Her bed feels warmer than she remembers.
She snuggles further into the blankets, nuzzling the solid mass of what she presumes is a pillow, her arms curled around it. She doesn’t remember having a body pillow. Did she buy it last week? She vaguely recalls going to Bed Bath & Beyond with Hux—or was it Home Depot? He needed a lamp, she thinks, or a new rug, or… something.
Fuck, this is a nice pillow.
If she closes her eyes, she can almost imagine that it’s moving—but that’s probably just her head still spinning from too many amaretto sours. It isn’t her fault they taste like melted popsicles and make her head spin out of nowhere like alcoholic espionage.
She adds her leg to the endeavor of completely becoming one with this mysterious pillow she doesn’t remember buying, her limbs heavy and jello-like as she slips into that haze of perfect drunken sleep that will surely result in a pounding headache and a patchy memory in the morning.
She can hear the deep rumble of thunder somewhere in the distance, something that she might note as strange for this part of California if she were of sounder mental capacity at this moment. It comes with a shaking beneath that makes her feel as if her bed is moving, and she tries to lift her head even as it feels like it weighs more than it should.
“Earthquake,” she mumbles in a slurred panic. “There’s an earthquake!”
“You’re drunk,” the thunder tells her, or not thunder, actually; the sound seems to come from the pillow now. “Rey, you’re drunk.”
She thinks this very judgemental of a pillow to assume, soft or no—and she frowns as she blinks her eyes as if this action will somehow give her back the capability of actual sight that isn’t skewed. “How do you know?”
She feels something like hands wrapping around her arms even as she tries to curl closer—and isn’t that strange? Pillows don’t have hands. They hold her shoulders tight all the same, and she’s blinking furiously now, trying to make the room turn back to its rightful state, trying to keep it from spinning—and she can make out the shape of a pale face topped with dark hair and warning bells are sounding off far quieter than she thinks they should be, because is that…?
“Because,” the voice tells her, sounding familiar now, which she finds odd, because she has definitely never spoken to a pillow before, “you live next door.”
She blinks, and then she squints, and then blinks again, and even though she couldn’t recite the alphabet right now—she thinks she can just make out who (because it isn’t a pillow, she thinks she should have become aware of this the moment it spoke) she has her arms around.
She doesn’t really need the answer, because even if there’s two of him—she can see now the error she’s made. Even in her alcohol-induced state, she knows she’s with the very first person and somehow very last person she wants to be with.
She meets him the first day she moves into the building.
She’s juggling too many boxes despite Armie’s warning that they were too much for her, three smaller pieces stacked one on top of the other as she struggles to keep them level. She’s almost made it, to be fair; her door is nearly in reach, and she only needs a few more steps to make it, and she would have—if not for the damn dog.
Its tail is nearly bigger than it is, and the thump against her thigh is enough to jar her, to make her lose her balance. She feels her stack of boxes teetering, putting her off-balance—and the fall is inevitable, only a matter of moments before she eats tile and breaks her favorite seashell picture frame she found at a flea market with Maz before she passed.
But she doesn’t. Eat tile. She feels a firm hand at her arm and another righting her stack of boxes, and she looks up into eyes like strong tea and hair begging for her fingers and that mouth.
It takes her several seconds more than it probably should to collect herself—mind and body.
“Shit,” she mutters, using his weight for balance as she rights herself. “I’m sorry.”
“No, don’t be.” He pats the head of what she now sees is a lumbering St. Bernard who is huffing up at her with wet jowls, giving her an apologetic look. “It was Chewie’s fault.”
Chewie seems completely unphased, actually looking as if he’s still sizing her up for probability of head scratches—something she would be more than happy to give were she not still half in peril of wiping out in the hallways of her new apartment building.
His hand is still on her arm, and she’s hyper aware of the heat and weight of it, so much larger than her own. Her eyes flick down to his grip that still lingers near her elbow, and he seems to notice then himself that he is still touching her, promptly pulling it away.
“It’s okay,” she tells him. “Probably shouldn’t have grabbed so many at one time.”
Not that she would ever admit that to Armie. She actually hopes he lingers a bit longer downstairs.
She’s having a hard time taking her eyes off the stranger—his dimpled smile making her feel funny in her chest as he gives a quiet nod. “New to the building?”
“Yeah, I’m”—she juts her chin towards her door—”just there.”
“Ah.” He hitches a thumb over his shoulder across the hall, keeping one hand tight on the giant dog’s leash. “I’m across the hall. I guess we’re neighbors.”
She smiles from behind her boxes. “I’d shake your hand, but…” She makes a show of hoisting her pile a little higher. “You know.”
His mouth quirks. “I’d hate for you to actually crack the tile on your first day. Seems like bad luck.”
“Right.” She can’t seem to wipe the grin from her face. “Bad luck.”
He doesn’t move to go, and neither does she, and it’s probably ridiculous, given the number of boxes she’s carrying—but she just can’t seem to make her feet start going again. She’s opening her mouth to say something, to say what she doesn’t know—maybe she’ll ask him to come by for dinner later, as a thank you for helping her not eat tile. Maybe she’ll tell him she likes his dog. Maybe she’ll tell him his mouth makes her stomach fluttery. Maybe she’ll—
“Okay, I’m ready. We can go now.”
Rey whips her head towards his door behind them, seeing a petite woman with dark hair and a wide smile flouncing out of it after shutting it behind her. She looks between them with a curious expression.
“Hey,” she offers finally, seeming to realize that neither of the other two are going to say anything. “I’m Rose. Are you new?”
Rey blinks twice, trying to sort herself. “Oh. Yes. Sorry. I’m Rey. Rey Johnson.”
“Rose.” The woman points to herself. “I see you already met Ben.”
Learning his name somehow bums her out harder, the crushing disappointment of meeting a hot guy only to learn he’s so obviously not available moments later seeming heavier than the boxes she’s carrying.
“Ben,” she repeats. “Sorry. I didn’t get your name.”
He tugs on Chewie’s leash a little harder, still giving her a friendly smile that doesn’t give her the same feeling it did a moment ago. “Yeah… me either.”
“Anyway,” Rey says awkwardly, hoisting her boxes in a show gesture. “Better get back to it.”
“Right,” Rose says. “I’m sorry. We’d offer to help, but we’ve got to get Chewie back... “
“He’s my dad’s,” Ben says. “So don’t worry, he won’t be here to terrorize you all the time. I’m just watching him.”
“He’s not so bad,” Rose coos, bending to pat his head. “Are you, boy?”
Chewie gives a little whuff in response, and honestly Rey just wants to get out of there. “I don’t mind,” she tells them. “Really. It was good to meet you.”
Rose gives a little wave as her hand curls under Ben’s arm. “Good to meet you too!”
Rey’s eyes flick to Ben’s for just a moment, feeling that same disappointment in her chest even as she silently chastises herself, knowing that it’s ridiculous given they just met.
“See you around, Rey,” Ben says as Rey starts to move towards her door.
She gives one last fleeting look over her shoulder, noticing Rose is already tugging Ben and the dog down the stairs. “Yeah,” she says quietly, unsure if he even catches it. “See you around, Ben.”
She thinks that maybe it’s a dream.
She blinks up at him as if one of the openings and closings of her lashes will somehow make him disappear—and is surprised when his solid form remains just as it is, nestled firmly under her arms and legs.
Her lips purse as she tries to remember how to form coherent sentences. “What’re you doing here?”
“Well,” he says carefully, as if he’s talking to a toddler. “I live here.”
She turns her head slowly to try and take in their surroundings in the dark, and okay, it does look a little different in her bedroom, to be fair. “You do?”
“Yes. I do. You woke me up.”
“Oh.” She turns her face down to what she’s realizing is a completely bare torso under her arms, eyes widening. “ Oh.”
Strangely, she doesn’t pull her limbs away, and if she were sober she might think it was even stranger, that he doesn’t try to make her. “I’m in the wrong apartment.”
“You are,” he says, his voice sounding strange, tight, even.
She looks up to try and make him out in the darkness that is only cut through by a thin sliver of moonlight peeking in through his blinds—and his expression seems odd too. Like he’s concentrating very hard.
“Dunno how I got here,” she slurs.
“You have a key,” he tells her calmly in that same strange voice. “Remember?”
She furrows her brow, actually not remembering until oh— yes. That’s right. She does. She isn’t sure how she could forget that she does even like this, considering how much she’s looked at the stupid thing hanging on her key ring as if it will somehow mean something more than it is.
“I think you just… stumbled into the wrong apartment,” he tells her calmly.
“Wrong apartment,” she parrots, as if this makes perfect sense and isn’t completely insane.
“I’m going to—” His hand slides down the length of her arm, and the way she shivers with it has nothing to do with the alcohol currently ruling her senses. His hand stills as if he notices, and she thinks on any other night but tonight… she’d be a lot more embarrassed. “I’m going to try and untangle myself here, and then I’ll help you up, and we’ll get you home, and—”
“God,” she huffs suddenly. “Why d’ya gotta have such a nice voice?” She drops her forehead that weighs a thousand pounds on his chest, taking a deep breath. “S’not fair.” She squeezes his side which is all hard muscle and not nearly as soft as the nice chest she’s sprawled over. “None of you is fair.”
“Rey,” he says tightly, his abdomen tensing beneath her hand that has begun to wander. “Rey. Let me just—let me get up, and I’ll—”
“Wish I could stop wanting you,” she sighs wearily. She’s still mostly convinced this is a dream. He feels too nice and too warm to be real. “S’not fair how much I do.”
He goes completely still, his hand still curled at her elbow and his front completely rigid as if he’s keeping every muscle in his body from moving by sheer willpower—and his voice is soft now, so soft she nearly misses it.
“...what do you mean you want me?”
The worst part of having a crush on her unavailable neighbor is that she can’t really avoid him.
She learned in the first couple of weeks that they have nearly the same schedule in the mornings, which means that when she steps out of her door in her leggings and her tight tank with the built-in sport’s bra she hardly needs—he’s almost always there to greet her. He always gives her that same smile from the first day, always welcoming and wide and the way it sort of wounds her because it only makes her like him more.
Ben takes the stairs in lieu of the elevator as some sort of pre-workout, Rey assumes, and Rey… as pathetic as it is, Rey takes the stairs to talk to Ben like some sort of masochist.
It would be easier, she thinks, if he weren’t so friendly.
It would be easier if he didn’t ask her about her job, or her hobbies, or anything else that seems to pop into his head on their way down the stairs their respective gyms. It would be easier if he didn’t look so good in his gym shorts and his black t-shirt, stretched over his wide chest that makes her want to run her fingers over it.
It would be easier if he didn’t have a fucking girlfriend.
Or even if said girlfriend wasn’t so damned nice.
That’s the absolute hardest part, Rey learns after living in the building for just under a month. It’s not that she likes Rose. It’s that it’s nearly impossible not to. She’s genuine, and sweet, and always complimenting Rey’s hair even when it looks like shit, and how could she hate someone so perfect just for having found the an equally perfect guy before Rey did?
It’s made infinitely clear to her on this day, standing outside her apartment and trying to unlock it with an arm full of groceries as her apples threaten to spill out. There’s a steadying hand at the bag, and her chest flutters with stupid giddy butterflies because she can see how large it is, and she knows who it belongs to, and when she looks up there is that same smile and those same eyes and why does he have to look as good as he does?
“You seem to have a real problem with balance,” he laughs.
She frowns at the bulging bag in her arms. “I’m told that I’m stubborn.”
“Maybe we’ll just say you’re determined.” He has dimples. Motherfucking dimples. It really just isn’t fair. “Here,” he goes on. “Give me your key, I’ll unlock it for you.”
She manages to poke out her finger that still has her keyring dangling from it, and he uses it to unlock her door and push it ajar. “Do you need help unloading? I have some time.”
“No, no,” she tells him, the thought of him in her apartment when she can’t touch him nearly excruciating. “I’ll manage.”
“Are you sure? I don’t—”
His door swings open then, a curious Rose poking her head out and giving him an exasperated look. “There you are! The show is about to start.”
“Sorry,” he tosses back, looking sheepish. “Had a little hiccup.”
Rey feels her face heating, hoping Rose doesn’t get the wrong idea. “It’s my fault,” she says quickly. “I can’t ever seem to keep from falling or dropping something.”
Rose looks between them, and for a moment Rey is worried she will have a jealous girlfriend on her hands—so she is surprised when the tiny women breaks out into a wide smile instead. “Do you want to come over and watch the Walking Dead with us? We have snacks.”
Ben looks down at her expectantly, one eyebrow cocked in silent invitation, and she feels torn in two directions, because on the one hand spending more time with him pleases the hopeless part of her that can’t seem to let go of her crush, but on the other —watching them in domestic bliss?
“No,” she blurts out, trying to keep her face straight. “That’s okay. I… have friends coming over.”
It’s a lie, a blatant one that she hopes neither of them check into… but it’s the first thing that pops into her head. She watches Rose pout a little good-naturedly, and she can’t bring herself to even look at Ben—giving them both a little wave and ducking into her apartment before either of them can try and offer again.
She rests her head on her door when she’s safely behind it, arms laden with groceries and head laden with unwanted thoughts—and she thinks to herself that she needs to get this shit under control.
Hopefully sooner rather than later.
She’s nearly into a more cozy state of amaretto comatose when she feels something shaking her, and she creaks open one eye in irritation only to find probably-dream-Ben trying to sit up as he jostles her awake.
“Rey,” he says more urgently. “What do you mean you want me?”
She rolls her eyes. She thinks that her subconscious should probably be a little more attuned to her innermost embarrassing secrets. She lowers her voice in a petulant drawl. “ Whadya mean I want you.” She snorts for good measure. “Strutting around—”
“I do not strut.”
She lets her hand flop at his side in a move that’s supposed to be a gesture. “—with that hair of yours—”
She can just reach to tug at one end near his nape. “Always all soft looking.” She rubs a piece between her fingers, sighing. “It is soft.”
“You think about my hair?”
She smashes her nose into his chest, inhaling the scent of soap and something inherently Ben. “Always smell so good.”
Her hand is moving in a slow circle over his abdomen, and Ben makes some sound that she can’t really make sense of. “Rey.”
“When I wake up, I’m gonna stop wanting you,” she sighs. “I’m gonna be fine.”
His voice sounds a little pained now, and she lifts her head up with effort to see his face contorted as if her touching him is torture. She thinks that’s about right, that even dream Ben wouldn’t want her to touch him.
She thinks she should probably milk the experience for all it’s worth.
“Mouth looks soft,” she mumbles, reaching a little to tap her finger against the swell of his lower lip. “Bet it’s soft too.”
She can feel him tensing, feel his hands at her shoulders trying to shift her weight off of him—but this is her dream, damnit, and if she wants to kiss dream Ben, she’s going to. His mouth parts when she’s close as if he’s going to protest, as if her subconscious itself is going to tell her that this is a stupid fucking thing to be holding onto—but she’s about three drinks too deep to really listen to reason, even if it’s coming from herself.
He goes still when her lips brush against him, so still —and for a moment she can just enjoy it, just pretend that this is real, and that he wants this. His lips are warm just like the rest of him, and if she closes her eyes, she can almost imagine his arms coming around her, can almost imagine him shifting to get closer—and she gives her a subconscious a little high-five for giving her this much, at least. She sighs as she melts into it, enjoying even this chaste press of her mouth against his, letting her limbs go lax and her mind haze over even as fingers curl around her arms, her lashes fluttering closed as she lets all her thoughts melt away.
Everything seems darker, everything feels heavier —and Rey lets everything fall away except the feel of dream-Ben under her hands and the warmth of his mouth against hers and why did she have to move in next to him?
She’s smiling when she pulls away, everything dreamy and soft and perfect even in its falsity, and she doesn’t open her eyes, too afraid the dream will dissipate to leave her back in her own bed where she’s just a neighbor and he’s just someone she can’t have, and she’d much rather stay here— just here, just like this.
She thinks dream-Ben is saying something, something about her keys and her own place and God knows what else, but she’s already curling into a blanket—eyes closed and limbs heavy as she lets the alcohol in her blood lull her into oblivion.
Some part of her prefers the dream to the morning.
It is five weeks after moving in that she receives a knock at her door.
She imagines that it’s Armie, or even Poe, hell, it could be Maz risen from the grave —any of these alternatives more likely in her mind than who is actually standing there.
He gives her a sheepish smile, hitching a thumb over his shoulder. “So… I locked myself out. Do you mind if I hang out until Rose gets here with my spare key?”
Part of her, a very small part that is a glutton for punishment—is thrilled that he’s here. A much larger part, probably the part of her that has any real sense, is groaning internally as it wishes she lived anywhere else. “Oh…” She scrambles for any sort of excuse as to why he can’t do that (because she shouldn’t let him, she absolutely shouldn’t ), coming up with nothing, thinking that’s probably because that smaller part of herself is shouting so loud that she shouldn’t be looking a gift horse in the mouth. “Sure,” she says against her better judgement, opening the door a bit wider. “Come on in.”
Ben is looking around with curiosity as she closes the door behind him, and for a moment she lingers there to watch him—suddenly self conscious about her thrift store rug and her collection of weird flea market cat figurines. He pauses by the latter to tab the wooden Siamese on the head, smiling a little before he continues on to settle onto one of the barstools at her kitchen counter.
“I like your place,” he says finally.
She rubs idly at her arm as she follows after him. “Oh… thanks.”
“It looks more lived in than mine.”
She laughs a little, circling the countertop to finish chopping her onion she abandoned to let him in. “Is that a nice way of saying chaotic?”
“No, no.” He shakes his head. “Mine’s just sterile. Always been shit at decorating.” He laughs under his breath. “I bet anything tasteful I do have came from Rose or my mother.”
Rey stops chopping for only a second, frowning down at it before shaking away her flicker of melancholy. “Well. I suggest many a trip to the local flea market, and you too can have this amazing style.”
He laughs, his forearms coming to rest on the countertop as he leans over it a little. “What are you making?”
“It smells good. You cook for yourself a lot?”
“It’s cheaper than going out all the time.” She blows out a breath. “Student loans are a bitch to pay back when you’re still job hunting.”
“What was your major?”
“Social work,” she tells him offhandedly.
“Really? That’s great.”
“Yeah… I’ve been applying to the local adoption agencies; that’s where I’d really like to end up… but I’ve got my resume at a few other places too.”
“Seriously,” he says in an even tone. “That’s amazing. That you want to do that.”
She shrugs, scooping up her minced onion and adding it to her pan. “I was in the system till I was nine,” she says flippantly. “I guess I just want to help someone like me.”
“I’m sorry,” he tells her quietly. “I didn’t know.”
She waves him off. “Don’t be. It’s old news.”
“You know my sister was seven when my parents adopted her.”
She adds her noodles to boiling water. “Oh?”
“Mhm. I was fifteen. Hated her when she first came home,” he laughs.
“It’s a big adjustment.”
“Yeah. She grew on me.” She peeks over her shoulder to find him grinning despite his eye roll, and she thinks to herself for the hundredth time that those dimples of his should be illegal. “Even if she can be a pain.”
She grins as she wipes her hand on a kitchen towel. “I think that just comes with the little sister territory.”
“Along with stealing all my food, poking into my love life, always abusing my spare key…”
He’s shaking his head even as he smiles back at her, and there’s a moment where he just looks at her, one long look as if he wants to say more—and Rey feels her tongue glued to the roof of her mouth, too afraid to say more for fear that she’ll completely embarrass herself and blurt out something stupid like how much she wants to touch his skin peeking out of the gapped neck of his Henley.
She clears her throat instead, jerking her head towards her stove. “You’re welcome to some of this,” she says casually. “If you’re gonna be here awhile.”
His eyebrows raise just a fraction, and for a second she regrets even asking—is it inappropriate to feed an attached man? She’s about to take it back when his mouth parts to speak, her nerves bouncing around in her stomach and making her feel ridiculous, because this is nothing to him but a convenience.
“Oh,” he starts, mouth turned up in a quiet smile. “That would be—”
There is another knock at her door, and somehow it feels just as unexpected, even if it most certainly isn’t.
Rey turns the heat down at her stove, moving around the counter to escape Ben if only to try and take a moment to calm the flush she feels creeping up her neck. She knew who it would reveal, she did— but she can’t help the sick sinking feeling in her gut.
She wonders if she is just a terrible person.
“Hey,” Rose greets her, that same bright smile on her face. “I heard you had a freeloader.”
“I was considering charging a portion of the rent if he was here much longer,” Rey jokes, drawing a little laugh out of Rose.
Rose looks behind her to where she imagines Ben is standing, holding up a bag impatiently. “I brought Chinese. You coming?”
She hears footsteps that she’s afraid to look back at, one hand firmly on her door frame as she waits for him to go back to where he came from, back to where he actually wants to be.
She really might be a terrible person for how much she wishes Rose had ran just a little late.
“You really should just leave a key with Rey,” Rose points out. “You do this entirely too much.”
“I do,” Ben laughs, coming into view as lingers in Rey’s doorway. “That’s actually not a terrible idea. Do you mind?”
“Oh, no,” Rey says probably too quickly. “It’s no trouble. I don’t mind.”
The way he smiles— Rey thinks he could ask to keep a succulent and an oscillating fan and a pet pony at her place, and she would agree just as pitifully.
He tells her he’ll give her a spare key in the morning, because he knows he’ll see her, she thinks—just as he always does in their mornings. Rose just smiles blithely through the entire exchange, and Rey isn’t sure if it makes her feel better or worse that Rose is so secure in her relationship that none of this seems to bother her even a little bit.
She closes the door after them to shut away her ridiculous disappointment, and it only hurts a little bit (lie, definitely a lie) when she catches Ben’s low tone murmuring great timing through her door—and Rey mentally chides herself because of course he would say that. She can’t imagine how uncomfortable she probably made him inviting him to eat dinner with her
She really has to get this shit under control.
She doesn’t immediately realize anything is amiss.
There’s still a warmth under her hands, the same variety that she has fragmented memory of from the night before, coming back in bits and pieces as it customary for good dreams—and she nuzzles closer to it as soft fur tickles her cheeks.
Then it hits her.
Her eyes fly open to chocolate fur, the weight of a massive tail thumping against her bare legs that stick out of her jean shorts, and no matter how much she drank last night, no matter how hard her heads pounds—she knows she didn’t forget owning a dog.
She blinks at the massive canine several times, wincing only a little when it licks her cheek, memory finally creeping back in to alert her of her guest.
Her voice sounds dry and hoarse, and her mouth tastes like she spent the night prior licking a bar floor.
Not a great way to start her day.
She rolls away from the giant dog to sit blearily at the edge of the bed, rubbing at her eyes as reason still lays at the wayside to her pounding head and her heavy eyes. She takes note of her clothes she wore to the bar the night before, of her shoes carefully placed near an open bathroom door—finally realizing that the sheets under her are the wrong color. That the bedroom, even if the correct layout, has the wrong furniture.
She frowns as she takes in a black dresser, a matching bedside table, a stark portrait of some black and white painting on the wall that reminds her of checkered tile.
And then it really hits her.
This isn’t her fucking bedroom.
At first she panics, because whose is it? But then the pieces of her dream—her dream that she’s rapidly fearing is not a dream at all, but the actual events of last night—start to trickle in.
Ben’s voice. Telling her she’s in the wrong apartment. Something about her key, about his key—she doesn’t even know where her purse or her key ring is right now—and her stomach flips with something that has nothing to do with her hangover, because did she kiss Ben Solo?
If she weren’t so against getting on his sheets again, she might flop back on his bed dramatically.
What the fuck has she done?
She’ll never be able to look at him again. At either of them. She doesn’t even want to imagine the inevitable discussion she’ll have to have about returning his key. Which she will. She wants to die. She wants to flush herself down his toilet— but she settles for tiptoeing into his bathroom, taking in her appearance.
It’s not terrible, all things considered. She fixes the raccoon situation under her eyes with a bit of his hand soap and warm water, and quickly swipes some of his toothpaste to run over her teeth with her finger, thinking the least she can do is have acceptable breath while she has a conversation about her unacceptably awkward B&E stunt.
She thinks now there is only one thing she can really do. She situates her shirt, she arranges her hair into something other than complete disarray, she dredges up the single remaining thread of her dignity… and she turns to leave Ben’s bedroom, knowing she’ll never see it again. Not that there was ever any chance she would.
She takes a deep breath as Chewie moseys over to poke his head against her thigh as she goes, panting a little as she reaches to pat his head.
“Well, boy,” she says quietly. “I think it’s safe to say I really did not get this shit under control.”
The key doesn’t look any different than hers. Not really. Still, she can’t seem to stop fiddling with it, can’t stop glancing down at it hanging from her key ring. Can’t stop imagining some other reality where it means something else.
She snaps her head up to catch Armie giving her a disapproving look. “What?”
“Don’t what me. You know what. Stop mooning over a spare key.”
It’s a lie, and a thinly veiled one at that. Poe looks anywhere else, but Armie crosses his arms over his chest, frowning.
“It’s been two months. Two months. Sooner or later you’re going to have to put this thing behind you.”
“I have,” she asserts weakly, and when he cocks an eyebrow at her: “Sort of. Mostly.” He continues to look at her as if she’s full of shit, and she drops her head to the bar top. “I’m trying.”
Poe pipes up as he reaches across the bar for a handful of nuts in the bowl. “Is this that neighbor guy she’s still hung up on?”
“I am not hung up,” she huffs.
Armie makes a disgruntled sound.
“Okay,” Rey sighs. “Listen. I know how stupid it is. I really do. You don’t think I know that? It’s not my fault he’s so sweet, and funny, and fucking hot —God, Poe, you have no idea—” She catches Armie’s pursed lips, closing her mouth promptly. “Anyway. I’m trying. I really am. He just gave me a fucking spare key last week, and it’s like this damn reminder sitting in my pocket all the time that I live next door to the perfect guy that I can never fucking have.”
Armie pats her shoulder. “There, there.”
She narrows her eyes up at him from where her cheek rests against her arms, and he laughs.
“Look,” he goes on. “It’s a bummer. I get it. I do —but you’re hot, and young, and funny, and mostly not an asshole as long as you have caffeine”—she shoves his arm playfully even as he keeps going—“you’re going to be fine. There are a hundred Bens out there for someone like you. You just have to put this one behind you and start looking.”
Rey nods petulantly, still surreptitiously tracing the shape of Ben’s spare key in her lap as Poe drops a fresh drink in front of her.
“Have another,” he urges. “We don’t work tomorrow. Let’s drink until you forget all about him.”
“Gonna need a lot more alcohol for that,” Rey grumbles.
Armie pulls out his credit card, signalling the bartender before telling him, “I’d like to open a tab.”
Rey thinks idly there might not be enough alcohol in this entire bar to make her forget—but at this point… she’s sure as hell willing to try.
She’s lingering in the hall, part of her wondering if she could just sneak out. She hopes it’s okay that she shut Chewie up in Ben’s room, thinking that she might could be a little stealthier without the lumbering beast trodding down the hall beside her. Thinking maybe she could get out his front door before he notices her. She’ll get out into the hall and into her apartment and then she’ll pack and move somewhere some place where there aren’t hot neighbors with nice smiles and soft mouths and sweet dispositions.
Her hands shake even as she fills her lungs with air, thinking that somehow it’ll blow over. That she can play it off as a sort of a no big deal sort of thing. She was drunk. She didn’t mean it.
Rey steps out from the hall, deciding to just get it over with.
She isn’t expecting to find him standing over a stove, pushing something around in a skillet idly. She certainly isn’t expecting to see most of the muscles in his back working as he moves—only half-covered in his tight muscle tank. For a moment she doesn’t make her presence known, a little flabbergasted by just how good he looks even from behind—but after seconds of feeling like even more of a creep, she quietly clears her throat.
He turns to regard her, and this will be the moment, she thinks. This will be the moment where he tells her she’s lucky he didn’t call the cops. Where he says he thinks one of them should start going to a different gym so they don’t see each other. Where he tells her she’s a horrible, alcohol-soaked, no good—
“Oh, hey,” he says, a little smile at his mouth that surprises her. “You’re up.”
She is still for a moment, unsure of how to proceed—thrust into none of the scenarios she’d expected, instead in some sort of twilight zone where Ben not only smiles at the crazy person who breaks into his apartment and crawls unwanted into his bed, but—is he making breakfast?
He glances down at the skillet as his mouth makes a little o —pushing his spatula around. “I didn’t know how you liked your eggs,” he says in a tone that seems almost… nervous? “I went for scrambled since it’s the most common, but if you want something else, I can—”
“You made me… eggs?”
His brow tilts. “Yes? Do you not like them? I can make something else.”
She thinks maybe she’s gaping, trying to make sense of what’s happening. “Why did you make me eggs?”
“It’s…” His brow furrows as if she’s being odd. “It’s breakfast time?”
She crosses her arms over her chest, still looking at him as if he’s grown a second head. “You’re not mad?”
“That I… well. You know.”
His mouth quirks. “That you broke into my place and crawled into my bed and kissed me?”
“Yes.” She feels her face flame. “That.”
He shakes his head, turning back to his skillet to push the eggs around. “I’m not mad. Surprised —but not mad.”
“Oh.” She shuffles her foot awkwardly, thinking that in addition to being incredibly good looking, and sweet, and soft-mouthed—apparently Ben is a saint , as well. Great. She almost grimaces, wondering if it is it just that he finds her so unattractive that an experience like this doesn’t phase him? It shouldn’t bother her as much as it does. She’s reminded of what a terrible person she is. “Well, if you’ll just give me my keys and my shoes… I’ll get out of here.”
“You don’t want breakfast?”
“That’s not a good idea,” she tells him, her tone reflecting a bit of irritation, because doesn’t he know how bad it will look that she’s here? Can he really be that dense?
“Of course it isn’t,” she huffs, exasperated that he seems to not be getting it.
His jaw works as his lips press together. “You said you wanted me. Last night.”
He nods. “Right before you kissed me.”
She groans, burying her face in her hands as pieces of that particular moment crop up in her mind. “ God, I did. I’m so sorry.”
She looks up to find him looking at her in confusion. “For all of it,” she blurts out, starting to pace a little from across the kitchen. “For breaking in, and climbing into your bed, and for kissing you—oh my god. I’m so sorry. I drank so much last night with my friends, and I know it’s unbelievable, because it really is— but did not mean to stumble into the wrong apartment. Our keys just look so fucking similar. I know you can never speak to me again, and that’s totally okay. I promise I’ll never say anything to Rose, this is totally my fault, and I won’t ever—”
“Rey. Rey.” She stops her rambling, looking up to find a strange expression on his face. “What do you—” His eyes narrow like he’s thinking, and his mouth opens and closes as if he’s trying to put the words together. He finally reaches to turn the heat off at the stove before regarding her carefully. “What do you mean you won’t tell Rose?”
“I…” She’s confused now too. Is he really okay if she finds out? Oh God. He’s not secretly some sort of cheating playboy is he? He doesn’t think that she’ll… she grits her teeth. “I mean, I won’t tell your girlfriend”— she stresses the word if only to remind him that he has one—“that I kissed you.”
He blinks back at her for several moments, the silence stretching between them thickly, and she’s nearly ready to just leave without her damn shoes, but then—
“Rey,” he says carefully, as if he’s speaking to a child. “I don’t have a girlfriend.”
Now it’s her turn to blink stupidly. “What?”
He tilts his head, still wearing that mildly perplexed look. “I told you that Rose was my adopted sister.”
It feels like some sort of hammer knocks over her head, or maybe that’s the alcohol. Memories of every time she has seen them together start to flit behind her eyes—seeing them in the light of this new information.
“No,” she stresses the word. “You absolutely did not.”
“I had to—” His mouth hangs open for a moment, concentrating as if she’s not the only one sorting through their interactions. “Didn’t I?”
She crosses her arms. “Not once.”
“Wow, that’s...” He crosses his arms, looking taken aback. “That was incredibly stupid of me.”
He laughs, but Rey doesn’t feel so amused. Her head is still throbbing a little, and she’s still mostly just confused. “So you’re not…”
She waves her hand in gesture, and he saves her. “Attached? No.”
“And you’ve never…”
“Been with Rose?” He grimaces as if the very idea is insane. “No.”
She presses her fingers to her temples. “So every time I’ve seen you, you’ve been…”
“Trying to get your attention? Yes.”
Her gaze snaps up. “What?”
“You really didn’t notice?”
“No, I—” She does laugh a little then. How could she notice? She was too busy mourning the fact that she couldn’t have him. “I didn’t.” She shakes her head. “But you still never said anything.”
“You always seemed like you were trying to get away from me as quick as you could… sort of squashes any urges to ask you out.”
She looks down at the floor. She was always trying to get away from him… if only because it was so damned hard to be around him. Her head is spinning now for reasons that have nothing to do with a hangover, counting the tiles in his kitchen as she tries to piece it all together, trying to make it make sense in her head.
She is only drawn out of her musings when his heavy footsteps sound across the floor, and she doesn’t look up at him—suddenly shy even though hours ago she’d apparently been bold enough to break in and kiss him. His fingers find her chin, tilting it up and forcing her to look at him.
“Can I take last night as a good sign that you do actually want me to ask you out?”
“What,” she laughs. “The breaking and entering wasn’t enough to scare you off?”
He shrugs a little, grinning. “Well… you did only steal a kiss.” His eyes flick to her mouth, and her heart rate picks up at least a dozen beats. “I’d be willing to bet that you’d repay it, if I asked.”
She swallows thickly. “Are you asking?”
“Yeah,” he says quietly. “Yeah, I am.”
She doesn’t answer, but she doesn’t think she needs to. Not with the way her mouth parts slightly, the way her lashes flutter closed.
It’s soft at first, just as soft as her dizzied brain remembers it—and she doesn’t press for more, content to just enjoy it for what it is.
But then he takes a step, just a small one, but it’s enough to bring his body closer. Enough so that when her hands slide between them—they press against a warm, firm chest. She feels his fingers light near her hips, as if testing for permission, and she answers by gripping the fabric of his tank, pulling him against her until there’s no room left.
There’s a little groan in his throat when her tongue slides across his lip, opening so that he can answer with a swipe of his own, and she doesn’t mean to press for more, she doesn’t —but it’s been two months, and Ben is not only single, but he wants her too.
His hands slide over her hips, and her arms wind around his neck as his tongue sweeps through her mouth to tangle with hers. His teeth graze, and his mouth conquers, and it’s better—so much better than she ever thought it would be.
Her hands have drifted somewhere near the band of his sweatpants, pulling aimlessly as if somehow she can bring him even closer even though it’s hardly possible at this point. He spins her roughly when her fingers just graze the shape of something hard and thick between his legs, and she tilts her head back when his mouth starts to wander, moving over her jaw and down her throat to make her dizzy with it.
“I made you breakfast,” he says breathlessly at some point, even as he’s still half nibbling at a sensitive point on her throat, one she hadn’t even known existed before now.
Her mouth opens, eyes closed as she tries to remember what words are. “I’ve always liked cold eggs.”
“Really?” She can feel the warm press of his tongue just under her jaw, and she has to squeeze her legs together for the building pressure there. “You have?”
“No,” she gasps as his teeth graze her earlobe. “But I have a feeling I will today.”
His breath comes a little harder now. “You don’t— we don’t— ” He blows out an exasperated breath, and she's hyper aware of the fact that there’s still something long and hard pressed against her thigh now. She thinks he is too, more than likely. “I want to date you,” he says pointedly. “That is, I want to take you on a date. I have for a while,” he stresses. “And nothing has to—”
She shuts him up with a kiss, admittedly smashing her mouth against his with more force than necessary. She can feel the moment his tension eases, his hands tightening their grip at her waist where they’ve snuck under her shirt.
She breaks away breathing just as heavily as he is now, looking up at him through hooded eyes. “I’ve wanted a few things for a while too.”
There’s a moment where he seems to wrestle with the decision, because she thinks it’s blatant, what she’s offering, and she lets the seconds tick by with bated breath.
But then his hands slide a little higher, so warm against her spine—and they just keep going, and going; he never takes his eyes off of hers as he lifts her shirt over her head, almost as if he’s afraid at any moment she’ll change her mind, something that he is absolutely in no danger of. Rey can’t think of anything else she’d rather be doing right now.
His eyes rake over the thin lace of a bra she hardly needs, but the way he looks at her, hungrily —Rey can’t find it in her to be self-conscious. His hand slides up her ribs slowly, palm cupping her through the lace before dipping to brush his thumb against her nipple, drawing a soft sound from her that makes his eyes flick up to meet hers, and she notices how dark they are, how wide and full of want.
He never tears his eyes away as he leans in, not until he has to—then letting them close as his mouth teases the rapidly hardening bud of her nipple through the lace. Her fingers wind in his hair, and his mouth becomes more eager, and he’s still so hard against her, and all she can think about is yes this is Ben yes Ben wants her too —and it’s enough to have her reaching blindly to free him of his own shirt in a frantic manner.
Her hands can’t stop moving when he’s free of it, even when he dives back in to resume his mission of trying to effectively suck her nipple into his mouth through the lace of her bra—but she’s already moved on to his sweatpants, tugging insistently as the band even as she can’t quite budge them as she’d like.
Ben seems to get the same idea as his fingers trip over the button of her denim shorts, just as she finds enough leverage to roll his sweats down with his underwear enough to let her nails scrape against the firmness of his ass. She abandons it altogether when her shorts gap apart and his hand snakes its way inside, mouth falling open in a gasp when two long fingers press against her through her underwear to find her already wet.
“ Fuck,” he groans.
Rey thinks it might be the first time she’s ever heard him curse, and what it does to her.
Her hands slide over his shoulders now, gripping if only to keep herself steady. “You’ve really”—a little whimper escapes her when his hand withdraws just enough to tuck under her underwear—“thought about this? For a while?”
He huffs against her skin, lips wandering higher to mouth at her collarbone. “Since the first day.” His teeth find her throat to graze there as he curls two fingers to just tease at her entrance. “Every fucking day since .” He makes a strangled sound as her nails bite into his skin. “You’re so damned wet.”
She wants to tell him that of course she is, that he’s touching her—but she can’t form the words. Not with the way his fingers ease inside to stretch her, not with the way his tongue slides across her throat, the way his kitchen counter bites into her back and she can hardly feel it because all she can think about is his mouth and his hands and the fact that she still wants more.
“Ben,” she breathes, tilting her pelvis further into his hand. “Ben. Do you—can we—do you want to—”
“Condom,” he rasps. “Need—”
Her mouth parts in a quiet gasp as he pushes inside a little deeper. “Birth control. If you—if you want—”
It’s a frenzy now, a sudden loss of his hand that makes her want to whine, but a quick appeasement because he’s tearing at her shorts now, rolling them down her legs so she can step out of them and leaving no room for second thought as he comes back to make short work of her underwear as well. There is a brief second where he just stares between her legs when she’s bare, a heavy swallow at his throat before her fingers at his already skewed waistband make him remember himself.
He’s kissing her again even as his hands join hers to shove down his sweats, his big body shuddering when he’s in her hands, warm and thick and so hard. His pants aren’t even all the way off, strung around his thighs haphazardly—but neither of them can seem to take a break to remedy the situation. He shifts his hips so that she’s forced to grip his waist instead, his cock slotting against the wet warmth between her legs as he thrusts lightly against her.
She makes a sound of surprise as his hands suddenly curl under her arms, lifting her like she’s nothing to sit her on his counter, the cool surface only slightly jarring because of the way she is wholly concentrated on how he’s already settling between her legs. The way he breaks roughly from her mouth just so that he can peer down between them.
He fists his cock in one large hand, breath ragged and short as he rubs the head through her folds, her thighs trembling a little in anticipation because it has been two fucking months, damnit.
One large palm cups her jaw, and he turns up his face to let it hover near hers, watching her expression as he finally, finally begins to ease inside. He’s big, arguably too big —but Rey is as determined as she is wet, and the look on his face: like he can’t believe this, like he’s been thinking of this for just as long as she has— it’s more than enough incentive.
He moves slow, letting her get used to it, easing inside inch by inch as her thighs spread wide to accommodate him. He grunts softly when she’s full of him, when there is no more of him to take, and Rey’s hands curl over his shoulders, letting her mouth brush against his as she feels him straining to keep himself in check.
“Fuck, Rey,” he breathes raggedly. “You feel—this is—”
“You too,” she manages, kissing him softly. “I feel it.”
He starts to move when her tongue licks at his lower lip, when he opens to allow her inside—one slow drag of his cock against her inner walls followed by an equally lazy push. It’s just enough, it’s too much— and Rey is tugging, pulling him closer, fingers in his hair and mouth slanted against his as he steadily builds a rhythm.
Every thrust comes a little faster than the last, and she hears it—when it becomes too much for him. Hears it in his deep groan, feels it in his tight grip, tastes it in the growing urgency of his kiss.
He’s stroking into her more roughly now, moving in a way that she knows will leave her sore tomorrow in the best way—and already she can feel the way something is building inside, fed by the friction of his urgent pace. She can only hold on, arm looping around his neck as he tries to take more from her mouth, kissing her in a way that feels as if he can’t get enough.
His hands have found their way over her thighs, fingers splayed over her skin as he holds them apart—nipping at her lower lip just as she feels his palms side higher until his thumb can dip to where she’s spread open, rolling over her clit to make her breath catch.
His voice is tight, like even a single syllable is a chore. “There?”
“Right there.” She nods even as she’s still trying to keep kissing him. “Don’t stop.”
He circles the swollen bud with the pad of his thumb, rolling his hips against her as he fills her again and again and again. Her thighs burn, and her arm shakes, but the angle is just right, and his touch is so persistent, and if he keeps going, keeps touching her just like that— just a little more, and she’ll—
He’s still cursing as he tears his mouth away, keeping her thighs spread to watch as everything inside trembles and shakes with the way she comes apart. She can feel her mouth slack and her back arching, every muscle drawing tight like a bow string right down to the curl of her toes.
She can’t pinpoint the moment Ben follows, not with the hazy afterglow of her own release—but some seconds later she registers the warmth of it, the way he’s pulsing inside. His forehead rests against her shoulder, and her hands smooth aimlessly over his, her mouth brushing against his temple and his hair as he comes down from it.
His body shudders as lets out a ragged breath, breathing in just as deep to expel it against her skin.
“I want to do that again,” he huffs.
She laughs against his hair. “I’m definitely going to need that breakfast first.”
“After,” he murmurs, kissing her shoulders.
She smiles, breathing in the scent of his shampoo. “I might be okay with that.”
He pulls away, his mouth turned up in a sated grin. “This is not the way I thought this would go.”
“I’m just happy you’re not asking for your key back… yet.”
“Oh, no, you can keep that. I’m hoping it’ll encourage you to break in more often.”
A laugh burbles out of her, morphing into a softer sound when he finally slides out of her. He’s watching her while she dresses, his eyes raking over every part of her as he adjusts his sweats and tugs his tank over his head—and she knows she’ll most likely need a shower after breakfast, if the sticky mess between her thighs is any indication.
Not that she minds. She’s already mentally calculating the probability of fitting them both in one shower.
She’s about to give her thoughts on the matter, opening her mouth with near-certainty that he’ll be okay with the idea—when she’s distracted by a telltale rattling of a doorknob that comes with someone jamming a key into it.
Ben’s head whips in its direction a second too late, and Rey has blessedly got her shorts situated—shirt half over her head when his door bursts open to a familiar petite face and a sing-song greeting.
“Heeeey, I needed to borrow your—”
Rose goes still in the doorframe, gaping a little at Rey’s haphazard state of dress and Ben’s hair that is thoroughly mussed in a way that can only come from fucking one’s neighbor frantically on one’s countertop—and for a moment Rey is left frozen because the knowledge that Rose isn’t what she thought is still a new concept, and it’s a little hard to brush away the unmerited guilt that leaves her flushed.
Rose’s eyes dart between them, and Rey thinks she should say something, say anything, thinks she should—
“Well,” Rose says finally, robbing Rey of the need. “It’s about fucking time.” Rey blinks twice, trying to process what Rose has said, robbed of the chance when Rose gives them both a wide grin and a shake of her head before settles on Ben with a pointed look. “I’ll come back later.” She turns to Rey. “And you I expect at the next movie night.”
She leaves the way she came then, closing the door behind her and leaving them both a little stunned and a lot bewildered. Rey is just easing her shirt back where it’s supposed to be when she catches Ben’s eye, and she can see the way his mouth is curling, feels it mirrored in her own—and they’re laughing before either of them can help it.
“Well,” Rey says after. “I guess that answers that.”
Ben shakes his head, fingers looping into the belt loops of her shorts as he tugs her closer as he heaves out a sigh. “Rose always has had great timing .”
She notes the playful irritability of his tone, invoking a memory of another time when she’d heard him say the same thing and wondering what she missed over the past few weeks in her misunderstanding. She’s more than happy to spend a while finding out.
“She said about time,” Rey remarks.
Ben gives her a sheepish look. “I… might have expressed my dismay of not being able to man up and talk to you a few times. Rose might be more invested in this”—he gestured between them—“than we are.”
Rey laughs, doubting that somehow. She runs her fingers through his hair to give her best go of straightening it, a smile on her lips that she thinks won't be fading for a while yet. He leans in to kiss her, and she closes her eyes, happy just to be able to do so, thinking she’d like to do just this as many times as she can in the near future.
Rey couldn’t agree more.