Fridays were laundry days.
His mother had told him to get himself on a routine, that everything else would come a bit easier. Scheduling chores for certain days was the easiest first step Ben Solo could take, his eyes flickering to the elevator’s floor listing before bumping the ‘up’ button with the laundry basket, listening to the hum of the machinery as the doors opened.
Tuesday was garbage day; Wednesday was vacuuming; Thursday was for bathrooms, and Friday was for laundry. Sure, sometimes his little terror necessitated an extra trip, but that was fine. Matt liked trips to the basement laundry room, and he loved riding the elevator with his daddy.
Ben glanced at his son, smiling despite himself at how his pudgy faced mini-me seemed intent on drooling and babbling at his teddy bear, focused on that instead of his father’s movements. The stuffed animal was worn, the fur rubbed down to a nubby-softness that reminded Ben of his own baby blanket, and even though his mother insisted that he replace it, he never would. It was the only thing Matt had of his mother’s and Ben figured that, if the kid had to have his ears, he could have the bear as long as he damn well pleased.
Matt’s grandmother would often coo about how smart and precocious he was, but Ben also had those words used to describe him at this age, and he understood it to mean that his son was a little shit, but a very cute one. Why else would his son insist on pitching his toys to the floor for fun, squalling with terror and then squealing with delight when it was retrieved?
The pediatrician, Dr. Mothma, had assured him that this play was typical for a one-year-old, but sometimes Ben saw the glint in his son’s eyes and wondered if he had fathered a future villain.
On that front though, today was a good day. Matt had only “dropped Mr. Bear once today, and truly on accident, during their second round-trip from their third floor apartment to the basement. Ben had been able to work from home today, which made naptime just a bit harder, since Matt wanted to extend playtime as long as he could. He was a few months shy of being a year and a half, and that meant he was in the “cruising” stage: unable to walk on his own without the support of a hand or furniture to cling to, but once that need was met, he was a little speedster.
Ben loved his son to pieces, but sometimes he honestly wondered if the kid was sapping his energy, his hair sticking up oddly since Matt’s naptime had doubled as his own naptime. It was fine, though-- he had no one to impress, especially on laundry day, where sweatpants and an old t-shirt from college were the norm.
Hell, Matt was still in his pajamas, and neither of the Solo boys cared, thank you very much.
Ben looked to his son again now as the little one wriggled in his arms, and he sighed. That could only mean two things: either Matt was just getting comfortable and was innocent, or some mischief was afoot. Seeing that he contributed to the little man’s DNA, Ben knew what was more likely.
His eyes flickered to the elevator’s floor lights. They had barely gotten to the ground floor.
“Matt, if you drop your bear, Daddy can’t pick it up till later.” Ben didn’t even have to look down to know that his son was looking at him with a mischievous twinkle in his brown eyes. He shifted the toddler’s weight more squarely to his hip, laundry basket balanced on the other side.
The kid was definitely a Solo, taking the moment to strike, throwing the bear down with a gleeful yell. Ben sighed, looked at his son.
“Uh-oh.” For not being able to say much yet, Matt certainly knew the right words for certain situations.
“Yeah. Uh-oh,” Ben echoed, the elevator doors shuddering as they opened now, the apartment building’s lobby in view.
From his conversations with Dr. Mothma, Ben knew that it was typical for 15-month-olds to be able to recognize people they knew, and react to people that they didn’t. He knew babbling was typical, as well as wanting to give affection.
So for his son to pitch forward with a happy cry at the sight of the young woman who was waiting on the other side of the elevator doors should have been expected, right?
Maybe. Because, well, he didn’t recognize her, didn’t know her. If he did, he would kick himself, because, dear God, who could forget a face like hers ?
Her face was dappled with freckles, the light smile on her face was sweet, and her hazel eyes were wide with surprise at Matt’s reaction.
Ben’s laundry was on the floor, and he didn’t remember dropping it. It makes sense that he did-- his son just tried to stage an escape by flinging himself at a (very cute) woman, and he needed two hands to catch him. His boxers be damned, there were more important things at stake.
The young woman was gaping at them, and really, Ben didn’t blame her. How else can one react when a baby, still dressed in spaceship pajamas, tries to throw himself at you and his father has to catch him, all while he’s dressed in stained sweatpants and a faded “Chandrila U” shirt that may or may not be ripped?
Honestly, the fact that she wasn’t stepping back and insisting that she’ll wait for the next one was a miracle. The doors were starting to close, and if she wanted, she could just let them close on this odd tableu. No harm, no foul.
Instead, she jutted her arm out, the doors halting and springing back apart. In a moment, she was standing beside him, punching the button for the fourth floor, a fact that he tried not to tuck away for later. Ben hoped that his relieved sigh didn’t give him away, not that she could have heard it anyways. Matt was back to squealing and babbling at the woman like she was a long-lost friend.
“What’s his name?”
Ben isn’t sure that she actually spoke-- maybe, just maybe, he hit his head when he caught his son, and he’s hallucinating-- but a glance at her blushing cheeks and he realizes that she did actually blurt the question out.
“I’m sorry, that’s kind of rude of m--”
“Matt. His name is Matt.” Ben shifts the tot onto his hip again, offers his hand to shake before he can stop himself. “I’m Ben.”
“Ben.” She repeats his name warmly, her gaze the same, and he could maybe live in this moment for the rest of the weekend. Then her eyes shift, and she’s grinning at his still gurgling son. “And Matt. I’m Rey.”
Her hand is warm in his and he doesn’t want to let go, but Matt has other plans, pitching himself forward again. This time though, Rey’s hands are up and out, and she catches the little daredevil, hands under his armpits. Ben is still cradling Matt’s bottom, and he swears that he can feel Rey’s breath on his face as she giggles nervously.
“I can hold him or grab your laundry. Whatever’s easiest.”
Right. His laundry. Shit.
“He seems to like you better than he’s ever liked me,” Ben jokes, wondering if he lost all of his charm when Matt was born. He swore he knew how to talk to women before-- that’s how he ended up with a kid, for god’s sake.
“I can’t imagine why.” Her tone is sincere, and he’s blinking at her dumbly, all too used to those four words with a sarcastic lilt to them. She’s still smiling at him though, and Matt is the happiest he’s ever been, gently smacking his hand on Rey’s leather jacket, delighting in the odd texture and sound.
His mother would probably panic with how easily Ben is trusting this stranger, but if Matt approves, that’s enough for him. His kid seemed to have good taste when it came to people, and he wasn’t just saying that because Rey was pretty, or because he cried when his godfather Armitage held him for the first time.
With Matt securely in Rey’s arms, Ben stoops, quickly shoving the wrinkled shirts and onesies back into his basket. He gives thanks to whatever deity is smiling down at him, this load not including any of his briefs, having done his dark load earlier.
“He really likes colors, huh?” Rey’s question has him jerking his head up, and he flushes at the reason behind it, the front of her shirt spattered with various shades and hues. He thinks it’s paint, and he quickly averts his gaze when he realizes that the blue blob his son is scratching at is a handprint-- and directly on her right breast.
“Yeah. He really likes the color blue.”
It’s possibly the most idiotic thing he’s ever said, and he once told the barber to cut his hair short. His ears burned with embarrassment, and he hopes that her laughter isn’t out of politeness or pity.
“Him and one of my students. I swear, I’m usually not such a mess.” She’s sweeping a hand down at her shirt, Matt cuddled snugly at her side, perched on her hip. “One of the kindergartners got to first base today, and honestly, little Matt here is reminding me why I like working with kids.”
She’s grinning at him, and Ben straightens up, his returning smile almost shy. “Teacher?”
“Yeah, over at Naboo Elementary. I teach art and music.”
Of course she works for the nice private school. Ben is aware of Naboo, and how unnecessarily competitive their preschool was. Sure, Matt was only one, but Ben couldn’t ask his parents to babysit forever. He frowned at the thought, listening to the elevator ping as they ascended another level.
“I know that look,” Rey sighed, and Ben looked at her again, her lips tugged up at the corner in a flustered smile, as if she could see the sleepless nights he had spent, rocking Matt to sleep as he scrolled through preschool options. “If it makes you feel better, I can probably put in a good word when Matt applies. I’m one of the dean’s favorites.”
He gaped at her, the elevator chiming again, this time announcing their arrival to his floor. “You hardly know us,” he blurted, adjusting the laundry basket and his grip, preparing to take Matt back.
She leaned forward, hands still hovering protectively as she transferred Matt back into Ben’s waiting arms. Her cheeks still seemed flushed, and she seemed to be struggling with words.
He didn’t blame her-- she probably was trying to think of a tactful way to rescind the promise, made in a moment of baby fever.
Instead, she smiled at him and shrugged as the elevator doors rushed open. “I have a good feeling about it.”
He nodded slowly, stepping gingerly out of the elevator, Matt whining as he did. I’m sad about it too, kid, he thought, wishing his son could read minds, if but for a second. Instead, he nods at Rey again, politeness winning out over his personal disappointment, his smile maybe a bit pained, a bit awkward.
“Okay. Have a good night, Rey.”
“You too, Ben.” She’s still smiling, but he’s sure that the look is directed at Matt, her words now a coo. “Bye-bye, Matt. Bye-bye!”
Despite his whining, Matt perks up, his chubby little arm raising as he tried to wave back. Maybe it served Ben right that his son accidentally smacked him in the face with his wild arm, but he wouldn’t read into it.
The doors close, and Ben is three steps towards his apartment when he glances down at his laundry basket and realizes that Mr. Bear is not among the wrinkled clothes. However, Matt hasn’t noticed, and so he feigns calmness, mindlessly answering his son’s babbling with his own.
“Oh, I know. I know, Matt. You’re so right…”
He just hopes that Fate will intercede sooner than later and he can get Mr. Bear back. And see Rey again. Maybe even both.
He lets himself smile at the thought, and then his son is tugging at his goatee. “Ow, fuck, Matt. Wait. Shit. No-- fudge. I said fudge. Okay, Matt? Daddy didn’t swear.”
“Ah!” Matt replied, and even though Ben didn’t speak babble, he knew the word for “Bullshit!” in any language.
Despite the absence of Mr. Bear, Matt went down easy that night, prattling at the baby monitor for a few minutes before passing out. Ben considered his empty apartment, huffing a sigh as he collapsed on his couch.
According to everyone he seemed to meet, being a single parent was the hardest thing Ben Solo would ever do. No one particularly cared to share what would be the hardest aspect of it when they offered their well-meaning opinion, and in some fairness, the difficulty level shifted every day.
For instance, a month ago, the hardest part of single parenting was living in a studio apartment with a fussy one-year-old who preferred to smear his mashed peas into a Jackson Pollock-esque mess than eat them. (That had been partly Ben’s fault-- he had started Matthew on peaches and sweet potatoes when they shifted to solids, and Leia had warned him that, if the apple fell as close to the tree as she thought, little Matt wouldn’t touch peas or carrots if he could help it.)
Then, when they moved into their new, bigger apartment, the hardest part was figuring out how to set up a livable space for himself and a child with the nonexistent free time he had. He had managed to babyproof everything one afternoon while his mother visited, bouncing Matt on her knee as Ben secured cabinets, softened edges, covered the hardwood floor with area rugs.
Some days, the work-life balance was the hardest, with Ben sometimes not getting out of the office until 9 o’clock or later. He was lucky to have his job-- he had been able to take paid time off when Matt was born, a luxury that other engineering firms hadn’t offered. Still, he felt like he was trying to make up for the time gone, even though the idea of being absent for any part of his son’s life had him gritting his teeth.
It was a good job though-- he earned enough for this new apartment, more than enough to provide for himself and his son, and he had a great head start on Matt’s college fund. Still, there was always something that weighed on him extra heavily when he would trudge up the walkway to his parents’ house to pick up his son.
Which brought up the hardest part of single parenting, in his opinion: the fact that he was doing it alone.
He usually managed to not think about it, but sometimes he slipped. Maybe someone asked about Matt’s mother, or maybe, just maybe, he shared an elevator with a woman who Matt probably would have called “Mama” if he knew what a mama was.
Ben shook his head, frowned at his blank tv. In a moment, he was up off the couch, leaving his front door unlocked as he ventured into the hall. The elevator chimed at him, and his foot was tapping wildly now.
“C’mon, c’mon,” he muttered, two seconds away from crossing his fingers like a little kid. He already knew what he would-- or wouldn’t-- see as the doors slid open.
No Mr. Bear… and definitely no Rey. He growled at himself, ran a hand through his hair, making the defeated walk back to his apartment. It was fine. Matt had other stuffed animals to hold, to play with. He would stop by the apartment’s reception first thing Monday, check the lost and found.
When he drifted off on the couch, tv set low, some rerun of Friends or Seinfeld murmuring in the background, Ben tried not to think of that smile, those hazel eyes.
A floor above, a bedroom light clicked off for the night, a certain stuffed animal laid carefully on her kitchen table.
Forgive any formatting issues; I'm posting from my phone 😅. Thank you for reading, and enjoy!
Mondays are for music.
Rey is just about done setting up different music stations around the large room when she hears the laughter and chattering of the next class coming in. Her lips curl into a smile, and she all but dumps the maracas into the last pile as her co-teacher, Poe, leads a line of children into the room.
It's a lucky thing to have a teaching partner like Poe. He takes charge on music days, and she takes the wheel on art days. Kids need routine and to see the same faces doing the same things, and she was more than happy to be a familiar face at Naboo Elementary.
Poe's marching like a drum major, his steps large and silly, hamming it up for all the kids who follow, two by two, behind him. He must have told them to 'walk this way' at the end of the hallway, the kids giggling as they try to match their teacher's strides. At the end of the parade is Rose, or Miss Tico as her students call her, holding hands with one of the class wallflowers.
If Poe was marching, Rose is waddling, but no one dares say anything or copy her movements. She's eight months pregnant, after all, and she hadn't let anyone forget it.
Really, it's all Rose's fault that Rey is baby-crazy at the moment. Maybe it's secondhand excitement, maybe it's stress induced, or maybe her ovaries have finally gotten the better of her-- bottom line though, Rey had baby fever.
She had to physically restrain herself from buying any little booties or onesies she found, because, sure Rose and Finn appreciated baby clothes, but there's only so many outfits their twins would be able to wear.
She found herself reading "What To Expect When You're Expecting" from cover to cover, and she'd be lying if she said she didn't have the follow up books about the first year and toddlers in her Amazon cart. (She'd tell you that she was screening them for Rose, but Rose was too much of a free spirit to go by a book.)
But above all, her baby fever manifested in an inability to resist smiling or cooing at any child under the age of two. So, of course, to find out that she lived a floor above an adorable baby boy, and to have gotten the chance to hold him...well, it had made her whole damn week.
She shimmied her way to Rose's side, the kids dancing as Poe lead them through what they called "wiggle time." Maybe it was silly, but having the kids dance off their energy before getting to the lesson was something Poe swore by, and Rey was nothing if not a believer in his methods.
Besides, it was easier to remember why you liked teaching when the kids are too out of breath to do anything but follow directions.
"How are you feeling, Mama?" Rey murmured to Rose, Poe clapping his hands as the kids scurried to sit down.
"It feels like the twins want to do wiggle time too," Rose huffed, looking to her stomach. "Finn thinks they're just getting ready to be soccer players."
"Of course he does. He's a gym teacher, for pity's sake," Rey teased, her friend wrinkling her nose at her.
"Still, I'll be happy when they're kicking something besides my bladder."
Teaching while pregnant was something Rey wasn't sure how Rose did. Rose insisted that, if her first graders were anything less than the angels they were, she'd have been on maternity leave since the twins' conception. However, she was still here, despite Poe's jokes that Rose was begging to give birth in the school hallway at this rate.
Rey smirked to herself at the joke, shaking her head now as Rose nudged her. "Earth to Reyna. Come in, Reyna."
"Did you say something, Rose?" Music class was maybe not the best place to have a conversation, especially with the rising cacophony as the kids experimented with percussion instruments, Poe encouraging them to find a rhythm to go with his guitar strumming.
"I asked if you saw that one guy again. Y'know, the one you told me about on Friday."
"Do you mean Matt? He's hardly a guy-- I think he's like only a year old? He still has the new baby smell," Rey gushed.
Rose rolled her eyes, huffed a laugh. "I wasn't talking about the baby, Reyna. I was talking about his dad. "
"Ben," Rey corrected, her cheeks warming. Despite herself, she glanced at her tote bag, the slightest bit of a teddy bear ear poking out of it. She felt crazy for carrying it around all weekend, and into today, but fate and timing were funny things, she figured.
Rose followed her gaze, shaking her head now. "You didn't drop the teddy bear off at lost and found?"
"I figured that I'd see him again last weekend so I thought to hold onto it," she shrugged, Rose's chuckle indulgent. What else could she be, having listened to Rey squeal about how cute a certain baby-- and his father-- was for at least an hour on Friday.
"I mean, fair enough, but what then? Do you have a plan once you run into Ben again?"
Well. She had Rey there.
In the time she spent thinking about the literal daddy she met in her building elevator, she'd admit that formulating a plan wasn't part of any of it. Her thoughts had been ping-ponging back and forth between such things as He's probably married to He wasn't wearing a ring though to Matt probably makes it so Ben doesn't wear jewelry that often ...and so on.
There was no way that a baby as cute as Matt didn't have a mother, and there was no way that a man as handsome as Ben wasn't married. She had said as much to Rose, and unfortunately, Rose agreed.
Then why on Earth was Rey holding on to that bear then?
Hope, maybe. That, or sheer stupidity.
At first, when he stepped off the lift, she thought of running after him and returning the bear. But she had seen it too late, and she only just found out that he lived on the third floor. She may think him and his son adorable, but no one was adorable enough to go and knock on a whole floor's worth of doors just to possibly be seen as a weirdo.
She thought she'd see Ben this weekend-- it had been nice out, and she wondered if he'd go and take Matt for a trip to the park. (She also wondered what he was up to in general, but that confession was between her and Rose, who now seemed more intent on tapping her feet to the musical chaos around them than getting an outline of how Rey planned to get over her little crush.)
It was fine, she soothed herself, grinning as she joined the clapping, sharing a grin with Rose. She could drop the bear off at lost and found and go on with her life.
Ben and Matt had probably already forgotten about her, the messy teacher from the fourth floor with a little blue paint handprint on her favorite white shirt. After all, Matt probably was still developing object permanence (she tried not to imagine playing peek-a-boo with the tot, but it was hard to not imagine such an adorable thing), and Ben…
Well, Ben was a dad and presumably a very busy one. He didn't have time for someone like her.
That was okay. Rey giggled with Rose as Poe strummed his guitar, singing some song about the planets, all but howling, "Ouuuuuterrrr Spaaaacce," much to the amusement of the kids.
Rey had a good life, good friends, a good job. She didn't need a relationship or a baby right now. (She wouldn't mind having both though, especially if they happened to come in the form of the cute elevator guy and his babbling baby.)
She hadn't planned on staying so late after school, all but dragging herself into the elevator as it chimed and opened. There was a concert tomorrow night at the high school, and so she had been enlisted by her high school counterpart, Phasma, to set it all up.
Rey really didn't mind spending extra time at school-- after all, her life basically revolved around her students and coworkers-- but it still stung when 6:30 p.m. rolled around and Phasma apologized. "You probably had a date like I did and are missing out."
No. No, she didn't. That wasn't Phasma's fault, even though she apologized a million times when she spied the forced smile on Rey's face. (She still didn't see the merit of the rumors that Phasma was cold, indifferent or anything that some of the other teachers claimed, but that was another thing entirely.)
It was 7:06 now, and all Rey wanted to do was get into her sweatpants and curl up with some cooking show or something of the like. Maybe, just maybe, once she was done hosting her pity party for one, she could make her shopping list for Rose's surprise baby shower.
She leaned against the back wall of the elevator, heaving a sigh and closing her eyes for a second. The elevator doors started to close, and she cracked her eyes open now at the sound.
And spied the very panicked face of her downstairs neighbor.
"Hold the door!"
Matt was in Ben's arms, giggling and shrieking with glee, unaware that his father was only running to catch an elevator, not for fun.
Rey lunged forward, throwing her arm in the closing gap between the doors. It was the second time she had risked her limbs just to share an elevator with Matt and his dad, and she wondered if she should be reevaluating her priorities.
Then Ben stepped into the elevator, wearing a suit and carrying a grinning Matt, and Rey was absolutely positive that she had her priorities right. She was sure that, if one listened close enough, they could hear the sound of her ovaries screaming in excitement.
Jesus Christ. She'd have to get Phasma a gift card for her next date just to thank her for holding Rey over at school and giving her the chance to have this moment.
She looked up now to find Ben's eyes on her and she flushed. She was dressed much nicer than she had been on Friday but not by much, her collared shirt dress wrinkled and her soft blue cardigan falling off her shoulders.
Still, Matt seemed to approve, cooing at her and reaching his little sticky hands out towards her. "Uh, uh!"
"You're already up, Matt," Ben scolded, glancing at Rey with a small smile. "Sorry. He's a bit spoiled."
"It's fine, really," Rey grinned, shrugging her cardigan back on and tugging the sleeves over her hands before offering one to Matt. The baby's eyes widened almost comically as he brushed his fingers on the soft fabric, breaking out into excited babble before turning away and planting his face into his father's shoulder.
Ben's laugh was loud, his grin infectious and Rey stood there, incredibly aware how hard her heart was beating now. If she had hoped to get over her little crush...well, she didn't have that hope anymore. And that was fine by her.
The elevator's doors had long closed by now, and it chimed at them, reminding them that they were ascending. "Crap," Rey muttered, quickly pressing the button for the third floor.
"You remembered," Ben murmured, and she turned to him, surprised to find his awed face, his smile soft, his eyes warm.
"Of course!" She replied, shifting her weight from foot to foot, feeling her heart flip-flop in time. Go on, say something clever. Make conversation!
"Is your wife waiting on you guys?"
Good one, Rey. Really great. She wondered if it'd be too obvious that she was embarrassed if she got out on the second floor, but instead she forced a smile.
Ben's brow furrowed, and suddenly he was focusing solely on Matt's little face. "No, no, nothing like that. It's...ah, just me and him."
"Oh my god, I'm so sorry. When did she pass?" Great, Rey, his wife is dead and you're the asshole who reminded him. Killing it. Wait, shit, no.
"Oh, god, no. She's still alive," Ben chuckled, running his free hand through his hair. "She just didn't want to stick around."
"Oh… I'm still sorry." Rey adjusted her grip on her messenger bag, unsure of what to say now. It wasn't exactly polite to sigh in relief when finding out that the cute dad in her building was single.
At least, seemed to be.
"It's not your fault," Ben countered, shrugging and hoisting Matt up a bit higher in his arms. "Honestly, you're the first woman I've had a conversation with that isn't my mother or Matt's doctor."
Oh, thank God, he actually was single. She could think about him without guilt-- and she definitely would be, with how good he looked in that suit. Rey let herself peek at his arms and sighed.
"Well, I'm flattered." She grinned at him, and he grinned back, raising his eyebrow at her.
"Y'know, if you wa--" The elevator's chime cut him off, and he looked up, annoyed. Matt yelped at him, and he sighed now.
"Yeah, buddy, this is our stop." He looked at Rey apologetically. "See you around?"
"I'll be here," she chirped back, and wondered where her brain had went. I'll be here? Really? 'Yeah, hi Ben, you're so cute that I'm tempted to move into the elevator so I always see you and Matt. Is that chill?' Idiot.
Still, Ben smiled at her as he stepped off the elevator, and Matt was whining and reaching for her, so maybe she hadn't messed up.
The doors started to close again, and it was as if her mind started working again.
"Ben, wait!" Rey kicked her leg out, watching the doors spring back again. Third time risking her limbs for a guy. Great.
He was looking back at her curiously, and she rooted around in her tote bag, finally coming back up with a triumphant grin.
"You dropped this on Friday."
Ben gaped at her now, and Matt shrieked gleefully, reaching out for the teddy bear. Rey cooed at the toddler, handing it back and watching the tot smash his face against the stuffed animal.
She glanced up, still smiling, surprised at how serious Ben was looking at her. "I could honestly kiss you right now."
"W-what?" Oh, she was definitely blushing now, and he was too.
"Oh, fuck. I mean, shit. No, fudge. Darn it," Ben muttered, shaking his head at himself as his son laughed. "That came across weird. I'm just really grateful. He really loves Mr. Bear."
"I don't blame him. Mr. Bear seems like a great cuddler. Not as great as me, but…" She trailed off, shook her head. "Wow, my brain is mush and I can't believe I said that. I'm so sorry."
"It's okay. Really." His smile was kind, but she was sure he was just saying it to be nice.
"I'll see you around, Ben. Bye-bye, Matt."
The toddler waved back at her, babbling again, Mr. Bear nearly falling from his arms again.
In a moment, the pair were walking away, to their apartment, and Rey turned back to the elevator, sighing as she punched the up button. "Great job, Niima," she muttered, shaking her head at herself.
Ben wondered if Rey was still in the hall, if she'd hear him hitting his head in his front door. "'I could honestly kiss you right now?' Who the hell says that!?"
Matt looked up at his father and then pointed at him, smile wide.
Ben sighed. "Yeah, you're right, buddy. Dammit."
This chapter is just a tad bit shorter than the others, but not that much. Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU for reading. I'm still gobsmacked by the response to the fic, and so so so grateful.
Grocery shopping didn’t have a special day on the Ben Solo schedule yet. Hypothetically, he could save the trip for Saturdays, but spending one of his few days off in a supermarket with an overwhelmed Matt was the closest thing to hell that he had ever been, and he would not be making that mistake again, thank you.
Ben didn’t blame his son for disliking grocery shopping-- the fluorescent lights were always too bright, people were always rude, and there was at least a 76% chance of running into someone you’d really rather not when your child was already crying and had been due for a diaper change since you got into the checkout line.
He frowned at the thought, squinting at the selection of carrots and baby spinach before glancing at his watch. It was almost 7:30 at night, which wasn’t a problem-- Matt was safe at his grandparents’, probably getting spoiled to pieces.
Ben weighed the pros and cons of having Matt spend the night at Han and Leia’s, and he’d be lying if one of the pros wasn’t “I wouldn’t have to talk to my mom about my crush.”
He had seen the curious look in his mother’s eyes at the reappearance of Mr. Bear on Tuesday morning, and he had ducked out of the house before she could open her mouth and properly interrogate him. Maybe it was a little immature, but he had been avoiding his mother since then, to the point of having his father come and collect Matt from the car instead of risking the walk up to the front door.
Han had merely grinned at him, hoisting his grandson up into his arms, readjusting his colorful little hat (it covered his ears, Ben insisted, even if Leia rolled her eyes at the reasoning) before glancing at his son. “Just so you know, your mother knows what you’re doing. And she wanted me to tell you that you can’t avoid her forever.”
Maybe not, but damn, if Ben wasn’t going to try.
He knew that he had no one else to blame but himself over the fact that his mother knew about Rey. Because of course, Ben had never learned to keep his crushes to himself. The last time he had kept a crush secret from his mother, he had dated Samantha and subsequently became a father. He could recognize patterns, and while he did hope that Matt would be an older brother one day, he knew he couldn’t handle parenthood a second time through without a partner.
It had been a little more than a year since his ex-girlfriend had left the hospital without Matt in tow, and while the relationship’s loss didn’t hurt him anymore, it had made him wary. Leia knew that, and so he had taken her (albeit overwhelming) curiosity in stride and told her.
Ben had done plenty of awful things growing up, but he was pretty sure that his mother had never been as disappointed in him as she had been on Sunday, when she couldn’t wring any more details out of her son about Miss Rey, who lived on the fourth floor, taught at Naboo Elementary and had little Matt wrapped around her little finger.
Ben’s phone chirped at him, and he shook himself free of his thoughts, wondering how long he had been staring at the vegetable display. He dug into his pants' pocket for his phone, fishing it out to see a text from his mother.
Ben-- I'm pulling executive grandma privileges and hosting Matt for the rest of the week. You can pick him up on Sunday. Don't worry about his clothes or his baby food-- I wanted to try my new food processor for weeks now, and Matt gives me the perfect reason to.
Despite himself, his eyes narrowed. His mother was up to something. She never pulled the grandma card unless she had a nefarious reason. He debated whether or not to text Han, ask his own father for help figuring out what Leia had up her sleeve, when his phone chirped again.
By the way, you'll never guess who I ran into today! My dear friend Amilyn Holdo. Did you know she's the principal at Naboo Elementary?
Ben had a bad feeling about this, but still, he took a deep breath and kept reading.
Apparently a couple of her teachers had to go shopping for a baby shower so I suggested Aunt Beru's Tatooine Markets. Low prices and all that.
He barely had the chance to text back "Why does this matter to me?" when his phone chimed one last time.
You'll thank me later.
"I'll thank her later…?" Ben mumbled, his head jerking up, the blood draining from his face and then returning full force in a blush he could feel in his ears. A few feet behind him, he could hear a familiar voice, and if his heart hadn't started racing, he would have groaned.
He didn't know how his mother had managed to pull this off, and he would have to think long and hard about whether he should scold or thank her when she finally surrendered his son.
It hadn't been Rey's plan to take Rose along with her for baby shower shopping, but it had been Rose's turn to drive for the teacher carpool this week… and Rose already knew about the surprise party, anyways.
"You know that Finn can't keep a secret to save his life," Rose muttered, peering over the steering wheel, on the lookout for a parking space in the first row at the store.
Rey did know that, unfortunately, seeing that even the principal knew about the surprise baby shower. It was a bit odd that Ms. Holdo had taken an interest in where Rey was buying the party supplies, but it was fine-- Aunt Beru's Markets was a trusty standby in town, and Poe had ordered the gender reveal cake from their bakery anyways.
Rose didn't like her nose too far into the party planning side of the shopping trip, barely looking in the cart as Rey piled pink and blue cups, plates, streamers into the basket.
"Y'know, it was a bad idea to have Poe order the gender reveal cake," Rose mused, eyeing the sour cream and cheddar chips Rey had just added to the cart. "There's a good chance that he asked that the cake's inside frosting to be purple, with a hidden message saying 'Gender is a construct.'"
"Fuck, you're right. I'll be right back," Rey winced.
She hadn't planned a run to the bakery section this trip, but it was fine, she figured, nicking a package of adult diapers as she passed an aisle end. Poe had made a joke about emceeing the shower as a giant baby, and far be it from Rey to forget the most crucial part of his costume.
Of course, she hadn't realized that she would run into Ben with a package of adult diapers in her arms. The universe really had it out for her.
"Ben?" She blurted before she could stop herself, grimacing at her idiocy. She hurried to turn the package around, hide the contents and the label.
Rey almost wished that she had stayed quiet, slipped on by, her heart launching in a free fall when Ben turned to her, his grin bashful, his button down shirt sleeves rolled up. This damn man was going to be the end of her, and he didn't even know it.
"Hey, you." He seemed embarrassed, maybe even a bit reluctant to talk to her, and Rey felt her smile shrink by a molar or two.
He probably thinks you're stalking him, you weirdo . She scolded herself, shoving the frown from her lips as he approached.
"No Matt today?" Perfect, Rey. Make him think that you only wanted to see his kid. His disinterest will hurt less if he thinks you're disinterested too, right?
Ben shook his head, the look on his face still an odd one. "Nope. My mother pulled the grandma card and insisted that he spend the rest of the week at her house."
"Well, it's nice to have time to yourself, right?" Rey shifted her weight to her left foot, adjusting her grip on the diaper package. Ben's eyes drifted to the package and he grinned at her now.
Great. He definitely thought she suffered from incontinence. Just what she needed on a Wednesday.
"I mean, in theory, it's nice. In practice… well, I don't have a lot of practice being without Matt." He shrugged, his smile shy. "I honestly can't remember what I did before I was a parent."
"God, you poor thing. What will you do?" She teased.
"I have no idea. Maybe I'll order a pizza and sleep a full eight hours, because I'm a wild and crazy guy," he chuckled, his smile widening as Rey laughed.
"Who's a wild and crazy guy?"
Rose nudged Rey with their shopping cart now, smirking fondly at her. "I was wondering why you hadn't come back-- you didn't even get to the bakery."
"I had a good reason," Rey protested, gesturing at Ben. "Rose, this is Ben; Ben, Rose."
Maybe she'd regret the introduction, Rose looking at her slyly before shifting her gaze to Ben. " Ohhh. This is the infamous Ben."
"Infamous?" Ben asked, glancing at Rey, and she wondered if a hole could open up in the floor and swallow her whole.
Rose grinned. "She's been gushing and cooing about this really cute baby and his equally cute dad."
" Really? " He raised his eyebrows at Rey. She barely opened her mouth, unsure of what to say in her defense when he chuckled. "Well, if it makes you feel better, I mentioned you to my mom, who mentioned you to one of her mutual friends… and well, we've been set up."
"Let me guess: your mom's friend is Principal Holdo." Rey groaned at his nervous nod, shaking her head. "Goddammit."
"Actually, this works out perfect. Are you busy, Ben?" Rey looked at Rose suspiciously, but her friend was pointedly ignoring her.
"Actually, I'm not." He gestured to his own shopping basket. "I was picking up veggies for Matt, but now that my mom has him for the week… well, I can put off grocery shopping just a bit longer.
" Perfect. " Rose pushed the loaded cart towards him, shooting a look at Rey. "I need to get home to Finn. I'm not supposed to be involved in planning my own party, after all."
"Rose, you drove me here," Rey protested.
"Yes, but Ben has his car here, right? You live in the same building, right? I'm sure he wouldn't mind driving you back. Right, Ben? "
Another chagrin smile from Ben as he mock-saluted her. "Yes, ma'am."
"Perfect. See, Rey? All you have to do is ask!" Rose giggled now. "Maybe, if you ask nicely, he'll help you set up the shower too."
"You've made your point, Mama," Rey huffed, rolling her eyes at her friend's retreating back. She looked sidelong at Ben. "I'm sorry about her."
"It's alright-- I don't mind." He rocked on the balls of his feet for a moment, sucking in a breath before confessing: "Besides, I wasn't going to argue with her. It is her party."
Rey opened her mouth to counter, but Ben then smiled, looking to his feet. "And, I mean, I'd like to hang out with you. If that's okay."
She knew she was gaping like a fish, forcing her mouth to close now as she nodded hurriedly. He looked relieved, reaching out and gently plucking the adult diapers out of Rey's arms.
"Alright. What's next on your list?"
"The bakery. One of our other friends ordered the cake, but he's a jokester so I need to check on it." She pointed to the diapers from their new perch in the cart. "The diapers are actually for him. He's dressing up as a big baby."
"That's horrifying," Ben laughed, looking at her warmly. "Okay. Lead the way."
There were butterflies in her stomach, but Rey didn't mind, curbing the temptation to look back at Ben every few steps. This didn't mean anything, really. She knew that. He was just being helpful.
Still, there was a small bit of hope that lightened her steps and spirit. Maybe the universe was actually on her side.
Just this once.
Thank you so much for reading! Enjoy!
Rey knew that she should have tidied up before leaving for school that morning, but Wednesdays were her days to help at the front office. This morning, she figured her one bedroom apartment could go another day with the debris of her life strewn across it.
But that was before life stepped in and decided she would be hosting Ben for at least five minutes. And five minutes was plenty of time for someone to see one's mess.
"It's fine, Rey. Really," Ben repeated, his arms full of grocery totes, his smile kind. They had finally stumbled back into their apartment building a few minutes prior and were now standing in what had to be the slowest elevator in the city. Not that she minded.
She looked to his arms again and shook her head to herself. It wasn't enough for him to drive her home and offer to lug the party supplies up to her apartment-- he just had to go and offer his reusable grocery bags too.
Goddammit. As if Rey needed another reason to be attracted to him. Leave it to someone as responsible as Ben Solo to get her weak in the knees.
Ben laughed now and she realized she had given voice to those thoughts, and she could only hope that she had ditched the third person reference to herself as her cheeks flushed.
"I'm hardly responsible. I just have a kid."
"Please. You're the one with a chore schedule, make Matt's baby food from scratch and willingly gave up a night to yourself to help someone like me with a baby shower you're not even invited to."
Ben blushed, and she grinned at him. Their first attempts at a conversation in the grocery store had been clunky, nervous, the two accidentally interrupting each other more than a few times. However, by the time they reached the checkout line, they had found their flow, comparing their lives and schedules.
It wasn't much, or all that deep, but it was far better than where they had started.
Rey's phone chirped at her, and she shifted the bag she was holding to retrieve her phone. She sighed, "Scratch that. Rose just invited you."
"Damn, and I was hoping you'd sneak me in as your plus-one." Ben smirked at her and her gaping mouth, seeming to take pleasure in leaving her flustered.
"Well, maybe I wanted to take Matt instead," she countered, the elevator finally chiming to announce their arrival to the fourth floor.
Ben snorted, shaking his head as he motioned for Rey lead the way as they stepped into the hallway. "You wouldn't. Bringing a baby to a baby shower is like wearing white to a wedding."
"Perhaps,but I did talk up how cute your son was to everyone who'd listen, so now people want to see for themselves," she teased, giggling at how he wrinkled his nose at her.
Oh, she was too far gone.
"He takes almost entirely after me, so if you brought me instead, they could see how he'd look in the future," Ben mused, Rey rolling her eyes at him as she unlocked her door.
"What doesn't he take after you?" She asked, turning to him with a small smile. Then she saw his face, how his brows furrowed, his mouth clamped tight, as if he didn't want to answer.
"Oh, Ben. I'm sorry."
"It's alright." He seemed to shake himself out of whatever dark cloud had passed in his mind, smiling back at her.
"No, it's not. I obviously hit a nerve." They were still standing in the doorway, the apartment still dark behind them. Ben pushed the door closed, and Rey reached out reflexively to find the lightswitch.
Instead, her hand found his, his idea the same. They both froze and she could feel his breath on her face as he let out a long breath.
"No, really… it's alright. It used to hurt to think about Samantha--ah, Matt's mom. She and I had split a few weeks before she found out she was expecting. We considered getting back together, for Matt's sake, but in the end, she left."
"I'm still sorry," Rey whispered, falling silent when Ben squeezed her hand. Even in the dark, she could see that he was smiling at her.
"Don't be. If all of that hadn't happened, I wouldn't have Matt. And...I wouldn't have met you."
Maybe it was foolish, but still, Rey let go of Ben's hand. Maybe he frowned, maybe he didn't have the chance to, her fingers brushing against his lips to find them in the dark before she leaned up on her tiptoes and kissed him.
Rose would probably forgive her if the streamers were wrinkled or the cups slightly crushed, Ben trying to set down the grocery bags as gently as he could, instead dropping them so he could take Rey into his arms. She hummed into the kiss, her free hand finding his shoulders, tugging him closer. His goatee and mustache tickled her face just a bit, and she giggled, feeling how Ben now smiled into their kiss before nipping at her bottom lip.
Then a phone trilled, the screen lighting up in Ben's pocket, and he cursed. "That would be my mother," he groaned, rubbing his eyes as Rey finally turned on the lights.
"I'll get a headstart on putting these things away while you take care of that," Rey assured him, barely making it two steps before Ben caught her hand, pulled her back.
Another kiss, and he let her go, grinning. "Okay. It's just Matt's goodnight call. It won't take too long."
Maybe not, Rey mused, slipping into her living room to straighten a few things, pretend that her mess wasn't as bad as she had claimed.
Maybe Ben didn't care, but still, she had a feeling he was staying for a lot longer than five minutes.
Matt gurgled at Ben as soon as he answered the FaceTime call, his hair wet and curling. Behind him was Leia, who looked just a little worn, and a lot more wet.
"Let me guess: you gave Matt a bath and couldn't get out of the splash-zone in time," Ben murmured, smiling at how his mother sighed.
"I keep forgetting that he actually likes baths and splashing around, unlike a certain son of mine." She gave him a pointed look before smiling down at Matt.
"So, did you run into anyone at the supermarket?"
Ben rolled his eyes at how nonchalant his mother was trying to be. "I think you already know the answer to that."
"No, I can hope to know the answer to that," Leia shot back, bouncing Matt on her knee, much to his delight. "Now give me details, or I'll let Han teach Matt how to play poker."
"Dad wouldn't let me sit with him during card games until I was fourteen, so I doubt Matt will be a welcome addition to his poker nights."
"Matt's a lot cuter than you were, kid. Nobody can bluff when he's sitting on my lap," Han called from somewhere off camera, and Matt giggled, clapping his hands.
"Back to the subject at hand," Leia smirked, her grandson trying to grab at the phone. "Did you, or did you not, run into a certain neighbor of yours?"
She seemed surprised when he smirked back, and he knew that her jaw almost hit the floor as he called over his shoulder, "Rey, my mom wants to know if I saw you at the store!"
He couldn't help how his eyes softened at her as she slipped beside him, her smile sweet as she waved at the phone. "Hi, I'm Rey."
The reaction was instantaneous, Matt erupting in a joyful screech, his hands instantly on the phone screen, trying to reach Rey. Leia scrambled to keep her phone out of the toddler's grasp, gaping at Ben and Rey as Matt whined.
It was maybe the longest Ben had ever seen his mother silent, something confirmed as he saw Han poke his head on camera, trying to find the cause of his wife's silence. He whistled low, nodded approvingly.
"She is cute. Nice job, kid."
"Don't congratulate him yet. He hasn't even asked me on a date," Rey grinned, Han throwing his head back with a guffaw.
" And she can keep you in line. I knew I liked her."
Ben grumbled for a moment, his face smoothing as Han pointed the phone's camera back on Matt, who was sucking on Mr. Bear's ear. "Tell Daddy and Rey goodnight, buddy."
Matt grinned for the camera, lifting his pudgy arm up and waving. "Nuh-nuh!"
Rey cooed at the toddler, waving back, and Ben wondered if his heart could be any fuller than it was right now.
"He's still working on 'night-night,'" Han muttered, breaking Ben from his thoughts. "We'll have him speaking full sentences by Sunday."
"Sure you will. Goodnight, guys. Night-night, Matt," Ben murmured, hearing his son call "Nuh-nuh," again. In a moment, the call was ended, and he turned back to Rey.
"Okay, what do you need me to do? Put me to work. It's my first night without Matt in like three months and I'm ready to party," he joked, Rey giggling at him.
"The shower isn't until Saturday, but I'll never say no to help with stuffing gift bags," she hummed, leaning up to kiss his cheek. She paused as she pulled away, and Ben pulled her back in, dipping his head down to meet her lips again.
He wasn't sure when he had drifted to kissing her neck, Rey gasping under his touch. Her fingers were twisted up in his hair, and he pulled back, reluctantly, dropping one last kiss on her lips, then her forehead.
"You probably want to actually stuff those gift bags some time tonight, huh?"
Rey smiled, touching her nose to his in an Eskimo kiss, sighing too. "As much as I like your kisses, I also do have school in the morning. And you have to work. I'd hate to keep you up past your bedtime."
"I wouldn't mind staying up if it was with you," he crooned, and she rolled her eyes at him.
"Charmer. Okay, do you mind pineapple on your pizza? I'm starving and Wednesday is pizza day."
He could see why an extra set of hands were needed for gift bag stuffing, though he wasn't sure his big hands were the best for the job. He said as much to Rey as he watched her smaller hands quickly and effectively move from bag to bag, dropping in party favors as she went.
"Of course this is easier for me, Ben. It's like an arts and crafts project. I'm an art teacher. Don't worry."
She smiled at him, and Ben decided that he'd keep doing whatever she wanted, be it stuffing gift bags or worse, as long as she kept smiling at him like that.
There was some TV show in the background as they worked, but they talked over it, Rey explaining why she became a teacher, even as Ben grimaced at the idea of dealing with nightmarish parents. In turn, Ben shared the nightmares of parenting (although "nightmare" probably was an over exaggeration).
When they took a break to eat, they were about halfway done and Netflix had long been asking them 'Are you still there?'
They were, but they were still too busy talking to grab the remote, answer the prompt.
Ben wasn't sure if it was one or two o'clock in the morning when they finished the bags, only that Rey's hand was soft as she slipped it in his and that her eyes were hopeful as she looked up at him, asked him to stay the night.
He'd call into work for the first time since his paternity leave that next morning. Rey would return to bed after calling in to work herself, her face flushing prettily as she recounted the excited whooping in the background of the school front office.
She always had forgotten that Rose helped the front office on Thursday mornings, but she doubted she'd forget now, her phone trilling on her bedside table, probably with texts asking for details and suggesting lewd things.
Not that she'd read them till later. After all, she and Ben...
Well, they were busy.
Here's the last chapter before the epilogue, which will finish us out! Again, thank you for reading, and I hope you enjoy!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Rose knew that, hypothetically, Saturday was all about her and Finn. It was their baby shower, after all, for their first children. By all means, she should be focusing on being the glowing, smiling mother-to-be.
It wasn't her fault that her best friend finally got together with a seemingly decent guy and had been holding out on the details.
Rose was only human. And humans, by nature, were curious.
Finn rolled his eyes at her again as they pulled into Poe's driveway, bright and early. It had already been a long day for him, in part due to staying up with Rose as she suffered from heartburn, and in part because his wife--his darling, beautiful, amazing wife-- would not let up on her fixation with Rey's new relationship.
Her concern and fascination was understandable-- in their time of knowing Rey, she had never dated anyone seriously. Sure, there were blind-dates she had gone on, and crushes she had told them about, but this? This was different. And it excited and scared Rey and Rose in tandem.
(Rose had joked that it was tit for tat: Rey gets some baby obsession, Rose gets some relationship anxiety. Finn hadn't commented or laughed; he had been far too tired to do much of anything than hum at Rose.)
He knew that the day was only going to get longer, seeing that Poe had agreed to host the party and Rey had alluded to the fact that her co-teacher may or may not be serious about emceeing while wearing a diaper.
Finn had seen many things in his life, and he really, really hoped he didn't have to see that.
If he had to, he wouldn't be able to stand in complete solidarity with Rose-- he would require a lot of alcohol, whether the mother of his children liked it or not. He had given up coffee, lunch-meat and sushi for his wife. Surely Rose would forgive him for drinking.
He rubbed at his temples now, trying to stave off a headache and the impending images of Dameron as a giant infant. "Sweetheart, if he's as great as Rey says he is, he'll be around long enough for you to pump all the details out of Rey."
Rose scoffed at her husband, unbuckling her seatbelt before turning to him. "I know that! But I haven't had the chance to get even a bit of the story. You saw how she was on Friday."
That was true-- Finn had witnessed Rey's wide smile, the far-off look in her eyes. She still did her job, perfectly as always, but it was hard to miss how she seemed to be floating. She also kept her lips zipped on the subject of Ben, much to Rose's frustration.
It was almost uncharacteristic of Rey to hold out, but that's how they knew it was serious.
Still, he shrugged, getting out of the car and rounding it to open the door for Rose. "Still: she probably would rather you enjoy the shower that she planned than for you to ask her about Ben."
There was a mischievous glint in his wife's eyes, and Finn knew that she was going to ask for something far beyond foot rubs or a cravings-induced grocery run. He frowned at her, shaking his head to her nodding. "No. No. I haven't even met the guy."
"But Finn," Rose whined, her hand coming to rest on her round stomach absentmindedly as she pouted. "Someone's gotta get to know Ben, and what better way than to ask about him and Rey?"
"Oh, I don't know. I was planning on opening with talking about the weather, maybe asking for parenting advice. If he and I hit it off, I figured I'd ask to see a picture of his son. Anything but asking if he and Rey knocked boots yet."
"Finneus, we already know they banged. Rey called in on Thursday. She never calls in." Rose huffed at him, exasperated as he shook his head.
"For all we know, she had a fast-acting virus. She could have been throwing up all night and all Ben did was hold her hair back."
"Oh, he held her hair, alright-- Rey told me she loves getting her hair pulled--"
Finn clapped his hands over his ears, humming loudly. "I don't need to know. We don't need to know."
He gestured at Rose's baby bump, as he emphasized the 'we'. "You're scaring our kids."
"Am not. They're probably sleeping," Rose crossed her arms, glaring at Finn.
Well, now he's done it. Finn heaved a sigh, his eyes drifting to Poe's front door as it opened, a familiar grin greeting them.
"I was wondering if that was you two bickering," Poe mused, his smile not shrinking under Rose's sour look.
"Were you watching us this whole time?" Finn asked, relieved at Poe chuckling with a shake of his head.
"Of course not. I was too busy asking Rey for details about her and Mr. Tall, Dark and Handsome." He looked pointedly to Rose. "If you come help set up the mocktails, I'll give you the deets."
"Finally, a man of quality," Rose sniffed, missing how her husband rolled his eyes as he followed her into the house.
Finn paused in the doorway, fixing Poe with a stare. "Dameron, please tell me you're not wearing a diaper today."
Poe grinned and shrugged, gesturing to his sweatpants. "It wouldn't do for me to wear something like this to a party, Finneus."
"... you're at least going to wear underwear under the diaper, right?" Finn grimaced at Poe's thoughtful look, shuddering as his friend muttered:
"I didn't even think of that."
It was going to be a very, very, very long day.
Ben wasn't sure how he had gone his thirty-one years without ever attending a baby shower, but he was glad that this particular one was his first. Apparently it was an untraditional one, more of a rager than a luncheon where women lavish gifts on the mother-to-be… but he had realized it was going to be different when Rey had explained why she had adult diapers in her cart on Wednesday.
Most baby showers didn't have as many games, or adult beverages, or as much fun as this one, and Rey had merely shrugged it off with a smile. "Almost all of us are teachers. We're basically all nerdy kids who barely grew up. Even Finn. He's the gym teacher and is probably the biggest nerd I know-- and I had a college roommate who lived and breathed X-Files and computer science."
It probably wasn't a surprise, then, that one of the activities was a quiz on all things babies and toddlers, but hey, he wasn't here to judge.
Ben was standing back, by the grill, content with watching Rey chat as she took the quiz. They had already gone around, Rey making sure to introduce him to each and every one of her co-workers and friends. (It was a smidge awkward to be reintroduced to Ms. Holdo, seeing that she knew his mother, and had helped set him up with Rey, but they had both smiled and pretended that it had been otherwise.)
He usually didn't do well in large crowds, didn't do well meeting be people-- he clammed up, got shy, fell quiet. However, he hadn't had Rey at his side before, and that made all the difference.
He never had a partner who took pride in him, who wanted to show him off. True, he had insisted to Rey several times that he was no one special. He was just Ben-- a single dad, a designer at an engineering firm, son of the more impressive Han and Leia Solo.
She didn't care though. She insisted that wasn't true, that he was special… and when she said it, he believed it.
Rey smiled at him again from over her shoulder, her eyes sparkling before she turned back to Rose. He felt himself shiver, his mouth twist up in a smile.
"How do you like your hot dogs again, Ben?" He turned back to the asker, the father-to-be grinning at him. Finn was the "more practical" half of the expecting couple, as Rey put it. Ben could see that, the man insisting on helping and hosting, instead of merely sitting back.
"I'm not the one growing four kidneys and two sets of ears," he joked as Ben helped him haul the drink coolers of cocktails and mocktails into the backyard. Rey had been hanging streamers and finishing the photo backdrop wall, and Ben was still surprised that he hadn't dropped the cooler, that he hadn't gotten distracted.
Speaking of which … he shook his head, grinned at Finn. "Burnt. My mother says I have no taste, but I've always liked them like that."
"Obviously you have some taste to be with Rey," Finn countered, chuckling at how Ben blushed. "She really likes you. I can already tell."
"She keeps telling me that she likes me. I figure I'll believe it one day." Ben plucked up a plate, holding it steady as Finn dropped a fairly charred hot-dog onto it.
"Let me guess: your next sentence is about how she's perfect and you're not, right?" Finn grinned. "That was me with Rose when we first met...and I'd say I've done pretty well for myself since then."
"That's an understatement," Poe noted, sidling up to the grill, ignoring how Finn rolled his eyes.
"I mean, if I can get to that point with Rey…" Ben trailed off, staring into the distance.
If he could get to that point with Rey, his life would be pretty perfect.
Of course, maybe she wouldn't want to let things go that far. Becoming a parent was a scary thing, and sure, she was a teacher, but what if she didn't feel prepared? What if she tried, felt like she failed, and gave up on him and Matt? What if...
"How the hell are you getting these all right, Rey?!" Rose's tease was loud, eliciting laughter from the guests.
Rey giggled back. "I told you: I read all the parenting books I could. I want to be prepared to love these twins as much as I can."
Ben knew he was gaping, his mouth hanging open, and he hadn't thought to close it until Finn spoke. "It's true. She read anything she could get her hands on about raising kids. It's why she's going to be the kids' godmother."
"Then why am I going to be the godfather? I'm not near as prepared," Poe mumbled, looking as embarrassed as he could for a man who didn't care he was wearing a diaper.
"Because you harassed me and kept making Godfather references in the teacher's lounge for the past six months," Finn deadpanned, shaking his head.
Ben was only half listening now as he swallowed, his throat thick with some emotion he wasn't sure how to name. His eyes itched, and he realized it was tears, realized it was relief, and hope, and a happiness he didn't think he'd feel again after Matt was born.
"Ben? You alright, buddy?" Finn's voice was worried, but Ben shook his head, offered up a smile.
"I think I'm going to marry her," he murmured, his eyes still locked on Rey. She lifted her head, as if she felt his gaze, smiling at him now.
Finn patted Ben's shoulder, tried to remain serious despite his smile at Ben's words. "Baby steps. Ask her on a date first."
"Unless you already knocked her up, in which case, I should mention that I am ordained--" Poe was cut off by Finn cuffing the back of his head.
"Quiet, diaper boy. The dads are talking."
At the end of the day, Rose and Finn cut into the cake, every breath bated, every eye fixed on the color of the frosting. "One side is for twin 1, and the other side is for twin 2," Poe had explained as he carried it out, his smile proud.
There was no way to mess it up, he had reasoned when he had placed the order a week prior. Everything will be fine.
That didn't change the fact that the slices of cake Finn and Rose had cut from the cake had purple frosting.
Thus, it really shouldn't have surprised anyone that Poe merely looked at the cake blankly, taking the cake slice from the (glaring) mother-to-be.
"It's a boy and a girl," he murmured calmly, ignoring how the gasps of excitement turned to surprise as he now smushed the cake into Finn's face.
Ben hadn't been to another baby shower before, no, but he was pretty sure that it wasn't typical for the mother-to-be to scoop up a handful of cake and hurl it into the crowd of guests, crowing " Food fight !"
Still, it was certainly memorable, he mused as he tried to keep his giggling girlfriend from smearing frosting on his face, one arm around her waist, his other hand on the wrist that held the cake aloft.
"If you do that, I won't take you on our first date," he warned, cake flying around them, peals of laughter erupting on this backyard-turned-warzone.
Rey paused for a moment, a smile still on her lips. "You don't mean that."
He couldn't help himself, dipping his lips to meet hers, his breath shaky when he pulled away and admitted, "No, I don't mean that."
There was frosting in his hair and crumbs down the back of his shirt, but Rey's lips tasted sweeter than sugar, and really, that's all he needed.
(Before anyone comes for me, asking about Matt-- don't worry, he has a BIG part in the epilogue.)
Ben Solo's routine was just a bit different now.
Sure, Tuesday was still garbage day; Wednesday was still for vacuuming; Thursday was still for bathrooms, and Friday was always for laundry. But now, there was a daily routine too.
Of course, it all depended on who slept at who's. Some days, it was Rey waking up in his apartment; others, he and Matt woke up at hers. No matter what, Ben woke up to Rey burrowed into his side and Matt babbling into the baby monitor.
There was the familiar dance of getting ready for the day: getting dressed, brushing teeth, rushing through breakfast. Some days he would take care of Matt while Rey showered, and she would take charge on when Ben had to shower.
Some days, he would drop Matt off to Han and Leia, and some days, Rey would take Matt to Naboo's daycare.
Apparently, no matter what, Rey would spend her lunch hour with Matt, which may or may not have contributed to the sly look Ben's parents would often give him when he stopped by to collect his son at the end of the work day. He didn't mind, seeing the looks were often paired with "casual" reminders that all he had to do was ask for Grandma Padme's wedding ring and maybe get it resized, but wouldn't the blue jeweled band look nice on Rey's left ring finger?
( Yes , he thought. Yes, it would .)
The only thing that stayed the same way his work day, and even that was different, getting pictures of Matt and texts from Rey throughout the day. He'd be lying if he said Matt's godfather, Armitage, hadn't caught him staring at the picture of Rey and Matt he had made his laptop background.
(At this rate, it wouldn't surprise him if Armitage started a punishment jar to try and curb Ben's distraction. Not that it'd work.)
He didn't work late anymore, not when he could help it. Not when he could be cuddling up with Rey and playing with Matt. Not when he could be making dinner while Rey gave Matt a bath, hearing them giggling and splashing while he finished cooking.
Some people would say that, to have his days down to an exact science would be asking for boredom. Ben would respond that it was addictive, comforting, beautiful. He often thought of it as he drifted off, Rey dozing next to him, her smile sweet as she pressed a goodnight kiss to his cheek.
Give and take, push and pull, him and her. They had found a balance and it had only been a month and a half since the baby shower. His puzzle was completed now that she had found the missing piece, and he could honestly say that all was well.
Ben knew that he shouldn't be so surprised, and maybe he wasn't as surprised as he was relieved. Leia had merely raised an eyebrow when he said as much, her smile knowing, her eyes sparkling.
"You never were one to be surprised," she mused after dinner one Sunday, Ben washing dishes, Leia drying. In the living room, they could hear Han and Rey talking to Matt, urging on the giggling toddler as he tried to walk.
He still was only cruising, taking steps only when he had the support of a hand or the couch. "He'll get there. He's only 15 and a half months-- totally in the normal window for the milestone," Rey soothed, Matt's little hands curled in hers as he practiced, his smile still more gum than teeth.
Ben knew, but still, he worried.
He hadn't had the chance to worry today, because today was already different. He didn't usually work on Saturday, but Armitage had called him in for something that morning and he forced himself out of bed. Rey hummed at him when he pressed a goodbye kiss on her forehead.
"I have a surprise for you later," she murmured, her eyes barely cracking open, her smile sleepy. He tried not to think about it as he got to the office, wondered what had been so urgent to have thrown off today's routine.
Rey knew that Ben had been nervous about Matt walking-- or more accurately, not walking. There was only so many times Ben would take comfort in knowing that Matt was progressing right on time, just fine.
So, she and Matt had been practicing.
She hadn't had the idea until Miss Kanata, the daycare supervisor, had reported one lunch break that Matt was plenty close to walking. "He just needs some confidence and a little practice."
Rey had froze, baby spoon dipped into the strawberry yogurt she was sharing with Matt, the little tot taking advantage of the stillness to grab the spoon for himself. She had to go back to class with a pink stain on her white button down, but it was fine because she had an idea.
It was hard to practice out of Ben's sight. She loved Ben, she did (even if some would say it was too soon for love), but the man didn't allow for surprises with how devoted he was.
However, his parents were more than happy to scheme on a plan as wholesome as this. While Leia would be handing Matt back to Ben after another day at Grandma's, Han would be texting Rey updates on Matt's walking.
Yesterday's update was simply: I think he's ready .
Operation Matt Walks to Daddy was a go.
Really, it was a stroke of luck that called Ben into the office this morning. Rey hadn't even considered getting Matt's godfather in on the plan; unlike her future mother-in-law, who simply texted back a smirking emoji when Rey explained that Ben was at the office for the morning.
She tried to keep their Saturday routine, but even Matt knew something was on the horizon, wiggling away from Rey as she tried to put his hat on, his little ears already reminiscent of Ben's, his black curls downy and fine.
Rey didn't know how she had managed to get them both dressed when she was all but trembling with nerves, watching Matt take a tentative step without her hand before falling onto his diaper padded bottom.
Then Ben texted at 12:47, saying he was back at the apartment building, and it was showtime.
Matt still loves riding in the elevator, his little fingers reaching out to brush the buttons, gurgling at how they lit up when pressed. Rey's fingers found the ground floor button easily, and she bounced Matt in time with her racing heart, the tot giggling, thinking it was all a game as they descended.
Then the doors whooshed open, and there was Ben, raised eyebrows and a wide smile. Even though she was nervous, Rey grinned back as she stepped from the elevator with Matt in arms. Then she held up her hand, shook her head at Ben as he took a step forward, probably planning on taking them into his arms.
"Take a few steps back, babe? Please?" He cocked his head at her, and she knew that he was weighing the possibilities that she had gone insane. But he complied, stepping back slowly until there was about two feet separating them.
Understanding dawned on Ben's face, his mouth falling open when she set Matt down.
"Go to Daddy, baby," Rey cooed, and Matt let go of her hand.
He was wobbly, his little face scrunched up in concentration as he took that first step.
And another, and several more, until he was at Ben's feet, throwing himself against his father's legs with a happy cry.
Ben's lips were trembling, Rey feeling her own eyes itch with tears as he swept Matt up, the little one babbling excitedly as his father sniffled, hugged him close.
She took her own steps closer, but then froze for just a second, hearing Ben ask: "Who helped you with your first steps, buddy? Who's that?"
He was pointing at Rey, Matt's little eyes following before he grinned. Her knees all but buckled underneath her at the answer.
Apparently Ben had been doing some practicing with Matt on his own, too. She clapped a hand over her mouth, trying to quiet her happy sob, failing as her frame heaved.
Matt was still chanting the title-- her title-- as Ben knelt next to her, his smile sweet, his eyes wet too. "Hey Mama," he cooed,and her arms were around them both in a second.
The ride back up to the apartment was routine now too. Matt held Mr. Bear, Rey held Matt, Ben held Rey. Usually they weren't crying as they ascended, but breaks from the usual were just the spice of life.
Still, there was truth to his mother's advice to get on a routine, Ben mused, pressing another kiss to Rey's hair.
After all, this whole thing started only because Fridays are laundry days for Ben Solo.
Here we are, at the end. Thank you so much for reading, and please feel free to send me any single dad Ben Solo ideas. You can find me on Twitter and Tumblr.
Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go happy cry.