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who gave you eyes like that, said you could keep them

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It’s too early.

Rey likes to consider herself an early riser.  She’s had morning classes for two years, and has managed to get up early enough for a jog around Washington Square Park before almost all of them.  She’s used to tiptoeing around the apartment, rummaging through drawers with all the blinds closed, switching off the microwave right before it beeps, watching through trees and apartment buildings and the vague fog that always seems to be hanging about the city in the winter.  

All of this is why she has every right to be pissed, right now, that Finn and Poe managed to wrangle her out of her nice, warm bed, down onto the subway, up out of the subway, and half a mile into Central Park.  And it’s also why she has every right to be sprawled out on her stomach right now, trying to make up for lost sleep.

But it seems she’s not going to get it just yet – there’s a sudden chill of shade from someone leaning over her, and a scent of carbonated burn that can only be the RedBull Finn downed on the ride uptown.

“Rey,” he whispers.

Rey turns over onto her side, her cheek rubbing against the old picnic blanket Poe had borrowed from his mom’s place in Brooklyn.  It’s scratchy, and stained with more varieties of tequila than she previously knew existed, but it’s better than lying on bare grass.

“Reyyyy,” Finn tries again.

Rey turns entirely onto her stomach in response.  She concentrates on relaxing her toes, relaxing the soles of her feet, relaxing her ankles.  Slowly work up your body until every part is relaxed, the technique goes.  It’s never worked particularly well for her, but she’s willing to do anything if it would mean a couple extra hours of sleep right now.

A warm, slightly damp ball of fur nudges into her side – seems like BB-8’s got the same idea.  Rey reaches out one arm to draw the corgi in closer, and feels a small smile shift across her face as he twists to lick at her chin.

“Leave her alone,” she hears Poe saying.  His voice sounds a bit muted, as though coming through a layer of water.  “She can nap if she wants.  Honestly, I kind-of want to join her.”

“But where would you do it?” Finn replies.  “She’s taking up the whole blanket.”

“There are other, ah, surfaces I could lie on.”  Rey can just picture Poe waggling his eyebrows, smirking at his boyfriend like a five-year-old who’s just replicated a fart noise with his elbow.

This is followed by a muffled thump that can only be Finn socking Poe in the arm.

“Seriously, though,” Poe says.  “Let Rey sleep.  It’s barely five AM, and not all of us are hyped up on caffeine and the prospect of free theater like you are.”

“But it’s not just any free theater!” Finn protests.  “It’s free Shakespeare!  One of the Bard’s best comedies, offered in a central stage, offered free to anyone brave enough to make the journey just as Shakespeare has always been meant to be performed!  The very city is alive with its potential!  How can she sleep at a time like this?”

“You know, sometimes I think we should switch majors,” Poe replies, that special warmth in his voice that has become more pronounced ever since he and Finn got their shit together enough to start dating.  The one that reminds Rey of the feeling of the sun on her back on summer mornings like this one.

It’s too early, still.  Finn told her the box office opens at noon, which means they have about seven hours of waiting before they get their tickets.  Rey could be back at the apartment right now, still sleeping in her own bed instead of on an old picnic blanket in the middle of Central Park.  But she’s got sunlight on her back and sunlight in her ears, so really, things could be worse.

Finn and Poe’s conversation softens to a dull roar, melting into the surrounding dog barks, distant sirens, and voices of other people in line.  Rey catches a few phrases as she dozes – Finn saying he would never switch majors, describing his plan for reforming Wall Street from the inside out for the millionth time, Poe belaboring which workshops he will or won’t get into next semester, Finn reassuring him that of course he’ll get into the most prestigious classes, he’s Poe – and then she must truly conk out for a while, because the next thing she hears, they’re talking about the Dungeons and Dragons group that Jessica has strong-armed them all into.  Poe is explaining his character’s backstory to Finn, it sounds like, which is a pointless endeavor because Rey knows full well that Finn has read the ten thousand word-long Google doc Poe has going that details the character’s entire life and family history.

And then BB-8 squirms out of Rey’s arms, starts yapping up a storm as though he’s just caught sight of the world’s most interesting squirrel.

Rey’s eyes open almost of their own accord.  She’s still curled on her side on the blanket, cheek pressed into its scratchy fabric, so she has a bit of a skewed view – but she can see well enough to tell that that’s definitely not a squirrel.

“Hi,” says the most beautiful girl Rey has ever seen.  “I’m so sorry if I’m being rude, but I –”

Before she can get any further, BB-8 jumps up at the girl, successfully bowling her backwards until she’s on her back in the grass with an armful of dog.  Poe stands up, ready to pull out the apology he’s carefully constructed for situations like this, but the giggles that begin emanating up from the girl-and-dog conglomerate quickly demonstrate that it won’t be necessary.

Another few seconds pass, then BB-8 returns to the blanket and the girl rights herself.  Her dark bangs are pushed aside, sticking up in at least ten different directions.  If Poe and Finn’s voices sounded like sunshine, then this girl looks like it – she’s all brightness and curves, wide smile and soft cheeks, practically glowing with the early morning light behind her.

Rey tears her gaze away from the girl to find Poe smirking at her.  And yeah, okay, maybe she’s staring.  Just a little.  She pushes herself up on one elbow and focuses on BB-8 instead, rubbing the dog under his chin and scolding him quietly for attacking such a kind stranger.

“I’m sorry,” the girl says again.  And she has such a lovely voice, it reminds Rey of the feeling of jumping as high as she can in those bouncy castles that used to be at all the coolest birthday parties.  “I should’ve asked permission to pet your dog.”

“Oh god, no, I’m sorry,” Poe replies.  “BB-8 has been trained, I swear, but sometimes he just goes crazy.”

“It’s early in the morning, we’re all a little crazy.”  The girl runs a hand through her hair, smoothing her bangs back down – Rey takes a quiet moment of mourning.

“So what were you saying, before you got tackled by our dog?” Finn asks.

“Oh, it’s just…”  The girl’s cheeks go faintly pink, but she carries on.  “I heard you talking about DnD, and I couldn’t help butting in.”

“Do you play?” Poe says.

The girl shakes her head.  “Not yet.  I’ve gotten really invested in a couple of DnD podcasts recently, so I’ve been trying to put a group together, but all my friends are so busy it’s hard to persuade them to make time for it.”

“I get that,” Finn tells her.  “Our friend Jess has been trying to get us to play with her for months, and it seems like we’re finally going to get started now that we’re on break.  Poe here has gotten really into it – you should hear him talk about his character.”

The girl turns to Poe, her eyes going wide.  “Tell me!” she exclaims.

Poe, who needed approximately five percent as much invitation, launches into the story of how his half-elf fighter, orphaned at birth, grew up in a monastery, abandoned it to seek his fortune at age fourteen, was taken up by a traveling theater troupe, became skilled in the areas of both martial arts and oratory, et cetera et cetera et cetera.  Rey has heard the story before, so it’s easy for her to zone out and focus on watching the girl as she listens.  Her dark brown eyes stay focused on Poe’s face the whole time, and her fingers twitch with the suspenseful moments, moving from the front pockets of her jean shorts to the back ones.

She’s wearing a purple and green-patterned flannel shirt, unbuttoned, with an old Doctor Who T-shirt on underneath, and worn gray converse.  It doesn’t exactly scream I’m into girls, but it definitely doesn’t scream I’m straight, either.  Rey puts in a quick prayer to every deity she can think of.

After Poe has finished his usual backstory spiel, the girl starts in with questions – asking about his character’s desires, his weaknesses, what foods he likes, whether he prefers comedy or tragedy.  Poe answers the first couple, then gets stumped when the girl wonders why his character would be motivated to join an adventuring party when he seems to have such a powerful bond with the other members of his theater troupe.

“You’re pretty good at this,” Poe tells her.

The girl smiles at the compliment – it’s a small, soft smile, different from her wide grin after BB-8 tackled her, but no less brilliant.  “Thanks.  I was in a creative writing program for three years, so I know a lot about character building.”

“Was?” Finn wonders.  “What are you doing now?”

“Mechanical engineering,” the girl replies.

Pictures spring to Rey’s mind, fully formed: this girl in a manufacturing lab, welding goggles pushed up onto her forehead, grease covering her hands and wrists… Rey was chilly earlier, in her tank top and cargo shorts, but now she’s suddenly very warm.

“Creative writing to mechanical engineering,” Finn echoes.  “Don’t people usually go in the opposite direction?”

“Maybe,” the girl says.  “But I’m doing this program that’s three years of an arts and sciences degree, with a lot of engineering prerecs, then two years of an engineering degree.  So I was at CUNY for three years, then Columbia’s engineering school for one.  I’m Rose, by the way, Rose Tico – I just realized I hadn’t introduced myself properly.”

Rose.  Rey rolls the name around in her throat, savoring its sweet taste.  It’s kinda cliché when people are named after flowers, usually, but in this case… Rose suits Rose perfectly.

“Oh shit, yeah,” Finn says.  “I’m Finn, that’s Poe, and the sleeping beauty down there is Rey.  We all go to NYU.”

“Nice to meet you all!” Rose replies.  She beams at Finn and Poe, then takes a couple steps towards the blanket and crouches down next to Rey.  “Hey,” she says, a bit quieter, like she’s approaching a timid animal.  “You awake, Rey?”

She’s very close.  Very close.  Rey can see the shine of Rose’s forehead, and a dimple just under her right cheek, and god she smells like hot coffee and oranges and Rey needs to back up right now or she’s going to make even more a fool of herself than she already has –

She rolls off the blanket, lands in the grass and jumps up to a standing position.

“Sorry,” Rose says.  “I didn’t mean to startle you.”

Finn looks like he’s about ready to collapse from laughter.  Poe, never one to let an opportunity to seize territory go amiss, jumps onto the now-vacated picnic blanket and pulls Finn down next to him.

“No, I’m – I’m sorry.”  Rey shakes her head in vague hopes of clearing it.  “I just – I didn’t really get enough sleep last night, and those two idiots drank all our caffeine while I was napping on the subway.”

“Oh, no worries.”  Rose smiles at her, and it’s… it’s a little blinding, honestly.  “Do you want some of ours?”

Ours?  It had seemed like Rose was in line by herself, but apparently there’s an us – a girlfriend?  A boyfriend?  Both?

“Mine and my sister’s,” Rose adds – putting a stop to Rey’s spiraling thoughts.  She turns around and waves at a girl a few feet back in line, lounging in a pink lawn chair and reading a battered paperback.  The girl looks up and waves back – she looks a bit like Rose, except taller and lankier, more angles where Rose is curves.

“Paige!  Can I share our coffee?” Rose calls to her sister.

“Sure,” replies Paige.  “I’m not getting up for you, though.”

Rose rolls her eyes, but she goes, picking her way over the roots of a nearby maple tree to fish a thermos out of a tote bag resting at Paige’s feet.  She holds it out to Rey, who grabs ahold gratefully.  It’s warm to the touch, and Rey pops the lid and tips it back to drink several long gulps without question.

The coffee is still hot, impressively so, but the way it burns going down isn’t from the heat.  It almost feels like the burn of… taking a shot.  (Not that Rey is very experienced at taking shots. There’s a fifty-fifty chance she’ll puke immediately afterwards, especially if she’s had a couple of drinks first.)

Rey must make some kind of face, because Rose frowns at her, then turns back to her sister.

“Paige!  Did you spike this?”

“Of course,” Paige says, not looking up from her book.

“Isn’t it a little early for spiked… anything?” Rey asks, spluttering a little.

“It’s never too early.”  Now Paige does look up, if only to fix her brown eyes – the same color as Rose’s, except a little darker around the edges – steadily on Rey.  “And it helped you wake up, didn’t it?”

Rey is about to protest, but then she notices that her limbs do feel a bit lighter… She imagines her neurons speeding up, hitting action potentials at increasing frequency, in response to the alcohol now burning through her system.  Her mind working faster the way it always does when she gets tipsy, bypassing nerves and reservations to make decisions in double-time.

She peers at the thermos for a moment, considering, then tips it back again and starts to drink.

“Rey!” Poe exclaims, equal parts shock and awe.

“Rey, you know you’re a terrible lightweight,” Finn says.

“Rey!  Rey!  Rey!” Rose chants, excited already.  She starts pumping her fist in time with her voice.  Rey knew she liked this girl for good reason.

Chugging is weirdly challenging, physically – she has to swallow what’s already in her throat and keep pouring in the same gulp, without stopping to draw breath.  Other people in line around them are almost definitely staring.  But she’s always been a quick study, and she’s committed to this now.  Boys do dumb shit to impress pretty girls in every TV drama and romance movie she’s ever seen – there’s no reason why she can’t do the same.

Rey swallows down the last gulp of spiked coffee, then molds her face into a grin and holds her arms up, victorious.  Rose holds up her own hand, fingers splayed for a high five – Rey goes in to slap it, and somehow ends up grabbing it instead.  Rose’s hand is warm, calloused, but smooth.  She must do something… something with moisturizer.

Rey holds on for a moment, definitely a moment too long, until hoots from Finn and Poe reach her ears and she lets go.  She’s vaguely aware that her ears are burning, and not from the sun, either.

She goes over to Paige, just to escape her bubble of embarrassment, and returns the empty thermos to the tote bag at the older girl’s feet.

“You know, that was fifty-dollar Johnny Walker in there,” Paige says.  “I said you could share it, not finish it.”

Rey freezes, still bent over the tote bag.  “Shit, I’m sorry, I wasn’t thinking –”

“I’m kidding, it’s fine.”  Rey looks up, and Paige is smirking at her ever so slightly over her book.  It looks like a pulp sci-fi novel, although Rey hasn’t heard of the author.

“Oh, uh – thanks, then!”  Rey bounces back to her feet.

“Don’t mention it.”

Rey gets back over to her friends in four long strides.  She catches sight of her phone, sitting on one corner of the picnic blanket – the screen is turned off, but she has it set to still show the time: 7:34 am.

“We’ve got four and a half hours left,” she announces.  “How are we gonna spend them?”

It’s surprising, how easily Rose fits into their little group.

Rey, Finn, and Poe round each other out easily – they have ever since her and Finn’s freshman year, when they were randomly assigned into the same problem set group in Calculus II.  (It was a gen ed requirement for Rey and Finn, but Poe, a sophomore at the time, was taking the class just for fun.  Rey was baffled by that then, and she’s still baffled by it now, to be honest.)  At first, Rey and Poe couldn’t stop arguing over which methods were the best for certain problems, about where they should meet for working through problem sets, about when it would be acceptable to just give up and look for solutions online, and Finn wouldn’t say much at all, instead opting to sit off to one side and quietly work through things on his own.  But eventually they had to come to a consensus – nothing brings people together like adversity, and there’s no adversity like infinite series.

They haven’t had a class together since, but they do pretty much everything else together.  They’ve even lived together the past school year, and are sharing on-campus housing over the summer while Rey works in a physics lab with her research mentor, Poe interns at an off-Broadway theater company, and Finn works in NYU’s admissions department and helps keep one of their campus’ resident news blogs afloat.  They balance like the three points of an equilateral triangle: Finn keeps Poe calm, and Poe pushes Rey to get angry, and Rey reminds Finn that he’s capable of anything.

But after a couple of hours with Rose, playing poker for the bag of clementines Poe brought along as a snack, trading old riddles, arguing over logic puzzles, trading stories of weird professors, taking turns playing catch with BB-8, ranting about how awful Doctor Who has gotten, and even showcasing the absolute worst memes from their respective college’s Facebook groups, Rey can’t imagine how their group has functioned without her.  Rose laughs at Poe’s bad puns when Finn and Rey both groan.  She smirks at Finn to spur him on when he’s about to make a poor move in blackjack.  She offers her shoulder when the whiskey in that coffee finally hits Rey full-on and she has trouble keeping her torso fully vertical.  

(Rey taps out of the conversation for about half an hour when that happens, pressing her forehead against Rose’s shoulder and letting Rose drape one arm around her shoulders to hold her steady.  Rose is warm, and soft, but strong, so strong Rey thinks her arms must be able to hold up an entire city.  She mutters something to that effect, fuzzy in the sunlight and the bright fire of alcohol spinning through her liver, and Rose laughs in response.  Her laugh isn’t loud, but it shakes her shoulders, shakes Rey with them.)

Rose fits.  She asks questions, and she stares wide-eyed until she gets an answer she likes – she keeps Rey and Finn and Poe all on their toes, her smile growing steadily wider and wider as the sun climbs to the top of the sky.

But the best moment – the best moment comes after Finn returns from a trip to the public bathroom, up near the box office, and announces that there is a sax man on the path.

“A what?” Rey asks him.

“A sax man,” Finn repeats, as though that should clear everything up.

“So, a man who plays the saxophone,” Rose says.

Finn nods.  He drops onto the picnic blanket and tips sideways onto Poe, positioning his head squarely in his boyfriend’s lap.  Poe lifts one hand and starts rubbing the short hair at the back of Finn’s head, Finn closes his eyes appreciatively.

“Wow, that’s gay,” Rey tells them.

Finn sticks out his tongue at her.

“Yes, you guys are gross, whatever,” Rose says.  “I want to know more about the sax man.”

“He needs to be seen to be believed,” Finn replies.  “Heard to be believed?  Or maybe both.”

“Well.”  Rose unfolds from where she was sitting cross-legged in the grass next to the picnic blanket, and stands up.  “I think I need to go to the bathroom, then.”

“I’ll go with you.”  Rey jumps up to join her.

Poe yells something about girls going to the bathroom in packs, but Rey is too busy watching Rose’s ass in wonderfully short jean shorts to respond.  (It’s a very nice sight.  Such a sight, in fact, that if Rey were an art major, she’d make a case for putting it in the MoMA.  She might do it anyway.)

She exercises some self-control, though, and only looks for a moment before running to catch up, falling into step with Rose as they head up the winding path to the front of the ticket line.  The further up in line they get, the more impressive the dedication of those waiting in that line becomes: Rey notices blankets, sleeping bags, air mattresses, and even a couple of full tents staked out on the grass.

“I didn’t realize people got this into Shakespeare in the Park,” Rey says.

“Oh, yeah.”  Rose nods.  “New Yorkers will do anything for free theater.  Paige and I do this every summer, and every year we see more people sleeping in the park overnight.  I think this year has been the best, though.”

Rey is about to ask what exactly she means by that when Rose stops in her tracks, her jaw going slack and eyes going wide.

“There he is,” she whispers, almost reverential.

At a curve in the path, a tall man in a pink suit is playing the alto saxophone.  He’s got a white hat on, the kind of hat that Rey would expect to see in an old movie-musical, and he practically shimmers in the sunlight – his saxophone in particular is shined to the point of glowing.  The melody is familiar, but Rey can’t quite put a name to it.  Some jazz piece she’s heard in elevators, she thinks.

As Rey and Rose cross the path in front of the musician, he nods to them.  Rose smiles back, sunny and warm, and Rey feels a tug in her gut that can only be jealousy.  (Jealousy, for a random street musician.  She needs help.)

There’s a line for the women’s bathroom, naturally, so Rey and Rose hear the sax man play through a couple more elevator pieces, two Disney covers, and a particularly dramatic rendition of Careless Whisper before it’s their turn for the toilet.

“How do you think he memorizes all of those pieces?” Rose asks wonderingly.

The same way Rey memorizes physics equations, she would guess – you slowly build up from what you know until it’s all familiar.  But she doesn’t have a chance to answer Rose properly, because they’re heading into the bathroom, and then Rey is calculating at what angle she needs to squat in order to touch as little of her butt to the toilet seat as possible, and then she’s shaking her hands under the dull roar of a hand dryer, and then she’s leaning against the outer wall of the bathroom to wait for Rose.

Rose emerges a minute later, her short hair re-captured in a ponytail (her bangs had started escaping from the previous one).  She waves at Rey, then makes a beeline for the sax man, now playing another jazz piece that Rey definitely recognizes but could not name if her E&M grade depended on it.

Rose pulls her wallet, an old brown leather thing, out of her back pocket, and takes out a bill, then crouches and gently places that bill into the sax man’s instrument case.

Rey smiles at the motion at first, because of course Rose is the kind of person to give her money to a street musician even when he’s playing in one of the most populated areas in Central Park – but then her smile drops when she sees exactly what Rose put in the case.

She takes a couple of running steps – Rose is a few inches shorter than Rey, but damn does she walk fast – and tugs on her arm.

“What?” Rose asks, pivoting to look at Rey.

“Rose, did you – I mean, did you mean to – I mean, that’s a lot –”

“I know,” Rose says, simply.  “He’s a nice man and a good musician.  He deserves it.”

“But twenty dollars, Rose,” Rey insists.  “Think of how many cups of coffee you could buy with that money.”

“He deserves it,” Rose repeats – more firmly this time.

She turns and continues walking back towards Finn and Poe.  Once again, Rey has to jump to keep up.

When Rey and Rose return, Finn is fully conked out across Poe’s lap.

“Wow,” Rey says, when she sees him.  “I thought there was no way anybody could possibly sleep when free Shakespeare was at stake.”

“Yeah, I think that was the RedBull talking,” Poe replies.  He pokes at his sleeping boyfriend’s cheek.  Finn mutters something inaudible and burrows closer into Poe in response, which has Poe grinning.

“Is he a heavy or light sleeper?” Rose asks.

“Oh, the heaviest,” Rey says.  “It takes him at least five alarms to get up in the morning.  And he sets them so loud – I would hate it if I didn’t get up earlier than he does, most of the time.”

“There are other ways to wake him up,” Poe says, smirking.

Rey makes a face.

“Well!”  Rose claps, as though she’s just figured out the solution to the last problem on a take-home final, then heads over to her sister and rummages through the tote bag at Paige’s feet until she pulls out a few colored Sharpies, tied together with a hair tie.  She holds them up, then proceeds to give Rey the most overexaggerated wink she has ever seen, and she lives with Poe Dameron.

“What are you proposing?” Rey asks.

“You know what I’m proposing,” Rose replies, making her way back over to the picnic blanket.  She selects a bright green Sharpie, and bends into a crouch next to Finn.

“Hold him steady,” she tells Poe.

Poe does the best he can to obey, considering how much he’s giggling.  Rey just watches, captivated, as Rose draws the most elegant, intricate mustache that Rey has ever seen on Finn’s face.

“There,” she says once she’s finished, standing back up.  “Now he’s really ready for Shakespeare.”

Rose goes to return the markers to her sister’s bag.  Rey pulls out her phone and starts Googling how to let a really cute girl know that you’re gay and single without being too obvious or desperate about the fact that you’re gay and single.

When Rey looks up from that wholly fruitless endeavor, Poe is laughing at her.

They finally get their tickets at 12:15 pm.

It’s a harrowing last half hour, mostly because everyone in line starts standing up and packing their things, which means Rey spends a lot of time standing next to Rose, which means Rey realizes on a very visceral level precisely how much shorter Rose is, which means Rey imagines in intricate detail how she could lift Rose up and press her against a wall and how Rose’s thighs would tighten around Rey’s waist and how Rey would run her fingers through Rose’s bangs until no amount of brushing could make them even and –

Yeah.  It’s a harrowing last half hour.  Rose and Finn get into some kind of argument about a DnD podcast they’ve apparently both been following, but Rey can’t even figure out whether they’re talking about a character or a city.

But they do eventually reach the front of the line, after all of the people with blankets and sleeping bags and air mattresses, and after all of the people who got a full two hours of listening to the sax man, who tips his hat especially to Rose when they pass by.  The process is easier than Rey expected: none of them need to present IDs or profess their love for Shakespeare, they just each state whether they want one ticket or two and ask for seats together.  Tickets are apparently running low by the time it’s Rey, Rose, Finn, Poe, and Paige’s turn, even though they got to the park so fucking early, so they aren’t able to get five seats all in a row.  Instead they settle for two together (Rose and Paige) and three together (Finn, Poe, and Rey), the two groups across an aisle from each other.

Once everyone’s tickets have been safely stashed in pockets, purses, and tote bags, the group reconvenes at a small, grassy hill a little ways off the path leading up to the box office.

“So, what now?” Rey asks.

“I dunno, what do you want to do?” Finn replies.

“You’re the Shakespeare expert,” Rose says.

Finn whirls on her.  “And you’re the one who drew a green mustache on my face.”

“I think it looks very elegant,” Poe tells him.  He grabs Finn’s hand, then uses it to pull himself in close and presses a kiss to one of the sides of the mustache.

“I’m pretty sure that counts as inhaling Sharpie,” Finn says, but he’s smiling.

“Okay, seriously,” Rey says, trying to push them back to the topic at hand, “we have almost eight hours to kill until the play starts, and I don’t want to just go back to campus, that’d be a waste of subway fare when we’d have to come back here later.”  And it would mean splitting up from Rose, she pointedly doesn’t say.

“You all should go to the Met,” Rose suggests.  “They’ve got some really cool exhibits right now, and it wouldn’t take that long to walk there from here.”

“Sure, that sounds good,” Poe says.  Then his smile drops, and he adds, “Wait – you?”

“I should be going back to Queens, with Paige,” Rose explains.  “She’s running the store for the afternoon, and I promised I’d help out.”

Paige manages a used bookstore in Flushing, close to where the two sisters live.  Rose told Rey, Finn, and Poe about the store earlier – she described the high shelves piled with yellowing volumes, and the beanbag chairs placed at convenient angles for customers to sit and read, and the calico cat that always naps in the bay window at the front of the store.  Rey was enchanted by her description then, but now it’s not helping the fact that Rose needs to go home – away from Rey.

Rey tries not to frown too obviously, but she can’t help it – she’s too emotive, always has been.  Prof. Skywalker tells her it’s something she needs to work on, or she’ll have trouble being taken seriously when she’s trying to get grants or move up in her field.  But she does take a little comfort in the fact that Poe and Finn are clearly as crushed as she is.

Paige looks from Rey, to Finn, to Poe, then back to Rey, and then she grabs her younger sister’s arm and pulls her off to the side.  They have a quiet conversation in Vietnamese, which Rey tries (and fails) not to watch too closely.

And then Rose is bounding back over to Rey, a bright smile on her face.

“Paige says she can manage the store without me today,” Rose explains.  “Let’s go to the Met!”

Rey grins so hard, she can feel her face stretching.

Rey’s been to the Metropolitan Museum of Art before.

She has.  She went there for a class trip, freshman year, with her section of this English class that everyone in the College of Arts and Sciences is required to take.  They spent an hour looking at Renaissance artwork, her professor going on about portrait angles and expressions and layering of light and shadow, and Rey nearly fell asleep on her feet on five independent occasions.

Going there now, though, with her two best friends and a girl that makes the whole world seem brighter, is an entirely different experience.  The huge marble columns seem less intimidating than they do inviting.  She watches the stream of people flooding into the building, bouncing up and down on the balls of her feet, as Poe secures BB-8’s leash to a lamppost on the patio outside the museum.

“You be good,” Poe instructs his dog.  BB-8 barks as though to say yes sir, and Poe ruffles the soft fur on the top of his head.

With that settled, the four students head up the stairs, push their way through bag check, and arrive inside the museum lobby.  They find a ticket line that isn’t too long, and soon Rey, Rose, Finn, and Poe are all sporting stickers with the date and the Met logo.

“You said there are cool exhibits right now, right?” Poe asks Rose, once they’re all heading into the Greek and Roman wing.

“Yeah!” Rose replies.  “I really like both of the special exhibits they have up this summer.  There’s one dedicated to this weird Japanese fashion designer who was the inspiration for the Met Gala’s theme this year.  And the other one focuses on the Qin and Han dynasties in ancient China, and has some actual pieces from the tomb of Qin Xi Huangdi – I went to that one with Paige a few weeks ago, it’s so cool.”

“Yeah, we should definitely go to that one,” Finn agrees.  (Rey politely doesn’t let on that she has no idea who Qin Xi Huangdi is.)  “I want to go look at the armory wing first, though – maybe we can split up and meet up at that exhibit later?”

Finn looks pointedly at Poe, and then at Rey, and – oh no.  Oh no she sees what he’s doing.  Rey tries to pointedly signal at her friends that she is not ready for this, she is wholly unprepared, she still has so much more Googling to do.

But Poe only smirks at her and says, “Sounds like a great idea.”

“Sure,” Rose agrees.

“Traitors,” Rey whispers at Finn and Poe.  They link arms and turn back towards the Great Hall, grinning as though they’ve done nothing wrong, ever, in their lives.  Rey glares daggers into their receding backs for a moment, then turns back to the girl standing in front of her – and for a moment she has to take it all in again, the dip of Rose’s T-shirt and the crinkles at the corners of her eyes and the way she stands, her shoulders back and her chest up as though she is ready to storm a battalion at a moment’s notice.

When they stand next to each other, as they’re standing now, the top of Rose’s head only comes about up to Rey’s nose.  In order to kiss her, Rey would need to bend down.  Or Rose would need to stand up on tiptoes.  Or maybe even both.  Rey can feel her face getting warm just thinking about it.

“How tall are you?” she blurts out, unable to stop herself.

Rose lifts an eyebrow.  “Five-two, I think.”

Five-two.  Rey is five-seven.  That’s a full five inches of height difference.

“Why?” Rose asks.

“No reason.”  Rey spins on her heel and starts walking through the gallery as fast as she can, out of self-preservation more than anything else.

Rey has only been to the Met once before, while Rose apparently makes pilgrimages there at least monthly, so Rey lets her take charge as they wander through the Greco-Roman rooms.  This goes well for about half an hour, until Rose confesses that she only really knows her way around very specific, self-contained parts of the museum, and their quest to travel from the sculpture galleries on the to the special exhibits on the second floor turns into an attempt to navigate a maze of massive proportions.

“You know, the Met is only the third largest museum in the world,” Rose says, as they pass through a corridor into a room with dark yellow walls and low ceilings, full of golden objects shimmering faintly in their individual spotlights.

“You mean there are places even bigger than this?” Rey asks.

“Yeah, the Louvre in Paris and the Hermitage in St. Petersburg.”

“That sounds awful.”  Rey plops down on a step in the middle of the room.  A plaque on the wall says that the exhibits near her are from an ancient civilization located in what is now Peru.  She’s not sure she could pinpoint Peru on a map, if asked.

“Awful?” Rose repeats.  She heads across the room, pausing to look at a few artifacts on her way, then stops in front of Rey, hands on her hips.  “I think it sounds incredible – that much art and culture all in one place!  You can walk through museums like that for days and never stop in the same room twice.  I think I’ve been to the Met a hundred times, but I’ve never been in this particular room before.”

“Honestly, I never know what to do in art museums,” Rey confesses.  “You look at the stuff, you read the descriptions, and then what?  You try to come up with some kind of interpretation for what the artist was trying to do?  I don’t know how to do that.”

“You don’t have to make it into a pretentious thing,” Rose replies.  “Just look at the art, and see what you like, or what you don’t like, or what you find weird or funny, and appreciate it for that.  Like looking through pictures on Twitter.”

“I don’t use Twitter,” Rey says.

Rose smiles at that, a small smile that reminds Rey of a crescent moon, her eyes crinkling up at the corners.

“It’s still easy,” she says.  “I’ll show you.”

Rose reaches out her hand to Rey.  Rey takes it, and Rose pulls her up – and there’s a moment, just a moment, just the space between inhale and exhale, when Rey is suspended – her entire weight held by Rose’s right arm, all the atoms in her body concentrated upon a single point of gravity – and then she’s standing, her hand warm and sweaty in Rose’s.

“Come on,” Rose says.  And she pulls Rey over to a display along the side of the room, where a plaque informs her that objects from the Nazca culture are being displayed.  Rey sees ancient cooking instruments and accessories, all crafted of ceramic and painted in reds and whites.

“Look at how intricate these are,” Rose tells her.  “Look at how the paint has survived, even though they’re almost two millennia old.  And look at that one.”  She points at one object toward the end of the case: a rounded thing around the size of a large serving bowl, shaped like a snowman with a torso piece and head piece.  The object’s face is carved out, eyes staring determined into Rey’s and nose flaring as though ready for a fight.

“That’s a ceramic drum,” Rose says.  “Probably used for tribal ceremonies or something similar.  And who does it remind you of?”

Rey peers at the object.  The round face, the determined expression… there’s something incredibly familiar about it, but she can’t quite…

“Finn!” she exclaims.  “It looks like Finn!”

“Yeah, that’s what I was thinking!” Rose agrees.  She turns away from the glass to grin at Rey.  “See, you don’t have to be pretentious or know a lot about technique to appreciate art.”

Rey reaches back to fish into her pocket, aiming to pull out her phone so that she can send Finn and Poe a picture of the drum – and it’s only then that she realizes she and Rose are still holding hands.  She pauses, there in the middle of the third-biggest museum in the world, and stares at the place where their fingers are linked – Rey’s, longer and paler, intersecting with Rose’s, shorter and more calloused.  They fit.

Spontaneous combustion is, Rey knows, unbelievably rare, and has never been experimentally documented with human subjects.  But Rey thinks, if this hand holding thing keeps happening, she might just become the exception to that rule.

Rey pulls her hand away and sticks it in her pocket, her face burning.

“Everything okay?” Rose asks.

No, Rey thinks.  Nothing will ever be okay ever again.

“Yeah,” she says, actually pulling out her phone, finally.  “Yeah, everything’s fine.”

After meandering through more South American art and past Oceanic art (including a massive wooden canoe inscribed with human faces that Rey would be tempted to carry out of the museum on her back if it weren’t literally ten feet long), Rey and Rose manage to find a flight of stairs that takes them up into nineteenth and twentieth century painting.  From there, they wander through art of Central and South Asia, past art from ancient Mesopotamia, across a balcony, and into East Asia.  

Rose starts walking faster at this point – it’s one of the pockets of the Met in which she actually knows her way around, apparently – and leads Rey to a stone hallway, then through a circular doorway into what looks like a courtyard.  Even though the room is definitely in the middle of the museum, it’s full of natural light from skylights in the roof, and dotted with rock outcroppings, spindly trees, and a few bright pink flowers in full bloom.  It’s set up like a terrace, with one lower, central level, then a second level up one step running along the edges.  But the main attraction seems to be a pagoda set up against the front wall that has a tile roof arching up to the sun.  The room feels open and peaceful after the twisting corridors of the other galleries, and there’s a faint sound of running water coming from somewhere Rey can’t quite place.

 “The Astor Court Garden,” Rose explains, going to the center of the room and spreading her arms.  “It exactly replicates the garden of an aristocrat from the Ming Dynasty.  It’s one of my favorite places to write.”

She tells Rey more, as Rey circles around the room behind her: points out the patterned windows, and the smooth wood railings, and the small pond filled with koi fish (the source of the water Rey had heard), and the boulders that are supposed to be left untouched but get clambered on regularly anyway.  Rey has never found ancient Chinese culture interesting – has never found any ancient culture interesting, really – but the way Rose talks about it everything, with a light in her eyes and a bright smile on her face, it’s impossible not to follow every word as though she’s going to have a test on this later.

Rey and Rose end up sitting on the cool tile floor near the back of the room, their backs against the railing and legs splayed out in front.  For a long few minutes, they don’t talk – just sit in silence.  Rey tilts her head back onto the stone and closes her eyes.  She tries to clear her mind, but keeps imagining Rose – pictures stepping in close, bending down, sliding a hand through those bangs – she pictures Rose’s dark eyes going wide, her face lighting up with a smile, she imagines –

A faint buzzing from her pocket interrupts Rey’s daydreaming.

She pulls herself back to earth, and pulls her phone out of her back pocket.  She’s got four texts from Finn: i hate it, thanks, in response to the picture of the drum, followed by, glad ur having fun, followed by, have u made out against any priceless artifacts yet, followed by, actually dude where are u we’ve been outside the qin and han exhibit for an hour.

Rey should answer.  Should apologize, at least, or explain that she and Rose got lost.  But instead she shoves the phone back beneath her and focuses on the girl beside her.  With her eyes closed and her arms loose at her sides, it almost looks as though Rose is sleeping.  If she were sleeping, what would she be dreaming about, Rey wonders.  Making out against priceless artifacts?  Or wandering through the museum, hand in hand, as they had been for a starry few minutes before Rey chickened out?  Or would she be dreaming of stories that she could write, sitting in this garden, if she had a whole day stretching before her and a notebook on her lap and no Rey here to bother her?

“Was it hard?”  The question escapes Rey before she can pound it back.

Rose’s eyes flicker open – deep, dark brown, like rich hot chocolate. “Was what hard?”

“Going from CUNY to Columbia,” Rey explains, “from creative writing to engineering… I can’t even imagine what that would be like.”

Rose shrugs – one shoulder rises and falls, then the other, a slow wave of action and reaction.  “It was easier than I’d expected and harder than I expected.  Like, a lot of the content in my engineering classes wasn’t that much more challenging – I’d been prepared for it, and I had the work ethic, and all that.  But Columbia’s environment is so different.  I think adjusting to that was the hardest part.”

“Different how?” Rey asks.

“More stressful.”  Rose stretches her arms out, one hand nearly bumping into Rey’s shoulder, and then folds them behind her head as she talks.  “Columbia has this ridiculous stress culture – everyone’s competing, all the time, for who can have the most projects to do or the most midterms to study for, or who can be putting in the most hours at the lab, or who can be spiraling the furthest into anxiety and depression.  And the engineering school makes it worse because so many of the lecture classes are graded on huge curves.  I had one class, last semester, where I got a forty-five percent on the final, but still ended up with a B in the class.”

Rey lets out a low whistle.  “I don’t think NYU has the same kind of thing,” she says.  “At least, the classes I’ve been in don’t.  Probably because it’s bigger, because there are so many different schools, and because the campus is all spread out, there’s not one unifying culture.”

“While Columbia is just… hundreds of people crammed into Butler library,” Rose finishes the comparison.  “And all the other people in my classes were upperclassmen, totally used to the stress, while I was just trying to figure it out while also not fall too behind.  It was all really interesting, and I loved my professors, but it got lonely sometimes… especially because I was commuting back to my sister’s and my place in Queens every day.”

“Were you still able to write?” Rey asks.

Rose’s hands arms drop at that question, her hands going to fiddle with the folds of her T-shirt.  Her eyes seem to grow a bit darker, a bit sadder, as she answers.  “Not as much as I wanted to.  I told myself I should at least write a journal entry every day, but I’d get home and be so tired…”

“Yeah, that sucks,” Rey says.  “Have you been able to do more over the summer?”

Rose nods.  “I’m still busy, with taking a couple of summer classes and helping out at the bookstore, but yeah!  I was planning on writing a bunch today, but…”

And she winks at Rey, this little gesture that Rey suddenly wishes she could record and watch every morning before getting out of bed.

But that doesn’t take away from the realization that Rose had been planning on writing today, something she loves but barely has time for, but wasn’t actually able to do because of Rey and her two idiot friends.

“Shit, I’m sorry,” she says.

“Oh my god, no, don’t be sorry!” Rose replies.  “This was way better than writing.  And I’ll be able to take inspiration from today for my writing – I’m not really that creative, I just fictionalize things that happen to me.”

“So how would describe me, then?” Rey asks.  “If I was a character in one of your stories?”

Rose’s eyes squint up as she considers the question.  “Tall,” she decides.  “Too tall.  Like a giraffe.”

“I am the perfect amount of tall,” Rey counters.  “I can reach all the shelves in Finn’s and Poe’s and my apartment.  And all the shelves in the lab I work in.  And I can do this.”  She lifts one elbow and places it on the top of Rose’s head, as an armrest.

Rose squirms out of the position, then stands up so that Rey can’t reach her.  “Too tall,” she repeats.

Rey is about to ask what other descriptors Rose would use when her phone starts going off again – it’s Finn, again, calling to tell her that if she and Rose don’t get their asses over to the special exhibit soon, Poe will start eating the artwork.

“Well, we can’t have that,” Rose says, when Rey relays the message.  And they’re off again – wandering through rooms full of calligraphy landscapes, and Buddha statues, and religious reliefs, until they finally manage to find the exhibit on ancient China Rose had talked about several hours before.  Finn and Poe are waiting outside on a low wooden bench, peering at something on Poe’s phone.  

When they catch sight of the two girls, they both jump up and race over to chastise Rey for taking so long to meet up.

“It was my fault, I got us lost,” Rose tells them.

“Sure it was,” Poe replies.  He waggles his eyebrows at Rey, and it takes all of her patience not to slap him.

She pointedly avoids both his and Finn’s gazes through the exhibit (which is, admittedly, very cool, full of thousand-year-old terracotta statues and intricately constructed jewelry) and all the way out of the museum, until the group is sitting at the top of the steps, arguing over what to get for dinner.

Poe says he’ll go anywhere as long as Finn’s happy.  Finn says he’ll go anywhere as long as it’s not too expensive.  Rose says she was planning on eating at home, so she doesn’t really have much cash left for dinner.  And Rey remembers how Rose had slipped a twenty to that street musician, and suggests they go back into the park and get hot dogs from one of the street carts.

And this is how they end up sprawled across Poe’s mother’s old picnic blanket in the same spot they’d waited for hours that morning, scarfing down two hot dogs each while BB-8 runs laps around them.

Rose gets a call from her sister a few minutes in.  She excuses herself and goes to stand up next to a tree a few feet away, leaving Rey to the conversation she’s been avoiding for the past hour.

“So,” Finn says.  He pokes Rey’s shoulder, beaming stupidly.  “You and Rose.”

Rey jams the rest of her hot dog into her mouth, then leans back until she’s lying on her back on the picnic blanket and raises her hands to cover her rapidly-reddening face.  “Nope,” she says.  “No.  Not doing this.”

“Come on,” Poe says, leering over her.  “You can’t deny it – I haven’t seen you this done for since Allison Daniels freshman year.”

“Doesn’t mean I want to talk about it,” Rey replies from behind her hands.  “I don’t even know if she likes girls.”

“Dude,” Finn says.  “She’s wearing flannel.  She said she played softball as a kid.”

“Her favorite arc of The Adventure Zone is Petals to the Metal,” Poe adds.  “She has to like girls.”

Rey has no idea what that means, but Poe sounds confident enough that she’s not compelled to argue.

“Fine,” she says, “but that doesn’t mean she’ll like me.”

“Rey.”  Finn pulls Rey’s hands away from her face, slowly and gently, then yanks her back to a sitting position.  “You’re clever, you’re gorgeous, you’re strong.  She’d be insane not to like you.”

“You don’t know that, though,” Rey insists.

“We can ask her,” Poe replies thoughtfully.

Rey flails her arms out in some kind of automatic defense mechanism, until she’s holding both Finn and Poe by the arms to prevent them from going to ask Rose her feelings then and there.

“No,” she hisses.  “Do not.  You guys are terrible wingmen.”

Poe pulls an exaggerated pout, one he’s perfected in no less than five drama workshops.  “Excuse you, we’re the best wingmen.”

“We purposefully left you and Rose alone in the Met for four hours,” Finn adds.

“We got lost.”

“Same thing.”

“That is not the –”

“Hey guys, what’re you talking about?”

All three heads swirl back around to face Rose, like three dominos pushed over in sequence.

“Nothing!” Rey shouts.

Rose cocks her head and places one hand on her hip.  Rey holds her breath.

But luckily, the moment passes – Rose plops down in the middle of the blanket and starts chattering on about Paige’s plans to meet them in front of the Delacorte Theater, and how excited she is for the play, and how she hopes their seats are good.  And Rey watches her, as she’s been watching all day – watches the movement of Rose’s hands, and the bright twinkle of her eyes, and the easy way she pulls the world around her into herself and helps it to shine.

Rey was not expecting to enjoy the play this much.

She’s never been a big theater person – she finds it hard to focus on the same thing for more than an hour at a time, would prefer to be running or working out astronomy problems or playing a video game.  But she and Finn have attended every single campus production that Poe has acted in since the beginning of their friendship, so she’s become adept at appearing to pay attention just enough to say something complementary later.  She can nap with her eyes open for fifteen minute intervals, she can unfocus her pupils and focus on the movement of shadows on the back of the theater, she can take half an hour imagining alternate scenarios in which a female character of her choice turns out to have been a master of martial arts the whole time.

But in this production, Shakespeare in the Park’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Rey doesn’t need to use any of those tactics.  Something about the way the actors move across the stage and the way they project their lines, conveying the play’s emotions clearly even though Rey only recognizes about every fifth word – it narrows her world to the wide bubble of the amphitheater.

The course of true love never did run smooth, Lysander says.  It’s an earnest, hopeful line, reassuring his secret girlfriend that they’ll find happiness in spite of parental cruelty – and it rings in Rey’s ears for the rest of the play.

What is true love, and what would it mean for it to run smooth?  What would be the phenomenon’s mechanical definition?  Rey’s first instinct is to derive it from principles of electricity: negative charges pulled towards a positive space to create a spark.  But then, that doesn’t quite explain her and Finn and Poe – a trio, not a pair, pulled together not to create charge but to push each other into becoming more.  Smarter, stronger, kinder.  

Perhaps she should be deriving from principles of gravity: a force, not yet explainable by science, that causes invisible pulls between every single piece of matter in the universe.  A force that provides potential, but does not act unless the matter chooses to be pulled in.  Or unless there’s a really big mass difference between the two pieces of matter.  Okay, it’s not a perfect metaphor – love isn’t explainable by science, nothing truly is – but Rey likes it enough to postulate that she and Poe and Finn are three spaceships diving in tandem, calling out to each other as they search the universe for new wonders.

Rey turns and looks at Rose, sitting across the aisle with her sister.  Rose is drawn into the play like Poe watching a particularly good dog video.  Rey could figure out what’s happening on stage just by watching Rose’s face, tracking when she smiles and frowns, when she leans in, when she moves back, when the corners of her eyes crinkle up in laughter.  If Rey’s friendship with Poe and Finn is the gravity of three spaceships diving in tandem, her attraction to Rose is the gravity of a comet diving towards a sun.  She’ll need to turn back to the void of space after a few moments, but at least she’ll have been able to bask in brilliant light.

Or she can reach out and pull herself closer – try to tell her how she feels.  Clever and gorgeous and strong, Finn had called her, but is she truly strong if she can’t look a girl in the eye and say, “I like you, will you go on a date with me?”

Rey watches as Helena and Hermia fight until the end to marry the men they have chosen, and she looks across the aisle at Rose, and she curls her fingers quietly into fists.

It takes Rey time, after she decides that she’s going to tell Rose how she feels.

She’s secure in the decision – vibrating with it, almost.  The anticipation of what she might say and what might happen in the aftermath is slowly working its way through every bone in her body.  The world around her seems brighter, once the show ends and the audience files out of the amphitheater.  Rey can make out shades of green in the shadowy trees around her, shades of blue in the dark sky above.

Rey’s secure in her decision, yeah.  But she needs to wait for the right moment, and for the right words.  Just after the play ends won’t work, because Rose and Finn and Poe are all ranting about the production, picking apart facial expressions and blocking and other pieces that Rey never noticed.  And then they’re finding their way to the subway, arguing over pathways and shortcuts as Poe attempts to navigate on his phone.  And then they’re actually rushing through the subway, waiting for Finn to refill his card, racing down to the platform at the last moment.  And then they’re finding seats, and then they’re laughing at a ridiculous set of Seamless adds, and then –

And then it’s two stops before Rose and Paige will need to get off to transfer to the 7.  It’s now or never.

Now or never, Rey tells herself.  Now or never.  She pictures Prof. Skywalker, telling her that the only way she’ll get better at working the telescope in his lab is through practice.  You’ll never be able to do it if you don’t try.

Rey gets up and crosses the subway car to where Rose is standing next to the door, right hand outstretched to curl around the silver pole.  The floor is unsteady beneath Rey, like tectonic plates shifting to form new continents.

“Rose,” Rey says.

Rose pauses, in the midst of explaining something about Shakespeare’s meter to her sister.

“Rey,” she replies.

“There’s something I need to tell you.”

And for a moment, Rey just stands.  Hands curled into fists at her sides, feet melded to the rocking floor, every muscle in her body tense as a coiled spring.

“What is it?” Rose asks.  Her eyes are wide and dark and full of wonder as the night sky.

Rey takes a deep breath.  When she lets it out, the torrent goes with the carbon dioxide.

“I know we just met, and I know we have mostly different interests and go to completely different schools, and I don’t know if you’re single or if you even like girls – but I had to tell you that I like you.  I really like you, in a romantic kind of way, and I loved talking to you and wandering with you and just existing in the same space as you today, and even if what I’m saying now totally ruins today I will still remember it as one of the best days of my life so far.”

Rey takes another breath.  The subway car screeches to a halt around her.  She has to reach out an arm for the silver pole next to Rose in order to stop herself from falling over.  Rose doesn’t move.

Rose doesn’t move.  She only watches Rey – her dark eyes are wide, and wide, and then they start to crinkle at the corners.

“Rey, you’re –” Rose starts to say.  And she breaks off because she’s laughing, a delighted kind of laughter, like bubbles or cotton-soft clouds.  Rey’s heart, already beating in double time, speeds up to triple.

“You’re so smart, so smart, but so dumb,” Rose goes on, between giggles.  “I’ve been flirting with you all day.”

The subway door shuts.  The train starts moving again.  Rey’s brain has not quite caught up to the rest of its contents.

“What,” she says.

“Oh, for the love of –”

And Rose steps forward.  One of her hands still grasps the silver pole but the other one reaches up to tug at Rey’s cheek, pulling her down as Rose rises up on her tiptoes and then they meet –

And it could just be that Rey has never kissed anyone on a moving subway before, but she’d swear the world spins around her, faster and faster and faster and – crashing to a halt when Rose breaks the kiss.

“This is me,”  Rose says, breathless.

It takes Rey a moment to untangle her fingers from Rose’s hair and tear herself away from Rose’s gravitational pull.  To realize the signs say this station is 42nd Street, the place where Rose needs to transfer.

Rose leans in once more to press a kiss to Rey’s cheek – a delicate, soft thing.

And then she’s backing out of the car, still not breaking eye contact.

Rey raises one arm in what she hopes looks can pass for a wave.  “See… see you around.”

And then she turns to find half the population of the subway car applauding.  Admittedly, that population consists of Finn, Poe, BB-9, two old couples, a modest pack of drunk students, and a grizzled parks department worker, but it’s still impressive.

“Wow,” Finn says.

“Don’t wait until tomorrow to text her,” Poe says.  “Do it as soon as we get home.”

BB-8 barks in agreement.

“Wait,” Rey says.  “Text her?”

The car falls silent.

“You did… get… her phone number…” Poe says.  “Right?”

Oh shit.

Rey spins around – and the car doors are already closing because of course they’re already closing – but the train hasn’t left yet – Rose is already halfway down the platform but then she turns, wide-eyed – and the train hasn’t left yet – and Paige is digging into her tote bag and pulling out a Sharpie – and the train hasn’t left yet – and Rose is back in front of the doors, brow creased and one hand outstretched – and the train hasn’t left yet –

Please.  Rey closes her eyes, imagines her feet planted solidly on the car floor, the cells of her body connecting to the wires and electrical circuits within.  Please.  God or MTA.  Do me a solid.  Just this once.  Please please please please –


The doors open.

“Did she just…” one of the drunk students starts to ask Finn.

“Hell yeah,” he replies proudly.  “That’s our Rey.”

But Rey doesn’t care if the feat was truly supernatural or coincidental – all she cares about is Rose, Rose stepping back onto the train, Rose scrawling her number down Rey’s forearm, Rose pulling Rey down for one more searing kiss.

She steps back out just as the train doors begin to close again.

And Rey collapses into an empty seat – her heart still hammering, her knees shaking, and her smile stretched so wide, she thinks her face might burst.