Rey senses him before she sees him. She supposes that is how this whole Force thing works.
His presence is thick, heavy, and electric - like the air before a thunderstorm. It makes the hair on her arms stand on end and her breath catch in her throat.
He positively suffocates her.
And he has ever since she had returned to the Resistance base on D’Qar from her year of training with Luke, only to find him settled into the casual routine of Resistance life as though he had always been a part of it. As though he hadn’t once been the scourge of the Galaxy; hadn’t been the strong arm and cracking whip of the First Order; hadn’t betrayed his own Uncle for power.
As if he hadn’t killed his own father.
It’s the last of these offenses that leaves the foulest taste in Rey mouth.
As Finn would tell it, Ben Solo had earned his and the Resistance’s forgiveness the moment four months prior when he’d deserted the First Order and rescued Poe Dameron from certain death. But she guessed he was a bit biased on the matter.
Poe had been on what should have been a simple reconnaissance mission that, because this is Poe Dameron we are talking about, ended with the pilot uncovering a secret training camp for First Order officers.
In other words, a highly secured area.
Poe had been captured and tortured… certain death nipping down the back of his neck…
“And then what happened?” Rey had asked, breathless in anticipation.
“Ben Solo happened,” Poe said gravely.
Apparently, the man she had known as Kylo Ren, had already defected from the First Order shortly before Poe’s disastrous mission, but upon hearing that the Resistance’s star pilot was being held captive on the Finalizer, he’d risked life and limb to save him – hand delivering him to General Organa with what everyone on base described as absolute contrition.
“He saved my life,” Poe blew, running a hand through his hair as he reflected. “He thought the Resistance would put him to death, but he accepted it and brought me here anyway.”
Finn nodded along with the story. “It’s true, Rey,” he said, his voice was clear and resolute. “I’m telling you, he’s changed.”
“I think you’ve both been mind-tricked,” she had deadpanned, immediately stiffening at the notion that he could be forgiven for all after one good deed. “I mean, has the entire Resistance lost its collective mind? Who’s to say he isn’t spying?”
Finn shook his head adamantly, “No. He’s real. This is real.”
“I don’t trust him,” Rey said firmly.
“But you trust me,” Finn interjected and she could only sigh and nod in affirmation.
“Give him a chance, Rey,” Poe pleaded. “Just hear him out.”
“Please, Rey,” Finn continued. “I promise you, he will win you over.”
And now here she was, standing outside her ship, the Millennium Falcon, his father’s ship, knowing full and well that he was inside doing the Force only knows what.
Despite giving Finn and Poe her word that she would give Ben Solo a chance, she had managed to stubbornly avoid any and all confrontation with him for a solid month. She hadn’t as much as made eye contact with the man since Starkiller base. She was quite proud of that actually.
But Rey knows the inevitable when she feels it.
And this – this was inevitable.
She clenches her jaw and growls as she begins ascending the ramp. How dare he! How dare he come onto MY SHIP!
She rounds the entrance, stomping her feet with angry purpose, mentally preparing herself to give him the verbal lashing of a lifetime - ticking off all the horrible names she is prepared to call him, most of which were, quite frankly, below the belt, even if they were true…
But, her mental tirade ceases as her brain comes to a shattering halt.
He’s standing in front of an open circuit in the main cabin, hard at work with a fusioncutter in one gloved hand and black safety goggles held up to his face with the other.
He’s broader and more muscular than she had imagined (she imagined him?), and his skin is a couple of shades darker now that he has been exposed to the sun on D’Qar on a semi-regular basis.
His bare chest is covered in grease and sweat, making him glisten beneath the dim lighting. He’s dotted with various scars - some which her static mind recognizes, most of which it doesn’t – and Rey is vaguely aware of a strange strangling sound emitting from her throat.
He’s wearing his usual black linen trousers, but they are hanging loosely on him, the drawstring waist falling dangerously low on his hips, revealing a tantalizing ‘V’ shape that Rey finds very difficult to pull her gaze away from.
Her body wants to go to bed with him immediately; feel his hips press into hers and wrap her legs around him. She can see the twin grooves on either side of the small of his back where she’d dig her heels in to gain purchase.
Warning bells fire inside her skull, and she has to bite the inside of her cheek to keep her devious body from impulsively reaching for him. Get it together. Get it together.
He’s barefoot and so clearly comfortable in his element that Rey has to take a moment and step back, making sure she is, in fact, on her own ship. Which, of course, she is. His presence is just making her slightly crazy at the moment.
She shakes and clenches her fists, digging her nails into half-moons on her palms. Get it together. Get it together. Get it together.
“Rey,” he says in a casual greeting as he turns the fusioncutter off and drops the safety goggles, seemingly unaware of the affect he was having on her. The sound of his deep voice finally breaks her out of her momentary trance.
“Just what the hell do you think you are doing on my ship?” She grinds out as she crosses her arms in front of her chest in what she hopes is a defiant manner. She can feel how red her face is, and she can only hope that he will attribute it to anger… as opposed to other… er, things.
He isn’t paying her much mind though, focusing instead on putting the panel cover back on the circuit, “Uncle Chewie asked if I would come take a look at her. See if I could help disable any possible tracking features that the First Order would use.” He absently uses his teeth to remove the gloves from his hands and Rey thinks she may faint, “I had to rewire the calcinator, but it shouldn’t affect the hyper-drive.”
“Errr…” She manages. She didn’t know he was any good with mechanics, she wouldn’t have guessed he was. It somehow makes the entire situation that much more unbearable.
He finally turns and faces her fully, a wolfish smile spread across his face, his resemblance to Han Solo suddenly quite shocking. “Don’t mention it, kid,” he says, mistaking her pause for a begrudging thank you.
They stand a few moments in uncomfortable silence while Rey tries to find her voice again. Quite infuriatingly, she can hear Finn and Poe in the back of her head, chanting at her to give him the chance she had promised them she would. She sort of hates them for it.
“Should we, er, test the hyper-drive then? Make sure your rewires haven’t affected it, I mean.” Her eyes go round as saucers at the dawning realization of what her treacherous mouth had just suggested. Really, Rey? Really? Alone in space with him sounds like the best idea you’ve had in ages. She wants to cry a little.
If possible, his smile widens, “Sure, kid. Let’s take her out.”
Two hours and a bottle of Corellian wine later (Ben had found a stash in one of the few smuggler holes on the Falcon that had eluded Rey. “Oh dad,” he’d smiled to himself and then to her, “Some things never change.”), they sat in somewhat amicable silence in the cockpit – contently watching the stars as they flew aimlessly through space.
“So,” Rey starts, distantly aware that it’s partially the wine talking at this point, “Are you going to tell me the story then?”
“What story?” Ben asks, taking a sip from their second bottle, but never taking his eyes off the stars.
She huffs, “Oh, I don’t know. Whatever story you told Finn and Poe and the rest of the base that have them all totally convinced of your genuine remorse.”
He glances her way then and there is a smirk in his eyes, “Not convinced yourself, I take it?”
“Forgive me if I am having a hard time reconciling all of this,” she gestures to all of him, “with the man who tried to kill me on Starkiller.”
“I never tried to kill you on Starkiller,” he states, shaking his shaggy head.
“A+ for deflection, but you’re only saying that because I handed you your ass.”
He chuckles warmly and it does strange things to her insides, “Rey. Come on, now. You’re a smart girl. If I had wanted you dead, you’d be dead.” He shifts in the co-pilots chair so he can put his long legs up on the control console, “And as for you ‘handing me my ass’, well, in my defense, I was suffering from an acute case of bowcaster to the side... coupled of course with the existential despair over having killed my own father.”
His last sentence may have upended Rey’s world, but he says it so casually you’d think it merely a typical day for him.
“So is that it then?” Her words coming out in a swift breath.
“Is what it then?”
“You apologize for killing Han and all is forgiven? Is that what has everyone so persuaded?”
Rey wants to scream in frustration, “So what IS it then? Tell me what you told Finn. I want to hear it. He hated you the same as I. What did you tell him? What has him so convinced?”
He runs a hand through his unkempt hair, but otherwise looks nonplussed, “I’m really not sure where you are going with this.”
“I want to know why Finn forgave you…” she starts, “so… so that I can forgive you too.” And yep, that is definitely the wine talking. Rey can feel the heat in her cheeks spreading down her chest.
He at least has the courtesy of looking somewhat chastised. He brings his eyes up to hers and the sincerity in them is breaking her apart. “Rey,” he says her name so softly that she has to look away, “I don’t expect or deserve your forgiveness.”
She clenches her jaw and closes her eyes against a flood of irrational emotions.
“But,” he says, apparently aware now that this was a losing battle, “I can at least tell you what I told Finn.”
Her eyes snap back open and look to him with rapt attention, waiting for him to continue.
He sighs, “I simply told Finn that I admired him.”
Her eyebrows knit together in confusion, “Come again?”
“Watching FN-2187 break First Order conditioning, turn traitor to become Finn was probably the first pebble in the avalanche that would be my own defection,” he continues as his head lolls back against his chair. “He might be one of the strongest men I’ve ever known. Definitely the bravest.”
His earnestness is undeniable, and Rey can see exactly how her friend came to forgive the man in front of her. “Yeah,” she nods taking the bottle from Ben’s outstretched hand and taking a large gulp, “that would do it.”
He hums in a kind of non-committal acknowledgment.
“So, how are you going to win me over?” She asks, her own boldness taking her by surprise, “I’m not as easily influenced as Finn or Poe, you know. It’s going to take more than saving my life or appealing to my vanity.”
She’s says all this despite the fact that she is already three-fourths of the way to accepting him with the same fervor as the rest of the base. She finds it mildly irritating that once he had started talking, she had found herself eager to find any reason at all to forgive him.
Finn and Poe were right, Ben Solo was frighteningly compelling.
“So, the wine and good company isn’t working, huh? Damn, that’s all I had.” His eyes are twinkling with good humor and Rey barks out a laugh despite herself.
"Come on, Solo,” she teases, her voice light and warm, “you got to give me something better than that. Help me save face a little.”
He pretends to consider her a moment, “Well, I can’t have the Great Heroic Hope of the Jedi go back to base with nothing to show for this little outing, I suppose.”
She smiles and kicks his chair, “Don’t mock me.”
“Okay, okay,” he throws his hands up in lighthearted defeat. He pulls his legs off the console and turns in his seat so he can look her square in the eyes, his long arms folding across his bare chest. He raises one dark eyebrow, “I suppose I can always tell you the truth, then, can’t I?” His voice is deep and low and wraps around her like a second skin.
The air in the cockpit suddenly becomes several shades more serious. “The-the truth?” She stutters back at him, dimly aware that if this was all some sort of elaborate trap, she was totally screwed.
He considers her a moment and Rey recognizes with burning certainty that he knows exactly the affect he is having on her. There is a shadow of the predator she remembers from the interrogation room about him now and she has to remind herself to breathe. Oh crap. Oh crap.
The corners of his lips twitch before fully committing to a smug smirk, and just like that, the air is breathable again. The overwhelming desire to punch him is back with full force though. “Ow!” He laughs as she hits him in the arm, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry. I’m terrible. I couldn’t resist.”
“Don’t scare me like that,” she hits his knee this time. “You’re lucky I don’t have my lightsaber on me. You could be missing appendages!”
His chuckling stops abruptly. “Rey,” he hisses, his tone grave. “Did you seriously come on board with me without your lightsaber?”
“I wasn’t expecting to need it,” she says innocently, neglecting to mention that she may have been persuaded to let Finn and Poe play, er, train with it this afternoon.
He runs his hand through his hair again, and Rey begins to pick up on the telltale signs of a nervous tick, “Look. I know you don’t want me to be your teacher or anything, but, kid, seriously. Rule one: don’t trust anybody enough to not have your lightsaber on you.”
“I didn’t want Kylo Ren to be my teacher,” she states with a dismissive wave of her hand, “I never said anything about Ben Solo.”
She hears him suck in his breath through clenched teeth, and she briefly wonders if she has inadvertently said something wrong. But when she chances a glance at him, his heavy gaze says something else.
Warmth begins to pool low in her abdomen and she’s flushing again. She turns away from him to squirm in her seat.
“Thanks, kid,” he says finally, his voice thick with emotion. “That-that means a lot, coming from you.”
She takes another sip of wine before handing him the bottle back, “You're welcome.” She fidgets as she watches him purse the bottle to his full lips, taking a couple swigs before returning it to her. He wipes his mouth with the back of his arm and smears grease across his face. Rey has never been more acutely aware of another person. She blinks and then stares at the lip of the bottle – more jealous of it then she has ever been of an inanimate object in all her life. She mentally shakes herself, “I suppose we ought to head back to base.”
He nods. “Yeah, probably best,” he breaks into that wolfish grin again, “don’t want anyone thinking I’ve abducted the Great Heroic Hope of the Jedi.”
She groans, “Please don’t call me that.”
“Rule 2: fastest way to earn a nickname – ask not to be called that.”
They land back on D’Qar a while later with a far better rapport than having left it, and a shockingly easy friendship forming between them, despite Rey’s initial misgivings.
Hell, he still hadn’t fully explained his defection in a way that made any sense, but, just as Finn and Poe knew she would, she had accepted him at face value. She’d leave the heavier thinking for another day.
They fall into a natural rhythm of life amidst each other on base, quickly earning a reputation for being inseparable.
Her, Ben, Finn, and Poe.
It’s good. It’s easy.
It’s two months into their easy friendship.
So what if every morning she’d go to the mess hall and unconsciously look for him?
So unconsciously conscious in fact that she couldn’t eat until she knew where he was in relation to her. Like something had happened to him in the middle of the night or something.
She was just a concerned friend.
So what if every night ended with her following his dark head until he was out of sight? It certainly didn’t mean she had any kind of feelings for him… other than friendly ones of course.
Okay, so it’s not that she didn’t notice. It’s just that if she noticed her notice, then it wouldn’t be noticing anymore.
It would be acknowledgment.
And that was getting into dangerous territory.
It’s six months into their easy friendship.
And, okay, so maybe it’s not so easy.
He doesn’t call her the Great Heroic Hope of the Jedi as he had threatened.
But he does call her kid.
And it hadn’t really ever bothered her that much…
But then, one morning, she rounds a corner heading to his barracks, intent on waking him for an early breakfast and lightsaber forms-
But he’s already awake and hungrily devouring a pretty blonde fighter pilot against his door. Both their hair is wet and Rey is uncomfortably aware that she had clearly spent the night with him.
Rey feels the crushing weight of a heartache she hadn’t realized she had fully committed to until it was too late.
They don’t see her and Rey is thankful for small graces as she turns on her heel and runs.
She runs and runs. She didn’t even realize she was headed toward the Falcon until she was climbing on board and throwing herself in the captain’s chair.
She feels like throwing up and crying at the same time, settling instead on pulling her legs up to her chest and groaning loudly into her knees. Stupid. Stupid. Stupid.
Chewbacca’s tentative yodel in greeting snaps her out of her spiraling self-pity.
“Chewie!” She strains, “I didn’t see you there, sorry.”
He rumbles an acknowledgment before probing further.
“No, it’s nothing. I just – I just,” her vision is blurring with unshed tears and she knows she is starting to sound somewhat hysterical.
The next thing she knows, she is crying whole-heartedly into the furry arms of her heartache’s Uncle and spilling all her woes to him, “I’m *sob* just a kid to him *hiccup*. He doesn’t take me seriously.” She probably isn’t doing a very good job of convincing anyone she isn’t every bit a child right now, but that is beside the point. “I guess *hiccup* I just never expected to see… THAT!”
Chewie rubs her back soothingly, yodeling an affirmation and something about Ben always being a little thick.
She gives him a watery chuckle, rubbing her nose on her sleeve as she pulls away from his furry embrace, “Thanks, Chewie, but I doubt he doesn’t know how I feel. He is very perceptive about me.” A fresh wave of sorrow threatens to flood her. “He’s *choke* just older and wants *hiccup* someone closer to his own experience.”
She spends the next hour or so alternating between being comforted by furry arms and trying to rally herself enough to leave the Falcon to go get some food. Because, even if her heart feels like it’s in a million pieces and she could just die, she is still Rey – still a scavenger- and food trumps emotional fragility when her belly is rumbling.
“Do I look like death?” She asks her Wookie savior as she prepares to exit the Falcon for the mess hall.
Chewie answers in the way of a slight shrugging of his shoulders.
She laughs, “Okay. Fair enough, furball.” She gives him a quick hug and a ‘thank you’ before heading down the ramp to exit the ship.
She doesn’t see Ben until dusk begins to settle… er, well, more like she manages to avoid Ben until dusk begins to settle. He finally corners her in her usual mediation spot a couple miles from base.
“Hey kid,” he smiles at her and she has to bite her lip harshly to keep her emotions in check. “I thought we were going to do forms today? I have a couple of new ones for you. Doubt Uncle Luke taught them to you.”
“I changed my mind,” she says softly avoiding his gaze by playing with the frayed edges of her tunic. “I didn’t feel like forms today.”
He shifts and settles in front of her, “Rey,” he says, by way of a warning, “what’s going on? Is everything okay?”
Her breath comes out as a puff of annoyance, “Everything’s fine, Ben. I just didn’t feel like forms today.” She is uncomfortably aware that she is bordering on sounding like a petulant child and it makes everything just a touch worse.
She still won’t look at him. She knows how bad it bothers him when she won’t look at him.
“Kid,” he says softly as he brings his hand up under her chin, his thumb tilting her face until she is forced to look into his endless dark eyes. “Tell me.”
She knows he is trying to sound comforting, but it infuriates her. She snaps her head away from his hand, “I’m not some kid, Ben! I don’t need you looking out for me!” She jumps up and starts stalking through the woods, intent on getting back to base immediately before she humiliates herself any further.
She hadn’t expected him to follow her. Or to be angry.
“You sure have a funny way of not acting like a kid,” he growls at her as he grabs her arm, spinning her back into his chest with a ferocity that scares her a little.
"Let go of me,” she hisses through clenched teeth. She is hyper aware of every inch that connects his chest against hers. He’s warm and it’s dark, and if Rey hadn’t been so acutely aware that he had been freshly bedded by a woman who was most assuredly not her, she might have allowed her imagination to run a little crazy.
There is a wildness about him now that she hadn’t seen since he was Kylo Ren. Rey isn’t exactly sure what the hell that means, but some distant part of her is flashing a red alarm in warning.
His eyes are searching hers and for a tentative moment, Rey imagines he’d like to kiss her. It’s preposterous of course, but it’s been that kind of day.
He seems to come to some kind of internal decision and steps back as he releases her arm. The angry energy that had encompassed him ebbs away like the tide and Rey is left feeling strangely empty.
She rubs the redness from her wrist, suddenly feeling very small. But she won’t cry. She won’t.
“Oh, kid. I’m so sorry.” He says and he is all Ben again and it positively deflates her.
She might cry. She might.
He senses it because he’s Ben and she’s Rey and he knows her better than anyone. He wraps his big arms around her, pulling her into his chest. She doesn’t fight him. What the hell’s the point? She wraps her arms around him too and she is feebly aware that a little part of her is dying.
He buries his head in her hair and she hears him sigh, “I wish you’d talk to me, Rey. You’re so damn hard to read sometimes.”
“I know you can’t tell because I am buried in your chest at the moment, but I hope you know I just rolled my eyes so far back into my head I may have witnessed my own brain cells dying,” she mumbles against him.
He chuckles and it rumbles through his chest and into hers. She smiles despite herself.
And just like that, they’re okay again.
He walks her back to base and hugs her goodnight. She wishes it was more, but she accepts that there are parts of him she can’t have.
But now she comforts herself with the knowledge that she’s Rey and he’s Ben and that means that there are parts of him that no one but her can have.
She sighs into her pillow. Her arms still smell like him.
She thinks that should be enough for now.
It’s been a year since their easy friendship began aboard the Falcon, and she isn’t entirely sure how she had ever thought of him as an enemy.
They train together daily. Sometimes with Luke when he’s on world. But mostly just together.
He’s still a very dark grey in his use of the Force, but she thinks that is not as bad as traditional Jedi teaching would have you believe.
“Not everything has to be black and white, Ben,” she says one day when he is particularly frustrated with his inability to call upon the light during meditation. “I think – no- I KNOW, that it’s not as simple as that.”
He shakes his head as if he hadn’t heard her and it aggravates her so much because this is a conversation they have had a million times and he is STILL. NOT. LISTENING.
So, she does the one thing she hadn’t done before.
She calls upon some of her own darkness during her mediation just to prove a point.
The crackling energy surrounds her and licks her light, swirling her in a soft heather grey.
“Rey!” His voice is panicked and she thinks perhaps she has made a terrible mistake.
But the Force around her is calm and steady and every part of her marrow is telling her otherwise. She feels the strongest sense of peace she has ever felt.
And she knows immediately she was right. That they’d all gotten it wrong.
“See, Ben,” she smiles blindly at him, “not so bad, huh?”
He is starring at her like he’s never seen her before. “How? How’d you do that?”
It’s a year into their friendship and she finally gets to teach him something.
It’s a year and half into their friendship and she wakes up with the worst headache of her life in the infirmary.
“Rey!” It’s Finn and he’s holding her hand, “Poe! Rey’s waking up!”
“Ugh. Not so loud, Finn.”
He chokes out a sob as he wraps her up in a hug. Poe’s arms join an instant later.
Rey is confused. “What’s the matter guys? I don’t remember any-”
-Oh wait. Yes she does.
They were eating lunch when the raid alarm had gone off. The First Order had attacked D’Qar.
She and Ben had lightsabers out as they’d all raced towards the hangar for Ben and Poe’s fighters.
Too late, she’d seen the fighter target and fire a laser cannon at Ben. “NO!” She’d screamed, Force pushing him away and turning toward the blast herself.
It’s a bit fuzzy after that.
“Well, I’m alive, so that is good.” Rey muses. “Where’s Ben?”
Poe and Finn exchange meaningful glances and her heart thunders in her ear.
“Where’s Ben?” She repeats more harshly.
“He’s fine, Rey,” Poe says, easing her mind and placing a gentle hand on top of hers. “We had to send him away. He hadn’t left your side in days.”
“He was kind of a mess,” Finn adds.
“He’s going to be pissed at us,” Poe groans. “I love you, Rey, but you had to wake up just when we finally manage to convince him to get some sleep. He’s never going to let us live it down.”
Rey chuckles, but stops when she realizes it makes her head and ribs hurt like hell.
There’s a commotion in the hall outside her door, followed swiftly by a very disheveled-looking Ben bursting into her room, “I know you wanted me to get some rest, guys, but I had a bad feeling and-”
He stops suddenly when he sees Rey, wide awake and beaming at him, “Hi Ben!”
He crosses the room in two long strides and folds her into his arms. “Oh Force, kid. Don’t you ever scare me like that again.”
“I second that,” Finn agrees.
“Here, here,” Poe smiles.
They’re all here and they’re all okay. The base has to move from D’Qar to Dantooine (Ben’s suggestion much to his mother’s delight), but otherwise they sustain minimal damage aside from supplies.
“It could have been a lot worse,” Ben says darkly, pointedly not looking at Rey.
Rey simply hums in agreement.
Dantooine is okay, but there aren’t as many trees as D’Qar and Rey finds she misses them terribly.
She supposes that this is what homesickness feels like. She doesn’t like it.
And Ben isn’t helping matters. He’s been steadily avoiding her more and more ever since she woke up from the raid. It’s getting old.
After going a full two days without seeing him, she finally finds him sprawled out in the captain’s chair on the Falcon. He has a bottle of Corellian brandy grasped loosely in one hand and Rey wonders which compartment he’d found that in.
“You can’t know all my secrets, kid,” he says, plucking the thought from her mind as only he expertly can.
She frowns, “I thought we’d agreed to stay out of each other’s heads.”
He shrugs, “Can’t always help it.”
“And yet you still complain about me being hard to read,” she tuts, sitting down beside him in the co-pilots chair.
“You ARE hard to read,” he grumbles, taking another swig of brandy.
“You’re drunk,” Rey states, shocked at the revelation. She can’t recall Ben ever getting drunk.
“It’s been a rough couple of weeks.” He’s being vague, but Rey knows he’s talking about the raid.
“Ben,” she warns, “you have to stop beating yourself up over this. It’s getting old.”
“You could have died!” He hisses indignantly.
“So could you. So could any of us. So what? I’m still here. You’re still here. Can’t we just accept it and move on?”
He shakes his head and Rey feels his mood darken, “No, you don’t understand. You don’t understand what I would have done.”
It’s only then that Rey understands exactly what he would have done. Her eyes widen and her breath hitches.
And it’s just like that she realizes that his journey to the lightside isn’t as simple as he would have everyone believe. And that sometimes it’s all very tenuous. And sometimes he feels like he’d burn the whole galaxy down if anything happened to her.
Rey has no idea what to do with that information, because she’s still kid and she knows it doesn’t mean what she wants it to mean.
But he’s still Ben and she’s still Rey, so she does what she wants because that’s what she always does.
She stands and walks over to him, taking the brandy from him and setting it on the floor before moving to crawl in his lap.
“What are you doing?” He stills as she settles her back against his chest.
She shrugs and goes to grab his hands.
He pulls them away, “Don’t.”
“My hands are dirty.” It’s a lame excuse and he knows it.
“Mine are too.” She’s able to grab them this time and entwines their finger. “What are you afraid of?”
He doesn’t answer, but he does relax into her, and in a way that sort of is an answer. His face touches the side of her hair and he places a small kiss to her temple.
She sighs. This is enough. This is enough.
She worries that there will come a day when it’s not.
They fall asleep like that.
Rey wakes first and it’s the middle of the night. The night sky blankets Dantooine and the view from the cockpit is breathtaking.
Between his warmth behind her and that sky, she thinks she could die right now and be happy.
But she moves to stand up anyway, because the cockpit if drafty and she wants a blanket.
His large hands grasp her hips, apparently awakening with her movement. She bites her bottom lip to keep from gasping at the touch. “What are you doing, kid?” His voice is groggy with sleep and it’s enough to still her movements.
“I’m just going to grab a blanket, Ben. It’s cold.” She touches the hands on her hips in what she hopes is a comforting manner. His skin is warm and the electric current that runs through him sparks into her fingers. Get it together. Get it together.
She thinks he will let her up now, but instead he shifts, and Rey lets out a small yelp when he dips his arm below her knees and lifts her as he stands. She unconsciously wraps her arms around his neck to steady herself.
“You’re heavier than the last time I did this,” he says more to himself then to her as he walks them down the corridor towards the crew quarters.
And she isn’t fully aware of what he is talking about because she most assuredly would remember Ben Solo carrying her like this.
“I wasn’t Ben Solo when I did it,” he says as a way of answering before gently lowering her onto one of the Falcon’s bunks.
“Quit reading my thoughts,” she means to say harshly, but he’s crawling into bed behind her and she can’t seem to sound anything but breathy.
“Quit thinking so loud,” he mumbles, drawing her against his chest before pulling the covers over both of them. “Sleep now,” he commands, but he’s rubbing a slow circle with his thumb against her hip and she is quite positive that she will never sleep again.
“I’ll try,” she rasps, but he’s buried his face in the nape of her neck and he’s already breathing steadily against her skin. She can feel his full lips grazing the back of her spine and if she wasn’t so sure he had already fallen asleep, she would have been totally sure that he wanted her as badly as she wanted him.
She forces herself to close her eyes and counts backward from a trillion.
Because she’s kid, and he’s Ben, and that’s just not what this is, damnit.
Two years into their friendship and they have fought many battles together, but she doesn’t think she’s ever seen him more terrified then when she shows up at his door unannounced one night with Resistance made ale (terrible) and some cookies Poe had made her (not so terrible).
“H-hey, Rey,” he sputters, leaning awkwardly against the frame of his door. “What, uh, what are you doing here?”
“Hey yourself,” she raises an eyebrow at him. “I couldn’t sleep. Saw your light on and thought maybe we could hang out.”
“Ben,” a woman’s voice whines from inside. “Tell whoever it is to sod off and come back to bed.”
Though Rey has lost all sense of feeling in the three seconds it took for her night to go from fair to awful, she knows beyond a shadow of a doubt that her face has turned a marvelous shade of red.
Ben groans and drags his hand down his face, “Kid-”
“-Don’t.” She says her voice shockingly calm. “Just, don’t.”
She turns on her heel, preparing to stomp away, but his hand grabs her elbow, “What do you want me to say, Rey?” His voice is low and there is a thin line of anger through it, “I won’t apologize.”
“I didn’t ask you too,” she says simply. “This is none of my business.”
He lets go of her arm and quietly adds, “No. It’s not.”
She walks away and doesn’t feel the least bit bad when she stumbles across Max Noto, a Rebellion pilot in Poe’s squadron who has been giving her eyes for at least a year, and invites herself into his room.
They drink the ale. They eat the cookies. He’s actually quite charming and it’s been well over two years since she has scratched this particular itch, so who is to blame her for falling into bed with him?
She’s leaves his room before dawn the next morning, quietly because he’s still snoring peacefully and she doesn’t want to have to explain herself this early.
She out the door and has almost made a clean escape when she feels the familiar tingle of eyes on the back of her neck. She doesn’t have to turn around to know who they belong to.
But, she turns to face him anyway, because he’s Ben and she’s Rey, and they’re going to have to accept certain limitations at some point or another.
His eyes are blazing with an emotion she can’t read. He takes a few steps closer to her and she is anxious over how much larger he is than her- than anyone really. She could almost hate him for it too. For the simple truth that no one is him, a fact she had desperately tried to overlook last night while she moved with Max, uncomfortably aware that he was too short, and too narrow, and his hair wasn’t the right length or texture, and his hands were too small, and he didn’t smell like burning…
“Ben,” she says in way of a greeting. She tries to stand at her full height. She won’t let him intimidate her. She won’t.
“Noto, Rey? Really?” He snaps, his jaw clenching, and she doesn’t think she’s ever seen more tightly controlled fury in all her life.
Any other time, she might have counted this as a victory, proof that his feelings for her were as confusing as her own for him. But right now, she just felt tired.
“Yes, Ben,” she sighs as she rubs her temple. “Noto.”
“Incredible,” he growls out. “Never would have guessed you to be so senseless as to get angry with me and sleep with the first guy whose door you come across.”
She bristles at the accusation, and decides she doesn’t feel like pulling punches. “Hardly the first, Ben,” she says because she knows exactly how to dig in to him.
His eyebrows snap together, “What’s that supposed to mean?”
She’s exasperated. “It means exactly what you think it means. I’m not some innocent girl you have to protect, Ben,” she narrows her eyes and crosses her arms over her chest, “I’m not some kid.”
He’s stunned into silence for a moment and Rey takes this to mean the conversation is over. She turns to leave like she always does, and it’s apparently exactly the wrong thing to do because the next thing she knows she is up against the wall of the barracks, arms pinned to either side of her by large hands and Ben Solo breathing down on her with every bit of his heavy presence. But she won’t be intimidated. She won’t.
She squares her jaw and glares at him. “Let me go,” she seethes.
But he apparently doesn’t hear her because in the next instant his lips are crashing hungrily onto hers.
And, oh, they’re as full and as soft as she had imagined they’d be. And she’s kissing him back with twice the hunger and ten times the repressed feelings.
He growls into her mouth and she moans because he’s pressing her into the wall. She hikes one of her legs up over his hip because she needs to be closer and apparently he agrees because he grabs her behind her knee and pulls, spreading her further, grinding filthily up into her. She breaks the kiss to gasps at the feeling. He uses the opportunity to move to her neck and even if she were capable of rational thought, she knows that would have been the end of it. She has one hand already in his hair and her other is traveling down his chest on its own accord.
Somewhere in the back of her mind she knows exactly how wrong this is. They’d both spent the night with others – substitutes for each other she realizes, but others none-the-less – and this is probably one of the worst places to even attempt this given that any minute the base would be waking up for breakfast and find her and Ben rutting against a wall like teenagers…
However, as she has already determined, all rational thought is out the window for the time being. She can’t think when his hands and mouth are on her like this. And she has to pay attention now because he’s started moving towards her waistband.
But, before he can put his hands exactly where she wants them, he peels himself off of her and groans as if it’s the hardest thing he’s ever done. She isn’t proud of the whine she makes at the loss of contact.
“Rey,” he rasps, “I need you to go back to your room.”
“Ben?” She breathes, asking a question with the tilt of her head and lick of her lips.
“Alone.” He grunts and runs a hand through his disheveled hair, taking a few more steps away from her as if to prove his point to her.
She’s never been more frustrated in all of her life, “What-?”
“Not like this, Rey,” his voice is barely above a whisper. “Please, just go.”
It feels exactly like having the wind knocked out of her. She extracts herself from the wall and rushes down the hall without another word. She allows herself one backward glance when she hears him punch the wall. But he isn’t looking at her, thankfully. His long arms are bracing his body as he leans against the wall, his head bowed in some kind of defeat.
She makes it back to her room just in time to cry.