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Ashfall

Chapter Text

Deep beneath the surface of the earth churn a series of intense currents of varying forms of heat. These currents power the various systems on the ground that work to make the continents pull apart and collide, to shake the earth and cause mountains to erupt with a deadly fury and eject its guts high into the atmosphere in brilliant displays of force.

Such had been the case an indeterminate number of times throughout the course of earth’s history. In 79 AD Mount Vesuvius famously destroyed Pompeii, burying twenty thousand people beneath thick layers of smoldering hot ash. In 1815, Mount Tambora erupted with a cloud so thick 1816 didn’t have a winter. Krakatoa’s own 1883 eruption caused the loudest sound ever recorded to split the eardrums of sailors and anyone unfortunate enough to be standing too close.

Each eruption was different, but completely and utterly deadly in its own way. Perhaps the deadliest threat one could possibly conjure to mind, though, is the one that hasn’t happened yet.

Such was the case one morning in the early spring of 1980, when a dormant mountain overlooking a quiet town began to wake up. Small quakes shook the slopes, unnoticed or ignored by the general population, but in the USGS office fifty something miles to the south in Corellia, they raised every conceivable red flag.

The morning of March sixteenth, the needle on a seismograph shifted loudly, scraping its black ink viciously against the paper beneath it while the geologist set to monitor the machine slept soundly through the morning. Her hands were folded over her desk,  half her face coated in a tiny layer of eraser shavings as she slept atop a data sheet, snoring quietly away while the seismograph screamed to be noticed.

It wasn’t until it began beeping with the start of the next, larger quake — one which she felt as she came into consciousness — that she finally woke. Instantly she was alert, her eyes wide and confusion bright and present on her tanned, freckled face as she looked over at the seismograph, and blinked a few times. Earthquakes were nothing new to the Cascades. Countless swarms of them frequented the area of both a tectonic and magmatic nature, but already she had a gut feeling looking at the needle of the seismograph — which would later reveal the quake to be a relatively small 4.5 — that something was terribly, terribly wrong, especially when she considered the quake’s source beneath the southern slope of Mount Mustafar.

You’re being ridiculous , she told herself as she recorded the data from the seismograph in her sheet. One earthquake didn’t mean anything, and yet she couldn’t shake the sudden feeling of incoming dread. It was one of those moments where she could somehow sense the terrible thing looming over the horizon. Whether human beings were psychic or not she had immense doubts, but still she felt uneasy.

Attempting to calm herself again proved successful as the seismometer quieted down, and with a heavy sigh, she laid her head back on the desk again just in front of the metal sign declaring the desk was hers, bearing the name, “Rey Smith,” in all caps. As the cool material settled in against her scalp, all thoughts of the quake and her bad feeling disappeared into her dreams. After all, what was so harmful about one shitty little tremor?

*

There was no harm in one shake. One was fine. One meant nothing. Even the swarm that came later meant nothing, but the bad feeling never went away even as she woke up and went on with her work. It didn’t go away as she took a lunch break and sat with the one office friend, she’d successfully made. It was made worse when she had a run in with her office rival, and normally Ben Solo didn’t bother her too much, but that day his sneer nearly sent her fists flying.

It definitely, definitely didn’t help when she had to turn in that morning’s seismograph to him later, and he made a snide comment about the eraser smudges she’d gotten on the paper. “You could’ve kept it cleaner,” he pointed out, causing Rey’s blood to boil as she backed out of the room. “I know you’re capable of it.”

Fist clenching tightly at her side, Rey took in a deep breath, and forced herself to walk from the room with nothing but a quietly murmured, “Fucking dick,” on her way out.

“Heard that,” Ben muttered, causing her eyes to roll back into her head as she made her way back to her office, and resumed pretending like he didn’t exist for the rest of the day.  

But swarms of small earthquakes continued to rock the volcano, each one gnawing at that growing sense of fear that Rey felt developing within her as the day went on. At least without her enemy to distract her, she could pretend that was her only problem, but that would only be the case if the swarms lasted for a day or two.

And the swarms lasted for more than a week. Continuous magmatic quakes shook Mustafar and the surrounding areas. Even when Rey wasn’t at work she could feel them sometimes, and when she looked at the faces of her coworkers after they occurred late into the night, she could tell they’d felt them, too.

By the twenty fourth, even Ben looked a bit concerned by the sheer volume of swarms coming in from the mountain when she handed him her seismograph data. His eyebrows quirked in unison as he looked at the immense amount of it she’d collected that afternoon. There had been twenty quakes in the span of an hour, and for once, they both managed to stand silently in one another’s presence without a single, rude quip.

That silence was quickly broken when he shook his head at the readings. “It’s probably nothing,” he said nonchalantly as he filed the seismographs away for a later date’s observation.

“I wouldn’t rule out a problem so fast,” she replied under her breath, half hoping he wouldn’t hear her as she scratched the back of her neck.

Of course, life was never fortunate to her, and Ben scoffed in response. “You seriously want me to express concern over a few minor quakes.”

“Nearly one hundred minor quakes,” she corrected him. “All around the same area.”

“That doesn’t mean anything.”

“Maybe not, but, Ben, we both know what those things are capable of. I’m not saying we evacuate towns or put people on alert, but we need to start monitoring it more closely at the bare minimum.”

It was a good point, and she knew it was. Still, the hatred between herself and Ben Solo ran deep, and as long as the threat remained minor, he would continue to defy any wish she told to him out of pure spite. “No,” he replied, shaking his head.

“It’s not your decision to make,” she reminded him. “We have the same level of seniority.”

“And we have Leonard Snoke above us both, and we know him, and he knows us, and he won’t go for it either even if we try.” He stood up from his chair, and put his hands on his hips as he stared at her condescendingly. “The answer is still no. It’ll take something much more obvious than a few minor tremors for something to happen.”

“Only if we don’t try.”

“Rey, I’m not even entirely convinced myself that we have a problem,” he replied gesticulating wildly with one hand as if the problem were a physical thing they could contend with. “Come back to me when you find more substantial evidence for volcanic activity. Then we’ll see about asking our boss for a more thorough investigation.”

She thought on it for a moment, then she nodded, and held her hand out to him. “Alright then, it’s a deal. If anything — anything — more than a minor earthquake swarm happens, we go to Snoke.”

Ben looked at her hand apprehensively, and it occurred to her that in the two years they’d been working together that they’d never done this. They’d hit it off wrong from the get go when he’d nicked her car in the parking lot, and thus their introduction hadn’t involved a friendly, introductory handshake.

Every single moment between them had been tense and carried an underlying feeling that both would snipe the other if given the chance. The hatred between the two ran deep, only festering with time to the point where they could scarcely even be professional with one another.

Of course, when it came to proving him wrong, Rey was more than happy to show up in his office with a smirk on her face and an “I told you so,” on her lips. Three days later, such an opportunity came when the volcano blew steam hundreds of feet into the air, and blasted open a hole seventy five feet wide on its summit. That was when she knew it wasn’t just a gut feeling, and there was something going on beneath the surface in the Cascadian volcano.

That day, she stormed into Ben’s office with a determined look on her face to find he was already on the phone speaking in hushed tones to someone who was yelling at him in a fit of rage — if the shouting she could hear on the other end of the line was anything to go by — and decidedly unhappy with whatever he was telling them. Feeling awkward and out of place, she began to step back, making her way out of the office before he could notice her, but then he held up a hand, and beckoned her forward.

Surprise filled her as he gestured for her to sit down and she gave him an inquisitive look as she did so, sitting in the chair opposite his desk as Ben’s voice rose in response to the person on the other end of the line. “A steam vent explosion isn’t as minor an event as an earthquake, sir,” he said bitterly, a sneer crossing his features. “I’m not asking to monitor the damn thing full time, but I think it’s worth it to send a team out there — set up a base. Something’s happ—”

More yelling, then Rey watched as Ben listened with a tight lipped, tense expression on his face to more shouting on the other end of the line, then he sighed. “Just… a couple of weeks. That’s… that’s all I need, and if the thing goes quiet after that…” The voice said something else, and her adversary stood up straighter, adjusting the blazer he wore as he took in a shaky breath. “Thank you, sir. I won’t let you down.”

Another shout filled the phone line, then Ben hung up, and slumped back into his chair, putting his head in his hands as he groaned loudly. She watched, astonished, as his fingers combed through his hair, then it fell into his face in waves that almost seemed professionally crafted — and she would’ve dubbed them so if she hadn’t known him for years at that point — as he breathed in deeply, making it instantly apparent to her just who he’d been talking to.

“Snoke?” she asked after a minute, finding it odd how sympathetic she felt toward the man she only ever experienced antagonistic feelings for. Perhaps sometimes, the enemy of her enemy truly was her friend, and she definitely hated Snoke more than she hated Ben.

He gave her a nod, then he sat up straight, and crossed his arms over his chest as he leaned over his desk. “Yes, it was Snoke,” he confirmed for her. “I told him about this morning’s steam explosion… He still doesn’t want to waste the resources checking it out.”
“But you convinced him?”

“I... made a deal with him…” Ben’s voice trailed off, leaving Rey confused and concerned as to what he meant. Before she could even ask, though, he shook his head. “No, I won’t be explaining what it was.”

Almost involuntarily, Rey scoffed at him. “And here I was thinking we might actually have a civil conversation for once,” she grumbled, then she stood up from her chair. “You can’t even be nice to me for two minutes, can you?”

“You think this is because I have a problem with you?” He too stood then, and placed his hands firmly on his hips. “Grow up, Rey, not everything is about you.”

“I never said it was!”

“Good, then I need you to get over yourself,” he said bitterly as he straightened out his sleeves. “It’ll make the next few weeks that much harder if you don’t.”

Hearing this, Rey froze, and felt her mouth go agape as she stared at him, then began to nervously pick at a baby blue thread resting on the shoulder blades on her own blazer, fearing the rest of his sentence as her paling face made the color appear dark. “What do you mean, ‘the next few weeks?’”

When she’d walked into the room, she’d assumed it would be herself with the smirk and the cocky hip tilt as she stared him down. She never expected when she walked into Ben’s office to tell him about the steam vent explosion that he’d be the one to smirk down at her with a hip tilt and crossed arms that let her know he had the upper hand. “Well, that was what I was just discussing with our boss,” he told her. “And since you and I are the best at our respective jobs — his words, not mine — he’s sending us out to set up a base near the mountain.”

Words of any intelligent sort escaped her at his revelation. “ What?

“Believe me, I’m not happy about it either, but it’s happening. There’s nothing we can do.” He uncrossed his arms then, and she watched the smirk fall from his face as he made his way around the desk, and stood in front of her. “We’ll be joined by more of our colleagues in Coruscant after a few hours, but even after that… We have to tolerate each other.”

“Great,” she muttered sarcastically, then she cleared her throat. “What do you suggest we do, then? We’ve never spoken a single nice word to each other in years of working together.”

Ben thought for a moment, then he placed a hand on the desk, and leaned against it as another sigh escaped his lips. “We… we’ll have to declare a truce — at least professionally. Personally… the cards are still on the table.”

Fuck off, ” she whispered.

“Rey,” he said sternly, then he swallowed something — perhaps his pride — before he extended his hand out to meet hers — their first ever professional handshake — and closed his eyes. “I like this as much as you do.”

“Hmm.”

“But we don’t have a choice,” Ben finished, opening his eyes as he thrust his hand a little closer to her. “We have to try something…” Her continued silence caused him to groan exasperatedly, and he bit his lower lip briefly — which had her staring at his lips for far longer than she should’ve been, wondering if they’d always been so full — then he added, “... please.

At last, she took pity on him, and her hand rose slowly from her side, coming up until it hovered gently beside his. For a few seconds that felt like forever, they stayed there like that, staring at one another as they contemplated how the next few weeks were going to go. Rey was utterly convinced that it would be a disaster, and nothing would get done as the two fought with one another like they were enemies in an actual war, but for all she knew, she could’ve been wrong. He’d seemed sincere enough in his suggestion that they put aside their differences, so maybe… just maybe… “Oh, what the hell?” she muttered to herself, then she took his hand, and shook it firmly. “It’s a deal. I’ll try to be professional with you, and you’ll try to be professional with me in exchange so we can survive the next few weeks.”

“Agreed,” he said, then he returned the shake, and pulled his hand away, both of them unsure of what to do with their hands in the aftermath. Another staredown commenced, though this time she got the distinct impression that he was searching her eyes for signs of what she was thinking, wondering whether or not she was going to go back on her word. In his defense, though, she was pondering the exact same thing. It was abundantly clear that neither of them trusted the other, but how deep that feeling ran was going to determine how the next weeks went.

If it wasn’t that deep, they’d be alright. They would weather the storm and come out the other side better people. If it was deep, though, they would ruin one another out there in the field. She could only hope that their distaste for one another simmered down by the time they finished their work on Mustafar. If it didn’t… she had a bad feeling about that deal he’d made with Snoke.

“Right, well, I guess I should be going,” she told him after a while, stepping back to make her way out of his office. “What time and where are we meeting tomorrow?”

“Umm…” He thought for a moment, scratching his head as he thought of a time and place. “At the parking deck across the street. Quarter till seven. Don’t be late,” he told her after a few seconds, causing her to blink her surprise.

“You’re capable of waking up before dawn?” she asked, voice riddled with disbelief.

“Rey,” he warned sternly. “We made a deal.”

Rolling her eyes, she gave him a nod. “Fine… see you at a quarter till seven,” she muttered, not bothering to hear his bitterly muttered parting words as she made her way back toward her office. She was going to hear enough of his voice over the next month, after all, she didn’t need to hear it more than she had to.

Surviving the next few weeks was going to be a challenge. Up until two minutes ago, they’d never even shaken hands. In that moment, they’d taken a colossal step forward in their relationship — both professional and otherwise — and as she finally settled back into her office to resume her work for the day, she could only hope they didn’t take too many steps back.



Chapter Text

The sounds of guitar blared loudly through the Corellian suburbs as a black ‘77 Mustang tore down its streets. Pre-dawn sunlight gave it the only silhouette it had as the car’s tires nearly burned rubber under the driver’s intense guidance. This was only necessary, of course, because Rey was rather late for her meeting with Ben at the USGS office near downtown, and thus the heart thumping music and breakneck speeds were required. 

How she managed to make it without a ticket, however, was a god-damned miracle. 

Of course, she was still five miles out. A ticket was entirely plausible, but she had to pray it wouldn’t be. If she was late, her already thin ice with Ben Solo would collapse, and she’d fall into freezing cold water. Still, that wasn’t enough to deter her from making him wait. God knew he’d made her do the same more times than either knew how to count. It was all a part of their utterly useless rivalry, and though said rivalry was rather stupid, it fueled her some days — even if she was supposed to be his ally now. 

Pressing the gas a little harder, Rey’s hands pounded out the drumbeat to the Rush song playing out of the eight-track player she’d recently tinkered with. Fear tinged the fun she was having at the thought that the guitar riffs were waking the good people of Corellia, but eventually she pulled into the office parking deck, and began the hunt for the department vans. 

Just as the opening chords to The Spirit of Radio filled the garage, echoing splendidly with the acoustics in the concrete, she spotted him leaning against a black impala that was at least five years older than her own car was. She reached down and turned the volume of her eight-track a bit quieter, then slowly rolled up to a parking space, and pulled into it under Ben’s watchful gaze. 

That morning, he wore bags under his eyes and a scowl on his face, judgement ride in his gaze as she shut off the car, and grabbed her backpack and camping supplies out of the backseat. “You’re two minutes late,” he grumbled. 

“And we have a truce, so you don’t get to be an asshole to me about it,” she reminded him casually as she approached, adjusting the strap of her backpack. 

“Yes and it also means you don’t get to antagonize me.” Ben moved past her then, reaching into his pocket for something as he spoke, then she heard the familiar sound of keys jangling. “Got the keys off of Snoke last night. Guess that means I’m driving.”

She scoffed almost involuntarily. “Oh come on, that’s just rude,” she protested, jogging forward a few steps to catch up with him. “We should trade off who’s driving. If you want to keep things peaceful, that’s the right way to go.”

“Please, we both know I’m the better driver, I saw how you hauled ass in here.” He paused then, seeming to think to himself for a moment before he pointed to her. “But I have to admit, Rey, your taste in music isn’t terrible.”

Her eyebrows rose up, then her face quickly softened. “That doesn’t surprise me at all that you’re into music like that.”

“Like what?”

“Hard rock… all… loud guitars and banging drums and shouted vocals that drive your parents mad,” she said, voice growing animated in a way that — unless she was imagining things — actually made him chuckle. “But at least we agree on one thing. That might make this all a bit easier.”

“I fully agree,” he mumbled, then he continued to lead her down the parking garage toward the department vans. “Did you grab all your stuff before you left your car? We won’t be coming back here for a few days.”

She gave him a nod. “Yeah, I got it. I’m smarter than I look.”

“Who said you look stupid?”

Blinking at him, she almost laughed. “No, no, it’s just it’s just an expression,” she replied, then she managed a little chuckle at the blush creeping up his cheeks. “We should get going, then, this is gonna be a long drive.”

“Yeah, no kidding.” Then he approached the driver’s side of the van, unlocking the newly painted, blue hunk of metal as she walked around to her side. 

They opened their doors at the same time, flopping down into the vehicle in almost perfect sync. She stared at him for a moment after they closed their doors, but he paid her no mind as he reached forward, and put the keys in the ignition. The Caravan roared to life, engine purring as it sat idle in its parking space, waiting patiently for the man behind its wheel to put it in motion. All the while, Ben either ignored or didn’t notice Rey’s stare as he shifted the gear into reverse, and finally began to lead them out of the parking lot. 

She finally averted her eyes as they pulled out onto the road, and began to drive into the early morning light. On the horizon, the sky was turning a pink hued orange, and by the time they reached the rumbling mountain, Rey knew it’d be high in the sky. It would also be a good hour and a few minutes, and she wasn’t going to make it if she stayed silent. 

Making conversation with Ben Solo was her only option. “So… the town we’ll be staying near… know anything about it?”

“Naboo?” he grumbled bitterly, Then he shrugged. “Yeah, I… I've been there a few times…” His voice trailed off awkwardly, making her very aware that there was a lot more to it. Before she could attempt to ask him what he meant by his statement, a groan left his lips, then he took in a sharp breath. “I grew up there… it’s where… it’s…” Another pause. “It’s where my whole family lives.”

Oh. That explained so much. It explained why he desperately wanted the volcano to be doing absolutely nothing, and why he’d been so adamant that things were fine until he had no other choice but to acknowledge that something was wrong. Ben’s family was there, and if they were in harm’s way… “God, I didn’t know, I’m so sorry.”

He shrugged. “I don’t talk to them much,” he admitted, his voice surprisingly not hostile for once. “I plan on avoiding them while we’re there if I can.”

What? Avoid his family at a time like this? Rey found herself baffled rather quickly, wondering how in the hell he could ever think that not speaking to his family when their fucking lives were at risk. “But—“

Before she could say anything further, Ben put up a hand, sparing her a glance as he spoke, “I don’t need to explain why. Just trust me when I say, they’re not worth your time.”

There was his rudeness again, always making an appearance just when she thought he might have a soul somewhere in that broad frame of his. Rey shook her head, disappointment ringing through her as they drove out of the Corellian suburbs, and toward the state line. “They’re your family, Ben, and something serious might be happening. It’s none of my business, but if things go south at Mustafar, you may find them to be worth your time.”

Ben almost seemed to laugh, but barked out a scoff instead. “And who are you to decide that for me?” he asked, accelerating a little too much for her liking as he moved them into the fast lane. “You think you know everything, don’t you?”

“I know enough,” she snapped, crossing her arms over her chest as she glared at him. “Enough to know you’re a fucking coward who’s too full of pride to admit he cares what happens to his family.”

“Sure, Rey, whatever you say.”

A frustrated grunt tore itself from her throat, only just masking the scream that desperately wanted to fight its way out instead. “God… I try to make conversation with you to pass the time, and you…” She paused a moment, searching for the words she wanted to say, then after too long, they came to her. “You you’re yourself. Can’t you act like a decent human being for five fucking minutes, Ben Solo? Five shitty little minutes! Is it so hard?”

They fell silent after that, and for a few seconds all she could hear was the sound of their engine and breathing. Distantly, a bird call interrupted their quiet, somehow audible over the howl of the highway, and finally they seemed to come out of their spell. “Maybe we just shouldn’t talk at all,” Ben told her, and for once, he actually made sense. “That’s the only way this truce is going to work.”

“I fully agree,” she growled. 

His Adam’s apple bobbed as he swallowed, then he looked down at the space behind their seats. “There’s a bunch of eight-tracks in the bag.” His eyes focused back on the road, avoiding hers as he talked. “Pick one and put it in. I don’t care what it is, I just can’t stand the silence.”

Nothing else was said between them. All Rey did was reach down, and grab for the backpack he’d stashed in the seat behind them. After a few seconds of awkward shuffling, she managed to pull the heavy, black Jansport pack into her lap, and began to sift through it for something to listen to. A smile crossed her face when she found something she thought she would enjoy, then she placed it into the player, and allowed Fleetwood Mac to play through the speakers. 

A small smile tugged at the corners of Ben’s lips as he tapped out the familiar drumbeat to the song playing. Rey let out a low, undetectable laugh at the sight. Fuck , Solo was an odd one, but something about the little, domestic things he did let her know he wasn’t completely cold. 

Still, she hoped the volcano decided to either go off or quiet down quickly. The two of them weren’t built to survive each other’s company for an extended period of time, even if they were sleeping in separate tents. 

*

They managed to arrive at their campsite a little over an hour later with songs stuck in their heads and no further arguments made from their lips. His idea to play music in place of the quiet that had settled between them had worked phenomenally, though she’d never tell him that. 

The sun was high in the sky as they set up their tents and equipment. Occasionally as they set up their campsite, Rey wondered if Ben’s pale skin was getting burnt even though he smelled thoroughly of sunscreen. The man looked pale enough to render a vampire envious in her eyes. Dracula himself must’ve passed on the opportunity to take a bite out of him for fear of being bitten first.

Once she was done setting up her things, Rey stared out at the menacing looking mountain they were facing. Eight miles from the summit of Mustafar, the volcano towered over them, causing her to crane her neck to see the top. Steam drifted lazily out of the snow-capped peak, but it looked more peaceful than ever. 

In spite of the calm appearance, though, the bad feeling in the pit of her stomach was causing her to feel an increasing level of anxiety the longer she looked at it. Placing her hands on her hips, she stepped forward to examine the flanks of the enormous mountain. They didn’t look any different than normal, but she supposed that whatever was going on beneath the surface — god, not thinking about the magma chamber just miles under her feet was going to be difficult — may have just started, and thus not shown its face yet. Or perhaps it was just a minor event. 

That last idea she had very serious doubts would become a reality. 

“You scared, Smith?” Ben asked, his voice making the sneer on his face clear before she even saw it. 

She scoffed at him. “You wish,” she replied, then she turned around, and grabbed her backpack from where it rested just outside her tent, shuffling through it until she found her camera. Without saying another word, she wound the film with the little dial on top, then aimed it at the volcano, pressing her eye against it as she searched for the perfect angle. The entire time she was positioning it, she could feel his eyes on her, watching as she took her first picture of the mountain. 

“You might be able to get a better picture of it from here,” Ben said after a good two minutes went by, then when she pulled the camera away from her face to glare at him, he pointed to the summit. “There’s fewer trees.”

“I’m fine where I am, thanks.” She then resumed taking pictures from the angle she had first set up at. 

“I’m just trying to help.”

“You can help by taking your own photographs,” she replied, then she removed her camera again, and held it casually in one hand. “Didn’t you bring a camera with you?”

“I did, but…” He shook his head. “Never mind, I was just trying to honor the truce between us. I was trying to do something nice, but I guess your head’s too far up your ass to understand that.” Her jaw fell open from shock, then Rey watched as he walked toward his own pack, continuing to make conversation as he went. “We won’t be alone here for long anyway. The Seattle team will be up here in about an hour.”

Feeling rather awkward, she wound the dial of her camera again, and took another picture from a new angle as she walked in his direction. “Do you know them? The Seattle team?”

“Met them a few times,” Ben replied as he began taking pictures at her side. “They’re… interesting men, to say the least.”

Rey gave him a mournful grunt. “No women. Of course.”

“It’s a man’s world, that’s for sure,” Ben grumbled, then they both froze, and looked at one another as he scrambled to recover himself. “I just meant there aren’t that many women in the field.”

“Mmhmm.”

“Listen, just forget I said anything, I-I clearly can’t think when I’m around you.”

“Hmm, that makes it sound like you’re in love with me, Solo,” she teased, not letting herself think about what would happen if he were actually in love with her. 

Ben’s breath caught in his throat, then he covered it up with a cough. “You know what I meant. I don’t have a talent with words, as you’re well aware, so I’m asking as nicely as I can if you’d just not take anything I say seriously.”

“Oh, so your failings as a man are my responsibility now?” she asked, glaring at him as she paused yet again in her picture taking. “I don’t think so. Watch what you say, Solo, or this truce gets forgotten, and I’ll make your life a living hell while we’re here.”

They fell quiet for a minute after that. The only sounds filling their ears were those of the birds chirping in the trees, the distant caw of a hawk, the sound of the wind whipping past them, and the distant rumbling of the volcano. Rey must’ve taken at least ten pictures before either of them heard anything different, and something finally interrupted their silence. When they’d left for the mountain that morning, she had been hoping beyond all hope that she’d been wrong about the earthquakes and the steam eruptions. She had been praying that it all meant nothing, and it was just a minor bout of activity that would go away within days. 

Those hopes were quickly dashed when ahead of them, she saw a relatively small— but still overwhelming to look at— amount of ash burst forth from the volcano in the form of a gray cloud. Her eyes went wide, and her breathing shook as she stared at it, watching in horror and awe. “Oh my god,” she breathed, then her words dissipated into a series of swears that would’ve had a nun fainting. If she listened closely, she would’ve sworn she’d heard Ben laugh. 

She looked at him as he watched the small ash cloud, staring curiously at the nonchalance on his face. “It’s almost beautiful,” he said, then he shrugged. “You can relax, Rey, it’s not the big one, we’re safe here.” 

“I know that, you ass,” she hissed at him, then she pointed her camera up at the column. “I know what a major eruption looks like.” 

Whatever he said after that, she ignored as she took pictures of the ash cloud It rose up into the air creepily and silently, but she knew the sound just hadn’t reached them yet. Within seconds, she knew she’d be hearing what sounded like a jet engine taking off, but much, much louder. How long did it take sound to travel eight miles? 

The answer to that question was almost precisely forty seconds. It was forty seconds after the column began to rise into the air that she heard the sound of the mountain’s ferocious roar. Almost involuntarily, she covered her ears, attempting to shield them from the noise, but it wasn’t loud enough to hurt her eardrums. It had frightened her more than anything. 

“That’s the third one today,” Ben said over the noise, raising his voice to a volume she’d only ever heard when they’d had one of their shouting matches. “Snoke gave me the reports this morning. That’s why I told you it’s not the big one. Whatever this is, it’s just the beginning!”

“How can you possibly know that?” 

“I don’t, it’s just a guess!” he shouted back, then he pointed up at the ash cloud. “You look at that and tell me if you think that’s a sign this thing’s quieting down.”

“I’ve never thought it was!” She turned on him, then pressing a finger into his chest angrily as she tore into him and his presumptuous fucking ass. “I’ve always had a feeling this was where things were headed! You can’t come out here and act like you’ve known all along when it took begging and fucking pleading to get you to believe me.”

Ben’s eyes rolled as he turned away from her, then he resumed taking pictures of the mountain as it spewed more ash into the air. “It doesn’t matter. We’re here now, aren’t we?”

“We are,” Rey muttered bitterly, crossing her arms over her chest as she watched the ash rise higher and higher into the sky. God, how she wished they weren’t.

Chapter Text

The rest of the day wasn’t exactly uneventful, but it was alarming just how quickly Rey adjusted to the sound of the volcano rumbling in the background. The team from Coruscant didn’t cause as much distraction as she thought they would, but god she wished they had. She would’ve loved if they’d parked their tents just a little bit closer to hers and Ben’s, if only to prevent her coworker from being her sole source of conversation, but alas, they parked further down the site closer to the mountain. 

One member of the team, Finn also carried the last name Smith, and seemed to share her goofy sense of humor. Over the next week or so, she could tell he’d probably become a good friend to her if not a close one. Ben wasn’t quite as nice to him for some reason, shaking his hand a bit more forcefully than she thought was necessary before he introduced himself to the other man from Coruscant. 

As she moved to introduce herself to the other member of the team, she couldn’t quite figure out the reason for Ben’s hostility. She’d thought it was mostly just directed at her thanks to their rivalry, but it would seem that she’d been quite wrong. Apparently his hatred spread out equally in all directions, and god she disliked him even more for it—a feat she hadn’t even thought possible. 

The other man that had been sent down from Coruscant was Poe Dameron, a man with a charming smile and clever wit that made her certain he was somehow flirting with her—and Ben, if she were being honest—while simply saying, “hello.” He was apparently a half decent geologist, but an even better pilot, and informed them that they’d be taking a van into town the next day to retrieve the small plane he’d rented and go take a look at the crater of the angry mountain looming over their heads. 

After the introductions and a brief lunch at the picnic tables provided by their campsite, the remainder of the day was spent preparing the campsite to be a proper monitoring station. At one point, as the sun began to streak across the sky, Rey brought out her log book, detailing the events of the day as best she could while Ben set up the wires of a radio on top of their van. In the background, a radio conveyed the weather reports for the day, declaring the next several hours and well into the night would produce nothing but cool weather and clear skies. 

Great . Cool weather whilst camping. Rey hated the sound of that. Their campsite was going to be utterly freezing, and she was going to wake up at least five times in the middle of the night from how hard she was shivering. She spared a glance at Ben, taking a break from her work on her log book to watch him for a moment as he set up the radio. He didn’t look like the type to get cold easily, and as she examined him a little more, she noticed the distractingly well-sculpted muscles of his arms, and felt her breath catch in her throat. 

Of course, the moment she made a sound would be the one in which the volcano haunting the background would cease its incessant noise. The last of its great, eruptive episodes slowly faded into nothingness, and she glared at the snow-capped mountain as the ash began to blow away on the breeze, then she gathered up the courage to face Ben. 

It didn’t surprise her that he was staring at her in confusion, a wire in one hand, and the antenna of their van in the other as he mouthed, what the fuck. “You okay?”

She nodded a bit too quickly. “Fine, I just wasn’t expecting the volcano to go quiet. Threw me off guard.” It was a believable lie, right? It had fallen silent right before she’d made a sound, and therefore she thought the excuse was perfectly believable. 

Unfortunately, Ben did not. A smirk had blossomed on his face, and he intentionally flexed the muscles of his arms as he resumed his work on the wires of their antenna, causing her to look away as he howled with laughter. Oh, she’d have to get him back for that sometime. Already ideas were forming in her head, but before she could warn him of her intentions, he spoke, “Sure it had absolutely nothing to do with you not so subtly checking me out?”

“Oh, go choke on a cactus , Ben Solo,” she hissed before making an angry march away from him and their van, and toward the two men still setting up their campsite below. She could log the day’s events later in her tent with a flashlight. For now she’d make do with helping out the two people whose company she could actually stand. 

Her coworker was still laughing to himself as she turned tail, and began stalking off in the other direction. “Oh, come on, it was just a joke!”

“It wasn’t funny!” she shouted back at him, offering Ben her middle finger as she continued walking away. 

Finn and Poe both perked up as she got closer, studying her with every step as she waved to them in greeting. The latter of the two gave her a thousand watt smile, then he stepped forward to meet her in the middle. “Rey Smith.” He crossed his arms over his chest. “What can I do for you?”

Returning the smile, Rey stopped walking about ten feet from him, and sighed. “It’s more what I can do for you,” she admitted, then she gestured vaguely back to the van she and Ben had driven up to Mustafar. “I don’t know if you could tell, but my partner in this assignment is a right arsehole, and I need a bit of time away from his face.”

A snort of laughter escaped both of the men before her, but Poe quickly nodded. “Yeah, I hear you. Sounds like what this one has going on with a former coworker of ours.”

“We don’t talk about Phas in the field,” Finn said with a pointed, accusing finger aimed at Poe. “Ever.”

Giggling quietly, Rey stood up straighter. “You want help setting up the rest of your campsite?”

Finn shrugged. “Sure, why not?” He clapped his hands together, then glanced over at Poe. “Maybe we could use her help setting up the seismometers, too.”

“Good call,” the other man replied, then he glanced at Rey, gesturing to the log book she still had in her hand. “You want to compare notes when we’re done?”

“Sure, whatever I can do to help.”

“Great, and… one of our teams needs to put in word with the forestry service to discuss possible evacuations. The governor’s already put the area on red alert, and campers have been advised to stay out, but there’s still way too many people too close to this thing for comfort.”

“Isn’t that something our offices should be handling rather than us?”

“They’ll handle the big stuff, yeah, but the smaller meetings, the emergency phone calls? That’s gonna be on us.”

Nodding, Rey reached up, and scratched the back of her neck. “Okay, well, in the meantime, let’s get this campsite functional, and pray Ben’s asshole episode passes by the time we’re done.”

Finn and Poe both laughed at that as she set down her logbook on a nearby picnic table, then the former of the two stepped forward. “Trust me, after a week out here, he’ll only get worse.”

“I’m sure,” Rey muttered bitterly, then she moved about helping them put the finishing touches on their tents, when an idea suddenly sprang to her mind. “I don’t suppose you gentlemen would happen to have any music, would you?”

Before either of them could answer, another loud, explosive noise came from behind them, and she looked up to see another rush of ash making its way skyward, sending shivers running down her spine as she watched it. This column of ash was just as dark as the last, and somehow seemed to soar even higher even though it had just gotten started, towering over the thin line of smoldering debris that had continued to storm out of the volcano since they’d first gotten there that morning. 

It was another sign that the mountain was waking up, and the beast below was just yawning, stretching its jaws as it prepared to blink awake and let out a mighty roar at its slumber being disturbed. “God,” she breathed, though she was fairly certain she wasn’t religious, she thought it must’ve taken some biblical force to produce the sight she was seeing. It was so impossible, so incredible, she almost thought she was dreaming. 

“Yeah, let’s put something on,” Finn replied eventually, his voice shaking as he walked up to his van. “You like Pat Benetar, Rey?”

“Love her,” she replied nervously, then she grabbed her logbook off of the table, glanced at her watch, and wrote down the time of the eruption before turning to face the two men in front of her. “Shall we?”

Poe grinned, then nodded. “Let’s get to work,” he said, just as Heartbreaker began blasting through his van’s speakers. 

*

They spent the next several hours working together. The first half an hour was mostly composed of putting the finishing touches on their camp site, then she compared her notes with what Finn and Poe had written down, and together the three of them began to form a hypothesis on just what the volcano was doing. Was this a random episode of activity, or was it the precursor to something far, far worse?

In the end, they couldn’t tell, but the volcano rumbled the entire time, spewing bits of ash into the air periodically as it dug a pit of fear into the hearts of all four scientists at the site. At a couple of points throughout the day, Rey felt the ground shudder beneath them, and according to the seismometer, each quake measured just below four point zero on the Richter scale. Somewhere beneath Mustafar, magma was moving, and she could only pray that it wasn’t moving up. 

Something in her gut, though, told her it definitely was.

Eventually, Ben finished setting up their radio and machinery, and came down to join them as they discussed the mountain rumbling a few miles to the southwest. During the discussion, they’d brought out a map of the region, and begun to discuss where the most at risk areas were in the event that the volcano went off. At first he remained silent, not saying much, but then the topic of Naboo—both the city and the lake—came up, and suddenly he was rather chatty. 

“Well, they’re the closest town to Mustafar, they probably need to be evacuated first if we start evacuating anyone,” he said, pointing directly to the dot designating the city’s location on the map. Surprise filled the others as he spoke, and even Rey was shocked, given how callously he’d spoken about the family he’d had there earlier. He hadn’t wanted anything to do with them, then, but she supposed that seeing the thing that could potentially wipe them out in action must’ve changed something inside of him. “I think we need to set a perimeter around the mountain. Once we determine which areas are safe and which are the most dangerous, that is.”

Finn and Poe both began to nod, then the former sighed. “Yeah, yeah, I’m with you there, but what areas do you have in mind?”

“Well, Naboo obviously, then knowing this thing’s history, I’ve got to extend the safety limit from here,” he pointed to where their base was, “then we’ll bring it a bit further out past the northern flank, and bring it closer as we head south.”

“Why the northern flank? When this thing goes, all sides of it are at risk,” Poe protested, then he put his finger on the map, and made an even circle around the mountain. “We should set an even perimeter until we know more. Then we can make it uneven.”

“Because for one, Lake Naboo and the city are to the North, and for another…” He shook his head, and Rey watched as he looked up toward the volcano, watching as ash smoldered its way up into the atmosphere. “I don’t know, I just have a really bad feeling about this.”

Finn laughed nervously, then he nodded. “Okay, we’ll extend the red zone past the northern flank. I’m with you there, I just hope you’re wrong, cause if that thing goes—we’re a bit too close to the north side for comfort.”

“Agreed,” Poe said, then he swallowed nervously. “If that does go off without warning, let’s agree to abandon everything if necessary. The equipment isn’t nearly as important as our lives, and I don’t need to remind you all just how dangerous this is. We could die. We could all die, so we need to always be on our guard, even in our sleep.”

“Who died and put you in charge?” Ben muttered, causing Rey’s eyes to roll. 

“Ben, he’s just stating the obvious and he’s right, would you pull your head out of your ass long enough to see some goddamn sense?” She wanted to scream it at him, but somehow managed to make her words come out in a low growl whilst scowling at him in a way that she hoped would bury him six feet under just from pure energy alone. Alas, no human being wielded such power, and Ben just stood there looking kind of dumbstruck. 

Clearing his throat awkwardly, Ben did something that surprised her. He apologized. “I’m sorry, that was out of line.”

“No, it’s fine, man, we’re all tense.” Poe shrugged, then held out his hand. “I’m fine if you are.”

Ben shook it. “I’m great.”

“Good, then… it’s starting to get late. Why don’t we have a bonfire? Cook some hot dogs, get to know each other, and maybe the volcano will shut up and we’ll be home by morning.”

A snort cane from Finn. “That’s a pipe dream, but a nice thought,” he said, then he began to fold up their map, and put it away. “We should mark the perimeter tomorrow morning. I want something to give to the Forestry Service and the governor. We also need to mark where the site is, give it a name so we have something to go by on radio.”

“Got any names in mind?” Rey asked. 

“Not really. Let’s get the fire going, then we’ll see.”

*

Half an hour later they were sat around a campfire between their two vans eating hot dogs they’d roasted on sticks, and joking like old friends—except for Rey and Ben, who largely avoided each other—as they completely forgot about naming their base. Of course, the fear that the mountain would go off at any second loomed over them like it was the grim reaper himself, but when that very thing was the subject of most of their jokes, it became less difficult to feel at ease around the mountain. 

The jokes, though, didn’t last very long. It didn’t take them more than another five minutes to change the subject to their theories on what was going on with the mountain once more, when Ben interrupted a few minutes of silence to glance back at the silhouette of the volcano in the darkness, which they could still hear spewing ash in the distance. “I think it’s just waking up,” he said, then he shook his head. “But there’s no way of knowing. The last time this thing erupted, the first settlers were just moving into the area, and Native American records are half destroyed and half missing.”

“The closest thing I can think to compare it to is probably the eruption of Krakatoa about a century ago,” Poe said, reaching forward with a stick to stoke the flames in their fire. “There have been many eruptions since, but that one… they said the ground was shaking for months before it finally blew. That and, well, the mountain was spewing ash into the air periodically, and for three months geologists studied it until boom. ” He too turned his gaze on Mustafar, then he cleared his throat. “But who knows? Maybe that won’t happen here. Mount Rainier a little ways to the north? Had an episode of activity about ninety years back, but it didn’t have an enormous eruption. For all we know, we could just be looking at a random episode.”

In that moment, the ground trembled, causing the trees around them to sway and the birds within them to caw as they took flight. The volcano’s noise level never grew louder, but the timing of the quake and the continued rumbling made Rey think that this was anything but a minor episode. Still, she had to be a professional. Laughing nervously, she took the last bite of her hot dog, then she looked at Ben and Poe. “Whatever it is, that’s what we’re here for; to figure it out and keep whoever’s necessary updated. If Mustafar goes off—then we make like bats out of hell and go, but until then… we pray it’s like Mount Rainier.”

Finn scoffed.“This is probably the most scared I’ve ever been on a job, and I’ve been down to Columbia. The volcanoes down there?” He whistled lowly, then shuddered. “ Damn , those things have got an attitude, but this shit?” He pointed in the general direction of the volcano just eight miles away. “This shit? I don’t know what it’s like. I don’t know what is going to happen when it goes off. All I know is its old lahar deposits go way farther from the summit than I want them to and there’s pyroclastic debris beneath our feet somewhere, and that scares the hell out of me.”

“Me too,” Rey mumbled, then she put her hands behind her neck, and propped her elbows on her knees. “Guess all we have to do now is wait.”

A three man chorus of “Yeah,” ensued, and they fell into quiet, the crackling fire and rumbling volcano harmonizing hauntingly in the background as the pit of fear in their stomachs grew deeper. 

Not long after the conversation ended, they doused the fire, and made their way to their respective tents. As she curled up in her sleeping bag, a chill settled over the air, sending shivers down her spine that seemed to accompany the ones she felt from the volcano’s actions outside. The damned thing was still rumbling faintly in the background, making her wonder if somehow it would destroy her in the night. Would she somehow fail to wake up if it went off? What if she got too used to the rumbling?

A groan escaped her lips as her teeth chattered. It was cold enough that night she had bets that when she woke up in the morning, she’d be able to see her breath. She also knew that it would be at least ten degrees cooler when she woke up, which had her shivering more at the thought as she curled up further, praying that somehow she’d warm up or get used to the chill. If she didn’t, it was going to be a long night. No, not just a long night, but a long week .

Sweating under her breath, she closed her eyes, and attempted to fall asleep, trying to focus her mind on anything that wasn’t her job, or the volcano, or Ben. Somehow, she found that she eventually managed to reach a half conscious state, and as the time passed, her body got warmer. That feeling that always accompanied what happened just before sleep washed over her, and she slowly drifted off to the sound of Mustafar’s rumbling, finding it didn’t actually make the worst white noise in the end. 

Unfortunately, there were more things out there than just the stupid fucking mountain. An unknown amount of time into her sleep-state, Rey was awakened by the sound of footsteps outside her tent, and instantly the cold came rushing over her, causing her to feel every single fiber of it as it stabbed her body like a thousand knives of frigid steel. Wrapping herself tighter in the thick bag did nothing to help her, and she groaned, cursing whoever had woken her up as she listened to them march off in the direction of the woods. 

It became immediately clear to her that any further sleep was absolutely not happening, and with a groan, Rey unzipped her sleeping bag, grabbed her flashlight, and crawled angrily out of her tent to confront them. If it was Ben, he was especially getting a piece of her mind, and if it was Finn or Poe, they were also getting a rant, but perhaps slightly less enraged. 

Turning on the flashlight, she shone it around the campsite, searching with eyes like a hawk for the source of the sound that had woken her up. Of course, no sound could be heard over the volcano now that she was awake, but she knew someone was out there, she just had to wait for them to come back to their tent. Slowly, she began to do a three sixty, turning in a circle to properly shine the entire camp in her flashlight’s beam as her breath misted in the air in front of her. Of course she could see her breath . Of fucking course. 

Rolling her eyes, she continued making her turn, moving until suddenly a large—thankfully human—form entered her beam, and she nearly shrieked before realizing it was just Ben. “Shit,” she hissed, finding a bit of pleasure in watching him squint into the light as he put a hand up to shield his eyes. “B-Ben, what the f-fuck are you d-doing out here? It’s the m-middle of the n-night!” Her teeth were chattering so hard, it was a god damn struggle to get the sentence out, but somehow she managed. 

“I had to take a leak,” he replied, then he turned his head away. “God, would you put that thing down? You’re gonna blind the whole forest.”

“I’ll put it d-down when you ap-pologize for waking me up!” she cried, then she gestured around them. “I f-fucking struggled to sleep for hours, and y-you woke m-me up and now I can’t go back to sleep ‘cause I’m f-freezing.”

Ben almost looked as if he were about to laugh, then he looked at her a bit more intensely, undoubtedly studying the way she was visibly shivering, and her teeth were chattering. “Rey, shine the flashlight on yourself a bit more?”

“Why?”

“Just do it.”

Giving him a strange look, she fulfilled the request, and shined the flashlight on her own face as best she could without blinding herself. “You happy n-now?” 

As she pointed the light back on him, he shook his head. “Rey, your lips are almost blue,” he told her, then he shifted uncomfortably, visibly thinking something through as she watched him. 

Curiosity forced her to step forward, wondering just what the hell was causing him to react like this as he scratched at his chin. Closing her eyes, she decided to just ask him what was on his mind so she could move on and try to go back to sleep. “What are you th-thinking?”

“Huh?”

“You’ve got s-something on your m-mind. I want to know w-what it is.”

Ben looked at her apprehensively, then he swallowed, and turned his gaze to the ground. “I was just thinking; you’re cold.”

“V-very.”

“And I’m not, and I’ve got… god , this is ridiculous. You’ll never say yes, and I don’t know why I’m suggesting it, but—but I don’t know how much better you’ll be when you’re back in your sleeping bag, and as much as I dislike you, I can’t say it’d make me feel better if you got sick or died out here because it was cold—“

“Your point, Solo?”

“I’m asking if you want to share my tent—just to keep warm.” His eyes glanced up to meet hers, and she blinked at him, stunned she was hearing such an invitation from Ben fucking Solo, who had done nothing but hate her guts since the moment she’d started working at the USGS. For him to ask her to share his sleeping space, she must’ve looked a specific kind of miserable that he wouldn’t even wish on her, his worst enemy. “You can say no, but I just—I want to make sure you’re okay.”

She blinked at him, surprised by how much he seemed to actually care about her well being. Before this trip, she never would’ve expected he gave one single shit about her life, but apparently, he did give at least one. Maybe two if he was going this far. “You want m-me to share a t-tent with you?”

“Yes.”

“What, d-do you want us to s-spoon? B-Butt to butt? You spoon m-me? I spoon y-you? We s-sleep on opposite sides of the t-tent and p-pretend the other d-doesn’t exist?” She laughed at the thought, then she stepped forward, feeling hold with her teasing. “Have wild f-forest hate s-sex?”

If she didn’t know better, she would’ve sworn a blush crept up on his cheeks, but it was so faint, and the darkness was so severe, she couldn’t quite tell. “Whatever you’re comfortable with.”

“Including the hate sex?” God, how she loved teasing him, it was almost a fucking sport at this point. 

Ben’s jaw opened and closed a few times, then he shuddered. “Just—look do you want to keep warm or not?”

Oh, she did. She really did. All she wanted right now was warmth, and she knew that Ben radiated it. Every time she’d had to touch him he’d been warm, the man was like a walking furnace. He was hot blooded, and exactly what she needed right now. Taking a deep breath, she nodded. “Yeah, I—I’ll share your t-tent. I’m n-not really in a p-position to say no.”

“Great, then… follow me,” he replied, then she shone her flashlight in the direction of his tent, and they walked toward it together wordlessly, both of them decidedly too afraid to say anything as they approached it. 

Rey held the flashlight in position over the zipper at the entrance of his tent, and he muttered his thanks as he opened it, and gestured for her to go in. For some reason, her heart started racing as she crawled in, noticing the very large sleeping back that was unzipped in the center of the tent. It was enormous, definitely big enough for two people, but fuck it wasn’t quite big enough that they’d be able to sleep without touching. “Butt to butt it is,” she muttered under her breath as he crawled in beside her. 

“What was that?”

“Nothing. How are we doing this?”

“Uh, I’ll get in the bag, then you get in and um… zip it.”

“Great, can do, let’s um—let’s do it,” she said, then she watched as he crawled into the bag, listening to the sound of his slightly ragged breathing as he slipped into his thick, fleece lined bag. 

Once he was in, he turned to look at her, and cocked his head, waiting patiently for her to join them. The thought that this was absolutely insane crossed her mind as she did just that, and curled up in the sleeping bag before zipping them both inside of it. Awkwardness settled into the silence between them, both refusing to move as they held their breath, seemingly waiting for the tension to pass. 

Eventually, Ben broke the silence when he shifted in the bag, and his backside was pressed firmly against hers. “Sorry,” he muttered, then he attempted to move away when she reached behind herself and stopped him. 

“Don’t. You’re really warm, I k-kind of need that right now, in case you hadn’t noticed.”

A small chuckle left him. “Oh, I noticed, but I still have to ask if you’re sure about this. You have to know the chances of me pestering you about it forever and never letting you live it down.”

“I’ve weighed those odds, believe me I have,” she said, then she shook her head. “Ben, I’m just so miserable, I don’t care how much you make fun of me for this in the future. Right now, you may be my favorite person. You saved me from potentially freezing to death, so…” Swallowing her pride, she removed her hand from his arm, and cradled it to her chest. “Thank you for this.”

“Yeah, well, like I said; it was either this or let you freeze to death, and contrary to your beliefs, I actually have a soul.”

“I know,” she replied. “I’ve seen it.”

“When?”

“Little glimpses every now and then, like when you finally caved and made some deal with Snoke because you knew something dangerous was happening out here, or when you told me about the family you have in Naboo. Maybe the fact that you’re so eager to put your parents town in the red zone says something about you, too. You care, Ben, you even care about the people you supposedly hate. There’s a heart beating your chest, you just try to hide it, and you shouldn’t. You’re actually a halfway decent person when you try to be.”

He fell quiet for a minute, then she listened as he shifted again, resting his head on his arm as he thought through what he’d say in response. “Thanks, I guess—I guess you’re not so bad yourself, sometimes.”

“Sometimes.”

“Listen, I’m making an effort, here.”

Another snort of laughter. “Don’t hurt yourself, Ben,” she replied, then she yawned, nearly giggling again when she heard him yawn in response. “We should get to sleep, we’ve got a busy week ahead of us.”

“Agreed. You feeling warmer?”

“Much, thanks.” And maybe if they were on better terms, she would’ve reached out and squeezed his hand, but alas, the two still maintained a rivalry of intense, biblical proportions in spite of their close quarters. Holding his hand would have to wait for a miracle.

Beside her, Ben nodded. “Great, then uh… goodnight, Rey.”

“Night, Ben,” she said, then she closed her eyes, and allowed herself to fall numb to the rhythm of the distant volcanic rumblings in the background as their shared warmth enveloped her. It was probably the most at peace she’d ever felt sleeping in a tent, and it was because she was at Ben Solo’s side. She tried not to think about what that might mean as she began to drift off, and at long last finally fell back into sleep.

Chapter Text

The volcano was still rumbling when she woke up to find the ground trembling beneath her. Her fist tightened around whatever she’d gripped in her sleep in fright, and panic surged through her veins as she wondered—was this the moment? Had the mountain started to go off with no warning?

She listened closely for another few seconds, and realized the rumbling wasn’t getting any closer or louder, and the earth soon ceased its shaking. Rey closed her eyes, and sighed into the rather firm pillow her head was resting on. Death had evaded her for now, but she remained on edge, certain it would come back for her somehow. 

Outside, the dawn light was just beginning to light the sky. Their surroundings were still mostly dark from what she could tell, and with a groan, she adjusted back into the embrace of the warm arm wrapped around her waist. Wait. 

Her eyes snapped open when she realized what that meant. The last thing she remembered before falling asleep was crawling into Ben’s tent, but they’d fallen asleep facing away from one another. Not—not like this. They hadn’t fallen asleep facing each other with arms wrapped tightly around their waists while his other arm served as her pillow and hers fisted the fabric of his night shirt with an iron grip. 

Her eyes opened once again, making her realize her cheek was pressed closely against something as she stared up at the ceiling of the tent, and—fuck—that something was Ben’s chest. It was her coworker and rival’s chest, and her face was pressed against it. A thousand swears crossed her mind as she turned her head, and stared directly into the endless sea of white that made up his t-shirt. 

Eyes drifting up, she took in the sight of his sleeping face, realizing that he looked like a significantly nicer person when he was unconscious. Those sharp features of his were softened in sleep, and the sneer that seemed to be constantly gnarling his face was gone, replaced by—was that a fucking smile? There was no way he was smiling. For Ben Solo to smile, god himself would’ve had to bless the Earth with a miracle— and please would he stop the fucking volcano —and that wasn’t happening anytime soon 

What the hell could possibly make him happy?

Ben stirred in her arms, and she gasped as he gripped her more tightly, making her realize just how low his hand had fallen onto her back. If he moved it any lower, it would be on her ass, and she would absolutely kick his. 

If she wanted to avoid that fate, she was going to have to either move, or wake him up, and she didn’t think she could accomplish the former without accidentally doing the latter. Sighing disappointedly, Rey used the hand pressed against his chest to press into it a little more. “Ben,” she whispered, but he gave her no response. Groaning, she shook him a little harder. “Ben, god damn it, wake up.”

Ben didn’t budge, and she thought maybe, just maybe this might be the day she finally got sent to jail for killing someone. With a groan, she used the hand fisting his shirt to pinch the skin above his pectoral muscles, and he finally awoke with a startled, “ Ow!”

“I was starting to think you were dead,” she grumbled. “Would you please let go of me?”

Confused stutters left his lips, then he froze for a second, seeming to realize how intimately he was holding her before he suddenly let go, and rolled over onto his back. The arm her head was resting on remained in place, and she allowed it, not wanting to face the reality of the cold, hard ground it was protecting her from. With a relieved sigh, she rolled over onto her back, and stared up at the ceiling of the tent, listening to the quiet, frighteningly synchronized sound of their breathing. 

Silence fell over them, creating a void only filled by the violent rumbling of the mountain just eight miles outside their campsite. Still feeling almost as if that sound was haunting her, Rey swallowed, then she let her eyes flicker over to him. “I thought we agreed not to touch each other.”

“So did I.” He made a sound that sounded almost like laughter. “One of us must’ve moved over in the night—or actually…” His head turned, and out of the corner of her eye she could see his smug face looking at her. “Since neither of us were facing the direction we started the night on, I think we both moved. You’re not innocent.”

“And you’re not either.” Rey scoffed as she crossed her arms over her chest, fully aware that he couldn’t see them beneath the sleeping bag. “But I’m not going to fight you on it.”

She could almost see the eyebrow he raised. “You’re not?”

“No, you quite possibly saved me from frostbite last night, so—“ A groan left her lips. “So, thank you, and I’m sorry for how we… woke up this morning.”

Beside her, Ben snorted quietly, the amused sound clashing oddly with the intimidating backdrop of the volcano. “I’m not.”

At this, her head finally snapped in his direction, her breath hitching as she found he was already looking at her. “What?”

“It was warm, I was comfortable, and I think you were, too.”

She looked away from him again. “I was.”

Ben hummed, sounding rather satisfied with that response as he shifted onto his side. “Look, I know we don’t always get along, but… whatever happens in the field, I don’t care.”

“This is not the field, this is in bed.”

“If that’s the case, then I still don’t understand the frosty attitude you’ve got this morning, Rey.” He did laugh this time. “Weren’t you the one offering intense forest hate sex last night?”

That sentence nearly made her choke on her own breath. “It was a joke, I was just making fun of you for offering to share a sleeping bag with me.” She inhaled shakily. “Ben, I just… I just wanted to make light of a weird situation, and making a sexual joke… it was out of line, and I’m sorry. I was freezing, I was miserable, and I know that’s no excuse, but I don’t mean to give you the impression that that’s something I want.”

Whether it was something she didn’t want, however, was another question entirely. 

“I wouldn’t mind it if it was,” he mumbled, and Rey froze, unsure that she’d even heard a word he just said. 

Shivering slightly, Rey chuckled half-heartedly. “I th-think we’re approaching a line neither of us is prepared to cross.”

The man lying beside her grunted a response, the sound providing more of an affirmation that he’d heard what she’d said rather than offering her any opinion on it. “It’s early,” he said, changing the subject away from the hate sex proposition. “What woke you up?”

Relief flooded her veins, causing the tension in her muscles to vacate her body for the first time since she’d woken that morning. “Earthquake. Ground was shaking.”

Hearing that, Ben unzipped the sleeping bag, and sat up. “Shit, we need to check the seismometers.”

“Fuck, you’re right,” she replied, a palm slamming into her forehead as she unzipped her side of the sleeping bag, and slid out beside him, both of them putting on their hiking boots in perfect sync. “I should’ve done it when it happened, but I got distracted by the fucking behemoth of a man pinning me to his chest.”

“Sorry,” Ben muttered, then he got up, and unzipped the front of the tent, letting the cool, moist Cascade air waft inside, and break apart the warm spell completely. “Come on, we’ve got work to do.”

As much as it pained her to admit it, Ben was right. With a groan, she crawled out of the tent behind him, closed it, and walked over to her own. On the way there, she glanced up at the van, watching as Ben shrugged on his own thick, black windbreaker, and opened the door, bending over as he climbed up into the white van to reveal a rather well rounded ass. This time, it was she who quirked an eyebrow, then she cried out as she almost tripped over the pole of her own tent. 

If Ben saw what had happened, she didn’t look to find out. She didn’t particularly want to know. Instead, she focused on getting into her tent, changing into completely different clothes once she was inside before joining her coworker in the van. 

When she walked in, he looked her up and down almost appreciatively as he held the reading’s from the seismometer in his hand. Rey blinked her surprise as she caught sight of him, too. His hair was ruffled from sleep, those dark waves sticking up in all sorts of crazy directions that she, for some god forsaken reason, found oddly charming. The jacket covered the wrinkled shirt he wore, but there was no mistaking the comfortable looking flannel pajama bottoms he wore. 

Perhaps the worst— best —part was the sleepy expression on his face as he yawned, causing her to do the same in turn. Both of them laughed, and he ran a hand through his hair, mussing the tresses even further than before. Fuck , why was that weirdly adorable? Something about the little details that composed him made the man she’d always just thought of as an inconvenient little shit seem softer, more human. 

It made a giant feel small. 

“Need something?” Ben asked, interrupting her thoughts. 

Rey shuddered, wincing internally at her own reaction. “Um, just the measurement.”

He snickered quietly to himself as he looked at the little shaky line on the paper before him, studying it carefully for a moment. “It’s weird, isn’t it?”

“What’s weird?”

“Seeing someone first thing in the morning,” he replied, then his gaze drifted from the seismograph. “It’s like you’re seeing a completely different person. They haven’t had time to prepare themselves for the day, to put on the facade they put on for everyone else. They’re just… them, a person in their most raw, natural form. It’s almost sort of…” He moved a bit closer to her, then she felt her breath catch as he lowered the seismograph. “Intimate, don’t you think?”

“I think a person is only in their most raw, natural form when they’re naked, Solo,” she said, then she reached forward, and took the seismograph in her hands, smirking at him like she’d accomplished some sort of victory as she studied it. 

Of course, her coworker was never one to let her—or anyone really—win a battle. “You make a good point, but unfortunately there’s only one way to find out which of us is right.”

“I’m not sure what you mean by that,” she replied with false innocence. “Care to elaborate?”

This time, it was Ben who was smirking as he leaned down to almost whisper his words to her. “I seem to recall something about wild forest hate sex from last night, and I seem to remember it coming from you.” He then stepped back, waiting patiently with slightly raised eyebrows for her reply. 

Rey’s lips parted, then she looked down at the seismograph and studied it for a moment before giving him an innocent smile. “It’s a four point two.”

Scoffing, Ben took the seismograph from her, and began to study it himself, giving Rey a few looks between each time he bowed his head before shaking his head. “Four point one.”

“It was definitely four point two.” She crossed her arms over her chest, then she started to say something else, when she heard voices talking outside the van, and a disappointed sigh escaped her lips. Another missed opportunity to kick Ben’s ass in an argument. “Sounds like Finn and Poe are awake. We should get going.”

Seeming to snap out of whatever odd spell had come between them, Ben nodded, and ran his hand through his hair again. “Yeah, we’ve uh, we’ve got that flight today.”

“Exactly,” she replied, then she opened the door to the van, and looked out over the campsite. Finn and Poe we’re stepping out of their tents with smiles on their faces as they walked toward one another and greeted each other with a hug. “Morning!”

Their heads snapped in her direction, and Poe’s grin lit up the sky itself as he gave her a wave. “Good morning!”

“God, how is he in such a good mood so early?” Ben asked from behind her, checking his watch as he stepped out onto the ground. “It’s barely seven, and it was freezing last night.”

“Tends to happen when you actually have a nice bone in your body.” Rey shrugged, then she bit her lip, eyes flickering briefly toward his chest before meeting his. “Or a soul.”

Ben’s eyes rolled back in his head. “And here I thought we were starting to get along.” 

The sound of his voice made her wince. Just like in every previous interaction they’d had beforehand, her coworker was right back to hating her guts and giving her the cold shoulder all the time. Every single step they took forward in their relationship just pushed them another three steps back, though she noticed that he’d been nicer to her for longer and longer periods of time as things went on. 

Whatever that meant, she didn’t want to think about. All she did want to put her mind to was the flight they’d be taking later that day. The volcano had fallen silent for the time being, but she knew it wasn’t anywhere close to done. The bastard mountain was going to roar until it’s throat was soar, and Mustafar had only just started to sing.

*

Before heading into town, the crew marked their red zone perimeter on the map with a marker, Poe and Ben arguing lightly over how far out to bring it on the North side for a minute until their coworkers pulled their heads out of their asses. Once the perimeter was established, the map was folded up, and discussions ran on who would stay behind, and who would man the camp while they were gone. 

Poe was going. That was a given since he was their pilot for the day’s flight, but Finn, Rey, and Ben had less use. One person needed to come on as a photographer, and perhaps a third could join, but other than that, someone had to stay behind and man the base. 

“We need more crew members,” Finn said as the discussion fell quiet, everyone involved trying desperately to avoid an argument. “More people need to be in the field.”

Poe nodded his agreement. “I think California’s sending some people our way soon. Boss said we’d have more people, especially since this thing is actively erupting near constantly.” He gestured to the momentarily silent mountain, then he glanced at the other three. “For now, I need two of you to come with me. One of us needs to stay behind and explain everything to the local government, and the other needs to join me in the sky.”

“I’m a shit photographer,” Finn replied, then he glanced at Ben and Rey. “But I can definitely do the talking if need be.”

Scratching at his head with one hand, Poe pointed at Ben and Rey with the other. “Which if you two is good at taking pictures? I can’t have these coming up blurry.”

“I am,” they said at the same time, then Rey glared at him. 

“Please, you were struggling to focus your god damn camera yesterday,” Ben protested, then he put his hands on his hips. “I had to give you advice.”

“You just thought my position was shitty, and I’ll have you know, it was just fine, thank you. I’d bet when we develop those photos, each and every one of mine will be completely in focus.” She was practically sneering at him as she stepped forward. “Besides, I’m not even sure you’d fit in a plane, you’re such a fucking giant.”

“Making fun of my height? Really? Are you a fucking child?”

“Maybe I wouldn’t be if I didn’t have to stoop to your level just to have a conversation with you.”

Guys, ” Poe growled, interrupting the argument before it could get too heated. “Stop it. We’ll do a coin toss for who’s going with Finn and I. Ben’s heads, Rey’s tails. Okay?”

Rey scoffed. “Why can’t I be heads?”

The question was, predictably, ignored. It was acknowledged only by a tiny smirk on Ben’s face that she wanted to punch right off as Poe fished a coin out of his back pocket. Both of them watched intently as he flicked it in the air, and the coin seemed to rotate in slow motion on the way up, then quickly on its way down until it landed on the back of their new coworker’s overturned hand, and he slammed his other palm over it. 

Poe pulled his hand away at a steady pace, revealing the tails side of a new penny shining in the sunlight. “Rey, you’re in.”

All Ben gave them in response was a groan as he walked away with his hands up, and she laughed at his retreating form before turning to look at Poe. “I bet you’re glad you’re not stuck with mister grumpy.”

“I think he’s probably more glad he’s not stuck with us,” Finn joked, causing all three of them to snicker as they watched Ben open the door to the Corellia department van, and step inside. The doors remained open in the aftermath, making her feel like she’d seen lightning that was too far away for her to hear the thunder. 

A small pang of guilt surged through her, but she quickly forced it down, turning her thoughts elsewhere as Poe began to talk more about the logistics of the day’s flight. She couldn’t be worrying about Ben and the second step backwards they’d taken that day. Not if she wanted to be half the geologist she usually was for the very, very important task she’d been assigned. 

Ben was going to have to wait. Right now, the volcano needed her a little more. 

*

The plane that she took off in a little more than an hour and a half later was a little Cessna with orange stripes painted on the sides. There were technically four seats, and if it weren’t for the tasks the other two members of their team still had to perform, she was certain the whole crew could’ve gone. 

A part of her still felt awful about how she’d teased Ben earlier. Had she taken it too far calling him out for his height, or was he just sensitive? The latter was evidently true about other instances of arguing between them, but she couldn’t quite tell if it applied here. That morning she’d woken up so comfortable and content in his arms, and when they’d even engaged in a little light flirting, she’d thought maybe, just maybe the rivalry between them was going to thaw, but then they’d gotten into that argument. 

The hatred between the two ran deep, but that morning had given her a tiny pinch of hope. They might just prove they were capable of surviving one another. 

“Rey, get your camera out, we’re gonna be over the mountain in a few minutes,” Poe warned, snapping the woman sitting beside him out of her stupor. 

Muttering a half-assed apology, she began digging through her bag to find her camera, pulling it out a few seconds later as the now quiet mountain came into view. The plane’s engine hummed in the background, causing her hands to shake as she focused the lens and held it up to her eye, taking a picture of the volcano as they approached. 

Already, she could see a difference between the classic, Mount Fuji-esque mountain she knew and the one that stood before her. Cracks ran along the sides of the summit, and the snow-caps at the very top had melted some, but not quite enough to cause violent lahars to careen down the slopes. A gray coat of ash covered the white snow as far as what she suspected was a thousand feet from the summit, possibly further in a smaller layer she couldn’t see. The trees nearest the tip of the mountain looked as though they were in dire need of water. Leaves were browning when they should’ve been growing, and pine trees were turning that shade of red which indicated they were at the end of their lives. 

“Gas,” she said as she took pictures of the dying trees. “Do you see that?”

Poe leaned forward over the steering column, and his face fell. “Shit… shit, shit, shit…”

“They’re being choked to death.” Rey shook her head. “We need to make sure no one goes up there at all, not even us, unless they’ve got an oxygen tank.”

“Agreed, I’ll radio Finn in a minute and tell him to add a perimeter around the base of the mountain,” her pilot replied, then he banked right, beginning a circle around the summit to allow Rey to get better pictures. “So if the trees are dying, what do you think we’re looking at?”

“Magma, close to the surface.” Rey took another couple of pictures, praying they were coming out alright as Poe guided the plane closer to the crater. “I mean, we knew that it was close, the damn thing’s spewing ash.”

“The ground’s covered in it,” Poe observed, then the interior of the crater came into view, and the breath left both of their lungs. “Holy shit…”

She didn’t even give herself time to process what she’d seen, Rey began taking pictures rapidly before she could become shocked by the sight of the deformed summit. Enormous crevices that definitely hadn’t been there before had appeared, and steam was rising steadily from each dark, gaping maw. It looked as if a giant bear had clawed at the mountain’s peak viciously, and torn the rock apart. 

The crater these features were found in was at least two hundred feet wide, dipping low beneath the plane as they flew over it, their shadow catching hauntingly on the steam and ash rising from the crevices. “You think it’s hot down there?” the man sitting beside her joked, but she could still hear the anxiety in his voice. 

Rey gave him a nervous laugh, then took more pictures, feeling more and more certain by the moment that whatever was happening beneath the soil on Mustafar was going to change life as the people there knew it. Hell, it was going to change life as she knew it, and that was frightening enough on its own. “The Romans named volcanoes after the god of fire,” she said, then she scoffed as she took one last picture of the crater. “They said that Vulcan sat in his forge of blazing heat, and later on the Christians described hell as a violent, horrible pit of fire, so maybe you’re right. Maybe hell is just what’s inside that mountain. Maybe that’s where all the legends got it from; a volcano.”

*

The three who had gone into Naboo earlier drove back in silence. Finn only spoke once to confirm that they had the assistance of the forestry service, and that they’d be speaking with members of a tree cutting crew the next morning to provide them insight into the areas in which they were able to work. Rey and Poe were both a bit tired and stunned by what they’d seen, and thus the ride home was largely silent. 

In her time working with volcanoes, she’d seen plenty of violence and narrowly escaped death a time or two, but that feeling in the pit of her stomach made her feel queasy, as if somehow this one would be worse than all the others. The mountains before her had just been test runs, and this was the real deal. 

She’d had a gut feeling something was wrong from the start, and that flight had only made her certain that whatever was going on would lead to death and destruction. 

The thoughts of all three passengers in the car turned to the morbid as they drove on in silence, reflecting on what they’d just seen. It wasn’t until they were approaching their campsite again that they finally heard something. That something was the sound of loud bass drums beating beneath an electric guitar while a singer’s voice echoed through the Cascades. 

Confusion caused her brows to furrow, then they relaxed as she sat back, and stared at the sight of Ben Solo sitting with his legs sticking out of the open door of their van. In one hand, he held a pen, and was writing in the log book propper up on his knee, and in the other, he held a smoking cigarette, lifting it to his lips leisurely every few seconds before blowing smoke up into the air. 

Rey rolled her eyes at the sight as Poe parked his department van near his and Finn’s tents, and then the three of them hopped out of it, and began walking toward the geologist currently blasting The Tubes’ Talk to Ya Later at top volume. What a petty choice in song, she thought, before realizing if she’d been the one cast out to stay at the base all day, she would’ve done the exact same thing. 

“Get any work done?” she asked as she approached him, leaving Poe and Finn behind to catch up with each other as the song changed to Van Halen’s Eruption. Someone thought they were clever. 

“She’s erupted twice since you radioed me to let me know you’d landed.” Ben took a drag off his cigarette, then blew the smoke purposefully in her direction. “Eight eruptions so far today.”

She nodded as she gestured for him to scoot over, then she sat down beside him. “Can I bum a cigarette off you?”

“I didn’t think you smoked.”

“Today, I do,” she replied, then Ben gave her a hesitant look before he closed the log book, and set it down on the grass beside his boot-covered feet. A sigh escaped him as he reached into his back pocket, and pulled out a pack of Marlboros before handing it to her. “Thanks.”

“Your lungs would disagree,” he said sarcastically, causing Rey to laugh as she pulled a cigarette from the pack, and handed it back to him, watching him pocket it before he touched the tip of his lit one to hers. He waited for it to catch before he pulled away, and took in another anxious drag as he looked up at the mountain. “How was your flight?”

“I’m amazed you’re not yelling about how mad you are that you didn’t get to go.”

“We declared a truce, didn’t we? I can yell when we get back to Corellia.” He blew smoke skyward, the smell nearly concealing the scent of the evergreens around them. “So how was your flight?”

Blinking her surprise, Rey put her own cigarette between her lips, sucking air that could rival Mustafar’s heat into her mouth as she thought of how to answer that question. “Terrifying.” She glanced over at him, surprised when she found his eyes full of concern. “There’s a crater up there now. It’s probably two hundred maybe two hundred fifty feet wide, and absolutely monstrous.”

“I can’t say I’m surprised.”

“Neither can I, but… something about seeing it in front of me was just-- it was confirmation of something I’d always feared.”

The breeze blew past them in the silence that followed, sending a chill down Rey’s spine that made her shiver visibly, and Ben looked at her like he actually cared about how she was feeling. Whatever that meant, she didn’t want to think about--she wasn’t ready to think about it. “You cold?”

“A bit chilly, yes.”

“Grab your coat. You might want to sleep in it tonight, too.”

“No more sleeping with you, then?” she asked, a cheeky grin lighting up her face as she looked at him, watching a pink blush creep up his cheeks. 

“I didn’t say that.” His eyes were full of mischief, and she felt another shiver unrelated to the cold rush through her as she stared into his dark irises. She’d heard somewhere that dilated pupils were a sign of arousal, but were his dilated from adjusting to the light after a cloud blocked the sun, or were they caused by desire?

She’d been joking about hate sex with him for the past day since they’d gotten there, but was Ben actually interested? It wasn’t like they had much better things to do out there aside from eat, sleep, and work, but she hadn’t actually thought Ben would be willing to go that far until… “What are you saying, then?”

“I’m saying I was cold last night, too, and I liked having someone around to warm me up, even if it was you.”

Taking a slow drag off her cigarette, Rey laughed lowly. “Was it just my warmth you liked, though? Or was it practically having my ass in your hand when you woke up?”

Ben said nothing, only acknowledging her words by raising his cigarette to his lips, then blowing smoke up to the sky a few seconds later with a rather suggestive look in his eyes. After a full minute went by, they turned their gazes on the volcano as they watched another eruption begin, the roar of it filling their ears a little bit after that. “This is going to be a long night, isn’t it?” 

She chuckled dryly as she looked out at Mount Mustafar, watching ash spew up into the atmosphere. “Ben, I think it’s going to be a long week. ” 

Both of them snickered quietly for a few seconds, then they fell quiet, listening to the sound of the rumbling volcano in the background as the sun began to set in the west. Time continued to pass in silence, then she heard Ben shift, and felt his eyes wrench away from the eruption in the distance before he let out a shaky breath, and said words she never thought she’d hear. “I think you may be right.”

 

Chapter Text

The days went by in a blur. The volcano looming over their campsite never ceased to erupt, sending occasional columns of ash into the air as it prepared for what they’d started to refer to as, “The Big One.” Each eruption made Rey more nervous than the last, and though she and Ben had never hesitated to find arguments in anything before, they certainly were now. They’d barely spoken about anything but how concerned they were for their safety or the work. 

By day five, it became clear to them that they’d be monitoring this mountain for a lot longer than a week. If she were being honest, she was starting to suspect they’d be there forever. The others hadn’t found that very funny when she’d cracked that joke by the fire. 

On day six, they got the call from Snoke that their stay was being extended for another two and they’d be rotating shifts with the people flying in from California the next day. Finn and Poe received a similar call not five minutes later from their boss.

All four of them sat around the fire that night feeling thoroughly numb from the news as they listened to the rumbling mountain in the background. It was alarming how quickly the eruptions had become white noise to Rey. Would she even be able to tell when the big one hit? She’d started to question her judgment out there, started to wonder if she was even capable of catching the precise moment in which Mustafar finally gave its great roar. 

“You know it’s getting serious when they’re starting to send in more and more people,” Finn said at the fire that night, poking it with a stick to reignite the flames. “This thing’s going to give me a heart attack before I turn thirty.”

Poe snorted, then patted his coworker’s shoulder as he watched the flames flicker against the darkness. “They’re just being cautious. This could still lead to nothing.”

At this, her coworker shook his head. “Increased earthquakes, those cracks in the crater getting bigger—you know they’re four hundred meters now, right?—, and did I mention the ash plume reportedly reached twenty thousand feet day before yesterday?” Ben crossed his arms over his chest. “I wouldn’t get your hopes up about this being ‘nothing,’ this thing’s not close to done with us.”

“Geez, Ben, lighten up, I was just trying to stay optimistic.” Poe flicked a bug off of his hand, then his gaze fell to the ground, and he hunched forward as he reached into the hot dog bag for another one. “It wouldn’t kill you to do the same.”

“There’s a difference between optimism and naivety.” 

“Yeah, and there’s also a difference between realism and being an asshole.”

“I’m not being an asshole, Poe, you’re just sensitive,” Ben snapped, and Rey realized she’d finally had enough.

“Ben, shut up,” Rey grumbled, then she stood up, and walked over to the hot dog bag to grab one for herself. “We can’t get any work done if we’re all in a panic because you decided that you were going to be the chief pessimist.”

“I’m being realistic. These things? We still barely understand them.” He turned to Finn, pointing an almost accusing finger at the other man. “How many times did you nearly die in Columbia?”

“That’s different.”

“Yeah, it is, 'cause this thing?” His finger pointed at the volcano, which was still casually spewing ash in the background. “I think it will be five hundred times worse.”

Both Rey and Finn fell silent, then the former of the two tossed aside her hot dog in a show of pure anger, and stood up so abruptly all three men still sitting by the fire jumped. She didn’t care about the other two, though. The only object capable of holding her stare at that moment was Ben. 

Whatever expression was hiding behind his eyed bordered on unreadable, making her hesitate for a moment before she shook her head at him. “Just when I was starting to think you weren’t such an asshole,” she muttered, then with a half-hearted scoff, Rey made her way from the fire. 

No one said a word as she made her retreat. Silence followed her as she walked past the tents, through the campsite, and into the woods. The moon was half full, but it was still bright enough to light her way as she walked on into the night, needing desperately to clear her head of all the testosterone that was keeping the fire burning bright. 

Poe and Finn were trying their best to help, but even they couldn’t do anything to diffuse the situation. The stress levels of all four scientists were at an all-time high. Ever since the flight over the crater, none of them had been able to breathe. 

In the beginning, she and Ben had spoken to each other at least a little bit before they sank into one of their sleeping bags every night. Now they hardly spoke a word. She thought she might’ve heard him say, “goodnight,” once, but a strong part of her suspected that it had all just been part of a dream. Both of them were scared half to death, and he could put on a brave face all he wanted. She’d known him long enough to know when he was scared. 

And just then at the fire? He’d been petrified. 

Rey rolled her eyes as she walked a little further, then propped an arm against a tree, leaning against it as she watched the volcano in the distance. The rising ash cloud was almost hypnotic. She wondered what was happening at the base of it, where the ash fell and began to accumulate, making the mountain grow taller and taller. What did it look like down there now?

Her pondering was interrupted by the sound of footsteps approaching at a running pace. Large feet belonging to only one man were hurriedly pushing past the forest floor in her direction, and she heard a familiar voice call out her name. 

Ben had followed her out here. 

Already her eyes were rolling back in her skull, but she didn’t turn to face him. She’d come out here to be alone. She wasn’t about to make conversation with him easier by starting it. 

“Rey!” God, had her name ever sounded more annoying? “Where are you?”

She continued to ignore him, but it wasn’t as if she were trying too hard to hide where she was. He’d find her eventually. So she let him keep on her trail, let him run until she heard his footsteps slow to a halt when he saw her but kept her silence until she sensed him standing at her side. 

“Why’d you run off?”

She didn’t acknowledge him, opting instead to keep staring at the ash cloud as it rose further and further into the atmosphere. 

“Rey…” His voice grew quiet, almost like he’d started to beg. “Please come back. It’s freezing out here.”

“It’s pretty cold back there, too,” she bit back, then she finally turned her eyes on him. “You were being a massive prick back there. You know that, right?”

“What because I dared to be realistic?” He scoffed as he crossed his arms over his chest. “Please. You didn’t have to take off running into the woods just cause you can’t handle a touch of reality.”

Rage rising in her chest, Rey charged at him, stepping forward as he stepped back until he slammed into the bark of a pine tree. “I can’t handle a touch of reality? Really? Who was it that saw this shit from the air?” She pressed a palm into his chest, pinning him to the tree as she sneered at him. “You think I can’t handle reality? I’ve seen more of it than you so far.” 

“I-I was referring to the whole situation, Rey, you have a naïve sense of hope that we’ll make it out of this with nothing wrong and…? I can already tell you’ll be disappointed and possibly severely injured if you’re wrong.”

“What now you think I don’t know what to do when one of these things goes off?” If she’d only been mad before, she was livid now. “You are such an asshole, Ben! A patronizing, piece of shit, arrogant asshole!”

“Enough!” he cried, then he wrenched her hand away from his chest, but didn’t quite let go of her wrist. “God I’m sick of you fucking yelling at me all the time! I’m not a bad person, but god, sometimes you make me want to be, Rey. Sometimes I wish I was an asshole so I could give you a piece of my mind—“

“What? And you don’t already? You’re awful to me—to everyone you meet!”

“I’m bad with words sometimes, that doesn’t make me a bad person. It just makes me—I don’t know it makes me—“

She prodded his chest with her free hand, stepping further into his space as she interrupted him. “A jerk.”

He shook his head but didn’t stop her approach. “No, I’m not.”

Closer. “You’re a jerk.”

“I’m really n—“

Close enough they were almost chest to chest. “An overgrown, vile, no good jer—“

He didn’t let her finish that sentence. Instead, he tugged on her free hand, pulling her closer before doing something that caught her off guard completely. 

Ben kissed her, and the world started spinning. 

The stars, the ash, the trees all became one. Everything blended into each other as suddenly she felt a jolt of electricity burst through her, and as if she’d somehow been brought to life, she started to kiss him back. 

It had been a while since she’d kissed anyone, but she hadn’t quite ever kissed anyone like this. The kiss wasn’t gentle. It wasn’t sweet and kind, it was raw and rough, and she thought she might’ve drawn blood as she took his bottom lip between her teeth, and dragged a moan from his throat. 

And god, if that sound didn’t shoot straight to her groin. She’d teased him several times now about hot forest hate sex, but never genuinely imagined it could happen. She’d never imagined how his hands would come up, and card themselves through her hair, how they’d tug on it just enough to pull her away for a second and allow him to use his hips to switch their positions so that she was the one being pinned against the tree. 

Neither of them had more than a second to breathe during the transition before she was on him again, gripping his skull in her hands as she pulled him tight against her, needing to feel every part of him against every part of her. It was a desire she’d never thought she’d experience, but suddenly every strand of the hatred she felt for him was burning, igniting some sort of fire that was both confusing and exciting. 

She’d had all this energy building and building and building inside of her, and suddenly the tension snapped, and… resulted in what was undoubtedly the best kiss of her entire life. 

One of Ben’s hands reached down, and she felt his fingers drift along the skin of her upper thigh as the other hand continued gripping her hair like it was his lifeline. Both of them gasped as he found his hold at her mid-thigh, causing them to pull away panting hard as their lungs fought to be filled with oxygen. 

Rey wrapped her arms around Ben’s neck, wondering if she’d be capable of standing on her own if she weren’t using him for support. Hell, would he be able to stand either if he weren’t holding onto her?

“What the fuck was that?” she breathed. “I can’t fucking stand you, and you can’t fucking stand me, so why in the hell—?”

Ben looked at her with wide-eyed terror. “Rey, I-I don’t-I don’t know I just-I wanted you to stop yelling at me, so I-”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah. I just wanted—”

“I don’t care what you wanted I just want you to stop talking and kiss me so I don’t have to listen to any more of your bull shit.”

He scoffed. “Fine by me,” he said, then he was kissing her again, wrapping his second arm around her waist, and pulling her flush against him. Adrenaline spiked in her veins as she was lifted from the ground, and pinned back against the tree, her legs coming up to wrap around his hips of their own accord as they kissed fiercely in the shadow of Mustafar. 

For as long as she could remember, she’d hated Ben Solo. She’d hated his stupid, smart ass face, that dumb, stupidly full mouth, and the arrogance with which he carried himself. But the way he kissed… there was nothing loathsome about that. He kissed like a man starved, like he’d been out in the desert without sustenance for weeks and she was the first oasis he’d come upon. 

What she loved about it the most, though, was the way it felt like a tug of war. One minute she had control, and the next minute he was driving her absolutely crazy, making her feel like she was going to come just from kissing him. Hell, given the way the friction of their jeans was making her feel, she thought she just might. 

Mischief ran through her thoughts as she realized that maybe she could—that maybe they could. Grinning into the kiss, Rey began to grind herself against him, moaning softly when she realized he’d grown hard because of her touch. She’d never given much thought to Ben’s cock. Sure, she reckoned because the man was a giraffe that it would be, well, big, but she’d never imagined—

“Rey, are you sure about this?” he asked suddenly, pulling away far too abruptly for his own good. “A kiss is one thing, but—”

She nodded. “Didn’t I promise you hate sex in the woods?”

“Well, I didn’t think you were serio—”

“Ben, we’re in the woods, and I hate you, let’s have sex.”

For a split second, he looked like she’d just told him the best news of his life, then his face fell, and his gaze was cast on the ground. “I-I don’t have a condom.”

“Then we’ll do it through our clothes, or something else, just—” She kissed him again, living for the sharp inhale he gave just before her lips slanted against his. “Stop talking.”

To his credit, Ben immediately ceased speaking, and she could’ve fist pumped in victory if she hadn’t been too focused on grinding against him. Well, she did as best she could considering his hips now had her ass pinned to the tree, the bark scratching up through her clothes in a way that should’ve been painful, but she could only manage to find exhilarating. 

He was thrusting her against the tree properly, each brush of his erection over her clit sending her head spinning as his kisses starved her of oxygen. With a tiny chuckle against her lips, he began to press his own against her neck, sending spikes of pleasure shooting through her entire body. “Oh, fuck,” she breathed, swearing violently as he dragged his kisses further down her neck, and she felt him suck her skin between his lips. 

That was going to leave a mark in the morning. Finn and Poe were never going to let her live that down. Hell, Ben wasn’t going to let her live that down. Still, she didn’t care. It felt so good she thought there was a chance she might’ve been floating or maybe dreaming. It didn’t feel real, but god, she hoped it was. 

Rey practically whimpered as she threaded her fingers back into his hair, gripping him tightly as she continued to grind fiercely against him. She wasn’t going to be the only one who walked away from this marked. By the time this was over, he’d be covered in her signature, her name written all over his skin so that the whole world knew precisely who did this to him. 

With a small cry, she yanked his head back from her neck, her skin stinging slightly in the aftermath before she began pressing open-mouthed kisses to the line of his jaw. Ben was shaking in her arms as she moved, his movements growing more erratic as she became aware that he was starting to get close. She hurried her pace, her kisses growing more intense as she found the perfect, most obvious spot to leave a mark on him, and she returned the little favor he’d given her. 

A choked sob escaped Ben, and she felt the hand at her thigh shift upward, causing the fabric of her shirt to rise as his hand moved to grip her ass. She cried out against his skin as his fingers squeezed her left cheek, as he gripped it tight and used it to grind against her a little harder, seeking that little extra friction that would push them both over the edge. 

Laughter fell from his lips, and in her eagerness to shut him up, Rey pulled his hair back again, then kissed him roughly, knocking the air from their lungs again as they rutted against each other. Both of them were crying out, whether it was swears or each other’s names, but the sounds were largely drowned out by the distant rumbling of the mountain. 

When Rey finally came, it was almost soundless. Her mouth fell open in a quiet gasp for air, and she held onto him a little more tightly, but when his name tumbled from her lips, she wondered if he could hear it. She was so out of breath she could hardly make a sound, could hardly do anything but continue riding out her orgasm. 

He finally came with a grunt just as she was coming down from her high, his grip on her ass near bruising as he whispered her name into her ear, and they finished their highs together. Eventually, his thrusts slowed to a stop, and both of them stared at each other in the pale moonlight, completely spent by what they’d just done in the shelter of the trees. 

Both of their chests were heaving, and Ben looked at her like he’d just found either the eighth wonder of the world or the tenth circle of hell, and she couldn’t tell just which of them he was thinking of. It was like they were under some kind of spell, some kind of hypnosis which prevented them from moving. 

Part of her thought she might be rooted in this exact spot forever, and another part was very, very okay with that. 

It would take something cosmic and powerful to break them apart, and where they were, that was entirely possible. The volcano chose that exact second to eject more debris into the atmosphere, and both of them finally snapped their heads in its direction, watching as a new, blackened-by-night spray of ash reached high into the night sky. 

Two jaws dropped as they watched, wondering quietly if this was it, if this was The Big One. But there was no shaking of the earth, there was barely even an added rumble. The mountain was just throwing up another warning. It was just giving them more attitude. 

Rey felt like it was mocking them at this point, and as Ben slowly lowered her back to the ground, she could feel it breaking the powerful spell they were under. Reality swam back into focus at a breakneck speed, and she suddenly realized the weight of what they’d just done. 

As she looked into his eyes again, he seemed to be realizing it, too. 

“Rey, what does this mean?” he asked, his voice so quiet and gentle, she almost forgot why she’d been so angry with him in the first place. 

“It means-It means we’ve found a new way to get that energy between us out,” she replied, then she pushed a finger into his chest, and moved past him, feeling shaky on her legs as she walked. “It doesn’t mean anything deeper than this, but… Ben if you’re alright with this, then let’s just—”

“Just… what?”

“Meet me out here again tomorrow night,” she told him, then she began to take steps backward in the direction of their campsite. “Same time, same place, but… bring a blanket.”

“A blanket?”

“And condoms.” She almost laughed at herself as she stopped walking, and crossed her arms over her chest. “Ben, I can’t stand to look at you half the time. I can’t stand to be around you. Whether you mean to or not, you act like an asshole nine times out of ten, and it grates on my nerves, but—but I haven’t come that hard in years.”

“Neither have I,” he admitted. “And I can’t stand you either, you don’t communicate, and you’re bossy, and your voice gets on my nerves sometimes, but—” He shrugged, then he stepped closer to her, reminding her again just how tall he was as he returned to her space. “Rey, it’s been a long time since I’ve felt this good, so… yeah, I’ll meet you here tomorrow night, and the night after that, and the night after that, and every night until that mountain blows its top, I’m going to make you come apart in my hands, on my cock, on my tongue… whatever it takes.”

The breath was knocked from her lungs. She didn’t know how to process those words, all she knew was that they created a dampness between her legs that had her itching to pin him to that tree again. “Ben.”                                          

“And I want you to do the same to me, I want that, Rey,” he told her, then he took a step back. “Starting tomorrow night, I’ll meet you here. Or wherever you want.”

Another teasing grin parted her lips, then she nodded. “Okay then, so that’s settled, um… we’re in my tent tonight, so— no funny business.”

He put his hands up defensively. “No funny business.”

“Then let’s get back to the fire. I threw away my hot dog and now I’m hungry,” she told him, then with that, she turned around, not giving him the option to say anything else as she abandoned the tree they’d just dry-humped against within an inch of their lives, and walked back to the campsite. 

It didn’t take long for her to hear his footsteps running up behind her to join the walk back, and she almost felt a wave of fondness rush over her. Something had shifted between them back there in the forest. It had felt as if they’d become a force of nature together, something more powerful than the volcano erupting in the background. 

They’d only ever hated each other before this, but now? She looked over to him as they walked, observing that his eyes were trained on the ground. They were watching the earth move under their feet, and Ben seemed utterly lost to it, to his own thoughts. Not that she could blame him, she was pretty much in the same boat herself. 

Whatever he was thinking about was a mystery, but Rey’s thoughts were clear. Even though hatred still ran vibrant and loud between them, something had changed. It was a tiny shift, barely even an idea, but it had already been planted firmly in their minds. They weren’t simply enemies any longer; what ran between them wasn’t just hatred. There was an undercurrent of something else lying beneath their loathing, and perhaps there always had been, they just hadn’t known it. 

She didn’t know what it was, but someday she would, and that someday was coming soon. Things were changing between herself and Ben, and she suspected by the time they returned to Corellia, the rivalry between them would be replaced completely by something else, and for once, she was eager to find out what that was.  

Chapter Text

In the morning, it took Rey a few seconds to remember what had happened in the woods that night. Given that she’d woken up next to Ben every day since they’d gotten there, having his arms around her was no surprise, but the erection pressed against her ass most certainly was.

At least, it was until she remembered how fucking good it felt to grind against it as he pressed her into a tree.

The memories made her shiver in his arms as she recalled the almost feral way in which they’d kissed. His hands had been everywhere, his lips drifting along a glorious path down the line of her throat. Her breathing caught just thinking about it, and though it had only been a few hours, she already wanted more.

Sex, she decided, was a way better outlet for her boiling hatred for Ben Solo than yelling at him.

Behind her, he stirred in his sleep, arms flexing around her as he groaned softly, and she felt his erection press just a little more against her ass. She barely stifled her laughter as she turned her head, and caught a glimpse of his sleeping face. He looked so peaceful considering how he was pressed against her so tightly, and part of her was happy at least one of them was getting rest while another wanted him to suffer.

The part of her that still hated him above everything else won out, and she reached back to tap his shoulder incessantly until his eyes opened, and he was glaring at her. “What the fuck, Rey?”

“Your cock’s pressing against my ass,” she said casually, though her voice was just as laced with sleep as his.

“Sorry,” he grumbled, then he retreated, scooting back slightly so his front wasn’t pressed right up against her back. It got rid of the feeling of being constantly poked in the ass, but it robbed her of his body heat, and she shivered slightly against the cold. “I swear I fell asleep facing away from you last night.”

“Shit happens when you sleep.” She shrugged, then rolled over onto her back. “Can’t always control it.” Then she giggled. “Or your cock, apparently.”

Ben hummed as he propped his head upon his elbow, then he smirked at her, and fuck, she knew what that stupid fucking face meant. “You didn’t seem to mind it last night.”

“No, I didn’t mind it last night, but that was a fluke.”

“Oh really?”

“Mmhmm.”

“Because…” He reached up, and she felt his fingers drifting along the skin of her neck where he’d left a bruise the night before. “I seem to remember…” The bastard leaned down to press a feather-light kiss there, and her whole body began to tremble. “The way you said my name, the way you asked me to just shut up and touch you?”

Her breath came in soft little gasps. “Yeah, I did.”

“And how’d it feel?” Warm air ghosted over the tip of her ear as he whispered into it, then he pressed another kiss to her skin. “How’d it feel when you came against me? When I came against you?”

Oh, he was good, but she was still pissed at him. She wasn’t about to let him take control of the morning. No, she still had a hell of a lot more pent up anger boiling inside of her, and so she laughed as she turned away from him. “Stop talking. We’re not fuck buddies doing this for fun, we’re rivals getting aggression out of our systems,” she reminded him, then she shoved gently at his shoulder. “Rollover and unzip your pants.”

Ben blinked at her, looking bewildered, but after a tiny shrug, he turned around, and did exactly what she said. He was an arrogant, annoying ass, but he knew how to take a fucking command at least. “What do you want me to do?”

She swallowed nervously, then she rolled over so that she was facing him and shifted until she was flush against his back, but she propped her head up on one elbow as she reached around in front of him, her fingers trailing lazily down the plane of his abdominal muscles. “I want you to lie still, don’t move, and don’t speak, cause if you do, you’ll ruin it.”

“What just be talki—?”

“Shh!” Rey’s fingers found his undone pant opening, and she slowly pushed them down until she was able to wrap her hand around his erection and—fuck—his reaction was immediate. His next intake of breath came in the form of a sharp hiss, and as she began to stroke up the length of it, his whole body shuddered against hers.

“Wha-what about you?” he asked, his voice a bit higher in pitch than usual. “You won’t get off this way.”

Fuck, was he being considerate? Did Ben seriously care if she came? The night before they’d come at almost the same time, and it hadn’t been a problem, but now she wondered what would’ve happened if they hadn’t. Would Ben have waited or switched to doing something else until she came? She had no idea. All she knew was that moment was about making him come as her name became the only coherent thing out of those full lips.

“We’ll worry about me later,” she told him as her thumb glided over his top, gathering a tiny drop of pre-come as she went, then she began to stroke him in earnest, causing a low grunt to escape him as he tried to contain himself. “You’ll need to be quiet, Finn and Poe are only fifty feet away.”

“Y-Yeah,” he breathed, then he turned his head into his pillow, and she heard a muffled—but still loud—moan.

Satisfaction flooded her veins as she pressed a kiss to his shoulder, wishing it was bare so she could mark him there too. There were a lot of things she wished she could do, but until they went into town to go on a grocery run—and meet with the California team—that wouldn’t be happening, no matter how desperately she wanted to feel him inside of her.

He felt fucking amazing in her hand. She wanted to know what he felt like everywhere, how he’d sound as he begged her to take him deeper into his mouth, how he’d bury his face in her neck as he fucked her properly and came inside her. As a man, she hated him, but his cock? She hated that a little less.

“Rey,” he whispered, breaking away from the pillow for a moment as he leaned into her, and she heard his breathing start growing short.

He was already a mess and she’d only been going for a couple of minutes. “I know, Ben, I know.”

“Go faster,” he choked out, and god those little pants that followed burned themselves into her memory as some of the hottest sounds she’d ever heard. She wanted to hear more of them, and so she picked up her pace, stroking him a little faster like he wanted, and he was swearing quietly under his breath.

They lasted like that for another minute, Rey stroking him at a swift pace as he writhed beneath her touch, as he practically whimpered from what she was doing to him. It became clear very quickly that he wasn’t going to last much longer, and so as she pressed another kiss a little higher up on Ben’s shoulder, she whispered, “Are you gonna come?”

“Yes.” His voice was so small, and it filled her with more pride than he could fathom to see him reduced to a mess like this. “I’m close, Rey, I’m so close.”

“Then do it,” she whispered, kissing him again. “I want you to come for me, Ben. I want you to come because of me. I w–“

She didn’t get to finish her sentence, he came right then and there with a sharp cry that he quickly stifled with his left hand, muffling the remaining sounds that escaped him as she continued to stroke his cock through his orgasm. “I’ve got you,” she whispered. “Just let go, Ben. Let go.”

And god, he did. Until the second he was completely spent, Ben was trembling beneath her touch. In the aftermath, both of them were breathing hard, and neither was capable of saying a word as Rey’s hand came up to fist itself in his shirt, and she gripped him tightly to keep herself grounded to reality as all the little noises he’d made ran through her head on a loop.

After a few more seconds, Ben rolled over onto his back, and she followed suit, both of them staring at the ceiling as they processed what had just gone down between them. “Fuck, Rey,” he breathed as he redid his pants zipper, and put himself back together. “I…”

There weren’t words, and she knew that just as well as he did. So they stared at the tent roof for a little while longer until Rey felt the need to get up and check on their great, rumbling mountain. She could feel Ben’s eyes on her as she went, especially when they drifted down to her ass. The little wiggle she gave him was innocent enough to look like an accident, but they both knew otherwise.

Mustafar was still steaming when she walked out, but it was quieter than it had been the day before. Maybe the mountain was finally quieting down, she thought but didn’t dare to hope. They’d yet to see it completely take a break so far.

Behind her, the tent doors unzipped, and a still red-cheeked Ben complete with what was definitely sex hair—even sticking up in places, she had to admit it was kind of hot—walked out to take a peek at their vicious monster. “She’s quiet today.”

“You shouldn’t have said that. The damn thing will go off at any second now,” she warned him. “And it’ll all be your fault.”

“Rey, a volcano doesn’t give a shit what I say about it.” He threw his hands up, then gestured to the fiery peak. “It’s a fucking volcano.”

She snorted in response as she looked at it, then she made her way over to the van without saying another word to him, finding she was unable to fight the grin that appeared when she realized he was following her. Apparently, he was as magnetically pulled to her as she was to him, and while she still somewhat loathed how drawn she was to him, it was nice to know she wasn’t alone.

“Where are you going?” Ben shouted after her, jogging lightly to catch up.

“Gotta get our food from the van, we need breakfast if we’re going into town today,” she told him as she opened the doors and stepped inside, then she turned around and blocked him from getting inside. “Can you go wake up Finn and Poe? We should ask them if they need anything from Naboo.”

He blinked at her in surprise. “You want me to come with you?”

“Why not? You know what brand of condom works best for you, and I don’t have a cock, so I’m certainly not paying for them.” The grin on her face became downright shit eating. “And we need to work on your people skills when we pick up the California team.”

“My people skills are fine, but I just—“ He scratched the back of his head. “I was hoping to avoid running into my family while I was here.”

And suddenly she could feel the tension—the angry kind—seeping back in the space between them. One of the things they’d argued about since setting out to monitor this fucking volcano was how he needed to visit the family he had living in the town of Naboo, and they’d been firmly on opposite sides of the argument the last time they’d had it. She had a feeling they’d be the same way if she started the argument this time, so she shrugged, and pretended it wasn’t a big deal. “If we see them; we see them if we don’t; we don’t. Now go ask our friends if they have anything to add to the grocery list.”

His jaw was slack, but he shrugged. “Okay, I’ll Um… Ask Finn and Poe what they need.”

With a tiny chuckle, she reached forward and patted him condescendingly—albeit almost affectionately—on the shoulder. “Good boy,” she said sarcastically, then the two set about on their separate tasks, and the morning got underway.

*

Half an hour later they were dressed for warmer weather—well, dressed like they normally were sans weatherproof jackets—driving through the woods that coated the Cascades as Fleetwood Mac’s Dreams drifted through the countryside thanks to Ben’s eight-track.

Unlike the last several drives they’d taken, this one passed in relative peace, but still in silence. Maybe it was because no one could be mad while Stevie Nicks was singing, or maybe it was because they’d rutted out some of their aggression, but for the first time since they’d met, Rey didn’t loathe being forced to share the space with him.

She didn’t even loathe it when the eight-track stopped in the middle of the song and skipped straight to Don’t Stop.

“Shit, sorry,” Ben muttered, then he leaned forward as if he were making a move to fix it until Rey rested a hand on top of his.

“I like this song.”

Her coworker’s eyes remained firmly on the winding road ahead, but he was smiling as he gave her a nod. “Yeah, me too.” Then the silence fell over them once more.

Peace had eluded them for the past week or so since they’d first set up their base eight miles to the northwestern flank of Mustafar, but it seemed to have finally found them that morning, and Rey had never been more delighted. For once, she was able to lean her head back against the seat, close her eyes, and just breathe in the cool, mountain air as it leaked in through the slightly open windows, and it felt nice.

“Can I ask you something?” Ben asked suddenly, interrupting the silence. “I just, I know what we said last night, but now that we’re not both in some crazy, post-coital haze, I want to know.” He turned onto a town road, and for the first time in several minutes, they were coasting straight. “This isn’t anything more than just hooking up, is it? You don’t—you don’t want anything else out of it?”

Anything else meant… that meant a serious relationship, didn’t it? It meant going on dates and making love instead of fucking, and it was intense and a whole lot more work than what they were doing now. So far they’d only set the ground rules of giving one another orgasms that were mind-blowing enough for them to forget how much they utterly loathed one another but was there more that Ben wanted from it?

Didn’t relationships involve being in love instead of sheer, burning hatred?

“Yeah, it’s just sex, Ben. We’ve got nothing to do up here but eat, sleep, take notes, and fuck.”

Both of them laughed at this, then he gripped the steering wheel a little more tightly. “Okay, I just wanted to ask.”

“Why?”

“Cause, I don’t know, things between us are far from perfect, but they’re better than they’ve ever been.” His lips shifted in that very specific way only Ben Solo could ever pull off as he swallowed, then he spared her a glance as he flicked on his turn signal. “Maybe it’s just cause we’re fucking it out of our systems, but, I don’t know I’ve started to think you’re not so bad.”

“I’d say the same, but I know if I do we’ll just be at each other’s throats in five minutes.”

“Fair enough.”

*

Naboo was fairly quiet when they arrived in front of the general store a few minutes after that. The only people alive were the ones working at the store, and a few early morning stragglers looking for the cure to the hangover they’d gotten from last night’s mistakes.

Ben had gone over to the “family planning” section of the store, while she shopped innocently for more hot dogs, s’mores supplies, and a bit more whiskey than was probably necessary. It was justified, though, she told herself. A new group was joining them that day. That meant more mouths to feed, and to intoxicate.

After a while, her coworker appeared beside her, winking subtly as he showed her the condoms resting beneath the hot dog buns in his basket. “Ta-da,” he mumbled sarcastically.

Her eyes nearly rolled back in her head. “Ben, would you mind not showing that off to everyone in public? Need I remind you that your family lives here?” She rested a palm against her thigh as she searched a shelf for a jar of pickles. “If we randomly run into them in town, do you want those to be the first thing they see?”

His cheeks turned bright pink, and he discreetly covered the contraband as he leaned back against the shelf on the opposite side of the aisle. “It’s not like I whipped them out and announced to the entire world that I intend to fuck you in the woods tonight.”

This time, it was her turn to blush as her hand wrapped around a pickle jar, and she deposited it into her basket. “You do?”

“Only if you want me to,” he replied, then as she turned around, he walked forward, resting a hand on the shelf behind her head as he looked down into her eyes. “Rey, what you did to me this morning in our tent? I—all I can think about is how badly I want to return the favor.”

Rey shivered in the aftermath of his words, and when she didn’t stop shivering, she almost frowned until she realized that the shaking was actually the earth’s doing. A small quake was causing them as well as the world around them to tremble, but neither of them moved away as they both pictured just what returning the favor meant. “Three-point eight?” she asked quietly.

He leaned in a little closer, and she could smell the forest on him. Ben smelled like pine needles and whatever else was in the Pacific Northwestern air, and it shouldn’t have been so intoxicating, but it was. “Three-point five, but don’t change the subject.” Then he swallowed, closing his eyes for a second before staring into hers. “I want to do for you what you did for me. I want to make you writhe beneath me, I want to hear those sweet little noises you make—“

“What are you saying?”

“I want to taste you, if that’s alright. I want to put my mouth on you and make you come,” he said bluntly, then he leaned in a little closer. “Then I’ll fuck you.”

Fuck. Ben was going to be the death of her. She could already tell. “Yeah, that’s fine,” she replied, attempting to keep some sort of nonchalance in her voice even as it rose in pitch. “See you in the woods tonight after dinner?”

“I look forward to it,” he promised her, then he backed away, and the two of them made their way toward the front of the store to check out.

*

“So where are they again?” Rey asked a few minutes later while they pumped the van with gas.

“I think they’re gonna drive up themselves,” he replied, then he put the pump away, and closed the cap over their tank. “Got a transmission while you were in the bathroom. They’re taking their rental and driving ahead.”

“Guess we probably could’ve loitered around a bit more, then,” Rey mumbled.

“Why would we loiter?”

“I don’t know, maybe we could grab a beer or something, get a drink, take a break from watching that fucking thing all day.”

Ben shifted uncomfortably, then he walked around to the driver’s side of the van, and opened the door. “Let’s just go.”

“Why? It’s a nice town,” Rey protested, but she followed suit, hopping into the van by his side as she wondered just why he was suddenly frowning. “We could stay awhile.”

His features turned into a grimace. “No, the longer we stay here, the more people might recognize me, and I’m not ready for that yet.” He started the van and pulled them back out onto the street, his grip tense on the steering wheel as they pulled out onto the road. “I-I shouldn’t tell you this, but my history with my parents? It isn’t just awkward, it’s rocky, really rocky, and I’m not ready to face them yet. Can you… can you understand that?”

Rey gave him a nod, then she swallowed her nerves, and made a decision she hoped she wouldn’t come to regret. “If it helps, I don’t have a great history with mine, either—“ if having no history with them at all counted— “and I should’ve been understanding about yours from the start. I’m-I’m sorry.”

Surprise crossed his face yet again that morning, but he just shrugged in response. “It’s fine, but I’m gonna demand sixty percent of that bottle we bought today as payment.”

“Oh, that’s not fair!” she cried, smacking his shoulder as she glared at him mockingly. “You’ve been a dick to me, too! I should get seventy percent of the bottle!”

She’d expected him to grumble something irritatedly or to look kind of annoyed, but the barest hint of a smile made itself known on his face instead. It seemed the two of them were nowhere near done with surprising each other that day. “We’ll just have to see which of us has better tolerance, then.”

Scoffing, Rey shook her head as Ben guided the van down the road to their campsite, then she leaned forward, and browsed through the eight-track collection he’d left in the backpack on the floor until she found something suitable. “You’re on,” she replied, then as the opening notes of Jackson Browne’s Runnin’ on Empty filled the van, she found herself grinning like a fool as she looked out the window.

The night before had sparked a change in the relationship between them, but this day? It was the first they’d gone so far without any sort of major argument transpiring between them, and it gave her hope. Maybe things wouldn’t always be so antagonistic between them. Maybe someday they’d be able to put aside their differences. Hell, maybe someday they’d be something more if things took a turn for the positive.

Once upon a time, the thought of dating Ben Solo would’ve made her want to throw up, but now? It almost sounded nice as a possibility for a future after they were done with Mustafar, like something she actually wanted, but she didn’t want to think about that too much just yet. She’d only just started to tolerate him, no one needed to be thinking about dating.

Still, she supposed only time would tell, and there was one thing Rey was good at above all else—she was phenomenal at waiting.

Chapter Text

They spent the remainder of the drive back just listening to music, and Rey couldn't help the smile that stayed plastered on her face as they pulled into their campsite to see another van parked next to Finn and Poe's. The only difference between it and the other two was that there was no campsite by its side. That was strange, but perhaps they just hadn't gotten around to unpacking yet.

Ben parked their van back in its old spot, then the two of them got out, and headed into the back of the van together to grab the groceries their friends had requested. As they opened the rear doors of the van, Rey couldn't help but feel like the whole thing had a tiny air of domesticity to it. The two of them getting bags of food out from the back of the van reminded her of the thoughts she'd been having about him just a few minutes earlier in the store, but she forced them from her mind.

Ben still managed to find tiny ways to piss her off, and until that ceased to a reasonable amount, she couldn't begin to consider him as anything more than a hate fuck.

As they brought the food bags over to the picnic table by Finn and Poe's campsite, she noticed they now had two women with them. The four were chatting animatedly as she and her coworker approached, and the moment they noticed them, she watched as four smiles were directed their way. "You be nice to them, you hear?" she joked to Ben, laughing as he huffed his breath in response. "I'm serious. You can't scare people off, we need all the help we can get."

"As long as they don't bother me, we'll be fine."

"You're unbelievable."

"Maybe so," he grumbled, then they arrived at the picnic table, and both of them gave a nod of acknowledgment to the two women standing before them. "So who are you?"

"I'm Rose, this is my sister, Paige," the shorter of the two said, holding out her hand as she continued smiling at Ben. "And you?"

"I'm Ben," he replied, reaching out to shake her hand before frowning and looking out at the campsite. "Where are your tents?"

"We're not staying here," Paige interrupted, stepping forward to offer Ben her hand as well. As he shook it, she shrugged. "We're setting up a second base five miles north of the northern flank. It's closer and more dangerous, but it may give us a better chance to observe the mountain."

"Okay, so what are you doing here?"

"Ben, this is what I meant by being nice," Rey muttered, patting his shoulder before she moved forward to offer the two sisters her hand. "I'm Rey, nice to meet you."

Rose gave her a small, awkward laugh as she shook her hand. "Nice to meet you, too. And don't worry about it. We've all dealt with worse."

"But what are you doing here if not setting up a campsite?"

"Introducing ourselves, connecting our radios, comparing data," Paige began, then she crossed her arms over her chest. "The list goes on and on. Long story short, we'll be working together but… a few miles apart."

Ben frowned as he looked at the picnic table, and Rey saw their map with the drawn on red zone was spread out on the wood, depicting everywhere they'd decreed unsafe. On one side of the mountain, she could see the spot their campsite was in, just inside the northern border of the mountain's potential wrath. Nearby, she saw a new dot, but something had changed on the map. Above each marker of an observation post, she could see R1 and R2 respectively, making her curious as to what—

"They stand for Rogue One and Rogue Two," Rose explained, pointing to each base on the map. "We named them while you were gone. Figure it'll be easier to address each other by base name than figure out who's on the line if something happens."

Both Rey and Ben nodded, then they straightened, and she cleared her throat. "Did any of you happen to get a measurement on the earthquake that happened while we were out? Ben and I were thinking three point five to three point seven but—"

"Three point six," Poe interrupted, then he cocked his head in the direction of his van. "We caught it on ours."

"Not a particularly strong quake, then."

"No, not at all."

"Speaking of quakes, we need to get to our site and set up our seismometers," Paige said suddenly, then she tapped her sister's arm. "You ready to go?"

"Yeah," she replied, then she nodded to the others. "Keep in touch, we'll see you around."

"Will do, thanks, guys." Then Poe dismissed them with a casual wave, and the Tico sister's made their way from the campsite.

They all watched as they started their van, which roared to life loudly enough to scare birds out of a nearby tree, then waited until the van's dust was the only thing in sight before Finn folded up the map, and allowed Ben and Rey to put down the groceries they were holding. "You guys find everything okay?"

"Yeah, perfectly," Ben mumbled, then he ran a hand through his hair. "Why are we already establishing a second base when we've only been here for a little more than a week?"

"This thing's been picking up in activity, or…" Poe scratched the back of his neck. "I don't know, it's not slowing down, and it's getting a bit scary, as I'm sure you've both noticed. That little eruption last night scared the shit out of me."

Rey felt a blush creep on her cheeks as she thought about that little eruption. She and Ben had only just finished rutting against each other, had only just come apart beneath one another's touch when the volcano had decided to throw ash thousands of feet into the air right before their eyes. They'd been far too lost in each other until that moment, too lost to notice the volcano until it had gone off.

"Scared us, too," Ben replied, and Rey only barely resisted smacking him.

"Yeah, I bet."

"What happened to you last night?" Finn asked. "You both left the fire and… you were gone for a while we started to get worried—"

Poe scoffed. "He started to get worried. I figured you were just having it out."

She quirked an eyebrow, very curious as to what the hell that meant. "What do you mean, ‘having it out?'"

"You argue a lot." The man in front of them shrugged. "Figured it was another argument."

Relief rushed through her, and Rey laughed nervously as she stepped back, and ran a hand through her hair. "Right, yeah, makes sense."

His face turned into a smirk. "What'd you think it meant?"

Before panic could settle back in, Ben cleared his throat and braced himself against the table. "We need to get back to work," he said gruffly, then he looked at the others. "What's the agenda for the rest of the day?"

*

They wound up spending the rest of the day doing more observation work. The mountain continued its bursts, averaging one an hour as usual, but Rey wasn't terribly focused on it. Sure, she was also working on documenting the time and length of each burst in her logbook, but she couldn't think about it too much when every waking thought she had was about taking Ben into the woods and having her way with him again.

When she thought about what he'd asked her about in the grocery store, though, he'd made it seem like he was going to have his way with her. If she were being honest, she didn't mind, she didn't mind one bit. What he'd promised sent her thoughts down paths that would make a hooker blush, and she found herself unable to wait for night to fall so she'd be able to take him into the woods and they could disappear beneath the firs and the mountain breeze.

As the hours passed, she watched him as he sat on a foldable chair with his camera out and pointed at the mountain. She could barely fight back a grin as she stole into the whiskey they'd bought at the store earlier, taking a swig as she watched his face contort with concentration as he aimed for just the right angle of the volcano. Once he was satisfied, he adjusted something on the camera, then positioned it for another shot, his arm muscles shifting beneath the thin, long-sleeved henley he was wearing as he leaned forward in his chair.

A part of her was hypnotized by the sight of him, but that same part was then caught off guard when he looked back at her after taking that second picture and gave her a shit-eating grin. "You like what you see?" he shouted to her, then his arms crossed over his chest.

She glared at him, then she gestured to the mountain in front of them. "Yeah, Mustafar's beautiful in the daytime," she assured him, laughing as Ben's face dropped just enough to let her know he was disappointed. "But the man taking pictures of it isn't half bad either, I guess."

Ben chuckled as he put down the camera, then made his way toward the van. "Are you flirting with me?"

"If it's the only way to get you into the trees, yes, but if it's not working I'm sure I can find something to yell at you about in the next thirty seconds," she replied, then as he braced himself against the doorframe, she grinned as she saw his darkened irises. "Because I am a little miffed that there wasn't time for me to come too this morning."

"You wanted to end things there if I recall correctly," he reminded her. "That's not my fault."

A groan left her lips as she stood, forcing him to take a few steps back from shock. "Would you just stop talking, follow me, and do what you're good at?"

Ben hummed his response, then he took a few steps back, and grabbed his jacket off the chair he'd been sitting in. Without saying another word, he quirked an eyebrow her way and began walking off toward the woods in the same direction they'd gone last night.

Taking a moment to gather her wits, Rey followed him, shoving her hands into her pockets as thoughts of what he was about to do to her popped into her head. Earlier he'd said he wanted to taste her; had all but announced his intentions to get down on his knees and put his mouth on her cunt, and it had made her nearly dizzy just to think about. Actually experiencing the real thing… she wasn't sure how she'd react, she was just grateful he was putting that stupid mouth of his to better use than talking.

As she passed by tree after tree and the campsite started to disappear behind her, she began to grow worried when she didn't see any signs of him. "Ben?" she called out, feeling somewhat as if she were in a horror movie, and some creature was about to jump out and kill her.

She took another cautious step forward, listening to the forest floor as it crunched beneath her feet, making her best attempt to hear any sign of Ben as she walked past another pine tree, and immediately screamed. The man in question jumped out from behind it just as she walked by, screaming "boo!" with a shit-eating grin on his face.

Her first instinct was to smack him on the arm, her palm slapping against the thick fabric of his jacket as she yelled every curse word she'd ever learned at him. "God damn it, Ben, you absolute ass!" But all he did was laugh, and that only pissed her off more. She was livid, and for a moment it felt exactly as it had last night, when she'd been yelling at him, pushing him to the brink, and he'd shut her up with the most intense kiss of her entire life.

"You should've seen the look on your face," he replied, crossing his arms over his chest as he stepped back, leading them both further into the woods.

"You can't act like a human being for five seconds, can you?" She scoffed as he continued backing up with every advance she made, both of them steadily making their way toward a tree. "You have to be… yourself."

Ben scoffed. "Really? You're starting an argument again? Just because I scared you? Are you that immature? You can't handle a little fright?"

"Oh, I'm immature?" she cried, then she reached forward, and shoved him the final few steps to the tree, his back impacting roughly enough with the bark to cause him to grunt. "I'm not the one who—"

"Shut up." His voice cut through her thoughts like a knife, and anything she was going to say after that immediately left her brain.

"What?"

"Isn't that what you usually want us to do? Don't talk, just…" He gestured vaguely. "Weren't we just calling this hate sex?"

He was right, and she knew he was right, but that didn't mean it pissed her off any less. All it did was steal the breath from her lungs as she walked the final few steps toward him until she was in his space, then she prodded a finger into his chest, and gave him a subtle nod. "Shut up." Then she tugged on his shirt and pulled him forward into a kiss.

Last time he'd initiated the kiss, but this time she was the one who took the lead, slipping a hand between his jacket and his waist to wrap an arm around Ben as she pulled him into her. He moaned softly as she pressed him back into the tree again, then her other hand came up to grab a fistful of his hair, ensuring the control remained hers as she kept him close.

She had other intentions for their time in the woods that day, but that wasn't going to stop her from enjoying kissing him so thoroughly she couldn't see straight. The man in front of her may have been terrible at using his mouth for talking, but one thing was becoming abundantly clear; he was one hell of a kisser.

He kissed her like a man starved, like she was the first thing he'd tasted in weeks. Even though they both wanted more than just this, he seemed perfectly content to just kiss her for hours on end, but they both knew the sun would set eventually, and she didn't want to make another midnight trek through the dark.

With his free hands, Ben reached down between them and undid the button of her jeans. She gasped into the kiss as he undid the zipper, then slipped his hand inside, his lips never parting from hers the entire time as his fingers descended further down until he had them right where she wanted them. It took all her focus to keep kissing him as she felt his fingers glide over her clit, circling it gently a few times before she finally made a soft little noise against his mouth.

Seeming satisfied, Ben broke the kiss, and his other arm came up to wrap around her waist before he whirled them around so that she was the one pressed up against the tree. A small cry left her lips as his began to press gently along the column of her throat, pausing to leave a mark near her pulse point on his way down. His fingers moved further down toward her entrance, teasing her as he pressed kisses over her fully clothed chest, dragging them over her stomach as he went.

"Fuck, Rey, you're so wet," he breathed, placing a kiss just above the waistband of her jeans. "Were you like this last night?" His breath was coming out in little pants as he moved his fingers away, then he grasped the denim in both hands before he began to pull it down over the swell of her ass, exposing her thighs to the cool mountain air. "Hmm? Was this what I would've felt if I'd been prepared?"

It took her a minute to gather herself, to remember what had even led to them being here in the first place. Just with words and a few touches alone, he'd rendered her into a fucking mess, and she hated him for it. "Wasn't it you who said ‘shut up,' first?" she asked him, earning herself a chuckle as his fingers slipped beneath the waistband of her underwear, and pulled those down, too.

The air was frigid against the apex of her thighs, causing her to shiver as Ben pulled them down until all the fabric covering her lower half was pooled at her ankles. Without hesitating, he moved on to the laces of her boot, only undoing her right one until he was able to take it off, and toss it aside before his attention was fully on her. Another shiver entirely unrelated to the cold rushed through Rey's body as his hand wrapped around her thigh, grasping it gently from beneath as he walked forward on his knees to bring himself closer to her.

Realizing what he intended to do, Rey helped him lift her thigh over his shoulder so that her heel was able to dig into his back, pulling him the final few inches forward as his hands gripped her hips firmly. Each finger dug a little into her skin, straddling that line between rough and gentle as he pulled himself in a little closer, looking tempted to say something as his eyes locked onto hers, and her breathing stopped for a second.

They were in broad daylight. The only darkness was brought about by the branches of the trees, by the slowly growing leaves of early spring, and yet none of those things were the source of the thing she could see in his eyes. His pupils were ever so slightly dilated as they looked at each other, both breathing heavily as they listened to the sounds of the forest around them. "Ben," she breathed, her chest heaving as her hands fisted more of his hair between her fingers. "Quit waiting, just do it."

When it came to this sort of thing, he always had been rather talented at taking demands. Ben leaned forward another few inches, then her head fell back against the bark as she felt his tongue dart out to lick a firm, wet stripe from her entrance to her clit. His name fell in the form of a sigh from her lips as he did it again, his tongue swirling around her clit before he sucked it into his mouth, and her heel dug an imprint into his back. Her mind went blank as he worked her with his mouth, the only words she was able to process were a series of swears that left her in quiet little whispers as she held him against her cunt, letting him taste her as she finally let go, swearing loudly enough for the entire Cascades to hear her.

They'd never been good communicators, but somehow when it came to this—he seemed to understand everything she wasn't able to tell him. He knew precisely when to move and where to move, he knew the pace, the rhythm, and the strokes she liked. Ben was utterly fantastic at this in a way she had a feeling she'd never get from anyone else. He had her wanting to scream in euphoria as he buried his tongue in her cunt, the memory of the two men working at their not too distant campsite being the only thing stopping her as she began to grind against his mouth.

When he briefly came up to breathe a few seconds later, she thought he looked wild. His hair was in disarray, his pupils were blown, and his lips were a shade of red that would make a hooker envious, but it was the sexiest she'd ever seen him look. Hell, it was the sexiest she'd ever seen anyone look, and as he went back in for more, it no longer struck her as odd that she found him attractive. She may have still hated him, may have wanted to punch him more than tell him he was someone she liked, but Ben was undeniably gorgeous.

He was especially so when he was making those quiet little noises against her cunt, when his soft little hums vibrated against her skin in a way that had her gasping his name against the tree. The more he did it, the closer she got, and as time passed, she could feel her legs turning to jello. Sometimes it felt like his hands on her hips was the only thing keeping her standing as his tongue swirled around her clit, rendering her completely fucking incoherent as she felt her orgasm building.

She could feel the tree bark boring a hole into her skull as her head fell back against it again, unintelligible sounds falling from her lips as she attempted to warn him that she was about to come, but failed to do so entirely. A second later, she came with a cry loud enough to alert anyone nearby to the fact that she was currently getting eaten out within an inch of her life against a tree, waves of pleasure rushing through her as Ben continued to eagerly stroke her with his tongue. Even as she continued to come against his mouth, he never stopped, never slowed down, or lost his enthusiasm. He just kept going, kept moving at exactly the same pace until she had to ask him—rather breathlessly—to stop. "Ben, I can't take it any—"

Luckily, he understood her the moment she said his name, and he pulled away from her cunt with a dazed expression on his face, his mouth limply staying open as he breathed about twice as hard as she was. Both of their chests were heaving as they stared at one another in the aftermath, completely lost in a post-coital haze even though only one of them had just come.

"Holy fucking shit," she breathed, running a hand through her hair and feeling utterly filthy when she found a fir tree leaf in her fingers. Flicking it to the ground, she removed her leg from around Ben's shoulder, and placed her sock covered foot gingerly on the ground. "You… I…"

He just smirked in response, then shrugged. "You don't have to say anything," he replied, standing up as he began to remove the large, thick jacket he was wearing. "We didn't start this to talk about it."

Those were her words, but it still felt a bit like a slap to the face to hear them said, even if he didn't mean them maliciously. Why it hurt to hear them, though, she didn't want to think about. She wasn't ready to think about it yet.

As she continued panting against the tree, Ben turned around, and laid his jacket on the ground, spreading it out as far as it would go before he turned around to face her. "You want to be on the ground, or should I?"

"What?"

"I'm not fucking you against that tree, the bark will tear your ass to shreds," he told her, and Rey damn near collapsed from laughter in the aftermath.

She instantly keeled over, laughing harder every time that sentence echoed helplessly through her brain. He'd made her laugh a couple of times before, but he'd never made her laugh harder than when he called to her mind the image of her own ass covered in scratches from tree bark. Once she recovered, though, she took advantage of how close he was to the ground as he continued spreading out the jacket to the best of his ability, and gave his shoulder a gentle shove. "That a good enough answer for you?"

The wind was knocked from his lungs a little as he impacted the ground, but he nodded, lifting his hips a little so he could reach into the back pocket of his jeans. She waited until he brought his hand back with a little foil packet in his hands, then she reached down to untie her other boot, kicking it off so it and her jeans fell with the first one before she walked over Ben, and straddled his upper thighs.

His eyes were on her as he took the packet between his teeth, and tore it open as she undid the button and zipper of his jeans. Grunting slightly as she pulled them down, Rey felt her heart rate spike again as she finally freed his cock, watching him shiver like she had when the cold air hit his bare skin. Tiny swears escaped his lips as he freed the condom from its confines, then she reached out a hand for it, waiting patiently until he dropped it into her palm before she said anything. "Let's make this even," she whispered, then she took his erection in her free hand—because of course he was already hard, of course he was—stroking him gently a few times before she slid the condom over him with little effort.

Ben swallowed nervously as she then crawled over him, positioning her entrance right over his cock as she watched his lower lip tremble with anticipation. "Rey…"

"Don't talk," she whispered, covering his lips with the pointer finger of one hand while she brought him to her cunt with the other. "Just let me fuck you."

His head fell back against the forest floor with a low groan as she slowly began to sink down onto him, taking him inside inch by inch as she watched his eyes close in bliss. She very nearly did the same thing; he felt amazing inside of her. He filled her in ways she hadn't ever been before, fit with her like it was something he'd been made to—she wasn't going to go there. That line of thinking was strictly forbidden in the relationship they had—according to her own internal rules—and had to be avoided at all costs. She wasn't going to actually fall for Ben.

Not out here.

After a few more seconds, she reached her limit, taking a few deep breaths as she adjusted to the feeling of having him sheathed inside of her, then she began to move, her hands splaying out on his broad chest for support as she rode him slowly at first. Ben's hands drifted up to rest on her hips again, fingers digging into her skin as if he was using her to tether himself to reality while he steadily became lost to pleasure.

The sounds he made were borderline intoxicating. Like she'd done when he'd gone down on her against the tree, he began to swear involuntarily, a curse leaving every other breath as he gasped under her touch. His little pants, little sharp intakes of air as she began to ride him faster sent her mind into a frenzy as she worked to memorize the cadence and rhythm of each one, wanting to burn them into her brain for the nights after they were done at Mustafar and she no longer had the privilege of hearing them daily.

She wanted to brand everything about the way Ben reacted to her into every crevice of her memory, to ensure she'd never forget as long as she lived the way he looked when he was lying beneath her on the forest floor. His lips were parted and swollen from what he'd just done to her, his cheeks were flushed, and there was a tiny head of sweat on his brow as she picked up her pace, and he began to thrust his hips up to meet her in the middle, driving himself in deeper so that she too was swearing to the hills. In his eyes she could see hints of mischief, wonder, and something else she couldn't read as she continued to observe him and his reaction to every little thing she did.

"God damn it, Rey," he breathed, then he seemed to gather himself enough to slip one of his hands between them, circling her clit with his thumb as she moved on top of him, causing her to moan in time with him as she prayed the sound was hidden beneath the birds chirping in the forest.

"Let go, Ben," she breathed, moving even faster as her hands slid up from his chest to his shoulders, and she descended to press a kiss to the base of his neck where his top had come down to expose his skin. "Let go."

"God," he breathed, as if he were pleading with her or maybe the forces that be. For what he was begging, she didn't know, but the crack in his voice, the way it broke and rose sharply in pitch sent a fresh wave of euphoria through her as she sucked a mark into his skin. "Rey, I'm going to–"

"Shut up and do it," she replied, gasping against his skin as his thumb moved a little bit faster with each of their thrusts. "Come for me, Ben."

He seemed to hold out for a few seconds longer, almost as if he were waiting for her to join him over the edge, but as she planted another open-mouthed kiss along the column of his throat, he finally came undone with a sharp cry. She could feel warmth inside of her as he came, the sensation a sharp contrast to the cool air as his words became completely incomprehensible, and at some point as she continued thrusting onto him, all she could hear was a breathless whisper of her name.

As he began to come down from his high, the combination of his little sounds and his thumb on her clit sent her falling over the precipice after him, both of them on the same collision course toward being grounded again as she came around his cock, causing him to end his climax with a choked sob.

In the aftermath, she still felt like the world was a blur. Reality hadn't settled in and it wouldn't for a little while yet, and so as she pulled away from his neck, she was still hypnotized by the whole encounter, still lost to the echoing memories of each little moan and whimper Ben had made under her touch. Her eyes wandered over him, taking in the leaves tangled in the waves of his hair, his half-hooded eyes, and his heaving chest before landing on his lips again.

"Rey," he whispered again, and before he could say anything else, she leaned down to kiss him, sealing her lips over his as a hand buried itself in his fir and pine needle covered hair.

She could taste herself on his mouth as her tongue came out to sweep along the line of his lower lip. Though she'd just come twice, she felt a fresh wave of dampness form between her thighs as she kissed him, letting herself enjoy the combined taste of them for a little bit longer before she pulled away, and placed her hands on either side of his head as she panted hard. "How… many… of… those… did… you… buy?"

"Twelve…" He was just as out of breath as she was, his own voice coming out in staccato beats as he struggled to speak, "It was a pack of twelve. Why?"

"Because…" She slowly climbed off of him, then grabbed her clothes off of the forest floor before shaking them out away from his still limp body. "We're going to need… a lot more…" she told him with a grin.

And if her pulse spiked again when he grinned back, she was going to blame it on the promise of more sex rather than what she was already starting to suspect it would soon become.

 

Chapter Text

The next few days passed in a blur. Snoke checked in with them at some point, informing them that if the volcano showed no signs of increasing activity within the week, he’d be pulling them from the field, but other than that, it was uneventful. The mountain continued its periodic eruptions, but none of them showed any signs of growing intensity. 

Still, there was no way this thing was over. Earthquakes they couldn’t even feel swarmed the ground, causing it to shake from the magma pushing the earth apart deep beneath their feet as it struggled to get up through the volcano’s interior. The ones they could feel were minor, though, and the only casualty of any of them was a cup of Ben’s coffee that spilled onto his lap. 

Rey had laughed like a hyena at him, but he’d only glowered at her and muttered something about changing his pants before he left the picnic table, and changed in his tent. 

Rose and Paige kept in regular contact, comparing and contrasting readings from their seismographs and other various observations as the days passed. One night, the two separate crews got together at the Rogue Two campsite to compare notes and wound up getting way more drunk than any of them had planned. 

The four of them had driven back with hangovers, but not regret. 

On the fourth day without any increased activity, it rained harder than it ever had before. Sure, it had misted on them and rained lightly since they’d arrived at the volcano--this was the Pacific Northwest, after all--but it hadn’t quite rained like the hand of god himself was smacking down on them with each drop. 

The second it had started thoroughly pouring, they’d thrown tarps over their tents, prayed for the best, and gone to work in their various vans to attempt to stay dry for as long as they could. This provided an excellent cover for Ben and Rey once they ran out of measurements to jot down and observations to take, and so they’d crawled into the back of the van between the seismometer and the radio and started taking off each other’s clothes. 

This time, he was on top of her. They were still wearing their shirts just in case Finn or Poe walked in on them and they needed to preserve some vague sense of modesty, but their lower halves were completely bare as Ben fucked her into the floor of the department van. The damned thing was undoubtedly shaking, giving away precisely what the two people inside were doing to anyone looking in, but she didn’t care, she couldn’t think about anything but how good this felt. 

He filled her perfectly, like he’d been made to fit with one person, and that was her. Every thrust he gave she felt like she saw stars as he hit places her fingers sometimes struggled to reach, and as he peppered kisses along the side of her neck, she started to think she wouldn’t last as long as him. One good thing about Ben, she’d learned, was that he excellent fucking stamina. 

Whispering something filthy against her neck, Ben propped himself up on his left arm, driving his cock in deeper as he began to rub her clit with his thumb. He may have been an asshole, but at least he was considerate, at least he cared whether she came or not. She’d had plenty of partners who hadn’t given a shit, who’d come and left her with a quick “thanks,” and a promise of more later that never came. 

Ben, though, made it his mission to make her come, almost as if he got off on it. If that was how he was going to be, she wasn’t going to stop him, but she would never admit how grateful she was. He’d never let her hear the end of it. 

“Go faster,” she breathed, and the bastard fucking laughed as he obeyed her command, thrusting just a little bit faster as he pulled away from her neck to just stare down at her for a moment, something unreadable appearing in his eyes. 

“You get off on it, don’t you?” he asked her, his deep voice slightly higher pitched than normal as he panted the words. “Bossing me around?”

A moan escaped her in response, then she let her head fall back, tapping the floor as she realized how close she was getting. “I love it,” she growled in response. “Because you cater to my every whim. You do everything I ask without protest, and you’re enthusiastic about it.” Her heels dug into his ass, thighs squeezing his hips tightly as she pulled him in tighter. “And I think you get off on being ordered around.” Burying a hand in his hair, she pulled him close, bringing his face inches from hers. “I think you love it, and a part of you always has. You like it when I yell at you, you like me when I’m mad, because it drives you crazy.”

Fuck you .”

“You are,” she reminded him, then he laughed, and increased the speed of his thrusts. “So don’t stop.”

An incoherent noise left his lips, then with one last brush of his thumb against her clit, Rey came around his cock, her back arching up into him as she gasped for air, feeling taken over by the waves of pleasure she felt. Soft little moans fell from her lips as she came down from her high, grasping desperately to any tether to reality she could find. 

Ben’s thrusts slowed as it slowly came to an end, but he didn’t stop completely, and she didn’t want him to. He felt good inside of her, the kind of good she never wanted to come to an end. She was drunk on him and the way he made her feel, and she’d never get enough. “Fuck, Ben,” she breathed, then she wrapped her hand around the back of his neck; and pulled him in for a searing kiss, one which stole the breath from her lungs as the world continued to spin. 

He was much softer than she was, and soon her kisses became slow, lazy, gentle to match his. She wasn’t sure why they were kissing like this, but she didn’t mind it. No kiss had ever made her feel so relaxed, like she didn’t have to put in effort to forget where she was, she simply ceased to remember. Thoughts like that made her start to wonder just what they were now, if they were still vicious enemies or if they were starting to become… something else. 

Eventually, he pulled away, and as she looked up into his eyes, they were hooded, and his pupils were dark with arousal. A vague part of her remembered he hadn’t come yet, and she used the legs that were still wrapped around his hips to dig him deeper again. Ben’s breath hitched as she moved, then he began moving with her, thrusting gently as if he was making love to her rather than—

She couldn’t think about that. She wouldn’t think about that. This was Ben, the coworker she hated with every fiber of her being, who’d hit her car and not apologized for it, who’d been her nemesis for years and— no —there was no way he wanted her like that. That was not—no. He was a good lay, and that was all this was; just a way to pass the time. 

Still, as she brought him to the edge, as he chased his orgasm, she started to think about how things had changed between them over the last two weeks. They’d gone from being unable to speak without arguing to slowly learning to talk amicably. They were almost friends now, and having him as her friend was a lot better than having him as an enemy. 

“Rey,” he whispered into her ear, then he gasped sharply as he came, and she began to stroke his hair as she fucked him through it. 

On top of her, he was quivering as he came down from his orgasm, and she pulled back to watch his lower lip tremble, to watch his eyes as they drifted over her like she wasn’t even real. Maybe whatever she’d done to him had been better than a fantasy, than his wildest dreams, and she could feel herself becoming aroused all over again at the thought of having that impact on him. 

Both of them were panting as he rolled off of her, and collapsed just beside the seismometer, rattling the needle slightly. 

“I think that was a one-point-two,” Ben joked, and she couldn’t help the laughter it pulled from her chest as the back of her hand smacked against the center of his, knocking the air from his lungs. 

“Fuck off,” she replied, then she let her gaze fall as he removed the condom they’d just used, and she grinned as he tied it up, then placed it into the waste bin they’d created out of an old cardboard box by his side. “We probably need to get more of those soon if we’re going to keep this up.”

He hummed his assent. “Yeah, probably,” he said, then he sat up, and grabbed for his pants, causing her to remember they had work they needed to be doing before she did the same. “Maybe if the rain lets up we can make a run into town? We’ve got to check in with the mayor on the evacuation plan status, too.”

“Right, yeah.” 

“And… I don’t know…” He propped an elbow on his knee, leaning his head against his palm as he looked at the floor. Somehow, it made him look ten years younger than he was, like a boy fresh out of college. “This thing doesn’t seem to be letting up. Maybe I should see my family. I’m sure they’ve figured out I’m up here by now. They know what I do.”

Rey blinked her surprise as she shucked on her jeans and underwear. So far, he had expressed pure fear and distaste when it came to the prospect of wanting to see his family, and to see him like this? Actually wanting to see them? It shocked her more than words could say. 

“I just figured, if there’s a risk of them losing their home, their lives… I don’t think the bad blood between us is bad enough for me to want things to end the way they did. I want them to get the hell out of town.” He grunted slightly as he slid his jeans over the subtle swell of his ass. “I don’t know why I’m telling you this, or why I still care.”

She gave him a tiny smile. “You’re human, Ben,” she told him, then she reached out in the space between them, her hand wavering slightly in the air before she rested it on his arm. “It’s what we do. We’re made to care a little too much.”

His eyes wandered down to where her hand touched his arm, and for a moment she froze, wondering if she’d made a bad judgment call and he hadn’t actually wanted her to touch him. They were barely friends, after all, in spite of how much time they spent getting one another off. Before she could move her hand away, though, he rested his over it, warmth spreading over her fingers like wildfire as he continued to stare at their now joined hands. 

For some reason, the temperature of her whole body rose up, making her face feel heated, like there was magma building up inside of her instead of the bastard mountain outside. All he was doing was touching her, and he’d arguably been doing so more intimately just a minute earlier, but this felt different. There was another energy, another feeling brought about by this touch, by how gentle it was, and it shocked her. 

They hadn’t even spoken to one another this kindly. 

“Thank you.” His voice broke the silence that had fallen over them, tore through the tension she’d started to feel as it rumbled in the humid air around them. “I think sometimes we forget that.”

“Yeah, we do,” she replied, then the atmosphere shifted again as they smiled at each other. 

At first, she wasn’t sure what it meant. They were grinning for once instead of scowling, and it was distracting, it pulled them both from reality for just a moment. It took her maybe thirty seconds to notice the needle on the seismometer was twitching again, and by the time she did notice, the ground was shaking enough that she felt the need to hold onto something. 

Both she and Ben gripped the edges of the van tightly, looking at one another in concern that stemmed at first from a need to know the other was aware of the situation and then became a look of fear. A stack of notebooks at the back end of the van fell over, collapsing into a chaotic heap as she watched, but no other damage seemed to be sustained over the next twenty seconds in which the ground continued to shake. 

As the quake subsided, a low rumble sounded in the distance, one which she knew could only have come from one source. With a small groan, Rey pushed herself up onto her knees, and turned around to face the window, wiping hurriedly at the fog she and Ben’s… hatred… had accumulated there. 

Outside, though she could barely see, the volcano was awake. Fresh steam and ash spewed into the air, a slightly darker gray than the clouds that poured on them from above. Another minor eruption had roared to life, but there was something different about this one already that had Rey feeling uneasy, and as she looked back at Ben, she could tell that whatever felt off about this eruption, he’d felt it, too. 

“Should we…?” she asked, gesturing outside. 

He shook his head. “Not yet, we should probably get this down in the logbooks, and I’ll radio Corellia about this.” With another exasperated sigh, he ran a hand through his hair, and stared out at the ash column that was slowly rising from the crater through the thick sheets of rain. “We’re going to want to monitor the pH levels of this rain.”

“No kidding,” Rey replied. “Did you want to push back our run into town, then?”

“No. Let’s just get some pictures, write down some notes, then we’ll go, yeah?”

One of the corners of her mouth twitched up, and she bowed her head slightly in acknowledgment. “Yeah, sounds good.”

“It’s weird isn’t it?”

“What’s weird.”

“Us. Talking like this, being…” He gestured between them, then he almost laughed. “Never mind.”

“What?”

His head fell back against the wall of the van, and she watched his eyes shut as he seemed to think through what he was going to say next. “Being friendly, I guess. I don’t know, maybe it’s because you’re one of three people I can talk to right now or what, but…”

Once again, Rey found herself struck with the urge to touch him, but she resisted, instead opting to sit on her hands as she nodded, and tried to assure him verbally that she understood what he meant. “Things have changed. I think close proximity has something to do with it. We can’t run away from our problems or…” She gestured vaguely between them. “Pretend the other person doesn’t exist.”

“Sounds about right.”

“And I’ll be honest, it’s a lot more fun than hating you,” she admitted, picking casually at a stray thread of her jeans as she turned her gaze on the ash cloud slowly forming outside. “I don’t know if we’re friends yet, but you’re no longer on my shit list, Solo.”

“Thanks?” he asked, his voice lilting up with a tinge of confusion. 

“You’re welcome,” she replied, then she finally turned around to meet his gaze, and though the sun wasn’t shining, she swore she caught a sliver of it in his smile as he looked at her. 

Things were really changing between them, weren’t they? That hatred, that ice that had built a wall between them was slowly beginning to melt, its harsh edges fading into something softer. It had once been impossible, but slowly, surely over the last two weeks, she’d started to feel it, to feel something bigger than what had once felt like a clear cut rivalry. 

She’d been having thoughts about them becoming more than this for days now, but in the wake of what he’d admitted, she started to wonder if maybe… just maybe… that was actually going to be a possibility. 

When they finally went home, when she and Ben finally went back to sleeping in their own beds, in their air-conditioned apartments, what would life be like? Would they know how to cope when they no longer had to huddle together for warmth? Would they be able to adjust easily once the volcano either went off or quieted down, and get back to life as they knew it?

She could picture their lives after the mountain blew up already, like it was something out of a movie. They’d go back to living separately, to being just coworkers, but maybe now they’d have witty banter or exchange smiles instead of sneers. 

But would that be enough? As they grabbed their logbooks out of the back of the van, and Ben began to take pictures with his camera, she began to wonder if just going back to work as friends would satisfy her, and slowly began to realize--though already she denied it even as the thought came into her brain--that it most definitely would not. 

The thought continued to haunt her as they logged the eruption, as they finished their work, and Ben soon braved the rain to let Finn and Poe know that they’d be going into town for a grocery run and ask them if they needed anything. By the time he got back to the van and the engine roared to life, she was thoroughly trapped in her own mind, in her own realization that the feelings she was developing for him were astonishingly real. 

She just had to hope that the danger posed by the job they were working didn’t wipe them out before she found the courage to tell him, or worse, before she had the chance to figure out if he felt the same. 

 

Chapter Text

The grocery run was surprisingly short. Since they’d just gone days ago, their supplies weren’t desperately depleted yet, and they only needed to get another thing of whiskey, some groceries for Finn and Poe, a pack of cigarettes, and of course, the condoms. This time they’d grabbed two packs, uncertain whether they’d actually use them all or not in the event that the volcano stopped erupting and went back to being dormant and they’d have to leave, but she figured they were better safe than sorry.

After all, the cashier was already giving them weird looks just for having come in for condoms twice in a week. She must’ve thought they were sex addicts, but no, they were just going to be here a while. 

A part of Rey thought the time he took browsing the aisles of the general store was just a way of stalling. Yes, they were out there to see his family, but that didn’t make this any easier for him. She’d never had a family to speak to, not really, and so she had no idea what this was like, but… maybe she could at least help him with this now that they weren’t enemies anymore. 

When they eventually walked out of the general store, his expression was unreadable--mostly neutral. Tiny cracks of some sort of anxiety were slipping through, but overall he maintained an air of casualty as they walked out into the parking lot, and unloaded their things in the back of the van. Concern filled her, which was never something she thought she’d feel for Ben Solo of all people, but here she was. “Are you okay?”

“I’m fine,” he answered tritely, like he wasn’t fine at all. 

In the background, the volcano rumbled, filling the silence between them as he shut the trunk of the van, and causing another worry to start to build deep within her soul. It had been erupting for well over an hour now, and most of its eruptions only lasted half that before they ceased. Of course, they always started up again just a little while later, but they were always shorter than this. An uneasy feeling settled into the pit of her stomach, and she sighed as she walked around to the passenger side of the van, and they both hopped in. 

“Do you want to drop me off at the campsite first before you do this?” she asked, looking down at the ground when she felt his eyes on her. “I know we’re not exactly friends yet.”

After a few more seconds, she looked up at him, then caught sight of his trembling fingers, and opened the car door. “Get out, I’m driving.”

“What?” she heard him ask as she walked around to the other side, and opened the driver’s side door. 

“You heard me. Get a move on,” she told him, then she rolled her eyes as he didn’t even bother getting out of the car, and instead scooted over to the passenger side, his legs folding up awkwardly as he shifted over the space between seats. “You’re such a child.”

“Shut up.”

Snorting quietly, Rey put the van into reverse and pulled them out of the space. “Tell me where I’m going, then I’m gonna park by the lake, and I’ll wait for you there.”

He gave her a surprised look, but didn’t protest as he told her to take the first left out of the parking lot and head straight. From there, they journeyed down an old, worn down country road, which wasn’t exactly uncommon around there, but it still stood out to Rey since Ben had been doing the bulk of the driving while they’d been up there. She’d been sitting shotgun, she hadn’t had to stare at the road, and now she was staring at everything. 

The trees seemed greener here, this far away from Corellia, the overcast sky making the evergreen shine against the gray even as her windshield wipers had to fight the rain to grant her such a view. Beside her, she could see Ben was appreciating it, too out of the corner of his eye, both of them marveling at the beauty of the little town that would soon be wiped out by pyroclastic flows and lahars. At least, it would if the mountain decided to finally explode. 

Neither of them spoke as the time passed, both unsure of what to say, or what to do as Rey drove on down the road on the side of Naboo Lake, watching the gloomy sky ripple on the water. The silence wasn’t content, but there wasn’t anything that either of them could say right then. There wasn’t a single word. 

“It’s on the right in about a quarter of a mile,” Ben said eventually, then he pointed ahead of them, where the street was finally coming to an end just by the lake, just by somewhere Rey could park the van and wait for him inside. Perfect. “That red one with the back deck.”

Soon enough, a cute, two-story house with an equally colorful back deck appeared in front of them, the color standing out starkly against the overall cool tones cast on it by the sky. Little decorations of a softer version of the color lined the windows, rocking chairs sat out front, and just beyond the front door, an auburn colored golden retriever sat with its ears quirked as it observed the strange van’s approach. 

“Who’s that?” Rey asked, unable to help the smile that rose to her face upon seeing the dog. 

“Chewie,” her coworker answered, and even he couldn’t fight back a grin as his eyes found the retriever. “The world’s best dog.”

“Really?”

“Probably the only thing worth saving in this whole town,” he muttered, a hint of bitterness creeping into his voice again as Rey brought the car to a walking speed at the end of the street, and pulled off into a little curve in the road. 

“Time’s up.” She patted his shoulder, then she gestured to the house. “Talk to them.”

Ben’s breath caught in his throat, and he looked over at her with a slightly shaky turn of his head. “I don’t know if I can.”

She didn’t know what compelled her to do it, but before she could stop herself, she took his face in her hands and inhaled deeply. “You can. Look, I know I’m probably the last person in the world you want to be getting advice from, but I promise you, you can do this. They’re your parents, Ben, and the town they live in might be blown sky-high any day now.” Shifting in her seat so she was facing him full-on, she moved a little bit closer. “You can do this.”

Shock crossed his features, but he didn’t protest. Instead, he rested a hand over one of hers, squeezing it gently as the corner of his mouth twitched up before he removed himself from her grasp, and got out of the van. She followed suit, but as she walked around to head in the direction of Lake Naboo, Ben made his way to the house with the golden retriever now standing at alert in front of it. 

Pebbles crunched beneath her feet as she walked out onto the beach but she barely noticed them, she was too busy watching Ben approach the dog that was waiting on the front porch, then smiling as he began to wag his tail and whine delightedly. The dog seemed a bit on the older side, but he still jumped up to greet his family, paws landing solidly on her coworker’s abdomen as she laughed at him, watching as he completely melted around the sweet creature. 

Ben around people was a grumpy, eighty year old man in a thirty year old’s body, but Ben around dogs was a young boy whose voice rose in pitch and whose entire being lit up with sheer joy. His hands buried themselves in the dog’s fur as he petted it, and he planted a sweet little kiss to the top of its head as he laughed excitedly. 

It was thrilling to watch him like that, to see another side to the bitter, angry man she’d known. She’d gotten glimpses of his vulnerability through the times they’d spent together, but she’d never imagined he could be this soft. He was sweet with this dog, making her think he could be sweet with more than just animals as she walked further out into the beach, and stood at the water’s edge. 

The front door of the house opened, and she turned her gaze away from Ben just as the tiny little waves began to lap at her feet. Sounds of distant conversation entered her ears, but she ignored them, turning instead to the further distant rumbling of Mustafar.

It had been more than an hour, nearly two since it started erupting continuously, making Rey nervous that this could possibly be the big one. Part of her was tempted to tell Finn to put the town on alert and send everyone packing, but the eruption hadn’t gained steam. It was as if the volcano was alleviating some of the massive pressure that was building within its magma chamber. 

There had been no increased earthquake activity, no harmonic tremors, and the rates of uplift on the mountain’s slopes hadn’t quite increased yet, but still it made her uneasy. The mountain could go off anywhere from a day to a month from that very second, and that was terrifying. The unpredictability of the job was terrifying in cases like this, but someone had to do it. 

Some poor, brave or stupid fuck had to have the balls to study these things, to try and understand them. She supposed she was one of them, and so was Ben. So were Finn, Poe, Rose, and Paige. 

Sighing greatly, Rey bent down and picked up a rounded pebble at her feet, observing how perfectly ovular it was as she twisted it around in her hand. Thousands or even millions of years had taken this rock on a journey to where it stood now, shaping it into the thing it was in the modern-day. Erosion had eaten away at its original form as it tumbled down mountainsides or wafted down valleys in rivers. It had been so deformed by its journey, she’d likely never be able to tell what it was exactly through the naked eye, but instead through an intensive study under a microscope. It would take her far too long to understand even a seemingly simple rock as this. 

But that was just what the job was; a lot of guesswork and a lot of proving conclusions thought to be right wrong further down the line when something else was discovered. She suspected this volcano would prove the same, that it would tell her so many stories that weren’t quite the same as what she’d heard before. This eruption was going to change science as she knew it, change the field of volcanology and the broader world of geology, and it was utterly terrifying in just about every sense of the word.

Looking down at the pebble in her hand, she held it low at her waist, eyeing the tiny rippling waves of the lake before her as she prepared to skip it across the waiting water. With a small grunt, she tossed the rock, watching it as it bounced along the surface thrice before it sank into the depths with a little PLUNK!

She watched the ripples move through the water, cutting into the perfectly still reflection of Mustafar in the lake’s glassy surface. Heart racing a little faster, she bent down to grab another pebble, though this one looked more like a piece of volcanic debris, an old clustering of chaotic material welded together by the mud of an old lahar. She looked up at the mountain, which couldn’t have been more than fifteen or twenty miles away from here, and felt a shiver run through her body. 

If the old lahar deposits could be found here, then how long would it take the lahar that would inevitably result from this eruption to reach this house? To sweep it, Ben’s parents, and that sweet dog he’d greeted so adoringly away into its destruction?

That was something else she didn’t want to think about it, so she tossed the conglomerate piece of shit into the lake, watching it skip only two times over the surface before it splashed beneath the ripples of the first rock. She then spared a glance at the red house Ben had walked into, watching silhouettes of three people as they moved about what she could only assume was a living room, and continuing to watch them for the next several minutes. 

How was it going in there? Was Ben actually speaking with them or was he just arguing? She could only hope he was making some sort of progress in there and not just rehashing whatever old drama was between them. 

Hours seemed to pass after that, and at some point, the rain, which had turned into a light mist at that point, ceased completely, and there was nothing but clouds overhead in the overcast sky. She spent some time waiting for the sun to come out, but it never did, and she shouldn’t have expected it to, given they were in the Pacific Northwest, but still, she had expectations. 

A little while later, she heard the front door of the house open, and out came that golden retriever, barking happily as it ran out from the house, past the street, and onto the beach. Rey couldn’t help the smile that appeared on her face as it approached her, and she bent down, holding out a hand for it to sniff as he came up with his tail wagging. “Hello there,” she said softly as his wet nose brushed her fingertips, and she heard him sniff quietly before he butted his head against the back of her hand, and allowed her to pet him properly. 

Rey laughed involuntarily as she scratched him behind one of his floppy, soft ears and the dog gave a small, delighted groan as he leaned into it, making her feel as if she was already loved by this gentle giant of a retriever. She looked up at the house again, curious to see why he’d been released, and looked up to see the three Solos staring at her with amused expressions on their faces. 

The first one she recognized because he was Ben, but she’d never seen him smile like that, like he was seeing the sun after years in the dark. Whatever that meant, she didn’t want to think about it, and so she turned her gaze on the older couple behind him, and found herself struck by just how much Ben resembled his parents. 

He looked so much like them both it was almost unsettling. He was the perfect combination of the small, intense but sweet looking woman on his left and the aloof, smirking man on his right, and Rey nearly did a double take looking between him and his father. It was like looking at Ben from the future. 

“This Rey?” His mother asked, and she became aware that they must’ve talked about her while they were in there, that Ben had spoken about her to his parents, and not in a negative light either if the smiles in their eyes were anything to go by. 

The situation suddenly felt much more intimate. They were his parents, she and Ben were barely friends, and she’d just had sex with him a little under two hours prior, and she was meeting his fucking parents. This felt like it was some sort of relationship thing. Logically, he’d probably just told them his coworker was out there, and they’d just wanted to meet her, but her brain had done the leaps and bounds ahead of logic, and so she was panicking internally. 

“This is Rey,” Ben replied, and fuck, was he blushing? It had to be the cool, spring air, right? Ben was not blushing because of her. Definitely not. No way. “She’s the other geologist Snoke sent with me from Corellia.”

“Hi,” she said awkwardly, slowly rising to her feet as the dog--Chewie--ran back to his parents. Looking at Ben, she tried to gather her thoughts. “I take it things went well?”

He nodded. “Yeah, about as well as they could.”

“Ignore him,” Ben’s father said, stepping forward with his hand extended. “I’m Han, he’s a moron.”

Rey laughed, feeling slightly at ease as she stepped forward, and shook his hand. “I think we’re in agreement.” She shot an apologetic look at Ben, but he was looking at the ground with that blush still on his cheeks and his feet shuffling awkwardly in the sand and pebbles. “It’s nice to meet you.”

She stepped away from Han, and moved on to Ben’s mother. “I’m Leia.”

The name suited her, Rey thought as she shook her hand. “Nice to meet you, too.” She then turned to Ben, standing in front of him as she released his mother’s hand. “Everything okay?”

“Yeah, it’s fine,” he promised her, then he gestured to his parents again. “I just mentioned I had my coworker with me, and they wanted to meet you.”

“Just a coworker, huh?” Han asked, and Ben turned visibly pale. 

“Just a coworker, dad.” But the look on Ben’s face, the tremble of his lower lip as he spoke made her think that maybe he was telling a lie, and Rey’s heart started to race. 

Rey nodded, hoping that by butting in, she might’ve been able to ease the tension that was clearly present in her coworker’s shoulders. “Yeah, we’ve had a long standing rivalry at work, I assure you. We’re just coworkers. We’re just here to monitor that volcano over there.”

Ben’s parents’ eyes turned worriedly in the direction of Mustafar, then his mother crossed her arms over her chest. “My son’s worried sick about us, says we should turn tail and run.” 

“You should. The whole town should, but we’re not one hundred percent sure yet--”

His mother cut him off with a glare, and looked at Rey. “The town’s already on alert, and your boys put us in the red zone, so what’s your hopefully less biased opinion?”

“Honestly? I think the whole town should be gone already,” she said, gesturing back to the mountain. “But that’s an expensive evacuation to get underway, and it’s a lot of lives to uproot for what could be nothing. We’re still at the mountain watching for signs, but I’d wait until we know more. I mean, be ready to leave at a moment’s notice, have an emergency bag packed, but I wouldn’t leave just yet.”

“Rey,” Ben protested, then she held up a finger to his lips. 

“We don’t know how long we have until she goes off, Ben, let’s give it a little more time.” She removed her hand from his mouth, trying to ignore how soft his lips were, how badly she wanted to kiss him as she stepped back, and put her hands on her hips. “We’ll be fine.”

A hesitant look crossed his face, then he slowly nodded. “Okay,” he said, then he stepped back, and she watched his mouth shift for a second like he wanted to say something else before thinking better of it, and instead he reached down to pet Chewie. 

“Well, that’s good to hear,” Han replied, resting a hand on his wife’s shoulder. “Does this mean you’ve changed your mind about staying for dinner?”

Rey blinked, looking between Ben and his parents. They’d been invited for dinner? Fuck, she would’ve loved to have had dinner with his family. She wanted to eat something that wasn’t just hot dogs and fucking s’mores. Marshmallows and chocolate just failed to satisfy her anymore. “Dinner?”

Another blush crept up his cheeks, and now she was concerned. Why the hell was he blushing so much? What the hell had they talked about in there? “We’ve got to get back to work, we can’t stay for dinner.”

He was right, and she knew he was right, but that didn’t mean she liked it, she definitely didn’t like it. “Yeah, that’s true. Mountain’s been erupting for three hours and we’ve been out long enough.” She looked back at his parents. “It was nice to meet you, though, both of you.”

“It was nice to meet you, too, Rey,” Leia assured her, then she walked over to her son, and pulled him into a hug he hesitated to return at first, then he wrapped his arms around his mother. Her heart melted a little in her chest as she watched him finish embracing his mother before moving to hug his father. 

When he hugged Han, though, something interesting happened. His father leaned forward and whispered something unintelligible in his ear, looking between his son and Rey with an almost mischievous glint in his eye. A fresh coat of pink coloring filled Ben’s cheeks as he pulled away, and she could only assume his father had made some sort of crass joke about the two of them. 

To be fair to Han Solo, he wasn’t wrong. They were indeed doing things worthy of whatever joke he was making, but if those jokes involved actually being in love with each other… they hadn’t quite crossed that bridge yet. 

As he and Han pulled apart and said their goodbyes, she was still thinking about that last bit. They’d come there that day so he could amend things with his parents, because of the danger posed by the volcano whose shadow they lived under--because life was so fucking short, and they never knew when it would be taken from them. 

Rey’s breath caught in her chest as he finished saying his goodbyes, and she muttered something in farewell herself before they made their way to the van, her mind reeling with the realization of what she had to do. They were quiet as they finally walked off the beach, listening to the sound of the mountain’s rumbling and Chewie’s barking as his parents took him inside. 

“Are you okay?” he asked as he approached the driver’s side of the van, looking genuinely concerned as she opened the door on the opposite side. 

“I’m fine,” she replied, slipping him the keys once the doors were shut, and they were both buckled in. “Why wouldn’t I be?”

“You’ve had this weird look on your face for the last five minutes.” He started the van, the engine roaring to life just before he turned them around, and they made their way back onto the road just as the rain started to fall once more. “I just thought… something might’ve been up, and since we’re friends now, maybe… maybe you’d want to talk about it.”

She laughed as she glanced over at him, then shook her head. “I could say the same about you,” she said, then as he sped up to match the speed limit, she sighed. “How’d it go in there?”

Another tiny smile parted his lips. “It was actually pretty okay,” he told her. “We’ve got a long way to go, but in the end, we realized life is short, that volcano’s about to go off, and we don’t have time to waste hating each other.”

“That’s good.”

“Yeah, it is.” He cleared his throat, then he spared her a glance as he sped along down the road. “What’d you do while I was in there?”

Realized I need to tell you how I feel. “Skipped some rocks, had some philosophical thoughts,” she replied, falling quiet for a moment after, listening to the sound of the rain as it poured against their windshield. “And I also realized that life is short.”

“Yeah?”

“Life is really short, Ben, and with how close we are to the mountain, I don’t know if we’ll make it out of there before the damned thing goes off.” She looked away from him then, turning her gaze on the raindrops falling down the window instead. “But I do know that I definitely don’t hate you anymore, I know that I… I know that I like waking up next to you for more reasons than just the warmth we’re sharing, I know that I like the way you make me feel when we’re alone in the woods or in this stupid fucking van, and… I don’t know where it’s leading, but I think I’m starting to feel something very different than what I used to for you, and… I know I said I just wanted this to be something casual, but… life is too short to not ask you if you want more, because I do.” Her eyes found his again, and the car slowed down as his foot fell from the accelerator, and they both fell quiet. 

The rain pouring around them became deafening, even drowning out the sound of the distant mountain as it rumbled its warning of impending doom, but what was even louder was all the words they weren’t saying, everything Ben wasn’t saying. God, she wanted him to say something. 

The car slowly came to a stop, and the next sound came from Ben engaging the parking brake, and cutting off the ignition. Now the only sound in the van was that of the rain dumping on their heads, and Rey’s heart pounding in her ears as she looked at him, watching his mouth open and close slightly, as if he were trying very desperately to find the words to say to her, to find some sort of answer.

Eventually, she became fed up with it, she just wanted a fucking answer. What was it she’d just been saying about life being too short? “Ben, please say somethi--”

Her sentence was cut off by him as he suddenly reached over, and cupped her face gently with his palms. His breathing was shaky, his lip was still quivering with everything he seemed to want to say, but he never spoke a word. Instead, he caused her breath to hitch, caused her to gasp his name sharply as he closed the gap between them, leaning over the space between their seats as he did the one thing she’d been praying he’d do in response--

He kissed her.

Chapter Text

The volcano was still rumbling in the background, going on hour four of its seemingly endless eruption, but neither of them gave a damn. Both of them were too invested in the kiss they were sharing over the gearshift of the car. His hands were twisting their way into her hair, tugging and pulling gently so that he was closer to her as he moaned softly from sheer pleasure. 

This was what heaven must’ve felt like, to be kissed by someone who liked her back was a new euphoria she hadn’t known she’d been missing out on. Love wasn’t exactly a priority for her those days, and though they were still in the beginning stages, she couldn’t get enough of it, and evidently, judging by the way he returned every kiss, he felt the same. 

It was like he was getting off from a kiss alone, until he suddenly pulled away about thirty seconds later. 

Confused, Rey shook her head at him, then her mouth fell open, her whole body shuddering as she stared into his eyes. “What? What is it?”

“I… I… I can’t…” he said suddenly, then he pulled away. “I can’t do this without telling you the truth.”

“What?” she asked, thoroughly bewildered by what the hell that could mean. “What are you talking about? What truth?”

“The-the deal… I made a deal with Snoke before we came out here.” He ran his hand through his hair, his eyes distant, as if he was seeing a memory from the past. “Rey, I told him that no matter what if nothing happened within four weeks, we’d be out of here, whether or not the mountain was still… rumbling.”

That made her hesitate. Rey’s blood ran cold, and suddenly she found herself questioning everything that had happened between them in the past couple of weeks. If he’d held this back from her, what else was he hiding? “What?”

“Four weeks. If the mountain doesn’t go off by next Wednesday, they’re pulling us out. The town will still be on evac order, but we’ll… we’ll have to go home and be back behind our desks. That was the rule.”

“What about Finn? Poe? Rose? Paige? Will anyone be out here watching this thing?”

“Only a couple of us at a time. We’ll have shifts.”

“You’re kidding me.”

He shook his head again. “I’m not, and I wish I was, but… we need to start praying this thing either goes quiet or does something, or we’ll lose our jobs if we decide to stay.”

Her lips were still kiss swollen, but all she wanted to do with them next was scream at him. “And you never thought to tell me this? I asked you, and you didn’t tell me?”

“I’m sorry.”

“Fuck you.”

“I’m sorry,” he repeated. “I was… I was so stupid, and I was determined to hurt you because we--”

“Hated each other.”

“Yeah.”

Rey shifted in her seat, hands grasping at the seatbelt as she realized that for the past few weeks, he’d been lying to her. It wasn’t about anything to do with the relationship they’d built and just started, but it planted a seed of doubt inside of her that made her feel queasy. If he’d lied to her about this, what the hell else could he have lied about?

The rain poured on in the background, rumbling with the volcano as they both thought through what to say next. She wanted to forgive him for it, she wanted to say she wasn’t mad and this wasn’t a big deal, but fuck , she was pissed. She hadn’t agreed to lose her job over this proposition, she hadn’t decided upon four weeks. That decision had been made without her, and she was fucking angry. 

“You didn’t even try consulting me,” she growled, finally sparing him a glance. “You were plotting this whole expedition—which was my idea, it was my seismograph that told us something was wrong at this mountain—and you failed to ask me if I was okay with this! You didn’t ask me if I—“

“Rey, you know how Snoke is!” He threw his hands up in the air, then slammed them down on the steering wheel as he looked back at her. “I nearly threw out my voice just trying to get us the inch we got! He didn’t want to go up at all! He wanted us to stay and monitor it from Portland, but I told him—I convinced him—“

“But you lied!” She turned her whole body to face him, groaning at how restricted she was by the seat belt as she glared at him, that same fire in her eyes that she’d given to him when they’d still hated one another. “You lies to me, Ben, and you can make excuses, but the point is you could have told me the truth, and you refused to. You-you fucking lied! Even when you didn’t have to! Even when we started talking! You lied!”

He swallowed back whatever he was going to say in his throat, his lower lip quivering as he gripped the steering wheel so tightly, his knuckles went white. “I got us a good deal. We made so much scientific progress, and no matter what happens, our findings will improve the field as we know it.” Biting his lip, Ben shook his head. “But… I am sorry, for lying to you, for hiding everything. I shouldn’t have done it, and—and it was a dumbass decision, and I’m sorry.” He took in a deep breath, then he let go of the steering wheel with one hand, and let it fall in the space between them. “I understand if this changes how you feel about me. I get it. I’m—I fucked up.”

She blinked a few times, looking down at that hand longingly, because she wanted nothing more than to take that hand and hold onto it forever, but she was still so fucking angry with him. He’d fucked up, and her heart wasn’t broken, but she couldn’t look at him the same yet. 

All she could feel in that moment was rage, and it built up inside of her like magma in the chamber of a volcano, ready and needing to erupt, to release the pressure building up beneath the surface. Looking at him now, she could sense he needed it, too. Both of them were heated up, put over a burner and raised to their boiling point. And they still had a lot of work to do together. Their tension desperately needed a release. 

Taking in a few more breaths, Rey's eyes flickered to the back of the van, where they’d already fucked multiple times before, and she immediately unbuckled her seatbelt before crawling into the back. Growling low, Ben put the van in park, shut off the engine, and followed suit, leaning his seat back so he could crawl into the back with her, or more accurately, over her. 

She laid back against the floor, tearing off her jacket, then her shirt before she felt his weight over her body, his hips pressing into hers as his palms landed on either side of her head. For several seconds, they looked at each other, her eyes flicking down to his lips, thinking about how fiercely she’d been kissing them just ten minutes earlier, how excited she’d been to kiss them. Looking at them now, it dissipated some of her anger, but… 

Ben took notice of her staring, and she felt one of his hands cup her chin, tilting her gaze up as he began to lean down, and she realized she wanted to kiss them again as he got closer. Fuck, she wanted to kiss him again, but then she remembered her rage, then she remembered why she’d crawled back there in the first place, and so she took his face in her hands just before his lips could touch hers. “Don’t even think about it,” she hissed, then she reached back, her hand sliding until she found his hair, and she gripped a chunk of his raven waves between her fingers. “You can kiss me when you make me come, and after that, you’re going to work with me to figure out a way to convince Snoke it’s worth it to stay here.”

“Fine by me,” he replied, then she reached down for the button of her jeans, both of them working to remove their clothes as quickly as humanly possible, heat blossoming in the space between them as their breathing quickened, fogging the windows of the van. 

Sliding her pants down her legs was a little awkward, she kept having to buck her hips against his as she worked to shimmy them and her underwear off. Ben almost looked like he wanted to laugh at her, but in the anger they were both still feeling, he decided against it. A tiny pang of disappointment filled her as she watched him focus on taking his shirt off instead, his large fingers nimbly undoing the buttons of his flannel as he looked away from her, still fighting back that stupid fucking smile. 

Once she was free of her pants and he was shirtless, she reached down for his belt, not having the patience to wait for him to undo it as her shaking fingers slipped it out of the loops on his waistband. Lightning flashed outside, briefly illuminating the world around them as Rey’s fingers then reached for the button of his jeans. The ensuing boom of thunder was so loud it shook the ground and made her lose her grip for a second, causing her to grunt in frustration as she grabbed it again, undoing the button and his fly before she worked to push his pants and underwear just past his hips. 

“Rey,” Ben breathed, blinking at her in disbelief as she then reached for his cock, freeing him from the fabric before she began stroking him quickly but gently with one hand. “Rey—“ His voice cut off with a sharp cry, and he began to pant as her thumb rubbed over his tip. “Rey, what about foreplay?”

She scoffed. “Haven’t you learned by now that you pissing me off makes me so fucking wet?” she asked, then she stroked him a few more times, her hand moving up and down his shaft as his eyes rolled back in his head. “Where’s the condoms?”

Still in a bit of shock, Ben reached beside himself, grabbing a foil packet off the nearby shelf full of various seismographs, and tearing it apart with his teeth. Arousal flooded her as she watched him, then she wrapped her legs around his waist as he worked the condom over himself, and her hands coming up to rest on his chest as she watched, waiting impatiently for him to finish putting it on so they could fuck the anger out of each other. 

When he was done, he looked back down at her, his eyes falling once more to her lips, and though she was tempted, she was so fucking tempted, she shook her head, and dug her heels into his ass, reminding him of where he was wanted the most. Nodding slowly, Ben reached down between them, his fingers gliding over the skin of her lower abdomen, over her pelvis, and stopping at her clit. Her breath caught in her throat, then she could feel Ben’s thumb press against it, and her head tilted back on the van floor, little pants escaping her as she whispered his name, and he began to circle her clit with his thumb. 

“Oh, fuck, ” she breathed, then as he laughed, she could feel her control slipping—no, not slipping, he was just tugging at it. This was a game of tug of war, but on a sexual level. Sometimes she would be in charge and she would have what she wanted, and sometimes the one in charge would be him, and he would get what he wanted. 

Right now, he was the one in control, and he damn well knew it, too from the way he leaned in, and began pressing kisses to her jaw, distracting her as he whispered filthy things between each kiss. “You know we’ve pulled over on the highway,” he whispered, placing a kiss in time with the press of his tip to her cunt, with one more sweep of his thumb over her clit. “Do you think if anyone looks closely, they’ll be able to see how much you hate me?” He kissed her again, then he began pressing inside of her, his cock already filling her in the way she loved to be filled even though he’d only just begun. “Do you think they’ll be able to see what we’re doing?” He pressed in another inch, and her mouth opened in an O as he continued to push further. “Do you think…” kiss… “They’ll be able to see how your face looks when you come? See the way your mouth falls open and you scream my name like a banshee? Will they hear it? Will they hear how wild I make you? Will you get off , knowing they can see you? Hear you?”

He pushed nearly to the hilt inside of her, his cock completely sheathed within her cunt, and Rey swore loudly enough for the entire Cascades to hear her. “Ben, you asshole, ” she breathed, her hands coming up to clutch his hair, burying themselves in it as if that could somehow keep her grounded. He made her feel like she was floating. 

A chuckle escaped him as he began to thrust inside of her, his hips slamming against hers in a way that had them both moaning, his control slipping for a fraction of a second. “Think about it, part of the thrill of fucking you in the woods is that fear of getting caught isn’t it?” he asked, then he pressed a kiss to the juncture of her neck and jawline. “And part of the thrill I get from fucking you, is knowing how badly you’re trying to deny how much you want me, seeing it come out every time you ride my cock, every time you touch me, you can’t get enough of it, of me, and even though you’ve changed your feelings for me, you’re still holding on… let go.”

That was an opportunity. Growling low, Rey shifted her hips as he thrust deep, switching their positions so that when the thrust was over, she was seated on his cock, panting softly as she began to rock her hips over his. “You’re right,” she whispered, leaning down so she could kiss his neck between her words, and catching sight of his jaw falling slack with another flash of lightning. “I love riding your cock. I love having you inside me.” She sucked his skin into her mouth, earning a low moan from him as his hips buckled into hers. “I love marking you. But I’m holding back now because you pissed me off.”

Kissing his neck again, Rey gasped as his cock hit that spot deep inside of her, causing her whole body to convulse as she tried to remember what she wanted to say next. “I’m angry with you, so you’re going to lie back now and get fucked.”

A laugh escaped him, then he whispered her name, soft and gentle, sounding nothing like the confident, almost commanding man he’d been seconds ago. He whispered it again, but this time she couldn’t hear him beneath the storm and the volcano. There was too much rumbling surrounding them, but she could feel his lips moving against her ear as they slowly began to lose the usual rhythm of their hate sex, and it became… something else. 

Ben’s arms wrapped around her waist, pulling her close, then, somehow, without pulling out of her, he flipped them over again, nudging the seismometer as they moved. If they’d turned it on, the damn thing probably would’ve registered the quake as a six point four. 

Once he was on top of her, he began slowing his thrusts, drawing out each one so that Rey was crying out for him, begging him to go faster, and slowly, surely, he did. One of her hands collapsed to the side as she let him fuck her dweetly, in the way that told her he actually liked her back. Fuck, as angry as she was, she still felt everything for him, and so when his hand found hers beside their writhing bodies, when he laced their fingers together, Rey found herself living for it, enjoying the tender way his thumb brushed over the back of hers, and suddenly instead of whispering things that were incredibly filthy, he whispered things that were sweet. 

A bolt of lightning struck close by, the ensuing thunder causing Rey to flinch as he thrust into her again, and when his other arm held her a bit tighter, she shivered. “It’s just thunder,” he whispered, then he rested his forehead against hers, seeming to want to kiss her, but not knowing if that was what she wanted. 

“I know, it just scared me.”

He paused, then he pressed a featherlight kiss to the tip of her nose. “I’m sorry,” he said, and she knew he wasn’t referring to the noise. 

“Me too,” she replied, then she squeezed the hand that was holding her, a high pitched moan falling from her lips as she came around him, euphoria flooding her veins as he continued fucking her through it. “ Ben…

He couldn’t hear her, or he was too distracted to. A few seconds later, she heard him swear quietly, then he shuddered, and came apart inside of her, his thrusts only lasting a few more seconds before he all but collapsed on top of her,  both of them completely spent. 

Ben’s weight pressed into her as her lifted his head, pulling back just enough to look into her eyes as he swept a piece of sweat covered hair from them. “Can I kiss you now?”

“You could’ve kissed me five minutes ag—“ He kissed her, cutting off an answer that should’ve stopped at “yes.”

This kiss was one of those kinds that had her heart melting like it was butter, had her whole body feeling as if she was floating. It was slow and sensual, and he kissed her so deeply she thought she might fall back into the earth and join the heat rising beneath Mustafar. His hand let go of hers to caress her cheek as he tilted her head back to deepen the kiss, kissing her like he was trying to memorize how she kissed, like it was the last time. 

She pulled away, and looked into his eyes, catching them again as the lightning flickered outside. “Now we fight to do the right thing,” she told him. “And whether or not we win… I’m still mad at you, but I need you to keep kissing me.” 

He nodded. “I think I can make that work,” he said with a laugh.

“Great, now get out of me so we can get to work,” she said, then she shoved his shoulder, and he snorted as he pulled out of her, and the two of them set about putting their clothes back on. 

There was a volcano to monitor, and with the sun sinking beneath the horizon, darkening the already deep gray sky, time was of the essence. The clock was ticking, but they were determined to save the community surrounding the mountain if it was the last thing they did. 

 

Given the danger the looming hill posed, it very well might’ve been.