Chapter One: Birthdays and Surprises
Early October, Boston:
Nibbling at the bites of fried calamari, Rey Jackson went through instagram on her phone. She ignored the din of conversation gradually growing louder in Artoo’s Osteria as she looked for updates on her parents and closest friends.
Her mother, Qi’ra, had posted some goofy videos of their grumpy cat, Dawn. She would get to see her when she flew home tomorrow to Phoenix for her birthday weekend. It was weird to think she would be thirty-one tomorrow.
There was a picture of Hux holding his fiance’s muddy corgi, Bebe, with a less than amused expression on his face. A few more images later, there was another photo of a fancy breakfast in bed that Finn cooked for Rose.
As she continued scrolling through her feed, she realized something. All of her best friends were in lifelong commitments. Hux and Poe were engaged. To be fair, she knew the engagement was coming when they announced the news just a few days prior. Hux and Poe had been together for nearly four years now. Finn and Rose had just gotten married two months ago, too.
As for Rey, she was just sitting in some random restaurant all by herself, having been single since her first year of graduate school. She was now Dr. Jackson and still single. True, she was proud of her accomplishments. She loved being a history professor. She had a great tenure-track job. She was able to live in Los Angeles, the same city as all her best friends did, and her mother lived nearby in Arizona if she ever needed anything.
By all standards, Rey had everything. She shouldn’t regret being single. That was the trade off for having all the nice things she did. Still...
“Rey?” A male voice caught her attention, causing her to look up and switch off her phone.
It was Ben Solo. Rey rolled her eyes at seeing the grumpy, arrogant professor from her department, at Chandrila University. He was the one to openly complain to the history department about their hiring of another specialist on the medieval Mediterranean, never mind that he focused more on the military, and she on trade and archaeology. Furthermore, his geographical areas included Naboo, Tatooine, and Coruscant, all in the western Mediterranean. There was no need for him to be defensive about the department wanting someone more knowledgeable about the eastern side of the Mediterranean.
Of course, he had to be at the same conference as her this weekend. Rey addressed him sharply. “Ben, I’m not in the mood to hear you mansplain my talk to me.”
Ben lifted up a hand to his chest, almost as if in apology. “Excuse me. I just saw you sitting by yourself and thought you might want some company. I’ll leave you alone.”
Rey began to open her mouth to reply before closing it again. Had she really ever gotten the chance to talk with him outside of the department in the year and half that she’d been teaching at the university? If he got truly obnoxious, she could just leave early. She spoke up again, before Ben walked away. “No, it’s fine, Ben. There’s another seat, after all. You can join me.”
Ben thanked Rey as he took the seat directly across from her. After Rey handed him the menu, he started talking. “I know we didn’t get off on the right foot at first last year. But, I was really impressed with your talk today.”
Rey looked over at him skeptically. “Really? No comments about how I ignored so-and-so’s findings or how I misinterpreted the intentions of the Crusaders in the sack of Alderaan? Because the Alderaanian bishop wouldn’t submit to the Pope?”
Ben shifted his attention from the menu to her. “Can I just point out that I haven’t made those kind of comments about your work since last year? It’s clear you know your material when it comes to the ship routes between Jakku and Naboo.”
Was he really being sincere? What did he really want from her tonight? Rey remained quiet as she grabbed a piece of bread from the bowl in the center and began dipping it in a plate of olive oil.
Ben quickly spoke up once again. “Okay, I’ll admit it. You know your material when it comes to Alderaan, too.”
Rey’s eyes widened in surprise after he made the comment. Did he actually compliment her and admit to what he admitted? Was that actually an apology from him? “Thanks, Ben. I appreciate hearing that from you. I also enjoyed your talk today, too.”
Before Ben could reply, the waiter stopped by the table. “Are you ready to order? And is this gentleman dining with you, as well?”
Rey nodded and affirmed that Ben was eating with her that night. Once she and Ben placed their orders and waited for their wine and food, they continued talking about their research. However, after the wine arrived, they began talking about how they got into their fields of study, which turned into discussing their families.
As Ben finished off the last of his seafood linguini, he continued speaking about his complicated family situation. “Needless to say, I’m not that close to my parents. I cut ties with Dr. Snoke, and my friends are all over the world at this point. All my time’s pretty much focused on my job right now. It’s supposed to be fulfilling once you finally get tenure, but I just feel like something’s missing in my life. I got a dog a few years ago, but just knowing I’ll outlive the dog... I’ll be in this same spot once again, and it’s not the same as having close friends or family.”
“I know that feeling.”
“What do you mean, Rey?”
“Well, it sounds like I’m closer to my mum than you are with your parents. But, it’s just... I’m going to be thirty-one tomorrow, and I haven’t dated anyone in years. All my best friends are married or getting married. Once my mum dies one day, my job is the only thing I’m going to be left with, and I’ll just be alone.” Rey looked down at the table and wiped off the tears now streaking down her face.
Ben responded sympathetically. “You’re not alone.”
“Neither are you.” Rey reached out for Ben’s hand.
Ben put down his fork and stretched out his fingers to grasp Rey’s. Rey felt a jolt of energy run through her body as she processed the sensation of fingertips brushing against her own, and she looked into Ben’s soft brown eyes flecked with gold. She had always seen him as a bit of a prick or aloof, but really looking at him now, she felt as if she could see another aspect of his soul. One that was more vulnerable and compassionate than he let on most days, especially at work.
The two of them remained at the table holding hands, oblivious to everyone around them, at least until the waiter stopped by and asked them if they wanted the check yet.
Rey jumped in her seat slightly in surprise, withdrawing her hand, and Ben’s hand fell into the remainder of the tiramisu. Stifling a laugh, Rey answered the waiter, “Yes please, we’re all done now. Thank you.”
“Glad you find that entertaining,” Ben commented as he picked up the napkin from his nap with his clean hand. Rey grabbed his wrist before he could start wiping it off. She grinned impishly at him and swiped off the cream from his hand with two fingers.
“Don’t want to waste this delicious desert. Thanks for letting me have the last bite.” Rey stated to Ben, with a wink.
Ben bit his lip as he watched Rey licking the cream off her fingers, slowly. One by one. He couldn’t help but imagine what those lips would feel on his own or even in other places... He blushed slightly as he gingerly removed his wrist from Rey’s grasp.
“It’s not a problem at all...,” Ben replied as he started wiping off the remainder of the desert from his wrist. He glanced down for a second, thinking, before returning his attention to Rey. “What are you doing after this, anyway?”
Rey shrugged. “Just going back to my room and getting my things together. I fly out at 11 tomorrow to visit my mum. What about you?”
“I don’t leave until later in the day. Maybe we could continue this in your room?” Ben replied quickly before realizing how forward his statement sounded. Great, there was no way she would be willing to even give him the time of the day again after coming on to her like a creep...
“Sure.” Rey said, breaking the train of Ben’s thoughts.
They continued talking and joking as the bill arrived and they walked back to their hotel. Once they reached the elevator, Rey ran her hand around Ben’s waist and looked at him with a slightly raised eyebrow. Ben knit his eyebrows in a puzzled manner as they entered the elevator, only to find his lip quickly joining Rey’s in a playful kiss just before she broke it off and hit the button for the twenty-first floor, where her room was located.
Since no one else was on the elevator, Ben took the chance to wrap an arm around Rey’s waist and pull her body flush against his. He looked down into her eyes as he raised a hand under her chin before going in closer to meet her lips with his. He savored the sweetness of her lips as he deepened the kiss.
Rey moved a hand to cradle his neck, pulling him in closer as she kissed him with equal vigor. The two increased the pace of their kisses with each floor, until the elevator dinged. Not wanting to waste any extra time, Rey grabbed Ben’s hand and tugged him towards the direction of her room.
She suddenly felt awkward as they entered her room. It wasn’t her first time getting physically intimate with anyone, but it was definitely her first time jumping from being competing co-workers to being more romantic in one night with anyone. It was also unusual for her to bring anyone to a bed of hers without going through months of dating first. But there was a first time for everything, and it seemed fitting that the night before her birthday would be the time to do just that.
Rey dropped her purse on the dresser and returned her attention to Ben. “So, want to get on the bed and... talk?”
Ben raised his eyebrows in amusement at Rey’s comment. “Um, sure, we can talk.”
Rey crinkled her nose and rubbed her forehead. “Yeah, no, I didn’t mean talk... It’s been a while, if you couldn’t tell already!”
“I haven’t done this in a while either,” Ben replied as he reached out his fingers to push back a strand of Rey’s soft hair before gently kissing her forehead.
Rey smiled softly before wrapping her arms around his shoulders, planting her lips directly against his with vigor. She soon tugged at his waist as she guided them towards the bed, and the two easily fell into a comfortable spot lying alongside one another, barely breaking apart. She could feel him growing harder, causing her center to feel increasingly warmer, and she pushed her groin against his, increasing the friction between the two of them.
Ben stifled a groan as Rey began moving along his erection, and he started to fiddle with the edges of her shirt, trying to pick up whether or not she wanted him to take off her shirt. “May I?”
“You really don’t need to ask that. Take it all off, if you want.” Rey grinned, feeling both amused and flattered by his manners in the heat of the moment.
Ben returned the smile before leaning in to kiss her neck as he began the process of removing her clothes, bit by bit, enjoying the sight of her golden brown skin dusted with freckles. He took the time to kiss and stroke each area of her slender body for each item of clothing removed.
As much as Rey was enjoying the feel of his soft lips on her skin, humming softly as he sucked on one of her nipples, all of this was working her up to the point where she really just needed him to get on with it. He still had all of his clothes on. It was unfair, in her opinion. She soon hoisted herself up and began nibbling at his neck and collarbone, fiddling with the buttons on his shirt.
“Hm, my turn to take this off you?” Rey asked, slipping her fingers under his collar, stroking his skin underneath his shirt. Once Ben assented, she wasted no time in unbuttoning his shirt, then his pants, which came off at the same time as he pulled off her underpants.
Ben slipped a finger between her folds and began stroking before stopping suddenly. “Damn it, I just remembered I don’t have a condom with me...”
Disappointed at him pulling back to quickly, Rey sighed. “It’s fine. I’m clean and on the pill.”
Ben nodded as he replied. “I’m clean, too. So, you’re fine without me using a condom tonight?”
“One night won’t hurt anything,” Rey replied before reaching up for his face and pulling him into another kiss. She whimpered softly as he returned his fingers to his previous position and she moved her own hands to begin stroking the shaft of his cock. She was going to need a lot of foreplay for that to fit inside her, so there was no rush.
The stroking didn’t last long, as they soon switched to using their lips to explore each other’s bodies. Rey was surprised at how much more aggressive about speeding up things in bed she was than Ben, who seemed to enjoy taking his time, as if he was savoring every bit of her. Rey, on the other hand, needed more of him— and sooner rather than later. The push and pull was making for an interesting dynamic that night, that much was certain. Before she knew it, she found herself with her mouth around Ben’s dick, moving her tongue around his head while she sucked. She was determined to get him off, but he stopped her halfway in between before coaxing her onto her back.
Even with her urgency, Rey found herself lost in bliss as Ben’s tongue worked around her clit and vagina. She also fully enjoyed the feel of his firm biceps, his smooth chest, and his sturdy back under her fingers. When she finally came, both pleasure and relief at releasing all the built-up tension flooded throughout her body. Well, not quite all the tension...
Once the wave of her orgasm rolled away, Rey sat up and grabbed Ben’s shoulders gingerly, leaning in to gently kiss along his collarbone before she spoke up. “As much as I’m really enjoying this with you... Please put your dick in me, now. Enough delaying, Ben.”
“Quite demanding, aren’t you, Rey? You don’t need to ask twice.” Ben chuckled as he playfully squeezed her butt and pulled her hips towards his own, kissing her deeply in the process. Once Rey lowered herself onto Ben’s shaft, he guided her onto her back and increased the rhythm of his own thrusts. Rey squeezed her legs over his thighs as he continued moving inside of her, hitting the right spots.
Rey could feel Ben beginning to stiffen under her arms, as she rolled her hips against his. He mumbled into her ear. “Come for me again, Rey, I’m not going to last much longer...”
She let out a light moan before replying to his command. “Now, who’s being the demanding one, Ben?” She shifted her hips slightly, enabling him to pick up the pace while still allowing her to continue chasing her peak. A few more thrusts and her body finally fell apart, her insides clenching around Ben’s length. Not long after, she felt Ben shudder on top of her, letting out a groan before he relaxed and positioned them both on their sides, pulling out from her.
A few moments later, once they cleaned up after themselves, Rey found herself enveloped snugly within Ben’s large arms. It had been years since being in another’s arms like this. Even then, with this one, she felt more secure with him than with anyone else prior. As she dozed off to sleep, her head resting partly on Ben’s chest, she had the thought rise in her head that she would be content to be in his arms like this every night.
The light peeking through the curtains the next morning roused Rey out of her sleep. As she stretched out, she noticed that Ben was still sleeping. She reached out a hand and stroked a lock of his hair, which was now a tousled mess. Scooting over slightly, she gently pressed a kiss to his forehead before gently nudging him.
Once Ben opened his eyes halfway, Rey lightly brushed his lips with a kiss before speaking up. “Hey Ben. I’ve got to get moving now before my flight, but you can stick around for a little.”
“Do you have to go right now? One more round? It’s your birthday isn’t it? Can’t I give you something for your birthday?” Ben pleaded as he lazily planted kisses down her neck from her ears to her shoulder.
As he moved from her shoulder, kissing down her sternum then her stomach, she replied, “I really have to get my stuff together before— mmph!”
She glanced over at the clock while Ben began stroking her clit teasingly. The asshole definitely knew how to rile her up, even while between her legs. Her mind finally cleared up enough to calculate that she had about five hours before her flight. Rey spread her legs further apart and ruffled Ben’s hair. “Yeah, I have time for one more round.”
One round turned into a second round in the shower, followed by fooling around as she dressed and packed up her things. Needless to say, she was exhausted by the time she got to the airport. Rey slept through most of the flight to Phoenix, and she was bombarded with birthday wishes from her friends upon arrival. Then she met with her mother at the airport, and it wasn’t until the evening that she had the chance to process the prior night’s events.
At least she didn’t overthink it until her phone buzzed with a text from Ben, notifying her that he had arrived back in Los Angeles safely and asking if he could take her out on a date for her birthday when she returned. She was pleasantly surprised at how easily she and Ben connected over dinner the previous night, especially given their less-than-collegial relationship as co-workers within the same department. Furthermore, she couldn’t remember the last time she felt as satisfied, both physically and emotionally, after spending the night with a man as she did with Ben.
If it had been anyone else, she would have agreed right away to see him again when she returned. But... The reality was that they were both professors in the same department. Their professional relationship was already on shaky ground.
While not forbidden, initiating intimate relationships between co-workers was often seen as taboo in her department, since there were more than a few horror stories of such relationships going wrong. This often led to further infighting, drama affecting the students, and people leaving the department altogether. Was it really a good idea to start something with someone she had not necessarily gotten along with that well in the past, based on one night alone?
To be fair, she couldn’t deny she found herself attracted to Ben for the most part, but it was these reservations along with his prickly personality that often caused her to dismiss the idea.
Pulling up her phone, she texted Hux, one of her closest friends since grad school and a fellow professor in the department. They had both become fast friends while graduates at the same university, and he graduated before her, taking a job at Chandrila University as a specialist on Ancient Naboo. He was one of the people who helped put in a good word for her at the same university.
REY: Hux? Can I ask you something? What’s your opinion on dating others in the same department?
ARMIE HUX: Who’s the guy?
Rey hesitated for a bit before answering Hux. While Hux frequently collaborated with Ben due to their overlapping geographical areas in their studies, Hux often made it clear in his complaints to friends how he really felt about Ben’s moodiness and snarky commentary.
REY: Just a hypothetical question...
ARMIE HUX: Well... It’s generally not a good idea. I know of a few married couples in the same department, but most of them are dual hires and were already together. But, the drama that follows after a breakup or something is never worth the fallout. You do know about Bazine in the Classics department, right?
REY: Oh... yeah... he ended up trying to claim she was sleeping with her students and she got back at him... turned out he was the one doing the cheating and he got fired...
ARMIE HUX: Correct. And most of their old students have had to find new advisors or switch departments or universities. It’s still a mess in Classics.
REY: Hm... But weren’t bazine and nick engaged too? What about just simply dating for a bit?
ARMIE HUX: It depends. Do you think you can stay professional with him/her if things don’t work out?
Rey furrowed her eyebrows and bit her lip as she pondered Hux’s text. To be fair, she honestly did not know how things would go with Ben. It was just too unpredictable with him. She texted him back.
REY: Thx for the opinion. Probably not worth the risk...
Hux had a great point. But, her heart was still encouraging her to give this all a chance. At the same time, she had worked too hard to let romantic feelings send her life derailing. She quickly switched over to her texts with Ben.
REY: Thank you, and it was great spending time with you last night... I’m sorry, Ben, but I think we should keep this a one night thing since we work together in the same place...
As soon as she sent the text, Rey put her phone on silent and pushed it away in her suitcase. Her eyes were already threatening to spill over, and her heart felt heavier. But, she was doing the right thing. After all, there were plenty of other men out there— men who weren’t her co-workers, especially co-workers that she found herself competing with in the workplace on a regular basis.
November, Los Angeles:
When she missed her period two weeks later, she thought nothing of it. Her periods had always been irregular, and it was common for them to arrive late. But then other symptoms started showing up, although she didn’t connect them together right away. She increasingly felt as if she couldn’t drink enough coffee or tea to stay awake and alert. More than a few times she nodded off at her desk in her office, which was unusual for her. She felt nauseous in the mornings, with increasing intensity as the days passed by. It got to the point where she couldn’t stomach her favorite breakfast foods, such as waffles and breakfast burritos, and resorted to eating plain toast in the mornings to hold her over.
It all came together for Rey when she was at a game night at Poe and Hux’s house along with Rose and Finn one Saturday night. The night started off with a tame round of Battleship, which quickly got boring, emphasized by the fact that Rey was now dozing away on the edge of the couch. Rose then suggested the more challenging game of Power Grid. However, that became too complicated for everyone else to figure out, with the exception of Rose’s husband, Finn.
Hux finally came up with the bright idea of playing Galaxy Wars-themed monopoly, since it would be both challenging and approachable for everyone involved. However, no one could agree on the rules, leading to cutting corners and cheating. This led into bantering and low-level arguing, which threatened to escalate by the time the pizzas finally arrived at the house.
“Finally!” Finn exclaimed, quickly rushing to the kitchen to join Poe in setting up the pizzas. Everyone else eagerly left their spots as they went to grab their shares. Rey immediately sought out her favorite pizza, the meat deluxe special. However, she was confronted by overwhelming disgust as the smell of the pizza hit her.
“What the hell is in this tonight? It really stinks.” Rey commented, as she inspected the other pizzas, none of which struck her as appealing.
Poe quipped. “Well, I think I just saw a pig flying out the window. Rey just turned down meat deluxe pizza.”
Rey shook her head with an amused grin at the comment. “I’ll just have more of that chocolate fudge ice cream instead.”
Hux looked at Rey in bewilderment as she grabbed one of the giant bowls from the cabinet and headed towards the refrigerator. “You’ve had two large bowls of that already! How are you not sick now, when I’m always hearing you complaining about being sick at work this month?”
Poe immediately chimed in with a chuckle. “I don’t know, Hux... Being sick all the time, sleeping in random places, turning down pizza, and binging on ice cream... I think it sounds like Rey’s got a bun in her oven!”
Rey gritted her teeth in irritation. She really didn’t feel like dealing with her friends judging her on her food choices tonight. She snapped at Poe. “I’m just not in the mood for pizza, okay? I don’t need to explain everything to you! You’re not in charge of me!”
Finn sighed and called out, “Leave her alone, Poe! She can eat whatever she wants!”
Poe quickly raised a hand in a surrendering manner as he loaded up his own plate with pizza. “Whoa, I was just teasing. Sorry, Rey. Hey, it’s more pizza for me!”
The mood quickly turned friendly again while everyone ate their dinners and resumed playing monopoly. Although Rey was enjoying the game and the company, she couldn’t help but continue turning over Poe’s words in her head. She was on the pill, so there was no way. The symptoms had to be a coincidence. Right?
She couldn’t just text her mother without making her worry. If she spoke up at the table, she’d get more ribbing and protective comments from the men. That left her with only Rose as an option for this conversation. Thankfully, Rey found a chance to drag Rose to the kitchen when the men started arguing over the latest property transaction, spurred by Finn accusing Hux of not knowing how starkiller purchases worked.
Once in the kitchen, Rey quickly told her friend her concern. “Rose, what are the odds of getting pregnant on the pill after a one night stand?”
Rose laughed before reassuringly squeezing Rey’s arm. “Are you really taking Poe’s drunk jokes seriously? Why do you ask? You probably just have some weird stomach bug on top of stress from midterm season.”
Rey quirked her eyebrows, nervously darting her eyes to the floor before looking at Rose directly again. She took a deep breath and replied. “I’m not just sick and tired this month. My boobs hurt all the time. My period hasn’t come this month, and it’s been three weeks...”
The unmistakable sound of an angry Hux yelling reached the kitchen before Rey could continue speaking. “Damn it, Finn! I’ve said it ten times already—”
“Shut up, Hux! Just let it go and move on!” Rose yelled back at Hux. She shook her head and calmly spoke to Rey. “Well, it can happen, otherwise shows like ‘I didn’t know I was pregnant’ wouldn’t exist. I mean, the guy used a condom as a backup, right?”
Rey vigorously shook her head. “He didn’t have a condom, and we’re both clean.”
The realization finally struck Rose, as her mouth opened in shock. “Oh shit. We are going to CVS right now and getting some tests. I’ll give the guys some excuse. Go grab your purse.”
One hour later, Rey and Rose found themselves at Rey’s apartment in the bathroom, waiting for the tests to reveal their results. The two remained silent as they waited for the timer to go off. Rey’s mind swarmed with multiple worries and questions about what she would do if the tests turned out positive.
Once the timer beeped, Rey immediately pressed the button on her phone to turn off the sound. She pushed herself off the tub’s edge and stepped towards the counter, glancing over the three tests. Two lines. Plus sign. Pregnant.
Rey slumped down on the ground, back against the wall, and buried her face in her hands. “Fuck.”