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Rey looks down at the little blue and white stick clutched in her sweaty palm and feels like her stomach is about to fall out of her ass. 

There, in the tiny gray window, are two seemingly harmless black lines.

Two.

She blinks rapidly, trying to clear whatever fog has obscured her vision and made her think she is currently holding a positive pregnancy test

She's not pregnant. She can't be pregnant. She just can't be. Because if she is, her mate will leave her. 

Ben will leave her. 

Ben, who's against all things domestic, who prides himself on having ironclad control over his alpha instincts, who had explicitly told her on their first date (forced upon them by their mutual friend Phasma- he's miserable, you're miserable, you two will hit it off!) that he didn't do commitment and he didn't do babies.

Ben, who'd sat across from her in that too-expensive restaurant, dark eyes glinting something bitter, large hands furiously waving around, as he'd ranted about the expectations of society and the constraints of biology and how they could all shove it up their ass, thank you very much. You wouldn't catch Ben Solo with a child in a million years. 

When she'd asked what he thought about mating, he'd shrugged, sipping on a glass of red whose bottle cost more than her rent. Just because I don't like kids, doesn't mean I don't like the act of trying, he'd winked.

You know what I meant, she'd gasped, a faint blush coloring her cheeks.

He'd smirked, amused by the flush creeping up her neck. Mating is a necessary evil, if one wants to get consistently laid, he'd quipped. But, love is nothing more than a biological lie designed to increase reproduction.

She'd laughed freely, agreeing ardently, telling horror stories of her own that had led to hatred of idiotic biological mandates. She was throughly charmed by him, every bit as dry and cynical as Phasma had warned. 

There had been a second date, and a third, and a fourth...too many to count. 

And then, somewhere down the line, one night (date number...thirty-five?) as he'd left the table to take a work call and she watched him pacing back and forth in irritation outside another too-fancy restaurant she never would've set foot in without him, running his hands through his hair and pinching the bridge of his nose, she realized she had done the unthinkable. 

Rey had fallen in love.

Unconditionally, irrevocably, stupidly in love with a man who didn't believe in such a thing. 

She'd gone into heat a couple months after that, her body aching and wanting for only Ben, Ben, Ben and even though she knew she shouldn't, knew it would be an irreversible mistake, a lovesick girl overrun with hormones can only be so strong- she'd broken barely an hour in and called him. He had arrived almost immediately, showing up on her doorstep wild-eyed and half-crazy as the first tendrils of her heat-heightened scent reached his nostrils. 

He'd fucked her mindlessly into oblivion, and it was so good, mind-blowing, everything she'd ever wanted, that those forbidden words were never far from the tip of her tongue. Each time she came they threatened to fall, to emerge in a breathless litany, but she furiously held them back, clenching her jaw so tight, she half expected to chip a tooth. She would not let her stupid feelings mess this up. If sex was all she would ever have of Ben, then that would have to be enough. Rey had learned a long time ago to take what you can get and be thankful.

Instead what had escaped was mark me, bite me, claim me. It had felt like all the words she wanted to say.

Alpha, please. Need you so bad.

Ben had granted her wish. He'd sunk his teeth into her skin with a satisfied grunt as his knot expanded and locked them together, wrapping her in his arms while he laved contentedly with a pleasantly wet tongue at the bleeding bite mark on the back of her neck.

They were mated. 

After the haze of heat had cleared, she'd apologized profusely, (it was her fault, she'd forced him to do it) frustrated tears rising in her eyes. Damnit Rey, you made him tie himself to you. He'll resent you forever. 

But Ben had only given her that noncommittal shrug and half-smile she had grown to so cherish. You're not so bad, kid. Wouldn't mind having sex with you the rest of my life. 

Rey had grinned back, heart brimming with the feeling she wouldn't allow herself to name, knowing it could never be returned. 

Ever so slowly and without ever meaning to, her things started to migrate into his apartment and she started spending two nights a week at his place, then three, then five, then seven and suddenly, everything she owned was with him and she'd closed out her housing contract. 

She stopped going to the pharmacy for her monthly suppressant refill somewhere around that time too and his pill bottles ended up in the trash. 

Before she knew it, it had been two years since their first date, eighteen months since they'd bonded, sixteen months since she'd moved in, and two months since her last period.

Now, she stands hunched over their bathroom sink, cursing the stress of her promotion which caused her to forget that her birth control shot expired three months ago

She throws the pregnancy test on the counter, her hands coming up to press over her eyes, hoping against hope that if she wished hard enough the test will read negative when she looks at it again.

No such luck. 

"Damnit, damnit, damnit," she mutters. The panic starts to truly set in now, her hands wringing together as her breath comes in short, quick gulps of air.  

Ben and her have been good.

So what if she has to bite her bottom lip near bloody to keep from crying when she comes about how amazing he smells, how perfect he is, how much she loves him?

So what if she wears his sweaters when he leaves town for business, drowning herself in that delicious caramel scent, tinged with hints of her own vanilla, imagining that it's him holding her because when he's not around she can't breathe right?

So what if she cries herself to sleep on those lonely nights, worried out of her mind that he'll find someone new, someone better, and want to break their bond?

Their bond that she feels she forced him into, but yet is so sacred to her; it's the only thing that keeps her sane, the closest she will ever get to having his heart. He specifically told her he didn't want commitment, didn't want babies. She has him in every capacity that he would allow. She lives in his apartment, goes to sleep in his bed, eats his food. He holds her and fucks her and that should be enough, she's forced herself to believe that it's enough. But like it did during that first fateful heat, her body has greedily clamored for more of him, has taken his DNA at the first opportunity and eagerly mixed it immutably with her own.

She's foisted herself upon him, saddled him with her through this mating bond he didn't ask for-

What am I supposed to do? Ben barely wants her, let alone a child

Rey pictures the displeasure on his face as she tells him the news. It was after all, her fault, she'd forgotten to get a new birth control shot. He would be so disappointed, perhaps even disgusted, and then he would leave. Or, he would make her leave since technically this was his apartment. And then he would set up an appointment to inject the chemical into their bloodstreams that would tear them apart. 

He would break their bond.

She feels his perceived absence like a punch to the gut. To not have his scent, mingled with hers, covering her and everything she owns, to not see his soft smile in the early morning, the sunlight making his hazel eyes glow almost gold, to not sleep curled around him, letting the comforting caress of his fingers over her glands lull her to a peaceful slumber as he hums some half-forgotten tune from his childhood...to lose him and everything he is, is inconceivable. She will not survive being torn from him. Her very soul would rend in two. To have to additionally bear the bond bite for the rest of her life, a reminder of everything she had and lost etched permanently onto her skin...that pain would drive her to madness.

The only option is to destroy the child.

Her entire being immediately reels at the thought and bile rises in the back of her throat. Her hands rest delicately on her still-flat abdomen and she knows with supreme certainty she could never have an abortion. How could she get rid of this perfect combination of her and Ben? At two months, their child was little more than a bundle of cells but already she loved it with the unrelenting fierceness only a mother could possess. 

"I'll protect you," Rey coos, reassuring the child as if it could have heard her thoughts. "I'm not gonna do that."

Abortion is not an option. 

Neither is Ben leaving. 

An impossible problem with no solution. 

Her heart cracking to pieces, Rey bursts into tears.

There has to be a way...

She has time, her scent won't change until the three month mark, she'll find a strong scent-blocker, she'll wear baggy clothing when she starts to show, throw up before he wakes, sneak away to have her heats...He won't know. 

She'll figure something out because it can't be Ben or the child. She can't choose between her mate or her child

But deep down, she knows that a decision has already been made. She decided her fate the second she threw the abortion idea out the window.

Rey would have this baby and Ben would leave, but she would have this little piece of him and maybe that would finally be enough. 

She would show him the test the second he got home, getting the pain over quickly, like ripping off a band-aid. She would bear his irritation and his anger and she would pack her things and tell him to text her with the details of their bond-breaking appointment. 

Rey would absolutely do none of that. 

She must be astonishingly stupid or maybe she's just a raging masochist, but she knows that she could never bring herself to voluntarily do anything that might make Ben leave. She would hold onto him for as long as she could because Rey is incredibly, incredibly weak and can't bear to let go of Ben unless he makes her. She'll at least have to start putting distance between them now though; Ben is a drug that she needs to slowly wean herself off because going cold turkey might actually kill her. 

The truth is she will never be able to get Ben out of her system, but Rey shoves that unhelpful thought aside. 

It's at precisely that moment that her mate chooses to arrive home. She hears his key turning in the lock and hurriedly stuffs the pregnancy test down deep to the bottom of their little bathroom trashcan. Washing her hands, she splashes cold water on her face, erasing the tears, but doing nothing to eliminate the splotchiness and puffy eyes. She forces herself to breathe deeply three times, aware that her scent must be a cocktail of panic and despair. 

The door opens and she hears his heavy steps in the hallway as he hangs his coat up. Her scent spikes in fear but she shoves it down. In through your nose, out through your mouth...

"Rey?" he calls.

She lets the air rush out of her lungs, forcing herself to relax and check her reflection. She definitely looks like she's been crying, but there's nothing she can do about that. Hopefully, he won't notice anything amiss, so steels herself and steps out into the hall, shutting the bathroom door behind her. 

"Hi," she says, voice hoarse. If this were any other day, Rey would greet him by winding her arms around his toned waist and planting a healthy kiss on his full lips. Instead, she stands rigid five feet away with her hands clasped behind her back so her body won't betray her and reach out. Distance. "How was your day?"

"Fine," his calculating gaze searches her head to toe. "Are you okay? I thought I smelled something-" He moves towards her, indicating his intention to press his nose to her gland and that she cannot have because touch would most definitely break her carefully maintained control over the emotional tumult raging within. 

Distance, she reminds herself. It will make the break easier.

She pushes past him into the kitchen, a portrait of normalcy, as she fills a pot with water and sets it on the stove to boil. "I'm fine. Just cooking dinner. Spaghetti okay?" She sprinkles in a pinch of salt and reaches for the box of uncooked noodles in the back of their cupboard, not waiting for his reply.  

Rey's so attuned to Ben she doesn't need the heightened sense of smell the bond brings to know he's worried and confused as he comes to stand close behind her, on the edge of touching. His big body is taunt; he can sense that his touch would not be welcome.

"Have you been crying?" Ben asks quietly and she can feel the soft puff of his exhale against her shoulder, bared by the tank top she's wearing. He sounds pained, but Rey writes it off as her own wishful thinking.

Maybe if she tells a small truth, it will get him off her back. She has a couple of weeks until her scent changes, but she's paranoid that if he comes any closer he'll smell the hormones that indicate pregnancy. And she'll fall right into his arms, her resolve snapping like a twig.

"Yes!" She says brightly, forcing a toothy smile that feels more like a grimace. "I watched this terribly sad dog food commercial. Don't know why it made me cry, must be about to get my period." Rey makes herself laugh, but the sound is too loud and eerily high.

There's a pause and she can feel him hesitate. "Okay," Ben finally says and Rey can tell he doesn't quite believe her. Mercifully though, he backs away and she lets out an internal sigh of relief. "I'm gonna go take a shower."

"Okay!" She squeaks. "Dinner will be ready in twenty minutes!"

Ben leaves and as soon as she hears the shower running, she lets the tension drip out of her, bracing her arms on the counter to keep her body upright. She heaves a big breath once, before straightening and resuming her facade. She can't let herself fall apart because then he'll know and she needs to hold onto him as long as she can. The longer she holds on, the more memories she'll have to tell their child and to comfort herself with when he rips them apart. Her eyes water in anticipatory heartbreak and she digs her nails into her palms to distract herself.

Breathe, Rey thinks. Distance.

She cooks then sets the table methodically, losing herself in the familiar routine. When he rejoins her, dressed in sweatpants and a loose t-shirt, his hair damp, looking like her every daydream, she's already seated at the table. She fiddles with her fork so she won't have to look at him.

He leans down to kiss her cheek. "Thanks for-"

She pulls away before his lips touch her skin and she can think better of it. 

"-dinner," he finishes, surprised. "Rey, what's wrong with you tonight?"

She picks at a hangnail. "Nothing. Sit down and eat."

His hand tightens on the back of her chair where he'd placed it for support as he bent to her level. "Did I do something?"

Rey turns to him then, shocked. "No!"

"Then what is it?"

"I said nothing, Ben."

"I come home and your scent is off, I can't put my finger on it, you look like you've been crying, and you tell me it's nothing? Don't lie to me, Rey." He's every bit an alpha now, deep voice ringing strong and firm, just shy of a true command.

She wants to obey, but she can't.

Distance.

"I didn't have a great day at work and that commercial really upset me. And I'm not feeling all that great because I'm about to get my period. But it's nothing. That's the truth." Rey lies. 

His eyes scan her face, a wrinkle appearing between his brows, but whatever he sees must satisfy him because his forehead eventually smoothes and he moves to take his place across from her, dropping his huge frame into the chair with a thud.

"Do you wanna talk about it?"

Rey shakes her head, twisting spaghetti around her fork. 

"Okay. Let me tell you about this fuckwad I had to deal with at the firm then..." 

She lets him go on yet another tirade about the "incompetent assholes" he works with, enjoying the familiar cadence of his speech as it washes over her, admiring the way his throat moves as he talks, the damp waves of his black hair, curling against his neck (he'll probably need a haircut soon, she thinks), the strong line of his nose, the moles dotting his pale complexion, the minuscule flecks of green in his hazel eyes alight with idle fury. Her heart clenches like a fist because he is so beautiful and god, she is going to miss him so much

"...Fucking ridiculous, right?" He shoves an absurdly large bite of pasta into his mouth, chomping angrily. 

"Yeah," she agrees softly, heartsick. "Ridiculous."

After they've eaten, he does the dishes while she stands and watches the muscles in his back ripple as he vigorously scrubs the dried tomato sauce residue from the pan. Rey has a bad habit of forgetting to run sauce-covered items under the sink after she cooks and they always dry, the liquid reacting with the air and congealing into a hard substance that she simply does not possess the proper upper body strength to handle. Ben always ends up hunched over the sink, elbow-deep in soapy water and face red from exertion. 

"I think I'm gonna go to bed."

"Alright, kid. Feel better."

She leaves him to his cleaning, a small smile twisting at her mouth as she listens to his muttered curses. She should really remember to rinse the sauce out next time.

If there even is a next time.

She freezes upon entering their bedroom, her hands clenching of their own accord. Her days with Ben were numbered now. There had always been the danger of him waking up and deciding he didn't want her anymore, but now it's no longer a possibility. It's an impending reality.  

I can't think about it. She forces her fists to uncurl. I will let myself fall apart after he leaves, but not before. I won't ruin what little time I have left. 

Mechanically, she brushes her teeth and changes into her sleep-clothes: Ben's boxers (they're way too big, so she ties a hair-tie around the waist) and one of his worn band t-shirts, leftover from his punk phase in college (usually depicting some Green Day album and also way too big). She gets under the covers, drawing them up to her chin and closing her eyes as she breathes in the soothing balm of their combined scent. She's not tired at all, too wired from the day's events to even think about sleep, but she needed to be alone.

She hates that it hurts when she's with him and it hurts when she isn't. 

Normally, after dinner they watch TV together. Well, Rey watches TV and Ben reads some underground novel that definitely makes him pretentious. She lies in his lap as she leisurely watches whatever's on, her nose filled with the musty scent of his book and the wonderful scent of Ben as one big hand strokes her hair, occasionally pausing to turn the page. She never asks what he's reading. Should she? She could go out there now, sit on the couch and begin their nightly routine. She aches to do so.

No, she thinks to herself, nuzzling closer to his side, distance now is how I'll survive the bond break later.  

When he crawls into bed a couple hours later, she feigns sleep and lets herself be drawn into their natural position: on their sides facing each other, his thigh between her legs, her face buried in his chest, arms wrapped tightly around the other. She lets him hold her like that until she hears his breath even out, then, carefully, she removes herself from his embrace, rolling as far from him as she can without falling off the bed.

If he reaches for her in his sleep, she knows it's only because he's gotten used to her, nothing more.

She gently pushes him away.

*

Morning sickness is a bitch.

She wakes at the crack of dawn, stomach rolling, barely making it to the toilet in time, and heaves up what feels like everything she's eaten in the past week. After the nausea has passed, she wearily reaches up to flush and presses her clammy face against the cool porcelain, hoping for some relief from the ensuing headache. 

Rey allows herself to rest for a second before she tiredly brushes her teeth and returns to their bedroom, relieved to find that Ben's heavy sleeping pattern is working in her favor and that he hasn't even stirred. 

*

Ben's scarcely left for work before she's out the door too, hurried along by the fact that she only has an hour before she needs to be at the office. She walks as fast as she can to the pharmacy, thankful there's one around the corner from their apartment building. 

She won't be able to take normal suppressants, those pills hinder fetal growth, but hopefully they will have some scent-blocking soap or spray...

Yes, they have it in aisle three. 

She grabs three large spray cans and is about to check out when, on second thought, she heads to the baby aisle and picks out a large jar of prenatal vitamins. 

The older beta woman ringing her up beams when she sees them. "Congratulations! What are you hoping for?"

"Uh," Ben not to leave me. 

"Don't worry, dearie. I'm sure whatever you have will please your mate," the woman gives her a conspiratorial wink. "An alpha's love is unconditional." 

Rey's headache is back in full force.

*

She goes to work and sits at her desk and makes idle conversation with her coworkers, trying to distract herself from the fact that her life is falling apart right in front of her and there's nothing she can do to stop it. 

Rose, her beta desk-mate and friend, gives her a weird look when she doesn't finish the other half of her sandwich during lunch. It's not like Rey to waste food, but the ham was starting to taste like cardboard and she couldn't bear it anymore. She gives the beta a pleading look and Rose doesn't say anything, but Rey can feel her worry.

She's fine. Distance.

*

When Ben gets home from work that night, she's absolutely drenched herself in the scent-blocking spray despite knowing her smell hasn't changed yet. She doesn't care though, she's not taking chances and Ben needs to get used to the new scent. She shifts awkwardly under his penetrating gaze, trying to appear nonchalant. 

"You smell different."

"New perfume!" Rey smiles too brightly, darting forward and grabbing the takeout from his hands. "You don't like it?"

"No," his jaw clenches as he looks away. "I don't."

*

Two months pass in this manner. 

Rey rises before the sun and succumbs to her body's need to purge before reaching into her tampon drawer, a place she knows Ben would never go rooting around in, for the canister to coat her glands in scent-blocker. 

She goes to work and tries to ignore the fact that each day her stomach seems to get bigger, her face rounder, her breasts plumper. She stands naked in front of the mirror in their bathroom, pulling at her skin and praying that she's the only one to notice these changes since it's her body. However, far sooner than she would like, she's at Goodwill furtively shopping in the maternity section for slacks and loose-fitting tees, desperately hoping that nobody they know will see her. She tucks the tell-tale stretchy items deep in her drawer and dresses every morning in the bathroom. If Ben notices the changes in routine and the additions to her wardrobe, he doesn't say anything.

Reys covers her scent until she doesn't smell like herself anymore and she leans away from his touch like it's fire. She lets him hold her only until he's fallen asleep, before rolling away. She doesn't hold his hand in the grocery store or pinch his ass when he's cooking. She doesn't let him kiss her and whenever his hands wander and his gaze darkens, she removes herself and feigns tiredness. 

It feels like she's cut her own limb off; to not have his hands on her in any capacity stings. 

Distance.

The greatest pain comes with the arrival of her heat. She can't spend it with him, he'll notice the weight gain, she'll forget her scent-blockers and she's four months pregnant now, her uncovered scent might as well be shoving a flashing sign that reads "PREGNANT OMEGA HERE!" in everybody's faces. 

So, Rey tells him that work is sending her on a retreat and she'll have to be gone for the whole week. She's confident that he doesn't have her heat schedule memorized, why would he? He attends to her needs, but it's not like he cares

Ben only looks at her, something unreadable in his eyes. He sounds exhausted when he replies, "Okay, Rey."

She books a hotel room downtown and for the first time in almost two years, she spends her heat alone. It's the most excruciating thing she's ever experienced. She's mated and pregnant, her swollen body crying out for alpha, wracking her with tremors so strong they make her vision dim. 

She's never felt more alone. 

When Rey returns to their apartment, dead on her feet and wanting nothing more than to crawl into a hot bath, she's stopped by Ben in the living room, waiting for her. Something's off about his smell and it takes her a second to place the emotion because it's never been directed at her before-

Ben is furious.

Ben's anger is usually explosive; he lets it bubble under the surface until it viciously erupts in a multitude of fear-inducing bellows, accompanied by gritted teeth, tendons popping in his neck, and the scared whines of whoever was unlucky enough to invite his wrath.

It's nothing like the way he stands before her now, body quivering with a quiet, contained fury unsuited to the unpredictability so inherent to him. 

"Why did you leave?" His voice is slow, pitched low and deceptively calm. It terrifies her. Rey knows how to deal with Ben's anger, but this is something else. 

"I had a work retreat. I told you before I left, silly." She compels a sweet smile onto her face. 

Before the sentence has even fully exited her mouth, he's already shaking his head. "No. You didn't. You left to spend your heat away from me. Admit it."

"I-" Rey's floored. He knows her heat schedule? 

"Who did you spend it with?"

She's shocked, her jaw stupidly hanging open. She can't form thoughts coherently- "What?" 

"Who did you spend your heat with, Rey?

He's shaking more noticeably now, his fists rapidly clenching and unclenching at his sides, his broad chest rising and falling with the effort of constraining himself. And Rey knows Ben, she knows him like she knows herself...but this is a different side of him, this is Ben the Alpha in every sense of the word. This is Ben completely giving over to biology.

"I-I didn't..." she stammers.

"Don't fucking lie to me!" He takes a step towards her and she submits immediately, curling in on herself, trying to make her body as small as possible. Her alpha is angry, soothe him...reassure him that there's no one else for you.

"I spent it alone, Alpha." she croons softly, desperately hoping to console him. 

The scent of his anger is acid in her nose, curling like poisonous gas through the air and making her sick to her stomach. "You haven't let me touch you in two months! You block your scent and then you leave right before your heat starts. Do you think I'm an idiot, Rey?"

Ben takes another step forward and she can see the tension causing his bones to rattle. He's barely holding himself back from grabbing her slim shoulders and shaking the truth out of her, but Ben would never touch Rey against her will and if she hadn't wanted to touch him in two months, why would she now?

She makes the first move, launching herself into his arms, her own biology overpowering all reason. She knows that she's made her alpha angry and she has to fix it at whatever cost. So sorry, Alpha. I'm so sorry.

He's stiff as a board as she rubs her cheek against his chest, whimpering.

"Alpha, no one else, promise. I promise." She cranes to meet his gaze with hers as she offers her neck. See? I submit only to you. She tilts her head more, begging him to accept her submission and reaffirm their bond. 

For a second, she thinks it will be okay as he leans down, but instead of nosing at her gland, his lips brush over the delicate shell of her ear. "Wash off the scent-blocker and let me smell you then."

No.

Everything comes rushing back and she swallows, tears gathering in her eyes as she retreats from him, gaze lowered to the floor, and rapidly shakes her head. "Please don't make me do that, Alpha, please. I can't do that." 

"Why can't you, Rey?"

She wishes her would yell at her. It would make things easier.

"I just- can't." There's nothing she could say that he would believe, no plausible lie. "Alpha-"

"No, Omega." His voice is snide, almost cruel, but the bite of his tone is undercut by a tinge of defeat. "No."

"Please," she's begging in earnest now, her head unconsciously bowing closer to the ground in total submission. "Alpha, believe me. Please-"

"I'm going to stay at my mother's for a bit. I need time to think. Alone." 

"No!" She cries, sinking to the floor, the tears falling down her face in hot, thick rivulets. I thought I had more time. "You can't. You have to stay you here, you can't leave me, Alpha, you can't. You can't." She wants to scream. You would abandon your mate and child?

But Ben doesn't know about the baby, doesn't know about her love, and so he leaves, slamming the front door shut so hard it rattles the windows. He leaves her there on her knees, weeping and alone, believing her to have betrayed him. 

Any pain that Rey has felt in her life pales in comparison to the stinging agony that now consumes her. 

She curls up on her side, wrapping herself around the swell of her child in a desperate search for some semblance of comfort, as vicious sobs wrack her body. Rey cries until she starts to gag, her world ripped out from under her, feeling like a knife has been slipped between her ribs. Blessedly, sleep soon comes for her as the exhaustion from her heat and the fight win over the pain, and she passes out right there on Ben's living room floor, coiled into a tight ball.

*

Two weeks pass. Nothing from Ben. 

Being without him is a thousand times worse than she imagined. She'd thought Ben was only a limb, and she'd told herself she would learn to live with the phantom pain, but turns out Ben is her heart, her lungs, the very blood flowing in her veins. How can she live without her vital organs? Rey feels like a zombie, sluggishly moving through her life with no drive, no purpose. 

Forcing herself to sleep is hard, but forcing herself to eat is even harder. She does it though, she takes care of herself because taking care of herself also means taking care of the baby. Her precious baby, the only thing she has left of Ben.

Everyday, she waits for the inevitable text detailing the date of their bond-breaking and everyday when it mercifully doesn't come, she sighs in relief. He may not be with her, but at least she has his scent and at least they're still connected for one more day.

Rey stops with the scent-blockers. There's no point now. 

She sits at her desk across from Rose's, letting the few alphas and omegas on her floor approach offer their congratulations before slinking away when she doesn't respond, obviously smelling her despair. 

"Congratulations on what?" Rose asks. 

God, how she wishes she was a beta. 

"I'm pregnant," she replies blankly, eyes not leaving her computer screen.

"Oh my god! That's-" and some particle of her pain must translate to her expression, because the smile is sliding off Rose's face as fast as it appeared. 

"Ben doesn't want children and he doesn't want me."

"Oh," Rose breathes, her kind brown eyes wide with pity, "Rey."

*

Another week blurs by with no word from Ben. 

She starts throwing up every day at noon like clockwork, the baby not liking the smell of the office apparently, and every time Rose is there, holding her hair back and rubbing the space between her shoulder blades as she heaves into the fancy company toilets. 

"I don't understand why you won't just talk to Ben."

Rey uses the back of her hand to wipe a glob of spit from the corner of her mouth and allows Rose to help her to her feet. She goes to the sink, shaking her head, as she washes her hands. "There's nothing to say."

Rose hands Rey her travel-size toothpaste and toothbrush. "How about 'Hey I didn't actually cheat on you, I'm pregnant with your child and I was afraid you wouldn't be happy if you knew!'"

She snorts. "Great idea, Rose." She avoids her own reflection in the mirror as she brushes her teeth, knowing the sight would be a horrendous mixture of dark circles and puffy eyes. She's cried herself to sleep every night since he left, nestled in his side of the bed, curled in a fetal position and cradling her baby bump. "Tell him the truth and have him try to make me get an abortion and then when I refuse, break the bond!" She spits out the toothpaste and rinses her mouth under the faucet. Raising her head and grabbing a napkin to wipe her mouth, she meets Rose's pained gaze in the mirror. 

"I don't like seeing you so sad," Rose says quietly. "It doesn't take a keen sense of smell to know you're hurting."

"I've always been sad," Rey smiles ruefully. "When I was with him, I could put it away for a little bit, but I've always been sad." She points to her face. "Product of childhood abandonment and sixteen years in the foster system, remember?"

Rose's mouth twists. 

Rey sighs and reaches for one of her friend's hands, "Trust me, this is the way it would have ended when he found out about the baby. Ben doesn't want children. He doesn't even really want me. This is the way it's supposed to be. Unrequited love sucks, but I'll get over it. I'll be fine." Rey knew that for all the days she had left on this planet, not one would be spent without missing Ben. She would not be fine, but that's not what Rose wants to hear.

Rose squeezes her fingers. "Can you call him? You don't have to tell him the truth, but I think it would do you good to hear his voice. Promise me you'll give him a call when you get home?"

She's so tired of lying to her loved ones, but she does it effortlessly anyway. "I promise."

She changes the subject then, dropping Rose's hand and lifting her foot to rub at her heel with a wince. "God, I got these heels months ago and I don't why they're just now giving me so much pain."

Rose has no intention of changing the subject. "It's your pregnancy feet."

Groaning, she links her arms with the beta's and they exit the bathroom together, heading for the stairwell. "Can we please talk about something else? Anything else?"

Rose rolls her eyes. "Fine, but I will be checking in with you later to make sure you called Ben." She pats Rey's elbow comfortingly. "I only want what's best for you, you know. You're my friend. It's my job to make sure you're okay."

"I know," Rey says, swallowing past the lump in her throat at the unprompted kindness. 

She turns to look back at Rose just as she's lifting a heel to step onto the stairs and maybe her feet really have already transformed due to her pregnancy or maybe she's just the clumsiest human being alive because when she opens her mouth to say-

"Thank-"

-she's lost her footing and goes tumbling down the stairs, hitting her head against the wall and landing in a crumpled heap. She dimly hears Rose rushing after her, crying for help, before the dizziness pulls her under and the world fades to black.

*

Rey wakes slowly, blinking as her vision blurs into focus. As she comes to, she becomes aware of the steady beeping of a heart monitor, the chemical smell only found in hospital wards, the scratchy material of rough-spun cotton against her skin, and the throbbing of her head. 

She gingerly presses a finger to the source of the pain. "Ow," she says as her hand comes into contact with a sizable bump on her forehead. 

"Hello there!" A blonde beta nurse is suddenly looming over her bed, shining a flashlight in her eyes. "You had quite the fall, but not to worry, no concussion!"

Rey could not care less about her own health. Her hands fly to press gently over her bump.

"Is my baby okay?" she croaks. 

The nurse's face softens into a smile. "Your baby's fine."

Rey's breath whooshes out of her in a giant sigh of relief and she sinks back against the standardized hospital pillows. "How long was I out for?

"About two hours." The nurse reaches for the clipboard at the base of Rey's bed. "On your chart there's no indication that you've attended a clinic since the start of your pregnancy. Is that correct?"

Rey feels a wave of guilt wash over her. She couldn't have, her insurance is all through Ben's company. "Yes."

"Okay," the nurse says, jotting something down. "Well, we can run some of the preliminary tests today, then. I don't think you'll have anything to be worried about, you're healthy and only about twenty weeks along, but we should run them just in case and then we can get you set up with an obstetrician at a clinic close to you."

Rey is about to interject about how that won't be necessary, but how would it look for an omega to be refusing basic pregnancy care? Plus, the baby did need this support. Her head spins as she thinks about how much this will all cost without insurance. 

"Sound good?"

"Yes," Rey responds weakly. "Where's Rose?"

"Rose? Oh- your beta friend was pulled back to your office shortly after the ambulance arrived. She didn't want to go, but we assured her you were going to be fine." The nurse smiles reassuringly and places Rey's chart back. "But don't worry, your mate should be back any second. He went to the bathroom just before you woke up."

Rey freezes, and she's so stupid, because of course the hospital would have called Ben. He's her mate, why wouldn't they?

The nurse leaves, the closed blinds on the door banging against its window as it swings shut. Instinctively, Rey curls on her side, hands cradling her bump protectively like when Ben came he would try to tear it from her body. Her heart pounds as the door opens less than a second later and the lovely smell of caramel fills the room. She squeezes her eyes shut; she can't bear to see the disappointment in his face, the disgust as he tells her she can get an abortion or he's going to break the bond. 

She hears his heavy footfalls coming closer and she waits for them to stop at the foot of the bed, but instead they move around to her side. He doesn't say anything and she holds her breath, the sharp tang of her fear filling the air. Her hands clutch her belly tighter. 

She can feel him standing over her and Rey wants so badly to open her eyes, to drink in the sight of him, but she's afraid of what she'll see-

He reaches out and gently cards a hand through her hair. She melts into the deeply-missed touch before coming back to herself and pulling away. "Don't," she hisses.

The silence in the room then is so thick, her chest heaves with the extra effort needed to breathe.

"You stopped blocking your scent."

She can't read his voice.

"I didn't have to anymore," an accusatory note creeps into her words even though she knows everything is her fault, "you left." She twists to her other side, opening her eyes and staring blankly at the beige wall. "And I don't know why you came here if you're just going to leave again. Send me the bond-breaking details, and I'll do it, but just go, Ben. I'm tired."

He emits some choked off noise and the bed is suddenly sinking with his weight. He lies down next to her and Rey desperately tries to stop herself from being pulled in, his chest flush to her back, but he's stronger and all the fight leaves her anyway, starved as she is for his touch, hasn't felt it in nearly a month and doesn't know when, if, she'll feel it agin. She goes slack and allows him to curl his big body around her, engulfing her completely, his hands running in soothing circles over her neck, her arms, her hair.

"Rey, I-"

"No," she cuts him off, squashing down the sob threatening to rise in her chest. "This is my fault, Ben." There's no point in fighting anymore, he knows the truth, can smell her pregnancy even if the nurse hadn't listed it on her chart. Rey is suddenly so tired of all the lying, the concealing; she's exhausted and she's hit her head and the truth spills from her lips with an ease unknown to her. "I-I know you don't want children. It's okay, I didn't think I wanted children either, but I want this child, our child, because," she takes a deep breath, "I love you. And I know you don't love me back and I was stupid to fall in love in the first place-"

His hands stop their stroking. 

"-but I did and I wanted you and I forced you to mate me, despite knowing you didn't want it, and I forgot to get my birth control shot renewed-"

"Not love you?" Ben echoes, voice hoarse. 

"-and now I'm pregnant and I should have told you as soon as I knew but I know you don't want children and I'm not getting an abortion. So, break the bond, do whatever, but- "

"Rey, how could you possibly think that I don't love you?"

She stills, the planet screeching to a halt. He turns her in his arms and she's seeing his face for the first time in what's felt like an eternity and it's her absolute favorite face in the whole world, the whole universe, and it looks so sad, so drained, dark circles under his deep hazel eyes, usually meticulously styled hair a tangled mess. She sobs and throws her arms around him, burying her face in the crook of his neck and inhaling over and over again, the caramel-and-vanilla smell of home. One of his hands moves to gently clutch her nape while the other rests at the small of her back.

"Shh, sweetheart," he croons over her ragged breathing, pressing soft kisses to the top of her head where it's buried beneath his chin. "It's okay, I'm here now. I'm never leaving again. Shh, shh, it's okay. Everything's okay."

He holds her to him tightly, muttering comforts and reassurances into her hair until the stream of tears starts to ebb and she pulls back slightly to look at him. "You never said..."

"I didn't think I had to. We live together, we're mated, I thought it was obvious." He uses the sleeve of his shirt to wipe Rey's running nose, dropping a kiss to the tip. "Sweetheart, I wouldn't have mated you if I didn't love you."

It's too much. Rey's bottom lip trembles as her eyes fill with more tears. "I thought- you said that you didn't want commitment, that love was a lie-"

Ben shrugs. "That was before I truly knew you, Rey. I didn't know what I wanted, didn't even know what love was until I met you. And you showed me-"

She whimpers and tries to bury her face in his neck again, but he stops her, cradling her face in his hands. "-hey, look at me. You showed me how to commit, how to love, hell, how to be a better person. I was a barbaric asshole before we met. You gave me back my humanity and I want everything with you." He closes his eyes in shame. "I know I'm an idiot who should have you told you everyday how he feels, but you're also foolish for thinking my mind couldn't have changed in two years. Did you really think that I would have made you get an abortion? Or break our bond? Rey, I thought you were cheating on me and that thought never even crossed my mind. Why didn't you just talk to me?" He rubs a thumb over a stray tear.

"I was afraid," Rey whispers. "I didn't want to lose you."

"Oh, sweetheart," he sighs, pressing his forehead to hers. "You could never lose me." His heart clenches. "These past weeks without you were torture. I never want to be away from you ever again."

She leans back and gives him a radiant smile, a sight he sorely missed. "No more business trips?"

Ben laughs softly, tucking a lock of hair behind her ear. "I think old man Snoke would have something to say about that." His expression becomes serious. "Rey, when I got the call from the hospital, I-" He glances to the side, throat closing and eyes stinging. "I have never been that afraid in my entire life and then when I got here and Rose told me you were okay and pregnant," he looks at her with nothing less than pure wonder, "I have never been happier."

Rey beams at him, her heart lighter than it's been since she took that pregnancy test. "So, you want the baby?"

Ben rains kisses on her face, dissolving her into soft giggles. "Stupid girl," he murmurs affectionately. He nuzzles her nose before pressing a solid, lingering kiss to her lips. "Of course, I want our baby."

He reaches between them and presses a large hand to the swell of her stomach. They both freeze when they feel an answering kick. 

"Did the baby just-" Ben breathes, awestruck.

"Yes," Rey marvels and this time when the tears come it's because she's surrounded by so much joy, by so much unconditional love