a habit—” He frowned stoutly, “Ya, know what? I don’t need to explain myself to you,” he decided unanimously, holding his hands up. Picking up his pen, he returned to his notebook.

He can ignore her. Ignoring poking and probing was a skill he acquired in his time off, and surprisingly came more in handy the longer he remained at the First Order.

“Alright, your highness,” the girl deepened her voice, Ben flushing at the obvious jest towards his own tone. Dropping a foot, she lightly kicked his shin, “It’s Rey, by the way,” he looked back at her unblinking. “My name—my name is Rey,” she repeated gesturing to herself.

“Oh,” Ben uttered, dropping his gaze back to his calligraphy, “I heard you, I just didn’t think it warranted a response.”

A huff of indignation left the girl—Rey, his brain supplied.

Her feet resoundingly hit the floor, the sound loud enough for the two to hear, but for Hux to remain completely unaware in his office.

“I just came by to see if you got my payment,” she said tersely, crossing her arms over her chest.

“Oh, you mean the twenty bucks you left me? Yes, I did and I bought myself lunch with it, so no way of getting that back,” he informed her with a smirk.

She rolled her eyes, Ben noticing the color to be an balanced mix of green and brown flakes; a warming hazel.

“Well I am happy to hear it has been put to good use.” Standing back up from the chair, she began to push the chair back to its original spot. His heart suddenly constricted at the thought of her leaving in such a sour mood. Clearly she was lonely, and he was too—maybe he didn’t need to be an absolute dick to her.

“What does bring you to my neck of the woods?” Ben blurted out, turning his chair to her.

She paused, before sitting back down in her commandeered seat. Swinging back over to his desk, she sighed dramatically, “Boredom and the need to kill time,” she clasped the armrests, leaning back, “After all, you did mention you are usually the last one here.”

“I…I did, didn’t I?” He muttered, chewing on the inside of his cheek. “I thought you’d be dead on your feet like every other PA, or at least completing mindless tasks for what’s-her-face?”

Gwen Phasma,” the girl—Rey—iterated forcefully, “Gwen Phasma.”

“Yeah. Her.” Ben waved for her to continue.

“Taking a nap, I need to wake her up in T-minus two hours,” she said, taking a quick glance at her watch. “Make that an hour and a half.”

“Hm, naps. Never had one of those,” he grumbled.

“Same,” Rey agreed, holding a hand up to him.

Humoring her, he returned the hi-five. She grinned brilliantly at him, Ben stunned by how her face immediately lit up the moment a hint of a genuine smile graced her features.

Clearing his throat, he crossed his arms over his chest, regarding her with false, mild amusement. “So you thought visiting me would relieve your boredom?”

“It’s not like I have a plethora of options in this crowded building,” Rey quipped back.

“Touché,” Ben nodded in acknowledgement. Glancing over his shoulder, Hux’s door remained closed. If he needed something, he’d shout or grumble, or at least throw something at the wall. Ben had enough time for a chit-chat—or horribly flirt, as his father would say.

“So what does your boss have?” Ben asked, tapping his fingers to an out of tune beat “A couch, a pull-out bed—”

“A cot,” Rey answered swiftly, “with Egyptian cotton sheets.”

“Hux has a Tempurpedic mattress,” Ben countered bluntly, not an ounce impressed by this so-called Gwen Phasma. “It’s like the Tesla of cots.”

“Phasma is like if the Ice Queen and Crocodile Dundee had a baby together…and that baby had high blood pressure,” she hummed for a moment, “and hadn’t had sex in a year.”

Ben grimaced. “Don’t talk about babies having sex. What’s wrong with you?” Rolling over to the cabinet behind him, he pulled out a half filled bottle of scotch. “Want some?”

Hesitating, she looked over her shoulder to the closed office door, “Is that even…legal?”

A bark of laughter escaped Ben, “What are you five? Of course it’s not illegal—unless you are under the age of twenty-one,” he shook his head, grabbing glasses from the cabinet as well, “But I’ll look the other way if that’s the case.”

She shook her head, bracing her arms on the edge of the desk, “But wouldn’t he notice?”

Pouring both himself and Rey a modest amount, Ben snorted, “Hux throws out anything that is not over three-hundred dollars. This seventy dollar scotch is not going to be missed.”

He handed a glass to her, Rey eyeing the mug conspicuously.

“We’re at work,” she reminded him, but nonetheless took the liquor.

“And it is nearly an hour ‘til midnight; grow up,” he insisted, examining the bottle with fake curiosity. Spending several nights in the office led to drinking a glass or two of whatever Hux decided to throw out that week. After a hell of a day, Ben believed he deserved it.

She chuckled, holding the glass aloft, “I haven’t drank in so long, I’m like a child to all this,” she jested.

Ben shook his head, holding his mug up in a toast. The two clinked glasses, sipping their drinks in tandem.

Rey sighed, eyebrows quirking at him, “You really don’t know who Gwen Phasma is?”

“No,” Ben admitted unshyly, “Should I?”


 

“Wow, she’s a…”

“Badass,” Rey completed for him, proudly gazing upon her boss through the computer monitor.

She and Ben were crowded around the computer, watching Phasma’s older interviews during her time are a prolific sports journalist in the college sector.

“If you spent more time on your plays, than staring at my tits, then maybe you’d be in the playoffs…”

“Ballsy—definitely ballsy. Like she could crush balls,” Ben stated plainly, letting Rey lean past him to move the cursor around on the screen.

“Not going to lie, I think she has,” Rey sighed, clicking on another video. Watching it start up, Rey pushed herself back, adding some space between herself and Ben. “I want to be her when I grow up.”

From his pocket, Ben’s phone pinged. Picking it up, he frowned at the message. While curious, Rey decided not be a snooper and focus on the interview playing on the screen.

“God, my family went out for my uncle's birthday, and I missed it again,” he grumbled, swiping through his phone with a petulant pout, “I have missed so many things, if only I could go out for once.”

Huh. Despite the aloof and arrogant persona Ben Solo presented in their initial encounters, he was a…family man? He seemed genuinely bothered by the fact he missed his uncle’s birthday, a flicker of a softer man behind the suit piking Rey’s interest. However in a blink of eye the subtle pain was gone, and his shielded demeanor returned.

She wasn’t too sure of what to make of the millisecond display.

“Same, I can’t remember the last time I went out,” she commented pitifully. “Or went to a party,” She wrinkled her nose, serving herself more scotch. “Or made-out with a guy—I think I honestly do not remember how to make-out with someone.” Ben frowned, raising an eyebrow at the rather unfiltered confession, “My grandfather was married by my age. I’m twenty-three and I’ve never even had a boyfriend.”

She gulped a large mouth full of liquor, ignoring the burn. 

Setting his mug down,  Ben leaned forward, eyeing her puzzledly, “But you’re—you’re like a grown up.”

“Take that back,” Rey warned, “I am not fully a grown up until I am not longer in college debt.”

He scoffed, “Then you won’t be grown up until your late thirties.”

Falling back against her chair, Rey clutched her knees to her chest, “I’m going to end up like Phasma—buying ridiculously over priced things to fill my empty soul and sleeping with my computer.”

“Yeah,” Ben rolled over, pushing the bottle away, “I think that is enough scotch for you tonight.” From the corner of his eye, he noticed Rey slump sadly into her chair, one of her loopy hair buns falling out and over her shoulder. He closed the bottle, standing up to tuck it back into it’s hiding spot. “No worries kid, you’re not going to end up like her. Phasma’s problem is she needs to get laid. That’s why she is so mean.”

“She needs to be made love too—she’s a woman with sensibilities,” Rey defended immediately, looking up at Ben.

He sat back down a moment later, his chair rolling a couple of inches away. “Hux needs to get laid.”

Apparently, both their bosses needed to let off some steam. Maybe enough to get them of their backs…

Wait a minute—

“You know what, we should just lock them in a room together since they are here all the time,” Rey declared excitedly, sitting up from her pathetic schlump. Kicking her legs under her, she grinned conspiratorially. He titled his head back, peaking at her with one eye, then switching a half second later. “And let them just have sex with each other.”

A snort escaped Ben, he swiveling from side to side in his chair.

“No! Think about it,” she hotly continued, enthralled by the idea, “we can be free while they are boning!”

Picking up both her glass and his, Ben scowled down at her, “I don’t need to be free, I need to be promoted.”

She stood up, facing him straight on, “My point is, I don’t want to still be an assistant when I am in my thirties. That when it gets sad and unbearable.”

“I am in my thirties,” Ben deadpanned.

“Wow, that is awful—and sad, really sad for you,” Rey corrected frantically, highly aware of how massive Ben was when they were standing in front of one another.

“You should get going,” he remarked shortly as not so pleasant nod of ‘goodbye’.

“Right,” she shuffled back, shooting finger guns at him before completely turning around. “So long your highness!”


 

Tuesday mornings were milder than Mondays, in Ben’s case. More often than not he was stuck at his desk until Hux finished his morning calls. Files and organizing Hux’s schedule consumed most of Ben’s time. Crossing off dates and writing notes on preferences for restaurants along with keeping tabs on Hux’s father and brother, Ben usually found multitasking these matters breezy. His mind knew how to work on autopilot like a pro, his thoughts able to drift to other concerns and thoughts…

“I made something!”

He flinched violently, nearly knocking over his cup of coffee. Hissing, he cleaned up the little spillage with a forgotten napkin from lunch the previous day. Luckily, none of the sacred liquid splotched on the files he’d been reading over.

Lifting his gaze, he found the girl—Rey—standing primly by his desk, her laptop held open by her chest.

“I made something,” she repeated with that bright grin of hers—only this time it was unsettling, the mischief in her eyes overpowering the dazzling quality of her smile.

“Why are you quiet?”

Rey ignored him, setting her laptop on his desk. With her hip, she nudged him aside to allow them both to view the screen equally. “It’s a spreadsheet of everything I know about Phasma. What she likes, doesn’t like, and anything miscellaneous.”

“Miscellaneous?” Ben muttered, squinting at the screen. His contacts had been bothering him more and more lately, he believing the late hours and screen-time he consumed on a daily basis effecting his vision. His already crappy vision.

“Anything she is iffy about, or takes under constitutes,” she shrugged, “she has quite a bit of those believe it or not.”

“Why?”

Her lips pinched together, unsure of what he was asking, “Why the miscellan—”

“No,” Ben interrupted her from another blooming ramble, “Why the spreadsheet?”

Eyes wandering around, she lowered her voice, “To set them up,” she answered, as though it were the obvious.

It honestly was not the obvious to Ben.

“I thought that was a joke,” he stressed, momentarily regretting allowing her to get drunk enough to think up such a convoluted plan.

“Not really,” Rey said, leaning over to click through her color-coded form. Keen to her proximity, Ben titled just a inch away from her, catching a whiff of her honey and pine sent. “What is Hux’s favorite food?”

“The salmon from Takodana Grill,” he answered without hesitance.

She leered closer, Ben scooting back into his chair at the sudden intrusion, “Where he’ll be at 5pm?”

“His brother’s soccer game,” he shrugged, not finding the point in listing off random facts about Hux. The man was complicated, but also obtuse. Figuring out his likes and dislikes was not some grand scavenger hunt. Black and white, yes and no—extremely straight forward individual who simply liked to make matters difficult for Ben’s unfortunate benefit.

“And what does he hate?” Rey continued to ask the silly questions.

“The name ‘Aaron’, spelled with an ‘E’.” For somewhat of a good reason; Hux’s stepmother’s name was ‘Erin.’ Apparently the woman was a she-devil. Ben did not ask further questions.

Gazing down sternly at him, Rey placed a firm hand on his shoulder. “We know everything about them Ben. Everything. We technically control every aspect of their lives. They will do anything we tell them to, and they will never know.” Her eyes brimmed with unwavering hope, awaiting for him to jump on board her high spirited plan.

Biting his lips together, Ben brought the laptop closer to him. Scrolling through the spreadsheet, he murmured in appreciation. “This…this is impressive.”

“Oh, thank you,” she stuttered, swinging her arms back and forth before setting her hands on her hips. “I use to make all the spreadsheets for my university's Sci-Fi club—” Shutting her mouth at the glower he sent her, she clasped her hands under her chin. “So does this mean you’ll do it?”

“Nope,” he answered instantly, not a true moment of thought—at least probably by Rey’s standards.

“What?”

“No,” he stated clearly. He stood up, shrugging on his suit jacket. “It’s an insane plan that will never work. I can barely get my job done—this on top of it is a suicide plan.”

“But that’s the entire point of the plan,” she pleaded in her works favor, waving down to her laptop. “The moment we succeed, we’ll have more time!”

Ben closed her laptop, handing it back into her open arms. “Rey, I said ‘no’. I am not going to do this little plan just so you can have free time and make-out with a guy—”

“It’s not about making-out with a guy. It’s about having time to write—If I never have time to write how will I ever get an article on Phasma’s website?”

“That sounds like a personal problem,” Ben said harshly, ignoring the bright hope in her eyes vacuum out more and more with every rejection he gave. Throwing his messenger bag over his shoulder, he stared down at her. “If Hux or Phasma found out about this, both our asses would be fired.”

“But they wouldn’t—”

“I need to go,” he told her, his watch reminding him how close he was going to cut it to the soccer game. He needed to go early to make sure Hux got suitable seats that outlooked the center of the field.

“This can save us!” Rey hissed, marching after him. Her shorter strides were somehow able to keep up with his longer gate, Ben surprised by the girl’s stamina. “If we get this to work, you will be able to spend more time with your family.”

He reached over and pressed the down button for the elevator. “Don’t talk about my family,” he gritted out. Despite their closeness, Ben and his relationship with his family was a touchy subject. He loved them, and would feel forever indebted to all the help they have given to him the last couple of years. However, his family was also nosy and unrelenting on all fronts. There was a reason why he initially kept minimal contact with them when he first moved out into the city ten odd years ago.

“Fine,” Rey huffed, “Can I at least send you the spreadsheet to think about it?”

“No,” he stated once more, stepping into the elevator. “Take the other one, I don’t think I can handle an entire elevator ride with this,” he gestured to her and her laptop. “It’s a bit much…and pathetic,” he shrugged half-heartedly.

Her stony expression and locked jaw caused a shiver to run down his spine. The doors closing together on her heated glare, Ben finally able to breathe now that Rey’s honest eyes were gone. If he stared too long, he was afraid he’d give into her plan.

He did not need circus bullshit in his life, not when he himself was juggling one on his own.


 

Middle schools reeked of sweat and expired cheese. Hux’s brother, Mitaka’s, middle school soccer field was no different than the rest. Only the mist of the impending rain made the area smell less pubescent, and possibly bearable.

Soccer moms had already made camp by the time Ben arrived. Climbing over coolers and umbrellas, he claimed the middle bleacher. Shaking out the towel he brought, Ben set it down on the bench. As he set the seat cushion down for Hux, knowing the man would not arrive until five minutes before the game, Ben’s phone began to buzz.

“Hello,” he answered, looking up at the sky. Clouds were building up, shading the field with their transforming grey colors.

“Ben, I’m just calling to double check you will be home this weekend. We are thinking about a trip to the zoo—”

“The zoo sounds great!” Ben agreed cheerfully, momentarily distracted from his task by the news, “In fact, it sounds perfect mom.”

“Thank goodness,” Leia breathed, “We’ve been trying to figure out what to do. It’s been a rough few week without you coming over.”

“I…” He rubbed his eyes, his body sagging. “I know. Its—its been rough for me too. And I feel awful about—”

“Honey, you’re cutting in and out. I only heard about half of what you just said,” Leia said just as Ben noticed a group of mother’s trying to push his seat-saving towel away.

“Uh, mom, got to call you back—”

“But Pa—”

Quickly, he ended the call, his heart pinching as he knew the conversation he cut off.

“Excuse me,” he called out warningly to the women attempting to encroach on his saved row, “These seats are taken for a very important man, who’d have my head on a platter if he doesn’t sit right here.”

At his tone the women sneered, Ben rolling his eyes. He could hear their grumbles as they moved to the row behind him, their motherly indignant stares glaring holes into his back. Ben did not understand how hordes of mothers showed up for soccer games, even if it seemed implausible for their child to be on the team. Not to mention they screamed PTA moms, with their matching homemade shirts.

He hoped to god to never join a PTA, not seeing the benefits for anyone involved.

“Solo!” Hux growled out, entered the row. “Did you bring my umbrella?”

“It’s only drizzling today. No reports of an actual down pour,” Ben informed Hux.

The man’s face twisted sourly, taking his seat. His head held haughtily, he turned to Ben with demeaning eyes. “I feel the itty bitty droplets. Take off your jacket and hold over my head like an umbrella.”

Knowing it best not to argue, Ben shucked off his suit jacket and followed as ordered. Hearing snickers behind his back, Ben gritted his teeth. He did not care what these parents and people thought—his job was a job, and he needed a promotion. Badly.

A crack of thunder erupted above their heads. Larger droplets began to pelt down, Ben feeling the water slowly soak his back. The middle schoolers continued to play as the field became wet and muddy, finding more joy in their sport at this development.

Gradually his hair became a drenched and soppy mess, and his shirt sticking to his chest uncomfortably…Ben’s hatred for his boss, his job stewed as he stood stoically still to prevent any water dramatically hitting Hux.

Once the game ended and Hux was safely back in his town car, without a car for his assistant or his disheveled stated,  Ben shot off a text to Rey.

Send me the spreadsheet. We need to figured out something ASAP.

Her reply came seconds later.

Of course , Your Highness;)

Chapter Text

“Where can they meet?” Ben asked as he and Rey walked through the city. The two were completing errands for their respective bosses, as well as purchasing the coveted coffee in their arms.

“Well, where does Hux usually go?” Rey asked, chewing at the end of her straw to get the wrapper off, while balancing some bags of returned clothes and her purse on her arms. “Ya know when he is not in the office.”

“He’s usually at the Generals Club,” Ben answered with a fringe of distaste, slowing down his gait for Rey to keep up with him.

“Cool, we can get her in,” Rey shrugged, sipping from her drink as they rounded the corner.

“Yeah, in like three years once she is invited by two members, is off the waiting list, and then gets approved by the board,” Ben mumbled, dejectedly. “What about Phasma?”

Rey barked a laugh, “Oh, she is always in the office, and when she is not in the office she is working all the time from home,” she grins up at Ben, her hazel eyes alight, “She’s all about her brand and her website. It has to be something about her work to get her to look anywhere else,” she shrugged, “the website is like her baby.”

“She shouldn’t have a real baby,” he remarked astutely.

“Take that back,” Rey shot out.

“Just speaking the truth,” he argued.

Rey didn’t retaliate, instead rolling her eyes and nodding in mild agreement.

“Still need to find a way for them to meet,” she muttered more to herself, than to him.

Ben winced, struggling to see how they can get the two together or at the very least meet in passing. Hux and Phasma were busy, workaholics who seemed to not notice the others around them were not of the same mind frame.

He tucked his head down, away from the high sun. “Maybe we can try to have him invest in her business—”

“They need a meet-cute,” Rey declared before inhaling a mouth full of her coffee.

Wincing at the causal brutality of her drinking, Ben asked bluntly, “What the hell is a ‘meet-cute’?”

“Haven’t you ever seen a romantic comedy?” she asked, peering up at him as they continued their walk.

“Not in forever,” he admitted, believing romantic Disney films did not count as ‘romantic comedies.’

She nodded once not entirely astonished he did not watch romantic comedies in his free time, “Well a meet-cute is when the main couple if the film meets for the first time, and it is always in a surprisingly cute way.”

“So a meet-cute actually means what it is called,” Ben uttered, not entirely impressed by the name, but agreeing nonetheless, “Then how the hell do we get them to meet outside the office, because neither have an actual reason to meet. We are constructing this.”

“Thank you again for the recap Your Highness,” Rey quipped with an eye roll, “Calm the hell down; we’ll figure it out,” she hummed to herself for a moment, sipping more of her coffee. She perked a second later, “What if they meet at a baseball game or park?” She tried to think of more, biting and chewing on her lips in thought.

Ben looked anywhere but her lips, his briefcase’s leather strap far more amusing. At least that’s what he told himself.

He sipped his drink, hoping the scalding liquid would bring him back to his senses.

“You mentioned they needed to be locked in a room together—why not just do that?” Ben reminded her, his shoulders bouncing in a slight shrug.

Her eyebrows pinched together, “It’s a thought, but it needs more… finesse.” She waved around as though she could grasp the ‘finesse’ in the air. “We need something more than locking them in a room!”

A few people passing by shot them warry looks, Ben snapping back at Rey with a curmudgeon down turn in his eyes. “Keep your voice down, you make it sound like we are committing murder. It is just setting up two demons—how hard can that be?”

“The fact we have been discussing this off and on for nearly three hours tells me just how hard it can be,” she growled under her breath. “Hold this,” she ordered, handing off one of boutique bags she’d been carrying around, to Ben. Easily, she shot her empty coffee cup into a trashcan four feet away, making it in soundlessly.

She whooped loudly, wiggling a little happy dance at her victory.

“Impressive,” Ben complimented dryly, unamused by her childish cheering. She took back her belongings with a beaming grin. Frowning, he turned back to his path, “Why don’t we get them stuck in the elevator?”

She rose an eyebrow, “Are you sure you haven’t seen rom-coms Your Highness? Because I believe you just suggested a trope,” she snorted, shaking her head at his puzzled question.

Rey’s hazel eyes shined with mirth every time she spoke his unfortunate nickname she bestowed on him. Part of Ben wanted to bury the ghastly name in the pits of hell, and demand she never use it again.

But he was growing fond of the carefree, witty attitude she seemed radiate when she used the nickname.

He’d hamper down his pride for her sake.

“I like the elevator idea, very classic,” her encouraging smile spoke volumes, “But just who do we get in contact with to achieve this?” she said, already defeated.

His feet stopped as he stared at her in disbelief, “You don’t know Creepy Jar-Jar?”

 


 

“Meesa like the plant,” he grinned widely, albeit creepily, down at the potted succulent Ben gifted him. A ‘peace offering’ Ben insisted when Rey asked that morning about the measly plant. “Meesa add it to the others.”

“Can you grow any plants down here? Don’t they need sunshine, and…,” Rey nose wrinkled at the rancid smell waffling the room, “um, air?”

“Theys die,” Jar-Jar shrugged, unbothered by this.

Rey glanced over at Ben warily.

Was this really the best option?

Going down the basement was an adventure itself, not to mention their apparent cohort gave off uncomfortable creeper vibes. However, Ben maneuvered through the band basement and handled Jar-Jar’s interactions with a well-versed hand. Her partner in crime knew what he was doing—it was both reassuring and odd.

Nodding happily, Jar-Jar turned in his swivel chair and set his new succulent with its brothers.

 “So, uh, buddy,” Ben began, Rey cringing at the awkwardness of the forced familiarity from Ben. Clearly he was having a difficult time as well.  “We need you to stop on the elevators to make it look like it broke down, so two people can fall in love,” Ben informed him calmly, no doubt hoping he did not sound like a lunatic.

Which would be difficult with the likes of Jar-Jar, the maintenance man’s eyes unmoving. Internally wincing, Rey shifted closer to Ben in the event she need to throw someone between herself and Jar-Jar.

“Mister Solo, what meesa loves more than plants is love in confined places” Jar-Jar looked back and forth between the two with a complacent expression .“Meesa love love,” Jar-Jar stated, smiling once more. “Meesa answer is yes.”

“Great,” Ben smirked, clapping his hands together.

Great,” Rey repeated, though less enthusiastically.

“Group hug?” Jar-Jar asked.

The duo shared a wide eye glance—apparently that was a hard ‘no’ on both ends.

“We—uh we actually got this thing—” Rey started to conjure up a lie, as Ben pulled her along out of the room.

“See you tomorrow Jar-Jar, I will send you the time later,” Ben assured him, calling out from over his shoulder. Quickly, he shut the door behind him. Sharing one last semi-remorseful glance, Rey and Ben departing with the hope their plan would work.

 


 

“Captain is heading for the ship, we are a go for the Enterprise!” Rey shouted as she ran into the dingy basement office, panting between words.

“We are not the CIA or FBI—you can just say elevator,” Ben remarked, standing over Jar-Jar’s shoulder.

The two men were watching the elevator monitors, waiting for Hux and Phasma to make their appearance. Rey would have been there sooner, but coming up with a solid lie to Phasma was easier said than done. Somehow she was able to strong together a few words to form an excuse of chaotic bowel movements. Luckily, Phasma bought it and insisted Rey never speak of her intestinal issues again.

Squinting at the several screens and security camera shots, Rey noticed Hux had already entered the elevator. He stood in the furthest corner of the space, his eyes locked on his cell phone. Typical he avoided all possible contact, the man stone cold…well as far as Rey could infer based off of Ben’s information.

Ben glanced back at her from the corner of his eye, “And Star Trek? Really?”

Turning her nose up at him, Rey stood by Jar-Jar’s other shoulder.

“It is a delightful show about love and friendship,” she defended. She may or may not have binged the entire series and every incarnation of it during the summer between junior and senior of undergrad.

“Sure…” Ben dragged out, raising an eyebrow in disagreement. Leaning forward, he muttered in Jar-Jar’s ear, “We are a go for the Enterprise.”

Rey rolled her eyes. Lulling her head to the side, she watched the monitors, anticipation curling in her gut. Phasma should be making her way to the elevator any moment.

Beside her, Ben crossed his arms. His head was hunched down to view the screens better, taking their little mission seriously despite his grumbled teasing’s of her code names.

Ben huffed, not amused by the long wait between floor stops, “Can you make it stop at her floor?”

Jar-Jar nodded, hitting a few keys. Not a moment later, the elevator dinged on Phasma’s floor the doors opening in time for her to not bother pressing the button. Gracefully, the tall woman swopped into the space, her eyes also glued to her cell phone.

“My god, do they not know human interaction?” Rey mumbled, as the two barely bothered to glance at one another.

“Of course not, they are robots, Rey,” Ben quipped, “It is our job to make them feel—preferably each other.”

As if hearing them, Phasma looked up from her phone and stared at Hux for a moment. Realizing he was not going to speak or ask ‘which floor,’ she pressed the button herself. Her sigh of frustration was audible, loud enough for the camera’s little microphones to pick up.

Hux remained rooted in his spot, not sparing a glance at her.

“Oh god,” Rey sighed, rubbing her forehead, a headache blooming from just watching the dead interaction between the two.

This…this was going to be more difficult than she thought.

“Come on!” Ben groaned, his voice reaching a near shout. “Say something you ginger idiot!”

Just as the elevator doors began to close, a delivery man entered the space.

“No, no, no, no,” Ben stuttered, watching in horror as their plans were foiled, “What is he doing there? That man needs to get out!”

“Well it’s not like we can kick him out,” Rey said, her hands tightly gripping her hips as she fought her frustration. With the odds stacking against them, this seemed nearly impossible to complete.

Jar-Jar tapped a few keys, face a glow by the screens, “Meesa thinking what yous a thinking?”

“Call it off,” Rey and Ben declared tiredly in unison.

“It’s a go time!”

What?”

No!”

The elevator jerked to a stop.

Rey’s gut lurched to her throat—oh fuck.

Eyes blown wide, Ben rushed forward, dropping his hands down on the desk. He glared sternly down at Jar-Jar, ready to rip the keyboard from his hands, “Why the hell would you do that?”

Jar-Jar shrugged and remained unblinkingly as he stared back at Ben, “Meesa though it was a go time?”

“No,” Ben stressed, “It is not ‘a go’ time!”

There were mumblings from the monitors.

Shit, they were talking.

Wait…

Shit, they were talking!

“Shut up, shut up, shut up!” Rey cried out, smacking Ben’s left arm repeatedly. He winced and swatted her hands away. Retaliating, she grasped his arm and pulled him back to see the monitors better, “They are talking dipshit!”

Ben leaned away from her, “I’m ‘dipshit’ now? What happened to ‘Your Highness’? It was starting to grow on me.”

Rey huffed, releasing him with light shove, “Fine—Your Dipshit-ness, they are talking,” spinning back around, she crouched beside Jar-Jar, “Can you bring the volume up?”

Nodding once, the maintenance man pressed a key, the voices becoming clearer.

Both Rey and Ben’s faces crumpled at the conversation transpiring in the elevator.

“—You drive a truck. How are you claustrophobic?” Hux sneered to the heavy-set delivery man. The other man was visibly shaking, the large boxes that were in his arms early set in the middle of the floor.

“I usually take the stairs,” the man explained starting to shuck off his first shirt.

That was…odd.

“What the hell is he doing?” Rey hissed, gripping Ben’s arm again. His suit wrinkled under her stern touch; astonishingly, he did not force her away. Instead, he leaned into her space, eyes focused intently on the screens.

“He’s stripping— why is he stripping?” Ben muttered, his tone edging into shrillness.

“Can you get it going again?” Rey asked, Jar-Jar getting to work before she finished her question.

The lights in the elevator flickered.

“What was that?” Hux growled on the screen, squinting up at the florescent lights.

Off to the side, Phasma sighed, dropping her phone into her purse. Her lips were pulled into a thin line, hardly amused by the men in the room.

“Why did you do it again?” Ben asked Jar-Jar, both he and Rey practically hovering over him.

“That wasn’t Messa,” Jar-Jar shook his head once, sharing wide eyes looks with Rey and Ben on either side. “System malfunction,” he declared calmly, unaware of the panic emitting from the other two in the room.

“Then fix it,” Rey insisted, waving her hands over the keyboard, “Fix it, please.”

The man’s hands went flying over the keys to fix the problem. However his attempts were becoming futile as nothing was happening to the elevator. “Thisa never happened before,” Jar-Jar mumbled.

Rey bit her lip, glancing over to Ben—who was apparently doing no better, his suit jacket rumpled from his constant mini-pacing.

They were both on the verge of freaking out.

Especially since the man continued to strip.

While Phasma attempted to hide her appalment, Hux flat out cringed at the man.

“In my dreams, I always get stuck during a delivery,” the man stated, kicking off his pants.

“Stop—stop doing that—bloody hell, stop,” Hux hissed to the man. When the deliveryman did not listen, Hux began to type furiously on his phone.

Meanwhile, Rey felt helpless in the basement.

“Put them back on, put them back on,” she prayed, rubbing her sweating palms on her dark wash jeans.

“He’s not going to put them back on,” Ben spoke into his hands, before raking his hair back. His dark waves swooped in the opposite direction, yet appeared flawless as ever. Rey presumed he used some product because there was no way on this earth his hair was naturally that beautiful.

Realizing she was staring at his highness for a moment too long, Rey averted her eyes back to the screens.

“—This button will call the fire department and we will be fine—”

“Please, the button does nothing. They will take too long to get here. I’m calling the police because I will get someone on the line rather than a obnoxious blinking light,” Hux stubbornly stated, tapping the number.

Phasma gapped at Hux, before snapping it shut and holding her head up high. “There is a button here for a reason—” Hux reached over and slapped the flashing emergency button off. Jaw set, the woman turned on him, the two meeting perfectly eye to eye.

Rey silently thanked the lord that Phasma decided to wear flats instead if heels. Based on the borderline temper tantrums Hux put on display, finding a woman taller than him in this situation might cause him to explode in flashing rage.

“Why did you do that?” Phasma uttered crisply, staring Hux down the nose.

“Because it will confuse the system—”

I need to pee!” The delivery man cried out, breaking open one of the boxes with him.

He shoved down his boxers, the other two individuals in the elevator averting their horrified gazes.

Ben’s nose wrinkled, “Really?” he recoiled.

Similar grievances echoed from the monitors; Hux hissing and fussing while Phasma tried to calm the delivery man down. A circus of an act performed in the elevator.

“It’s a condition—I wrote a paper on it in psychology in undergrad,” Rey shrugged, her defense falling on deaf ears as the battle continued in the elevator.

I got to pee! I’ve got to!”

“I will fucking kill you if you pee!” Hux screeched, causing Phasma to glared at him from her spot beside the profusely sweating man.

The delivery man was hyperventilating, “It’s gone—”

“Don’t pee!” Rey and Ben shouted to the monitors.

“Pee,” Jar-Jar mumbled with a smile.

Rey gagged at the remark, shifting to stand a little behind Ben.

Unfortunately, the man peed.

“Oh, shit,” Ben stated ruefully.

“It’s pee,” Rey corrected quietly.

Turning his head, Ben peered down at her, “You’re not funny.”

 


 

“That was a fucking disaster,” Ben declared before chopping on a mouthful of gyro.

Standing outside a gyro truck, Rey handed the gyro man the money, picking up her food. Unanimously, the two decided to take a lunch break after the travesty they witnessed. Both of their bosses sent ranting text messages informing their PAs on the debacle and claiming a longer lunch hour for the sake of the matter.

Somehow having the free time in this instance did not make Rey nor Ben feel any better. In fact the quite opposite.

“Not completely,” Rey insisted as the two began to head to an open bench nearby.

“They despise each other,” he stressed once he swallowed. Hastily, he stuffed his face again, chewing viciously.

He may have been a stress eater.

Not a major one, but enough when provoked. Like now.

“No, they despise Pee Man,” Rey reminded him, Ben scowling in response, “And we can work with hate.” Pausing, she examined the two sides of her gyro, trying her best to decide which side to start eating from. Tongue sticking out to the side, she dived for the left. Mid-chew, she continued, “The opposite of love is indifference,” she stated as though she held all the wisdom in the palm of her hand. Happily, she bit into her gyro. A smudge of cucumber sauce lingered on the corner of her mouth.

Ben’s lips quirked.

“You got a little,” he waved a finger around her mouth.

She pouted, reaching to wipe her face, only to smear more sauce to her chin.

Huffing a snort through his nose, Ben set down his gyro into its little tray on his lap.

“Here.” By second nature, Ben licked his thumb and wiped the smudge away.

Under his touch, Rey froze. Her hazel eyes stared back at him, mouth parted slightly—stunned by him.

He stunned her? Well, that was new. He could hardly remember the last time he touched a woman other than his mother, nor care for someone who wasn't family in such a tender way. Feeling his heart stutter, he did not know what to do--

Her warming flesh under his thumb suddenly brought Ben back to where exactly he was.

A spike of embarrassment hit Ben, his hand flying back down to his gyro.

Why the hell did he do that?

He cursed his paternal instincts. Shakily, he chomped back down on his food, not caring how ridiculous he might look with his frantic eating.

After a moment, Rey cleared her throat, chewing on her food again.

Okay, they were going to pretend that just didn’t happen. Cool, cool. Ben could work with that.

“We just need to plant seeds now,” Rey said, picking out some radishes from her food. Unceremoniously, she dropped them into the little tray. “Mention them to each other, slowly change their opinion on the other.”

“So lie?” Ben said looking up from his food.

“Fabricate little details,” Rey countered, “Not straightout lying—”

“Good, because you can’t lie for shit,” he stated plainly.

Rey’s good mood diminished, focusing back on her lunch. “Well, it looks like someone is in a princely mood.”

The two ate in companionable silence, Rey glancing back at Ben out of the corner of her eye every so often. His dark eyes stared intently on the street before, practically inhaling his food.  Biting her lips together, Rey convinced herself, rather poorly, she may have been seeing things. Meanwhile Ben’s tautness begged for her to look away.

Once again she returned to her food with reckless fervor, not noticing the linger gazes from her companions dark pretty eyes.

 


 

“I forwarded Cassian’s schedule for the Jyn Erso profile,” Rey rattled off the long list of completed tasks to Phasma before pausing, considering her next move. She and Ben did agree to plant seeds at the first opportunity…  Adjusting her head set, Rey pretended to skim her list again, “And the guy who you were stuck in the elevator with, apparently asked for your number from security.” The words were scrambled, but Phasma caught the gist if he sudden stillness were anything to go by.

“What?” Phasma uttered, her sharp, icy eyes lifting from her work.

Rey stuttered, “Uh the man in the elevator—”

Phasma grimaced in disbelief, “The one who peed?”

“No!” Rey shouted. A few co-workers from the office space beside them to turned, Rey waving them away. Damn window walls. Burying her momentary panic, Rey relaxed her shoulders. “The—the other man. He works in this building too, and he called asking for your number.” Phasma didn’t appear to buy it. Tucking her hair behind her ear, Rey’s mind wired for something to catch Phasma’s attention. “Maybe he has a crush on you—” Her boss quirked an eyebrow, “or something, maybe apologize…”

“Why—”

“But I told them we do not give out your number,” Rey reassured her quickly as she quickly exited the room.

Leaving the office, Rey slid into her seat, knees banging the underside of her desk. Wincing, crouched down out of Phasma’s view and called Ben.

Thankfully, he picked up on the first ring.

“Captain is intrigued, I repeat the captain is intrigued.”

A exasperated huff left him, “Code names again? Seriously?”

“It makes this more funny—”

“This is serious business,” Ben replied monotonously.

“How are things on your front?”

“Hux knows who she is, figured it out when I said her name wrong,” Ben informed her, “Likes her in the most superficial sense.”

“Great, we can work with superficial,” Rey cheered.

A throat cleared above her. Sitting up she smiled at Cassian Andor, one of their leading journalists at the website. He’d been assigned the coveted Jyn Erso profile and interview; one of which Phasma nearly skipped on if Rey had not swooped in. Some clever wording and hyping, Phasma nodded along and told Rey to give Cassian the info on the assignment.

“Yes?” Rey asked, shoving away her headset.

“I just needed the confirmation and registration forms for—”

Rey picked up the labeled folder and handed it to him. “All done and taken care of, just make sure to bring your ID, both personal and work, to the field because they would have a conniption if you didn’t.”

Cassian took the folder, “Gracias, Senorita Rey,” he bowed his head. “Don’t spend too much time talking to es tu novio.”

Rey’s eyes widen, “Eh-not es tu novio—eh I mean mitu novio,” she called out after him. He rounded the corner with all too knowing smirk, leaving her protests dying in the air.

Groaning, she dropped her forehead on her desk repeatedly.

“I swear you are like a child,” Ben’s voice grumbled in her ear. She frowned, completely forgetting they were on a phone call. “You’ll end up getting a bruise on your forehead.”

Resting her chin on the surface, she pursed her lips, “How do you know that was my forehead? It could have been my elbow, my knee—”

“I know it was your forehead because I am not an idiot and the sound is close to your Bluetooth,” he stated tersely.

“Touché,” Rey hummed, swiveling in her seat. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw her Yankees mug.

An idea sparked in her mind.

“How good are Hux’s Yankee’s tickets?”

“You mean the one he never uses?” Ben gibed, his voice treading into snarky waters. “Remarkable,” he deadpanned. “Why?”

An impressive grim bloomed on her lips, “I think I know what will be meet-cute attempt number two!”

A heavy paused weighed between them until—

“Are you fucking insane,” he intoned, voice dropping lower, “have them meet at a Yankee’s game? Two Brits at a baseball game—”

“That sound like the beginning of an awful joke—”

“Because it is!” Ben stressed.

“And Phasma isn’t even a true, full blood Brit,” Rey rolled her eyes. Cautiously, she lifted her eyes over the ledge of her corner desk counter to see if her boss was nearby. Phasma was typing intently on her laptop, her jaw set. Dropping her head back down, Rey continued, “Her dad’s American and she spent summers in Worthing with her mother.”

Worthing?”

“It’s a borough in West Sussex—” Rey stopped herself, sitting upright in her chair, “You know what, I do not have the time to explain the United Kingdom’s geography to you,” she huffed, chewing on the end of a pen. “If my idea is so bad, what do you suggest, Your Highness?”

“Soccer,” he said instantly, “Or, er, football in your case.”

“I—” She snapped her mouth shut. Actually, his idea would be better—if there wasn’t one tiny little problem. “Do you know when the soccer season begins?”

“Don’t all sports run at the same time?” He asked exasperated, his typing echoing through into the Bluetooth.

Rey’s eye twitched; she was conspiring with a moron, a handsome one, but a moron all the same.

“Uh—no,” Rey answered heatedly, “Sports have their own seasons and overlap with others! And MLS soccer season ended two weeks ago—I should know I cried during the championships!”

“I wouldn’t declare that fact with so much pride,” Ben murmured. A beeping sounded over their line, “Hey, I need to call you back later, I need to take this.”

“But what about—”

“Message me the details and charge anything to Hux’s card; he won’t notice. Now I need to go.”

He hung up quickly, Rey gapping at the abruptness.

Ben was….a skittish one despite first impressions. He seemed to constantly be playing poker with everyone he interacted with, hoping to hide his bluff or winning hand. Always trying to keep everyone a safe distance of arm’s length. Not to mention it was as though his mind were off somewhere else half the time. While he’d been helpful and a rather witty partner in crime, his Highness’ private nature was beginning to rub Rey the wrong way. He knew what she wanted to get out of this set up, but she didn’t quite know his objective.

Pressing her lips together, Rey opened a new web page. Clacking a couple of keys, Rey punch ‘enter’ once she was finished.

Ben Solo

The web search lit up with findings, Rey skimming the pages with new found curiosity for the dark haired, grumpy man.

Chapter Text

“Why are you dressed like that?”

A few feet away, Ben turned around from where he was waiting in line for a soda and hotdog. He glanced down at his outfit, then to Rey.

From head to toe she was dressed in Yankee’s merch all the way from her windbreaker to her socks. He should have known she’d be decked out considering she was the one with season tickets.

“I came from work,” Ben answered, shrugging as he stepped forward in line. Saddling up beside him, Rey nudged his shoulder with an obnoxious foam finger.

“So did I, but I still changed,” Rey argued.

“Well, not all of us work for a sports magazine where the dress-code is ‘sporty business casual’.”

Not bothering to retort, Rey poked at the fabric at his elbow, “At least take the jacket off and lose the tie,” she insisted, flapping at his navy blue skinny tie. “You look so stiff all the time, let loose a little.”

Frowning, but ultimately seeing her reasoning, Ben loosened his tie. Lifting it off his head, he carefully folded the fabric before putting it away in his briefcase.

He turned to her, waving to his outfit. “There. Happy?” He grumbled, stepping up in the line.

“The real question is are you happy?” Rey asked, an emerging grin on her lips.

He thought for a moment, before nodding once to himself. “I am indifferent,” Ben replied diplomatically, his poker face even.

Rolling her eyes good naturedly, she stepped forward in line, placing her order. Ben followed suit, ultimately paying despite Rey’s protests.

“You took care of the tickets, I’ll get the food,” he declared with little room for argument.

While Ben bought the tickets, Rey scurried off to Snap, her friend at the stadium. “Snap, my man,” she greeted, giving him a hi-five, “I need you to do me a favor, and I’ll get you access to the next three issues at the magazine without membership fees.”

“Deal,” he agreed immediately.

“We need the people in these seats,” she pulled out the stickynote from her pocket, with Phasma and Hux’s seats listed, and handed it to Snap, “to make out.”

He nodded in understanding, pocketing the information. “What do they look like?”

“One is a stunningly beautiful woman, with short blonde hair with fierceness that is both frightening and inspiring,” she then shrugged, completely disinterested and at a loss, “the other is just a man.”

“Perfect, I got,” Snap nodded, shooting finger guns at Rey.

She grinned, dashing off to join Ben by the stairs. Wordlessly, he handed her a hot dog with everything, mustard and relish dripping a little off the edges of the bun. He grimaced at the sight—probably imaging the heartburn— his own hot dog plain, except for ketchup. They toasted their hotdogs together, Rey leading the way to their nosebleed seats.

“These are your seats? Can you even see anything?” Ben asked squinting down at the field, the stadium now far wider yet smaller from their vantage point. Following her, he sat in the open seat beside Rey, balancing both his hotdog and their drinks.

She picked up her soda from him, taking a large sip before answering. “Of course you can! You see the entire field from up here—and it is a community!” She waved cheerful to the elderly couple a couple of rows ahead. The due frowned at Ben, eyeing his less than spirited attire. She took a large bite of her hotdog, chewing with vigor. “Don’t knock it until you lived it.”

Ben hummed mockingly in thought, eating his own hotdog. “Bold of you to assume I want to live this.”

“Not a baseball fan?”

Careful with his words, Ben decided to be honest, figuring it was the best way to not offend the sports fanatic. Understandably, he momentarily feared for his life whenever she got heated about any sports game. He’d witnessed some of her aggressive watching habits when they meet for a late, late dinner the previous night to go over last minute details to get their bosses out of the office for the Yankees game. She nearly got them thrown out of the bar due to yelling at muted television screen. All worked up over a pre-season football game for a team she didn’t even like.

“Not since I fell and clonked my head during t-ball in first grade.” He recalled his father dashing out to him with fleeting concern before helping him up and saying the classic ‘walk it off’.

Looking out to where Phasma and Hux’s seats were located, Ben saw the blonde woman making her way down the steps. Hux had already been sitting at his seat when they arrived, disgruntled as ever. Typical.

“Look, here comes Phasma.” Ben nudged Rey, both focusing in on said woman. Subconsciously they leaned forward, eyes narrowing on the duo on the other side of the stadium.

The tall woman sat in the seat almost directly behind Hux’s, dressed in her own Yankee’s windbreaker and baseball cap. She spoke to him, Hux turning in his seat to face her. From the distance neither Rey or Ben could comprehend what they were saying, but talking was good…right?

“Well, this is anti-climactic,” Ben muttered, sitting back in his heard seat. “We can’t do anything from up here.”

“I got the jumbotron kiss-cam in our favor,” Rey waved off, watching the game on the edge of her seat. Her hotdog had been devoured in a matter of seconds, the remains crumbled together in a little trash mound by her feet. Over her shoulder, she grinned at him, patting his knee. “Try to enjoy the game—we are at a game, during usual work hours, after all.”

He raised an eyebrow, before picking up his phone from his pocket. Squinting at the dim screen, he noticed he had a text message from his mother—

Went to the doctor today.

Only a small case of the flu.

Nothing some good care and medicine can’t fix.

He groaned as the cheers in their stands cried out into the sky. Rey skyrocketed to her feet and yelled down at the umpire, the man not hearing her at all. He didn’t know she possessed such a strong pair of lungs, making even the man with the decade old hearing aid wince at her outcries. While she was not meek, Rey did not give off the vibe of obnoxious. Loud and aggressive, yes—of fucking course. But seeing her passionate about a guy not reaching a base? Well, that was something different.

“What the hell! Why are you calling that!” She growled out, hands on her hips.

Seeing the next batter coming in, she sighed and dropped back down in her seat. Grabbing her soda, she sipped a hearty amount before stuffing it back into its cupholder.

“I googled you,” she announced plainly.

Ben did not react, merely raising a knowing eyebrow. “And?”

“I can’t find jackshit except for your high school yearbook photo from some reunion group on Facebook.” She cocked her head to the side, eyes wide. “Dude, everyone your age has a Facebook, and you don’t.”

“I don’t care for social media,” he answered honestly. He had a Facebook in college and then deleted it when he started getting one too many requests for Candy Crush. “I have an Instagram, but its private and under a name I would never tell you.” He grinned at her smugly.

“I saved the yearbook photo.” Digging into her pocket, she pulled out her phone and turned on the screen. She brought up the cursed photo after a few lazy swipes across the screen. He winced at the sight—short hair and baby face. He was still growing and didn’t full form into himself until he was twenty-five. “I thought I needed to have a good photo if you ever went missing by Hux’s hand.”

“Nice to know you think ahead,” he said dryly. Stubbornly, he placed his sunglasses on, not fond of the bright sun that afternoon. “You can always take a picture of me now for better reference,” he offered before he fully contemplated the thought.

“Really?” She sat up straight, hand grasping his forearm in vice grip. Her eyes lit up along with a familiar Cheshire smile he began to associate with her.

“Yes.”

Scrutinizing him, she tsked. “You know what—I am not going to do it now. But I will, when you least expect it.” She patted his arm playfully and turned back to the game.

Ben was relieved to not be subjected to the camera, but also frightened by the prospect of a photo ambush. Rey screamed ‘scrappy’ and he wouldn’t put it past her to literally jump on him for perfect photo opportunity.

Down in on the field, another strike was made, a string of loud curses falling from Rey’s mouth. His eyebrows shot up to his hairline, not expecting her to be so foul mouthed, however fitting it happened to be. Watching her curiously, Ben muffled his laughter into his hand.

Carefully, he lifted his phone and took a candid shot of her.

“Hey!” She cried out the instant his flash went off. “What was that for?”

“Your Tinder.” He said simply.

“What—No!” She tried to snatch his phone away, but Ben held it out of her reach easily. “I don’t want a Tinder!”

“How are you ever going to kiss a guy then?” Ben taunted, tucking his phone safely back into his pocket.

“I can find a guy to kiss wherever I want,” she argued back childishly.

The announcement for halftime then sounded, Rey plopping back into her seat, buzzing with energy. Their plan was about to be in action and then freedom.

Hopefully.

The classic kiss-cam then came on, the happy tune and cheek announcer filling the stadium.

“It’s happening!” She cheered, swatting Ben’s arm repeatedly. He sat on the edge of his seat, the two waiting with baited breath.

The cam swung to focus on Phasma and Hux, the two now sitting next to each other. Loud chants of ‘kiss, kiss, kiss’ echoed in the audience, fans standing and goading along.

In true Phasma and Hux fashion, they both frowned and waved the camera off. Rolling his eyes with a frown, Hux picked up his drink and stared hard at the camera.

“Goddamn it,” Ben hissed, practically vibrating in anger.

A strong grip held his wrist, steadying him, as the camera landed on two guys, the two kissing right on cue.

“Boo!” Ben called out, annoyoyed the camera didn’t stay on Hux and Phasma long enough for the pressure to settle in.

A chorus of grumbles them came from those surrounding him. Oh, shit they thought—

Raking a hand through his hair, Ben turned apologetically to the others around him. “No, no—I didn’t mean it that way. It’s—forget it.” He dropped his face into his palms, grumbling at how quickly this going south.

“Don’t worry, the guy will get them to kiss. He promised.” Rey insisted, eyes never leaving where their bosses sat with stubborn expressions.

Almost like clockwork, the kiss-cam landed on Phasma and Hux again. The chants reach up to a high, and Ben was slowly loosing feeling in his arm from Rey’s hold.

Phasma becoming perturbed by this, leaned over and placed a kiss on Hux’s cheek and waved with finality. Rey and Ben collapsed in more moans of displeasure, realizing they might not reach their goal after all. Following their lead, the crowd groaned as the camera swerved to a mother and son, mocking the kiss between the previous two.

Her hopes deflated spectacularly. “They are not going to kiss.” Rey groaned, dropping her head down. “My god what would it take to—”

“Holy shit,” Ben breathed, tensing at the sight of the screen.

Rey peaked an eye at him. “Wh—”

“Don’t look up, but the kiss-cam is on us,” he explained hastily, the chants beginning again. “And we are supposed to be at work,” he hissed. “I knew this was a bad idea. We should have locked them in another room—”

“Shut up!” Rey ordered, tugging her hat down a little lower to obscure her face.

Swiftly, before Ben could comprehend what she was doing, she planted a firm kiss on his mouth—

And then broke away before he could react or respond, or do anything really. Honestly there was a bit of a mental black out when it all happened which was truly unfortunate

Brief cheers sounded, then the kiss-cam found it’s next victim. Sitting stock-still, Ben lifted his sunglasses and stared at Rey with wide eyes.

“What the hell was that?” He said lowly, his brain computing the events slowly and at hyperspeed.

“A kiss,” she said plainly, focusing back on the field. “There was a kiss-cam and I did what it asked!” Her hasty explanation squeaked as she blurted it out. A red hue dusted her cheeks, but she acted as though it were no big deal.

Ben clearly remembered their conversation a couple of weeks back—thought she’d never say it, the kiss was a big deal but she didn’t want to talk about it, pushing the matter away. Obviously; she cried about not kissing guys. Low and behold, he’d be the first guy she kissed after her dry spell.

Just then the kiss-cam landed on Phasma and Hux for the last time. With some huffing and miming, the two kissed.

Wait—they kissed?

Instantly, Rey and Ben shot out of their seats cheering loudly as Phasma and Hux kissed, and kissed, and giggled grossly at each other. Oh, god they were really going to fully make-out at a Yankee’s game? Apparently so.

“Oh my god! Yes!” Rey shouted out tossing her hat up in the air. She caught it and placed it back on her head. “That is a kiss right there!”

“Yes!” Ben cried out, fist pumping the air. “Yes, they kissed!”

“Shut up!” An elderly man called out. “Some of us want to watch the rest of the game!”

“Right, sorry,” Ben apologized profusely, bowing slightly to the man.

He and Rey fumbled as they sat back down, glancing giddily at each other the entire time.

“Dude,” she whispered excitedly, “We are free!”

“Never thought I’d live to see the day,” he joked, the two grinning like fools.

On the field the Yankee’s made a score, the crowd shouting and screaming in delight. Rey leaped from him again, throwing herself wholeheartedly into the thrills of the game.

Ben could not help but smile at her, feeling safer to give into her pull when she wasn’t looking.

 


 

Exiting the stadium, Rey whipped out her phone, shoving it Ben’s face. “Look! No emails,” she cried out of relief and joy.

“Well it is a little hard to screech orders when your tongue is down someone’s throat,” Ben said turning to Rey for a hi-five, she responding immediately.

“Well then see you later, Your Highness,” Rey quipped turning to enter the subway, only to realize Ben was walking the same way. “Oh are you taking the—”

“Four?” He finished, the two awkwardly standing there.

“Yeah…” she said, scratching the top of her head with her foam finger. “I guess we can just go together.”

“What a waste of a hi-five,” he remarked earning a playful glare.

Side by side the two went to catch their train, both making plans for their suddenly free afternoon.

 


 

“Phasma! I am so sorry, I am late! I missed the first train because the barista didn’t—”

Rey stumbled to a stop in the empty office, the coffee stacked in her arms nearly toppling over.

Usually, at seven in the morning, there wasn’t anyone in the office beyond Rey and Phasma…but even her particular and heinous boss wasn’t there.

Did the rapture occur?

Wait—that was stupid. Phasma would probably definitely still be there if such an event occurred. Carefully setting the coffee on her desk, Rey grabbed her phone from her backpack. Quickly she tapped out a text to Ben.

Phasma is not here.

WHAT. HAPPENED.

His Highness

Hux is not here either

What if someone saw the kiss-cam, followed them home,

and then murdered them?

His Highness

Highly unlikely.

His Highness

But if it were, legally are we liable?

No.

Rey paused, now honestly considering the matter. Feeling dread, she typed back frantically.

I…I don’t think so…

GAH! Now I am googling this shit.

His Highness

Damn.

I don’t know what I am supposed to do with his juice.

It is meant to be taken within the first few minutes of being made.

Scoffing at Ben’s concern about the juice, Rey nearly jumped out of her skin when the main office doors were swung open.

Dressed in tall heels and bright blue, form fitting pant suit, Phasma strutted as though she were on cloud nine. A smug smile graced her lips as she entered her office, Rey staring after her in astonishment.

Phasma was wearing…color? Real blue-blue color, not some monochromatic blouse or dress. She didn’t even know the woman owned anything beyond black, white, and gray—and Rey handled her dry cleaning.

MAYDAY! CAPTAIN IS IN THE BUILDING.

His Highness

Again with the Star Trek?

His Highness

Shit. Hux is here. Confer later?

Roger that, your princelyness.

“Rey, my office.” Her boss called out, monotone.

Rey sprang into action. She grabbed her note pad, tablet, and Phasma’s coffee and dashed into the room. Clumsily she set the coffee down on her desk, taking three large steps back; Phasma liked her space, allowed her to think freely.

“I spent a night with a man,” the woman immediately declared.

“Wha—A—a man?” Rey stuttered out, trying—and arguably failing—at acting surprised by this news. “Wow. That is wow-wow,” she exclaimed, searching her brain for some girl chat type affirmations. “Yas…” She trailed off awkwardly, attempting to snap her fingers…only to realize she actually did not know how to snap.

Phamsa ignored her, sitting down in her seat. Gracefully, she kicked her feet up on the edge of the desk.

“We didn’t sleep together—Rey, I am not the type of woman who has sex on the first date.”

Cool panic of offending Phasma chilled her bones, Rey scrambling to rectify the situation. “Right, right—”

“Well, not anymore,” she chuckled almost gleefully.

Any terms related to ‘glee’ and the cold hearted Phasma should never be together; it was like watching the birth of an alien baby—oddly intriguing but overall confusing.

Phasma’s head cocked to the side, gazing deeply into the corner pensively. “Actually, now that I think about it, I can’t really remember the last time I got laid.”

Rey’s eyebrows shot up. Phasma on an emotional high was a candid woman, unfiltered while in the office. Realizing more people were entering the floor, she closed the office door, saving the office from details of their boss’ sex life. Sadly, Rey would need to take one for the team—as always.  After all, the best heroes are the one’s unsung.

“…Everything he did held hidden strength, even his most gentlest of touches…” Phasma continued to muse, Rey baffled by the words coming from the usually sharp and demanding woman. “He’s…he’s almost like a meerkat—attentive yet mischievous…”

A…a meerkat?

Ben would cry from laughter at that remark…not to mention it was said unbelievable lust. God, Phasma was really lusting over Hux? Ginger Snot-Nose Hux?

Rey knew she and Ben were a great team, but wow, they were working some amazing miracles here.

A sharp giggle came from Phasma, Rey gapping unabashedly at the lust and man crazed woman. Immediately she stood up and glided out of the room, her smile gone but her good mood radiating in every move.

“I am awake and alive—give me some ideas people!”

Despite hearing her boss' shouts, Rey stood frozen in the office, her eyes blinking rapidly. She wasn’t too sure what she just witnessed, but she needed to tell Ben—ASAP.

Their lives were really going to turn for the better if this was the product of their labors.

 


 

Ben handed in some last minute paperwork when he felt insistent tapping on his shoulder.

Turning around, he was greeted with Rey’s blinding smile.

“Guess who has the rest of the day off because their boss is going to get banged?”

Ben shook his head. “Me, because Hux left twenty minutes ago and gave me the rest of the day off,” he boasted, starting to walk to the elevator. Automatically he slowed his gate for Rey to catch up, the girl in a giddy flurry. “Also, no one says ‘banged’ like that—you made it sound so violent.”

“What are you going to do with your free afternoon and subsequent weekend?” she asked as they entered the elevator. She pressed for ground level, the doors closing slowly.

Surprised by her curiosity, Ben glanced at her and shrugged. “Go home. Take a nap. Watch a movie.” He paused, lips pursing in thought. “Maybe do some laundry, I am reaching last week of underwear status.”

She quirked an eyebrow. “Even thirty-somethings live by ‘last week of underwear’?”

Ben snorted with a small teasing smirk. “Anyone who hates doing laundry lives by that rule, Rey. Not just frantic, overworked twenty-somethings.”

“But seriously—” She peered at him bemusedly, arms crossed over her chest. “Laundry? Watching a movie? A nap?”

They were two floors away from ground level, the numbers dropping and blinking. “To be honest, the nap will mostly likely happen during the movie—”

“Oh my god, you sound like a depressed single dad!” She joked, giving him a hard time. Anyone with eyes could see Ben was attractive in person, not to mention he gave off Darcy vibes. Literature nerds would eat him up if he ever gave anyone the opportunity.

In her musings, she barely noticed Ben became eerily tense at her remark.

He swallowed tightly and didn’t respond, keeping his eyes forward. He vibrated in nervous energy, increasing the longer the silence rested between them. Almost as though he felt guilty

Wait—what?                              

Her head snapped to him, eyes wide. “Wait, are you a dad?”

The elevator dinged open.

“See you Monday, brat.” Ben spoke hastily, breaking out of the space the moment he was able to squeeze through.

“What—no, no, no!” Rey called after him, jogging to catch up with his long legs. Ben picked up his pace, mouth drawing into a firm, displeased line. “You can’t just run off without answering the question—one that I believe is valid—”

Ben rounded on her, eyes dark and brimming with unrelenting emotion. Frustration was most dominate, but something a kin to embarrassment lingered under the surface.

“I don’t need to answer anything,” he said simply. “My life is personal—”

“I thought we were becoming friends,” Rey argued back, not understanding the blooming hurt eclipsing the joy she felt only moments ago. Oh god. What if he was married too? Did she seriously, possibly, kiss a married man? Not that the kiss was much; mostly brief skin to skin contact if viewed in its most basic form. He didn’t have a ring, and she felt she would have known considering they were basically friends, partners in crime, salt buddies—whatever you wanted to call it. “Friends know if the other is married and has kids—”

“I’m not married, and I never have been,” he interrupted exasperatedly, as though knowing she’d continue badgering him until he caved. “I just—” An inner battle raged within him, Rey seeing his hesitance yet longing to relieve himself. He chewed on his upper lip angrily before rolling his eyes and sighing defeat. “I just have a kid, and I plan on seeing her this weekend.”

“Oh,” was all Rey uttered, not quite sure on how to respond.

Tall, surprisingly muscular, and broody described Ben. He oozed disinterest and haughtiness. He did not look like a dad. Ideal fathers were meant to be comforting and warm figures, gave protection and told really bad jokes. At least, that is what Rey surmised on her limited experiences.

Ben was aloof and, yes, his height and build gave illusion of comfort. But once in close proximity, it was easy to feel ill at ease around him and his imposing presence.

“So you have custody of her on weekends?” Rey asked, attempting to understand and make conversation. Parents liked talking about their kids; a prime example were the Ticos. Rose and Paige’s parents could prattled on about their girls for days, covering flaws, achievements, and funny little stories.

“What?” Ben blanched a little at the question, quickly composing himself. He started to walk again with less urgency, Rey walking in beside him easily. “No. I have full custody; she lives with my parents during the week because of my job.”

Suddenly the puzzle pieces clicked into place.

The constant checking of his phone. The remarks about parenthood. The mystery to his entire being…Ben’s reasons behind setting up Hux and Phasma always felt a little vague. Spending more time with family, generally felt vague to most.

Ben didn’t want to set up Hux because he was the devil incarnate—which he was, but that was another matter entirely—but because of how his job was eating up his time. From what she knew, Ben was always on call for Hux and forced the pull late nights on most days. His boss controlled his time and abused Ben’s position.

Time he could be spending with his daughter.

In a strange twist of events, Rey felt sorry for Ben.

“Then you must be excited to see her?” Rey smiled lightly at him.

He relaxed at the genuine question, nodding slightly. “Yeah…it’s been a few weeks and Skype is not the same.”

His face soften at the thought of see his daughter. Sharp edges eased to gentle strokes of expression as though a carefully crafted mask fell away piece by piece. For a moment, she saw a side of Ben Solo no one witnessed—tenderness and benevolent pride.

Then the mask slid right back into place again.

“Just—just don’t tell anyone?” His voice was quite, a shadow of fear danced quickly across his features. “No one at work knows and I’d like to keep it that way.”

The burning question of ‘why?’ seared her mind, but his tone left little room for goading.

“Okay,” she said, a soft understanding smile gracing her lips. “Okay, I won’t say anything.”

He glanced down at her, a flicker of the man she saw moments ago shining just for her. “Thanks.”

As though remembering something, she  grinned wildly back at him, a taunting gleam in her eyes “Wait, so I got to know—do you have tea parties and play dress up—oh, my god do you dress up as a princess for your daughter—”

“And now I am leaving—” He interrupted, taking a left to the nearest subway entrance. “Have a good weekend, Rey.” He told her quietly, patting her on the shoulder before continuing his journey alone.

“You too, Your Highness!” Rey called after, waving at him delightfully.

Subconsciously, she stopped walking, her eyes trailing his form as he got further and further away. Her gaze lingered in him until he disappeared amongst the crowd, feeling a sudden twinge of loneliness at his departure.

Chapter Text

Upon entering the apartment, Poe froze in the entry way.

He smelled…pepper? A distinct sound of water boiling traveled through the apartment.

Panic flared in him, thinking he might have left the stove on. It wouldn’t have been the first time he left the stove on in the morning, only to come back later to see it flaming on. Ben would kill him if they got carbon monoxide poisoning, or worse, burned the building down.

Rushing to the kitchen, Poe stumbled to a stop when a tiny body rammed into him.

“Uncle Poe!” Paddy Solo cried out, her tiny arms tightening around his legs. Her short, dark curls bounced happily despite her red nose and warm forehead.

Catching himself on the wall before tumbling after her, Poe grinned down at the little three year old.

“Princessa, whatcha doing here?” Poe asked his gaze drifting from Paddy’s adorable little face, to Ben cutting vegetables by the stove. “In fact, what are you doing here dude? Don’t you have work?”

Stopping his cutting, Ben smiled.

Poe blinked dumbly at the expression.

Meanwhile, Paddy clung to Poe’s leg, and pulled on his arm. Sensing she wanted to be picked up, he reached down and carried the girl in his arms. Happily she wrapped her arms around his neck and burrowed into him like a kitten. She was a tiny girl for her age, and thankfully was not going to get the Solo height by the looks of it.

Dropping his voice, Poe asked, “Did you get fired? Did you quit?”

Ben’s grin did not fade. “Nope, got the entire afternoon off.” He dropped the chopped potatoes into the pot. “And the weekend too.”

“Twilight Zone is the only explanation,” Poe muttered, glancing down at Paddy. “And you decided to bring sicky here because…?”

“Because she is my daughter and my parents deserve a break,” Ben answered easily, stirring his pot of soup. “I know it is not the most ideal, but I’d rather take care of her here than at home.”

Poe knew the Skywalker and Solo’s well; he did not blame Ben for wanting to take care of his daughter without the inevitable hovering.

“Daddy says we can watch Tangled and Beauty and the Beast after dinner,” Paddy mumbled sleepily into his shoulder. A little cough coursed through her body, she curling into herself.

Ben gazed sadly at his daughter, Poe feeling sorry for his friend. After three weeks he was finally able to see her, and the poor girl was sick. While Poe did agree with all of Ben’s decisions, he knew his friend tried to be the best father he could be under these circumstances.

“Hey, why don’t you take her and I finish the soup? I think Paddy deserves some quality daddy-daughter time.”

Relief shined in Ben’s eyes as he took Paddy from Poe. The little girl beamed halfheartedly at her dad. Silently he mouthed a ‘thank you’ to Poe, leaving the kitchen.

 


 

“A hole in one, whoop!” Rey cheered as she continued her winning streak across the mini-golf course. While never exceptionally well at the actual sport, she found herself to be excelling in the little game. Making hole in ones several times in a row and maybe participating a little too much smack talk for a Tinder date. But no matter how much she tried, the beast could not be contained and playing dumb was not an option.

Her date, Jacen, forced a smile as he lost…again. His frown deepened as she marked on their score sheet their progress.

“Come on! Let’s go to the next hole,” Rey coaxed, trying her best to tone down her excitement at her nearly perfect shots.

Some of her co-workers and friends told her keep the…Rey-ness down a notch. Telling her not to get too invested in the game and the guy too fast because it would only lead to issues.

Of course, Rey did not listen to them. Instead, she text Ben on his opinion.

His Highness

Just don’t make your Ewok face.

You make an Ewok face when you concentrate too hard.

Rey restrained a harsh text back, opting to go on the fact Ben did not tell her to not be herself.

“I am sure the next hole will be easier—”

“Has anyone ever told you how extremely competitive you are?” Jacen interjected, face scrunching together in pain. “Like really—really competitive.”

“I mean yeah,” she said with a slight shrug, not understanding the problem. “I just really like to win—there is a remarkable adrenaline to it,” she rambled enthusiastically, unable to hide her joy for competitive sports.

Gosh the high of winning was pretty great, but the bantering and game talk was the best. She tried her best to joke and banter with Jacen for part of the date, after all some light teasing eased the mood. However he was as receptive as she anticipated. Quite a sensitive fellow at her jabs.

Unlike Ben who took bantering in stride. She could tease him for days and he’d be able to hash it out just as well or better—sure, he was callous but she’d take callous over sensitive snowflake any day.

If fact if Ben was here she wouldn’t winning so easily. He’d give her some real competition, might even beat her. Oh, she could totally see him and his gigantic form completely owning mini-golf and—

Why the hell was she thinking about Ben? She was here with Jacen, charmingly attractive, “I like hiking and surfing” Jacen.

She bet Ben never hiked in his—Well, no he probably did. He seemed somewhat outdoorsy and—

Rey, get a grip, she scolded herself.

Needless to say, Rey was beginning to flounder with Jacen. And it seemed like nothing was getting any better no matter how much she laughed and attempted to explain herself.

Why the hell would you need to explain yourself? Ben’s taunting voice chimed to her, Rey suddenly becoming squeamish at the thought.

Shaking his head, Jacen took a step away, heading to the next hole. “I’d say tone it down. Some of actually like to play for fun of it,” he said sourly over his shoulder.

Watching him walk ahead of her, Rey felt the minuscule hope she possess diminish. Okay, maybe things were going straight to hell.

Digging her phone out of her pocket, she typed speedily, hoping her date wouldn’t notice.

He said I am being too competitive.

His Highness

Okay. And?

And what?

His Highness

Was he upset when he said it? Teasing? Joking?

You got to work with me here.

Um…

Lifting her gaze, she saw Jacen struggle to line up his next ball. His lips twisted dejectedly, his once charming face becoming plain aggravated. He tested a few swings, before going for a great big wide wave…and ended up hitting his ball to a wooden windmill over three yards away. Hot steam of air huffed through his nose as he stomped his foot.

Dear god, why did she agree to this?

To put it plainly…bratty?

She winced as the events played over in her mind once again.

Might as well be honest.

He stomped his foot like a toddler.

His Highness

Omf.

That’s all you have to say?

His Highness

Well yeah, besides ABORT.

Rey’s eyes widened at the all-caps. Sparing another glance at Jacen, who seemed to preoccupied with dusting off his shoes, she typed back to Ben furiously.

What? Just leave him?

His Highness

Well use some tact.

Like what?

His Highness

Give me two minutes.

Pinching her lips together, Rey nervously tucked her phone away in her jean jacket. While she did not know what he meant by the last message, she trusted him…enough. Not with her life per say but enough to know he’d follow through on his word.

“Your turn,” Jacen announced grumpily as Rey came to stand beside him.

Lining up her ball and putt, she squinted at the hole. A frustrated sigh left her. She’d make a hole in one easily…but her date would throw a fit if she did. Normally such a pompous attitude infuriated Rey, as it did now, but she was on a date and trying her best to be polite. A matter she struggled with on previous dates; she couldn’t help that her filter ran on mark zero seventy-five percent of the time.

But no way in hell was she going to lose to this jerk.

Bring her arm back, she prepared to swing—

A loud buzzing came from her pocket.

Thank the Lord.

Dropping her putt, she picked up her phone answering before looking at the caller ID, knowing exactly who was on the other side.

“Hello,” Rey greeted overly cheerful. She shot Jacen a blinding smile, the man raising an eyebrow.

On the line, Ben grunted in pleasure. “Tone it down chippy,” he mumbled clearly tired—which was odd considering it was only 8 in the evening on a Saturday. “Let’s keep it simple since you clearly believe honesty is the best policy and don’t know how to get out of a bad date—tell him a family member is extremely ill and needs help. Okay?”

Oh dear! That sounds awful,” she said with ridiculous grandeur, earning a puzzled look from her date. Clearly still a lie, considering Ben did not know her family situation, but she needed an out. Swiftly she turned away from her date, lowering her voice. “I am really bad at this—”

“Yeah, no shit. That sounded extremely fake from my end,” Ben said harshly, though a sigh softened his voice. “When you mentioned you weren’t great at lying I thought it was an exaggeration.”

“Nope,” she declared, casting another glance over her shoulder.

Jacen paced, sending her annoyed looks. Someone clearly did not understand patience was a virtue.

“Just say your niece Paddy is sick with the flu and you two are terribly close,” Ben supplied, Rey hearing his shuffle around. There was clatter and muffled voices, before silence once more.

Rey frowned at the phone—Wasn’t Paddy his daughter?

Awe that was kind of sweet of him to let her use his daughter as an excuse. A lame and flimsy excuse, but an excuse none the less.

“Sure—okay—I can totally do that,” she said, neither believing the statement.

Spinning back around, Rey flashes a forced apologetic smile. She doesn’t hang up the phone, mostly because her default is shoving her phone in Jacen’s face to prove, yes, she has a viable excuse. However the little blip on her phone lets her know Ben already hung up

Jacen remains uninterested as she explains the situation. As she finishes her tale, he simply nods once, then twice before shrugging.

“So I guess the date is over?” he said not entirely happy but not objecting either.

“Yup!” Rey said hurriedly, handing over her mini-golf gear to him. “See you when I see, then.”

Her goodbye comes out in a rush as she all but bolts out of the place.

Is she awful date? Yes.

Did she like the guy? A little.

Was it better she left? Absolutely.

And did she feel a little sprout of ridiculous joy when Ben decided to help her out? Sadly…yes.

Rollin her eyes, Rey decided to pick up ice cream and shove little emotions down into the pits of her gut.

 


 

“So let me get this straight—you can lie easily about simple things, but the moment you need an escape from a bad date, lying is a no go?”

Breathing heavily through her nose, Rey spun on her chair to face Ben.

He was dressed for work, his briefcase slung across his body, and dark blue tie knotted perfectly on his neck.

“It’s different—” Rey hissed. Cautiously she peaked around, most of the office wasn’t in yet and neither was Phasma. A classic early Monday morning. Thanks goodness; she didn’t want the entire office to know of her failed romantic exploits. “I am trying to be likeable and not turn down every guy in existence before giving them a fair shot.”

His eyes narrowed, leaning on the desk. “He stomped his foot, Rey. In your words, ‘like a toddler’.”

Okay, maybe Ben had a point.

But he didn’t understand what it was like to be a driven woman with an interest in sports, and still run into men with sore egos. Not to mention barely having time to date—she was essentially doomed at this point.

“Anyways, how is Sicky?” Before he could answer, she reached under her desk and pulled out a small purple gift bag. “I packed a little care bag for her—”

Ben’s eyebrows shot up, suddenly flustered. “Oh you didn’t need to do that.”

“Of course I didn’t, but I wanted to thank my little excuse,” Rey insisted, shoving the bag to him. “If it wasn’t for her, I might be going on a second date with Toddler Man.”

He snorted, taking the little gift bag begrudgingly. “I’ll let her know you said ‘thank you’,” he settled on, almost…bashful under her gaze.

Huh.

She never thought Ben Solo’s humanity laid with his daughter.

As she prepared herself to ask more about Paddy, the office door swung open, Phasma marching in with her phone pressed to her ear. Chatting heatedly, she swooped right past Rey and Ben without even a curious glance.

“—dear god, I cannot even imagine! I can never do it—the man must be waxed. Chest hair is disgusting—”

The rest of he conversation was muffled out as she closed her office door, however both personal assistants caught the conversation.

Pathetically, Ben dropped his head into his hands. “Shit.”

“Yeah,” Rey breathed out, horrified at the implications, “I think you need to schedule a waxing appointment for Hux.”

 

Chapter Text


 

 

“So any plans for the night?” Ben asked as he and Rey walked out of the building together on a Friday, early once again. A record of four weeks of leaving early on Fridays, a literal god send for the two.

Getting off early was still odd for the two assistants, Rey and Ben often finding themselves with more free time than either ever imagined. Rey attempted to date—most of her dates ending in mild disaster or Ben luckily saving her with a quick call. Meanwhile, Ben spent every free moment of his time off with his daughter in some form or another, whether it be spending the weekend together upstate or Skyping her during the week to talk about her day. More often than not, they’d spend their lunches conferring and discussing plans for Phasma and Hux, becoming a well-oiled micromanaging and mastermind machine behind their bosses’ relationship.

Kicking her feet a bit, Rey shrugged. “Well since my last Tinder date was such a success—” Ben rolled his eyes at her dripping sarcasm. “I figured maybe I should ease myself off the market again, you know keep them all wanting more.”

Ben barked a laugh, unable to help himself from chuckling at her overdramatic misery.

Walking the familiar path to the subway, Rey quirked an eyebrow at him. “How about you? Going to see your sweet little lady tonight?”

Ben pursed his lips, shaking his head once. “Believe it or not my little girl is going to her first sleepover.”

“What?” Rey blinked, eyes wide. “Four year old’s go to sleepovers?”

“Eh,” Ben shrugged, “maybe it is not really a sleepover. It is with my parents and it is to my Uncle’s.”

Rey’s eyebrows furrowed. “Luke?”

“Lando,” he corrected. “They’ll be gone for a few days since he won’t be able to make it to Paddy’s birthday next weekend because of some big case he’s working on and his client’s confidentiality,” he rolled his eyes at that, this apparently not the first this Uncle Lando had used the excuse. “But this will be Paddy’s first time away from my apartment and my parent’s place so…yes, her first real sleepaway.”

“Wow,” Rey breathed, “are you nervous?”

“No,” Ben answered truthfully. “I’m not letting myself get nervous—just acting like she is just back at my parent’s place instead of in Connecticut.” He exhaled sharply, glaring down at Rey. “Now you made me nervous. Screw you.”

She snorted, crossing her arms over her chest. “I’m sorry—I didn’t mean to do that.”

“But you did,” he said plainly, a tremor in his voice.

“Well, maybe I can buy you a drink as an apology,” she suggested.

Ben paused, quirking an eyebrow at her. “Really?”

“Well…” she glanced around the busy street, feeling the buzz of the weekend looming. “We are both off and free…at the same time…with no plans. Might as well hang out.”

“Yeah…” Ben nodded once, thinking it over. Spending a Friday with Rey wasn’t the worst way to kill time. “Yeah, we can hang out.”

 

 


 

 

‘Hanging out’ mostly consisted of going to a sports pub—one Ben didn’t even know existed, until Rey was dragging him along a dark road and into the warmth of the pub—Rey yelled at the screen for a good three hours, while Ben drank several pints of beer, supporting all her yelps and whoops. And lots of nachos and mozzarella sticks. Ben was working his way through his second plate of nachos, which wasn’t going to be good later considering he was acutely lactose intolerant, but that wasn’t stopping him.

“Come on!” she screeched, sitting up on her knees. She wobbled a bit on the barstool, reaching for Ben’s shoulder for balance. Her accent came on stronger with the more drinks she consumed. “Fuck that guy!” She pointed at the tiny man running in the opposite direction. “Screw Manchester!”

Ben’s face scrunched up. “But I thought we wanted the British team to win?”

“We want Liverpool to win!” she hissed, whacking his shoulder. “LI-VER-POOL!”

The barkeep sent her a glare, stopping his wiping of the counter. Only a few other people lingered in the pub, having traditional meals the establishment offered, most not in the mood to be drinking early in the day. It was just after 5:15PM. The average person was getting off work at that moment, rather than well past sober.

He nodded to Ben. “If you don’t calm down your girlfriend, she gets the boot.”

Coughing on his beer, Ben winced in understanding.

ARE YOU SHITTING ME!”

“She get’s really passionate about….football,” Ben said.

Rey whooped as a goal was made.

“We rarely get out,” he muttered in defense. The barkeep rolled his eyes, walking away from the two to tend to other patrons at the opposite end of the bar.

Reaching up to Rey, Ben gently eased her back down. Thankfully, she listened to his silently pleas and nudges, sitting down beside him. Without mercy, she chugged the rest of her drink and sloppily slammed it down on the counter.

Liverpool made another goal, subsequently putting them in the lead…but multiple scores.

A small sniffle came from Rey, she wiping her running nose with the back of her hand.

Right—she got emotional during sporting events. She’d been in near tears after their Yankee’s game and now she was on the very of sobbing while watching a pretty obvious winner game between Manchester United and Liverpool.

“I’m so happy,” she mumbled through a stuffy nose and new onslaught of tears. Ben handed her a napkin, she blowing her nose loudly. “They deserve to win—they deserve to win, so bad,” she insisted, crumpling the napkin.

Patting his arm, she motioned for more.

Ben listened. She blew her nose again, and mopped up her face.

He squinted at the screen “What’s the difference between Manchester and Liverpool, aren’t they both—”

“I am not even going to warrant that with a response,” Rey hissed, eyes still glued to the screen. A sigh then left her lips. “I always wanted to go to a game.”

“Aren’t you from there?”

“Crude misconception.” She reached for her drink, only to frown at its empty contents. A tempt to flag down the barkeep rose in her eyes, yet she banished it. Instead she stole Ben’s extra glass of water and drank it greedily. Wiping her mouth with the back of her hand, she shrugged. “Technically, I am from the UK,” she said blandly, not bothering with specifics Ben would only muddle. “However, my grandfather lived in the States. But I didn’t know about him for a few years and he didn’t know about me. Then somewhere around my fourteen birthday this old man shows up, says he’s my grandfather and the government says he is my grandfather and then suddenly I am on a flight to the U.S. and living with him and couple other foster kids he housed. And that’s that.”

Ben exhaled deeply, wide and dark eyes set on her. “Wow…”

“Yup,” she said, pursing her lips a bit.

“I didn’t know that.”

“Most don’t unless that are involved,” she turned to him with a small smile, “that must mean you’re special.”

“Oh, I don’t know about that.” A bashful flush danced from his hairline to his ears, an amused grin shining down to the table top instead of her.

“Sure you are,” she bumped her shoulder with his, “I mean…you have this whole friendly giant thing going on—”

“Really?”

“Yes,” she chuckled, “ and you are smart—smarter than you give yourself credit. And kind and I assume a pretty fucking fantastic dad.” Sitting up taller, she turned to face him. “Your easy to talk to—and I am like that John Mulaney bit, where I keep how I feel near my chest until I die.”

Ben’s face scrunched. “But you tell me what you are thinking all the time.”

“Yes,” she nodded like a bobble head, “I do. Because I have a superior intellect complex as my grandfather likes to say…but I don’t talk about my feelings.” A sideways slump moved through her, she resting her arms on the bar top. “Maybe that’s why I don’t have a boyfriend…”

“Why are you so hung up on that?” Ben found himself asking, the alcohol making him a little bit bolder and softer instead of brittle and prickly than he’d usually be. “You are young and unattached in any way! I’d kill to have the future and life wide open to me,” he breathed, running a hand through his hair. “Now I am just a single dad in a dead-end job, waiting a for a promotion that might not ever happen.”

“What did you love to do?”

Ben raised an eyebrow. “What?”

“What did you love to do?” Rey repeated, eyes narrowing on him. “No kid grows up saying they want to be a stocks and bonds—”

“That’s not what First Order does—we are more like finance consultants—”

“You know what I mean,” she waved him off. “You don’t like it. You don’t like working for Hux and I always see you doodling in that notebook.” Her finger bopped his nose. “Ben…”

His face screwed up. “Would you believe me if I told you I double majored in finance and art history?”

Her jaw dropped. “What—no!”

“Yes, I have two degrees. The finance a backup to the art part,” he said with an eyeroll. “And I just did art history because I am a nerd about that stuff,” he confessed. “I’m no artist and I am not great at many things…but fuck, I love just knowing how pieces are structured and how it all comes together and the history behind it all…”

“Then why aren’t you working at a museum?” Rey asked, brows furrowed. “There are plenty around the city—”

“It’s not an option,” he said simply.

Cheering was heard from the screen.

Manchester made a goal.

“Screw Manchester,” Rey and Ben chorused with a grumble.

Glancing at each other, the two smirked.

 

 


 

 

“Shh,” Rey hissed, plopping down in the far right chair. “No talking during the movie.”

“I’m not talking—you are,” Ben reminded her, sitting down in the aisle seat beside her. He plucked the bucket of popcorn from her lap, handing over the RedVines to her. “I haven’t been to movie theatre in years…”

“Which is why we are rectifying that,” Rey declared, the corner of the packaging in her mouth. Aggressively, she bit and pulled on the corner. Yet the plastic did not rip a smidge. “Fuck.”

Ben snatched the package from her and ripped it open easily. “I swear, you are worse than my four year old sometimes.” He handed her a RedVine, she taking it with a bite of her mouth.

Glancing around, Rey frowned. “Are we seriously the only ones here?”

“It is a five dollar movie theatre, playing films that are already released for streaming. And we are in the Yavin district—I’m pretty sure only the elderly and college students live around here,” Ben droned, shoving a handful of popcorn in his mouth. Before him the previews for films released months ago flashed upon the large theatre screen, the sound low and almost muted. “It’s not that surprising.”

With a shrug, Rey kicked her feet up on the seat in front of her. “More room for us.”

“What movie did you even pick?” Ben asked, slumping in the seat.

“The only one showing at this time.” She cringed, undoubtedly realizing the mistake of that decision.

He snorted. “Perfect—a surprise.”

The theatre then dimmed, the opening credits playing on the screen.

“After him, everything changed…”

“Oh, fuck no,” Ben groaned at the sound of the ridiculous and cheesy voice over. “Fuck, no.”

Rey cackled, curling in on herself. “I think it’s supposed to be a romantic drama,” she wheezed out, struggling to catch her breath as the voice over continued with dramatic music and storytelling.

“Only one line in and it sounds like the most cliché, melodramatic—”

“Shhh!”

“We’re the only ones here!”

“Shut up, it’s starting!”

 

 


 

 

“That was…”

Awful,” Ben declared, the two cowering closer together as the late night air began to hit them. “Abso-fucking-lutely awful, to the point I was laughing at its ridiculousness.”

“I almost peed my pants, no joke,” Rey confessed, looping her arm with his as they strolled down the street. “I didn’t think it would be that…bad. I mean, it’s based off a book.”

“Not all books are great,” Ben countered, “and we can’t judge books based on the movies—”

“Even if they were godawful?” Rey teased.

“Yes, even then,” he sighed, “especially then.”

Her contagious chuckle filled the air, Ben unable to help but join along as they waited for the light signal.

A ping from her pocket however silence her.

Rose

Are you coming home tonight or working late?

 

Rey typed a quick reply—do you need me not to come home?

 

Rose

That would kind of be preferable. I’m sorry.

Finn and I have been so busy with the wedding planning

And this is the first night in a LONG time we have together.

 

It’s fine. No worries! Working late anyways. Have fun.

 

With a huff, she locked her phone.

“What happened?”

“Roommate needs the apartment tonight,” she answered, hoping she didn’t sound too annoyed. “Usually it wouldn’t be a problem because I’d just crash at work since I was already there but…” Rey exhaled through her nose before forcing a smile up at him. “Do you want to get some fro-yo? I want some fro-yo.”

Without letting Ben get a word of protest, she marched them towards the nearest fro-yo shop.

 

 


 

 

“You smothered that with caramel and chocolate! How can you even taste the birthday cake?”

Digging his spoon in, Ben tasted a mouthful. He smirked, nodding happily. “Nope, I can still taste it.” He shoved the cup to her. “See for yourself, Miss Granola and Fresh-Fruit.”

She rolled her eyes at his tease. “Granola can be a dessert!”

“No it can’t,” Ben argued, “that is the healthiest dessert I have seen.” He shoved his sweet concoction back towards her. “Come one, taste it. You know you want to…”

“No, get that sugar rush away from me.” She swatted the cup away with her fork, Ben’s eyes lighting up when she missed.

“Hey, you’re smiling again.”

“And I wasn’t smiling before?”

“Nope.”

She squirmed at the observation.

“Come on,” he bumped her shoulder with his, the two clustering closer on the bench. “You’ve been in a mood since that text.”

Pursing her lips, she realized Ben wasn’t going to let the matter settle. “My best friends’ are engaged. To each other. And they think I’m unhappy because…because I’m not in a relationship like them.”

While Rey was happy for her friends, unbelievably happy they found each other in the great big wide world, she could not help but feel they wanted the same happiness for her. Expected her to find someone to sweep her off her feet and feel a whirlwind of emotions. Someone who’d make her want to run across Coruscant or chase a plane, to tell them how they truly felt.

A rom-com romance.

But Rey wasn’t too sure if that was in the cards for her.

She’d never been great at dating and the last few weeks proved it once again, and she had her career to focus on. A career that was slowly moving, but moving surely.

But then again, she didn’t want to end up like Phasma, married to her work.

“Relationships aren’t everything,” Ben said, almost mechanical, however the melancholy twinge to his words caused her to venture a peek at him. “All relationships have brought me is a bit of hell and a baby.”

She snorted a bit. “Ah, so you are saying I dodged a bullet with this whole relationship business?”

“No,” Ben shook his head, stabbing his fro-yo, “I’m just saying they aren’t everything, especially if they don’t bring you happiness. I can honestly say I have hated every girlfriend I’ve had.”

“Even Paddy’s mom?”

Ben chewed hard on the inside of his cheek, dropping his gaze back down.

“That was a shit thing to say,” Rey muttered, suddenly not in the mood to eat her fro-yo.

He huffed through his nose, the anger she expect directed at her gone within seconds. A wistfulness consumed him, Ben staring up at the starless sky.

“I didn’t hate Paddy’s mom, but I also really didn’t like her,” he confessed, nose wrinkling.

“Oh?”

“She was a model.”

Well, fuck. Of course Ben dated a model. A man like him…Rey shook away the thoughts, giving Ben her undivided attention. “Was?”

“I don’t know what she does now. Hell, I don’t even know if she is alive,” he scooped more fro-yo into his mouth, humming at the taste. “Not that I expect her to be dead—she’s healthy as far as I am aware.”

“You don’t keep in contact?”

He gritted his teeth. “No. Never. She didn’t want to have Paddy in the first place—truth be told, neither of us did. But it was too late and she was thinking of putting her up for adoption and I just couldn’t…” a trouble expression wore down on his face, dragging his eyes and lips into quiet heartbreak. “And I couldn’t fathom the thought of my daughter being out there, and never seeing her. Because she’s mine—she’s my kid.” A chuckle bubbled from inside him, a joyous smile forming on lips. A certain light came from within him at the thought of his daughter, Rey feeling her own emotions rise at the sight. “So I quit my job at First Order and went back home to raise her. With my parent’s help,” he added as an afterthought. “Everything I do is because of her or for her now. Nothing else really matters…”

“I didn’t know…” she closed her eyes, thinking of Paddy could have fallen easily into the system or be swept away without ever knowing Ben. Without ever knowing her father cared about her in abundance. But she didn’t and Ben was there for her, even when he was working in the city, he tried his best to be there for his little girl.

“No one does,” he said with a sigh, “I don’t want anyone to know. Not because I am ashamed, but because…because I don’t want to be sidelined for a position because of a family or my dedication to my family. I have to show I am all about the work.”

“How’s that working out?” she asked quietly, knowing the answer.

Ben grunted, eating more of his melting fro-yo.

She hummed in understanding, returning to her own dessert.

 

 


 

 

“Are you sure this is okay?” Rey asked for the tenth time since entering the apartment.

After probing her a bit more, Ben was able to get a confession from Rey—she needed somewhere to sleep considering her roommate wanted space for her and her fiancé. And Rey, being the courteous person she tried to be, allowed it. However Ben was annoyed for her sake, being the subject of one too many sock on doorknob situations and offered his couch for her to crash for the night.

“Yes,” Ben handed her the old pair of pajama bottoms and a t-shirt. “My roommate is over at his latest flings place and so it’s just me. And I feel uncomfortable sleeping in the apartment alone, so a win-win.”

She quirked an eyebrow, but took the offered clothes nonetheless. “Fine,” she nodded once, walking to the bathroom, “and thank you.”

“No problem.”

Once she disappeared behind the door, Ben went about making her bed, grabbing a sheet, a pillow, and a blanket. As he settled the sheet over the couch, he heard the familiar vibration of his cell phone on the counter.

His mother’s image flashed on the screen.

“Hey, what’s up, Mom?”

A tiny voice greeted him instead. “Daddy?”

“Princess?” Ben frowned, glancing at the microwave clock. Already well past midnight. “Sweetheart, what are you doing up? It’s past your bed time.”

“I have a bad dweam,” she murmured directly into the phone’s microphone. “I didn’t want to get Nana.”

His brows furrowed, taking a seat on the couch. “So you called me?”

“Yup.”

A sad smile formed on his lips. He wished he could be there and hold her, the quiver in her voice not lost on him. “Well Princess, I’m sorry you had a bad dream.”

“It was a monstwer,” she said, “a meanie monstwer.”

Ben hummed, this not the first time the meanie ‘monstwer’ had bothered her. Usually, he’d have his mom or dad check under Paddy’s bed and in her closet, or do so himself if he was there. Make a show of assuring her she was safe at home. But sleeping in a new place no doubt frightened the four year old.

“Princess, I promise you there is no meanie monster,” he said full of conviction, “and if there is I just got them with my mind powers and they are gone!”

Gone?”

“Gone,” he stressed, “remember Daddy is all powerful in the Force.” He rolled his eyes a bit at the term, his grandfather at a time little too into the idea of Physics and creating this mythical Force for his children’s sakes. The silly idea was passed down to him from his mother and uncle, and now Ben to his own daughter. “Daddy can make any monster go away, especially for his little Princess.”

Okay…” A tiny sigh came from Paddy, the sound of her moving under blankets coming through the phone. “Stwory?”she asked. “Please.”

Rubbing his eyes, Ben sighed. “Yeah…yeah I can tell you a story…”

 

 


 

 

 

Sitting on the bathroom floor, Rey pressed her ear to the door, listening to Ben’s muffled voice.

He’d been on the phone with his daughter for the last twenty minutes.

A logical part of her said to just leave the bathroom despite the call. Maybe quietly maneuver around the room to the kitchen, get a drink of water and wait it out over there. Another, sentimental and sincere part of her, told her to remain put until the call was over. Be considerate.

He’d been telling a story about a Prince locked up in a tower, only to be saved by a scavenger. A young woman who only wanted to take what she needed and finish her job, however the lost prince decided to tag along…

She smirked at the reimagined telling of Rapunzel, but listened with rapt attention, hanging on his every word.

His soft spoken words and enthusiasm were lulling Rey into her own mild slumber, she realizing she could listen to him talk all day, no matter the subject. She could spend the rest of her days letting his gentle rumble be the background to her life.

A soft knock on the door roused her from such musings.

“Hey, you didn’t fall asleep in there did you?” he asked, a tinge of embarrassment in his voice.

Standing up, Rey opened the door, to find a sheepish Ben Solo before her.

Giving him a tired smile, she hugged her work clothes tighter to her chest. “Oh, I don’t know. I was particularly intrigued by the bit where the scavenger steals the prince’s food, makes for a great meet-cute.”

Ben bit his lips together, crossing his arms over his chest. “Yeah, well a scavengers got to eat.” He moved to the side, letting her pass through. “Speaking of scavengers, I got the couch set up for you.”

“I love the sheets,” she pointed to the cat patterned sheets, “I thought you were allergic to cats.”

“I am, but my roommate loves cats,” Ben explained, disdain evident. He tossed the matching pillow on to the couch. “So cat inspired things find their way into here.”

“I can see that.” Setting her clothes down on the ground beside her purse, Rey climbed on to the couch. Grabbing the fleece blanket set aside for her, she wrapped herself up nice and cozy. Looking up, she caught him watching her with an amused twitch of the lips. “Thanks, again,” she said.

“Uh, yeah,” Ben stuttered, running a hand through his dark hair. “Of course, anytime.” He nodded once, crossing, then uncrossing his arms. “If—if you need anything, my door is to the left.”

“To the left, got it.”

“And you are free to have anything in the kitchen—it’s mostly protein bars and cereal, but anything you want.”

She felt a flush rise up her neck the longer Ben stared at her and over explained the apartment. “Just let me know if you need anything,” he repeated, taking a step back.

“I will,” she assured him, making a move to lay down on the couch.

A forced smile graced his lips, before he turned to leave the living room, shutting off the light. Once he was gone, Rey laid back fully, and squirmed until she was comfortable. Lifting her head to the side, she saw a small picture frame sitting on the edge of side table. Squinting, she could make out the image of Ben—a slightly younger Ben, holding an infant with dark locks. He wasn’t looking at the camera, instead at the baby in his arms, the widest smile grace his features.

Subconsciously, she reached for the photo, wanting to get a better look. See Paddy for her own eyes—

However, Ben came back.

In a flash Rey dropped her hand, acting as though she had not been caressing the photo of him and his daughter.

“I just—” he released a shaky exhale, gripping the side of the wall for dear life, “I just want to let you know tonight was the most fun I’ve had in a long time,” he ducked his head and gave a half shrug, “well most fun, that didn’t included playing dress-up and tea party with my daughter.”

Rey burrowed deeper into the blanket, hoping she wouldn’t sound too…too overwhelmed or flustered. “I had a lot of fun too.” She sighed, matching his gaze. “Most fun I’ve had in a long time—well that doesn’t included watching sports.”

He snorted, clasping a hand over his mouth a fraction too late. “Uh—goodnight, Rey.”

“Goodnight, Ben.”

With that he left for his room, to sleep.

Meanwhile, Rey stood up most of the night, attempting to understand how her affection for Ben continued to fester with every fleeting glance.