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(I'm always) thankful for you

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"Hey, best friend," Ben's deep voice cuts through Rey's office and pulls her attention up from her computer.

Rey glances at him with curiosity on her face. All it takes is one look at him to know that something is definitely bothering him. Ben only pulls out the best friend card when he is really desperate. Like the time he had the flu last year and he called her and whined for half an hour about how he just wanted his Grandma Padme's chicken noodle soup. How it was the only thing that was going to make him feel better. 

Rey spent over two hours on the phone with Padme to make the soup, but the look on Ben's face when she showed up, soup in hand, was absolutely worth it.

But it isn’t just the fact that Ben is pulling the best friend card that lets her know that he is going to be asking her for a favor, and a big one. No, everything about Ben at that moment is fully putting on display that something is very wrong. 

It isn’t even 5:30 in the evening and he is in her office. Ben is the only person Rey knows that puts in more hours in the office than her. He is on track to make partner at the law firm he works at and Rey knows how seriously he takes exceeding his billable hourly requirement. So for him to be standing in front of her at 5:30 on a Tuesday means that he had left work at least an hour before, which is beyond unusual for him. 

Then, there’s the fact that he isn’t wearing his suit jacket. And the white button down shirt he is wearing is a little crumpled and he has the sleeves of the shirt rolled up just below his elbows. Something he only does when he is feeling nervous and fidgety. Which isn’t often.

Which is really for Rey’s benefit, because Ben with his shirt sleeves rolled up and slightly disheveled is one of his looks that makes Rey think very not friendly thoughts about him. And she really, really needs to not be thinking those kinds of thoughts.

Finally, there’s also the way that Ben keeps running his fingers through his hair. That’s the absolute dead giveaway. Ben is notoriously careful with his hair. He has a routine and carefully selected products for his hair to give it the ‘I don’t care and am hardly trying’ look that he absolutely has to try for. 

“Absolutely not,” Rey finally responds, placing her elbows on her desk to rest her chin in her hands. “Whatever you are thinking about asking me to do right now, I’m just going to give it a preemptive no.”

Ben rolls his eyes while he sits down in the chair across from her desk. He’s slouching, stretching with his legs out in front of him. He’s too big for the chair and he looks a little comical as he tries to adjust into a comfortable position.

“What makes you think I was going to ask for anything?” Ben asks, raising his eyebrows in a slight challenge.

“Your,” Rey waves a hand in front of her face. “Everything, actually, Ben. Do you really think I don’t know the signs of when you are about to ask for a big favor?”

Ben sighs, rubbing his chin with one of his hands. “It’s unfair that you know me this well.”

Rey shrugs. “Years of friendship, babe. It’s a two way street. You do the same thing.”

“It’s still annoying.”

“I don’t disagree,” Rey laughs. “So what do you need?”

Ben doesn’t say anything for a moment, his gaze just gets more intense as he looks at her.

Rey swallows, her stomach tensing a little with nerves. 

Finally, Ben says, “I need you to go home with me for Thanksgiving.”

“Okay,” Rey says, a little confused on why going home with Ben for Thanksgiving is a big ask.

She loves Han and Leia. She’s spent numerous holidays with them at their home throughout her friendship with Ben. In fact, she had thought about asking Ben if she could tag along a few days ago when her plans with Rose fell through. 

“I also kind of need you to…” Ben’s sentence trails off, and he shuts his eyes. 

Rey stands up from her chair and walks around her desk until she’s standing in front of Ben. Placing her hand on his shoulder, she gives him a small shake until he opens his eyes and looks up at her.

“What’s going on, Ben?” Rey asks, her voice soft. “You’re acting weird.”

“I know,” Ben answers, nodding. “I know I am.”

Ben stands up then and starts pacing around her office. “You’re my best friend, you know that.”

“Yeah,” Rey says slowly, tilting her head to the side as she watches Ben. “That has been pretty well established today.”

“And I wouldn’t ask you to do this if I could come up with any other ideas.”

“Ben,” Rey reaches out and grabs his hand, gently pushing back against him when he goes to keep pacing. “What is going on?”

“Since Bazine and I broke up, Leia has been on another level of trying to set me up,” Ben says, his thumb tracing circles against her hand. “Nonstop, honestly. It was too much and so I told her that I had already found another girlfriend. And now she’s demanding that I bring her home for Thanksgiving dinner.”

Oh, oh no.

Ben cannot possibly be asking her to do what she thinks he is about to ask.

“But, we both know I don’t actually have another girlfriend. I barely have time for us lately. It’s probably why things fell apart with Baz--”

“Stop that,” Rey interrupts, squeezing Ben’s hand. “I mean, good for you for trying to take some of the blame for that… but we both know that you and Bazine just… you weren’t the best fit together.”

Ben rolls his eyes. 

They don’t often talk about his relationships. But it wasn’t exactly a secret that Rey wasn’t the biggest fan of Bazine to begin with.

“Anyway,” Ben continues, running his free hand through his hair before scratching awkwardly at the back of his neck. “My mom is expecting me to show up with my girlfriend Wednesday night. And I need you to go with me and, well, and--”

“Pretend to be your girlfriend,” Rey finishes for him in a whisper. 

Ben just nods, his face practically pleading with her to agree to this plan.

“Ben,” Rey shakes her head, “I don’t… I don’t think that’s the best idea.”

Not the best idea is an understatement, Rey knows that. It is a terrible idea. Rey carefully placed her ‘more than friends’ feelings for Ben in a locked tight chest in a tiny corner of her heart years ago. It was too messy. She knows that. 

Ben is one of the only people in Rey’s life that she knows she can trust without a doubt. He’s always been there for her. He’s always going to be there for her. 

Risking that for a romantic relationship… it was always too much for Rey.

Pretending to be in a relationship with him is probably one of the worst ideas she’s ever heard. There has to be another option.

“Why not?” Ben pushes back and Rey can see his face switch from asking a favor mode to his must win argument mode. “I’ve spent weeks trying to come up with a better plan, and I keep coming back to this one.”

Rey snorts. “Of course you have,” she shakes her head, letting go of his hand. This time, it’s her that starts pacing in front of her desk. “Let’s go through the list of reasons why this is a bad idea. Let’s start with the big red flag that you don’t actually have feelings for me and your parents are probably going to see through this charade in about thirty two seconds of us arriving.”

She’s careful not to say that they don’t have feelings for each other, because the one cornerstone of their friendship, a line that Rey has carefully tiptoed for a while. 

“That’s not true,” Ben sticks his left hand in the pocket of his slacks. “My mom asks me at least once a year when I’m going to finally admit to being in love with you, so she’ll be over the moon.”

Rey freezes, glancing up at Ben with what she’s pretty sure is a look of pure panic on her face.

“Okay, well we can make that point two on why this is a bad idea,” Rey gets out in one breath, trying to quickly move past the idea that Leia talks to Ben about her in a romantic way often. “What are we going to do when we, God, I don’t know, fake break up? Ben, I love your parents. I’d like to be around them in the future and this is just going to make it very awkward.”

Ben thinks for a moment, his fingers tapping against the air like he’s trying to write out a counter argument. “Maybe we don’t break up.”

Rey snorts, laughter bubbling out of her in a sort of manic way. “Maybe we don’t break up?” She repeats. “Ben, have you actually lost your mind?”

“Can’t we worry about that part of this on Friday?”

Rey shakes her head. This is just like Ben, act now and worry about the consequences later. 

“Fine, we can worry about that part on Friday,” Rey agrees against her better judgment. “But there’s also point three, what about being… physical? I mean, won’t your parents kind of find it weird if we are just…” Rey pauses, scrunching her nose as she tries to think of the least embarrassing way to phrase her thoughts. “Acting like we normally would?”

“I’m not following,” Ben says slowly, taking a small step toward her. “What do you mean?”

“I mean,” Rey takes a deep breath, hating how awkward she feels. This is why she has never done anything about her feelings for Ben, she didn’t want to have these kinds of conversations. “They might expect us to kiss, or hold hands, or show affection in ways that friends don’t typically engage in.”

Ben grins, his eyes crinkling in the corners in an annoyingly adorable way. He looks years younger when he smiles like that, in a way that makes it look like he doesn’t carry around the weight of the world on his shoulders.

“I don’t have any objections to kissing you,” Ben says and Rey’s pretty sure her heart is beating hard enough that if she were to look down she wouldn’t be surprised to see it visible like a cartoon character. “And we’ve held hands before,” he continues, shrugging like what he’s saying isn’t somehow a world shifting statement.

“You have no objections to kissing me?” Rey repeats, her voice dry as she looks at him. “You’ve definitely never brought that up before.”

“It’s not a subject that we’ve ever just discussed before,” Ben says, the smile dropping from his face. “Obviously, if you have objections to kissing me, I’m sure we can find a workaround to that issue.”

“No objections,” Rey admits, her eyes glued to his shoulder, unable to look him in the eyes while they are talking about this. “I can’t believe we are going to do this. This is… I don’t know what this is, Ben.”

Ben’s chest takes up Rey’s entire view as he closes the space between them. He wraps his arms around her waist and pulls her into his chest in a hug. His lips ghost against the top of her head. 

“You’re the best, Rey,” he says, squeezing her tighter. “I would be lost without you.”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” Rey says, pushing her hands against his chest and taking a step back. “Just remember this when I need a ridiculous favor from you one day.”

“Promise,” Ben says, holding his pinky finger out. 

Rey rolls her eyes, but wraps her pinky finger around his. 

“I’ll pick you up tomorrow at 7?” Ben asks, taking a few steps back. 

“That late?” Rey asks, turning around to walk back around her desk, crossing her arms low across her stomach. “We won’t make it to your parents until midnight.”

“They said they’d leave the door unlocked,” Ben laughs. “I can’t really leave work before 6. Especially with me taking off today.”

Rey nods. “I was wondering what you were doing here so early.” She sits down, shaking her computer mouse to wake her computer back up. “Seven works. How long are we staying?”

“Mom is hoping the whole weekend. That work for you?”

“Sure,” Rey says, a tight smile on her face. “It’ll be nice. Get away from work. Kick Han’s ass at Boggle.”

“Great. So, 7?”

“Yeah,” Rey focuses on the screen in front of her. “7 sounds great. I’ll see you then.”

“Thank you, Rey,” Ben says and his tone is so sincere that Rey almost feels bad about how terrified she is that this is all going to go absolutely, terribly wrong. “If you had said no, I have no idea what I would have done. Probably had to fake my death or something.”

Rey laughs, shaking her head before looking up at him. 

“You are so dramatic.”

“It’s the Solo way,” Ben says, raising his eyebrows. “I’d think you’d be used to it by now.”

“I’ll see you tomorrow,” Rey says, lifting a hand up in a small, timid wave.

“Yeah,” Ben confirms, giving Rey one last smile before he turns around and leaves her office.

Rey’s eyes don’t leave the door for a few minutes, her brain too busy working up worst case scenarios of what she just agreed to.

She doesn’t let herself think about what a best case scenario could look like.

She just doesn’t.

***

The drive to Han and Leia’s isn’t quite as awkward as Rey had built it up to be in her head. They’ve been on the road for about three hours, they made good time getting out of the city leaving a little bit later. 

Ben has a good road trip playlist playing that’s a decent combination of some of her favorite songs, some of his favorite songs, but mostly songs that he knows annoy her and that he loves singing loudly. She especially appreciates the amount of songs that she knows annoy him that he added just for her. 

But Rey knows that they need to talk before arriving at his parents house. They need to have a cover story in place so they aren’t stumbling over each other when his parents ask questions. They need to have all of their ducks in a row if this is going to work.

“So,” Rey asks, reaching forward to turn down the volume of the stereo. “What exactly have you told your parents?”

“Uh,” Ben hesitates, his fingers tapping against the steering wheel a few times before he continues. “I just told Leia that I was bringing my girlfriend home for Thanksgiving.”

“You didn’t tell them that it was me?”

“No,” Ben glances over at her, an apologetic look on his face. “I haven’t talked to them since you agreed.”

“Okay,” Rey says slowly, leaning her head back against the headrest. “That’s okay. Should I text them? That way they know in advance?”

“I think at this point just… showing up together is going to be enough of an announcement.”

“Are you sure?” Rey wonders, looking out her window and watching the trees blur. “I don’t want there to be an awkward ‘Ben I thought you were bringing home your girlfriend, but Rey’s here, so let me call up my dentist’s daughter to come down for dinner and maybe Rey should just go home’ conversation. That would be cool to avoid.”

“Rey,” Ben breathes her name with such familiarity that it makes Rey’s chest ache. “You really have no idea how long my parents have been waiting for us to say we are together. They aren’t going to question it at all. My mom will probably make some very unfortunate and embarrassing statements about how long it took me to open up to about my feelings, and then it’ll just be… well, a normal Solo holiday.”

Rey considers for a moment asking Ben why his mom would say something like that. But she knows that if she asks Ben a question that direct, he would answer truthfully and she’s not sure that she’s ready for that conversation at all.

“Okay,” Rey says after a moment, leaning forward to hit the button to turn on the heated seats for her and Ben. “But if your mom makes one dentist’s daughter comment you owe me cupcakes from that one bakery that you refuse to tell me the name of.”

Ben laughs. “It’s for your own good. If you knew where to get them, I worry you’d eat nothing but cupcakes for a month.”

“That’s probably true,” Rey admits. “They are just so good.”

They fall back into silence after that, the music playing softly in the background. It’s another hour before Rey realizes that she didn’t finish her original plan with Ben, to come up with a story about how they got together.

“What are we going to tell them?” Rey wonders out loud. “Don’t you think they are going to ask? We should probably come up with a story now.”

“Right,” Ben says as he turns on the blinker and starts to take the exit off the highway. “Any ideas?”

“You’re the one that apparently spent weeks coming up with this plan,” Rey reminds him. “You didn’t spend any of that time coming up with a cover story?”

“No,” Ben shakes his head. “I spent most of the time trying to come up with ways I was going to convince you to say yes.”

“Okay, well, you have about 50 minutes to come up with a good story.”

Ben doesn’t say anything for another 30 minutes. He sings softly under his breath to a few of the songs that come on, he asks Rey if she needs to go to the bathroom when they get close to a gas station. But he doesn’t say anything about what they are going to tell his parents.

Not that Rey has any idea where to begin on a story to help him out.

“I don’t think it needs to be anything elaborate or over the top,” Ben finally says. “We’ve been dating for the last two months. After my break up with Bazine, I realized that if the only girl I could make time for in my life was you… then maybe that meant something.”

Rey’s heart stutters at his words, and she’s not certain she’s completely sure how to breathe properly as he continues. 

“So I came over for our Saturday night dinner, and just… told you the truth. And, for some crazy reason you’ll have to come up with, you didn’t kick me out, and felt the same way.”

“I think I can do that,” Rey whispers. “Come up with a reason. Shouldn’t be too hard.”

“Good,” Ben says, with a small shrug. “Because we’re almost there.”

***

Ben grabs their bags from the trunk while Rey waits for him. She leans against the car door and tries to get her thoughts together.

They are really doing this. There’s no turning back now.

Ben walks over to her, their two bags in one of his hands. He holds out the other hand for her.

"Shall we?" He asks.

Rey nods, pushing off of the car and lacing her fingers in his. "We shall."

Then they are at the door. Rey reaches forward to grab the handle when the door opens and Leia and Han are there.

Leia blinks in surprise, her eyes quickly darting between Rey and Ben and then down to their enjoined hands. 

"Took you two long enough," Leia says around a grin before throwing her arms around them and pulling them in tight. "I feel like I've been waiting for this day since you two went to prom and tried convincing us that you were just friends."

"Mom," Ben whines, and Rey giggles a little bit at his reaction. "We were just friends when we went."

"And now?" Leia asks, pulling back and there's a knowing look on her face and a bit of a smugness in her eyes as she challenges Ben. "You're going to tell me you're just friends now? Because I distinctly recall you telling me you were bringing home your girlfriend for Thanksgiving."

Rey's cheeks heat up and she's thankful in that moment that Ben isn't looking at her to see her blush.

"And I did," Ben responds with ease. "This is me, bringing my girlfriend home for Thanksgiving."

Han has a knowing smirk on his face and Leia looks far too pleased with Ben's words. 

"Can we come inside?" Ben asks, a small chuckle breaking out in the middle of his words. "It's cold out here."

"Of course," Leia responds, stepping back into the house so Rey and Ben can walk inside.

Rey closes the door behind her, squeezing Ben's hand. He squeezes back and the comfort it brings her is a little overwhelming. 

"Do you guys want food or--"

Rey yawns.

Leia laughs. "Or maybe just go to bed?"

“Bed,” Rey answers, smiling at Leia. “Bed sounds nice.”

“Well, Ben’s room is all made up,” Han says, and, somehow, his smirk seems to grow as he looks at Ben. “We’ll see you two in the morning.”

Leia gives Rey another hug, when she steps back, she places her hand on Rey’s elbow. “Maybe tomorrow you can help with the pies? I’ve been looking forward to sharing Padme’s recipe with someone.”

“That sounds amazing,” Rey replies, smiling at Leia. 

Ben pulls on Rey’s hand, tugging him closer to his side, he leans down to kiss Leia’s cheek. “We’ll see you both in the morning,” he says, before leading Rey up the stairs and heading toward his room. 

Ben’s room is exactly like she remembers it the last she came home with him two years ago. Long gone are the posters that had decorated his room during high school and throughout college. The walls are actually mostly bare, there’s a few framed photos that still line his desk and nightstand, but if Rey didn’t have a million memories of spending time with Ben in this room growing up, she would have no idea that it was his. 

Ben lets go of her hand and sets their bags down on his bed. 

“You want to unpack or just get ready for bed?”

“Bed,” Rey decides, standing next to Ben so she can get into her bag. “I’m not sure how I didn’t fall asleep in the car.”

“There were a few close calls,” Ben teases, bumping his shoulder into Rey’s. “You want me to go change in the bathroom?”

“Won’t your parents find that a little weird?” Rey asks, opening up her bag and grabbing a tank top and a pair of leggings. “We can both change in here, just turn around. And no peeking.”

Ben rolls his eyes, grabbing his own pajamas from his bag before turning his back to Rey. Rey turns around too, pulling her shirt off and undoing her bra before she can second guess herself. She slides her tank top down over her head and pulls the bottom of it down. 

“That went pretty smooth, I think,” Rey says as she undoes the button to her jeans and shimmies the fabric down her thighs. “I really wasn’t expecting that.”

“I tried telling you,” Ben responds and Rey is glad for a moment that she can’t see him because she knows just by the tone of his voice that there’s a smug look on his face. “My parents love you. This is probably the highlight of their year.”

"I don't want to hurt them," Rey says while pulling her leggings up. "When all of this… well whatever ends up happening happens, I don't want them to get hurt. And I refuse for this to ruin our friendship."

Rey sighs, pressing her fingers into her temple and rubbing small circles. "We probably should have talked more about the repercussions of all of this, Ben."

"Hey," Ben's voice is light and calming. "Can I turn around yet?"

Rey nods, momentarily forgetting that he can't see her. "Yeah," she says. "I'm dressed."

"Look at me," Ben says, his hand brushing against her waist.

Rey turns around, taking a second to think about how unfair it is that Ben manages to make sweatpants and a plain t-shirt look good.

"You and I are unbreakable. No matter what," Ben hesitates, his thumb brushing against the bit of exposed skin between her tank top and leggings. "Nothing, Rey, nothing is going to change that. Not ever."

"Okay," Rey breathes, giving Ben what she hopes is a reassuring smile. 

Grabbing their bags off the bed, Rey sets them down in front of his closet. 

When she turns back around to the bed, Ben is already pulling down the covers and climbing in. 

"C'mon," Ben pats the empty space next to him. "Let's go to sleep. We can figure this out in the morning."

Rey just nods as she climbs in next to him and lays down. Ben pulls the blanket over her shoulders and pulls her into his chest. 

Rey hums, letting her body relax against his. It probably should be strange that she doesn't second guess this, letting him hold her.

But his chest is steady and his body is warm. His heart beats a calming pattern under her ears and it isn't long until she falls asleep.

***

The bed is empty when Rey wakes up. Which isn't surprising, Ben has always been more of a morning person than Rey. She takes her time getting out of bed, stretching her body across the mattress for a few minutes before rolling out and looking for her bag. Her bag is empty, and there’s a note on the nightstand from Ben that he hung up most of her clothes and put the rest in the top drawer. 

Rey traces his name at the bottom of the page, smiling to herself for a moment before beginning to get ready for the day.

The Solo kitchen is much more lively than Rey had anticipated for it not even being 10 in the morning. Chewie is sitting at the kitchen table with Han, a plate of fruit between the two of them that they are picking at. Leia is checking on the turkey that’s already in one of the ovens. 

Ben has two cups of coffee in his hands and Rey gives him a grateful smile when he hands her one of the cups. 

“You’re my hero,” Rey says, blowing on the hot liquid before taking a drink. Rey blinks when Ben leans down to kiss her forehead before she lets out a stuttering breath.

They really do need to talk. 

Ben just gives her a small smile before he walks away and sits down next to Han at the table, narrowly avoiding Han’s hand from hitting his hand when Ben grabs a strawberry off of the plate. 

“Do you need help, Leia?” Rey asks, walking further into the kitchen and resting against the island in the middle. “I feel bad for sleeping in so late.”

Leia brushes off Rey’s concern with a wave of her hand. “Don’t be. Ben told me about the hours you’ve been keeping at the office, when do you guys find time to spend together?”

Rey snorts. Leia’s displeasure at her and Ben’s work-life balance an old topic, one that’s easier than some others to navigate. “We’ve always made time for each other. We have standing dates that we just don’t miss. Saturday dinners. Coffee on Tuesday mornings. They are a priority.”

Leia’s smile is soft, her eyes full of emotion when she reaches across the island to rest her hand on top of Rey’s. “I promise I’m not going to be this emotional the entire time you’re here, but I just need you to know how happy we are that you two finally are on the same page.” 

Rey catches herself right before she almost asks what Leia means by finally. Because obviously if her and Ben were actually together that wouldn't be a question she would ask. She takes another drink of her coffee to cover up. 

"It took you two long enough," Leia adds, giving Rey one last pat on the hand. "That's all I'm going to say." 

Rey finishes her coffee while she watches Leia continue to move around the kitchen, cutting different vegetables and starting the preparations for different side dishes. Han, Chewie, and Ben are loud at the table behind Rey. Arguing over how old one of them was during one of their stories that even Rey has almost memorized. There's a few scattered lines in there about how Ben is no longer a growing boy and isn't he tall enough to go to the kitchen to cut up his own fruit that makes Rey laugh under her breath. 

"Okay, then," Leia says while Rey stands to rinse out her empty mug. "Here is the first secret for the apple pie recipe. We cut the apples now and toss them in a bowl with some lemon juice and sugar. Then we put them back in the fridge for a few hours. Padme swears that this makes the apples taste sweeter." Leia gives a small shrug. "And I've never wanted to risk having apple pie that isn't sweet enough. So I guess I swear by it too."

"Definitely not something worth risking," Rey laughs as she watches Leia rummage through one of the drawers in search of something. 

Leia pulls out an apple slicer and peeler and sets them down on the island next to where Rey is standing. 

"Grab the lemon juice out of the fridge?" Leia asks while she walks toward the pantry at the far edge of the kitchen. "I'll get the apples and then you can get started?"

Rey nods, making her way over to the fridge. She opens the fridge door and begins scanning the contents, looking for the lemon juice.

"Here," Ben says from behind her, one hand settling on her lower back as he closes in on her, the other hand grabbing a green bottle that was half hidden behind condiments in one of the door panels. "My dad is in charge of organizing the fridge."

Rey smiles to herself, taking the lemon juice from Ben before turning around. Ben doesn't move back, instead he joins his hands together on her lower back and just looks down at her.

Rey swallows, trying to push down the nerves that are bubbling inside of her again. She's not sure why Ben is doing this, touching her so casually. His parents haven't seemed to question anything they've had to say. Rey's almost positive they could get away with maybe just some hand holding. 

But every time Ben's near her, his hands seem to gravitate toward her. 

"Yes?" Rey asks softly, her voice barely above a whisper. 

"When you're done helping my mom drown those apples in sugar, would you want-" Ben drums his fingers lightly where his hands are on her back. Rey smiles at him, feeling a little more at ease knowing that he might be just as out of sorts as she feels. She places one of her hands on his upper arm and waits for him to continue. 

"-want to go for a walk? I know it's cold, and you packed nothing appropriate for a walk outside. I'm not even sure I saw a real jacket in your bag? Just one of those flimsy sweatshirts that offer absolutely no protection from cold temp-"

"Ben," Rey interrupts, amusement in her voice. "A walk sounds nice. I'll borrow one of your jackets."

"Okay," Ben breathes out, his body relaxing. "That sounds good."

Rey grabs onto the edge of his t-shirt when he goes to take a step back, trying to stop him from moving. 

He looks down at Rey with a questioning look on his face.

"Did you mean it?" Rey asks, shaking her head when Ben's confused look deepens. She takes a deep breath, standing up straighter as she decides just to go for it. "When you said you had no objections to kissing me, did you mean it?"

Ben's gaze seems to settle on her lips for a few seconds, before he looks back up at her eyes and gives a small nod. "Yeah," he answers after another moment, his tongue darting out to wet his lips as his eyes drop back down to her lips. "I have absolutely zero object--"

Rey stretches up, moving her hand from his arm to his shoulder for balance. His lips are soft underneath hers, his mouth parts a little, but he's mostly still underneath her. Rey stills, her grip on his shirt loosening as fear starts to push through her thoughts.

But then he's kissing her back, his lips are moving against hers with such surety and purpose that Rey finds it easy to get lost in him and the sensations that are flooding her body as they kiss. 

It's a little too easy for her to forget that they are standing in front of an open fridge in his parents' kitchen with his parents in the room when Ben's kissing her like that. 

Chewie's not so subtle cough, however,  does pull her back to reality. 

She breaks the kiss, letting her feet fall flat against the floor again.

"Let the kids be," Han says, and Rey can hear him swat at Chewie with his newspaper. "After that many years of repressed feelings for one another, I'm surprised they left Ben's room at all."

"Dad!" Ben exclaims, shutting his eyes before he rests his forehead against Rey's. "Can you please stop?"

"Let your dad have his fun," Leia says, and Rey can see her setting down a pile of yellow and light pink apples onto the island. "And if you think this is bad, I have no idea how you plan on surviving dinner with your uncle once he finds out."

Rey grins at the whiny sound that escapes Ben's throat. 

"And you spent weeks thinking that this was the best possible plan?' Rey whispers to Ben. 

"Mhmm," Ben hums before straightening up and taking a step back. "I stand by that decision."

"I should go help your mom," Rey says, shaking the bottle of lemon juice in her hand. "And then we can go on that walk."

"And talk?" Ben asks, dropping his hands from her waist.

"And talk," Rey confirms with a nod, trying to keep her eyes from looking at his lips again.

Because, if she's being honest with herself, she wants to kiss him again. She really isn’t sure just how much talking she wants to do on this walk.

***

Rey's a little surprised that Ben hasn't said anything yet. They've been walking around outside of at least twenty minutes. The woods behind the Solo home has been one of Rey's favorite places to explore since she met Ben when she was fifteen. Somewhere she knows that there's a tree with their names carved into it. There's also the tree that she dared Ben to jump off of and he broke his arm. 

There's so many memories of her and Ben in these woods that it's easily one of Rey's favorite places in the world. 

Rey knows that she could just ask Ben if he has feelings toward her. It would be the easiest way to find out. He won't lie. 

They never lie to each other.

Carefully skate around the truth, at least on her part, sure. 

But they don't lie to each other. If she asks him a direct question, she knows that he'll tell her the truth.

It terrifies her. 

They are approaching the stream that divides the property from the next parcel. Rey can hear the sound of the water moving along. She and Ben used to bring their books out to the stream to study, with blankets and a picnic basket full of snacks that they always promised were healthy, but the basket was always actually filed with cookies and chocolates.

“What are we doing, Ben?” Rey finally asks once they reach the stream. 

“Out here?” Ben asks, gesturing to the stream in front of them. “Or in general?”

“Both?” Rey responds, shoving her hands inside of the pockets to the jacket Ben had handed her before they left the house. “I can’t say I really understand what is happening.”

“You said you wanted to talk before, when you agreed, I said that we would,” Ben scratches at the back of his neck, “and with everything… well with everything, we probably should talk.”

“Right,” Rey says slowly, looking across the stream at the trail that picks up and leads deeper into the forested area. “So, talk?”

“Yeah,” Ben responds, but Rey can hear in his voice that he is not going to be the one to delve any further into the conversation.

Sometimes, she hates how well she knows him.

They stay silent after that, Rey's unsure how to go about the conversation that she knows they need to have. The air feels heavier than before, the tension between them building the longer they stay quiet.

He said they were unbreakable. And Rey believes him. Deep down in her bones Rey knows that he is telling the truth, after all that they've been through what is an admittance of feelings.

Worst case she tells Ben that she's in love with him and he has to tell her that he doesn't feel the same.

And it'll hurt. Rey knows that it'll hurt. But he'll still be there. He'll still be her best friend. 

And then she'll know.

There's always the chance that he'll feel the same way. He kissed her like he felt the same way.

The thought overwhelms her. The mere idea that he could also be harboring feelings for her that he was too scared to admit… it's almost too much.

"Ben," Rey says, turning so that she's facing him. She takes a deep breath trying to gather her nerves. "Do you have feelings for me?"

Ben stills completely. Rey feels her breath get caught in her chest and she wishes that she could take the question back. She's about to, but she's not sure how she can when Ben laughs and it's soft and melodic. It's not a teasing laugh. There's an affection in it that Rey can't quite place. She focuses on that, trying to distract herself from the fact that Ben still hasn't said anything, when Ben reaches out for her.

His bare hands are cold when they brush against her face.

"Yes," he says, with a certainty that amazes Rey. "I do."

"Oh," Rey says, feeling breathless. She hopes her voice sounds more put together to Ben's ears than it does to her own. "You do?"

"I do," Ben says around a small smile. "I have for a… really long time."

"You never said anything."

"Neither did you?" Ben ends his sentence like a question, but he sounds hopeful. 

Rey reaches up and places a hand over Ben's where it's resting against her cheek. 

"I can’t lose you." Rey lifts her shoulders up in a small shrug, hoping that Ben understands what she's trying to say. "I just, Ben, I won't."

“Unbreakable,” Ben says like it's the easiest thing in the world. “Remember?”

For a second, Rey wants to push back. To remind Ben that as sweet as what he is saying sounds, he can't promise her that. He can't guarantee that they are unbreakable.

But, it's them. 

And their history has shown them to be unbreakable.

So, she chooses to believe him. 

"Why now?" Rey lifts Ben's hand off of her face and intertwines their fingers together, letting their hands hang in the empty space between them. "Why today?"

“Believe it or not,” Ben laughs, shaking his head. “I’ve been trying to tell you for weeks. I just couldn’t figure out how and I panicked when I realized Thanksgiving was in a few days and I still hadn’t told you but my parents were expecting you to be here.”

“What?” Rey asks, a large grin spreading across her face. “You told your parents I was coming? Me? Specifically?”

“Well, yeah. I had a whole plan. And unlike all of my other plans, I wasn’t going to chicken out. So, I gave myself a very real deadline.”

"All of your other plans?"

"You are very good at picking up on the things I probably shouldn't be saying," Ben chuckles, and there's a fondness in the sound that reverberates in Rey's chest. "Remember when we came out here and I asked you to go to prom with me?"

"Yeah," Rey answers slowly. "I distinctly remember you asking me to prom as a friend since you didn't find a date and I wasn't planning on going."

Rey really isn't sure where Ben is going with this.

"I threw in the as friends part because I panicked. You looked like you were going to say no, and for those fifteen seconds all I could think about was how I had messed everything up." Ben runs his thumb along the inside of Rey's wrist. It's almost as if he's trying to anchor himself to the moment, to her. "Wasn't my finest hour."

"We are going to have many, many future conversations about all of these failed plans," Rey grins. "Maybe you'll be able to convince me to share some of mine."

"I think you'll find I can be very convincing when I want to be." Ben's voice drops when he speaks, and it makes Rey's stomach clench with need.

She has no doubt that he can be.

“So, you want to be my boyfriend?” Rey takes a step toward him. 

“If it’s okay with you,” Ben starts, his finger brushing across her lips. “I want to be your everything.”

Rey loses track of how many times she kisses him after that.