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UNDERCOVER LOVE

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Cassian Andor walked briskly to the exit door of the Montreal courthouse, nodded to the security guard, who was watching the comings and goings, and crossed the threshold. The late afternoon sun blinded him for a few seconds and he was immediately hot in his dark blue fitted shirt and black suit. It was only the end of May, but it was one of those days that seemed to herald the beautiful weather of the coming summer.

He thought briefly about the in-ground pool in his backyard and how, in another context, it would have been the perfect evening for a first swim with a glass of pinot – and he was momentarily distracted by the image of Jyn in a bikini. Almost at the same time, his Galaxy vibrated in his pocket and the screen displayed a photo of his wife, a radiant smile on her face, and the contact's name "My love".

The forty-year-old did not even have time to pronounce a single word, when he answered: Jyn was, already, launched in a panic speech. It did not take more to bring him back to reality: the monumental load of work which weighed on his shoulders, his overtime which accumulated as quickly as his gray hair and the anxious atmosphere which he and his wife had to support. This was the biggest case of his career and there was a price to pay.

"Of course not, my love, there is no danger," Cassian interrupted her, reassuringly. "The alarm system is engaged, everything is fine."

"Are you sure that it will be effective enough?" she insisted, with a tone which let imply that she did not believe that it would be enough to protect her in case of need.

"Yes, my love, it is effective. If a mouse ever crosses the field, the alarm goes off."

"Yes, but..."

"Are the police here?"

There was a moment of silence on the other end of the line, followed by a 'Frich, frich, frich' and Cassian guessed she had to walk to one of the windows that looked out onto the low-traffic street in the suburban Montreal town where they lived. The prosecutor had just reached the outside stairs of the courthouse and began to walk down them at a slow, casual pace.

"A white car?" he asked, finally, after about thirty seconds.

"There's only a black car parked across the street," Jyn informed him.

"Yes, it might be black. It can be."

By the time Cassian reached the curb, his wife had resumed her panicked speech. He felt a surge of guilt for putting her through this terrible fear, but he still tried to remain calm. He had to keep a cool head - otherwise they would both be in a panic and this case was far too important.

"I will be there in thirty minutes, my love, nothing will happen to you, I promise," he cut in, again.

However, Jyn did not listen to him and seemed to ignore his attempt to reassure her. He sighed and reached out to the doorman, whom he had called from his office before leaving and who was waiting on the sidewalk to retrieve his car keys. His car - a Volvo XC60 SUV, hybrid model, intense black color - was waiting for him in one of the few parking lots in front of the huge building. The end-of-day traffic was starting to build and Cassian didn't have the heart to tell his wife that he would probably arrive later than the promised thirty minutes.

"We live in Terrebonne, Jyn, the most dangerous thing is a tanning salon!" Cassian exclaimed suddenly, a little tired, as he walked around his car to the driver's side door.

"Are you sure? But the threats and..."

"There's no danger, my love," he said, getting into his car. "Palpatine is crazy, but not as crazy as to go after the crown prosecutor's wife. That would be suicidal."

"Okay, okay," Jyn resigned herself. "I'll wait for you."

"I love you. See you soon," he said, fastening his seat belt and hanging up.

His keys in the ignition, he started the car. The bomb on the SUV's engine exploded with a loud bang. The surrounding cars shook with the impact, some burst into flames, alarms went off, some pedestrians were injured and others screamed in fright. Many people immediately called the emergency services to report the scene.

Finally, it was a beautiful May day to die.

***

 

Glock 17 in hand, Ben Solo, an officer with the Montreal Police Service's anti-organized crime squad, was running at full speed through the traffic jam on a one-way street near the Palais de Justice. Several cars were honking their horns at the usual interminable wait in the metropolis - increased due to the beginning of road work to repair some major cracks in the asphalt. In addition, there were several police, fire and ambulance sirens.

He was chasing a man also holding a gun, tall, early forties, with curly white hair. The fugitive was wearing an old black sweater so worn that a large hole went through the fabric in his back and a collar that looked like a dog's. Pretty hard to lose sight of him. The black-haired young man quickened his pace when the suspect turned to see if he was still following him.

"Ben, can you hear me?" Jessika Pava, one of his colleagues (and best friend), spoke in his earpiece. "Ren might be an important witness, try not to hurt him too much, okay?"

"Don't worry, I'll take care of it," Ben said, between two shaky breaths.

Ren pretended to turn left when they came to an intersection, but only zigzagged between cars to lose his pursuer. However, his tactics did not work. The suspect's breathing became increasingly wheezy from the exertion, but he continued to run - his adrenaline-filled body helped. He turned onto a street blocked by city work and hoped that would delay the policeman long enough to escape.

What a shitty idea to have hung around so long near the underground parking lot. The same one where the prosecutor's car was parked before Trudgen, disguised as a doorman, came to get it and set off the bomb! He should have left immediately!

The police detective was still following him. He growled an insult.

Ren turned and tried to shoot the young man. His first bullet hit one of the roadwork signs, and Ben ducked the second one. Some of the workers on the construction site sidestepped and screamed in fright. He fired five more bullets, but they didn't hit their target. He was shaking too much from shortness of breath and the stress of the situation. His gun quickly ran out of ammunition and he threw it furiously, for lack of a better idea, at the detective. The weapon hit his shoulder but did not injure him. Ben only winced and instinctively rubbed the impact site.

Seeing that he would be arrested in a few seconds if he did nothing, Ren dropped an orange cone that marked the beginning of the construction zone and pushed it onto the young man. Surprised, Ben stumbled and this gave the suspect a reprieve, who immediately took this chance to run away and get around the fence that surrounded the construction site. He soon found himself in a dead end and had to climb up one of the gates as quickly as possible. Ren landed on his feet on the other side and ran through the construction cranes. Ben, despite the fact that he had been momentarily delayed, was following him, again, very closely. Too close.

Dodging construction equipment, the dark-haired young man stumbled again. Ren saw his way out: he climbed onto the platform of an SUV containing several blue barrels to jump another gate. Ben, who had gotten up, shot one of the chains holding the barrels together and broke it. The white-haired man slid instantly to the ground. Although dazed, Ren got up and started running again. Luckily, he was running faster than the policeman. But that was not enough.

He saw a car, a gray Toyota Corolla, parked further away. This was his goal. He reached it, opened the driver's door and fiercely grabbed the collar of the man behind the wheel to eject him. Settling in, he started the vehicle. Ben stopped and pointed his gun at the car's tires to stop it but was interrupted.

A bulldozer rammed into the car and its shovel caused the Toyota to do a 180° turn, landing on the hood.

Somewhat surprised by this outcome, Ben's Glock 17 slowly fell back and he squinted to make out the driver through the dirty glass of the yellow vehicle's cab. A handful of seconds later, a triumphant Han Solo stepped out of the bulldozer and gave his son two thumbs-up, sign that everything was fine.

Ben sighed in exasperation and rolled his eyes.

About thirty minutes later, after making the arrest and scoping the scene of the accident, Jessika, accompanied by Thanisson, arrived at the scene. Ben's friend, who had recognized the notorious criminal, Kyle Renfield, aka 'Ren', had stayed behind and quickly climbed to the roof of one of the nearby buildings to get a better view of the chase in case he managed to lose the detective. The other policeman had been involved in the pursuit of the doorman, but the latter had gotten away and was nowhere to be found. 

Jessika gave him a questioning look at the sight of the wrecked Toyota and the man, the owner of the car, yelling at Han Solo. Ben simply pointed to the commander of the organized crime squad and looked gruff - not unlike his father. The young woman bit her lip and let out a small sigh. She felt as if a migraine was taking root inside her at the mere thought that she was about to witness the next argument - fight - between father and son.

Those two were like cat and dog.

"Thanks, Han. There's our one suspect who almost died from a car accident, you know... But, otherwise, wow. Congratulations. You outdid yourself. Nice redneck arrest," Ben told him sarcastically a few minutes later as the four cops gathered to take stock of what had happened.

"Are you saying that I would willingly put a suspect's life in danger?" the sixty-years-old asked, bittered.

"Wait, um... Let me think... YES, yes, I am," his son said, furiously. "Didn't you see that I had the situation well in hand and that I could have caught him by myself? But no, you had to show-off and show, once again, how fabulous the great Han Solo is!"

The two were facing each other.

Ben, on one side. Raven black hair even messier than usual from his chase, amber eyes, imposing nose, asymmetrical features, luscious mouth, protruding ears, several moles on his skin, crumpled black sweater, dusty black jeans, strong build, tall. Quite an unusual beauty.

Han, on the other side. Gray and white hair in spikes, imposing and crooked nose, brown eyes, several wrinkles decorating his face, tanned skin, black and white tattoo of a kind of anchor with a curved point, topped by a diamond with breaks, on the right bicep, white sweater, black jeans dotted with dog hair, medium build, tall height. Formerly entering the standards of beauty.

Father and son were alike in some ways, but hardly.

And, caught between the two, Thanisson and Jessika watched them in silence. They had witnessed their quarrel so many times, that they no longer felt any discomfort with them. Just a lot of fatigue.

"Ah, that's the problem!" Han retorted with a smug look. "You wanted to catch him yourself!"

"Is it old age? Or retirement?" Ben questioned, still angry. "Are you trying to build up a bank of stories for the hospice? The need to feel alive? If that's what it is, get a hobby and go have fun doing water aerobics or whatever!"

"Chill out, son. Take it easy, we've got the bad guy."

He pointed to the suspect, behind him, sitting in the back seat of a police car.

"Chill out?" Ben repeated, raising an eyebrow. "You say chill now?"

"I say chill, if I feel like it. I can say cool, if you want to."

"Who do you think you are? A fifteen-year-old?"

"Jessika," the commander replied, turning to the young woman. "Do I say chill?"

The said young woman blinked several times, annoyed, and looked at her colleague.

"He says chill," she confirmed, in a dull voice.

This did not stop their dispute. Jessika, tired, said she would take the suspect back to the police station. It was up to them if they wanted to waste their time in their useless argumentation.

***

 

"Alleged Montreal mob boss Sheev Palpatine was released from custody this morning," Suralinda Javos, news anchor for the Republic television network, announced.

Images of Palpatine, wearing a tailored suit and looking confident, leaving the courthouse with his lawyer, a man who looked like Robert De Niro, and a young woman in her 20s with brown hair, illustrated her point.

"There was no evidence to link him to the murder of Cassian Andor, one of the prosecutors of the Holdo Commission on organized crime," she continued.

Images of the car bomb carcass appeared and, in the upper left corner, a photo of the deceased crown prosecutor.

A few seconds later, a woman in her sixties, carefully dressed, blonde hair in an impeccable bun, sapphire eyes, pearls as earrings, a gray suit and a pale purple shirt as her only fancy, assailed by several journalists, appeared.

"I will not give in to any possible intimidation," Amilyn Holdo, chief judge, guaranteed. "This commission is far too important and I intend to see it through."

***

 

"You must make Ren shut his fucking mouth," Sheev Palpatine ordered.

His office, located on the thirty-third floor of an imposing skyscraper, had large windows that overlooked an exceptional view. The room was minimally decorated, and the only furniture was his desk and a work table with a site plan on it.

Palpatine had established his wealth by creating Exegol Construction. By scheming, passing on bribes to the right people, he had gotten his hands on all the most lucrative construction projects in the country. And, although his business activities had diversified over time, he was still a construction conbulldozer in the eyes of everyone.

Sitting behind his desk, he watched with disdain as Armitage Hux paced in front of him.

"Killing a prosecutor doesn't make sense!" the redhead suddenly exclaimed. "We're going too far! We're already on the edge! We're digging our own grave!"

"Do you know what would be too far?" Palpatine got impatient in a yet soft voice. "Me in jail."

"Yes, but..."

"You can count yourself lucky that my darling loves you, Hux. Your legs won't last long if you keep questioning my decisions."

The young man pursed his lips and crossed his arms behind his back. He didn't dare remind the powerful man that this was the first time he had ever spoken out against him. Armitage had always been a loyal man. Actually, he was the one who executed those who betrayed Palpatine. He had no desire to be in the opposite position.

"You take care of Ren," the mob boss said.

"I will."

Hux turned and walked toward the office door.

"By the way, Hux... How's my granddaughter doing since she got... back?"

Armitage paused, thoughtfully considering his next words.

"She's fine. She's... not enjoying the new protection she's been given, though."

Sheev let out a squeaky laugh. No joy.

"Tell her I've been worried sick about her for the two days she's been missing."

"Of course," Hux breathed before walking out the door and disappearing.

***

 

Sitting in an unmarked car, Thanisson and Ben watched from a distance as a couple talked. A redhead and a brunette. They had stopped walking in front of a hairdresser's shop "The Jakku". As a precaution, should it become necessary, Thanisson had a video camera in his hand and was filming the scene while Ben had a computer on his lap, leaning against the steering wheel. They were doing surveillance. 

They both knew that the man - tall, slender, redheaded, hair slicked back, black shirt, black pants, black shoes - was one of Palpatine's henchmen. They had seen him before, several times, but the police never had enough evidence to build a case against him and arrest him. Armitage Hux. He was an elusive eel.

However, the young woman seemed, at first glance, unfamiliar. Ben took a long look at her, squinting. He remembered seeing her face somewhere. Where was that? The detective had no idea. From his vantage point, he couldn't see many details: her shoulder-length brown hair, her slim, svelte figure, slightly bohemian clothes that contrasted with the austerity of her boyfriend's - a long black skirt with blue butterfly patterns, a short-stepped, almost see-through white top that showed off her electric blue bra, bracelets on her wrists and platform sandals. She was beautiful. She was a sunshine in this rather cloudy day.

The couple kissed on the sidewalk.

Ben stared at her, thinking. Where could he have seen her? His fingers tapped absentmindedly on his computer keyboard and he suddenly had a flash. The images of Palpatine, leaving the Palais de Justice, that had been on the front page of every newscast in the province of Quebec the day before. The images had circulated so often, on a loop since yesterday, Ben had memorized them, without difficulty. He tore himself away from his contemplation with difficulty, looked down at his screen and undertook to find this short passage.

It was a piece of cake.

The detective watched the short clip and pressed pause. Bingo! It was her.

"Look," he showed Thanisson.

He pointed to the brunette who had accompanied Palpatine out of the courthouse. It was the unknown woman who was languidly kissing the redhead in front of them.

"Well, well, well," his colleague said, with a small smile. "When I saw that yesterday, I thought Palpatine had a kink for women younger than him."

Just the thought of imagining the young woman with the mob boss made Ben want to puke.

"Obviously not, since she's kissing that beanpole," he grumbled.

"Hm, too bad."

"Too bad? Can I ask what's too bad about that?"

"Well... I don't know. It's kind of fun imagining other people's sex lives, isn't it?"

"Well... No. I have other hobbies, thank you very much."

"The other day, I had a debate with a friend, about Kim Jung-Un. I'm pretty sure he's diabetic," Thanisson continued lightly.

Ben shook his head and preferred not to add anything. He wanted to know who she was. She had to be important to accompany Palpatine to court. And she was obviously dating one of his lieutenants too. She was involved with the mafia.

He continued to observe the scene before his eyes. After a few seconds, the unknown released herself from the embrace of the redhead, spoke to him again a little and entered the hairdressing salon. Hux, as for him, inspected the street, entered his car and started at the quarter turn.

The young man elbowed Thanisson in the side, which shut him up (he was explaining to him how Bill Gates was a reptilian).

"Go to that hairdresser'," he said, pointing to the colorful storefront.

There was no way Ben would go there himself. With his build and size, he was incapable of going unnoticed. Thanisson grumbled a little, turned off the camera, but finally gave in. He got out of the car, trotted to the Jakku, and entered in. Five minutes later, he was already back.

"I only have the name of her hairdresser. Her name is Shasa."

***

 

"Since Ren still refuses to cooperate, we have to revise our plan for our shadowing," Han Solo explained.

The Anti-Organized Crime Squad was gathered in one of the meeting rooms on the third floor of the headquarters of the Montreal Police Service. All members were present except Jessika, who was conspicuous by her absence.

All eyes were on Han Solo, standing in front of a screen that showed all the potential leads to catch Palpatine. There were many names, but very few that would lead to a real result. It was an unsolvable spider's web.

"We're wasting our time with him, him, him and him," the commander continued, pointing to the names of each person he said was useless. 

"Kaplan is his barber, I think we can cross him off too," Kaydel advised.

As names were eliminated, Thanisson erased them from the document. Only about ten remained at the end of the exercise.

Han turned to his son.

"How's it going with Hux?"

"Badly," Ben winced. "He's quiet as a lamb and he's seen with a girl almost all the time. A brunette. We decided to put her under surveillance too."

The sixty-year-old nodded, made no comment and questioned another of his colleagues. Ben's jaw tightened and he scowled. Would it kill his father to tell him, at least once in his life, that he had done something right? He didn't need a big congratulations, just a 'well thought out' would do the job. It would be unheard of. He couldn't remember a single time he'd heard his father being satisfied with something he'd done well. He sighed, absentmindedly played with his pen and imagined pushing it into Han's ego.

Apparently, visualization was a good way to deal with emotions.

Leia Organa - graying hair, elaborate hairstyle, amber eyes, gray suit, late 50s - entered the meeting room without bothering to knock. She didn't flinch as everyone in the room turned systematically. However, a small corner of her mouth turned up when her husband, at the other end of the room, finally consented to lay eyes on her.

Police was a family thing in the Organa-Solo household.

"How are you doing?" she asked, not bothering to greet anyone. "I've done everything I can to delay Ren's transfer to the detention center to give you time to question him or find a lead... But this is the last delay I can give you. At 4pm, they'll come and get him."

"He still won't talk," Ben informed her in exasperation.

Leia smiled to her son - the first sign of kindness to anyone since this morning. Her nerves were frayed. She'd been having insomnia for two days already. She was on edge. Stressed out. The stakes were too high and the media pressure enormous.

"Find something," the director of the criminal affairs department insisted back, impassive. "I've already turned down five calls from the minister of justice and it's not even 1:00 p.m."

Han rolled his eyes.

"Who cares about the minister of justice," he grumbled, jadedly, with a chuckle. "Next week, he'll probably have changed his position."

"Until then, it's him," Leia replied, her voice hard, raising her perfectly plucked and well-curved eyebrows.

"What exactly do you want me to do? Perform a miracle?"

Arguing and making a spectacle of oneself was also a family thing.

The agents took turns watching Han and Leia. Ben, on the other hand, was rather stoic in the face of this scene that he had seen, seen and seen again in every possible form and variation since his birth. He almost knew the text by heart.  

"I don't want a miracle, I want you to do something," she claimed.

"Do you think we're twiddling our thumbs?!" he insisted, insulted. 

"No, but..."

"Thanks for your help," he said, sarcastically. "Why don't you go back to your phone? I think I hear it ringing. It must be the minister who wants to have tea."

If Leia's gaze had been a Coonan .357 Magnum, the sixty-year-old would have had to be given a funeral on the spot. She moistened her lips.

"If you think my job is to have tea with anyone..."

"What exactly are you going to do?"

The woman's fists turned white as she clenched them tightly to avoid hitting him. Luckily, deep down, she loved this man.

"I'm giving you carte blanche to interrogate Ren," Leia suddenly declared. "I'm ready to cut the surveillance cameras of the interrogation room. You can do whatever you want."

"Really?" he frowned, unconvinced.

"I'll be there, of course."

"Of course," Han repeated ironically.

Without adding anything, she left the meeting room in a huff.

***

 

An hour later, Han sat quietly at the table in the immaculate interrogation room. Leia and Ben were standing behind the one-way mirror. Two policemen ushered Ren into the room, and the sixty-year-old didn't seem to mind handcuffing the criminal after the table, fixed in the floor. The commander greeted him cheerfully - bordering on impertinence.

Ren spat on the floor, defiant.

"I haven't spoken yet, I don't see why I should," he snapped.

"We'll see about that," Han replied as he waved his hand. "Sit down, please."

He pointed to the chair, also fixed in the floor. Ren did not listen to him and remained standing. Han seemed amused.

"Okay, Kyle Renfield," the policeman introduced, beginning to read the file in front of him. "Motor vehicle theft, robbery, extortion, illegal confinement, kidnapping, gangsterism... Do you know it's funny that you didn't have first degree murder yet?"

Ren shrugged and finally agreed to sit down. 

"I've already said it, I was in the area and I ran away because of the explosion."

The sixty-year-old nodded slowly, stood up, took his chair (the only one that could be moved in the interrogation room) and walked around the table to be on the same side of the criminal. He put the chair on the floor and sat down again.

"Listen, Ren, I'll make a deal with you."

Han put his hand on Ren's shoulder, as if he were talking to an old friend.

"You give me Palpatine and we'll think about dropping a charge or two against you. Do we have a deal?"

The suspect stepped back to avoid his touch.

"I don't know this Palpatine," he said.

"Ah, you don't know him."

Abruptly, the policeman hit the table and grabbed Ren's collar to pulled him to him.

"Are you kidding me?" he shouted, in a threatening voice. "You blew up a prosecutor!"

In a panic, Ren stepped back to escape Han's grip.

"Hey, you can't touch me!"

"Yes, I know..." the sixty-year-old said, much more gently.

Behind the glass, Ben rolled his eyes. His father's methods of extracting information from the suspect, alternating between rough and smooth, were... He felt like he was watching an old cop movie. Damn it! It wasn't for nothing that psychology classes were taught!

"Han's the only one who can be both a good cop and a bad cop at the same time," Kaydel observed, admiringly.

Ben sighed, annoyed, but remained silent. She wasn't the only one who marveled at everything Han Solo did or saw him as an idol or mentor. His father had been involved in several police operations, defeated street gangs like Kessel, and had infiltrated the Crimson Dawn for two years before helping to defeat the organization.

Leia, who stood between the two detectives, placed a reassuring and loving hand on her son's back. She knew how bitter he was about his father. The fifty-year-old would have liked so much for the two men in her life to get along. Ben turned to his mother and she gave him a small smile. 

Meanwhile, Han explained to the criminal that if he hit him - even if he didn't want to - it would leave marks and that, in a way, Ren was supposed to come out of a car accident. Thereupon, without any gentleness, the policeman put his hand on the head of the suspect and hit the head of the latter on the table.

Leia winced slightly at these methods. She hated it. But... desperate times call for desperate solutions. There was a timid knock on the door and the Director of Criminal Affairs silently asked her son to answer.

He came face to face with a Jessika with greenish hair. Her long black hair was, now, radioactive green. And it was awful. The young man blinked several times to register the information in front of him, opened his mouth several times to say something, but kept stopping himself. The policeman pretended to leave the room and closed the door. They would be more comfortable talking in the hallway and they wouldn't hear the screams of the interrogation.

"What did... You... What happened to...," Ben stammered. "Your hair?"

"Well, I made an appointment with Shasa," she explained. "Just like you told me to."

"Yes, but I never told you to dye your hair! Especially not this color!" the young man exclaimed.

Jessika smiled contritely.

"I had asked him to cut my ends, trim my hair... I thought that would be enough to gather some information. To have a name, at least. I was vague, but at the same time quite precise. But this girl is a real pain in the ass! Her brain must be fed by only two neurons! She understands absolutely nothing! So I panicked. I asked her for a dye job, I told her the first color that came to mind and BOOM! I look like a lettuce!"

"Oh...," Ben couldn't think of anything else to say.

"A hair disaster," Jess summarized.

"You're still very pretty," the young man lied to her, out of concern for his friend's self-esteem. 

"Yeah, right…," she grumbled, not believing a word of it. "At least I finally got a name. I came this close to asking for a perm. Her name is Rey Palpatine. She's Palpatine's granddaughter."

Interesting. It was coming together. Ben congratulated himself for following through on that lead. The granddaughter of the mob boss; that was no small thing. If she had accompanied him to the courthouse, that meant, too, that they were close. And maybe it was Palpatine's weakness they were looking for!

The young man, delighted, thanked his friend, who went back to fix her hair problem or, at least, to reduce the intensity of the color. He could already imagine his father's face when he would tell him he had something against Palpatine! Ben entered the room and didn't glance at Han, who was either cradling or trying to strangle Ren - it wasn't very clear. He approached his mother with a big smile on his face, while on the other side the 60-year-old had just released the suspect and was about to leave the interrogation room.

"I have something on Palpatine," Ben began.

At the same time, Han opened the door.

"It's Rey Palpatine," his father interrupted. "She's the one we have to watch out for to get Palpatine."

 

 

Chapter Text

According to Ren's confession, Sheev Palpatine was overprotective of his granddaughter, Rey. She was his little princess. But the criminal said that such protection was hiding something. The young woman must have known everything about her grandfather and his schemes, knowing all his moves in advance, not to mention the fact that she was in a relationship with Palpatine's right-hand man, who already had several murders to his credit. The mob boss was afraid that the police would get to him. Perhaps he was also afraid that under pressure from law enforcement, she would agree to testify against him and provide all the evidence.

"I'm telling you, I've got that jerk Kyle Renfield by the balls," Han Solo repeated. "He'll accuse Rey of complicity in her grandfather's crimes, she'll freak out and turn Palpatine over to us! And boom! Case closed!"

An unexpected event, however, went against the squad leader's assertion. Three policemen led Ren to a white van that was to transfer him to a detention center. Then the vehicle left. But as the trio walked back into the police station, a second white van bearing the Montreal Police Service symbol pulled up in front of them. Confused, the driver asked where the detainee was. The policemen let out a curse. They had been tricked.

The fake van, driven by Kuruk, one of Ren's accomplices, took the captive under a bridge, out of sight. Then he took him out and released him from his handcuffs. The escape operation had gone well. But Ren could not be happy about it when Armitage Hux, the right-hand man of the mob boss himself, appeared in front of him, pointing a gun at his head.

"You! Fucking idiot!" the redhead squeaked as he approached him. "So, are you friends with the police now?"

Despite the gun pointing at him, Ren remained impassive. He could see Hux's nervousness behind his tough looks. He knew that he was firmly against the idea of getting rid of the prosecutor, despite his boss's wishes. Everyone thought that his right-hand man had become too sentimental. Probably because of his relationship with Rey Palpatine. She had "softened" him too much and made him lose all credibility.

"I didn't say anything," Ren declared.

Hux grabbed him by the collar and pressed the tip of his gun into his cheek.

"Oh, yeah? What, you're going to tell me you just had a little tea with cupcakes and a peaceful chat about the weather? Huh? You really want me to believe that?"

"I'll have you know I led them on a false lead," Ren retorted, clenching his jaws. "I'm not as dumb as you think."

"Yeah, right," the redhead muttered, incredulous, rolling his eyes. "I think you told them everything they wanted to know and you're trying to make it look like a false lead."

Feeling a little less proud, Ren swallowed hard. But his ego refused to beg him to spare him, even as Hux glared at him, his finger tugging at the trigger.

"Well, come on, shoot. Show me what man you are, Mr. Old Palpatine's Lieutenant. All that blood on your hands doesn't bother you, does it?"

The mob boss' henchman gritted his teeth. For a moment, he considered the tempting idea of putting a bullet in the snitch's head. But his hand was shaking. A sweat broke out on his forehead, betraying his stress and doubts. With a growl of rage, Hux pushed Ren back violently and ordered him to disappear. He would only have to assure Palpatine that there was no danger. The police knew nothing. No need to worry. Right?

***

 

The loss of suspect Kyle Renfield increased the pressure on the police force. Despite their immediate search for him, their efforts were in vain. Minister of Justice Lando Calrissian called them incompetent, as did the media. Every TV station seemed to be talking about it. Leia Organa firmly told her team that this case was their number one priority. It was imperative that they get back on track after this latest major failure.

Ben agreed wholeheartedly. But for him, this failure of his father was an opportunity to prove his worth. He was banking everything on this Rey Palpatine and was on a mission to learn everything about her. He didn't need that idiot Ren to get to her. If he played his cards right, he would eventually find a way to get her to talk. In the meantime, Ben was tailing her and memorizing every bit of information about her. Even the trivial stuff. And he repeated everything he learned to anyone who would listen.

Rey Palpatine was twenty-five years and six months old, 5'7" tall and weighed 143 lbs. She practiced sports such as fitness, kickboxing and taekwondo to stay in shape. The young woman had grown up in Ontario until her parents died in a car accident when she was six years old. Since then, she had been entrusted to her grandfather, her only remaining relative.

Rey Palpatine had been dating Armitage Hux for a year. She was working as a waitress in a bistro, the Niima in the Ahuntsic district, probably to avoid drawing attention to herself. This was becoming difficult with the bodyguards that her illustrious grandfather constantly imposed on her. Unless it was hiding more illegal activities?

"Her perfume has notes of jasmine, daisies and gooseberries," Ben told his co-workers as he worked on his pull-ups at the high bar in their gym. "It smells like... summer."

"How do you know what she smells like?" Jessika stammered after nearly choking on the sip of water she was drinking. "Don't tell me you went to sniff her neck or her clothes!"

Her colleague let go of the high bar, fell back on his feet and wiped the sweat from his forehead. His face was flushed, but she couldn't tell if it was because of the effort or because he was indignant at her insinuations.

"Of course not!" he snapped. "I just found the perfume bottle in her trash."

"Because you go through her trash too?"

"Just a little. So what? I have to be on the lookout for the smallest detail."

Jessika rolled her eyes and rubbed her temple. Following her hair incident, she had cut her hair very short on the sides of her head, except for a beautiful blue dyed lock on top. A cute pixie cut. It suited her much better. A real miracle to have been able to make up for the disaster.

But it reminded her that her best friend, after complimenting her on her new hairstyle, had immediately followed up with: "Rey Palpatine only cut her ends to trim her hair when she went to the Jakku."

"You know, you've been stalking her for days now, and I'll tell you frankly: if you weren't a cop investigating a suspect, it would start to get really creepy."

"I'm just doing my job, Jess," Ben claimed, outraged, before reaching for the dumbbells. "I already know a lot more than my dad, just so you know!"

And it didn't stop there. He kept listing every new find he made about the mob boss' granddaughter. During the lunch break, the coffee break, the shooting practice... No more real conversation between Ben and his colleagues.

The poor ones only nodded absentmindedly when they heard that Rey Palpatine loved peperoni and cheese pizza, always went jogging at 7:30 a.m. sharp in the park near her home and made her own mayonnaise even though she was an awful cook.

Rey, Rey, Rey, Rey, Rey. That was the only word Ben could think of.

***

 

Friday was the wedding anniversary of the Solo-Organa couple. To celebrate the event, Han invited his dear wife to a fantastic four-star restaurant, the Coruscant. The atmosphere was subdued, with beautiful piano music in the air and an enchanting decor, passion red.

The old couple dressed up to the nines. Leia had made herself a magnificent crown of braids, an elaborate hairstyle that only she had the secret to. And they were both enjoying a delicious meal, laughing, overwhelmed by the nostalgia of their wedding. Even though they had always been at loggerheads, they had never stopped loving each other.

"I remember at one point, as I was pregnant with the kid, I really felt like a whale in my white dress," Leia sighed.

"Yes, but you were a very pretty whale," her husband reassured her.

She smiled.

"Oh, and remember Lando, who had drunk all the tequila from the buffet and was found snoring loudly, curled up under one of the tables?"

"Oh yeah!" Han chuckled. "Worst best man ever! If I had known, I would have asked Beckett!"

Leia laughed.

"You bet, your former boss was even more of a drinker than Lando!"

"Well, that's a lot of records for our dear minister of justice! We could pull them out if he keeps harassing us. I think I even kept some pictures."

"Hey, we're not talking about work tonight," the woman said. "You know, this outing is really good for me. It gives me a chance to get some fresh air, forget about all this stuff, and relax a little. At work, I feel like my head is going to explode..."

Han nodded as he cut into his five-flavored duck.

"Oh, I also remember Amilyn... She still had her lilac hair back then, nothing like the strict-looking judge we see in the media today. Two minutes before the ceremony, she told me that there was still time to run away because I had to beware of seductive policemen with pretty eyes who play the scoundrel."

"So what? I'm a nice scoundrel, right?"

The fifty-year-old's smile widened. She leaned over to put her hand on her husband's. They were always arguing at work, but it felt good to have him back. She felt like they hadn't been together, really together, just the two of them, for ages. She was relieved that not even the horrors of Palpatine could stop them from celebrating their 30th wedding anniversary in style!

Then Leia turned the subject around and started talking about her memories of their honeymoon on Cape Cod. She said that a new trip would be good for them after thirty years of marriage. She told her husband about different dream destinations. The Caribbean, New Zealand, France, Iceland... But as she talked about her ideas, the woman realized that Han was listening to her with a distracted ear, nodding weakly and glancing behind her. He seemed absent-minded.

"Han, did you hear what I just said?"

"Yes, I did..."

"Ben is not your real son because I cheated on you with your father and lately, Amilyn and I have been having sex a lot during Thai unicorn orgies."

"Nice..."

Leia's face froze. After a few minutes, Han, who was still staring at that spot behind her, finally looked at her with a bewildered expression. He didn't understand his wife's murderous look.

"What?" he asked, his mouth full.

Unable to take it anymore, Leia rolled her eyes and turned to see what her husband had been staring at for a while. She blinked when she spotted Sheev Palpatine a few tables away, enjoying a hearty meal with his lawyer, Christopher Dooku, at one of the restaurant's larger booths. Then the wife stared at her spouse, dumbfounded. He looked like a young delinquent who had just been caught in the act for the first time.

"I'll try to keep calm... Can you tell me what the bleeding hell the mob boss is doing behind my back?" she articulated through gritted teeth.

Han coughed and cleared his throat. He mumbled, a little ashamed, that since the Alderaan Bistro was full, he had remembered Palpatine's favorite restaurant, and since Leia blamed him for not doing anything concrete for the investigation, he hoped to hear a piece of conversation or something. Anything could become a clue, he thought. Leia needed to finish her glass of wine in one gulp to swallow the news. But unfortunately, even a whole barrel wouldn't be enough.

"I just told you I needed to unwind and take my mind off things. And on our thirtieth wedding anniversary, you decide to spy on the head of the Montreal mafia by taking us to his favorite restaurant? Ben has already become completely obsessed with Palpatine's granddaughter, you're not going to start that too!"

She whispered as best she could to avoid attracting attention, but she was boiling with rage. Blood was pounding against her temples.

"Wait, Ben is obsessed with Rey Palpatine?"

Of course, that was the only part he got. Leia struggled to keep from strangling him.

"Yes, he keeps spying on her and talking about her because he's so intent on proving his worth to you by finding a lead. But you obviously don't see that."

"Huh? What do you mean, I don't see that?"

"You don't, Han!" the poor woman insisted. "Come back down to earth for a second. There's a lot you don't see! You're locked in your own world, completely focused on yourself. You're never there!"

Confused, the man frowned.

"Well, I am there now."

"Yeah, that's why you're more focused on good old Sheev than on us. Even when you are there, you're not really there. You're not there for your son, you're not there for your wife, you're not there for anyone! Do you understand that? Tonight I thought we would finally be together again, but no. Tonight just confirms to me that things are going badly in our relationship."

"Things are going badly? Since when? I mean, we've always been a little bickering, but..."

For all answer, Leia let out a growl of rage. This idiot really didn't understand anything. She noisily dropped her fork on the table, got up from her chair, retrieved her coat and left without asking for anything else, leaving Han completely lost in the restaurant. A few eyes, including Palpatine's and his lawyer's, turned to her, equally perplexed.

***

 

The home of Judge Amilyn Holdo was soon the victim of an arson. Luckily, apart from the unfortunate house, the flames did not cause any casualties. With this new attack in the middle of a commission of inquiry on organized crime, the tension reached a high pitch. However, in the media, the judge said that she would not be intimidated. According to her, the Holdo Commission would go ahead as planned. She would never allow the mafia to influence the judiciary.

But Minister of Justice Lando Calrissian was not so sure. Everyone was on edge, Holdo first as her life was threatened, and the old man was tired of being seen as a failure. He quarreled for a good fifteen minutes with the director of criminal affairs and the head of the organized crime squad at the police station about this.

"You know, Han, sometimes I think you guys should retire," Lando sighed. "Especially you. You seem to be completely out of touch with the situation."

"Look, Calrissian, I've seen a lot of ministers like you in my career," Han replied. "I don't mind if you come here in person to give me a hard time about it. But leave my wife alone. She's pressured enough as it is. Next time, leave a message on her voice mail and she'll call you back, okay?"

Leia coughed to signal her presence. The two men turned to her, having forgotten her a little in their argument.

"This is nice of you, but first of all, Han Solo, I'm not your property, and secondly, I can defend myself and do my job alone. Thanks."

Her husband turned red. He opened his mouth but couldn't answer. Of course, he and Leia had always bickered, ever since they were young, but now it looked really bad. At least from his wife's point of view. Han still didn't understand how they'd gotten to this point. He thought he was supporting her by making this remark. Why was she reacting like that?

"Excuse me," Thanisson suddenly interrupted them, knocking briefly on the door of the director's office. "We have something."

Han followed him into the open space. Behind his back, he heard Lando tell him that they had fifteen days left before the next ministerial council, but he turned a deaf ear. His old friend, whom he had known for too long, would probably no longer be Minister of Justice in two weeks. They were never going to last.

For his part, Ben went to find Jessika and Kaydel at the coffee machine to let them know that there was finally some news.

"Girls, you have to come see this! Thanisson found something about..."

"Let me guess," his best friend sighed. "Rey Palpatine? What a surprise!"

"What, Thani found out that she prefers dogs to cats?" the blonde girl asked in disbelief.

"She wants to take up macramé?"

"She practices yoga?"

Confused by their questions, the young man frowned.

"No, she's more of a Buddhist meditator, why?"

Jessika gave a deep sigh of discouragement and, in defeat, handed Kaydel a ten-dollar bill.

"Let's say it counts."

The winner of the bet pocketed the money with a small, satisfied smile. Perplexed, Ben passed his gaze from one colleague to the other before shaking his head to call himself to order.

"But anyway, it's not about that! Come and see!"

Finally, the two young women followed him to a small meeting room. They sat down at the table with their teammate and Han. Leia arrived, having finished talking with Lando. She remained in the back with her arms crossed. Thanisson then showed them a video on a screen, the result of his surveillance of Rey Palpatine. This morning, he had intercepted a discussion between her and her boyfriend, Armitage Hux, on the banks of the Back River. The couple seemed to be having a hard time.

"You don't love me anymore?" the redhead worried on the video.

Rey raised her sunglasses on the top of her head. She looked rather upset.

"I don't know. Army, I don't even know who you really are. You never tell me anything! You're never honest with me. I'll have you know that if Tallie, the only friend I have in this mess, hadn't told me about the two little sluts you were banging the other day, I would have never known you were cheating on me! Who was it? That bitch Bazine, right? And the other one, huh? There was not just one, they had to be two on top of everything else!"

Since he hadn't yet seen what his colleague had filmed, Ben winced.

"Two? This idiot had a threesome? I can't believe this asshole!"

Honestly, who would dare to cheat on such a beautiful girl? With her, this ginger jerk should be fulfilled! What a bastard... On the screen, Hux approached his girlfriend, sheepishly, and tried to take her in his arms, but she pushed him back furiously by forbidding him to touch her. He sighed, distraught.

"Listen, I screwed up, Rey. But it was just a mistake. It didn't mean anything at all, I assure you! It's not what you think!"

"Ah, the famous 'It's not what you think'," Rey repeated sarcastically, making quotation marks with her fingers. "The most cliché sentence ever. Wow. That was just a mistake. Ah sorry, sweetheart, I didn't get that. Good thing you're telling me!"

Then, resentful, she added:

"Well, if it doesn't mean anything, then... You know what? Why don't I get my joker, too? Don't you dare ask me where I'm going tonight."

"What? Why?"

"Gotta make my mistake too by banging two guys at the same time! You'll see if that means anything!"

At these words, Hux really looked like he was panicking.

"No, don't do that! Rey, I swear I feel really bad. What can I do to make amends?"

"Be honest with me! Stop living your life on your own and talk to me! Stop hiding everything from me! You think it's not hard enough for me with my grandfather? I need someone in this whole mess and you're just like him!"

"Hey!" the redhead exclaimed, threatening her with his index finger. "Do not compare me to Palpatine!"

Interesting. Ben thought. The mob boss' granddaughter was finding her situation difficult. If she was under the same pressure because of what she knew about her grandfather and the latest events, maybe she was about to crack.

The detective also thought about the mysterious two-day "disappearance" of the young woman, before the murder of poor Cassian Andor. He didn't know yet what was behind it, but he intended to find out.

In any case, there was no need for Ren to accuse him of complicity. It was enough to play this card and hope that she would cooperate. On the video, the young woman sniffed and rubbed her face. Despite the quality of the image, tears of anger and sadness seemed to sting her eyes.

"Why did you have to go and fuck these bitches? Is it my fault? Am I not enough for you?"

"No, I swear, it's not you. I don't even know what came over me! I just..."

"I'm trying so hard for our relationship! But I seem to be the only one who's hanging in there! I give and give and never get anything back! If you don't put some effort in, it's never going to work!"

Overwhelmed, her boyfriend took a step toward her and took her hands. This time she let him do so.

"I'm so sorry. I love you. Please forgive me!"

"I love you too."

After a moment of silence, they kissed. This time Ben wrinkled his nose in disgust and looked away. Their kissing was really deplorable.

"Ugh... Please... Seriously, what does she see in that ginger jerk?"

Jessika gave him a nudge to urge him to shut up. Detaching herself from Hux, Rey declared on the screen:

"Well, listen. I would like to give you a chance, but on one condition."

At these words, the young detective raised his eyebrows, flabbergasted.

"I can't believe this. Are you serious? She's really willing to forgive him for something like that? God, that poor girl doesn't respect herself at all! I thought she was smarter than that! If I were her and he would have cheated on me with two girls at the same time, I would have dumped him on the spot. And not before beating the shit out of him with a frying pan and castrating him with rusty shears."

"If you could stop being jealous because your girl wants to give her asshole boyfriend a chance and focus on the case...," his father lectured him.

Ben immediately looked up at Han.

"Wait, what? Jealous? You're out of your mind! That chick is not my..."

"Apparently, you've become so obsessed with Rey Palpatine that at some point, you have to wonder!" Commander Solo retorted, his eyes narrowing in reproach.

"WHAT?! Obsessed? Me, obsessed? Did you get a good look at me?"

"Yes, I did!"

As they raised their voices, as usual, the young man looked for support among his colleagues, but they all nodded dejectedly to agree with Han and his characterization of his son as "obsessed".

"But that's not the point!" he tried to justify himself, his cheeks flushed. "I was just making an observation! We're still allowed to make observations here, aren't we?"

"Yes, it's good, Ben, I think we understood," Leia sighed. "Thanisson, would you please pick up where we left off before we were interrupted by... Please."

Indeed, the short argument between father and son had prevented them all from hearing the rest of the video. Thanisson got back just as Rey Palpatine told Armitage Hux that she was willing to give him a chance on one condition.

"Whatever you want, honey bun," the redhead replied.

"So, on the Internet, I found a site for couples' therapy."

"Couples' therapy? You must be joking."

"Hey!" the young woman, who did not lack temper, exclaimed. "It is that or I dump you, Armitage! Is that clear?"

Immediately, her boyfriend raised his hands in the air as a sign of surrender and nodded. The cruel lieutenant of the mob boss was becoming a good, obedient, cowardly little dog in front of Palpatine's granddaughter. Ben wondered if he was more afraid of her than of her grandfather.

Or did dating Rey give him privileges he didn't want to lose because of a breakup? Either way, he should have thought twice before cheating on her, the police detective mused.

"Yes, okay, sorry," Hux sighed. "It's a therapy like... we both talk to a shrink?"

Rey softened and smiled.

"Actually, it's better than that. It's called Camp Naboo. It's in the mountains, near a lake. In Val-David, I think. We'll be completely out of our element, in the middle of nature, with other couples like us and we'll do activities together, accompanied by shrinks, to try to solve our problems. And most importantly, we'll be away from my grandfather's excessive supervision, just as lovers. It'll be good for us. Is that okay?"

After watching the video, the police squad did some research on this famous Camp Naboo. The hopeful ad sounded so cheesy that it made them want to vomit. "Camp Naboo, a paradise to save your failing couple and rekindle your flame. Camp Naboo because your relationship is worth it for you two!"

The promotional video depicted couples hiking, camping in the wilderness, dancing in a hotel with a breathtaking view of the forest, swimming in a lake... It promised many activities to allow those who signed up to work on themselves with their partner and rediscover themselves, reconnect. A week of change of scenery and love.

All this was supervised by two psychologists, a woman and a man. The latter was introduced as "the famous David Johnson, known as DJ". This "DJ" was thus invited to go to the police station. He was an unshaven man in his forties with tanned skin, wrinkles and dark circles, and shaggy hair. He wore an adventurer outfit and glasses for the "psychologist" aspect but would surely be a "social misfit" without them.

"We want to infiltrate your therapy," Leia concluded after explaining the situation.

But DJ, who had remained narrow-minded throughout the presentation, answered in the negative.

"There's no way I'm helping you. I don't want to get involved with the mafia, for God's sake!"

Han immediately showed him a picture of Rey Palpatine.

"Too late. The mob boss's granddaughter is in your group with her boyfriend, the mob boss's right-hand man."

"So what? They come for couple's therapy! They have every right to do so! It has nothing to do with their mess. It's none of my business. Look, Camp Naboo has a reputation. The people who go there are on the rocks, in real pain and they put their last hopes in me and in therapy. I don't want you to ruin it with your mafia stuff!"

The director of criminal affairs sighed deeply. She pinched the bridge of her nose and replied:

"Look, we have good reason to believe that Rey Palpatine is the key to reaching her grandfather. She may even be able to collaborate and deliver Sheev to us. We're talking about a man who has no scruples. Behind Exegol Construction, he hides God knows how many drug and pimping cartels. Lately, he has taken to burning down judges' houses and blowing up prosecutors in their cars. The Holdo Commission is in danger of being dismantled. Do you understand the gravity of the situation?"

In turn, DJ sighed deeply.

"Like I said, I don't want any part of this. Your police business is not my problem."

"Okay, fine," Han replied with a shrug. "Then I guess you don't mind if we show you a little video that might help you understand why it's your problem?"

"Go ahead," the psychologist muttered. "Show me burning houses, exploding cars, dead children, rotting corpses, I don't give a..."

His face froze, however, when the commander, on a computer screen, presented him with a video from a surveillance camera. That of a sex shop. He saw himself near one of the shelves looking at all sides before taking an inflatable doll, well folded in its packaging, and hiding it under his jacket.

"Here, look at this. What are you stealing here?"

"I... I didn't steal it," DJ defended himself, swallowing hard.

"No, you tried it on at the back of the store with all the customers standing around," Ben said reproachfully. "Do you think this is better?"

On the video, Han switched from the surveillance camera to show the recording of the "inflatable doll testing", which DJ was doing against the corner of a wall, with his pants down to mid-thigh. The psychologist's eyes almost popped out of their sockets. He became white as a sheet.

"Indecent exposure in a public place, sexual exhibitionism... It can result in a hefty fine and even jail time, you know. I don't know if the reputation of your Naboo camp would appreciate this video," the detective concluded.

"The same goes for the Quebec Order of Psychologists," Leia added.

"On the other hand, you'll soon be a star on YouTube," Han quipped. "That's going to get clicks. Besides..."

"Fine!" DJ exclaimed. "You've won!"

He abruptly closed the laptop's door so that this humiliating video, breathing sexual misery, would disappear from his sight. Scowling, the man crossed his arms and swore. He was stuck. The parents and son exchanged victorious looks, as did the rest of the squad behind them.

"All right. I'll help you," the psychologist said. "But on one condition. The therapy must go as planned! I want my couples, who have signed up in a hurry and distress, to manage to solve their problems despite your infiltration. This is very important to them and to me."

"We won't interfere with the therapy," Ben assured him. "We'll just focus on Rey Palpatine."

"Especially you," his father coughed, sitting beside him.

The son turned to Han, his eyebrows furrowed.

"Wait, say that again?"

"Yeah," DJ pondered, watching them. "I have to admit, you two would make a great gay couple."

At this, Ben's face broke down.

"What? Wait, no, we're not going to play a gay couple! I mean, it's so gross!"

"I don't want to judge, Mr. Detective, but that sounds a bit homophobic, what you just said," DJ answered.

"But no! It's not gross to play a gay couple! It's gross to do that with my father!" the young man claimed indignantly.

The psychologist shrugged. Han stifled a laugh at his son's reaction. Leia sighed.

"I guess we'll just have to get a real couple," Jessika, who had been standing back until then, suggested. "Leia, why not go with your husband?"

The two women exchanged a look full of innuendo, which the said husband did not get. The director nodded. She had been missing undercover missions for quite some time. Staying in the office was tiring her daily and she dreamed of leaving everything to Ackbar, her assistant, if only for a few days. But that wasn't the only reason she wanted to go to Camp Naboo with her husband.

"Good idea," Han approved, pointing to his wife. "We're already a couple. That should do it. We'll both infiltrate your therapy."

For his part, Ben glared at his parents. He had imagined himself posing as a couple with Jessika, Kaydel or even Thanisson. He had rather imagined himself accomplishing this mission. He was the one who knew Rey Palpatine by heart after long days of investigation and shadowing! He was the best qualified for this infiltration! And once again, his father was stealing the show, not giving him the opportunity to prove what he was worth! Inwardly, the young man was boiling with rage.

"Okay," the psychologist agreed. "But I want you to do the therapy exercises seriously. Do you have... problems in your relationship or...?"

Before he could finish his sentence, Ben and all the other members of the squad in the back repressed a nervous laugh. Leia remained quiet. This time Han turned to the others in outrage.

"If you only knew," the son said, sorry.

"Wait, are you kidding me? So everyone knows it's bad but me?"

The policemen fell silent, not daring to say out loud what they were all thinking. Only Ben sighed deeply and turned to his father.

"That's right, Han. I don't know if you've noticed, but Mom is under a lot of pressure as Director of Criminal Affairs. She's also afraid for her friend Amilyn, whose life is threatened by the mob boss."

He glanced briefly at his mother and added:

"And it is none of my business, but I think she could use some emotional support from her husband. A husband who could, by the way, try to understand her instead of acting like he has the whole situation under control when he doesn't. She needs you and to feel important to you, but you are never there and you take her for granted."

Bitterly, Han looked up at his wife.

"Okay, so instead of coming to me to talk about what's wrong, you've been shouting it from the rooftops? Talking to Ben, yet, I can understand, but the rest of the station..."

"Listen, Han," Leia firmly interrupted. "I haven't told anyone. Not even Ben. The others only had to watch us fight endlessly in front of them to realize that something was wrong with our relationship."

"But we were just..."

"Everyone understands that, except for you when you're in our relationship, and that's what I have a FUCKING PROBLEM WITH!" she shouted.

Then, as if nothing had happened, she turned to the psychologist, coughed and looked as professional as possible. DJ rubbed his chin, looked at the two members of the Solo-Organa couple one by one and smiled.

"You guys will be perfect."

***

 

A few days later, the Camp Naboo bus was heading up the highway through the mountains to Val-David in the Laurentians. Six couples were on the bus, a little preoccupied with the therapy that awaited them. Sitting next to her husband, who was watching the forest landscape unfold, Leia watched the others. She easily spotted Rey Palpatine, their target, sitting next to a tall, flamboyant-haired man. The woman also noticed that she and Han were the oldest couple.

Otherwise, there were a couple of men sitting up front. An exhausted Afro-Canadian man was sleeping on his partner's shoulder, the latter with tanned skin, a three-day beard and black wave hair. They were cute. Leia also saw a tall, rather imposing blonde woman next to a rather puny and fearful looking man. A lioness with a scared little bunny. A rather atypical couple. This made the undercover policewoman smile.

The last two pairs consisted of a small woman of Vietnamese origin with rounded cheeks, rather silent, and her partner with the air of a leprechaun, who kept his gaze riveted on his phone, as well as two other lovers who kept kissing. It made you wonder if they really needed the therapy.

As the bus would soon arrive at the Camp Naboo hotel, DJ blew his whistle to get his group's attention. He reminded them that each couple would be forced to be together for the duration of the trip but assured them that this was the only way to pick up the pieces of a broken couple.

"Don't worry, we'll be there to guide you. Me and my assistant, who is also our driver. Benjamin Skywalker."

"Call me Ben," the undercover detective greeted them, turning his head to give a quick wave to the others.

In passing, he glanced defiantly at his parents. His father raised his eyebrows and his mother smiled briefly, a little uncomfortable that their son was partly playing the role of their "psychologist" in their marital therapy. But Ben had insisted at length on being part of the operation and was satisfied that he had fought for his place.

"Excuse me," Rey suddenly raised her hand in confusion. "In the promotional video, it seems to me that there was also a woman. A psychologist named Maz Kanata, I think. Where is she?"

"Oh, uh... Maz unfortunately had a family reason that prevented her from coming," DJ stammered. "But don't worry; Ben is an excellent psychologist."

Although a little surprised, the young woman gazed at the "excellent psychologist" with a puzzled look and finally shrugged. After a few minutes, however, she had the impression that he kept staring at her in his rear-view mirror. But he looked away before she could be sure.

For Ben kept his eyes fixed on her, sure of his goal. This week, his parents would finally get the marital therapy they so desperately needed, while he would get to the mob boss's granddaughter.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

A few minutes after the psychologist's introductory words, the bus turned onto a long, winding dirt road through a forest of conifers and poplars. The view was enchanting: through the lined branches of the trees, one could see the steep mountainside near the resort. But what caught the eye was the surface of the large lake glistening in the late afternoon sun. The slogan on the faded hotel sign, placed at the edge of the paved road he had just left, was right; this was truly a paradise in the heart of nature.

The vehicle ended its journey in front of a large building made of round wood and grey bricks. Although the landscape was beautiful, the building looked like something out of a horror movie. Some of the windows were broken, weeds were growing on the second-floor terrace and the sign announcing the entrance threatened to hit the ground at any moment. By all accounts, the Theed Hotel had once been charming, but now it was poorly maintained and old.

Ben turned off the engine and opened the bus doors.

"End of the line!" he shouted, in a loud voice.

He turned and leaned his elbow casually on the back of his seat as he silently watched the couples go by. Naturally, his eyes locked on Rey and followed her until she got out of the car. He paid no attention to the redhead who was giving him a dirty look. Then, in turn, Ben got out of the bus and stretched his legs, while the couples were busy retrieving their suitcases from the luggage compartment that DJ had opened.

The policeman's eyes cemented on Hux, who walked away from the group, cell phone to his ear. His father seemed to have noticed the same thing as him: he imitated the redhead and pretended to move away, keeping a reasonable distance from the right-hand man of the mob boss, but enough to, perhaps, hear what he was saying.

Seeing that Han had the situation under control, although he lacked subtlety, he turned his attention back to the group and walked to the compartment to retrieve his own suitcase, which had landed in the bottom of the hold. Next to him, Rey, sunglasses balanced precariously on her nose, black knit sweater with sleeves rolled up and baggy black and white floral pants, seemed to be struggling with hers.

"Need help?" he offered, gently.

"No, I'm fine, thanks," the young woman grumbled, without bothering to turn her head in his direction.

"Okay," the young man said, shrugging casually.

He leaned to catch his suitcase and took it out of the luggage compartment. Then, he moved back to leave all the room to the brunette.

Rey pulled brutally on the handle of her luggage and this one, made in a visibly tired leather, broke. The momentum caused her to stumble backwards and Ben quickly put his hand in the middle of her back to catch her. He struggled to stifle a laugh.

"Very ferocious," he commented, a little mockingly, as he helped her regain her balance.

Immediately, Armitage Hux, with venomous glance, materialized beside them and grabbed possessively the waist of the young woman to attract her near him. Rey, her cheeks red of embarrassment and anger towards the childish attitude of her boyfriend, immediately undid herself of his grip, but did not move away from him, though. Despite this, the shadow of a small smile wanted to bloom on Ben's lips.

"Thanks, but we don't need your help anymore," Hux said in a slow voice.

Amused, the undercover cop simply shrugged again as his only answer.

"Thank you," Rey repeated, warmer than her other half.

"No problem," Ben answered, without making any movement to go, which seemed to play on the redhead's nerves.

"We do not need you any more," the latter reminded him, annoyed. "You can leave."

"Actually, I am waiting for you to take your luggage so I can close the compartment," the detective informed with a light tone.

Armitage looked at him and grabbed his suitcase with a sharp blow that he put on the wheels. He took, then, that of his girlfriend, whom he treated with more delicacy considering her state. Without a word, he organized himself to be able to bring the two suitcases while Ben closed the doors of the luggage compartment. Then, they regained, in silence, the remainder of the group, abandoned by DJ, who had left inside the hotel to check if all was in place to receive them. The young man did his best to scrupulously ignore the half-exasperated, half-suspicious look of his father and proposed to walk towards the building, while almost everyone looked at the hotel with disenchantment and a little disgust. It was a far cry from the dreamy images in the therapy promotional video.

DJ left the hotel when the group was less than two meters from the front door with a distressed look on his face. He walked down the stairs to the gallery, which followed the front of the hotel. True to his role, Ben came to join him to face the couples, who had all stopped in front of the psychologist. Looking at them, one could only notice how… heterogeneous the group was. His eyes went from his parents to the tall blonde with the imposing stature and lingered on their target. The next few days promised to be quite eventful.

"As you can see, this hotel is closed," DJ announced. "But we had it reopened for us. However, we're really sorry, there's water damage in one of the rooms... You're six couples and, unfortunately, there's only room for five couples. So one of the couples will have to go back home. But don't worry, you'll get your money back."

Everyone - including Leia and Han - looked at each other in surprise at this news. The man next to the young Asian woman crossed his arms over his chest with an indignant look on his face and asked aloud if they were in therapy or on a reality show.

"It's out of our control," DJ grinned, raising his arms in the air and looking his most innocent self.

Armitage Hux ostensibly rolled his eyes and nudged the brunette, who was accompanying him.

"Fine, we are going to sacrifice ourselves," the redhead said to them.

He took the hand of the young woman in order to pull her towards him so that they can put as much distance as possible between this hovel and themselves.

"Have fun, you bunch of lucky people!" he added, falsely enthusiastic.

"You!" Han suddenly shouted at him. "You stay right there!"

Hux stood still, surprised - as did all the other participants in the therapy. They all looked at the sixty-year-old, stunned by this sudden reaction. Leia, for her part, tried as best she could not to drown her head in her hands, discouraged by her husband's attitude, or to hit him.

Ben, for his part, stared at his father, bewildered, shaking his head.

"What Mister probably meant...," the undercover detective caught up with, forcing a smile that looked more like a grimace. "It is, that you make a generous gesture by wanting to leave the therapy, but you also have the chance to save your relationship..."

"No, it's good," Rey cut him, in a bad mood.

She turned over towards her boyfriend, her hands on her hips. Alarmed, the three policemen observed themselves, in corner, seeing there their amazing plan decomposing in front of their eyes.

"Armitage, you want to go? Fine! We'll leave and go back to Montreal!" she exclaimed, looking at each of the participants in turn. "But you and I are over!"

The redhead tilted his head back, impatient. But he returned on his steps.

"No, Rey, please...," he simpered.

"You're pissing me off!" the brunette exclaimed, irritated.

She continued, addressing the rest of the group:

"He cheated on me. With two girls. At the same time!"

Almost all the participants looked at the redhead with curiosity, others coughed.

"Stop it," Armitage said, uncomfortable with the sudden attention. "I want to do the therapy."

"What? What did you say?" the young woman asked, putting a hand behind her ear, as if she had not heard anything.

"I want to do the therapy," he repeated.

"You want to do the therapy?"

"Yes, I want to do the therapy."

"Are you going to do the exercises?"

"Yes," he squeaked, a little hesitant.

"Awesome!" the brunette declared, with an air of winner. "We'll stay. Figure it out with your problems, guys."

A silence hung over the group and Ben remained, a little, in admiration in front of the way she had, obviously, manipulated him.

"We want to do therapy too," the tall blonde said in her singing voice.

One of her feet, wearing a pair of pumps of almost seven centimeters - as if she wasn't tall enough as it was - was tapping the ground, impatiently. Her big blue eyes, made up, looked at them with a conquering air that she handled to perfection. She commanded respect like a queen before her people and almost seemed to expect them all to kneel before her.

"Mitaka no longer wants to be my submissive," she informed them, without going into further detail.

"Dopheld," the lamb corrected at her side, shyly.

"What?"

"My name is Dopheld," he told her, as if they had just met for the first time.

"I know that," the woman rolled her eyes, as if she thought he was a bit of an idiot.

"We said that outside the bedroom...," he began, almost trembling.

But he did not succeed in finishing his sentence: the blonde had seized him by the fine skin of the neck, at his nape, like a she-cat holding its kittens, under the meditated looks of all the participants. Taken by surprise by this surreal scene, nobody came to the rescue of the thirty-year-old with dark hair, who escaped a little moan of pain. His girlfriend let out a small sigh, disappointed by his reaction, and released him. 

"You see, here is the problem," she explained, by pointing, without embarrassment, her finger towards the crotch of her companion. "Usually, he would have had an erection. Usually, he would have liked that. It was to punish him, because I had not allowed him to speak, but... Nothing. Nada. Niet."

"But I like it," Mitaka emboldened himself, finding crumbs of courage. "It's just... I'd like it, let's say, if we had a couple life together. A normal one."

"But we have a normal couple life!"

Mitaka turned to the others, looking for some support.

"She doesn't even want us to sleep together! She doesn't want me to call her anything other than Mistress Phasma!" he declared, more comfortable talking to the group than to the blonde. "I just want some love!"

"If I didn't love you, I wouldn't be at the bottom of the world's asshole!"

"Thank you," DJ cut them off. "Thank you, Phasma and Dopheld for this... lovely sharing."

The psychologist looked at the other four couples, waiting for one of them to speak for themselves. All remained in silence.

"Finn, Poe," DJ called out. "Why is it important for you to do therapy?"

The Afro-Canadian and the tan man had dark circles under their eyes and looked exhausted. One was leaning on his suitcase as if that was the only thing keeping him upright, while the other was drinking juice from a colorful baby cup.

"We're the parents of a one-year-old girl," Finn said.

"And, we have joint custody of a four-year-old boy, every other week, in the middle of a fucking fours," Poe added.

Han looked at him, arching an eyebrow at that last term. He might as well have been speaking Mandarin and the sixty-year-old wouldn't have understood it any better.

"It's the four-year crisis," Leia interjected, answering her husband's question. "The kids start arguing about everything and anything... Remember? We had a monumental crisis because you wanted the kid to eat his peas and he declared that he hated you and threw them in your face?"

Ben's cheeks turned crimson. Luckily, no one was looking in his direction.

"Your son or grandson?" Poe inquired, gently.

"If only we had grandchildren," Leia exclaimed, sighing.

"You'd spoil them too much," Han laughed.

"Oh, stop it! You'd be the first to give them lots of treats."

"Treats..." Finn whispered, suddenly worried, as if that single word had been enough to revive him. "Poe... What if..."

"Deolie is one year old," his boyfriend reminded him, a little excited. "No one is going to think it's a good idea to give lollipops to a one-year-old!"

"Your dad already said he dipped your pacifier in gin, by the way. Do you think this is better?"

Poe closed his eyes and took another sip of his juice from the cup, which by all appearances belonged to his daughter. Finn, meanwhile, had grabbed his phone and was frantically writing on his keyboard to make sure their baby-sitter didn't give her any treats or alcohol.

"You guys are so doing the therapy," Leia decided, at the sight that reminded her of her son's early years.

Addressing everyone else in the room, she added:

"Who votes for the two dads to do the therapy?"

Without hesitation, the entire group raised their hands in support of this decision - even Ben. The Afro-Canadian whispered a thank you while his companion simply raised his cup in the air.

"We are here, because Karé will leave me," a dark-haired man proclaimed, with a stature resembling that of a refrigerator and a full beard.

His arms were around a woman with dull skin, who looked younger than him, and straw-colored hair that she had braided on top of her head. They were dressed almost identically and seemed unable to let go for more than thirty seconds. Almost all the other couples squinted in incomprehension at them. They looked like they had just stepped out of a romantic comedy.

"No, it's you, Snap, who's going to leave me," the young woman refuted.

"No, I will never leave you, Karé."

"You'll find a better woman than me. More beautiful. More intelligent."

"I want you so much that it hurts! You can see that I love your skin, your breasts, your hips, your thighs, your buttocks," Snap enumerated, while touching each part of the young woman's body, which he named, while everyone else looked at them, a little uncomfortable.

He separated himself from her to only show the state of his crotch, through his pants, to the others. Ben tried to keep a straight face and avoid showing his dejection. Where did this fixation on erections come from, anyway?

"She's turning me on! I can't fake it!" Snap argued.

"Yes, but that's not what love is! It's not because we fuck ten times a week that we love each other or that I should be reassured!"

The dark-haired man returned towards Karé and began to kiss, almost crazily, her neck. She began to rub herself against him to encourage him.

"You... You are not obliged to show us the eleventh time of the week," Ben specified, uneasy.

It was a state of mind visibly shared, because the small Vietnamese woman, who stood beside them, had made a step to move away from the couple and avoided looking at them. She coughed to attract attention, hoping to stop the next scene in a bad pornographic movie.

"Beaumont and I have been together for four years..."

"You're wrong, Rose, we've been together for five years," her companion cut her off, taking an infantilizing tone.

"Maybe, okay, nevertheless..."

"It's been five years," he repeated, interrupting her again. "I'm right."

"The problem is not there!" she exclaimed, annoyed. "The problem is that that made several years that we are together and that our relationship goes badly!"

"It is only in your head...," Beaumont sighed.

"In my head?!" the young woman repeated, outraged. "Is it also in my head that we've broken up several times since we've been together?"

"But yes, these are nothings, what you reproach me. In any case, you see problems everywhere where there are none!"

"I see problems..."

"And we wouldn't be here if you'd agree to give me a blow job once in a while," Beaumont cut her off again. "You're frigid and..."

"So, why don't you let her talk instead of interrupting her?" Hux suddenly reacted, aggressively.

Surprised and a little shocked, all eyes converged on him - except for Rose, who was still staring at her companion as if she was about to unscrew his head from the rest of his body. Rey squinted but remained silent. Beaumont, for his part, looked like a little Chihuahua about to attack the redhead.

"Mind your own business!" the leprechaun challenged him. "Start by managing your relationship before telling me what to do!"

"I personally do not need to yell on somebody to prove my masculinity," Armitage snapped with arrogance, while rolling up the sleeves of his black shirt.

In reaction, Beaumont walked towards the redhead to hit him. Armitage laughed and gestured to be the first to strike. Simultaneously, Han and Leia made a move to stop him - this moron wasn't going to fight the right-hand man of the Montreal mob boss! However, they didn't have to intervene: Rose had come between the two men and was looking at the redhead with a fierce air, as if she was trying to protect Beaumont. Hux calmed down almost instantly while her companion pushed her and told her to get out of his way, but the Vietnamese woman's feet remained firmly anchored in the ground.

"Will you calm down now?" Rose exploded, addressing Beaumont. "We're not here to fight! We're here to work on us and try to give our relationship one last chance!"

Without a word, he let go and walked away, still on edge. The young woman pursed her lips and silently thanked Hux before returning to her boyfriend. In a bad mood, he crossed his arms while Rose apologized to everyone for this interlude. Beaumont didn't seem the least bit sorry, but each of the other participants nodded.

Finally, all the eyes turned to Han and Leia.

"You're the ones who should go," Snap told them. "You guys look very happy."

The sixty-year-old immediately shook his head several times.

"No, we're doing very badly as a couple. It's so bad that everyone at work knew it was bad before I did."

"We're real estate agents," Leia explained. "My husband doesn't want anything to do with retirement and all he does is talk about work. He talks about condos, studios, houses, bungalows... The market, real estate bubbles... Even on vacation! He is always talking about work!"

"Yes, and apparently, even when I'm here, I'm not here," Han snickered, as if he were making a mockery of what his wife had already accused him of. "That, apparently, is my superpower. I don't even know how I do that!"

"We went to Maine the summer of our son's seventh birthday... And I found out it was only to show me a hotel for sale. He couldn't unplug for five minutes the whole two weeks we were there! Five measly minutes!"

"It was a very important hotel! You were thrilled when we sold it!"

Leia shook her head angrily.

"That's not the point! In any case, your attitude makes me want to go put my 'for sale' sign on another man's lawn!"

"Oh, yeah? Is that new?"

"Maybe that's why I like having tea so much!" the fifty-year-old said defiantly, deliberately implying that her next suitor could be Lando Calrissian.

And, the jab paid off, as the commander of the anti-organized crime squad seemed to be on the verge of really blowing a fuse.

"Yes, okay, thank you, Han and Leia," their son interrupted them before his father thought it would be a good idea to call the Minister of Justice to yell at him.

With that, his mother concluded that if they wanted them to go back to Montreal, it would be over her dead body. Afterwards, it was a mad scramble. Each couple disparaged the others to prove that they belonged here. "You and your little sexuality problems," Rey said to Snap and Karé. "You're taking the place of a loving couple!" Dopheld pointed out to Rose and Beaumont. And so on. The tension was so strong, that some pushed, insulted and shouted at each other.

DJ made no immediate move to calm them down. When the participants were on the verge of engaging in a general battle, the psychologist blew his whistle several times to get their attention and to encourage them to moderate themselves - like a referee. The couples moved away slowly and the calm returned, little by little.

"Well done, you've just completed the first exercise of Camp Naboo," DJ told them with a big smile.

Several of them exclaimed their displeasure and shock.

"This was the presentation," DJ continued, unperturbed. "We all got to know each other. I see you all want to work on your relationship. There's room for everyone! My assistant, Ben, will lead you to your rooms!"

He motioned for them to move toward the hotel to enter. Before crossing the threshold, the undercover detective handed each couple their room key with the corresponding room number written on it.

Still feeling tense, Hux was about to explode when Ben took longer than necessary to give Rey their key - and behind the redhead, Beaumont made a comment about why it was taking a while to get going. No one really knew if it was Rose, standing next to her companion, or Rey, who prevented Palpatine's right-hand man from putting his fist to the face of the damn leprechaun.

"Nice group of freaks we have here," Han grumbled to his son.

Everyone else, including Leia, moved away to their rooms. Only the two policemen were left in the hotel lobby.

"I don't understand what you're doing here, Han," Ben said, frankly.

"I'm doing my job. I'm here to get Rey Palpatine to talk."

"That could have been my job. You and Mom need to focus on your relationship. Why don't you go get some real therapy before she files for divorce? Seems to me that would be a little more productive!"

"Is that why you want me to leave you alone with your girl?"

"For the millionth time, she's not my girl!" Ben reacted through gritted teeth.

"A bit earlier, at the bus, a little more and..."

"Who do you think I am? I'm working. I'm trying to win her over! What do you think?"

"Yeah, right...," Han scoffed.

"What? You don't trust me? I can make her talk, all by myself! You know, Han, it's not the end of the world to retire and want to focus on your relationship. It's okay, actually."

"I'm able to focus on my relationship and get her to talk!"

"Yeah, right...," Ben laughed, mockingly. "I can't wait to see that."

Before his father could argue and they could get into a never-ending argument, as usual, the detective walked away to his room.

***

 

The interior of the hotel was as shabby as the exterior suggested. Luckily, Leia found no traces of mold in their room - no rats, bedbugs or other possible insects. She was just checking the sheets when Han opened the door to the room and ungracefully dropped his suitcase on the floor. She did not address him, preferring to concentrate on the white cotton which covered the mattress. At least, it was clean enough for her to feel at ease to lie down there. However, it was far from a five-star hotel room: the decor was more like a motel that you paid by the hour to fuck a prostitute.

The sixty-year-old opened a closet door and found extra sheets. Silently, he set up a makeshift bed on the sofa next to the bed.

"What are you doing?" Leia asked him, as she opened their suitcases to settle in.

"It's not going well in our relationship, so I'm sleeping on the couch," Han grumbled. "That's what people do, right? I'm playing my role."

"A role?" the Director of Criminal Affairs quipped.

"Come on, Leia! We don't have to exaggerate our problems to look credible!"

"I wasn't exaggerating for your information!"

"Well, yeah, right. So you wanted to put your sign somewhere else. In the meantime, I'll put it here," he retorted, pointing to the sofa.

Leia rolled her eyes at her husband's attitude but ignored him. If it made him happy to sleep on a sofa whose spring was surely broken... It is him who was going to have backache, not her!

Nostalgically, she remembered that at one time, it was Han's stubbornness and his way of always standing up to her that had, among other things, seduced her. Only, at this point in their lives, Han was also attentive to her and did everything he could to be there for her. He even gave up his command of a major drug cartel bust to be with her when Leia gave birth! Coming from Han Solo, this was no small thing. It was this wonderful man she wanted back.

Han pretended to lie down on his bed of woe and tried to hide a grimace. She rolled her eyes and looked at her watch.

"You're really due for a retirement," Leia quipped.

"What's wrong?"

"It's not even seven o'clock."

"...Ah," Han answered weakly.

"Are you coming? We've got a meeting with Ben to discuss the situation."

The sixty-year-old pursed his lips and got up from the sofa with difficulty, considering his advanced age. Leia approached him, but he made a gesture to push her away. He was proud by nature: there was no way he would receive help from anyone.

"There's no way you're going to spend the night on this! You won't be able to walk tomorrow!"

Just to prove her wrong, Han was tempted to ignore her. However, he decided to listen to the voice of reason and nodded slowly. Then he looked at her, gravely.

"You know... Leia...," he began. "I love you. You know that, right?"

"Yes, I know that," she said, with a small smile. "But it's good to hear it."

***

 

Two days before the therapy began, the police had installed cameras and microphones in every room of the hotel and outside to make sure they had all the evidence they could get if they arrested Rey - or Armitage Hux. They had barricaded one of the rooms in the building as their headquarters to observe everything that was going on. On a large desk, six computer screens were set up showing, in real time, the surveillance cameras. They kept repeating that desperate situations called for drastic remedies. They had no choice but to override the privacy of the couples if they wanted to finally get something to nail Palpatine.

Ben was already set up in front of the monitors, sitting behind the single keyboard, and dialed a series of numbers to gain access only to the two mafiosos' room. His father and mother came to sit next to him and nodded to DJ, who was standing behind them, watching the screens with an almost unhealthy curiosity.

"I'll do the therapy, Rey, but I can't do it if you're always flirting with the shrink," Armitage said in the screen.

The redhead was sitting on their bed, while the young woman put away their clothes in the dresser. She ran a finger through one of the drawers to remove some old bread crumbs and grimaced. The three policemen, for their part, turned to DJ.

"What are you talking about?"

"You've been making eyes at him all day," the redhead pointed out.

Rey looked at him in dismay. Meanwhile, behind the screens, DJ explained that it was common for a patient to feel attraction to their psychologist and that this was called transference. He briefly added that it was due to the fact that the patient felt listened to and understood - and that they associated this with love.

"He looks like a tramp!" Rey, who seemed more disgusted by the idea of being attracted to their psychologist than by the crumbs she had found three seconds earlier, exclaimed with her huge British accent.

Han and Ben chuckled as DJ sighed in annoyance.

"I'm not talking about him! I'm talking about the other one! The one who looks like a Picasso painting!"

"Oh," Rey said, stopping momentarily.

"Yes, that's right, 'oh'," Hux parodied. "What was that next to the bus? And when he gave you the room key? A little more and you looked like you were about to climb on top of each other!"

"You're exaggerating! Okay, he's hot, I'll give you that. Even that..."

"I knew it!" the redhead screamed.

"But that doesn't mean I want to sleep with him!" Rey added hastily. "It's just that he's... I don't know... Let's say he's a... SILF."

"...A SILF?"

"'Shrink I'd like to fuck'."

"Ha. Ha. Very funny," Hux grumbled.

Ben fidgeted in his chair, embarrassed, as his cheeks turned red. He wished he knew what she was about to say before her boyfriend interrupted. Just out of curiosity.

Surprisingly, Leia looked delighted that anyone would find her son attractive. She even whispered to Han that she liked that girl. The sixty-year-old tried to bring her back to Earth and reminded her that she was the granddaughter of the mob boss. DJ interrupted them by saying that it was just a question of transference, too, and that it didn't mean anything.

"Anyway, you can't blame me for anything! You cheated on me, remember? I could experiment all the positions of the Kamasutra with Ben if I wanted to. You wouldn't have any say in the matter!"

The Ben in question had a sudden urge to be swallowed up by the ground and to disappear in order to escape his parents' gaze.

"I could ask you to film it too," Rey continued, innocently simpering, to provoke him. "Would you like that, honey bun, to see me being fucked by a handsome psychologist? Would that turn you on?"

Ben swallowed painfully. If he was asked, he didn't want that redheaded twerp participating in any way in... What was wrong with him? He wasn't going to start fantasizing about their target, was he?

"Are you ever going to get over the fact that I cheated on you with two girls? I told you it was a slip and I was sorry!"

"You should have thought about it before! And then, what was that thing with the small Asian girl?"

"The small Asian girl...," Armitage repeated, scratching his neck and trying to look as casual as possible. "I don't know what you're talking about."

"You looked like a rabid rottweiler! What is it, you like her?"

"Rey...," he said as he walked over to her, kissing her neck.

"I've never seen you react like that!" the young woman said, pushing him away. "Let's agree, her boyfriend is horrible! He deserves to be stoned or guillotined, but still!"

"Oh, come on..."

"Are you going to have a threesome with her, too?"

"You're only talking about Rose to avoid talking about that damn Skywalker!"

"You're acting like a child, Armitage! It's not couples therapy that I need, apparently! I should just go talk to the two burn-out dads and get their advice, that should do it!"

Their argument dragged on for a little while longer, until Rey decided she needed some fresh air and stormed out of the room. Han and Leia concluded that they wouldn't know any more tonight and talked about tomorrow. Ben continued to stare at the brunette through the monitors, dumbfounded.

Could it be possible that the transference could be... How should he put it? Shared?

 

 

Chapter Text

At the evening meal, Rey was conspicuous by her absence at the large dining room table. Hux asked the others to excuse her and explained that his girlfriend was not feeling well. He pointed out, with accusing eyes on Ben, that she was a little sick as their "dear driver" had shaken them up too much during the trip and that his driving left a lot to be desired.

The undercover detective had to force himself not to glare at him. His mother discreetly nudged him to encourage him. "It wouldn't be very psychologically sound to react like that," her eyes reminded him. The rest of the meal went on... went on. The California chicken salad they ate was full of mayonnaise. It seemed to be more mayonnaise with some chicken salad than anything else. But the worst part was the couples who were eating.

At the other end of the table, Poe tapped Finn on the shoulder every time the latter looked at his phone. Which was very often. Spending more time anxiously checking his text messages than finishing his plate, the Afro-Canadian still hadn't eaten half his salad when the others moved on to dessert.

There was also Rose and Beaumont who were fighting for everything and anything. Mainly because the man kept telling his girlfriend that she was putting too much salt on her food, that she shouldn't have more, that it was no wonder she was "so fat" because of the way she was stuffing herself...

This time, Rose exploded and DJ had to take them out to help them calm down. Ben also thought he saw that Hux was tensing up as much as the little Vietnamese girl at each of these derogatory remarks. Before the psychologist took care of it, the redhead seemed to be ready to jump at Beaumont's throat to defend poor Rose. Stunning from a mobster... Maybe Rey was right and he liked this girl. The therapy of the criminal couple was starting well...

Otherwise, Mitaka flinched every time Phasma leaned in or spoke to him a little too firmly and Snap and Karé touched each other, as discreetly as possible, under the table, trying to hold back their moans and sighs. Ben rubbed his face to hide his discouraged expression and had to agree with his father. They were dealing with a bunch of freaks. It would be a long week.

After dinner, DJ told everyone to go to bed because they would be getting up early the next morning for a hike up the mountain, where the next exercise would be held. Before heading to his room, Ben went through the little headquarters that he and his parents had improvised for themselves. But on the cameras, he couldn't find Rey anywhere. She wasn't lying in bed in pain with a stomach-ache and a migraine as Hux claimed.

Where was she? In the bathroom, maybe? To hear her boyfriend exaggerate her discomfort over Ben's driving, it would be possible she had been there for hours. But the detective didn't believe a word the redhead said. No, it was hiding something. Had Rey snuck off the hotel grounds? For mafia business?

Eager to solve this on his own, Ben didn't tell his parents. Let them take care of their relationship problems and rest up for their big day tomorrow. However, he went around the hotel to check in the most unusual places, but he couldn't find Rey. And apparently, Hux was not worried by her disappearance.

That inevitably had to have a something to do with the mafia. But it was getting dark. In other words, Ben couldn't just walk out of the hotel and search the woods for their target. As he began to get tired, the detective grunted and resolved to return to his room.

Getting help from his parents was out of the question. He just had to hope that Rey was stuck in the bathroom or that he would find some clue to her mysterious escape when she reappeared as if nothing had happened the next day.

The "psychologist's"  room had a single, somewhat sad bed and a carpeting that was wearing out. Ben let out a deep sigh. He pulled on the green polo shirt that served as his uniform to undress. DJ had a similar one, with the same heart symbol over a lake and forest with the words "Camp Naboo". A rather ridiculous outfit that made his skin itch. What was there not to do to be undercover?

Ben was about to take off his black sweatpants when he was startled by a noise outside his room. It was almost ten o'clock. Who would have fun walking through the halls this late in the dark? As proof, the young man couldn't see a single light under his doorstep. He decided to check it out.

Quietly retrieving his Glock 17 from under the mattress of his bed, Ben didn't take the time to put on his unpleasant uniform and stomped out of his room. His eyes gradually became accustomed to the darkness. He walked cautiously down the hallway, his weapon behind his back. If he accidentally came across someone other than the mobsters, he would only have to pretend to want to smoke on the terrace or to get a piece of bread in the kitchen.

After a few moments, Ben turned the corner of the wall and was startled to recognize Rey's silhouette. She stifled a little scream, just as surprised as he was. Coming to his senses, the detective hid his Glock 17 in his jogging pants behind his back and flipped on the light switch in the hallway. Rey's eyes widened and she blushed when she realized he was shirtless.

"Oh, it's you," she sighed, looking down. "Hi... Um... You scared me. What are you doing here?"

"I... I could ask you the same thing," Ben articulated.

The young woman massaged the back of her neck, embarrassed. The undercover detective also flushed when he remembered he wasn't wearing his uniform anymore and realized that Rey was having a hard time not looking at his broad pectorals. He almost felt the need to hide his chest like a prudish girl but did not do so. For her part, Rey finally admitted in a low voice:

"Yes, it's true. I'm sorry I missed the dinner. But Armitage drives me crazy sometimes. I had to go out and get some fresh air to calm down. I wanted to wait until he was asleep before I went back to my room. Otherwise, I felt like he was going to piss me off again."

She also explained that she had seen the evening's menu listed at the entrance to the dining room - a California chicken salad with mayonnaise - and that each and every time, her boyfriend would have made a comment about her "disastrous cooking," to quote him.

"He would have told me, 'See, this hotel leaves a lot to be desired, but at least their food and mayonnaise are not as bad as yours.' This grump always tells me that what I cook is uneatable, especially my mayonnaise... I mean, yes, did you know I make my own mayonnaise?" she then added with a tone filled with pride.

"Yes, I do."

At this, Rey frowned, confused. Ben slapped his forehead inwardly. He had not thought this through. What an idiot! He might as well tell her that he knew it because he had been spying on her every day for quite some time!

"Uh, I mean...," he stammered, trying to catch up. "H... Armitage told us earlier."

This answer suited the young woman. She nodded dejectedly.

"I knew he would make a remark like that. It's a good thing I wasn't there. I would have gutted him."

"But anyway, I understand you perfectly," Ben pulled himself together, resuming his role as the psychologist responsible for each of the people in therapy. "On the other hand, you shouldn't leave the hotel like that at night. We're lost in the middle of the forest and... it could be dangerous to go off alone in the dark. If something happens to you..."

"Why? Are there bears around here?" the young woman worried.

The undercover policeman pursed his lips. He didn't have a clue and didn't know the terrain at all.  Actually, Rey sounded sincere with her excuse for a walk outside to get some air, irritated by her boyfriend. Ben hoped she hadn't disappeared to meet one of her grandfather's minions in the forest for some mobster shenanigan. Still, it was better for her than finding herself defenseless against a pissed-off bear.

"Uh... I guess so," he mumbled. "Since there must be moose and beavers and..."

Rey acquiesced.

"Oh... Well, yeah, sorry, you're right. I won't disappear like that next time, then."

"Next time, you can come to me instead, if you need to talk," the detective agreed, happy to find the perfect excuse to try to grill her in the future. "Well, me or DJ, of course. I... That's what we're here for. So, we can also have a little private session, if that would help you feel better."

"A little private session...," the mob boss's granddaughter repeated, looking at him for a long time.

Remembering everything she had said about him in her room earlier, Ben suddenly blushed. Maybe Rey was getting ideas because of her "transference"... But no, he was thinking of a session in the greatest of professionalism. Whether as a psychologist or as a policeman. Of course.

"Well, thanks. I'll think about it."

"Well... Good night!" Ben said quickly before she could notice his discomfort.

He was about to leave, but she held him back.

"Oh, wait!"

Anyway, the undercover cop couldn't turn around without her seeing his gun, still stuck in his back. He swallowed.

"Yes?"

A little embarrassed, Rey bit her lip and put one of her brown locks back behind her ear.

"Sorry, but I can't help having eyes and... I mean, it's so massive that it's hard to miss and... Wow."

As she pointed to his chest with a vague gesture, the young man felt his cheeks warm up.

"I... I didn't expect a shrink to be... swole like that. It looks like Photoshop! Do you work out a lot?"

Indeed, the undercover detective was well built and quite muscular. But for him, Rey's question was ridiculous, as the answer was so obvious. He had to spend long hours at the police station's gym to be able to chase a criminal across Montreal by climbing on fences in construction sites!

"Me? Uh... Yes, of course I do. Because of my job..."

"Your job?" the brunette asked, arching an eyebrow. "Well, the life of a psychologist must be full of unsuspected dangers, then!"

Realizing his mistake, Ben wanted to bang his head against the wall several times. He was supposed to be a psychologist in couples therapy, not a cop from the Montreal Police Service anti-organized crime squad! Hell, undercover missions had never been a problem for him before. Why would he lose all control now? He coughed and tried to catch himself again.

"Uh... I mean... Yes? You have to have something to fight a bear with when one of the participants of the couples therapy goes too far away from the hotel at night, right?"

The young woman laughed at his remark. And Ben realized, with red cheeks, that she had the most beautiful smile ever. What a shame she was the granddaughter of the mob boss, fully involved in her grandfather's macabre and criminal activities...

"Yeah, right, I guess so," she giggled. "Anyway. Good night, Mr. Shrink."

She gave him one last amused smile and finally left for her room. Ben stood like an idiot in the middle of the hallway, still crimson and half naked. At least he had been able to establish the beginnings of a connection with their target. But for a split second, he thought he heard her say, "Good night, Mr. SILF."

***

Early the next morning, the group, dressed for the occasion, set out for a hike up the mountain, guided by DJ. Following a dirt trail, they climbed over rocks and tree roots that poked out of the ground, jumped over small streams and admired the Val-David-Val-Morin Regional Park landscape. In the distance, the lake seemed to glow under the rays of the rising sun. The sky still had a slight pinkish-orange tint.

The ascent went quite well on the whole. Some of them soon found themselves exhausted, however. At one stream, the two banks seemed a little too far apart to jump over like the others, and the rocks that emerged from the current looked slippery. Ben was the only one wearing waterproof boots, so he offered to stand in the middle of the stream, not afraid to get his feet wet, to help the others cross.

But Hux, always so possessive, did not appreciate the moment when the assistant of the psychologist took his girlfriend by the hand to make her cross the obstacle without encumbers. The two lingered a little too much for his taste. Also, the young woman suddenly slipped on one of the stones and Ben caught her by the hips.

She shuddered and the two looked at each other for a brief moment. This was the second time he had saved her from an unfortunate fall. The little smile of gratitude Rey gave to her "saviour" irritated the redhead. It even seemed to him that Ben's dazed eyes leered one second on the splendid buttocks of his girlfriend, as she finished crossing and moved away to join the others.

Scowling, he refused the undercover cop's help when it was his turn and tried to jump the stream by himself. However, he only lost his balance and fell into the water. Some laughter was stifled. Rose asked the redhead if he was okay. Rey chuckled that he needed a bath anyway. Seeing that the mafia boss's right-hand man was going to make Irish stew out of his son's entrails if he didn't intervene, Han rushed over to help him up.

"It's okay, Grandpa, I don't need your help!" Armitage grumbled.

The sixty-year-old frowned. Grandpa? Before he could get angry, his wife took him by the arm and urged him to continue the climb. After this little incident, the group finally reached a platform at the top of the mountain. The view was absolutely magnificent. The weather was mild for May, but the sun was already warming them up.

DJ invited the therapy participants to sit down on some logs and showed them two signs that he had planted. One was a picture of a male statue, the other a picture of a female statue. The psychologist explained that the next exercise was called "Living Sculptures". This involved "sculpting" your partner into a position that represented them.

"Let's say Ben is my partner," DJ continued, pointing to his assistant. "For example, I think that he is never happy so I make him take a pose like this in front of you."

Following the directives of the psychologist, the undercover detective crossed his arms on his chest and gave a grumpy expression. Rey stifled a disillusioned laugh and quietly whispered to Rose that this could be their two boyfriends. Her log neighbor gave a pinched smile in response.

The exercise then began. Each couple had a few minutes to think and talk. Then, in turn, the participants had to present their "statue" to the others, explaining why they saw their partner this way. Mitaka was the first to go. At his request, Phasma crossed her arms in an X shape in front of her heart.

"It's because she refuses to show me love," he said.

Then, it was the turn of his companion, who made him curl up in a little ball, crouching on the ground. For her, Mitaka retracted every time she approached him, spoke to him or tried to touch him. As if he was afraid of her. And that hurt her greatly, because before, he liked her to dominate him and asked for more.

Then, the homosexual couple presented themselves in turn in front of the others. Finn had to look stressed, his back bent and his eyes riveted on his phone. A position that the rest of the participants already recognized very well. Poe explained that his partner was always anxious about their daughter, bordering on paranoia, and that on Valentine's Day - their first date night in ages - he had even abandoned him at the restaurant because he didn't trust their babysitter.

Finn, meanwhile, asked his boyfriend to pose with his fists on his hips, head held high and looking proud, like a superhero. He introduced Poe as the perfect boyfriend and parent. Everyone adored him and their little Deolie always stopped crying in his arms. After all, he had already had a boy, Benedict, with his ex-wife, Zorii, and had more experience with children than he did. Finn was suffering from a sense of inferiority by his side.

"Wow... It feels good to put it that way," the young man sighed.

"You never told me about this before," Poe finally stammered. "Come on, Finn, this is your first child! And you are the most wonderful father in the world! You are much more present for Deolie than I am for Bee-Bee!"

He said these last words with a touch of guilt. Finn looked at him with puppy dog eyes.

"You think so?"

"Yes! You're patient, caring and you know how to handle her cries! She loves you and smiles all the time when you're there! I... I'm so sorry you feel that way," Poe whispered, his eyes misting over. "I love you."

Moved, his partner swallowed hard, pursed his lips and breathed out a "Me too". Leia smiled. They were cute. She too had gone through the same thing as them as a mother and understood them perfectly. It was hard to take care of a child while managing Montreal's criminal affairs when the father was becoming less and less present at home.

When the fifty-year-old had to present her husband's statue, she pointed to... the void. Han was hidden a little lower down, among the flowers of the mountain plateau.

"That's how I see him," Leia explained. "Or rather, no, I don't see him. Actually, he's the Invisible Man, for quite some time. Because even when he..."

"Because even when I'm there, I'm not there," the sixty-year-old exasperated, emerging from his hiding place. "Yes, I think we get it!"

"Hey! A statue doesn't talk, love!"

"I'm a living sculpture! So, I can talk if I want to!"

They started to argue again and Ben had to intervene to calm them down and encourage them to continue the exercise in a joyous and relaxed atmosphere. Well, as much as possible with them. For his part, Han asked Leia to stand like an empress, with a haughty look in her eyes, and to place her hands on her head as if they were a crown.

"Ladies and gentlemen... Princess Leia!" the sixty-year-old presented. "Perfect and irreproachable. It's simple, with her you can never say anything and everything you do is never enough for her."

Annoyed, his wife rolled her eyes and gave him the middle finger. Faced with this, Han said:

"Hey, a statue doesn't give a fuck you, love!"

"Yes, but the living sculpture of Princess Leia still says fuck you," she retorted bitterly. "Deeply."

Ben struggled to stifle his laughter.

"I'm not showing you how I see Beaumont," Rose said, passing right after the old couple. "But how I would like to see him."

Her partner simply clasped his hands over his mouth with a grumpy expression.

"Here it is. Mister never shuts his big mouth. 'Blah, blah, I'm a history teacher, I have a huge culture, blah, blah, I know everything better than everyone else, blah, blah, you shouldn't eat that, honey, blah, blah...'," the young woman imitated with a silly voice. "See, I think I would cum just with one minute of complete silence!"

As for him, Beaumont made Rose try a rather complex pose. She had to balance on one leg, the other one raised in the air in a sort of arabesque and wave her hands as if she had wings.

"To me, Rose is... that."

"Interesting, interesting," DJ encouraged him, rubbing his chin. "But what does that represent?"

"No idea," Beaumont sneered. "She's far too difficult for me to understand. Basically, she makes too much trouble for nothing, makes mountains out of molehills and even if you want to believe she's balanced..."

He pushed her with one hand for any conclusion and Rose stifled a cry by falling in the grass. Beaumont laughed, his girlfriend kicked him in the shin in revenge and Armitage tensed up. Rey noticed this and it gave her an idea.

"So, for me, the statue of Armitage is the image which haunts my nights and which I cannot erase from my mind," the brunette explained with a nervous smile when her turn came.

Near her, Hux held under his arms Karé and Rose, kneading one of their breasts in each hand, and had to mime an expression of pleasure. His cheeks were flushed with shame and he closed his eyes tightly so as not to see the reproachful looks of the other participants, especially Beaumont who did not appreciate him touching his partner in this way.

On her side, Rose blushed as much, troubled, and hoped like the redhead that the presentation of the statue would end quickly. On the other hand, that did not disturb at all Karé. The latter finished the exercise with Snap. At her request, her boyfriend bent down, closed his eyes and brought his hands in front of him, as if he was holding a naked woman against him and massaging her breasts.

"It's not how I see Snap... but how I feel him," Karé confessed.

On these words, she slipped into his arms, back to him. He immediately grabbed her breasts and devoured her neck while she rubbed herself on his crotch. They moaned and the others gazed wide-eyed at them, extremely uncomfortable. Except for Phasma, who found it all the same entertaining as this beginning of copulation was ridiculous. She even whispered a "At least they're not afraid to fuck" to her Dopheld. Hearing this, Snap looked up and asked:

"Um... Do you guys want us to make it in front of you? We don't mind, though. It wouldn't be the first time..."

Everyone shook their heads and gritted their teeth, except Phasma who just shrugged. The couple took that as a yes.

"No, no, no!" DJ, who had been a little slow to react, observing the scene with… curiosity, exclaimed. "That's enough! Just stop!"

As Karé had already taken her T-shirt off and was showing off her sports bra, which she was also about to remove, the psychologist turned crimson and promptly blew his whistle to stop the horny couple.

 

The second exercise of the day began at about 10 a.m. on the banks of the North River. A few kayaks and canoes passed by from time to time, some waving to the group. The water was still cold, but some participants enjoyed slipping their hand in to feel the current.

The two signs on the bank, placed by DJ, depicted a caveman and a cavewoman with their clubs. The psychologist explained that for this exercise, each couple would have to step into the shoes of their prehistoric ancestors.

He called it "the reconstitution of the Cro-Magnon seduction game". Each couple should bring out their primitive instincts, communicating only by grunts and gestures, and rediscover their partner in this way.

"And I remind you that you should only seduce each other, not copulate," DJ added towards Snap and Karé, who did not understand his reproachful tone.

Standing back with the psychologist, Ben chuckled inwardly as he watched the others behave like monkeys, patting each other, sniffing each other, grunting, roaring, licking each other's cheeks... In any case, his parents seemed to be having a good time. More than some.

For example, Poe, exasperated by the fact that Finn was still texting on his phone while playing caveman, took it out of his hands and warned him that he might throw it in the river. Because phones didn't exist in prehistoric times. Phasma approached Mitaka, growling, and as soon as she touched him, he whimpered like a little kicked puppy dog and cowered on the ground.

"Well, come on!" the tall blonde sighed. "I'm not going to eat you!"

When Beaumont got down on all fours and tried to sniff Rose's buttocks, she got angry and started hitting him with a branch. Her partner squirmed on the floor in pain, calling her crazy and complaining about being a beaten man. DJ, exasperated with both, rushed to intervene.

As Hux was staring at Rose, unfocused, Rey grabbed his chin and forced him to face her. Then, to get revenge from his lack of attention, she turned her head towards Ben, who observed the scene near them, and emitted a seductive "Grrrrrr..." in his direction. The undercover detective blushed violently. Rey smiled proudly, but her companion growled angrily and moved toward his "rival".

Han and Leia sprang up to stop the mob boss' right-hand man from slitting their son's throat. The sixty-year-old stepped in front of the redhead to block his path. Their eyes lit up and the two men began a contest of wild grunts and bestial roars. Leia laughed nervously and turned to the brunette.

"It's not much of a difference in language than usual, right?" she sighed.

"Unfortunately," Rey giggled with an equally discouraged look. "And they say we've evolved since prehistoric times..."

They chuckled together in their feminine solidarity.

Amused by the concept of Cro-Magnon men, Ben asked DJ if he could introduce the second part of the exercise. With a whistle, the psychologist called his entire group to stand in front of them and let him speak. Ben explained that they were all hunter-gatherers and that they now needed to find food, but also to know what to do in case of danger.

"Let's say a cave bear suddenly appears, looking menacing. It's attacking you! What do you do to protect your other half? Hm?"

As he imitated a little Cro-Magnon growl to encourage the slightly confused couples, Ben saw a hand raised. He sighed.

"Yes, Beaumont?"

"Your thing's impossible," the man said, crossing his arms. "In prehistoric times, there were no cave bears in North America. They were an exclusively European species."

Perplexed, Ben frowned.

"What? Well, who cares? It's just a detail for the role-playing. And then, there are bears in Canada, aren't there?"

"Yes, there are, now," Beaumont retorted. "But not about a million years ago. What you are suggesting is anachronistic. At the very least, if we were attacked by a smilodon..."

"A what?"

"Well, the term 'saber-toothed cat' is more familiar, but actually... "

The historian began to demonstrate the extent of his knowledge by talking about prehistoric animals, the Bering Strait, the ice age... Soon, everyone understood why Rose wanted this smug chatterbox to shut up for even a minute. Like the others, Ben listened with a distracted ear, beginning to lose his patience. Then suddenly his eyes widened like saucers.

"There's a bear."

"No, no, stop it with your bear," Beaumont exasperated. "I'm telling you it's an anachronism!"

"Shut the fuck up with that!" Ben cried, pointing to something behind their backs. "There's a real bear now! Behind you!"

Thinking he was trying to scare them, Rose's partner rolled his eyes.

"Yeah, right..."

"I'm not kidding! There's... There's a... There's a fucking bear, damn it!"

This time, the others, confused, finally turned around and realized with horror that Ben wasn't lying. A big, black bear was coming out of the edge of the forest and was indeed approaching them. When it stood up on its hind legs and growled, everyone screamed in shock.

Beaumont was the first to run away and shoved DJ violently as he fled. Soon, half the group followed suit and only the women were left, frightened, to face the beast. They watched their men abandon them with cowardice. They had stayed because Rose had told them repeatedly that they should never run in front of a bear because they might make it angry.

"Well, listen," the little Vietnamese woman said, taking a deep breath. "For the moment, he is calm. When he gets on two legs, it's impressive, but not at all dangerous. He only takes visual and olfactory information. We have to scare him by being bigger and louder than him. Do as I do!"

With these words, she raised her arms, waved them above her head to make herself bigger and shouted threateningly at the bear. Rey, Phasma, Karé and Leia did the same. They roared, growled, howled and waved their hands as if they had claws. The animal backed away and then ran back into the forest as it had come.

The women shouted in victory and they applauded their heroine before hugging her. Rose was flattered by the recognition. Then they watched their men return, their tails between their legs, with a teasing look. Beaumont may have been an expert on prehistoric cave bears, but Rose knew better than he what to do when faced with a present-day bear.

As some congratulated the young woman while others mocked the men who were trying to justify themselves, stung by ego, no one really cared about DJ. The poor guy was wincing in pain and rubbing his lower back. He had taken a bad fall because of Beaumont.

Ben massaged the back of his neck, embarrassed, and didn't dare look at Rey's triumphant gaze. Last night, he might have been showing off with his muscles a bit by babbling about how he could protect her from bears. But in the end, he had stupidly run away like the others and it was Rose, from the top of her five feet, who had saved them all.

"You're our savior," Finn said, despite his shame, as he took her in his arms. "Bravo!"

 

And the praises towards the small Asian girl did not dry up at lunch. Rey proposed a toast in Rose's honor and everyone toasted to her health. Mitaka, relieved that everyone had escaped unharmed, suddenly hugged Phasma and declared that even though he was a little afraid of his partner, she was his protector. Some, like the tall blonde, thought he was cute, others raised their eyebrows.

"In any case, congratulations, gentlemen!" Leia teased, sipping her drink. "There was a time when we relied on our men to protect us... Now we're better off on our own."

"No, but that's because you destroyed our primitive instincts," Han retorted with a sigh. "You wanted tender, respectful, emotional men and this is the result..."

He said this in a joking tone, but his wife did not laugh and glared at him.

"It is sure that we are all lost now," Beaumont muttered. "It's like in bed, you have to be both wild and gentle with girls, it's nonsense..."

Then, looking up at Finn and Poe, he remembered that there were not only heterosexual couples at the table. Following his gaze, Hux asked out of curiosity:

"By the way, how do you guys do it? It must be easier between men, right?"

"How do we do it?" Finn repeated, wrinkling his nose. "What, you want us to show you?"

"Why not?" Karé and Snap smiled .

The couple of men rolled their eyes.

"Well, anyway, since we had our baby, we don't fuck anymore," Poe sighed. "It was the same with my ex-wife, though. Well, with Zorii, it was because we realized right after that we were both gay, so, of course... Now it was understandable. Finn, I still don't understand why he doesn't like my penis anymore..."

At these words, his partner turned even more brown. A silence of uneasiness settled.

"But... But I like your penis, it is just that... Well, I do not want to make it whereas the little one sleeps at side, that could frighten her."

"It's not just that. I have the impression that your sex drive has completely turned off," Poe argued. "But don't worry, my love. My penis likes you too and it is patient. Like a Tibetan monk. It'll wait for your desire for it to reignite."

"Okay, stop talking about penises while we're eating, please," Rey grimaced, putting her sausage back on her plate with disgust. "I haven't been able to take that word seriously for a long time anyway. I don't know where this obsession of yours comes from, gentlemen, but all through my teenage years, some idiots at school loved to yell 'Penis!' during class to entertain the crowd, and now, every time I hear that word, I think of it!"

Some in the group giggled, others coughed. For Ben, it was a bit of both, amused and embarrassed. Hux rubbed his face.

"I don't have any desire for Beaumont anymore either," Rose admitted wearily. "I do not even want to see him naked any more."

"You are not obligated to say it in front of everyone," her boyfriend reproached though gritted teeth.

"And for me, Mitaka is afraid that I will kill him every time we try to fuck," Phasma sighed. "DJ... Do you have any advice to give us to stimulate his libido?"

The psychologist, who was still wincing from his bad fall this morning, flinched at the question. He became flushed. The three undercover policemen, knowing his sexual misery, perfectly understood his reaction. Especially since all eyes were now on him. For his part, Ben just hoped his parents wouldn't add anything about it. He didn't want to think about that at all.

"So, uh... Actually... It's tricky," DJ stammered. "Because... it's not the same for everyone."

"No, it is the same!" Snap suddenly said, addressing the whole group. "Seriously, it's not that complicated. Well, we, with Karé, have the opposite problem, but if you have trouble fucking, just jump on the other one and force them to try!"

"But that's rape!" Rose exclaimed indignantly.

Snap and Karé frowned, surprised by the term she used.

"Well, it can't be rape if you're in a relationship, can it?"

"Yes, it can! Hello! Spousal rape exists! Even if it's taboo!"

"Yes," DJ approved. "We think that within a couple, consent is automatic and that we don't need to make sure. But the truth is, it's not always the case and it causes a lot of silent suffering because most people, both victims and assaulters, don't recognize the problem."

At these words, Rose banged on the table and exclaimed in his direction a big "Thank you!"

"Yes, it's true," Rey agreed. "I mean, come on, we're not in the Middle Ages anymore..."

"I'll stop you right there," Beaumont said, pointing with his index finger. "It is true that spousal rape was not recognized at all in the Middle Ages..."

"And still today for some," his girlfriend grumbled.

"Yes, but that doesn't mean that all women were raped by men back then! Actually, it may surprise you, but in the 14th century a manuscript was discovered. This was a kind of 'love manual'. It explained to men how to give their wives pleasure in bed and even encouraged them to satisfy them instead of just taking advantage of them by leaving the women frustrated. At the time, medicine encouraged female pleasure, believing it was required for procreation."

He smiled, proud to teach others something that many in popular culture were unaware of, lulled by Manichean preconceptions. Rose only arched an eyebrow, disillusioned. 

"Wow, this manual looks great! Maybe one day you should think about using the tips it gives when you have sex with me, right?"

"I mean," the historian coughed . "We often have this image of the glorified, rough knight about the Middle Ages, but the truth is that a manly man was seen as a virtuous and noble man who could control his body. A man who was a slave to his impulses was just a filthy barbarian."

"Never thought I would wish I could go back to those days," his companion grumbled. "One wonders how this concept has completely gotten out of hand today. Because, Beaumont, with what you just said, I think you are far from being manly and that the Middle Ages were more progressive than you are when it comes to the behavior of men, especially towards women!"

This time Beaumont got angry with her.

"Oh, come on, you pest! First, you can't even use the word 'progressive' when the term didn't exist at the time! What you say is anachronistic!"

"Fuck you and your anachronisms!" Rose cried.

"Also, if it got out of hand, it's your fault, girls! You're all crazy and don't know what you want!" the man retorted before turning to the table. "Right, guys? In bed, she asks you to take her brutally from behind by breaking three of her ribs and right after, you have to cuddle her by reciting Shakespeare with tears in your eyes!"

DJ tried to get up to intervene and separate them, once again, but he groaned in pain from his injury and had to let go.

"Oh, yeah?" Rose snickered. "You should know how to recite Shakespeare, first. Also, you'd have to be able to do another position than the missionary and last more than three minutes to break three of my ribs!"

"Hey!"

Observing the scene like everyone else, Armitage stifled a laugh at the temper of the small Asian girl. Rey raised an eyebrow and gave him a funny look.

"You can laugh, but I'll have you know that you're not much better," she sighed.

"Wait, what?" the red-haired man said indignantly. "And I'll have you know that, however, I know other positions that the missionary and that I am not a premature ejaculator."

"True. But when we fuck, it seems that you don't care at all, honey bun. You seem as interested in me as you would be in a dish you're watching spin in the microwave!"

Hearing this, Ben, who was eating silently at the end of the table, rolled his eyes. Who would dare not caring about the chance of having such a beautiful woman in his bed? Well… Anyway. Hux was really weird. And Rey deserved much better. The young man muttered:

"In that case, why are you giving him a chance after he cheated on you? I mean, come on…"

He took a bite and realized that silence had suddenly returned. All eyes were now turned towards him, bewildered by the reproving words of the "psychologist". Rey was staring at him, dumbstruck.

"I beg your pardon?"

Ben swallowed loudly and felt the red on his cheeks. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw his father shake his head and sigh in exasperation, as if to say, "Couldn't you just shut up, you idiot?"

"Uh... I..."

"Are you judging me now?" Rey stammered before turning to DJ. "Is he judging me now? Is that what you shrinks do now? Do you approve of this kind of method?"

"Oh, uh... Well... More or less. It's just another school of thought," the psychologist mumbled, massaging the back of his neck with embarrassment, in an attempt to make up for Ben's mistake.

"Pre-Freud, let's say," Han gibbered. "And Pre-Thought itself."

Leia elbowed him. He wasn't helping them.

"Yes, it's a method called… confrontation," their son hesitated, growing more and more crimson. "Well, it's like a provocation, but... therapeutic."

"It's Scandinavian," DJ invented to support him.

Instantly, Ben pointed to him for approval.

"Yes, exactly! It's Scandinavian!"

"Over there, they firmly believe that provocation brings therapeutic benefits," the psychologist added, sinking into the lie without really knowing where he was going. "It seems that it is successful. Especially with criminals! Besides, it can join some of the techniques we use here, but... Uh..."

"Do I look like a criminal?" Rey asked indignantly.

The three policemen shivered and looked at each other furtively. A criminal? Not at first glance. But the Organa-Solo knew who she really was. And the psychologist's clumsiness could arouse suspicion in her.

"No, no, you don't!" the young man immediately denied, shaking his head several times and glaring at DJ. "It's my fault, I'm sorry. I... I should have just kept my mouth shut. I apologize."

Rey looked at Ben as if he had just spoken to her from another planet and, unconvinced, sighed in exasperation before changing the subject. The uneasy silence was thus broken and the discussion, always more or less aggravated by the problems of each one, continued. They talked about the inequalities between men and women and about human relationships. This was enough to start a whole debate!

The undercover detective preferred to concentrate on his plate, mortified by his comment. Whether as a psychologist or as a policeman, he should have kept his mouth shut. Now he was losing points for his closeness to the granddaughter of the mob boss. In the context of the mission, of course. His parents must have been angry with him. So was Rey. She was probably feeling insulted now. Good job, champ!

***

 

After the lunch, DJ asked his group to excuse him since he needed to rest a little because of his injury. He invited them to take some quiet time and walked back to his room with difficulty. Ben, Han and Leia had to help him move. The psychologist was a mess. His face was contorted with pain, and even the ice cubes the woman brought him in a towel did not help.

"I don't know if I've broken something, but I can't stand up anymore," DJ groaned as he massaged his lower back.

He swallowed some painkillers, the only medicines he had, and concluded gravely:

"I can't go on like this. I'll have to stop therapy."

The undercover family exchanged desperate looks. Trying to reason with the unfortunate man was useless. He was not in the physical or even psychological state to continue the therapy. Especially with the group he had. Who could manage the crises of Rose and Beaumont, the hormones of Snap and Karé and the tension between the two mafiosos with an aching back?

Ben pursed his lips. Despite himself, he felt a pang of guilt. Of course, it wasn't his fault that Beaumont had violently pushed DJ while running away from the bear. But if he hadn't panicked when he saw the animal first... The young man sighed. There was no way he was going to give up on their mission. He would not admit defeat. Such an opportunity would not present itself twice. Then, after a long reflection, he declared:

"Okay. I will replace him."

 

 

Chapter Text

There was silence in the room for a few seconds after the detective suggested that he take over the therapy.

"Well, that doesn't make sense," his mother finally refuted. "We'll get some morphine, some cortisone... And after half a day of rest, DJ will be fine."

"Your mother is right," Han said.

Their son looked at them ironically. Of course, his parents would have to agree with each other only to dispute what he said! 

"A bad back can't be cured with a little morphine!"

"I wouldn't say no to Dilaudid," the psychologist winced, in a low voice.

No one paid him any attention.

"You can't be a shrink...," his father sighed.

"Why not?"

"Because you're a policeman! Did you know that psychologists have to get a doctorate? Just because you've read 'Chicken Soup for the Soul' doesn't mean you know how to deal with Phasma who wants her submissive back!"

"First, I took psychology courses during my police training. Secondly... I'm sorry, but DJ doesn't really look like he has a PhD and he seems to be doing just fine!"

The young man pointed at the psychologist, who was too busy in pain to protest in any way, arching an eyebrow. Han's lips curled. He couldn't disagree with his son on this. The more he got to know DJ, the more he felt like he'd found his therapist's degree through the trash in a garbage can. Even Leia seemed to agree with her son.

"Thirdly, do you know what 'Chicken Soup for the Soul' is? You? Han Solo?" Ben sneered.

"Your mother made me read one four years ago. Until I finished it, she wouldn't let me... Well... You see...," he explained, making a suggestive eyebrow movement.

"Needless to say, it was useless," Leia lamented, rolling her eyes.

"At least, we could start making love again!" her husband underlined. "You're lucky, my dear. I don't need Viagra to get an erection yet! Not every sixty-three-year-old man can claim that!"

The young man winced in disgust and mimed an urge to vomit. He had no desire to know that his parents still had a sex life.

"You'll know, sweetheart, that you're going to hear a lot worse than our sex problems if you take over the therapy!" Leia interjected, putting both hands on her hips with a stern look. "You'll have to deal with Rose and Beaumont's arguments! Or Phasma and Dopheld's sexuality!"

"In any case, I won't risk calling Rey a criminal in front of everyone and jeopardize the mission!"

"No... You're going to be too busy staring at her ass to make a mistake like that," Han scoffed.

"...What?" he reacted, not knowing what else to say to that, his cheeks flushed. "I never did that!"

"Yeah, right... We all saw how you enjoyed the view when you walked behind her earlier."

Shocked, Ben swallowed hard and coughed several times.

"Han... Leave him alone... He has a right to find her attractive and do his job at the same time," Leia defended him, which only made her son's blush worse.

He had, indeed, leered at the buttocks of the young woman, magnificently highlighted by the leggings of sport which she wore, during the rise which they had made to go to the first exercise. Besides, if he was honest with himself, it was not the first time that his eyes lingered on this part of the Rey's anatomy. Nor, even, was it the first time he'd thought about the fact that her ass would fit perfectly in his hands. Actually, it wasn't the first time his eyes had lingered, followed her and contemplated her for a purpose other than their mission.

Was she even aware of how beautiful she was? He was fully focused on this undercover mission, but Ben still had eyes to see, after all! And he wasn't made of stone.

That cute little nose. Breasts that were just begging to be uncovered. Iris of an almost supernatural color, hovering between honey, wet earth and the color of freshly cut grass. And her mouth. Lordy. If he stared at it too long, he feared he'd get an erection - because since yesterday, the fantasy of her lips giving him oral sex had been clouding his thoughts.

On the other hand, he would rather die than admit that his father was right! He was able to put aside his libido, which seemed to spike dangerously when Rey Palpatine was in his sights. Also, he had no desire to hear the cries of delight from his mother, who obviously seemed desperate for him to meet someone! His parents were insufferable.

"Anyway, we don't have a choice," Ben said, choosing to ignore Han's last remark. "Either I'm going to be a psychologist, or we're going to come back empty-handed and have nothing against Palpatine!"

His parents were not convinced. But the detective was right. What else could they do? The mafia had to be dismantled and its members - especially its leader - urgently taken down and put in the penitentiary.

"I'm going to tell the couples that you're the police!" DJ threatened, between two twinges of pain. "You're not going to screw up my therapy!"

Ben and Han exchanged a look. Without a word, the first one took out his phone from the back pocket of his pants, played the video of the sex shop and showed the screen to DJ.

"A shrink trying on blow-up dolls in public... It would be a shame if we had to inform them that their beloved psychologist was a sexual deviant," the squad commander remarked, with a big smile.

"You piece of...," he stopped momentarily to scream in pain. "I knew it wasn't a good idea to let you infiltrate the therapy!"

Leia rolled her eyes and informed them that she was going to call for help. Forty-five minutes later, DJ left the scene with the paramedics, heading for the nearest hospital, to the bewildered looks of everyone present.

In response to their confusion, Ben reassured them that the therapy would continue and that he would act as the psychologist, alone, until DJ returned. Some of them did not seem to agree with this turn of events but remained silent. The undercover detective gave them the rest of the day to take some time for themselves and suggested some possible activities on the premises.

He, meanwhile, would go through DJ's things to find possible notes and descriptions of upcoming exercises. Ben had no desire to make a fool of himself or jeopardize the therapy!

***

 

Ben spent the rest of the afternoon going through any therapy-related notes he could find in DJ's room. He'd had to go through the psychologist's personal belongings and he'd managed to put it all together - although he'd been disgusted by the realization of his rather disastrous lifestyle. He had wrinkled his nose when he discovered marks of unidentified sticky substances on some of the participants' files. It was disgusting. And, no matter where the stains came from, it was unprofessional. The only reason Ben kept them instead of burning them was because he was probably going to need them. He figured he'd have to take them back to their makeshift headquarters.

Meanwhile, the couples had been enjoying the nice weather and taking some time to relax.

Finn and Poe had been kayaking on the lake. Although the tanned-skinned man had threatened, on several occasions, his boyfriend to throw his cell phone into the water if he didn't let go, the two men had had a great time together. Beaumont had settled on one of the wooden Adirondack chairs on the small beach near the water to read a book about the ancient Roman period.

Han had found a box of old board games under the reception desk. The rest of the group saw this as a great way to spend the rest of the afternoon and they sat on the outdoor patio, sipping a beer, playing games. Rey, Snap, Phasma and Han had settled on a table to play poker. The two men got fleeced. Rey had played the first few games so badly on purpose that everyone had underestimated her. Phasma, on the other hand, looked so impassive that it was impossible to tell when she was bluffing. Each of them had been accumulating chips under the grumbling of Snap and Han.  

At another table, Karé played Armitage at chess. Miraculously, she won the game. Beginner's luck, Karé taunted, proud of herself. At the second game, the redhead realized that Rose, sitting next to her and playing Scrabble with Leia and Mitaka, was subtly helping her opponent. A few minutes later, with reluctance, the small Vietnamese girl found herself in Karé's place. It was Hux who won this time.

The parents, the historian and Ben joined them for dinner. The atmosphere was pleasant - the afternoon had done everyone good and the tensions that had been built up had begun to ease. The topics of conversation were not related to the couples' problems, and that was good.

At the end of the meal, when the plates were finished, Rey offered to draw tarot cards for those who wanted to. The brunette explained that she had been doing this for a few years and had brought her cards with her. Despite himself, Ben frowned. Why didn't he know that? Yet, with his extensive research on her, he should have known that...

"What is it?" Rey questioned, having caught the policeman's shocked and astonished expression.

"Nothing, nothing," the young man hastened to evade. "I just noticed that there was no water left in the pitcher and I was going to get up to fill it."

When he noticed Rey's gaze shuttling back and forth between him and the pitcher on the table... half full, his cheeks flushed furiously. Neither of them noted the obvious lie, but the glance of the young woman took suspicious accents. She looked at him for several seconds, instead, as if she was trying to interrogate him silently.

No one really paid attention to this little interaction between Ben and her: everyone but them had their eyes on Beaumont, who was ridiculing the tarot beliefs, and Hux, who seemed to be enjoying having a valid excuse to put him in his place. Rey returned her gaze to the rest of the room and, as she became aware of the verbal argument between the redhead and the historian, the young woman put her hand on the forearm of her boyfriend to calm him down.

Karé brought back the light atmosphere by signifying her interest in the tarot reading. Leia and Phasma showed up, too. When the young woman went to her room to retrieve her cards, Snap and Poe went to the kitchen to get bottles of wine. They returned with four bottles of chardonnay and happily filled the cups of all the participants and the "psychologist". They looked like a bunch of teenagers who had just had the bright idea of trying to play Ouija board. Remembering his role, Ben urged them to take it easy on the alcohol: they had a big day ahead of them tomorrow.

Rey returned to the large dining room with her tarot cards and a red candle, which she lit with the lighter Phasma handed her. She briefly explained how it would work and invited those who wanted to have a tarot reading to sit down in front of her. One therapy participant after another came forward. Some were hilarious and didn't believe it at all, others took it very seriously. Ben watched them with amusement. Well, at first.

Soon his attention was entirely captured by Rey and his eyes locked on her. The young man barely noticed, too lost in his contemplation. He had never noticed this small hollow which appeared above her nose when she concentrated. Or that nervous twitch she made, biting her lower lip, when she was about to say something sensitive or difficult - like when she was predicting love questions to Snap. The young man's thoughts turned to what would happen if he mistreated that lip himself.

"Ben," the young woman suddenly called out to him.

He was startled and blinked several times. Rey seemed to have noticed because she smiled, a bit amused.

"Yes?" the undercover cop asked at last.

"You want to draw tarot cards?"

"Oh... Uh..."

Karé, Mitaka and Finn started to chant his name to cheer him up. How many drinks had these three had? Their eyes were quite bright and their cheeks were red. The group had dispersed again and only they remained at the main table. Some had started a fire in the outdoor fireplace on the terrace, others were getting ready for bed.

Ben laughed, scratched the back of his neck and surrendered to the loud cheers of the three participants. He didn't really believe in tarot. Actually, he didn't believe that anyone could tell the future, much less with cards, stars or a crystal ball. Ben had always been too rational for that. However, he was willing to play along. Especially if it would bring him closer to Rey. He got up and sat down opposite the young woman. She began to shuffle the cards in her hand.

"Think of a question. If you're comfortable, you can say it out loud, but... You don't have to. It may just make it easier for me to interpret the cards," she explained.

The young man nodded, kept silent and thought about the police mission. Rey stopped shuffling the cards and handed him the deck. At his request, he cut it, taking care not to touch her hand. Then he handed her the rest of the deck. She picked the first three cards off the top and revealed them on the table.

Intrigued, Ben looked at the drawings without really understanding them.

"So you have the reversed fool card," the young woman said, pointing to the first card. "Usually, this makes one think of recklessness and thoughtless actions. To behave like a child, for example. Then the second one is the ten of cups."

The young woman raised her head to stare at him.

"This predicts emotional stability, family happiness and love. Then we have the reverse bateleur... Hmm. This card often gets a lot of bad press."

"Why?" Ben questioned, arching an eyebrow.

"Well... It brings up the idea that the person is using questionable schemes, lies, deception, tricks to achieve an end."

Ben ticked and looked at the young woman, speechless. He couldn't help but think of the mission he was on with his parents.

"Are you okay?" Rey asked, intrigued by his reaction.

The young man immediately straightened up and pulled himself together. He wasn't going to let himself be thrown off by this, by vulgar cards, come on!

"Yes, yes, I'm fine," he assured her. "I'm just a little tired."

***

 

The next morning came quickly. Ben woke up, disoriented. He stared at the ceiling for several minutes, his drowsy state dissipating, as images of his strange dream returned to his mind.

Rey Palpatine, barefoot and her body covered only in tarot cards, dancing in front of him and inviting him to remove a card. Then another. And why wouldn't he try to remove one with his mouth? That's how he found himself kneeling in front of her, his teeth brushing against the skin of her belly. She had continued, playful, to ask him to undress her. Until there was nothing left. Not far from them, a bear with bright orange fur - or a big fox, he couldn't tell - was watching them, with a camera. Rose Tico was sitting next to the animal, stroking its fur and repeating, in an almost musical tone of voice, how to behave in front of a bear. Rey seemed to be dancing to the Vietnamese woman's voice. When the last card had fallen on the ground, the brunette had become out of reach. She had faded away.

He imperiously needed a cold shower to get his head straight. And put his erection down. A large cup of coffee would not be refused, either.

At breakfast, Ben noticed that he wasn't the only one who had a restless night. Snap and Karé were strangely more distant. Mitaka was looking down at his bowl as if he hoped his yogurt contained poison, so that he would have a good reason to go back to bed. Finn and Poe were already in an argument - the Afro-Canadian man was blaming his partner for hiding his phone. Beaumont kept complaining about sleeping on the sofa. And Hux looked like he was planning to drown himself in caffeine.

The undercover cop let out a micro-sigh at the sight. At the end of the meal, he coughed to get everyone's attention and pointed to the six electronic tablets he had placed on the table. The young man briefly explained that the next activity was going to be a long-term one: each couple was going to have to learn a dance routine, practice it and perform it at the end of the week.

"Each iPad contains a different choreography."

He distributed the tablets randomly.

"It's an exercise that will allow you to work on several concepts: collaboration, chemistry, synchronicity, listening, sensuality and, finally, communication."

Ben then invited them to the old tennis court at the back of the hotel to begin practicing. Gradually, the dining room emptied. Walking behind them, he could hear comments - mostly men - complaining about the exercise. A dance number... For real? Were they going to have to do sidewheels and somersaults while they were at it?

As they passed through the field's gate, the detective could clearly hear Beaumont telling Rose that if their choreography was ballet, he was done with that stupid therapy. Ben was sure he wasn't the only one silently praying for Tchaikovsky, or any other classical music, to come out of the couple's tablet speakers. Unfortunately, their choreography was foxtrot and they had to dance to a remastered version of Frankie Malli's Can't take my eyes of you. They were, already, arguing about how they should do the first dance moves and Beaumont kept saying that cover songs destroy the classics. After fifteen minutes, Rose had already threatened twice to knock him out with their iPad.

"Ben," the small Asian girl called out to him as he walked by. "There's tension between us."

"I think you're doing very well," the young man commented.

He didn't want to get involved in any of their incessant arguments.

"Keep it up," he encouraged them. "Communication is the basis of everything. And Rose... Try not to break the tablet, okay?"

The policeman quickly walked away to escape Beaumont's protests.

Poe and Finn inherited the ballet choreography. Ballet jazz, to be precise. The two men looked on in amazement at the choreography they would have to perform to Amy Winehouse's Back to Black. Had they dreamed up a split? They would never be able to do it. But before they could even discuss it with their "psychologist," he ordered them to go back to bed. "Your therapy right now is to go to sleep," Ben said. The two men listened to him, grumbling a bit, though.

Han and Leia's choreography was salsa. Ben's parents were the ones who seemed to be having the most fun in the whole group. The sixty-year-old, in good shape for his age, was having fun spinning his wife around and landing her, admittedly, a bit awkwardly. Ben observed them, a little tenderized. Childhood memories came flooding back: the times on Saturday mornings when Han would turn up the music in their house and play imaginary guitar solos with his son while Leia watched them, laughing as she cooked pancakes. It had been a long time since he'd heard his mother laugh so hard.

Phasma and Dopheld, on the other hand, had to do a waltz. This simple fact proved to be a problem, as it was the man who had to guide the steps. And, in this case, Mitaka did not want to guide anyone at all. Besides, he was watching the choreography as if it were torture - and for once, that term did not seem to move him in any way. Ben decided to avoid them carefully.

The young man came face to face with Snap and Karé. They hadn't even opened their iPad yet and were just hugging each other, talking in low voices.

"Ben, it's bad," the young woman exclaimed, in a dramatic tone of voice.

"Yes, very bad," her partner insisted. "We think that we rape each other."

The detective frowned, unsure if he understood.

"You think that...," he began, without managing to finish his sentence.

"Spousal rape, you know," Karé agreed.

"Rose spoke about it, yesterday at noon," Snap completed. "And, according to what she said, we came to the conclusion that we rape each other."

"Sometimes Snap gets an erection while he's asleep and I start jerking him off and then he penetrates me. Sometimes he doesn't even wake up!"

"A few months ago, I took ecstasy, put it in Karé's drink and didn't tell her. It was the hottest fuck we ever had."

"Oh yes!" Karé exclaimed, enthusiastic. "We should do it again!"

Ben couldn't control his look of dismay.

"Oh God. You... Try to ask the other person's consent, okay?" he suggested. "For example, Karé, if you want to have sex during the night, first wake up Snap and ask him. And... if you want to take ecstasy, make that decision together."

"Oh..." the young woman, who seemed to have never thought of that option, said. "Do you think it would be better?"

The policeman nodded several times. He also suggested that they communicate more. Communication was just as important as sex in a couple. And Ben was particularly pleased with his intervention. Who said it was hard to replace DJ? If anything, he was going to get Rey to talk, and solve some relationship problems to boot.

Actually, his footsteps led him to the mafioso couple, who were sitting on the floor, and seemed to be in a silent argument.

"How's it going in here?" Ben asked.

"We are supposed to make tango, but Armitage does not want to dance," the brunette declared, in a bad mood. "And, as I am fed up with obstinacy, we will not dance."

"I did not say that I did not want to dance!" her boyfriend retorted, while rolling ostensibly his eyes. "It's just that I've never done it!"

"Obviously, you don't care about the exercises! You don't care about anything! You don't care about me!"

"Rey, don't start...," Hux grumbled.

"Honestly, I understand you, Armitage," Ben said, interrupting them.

They both looked at him, halfway between surprise and shock.

"I don't really like dancing either," he continued. "But, this morning, it is by that that we work. It is necessary to make compromises, from time to time."

The "psychologist" proposed to make them a demonstration and reached out his hand to Rey, which she grabbed, to help her to stand up. Trying to be as casual as possible, he came closer to her and put one of his hands on her waist. The brunette straightened her head and planted her eyes in his, an almost predatory gleam in her pupils. She moistened her lips. Ben thought he was playing with fire - but didn't back down.

"Actually, our choreography doesn't start like that," Rey explained. "I start behind you and then I go to the front. Then I turn twice and you catch me."

In order to illustrate her words, she showed him vaguely the gestures. Armitage, who had also stood up, watched them with an eyebrow raised, almost daring her to actually dance with Ben. But the young woman didn't care. Instead, she positioned herself behind the policeman and slowly, sensually, her hand crossed his chest to come and rest on his heart. As choreographed, he came to grab her hand - but Rey's hand fled to his shoulders which she touched, as she spun around before sticking her back to his chest.

Okay, interesting. He wasn't playing with fire anymore. He was in the fire now. Completely. And, like any good pyromaniac, Ben only fueled it: one of his hands came to ground languidly on her waist, while the other began to make its way to her ribs, then landed on her arm. She still wore damn leggings, on which were drawings of sun and moon, and...

Don't you think about her ass. Think about... I don't know... Think about Jess' radioactive green hair, think about climate change...

Was she rubbing against him on purpose? His fingers tightened on her arm, as he had to spin her around, further, and then catch her. Someone give him the strength to just not...

"Are you doing this on purpose?" Armitage shouted angrily. "Just fuck in front of me, while you are at it!"

Ben thought about how he would like to do it, actually, but... Rey pulled away from him and the last shreds of composure he had left thanked her for it.

"Calm the fuck down!" the young woman answered, outright. "You only had to want to dance!"

"And he seems to want to dance in your panties," the redhead ranted.

And, perhaps, Ben was really a masochist, because he said candidly:

"Well, Armitage, Rey... I think a little private therapy session is in order."

 

The policeman had led them to the old shed, located a few meters from the tennis court. He suggested they go up to the attic to have more privacy to talk. Anyway, they would be more comfortable: at least there were chairs. Walking, even this short distance, had done Ben a world of good and helped him to get his head straight. He needed to focus on crushing Palpatine. And not... well, and not focus on her. He had to regain control.

Of course, the couple had grumbled and Ben couldn't really blame them. Who was doing a therapy session in the attic of a place that looked like it was going to fall apart at any moment? The "psychologist" improvised:

"Think of this building as your love. It is fragile and needs to be cared for in order to grow. This is what I am offering you today."

He must have convinced them, because they followed him.

They sat down in a triangle: the couple facing each other and the policeman in the middle. They looked at each other for a long time, in silence. "Talk when you're ready," Ben told them.

"Rey," Armitage said. "I must confess something to you..."

"I'm listening, honey bun."

"It's... When I cheated on you..." he stammered, looking deeply uncomfortable.

The brunette was disappointed. As if she was expecting another kind of confession.

"What? What about it?" Rey frowned.

"Well... I don't know what Tallie told you exactly..."

"Don't play with words, will you. Let's call a spade a spade."

"I saw one of the two girls again. Afterwards. A few times."

The young woman looked at him in amazement. Ben, on the other hand, was completely confused. Even if he wanted to concentrate entirely on his undercover mission, he was really unable to understand the redhead. It was beyond him. Just... How could he not embrace the ground his girlfriend was walking on? How could he not realize how lucky he was to have this gem of a woman by his side?

Yet the brunette seemed very calm. Maybe the confession had made her stoic? The redhead seemed to want to lay it on thick:

"I'm sorry, Rey... It's not... I screwed up... I love you! That's really not the problem! But... I might have feelings for... You know?"

Her boyfriend's voice died, as she looked at him with... He couldn't tell. In any case, she didn't seem to understand his gibberish.

"Rey," Ben responded. "How do you feel about what Armitage is telling you?"

"I don't know."

"It's important to verbalize the emotions you're experiencing," he said.

"I don't know!" the young woman defended herself, impatient, more in reaction to the policeman than to what her boyfriend had told her.

"Do you feel betrayed?" the policeman insisted.

"I don't know! In what language do I have to tell you?"

Ben squinted. There was something wrong with these two. However, he saw a golden opportunity to get her to talk. Calmly, almost amused at the suspicious look Rey was giving him, he asked the stupid beanpole who was his boyfriend to leave them alone. The "psychologist" explained:

"Rey needs a private session. Then it would your turn, Armitage. Sometimes we need to deal with individual issues before we can focus on our relationship."

Hux disagreed. Not as fiercely as Ben had expected, knowing the possessive nature of the mafia boss' right-hand man. To counter his arguments, the policeman argued that his fears that Rey could cheat on him with someone - with him - were a defense mechanism called projection. Thus, he was attributing to her what he himself had done in an attempt to protect himself. Needless to say, the young man was very proud to have remembered this concept that he had quickly seen in one of his courses.

The redhead rolled his eyes, sighed and left the attic with a heavy step, slamming the door brutally behind him. The door bounced off the impact and remained ajar.

Ben shifted and sat down opposite Rey.

That was it. He was going to get her confession and this damn charade was going to end. And he was finally going to have sex with her. No. Stay focused. Stay focused.

"What do you feel?" the young man said, after several minutes.

"I don't know."

"Anger?" he tried.

"I told you I didn't fucking know!" she repeated, a little louder.

"A desire to get revenge?" Ben continued, tenacious.

"Je sais pas! No lo sé. Do you get it more, now?"

"I can feel you being aggressive."

"You're starting to piss me off with your emotions!"

"I'm just trying to understand."

The young woman had a small contemptuous laugh.

"You are not in my head, you can't understand!"

He leaned back in his chair.

"And would you want me to be in your head?"

"Come on!" Rey answered instead.

"You wish I was in your head so I could figure out what was wrong without you having to say it."

It wasn't even a question. The brunette's face broke down before it recovered. It only lasted two seconds. However, Ben saw it. He was nailing her! Perfect!

"What don't you want to tell me?" he persevered. "Did you betray Armitage, too?"

Her expressive face told him everything. He got her!

"What is this? An interrogation? It is the Scandinavian method again?" she snapped.

"For you to move forward, Rey, you have to open up," the young man continued, deliberately ignoring what she had just said.

She bent her head. Then her lips curved into a bright smile.

"I open, if you open," she proposed. "Why did you react so intensely when I told you about the last card yesterday, when I drew you the tarot?"

Ben frowned. Why was she going that way? What did it have to do with anything? He was not suspicious.

"I was surprised," he shrugged. "We're talking about you, Rey. What are you hiding from Armi… "

"Are you hiding something, too?" she cut him off.

He was slowly losing the reins of the interrogation - of the private therapy session.

"No," he dropped, categorical. "In any case, we speak about you..."

"I'm certain of the opposite," the young woman whispered, obstinate.

Both of them were now sitting on the end of their respective chairs. Their knees were brushing against each other.

"But... It's okay... I'll tell you something," Rey sighed falsely.

He would probably have been happy with this surrender, if she hadn't started to draw little circles on his kneecap. The young man was almost mesmerized by the movement of her index finger and her touch. It was... He wanted more. He wanted more than that light caress. Every time they touched, he felt like he was getting a little more intoxicated and addicted.

Ben should have gotten up, walked out the door, abandoned this police mission, and disappeared to a place where he would have no chance to see her again in any way - or hear about her. In any case, that was what a smart man would have done. But he was obviously weak, for he did not move a muscle.

"Stop it," he grumbled.

"Stop what?"

"What you're doing."

She fluttered her eyelashes a few times, looking innocent. He swallowed.

That's when he realized he had just lost all power in this room.

"Don't you like it?" the brunette asked.

"It's not... It's not professional," the policeman stammered.

"Yes, but what I am going to entrust you is not really..."

She bit her lip, while the circles began to rise on her thighs. The young man tried to remember that she was probably only doing this to provoke Hux. Nothing else. It was only a transference. She was reacting to what her boyfriend had just confessed to her. Is she trying to make someone who isn't there jealous? Ben felt like a little devil on his shoulder was whispering in his ear to convince him that it was a good idea to touch her, to grab her lips, to...

"I made an erotic dream, last night," she confided, of a voice which seemed to address directly his cock - which, besides, seemed to want to show vigour.

The young man coughed.

"It... It can happen."

"Do you think it's infidelity when it's not... In my dream, it wasn't Armitage, you understand."

For the sake of his sanity, which was crumbling by the second, it was better for him not to know who was in the damn dream.

"I don't think so. No. Dreams are... A product of the brain. Of the imagination."

Rey nodded and stood up to lean toward him. Ben gripped the armrests of his chair to avoid carrying out his plan - that is, landing her astride his thighs. From the way she was now positioned, he could see that of her beautiful hazel eyes, only a small circle remained visible: the rest was swallowed by the dilated black pupil. Ben couldn't decide if the fact that Rey could be excited too, comforted him or not. Come to think of it, it only added fuel to the fire.

"I'd like to see the real thing," she whispered, her breathing coming in short bursts.

Her mouth was less than ten centimeters from his. It was a nightmare. A true torture. And, if he abdicated? Would it be so bad if he succumbed and kissed her? It wouldn't jeopardize anything, would it? Yeah, maybe...

"Uh... Ben? Excuse me?" his father suddenly, who had just pushed open the door to the attic and was staring at them, intervened, incredulous. "I need to consult you urgently. This is not going well at all with Leia."

The brunette had already stepped back and looked at Ben as if to tell him that he would get what was coming for him.

"It's okay," she said, perky. "In any case, we had finished."

Without asking for help, she left the attic under the gaze of the two undercover cops. Ben did his best to ignore the smug expression on Han's face. He felt like banging his head against one of the walls. What the hell had gotten into him? Finding her beautiful, fantasizing... That was one thing. But this was going too far. Actually, it had started to go too far with the few steps of tango. Now he was about to cross a big line. And he doubted his ability to back down.

He listened with one ear to his father's lecture. Anyway, Ben didn't need it, he could handle it himself. He was in deep shit.

***

 

In the early afternoon, Ben told the group that they would be going rock climbing. They were to go to a designated area, a mountain in the park next to the hotel. They would need to use equipment and each person took ropes and harnesses with them. As the blue sky began to darken, the policeman suggested that the participants bring rubber boots and raincoats: the activity would take place even if it rained.

The only problem was finding the cliff face. Which obviously didn't seem to be an easy thing to do.

First, because Ben had no idea where it was. Second, because no matter how many times he turned the site map to figure it out, it remained, in his eyes, indecipherable. And, above all, because he was constantly unfocused. The young man made every effort to ignore Rey but failed miserably. His eyes were magnetized by her - as if she were the North of his internal compass, which obviously had to be defective. Besides, he noticed that the couple seemed to have reconciled by the way they were holding hands while walking. He felt a little bit of jealousy choking him.

After two hours of wandering through the forest, the group was beginning to complain: some had sore legs, others were cold, most were tired of walking aimlessly.

"We passed through here earlier... your tarot card predicted it!" Finn exclaimed, to Rey. "You told me I'd get lost!"

"It's true!" Karé nodded.

She turned to her partner, distraught.

"Oh no!" she whined. "Rey also said that you were going to have love doubts... We're going to separate!"

"We're not lost," Ben, who could see disaster looming on the horizon, refuted.

He took a sudden breath and pointed to a pile of large rocks further on.

"Actually, we're here!" he announced, trying to sound confident.

Skeptically, the group looked at the "climbing mountain" and moved toward the rocks. Ben began to explain that this was a confidence exercise and that everyone would have to be sure to climb with their partner. It was ridiculous. It was a little more than seven meters high. Actually, Armitage pointed out that he could touch the top by standing on his tiptoes.

"That may be, but..."

"Come on! That's nonsense!" Phasma snapped.

The tall blonde seemed to think that jumping down his throat would be beneficial in calming her nerves. Despite himself, Ben winced. He could understand Dopheld and his slight fear of his partner.

"Phasma... I feel you're angry...," he verbalized, trying to stay in his psychologist role.

"Go fuck yourself, Ben!" he received as the only constructive answer to his intervention.

With Rey, preferably, he thought, immediately. Again, he felt like smashing his head against something. What the hell was wrong with him?!

"Yes... well...," he said, coughing. "I suggest the next activity, then..."

With that, they walked a little less than half a mile and reached a small clearing where some trees had fallen. Ben invited the participants to sit on them and explained what was going to happen next. It was an exercise in understanding how their relationship with their parents affected their relationship. Finally, something that would help them in their mission! Rey had practically been raised by Palpatine... She would have a lot to say! Especially considering her choice of boyfriend...

"This is a safe space. No one is here to judge each other," he added. "We're here to open up and work out our problems."

The policeman took great care not to look at Rey, to whom he had said these words before... their misconduct.

Poe began. He explained that he had grown up alone with his father and that they had no money. His father had to work a lot of jobs and that meant he rarely saw him. He learned to be responsible early on and to help him make ends meet, he started selling cannabis at 11. Finn, afterwards, said that his parents had abandoned him and he had been bounced from foster home to foster home until he was eighteen.

"I've never known stability. And I don't want to put my daughter through that."

Phasma then spoke about her mother's coldness.

"She was a cold, unloving woman. She always made me feel ugly. I always saw her as a role model," she argued, with pride, which raised the eyebrows of many.

Mitaka went on to talk about his father's violent behavior. When his father would come into the house, he and his brother would go to their room. He explained that in order to free himself from this fear, he started practicing BDSM sex and that it helped him find inner peace.

Snap told them that he had a very close relationship with his mother and that she breastfed him until he was six. Well... That could explain a lot of things. Karé, for her part, had experienced something similar to Phasma: however, she had felt her parents' coldness as a real torture. Wiping away a small tear, she compared her home to Guantanamo.

"Is that why you didn't want to go to Cuba last year?" Snap worried.

Ben found it hard not to laugh.

Rose had had a relatively happy childhood, despite the tragedy that had shaken her family. She had seen her sister drowned when she was seven. The Vietnamese woman still had nightmares about it. Several participants were touched by her testimony. Beaumont only said that this was a very Freudian way of conducting therapy - no one was touched by what he said and everyone rolled their eyes.

Han was rather quick to say that he had never known his parents.

"My parents were rich," Leia explained. "My mother was a famous fashion designer and my father was in the military. My nanny, Breha, practically raised my brother and I."

The fifty-year-old shrugged. She had long since made peace with her parents' absence.

"I didn't really know my parents either," Rey explained. "They died in a car accident when I was six. I went to live with my grandfather and... I never had a good relationship with him."

She paused for a moment, trying to formulate her thoughts. Ben and his parents looked at each other, surprised at this revelation. As far as they knew, Palpatine was close to his granddaughter. They had assumed they must have a good relationship.

"I often thought I was just a burden to him," she summarized. "When I was a teenager, he sent me to a boarding school and it got even worse from there. He's a monster."

As if they were having a silent discussion and the subject was known only to them, Hux took her hand in a protective gesture. All this made no sense. She was supposed to be close to her grandfather - not hate him. And why did Palpatine's right-hand man seem to know all about it and act as if he wanted to protect her from the last member of her family? What the hell?

Through it all, part of Ben had a terrible urge to take Hux's place: he wanted to be the one holding her hand, protecting her and...

"My father was the one who was a real asshole," Armitage told them. "I was just an object to him. He used me to smuggle drugs, without getting caught, or to make... Anyway."

Hux raised his head, suddenly, as if he was looking for support from someone. His eyes shifted from Rey to Rose.

"When I was five, he gave me a cat. I named her Millicent. He forced me to kill her."

And then there was a silence. No one spoke. Everyone was stunned and shocked at the abominations the redhead had to endure. His girlfriend took him in her arms to comfort him.

"It's okay, honey bun. It's important that you talk about it."

"Thank you for sharing, it's true that it's important to talk about it," Ben said. "If you have something to add... If you need to say something..."

The couple was ripe for talking. It was coming. He could feel it. Even his parents seemed to agree, as they watched the scene with trepidation. Just give them a few seconds and it would be done.

"Well, maybe we'd better get back?" Poe suggested, suddenly. "It's going to get dark."

His words whipped the whole group into a frenzy, as they seemed to regain awareness of the weather and especially of where they were. Already, some of them were getting up. No! It was certainly not going to be the night that was going to prevent him from reaching his goal! Not after this day where he had done nothing but mess up!

"The next activity is a surprise," Ben improvised. "How to spend the night in the forest, in couple, without equipment."

 

Chapter Text

At these words, all the participants exchanged a confused and bewildered look. There were protests. This surprise activity wasn't in the brochure, on the website, or even in the promotional video!

"Exactly!" Ben reasoned. "That's the whole point of a surprise."

He shrugged, looking innocent. Some mumbled insults to Camp Naboo. Others still didn't understand but didn't dare to argue. A few couples stood up and declared that sleeping in the woods at the mercy of bears was out of the question.

"Come on, Rose, we're leaving," Beaumont grumbled, pulling his girlfriend by the arm. "We didn't pay for this shit."

Before Rose could break his grip, annoyed by her overly controlling side, Leia addressed the group:

"No, no, we're not going to start splitting up. It wouldn't be safe. If Ben says we're staying the night, we..."

No one was listening. The others continued to whisper, saying that their psychologist was exaggerating, or walked away.

"HEY!" the fifty-year-old yelled. "I said everyone stays!"

This time everyone froze in place, startled by her high tone. Even Han and Ben. Leia sounded like an army general giving orders to her troops. Like a police station, actually. Thanks to her authority, the group agreed to camp here for the night.

Ben sighed deeply and silently thanked his mother with a look. They would be able to continue to get Rey to talk therapeutically about her mafia grandfather. Also, although he would never admit it out loud, the undercover detective didn't know which way to go down the mountain and back to the hotel.

The tasks were quickly distributed. They had to get wood for the fire and set up camp with the meager belongings they had brought. The participants divided themselves into sub-groups. Poe, Finn, Karé and Snap were in charge of lighting the fire.

The African-Canadian man, an outdoor enthusiast, explained the principle of tinder, such as newspaper or dryer foam, which ignited quickly. Handy for starting a fire. He also sorted the wood. Some branches were too wet from the recent rain.

"I've never been camping," Snap admitted, drinking in his words every time he shared his knowledge. "I'm impressed with you, Finn. I guess you know a lot more about where you come from, huh? Did your ancestors teach you?"

"Yes, exactly," Finn quipped. "I grew up in the heart of Africa. We lived in the middle of the desert in a hut, you know, like in Kirikou."

Snap frowned.

"Kiri-what?"

"It's a French thing. I have family in France, so... But anyway. And every night, I had to keep the fire going while my parents went out to hunt lions. And when they left me, I had to defend myself against the wild animals with my spear carved in a baobab tree. I sometimes climbed on the backs of giraffes and elephants to travel, and that's how I came to Canada."

The simpleton nodded in amazement.

"Wah... Your culture is so rich..."

This time, the African-Canadian man glanced dejectedly at his boyfriend, who was laughing inwardly at this absurd scene, and rolled his eyes.

"Damn it, Snap... I was born in Laval! Come on"

"Oh, really? I didn't know you Africans had a Laval too..."

Finn stared at him in dismay. Poe couldn't hold back his laughter any longer. He exploded in his corner and had to grab a tree to keep from rolling on the ground. Snap asked what was so funny, and the unfortunate man laughed harder. His stomach and face were cramping. Finn got up and went to join him. His boyfriend was done when he hissed at him, both exasperated and amused by his reaction:

"This guy is so stupid that he couldn't even find his dick to pee..."

"Karé must help him with that!" Poe laughed.

On the other side, there were ups and downs. Beaumont was grumbling while collecting wood. Because he was going to sue Camp Naboo for this surprise activity, because there were mosquitoes, because he couldn't find Rose anymore... And everyone around him only dreamed of one thing: that he would be used as tinder for the fire!

Ben walked from subgroup to subgroup to make sure everything was okay. Mitaka was shivering and rubbing his hands together. Phasma said he was quite cold and even offered him her sweater, which was way too large for him. But her boyfriend smiled at this attention and thanked her heartily by kissing her on the cheek.

The "psychologist" also met his parents. And he assured them that he had only invented this camping activity for the mission. And no, he hadn't gotten lost, period! Then, while Ben was looking for the rest of the group, he caught Rose and Hux in conversation, away from the others. The redhead seemed to confide in the small Vietnamese girl.

"Anyway, as soon as we return to the hotel, I'm leaving," he sighed. "I can't take it anymore. The emotions, all that... It's too much for me."

"To return to the hotel, Ben would have to assume that he has no sense of direction and call the park rangers, or something," Rose chuckled before regaining her seriousness. "But anyway. I think you're doing pretty well so far."

She put her hand on Hux's knee. He shuddered and looked up at her. She smiled at him.

"Look how proud Rey was of you earlier. When you talked about... your father. You're getting better, Armitage."

The shadow of a smile passed in its turn on the face of the mobster. He took Rose's hand in his and breathed a thank you. Ben frowned but preferred to move away. Hux had been defending the young woman since their arrival, but they suddenly seemed very close.

It was odd. Hypotheses sprang up in his mind, but he quickly dismissed them. He wasn't interested in Hux's stories. On the way back to camp, Ben smelled a strong odor. Guided by his nose, he discovered its source behind a large rock. Rey was spraying herself with mosquito repellent.

"Ah, it's you. I was wondering what..."

As soon as the hazel prunes of the young woman landed on him, the detective swallowed. He realized then that he was again alone with her. But Rey just smiled to him. A frank smile which put him at ease, contrary to her simpering of this morning.

"You want some?" she proposed.

"Thank you, Rey. You should especially give some to Beaumont. He would perhaps shut up about the mosquitoes."

Both of them stifled a laugh.

"Where the hell did you study psychology?" Rey chuckled. "Talking behind the patient's back, what is that? Scandinavian again?"

"No," Ben smiled. "Korean."

They laughed again. The young woman passed him her spray. Then she looked more serious.

"But yeah. It would be great if Beaumont would finally shut his big mouth, but on the other hand, he deserves to get bitten. So he can always stick my spray on wherever I think. Poor Rose. I can't imagine what it must be like to put up with a guy like that every day! That girl is an angel, she deserves so much better than that jerk."

Ben pursed his lips. Maybe he'd better warn Rey about what he'd just seen.

"Speaking of which... You know Rose is in the middle of a discussion with your boyfriend right now?"

The brunette raised an eyebrow, puzzled.

"So what?"

"Doesn't it bother you?" he stammered.

"Why?" Rey shrugged. "Army has a right to talk to another girl. I'm not going to get upset about it. I'm not nearly as possessive as he is."

Strange. She had seemed to suspect something the first day, when she was talking to Hux in the bedroom. She had asked him if he liked Rose. But then, if she didn't mind now... In truth, Ben noticed that at the moment, Rey seemed more interested in him than in knowing her boyfriend was talking to someone else.

"So, Rey... About what you said in the exercise earlier, I wanted to tell you..."

"Yes?"

He massaged the back of his neck and looked at her with sincere compassion.

"I'm sorry about your grandfather. For what you went through because of him. I really am."

The policeman in him convinced himself that his words were just a ruse to get the mob boss's granddaughter to open up. But to be honest, Ben really did empathize with her, knowing what an abominable being Palpatine was. He just wanted to let her know that he was supporting her and was there for her in her time of need, without pretension. And Rey was grateful for that. She smiled weakly and nodded.

Then the atmosphere relaxed. They exchanged a few jokes about the situation, the surprise activity, their group dynamic, the "psychologist's" poor sense of direction... And Ben realized that Rey was very pleasant to talk to. She was really adorable. A real ray of sunshine.

She gave him such a beautiful smile as he protected himself from the mosquitoes that he thought he would melt. He moistened his lips and leered at hers. He'd had crushes before, of course, but no girl had ever made such an impression on him. How pretty she can be...

"Hm," he coughed to call himself to order. "We'd better join the others."

 

A few hours later, everyone gathered around the campfire. They listened to the crackling flames while nibbling on the meager snacks they had brought. Some of them were passing each other a joint, proposed by Karé.

They discussed calmly, ignoring Beaumont's complaints, which the mosquitoes had mainly targeted. Probably because of karma. Finn and Poe told stories about their little girl. For example, one time, Deolie decided to relieve herself in the bathtub while Poe was in there with her. It traumatized him, but his daughter was very proud of the brown water and just laughed about it. It managed to amuse everyone.

"I would have loved to have seen that," Finn admitted with a chuckle.

"Yes, I haven't had a bath since," his boyfriend said. "But I must admit that I miss this little cheeky monkey..."

Astonished, the African-Canadian turned to him.

"You miss her?"

"Of course I do," Poe smiled. "She's my daughter too. Just because I'd like to focus on us as a couple doesn't mean that Deolie isn't important to me or that she comes second."

Moved, Finn returned his smile and the two held hands. The other couple continued on the subject of children. Phasma said that in order to have children, her Dopheld would have to agree to copulate. Karé and Snap did not comment on the question, looking a bit different. Rose explained that she would love to have children, but that Beaumont did not want to. Then her partner complained that she kept demonizing him when she talked about him, and they went back to arguing.

"But wait, if you guys hate each other so much, why don't you just break up?" Hux asked.

There was silence. A feeling of unease came over the whole group. Rose blushed at the insistent look the redhead was giving her. The others stared at her, worried.

"Well... We've been together for so long... I keep thinking it must mean something, right?" she answered in a small voice.

"Yes, that's what I tell you every day," Beaumont concluded. "And then, after so much time with somebody, it seems hard to find another person."

None of them dared to add, although Hux shot Rose's boyfriend with his eyes. To ease the tension, Karé, who was fidgeting on Snap's lap, called out:

"Hey, Han and Leia! You said you... had... a son, right? On the first day of... therapy?"

She was having trouble articulating clearly, and her boyfriend was stifling grunts behind his back. But Ben, sitting back against a tree, didn't notice. He clenched his jaws and looked quietly at his parents, who seemed just as embarrassed as he was.

"Uh, yes," Leia stammered. "A tall, handsome boy of almost thirty."

"And what's he like?" Karé insisted, out of breath.

"Well, he's like... good?" Han answered, perplexed.

Ben rolled his eyes. What more could he have expected from his father? Leia went on to say that their son was a real estate agent like them, wanting to follow in his parents' footsteps, and that they were very proud of him, but her husband didn't add anything. And that annoyed the young man. Of course the great Han Solo, self-centered and obsessed with his career, had nothing to add. It was too much to ask.

"That's cute," Rey commented before turning to the "psychologist". "What about you, Ben? Are you married? Do you have a girlfriend? Boyfriend? Kids?"

At these words, the detective took a second to realize that she was talking to him. He flushed and frowned in bewilderment. She was looking at him with an innocent look. Did she care if he was single or not? The thought made him swallow.

"Oh, no... Nothing like that... What kind of questions are these?" he finally muttered.

Rey shrugged.

"Well, out of curiosity."

"Ugh. You sound like my mother..."

He thought he was murmuring this lament, but to his dismay, it reached Karé's ears, who was still wiggling on Snap.

"Oh yes! And you, Ben? What are your parents like?"

"My... parents?" he mumbled.

"Yes, you know, like the exercise from earlier?" Rey added.

The parents were turning pale. Ben was careful not to look in their direction to avoid suspicion. He stifled a nervous laugh.

"Oh, but I'm not doing therapy with you..."

"Don't worry," the brunette assured him. "You can tell us everything. What happens at Camp Naboo..."

"...stays at Camp Naboo!"

"Come on, tell us!"

Han coughed, uncomfortable.

"If Ben doesn't want to tell us, we won't force him to..."

But already, almost everyone was clapping their hands and chanting "Ben! Ben! Ben!" to encourage him to open up. Faced with peer pressure, the young man felt he had no choice.

"Okay, so, uh...," he abdicated, clearing his throat. "My parents... are very great psychologists. Very respected in Quebec, with many degrees. And I've always admired them. So I..."

"Oh! You wanted to follow in their footsteps just like Han and Leia's son?" Finn understood.

"Yes, exactly, quite a coincidence, though..."

Becoming more and more nervous, Ben took a deep breath. Everyone was listening carefully.

"Anyway. The problem was that my parents' careers often came before me. I was often left alone and didn't see them much. I mean, my mom was still okay. But my dad, it's just... Ugh..."

Han, for his part, turned cold and wanted to make a comment, but his wife nudged him gently to let their son talk and make her husband hear what he didn't want to hear, for once.

"I always asked, 'Mom, where is Dad?' and she always said, 'Dad's at work. He's... with his patients.' His patients were always more important than me. And it's not easy for a son to look for a role model in a father who is never there for him. I once scored my first goal in a hockey game when I was 12. My team lost, but I was still very proud. My mom was late, and she was really sorry, but at least she got to see me. And when I asked her, 'Mom, where is Dad?', she said, 'At work' again. She tried to console me by saying that at least she got to see my first goal, and I said, 'Yeah, but I wish Daddy could have seen it too'."

Ben sighed heavily and sniffed. It was a very distant, silly anecdote. However, it had made enough of an impression on him that he realized that the situation still hadn't changed. He felt saddened eyes on him, but he didn't dare raise his head. Also, he was completely out of his role as a psychologist by opening up like that, but hey. At this stage...

"And it goes on. I love my job, but somewhere along the line, I also thought that if I did this, my dad would finally take an interest in me. Actually, that's one of the main reasons I decided to do this therapy with DJ," he admitted. "It's probably my biggest deal and I hope my dad realizes that. I'm really hoping I can get through this. But it seems like no matter what I do, it's never enough to satisfy him! I could kill just to get a 'Thank you', or 'Good job, kid' from him! But no! He's never happy!"

"Wow, your dad is such a jerk!" Snap exclaimed.

He didn't see the glare Han gave him.

"I know, right?" Ben agreed.

"You know... You don't need your father's approval for everything you do," Rey told him, full of compassion. "If he can't see that you exist, ignore him. You are better than that."

Surprised, the young man looked up at her. She smiled at him, and all the frustration that had suddenly returned to him stopped squeezing. He was touched and grateful that Rey was comforting him and playing the role of psychologist in turn. Others, like Rose and Finn, also supported him and assured him that he was doing very well despite DJ's sudden departure. This would make his father proud. Then, after a moment, Han cleared his throat and raised his hand.

"Oh, by the way! I just remembered that I wanted to say something about our son, uh... Chewie. I just thought of it."

Leia stared at him, dumbfounded, and gritted out an outraged "Chewie's the dog's name!" through her teeth. But so low that no one heard. The sixty-year-old didn't pay any attention anyway. Ben glared at him. What, now his father was going to retaliate and complain about his son, calling him a spoiled brat, a burden on his shoulders, a fool who couldn't do anything with his ten fingers in need of attention?

"As Leia said, I have a hard enough time being a present husband. So, it's definitely hard to be a present father. And I have to admit that with her and Chewie, I often do everything wrong. Usually when I say something, it doesn't come out the way I want it to and it frustrates them. It's difficult. But still, when I look at my son, well... I'm very proud. Of us and of him."

Ben turned his head to him, speechless.

"Sometimes it's hard. Communication, mostly. But now he's grown into a really good person. Well, we both get stubborn. It happens. However, if he was in front of me, I would like to be able to tell him that despite everything, I am sure of one thing. I love him. I have always loved him and I always will. No matter what."

"I wish I had a father like you, Han," Snap sniffed, his eyes moist.

Ben's eyes were wet, too. He swallowed and bowed his head at the confession. Leia looked at her husband, a smile on her face.

"Did you really just say what you just said?"

"Well... Yes?"

She giggled and kissed him on the cheek. Then both parents glanced at their son. Still, Ben finally met his father's gaze and nodded, smiling weakly. It looked like he was saying "Thank you". It didn't make everything better, but it was a start. A step from Han to him. And he felt relieved.

The emotional moment was suddenly interrupted by Karé and Snap. They were fidgeting more and more and could no longer stifle their moans, accelerating their back and forth. Then, a long complaint escaped from their lips as they clung to each other. Near them, Poe winced.

"Karé and Snap, are you guys..."

Karé stood up slightly and helped Snap to put his attributes back into his pants, hidden by the raincoat she had put on her lap for more discretion.

"No, it's good, it's over, now..."

"Oh, come on!" Han said indignantly. "You guys are so gross! You have a forest, rocks, trees, moss, a whole mountain! Why do you decide to fuck here?"

Shamefully, the couple looked at each other sheepishly. Snap replied:

"Well, Leia said it wouldn't be safe to split up, so... We don't want to do what they do in the horror movies. Leave the group to have sex and never come back because you get attacked by a bear or a serial killer in a field hockey mask."

"But otherwise, before, we had a good talk to make sure we were both consenting," Karé assured. "That's progress! Right, Ben?"

Dismayed, Ben rubbed the back of his neck.

"Well..."

"Yes, but it would have been just as well to talk to us and ask us if we were consenting too, right?" Han exclaimed.

"Huh? This has nothing to do with any of this," Karé said. "We didn't make a gang bang all together..."

Some of them sighed with discouragement, while Phasma shrugged, as if to say "We could, it would make it more fun...". Then everyone went to bed, more or less ready to sleep under the stars.

***

 

Ben was having a wonderful dream. Rey was curled up against him and he was happy. How did they get there? Maybe this time, in the attic of the shed, his father hadn't come to interrupt them before the festivities began. And that he had finally responded to his urge by making Rey sit astride his thighs.

Or maybe in the forest, near the rock, he had decided to kiss her full on the lips, even if it tasted like mosquito repellent. Unless they'd been dancing a wild tango on the old tennis court, until the tension got too much and they made it on the ground.

And now he didn't have a single regret. He told himself that he had done the right thing in giving in to temptation after all. "Reversed fool." The young woman kept saying those words as she now kissed Ben's chest. "Reversed fool." He shuddered with pleasure at each of her kisses. Rey's mouth suddenly moved down to his abs. She kissed them one after the other, counting them. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight. "Reversed fool."  

As she ventured further down, Ben let out a groan. God, he'd been dreaming about her for so long... Suddenly, a howl of pain came from him. With fear, he winced and looked down at Rey. She looked him right in the eyes by laughing evilly. Her irises had turned yellow, glowing, and her teeth were now those of a great white shark. She had just bitten him to death. And Ben realized with horror... that he liked it.

"Reversed fool."

The young man woke up with a start. The sunlight blinded him for a moment. It took him a long time to remember where he was. The morning song of the birds. The light breeze on his face. The trees. The sky. The aches in his back. The rock he had leaned against. He had slept outside with his group after getting lost in the forest.

And suddenly, Ben, thinking back on his dream, realized that... Rey was indeed curled up against him. She slept just beside, in spoon with Hux, but she had chosen the broad pectoral of the false psychologist like pillow. She rubbed besides tenderly her head on his chest and sighed of ease. Ben bit his cheeks. His blood was boiling in his veins and his pants were suddenly so tight it hurt.

Clench your teeth and don't think about it, clench your teeth and don't think about it...

Damn it, did she really care about torturing him since yesterday's scene? If her boyfriend woke up and saw them...

Don't you even think about it!

Forcing himself to breathe calmly, the detective glanced at the rest of his group. His parents looked happy. His mother was sleeping peacefully on his father's chest. Phasma and Mitaka were snoring spoon-fed, the tall blonde being the big spoon clutching her boyfriend like a teddy bear. Finn and Poe were purring in each other's arms, exhausted. Rose and Beaumont had left a safe distance between them, to avoid gutting each other. And Snap and Karé were dozing... in a 69 position.

And suddenly, while part of Ben was trying, despite himself, to take the time to appreciate Rey's touch, something to his left caught his attention. The leaves of the bushes not far from them rustled. Footsteps approached more and more. At once, the young man remembered the misadventure of the last time. With his senses on alert, he shook Rey to get her to let go and leapt to his feet.

"Wake up!" he shouted. "Wake up! There is another bear! Come on! Hurry up!"

With that, Ben began to gesture and growl menacingly, as Rose had shown. His group gradually woke up, disoriented. One by one, they got up and followed his lead to chase this second bear. They looked like a bunch of monkeys in a zoo.

When Wedge Antilles, the park ranger, emerged from the bushes with his phone in hand, he burst out laughing. The thirteen individuals fell silent, stunned. They realized that what was actually their savior, who had started the search after finding no one at the hotel, in his routine patrol, was filming them.

"Central, it's okay, I found the group in therapy," Antilles chuckled into his radio transmitter. "Oh no, it's definitely them!"

So the group, guided by the rangers, made their way down the mountain. Ben could hear some of them grumbling behind his back, because not only had they lost them in the woods, but he had almost given them a heart attack by rousing them from their sleep over a bear... that wasn't a bear.

Beaumont kept saying he would sue the therapy site. But Rey, for her part, seemed to find it amusing. And the detective was glaring at her, as she laughed about their misadventures with her boyfriend, holding his hand. Ben still felt that pang of jealousy - which he shouldn't feel - and wondered if Rey had slept on him on purpose or not. What was she playing at?

Against all odds, the rest of the day went pretty well. In the end, except for Beaumont, everyone thought it was better to laugh at their psychologist's terrible sense of direction than anything else. They each performed the exercises on the program, stimulating their confidence in each other and their listening skills, without reluctance.

Lunch was uneventful and the afternoon was devoted to practicing the couple's dance, for the end of the stay. At the end of their choreography, Poe and Finn found themselves stuck together and began to kiss. But as one sought to deepen the kiss, the other pulled his head back and apologized, saddened. Then his phone vibrated and he pulled away from his boyfriend, who sighed deeply.

Ben was walking around, as usual. With effort and practice, couples were getting better and better. And miraculously, the tone barely rose for Rose and Beaumont. The detective thought this proved that he was doing a good job, and he was even beginning to enjoy the role of psychologist!

However, Ben felt like punching himself repeatedly when that feeling of jealousy surfaced and squeezed his chest as he watched, from a distance, Hux and Rey sensually practicing the tango. It should be him.

Honestly, the redhead was dancing like an idiot! The detective fought against himself not to interfere, in the excuse to show the boyfriend how to do it. How to take Rey by the waist and press her pelvis against his. How to lasciviously grip Rey's thigh as she lifted it to the level of his hips. No. Very bad idea.

"You know, I'm feeling really good all of a sudden," Hux smiled as he danced with Rey. "You were right about the therapy after all! Now I feel like I'm ready to tell you everything! You want to hear about the girls? Your grandfather? About anyone? Well, as soon as we're alone, I'll tell you what you want to know!"

"For real, honey bun?" Rey rejoiced.

As he nodded, she concluded the dance with a long kiss. Ben winced and felt like throwing up, clenching his fists. But at least what he had just heard was good news for the mission. Because that was all that mattered. Wasn't it?

Thus, in the evening, at about eight o'clock, the undercover policeman found himself alone in front of the video surveillance screens, sipping a beer. He was watching, thanks to the camera that looked into the bedroom of the two mafiosos, the couple talking. Hux was also drinking and telling Rey, over and over again, that he finally felt ready to open up and tell her what he was hiding.

Of course, Ben suspected that it was mostly just about the redhead's infidelities, the fact that he did have an eye on Rose, or maybe his relationship with his father that was keeping him from fully committing to the relationship. Something like that. But he hoped that one of them would suddenly start talking about the mafia, as the redhead had also mentioned Rey's grandfather.

"Ooh, honey bun, go easy on the booze," said Rey worried as her boyfriend opened a second can of beer. "We said just one. We need to talk now."

"Yeah, yeah, don't worry. Just one more and we'll talk. I promise."

Some time later, Hux was snoring on the bed. Discouraged, his girlfriend shook him to wake him up, in vain. Instead of keeping his promise, he had taken refuge in drinking and seemed now inebriated as hell. Rey even hit him with his pillow, but nothing did. He was sleeping like a log. The young woman sighed in exasperation.

"Shit, shit, shit! Army... You had things to tell me..."

Sighing in turn, the policeman decided that he would not get anything out of it either and went to bed. At 11:00 p.m., as he was trying to sleep, Ben was suddenly startled when he heard a drunken voice shouting near his window. He got up, rubbed his eyes and went to look. Outside, Armitage Hux, drunk as a skunk, was singing a Simple Plan song at the top of his lungs with a beer in his hand.

"But some... day... I will find my way back to where your... name… is written in the saaaaaaaaaaand!"

He emptied his bladder into a flower bed and started the chorus, beating the beat with his foot. Then, the redhead took an umpteenth sip of alcohol while sitting on a bench, almost fell, barely caught himself and continued with energy :

"...And we were never gonna say goodbye! Singing la, da, da, da, daaaaaaa!"

At the absurdity of this spectacle, Ben let out a deep sigh. Well, well, well... The mafia boss's right-hand man looked good like that... And the undercover detective was never going to sleep with that. His dismay was suddenly disturbed by a small knock at his door.

Ben frowned. It must have been his mother or father. Was there any news about their target? In any case, they couldn't expect much from her drunken boyfriend, who was now snoring on the bench...

As he was wearing only boxers, the young man carelessly put on a bathrobe in his tiny bathroom, as if it were a robe, and went to open the door. He was surprised to find Rey standing there, just in front of him. Dishevelled, lip trembling, blouse wrinkled, eyes misty, looking exhausted and completely desperate.

"Ben?" she said in a small voice.

"Uh... Yes?" he stammered, confused. "What the..."

The young woman rubbed her face.

"I've lost Armitage. I've been looking for him everywhere for half an hour. He got sloshed and fell asleep, I went out to get some fresh air to calm my nerves and when I came back, he wasn't there and I can't find him. Do you know where...?"

"Oh, no, don't worry," Ben replied, turning to point out his window. "Armitage is right outside, he's... taking a nap on a bench."

Shaking her head, she sniffed and wiped her eyes. She really looked distressed. Concerned, Ben asked:

"Are you okay?"

"I can't take it anymore...," Rey sighed. "I really can't..."

And, without his invitation, she entered the "psychologist's" room, massaging her temples. The young man swallowed hard. He would never have expected this kind of visit. But despite him, one of the corners of his mouth stretched briefly in weak smile. He was happy that she had come to see him. Rey went to check on her boyfriend at the window. Then she let out a grunt of mixed anger and annoyance before turning to Ben.

"Ugh! No, I'm not okay... I don't know what to do with him anymore! I... I need him to talk to me! He was this close, this close to finally opening up to me! But no, what did that moron do, instead? He started drinking and went snoring on a bench! I can't go on like this much longer... I'm on the verge of a nervous breakdown!"

Indeed, she was hyperventilating and tears were stinging her eyes. Saddened for her, Ben looked at her helplessly, not knowing what to say. Rey sniffed and exhaled deeply to try to calm herself down.

"I'm sorry..."

"For what?"

"Sorry to show up like this unannounced," she sighed, biting her lip. "I didn't want to disturb you. You were probably sleeping..."

"No, no, you do not disturb me," the detective assured to her while he made a step towards her. "It was Armitage who woke me up. Well, I was trying to sleep more than anything else, anyway. And then... I mean... I'm a shrink, I understand these things perfectly. You want... Do you want a glass of water or something?"

Grateful for his kindness, the brunette nodded and he invited her to sit on his bed while he poured her some tap water in a cup. Rey thanked him and drank the contents in one gulp. She needed it. Ben pulled up a chair and sat down opposite her, as if they were in counseling.

"If you want to talk... I'm here."

Of course, the young woman's distress would be a good opportunity to break her down and get it all out about her grandfather. But at first, the undercover cop didn't even think about it. He was sincerely offering Rey to confide in him if she needed it. Just to help her. He listened carefully as the unfortunate woman complained more about her disastrous relationship.

"I feel like I'm piling up failures in this story... I feel under pressure and more alone than ever..."

"Now you're not alone," Ben whispered to her.

The shadow of a small sad smile blossomed on Rey's lips.

"Thank you, Ben. Really. But... it's more complicated than that," she sniffed. "Armitage... Ugh, I might as well date a wall. Then again, a wall is a thousand times more talkative than him. And also... There are things I can't say. It's very difficult for me, if you only knew..."

At these words, the policeman in her confidant of misfortune woke up. Perhaps he was finally approaching the goal. It was necessary that he made her continue on this way.

"Mmh, mmh. It's very difficult for you," he repeated, nodding, firmly anchored in his role as psychologist. "You're under pressure... because of the things you can't say?"

"Yes," the young woman admitted, lowering her eyes.

"Why can't you say them? Does it... weigh on your conscience? Maybe you'd feel free of a weight if you... stopped holding them inside you?"

Despite her attempt, Rey suddenly recoiled. She shook her head and got up to put her glass on the bedside table.

"Ugh... I'm sorry for all this mess. I don't even know why I came to your room..."

"No, no, don't go," Ben said, reaching up to touch her wrist. "Please stay. We can talk about this. I swear I don't mind."

He felt her shiver at his touch. He himself blushed slightly in front of the glance that she made him thereafter. She sat down, looked at him and pursed her lips.

"Talk... You know, it is funny, because we hardly know each other and yet, I have the impression that we talked more in a few days than Armitage and I in one year of relation. You listen to me and pay attention to me. When you look at me, I don't feel like I'm just... a plate spinning in the microwave. And that confuses me, because I came to your therapy to save my relationship, but..."

"But?"

"Oh my God, I shouldn't say that," the brunette despaired.

"Say it anyway," Ben encouraged her.

The policeman in him was hoping she would finally spill the beans. Another part of him, buried deep inside, was dreading something else. Something that would make the situation worse. Rey bit her lip, symbolizing that she was about to reveal something sensitive to him. Then suddenly she cleared her throat, looked him straight in the eye and said:

"Okay, I'll do it. Here, actually... I so want to have sex with you, right now."

Immediately, Ben's face fell. His heart missed a beat and a wave of heat suddenly swept over him. He blanched in shock. His eyelids fluttered.

"W… Wait, what? Can you say that again?"

His patient shrugged, as if to say, "I can't help it". Her hazel eyes suddenly glanced at his fleshy mouth, then at the birth of his pectoral muscles, revealed by the indentation of the bathrobe. She moistened her lips, like a child in front of a shop window filled with sweets.

For his part, Ben swallowed as he looked more closely at her little black blouse with yellow flowers. The distinct curve of her nipples told him that she was not wearing anything underneath. What he tried to ignore until then and that did not leave him indifferent. With this observation, the young man felt his cheeks cook and his boxers become tighter. Trying to call himself to order, he coughed and said:

"Um... Yes, I... I understand. This kind of thing is normal."

"You think so?"

"Yes, you feel understood and listened to, and therefore attracted. It's called a... transference. It happens quite often. And you know... I also..."

Ben swallowed, getting more and more flushed.

"I think you're very... very, very, very pretty. To be honest, I think you're the most beautiful woman I've ever seen in my life."

"For real?" Rey asked with an emotional smile, putting a hand on her chest.

"Yes. Actually, I thought that... as soon as my eyes fell on you for the first time," he realized aloud.

Damn, he couldn't control the words coming out of his mouth... The words he had been holding back and denying for quite some time. The smile of the young woman widened with each of his compliments and destabilized him more and more. It was imperative that he pull himself together before things got out of hand!

"But we have a patient-therapist relationship," he finally declared in a firm tone. "Therefore, I'm going to ask you to leave my room right now."

"You're right," the young woman said, approaching him with a defiant look on her face. "Besides... That's exactly what I'll do. Even if I don't want to."

As Ben got up, with the idea of walking her to the door, she imitated him.

"Great," he mumbled, realizing that she was very close to him. "Great, that's very good, that's... what you have to do..."

At this short distance of only a few centimeters, he could smell her jasmine, daisy and gooseberry scent. Her sweet summer scent that he smelled for a long time, spellbound. He wanted to impregnate himself with all of it. Rey also seemed attracted by his smell, strong and musky, because she slightly approached her face to breathe it.

"Absolutely," she simpered, as her fingers suddenly lingered on the belt of Ben's robe and began to undo it. "We shouldn't..."

"No, we shouldn't..."

The policeman was in conflict with himself. Temptation had to be resisted at all costs, even when she answered to the name of Rey Palpatine. And she wasn't making it easy for him. For God's sake, he couldn't even realize that she was his enemy in the first place! Nor to think properly. Come on, they both wanted to, why would it be wrong to... No, Ben! Don't do it!

And suddenly, after exchanging a long, intense, languid look, motionless, hearing only their breaths, their mouths suddenly collided. None of them could say who kissed the other first. But soon Ben's robe fell to the floor and Rey clung to his neck as they devoured each other's lips with passion and appetite. Carried by their frenzy, they rocked then on the bed.

The young woman placed Ben on the mattress. Her hands palpated the firmness of his muscles. And, without ceasing to kiss him, she immediately started to undulate her pelvic on his beginning of erection, that its deformed boxers betrayed. Each moaned noisily in the mouth of the other one as their feverish kisses intensified. Ben tightened his embrace. It was so hard to let go of Rey. Now that he had her in his arms, he didn't want to lose her touch for a second.

"Weren't you supposed to leave?" he breathed anyway between kisses.

Hardly had he asked his question that he grabbed the buttocks of his partner to accompany her pelvic movements. He dreamed to do that for a long time, actually. And oh, God, how good it was! Rey stifled a cry and bit his lip. Hers tasted like cherries and honey. Sweet. Aphrodisiac. Divine. Hard to resist.

"I'm going, just give me two seconds."

"Go ahead, I won't hold you back. Well, take your time, eh... No hurry..."

Come on, just a little more. Just a little more before we leave each other. When she started to unbutton her blouse with one hand, Ben thought he was going crazy and, answering to an impulse, he tipped her onto the mattress. As he found himself on top of her, she grabbed his neck and wrapped her legs around his waist. Their sexes rubbed again one against the other. Thus stimulated, the young man felt that it would not hold a long time.

"But yes, you must leave," he whispered while being delighted with her throat. "You try to save your couple, it would be... a bad idea... to cheat on Armitage... We should not... It is wrong..."

Rey bit her lip in pleasure and nodded. They were panting, heart pounding, and struggling to speak. Even more so when they started kissing each other fiercely again.

"That's right, and you... you're in danger of being disbarred... from the Order of Psychologists... if this gets out, then..."

"That's it, exactly. The Order of Psychologists... If this gets out... You've got it."

"Oh, how we get each other!" she moaned against his mouth.

Things were starting to get serious. In their haste, the two of them almost tore the brunette's blouse trying to unbutton it. Ben's eyes widened, both dazed and blissful, as he discovered Rey's small, bare breasts, as if it were the first time they had seen any. The young man soon worshipped her breasts with his mouth and tongue. She began to giggle.

Ben's fingers suddenly slipped under her gym leggings and he realized her panties were already completely soaked. He was thrilled by the latter. His Rey Palpatine, who he had been obsessing over for so long, wanted him! His heart leapt in his chest and he hugged her tightly.

The brunette arched her back under his caresses, straightened up to remove her full blouse and leaned towards him to free his erection from his boxers. Her eyes turned black with desire when she saw the tense penis.

At her touch, Ben nearly came early. It was torture to contain himself. He had never wanted a woman so much! Then he froze. He realized, in a sudden moment of clarity... that he had absolutely nothing to go on. Never having considered for a second that this would happen, Ben hadn't brought any protection.

"Wait... we don't have any..."

"Oh? Yes," Rey smiled.

At his confused look, she pulled two small, shiny pouches from the pocket of her leggings, which she struggled to get rid of. Then, the young woman threw a teasing glance to her lover, her smile illuminating more her face.

"Do you want red or blue?"

Ben frowned, puzzled.

"You... You were planning on..."

"No... I mean... Just in case..." she replied in a small voice with doe eyes. "But it's not me, it's my transference."

"Yes, you're right," he sighed. "It's the transference again."

Again, he kissed her full on the lips. Rey moaned and giggled at the same time. Ben withdrew the last clothing which it remained to him, without detaching his lips from hers. Then the brunette helped him to put on the condom and, as they could not wait any longer, Ben plunged into her.

Both held their breath, lost in the eyes of the other. Then they exhaled for a long time, in a trance. The young man began a swing. Rey stifled a cry and clung to his neck, slipping her fingers into his black curls. Ben covered his face with kisses while repeating:

"It's the transference, it means nothing..."

"It doesn't mean anything..."

It was only the transference. And the tarot that had legitimately predicted a thoughtless act, committed in total unconsciousness. The reversed fool card.

***

 

The next day, Ben was floating on a cloud. In the room that served as their headquarters, he stayed in the background and did not pay the slightest attention to his parents who were talking with Lando via webcam. His thoughts revolved around the wonderful night he had just spent. He and Rey had talked until dawn and made love twice in a row, as she had only brought two condoms just in case.

She's the granddaughter of the mob boss.

Sexually, he really had nothing to complain about. It was absolutely magical. He had never felt such a connection with anyone. It was like their bodies were one! They had spent the night in each other's arms, kissing languidly, caressing each other, discovering each other with their hands, mouths, tongues... Ben had had the best sex ever and wanted to do it again. Rey was perfect for him.

She's the granddaughter of the mob boss.

Rey's departure, just before the others wake up, including Hux on the bench next to them, had been very hard for both of them. Pulling away from their mutual embrace seemed like an ordeal. She kept coming back to him for a "last kiss". And he refused to let go of her hand every time she pulled away again, looking at her with puppy dog eyes.

She's the granddaughter of the mob boss.

Ben closed his eyelids and replayed the dreamy night he had experienced. He saw again their passionate lovemaking, their two bodies burning against each other, heard again their sighs and their moans, imagined again Rey, naked, trembling in his arms... The taste of her lips and her satiny skin, the smell of her perfume which electrified him completely, the softness of her breasts, the light in her hazel eyes, the beauty of her smile...

She is the granddaughter of the mob boss! Don't fall in love, you idiot!

Beside him, Lando's speech from his father's computer screen was trying to bring him back to reality. The minister of justice was at his wit's end.

"Three murders happened in Montreal! Palpatine is not afraid of anything anymore, he knows that they have nothing against him! So he gets rid of his enemies one by one! Holdo is all alone because all her colleagues have run away for fear of joining Cassian Andor in the cemetery and if this continues, she will resign, unless he succeeds in killing her in turn! The commission is about to be dismantled! Our only chance is if Rey Palpatine talks! What the hell are you doing?!"

"We're working on it, Lando, we're working on it," Han assured him.

"Well, work harder! Because right now, our man is doing just fine!"

Letting out a deep sigh as she thought of her friend Amilyn, Leia clung to their last hope. All was not lost!

"His granddaughter will talk. We've already gotten her to express her pain about him. It won't be long before she..."

"She has to talk and she has to talk now!"

Ben listened with a distracted ear. He had only clicked at the mention of Rey. He looked up at the screens showing the surveillance footage. The young woman was on the largest one with her boyfriend. She and Hux were talking on a terrace of the hotel, but their conversation was not very interesting at the moment. The redhead was still hungover. Ben couldn't help but smile blissfully as he looked at her. She was as beautiful as ever.

"We've got it under control," the squad leader repeated.

"Yes, Ben replaced the shrink and he's doing pretty well. We're going to make it, we're about to..."

"Wait, what? Ben replaced the shrink?" Lando exclaimed in a strangled voice. "Ben replaced the shrink?!"

Finally, Ben looked at his watch, sighed and walked over to the computer.

"Well, we have to go. We've got work to do. Bye!"

With that, he ended the conversation and flipped the lid of the computer. His parents stared at him, bewildered.

"Did you just..."

"I'm sorry, but we have a big event in thirty minutes, we have to get ready," the young man said, clapping his hands.

He was about to leave when his father stopped him.

"Ben? Hello? Earth is calling! Do you read me?" Han exclaimed. "You seem to be completely out of it right now. Do you realize that our priority is to stop the horrors of Palpatine? Who cares what the therapy does?"

"Yes, but we can only do that by continuing to help others to..."

"You're a policeman, not a psychologist! People are getting killed in Montreal, but wow, maybe Finn and Poe will get laid again! That's the point, right?"

Faced with her husband's annoyance, Leia took his arm and tried to reason with him.

"Han, please. We're all under pressure and Ben is doing his best..."

"His best?" Han snapped. "He's hitting on our target, he's almost blowing his cover by saying what he thinks out loud, he's getting lost in the mountains... Seriously, what's next?"

No sooner had he said these words than Rey, on the surveillance camera screen, announced to Hux:

"I had sex with Ben."

 

Chapter Text

"I had sex with Ben."

The three policemen, as if they were one man, turned to the screen that showed the couple on the hotel terrace.

Little did Ben know that Rey would inform her boyfriend - at least so quickly - of what had happened between them last night. He felt like disappearing through the floorboards beneath him. He opened his mouth to close it again almost immediately. It was better that he kept quiet and, before aggravating his case in the eyes of his parents, wait to see what the young woman would reveal. Perhaps he would succeed in making up for it? He doubted it, but hope is life, after all.

"You did what?" Armitage said, in a slow voice.

The eyebrows of the mob boss's right-hand man were so furrowed that someone could have slipped a coin in and it would have held perfectly. Ben didn't have to turn to his father to know that his face must have had a similar look.

"You were finally going to open up, Army! But instead you got drunk and disappeared! I looked everywhere for you... I panicked! I didn't know what to do... I thought you might have gone into the woods and... I was really worried! So I went to see Ben... and... he was super nice and..."

"So you let him fuck you!" the redhead reacted, incredulous.

"What was I supposed to do?" Rey questioned, hands on her hips. "Go to sleep when I didn't know where you were? I don't know if you remember, but you told me you wanted to bathe so you brought a pillow into the shower to plug the drain and create your own pool!"

"You're overreacting! I wasn't that drunk..."

"Oh yeah? That's probably why five minutes later you were freaking out that we were going to drown! You told me we were going to have to share a plank, as in 'Titanic'," she added, raising her voice. "Then you told me that's what you were going to do even though you didn't want to share it with ME! You said I wasn't your Rose or something... I left so I wouldn't have to gut you and when I came back, you were gone. I thought that if you had the stupid idea to go to the forest, and in your state, you were going to die after three minutes."

"So, because you were distraught about me and angry that I didn't want to share an imaginary plank in an imaginary ocean with you, you thought, why not have sex with the psychologist from our fucking therapy?!"

Ben, uncomfortable, slowly turned to his parents to gauge their mood.

When his eyes met his father's, he suddenly thought back to when he had "borrowed" his classic car at sixteen. In addition to the scratched door, the car's engine had been engulfed in the thick mud of a field, which, with the spring, was more like a swamp than a flat surface. The teenager, at fault for sneaking out to meet a friend at a party, taking his father's car and abruptly putting it out of commission, had felt like he was living out his last minutes on Earth when he met Han Solo's eyes that night. "Are you all right?" his father had asked, after several minutes of silence. Then he asked Ben's best friend Tai and took them to the hospital to make sure they were okay.

Han never mentioned it again - Ben was far too shocked by his father's reaction anyway - and the teenager had to work to pay for the repairs to the car (which amounted to a small fortune). At this point, Han seemed to be weighing whether to yell at him or worry about him. As for Leia, she looked placid, though stunned by the revelation they had just heard. She put a hand on her husband's arm.  

"You had sex with Rey?" his father repeated.

"She is probably just provoking Hux...," Leia tried to defend him.

"Yes, that's right," Ben denied, with an innocent look on his face - happy to take the way out offered by his mother. "Nothing happened."

"Yes, we fucked!" the brunette cut him off, exclaiming. "Are you happy?"

This time, the detective, whose cheeks had become crimson, grimaced frankly.

"What?" the redhead ranted.

"You had sex with... the mob boss's… granddaughter," Han articulated.

"We only slept in the same room...," Ben tried to downplay.

"I wanted to test your 'theory' that the sex meant nothing...," Rey began.

"You had sex with the mob boss's granddaughter," his father pronounced, shocked.

"Are you serious?!" Hux belched.

"You had sex with the mob boss's granddaughter?!" the sixty-year-old stormed again.

Clearly, his father had opted to yell at her. On the screen, the couple was arguing, but no one in the makeshift headquarters was listening.

"Yes, okay!" Ben confessed. "I had sex with her! We get it! Can you please get over it and stop saying that..."

"How do you want me to get over it?" his father interrupted him angrily. "You had sex with the mob boss's granddaughter who is ALSO the girlfriend of the mob boss's RIGHT-HAND MAN!"

"I'll admit it, maybe this wasn't my best idea..."

Han glanced at his wife with a puzzled look. Her lips were pursed and she was holding her head as if she had a sudden headache.

"Not the best idea? Not the BEST idea?! That's... That's... That's... There's no word for how bad your choice of sexual partner was," his father exploded. "Actually, the very idea of sleeping with anyone in COUPLE THERAPY, because I want to remind you, Ben, if you hadn't forgotten, WE ARE IN COUPLE THERAPY, is BAD!"

"Maybe it was a bad idea," Ben nodded, who was sickly unable not to respond to his father. "But it was great."

The sixty-year-old widened his eyes.

"Oh, he's sharing that with me!" he croaked, with a tinge of disgust. "Well, if Mr. Solo had a good fuck, it's all right then! You fucking moron! If you want to end up as sashimi for the mafia, well done! Do you think Palpatine will be happy to know that his granddaughter fucked one of the cops who are trying to put him in jail?!"

Then Han continued, parodying him:

"Who do you think I am, I'm working, blah, blah, blah, I'm trying to coax her... A CHANCE you're only trying to coax her and make her talk! I can't imagine what it would be like if your intention was to seduce her!"

For a rare occasion, his father had just shut him up. Yes, okay, Ben had screwed up royally. Yes, okay, he had found Rey quite lovely from the moment he laid eyes on her. And, yes, okay, his obsession with knowing everything about her had been slightly tainted by the butterflies that populated his stomach whenever he thought about her.

Yes, he liked Rey Palpatine. He liked her a lot. Too much. Her irises electrified him and liquefied all his coherent thoughts. Every time she smiled, his heart did a somersault. He would have promised her the Earth if she asked. And it was even worse since last night. She was creeping under his skin, seeping into his every thought, etching herself into his every neurotransmitter. A real psychologist would surely have told him that he was falling in love - if he hadn't already.

So, yes, Han was right. About everything. However, there was no way Ben was going to say it out loud. He preferred to remain silent and avoid his parents' gaze.

"Where is Ben, so I can go and kill him?" Hux raged, on the screen.

"Calm yourself!" Rey shouted. "As far as I know, I didn't threaten to kill anyone when I found out you cheated on me with two girls at once! You're going to get over it and if you ever look at him wrong or say anything to him, you and I are over!"

The sixty-year-old shook his head.

"At least Rey seems to want you to live," he sighed, rolling his eyes.

Then, resigned to his son's stupidity, he left the room without saying another word. Han slammed the door behind him, while the brunette continued to defend Ben, on the terrace, insisting on the fact that he was "a good guy" - which Hux turned to ridicule.

"Mom...," the young man said. "Mom, I'm sorry... I never intended to screw up the mission, but... I just experienced like… love at first sight."

"Ben, don't try to get me on your side," Leia argued.

"I've never been with someone and had butterflies in my stomach like that," he continued. "We talked all night... I feel like I have a connection with her! Like I've never felt before! I know it's not ideal, but you've been wanting me to meet someone for so long... You can understand that, right?"

"Ben... She's still the mob boss' granddaughter," Leia sighed.

"Yes, but..."

"No matter how you feel about her, she's still affiliated with Palpatine and may end up in jail."

"Yes, but..."

"There is no 'but', Ben," the mother snapped. "Your father is right. So you're going to forget about her and control your temper! If our mission fails and Palpatine doesn't rot in jail because you can't handle your libido, I'm going to enjoy tying a knot in your testicles."

Ben swallowed loudly at his mother's threat. The fifty-year-old then mimed a pair of scissors.

"You were born with a penis, but no one said you had to live with it! Am I making myself clear?"

"Yes, ma'am, uh... Mom," the young man stammered.

She gave him a stern look.

"It just confirmed to me that you are the one I love," Rey simpered, moving closer to Hux to wrap her arms around his chest.

Leia opened her mouth to continue her admonishment, but, stung by what he had just heard, Ben turned away from her to stare at the screen. Disillusioned, he felt as if a bucket of ice water was being dumped on his head.

The night he had spent with Rey had been magical. There was no doubt about it.

Not because their bodies were a wonderful match, but because he felt like their minds were perfectly aligned. With Rey in his arms, Ben felt like he belonged. It was so right. Like a true harmony. Like two puzzle pieces that fit together.

She couldn't feel like rushing into Hux's arms, after experiencing this! She couldn't say that it confirmed to her that he was the one she loved! It was impossible. It was impossible that she hadn't felt that connection between their bodies, their thoughts, their souls. Ben hadn't imagined it, after all!

He felt like leaving the room and rushing out onto the terrace to... To... He didn't know what he would do, exactly, but to set the record straight.

However, the young man did not move. Instead, he watched as the brunette ran her hands languidly over the redhead's forearms and he felt as if his insides were writhing under the jealousy and pain that was crushing him.

"Honey bun, I believe you. It's true that sex means nothing," she continued. "I feel nothing for Ben. I don't. I was wrong to want to cheat on you, only to get even... Besides, it wasn't even a good fuck... It was never-ending! All the time I was thinking about you! It's just you, Army. Can we make peace and forget about all our differences?"

The young man had the impression that with each word she spoke, a blade was sinking into his abdomen, deeper and deeper, in order to finish him off. There was no way she could say that - or at least be sincere about it! He felt hurt. Torn. Destroyed. Rey delivered the coup de grace by kissing her boyfriend, who, after twenty seconds, pushed her away and mentioned that he needed to think.

Before he left the terrace, the young woman reminded Hux that they had to attend a therapy activity in a few minutes. The redhead muttered curtly that if she cared about her psychologist, he would play hooky this time.

"I know it's painful to hear, honey, but it's for the best," Leia assured him. "They're staying together and our mission continues."

Ben didn't give her a second glance.

"If it's too hard for you, just play psychologist. Your father and I will take care of getting her confession. Is that okay?"

The young man only answered with a sniff. It was out of the question for him to stay behind, when he had made all these efforts! And, above all, he refused not to fight. What he had felt last night was far too precious for him to give up so quickly.

"It's for your own good, darling. I don't want you to suffer and... Another detective would have gotten fired. Consider yourself lucky that this doesn't end in a criminal complaint when we arrest Rey."

"Yeah, yeah…," the young man lied.

"And I hope you used a condom!" Leia muttered. "It would be the icing on the cake if, on top of everything else that happens, you end up with syphilis! Or worse, a Palpatine baby!"

Ben rolled his eyes. Sleeping together had been so never-ending, they'd done it twice, and when they'd run out of condoms, they'd settled for foreplay. However, he couldn't recall a particular moment when she had seemed to find the experience unpleasant. The memory of the sight of Rey's body arched, her head tipped back and her mouth open in a silent scream as his mouth revelled in the center of her body whipped him sharply. No, she had not seemed to find his caresses never-ending.

Had the young woman been acting all this time? After all, she was Palpatine's granddaughter. Was she like him? He doubted it. But as the minutes ticked by, he wondered if he was trying to convince himself or if he actually believed it. He forced himself to adopt a cheerful tone and repress his confusion:

"You need to make your mind up, Mom. Do you want grandchildren or not?"

"I want wanted grandchildren, my darling. That's the difference."

***

 

Hux left the terrace, out of his mind. His jaw as his fists clenched until his skin became almost translucent. Then he relaxed the muscles of his hands and waved them feverishly. He had a furious urge to put a bullet in someone's head.

No. He didn't want to. Armitage needed it.

He needed to feel that trickle of adrenaline running through his veins. He needed to feel the hollow of his gun fit perfectly inside his palm - like an extension of his body. He needed to see a pair of eyes pleading with him not to sink it into the grave. In short, he needed to pass his nerves. And, as it was out of question to lose himself in a bottle of vodka (his headache which threw him since he had waked up would not support it and he had seen well, yesterday, how it had not worked) or in a good fuck... It remained to him only to murder somebody to calm himself.

The thirty-year-old stopped, scratched his nose and let out a long sigh. The only problem was that he couldn't possibly kill anyone in this damn therapy. Besides going straight to jail and alienating Rey, well... He didn't want to displease Rose. Hux could do anything - literally, anything - to keep her from looking at him, again, with that glint of disappointment in the back of her eyes. And, actually, it was precisely this reason that prevented him from going to get his gun, which he had hidden in his pillowcase, and sticking it on the head of this moron of a psychologist.

Anyway, he didn't give a damn that Ben and Rey had slept together. It was annoying, yes. He felt betrayed, too. But fundamentally? It didn't bother him in either way. He didn't even love her! He'd only gotten close to Rey in order to quickly climb the ranks of old Palpatine's organization. She had been the key to achieving his ambitions. Hux respected her, liked her, and pretending to be in love with Rey was, in and of itself, not a chore. She was the closest thing he had to a best friend. In a context where he wasn't sleeping with her regularly, he might even have seen her as a little sister. But he had never been in love with her.

Of course, he hated being played on and he was rather possessive of her, but... In the end, taking Ben down into the grave would be more of a release for him than anything else. A murder by proxy, that is.

Especially since the redhead knew very well that he was falling in Palpatine's esteem and it was in his interest to stay with Rey. Right now, he knew very well that if it wasn't for their relationship, the old mob boss would have thrown him in a pit and covered his body with concrete. He was playing with fire arguing with Palpatine's orders, he knew that. However, Hux was a loyal man: only his loyalty was no longer to Sheev Palpatine, but rather to Rey. And if he was still in the ranks of his girlfriend's grandfather, it was precisely to protect her. She was not aware of it, he had never told her.

Armitage was no hero, and he wasn't looking for glory - in any case, by keeping quiet, he guaranteed her safety. However, it was beginning to be time to make a decision: to tell her everything and his plans or to keep her in the dark. The only problem was that for the past two months or so, this decision was being compounded by another. Rey or Rose. If he told Rey, he'd be putting a definite end to a possible future with Rose. And, if he kept her in the dark... well, he could try to make them co-exist in his life. That's what he had done until now. Without success.

He had thought, yesterday, that he had made his decision. However, once again, Rose had come to complicate everything. Why had he had to overhear Beaumont talking about a marriage proposal to that simpleton Snap? Armitage couldn't help but imagine Rose saying yes to that ass and... The next minute, he was taking a long sip of beer.

He closed his eyes and tried to calm down. Halfway through, a fleeting, nagging thought occurred to him. He had to go and see for himself what it was all about.

Before even trying to weigh the pros and cons, the young man impulsively started moving again. Like an automatism, his feet crossed quickly the corridors of the dingy hotel and greeted with a movement of head, without seeing them, the other members of the therapy. Hux paid so little attention to them that he couldn't tell who he had met. Arrived at his destination (because, obviously, he knew very well which room she occupied), the redhead looked at each side of the corridor to verify that he was alone and knocked at the door.

He heard a cascade of imprecise muffled noises. Then, after thirty seconds of silence, the door slowly opened and Rose appeared in his field of vision. Her full lips were pursed in a critical mimicry, but it was mostly her swollen eyes, her involuntarily sniffling nose and the red patches on her cheeks and neck that caught his attention. Hux dismissed the possibility that she might have caught a cold, and he felt her anger become so violent that it clawed at her stomach.

"What did he do now?" he gritted out, through his teeth.

"Armitage...," Rose began, slowly, in a voice hoarse with tears.

"What did that idiot do to you this time, huh?"

Armitage bit the inside of his cheek, both irritated and exasperated.

"He didn't do anything," she decreed, in an even voice.

She was lying. He always knew when she was lying. Her hands always brought back her black curls on her shoulder, her fingers triturated her locks of hair and she obstinately avoided the glance of her interlocutor. Invariably. As if all the being of Rose was unable to assume the lie which she professed. And, according to Hux, it was surely one of the many things which made Rose so adorable.

His patience visibly exhausted, he pushed her gently towards the interior of the room she occupied and closed the door behind him. His eyes surveyed the room, more out of habit than out of any real concern for Beaumont's presence - after all, if he had been in the room, chances are he would have heard him spouting his usual nonsense long before he crossed the threshold. And, although it was a very bad idea to lock himself in or with Rose, he decided to lock the door.

"What are you doing?"

"I don't really want the idiot who is your boyfriend to come in unannounced and jump to conclusions," he explained, shrugging.

Rose squinted and crossed her arms over her chest. Armitage tilted his head and raised his hands in the air to show his innocence.

"I'm not going to jump on you, if that's what's freaking you out," he promised, sounding almost angelic.

"I'm not freaking out," she contradicted him, with her lips, trying to remain stoic.

"Fine."

"Fine," Rose repeated.

"I mean... Unless you want me to jump on you?" he said, with a smile in the corner, unable to help himself.

"Armitage!" she exclaimed, giving him a stern look, offended.

"It was a joke!"

Well... Didn't they say that in every joke, there was a core of truth? In any case, neither of them laughed. They were far too tense to laugh.

Like every time he was close to her, he had the impression that an electric current crossed him entirely. He swallowed painfully. And, even before being aware of it, he had estimated that it would take him three strides to join her, to plunge his fingers in her hair as black as the night, to put his hand in the hollow of her back and to laying her down the bed behind her. Armitage coughed and tried to keep a cool head.

"What did he do?" he finally repeated.

"We had an argument," Rose capitulated. "Then he asked me to marry him... Well, he threw a ring at me through our argument."

"Oh," Hux articulated, of a stilted tone, not finding anything else to say.

"I'll take a rain check on the romance. I don't remember exactly what he said, but he said that I had to invent problems because he wanted to marry me."

"I see..."

She sniffed and the redhead grabbed a box of tissues from the coffee table, near the sofa, and handed it to her. Rose thanked him silently before falling on the mattress. Cautiously, and especially unable to keep any distance with her, Hux approached the bed. With his eyes he asked her permission to sit next to her, and they must have been two idiots, because the Vietnamese girl nodded.

He couldn't take it anymore and asked, in a tone of voice that he tried to keep light (but couldn't):

"And what did you tell him?"

"That I needed to think about it," she sighed. "Anyway, knowing him, I'm sure it's not even serious and he did it just to ruin my life. I don't even know why he wants to marry me... He's always telling me about all my faults and what I do wrong."

They stood in silence, side by side, neither knowing what to say. Each kept his gaze firmly fixed in front of him - except for a few times when their eyes drifted to observe, in secret, the other. Rose played nervously with her handkerchief, in the hollow of her palm. After a handful of seconds, slowly, as if the redhead evaluated each inch of the movement of his hand, this one went to find that of the young woman.

The young woman cut through this silence, at one point, to mention that perhaps they should go and join the group in view of the therapy activity that was to take place. Hux nodded weakly, mostly for form's sake. For neither of them moved.

The Vietnamese woman crossed her fingers with his and her thumb began to draw circles on the top of his palm.

"He's an idiot, Rose. You're perfect," he whispered, like a prayer.

A small smile formed on her lips and her head turned toward him. Her eyes found his azure irises too easily, as usual.

"What are you doing here?" she asked. "I don't think you came all the way here to hear me talk about Beaumont's lack of romance..."

"You might be surprised," he sneered, not laughing.

"Armitage, seriously."

"I wanted... I needed to see you."

"Why did you need to see me?"

Because... Because... Because when he closed his eyes when Rey kissed him, it was her he imagined. Because he was dreaming about her. Because he found that deeply aberrant that they found themselves in this same damn couple therapy. Because seeing her without touching her, without talking to her, was a real form of torture. Because better than anyone else, she calmed him down. Because she made him question himself and made him fight against his deepest instincts.

Because, selfishly, he wanted her. And it made him sick to see her with Beaumont.

"Rose," he sighed, finally. "Please... don't say yes to him. Don't marry him."

She was silently shocked. Then, quickly, as if he had stung her, she moved away from him brutally. The interlude was finished and the reality caught up with them. The young woman nodded several times, trying to assimilate what he said to her.

"That is none of your business, Armitage," she decided, after one moment.

"No, but..."

"You don't have the right to tell me that!" Rose exclaimed, agitated. "You don't have the right to ask me not to marry him when... when you're here with Rey, and when..."

"Rose..."

"I already told you that I didn't want to be your mistress or your stopgap," the young woman cut him off. "That hasn't changed. Rey is wonderful and I feel terribly ashamed that you... That we have..."

Rose paused, not knowing what word to use to describe what they had been alongside his relationship with the brunette.

"She deserves better than this," she concluded.

"Yes, she does," Hux agreed. "But you deserve better too. Seriously, Rose? Beaumont?! Of all the people in the world, you decided to leave me to go with him?! Seriously?! You want to marry him?!"

"I left you because I learned that you were in a relationship!" she corrected him, coldly.

"Yes, I understood that. But nothing prevented you from staying on your own or finding someone other than that moron! He doesn't even respect you, Rose! Do you really think to chain yourself with him?!"

"You can talk, Armitage Hux! Because you think you respect Rey?! You respected her, maybe, when we did that damn threesome with Bazine?! And I guess you respected her too when you spent a whole month fucking me and making me think you wanted a relationship with me! If you hadn't left your phone lying around and I hadn't seen Rey's messages on it, you would have played this game for how long, exactly?"

"It's not the same thing."

"Yes, it's exactly the same."

"No," he repeated, through his teeth.

He moved closer to her. Rose saw fit to keep a distance between them.

"Yes, well, you perhaps are right on certain points," he conceded, after reflection, in a low voice. "But not completely."

A small snide air appeared on the face of the young woman, putting him in challenge. Suddenly, he found himself fighting against himself not to kiss her.

"I would never have acted like that if I had loved her."

"You don't love Rey?" she said incredulously.

"It's... It's complicated, but not really."

"What is complicated? Do you love her or not?"

The redhead contemplated her in silence.

The first time he had seen Rose was a month and a half ago, two months, maybe, in a club with some members of Palpatine's organization. He couldn't remember exactly what he was doing there and why. In the middle of the night, Bazine had handed him a pill and he swallowed it without even knowing what it was.

Under the effect of the drug, an hour later, his eyes had fallen on Rose and he had had the impression of being awestruck. She looked like a little fairy. She seemed unreal. Armitage had spent the rest of the evening kissing her, and after practically making foreplay in the middle of the compact dance floor, they had decided to leave the place together. Bazine got involved and it was the three of them that got into their cab and got out. But, quite frankly, Bazine was more like a third wheel than anything else.

Everything had become more complicated by then.

"Anyway, I don't care if you love her or not!" Rose said, annoyed. "If you've come here to try to convince me of anything, Armitage, you're barking up the wrong tree!"

"I'm not trying to convince you, I'm trying to explain!"

"Explain what?!"

"No, I don't love her. And, I could have been happy with it if you hadn't made it so complicated."

"And how is this my fault?"

How could she still doubt it? How could she not have guessed? It was a real mystery. It seemed obvious. Like the sun rising in the east and setting in the west.

"Because you are the one that I want, Rose," he cried, at a loss. "It's you. There is only you."

Shocked, the Vietnamese woman's eyelids fluttered several times.

"So, please," he added, "don't marry him."

And it seemed that this statement was entirely sufficient, for Rose pulled on his crumpled sweater to draw him to her and captured his lips in a kiss as hot as a hot July day. As soon as her lips touched his, Hux felt an incredible relief; like the one that runs through us when we get home. He had made his choice - a completely different option than the ones he had thought of, but more perilous. Being honest with Rose.

***

 

The morning's activity, an obstacle course to be completed as a couple, was particularly long and painful for everyone.

First, in a bad mood, Ben distributed the depressing, somewhat obnoxious, and very honest comments to all participants.

"You know the famous passion that makes so many people suffer? Well, you and Rose will never experience that again if you stay together. You piss me off, but I envy you," he declared to Beaumont, walking to the course location.

"If you're so afraid of Phasma, maybe it's time you left her and moved on," he said to Mitaka, facing the blonde giant later.

"Do you ever use your brain?" he asked Snap.

"If you took your nose off your phone, thirty seconds, maybe you'd realize that there's more to your life than just being a dad," he blurted, to Finn.

Moreover, the "psychologist" seemed suddenly to have forgotten the existence of his parents, who glared at him every time he opened his mouth.

And he scrupulously ignored Rey.

Then, when Armitage and Rose didn't show up for the activity, Rey and Beaumont had to team up.

Needless to say, they were unable to get along and their teamwork was a disaster - both for them and for anyone within 500 yards of them. At one point, Rey tried to drown him in the mud, and she came close to succeeding as Phasma offered to help.

Since Ben made a point of forgetting about the existence of the granddaughter of the Montreal mob boss, he only intervened to calm them down when Beaumont tried to hit the brunette with a stick from one of the events. Despite that, even if it itched him, he didn't address a word and didn't grant a glance to Rey.

Then, finally, irritated by Snap's competitive comments, Karé raised her voice at him before she started crying her eyes out in the middle of one of the events. Leia left the activity along with her husband, annoyed with him for grumbling about their son's behavior and the fact that he had slept with Palpatine's granddaughter. Poe threw Finn's cell phone into the river near where the activity was taking place.

In short, the entire activity was a disaster.

***

 

Cautiously, when the activity was over, Han knocked on the door of the room he and his wife occupied in the dingy hotel before entering. Slowly, like a bomb squad, he slipped into the room and placed the tray of food, which he held in his hands, on the coffee table next to the sofa.

In front of the absence of reaction of Leia, who was sitting on their bed, the back wedged against pillows, visibly plunged in a book, the sexagenarian allowed himself to cough. The effect was almost immediate: she let out a long, annoyed sigh and looked up from the book to stare at him with a scowl.

"What?" she asked, coldly.

"Well... Since you didn't come to eat, I brought you a plate," he explained, gesturing with his hand towards the sandwiches and the broccoli salad.

Leia's stern gaze lingered on the meal before returning to her husband, who winced. Nervous, he fidgeted with his hands. He looked like a five-year-old.

"Is that all?"

"Uh, no," he stammered. "I also wanted to apologize."

"Okay," his wife hissed.

Clearly, she wasn't going to make it easy for him. Han shifted his weight from one foot to the other, uncomfortable and unsure of how to handle the situation.

"I know I should let Ben be and focus on getting Rey Palpatine to talk, but..."

Leia gave a mocking, mirthless chuckle. Impatient by nature, Han snapped:

"What? What is it?"

"Do you really think I'm mad about the way the mission is going?"

"Well... I thought you were stressed and angry because it wasn't going fast enough and you were afraid for Amilyn with what Lando told us this morning."

Leia watched him for several seconds without blinking. Then she suddenly got up from the bed and walked to get her shoes to put them back on her feet.

"Obviously I was wrong," Han muttered. "What…"

"No," she cut him off, in a distant tone. "No, you're right. Let's focus on the mission. That's the most important thing, isn't it?"

"Leia, what's wrong?"

"Nothing," the fifty-year-old said. "Everything's fine."

It sounded terribly wrong. Han, knowing his wife well enough and sensing an urgency in the situation, grabbed her hand to hold her back.

"What's the matter?" he repeated.

"I'm fed up, Han."

"But... what are you fed up with?"

She looked at him, smiled weakly and pushed her hand away from his.

"If you don't see what's going on, maybe there's nothing to save between you and I," she diagnosed.

Han frowned, upset.

"Leia... Leia, please... My love..."

It had been so long since they'd stopped calling each other affectionate names that the fifty-year-old blinked several times in surprise to hold back the tears that threatened to fall. This was new. Han Solo wasn't the begging type. No. He was more the type to run away when things started to get complicated.

And that was precisely what he was doing with their son. With her. For twenty-four years. Ever since Leia's second pregnancy had ended abruptly, in her second trimester, with an intrauterine death. Han had mourned by taking refuge in his work. Leia had done so by becoming more involved than ever in the life of their six-year-old son - who had not even been aware of the family tragedy. Nothing had ever been the same. Then, over time, for a multitude of reasons, the distance between them had become so great that they no longer seemed to live on the same planet. They loved each other, but... There was always a "but".

"Please stay. Don't go," Han pleaded with her. "I... I'll change and..."

"I just need time to think. We both need time to think. It can't go on like this."

She placed a kiss on her husband's cheek and left the room.

***

 

Since the Theed Hotel was specially opened for couple's therapy, the only staff member available to them was a cook. The cook was only present every other day to prepare the meals for that day and the next day. When the cook was not present, the psychology team - in this case, Ben - would heat up the prepared meals, serve them and put the cutlery in the giant industrial dishwasher.

This was a decision that "Camp Naboo" had made in order to lower the cost of the stay for the participants.

So, at the end of lunch, Ben found himself stacking the dishes. The meal had passed... well, in almost absolute silence. Everyone present - except Rose and Armitage, really - was in a sullen mood, and with Leia gone, Han had not returned. Luckily, the afternoon consisted of free time that the couples could use to work on their choreography or to... just talk about their problems. And, given the morning's course, it was highly likely that few couples would be practicing their dances.

Ben seemed to be trying to replicate the Tower of Pisa with the glasses, which were lying on the table, when the last people left the dining room.

"Do you need help?" Rey asked, suddenly appearing next to him.

Obviously, he had become so good at ignoring her that he had come to forget her presence. He flinched and the glass structure dropped a floor or two. It was a miracle that no glass broke.

Ben opened his mouth to refuse, but she cut him off; she grabbed the plates and the forks and knives. The young man gave a small, resigned sigh. In silence, they cleared the table, walked to the kitchen and put their gear in the dishwasher. When they finished, without asking his opinion on the matter, Rey went to lock the door. Ben gave her a questioning look.

"We need to talk," the brunette began.

"I don't think locking the door is necessary for us to talk."

"I don't want to be disturbed," she explained, shrugging.

He grabbed a cloth and began rubbing an imaginary stain on one of the aluminum counters. It was best to keep his hands busy. And stay away from her.

"What did you want to talk about?" the detective winced.

As if reading his mind, Rey came and stood next to him. She leaned against the counter, her hands resting on the edge behind her back. With grace and lightness, she pulled herself up onto the surface to sit on it and swung her legs into the void. And he could only watch, hypnotized, those long, almost endless legs.

Ben took a deep breath to keep his composure. Bad idea: he inhaled a great quantity of oxygen and her floral perfume. Moreover, he could very well distinguish the point of her breasts under the fabric of the trapeze dress which she was wearing, now, having changed before the meal. She did not seem to have put a bra on.

The young man had the desire to throw the linen which he always had in his right hand, further, and to make the only thing which he wanted to make since he had left her, this morning. To kiss her. To be with her. To find that feeling of fullness that had invaded him last night, in her contact.

Ben thought back to his conversation with Leia. He grimaced. The policeman had to keep a cool head. And, anyway, what was more effective in calming a burning libido than thinking about his mother?

"Why are you avoiding me?" Rey finally asked.

"I'm not avoiding you."

"Oh yeah?" she said, in a cheeky tone. "You've hardly looked at me since I left your room."

"I was busy," he explained, in an expeditious tone.

"You were busy insulting everyone, yes."

The "psychologist" sighed impatiently and scratched the back of his neck nervously.

"These were therapeutic confrontations…"

"Don't waste your time trying to make me believe that you were doing an intervention technique that comes from I don't know what country, okay?" she cut him off, brutally. "You and I both know that's bullshit."

Ben rolled his eyes and looked into hers. From her perch, they were almost at the same height: his head was a handful of inches above hers. It would be so easy to... The young man shook his head. Rey Palpatine was his personal torment.

"All right, then. That's fine. Yes. I've been unpleasant," the detective agreed. "Happy?"

"Not quite," she retorted, ironically.

In front of her silence, he made a gesture of the hand to enjoin her to continue.

"Do you avoid me because I did something wrong?"

It was hard to admit to her that he was horrible to everyone and carefully ignored her because he did not know how to deal with the conversation she had had with her boyfriend and in which she had hurt him. A conversation that was seen, heard and recorded, without her knowledge.

"No, Rey, it's not that," he lied, without aplomb.

"Then what is it?! You got what you wanted, so now you're ignoring me?"

"I got what I wanted...," the young man repeated, lost. "Huh?"

"You and I. Last night," Rey specified.

He felt like bursting into laughter. This woman was amazing. Did he really look like that kind of guy?

"You can tell me that, now that you've fucked me, you don't give a damn about me!"

Ben wasn't sure how the brunette's anger sounded like an invitation to his ears, but a second later he was holding her face in his hands and had pressed his mouth to hers with urgency.

To hell with staying away from her.

Rey's legs wrapped around his waist to bring him closer to her. The kiss redoubled in intensity - if that were even possible.

"Do I look like a guy who doesn't give a damn about you?" he growled, against her mouth.

"I don't know," she whispered, "I'd have to get a better view."

He answered by a simple grunt before applying himself to kiss her again. Their tongues quickly found each other and moved in a known and instinctive dance.

With one hand, Ben seized the thigh of the young woman while the other snuck up to her buttocks and pulled her closer to him. Thus placed, despite the barrier of their clothing, his beginning of erection came directly - and perfectly - to rest against the center of the body of Rey. Without leaving his lips, the young woman began to move her hips. And, this simple movement of friction was divine, because both moaned in concert.

Her heart was struggling in her rib cage, when he came to kiss and nibble her neck. And, before even thinking of tempering himself, he sucked her epidermis and left marks of his passage on her. Rey did not protest. On the contrary, she encouraged him by arching more her body against his. This smell, this mouth, these fingers, this body...

"You've got me looking so crazy right now," he whispered, whereas his teeth caressed her earlobe, triggering a long shiver with the young woman.

"Really?" she simpered, by fluttering of the eyelids and by taking an innocent air.

Provocative, the young woman rolled up the bottom of her dress and, the glance planted in that of Ben, she seized one of his hands and made it slip under the clothing. The policeman thought of fainting when he felt her thong already wet. Slowly, his thumb started circles on the satiny fabric of the underclothing. Too slow. Too far from her clitoris.

Rey put her hands on Ben's broad shoulders to pull her dress away from under her buttocks and made another move so she could remove her panties. The cold contact of the counter made her shiver and created a small shock wave through her intimacy.

The detective finished removing the dress and threw it, without regard, behind him. He was delighted to see that he had not been mistaken and that she did not wear a bra. He pulled her body a few inches from the edge of the counter and, once again, the cold surface tickled her. Rey leaned back and her elbows came to rest on the aluminum surface. Then Ben knelt between her thighs, put her legs on his shoulders and his tongue came to replace his fingers.

Contrary to his touch, he tasted her frankly.

This was not the time for torture or exploration, like the night before. They didn't have all night to slowly build their pleasure. But that didn't stop him from wanting her, wanting her pleasure and wanting to witness that divine sight where he would give her an orgasm. And, if he could make her regret all the words she had said to Hux, this very morning, so much the better.

His tongue passed between her folds, explored every nook and cranny and lingered more on that swollen little marble. Sometimes, in a soft rhythm. Sometimes, more aggressive. The fingers of Rey came to print marks in half-moon on his nape whereas her moaning sounded like the most beautiful melody in the ears of the young man. He introduced his index in her intimacy and, to her request, he added the middle finger and curved them in order to come to percussion this so sensitive vaginal wall.

Suddenly, rocking in an orgasm, she violently pulled his hair, her body arched and her thighs closed around his head. He continued his caresses until she pushed him back.

"You are beautiful," he declared, with devotion, by wiping his lips shining of juices.

She got up to go down from her perch, kissed him and tasted herself on him. Her hands worked feverishly to undo Ben's pants, deformed by the massive erection they contained.

"Got a condom?" she asked, eagerly.

And, obviously, he must not have had much blood left in his brain, because he couldn't help but ask her, a little mockingly:

"So it's not that never-ending to have sex with me, right?"

He knew he'd really screwed up the moment Rey frowned.

"...That's what I told Army this morning."

"Oh, that's... Funny coincidence," he stammered.

She observed him as if he had suddenly become a subject of study. Then, her mind still a little foggy from the orgasm seemed to connect the two dots.

"How do you know that?"

Ben thought quickly about how to get out of this impasse. The best lies were always the ones that came closest to the truth. Right?

"I overheard your conversation," he informed her, in a detached voice.

"Are you spying on me?"

"Let's just say that you and Hux weren't very subtle!"

She squinted and crossed the kitchen to pick up her thong and dress.

"Army wasn't subtle, that's true. But me on the other hand..."

"Obviously, you're not as subtle as you think. And why would I spy on you? Aren't you being a little paranoid? Last time I checked, you had nothing to hide."

"I'm not paranoid!" she exclaimed, upset. "It's just that you're weird! You don't seem to know anything about psychology, you judge me, you insult us... Excuse me for assuming that on top of all that, you're spying on people who are doing this damn therapy!"

She was really bright. Or he was really bad at keeping his cover as a psychologist. He tried to snicker.

"Nonsense," Ben retorted, trying to sound offended.

Rey chuckled in disgust.

"You're just like Armitage."

"Don't compare me to him!" he got upset.

"Well, if you don't want me to compare you to him, stop lying to me!"

"How many times do I have to tell you that I'm not lying to you?"

"Try to be credible, maybe I'll start believing you!"

"Because you are for sure innocence itself!"

"What are you trying to tell me?"

"You're a Palpatine, aren't you? Lying is in your blood."

He was slipping, Ben was well aware of that. But he might as well get it right. Maybe the key with her was to sting her without any subtlety in order to get her to confess. That is, if there was a confession.

"What does my family have to do with this?!"

"That has everything to do with this!"

They confronted each other with their eyes. Rey let out a sigh, tired.

"Are you one of my grandfather's men?"

Ben seemed so insulted by this assumption, that it was obvious to the brunette that she could only be mistaken.

"You really think I'm like you and that I'm capable of affiliating myself with someone who has so little morals?"

"Take that back right now!" the young woman grumbled, between her teeth, offended.

"You only have to prove to me that you are not like him in this case!"

"Why would I waste my time to prove anything to you?" she let out, with a condescending air.

Before he could even consider the pros and cons, Ben croaked:

"Because I am a cop!"

Rey looked at him, amazed, without blinking. He expected her to inveigh, but instead... she threw herself at him and kissed him passionately. The detective was too surprised to react.

"I work for the police!" she revealed, against his lips.

He pushed her back and contemplated her, mouth open. She worked for the police... She had nothing to do with her grandfather... She... She...

"You...," he choked, without finishing his sentence.

Rey nodded.

He obviously didn't need another explanation, at least for now, because his mouth found hers again. He worked to tear off the clothes she had just put back and Rey, decided he would not remain dressed, this time, enthusiastically removed his pants and his ugly green polo shirt he wore as uniform.

Feverishly, Ben grabbed the foil pouch he had slipped into his back pocket and covered his cock before taking, a more than willing Rey, doggy style against the counter.