Rey Johnson has found that she doesn’t mind being in the passenger seat sometimes.
Especially if it’s the passenger seat of a Falcon X.
Especially if it’s her boyfriend driving said Falcon X.
Especially if her boyfriend is driving said Falcon X on a balmy, summer Friday evening on their way home from work.
She loves Fridays. She’s always loved Fridays—who doesn't? But she’s loved them so much more since she and Ben Solo started dating.
Because on Fridays, they don’t join the carpool.
On Fridays they wake up extra early together. They drive up to Junari Point, run two kilometers and watch as the sun comes up. Then they go home and shower—usually together—and get ready for work at a leisurely pace.
They check in on each other all day. They leave stupid little notes on each other's desks. They eat lunch in the break room with their friends. At first they tried private lunches in Rey’s office—which is Ben’s old one she earned after her promotion—but they decided it was best not to after Finn caught them in a slightly compromising position. That prompted a very uncomfortable visit to HR. Rose could barely contain her laughter.
Then they leave the office a little early (one of the perks of dating the boss) and go on a date.
Sometimes they go out to dinner. Sometimes they see a film. Sometimes they meet up with Rose and Finn, and even Leia on occasion.
But her favorite Friday activity is taking long drives around Chandrila in the Falcon, which is what they decided to do today.
She rolls down her window and rests her head on her arm, letting the warm wind whip into her face and roll through her hair.
She sneaks glances at him every few minutes, just to check that he’s still real. That she hasn’t just imagined the past year and a half of her life.
Her heart still leaps when she looks at his beautiful, strong profile.
She loves him. He loves her.
The confessed that to each other only a few months into dating.
It happened on a Sunday afternoon. She was curled up on his couch, reading, and he was doing a puzzle a few feet away from her at the kitchen table. It was all very peaceful. Domestic. The sun was streaming through the windows, and the room was comfortably silent.
She was starting to get tired of her book, and she took to peeking over the rim of it every few minutes to look at him, hoping he’d be winding down his intense puzzling and they could do something else.
But he was just as focused as ever. She’s always liked watching him work, though, so she decided to lay her book flat on her chest and just observe her Alpha.
He was haunched over the table, eyes scanning the pile of ridiculously small puzzle pieces for the right one. His glasses would slide down his nose every minute like clockwork, and he would mindlessly push them back up with his index finger and sigh. She didn't know why she found it so endearing, but the gesture made her heart swell.
“I love you,” she blurted out, breaking the silence.
And it felt so natural to say.
It felt so right.
She’d never been so sure of something in her life.
But he didn’t even look up from the puzzle.
She thought maybe he didn’t hear her. She thought about saying it again, or just smothering herself with a decorative pillow instead. But then he spoke up.
“I know,” he responded, his voice casual.
“I know?” She repeated his tone, incredulously. “That’s all you have to say? I just told you I love you, Ben! I’ve never told anyone that before!”
“I know,” he said again.
Oh and how she saw red.
She jumped up from the sofa, book falling to the ground. She couldn’t believe how flippant he was being. She was ready to stomp out of the room—about to get her keys and drive back to her place. She was going to ignore him for hours, maybe even days, until he found a way to make this slight up to her.
But then she saw the little smirk on his face.
“Are you trying to get under my skin?”
“Maybe,” he said. He finally looked up at her, and his smile only grew bigger.
She grumbled, and then sauntered over to him. He stopped his puzzling to wrap his arms around her waist and pull her in for a hug. He rested his head against her stomach and stroked her back. The gesture, his scent, the closeness to him—it all made her anger melt away.
“God, you’re infuriating sometimes.” She sighed, running her hands through his hair.
“I know,” he said again, and she couldn’t resist pulling on his hair a little.
He laughed and started to nuzzle her stomach. Started to lift her shirt with his nose and mouth at her bare skin.
“I just like the way you smell when you get all riled up,” he murmured against her rib.
He then pulled her down onto his lap and drew her face towards his to plant a sweet kiss on her lips. He pulled back and looked her in the eyes, face soft, but slightly serious.
“I love you, too,” he said finally, and placed his head in the crook of her neck, nosing at her mating gland.
The words found their way deep into her soul. They made her feel light and pure. Because no one’s really said that to her before, either. Not that she can remember, anyway.
And because she knew he meant it.
And she knows he means it still.
He says it to her every morning when they wake up. Every night before bed. Every time they have to part—even if it’s just for a few hours.
Rey Johnson knows love.
She knows what platonic love is with her friends—though it took her a while to recognize it. It was there all along, but she just didn’t how to accept it. She didn’t know how to properly return it.
She knows what romantic love is with Ben Solo. It didn’t take her long to get there—it was almost instinctual to love him. It was a little tough, at first, trying to understand each other’s love language. Neither of them had much experience with romantic partnership before each other. But they caught on quickly. And she has no doubt in her mind that one day she’ll call him her husband. The father of her children. Her mate. There’s no other way around it. He is hers. She is his. They belong to one another.
And Rey knows what it is to love herself, now—though that was a much longer journey. One that took hours and hours of talking about her mother, the foster system, her designation, and the insecurities and obsessive desire for control that manifested as a result of it all.
It was difficult getting here. To this place in her life. To the passenger seat in the car of her once sworn enemy, now lover. To happiness.
And she knows the journey probably isn’t over—that she’ll probably always have to wrestle with demons and work on herself.
But it will be worth it.
Because what a wonderful thing it is to be so happy.