Actions

Work Header

Epithumia

Chapter Text

The first thing Rey had noticed about him were his hands. They were large, oversized for his body, really, dwarfing the syllabus he’d slid across her desk. That, and he moved them constantly – through his hair, across the bridge of his spectacles, along the top of his lips.

He moved constantly in a general sense, too, pacing the length of his chalkboard as he lectured. It was almost like watching a pendulum. The hypnotic effect was amplified by his manner of speaking – slow and low. His speech was a mumble, or rather, a deep rumble, and it was completely unaffected by excitement – that was, if he felt any, Rey doubted that he did – or emphasis.

Privately, Rey doubted that even the most dynamic – or attractive – professor could make Introduction to Classical Art and Literature interesting. She’d signed up for this course for three reasons, and only three reasons: she needed a liberal arts credit, it fit neatly in her schedule between Differential Equations and Fluid Mechanics, and she had had it on good authority that the professor was cute. That is, her friend Poe, who was a junior and a year ahead of her, had used the word “cute.”

Cute was not how Rey privately characterized Professor Ren. He was tall and broad in a way that made her mouth dry, and his hair – the way he put his hands in his hair, really – was distracting, but his face was odd, proportioned all wrong. What’s more, he wore drab clothes that were only suited for academia, and bookish glasses. In short, he wasn’t bad looking, but he was too monkish to be titillating, and so, inevitably, every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, fifteen minutes into his lecture, her eyelids would droop. His words would fade into an unintelligible drone. It was kind of soothing, really. And it was eight in the morning and very warm in the lecture hall.

***

Slam.

A textbook had been dropped unceremoniously onto her desk, dangerously near to her head. She’d been sleeping, mouth open, cheek on the faux wood top of her lecture hall desk.

Professor Ren loomed over her, looking down the bridge of his nose at her, as if he were expecting her to jump up and stand at attention. The class was silent, the rest of the students either peering nervously at her over their shoulders or studiously looking away as if that could avoid incurring the professor’s wrath.

He cocked his head at her, eyes boring into her. But he still didn’t speak. The silence was excruciating. Whatever he was going to say, however he was going to berate her, nothing could be worse than waiting to see what it was. She felt like a bird, being toyed with by a cat before being dismembered and eaten – in front of a captive audience, no less.

After what seemed like an eternity, Professor Ren pivoted on his heel and went back to the board. He ran his hands through his hair one more time, smoothed the lapels of his tweed blazer, adjusted his glasses, and then, just like that, resumed his pacing and droning.

The class collectively exhaled. Rey shrank into her seat.

***

“Professor,” Rey scrambled to her feet from where she’d been sitting in the hallway outside of Professor Ren’s office. He’d taken an excruciatingly long time to get there from the lecture hall, considering it was a short walk across the main mall between the two. She could see what had taken so long now – he’d stopped for coffee.

He looked at her, blandly. “Miss…”

“Kenobi. I wanted to apologize.” She blurted out.

“There’s no need to apologize, Miss Kenobi.” He drawled, unlocking his office door. He didn’t turn around and face her, but as he moved into his office, he left the door open. She wasn’t sure if he was inviting her in or not, so she lingered in the doorframe. “You haven’t hurt my feelings, only your grade.”

Rey swallowed heavily. He was busy shuffling through papers on his desk, pushing his glasses up the bridge of his nose “I can do extra credit.”

“I don’t offer extra credit.” He looked up, finally, almost as if he was surprised she was still there.

Rey fidgeted, fingering the strap of her messenger bag. Now that his eyes were on her, the stayed on her, disconcertingly. “Can you make an exception? I promise, I’m not – I work all night. I’m not –”

“No exceptions.” He cut her off, and she could swear she saw disappointment flash across his face. He went back to his papers. “That’ll be all, Miss Kenobi.”

“Oh. Okay.” Her voice came out in a pathetic little squeak.

“Oh, and Miss Kenobi.”

She half-turned on her way to flee the cramped office. He was looking at her again, hands stuffed in his pockets. “Perhaps consider prioritizing your schoolwork over your part time job. I’m sure you can do without the beer money.”

***

“I hate him.” Rey poured herself more cheap red wine, still fuming.

“You said that.”

“He’s such an ass.”

“You said that, too.”

“How could you think he was cute?” Rey turned on Poe with an accusing tone. “He’s a monster.”

Poe sipped his coffee mug of red wine more delicately than she had. “A very cute monster.”

“You’re crazy.” Rey huffed. “His syllabus lists class participation as thirty percent. Thirty percent!”

“He’s not going to knock your grade down by thirty percent.”

“He might.” Rey grumbled.

“Just stay awake from now on.” Poe offered, unhelpfully.

***

She couldn’t stay awake.

Slam. Again, the textbook dropping onto her desk. Again, groveling at his office door after the lecture.

Slam. The third time in two weeks of the course, he met her at his office door with something like a smile. More of a lip quirk, really. “I am beginning to be offended that you can’t stay awake during my lectures.”

“Please don’t fail me.” It was a stupid thing to say, but it was what came out of her mouth under the weight of his inscrutable eyes.

“Please stay awake for more than sixteen minutes and thirty-seven seconds.” He set his customary coffee down on his desk. “Although that may be less than precise, I just noted the time when I first saw you sleeping. You may have been asleep long before that.”

Rey had the distinct impression that he was mocking her, and her temper flared. She opened and closed her mouth, resisting the urge to tell him off. “Can I do –”

“No extra credit.” He made a noise that might have been a laugh. “You ask that every time.”

“Well, I have to try.” Rey said, weakly. “Can you make an exception?”

A lone eyebrow ascended his lofty forehead into his hairline. “Try harder, Miss Kenobi.”

He turned away from her and started absently shifting through his papers. It was a clear dismissal. Defeated, Rey slunk out of the office.

It wasn’t until she was halfway down the hallway that she wondered what he’d meant by that.

***

Rey was drooping over her Fluid Mechanics textbook at the check-in desk at the library at one in the morning, eyelids fluttering, when someone cleared their throat to get her attention.

“Maybe I shouldn’t take it personally.”

Professor Ren was leaning on the intake desk, tapping his fingers on a notepad.

“Um – what?” Blearily, Rey smoothed her hair out of her face.

“You falling asleep in my class.” He looked almost amused – for once, she didn’t feel like his humor was at her expense. “So this is where you work.”

Rey eyed him suspiciously. “Yes. Can I help you find anything?”

He ignored her standard query. “Do you work all night?”

“I told you that.” Rey couldn’t stop herself from snipping at him. He didn’t seem offended.

“I thought you were just making excuses.”

“I thought you didn’t care about excuses.” Rey muttered under her breath, as she stood up, hopped off the tall, swiveling stool, and yanked the metal handle of the library cart. It was past one; she was supposed to restock every two hours.

“I don’t care about excuses.” Professor Ren did hear her, apparently. He sipped his coffee deliberately, leaning heavily onto the intake counter. Rey eyed the Styrofoam cup longingly. “I just need help finding some books.”

“I’m re-shelving.” Rey dragged the metal cart out from behind intake. “Maybe Jessika can help you. She’s on the second floor, help desk.”

Doggedly, he followed her as she rolled the full cart across the main lobby and into the endless rows of stacks. She started at A, as always, methodically re-shelving books high and low until she got to C and could no longer pretend that she didn’t realize he was still following her.  She huffed and turned to him. “Can I help you?”

“Like I said.” He drummed his fingers on the cart. “Books.”

***

The books he wanted, as it happened, were epic Greek plays – not translations, but Greek Greek plays. They were in the rare books section, under lock and key. Rey unlocked the door to the third floor enclave and snaked through the smaller room until she found them. “Here.”

“Let me.” He took the two books off the shelf, almost reverently. “Thank you.”

She stood there, awkwardly, for a moment. “You’re not allowed to take them out of this room.”

“That’s fine.” He set the books down on the small central table. “I can work here.”

Just like that, he sat down and was lost in his own world, carefully opening the old books and tracing the pages ever so lightly with his fingertips. She might as well have been a wall fixture for all he noticed her presence. Finally, she cleared her throat. “You aren’t really supposed to be in here without supervision.”

He looked at her over the tops of his glasses. “I assure you I’m trustworthy.”

“It’s just policy.” She muttered.

“This library seems awfully understaffed for that.” He was right; there were two desk and seven-thousand square feet of books, and from midnight to five in the morning, she and Jess were the only ones on staff.

“Most people don’t have a pressing need to get into the rare books room at one-thirty in the morning.” Rey countered.

“I’m writing a book.”

“It’s technically closed at eleven.”

“Oh.” He leaned back in his chair. “I see.” He looked very expectantly at her, and he struck her as very young and large-eyed. He was beseeching her, she realized. It wasn’t fair – she could hardly deny him when he had her grades in his hands.

After a long moment, Rey said, grudgingly, “I’ll come back after I’m done re-shelving. You can stay.”

“Thank you.”

***

She finished re-shelving at quarter past two, rolling the squeaky, empty card over the rare books room. The third floor stacks were completely empty, the study tables long vacated by sensible students. The fluorescent lights hummed comfortingly in the silence.

In the rare books room, only the desk lamp was lit. Professor Ren had cast off his drab gray tweed jacket and rolled up the sleeves of his shirt to his elbows, as if bending over the old texts was physically, and not just mentally laborious. His pen moved fleetingly over the notepad next to him – a mix of English and Greek letters, Greek on the right, English translation on the left.

 “What are you writing? Your book, I mean.”

She’d almost expected him to be annoyed at the interruption – maybe that’s why she’d done it, to give him a taste of his own medicine after he’d tortured her for two weeks – but he wasn’t. He looked surprised and pleased. He immediately adopted his professorial tone. “Violence and literature in the ancient world.”

“What?”

He leaned forward on his elbows, his voice picking up pace. It was the most animated she had ever seen him, and she had seen him lecture for two weeks – or at least, she had when she’d been awake during his lectures. “The Greeks and Romans memorialized war in poems, plays, epics – literature was central to their culture, and war was a reality of their world. Homer, Hesiod, Sappho, Aeschylus, Sophocles – their ideas about sacrifice and honor and what it means to be a warrior shaped Western civilization.”

Rey blinked. “How… how did you decide to write a book on that?”

“I wrote my thesis on The History of the Peloponnesian War, by Thucydides.” Rey privately wondered how long ago that had been, it couldn’t have been very long. His enthusiasm made him seem even younger than he normally did. Thirty, maybe? “It consumed my life for about a year, but I didn’t mind. I thought I should write a book next, and so I became a Professor so I could… indulge my scholarly pursuits.”

“Late at night.” Rey inserted. He laughed.

“Yes. Late at night. When I’m not teaching an Introduction to Classical Art and Literature.” He named the course almost disdainfully. “Unfortunately, the University mandates that I teach a certain number of introductory courses to keep my funding.” He added, sardonically, “And, besides, how else would I meet such alert, motivated young students such as yourself?”

Rey flushed. He was ribbing her playfully, she could sense, but it still stung. “I’m sorry. It’s not that your class isn’t interesting, I’m just tired.”

“It’s not particularly interesting.” He interjected, good-humoredly. “And you are tired. You shouldn’t work these hours.”

Rey considered rebutting him – she took a full course load, and she needed the money for rent and tuition and ramen noodles. She didn’t have the luxury of sleeping. She decided it was better not to delve into that subject with a man she hardly knew, her teacher, no less. It was too personal, and sensitive. She dodged and addressed his first comment. “But… your book. It seems much more interesting than your lectures. Maybe you should teach more of this. What you’re interested in.”

He nodded, thoughtfully, studying her like she was a rune to translate. “Maybe. When does your shift end? I’ll leave before then, so you don’t get in trouble for letting me in here.”

“Five.”

“All right. Thank you again, Miss Kenobi – wait, what is your name?”

“Miss Kenobi.” She couldn’t resist snarking, just a little. He grinned, and looked positively boyish. She would never have guessed that he had a sense of humor, but there it was.

“Your first name.”

“It’s Rey.”

“All right. Thank you, Rey.”

***

The next day in class, there was a latte on her desk in the lecture hall when she trudged in at three minutes to eight, operating on two hours of sleep. The barista’s scrawl on the cup, in black sharpie, read: For Rey – stay awake!

Chapter Text

“You didn’t fall asleep today.” Professor Ren unlocked his office door, and, to her surprise, gestured her into the small space. Rey edged in.

Rey fiddled with her empty coffee cup just inside the room. “Thanks for the coffee.”

The professor shrugged as if to say don’t worry about it, lowering himself into his chair with a gusty sigh. “Is that all?”

“Yes – well, there was one other thing. I need extra credit.”

“Like I said.” He leaned back in his chair, folding his arms behind his head and stretching out his long legs. They extended under his desk almost to where she stood, across the small space. He was too big for the space, really, and when he splayed out his limbs like that, his size seemed even more extreme. “No extra credit.”

“And you,” She soldiered on, wondering if her face was bright red. She considered herself enterprising and confident, but this was bold, even for her. He could laugh her out of the office, or worse, scold her like a child, or worst, report her to the disciplinary committee. “You need access to the rare books room at night.”

Realization dawned on his face. “Are you negotiating with me, Miss Kenobi?”

“You said to try harder.” She stuck her chin out, keeping her voice level. He was, as always, inscrutable and calm. Staring. “I’m trying harder.”

He wrapped a large hand around his jaw and swiveled his chair, looking out the window at the main mall. She couldn’t tell whether he was hiding a smile or a frown behind his hand. Finally, he assented, without turning back to face her. “All right. I have the rare books room to myself every night that you work, and you can do extra credit.”

Rey exhaled in relief. “Okay.”

He spun to face her, then. “Notice I said you can do extra credit. Not that you get extra credit.”

Rey looked at her feet, nodding awkwardly. She hadn’t lost her nerve now, not now, but his gaze was too intense for her to meet. He alternately stared into space as if she wasn’t there or stared right at her. She wasn’t sure which was more disconcerting. “What do you want me to do?”

There was a pregnant pause, and for a moment, she wondered if the energy between them wasn’t charged somehow. When the silence stretched too long, her eyes flickered up to his face. He was still staring, his mouth parted just slightly.

He abruptly turned and looked back out the window, and the strange moment was gone. His voice was raspy, and ineffably, even lower than usual, when he spoke. “I’ll think of something.”

***

True to his word, Professor Ren turned up in the library every weeknight at five past twelve, just minutes after her shift started. She dutifully unlocked the rare books room and left him alone to pore over and translate different texts. When she re-shelved books, she passed by the glass door to the rare books room and peered inside, voyeuristically. Sometimes he was leaning back, lost in thought, with his legs up on the desk and crossed at the ankle. Sometimes he was pacing back and forth and muttering to himself. Sometimes he was tearing pages off of his notepad, balling them up, and lobbing them across the room.

Sometimes, he emerged from his temple of knowledge and trailed her through the stacks as she re-shelved and pulled book requests, absently handing her books as if he was in an assembly line and monologue about whatever chapter he was slaving over.

“Hypsicratea, of course, is one of the only women who will feature in my book.” He caught her wayward glance and amended, “Only because so few women participated in warfare in ancient Greece and Rome.”

“What’s so special about her?”

“She was a concubine.” Professor Ren handed her a particularly heavy book, she received it with an oof, which he did not seemed to notice as he rattled on. “But she married a King – Mithradtes VI – and when he was exiled, she disguised herself as a man and became a warrior.”

 “I’m sure there are more women you could write about.”

“Perhaps that should be your thesis.” He changed the subject.

She snorted. “Unlikely. I’m an engineering major.”

“Surprising.”

“Why?” Rey drew herself up, offended. He meandered past her cart, back towards the rare books room and his work table.

“Well – you do work in a library.” He turned lazily, walking backwards. “Goodnight, Rey.”

“Goodnight… Professor.” The word felt awkward on her tongue, in this context. He didn’t correct her or supply a first name.

***

Every morning after he’d been in the rare books room, there was a coffee waiting on her desk, and every day, she managed to stay awake during his lecture. The class was still boring and he still lectured as if he was distracted. But sometimes, he trailed off on a tangent about something that was not on the syllabus – something that clearly interested him – and he caught her eye.

***

“Rey.” The professor was leaning back in his chair, tipping it on its hind legs. His legs were extended over the table, crossed at the ankle. He looked relaxed – so the research was going well, tonight. At the library, he called her Rey, but in his classroom, she was Miss Kenobi. She never called him anything other than Professor. “Stay for a minute.”

Rey wrapped her arms around her torso. She’d come in under pretense of dusting the books. They were so rarely touched that they collected a film of gray dust that made her sneeze. Her sneeze must have caught his attention, pulling him out of the reverie of translation. “Yes?”

He gestured to the far end of the room, taking off his glasses and setting them down on his papers. “Stand over there.”

Rey screwed up her nose. “Did you need something, or…”

“Just go.” He crossed his arms over his broad chest. “Your essay on the transition from Archaic to Classical Greek sculpture needs work.”

Rey scowled at him. “I’ve already turned it in. It’s a little late for that.”

“You said you wanted to earn extra credit. Stand still.”

Rey stood, expectantly, and he blew out air through his nostrils, exasperated. “No. Stand still. No fidgeting.”

She closed her eyes, to avoid becoming disoriented by that stare.

“All right.” His voice, deep and melodious, floated to her through the darkness. “Contrapposto. What is it?”

“Um?” Rey wavered on her feet for a second. “Standing off-balance, kind of.”

“No. Weight on the right leg.” She heard his chair scrape on the floor. His footsteps padded across the room, and when she opened her eyes he was standing right in front of her. His hands cupped her hips, adjusting them. She almost lost her balance at the shock of it, and he steadied her, pressing down on her right hip until it buckled. “Bend your right knee. Just a little. And sink into your right hip. Your right leg is the engaged leg. But it’s more about the hips.”

He was staring, again, but not at her face. He was looking at his hands on her body, almost studying the tilt of her hips.

“And then shoulders.” His hands left her hips, and she wondered, for a dizzying moment, whether he would drag his fingertips all the way from her waist to her shoulders, along the subtle angles of her torso. He didn’t.

His hands settled onto her shoulders, each spanning from the juncture of her neck and shoulders, where the crew neck of her gray sweater frayed, to the ends of her collarbones. They felt impossibly heavy on her, rooting her into the earth as he molded her like sculptor’s clay. “Shoulders and arms angled off-axis from the hips and legs. The archaic style was totally axial. Straight. No life. Contrapposto suggests movement, or tension. It celebrates the beauty of the human body. A real human body, not an ideal.”

At last his eyes flickered to hers.

“I thought you were an expert in Greek warfare.” Her voice cracked nervously.

“I’m an appreciator of beautiful art, too.”

Unconsciously, Rey licked her lower lip. His gaze narrowed on the wet spot her tongue had left behind, his lashes casting shadows under his eyes. His head tilted the barest of degrees forward, and then snapped backwards.

He adopted his professorial tone again, as he rounded on his heel and retreated to his table, stacked high with texts and notes. It wasn’t until he modified his voice that that Rey realized he’d spoken differently when he was arranging her into a living statute. His voice right in her was different, somehow – more sensual, in the sense that she could almost feel its texture. “In Greek antiquiety, men are portrayed nude. Women, always at least partially clothed.”

Rey felt utterly naked, frozen in place. Her nipples were pricked against the rough fabric of her sweater, and she wondered, for a panicked moment, if he’d seen that. If she – or rather, her body, of its own accord – had misinterpreted him.

She wasn’t sure what she expected him to say, but she expected something.

He went back to his paperwork, without saying anything. The only sign that he was at all affected was the slightest tremble in his hands when he picked up his glasses and put them back on.

***

The next day, Professor Ren hurried into the lecture hall two minutes late, disheveled and unshaven, which was highly irregular. There was no coffee on her desk – well, of course there wasn’t, Rey reasoned to herself. He couldn’t very well waltz late into the full classroom and deposit a latte with a personalized message in front of the class. The line of thought made her squirm a little, as if she had a dirty secret – or as if she was his dirty secret.

There’s nothing going on, she chided herself. We aren’t doing anything wrong. The devil’s advocate inside her head whispered, then why does it have to be a secret?

Without the coffee she’d grown accustomed to (and reliant upon) Rey fell asleep with nine minutes’ time left in the lecture. She woke up not to the slam of a textbook on her desk, but to the distinct lack of sound. It was too quiet – she couldn’t hear the other forty students in the lecture hall breathe, or giggle. She’d slept for too long.

And, she was intensely aware that the professor was standing over her, like a spectre. Her neck prickled at his presence. For some reason, she didn’t open her eyes. She could sense that they were alone and part of her was afraid to be alone with him again.

He might have known that she was awake. Her breath was shallow. She could almost imagine him cocking his head and studying her, trying to discern if she really was asleep, or if she was faking it. After a long moment, his heavy footsteps receded on the tile floors. The door slammed.

Rey opened her eyes, and sat up. She’d slept through class. The lecture hall was empty.

***

Three days later, the Dean of the College of Liberal Arts sent over a special request to the library. He wanted a key to the front doors made for a visiting professor – not an uncommon request; the library was open all night on weeknights, but it closed at midnight on weekends and was wholly shut up during the holidays. Academics, being the sort to make their schedules – Rey understood that better than anyone now – sometimes had a key cut to access the library while it was closed.

Rey unlocked the wooden cabinet beneath the intake desk, retrieving the original key so she could run and make a copy of it. An empty hook in the cabinet caught her eye. The spare key to the rare books room was missing.

“Jess?” Rey leaned back on her heels. “Did a faculty member take the original key to the rare books room?”

“Yeah.” Jessika didn’t look up from her biology textbook. “Ages ago. The Dean okayed it.”

“Who was it?” Rey knew, even as she asked. No one needed a key to access that room unless it was after hours – during the day, anyone could go in the room if a librarian or assistant unlocked the door and let them in. And no one, no one but Professor Ren had been using the rare books room at night.

“Youngish guy. Tall.” Jessika glanced over her shoulder. “Why?”

“When?”

“Like… the second week of class, I think? Why?”

Rey’s mouth went dry, but she managed to croak, “No reason.”

Ren didn’t need her to get into the rare books room each night. He waited for her to unlock it for him, every night, and he had a key. He’d had one the whole time.

Chapter Text

At his usual time – five past midnight – Professor Ren came to the library. The words sat on the tip of Rey’s tongue as she unlocked the rare books room. You have your own key. Open it yourself.

She didn’t have the nerve to say it. She leaned on the doorframe and watched him arrange his books and his papers and coffee papers just so. He did it as if he was setting out a feast. It begged the question whether he really was a monk, whether this was the only thing he got true pleasure out of in life.

If that were true, though, he wouldn’t have lied to her about having a key. He didn’t need her to get to his books – he’d used the books as an excuse to get to her. She wasn’t naïve. There could only be one explanation.

She’d come to this conclusion after mulling it over, bewildered, all day. His seeming indifference to her was the first hurdle she’d had to leap. Then, his rudeness. Then, her own insecurities – she was at least ten years his junior, tomboyish, and she knew he thought of her as unsophisticated and juvenile. But all that aside, she knew what he wanted. It retrospect, certain things stood out to her – offhand comments, his disconcerting way of making prolonged eye contact.

Rey knew she should feel angry, or uncomfortable –  but she didn’t. What she did feel was a thrill and damp panties, and the requisite accompanying guilt. The insides of her thighs itched when she walked through the stacks, and she started putting books with titles that started with M’s in the N section.

Her five hour shift was a strange state of limbo. For once, she wasn’t yawning by the time five o’clock in the morning and the end of her shift rolled around. She was full of nervous energy, her breath coming short and tight in her chest. What she was anticipating, she wasn’t sure.

“Professor.” Professor Ren looked up expectantly, pen poised. “I have to lock up.”

“Oh.” He set down his pen and stretched. He looked tired, and distracted. A part of Rey’s heart sunk. Perhaps she had misinterpreted him. He’d been so caught up in his work – the twelfth chapter – that he’d lost track of time completely. Clearly, he hadn’t been distracted by her the way she’d been distracted by him all night.

The Professor was taking his time packing up his things, and she felt awkward just standing there, so finally Rey hoisted up two of the tomes he’d been examining and lugged them over the shelves. One of them was easy – it belonged on the middle shelf, next to the 17th century reprint of the Loukanis translation of the Illiad. The other book, an atlas of the Greek and Roman worlds, was heavier, and its home was on the top shelf. Rey teetered on her tip-toes, trying to replace it. As she stretched, the cool air kissed her navel in the gap between her blue jeans and blouse.

The heavy book tilted in her hand, straining her wrist, but before it could fall, a massive, warm presence materialized at her back. The professor’s long arm reached over her shoulder, and effortlessly steadied the book in her hand, his long fingers wrapping around the spine and brushing hers. He stretched up, impossibly high, to put the book on the top shelf, and she fell back, letting go of the text, unable to match his reach. As he stretched forward and upward and she retreated, the solid mass of his chest brushed ever-so-slightly against her shoulder blades. It felt physically warm and strangely comforting, but, intellectually, she knew, it was dangerous and illicit.

Rey turned around before Professor Ren had even set the book down. He rested his palm on the top shelf, gripping it lightly with three fingers and bracing himself as if to keep at least some distance between them. Even with Rey’s back flattened against the shelves, there were scant inches separating their bodies.

He didn’t look distracted now, and he wasn’t looking at her as though she was juvenile or too plain. His eyes were hooded and dark under long, lowered lashes, and his breath was hot on her cheek. She thought of the way his face had looked when he’d had his hands on her body, shaping her into a perfect Classical statute. He’d looked at her like she was cast in bronze or marble, like she was Venus. He was looking at her like that now, only his eyes were trained on her face.

She was more Artemis than Venus, though. Her logical head – the no, no, no, he’s your teacher she knew she should be listening to – triumphed over her traitorous body. As he inclined forward, hunching over her, she slipped under his arm and ran way.

He didn’t call after her or try to follow her.

***

Rey trained her eyes on her textbook, reading and re-reading the same words over and over, when Professor Ren passed back their papers the next morning. Most Professors relegated this task to graduate students, or just scattered the papers across a table at the front of the room and let the students scramble. They considered it a waste of time to return graded papers personally.

Clearly, Professor Ren did not see it as a waste of time, but as an opportunity to lecture the class on the paucity of their citations, the sloppiness of their grammar, and the shallowness of their analysis. Occasionally, as he slapped down a particularly offensive document, he interrupted his own ongoing monologue about their failings to personally berate the author – “Mr. Roberts’ paper, for example, had a truly remarkable similarly to the Wikipedia article on the Kritios Boy.”

When he got to Rey’s desk, he paused, and her heart sunk. She would be one of the students singled out for humiliation today, then.

“Miss Kenobi.” He slapped the graded paper down onto her desk. “Not your best work.”

At the top of the paper, circled vehemently, was the original grade – a B. It was scratched out with a black pen, and replaced with a C minus. In the black pen, in formal, scripted penmanship, was a note. See me in my office after class.

***

“Why did you change my grade?” Rey didn’t bother with niceties as she rounded the doorway of his office. She’d fumed privately in the bathrooms for a few minutes after the lecture, too angry to walk right across the main mall and confront him.

“I just wanted an excuse to see you.” Professor Ren pushed back from his desk abruptly, hurrying across the room and shutting the door behind her.

“This excuse is less creative than your first one.” Rey snapped, crossing her arms over her chest. “Pretending you didn’t have a key? For three weeks?”

His mouth – he’d been about to retort – snapped shut, and tightened into a thin line. His eyes narrowed, and his hands settled on his hips as if he was the one scolding her. “How long have you known?”

“Since Friday.” Rey let her guilt over feeling flattered by his trickery and advances wash over her and fuel her emotion. The venom in her voice was real, though. “But why bother trapping me in the rare books room when you can just threaten me with low grades unless I sleep with you?”

Color rose on his cheeks. “That’s not what is going on here.”

Isn’t it?” Rey knew tears were threatening to spring to her eyes; it embarrassed her. It seemed juvenile to cry rather than yell in righteous anger. She wanted to be magnificent and angry, she wanted to make him to realize she wasn’t easily manipulated or weak-willed. She didn’t want to cry like a baby.

“I want to sleep with you.” He answered her implicit question bluntly, not even breaking eye contact or having the grace to look ashamed. It knocked the wind out of her. She knew that was what he wanted, but she had expected him to deny it. “But don’t pretend that I need to trick you or blackmail you to get you in bed.”

Excuse me?” She sputtered. “That’s exactly what you’re doing.”

“No.” He cut her off. “I lied about the key because I knew I couldn’t just keep you after class and…” He seemed at loss for words for a moment. “I couldn’t make my intentions known. And I changed your grade so you couldn’t keep running away from me. You want it, too.” He squared his shoulders, presumably in an effort to look authoritative, but his next words held a trace of insecurity. “Why did you run from me?”

“I don’t have to explain myself to you.” Rey’s voice and resolve wavered.

“You’re attracted to me.” He blinked at her, eyes very dark and liquid. He sounded completely unabashed, even plaintive. “So why did you run?”

“You could get me thrown out for academic dishonesty.” Rey’s mind catalogued, briefly, through all of the potential consequences of a dalliance with her professor – censure, expulsion, social disgrace, not to mention, the loss of her own sense of self-esteem. Not only would other people question whether she earned her grades the old-fashioned way, but she would have to.

“Well, you could get me fired.” Professor Ren stepped closer to her. “But that’s besides the point. You’re attracted to me.”

“I…” Rey floundered. “It doesn’t change the fact that you’re my professor.”

“Are you attracted to me because I’m your professor?” The timbre of his voice lowered, seductively. She flushed deep red. “Because I’m older and I’m an authority figure and you have daddy issues?” He knew he was right from the way her eyes darted back and forth, looking anywhere but at him. “You want me to take advantage of you. That’s why you’re fighting so hard. It’s part of the game.”

“That’s not…” Helplessly, Rey trailed off. Her lower abdomen throbbed, and that uncomfortably sticky feeling was back between her legs. The way he was talking was making her light-headed.

“It’s all right.” Professor Ren’s deep voice settled into an oddly soothing purr as he edged even closer. She would have had to crane her neck, at this proximity, to see his face. She stared at his chest instead. His shirt was unbuttoned, two buttons, and she could see his pulse fluttering in the hollow of his neck. “I know you feel like you can’t say no because I’m your professor. I know I’m abusing my authority.” He bent his neck, speaking quietly into her ear. Her knees buckled slightly, and she had a mad urge to grasp his forearms and brace herself. “I know it’s bad. But I want you, badly. And I don’t deny myself things that I want. You shouldn’t either.”

Rey made a soft, helpless noise, and then he was on her. His hand wrapped around the back of her neck, almost violently, and he crushed her mouth to his, pressing his tongue between her lips and invading her mouth. Her noise of indignation was swallowed up in his kiss, but had it been voiced, it would have faded into a low moan. He tasted like coffee and smelled like fresh, clean paper, and his hands were everywhere, grasping at the hem of her sweater. One palm spanned her lower back under the fabric, nails digging in. The other crept under the curve of her jeans-clad ass, spreading out to its full breadth across her cheeks and pulling her upwards and into him. He was hard against her belly, poking insistently into the soft space between her hip-bone and navel. For her part, Rey couldn’t even say what she was doing with her hands. It was an out-of-body experience, kissing him. She could no more recount her own movements than tell if she was really doing this, was this really her?

A burst of laughter erupted in the hallway, and they leapt apart like teenagers caught fooling around, even though the door was closed.

“I should go.” Rey managed, after a long pause filled with nothing but panting breaths, breathlessly, wiping her mouth with the back of her hand.

“Right.” His throat bobbed. He seemed to remember himself, clearing his throat and adjusting his belt to try to hide the bulge in the left side of his black trousers. “That was not appropriate.”

Rey nodded, awkwardly, and then fumbled with the door handle, swearing, fingers shaking. The professor didn’t help her. He retreated behind his desk, using it as a barrier between their charged bodies, and sunk slowly into his chair, running his hands through his hair. When he addressed her, his voice was not quite restored to its dulcet, even-paced quality. He was a little short of breath, still.

“I’ll change the grade. Whatever you decide to do.” Professor Ren moistened his lips, very slightly, and added, in a raspy voice, “But I’ll be at the library tonight.”

Chapter Text

Kylo took on his blazer. He put it back on. He took it off again. He unrolled his cuffs from his elbows, and then rolled them back up after noting they were hopelessly wrinkled. Mostly, he ran his hands through his hair and paced.

It was twenty-past midnight and each of his nervous habits were out in force. He’d been forced to grudgingly use the key he’d kept hidden for so long on his key ring. Rey hadn’t materialized at the intake desk at the normal time. His heart had sunk and settled into his stomach like a stone peach pit. He’d considered leaving – it wasn’t as if he was going to get any work done now, anyways.

He should have known, he lamented. For all he knew she’d gone straight to the Dean’s office to report him for sexual harassment.

He hadn’t meant to take it as far as he had. It had started out as something of a side project to his research – the pretty girl who re-stocked books and asked tentative questions about his book and kept finding excuses to come into the rare books room during her shift. He was used to being detested by his students. That wasn’t the behavior of someone who detested him. At least, he hadn’t thought it was. Perhaps he’d been wrong. With a groan, Ren thunked his forehead down onto his notes.

At first, he hadn’t even noticed her. She’d sat in the back of the room and kept her head down. Her work was unremarkable – not bad, but uncreative. But he had a habit of walking around the classroom while he lectured, and, by pure happenstance, had caught her sleeping. When she’d turned up in his office after class that day, he hadn’t even known her name. It had been a bit of surprise to see her there – most students were too afraid to approach him in his office, especially if they’d been publicly humiliated by him.

And she kept coming, tenaciously. It was… cute. Bemusing, yes, but endearing. She didn’t seem afraid of him (although she did, at first, seem like she hated him, likely as a result of having a textbook dropped near her head). He liked that. He liked the way she turned bright red when he caught her sleeping in class and the way she refused to take no for answer when it came to extra credit. Ordinarily a creature of solitude, he liked seeing her every night at the library. He looked forward to it. When his request for his own key to the rare books room had been granted, he’d put it on his key ring and fully intended to use it. But that night, he’d gotten to the library and Rey had smiled and waved from behind the intake desk and he’d kept his mouth shut, inexplicably.

Still, he’d had plausible deniability. He’d been able to tell himself that he wasn’t hurting anyone or crossing any lines. He knew she would never have looked twice at him if he weren’t her professor – even if she was only nineteen, she was out of his league on a purely physical level, and he conceded that – but he wasn’t taking advantage of that dynamic to do anything.

Then he’d fashioned her into a perfect Classical statute, in contrapposto. He’d wanted her to understand how much life that pose brought to marble. Maybe he’d forgotten that she was flesh and blood, and not marble. She wasn’t something to be admired from afar, she was something to be touched.

He should have stuck with cute. Cute was young. Unserious. Harmless. Cute was not the kind of girl you got fired over. He shouldn’t have touched her. Now, somehow, what had made her cute – her youth, her guilelessness, her freckles, the fact that she was his fucking student and off-limits – were all the things that made her enticing. Until that moment, he hadn’t considered the possibility that it was anything more than a crush – maybe not totally innocent, but certainly not fraught with possibility. Now it had gotten completely out of hand.

“Professor?”

He sat up with a start. His voice cracked embarrassingly. “I didn’t think you were coming.”

“Well, I have to make my rent somehow.” She shut the door very softly behind her, turning her back to him, as if to make sure the scant few students on the third floor couldn’t hear. He was surprised she’d turn her back to him – surprised and relieved. Maybe she didn’t think he was a predator, after all.

“You don’t have to come in here, though.” He said, softly, when she turned back to face him, leaning against the door and blocking the light from the glass pane set in it.

“I like this room.” She looked around the space, running her gaze along the spines. “No fluorescent lights or freshmen.”

“You’re a sophomore, right?”

She flashed him a rueful grin. “I’m nineteen, if that’s what you’re asking.”

Kylo felt his ears tinge red-hot, and he was glad he’d messed up his hair with all of his fretting. At least it covered those abominations and their tell-tale redness. “I suppose that is what I was asking.”

She moved slowly into the room, wandering somewhat aimlessly. “What are you working on tonight?”

“Not much of anything.” Hopefully, honesty really was the best policy. “I’ve been distracted.”

“Do I distract you?” She planted her hands on the table and hopping up to sit on it, about six inches from his papers. It was a boyish, athletic movement, but somehow, she looked so sexy sitting there, knees apart, hands braced on her knees.

“Yes.”

“I’m sorry. I thought you came here because you wanted to work in peace.” She cocked her head at him, her hair spilling over one shoulder in its loose ponytail.

I haven’t had any peace since I started thinking about you. He almost said it, but instead, he cleared his throat, said, thickly, “Don’t be sorry.” His gaze trained on her right knee, where she was drumming her fingers, very slowly, almost as if she was impatient. Or was it a nervous tick? He sounded like an idiot, he knew, all his rehearsed words and practiced seduction evaporated now that she was actually here and this was happening.

It was the most reckless but the most exciting thing he’d ever done.

Rey widened her knees just slightly as she leaned towards him, bending one elbow. “I thought about not coming tonight.”

“I’m glad you did.”

She leaned a little more, and Kylo couldn’t stop himself any longer. Grasping the arms of his chair, he lurched towards her, half-rising out of his seat. She leaned back again, and he fell short of kissing her, albeit by only an inch. She studied his face at close range. “You’re wrong about me, you know.”

“What?” She must have seen a look cross his face – insecurity – because she leaned heavily onto her left arm, wound the fingers of her right hand into the hair at the nape of his neck, and closed the distance between them mouths. It was a different kind of kiss – short, sweet, innocent. It was exactly how Kylo had imagined she’d kiss him, so very many times.

“I don’t want to sleep with you just because you’re my professor. Or because I have some kind of complex. I’m not that kind of girl.” Her lips brushed his cheek when she spoke against it. Her nose pressed into the little hollow under his eye.

Kylo couldn’t fathom why else she would want to sleep with him, but he didn’t care to open that Pandora’s box, because she kissed him again, more forcefully. He didn’t stop kissing her, drinking her in, as he stood and shoved out of the chair, sending it across the floorboards with a screech. He moved in-between her knees, grasping them unceremoniously, on in each hand, and parting them. When she leaned back, braced on her arms, he followed, bent over, pressing his open mouth to the ridge of her throat. It vibrated during the noise of satisfaction she made when he slid his hands under the hem of her sweater to rest on the taut, warm skin of her stomach.

Slowly, Rey arched her back and leaned back on her elbows. Kylo dragged the tip of his nose down and inched his hands up, and they met in the middle. He nuzzled her breasts through the nubby gray fabric while he worked them with his hands under the garment, pressing them together and pulling them apart to get a sense for them. The nipples he’d seen poking through her sweater that night he’d arranged her limbs were pebbled under the thin fabric of her bra. He crooked a finger under one cup and circle the tight bud, feeling it tighten, inexplicably, even more.

Rey was quiet except for the occasional sigh. He wondered if that was just because they were in a library, and whether she’d be louder if he got her somewhere more private. That was an intriguing thought, one that sent the last drop of blood that should have been in his brain to his cock. Even though she was quiet, her fingers were anything but passive, scratching along his scalp and pull his hair so hard he hissed in pain and pulled away. She trapped him, her ankles locked around the back of his knees, and suddenly, he was weak in the knees. 

Flattening his palms on the desk, he bent double, kissing the hollow of her navel through her sweater and then went lower. “You should have worn a skirt.” He mouthed the words into the button of her jeans. The denim was too thick for her to really feel anything but the heat of his breath on her pubis, but still, she made a soft strangled noise. This encounter, by necessity, was going a quickie, but the faint, distinct smell of her arousal made him want to take his time with her, taste her. “Would've been easier.”

“I didn’t think about that. I’ve never done this before.” She ran her hands over the shells of ears – she’d found them under his hair – lazily. Kylo took a moment to process what she’d said, but when he did, his stomach tightened. He stopped what he was doing – where he’d been dropping kisses through the hem of her sweater and the top of her jeans and in the space in-between – abruptly, raising his head slowly from her abdomen.

 “I mean in a library.” She amended, hastily.

“Oh.” He leaned his forehead into the notch at the bottom of her ribcage, relieved. He might be abusing his authority to ensnare a young, impressionable woman, but at least she wasn’t a virgin. “Okay.”

Reassured that he wasn’t completely irredeemable, Kylo was suddenly faced the logistics of how to get inside her now. She was laid out under him, compliant and doe-eyed and wasting this moment might be the biggest regret of his life. Then again, getting caught having sex with a student in the library could would also be the greatest regret of his life.

She really should have worn a skirt, he thought, laying his cheek on her diaphragm and fiddling with the button of her jeans. Taking her jeans off would be indiscrete –  she hadn’t exactly come prepared for clandestine quickie in the rare books room.  

Suddenly, Kylo realized that he wasn’t prepared, either. With a gusty sigh, he pressed on the table, looming over her with his arms on either side of her hips. “I don’t have a condom.”

“What?” She’d had her eyes closed. She sat up, abruptly, and didn’t open them in time to see what she was doing. They knocked skulls, each letter out of a string of profanity. Ears ringing, Kylo rubbed his forehead, closing his eyes for a second to center himself.

“I guess I didn’t plan on… never mind.” He couldn’t organize his thoughts – whether that was because of what they’d been about to do, or because she’d possibly concussed him, he didn’t know. “I’ve never done this before, either.”

When he opened his eyes, she was looking at him almost tenderly. Her small hand rose from where it bracing against the table and cupped his cheek very gently. The palm was cool and dry; a welcome contrast to his skin. She kissed his forehead, and a silent understanding passed between them. They remained there, breathing each other in, taming their breath and pulses, until she said, softly, “I have to go. Jess will be looking for me.”

“Okay.” He pressed his forehead to hers, wondering whether the moment had slipped away for good. She nudged his shoulder as she slid down from the table, adjusting her sweater.They looked at each other for a long moment, still standing very close together, and then she stood on her tip-toes and kissed his chin.

“Wait for me out at the end of my shift, okay?”

"Okay."  He exhaled, relieved. "Yeah, I'll be here."

She flashed him a nervous smile. "Okay."

"Kylo." He interrupted. "That's my first name." He laughed, awkwardly. "You don't have to call me Professor when we're... alone."

"Okay, Kylo." This smile was less nervous. It was sweet, at first, and then it was wicked, thrown over her shoulder as she opened the door and looked back at him. "But what if I want to?"

Chapter Text

They walked down the steps of the library together in tandem, not holding hands, but walking closer than they would in broad daylight. It was chilly and foggy; campus was deserted. Rey tucked her fists into her jacket pockets. Her fingers felt almost itchy with nerves – she wondered if he’d try to hold her and part of her shied away from that sort of intimacy, but part of her wanted to tuck her much smaller hand into the palm of his much larger one.

They’d reached the bottom of the steps before she made up her mind one way or another. They faced each other, awkwardly, and still Professor Ren didn’t say anything. He looked uncomfortable, as if he were working words over in his mouth before he said them out loud. She wondered if he was trying to let her down easily, or nip whatever this was in the bud and chalk it up to a massive lapse in judgment. They couldn’t avoid each other – there were eight weeks left in the semester – but she could already picture how it would be: he’d be cold and maybe even harsher than he’d been before, in an effort to not show favoritism. She’d barely be able to look him the eyes, but when he lectured and he was staring at the chalkboard or into the classroom, she’d stare at his lips and feel a cocktail of shame and guilt and regret.

“Well –” She’d just opened her mouth to make an excuse and crawl into a hole to hide for the rest of the semester when he cut her off.

“Let me buy you breakfast.”

“What?” She huffed the word; it appeared in a smoky white cloud in the cold air.

“There’s a diner I like on Fourth and Main. They have great pancakes.” He rocked on his heels – was he nervous? It was unfathomable to her that he could be nervous around her. Part of his magnetism was his confidence – maybe that came with age, or experience. “Do you like pancakes?”

“Fourth and Main?” She chewed her lip, nervously. She’d never been to that diner, but she’d passed it plenty of times. It was frequented by drunk and hungover students, being only a few blocks from campus. Then again, in the small, rural town that the University dominated, everything was within a few blocks or campus, and everywhere was a popular student dive. Nowhere was safe if she didn’t want to be seen on a date with her professor. Wait – date? This wasn’t a date, Rey chided herself.

“It’s five in the morning on a Saturday. It’ll be fine.” He seemed to understand what her concern was. His voice took on a wheedling quality. “Everyone’s asleep. Come on, it’s the least I can do.”

Rey burst out in nervous laughter, unable to help herself. “It’s the least you can do? We didn’t have sex.”

“What?” Professor Ren blinked innocently at her, and she was acutely aware of the generational gap between them.

“We didn’t have sex. Most college guys buy you breakfast after you have sex. If they’re nice. Not… before.”

“Before?” His face split into a brief smile, and he looked young for a second. “That sounds promising.”

It was dim out, but Rey knew he could still see her flush. She didn’t have the nerve to answer him, despite her brazen behavior in the rare books room four hours earlier. It was easier to change the subject. “I like pancakes.”

***

The pancakes were good. Rey tried to be graceful as she ate them. His eyes seemed to be constantly on her, between sips of coffee and small, measured bites. Somehow, she was outpacing him, on her third pancake before he’d finished his first.

“Hungry?”

“Yes.” She set her fork down, with effort. “Sorry.”

“Don’t be.” He sipped his coffee innocently.

“Well, well, well.” A diminutive women emerged from the swinging kitchen doors, toting a coffee pot. She made a beeline to their table (the only other people in the diner were police officers and a nurse coming off the night shift. “Professor. And you must be Rey.”

Rey stared, flabbergasted. The two seemed familiar, but still – how would this woman know who she was? Had he talked about her? The idea sent a thrill down her spine, both because it was flattering and somewhat uncomfortable.

“Hello, Maz.” Professor Ren – she could not make herself think of him as Kylo – held out his half-empty mug and she topped it off. “Quiet this morning.”

The small, wrinkled proprietress ignored his small talk. “Don’t change the subject. Aren’t you going to introduce me to your young lady?”

Professor Ren sipped his coffee. “You apparently already know her name, so no.”

“Rude.” Maz tutted. “More coffee, Rey?”

“I’m sorry.” Rey looked between the two, back and forth. Professor Ren studiously avoided her gaze. “How do you know my name?”

Maz rolled her eyes. “This idiot bothers me every morning –”

Maz.” Ren said, forcefully. Rey could swear he was turning pink.

“– asking me to take time out of my busy schedule to write cutesy little notes on your coffee cup.”

“Oh.” Rey sat up straight. Her face was hot; it must have matched the professors. “This is where the coffee comes from?”

“Mmm hmm.” Maz tapped the coffee carafe she was carrying for good measure. “The best coffee in town. He’s been coming here for breakfast every day since he started teaching.” Maz leaned conspiratorially on the table. “He must like you. Once he made me go through two drafts on one cup.”

Professor Ren almost choked on his pancakes. The tips of his ears, protruding from under his hair, were bright red. “Don’t you have other customers, Maz?”

“Sure, but you’re my favorite.” She patted his shoulder – even with him sitting, she had to reach up to that, to comical effect. “Pie to go, as usual?”

He caught Rey’s eye, seemingly relieved that he’d been offered an out from this conversation. “Pie to go?”

“Sure.” Rey sat on her hands. “That’d be great.” After Maz had walked away, she ventured, “Why to go? Where are we going?”

Professor Ren examined the handle of his coffee mug, tracing it with a thick, blunt finger. “I thought… maybe my place.” He met her eyes, and there was that bold, unashamed confidence again. He wasn’t asking her, the second time he said it. He was telling her. That should have chafed, but it didn’t. It kindled that fidgety warmth in the pit of her stomach. “My place.”

***

His place was an unassuming grey bungalow on the fringe of downtown, not quite far enough from campus that Rey could breathe a sigh of relief. He drove her there in an old truck, one that didn’t match his professorial aesthetic. When he saw her raise her brows, he said, by way of explanation, “It was my dad’s.”

His house was in keeping with his glasses and blazers and sweaters. It was cluttered, but not dirty. There were books and papers stacked on every surface – she thought she saw graded quizzes for their class on the coffee table, and that was a disconcerting reminder of who he was – and stray, half-empty coffee mugs everywhere.

“Sorry. It’s a mess.” He stood in the middle of his mess of books and papers in the living room and surveyed it, smoothing back his hair.

“No, it’s nice.” She tried counting the empty coffee mugs to give herself something to do, wrapping her arms around herself. It was six-thirty in the morning, just getting light, and quiet. Living in cheap student housing with room-mates to save on rent, she had forgotten how nice it was to have peace and quiet. Professor Ren didn’t seem to ever sleep, but this place was peaceful. She stifled a yawn.

“Tired?” There was that almost anxious quality in his voice again – and he was touching his hair. Was that a nervous tick? It was endearing, and almost comforting, that he was nervous too.

“No, I’m…” She tried to finish the word and another yawn cracked her jaw. “I’m fine.”

“You’re tired.” His lips twitched upwards at the corners. To her surprise, he didn’t look disappointed. “Do you need to sleep?”

“I’ll be fine.”

The professor stepped closer to her. “How long have you been awake?”

“Since your class this morning. Yesterday morning." Rey rubbed her eyes, inwardly bemoaning her lack of sleep. “But I just had coffee. I’m fine.” Secretly, she knew there wasn’t enough coffee in the world to keep her awake much longer, but the idea of disappointing him made her stomach tighten. Maybe it was the liquid dark eyes, or the deep, authoritative voice, or maybe it was just his actual authority over her, but she craved his approval. “I’m fine – no, put me down!”

He’d picked her up, quickly and effortlessly, hooking an arm under her knees and another behind her shoulder blades. “I’m pretty offended when you fall asleep during my lectures.” He deadpanned, his grip like bands of iron. “Imagine how I’d feel if you fell asleep during sex.”

Rey pushed his shoulder half-heartedly with her free hand, the one that wasn’t squashed against his chest. He was carrying her down the narrow hall, past an office (more books, somehow) and into his bedroom. “I won’t unless you start lecturing me about…” Another yawn. “… the Etruscan Period.”

Professor Ren laughed low in his chest, planting his knee on his bed and laying her down as if she were made of glass. He went to work, diligently, unlacing her sneakers, one at a time, and setting them on the floor, pressing a kiss to each ankle as he bared it. Rey watched him through hazy eyes.

Drawing a duvet up over her body, he tucked it under the edges of her torso, his large hands feather light. Smoothing her hair back, he pressed another dry kiss to the skin he’d exposed on her forehead. He may have said something; she was already asleep by the time he did. His voice was just a low rumble, like white noise in the background of her dream.

***

It was mid-afternoon by the time Rey woke up. She stretched luxuriously, sinking into a mattress that was far softer than her own. It was like sleeping on a cloud – white, warm, and blissfully quiet. She was awake, but she didn’t want to open her eyes. That would mean studying and cleaning her three-floor walk-up and seeing how she could make her fifteen-dollar food budget stretch this week.

The silence was punctuated with a soft, sleepy grunt. That was enough to bring her back to reality. She sat bolt upright, panicked for a second, but, thankfully, the professor was dead to the world, and her gasp of surprise hadn’t woken the dead.

He was on his back, long limbs splayed out – now, she was aware that his foot was touching hers, and his fingers were somewhere near her hip – with his head lolled all the way to the side. He looked serene in his sleep, if ill-groomed – his thick hair was completely wild, and he’d sprouted stubble. Without his glasses on, he looked less like an academic, and more like a student - more like someone it would be appropriate for her to be in bed with.

She touched his face, brushing his unkempt hair away from his brow and lingering on the sharp angle of his cheek. That intimacy felt safe, while he was asleep. He stirred, suddenly half awake, and his lashes parted just so. Perhaps that was why Rey had the nerve to speak her mind – she wasn’t sure if he’d even hear her. “This isn’t what I expected.”

“Hmm?” He didn’t open his eyes fully, but wrapped a hand around hers, encasing it completely, drawing it to his mouth, and kissing her palm.

“You.” She watched him arch his back and stretch like a giant cat, face screwing up at the effort of waking. “You aren’t what I expected.”

“What do you mean?” Now his eyes were open, and more alert than she was prepared for.

“Nothing.” She lost her nerve.

“Hold that thought.” Professor Ren rolled out of bed with a groan, and she realized, startled, that he was stripped down to his boxer briefs. She counted the constellation of freckles and moles on his broad shoulders as he left the room. On the wooden floors, in the tiny bungalow, she could hear him stomping around from across the building. He was in the kitchen. He came back bearing gifts: the to-go boxes, and two forks. Once he’d situated himself back in bed, leaning against the headboard with the pie on his stomach, he doggedly repeated, refusing to let her change the subject, “What do you mean, I’m not what you expected?”

I thought you just wanted me for sex. She didn’t have the nerve to say that, in case it was the truth. “I didn’t think it would happen like this.” She played with her pie, smushing the crust with the flat of her fork, uncomfortable all of the sudden under the intensity of his gaze. “I thought it would be more…” Torrid? Sexy? Urgent? “I didn’t think you would buy me pancakes and tuck me in.”

The professor didn’t say anything for a long moment. He almost seemed to be weighing his response.

Finally, he leaned forward, brushing his thumb across the corner of her mouth with a look of great concentration. She held her breath, but her lips parted, seemingly of their own accord. The tip of his thumb caught on the moist seam of her lower lip. When he withdrew, his index finger was dabbed with the whipped cream he’d wiped ever-so-delicately from her lips.

Kylo put his finger into his own mouth and twisted it, sucking it clean. His eyes stayed trained on hers as he pulled the digit from his mouth with a wet pop, dragging it against his full lower lip, and suddenly, despite how sweet and patient he'd been all morning, she was reminded how she'd ended up in his bed in the first place. 

Chapter Text

Kylo swiped his finger across the top of his pie and smoothed the whipped cream onto her lower lip. She waited, with baited breath. It didn’t take him very long. His eyes darkened, and he leaned in, predatorily, his hot, open mouth closing on hers, as if he would devour her and the whipped cream. Long after it was gone, he was still kissing her, leaning precariously forward on one arm.

Planting a hand on his chest, Rey pushed him back just an inch or so. She twirled her own finger across the top of the pastry, and then smeared the substance down the side of her neck, starting just behind her ear.  His mouth traced the line, sending an electric jolt from the base of her spin to the nape of her neck, where the little hairs prickled. Indecent suckling noises and her harsh breathing filled the mid-afternoon silence.

When he put some in the hollow at the base of her throat, Rey leaned back on her hands, letting him lick it off in one swipe of his tongue, leaving her skin damp and chilled. His lips brushed against the tendons there at the base of her throat when he murmured, “We don’t have enough whipped cream.”

“How much is left?”

“Not enough for all the places I want to kiss you.” Kylo rasped, lazily moving his head back and forth so that his lips brushed hers, feather light, each time. Pulling her into his lap, he ran his big hands up under the hem of her sweater, shucking it off over her head. Her arms caught in the sleeves and hung, suspended, over her head for a second. She felt stretched out and bare in front of him, almost as if he’d tied her up, and his eyes were hungry on her skin.

Lowering her arms, she kept them wrapped in her sweater, holding it between their stomachs like a shield. He rested his chin on her shoulder, reaching around her back and unclasping her bra with a practiced ease that nagged at the back of her mind. The nude scrap of fabric fell away from her chest, still suspended from her body by the straps hooked on her bent elbows, where her sweater pooled.

His palms settled, almost delicately – contradicting the look in his eyes that promised anything but gentleness – onto her bare breasts. He looked at his hands on her skin with something like wonder in his eyes, as if he was touching a masterpiece carved in marble.

“You’re beautiful.” Kylo tilted his head forward, resting his forehead on the bony plate in her slight cleavage.

“You don’t have your glasses on.” Ever since she was a child, she’d had the tendency to crack jokes when she was nervous or self-conscious. To his credit, he chuckled in the back of his throat, leaning back on the headboard and admiring her for a second longer.

He was looking at her like a piece of art, but apparently, he felt the urge to add his own touch. The last bit of whipped cream was used well, painted almost lovingly onto her nipple and sucked off, cleanly. The gesture made Rey squirm; he used almost too much force, and she felt as if she was being pulled into him. Right next to her nipple he was even rougher, marking her skin until she hissed and he let her go, soothing the purple mark with his tongue.

His erection was hidden under the folds of her sweater, but it was unmistakable. It stretched up towards her navel, nestled comfortably between her thighs. The languid attention he was paying to her naked torso was in stark contrast to its urgency when she reached her hand under the burgundy wool and brushed her fingers against it. It jumped against her hand, involuntarily, at first contact, and then nudged her palm, as if it were asking for attention.

Professor Ren’s eyes flickered to hers for a moment. He’d been fiddling with the button at the top of her jeans for a moment, as if he was trying to work up the nerve to unbutton them. She nodded, almost imperceptibly, granting him permission, and he made quick work of the fastening and zippers. Just as soon as the waist of her jeans was open he ran his hands into the back of her pants, and into her panties, cupping her ass, one cheek in each hand. He used his leverage to grind her down into his lap, his face buried in her neck.

Pushing him away just momentarily – peppering his stubbled face with reassuring kisses as she did it – Rey stood up precariously on the mattress. When she’d gotten her bearings and balance, she tossed her shirt and bra to the floor and unbuttoned her pants, sliding them down her legs and kicking them off.  Wrapping one hand around her bare calf, Kylo settled onto his back and reached for his glasses on the bedside table, putting them on so he could watch her strip off her panties.

Once she was naked, Rey bent her right knee, sinking her weight onto it – more difficult than it sounded, on a mattress – and adjusted her shoulders according, standing in a living imitation of contrapposto.

“Perfect.” The professor breathed. “You are learning.”

“You’re a good teacher.” She assented, sinking to her knees on his belly, the smooth, warm skin of his abdomen coming into contact with the moisture between her thighs. Taking off his glasses, very carefully so as not to break them, she kissed the bridge of his nose. “You’re going to break these.”

Kylo made a noise of disagreement. As she leaned over him to put the glasses back on his nightstand, he wrapped his hands around her hips, almost spanning them with his fingers, and pulled her forward, up his stomach and to his chest. “But I needed those.” He tugged her farther forward still, and she resisted, skittish. “I’m nearsighted. Come closer.”

His bed was an old-fashioned iron bed, with bars at the top and bottom. It was the kind of bed that creaked when you moved and was a little too cramped. Rey wrapped her hands around those iron bars, gripping them for dear life, as he eased her crotch over his face and closed his mouth over the apex of her thighs.

His tongue was precise as she’d expected it to be, and as intense as she’d instinctively known it would be. He didn’t bother teasing her, licking the outer lips down there or flicking at her lightly with his tongue. He consumed her, his mouth, inexplicably, as hot and wet as her sex. When the pressure on her clitoris was too much and she squealed, pulling back, he yanked her back, hands gripping her ass, so he could torture her some more.  It was sweet torture, and blissfully short. He licked up and down, not delicately, but almost sloppily, and then drew her bud of nerves into his mouth and worked it between his lips. She came faster than she’d thought possible, her back arching and toes curling. He lapped at her a few more times and then had mercy on her, and dropped his head onto the pillow.

Out of breath, Rey leaned her head against the top of the metal bed, her grip on the metal bars loosening at last, and her eyes fluttering closed. Her breathing was ragged in the stillness of the room, and her head was still fuzzy from her orgasm, but after a moment, she became aware that he was rubbing small, soothing circles around her hipbones. The circles were becoming more urgent.

When she didn’t feel so boneless, she sank onto the bed, spreading her limbs akimbo and feeling her nerve endings settle. Leaning over her, Kylo wiped his mouth on his forearm, and planted a chaste kiss on her cheek. “Good?”

“Yeah.” She sounded drunk. She opened one eye. He looked puppyish, expectant, self-satisfied but still nervous.

“Do you still want to…?” He rested a hand, delicately, on her stomach. It moved up and down with her breath, and he focused his gaze on that rather than her face, as if he was afraid of her answer.

“Yes.” She sounded more confident that she felt; that was probably the orgasm talking. She watched him rise out of bed the second the syllable left her lips and cross the room in two long steps. With his back still to her, he hooked his thumbs in the waistband of his underwear and yanked them down, unceremoniously. Whereas he’d treated undressing her like he was unwrapping a gift, he didn’t even let her watch him strip naked. Now, he was fumbling in the dresser drawer, presumably for a condom.

“Wait.” Her voice came out hoarse. He looked over his shoulder, trepidation crossing his face. “Turn around. Let me see you.”

He did, almost reluctantly. His cock was a shade or two darker than his pale skin, flush and heavy with blood. It jutted towards her proudly, more intimidating than any organ she’d ever seen, belying the confidence he seemed to lack now that he was naked and standing in front of her.

For some reason, his insecurity inspired something tender in her. Crooking a finger at him, she laid back on the bed. He walked slowly over to the bed, his member bobbing in front of him. The foil packet in his hands transferred hands once he was kneeling at the foot of the mattress. She fumbled with it for a moment, unpracticed at putting one on and nervous to handle him.

“Let me.” Kylo wrapped his hand around hers and rolled it on. Her index finger and thumb couldn’t quite touch as she smoothed the latex down to the base of his shaft, and she swallowed hard. A more self-assured lover might have taken that as a compliment; the professor knew it for what it was – anxiety.

Leaning over her on his arm, he cupped her cheek with his free hand and kissed her forehead. “I’ll go slow.”

“Don’t.” Rey’s whisper made him raise his head. He’d been looking down to see his way, his hand wrapped around the base of his cock, nudging its head towards her slick entrance. He froze, meeting her eyes, and she wrapped her hands around his ears, winding her fingers into his unruly hair. Against his mouth, she whispered, “Don’t go slow.”

He didn’t. Plunging in, he pulled halfway out with excruciating slowness, and then pushed back in. Nothing else about the rest of their lovemaking was slow. He didn't give her time to adjust to his size, but the stretched feeling was more strange than uncomfortable. It wasn't the painful tightness she'd experienced with other men, or rather, boys, when she was dry with nerves or lack of foreplay. There was friction, and fullness, but she was sopping wet, and he moved like he was made for her. Their fit was just tight enough to made her keen and whimper when he thrust deeply, but her involuntary noises came from a place of pleasure, not pain. 

The metal bed clanged against the wall, bruising Rey’s knuckles where they got trapped between the metal bars and the drywall. Kylo’s breath erupted onto her neck in hot little puffs, synchronized with his steady, rocking thrusts. When he tilted his head back, as if trying to suck in a lungful of air, his face was red and sweaty, eyes screwed closed. She would’ve liked to see his face when he came, but he hid it in the pillow next to her head, muffling a curse word in the down. His hips jerked, violently, against hers - the only time he ever broke his unrelenting, fast pace - and then his whole body went slack. He exhaled heavily onto her neck, mouth and nibbling the skin there.

Absently, Rey stroked his back, tracing the rivulets of sweat that had formed on the muscles there. He blanketed her, heavy on her much smaller body, but it was a long time before he made any move to release her, and even longer before he let her out of his bed.  

***

“You don’t have to drive me home.”

Kylo stopped just short of grabbing his keys. “Where do you live?”

“West side of campus, it’s not that far.” Rey hedged. She lived in an area full of cheap student housing, and it was the middle of the afternoon. It was far, but she’d rather tire herself out and get a few blisters than risk being spotted in his truck on a Saturday afternoon. “I can walk.”

“Let me drive you.” He put his jacket on, extending one arm above his head at a time, his fingertips brushing the ceiling.

“I’d rather you didn’t.” Her voice came out unnecessarily harsh, and in response, his features hardened. They’d been soft and relaxed, post-coitus, even boyish. That was gone now, and suddenly, he was her professor again.

There was a tense silence and then Professor Ren exhaled, heavily. “Can I call you a taxi?”

For some reason, that made Rey’s stomach twist in a nasty way. Calling a taxi to pick up the girl you’d just fucked felt cheap and impersonal, and somehow, that was worse than being found out by her peers. “I’d rather just walk.”

***

“Where the hell have you been?” Finn looked up from his cereal, muting the television, when she walked in. Rey froze. She hadn’t prepared for this – she’d assumed Finn had spent the night at his Poe’s, his boyfriend’s, apartment.

“I had some errands to run.” She lied, shrugging off her coat. She started to unwind the scarf from her neck and then stopped, wondering if the bites Professor Ren had left and the places he’d sucked on her skin until it bruised had blossomed into purple marks. She left the scarf on.

“All night?” His voice was suspicious.

“I was working.” She busied herself heating the tea-kettle. “Tea?”

He ignored her attempt to change the subject. “You didn’t come home to sleep after your shift?”

Rey exhaled sharply, leaning on her chipped linoleum countertop. “Like I said, I had errands to run. Why the sudden curiosity?”

“No reason.” Finn eyed her from the couch, his hands folded under his chin. “I’m just worried about you.”

“Well, don’t be.” Rey forced a smile. “Everything’s fine.”

“Rey.” His tone stopped her as she retreated to her bedroom, mug of tea in hand. She half-turned. She could swear Finn was examining her neck, and that he’d seen a hickey or three. “You’d tell me if you were seeing someone, right? So I could make sure he’s a good guy?”

He’s not a good guy. He’s sleeping with his student. He could get me kicked out of university.

He is a good guy. He bought me breakfast. He wanted to drive me home.

“Of course.”

***

It was impossible to focus on her homework that night. She kept checking her inbox, inexplicably. Everyone at the university had an email address that followed a certain scheme: last name, underscore, first name. She was sure of what Professor Ren’s was even without looking it up. Surely he’d know hers. She kept expecting him to email her – after all, he didn’t have her phone number, and in his own words it was the least he could do.

The more Rey thought about it, the angrier she got. She was angry with both herself and with him, until Monday morning. When she walked into the lecture hall that morning, there wasn’t just a coffee cup on her desk. There was also a small white Styrofoam to-go container. She flipped it open – pecan pie, with a dollop of whipped cream on top. On the inside of the lid, in the usual black sharpie, was a message.

R,

Let’s do dessert again soon.

K

Chapter Text

Kylo knew when Rey walked into the room before his lecture on Wednesday. He always knew when she came into the room –and, as always, it took great effort not to raise his head from his desk, or turn away from the chalkboard, to look at her.

Today, something unusual caught his eye – a little flip of fabric.

She was wearing a skirt, like he’d wanted her to, and it was short. And he knew she was wearing it for him, because she never wore skirts. That, and she made eye contact with him as she sat at her desk, primly smoothing the fabric down her legs.

His eyes must have bugged out of his head. He abruptly turned back to the chalkboard to hide his reaction, and swallowed hard, Adam’s apple bobbing. He closed his eyes briefly, wondering if it would draw too much attention to smack his head against the slate a few times to snap himself out of it.

After he’d mastered himself – and after glancing down to make sure he wasn’t tenting the front of his grey slacks – Kylo turned back to the class. It was two minutes past eight and he couldn’t delay any longer.

Rey stared him down from the back row of the classroom. She uncrossed her legs, and re-crossed them, for his eyes only. All of the other students were facing forward, and she was sitting at the very back of the room. No one else could see her tease him, and no one else could see or they'd both be in trouble. The risk was thrilling.

“All right.” His voice cracked uncharacteristically. Rey’s lips twisted, just barely, into a satisfied smirk. She knew she’d gotten to him. “Let’s begin.”

***

She came to his office after class, in that skirt, and this time, he wasn’t so shell-shocked when he saw her wearing that scrap of fabric. Jumping up from his desk, he closed the door very quietly behind her – best that his neighbors to the left and right, ancient Classics professors who were hard of hearing, anyways, couldn’t hear him close the door just after a pretty female student walked through it – and locked it. For all of that, he managed to be professional.

And then, he trapped her against the closed door with his crooked arm, and reached under her skirt, cupping his hand against her sex. She wasn’t wearing panties; but he’d known that already. “You shouldn’t have done that.”

Rey tilted her head back against the door, catching her lower lip between her lips. Her flashes fluttered against her cheeks for a second as his index and middle fingers sunk into her with a faint moist sound. “Done what?”

“Teased me like that in class.” He pushed the two fingers in to the hilt, crooking them a bit. She squirmed against the door. Keeping his tone stern, low in his chest, he admonished, “I got hard during my lecture, watching you cross and uncross your legs. It was very unprofessional.”

This is very unprofessional.” She bit back a grin, not quite able to keep in character during this quasi-roleplay they were engaging in. Leaning forward, she brushed her lips against his, just slightly. Her breath came in little sighs against his mouth as he worked his fingers in and out of her. “I’m sorry for teasing you.”

“You should be.” He nipped her bottom lip, holding it just for a second between his teeth, as he pressed his thumb against her clit. She yelped, softly, and he released her lip, grinning wolfishly. “I think there’s something in my syllabus about not seducing the professor during lecture hours.”

“How about during office hours?”

“Well, these aren’t really my office hours.” He circled the nub, lazily, with the pad of his thumb. “But I remember you saying something about extra credit.”

She kissed him again, slipping her tongue into his mouth. When he pulled away, she said, against his mouth, “Go sit at your desk.”

Kylo was so eager that his knees knocked the desk as she sat down. She braced herself on his knees, her hands looking impossible small on his thighs, and then sunk to her knees. Leaning her forehead against his sternum, she kissed his belly through his shirt, very softly, as she unfastened his trousers and wrapped her fingers around the base of his cock where it protruded from his pants and underwear.

Rey kissed the tip of his erection, very delicately, and if he’d been less aroused, he would have laughed at the chastity of the kiss. The next thing she did – licking a long stripe up the underside of him – took his breath away. He managed to keep his eyes open long enough to see her take him in her mouth, at least as much as she could manage, hollowing her cheeks, because that was an image he needed to take to his grave. Then, his head fell back against the top of his chair. His mouth was hanging open, breathless obscenities coming out of it intermittently as she eased him in and out of her mouth.

This had been his fantasy – Rey, on her knees, in between his thighs, behind his desk, sucking his dick. In his fantasy, he lasted longer, but that was a small price to pay for this being his reality. Frantically, he tugged her hair. She winced, pulling back. His member nudged her cheek insistently, and she wrapped her hand around it, to keep it in check.

“I’m sorry.” He sounded strangled. It sounded like someone else’s voice. Maybe it was, because surely he couldn’t be this lucky. “I’m not going to last.”

She rubbed a little circle around the tip of his member, as if considering what he’d said, and then dipped her head back down and brought him in again, with an air of determination. True to his word, he didn’t last, hissing out an oh, fuck, and then groaning a low, long groan as his hips spasmed.

The ceiling of his office slowly came into focus, and Kylo realized he was absently petting her hair. Soft, delicate licks were cleaning him up, and she was tucking him ever-so-gently back into his trousers. She stood up, smoothing her hair nervously.  “I should go. I have class.”

“Wait. Just turn around. For a second.” Rey did, flattening her palms on his desk to steady herself. The look she thew him over her shoulder was loaded with anticipation, and if he’d been a younger man, it might have sent the blood rushing back to his cock.

Kylo leaned back in his desk chair to catch his breath, just momentarily. It was a futile effort – he was eye level with the hem of her skirt, where he sat, and she was arching her back, just so, enticing him. He reached forward with one finger, catching the hem of the pleated skirt, and lifted it. The curve where her bottom met the top of her thigh was right there when he did. He ran his finger along that crease, and she shivered.

Reaching through and under her thighs, he found that spot again and flicked it, then ground the heel of his palm against her. She was as wet as she’d been when he first reached under her skirt; when he pushed his thumb into her it made an indecent squelching noise. She braced herself on the desk, crumpling up one of his papers in her fist, when his thumb found the sensitive spot on her inner walls. Her bare legs trembled against his knees as he worked it, and buckled when she came a few seconds later, clapping a hand over her mouth and biting into her palm to stay quiet.

His fingers were sticky when he withdrew them, and he almost wiped them off on his pants. On a whim – he didn’t stop to consider whether she’d be offended that he’d taken their little game too far, he himself was too far gone for that kind of logic – Kylo slapped the bare cheek of her ass with his slick hand before he let the fabric of her short skirt fall back down to cover her. The slapping sound and her reaction – a little squeal as her skin turned red and reverberated with the force from his hand – was reward enough.

Kylo!”

He sat back in his chair, unable to stop himself from laughing at the look on her face. It was equal parts shocked, and shocked that she’d liked being spanked. “I’m sorry. But…is that skirt… plaid?”

***

Rey wasn’t in class on Friday. His eyes kept drifting to her empty seat in the lecture hall. Even he was bored by his lecture on the electoral system of Greek city-states. That didn’t mean he had any sympathy on his students, though – he very nearly hit one’s ear with a textbook when he dropped it on the desk, waking the teenager up.

In his office, after class, he typed out an email to her. Deleted it. Typed it out again. Deleted it.

***

Kylo all but raced to the library that night. Jess was there as usual, but a different girl stood in Rey’s spot, chatting with a jock while she scanned returned books in. He hesitated, just for a second, debating whether to casually ask Jess where Rey was. He didn’t. He could imagine her confused, suspicious look. He could imagine her gossiping with other students about that creep professor who asked about Rey.

Alone, he trudged up to the rare books room, unlocked the door, and settled in for a night of solitude.

***

Miss Kenobi,

Please let me know if there’s been a family emergency or if you’re ill so I can excuse your absence.

Professor Ren

The email looked so sterile. It was professional, unlike the drafts he’d written and deleted earlier that day. What he didn’t type this time was: I’m worried about you. I’m worried you’re avoiding me.

But professional was better. This was his university affiliated email address, after all. It was ostensibly private, but he knew better than to tempt fate and the human resources department by writing something overly personal.

Sent.

***

On Monday, she was missing again. When he went back to his office after class, feeling deflated, he found an email from her, waiting.

Professor,

I have the flu. I’ll be out of class again today.

Rey

***

Kylo did something he wasn’t particularly proud of. He went to the online university directory, accessible to staff and faculty only, and searched for her home address. An hour later, he was on her doorstep, with a Styrofoam container of chicken soup, crackers, herbal tea, and cold medicine in hand.

Rey answered the door wrapped in a quilt, wearing sweatpants and a ratty t-shirt. Her hair was in a braid-half fallen out, and she smelled like sleep and sweat. She was bleary-eyed, and when she spoke her voice was thick with congestion.

“What are you doing here?”

Ren suddenly lost his bravado. Helplessly, he lifted the brown paper sack of soup and crackers and gestured to it. “I brought you some soup.”

“I have a roommate.” She said it as if he was out of his mind to be showing up at her doorstep, and maybe he was.

“Fuck. Is she here?”

“Well no, but he could have been. You can’t just show up at my apartment – wait, how did you know where I live?”

“Your roommate is a he?”

She gave him an exasperated look. “Really?”

He huffed, unembarrassed. “I looked it up on the faculty directory. Now you answer my question. Who’s your roommate?”

“He’s a friend.” She grabbed his arm, scowling. “Oh, all right. Come inside. Someone’s going to see you standing out there.”

Her apartment was a shoebox. A fixed-speed bike leaned against the wall, and her couch was clearly from Goodwill. A row of succulents, obviously well nurtured, lined the windowsill. They stood just inside the doorway – there wasn’t much room to stand anywhere else in the room – looking at each other, awkwardly, for a moment, before she said, sniffling and adjusting her blanket around her shoulders, “I don’t really know why you’re here.”

“Like I said. Soup.” He shook the bag. “And crackers and herbal tea. Oh, and medicine, but I’m not sure if it’s any good. It’s just the standard cold and flu syrup, not prescription or anything…” He trailed off. She was staring at him as if he’d grown three heads. “What?”

“Kylo…” She said his name thickly, as if she was uncomfortable saying it. “What I meant is we’re not going to have sex.”

He blinked at her. “I wasn’t expecting sex. Wait, did you think I was expecting sex? When you have the flu?”

“Well…” It might have been the fever, but she flushed red. “Yes.”

Irrational anger twinged on the edge of his voice. “So you think I’m a complete asshole.”

“No.” She sat on the couch, drawing the blanket tighter around herself, defensively. “I just… you’re not my boyfriend. You don’t need to bring me fucking soup.” She stared at the paper bag of food, dejectedly.

For a moment, Kylo was at a loss for words. She’d been the one to use the word boyfriend, which meant she’d thought about it. But she’d also just made it abundantly clear she didn’t want a boyfriend. She was also, obviously, trying to pretend that she didn’t want anyone to take care of her or help her, but that, he was willing to fight her on. She looked very small and very sick sitting on the couch, and something primordial in him wanted to take care of her.

In the end, though, he decided it was simply not a fight worth picking. He simply said, “The soup is from Maz’s diner. It’s chicken noodle and she swears it’ll cure whatever you’ve got.”

She exhaled, slowly, pinching the bridge of her nose and closing her eyes. “I’m going to give you whatever I’ve got. It’s contagious.”

“I got a flu shot.” Kylo settled onto the couch next to her. “I’m not going anywhere.” His voice was more tender than he’d intended it to be when he said that. Rey’s gaze flickered to his, sharper than it should have been in her feverish haze, and there was a question in her eyes. She looked wary, but almost hopeful. It wrenched something in his chest uncomfortably.

He cleared his throat, and added, gruffly, to diffuse the moment, “So just eat the damn soup.”

Chapter Text

Rey woke up trapped between a rock and a hard place – or rather, precariously close to falling off her couch, on one hand, and being poked in the small of her back by something very hard, on the other. She shifted, uncomfortable, and wondered whether coughing to clear the congestion in her throat would be a subtle way to wake the sleeping giant behind her up. He’d wedged himself against the couch cushions, so he was at no risk of falling off the couch. But she was dangerously close to the edge, his forearms wrapped snuggly around her torso the only thing securing her. If she woke him, she’d be in very real danger of falling on the floor.

Sniffling as quietly as she could, Rey shifted deeper into the sofa and into his chest. He’d co-opted her blanket – because of course he had – and underneath it with her, he felt like a furnace. His body heat and proximity weren’t totally unwelcome in her drafty apartment – she’d been alternating between feverishly hot and chilled for three days, and right now she was cold – but the stiffness prodding her between her vertebrae was.

It was an uncomfortable reminder that she’d accused him of coming over just for sex. The look that had crossed his face had been brief but devastating, and the pit of guilt had settled in her stomach. It had only grown larger as he’d given her a one-on-one lecture covering the material she’d missed in two classes. He’d paused every few minutes to check that she was dutifully slurped her chicken noodle soup, before delving back into a rapturous account of Athenian elections. It hadn’t taken long for the cold medicine to knock her out. His ramblings had narrated her dreams until he’d crawled onto the couch behind her and wrapped himself around her.

She wasn’t precisely sure why she felt guilty for assuming he’d come over for casual sex. If she should be feeling guilty about anything, it was having sex with person who graded her assignments.

That, she had a hard time feeling guilty about when she remembered it. They said you never forget your first time, and she supposed that was true, even if it would have been totally forgettable had it not been her first time. She wondered if it was also true that you never forget your first time having good sex. She’d slept with two people, to be exact – one when she was a senior in high school, and one when she was a freshman in college – and both experiences had left her feeling unsatisfied and vaguely disappointed. Those two boys had been totally oblivious – they hadn’t even realized they’d let her down. They’d been too focused on themselves.

Professor Ren was exactly the opposite. If anything, he was too attuned to her. It was nearly unnerving. She’d gotten on her knees for the other two boys, but no one had ever reciprocated and made her come with his mouth, before. Or with his fingers. Or at all, for that matter.

Sex hadn’t been particularly taboo in her foster home, and she’d been ancient, by her friend’s standards, when she’d lost her virginity. There’d never been any illicit thrill associated with sex, until she’d met her Classics professor. The very fact that he was her professor was wrong and bad and she liked it. She liked that he did off-beat, surprising, almost kinky things to her, like smearing whipped cream on her nipples and eating it off, or slapping her ass his hand still wet from being between her thighs. She could never predict what he would do, but that didn’t stop her from fantasizing about it.

And now she was the one thinking about sex. There was a ticklish feeling in her groin as she let herself enjoy the memories and lavish in them.

Unfortunately, after a few seconds, she felt an entirely different type of tickle, this time, in her nose.

She felt the sneeze coming, and tried to stop it, to no avail. The sound was loud, jolting Professor Ren awake. Thankfully, his instinctual response was to tighten his grasp around her rather than to push her out of his embrace and onto the floor.

“What the – oh.” Groggily, he rubbed his eyes. His voice was croaky. “I fell asleep.”

“Sorry. I didn’t mean to wake you, that just… came out.” Rey awkwardly maneuvered herself around without getting off the couch, turning to face him. As she did, his erection brushed against her stomach, impeding her movement.

Kylo pinked, avoiding her eyes. He looked like a teenage boy caught with an unwelcome hard-on. “No, I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay.” She sounded oddly high-pitched and girlish, in her effort to seem casual and unbothered.

“It just happens sometimes; it doesn’t mean I was –” He stumbled over his words in what sounded like an effort to make sure she didn’t think he was coming on to her.

“I was.” She interrupted him. He froze, and then swallowed hard, his Adam’s apply bobbing in his throat. His eyes darted back and forth across her face.

“You were?” He sounded as if he didn’t believe her, as if it were too good to be true.

“I’m feeling better.” She pushed her thigh in between his legs, winding her arm around his neck and playing with the exposed tip of his ear. He pulled his head away, almost instantly. “What?”

“I don’t… I don’t like my ears.”

“I like them.”

He eyed her, suspiciously. “I don’t believe you.”

“They’re cute.”

“You’re full of shit.” He told her, gruffly, but his cock still twitched against the inside of her thigh when she kissed the shell of his ear. His hand ran under her leg and hitched it over his hip, and he eased her on to her back, moving to kiss her.

“Wait!” Rey blocked him with her hand. “You’ll get sick.”

His mouth settled into a pout – an admittedly tempting one. “It doesn’t feel personal if I can’t kiss you.”

Is it personal? She chased the thought away as he leaned in again, determined.

“No!” Rey twisted her head to the side, fending him off with her elbows. “I don’t want to get my germs all over you.”

Almost too forcefully, Kylo grabbed her arms and pinned them to the couch on either side of her face, and then crushed his mouth to hers, mouth wide open to make his point. His voice came out in a feral-sounding growl. “I want all your germs all over me.”

He nuzzled his nose against hers, pecking her lips again. She sniffed, congested, but conceded, letting him kiss her.

“But I really wasn’t bullshitting you when I said I didn’t come here for sex.” He mumbled against her lips, after a few seconds. He leaned back on his elbow, splaying his fingers out over her stomach. His expression was abashed. “I didn’t bring a condom.”

“My roommate has some. Room on the right. Bedside table.”

“I won’t ask how you know that.” He kissed her nose, pushing himself off the couch with a little grunt. “Be right back.”

He hurried into Finn’s room, and Rey exhaled, wiping her nose on the back of her hand. She probably looked decidedly unsexy – sweatpants, unshowered, red, drippy nose, nasal, congested voice. And still he wanted to sleep with her.

She wasn’t sure if that was a good or a bad sign. She didn’t have time to decide, because suddenly, she heard the tell-tale click of a key in a lock behind her.

Finn opened the door, home from Poe’s apartment, headphones in. He took them out when he saw her. “Hey, peanut. Feeling better?”

Rey had never wished so hard for telepathy. Hide, hide, hide, don’t come out here. She choked on her greeting, and the sudden wave of nausea that hit her wasn’t because of the flu. There was a thump from Finn’s bedroom. His brow creased. “Somebody here?”

“Finn –” The excuse died on her lips as Professor Ren stepped out of Finn’s bedroom, pants unbuttoned, condom packet in hand. He stopped short when he saw Finn and they all suddenly spoke at once.

“Finn, it’s not what you think.”

“What the fuck are you doing here?”

“Look, it’s –”

Rey and Kylo stopped speaking, realizing it was futile, but Finn kept going. “You’re Poe’s old Classics professor.”

“Who?”

“You had his boyfriend in your class last semester.” Rey mumbled into her hands. She’d hidden her face in them, wondering if she was going to wake up and discover, to her relief, that this was just a nightmare.

This is who you’re dating? Your professor?”

“We’re not dating.” Rey lowered her hands, glaring at Finn.

“You’re fucking your professor?”

“Look, she’s an adult, and she can fuck whoever she pleases.” Kylo cut in, sounding angrier than he had the right to be. “No one’s doing anything wrong here.”

“She’s on scholarship.” Finn bellowed. “She could lose her scholarship, or get expelled, or lose her student visa. What the fuck is wrong with you?” Kylo opened his mouth, as if he was going to retort, then thought better of it. He looked at his feet, somehow cowed by the shorter man.

There was a long silence and then the professor cleared his throat. “Maybe I should leave.”

“You should.” The only sound for a few seconds was Kylo zipping up his pants and fastening his belt. Once he was decent, he shoved his hands in his pockets.

“I’ll see you.” He looked at her as if he was trying to say something with his eyes that he couldn’t say in front of Finn. He was imploring her, almost.

“Yeah. I’ll see you.” Rey’s voice cracked painfully. She looked at her hands until she heard the door shut behind him, and then she looked up at Finn. “Finn, you can’t tell anyone.”

He stared at her. “You can’t keep doing this.”

“I…” She worked her jaw, chewing her lip. She couldn’t very well say what she wanted to: he makes me feel good. He makes me feel beautiful and desirable and adventurous. I like fucking him. Instead, she said, lamely, in a small voice. “I like him, Finn.”

“He’s using you.” Finn threw his overnight bag onto the floor. “He’s taking advantage of you. What is he, thirty?”

Rey stayed silent, realizing she didn’t even know his age. There were a lot of things she didn’t know about him.

“What will he do if you break it off? If you say no to him? Fail you?”

“He’s not like that.” She said, softly, fingering a loose thread in the blanket. She couldn’t look at her best friend.

“I hope you’re right, Rey.” Finn’s anger blew over, and now, he just sounded disappointed. “For your sake, I hope you’re right.”

***

That night, Rey let herself into the rare books room a little after one in the morning and leaned back against the closed door. The professor looked up from his book, as if he was surprised to see her, and then leaned back in his chair, taking off his glasses and rubbing a large hand over his face. “Hi.” The word came out as a gusty sigh.

“Hi.” Her voice sounded very small. “Are you okay?”

“Are you?” He ran a hand through his hair. “You need to be in bed. You’re still sick.”

“I wanted to see you.” Rey said, plaintively. “I wanted to… apologize. I shouldn’t have let it get that far.”

He covered his mouth with his hand for a moment. “Do you mean today, or… between us?”

“Both.” She admitted. “I’m sorry.”

“It’s not your fault. It’s my fault.” He looked very tired and old. “He’s right. I took advantage of you and I put you in a bad position.”

“Don’t’.” Rey rushed the word out. “Please… don’t.” They were silent for a moment, and then she said, awkwardly, wiping her nose with her sleeve and hoping she could chalk its running up to her sickness and not the tears she was inexplicably having to stifle. “I have to go. I just wanted to make sure we – make sure you were okay.” She caught herself.

He favored her with a small, weary smile that his eyes didn’t participate it. “It’s fine, Rey.”  

 “He gave me his word he won’t tell anyone.”

“Right.” He fiddled with his pen, not looking at her.

“We just have to be more careful next time.” She went on, clumsily, and Kylo looked up, sharply.

“Next time?” He sounded almost stern. Rey founded for a moment.

“I… I want there to be a next time.” She moistened her lips. “Don’t you?”

Kylo looked at her for a long moment, appraisingly, and then leaned forward and scribbled something on a piece of paper. Ripping it off his notepad, he brandished it. “Here.” She took it. “That’s my cell number. Save it in your phone under another name. Go home and think hard about whether you want to keep doing this. If you decide that you do, text me.”

Rey crumpled the paper in her hand, dizzied. She nodded, and retreated towards the door. At the last moment, something occurred to her. She felt the needed to elaborate, to defend her friend.

“Finn didn’t mean all that. He’s just… worried I’ll get hurt.”

He nodded, almost imperceptibly, and looked down at his papers. She opened the door, the paper clenched in her hand.

“Rey.” Kylo said her name so softly she barely knew to turn around before she left the room. “He doesn’t need to be.” His voice dropped an octave. “I promise.”

Chapter Text

Kylo’s phone pinged in the middle of a quiz on Wednesday. He glared around the room, ready to rip the head off whatever student hadn’t silenced their phone for his class, and then he realized it was his. He muttered an apology and fished it out of his front pocket.

I thought about it.

The text was from a number he didn’t know.

He couldn’t help himself. His gaze flickered to the back of the room. In her lap, under her desk, Rey was palming her cell phone back and forth in her hands, studiously looking down at her quiz. It was turned over, answer side down, completed.  

He took a moment and saved the contact under a pseudonym before he typed out a response, well aware that the whole class was looking at him curiously over the tops of their quizzes– except for one girl, in the back of the class, who was looking at him hungrily.

And?

An agonizing ten seconds passed.

I want to keep doing this.

A pause.

Whatever it is we’re doing.

Ren weighed his phone in his hand for a moment, considering it. He’d spent the better part of the last forty-eight hours berating himself for his numerous lapses in judgment lately. On the rare occasions he hadn’t been engaged in mental self-flagellation, he’d checked his cell phone obsessively, once throwing it across the room when there wasn’t a message from her.

He didn’t appreciate being told off by a kid – no, he chided himself, not a kid, because if he was a kid, so was Rey, and he couldn’t think of her as that without feeling an overwhelming amount of guilt and anxiety. Still, her friend’s scathing indictment of him had rung true.

He looked across the room at her and she cocked her head at him, looking beguilingly innocent and young. Well, if he was going to hell –

Tell me exactly what you want.

Her eyes went round. It was perceptible even from across the lecture hall. Her fingers flew across the screen of her phone.

I want you to fuck me.

He walked slowly over the lecture podium and leaned into it, grateful for its hollow back. It hid the front of his legs, his groin, and his waist, rising to the level of his sternum. Setting his phone down on the slanted top of the podium with shaky hands, he typed out:

Be descriptive, Miss Kenobi.

Her response made him snake a hand behind the podium and squeeze his dick through his pants, telling it to behave itself.

Hard and fast.

Where?

Maybe your office? On your desk?

Will you scream for me?

I’m not a screamer. He smirked at that. Her indignation was palpable even in the typed letters.

We’ll see.

***

“Professor?” A pimply twenty-year old – Kylo couldn’t be bothered to know her name – was holding out her quiz to turn in. He took it, nodding absently, but the girl lingered.

Finally, he asked, probably too brusquely, “What?”

“Rey Kenobi’s been on her cellphone all during the quiz.” She said it in an exasperated whisper, so that half the class could hear. Rey froze in her seat. Students twisted in their seats, curious, to watch as Kylo walked up the amphitheater steps of the lecture hall, slowly, hands thrust in his pockets.

When he got to her seat, he held out his hand, wordlessly.

“I wasn’t cheating.” She blurted out, eyes narrowing. He knew that, she knew that he knew that, but she put on an admirable act for the class.

“Regardless.” Ren cleared his throat. He’d have to play his part and act like a jackass. “The cell phone policy is in the syllabus. You read the syllabus, didn’t you?”

“Yes.” She actually sounded annoyed, now.

“Phone.” He stretched out his hand further. It occurred to him that he was close enough to brush her pretty cheek. She gave him a convincingly venomous glare and put the phone into his palm. “Stay after class and we’ll discuss the return of your phone.”

***

When the last student trickled out of the lecture hall, Rey exhaled heavily and slumped into her seat. Kylo watched her out of the corner of his eye, meandering the room, picking up answer keys off the desks. He made his way to the back of the room and considered the doorknob for a moment before making a rash decision.

He locked it. When he turned around she’d materialized behind him, and he kissed her, bending to wrap his hands around the backs of her thighs and lift her so he didn’t have to strain his back. She squeaked in surprise, wrapping her arms around his neck as he walked slowly down the steps to the front of the lecture hall, forearms wrapped snuggly just under her ass, keeping her upright against his body.

All of the students had left their completed quizzes on the table at the front of the lecture hall. The papers scattered like geometric snowflakes across the floor as he laid her out on the table.

“No skirt?” He took off her shoes, dropping them unceremoniously on the ground.

“I wasn’t planning on doing this here.” She lifted her hips as he peeled the black leggings down her legs, one at a time.

“I couldn’t wait.” He balled the leggings and threw them on the ground, unbuttoning his pants. “That was ridiculously hot.” She laughed, covering her mouth with her hand as if she was embarrassed to be laughing at a time like this. He moved her hand and put his mouth where it had been, pressing his tongue between her lips and flattening his palm across the base of her throat to hold her down on the table.  

“Is there a nine o’clock class in here?” She panted against his mouth, catching her fingers in the hair around his ears.

“Nine thirty.” He pushed her shirt up with his free hand, and her bra, too impatient to take them off. “And Professor Kane is never on time.” Her nipples pebbled up in the air-conditioned air; he twisted them between his lips.

Hoisting her legs up over his shoulders, Kylo braced his arms on the table and traced the rim of her navel with his tongue. She arched her hip up responsively, but when he trailed his tongue past her navel, she tugged his hair, forcing him to look up at her.

“We don’t have time for that.” Her face was flushed, and she scrabbled at the lapels of his jacket. “Just fuck me already.”

His body reacted more than he thought it would when she used that word out-loud. He had a predilection for dominance in bed, and he knew that about himself, but somehow, hearing her order him to fuck her made his dick swell almost painfully.

Straightening up, Kylo fumbled open his pants before remembering what he’d forgotten – a condom. “Motherfucker.”

Rey rolled her eyes at the ceiling, and then sat up, hopping off the table and scampering, half naked, across the classroom. Looking like the cat who caught the canary, she fished a foil packet out of her backpack and held it up, twirling it between her thumb and index finger. “You really need to come better prepared.”

For some reason, a feeling of unwarranted, overwhelming tenderness and reassurance flooded him. She’d planned for this. She’d wanted this. He wrapped his hand around the nape of her neck and kissed her, fiercely. “I still can’t believe you let me fuck you, so maybe that’s why I always forget.” He mumbled it into her neck before he really thought about how silly and lovesick it sounded.

Rey huffed, embarrassed, against his collarbone, and backed up to the table again, wrapping her legs around his waist and sliding her hand into the opening at the front of his trousers. Her hand was impossibly soft and small, but he didn’t let her pull his member in between her thighs. Wrapping his hands around her waist, he pulled her off the table and turned her around, pressing the flat of his palm against her back and pushing her to bend over the surface. Her hips fit perfectly in his hands, and he fit perfectly in her when he thrust in.

Grasping her hair, Kylo pulled it towards him, hard, hearing her suck in her breath in surprise. He had an intense urge to see her face, to see the surprise on it. "You shouldn't have had your phone in class."

"N- no." Her voice shook. 

"It's not going to happen again, is it?" He slammed his hips in and then ground them against her ass, for good measure. 

"Yes."

He laughed hoarsely, suprised. He felt lightheaded, bold. "Bad girl." Her little wail when he started pounding his hips into hers, skin slapping on skin, was gratifying, but he still leaned over and wrapped his other hand over her mouth. “Shh.”

He knew he’d hit the right spot, the elusive inner spot he couldn’t always find, when Rey whimpered against his palm. A few more strokes like that, and she moaned into his hand as she clenched around him, knees trembling with the force of her orgasm. He could feel the vibrations on his palm and around his cock and that was enough for him.

***

The pimply-faced girl was still out in the hallway, waiting for her next lecture, when they came out of the lecture hall at seventeen minutes past nine o’clock. She was the only one who paid them any mind, watching like a vulture.

“I won’t be this lenient again.” He wasn’t able to disguise the quirk of his lip. “Next time, it’ll be a disciplinary write-up and not just a verbal reprimand.”

“Thank you, Professor.” With her back to the watching student, Rey bit down on her lip, hiding a smile. “I promise it won’t happen again.”

“It had better not.”

Her eyes danced as she mouthed, silently, “It will.”

***

He didn’t have a lecture the next day, so he devoted the day to writing his midterm exam. Or rather, he intended to devote his entire day to that. Rey ended up occupying his thoughts for much of the day, and it was barely ten-thirty in the morning when he texted her.

What are you doing tonight?

Studying. Your midterm is tomorrow.

Come over? He felt a twinge of guilt when he typed that. He’d been a serial monogamist for most of his adult life, even if his relationships had been fairly short and far between. It didn’t quite sit right with him to text her and ask her to come over. It was obvious enough what he was really asking for, and he didn’t feel guilty about wanting it, but he wished he could ask her to dinner, at least. He thought of her acrid response to her best friend on Monday – “We’re not dating.” – and wondered if she would even say yes if he could ask her to go out with him.

I have to study.

You can study over here. No roommates, no loud neighbors. I’ll order Chinese. This was his ace card. He had a hunch she never said no to free food. If he couldn’t take her out to dinner, he could at least ply her with egg rolls.

Ok.

I want fried rice.

***

Rey ate her fried rice almost mechanically, her eyes glued to the textbook on her lap. The scratch of Kylo’s red pen on his quizzes – he was grading; it was a menial task that didn’t take any concentration and allowed him to watch her out of the corner of his eye – and the tick of his clock were the only sounds in his bungalow.

Now, she’d polished off the takeout, and was sitting sideways on his couch, her legs stretched all the way out. They were still, almost comically to him, too short to span the length of his couch.  He’d settled into the opposite end of the couch, legs propped up on the coffee table. Her toes brushed his thigh every few minutes when she shifted, but other than that, they hadn’t touched each other since she’d come over. He’d almost kissed her when he answered the door, but she’d been holding her textbook against her chest, defensively, so he didn’t.

Not touching her was slowly driving him crazy. He watched her chew the end of her pen, her lips slightly parted around it. Her hair was falling in tendrils out of her top-knot, and he wanted to wrap the loose strands around his fingers and pull her head into his lap so she could wrap her mouth around something other than the pen.

Shifting on the couch, he spread his legs wider and wrapped a hand around the top of her foot. She’d kicked off her boots, and he shouldn’t have found her thick, wooly socks sexy, but he somehow did. Her eyes peered over the top of the textbook when he pulled her foot into his lap and then widened when he rested the ball of it against his erection.

“Want to help me out with this?”

“I need to study.” She raised her book higher, covering her mouth. He tried to guess if she was smiling behind the book, if she was just teasing him.

“I’ll help you study if you help me.” He bargained. She blushed; it rose up to high on her cheekbones where he could see it even behind her textbook.

Setting aside her foot, Kylo crawled along the couch towards her, grasping the spine of the book and pushing it down onto her chest.  

“Come on.” He wheedled, nibbling the sensitive spot behind her ear. “Sex helps you sleep better before a big test. It’s science.”

“I don’t need to sleep, I need to study.” She protested, but her breath was a little short.

He pressed his lips together, tucking the fuller lower one beneath the upper one. “Your midterm is tomorrow and you don’t think sucking your professor’s dick is a good use of your time?”

The second he said it, he knew he’d made a terrible miscalculation. She stiffened under him and suddenly her hands pushing back against his chest weren’t half-hearted. She shoved him off of her and scrambled off the couch, grabbing her textbook and backpack.

“Hey,” He tried to grab her wrist and she yanked it away. “We don’t have to.” He said, hating the almost desperate tone in his voice. He didn’t want her to think what he knew she was thinking. He didn’t want her to leave.

There were tears in her eyes when she opened the door and turned around to face him. “You’re a fucking asshole, you know that?”

“Rey –”

The door slammed shut behind her.  

Chapter Text

I’m sorry.

Rey read the two words over and over. “Ben” had texted her before she’d even made it halfway home. By the time she got to her apartment, there was another text.

I’m an ass.

Then, in rapid succession:

I wish I hadn’t said that.

I wasn’t trying to push you to do anything you don’t want to do.

“Do you want an egg in your ramen, or plain?” Finn poked his head out of the kitchen. Rey mustered a weak smile, too proud to cry in front of him, especially since he’d warned her that this would happen. She hadn’t listened, and she didn’t want to admit to him, or to herself, that she should have.

“I already ate.”

“You okay?” He looked at her carefully.

She couldn’t quite lie. “I just… don’t want to talk about it. Can we not talk about it?”

“Sure, peanut.” Finn’s face softened. “Drink?”

“Please.” Rey exhaled heavily. She looked at her screen for a few more seconds, and then pressed the power button, and turned the cell phone off.

***

Can we talk?

***

When Rey turned in her midterm exam the next day, she didn’t look at Kylo. He hesitated before taking the paper from her – the only thing she would look at were his hands, and she swore she saw them tremble a little – but they were in front of a class. He couldn’t say anything.

A traitorous, small part of her wanted him to. She wanted to hear him apologize, but more than that, she wanted a chance to yell at him and tell him how angry he’d made her, how small he’d made her feel.

***

Lecture was cancelled on Wednesday. On Friday, Professor Ren passed back their graded midterms, making his usual sardonic comments and pointing out to a few students that they only had six more weeks to pull up their grades. When he got around to her desk at the back of the room, he set down her paper very gently, and didn’t say anything.

There was a circled “A” at the top of the paper. Scribbled next to it was a note: you earned it.

***

“What the fuck is wrong with you?” Rey barely let the door of his office click behind her before the words erupted out of her. They’d been kept in her chest, making it tighter and tighter with anger, since Sunday night, and it felt so good to let them out. “I earned it? When did I earn it, when I let you fuck me or when I gave you a blow job?”

“Listen, Rey –” He set his pen down, and took off his glasses.

“No, you listen!” She knew her voice was starting to pitch towards hysteria. “I work really fucking hard to keep my grades up and then I work all night to pay my rent and I didn’t deserve what you said to me.” He opened his mouth, and then closed it again as she went on. She was too far gone, her voice cracking. She knew there were tears on her cheeks and she wasn’t entirely sure how they’d gotten there, but the floodgate of stress and emotion she’d kept in check for so long had broken. “You have no idea how important it is that I keep my scholarship. You don’t how hard I’ve had to work. I did it all myself and I never asked for anyone’s help, least of all yours, it is –” She choked, gulping in big breaths of air. “– so unfair for you to treat me like I’m trading sex for a grade.”

He’d stayed silent, letting her rant. When she finally stopped to catch her breath and wipe her face on her sleeve, he said, in a low voice, “I graded the exams blind.”

“What?” Her breath caught in her throat.

“I graded them blind.” His gaze was disconcertingly intense. “I had the faculty secretary redact the names for me before I looked at them, and then I asked a colleague to double check that everything was consistent.”

“Oh.” Rey said, stupidly. Her eyes watered and a stray hiccup escaped her mouth. “Do you always do that?”

“No.” He folded his hands in front of him on the desk, as if he needed something to do with them. “I didn’t want my feelings for you to affect your grade.”

She looked at her feet, breath hitching. “Would your feelings have hurt my grade or helped it?”

“I think you know the answer to that question.” When she didn’t respond, he leaned forward, resting his elbows heavily on the desk, and rubbed his eyes. “So now you know you really did earn your grade. It was important to me that you know that.”

Rey wrapped her arms around her chest, swallowing hard. “Thank you.” She said, finally. Her outburst had drained her, almost so that she was too tired to be embarrassed by it.

He nodded, slowly, and the put his glasses back on, signaling the end of the conversation. Rey turned to go, and he stopped her.

“Rey.” She half turned. He was looking at her very intently, almost beseechingly. “Do you think you can ever be alone with me and not think of me as your professor?”

She had to think about that for a second. Who he was had loomed over every interaction they’d ever had. It had colored her perception of him. It had created anxiety and conflict and made her question her own motivations and morals.

Finally, she said, “It doesn’t matter what I think. You are my professor.”

***

At the library that night – a Friday night, very quiet – he came and found her in the stacks. He approached her slowly, like she was a skittish animal.

“Hi.” Rey whispered, leaned on the book cart. She was well-aware that her eyes were red and swollen. She’d chalked it up to her friends as a remnant of the flu she’d had.

“Hi.” He looked behind himself, then down the aisle, past her. “Can I kiss you?”

Rey took a step back, coming up flush against the bookshelves. “Here?”

“No one’s around.” He moved closer, setting his hands very gently on her waist and leaning his forehead on hers. “Please.”

He kissed her like he’d missed her, as if she’d been gone on a long trip and he’d been waiting. It occurred to her that this was the first time she’d kissed him and hadn’t felt any sexual undertones. Not to say that it wasn’t passionate – it made her knees weak, all the same, but for a different reason.

Somehow, the kiss on her forehead that he gave her after, as chaste as it was, made her stomach erupt into nervous butterflies. “Can I take you on a date tomorrow? Or actually,” He checked his watch. It was past midnight. “Today?”

“Kylo…” She saw the brief flash of happiness that she’d used his first name, again. “We can’t. Someone will see us.”

“Trust me.” He squeezed her fingers, and then plucked a book off of her cart and turned to head back to the rare books room. “I’ll pick you up at six-thirty.”

***

He pulled up in front of her apartment in his old truck at six-twenty. Rey darted out and hopped up into the passenger seat, praying that if she was quick enough, no one would spot her. When she saw what he was wearing, she burst into laughter.  He was wearing a suit with a baseball pulled down over his eyes.

“What are you wearing?”

“I didn’t want anyone to recognize me.” He put the truck in reverse and backed out of the parking lot. While he reversed, he put his arm around the back of her seat so he could crane his neck and look behind them. His fingers brushed her neck and sent a little shiver down her spine.

“Where are we going?” Once they’d pulled onto the street, he pulled off the baseball cap and ran his hand through his hair. It was hopelessly mussed. She liked it best that way, she decided.

“I’m taking you to dinner.”

“Kylo…”

“I promise, no one will see us.”

He was true to his word. He got on the interstate highway and headed east, and after fifteen minutes Rey finally relaxed, the tension leaving her shoulders. The further they drove from the university, the less likely it was that anyone would see them, and the freer she felt. Kylo played old music and sang along under his breath. He caught her looking at him and smiled, unembarrassed.

“What is this, from the eighties?”

“It’s from the seventies.”

“Like you?” She teased, only half-serious. He cringed.

“I was born in 1987, for your information.” Rey calculated his age, mentally. Twenty-nine, then. He was silent for a moment, watching the sunset and the road, and then added, in a quieter voice. “My dad used to always sing this song to my mom.”

“It’s a great song.”

He nodded, rolling down the window as they turned off the interstate and onto a back road. He put his arm out the window and splayed his fingers into the breeze, humming along. He glanced over at her during the chorus, still singing along. “I think I could stay with you.”

It wasn’t until they got to the restaurant that Rey realized it wasn’t just that song. All the songs he’d played were songs about love. They weren’t ones she’d recognize, not having grown up with them, but she knew what they were about.

***

The restaurant was a candlelit nook in a restored brick building, in a town an hour and a half away from the university, where no one knew their names. It was the kind of place she hadn’t stepped foot in years. Kylo ordered steak without blinking, but she carefully chose the cheapest pasta on the menu, out of habit. It was still expensive enough to make her gulp.

They talked about her major – he was clueless about engineering, and it was oddly satisfactory to see him that way – and the weather, the kind of topics you discuss with a distant relative or casual acquaintance because you don’t want to get any deeper. By the time dinner had arrived, she was happy to eat and have an excuse not to make small talk. Somehow, meaningless small talk felt completely out of character for both of them. It was something you did on a first date, not after you’d been naked together.

 “So.” Kylo took a sip of wine halfway through his steak – the waiter hadn’t asked her for identification, thankfully, when he’d ordered wine. He must have forgotten that he was on a date with someone who couldn’t even legally drink. The thought was somewhat disconcerting. Still, the wine was very good, much better than she could afford, and she’d had two and a half glasses. “How’s my groveling working, so far?”

“Oh.” Rey took a little gulp of wine. “It’s going well, but it’s not really fair. The way to my heart is through my stomach.”

He chuckled. “I didn’t know that. I would have taken you somewhere nice.”

“This is nice.” Rey was almost offended. “This is really nice.” Without thinking, she added, “This pasta cost more than I spend on food in a week.”

His brow creased. “What do you eat?”

“Ramen. Lots of ramen.” Rey made a face. “It gets pretty boring.”

He cut into his steak, obviously keeping his voice carefully neutral. “Do your parents not help you out? With money, I mean?”

Rey looked down at her plate, appetite suddenly dampened. She’d invited this question, she knew, with her rant in his office the day before. Finally, she said, quietly, “My parents are dead.”

He lowered his fork back to his plate, the bite of meat still on it. “I’m sorry.”

“It’s fine. I was a baby.” She traced the curve of her spoon, consciously avoiding his gaze. “I didn’t really grow up an orphan, though. I lived with my great uncle until I was eleven.”

“Here?”

“No, in England.” She forced herself to take a bite of pasta, hoping he’d change the subject. When she’d swallowed, he was still waiting for her to elaborate. “I moved here when he died, to live with my second cousin.”

“And he doesn’t help you with money.” He asked the question as if it was a statement.

“I never asked. He was a pig.” Rey said, acidly. “I left when I turned eighteen. I got a student visa and a job and a scholarship and went to college on my own.” There was an awkward silence, and she cleared her throat, feeling as if she’d overshared. “What about you?”

“Not nearly as interesting.” He poured himself more wine. “Mom and Dad divorced when I was eight. Dad died of prostate cancer last year.”

“I’m sorry.”

“We weren’t very close.” He shrugged.

“Are you close to your mother?”

He eyed her over the rim of his wine glass. “I’m not very close to anyone.”

“Too busy writing your book and terrorizing freshmen?” She knew the joke hit a little too close to home, but he didn’t seem offended.

“Maybe.” He conceded. “Or maybe I’m an asshole who pushes people away.”

“You are.” She deadpanned. He laughed a little too loud for the restaurant.

“Are you drunk?” He asked her, abruptly.

“No.” Indignant, Rey set down her wineglass. “Tipsy, not drunk. There’s a difference. Why do you ask?”

“You’ve never been this forthcoming with me before. You always… keep me at an arm’s length.” He cocked his head at her, adjusting his glasses on the brim of his nose. “I thought maybe it was the wine.”

Rey looked around. “It’s being away from the university. I don’t feel like myself, and you don’t feel like you. And maybe it’s the wine, too.” She pressed her lips together in the barest of smiles, realizing something. “Kylo.”

“Mmm?”

“I’m not thinking of you as my professor, right now.”

Chapter Text

Kylo had been walking on eggshells around her all week.

Rey could tell every time they had sex – he looked like he was biting down to avoid blurting something out, and his eyes flashed to hers, frequently, as if for reassurance –  but it was clearest after they had sex. He’d get a beseeching, liquid look in his dark eyes as she got dressed and cleaned herself up. He’d stay naked in bed, watching her, chewing his lip like he wanted to say something.

She knew what he wanted to ask, but it was as if he didn’t know how to ask. He’d been dropping futile hints. A copy of his key on the nightstand, a new toothbrush for her on the bathroom sink. He morosely followed her to the door when she left, sometimes in just a blanket. He didn’t kiss her goodbye, and she wasn’t sure if that was because kissing goodbye was too intimate, or just because he didn’t want to say goodbye.

Today, after his four o’clock Thursday faculty meeting, she’d carefully made her way to his bungalow from a nearby coffee shop. She felt like a criminal, looking around and holding her breath as she ran up the steps and let herself in. When he made it home a few minutes later, they didn’t even make it to the bedroom. He’d made love to her in the kitchen, her bottom resting on the kitchen countertop, before he’d carried her to bed and curled himself around her like a large, possessive cat. They’d dozed together for a few hours, and even in his sleep, his arms were too tight around her, keeping her there.

She knew it would wake him up when she got up and started looking for her clothes. It always did

“Do you have to go?” His voice rumbled from the darkness.

Part of her had wanted to hear him ask her to stay the night. But part of her wanted to hear him tell her.

He’d been too nice, since she’d screamed at him in his office. They’d made up – oh, they’d made up, on his couch, in his shower, in the backseat of his car, even at her apartment when Finn and Poe were out – but he was nervous around her. The dynamic, somehow, made her more uncomfortable than his foregone sexual aggressiveness had. It lent itself to insecurity. A part of her – a bigger part than she wanted to admit – wondered whether he did want her to stay the night, or whether he was bored of her, or whether their affair had fizzled out already. There had to be some reason, other than the fight, that he wasn’t pursuing her the way he always had.

“I need to get up in the morning and go to class.” Rey put her arms into her sweater, one at a time. “And I need to have dinner.”

“I’ll order pizza.” He sat up slowly, and reached for the hem of her shirt, tugging it.

“Not in the mood for pizza.” She saw his face when she flicked on the lamp. He was pouting, even if he’d never admit it. Those full lips didn’t lie.

“I’ll order anything you want.” He tugged the fabric hard enough to make her shift towards him, and suddenly, his arms were wrapping around her thighs. He pressed a soft kiss onto her lower abdomen. “Stay.”

“You’ve never asked me to stay before.” She played with the hair that curled around his ear, tucking it behind the shell of cartilage. His breath was very warm on her skin, even through her shirt. In the lamplight, his eyes were luminaries. Unexpectedly, something had stirred in her belly.

“I thought it was obvious what I wanted.” He rested his chin on her stomach, drawing her between his knees and straining his neck to look up at her face.

“Doesn’t mean I don’t want you to ask.”

He studied her for a second, gaze inscrutable as ever, and then said, simply, “Stay the night with me.”

The heat that had pooled in her belly descended between her thighs, dampening them. Shuffling around through their clothes, she’d found his tie on the floor, and now, it gave her a wicked idea. It was the kind of idea she couldn’t give voice to without blushing, but she made an admirable try. Her voice only wavered a little. “If you want me to stay, tie me up and keep me here.”

Kylo went perfectly still for a second, and then a grin flitted across his face. He stood, abruptly, taking her off her feet and turning around to throw her back onto the mattress. He found his tie on the floor – great minds, she thought, rubbing her thighs together, think alike. When he stood over her, unknotting and re-knotting the black tie, looking every inch predatory, she had that old, familiar feeling of being much smaller and younger and at his mercy. It was a sensation that, strangely, she’d missed.  

“Take off your clothes for me.” She’d only gotten her shirt and panties on, and they were easy to wriggle out of. She watched her through hooded eyes, and when she was naked, said, so softly she barely heard it, “Turn over.”

The bed creaked as he settled over her, once she was on her stomach. On either side of her legs, she could feel his knees and thighs pressed against her, and she was acutely aware of his full body weight, even though he knelt over her. His large hands drew her arms up, arranging them, one folded across the other, and then slipped her wrists through the necktie, securing it to the iron bars at the head of his bed.

Kylo seemed to settle back onto his heels, over her calves, to appreciate his handiwork for a moment. Then, like a cat playing with food before he ate it, he traced the little crease at the top of her thighs, where it tickled. He dipped his hand in between her legs, pushing his fingers into her. When he took them out, they were wet, and he traced little patterns over her bottom. He slapped her, lightly, then dipped his fingers back in. When he took them out again, he dragged them up the furrow of her ass, and she caught her breath at the new sensation. He stopped, the tip of his finger right between the tops of her cheeks.

“May I put my fingers in your ass?”

For some reason – maybe it was the formal way he’d asked it, or maybe it was the bluntness of the question, or both – Rey burst into uncontrollable nervous laugher. She smothered it in the pillow and when she finally raised her head she asked, still giggling, “You want to put your fingers in there?”

“Well, I actually want to put my penis in there, but that’s not something you should just rush into.” He traced the cleft between her cheeks very lightly with one finger, making her wiggle her hips. “Unless you’ve done this before.”

“No.”

He planted a soft kiss at the base of her spine, right at the little hollow, bony spot there. “Do you trust me?

“Yes.” She didn’t think before she answered, but the lure of doing something forbidden, something she shouldn’t, was too strong.

He kissed three of her vertebrae, quick pecks, and then rose off the bed and moved across the room. Not being able to see him heightened the mystery of this already mysterious act. She could hear the click of something being opened, and then the slippery sound of him rubbing his hands together. When he climbed back on the bed and ran his finger down from her lower back, between her cheeks, it was slick and warm with lubricant.

The digit circled around the pucker there, circling wide at first and then massaging the muscle itself. It felt strangely ticklish, but not in a way that made her want to laugh. The very tip of his finger prodded, carefully, and then penetrated her. She sucked in her breath, surprised at the sensation as he moved his finger in the tiniest of circles around the inside of her, gently stretching and teasing the nerve-rich skin there. It felt like an itch being scratched, the relief of the scratch resonating deep in her abdomen.

“Good?” He sounded throaty behind her.

“Weird. But good.”

Seeming satisfied with her answer, he sunk the finger in fully and slowly. The moan that escaped her was involuntary, and when he pushed in a second, thick finger, her back arched almost unnaturally, toes curling.

His other hand eased under her arching body, into the scant space between her lifted hips and the mattress, and plucked at her clitoris. Rey buried her face in the pillow and trembled, and ground down against his palm. The pillow muffled all but the loudest of her moans as he worked both his hands against her in tandem, but it couldn’t quite stifle her when the force of her orgasm crashed over her. She keened and clenched around him and found him in more places than she was used to, and felt deliciously full of him.

She heard him in the bathroom – she was vaguely aware of water running and the crinkle of a foil condom wrapper – but it was as if she was in a deep fog of almost-sleep. She felt boneless and sated, and couldn’t even bring herself to lift her head from the pillow. Perhaps she could die here, blissfully exhausted.

Kylo came back to bed – maybe after a minute, maybe after thirty minutes, she had no concept of time anymore – and, in an odd combination of gentleness and brute strength, lifted her hips off the bed, arranging her on her knees with her pelvis tilted back and open to him. He reared up behind her, his cock nudging between her legs. For a dizzying moment, she thought he was going to push into the same place his fingers had been, and she almost wanted him to. He didn’t.

“Kylo.” She was suddenly grateful she wasn’t facing him. Asking this – no matter how desperate she, irrationally, felt – was embarrassing, and her face was hot and red.

“Mmph.” He grunted in response, in time with his thrusts. He was pushing in hard and fast and withdrawing slow, and torturing her.

“Can you…” She wetted her lips and shut her eyes. “Put them back?”

He broke stride for a second, hips faltering. “What?”

“Put your fingers back in my ass.” She didn’t think she sounded sexy – she sounded, to her ears, high-pitched and self-conscious, not seductive and uninhibited.

Apparently, though, he liked what he heard. He made a strangled noise and came all of the sudden, letting out a string of curses. The first few curses were in the throes of orgasm, the rest of them sounded self-deprecating.

“Shit, fuck, I’m sorry.” Pulling out, he flopped onto his back and tore off the condom, tossing it into the bin beside his nightstand. His hand trembled when he rested it on his sweaty, heaving chest. “I didn’t expect for that to happen.”

Lying on her stomach, Rey peered at him over her outstretched arm, still restrained by the tie. “I didn’t expect it, either.”

His face reddened, and this, she was confident, wasn’t just from the exertion of sex. “Hearing you… it just, I don’t know.” He trailed off, nervously. Rey watched him from her under arm, equally confused and amused. The awkward, stuttering man in front of her was so different from the lover of a few moments ago, and she wasn’t sure which was the real man.

Wriggling her fingers, Rey changed the subject to spare his dignity. “Untie me?”

“Oh, right.” He leaned over, fumbling with the knotted silk, and then suddenly stopped. Hovering over her, he asked, half-jokingly, in her ear, “Will you be a good and stay if I untie you?”

“Yes.” Rey craned her neck to make a face at him. Once the tie was tossed onto the floor, she snuggled under the covers, retrospectively aware of how vulnerable she’d been in front of him, just moments before. He joined her, stretching out his long limbs with a yawn, settling onto his back, and pulling her into his chest. She shifted around, uncomfortable. She couldn’t quite get used to being cuddled by him – in this, as in all things, he was possessive and overwhelming, and she was used to sleeping alone.

He didn’t seem to have any such qualms. He was so still she even wondered if he’d fallen asleep. After a brief stretch of time, her stomach grumbled, quietly, and she was proven wrong when he heard it.

“Hungry?” He sounded sleepy and satisfied.

“Yes.” Rey sunk into the mattress when he rose off it, curling in on herself in the warm spot he’d left behind.

“What do you want?” He asked through his shirt, as he pulled it on over his head.

“Whatever is fine.”

 “I’ll be right back.” He leaned over her, pulled the blanket down from where it covered the lower half of her face, and smothered her nose and chin with kisses. “You’d better still be here when I do.”

“No promises.” Rey yawned, pulling the blanket back up.

“I’ll bring you some pie.”

“All right, I’ll stick around.” Rey grinned, watching him over the top of the covers. “Will you eat it off my boobs?”

He laughed. “I don’t think I can get it up again, and even if I could, having sex three times in six hours would probably send me into cardiac arrest. I’m too old for this.” He stopped short, and suddenly, his face was serious. “Do you wish I was younger?”

“No.” Rey narrowed her eyes at him. He pushed, his eyes large and anxious.

“Next month I’ll be thirty. You aren’t even in your twenties.”

“Does it bother you that I’m nineteen?”

“No.” Kylo argued, planting his hands on his hips. “But that’s different. You’re young, but you’re not getting any younger. One day you’ll wake up and I’ll be middle-aged, and you’ll wish I wasn’t.”

“Why are you talking about one day?” The second Rey said it, she knew she’d hurt him. Something flashed across his face and left as soon as it had come. It was too serious a conversation for that moment. It was a conversation she wasn’t ready to have. “I wish you’d go and get dinner.”

 “All right.” The look he threw her was full of almost agonizing self-doubt, and then he was gone. As sleepy as she’d been, Rey suddenly couldn’t sleep.

Chapter Text

Ping.

Rey raised her head from where she’d been bent over her books. That wasn’t her cell phone’s ringtone, but it had most definitely come from within her room. Kylo had hurried out the door to get to his office hours – they extended from six until nine tonight, in anticipation of the final exam in three days and the due date of term paper tomorrow.

The text was from “Mom.”

Call me this weekend?

All of the messages in the thread were sent from “Mom” – Kylo hadn’t responded to any of them.

Feeling guilty she’d looked at the messages, she clicked out of the message thread, scrambling to find her name and text him to come get his phone so that she wouldn’t be tempted to keep snooping. Her name wasn’t anywhere in his contacts. Going to his messages, she flicked through them until she saw the latest one she’d sent him – how’s your day?

Those were her text messages – she recognized them – but he’d saved her contact information under the name “Aphrodite”.

Without thinking, she typed out a message:

You took my phone.

A text message came back, sent from her number.

Sorry. Come by my office hours and we can switch back.

Shouldn’t I be Eros, not Aphrodite?

Why?

Eros is the god of erotic love.

I see you’ve been studying. Then, a few seconds later,

So surely you know Aphrodite is the goddess of romantic love.

When she didn’t answer, he sent another text. See you tonight.

***

“Hey.” Kylo leaned back in his chair when she walked in from the dark hallway.

“Any takers so far?” She glanced at the clock on his wall. It was ten-til-eight.

“A few.” He glanced behind her and then stood, leaned over his desk, and pecked her on the mouth. “Nobody’s around right now, though.”

“Stop.” Rey admonished him, ducking his second kiss. “We can’t.”

He gave her a bemused look as he settled back into his chair. She perched on the chair across the desk from him, hands folded over her knees, both protectively and to stop herself from getting up and going around the desk to him.

“You didn’t really just come here to return my phone, did you?” His words were laced with implication, enough to make her blush.

“I came to talk about my term paper.” She told him, primly.

“Oh.” His brows knit together in an endearingly confused expression. “Seriously, or is this some kind of roleplay?”

Kylo.” She caught herself as soon as she said it. She knew she should know better than to refer to him by his first name on campus. “Professor.”

“Sorry.” His lips twitched and his eyes danced in that way that made her stomach flutter. “Raincheck on the roleplay?”

Actual annoyance twisted itself in her gut now, both at his carelessness, talking like that with the door open and during his office hours, and at his refusal to take her seriously. “You asked me if I can stop thinking of you as my professor. Well, I want you to respect that my grades are important to me and to think of me as a student.”

His smile flattened out. “Right.” He cleared his throat, awkwardly, and then adopted a professorial, detached voice. “What is your topic?”

“It’s called The Disappearance of Persephone.” She realized how strange it was that this was the first time they were discussing it – she sat through his lectures dutifully, three times a week, and came to his bed at least as many times, but staunchly, she’d never let business and pleasure mix. She’d drafted out her term paper and researched in his bed, on lazy Saturdays, and they’d never talked about her work.

“Hades and Persephone.” His pedantic mask dropped for a second. “Apropos.”

“It’s…” Rey nibbled her lip. “I know most people hear the myth, or read the Homeric hymn, and think it’s symbolic of death, but I think there’s more to it. She didn’t die, she disappeared into Hades for half the year. Literally and… well, figuratively. She was forced to have a double life.”

“Spring and winter.” He was studying her as if she were some rare novelty.

“Dark and light.” She supplied. “I –”

“Professor.” The pimpled girl – Rey recognized her – stood outside the door, laptop clutched in hand.

“Yes.” Kylo’s voice only jumped in pitch a little. “We aren’t done yet.” His eyes didn’t leave Rey’s face as he addressed the other student.

“I was just leaving, actually.” Rey clattered to her feet. As she passed the girl, she realized there was something funny about the way she’d dressed – more nicely than she did for class. She was wearing makeup, a bit too exaggerated. The girl was, Rey had to acknowledge, despite the twist in her gut, not totally unattractive despite the pimples. She had big breasts and tight clothes and she was blonde.

And, she gave her the strangest look as they brushed shoulders in the threshold of Professor Ren’s office.  

***

When Rey opened the door, she was wearing his shirt, only his shirt, a white button-up that he’d left behind one time. It was comically big on her, the sleeves hanging down past her hands, and he shirt-trails covering her thighs, but his mouth went dry nonetheless, and his heart pitter-pattered faster than it needed to.

“Are you wearing my shirt?” He blurted it out, not caring that he was staring like an idiot. Rey gave him a strange look as she shut the door behind him. He’d texted her, confirmed that her room-mate was sleeping over at his boyfriend’s, and hadn’t asked permission to come over. Still, she didn’t seem surprised to see him. She just seemed oblivious to how sexy she looked. He’d intended to initiate a serious conversation (really, he’d been intending to for about a month) but his best intentions were blown away by that shirt and her bare legs.

“Yes?” She fingered the cuff. “I was about to go to sleep when you texted me.”

“You sleep in my shirt?” He couldn’t help how smug his voice sounded. Irrational pride, enough to puff out his chest, flooded him and left him feeling a bit giddy.

Rey flushed. “I was going to dry clean it and return it, but I can’t afford dry cleaning.”

“Keep it.” He crowded her against the wall. “Are you wearing anything underneath it?”

She realized now what the shirt was doing to him. “No.” She played with the top button, undoing it. “Want to see?”

“No.” He covered her hand with his. “Leave it on.”

He took her to bed and laid her down on it, opening the top few buttons of his shirt, pulling one side of it down to expose her breast, and nestling his face into it. He licked her nipple experimentally, flicking it with his tongue. It pebbled up for him, flushed rosy pink.

Moving the shirt-tails aside and bunching them around her waist, Kylo smoothed a hand up each thigh and then pulled them apart, rocking back on his heels and looking down at her. “You have the most perfect cunt, did you know that?” 

“I don’t know if you’re trying to talk dirty or be romantic.” She screwed up her face, covering it with her hands and peering at him through them. When she tried to close her legs he pushed her knees apart again and ducked between them.

“I’m trying to be romantic.” He kissed her hip-bone, a sweet, smacking kiss with his lips closed, making her laugh, and then flashed her a devilish look. “If I wanted to be dirty you’d know it.”

“Oh?”

“Mm.” He nuzzled into her labia. “This is me being romantic.” He swiped his tongue up her sex, swirling it around her clitoris and making her sigh. “And licking your pretty little cunt.”

“You are trying to talk dirty.” Her accusation was a little breathless. “You – oh.” She hissed when he sucked that little bud into his mouth. “You’re good at that.”

He rolled onto his back and let her ride him; it was the first time he’d done that in the whole of two months they’d been having sex. Usually, he listened to his most primal desires, and those were to pin her down and dominate her, but from this position he could see her better. He liked it more than he thought he would. Her rocking back and forth, and rising and falling on his cock, his white shirt hanging off one shoulder, exposing her left breast, was the most erotic thing he’d ever seen. He wrapped his hands in the white fabric, still stiff and starchy, and guided her. The familiar arch in her back when she came looked totally different from this angle, but he still knew it by heart. When he finished, a few moments after her, she tilted forward, his spend trickling out of her and onto his thighs, and kissed his hammering pulse in the hollow of throat.

“I love seeing you in my shirt.” He huffed out, afterwards, wrapping himself around her and burying his face in her mussed hair.

Rey laughed, sleepily. “Stay the night?”

“Of course.” He shifted on the hard mattress. It was uncomfortable, but he’d stay, nonetheless, to curl around her all night long. “You know, there’s a faculty Christmas party tomorrow.” His words hung in the over them. “I don’t really go to many… social functions. But I wish I could take you.”

Rey rolled over in his arms. A little crease of worry appeared between her brows, and he regretted that she didn’t look sleepy and post-orgasmic anymore. That was how he liked her best.

“You aren’t planning on taking any more of my classes, are you?”

“No.” Her small fingers splayed out over his heart.

“Good.” Kylo said, simply. He settled his hand over his, but she tugged it away.

“Why?” Rey sounded suspicious, and he should have taken that as a warning sign. But then again, he’d never been good at self-preservation.

“I want…” Kylo trailed off. “I can’t keep this up much longer.” He spread her fingers apart and studied them, then kissed each one, punctuating his words with each peck. “I don’t want to keep sneaking around.”

She sat up slowly, wrapping her arms around herself. “Nothing’s going to change, Kylo.”

“It’s not against school policy anymore, once you’re not in my class. I looked it up.”

“It’s not about policy.” Rey was making a funny face, as if she was trying not to cry. “Everyone would know how we met.”

“Who cares?”

I care.” Her voice pitched upwards. “People will think –”

“I don’t care what people think.”

“Yeah, well you have the luxury of not caring. I don’t. My professors won’t respect me. People will call me a – a slut. Everyone will think of me as the girl who fucked her professor for an A.”

Now, his voice changed tone as well, deepening with anger and resentment. It was pooling in his belly; whether it was mostly directed at himself for wanting something he couldn’t have, he didn’t know. “You know that’s not what this is about.”

She didn’t answer, and he realized she was crying, silently, her back to him. She huddled into his shirt, arms wrapped around herself. When she didn’t answer, he got off the bed and walked around it to face her.

“Rey.” She looked up at him, and despite her tears, there was something defiant in her gaze. “We can’t keep our relationship a secret forever.”

“Our relationship?” She choked out. “Kylo, we don’t have a relationship. We have sex.”

“Shut up.” He didn’t mean to shout those two words, but he did. Something snapped in him, and filled him with terrible, directionless rage. “You stay over at my house and I know your favorite foods. You sleep on your stomach and you text me good morning and you let me come in you, so don’t fucking tell me we don’t have a relationship.”

She looked up at him with wet eyes, mouth trembling, but she didn’t say anything.

“Last time I checked, I had some say in this.” He snapped, when he couldn’t stand her silence anymore. “And I say we’re in a relationship.”

She swallowed, hard, twice, and then said, in a very small voice, “I think you should go. Before you say something you can’t take back.”

“What the fuck are you afraid of me saying?” He growled. His hands were reflexively clenching into fists, and he’d never hit a woman, but fuck if he didn’t need to punch a wall or something right now. “Are you afraid I’ll say something too fucking intimate? Are you afraid I’ll tell you I love you?”

“Please go.” Her voice cracked painfully. “I can’t do this right now.”

Kylo looked at her for a long moment and then turned around. He tried to calm his breathing, putting his hands on his waist and bracing himself, but it only worked for a second. A fresh wave of fury and self-loathing washed over him, and he strode across the room. Kicking over her trash can, he stubbed his bare toe and snarled, both in pain and anger, “God damnit.”

When he turned back to Rey, she was unbuttoning his shirt. When it was off, she balled it and stood there, naked, holding it out for him to take with him.

Chapter Text

“Rey.”

She looked up. Poe and Finn were standing in the door of her bedroom, holding beers and wearing hopeful expressions. “What?”

“Come out with us. Last night before Christmas break. It’ll cheer you up.”

“I have one more exam, I can’t.” She looked down at her textbook. Her last engineering exam had been yesterday, the morning after her screaming match with Kylo had concluded with him storming out of her apartment. That had left her with nothing to do but study for his exam, which was on the last day of the final exam period. It was torture, in both an academic and personal sense. “I need to study.”

“Yeah, but it’s classics.” Poe pushed a beer into her hand.  He saw the look cross her face. "And he's an ass. Drink up, we’re going out.”

***

The end of term parties were in full swing when they made their way north of campus, to fraternity row and the historic neighborhood full of dilapidated mansions that seemed to fulfill no purpose other than to host raucous house parties. Nearly all of the eleven thousand students at the university had finished their final exams that day, and those who hadn’t seemed to still be at parties.

Rey followed Poe and Finn to one house party – “a friend of a friend’s” – and then another. She faked a smile and took tequila shots and danced. Even surrounded by friends, and then strangers, she felt a pervading sense of loneliness, as if there was an empty spot in her body under her ribs. She got drunker, and drunker, and felt sorrier and sorrier for herself, and at the fourth party, she looked up and realized Finn and Poe were gone.

***

Kylo’s ringtone would have woken him if he’d been asleep, but he wasn’t. He’d been lying in bed for four hours, staring at the ceiling and thinking about her – and then she called.

He looked at his cell phone. Aphrodite. His finger lingered over the red button on the screen for a moment. He contemplated not answering. How dare she call him – booty call him, really – at three in the morning? He finally resolved to pick up the phone and tell her off.

“What is it?” No answer. There was music in the background, and he wondered if she’d called him by mistake, but he heard her breath hitch over the line, and that stopped him short before he could hang up. “Rey?”

“Hi.” She snuffed, and then blurted out, “I’m really drunk –”

“Rey.” He hated himself for the sinking feeling in his gut when he heard that. He’d intended to be angry that she was calling him for sex, but instead, he was just angry at himself for being so pathetic and sad about it. “We’re not doing this anymore.”

“No, no, please don't hang up.” Her voice rose, hysterical and a little slurred. “I’m at this party. My friends left me and I’m stuck here.”

“Do you need me to call you a cab?” He asked her, softening a little but still wanting to keep his distance. He couldn’t get sucked into this, into her again. He’d spent forty-eight hours preparing himself to never see her again after the final exam tomorrow.

“No, I’m – I’m locked in a bathroom.” Her voice was very small, and afraid.

“What happened?” Kylo’s hackles rose. He didn’t like the tone of her voice.

“This guy was – um. He poured his beer on me. He tried to take my shirt off.” She gulped and he realized she was crying. “I’m sorry, I’m so drunk. I didn’t know who else to call.”

He was on his feet and yanking on pants before the white-hot anger cleared from his vision. He spat out the words. "Where’s the party?"

"It's a big white house." She sounded panicky. Her description could fit almost any fraternity house, and she knew it. “I don’t know.”

"What intersection?"

"Like... North of campus. I think. There's a lot of cars outside. I don't know. I'm in the upstairs bathroom. He’s outside."

"I'm coming for you. Just stay where you are." He was about to hang up, pulse racing, when she stopped him.

“Kylo!”

“What?” He was halfway out the door, running to his truck.

“Please... stay on the phone."

***

Kylo drove like a maniac to the north side of campus, phone propped between his cheek and his shoulder, speeding down the narrow streets. Rey didn’t talk much; he heard distant banging and yelling in the distance, and her pitiful yelp, “Leave me alone.”

The brakes of his car screeched when he came to stop outside a two-story white house, one of the few that was still playing loud music and had a keg out on the yard. It was three-thirty in the morning, and most of the other parties had calmed down. The beat of music he heard through the phone lined up with the music emanating from this house. He didn’t bother trying to find a spot among all the other cars. He turned off his engine and left the vehicle in the middle of the road, and then jogged inside.

Inside, the music was even louder, and vulgar, and the room was still crowded despite the late hour. The crowd of casual partygoers had long departed, leaving just the fraternity members, and the girls they were trying to take to bed. Kylo knew he stood out like a sore thumb in his sweater and slacks - he'd just thrown on the closest clothes he could find on the floor - and he got more than a few strange looks. He hadn’t really accounted for that – hadn’t considered the possibility that there were, of course, students at this party, and those students might be his students, and they might recognize him as a faculty member. At this point, he couldn’t turn back. He could hear her breathing through the phone.

Upstairs, the narrow hallway was crammed full of boys, some drunker than others. One of them, particularly loutish, clutching a half-full bottle of clear alcohol, was leaning against a narrow white door.

"Move." Kylo told him, flatly. He might have been wearing slacks, but he had a few inches and at least thirty pounds on the drunk boy. "Or I'll move you." Pounding on the door once it was clear, he said, into the phone, "Rey? It's me."

There wasn't any reply, and for a moment he was sure this was just a closet, or for that matter, that he was at the wrong house entirely. Then, the lock clicked, and the door opened a crack. Rey's hazel eyes, red-rimmed and puffy, peered out at him. Pushing his way in, Kylo pocketed his cell phone and closed the door behind himself.

Rey was swaying on her feet in the small space. The smell of alcohol and vomit clung to her, and her shirt was soaked through and stretched wildly at the neck, as if someone had tried to pull it off over her head and she’d resisted.  

"What happened?" His hands twitched by his sides with the effort of resisting the irrationally powerful urge to run his hands over her and reassure himself that she was okay, or to go back out the door, hunt down that jackass kid, and kill him.

"He poured his beer on me. All his friends were laughing because my shirt was...” She gestured to her wet, see-through shirt, and sniffed, stumbling a little. At the last minute before she fell, he caught her arms and lowered her to sit on the toilet lid, crouching in front of her. "I'm so stupid, I don't even know how I got up to his room."

“Let’s go.” He needed to leave before he did something stupid. Stupider than showing up at an undergraduate party. “Do you need me to carry you?”

“I’m not that drunk.” She slurred, standing up and falling immediately into his arms.

“Okay, champ. Whatever you say.” Wrapping an arm around her waist, he opened the door and eased her out into the hallway. It had cleared somewhat, as if the fraternity brothers had caught wind of a professor being there and had left to hide their beer and weed and girls. The stairs were difficult to navigate, but far more uncomfortable was the atmosphere downstairs when they crossed the living room.

Even despite the pounding bass, the room seemed to go silent. All chatter and sweet-talk ceased, and all eyes were on them. Rey was oblivious, practically tripping over her feet, but Kylo felt the weight of their stares. He felt an uncomfortable prickle at their judgment, and understood, suddenly, why Rey feared it so much. He found like he was surrounded by a pack of wolves, and he thought he recognized some of their eyes from his lectures.

Outside, he helped Rey into the passenger seat, and buckled her in. She was staring straight ahead, glassy eyed, her full weight leaning into the seat belt. When they were halfway to his bungalow – he took her there out of habit, and because he couldn’t leave her alone like this – she leaned over, and promptly vomited on his lap.

“I’m sorry.” She kept repeating that, becoming less and less intelligible each time. “Shit, I’m sorry.”

***

He let her lean against him in the shower, closing her eyes and going near-boneless as he rinsed the crusted vomit and beer off of her skin. He washed her hair, too, even though it wasn’t dirtied, and when he did, she wrapped her arms around his waist and cried against his wet chest, her tears mixing with the hot water.

“No one’s ever taken care of me.”

“Shh.”

“No.” Her gaze finally focused, onto his face. She brushed his jaw and nose, features he thought were ugly and too big, tenderly, with a child’s curiosity. Her hand was wobbly and drunk. “No one’s ever loved me.”

***

When Rey woke up the next morning, she vaguely remembered him holding her hair back while she threw up in a bucket and holding an impossibly heavy bottle of Gatorade up to her lips. His hands had smoothed her hair and wiped her mouth with a warm, wet, rag. She remembered him holding her in the shower, his heartbeat a familiar refrain against her ear as he washed her clean. He’d put her in a clean t-shirt and into his soft bed, and she’d slept, or rather, passed out.

But he wasn’t there when she woke up. His alarm clock showed seven in the morning – five hours until the final exam, and she had a splitting headache, and an equally painful sense of self-loathing.

She found him on the couch, asleep in his clothes, his big feet and long legs hanging off one end. He looked untroubled in his sleep, but he stirred, as if he could feel her watching him.

“Why didn’t you come to bed?” Her voice was tender, moreso than she’d planned on it being, when his lashes parted.

“I didn’t think you’d want me to.” His voice was husky with sleep. She felt her gut wrench in guilt.  "How do you feel?"

"Like shit. I’m so sorry.”

“It’s not your fault.” He sat up, slowly, smoothing his wild hair. Almost to himself, he said, “I should have kicked his ass.”

“No, I mean… not about last night.” Rey sat, nervously, on the end of the couch. “I’m sorry. About what I said.”

He looked at his feet. It was strange to her that he wasn’t touching her, or even making eye contact. “Don’t apologize. That just makes it worse.”

“Kylo…”

“No.” He finally made eye contact with her. His eyes were burning. “I can’t force you to feel the same way I do.”

"I called you last night." The prickle of shame finally reached the backs of her eyes and made them water. Her voice took on that tight sound it had when she was trying not to cry.

“You were drunk.” He ducked his head again, large shoulders caving in on themselves as if that would help him disappear.

“You didn’t have to come.” Her voice broke. “You didn’t even have to pick up the phone. I wouldn’t have blamed you.” She covered his hand with hers on his knee, and he looked sharply up at her. “You’ve been so good to me, and I’ve been so stupid about you.”

“Rey…” He sounded like he was trying to dissuade her, but there was a note of longing in her name, as if he wanted her to keep going.

“I’m sorry.” She should have thought of something more eloquent to say – something about how he brought her coffee, pancakes, and pie, about how he drove an hour and a half to take her on dates, how he kissed her in a way that made her tummy flutter, how he made love to her in a way that made her toes curl, how he’d driven across town to rescue her from a fraternity house in the middle of the night, how he took the most tender care of her – but she couldn’t. She leaned forward and kissed him, trying to tell him all of that with one kiss. His mouth was flat and closed under hers at first, and then it opened to her, and he opened up to her, sighing into her mouth.

“People will talk.” Kylo broke the kiss, reluctantly. “After last night.”

"I know.” The knowledge was a pit in her stomach, but it was, in a way, freeing. Her fear of retribution or humiliation had been the driving force behind her rejection of him, but it had also been a crutch. It had been a good excuse not to become emotionally intimate no matter how much he craved that.

Rey still didn’t know if she could be that emotionally intimate with him, but she could try. He deserved it. That was abundantly clear to her, now, although perhaps it should have been for a long time. Grasping the collar of his shirt, she tugged him over to her, brushing her nose against his.

“The semester is over in four and a half hours.” She pressed her mouth to his, softly. “Since they’re going to talk anyways…”

He rumbled his agreement in his chest, and kissed her again.

***

When Rey walked into the classroom for the exam, there was no coffee on her desk. The proctor was at the front of the room, talking in low tones to the professor. He glanced at her briefly, his face carefully neutral.

Three more hours, she told herself, as she slid into her seat. Then, there would be no more secrets. There would be no rules broken, no threat of disciplinary action, no risk. Perhaps everyone at the party was too drunk to recognize Professor Ren, or they'd forget about it over the four week winter holidays. When the new semester started in mid-January, perhaps no one would remember spotting them together in the autumn, or wonder whether anything inappropriate had been going on while she was in his class. Perhaps she wouldn't wear a metaphorical scarlet letter. 

When she looked down at the top of her desk, she recoiled in shock, bile rising in her stomach. People wrote on and carved things into their desks all the time, but this was new, and it was intended for her. Written on her desk, in black sharpie, was one word: whore.

Chapter Text

“Everything all right?”

Rey set down the French fry she’d been unconsciously playing with, making a conscious effort to make her hands stay still. Kylo was holding up a spoonful of soup, peering at her over it. He’d pulled a stocking-cap over his ears and had on a hoodie, and even if Maz’s diner hadn’t been completely deserted on the first day of the winter holiday, he wouldn’t have been easily recognized. It was as if the semester had ended, the students were gone, and he suddenly wasn’t a professor anymore.

“Yeah.” She forced a smile and took a sip of her hot chocolate. She’d been well-prepared for the final exam, but taking it had been nerve-wracking, nonetheless. She’d found herself looking around the room, paranoid that someone was sneering at her. Kylo had caught her eye, and raised his brow in a question, and then she’d been paranoid that someone had seen that, too.  She’d walked out of the lecture hall and walked home in the bitterly cold wind, too anxious to even enjoy the light dusting of snow that had fallen during the three-hour test.

He’d texted her that night, one word – grading – and then this morning, had called and asked her to meet him for lunch.

“So, are you done grading?” She changed the subject.

“Almost.” He took a bite of his grilled cheese. “Stayed up all night.”

“Why?” Rey wrinkled her nose. “You have four weeks.”

“I’m ready for that class to really be over.” He reached across the table, stroking the back of her hand with his thumb. His eyes were very soft. He looked so perfectly happy now, and expectant, that she couldn’t bear to tell him about the word scrawled on her desk.

“Hello, Professor. And Rey.” Maz emerged from the kitchen. “What are you still doing here? Semester’s over.”

“I’m finishing up my manuscript.” Kylo accepted more coffee.

“I’m… I’m staying, over the break.” Rey tried to sound chipper, and failed. Maz gave her a strange look.

“Not going to spend the holidays with your family?”

If Kylo noticed her knuckles getting white in his hand, he didn’t say anything. “No, I’m staying here.”

“Well, you come by and see old Maz.” There was something understanding and maternal in the old woman’s eyes. “I’ll make you a Christmas pie.”

“Thanks, Maz.” Rey gave her a tight smile. When their drinks were topped off, the proprietress walked off, humming tunelessly. Her grip relaxed on Kylo’s fingers, and he flexed them with a wry smile.

“Sorry.”

“It’s all right.” He cocked his head at her. “Do you really not have anywhere to go?”

“I would have gone to Finn’s, but he’s going to Poe’s family’s house in Maine for their first Christmas together. I didn’t want to intrude.” She faked cheeriness. “It’s all right. I haven’t really celebrated Christmas since I was eight.” She cleared her throat. “What are you doing for Christmas?” The moment she asked she felt acutely self-conscious. She wondered if he’d think she was hinting at something.

“As it happens, I don’t celebrate either.”

Rey’s mouth dropped open. “What?” She was irrationally angry at him, remembering all those text messages from his mother, gone unanswered. “You have a family who would probably love to have you home for Christmas, and you don’t celebrate?”

He picked up on the bitterness in her voice, but barely reacted. If there was any reaction at all, it was a flash of pity. It made her angrier. “I’m Jewish. Nominally.”

“Oh.” Rey felt her face flame. “I didn’t realize.” Her little outburst seemed magnificently stupid, now. They were silent for a moment, and then Kylo said, quietly,

“Are you sure everything’s okay?”

“Yes.” Rey looked down at her half-full plate.

“It’s not like you to not finish your meal.”

“I just hate this time of year.” She gulped down her hot chocolate – she didn’t have much of an appetite, and he was right, that wasn’t like her. “Let’s get out of here.”

***

They went to his house, casting off their coats and hats and scarves. The fifty-year old bungalow was still drafty, and Rey thought, longingly, of borrowing his sweatpants and curling up in the middle of his bed. That, of course, would mean that he would get in bed with her. For some reason, she wanted to be alone. As she plodded down the hallway to his bedroom, she had an idea. “Can I take a bath?”

He gave her a quizzical look. “A bath?”

“Yes.” She made an excuse. “You have the nicest bath tub. I’ve always wanted to use it. I just have a shitty shower at my apartment.”

The bathroom was cold but blessedly silent. She filled the tub with water that was so hot it scalded as she slid into it and sunk up to her nostrils. Watching the ceiling, she blinked several times, and then lot hot tears slip down her cheeks and into the bathwater. Now that she was alone, she cried about the word written on her desk and about the fraternity boy and about Christmas.

The door creaked open after a few minutes. Kylo peered in, eyes concerned behind his glasses. “Hey.”

“Hi.” Rey’s voice was falsely cheerful, even to her ears. He walked over to her, slowly, and then sat on the floor, with a little grunt, leaning against the side of the tub and trailing his fingers in the water.

“Are you sure you’re okay?”

“Yes.”

“I heard you crying.” He rested his chin on the rim of the tub, mouth creased into a worried line. “Do you want to talk about it?”

“Not really.” Rey looked back up at the ceiling. Part of her did, but she barely knew where to start.

“Do you want me to leave?”

“No.” She reached for his hand, finding it underwater. Her hands were pruned and small against his. “Stay.”

He washed her hair for her, sitting at the far end of the tub and massaging the shampoo into her scalp. His fingers worked almost absently through her hair. At first, the pressure was soothing, rhythmic. Then, it was tingly, little offshoots of pleasure following from the patterns of his fingers. He ran his hands down her neck to her shoulders, and gently kneaded there. She lingered in that place, between drowsiness and pleasure, for what seemed like hours. As he worked out the tension in her neck and back, she talked.

She told him about her Uncle Ben, how kind and bookish he’d been. How he reminded her of him, in some ways, with his glasses and his arcane languages. She told him about Unkar Plutt, her cousin who’d she’d gone to live with when her uncle had died. She told him about how the fraternity boy’s hands under the hem of her shirt had felt like Unkar’s hands, always reaching just a little farther than was appropriate and always clammy. She told him about the Christmases alone, without gifts or trees, in her room with the chair wedged under the doorknob. She told him about sleeping in the bath tub because the bathroom had a lock on the door.

The one thing she didn’t tell him about was the word written on her desk during the final exam.

His shirtsleeves got wet as he reached into the water, wrapping his arms around her shoulders and pressing occasional soft, open-mouthed kisses to the back of her neck. He listened. When she stopped talking, he rested his chin on her shoulder. After a long time, he finally told her, “I reported that fraternity house to campus police. I wish I could do more.”

“What?”

“I have an obligation to report any sexual assault.” He traced circles in the bathwater, rippling it. “And if I’d done what I really wanted to do, I’d get fired.”

“Punch a student?” Rey surmised.

“Yes.” He tightened his arms around her, protectively. “I wish I could keep all the ugliness of the world away from you. You’re too young for it.”

“Not that young.” She knew that perfectly well he couldn’t protect her from everything, much as he might want to, and perhaps that was why she didn’t tell him about the marking on her desk. There was nothing he could do about it if her peers derided her – and he would feel overwhelmingly guilty for being the catalyst.

Exhaling heavily, Rey sat up in the water and leaned back into his chest. Her breasts bobbed just slightly above the water, the tips of her nipples peaking and puckering up in the cool December air. He reached under her arms, elbows dipping into the water and getting soaked. His hands emerged from the bathwater, hot and slick, and settled over her perked nipples to warm them. “Cold?”

“No.” She turned her cheek, nuzzling into the side of his face, and reached up to take off his glasses – a pre-coital ritual, one she knew he knew well. “Not cold.”

“Oh.” He sucked in a breath against her ear. “... are you sure?”

“Please don’t treat me like I’m damaged.” Rey squirmed from his arms, turning around to face him.  “I don’t want you to look at me the way you are right now.”

“How do you want me to look at you?” He took his glasses from her, and she thought for a moment he would put them back on, signaling to her that he wasn’t going to give her what she wanted. Instead, he put them on the windowsill, and then folded his arms across the top of the bathtub

“Like you always do.” Rey leaned forward, resting her elbows on her shins. She was close enough to his eyes to see that he was apprising her.

“Like I love you?”

Reaching forward, Rey grasped his collar and tugged Kylo onto his knees. He let her, despite the disparity in their size and strength. Straightening her legs out, she pushed with her feet against the side of the tub and slid all the way to the other end of it, still gripping his collar. He clambered into the tub headfirst, fully dressed, awkwardly, all long limbs and gracelessness. She knew full well that he could have stopped her from pulling him into the water if he’d wanted to, but he hadn’t.

Clumsily, he crawled up between her legs, and kissed her, sloppily. The bathwater was getting cool, but the heat building in her belly was compounded by the warmth of his bare skin when they peeled off his wet clothes, cramped in the small space.

They rolled over, sending a wave of water onto the floor. He pulled her atop him, wrapping a hand around his engorged cock and nudging it up into her. She settled around him with a little sigh, resting her chin on his shoulder and curling herself into the warmth of his chest. Out of the water, her back shivered and rose gooseflesh.

Compared to the squeak of his mattress or the clanging of the metal headboard against the wall, the sound of the water sloshing against the sides of the porcelain tub and over it, onto the floor, was almost soothing. Chest to chest, they rocked together, his face buried against her breasts. He sucked her skin into his mouth, leaving a brilliant purple mark on her breast. He admired it, then pressed a soft kiss to it.

Mine.” Rey almost didn’t hear the word when he whispered it against her skin– he said it softly, but with such intensity that she shivered from more than just the cold. His hand crept down between them to flick at her clitoris, and the shiver turned into a shudder. She clung to him as the tingly sensation crept up the base of her spine all the way to her scalp, and bit into his shoulder when it was enough to make her moan.

Usually, Kylo let himself finish soon after her orgasm – it was a point of pride, somehow, that she come first – but he didn’t, this time. His jaw set determinedly, and he held her hips and moved her up and down long after she’d gone boneless and exhausted. The bathwater was cold by the time he bucked up into her, spasmodically, a groan coming from deep in his chest. Slumping deeper into the water, he tilted his head back onto the rim of the tub, eyes shut and mouth slack.

Rey leaned forward and kissed his chin. His lashes fluttered, and he opened his eyes. They were glazed and sleepy and satisfied. She kissed his swollen, red mouth, and said against it, “Mine.”

***

On Christmas Eve, Rey was alone in her apartment. She made a frozen meal, scowled at it, and threw it away. She had a glass, or three, of cheap boxed wine. The minutes seemed to tick by torturously slow.

A few times, she pulled out her cell phone and typed out a message to Kylo, and then deleted it. As desperate as she was to be with him – to not be alone – it seemed presumptuous to invite herself over on Christmas Eve. Serious, committed couples woke up together on Christmas. She still squirmed a little at the thought of being serious and committed.

Finally, her more base instincts won out. She threw on her jacket and wool scarf, carried her bicycle down the flight of stairs, and biked across the silent campus during the snowy sunset.

Night was just falling when Rey leaned her bicycle against Kylo’s porch rail. She was shivering, snow caught on her eyelashes and in her hair, and his windows had a warm glow that looked incredibly appealing. She pulled out her key, then thought better of it, strode across the porch, and knocked on the door. It was untoward enough to show up at his place on Christmas Eve, even if he was Jewish. She didn't want to just let herself in.

Perhaps she should have called before she came over, but - no, she definitely should have called. An older woman, petite and dark-haired, but unmistakably Kylo’s mother, opened the door.

 

Chapter Text

“That’s the Chinese.” Kylo got off the couch with some effort. He’d had two glasses of whisky before his mother’s arrival, and another since. It was a balm to their awkward silences. “Let me get my wallet.”

“I can pay.”

“I’m an adult.” Kylo grumbled, knowing this was not worth arguing over but picking a fight anyways, because when it came to his mother, that was what he did.

“And I’m still your mother.” On this mother, a formidable but petite woman, was not to be outdone. She swung open the door. “How much do I owe you?”

“Wrong house.” Kylo heard a familiar voice bleat, panicked, from the doorstep. He knew that voice. He looked over his mother’s shoulder.

Rey?”

“You know the Chinese delivery girl?” His mother craned her neck to look at him. He stopped short, scrambling for an explanation, but his mother was too quick for him. “Oh.” Realization crossed her face. “This isn’t the Chinese delivery girl.”

“No, it isn’t.” Kylo felt a prickle of discomfort on his scalp; he wondered it if had been transferred telepathically from Rey. Her eyes were like saucers, and her face was beet red as he ushered her inside, shutting the door behind her. She kept looking at the door, as if her route of escape had been cut off. He wouldn’t put it past her to go out a window.

“I didn’t know you were expecting company.” His mother said it in the pointed way he knew well – she hadn’t heard anything about a relationship, it was late, and she thought Rey had dropped by, unannounced, for casual sex. Her seemingly innocuous statement was remarkably effective at expressing her disapproval.

“Mom, this is Rey.” He could make a point with just his tone of voice, too. He put an arm around Rey’s shoulders, and they were unyielding. She almost jumped away from him. He had to use more force than really necessary to pull her in to his side. “My girlfriend.”

Rey gave him a sharp look. She’d let him woo her in a more traditional sense, over the past two weeks. Town was deserted, all the students gone, and they’d traipsed all over in the snow, holding gloved hands, stopping for coffee, seeing movies, eating out without looking over their shoulders. Still, campus and the surrounding streets had been empty, and so they’d never addressed this particular issue. He’d never introduced her as his girlfriend – and, of course, with his luck, this first introduction had to be to his mother.  

Oh.” His mother’s ears practically pricked, as if she was a bird dog who’d heard a whistle. Her aura of disapproval metamorphosed into what could only be described as barely disguised glee. “So, are you observant?”

Mom.”

“What?” Rey looked flabbergasted. She looked between the two of them as if someone was playing some sort of sick joke on her.

“Rey’s not Jewish, Mom. Jesus.”

“Don’t be profane.”

“We’re Jewish.”

“Not that it matters what you are.” Leia had turned her attention back to Rey. “I just assumed you were Jewish, since it’s Christmas Eve and you’re… here.”

“I don’t have family in town.” Rey cleared her throat awkwardly. “I was just stopping by…”

“Take off your coat. We’re having the traditional Jewish Christmas Eve dinner.”

“Traditional Jewish Christmas Eve dinner?” Rey asked, weakly.

“Chinese.” Kylo said, by way of explanation. “Do you want a drink?”

Leia didn’t let her answer, ploughing on with her inquisition. “So, Rey, where did you two meet?”

“Work.” Kylo interjected. Leia glared at him, and then smiled saccharinely at Rey.

“You work together? Are you a teaching assistant, or are you doing research?”

“I’m…” Rey floundered for a moment.

“She’s still working on her degree.” Kylo heard himself say it, but he didn’t plan to say it in advance. It was an ambiguous statement, meant to answer his mother’s question without revealing too much.

“Oh, wonderful.” Leia perched on the edge of the couch, eagerly. “What’s your doctoral thesis?”

“She’s in engineering.” He took the charade a little further. “Mechanical.”

“Yes.” Rey choked out, parroting him. “Engineering.”

“Oh, I thought for sure you were in the Classics Department.” Leia threw Kylo a knowing look. “But it’s good you aren’t mixing business with pleasure. Where did you do your undergraduate study?”

“Oh – here.” Rey’s face had gone even more red – was that possible? – and when she caught Kylo’s eyes, he was surprised to see not only embarrassment, but anger there.

“Do you want a drink?” He asked, abruptly. “I need another drink.”

***

“You’re embarrassed.” Rey hissed, as soon as they were alone in the kitchen. “You. It’s okay if all my classmates and professors find out I’m dating a professor, but you can’t tell your mother that you’re dating a student?”

“She’s the fucking Chancellor of a university.” Kylo whispered. “You want me to tell her?” He asked it like a dare, pouring himself a generous glass of whisky.

“I want you to not be such a fucking hypocrite.”

“Fine.” Kylo turned on his heel and strode back to the living room, before she could think better of her words and stop him. He thought she might. His mother was eagle-eyed and had the hearing of a beagle. She pretended she hadn’t been eavesdropping when he came in the room, but he knew she had.

“Mom.” Kylo took a gulp of his whisky for fortification. “Rey is an undergraduate. Actually, she was in my Introduction to Classical Art and Literature class this semester.” Turning to Rey he asked, with a grandiose half-bow, sloshing his drink, “Happy?”

There was dead silence in the bungalow for a moment. Leia looked between Kylo and Ren, her eyes flitting back and forth, and then narrowing suspiciously. They settled on her son. “You can’t be serious.”

“Oh, we’re very serious.” Kylo didn’t break Rey’s gaze, raising his glass to his lips again. “Aren’t we, sweetheart?”

Rey’s flush crept down her neck. He looked back at his mother. It was clear she was struggling mightily between her inherent disapproval of his dating a student, and her equally intense satisfaction at finally meeting one of his girlfriends. The seconds clicked by very slowly on the grandfather clock, and finally, his mother said, in tone that sounded like a threat, “At least you didn’t do anything inappropriate until after the semester was over.”

Rey gave him a warning look, but he was feeling reckless. She had wanted him to prove he wasn’t afraid of his mother knowing about their relationship; well, he would. “Actually –”

Don’t tell me.” His mother interrupted. “I don’t want to know.” She levelled him a devastating look, and then her face smoothed as she turned to Rey. Her gentler nature won out, and he escaped her wrath. “But I do want to know more about you.”

***

If Kylo had thought that Rey couldn’t get more embarrassed, he’d been wrong. Even after three glasses of wine, she’d been embarrassed to go to bed with him with his mother in the house. She made some excuse, at midnight, after drinking and sharing sweet and sour chicken with his mother, and tried to make her escape.

Leia had snorted at her blushing, in her characteristically frank way. “Don’t be silly. You can stay. We’re all adults – wait, you are –”

Mom. Yes, she’s over eighteen.”

“I wouldn’t put it past you.” Leia glared at him – he wasn’t forgiven yet, apparently, for his transgression against their mutual profession – and then added, more to Rey than to him, “Goodnight, dear.”

They changed for bed in silence, both acutely aware that his mother was just down the hall, on the pullout couch in his office. But just as the lights were off, Kylo let his hands wander. He was too drunk to have better judgment. “Want to fool around?”

“Your mother is here.” Rey, apparently, was not so far gone.

“I thought you liked illict sex.” Kylo rolled her onto her back, pushing up her borrowed t-shirt and mouthing sloppily at her breasts through her bra. “Doesn’t it get you off to know you aren’t supposed to be doing it?”

“Your mattress creaks.” Rey told him, flatly. She rested one hand on the back of his head, though, so he kept nuzzling in between her breasts, cupping them in his hands and pressing them together to squash his nose in between. “I see where you get it, now.”

“Hmm?” The noise vibrated against her skin.

“You don’t take no for an answer. I see where you get that.”

Kylo raised his head. “Is that a yes, you want to fool around?”

“Fuck, you’re drunk.” She tugged his hair, sternly, as he pushed the cup of her bra aside and nibbled her nipple. “You have to be quiet.”

“That’s my line.” Easing down her body, Kylo pressed his mouth against the cotton of her panties, lipping at the waistband. He pushed aside the slip of fabric between her legs and replaced it with his tongue, licking her up and down and then pressing his fingers into her and fucking her with them. Her hips canted, just slightly, and the tell-tale squeak of the mattress began.

“Shh.” His voice was very throaty. “Stay still.”

Rey stilled her hips with great effort, thighs trembling. He kissed the inside of one of those thighs, and then closed his mouth onto her, rolling her clitoris in his mouth leisurely. She keened.

“You can’t be quiet, can you?” He huffed the admonition against her swollen, wet sex. “You like this too much.”

“Fuck you.” Rey panted out the words, locking her legs over his shoulders and holding him there. “Don’t stop.”

“Tell me how much you like this.” Kylo stiffened the tip of his tongue and brushed her, just barely. A muffled whimper floated to him in the darkness.

“A – a lot. Fuck.” He’d curled three fingers inside her, finding the sensitive patch of skin there.

“Tell me you love it.” He growled against her, keeping his mouth just millimeters from where she needed it. He knew she needed it there to come, and he was torturing her, and he felt no remorse.

“I love it.” Rey pushed her hips up, towards his face. “I – mmph.” She made contact, and shuddered, grabbing a pillow and covering her face. Even muffled, she was loud when she came, and the sound made his cock throb.

Somehow, Kylo was lightheaded, even though her world had just shattered, not his. Leaning back on his heels, he knelt over her waist, wrapping his hand around his raging, red erection, trying to soothe it. “Can I come on your boobs?”

“You don’t want me to blow you?” That might have been the wine talking, but it affected him, nonetheless.

“That.” Kylo felt his pulse leap and his cock twitch. “Definitely that.”

Leaning up on her elbows, she opened her mouth and tilted her chin down, in invitation. He inched forward on his knees and poked her lips with the tip of his member, parting them. Her mouth was warm and inviting and he marveled out loud as he fucked her mouth, moving in and out of that sweet suction. “I am the luckiest son of a bitch in the entire galaxy.”

He said it to no one in particular, and she choked on her laughter, and on his shaft. She released him with a slick sound to say, grinning, with her head tipped back and hair water-falling onto his pillow, “Don’t make me laugh.”

“Sorry.” Cupping the back of her head, Kylo pressed himself back into her mouth and arched his hips against her, wanting, needing more. “But I am.”

***

When Rey woke up in the morning – she slept until almost noon, feeling the effects of that wine –  she felt that instinctual happiness that most all people feel on Christmas morning – the feeling that everything was new and fresh and happy. That feeling didn’t last for her on Christmas morning, as it did for most people. She sat up in Kylo’s bed, wrapping her arms around her knees. He was gone already. Somehow, waking up in bed with him – not alone – would have made the familiar sting less.

She almost walked out of his bedroom in just his t-shirt and her panties, and then caught herself. If Leia hadn’t heard their shenanigans the night before, she wasn’t about to undo all their hard work by walking into kitchen in her underwear by habit. Pulling jeans on, she toyed with the hem of Kylo’s faded gray t-shirt. It was a shirt she rarely saw him wear – he tended towards collared shirts and sweaters, dressing more like a middle-aged academic than anything else – but it smelled like him and wrapped around her like an embrace. She left it on.

There was a tree in the corner of the living room – a raggedy, short one, probably the last one left on the lot late at night on Christmas Eve – but a tree. It was decorated haphazardly, with a single string of lights and an odd few ornaments, but it smelled piney and fresh and it was a tree.

Kylo jumped when she entered the room. He’d been prowling its perimeter, as if waiting for her to emerge. Now that she was here, he seemed almost nervous, wiping his hands on his pants. He looked at her anxiously. “Merry Christmas.”

“You got me a tree?” Rey’s voice came out in a ridiculous squeak.

“Well, I’m thinking of converting.” He kept a straight face; when she reached up to slap him on the back of the head he broke character and laughed. “Yes, I got you a tree. Last one on the lot.”  

Rey surveyed the scrappy little thing, awed. She trailed her fingers along the spruce branches, reveling in the way the leaves pricked her fingers.

“I love it.” She circled the tree entirely, and found him again on the other side of it. Wrapping her arms around his stomach, she blinked into his chest. “I haven’t had a tree in so long.”

“I got you a gift, too."

“I didn’t get you anything.” Her stomach plummeted. She looked up at him, stricken.

“That’s okay.” He kissed the tip of her nose, then lifted his brows, suggestively. “Maybe you can sit on Santa’s lap later.”

Kylo.”

“Sorry, sorry.”

“I’m serious.” Rey knit her brows together. “I didn’t get you anything, and you did all this for me – it’s too much.”

“No, it’s not – well, just look at it.” Kylo let her go, bent down, and lifted a stack of typewritten paper from under the tree. It was thick, at least four inches high, and wrapped up with two pieces of string. “It’s just my manuscript. I sent it off to the publisher a few days ago.” He set the papers in her hand. They were heavy. “I wanted you to have a copy.”

Rey moved to the couch, untying the strings very carefully. Kylo stood, hands thrust into his pockets, as if he was nervous for her to read it.

On the second page, the dedication read, in very small print: For R.K., who teaches me about love.

Chapter Text

The night before classes started, they walked through campus together, enjoying the last night of relative anonymity. Some students were back moving around between the buildings and dormitories, but it was late, the library, dining halls, and classrooms were closed and locked, and they were bundled up in hats and scarves.

And, Rey reminded herself, they weren’t doing anything wrong. She wasn’t his student anymore. It wasn’t against the rules to walk around campus with her hand tucked into his coat pocket, fingers interlaced with his. She wondered how it would take her to accept that, and stop looking over her shoulder when she was with him.

They passed the icy steps of the library and suddenly, Kylo’s hand tightened on hers. He’d stopped at the base of the steps, and he tugged her back to him. “What?”

“The library.” He squeezed her hand inside his pocket. His eyes were as hungry as ever, as hungry as they’d been the first time he’d really looked at her – here in this library. “I still have a key.”

They slipped in through the front door, and didn’t turn the lights on. The ground floor of the library was illuminated only the ever-present emergency lights. They dropped their coats and hats and scarves in the lobby and ran into the stacks. He chased her through the bookshelves, in the dark, like she was a ghost. When he caught her, he held he like he didn’t intend to ever let her go.

They made love in the stacks, between medieval history and macroeconomics. He pinned her against the shelves, her hands extended above her head towards the top shelf, grinding his hips against hers in a vague figure-eight pattern. “I’ve wanted you like this since the first time I saw you here.”

“Really?” She wondered aloud, reading the spines of the books across the aisle.

“Yes.” He kissed a line down the column of her throat, hunching to grip her thighs. She let him lift her, settling them around his waist and reaching between them to unfasten his belt and pants. His chin touched his chest as he watched her, her small hands cupping around the head of his protruding member and smearing pre-cum up and down his shaft, tracing the most prominent vein.

Angling her hips off the shelves, Rey tilted up and over, and then onto him. Kylo’s soft groan reverberated through her chest and she could almost feel it in her abdomen, where he was buried under layers of her skin and muscle. His thrusts up into her were slow and measured. He kept looking down while they moved together, watching his cock disappear into her and slide back out, slick and flushed. As their pace picked up, the books behind her lower back shifted and knocked the books on the other side of the stack onto the floor.  

A tickle rose up the base of her spine. Closing her eyes, Rey leaned her head back against the row of books behind it, feeling them shift. Her eyes flickered closed as the tickle roared to life and crept higher.

“No.” Wrapping one arm under her ass, Kylo hitched her up. His other hand found her chin, and jerked it down. “Look at me.”

His eyes were on fire in the dark. She did what she asked; she looked at him while she fluttered around him and moaned his name. He kept his gaze fixed on her until his orgasm encroached; then he buried his face in her neck and mumbled, incoherent with pleasure, “I love you. I love you.”

Rey heard him say it – it was the first time he’d really said it, just those three words standing alone. She stroked the sweaty hairs clinging to the back of his neck, dizzy from the seeping liquid warmth in her and at the tops of her thighs. Kylo was exhausted, his back was heaving under her hands, sweaty and arched. As she stroked his hair, his ear was exposed, flushed bright red. She nuzzled her nose against the shell of it, and whispered, “I know. I know.”

***

“I think I’m falling in love with you.” They were lying in bed, in the dark of the early morning, when it seemed safer to say such things It was safer than the heat of the moment, when she couldn't quite trust herself. She sounded thoughtful, as if she was weighing the pros and cons of being in love with him, and hadn’t made up her mind yet. “And that’s scary.”

“Why?” Kylo looked at the ceiling as if it were an ancient Greek text he needed to translate. He couldn’t bear to look at her; afraid she’d see how desperately he wanted her to love him.

“Because when you love people, you have to be afraid of losing them.” Rey sounded detached in the dark. “I don’t want to lose you.”

He wanted to tell her that meant she loved him. Instead, he covered her hand with his where it lay on his chest, and told her, “I’m not going anywhere.”

***

On the fourth day of the semester, Kylo didn’t answering Rey’s text messages. She crossed the main mall between classes, pulling her fingers out of her warm pockets and in to the cold air to check her phone. Nothing.

Busy?

When that went unanswered, she texted again.

Obviously you are.

By three in the afternoon, her classes were over, and she was perturbed. It was a five-minute walk from the library – she’d settled in to do homework before her shift started – to the building that housed all of the Classics Department’s professor’s offices. It was strangely déjà vu to retrace her old routes back to this office, now that she wasn’t in his class.

His door was open, and unlocked, but he wasn’t in. She lingered in the doorway for a moment before she realized something had changed about the little room.

His diplomas were all taken off the wall. They were stacked against the desk, unceremoniously. That, and there were no lose papers anywhere. If Kylo wasn’t messy by nature, she wouldn’t have thought twice about that detail. But he always had books and papers lying about, and coffee cups, for that matter. All the surfaces in the small office were bare. The trash can, usually full of crumpled papers full of ideas and translations, was empty. The blinds were open. He kept them closed. She’d never realized before all the details she’d absorbed about this space.

An ugly knot twisted itself in her stomach the longer she stood there. . Her fingers trembled as she dialed his number. The telephone didn’t even ring; it went straight to his voicemail. She lingered in the mostly empty office, looking out the window, as if she might see him walking across the mall from his lecture, holding a coffee from Maz’s diner.

It took her a long time to realize the heat had turned off, and it was freezing cold.

***

Rey’s bicycle clanged as she dropped it, unceremoniously onto the ground outside Kylo’s house. She took the steps in a single leap, and fumbled her key in the lock.

She burst into the living room. “Kylo!”

There were cardboard boxes stacked in the room. Here, again, there were no papers, or coffee cups, or books. The heat might have been off here, too. She couldn’t stop shaking.

“Rey?” Kylo appeared from the kitchen. He wasn’t dressed for work – he was in jeans and a t-shirt and he was packing. They stared at each other, for a long time, and both tried to speak at the same time.

“You’re leaving?” She didn’t need to ask. She knew. She’d known from the moment she’d seen his empty office.

“Rey –” He ran his hands through his hair; the habit that she’d always found endearing suddenly made her want to rip his hair out with her bare hands.

“You said you weren’t going anywhere.” Her voice rose and got uncharacteristically hard. “You promised me.”

He grasped her arm, pulling her into the house. “I tendered my resignation this morning.”

“Why?” Wrenching her arm from him, she wrapped it around herself in self-defense.

“My mother has been campaigning for me to join the Classics Department at Marion for months. A tenure track position opened up this week. I accepted it.”

“You want to work for your mother? At Marion?”

“It’s a prestigious department.” He shrugged, a deceptively casual gesture. “There’s a big endowment. I can spend more time researching and less time teaching introductory classes.”

For some reason, those words stung, perhaps because he’d met her in an introductory class. “So, you’re packing.” She wiped her face on her sleeve, then asked, viciously, “Were you even going to tell me?”

“I was going to tell you.” He said, slowly. “I just hadn’t figured out how.”

It took her a few moments to ask the next question. She didn’t want to know the answer, she thought she knew it, and she didn’t want to know it. “Are you… breaking up with me?”

“No.” He took his glasses off, and set them on the mantle. “Is that what you think is happening?”

“You’re leaving.” She was eight again, and everyone and everything she loved was slipping out of her grasp again.

“I’m leaving town.” Kylo had a look of unfathomable tenderness in his eyes. It made her want to slap him. He moved closer to her; she flinched away. “I’m not leaving you.” He tried again, and this time, she reluctantly let him rest his hands on her hips, and his forehead on hers. Despite her anger, this felt safe and right. “I love you.”

She should have been able to say it – she’d come so close, so many times – but she couldn’t. A shuddering sob tore out of her chest, painfully. “Then why won’t you stay?”

He let her go, his disappointment that she hadn’t said those three words back to him palpable. His face was imperceptible, and closed off to her. Her opportunity to tell him she loved him, too, had passed, and maybe something else had too. “I’m sorry, Rey.”

***

“Take a seat, Miss Kenobi.”

Rey hesitated. Part of her wanted to just stand in the doorway of the Dean’s office, where she could run. She’d gotten an email summoning her to the administrative building the morning after the morning that Kylo had driven away. He’d come by her apartment, his truck loaded down, and knocked on the door. He’d stood there for a long time.

She’d never given him a key. She didn’t open the door. She didn’t go to class, either. She didn’t cry. She didn’t get out of bed at all until she had to go into the Dean’s office. Even then, she’d moved slowly, as if she was underwater.

“I’m sure you’ve noticed your grades for last semester weren’t released yet. I wanted to explain the delay.”

“Oh.” Rey’s stomach sunk to an even greater depth. She sat down slowly, wondering how she could prolong this, and put off the inevitable. She felt a lash of anger – he’d run away, and she was still here, dealing with the consequences of their bad decisions – but mostly, she just felt bone tired.

“Your grade for Introduction to Classical Art and Literature is under review.”

“Okay.” She moistened her lips. “I understand.”

“Please understand this isn’t to punish you. It’s to protect you.” Rey was barely listening. “We take allegations of sexual harassment very seriously here.”

At those two words – sexual harassment – her head snapped up. “Harassment?”

“You’re not in trouble, Miss Kenobi.” The Dean’s brow knit together in approximation of matronly affection. “But we have to follow protocol whenever we have a complaint.”

“What… complaint?” The word on her desk flashed through her mind – whore – and she couldn’t comport it with what the Dean was saying. That girl, the blonde, pimpled, pretty girl, blamed her, hated her, not Kylo.

“There was a complaint lodged at the end of the fall semester. Initially, it was just a complaint about an inappropriate student-teacher relationship. I spoke to Professor Ren about it privately this week, and he told me the inappropriate relationship in question was more properly characterized as sexual harassment.” The Dean gave her what she swore was an appraising, suspicious look. “Is that right?”

Rey blinked. She still felt like she was underwater, but things were becoming sharper, moving more quickly. Kylo had lied, to her by omission, but more importantly, to the Dean. He’d taken something that had been private and precious to her and made it cheap and offensive. And he’d done that to cast blame on himself, rather than her.

Finally, she nodded, mutely, and when she realized the Dean was waiting for a more affirmative answered, she choked out, “Yes.”

Seeming satisfied, the older woman leaned back in her expensive leather chair. “Professor Ren offered to resign immediately, rather than undergo an internal investigation. Because he was so forthcoming with me, I agreed.” She hesitated, fingering the pencil on her desk. “But if you’d like to pursue further action, that’s your right as the victim.”

“No.” Rey blurted out. “No, I don’t. Who reported him?”

“It was another student.” The dean leaned forward on her elbows. “I wanted to let you know we have counseling services available to you, at the Student Health Center. This can be a difficult thing for someone your age to process. So, whatever you need…” She trailed off, and Rey felt that familiar sensation of being studied.

“Thank you, Dean Andrews. I know… I know I need –” She stopped, suddenly. “I need to go somewhere.”

Chapter Text

This new lecture hall was bright, where his old one had been dark and sunken into the ground, with only narrow, high clerestory windows. The windows here lined the entire west wall of the classroom. Kylo found himself, by the end of his first lecture at Marion, already in the habit of pacing the length of the windows, looking out. He was afforded a view of the Hudson River Valley, coated in January snow.

His new classes were smaller and more engaged. There were only twelve students in the advanced Greek translation seminar, and they couldn’t have more different from the sixty students he’d had in Introduction to Classical Art and Literature. They were actually interested in, and majoring in, the Classics, and they were older, better prepared.

Still, whenever he looked away from the windows, he found himself scanning the students for one face in particular, and never finding it.

“It’s important to remember that ancient Greek is more nuanced than meets the eye.” He turned back to the window, and cleared his throat. “Take the word love, for example. There are many words that mean love in Greek, but most translations ignore the difference between those three words. My goal is for you to be able to perform more nuanced translation. More accurate.”

The door to the seminar room clicked open, and Kylo turned away from the window, frowning. He didn’t particularly want to establish a reputation as an ogre right away, but above all, he hated tardiness.

Rey stood at the back of the classroom, holding a cup of coffee. Even from across the room he could see that her eyes were shiny and wet. Her smile faltered, nervously, as he stared at her. He wasn’t sure how long they regarded each other from across the room, but it was long enough for the students to start shifting in their seats and looking over their shoulders.

“So.” Kylo cleared his throat, painfully, and made his best effort to divert his attention to the lecture. “Different words for love. Did anyone do their reading?”

An overzealous front-row student raised his hand. “Eros, or sexual love. Philia, platonic love. Storge, familial love. Philautia, or self-love.”

“Very good.” Kylo leaned back on his desk. He couldn’t resist looking back at Rey any longer. She’d found an empty seat at the back of the room and was watching him intently. “And agape. What is agape?”

The students were silent for second, flipping through their textbooks and notes. Kylo kept looking at Rey, and finally, she volunteered, just loud enough for him to hear over the rustling of pages, “It’s selfless, sacrificial, unconditional love.”

***

After the seminar was over, Rey moved against the tide of students. They walked towards the doors at the back of the room, she moved towards the front.

“I know why you left.” She stood a few feet away from him, and gave him a crooked smile. “Why did you lie?”

“Somebody had to take the fall, Rey. Either way, I was going to lose my job.” Kylo crossed his legs, extending them out in front of him and sitting on the desk. “This way, you didn’t have to lose your scholarship or get expelled, too.”

“I meant why did you lie to me.”

Kylo looked at his feet. He’d always thought they were too big, and awkward. Now they were jiggling, nervously, in his shoes. “I thought you might argue, or try to tell the Dean the truth. And I needed to do this. As a man.”

Rey cocked her head, exasperated. “What does that even mean?”

“I need to take care of you.” He sounded fiercer than he meant to. “I just need to.”

“Yeah, but…” Rey floundered. “You lost your job.”

“I found a new one.”

“I feel guilty.”

“No.” Kylo interjected. “Don’t.”

“Okay.” Rey croaked out. She turned to the window, surreptitiously wiping her cheek with her hand. She traced the windowsill, shakily. “How do you like it, here?”

“I miss you.” He told her, bluntly. He put his hands in his pockets, in an effort not to touch her. “How did you find out?”

“The Dean called me into her office. She asked me if I was doing okay.” She turned around, eyes shining. “I haven’t been. I… I miss you, too.”

The moment was too charged for him to respond. His voice cracked when he changed the subject. “How did you get here?”

“Poe leant me his car.” She seemed to remember she was holding the coffee cup, and thrust out her hand, extending it towards him. “Here. Read it.”

Kylo took the Styrofoam cup, gingerly, holding it between his thumb and forefinger. He rotated it to read what was scribbled onto the cup – not his name, but I love you.

Seeing that scribbled out – her handwriting, he recognized it – made his hear thump in his chest, but he still needed something more. “You can’t say it out loud?”

Rey gave him a long look, and then went over to the window, looking out at the melting blanket of snow. “You missed one word for love. Pragma. Long-standing love. Like, forever love.”  She turned around to face him, as if she’d made up her mind. Her jaw set, determinedly, and tilted up. “I love you like that, all right?”

Incredulous, Kylo stared at Rey. She tilted her chin even farther up, crossing her arms over her chest. It was as if she was daring him to react, as if she was saying, are you happy now?

The laughter roared up in his chest, erupting and filling the room. She looked at him, perplexed. He couldn’t stop laughing, and eventually her fierce little scowl softened, and she couldn’t help but smile, too. The grinned at each other like idiots, and then he reached for her, picked her up, and spun her around and around in the empty classroom.

***

“What are we going to do?” Rey looked up at the ceiling of Kylo’s new apartment. It seemed very far away – his mattress was on the floor, with a duvet strewn over it, and their naked bodies. They were surrounded by cardboard boxes and stacks of his books.

 “This.” He didn’t lift his head off her stomach. His breath tickled her as he kissed her hip-bone, lazily. “We’re going to keep doing this.”

“No, I mean…” She propped herself up on her elbow. “You’re here. I’m in New Hampshire.”

“You’re here.” He crawled up her body with a great effort, and settled his weight over her, propped up on his elbows. His fingers threaded into her hair. “I’m here.”

“I meant on Monday morning, and all the other Mondays mornings.”

Kylo kissed her forehead. “We’ll make it work.” He kissed her mouth, pushing his tongue insistently against her lips. “I love you.” He kissed the ridge of her throat, then her collarbone, easing down the length of her body again. “I love you.”

“I think I like it when you talk dirty, better.” Rey teased, breathlessly.

 “I fucking love you. Better?” He grinned, devilishly, and rested his chin on her lower belly. “Say it back.”

“No.” Rey wriggled her hips as he brushed his nose over the neatly-trimmed hair at the bottom of her abdomen. “No – oh.” His littlest finger teased the wet divot of her sex, making her squirm.

“Say it.” He ducked his head lower, his breath teasing the slit between her thighs. “Say it, Rey.”

“I love you.” She bit it out, breath hitching.

Kylo rewarded her by plunging his fingers into her wholeheartedly, and settling his hot, open mouth onto her sex, but the bright bliss that crossed his face before he descended onto her was, somehow, reward enough in and of itself.

***

They did make it work. Most weekends, Rey cajoled Poe or Finn into lending her one of their cars, and drove to Marion. Those weekends, they rarely left his apartment. Sometimes, she got a ride to the train station, an hour from the university, and took the train to Grand Central Station in New York City. Kylo would meet her on the platform and kiss her silly, and they’d explore the city together, anonymous in the crowds and in hotels.

The first time he came back to New Hampshire, and stayed at her apartment for the weekend, Finn’s face settled into an icy mask. Poe was considerably warmer, offering his former professor a beer. They slunk away to her room after the requisite niceties, and she wouldn’t have sex with him until the other couple had left the apartment.

But in the morning, when Rey woke up, Kylo wasn’t in bed. She crept out of her bedroom, hearing soft voices in the kitchen. At least they weren’t yelling, she thought, humorlessly, or fist-fighting.

On the contrary, Finn and Kylo were cooking breakfast together, their backs to her. The kitchen seemed comically small with both of them in it. Neither seemed to have heard her bare-footed approach.

“Rey told me why you left.” Finn was stirring egg yolks, focusing on them intently. His voice was gruff. “That was… the right thing to do.”

“I thought it was.” Kylo was making coffee, a kitchen towel slung over his shoulder.

“I’m not saying I approve of… you know, you two being together.”

“Right.”

The two men fell silent again, for a moment, and then Finn added, with a trace of a threat in his voice, “If you hurt her…”

“I won’t.” Kylo braced his arms on the counter.

“But if you do.”

“I know.”

Rey cleared her throat, delicately. The two men jumped apart, as if embarrassed they’d been caught being civil to each other, and talking about her, to boot. Kylo kissed her cheek, murmuring a quick good morning against her hairline. Finn rolled his eyes, but he did it the way she rolled her eyes when he and Poe got too handsy in front of her, and she knew he’d come to terms with Kylo.

***

One weekend, he had to present a paper at a conference in Manhattan, and she didn’t see him. He sent flowers to her door – an oversized assortment of roses and baby’s breath. She called him after hours, when he was in his hotel. “Flowers? In February?”

“You don’t like them?”

Rey huffed, exasperated. “They’re impractical. They’re just going to die.”

Kylo made a noise of mock indignation. “You’re a hard woman to please, Rey.”

“You know I’m not.” She told him, pointedly. “Stupid conference.”

***

Two days later, when Rey came home from class, there was a package on her doorstep. She opened it in the privacy of her bedroom, and once she saw what it was, she was glad she had. It was a vibrator, a black, elegant, expensive thing.

This won’t die, as long as you charge it once in a while. Love, Kylo.

He laughed over the phone when she scolded him, unrepentant. “You said you weren’t hard to please. Let’s see if this does the job.”

“Kylo.” She laughed his name. “You don’t have to buy me things.”

“Well, this isn’t, strictly speaking, just for you.” She heard the creak of leather, as if he was settling into his chair. “Try it out for me.”

“Now?”

“Yeah.” She heard the heat and smile in his voice. “Put your phone on speaker.”

She locked the bedroom door and did as he said, laying her phone on the pillow next to hers – the one she privately thought of as his pillow. “I’ve never used one of these before.”

“Need me to walk you through it?” He was only half-joking. His voice was a low, rumbling invitation over the phone. It matched the low rumble of the vibrator when she flicked the button at the base of the sleek oblong shaped toy.

“Can you hear that?”

“Barely.” He sounded disgruntled. “Move the phone down there. Or turn it up. It has settings.”

“So complicated.”

“You’re an engineer.” He laughed, breathily. “You can figure it out.”

She figured out how to change the setting, and cautiously nudged the toy in between her legs. It tickled her labia when she brushed it against herself, but a little more pressure, and the tickle became a pleasurable buzz.

“Feel good?”

“Yeah.” She sighed the word, happily. “What about you, what are you doing?”

“Rubbing one out.” She strained her ears, wondering if she could hear the tell-tale slap of his hand against his cock. All she could hear was his strained breathing. “Did you try putting it inside?”

It wasn’t quite a snug fit – not as big as he was, and Rey told him that, practically able to sense his pride over the telephone when she said it – but the pulse of the toy against the soft patch of flesh on the upper inner wall of her cunt made her moan indecently. She set it there awhile, and let him listen to her.

Kylo mumbled an obscenity after a minute – now she could hear his hand, he was speeding up – and she knew he was close. She wanted to finish with him, so she withdrew the vibrator. It was slick from being inside her, and it slipped against her clitoris a few times until she found a circular rhythm that made her hips hitch. They came together, or at least, their orgasms overlapped. Hers seemed to last agonizingly long.

Rey lay, sweaty and panting, on her bed, alone, afterwards. His harsh breathing filled her ear, and when she wrapped her arms around his pillow and put the cellphone against her cheek, she could almost pretend they were together.

 

Chapter Text

The female students at Marion were flirtatious. Kylo had never noticed that at his old job. He’d never noticed any of the students, until he’d noticed Rey. Now, it seemed as if there was a steady influx of young women during his office hours. He shrank into his chair and tried to make himself small when they batted their eyelashes. Eventually, he framed a picture of Rey – one he’d taken in Central Park on their first trip to the city together – and pointedly aimed it at the door, like it was some sort of talisman against unwanted attention.

“I swear, when I was unattached, my students hated me.” He mused, one Saturday night. “Now I have a girlfriend and they –”

“Watch it.” Rey levelled him a cautionary look.

“They come to my office hours.” He finished, lamely. “Anyways. Speaking of office hours,” He thought it might tactful to change the subject. “How’s your new advisor?”

“Oh, great.” Rey fiddled with the stem of her wineglass. “Very accessible.”

***

Those two words – very accessible – echoed in Kylo’s memory all week. That, and the knowledge that her advisor was Armitage Hux, a first-class prick who he hated, was enough to make him cancel his lectures on Friday and drive three hours to New Hampshire, under the guise of surprising her. When he got to campus, the last class of the day was just letting out. Kylo went to the engineering quad, with coffee and eagle-eyes.

Students streamed out of the building at exactly five o’clock. Rey was one of the last ones to leave, and she wasn’t alone. She walked across the quad, talking animatedly to her engineering advisor. He was bent slightly to listen to her. Something ugly twisted itself in Kylo’s stomach. She was smiling at another man, and that was enough to make his jealousy twinge, but another professor – that made it roar to life. She’d been his student.

“Ren.” The tall, redheaded man stopped short, brow arching aristocratically, when his former colleague all but stalked towards them. “What are you doing here?”

“Picking up my girlfriend.” Kylo knew he was probably tempting fate kissing her cheek in front of a faculty member, let alone calling her his girlfriend, but his possessive nature won out over his good sense.

Rey smoothed out a brief expression of mortification, as soon as he let go of her elbow – he’d had to draw her into kiss her cheek – she stepped away from him. “Hi. I wasn’t expecting you so early.”

“Cancelled my lecture this afternoon. Dinner?”

There was a long, awkward silence, and then Hux said, with an air of exaggerated gentility, “Enjoy your dinner. We can continue this discussion some other time. I’ll see you Monday morning.”

“Thank you, Professor.”

Once they were a safe distance away from Hux, Kylo asked, with perhaps a bit more sullenness than was warranted in his voice, “I bet he’d like to continue that discussion later.”

“Kylo.” Rey snapped. Her cheeks were still red. “Stop it. He’s my advisor.”

“Well, I was your professor.”

The color rose even higher on her cheekbones. “I’ll just sleep with any man in a position of authority over me, is that it?”

“That’s not what I meant.” They kept walking, both moving stiffly and keeping their hands to themselves. Rey looked straight ahead her jaw tight with anger, and still he ventured to ask, “Has he asked you out?”

“I mean we’ve had coffee, but that’s –”

“Did you tell him you have a boyfriend?”

“He never asked. It was strictly academic.” Rey threw a barb back. “And you’re one to talk, with all those girls coming to your office hours.”

“Like hell it was academic.” Kylo pictured the scene – Hux listening attentively, buying her a latte, think of it as a date – and clenched his fists. “And I have a picture of you on my desk, Rey. So everyone knows I have a girlfriend. Would it have fucking killed you to tell him you have a boyfriend?”

They faced off on the quad for a long moment, and then Rey’s shoulders slumped. “I don’t want to fight.”

“Me neither.” Kylo thrust his hands into his pockets, chest deflating and suddenly feeling very heavy. “I miss you. I hate this.”

Rey’s hackles rose again, just slightly. She sounded more exasperated than angry, now. “If you hate fighting, then don’t accuse me of – ”

“No, I mean the distance. I hate the distance.”

Her face softened. “Me too. Come on, let’s go to Maz’s. For old time’s sake.”

***

“What are you doing this summer?” It was the kind of question Kylo asked casually, over breakfast, in this case, but that he had thought of asking a hundred times already, and just hadn’t found the right time.

“I have to work.” Rey looked at him as if he’d just asked a stupid question.

“You could find a job in New York.  My mom could get you a job at Marion, doing research or whatever you want.” He took a substantial bite of cereal. “Or in the city.”

Her brow creased, and he had the vague sense that he’d offended her. “If I give up my job at the library, I won’t get it back. A lot of students want work-study positions.”

“You shouldn’t work during the school year anyways.” Once he said that, he knew for sure he’d offended her.

“You’re right, I should just starve.” She told him, stiffly.

“Don’t be dramatic.”

“I’m not being dramatic. And I can’t afford to pay the rent on my place here and find a place to stay in New York. Finn is already doing me a huge favor by paying his half while he’s gone for the summer.”

“Live with me.” He said it as if it was the most obvious thing in the world, and in some ways, it was. He hated coming home on weeknights to the empty apartment.

“I have to think about it.” She said, finally, and that was almost worse than her saying no, because now he still had to wonder where he stood.  

***

About halfway through the spring semester – “spring” hardly seemed the right word, it’d been raining alternately for three days – Kylo came home from a Friday faculty curriculum meeting to the saccharine smell of glazed sugar and cake in his apartment.

“Hey, honey?”

“How domestic of you.” Rey came out of the kitchen, flour smeared on her a cheek and triumphant smile on her mouth.  She was wearing an apron, and not much else. Her bare legs protruded from under the bottom of the apron, the sides and tops of her breasts peeped out the top and sides of it.

“You’re the one baking.” He pecked her cheek, then leaned back, running his eyes down her body, and added, sarcastically, “You are baking, right? You don’t just have a kink I don’t know about?”

“Ha, ha.” She screwed up her nose at him. “I’m making you a cake.”

“What’s the occasion?” He asked, even though he already knew. What he didn’t know is how she knew it was his birthday.

“Thirty is a big year.” She turned around to take the cake out of the oven, and when she bent over, he got a mouth-watering view. Her sheer panties crept up her curve of her ass as she bent over, making him want to slip them down her legs so she really was wearing nothing but an apron.

“Don’t remind me.” He interrupted these pleasant thoughts to consider that it was, after all, his thirtieth birthday. He pulled a beer out the refrigerator, twisted off the cap, and took a long draught. “Who told you?”

“Your mother.”

Kylo almost choked on his beer. “What?”

“We had lunch today.” Rey leaned back on the kitchen counter. “You were in a meeting.”

“So, you and my mom.” Kylo sipped his drink. “That’s… interesting.”

“Why?” Rey took a bottle of champagne out of freezer, where it had been chilling. “She likes me.”

“Of course she likes you.” Kylo grinned at her over his beer. “You’re adorable. And sexy as fuck in that apron. You didn’t wear that to lunch, did you?”

“No.” She rolled her eyes. “This is just for you, birthday boy.”

They opened the bottle of champagne, finished it, and then opened a bottle of something cheaper. When she had more than a few drinks in her, Rey set her glass down, rounded the table, and perched delicately on his lap, looping her arms around his neck. “So, I didn’t buy you a gift.”

“Good.” He set down his drink, settling his hand on her hip. It fit comfortably there, even if she was so much smaller than he was. The stiff fabric of the apron stood away from her chest, and he could see the prick of her nipple inside it. He couldn’t tear his eyes away. “I don’t need anything.”

“But it’s your birthday.” She tucked some hair behind his ear. “So you can have whatever you want.”

“Oh.” Her tone didn’t leave any room for misunderstanding – nor did her eyes. They were trained on his face, wide open, and heated. “Anything?”

“Yes.” She brushed her lips over his. “I trust you.”

“I’m glad you trust me.” His voice cracked, as he slid his hand into the apron, cupping her breast and running his thumb over it, thoughtfully. He grabbed her hips and pushed her off his lap, then, once she was standing, pulled her back over her thighs. Tilting his head up, he told her, “But... do whatever you want.”

Rey cocked her head, settling her hands on his hair, gently. “This is your birthday, remember?”

“And I want you to have your way with me, woman.” His hand found the back of her panties and started sliding them down. “Tell me what you want me to do.”

Rey hesitated for a second, and then said, in a slightly high-pitched voice, “Stop.” She cleared her throat. “Don’t undress me until I say so.”

Grinning, Kylo leaned back in the chair. She nibbled her lower lip, and then reached to unbutton his shirt. Once it was open, her little hands smoothed it to either side of his chest. They were trembling a little as she unbuckled his belt and slowly pulled it out of its loops. Winding it around her hand, she examined the stiff, black leather.

Brushing the folded belt against his cheek, Rey swallowed hard. “You’re sure?”

“Yes.” He breathed.

The belt trailed down his chest, from his clavicle to his navel, and then, suddenly, snapped lightly against the soft layer of skin on his belly. He caught his breath, tilting his head down and watching the red mark rise on his skin.

Emboldened, she smacked him across the chest. Her hand came to soothe this red mark, and then settled onto his nipple, twisting it between her fingers.

“Uh, untie the apron.” He fumbled to obey, reaching up to untie the strings behind her neck, first. The top of the apron fell to her waist, exposing her breasts. “You can touch.”

Awed at this woman he barely recognized, Kylo settled his hands tenderly over her breasts. She watched him, breathing heavily, and then told him, “I’m not sure how to do this.”

“Just say whatever you’re thinking. No filter.” Leaning forward to press a kiss between her breasts, Kylo stopped short – she’d wound a hand into his hair and pulled him back, almost painfully.

“Apron, off.” The apron fell to the floor with a heavy thunk, and he let his hands linger on her lower back. She used the entire weight of her body to push him down in the chair, until his face was level with her panties. She looked at him, expectantly. “Go on.”

“Tell me what you want.” He knew, from the scent of her and the damp patch on the crotch of her panties, what she wanted. Still, this was his fantasy – one that was surprising even to him, considering his usual predilections – and he wanted her to go all the way with it.

Rey struggled for words, for a moment, and then her eyes narrowed. She grabbed his hair, again, and put his face where she wanted it. Kylo mouthed her through her panties, desperately, as if he could wear them away with his tongue and lips.

“Rip them.” She wiggled her hips when he looked up, surprised. “You heard me.”

Normally, she would complain about him ruining clothes – “those are expensive!” came to mind – but it was a special occasion. He ripped the panties off and buried his face back in between her thighs. His chin was slick when he withdrew to look up for approval.

Rey looked down at him with hooded eyes, her lips wet and parted. “Take me to bed.”

Grabbing her by the waist, he threw her over his shoulder, knocking over the chair as he stood. He tossed her on the bed and knelt at the foot of it, waiting for her to speak again. The wait nearly killed him.

“Take off your clothes.” Rey leaned back, watching him. He clambered off the bed and stripped as fast as he could. When he was naked, Rey rolled onto her stomach, lifting her hips up and moving them side to side, as if she was inviting him.

“Where do you want me?”

“Behind me.” She arched up onto her knees, grinding back into him. Kylo settled his hands onto her lower back, his erection rubbing between her thighs. He bent over and kissed the bottom of her spine, then wrapped a hand around himself, trying to find his way into her.

She brushed her ass against his stomach. “Not there.”

“How…?” Kylo trailed off, his pulse jumping. He had an inkling of what she meant, but could barely believe it. In his state of arousal, surely he wasn’t thinking straight.

“I know you've been wanting to.” She spoke into the pillow, her voice thick with trepidation and anticipation.

Kylo hesitated, considering. He’d thought of this, immediately, when she’d told him he could have whatever he wanted. They’d experimented a few times with his fingers burrowed into the pucker of her ass, and a couple times he’d even nudged his cock against her, tentatively. But, relatively speaking, this was still uncharted territory – the only uncharted territory between them, perhaps. He thought about how tight and different it would feel, and his cock twitched.

Then, he thought about their recent fights – over her advisor, over the summer, over living together, over money, and most of all, over distance – and he thought about how much he loved her and needed to communicate that to her. Somehow when he tried to communicate with her using words, they fought. This was better. He rolled her over onto her back, settling his weight over her.

“What are you doing?” She pulled away, brow creasing. Her hair splayed out on the pillow like an angel’s halo, and suddenly, she wasn’t a seductress anymore.

 “New rules.” Kylo kissed her, without being told to. “Let’s make love.”

Chapter Text

“Are you sure? You know I can’t promise we’ll have an opening in the fall.” Rey’s supervisor peered at her over her glasses. “If you decide you want to come back.”

Rey nodded, slowly. “I know.”

Her supervisor leaned against the intake desk. “Big plans this summer?”

Rey thought about her answer, for a second. In truth, she didn’t really have plans. She didn’t have a job, or an internship. She wasn’t taking summer school, or visiting family, or going on vacation. It was frightening, but somewhat exhilarating, to have no responsibilities, or plans. She’d looked out for herself for so long that she’d become risk-averse. She had no safety net – no parents, no trust fund, no place to go if everything fell apart – so she’d devoted herself to work and school, terrified of something going wrong. Terrified, even, of anything not going according to plan.

“Big changes.” She said, finally.

***

“You’re sure this is okay? I told you, we can go into Manhattan.” Kylo waited, with his hand on his seatbelt, as if hoping she would bail him out of dinner with his mother. “I should take you somewhere nice.”

“It’s nice of her to invite me.”

Kylo still didn’t unbuckle his seatbelt, even though his truck had come to a stop on the curb outside his mother’s front gate. “What girl wants to spend her birthday with her boyfriend’s overbearing mother?”

Rey leaned over and kissed his cheek. Her fingers found his on the seatbelt, and unclicked it. “A girl who doesn’t have a mother.”

Kylo turned his face, intercepting her cheek-bound kiss and pressing his mouth to hers. “We’re leaving at a reasonable hour, okay? I want to get you alone.”

Rey stroked his cheek. She’d driven in from New Hampshire after class, running late, and they hadn’t had time to do anything but peck each other on the lips on their way to Leia’s. She hadn’t had time to reveal that she’d quit her job at the library, and that was partially by design. She had the feeling that, when she told him, he’d kiss her, really kiss her, and that one thing would lead to another. If they’d been late – especially if they’d been late with rumpled clothes and hair – they never would hear the end of it. “Then don’t drink so much that you can’t drive.”

“My mother drives me to drink, I can’t help it.” Kylo grabbed her hand as they walked through the gate and up the walkway. They rang the doorbell, and as they stood there, waiting, he lifted her hand to his lips and pressed a dry kiss to the back of it. “If we don’t make it out alive, I Iove you.”

***

“It’s a shame she’s so young.”

Rey stopped short outside the dining room, sinking back into the shadows of the hallway. She’d excused herself to go to the bathroom, and, barefoot, hadn’t made a noise on her way back to dinner. It hadn’t been her intention to eavesdrop, but now she found herself unable to make herself known. She had to know the context of that comment. Despite her taciturn disapproval of Kylo making advances on a student, Leia had never been anything but warm to her.

“What do you mean?” Kylo’s voice held a warning.

“Oh, don’t be so defensive.” Leia made an exasperated noise. “I only meant she’s not ready to settle down.”

There was a thoughtful silence, and then Kylo rumbled, “And you think I am?”

“Yes.” Leia said, shortly. “You’d propose tomorrow if you thought she’d say yes. And you’re not being very subtle about it.”

This next silence was longer. An exhilarating but terrifying feeling grew in Rey’s stomach with each moment that Kylo didn’t deny it. His mother knew him, after all, and Rey did too. She knew his mother was right.

Finally, he said, quietly, “I can wait until she’s ready.”

***

”So, Rey, how many final exams are you sitting for?” Leia heaped more food onto her plate when she sat back down, her face betraying not a hint of what she’d been discussing with her son. Leia and Kylo had that in common, Rey mused – they had the uncanny ability to be totally inscrutable. He must have inherited that from her, along with her temper and tendency to overfeed her. They both tutted like mother hens over her diet of ramen and oatmeal, and anxiously watched her eat to make sure she finished every bite.

“Four.” Rey tugged her plate away, politely. “One of my classes just had a research paper due on the last day of classes.”

“When’s the first one?”

“Tuesday afternoon.” Rey noted, mentally, that this would be a rare, happy Monday when she wouldn’t have to wake up at five in the morning and drive back to New Hampshire. She could sleep in, at least a few hours, and wake up with Kylo. And, when exams were over, she could wake up every Monday with him – at least, for the duration of the summer holiday.

Leia might have seen the far-away look on her face, because she said, in a mockingly stern voice, “I’m sure you’ll do nothing but study all weekend, then.”

Rey blushed into her wineglass. “Um, yes.”

“Let’s change the subject.” Kylo gave his mother a look.

“I saw that your funding came through for your research this summer.” Leia obliged. She turned to her son, pouring him more wine.

“This is the downside to working for you, Mom.” Kylo said, dryly. “You stick your nose into my professional life, not just my love life.”

“I thought you were going to teach summer classes.” Rey interjected.

“I was going to. Funding came through last minute.” Kylo hedged. His fingers played on the stem of his wineglass, almost nervously.

“And that is the upside to working for your mother.” Leia added, tartly. “Anyways, I propose a toast.”

Kylo acquiesced, lifting his glass. Rey gulped a bit more of her drink before she clinked her glasses to theirs.

“To Rey finishing her second year.” Leia graced her with a smile. Rey privately added, to New York. “To me, convincing my wayward son to come to work for me. And to Greece.” Leia raised her glass higher, beaming.

Rey blinked at her boyfriend’s mother, not quite sure she’d processed that last word correctly. “What?”

“To Greece.” Leia repeated. “For Kylo’s research.”

“Mom.” Kylo’s voice was very low. “I hadn’t told Rey yet.”

Rey’s eyes flashed to his. His eyes begged her not to be angry, and she wasn’t, somehow. She just felt a low, dull ache under her ribcage. It occupied the same spot her excitement and anticipation had all evening. She’d been excited not only to come to New York, but to tell him she was coming to New York. Losing that excitement was like having her stomach punched.

“Oh.” Leia had the grace to turn pink when she saw the look they exchanged. She lowered her glass, without taking a sip from it. “I’m sorry – I just assumed…”

“Let’s change the subject. Again.” Kylo looked angry, not just annoyed and embarrassed, this time. The conversation was stilted for the rest of the meal. Words passed by Rey – the Irish Institute at Athens, Kefalonia, the Leivatho dig, the tholos tomb, the Mycenean period – but they didn’t mean anything to her. She tried to smile when Leia caught her eye, but she didn’t bother when Kylo looked at her.

When Leia brought out a birthday cake decorated with twenty candles, Rey had to pretend the tears she was blinking back were happy tears.

***

They walked to the car in silence. This time, Rey didn’t let him hold her hand. She kept her hands wrapped around her chest, tucking them into her armpits, both because the late spring night was still chilly, and because she didn’t want to be touched.

Kylo followed her around to the passenger side of the truck, and held the door open for her. Rey hesitated, and then spun around to face him. He braced himself on the vehicle’s door, ready for the storm of her reaction. “I quit my job. I was going to come to New York for the summer, and now you’re going to be gone.” Hot tears burned her eyes.

“You quit your job?” Kylo’s face, which had been drawn tight in anticipation of a fight, split into a relieved smile. He’d been trying to convince her to take the summer off for months now, so that she could come to New York. Now, remembering all the times he had wheedled and bargained, his eyes molten and voice low and entreating, she was angry.

“It doesn’t matter now. You’re going to be in fucking Greece. You should have told me before – no, I should have known better.” Rey identified the festering feeling in her belly – overwhelming shame that she had been so stupid. “I shouldn’t have quit.”

“No, Rey –” He reached for her arm, but she yanked it away, spitefully. “You’ve been so afraid to leave. You’d rather be lonely than take a risk.”

“It was a stupid risk to take.” Rey yelled, not caring if Leia could hear them from inside her house. “You should have told me.”

“I wanted it to be a surprise.” The look on his face was inexplicably tender. It was all wrong for the conversation – or one-sided yelling match – they were having.

"This is… the worst surprise. Ever.” Rey sniffed, swiping her arm across her face. Mucus and salty tears smeared onto her skin. “I need to call the library. Maybe she’ll give me my job back.” She sounded pitiful, and she didn’t care. She wanted him to feel as badly as she did.

“Rey.” Somehow, he didn’t look remorseful. His eyes were shining under the streetlight. He reached into his pocket, and pulled out a wrinkled, folded piece of paper. He handed it to her.

“What is this?” Fresh tears blurred her vision as she unfolded the paper.

“I bought you a plane ticket. To come to Greece with me.”

“What?” Rey stared at the paper. It was an emailed flight confirmation. There was her name, next to his, booked to fly from New York to Athens in two weeks. All she could do was repeated herself: “What?”

“I bought it last week, when my funding came through. I was going to surprise you for your birthday.”

“Greece?” For some reason, one word sentences were all she could manage, at the moment.

“I don’t want to be apart all summer.” He stepped closer to her, spreading his hands on the roof of the truck and trapping her against it, between himself and the door. “Say something.”

“I’ve been saying things.”

“Say yes.” He tilted her chin up with his crooked fingers. “You already quit your job.”

“But… Greece?” Rey sat, slowly, in the passenger seat. Her legs dangled out of the car. “What will I do there?”

“I don’t know.” Kylo told her bluntly. “But don’t you want to find out?”

“I’m afraid that…” Rey trailed off. She couldn’t really vocalize what it was she was afraid of. Perhaps it was being across the ocean from her friends, in a place where no one spoke her language or knew her name. Perhaps it was three months without school or work or anything to distract her from her thoughts. Perhaps it was relying on him for everything when she had relied on herself for so long.

“Don’t be afraid.” Kylo ducked into the car, his long body and broad shoulders blocking out the light, hunched inside. He kissed her mouth. He could have gone on and on trying to convince her, telling her logistics and begging and convincing her, but his mouth was the sweetest persuasion she’d ever known. It always had been, and it always had had the power to sway her from her plans. A kiss from him had made her do reckless things before, like sleeping with, and then dating, and then falling in love with her professor, and now, in retrospect, she could admit she was better for it. “I am so in love with you." Another kiss. "I want to show you the world. I want to give you the world. Come with me.”

Rey wrapped her hands into the hair that curled around his jaw and ears, and pulled him back in, by way of answering.

 

 

Chapter Text

“Athena.”

“Ugh, no.”

“Helen.”

“No. Too much baggage.”

“Portia.”

“Ew.”

“Thalia.”

“No.”

“Nyx.”

“Kylo!”

“Cassiopea?”

“No.”

“Ariadne.”

“No. Spiders? No.”

“Penelope.”

“No – well.” Rey stopped to consider. “I don’t mind that one.”

“Penelope?” Propping his cheek on his fist, Kylo flatted his other hand over her belly, or rather, made his palm as flat as it could be on her rounded midsection. She hadn’t started to show until a few weeks ago, but now, at five months pregnant, her stomach had suddenly popped out. Her high heels were uncomfortable on her swollen feet. Her pencil skirts constricted her new girth in a way that made her squirm in her office chair, and her blouses didn’t lay right on the breasts that seemed to have come out of nowhere. “Odysseus’s wife. Very sneaky. Outsmarted all her suitors for twenty years while her husband was away.”

“Maybe we shouldn’t name our baby that.” Rey mused. “If she’s anything like you, she’ll already be too smart for her own good.” She flexed her foot, wincing.

“And if she’s like you, she’ll be trouble.” Kylo pressed a kiss onto her navel. “It’s an unholy combination. Procreating was a mistake.”

“Well, we didn’t exactly think it through.” Rey said it without any real bitterness in her voice. She’d since let go of that.

The pregnancy hadn’t been expected, but it hadn’t been totally unwelcome, either. She’d been sick in bed for four days, and Kylo had carefully sorted her antibiotics and sleep aids into little pill dividers, completely neglecting her birth control pills. A month and a week later, she’d missed her period. She’d taken four pregnancy tests, and wailed that it wasn’t time yet, that she had just started her first job after finishing her master’s degree, that she still had student loans, that she was only twenty-five. Kylo had listened to her rant and watched her pace, still clutching the fourth positive pregnancy test, and then, in his simple way, had stopped her, kissed her forehead, and told her, “I want to keep this baby.”

And they had, although, as part of that bargain, Kylo didn’t keep his job. He finished out the semester, and took up the endeavor of writing a third book. His willingness to sacrifice his teaching career and stay at home with their child had made her cry, all over again – hormones, she’d sniffed – and freed her from any reservations she had about becoming a mother. He'd given her the greatest - well, second greatest, after the baby, she conceded - gift: the freedom to put her degrees to use and do what she loved. 

“I wouldn’t change anything, you know.” Kylo’s voice caught her attention. He was looking at her with that upturned twitch on his lips.

“I know.” Rey smoothed a wayward piece of hair off of his face. He’d been in his study writing all morning, and he hadn’t bothered to even comb his hair. His glasses were crooked, and his shirt rumpled, and she decided she liked writer Kylo better than Professor Ren. “Me neither.”

He kissed the side of her hand. “So, Penelope?”

“Penelope.” Rey mused, out loud. “I like it.”

“You can’t change your mind, you know.”

“Of course I can.” Rey scowled. “I have four months to change my mind.”

“That’s going to confuse the baby.” Kylo eased down towards her belly again. “Isn’t that right, Penelope?”

“She can’t hear you.” Rey couldn’t help but grin at him.

 “Yes, she can. I read it in a medical journal.” He told her, confidently. He kissed her stomach, rubbing his nose against it in circles. “Are you asleep, sweetheart?” Rey rolled her eyes at the ceiling. He looked back up at her, his hands still framing her bump. “Is she moving around a lot right now?”

“No, why?”

One hand moved from her stomach upwards, to play with the buttons of her blouse. “Want to make love?”

Rey hesitated for a moment. In the five and years since they’d met, they hadn’t been able to keep their hands off each other – not because of fights, not during the two and a half years when they lived hours apart, and even despite her long hours at an engineering consulting firm. But pregnancy had changed things between them, in that respect. First, she’d had a vicious bout of morning sickness. When she wasn’t vomiting, she was sleeping. Then, in her second trimester, all of that had passed. He’d looked at her, hopefully, but she’d looked in the mirror and see a different person than she knew. She felt like a different person some days, too.

She’d taken too long to answer. Kylo moved his hand back to her stomach. “Never mind.”

“No, I…”

“We don’t have to.” He gave her a small smile, and started to rise up off the bed. Rey grasped at his t-shirt, keeping him on his knees, sat up with a little grunt, and then, with her free hand, reached for his glasses, taking them off of his face. His expression – it had closed off to her, in anticipation of rejection – softened. “Rey.”

“We haven’t done this in a long time.” She told him, still holding onto his shirt. He hovered over her.

“No.” Kylo agreed. He reached for the hem of her skirt and pulled it up, shimmying it past her hips. His eyes roved down her body, and then he sunk onto her, somewhat impeded by her stomach, and wedged himself in between her thighs.

“You don’t have to do that.” She told him, selfishly glad that her bunched up skirt obscured her bump, and that he hadn’t taken all of her clothing off.

A ghost of a smile flickered across his mouth. “It’s been a while, I’m not going to last. I want to take care of you first.”

He did take care of her – Rey was reminded of how good he was at that – and when she was in a blissful, post-orgasmic haze, she couldn’t even be bothered to protest as he undressed her. He rolled onto his back and beckoned her on top of him. Feeling huge and ungainly, Rey settled herself over his groin, her hands instinctually covering her breasts.

“Stop that.” Kylo took hold of her hands and pulled them away, studying her. His eyes flickered between her belly and her breasts. “You look perfect.”

“I’m enormous.”

“Perfect.” He reiterated, splaying his hands around her hips and trying to hold as much of her as possible. “I want to be inside you.”

“Can we...” Rey struggled between dual instincts – to hide as much of herself as possible, and to bask in the adoring way he was looking at her. “Can we do it a different way?”

They maneuvered onto their sides, after a little bit of experimentation, and that was much more comfortable. The angle kept his thrusts shallow, there was no weight on her belly, and she didn’t feel as exposed as she had straddling him. Kylo hummed into the nape of her neck with satisfaction as he rocked into her.

He’d been right; he didn’t last long. He grunted quietly, sending a jolt of wet heat into her, and then sighed gustily into her hair, his arm going slack around her midsection, palm spread wide across her. That reminded Rey of the baby – she’d momentarily forgotten – and suddenly, she considered that this was how they’d made a baby. It was an odd thing to think, that they were reenacting, for the for the first time since she’d discovered that she was pregnant, the very thing that had gotten her pregnant. Thinking of that gave the moment of his completion greater significance, somehow. She blinked back tears, and curled herself deeper into his chest, wanting to be closer to him, to make up for lost time.

“I missed you.” She kissed his forearm. “I missed this.”

“We’re not done yet.” His voice cracked, whether with sleepiness, arousal, or emotion, she couldn’t tell. His hand snaked down into the thatch at the apex of her thighs, and his middle finger and thumb spread her lips down there. His index finger found her clitoris and swirled around it, very precisely, making her suck in her breath.

“I already – ”

“Some women report it’s easier to experience multiple orgasms when they’re pregnant.” He told her, matter-of-factly, and kept going.

“You read too many books about pregnancy.” She protested, but she squirmed against his hand, trying to chase an elusive sensation. His hips ground against her ass, rhythmically, and his finger was relentless, and even if he’d gone half-soft inside of her, he was bound and determined.

“Shhh.” He pressed a kiss onto her neck when she came, keening and swearing, and she could feel his self-satisfied smile. “Don’t wake the baby.”

***

When their daughter was two months old, the manuscript of his second book came back from his publishing house, edited and bound. He’d sent it off to them three months earlier, when she had been hugely pregnant.

Now, Rey flipped it open, holding it with one hand, and bracing the baby on her hip with her other hand. Kylo was humming in the kitchen – he was a terrible cook, but he could make pasta and heat up leftovers, and he was doing one of the two, right now – and she was enjoying that perfect, selfish moment of the day when she didn’t have to share the room with co-workers, or her boyfriend, or anyone, except her daughter. The dark-haired baby cooed and grabbed at the spine of the freshly bound book.

The book was thinner than his first two books. It was to be the first in a series. Impending fatherhood had motivated Kylo to begin collecting books for Penelope’s library – The Odyssey was “for when she’s a bit older” – and, scandalized that there wasn’t quality non-fiction to make Classics accessible to school-aged children, he’d been inspired to write his own series.

When she flipped to the dedication, she started laughing, and then crying and laughing at the same time.

I dedicated my first and second books to your mother, but Penelope, this one is for you.