The cold February wind bites at Ben’s exposed cheeks, his scarf dropping down to allow him to drink the hot chocolate Rey bought him from the vendor on the main street. Resting his chin on top of the Minni-Eared brunette in front of him, a happy sigh escapes him as he senses the excited energy radiating from Rey. The way she keeps gripping Ben’s arms that hug against her front while the sun sets against the pale pink of Sleeping Beauty’s castle calling an end to another day of their French vacation. How she’d begged, with wide hazel-coloured puppy dog eyes, for Ben to wait near the front of the castle so they would have the best view of the impending show - one that he was sure would’ve looked just as nice from any of the many cafes dotted around the area and which would most definitely have been warmer. Yet, here he stood, with Rey pressed against his front, his arms wrapped around her, her gloved hands gripping his similarly gloved one. And a box weighing heavy in his coat pocket.
He wasn’t sure what had inspired him to bring that with him today; a theme park, with a girlfriend who has an abiding love for every high-flying rides, wasn’t exactly what you would call a romantic setting. Ben wasn’t sure what it was, but there was just something about this place.
Maybe it was the overly cheery staff that reminded him of their first meeting? Maybe it was the music that was reminiscent of the first time he’d admitted his feelings for her? Or maybe it was simply the magic around them?
As they had bundled up ready to tackle the freezing French weather, Ben had quickly grabbed the box and he’d been hiding it underneath his clothes ever since. Because for him the most important moments of his life with Rey had happened in the House of Mouse.
Ben felt physically sick - fresh from college, his first day on the job and he’d woken up late. The barf-inducing feeling of impending doom, intensifying with every tick of the clock, had him almost hyperventilating as the bus slowed to a halt.
“Happiest place on earth? My ass.” He’d grumbled to himself, dashing to the staff entrance, his phone vibrating like crazy from the seventeenth text message that Poe had sent him in the last ten minutes.
This had to be the worst day of Ben Solo’s life.
Poe standing by the entrance door tapping his costumed furry foot, holding said character’s head in his arms, would have been worth a laugh if Ben had had the time,. The normally cheery guy, whom Ben called his oldest friend, looked massively pissed.
“I’m Dale today, jackass. Some new guy called Finn already picked Chip.” Poe snapped in reply, shoving Ben towards the changing rooms “I helped you get this job Ben, the least you could have done was show up on time.”
“I know Poe, the bus got caught in traffic.” Pulling his shirt off, Ben turned to convey to his friend how extremely sorry he was. But instead of the mischievous dark eyes that so many girls at their high school had swooned over, Ben came face to face with a furry chipmunk head.
Biting the inside of his cheek, hard enough to almost break the skin, Ben managed to keep from laughing as he placed his hands on either side of Poe’s covered head. “I’m really sorry for being late, thank you for getting me the job and you were always my favourite Chipmunk, Chip.” The punch to the chest, he received was unnecessary he thought, but as Ben quickly changed into his black costume he had this weird feeling that maybe today wasn’t going to be so bad after all.
The tunnel was dark and cramped, a complete contrast to the world above. Poe waved before being whisked away by a handler to a different area of the park from Ben; with the lack of his friend’s presence the nervous butterflies began to intensify.
“First day?” Ben’s handler for the day smiled kindly as she gestured towards their intended destination, handing him his bright red lightsaber and carrying the final checks on Kylo Ren’s flowing black robes.
“That obvious huh?” The petite girl before him giggled, straightening her black-rimmed glasses perched on her nose. She barely stood as tall as Ben’s chest, her black hair framing a face that was smiling reassuringly up at Ben.
“Only a little,” Ben returned her smile when she introduced herself as Rose “but I wouldn’t worry about it, you’re partnered up with Rey today and she’s amazing with the kids.”
The screams of excited children were the first things to attack his senses, the bright lights of the summer sun almost blinding him. Ben heard the gasps of the crowd around him, adults and children alike caught in this wonderful world of magic that they immersed themselves in- where characters like the villain-turned-hero, Kylo Ren existed, in the flesh. Ben was stalking towards them, all 6 feet 3 inches of his broad frame, red crackling sabre in hand when he saw her.
Brunette hair in the famous three buns that Kira wore, in the first film that started the trilogy, the pale costume a juxtaposition of the one his character wore. Her own blue sabre staff was by her side as the young woman named Rey sat surrounded by smitten children. Her hazel eyes, that had yet to fall on Ben, devoted all their attention on the young people excitedly asking for autographs around her. The freckles that stretched across her nose as she smiled for each and every photograph that was requested of her, the gesture never seeming forced or faked.
And when those eyes eventually met Ben’s, he quickly fell under the same spell that everyone else seemed to in her presence.
That was the first time Ben Solo found himself transfixed by Rey Jakku.
The air is tense with excitement as the speakers splutter to life above, informing the thousands of people crowded in front of the castle that the show will begin shortly. Ripples of excited chatter explode when the message is translated to the many different languages for the masses that share this magical space.
Rey smiles up at him, her own nose beginning to turn so pink from the cold that Ben finds himself placing a tender kiss on it. His stomach flips as she rewards him with one of her smiles, before leaning against him so her lips find their way brushing his own.
“This has been the perfect vacation,” Rey whispers up at him, her hand tightening on his arm “Thank you, Ben.”
The lights go out, the crowd and the magnificent castle is plunged into darkness. With Rey’s attention pulled from him, he feels the way she pulls his arms tighter around herself. Kissing the side of her head, the noise of excitement turns to white noise in Ben’s ears. He’s only felt like this once before.
He had to tell her, Poe had threatened him with outing his secret if he didn’t. But how?
It was easy for Poe; even spending his time dressed as a woodland creature he had fallen for Rey’s best friend who, not surprisingly, spent most of his time dressed as the other woodland creature - Ben had given up trying to discern which was Chip or stupid Dale.
Ben decided that today would be the day that he would admit his feelings to Rey.
At some point.
They stood together smiling, or in Ben’s case scowling, through the photo ops (this wasn’t by choice, Kylo Ren was renowned for his lack of smiles). For hours couples and families visited the Videopolis Theatre that had been transformed for the Valentine’s holiday. Ben had felt somewhat relieved at being partnered with Rey for his shift but after they had entered the theatre his heart had plummeted at the sight.
Disney had gone all out with the holiday decorations. Different hues of pink and red Mickey mouse-shaped hearts were scattered across the floor, leading the way to a romance-themed Star Wars stage - draped in fairy lights with the Star Wars theme playing quietly in the background. Rey and Rose, who'd remained Ben’s handler since day one, had oohed and aahed their way through every new wonder their eyes had fallen on. Eventually, the photo booths had opened and with every happy couple Ben met, he found his nervousness doubling.
The last family was waiting for their turn, their young daughter completely smitten with Ben, practically staring up at him from the moment she noticed him. The girl’s mother had smiled and explained how surprised she had been when, after her daughter’s first viewing of the Franchise, she'd declared Kylo Ren as her favourite character.
Ben had noticed the Kira costume the girl wore, so similar to the one that Rey wore daily and had slowly lowered his large frame to join the child on her level, stretching out his hand as his character had done while saying, “The real Kira, join me.” The girl had bolted into Ben’s arms and all the adults in the room had turned into mush, speechless at the utterly cute sight.
After many photographs, as Ben had slowly lowered the little girl back to the ground she had whispered in his ear “I always knew you were the good guy.”
Kylo Ren wasn’t supposed to smile but at that moment, Ben Solo couldn’t help himself.
Waving goodbye to the family with the smile still stretching his lips, he took a deep breath before he spoke. “Rey, I really like you.” The words escaped him quickly, forced past the lump that formed at Rey’s shocked expression, “Would you like to go out with me sometime?”
Sleeping beauty’s castle suddenly becomes illuminated by strobe lighting, and Ben can imagine the smile stretching across Rey’s lips. He can remember all the times he had found her loitering after their shifts as Kylo and Kira, waiting for the firework and parades to begin, like the thousands of people that visited every day. The music slowly begins, a voice speaking from the sound system around them
“Each of us has a dream, a heart's desire. It calls to us and when we are brave enough to listen and bold enough to pursue it that dream will lead us on a journey to discover who we are meant to be. All we have to do is look inside our hearts and unlock the magic within.”
Tinkerbell flits around the castle to the chorus of ‘awws’ around them and he feels Rey sniffle in front of him. Now knowing the history behind her love for all things Disney he doesn’t question her reaction. He feels her wipe away her tears, kissing the side of her head lovingly as he pulls her tighter against his chest. The music hits its stride as the fireworks begin to explode and with every flash and bright light above them Ben realises why he brought that box with him today.
A pang of worry was building in Ben’s chest with every step - Rey had called in sick today, too ill to work alongside him. His shift had been fine, Bazine was nice to work with but it was not the same as when it was with his girlfriend of six months. With the lack of text messages from Rey, Ben had started to worry.
Using his key to enter her apartment, chicken soup in hand, his ears were invaded by the familiar soundtrack of ‘Tangled’. “Rey, sweetheart, you feeling any better?” he called.
That’s when he had found her, nestled underneath what appeared to be every blanket she owned. Eyes bloodshot and red-rimmed, skin chalk white and a stark contrast to the bright pink of her nose.
“Hey baby.” She croaked, her hazel eyes flicking back to catch Rapunzel hitting Flynn Ryder with a frying pan. Ben’s heart flipped at the small laugh that escaped her every time she watched the scene.
“I brought you soup.” Gesturing to the bag, he was rewarded with a kiss blown in his direction. Ben moved to her small kitchen to prep her soup and then joined her under the blankets to watch the movie together.
With the soup eaten and Rey relaxing by his side, he almost missed the quiet sniffle that escaped her, just catching how she wiped her face with the sleeve of a jumper - one Ben was sure he'd left the last time he stayed over. He pulled her closer against him, “Hey, sweetheart what’s wrong?”
“Nothing,” The tears quickly wiped away, Rey avoided his gaze as she tried to locate the remote under the masses of fabric, “this bit always gets to me.”
Ben focused on the movie, watching as Rapunzel is finally reunited with her parents, “It’s happy, she’s with her family.” Eyes back on Rey, he watched the way she gnawed on her lip, a nervous trait he had known from spending time with her. “Rey talk to me, what’s wrong?”
“Ben, I, um, never knew my parents.” As watery eyes met his, his hand found its way to her clammy one. “I grew up in foster care and I always dreamed of that.” Both sets of eyes moved to the screen, realization hitting Ben and causing his hand to tighten around hers. “The foster family, that I was with the longest, they had a bunch of Disney videos and I would watch them constantly.”
The movie forgotten, Ben smiled kindly when Rey met his eyes. “They were an escape from my life, my only friends at one point.” He saw the way her lip wobbled. The credits rolled on the screen while Ben pulled their clasped hands towards him, his lips meeting Rey’s knuckles “A few years ago, I watched ‘Tangled’ on the TV and...”
A single tear fell that Ben caught before turning her face to him, “Rapunzel found her family.”
A broken sob escaped Rey as he pulled her into his chest and Ben finally understood her love for all things Disney. It had been her lifeline, with entire worlds and stories for her to escape the harshness of the world she found herself in. A constant safety net that had moved with her from childhood to adulthood.
“When I was a kid my parents were hardly around.” He hadn’t really spoken about his family, not wanting to darken his bright present with the past but at that moment it felt he needed to. “But when my dad was around we would always watch ‘The Lion King’ together; we watched it so many times I practically knew it word for word.”
Rey laughed, pushing herself away from Ben’s chest, watching him with those watery hazel eyes, noticing the flicker of sadness that crossed Ben’s features. “When he died, I couldn’t bear to watch it alone and then one really shitty day I saw it for sale on DVD and I just had to have it.”
Her hand rested against his cheek, her thumb moving across his skin as he continued, “Every time, I watch it I think of spending time with my dad and it’s like he’s still with me.”
Slowly Rey moved towards him, her lips meeting his own for a moment before she gently pulled away “I wish I could have met him.”
“Me too, I think he would have really liked you.” Ben wiped away the tear tracks from Rey’s cheeks, placing a gentle kiss to her nose, “Rey, you are the strongest, bravest person I’ve ever met.” As he pulled her lips against his own, he heard her sigh contently.
“I love you so much.”
Pulling back in shock, Rey stared open-mouthed at him. He hadn’t planned on the first time he spoke those three words to her to be like this.When she pulled him against her, though, his heart soared as she whispered in his ear, “I love you too.”
The ‘ oohs ’ and ‘ aahs ’ surround them with every firework illuminating the sky. Rey sways in his arms as the familiar tracks from ‘ The Little Mermaid’ , ‘ Beauty and the Beast’ and so on play alongside the display. Then the iconic image of ‘ The Lion King’s Mufasa appears on the castle. The familiar tone of James Earl Jones’ voice booms from the sound system, calling to the crowd to look inside themselves and remember who they are as the beats of the ‘ Circle of Life’ take over. Ben sings along, his eyes burning with unshed tears and he feels Rey pull him closer against her, her voice joining his to sing along.
Fireworks light up the sky and the castle darkens for a moment before slowly being filled with the light of thousands of lanterns and the voices of Rapunzel and Finn Ryder sing about ‘ Seeing the Light’ .
Ben kisses Rey’s neck, his mind made up. The song draws to a close when he pulls away, Rey turning instantly to see what the matter is. As Ben drops to one knee, he doesn’t hear the shocked gasps around them, strangers noticing the moment happening in front of them. He no longer sees the bright pops of light illuminating the sky or the projection on the castle.
All he can see is Rey.
Her tear-stained and shocked face that stares at him when she notices the opened box in his hand, her gloved fingers drawn to her opened mouth. “Rey Jakku, I fell under your spell, the moment I met you you.” Ben’s voice doesn’t waver, a powerful force providing him with the strength to overcome his nerves “Will you marry me?”
Pulling him from his position on the ground her lips meet his, expressing the love that they share. The night sky bursts into colour above them and the crowd full of strangers applaud when the voice begins to speak again, the display drawing to a close.
“And so our journey comes to an end but yours continues on, grab hold of your dream and make them come true. For you are the key to unlocking your own magic, now go let your dreams guide you, reach out and find your happily ever after.”