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Fresh Ground

Chapter Text

It was quiet—or at least as quiet as Coruscant ever got. People said the big cities never sleep after all, unlike Jakku, where the world might as well end at 9pm, since everything closed. So even now, with the light of dawn starting to tinge the sky pink behind the endless rows sprawl of concrete and steel and glass, there was the faint hum of traffic, the occasional car horn honking irately, and in the distance a car alarm was going off faintly.

You could always count on hearing a car alarm going off somewhere, all day, everyday. Rey was beginning to learn to tune them out like everyone else seemed to do, making her wonder what the point was when people were just so used to hearing them that they ignored them anyway.

She paused in dim orange glow of a streetlamp, squinting at the address Poe had given her and then back to the odd little building. It was smaller than the big newer buildings that flanked it on both sides, built right up to against its walls. It was also more narrow, making it look as if it was being squeezed by the buildings on each side. A sign was glowing across the front— two signs really, the bottom one looking much older than the top one.

MILLENIUM COFFEE
FALCON DINER

In the windows below there were various signs, including “OPEN 24 HOURS!” and a big red “HELP WANTED” poster.

This was the place then.

She pocketed the slip of paper with the address, hesitating. Maybe coming this early was a bad idea… It had seemed like it would be good to get here before the morning rush and the place got busy, but now it just seemed weird. After all, who came to ask about a job at 4:45am? Hesitating, she debated coming back later, before strengthening her resolve and heading inside.

A bell jangled on the doorframe as she walked into the small diner, footsteps clicking on the red and white checkered tile floor. It was fairly small, a few booths lined one wall, and a long counter with stools partitioned the rest. A swinging door behind the counter led to another room— the kitchen she presumed.

The very front end of the older counter cut off, a newer espresso bar awkwardly frankensteined into where it looked like the original counter would have curved around and up to the wall. A man in a white apron was rattling stainless steel equipment and muttering to himself as he appeared to be trying to prep the espresso machines. They were big and older models, probably bought second hand.

A burst of steam shot out of the steam nozzle and the man jumped backwards, swearing and looking as if he was pretty sure the machine was about to explode.

“Excuse me,” she started, timidly. His head shot up and she found herself looking into an older, gruff face. Gruff, but handsome.

He gave her a charming smile. “Eh, sorry, was too caught up over here. Didn’t notice you come in. What can I get you?”

“Um… I actually…” Rey shifted her weight from foot to foot. “My friend Poe comes here in the mornings and said you were looking for a barista and waitress and I—”

The man’s hazel eyes widened hopefully and he cut her off, “You know how to run these goddamn things?” He nodded towards the espresso machines.

“I—” She gave the machines a glance and shrugged. They were older than the models she’d used before, but she already knew they wouldn’t be a problem. “Sure.”

“Can you start today?”

Rey blinked, she hadn’t expected to be hired literally on the the spot, but God knew she needed the work and the money. “Uh, sure. Shouldn’t be a problem.”

“Oh, thank God,” the man sighed. “My coffee girl quit last week and these machines are trying to kill me.” As if to prove that statement, he waved his left hand to show the bandage wrapped around it. “Plus trying to do this and cook and take orders— Jesus fucking Christ— this cappuccino shit makes money hand over first but I miss the good old days when people just wanted a cup of regular joe and a plate of pancakes.”

One of the espresso machines puffed steam again and he backed away from it, “I’m Han, Han Solo.”

“Rey Johnson,” she offered her hand.

“Rey.” As Han took her hand he gave her another charming smile that made her feel slightly giddy. “Welcome to the Falcon crew, Rey.”

 


 

By 6:30am the entire front of the diner was jammed as people clustered in line around the coffee bar. A few people sat at the diner counter and booths, eating breakfast, but most of the traffic were people getting coffee to go. Han dealt happily with the diner customers, chatting and taking their orders and then vanishing into the kitchens to cook, while she handled the seemingly endless line of pissy customers. Everyone was cranky and needed to be somewhere else and glared at her like it was her fault the line was too long.

Her previous job at as a barista had gotten her used to this sort of thing. She just was polite and chipper and worked as efficiently as possible. It was a little rough at first to get the hang of where everything was, but once she got in the zone, things began to flow smoother.

“Well that was fast,” a familiar voice called. Rey looked up to see Poe squeezing through the crowd, cradling BB8 in his arms. The white and tan corgi wiggled as he saw Rey. Poe adjusted his grip and straightened the “SERVICE DOG” vest to make it more visible to the people in line who were giving the dog a look. Supposedly, BB8 was his emotional support dog for the PTSD Poe was suffering since getting back from Afghanistan.

She loved Poe and she loved his dog, but she was pretty sure he bought the dog vest off EBay.

“Yeah, wasn’t expecting to be hired on the spot,” she smiled, steaming milk. “Han seems nice.”

“Han’s the best,” Poe nodded eagerly. “I’ll be in my regular booth so come visit if you get a break.”

“Uh, sure,” she rolled her eyes towards the line. A break wasn’t going to happen soon, and when this rush broke she probably wasn’t going to have much time to restock the counter before the next wave. There was always a second rush that came on the heels of the first one.

When there finally was a break in the endless stream of customers, she was low on espresso beans and knew she was going to need to grind more. Venturing in the back to the kitchens, she found a door leading to a storage pantry., She scanned the shelves hoping the coffee beans would be in there.

Movement in the corner of her eye caught her attention. The person came into focus, and she just saw white and blood and screamed, stumbling back.

The man raised his eyebrows and looked her up and down through a pair of safety goggles, meat cleaver dangling in his right hand, “Who the fuck are you?”

He was big and broad, wearing white apron over a white t-shirt, both of which were smeared with blood. Black hair was hidden under a paper bouffant hat.

“R-Rey. I work here now.”

“Wonderful. Another cute ass impulse hire?” He pulled the goggles up to his forehead and smirked, brown eyes scanning her up and down. “Figures he didn’t learn his lesson with Jess.”

“I—” Rey sputtered a second. “I was a much needed hire, and one with lots of experience.”

“Whatever.”

“Everything okay?” Han called, peering into the pantry. He scowled, “For fuck’s sake, Ben, clean up before you come up here.”

“I ground you some fresh hamburger and brought it up to the cooler,” Ben rolled his eyes, tucking the meat cleaver into his apron ties.“You’re welcome.”

“You look like a fucking psycho,” Han walked in, huffing. “Rey, this is my son, Ben. Lives in the downstairs apartment so he’s around if you need help with something and I’m not here. He mostly works the overnight shift.”

“And I handle the meat.” Ben pulled the paper hat off, black hair falling around his face as he winked at her, “I’m good at handling my meat.”

Han glared at Ben a long moment before looking back at Rey, “Ben, this is Rey. She’s taking over the coffee bar duty, thank God.”

“I told you that cappufrappushit was a bad idea.”

“That cappufrappushit is keeping this place out of the red,” Han snorted. “Might have been the best idea I ever had.”

“Ain’t exactly saying much, there, Dad.”

“Watch yourself, kid,” Han snapped. “Or you can go begging to your mom for a place to stay. I get tired of your attitude.”

Ben rolled his eyes as Han stormed away. He looked down at Rey and smiled, walking closer, “Watch out for Han, underneath that charm he’s a horny old dog.”

Rey backed up a step, back pressing against the shelves lining the wall, “I think I can handle myself.”

“Oh, I bet you can,” Ben’s eyes darkened as he pressed closer into her space. “Handle yourself a lot?”

“Excuse me?”

He smiled, then glanced around the pantry, “Were you looking for something?”

“I— uh, coffee beans.”

Stepping even closer, he leaned around her to grab something from behind her. His other hand dropped down and grabbed the shelf right next to her ass, fingers brushing against her hip they passed by.

“This?” He pulled back just enough for her to see the bag of espresso beans he was holding, still close enough that she had to crane her head up to look at him.

“Um, yes, thank you.” She grabbed the bag and shifted sideways, trying to get away from being pinned in by him.

He shifted right with her, “A thank you? Too polite to be a city girl. Where are you from, Rey?”

Rey’s face reddened, “Nowhere. And if you don’t mind I really need to get back out there...”

Ben frowned, “Don’t be a bitch, I’m just asking where you’re from.”

“Jakku.”

“Jak what?”

She pushed past him, using her shoulder when he wouldn’t step out of her way. “Like I said,” she answered, not looking back, “Nowhere.”

Chapter Text

Weeks went by in an eyeblink of morning and lunch rushes. Between her pay and the cash people shoved in the tip jar at the coffee bar, Rey finally had enough money coming in to pay Finn the back rent she owed him and even put some money to the side. It felt good, it felt like she was finally accomplishing something other than running in place and barely keeping her head above water.

There was hours of downtime; the diner only got a trickle of customers outside of typical rush hours. She helped Han with chores and prepping for the inevitable lunch rush. He’d chat her up, smiling in that charming way and maybe checking her ass out when she bent over to pick things up. Whatever. It wasn’t like he did anything but ogle her.

Once all the tasks were done she still had hours waiting around. Poe was a regular fixture in his booth with BB, sipping black coffee and tapping on the keyboard of the loaner laptop Finn had given him so he didn’t have to use the library computers to look for jobs and submit resumes. He claimed he spent so much time at the diner using the wifi to work on the job search.

Rey was pretty sure he spent a lot more of his time playing games, but it wasn’t like that was her business.

Anyway, it was nice to have someone else other than Han to talk to. She could kill and hour with nothing to do by joining Poe in his booth and filling it with meaningless idle talk. It was nice.

All of it was pretty nice.

All of it except for Ben.

Ben Solo seemed intent on making her uncomfortable. Conversations, if you could call them that, were at best a series of suggestive comments and questions and at their worst accusatory and insulting. He seemed to always show up when she was alone in the pantry or kitchen, always managing to have her cornered. He'd leer at her while she tried to ignore him, then block her path as she tried to get past him, looming over her, until she'd finally have to shove him out of the way.

To make it worse he just seemed to be getting more aggressive the more she tried to ignore him.

Rey knew she should talk to Han, but Ben was his son and she was just some employee he'd known for a month or so. It seemed dangerous to rock the boat.

“Such an awesome guy, though, ain't he?” Poe's voice brought her out of her head.

It was Sunday, her day off, and she was lounging on the couch in the apartment she shared with Finn, still in her pajamas even though it was early afternoon. BB8 was snuggled next to her while Poe played Call of Duty on Finn's XBox.

“Sorry?”

“Han. He was one of my heros, you know. Kinda mentored me a bit as a kid. Was the reason I wanted—” he cut himself off to curse at the game.

“Reason you wanted?” She prodded, rolling her eyes.

“Uh— reason, yeah, reason I wanted to join the Air Force. I wanted to be a pilot cause he’d been a pilot.”

“That so?”

“Yep.”

“So…” she sat up, rubbing her chin. “So did you—”

“MOTHERFUCKER!” Poe snapped, chucking the controller across the room. It bounced off the TV and rolled across the floor, stopping in front of a pair of polished dress shoes.

Poe blinked at it and the shoes before following them up to the person they belonged to. “Oh, heh. Hey, Finn, so—”

“Really? Really, dude?” Finn stared incredulously. He was wearing a button down shirt, slacks, and dress shoes. Probably a style that would have “casual” in it somewhere, but compared to Poe’s old jeans and stained t shirt and Rey’s worn pajamas dotted with dancing penguins, he might as well have been wearing a tux.

“I…” Poe raised his hands appeasingly, “Okay, so I—”

“Like, you know I’m fine with you hanging here and using my computer and using my gaming console and eating my food and crashing here even if you want. But if you can’t keep yourself from trashing my shit maybe I need to reevaluate.”

“Ah, so, yeah. I made a poor decision after losing my temper.”

Finn folded his arms, “No shit, really?”

“So I’ll discuss this incident with my therapist on Wednesday. And I apologize for mishandling your property.” Poe flashed a charming, apologetic smile.

Rolling his eyes, Finn picked the controller up and set it on the coffee table before sitting down between Poe and Rey, draping his arm around Poe’s shoulder. BB-8 immediately clambered over Rey to jump in his lap. “Seriously, I might as well have a kid, I swear.”

“So, Poe—” Rey leaned forward to peek around Finn. “If you knew Han when you were a kid, do you know his son?”

“Ben?” Poe squinted, “Kinda. I mean, I know him now. Didn’t ever really meet him as a kid cause he was doing some kind of Peace Corps missionary type thing travelling with his uncle.”

“A Peace Corps missionary thing?” Finn asked, raising an eyebrow.

“I mean, same sort of idea. Go to places that need help and try to help them. It always sounded kind of culty but I guessed they meant well.” Poe shrugged, “Anyway, he’s kind of an asshole.”

“I noticed.” Rey answered, wryly.

“He giving you shit or something?” When Rey just shrugged Poe leaned over Finn to slap her on the knee, “Just give him back as good as he gets. He’s the type that when he gets in your face you need to get right into his. Once you do that he gives some respect.”

Rey frowned, biting her bottom lip. Trying to ignore him just seemed to egg him on, so maybe.

Finn leaned forward to block Poe from Rey’s view, “A reminder of who is giving you this advice so you can make the sane decision and disregard it.”

Poe punched Finn on the shoulder, “Hey, I’m the one who knows the guy.”

“You’re also the one who nearly broke my LED 4K samsung with an XBox controller five minutes ago.”

“I didn’t throw it nearly hard enough to break your fucking TV.”

Rey rolled her eyes, leaning back and mulling over her thoughts while her two friends bickered.

 


 

It was a few days before she had another run in with Ben.

The morning had gone pretty smoothly, aside from one guy— a redheaded regular who routinely found something to complain about— having a fit because he felt his extra hot skim latte was not hot enough. After the morning rush faded she helped Han do lunch prep in the kitchen before he asked her to keep an eye on things while he went and ran a few errands.

Aside from Poe sitting with BB-8 in his regular booth, playing solitaire on his laptop and nursing a cup of coffee, the diner was empty. So she put the “please ring for service” sign next to the bell on the counter, and went to one of the coolers to check the dairy and dairy alternative inventory for the coffee bar. The last thing she wanted was to run out of soy milk again and have to spend an entire morning rush apologizing to irate customers.

She had her back to the door, a small pocket notebook and pen in hand, counting gallons of whole milk, when the sound of fingernails brushing against the stainless steel walls sent a shiver down her spine. Glancing over her shoulder, she saw Ben leaning against the door, wearing a faded black t shirt with the sleeves cut off. An unlit cigarette dangled from his lips as he stared at his hand as it ran down the cooler wall.

Rey took a deep breath, steadying her resolve. Give as good as he gives you, wasn’t that what Poe had said?

“You can’t smoke in here,” she said, turning back to finish counting the milk.

“Does it look like it’s fucking lit?” Ben’s voice rumbled.

She glanced over her shoulder. Ben was watching her with an annoyed expression. “You shouldn’t even have one in your mouth. Health department would probably ticket Han for it just to be assholes.”

Ben rolled his eyes, pulling the cigarette out of his mouth and tucking it behind his ear, “There, happy?”

She rolled her eyes right back at him, turning to go back to finish counting the milk.

“You got daddy issues? Is that it?”

Rey turned to look back at Ben again, eyebrows raised, “Excuse me?”

Ben walked slowly towards her, “You like it. You like him drooling over you, flirting with you.” He stalked closer until he loomed over her, dark eyes boring into hers. She gritted her teeth, standing her ground and doing her best to act like he wasn’t intimidating. “So, what is it? Daddy never gave you enough attention?”

“I’m not even going to dignify that with an ans—”

“You fucking him?”

Rey’s mouth dropped for a second, “What?”

“Are you fucking my dad?” Ben repeated, voice dropping to a low growl.

“I can’t even—” Rey shook her head, almost disbelieving this conversation was happening. She took a breath, “No, I’m not fucking Han.”

Ben’s eyes narrowed, “Lying fucking whore, I’ve seen the way he looks at you, how he’s always talking to you. I’m surprised he didn’t insist on helping you in here so he could see how your tits perk up in the col—”

His words cut off with muffled yelp as Rey’s fist connected with his nose. He staggered back a step, hand cupping his nose, looking at her with a shocked, and weirdly awed, expression. Pulling his hand away, he looked at the blood that had smeared onto it and back to Rey, eyes seeming even darker as his mouth gaped disbelievingly.

Her hand, still clenched in a fist, trembled at her side. Fuck. Punching her boss’ son was probably a good way to get fired, whether the asshole deserved it or not.

“You punched me,” Ben mumbled, moving closer to loom over her again. Her hand tightened, nails digging into her palm.

Hell, if she was going to get fired, she might as well go all in?

Ben leaned closer “You—”

Rey slammed her knee into his groin, cutting off whatever asshole thing he was about to say. His voice cut off in a squeak as he fell to his knees, eyes bulging in their sockets. “Just leave me the fuck alone,” she snapped as she walked past him, leaving him groaning on the cooler floor.

 


 

The next week was an anxiety filled mess.

She was sure it was just a matter of time before Han was going to call her aside to talk about the incident with Ben and she was going to be unemployed again. But it never happened. The axe she was sure was hovering over her never fell.

Ben was sporting a noticeable black eye and swollen nose, but as far as she could tell Han thought Ben had gotten into a bar fight. So Ben hadn’t told on her, for some reason. Maybe he was embarrassed that he’d got decked by a woman? Maybe he was worried she’d tell Han about his behavior towards her?

Maybe it was just like Poe said, you gave him back as good as he gives and he’d leave her alone? Ben didn’t bother her again, at least not exactly. He didn’t talk to her anymore, but he seemed to be around a lot more, sitting at the end of the counter, just watching her. It seemed any time she turned around she found his dark eyes burning into her.

That was better though, wasn’t it? At least he wasn’t actively harassing her. If he wanted to sit and glower at her that was his problem.

She was just happy to still be employed.