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Cupcake Wars

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The weirdest part about New York City, Rey thinks, is that it is so huge that you’ll never find anyone in the sea of people…and yet you’ll still end up on the train with an acquaintance completely by accident.

“Rey?” She looks up from her phone to see LCJ standing there, his face curled in a half-smile. “Thought that might be you.”

“Hey Lando,” she says, tucking her phone into her pocket. “What’s got you on the A?” The A doesn’t go anywhere near where he lives in Brooklyn. He’s as Williamsburg hipster as it’s possible to get, while also somehow not even being a little bit of a Williamsburg hipster—a feat that the most Williamsburg of hipsters would die to achieve.

“Concert,” he says. “And what’s got you headed downtown at this hour?” That curl in his smile gets a little deeper. “Someone special?”

Rey swallows. She has no idea if LCJ knows that she was the one Ben was fucking on his birthday, but she wouldn’t be surprised if he’d put two and two together. It’s not like it would have been hard to, given that they’d shown up together and then she’d left right after.

“Meeting Finn and Rose for a movie,” she tells him. And the curl in his lip fades slightly as he nods.

“Right right right. And what are your thoughts on Rose? Is she worthy of our Finn?”

She likes how Lando says our Finn somehow. She barely knows him, but she knows that he and Finn met…somehow, and Finn speaks of him with the sort of closeness that Rey has only heard when he speaks about Poe.

“I think so,” Rey says. It’s still new, this whole not feeling weird about Rose thing. She likes it. She wishes it had always been there, so she wouldn’t have to examine all of the whys of it’s not being there before. “Finn’s careful with who he trusts.”

LCJ snorts. “That’s an understatement. But he has impeccable taste, as is proven by present company.” And that curl is back.

“Who are you seeing?” Rey asks.

“Hm?”

“Your concert—who are you seeing?”

“It’s a house concert. Someone Lumpy put me onto. Fusion of hip hop and Turkish prayer melodies.” He pulls out his phone and—without caring even a little bit that they’re in a crowded train car—begins playing the music. It’s certainly something, and Rey nods her head along to the rhythm. “Nice,” she says.

“I know,” he says. Then—“Ditch Finn and Rose. Let them have some privacy. Come join me. I can text Ben and see if he wants to—”

“That’s ok. Thanks,” she says at once. She does not want to see Ben Solo. She doesn’t want Lando to get the wrong idea.

His eyebrows twitch and the smile is gone. “You were with Ben, weren’t you?” he asks her and his voice is oddly sharp. “I wasn’t imagining you two fucking in my bathroom or anything?”

“We’re—it’s—complicated.”

Lando rolls his eyes. “This isn’t a Facebook relationship status. He’s one of my oldest friends in the world, and Finn trusts you so you’d better not prove that trust wrong.”

“It’s just fucking, ok? I don’t need to spend time with him and he probably doesn’t want to spend time with me. It’s nothing.”

LCJ’s face is completely blank. “Doesn’t sound particularly complicated to me,” he says at last.

“Maybe it’s not then,” Rey says. “Maybe I’m trying to keep it uncomplicated. Fuckbuddies is doable. Feelings are…” Lando laughs as she’s trying to find the right word.

“Feelings are indeed,” he says. “Well, you could come along and I wouldn’t text Ben. Hell, you, me, Finn, and Rose could all go together. It’ll be better than any movie that’s out right now.”

Rey considers for a moment, then pulls out her phone and texts Finn.

Rey: I met LCJ on the train. Want to go to a concert instead?

Finn: Of some music he’s picking? No. But if you want to we can do the movie another time.

A notification bubble on the top of her phone tells her that landocaljr has followed her on Instagram right as Finn’s reply comes through and Rey glances up, looking at him. He gives her a wink. She follows him back before replying to Finn.

Rey: No, I’d rather see you. But wanted to check.

“They’re out, so I am too, I’m afraid.”

“Another time, then,” Lando says. He has the good grace not to look too disappointed if he is. Rey makes to get off the train and he grabs her arm. “Don’t play with his heart,” he says seriously. “He pretends it doesn’t hurt him because he thinks that means it won’t hurt him. And I swear to god, it doesn’t matter how much Finn likes you, if you hurt him...”

And Rey can see from his sharp brown eyes that he means every word.

She doesn’t know why it takes her a full two weeks to go back to Snoke’s. She doesn’t really want to think about why. She’s sure there is a why. But not one she wants to examine.

She stops by at closing on a Wednesday night and finds him standing behind the counter, talking with a man who is even taller than he is.

He’s speaking when Rey slips in. “No, I don’t anticipate—” And he stops short, his eyes landing on hers. The man he is speaking to turns. His skin is liverspotted and his eyes are a clear bright blue that remind Rey—oddly—of Luke Skywalker’s.

“We’re closed,” the man says and his voice is smooth as silk.

“I know,” Rey says at the same time that Ben says, “No, it’s fine.”

The man looks back between them and arches—he doesn’t have eyebrows. She hadn’t noticed it. Perhaps that’s why his face is so odd to her. “Ah,” he says. “Well, then. If you’ll allow me to take just a few more moments of your time,” and he strolls towards the back.

Ben shoots her a look that says don’t go anywhere and she goes and sits at one of the empty tables.

Five minutes later, the man departs. She thinks it’s without giving her a second glance except when he is walking past the window she’s sitting by, she sees his gaze flit to her. It makes her feel uncomfortable, especially the way he half-smiles when he sees her watching him and doesn’t look away.

“So we’re still doing this, then?” Ben asks, and Rey starts out of her skin. His gaze is hard as he looks at her, and his jaw juts out angrily.

“Doing—“

“This.” He waves his hand between the two of them.

She stares up at him. It’s sort of hard to believe that he might be upset or hurt, but she remembers what LCJ said on the train, what his own father said about him, and she takes a deep breath. “Sorry,” she says at last. “It’s been busy. I would have texted, or something, but I didn’t have your number.”

He blinks at her. Then snorts. “Yeah, I was going to try calling you, but I didn’t have yours either.”

He pulls his phone out of his pocket, pulls something up on the screen and hands it to her.

She sees her own name at the top of the contact, and types in her number. Then she sends herself a text.

“Mine or yours?” he asks her dryly as he turns off the lights in the cupcakery.

“Yours,” Rey says. She doesn’t want Bebe knowing about this. She doesn’t want Finn knowing about this either. She wonders if Lando brought it up to him.

“Lando knows about us,” she says as they make their way to the A-train.

“Yeah, he wouldn’t stop cracking jokes about it at his birthday,” Ben says dryly.

“Does anyone else?”

“Lumpy probably does,” Ben says. “Though he will always pretend not to give a shit.” Ben rolls his eyes. “Arrogant prick. Though he’ll tell me I’m the arrogant prick. And Chance’ll just laugh.”

“Chance?”

“Lando,” Ben says. “He went by Chance for a long time. A nickname from his dad. He shed it when Chance the Rapper got famous. Said there could only be one Chance, and he knows how to make a graceful exit.” Ben rolls his eyes.

“Sounds like you’re all arrogant pricks,” Rey mutters, and Ben snorts.

“You’re not wrong,” he replies, leaning out over the tracks to check how close the train is. “We come by it naturally. Well—Chance and I do. Lumpy’s dad is a mensch, so I don’t know where he got it, unless it skips a generation. His grandfather did go by Icky, so.”

“It’s nice that you have childhood friends,” Rey says, sounding more wistful than she had meant to. Ben gives her a look and she looks away. The last thing she wants is for him to ask her what she means by that, and then trying to armchair psychologize her because she cries during sex or something.

“I guess,” he says at last. “Makes it harder to let go of.”

“Makes what—”

“My past,” he says. “I can cut my parents and my uncle out no problem.   They’ll pretend to respect me by respecting that choice. But you can’t ever tell Chance no, and Lumpy likes to be right so he’ll just stick along for the ride and tell me I’m an idiot at every opportunity.”

And there it is again—the reason she can’t stand him. That he’d just walk away from it all, that he’d just abandon them. That he speaks so casually about leaving his family behind.

They’re going to have really good hatesex when they get to his place.

She isn’t wrong.

They’re out of their clothes within four seconds of making it through the door of his apartment, and Rey can tell from the way he’s sucking on her neck that he’s in just about the same mood as she is—too pissed off to want to kiss on the lips, but too horny not to kiss. She doesn’t care. She really fucking doesn’t care.

He practically throws her on the bed after they’ve stumbled their way through his dark apartment, and for a moment, she thinks he’s going to stretch himself down on top of her, pin her to the mattress, but no. No—he flips her over and hoists her hips in the air the way he had the last time Rey was here and rubs his hands over her ass in a way that makes her arch her hips up towards them.

The smack is not wholly unexpected, if she’s honest with herself. It’s light, clearly not supposed to hurt her, and she lets out a hiss and buries her face into the pillow. He does it again, then rubs his dick along the seam of her. “Fuck you’re dripping,” he groans, bending forward and kissing his way down her spine. Are those his teeth on her ass? She twists to see if he’d actually bitten her, but he’s already sitting up again, ripping open a a foil to roll a condom onto himself. He smacks her ass lightly one last time before pushing in as deep as he can go.

She doesn’t know when she’ll get past it—the stretch of him inside her. Maybe it’s because she hadn’t fucked him in two weeks, or maybe it’s because this angle always makes her feel things in a different way. Either way, she’s grunting and he’s grunting, and the skin of his thighs is starting to slap against the back of hers and his grip on her hips is so very tight.

It’s the tight grip, more than anything else, that makes her do it.

Because this is fucking angry sex, right? That’s why he’d smacked her—even if it was supposed to be playful, even if she’d enjoyed it? Because they’re both pissed off?

When does she get to ride him?

So she pushes herself up to her knees, feeling his pace stutter slightly as she pulls herself off his dick and turns to face him. He looks thrown, wary even, and she grabs his arm and tugs him down onto the bed. He lies there, watching her, his hands limp at his sides.  She turns away from him, straddles his hips and guides him back into her.

Ok, so this is the first time she’s ever done it quite like this before. Usually when she rides, she rides facing him. But she doesn’t really want to watch him watch her cry again and besides, they’re both ticked off—it’ll just be easier this way.

She grinds herself onto him, one of her hands reaching down between her legs to circle at her clit, the other reaching up to cup one of her breasts. Behind her, she can hear him breathing, but he’s barely moving.

Oh for fuck’s sake, it’s basically the same position as the one they were just in, he doesn’t have to get huffy about it.

She does her best to ignore it, but when after a minute, he still hasn’t started moving his hips, she decides to take matters into her own hands and drops the hand from her breast down to cup his ball sac.

His hips jerk up underneath hers and he lets out a breathy, “Fuckkkkk,” and then they’re off to the races. He’s thrusting up into her, and she’s thrusting down onto him and heat is beginning to pool in her lower abdomen and her blood is starting to sing.

The trouble is that her legs start to get tired before either one of them is close enough to coming. Her pace slows not because she wants it to but because she can’t remember the last time she went jogging and that is when Ben sits up underneath her.

For a second, she thinks he’s going to flip her over again, that she’s going to have to fight him because she wants to finish on top, for fuck’s sake, except that he’s not flipping her over. He’s sitting up behind her and his fingers slide under hers to rub at her clit while the other arm snakes around her lower belly, pulling her flush against his chest. His lips are at her throat again, but she thinks she hears him murmur, “I’ve got you,” as his fingers strum at her clit and when had she thought he was bad at this? That he didn’t really know his way around her vulva? He must have been paying more attention than she’d given him credit for because his fingers are fucking magic right now, they have her gasping and crying, her chest heaving, her lips trembling and her head falling back to rest on his shoulder as she lets her orgasm roll along the length of his dick.

Her legs are shaking as she tries to extricate herself from him. He’s still hard, still isn’t done but he lets her off him, lets her topple sideways onto the bed next to him while her body flashes hot and cool with aftershocks before he kneels between her legs, hoists her hips up and—

She’s face up this time, looking at him. His head is bent as he pushes in, watching the way he slides in and out of her and she wonders what it feels like for him, to be inside her.

As if he’d known she was thinking about him, he glances up and his eyes lock with hers and Rey feels as though the air is a little lighter in her chest than it had been a second before. Why had she been angry at him, when he has eyes like that? She can’t—she doesn’t—

He is looking at her when he comes, his eyes rolling slightly before closing, his head drooping forward as he breathes throatily through the corners of his lips, and he crunches forward slightly, the muscles of his abdomen rippling a little bit before he goes still and pulls out of her.

He removes the condom and throws it into the little trash can he keeps by his bed, then he stretches out next to her on the bed, not touching her, not looking at her.

Rey swallows.

She knows, logically, she was pissed at him earlier, that she had reason to be pissed at him earlier. But right now, she doesn’t feel that at all. She feels light, and melty, and she wants him to look at her now, wants to look at him.

So she twists onto her side and cuddles up next to him, pressing her face into his arm.

He stills for a fraction of a heartbeat, then she feels the backs of his fingers start to brush against her thigh, as though he’s unwilling to move the arm between them now that she’s pressing her face to it.

How long they lie like that, she doesn’t know. All she knows is when she wakes his arms are around her, and hers are around him.

They find her replacement. It doesn’t take them long, all things considered, but it feels both too fast—for Rey—and too slow—for Naberrie.

The woman—named Jannah—is bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and it’s not long before Finn is showing her the ropes, talking to her about ovens and icing and customer service.

“And that’s Rey,” he says with a wink, pointing into the office where Rey is tearing her hair out over reviews left on Google. She did not sign up for this. She did not sign up for this. She was promoted to handle catering orders and weddings and bar mitzvahs—not fucking Yelp and Facebook and should they get an Instagram? Snoke’s has an Instagram with lots of lovely pictures of all their lovely cupcakes with their fucking stolen icing recipe. “Rey’s the best,” Finn says loyally.

Rey certainly doesn’t feel the best right now.

She feels the worst, actually. She feels small, because their Facebook posts don’t get enough likes, because people keep asking if they have a Twitter to follow, because they keep getting questions about their Upper West Side site that they had to close down six months before. She wants to be baking.

She wants to watch people smile as they bite into a cupcake. She wants to watch that moment that’s almost inappropriate where they groan with delight, their eyes rolling back into their heads—sort of the way Ben’s face goes when she goes down on him. She likes watching as someone’s day gets better because of something she did. It makes her feel like her own day is getting better too.

And to make matters worse, she hasn’t had a new idea for a baking idea in what feels like ages. What if staring at the internet all day makes her forget how to bake?

“Knock knock.”

Rey looks up and smiles.

Leia rarely comes into the bakery these days. Rey doesn’t exactly know what she does anymore. Networking or something. Continuing to exist as the family member who reminds everyone of Padme, the cupcake queen of New York. To hear Poe talk about it—before he’d left—she’d started distancing herself from the bakery after Ben had quit. But here she is, smiling down at Rey.

“I’d been meaning to check in on you,” she says. “How’s the new office suiting you?”   She looks pleased as she looks around.

“It’s all right,” Rey says.

“Just all right?” Leia asks carefully, looking at her with shrewd brown eyes. Ben’s eyes.

“I miss baking,” Rey says, glancing past Leia to where Finn and Keri are restocking the black and white cookies they sell mostly because they’re in New York and they feel morally obligated.

“Hmm,” Leia says looking down at her. “Do you wish you hadn’t gotten the job?”

“What?” Rey’s eyes go wide. The last thing she wants Leia to think is that she’s ungrateful. “No—no. It’s not like that.” Except it is. “It’s just having to learn to find time for—for something I liked.” Finn’s grinning at something Keri just said.

“All right,” Leia says carefully. “If it’s not what you want, just let us know. I don’t want to make it seem like we’re not listening to you.” The way she says it draws Rey’s eyes back to her. She’d never noticed how old Leia looks, her hair going grey, her body shrinking a bit from osteoporosis. But she has Ben’s long face and his brown eyes and for some reason it makes Rey say—

“Like Ben?”

Leia blinks at her, blinks back tears and looks away.

“Yes,” she says slowly.   “Like Ben.”

“What’s this one?” Bebe asks her when she gets home a little past nine. Rey is baking again. Today has been frazzling, but it’s getting better already just because she’s baking. It’s odd—she hadn’t ever felt this stressed working in the trenches with Finn, no matter how many customers had come along.

“Mango, ginger, and honey,” Rey says handing the cake to Bebe, who chews slowly.

“What are you doing for icing?” she asks, leaning back against the counter.

“I’m not sure,” Rey admits. “I was thinking maybe a cream cheese frosting for this one, but I hadn’t even started putting something together. I worry about the icing being too sweet for the cake flavors.”

“Yeah,” Bebe agrees. “It might overpower the ginger and you’ve already got a sweet cake with the mango and honey.” Rey scrunches her face in agreement. “Does it even need icing?”

“The trouble is I don’t think people would buy them without icing. Americans are bad about fruit cakes.”

“You’re not going to be selling these, though,” Bebe points out, and Rey sags a bit.

No, she’s not going to be selling them. She’s not even going to be eating most of them. They’ll end up going to Bebe’s office the way they always do and she’ll get a stream of texts tomorrow from her roommate, showering her with the appreciation of her colleagues.

“What’s wrong?” Bebe asks her, and Rey smiles at her.

“Nothing’s wrong. I’m fine.”

Bebe’s eyebrows are knit together. “Ok,” she says slowly.

“Just a long day.”

Bebe relaxes at that. “Yeah, you’re always at your most stressed when I come home to find you baking.”

“I’m not stressed,” Rey protests but Bebe shrugs and grabs another one of the mango ginger honey muffins from the silicon tray.

“If you’re not stressed, I’m not stressed.”

“That’s cheating. You’re always stressed,” Rey points out.

“Precisely,” Bebe replies as though she’s won the argument. “Was your stress lay unavailable?”

Rey’s eyes widen and Bebe rolls her eyes. “Oh come on. You’re my roommate. You think I don’t notice when you don’t come home?”

“How’d you know he was a stress lay?”

Bebe shrugs. “Intuition, I guess. Was he unavailable?”

“No, I hate him and I only fuck him when I need to,” Rey said, which made Bebe laugh disbelievingly. “It’s the truth.”

“Rey—you wouldn’t be fucking him if you hated him.”

“I would too,” she snaps back. “He’s a good lay.”

“You want to strangle people you hate, not—”

“Who says I haven’t tried?” she demands, her hands on her hips. Somehow, she imagines that Ben would be into that—her wrapping her fingers around his throat while she rode him. It would only enhance his hate sex kink. And he’d probably be the type to have an asphyxiation kink.

Bebe just gives her a look, though, and Rey sighs. “He’s an asshole, ok? It’s a good lay, but I don’t want to—” she scrambles for words. She’s not sure what to say.

“Get attached,” Bebe says. “You get attached to people really quickly.”

“I do not,” Rey glares at her.

“Me,” Bebe says holding up a finger. “Finn,” she holds up another. “Pretty much everyone at that bakery,” she holds up several more fingers, including two on the other hand. “You don’t want to get attached.”

The words ring in Rey’s ears as she finishes cleaning up the kitchen.

When she’s in bed, scrolling through Instagram as she tends to right before bed, she sees a picture of Ben in the middle of her feed, between two pictures of doughnuts. It’s a picture from LCJ’s account and he’s wearing sunglasses and is half-smiling, his hair blowing in the wind. It’s sort of devastating.

He smiles. It’s a Christmas miracle in June. #brothersfromthewomb #theyremysunglasses #hesasunglassesthief #thieverysinhisbloodlinejustaskmydad reads the caption.

Rey swallows.

You don’t want to get attached.

She toggles over to the text thread that she’d started, sending his name from his phone over to her when she’d gone to find him at Snoke’s the other day.

What would happen if she texted him?

That’s when she throws her phone across the bed. She’s not just texting him. She has his number in case she wants sex. Not for anything else. He’s an asshole who abandons his family. She doesn’t want anything from him.