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Mise en Place

Chapter Text

It was too fucking early. Ben squinted and scowled as he stomped into the staff entrance and signed in. Last night’s event was a mess and the desserts they had on hand actually ran out when a large group came in without a reservation to the buffet.

He’d had to improvise.

He never wants to see a speck of matcha again for the rest of the year. 

He buttoned up his chef’s jacket and his scowl grew darker when an intern slammed against him. The boy looked up and yelped, jumping back and slamming into another chef.

“I-I’m sorry!” He said loudly.

“Damn, Solo, lighten up a little,” Vicrul, the executive chef, was one of only people he could honestly say was bigger than him both in terms of height and width, “It’s too early for you to be looking like death warmed over,”

“Fuck you,” Ben grumbled and rubbed his face, “You’re not the one who spent almost thirteen hours elbows deep in matcha cream and it wasn’t even fucking enough,” 

Vicrul laughed and slapped Ben’s shoulder, “What can we do, you’re a celebrity chef,” 

Ben didn’t actually aspire to be a local celebrity. He just liked to bake and in their little town of Chandrila somewhere NorCal, men do not bake. Of course, his grandmother didn’t care for that and brought him along to the bakery. 

“Hey, I heard a little rumour,” Vicrul shoved a mug into Ben’s hands when they reached their shared office. He poured him some coffee. He could already see how dark and thick it was; probably enough to give him a heart attack if he wasn’t careful. Still, what can he do? Working in a large casino hotel like Canto Bight meant long hours in the kitchen and in the office, planning menus and experimenting on jello ratios so they get an ideal balance between cost-effectiveness and quality of the end product. It wasn’t as easy as it sounded and he did a lot more math than he thought while he was still studying. 

“And what rumour is that?” Ben cringed when he took a sip of his coffee. He moved to dump sugar in it in hopes that it stops tasting like motor oil.

“Heard you tendered your resignation,” Vicrul didn’t even flinch when he drank his coffee black. Ben grimaced, “So it’s true?” Ben nodded and Vicrul sighed, “You been here five years, you’re pretty much the face of our desserts, why now?” 

“Well, what can I say? I can’t keep living life like this,” He lied and Vicrul snorted, “What? I work eighteen hours a day, thirteen of which is spent running around making thousands of desserts,” He actually, honestly, loved that part of his work. 

“Don’t lie to me, boy.” Vicrul sighed, “I know that’s not why. Is it family?”

Ben grimaced again, “Yes.” He finally said with a sigh, “My grandma passed and left me her house and business,” He rubbed his face again, “Fuck, I thought I wouldn’t have to go back to that fucking place again.” 

“Well, can’t you just sell them?”

He’d love to if he wasn’t so damn attached to the house and bakery. Then there was that clause, “I can’t for another five years. I have to run it and renovate the house before I could.” 

“Family’s hard, huh?” Vicrul smiled wistfully, “Well, I guess we’re going to have to find a replacement good enough, huh? When’s your last day?”

“In fifteen days.” He stared into the dark brew and sighed, “I have to cancel my lease,” 

“You’ll keep in touch, right? Maybe I’d come visit you,” 

Ben scowled, “Please, don’t,” 

Vicrul laughed loudly, “Come on, what’s there to be scared of? It’ll be fine, now finish your coffee. We got work to do,” 

Ben grimaced again and chugged down the rest of his coffee.

 

 

He’d announced his resignation to the team and started turning over to Bazine Netal, one of his two assistant pastry chefs. 

“I won’t accept this,” She said sharply, “Ben, how can you just quit like this?” 

“Ms. Netal,” He said just as sharply. Everything about Bazine was sharp and hard, from her heavily lined eyes to her thin lips and even her tone, “I don’t believe it’s your business nor do you have a right to stop me. If you don’t want to accept my turnover then I’ll give it to Jess instead.” 

She crossed her arms and scowled, “Ben—,” He narrowed his eyes at her, “Chef,” She sighed, “Won’t you reconsider?”

“No.” He grunted and counted out the folders of recipes he had, “And you should know better than to cross the line.” It was his mistake for dating her briefly while in university. Who the fuck would’ve thought they’d end up working in the same kitchen?

“You didn’t even want to talk about that Podunk town, why are you going back now when you’re at the height of your career?” He scowled and slammed a hand on the folders. She flinched.

“Stop asking and sign the damn turnover papers.” He snarled, “And stop meddling in my business like you have a right to when you were the one who fucking cheated on me.” She looked stunned at his outburst, “The only reason I’m turning these over to you is because your skills are better than Jess’ but if you’re not going to be a goddamn professional then this kitchen doesn’t need you.” 

“Okay.” She finally said and looked away. She signed the papers quietly and he showed her which was what and where everything else was. When that was done he moved to leave the office to return his work phone and laptop. She grabbed his sleeve and he scowled before turning back, “For what its worth,” She said softly, “I’m sorry.”

He sighed heavily, “Look, it’s fine. It’s been almost ten years so I’m over it but stop acting like you have a right to barge into my personal life just because we dated for a while. We’re nothing more than coworkers now.” She nodded and let go of his sleeve.

He made his way to the IT office and sighed, running his fingers through his too-long hair. He wasn’t lying when he said it was fine. He didn’t have feelings for her anymore, nor did he think he actually did in the first place. She’d been nice and cheerful and funny back then, pretty much the complete opposite of him, so it was only natural he’d be attracted to her. Still, it came as a shock to catch her making out with someone else in one of the pastry rooms in school. That was what he couldn’t get over with. Was he really that bad of a boyfriend that she’d had to go and find someone else like that? 

In any case, he probably wouldn’t see her again. It wasn’t like he’d be coming around Vegas again anytime soon once he was back in Chandrila. He’d have way too much on his plate to even think about anything else.

 

Chapter Text

It was a long, nine-hour drive to Chandrila. Ben was glad he had the foresight to send his shit to the house first. He wondered if anything changed. He hadn’t been back since he’d left ten years ago. Usually his parents brought Padmé over to visit instead. Why didn’t they call him when they found out she was sick? Why didn’t they call him when she died? He had to find out from the lawyer who suddenly appeared one day bearing her last will. He’d thought it was some sort of scam at first. 

Armitage Hux. He didn’t know who the man was, only that he’d moved to Chandrila and became his grandmother’s lawyer. 

The town square was disappointingly familiar. Nothing seemed to have changed in this tiny town except for the fact that Padmé’s was currently closed. He drove through downtown, past the ranches and vineyards and into the old Lars Homestead where his grandparents had gotten married and settled to raise their twin children. Maybe if things work out well he’d turn it into an inn or a farm-to-table restaurant. After all, he did have to stay for at least five years. He’d have to talk to his mother about the tourism though. 

But what happens after? Would he really consider staying? He glanced at the view of the ocean in the distance. The Pacific glittered in the afternoon sun and for a moment he was brought back to a time when things were simpler. His parents would bring him over especially when they’d both started becoming busy with the elections and his grandmother would always have something baking in the rustic kitchen. 

He reached the gravel-lined path leading to the house and stared at the large two-storey farmhouse with the wrap-around porch. He remembered running in circles around that very same porch. The house itself looked old and worn-out, sad almost, as it sits neglected. After all, Padmé had moved in with Han and Leia in her latter years, nearer to the town square where the bakery was. 

He shut the engine and took a deep breath before stepping out of the car. He’d probably have to trade in his sedan for a decent truck. 

The short steps up the porch creaked under his weight and some parts of it were either rotting or missing altogether. He was a little worried at what he’d find inside. 

“Ben Solo?” He turned, “Holy shit, it is you,” 

“Poe Dameron?” Poe cracked a large smile. He still had the same mop of curly black hair as he did when he first moved into town when Ben was eight and Poe was six, “How are you, man?” 

Poe strode up the porch and gripped Ben’s hand, “I’m good! I’m the fire department chief now,” He said, “And I finally paid off the mortgage for the farm,”

“Really?” Ben grinned, “That’s great, congratulations,” Though they grew up in the same town, they were never very close. Poe was everybody’s childhood friend, he was the kind of friend that was just there whether you are or not, the kind who just planted himself somewhere and still be there when you come back. 

“Are you coming back for real?” 

“I don’t know, but I’m sure I’ll be here for a while. What are you doing here?”

“Leia said you’re going to arrive so I was gonna to check if there’s power and water and everything, I didn’t think you’d be here already.” 

“Ah, well, I already packed up all my shit and shipped it here so I thought I’d come in a day early,” Ben rubbed the back of his neck.

Poe nodded, “Right, right, well, should we check together? If things aren’t good you can come stay with me tonight.”

“Nah, it’s fine, I can just check in at the boardinghouse in town,”

Poe shook his head, “Jesus, Solo, we’re friends. Of course you’re staying with me.” 

He didn’t have the heart to argue. He pulled out the key the lawyer had provided him and braced himself when he opened the door. 

It opened with an eerie creak. 

It was dusty but everything seemed to be in place and there didn’t seem to be anything rotting or scurrying about. It was a pretty traditional farmhouse. The porch led into the vestibule which then led either to the dining room or the living room depending on which way you turn. There was a spare bedroom next to the dining room and a set of stairs leading up to the second floor where the bedrooms were. 

Most of the furniture are covered with a white sheet. They went into the kitchen and Poe opened the faucet to see if there was any water. It made a high-pitched sound Ben was sure shouldn’t come from a faucet before it spat out what looked like muddy water. He flinched.  

“Eh, it’s fine,” Poe said, “It should clear up in a bit,” They waited for a few moments for the water to become clear, “You have a deep well too, right?”

“I have no idea.” What the fuck is a deep well? Isn’t a well, a well? All of a sudden the thought of living here, much less fixing everything on his own, felt like a Sisyphean task. 

“We can check it out tomorrow,” Poe said, “Ah, look it’s clear now. It’s probably all that stuck up water and rust and dirt,”

Nobody’s lived in this house for a while. From what he understood Padmé had all but left everything for Leia to decide in the last few of years of her life and when she’d died, Leia had shut down the bakery and waited for him to come back.

Was that why she shut it down in the first place? The bakery had a soft spot in his heart since it was his grandmother who’d taught him how to bake his first loaf of bread despite his grandfather telling her not to. Then again, Anakin never could say ‘no’ to his wife.

He’d spent weeks, even months at a time in this house. 

Honestly, his childhood wasn’t bad but he just doesn’t belong here. His chest felt tight.

“Ben?” He snapped back into himself and cleared his throat. Poe was looking at him expectantly. 

“Sorry, I was just…” Thinking? Reminiscing? Planning to run for the hills? He already was in the hills though. Poe smiled and hooked his thumbs into his belt loops. He looked comfortable in his plaid button-down, jeans and muddy boots. He looked like he belonged in this place compared to his t-shirt, joggers and sneakers. 

“It’ll be fine,” He said, “I’ll help you out and I’ll call the boys over too to help out  with whatever you need until you settle down.”

“I don’t know,” He rubbed the back of his neck again, “It’s a little… I mean, I’ve been living in the city for a decade and I don’t know if I can settle down here.”

“Right, you’re used to fast living, huh?” Poe laughed, “Look at you, you City Boy.” He shook his head, “Look man, you might’ve forgotten this but I haven’t.” He slapped his hand on Ben’s shoulder; funny, considering he’s more than a good head taller than him, “When I first moved here you were one of the first friends I’ve ever made. You were the one who showed me how to milk a fucking cow and how to tell if an eggplant’s ready to pick or nah,” 

Ben’s brows furrowed, really? “I did?” 

“Yeah, so now it’s my turn to help you, yeah?” He patted Ben’s shoulder, “It’s going to be fine.” It was getting dark and there didn’t seem to be any power, “Why don’t we hop on over to my place, huh? We can take a look at your breaker tomorrow when it’s day.”

Ben nodded and followed Poe out. He locked the door and caught Poe’s grin. It’d become a habit, locking doors. He slid into his car and Poe went to his truck. How could he not notice a truck coming up the path? Despite how old it looks it looked well-maintained and purred like it was new. He’d have to ask him where he got it from and who maintained it. Even his father wasn’t that good and he owned the only car repair shop in town. Maybe he had a new mechanic?

He tailed Poe’s car out the homestead before driving the few couple of miles between their properties. He turned into the tree-lined dirt path and parked next to where Poe did. It was getting too dark to see but one thing’s for sure; Poe’s property was well kept and his soil was obviously rich judging how lush his fruit trees looked. There were some orange fruits ripening on the branches. The trees themselves weren’t that tall.

“Are those…persimmons?” Poe looked up at the tree and grinned.

“Yup! They’re asian persimmons.” He reached up to pluck out a low-lying fruit and threw it over his shoulder to Ben, “It’s just about time for harvest too,” 

Ben rubbed the crisp fruit against his shirt before biting into it. It wasn’t fully ripe yet so it wasn’t too sweet but it was enough for him to think of warm cinnamon persimmon pie with a dollop of cream paired with a hot cup of coffee that’d be perfect for the cool, autumn weather. 

Once they ripen they’d probably taste amazing as a jam. A delicate mousse with light, airy cream that was infused with cardamom and maybe some sort of crumble? 

“Ben,” Poe was grinning at him, “You look so lost, what’s up?”

Ben blinked and cleared his throat. He looked down at the sticky juices dripping down his hand, “Sorry,” He said, “I was just thinking these would be great in pie when they’re like this and in a mousse when they’re ripe.” 

Poe’s smile faltered and he flinched. Right, making pastries wasn’t exactly the most manly thing in the world, “Holy shit, Solo, that sounds so good! I have an oven, would you make some come harvest time? I’ll buy the ingredients of course,” 

The tension in his shoulders eased a little. This was Poe Dameron, the one kid that didn’t judge, “I don’t know, Dameron,” He said, stepping inside Poe’s brightly lit porch, “My professional fee’s pretty high you know,”

Poe laughed, “Right, right, I know that much, Mr. Face-Of-Innovative-Vegas-Pastries. Don’t think I haven’t seen those features. Your mom has them displayed in her office,” That was surprising, to say the least. She didn’t exactly approve of him baking when she finally came back to town and brought him back to their house near town. She’d much rather he focused on business or politics. 

Poe’s home was cozy and lived-in. The custom built hardwood furniture looked worn but they were clean and waxed so lovingly that it could only be Poe Dameron. He loved this town, a lot more than Ben, who was born and raised here, ever did. He saw a picture of Poe’s parents sitting on top of the mantel. There were faces of fresh flowers on either side it. 

Kes and Shara had already been old when they had Poe but they did such a good job of raising an independent kid like him that nobody blinked when Poe, at eighteen, quit school and started working both the farm and the firehouse at the same time when the couple died within days of each other. Of course, that was all second-hand knowledge since he was in Le Cordon Bleu at the time. 

He looked at Poe again. He looked content as he stood next to Ben.

“They would’ve been proud at what you did,” He said because he felt like he had to. Poe smiled at him.

“I know,” He said, “Hey, I’ll show you to your room,”

He followed Poe out of the living room to a spare bedroom near the dining room. Poe’s house was built similarly to his. He entered the guest bedroom and dropped his duffel by the food of the wrought-iron bed. He smiled at the rustic, flowery bedspread. 

“Yeah, I never really changed much here, save for the repairs and changing some appliances,” Poe said, rubbing the back of his neck, looking embarrassed. 

“Nah, man. It’s nice,” And it was. It was warm and personal and cozy and despite Poe living on his own, it was home. 

He threw the seeds into the bin and excused himself for a moment to wash his sticky hands. Poe was still there when he came out.

A dog barked. Ben took a step back as a giant white and brown ball of fluff came bounding in to skid a little and plop himself next to Poe’s legs, “BB, where you been?” He laughed, “Ben, this is BB. He’s a Great Pyrenees mix of some sort. BB, say ‘hi’,” The dog barked obediently, “Shake,” He raised his paw and Ben caught it. He panted, “He thinks he’s a lapdog.”

Right, this was a farm. Cats and dogs are a necessity. He forgot about that. He continued to shake the dog’s paw before letting go.

“He’s pretty well-trained,” He said and Poe beamed proudly.

“Right? I trained him myself.” He jolted, “Right! I should start dinner. What do you want to eat? Man, I haven’t seen you in years, do you still like chicken? I can make a mean fall-harvest chicken,” Ben had no idea what that meant. What did he harvest during fall? Persimmons? But didn’t he say it wasn’t time yet? Then again, if he thought about it, persimmons would go great with chicken. He should tell Vicrul that.

“Yeah, I like chicken,” He said. Come to think of it, what did Poe farm and was he the only one in the property? A farm can’t run with just one person, right?

Poe gave him a thumbs-up, “You rest a bit. It’s been a long drive, right? I’ll come get you when dinner’s ready.” He didn’t wait for Ben to answer, instead striding out of the room with a little, happy hum and his dog trailing closely behind him.

He should just focus on restarting the bakery and not bother with the homestead first. He remembered Padmé’s will and sighed. He pulled it out of his bag and read through it again, hoping that maybe he’d missed something. 

He’d texted his parents that he’d arrived and was staying with Poe. Leia seemed disappointed that he didn’t come see them first and stay at their house. His parents were okay but he knew it was better not to stay under the same roof as them. They were all too stubborn that there was bound to be some sort of argument the moment he arrives.

Five years.

According to the will, he had to run the bakery for at least five years and renovate the homestead at the same time. Otherwise he wouldn’t get his inheritance. He could always just ignore it and forfeit the money but if he did, it’d end up with his uncle, Luke, who’d then probably sell the bakery and the homestead. That man wasn’t the most sentimental and from what he understood, he didn’t really get along with his father, Anakin. Ben’s attachment to both of them and the bakery was probably what Padmé was banking on when she made this will. Besides, five million dollars was still a large sum of money, enough for him to semi-retire and still be modestly comfortable. And if he had the homestead and the bakery? It should be enough if he could even make it out here. 

Where would he even start? Would his grandparents have left a record the farm plans and the planting schedules? 

He heard BB bark again. 

He stuffed the will back in its envelope and wandered out. The layout of their houses were similar so it wasn’t hard to find the kitchen. It was surprisingly modern compared to the rest of the house though it seemed he kept the antique cast-iron wood stove. 

“I thought you said you didn’t change anything much?” He asked with a laugh.

“Yeah, well, you know how hard it is to cook on a wood stove,” Poe grinned, “I couldn’t resist.”

“I can see that. Is there anything I can help with?”

“Naw, I’m good. I’m used to cooking by myself,” Poe wasn’t even looking as he chopped the potatoes. It sounded sad really, but looking at him now, he didn’t seem sad, “You can go and wash up first or something.”

“I dunno, man, it seems weird to not do anything,”

“Come on, you’re family. Besides, it’s not like I won’t get anything from this,” He winked, “Remember, you promised to make me that pie,” 

Ben chuckled, “Right, of course I would.” 

He went back to the guest room to shower off the tiredness he felt from a nine-hour drive.

Chapter Text

Poe came to get him about two hours later. Ben had fallen asleep and he wiped his chin to check if he’d been drooling.

He must’ve been more tired than he thought. 

They sat at a small table in the kitchen. Ben stared at the steaming whole chicken sitting in a bed of potatoes, olives and grapes, “It’s not much,” Poe said apologetically, “And I’m sure it’s not as tasty as something a chef like you would make but I hope you like it.” 

“I’m a pastry chef,” Ben reminded him, “And nah, it looks great.” He never even thought of using grapes in a meal other than a salad. 

Poe started cutting into it, “Oh please, knowing you, I’m sure you have a culinary degree or minor or something somewhere,” He plopped a large chunk of the breast and a thigh on Ben’s plate before scooping up some potatoes and grapes. 

“Thanks.” He couldn’t rebuke Poe since he wasn’t wrong. Ben did study different cuisines in his spare time. It was just that pastries and desserts were always more his thing than cooking meals, “So, what exactly do you farm?” He stabbed a grape with his fork and marvelled at how its sweetness blended so well with the herbs Poe had used. He should really take notes and call Vicrul about all this.

Poe grinned, “Grapes.” He said and Ben’s brows shot up, “I turned the farm into a vineyard. I’ll give you a tour of the winery tomorrow if you’d like,”

“Sure,” He’d been to his fair share of vineyards but he didn’t think he’d find one in this town.

“Oh, you should try a few I’m working on and let me know what you think,” Poe jumped up before Ben could tell him it was fine, that he didn’t have to treat him so nicely like this. They didn’t even keep in contact at all so how can Poe just treat him like nothing changed? 

He came back with two different bottles of wine and uncorked them both. He stuck an aerator on the first one before grabbing two pairs of wineglasses. 

“It’s a Reserve we’re working on,” He handed the wineglass to Ben. He swirled the dark red liquid and took a sniff. 

It smelled delicate and almost herby, with a hint of vanilla. He took another deep inhale, recognising the soft nutty, caramel notes, “Did you age this in a barrel?” 

Poe grinned, “You could tell, huh?” 

Ben took a sip. He really wasn’t very good at tasting wine but he knew it had potential as the flavours danced around his mouth. He swallowed and waited. It was complex but still a little rough around the edges. He could taste the fruit and the strong vanilla flavours and it wasn’t too bitter or acidic which he personally appreciated.

He took another sip to try to taste some more of the nuances in the flavours. It’d be great to infuse this in tiramisu or maybe even turn it into ice cream. 

Poe was looking amused and he cleared his throat, “Sorry. It’s pretty good but I think it might need some more time to age a little.” He said and Poe nodded.

“Right, I think a few more months should do,” He poured out the wine from the other bottle and Ben blinked at the unique, coral-coloured drink. 

“What is that?” He accepted the cup, swirled and took as sniff. It was sweet and fruity but still definitely alcoholic, “It looks pretty,” 

“It’s a small-batch persimmon wine. We’re going to market this one for women. We’ve been fermenting this for about a year now.”

He took a drink of water to wash off the flavour of the Reserve before taking a sip. It was dry and mildly tart but bursting with sweetness afterwards and leaving a pleasant warmth in his throat, “This is pretty good as a dessert,” 

“Right?” Poe said proudly.

“Persimmon wine infused chocolate truffles,” Ben muttered while taking another sip. What else could he potentially make with this? Something light and creamy, maybe a play on strawberry shortcake?  

Poe’s smile widened, “You’ll make some, right?”

“Hm?” 

“Chocolate,” 

Ben felt heat rush to his cheeks. Had he been talking to himself again? “Sorry, was I…”

“Talking to yourself like a lunatic? Yeah, pretty much.”

He sighed, “Sorry,” 

“I don’t mind. So, you’ll make some, right?”

“Sure, I guess?”

It seemed, like this town, Poe never changed. 

That, at least, was a relief.

They finished the two bottles and Poe popped open two more.

Chapter Text

Ben didn’t think he’d have a hangover from wine. 

Poe was already up and out by the time he woke up. He’d left a note saying he’ll give Ben a tour after lunch and that he’d made a few sandwiches for him. He’d even left his number on it. 

Should he go check out the homestead first? 

He munched on a sandwich.

He should probably go see his parents too. He shot Poe a text that he’d be back, before driving to the town hall where he knew his mother would be. Things never seemed to change here. After doing a stint in senate she’d come back to run as mayor as part of her retirement. She was still the mayor twelve years later, with Han switching with her for a few years while her term ended. 

Nobody complained. Anakin Skywalker had been one of the first people to move into this town and contributed to its growth, farming the land and giving jobs to people especially during the harvest season. He’d even paid everyone proper wages which led to more people buying and farming the surrounding lands until it became the self-sustaining town that it was today. He was even mayor at some point.

Still, it had always felt too damn small for Ben. Would he, like his grandfather, be able to contribute and develop this tiny town too? With just a bakery and a homestead? Would the people here be ready for the desserts he had in mind? People like Poe were actually few and far in between in towns like this but he heard there’d been an influx of students after Leia had allocated funds to improve their small university. 

Maybe he should start by rebranding Padmé’s into a bakery and cafe. It was in the square and near enough the schools that students would probably go there and hang around. Of course, bread is always a necessity in a small town like this so he can’t do away with the basics.

He parked on the street and locked the door of the car before strolling into the town hall. 

It was a squat, two-storey building made of brick and wood. Like the rest of the town, it looked old but well-maintained, almost a throwback to when the town first became a town. He could see traces of history in the high ceiling and old hardwood floor. 

He went up the stairs, looking at the pictures of the previous mayors, from the first mayor, an old man named Sheev, to his grandfather Anakin. There were a few more in between before he reached his mother’s portrait, then his father’s. He wouldn’t be surprised if his uncle’s face would hang there too sometime in the future. It would be safe to say that Chandrila was pretty much Skywalker town. 

The office didn’t change either. It smelled old and a little stuffy. 

“Hi! How may I help you?” He didn’t recognise the woman sitting at the table outside the door leading to his mother’s main office. 

“Hi, is the mayor in?” He asked and the woman arched a brow.

“Mayor Organa’s a little busy with organising the upcoming Harvest Festival,” Ah, so they still did that. How long has it been since he’s last attended one? Heck, how long has it been since the Lars Homestead joined the celebration? It’d be a great place to start marketing Padmé’s again and maybe introduce persimmon pie as an alternative to the usual pumpkin pie. Though he was certain people would still be asking for it. Pumpkin spice is still a big a deal after all.   

“I see. Would you please tell her that Ben Solo’s here?” He said and her eyes widened.

“Oh! Right away!” She jumped up, “I apologise for not recognising you, Mr. Solo.” 

He smiled wryly. Was she supposed to recognise him? She knocked on the door and slipped in when they heard Leia’s muffled voice telling her to enter.

How many times had he come in here before only to be told that he didn’t have an appointment? He’d always gone straight to Han’s garage afterwards to hang around before popping in at Padmé’s for a cinnamon bun or a doughnut. 

The door swung open, “Ben!” His mother’s voice was loud, “You’re here!” 

He smiled and hoped it didn’t look too much like a grimace, “Hi, mom.” 

“Come in, come in,” She linked her arm around his and led him into the surprisingly modern office. Unlike the rest of the building, this office was painted a light eggshell and had a soft beige carpet. It was cold and a white leather sofa was backed against the wall, “Kaydel, would you please bring us some coffee? Thank you.” She didn’t wait for Kaydel to answer, instead sitting Ben down on the sofa.

She’d kept the heavy oak desk that’d been passed down from mayor to mayor and he spied a few framed pictures of his magazine features. 

“Why didn’t you tell me you were coming?” She asked, sitting next to him.

He shrugged. He wanted to ask why they didn’t tell him his grandmother had died but refrained. His parents never really told him anything, “I mean, I got here yesterday so it’s only right I come see you.” He said and her brows shot up.

“I see.” She said, “I asked Poe to check on the farm when I heard mother left it to you. I figured you’d at least take a look before deciding what to do.”

He quashed down the resentment that threatened to rise to his throat. Did they really not care about the land and the bakery? She grew up there too, didn’t she? Why did she come back to run the town when she didn’t care?

“I met him yesterday,” He said instead, “I’ll be staying in his guest room for now until we fix up the house some.”

“I see. Why don’t you come and stay at home instead?” She was frowning. Her secretary came back with two cups of coffee and delicate china containers for the sugar and creamer. She thanked her.

Ben waited until they were left alone again, “Nah,” He said, dumping sugar and creamer into his coffee until it was pale brown, “I didn’t want to bother you and dad and I wanted to be nearer to the homestead so I can take a look and see what’s up. Easier to fix it up too, like that.”

“Does this mean you’re going to stay?” She perked up immediately and hid her smile by taking a sip of her coffee.

He shrugged again, “For the time being, yeah. Grandma’s will said I have to run the bakery for five years and fix the homestead.” 

She nodded, “Well, if you need anything, help, you can always ask me.” He felt a pang in his chest. How long had he waited to hear that? “The bakery’s always been one of our heritage sites so our townsfolk were saddened by its closure. Of course, we’ll announce it in our next meeting that you’ll be taking over, is that alright?”

Of course it was still about the town. He nodded, “That’s fine. I heard you have more college students moving here now,” 

“Yes, our scholarship program and marketing team had done a pretty good job of getting Chandrila University’s name out there. It’s still long way from being compared to the larger schools but it’s still better than how it’d been when it was just a community college. Having Amilyn take over as president helped, too. Of course, our courses are still limited but we’ll expand as we go along.”

“What about a culinary course?” He couldn’t help but ask. His mother smiled again.

“Well, we don’t have a teacher for that as of yet and we’re not sure of the interest so we’re planning on having a few special classes. Would you be interested in teaching a few of them?” She arched a brow.

“I don’t have an instructor certificate,” He frowned, “I never took education courses,”

“That’s why it’s a guest lecture.” 

He shook his head, “I don’t know, mom. I’ll be busy with the bakery and the renovations.”

She nodded again, “Of course, of course. Just let me know. As for the bakery, do you have a plan?”

“I’m thinking of adding a small cafe area. ‘Course I’m gonna have to take a look around and see what’s up.” He took a gulp of his cooling coffee, “A market study in a way. I’m not sure yet how long it’d take to fix up the place.” From what he knew Padmé’s was never renovated even once in its sixty-some years of operation. He shuddered to think of what he’d discovered now that it’s been abandoned for over a year. 

“Well, do keep me informed so I can have your permits done,” He nodded again, “What about the house?”

“I haven’t really seen much. It was late when I got there yesterday. There doesn’t seem to be power but there’s water at least.”

“That’s good, we were a little worried it’d be a wreck when you get there.” It was, at least, the porch was. He didn’t tell her that though.

“Don’t worry, I’ll have it fixed in no time,” He had some savings. He wasn’t lying when he said his fee was high, “Once I do maybe we can have a meal,”

“That sounds wonderful, dear.” She smiled again, “Speaking of, why don’t we have a party this weekend? To welcome you home,” 

“I thought you’re busy with the festival?”

“Psh, that’s still two months away, dear. We have time.”

He frowned. He knew his mother would hold the party whether he wanted to or not. He sighed, “Fine.”

“Great, you don’t have to worry about a thing.” She smiled her politician’s smile, “Now, how about we go get your father and have lunch?”

Chapter Text

Han smelled like leather and motor oil for as long as Ben could remember. Even when he was a mayor, he still spent most of his day in the auto shop. He’d been disappointed when Ben didn’t show the same interest in cars as he did back when he’d been a toddler. Honestly he probably would’ve if they didn’t leave him with his grandparents so much.

“So you’re going to restart the farm, huh?” Han looked older than the last time they saw each other, thinner too.

“Yes,” He said, “There’s enough space for an orchard too so I can probably order a couple of trees in time for a late-winter planting,” 

His grandmother was a proper Southern belle. Anakin had been one of the many farmhands they’d hired for the summer and the two had fallen in love. It was Padmé’s decision to run away with him and they somehow ended up in a small, nameless town that eventually became Chandrila. Land had been cheap so they were able to buy their fifty acre land with no problem. They’d named it Lars Homestead to honour the man who accepted Anakin and his mother as family.

Maybe it was just Ben being a romantic but he couldn’t find it in his heart to give it up just like that.

Han nodded, “Alright, I’ll get the boys together to help,” 

“You don’t have to, dad.” He said. He can hire a few contractors, “It’s no big deal.”

Han snorted and gulped down his coffee. There was a grand total of three restaurants in town and that included the ancient diner they were at right now, “You don’t have to spend so much, kid. You know as well as I do that we can fix that old place no problem without hiring them fancy contractors,” 

“Why don’t you let your father help, dear?” Leia said placatingly, “Wouldn’t you need all the help you can get?”

He didn’t like that. He didn’t like feeling like he owed anyone.

“Come on, son. You come back after ten years, it’s the least you can do so we can spend some time together,” 

Would he ever be comfortable with the familiarity and closeness of the community of a town like this? Did he even want to? He was content enough with his anonymity in the big city. Nobody recognised him despite being considered a celebrity chef. 

But was he happy with that?

“Alright,” He sighed, “Might as well. I haven’t lived in a farm in years so I don’t think I’ll even remember how to milk a goddamn cow.” 

Leia chuckled, “I remember you taught Poe how to, way back when.” Did he really? Why didn’t he remember? “You squirted milk at him and made him cry,” 

What the fuck? “What a dick,” He said and Han laughed heartily.

“Well, you cried too.” He said.

“I can’t remember,”

“I’m sure, dear, it’s been a long time.” Han and Leia shared a look and he wondered what that meant.

He ignored it and focused on their food instead. The one thing he missed in this dinky little town is the burger. Thick, juicy and greasy as fuck. Nobody could make a burger as well as Maz.  

Han looked jealous. He’d had to refrain from eating red meat and other fatty foods because of his age. 

“Must be rough being old,” He said and Han scowled, “Want a bite?”

“No.” Leia said sternly and he chuckled. Han looked so sad. He should ask Vicrul for some healthy burger recipes. Maybe he can tweak a few for him.

“Lotta people are curious about you,” Han commented and chewed his chicken, “I’m sure by the end of the day everyone in town’s gonna know you’re back.” 

“I’m actually surprised nobody knows yet.” Ben said with a chuckle, “Oh, listen, do you know anyone selling a decent truck?”

Han arched a brow, “Sure. You gonna sell that fancy car of yours?”

“Yes. You know I can’t use a sedan here,” He took a long sip from his milkshake. The weather was getting colder but nothing beats a burger and a milkshake at Maz’s. 

“I’ll find you a good truck.” Han said, “I’m glad you’re back,”

He gave him a tight smile, “Thanks.” He couldn’t say for sure that it was good to be back but who knows? Maybe he’ll settle down after a few weeks.

Chapter Text

Poe’s farm looked nothing like it did ten years ago. There were neat rows of grape vines, each heavy with clusters of grapes in different shades of green and red. Some even looked almost black. 

Poe explained the varietals in detail enthusiastically and Ben nodded, popping a grape in his mouth Poe gave him a few to try out. There were workers milling about to prune some of the leaves and place them neatly into baskets.

“What do you do with the leaves?” Ben asked.

“We sort them out,” Poe shrugged, “I don’t like wasting so the wilted ones we compost; we have a vermicomposting rig at the back, and the good ones we eat fresh and if there’s a lot of leftovers we preserve.”

How did that taste? He didn’t even know grape leaves can be cooked and eaten. 

“We’ll be harvesting the whites soon,” They walked through the twenty-acre vineyard and into the winery.

The first thing Ben noticed was that it was a beautiful wood and stone building. Large  steel vats greeted them when they entered, “These are the fermentation vats. Over there’s the press room where we crush the grapes. I’ll show you sometime after we harvest,” 

How much had Poe invested to make all this? And he managed to pay off all the mortgage too? In ten years? He knew it took at least three years for a vineyard to be profitable but somehow Poe did it. 

“Shit man, you’re amazing” He said and Poe laughed.

“Thanks,” He brought Ben to the barrel room and he looked up at the neatly stacked barrels. The room was cool and he could smell the humidity and the sweet, almost spicy smell of wood. It was intoxicating.

Maybe in the future he could team up with him for a tasting. He had his fair share of followers and he did post the occasional dessert on Instagram. 

Poe produced a wineglass and popped open a barrel, “Okay, this one we’ve been keeping here since we started about five years ago. It’s pretty special,” He winked and poured out the wine from the large pipette, “Okay, no, it doesn’t taste that great but it was our first harvest.” 

“I’m sure it aged well,” Ben said and swirled the wineglass, “It’s not easy running a successful vineyard and winery,” 

“What makes you think I’m successful?” Poe closed the barrel again as he laughed, “Maybe I’m just lucky, you know?”

“Well, you paid off your mortgage, right?” He took a sip. It was heady and almost floral with notes of red berries, “This is pretty good,”

“Thanks,” Poe grinned, “I don’t sell this and it’s only for special people,” 

Ben laughed, “I’m honoured,” 

“Pay me back in sweets,” 

“I didn’t know you had such a sweet tooth,”

“I didn’t until your parents brought home your macarons. Man, those things were great,”

His brows shot up, “Those things don’t travel well.” 

Poe shrugged, “Come on, let’s go to the tasting room.” 

Chapter Text

The house looked worse than it did when he first took a look the other day. The windows had to be replaced and it looked like the insulation in the walls have all but disappeared. Nothing seems broken or stolen though and the old wooden furnitures still had sheets covering it. 

He swiped a finger at the dirty picture frames still hanging on the walls and cringed when he saw his uncle’s frowning face. 

“So, what are you planning?” Poe asked, opening the windows to let the air in. They’d opted to come visit together the next day after they’d drank too much again, this time in the winery. Ben couldn’t remember when the last time he’d laughed so much. 

He’d found out that Poe had come out of the closet right before his parents died and that they accepted him wholeheartedly. He also found out that some of the townsfolk didn’t accept him which was ridiculous since it’s the twenty-first century and same-sex marriage was legal. 

Which was why Poe couldn’t buy his eggs straight from old man Pryde’s farm and had to raise his own instead. What an asshole. 

“I called up a few of my men to come help clean,” Poe said, “You don’t mind, right? We’re great at cleaning,” 

“Thanks,” He said. He didn’t even know where to start, really. He should buy cleaning materials from the general goods store first.  

Poe’s team arrived and Ben’s head spun as he tried to remember the names and faces both new and familiar. He wasn’t really a people person in the first place. 

Still, it was nice that there were so many people who helped. It took them three days to clean everything properly and he’d thrown out a lot of the old furniture, keeping only the ones he could genuinely call antiques. He’d even taken down the pictures, leaving only his grandparents’ wedding picture on the mantle.

They’d managed to fix the power too so they could now work well into the night. Nights in the countryside was really different from nights in the city. You can see so  much stars it was as anxiety-inducing as it was beautiful. Were there wild animals in the area? He remembered hearing about bears and cougars and snakes. Do they come out close to Chandrila? He hoped they stayed in the mountains. He didn’t even have a gun. Still, he can’t stay with Poe forever.

The kitchen seemed workable but he’ll start the renovation there. The rooms themselves were fine and once they replace the missing and broken shingles there shouldn’t be any problems with leaks.

“Are you seriously thinking of staying here?” Poe asked as Ben laid out the thin mattress he’d bought. He’s going to have to order a lot of things soon. Thank goodness for Amazon Prime. Still, data’s a little spotty in the house so he’d have to figure something out with regards to the internet.

“Yeah. Thanks for putting up with me so far,” 

“Are you crazy? Dude, your insulation’s non-existent, your radiator’s not working and you have no hot water, how the fuck are you going to stay here? Come on, you know you can stay at mine for as long as you need,”

“I know,” Ben ran his fingers through his hair, “But I’ll be fine. If I don’t I’ll probably end up mooching off of you for the rest of the year,”

“You know I won’t mind,” 

“Then how are you going to bring home that guy you’ve been eyeing?” 

Poe’s cheeks turned bright and the people who heard laughed, “You mean that kid he’s been trying to talk to for the past half a year?” The rotund man laughed. What was his name again? Spike? Spack? Spock? 

“Oh fuck off, Snap.” He shot a glare at the man. Right, his name was Snap. He was a few years younger than both him and Poe so they never really interacted much. Funny, Poe himself was two years his junior and they seemed to get along well despite not being in contact for years, “You make me sound pathetic,”

“Well, if you’re mooning over this kid for half a year and you haven’t asked him on a date then yes, you kinda are,” Ben said with a chuckle, “Why don’t you just ask him if he likes wine?”

“Right?” Snap chortled, “Chief can’t even say ‘hi’ without tripping over his feet,” 

Poe huffed and scowled but he was still blushing.

“Need help? I do commissions now that I’m technically jobless,” 

“You haven’t even baked me a pie yet,”

“You haven’t harvested the fruits yet,” 

“They’re not ready yet,”

“Then no pie yet.”

“Oh, right! You’re a pastry chef, right?” Snap clapped his hands together, “Call us up if you need help with cleaning and fixing up Padmé’s. The fire department’s close too so you know, if you’ve got a couple of experimental desserts or something we’d totally be down to be taste testers,”

“Don’t fall for it, they’ll eat anything.” Poe sighed, “Everything’s good if it’s free.” 

“I see,” Everyone was nice and friendly. 

It was weird. 

On one hand he knew it was because he lived here for the better part of his life and he’d always been known as the mayor’s kid but on the other it was uncomfortable how everyone seemed to know the little details of his life and pretended not to remember how he’d been judged when he first said he wanted to be a pastry chef instead of accepting the football scholarship he’d been offered. 

They’d said it was a waste of talent. He had the build and stamina and skill for it, why waste time on making delicate, girly little things like macarons and meringues?  

“I’m going to have to talk to uncle Lando if he can order me a couple of things.” Like an oven. He could probably order them online but it might be cheaper to order through Lando if he had a merchant’s discount or something. 

Of course, they’re going to have to tear down a couple of things in the kitchen so they can fit an oven in the walls. He didn’t intend to have a lot of parties or having more than one person cooking but if he decides to open it up as a bed and breakfast or an inn then he’d have to have more than one person cooking, right?

“Are you sure you’re staying here?” Poe looked uncomfortable, “I mean, we made sure there aren’t any nests or anything in the walls and we did board up the windows but it’s going to get colder and you’ll be alone,”

“I’m fine, I’ve been living alone for years now. I’m not a child,”

“Yes, yes, you’re big and strong but come on, Solo.”

He shook his head and Poe sighed. 

He’ll be fine and since there’s electricity now, he’ll be able to think and write out his plans for the house and the bakery and maybe look through the old journals they’d uncovered in the attic. 

Chapter Text

He was not fine. 

The breaker tripped and the power went out in the middle of his shower. He’d had to rush bathing in icy water and traipse outside to try to get the power back on. The wind was getting colder and since he had a lot of wide, open spaces at the moment, the full force of it slammed into him.

Not to mention just how dark it is. 

Fuck, he should’ve stayed at Poe’s. 

Or at least stole the dog. 

The wind howled and he made sure to lock the doors. One would never know when a serial killer or two would pop up. He was big and he knew how to fight but at the end of the day if someone jumps him while he was asleep, nobody would hear him screaming. 

Fuck.

He should get a housemate. Someone handy who can fix things because he sure as hell can’t. He could farm and cook and bake, maybe even remember how to milk a cow once he actually encounters one, but he could not, for the life of him, fix anything which was really disappointing seeing as how his father can pretty much fix anything he puts his mind to. 

And Poe was right about the insulation. He doubled down on the layers even though he usually ran hot. He should just sleep and get an early start tomorrow.

He kept most of the lights off for fear that the breaker wouldn’t be able to withstand the electrical load and catch fire. That’d be sad. He could already imagine what the local papers would say ‘City boy mayor’s son dead in fire caused by ignorance and stubborn pride’.

Still, it didn’t feel right taking advantage of Poe Dameron’s hospitality and he sure as hell won’t be staying with his parents.

He just needed to survive five years and make the most out of it. If he still hasn’t settled down by then, he’ll hire someone to take care of the bakery and the farm and leave. 

Could he, though? Can he just fix everything and then leave again like that? 

Wind blew outside and the beams creaked. What are the odds of the house being haunted? His grandfather had built this house in the fifties but it’s been empty for a while now and weird shit always happens in rural farmlands. He’d read enough Reddit threads. 

But other than that, everything seemed so still and quiet. He didn’t notice it when he was staying at Poe’s but once the wind died down, it was dead silent. There were no car sounds, no music, not even the sound of people as they pass by drunk and high off their asses. 

It was heavy and disconcerting, the kind of silence that could be felt and heard, the kind that told him that he was alone and that he was nothing.

Chapter Text

Rey always took the time to look at the community board for announcements. It was how she scored her trusty CZ Ringneck for cheap back when she still lived in Arizona. 

Today there was something new posted about a guy who was looking for a housemate who could help him fix the farmhouse he’s living at. The rent was cheaper than the boardinghouse and he’s even allowing the use of the main kitchen once it was finished. Plus, there was no security deposit.

The paper was plain and white, the information typed out formally and without any flair. Was he an old man? 

If she offers her skills would he consider lowering the rental some more? She was confident about her ability to fix just about anything. Her foster father Unkar wouldn’t have kept her if she couldn’t, and she raked in more than enough money for his junkyard by fixing things other people had thrown away.

She messaged the number posted and waited for his reply. She hadn’t been in town long to be honest but everyone in town seemed nice and friendly once they got over the fact that she didn’t come from there.

She could already imagine how a man named Ben who lives in a farm would look; old, feeble and small. Since he’s looking for someone who could help around the house, would that mean he’d been abandoned by his family? 

He sounded like a nice old man, and based on the posting he seemed to like to cook and is more than happy to share. Was he just lonely? 

It was a little far from school but she had a car and she gets a discount on gas as part of the perks of working as a part-time mechanic at Han’s Garage, so it’d still be cheaper in the long run.

Being able to use the kitchen without having to pay for the utilities was a big plus too. It was almost as if the old man didn’t really care for the rental money but more the company and help. 

She pocketed her phone and passed the closed-down bakery as she made her way to the diner. The wooden sign was old and worn but she could clearly see the word Padmé’s carved in an elegant script. It’d been closed when she first arrived and it was still closed now, three and a half months later but she’d heard from the gossip mills that some famous pastry chef was the grandson of the bakery’s owner and that he’d come back recently to reopen the bakery so she was really excited for that. 

Nothing beats freshly baked bread. 

She waved back at the people waving at her. She didn’t know their names but she recognised their faces since she’d seen them often enough around town. 

She really loved living in a small town where everyone knew everyone.

It was calm and almost routine. 

Safe. 

She’d be more than happy to stay here forever.

Chapter Text

The strange, autumnal barbecue party his mother held was nothing more than an excuse for his parents’ old friends to gather and drink. Of course that gave him a chance to mention how he’s going to be renovating the farmhouse so he did get a lot of promises of help especially in terms of labour. He’d even gotten his uncle Chewie to give him a discount on the lumber he’d be needing. 

“Oh, Luke you’re here!” He heard his mother say excitedly and he stiffened.

He didn’t actually have anything against his mother’s miserly twin and he couldn’t remember when it was exactly that their relationship started falling apart but for some reason he always felt uncomfortable whenever he was mentioned let alone be in the same space as him. Did it start when he left the town or was it even before?

He could vaguely remember memories of them going fishing together in the lake near Skywalker Ranch.

“Welcome back, kid.” He turned to face the man in question and grimaced. 

“Thanks.” He said. He couldn’t meet the older man’s eyes.

“Are you staying for good?” He’d been asked that question so many times now he was  actually getting sick of it.

“For now,” He said, “I don’t have any intention of leaving for the next five years,”

“And the bakery? I heard you’re reopening it?”

“Yes,”

“Hm,” He didn’t like the look in Luke’s pale eyes. Can he still not accept that his only nephew was a pastry chef? Why was it okay for men to be bakers but not pâtissiers? Uncle Luke had been the most disappointed out of everyone when he declined the scholarship. Luke himself would’ve gotten one too when he was young had it not been for a tractor related injury that rendered his right hand useless.

He caught a glimpse of the familiar red hair that could only be one person. Heck, there was only one redhead in this town. He excused himself to catch his grandmother’s lawyer, Armitage Hux.

“Mr. Hux,” He said, “You’re here,”

The man looked at him warily, “Yes.” He said in his distinct British accent, “The mayor calls, of course I can’t refuse. Also, I would prefer to be simply called ‘Hux’.” 

“I see,” He cleared his throat, “I’d like to visit the bakery soon,” 

Hux inclined his head, “Very well. I’ll accompany you. I would like for you to drop by the office first though. I need you to sign the application and transfer forms.”

“Application? Transfer form? For what?”

“Your gun. A friend of mine is a an FFL dealer and she’s currently holding onto your grandfather’s gun. That is part of your inheritance as well,”

Was it? He remembered Anakin had kept a pump-action shotgun by the front door during the day and keeping it by his bed at night. He even taught him how to use it though at the time, a 12-gauge shotgun wasn’t something his ten-year-old body could handle. The recoil was strong enough to throw him on his back hard enough for him to bruise and for Leia to get very angry. 

He hasn’t shot a shotgun since.

But of course a farm owner needed a gun, right? What better gun than his grandfather’s shotgun? 

“I see. Does it still work?” It’d be a shame if it didn’t though he’d have to remember how to use it exactly. He hoped he never had to use it but it wouldn’t hurt to know how.

“We’ll have to ask her that. I’m not very knowledgeable on guns either.” 

“Okay,” He doesn’t remember there being a gun store in Chandrila. Since she’s Hux’s friend, does that mean she’d recently moved here too? 

Maybe there was hope for this town after all.

He’d kept mostly to himself, nursing a bottle of beer and grabbing some burgers, grilled pumpkins and a few sausages while everyone else mingled and laughed and gossiped. 

His phone vibrated and he frowned at the unknown number. 

Poe had laughed at him when he said he was going to get a housemate and teased him for being so stubborn. Still, he’d lasted two whole nights in the house alone and he wasn’t visited by a serial killer or a ghost so he should be safe. 

But a housemate still sounded good. He doubted anyone would be interested in living in a work-in-progress farmhouse away from the town centre but he’d posted the ad in the community bulletin anyway. The rent was low enough and he’d even allow the use of the land if they wanted to plant a couple of things. Plus, he’d be generous with food and desserts once he actually finishes setting up the kitchen. 

The only problem was, there wouldn’t be a lot of skilled people who needed a room when the boardinghouse was there. 

Which was the reason why he was suspicious of the text he’d gotten.

‘Good evening, I’m Rey Niima. I saw your ad and I’d like to rent a room. I’m currently on scholarship at Chandrila U and I’m currently desperately looking for a place to stay. I'm a pretty skilled handyman so I can help around the house for whatever you needs fixing and if we could negotiate a discount on the rental I’d be more than grateful if you’d consider.’

It was strange no matter how many times he looked at it. Did this kid want a discount and he’ll fix things around the house? How skilled exactly is ‘pretty skilled’? Ben could say he’s pretty skilled at baking but others would say he’s shit, right? And why would he be desperately looking for lodgings? The boardinghouse is in town and it’s pretty cheap if he remembered correctly. Plus, the farm was pretty far out from the university.

He hesitated before typing out a response. 

Chapter Text

Sure I can give a discount but I would like for someone to attest to your skills and identity first so if you could please give me a few references that would be great. Thank you.'

It was like a job application. Rey chewed on her bottom lip and wondered who she should identify. She didn’t really know a lot of people personally but she did help out whenever she saw an ad asking for some handyman work. She didn’t always get paid in cash but she almost always got some food for her work.  

“Here you go, Rey.” Maz was a tiny old lady. She’d done some work for her when the grill started acting up. She got paid and she scored a cup of coffee and a sandwich so that was nice.

“Thanks Maz,” Rey smiled, “How’s the grill doing?”

“Like it’s brand spanking new,” She chuckled, “I reckon I can get another fifty years out of it,” 

“That’s great news,” She laughed, “If you need any help or if something happens again, call me.”

“Of course, of course,” She liked Maz. She wasn’t nosy unlike the other people in town and she left her alone after giving her some coffee. She didn’t particularly enjoy the nosiness of some but compared to how people treated her when she first arrived, it was so much better. The people here were wary of outsiders but it wasn’t hard to win them over. Maybe someday she won’t be considered an outsider anymore and she’d be able to save enough to buy a plot of land and built a small house for herself. 

Which is why she really needed to find cheaper accommodations. 

She dumped two heaping teaspoons of brown sugar into her cup before typing out her reply: Han Solo followed by his number, Poe Dameron since she’s been the one fixing his car and the school’s president Amilyn Holdo who’d been taking care of scholars like her. She also put in Maz’s name too just in case he asks what else she can fix. That should be good enough as a character reference right? They were all well-known folks in town and it’d be easy to check with them. 

He replied again, quicker this time, with a simple ‘ok’. Did that mean okay as in, okay you can rent a room here or okay as in, I’ll get back to you? 

She’ll wait. 

Should she ask around about him too? There wasn’t much information on the ad itself but she’s heard of Lars Homestead and if that man was staying there then that meant he’s been part of town for a long time so it should be fine, right?

 

 

“Hey dad,” Han looked up from where he was sitting with Chewie and Lando, “Do you know a kid named Rey Niima?”

“Hm?” Han arched a brow, “Yeah, why?”

“I posted an ad earlier for a housemate who can help out in the renovations and he put you in as a character reference.”

Han laughed, “Character reference? Jesus, kid, what is this, a job interview?” 

Chewie grunted and Lando chuckled, “We know the kid,” He said in his usual calmly amused tone.

“Oh yeah, we know him.” Han snickered and Ben scowled, “Don’t worry, he’s a good kid. He’s working for me part-time at the garage.”

Lando arched a brow and nodded, “Knows his shit around the tools,” He was smiling now too. Were they already drunk? Chewie shook his head and grunted. 

“So, he’s fine, right?” In other words, he won’t kill him and rob him in his sleep.

“Yeah, he’s fine,” Han smiled at him wryly, “Good kid, smart, reliable. Kid can fix anything,” 

Ben nodded. That sounded too good to be true but Han could fix anything too and he’d always been a good judge of character. If Han says he could, then that’s that. “He’s asking for a discount,” 

“I’m telling you, kid. If he’s exchanging his skills for a discount, take it. You’ll save a ton on repairs.” Lando said and Han nodded, still smiling like an idiot.

What was so funny? 

“Okay…” He said and eyed the number of beer bottles strewn around them. Yup, they were definitely drunk, “Well, he put in Poe too so I’ll go ask him,”

“Eh, kid fixes Poe’s car,” Han waved Poe over and shoved a beer into his hand, “You know Rey, right?”

“Hm?” Poe looked surprised, “Of course, s—,”

He’s the one you always request to service your truck,” Han winked and Ben finally understood. That’s the kid Poe likes. 

“W-well yeah, of course,” Poe said, rubbing the back of his neck, “S-he, I mean, you’ve seen my truck right, Ben? And you hear how nicely she purrs?”

Ben nodded. Of course he did. Once he gets one he’ll have to ask him to fix it up too, “So, he’s good,”

“I told you, he is.” Han smiled, “Trust your old man a bit, why don’t you?”

“Right,” Poe grimaced, “He’s,” He cleared his throat and ran his fingers through his hair, “He’s pretty great,” Oh? He wasn’t usually curious about other people’s love lives but Poe’s reaction was pretty interesting. What kinda kid would make the Poe Dameron act like that? 

“Anyone you ask would probably know em,” Lando said and took a long drink from the bottle, “Quiet, helpful, hard-working, well-mannered, what more could you ask for in a kid?” 

“Okay. I’ll accept then, and give him a discount,” If it meant not needing to pay for someone to fix the radiator and fix the other parts of the house then he’d be more than happy to give it.

‘When can you move in?’ He messaged and he replied almost immediately.

‘Is next week okay? And I have a shotgun for hunting, is that alright?’ 

Well he’ll be getting one too so it should be fine. Two men with guns are better than one, ‘As long as you don’t point it at me.’

He sent a smiley face, ‘Promise. Thanks, landlord!’ 

Ben saved Rey’s number. 

His oven’s arriving this coming week. He’d decided on a wall oven and he and some of Poe’s firemen had torn down the rotting old cupboards so he has a vague idea of where to put it. 

It was a good start seeing as he’s only been back for a little more than a week. It felt much longer than that though. Time seemed to slow down the moment he stepped foot in Chandrila. He’d always been so busy before that sitting still like this and having a beer felt almost like a dream.

But his fingers itched to make something, anything, and now that he has the time and creative freedom, he has no idea what he wants to make first. 

“Whatcha thinking of?” Poe plopped himself down next to him, “We’ll be harvesting grapes this coming week, you wanna join?” 

Grapes. He’s never harvested them before but he’s used them often enough for shakes and sorbets. It’d be a good experience. It wouldn’t hurt much if he didn’t look over the construction for a day, right? 

“Sure,” He said and Poe grinned. 

“It’s getting too cloudy recently,” Ben had no idea what that meant but he assumed it’s a bad thing, “Hopefully there wouldn’t be a lot of overripe grapes,” 

“What’s wrong with that?”

“The wine gets too sweet and one-dimensional if we use them.” Poe sighed, “I mean, we could but it’s not really balanced, you know?”

The weather’s too cold for a sorbet, “What about a clafoutis tart?” 

“A what now?” Poe blinked at him and he snorted back a laugh.

“It’s like a pie and a flan in one. Usually it’s made with cherries but…”

“Grapes are good too,” He nodded and Poe grinned again, “Is this your way of paying me back for helping you so much?”

“I didn’t say I’d make it,” 

“Gimme a list of ingredients and I’ll buy it. You can use my kitchen too,”

“I thought I’ll be helping to harvest the grapes?”

“I mean, we harvest at night,” 

“Wait, what?”

“What? Didn’t you know?” Ben shook his head, “Oh. Well, the sugar composition in the grapes changes during the day so it’s better to harvest at night so we don’t get any weird surprises during fermentation.” 

“I see,” If it’s at night then it’d be fine to work on the kitchen cabinets during the day. Then he can bake the clafoutis and they can have it for breakfast before they all go home, “I’ll send you a list,”

“Awesome.”

“It’s just a simple dessert so don’t get your hopes up too much.”

“Come on, I’m sure even if it’s just a cookie it’d be amazing if you make it.”

Warmth trickled in his chest. He knew he had skills, otherwise all those people wouldn’t have scouted him and he wouldn’t have gotten all those features but it was different when the compliment was just that, a compliment. When was the last time he’d baked for the sake of baking and not for the sake of images and reputation and profit? 

Maybe things wouldn’t be so bad this time around.

Chapter Text

As promised uncle Chewie delivered the lumber and gave him a hefty discount. He even popped in to help build the shelving. Ben had opted for something simple, just a few iron pipes affixed to the wall and planks of reclaimed hardwood on top. 

Chewie nodded his approval at the industrial look he was trying to go for. He’d kept the wood stove as is; he’d have to clean it up a little if he wanted to use it but he doubted he had to unless there was a bad power outage of some sort and he wouldn’t be able to use his newly installed electric stove. It’d probably be great too if it gets too cold in the winter and his radiator’s still not fixed.

“Did you have the house rewired?” 

“Yeah,” Ben had to hire a group from the nearest city and he’s still waiting for the inspector to come and check if it was all up to code, “I wasn’t sure when grandma and grandpa last had everything changed and checked and I don’t wanna risk a fire.” 

Chewie grunted, nodding. He’d had to shell out almost five grand for everything but he supposed it was a small price to pay to make sure it was all safe.

His fridge and oven are both coming in on Wednesday and he couldn’t wait to test them out. What would he make?

Poe had texted him to say that they’ll be picking grapes tonight so he sent him a list of things he needed to make the clafoutis. 

“Thanks for your help, uncle Chew,” He said and the man grunted again and slapped his back. He flinched. “I’m gonna go look for my shit. You picking grapes tonight too?” Chewie shook his head, “Right, I’ll send you a clafoutis,” 

He nodded.

Uncle Chewie never talked much.

He wasn’t sure what kind of equipment Poe had so he might as well bring his own things. He put them all in one box so it shouldn’t be hard to find. Did Poe invite Rey too? It’d be a good opportunity for them to talk outside of the auto shop. Then again, that’s none of his concern. 

Was he more excited about picking grapes or finally making desserts again? He’s never not made anything for more than a day or two ever since he graduated and it felt like a part of him was missing.

He couldn’t wait.

 

They harvested by hand. Poe handed him a box and a pair of pruning shears. There were tractors mounted with bright lights scattered between the rows . It was a bit creepy to be honest. The vines, even though there was light, still held onto shadows that made is seem so foreboding, like something would pop up in between the wines and grab him or maybe something would just be standing at the end of the row, waiting. There’s a reason why you don’t really venture into a farm at night. 

Maybe it was just for cornfields? 

He shivered when the wind blew.

There were already people working. He only needed to fill one thirty pound box and pick out the overripe grapes for the clafoutis before emptying it out to the bin on the tractor that was following them down the row. 

Despite it sounding simple, it was still backbreaking work and soon he was sweating despite the chilly air and his arms were already getting sore. The fact that he didn’t work out as regularly as he should was becoming evident. 

Once he’d filled up the box with the dark cabernet grapes, he trudged up near the bins to get a separate box. He picked out as much as he could, even from the bin itself where the other harvesters dumped their load of grapes. 

How much many he be able to make? Would he have enough pans?

How long would it take to harvest all of the rows of red grapes? 

They were apparently still leaving some of the green grape rows for a late-harvest Zinfandel. 

He filled up half a thirty-pound box with just the soft, overly sweet grapes.

“You sure that’s enough?” He jumped a little when Poe appeared next to him, “Weather’s been strange lately so the grapes aren’t ripening evenly.” He pursed his lips. He didn’t look tired or dirty or even out of breath. 

“This is more than enough,” He said and carried the box up. His arms shook a little. It’d only been two hours. 

Fuck.

Chapter Text

He was grateful that Poe at least had a food processor. It made making the crusts so much quicker than doing it by hand. The house was brightly lit and he was alone with the dog.

BB snored loudly, looking almost like a rug as he lay in the middle of the kitchen. He had to step over him a couple times and even spilled a bit of flour on him. Still, he did not move from his spot.

He turned up the volume on his bluetooth headphones and allowed the heavy metal drown out most of his thoughts. There was something relaxing about all the measuring and weighing and shaping the crust. It was fall so a cutter in the shape of a leaf would’ve been nice. Maybe he should order a few online. If the workers liked it he might at least figure out the flavour profile the townsfolk like. Then he’ll try to get a slot for the Chandrila Sunday Market and start his market study formally for the cafe. 

He didn’t have baking stones so he hoped the holes he’d stabbed into the shortbread crust was enough to make sure that there weren’t any weird bumps. 

He blended some of the grapes and it turned into a nice pinkish purplish hue. He’d brought the heavy, black stand mixer with him too since he wasn’t sure if Poe had one. 

He kept an eye on the crusts as they turned slightly golden before pulling it out to cool them a bit. He placed some sliced grapes on it.

He still had a boatload of grapes even after he’d blended them and chopped some of them up to mix with the itself batter. In all honesty he’d never made grape clafoutis before. Clafoutis’ are rougher and more rustic compared to the desserts he made for Canto. It was part of its charm though and he was almost sure that the people here would like it.

He cracked an egg into a small bowl before transferring it to the bowl of the stand mixer. He’d made the mistake of cracking an egg directly inside once when he was in a rush and regretted it when it turned out that it was a bad egg. He’d had to dump the whole thing and restart the batter for the cake he was preparing for an event. He’d had to pay for the cost of that wastage too.

He weighed the flour and the sugar, poured it into the bowl, pursed his lips a little before adding a few pinches of ground cloves. 

Then, he added the grape puree into the batter. It was thick enough that the chopped grapes he’d added wouldn’t sink to the bottom. He poured it over the crust with the grapes before placing them into the oven. 

And now to wait.

He started cleaning up. 

BB’s tail thumped and he snorted again. He should get a dog too. Farms should always have dogs. 

The sweet smell of fruit and spice and butter filled the air and he sighed a little. He didn’t even realise how tense his shoulders were. He didn’t belong out there, he belonged in here, in the kitchen, with flour and sugar and eggs.

The oven started beeping and he pulled them out. Six steaming grape clafoutis tarts. 

He waited for them to cool before dusting it with powdered sugar. It looked rough and rustic as he expected even after he’d arranged a few slices of grapes on top of it. He took a picture to post on his Instagram account.

It’d been a little noisy especially after he’d announced that he was no longer affiliated with Canto Bight. 

He started writing out a caption: 'ben_solo_bakes Late night harvest and bake @‘ he frowned. He actually didn’t know what Poe’s accounts were. 

“Jesus, that smells good,” Poe said just in time. He leaned over the counter, “Can we eat it yet?” 

“Sure, it’s fine to eat hot or cold. What’s your Instagram handle?”

“Hm?” Poe blinked up at him and grinned, “You gonna follow me?”

He rolled his eyes, “The vineyard,” 

“It’s Chandrila.Vineyard,” He said with a laugh, “I’m not very creative. My personal one’s Pilot_Dameron,” 

He nodded and continued his caption. ‘ben_solo_bakes Late night harvest and bake @Chandrila.Vineyard Thanks to @Pilot_Dameron for the one-of-a-kind experience #WineGrapeHarvest #ChandrilaCalifornia’

“Whoa, damn, Solo, you have this many followers?” He cut into the tart and shoved a large piece into his mouth, “Hot!” He opened mouth and fanned a little before chewing and swallowing, “Shit, this is good.”

“Not too sweet, is it?” Poe shook his head, “Rubbery?” Poe shook his head again and continued eating. He lifted a forkful towards Ben who cringed a little. 

“It’s good, seriously.”

“I don’t really eat what I make,”

“What? Why?” 

“I like making them for others but I don’t know,” Poe kept pushing the fork towards him and he sighed before taking a bite. It was good; not too sweet, a little custardy but still solid enough to be filling. The bite of the cloves was just enough to round everything up and not make it taste too one-dimensional. 

“There’s enough for everyone,” He said, “I hope you don’t mind if I send one to uncle Chewie though,” 

“‘Course not,” Poe sliced another piece, “You planning to sell these? Cuz if you are I’m down to be your official grape supplier,”

He chuckled, “Where else would I get quality grapes at?”

Poe grinned.

Chapter Text

All of Rey’s belongings fit in a large box, a single duffel bag and a backpack. She moved around a lot before finally ending up in Chandrila. She’d heard about the scholarship by chance while she was working in an auto shop in Paso Robles and applied just in case. 

She was surprised when she passed given how dismal her high school records were. Still, she didn’t hesitate to drop everything, pack her things into her ancient truck and get going. Her most prized possession would probably be the shotgun she’d lovingly named Bess currently slung behind her.

She’d gotten it in Arizona for four hundred dollars. It was still a lot of money but it was a pretty good hunting gun. Lord knows there were some days when the twenty-five dollar one-day hunting permit bagged her enough game to last a couple of weeks. She’d even paid for all the necessary permits for it so she could bring it with her to California. 

She drove down to the brightly-lit homestead. There were a lot of lumber out in the front and half of the porch seemed to be under repair. Was this why Mr. Ben needed help? She wasn’t a very good carpenter but she can do simple repairs like changing the floorboards. 

She parked her truck, tugged on her baseball cap and brought out her things. He told her to pass through the back since he’s most likely going to be trying out his newly renovated kitchen. Does this mean she get a free meal out of it? If she does then he’d be the perfect housemate. Of course, she’ll buy food and ingredients too to help stock up the fridge but they’ll probably have to discuss it. She doesn’t mind sharing as long as he doesn’t either.

The farm at the back looked bare and abysmal. It was still supposed to be harvest season but it didn’t look like anything had been grown for the last few seasons. Had this guy been living alone here like this? Didn’t he have relatives? Children? Heck, grandchildren?

There didn’t seem to be anyone else living here and she didn’t hear about it being sold or anything. 

“Hello?” Nobody answered when she called out. She frowned. Some of the walls were torn out, looking bare and skeletal. Was he renovating the whole house? So close to winter? Was that what he meant by work in progress? No wonder he needed help. It was harvest season so a lot of people were busy so he probably needed to rush to finish before winter comes in. 

She walked into what looked to be an ancient dining room. The door opposite her would probably be the kitchen. The floorboards creaked and she didn’t even think to put down her things. 

She walked into the kitchen and sucked in a breath.

Who is that?

He was tall and broad-shouldered, not at all like the little old man in her head. The sleeves of his black long-sleeved Henley’s were pushed up to his elbows, showing off his toned, slightly veiny forearms while they flexed and relaxed as he kneaded…dough? 

Her heart thumped uncomfortably. He had large headphones on and his brows were lowered in concentration. 

Then, he straightened and tried to push back the tendrils of hair that escaped the bun on the back of his head to frame his melancholic face with his upper arm. She cleared her throat and stomped a booted foot since she didn’t have hands. 

He jerked a little and finally looked at her with eyes so dark they seemed endless. Her breath hitched again when he smiled. 

He was beautiful.

“Gimme a sec,” He said a little loudly and shaped the dough before plopping it onto the pan and covering with a cloth and sticking it into the oven. Then, he washed his hands and pulled off his headphones, “You must be Rey,” She nodded mutely and gripped her box when a dimple popped out with his half-smile, “I’m Ben.” 

Chapter Text

Rey was scrawny. 

That was all he could think of. What the hell has this kid been eating? He’s not even half his size and barely reached his chin and the sweater he wore made him look even smaller and more delicate than he claimed. Did Poe like delicate, effeminate men? 

“Room’s on the second floor,” He said, “I hope you don’t mind. We’re trying to convert the room down here into a laundry room,”

“It’s fine,” His voice was soft and almost high. Shit, was this kid even legal? “A bit cold though, innit?”

“Ah, we couldn’t figure out what’s wrong with the radiator,” 

“May I take a look?”

Polite. That was good. He glanced back, “Kid, how old are you?”

His eyes widened and he flushed before scowling a little, “Twenty-three,”

“Really?” He arched a brow, “You look so young,”

“I get that a lot,” He sighed, “I can show you my license,”

“It’s fine. Dad vouched for you,” He led her to the hastily repaired room, “Sorry it’s not much.”

Rey stepped in and looked around the small room. It’d been Luke’s room way back when and he’d torn out the peeling wallpaper. They were surprised to find more hardwood behind the wallpaper actually. They should’ve expected it when they saw bits of it when the house was rewired but he didn’t actually expect that everything would be made of hardwood. 

Anakin really didn’t spare any expense on this house.

He did his best to sand and stain and seal the wood properly though there were  some obviously uneven parts.

“There’s a bed, a table, a chair and a closet. I can’t ask for anything else,” Rey beamed and he understood why Poe liked him. He had a cheerful and almost innocent air about him. He placed his box on the table and dropped his bags on the floor. He kept his shotgun over his shoulder.

“The bathroom’s in the hall, you can use that. I have my own,” She nodded, “I have  a couple of point-of-use water heaters but uh,” He cleared his throat, “I’m not sure how to install them.”

Rey snorted back a laugh, “So that’s why you needed a handyman, huh? I’ll do it.”

He smiled, “That’s what I was hoping for,” Rey stared at him and he arched a brow again, “Hm?”

He jerked back and flushed, “Sorry,” He said, clearing his throat, “You’re pretty,”

Ben blinked with surprise, tried to suppress a laugh and failed. He said it so simply without any preamble, like he was just stating a fact. Nobody gave compliments without an ulterior motive but it seemed this kid did, “Thanks?” Rey flushed again, “I gotta admit I’ve never heard that before but thanks.” He chuckled, “I’ll let you rest and settle in. You don’t have any food allergies or anything, do you?”

“You’re going to feed me too?” 

“Well yeah, it’s a bit of a waste to cook twice, right?” He rubbed the back of his neck, “I’m not as good a cook as Poe but we’ll survive,”

“Poe? Poe Dameron?” 

“Yep. He’s my neighbour,”

“Oh,” He chewed on his bottom lip, “I didn’t know that. How long have you been living here?”

“About three weeks.” His lip quirked up, “I’m not a axe murderer or anything. You can ask people about me too. I’m actually surprised you haven’t,”

Rey flushed again. He had a seemingly natural tan unlike Ben’s own pale, easily-burnt skin, “I thought,” He cleared his throat, “I expected an old man,” 

He arched a brow again, “I’m sorry to disappoint. If you want an old man you can probably imagine how I’d look in about twenty, thirty years. I hear I look a lot like my dad.” 

He looked confused. Did he really not know who he was or who his parents are? He knew Rey wasn’t from around here but he would’ve at least heard the rumours, right?

He laughed, “Oh shit, I thought you knew.” He offered his hand, “Let me introduce myself again. Hi, I’m Ben, Ben Solo.” 

Realisation dawned on Rey’s face and he reached out to shake his hand, “Your father’s Han Solo?” 

Ben knew without a doubt that this kid worked hard. Otherwise his hand wouldn’t be so rough and calloused, “Yeah,” He let go and took a step back, “Rest and wash up, I’ll call you when dinner’s ready,” 

He didn’t wait for an answer. 

He had a good look at the kid and decided at that moment to make sure that he’ll fatten him up some. He grimaced. It was a curse, really, wanting to feed and take care of people. He thought he’d gotten rid of that instinct when he left Chandrila all those years ago but it seems seeing small, delicate Rey brought it out of him.

He always had a soft spot for soft, helpless little creatures. 

Not that Rey looked particularly helpless seeing as how comfortable he seemed with his gun. Ben himself wasn’t all that comfortable with his grandfather’s gun. He’d tried it out at the back and he still reeled a little at the recoil despite his size.

His phone buzzed in his pocket. It was Poe asking if Rey’d arrived yet. Ben had invited him over for dinner too just to help out a little but it seemed he had to be at the station. 

He replied in the affirmative and pocketed it again. He still had to bake the bread he’d been making earlier and start cooking the soup.

Chapter Text

One thing was for sure. Only her room and the kitchen can really really be considered fixed. Rey knew it was rude to peek into other rooms but to be fair she had no idea where everything is. Plus, he did say install the water heater. She hoped he’d at least allocated an outlet for it. She was surprised to see that though the room was clean and the walls had been stripped, he didn’t have a bed frame for his mattress and the only other furniture he had in what she assumed was the master bedroom was a crate and a chair. 

He’d been living like that for three weeks when he’d somehow fixed her a room? Should she really trust him? It was technically in the middle of nowhere. She eyed the pump-action propped up next to his mattress. He said Han Solo was his father, that meant the mayor was his mother. He wouldn’t do anything bad, right? 

She shouldn’t even be snooping around in the first place. 

She went back to her room and grabbed her things before bringing them to the shower. 

It was freezing. He said he didn’t know how to install the heaters, did that mean he lived with for three whole weeks? Holy shit. She took the quickest shower in history and doubled up on her sweaters to keep herself from shaking so much. 

The first thing she’ll do come morning is install those bloody heaters and hope that his water pump is strong. Seriously, how is this man still alive and healthy?

She wandered down to the kitchen just as he was pulling out the huge loaf of bread from the oven; the smell of onions and freshly baked bread made her stomach rumble.

He glanced up and grimaced, “It was cold, huh?” 

“That’s an understatement,” She laughed a little. She can’t really complain; she’s going to be living here for cheap. He hasn’t even asked for this month’s rental, “Do you have a bank account I can deposit the rent to? Or would you prefer cash?” 

“Hm?” He stirred the soup in the large pot, “Ah, bank transfer’s fine. I’ll give you my details later,” 

“It smells good,” She said and hesitated before approaching.

“I hope you like onions,” He chuckled, “The Wexley’s had an oversupply so I bought them in bulk.” 

“I can eat anything,” She grinned, “I’m really grateful you’re sharing,”

“Nah, don’t mention it.” He glanced at her again, “I have a hairdryer, go dry your hair first before you get a cold or something.”

“Is that okay?” He waved her away, “Where is it?”

“Should be in my bathroom,” He stirred before tasting the soup and adding a few pinches of salt.

“Thanks,” She cleared her throat and flushed before shuffling away. What a strange guy. He’s almost like a parent. Was it because of her size? She grew up a little malnourished and she’d always been slim but she was sturdy and she’d never really been sick.  

He didn’t seem to have family other than his parents. Otherwise he wouldn’t let her stay here too, right? She slipped into his room again and ignored the messy mattress on the floor. Maybe she should see if he had any wood pallets and she’ll turn it into a bed frame for him so the bed isn’t directly on the floor. 

She found the black hairdryer with the familiar circular design easy enough and she grabbed it and scuttled back to her room. 

It took her five minutes to dry her hair and she’d never had it feel so fluffy like this before. Now she understood what all the hype was about. 

She went back downstairs and was trying to tie her hair back when the old elastic snapped. She winced. Damn it, that was her last one.

Ben had long hair, didn’t he? Would he happen to have another hair tie? She really should cut her hair but salons are expensive and she didn’t trust herself enough to cut her hair properly.

She cleared her throat, “Do you, uh, happen to have an extra hair tie? Mine broke,”

He stared at her for a moment before reaching up to take the one he was using off and she stiffened, “No! No, I meant if you had an extra,”

“It’s fine, I was almost done anyway.” He handed her the plain black elastic and her heart pounded again. He was so nice, “Hey, do you know Ratatouille?”  

“The…cartoon?” 

He grinned and his dimples flashed, “Yup,”

“Yes?” Why was he asking about that? 

“You remember what they said about good bread?”

Ah. “The sound,” She eyed the bread he baked and her mouth watered.

“Exactly. Mind helping me?” He handed her his phone, “Just point the video on it and don’t say anything,”

“Oh, okay,” He washed and dried his hands and went to grab the bread with both hands. It looked small now that he was holding it. He had beautiful hands. She shuffled closer and pressed the red button. He flexed his fingers and a symphony of tiny crackles came from the bread. Then, he placed it back on the rack.

“Thanks,” He flashed her a dimple again, “If you can stick it in my pocket that’d be great,” 

“Your phone?” She blinked. Her cheeks heated a little and she realised that he only saw her as a kid and therefore out of his radar.

She supposed she’s one of the boys after all. 

That kinda stung but who was she kidding? A man this beautiful would need a woman who’s equally beautiful as him. She slid the phone into the pocket of his sweatpants.

“Thanks. I don’t really use the dining room. Hope you don’t mind,”

“No, it’s just the two of us anyway, right?” He nodded and she watched as he sliced into the bread, “Is there anything I can help you with?” His hair fell over his cheeks and she felt a little guilty for taking his hair tie.

She tied her hair up into a bun. 

“You can help by telling me how much you can eat,”

“Huh?” He jerked his chin over to the stoneware bowls he’d prepared, “I mean, I can eat a lot or not,”

“Can you finish three of those?” She looked at the bowls again. Three? They were the size of a cantaloupe, how can she finish three? 

“No.” She said resolutely, “I can probably have two max,” 

He nodded, “Alright, go sit.” He jerked his chin again towards the four-seater table by the window. It was made of old planks of wood, finished and stained to perfection and bolted atop simple metal U-shaped legs. 

She sat. 

He was really going for the whole industrial kitchen vibe, huh? But it really seemed to suit him based on what little she’s actually seen of him. 

He was smearing mustard on the bread slices now.

After that he ladled the soup into four of the six bowls, floated a pieces of bread on each and grated some cheese over, “I don’t have Gruyere at the moment so I hope you don’t mind Emmental,” 

He stuck them into the oven.

“That’s fine, I don’t really buy cheese.” He glanced at her and she took it as a sign to continue, “They’re kinda expensive.” He nodded once before pulling out his phone.

“You have an instagram account?”

So he was one of those? 

“Yeah but I don’t really use it,”

He gave her a small smile, “What is it, I’ll tag you,”

“Er,” Isn’t that a bit weird? He’s technically her landlord even though he feels more like a friend. He looked at her again with those deep, mournful eyes. Ah, fuck it, “It’s Rey.Niima,” It wasn’t like she had anything really private and personal in it anyway.

Chapter Text

ben_solo_bakes: “How can you tell how good bread is without tasting it?” Thanks for the assist @Rey.Niima #ColetteWasOnToSomething #Ratatouille #ChandrilaBaking 

He posted the video Rey took. The bread itself came out better than he hoped. All he had to do now was to compute for the cost and trial sell it. 

He’d have to go visit the bakery again to properly inspect it. Last time he’d gone he’d only given it a quick once-over. The temperature was dropping by the day and he really needed to finish installing the insulation foam in the walls before winter arrives. 

The oven beeped and he shoved his hands into the black silicone mittens so he could take out the bowls.

He brought them over to the table, “I’ll show you where everything is after we eat,” He said and sat in front of Rey who was looking at his bowl with awe. 

“It’s better when it’s hot,” He said, smiling a little. He sent a photo to Han.

Damn you, I’m on a diet.’ His father replied and he chuckled. 

“Thanks,” Rey bit his lip and Ben watched him as he scooped up some of the cheesy bread with the soup. He slurped at it and his eyes lit up.

“Good?”

He nodded and grinned. He tried some, “You should try my friend Vicrul’s.” 

“What…did you do before coming here?” Did he really not ask around? That’s a little concerning. This is a small town but that didn’t mean there wouldn’t be bad people. What if he turned out to be an axe murderer?

“I…worked in a hotel in Vegas,” He finally said, “In the kitchen.”

“Oh,” 

“Right, we have more bread if you still want some,” He nodded and Ben went to get it, “What about you, what’re you studying?”

“Business,”

He arched a brow, “Business? I woulda thought it’d be engineering or something,”

Rey shrugged and the collar of his sweater fell off his shoulder a little. He shrugged it back but not before Ben saw how prominent his collarbone was. Holy shit, did this kid even eat properly?

“I already know how to fix things and I’m quite happy doing handyman work but there’s a lot about business that I don’t know and since the opportunity’s there,” He shrugged.

“Are you going to open up a business?”

He grinned and his eyes sparkled. Ben’s stomach tightened. What an expression; excited, open, passionate, did he look like that too when he first started baking with his grandmother? Damn it, he missed her. 

“Yup! I’m hoping to stay here after I graduate so I’m trying to save enough so I can get a place to stay.” His lip quirked up. What a nice kid, “I’m going to hook up the heaters tomorrow and take at look at the radiator.”

“Thanks. What’s your class schedule?”

“Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursday mornings,” He said, “I can take most of my classes online,” Then he faltered, “Um, there is Wi-Fi here, right?” Ben snorted back a laugh.

“Yes. It’s called Lars and the password’s ‘kiss the baker’, no space, capital K and B,” 

“K-,” He flushed and Ben rubbed the smile off his mouth. Man, it was fun teasing him.

“Poe set it up for me.” 

“Right. He’s like that,” 

“You know him well?”

Rey shrugged, “Well enough? I mean, I fix his truck and he always says hi whenever he sees me in town. Sometimes he gives me grapes,” 

Ben nodded and started on his second bowl of soup. He pushed the other bowl to Rey who goggled, “He’s a good guy. Eat up,” 

“Almost everyone here’s a good person,”

He shrugged. Not really. 

Chapter Text

Padmé’s will always be Padmé’s. He’ll keep the old wooden sign. It’d fit with the image of the town anyway as a rustic, almost historical place. His mother had worked hard to make it look like you’d stepped out of time when you arrive and he had no intention of disrupting that.

“You didn’t have to come with, Mr. Hux,” Ben said, “I already have a key.”

“It’s Hux, and no, I must.” Still acerbic, it seems. Hux was another person from the city and had taken over the small practitioner office the town’s long-standing lawyer Mon Mothma had vacated when she retired. Soon after his friend moved into the empty spot next-door and opened up a hunting and fishing supplies store, “Phas says you should drop by to get more bullets.”

“I already did, didn’t I?” The bakery was dirty and as he feared it looked like there were rat droppings. The solid hardwood counter was just as he remembered. The glass display was broken so he’d have to replace that. 

There was too much wood, some looked like it had termites. He’ll get rid of some of them to make the atmosphere lighter and brighter.

He pressed on the antique National cash register and it dinged and slid open. There were a few old pennies. He’ll keep the cash register too just for sentimentality’s sake. He wondered briefly where his grandmother even found this thing since it seemed even older than the town itself. 

He wandered into the kitchen and covered his mouth at the smell. Christ, how long has it been since this place was last cleaned? There were suspicious stains and dark puddles on the tiled floor and the ancient oven looked corroded and ready to fall apart with a slight touch.

How can anything be even baked here? This place needed a lot more work than the farmhouse. 

“Bloody hell,” Hux muttered and stepped away in disgust, “I hope you’re ready to spend a lot of money for this place,”

Ben ran his fingers through his hair, “Fuck.” He tried to open the faucet to see if there’s still water running. The handle broke and he scowled, “Goddamn it.” 

He’ll have to throw everything out, strip the area bare and start from there. He’d have to rewire, repipe, retile and god knows what else. Did this place even have a fire suppression system in place? At least a sprinkler or smoke detector? There didn’t seem like it.

He doesn’t even want to think about all the health code violations this place would’ve had. There goes the hard-earned money he saved all these years.

“We do have a buyer waiting for this,” Hux said in a suspiciously calm tone, “Of course, he has been trying to buy the bakery and homestead from your grandmother even before we met but she never even considered selling no matter how much he offered.” 

“I’m not selling,” He said and Hux nodded.

“Noted.” 

“You’ve been here a while, right? What do you think of the town?” They went out of the bakery and Ben locked the door.

“The people here are slow to accept new things.” Hux said as they made their way back to his office, “There are new faces thanks to the mayor however tourism is still dismal.” 

“Did I not tell you to tell Benjamin here that he needed more bullets?” Phasma was a blonde Amazon of a woman. She stood outside her shop in a tank top and jeans.

“I did,” Hux scowled.

“Jesus, aren’t you cold?” Ben asked and she snorted before straightening. She was the only woman he knew who can actually look him straight in the eye. Literally. It wasn’t every day he met a woman the same height as him.

“Oh please, this is nothing.” How did a British lady even end up owning a hunting store in the middle of nowhere, California?

“I already bought some last time,”

“Those were birdshot for practice. I suggest you get some buckshots too,”

“Come on, Phas, isn’t that a bit of an overkill?”

Phasma arched a brow and turned to Ben, “Don’t tell me you’re not going to hunt? It’s deer season,”

Deer is a great ingredient but he could already see two major problems. One, he had never hunted before. He vaguely remembered seeing his grandfather and even his father bring home a deer or two growing up but he’s never once participated, and two, he didn’t have the heart to actually look through the sight and shoot a defenceless deer. 

“No, thank you.” He already felt queasy imagining it.

Phasma harrumphed, “Dameron already got his tags and…oh, Rey Niima’s your housemate, am I right?”

“Rey? Yeah, why?” 

“Wait here,” Phasma went back inside and then came out again with an envelope, “Here, give this,”

“Poe hunts?” 

“Yes, he has a lifetime license,” Phasma arched a brow, “Did you not know?”

Nope, he definitely did not know. He can’t imagine cheerful, friendly Poe hunting animals but he supposed it was normal for people here. 

Just another reason why he didn’t belong here. 

 

Chapter Text

“Rey!” Rey smiled, “How was your weekend?” 

“Good morning, Rose,” Rose was a cute, bubbly Vietnamese woman she met while enrolling to the university, “Oh, you know, busy.”

“How was your move? You didn’t tell me anything,” She frowned and linked her arm around Rey’s. Rose wasn’t exactly a scholarship student like Rey though she did get an allowance and a discount on tuition on the account of her grades.

“Well, the farmhouse was a work-in-progress.”

Rose laughed, “Well, duh. It said so in the ad but how bad is it?”

“Bad. I installed the water heaters so at least we have hot water now and I haven’t finished fixing the radiator.”

“Oof, so it was a cold weekend, huh?”

“Who had a cold weekend?” 

“Oh, hey Finn!” Rose said cheerfully, “Rey did.”

Finn frowned, “So, how was it?” Like her, he was a scholarship student. Both of them were in the business management program while Rose was in pre-law. 

“I only need to fix the radiator and ask the landlord if he needs my help to replace the floorboards of the porch.”

Finn clicked his tongue, “Just how much of a discount is he giving that you’re willing to work on that for free?”

Rey rolled her eyes, “I’ll have you know that my rent is literally a hundred and fifty a month, I don’t have to pay for utilities and he feeds me.”

“No way? Free food?”

“Yup,” She said, “I haven’t had meals like this in years,”

“You sure he’s not just a lonely old man missing his grandkids?” Rose laughed, “Come to think of it, I haven’t heard of anyone in town named Ben.”

“Erm, about that,” She cleared her throat and flushed, “He’s not an old man.” 

“What?” Both of them exclaimed. Finn grabbed her elbow.

“Peanut, are you telling me that you’re living in a farm, alone, with a man?”

“Dude, even if he’s old, he’s still a man,” Rose pointed out.

“I meant a young man.” Finn scowled, “Oh, you know what I mean.” 

“Well, he’s not young either? I didn’t ask how old he was but he looks like he’s in his thirties?” 

“That’s still young,” Finn huffed, “You know how men are, peanut, they’ll always be young so long as they can get it up.”

“Oh, come on, you don’t have to be that pessimistic,” Rose said and faced Rey with a huge smile, “Is he hot?” She flushed and Rose gasped, “Oh, he is! Oh my god, what does he look like?”

“Unbelievable,” Finn shook his head.

“Well, he’s tall and he looked like he works out,” Rose nodded enthusiastically, “He’s really pale and his hair’s pretty long.” She pursed her lips, “He has a big nose.”

Finn snorted and then laughed, “Okay, peanut, I don’t trust your taste in men.”

“I’m just really bad at describing people,” Rey scowled, “Besides, he doesn’t really seem like he’s interested or even sees me as anything but a helpful housemate. Heck, he even calls me ‘kid’.” Rose burst out laughing. 

“This is why I told you to get clothes that fit better and you know, wear makeup,” She said.

“Why would I wear makeup when I’m under a car?” She shook her head, “And anyway, I’m not really looking for a relationship and I don’t think he is either.” 

“Anyway, the food, how good is it?” 

“Like, fancy restaurant good,” Rey said, “I mean, when I first walked into the kitchen he was making bread.”

“Like, his own bread?” Finn’s brows shot up, “You know, with all the kneading and everything?”

“Yup,”

“What? Where can I get me a man like that?” Rose cackled, “Was it good bread?”

“Yeah, hold on I took a video for him. He tagged me,” She pulled out her phone and opened up her instagram account. Then, her eyes widened, “Holy shit,” 

“What?” Both Rose and Finn sidled up closer to look into her tiny screen.

“Look at all these likes and comments,” Rey blinked in surprise. Was he actually an influencer of some sort?

“Oh, my god. Rey!” Rose’s eyes were wide, “I don’t believe you!”

“What?” What did she do?

“No way,” Finn looked just as surprised as Rose, “Ben Solo?

“Yeah?” Was that supposed to be a big deal? “He’s apparently the mayor and Han’s son.”

“No shit but,” Finn’s eyes were still wide, “Rey, this is just…”

“Don’t you know who he is?” Rose already had her phone out, “He’s this really famous pastry chef in Las Vegas!” She shoved her phone in Rey’s hand to show her a picture of a food magazine cover, “He’s young, successful and hot.”

“Wait, you mean my landlord’s the new owner of the bakery?”

“Rey, how can you think of bread at a time like this?” Rose laughed incredulously, “You really didn’t know?”

She shook her head.

“Okay, but he’s still young and you’re living with him. Alone. In a farm. And I heard he had a temper.” Ben, a temper? She hasn’t seen a hint of that in the three days since she’s started living with him, “Oh but, why did he suddenly come back?”

“Oh yeah, I read an article about it too. They said he suddenly quit his job.” Rose frowned, “Why did he come back suddenly to fix a farmhouse and reopen the bakery?”

“Maybe the mayor called him back? I mean that bakery’s been closed for a while and I can’t imagine a town like this not having an actual, honest-to-god bakery,” 

“Yeah, but I heard his annual salary is like in the six-digits, why would he just leave like that?” 

Rey couldn’t help but wonder too. Was Ben really that kind of sentimental person? He seemed really nice whenever they ate together but other than that, she really didn’t know anything about him. 

She glanced at the plain black hair tie around her wrist. She still hasn’t returned it.

“Oh, but you’re so lucky! I heard people line up for hours whenever he releases something new,” Rose said, “And now he’s your housemate and he feeds you.” She sighed, “What a guy,”

Finn rolled his eyes, “I wouldn’t trust a man who tries to fatten me up,”

“What about Poe Dameron?” Rose laughed again. Rey grinned when Finn’s cheeks glowed. It wasn’t easy to notice whenever he was flustered but he always turns shiny whenever the conversation turns towards a certain curly-haired winemaker.

“What about him?” Finn asked gruffly.

“Doesn’t he try to give you food too?” Rose waggled her eyebrows.

The bell rang and she could see the visible relief on Finn’s face, “Oh, shut up, Tico. Let’s go to class,”

Rose laughed again.

Chapter Text

‘Mr. Solo, can my friends visit the house later? They want to see where I’m staying and help if they can.’

‘It’s Ben, and sure.’  

He pocketed his phone again and continued sticking the fibreglass insulation into the attic walls like how Lando had taught him. He was really grateful for the help. He didn’t even know there were so many kinds of insulation until Lando arrived in the morning with weird machines and boards. 

Then, he’d taught him how to install the boards and left for his hardware store with instructions for him to wait for his daughter and her team to come and help him with the foam for the exterior walls. 

“Hey, Ben, I’m moving into the next room,” Jannah called out from somewhere in the hall. She, like Poe, was one of those childhood friends that he lost contact with after he’d left Chandrila, “You better pay me for this,” 

“I made a pie,” He called out, “Bring one home for uncle Lando,”

He had hot water now thanks to Rey and now the house wasn’t going to be so cold anymore, and once Rey fixes the radiator, they’ll be able to live in relative comfort this coming winter.

“Jesus, Ben!” He heard Jannah screech. Really, she hasn’t changed a bit, “Are you serious this is your room?” 

“Didn’t you know it’s rude to just wander into a man’s room like that?”

“You’re not a man, you’re Ben.” 

He shook his head. He knew he and Jannah played a lot when they were younger but Jesus, why was his memory so vague? His memory’s been shit for as long as he could remember but he shouldn’t just forget about the memories he’d made with people he grew up with, right?

He heard her trudge up the narrow attic stairs, “Christ, Ben, you’re such a slob.” She said with a laugh, “I’ll help seal it up. It’s dangerous if you don’t seal it up properly since it might get into the air and you inhale it. It’s still technically glass,”

“Yes, ma’am,” 

“Dad said you have a new housemate,” 

“Ah, yeah.”

“So, how do you like him?” Jannah had a familiar glint in her eye. He rolled his eyes.

“What are you planning?”

“What do you mean? I just want to catch up with my good friend, Ben Solo, who by the way, I haven’t seen or heard from in like ten years. Are you telling me I can’t do that?” She bumped his shoulder, “You’re not saying you’re too good for your old friends now, are you?”

He snorted, “Of course not, and I’m sorry for not keeping in touch.”

She chuckled, “Well, whatever, it’s fine, you’re back now. Oh, we should take a picture and make Poe jealous,” 

“You know I don’t like pictures,”

“Right, says the guy with all those magazine features.” She raised her phone and threw an arm around his shoulder, “Say ‘cheese’,” He laughed, “This is going to be great publicity you know. Maybe I’ll get work from other towns,”

“Ah, is that why? You know I’m not a celebrity or anything,” 

“Oh please, there are still people who know you and that’s enough to at least give us a few clients, right? Or maybe get interest going for our small town.” 

It seems both his friends and even his housemate loved this town. Would he come to like it too, after a while? Five years is still a long time and he’d like to think he’d changed from the boy who once couldn’t wait to escape.

Yet here he was, back where he started. 

He sighed and focused on the insulation.

--

There were people packing up when Rey, Finn and Rose arrived. She spotted Ben standing on the porch talking to a beautiful, dark-skinned woman she recognised as Lando’s daughter. She was holding a round aluminium pan. He laughed at what she said and Rey realised that they looked really good together.

She shook her head. It wasn’t any of her business.  

Wow.” Rose said, “He’s even hotter in person,”

Finn whistled, “Damn girl, you’re right.”

“I thought you didn’t agree to our Rey living with a man alone?” Rose said with a laugh.

“Babe, if he looks like that he can do whatever he wants,” Finn laughed, “Come on, let’s go down.”

“Wouldn’t Poe Dameron get jealous if he hears that?” Rose teased and jumped out of the truck.

Rey followed them, “I told you he’s not interested and neither am I,”

Ben turned to them and gave a pleasant smile, “Hey, kid. Welcome back,”

Lando’s daughter snorted back a laugh, “Sorry, hi, I’m Jannah. You must be Rey,”

“Hi,” Rey shook her hand.

“You sure you don’t want to stay for dinner?” Ben asked her. She shook her head.

“Nah, dad’d be waiting. I’ll be back tomorrow to finish up the insulation in the floors though,”

“Ah speaking of that,” He turned to Rey again, “I hope you won’t mind but Jannah has to go into your room to inject the foam,” 

“That’s fine,” Rey said. Was she Ben’s girlfriend? Rose nudged her and she jerked, “Oh, right! These are my friends Rose and Finn,”

Ben gave them another pleasant smile. She realised that she didn’t really like that smile. He shook their hands and arched a brow when Finn gripped his hand tightly.

Rey cleared her throat, “I’m going to go show them around and check out the radiator,”

“Sure. I’ll call you for dinner,” Jannah bumped shoulders with him and smiled, “What?”

“Nothing,” She grinned and Ben scowled at her.

Rey grimaced and trudged up the unfinished porch carefully. 

“Who’s that girl?” Rose whispered, “They look close,”

“She’s Lando’s daughter. I think she’s a contractor?” Rey whispered back, “Anyway, it doesn’t matter. As you can see the house is a real work-in-progress and it’d be a while before we actually finish it up,”

Rose and Finn shared a look which she promptly ignored.

Chapter Text

One thing Ben did not consider is the possibility that Rey might actually be straight. He and that Rose girl seemed close. Then again, he seemed equally close with the Finn guy too so either way, he could see how Poe’s having a hard time getting close and judging by how Finn had squeezed his hand and eyed him, it might be the latter. 

“Seems like you and Rey are getting along swimmingly,” Jannah teased. Ben rolled his eyes.

“You said Lando’s waiting for you. Go home.” He said. She laughed.

“Aw, Benny, you haven’t changed a bit.” She gave him a smooch on the cheek and he scowled, “Don’t worry, I won’t spread cooties on you,”

“Oh fuck off, Jay, we were in kindergarten. How do you even remember that shit?” He sure as hell have a hard time remembering himself. 

“I don’t know, I think having my childhood friend rejecting me because of cooties traumatised me for life,”

“You kissed everyone,” He said bluntly and she laughed. 

“Well, what can I say, I’m a girl who loves everyone,”

“Don’t let your girlfriend hear that.”

“She knows I’m loyal. There’s a lot of different kinds of love you know.”

“Go home,” 

She laughed again and waved, “Thanks again for the pie,”

He went back inside to vacuum up the wood shavings and dust.

 

Earlier today Poe had dropped off a few cottontails and squirrels. Thankfully he’d already gone and  skinned and gutted it for him. He’d had them before of course but it was always already cooked whenever he encountered them so actually working with the meat was a different experience.

He’d sent Vicrul a picture and the man had cussed him out for having such fresh ingredients. Who knows, maybe he’ll move here too.

He stilled. Why did he suddenly think of that? He wasn’t going to stay either, right? He dumped the potatoes and the carrots into the stew he’d been simmering all day. Did Rey’s friends eat bunnies and squirrels? He wasn’t sure where Finn and Rose came from and he knew small game isn’t for everyone.

“This is the kitchen,” He turned to see Rey giving her friends a brief rundown of the house’s history. He smiled a little. The kid’s been here three days and he’s already taken the history to heart, “I actually had nothing to do with this kitchen. It was already like this when I got here,”

“The kitchen’s the heart of a home, of course I’d fix that first,” He said, “You guys almost done? Dinner’s almost ready.” He just had to wait for the potatoes to soften.

“So, Mr. Solo,” Rose started.

“It’s Ben,” He corrected, “Mr. Solo’s my dad and it makes me feel old,” He warmed the bread in the oven, “Poe’s coming over for dinner.” 

Rey made a sound and he glanced back. He laughed and slapped Finn on the back. He arched a brow. Did Poe and Finn not get along? That was weird, Poe got along with  almost everyone. 

Rose cleared her throat, “Anyway, Mr. S—Ben. Are you married?” He flinched.

“Rose!” Rey squawked at her, “That’s rude,”

“It’s fine, kid.” He tried to laugh it off, “I’m not married and I don’t have a girlfriend either.” 

“Oh. I just thought you and that gorgeous lady earlier had a thing,” 

“Yeah?” He chuckled, “Jannah and I grew up together. She’s like a sister to me and for the record, she has a girlfriend.”  

“Ah,” 

“We’re testing out the radiator, by the way. It seems to be working but I’m not sure if the heat’s going around to all the rooms.” Rey said. He has no idea really, so he’ll just have to trust him on it.

“Thanks.” He said and prodded the potatoes, “Should be done in about fifteen minutes.” Should he tell them what it was? 

“Honey, I’m home!” He heard Poe shouting, “I smell something good!” 

He rolled his eyes.

“So, Rey’s home, huh?” He said, grinning. 

“Yup. He brought a couple of friends over,”

“Oh?” He cleared his throat, “Is there…I mean, is Finn one of em?”

Finn? He glanced back at Poe who looked uncomfortable.

“Yeah, is that bad?”

“No, no, that’s…fine.” Poe cleared his throat and eyed the pie, “So are we still on on Sunday?”

“Yeah. I’d like you to check on the pricing and tell me what you think. Think people’d buy?”

Poe snorted, “Please, you have me. I’m the best damn salesman you’ll ever get.”

“Good because I can’t sell for shit.”

“Dude, just use your face. Post it on your account or something. We’ll have hoards of people coming in to see you,” 

“Look man, Vegas is different than here. I’m just an unemployed baker now,” 

“I probably would’ve believed that if I don’t see the numbers,” Poe chuckled, “Well, whatever, more for me.”

Rey and his friends came back and Ben noticed Poe freezing a little.

“Ah, hey,” He said meekly and scratched the back of his neck. 

Ben snorted back a laugh, “Take a seat, I’ll bring the stew. Poe, bring the bowls,”

Poe jumped up, “Yes, chef,” He jumped too. What the fuck?

Rey coughed out a laugh, flushed and cleared his throat, “Sorry,”

Poe turned bright red and shuffled away to grab the bowls.

Chapter Text

“Did you hear that, Rey? He said he didn’t have a girlfriend,” Rose said. The radiator seems to be doing its job. There didn’t seem to be any leaks either. She shut off the valves in the rooms they didn’t use after making sure that it worked properly. 

Did they have a generator? They’d need one in the event a blackout happens, “It’s none of my business,” She said.

“Come on, Tico, don’t encourage her,” Finn frowned, “I mean, I know he’s hot and everything but we don’t even know much about him,”

“Then get close,” Rose shrugged, “It’s simple. I mean you already live together and he obviously likes to feed you,” 

“I think he just likes to cook things. He’s a chef, after all.” Rey said, “Anyway, can we not talk about that? I’m not interested in a relationship right now,”

Rose made a face, “Fine, fine, I won’t push it for now.”

“Honey, I’m home!” They heard someone shout from downstairs.

“Oh my gosh, Finn!” Rose squealed, “Forget Rey for a bit, now’s your chance!” Finn stiffened.

“Seriously, he seems to like you a lot, why don’t you give him a chance?” Rose said, “And you obviously like him,”

“It’s not like that,” Finn sighed, “He’s great but this is a small town and he’s a successful businessman. If there are rumours or anything, what’d happen to him?”

“Aw, isn’t that sweet of you?” 

“But isn’t it common knowledge that he’s gay?” Rey asked, “I mean, it doesn’t seem like he’s hiding it either,”

“I know, but it’s not like I can offer him anything,” Finn scowled, “Don’t talk about it, please.”

Poe was chatting away in the kitchen with Ben. She couldn’t help but laugh when he’d jumped up, shouting ‘yes, chef’ like in all those cooking shows. Finn himself looked like he was trying hard not to laugh. 

She dragged the two of them to the table and sat them down, “Is there anything I can help with?” She asked.

“No, just sit down.” Ben said. Poe brought over the bowls and then the large pot. It smelled heavily of meat and spices and her stomach growled.

Ben brought over a large loaf of bread and a small plate of herbed butter.

“Did you make all of these?” Rose asked, “Even the butter?”

“I bought the butter,” Ben said, “And added the herbs. I didn’t have time to make my own,”

“Do they teach that in culinary school?” Finn asked.

“No,” Ben chuckled, “The internet did,” 

“Ah,” Finn glanced at Poe who sat next to Ben.

“This is great stew by the way,” Rey said to change the subject and dunked the bread in it, “I could totally live off of this for a month,”

“Well, stew just keeps getting better the more you simmer it so,” Ben shrugged, “Then again, I don’t think this’ll last us a week seeing how much we both eat,”

Rey flushed and Rose choked.

“I offered to pay,” Rey said, “You know I don’t like owing people anything,”

“And as I’ve said you already did me a favour with those heaters and now the radiator. ‘Course I plan on using you as much as I can,” He grinned and winked. Heat rose up to her cheeks. Taken out of context that really does sound like a come-on.

Rose giggled, “So uh, what’s in this?”

“Er,” Ben glanced at Poe, “Wild game he brought in this morning.” 

“Game? What kind?” Finn asked, “Ah, I’m from the city and game meat are usually in  one of those fancy restaurants,” 

Poe shifted awkwardly, “Just a few cottontails and squirrels.” 

“Squirrels? You shot a squirrel?” Finn looked amazed and Poe shifted even more, clearly uncomfortable, “How? Those little shits are fast,”

Poe finally looked up, “A lot of patience,” He said, “Are you…interested in hunting?”

“Ah, I’ve never hunted before,” Finn looked away and she saw how Poe’s shoulders drooped a little. He and Ben seemed really close, so maybe she can get him to help them a little? She hasn’t known Finn for long but even she could tell how much he liked this guy. 

“He’s totally interested but I’m an amateur myself and I only have a 20-gauge,” Rey said, “You have more right?”

“Right, I used a .22 for them so I don’t damage the meat too much,” Poe gave her a smile, “You want me to teach you?” 

“Uh, no, that’s—,” Rose elbowed Finn hard.

“He’s totally down for that!” She said, “He’s a little shy,” 

“No I’m not,” Finn scowled.

Rey looked up to see Ben observing their interactions. He met her eyes and arched a brow.

“I’ll warm the pies,” Ben said.

“I’ll help!” Rey jumped up and Rose gave her a wry smile.

“No, it’s fine, you can go sit with—,”

“Nope, I’m helping. Do we have ice cream?” She insisted.

“I’ll help too!” Rose said and started to stand but Finn pulled her down and gave her a pleading look, “Er, I mean, you two can probably do it too.”

“I’ll make coffee,” Rey said and Ben nodded.

They were all in the kitchen so it wasn’t really very far but it was enough that she can whisper, “Could totally use your help in getting Poe to make his move,” 

“What?” He blinked down at her in confusion. Seriously, how can a man be this oblivious? “Wait, I’ll warm the pie,” She went to check if there was ice cream and brought it out.

Then, she eyed the espresso machine. She can fix those no problem but using them was another problem altogether. How do you even use it?

“I’ll do it. You bring out the pie and slice it up,”

“Yes, chef,” She grinned and he rolled his eyes, “Anyway,” She lowered her voice, “I’m pretty sure they like each other but Finn’s not going to make a move so help us get Poe to ask him out,”

“Right,” The machine purred loudly, “Okay, I’ll talk to him. How much sugar do you want in your coffee?” Jesus, did this man have anything in his head other than sweets? She can see why he and Poe got along. 

But it was kinda cute.

Chapter Text

So, Finn was interested in Poe? Ben frowned and brought over the cups of coffee while Rey brought over the pie à la mode. Then, was Poe interested in Finn too and not Rey? Damn it, this is why he didn’t interfere with other people’s lives. 

“What about you, Solo? Wanna come with?” Poe asked, “We’re thinking next Wednesday,” He was looking at him meaningfully, like he was urging him to accept.

“You know I can’t hunt for shit,” He said, “I just know how to shoot but that’s it.”

“Then Rey can teach you!” Rose said quickly, “Since Poe’d be busy teaching Finn, right?”

“And what about you?” Rey asked.

“I’m going to apply for an apprenticeship in the law office,” She grinned, “Won’t hurt to start early, you know? And the hours would count too,” She ate a piece of the pie, “Oh, my god, this is so good,”

“Thanks,” Ben said, “We’re going to be selling it in the Sunday Market,” 

“When will you open the bakery again?” Rey asked and he laughed a little.

“Not anytime soon, I think. I was thinking of finishing the porch and the glass replacement so we won’t freeze to death before starting on the bakery. Hey, if you’re not too busy, you wanna check it out? Give me your professional opinion so I know if I have to dump everything out,” 

“Sure,” Rey said, “I can drop by tomorrow on the way to the auto shop,” 

“Thanks, remind me to give you the keys,” He glanced at Poe and Finn whose conversation had tapered down a little, “So, you’re teaching him how to hunt. Can you even teach?”

Poe scowled, “Of course I can. I’m a very good teacher. You’re a good student, right?” Finn stiffened and his cheeks seemed to glow. He nudged Poe who seemed to realise what he just said and flushed, “I, I mean,” He looked at Ben, “I’m a good teacher,”

Ben coughed back a laugh, “I guess I can join you,” He looked at Rey, “So you’ll be teaching me, huh?”

“Okay, now I’m getting kinda jealous,” Rose frowned a little before perking up again, “But that’s fine, the one lawyer in the office is cute, do you think he has a girlfriend?”

“Hux?” Ben reeled a little. This bubbly girl was interested in Hux? “That stiff British prick?”

Poe barked out a laugh.

Rose cackled, “Well, I sure hope it is,” 

Ben flushed. 

Rey laughed. 

It was the first time he’d actually seen the kid laugh like that and his heart skipped a beat. Cute. It would’ve been nice if he was a woman. Then, he realised what he was thinking  and grimaced. What the fuck?

He gulped down his coffee and cursed.

He’d forgotten to add sugar.

Chapter Text

Ben didn’t think he’d ever get used to waking up at five in the morning to go hunting. 

Not that he actually wanted to make it a regular thing. Phasma had given him a knowing look when he came in the day before to buy bullets. He’d immediately shut down her suggestion of getting an annual hunting license like Poe. 

Can he even pull the trigger on a cute bunny like that? He’s only going to support Poe.

Rey went to pick Finn up earlier. He waited for Poe to come pick him up and they’ll meet up in the hunting grounds. 

He yawned and took a sip from his giant thermos filled with coffee. 

The air was chilly. It’s going to be a cold winter this year.

As always Poe looked perky and cheerful, “Morning,” He said.

Ben grunted and sat in the passenger seat, buckling in his seatbelt without a word.

“Not a morning person, huh?”

He grunted again and Poe laughed, “So, Finn Storm.”

Poe flushed and cleared his throat, “W-what about him?”

“You’re excited.” Poe shrugged, “You like the kid?” He turned an even brighter shade of pink, “I thought you liked Rey.” 

He jerked a little and looked at Ben with wide-eyes, “What? Rey?”

Ben shrugged and sipped some more coffee. He might regret it later when he’d inevitably have to piss but screw it. Mornings are hell without coffee.

“Coffee?”

“Don’t change the subject, why did you think I was interested in Rey?”

“I don’t know, you seemed embarrassed when dad called you out. I thought since you always get him to fix your truck you like him.”

No!” Poe scowled, “I’m not interested in Rey. At all. Nope. Not my type.” He shook his head.

“Well, clearly I was wrong.” He yawned again, “How’s game pie sound?” 

“You know you can only hunt rabbits, right? You don’t have a license,”

“I don’t plan on making this a regular thing. I don’t even want to hunt anything,”

“Then why are you here?”

“To support you, you asshole. Besides, it’s not like a hunt small game with grandpa’s gun.” 

“That’s true.” Poe chuckled. He was whistling, “Well, Rey’s a good person and you’re living together,”

“So?”

“Nothing.” 

Ben frowned. It’s too damn early for conversations like this. The sun hasn’t even risen yet. 

 

Poe taught Finn the basics and helped him practice a little. Ben doubted they’d actually catch anything but that wasn’t really the point.

“We’ll go this way,” Rey said, motioning for Ben. He followed him into the brush leading into the forest.

“Are they going to be okay?” He asked, “I mean, Poe’s pretty chill but he’s really weird when faced with that kid,”

“You worried he’d make himself even weirder?” Rey grinned at him and he cleared his throat. Was it hot all of a sudden? “Finn likes him. He’s just a little insecure since Poe Dameron’s kinda really popular especially among the students in school,”

“Ah,”

“You’d be popular too, I think.” He grimaced.

“No, thank you.” 

“You already are, though? I mean I saw your posts and they’re always so well-liked,” 

“That kinda just happened,”

“No way, your food is amazing, how can it just happen? Hey, ever think of making a restaurant instead?”

He shook his head, “I like to cook but I don’t want to do that as a business. Besides, how many more restaurants do you think this town can take? We don’t have a bakery at the moment so I’ll just open it up again and add a little cafe inside.” 

He nodded, “Makes sense. I think this is a good spot,” Was it? He heard scurrying and snapping branches. The half-dead bushes around them shook and the red and orange leaves around them crackled. He shivered a little. That was kinda creepy.

The sun didn’t exactly pierce through the dense clouds either. Was today really a good time to hunt?

Rey walked around slowly and stomped into the thickets. “Bunnies like to hide in places like these especially on days like this. It’s cold and miserable so they’re usually hiding,”

He really didn’t want to know that. Rey loaded his gun and jumped into a different area. Should he do that too? He stomped into a particularly thick bush and jumped when a bunny ran out. Shit.

He chased after it. His gun wasn’t loaded and he sure as hell wouldn’t get any meat from it if he shoots it with a 12-gauge.

Damn it, why did that damn bunny have to be in there? The rabbit swerved and he swung the Winchester wildly at it. 

There was a thunk and he opened his eyes. He doesn’t even remember closing them.

Rey stumbled into the small clearing where he was at and snorted before bursting out laughing, “Wow. I’ve never seen anyone catch a rabbit by making like a baseball player,” 

He looked down at the furry brown thing by his feet. Bile rose up to his throat and he stumbled to a nearby tree and let loose. 

Rey’s hand was heavy on his back as he patted. 

“It’s okay, it’s okay. Hunting’s not for everyone,” 

He’s never doing that again. 

He glanced at the bunny he’d smacked.

“Why don’t you just sit down somewhere and rest, huh? I’ll bag it so you won’t have to see,” Rey looked like he pitied him. Ben groaned and trudged over to a different tree before plopping down on the ground. This kid who’s half his size looked comfortable in the wilderness like this. He had his shotgun over his shoulder and he picked up the dead bunny without as much as a blink. 

“Are you going to hunt some more?” He took a sip from his thermos. The sugar stilled his trembling a little and the heat warmed his quaking stomach. Vicrul would fit right in with these people.

The one time he’d gone camping with the man, he’d ended up stuck in bed for a week for food poisoning.

He flinched when he heard gunshots. 

Chapter Text

Ben Solo was definitely not a hunting person. After he’d somehow golfed a bunny dead, he’d puked his guts out, sat by a tree, started sipping his large jug of coffee nonstop and did not move an inch. 

His eyes were blank and he flinched every time he heard a gunshot. 

Did he really grow up in these parts? 

He was knew how to cook game like a pro but how can a man this big be so…soft?

They’d bagged a few more, some cottontails, a few jack rabbits, a couple of hares… She’s only allowed to have ten on her person but since there were four of them hunting it shouldn’t pose a problem unless Poe and Finn both had more than ten each. 

What exactly would they do with so much meat?

They made their way back to the entrance of the forest where they’d parked their cars. Ben has not said a word. 

It was barely nine in the morning.

 

They brought everything back to the homestead. Finn had shot nothing but he did look like he’d enjoyed himself while Poe had a few squirrels and even a couple of doves. 

“Ben, you alright?” Poe asked Ben who gave him a bland smile.

“He killed a bunny,” Rey said, “He’s a little upset about it, I think.”

“Ah,” Poe chuckled, “Our Ben likes animals so I didn’t actually think he’d catch one,” He patted Ben’s back.

“I see,” Rey smiled a little. How cute.

“Come on, I’ll teach you how to skin and clean the meat,” Poe said to Finn excitedly, “I’ll borrow your garden table,”

“Sure,” Ben cleared his throat. He still looked pale, “I’ll just…make some pie crusts.” 

“Do you need help?” She asked and he shook his head. They watched him trudge into the house.

“You probably have noticed by now but I’ll say it anyway.” Poe said, “Ben doesn’t really like asking for help. He has a way with him that puts you at ease but if you think about it, you don’t really know much about him, what he’s thinking, that kind of thing.”

“I mean, I’ve only been here a week. Maybe he’s just not comfortable with a housemate yet,” 

“That’s true but the housemate is his idea,” Poe chuckled. He seemed more comfortable now that he and Finn had actually spent some time together.

“Rey said she’s not interested in a relationship,” Finn said, eyeing the game Poe had started lining up on the table, “But I don’t know. Rose says she is.”

Rey scowled, “Excuse me? I am not. He’s my landlord. Besides, he thinks of me as a kid,”

Poe’s brows shot up, “Wait, what?” 

“What?” Was she missing something? Her heart beat a little quicker and she shook her head. Nope, now’s not the time for that, “I mean, he always just calls me ‘kid’.”

Poe’s lips thinned and she wasn’t sure if he was angry or hiding a laugh, “That idiot.” 

Chapter Text

Ben was chilling the puff pastry when Poe came in. He smelled vaguely like blood and he cringed.

“So…” He sat on the bar stool, “What do you think of Rey?”

“Hm?” He started measuring out the spices he’d need for the meat, “He’s a good kid,”

“He…” Poe cleared his throat, “Have you…looked at her? Like, properly,” 

“Sure,” Why was Poe asking that all of a sudden? “I get that you’re not interested in him but why are you asking?”

Poe’s lips thinned, “Look man, you’re my friend, right?” He nodded, “I don’t know if you’re blind or stupid or both,” 

Ben scowled, “What the fuck does that mean?” 

“You like women, right?” 

His scowl deepened, “Of course I do,” 

“Listen, Rey—,” 

His phone rang and Poe scowled, “Hold on. Hello?” 

“I heard you went hunting!” Han’s voice said from the other end of the line, “Why didn’t you tell me, kid? I would’ve gone with you.”

“No thank you, dad. I’m never doing that again.” He sighed, “I’ll just stick to buying my meat from the butcher’s.”

“That’s no fun, Benny,”

“Dad, are you bored? Is that why you’re calling me?”

Han laughed, “Heard you barfed,”

Ben scowled and turned to Poe, “Did Poe tell you that?” Poe gave him an awkward grin, “Bastard.” 

“Don’t be like that, he was just worried about you. How do you feel now? I heard you’re making game pie,”

“Did mom say you can have some?” 

“Um,”

“Then no. I’ll send some to mom but not you,”

“Oh come on,” 

“Bye,” He ended the call before Han could try to convince him to send him one too. Knowing his dad, he’d probably sneak it out to the auto shop where his mother can’t see him. He turned to Poe, “And you. I didn’t know you were close to my parents,” 

Poe gave him a tight smile, “Look, they just…ask, you know? Since I live close and we hang out a lot,”

He remembered his mother saying she’d sent Poe to check the house. Did that mean she told him to hang around so he could give them reports about what he’s doing? He scowled. 

“Look Dameron, I don’t need a babysitter, alright?” 

“I’m not here to babysit, I’m here as your friend,” He scowled, “I swear,”

Ben sighed, “Whatever. So what were you saying?”

“Oh, right! Do you like Rey?” 

“What are you talking about again?” Ben barked out a laugh, “I told you he’s a good kid and he’s pretty helpful.”

“Right? Pretty cute too, right?”

“I thought you’re interested in Finn Storm?” 

“Yes, I am, but listen, Rey’s—,”

“What about me?” Rey came with a bucketful of skinned and cleaned meat, “How do you want them? The bunnies about three, four pounds each,”

“Jesus, how many pies are we making?” Poe didn’t look happy, “I need only about five, six pounds? Boned.” He glanced at the skinned rabbits and grimaced, “Oh, we’re almost done by the way, do you need squirrels too?”

“That’s…yeah, sure. Why not.” He ran his fingers through his hair, “We can probably smoke some of these. You have a smoker, right?” Poe nodded, “You guys hungry? I can whip up a couple of sandwiches if you can just…give me a few boned parts,”

“Gotcha. I’ll do it outside,” Rey smiled brightly and he nodded a little stiffly.

“Thanks, kid.”

Poe sighed.

Chapter Text

Poe brought over a bullet-shaped camping smoker and some wood. 

Ben had never smoked anything in his life but hey, if it’s anything about food, he’s more than willing to try it at least once. Besides, smoked meat is great.

“You won’t be able to smoke everything so I’ll just leave you a few pounds, alright?” Ben nodded.

“I don’t want to have my freezer filled with game.” There was only so much he could do with them. He’d made them all rabbit-meat sandwiches for lunch before starting on the creme brûlée he was planning on making for dessert.

“What are you guys going to do with the skins?” Rey asked, “Can I have them?”

“You going to tan em?” Poe asked and Rey nodded, “I won’t use em so go wild. Ben?”

“Uh, no.” Poe chuckled. Bastard. 

“I’ll go with you,” Finn said and gave a small smile to Poe before leaving with Rey.

“Aren’t you going with them?” He beat the eggs and sugar together.

Poe waited for them to be out of earshot before sighing, “We need to talk.”

He stilled. 

He had a sudden bad feeling about this. Would he want to hear whatever it was Poe wanted to say? 

“What is it?” 

“It’s about Rey,”

Again? “What about him? He doesn’t have a criminal record, does he?”

Poe sighed again, “No, of course not.” 

“Then what’s the matter?” He started pouring out the cream into the sauce pan. 

“I’m just going to be straight with you.” 

“You’re not straight,”

Poe scowled, “Fuck you. Rey’s a woman.”

“Fuck you too,” Then he looked up, surprised, “Wait, what?” The jug slipped from his hand and smashed into the sauce pan with a clang, “Shit. 

The cream splashed all over his counter. 

“Rey. Is. A. Woman.” Poe stared at him as he tried to wipe down the mess, “So, don’t do anything weird like walk around half-naked in front of her,”

He flushed and remembered the conversation he had with his father, “Wait, why did…” He distinctly remember Han saying Rey was a he and even got Poe to vouch for him. He scowled, “You fucking bastard,”

“How the fuck would I know you wouldn’t notice?” Poe tried his best to scowl but ended up trying to hide a smile instead, “Jesus Christ, Ben, you’re denser than I thought,” 

Rey was a woman. Ben’s cheeks felt hot. He wiped at the counter. 

That’s just like Han prank him like that. How did he even end up related to that bastard? He should’ve expected it really. 

But he couldn’t really find it in himself to be angry. Is Rey really a woman?

“Ben, are you…okay?” Poe was starting to look worried, “I’m sorry for not telling you sooner,”

“No,” He started to measure out the cream again to heat it up, “It’s fine.” He cleared his throat, “It doesn’t matter whether she’s a boy or a girl.” How could he not notice? Had he not been fascinated by how delicate he—she, looked despite knowing how strong she actually was?

“Doesn’t matter?” Poe arched a brow and smiled, “You sure about that, buddy?”

“He—she is a kid,” He said and cleared his throat. He added espresso powder into the cream, “And so what if she’s a woman?” He cleared his throat again, “Thank you for telling me, though.”

Poe sighed and shook his head, “I don’t know man, I think you might actually like her.”

“I don’t want or need a relationship right now,” The cream simmered and he added the vanilla extract and salt before stirring and then shutting off the stove, “Can you get the ramekins? They’re on the middle shelf,”

“I’m not saying you should be in one, I’m just saying that she’s cute and nice and hard-working,” He wasn’t wrong there, “And you two are living together so you know,”

“I’m not going to fall in love with her and I doubt she’d want to fall in love with me.”

“Dude, are you fucking serious?” Poe laughed incredulously, “With that face and that body?”

He scowled, “The face and the body aren’t the most important things, you know.” He was pretty sure he was good-looking enough but that still didn’t stop Baz to find someone else despite her saying she regrets it, “I probably have some personality flaw that I’m not sure of. I told you my last girlfriend cheated on me, right?” He poured the cream into the egg slowly and beat it quickly.

“I’d say it’s because your head’s full of sugar.” Poe chuckled, “But I don’t know, I think that’s pretty loveable. I know women who’d be all for a guy like that,” 

Still, is Rey really a woman? 

“I am so, so, sorry,” Finn came in, “It wasn’t too cold, was it?”

“It’s fine, it’s warm in here,” Rey said.

“What happened?” Poe asked.

Rey looked drenched. Ben frowned. He—she’d get a cold like that. 

“We were washing the skins and Finn kinda broke the garden faucet,” She glanced at Ben, “Don’t worry I shut off the valve and I’ll fix it. I’ll just go get some stuff from the hardware,”

“It’s fine, you should change first.” Ben said, “Pretty sure it’s old and rusty anyway,” 

“You should really take a hot shower first or something,” Poe said, “I’ll help with the skins,”

“Thanks,” Rey grinned. She started walking out of the kitchen and Ben did a double take when she took off the heavy sweater she’d been wearing, leaving her in nothing but a simple black singlet. 

He blinked and looked away quickly.

Chapter Text

The radiator was working nicely despite it being ancient. The kitchen and the halls were nice and toasty. She’d taken off her sweater, grateful that she’d worn a singlet underneath so she wouldn’t have to bring it up and then down again to the laundry room. 

The laundry room itself still looked like a work-in-progress with its bare walls and floors. The shelves weren’t even installed yet but the washer and the dryer were all hooked up and that’s what’s important. It’s hard hand-washing winter wear.

There was a stainless steel sink hastily installed by the window and she dropped the sweater inside so she can rinse off the smell of blood before actually sticking it in the washer later.

Ben was nice enough to let her use whatever she needed without charging her for it but it didn’t feel right so she’s actually never done her laundry yet in the week she was here. 

Now though, she really had to since she didn’t really have much clothes to begin with. She should pop by the grocery too while getting pipes to get some refills for the laundry detergent she’d use later.

She made her way up to her room.

Finn was right, she didn’t know anything about her landlord apart from what’s publicly known. It was a little embarrassing to admit, but she’d stalked his Instagram account and even googled him. Still, he was a nice person. Finn couldn’t help but agree with that. 

Her phone buzzed.

Rose had been asking for updates about their hunt in the group chat. 

“You should totally ask him out,” Rose insisted, “You live together so like, get to know each other, you know? Show him that sexy ass of yours,”

She snorted back a laugh and opened up the shower.

The water heated up quickly and she sighed and stepped in.

 

 

The kitchen smelled of herbs, all earthy and warm, when she came back down.

“I’ll pop by town, do you need anything?” She asked. Poe and Finn were nowhere to be seen.

Ben jumped, “Rey,” He blinked and leaned on the counter, straightened, crossed his arms and then shuffled and leaned on the counter again. He cleared his throat and grimaced, “No, I don’t need anything and uh, right! Just tell uncle Lando to put everything in my tab,” 

She frowned and tilted her head a little, “Are you okay?”

“Fine! Of course I’m fine,” He cleared his throat again. He didn’t meet her eyes, “Oh and if you think we need anything from the hardware for anything in the house just put it my tab too and tell me after,”

“O-kay then. I’m going,” She waved. He was acting really strange. Did she do anything wrong? Did Poe or Finn tell him something? 

She went out the back to ask if Poe or Finn wanted anything.

“I could do with some beer,” Poe said and pulled out his wallet.

“The winemaker’s looking for beer?” She arched a brow but accepted his money anyway.

“Come on Rey, I make and drink wine for a living,” He laughed, “Besides, beer goes great with meat pie,”

“That’s true,” She chuckled, “Anything else?”

“Oh! If you could pin something on the comm-board,” He got up, excused himself to the still-busily-washing Finn, and walked with her to where their trucks were parked, “Ben and I are going to share a stall on Sunday to test if the pie and clafoutis would sell. You should bring all your friends and drop by,” 

“By friends, do you mean Finn?” He paused before giving her a mischievous smile, “I mean, if it means I can buy him a drink, why not,” He winked.

Rey laughed, “Can you ask him that with a straight face?”

“W-well, I mean, I’m working on it.” He handed her the rolled-up piece of paper, “We’re…I mean, we’re getting to know each other,”

“He likes you.” Rey said, “He likes to stay in his comfort zone so he’s really not going to make the first move but once he’s invested in something…”

Poe nodded and smiled, “Got it. Thanks, Rey.”

“Don’t make him cry,” She punched his arm lightly and he laughed.

“‘Course not. Don’t make our Ben cry either, you hear me?”

Rey arched a brow. Why was everyone pushing her with him? “There’s nothing to make him cry about,”

“He almost did this morning!”

“That was on him! He’s the one who chased after that bunny,” 

“I’m just saying, he’s a really sensitive guy if a bit dumb. Actually I’m pretty sure he’s Bubbles from Power Puff Girls,” 

She snorted back a laugh at the strangely-apt description, “Right, I’ll go now,” She gave him a little wave and hopped into her truck. 

Bubbles. 

She chuckled. 

Chapter Text

It wasn’t hard to avoid her. He’d become busy with the pies and clafoutis and he’d even managed to make two-hundred macarons in the shape of grapes. He wasn’t sure if they’d sell but his macarons had always been famous. 

Plus she had her own stuff so it worked out. 

He’d posted pictures and tagged Poe.

ben_solo_bakes: Ready for tomorrow’s #ChandrilaSundayMarket with @Pilot_Dameron made totally from high-quality grapes from @Chandrila.Vineyard #ChandrilaCalifornia #ChandrilaBaking

If he were honest to himself was actually nervous. Baking is one thing but actually selling them himself was another matter altogether. Despite his raging success he actually really didn’t like people and seeing as how awkward he currently was with his not-a-boy-housemate, his social skills were still obviously very, very lacking. 

Just how much of an idiot could he be? He half-wished that Poe never told him that Rey was a woman. He placed the macarons into the fridge and covered the pies still sitting in the counter. 

He stretched his back. It’d only been a little more than a month since he’d left Vegas but it felt so much longer. The leaves had totally turned into shades of red and orange and brown and the weather continued to drop.

He’d gotten used to the creaking noises the house made too. He just pegged it as Rey’s going to the bathroom or, Rey’s getting water. How would he cope if she suddenly moves out? He closed the lights and double checked the stoves before making his way up to his room. She’d paid for a month but hasn’t said anything about after though he knew she’s saving a lot of money by living here with him. 

The door to her room opened just as he passed and he jumped.

“Oh, did I wake you?” He cleared his throat and looked away. The house was comfortably warm now thanks her fixing the radiator but that posed a new problem for him altogether. That is, she had a penchant for wearing big, baggy t-shirts that fell off of her shoulder.

He honestly didn’t notice at first but now it was like he was suddenly so hyper aware of her that he couldn’t help but notice. 

And she was still so thin. 

“No, I was just about to get some water,” She looked up blearily and frowned, “You’re still up,”

“I was just finishing up,” He cleared his throat again and scratched the back of his head, “I used to go twenty-four hours without sleep if needed so I’m fine,” 

“I never realised how labour-intensive your work is,”

He shrugged, “Yeah, it’s um, you get used to it I guess. I mean, we do have assistants but it’s still really hard if you gotta cater to a two, three-thousand pax event and plan and monitor the desserts for the buffet.” 

“You should go sleep then,” She gave him a tentative smile, “Can we drop by your stall tomorrow?”

He glanced at her before looking away again, suddenly grateful that the hallway was dark so she couldn’t see how red his cheeks probably were. He frowned; it was too dark now that he thought of it. He should probably order those plug-in hallway lights. “Yeah, of course,” He said, “Well then, good night.”

“Good night,” 

He could feel her gaze as he trudged stiffly to his room. What in the world could that girl be thinking?

Chapter Text

Ben Solo is definitely avoiding her.

He wouldn’t meet her eyes and he’d even stopped calling her ‘kid’. 

“I’m sure it’s because he likes you,” Rose said, linking their arms together, “Maybe he finally realised how sexy you are,”

They’d met in front of the diner after breakfast so they could go to the market together. Ben had left even earlier than she did and she wondered if they man even had breakfast yet.

“I don’t think so. I don’t think I did anything wrong, either. Maybe he’s just shook up about the hunt,”

Rose rolled her eyes, “Girl, you’re a badass survivalist I’m pretty sure that city boy’s all shook up and wondering if he deserves a goddess like you,” 

There was already a line of curious townsfolk in front of the booth Poe and Ben shared. 

“Don’t be ridiculous, Rose,” She chuckled, “And what about you, huh? Any updates on that lawyer you’ve been eyeing?”

Finn had to work in the gas station so he’ll be joining them later on. Maybe she can get Ben to save Finn a macaron.

Poe was standing in front calling to people, leaving Ben behind the booth itself to ready the orders. They’d somehow gotten a small chiller for the macarons. 

“Ooo, I love mulled wine,” Rose grinned. They lined up.

“You haven’t answered,”

“Well, I got the apprenticeship,” She winked, “I’ll work on him from there, show him my good sides, you know?”

Someone bumped into her. There really were a lot of people. The woman scowled at her and she scowled right back, “Excuse me, there’s a line,”

“Oh, you’re a girl.” She sneered and crossed her arms. She was obviously from out of town and judging from her expensive cardigan and shiny heeled boots, not the type of person who’d wait in line patiently.

“Look lady, don’t be rude,” Rose scowled at her, “Back of the line.” The woman made a disgusted noise before leaving, “The nerve of some people,” 

“There’s a lot of people from out of town today,” That was good for their little town. She caught a glimpse of the still-closed bakery. When would they start on that she wondered. She’d given Ben a list of the equipment she can still rehabilitate and another one detailing what needed to be replaced. Would they be able to open by the Harvest Festival?

Then she realised that she’d been thinking in terms of ‘they’ like she’s part of it. Heat rose to her cheeks and she shook her head. That was a dangerous line of thinking; what gave her the right to think that she’ll be part of the bakery enough to think that it’s theirs and not just his? She was only helping him out since he’s given her such a low rental fee and feeds her. 

“Oh my gosh, I’m so glad he moved here,” She heard someone say, “Chandrila’s so much closer than Las Vegas and we’re finally able to try his desserts!” 

“I know, right? I had a cousin who waited a whole day to get a cake and she didn’t even see him.” 

“He’s really popular, huh?” Rey mumbled to Rose who snorted.

“Are you kidding? He’s almost like a celebrity. If you love sweets, you’ll know Ben Solo.” 

Rey frowned. She loved sweets, truly, she’s the biggest sweet-tooth in town but she’d never heard of him before they actually met. Then again, she’d never even dreamed of buying a four-dollar macaron before. Speaking of macarons, how much exactly is Ben selling these? It couldn’t be four dollars, right? That was a fancy hotel cafe so it was bound to be expensive…right?

“Hey girls!” Poe greeted them cheerfully, “Great to see you so early!”

“We wanted to try the macaron before it runs out,” Rose laughed.

“Two macarons, then?” Poe winked, “That’s a dollar and eighty-five each,”

“Two cups of mulled wine too,” Rey added.

“Perfect! Hey Ben, our lovely ladies here want a macaron and a cup of wine each,” Poe called out, “That’ll be a total of thirteen-seventy,” 

Rey pulled out three five-dollar bills, “Can you save one for Finn? A macaron, I mean?”

Ben met her eyes briefly from behind the booth and he cleared his throat and looked away quickly, “Yes.” He said, “I’ll save him one,”

“I’ll pay for it now,” She counted out her coins.

“It’s fine,” Ben said and handed over the drinks before serving the macarons neatly on a white, rectangular plate, “Just give it me later,”

“Thanks Ben!” Rose grinned. 

He nodded once. 

He was still avoiding her gaze.

Rey frowned and pulled Rose away.

Chapter Text

Had Rey noticed? She’d been looking at him curiously recently too. It wasn’t that he’s really trying to avoid her but it just happened that way. He couldn’t even look at her for fear that he’d fall into those pretty hazel eyes that seemed to glitter and change colour depending on the angle.

He was in trouble.

He wasn’t that dumb that he couldn’t recognise when he’s in a tight spot. Poe of course would tease him if he knew what he was thinking. Besides, she was still a kid. 

“You look so much better in person,” A woman he didn’t recognise said as he handed her the pie and macaron she’d ordered. It was a good idea that he’d limited it to one per order seeing as how it’s not even lunchtime yet and there’s only about half left. 

Most of the people buying the macarons were young and from out of town but the residents themselves seem more interested in the pies. Should he try selling bread next week? He was pretty sure his grandma’s recipes are in one of the notebooks he’d unearthed from the attic. 

He looked back at the nostalgic solid piece of engraved wood that graced the entrance of Padmé’s. The weather had taken its toll on it but he could still see the neat cursive engraved on it. It was his grandfather’s handiwork. He had been what Ben thought of as the epitome of a real man, strong and tough and adaptable but above all, he adored his wife. He’d chopped down the tree and carved that sign himself.

Ben would have to sand it down and stain it again. He’ll keep it inside so it’s at least protected from the harsh weather, behind the counter, so people can admire it better.

“Ben!” He jumped at Poe’s voice, “You alright, buddy?”

He shook his head, “Sorry,”

“You wanna take a break first? I can take over,”

“No, it’s fine. What was that?”

“One of everything for this lady,” Poe said.

“Gotcha,” He placed everything in little containers and bagged them.

“May I have a word with you?” He froze at the familiar voice. 

He handed her the bag, “Ms. Netal, as you can see we’re very busy right now,” She looked as sharp and neat as she always did with her hair in a tight bun and her dark lipstick and sharply drawn eyeliner. 

“I’ll be brief,” She said, her voice cracking a little, “Please,”

“Please move. There are people waiting,” He met Poe curious gaze. He frowned and nodded.

“If you’ll step aside, miss, there are still a lot of people waiting to buy,” Poe tried to usher her away and she stepped quickly around, “Come back to the hotel,” She said quickly, “We need you there,”

Ben scowled, “I believe I already gave you all the tools necessary to run the department smoothly.”

“It’s not the same without you,”

“I’m not going back,” Not anytime soon, anyway, “I’ve made that clear. Now, I don’t know what you’re thinking coming here in this Podunk town but I don’t see why you think you can come convince me to go back when I’m busy here.” 

This? This is what you call busy? You’re selling pastries from a goddamn booth!” She looked incredulous, “You’re Ben Solo!”

He arched a brow, “I don’t see why I can’t,”

“Look lady, he said no, so please stop making a scene,” Poe grabbed hold of her arm and she turned quickly to glare at him and shrug him off.

“Don’t touch me!” She shrieked and Ben winced. Damn it. This was, at the end of the day, a small town. In an hour everyone would’ve heard of the lady throwing a tantrum in front of their booth, “Who do you think you are?”

Poe huffed and placed his hands on his hips, “I’m his best friend and he’s not leaving!”

He reeled back a little, startled; what? Poe arched a brow and gave him a look that dared him to contest his declaration. He wrinkled his nose a little and Poe’s chin inched up defiantly.

He shook his head, sighed and then smiled. Alright then, his best friend it is.

“What’s going on here?” The scruffy, bearded dark-skinned man with cold pale-blue eyes hefted his shotgun over his shoulder, “I don’t recognise you,” 

“Sheriff,” Poe said, “We were just handling an unruly customer,”

Bazine scowled, “I want to file a sexual harassment complaint,”

Saw Gerrera’s been the county sheriff for as long as he could remember. 

His thick greying brow shot up, “Against who, might I ask?” She pointed at Poe who raised his hands. The sheriff barked out a laugh, “Lady, I don’t know about you but this kid here’s as gay as a lark,”

“Gayer than a lark. I’m happy and gay,” Poe nodded and grinned, “Sorry for grabbing you like that but seriously, ma’am, you’re making a scene.” Bazine huffed and Saw nodded at them before escorting her away.

“Oh, sheriff, wait,” Ben stuffed a slice of pie and a clafoutis into a take-out container and handed it to him quickly, “Here,”

He arched a brow but took it anyway with a gruff ‘thank you’. 

“Aw, he’s gay? I was hoping to ask him out,” Ben heard someone whisper loudly and couldn’t help but smile. He watched 

“Sorry ladies,” Poe winked, “I’d love to be your friend though. So sorry about that,” He let Poe take care of the people still lined up in front of their stall and sighed, wondering what in the world Bazine was thinking, coming here and acting like that. She was more than capable enough to run the kitchen herself.

They didn’t need his help.

Chapter Text

Two of Poe’s staff came to take over for them at lunch. There were some grumbling and they stayed a little for pictures. Poe actually received more attention than he did and he was grateful for that. 

“Follow @Chandrila.Vineyard on Instagram,” He said, ever the cheerful salesman before making his way to him. Together they walked to Maz’s. 

It was fuller than normal with all the people visiting. 

“Ben! Poe!” Leia waved them over, “We ordered for you two. I hope you don’t mind.” She sat next to Han. 

Ben scowled at his father.

“What’s with that look, kid?” Han arched a brow and gave him a shit-eating grin. His scowl deepened.

“Oh, fuck you, dad, you know what you did.” 

“Benjamin! Your language,” Leia frowned at him, “That’s your father,” 

“Did you know too?” He turned his scowl towards her, “Rey’s a girl,”

Leia’s brows shot up, “Well of course she is, dear. Didn’t you know?” Han snickered and Leia turned to look at him, “Do you have something to say, dear?”

“Erm,” Han tried to hide his smile, “I might’ve gave him the wrong idea,”

“You said she was a guy,”

“For the record I said no such thing.” Han clarified, “I said yes, he’s a good kid since you asked if he was. You were the one who assumed Rey’s a boy,” He turned to Poe, “You told him, didn’t you?”

Poe sighed and rubbed the back of his neck, “Yeah, I just couldn’t stand seeing…you know,”

“Wait, so you honestly thought that Rey is a boy?” His mother looked equal parts amused and surprised. He flushed, “Our cute, little handyman Rey?”

“Come on, Lei, there aren’t any other Reys in town.” Han said and snickered. Leia smacked his arm, “Ow!”

“Darling, don’t you think you’re a little too old for pranks,” She said. Ben would’ve believed she was genuinely angry with him if she just managed to hide that little smile of hers. His mother could face down the President of the United States without flinching or showing any emotion but she couldn’t seem to hide it when faced with her husband. 

Like Anakin, he’d been hired as a farmhand when he’d been a teen. There he met the child Leia Skywalker. They didn’t actually get along at first but when one summer turned into two and then three, and Leia blossomed into a beautiful, if domineering young lady, ladies-man Han Solo realised that he’d fallen in love. 

Leia on the other hand, wanted nothing to do with the arrogant young man Han had been and rejected him straight up saying she couldn’t be with someone who wanders around. 

Nobody expected he’d move into town. 

“Aw, come on Lei, let me have a little fun. You won’t even let me have a piece of that meat pie our son so thoughtfully sent,” Han said, nudging his wife a little. 

“I told her not to give you some as punishment,” Ben grumbled and Poe choked on his water and then laughed. 

“Sorry,” He cleared his throat and covered his mouth to try to hide his grin, “It was just excruciating. This girl seems so genuinely interested,” No, Ben was pretty sure that Poe was just seeing things, “And they look good together, you know?” 

Han nodded sagely and Leia slapped his arm again. He laughed.

Their burgers arrived, Han’s was, of course, fish. He looked at their plates sadly. 

“Every once in a while isn’t so bad, right?” He asked piteously. 

“Tell me that when your cholesterol goes down,” Leia sniffed haughtily. Ben eyed her as she used a knife and fork to eat her burger. He never could emulate how she did that. 

“So, how are your sales?” Leia asked.

“Oh,” Ben swallowed and took a gulp of soda, “Macarons and pie are almost out.” 

“We sold more wine than we ever did in the previous markets. Maybe since we have a lot of visitors from out of town,” Poe said, “See man, I told you one word from you would get people flocking here. You should post your face too every once in a while, you know?” 

“Oh Rey! And is that Rose?” Leia called out and waved them over. Ben stiffened.

“Hello, mayor, Mr. Solo,” Rey said. She gave them a shy smile and Ben’s eyes widened. In his head Rey and shy didn’t exactly go hand-in-hand.

Leia chuckled, “It’s Leia, dear, you’re part of town now, aren’t you? We’re a small community.”

She glanced at him and grimaced. It must be awkward for her seeing that Leia’s the mayor and Han’s her boss. 

And he’s the housemate who suddenly started avoiding her. 

He should really get his shit together.

“Why don’t you both come join us?” Leia said.

“Oh, it’s alright mayor,” Rose said cheerfully, “We’re actually waiting for Finn and we don’t want to impose. Thank you for the offer though,” 

Rey nodded and Rose linked her arm around hers, “Thank you,” Rey said and glanced at Ben again. She gave him a tight smile, waved and shuffled away. 

Poe snorted back a laugh.

Yup, she definitely noticed him avoiding her.

Chapter Text

Ben was already home when she came in. She followed the delicious scent of Italian herbs and tomatoes into the kitchen to find him standing by the stove in a tight black t-shirt stirring what seemed to be a giant pot of spaghetti sauce.

She placed the bag of apples she’d bought on the counter and he turned to look at her.

“Hey, you’re home,” He gave her a tentative, almost shy smile, “Whatcha got there?”

“Just some crab apples. Someone was selling them for really cheap so I figured if I brought the lot of them home you’ll have an idea what to do with them.” He looked surprised and turned away quickly. His ears, visible under the messy half-knot on his head, turned bright red. 

“They’re great as cider or jam.” He said gruffly, “If we freeze em for a couple of days they’ll get all nice and sweet so we can turn it to apple sauce or fruit leather or something,” 

An awkward silence descended on them and she shifted a little. 

“Listen, Rey,” She stiffened. Oh shit, was he going to tell her it’s not going to work out? “I’m sorry,”

“Did I do anything wrong?” She gripped the edge of the counter.

“Huh?” He turned then, “No, I mean, I’m sorry. I—damn it,” He sighed and ran his fingers through his hair and messing up the bun, “I mean, I’m…I’m not really a people person so I get awkward and…” He cleared his throat, looked away and flushed, “I mean I’m sorry for avoiding you.” 

Rey stared up at the ridiculously tall man in front of her and snorted back a laugh. He must’ve been embarrassed about what happened in the hunt, “It’s alright,” She said, “I thought you were going to kick me out or something,”

His eyes widened, “What? No, of course not. You’re great,” His cheeks turned even redder, “I mean, you’re a great help and I’d be crazy to get rid of you. So um,” 

She smiled wryly, “Friends?”

“Huh?” She offered him her hand, “We can be friends now, right?” 

“Right!” He took her hand and squeezed, “Friends.” He let go quickly and she was a little disappointed.

“I heard there was a lady who came to see you today,” His expression darkened. It was the first time she’d seen him actually look so serious.

“Heard about that, huh?” He turned away from her, “How about dinner? Pasta’s done. I couldn’t make any bread though, sorry.”

“Who was she?” She started setting up the table and he brought over the strained pasta and the sauce to the table separately. 

“Just someone I worked with.” He said, “She was asking me to go back,”

She nodded. He didn’t look like he wanted her to pry. She watched him pour sauce on his pasta and then dump a boatload of cheese on it, “There’s some pasta in your cheese,” He looked surprised at her joke and laughed, “Don’t get me wrong, cheese is great. Long day, huh?” 

“You could say that,” She fixed her own food. 

It grew quiet again but this time it was more comfortable. She took this time to actually really look at him. 

When she first met him she thought he was one of those friendly, jock types who just so happened to like cooking but it seemed he was a lot shyer than she thought. Since he hung with Poe a lot it would’ve been the logical conclusion.

So how did this shy boy turn into this big, handsome fella with beautiful hands? 

He looked up, “Hm?” 

“Nothing,” She said, “Are you going to start a fall garden or…?”

“Not sure yet,” He said, “I was thinking I’ll restart the farm next year and just kinda try to make a compost or something. I’ll be ordering trees though. I was thinking plums, apricots and a couple of lemons,”

“Plums?”

“Yeah, they’re pretty under-utilised I think but they’re great as tortes and cobblers. They can even be as simple as spiced, grilled plums.” Then he frowned, “Maybe I should order a few berry bushes too.”  

“You’re going to use them for the bakery?” He nodded.

“I like to try being self-sustaining and local-supporting,” He gave her a sardonic smile, “Can’t have the mayor’s kid buying from other towns, yeah?”

 “Would people really talk about that?” Her brows shot up and he chuckled.

“A small town is harsh,” He said, “I made chocolate mousse, if you’re done,”

She looked at her now-empty plate and then looked up to see him stride to the fridge. How does he have the time and energy for this? Every day it’s a different dessert after dinner and if she wasn’t careful, she’d very easily get used to this. What then when she leaves? Or he does? Or what if he gets a girlfriend? She was sure she wouldn’t want her boyfriend to have a female housemate no matter how much he says he’s not interested in her. 

He handed her a heaping serving of it and she couldn’t help but close her eyes and moan at the cool, fluffy goodness.

He chuckled, “You really like sweets, huh?” He was staring at her with a small smile and her heart skipped a beat. He looked at her fondly. There was really no other way to explain that look in his dark eyes. 

She cleared her throat and flushed, wiping the edges of her mouth surreptitiously.

“Oh, I got you something,” He pulled something out from his pocket and dropped a pretty, handmade hair tie decorated with two blossoms and a big, felt lemon in her palm. 

She stared at it for a moment before looking up with wide-eyes, “You didn’t have to,” She said, “But thank you. It’s really cute,” She grinned, “It seems so much like you to gimme something food-related,”

He arched a brow and his lip twitched up, “Why is this food related?”

“It’s a lemon,” She laughed, “Don’t you use those a lot?”

“Yes but I’ve only been using grapes recently,” He said, “Lemons aren’t really in season yet,”

“Then why a lemon?”

His smile widened and she sucked in a breath when his dimples popped. This man was dangerous for her heart. It was like he had no idea just how handsome he is, “I wonder,” He said before getting up and bringing his dishes to the sink.

She bit her lip and eyed the hair tie. 

Chapter Text

It made Ben ridiculously happy to see the cheerful lemon hair tie on Rey’s head that morning. She’d worn a bright yellow sweater to match it. He’d made the right choice buying it for her. 

Poe had arched a brow but didn’t comment when he’d bought it. It reminded him of her, bright, cheerful and reminiscent of summer. Not to mention it can be turned into so many different things. What kind of lemon dessert would she like, he wondered. Candied lemons? Lemon squares? Lemon poppy cookies? Maybe a lemon lavender mousse cake?

He wasn’t sure if she’d appreciate being thought of as a lemon though. She’s cheerful and hard-working and multi-talented but would women really find it flattering? 

“Hey, Poe,” He sat on a ladder, Poe holding the bottom steady, while they tried to take one side of the signage of the bakery off and Snap Wexley and another firefighter Jessika Pava took care of the other side. 

The fire station was pretty near the bakery and Poe insisted they help, “What?”

“Would you be mad if I compare you to a fruit?”

“What?” He snorted back a laugh and the step ladder shook. Ben cursed, “Sorry,” He cleared his throat, “I mean, it depends on the fruit? Why don’t you just ask her out?”

“What are you talking about?”

“You’re asking about Rey, right? And that thing you bought?” 

He didn’t answer. Poe chuckled. 

“You like her, huh?”

“She’s my housemate and we agreed to be friends,” Ben grunted.

They took down the sign slowly, with Poe and Snap supporting from the bottom. 

“Right, friends. That’s a good start,” Poe grinned at him, “And no, I don’t think she’d get mad if you compare her to a fruit. She’s not a fussy girl,” 

Ain’t that the truth. He couldn’t help but compare his experience with Baz and how she’d clung onto him only for her to find someone else the moment he’d become busy. 

Bazine used to be sweet and kind and cheerful. What the hell happened? 

They brought the sign in and placed it on the wooden counter. 

“We can start clearing out the equipment,” He pulled out the list Rey had prepared for him. Her handwriting was neat and clean, “The chillers, fridges and ovens.” He frowned, the only things he’d have left after would be the stainless steel tables and an industrial mixer. 

Rey’d be dropping by after class to gut the equipment and take a closer look at the  large mixer. He was actually a little uncomfortable using the dirty thing. There were a lot of stains and suspicious looking black things stuck on the nooks and crannies like it’d never been cleaned before.

They brought out the tables first. 

Personally he preferred using a quartz countertop like the one he’d installed in the farmhouse but a stainless table’s fine too for a commercial kitchen. Plus, he didn’t trust people not to smash the stone somehow. 

Next was the mixer. They’d strung up harsh fluorescent lights in what would be the cafe. They placed the large thing in a corner on the floor. Rey’d take care of that. 

The larger equipment took a lot longer than necessary as they tried to get ahold of areas that didn’t have rust. They’d brought all those all the way out the back where uncle Chewie and his son were building a makeshift fence made of scrap wood and sheet metal. 

Ben winced when a rusted part of the fridge fell on his foot. He already had a lot of raised scratches on his forearms. 

“Hey, Lumpy, can you give us a hand?” He called out. Chewie’s son looked up and stumbled towards them as the fridge nearly pitched over. He supported them on one side. He was taller than Ben, and nearly as wide in the shoulders. He wasn’t exactly sure how the nickname Lumpy came about but he’d been called that for as long as he could remember. “Thanks,” He grunted. 

They crab-walked to the far end of the enclosed area with the fridge and managed to place it down without any other mishap. 

Lumpy made his way back to his father. Ben shook his head. He was just as quiet and surly as his father. 

He groaned when his bones popped. He liked to think he was fit but the past few weeks hauling dirt and debris and construction materials had made him all too aware that he was nowhere near as strong and fit as he’d thought. No wonder there weren’t any gyms around these parts. 

“I’m going to place my tree orders,” He told Poe, “I’ll be back real quick,”

“Take your time,” Poe grinned, “You know you can just let us do all the work, you know? We want the bakery to open too as soon as possible,”

“Exactly,” Snap gave him a thumbs up, “Nothing like fresh bread at the start of the day. There’s nothing better than Padmé’s,”

“Tell me about it, nobody does it better than grandma,” He gave them a wry smile and wondered if he’ll be able to live up to his grandmother’s reputation.

Chapter Text

“That’s a cute hair tie,” Rose said, “I’m pretty sure I saw something similar yesterday,” 

“Where’s Finn?” She asked to change the subject. 

Rose laughed, “It’s his turn to get coffee. Did Ben give it to you?”

“I’m not obliged to answer that,” She wasn’t sure why she was being defensive about it really, but she liked to think that they had a moment last night. He’d looked so open and vulnerable, so much so that it made her realise that despite the friendly aura he usually puts up, it was nothing more than a perfectly constructed mask honed from years of working in hospitality. 

Maybe because he’d let his guard down when he’d given it to her that she didn’t want to share the moment with anyone.

“In any case, you look really cute,” Rose said, “Very sunny,” 

“What’s the occasion?” Finn popped up and handed them a can of coffee each, “Did anything good happen?”

“Can we not talk about me?” Rey asked with a laugh, “How about you, how’s it going with you and Poe Dameron?” 

“What do you mean, what? We’re…okay?” He wasn’t looking at them.

“Did he ask you out on a date?” Rose’s smile was slow and he shook his head, “Aw, he’s a lot slower than I thought.” 

He didn’t.” Finn said and glanced at them. He gave them a wry smile, “I did.” 

Rey choked on her coffee and Rose gasped, “No way! Oh my gosh, Finn!” She gave him a one-armed hug, “I am so proud of you!”

“What about you, Rose, how’s it going with that lawyer?” Rey asked.

“I’m working on it.” Rose laughed, “He’s just so dense you know? I asked him to dinner and he said he’ll put it in his calendar so we can properly talk about what my responsibilities would be. An actual calendar. Who uses one of those nowadays?” 

“Do you think he’s married?” Finn asked, “I mean, he’s only moved her a couple years ago and the old ladies in the book club say he doesn’t really talk to people much. Like he’s hiding something, you know?”

“No, I think he’s just really formal. I mean he’s British, right?” Rey frowned, “If I remember correctly some of the homes I stayed at before Unkar got me was really into the whole etiquette thing like the Queen’s going to pop up any minute to give you a test or something,” 

“Meh, don’t worry about me, I know what I’m doing. Do you know what you’re doing?” Rose arched a brow, “Seriously, if I were you I’d get him drunk and kiss him to see what happens,”

Rey felt heat rush to her cheeks, “That’s you. I have you know I’m quite happy with how things are. He’s a great housemate and he doesn’t even feel like a landlord. Why would I fix something that’s not broken?”

“I mean, you can make things more efficient. If you marry him you won’t have to find yourself a house in the future and the money you save you can just use as capital for your business,”

“Marriage is a little sudden, but Tico does have a point.” Finn nodded, “I mean, you’re cute, he’s cute, you’re bound to have cute little babies.”

“Plus you won’t have to worry about food because he’s a chef,” 

Rey shook her head and tried not to imagine dark-haired little kids running around the porch. 

Which currently still stood unfinished but he’ll probably get around to it before winter sets in. Right? It was a shame it was cold otherwise he’d probably be doing that shirtless. 

Her cheeks turned even hotter. 

It wasn’t hard imagining a shirtless Ben Solo seeing as how tight his shirts usually are. 

“You gotta admit, peanut, Rose does have a point there.” Finn pursed his lips, “Now that I think about it it’s so cliche it’s ridiculous.” 

“Right? I mean, there’s the rundown house, the city boy who inherits it, the country girl who just so happens to be really handy with her hands,” Rose gave a small laugh at her own pun, “All that’s missing is a snow storm that’d trap the two of you together with no power, or maybe I don’t know, you two fix everything together, get close, fall in love, maybe both.” 

Rey shook her head, “Please stop, my life isn’t a movie. And this is the lower part of NorCal, I don’t think there’s going to be a snow storm.” 

Ben Solo was her housemate and landlord and now her friend. She wouldn’t want that newly-found friendship of theirs to be tainted by something like one-sided attraction when she had every intention of staying in this town. 

But if he was interested…she shook her head again and breathed a sigh of relief when the bell rang.

There was no point in hoping for something like a sweet, small-town romance despite her situation suddenly ticking so many uncomfortable Hallmark story cliches.

Chapter Text

It was getting a lot colder. Ben frowned and wondered if a storm was coming. His grandfather had always been able to feel storms coming in his bones like it was some sort of magic. 

If that was the case he’d have to make sure the storm shutters are in working condition. He entered the garden centre.

“Well, look who it is,” Admiral Ackbar hunched over a few pots of seedlings he can’t recognise, “Young Solo,” He’d been an admiral in the Navy during the Vietnam War. He wasn’t exactly sure what happened but from what he heard in some of the hushed conversations his parents and grandparents had before, he’d had to do something he didn’t agree with and so he’d left and it haunted him ever since. He started his garden centre as a way to cope with the trauma. 

“Admiral. I wanted to order a few trees and bushes,” He said and helped the old man stand up.

“Finally reviving the old homestead, huh?” He gave hacking cough and Ben wondered briefly what’d happen if he keels over. 

“Yeah, I’m thinking I’ll start with a few to line the driveway and the perimeter,” 

Ackbar’s brows shot up, “That property’s too damn big for only a few.

“I’m one guy,” Ben chuckled, “I can only work on so much. I don’t think there’s a huge workforce in town either so I’d have to hire outside and right now I’m not exactly earning much.”

“You’ll get there.” He chuckled, “I tell you, you should find a nice girl and settle down. You can’t be happy living in that big ‘ol house by yourself,”

Ben grimaced, “I have a housemate and I have no intention of getting into a relationship anytime soon,” 

“Well, you’ll get there,” He chuckled, “Now, what can I get for you?”

 

Ben ended up ordering way more than he’d originally intended. It was just that Ackbar kept showing him different plants and bushes and even strawberry runners and he just ended up thinking of all the things he could make from them. He’d even ended up ordering a bunch of rose-hip bushes because he suddenly remembered how gorgeous it looked when steeped just right. 

Not to mention the fact that it goes surprisingly well with raspberries. He should probably order some roselle and hibiscus while he’s at it. Would they even grow here? He could probably grow them in pots and bring them in, right? 

He stopped in front of the bakery and frowned. Was he actually enjoying himself? There was a certain excitement that can be felt even just by thinking of the potential harvest a plot of land and some plants can yield. 

And the things he could make from them? 

But again, he was one man. It wouldn’t do him good to blow all his money into plants he had no way of taking care of by himself. Would Rey know how to care for plants? She’d be a perfect partner if she does, not that she wasn’t already. The fact that she was so capable especially in areas he was hopeless at was already more than enough. There was only so much friendships and favours can do but since she lived in the house too, she’d feel more responsible about the upkeep, right? 

Maybe he should make a formal contract so she wouldn’t leave so soon.

“Ben,” He stiffened, “We need to talk.”

“Ms. Netal, you’re still in town.” His lips thinned and his mood soured, “I believe I made myself clear.” 

“Ever since you left our sales went down by half.” 

“It’s been less than two months since I left, I’m sure it’ll be back to normal soon. You’re more than capable of handling the kitchen.” 

“No,” She grabbed his arm and he scowled and shook her off, “Ben,”

Ms. Netal,” He said sharply, “What right do you think you have to come here and tell me to go back? I’ll go back when I damn well want,”

“You can tell them how much you expect,” Why was she so desperate for him to go back there? He doesn’t exactly want to be stuck in this town but the thought of losing the homestead and the bakery outweighed his initial concerns. Besides, it seems people are more than happy to ignore his gender as long as he gets the bakery up and running again. 

It’s really a shame that it closed down. Where else would people get their bread? 

“It’s not about the salary,” He ran his fingers through his hair, “Fuck, Baz, you should know me better than that.” Why was he even so disappointed? They were together for less than a year almost a decade ago but they worked together for years. He thought she at least understood his love for making pastries, “Leave.”

“Ben—,” She reached for him.

“Um, am I interrupting something?” The wave of relief he felt when he heard her voice was surprising.

“Rey! Perfect timing,” He gave her a relieved smile, “We moved the mixer into the front and the equipment for gutting at the back,” 

“I popped by Han’s to borrow some overalls,” She said, lifting the bundle in her arms, “Finn said he’ll drop by to help too later. He’s actually pretty good at electrical work,” She glanced at Bazine and he blocked her view.

“That’s fine,” He said and placed an arm around her shoulders to usher her inside the shop.

“Oh, I got coffee,” She lifted the bag he didn’t notice, “I wasn’t sure how many people there are so I only got a couple,”

“It’s fine, Rey,” He gave her another smile and the tightness in his chest eased, “You didn’t have to but thanks.”

She smiled and his heart skipped a beat.

Chapter Text

It was good that they’ve established that they’re friends now. That way, she’d be able to ask just who exactly that lady was and why she kept popping up.

He sighed when he sat her down on one of the hastily wiped chairs next to the huge mixer. The rickety table probably wouldn’t be able to hold it up anyway. 

“Bazine Netal,” He said, “She was one of the two assistant pastry chefs I had.” 

Was that it? With the way she was trying to hold on to him and even the way she’d glared at her she’d have thought there was something else going on. 

“Hey Rey, you’re here,” Jessika was a nice lady who always lent her books, “Lando stopped by earlier to drop off the stuff you need,” She handed her the neatly packaged tub of food-grade grease, palette knife and gloves, “I gotta go now,” She told Ben.

“Thank for the help, Jess,” Ben gave her a half-smile and a dimple popped in his cheek. Rey couldn’t help but stare.

“Sure, just remember me when you open and save me a cinnamon bun,” She grinned.

“With all the people I gotta remember I might end up bankrupt on the first day,” Ben chuckled, “Thanks for the help, seriously.” 

“What are friends for, yeah?” She patted his arm and winked at Rey, “Take care of this one, will you? Poe said he’s pretty much a lost little lamb,” 

Ben’s scowl couldn’t hide his smile, “Is that what you guys think of me? I may have spent like ten years in the city but I still lived here for longer,” 

“Hey Ben,” 

“Hm?” He looked at her with those piercing eyes of his and she suppressed a shiver.

“How old are you?”

Jessika snorted and then laughed. Rey flushed a little knowing how rude her question was, “Oof, right, how old are you, old man?” 

Ben scowled at Jessika, “I’m not that old,” He said and gave Rey full-on grin, complete with dimples, that took her breath away, “I’m thirty.” 

“You’re older than Poe.” Was the only thing that popped into her head. Why did she even think that he and Poe were the same age?

“I’m probably older than most of the people our age here,” He shrugged, “Does it matter?” He suddenly looked worried, “You don’t think I’m old, do you?” Jessika laughed again and he turned another glare at her, “Aren’t you supposed to go?”

“Yes, yes, I’m going. See ya around,” She winked at Rey before leaving.

“Is it…weird?” He didn’t meet her eyes and he scratched the back of his neck, “I mean, I know kids your age think thirty’s old but it’s not really that much older if you think about it. I don’t think we have that much of a..generational gap? That we won’t understand what we’re talking about,” There was a pang in her chest and she realised that she felt a little guilty.  

“I didn’t mean that,” She said, “I was just curious,” She cleared her throat, “I don’t really think you’re old,” He gave her a tight smile and she realised that despite how he looked, he really was a lonely like how she’d thought when she first read his name. He probably hasn’t realised it yet but recognised that look in his eyes. She’d seen it often enough in the other foster kids she’d encountered in her life. Heck, she’d even felt that way too seeing as how she’d put up with the work Unkar gave her just so he wouldn’t return her. 

He was the son of two of the most prominent people in town but that didn’t mean that he had everything handed to him. What did he experience growing up that made him leave town only to come back because of a dilapidated store and farmhouse? 

Just how much did he value those two that he gave up the everything he’d created in a new city when it was clear that he wasn’t exactly comfortable here? 

“Hey, Ben, come take a look at the workbench we made you,” It was Chewie’s son.  He didn’t often go into town but she sometimes saw him going into the hardware store. She’s never actually heard him speak more than two words but it seemed the man was comfortable enough with Ben to say an actual sentence. 

Why did he leave all these behind? He looked like he belonged here despite his city-boy habits and inability to hunt.

She watched Ben go out the back. She’ll find out eventually. After all, they’re friends now. 

She turned to the mixer, grabbed her screwdriver and got to work.

Chapter Text

It’d been two weeks since they started on the bakery. Han had given her some time off so she could help Ben. Ben had offered to pay her but she refused to accept, after all, that was part of their deal about her rent. So he ended up giving her even more food than necessary. She didn’t even have to buy lunch anymore since she brought food from home instead.

Of course, Ben’s cooking was a lot better than what the small cafeteria in the university offered.  

Everything in the kitchen has been stripped and cleaned and ready for plumbing and retiling works. 

She’d gutted the equipment at the back and sold the rest for parts. Ben didn’t even accept the cash saying she should take it instead since she’s the one who worked for it. 

Seriously, that man can be so stubborn at the strangest times. Currently he was at the back cleaning and sanding down the sign. She’d caught him more than once watching some YouTube videos as he tried to figure out what to do. Chewie had even offered to do it for him earlier in the week but he adamantly refused.  

It was just the two of them today since everybody’s going to be making their way to Poe’s later in the afternoon to harvest persimmons. Personally she’d never had them but with what Finn’s been telling her, Poe’s been excited for some desserts Ben had promised to make for him and truthfully so was she. 

She wiped the grease from her hands. It took a lot longer than she thought to fix the mixer in top working condition. Some of the wiring had been worn out by years of use and the grease was just black. It was surprising how there wasn’t any leaks or anything. She even had to fashion a custom gear piece for it since the model was pretty old and the teeth on it were worn smooth. 

Still, it was cheaper than buying a new one. She tested it out to make sure that it spins properly and didn’t make any strange sounds. 

Once she was satisfied, she washed her hands and brought the sandwiches Ben had packed out the back. He had his headphones on and he’d taken off his jacket but he wasn’t really doing anything apart from staring at the sign. 

He’d sanded it down so the dark, patinated wood to reveal its original, reddish hue that could only be from a redwood tree. She could vaguely see the dark knots and whorls on the slab. It’d be beautiful once he finishes treating it.

He was tracing the script with his fingers, like he was committing it to memory. 

Redwoods are notoriously hard to cut and carve into. Just how much effort was put into this sign?

Ben looked almost sad, “My grandfather made it,” He said and she just a little. How long did he know that she was there? He glanced at her; his eyes and nose were a little red and he looked so tired, “Used a tree growing in the farm. ‘Course he underestimated how hard the damn thing was.” He chuckled, “It wasn’t illegal then but I heard grandma gave him an earful. She loved plants,” Were there still redwoods in the property? She wasn’t sure; the property is pretty big and she’d only seen bits and pieces of it.

“Why did you come back?”

“Hm?” He took off his headphones and she could hear music coming from it. Could he even hear her question? “I heard someone wanted to buy the bakery and the farm. I didn’t want that.” His lips twitched up, “I guess I’m a little sentimental. I’m their only grandkid so there’s really nobody to inherit the properties anyway,” 

She’d heard of his uncle, Luke Skywalker, but she’d never actually interacted with the grumpy ranch owner who only came down to town once a month. From what she understood, he didn’t have a wife or children either.

Growing up, the pressure must’ve been so hard on him. 

She cleared her throat, “It’s lunch time,” She said and gave him a small smile, “Wanna eat out here or…?”

“Is it?” He frowned at his watch, “Let’s head inside, it’s really dusty in here.” 

She followed him inside, “The mixer’s working fine now,” She said, “We could probably bring it home so you can try making something,”

He looked surprised, “That old thing?” Then, he laughed, his mood lifting almost instantly, “That’s amazing,” She yelped when he lifted her up and swung her in circle before giving her a hug. She sucked in a breath and heat rushed to her cheeks. He let her go and crouched next to the mixer, “Christ, I didn’t think you’d be able to fix this thing. It’s older than both of us combined,” He laughed again. Fixing this thing was suddenly so worth it. His eyes sparkled and his dimples popped out, “You’re amazing, Rey,”

She looked away and fidgeted with the baggie of sandwiches she was still holding, “Tell me that once we’ve tested it out.”

“Remind me to bring it to the car later,” 

She frowned, “Won’t your car get dirty?”

“I haven’t heard from dad yet about anyone selling a truck so,” He shrugged. He was looking at the old thing like it was his long-lost love. He’d driven them to town saying his car used gas more efficiently than her truck, and at the time she didn’t have a reason to disagree. Would this thing even fit in his car? “It’s fine. We can drop it off at home before going to Poe’s.”

“We should take the truck to Poe’s,” She said, “So we can bring more fruit home,”

He looked up at her again and laughed. His eyes were still sparkling and her chest tightened. Why was this man so ridiculously pretty? “That makes sense.”

“Nothing beats free food,” She shrugged as casually as she could.

“It’s not free because I’m making things with it. My professional fee’s pretty high, you know,” He was eyeing the mixer again and she couldn’t help but laugh.

Chapter Text

Rey had this innate ability to cheer people up. It doesn’t matter how upset he was, the moment he sees her, it was like a dark cloud is being lifted and she just…shines through. 

Like a ray of sunlight.

Jesus Christ, since when had he turned so sappy? 

But it was true. She didn’t pry and she had this way about her that just kinda made everything seem better. 

Not to mention she fixed Padmé’s mixer. He actually really didn’t have much hope for it. 

They cleaned up a little after they had their sandwiches; smoked rabbit, because well, they still had a lot of meat in the freezer. He tried not to think about how they’d actually gotten them. 

He was pretty excited when Poe said the persimmons were ready. He’d been thinking of recipes so much that he’d started dreaming of them. Maybe someday he could have a documentary too; Ben Dreams of Pastries, anyone? 

He drove them back home. Funny how he’d started thinking of the farmhouse as ‘home’ these past few weeks he’s been living in it. He still didn’t have a bed frame, of course, and he hasn’t even opened up all his boxes but he’ll get there. 

The porch still remained largely unfinished but he’ll get there too.

Right now, he was determined to reopen Padmé’s in time for Christmas. He wouldn’t make it for the Harvest Festival or Thanksgiving for sure but he hoped to at least open before Christmas. After all, everyone wants an excuse to have pastries, and if they get snow this year? Coffee, tea and spiced hot chocolate.

Would the university students stay for the holidays? Would he be able to draw more tourists into town? If the Harvest Festival becomes a big hit, would a Christmas Fair be one too? He’d have to talk to his mother about that.

“Do you need help with the mixer?” Rey asked and he shook his head, “That thing’s heavy, innit?” 

“‘Course it is, darlin’ but it’s nothing I can’t carry,” He gave her a wink and carried it into the house. 

It was only when he’d placed the massive thing on the counter that he’d realised what he said. 

He flushed. 

 

He’d steeled himself to act natural. He wasn’t really the type to fool around with friends even with Jannah and Poe but for some reason he’d felt comfortable enough with Rey that it just came out so naturally it was a little concerning. He was even fine with touching her. 

It was hard to remember that they’ve only known each other for like a month.

He jogged to Rey’s truck, hopped into the passenger seat and hoped the smile he gave her didn’t look too forced. 

“Seatbelt,” She said. Like Poe’s truck, hers started up so smoothly that it was hard to believe that it was more than thirty years old. 

Then again, it wasn’t like he knew a lot about cars much to his father’s disappointment. He really just wasn’t interested. He’s always been the more artsy kind. 

They turned into Poe’s farm. There were already people milling about with shallow baskets. He caught a glimpse of Poe helping a certain dark-skinned man sitting atop a stepladder. 

“They’re getting along well, huh?” He said and Rey laughed. His heart started beating just a little bit faster and warmth bubbled up in the pit of his stomach.

“I don’t know what happened but I guess they’re dating now,” She said and flashed his a grin, “They look great together though,” 

He grunted his agreement and got out of the car. 

Together, they made their way to Poe. 

“Hey guys!” He grinned at them, “Grab a basket and find a tree. You still owe me some pie, by the way,” 

“I know,” He chuckled, “I keep my promises, don’t worry.” 

They took a basket each. There were two trees at the far end of the driveway. Poe had strung up some outdoor bulb lights on the trees and he was sure they’d be gorgeous at night. 

He wasn’t very confident about the stepladder though and he worried that one strong breeze would be enough to topple it. The tree wasn’t that high anyway but despite his height, he still couldn’t reach the top of it. 

Still, everyone else looked fine and confident climbing up and gathering the fruits. Rey herself had already gone up to plop herself on it. He eyed the ladder apprehensively, bit his lip and started to climb.

Chapter Text

The trees weren’t very high and they were laden with reddish, orange fruit. She plucked them one by one. The skin was smooth though some parts were turning soft. She started nearer to the top of the tree, as far out as she could reach. 

It smelled sweet and fruity and she was tempted to give it a lick. She filled up her basket and wondered what exactly Ben would be making with them. She didn’t think he’d settle for something as simple pie. He’d been excited for this too despite him trying to hide it. At the end of the day fresh ingredients really is the best way to make him happy.

She stilled and frowned. Why was she suddenly thinking of making him happy? Of course, a happy chef means more good food for her to try, that meant if she gives him new things to use, he’d make delicious things, right? It was the least she could do anyway since he’s not even charging her for her meals. 

She should go hunt for a deer soon while it’s still the right season. She’d forage for some mushroom too. It’s been raining on and off for the past couple of days so it’s the perfect time to harvest mushrooms. He’d probably be interested in foraging himself now that she thought about it. He seems like the type to enjoy that kinda thing. 

Yup, she’d invite him to forage one of these days. 

He’s started opening up to her now too and seems to genuinely consider her as a friend. Honestly, if she were to allow herself, it’d be so easy to fall in love with him. He’s kind and gentle and an amazing cook which is really the most important bit in her opinion. She shook her head, maybe all those conversations with Rose about relationships conditioned her to think of Ben as a potential partner.

She frowned and started making her way down the ladder.

It wasn’t that she wasn’t interested but it was mostly because their relationship right now is really ideal. Plus, she liked him as he is and she wasn’t even sure if he even sees her as someone who can potentially be more than a friend. 

Suddenly she remembered how he’d winked and called her ‘darling’ earlier. She flushed and didn’t realise that she still had one last step on the ladder. She yelped and shut her eyes instinctively.

The fall she expected didn’t happen.

“Careful,” Ben held her up easily and she sucked in a breath, “You coulda gotten hurt there, darlin’.” She flushed. Recently, she noticed he’d stopped calling her ‘kid’. He took her basket, “You didn’t twist an ankle or anything, did you?” 

“No, I just didn’t notice the last step,” She cleared her throat and realised that he still had an arm around her, “I’m fine,” She tried to take the basket back.

“It’s fine, we can go together.” He gave her small smile and let her go. She shivered at how cold it suddenly felt.

Another car arrived as they were sorting out the overripe persimmons and Rose jumped out of the passenger seat.

Hux looked uncomfortable in his v-neck sweater and slacks. Her brows shot up.

Rose grinned, “Hey guys!”

“Oh, hi Rose,”  Ben frowned, looking so obviously confused, “Hux,”

“Ben,” Hux nodded at him stiffly.

“I didn’t expect to see you here,” He said.

“Oh, that was me,” Rose giggled, “I mean, Mr. Hux has been here for years and he doesn’t interact much with townsfolk so I thought it’d be good business practice to you know, kinda integrate yourself with the people and get to know one another, you get me, right?”

“That’s true, we don’t see you often on the weekends either,” Rey said.

“I’m more of an indoor kind of person,” Hux said, still stiff, in a thick British accent.

“Anyway, I said he should totally go out more and since Poe invited me to pick persimmons, I thought since there’s not a lot of people it’d be like uh, a slow integration?”

“Makes sense,” Ben smiled and his dimples popped out. Rey couldn’t help but stare.

“So… I see you’ve been working on the bakery,” Rose snorted back a laugh and Hux actually turned almost as red as his hair, “I mean, I do pass by in the morning and…”

“Yeah, it’s turning out well, I think. We might be able to open up by December,” 

“That’s wonderful news, I’m sure your grandmother would’ve been happy to know,” 

He lapsed into an awkward silence and Rose linked her arm around his. He visibly stiffened. She winked at Rey, “Let’s go say hi to Poe. You know Poe, right, Mr. Hux?” 

“It’s just Hux,” He muttered and allowed himself to be dragged away.

“He’ll never know what hit him,” Rey said. Her heart fluttered when Ben chuckled. 

Chapter Text

They spent the rest of the afternoon at Poe’s who’d held an impromptu dinner party. Ben was roped into helping cook dinner but he didn’t mind. Soon enough pretty much the whole town arrived including his parents. 

“Just when are you going to have your own dinner, dear? You promised you’d invite us,” Leia said, pouting a little. He wondered how many glasses of wine she’d had, “I can’t wait to see what you’ve done with the house,”

“The kitchen’s really the only thing that’s presentable,” Ben said as he pureed the extra pumpkin he’d scrounged up from Poe’s fridge. He figured he’d make some pumpkin bread pudding while he was at it seeing as they didn’t exactly have any dessert yet. A dinner isn’t complete without some form of dessert, “I’m focusing on the bakery at the moment.”

“When are you planning to open?” She asked, “Do you need any help?”

“I’m fine,” He said, “If nothing goes wrong we should be able to open by December.” She nodded and took a sip from her wine glass.

“There you are, kid.” Han came staggering in with a grin.

“Oh dear, is your father drunk already?”

“Naw, I don’t get drunk from wine,” He smiled widely at Ben, “Drop by the shop, kid. I found you a truck,” 

“Yeah?” He gave a little smile and beat the cream and eggs and sugar together before pouring out the puree and adding the spices. 

“Yup! It’s almost fully restored but we can always have Rey check it out,” He winked, “I swear that girl’s blessed by the god of cars,” 

Ben chuckled, “I’m sure she’s blessed by all the gods,” He said and folded in the bread cubes, “She’s really talented,”

“Didn’t I tell you? That kid’s amazing,” 

He nodded distractedly and placed the dish into the oven, “Of course, you still led me to believe that Rey’s a he.”

“That’s a lie,” Han snorted and hopped on a bar stool. He wobbled a little and Leia laughed and reached out to stabilise him a little, “You assumed she was. I just went with it.”

“You shouldn’t drink so much, dear, your liver,” Leia said and Han sighed.

“What’s this now, I can’t eat red meat, I can’t drink, what can I do now?” 

“C’mon dad, she’s just worried about you.” Ben said and Han sniffed.

“You always did side with your mother.” 

He rolled his eyes and started on the caramel cream drizzle he’ll put on the bread pudding, “There’s something called moderation.” He said, “Keep that up and I’ll stop sending you desserts.” 

Poe bounced into the kitchen with BB close behind him, “We’re out of bruschetta,” He said, panting a little and rummaged through his pantry, “I think I still have salami here somewhere,” 

“This is why you don’t hold a party without any planning,” Leia said. Poe ran out again and BB strolled towards Ben and plopped down next to the counter.

“Oh, by the way, Farmer Miller’s dog just gave birth. You want to go see sometime?” Han asked, “Could get his number for ya.”

“Farmer Miller’s an asshole,” Leia rolled her eyes.

“Mom, he’s still a constituent,” Ben chuckled, “A dog, though?” A farm isn’t complete without a dog but can he even shoulder the responsibility? 

“Don’t worry it’s one of them dumb smart ones,”

He scowled a little, “How can it be dumb and smart at the same time?”

“What’s dumb and smart at the same time?” Poe popped back in, this time carrying plates back to the sink.

“A dog,” Han explained, “One of Farmer Miller’s,”

“Ah, you mean a golden retriever,” Poe frowned, “Farmer Miller’s a dick though,”

“Oh come on, you can’t blame the dog if the owner’s a dick,” Han rolled his eyes, “‘Sides, every farm needs a dog and a cat,” 

“I mean, I’ve only been here a whole two months. There’s still so much to do,” The oven dinged and he pulled out the pudding. BB gave a little woof, “Nope, you can’t have any,” Ben said. Poe came a little closer, “None for you either. Wait until after dinner.” 

Poe pouted a little, “Yes, chef,” He muttered.

“It won’t hurt to check it out,” Han said, “Take a look at the puppies, you know? I mean, who doesn’t like puppies? We can give the truck a test drive. Plus, I heard Rey likes dogs.” 

What did Rey have to do with him getting a puppy? Han was looking at him expectantly and he sighed, “Fine, but not this weekend. I’m making pastries and bread for Sunday,” 

Han grinned, “Don’t forget to send some for your loving parents,” 

Ben rolled his eyes. 

Loving parents, my ass.  

If anything, they were more like the cool aunt and uncle.

Chapter Text

The counter was covered in persimmons. Ben had been working since dawn sorting them out and cutting them apart. 

And he was cranky as hell. 

He really wasn’t a morning person. 

Rey took one look at him and laughed. That lifted his spirits up a little. 

She slid him another cup of coffee and he grunted his thanks. 

He still had to simmer the preserves, make pie dough and work on the bread. He’ll have to leave those overnight and hope that they rise properly. It’s not quite sourdough but he’d have to settle with some country bread until he can at least grow a starter. Speaking of, he was sure Padmé had been maintaining one for years. It’d be a shame if it died when she got sick.  

“Here,” She looked surprised when he handed her her lunch, “Pan-grilled rabbit and marble potatoes with apple and persimmon compote,”

“You didn’t have to,” She said, “You look busy,” 

He shrugged, “It’s nothing fancy. Besides, I needed to make for myself anyway and the compote’s pretty much a prerequisite for the preserves,” 

“Thanks,” She smiled a little, “Are you going to test out the mixer?” He nodded, “Let me know if there’s anything wrong with it.”

“Yeah, thanks, darlin’,” He smiled too, albeit a little distractedly, “You’re a big help. See you later,”

He heard rather than saw her leave for work. Maybe he should’ve sent extras for Han.

Oh well. He shrugged. Maybe next time. 

He eyed the counter. He can start building his leaven before lunch just in time for bulk fermentation in the afternoon. Hopefully. 

Then, he remembered that he still had some wine and grapes left from Poe. He’d gotten his own stall right next to his. Should he use some grapes and wine? He can shape it into grapes too just for the fun of it. He’d have to wake up early again tomorrow to bake everything. Would he have time to make milk buns too? Milk buns sweet and fluffy and make great sliced bread but an even better filled roll. Rey would probably like some for breakfast too. 

He eyed the preserves. He was sure there’d be way too much. He’ll bottle some of them to sell with the bread. 

He checked his to-do list and frowned. He should have enough time to make the pies, preserves and country bread. He’ll never take his pastry assistants for granted ever again. He never realised just how convenient having them were. 

He infused the cream with cardamom and vanilla, heating it up gently to scald the milk before letting it cool down again. 

His phone rang and he answered it without checking, “Hello?”

“Solo,” Vicrul rumbled in the other end of the line, “Where the hell is a good place to stay in this dinky little town of yours?”

“What?” 

“The goddamn boarding house is full, what the fuck? Is there some sort of event or some shit happening tomorrow?”

“Wait, you’re in Chandrila?”

“Yes.”

Why?” 

“Didn’t you say I could come visit?” He did? Vicrul had been a good friend and mentor in the five years he’d been working in Vegas. Why was he suddenly here? “Besides, I wanna know what’s gotten Bazine’s panties in a twist. She’s been pissy for weeks. Jess wants to quit because of her.” 

“Well, she never wanted to be a pastry chef in the first place.” He chopped up the cold butter and returned it to the fridge before measuring out the flour for the pie crusts. “But wait, where are you right now?” 

“Outside some dingy little pub called Chalmun’s?” 

He laughed, “Christ, Vicrul, it’s too goddamn early for a drink,”

“I haven’t slept you asshole and the pub ain’t even open.”

“There’s a diner near there, it should be open.”

“Come get me,” 

“I’m busy. Tomorrow’s the Sunday Market,” 

“Wait, is that why there’s no room? Shit, where am I staying then?”

“Is that my problem?”

“Fuck, Solo, you’re a dick.” He heard the loud jangle of a bell and he assumed that Vicrul found Maz’s no problem, “I came all this way to see you and you’re leaving me up in the air like this?”

“Who told you not to inform me you’re coming?”

“You’re becoming sassier,”

“Fuck you.” 

“Never mind, you haven’t changed a bit.”

“Just stay there, see the sights. I’ll get someone to bring you over later.” Vicrul grumbled, “Try the burger, it’s the best.”

He hung up before Vicrul could grumble some more. He shook his head. He had room, Vicrul can clean it up himself when he gets here. 

Poe was working in the winery today, getting ready for tomorrow too, so he dialled Rey who picked up on the third ring. He could hear the loud whirring of machinery and the clanging of metal on metal, “Hey, Ben!” She was half-shouting and he shivered a little at the sound of his name, “What’s up? Is the mixer acting up?”

“No, no, I haven’t started on the breads yet so I’ll let you know later.” He said.

“Oh,” She sounded confused. He wasn’t surprised. It hadn’t been an hour since she’d left, “Then…is there anything I can do for you?”

He cleared his throat, “I uh, need a favour.” 

“Sure,” 

“A friend of mine from Vegas arrived and he has nowhere to stay.” He said, “He’s at Maz’s right now and he’s going to be taking a look around town. I’d really appreciate it if you can bring him back here when your shift ends,” 

She laughed. It was a light laugh, almost like the tinkling of glass, “Is that all? Of course. Send me his number, I’ll bring him back for you.”

“Thanks, Rey, you’re godsend,” 

She laughed again, “It’s the least I can do to repay you for all those meals. Let me know if you need help with anything else,” 

They said their goodbyes and he ended the call. 

It was only then that he realised that he was grinning from ear to ear. 

Chapter Text

Ben sent her the number of a man named Vicrul Ren almost immediately.

‘Good morning, Mr. Ren. This is Rey Niima, Ben’s housemate. My shift at the auto shop ends at three and I’ll be heading home at that time. Do let me know where you’ll be so I can lead you there. I recommend the burgers and milkshake at the diner but the chicken sandwich is pretty good too.’

‘Thanks. I’m a pretty big guy so I’m easy to spot. Solo told me to look around but there ain’t much to see so I’ll probably look around some and take a nap in the diner.’

She snorted back a laugh. She now has a vague idea of how he is and she can understand how he and Ben are friends. Maybe she can ask him how Ben was at work. She sometimes saw bits and pieces of him that seemed to contrast the kind, sweet landlord she knew.

Like the glare he’d been pointing at his old pastry assistant. It had a barely-restrained, almost violent anger in them that she was surprised and wondered if she’d been seeing things. 

Her phone buzzed with a notification. Ben had posted a picture of their counter filled with persimmons and a hint of a pie crust in the corner. She swiped to the next photo to see an almost bird-eye photo of his hand buried in a mound of dough. She could see a portion of his t-shirt. 

ben_solo_bakes Getting ready for tomorrow’s #ChandrilaSundayMarket   gorgeous persimmon harvest @Chandrila.Vineyard with @Rey.Niima and @Pilot_Dameron #ChandrilaCalifornia #ChandrilaBaking

There were already comments about it especially about the bread. She flushed at some of the racier comments. 

Can that dough be me, please? I won’t mind @ben_solo_bakes kneading me like that

Take off the shirt show off dem abs pls

He’d probably get even more of a following if he shows his face.

She shook her head and pocketed her phone again and went to work on the shiny red and black ’54 Chevy 5 Han had assigned to her.

 

When Vicrul Ren said he was a big guy, he wasn’t kidding. He was standing outside the diner looking at his phone and wearing nothing but a plain black t-shirt and grey sweats. Were muscles insulating? He was tall, tan and had a scruffy beard and hair as dark as Ben’s. 

She was sure it was him. Nobody else had that dangerous aura and she’d definitely never seen him in town before. Then again, there was a strange interest in town lately, probably because of Ben’s instagram posts. 

She approached him cautiously and had to crane her neck a little to see his face. He seemed taller than Ben and definitely wider. 

“Er, hi, are you Mr. Ren?” He glanced at her, “I’m Rey,” She extended her hand and he grinned.

“You’re a girl,” He said and shook her hand. His grip was strong and rough, “When you said Rey I thought you’re a guy. Was just checkin’ out your profile too; Solo tags you a lot.”

“I don’t use it often,” She said, scratching the back of her neck. He arched a brow at the action. She must’ve picked it up from Ben. 

“You two dating?” 

She gaped, “What? No, we’re not.” Heat rose up to her cheeks, “I’m renting a room in the farmhouse and fix stuff up for him.” 

“Hm,” He leaned down close to her face and she flinched and took a step back, “You sure? You’re cute. Totally his type,” She flushed

“Rey? Who’s this?”

“Finn! Hey,” She stepped around Vicrul who straightened and gave a little amused smile, “Did you do the homework for Professor Chirrut’s class?” 

“Not yet, I was going to do it tomorrow.” He eyed Vicrul, “I haven’t seen you before,”

“Vicrul Ren,” He stuck his hand out, “I came here to see Solo. Didn’t think there won’t be any room though,” He frowned.

Finn shook his hand, “Finn Storm. Ever since Ben started selling in the market we’ve gotten more visitors from out of town so the weekends are almost always booked,” 

Vicrul laughed heartily, “Of course. He’s the face of pastry, how could people not come?” He placed his hands on his hips and grinned.

Finn pursed his lips, “Jesus, does everyone who come from Vegas this hot?”

Vicrul’s grin widened.

“Don’t let Poe hear that,” Rey chuckled.

“Don’t tell me you disagree,” Finn nudged her and she rolled her eyes.

“Don’t let Ben Solo hear that either. That kid’s temper isn’t something to be laugh about,” Finn’s brows shot up and Rey turned to look at him with interest, “I take it ya’ll haven’t seen it yet.” His grin widened, “He’s a sight to see in the kitchen. Gordon Ramsay’s got nothin’ on him,” 

“We’re just about to go home. Ben asked me bring him,” Rey said, changing the subject.

“Right, I’m going to start my shift.” Finn smiled a little, “Meet you and Rosie tomorrow?” Rey nodded.

Vicrul waved at him, “Shall we, then?” He had a friendly, almost mischievous smile on his face, “I’d really like to see my good friend soon.” 

She wasn’t sure if she liked the look in his eyes.

Chapter Text

Ben was still in the kitchen when Rey called out that she was home. A few moments later she strolled in with Vicrul close behind.

“Something smells good,” Vicrul grinned, “Damn boy, look at all this fruit,” He swiped one off the counter and chomped into it, groaning a little, “When’d you pick em?”

“The other day,” Rey said. Ben glanced up with a scowl, “You look busy, should I help prepare a room or something?”

“That’d be great, sweetheart,” Ben’s scowl deepened and Vicrul shot him an amused smile, “It’d be great if it’s as far away as this asshole as possible,”

“Oh, fuck you. You shouldn’t have come here then.”

“But I wanted to see how you were doing,” Vicrul chuckled and finished off his fruit, “You know I don’t take my leaves but I did for you,” He winked and then turned to Rey, “But I didn’t expect your housemate would be so cute,” 

“How long are you staying?” He rolled out more dough. He should really buy more pie pans. 

“A week, maybe. Who knows, this place isn’t as bad as I thought it’d be,” He smiled wistfully, “I love what you’ve done to the place. You thinkin’ of opening it up? Like an inn or something?”

“We’re not even nearly done with the house and the bakery’s still closed.” He looked at Rey who was still standing there a little awkwardly, “You don’t have to treat him like a guest darlin’ he’s nothing more than a freeloader.”

His smile grew and he arched a brow at Rey, “I thought you said you weren’t dating?” She flushed.

“N-no! We’re not,” She looked at Ben a little frantically, “We’re just friends,”

He frowned and turned back to his pie. She wasn’t wrong. They are friends. So why did hearing that feel so wrong?

“That’s great, then. That means I can get to know you better then, huh?” He winked at Rey who turned even redder. He scowled again and tried to focus on decorating the top of the pie with thinly sliced fruit, “What’s with that face, Solo? Can’t I make friends too?” 

“It’s your life,” He grunted and Vicrul laughed.

“Told you he has a temper,” He whispered loudly, “He’s like a cat, all soft and sweet and cute but you won’t know when he’d scratch,” Rey snorted back a laugh, “Oh by the way, he sent me pictures of the game meat, do you buy that from the market or…?”

“You mean the rabbit?” He heard Rey open the freezer, “We hunted these,”

You did?” Ben stiffened when Vicrul drew closer and put an arm over the freezer door where Rey was still standing. 

He shouldn’t have gotten Rey to bring him over. How could he have forgotten what Vicrul was like? He was the kind of man women flocked to naturally, without him even trying. Fuck, he probably didn’t even realise how heartbroken a lot of the women were to find out that he was just naturally like that to everyone. He flirted so easily that Ben wasn’t even sure he knew it was considered flirting and if he actually puts his mind to it?

“This is amazing,” He started slicing more persimmons, thinly, so he could use layer it with the apples to make roses as the pie topping. He glanced at them again.

He didn’t like how Rey smiled so easily for him, “We were planning on going again sometime to hunt for deer.”

“Fresh venison? Damn, you’re giving me more reasons to like this place. You wouldn’t mind if I move here too, would you, Solo?” Ben didn’t reply and he chuckled, “If I do, would you marry me, sweetheart? I’m not as rich as he is but I’m sure I can buy a house and I’m a much better cook than he is.” He winked and Rey laughed. 

Ben scowled and put his knife down harder than he intended. Rey jumped a little and stared at him wide-eyed.

“Rey,” He said through gritted teeth, “If you don’t mind, would you please show him to his room?”

“Sure,” She smiled again, the same smile she gave Vicrul. Right, Rey’s strong. She wouldn’t fall for Vicrul’s teasing that easily, “Come on, I’ll show you up.” Besides, she’s friendly to everyone and so is Vicrul. 

“Tsk, what a temper,” He turned to Rey again, “Can you include a tour of the house there? Though, that could wait until later. I haven’t slept except for that nap I took in the diner,” 

“Sure, we could totally do that. There’s not really much to see and I think the best part of the house is the kitchen which you’ve already seen.”

“Well, Solo’s a chef through and through. The kitchen’s the heart of the house and all,” Ben glared at his friend’s retreating back and resisted the urge to throw something at him when he placed his hand around Rey’s shoulders.

He had no right to be angry and Rey didn’t seem bothered either. Why was he even so bothered about this situation? It wasn’t like he and Rey were dating. Besides, Vicrul’s a good friend, he would tease but he wouldn’t cross a line. 

Was there even a line though?

Ben scowled and started slicing again. Should he warn Vicrul not to mess with her? If she ends up falling for him and he leaves, won’t she be heartbroken? He didn’t think she’d be too affected but he wouldn’t want to see her sad either way. He wasn’t even sure if she’s looking for a relationship but these things happen all the time without a person intending it to happen.

The knife clattered on the chopping board, “Son of a—,” He hissed and rushed to grab something to sop up and staunch the blood suddenly flowing out of his finger. 

He wrapped a kitchen towel around it and exerted some pressure. The sharp pain cleared his mind a little and he scowled at how messed up his thoughts were becoming. 

It was probably because he woke up too damn early. 

For a moment he was acting like a jealous husband. 

Rey was her own person. 

She’ll be fine.

If she wanted to take Vicrul’s joke seriously, it was none of his business.

He ignored the horrible taste the thought left in his mouth and shuffled to look for the first aid kit. 

Chapter Text

“I think he likes you,” Vicrul chuckled.

“Hm?” They went to get his duffel bag and a large, rectangular thing wrapped in brown paper.

“Ben Solo,” He shot her grin. He was definitely handsome and he knew how to use it, “But he’s mellowed down since I last saw him.” 

They walked back into the house together, “How long have you two known each other?”

“Hm, since he started in Canto?” Vicrul chuckled, “I don’t look it but I’m older than he is,” He winked, “That boy had a chip on his shoulder from day one.” Rey frowned. Really? He’s always been so kind to her and her friends, “Doesn’t look like it, huh? He used to get into fights with the butchery department kids. It’s not everyday we get a pastry chef who’s a man.” 

“Is it really an issue?”

“Of course not. Ben Solo’s a genius.” She led him up to the second floor, “And like all geniuses, he has his insecurities. Doesn’t help either that Bazine came to work with us soon after.”

Bazine, that tall, dark-haired woman with the sharp eyes, “Ben said she was his pastry assistant,”

“Ah, did he?” He gave her a look that said there was more to it than that. Should she ask?

She led him to the room next to hers. It was a little dusty so she opened the windows and then the valves for the radiator, “The sheets should be in the closet,”

He opened the closet and pulled them out, “Thanks, sweetheart,” 

Was it normal for people from the city to drop pet names like that so easily? Ben started out with ‘kid’ and had transitioned to ‘darling’ though she wasn’t sure when that happened exactly. She didn’t really mind.

“The bathroom’s shared; Ben’s the only one with the en-suite,” He nodded and shooed her away when she offered to help him set up the bed.

“It’s fine,” He said, “Thanks for showing me to my room,”

“Are you really going to be moving here?”

He arched a brow, “You want me to?” 

Heat rose to her cheeks, “No! I mean,” She cleared her throat and looked away, “I was just curious. I’ve never seen Ben like how he is with you.” Are they even really friends?

He laughed then, loudly, “People have a lot of sides to ‘em, the Ben Solo I know might not be the Ben Solo you know. He’s nice to you, huh?”

She nodded, “The rent’s ridiculously low and he doesn’t even charge me for utilities. Plus he always gives me food,” 

He smiled wryly,  “Should I cook for you too? See how I compare?” 

“Um,” Was he actually serious about his earlier joke? 

“Don’t look at me like that,” He had an easy laugh, loud and happy, the kind that was contagious, “I’m a chef too, you know. Anyway, I’m sure Solo’s worried about you being with me for too long,” 

“Why?” 

His smile widened, “Sweetheart, are you really that oblivious?” He leaned down a little so he was eye-level with her. She leaned away, “That asshole down there’s probably barely holding onto his sanity, thinkin’ of what I’m doing with you.” He pinched her cheek like he would a child, “You must be sittin’ on a pile o’sugar cuz you one sweet ass,” She blinked at the sudden, random cheesy pick-up line. Then, she covered her mouth, snorted a little and started laughing. He straightened and grinned, “There we go, no need to look so serious,” 

He was a strange man but he seems nice.

She liked him. 

 

Ben was wrapping a bandage around his finger when she came back into the kitchen. She gasped, “Are you okay?”

He looked paler than normal and his dark eyes churned, “I’m fine,” He grunted, “It happens sometimes,” 

“Do you want me to help? I’m not bad at slicing,” He shook his head, “You can help me prep for dinner instead, what do you think?”

“Sure,” He returned her smile with a weak one of his own, “What do you need me to do?”

“Vicrul would probably be interested in the rabbit,” He went to take one out from the fridge, “We don’t always get game as our ingredients,”  

“Oh yeah, he said he was a chef,” She said and he nodded.

“He’s the executive chef back at the place I used to work in.” He glanced at her and gave her an unnatural smile. She shivered a little at how shuttered his eyes were. Weren’t they friends? “You interested? I think he’s still single and he’s definitely a better cook. Of course, desserts are a whole other story.”

 She coughed out a laugh, “What? No, I mean, he’s hot,” He flinched a little. Oh? Was Vicrul right? Was Ben Solo interested in her? “But I don’t know, we just met.”

“He’s a good guy,” She frowned a little, guess he wasn’t interested after all? “Can you chop the carrots and an onion for me?” 

“Sure,” She grabbed a clean knife and a chopping board.

“Thanks, darlin’,” He flashed her a smile and his dimple winked. 

Her heart fluttered.

Damn it.

Chapter Text

Vicrul must’ve taken a shower. He’d changed into a fresh set of clothes and his hair was still damp, “Is that polenta?” He eyed the yellow mush, “Smells good,” 

Ben shrugged, “It’s nothing as good as yours,” 

“Of course not,” He snickered, “But your’e a good cook yourself, so don’t beat yourself up over it.” He handed him a heavy rectangular package, “For you. It’s a housewarming gift,”

He frowned and tore the brown paper wrapper off. 

It was a sign that said ‘A New Hand Touches the Bacon’. There was a burnt etching of a woman holding her hands up at the bottom and he snorted back a laugh.

“You’re not mad at me anymore, right?” Vicrul grinned. 

He scowled. 

Vicrul’s grin widened, “It’s a good home,” 

Ben propped up the sign on a shelf, “Thanks.” 

“What’s that mean?” Rey asked.

“It’s a video game reference,” Ben scratched the back of his neck and flushed a little.

“You play?” Her brows shot up and he shrugged.

“I don’t really have time anymore. I should probably set up the PC.” He met her eyes from under his lashes, “If you want I can teach you,”

“You should take him up on it, sweetheart,” Vicrul said, “Get this boy out of the kitchen sometimes,” 

Ben scowled again and turned around to face the stove, “Sit. Dinner should be done soon. There should be beer in the fridge,”

“Aw, thanks Solo, I knew you were lookin’ out for me,” He sauntered over to the fridge. He grabbed a few bottles, “How ‘bout you sweetheart?” Ben bristled and stirred the braised meat vigorously before shutting off the stove and bringing the pot to the table.

Vicrul plated their meals and took a few pictures. Then, he threw an arm around both Rey and Ben to take a selfie, “My first dinner in Chandrila,” He grinned and started tapping away in his phone. 

 

knight.ren dinner by my boy @ben_solo_bakes and new gorgeous friend @Rey.Niima next time I’ll cook  #FirstNightChandrilla #ChandrilaCooking #ChandrilaCalifornia

 

“I always get more comments if I show your face,” Vicrul chuckled. He turned to Rey, “I swear this boy doesn’t know how to market properly. People pay to see his face,”

“Are you sure it’s not yours they’re after?” Rey laughed. 

Vicrul grinned, “Like my face, do you?”

Ben stiffened, “The food’s going to get cold.” Vicrul’s arm tightened around him for a moment before letting go. He didn’t let go of Rey. His fists clenched and he sat in his seat. 

 

 

Ben did not sleep well. He was fucking exhausted but he couldn’t help but think of how easily Vicrul got close to Rey. It wasn’t his business but still, it bothered the hell out of him.

He stumbled out of the room with yawn, determined to finish shaping his bread and baking them in time for the market. 

After a strong cup of coffee. Or a pot. 

It was still dark and he was glad he ordered those plug-in hall lights. He yawned again. The door to the shared bathroom opened and he smashed into Vicrul who gave a little curse.

“Son of a—, Jesus fuck, Solo, you scared the shit outta me,”

Fuck Vicrul,” Ben hissed and then scowled, “Why the fuck are you naked? We have a woman in the house,”

I’m in a towel,” He pointed at the towel barely clinging on to his waist, “And besides, I didn’t think anyone would be awake at this time.”

“I still have to bake my goddamn bread,” Ben hissed, “Get dressed. Christ, aren’t you cold?”

“Meh, I’m always hot,” Vicrul grinned and he scowled.

Rey’s door opened and he tensed.

“Um, what’s going on?” Her head popped out and she looked at them blearily. Ben shoved Vicrul into the bathroom with another curse.

“Nothing, did we wake you up?” He stood in front of the still-open bathroom door to block a buck naked Vicrul.

“I heard some cursing,” She yawned, “You okay?”

“We’re fine,” He said quickly, “Go back to sleep, it’s still really early. I was just about to finish baking the bread.” 

“Oh,” Sleepy Rey wasn’t something he saw every day and the way she yawned and rubbed her eyes with the sleeve of her fuzzy sweater reminded him of a bunny.

Which, in turn, reminded him the bunny he’d killed. 

He grimaced. 

She was adorable, of course, but that made him a little guilty about all the rabbits they’d been eating recently.

“Don’t worry sweetheart,” Vicrul said from the bathroom, “Solo gets frisky when it’s this early,”

Ben scowled, “Shut the fuck up,” He snarled and Vicrul laughed. Then he cringed and glanced at Rey who looked a little more awake now and was staring at him with wide eyes.

Like a deer caught in the headlights.

Damn it, why does he keep thinking of helpless game animals?

“Good back to sleep, darlin’,”  He said, “See you later,” 

She gave him a sleepy little smile and bid them both goodnight before slipping her head back in and shutting the door. 

Chapter Text

Both Ben and Vicrul were gone by the time she woke up again. She wasn’t sure what happened exactly but she hoped they didn’t fight. There was a loaf of bread on the table and a pie that was missing two slices. 

She smiled a little. 

She really lucked out with this arrangement. She got a slice of pie and a piece of the bread while the coffee was brewing. She’d learned a bit more about her landlord. 

Her phone rang, “Rey!” Rose’s cheerful voice rang out, “Hold on, I’m calling Finn too.”

She waited until Finn joined their conversation. She loved the coffee here. She has no idea where Ben gets them but he’s more than willing to share everything and so she gets to drink fancy-ass arabica every day. He’d even taught her how to use the espresso machine though, to be honest, who has the patience to use that every day? 

Who was that hunk who tagged you?” Rose squealed.

“I thought you’re going for Hux?” Finn sounded sleepy, “Though I admit, he’s hot.”

“Girl, he’s hot enough to make it seem like it’s summer instead of autumn.” Rose cackled, “Seriously, who’s he? And how did Finn know about him?”

“He’s Ben’s friend from Las Vegas,” Rey answered and dumped sugar and cream into her coffee. Ben liked his coffee sweet too. It would make sense that he has a sweet-tooth if she thought about it.

“I saw them yesterday,” Finn said with a yawn, “Christ, Rosie, it’s too early for me to hear you shouting like that.”

“Oh? Did you have a bit of fun last night?” Rose snickered, “I heard you didn’t go back to the dorm last night,”

Finn snorted, “Please, I wish. Poe’s busy preparing for the market.”

“And where are you right now?” Rey asked and suppressed a moan when she took a bite of her pie. Seriously, she’s such a lucky girl. If she wasn’t careful she’d gain a helluva lot of weight.

And Vicrul’s staying for a week. He promised to cook too and she wondered how it’d taste. Ben himself said he wasn’t as good but in her opinion he’s already great, how much more would his friend be?

“That doesn’t matter,” Finn said, “I thought you’re asking about Vicrul Ren?”

“Who?” 

“Ben’s friend,” Rey wondered if she should get another slice of pie. The bread looked good too, “His name’s Vicrul Ren. He’s the executive chef from Ben’s old workplace,” What was it called again? “Canto? He didn’t know there wasn’t room in the boardinghouse so Ben asked me to bring him home.”

“Wait, wait, wait, Rey. That’s the executive chef of Canto Bight? You’re telling me that the Prince of Pastry and the King of Fine Dining, are living with you right now? Holy cow, do you realise how lucky you are? People line up for months to have their food and you just… unbelievable,” She laughed.

“He’s going to be here for a week,” She sipped the rest of her coffee, “I’m going to clean up and take a shower. I’ll meet you guys in town,” 

The two said their goodbyes, Finn still sounding half-asleep, before hanging up. 

She poured out the rest of the coffee into a tumbler she found on one of the shelves and added a lot of cream and sugar. Ben would probably need it seeing as they all slept late and he woke up so early. Maybe if it wasn’t too busy she can ask him if he’d want to go mushroom hunting sometime. They can bring his friend too. Vicrul’s a chef too and judging by his reaction with the game meat, he seemed like he’d enjoy it too.

And if Vicrul Ren joined them, she was more likely to see more sides of Ben Solo she hasn’t seen before. 

The thought alone made her unreasonably happy.

Chapter Text

“You seem happy,” Ben said to his neighbour. 

Poe looked at him with a cheerful smile, “I’m always happy,” He said.

“Yeah but you seem extra happy today. Something good happen?” 

“Not as good as your friend coming, I guess.” Poe shrugged. He was whistling, “He’s hot, by the way,” 

“So I hear,” He made a face.

“Oh?” Poe arched a brow, “Did Rey say that too?” He didn’t answer and Poe laughed.

“I heard you went on a date,”

“Since when were you interested in my love life?” He teased and Ben scowled. 

“I’m not.” He said.

Poe went and told him anyway, “We went to the city and had lunch at Nick’s Lighthouse. There’s this really fun hot sauce store near there, too.”

“Did you have some sourdough?” The market wasn’t officially open yet but there were already people waiting and wandering around. 

“Oh! Yeah, we did. We had sourdough chips too, that was pretty cool. Oh and speaking of sourdough, I totally forgot,” He grimaced and Ben arched a brow, “Your grandma left a jar in my freezer.” This time both his brows shot up. Poe scratched the back of his neck bashfully, “Sorry, I totally forgot about it. She said it’s in case something happens and the original one dies. I don’t even know if it’s still good,”

“That’s…great news,” Padmé had been tending to one starter for years. He didn’t really need a lot to start a new batch but it’d make things easier for him if he had an established one ready to go, “It should probably be okay,”

“Remind me to bring it over to you,”

The large clock in the middle of the square started making loud bongs, signalling that it was ten

The first few customers started lining up and buying up whole pies and breads.

He wouldn’t have enough to last the whole day. 

 

“Damn, Solo, I didn’t think you’d sell out this fast,” Vicrul popped up in his stall without warning. 

Like an annoying pimple right before an important interview.

He sighed.

Poe did a double take and whistled, “Well, hello, who are you?”

Vicrul grinned and threw an arm around Ben’s shoulders, “This boy’s only friend in Vegas,” Some of the people started taking pictures. Of course they would. If the people who came here knew him, of course they’d know Vicrul too. They were the yin and yang of Canto and probably would’ve been for longer if he didn’t have to leave. 

Poe’s brows shot up, “You have friends other than me?” He pressed a hand to his chest, “He’s why you broke contact with me for ten years?”

Ben shook his arm off and he laughed, “Vicrul Ren,” He offered a hand to Poe who shook it, “I came by to visit and see how this bastard’s doin’,” He eyed the wine bottles and the huge vat of spiced wine Poe was selling, “Can I have a sample of that?”

Poe laughed, “Hun, you’re gorgeous but I’m a businessman, I can’t give free samples to every pretty face I see,” 

Vicrul clicked his tongue and then grinned, “I’ll buy some then,”

“Back of the line,” Poe pointed at the line in front of his stall and Vicrul made a face.

“Rey!” Ben turned quickly when he heard Vicrul call out her name, “Good mornin’, sweetheart!” Rey smiled and Ben felt his chest tighten. Why was it so hard to breathe all of a sudden? Was he sick? When was the last time he’d seen a doctor? 

Rey turned her blinding smile towards him.

“Bro, breathe,” Poe whispered and elbowed him in the rib.” He jerked and released the breath he’d been holding unintentionally and scowled. He handed the bag of bread to the person in front of him and gave him his change.

“Good morning,” She said and handed him his tumbler, “Brought you some coffee,” She said, beaming.

He cleared his throat and accepted it, “Thanks,” He smiled and hoped that it didn’t look too awkward.

“Rose is here too,” Rose linked her arm around Rey’s and grinned, “Mornin’ Ben!”

“Good morning, Rose,” He said and looked around. Recently, he’d been seeing Hux in the area too whenever he sees Rose.

“Armie’s coming a little later. He’s apparently not a morning person.” Her eyes shifted to Vicrul before he could even ask who the fuck Armie was, “And hello there daddy, you must be Mr. Ren,” She winked and Vicrul gave her a toothy smile.

“Hey there, baby girl, and who might you be?” He shook Rose’s hand but didn’t let go. Ben shook his head and took a sip.

He was surprised to find that the coffee was exactly as sweet and creamy as he liked.

 “Did I do it right?” Rey’s eyes twinkled with amusement.

He couldn’t help but smile too, “Perfect. Thanks, darlin’,” He said and her smile widened.

“Aw, thanks,” Rose laughed and Ben glanced at them, “But this baby already has plans with someone she’s trying to get with,” 

Vicrul laughed too, “Well, I guess I’ll just have to bother Rey to show me around, huh? What do you say, sweetheart?” He met Ben’s eyes for a moment and he scowled, “I promised I’d cook for you in return,”

“Sure, I think I saw some salmon and rainbow trout on the way here, that might interest you.” Ben frowned when Rey turned her smile towards Vicrul.

“You kidding? I love good ingredients, don’t you, Solo?” 

“Don’t we all?” He pursed his lips and resisted the urge to sell off all his goods so he can join them. Poe snickered beside him and his scowl deepened.

He turned back to focus on his business.

“Oh, sorry, sweetheart,” Vicrul said as he bumped shoulders with Jess while joking  around with Rey and Rose. 

“I’m not your sweetheart,” Jess scowled, “And watch where you’re going,”

Vicrul looked stunned.

Ben snorted back a laugh, “What can I get you?” 

“A slice of pie and extra whipped cream,” She said and gave Vicrul the side eye and he scowled, “I’m really doubting your taste in friends now, Benny,”

“Ah, you’ve heard then.” He heaped an extra dollop of cardamom-infused cream over Jess’s pie, “He’s staying for a week. You’re not on duty today?”

“Nah, we brought some horses and corralled them near the parking area of the town hall. The tourists are loving it,” She shoved a forkful of pie into her mouth and groaned, “If I didn’t think of you as my brother I’d ask you to marry me just for this.”

“Don’t joke like that,” Ben laughed, “And you’re blocking my other customers,” 

She gave Vicrul another scowl before leaving again.

“Jesus, what’s with her?” Vicrul scratched his jaw.

Chapter Text

It was almost noon by the time Finn arrived. 

Vicrul had bought some cheese and was currently checking the quality of the fish. 

“Hey, man,” Vicrul grinned at him.

“Morning, guys. I thought you’re going with Mr. Hux?” He asked Rose.

“We’re going to have lunch together,” She said with an innocent smile.

“Who’s this Mr. Hux you guys been talking about?” Vicrul picked out his fish, “Dinner’s gonna be great tonight,” He grinned, “Ya’ll are welcome, too. Of course, we gotta ask Solo first.” 

“Next time,” Rose said, “Thanks for the offer though,” She was looking around and smiled widely when she saw a very distinct redhead, “Armie! Gwen!” She started waving her arms wildly, 

It was strange seeing the two of them out and about like this. It was strange enough seeing Armitage Hux picking fruit and now he’s looking like an honest to goodness townie in a green plaid shirt and jeans.

“Good morning, Ms. Tico, Ms. Niima, Mr. Storm,” He looked at Vicrul, “Mr. Ren,” 

Vicrul’s brows shot up, “I guess word really does travel fast, huh?”

He inclined his head, “I’m Armitage Hux, the town lawyer.’

“Gwendolyn Phasma. I own the sporting goods and hunting store next to his office,” Phasma said with a pleasant smile.

“Oh ho, then if I wanna move here you two’d be the first people I should talk to, huh?” Vicrul shook their hands, “Is there a real estate agent here too, or nah?”

“People here don’t really leave,” Hux chuckled, “Take the prodigal son, for example,”

“And they better not,” They turned to see the mayor approaching them, “And if you’re planning on moving here, you should see the mayor first and foremost,” 

“Yes ma’am,” Vicrul hung his head a little.

Have they met before? “Are you finally considering moving here, then?” Leia arched a brow and Vicrul grinned.

“I see the appeal but you know me, I’m a city boy,” He said.

“Oh? Where are you from?” Phasma asked. 

Rose had slipped next to Hux and hooked an arm around his. He visibly stiffened and a flush spread over his cheeks.

He kind of looked like a strange Christmas mascot. 

“Born and raised in South Detroit,” Vicrul winked and Rey snorted back a laugh, “But in all seriousness, I am from downtown Detroit,” 

“That would explain the accent,” Leia muttered.

“What accent?” 

“Nothing, dear. So, are you relocating? We are in sore need of talents,”

“I’ve only been here two days,” He chuckled, “Though, I don’t know, maybe it’ll grow on me,” He winked at Rey, “I gotta tell you though, my professional fee’s pretty high up there,”

Rey laughed, “Sorry, I heard that from Ben, too.” 

“I said that first,” Vicrul huffed and then smiled. 

“Why don’t we all lunch together?” Leia proposed, “My treat, of course,” She glanced at Rose and Finn, “Of course, Rose and our dear lawyer here have things to discuss, am I right?” Rose nodded vigorously, “And Finn, dear, I’m sure Poe needs some help, I saw quite a number of people in front of his stall.”

Finn’s face brightened.

Rey eyed Leia who seemed to know everything happening in her town. What a terrifying skill, “Rey, would you be a dear and check if Ben’s almost done?” 

Vicrul actually looked nervous. 

Who wouldn’t be when faced with Leia Organa?

“I’ll go find Jannah,” Phasma said.

“Wait, you’re all leaving me?” Vicrul’s eyes widened.

“Well, we all kinda did have plans.” Finn gave him a smirk, “See ya,” He linked his arm with Rey’s and she shot Vicrul an apologetic smile.

 

 

They had lunch with his mother. Han arrived halfway through and ordered the biggest plate of ribs he could. Ben arched a brow.

“Oh don’t look at me like that,” Han said with a scowl, “The doctor said I can every once in a while,” Ben turned to Leia who gave him a nod. Han’s scowl deepened, “You should believe your old man every once in a while, you know. I’m trustworthy. I was mayor too.”

“An upstanding citizen,” Leia said supportively.

Seriously, sometimes he didn’t understand his parents. He was actually really surprised they lasted this long. Growing up, he’d witnessed his fair share of arguments but thinking back, they probably just really loved each other and didn’t know how to work together as a couple.

After all, they had him almost as soon as they got married.

“So, Vicrul,” Vicrul stiffened next to him and he snickered. He had no idea what happened the past couple of times he met his mother but for some reason he’s always gotten nervous around her. 

“Yes, ma’am,” He said and Ben hid a laugh and shoved the steak in his mouth. 

“Why does your mum keep asking him to move here?” Rey asked from the other side of him. He felt a little bad getting in between her and Vicrul but she didn’t seem to mind when he’d all but shoved Vicrul away to sit next to her.

It was childish really but he just couldn’t bear seeing them sitting together. 

“We have a number of lovely women here too if you’re still going to use the looking-for-a-soulmate excuse,” Leia said bluntly, “And with your looks I’m sure it’d be easy to find a partner. Unless you already have one?”

“No, ma’am,” Vicrul squirmed.

“Mom really wants to improve the town’s popularity and turn it into a destination.” Ben told Rey quietly, “We’re near enough The City but not enough for tourists to go on a detour. We’re a tiny ass town,”

“And seeing as how great our foot traffic is these past couple of weeks now that Ben’s here, Ley figured another good-looking celebrity chef wouldn’t hurt so her determination to win him over kinda went from joking to…well, serious.” Han added before shovelling mashed potatoes in his mouth.

“There’s quite a number of land in the area too,” Leia said, “And as a bonus, I’ll give you a discount on your permits and taxes,”

“Wait, can you do that?” Ben asked and Leia gave him a smug look.

“Of course, what do you think of your mother, dear?” She turned to Vicrul again, “You don’t have to answer now, just know that you’re always welcome in town. Besides, Ben can vouch for your character,”

“I can?” Ben’s brows shot up, “I’d trust him in the kitchen but not my life,”

Vicrul scowled, “Boy, that’s the same thing. If you eat my food you’re trusting me with your life.”

Leia chuckled, “Well, think about it. I’m sure you’re going to keep coming back here,”

“Well, if my sweetheart have me,” Ben scowled and he winked. 

Chapter Text

He followed closely so Vicrul wouldn’t do anything inappropriate. He felt so unreasonably responsible for both of them that it was ridiculous. Plus he didn’t like the ugly feeling he had every time his friend made a flirty remark. 

He groaned and rubbed his temple. He’s going crazy, really, he was. He’s not the time to care about other people’s relationships but here he was, meddling.

He eyed the carrots and called over Vicrul who’d bought some raspberries. He wasn’t exactly sure what his friend’s planning for dinner but if he was right, he’d need carrots.

“Oh shit, these look great!” Vicrul started picking out some carrots, beets and potatoes, “Man, to have fresh shit every day. Are you going to start farming too?” Ben nodded and he gave him a cheeky grin, “You’re turnin’ into a full-blown country boy, eh?” He paid for the vegetables and moved on to the next stall, “You got a smoker, right?”

“Yeah, I still have the camper smoker Poe’s lent,” 

“Got any alder or mesquite?”

“Nope. Probably still have some apple though,” 

Vicrul nodded thoughtfully, “You like fish, sweetheart?” 

Ben schooled his features. He’s been scowling a lot these last two days and it’s giving him a headache. 

“I can eat anything,” Rey said, “Fish, chicken, bear, snake,” She shrugged. 

“Oof, you really are amazing,” He laughed, “Don’t think I’ve ever met a lot of people who’d willingly eat those,”

“She’d hunt ‘em, then eat ‘em,” Ben said a little smugly. Rey shot him a grin.

“Speaking of hunting, I’m planning on going with to hunt for deer soon,”

“So you need fridge space?” She beamed, “Gotcha, I’ll free up some space for you, darlin’,” 

“It’s foraging season too,” She said, “Do you want to go look for mushrooms?” His heart skipped a beat. He won’t mind going, just the two of them. Then, she glanced at Vicrul, “I think you two might enjoy it.” He squashed down the disappointment he felt.

Vicrul’s eyes met his and there was a mischievous glint in them. He scowled, “We’d definitely enjoy it, sweetheart,” He said, “We’re chefs, ingredients are our life,” 

Ben rubbed the back of his neck and sighed, “Yeah, that sounds fun,” 

Seeing her smile was worth the trouble.

Plus, he knew next to nothing about looking for mushrooms so he could probably just ask her. 

His heart fluttered in excitement.

Damn it, he was in trouble. 

 

They passed by the corral on their way to Rey’s truck. Like Jess said, it was a hit to the tourists. People took pictures with the horses and rode laps around the hastily built corral. Maybe Jess would be able to connect with a buyer or two, who knows? 

“Hey Solo, you know how to ride?” Vicrul asked, “I mean, I know you grew up here and all but in my head you’ve always been this cranky, fussy pastry chef from a fancy ass school,” 

Ben frowned and eyed the horses gathered. 

Jess sat atop her grey stallion overseeing the whole operation, “I think so,” He said, frowning a little, “I’m not actually sure,” Rey looked at him, a question in her eyes, “I mean, Luke has a ranch so I’m pretty sure I spent some time there. You know how shit my memory is,” He forced out a laugh. He’d always had trouble remembering things from before he turned twelve.

“Wanna go look before we go back to your house?” Vicrul asked, “Er, maybe next time. She doesn’t look very happy,” 

Ben turned to see Jess scowling at them, “What the fuck did you do to her?” He laughed a little, “Jess isn’t someone who’d dislike someone for no reason,” 

“I dunno, I just bumped into her earlier. Maybe she’s not having a good day. Besides, the fish is gonna go bad and we still have to smoke it,” He’d never seen Vicrul frowning like that before, like it bothered him that there was someone who outright showing hostility towards him. 

It wasn’t the first time that happened though. Ben’s been witness to his countless breakups over the years, some with women Vicrul himself didn’t know he was in a relationship with. His friend didn’t exactly do relationships in the first place since it’s pretty hard to maintain with their work and lifestyle. 

“I think she’s just shy,” Rey said, “She doesn’t really react well with friendly strangers. Pretty sure that’s why she and Rose didn’t get along at first,” 

“Jess? Really?” Ben’s brows shot up, “What are you talking about, this is Jessika Pava,”

“You kinda grew up with her, right?” Rey said and went around to the drivers’ seat of her truck. Ben narrowed his eyes at Vicrul when he tried to go to the passengers’ seat. Vicrul grinned and raised his hands before sliding towards the backseat. Rey continued when they were all seated. He fastened his seatbelt, “But she doesn’t seem comfortable with people she didn’t grow up with.”

“She seems fine with you though,” Jess had always been on of the boys if his memory served him right. He didn’t hang out with her as often as he did with Lumpy since she and Poe and Jannah were all younger than them but they all knew enough about each other to be considered friends. Growing up, there weren’t really a lot of kids. 

“Poe introduced us,” Rey said, “Since I fix his truck. I was with Rose at the time and she…wasn’t really friendly.” She laughed a little, “But she’s nice once you get to know her. She lends me books,” 

“Oh? What kinda books you read, sweetheart?” Vicrul asked before he could. He grimaced. 

Rey flushed, “Um, just books,” Ben stared; now he was curious too. What the hell kind of books does Jessika Pava lend her? 

“Oh, I think I know what kinda books they are,” Vicrul snickered and she turned even redder. 

Ben seethed and kept quiet. 

Chapter Text

Ben and Vicrul worked well together. The moment the two started it was like all the teasing and friendliness flew out the window and all that’s left are two very professional chefs who worked confidently and smoothly together. 

Ben gathered and laid out all the utensils they’d be using while Vicrul washed the vegetables and filleted the trout. Then, as the he marinated the fish, Ben sliced up the carrots per Vicrul’s orders.

There were even terms that she’d never actually heard before like fine brunoise and Japanese bias. Weren’t they just mince and slice? 

She busied herself with lighting up the smoker. The thing she noticed when Ben was cooking is that he usually have everything laid out and measured in advance. It was actually a pretty good habit compared to her who had no idea what to make usually and kinda just winged it. They probably both had that habit. She didn’t think a pastry chef and a fine dining chef had a lot of opportunities to work together for the same meal but it’d be hard to tell with the way they were moving.

“Do you always bring your own knives and spices?” She asked and Vicrul gave her another one of his cheerful grins.

“Most chefs prefer to use their own knives, sweetheart,” He said, “And making spice mixes is a lil hobby of mine,” 

Ben nodded, “It’s more comfortable to use your own knife,” He was slicing pieces of the carrots and beets and laying them all out in a baking sheet. 

Vicrul started simmering the raspberries in sugar. 

“Do you guys need any help? I can, I don’t know, wash the dishes?” Usually Ben cooks everything by himself but seeing the two working together while she’s just sitting by the backdoor while waiting for the smoker to heat up seemed a little strange. Plus, Ben had a cut on his finger. He’d replaced the bandage he had earlier with a bright pink band-aid, making his pale skin look even paler. 

“We’re fine, darlin’,” Ben oiled and spiced the vegetables generously and she wondered again what they were making, “Just tell us when the smoker reaches one-seventy-five,”

Watching them was so lovely and almost hypnotic. 

She took a short video of them and sent it to her group chat with Rose and Finn. None of them were online so she guessed they were probably busy with their newfound boyfriends. 

Not that Hux knows that Rose is trying to get him to date her. If there was any man denser than Ben Solo, it was Armitage Hux.

She stilled and frowned. Did she like Ben Solo? She wasn’t trying to get him to date her but she has to admit that he’s perfect boyfriend material. She flushed. Would it be weird if she takes a page out of Rose’s book and…try? He’s still technically her landlord and one should never date their landlords. Her frown deepened. Rose would tell her unashamedly to go for it and Finn would probably tell her to be careful.

“Send me that video, sweetheart, or tag me,” Vicrul called out. She looked up, flushing a little knowing that she was caught. He winked. She sent it to him and he grinned before focusing back on…whatever it was they were cooking.

She called them when the smoker reached the temperature they wanted and Vicrul came over with a pair of tongs and the fillets.

He placed them inside before rushing back to the counter.

It’d take a while for the fish to smoke.

Ben was chopping up some garlic and onions this time. She never could chop those so quickly and evenly. Heck, why wasn’t he tearing up with all that onion?

Vicrul started frying the bacon in a large stockpot and her stomach rumbled. 

He took them out and placed them into a paper-lined bowl and Ben dumped the minced onion and garlic inside to replace it. She expected it to be a lot noisier, like on tv, but the two worked quickly without even needing to talk often.

How did Ben even know what he’s supposed to do? Did the two plan their dinner or was it some sort of telepathy?

“Dice the potatoes,” Vicrul said and Ben grunted. He glanced up at Rey.

“Hey Rey, why don’t you grate us some cheddar?” He asked and she smiled. Finally, something to do.

She found a spot in the counter, grabbed the cheddar and the grater and got to work.

Chapter Text

Ben remembered why he considered Vicrul his friend and mentor. When he was just starting out  in Canto he was the only person who called him out on his behaviour and even fired some of the people he had fights with. He didn’t judge him and even taught him a couple of tricks he wouldn’t have known before. Their relationship started like that, with the older man pulling him into the main kitchen to watch or help out whenever they were done with the pastry-making. 

He wasn’t sure what that man saw in him but somehow they ended up like this. He didn’t expect they’d be cooking together again any time soon especially after their popularity started exploding, but then again he didn’t expect to leave Canto either or for Vicrul to suddenly pop up in town to visit. If Poe had declared himself as Ben’s best friend, he could probably, honestly say that Vicrul was the older brother he never had. 

That still didn’t mean he should stop giving him shit for playing around with his housemate. 

He ladled and garnished their soup while Vicrul plated their meal. He laid the smoked trout, cut in equal bite-sized portions, over a bed of roasted carrots and beets, drizzled the raspberry sauce he’d made, and then took a few pictures.

knight.ren dinner’s best when made with friends. Thanks sous-chef @ben_solo_bakes and assistant @Rey.Niima. What’s for dessert, Solo? #ChandrilaCooking #ShouldIMoveHere? #FreshIngredients #ChandrilaCalifornia 

He shook his head and called Rey who’d taken a shower after watching over the smoker. She came down in a sunflower-printed t-shirt and sweatpants. 

“Wow, that looks pretty,” Her eyes were bright, “Kinda like I don’t want to touch it?”

“Aw, come on sweetheart, you’re gonna break my heart,” Vicrul laughed, “It’s just a habit. It’s actually not as clean as I’d like,” 

“It’s called rustic,” Ben said, “You’re in the boonies so it works out,” 

They each brought their food to the table. Vicrul still sat next to Rey.

“When are we going to pick mushrooms?” Vicrul asked.

“I have class tomorrow and Tuesday so maybe Wednesday?” Rey said. She looked at Ben who shrugged.

“Sure, Wednesday’s fine.” He said.

“What are you plannin’ on doing tomorrow?” Vicrul asked him.

“Probably work on the bakery.”

Vicrul pursed his lips, “Need help?”

He shook his head, “You go look around. Poe’s got a vineyard you can probably take a tour,” 

“I can fix your porch,” Ben arched a brow, “What? I know how to fix shit too. Besides, I’m gonna be here a couple days and there ain’t much to see anyway,”

“My mother would be so hurt to hear that,” He took a bite of his fish.

Vicrul laughed, “How is it?” He asked.

“What do you mean, how is it? Of course it’s good.” Ben scowled and Vicrul grinned at him. Then, he turned to Rey.

“What do you think, sweetheart, good enough to marry me?” He winked at Rey who laughed. Ben rolled his eyes. 

“Definitely high up there in the marriageable list,” She said, grinning back, “But I don’t know, I’m more of a sweets kinda gal,” She met Ben’s eyes and winked. He blinked. What? Was she…?

Vicrul clicked his tongue, “Damn it, I knew I should’ve gone that route instead. I make a mean fudge though,”

Ben eyed Rey. He was sure he didn’t imagine that saucy little smirk and that wink. 

Solo,” He jerked and looked at Vicrul who was smirking at him, “Don’t you think so too?”

“What?” He felt the heat rising to his cheeks. Jesus, what kind of thirty-year-old man gets lost in daydreams?

“Don’t you think it’d be great to show your face online every once in a while once your bakery opens up?” How did the conversation veer towards that?

“I don’t like taking pictures of myself,” He said.

“It’ll be great publicity for the town though. Hell, I couldn’t even get a goddamn room and it’s only a very limited Sunday Market stall,”

“Stop listening to my mother,” 

He barked out a laugh, “How can I not? Your mother is scary as fuck,” He elbowed Rey, “Rey agrees with me,”

Ben met her eyes and she shrugged, “You’re called the Prince of Pastry,” She said and he cringed, “Pretty sure that has something to do with your pretty face,”

“My face is not pretty,” He made a face and Vicrul started laughing.

“If not your face, how about your body, huh?” He said, “I heard baking half-naked’s a thing now. Maybe with just an apron, what do you think?” 

Rey giggled.

Ben rolled his eyes and tried not to let it show just how flustered her giggle made him, “Fuck you,”

Chapter Text

Ben was heating leftover soup and making stir-fry from the leftover vegetables from the night before. He wasn’t sure if Rey liked rice but stir-fry should always be eaten with rice in his opinion. 

He’d even used the extra raspberry sauce Vicrul made for a quick panna cotta he’d left sitting in the fridge since the night before. He’d poured it into a jar he’d found in one of his shelves so it’s easier to seal and transport. 

He packed them up neatly in one of those heat insulated lunch boxes he’d also found among his things. He wasn’t even sure where it came from since it was still sealed in its original box. Was it gifted to him a couple of christmases ago? 

He sealed it up and started making breakfast.

“Something smells good,” Han barged in and he jumped, almost spilling the pancake batter he was about to scoop into the pan.

“Jesus Christ, dad, how’d you get in?” He cursed and wiped at his counter. The pancake wouldn’t be a perfect circle and he frowned.

“I have a spare key,” Han said and gave him a shit-eating grin, “Can I have some of that?”

“Pancakes? How many? Can you even eat these?”

His father huffed, “‘Course I can,” 

“If you say so. Three good?” Han nodded, “What brings you here so early?”

“Rey fixed up the truck so it’s perfect now. And we gotta get you a dog while they’re still young, you know?”

“Rey did?” He stacked three fluffy pancakes and added a generous pat of butter on top. He slid the raspberry sauce, maple syrup and whipped cream over to Han who dumped generous amounts of everything, “You should watch out for your blood sugar, dad.” 

Han snorted, “I’m as healthy as a horse,”

Ben made two more short stacks of pancakes and two mugs of coffee in time for Rey to appear. 

“Boss?” She blinked, “What are you doing here?”

Han grinned, “Hey, kid.” He waved his knife around, spattering a little whipped cream on the counter, “You’re not allergic to dogs, right?”

“I love dogs,” 

“Great,” Han grinned, “We’re getting Ben one today.”

She looked at him wide-eyed, “No way?”

“We’re not sure yet,” Ben said, “Now eat your breakfast or you’ll be late for school,” He watched her pour everything on it like Han did and shook his head.

He stuck with the basic butter and maple syrup.

“None for Vicrul?” She asked and his lip twitched down. Han looked amused.

“Chances are he won’t be up ’til lunchtime.” He said, “Besides, he can feed himself.” 

She finished off her breakfast quickly and he slid the lunchbox towards her. She looked up, confused, “That’s not mine,”

“I found it in my stuff,” He said, “Never used it.”

“Oh,” She was frowning.

“It’d be a waste if it was never used,” This time he held it out to her. She took it gingerly, her fingers brushed the backs of his and a shiver ran down his spine, “It’s just some repurposed leftovers so don’t expect too much,” He rubbed the back of his neck.

“Your food is always great,” She said and moved to bring her plate to the sink.

“Leave it.” He said, “You’ll be late,”

“Are you sure?” She was still frowning.

Han chuckled, “Let him be. He doesn’t like people messing around in his kitchen. Have a good day in school, kid.” 

“Thanks for breakfast,” She said and chugged down the rest of her coffee, “See you later, boss,” She gave him a huge smile before walking out of the kitchen.

“Why don’t you just ask the girl out, eh?” Han asked while Ben was collecting the plates.

“What are you talking about, dad, we’re just friends,” He turned around so his father wouldn’t see the expression on his face. 

“Right, so you act like a goddamned househusband for everyone, is that it?” 

He shook his head, “Just leave it, alright? Besides, she seems to like Vicrul,”

Han snorted, “That kid? Damn, son,” He shook his head, “Everyone can see he’s tryin’ to rile you up.”

“Just leave it be.”

“I’m just telling you, you shouldn’t be too stubborn and let it happen.” Han shrugged, “Anyway, if you’re done, let’s go,” 

Chapter Text

Ben tried his best to resist. 

He really wasn’t ready for the responsibility. 

But he just caved the moment he met those big brown eyes. 

“Meh, just take that runt,” Farmer Miller grunted. His deep-set eyes always made Ben uncomfortable, “Not sure what use he’d be to ya though,” He spat out tar and Ben grimaced, “We don’t usually get a big litter like this ‘un. He’s the ninth to come out. Not sure why he’s black though,” 

“I’ll take him,” Ben said. The dog wagged its tail and panted, tongue lolling out. His golden-haired siblings rolled around behind him and he paid them no mind, “How much?”

“Meh, hundred bucks and a pie,” He said and Ben gave him a little half-smile.

“Alright, deal.” They shook on it and the puppy’s tail wagged even harder when he reached down to carry him up.

It jumped up and licked his chin. He grimaced, “Whatcha naming him?” Han asked and rubbed the puppy’s head.

“Niney,” Han’s brows shot up and he lifted one shoulder in a half-shrug, “He’s the ninth, isn’t he?”

Farmer Miller clicked his tongue, “Not very creative at naming, are you?” He shrugged again.

He pulled out a crisp one-hundred dollar bill from his wallet with one hand and handed it to the old man, “I’ll bring you the pie sometime this week,” He nodded and waved them away.

“Alright, alright, now get outta my property,” 

He handed the keys to the truck to Han. It was a breeze to drive but he had more important things to think about. Specifically about the little fuzzball curling up in his arm and yawning. 

They took a detour to the small veterinarian clinic where Dr. Baze Malbus, a hippie-looking guy, looked Niney over. 

“Looks healthy,” He said, pushing up Niney’s cheeks to check on his gums, “Good teeth. He’s not scheduled for a five-in-one until next week though so come back then.”

“Thanks Baze,” Han grinned, “Told ya he’s gonna go for it,” 

Ben paid for the check-up and picked up some puppy food and treats from the limited selection in the clinic to tide them over until he can order more online. He’d probably need a bed too. He doesn’t really believe in kennel training dogs especially not something that’d grow big. Plus, he should get used to running around in a yard. 

Maybe he can get Poe to babysit sometime too so he gets used to other farm animals. Niney yipped. Han took a picture and he scowled.

“What? I’m sending it to your mother. Our first grandchild,” 

“Dad, he’s a farm dog,” 

Han snorted, “Right, don’t gamble with me, son, you know how good I am at gambling.” Ben frowned and looked down at the puppy still staring up at him with that stupid grin on his face. 

Damn it. He was right. There’s no way he wouldn’t spoil the shit out of him. He’s already got Ben wrapped around his tiny little paw. Niney gave him another lick. Han gave him a smug smile.

Han drove them back to the farmhouse, “So, what do you think of the truck?” He asked. They brought the stuff in. Niney was small, just a little bigger than his hand. Farmer Miller wasn’t wrong when he said he was a runt, “Runs great, right?”

“Yup, it’s pretty good. How much is it?” 

“You’ll take it?” He nodded, “I’ll negotiate it. Guy wants to trade it for your sedan, said his kid’s moving to the city.”

“Oh, okay. Keys are by the front door.” Ben frowned at the newly washed dishes on his rack. Vicrul was up. His car was still out front so that means he didn’t leave the house or anything.

What day was it?

“You might want to show that one where to take a piss and shit,” Han said before saying his goodbyes and leaving.

He walked out the backdoor. The back porch looked more complete than it did yesterday, with more than half of the rotting floorboards replaced and waiting to be sealed. The porch really wasn’t on his list of priorities. 

Niney squirmed and he let him down. He bounded over the new floorboards, running around to the side of the house. 

“Oh, hello?” Vicrul crouched down to pet Niney who sat in front of him.

“I thought you quit?” 

He looked up and gave him wry smile, “Sort of,” He was holding the cigarette between his pointer and middle finger and stood. He crushed it against the top of a soda can before dropping it inside, “He’s cute,”

“You didn’t really come here just to mess with me, did you?” 

His smile widened and for a moment it didn’t reach his pale green eyes, “Well, it was nice to see you that’s for damn sure.”

“Why are you really here?” 

“You already know why,”

“Why haven’t you asked?”

“You look happy here.” He said, “Why the fuck would I try to convince you to leave when you look like you finally found where you’re supposed to be?”

Ben scowled, “It’s only for five years,”

“Nah, I don’t think so.” He stretched his back with a groan, “I think you’re going to settle down here, have a nice-sized farm, grow some fruits and a couple of kids that look like you,” 

“And who’s going to bear those children for me?” He asked with an incredulous laugh, “I’m not in a relationship nor looking to be in one.”

Niney stumbled off of the porch and Ben flinched. The pup shook himself off and bounded a little ways only to crouch in the middle of what used to be the herb garden to take deuce. He grimaced.

Vicrul laughed. Then, he turned to him, the sparkle back in his eyes, “You’re seriously askin’ me who’s gonna bear your children?” His smile widened into a grin, “Pretty sure you already have an idea,” He winked and Rey’s wide eyes flashed in his mind. Heat rose to his cheeks, “You should act fast, Solo, before some pimply kid goes up to her and marries her,”

“I don’t see any pimples on you,”

He barked out a laugh, loud and familiar, “I never mentioned who I was talking about,” Ben flushed and Vicrul shook his head, “You’re a dense motherfucker, you know that? Didn’t you hear her? She likes sweets more. Pretty sure she’s implyin’ somethin’ there. Besides, you know I didn’t mean anything about it, right?”

He shrugged. In some part of his head he did. Otherwise he would’ve probably ended up in a fistfight with the one man he knew could send him to the hospital. 

“Whatcha think of the porch?” He grinned, “You think I got a future as a carpenter?” 

Vicrul didn’t talk about what makes his mood turn mellow around this time every year and he didn’t ask either. 

Ben didn’t like to pry into people’s pasts. Some things are better left dead, after all, killed if necessary. 

Chapter Text

Rey fell in love. 

If she didn’t think she liked Ben Solo earlier, now she was sure. If the image of him sleeping on the floor in their never-used living room with a puppy on his stomach didn’t do it, she wasn’t sure what would. She bit her lip.

Her phone buzzed and the puppy lifted its head up to look at her. 

It was a photo of the exact scene she’s looking at. She turned to find Vicrul leaning against the doorframe, arms crossed and grinning. She flushed.

“You look like you wanted it,” He said and winked. The puppy jumped off with a soft ‘woof’. Ben groaned a little before opening his eyes. He stared up at them blearily.

“Oh, you’re back,” He murmured and yawned. He stretched and his shirt rode up and she looked away, but not before she caught a glimpse of that tantalising line of muscle that ran diagonally down his hip and into his low-riding jeans. 

He sat up and she remembered Vicrul’s comment about Ben baking half-naked. 

The puppy bounced towards him and jumped on his lap, tail wagging, “He’s cute,” She said. 

“His name’s Niney,” He said and stood. The puppy tumbled off of his lap, “What time is it?” He yawned, “We were ordering dog stuff. I guess I fell asleep,” It was only then that she noticed the laptop she’d never seen before sitting on the floor next to the coffee table. 

“It’s just a little after four-thirty,” Vicrul said, “Porch’s mostly done,”

“Oh,” Ben frowned, “I said I was going to help,”

Vicrul snorted, “Please, it’s nothing much. What do you two want for dinner? I’ll cook,” He winked. 

Rey realised that in the last two months she’s been in this house, not once did she cook anything. 

Not even cup ramen.

She’d never eaten healthier in her life. 

“Is it windy out?” Ben murmured. She looked up to meet his eyes. Did she ever notice how deep and dark they were? “Should be check the storm shutters?” He pushed her hair back and she sucked in a breath. She looked away and reached up to fix her hair. She didn’t even realise how messy it was. 

His lip twitched up a little.

“You know if it’s gonna rain the porch’d go to waste,” Vicrul said. 

Ben cursed. He patted her shoulder absent-mindedly, “Did you finish sealing it?” His hand was warm and heavy.

“Just the first coat, which maybe I shouldn’t have since I don’t know if it’ll dry,” 

“I don’t think it’ll rain,” She said, “It’s just a bit windy for now. Maybe tomorrow we’ll see some rain?”

“That’s good,” Ben sighed.

Rey eyed the puppy as he sniffed around inconspicuously, “Er,” He started turning in a circle on Ben’s grandmother’s rug, “Ben?”

“Hm?” He looked at her and jerked his hand away, flushing a little, “Sorry,” 

“That’s fine but uh, your dog,” She inclined her head towards Niney who’d crouched.

“Oh shit,” Ben jumped and grabbed the dog as he tried to do a number two on the rug.

Vicrul snorted and then laughed, “Literally,” He said.

Ben scowled and ran out the door.

Chapter Text

 It was a good day to forage. It wasn’t too cold but it wasn’t warm either. The air was heavy and damp from yesterday’s rain. All three of them were equipped with baskets and she’d even squirrelled some foldable bags in her too-large jacket in case they find things that aren’t mushrooms. 

She had her shotgun with her too just in case.

It was a mountainous trial, rocky and uneven. They went deeper inside the forest. 

“This is the first time I’m actually foraging here,” She said, “But you actually do find mushrooms in Arizona,”

Ben was looking around seriously. Did he ever go foraging before?

“Aren’t those huckleberries?” Vicrul pointed to a particularly large shrub with dark purplish fruits.

“Pretty sure that’s deadly,” Ben said, “Huckleberries look a lot like belladonnas,”

“Have you foraged before?” Rey asked and he shrugged.

“There’s some mushrooms over there,” He pointed in the other direction, “I think they might be chanterelles,” 

They made their way towards where Ben saw them and she gaped at the sheer number of them. Who knew golden chanterelles were so common? They started harvesting the long funnel-shaped fungi from under the towering oak trees.

“Are those edible?” Ben asked, pointing at a mushroom growing in clusters to look like pretty little yellow corals.

“Er, yes.” She said, “But they’re uh…are kinda like a laxative?” He paled and she chuckled.

Once they finished they moved on, leaving the smaller mushrooms. Hopefully there’s enough spores spread around and the mycelium grows properly so they can come back again. 

They hiked up.

“Those look like reishi mushrooms,” Vicrul said, pointing at the thick, colourful disks on some mossy tree bark.

“The what?” Ben blinked, “Aren’t those turkey tails?”

“Are you sure you’ve never gone foraging before?” She asked and he shrugged again.

“You remember Channie right? That old dim sum chef we had?” Ben nodded, “He had this special, limited edition dumpling using mushrooms that look like those except darker. Supposed to be good for you immune system or something?”

He shook his head and he laughed, “Well, whatever, they’re edible, right?”

She confirmed that yes, they’re edible.

She eyed Ben who started shuffling around and kicking leaves away from the ground.

“You’re curious, aren’t you?” Vicrul said as he carefully extricated the leathery mushrooms from their log, “About what’s going on in his head,”

“He seems to know things,” She said, “But also not. So yes, I’m a little curious,” 

“I mean, there are things you can’t forget,” He said, “Like finding mushrooms,”

“Porcinis, here!” Ben called out and Vicrul whipped his head towards him.

“Where?” Vicrul shuffled over to them, “Holy shit they’re gorgeous,”

“Careful there’s some fly amanita over there,” She pointed out the pretty red and white capped mushroom.

“Oh damn, I didn’t think I’d ever see one of those,” Vicrul took a few photos, “It’s like in the game. Maybe we can make poison from it,” 

She shook her head and left them to harvest their porcini and wandered around to see if she can find some oysters or lion’s mane, maybe even some chicken of the woods and morels if she’s lucky. 

The two joined her after a while looking like two little boys who found a stash of sweets.

“Look out for oak trees and maybe some rotting wood. We might find some chicken of the woods,”

“Does it taste like chicken?” Vicrul asked and chuckled, “Kidding, sweetheart. I know they’re great.”

She noticed a group of tiny dark orange-capped mushrooms amidst some rotting wood and moss. She picked one and grinned at the incredibly sweet smell, “Ben, I think you’re going to like these,” She said and he looked at her with those eyes; wide and hopeful and excited.

She’d only seen it in glimpses when he’s cooking or baking. Other times they were shuttered and dim, even when he was smiling. 

He lumbered over to her and his face brightened when he saw what they were, “Candy caps!” His dimples popped and for a moment she forgot where they were.

Those dimples are dangerous.

Chapter Text

Rey found candy caps. That, is the best mushrooms to work with in his opinion. It’s not often he can make desserts out of mushrooms and candy caps are amazing. Sure he was pretty excited about the chanterelles and the porcini, he’d even be excited for morels, but  candy caps. He could make her a bomb-ass flan and ice cream or even some cupcakes with these. The possibilities are literally endless.

Pain spiked through his temple and he winced. He didn’t get headaches as often as he did when he was younger but when it does happen, it always left him mildly dizzy and confused. It didn’t really last long either. He sat down to let it pass.

“Ben?” She bent to meet his eyes, “Are you okay?” 

“I’m fine,” He said with a grimace, “Just got a little dizzy there.”

Vicrul stumbled through the brush, “It’s happening again?” He frowned, “How long ago was the last one?”

“Couple of months ago,” He said and sipped some water slowly, “I’m fine,”

“Do you want to go back now?” Rey looked worried. His chest tightened and he felt a warm at the thought of her actually worrying.

“It’s fine,” He said, “It’ll pass in a few minutes.”

“Well, we could use a little break,” Vicrul said and he was grateful for the suggestion. Vicrul plopped down next to him and started harvesting the candy caps with his little knife, “You better make something amazin’ from these, Solo cuz I don’t know how to use em.” 

“Of course I would,” He snorted and winced again. The nice thing about Vicrul was that he didn’t ask questions either. The first time Vicrul had seen him with a headache like this, he’d almost dropped the cake he’d been transporting to the chiller. The man didn’t question it when he said it’ll pass in a few. He didn’t even ask what the hell he was sick with.

Which, he really wasn’t sick with anything. He’d asked. The doctors couldn’t tell him anything other than tension headaches. 

Was he too excited and overexerted himself? He has been waking up early recently too and didn’t really have time to rest with everything he’s been doing.

“Are you sure you’re okay?” Rey asked. She was frowning and he gave her what he hoped was convincing smile.

“Of course I am, darlin’,” Her frown deepened and he chuckled, “I’m serious,” 

His phone buzzed and he pulled it out.

“You have service here?” Vicrul’s brows shot up.

“No, not really,” He said, “It’s spotty.” It was a message from Poe. He’d sent it almost an hour ago, “Poe said Niney’s getting along with BB. The chickens…not so much.” 

“Aw, did he send a picture?” Rey asked. She’d gone crazy for Niney after he’d gone up to her to give her a lick. She went so far as making faces and talking to him in a high-pitched tone Ben had never heard before. 

It was cute, if a little surprising. Sometimes he forgets that she was still young with how responsible and serious she was. Then she goes off to show him a side of herself that’s just playful and cheeky that he just didn’t know what to make of it.

“I didn’t get any,” He said and she looked so disappointed that he texted Poe to take some pictures and videos for them for when they come back. Hopefully he receives the message.

After a while, he stood up and brushed the dirt and leaves on his pants.

“You alright now?” Vicrul asked and he nodded.

“Are you sure?” Rey was still frowning. She blew a stray lock of hair from her face and he smiled.

“I’m fine,” He said and pushed her hair back behind her ear. She stiffened and her eyes widened a little, like a deer caught in the headlights. His eyes trailed the flush that rose up to her cheeks. He met her eyes and arched a brow. She turned even pinker, “Are you okay?” His lip twitched up, “You’re looking a little red, darlin’, you sure you’re not the one who’s not feeling well?” 

She sucked in a breath and tried to scowl. She really did remind him of a bunny; or maybe even a cat. Speaking of, he should get one too if he’s really going to be serious about whole farm thing. 

“Let’s go?” He gave her another smile and she made a soft sound of distress before stepping back and and nodding.

Vicrul snorted back a laugh. 

Rey walked ahead of them, a little stiffly and he grimaced. Was that too much? He didn’t want her to make a fuss.

Vicrul threw an arm around his shoulders, “Damn, boy,” He whispered with a soft laugh, “I didn’t think you had it in you. I’m telling you by this time next year you two’d be married with a little one on the way.”

He scowled, “Of course not.” Not until she graduates and opens up her business.

Vicrul snorted back a laugh and slapped his back.

“Guys! Hurry up, I think see some elderberries!” The dappled sunlight pierced through the thick canopy and seemed to illuminate her from behind. 

He swallowed audibly.

Fuck, he really was in trouble. 

Chapter Text

They ended up with such a huge haul. It was amazing how much two full-grown men almost twice her size can carry and she was so glad she brought extra bags. They actually stumbled upon some real huckleberries and a few conifer trees. Both would be amazing as teas. 

Unfortunately, they also stumbled into poison oak too while gathering huckleberries which cut their trip short.

Still, it was fun save for the ridiculous itching. 

“Jesus fucking Christ, Solo, you don’t have calamine or something?” Vicrul, who’d taken the brunt of it by wearing a t-shirt, scowled as scratched his arms, “I thought that was supposed to be part of any regular first aid kit?”

“We’ll just pass by the pharmacy it’s fine,” Ben chuckled. His hands had welts but it didn’t look as bad as Vicrul’s, “Don’t scratch,”

“Oh, fuck you.” Vicrul sighed and settled at the back morosely.

They bought huge bottles of the stuff and Vicrul practically poured it over his arms to the point that his skin was all pink. He sighed. 

Then they went to get Niney from Poe’s.

They’d segregated the mushrooms into its different species but they’d also made a separate wild mushroom mix for Poe as thanks for babysitting the puppy. 

She’d always wanted a pet but Unkar wasn’t one to invest in something that had no benefit to him and it wasn’t like she could ask either. He could just as easily throw her away. They drove up Poe’s driveway.

The persimmon trees had even more lights around it, twinkling wildly in different colours, almost as through Poe was getting ready for Christmas already. 

“Damn, it’s not even dark yet,” Vicrul said, looking out the window, “This where you got the persimmons, huh? Nice trees. Not as tall as I thought,” 

“Poe got those mini ones.” Ben said, “Maybe there’s still some ready for harvest,” 

“Nah, I’m good.” He was still scratching his arms, “Not really too fond of those. Oh, but I did use some for a special in the buffet last time. That was a big hit,”

“The chicken?” 

“Yup,”

They went up Poe’s porch and he opened the door. Niney bounded out and Ben crouched down to catch the jumping puppy. Poe’s dog woofed from the inside the house. He lifted him up like a baby.

“You got a fight with some poison oak, huh?” Poe grinned at Vicrul who shrugged.

“Those things are nasty,” He chuckled, “But we got a lot of good shit. Ain’t that right, sweetheart?” Rey nodded.

“Here,” She said, handing Poe the bag of mushrooms, “We got some huckleberries too,”

His face brightened, “Oh hey! Finn loves those!” Rey blinked back in surprise. Really? She had no idea.

Vicrul snorted and then started laughing. 

Poe looked like he was trying to hide a smile. He cleared his throat.

“Seriously?” Vicrul was still laughing. Poe nodded, “That’s funny,”

Ben coughed but it looked like he was trying not to laugh too. What was so funny? Niney stilled in Ben’s arms and stared at her before wriggling off of his arms. Ben jerked and crouched quickly so he wouldn’t fall off the whole six-some-feet that is Ben Solo.

He panted over to her, tail wagging so hard his whole body was shaking.

“Damn Solo, looks like your child’s already leaving the nest,” Poe chuckled, “Already going after women, huh?” 

She bent down and the puppy jumped into her arms. She stumbled and ended up on her ass. She laughed.

“Well, that pup knows a good thing when he sees it.” Vicrul said with a wink, “Ain’t that right, Solo?” He arched a brow at Ben who cleared his throat and looked away. His cheeks seemed to glow pink under the light of the setting sun.

“That’s fine, whatever makes him happy.” Then he looked at her again, “You don’t mind, do you?”

She grinned, “Of course not, he’s adorable. I love him already.”

“Wait until he gets the size of BB,” Poe laughed, “Did I ever mention that BB was a runt too?” He turned back to look at Ben, “Should I assume we’ll have pie again soon?”

“Hm?” Ben was still looking at her, “I was thinking some crostata. We still have some raspberries leftover too. Maybe some jam,” Rey actually wasn’t sure if he was looking at her anymore. His eyes had turned shuttered and distracted and he started to murmur to himself.

“Ah, he’s going in his creative zone again,” Vicrul chuckled and met her eyes, “Don’t mind it, sweetheart. That’s a genius at work,” 

She flushed, cleared her throat and looked down at the puppy nuzzling her chest.  

 

Chapter Text

Vicrul got around town really quickly. He’s always been quick to adapt but Ben didn’t think the whole town would know him in less than a week. He had to go back to Vegas too soon and they’d decided to send frozen game meat and some of the mushrooms they’d foraged the day before back home with him. 

“Man, I’m gonna miss this place,” Vicrul said. They were working in the bakery. Vicrul was a surprisingly good carpenter and got along really well with Lumpy. Ben had never seen that man take to a stranger so quickly before, “You still have some of those muffins from this morning?”

He jerked his head towards back inside the shop, “They’re in the kitchen,” The kitchen equipment had all been newly installed and though they still had to clean up the dirt and dust settling from the retiling, everything looked shiny and new.

“You didn’t save me some of those candy cap cupcakes you made. I’m a little hurt,” 

“We didn’t find too many of them and I wanted to make ice cream,” He said while he sealed the sign with another coat of varnish, “Besides you ate three yesterday,” He’ll put up the sign once the flooring of the main dining area has been fixed. At the rate they were going, he might actually be able to open by the Harvest Festival next month instead. His grandmother, it seemed, was a great engineer. There was barely anything needed to be done with the plumbing and the wiring, was actually still good. He just didn’t want to risk something catching fire since, well, it was old as fuck.

Would she have liked what he’d done with the place?

He winced when another sharp pain stung at his temple. Yesterday, and now today too? His headaches had gotten a lot better since he’d left and now that he’s back here, are they coming back? He didn’t think he hit his head too much while playing football. 

“You know, this back lot’s a good area to have a lil greenhouse,” Vicrul said as he chewed on a mushroom Parmesan muffin, “With like little pots and of herbs and everything. You said you’re going to have a cafe here too, right?” 

Ben frowned at him and looked out towards the enclosed area. He wasn’t wrong. It’d be a great idea. He’d have to ask Hux about the land usage though. Was this area still part of his property? He knew he had leeway about his construction simply because his mother’s the mayor and everyone knew him but what about in the future?

“It’s a good idea but I have to check with the lawyer.” Vicrul nodded. The idea of using fresh herbs to use in his bread everyday made his heart pound. Would it be sustainable? He can ask Rey and her friends to spread the word about the cafe in the university and he was sure the locals would love the bread. He’d have to come in early though until he can hire another baker. Can he slowly introduce artisan bread and pastries here, too? It’d be great for business if Chandrila became a foodie hotspot, “I think we might be able to open in time for the Harvest Festival,” He told Vicrul who was eating another muffin.

“Tell me when you’re opening so I can file my leave,” He said, “Unless of course you don’t want me to pop up here,” He grinned. Ben rolled his eyes.

“Of course you’re welcome to come. You look like you’re pretty much at home already,”

“What can I say? Everyone loves me,” He winked.

“I can think of someone who doesn’t like you.”

Vicrul barked out a laugh, “I’ll work on it. I’ll go buy a drink, what do you want?” 

“Coffee,”

“Why am I not surprised?” He chuckled.

“I’ll heat our lunch. Go.” He waved Vicrul away and called Lumpy in. The man lumbered in and wiped the stainless steel work table before sitting on one of the chairs they’d dragged into the kitchen, “I hope you don’t mind vegan for today.”

Lumpy made a face and Ben laughed, “I swear it’s good. You won’t even know the difference,” He popped the fajitas he’d made this morning into microwave.

Vicrul came back quickly with a bag of drinks, “Smells like Mexican,”

“Fajitas,” Lumpy grunted before turning to Ben, “We’re going to start repainting the facade next week. Lando said the colours you ordered arrived,” 

He nodded, “Alright. The weather seems clear for next week,”

“It’s going to be tight. There’s a rainstorm on the way but if we don’t paint the exterior it might cause more damage to the exposed wood.”

“If it’s raining we can probably paint the interiors, right?” Lumpy nodded, “When would my hardwood arrive, you think?”

“Next week too. I can come with a couple of men to help with the floor.” He took a large bite out of his fajita and paused.

Ben grinned, “Tastes like chicken, huh?” 

“Good call on going vegan,” Vicrul said, “If you want the town to be a food destination you’re gonna have to think about catering to a wide variety of diets. Gluten-free and vegan at the very least,” 

“Sugar-free,” Ben said and Vicrul gave a nod. He chewed. It was actually the first time he’d cooked these mushrooms but for some reason the taste itself was nostalgic; juicy and meat, subtle. The tangy burst of the lime cream he’d added triggered something in his memories that he’d long since forgotten. 

“There aren’t any mushroom that tastes bad, Benny, just awful cooks who can’t appreciate their worth.”  

Right, he’d hated mushrooms. 

At least, until his grandfather dragged him into the woods one morning to look for them. His grandmother made the most delicious stir-fry out of whatever they found and those huge orange mushrooms had been one of his favourites simply because they tasted like meat. 

He winced again when another sharp pain stabbed through his head. He took a gulp from the bottled cold brew Vicrul got and the pain eased a little. 

Chapter Text

“Hey, Ben!” Rose was, as usual, loud, “Thanks for the cupcakes!”

Rey had been surprised when Ben handed her six cupcakes this morning apart from the usual lunch he gives her. He’d said it was for research purposes and that she should share it with her friends.

“They were great,” Finn said, “Was it maple? Rey didn’t say,”

Ben gave them a grin and his dimples popped out. Her heart fluttered, “It’s candy caps,” He said, “Rey found them while we were out foraging,”

“A what now?” Finn blinked.

“They’re mushrooms, kid.” Vicrul said. 

“Wait, they’re mushrooms?” Rose gaped, “And that fajita you made Rey was all mushroom too?” Ben nodded, “Holy shit that’s amaze-balls! Are they going to be on the menu of your cafe?” 

“Probably, depending on the season. I gotta take into consideration the dietary needs of my potential clients after all,” 

Rey watched him explain to Rose how dangerous allergies are and how clean your kitchen has to be since one small mistake can be deadly. 

“Hey, have you ever considered teaching in the university? We don’t have a culinary program,” Rose said and Ben looked startled.

“She’s right, you’re really good at explaining things,” Rey said and he looked at her briefly before looking away and flushing. Rose met her eyes, arched a brow and gave her a wry smile.

He cleared his throat, “So, what do you two want for dinner later?”

“Oh, I’m gonna go check out the bar later, see what’s going on,” Vicrul said, “So don’t ask me,” He grinned, 

“Rey?” He didn’t meet her eyes, “Any ideas?”

“Well, mushrooms don’t keep well so we can probably have something…mushroom?”

“Oh, that wild mushroom risotto Poe made was great,” Finn said, “You can probably make something even better,”

“He’ll be hurt if he hears that,” Rose laughed, “Next time ya’ll go foraging I want to come with too. I’ll drag Armie’s ass out of that office if the last thing I do.”

“How did you even get that tight-ass to let you call him that?” Finn asked with a laugh.

“He didn’t complain,” She shrugged. 

“So…what are you guys doing here?” Ben asked, “Don’t you have to be at the auto shop?” 

“Yeah, we were on our way to work actually but they wanted to stop by to thank you,” She gave him a smile and his eyes flickered away for a moment, “How’re your headaches?” 

“It’s fine,” He said quickly, “Don’t worry about it.”

She frowned, “Are you sure? You should rest if you’re not feeling well. I can cook tonight.” He was already shaking his head before she could even finish her suggestion, “Seriously, I make really good instant ramen,”

Rose snorted back a laugh and she giggled, “What? It’s true! That’s the best cure for a bad headache.” She grinned at Ben who looked like he was trying to hide a smile.

“How about you make us some for a midnight snack, darlin’, what do you think?” 

Her smile widened, “Alright, deal,” 

Rose waggled her eyebrows from behind Ben and she rolled her eyes.

“Wouldn’t you be late?” He said, “I’ll see you at home,” Then, he reached over to tuck a lock of hair back behind her ear.

She sucked in a breath and she saw a dimple flash. He winked.

She cleared her throat and looked away. Seriously, it wasn’t fair how easily he did stuff like that. She thought she was gutsy taking a page out of Rose’s book to try to get him to notice her but this man just responds so naturally sometimes that it was like there were two different Bens. 

How can he be cute and flustered one moment and hot and flirty the next? 

“Oof, 404 Error, Rey.exe not found,” Rose laughed and she stiffened. Ben was smiling with an arched brow. She flushed.

“We should go,” Finn finally said and linked an arm around Rey’s, “Really, thanks for the cupcakes. I didn’t save any for Poe,”

Ben grinned at Finn easily and she swallowed hard, “That’s alright, what he doesn’t know won’t hurt him,” He winked again and Finn laughed.

“See you around,” 

“Bye Ben! Bye Daddy!” Rey choked and Vicrul laughed.

“See you later, baby girl,” He said and wiggled his fingers at them. 

She glanced at Ben and he gave her another wide, dimply smile.

This was not good for her heart. 

Rose snickered next to her.

Chapter Text

It was quieter without Vicrul around. Rey wasn’t home yet and Niney lay curled up in his new orthopaedic dog bed after a long, tiring day of playing with BB and Poe’s chickens. Ben had opted to buy an extra-large one since it wouldn’t make any sense to buy another once he grows big. He just hoped that the hyper-active puppy doesn’t tear it to pieces. He’d read that giving puppies a lot of activities should curb their need to chew on things and so far, leaving him to socialise with BB seemed to work. 

He might actually be more attached to the dog than the dog to him. 

He added broth into the arborio rice and stirred almost absent-mindedly. He should invite his parents for a meal soon. The porch is done and though he didn’t touch the dining room and the living room, they seemed fine as they were. He could always change the furniture when the time comes. He wasn’t going anywhere anytime soon anyway.

He was so deep in thought that he didn’t realise that Niney had woken up until the pup swiped at the lower part of his sweats. 

“I should put a doggy door for you, huh?” He murmured and shut off the heat. The dog ran ahead of him and jumped excitedly by the backdoor. He barked and ran off. It was dark; he should probably install some spotlights on the sides of the house. 

“I’m home!” He heard Rey call out from the front. His heart flipped. Yep, this was her home too. Niney came bounding back, rushing past his legs, probably on his way to say hi to Rey. He chuckled and closed the door. He’ll clean the garden tomorrow, “Did you miss me, boy?” He found them on the floor in the hall going up the stairs to the rooms. Niney’s tail wagged so fast he was a little worried it’d just fly off somewhere.

“Welcome back,” He said, leaning against the jamb, arms crossed. She gasped and looked up almost guiltily. He arched a brow, “Dinner should be done in about half an hour.”

“O-oh, great.” She cleared her throat and winced when Niney bumped into her chin while he tried to lick her face, “I bought ramen and some beer. They didn’t have any Japanese tea,” 

“Beer’s good,” He said and smiled slowly. She flushed, “You’re cooking,”

She laughed, “It was my idea anyway,” She said and then yelped, “Niney, don’t bite,” She tapped his nose, “Bad,”

“Wanna watch a movie or something?” He shifted a little and cleared his throat, “You can choose,”

“We don’t have cable, do we?”

He frowned, “Should I get cable?”

“No, no, I was just curious. Whatever you have is good,” She met his eyes and smiled. He swallowed hard, “I don’t think I’ve ever seen you watching TV or anything,”

He shrugged, “I don’t really have time. I have all the subscriptions from when I still had time. I just never gotten around to cancelling them. You want to use them? I’ll give you the account details,” 

“What? No, you’re already doing so much for me,” 

He shook his head, “It’s a waste on me anyway. You might enjoy it more. I don’t know, you can watch something or whatever with your friends. They’re welcome to hang around here too, anyway.”

She laughed, “What, like a slumber party?” She arched a brow, “I don’t know, Ben, I don’t think I can see you as a parental figure. You’re daddy but definitely not dad,” 

This time, he was the one who flushed. 

She grinned and laughed again when Niney licked her again.

He cleared his throat, “Just come down in about half an hour.”

“Yes, daddy,” 

He stumbled a little and left her laughing.

 

Rey came back down with Niney running around her feet exactly half an hour later. He was grating parmesan over the wild mushroom and shredded rabbit risotto, “What do you wanna drink? We still have a bottle of chardonnay from Poe’s.” Then, he frowned, “Wait, don’t you have class tomorrow?”

Niney zoomed straight to the food bowl Ben had filled.

“The prof cancelled,” She said with a grin, “So I can stay up all night,”

“Wine it is,” He brought their plates over before going over to get wine glasses, “You’re not gonna get drunk, right? You still promised me ramen and beer later,” 

“And you promised me a movie,” She said, “What are we watching?”

He shrugged, “Anything you want, darlin’,” 

She giggled, “It’s really weird not having Vicrul around all of a sudden, huh?” 

He poured out their wine and kept the bottle between them, “He’ll be back. You saw the look on his face, right? He’s halfway in love with this place already,”

“And you’re not?” 

He arched a brow and took a sip of his wine.

“Eat before it gets cold,”

She pouted a little before taking a large spoonful of the creamy dish. Her eyes widened and the little moan she gave out made shivers run down his spine. Jesus, she had no right to make sounds like that.

He was suddenly grateful that Vicrul wasn’t around.

This time, he took a large gulp from his wine.

“I just remembered, should you be drinking right now?” She looked concerned.

“Why not?” 

“Weren’t you having a headache?”

“I’m fine now. I drank a couple of Tylenols. It happens sometimes especially when there’s a weather change,”

Her frown deepened, “You’ll tell me if you don’t feel well, right?”

He arched a brow and his lip twitched up, “Should I?” He leaned on his elbows and met her eyes, “Is our relationship at that level already?” She sucked in a breath and flushed, “If that’s the case then shouldn’t you tell me too?”

“I-I haven’t been sick,” She stammered a little and he reached over to pull at her wrist. She gasped.

“Shouldn’t that include these?” There were angry red scratches on her forearms, “You do know if Niney bites you, I’m going to have to bring you to have your shots, right?” He eyed the light slashes underneath the raised skin. How could he not notice them before?

“I got these from moving an engine,” She tugged and he let her go, “And my tetanus shots are up to date,”

What kind of childhood did she have for her to have so much scars already? There were still so many things he didn’t know about her. 

“Wait, why am I even telling you this?” She laughed a little and he gave a little rueful smile. 

She was at her loveliest when she was laughing and eating his food like this.

He wouldn’t mind seeing it everyday for the rest of his life.

He swallowed audibly and took another sip of his wine.

Damn it.

Chapter Text

He hadn’t had instant ramen in years.

He’d watched her make them some and arched a brow when she cracked open an egg into each bowl. The soup was hot enough to cook the egg itself into a strange poached egg. 

Then they’d brought their respective bowls into the living room and she ran back into the kitchen to get their drinks while he set up his laptop.

Niney trudged inside, oblivious but looking happy nonetheless. 

They sat on the floor and the puppy sat in between them. Did dogs watch shows too? 

Rey chose some cooking competition series and he took note of the dishes she seemed most interested in. It gave him a few ideas on what to make next and how to improve on some of the recipes he’d seen.   

“What? He won?” She looked so disappointed, “Damn, I was rooting for the pastor,” 

He chuckled, “You do know these things are rigged, right?”

She scowled at him and he chuckled, “You want to watch something else instead?”

She popped another can of beer open and took a long drink. The ramen she’d made them had been spicy. He himself was well on his way to his sixth can, “It’s alright,” She said. Her cheeks were a little pink; did she have a low alcohol tolerance? They did finish a whole bottle of wine earlier, “You should totally join one of these. I bet you’d win,”

He laughed a little, “I don’t really feel comfortable in front of the camera,” 

“Why? You’re gorgeous,” She frowned at him and his brow twitched up, “I'm serious, everyone thinks so and I’ve heard so many people in class whispering about that hot guy renovating the bakery,” The next episode started and she didn’t even look at the screen. To be fair, neither did he.

He liked how the light from the screen flickered over her cheeks. This close he could see the freckles dusting the bridge of her nose.

“That could’ve been anyone,” Her eyes were bright. He looked away, “I just…don’t like the spotlight, I guess.”

“But you’re the Prince of Pastry,”

He cringed, “Please don’t say that. It kinda makes me sound like a weirdo,” He gave out a harsh laugh that sounded almost like a cough, “Besides, that’s just a marketing stunt,”

She took a sip of her drink. He could feel her watching him still, “Mm, I guess prince doesn’t really fit you too well if we’re going with how Vicrul describes you,”

He glanced at her and arched a brow, “And what do you think would fit?”

“Hm,” She pretended to think for a moment before giving him a cheeky grin, “How about Supreme Leader?” He barked out a surprised laugh and she giggled, “What? The Supreme Leader of Sweets,” He laughed again and covered his mouth.

“Darlin’, I don’t know if you’re trying to make it sound cute or evil,”

“Well, you kinda look evil sometimes,”

“What?” He shook his head, still laughing, “Of course not. I’m such a nice guy,”

“You are,” She grinned. She always smiles so brightly, “But sometimes you get that look that says, ‘I’m nice but I won’t be if you piss me off’. Especially in the mornings,”

“Like lookin’ at me in the mornings, huh?” Her smile widened when he arched a brow.

“Well sure, you’re pretty,” She winked and he shook his head. He drank so he wouldn’t smile so much. How much did she drink that she’s already talking nonsense? 

They lapsed into a comfortable silence. Niney had long-since curled up in between them and she shifted and leaned on his arm a little more comfortably. He stiffened.

“You know it’s weird,” She said after a while. She yawned. His eyes flickered to clock. It was almost two am. It wasn’t late by any means but here, where people’s lives generally starts at five am, it was pretty late. 

“What is?” He leaned back on the sofa. 

“You,” 

“Why am I weird?” 

She didn’t answer.

“Rey?”

He leaned away a little and her body tilted towards him.

He coughed back an incredulous laugh. 

Rey had fallen asleep.

Was she really that comfortable with him that she thinks he wouldn’t do anything to her? Or did she not even think of him that way? 

Was he just assuming things?

He rubbed his face and groaned.

Jesus, she was driving him insane.

And why was he weird? 

He ran his fingers through his hair and sighed.

“Get up Niney,” He nudged Niney’s butt. He raised his head and gave him a droll look, “What? Don’t look at me like that.” He gave an affronted bark and stood, still giving him an unamused look, “It’s not my fault,”

He shifted a little, cradling her head against his chest. He crouched and very carefully slipped his arm around her shoulders and the other under her knees. 

She must’ve had a long day, what with class and work. He was surprised she could muster up the energy to just hang out.

All of a sudden he was grateful that she was comfortable with him. She wouldn’t be able to fall asleep like this if she wasn’t and he was…honoured. She was a strong and independent woman from what he could see and he could feel the warmth in his chest at the thought that she at least trusted and relied on him.

Or maybe it was the alcohol. 

Now that he’d stopped drinking, he could feel his head getting a little fuzzy. 

He carried her out of the living room, almost stumbling over Niney who’d started jumping and yapping. He probably thought they were playing some new game or whatever.

“Sh,” He shushed, “Your mom’s tired,” 

He hadn’t been in her room since the day he’d set it up. There were some books on the desk and a water-filled jar with some sort of fuzzy green ball floating inside. Other than that, there didn’t seem to be much in terms of personal effects. 

He laid her down on the bed gently and tried to wrap the blanket around her. He spotted the hair tie he’d given her on the bedside table next to a worn hairbrush.

She curled up on her side.

“Good night, Rey,” He murmured and brushed her hair away from her face and resisted the urge to lean down and give her a kiss,  “Sweet dreams.”

Niney was waiting for him when he came out. He sat in front of the door, tongue lolling and looking up at him with a huge dumb smile. He shut the door gently.

“What? What did you do?”

Of course the dog didn’t answer. He shook his head and rubbed his face again.

He liked her. 

Of course he did. How could he not? 

He sighed.

He stepped on something that made a sloshing sound and all of a sudden his sock was wet. He froze and looked down, sucking a breath when he saw a suspicious puddle on his hardwood.

“Ah, shit.” He hissed.  

Chapter Text

Vicrul did not come home. 

Ben had cleaned up after Niney and gone back to the living room after bringing Rey back to her room. Vicrul was still out by the time Ben slept at three-thirty and when he woke up at nine, a lot later than his new normal, Vicrul’s room was still empty and the bed didn’t look like anyone slept in it.

Rey was probably still asleep seeing as the house, apart from the sound of Niney’s nails clacking across the hardwood, was dead silent.

He lumbered down to the kitchen, yawning as he let Niney out. No accidents or strange puddles this time, thank goodness. He should seriously install a dog door. Then again, would he even fit once he’s grown into…well, what size he’s supposed to be?

He turned and jumped when he saw Vicrul sitting on his counter wearing the same clothes he did the day before.

“Jesus Christ,” He cursed. His friend has his face buried in his hand, “Good morning,” Vicrul grunted. Ben left the backdoor open for Niney. He’ll probably come back in once he hears his food bowl getting filled.

The espresso machine whirred and he waited for the machine to heat up. Some days he really needed something stronger than what a pot can give. He fixed himself a mug and slid one, black, to Vicrul.

He didn’t ask and his friend didn’t volunteer any information. “Thanks,” He muttered and held the mug with both hands. He had dark rings under his usually cheerful pale green eyes. He sighed and then groaned before moving the mug away and dropping his head on the counter. Ben caught a glimpse of angry red marks in the area in between his neck and shoulder.

He arched a brow. Vicrul didn’t lose control that often as far as he could tell, “You used protection, I hope?”

Vicrul groaned again, “‘Course I did, bastard.” His voice was muffled, “Fuck.”

Ben chuckled, “Well good, I don’t want someone randomly coming up to me with a baby nine months later asking for your contact details.” Vicrul cursed again and he laughed, “Breakfast?”

“Yes, please.”

Rey would probably have a hangover too. Chances are, all of them probably had one. He poured out Niney’s food into his bowl before frying a couple of eggs and bacon and toasting some bread. As expected the puppy came running straight for his bowl.

Vicrul nursed his coffee quietly and Ben chugged down his before moving to make another mug.

Niney gave a soft woof when Rey came in before turning back to his food.

“How’s your head, darlin’?” He slid an egg over the toast and handed her the plate, “Coffee?”

“It’s fine,” She said, “Thanks for leaving me some water,” 

“Had a fun night without me, huh?” Vicrul’s smile was weak and Rey arched a brow.

“Not as much fun as you seemed to have,” She met Ben’s eyes. He shrugged, “What time did you get in?”

Vicrul barked a laugh, “Just a while ago.”

“Didn’t know the cantina was open til this late.” She chomped on her food happily. She always seemed so happy when there’s food involved, doesn’t matter what food it is as long as it’s food. 

He was still hungry so sautéed some mushrooms too. Might as well since, well, they had so much. 

“Are we having a full English breakfast?” Rey straightened and her eyes sparkled, “Do we have any brown sauce?”

“Sorry,” He shook his head.

“Oh,” She pouted a little before perking up again, “I’ll pick some up after work later,” She said and thanked him when he spooned some mushrooms into her plate. 

“We don’t have any tomatoes either.” He heard it was an easy starter plant. Should he plant some once spring arrives? 

“Should I pick some up too?” 

“It’s fine. Tomatoes aren’t in season anyway,” He really should plan for a greenhouse, if not for the homestead then for definitely for the bakery. He texted Hux about the usage of the back lot. The man replied almost immediately that yes, that area was still part of his property line.

Did he not have anything to do other than work? 

Besides, how many people even went to see a lawyer in a town this size? 

“So, it’s your last day, what are you planning?” Rey asked Vicrul who was still hunched over his plate and mug.

“Sleep,” He mumbled before giving her a tight smile, “Nah, probably just hang around here with Solo. I don’t know when I can next come,” He had scratches on his forearms and he rubbed them almost absent-mindedly.

Ben shook his head, “Wanna have a get together tonight?” He asked, “We can invite everyone, see who’s available. I’ll call my parents too. Might as well, right?”

For the first time that day, Vicrul’s smile was genuine, “Sure. We can cook a big pot of something, have some quickie dessert, maybe grill a bunny or two. You tryin’ to get me ready for work or what?”

“I know how lazy you get after a week of being away from work,”

Vicrul clicked his tongue, “My staff are going to be cursing you tomorrow,” 

He looked at Rey, “You should invite your friends darlin’, have them taste the King of Fine Dining’s dishes at least once while he’s here. A lotta women’s gone after him just for his cooking.”

“They better be careful not to fall for me,” Vicrul winked and Rey laughed.

“Is it really okay?” She asked. Her eyes were wide and bright and sparkling and when she met his eyes it took almost his all not to look away. It’d be so easy to fall into her warm eyes.

“Of course it is. This is your home too,” He said and her cheeks flushed as her smile widened. He never really thought of the colour of her eyes but now that he was looking into them, he couldn’t help but think of hazelnuts and chocolate ganache and warm caramel.

Maybe some lime or bergamot to cut the heaviness of the cream and the sweetness of the caramel.

“Ben?” He flinched and flushed.

“Sorry,” He cleared his throat and looked away, “I was just…thinking,”

“Desserts?” She grinned and his ears felt so hot he was sure they were red too.

“Yeah,” 

“He gets a flash of inspiration at the weirdest times,” Vicrul said, “Don’t worry too much about it. I suggest pinching him or if it’s you, maybe giving him a kiss would work, like Sleeping Beauty.” 

Rey laughed and his cheeks grew hotter. 

But a kiss sounded nice.

Chapter Text

When Ben called his parents, Han had told Rey not to go in since he’d be closing shop early to attend their impromptu gathering. She’d opted to stay home and clean up the dining and living room and watch over Niney while the men went out to do their shopping. 

That’s when she found out that no, Ben didn’t bring Niney’s bed around but he in fact, had three of the same kind, one in each of the rooms he stays in.

“Your dad really spoils you, huh?” She patted his head. To think he’s only been here less than a week. Ben had told her where his other dinnerware and utensils were and she’d cleaned the mismatched plates carefully. 

How many plates does one man even need? She didn’t think he was the kind who threw parties every day seeing as how he generally couldn’t seem to be bothered to spend time with big groups of people. 

He had them in so many shapes and sizes; she even found a huge plate with bats bordering it. It’d be neat for a Halloween party.  

Except there weren’t any with the same design. Did he just really like plates? 

That’s…unexpected but knowing that side of him made her feel warm, like it was something only she knew.

Vicrul and Ben came back just as she was finishing up stacking the plates on the dining table. The three of them had a quick lunch before preparing for their little party. Niney ran circles around them and they were careful not to accidentally step on the little thing. 

“Is there anything I can help with?” She asked and they handed her some vegetables to wash and peel and chop. 

Ben looked busy chopping up some chocolate.

And were those hazelnuts in the oven? 

“Hey Solo, you got some speakers or something?” Vicrul was mincing onions like a pro. 

Which, he actually was. How can he chop those so finely without looking?

“Yeah, I’ll go get it,” Ben said and left.

“You seem like you want to know something, sweetheart,” Vicrul said once Ben was out of earshot, “You keep lookin’,”

“I’m just…curious,” She said and cleared her throat.

“About Solo?” He grinned at her, “You’re lookin’ a lil doe-eyed when you look at him you know,” She flushed, “You like him, huh?”

“I’m, no, I mean, yes, but—,” She heard Ben’s heavy footsteps and shut her mouth. Vicrul laughed. 

“Something I miss?” Ben came in lugging a huge speaker. Where did he hide that? He plugged it in, “Bluetooth should be on,”

Vicrul grinned, “That’s a secret,” He said and winked. Ben scowled before looking at her.

She grinned, “We were just talking about you,” She said and he arched a brow.

“I’m not that interesting, darlin’,” He shook his head and went back to his chocolate. He poured out some cream into a huge bowl and dumped the chocolates he’d been chopping in it, “Just your average baker,” She laughed.

“Oh, are you going to use the oven soon?” Vicrul asked, “Turkey’s gonna take a while to roast,” 

“I still have to proof the bread so it’s fine,” He said and Vicrul nodded. He glanced at her again and she gave him an innocent smile.

He shook his head but not before she saw the smile he tried to hide.

 

Han and Leia arrived first bearing treats for Niney. She brought them to the living room. Vicrul and Ben were doing their own thing, sometimes barking at each other for an ingredient or procedure or other. She couldn’t really understand most of what they were saying. It was so unlike the first time she’s seen them cook. 

Maybe it was because they were making a lot at the same time? 

“Nice to see you again, dear.” Leia said, feeding Niney some sort of mush from a tube, “How are you and Ben getting along?”

“Um, we’re getting along well?” She cleared her throat, “He’s taking really good care of…well, everyone,”

Leia chuckled and Han shook his head, “Ay, that kid.” He groused, “He’s been taking care of himself too, I hope?”

Rey frowned, “Well, yeah, I guess he is? I mean he’s healthy but I think he’s been overworking a little. Recently he’s been having headaches too,” Han and Leia shared a worried look, “What?” 

“What do you mean by headaches, dear?”

“Like…headaches? He says they’re tension headaches,” Niney bit at the tube in Leia’s hand and try to pull, “Niney,” The puppy whined. Leia opened another tube. 

The mayoral couple shared a look again. Was there something more to his headaches? Was he sick with something he didn’t know about?

“Look kid,” Han sighed, “Ben’s…sensitive. He doesn’t like showing people he’s hurting and he likes to take care of, well, things, people, animals, anything you can think of.” Leia was nodding.

“He always has. You wouldn’t believe how upset he used to be when my father and Han went hunting.” She said. Rey could imagine. Ben was traumatised by their one hunting experience together. He didn’t mention anything about that though. 

Now that she thought about it, he never really mentioned his childhood much. 

“You’re not going to move out anytime soon, right, kid?” She nodded, “So, you know, watch over him, will you? Make sure he eats and rests,”

“Is he sick?”

Leia laughed lightly, “Oh goodness, no. He’s not sick exactly,” What the heck did that mean? “He’s fine, dear, but he’s our only son of course we’d be worried.”

Before she could probe, she heard a loud voice coming from the front door, “We’re here!” Rose said in a sing-song voice.

“Why don’t you go and greet your guests, dear?” Leia gave her a neutral smile and she returned it with a smile she hoped didn’t look too much like a grimace.

She excused herself. 

She could feel their gazes boring holes in the back of her neck.

What the bloody hell was all that about?

Chapter Text

“Hey!” Rose said and handed Ben a little basket. There was a cloth covering the contents, “It’s not much but you’d probably like it?”

“You didn’t have to bring anything,” He frowned and wondered if he should take a peek.

“They’re just some basic Vietnamese kitchen staples,” She winked and he stopped resisting the urge to look. Fish sauce, a pretty little jar of star anise, some cloves and a powder that says five spice. He’s seen it in the kitchen a few times but he’s personally never used it before, “Oh, there’s two of everything in there so give a set to Vicrul too,”

“Thanks,” He said with a smile, “I guess it’s time to experiment a little, huh? You’ll judge, right?”

“For sure.” She grinned, “You can’t beat my mom’s pho but hey, who knows? Maybe you’ll come close.” She winked, “Oh, and Armie and Gwen said they’re on the way too,” She nudged Finn who shuffled closer.

“Here,” He handed Ben a bag, “I passed by the liquor store, thought you might like some more beer or something. Rey likes that one most.” 

Rose snickered and Ben’s brows rose. 

“We heard you two drink together,” Finn shrugged. He looked a little sullen, “Rey doesn’t really say if she has preferences or anything,”

Rose was nodding, “She’s not picky but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t have preferences. She’s just shy,”

His brows rose even higher. Rey, shy? Really? She never seemed shy to him. She was always so bright and cheerful and confident, so self-assured and… looking back, he had no idea what her past was like, why she wants to stay in this town. 

Why do her eyes sometimes grow dark and weary? 

“I see,” He cleared his throat, “Thank you.”

Rey came to get them and she gave him another heart-flutter-inducing smile, “Han and Leia are in the living room playing with Niney,”

“The puppy? Oh my gosh, I want to see!” Rose linked her arm with Rey’s, “See you later Ben!”

He watched as Rey led the two into the living room. He went back into the kitchen where Vicrul was basting his turkey.

“Can you check on the soup?” Vicrul asked without looking at him. He was already sweating. They’d open the windows and turned off the heating with how hot the kitchen had become. 

Ben checked on the mushroom soup that was simmering on the stove. He tasted it and added a bit more parsley and pepper, “How’s the crab boil looking?” 

“Meh, it’s lookin’ a little, not spicy?”

“We’re serving old people, Vicrul, I don’t think we should serve something to your spice level,” He gave the seafood a quick stir. They didn’t have a set menu and pretty much worked with what they found but it seemed to be turning out fine.

“I made some pate; it should go well with your charcuterie,” 

Ben went to grab the large slab of wood Chewie had left him. It had been an extra from his table and it would’ve been a waste to dispose of it or cut it up.

He was glad he’d had it treated. 

He started arranging the cheeses from the dairy farm and some of the wild huckleberries they gathered. Poe said he’d be bringing in some more grapes later. He added some sliced French bread and crackers they’d gotten from the store as well as the extra hazelnuts from their dessert. He pretty much threw onto the board whatever he could find in the fridge.

“Lookin’ good, Solo,” Vicrul said when he passed by, “Should try your hand at making your own cheese next.”

He rolled his eyes, “There’s a dairy farm. That’s as fresh as it can get,”

Vicrul laughed and slapped his back, “I’m kinda jealous of you. Everything a chef can need is so close,”

“You can always take up my mom’s offer,”

Vicrul laughed, “Yeah? You won’t mind being neighbours?” He heard more people coming in; Rose was actually pretty good at announcing people’s presences, “Go greet your guests,” 

“This is our get-together, you dick.” He rolled his eyes, “You go this time,” 

“Go where?” Rey came in with Phasma and Hux in tow. 

“We were just saying we should go greet people,” Ben said.

“Don’t worry, I’ll do it,” She grinned, “You two do what you do best,” She winked and left the four of them in the kitchen.

Phasma swiped a cheese cube from the charcuterie board and popped it in her mouth, “Brought you more bullets. Not that you’ll ever use it but who knows?” She gave him a chilling smile and he grimaced. 

Hux approached and cleared his throat, “I don’t believe in coming to a house empty-handed and seeing as your best friend owns the only vineyard in the area, I didn’t think it’d be appropriate so I brought you this instead,” He handed Ben a bottle of whiskey, “And one for Mr. Ren, too, of course.”

Vicrul’s eyes widened, “Oh, wow, thanks, man.” He accepted the other bottle of, Ben looked at the label and tried to pronounce the name in his head but failed.

“I believe you’d be leaving our town soon, is that right?” Hux always sounded so formal. It was a little disconcerting. Was it because he’s a lawyer?

“Yeah well, gotta work and all, you know?”

Hux nodded sagely, “In the event that you become serious about moving, do come and see me. I do deal in legal properties and land titles,” 

“Thanks,” Vicrul laughed, “Who knows, maybe I will.”

“We’ll excuse ourselves now,” Hux said, “It seems you two are still quite busy and since none of us can help you,”

“Thanks for the whiskey,” Ben said, “And for coming, of course,”

Hux gave them a pleasant smile.

“Of course, you’d have to come and chat with us later, alright?” Phasma said, “And give us a hint on who’s the lucky lady,” She winked at Vicrul who actually looked flustered, “Or was it a gentleman?”

Vicrul burst out laughing and Ben turned to him with surprise. He’s never heard of Vicrul sleeping with a man before but then again, you never really know with him.

The two left, Phasma laughing and Hux shaking his head.

“Those two are strange, huh? Wonder why they’re always together.” Vicrul shook his head and went back to the stove, “Whatcha lookin’ at?”

“It wasn’t Poe, was it?” 

Vicrul scowled, “Jesus Christ, Solo. Of course not. For many reasons, one of which is because he’s taken and two, I don’t like men. Too hard in the wrong places,”

“Ah.” He really shouldn’t ask. He cleared his throat and started tossing the salad, “I see.”

“Enough about that though. I left you and Rey alone last night, please tell me you at least made some headway,”

Ben grimaced and heat rushed to his cheeks. He didn’t answer.

Should he make something else? A fruit salad maybe? 

Vicrul laughed at his blatant attempt to ignore the question.

Chapter Text

“Oh my God you fucked someone!” Rose gasped the moment she saw Vicrul.

He jerked back, eyes widening. He even blushed before laughing it off and rubbing the back of his neck.

She saw Ben covering his mouth. 

“It wasn’t that,” He murmured, uncharacteristically shy. He looked away and rubbed away the smile he was trying to hide, “More like she fucked me,” 

Rey barely caught that last bit. Poe, who’d literally just arrived carrying a wooden crate of wine, laughed out loud, “Dude, you got laid faster than everyone here. You move fast, man,”

“Alright, that’s enough,” Ben said, looking like he was trying very hard not to laugh too, “We’ll tease him when he comes back,”

“You make it sound like it’s a sure deal,” Vicrul threw an arm around Ben, “Maybe I won’t come back,”

Poe snorted, “Oh please, everyone comes back. Where do I put these?”

“The dining room’s good,” Ben said, “Need help?”

Rose nudged Rey’s side, “When are you going to fuck Ben?” She whispered loudly. Rey felt the heat rise up to her cheeks quickly. She sucked in a breath and looked at Ben, worried that he’d heard.

“Shut up,” She hissed “I’m not doing that,” 

“No?” Rose arched a brow and smiled wryly, “Are you sure?” 

“You go get your lawyer first. Then I’ll consider,” 

Rose rolled her eyes, “I’m getting there,” She said, “This time he asked me out,” She winked.

“No way?” Dense Armitage Hux, asking Rose out? With how smug Rose looked, it must be true.

“Who?” Finn appeared next to her, “Who asked what?”

“Armie,” Rose’s smile was huge, “He asked me out,” She said, “We’re driving to the city on Saturday.”

Finn was the one who elbowed her this time, “When are you making your move?”

She scowled, “Guys, stop. Seriously, we’re just friends and housemates. So what if I like him?” There, she admitted it, she was attracted to him. Who wouldn’t be? He’s tall and nice, is a brilliant cook and he makes the yummiest desserts, not to mention that voice and that face. 

“Girl, I don’t know about you but lately we’ve all been seeing how that man looks at you,” Rose shook her head. 

Rey looked over to where Ben was in deep conversation with…was that Admiral Ackbar? He’d handed Ben a huge terracotta pot with a rosemary bush planted in it. His hands gestured wildly while he explained something. 

Ben was nodding along. 

She’d never seen the admiral this animated unless it was about plants and her heart fluttered at the thought of how patient and kind Ben was for humouring the old man. Knowing him, he was probably enjoying the conversation. He seemed like the type to enjoy any conversation about hobbies to be honest, even if it’s something he knew nothing about.

“Look at this girl,” Finn whispered loudly, “She didn’t even hear what we said,” 

“I know, right? Seriously, she’s so obviously in love! She even said she has no interest whatsoever,” Rose whispered back just as loudly. She tore her gaze from Ben and scowled. 

“Come on, guys. I said I liked him, I never said anything about being in love.” 

“Like who?” Poe slid up next to Finn and wrapped an arm around his waist.

“Rey,” Finn leaned against Poe so naturally that she was actually a little jealous. Both of her closest friends are now going somewhere with their lives and she’s…still here. She’s saving a boatload of money from staying here and not having to buy her own meals but that’s pretty much it, “She likes Solo,”

“So?” Poe looked at her, “Didn’t you always like him?” 

She flushed, “What? No, of course not,”

“Really?” Poe frowned, “I thought you always did. I mean, he’s hot, isn’t he? And you’re together all the time. Sure, he’s a little dense but he’s really nice,”

“Not all the time,” She scowled, “And I know all that. Just because we live together doesn’t automatically mean we should have a relationship,”

“But why not?” Rose asked, “You’re already living together, that means you get along, right? And you’re attracted to him, and he’s so obviously infatuated with you,”

“No he’s not,” She laughed, “What made you think that?”

“What makes you think he doesn’t?” Finn asked, “I mean, I was worried at first that he’d do something to you, you know? But he’s just too fucking nice for that. Besides, you said so yourself, he’s being really considerate of you,”

“Well yeah, because he’s nice,”

Rose smacked her face with her palm, “Oh my God, Rey, I thought he’s dense.” 

“What are we talking about, baby girl?” This time, Vicrul joined in. Shouldn’t they be starting dinner soon? “Seems like you four are enjoying things. Where’s your little attorney?”

“He’s probably talking to Ms. Mothma and the mayor.” She shrugged, “We were talking about how Ben and Rey are the perfect match,”

“Oh, yeah, of course they are,” Vicrul crossed his arms. The scratches on them were still stark, looking even redder than they were this morning, “I’ve been here a week and even I can see it.”

“Alright, you’re friends with Ben, right?” Rose said and he nodded, “Tell it to us straight, do you think Ben’s interested in Rey?”

Rey could feel her cheeks heating up and her stomach tightening with nerves. Why are they even having a conversation like this? Their relationship was fine, it was nice and comfortable, she was happy with that. Right?

“Are you kidding me?” Vicrul barked out a laugh, “I’ve been with that boy for almost twenty-four hours for five years and he’s never been this nice to a woman. So yeah, it’s safe to say that yes, he’s very, very interested. That’s one of the first things I told you, sweetheart.” 

“Look, I know Ben,” Poe said, “He’s nice but he doesn’t just let anyone in and see him at his weakest. Especially after…,” He cleared his throat, “Anyway, even I don’t know everything and he never really shows his real emotions but with you it’s like he can’t even control himself, you know? Maybe he’ll even tell you why he left in the first place.” 

Vicrul nodded his agreement. 

After what, though? What was Poe going to say?

“Did something happen to him?” She asked and Poe grimaced.

“Look Rey, you shouldn’t be talking to us about shit like this. You gotta talk to him. Trust me, I’m his best friend,” He winked, “Everybody can see how enamoured this man is,” 

She glanced at Ben again. He was still talking to the admiral. He laughed at what the old man said and for a brief second she thought their eyes met.

She sucked in a breath.

“What did I tell you? She’s so in love,” Rose shook her head.

She watched Ben laugh at whatever it is the admiral said again and didn’t hear her friends laughing too.

Chapter Text

Things were a lot slower in Chandrila. Ben felt like he’d done so many things and it was only a little after eight. He went to get the tart he’d made from the fridge and chewed on the inside of his cheek. 

He let it sit on the counter for a bit so it wouldn’t be too cold. Vicrul’s turkey was, of course, a big hit. Not a lot of people came but it was enough to call it a party. He was actually really surprised that Admiral Ackbar came and with a big pot of rosemary. He’d placed it on the table they’d been eating dinner in for now. The old man had given him tips on how to care for it and propagate them, said it’d make a good hedge. It was a great idea, actually, he could already imagine how it’d grow and he can train it to eventually line the outside of his porch. 

A rosemary hedge with its pretty purple flowers would be nice. Plus it’d smell amazing and he wouldn’t have to go and buy some if he needed to use them. Would Rey like rosemary lemon bars? 

Would she even still be here by the time summer comes?

For some reason the thought of her not being around made him feel a little hollow.

He took a picture of the hazelnut chocolate caramel tarts he’d made for dessert. 

ben_solo_bakes: What’s the best way to showcase California hazelnuts? Chocolate? Caramel? Why not both? Been inspired lately  #InspiredBaking #ChandrilaBaking #ChandrilaCalifornia 

He pocketed his phone and leaned on the counter, still staring at the tart. Would she realise that it was an ode to her?

He sighed. 

He sounded like a fucking creep.

Like a wish she appeared, head peeking in from the doorway, “Ben? Are you okay?” 

It took a moment for him to recover from the smile she gave him, “Y-yeah,” He cleared his throat, “I was just…taking a picture?”

She laughed and approached, “It looks good,” She said, leaning over the counter too next to him.

“I made you a separate one. It’s in the fridge,” He said and she looked up, surprised.

“You didn’t have to,” She said. She always said that, “Why are you so nice to me?”

“Should I not be?” She was standing so close to him that it wouldn’t take much for him to reach for her. His heart ached at the look she was giving him. Should he…stop being nice? Was he being too nice? “Does it bother you?”

She shook her head, “It’s not that,” She chewed on her bottom lip, “It’s just…I’m just so confused?”

“You don’t have to think much about it,” He rubbed the back of his neck. Her eyes flickered to his forearms; he’d pushed the sleeves of his sweater up to his elbows, “Besides, wouldn’t you prefer not to have to hold back on your dessert?”  

“Well yes, but you really don’t have to be so nice and thoughtful. You’re already giving me so much leeway on the rent as it is.”

He laughed. He sounded frustrated even to himself. It was those eyes, wide and curious and so damn trusting that he just couldn’t resist. He pushed a stray lock of hair back behind her ear, “I like you darlin’, and I like that enjoy my food. So, don’t think too hard about it, alright?” His lip quirked up when her eyes widened at his confession. 

He had no intention of confessing at that exact moment, really. Heck, he didn’t even know if that can be considered a confession. He didn’t want to put her on the spot and feel like she has to respond positively especially since she’s still renting a place from him. 

“Let’s go, everyone’s waiting for their dessert. Isn’t that why you came to get me?” He carried a tart in each hand, “Oh, would you please bring the knife?”

She flinched and seemed to realise that she’d gotten lost in thought, “Sure,” Her voice was higher than normal and he wondered if she’ll be able to act normally around him now that the ball’s in her court. She didn’t have to think much about it, really. She can probably laugh it off as a general, I like you as a person or a friend kind of thing. 

She grabbed the knife and followed him out.

“Oh my, are those hazelnuts, dear?” Leia eyed the tarts over his arms as he placed them on the dining table, “You used to go up to the ranch to harvest those with your uncle,”

“Did I?” He could vaguely remember something like that, “I know we used to fish together,” Speaking of fish, maybe roasting it with some hazelnuts would be nice, or maybe a crust? 

She nodded, “You two would always try to compete who’d bring home the biggest bass,” Were they that close before? Must be when he was really young. 

He shrugged and focused on cutting the tart instead. Thinking about Luke made him feel uncomfortable. Of course, he did tell his parents that they could invite him too but he was grateful nonetheless that he wasn’t around.

He never could ignore that betrayed, disappointed look Luke always gave him. 

He plated a slice for his mother. The caramel was layered nicely over the chocolate cookie crust and underneath the dark chocolate hazelnut ganache. He could see little bits of the crushed hazelnuts in the chocolate too. 

He handed it to Leia who beamed at him.

The next slice he gave to Han. It was just a little bit bigger and his father patted his back. Leia wouldn’t notice. Probably.

He handed Rey a slice and she looked ready to refuse. Maybe he shouldn’t have told her that he made her one until after she had a slice. 

“That looks sinful Ben!” Rose chirped, “You’re not having any, Rey?” She flushed and took the plate gingerly.

“It’s not gonna bite, darlin’,” He chuckled. She turned an even brighter shade of pink and squirmed. 

Chapter Text

It’d been two days since Vicrul left. Rey and Ben had settled into their pre-Vicrul routine which really wasn’t saying much. He still handed her lunch in the morning and offered to drive them both to town especially if he was going to be working on the bakery. 

He didn’t treat her any differently nor did he say anything about liking her. What did he mean by that anyway? Did he mean he liked her romantically or just in general, as a friend? 

She was a little scared to ask to be honest. What if she really was just overthinking things and he really just liked her as a friend?

Or if he did like her romantically, was she even ready for a relationship? He said not think much of it either so it was really confusing. 

She glanced at him from the passenger seat. Niney sat on her lap, uncharacteristically behaved for someone who doesn’t really go out much. Ben had bought yet another bed for him to put in the little office he has in the bakery. She’s not really sure if having a puppy in a bakery is a good idea but she’s heard about pet cafes so who knows? Maybe it’d start a trend. 

And since his target market’s university students, they’d probably appreciate having some animal therapy. 

He met her eyes and she flushed. 

“You alright?” His lip twitched up.

“I’m fine,” She said, looking away and rubbing Niney’s back, “I’ll meet you in the bakery later. I can install those drop lights for you,” 

“Thanks,” He gave her another smile and she caught a glimpse of his dimples, “I know nothing about electrical shit so it’d be great if you could help me with that.”

“Don’t worry,” She smiled and saw him glance at her, “Just tell me what you need and I’ll help you if I can,” 

He dropped her off right outside the university. Niney whined when she slid him off her lap. She grabbed her things, “See you later,” She said and he gave her a light-hearted wave. 

She watched him drive back to town. It’d take her about ten minutes to walk to the bakery so it wasn’t really all that far. Still, she was grateful for the ride. She looked up at the gloomy sky and shivered.

The school wasn’t all that big; just a four-storey building that served as classrooms, nothing at all like the larger schools in the city. It couldn’t even really be considered a university up until recently when Dr. Holdo took over and they added four-year programs. Still, from what she heard from the older students, the student count went up by a lot when the mayor started investing in the school’s marketing and scholarship program to stop people from well, leaving.

There were even talks of subsidies and tax rebates if students from out of town were to settle in. She supposed it’s a struggle maintaining a quaint little town like Chandrila when the city’s just a few hours away. 

Whatever the case, she was glad that what Ben’s mum was doing seemed to be working, even a little. It’d be nice if the town thrived and seeing as tourists have started coming, the town would probably be sure to survive and she can stay.

She really wanted to stay. 

She’d never felt like she belonged anywhere until she stepped foot in this town. 

She ignored the stray thought that made her imagine the homestead and walking into the backdoor to see Ben cooking and giving her that dimply smile of his. 

“Rey!” Rey jumped when Rose linked her arm around hers. She handed her a can of coffee, “You okay? I’ve been calling you for a while now,” 

“Sorry, I was just thinking,” She flushed. What was she thinking of now? She’s not going to live in Lars forever and she was sure she heard someone say that Ben wouldn’t be staying.

What would Chandrila be like if Ben Solo wasn’t there? 

“You’ve been acting really weird, you know,” Rose said, “Did anything happen?” 

“No, nothing happened,” She laughed, “I was just thinking, really,”

“Are you sure?” Rose looked like she knew something she didn’t and she frowned, “You haven’t been checking IG have you?”

“Should I have?” Her phone didn’t give her a notification or anything that told her someone tagged her. Usually it was just Ben and most recently Vicrul. 

Rose rolled her eyes and brought out her phone, “You know that really sinful hazelnut tart Ben made?” She nodded. She was sure she had a slice in her lunchbox. Ben never let her leave home without lunch and dessert. “You know how he’s like a local celebrity in the food industry, right?” She showed Rey the post. It had over a thousand likes with almost the same amount of comments, “People asked what inspired him to make this and guess what he answered?”

“What?” Rose scrolled past the comments and stopped at a certain @ErsoJ who was asking what inspired him to make it.

 

ben_solo_bakes @ErsoJ her eyes.

 

Her heart skipped a beat. Rose had liked it, seeing as the little heart next to the reply was filled in. There were replies to his reply asking whose eyes but he didn’t answer.

“So?” She swallowed hard, “I mean, it could be anyone, right?” It couldn’t be her, could it? Then again, anyone could also be her. 

“Could be,” She shrugged and smiled a little, “I don’t know, maybe he’s in love,” 

She could almost hear his voice in her head, telling her that he liked her. 

“Maybe it’s you,” Rose voiced out what she was secretly hoping for.

“You think so?” Rose giggled, “I mean, he doesn’t really treat me any differently compared to others,” Not that she’s ever seen him with other women aside from Jannah, Jessika Pava and that one pastry chef he was hostile to.

“If I were you, I’d give him a kiss just to see how he reacts,”

“Is that what you did with Mr. Hux?”

Rose chuckled, “I tried,” Rey’s brows shot up, “I was so nervous! Ended up smacking my forehead instead. Don’t ask,” She rolled her eyes and then sighed, smiling, “But at least he kissed the booboo away,” 

Rey burst out laughing, “Booboo? Really? What are we, five?” 

Rose winked, “I’m baby. So yeah, I guess we’re getting somewhere.”

Unlike her. Rey chewed on her bottom lip. Should she try something too? 

Rose gave her a look and a cheeky smile that said she knew exactly what she was thinking and is fully supportive of it.

She flushed.

Chapter Text

Ben was tearing out the floorboards when Finn walked in. His heart fluttered and looked behind him, trying to see if Rey came too. She promised to come and install the lights and go home together.

“She’s not here,” Finn said and he tried not to look too disappointed. He pushed the stray hair that’d come loose from the half-bun atop his head, “I was just passing by,” 

“Oh,” He stood and brushed the dust and wood chips from his jeans, “Is there anything you need?” Finn didn’t really seem too comfortable with him and Ben himself didn’t know the man well enough either. 

“Rey’s been acting a little weird lately,” His dark eyes were piercing. Ben flinched, “Did anything happen between you two?”

“What did she say?” He hooked his thumbs on his belt loops.

Finn scowled, “She didn’t say anything.” 

“Oh,” He cleared his throat, “I don’t think I did anything wrong,” He said. Was she becoming wary of him because of what he told her? She didn’t seem to be acting any different than how she normally was. 

“You like her, right?” He nodded. What was the point of hiding it, anyway? “Are you going to stay here? In town?”

“For the next five years at least, yeah,” Although lately he’s been contemplating staying even longer, “Gotta make sure the business is running and everything. Why?”

“Rey wants to settle down here,” 

He knew that. That’s a good thing, too. Lord knows Chandrila needs talented people, “Yes, I know that.” Finn looked annoyed.

“Then you should make it clear that you’re staying here too,” He said and Ben frowned. 

“What does that have to do with anything? She’s welcome to stay in Chandrila. I’m sure mom would be happy too.”

“You said you like her,” 

“Yes, I do, so?”

“So?” Finn gaped, “Oh my God, Poe said you’re dense but I didn’t realise you were this dense.”

Ben scowled, “Look man, I don’t appreciate you coming in here to pick a fight. What the hell are you talking about?”

“If you like Rey shouldn’t you stay in town too? For long?”

“Look, liking someone or not doesn’t have anything to do with anything and I’m not telling her not to stay here either. She’s her own woman who makes her own choices,”

“Wait, wait, wait, hold up. You mean you didn’t ask her out?” Was he supposed to? He shook his head and he gaped, “Jesus Christ, no wonder. Rose and I were sure you did.”

“No, I haven’t.” And he probably would once he finds the right moment. Niney stopped chewing on his toy to trot over next to him and sniff at the broken pieces of wood.

“Damn it, now I feel like a douchebag.” Finn ran his fingers through his short hair and sighed, “It’s just that… Rey may seem like a really strong girl but the truth is she’s sensitive and scared and she really, really likes this place.” 

“I understand.” He eyed Niney who looked like he was about to chew on something he’s not supposed to, “I’m not planning on starting anything just for the sake of it.” He crouched and snatched the broken pieces of wood away before the dog can eat it, “Besides, it’s not fair for her if I just dump my feelings on her like that. I am her landlord.”

“Rey’s not the sort to get pressured like that.” 

He shrugged and distracted himself by rubbing Niney’s belly. The pup rolled on his back and froze, like he forgot how to dog, “Either way, I have no intention on doing anything unless I’m sure she wants it too.” Since when did his determination to not fall in love and get into a relationship turn into I’ll-wait-until-I’m-sure-she-wants-me-too? Was it when Vicrul was flirting like crazy with her? Or even before that, when he learned she was actually a woman? 

He stopped scratching Niney’s tummy and he rolled quickly and nipped at his fingers. Finn sighed.

“So you really didn’t do anything?”

“Nope.” The ‘p’ popped. Should he tell him that he actually told Rey he liked her? Was that why she was bothered?

“And just so we’re clear, your post,” He stilled, “You meant Rey’s eyes, right?”

He shrugged and started petting the dog again. He was sure his face would be red, “Yes.” He admitted a little gruffly, “She has fascinating eyes,” Sometimes bright and golden like browned butter, warm and sweet like cinnamon, and then deep and brooding like dark chocolate. 

He could even go so far as to say as sharp and energetic as coffee and comforting as hot chocolate on a cold winter night. 

Seriously, given time, he’d probably think of a hundred and one ways to describe her eyes through food. 

Finn was shaking his head, “I heard about you getting random spikes of inspiration like this but I didn’t think you wouldn’t hear a word I said.” He looked up, surprised that the man was holding his dog in his arms. When did Niney even get there? 

And what the hell has he been petting?

Finn was shaking trying to hold back his laughter. He handed Niney back to him, “I gotta go. Shift’s about to start,” He started to go before turning back around, “Hey, uh, you’re going to be hiring staff soon, right?” He nodded, “Great. Can I apply?”

Ben blinked and frowned, “Sure, but don’t you work at the gas station?”

Finn shrugged, “Well, yeah but it’s part-time and doesn’t really pay much.”

“How do you know I’d pay more?” Niney struggled in his arms and smashed his head on his chin. He winced.

“I mean, I get paid by the hour and it’s more stable if it’s a cafe, you know? More hours and everything. So I’ll apply first before anyone else. I’ll hand you my resume,” He actually smiled this time and Ben chuckled.

“Sure, but I’m not going to give you a pass cuz you’re Rey’s friend and Poe’s boyfriend, you know that, right?”

Finn scowled, “Of course. I’d be insulted if you did,” 

“Great,”

“Great,” Finn gave Niney a rub before leaving. 

That was a strange conversation. He looked out the window. It looked like it was going to rain. 

Did Rey have an umbrella?

Chapter Text

Rey did not have an umbrella. 

It wasn’t raining yet when she arrived at Han’s at just a little after one but by the time it was five, it was raining sheets. Padmé’s was just a short sprint away, less than three minutes walking. Heck, she could even see it from the door of the auto shop if she stood on her toes a little. 

Should she go back inside to ask if anybody had a spare umbrella? She could see the lights leaking through the gaps in the boarded up windows of the bakery. 

Screw it. How bad could it be?

The rain was cold but for some reason giggles welled up from inside her. When was the last time she felt so carefree like this? 

She stumbled with a yelp when the door pushed open just as she pulled. 

“Jesus, Rey,” Ben had an umbrella in one hand, “It’s raining like crazy.” He pulled her in and shut the door. It was warm inside; did he get the heat running already? 

“Excuse me,” He said before pulling off his shirt. She sucked in a breath and flushed. The shirt went over her head and he started drying her hair, “I should start keeping towels in here,” He muttered.

Niney yipped and she saw through a gap on the shirt that Ben had made a make-shift cage for him using the tables. 

Then she focused on the man in front of her again and swallowed hard when she came face to face with chest. He was still rubbing her head with his shirt and she couldn’t find it in her to take over. Her eyes followed the thin line of hair trailing down from his belly button and into his pants. She bit her lip.

“Why didn’t you call me? Or asked dad if he had any umbrellas?” 

His hands stilled when she looked up. The damp shirt slid off her head, only held up by his hands. Their eyes met and she saw his throat bob in her peripheral vision. Her eyes flickered down, briefly fascinated by the nervous movement before moving up again to meet his dark gaze. 

His eyes were always so dark. 

His hands moved again, slowly this time. She could feel his heat even through her wet clothes, “You’re going to get sick like this,” He murmured. His eyes grew even darker. She licked her lips and his gaze followed the movement. His hands stilled again.

Is he going to kiss her? 

Her heart was pounding. 

His lips were looking really tempting right now, all nice and pink and soft-looking.

He drew closer, just a little, and she swallowed hard.

His eyes flickered down and settled on her lips. She licked them again.

She was reaching out when he stilled and looked away, swallowing hard and clearing his throat before lurching away from her.

She couldn’t even begin to describe the disappointment she felt.

He shrugged on his jacket and zipped it up, hiding the wide expanse of his chest from her view. 

“We should,” He cleared his throat again; the tips of his ears were pink, “We should finish up quickly so we can go home,” He finally said and sauntered towards Niney’s little enclosure, so obviously avoiding looking at her.

Damn it.

Should she apologise? Should he? What if he does? 

She had every intention of trying out what Rose suggested but now that he was crouched over his dog she couldn’t find the courage to stride on over to him and plant a smooch on him especially given the fact that something just almost happened.

“Right,” She cleared her throat too, picked up the shirt he’d dropped and draped his shirt over the back of a chair. 

She approached the drop lamps that were sitting neatly on the newly sanded counter and got to work.

Chapter Text

What the fuck was he thinking? 

He scratched Niney while Rey puttered around near the counter with the wires and the drill. 

When he’d resolved himself to pick her up himself and opened the door, he didn’t expect to actually find her already there, hair soaked and plastered to her flushed face looking like a cross between a drowning kitten and an excited child. 

He didn’t have any malicious intentions and he certainly didn’t intend for himself to end up half-fucking-naked in front of her and getting swept up in the mood and almost kissing her.

But he’d only just now realised how mouth-wateringly sweet she smelled underneath the sharp scent of motor oil, like spiced vanilla peaches. 

It made him want to bite and have a taste.

What had he just told Finn earlier? 

He wouldn’t do anything unless he’s sure she wants him, too? 

Fuck that. He was sure he didn’t imagine the disappointment that flashed through her face when he stopped. And judging by the way her eyes had turned dark and molten when she saw his body, he was sure she wanted him, at least. 

Still, he should apologise. Finn said she’d been acting strangely and he didn’t want her to feel too awkward with him. He let Niney go, braced himself and turned.

And his mouth went dry.

He’d only ever seen her in a singlet once and only very, very briefly. She’d taken off her sweater and hung it over a chair, probably to dry while she worked on the lamps. She stood on the counter, stretching upwards the drill holes on the ceiling. 

She had a light tan everywhere he looked and he was sure that if he drew closer he’d see more of the freckles that drove him crazy. His hands would look stark against her skin. His eyes wandered lower, pausing at the teasing glimpse of her hip before following the lean lines of her legs as they flexed. 

He swallowed hard and looked away. She didn’t need him creeping on her at a time like this.

“Do you,” He cleared his throat, “Do you need help or anything?” 

“I’m good,” She didn’t look at him.

He nodded and started cleaning up the pieces of wood from the floorboards he’d torn up. Tomorrow, weather permitting, he’ll replace them and seal the counter Rey was currently standing on. 

He glanced up at her again and swallowed hard.

How could he even have mistaken her for a guy for even a second? What kind of dumbass was he?

He shook his head and sighed. 

They worked quietly, with only the sounds of the drill and Niney’s nails scratching against the floorboards to break the silence.

 

She finished the lamps quickly enough and together they checked the doors and closed everything up. Her sweater was still damp and he didn’t even bother wearing his shirt again.

It was still raining and she held Niney close while they shared the umbrella. He wrapped an arm around them and his heart skipped at how neatly she fit under there. Thunder rumbled and lightning shot through the sky. He flinched. He’d forgotten how bad rainstorms could be in Chandrila.

She slipped into the front seat and he walked quickly to the driver’s side. He turned on the heat of the car and shivered. He should probably keep a blanket or two in the truck for times like these.

He drove very, very slowly and what usually took ten to fifteen minutes turned into thirty. 

They were both soaked through despite the umbrella and he took Niney from her, “You should take a bath,” He said, his teeth chattering a little. Niney himself was shivering too. He’d probably have to bring the little one with him in the bathroom, “I’ll cook us something warm for dinner,” 

She nodded and gave him a small smile. 

He should’ve left the radiator on if he knew it’d rain this hard. The crack of thunder sounded a lot closer now and he flinched again. It took a while for the water to heat up this time, but it was a relief when he stepped into the shower. Niney paced before laying down by his feet where the warm water was pooling. He adjusted the spray so it didn’t hit him directly.

He washed himself first before shampooing Niney, cursing when suds flew everywhere. He should probably get him a little tub, or maybe one big enough to fit him when he’s bigger. That’d be convenient, probably.

He walked out naked, with Niney squirming in the towel he’d bundled him into, yelping and scratching when he’d started blowdrying him.

He whined, “You gotta get dry,” Ben said, “You’ll get sick,” He shivered and sneezed. Niney stared up at him with wide eyes, “What? Don’t look at me like that, you’re smaller than me.”

It took almost twenty minutes for the pup to dry and he sneezed again. 

Maybe he’d get sick instead. He dried his hair quickly and wore his layers. The heat was on now but it was still pretty cold.

Rey wasn’t around when he came back down with Niney. She was probably still in the bathroom or maybe her own room. It was pretty cold but at least he knew the insulation was doing its job and there weren’t any drafts. 

The weather report said it’d be a few days of hard rain and a big pot of soup sounded just the thing to ward off the chill.

He took out the last of the rabbit they had and quartered them. Then, he started chopping the vegetables. 

He heard Rey coming down the stairs and tried not to turn around too quickly, focusing instead on the carrots, dropping a few pieces for Niney.

“Is there anything I can help with?” She asked and he glanced at her. She was wearing another one of her fuzzy sweaters, this time in baby blue with the a white bear that served as her front pocket, and matching pyjamas, “I’m pretty good at chopping stuff,”

“Sure,” He gave her a tight smile. She didn’t seem awkward or distant. He handed her his knif.

He readied the other things they’d need; bay leaves, some thyme, chicken stock, and washed the bowl of his mixer. Might as well make his own noodles. Maybe, make some snacks for later too while he’s at it.

“So, what are we making?” She asked. He loved how she said ‘we’ like it was the most natural thing in the world. 

“I was thinking some rabbit noodle soup,” He said, “It’s the last of our rabbit and it seems like a good replacement for chicken,”

“Sounds like a good plan,” She said, “I’ve never had that before,”

“Me either,” He chuckled, “But if chicken’s good, rabbit’s probably good too.”

“You never made anything that wasn’t good,”

“What can I say? If a man’s gotta eat, might as well make sure it’s good food,” 

“I can’t complain, I’m the one reaping all the benefits,” Her tinkling laugh sent a shiver down his spine, “Hey, do you want to watch a movie later?”

His heart skipped a beat, “S-sure,” He cleared his throat and measured out his flour, “Are you sure it’s a movie this time?”

She giggled, “Yeah, do you like horror films?” 

Nope. “Sure,” Not at all. 

“Great!” She sounded so happy though that he didn’t have the heart to say no.

It should be fine, right?

Chapter Text

Ben didn’t have many regrets in life. Trying to get along with the girl he likes by watching a horror film during a rainstorm in an old house in the middle of nowhere probably topped the list though.

It was a pretty old movie, even he knew it. Heck, he’d even watched it back when it first came out in 2004. Of course, that didn’t mean that the jump scares didn’t scare the shit out of him.

He gripped the mug tightly and swallowed hard. He’d nuked them some mug cakes; lava cakes with some spiced rum just so they have something to snack on apart from the chocolate chip hazelnut cookies he’d made. 

Jesus,” He hissed when a hand shot out to grab the woman’s foot. Rey jerked next to him.

They’d somehow ended up back on the floor in the living room. The lights were turned off and they shared a blanket. Niney snuggled close to him, ears twitching whenever he hears the cat meowing or yowling. 

He ate the cake, trying hard not to freak out too much. For the most part he succeeded.

The storm raged on outside the house creaked. 

He finished his cake and braced himself for that one scene under the blanket.

The ghost stared out at the woman.

Rey screamed.

He screamed.

Niney sat up straight.

She grabbed onto his arm and started laughing. 

He covered his face and started chuckling. Okay, maybe a horror film wasn’t so bad. Thunder rumbled outside in time with the creepy croaking noise that came out of the laptop.

A shiver ran down his spine. 

It was one of those sounds that you never forget after hearing it once. 

He gave up trying to look tough at this point, covering his face with one hand and peeked through his fingers. Her hand gripped his other hand tightly.

Niney started whining and tried to crawl under the blanket.

“Rey, I got a confession to make,” He said and swallowed hard. He didn’t look away from the screen. Her hand was still gripped tightly in his, “I’m not really too fond of horror films,” There was another jump scare and he flinched. He could only imagine what Rey’s face looked like right now.

He didn’t expect her to start giggling. He peeked at her through his fingers, “I didn’t expect it when you agreed to watch one,” She said, grinning, “I didn’t think you would be a horror junkie in the first place,” 

Heat rushed to his cheeks and he groaned. Still, he couldn’t get himself to let go of her hand. When exactly did that happen anyway? Her hand felt so small and delicate in his. 

“Wanna watch something else?” Her eyes were twinkling.

“No,” He said, laughing a little, “We’re already more than halfway through, we should finish it.” 

“You sure?” She arched a brow and he nodded. 

They watched the rest of the movie, with Ben slowly sinking into the blanket. Rey didn’t pull her hand away either, instead drawing closer, to comfort him, maybe? He’d heard about men inviting women to watch horror films as an excuse to cuddle them but he’d never heard of it happening the other way around. 

Still, it was nice that they weren’t so awkward anymore unlike earlier. 

It was like she’d already forgotten their almost-kiss. He wasn’t sure if he liked that but he did like the fact that she wasn’t uncomfortable being so close to him. A comfortable friendship is a good start to a relationship, right? 

She was yawning by the time the credits started rolling. He was too buzzed to actually feel tired. Ghosts weren’t real, of course, but he still jumped whenever the house creaked and thunder cracked.

Rey giggled and pulled him up, “I knew we should’ve changed the movie,”

He shook his head stubbornly, “I’ll watch with you,” He said, “Anytime you want,” 

She laughed again, the sides of her eyes crinkling. She had such a cheerful laugh, always succeeding in lifting his spirits, “You’re so jumpy though,”

He shrugged and hoped it looked casual enough. They were both just standing there, facing each other, hands still clasped together like it was the most natural thing in the world. His heart skipped a beat.

“That’s the fun part, right? You get scared and then realise how stupid you look and laugh about it,” 

She beamed, “Well, thank you,” She said, “My friends gave up watching with me,”

He shrugged, “I’ll watch with you, darlin’. Just tell me whenever you want,” He’ll suffer through thousands of horror flicks just to see her smile like this. Using his free hand, he pushed her hair behind her ear and met her eyes. They were twinkling with amusement.

She giggled again and he wanted so much to lean down and kiss her. He didn’t think she’d mind either, what with her looking up at him almost expectantly.

He drew closer slowly, leaning down. 

His phone rang and he cursed, finally letting go of her hand.

Chapter Text

The universe must really be against her kissing Ben Solo. 

They were so close too! 

There was definitely no mistaking the intent this time. He ran his hands through his hair, so obviously frustrated as he answered his phone.

“Mom,” He said with a sigh, “You alright?”

She could only hear one side of the conversation but it sounded like Leia was asking if they were alright and if the storm shutters were still sturdy. 

“No, we’re not leaving the house, of course not.” He scratched the back of his neck as he was wont to do when he was embarrassed or frustrated, “Yes, we have food. Yes, we have a lot stocked in the fridge. No, I just finished all the game earlier but we have enough for tomorrow too.” 

She smiled and shook her head. Leia must really be worried about him. Would she be like that too once she becomes a parent? She didn’t think she’d be the type to fuss. Ben seemed like it though. 

She flushed at the thought. Would she want his babies? 

She eyed him as he paced, his tone becoming increasingly frustrated. She could already imagine the mayor’s amused expression. His parents seem to really like teasing him. 

He ran his fingers through his hair again and her fingers itched to do the same.

Why is this man so attractive anyway?

She’d never seen a guy who filled out a sweater and joggers as nicely as he did, like they’d been custom-made for him. 

And that body? She’d never seen him work out and he seemed to love sweets as much as she did. He turned and looked surprised when their eyes met. She gave him a smile and his eyes widened a little more. He turned away quickly, face flushing.

“We’re fine, really. No, why would I ride a horse in this weather?” He laughed then, a deep, incredulous laugh, “I’m not some sort of knight. I don’t even have a horse.”

She pursed her lips and tried to imagine him atop a big, black, angry-looking stallion galloping across the field. She bit her lip; she could imagine it all too clearly, his hair flying in the wind, looking exhilarated as the horse ran wild and free. 

She didn’t think he’d be the type though but she’d caught glimpses of himself that he seemed to suppress tightly, like he didn’t want to acknowledge them.

Like that gap between his sweet, easily-flustered self and his flirty, confident self that seemed to pop out every once in a while.

How exactly can he be both?

“You two are fine, right?” She heard Ben ask as he wrapped up their conversation.

The rain was still pouring and she saw him flinch when there was another peal of thunder. Was he by any chance scared of thunder? 

“Yeah, alright, see you soon,” He ended the call and sighed, running his hand through his hair again, messing it up more than it already was. He glanced at her and grimaced.

“You should rest,” He said, “I’ll clean up,”

She bit the inside of her cheek. He didn’t look at her when he approached the table. How could he just tell her to rest after teasing her like that? 

“What did your mum say?” She asked. He started collecting the cups and she shut off the computer and followed him into the kitchen. She filched another cookie and suppressed a moan. She’d had a lot of cookies in her lifetime but his was the only cookie that straddled crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside so perfectly.

“She was just asking if we’re ready for the storm.” He said, “And that we shouldn’t go out for the next couple of days.”

“It’s that bad? The weather report didn’t say anything,”

“Nah, my mom’s just worried. She’s always been like that,”

Really? Leia didn’t seem like the type to worry too much but she remembered how they’d asked her to watch over him. It must be because he was an only child. She couldn’t really relate seeing as well, she didn’t have a mum and Unkar didn’t have a wife.

It’s a wonder how he managed to keep her to be honest.

“You alright, darlin’?” He was looking at her while he dried their cups, “You look a little lost there,”

“I was just thinking,” She said, smiling a little, “About my foster dad.”

“Ah,” He didn’t ask, instead waiting for her to speak up.

“He was okay,” She said shrugged, “He gave me an allowance, sent me to school, bought my school stuff,” She pursed her lips, “But of course he wouldn’t have if I didn’t earn him a lot of money. I was small enough to fit into tight spaces so I could get more  parts and stuff in the junkyard. He taught me some basics and turns out I have a knack for fixing stuff up,”

“That’s dangerous,” He was frowning, “A kid shouldn’t be doing something like that,” 

She shrugged, “We got along fine, I guess and it beats jumping from house to house,” 

“Is he still around?”

“Dunno. We cut ties when I turned eighteen. He gave me some cash to start with so that was nice,”

“I see,” She must’ve made him uncomfortable. People weren’t really comfortable talking about those. She cringed a little. He was so easy to talk to, like he understood what it was like to be alone, “I spent a lot of time here,” He said after a brief moment of silence. She looked up, startled, “In Lars. Mom was still a senator at the time and dad of course went with her to campaign and live in Washington.” 

“Oh,” 

He gave a short laugh, “I mean, it’s been twenty years and my memory’s not the best but I know…I was somewhat happy here. Grandma was the one who taught me to bake and there was something reassuring about it. You know that if you put yeast and water and flour together, you’d get bread after some time. Sure it can fail but at the end of the day, it’s still bread, you know?” The smile he gave her was sad, “Knowing that was more reassuring than listening to your parents telling you they’ll be back by your birthday knowing they’ll cancel on you because there’s a new law they have to pass.” 

Her heart ached at the thought of a young boy waiting for his parents. She knew what it was like to wait for parents only to be disappointed when they never arrived. 

“I’m sorry,” Was all she could say and his smile made her heart ache even more.

“It’s alright,” He said, “It was a long time ago so I’m over it,” His eyes said otherwise. A man whose memory was as spotty as they say won’t really remember something like that if he was over it, right? It must’ve hurt him deeply. She was sure his grandparents were wonderful people but they still wouldn’t be able to replace the presence of parents when there should’ve been both grandparents and parents celebrating with him.

He must’ve felt so betrayed.

Like he’d been abandoned.

All the things he was doing for her, taking care of her, was it because he was lonely and didn’t want to be abandoned again? He was so nice to everyone but he was even nicer to her ever since she moved in. Was it because he didn’t want to be alone in this big ‘ol house and she was the only one who bit at the deal?

“Rey?” His eyes were wide and mournful, almost like how Niney looked when he was begging for an extra treat, “Are you okay? That brought the mood down, huh? I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said anything,”

“No!” She sat up and flushed, “I mean, it’s fine,” She cleared her throat, “I’m glad that you’re opening up to me,” He looked surprised, “All of your friends here you’ve known for years so they probably know your childhood but I don’t so it’s nice that you’re telling me,” She bit her lip and looked away before she starts to babble some more.

Still, she wanted to erase that look from his face somehow.

“And anyway, it’s fair, right?” He smiled a little, looking less sad and more amused, “You know my dark history and I’ll come to know of yours too,”

He laughed then, “Dark history? I seem to have a different understanding of dark history,” He eyed her rather fondly, if she said so herself. He leaned on the counter to face her and tucked her hair back behind her ear, “Besides, you survived, didn’t you? And grew up so strong,” 

Why was he looking at her like that? Like she was someone so great when he’s the one who’s achieved so much?

She tucked her chin down and swallowed the hard lump of nervousness that was stuck in her throat. 

He pulled away then and she was left a little disappointed. Again. Damn it. 

“I’ll check if everything’s locked, you should rest,” He gave her a tight smile and she nodded. She tried to smile back, swallowing back her nerves. She braced herself. He looked at her curiously as she approached.

“Thank you,” She said, “For…everything?” She cleared her throat. Her cheeks felt hot, “And for telling me,” 

“It’s nothing really—,” She cut him, tugging at his arm and planting a smooch on his mouth. Only, she missed, landing instead just a little off to the side of his mouth. She heard him suck in a breath and saw his eyes widen.

“Goodnight!” She said brightly, letting his arm go and shuffling out of the kitchen before he could react.

She ran all the way to her room, locked the door and threw herself on the bed before screaming her embarrassment into her pillow.

Chapter Text

Ben stood frozen. 

To say that he was surprised would be an understatement. 

Sure, he’d been stopping himself from doing something he might regret if she wasn’t receptive but he didn’t expect her to do it either. That…was not included in his calculations.

He stared at the cookies he’d made for her. Inspired by her, really. Everything had been inspired by her lately.

He smiled. She’d missed. Was she that nervous? Rey had always been so confident and outspoken that he’d forgotten that she could be vulnerable too. The fact that she was here, looking for a place to belong, was a testament to how out of place she must’ve felt growing up.

Kind of like himself. 

Yet here he was, back in the place where he thought he never belonged in.

With her. 

Would things have been different for both of them if they grew up together? He’d be seven by the time she was born and Poe would’ve arrived soon after. What would child Rey be like if she grew up here, in a farm, with both parents instead of a foster father who seemed no better than an employer. Would she still be…her?

Either way he was glad that their circumstances led them both here.

He wanted to be the place where she belonged.

He nibbled on a cookie thoughtfully, contemplating if he wanted to warm some milk or not. Ten years from now, would they still be here? Would this house hear a child running around and laughing again? They’d probably love cookies and milk as much as their parents. 

Lightning flashed and he flinched.

Time for bed.

He cleaned up the crumbs, stuffed the cookies in a jar and led Niney to the little box with a patch grass he’d ordered online. He never thought he’d actually order a box of living, growing grass but then again, he didn’t want Niney to have to go outside and get wet in the rain. Nor did he want to have anymore accidents just waiting to be stepped on.

The things he does for this dog. He shook his head and together they went up to his room. 

While in bed, he posted a picture of the cookies. 

ben_solo_bakes: Goodnight. #StormBake #ChandrilaCalifornia #ChandrilaBaking

He closed the lights and pulled the sheets up only to sit back up and open the light again.

The image of that ghost under the blanket was stark in his memory.

Almost as stark as the feel of Rey’s lips so close to his. 

He could hear the rain and the thunder as he drifted off to sleep. 

 

His heart raced and the strong scent of wet horse pierced his nose. It was cold and his lungs screamed.

Why did he have to pretend to like something he had no interest in because it’s more masculine? 

He couldn’t understand.

Lightning flashed and Finalizer squealed and stood on his hind quarters. 

The rain felt nice on his face. 

It was warm now, the rain pouring over him felt almost like a hug.

 

Ben opened his eyelids slowly, feeling like he didn’t sleep at all. His body felt heavy and he shivered and curled up in his tangled sheets . It was still raining outside.

The clock on his phone said it was ten am, a lot later than the time he usually woke up. He had to get up to make breakfast. Niney scratched at his door and he sat up slowly, blanket wrapped around him. He stared at the door and wondered if he should just crawl towards it so he could get out and Ben could just wrap himself up and go back to sleep. 

But he needed to make breakfast and feed Niney.

He dragged himself out of bed, blanket still wrapped around his shoulders. 

What had he been dreaming of again? 

Finalizer. 

Right, he had a horse named Finalizer. How could he forget? He should go see him sometime. He’d be twenty now. Would he still remember him? They’d tell him if something happened, right? 

He hadn’t ridden a horse in well over ten years. 

Niney ran ahead of him and he couldn’t bring himself to walk any faster.

Did the radiator break down again?

They neared the kitchen. He could already smell the coffee.

Rey was standing by the stove, frying something up. She glanced at him, “Good morning!” She said cheerfully, smiling like nothing happened. 

He tried to smile too and wobbled instead.

She gasped. The sound of the spatula clattering against the counter sounded harsh and his head throbbed. He groaned and leaned against the counter.

“You’re sick!” She said, “You shouldn’t be up and about. Come on, off to bed,”

“The stove,” He said, laughing a little, “I’m fine,”

She scowled; even scowling she was pretty. She shut off the stove and rushed back to grab his arm, “Back to bed with you,” 

She ushered him back up the stairs and his lungs screamed at him like he’d been running a marathon instead of just going up the stairs. 

Yup, he really must be sick. 

He let her drag him into the room and he stumbled onto his mattress. She ran out and then ran back in with a bundle he recognised as her duvet. She dumped it on him and started straightening it out over him, “I’m fine, Rey,” He said weakly and she scowled again. 

“Go back to sleep,” She said, “You’re hot,”

“Yup, I know,” 

She blushed prettily and he gave her a loopy smile.

Chapter Text

Ben had been working way too hard lately. Add to the rain and the cold and he was bound to get sick. Rey stirred the soup and hunted down some bread for grilled cheese sandwiches.

She called Rose to ask what to make for a sick person. She had way more experience than Rey ever did since whenever she was sick all she ate was instant ramen since it was easy to cook.

Cháo gà. It’s chicken congee.” Rose said almost immediately, “Just hot water and congee. Or tea, tea is good too. At least that’s what my mom always gave us,” The line was a little static-y and the rain still hasn’t let up. 

She heard a distinctly masculine groan, “Um, Rosie, where exactly are you?”

“Hm?” She giggled, “Oh, you know,” There was some shuffling, “I kinda maybe seduced Armie last night,” 

Rey gaped, “What?” 

“Oh, don’t at me. He was really into it.” 

“Wait, you said you were going on a date this weekend?” She put her on loudspeaker and looked up how exactly to make congee. Did they even have rice? She remembered Ben making her some stir-fry with rice before so they probably should have some still, right?

“Yeah but he was just being so gentle and slow. I got a little impatient,” She sighed, “But it worked out. Let me tell you, I did not expect him to be—,”

“Nope! Gonna cut you off right there. I don’t want to hear how good our local lawyer is in bed,”

Rose cackled, “Okay,” She said in a sing-song voice, “So, Ben’s sick,”

Rey sighed, “Yeah,” She found the rice stored neatly in an airtight container. This was the first time she’d actually cooked real food in this house. Last time’s ramen didn’t really count since she only really used water and eggs.

Everything was arranged and labelled neatly, like those aesthetic kitchens she’s only seen online.

“Because it’s raining?”

“Probably? I mean he’s been working really hard ever since he arrived, right? And yesterday it just started raining and it was cold…” She remembered the reason why he was cold in the first place and flushed, “Anyway, the least I can do is take care of him while he’s sick since he’s been taking really good care of me.”

“Uh huh,” 

“What? It’s true,” She flushed again.

“Well, it’s a great way to get closer to him,”

“I’m not going to take advantage of a sick person,” She scowled and Rose laughed.

“I’m just saying, it’s a chance to get closer since like he’s in his weak, vulnerable state and he’ll be grateful to you for taking care of him.”

“Of course I would, it’s only right,” Boiling the rice in last night’s rabbit soup sounds like a good plan, right? It’d save her some time and rabbit was almost like chicken anyway, “He was outright swaying. And it’s not like he oversleeps often,” Niney pawed at her pants and whined, “Oh, I’m so sorry baby, did you want to eat?” 

“What?” Rose laughed, “Are you talking to the dog?”

“Yeah,” She poured his kibble into the bowl, “I think Ben came down to feed him,”

“Well you go take care of your man,” She could already imagine Rose waggling her eyebrows at her, “I think I hear Armie waking up,”

Rey chuckled, “Alright, you go enjoy yourself,”

“Of course I would,” Rose said cheerfully, “You have no idea how hard I tried to get him to fall in love with me,”

She did have a bit of an idea. After all, she’s been having the same trouble, only, she wasn’t as straightforward and no-nonsense as Rose. 

She hung up and patted Niney’s head before washing her hands and starting on the congee.

 

 

Ben wasn’t sure how long he slept. He woke up when he heard the door open and close. Something smelled good. He groaned and pulled the sheets up closer around him.

“You should eat something,” Her hand felt cool on his forehead and he sighed, “I’m not really sure how to take care of sick people but Rose said this works. Can you sit up?”

He cracked his eyes open and stared up at her blearily. He’d been dreaming again, of the rain and the sound of hooves hitting the wet earth. 

“Is it still raining?” His voice was hoarse and he sat up slowly. He grimaced. The last time he’d been sick Vicrul had appeared in his condo and made dill pickle soup and bread.  The week after he got sick too, “You shouldn’t come closer, you’ll get sick too,” 

“Don’t worry, I’m really sturdy,” She said, bringing the tray closer, “I don’t get sick often and if I do, you’ll take care of me, right?” 

“Of course,” He said and tried for a smile.

“Eat first and drink some medicine, then go back to sleep.”

She’d made some sort of gruel with rice and the soup he’d made the night before. It was thin enough that he could slurp it up easily.

“I put an egg and some ginger in it,” She said.

“It’s good,” 

“I mean, I kinda just added rice to your soup so really, it’s all you.” She cleared her throat, “I called Rose to ask what to do.” 

“You didn’t have to, darlin’,” She helped him sip some water.

“Of course I want to. You’re always so nice to me and I haven’t gone hungry at all since I started living here,” 

He smiled again, “You’re living with a chef, darlin’, you’ll never go hungry.” Then he frowned, “Pastry chefs are still chefs,”

“Of course they are,” She said. He supposed he was just being sensitive about it. People didn’t seem to expect that he’d be a pastry chef especially given his size. It wasn’t his fault he liked making and eating sweets. 

He could almost see the delicate choux pastry floating around in his head. He should make some once he had the chance. His mouth watered; he was sure she’d love it too. 

“Ben Solo,” He jumped, “Don’t even think about getting up and baking right now,” She was frowning at him and he couldn’t help but stare, “I’m serious,”

“How did you know?”

She rolled her eyes, “You get that look when you’re thinking up of whatever fluffy, yummy goodness you want to make and you don’t hear a word that’s being said to you.” He felt his cheeks grow hotter, “Pretty sure you won’t even notice if the world’s on fire,” 

Fluffy yummy goodness made him of cake. Would she like some cake?

“You give me a lot of ideas,” He murmured and finished his food. He drank the pills she gave him obediently, “You’re very inspiring,” He reached out to tuck her hair back behind her ear. 

“I can inspire you some other time,” She said. Her eyes twinkled with amusement, “Right now you should lie down and get some more rest,” She took the tray from him and pushed him back down onto the mattress. 

His heart fluttered at how close she was.

His lips thinned and he stopped breathing.

“I’ll come check on you again, later.” He could hear Niney whining outside the door now. She opened the door and he came bounding in, “Would you mind if I keep the door open?”

“No,” He mumbled and closed his eyes. Niney jumped on the bed and he had no strength to tell him to get down. He whined and made himself comfortable against his arm. 

He felt something soft brush against his forehead right as he fell asleep.

Chapter Text

Rey woke up to the sound of Niney scratching at her door. The air was heavy though it didn't sound like it was raining anymore.

“What are you doing here?” She asked and scratched at his head. A quick look at her phone told her it was almost three in the morning. 

Ben’s door stood ajar. It was dark inside and the bed was a mess but he wasn’t there.

She frowned. 

“Where’s your dad?” She asked the pup staring up at her, tongue lolling. Where would Ben Solo be at this time? The last time she’d checked on him his fever had gone down but that didn’t mean he wasn’t sick anymore. 

Plus he’d been murmuring apologies to something called Finalizer? Was it an old pet? There was some light in the kitchen, and some clattering. He didn’t open all the lights and it looked like it was a mess of flour and eggshells. It was so unlike how he usually worked that it was obvious that he was still ill even without looking at his flushed face. 

“Ben? What are you doing?” His eyes were dark; or maybe because he didn’t open all the lights? “And why didn’t you open the lights?”

He gave her a smile, “I woke up,” He said, “And I just couldn’t get this recipe out of my head,” He was mixing something in a bowl, “Here, try it,” He offered the spatula to her and she approached his side of the counter. Should she swipe a finger or lick the lavender coloured cream straight from it? Usually he took out a new spoon and dumped it straight into the sink after tasting.

She opted to swipe a finger and stick it in her mouth. It was tart, with a hint of sweetness from honey and some sort of floral note that’d be lovely with a strong cup of black tea. 

“What is that?” She eyed the cream in the bowl and he grinned, both dimples popping out, “Honey lavender elderberry diplomat cream,” 

“And what are you making them for?”

“Choux au craquelin,” He said proudly, “They’re like profiteroles except fancier,” 

“I see,” She has no idea what any of those are, “But can’t you wait until morning? You don’t look very well,”

“What are you talking about? I’m fine,” 

Nope, he was definitely not fine. The Ben Solo she knew wouldn’t let anyone swipe at the cream with their bare finger let alone himself. 

Yet here he was, sticking a finger in his mouth, “I think it needs a bit more sugar,” He murmured and she sighed.

“Ben,” He looked at her and she took the bowl from him gently so she could place it on the counter. It was sticky with the honey and cream that spilled out while he’d been mixing, “Why don’t we do this tomorrow when you’re feeling much better?”

“I’m fine,” He frowned and she pressed a hand on his forehead. He was burning up again, “You should go back to bed,” 

“Nope, you are going to bed,” She had to stand close to reach his forehead and he wrapped his fingers around her wrist to bring it down. She stumbled closer.

“I’m fine,” He murmured and touched her cheek with his other hand. She felt something cold smear across her face and she instinctively licked across her lips. It was both tart and sweet. The cream? 

His eyes, already dark, seemed like an endless void that threatened to suck her in. She bit her lip and couldn’t look away.

She’d always thought of him as someone calm and dependable and friendly, if a little distant, not at all taking into account what Vicrul had said about his temper and even ignoring the hints of barely restrained anger that flashed in his eyes at times when he thought nobody was looking. 

He was just like any other nice, cute, if a little air-headed, boy-next-door.

It was her fault for not believing in the things she didn’t see. 

But now, in this dim kitchen, standing close enough to feel the heat radiating off of him, she believed it all. His grip was strong but it didn’t hurt. His thumb brushed over her rushing pulse and a shiver ran down her spine.

She stood frozen as he leaned down, lips brushing against her cheek, making her gasp when she felt his tongue flick over the cream before moving on to capture her lips in a searing kiss.

She whimpered and her eyes shut in their own accord. He dropped the hand he was still holding so he could wrap his arms around her waist. 

His tongue was sweet and she moaned when it swept across hers. Her arms went around his neck and he turned them slightly so the counter dug into her back. She pulled him closer even as she leaned away, shivering when she heard his groan. 

He was the one who pulled away, flicking his tongue on her bottom lip and then moving down to lick away the rest of the cream and trail kisses down her jaw. His mouth felt hot when he sucked on the sensitive skin of her neck. Each time he sucked it felt like electricity was skittering down her spine, making her whimper and writhe against the distinct hardness pressing back against her. 

It started to rain again. Thunder cracked and he drew away and flinched.

His eyes were unfocused even as he stared at her swollen lips. 

He was leaning in again and she tilted her chin up to meet another of his desperate kisses. Their foreheads touched and she gasped, reeling back to see him blinking at her with equal parts arousal and confusion.

She covered his mouth to stop him, “You’re still sick,” She said, voice shaking a little, “You have to go back to bed,” 

The look he gave her was heartbreaking, all wide-eyed and mournful, like he was begging her not to stop him. She swallowed hard and pushed him away gently.

He took a step back and followed her when she took his wrist and led him out of the kitchen, desperately wishing that he wasn’t sick and that this wasn’t some sort of feverish instinct he had.

Chapter Text

Ben’s head felt heavy and fuzzy and his mouth felt gross and kinda sweet like he’d been on a drinking binge with Vicrul. He had no idea what happened and his shitty memory didn’t really help much. Fuck, he wasn’t even sure what was real and what was a dream.

And why the hell wasn’t he wearing a shirt? 

He shivered and tugged the blanket closer. Skin slid across skin and he jerked up. 

Why the fuck was Rey in his bed? 

The fog in his head cleared up as quickly as his sinuses and he scooted away from her still-sleeping form.

He had a vague recollection of holding onto her wrist and telling her to stay but he doesn’t remember her wearing the loose shirt with the sleeves cut off. He was sure she was wearing a fuzzy sweater with a bear. 

Or was that the night before that? 

Shit. 

He got an eyeful of the side of her boob and his cock twitched. He swallowed audibly.

She was clothed though so that meant nothing happened. Right? 

That still didn’t explain what she was doing curled up half-on and half-off his mattress. 

The door was slightly open and Niney was nowhere to be found. 

She snuggled into the sheets and gave a soft sigh. 

He spied his sweater folded neatly on one of the crates that served as his table.

She shifted and he froze when her eyes opened. She sat up slowly and yawned. The shirt was bigger than he thought and fell off one shoulder. It was then that he noticed the bruises on her neck. Red, angry bruises that seemed to melt into one another. He swallowed hard; were those teeth marks? Did he do that?

Well, no shit, who else would’ve?

He flushed, “Morning,” She mumbled and blinked at him blearily, “How are you feeling?” She reached over to press a hand on his forehead and he averted his eyes when her shirt dipped. Where did she get this? It was probably large enough to fit him.

Which brought him to another line of thought. What would she look like in his shirts? She can rip them apart however she wants and he wouldn’t mind; she’d probably look great in his old football jersey too. 

“You’re not warm anymore,” She said, “Good.” He could smell the soft scent of her shampoo and again his mouth watered. 

He could probably still get some peaches from the farm the town over. Poe would know someone. He’d make can some peaches with spices so he’d bite into those instead of her.

“Ben?” She was staring up at him, seemingly unaware of the bruises on her neck.

“I-,” He swallowed and looked away, “I-I’m fine,” He cleared his throat and scooted farther away, ending up on his ass on the cold floor, “I’m, I mean, excuse me,” He half-crawled, half-stumbled towards his bathroom and banged his knee on the crate-table. He cursed and shut the door so hard it rattled. 

He cursed again, washed his face and stared at himself in the small mirror. 

He was almost certain they didn’t fuck. Why else would she be so calm? He scrubbed his face and groaned softly so she wouldn’t hear. 

She knocked, “Are you okay?”

“I’m fine,” His voice shot up an octave, “I’ll be out soon,” 

The door opened and he froze. Fuck, he didn’t lock it. She looked amused, almost mischievous and he shuffled nervously as she drew closer. He took a step back and bumped into the sink, “Don’t tell me, you don’t remember what you did last night?” He shook his head. She didn’t look angry, in fact, she just looked really amused. She gave a sad little moue that tugged at his chest, “After teasing me like that?”

“I’m sorry,” He stammered and he almost crashed when his hand slipped from the sink. He could see her straddling him in his minds eye, the rain pouring around them,  looking sultry and free, a goddess whose eyes lit up dangerously with every flash of lightning. He shook his head of the feverish dreams that blurred what happened with what he hoped happened.

She grinned, “Don’t worry, I stuck it in the fridge so it’s probably alright,” Wait, what? “I’m going to be really disappointed if you didn’t make that thing you were making since you forgot,” She winked before turning around and skipping out.

What…did he do?

It was all still a blur when he took a shower and made his way to the kitchen. He poured out Niney’s food and the puppy bounded right past him to dig in. He was a little worried about what he’d find in the little patch of grass but what could he do?

A mixing bowl was in the fridge, just like she’d said and he grabbed a spoon to taste the pastel goop inside.

Tart and sweet and floral, smeared on warm skin only to be licked off. He could still feel her skin under his fingertips and her tongue sliding wetly against his.

That wasn’t a dream for sure. 

Sticky and sweet, almost melting on her. That explained the hickeys. He flushed.

“So, what are you going to make? You said something French, choux au…something?”

There was no way she wouldn’t see the marks on her. Heck, there was no way she wouldn’t remember it happening. The neckline of the shirt she wore did little to hide the marks and he found himself staring at them, suddenly tempted to suckle on the other side of her neck to balance it out. 

Her eyes twinkled in amusement. She took a step towards him and he took a step back. Her smile widened. 

And in that moment, Ben knew that he was her prey and he had no chance of escape.

The question now was, did he want to escape in the first place?

Chapter Text

He was pressed up against the counter, next to the stove and still, she kept advancing until she was close enough to touch. Her chest brushed against his and he swallowed audibly when he realised that she wasn’t wearing a bra. 

“Why aren’t you looking at me?” She said in a teasing tone. He swallowed hard and willed himself to make like a tree and stand still, “Your face is red,” He shuddered when something cold smeared a line down his throat and whimpered when her mouth clamped down without preamble to suck. 

It was then that remembered that trees were meant to be climbed.

Shivers ran down his spine and straight to his cock as she nibbled and lapped at his throat. She pulled away all too quickly and he suppressed another moan.

He met her eyes then, as he leaned back on the counter, one arm still holding onto the mixing bowl. She flashed him a smile and a wink, “Now we’re even,” She said and flounced away to open the fridge, “Should we have a full English breakfast?” She bent down to her waist and he suppressed another whimper when her itty bitty shorts rode up her thighs. Jesus Christ, this woman was doing it on purpose. She’d never worn shorts before and it seemed impossible that she’d start now when winter’s coming.

He approached her like he was in a daze, placing the mixing bowl onto the counter. Her eyes sparkled mischievously when she straightened with a tomato in hand.

His arms went around her waist and she gave a little squeak. The tomato fell and rolled across the hardwood but he didn’t care. All he cared about were her lips, sticky and sweet from the residual cream and cool and minty from her toothpaste. She moaned and threw her arms around his neck.

She tugged at his shirt as they stumbled their way out of the kitchen, bumping into walls in their haste to find somewhere soft to land in. His hands slid under hers and brushed against her skin for the first time. She shivered. They broke apart for a second so she could push his shirt off.

It landed in a discarded pile on the floor and then they were crashing together again. Rey nipped at his bottom lip and tugged at his hair. She pushed and he landed on the couch with a gasp. Her knees were on either side of thighs and he watched, entranced as she tugged her shirt off. The scent of her shampoo wafted towards him and his mouth watered. He brushed his hands up her bare thighs. Her shivers turned to moans when he flicked his tongue against a nipple before sucking on it roughly. She tugged on his hair again, his cock jumped and he groaned. 

She ground down against him and tugged on his hair again, rougher this time. He groaned again and opened his mouth for her. Dreams and hazy memories are nothing compared to this. 

Her tongue slid wetly against his and she mewled so sweetly when he gripped her hips still so he could roll his against her. The air between them felt hot and he panted when they broke apart.

“Rey,” He croaked, trying to form the words that’d give her an out. He couldn’t and instead rolled his head back to give her mouth more access to him. 

She wasn’t gentle. 

He didn’t expect her to be. 

But he wasn’t one to take it lying down, especially not now that they’ve crossed the line and then some. 

She yelped when he rolled them over just as roughly as she was biting at him. Her eyes flashed, hot and excited and she grinned. He crushed her mouth under his and she moaned. He felt her wrap her thighs around his waist and he gasped when she pulled him down with a strength he didn’t expect.

Then again, this was Rey. The woman who can carry engines and climb trees and hunt game like it was no big deal. He wouldn’t be surprised if she could roll him over without breaking a sweat. 

She pushed at his sweats and he pulled away with a gasp. 

Then he was on his back on the floor and she was once again straddling him, “Rey,” He gasped and moaned, “W-wait,” 

“I’m clean,” She said, “And I have an IUD,” He groaned and squeezed his eyes shut. 

There goes the last of his self-control. He tugged at her shorts. His cock bobbed against his stomach and he made a desperate sound when he finally managed to pull them off.

She leaned on his thighs and giggled.

“Holy shit,” He breathed. She wasn’t wearing underwear either. He leaned forward, intent of tasting her when she grabbed his wrists.

“Nope,” She said and he met her eyes, “Not now,” Her voice had grown softer and he shivered when she lay over him. His hands were still pinned against the floor and his heart raced. This…was not something he expected and yet, he couldn’t help but shudder in anticipation.

Since when did he get so excited being pinned down by a small slip of a woman like this? She ground leisurely against him, like she was teasing him. She brushed her lips against his and he shuddered.

His cock ached.

Chapter Text

She loved teasing him. She loved seeing him blush and get flustered and she loved not knowing if he’ll suddenly turn around with a heated look and a teasing comeback. 

But what she found she loved most was having him like this; cheeks flushed, hair spread out in a tangled mass on the floor and dark eyes staring up at her like he wanted to devour and worship her at the same time. 

“Please,” A great shudder ran down his big body and she bit the inside of her cheek. This wasn’t how she imagined her morning to end up but seeing him blush over that cream made her want to tease him and it was like he snapped.

And now he was lying under her, pressed skin to skin, and she wanted nothing more than see his perfectly controlled self fall apart.

Maybe she was a bit of a sadist after all. 

She shifted and left go of his wrists. Almost immediately the went to grope at her breasts and squeeze her nipples before sliding down to her waist. 

He looked mesmerised when she grasped at his throbbing manhood and notched him against her. He swallowed hard enough for her to hear and glanced up to see him biting his bottom lip so hard she worried he’d bleed.

She slid down, slowly, and bit her lip too in an attempt to stop herself from whimpering. His fingers dug into her hips and he shuddered as she slid lower.

She gasped when his thumb pressed against her clit and rubbed. She slid lower and finally let out the whimper she’d been holding back because holy shit she’d never felt so fucking full and he was only halfway in. 

Then, he grabbed hold of her hips against and pulled. She half-screamed, half-gasped  at sudden stretch. 

“I’m sorry,” He mumbled even as his hips rolled against her in an effort to get even closer, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” She clamped down on him and he moaned, eyes rolling back.

Niney came running in, probably alarmed at hearing strange sounds coming from his human. He barked his little puppy bark, jumped and scratched at Ben’s hair. She gasped out a laugh, tightening around him and his grip on her hips tightened.

“Rey,” He hissed and glared up at her through slitted eyes. She bit her lip and slid up slowly before slamming back down. He groaned and his eyes rolled back again. 

Niney jumped and nosed on his forehead. She bit her lip and he groaned again, pushing him away gently, “No,” He hissed and waved, “Bed,” He whimpered and sniffed, “No.

While Ben was convincing his dog that they weren’t playing a game he could join, she leaned down again and nipped at the reddening bruise on his throat. She felt him jerk inside her. He growled and she bit her lip at the almost feral look he gave her before turning them around and drawing her legs up around his waist.

His lips were hot and wet and she wrapped her arms around him, mewling when he pulled out and slammed back in roughly. She stretched around him almost to the point of pain and she loved it. 

He kissed her with a quiet desperation that she felt all the day down her bones and she knew right then and there that there that she was well on her way to being in love and that there was no way she’d ever leave this man. 

His mouth slid down her throat and he sucked on her shoulder harshly. She gasped and tightened around him just as his hips snapped back inside her. Then, he drew back, leaving her feeling empty so suddenly, to lean on his knees and untangle her legs from his hips.

He pushed her thighs up before pushing inside her again. She gasped at the new angle and whimpered, scratching at the floor and then his arms.

“Oh, my God, Ben,” She whimpered and met his open-mouthed kiss just as desperately as him. She pulled at his hair and he moaned, grinding his hips against her like he wanted to be as deep as possible. 

The knot in her stomach tightened and her pussy fluttered around him, clamping down when he tries to pull out and squeezing him even tighter when he pushes back in. 

Her nails dug into his shoulder blades and she keened when he started fucking her harder. 

She was so close and when he shifted, he hit that one spot inside her that made her writhe. He thrust against it again and again until she sobbed his name and clamped down hard. She shuddered and heard a high-pitched sound as she came.

He gasped, hips stuttering before thrusting even harder, once, twice, and then one last hard thrust before he buried his face in her neck with a gasp that melted into low moan.

He shuddered, arms falling to the floor to cage her as he came. She felt him jerk inside her and moan again when she tightened around him.

They stayed like that, on the floor, with only the sounds of their panting filling the air until he softened and slid out of her. She shivered.

He pressed his forehead against hers and she could feel his heart race. 

“Rey, I—,” She pressed a kiss to his lips to stop him from saying anything and he sighed and practically melted into her, his big body relaxing and settling over her smaller frame and his hips fitting neatly into her spread-open thighs. 

He pulled away, just enough so their eyes met and their breaths mingled, before leaning down again, eyes fluttering closed, to give her another leisurely kiss. 

Chapter Text

Ben managed to pull himself away from Rey just a little past noon when Niney made his presence known again by nipping his calf. The puppy gave him a droll, unamused look that made Rey giggle. 

He helped her up and didn’t miss the wince she tried to hide. There were more bruises blooming on her throat and he flushed. 

What now? 

Niney pawed at his calf and she grinned, “You better feed him,” She said and he nodded.

“Rey, I,” He hesitated and chewed on the inside of his cheek, “I—,” She pressed a finger to his lips and shook her head.

“We’ll talk later,” She said, “The cream might’ve spoiled,” Her eyes were still twinkling with mischief and she didn’t seem at all bothered by their nudity. She picked up her shirt and he swallowed back the lump that formed in his throat when he got an eyeful of her ass. 

They kinda looked like peaches. 

She turned a little, catching him ogling her and winked.

He looked away and flushed, lumbering after Niney and ignoring the shiver that ran down his spine at the sound of her giggles. 

He picked up his sweater along the way and realised that he had no idea where his pants were. Did he leave in the living room with Rey? 

Going through the house to feed his dog with his dick hanging out wasn’t exactly something he imagined he’d be doing. Then again, he didn’t exactly plan on fucking his housemate. 

He scrubbed his face with one hand and groaned. 

The cream looked a little sad and melty but it tasted fine. He stuffed it back in the fridge and watched Niney chow down happily for a moment.

Rey was gone by the time he stalked back into the living room, so were his pants.

What a mess. The room smelled like sex and the coffee table was pushed haphazardly to the side. Should he open the windows? Soft, grey daylight streamed in and he suddenly worried that someone might’ve passed by to check on them now that it stopped raining.

He groaned again and trudged up the stairs to take another bath.

He heard the shower on in the hallway bathroom and for a moment he contemplated slipping in and joining her. He flushed and his cock twitched. 

He walked away quickly before he got any more ideas. 

 

He took the quickest shower imaginable. Rey wasn’t done when he passed by the bathroom again and for that he was grateful. How could he face her after what just happened? 

He kicked the tomato she’d dropped earlier and it rolled towards Niney who growled at it. He chuckled and grabbed it. She’d mentioned a full English breakfast and though it was way past breakfast and lunch, he should still feed her. There wasn’t much he could do for her but cook anyway. 

He was pan-grilling the tomatoes and mushrooms in bacon grease by the time she came back down looking fresh and relaxed. She crouched down to give Niney some rubs. 

She was in another pair of shorts that showed off her mile-long legs and he swallowed hard before looking away. 

“I’m making English breakfast,” He said for the lack of anything else to say, “I’m sorry we couldn’t have some earlier,”

“Pretty sure you had some though,” She quipped and he felt heat rush to his cheeks, “Or maybe I did? Then again you’re not English,” 

He cleared his throat, “A-are you alright?” He plated the tomatoes and mushroom carefully next to the toast and poached egg, “You’re not…hurting, or anything?” He brought their plates to the table and avoided meeting her eyes for fear of what he’d say.

What did he want to say to her earlier anyway? I’m sorry? I love you? Both?

“Thanks,” She accepted it and dumped a boatload of brown sauce on everything, “Hmm, does aching count as hurting?” 

He flinched, “I’m sorry,”

“Why are you apologising?” He glanced up through his lashes and found her smiling. Her eyes sparkled, “I mean it’s not your fault you’re a bit on the bigger side, is it?” 

“I just…didn’t,” Didn’t what? Didn’t mean it? How could he not when he just likes her so damn much? 

“Do you regret it?” He looked up, surprised at her question. He’d never seen that look in her eyes before, a little anxious, a little self-conscious.

“No! Of course not,” He said quickly, “I…” He swallowed hard and looked away again, “I l-like you,” He winced when he’d almost said love. How can someone love another that quickly? Any sane person would be terrified and even doubtful especially after what just happened, “I should’ve,” He cleared his throat, “I should've asked you out on a date first like a normal person,” 

She laughed and he risked looking up again, “You should’ve,” She said, the anxiety gone from her eyes, “I actually thought that maybe I was just seeing things that weren’t there since you never really…” The sentence trailed away and she chewed on her still-swollen lower lip, “I thought I was the only one interested.” She flushed and tucked a lock of hair back behind her ear, “Though everyone said otherwise,”

“They’re right,” He said thickly, mesmerised by the movement of her fingers, “But I…just didn’t want to pressure you or anything,” He did tell her that he liked her but he supposed it was his fault for making it sound so vague, “I didn’t want you to feel like you have to accept my feelings since…” He waved his hands helplessly. Should he just stop taking rent? Would that make it worse? She always paid on schedule and they never once mentioned it after that first time they agreed on the rate. 

She grew quiet, like she was thinking of what he just said and he busied himself with his meal so he wouldn’t start overthinking things and put his foot in his mouth. 

“I like you,” She finally said, “I mean, I didn’t think I would,” He winced, “I always thought you were pretty,” He flushed, remembering her telling him that from the start back when he thought she was a guy. How can he even possibly think that when she’s so obviously a woman? “And you're really nice and you make really good food. Honestly, I’m being spoiled here…but,” Here we go, the ‘but’, “But…I want to stay here, in Chandrila,”

He looked up, confused, “I know,” 

“I heard you won’t,”

“What?”

“I know you don’t like it here even though you totally look like you belong here and I don’t want to be the reason why you’d change your mind all of a sudden,” She flushed and cleared her throat, “And I know you’ll be here for the next couple of years but…”

Did this mean she was thinking long term? Of still being together after five years? 

He could already hear the church bells ring. Would it be too soon if he starts talking about the after? 

But wait, he hasn’t even asked her to be his girlfriend yet. 

And he should. 

Just not empty-handed like he was now. 

“Anyway, it’s fine,” She perked up again and gave him a smile that made him grimace because it was so obviously not fine. 

“Rey,” 

She shoved the rest of her food in her mouth and jumped up, “Thanks for lunch,” She said quickly, “I just remembered I have to do my homework,” She rinsed her plate quickly before placing it into the dishwasher.

She was…running away? 

Why?

“Rey, wait,”

But she was gone. 

What the fuck just happened?

Chapter Text

Rey cursed herself and dropped her head onto the desk. She groaned. Niney had followed her into the room so now she was locked in with the little thing whose eyes were so strangely like his dad’s. 

“Don’t look at me like that,” She mumbled and then groaned, “I know I shouldn’t have said that but,” She sighed and wondered if she should ask Rose for advice. She always seemed to know what to do.

Still, she didn’t want to tell them yet that they’re kinda maybe a thing? She should be happy that he likes her, right? Honestly, teasing him was such a spur of the moment thing but she couldn’t help it because he just looked so cute and flustered unlike the night before when he’d been so sexy and confident that she had to wonder which one he really was.

And she got her answer.

He was both. It was like he had a switch inside him that randomly went back and forth that one moment he was all dominant and hot and the next he was sweet and submissive, letting her do whatever she wanted with him. 

But really, she shouldn’t have said that. So what if he wanted to leave after five years? Would they even be together for that long? She found out about the terms and conditions of inheriting the bakery and farmhouse by accident really. At the time, she didn’t really think much of it since she was so stubbornly denying her feelings.

If she got involved, she would only get hurt. 

She sighed and Niney looked at her curiously. She picked him up and brought him to the bed with her to cuddle. 

What would she say if he asks her out? How would their relationship move from here? 

A relationship. 

She thought she didn’t want one but it was sounding better and better every time she thought about it. 

 

She must’ve fallen asleep. Niney was scratching at the door and whining at her. She stumbled out of bed and opened the door for him. He zoomed out. She hoped Ben would open the door to the yard for him.

She flushed at the thought of Ben. 

Would she be alright after he leaves? Does he want to leave, still? She really hoped he’d stay. 

Finn was right, she was terrified of being abandoned. 

She made her way down hesitantly to the kitchen where she knew he’d be. It smelled  so sweet and she wondered if he’d made that thing he was muttering in his strange, fever-dream baking.

He was glaring down at a baking sheet, “How are you feeling now?” She heard Vicrul’s voice from his phone, “When you went AWOL I was a little worried,”

“I was sick,” Ben grumbled, “I’m fine now,”

“Yeah, I know. I called Rey,” He did. She’d told him Ben was ill and he’d laughed and told her to watch out for something ridiculously creative and delicious or something really sketchy but nonetheless creative.

She wasn’t sure what his pastry was but the cream was ridiculously delicious. Especially on him.

She flushed again.

“You don’t look too happy,” She said and he looked up, eyes wide, a blush blooming on his cheeks. 

“Rey,” He breathed and she suppressed a smile. Maybe she shouldn’t think too much about this. She’ll be fine in the event that their not-quite relationship falls apart, right?

“Hey, sweetheart!” Vicrul said from the other end of the line and Ben scowled, “So, what did our prince make?”

“I don’t know but it seems really good,” She said, approaching the counter. What was he frowning about? The round buns with the crackly tops looked gorgeous.

He handed her one quietly and she gave him a shy smile. He had questions in his eyes and she wasn’t sure she wanted to answer them so soon. He tore his gaze away from her, “It’s elderberry lavender and honey filled choux au craquelin.” He rumbled and Vicrul whistled his appreciation. 

She shivered. They were right when they said French spoken by a hot guy would always sound beautiful. Even if all he said was the name of some food item. 

“Send me some pictures,” He said, “That sounds good,”

Rey took a large bite and cool cream oozed out of the warm pastry. She squeaked when the cream went everywhere.

“It is good,” She moaned and Vicrul laughed. She tried to stop the cream from dripping all over her fingers. 

Ben’s eyes darkened impossibly and she bit her lip.

He reached over, the counter in between them, and brushed the cream from her mouth away with his thumb. She caught it with her mouth and sucked. 

He sucked in a breath and his nostrils flared. 

“It’s not even. Some of them are bigger,” He said thickly, still not taking his eyes off of her. The cream slid down her fingers but she didn’t notice. 

“Oh? It’s not like you to make something inconsistently. You sure you’re not sick still?” Ben didn’t answer him. She was sure he wasn’t even listening, probably forgetting that he had his friend on the line. She let go of his thumb and licked her lips.

“I don’t think he’s listening to you,” She said, “He might be a little distracted right now,”

“Oh? I see.” Vicrul laughed, “That’s my cue, I guess. Take care of him, sweetheart,” 

He didn’t wait for her reply and ended the call right there. She grinned at Ben.

“It’s really good,” She ate the rest of the bun and licked the cream that slid down her wrist. He swallowed hard. 

She stepped around the counter and leaned up against him for a kiss.

Chapter Text

He could taste the sweetness in her mouth. He’d never look at elderberries and lavender the same way again. What is with this cream that just gets the together? 

He sighed into her kiss and wrapped his arms around her waist. 

They can talk later.

They had to, but right now, he couldn’t think of what exactly they were supposed to. 

Her fingers, sticky and warm, brushed against his jaw. He pulled away and grabbed her wrist. She arched a brow. Her heavy-lidded eyes were so dark they looked almost black. 

Like molasses and dark chocolate.

He sucked her a finger into his mouth and her eyes widened. She gasped and he added another digit. He sucked on her fingers the same way she did his and licked between the sensitive skin between them. She whimpered and shivered, drawing away a little. He didn’t let her, instead holding her tight against him with one arm. 

She always tasted so sweet. 

He left her fingers to seek out her mouth again. She sighed out a moan and he pushed her back so he could sit her on the counter. Her shirt fell, this time on the stove, already forgotten. 

She was wearing a bra this time and he drew back to stare. She raised her arms to cover her breasts and he pulled them apart before she could, “Don’t,” He growled. There were red and purplish marks blooming on her skin and he felt a sick sense of satisfaction in knowing that he’d been the one to put them there. 

He lapped at her nipple through the thin lace and she shivered, leaning farther into the counter, on her elbows.

She was sweet everywhere and he loved how her skin smelled like vanilla, complementing the fruitiness of her shampoo, like she’d done it on purpose specifically so he’d be tempted to take a bite out of her.

And he did. He gave her a little nibble just at the edge of the lace, making her shiver again. He could take his time now, to properly worship her and make it so she wouldn’t even think to run away after.

He pulled her shorts down her thighs as his lips trailed down her stomach. She wore matching lace undies and he bit the edge of it, “You’re doing this on purpose,” He murmured and started tugging them down with his teeth. 

Her legs lay splayed over his shoulders and she tried to cover herself with her hands, not at all like the confident minx she was earlier. He caught them and pinned them atop her thighs. He’d wanted to taste her the moment he saw her.

“You said you’d let me,” He murmured, meeting her eyes. He drew closer and she shivered, “Will you?” She squirmed and gave a little squeak. He arched a brow, “Rey,”

She shivered and nodded. He gave her one long lick with the flat of his tongue and she whimpered. She shook his hands off her wrists to entangle them into his hair. She tugged and he groaned. He could feel each tug she made running down his back and settling heavily at the base of his spine.

He flexed his tongue and shoved it deeper into her delicate folds and sucked. She writhed on his counter and tugged harder. 

Eating a woman out on a kitchen counter was probably every chef’s dream and he growled a little when she tilted her hips up to get closer to his mouth. He wriggled a finger in and she clamped down so hard he almost came in his pants. 

Jesus, how did he even fit?

He licked and flicked his tongue over her clit before sucking roughly. She whined and gripped his hair tighter. He moved his finger in and out of her, thrusting into her swollen folds gently, already thinking of the next time he’d be able to have her wrapped around him. He nipped on her folds and her hips jerked up. She tugged on his hair sharply, the tiny pinpricks of pain did nothing to temper his stiff cock. He couldn’t help but grin at her glare.

“Hurry,” She demanded and he laughed a little.

“Yes ma’am,” Without preamble he shoved another finger in and she gasped, arching off the counter beautifully. 

He dropped his mouth back onto her clit, sucking in time with his thrusting fingers. Her hands tightened around his hair and he groaned, growing even harder. Who knew he’d love the feeling of getting his hair pulled? 

She writhed and arched, moaning and whimpering, legs tightening around his head. Her pussy clamped down and he tried for another finger. She shrieked and arched and pulled on his hair so roughly he smacked his nose onto her. 

He shuddered and moaned, pressing a hand against himself with his other hand because fuck she was intoxicating.

Her thighs relaxed and she started tugging him up and writhing against him, whining as he continued to lap against her sensitive clit. It was a different experience tasting her and then planting an open-mouthed kiss on her. The taste of her lingered in his mouth and the residual sweetness from the pastry she’d eaten mixed together so dangerously addictive that he wanted to pour cream all over her and lick it all up after.

Her thighs went around his waist and he dragged her closer to the edge of the counter. He could feel her wetness soaking through his sweats and he struggled to push them down.

She giggled when his cock smacked against her thigh and pulled him closer so he had an even harder time trying to push into her.

He laughed too, a little exasperatedly, “Rey, darlin’, do you really want to make things harder for me?” She was smiling when he succumbed to her mouth again for another sloppy kiss. He managed to manoeuvre himself against and hissed when he pushed. 

Maybe it was because she just came and they literally just fucked a couple of hours ago but to him it seemed like she’d gotten tighter, wrapping around him tightly so he had no chance of ever escaping. 

He dropped his head to her shoulder and moaned. Her hands went under his sweater; fuck he didn’t even take any of his clothes off. 

Why did that make him harder?

He started out gently but soon enough he couldn’t help but thrust into her harder especially when he heard her whimper and then moan. He planted another sloppy kiss on her mouth and shoved his hands under her head so she at least wouldn’t bang into anything.

She tightened around him and gasped as she came, scratching at his lower-back. 

He felt his climax start at the base of on his spine and he bit his lip and groaned, hips moving jerkily as he tried to get as close and as deep as possible. 

He gripped her hair and shuddered over her, eyes rolling back and mind going blank. 

Chapter Text

Her knees gave out and she giggled as he held her up. His face was red and he watched her as she pulled herself away from him to lean on the other counter and grab another bun. 

She was all too aware of her nakedness but for some reason, it didn’t bother her. In fact, it felt rather…freeing. 

Is it always like this? She felt his fingertips dance across her bum and she looked back at him with an arched brow. 

He looked away with flush, “We, uh,” He cleared his throat, “We should talk,”

They should. Rey bit her lip and shifted, suddenly being naked while he was fully dressed seemed strange. She wore her clothes again, not bothering with her underwear because, well, he’s seen everything already anyway.

Still, she crossed her arms and chewed on her lower lip. 

He looked just as nervous as she was. 

“Do you…” He cleared his throat, “Do you…wanna date?” He rubbed the back of his neck and shifted awkwardly. She wasn’t really sure what to feel.

On one hand, she was elated, almost wanting to scream, fucking finally. On the other, doubts rose, ugly and oily, consuming her so quickly it left her feeling sick.

“You don’t have to ask me out just because we fucked,” She said and he stared at her in shock, “Seriously, I like you but—,” 

He shook his head rapidly and covered her mouth to cut her off, “No.” His eyes were wide, flashing with an anger so fierce that took her breath away, “Don’t tell me what I feel,” He took his hand off and ran his fingers through his hair, “Look, I’m an idiot, anyone would tell you that,” She blinked, confused at his statement, “But I do know that when I like something, that’s it. Once I’ve figured that out, it’s game over for me.” She swallowed hard and his anger melted into a quiet, desperate sadness that seemed to reach out deep in her heart, “And I’m not asking you because we fucked. It’s not like you’re the first person…” He sighed heavily, “The point is, I don’t ask everyone I fuck to date me. Fuck, I haven’t even dated anyone in years but,” His shoulders slumped a little and guilt prickled at her conscience. 

Damn it, how can she hurt him like this? It’s like kicking Niney, “Ben, you don’t—,”

“No, let me finish,” He was still rubbing the back of his neck with one hand while the other he shoved into his pocket, “Rey, you’re beautiful and kind and honest,” She shifted uncomfortably at his compliments, “And there’s so much I don’t know or won’t experience with you but won’t you give me a chance?” He turned those mournful eyes towards her and she squirmed. Who could even dare say no to those eyes? “Please?” He took her hand gently, almost tentatively. She saw him swallow hard, “I don’t know what the next five years would bring but I won’t leave, not for as long as you want me,” 

She chewed on her lower lip, unable to tear her gaze away from his. What is a girl even supposed to say to a declaration like that? It was raw and unashamed, borderline desperate, which, really, was very flattering to an extent.

How can a man like her so much like that? 

“Can I talk now?” She said in what she hoped was a lighthearted tone. He coughed out a laugh and nodded. She smiled, “You’re not leaving me then?”

“Not unless you tell me to,” He said, giving her an uncertain smile that still managed to show off his dimples. Those damned dimples, “If you tell me to leave I would…probably.” Then he looked away and cleared his throat, “Maybe.” 

She suppressed a laugh, “Should I worry about that? Maybe reserve a name just in case I have to change it real quick?”

He met her eyes through his lashes; why didn’t she ever notice how long they were? “Not unless you’re planning on leaving me in the near future,”

She grinned then, unable to hide her laughter. His smile was slow and they reached all the way to the dark, dark eyes that seemed to speak right into her soul. What did he see in her and what did she see in him, that made her so drawn to him? His thumb smoothed against the back of her hand and she shivered involuntarily.

“Cold?” His voice dropped down an octave and she shivered again, “Should we turn up the heat?” She was sure he meant the heating system but she couldn’t help but think of something else.

“Not unless you plan on doing nothing else for the rest of the night,” She said and his eyes widened a little, “You’re way too hot for my sanity,” He let go of her hand to cover the surprised laughter that bubbled out of his mouth.

“I thought you said I was pretty?”

“I changed my mind,” His dimples flashed at her again and she noticed the uneven canines that made him seem all the more loveable. Then, she sobered, “Just so we’re clear, we’re dating, right?”

She watched the blood rush up his love-bitten neck and settle in his cheeks. He nodded and looked away, hand still rubbing his mouth.

He really gets flustered by the strangest things.

Then, she remembered where and what exactly he’d been doing with those long fingers currently pressed up against his nose and mouth and blushed too.

His eyebrow twitched up and then down, like he knew exactly what just passed through her dirty mind.

She huffed, raised her chin and spun around, calling for Niney.

She left him chuckling in the kitchen.

Chapter Text

Rey had worn a high neckline. She didn’t have much choice upon seeing the havoc Ben had done on her neck. She wondered why after dinner he’d walked her to her room, given her a chaste kiss on that forehead and then left and now she knew why.

He looked guilty when he handed her their lunches. Niney sat at the backseat quietly,  eyeing them like a child who knew something went on with their parents but not quite sure what. 

He made no effort to hide the marks she’d made on him though and she flushed when she saw them peeking out of the neckline of his sweater. 

“Thanks,” She said when he stopped in front of the gate. 

His lip quirked up, “Don’t run in the rain again,” She laughed. The sky was clear and the sun shone like the rainstorm of the last few days didn’t happen. 

“Yes, sir,” She gave him a half-hearted salute and arched a brow when his eyes darkened a little, “Should I call you that?” She grinned, “Sir? Or would you prefer chef?” Then she pursed her lips, “Oh, what about daddy?”

He coughed out a laugh that sounded both amused and surprised, “Call me whatever you want, darlin’,” He took her hand and pressed a kiss on her knuckles. Her heart fluttered and she flushed, “Go,” 

She squeaked, mumbled out a goodbye, grabbed her lunch and slid out of the car, “See you later,” She said, waving a little awkwardly before walking quickly into the compound. 

Her cheeks felt too hot. If she didn’t think of something other than her new boyfriend, she’d combust. 

Boyfriend.

They were dating, that meant he was her boyfriend, right? They actually never specified but based on what he said and what she could see, he doesn’t seem like the type to date more than one person.

He was…intense in his love. She could see it clearly when he loses himself in his work. 

She bought three vending machine coffees; it was her turn now, and waited for Rose and Finn. There weren’t many students here, some were scholars like her and others came from the nearby towns. There weren’t actually a lot of people her age that originally came from town, the only one left was probably Enric Pryde Jr. who generally ignored them after hearing that Finn was dating Poe. 

The town had a declining population which really explained Leia’s efforts to keep everyone she could here. 

“Rey!” She jumped when Rose popped in in front of her with a grin. She placed the coffee in Rose’s upturned hand, “Good morning,”

“Morning. Where’s Finn?”

“Still making out with Poe outside the gate,” She said and Rey laughed. She drank from her can and Rose gasped.

“No way,” Her eyes were wide and she gave a Cheshire Cat grin, “Oh. My. God. Rey!” She squealed and started vibrating in her place, “Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god, I’m so proud of you,”

“Huh?” Rose took hold of her arms and just kept smiling it was kinda creepy.

“I can’t believe it,” She laughed, “You fucked Be—,” Rey slapped a hand over Rose’s mouth before she could finish the sentence. Her eyes were wide and she looked around them to see if anyone heard. She flushed.

“Shush,” She hissed. Rose nodded enthusiastically and she let her friend go to tug at the neckline of her sweater.

Rose squealed again, unable to hide her delight, “I thought you said he was sick!”

“He was!” She bit her lower lip and noticed Finn approaching. She waved him over and he walked over faster, “He was sick,” She handed him his coffee.

“So how did that end up with you fucking him?”

Finn choked and turned to her sharply, “Wait, you fucked Ben Solo?” He was even louder than Rose and Rey sucked in a breath and looked around them again in surreptitious panic.

“Shut up,” She hissed and Finn laughed.

“Girl, by the end of the day everyone would know you’re a thing,” Finn shook his head and laughed again. 

Rose nodded and pursed her lips, “I mean, everyone’s probably just waiting for you two to declare it. But damn, look at the size of those chompers,” 

She looked away and cringed when her cheeks got hotter. She should buy a decent turtleneck top especially now that she knew that Ben had a habit of biting and mouthing on whatever patch of skin he could reach.

Rose was still bouncing on the soles of her feet, “Still, I’m so, so proud of you! How did it happen?”

Finn tried his best not to look interested but the sparkle in his eye gave him away.

“Why don’t we talk about you first, huh, Little Miss Rosie,” She looked at her friend pointedly and she laughed.

“What’s there to tell? Gwen gave me this really awesome tip and I just followed it,” Rose said.

“Ooo, I’d like to hear that.” Finn said, “It’s not everyday you hear that scary Amazon-lady Gwen Phasma would give out sex tips.”

“It’s not a sex tip, silly,” Rose giggled, “She just said that Armie had a thing for short skirts and garter belts and stockings and it just so happens that I had those on hand,” She winked.

Rey chewed the inside of her cheek and wondered if Ben would like those too. She’d never worn garter belts before.

“Oof, sexy,” Finn said, “I wonder if Poe’d wear one,” 

“Right, I think white would go really well with his skin tone. Knowing him, I’m sure he’d be game,” Rose was nodding again, “Oh, but we’re off topic again,” She turned to Rey again who blushed. Again.

She squirmed, “It just…happened,” She said, “Okay, maybe I did try to tease him a little.” She didn’t tell them about his midnight fever baking, wanting instead to keep that memory to herself, “And I guess he kinda just…snapped?”

Rose squealed again and Finn laughed incredulously, “I’m so proud of you, Rey,” She said again, “You got your man!” She threw her arms around Rey’s shoulders and she laughed, “Wait, he is your man, right?”

“We’re dating,” She said. She should really clarify what that means.

Ben being called her man sounded just right and she couldn’t help but smile at the thought.

Chapter Text

“Should you really be working right now?” Poe asked again for the umpteenth time, “You just recovered,” 

“I'm fine,” Ben said, scowling when Poe grabbed his end of the signage. He’d posted a picture of the thing, announcing that they’ll open very soon. He already started getting applications for staff so he’d have to read through them and test the potential bakers so he wouldn’t have to be the one to bake everything.

“Look man, I know you’re big and strong but you gotta rest too. Rey told me how hard you’ve been working,” Poe said. Ben gave up trying to get his end back and instead followed him and Snap out to the front. They were about to put it back where it belonged and he felt a little sentimental about it.

He’d sanded and retraced the script and varnished it himself in the same way his grandfather did. Poe and Snap climbed up the ladders carefully and he and Jess and Lumpy hoisted the heavy piece of wood up to them.

He grunted and they hooked it up to the bolts. He handed the drill to Poe and he drilled bolts at the bottom so the wood sat neatly atop it.

“Look here,” He said, taking a few steps back. Jess stood next to Snap’s ladder and Lumpy glowered next to Poe’s, “C’mon, Lumpy, gimme a smile,”

Lumpy scowled.

He rolled his eyes.

“Yeah, it’s a historical moment, c’mon,” Poe laughed, “I mean, Ben finally made a move and got laid,” 

Heat rushed to his cheeks and snapped the photo as soon as Lumpy flashed a smile.

“You fucker,” Ben laughed.

“If you think about it, we’re all fuckers,” Poe chuckled and he rolled his eyes again. Then, he turned around and switched cameras so he can take a picture of everyone. He’d have to take a picture with Rey too later. 

His heart fluttered. 

He didn’t expect he’d have a serious relationship in Chandrila.

Poe jumped down the ladder and threw an arm around Ben’s shoulders, “Seriously though, I’m really proud of you.”

“What?” Ben laughed a bit, “For what?”

“Dude, you’re kinda really dense. I’m proud of you for stepping up and just…asking the girl out,”

Ben cleared his throat. Maybe he should’ve worn something that’d hide her little nibbles more. 

But he didn’t want to hide it, not really. He liked that she’d marked him the same way he marked her. It was like a reminder that he belonged to someone. 

Her.

They ate their lunch in what would be the small cafe. He still had to figure out what to call it and install the chalkboards but all the basic equipment had already arrived and he’d already arranged them neatly behind the cafe’s counter and cake display. The floorboards are all done and Lumpy was fixing a dividing wall of sorts so there’s a clear division between the cafe and the bakery. There wasn’t much left to do anymore.  

The basic POS system would be arriving next weekend and he’d need to figure out how to use it himself in the event he’s understaffed. He frowned. He really has to interview staff by next week. 

“So, Ben and Rey, huh?” Jess grinned at him, “I can’t say I didn’t see it coming,” 

Poe rolled his eyes, “And what about you, huh? Aren’t you hung up on someone?”

Ben’s ears pricked and he looked at Jess curiously. Snap laughed.

“No I’m not,” She scowled.

“Sweetheart, you forgot where your PPE was,” Poe pointed out and her scowl deepened.

“Don’t call me that, I’m not your sweetheart,” She hissed and Snap laughed again. Poe shook his head.

“Just keep your head on straight, alright? I don’t want you dying out there,”

“Who are we talking about?” Ben asked. Lumpy grunted and shrugged.

“No idea,” Snap replied, “Jess just came in one day in yesterday’s clothes and haven’t been the same since.”

“Oh, shut up, Snap. Just because I’m a woman doesn’t mean I can’t have a one-night stand too,”

“Nobody said anything about that, though,” Poe arched a brow, “Anyway, how’s the renovation coming along?”

“It’s fine.” She shrugged, seemingly relieved at the change of topic, “The horses are getting spooked by the hammering but they’re getting used to it. Might as well make use of that old farmhouse for something and I wanna be the first to have a B and B here so I have a step up in the market,”

Jess was opening a bed and breakfast? He had no idea.

“I mean, it does seem like we’re on an uptrend. I had a boost in sales too after Ben arrived.”

Was he implying that Ben’s mere presence in town was enough to boost tourism and sales? 

“Look at the boardinghouse,” Snap said and Ben noticed Jess flinch, “They’ve never been full before but now you can barely get a room.”

“‘Course, Leia’s overjoyed. She told me to prepare more wine than I already did for the festival and launch that persimmon wine I let you taste last time asap,”

“Oh, right, speaking of, those would go great in bonbons,” Ben said, chomping on his tomato and mushroom quiche, “Want me to make you some?”

Poe’s head whipped towards him quickly, “Yes, seventy-thirty? You get seventy of course,” 

Ben shook his head, “It’s your wine. Gimme the ingredients and forty and we’re good,” 

“Deal,” Poe grinned and they shook on it.

“How much do those things cost anyway?” Snap asked, “Aren’t they just chocolates?”

“Bonbons sound fancier,” Lumpy grunted and Ben chuckled. 

Rey would love those. What flavour profiles would she like? He should make her some. He’ll make her all the flavour combinations he could think of.

“A box of six can go for twenty-five bucks easy in Vegas,” He said and Snap’s eyes widened.

“Okay, wow, I didn’t expect that,”

He shrugged, “It’s handmade with quality ingredients.” 

“Okay, I gotta ask, how much did you used to sell them?” Jess asked, “I’ve seen the crowd in your stalls and I know you sold those macarons for cheap,”

“Our chocolates were anywhere between five dollars a piece to seven,” 

“Oh damn,” 

“But we’re not selling at that price, right?” Poe said, “Since we’re not a hotel and we’re just starting out?”

“Yeah, we should be fine with,” Ben did some quick calculations in his phone, “Two, two-fifty?”

Poe nodded thoughtfully, “And how many can you make at a time? And is there any way I can help?”

“I just need to order some moulds online and we’re good to go. I’m no chocolatier but I’m not bad, though, I should probably touch up on my airbrushing skills,” 

And he should ask Rey what her favourite flavours are. He’s sure she’d like them even if the painting sucks.

He continued eating to hide his smile. 

Chapter Text

The sign was already up. Rey looked up and couldn’t help but feel like she had something to do with that too. She’d passed by the bakery for months, staring up at that old, fading sign and now it’s back there, newly sanded, the red of the wood stark against the plain eggshell-white paint of the exterior. Ben had painstakingly traced his grandmother’s name so it looked like what it would’ve sixty-some years ago.

Would it still be here, sixty years from now?

She was going to install spotlights for the sign and strip lights for the accent shelves behind the counter. 

It smelled of coffee when she walked in. Niney barked from his little cordoned off area, tail wagging. Ben turned and gave her a shy smile. 

“You’re here,” He placed the bright blue coffee cup on the counter. She gasped when she saw the colourful peacock feather decorating the inside.

“You’re a barista too?” It was a little shaky, like he was out of practice, but it was beautiful nonetheless.

He shrugged, “My parents weren’t originally supportive of my career so I worked part-time in coffee shops near school. I’m out of practice though,”

“Really?” She couldn’t imagine Han and Leia not being supportive of Ben seeing as how proud they were of him. She’d heard from Finn who heard from Poe that the mayor had framed copies of his magazine features, “It looks gorgeous,” He shrugged again, “You should post it on your account,” She dragged a chair to the counter and sat.

“Should I?” He was frowning, “Maybe I’ll make another one and see which one’s better,” 

She laughed, “Alright then,” She watched him turn back to the shiny chrome espresso machine and grab a yellow cup this time. The grinder made a loud grinding noise as he measured out his grounds. 

It was always fascinating to her, watching people work their craft. He tamped down the grounds and inserted the thing into the espresso machine. 

The scent of coffee wafted towards her again and she sighed. She could already imagine how this place would smell like once they’re open, like black coffee and butter and sweet caramel, warm and cozy and relaxing but still energising. 

He said he’d ordered a few armchairs. She was sure students like her would love a place to hang out and chill and have coffee, maybe type out a report or a thesis, a place that’s not too quiet but not noisy either. 

Ben’s brows furrowed as he concentrated on the movement of his wrist to create the perfect latte art.

Finn had explained to her before about having to make sure that the temperature is just right and how you have to move your wrist a certain way so everything is nice and even and pretty. She didn’t get it. 

She tried making some at home, of course, while messing with Ben’s machine. She just ended up with a strange blob that kind of resembled an anthill. 

It wasn’t pretty.

He slid the cup over to her and this time, the colours didn’t bleed together. It was fascinating. 

“Why don’t you sell it like this?” 

“Hm?” 

“It’s a thing, right? Rainbow lattes?” 

“Is it?” He snapped a picture and started typing out a caption. 

“Or maybe you can have a separate menu for it, like they have to request it. Kinda like Starbucks’ secret menu. That’d be a hit with the tourists. I’m sure they’ll add fifty cents to a dollar just to get something like this,”

“That’s a really good idea, darlin’,” She grinned, “I’ll have to see with the baristas we’ll hire,”

She noticed his choice of words and flushed. When did it become we? She knew next to nothing about pastries and coffee. Her phone buzzed and she slid the notification open.

His post was already getting so much likes and comments.

 

ben_solo_bakes: Touching up on my latte art skills with @Rey.Niima for the grand reopening of my grandmother’s bakery (now with a cafe) @Padmés on the fifteenth of October in time for the #HarvestFestival #ChandrilaCalifornia #SecretMenu #Padmés #ChandrilaBaking

 

He placed a small jar of brown sugar in front of her and leaned forward to press a chaste kiss on her lips. She flushed and he winked before straightening.

“Tell me how the coffee is,” He pushed the yellow cup towards her and dumped sugar in his own coffee, “I was adjusting the temperature and the drip styles,”

She had no idea what difference it made but he seemed happy enough talking about the temperature they should use for light roast versus dark roast.  

She took a sip, no sugar yet, and her eyes widened at how smooth it came down her throat. It had a slight bitterness that wasn’t at all unpleasant and the burnt aftertaste she usually got from regular brewed coffee from diners wasn’t there.

Ben always made the best coffee.

He was looking at her expectantly, anxiety tinging his expression.

“It’s amazing as always,” She said, “I don’t even need sugar,” She pursed her lips, “But I like my coffee sweet,”

He chuckled, “Poe and I were talking earlier,” He said and she looked up to urge him to continue, “Mom’s expecting a huge crowd for the festival so we’re going to partner for bonbons but I need help with the flavours,” 

“Okay?” She tilted her head to the side, “Do you need a taste tester? Can I volunteer?”

He laughed again, “That goes without saying, darlin’. I meant…what kind fo flavours do you like?” He suddenly looked nervous, “I know you like sweets but…” He shrugged, “I don’t really know much about…what else you like,”

“I liked the cream in that bun you made yesterday,” She said, “And I really liked licking it off you too,” He flushed and she grinned, “Can I get a Ben flavour, then?”

He cleared his throat and took a sip before answering, “I don’t think I can turn myself into a bonbon, darlin’,” 

“Well, what flavours do you think you are?” She arched a brow and finished her coffee, “Should we continue this conversation later at home? We can experiment,” She winked and he let out a chuckle that was both amused and embarrassed, “I’ll go install your spotlights before it gets too dark,” 

She gave him another wink before flouncing off to give Niney some head rubs and grab her tools.

Chapter Text

The door slammed against the wall before she kicked it closed. Her tongue tasted like the strawberry milkshake she drank at the diner where they’d had dinner. He groaned and groped at her hips. She pressed him back against the wall and licked inside his mouth like she really was trying to figure out what flavour he’d be.

If he were to warrant a guess, it’d be cream soda and apple pie.

He wasn’t sure who started the eye-fucking; was it when she licked the cream on her milkshake or when the ice cream on his pie dripped down his chin? But either way, by the time they’d gotten into the car, the tension between had ratcheted. 

He turned them around and tugged her up, his neck getting a little tired from bending at such an odd angle. She gave a little hop, long legs wrapping around his waist and this time, he pressed her against the wall.

She mewled and writhed against him.

As expected, everyone in town already knew about their relationship, stopping them every few meters on the way to the diner to congratulate them and ask when the wedding’d be.

Rey had laughed it off and he’d remembered why he wasn’t comfortable living in such a small town.

She ground against him, using her thighs and back and the wall to draw him in closer. He groaned and forgot everything but her.

They stumbled through the dark house and up the stairs, clothes trailing towards his bedroom like breadcrumbs leading to the gingerbread house. They didn’t bother with the lights.

It was a little difficult falling into his bed, mattress really, but somehow they managed. He really should consider buying himself a bed frame.  

He crawled up her body, trailing kisses and nibbles over the already-purpling marks on her body.

She shivered and rolled them around, giggling at the surprised look he probably made when he found himself on his back so suddenly.

And he wished he’d opened the lights because he’d have loved to see the way her skin  would glow under the warm lights. He rubbed her thighs as she straddled him. She practically purred.

Then, she got that mischievous look he adored and started sliding down his body, nipping a nipple. He laughed and then shuddered as she licked lower. 

“Jesus,” He hissed when she started tugging at the waistband of his boxer briefs with her teeth. His cock jumped out and he moaned when her hand fingers wrapped around it.

She gave one long, languid lick and he whimpered.

She teased him, flicking a tongue under the sensitive head of his cock and then grinning when he twitched and screwed his eyes shut.

“You’re doing it on purpose,” He hissed.

“I like seeing you squirm,” She purred and it took everything in his power not to pull her up, turn her around on her knees and fuck her until she didn’t know her own name. 

Her mouth closed over him, sliding down in a maddeningly slow pace. He hit the back of her throat and she used her hand to compensate the difference. Then, she started sucking and he could swear he saw stars. 

He groaned and gathered her hair back so he could see her face. Her eyes met his and they twinkled mischievously. It felt like she she was smiling around him. Then she hollowed out her cheeks and he sucked in a breath and fucking convulsed. 

“Baby, you’re killing me,” His hand tightened on her hair. Her tongue moved around him in time with her sucks and he shuddered. Shit. He started tugging at her hair, “Rey, wait,”

She surfaced with a soft ‘pop’ and bit her swollen bottom lip. She stared at him with dark, dazed eyes, like she was enjoying tasting him as much as he enjoyed being tasted.

She gave him a sultry smile and crawled up to give him an open-mouthed kiss. She straddled him again and moaned into his mouth when he ground up against her. He kept one hand on her hip, moving her along while she ground against him, and keeping the other tangled up in her hair to cup her head.

This girl is going to be the death of him and he was loving every minute of it. 

She surfaced for air, gasping and panting a little. His cock twitched when he saw the thin trail of saliva connecting their mouths, and again when she licked her lips. 

He moved to roll them over and she pushed him back down, “Uh uh, not tonight, daddy,”

More heat stole to his already hot cheeks. Fuck, why did that sound so hot? She gave a slow, self-satisfied grin and he had a feeling he won’t hear the end of it after this.

She grabbed his cock again and notched him against her. His hands shot to her waist and he bit his lip to stop himself from moaning out load.

He watched himself slide into her tight, wet heat, entranced by the way her lips stretched around him. His vision blurred.

Rey whimpered when she took his whole length in and his mind blanked out except for the sounds of her moaning and the wet, lurid squelching every time she dropped herself on him. 

Shivers ran down his spine and he arched, gasping a little, barely holding onto what little sanity he has left so she’d at least enjoy herself a little while longer because fuck, he won’t be able to last very long. 

She was biting her lip and he pulled her close so he could stop her. She gasped and shuddered, eyes visibly rolling back when his cock rubbed against that part of her that she really, really loved. He pushed his thumb in her mouth to stop her from biting and she sucked almost instinctively.

He hissed. 

His balls drew up. It was like he could feel each time she sucked down there, edging him closer and closer.

And he couldn’t take it. 

He rolled them over then and she gasped, eyes widening when he rolled her to her stomach and pressed her against the mattress. Her gasp turned into a long, drawn-out moan when he stuffed himself inside her again, pulling her hips up to meet his.

He leaned down to lick the drop of sweat that rolled down her back and she tightened around him with a shudder. His hands dwarfed hers when he tangled their fingers together and thrust hard.

She whimpered and clenched down hard. 

His mouth clamped down on her shoulder and she shrieked, shuddering and moaning his name interspersed with soft ‘ohs’ and ‘oh my god, daddy’ in a shrill tone. His eyes rolled back and he gave out an almost painful groan, teeth tightening over her shoulder, when he finally let himself cum. 

He collapsed on top of her and groaned when he rolled them around, almost falling off the mattress in the process. She lay next to him, panting almost as hard as he was.

Would he be to go for another round in the shower?

And they really did need to shower.

His mind felt so quiet, almost like he’d been drugged. He felt her brush a kiss and then nibble on his bicep and he chuckled. He turned to wrap his arms around her.

Then, he paused and sat up straight, “Shit.”

She jerked and sat up too, pulling the covers over her, “What is it?” She asked in alarm and he stumbled off the mattress to reach for a pair of boxers, “Ben?”

“We left Niney in the car!”

Her eyes widened and she gasped, scrambling up too, “Oh my god!”

Chapter Text

“I like fruit flavours,” Rey said. They sat on the floor of the living room, the coffee table in between them since they couldn’t seem to get their hands off of each other long enough to actually talk. 

It’d been two days since the forgotten-puppy incident and Niney had been giving them the side-eye ever since. 

She was sure neither of them would ever forget him again either since he’d peed all over the upholstery and Ben had to clean out the car while she gave Niney a bath. 

Ben had a sketchpad in front of him, “Fruit flavours,” He murmured, drawing a bonbon with a raspberry inside, “Fruit jams with spices, fall flavours,” 

“Coffee and cream and cherries are good combinations too,” He glanced up at her and wrote them down, “And alcohol’s nice. They kinda remind me of you,” 

He glanced up and arched a brow, “Me? So, are we trying to figure out what Ben Solo’s going to taste like?”

She straightened, “We could do that for your cafe!” 

“What?” He coughed out a laugh, “Name it after people?”

She nodded, “Yes! I mean, you can totally be a boozy cherry bonbon. I’d eat that,”

“Darlin’, I’ll feed you all the chocolate you want,” She grinned at him and watched as he took down notes.

“Black coffee’d actually be great with it, kinda gives it a bitter flavour to offset the cherry,”

“So you’re really considering it? Making a Ben Solo bonbon? It could be a seasonal thing,”

He glanced up and gave her a dimply smile, “Of course, it’s a great idea. This is why you’re the business major, not me. Though, I’m not really into the whole naming it after myself thing,”

“Why not? You have such a huge following you should capitalise on it some. It’s great marketing,”

“You wanna sell my face too, huh?” His eyes twinkled with amusement and she bit her lip, “I’m a little disappointed, I would’ve thought you’d want to keep me to yourself,”

She laughed and Niney huffed, “He doesn’t agree with you,” She said and coaxed the puppy to stay on her lap instead of his bed. He approached slowly, still looking like they’d betrayed him by leaving him alone for a good solid hour in the truck. “I’ll give you treat,”

Ben shook his head and started sketching out layers in a half-oval. He wrote out what the layers would be; meringue, lemon curd, lemon cream and caramel. How is he going to fit all those layers in one chocolate?

He was…really artistic, not just in the kitchen. She saw the tiny doodles at the edges of the pad. It was nice watching him work. He chewed on his bottom lip and furrowed his brows in concentration, “So who’s that one?” He glanced at her again, gave her small, smile and didn’t answer. She arched a brow, “Is that me?”

“I didn’t say anything,” He hummed and then chuckled, “Yes,” 

“What is with you and lemons? Is that why you gave me this hair tie?” 

“Yes,”

“So, what about me is lemony?”

“Darlin’, I can create a dessert buffet inspired by you but even then it won't even be enough to describe you,” She wasn’t sure what about his sentence was sweet but either way her heart fluttered and she blushed.

She cleared her throat, “I uh, should head over to the shop soon.” She patted the now-sleeping Niney’s head and he looked up and yawned, “One of the mechanics is out with a bad cold so Han’s asking if I could come in,”

“Oh,” He frowned, “I’ll drive you,”

She shook her head, “No, no, it’s fine, you’ve been driving me around so often nowadays I barely use my car,”

“I gotta go to the market and check the bakery anyway. Uncle Lando said the chairs  and the dishwasher we ordered arrived too,” He stood, “We just gotta drop Niney off at Poe’s,” 

“Poe’s?” It wasn’t often that he left Niney at Poe’s.

“Yeah, he said BB was getting lonely,” He chuckled, “It’d be good for him to socialise anyway,” 

She nodded and tucked him in his little harness, “Are you gaining weight?” She asked, “You’re getting bigger, aren’t you, boy?” 

Niney jumped excitedly and ran ahead of them to the door.

Chapter Text

Ben dropped Rey off and said ‘hi’ to his dad. Han slapped his back and grinned at him as he motioned at a busily working Rey.

“I knew I liked that kid for a reason,” He said, “So, when’s the wedding?”

He rolled his eyes, “You wouldn’t believe how many times I’ve been asked that.”

“What? It’s a valid question,”

“We’re just dating, dad. We literally, just started,” 

Han arched a brow and pursed his lips, “Well, seems to me you jumped a few steps there,” Ben grimaced and his cheeks grew hot. He was right though, he really needed to take Rey out on a proper date. 

In the city.

In a nice restaurant by the sea. 

Maybe stay overnight in a nice hotel.

“Don’t worry, your mom and I fucked first and asked questions later,” 

“Dad!” He gaped at Han, “Please, I don’t want to think about my parents fucking.”

Han laughed, “Oh come on, Benny, how do you think you were made?”

“Jesus Christ, dad. You know what, I’m leaving before you start talking about what else you and mom have been up to,” 

He left Han laughing behind him and shook his head. Rey glanced up as he was leaving and waved. He gave her a smile and waved back. He probably looked like a sap.

Rey’s coworkers hooted and nudged her and she laughed and blew him a kiss.

He chuckled and shook his head.

Rey was great, Niney was great, the bakery was this close to opening, what could go wrong?

He stopped by Lando’s hardware store to load up the armchairs. He’d have to borrow his truck or maybe a huge trolley to wheel the hood-type dishwasher to the bakery. He wasn’t sure how many people they’d be serving at the cafe per day but sanitation is way too important for him to not get a dishwasher.

He was humming as he drove the short distance back to the bakery. Tourists were already wandering about in time for the weekend. Poe mentioned some of them have been stopping by in front of the bakery to take pictures. 

He couldn’t wait to open. 

His good mood was quickly dashed when he saw who was standing right outside, staring up at his sign. For a moment he contemplated stepping on the gas and running him over only to cringe at where his thoughts were going.

Why would he want to run Luke over? A dull ache started at the base of his skull. 

He jumped out of the truck and hoped the grimace he gave him passed as a diplomatic smile.

“Ben,” Luke grunted. His neatly trimmed beard made him look a lot more solemn than he remembered.

“Uncle,” He said, “What…are you doing here?” He didn’t usually come down, having perfected the art of living in isolated self-sustainability ever since…when, exactly? 

“So you’re really going through with it.”

“Yes,” He chewed the inside of his cheek, “Do you…wanna come in? Coffee machine’s all tuned up.” 

Luke watched him open up the rustic powder blue door with the newly calligraphed ‘Padmé’s’ written in gold and followed him inside.

“Why don’t you put another door in?” 

He’d thought of that too, but he rather liked the idea of a cafe inside a bakery. Plus, that’d mean he’d have to tear down the whole facade and get rid of the nice glass window he can use as a sort of showcase to line bread in.

“This is a bakery first and foremost.” He said, “And I don’t think I can monitor two separate entrances.

“This isn’t like your fancy city where people’d run off with your bread,” Ben winced when the chair Luke dragged over to the counter made a loud sound. He started up the machine. 

“I know but I like it how it is. Cappuccino?” Luke nodded and eyed him critically.

When did his uncle’s presence feel so overbearing? He wanted to ask him, if he still disapproved of him, of his career, of the name he’d made for himself. Is that why he was looking around the bakery with such a critical eye? He slid the cup towards him quietly and watched as he took a sip. 

“How…Is Finalizer still alive?” He asked instead. Luke’s bushy brows shot up.

“Finalizer?”

He busied himself with making another cup of coffee. The smell of freshly ground beans and espresso always calmed him, “Yeah, is he…still alive?”

“Yes.” Luke said in a rather curt tone that Ben couldn’t help but be curious about, “Why?”

“I was just asking. Wasn’t he my horse?” He pressed the tamper down harder than he’d intended and grimaced when some of the coffee spilled out the lip of the portafilter. 

“He’s fine.” Luke grunted and took another sip from his cup, “Getting old but sired a lot of quality colts.”

He nodded thoughtfully, “I was wondering if he’d remember me.”

His uncle snorted, “Horses aren’t dumb, of course he will.”

He felt a little guilty, now, for forgetting. He’d been a good horse, “Then, should we go visit him?”

Luke didn’t answer. He didn’t look happy either and Ben hid his grimace by drinking from his own cup. 

And scalding his tongue. He cursed.

He shouldn’t have invited him in.

“Ask your mother.” Luke finally answered after minutes of excruciating silence.

Mother? What did Leia had to do with this? Was she still disappointed too that he’d decided he wanted to bake? Even now that he’s made a name and bagged awards for himself? 

Granted those awards were all left stuffed in their boxes, unopened. 

Wasn’t she the one utilising his popularity now to boost this dying town? Old bitterness welled up inside him and he squashed it down mercilessly. 

Somehow, the bitterness in his coffee soothed his own bitter feelings.