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The moment Rey handed him the box she regretted it.

She only knew him for a couple of months and it was in group therapy of all places.

Yet she heard it was his birthday, and decided to make him something that she barely knew how to fucking make herself. Dr. Andor said to make use of hobbies in the grieving process and while Rey was shit at crocheting, some part of her decided to make something for handsome-and-brooding Ben Solo who probably only knew how to insult her through backhanded compliments.

If she was lucky, he wouldn’t even open the damn box.

Yet somehow the thought of him not opening the box hurt more than him seeing the atrocity she cobbled up together through sleepless nights of insomnia.

Pathetic.

Drowning her sorrows in alcohol seemed ideal but counter-intuitive; she promised herself not to turn back to the bottle, not since she became shit-faced at her grandfather’s funeral and needed her stomach pumped.

Instead, she made coffee and put on the Hallmark Channel because if she was going to feel this pathetic, she might as well go all the way without getting intoxicated or inhibited. Bad acting and predictable storylines could be the flimsy band-aid to her woes.

Sitting through the opening cheery credits of Blue Lake Love, Rey ignored the itch in her fingers to grab her keys and go to the closest liquor shop three blocks away.

 


 

Three and Half Months Earlier

 

Old habits die hard.

Like the temptation of free food in correspondence of attending a less than appeasing event.

From vague knowledge, specifically television and film, Rey knew these sorts of things had snacks—maybe to make others feel better about going out of their way to group therapy.

Like—‘ I didn’t really talk about my crippling depression nor the fact I haven’t spoken to anyone in three weeks, but hey at least I got a free muffin out of this shit’.

At least that was what Rey told herself as she stood in front of the snack table, briefly wondering if the smell was coming from the shitty coffee or from the fact she hadn’t showered in almost a week and the smell was her natural odor and her deodorant mixing in a less than appealing cacophony of pomegranate and cucumber sent.

For context, she put on a lot of deodorant.

Like more than any human should, and maybe rolled some on between her boobs because sweat accumulated there in an abundance for some reason.

Vegan and cruelty free muffins sat in the center of the plate, along with other healthy options on the snack table.

Unfortunately, Rey didn’t realize the contents of the food until she took a hardy bite of what she believed to be a chocolate chip muffin to be met with rubbery raisins.

Fucking shit,” she gagged out through her mouthful. Frantically, she searched for a paper napkin, finding some Hawaiian print tucked on the corner of a match paper plate.

Without reservation, she spat out the muffin into the napkin. Little pieces stuck to her tongue with great vigor. Reaching her index finger in her mouth, she raked the remaining soggy pieces off her tongue and on to the napkin.

Smacking her mouth, Rey sighed with relief. All the traitorous muffin was gone from her mouth and she could live peacefully for the next few moments.

“That’s a sight,” a voice mutter beside her as Rey wiped the remaining muffin bits from her finger.

Lifting her gaze, the man appeared blurry, Rey seeing over the top of her glasses. With the back of her hand, she shoved her glasses further up her nose and mentally reeled.

Massive man—ala tol man—stood less than a couple of feet away from her, a muffin in his hand. Thankfully it was blueberry and freaking looked like blueberry and not raisin like hers. His brown honey eyes—never in her life did she think to use that terminology to describe someone’s freaking eyes, but damn—narrowed on her with an exasperation she’d only seen from her grandfather.

“Has anyone taught you how to discreetly spit out awful food?” he then said, as though it were a skill set taught by the highest etiquette schools on this side of the country.

An average person would have merely coward to the side, intimidated by his obtuse presence, or at the very least ignore him until they could bitch about it to their friends.

Of course, Rey wasn’t average as her grandfather loved to remind her, and she had a knack for getting into fights with those twice her size growing up—

A trait she did not grow out of at twenty-three years of age.

“Has anyone told you it is rude to stare? Watching like some creep as I spat my food,” she argued back, her accent regrettably thicker as her temper got the best of her. “You like to get off on that?”

His eyebrows flew into his hairline, lips—why the hell were his lips so darn plush? What fucking god decided on this?— scrunched to the side.

“No, no I don’t. I usually don’t ‘get off’” he used air quotes, still able to hold the blueberry muffin in one hand, “on that. I prefer not to get off at all—it’s called a symptom of depression,” he quipped dryly, taking bite of the muffin.

She noticed a cringe forming in a slow wave over his face as the taste finally hit his tongue.

Stubbornly, he swallowed, not inch of remorse on his face he did so.

He didn’t smirk, as she expected someone of his sad smugness to react. Instead, he kept the muffin in his hand and walked to the accumulating circle in the center of the room.

“Prick,” she muttered to his retreating form.

Tossing the napkin away, she decided to join the others, sitting as far away from Mr. Tol-Prick in the circle. He sat closest to the door, as though waiting to bolt whenever necessary. An ideal seat for her if he hadn’t already claimed it. No one else seemed upset with this, as though expecting the man to sit there.

With some hesitation Rey sat in the chair beside a young, petite Asian woman who was more consumed with the necklace in her hand than anyone else around her.

Perfect—no small talk necessary with a woman who was also lost in her own world.

As they waited for the session to begin, a few other men and women smiled in her direction, Rey not returning the sentiment. Thankfully no one appeared to be offended, a unspoken understanding within everyone in the group. At the head of the circle, a young man sat with his head held high, regarding the group with genuine warmth. Rey had to hand it to him—to have genuine warmth was a skill, one she struggled to grapple with no matter how many times her grandfather told her being ‘warm’ was simple.

Simple? More like waiting to get back stabbed in the back.

“Looks like we have some new and returning faces in the crowd, lets go ahead and introduce ourselves—I’m Dr. Andor, a counselor here at Takodana Wellness Center. I specialize in grief, substance abuse, anxiety, and clinical depression. A ‘jack of all trades’ if you will.” A few laughed at the cheap joke; Rey nor Mr. Tol-Prick didn’t. “Why don’t we start this way,” he motioned to his right, “and make our way around the circle. It should be quick since there is only a few of us tonight.”

Rey glanced around—seven.

There were only seven of them there.

Damn, she was going to have to talk wasn’t she?

The first few people Rey tuned out—she wasn’t there to make friends.

She was there because her roommate was concerned and cried at her bedside when he found her passed out in her bed with too much vodka between her sheets and unopened bottle of aspirin.

It wasn’t like she was going to off herself—but it sure as hell looked like that to poor Finn.

“Um, hi I’m Rose,” the woman beside her greeted the circle, a small smile on her lips. “I guess I’m here because it’s been a few months since Paige’s passing, and with her birthday this month,” Rose shrugged, “best to be safe than sorry.”

A few mumbled greets passed through before eyes were set on Rey expectantly. Sitting up, she tucked her hands into her hoodie’s pockets, hopping nobody would see her bit-raw nails and fingers.

Everyone said it was a sign of anxiety. She didn’t want a label slapped on to her just yet.

“Uh, my name is Rey,” she said slowly, her mind struggling to figure out where to begin. So she just decided to talk, and whatever came out, came out and that was that. “My grandfather—my primary caregiver for my entire life, my only fucking living family—died. And the shitty thing is he didn’t even fucking die of old age, he was in an accident.” She scoffed, rolling her eyes. Her fingers picked furiously at each other in their hiding place. “A trip down the stairs and then he is fucked, and I told him to move—I fucking told him to move and to not be in that death trap house anymore. But did he listen? No. The stubborn bastard didn’t listen and now he is six feet under like all the rest of his cohort because they were all obtuse and arrogant dipshits as well,” she heaved a sigh, eyes focused on the scuffed linoleum floor, “And now my roommate thinks I’m going to kill myself over that old bastard—when I’m not,” she clarified hastily, deciding to leave out the fact she had to get her stomach pumped the night after the funeral. No one needed to know that incident. “And that’s the reason why I am here.”

Silence followed, the circle watching her with heavy hearts and stunned expressions. Rey slouched in on herself, glaring at anyone who made eye contact.

Luckily, no one did.

Clearing his throat, Dr. Andor made the venture to make eye contact. “Rey—have you spoken to anyone about this—about how you feel since your grandfather’s passing?”

Her brows furrowed. “No, why else do you think the fuck I am here? To talk about my shit and my shitty life, like the rest of you shitheads.” Dr. Andor blinked at her, speechless.  “No offense,” she tacked on a second later.

A loud bark of laughter echoed in the room.

Rey whipped her head around to the opposite direction, where Mr. Tol-Prick sat chortling his pants off with no sight of stopping.

“Ben,” Dr. Andor sighed, “this isn’t funny.”

Mr. Tol-Prick—or Ben, as Dr. Andor called him—sat forward from his slump, forearms now braced on his knees as his eyes glinted with weighted mirth.

“Oh, I don’t know. I usually find it humorous when I'm repeatedly called a piece of shit. It makes us humble,” he said with a shrug.

No one else agreed with his comment, choosing to not look his way as well.

Dr. Andor nodded slowly, wisely deciding to not respond to Ben’s comment. Apparently Dr. Andor knew this pattern taking the interruption with stride, well as much stride as anyone could. “Alright, since you disrupted the flow, why don’t you introduce yourself?”

Ben glanced at the faces, resignation on his face. “I am Ben, and I am here because I am the last Skywalker in existence.”

Dr. Andor huffed, his sole focus Ben. “I’d prefer it if you didn’t view it like that—your mother is still around. Isn’t she in remission?”

Ben shook his head, hands rubbing together. “Not for long—just got the call this morning. Cancers back and she’s got about a month, maybe less,” he said nonchalantly, though he was trembling.

From anger or from grief, no one could tell.

After a moment, the man beside him spoke up. “I’m Mitaka…”

And the session continued without any more hiccups, though that did not stop Dr. Andor from cornering her after.

“Rey, this group is specifically for grief—”

“Which I am going through,” she interrupted, arms crossed over her chest.

“Yes, but this is structured for support. A support group, not so much on the therapy side of it all,” he stated slowly, Rey raising her eyebrows for him to continue, “I think you’d benefit from maybe attending our Tuesday night sessions. It is more cognitive therapy. We go on outings, find healthy coping mechanisms together, more of a community for those who are in more a depressive state—”

“I’m not depressed,” she said automatically. “Depressed people… they look sad and shit.”

Dr. Andor watched her carefully for a moment. “When was the last time you slept without the aid of a substance? Alcohol, sleeping pills…”

Rey squirmed, readjusting her crossbody purse.

“…Or the last time you showered?” he asked quietly.

Her eyes snapped to him, firm and harrowing.

Dr. Andor did not flinch, merely viewing her with knowing eyes. “I know all the tricks and ticks, Rey.”

“Fucking hell,” she muttered, snatching the rosy and cheery pamphlet from his hand. “Whatever, I’ll see you on Tuesday.”

She marched out of there with every intention of not returning. She didn’t need help—it’d always been her and her grandfather against the world. They never needed anyone except each other. Going to group therapy felt like admitting failure—that she was a screw up like the rest of the world. That somehow her determined and caring grandfather failed her, didn’t raise her right or give her the right tools to be a fucking adult.

Rey decided as she chucked the pamphlet into the bathroom trash bin, she was not going to that Tuesday session.

That is until Finn saw the damn pamphlet wedged between an empty tampon box and used tissues.

“You are going, Peanut,” he said, towering over her as she sat on the couch.

“No,” she said, wrapping her grandfather’s blue flannel blanket tighter around herself. “It’s full of morons.”

Finn stared hard, chewing on the inside of his cheek before sighing. “If you don’t do it, I’m moving out.”

What?”

He nodded more surely this time, hands on his hips. “I’m moving out if you don’t do this—I can’t be living with someone who is becoming toxic—”

“I’m not toxic!”

“Not now, but you are heading there!” he argued, his voice cracking. He scrubbed his face, faltering back. “Rey, maybe this is selfish, but you are all I got left too.”

“It’s not the same,” she muttered. “You have always been an orphan and I—”

Finn was already walking out the door, grabbing his keys. “I can’t talk to you when you are acting like this—I’m going to Poe’s. Have fun getting drunk again, because I know that’s what you are going to do once I’m gone.”

Before she could respond, the door slammed shut.

Finn was right; she did get drunk.

But she also planned to go to the Tuesday session. She at least owed him that.

 


 

“You’re a Kenobi.”

Half a mini cucumber sandwich in her mouth, Rey turned to see Mr. Tol-Prick—ahem, Ben—standing beside her at the snack table.

Fuck. He was at the Tuesday session too.

Ehuese ne?” she said with her mouth full of cucumber, mayo, and egg?

She gaged a little as the egg and mayo mixed uncomfortably on her tongue.

He sneered. “Are you going to spit that out too?”

Yes.

“No,” she said, swallowing the food stubborn. A rainbow of emotions shadowed her face as she pushed the mini cucumber sandwich down her throat, Ben quirking an eyebrow at her theatrics. Once down and gone, she opened her mouth to him with pride. “See? There—I ate it.”

He didn’t say anything, just taking another bite of his macadamia cookie.

Rolling her eyes, she reached for a Styrofoam cup, about to grab some coffee.

“I wouldn’t do that if I were you,” Ben warned. “It’s always decaf—they don’t want anyone to get amped on caffeine.”

At that, she crumpled the cup in her hand and tossed it in the little bin beside the table. She then took a mini water bottle from the assortment on the table. Peering up at him, she adjusted her glasses higher on her nose and unscrewed her cap.

“How do you know I’m a Kenobi?” she asked, raising an eyebrow. “Not everyone in this town with a British accent is a Kenobi, you know.”

“I was at your grandfather’s funeral,” Ben said simply, dusting his hands off from cookie crumbs.

“I didn’t see you there.”

“Yeah, because you were shit faced,” he remined her, grabbing his own little water bottle. “Everyone knew you were, but no one wanted to say it because it was ‘oh, poor Kenobi girl she’s all alone…again’.”

She ignored the comment, scanning his face. He looked…familiar. Beyond her initial judgement of him on Sunday of tall and honey-brown eyes, Ben held a familiarity she could not place her finger on.

“Why were you at the funeral?”

“Our families were friends,” he explained lightly, fiddling with the unopen water bottle in his hands. “Your grandfather was my grandfather’s foster brother. They always looked out for each other, hell Old Kenobi use to babysit me when I was a kid.”

“I don’t remember you,” she admitted with complete honesty.

“Of course you don’t,” he said with a mirthless chuckle, “Because we never met until now. Our families had a falling out some twenty years ago,” he rolled his honey-brown eyes, lips quirked to the side in distaste, “but hey, it’s really only the two of us now. The last Kenobi and Skywalker,” he clinked their water bottles together, “Here’s to hoping we let their shitty dynasty and genetics die with us.”

He took a sip of his water.

Rey didn’t.

“I’m not fucking toasting to that,” she gritted. “Some of us actually like our families.”

“What family?” he reminded her sharply, “You’re an orphan, like me.”

“You still have your mother,” she said, echoing Dr. Andor’s sentiment from days previous.

He gave her an empty smile. “I’m just trying to get use to the idea, so I don’t end up fucked up like you.”

Rey scoffed. “Oh fuck you.” She marched off, flipping him the bird.

His broad and loud chuckle mocked her as she sat down in one of the five seats set out in the circle. Only another person sat in the circle already, the nice mousey man from the Sunday session, Mitaka.

“Looks like Ben’s in rare form,” he mumbled, taking out a notebook. He glanced at Rey and forced a smile. “He’s not like that all the time. Ben’s actually really cool, the stuff with his mom is just getting to him,” he explained quietly.

“I’ll believe it when I see it,” she declared, pulling out her own notebook.

The session required keeping a journal and Rey had plenty, a newly bought set of bound journals sitting neatly at her desk since before the accident.

After a few moments, Dr. Andor entered smiling at the group and motioning the brooding Ben to join the circle.

Rey tried not to scream when Ben took the seat beside her, when there was a perfectly adequate seat beside Mitaka.

“Nice to see you three,” Dr. Andor greeted, his eyes catching the empty seat in the circle. “Looks like we are just waiting on Kaydel—”

“She’s always late,” Ben announced, glancing at Rey. “Never expect us to start on time.”

Rey frowned, turning to Dr. Andor. “Is there only four of us in this session?”

“I told you it was smaller, more community building,” he said, not really answering the question. “Just give it a try.”

She leaned back into her seat, preparing to tell Finn some outlandish story as to why she couldn’t go back to therapy. Like how the building flooded or how it was really a commune…

He probably wouldn’t buy any of it, but it didn’t stop her imagination from running wild.

“Ben, why don’t you start?” Dr. Andor prompted. “How is the new job going?”

Ben sat up, his journal shut tightly on his thigh. “It’s…going better than expected,” he said, honesty in his tone. “I am still not the biggest fan of kids, but I some of the students are growing on me.”

“I mean, kids are awful, but teenagers?” Mitaka asked. “They are almost adults.”

Ben smirked. “You’d be surprised by some of the crap teenagers try to pull. Let’s just say I am relieved I teach the honors class and no one tries to stir up drama in there because I scare the living shit out of them.”

Both Dr. Andor and Mitaka chuckled at that, while Rey watched on.

“So the question is, are you happier teaching English to eleventh graders or would you prefer to go back and work as an attorney?” Dr. Andor asked.

“I certainly enjoyed my pay as attorney,” Ben stated stiltedly, arms crossed over his broad chest. “But I like arguing with teenagers about Shakespeare more,” he rolled his eyes. “My mom likes the schedule more, I can visit her after work, so she likes the change.”

“You didn’t answer the question,” Dr. Andor pressed sternly.

“Because I don’t have a definite answer yet.” Ben’s gaze drifted away from the group focusing on the linoleum. “I’ll let you know when I do.”

“Alright, I can take that,” Dr. Andor then set his eyes on Mitaka, “How about you? How did the appointment go?”

“Doc wants to switch anti-depressants, but I don’t think I want to? I mean yeah…I guess it would be nice to sleep, but other than that, I’m great,” Mitaka announced earning a snort from Ben.

“At least its not erectile disfunction—it’s shit experiencing that,” Ben commented, before catching Rey’s eye. “Not—not that I have experienced that—”

“Uh, huh. Sure,” she said feeling her lips begging to smirk.

But she didn’t.

Ben huffed, “It was my uncle who had the problem—”

“You know about your uncle’s sex life.”

“No I didn’t, and he’s dead,” he clarified, sharply.

Ignoring the two, Dr. Andor focused on Mitaka. “Maybe you and your doctor can reach a compromise,” he began to explain when the door was thrown open.

A young woman with dirty blonde hair piled up on her head rushed in with a flurry, taking the only other open seat between Ben and Mitaka.

“I’m so sorry I’m late,” the woman rambled out, “My shift—”

“We know,” Dr. Andor nodded in understanding. “Mitaka here was just telling us—”

“No, no, no,” Mitaka blundered out, eyes wide and starry for the woman beside him. “Kaydel can go—how was your exam?” he said with a not so subtle blissful sigh.

Rey glanced at Ben, eyebrow quirked up in question.

Apparently he knew exactly what she was thinking. He nodded slowly, rolling his eyes.

Well, shit. Poor little guy Mitaka was head over heels for blonde, free spirit beauty and she seemed completely unaware. The girl—Kaydel—worked as a yoga instructor at a local gym and had the late shifts due to her class schedule. She was upbeat, smiled, and laughed with gusto. She believed in happy vibes and wore healing stones on her wrists, as well as a cross around her neck. She reminded Rey of a gypsy, but there was something genuine about her. As though she wanted others to be satisfied and joyful despite the downfalls of life.

Rey could not believe a sunshine human like her was sitting amongst a group of dysfunctional and depressed mourners.

That was until Dr. Andor did his prying—“Your anniversary is coming up, any plans how you are going to spend the day?”

Her joyful face darkened, lips firmly in a silent pout.

She shrugged. “It’s been two years,” a smile rose then fell instantaneously from her lips, “my girlfriend of four years died—what do you expect me to do? I thought I was going to marry her.”

Dr. Andor didn’t say anything, understanding shining in his eyes.

“Well… you can spend time with friends, family—”

“My family doesn’t talk to me since I came out,” she glanced at Rey, “I’m bi—my family disowned me like a not potato when I finally told them,” she explained quickly before turning back to Dr. Andor, “And friends? I don’t have friends,” she said with a water chuckle. “They all abandoned me when I went off the deep end—”

“If you need someone to call, you can call me,” Ben offered monotonously. “I’ll probably be with my mom, but she doesn’t mind the company. In fact, she thrives in it.”

“Oh Ben, your mom—How is Leia?” Kaydel immediately switched topics, not going unnoticed by anyone in the circle.

Rey saw Dr. Andor make note of it out of the corner of her eye.

Apparently he really was keeping tabs and monitoring the discussion. Go figure—for a moment she thought she willingly joined a cult.

“It’s back. Going to kill her this time,” he answered not caving into the caring tones of Kaydel. Instead he remained unattached.

Dr. Andor cleared his throat.

“But, in the face of all negativity I remain hopeful,” he said stiltedly, reciting words he must have memorized for Dr. Andor’s sake. “Because we need hope to live,” he finished off, dragging out the last phrase.

“Rey,” Dr. Andor brought his attention to her, the three other set of eyes following suit, “Why don’t you tell us about your average day?”

Her eyes darted between the four faces—Dr. Andor’s patient and kind eyes, Mitaka’s puppy dog curiosity, Kaydel’s muted yet intrigued gaze, and Ben’s…

Ben’s open, honest honey-brown eyes.

Rey looked away, coughing into her shoulder. She peeked back up at Dr. Andor. “In front of everyone?”

“We are here to be a support, there isn’t judgement—”

“Beyond the usual,” Ben muttered, earning a nudge from Kaydel and whispers to ‘shut up’.

Dr. Andor nodded at her. “You can start where ever you see fit.”

Rey swallowed, unsure of where to look. She decided on the painting across from her, a pinkish-purple sunset.

“Uh…I…I um…” she squeezed her hands together, “I use to go to visit my grandfather in the mornings where I would work on whatever piece I was given—I’m a ghostwriter…” she trailed off, remembering she had a deadline coming in the next few weeks and nowhere near finished. “But then I worked in the afternoons at my grandfather’s bookshop.” And she needed to still pay rent. The landlord was cutting her slack since Kenobi’s passing but she could only use the grieving card for so long before she received an eviction notice. “He loved that place—it was where so many writers got their start, letting them use the space to think creatively and use the work rooms and…”she closed her eyes, taking a shaky breath, “I’d trade off shifts with Finn—he’s my roommate—he’d take the mornings and I’d take afternoons because he wanted to visit his boyfriend whenever he could.”

She paused, licking her lips.

“Then I’d close up shop, go back to visit grandfather. Make him dinner, make sure he had his medication. Clean up the house a bit, then go home…and do the same thing again.”

Silence fell over the group as Dr. Andor wrote notes into his legal pad.

“It sounds like your grandfather was an integral part of your life,” the therapist said softly. “Did you do much without him?”

“Yeah…but then he got sick and I sped through school and,” she shrugged, still not looking at anyone, “I focused on him because he was all I had left.”

“And how are your days now?” Dr. Andor ventured.

Ben shifted beside her, while Kaydel and Mitaka waiting patiently.

“I get up when I wake up…which is sometimes noon,” she winced, “or sometimes three in the morning or five in the afternoon—I don’t work a nine to five job, and Finn takes care of the bookshop…so there is no need to really get up or do anything besides write or…” she shook her head, realizing how empty and despondent her life became from her grandfather’s absence.

She simply stopped speaking there.

She wasn’t too sure how much time had passed until a voice spoke up.

“Dr. Andor, it’s almost nine,” Mitaka reminded the therapist, “Do you want to do weekly challenges?”

“Right,” he nodded to the young man, flipping through his notepad. “Mitaka, your homework it speak with your doctor, see if you can reach compromise and remember—you are the patient. Your voice matters,” he then turned to Kaydel, “Find someone to be with on the anniversary. It doesn’t have to be Ben or anyone who knows, just someone. You shouldn’t be alone.” His eyes landed on Ben, “Be kind to your mother. She doesn’t have much time left; make these moments matter.”

The three murmured different responses, Dr. Andor dismissing them as he turned to Rey. He waited until the three left the room to speak.

“I need you to find something to add to your routine,” he said with little room for argument.

She huffed, “Like what?”

“Something simple to add—like going to the gym, or taking up a class. Getting a part time job…something to break up the sleeping and writing routine you apparently have.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“I smell the alcohol on you,” he said bluntly, standing up from his chair. “I don’t want to smell that on you again when you come here. One of the other members has a substance abuse problem. And while I don’t think you are quite there yet…” he sighed deeply, “I don’t want you to ever be there.”

Throat dry, she nodded, picking up her purse. “Alright, I’ll… try.”

“That’s all I ask,” he said with understanding.

Rey ignored the guilt gnawing at her as she left the building, taking two steps at a time as she rushed down the stoop stairs.

“Whoa roadrunner,” Ben’s voice called out as she speed past him. She ignored him as she ambled down the street, head down. Before she knew it, a pair of long legs began to match her pace easily.  “I know therapy sometimes sucks, but it get worse before it gets better.”

She slowed down a fraction, glancing up at him. “And you’re an expert?”

He tilted his head side to side, mulling over the question. “Not an expert, but amateur enthusiast.”

Rolling her eyes, she started to take the steps up the train stop, Ben still beside her. “I can see how you were an attorney.”

“Fucking hated it, but I was good at it,” he shook his head as though embarrassed by his previous profession. “That’s the thing, just because you are good at something, doesn’t mean you need to like it.”

Rey ignored how true the sentiment rang in her ears. Standing at the train stop, the air picked up, rustling through their hair and clothes. Yet no train appeared in sight.

“This one always runs late,” Ben explained once he noticed she was looking at the schedule. “I take it all the time; it stops for small layover and they never work it into the schedule because they think they will always make time.” He paused, peering down at her. “They never do, and it is a never ending cycle of lateness for all those who take the 745.”

Rey choose not to interact, glancing at her watch.

“He asked you to add something to your routine, right?” Ben asked, zipping up his jacket.

Her head snapped up at the correct observation, her eyes narrowing. “Yes…how did you know?”

“He tells everyone that after their first session,” he shoved his hands into his pockets. “He’d be happy with anything,” he advised lightly.

“What did you add to your routine?”

“I got a dog,” he answered with a big grin. “I love that beast, my best friend. Gets me up in the morning even when I feel like shit, forces me to take him on walks and feed him because it’s not just me I got to keep alive now, it’s another living thing.” His entire face brightened at the mention of his dog, almost boyish in unbridled joy.

Oddly enough, Rey found herself envious of such joy.

“Isn’t that what mother’s say when it comes to taking care of children?” she quipped. “Are you motherly Ben?”

“As motherly as a bird.”

She frowned. “But birds are motherly.”

He raised his eyebrows up in shock, “You call shoving your baby birds from your nest motherly? Birds are fucking vicious and I will not believe otherwise,” he said with the utmost conviction.

A traitorous snort escaped her, Rey muffling it behind her hand. “It’s to teach them how to fly.”

“It’s to kill them because mama bird is tired of vomiting her food to feed some ungrateful, squawking aliens,” he argued with great ferocity, causing more chuckles to spill from Rey.

“That’s not how mother nature works—”

“Fuck mother nature,” he shouted, earning a curious glance from a couple passing by. “I don’t really mean ‘fuck mother nature’—” he attempted to call out, but the two were already gone. He turned back to Rey, a forced frown on his lips. “See what you made me do? You made me look like an idiot in front of strangers I will never see again in my life. First impression—gone like that,” he snapped his fingers.

“You are now speaking gibberish,” she declared shaking her head as her chuckles died.

He peered down at her with a ghost of smile. “Yeah, but it made you laugh.”

She didn’t smile at that observation.

“It’s not a bad thing to laugh when you are grieving.”

“Do you laugh? Mr. Last of the Skywalkers?” she implored darkly, not in the mood for chuckles and silliness anymore.

“Yes,” he answered slowly, “on Sunday, when this new person in therapy announced she only came to talk about her shit and her shitty life with a bunch of shitheads.”

She cringed, nose scrunching up. “Did I actually say that?”

“Yup.”

“For the record, I was still fighting a hangover.”

“Do not find an excuse for those exquisite words and observations,” he insisted earnestly. “Sometimes we need someone to come in and tell us the truth.”

The whistle of the train sounded down the track, it rumble humming the floor with vibrations.

“I think therapy is selfish,” she declared.

Ben didn’t react visibly, his lips barely twitching. “Of course it is. It is people who come to talk about their problems and seeking ways to figure out how to function in their own brain.”

The train came to a stop, its doors opening. Ben waved for her to go first, Rey entering the car. She heard Ben stepping in after her, following her lead. She sat down only a couple feet away from the door, Ben taking the spot beside her.

She turned to him, stuffing her hands into her pockets. “If you think it is selfish, why are you in it?”

He blinked at her like she was stupid. “For the obvious reason—I’m selfish,” he answered simply.

She tried her best to not huff and puff at his answer—she was getting annoyed with his cheekiness. This arsehole apparently knew how to get under her skin after spending less than two hours with her and he thought he was high and mighty because of it.

She didn’t have time for this shit.

As though sensing her thoughts, Ben spoke up again, his words as sure and sharp as before. “Believe it or not, I actually want to be happy in this fucked up life. Call it selfish, or whatever, but I think…I think it’s really survival.” He swallowed, his Adams apple bobbing, his eyes focusing on everything and nothing at the same time. “I was never taught how to survive, so I think it’s about damn time I figure it out rather than flying by the seat of my pants.”

“That’s a thought,” was all she said, looking away from his honey-brown eyes.

Silence fell between the two as the train shifted and swayed to it’s next destination. Yet Rey felt like talking for once in her life, and to talk to the idiot sitting beside her.

Well she shouldn’t really call him an idiot. Ben was intelligent to the point she felt like the insensitive idiot, but for some reason she wanted to know more about him despite knowing it

“Our grandfather’s were friends?” she asked to fill the silence.

“Yup.”

More silence ensued, Rey’s eyes darting between Ben and the window of Takodana passing by.

“Were you fond of your grandfather?” she found herself asking.

Ben blinked. “For a moment…until I realized I never knew him.”

“I don’t know if I was fond of mine,” she said quietly. “But I think they were fond of each other.”

“I…think since we are the last of such wonderful men,” he said drenched in disdain, “we should look out for each other.”

He held his hand out for a shake.

Her eyes flickered up to his palm then his honey-brown gaze.

“I don’t like you,” she declared frankly, “I don’t think I’ll ever like you.”

He winced a little, but still held his hand out. “I don’t think I like you either, but it’s a shitty world with shitty people. Might as well watch out for the decent ones.”

Begrudgingly, she shook his hand.

“Fine, but only because our families were friends.”

She didn’t know Ben, but maybe she owed it to her grandfather to try and get to know the family he held on such a pedestal.

Maybe she’d understand him.