“Can you please stop playing that?” Finn screeches as he paces around the room frantically, his Italian leather shoes creating a distinct ‘click-clack’ sound that is in time with the music.
Rey does not stop playing that. Sondheim’s music is a gift to the world. Company is a brilliant musical. And is there ever a more appropriate time to play ‘(not) getting married’ than on your best friends wedding day?
No, Rey thinks not.
“Honey. Rey. I love Sondheim, you know I do. But please, I beg you, any other of his songs,” Finn pleads his voice steadily rising in pitch, he’s all puppy dog eyes now and for a brief moment, Rey considers taking pity on him before she is interrupted by a-
“Oh, yay! Sondheim,” a deep voice rumbles through the door.
God. What was that voice? Rey didn’t think voices like that existed. It’s so deep it’s almost a struggle for the ear to pick up on, soft in volume but powerful enough to create this strange vibrating sensation that pleasantly hums through her body.
Rey looks up from where she was carefully chipping off the layer of pale pink polish that coats her nails, brushing aside a small, but sizeable mountain of Essie's ‘go-go geisha’ bits to the floor to identify the source of the voice.
She finds it.
The source comes in the form of a tall man dressed in navy slacks that were an exact shade of blue that Rey knew Rose spent weeks fussing over, and a black undershirt that was stretched tight across his broad chest and shoulders, practically begging for mercy. His posture is slightly curled, he’s obviously aware of his size - self-conscious about it even- trying to make room for a world that is too small for him.
Rey realizes she’s been staring at him for too long for it not to be noticeable.
Fuck it, she thinks as she begins to study his face.
He is not handsome.
Well, he is but not in the way that one would want to be.
His face is composed of strong features- plush lips, sharp aquiline nose, moles scattered around in haphazard artistic manner, a scar that bisects his eyebrow running down the length of his cheek, and honey-brown eyes that were gazing upon her face with open, undisguised curiosity. His face is a patchwork of features that would’ve created dissonance on anyone else’s face but on his create harmony. Not the perfect, four-part harmony that barbershop quartets are so famed for. But harmony nonetheless.
Satisfied with her assessment of his features and too tired of the world to feel ashamed of her blatant stare she juts out her jaw and throws out her hand for a handshake.
“Rey Jacobs. Best Woman.”
His hand- god could you even call it a hand, it’s more like a paw- engulfs hers and an electric jolt shoots through her, seeming to pass from his fingers to hers.
“Ben Solo. Man of Honour.”
He glances down at her hand quickly turning it around bringing it close to his face, inspecting it. His breath tickles her fingers and Rey tries to ignore the ensuing shiver that runs down her spine.
“What on earth have you done to your manicure?” he looks up suddenly meeting her eye, his sharp gaze accusing.
Rey was not expecting that.
“What?” she blurts out with as much elegance as she can muster.
"What. On. Earth. Have. You. Done. To. Your. Manicure.” he repeats slowly as if he was talking to a small child.
Rey bristles at the patronizing tone quickly snatching her hand away from his clasp trying to ignore the heat that pools in the pit of her stomach at his deep voice berating her.
“And what does it matter to you if I have?” she says defiantly, squaring her shoulders.
“I spent days trying to find the right shade of nail polish that would perfectly match the floral decal on the dinner plates,” he explains running his hand through his hair. “Rose was determined to have the nails match the plate...something about it photographing well.”
“And you decided on go-go geisha?”
“Yes. It’s a pale pink nude in natural light but under a flash, the pink undertone is brought out even more and complements the petals on the plates”. He says all this very quickly as if increasing the tempo of his speech might help him forget the ridiculousness of what he’s just said, a high flush spreading across his cheeks to the tips of his frankly enormous ears which are half-hidden by his hair.
“The flash?” her lips quirk up and it’s impossible not to tease him at this moment because he’s so charming and so adorable, how could she not tease him?
“Yeah, the flash,” he mumbles, hands fidgeting his index finger stroking the back of his hand lightly, gradually rubbing the thin flesh harder until the skin is slightly red with irritation.
Rey knows she should take pity on him but it’s been a while since she’s been able to make someone so uncomfortable with her antics and she’s revelling in this moment because it feels an awful lot like flirting only she’s in control.
So she decides to push further. Savour the moment for a little longer.
“What, are you a photographer or something?”
“No,” he sighs, “I’m kind of in-between jobs at the moment so…” he looks off to the side, frowning slightly. “ I guess I had a lot of time on my hands. To research that kind of stuff.”
Rey hums, nodding her head not really knowing how to respond to that.
It was tinged with too much mid-life existentialism for Rey to be able to answer. She’s never been good at human interaction, and human vulnerability- too wrapped up in the armour that she’s created for herself to understand how people can unravel themselves so easily, could mention intimate details of their life, even if it was in a passing comment.
But she wants to say something. He looks so lost and so young at that moment that she can’t help but feel this urge to comfort him, to reassure him, to say something.
Finn cuts in before Rey can come up with a suitable response.
“Hey, Ben could you message Rose and ask her where my cufflinks are? I can’t find them anywhere?”
Ben dutifully pulls out a slim black caseless phone from his back pocket and quickly taps out a message staring intently at his phone as he waits for a reply.
The phone pings and Rey sees Ben try to suppress a smirk as he calmly says “they’re on the dresser,” and Rey sees as he tries to repress that fucking line in ‘(Not) Getting Married’ from bubbling up his throat and escaping those pillowy lips.
Rey, unlike Ben, cannot repress that urge.
“Right next to her suicide note” she giggles, far too amused by her own antics.
Finn lets out a melodramatic groan sinking down in his chair, hand rubbing over his temple.
“Rey, I love you. You know I do. But this isn’t what I need right now.”
Rey knows Finn is right. And she’s not exactly sure why Finn chose her to be Best Woman. She’s probably the worst person to be in a wedding party. She hates weddings. She doesn’t really know why he didn’t choose Poe to be his Best Man.
Except she does.
Finn, her best friend since she was 12, who has always been there for her, who is her family, is getting married. And while Rey is happy for him -because she really truly is, nothing makes her happier then seeing him happy and Rose is the loveliest new best friend that Rey could’ve hoped for- feels slightly left out of this new stage in his life.
That doesn’t really involve her.
And because Finn is her brother and he knows her to the point that it's almost uncomfortable, and he knows how she feels about Finn getting married...he tried to involve her in the wedding planning process as much as possible.
So she felt involved.
Except she doesn’t because she hates weddings. Despises them. So she resents nearly every minute of involvement in the planning process. Avoided most of the duties. With the exception of cake testing (duh), dance classes (the instructor was cute) and the Best Woman speech. Rey was really looking forward to the Best Woman speech.
“Ben, could you please go get those cufflinks for me?” Finn asks, and Ben nodds, tilting his head towards her slightly in salute before spinning on his heels and walking out the door.
Rey feels an awkward tension settle in the room between her and Finn and before Finn can open his mouth and lecture her on how ‘they’ll always be family’ and ‘nothing is going to change’ Rey mumbles an “I’ll go help him,” before finally turning off the Sondheim track, scurrying out as quickly as her legs can take her.
Ben’s legs are so fucking long, his stride so wide that Rey has to do that awkward run-walk, her stiletto heels making an obnoxious click that makes her cringe with every step. When she finally catches up to him he slows down his gait a little to accommodate hers, turning his head slightly to look down at her, his lips quirked up in a half-smile.
“So,” she starts nervously looking at the floor in front of her- she’s never been the best at starting conversations-, “Why is it I’ve only met you now Mr Man of Honour? You’ve obviously helped with the wedding planning a lot. Why haven’t I seen you around at cake testing? Or those dance classes?” she asks, playfully bumping her shoulder into him.
“Oh,” he looks slightly surprised at the question, surprised at Rey’s interest and it immediately endears him to her. “I only moved here to Chandrila this week. Well back to Chandrila. I was in Coruscant for work, but then I quit that job and I guess...I missed home. And I didn’t have any reason to stay in Coruscant so I moved back. And there was the wedding,” he gestures randomly before sliding his hand back into his pocket, “But moving wasn’t an easy process as I had hoped so a lot of the wedding planning I did was long-distance.”
“Yeah, like on facetime. Helping Rose pick out table cloths, fabric swatches, crockery, flower arrangements, and”- he grins down at her, a toothy boyish grin that makes her heart flip- “nail polish colours.”
“Right,” she says, nodding. “Go-go geisha.”
They come to a stop in front of Roses door and Ben turns his body so he’s facing her directly, “Yeah,” he murmurs his gaze cutting through her, his Adam's apple bobbing as he swallows. “Go-go geisha.”
Her therapist told her that she needs to get more comfortable with eye contact so she keeps her gaze on his until he cuts it off with a cough, glancing at the door pushing it open for her, gently guiding her with a hand hovering low behind her back, not touching her but close enough that the warmth of his palm sears through the fabric of her dress and pricks at her skin.
“Rey! Ben!” Rose exclaims her already glowing face brightening up with excitement. She makes for a beautiful bride. In her cream silk dress that drapes elegantly off her shoulders, flowing down the length of her body, and with sprigs of baby's breath carefully braided in her hair Rose is a vision.
“Rose you’re absolutely stunning,” Rey gushes rushing over to give her a hug.
“Thank you,” god her voice is so sweet, it’s almost saccharine and on anyone else, it would be grating but it’s not because Rose is just that nice. She’s caring, fiercely loyal, and witty.
No wonder Finn wants to start a new life, a new family with her.
“What are you doing here?” Rose asks, tilting her head slightly towards Ben and Rey in question.
“Rey’s helping me fetch Finn’s cufflinks,” Ben explains nodding crossing over to the dresser.
“Yeah- that,” Rey nods, shifting her feet awkwardly banging the heel of her stilettos together in an arhythmic pattern. Rose stares at her intently, eyes full of understanding and it kills her for a second because even though Rose is her close friend and Finn is her best friend she can’t help but feel that trauma of rejection, as her two best friends begin a new chapter of their life without her.
And yeah, maybe she’s being childish but god it hurts.
“Rey-” Rose starts before thinking better of it, sighing then smiling softly at her. “You know what Ben?-” she crosses over to Ben gently taking the cufflinks from his hands- “I’ll drop off the cufflinks to Finn.”
“Isn’t it bad luck for the groom to see the bride before the wedding?” Rey grumbles in protest. She knows what Rose is going to do when she sees Finn. They'll discuss Rey and her wellbeing and her mental state as if they were her parents even though Rey practically raised herself and she doesn’t need parents, she doesn’t need people.
She’s strong and independent and so very tired.
And in all fairness, it’s not like Rose and Finn’s worries aren’t warranted. Especially after that last stint, she pulled.
“-You could maybe braid Rey’s hair, Ben?”
Wait fuck, what? Rey was so lost in the confines of her mind she seemed to miss an essential part of the conversation.
“Sure,” Ben agrees amicably. “I’m just going to fix her nails first.”
Jesus Christ. It’s not even her day and she feels like she’s the twelve-year-old that’s being passed around adults that are too busy for her. Like a sick game of pass the parcel.
“Thanks,” and with that Rose whirls out of the room leaving behind the scent of jasmine and freesia behind her.
Now it’s just her and Ben.
“I am an adult,” she declares in a very adult tone. “I can take care of myself.”
“I know that,” he shrugs walking over to a sparkly pink makeup bag rummaging through until he finds a small pale pink bottle, a victorious cry escaping his lips. “But your nails are offending me right now so please just let me fix them.”
Rey likes him. She guesses that he doesn’t know her enough to walk around eggshells with her but that’s what she likes about him. She realises that he's probably read the subtext of Rey's interactions with Rose and Finn and he doesn't look at her differently for it. She appreciates that. So when he sits down next to her and unscrews the white cap of the polish, glancing at her with expectation, she gives him her hand without hesitation allowing him to cradle it in his.
The tiny brush looks ridiculous in his ginormous hands but he holds it with an impressive amount of precision, brows furrowed in concentration as he carefully paints her nails fixing the damage that she had done.
After he finishes painting her right hand he gently blows on her wet nails, the cool air sending shivers down her spine.
He gently lets go of her right hand, exchanging it for her left as he starts talking, his voice taking on an almost monotone quality.
“I was working at a corporate law firm in Coruscant. I wasn’t particularly happy. But I didn’t necessarily prioritize happiness, I didn’t see at as an essential part of everyday life. After a while, after the monotonous work, the sheer amount of hours I spent in that office and working with people that I despised and that were just toxic to my wellbeing, I began to lose it. And then one day I just couldn’t handle it anymore.
I was driving to work, and I had two phone conversations going on at once. One was a work call from my boss that was Bluetooth connected to my speakers and the other on my personal phone was my mother who I hadn’t talked to in twelve years telling me that my father was in ER for a heart-attack, begging me to come home. I don’t remember much after that but I got in a car crash so that's how I ended up with this,” he explains gesturing to his scar.
“I quit my job and decided to move back to Chandrila so I could spend more time with my parents. I couldn’t move back straight away because there was some fucked up things in my contract with my law firm so I had to detangle that mess,” Ben finishes painting her pinky lifting her hand to lightly blow on her nails again.
He leans back inspecting his handiwork before continuing, “The wedding planning took my mind off a lot of those things. I really invested myself in this wedding, wanting it to be perfect. And now that the wedding is today, I don’t want it to be over. I spent so much time on this I don’t know what I’m going to do after this,” he confesses with a sad smile.
“Why are you telling me this?”
“Because I know you were embarrassed by how Rose and Finn were treating you. And I can read between the lines enough and Rose, though she hasn’t told me everything, has told me enough for me to know that their concerns are warranted. I didn’t think it was very fair for me to know that kind of stuff about you and have you not know anything about me. So this is me levelling out the playing field. Can I start on your hair now?”
Rey nods mulling over his words as she sits down at the dressing table.
She meets his gaze in the mirror, before letting out a soft but firm “thank you.”
He nods in acknowledgement a barely-there smile gracing his lips as he gently starts to weave her hair in an intricate braid.
“You said you were in between jobs,” she says hesitantly, not wanting to disturb the comfortable silence that has fallen between them. “Any ideas of what the next job might be?”
“Ah”- he mumbles around the bobby pin that is clenched between his teeth -“I did the lettering for the wedding invitations and I enjoyed doing that. So I was thinking of starting a calligraphy business. Do invitations and letters and shit.” he says the last bit sheepishly in that way people do when they're trying to gloss over something that they truly care about.
“That's so cool,” she said, smiling in encouragement meeting his gaze in the mirror.
“Thanks,” he says, briefly breaking their gaze to slide another bobby pin in her hair. “And voila,” motioning to her hair giving it one last spritz of hair spray.
She turns her head inspecting the intricate braid that curls around itself into a bun. She touches it softly, before murmuring a “thank you.”
She fidgets her with hands, making sure she doesn’t mess up her nails too much before hesitantly asking “Can I paint your nails? Please.”
He nods and she picks up the bottle of go-go geisha nervously rolling it between her hands.
She isn’t as precise as him. Despite being an engineer, owning a garage in which her nimble strong fingers can work around any tool, her movements are shaky and the majority of the polish pools off onto the skin of his nails but he doesn’t complain. She gently blows on his fingers as he did and as she moves to work on his left hands she starts talking.
“I haven’t been sleeping lately. Ever since Rose and Finn got engaged. That wasn’t the cause of the not-sleeping thing but I just started thinking more around that time. And I haven’t stopped thinking since. And,” she starts before stopping herself letting out a humourless laugh.
“You don’t have to tell me,” he offers.
“No, I want to” she reassures him resuming painting the nail of his index finger with slow steady strokes. “ A month ago I underestimated the power of sleeping pills. I took one too many. It’s not like I was trying to…” she trails off taking in another breath. “I just wanted to sleep. But Rose and Finn understandably didn’t see it that way.”
When she finishes screwing the lid back on the bottle of nail polish he takes his hand in hers squeezing it gently.
She squeezes back.
"You're not alone," he breathes.
"Neither are you."
The air between them is brimming with tension and the moment is broken when Ben's phone pings with a new message on the dressing table. Ben squeezes her hand once more before releasing it, walking over to the dresser to check his phone. He turns his wrist slightly reading the time on his Breitling watch.
He sighs, “I have to get changed,” grabbing a starch white dress shirt moving towards the ensuite bathroom. “And then maybe we could find Rose and Finn?” he offers.
Rey nods in agreement and as the bathroom door clicks shut she starts mindlessly scrolling through Instagram occasionally double-tapping the screen on a random cat video.
Rose had talked about Ben Solo before. And while she always had said nothing but nice things about him... he sounded like a massive prick.
One, he was in corporate law.
Two, while Rose said he was nice to people he deeply cared about, Rose had said it in that way that people do when they’re carefully choosing their words, in a censored kind of way and Rey read between the lines and understood that to mean ‘if he doesn't like you he's a dick’.
And when Rose mentioned a little too casually that Ben is really easy to buy for because he constantly needs new crockery to replace the ones that he smashed, as if that was a normal thing that everybody did, Rey- though she tries hard not judge people, especially strangers- had an inkling that Ben Solo had problems.
But the Ben Solo that painted her nails, that braided her hair, talked to her, let her paint his nails. He is not the Ben Solo she expected. He is kind, caring, gentle, compassionate and-
Her train of thought is interrupted by a sheepish “Rey?”
“Yes?” she responds hesitantly not one hundred per cent sure if she’s hearing things or if Ben is genuinely calling for her.
“I need help.”
“Yes help,” he huffs through the door.
“Okay,” she replies not entirely sure of what she was supposed to do.
“Can you come in here please?”
Rey walks over slowly opening the door and she is confronted by the sight of-
Ben Solo is shirtless.
Her throat goes dry.
His skin. God his skin. Delicious, milky, pale skin with moles scattered across his chest, a cluster around his left pec that Rey is itching to trace and play dot-to-dot with. Rey knew he was broad and had an inkling that he was built (that undershirt hid nothing) but the sight of his rippling muscles overwhelms her.
“I thought you were getting changed,” she squeaks.
“I was but my nails are still wet, I forgot about that,” he says rubbing the back of his neck. “And I can’t do up the buttons without ruining the shirt or the nails...so this is really embarrassing because I’m 34 and I don’t need someone to help dress me,” he takes in a deep breath, and what comes next is pushed out in one breath, a blur of words, a “butwillyoupleasebuttonupmyshirtformeplease?”
“Can you please button up my shirt for me please?” he pleads twisting around to avoid her stare frantically trying to find where he put his shirt, finding the hanger which subsequently slips between his nervous fingers clattering on the bathroom tiles with an obnoxious ‘clunk’.
If Rey wasn’t so turned on by the sight of him and emotionally vulnerable from their previous conversation, from this whole fucking day, she would’ve found Ben’s clumsy fumble and nerves funny.
She probably would’ve laughed.
Instead, she squats down to pick up the shirt, shaking out any possible wrinkles and holds it out towards him. She wordlessly slips the sleeves over the hard muscle of his arms, defiantly ignoring the thick veins that run over the length of his forearm, ignoring how the shirt stretches tight around his biceps perfectly framing them.
She starts buttoning up his shirt from the bottom up steadily ignoring the trail of course black hair that trails down his stomach, disappearing into the waistband of his pants.
As she reaches the halfway point of the buttons, Rey swallows when she realises that his nipples are rock hard, quickly glancing up at him. He meets her gaze with dark heavy eyes and when it just becomes all too much and the room suddenly feels too small she averts her gaze and quickly finishes buttoning up the rest of his shirt.
“Tie?” she asks, eyes trained on the floor not brave enough to look anywhere else.
He passes her the silk navy tie with pale pink stitching and she can feel his heavy gaze on her.
She finally looks up again as she loops the tie around his neck, quickly tying it into a Windsor knot, unable to resist letting her hand linger when she straightens out his collar.
“It matches the nail polish,” she notes, her lips quirking up into a smile with the observation as she rubs the silk of the tie between her fingers.
“Yeah,” his voice is rough and Rey’s knees go weak because she didn’t expect that tone to have such an effect on her but yeah, it does.
It really truly does.
She wishes it didn’t because with Rose and Finn moving on with their life what she needs is a friend. And while she has other friends she needs a friend that won’t judge her, won't act as spies for Rose and Finn, that will understand her and so far Ben has fit the bill.
But this tension, whatever this tension is between them -or maybe it’s one-sided, Rey’s always been shit with people- it can’t happen.
Because Rey doesn’t need a romantic partner. She has a drawer full of purple silicone toys to fulfil those needs. What she needs is a friend. And she isn’t going to ruin whatever great potential friendship she has with Ben because she needs a good fuck.
So she drops the tie from her fingers and steps away. And another just for precaution.
“We should probably go help Rose and Finn,” her tone is breathy and she immediately wants to kick herself over it.
“Okay,” he says so simply in that fucking voice of his that Rey is immediately frustrated by his tone because how can he be talking like that when Rey is such a mess, but all that stress and anxiety melts when his hand settles on her lower back and guides her out the door.
And even though she had an inkling earlier, this is when Rey knows for sure that-
She is fucked.
So utterly, royally fucked.
At least she’s not worried about Finn and Rose anymore. Ben Solo has proved to be quite the distraction.