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Keep the Car Running

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Rey hates not driving. 

 

It’s the worst part of the carpool. 

 

She hates sitting in the passenger seat.

 

She hates the stupid coconut air fresheners Poe has hanging off his rearview mirror. 

 

But mostly she just hates not having control. 

 

At least Poe has a nice car—Rey always feels a little bad when her friends have to jam themselves into her Mini Cooper. But at least when she’s driving, it takes a mere five minutes to get to Rose and Finn’s house. Partially because it’s only a few miles away from the apartment complex Poe and Rey both live in, and partially because she’s an impatient, lead-footed speed demon. 

 

But Poe seems to be taking his sweet, sweet time today. Going exactly the speed limit. Making full and complete stops at every stop sign.

 

It’s times like these she’s lucky he’s a Beta and can’t get a read on her moods through her scent, because right now he'd be getting a nose-full of irritation. He’s blabbering on about some client he’s scored, and Rey makes sure to hum every once in a while, pretending to listen. She’s leaning against the window, half asleep, when Poe turns into the wrong neighborhood.

 

“Wait, where are you going?” She asks from her haze, sitting up straight.

 

“I told you we have a straggler this week, Rey. His car broke down, so he’s joining the carpool for a couple of days.”

 

“And when, might I ask, did you tell me this?”

 

“I don’t know…yesterday at lunch? No, wait, I texted you last night. Check your texts. It’s in there. I told you,” Poe insists.

 

Rey remembers nothing of the sort, so she whips out her phone and searches through her texts with Poe from yesterday. She’s unsurprised to find all that’s in there is his rant about the Game of Thrones finale he just got around to watching, along with a picture of the turkey BLT he made himself for dinner.

 

“No you didn’t!” She shoves her phone in front of his face. “Look!” The car swerves and a Toyota trying to pull out of their drive aggressively honks at them.

 

“Rey, I’m driving! Get your phone outta my face!” Poe swats her hand away, and Rey relents, tossing her phone in her bag. She's seething. This is so like Poe.

 

“You definitely didn’t tell me.”

 

“Must’ve forgot.” He shrugs.

 

“Well, who is it then?”

 

She folds her arms across her chest and pins him with an accusatory look. Poe stays silent as they pull into a typical, Chandrila, Ohio middle-class neighborhood. Rey’s stomach sinks, a feeling of foreboding creeping into her system. 

 

“Who is it, Poe?” She asks again, with less conviction. 

 

Poe parks in front of a well-kept Cape Cod-style house and turns to her and smiles cheekily. But there’s a nervousness in his eyes, which, in turn, sets Rey’s nerves alight. She’s about to ask again, but then she sees the front door open, and watches as the worst-case-scenario walks down the front path, all wrapped up in a fine black peacoat and scarf, and toting his stupidly expensive leather briefcase.

 

God she hates Ben Solo. 

 

He’s wearing glasses today. She especially hates it when he wears glasses. They make him look…decent. And he is not decent.

 

As soon as he opens the back door of the car, Rey is dizzy. Drunk on his pheromones. She feels like her eyes are about to burst like fireworks inside their sockets. Her tongue feels heavy and saliva fills her mouth. 

 

This is why Poe didn’t tell her. Rey can’t stand being around him. He’s an arrogant douchebag with no manners and a sense of entitlement as big as his fucking chest. And his chest is…big. 

 

But he’s also an Alpha. A really, really fucking delicious-smelling Alpha. 

 

The first day Ben Solo came to work at Resistance Technologies, she was already prepared to hate him. She’d never met him, of course, but she’d heard enough nightmarish stories from Poe, Finn, Luke and even Leia that she imagined throttling him before he could even speak to her. She knew he was an Alpha—it had been mentioned multiple times in passing—but she never considered what that would mean for her. Especially because she’s never really had a problem with one before.

 

There were a few Alphas in the office—some of them even unmated—and they did nothing for her. Most of them smelled fine--like any other guy who showers and wears a decent cologne. A couple of them smell pretty foul, but not in an unmanageable way. She can count the times she’s had a truly positive biological reaction to an Alpha on one hand, which is why she hasn’t minded sticking with Beta partners all her life. It got to a point where she’d convinced herself there was something wrong with her. 

 

And without even speaking to her, she transformed into a desperate little puddle of an Omega around Ben fucking Solo. Her boss's insufferable nephew. The CEO's insufferable son. 

 

The second she locked eyes with him at the morning meeting, her body had a visceral response; mouth flooded with saliva, panties flooded with slick. And she knew he must’ve smelled her arousal because the look he gave her was one of disgust—an intense furrowed brow, lips tight in a scowl, and she swears she could see him holding his breath throughout the meeting.

 

And maybe he was right to look at her like that. She was completely soaking through her panties in the middle of the work day, just like those weak, stereotypical Omegas that are featured in old films and pornos. 

 

But she’d never smelled anything like that. 

 

Like him. 

 

That night she called in a request for a prescription for stronger suppressants. Not that that’s made a difference in the months since.

 

Their interactions after that have been…minimal to say the least. Which has probably been purposeful on both their ends. He can't stand the way she smells, and she can't stand the way he works. He's authoritarian. Too authoritarian for someone who is only slightly higher on the totem pole than she is. And thinks he's always right in a way that is exhausting to be around. She's sure it stems from his last job, and the high rank he held there, and the asshole he worked for.

 

Her first taste of this was when they were put on a project together a few weeks after his arrival. They had a tense one-on-one meeting, wherein Ben shot down all her ideas explaining that “she doesn’t know what she’s getting into.” Then they met the client for lunch, which she thought went alright despite the client behind a total Alpha creep, and the next thing she knew she was taken off the project—at his behest. 

 

She tries hard not to resent Luke for it—there must be a good reason other than his nephew just not liking her. And she tries even harder not to resent Finn for it, since he replaced her and eventually got a promotion because of it. A promotion she so desperately wanted…But it helped him and Rose finally buy a house, so she tries not to be too bitter about it. 

 

But ever since then, she avoids his delicious-smelling, completely indecent body like the plague. And for the most part, it’s worked. But not today. Not this morning. Because this morning he is trapped with her in a steel box, with very little ventilation and no fucking escape until they reach downtown Chandrila. 

 

“Morning, Solo!” Poe chirps, as Ben closes the door behind him. His eyes meet Rey’s just for a quick second, but it’s enough to make her stomach flip. They look away from each other at the same time.

 

“Dameron,” Ben nods in Poe’s direction, then begins to adjust his seatbelt. God he’s fucking huge. Poe’s car has never looked so small. “Rey,” he says, a whole octave lower than he said Poe’s name, and God she nearly chokes. she hates the way he says her name, and how much it turns her on—her Omega clearly doesn’t give a shit about what an asshole he is.

 

He then pulls his phone out of his pocket and begins typing away, making it clear he’s much too busy to make small talk. 

 

Poe throws a quick glance and a shrug at Rey, then puts the car back in drive. Rey folds her arms across her chest and slouches in the seat, trying to think about anything other than his scent.

 

Fresh and Earthy. A bit citrusy. And just a hint of Irish Spring Soap (which she definitely hasn’t started using after she’d met him…it just happens to be on sale when she’s at the shops…every time she goes). 

 

She wonders what she must smell like to him. Based on his reaction to her from the first day they met, she’d wager it’s not great. Which is frustrating because she’s never had any complaints before. 

 

She’d never had any compliments before either, though.

 

The three of them drive in almost complete silence the entire way to Rose and Finn’s, the sound of pop radio the only thing filling the void of awkwardness. 

 

Rey doesn’t even realize they’ve made it to Rose and Finn’s house until Rose opens the door and let some fresh air in. Rey tries to inhale as much of it as she can.

 

“Morning Rey, Poe!" Rose says, cheerfully. “Oh, hi Ben! I didn’t know you were joining us today.”

 

“Glad to hear I’m not the only one you kept out of the loop,” Rey mutters to Poe. He at least has the decency to look at her with a twinge of guilt.

 

Ben’s scent spikes again, and Rey has to close her eyes and press her body into the seat to steady herself. She pushes her wrists against her thighs, thinking the pressure might make her glands stop fucking itching. She’s trying to stay grounded. Trying to ignore how gloriously nauseous she is right now. 

 

“Are you officially a part of the Carpool Crew now?” Rose inquires, dropping the cute little name they’ve given themselves. Rey cringes. That was supposed to be between the four of them.

 

“My car broke down last night. I’m waiting on a part to come in. It’s going to be a few days. And Poe offered, so…”

 

“Oh, that sucks! I hope everything gets resolved quickly—not that we aren’t happy to have you as a member of our crew, of course. Right, Finn?” 

 

Finn says nothing. And Rey thinks, based on the small jolt to her seat, Rose may have assaulted Finn’s leg with her foot.

 

“Right, yeah, man. Nice to see you.” Finn isn’t a big fan of Ben either. They have a history. They worked together at First Order Tech years ago, and he didn’t have much praise for his former superior. Could also have something to do with his status as a male Omega, though Rey knows Finn would never admit to that insecurity. They seemed to get along better after the project they worked on together, though. And that doesn’t bother Rey at all. Not one bit.

 

After another beat of silence Rose asks, “Are you okay, Ben?”

 

“Fine,” he chokes out.

 

“You don’t look fine, are you sick?”

 

“No, I just…don’t do well in the back seat. Motion sickness.”

 

Oh, so now he wants her fucking seat. 

 

Rey can’t help but turn and glare at him. His head is practically hanging between his legs, but he must sense her withering stare, because it pops up in a flash. He knits his brows at her in confusion, and Rey whips back around to stare at the road. The dashboard. The coconut air freshener swinging in the rearview mirror. Anything but him.

 

Rose makes polite conversation with Ben in the back. Rey picks up a few bits and pieces about what he’s working on in the office and what he did on the weekend. She hears something about going to Leia’s house for dinner, which--just for a second--makes Rey happy because she knows all about their tumultuous relationship. The feeling fades when he starts complaining about Luke's incompetence, though.  

 

Ben asks her questions in return, too, which is odd for him. Simple questions about their house and projects she's a part of at work. He’s always been kind to Rose in a way that makes Rey’s blood boil. She’s an Alpha. So is he. So of course he would be pleasant around her. Especially because she’s mated, and therefore non-threatening. 

 

About twenty minutes into the ride Rey becomes desperate for some fresh air and tries to roll the window down. But Poe and Finn immediately start bitching at her, complaining about the cold, so she begrudgingly rolls it back up. She feels like there is a cloud of Ben’s scent sitting stagnant in the car.

 

When they arrive at their building, Rey doesn’t wait to walk in with the group, like she usually does. She practically launches herself out of the car the second Poe is settled in the parking garage. She runs into the lobby bathroom, and quickly burrows herself in a stall to clean herself up.

 

Fucking embarrassing.

 

Most of the time, being an Omega doesn’t bother Rey. She never really feels out of control, weak, or helpless like the Omega stereotypes go. She has heat twice a year, and they are hell to be sure, but not as bad as she’s heard others describe them. 

 

But this changed too, when Ben arrived, even with a stronger suppressant. Her heats have been more intense and painful. And the nameless, faceless Alpha she would imagine to help get through the heat suddenly turned into a six-foot-three shit brick house who wears stupid fucking glasses.

 

When Rey exits the loo she practically slams into Rose, who is standing there with her arms folded across her chest, a cocked eyebrow, and an accusatory look in her eye. Rey mumbles an apology, then pushes past the smaller woman to get to the lifts. Rose follows in hot pursuit. They stand side-by-side waiting for the lift to arrive.

 

“I could smell you, you know.” Rose says, not even sparing a glance at Rey. Which, is maybe a good thing since she’s sure she’s gone completely red from embarrassment.

 

“I—"

 

“You don’t have to explain yourself to me. I’m not telling you because I’m judging or trying to shame you. I’m telling you because I know what Ben Solo does to you, and what you do to him, and if he’s going to be riding with us the next few days you need to consider taking…extra precautions. I’m mated and I still felt quite suffocated by you that whole ride.” 

 

The elevator dings and the two women enter with another woman Rey thinks she recognizes from the Chandrila Times on floor four. Rose digs around inside her purse, and once the other woman gets off, Rose hands Rey a small plastic package. For a brief moment she thinks her friend just handed her a condom, and she nearly chokes on her own tongue at the implication, but when she turns it over in her palm she sees it's an emergency blocker.

 

“Rose—"

 

“Just take it. Or the car ride home is going to be even worse. It’s supposed to last last twelve hours.”

 

Shit. She didn’t even think about the ride home.

 

When the lift arrives Rose shuffles out, shaking her head as she makes her way to her cubicle. Rey swears she hears her mutter something, though she can only see her shaking her head.

 

After Rey reaches her cubicle she sits at her desk and quickly swallows the emergency blocker dry. It feels like it’s sitting in her throat for the rest of the day. 

 

She only sees Solo twice during the next few hours; once in passing in the kitchen, and once when he stopped by Snap's desk to rudely bitch about something in harsh, low tones. He doesn’t bother to look her way on either occasion, and she tries very hard to pretend that it doesn't hurt her feelings. But she doesn’t smell him, and that’s what matters. 

 

In fact, she doesn’t smell much of anything. Her lunch doesn’t taste like much either. And the entirety of the work day feels like it’s happening under water. 

 

And that’s why she hates blockers—they dull the senses along with instincts. 

 

They remind her of her last foster father, an old, Slavic bookie called Unkar Plutt. He found her designation a nuisance, but he wanted that hefty check from the government for taking in an Omega. So he pumped her full of blockers for the entirety of the three years she stayed with him. She didn’t realize he’d been tampering with her food and drinks, giving her extra doses, on top of the pill she swallowed every morning before school. 

 

Sometimes it is hard to even remember that time in her life—everything was so clouded. Muted. Devoid of color. Devoid of happiness.

 

The second she turned eighteen she took herself off blockers and swore to only ever use them for emergencies…though she supposes today could be counted as an emergency of sorts.

 

She barely even feels the rush of excitement when she finally turns in her project proposal to Luke before lunch. And when she returns to her work station, she barely even feels the sting of rejection when she sees Luke has sent a short and politely-worded rejection of the proposal. She tries not to notice how quickly he responded.

 

So she just keeps working. Like she always does. Always has.

 

She doesn’t even realize it’s time to leave until Poe walks up behind her and kicks her chair with one of his snow boots to surprise her. He always does that. He thinks it’s funny. She does not share that sentiment. 

 

“I’ll be down in a few. I just have to finish this email,” Rey says, without sparing him a look. And for a second, she’s thankful for the blocker, as it has managed to wipe any irritation or emotion from her voice. Rose and Finn told her she bickers with him too much, so she’s been trying very hard lately not to.

 

He makes a quippy remark that she immediately forgets, and disappears. She sees Rose and Finn next, and throws her hand up to gesture she’ll only be a minute, and they nod and move hand-in-hand over to the lift too.

 

After she’s finished, she quickly packs her things and rushes to the lift. A shadow falls next to her as she waits for it’s arrival. She doesn’t have to see him, or even smell him, to know it’s Ben. He just has a dark and foreboding presence that’s hard to miss. 

 

They wait in silence, both burning a hole in the lift doors. He clears his throat a couple times, as if trying to decide whether or not he wants to use his voice. 

 

“I saw your proposal. It looked…well-researched,” he finally chokes out in typical monotone Ben fashion.

 

Rey rolls her eyes. 

 

“It was well-researched. I spent months on it. And your uncle turned it down in a mere ten minutes.”

 

“That’s just how he is. Maybe work on it a bit more and try again in a few months. He probably won’t even remember he looked at it once already.”

 

She abruptly spins on her heel and turns to face him. He's standing quite still, hugging his briefcase to his chest, and looking at her intently. But his face is slightly scrunched like he's expecting a verbal slap in the face.

 

“I know how Luke is. I’ve worked for him for four years. Even if I turn it in again a year from now he’ll still take a brief glance at it, decide it’s too ‘out there’ and continue to do things the way he’s always done them.”

 

“I could maybe say something to my mo—“

 

“I don’t need your help. I don’t want it. I can do this on my own.”

 

“I know,” he says quietly. When she dares a glance at him he’s staring at the floor, chewing on the side of his mouth.

 

“This is taking forever,” she mutters, mostly to herself, tapping her foot impatiently.

 

Ben sighs through his nose, and steps forward, reaching out to press the button panel, which she hadn't noticed wasn't lit up until just now. Apparently neither of them thought to hit it during the three minutes they’d been standing there. He steps back, and they stand in painful silence once again. She sneaks a few glances at him, unable to resist, and she's more than a little surprised to find that he looks nervous. More nervous than she's ever seen him look. He's an Alpha. He's dealt with some of the biggest names in the industry without so much as a flinch or a stutter. But right now, he looks fucking nervous.

 

“Rey—" he starts, and she doesn’t know what he's going to say, but by the tone of his voice she knows it's going to be something that will change things, that will make her feel differently. And she's not ready for that. She's not ready to not hate him.

 

So she decides it would be best just to run.

 

“I’m taking the stairs,” she yells, though she’s already halfway through the stairwell door when she yells it, so there was really no need to state the obvious. 

 

She nearly loses a boot on her way down the eight flights of stairs. 

 

She’s pleased not to see him in the lobby when she bursts through the stairwell door, and even more pleased he isn’t in the car yet. She claims the passenger seat, yet again, and slams the door behind her. She tries hard to catch her breath, and ignores the skeptical stares of Rose and Finn in the back seat.

 

“Took you long enough,” Poe says, and he begins backing out.

 

“Wait, what about Ben?” She protests quickly.

 

“He texted a few minutes ago. Said he was caught up in something for work, and he’ll be too late. He said to just go on without him.”

 

Rey slouches in the seat. 

 

He lied.  

 

Why would he lie? He was clearly leaving. 

 

She tries to justify it to herself. Maybe something came up after she ran down the stairs… 

 

But deep down she knows this has nothing to do with work and everything to do with her.

 

And she can’t help but feel…bad about it. 

 

So that’s one thing blockers can’t dull, she thinks. 

 

Guilt.