From the very beginning, she’d thought that the hunch punch with everclear in it was a bad idea. She’d even told Poe as such when they’d been at the liquor store attached to the local Walmart buying party supplies, but he’d only looked her square in the eyes and replied, “That’s exactly the point.”
What had followed was quite possibly the drunkest night of Rey’s life. At least, she presumed it was, since she couldn’t remember a minimum of half of it. She remembered arriving at the apartment she shared with Finn and Poe in midtown Atlanta, and setting up the party thinking— knowing— this was a terrible plan.
Not one bottle of the good seven or so on their counter had a percentage below forty. The sodas that sat beside them in their cardboard, twelve count boxes, would do nothing to stop the drunken storm that was about to roll into their home. The night that ensued had been just as chaotic as anyone could have predicted, and by the time people started leaving it was two thirty and Rey had been passed out on her own living room sofa for at least an hour.
She only woke up thanks to the sound of Finn and Poe ushering out the last of their guests, wishing them goodbye with a drunkenly sung version of REO Speedwagon’s Take it on the Run . For some reason, that was what made her wake up to the room spinning like she was on a tilt-a-whirl, and an overwhelming wave of nausea in her gut. As soon as the door had closed on the last person, and her friends finished the chorus, she slowly got up, and wobbled her way over to them to point a drunken finger into Finn’s chest.
“I need greasy food, and I need it now…” she slurred, and that had been how Rey wound up at the Waffle House down the street at four thirty in the morning, still pretty thoroughly drunk, but not so intoxicated that she couldn’t fool anyone into thinking she was sober.
The lights, though far from overwhelming, were far too bright for her drunken mind to comprehend. The smell of breakfast food, bacon grease and slightly burnt waffle batter combined with whatever they used to make the hashbrowns, was almost too much, and nearly sent her running straight to the toilets, but Rey was determined.
Waffle House was good for two things, cheap food when she couldn’t afford anything else and drunken late nights, and in that moment, she was feeling the latter of the two very strongly.
Giving Rey a few seconds to adjust to the lights first, they then sat themselves down at a booth in the far side of the restaurant, taking the corner that people tended to avoid unless they were there for that exact purpose at an ungodly hour such as the one they were currently visiting at. Poe looked at her in concern as she put her head into her hands, and groaned from the overwhelming feeling of nausea that had swelled within her stomach. “Are you okay?” he asked, his voice sounding more worried than she’d ever heard it.
She nearly rolled her eyes. In all the time she’d known him, there had definitely been a time when she’d been more drunk than this in his presence. “I’m fine, don’t worry about me,” she replied, then she looked up, forcing her vision to focus on Poe’s eyes as she spoke to him. “I am somehow both hungover and still drunk at the same time, and it’s absolutely miserable.”
“Shit, I’m sorry,” Poe replied, then he laid a hand gently on her arm. “But did you have a good time tonight, at least?”
His boyfriend was quick to smack his arm, and quirk an eyebrow at him. “Seriously?”
“What? I’m just making conversation.”
“Rey’s sick, now is not the time to flaunt your skills as a host,” Finn protested, then Poe put his hands up and muttered an apology as the conversation moved on to something else, but Rey didn’t notice as she turned her head in the other direction toward the center of the Waffle House, and a smile started to rise to her face.
Walking toward them was the most wonderful man Rey had ever seen, wonderful simply because he was wearing an employee tag and uniform, and carrying a notepad with which he would take their order. On top of that, the waiter, whose name tag read, “Ben,” wasn’t terrible to look at. She may have been drunk and hungover to all hell, but while her eyes weren’t exactly the most reliable source at the moment, she had a feeling about the tall, broad man that said he would probably just as decent looking when she saw him sober.
And then he opened his mouth, and his voice nearly had drunk-hungover Rey melting in her seat. “Hi, welcome to Waffle House, what can I get for you?” An engagement ring. Maybe an elopement or maybe just perhaps a chance to listen to you talk for about six hours.
What she told him instead was. “A two egg breakfast with hashbrowns, sunny side up, and a chocolate chip waffle, please.”
“Hungry?” he asked, his voice offering a teasing lilt to it that her flirty, drunk-hungover brain thought was undoubtedly the hottest thing she’d ever heard for some reason, and she almost moaned in response. By the mercy of god, she wasn’t quite drunk enough for that.
“Yeah, guess I am,” she replied, then in a turn of bad judgement, she added, “But what for is the question,” with a wink.
Luckily, the waiter just laughed, winked back - which nearly killed her - and took her friends’ orders before walking away into the kitchen area to get to work on making them. Rey could only hope it wouldn’t take them long - mostly because she wanted an excuse to talk to him again - since they were one of two groups of people currently occupying the space at the wicked hour of nearly five am, but who knew what would happen? It was a Waffle House, after all, and sometimes it just happened to be a den of chaos.
The room continued to spin around her as she watched Finn and Poe carry on a flirty conversation in envy. They hadn’t drank nearly as much as she had, and by the time they walked out into the cold winter air, the two of them were damn near sober. It was an absolutely unfair contrast to the nausea and the headache that were stirring within her, both of them building to a crescendo until suddenly - oh no.
Rey excused herself from the table, then she quickly hauled ass across the restaurant, not minding the weird looks she got from the other group of - definitely equally drunk and hungover from the looks of it - people sitting at the booth near the entrance, nor those of the staff - which currently consisted of Ben, some ginger-haired weasel looking man, and a tall blonde who could most definitely kick her ass into next Tuesday - as she ran faster than she ever had sober into the bathrooms. The moment the door was closed, she was emptying the contents of her stomach into the toilet bowl, which was a less than pleasant experience, since her stomach was almost entirely full of hunch punch, and the everclear was even worse coming back up.
It felt like an eternity passed her by in the bathroom, but eventually, her betrayed organ decided it was finished, and she was able to slump against the nearby wall as her hand pushed down on the toilet’s handle. Even the sound of the damn thing flushing gave her an absolutely ungodly headache. Well, it more so just intensified the one that already existed, and on top of that, there was suddenly a lot of loud shouting filling the restaurant outside the door.
Brows furrowing in confusion, Rey slowly stood up, one hand on her head and the other on the wall as she slowly rose from the floor. She then made her way out of the one person bathroom, and back out into the main part of the restaurant to see everyone crowded around the center, where the ginger man and Ben were swinging at one another in vicious punches. “You fucking asshole!” Ben was screaming at the ginger as he took him by the shirt, and shoved him forcefully onto the counter. The blonde woman from earlier was nowhere to be seen.
Rey’s drunk brain struggled to process what was happening as she approached the counter, slipping in between Finn and Poe as they watched the fight in bewilderment. It was almost impossible to tell if no one had bothered breaking up the fight or if they’d simply given up trying, either way, she could see Ben’s nose had gone bloody, and though the most they’d said to one another was her waffle order and a little flirting, she knew she had to try something to stop it. Her hand slammed down onto the table. “Can I get a waffle?” she cried, but neither of them heard her, and the man whose name she didn’t know slammed Ben into the drink machine, causing his hand to narrowly miss the stovetop where hash browns were currently cooking.
“Can I please get a waffle?” Rey shouted, then finally, the two of them turned to her, and the fight came to an end. The two disheveled men stared at Rey, and Ben looked almost a little bit embarrassed as he ran a hand through his long, dark hair.
“Sorry,” he mumbled, then he threw a glare at the other man, and added. “You ought to say sorry, too.”
The other man, whose name tag read “Hux,” simply flushed red, and muttered a brief apology to her before the two men returned to work.
The show now over, everyone who had crowded around the kitchen - which had only been about six people since there was absolutely no one in the restaurant - returned to their seats, and a quiet hum of chatter began to rise to her ears. Once Rey was comfortably seated back in their corner booth, she looked between Finn and Poe, and sighed. “What the fuck happened while I was in there?”
“Oh man,” Poe breathed, then he immediately started laughing while Finn shook his head. “So the blonde woman clocked out like two seconds after you ran by, then that fucking idiot waiter, not the cute one, the other one-”
“Which one are we defining as the cute one?” Finn interrupted, and Poe looked at him with scandalized eyes.
“Obviously Mister. Tall Dark, and Handsome, who the fuck else? The other one looks like a little rat, especially after what he said about Rey.”
“What did he say about me?” she asked curiously.
“He made some snide comment that was about a century away from being funny and honestly had the entire restaurant gasping when you ran to the bathroom, and the other guy, tall, dark, and handsome, called him out on it. That’s when the rat fucking snapped .” Poe told her, then she blinked at him as she looked over at the kitchen where tall, dark, and handsome - Ben, she reminded herself - was currently trying to staunch the blood from his nose with one of those useless paper towels.
“And they got into the fight?” she asked.
Finn and Poe both gave her a nod, then the former cleared his throat. “Yeah, he was trying to defend you, I guess and it went south pretty quickly.”
Rey looked back at the waiter once more, then she felt her expression soften as she looked at him, shaking her head at his efforts to stop the bleeding from his nose as he glared periodically at the other waiter who was presently working on their hash browns. “I’m going to return the favor, be right back,” she told her friends, then Poe smirked at her, and she stuck her tongue out at him as she walked over to the bar lining the kitchen, and cleared her throat. “Need some help with that?” she asked Ben, whose eyes went wide at the sight of her standing there before him.
“You talking to me?” he asked, looking completely dumbstruck that she was actually talking to him.
Rey gave him an enthusiastic nod, well, it was probably just a normal nod, but to her alcohol addled brain it felt like whip-lash so she automatically assumed it was energetic. “Yeah, you, who else would I be talking to?” She reached into the purse Finn had forced her to bring, and pulled out a thing of kleenexes. “Come out here, and let me help you,” she said, then she gestured to the open door behind her.
“I can’t, I’ve got to work.”
“I think your friend can manage just fine for a few minutes,” she told him, then she paused, remembering that managers and people who could get him fired might exist. “Unless your manager’s here?”
Ben shook his head. “No, no one’s here but us. Not until six.”
“Perfect,” she said, then she gestured to the door again. “Follow me.”
Muttering something about this being insane, Ben pressed the shitty brown paper towels to his nose, and lifted the gate to leave the kitchen before following Rey out into the night.
The cool air sobered her a little as they walked out into the parking lot, and she immediately reached into her bag, and grabbed a kleenex out of it before she paused. “Listen, I’m a little drunk, so I don’t know how much help I’ll be…”
Ben shook his head, then he gently took the tissue from her hand, and tossed his bloody paper towel into the nearby bin, exposing the slowly drying blood on his skin. It should’ve been gross, but knowing that he’d done it in her honor had somehow made her blush when she saw it. “No, I can handle it,” he insisted, then he gave her a sheepish smile as he held the kleenex to his nose. “Thank you.”
“You’re welcome,” Rey replied with a grin as she leaned against the wall. “Sorry for taking you away from work, but I figured I’d get you away from him for a few minutes. Return the favor and all.”
“My friends told me what you did for me,” she said, rubbing at her aching head. “I wanted to say thank you.”
“Oh, that,” he laughed awkwardly as he pulled the tissue away from his nose, and gave a sigh of relief when it came away with no blood. “Looks like I didn’t need it, but thank you.” He then threw the kleenex in the trash, and licked his thumb before wiping away the blood that was now drying on his upper lip. Aside from the bruises that were already forming on his face, he still looked as he had when she’d first met him, and he was still so, so good looking.
It didn’t help that Rey was also still just drunk enough that her filter was weak enough for her to willingly admit things she normally wouldn’t say out loud. “And I just wanted an excuse to talk to you, cause I think you’re cute,” she blurted out, then she slapped her hand over her mouth, and looked down at the ground. “Sorry… Did I mention I’m…. A little bit drunk?”
Ben snorted, then she heard him shift, and take a step forward so he was standing a little closer to her, then he held out a hand, and she looked up into his dark eyes in shock. His mouth twitched a little in an endearing way, and he gave her a warm smile. “Well, that’s great, cause, I think you’re cute, too, but I didn’t want to say anything about it while I was on the clock. I still am, technically.”
Another soft giggle escaped her, and she placed her hand in his much larger one, letting his fingers lace themselves between hers as their joined hands swayed in the space between them. “Well, this is… this is the best outcome I could’ve hoped for,” she admitted, then they both laughed as they took another step toward one another. “And I swear, when I’m sober…”
He nodded. “I know,” he replied, then he swallowed nervously. “I’d ask if I could kiss you, but as you said, you’re drunk.”
“And my nose is sore as shit from the punch that fucker threw.”
“So, I think I’ll just do this instead,” he told her, then he looked her in the eyes again, his own asking her a silent question of whether or not it was okay for him to try what he was thinking, and she gave him a nod. The corners of his mouth twitched upward as he reached up, and caressed her cheek with one hand, his palm hot against the cool skin of her cheek. Her heart was racing in her chest as he then leaned forward, and pressed his lips to her forehead, leaving a short but sweet closed mouthed kiss to her skin.
She could still almost hear her pulse in her ears as he pulled away, but didn’t remove his hands from where they both held onto her. “Was that okay?” he asked softly, then when she nodded, he let out a breath of relief. “I should probably get back inside now.”
“Yeah, I shouldn’t have kept you like this,” she replied apologetically.
“No, no, I’m glad you did, just… if you’re ever here again and you’re sober, I’d really like to kiss you next time.”
Another giggle. “That sounds like a plan.”
“It’s a date,” he said, then he winked at her as he removed his hands, and walked back into the restaurant with a smug looking grin on his face.
Rey waited until about five seconds after he was gone, then she let out a loud squeal, and pumped her fist into the air. Her head was spinning as she finally walked back into the Waffle House to find that her food had been delivered to the table, and Finn and Poe were hungrily shoveling theirs into their mouths.
When she slid back into their booth, Poe paused his eating, setting his fork down beside his plate as he folded his hands beneath his chin, and propped his elbows on the table. “So, how’d you return the favor?” he asked with a smirk visible on his face.
Rey didn’t respond except to throw her napkin at him, which caused all three of them to howl with laughter as she looked over at Ben, watching as he poured batter into the little waffle maker with a smile on her face. Despite the hangover and the alcohol still poisoning her poor, undeserving liver, she felt more content than ever as she watched him close the lid, and walk away to ask a customer what they’d like to order.
She was still smiling as she turned her attention back to Finn and Poe, and their conversation carried on as usual until Ben came by with their receipts fifteen minutes later. He didn’t say much as he handed the two of them theirs, but he said absolutely nothing when he placed Rey’s down in front of her, and simply gave her another wink, which she promptly blushed at as she looked at the receipt he’d handed her and gasped in delight.
Written on the yellow paper in red ink was a message reading, “In case you wanted that kiss when I don’t smell like waffle batter,” followed by what had to be his phone number. Rey was still smiling as she pulled out her phone from her back pocket, and quickly typed out a text in response. “You know, I think I actually like the smell of waffle batter ;),” then she glanced up into the kitchen, where Ben was pulling his phone out of his own back pocket.
His face lit up as he read her message, then he quickly typed out a response before shoving his phone back into his pocket. Rey’s heart was still beating like a drum in her chest as she read it, and she nearly screamed with renewed excitement as she read, “Come by tomorrow morning, then?”
The response came to her immediately, and she bit her lip as she typed out her response. “It’s a date... Don’t forget to clock out this time.” and hit send, finding she suddenly couldn’t wait to be awake at five in the morning again. After all, sober Rey was owed a kiss.