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And yet another fantastic piece by @2ndSWRD!

dream

It’s dark and I can’t move. But I have to move.

He’s looking.

I duck into the shadows.

Little girl? Where are you? Come on out so I can see you.

Come out or I’ll flush you out like a little sparrow.

shhhhh

Come out.

Or I’m going to make it all burn down. You won’t like that, girl.

My fingers scrabble at something smooth and soft, not scratchy and sharp like the branches and twigs that were just underfoot.

Flickering red light pierces the shadowed darkness, and I open my mouth to scream before remembering I can’t.

It’s fire. It’s fire. It’s fire.

Don’t make a sound. Not one sound. He’ll find you, he’ll get you.

But the air goes thick and heavy, and I can’t breathe when I see him.

He’s watching.

It’s the monster. The same one. Every time.

Found you.

I told you I would, and now I’m going to make you very, very sorry.

 

I wake up and my head hurts. My first thought, bizarrely, is that today is Christmas.

My second thought is I’m in a strange bed. My dress has been unzipped, but not removed. Frantically, I take stock of my condition.

I think I’m okay, except for the glaring problem of not knowing where I am and a skull-splitting ache over my left eye.

Oh, fucking hell, a hangover. The worst.

I don’t think I’ve ever felt this terrible.

I look around through slitted eyes.

The soft light of dawn reveals thick carpet and heavy drapes pulled back to expose the morning sky.

I’m resting on soft, exquisite bedding.

These sheets probably cost a year’s rent.

Quiet luxury permeates everything around me and the insulated hush from the noise of the city tells me I’m very, very high up in the air, buffered from the real world by at least a few dozen stories of steel and glass.

From my position in bed, I can see out the window. No, not a window. Bigger than a window.

I blink and try to focus. It’s an entire wall of glass, and I’m at the very top of the city. Golden dawn glimmers off of Skywalker Tower on my left, and I crane my neck at the unobstructed view of the skyline across Central Park.

More than a few dozen stories, then.

Shit. Where am I?

Blearily, I push the sheets away, confused.

I’m wearing my maid of honor dress. Not for a wedding though.

Rose’s party.

Ben Solo.

Oh. Did I?

I try to see the puzzle that my brain is rapidly piecing together.

Did I really?

Fuck. Yes, I did. I think.

Fuck. Oh, fuck.

Confirming my suspicion, Solo, looking classy and gorgeous as ever, despite the early hour, pokes his dark head into the room. He is fashionably tousled and wearing a pair of pajama bottoms and a black t-shirt that molds to his chest in a way that would make me salivate if my mouth didn’t already feel like it has been scrubbed out with steel wool.

He’s carrying a glass of water in one hand and the other is palm up as if he’s holding something for my headache.

Pills?

Oh, double fuck, yes, please.

This is about the sexiest thing I’ve ever seen in my whole goddamned life.

He comes close and sets the pills on the nightstand, holding out the glass for me.

“Small sips first. Make sure you don’t get sick.”

I roll to the side and my hand is shaking as I help him guide it to my lips. Tepid water hits my tongue. Then it touches the back of my throat and I pull away.

Nope. Oh, no.

A wave of nausea rolls over me and I lurch and gag.

Faster than I would have given him credit for, he sets the glass on the nightstand and scoops me up, rushing me into an adjoining bathroom.

Everything is a blur of pain and gagging as, for a few horrible minutes, I retch violently into his very nice, very clean toilet.

My stomach cramps and heaves and I know I’m making the most god-awful, disgusting sounds as everything in me is turned inside out.

Good thing Solo doesn’t appear to be a sympathetic puker like Rose.

Suddenly I’m cold with sweat and shaking and panting. I gasp like I just sprinted twelve city blocks in heels.

I can’t stand up, and I really, really want to hide.

Fucking hell, this is bad. My head is pounding, even if my stomach feels better.

Oh, God. This is it. Karma.

Everyone was right. It’s a bitch. Humiliation swamps me, and I can’t even look at him or figure out what to do next.

And, as if it’s the most natural thing in the world to be dealing with me, Rey Nobody and Human Disaster Extraordinaire, Solo doesn’t say a word.

Not one.

He just helps me rinse my mouth with some water from the tap, smoothing my sweaty hair from my forehead before he lifts me again and carries me back to bed. He props a few pillows under my head and gives me a minute to settle in, then silently passes me the glass of water and several little pills.

I scowl at them suspiciously until he assures me, “Just a couple of aspirin. I’m guessing you have quite a headache.”

I try to keep heat from flooding my face as I take the pills and guzzle the water, rather clumsily, while he looks on. A little bit drizzles down my neck and I keep gulping.

The jig is up. I mean, there's no point trying to be elegant when I just hurled my guts out in front of the man, right?

Although, I think this whole thing would hurt a helluva lot less if he wasn’t so good-looking.

“You were in really bad shape last night. I didn’t want to leave you. I hope it’s okay I brought you here instead of taking you home.”

“How much did I drink?” My throat hurts and my voice sounds raw and I realize how idiotic it is for me to ask him this. As if he would know. As if it was his job to keep track.

“I don’t know…but…” He licks his lips, drawing my attention to the ridiculously lush shape and color. Even in my current predicament, I still have eyes in my head, and there’s no missing the fact that he’s as fucking handsome as the Devil.

But his eyes remain solemn. “You don’t have a problem with alcohol, do you?”

It’s a fair question, especially considering the only other time he’s seen me before last night, I was also raging drunk. 

“I can see why you would think so,” I mutter. It hurts to talk, and I really just want to burrow into these sheets and never come out. “But no. I never drink. I mean. I can’t afford it and…” I drift off, feeling like an idiot for bringing up my extreme poverty in light of…

The words opulent wealth come to mind.

He smiles and it eases the intimidating vibe.

I should go. Except, my feet are bare. My shoes have been removed and placed next to my ratty old coat on a nearby chair that probably costs twenty times what the coat did brand new.

He notices the direction of my gaze. “I took off your shoes and your coat last night. You didn’t look very comfortable.”

This small kindness sends more than a small pang of guilt through my chest, not to mention another rush of embarrassment.

Shit, I must have blacked out. I chew on my lip and try to remember if I drank more than I thought. I try to remember the details of Rose’s party, but it’s all a blur.

Maybe I do have a drinking problem.

He’s still watching me, probably wondering if I’m going to douse him with the rest of my water. Gingerly, I pass the glass back to him. The pounding in my head has eased, and I know once my aspirin kicks in I’ll feel better.

“God, I wouldn’t be surprised if you dumped me on my doorstep and washed your hands of me for good.”

His mouth curves into a genuine smirk and my belly tightens with something decidedly inappropriate, competing with the ache behind my eyeballs.

“You told me you have a stalker. I didn’t think it would have been at all the thing to do, leaving you to fend for yourself in the condition you were in.”

Fuck, that’s right. I mentioned my stalker last night. Shit.

“It’s no big deal. I think it’s just…” I lick my lips and think about Rose’s picture and her exed-out eyes. I was not supposed to tell anyone about that. Firmly, I reiterate, “It’s just my landlord, Plutt. Being an ass.”

“Want me to kill him for you?”

At the playful light in Solo’s eyes, I burst into laughter which I immediately regret because of the shooting pain thudding into my skull. I clutch my head and chortle, “Maybe later.”

“Well,” he says softly. “I had some things sent up for you. You’ll probably feel much better if you want to change out of your dress and freshen up a bit.”

My mouth gapes open, headache forgotten.

Things? Sent up? For me?

“I shouldn’t impose. It’s Christmas and–”

And he’s staring at me again.

“It’s no trouble. I haven’t really celebrated the holidays for a long time. I was sort of looking forward to playing Santa Claus.”

A grin splits over my face, I can’t help it. He’s just so not a jolly old fat man with a beard. The opposite, in fact. In his t-shirt and pajama pants, he looks younger, and without his hair combed back and his typical ruthless scowl in place, he doesn’t look like such a…carnivore.

“You shouldn’t be so nice,” I joke. “Or you’ll never get rid of me.”

I swear whatever vibe is rolling off him is palpable, but before I can put my finger on it, he points to the bathroom.

“There are some clothes and a toothbrush for you in there. Take a shower, whatever you want. Then you should eat something to settle your stomach.”

I try to nod, but all I can do is stare at the way his hair curls over his forehead.

“What sounds good?”

He’s asking the way rich people ask, as if literally whatever I want is totally an option.

If I blurt out something ridiculous like “an omelet bar” would he have one sent up? Probably.

I scoot off the bed and stand on shaky legs. “Um. You really don’t have to go to all this trouble just for me. I don’t need…”

“I know. But it’s Christmas.”

“Well. Then, I’ll have whatever you’re having.” This seems like the thing to say. His mouth twitches as if he just read my mind, and this time when I flee his presence it’s only to cross the room and close myself behind the bathroom door. I take a few deep breaths and try to calm my nerves.

Other than my pounding headache and lingering nausea, I feel fine. Normal. He didn’t do anything creepy. He just tucked me in, and then he let me sleep off my horrendous drunkenness.

He brought me water and made sure I didn’t vomit in my hair and gave me some aspirin. He’s been a perfect gentleman.

I have no reason to be so flustered.

The bathroom is magnificent, with huge slabs of white marble veined in silver and gold from floor to ceiling. The whole room is almost as big as my studio in Hell’s Kitchen. There’s a gas fireplace set into the wall behind a stand-alone tub. The tub itself is impressive, and it looks like four people could fit inside. The fire is lit, and I give it a nervous once-over, wondering if it stays on all the time just for the hell of it or if someone turned it on just for me.

I peek inside the massive, tiled walk-in. A few expensive-looking bottles of hair product are already in there, and it occurs to me this is his personal bathroom. His shower.

That was his bed I slept in.

I try not to think about him unzipping my dress partway or taking off my shoes or my coat or how I’m going to be naked in here, in his private space.

I notice several bags on the marble vanity that spans the length of the room. I really shouldn’t further complicate our relationship by accepting any more than the bare minimum from him.

I should leave, get back to my apartment, back to reality. But I’m so curious.

And it is Christmas.

I can’t help peeking through the bags and boxes, all wrapped in scented tissue paper and set into more bags with more tissue paper as if they contain the most precious, delicate things, and it’s all just so, so lovely.

Recklessly, I open the boxes.

It’s a whole outfit, brand new. And clothes like nothing I’ve ever seen up-close before, the kind they sell in shops that wouldn’t let a girl like me past the door to the type of woman who spends money as a hobby and wears things once or twice before giving them to the maid or the nanny when she tires of them.

A tear springs into my eye. It’s been forever since I’ve been able to afford new clothes. Most of what I wear is scavenged from the thrift store, and even those clothes cost money since I need to maintain a minimum level of professionalism for work.

It’s rare enough for me to buy “new” things and bring them home to jazz up, maybe stitch on new buttons and hem them and press them with the iron Maz sometimes lets me borrow.

I’ve never owned anything with a designer label before.

Would it be so awful if I kept these? It’s not like he’s expecting anything in return. And I might be able to put them on consignment later, although they are almost too expensive to resell and these could last for years if I take really good care of them.

There is a pair of well-made pants and a long-sleeved shirt of the softest cotton. And a cream cashmere sweater that will look so good on me. Every seam is perfectly stitched, every inch of fabric is thick and luxurious and as soft as can be.

In another bag, I find a pair of fawn-colored winter gloves and a matching wool cap, and even a scarf, tightly knit and long enough to wrap around my neck a few times. And there are socks, too, not like any of my other lumpy, misshapen ones with holes in the toes from being darned too many times.

And a pair of boots made of buttery-soft leather that look as if they will keep my feet toasty and dry against the coldest city sidewalks.

The boots alone are enough to make me tear up some more.

My cheeks flush a little when I open another box and find underwear and a bra. They’re nothing deliberately sexy, but still pretty and trimmed in lace and exactly my size and even more amazing, a matched set.

I don’t know if I’ve ever, ever been able to afford matching underwear and a bra.

And in yet another bag I find a little kit full of luxury toiletries – creams and lotions and even a small makeup palette with little brushes that will last me for months if I scrimp – and as promised, a new toothbrush.

I realize I’m looking at thousands of dollars of stuff in here. I’m looking at the cost of a new fridge and a month’s worth of food to put in it.

And then some.

I can’t keep this.

But.

But, he has billions. Maybe he just doesn’t realize about the real world. This stuff is nothing to him, less than crumbs from his overflowing plate.

He’s only being nice because I’m pathetic and need help and he’s definitely the bigger person here.

I was so horrible to him the last time we met. I wonder if I won’t come across as even more of a bitch if I spurn his generosity.

I have a sneaking suspicion he doesn’t like being told no and more than a sneaking suspicion if I turn down his gifts that formidable menace of his will rear its head.

I strip down and step into the shower and all the way through, I debate with myself.

I mean, it’s not like he’s coming on to me. He never has, not even at the wedding.

Shame burns my cheeks even as I dawdle under the decadence of six different showerheads and shave my legs and scrub my hair. I am tempted to use his shampoo and save the stuff he got me for when I get home, but maybe he’ll notice the smell and think I’m weird. But since I’m curious, I sniff his hair product while I’m in there and practically get high from how good it smells.

Fuck.

Maybe the only thing getting in my way is my own stubborn pride.

Decision made, I finally step out of the shower and brush my teeth and hair and put on those beautiful clothes. They feel so perfect and warm and good, I resolve to apologize again and be extra nice and maybe eat a little something if he offers. And then politely thank him and leave before I get too attached to all of this.

The least I can do is say thank you. And not be a total asshole.

I stuff my dress and old underwear and all my new toiletries and things back into the shopping bags, taking care to save the tissue paper and the boxes, too, before I go back into the bedroom for my shoes and coat.

The room is empty, but the bed has been made.

Draped over the side is a stunning cashmere coat.

Mesmerized, I move to touch it. It’s double-breasted and wide at the collar and it belts around the waist and I know it’s meant for me.

It’s long enough to cover the tops of my legs but not boxy and ugly like my peacoat. This coat is thick and lined with satin and when I look at the label I swallow a deep swell of nerves. This coat alone is more expensive than the combined total of all the other stuff, boots included.

This…this is too much.

Isn’t it? Does someone like Ben Solo even know what over the top looks like to a normal person?

He did bring a twenty thousand dollar case of wine to the Hux’s party last night.

Maybe he just doesn’t understand how normal people live.

I try not to feel too resentful over it, knowing my temper is my biggest weakness. It’s not his fault he’s rich.

I stuff my high heels into the bag alongside my dress and lift my old coat from the chair.

The pocket buzzes, and I realize it’s my phone.

Shit. Rose is probably worried sick about me.

I go to check my messages, but to my surprise, it’s only a text from her telling me Merry Christmas and another from Finn asking if I’ll be there later today for dinner. I text them both back, but quickly, suddenly in a hurry to find Solo.

It takes a while. This place isn’t just a penthouse, it’s a fucking mansion. I wander out of his room and down a hallway that opens onto a huge double staircase overlooking the living room below with another breathtaking view of the city. There’s a grand piano in the corner and it seems tiny under a chandelier the size of a subway car hanging from overhead. The ceilings must be at least thirty feet tall and every outside wall is heavy-paned glass so not one inch of the panoramic view is wasted.

His whole place is just gorgeous, all open concept and done in whites and creams with touches of bronze to warm things up.

I find him in the kitchen. He’s still wearing his pajama bottoms and the black t-shirt and looking like a caged tiger as he paces between the fridge and the enormous island. I stare at the island for half a minute. It’s the sort of thing they do entire magazine articles on, made from a single slab of granite I’m pretty sure must’ve been flown in by helicopter.

He’s tossing some fruit into a blender and the smell of coffee hits my nose and I forget everything else.

“Coffee.”

Solo grins and I can’t shake the impression he’s a predator, even though he does nothing more sinister than grab a mug from a cupboard and ask, “Cream? Sugar?”

“Just cream,” I breathe, watching the way his pecs and biceps flex while he fixes me a cup.

Fuck. I was wrong before. This is the sexiest thing I’ve ever seen in my whole life.

“Feel better?” he mutters, sliding the mug across the island. He has to stretch to reach me, despite his height, and I try and fail not to stare at how the t-shirt stretches over his muscles. He has morning whiskers and when he’s briefly leaning close and focused on not spilling the coffee, I notice how long and curly his eyelashes are.

My mouth goes dry and I nod. “So much better. I can’t thank you enough for everything. It’s just so, so nice.”

“It’s nothing.” His mouth pulls up at the corner.

I feel a bit gauche, so I sip my coffee and try not to moan aloud.

He takes a sip of his own coffee and his calculating golden perusal slides over my outfit and sends ripples of nervous energy under my skin.

I’ll never get used to this, the way his scrutiny infiltrates like he knows things about me I don’t even know. It’s so uncomfortable, and I try not to visibly squirm. I don’t think he realizes he’s doing it.

The coffee is divine, and I spend a minute enjoying it and trying to play it cool and not feeling like the impostor I am, clothed in luxurious things and hanging out in a penthouse with a billionaire and drinking his fabulous coffee.

“I ought to have warned you that wine packs a punch.”

“Well. I was drinking for two.” My joke is feeble, but he smiles fully, easing the tension some more.

“I didn’t realize Rose was pregnant, or I would have brought something she could enjoy, too. I hope it’s all right that I, uh, called her earlier and let her know you were okay.”

Ah. That’s why she wasn’t blowing up my phone, freaking out.

“Is that how you knew my size?”

“If it was, I would never admit such a thing to the lady in question.” He winks, a hint of a dimple slashing his cheek.

A hot stone of pure lust sinks into my gut.

Oh, fuck, he’s so sexy it’s painful, physically, actually painful.

And he rejected you, Rey. Get over it. He’s just being nice.

I hide behind my mug and mumble, “I’m sure Rose is grateful you took me off her hands. Thank you, by the way. For that, too.”

The coffee is good, but my appetite is coming back now that the edge is finally off my headache. My stomach groans.

Taking the cue, he jumps into action. “Stay right there. I’ll fix you something to eat.”

I’m not moving. I should leave before I wear out my welcome, but I’m not in a hurry to return to my place and dig something out of the cooler.

Which reminds me, I need more ice.

Ugh.

Part of me wants to cry, thinking of how my rent is going up another two hundred dollars a month and it’s going to ruin me.

And part of me wants to pretend it isn’t really real, my life out there beyond these heavy panes of glass, in the world where I am supposed to exist.

Hell’s Kitchen. Shitty landlord. Crappy job. A borrowed gun, loaded and tucked away in my top dresser drawer.

And let’s not forget the stalking.

For a few minutes, I want to pretend those things aren’t mine.

I want to pretend this is my world, with me wearing lovely clothes and smelling like a spa and watching a beautiful, wealthy man make me breakfast.

And so, I do. I pretend.

I can’t stay here forever.

But for a little while, I can dream.