Truth be told, Rey never minded spending her weekend nights in the computer lab. Since the day she received her first laptop as a teenager, courtesy of her high school’s coding club, Rey has been hooked on computers. All the things they can do for her. All the things they can show her. All the paths they open up for her.
Rey has her scholarship because of her ability with computers. She has her internship and future career in tech because of computers. She a part-time job fixing computers and because of it she can pay all her bills and has started buying milk and bread without checking the prices first.
So Rey is not ashamed that she spends her weekend nights playing Star Wars: The Next Generation in the Science Center’s computer lab. Her subscription is a small indulgence. It harms no one. She stays out of trouble. It is relaxing. She is good at it.
She’s just started to think that maybe, she is missing out on something. She has started to think that because Finn has sexiled her from their apartment because Rose is coming over.
It wasn’t like Finn had been a monk before. He and Poe had been together for almost two years, and Poe slept over so often that Rey was half-serious when she joked about making him pay rent.
And their apartment was a one-bedroom. Finn paid more rent; he got the bedroom, and a door he could lock. Rey slept on the futon in the main room, and she always slept like a log regardless of what noises Finn and Poe were making behind that closed door. Finn and Poe’s low voices- the voices of her friends- felt like safety when she fell asleep.
But Finn and Poe didn’t want Rey around tonight because after seeming months of complicated negotiations, Rose was going to join Finn and Poe. For sex. Sex so complicated that they needed the entire apartment to figure it out. Rey could only imagine.
Rey could only imagine, because she’d never had any kind of sex at all, let alone complicated, triangular, multiplayer sex. The closest she’d gotten was slow-dancing with Abe Rodriguez at the junior prom, when she was pretty sure he’d gotten a boner and excused himself mid-dance to go to the punch station and he didn’t speak to her again the rest of the evening. But she couldn’t be sure. Maybe he’d just had a roll of Lifesavers in his pocket and got bored of dancing with her.
In any event, the thought of what was happening back at her apartment- would they do it on her futon? She should have laid down some ground rules- gave her pause as she logged into her usual server.
She checked her favorites list and saw that KyloRen was not logged in. That was no surprise; if he were playing, he would have been at the other end of her row of PCs. So she shrugged and picked up a few small-ish tasks. He’d be there. He always was this time on a Friday night.
Sure enough, after half an hour, Rey felt the shift in the air pressure as Ben came into the lab and settled his things in his usual spot.
He didn’t greet her until he was logged in.
“Hey,” he said through the headset.
<KyloRen has joined.> her UI reported.
“Hey you,” she responded companionably.
“You want to pick up that new questline in Hoth?” he asked.
Ben played every Friday and Saturday night from about 10 pm to…well, Rey wasn’t sure. She always left first. Rey was a night owl, but she liked to be in bed before 2 am so that she could wake up at a reasonable hour and not feel like she was wasting all the daylight. Ben was an insomniac, and she got the feeling that he played MMOs just because there was nothing else open at night. He worked out, she knew that. And he kept his grades up too, because he was in her Joint Educational Development Initiative program and due to graduate with his masters and bachelors of science in the following spring, at the same time as her. But Rey played MMOs because she liked them, and she was disinclined to do any of the other things people did on Friday and Saturday nights. She wasn’t sure if Ben’s motivations were the same.
Before Finn started dating Poe, she came earlier and left earlier. She used to spend more time watching the home improvement shows Finn loved back at their apartment. But once Finn and Poe got together, Friday and Satursday nights became date nights, and Rey found reasons to stay out of the apartment and give them time alone. So she shifted her MMO time later, and started running into Ben Solo in the computer lab.
He was already there and logged in the first time they played together. She came in around 10 one Friday evening, and she saw the familiar UI over his shoulder as she slung her backpack off.
At her happy sound of recognition, he swiveled around in his seat in an unsteady, abrupt motion.
His face was shocked and nervous. She didn’t recognize him until that moment, but of course they knew each other. They were in the same program. Most of the people in Joint-Ed were there for the hefty scholarship; the extra coursework was hardly worth it, otherwise. But there were a few ring-snatchers who couldn’t resist signing up for the punishment even if someone else was covering their tuition, and Ben was one of those, she knew.
It wasn’t that he bragged about it. But his…friends? She supposed they were his friends, for all that he didn’t seem to like them much. His friends, Hux and Phasma, made it very clear that that they were in the program because they were just that hardcore, and not poor, like Finn and Rey.
Hux, Phasma, and Ben presumably had other things to be doing with their weekends. Like parties. And buying things. And oppressing the working class. Not playing MMOs by themselves in the least-used computer lab in the building, the one that required swiping through two locked doors and climbing a set of stairs after the elevators shut down at 8 pm.
So Ben looked shocked and nervous because he was afraid she was going to make fun of him for his hobby. It’s what Hux and Phasma would have done.
But instead she smiled brightly at him and said, “Don’t be afraid, I play it too.”
That was two years ago, and 18 levels back.
Rey had been playing the same character, a Jedi knight named Kira, since this version had come out. Initially, Ben had played a darksider warrior named Lord Ren (because of course he did), but that limited their ability to raid together. So without asking her, a month into their shared gaming weekends, he’d rolled a brand new Jedi scribe and started over completely so that they could go on the same raids. Which was really sweet. So the next weekend, she brought him a sandwich. Because he was too skinny for how big he was, and food was her love language, Finn said.
Rey wondered if her childhood was one long argument, then, if food was a love language, but she knew Ben liked her sandwiches because he always wolfed them down as soon as she unpacked them.
So tonight she pulled her turkey, avocado, and sprouts out of her backpack and tossed one to him. He caught it with his off-hand without looking up from his screen.
“Yeah, we might as well. I’ve been ordered not to come back before 2, so let’s open it up,” she told him.
“To your own apartment? That sucks,” he said absently.
They never really talked about anything personal, which had suited Rey just fine. There wasn’t much personal about her that she cared to share, and it seemed wrong to pry into his private life when she wasn’t ready to reciprocate.
“Yeah, but I’m glad my roommate manages a healthy sex life. It keeps our apartment-wide average at a respectable level, and that’s what matters, right?” she joked weakly.
Ben didn’t respond. She suppressed a sigh. It was becoming more and more of a problem, to be honest. Rey learned about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs in her first year of university, and the concept made perfect sense to her. All her life, she’d never been able to count on food, shelter, and safety long enough to think about any more complicated needs. Placement of sex on the pyramid was something of a controversy, but it came, as Rey understood, after fulfillment of those fundamental prerequisites to staying alive. Since Rey couldn’t count on the former, she never pursued the latter.
But now that she had a lease, and a stipend, and a fridge full of perishable food (let’s not discuss the hidden hoard of canned soup and crackers under her futon), Rey caught herself following the curve of Finn’s back jean pocket, and the swell of Poe’s upper lip. She was having…thoughts. It was inappropriate. They were her friends. And they were definitely not going to add a fourth person to their difficult little arrangement; Rey needed to take her warm thoughts about all of them elsewhere.
“If that’s so, my apartment is dragging down the city-wide average,” Ben finally responded.
“Don’t you live alone?” Rey said.
He sighed heavily.
She sat up and peeked at him over the monitor. Nobody looked good in the green-white glow of a computer screen, and it washed him to a luminescent white. But Ben was looking better than he had two years ago. He had contacts now. He’d grown his hair out to mostly cover his big ears. And he’d filled out that lanky frame a bit. His long-sleeve thermals didn’t hang on his arms and chest any longer.
“Really?” said Rey, still talking through her headset. “You’re….big.”
Why was that the word she chose? She was glad he couldn’t see her behind her screen.
“Oh, is that what women want?” he snarked at her. “Let’s join that raid that leaves in three minutes. I have enough time to buff you.”
He was trying to change the subject back to the game, but something compelled Rey to follow the dangling thread of the conversation.
“Well, like 90% of porn dialogue would suggest that, yeah,” Rey said.
He snorted. “I thought 90% of porn dialogue was like…” his voice abruptly trailed off before he could cop to whatever kind of porn he’d been watching.
“It’s on my list,” Rey said firmly. What had gotten into her? Sexual liberation was catching on this evening.
“Your list?” Ben said, finally cancelling out of the raid.
“Yeah, you know, if I were ever going to…you know. A list for what I’m looking for. Theoretically. Not actually. It’s a mental list. For…you know. The future. When I’m looking,” she babbled. These were not things she’d ever articulated before.
“What else is on the list?” he asked.
“Um,” she said. “It’s really more like a to-do list. Things I’ve never done. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I don’t really have a social life. Since…I’m here. In the computer lab. But someday…I’ve been thinking.”
Ben was silent for a stretch of time. Both of their sprites fidgeted on the screen. “Yeah, me too,” he said. “So what else?”
Her cheeks burned. He didn’t really expect her to answer, did he? All sorts of words she’d never heard anyone say out loud. Fingering. Breast worship. Cunnilingus. Was that a thing that anyone ever said out loud?
“Just, you know…sex. Sex acts. Can we get going?”
He didn’t point out that they’d missed their raid, and the next one wouldn’t start for another fifteen minutes. But she flexed her hands, checked her gear unnecessarily, and browsed a few merchants who had absolutely nothing she wanted.
After a few minutes, though, a chat window popped up.
KyloRen: <I want to see what’s on your list.>
She stilled. Her heart thudded in her chest.
KyloRen: <I’ll show you my list if you show me yours.>
ReyofSunshine: <I told you, it’s more of a mental list.>
KyloRen: <Then write it down.>
ReyofSunshine: <Is yours saved on a thumb drive somewhere?>
KyloRen: <It’s more of a Pornhub.com search history, but I think I can convert it to Excel.>
ReyofSunshine: <Yours is probably way more advanced than mine. Mine would need to start with, like, intense hand-holding before it made its way up to mimes.>
ReyofSunshine: <Or whatever you’re into. I don’t know why I immediately went to mimes.>
ReyofSunshine: <Because I don’t think you’re into mimes. And I said that because I figured nobody is.>
ReyofSunshine: <Unless you ARE into mimes, in which case that is absolutely fine, and that doesn’t hurt anyone, and you should totally try to have mime-sex someday.>
“What?” Rey said over the headset.
KyloRen: <Mime-sex is Wednesday.>
Rey laughed loudly at that.
ReyofSunshine: <OK, fair enough, but I think writing down my sex wish list is kind of pointless unless I’m going to do something about it.>
KyloRen: <So, do something about it.>
ReyofSunshine: <What, like date? Because that seems way more advanced than most stuff on the list. Like, I’d have to buy new clothes. And spend money. And go on Tinder or something.>
KyloRen: <Why would you have to buy new clothes?>
ReyofSunshine: <Well, look at me. Nobody’s going to go through the list with me dressed the way I am.>
She looked down at her ensemble of 1) over-sized free t-shirt from a high-school math competition, 2) school sweatshirt (also free to incoming freshmen), and 3) plain black cotton leggings (washed nearly grey). Athletic shoes capped off the look. She called it the “I’m not naked” look, because that was the only good thing that could be said for it.
KyloRen: <I would.>
Rey sucked in a deep breath. Her hands froze on the keyboard. Her fingers trembled a bit as she abruptly wondered how and where Ben had filled out over the past few years, and whether those beauty marks on his neck continued down his chest, and whether his hair was dark and full and wavy anywhere else and…
KyloRen: <I mean, if I were, hypothetically, on Tinder, I wouldn’t care what you were wearing.>
KyloRen: <Although I’m not. Since I don’t date, either.>
No, he was backing off. Hold on, Ben.
ReyofSunshine: <Did you mean it?>
Another long pause.
KyloRen: <Mean what?>
“The list,” Rey said through her headset.
KyloRen: <What about it?>
ReyofSunshine: <I’ll show you mine, you show me yours, and we’ll work through them.>
Long seconds tick by. They have missed the next raid now.
KyloRen: <How would that work, exactly?>
This was feeling like a doable project, all of a sudden. Rey was good with logic and programming. This was suddenly a problem to solve. A prompt.
ReyofSunshine: <Let’s rank them. And look for matches. Maybe institute a veto procedure? And some fuzzy logic to capture iterations of the same prompts…>
“Rey, do you mean…” Ben’s voice was soft and uncertain from the other side of the room.
“You live alone, right?” Rey asked. “We both have free time on Friday and Saturday nights between 10 and 2.”
“So, you want to….” His voice trailed off.
“You make that Excel spreadsheet,” she told him. This was a project now. She could do that. “I’ll write the program tonight. We’ll meet back here tomorrow, and see what the results are.”
He finally stuck his head around the side of the monitor to look at her face, although his expression was unreadable. He worked his jaw back and forth as he thought about it.
“And then?” he asked, speaking into his headset again.
“Next Friday and Saturday night…we start working though the lists. According to the ranked-choice logic.”
Rey logged out of Star Wars after that and started programming in SQL. She already had a UI from a previous project that she could repurpose, and this wasn’t a very complicated database. She found some fuzzy-logic language on the Internet, and had the program ready to test after just a couple of hours.
She wasn’t sure what Ben did during that time. He didn’t talk to her, and she didn’t hear him talking to anyone else over the headset. Maybe he was downloading his Pornhub history, though the student network filter would probably block that.
So instead she started working on her ranked list.
It was a little embarrassing that the first item on her list was “kissing.” No. She erased that. “Making out,” she wrote. No. That sounded like she was in tenth grade, when everyone else had crossed that item off their list. “French kissing,” she wrote. Surely any kind of kissing with Ben would be of the French variety. He had nice lips. Full. They looked soft.
“Kissing,” she revised, then stared at row two.
This was what was going to take a long time. She had an ancient smartphone, but it barely got enough signal for her to coverly type in the web address of pornography website. It felt like cheating, but she figured she could get some prompts from what everyone else was looking for.
After a few moments of scrolling through the lists most-watched videos on her phone (the thumbnails wouldn’t load, much less the video streams, but that was not the point), she was ready to add a few things to the list, but far, far down.
These were advanced. Maybe even physically impossible. Some required props. Well, they did have a week. Maybe Ben owned props.
She stuck her head around the side of the monitor again. His laptop bag was made of soft, pebbled leather. There was a designer label on it, one she didn’t recognize. She had the vague idea that he came from money. Maybe he had money to spend on sex toys.
Maybe she should just put “the sexxx” on line two and leave it to him to fill in all the other prompts?
No, that was cheating as well.
Her cheeks flushed as she defiantly typed “oral sex” into row 2.
No, that wasn’t specific enough.
Would Ben want to…
“I can’t do this with you in the room,” she announced, standing up.
“Oh,” he said, taking off his headset. “Isn’t that going to make it difficult to actually execute on any of these ideas?”
“No, no,” Rey said. “This part is inherently solipsistic. This is about what each of us, separately wants. We’ll talk about everything else tomorrow. But I’m going to go down to the first-floor lab and work on my list.”
He nodded at her, and she gathered her things.
“Thanks for the sandwich,” he said as she left. It was the same thing he always said. She smiled as she went.
Even in the company of several other computer users, finishing the list was much easier without Ben in the room. She worked on it until 2 am, taking breaks to watch Netflix and covertly run more porn searches on her phone. She thought she had a workable program. If she and Ben could make it through even two or three items a weekend, they’d be able to work through the vast majority of the list before graduation, and she’d have to find someone else without a social life. If it turned out she liked sex, that was. She assumed she would. Finn and Poe definitely devoted a great deal of their free time to it.
She rode her bike the short distance to her apartment and carried it up the stairs. She let herself in and hung her bike on its peg in the wall. The apartment was dark and quiet. She wondered how many people were behind Finn’s closed door. She shrugged. Maybe one of them knew how to make pancakes.
She opened her laptop and scanned her e-mails while she brushed her teeth.
Re: The List
I finished mine. I realized I don’t actually have your phone number. Tomorrow night at 10?
Very truly yours,
M.S., B.S. Expected ‘19
Rey snorted at his signature block.
Re: Re: The List
same Bat-time, same Bat-place.
The next evening, Ben was waiting for her when she walked into the computer lab at 10 on the dot. He was seated at his usual machine, headset on. He wordlessly handed her a USB drive.
“You didn’t want to attach it to an email?” she smirked at him.
“Who knows what kind of filters the university’s e-mail system uses,” he said blandly. “I may run for high public office someday.”
“And you don’t want your future constituents to know about Mime-Sex Wednesdays, I get it,” Rey said.
“Well, you can’t beat a mime for discretion,” Ben responded. He waited a second. “Literally. Because they don’t talk.”
“Yeah, I got it the first time, Benjamin,” Rey drawled at him, taking her seat.
She logged in and pulled up her program. Then she opened his USB drive’s folder.
“So, it’s the file labeled ‘2018.term.Greek.final.FINAL,’ right?” she said.
“No, it’s the one labeled ‘sex list,’” he said, refusing to be baited.
“Right, right,” she muttered. She dragged it to the importer.
“Moment of truth,” she said. “We’re about to find out what freaky shit we’re both into,” she warned him.
“Rey,” he said suddenly. “I don’t really care what’s on my list. We can just go off yours, if you want to. It’s fine. I’m sure whatever you want is fine with me.”
She snorted in laughter. “That’s a lot of trust, Solo. What if the first two items on my list are ‘pegging’ and ‘hentai?’” Those two were alarmingly at the top of the women-centric hetero porn sites she’d browsed the previous evening.
“Then I’d say its such a lucky coincidence that my custom tentacle-dildo harness ships this week. You’ll be very pleased.”
They both laughed at that.
“Me?” she sputtered. “No, for you!”
“Ohhhh,” Ben started to catch on. “Then it sounds like we’ll both be pleased.”
“Alright, alright,” she said. “I appreciate the thought. But the logic in the program assigns a score based on how high something appears on both of our lists. So the first few things should both be things we both really want to do.”
She heard him swallow hard.
“Ok,” he said faintly.
She pressed the prompt that would return the highest-value match.
<Kissing> the program returned.
“Really?” Rey said, eyes flying open.
“Oh God, it’s hentai, isn’t it,” Ben said.
Rey laughed again. “That must be really high on your list!” she said. “No, Ben, it’s just kissing.”
“Oh,” he said, letting out a sigh of relief. “That’s good. We’ll start small.”
“I guess we aren’t going to need to, like, buy a bunch of toys or anything for next weekend, but really? That was high on your list?”
“It seems pretty important,” he muttered.
“Yeah, I agree, it was at the top of my list too, but…I thought there was no chance a guy was going to put that on a sex to-do list,” she said.
“It’s something I want to do,” he said simply. “Something I want to be good at.”
She stood up and moved to the seat next to him. His brown eyes were open and sincere as he watched her. She couldn’t hide behind a screen anymore.
She straddled the chair so she could fidget away her nervous energy as they spoke. She couldn’t hide behind the screen any longer. She needed to get used to being close to him. To looking at him and being honest with him.
“It’s not something you’ve done either?” she clarified.
He framed his face with his forefingers. “You see what’s going on here,” he said. “It’s not like I was more attractive to women when I weighed fifty pounds less and buzzed all my hair off for water polo.”
“I don’t see anything wrong with your face,” she said honestly. His features weren’t conventional, but they weren’t ugly. And in the right angles and lights, sometimes she thought he was beautiful, she realized.
She bit her lip, considering. Then she stood up again and moved closer to him. He regarded her nervously.
Bracing herself against his shoulder, she sat down sideways on his lap, knees together and feet dangling.
He instinctively brought his arms around her to steady them, but then didn’t know where to rest his hands, so he clasped them in front of him. This was fine. She’d sat in Finn’s lap, and Poe’s, if there wasn’t enough room on the futon and they all wanted to watch something on TV.
She turned so their faces were only inches apart.
“Hey,” she said.
“Hey,” he said, more softly.
“Are we really going to do this?” she asked him.
His throat moved as he swallowed hard. He shifted his jaw to the side, sticking his lower lip out in thought.
“Kissing?” he finally asked.
She laughed softly.
“We could do that here, right now,” she pointed out. “I mean the next item on the list. Whatever it is. The next week. At your apartment.”
“Maybe?” he breathed, watching her mouth. She bridged the gap between them finally and just barely brushed her two closed lips against his bottom one. His lips were much softer than she expected- probably softer than hers, since it was almost winter and she never had chapstick on her. He smelled like peppermint breath mints and expensive hair products, and when he breathed she could feel the warmth on her upper lip.
“I’m ok with maybe,” she said. His pupils were wide and dark with arousal when he looked up at her. She had a sudden misgiving that maybe, maybe she was playing with fire here. Finn and Poe had lots of sex, but they loved each other. And possibly Rose too. She and Ben had a regular raiding schedule and a solid understanding of each other’s battle rhythms, but was that a good platform for a sexual relationship?
Ben leaned forward and brushed his lips down the edge of her jaw, sucking in air as he went.
“You smell so good,” he whispered. “I can always tell whenever you enter a room, because you smell so good.”
“Oh,” Rey said. “It’s my conditioner, probably. It’s vanilla.”
He nodded and pressed his nose against the point of her jaw, blinking up at her.
This could work, she thought.
“E-mail me your apartment address,” she told him. “I’ll be there next Friday at 10. Do you still want to raid tonight?”
He lifted his head in confusion as she hopped off his lap.
“Uh, yeah. Hoth?”
“Sure thing. Dread Master Lykas will never know what’s hit him.”
And they didn’t discuss it again that evening.