Somebody pokes Ben in the shoulder, and he turns from what he’s been doing for the past several minutes - bickering with Armitage Hux about the characterization of Grendel’s mother, their favorite ongoing argument - to glare at whoever dared to interrupt their conversation. It’s Finn, who’s in the middle of a laugh, holding a half-empty bottle of IPA in one hand and poking Ben with the other. But before Ben can open his mouth to complain, a voice shouts from the direction of the house.
“Ben! Hey guys! When did the sun go down? It’s so dark! Is Ben down there?”
Finn laughs again, harder, and Ben rolls his eyes and shouts back, “I’m here by the fire pit!” The others gathered there - in addition to Finn and Hux there’s Kaydal, Snap, and Poe - all giggle and make way for the woman who all but stumbles across the grass to reach them.
“Ben!” she says again, once she’s finally made her way around the fire pit. Ben takes her elbow gently, intending to help keep her upright - she’s obviously been drinking heavily, up in the house where she and Rose have been alone together for the past hour or so - but she shakes him off although she stays standing close. She’s very pretty, in the light of the fire. Her face is flushed, and her eyes shine. Her pupils are wide in the darkness, but Ben doesn’t mind that at all. Her buns are starting to come loose - another side effect of her drunkenness, he supposes - and the strap of her yellow sun dress is slipping down her right shoulder. Ben considers hooking his finger under the fabric and tugging it up, but decides that he’d rather wait to see if it might slip further down instead.
“What is it, Rey?” Ben asks, holding back his own smile. Rey giggles, followed by a soft snort that almost breaks his serious demeanor, and pokes him in the chest.
“Do you remember?” She says, then pauses to burp quietly. “S’cuse me. Do you remember, Ben Solo, college?”
“Do I remember college? My college? You mean Haverford?” He can almost hear her eye roll, and she pokes him again.
“No, silly. I mean Tech.” She wobbles slightly, but rights herself before Ben can reach out to her, and he controls himself to keep from reaching out unnecessarily.
“Ah, Tech. I remember Tech.”
“Tech was my college, do you remember? You were my professor.”
Ben’s face heats up and Hux coughs violently to cover up what is most likely an impending laughing fit. Ben stares down into Rey’s beautiful face; she is clearly unaware that there is a group of people standing around them listening to every word she says, and when Finn grabs Hux’s arm and pulls him away, leading the rest of the group to the other side of the fire pit, Ben sends him a secret thank you and reminds himself to buy him a nice bottle of wine or something the next time he comes over for dinner.
“I remember,” Ben says, and Rey bites her bottom lip and grins up at him.
“Do you remember that you had a huge crush on me? That was so embarrassing for you.”
Ben takes a breath before he answers. “I remember.” Rey giggles madly for a minute, stomping her sandled feet against the dusty ground, before she asks another question.
“Do you remember that I was in your class? It was the last semester of my senior year, I had one last stupid humanities credit I had to finish before I could graduate. I was twenty-one and you were thirty.” She punctuates her announcement with another poke in his chest, one that lingers briefly before she pulls her hand away. The flush of Ben’s face must extend all the way down to his chest, he feels so hot, but he can’t take his eyes off of her.
She looks positively satisfied, like a cat that ate a canary and got away with it, and she leans closer.
“Do you remember how we used to argue in class? How I would come up with the most fantastic readings for all the texts and it made you so mad? And then I got an A on my final paper?”
“I remember that,” he confirms. “Your thesis was that Heurodis wanted to leave Sir Orfeo and live in the fairy world with the fairy king. It’s a ridiculous idea but your argument was compelling.”
Rey burps again, and sighs. Her eyelids droop, and Ben gives in and loops an arm around her waist. She doesn’t object. Rather, she lifts her hooded eyes to meet his and says quietly, close to a whisper, “Do you remember the day you submitted grades?”
Ben closes his eyes, takes three slow breaths, and then opens them again. She’s still gazing into his face, eyebrows drawn together, her lips slightly parted. He’s aware of her right hand as it reaches down and grabs hold of the bottom hem of the tee shirt he wore to the party.
“I remember,” he whispers, and pulls her closer.
Rey’s hand slips under his shirt, and her fingers brush against the heated skin of his lower back.
“Tell me,” she implores. Her eyes flick quickly to his mouth, then back to meet his eyes. “Please.”
He leans down so his mouth is close to his ear, just to make sure the people on the other side of the fire pit can’t hear.
“After I submitted them I went to your apartment, to give you the good news about your grade.”
Rey makes a noise in the back of her throat, something between a hum and a growl. “How did that work out for you?” Ben tightens his hold on her suddenly, and she gasps. “It worked out well. You were so happy about your well-earned A that you kicked out your roommate and let me eat you out on the kitchen counter.”
Rey’s fingertips push into the flesh of Ben’s back, as though trying to find purchase. “What then?” Her voice is breathy, so breathy and so sweet.
“Then I picked you up and carried you back to your room.”
He pauses, unnecessary, but it gets the response he desires. She digs her fingers into his back so hard that the hard curve of her fingernails sting.
“Then? Then I fucked you until you cried.”
He’d fucked her hard, first, months of pent-up passion let out in a few minutes, and then he’d fucked her slow, taking the time to learn every part of her, every touch and stroke that would make her sigh or swear or shout or even weep.
“You cried too,” she says, but there’s no malice in her voice and she wraps her other arm around him, her left hand joining her right one in exploring the skin of his back. His hands reach up to cradle her face.
“I did cry,” he says. “It was one of the best experiences of my life.”
“Only one of them?”
He frowns, but it’s just a tease. “Our wedding day was pretty good, too.”
She’s the one flushing now, and not because of alcohol.
“What happened then?”
“After our wedding?”
“No, silly! On that day.”
“I stayed the weekend. I applauded when you walked across the stage at graduation. And then I married you. I never let you go.”
Rey smiles at that, and he can see tears beginning to form in the corner of her eyes. “You haven’t let me go.”
“I will never let you go.”
She believes him. Ben can tell by the devotion in her eyes, and how she tips her head just right so he can lean down and press his mouth against hers. But it’s not long before he becomes aware again of the noises of their friends, talking and laughing at the other side of the fire pit, and Rey slumps wearily against him.
“I love that story,” she mumbles, and Ben laughs before planting one last kiss on her forehead.
“I know you do, sweetheart. You make me tell it to you every time you get really drunk.”
She chuckles into his chest. “Am I drunk, Professor Solo?”
“You are wasted, Missus Solo. Come on, let me take you home.”
They say goodbye to their friends - Rose had followed Rey down into the yard so they didn’t have to make a special trip into the house - and within minutes Ben is leading Rey up the path to where they parked out on the street.
“You can take me home any time, Ben,” Rey says sleepily as Ben helps her buckle her seatbelt.
“I will always take you home,” Ben replies, and gives her one last kiss before walking around to the driver’s seat and taking them both home.