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The Ethical Dilemma (or Angst University)

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Rey squinted down at her phone screen with a groan.

7:05 AM

The light was way too bright, blinding even, but it had nothing on the light filtering through the windows of her dorm room.

She stretched her body out on the new, tiny, uncomfortable bed and sighed. Today was the first day of her senior year of university. She’d (somehow) secured a visa to study and eventually work in the United States two years prior, starting in her sophomore year.

As much as she hated student accommodation, she hated the responsibilities that came with apartments more. Too much stress. She just wanted to pay a lump sum in the beginning of the year and have a secure place to live for the rest of it. She didn’t care that she had to share a bathroom—she’d done much, much worse during her freshman year in Leeds, jumping from hostel to hostel despite sleeping in the library most nights. The idea of having a secure place to live for a year made her cry tears of joy the first time, but it was old hat now, being slowly but surely replaced by the fear of what she’d do after she graduated.

If she graduated. She had such a horrible hangover. Americans called this “syllabus day,” but her university had a policy that dropped students from classes if they didn’t scan in on the first day. They also had an unspoken policy of getting seniors completely and utterly blasted on the day before class started. A cruel joke, for sure.

She finally pressed her feet against the carpet. It was berber, or something like that, but it felt so plush and warm under her feet that she didn’t mind the strange texture. It was certainly a good enough distraction from the utter pounding in her head. Why had she signed up for a morning class, again?

She cursed herself as she walked towards her shared bathroom. It wouldn’t be long before her roommate scurried in there, no doubt trying to establish morning dominance. Rey couldn’t let that happen.

After her shower, she took a good, long look at herself in the mirror. The very sight made her frown. Her face was flushed, her hair looked scraggly and limp from the humidity, and her eyes—wow. She looked every bit as hungover as she felt.

Rey always liked to have a solid fifteen minutes before class to check her emails, Snapchat, and especially her GWFC account. Today, she only had time for one.

Welcome, kirakiralucky! You have 3 unread messages.

Hmm.

She clicked on her inbox and fought the grin on her cheeks.

Kylo_Ren
As much as I love talking to you on here, work’s gonna start picking up again soon.

Kylo_Ren
So here’s my number. I PROMISE I’M NOT A CREEP I just really need to continue to school you on why you’re wrong about the dark side :)

Kylo_Ren
555-800-8135

Rey was blushing. Hard. Too hard to avoid dropping her cereal bowl on the couch. It was almost empty, but there was just enough milk on the couch to necessitate immediate cleanup. She clamored to shove her phone in her back pocket and grab a rag from the kitchen. She’d have to text Kylo later. That would give her time to come up with something snarky to say, anyway.

Today’s gonna be a long day.

——

Ben Solo’s morning was going in a similarly disastrous direction. His tie had dipped into his oatmeal, and he didn’t realize it until he was on the bus. The bottom was crusty and wrinkled and decidedly not what he wanted his students to see on the first day. He had a reputation for being a bit of a hardass. Or a lot of a hardass, he didn’t really care to make the distinction. He was strict and professional and refused to let foolish undergraduates get under his skin.

Some students already had promise; they could be trusted to hold a professional job someday. Others didn’t share that promise. He believed it to be his duty to beat it into them within a single semester-long Ethics course.

The tie debacle wasn’t nearly as unsettling as the fact that he’d given his phone number to a woman that morning. He had no idea who she was, what she looked like, or where she lived, but they both loved Galaxy Wars, and that was more than he had in common with any other woman on Earth. His phone was burning a horrible hole in his pocket. He wondered if she’d just ignore the message when he felt a buzz and his heart threatened to stop beating, right there.

He pulled it out of his pocket and scoffed.

Hux, Armitage
WYA??? Holdo’s pissed

He wasn’t going to merit that with a response. He was more than on time; he wasn’t going to make it a habit to get to work fifteen minutes earlier to appease a woman with a power complex the size of the Milky Way.

After getting chewed out for his “tardiness” and appearance, and promptly realizing that he was actually just an online creep giving his number to women that clearly weren’t interested, he was in a fairly horrible mood. Too horrible to be nice to a bunch of freshmen and a handful of upperclassmen taking his course for an ‘easy’ elective. If he was a younger, he would have punched the fucking wall. But he’d been working on his mood. He didn’t want to fuck things up on the first day.

Today’s gonna be a long day, he thought, huffing while he projected the syllabus. When he finally got to the section about his tardy and absence policy, he noticed a young woman trying to slip into the back unnoticed. She had her hair in a messy bun, was in sweatpants, and had the tell-tale flush of a deeply hungover student. All the markings of a perfect victim for his first in-class outburst.

“MISS!” He called. She shot up to attention fairly quickly. “What is your name?”

“Uhh…” Rey’s heart was pounding. She couldn’t believe she was getting called out like this on the first day. She was barely ten minutes late, what was this guy’s issue? “Reychel, sir.”

He raised an eyebrow. He was scowling so hard she swore she might burst into flames if he kept looking at her. He didn't say anything. Did he want her last name too? What was he going to do, write her up?

“Fisher, sir. Reychel Fisher.”

He seemed a bit taken aback, most likely because of the accent.

“Miss Fisher,” he hissed, tapping his finger against the very clear “TARDIES AND ABSENCES POLICY” on the projected syllabus. “Can you read this for the class, please?”

“Yes, I—Yes, sir, I’m sorry, sir,” she gulped. “Two tardies are equal to one unexcused absence. Four unexcused absences will result in immediate withdrawal from the course.

“So, tell me. How many more tardies can you afford before you get kicked out?”

Rey wanted to flip her desk over. Why was he calling her out like this? Fuck, it was the first and least important day of the semester. She felt her cheeks growing bright red with embarrassment. Everyone was staring at her. Her eyes narrowed. She was going to kill this man. Murder him.

It didn’t help that he was so intimidatingly large. His hair was wavy and jet-black, and his facial structure was severe in a way that worked seamlessly. If it wasn’t for this exchange, he might have been drool worthy.

But personality mattered much more than ridiculously enticing looks. And this guy’s personality straight up fucking sucked.

“Seven, Professor Solo.”

“I’m shocked that you’re so good at math. Your time management skills clearly leave something to be desired.”

Ben didn’t feel bad. It was necessary, he thought, to beat some semblance of respect and responsibility into these kids.

Rey slumped down in her seat. She suddenly understood why this was an 8am class—only someone with an absolute power-trip complex would be so cruel as to force students out before noon. She watched him as he continued to explain the syllabus, getting into course readings now, and realized that it looked like he had dried cum on the bottom of his tie. That was her only solace for the rest of the class.

---

The rest of Rey’s day was pleasantly nondescript. She was done with all of her classes by noon on Wednesdays, which made things pleasant enough. When she finally curled up with a big bowl of ramen, she found the courage to send a text to Kylo.

From: Rey
Hey Kylo. It’s Kira from GWFC. Sorry it took so long to get to you. Had a rough morning. :(

She scooped a forkful of noodles into her mouth, and was pleasantly surprised that her phone was buzzing almost immediately after pressing send.

From: Kylooo
Hi Kira. :) I had a rough morning too. Got yelled at and dipped my tie in my oatmeal.

From: Rey
Sounds about right lol. One of my professors is just a major dick, no food related troubles for me today

From: Rey
No wait. I spilled cereal on my couch this morning.

From: Kylooo
Damn. Sounds like breakfast foods have it out for us.

From: Rey
You’re telling me lol

From: Kylooo
Couldn’t help but notice you said professor. How old are you if you don’t mind me asking?

Rey’s face flushed. Kylo could have been a super old man or a sixteen year old boy, she realized. She had no real context for his age. They’d only been lightly flirting for a few weeks, despite yelling at each other on the forums a few times over the last year.

From: Rey
I’m 22. Graduating in May. You?

From: Kylooo
Omg you’re a baby lmao I’m 33. Now I really do feel like a creep

She didn’t realize she’d been holding her breath until he texted back. 33 was fine, she could handle that.

From: Rey
I will destroy you. :-)

From: Kylooo
Don’t threaten me with a good time.

From: Rey
You ever do phone calls? I just realized there’s a lot we don’t know about each other. I could be a serial killer for all you know.

From: Kylooo
Didn’t I just say not to threaten me with a good time?

From: Kylooo
But yes, I have been known to talk on the phone on occasion. Call you tonight?

From: Rey
Okay. :)

Rey pressed her phone against her chest. Her heart was absolutely pounding, and she had no idea why. How could some possible weirdo from the internet have an affect on her?

Probably because he liked Galaxy Wars and had a nearly encyclopedic knowledge of the Extended Universe. He was a man of good taste, after all.

Maybe today wasn’t going to be so bad.

It was seven before Ben worked up the nerve to call Kira. She didn’t answer immediately—of course not—and that made his heart do somersaults. He felt so foolish for caring about her at all, but she had such a quick sense of humor and was into the same dorky shit as him. It was a recipe for disaster from the first time they’d gotten into it on GWFC.

“Hello?” He heard a voice ask. He couldn’t tell if she was British or not—she sounded British, but she’d only said one thing so far and he couldn’t work up the courage to say anything else because her voice was so beautiful and it nearly broke him in half and—

“Kylo? Can you hear me?”

Yes, definitely British. He cleared his throat. “Yeah, yeah. Sorry, had you on mute.”

“Oh. I heard breathing.” Her tone was playful, but also accusatory. She sounded like she could read him, make out every line on his face just from his voice. It scared him.

So he doubled down despite wanting to drop the subject completely. “Huh. Must have been you.”

“Hmm. I’ll give it to you this time, Kylo Ren.”

“I appreciate it, Kira.”

She was giggling. He didn’t know why. It made his face turn pink, he could feel the heat in his cheeks. Why the fuck was he crushing on her, just from her voice, like a teenager? And she was only 22. Some of his students were only 22. Fuck, it was such a recipe for disaster, and she probably thought he was such a creep.

“My name isn’t really Kira. It’s Rey. Is your name actually Kylo?”

Ben cleared his throat for what felt like the millionth time in sixty seconds. “I mean… it’s what I’d prefer to be called. I have a boring name.”

“Okay, okay. Keep your secrets.”

She was giggling again. Fuck, he didn’t know why that little laugh undid him so much. He had to get her to talk or he’d embarrass himself.

“Will do. Can you tell me about your horrible day now?”

“Mm,” he heard some shuffling from her side. She sounded like she was getting comfortable. Was she laying down? He wanted to lay down beside her so bad. Oh, fuck. “Well, a professor yelled at me for being late. But he’s a dick, everyone knows that. The rest of my courses seem okay. I’m really just focused on graduating.”

Ben wanted to throw himself off the balcony. He, himself, had just yelled at someone for being late. The guilt was overwhelming now. He wondered how the girl—Raina, was it? Or Reychel?—might feel, how she must be telling her own friends about him.

“Oh. I know all about that,” he laughed, but his laugh wasn’t as charming and he knew that. His voice was deep and scary, not small and charming. It made him feel more self conscious. “I’m actually a professor myself.”

“No. Shit. Are you serious? Are you a dick, too?”

He could hear the smile in her voice. It made him smile, too. “I mean, yeah. Someone’s gotta keep you undergraduates in line.”

“Nooo way. That’s some dark side shit, Kylo,” the fucking giggling again. And the way she said his alias, like it was sweet as sugar on her tongue… “The way you put me in my place on GWFC… I don’t doubt you’d call me out in front of the class, too. Shame on you.”

His breath hitched imagining this faceless, bodiless voice in his stupid Ethics class. He had to change the subject immediately.

“So… nothing better to do than talk to a man from the internet tonight?”

“Is this not what normal girls do?” He could hear that smile again. She had to know how interested he was, he’d been throwing himself at her mercilessly since he’d noticed her female avatar on the forums. Like a creep.

“I couldn’t tell ya. This is definitely not what normal men do with their Wednesday nights.”

“Mm, Professor Ren. Shouldn’t you be getting ready for class tomorrow?” She was teasing him. Fuck. He was hard and he didn’t know when it happened or why. All he knew was that this brilliant woman with a beautiful voice was fucking teasing him when she should have been… doing homework? Oh God. The thought made him even harder.

“I…don’t teach on Thursdays,” he huffed. He had to get off the phone. He’d call her again when he’d sorted his horrible, perverted mind out. “But I do need to prep for Friday. It’s the first real day.”

“Can you call me again tomorrow night? This is fun. Less impersonal than texting.” He could hear her pouting. It made his cock twitch. Oh God, what a creep, what an absolute creep.

“Y-yes, Rey. I’ll call you tomorrow.” I would stay on the phone but if I don’t touch myself right now I’m going to punch something. “And probably text you before that, if that’s okay?”

“Sounds good, Professor Ren.”

Another twitch. Holy fuck. He had to go.

“Goodnight, Rey. Hope tomorrow is better for you.”

He clicked the phone off before she could possibly respond and stomped straight into his bedroom.

This was gonna be a long night.