Series: Star Wars Sequel Trilogy (Modern Alternate Universe)
Series Summary: Love can meet across the stars, but sometimes it needs guidance, patience, and understanding. Ben and Rey are two people who meet in a place of loneliness and darkness. They are two kindred spirits who find solace in each other. But there are secrets about Ben that Rey has yet to learn, secrets that could change everything that she ever believed to be true, secrets that could rip apart the very connection to the one person who has begun to show her the light in their shared darkness.
Chapter Summary: Ben and Rey meet, but is it destined or accidental?
Rating: Teen+ (adult content, language, smoking, drinking)
Word Count: 4620
A stifling hot autumn night was nothing out of the ordinary in Phoenix during this time of the year. And the city had already passed its peak in temperature (106 degrees) a week before, during its last official days of summer. But anyone not accustomed to the desert landscape of the state of Arizona would have believed that it was still summer, regardless of what the calendar read. These triple digits were the norm, and even more so for the small, desolate town of Jakku, which was an hour outside of this larger metropolis.
Rey had moved from Jakku a couple of days prior, having left behind her solitary life in a small three-room home that she had shared with her grandfather. She had taken care of him ever since she was 11 years old, right after he found her and took her away from the foster system.
Sometimes Rey wondered if she would have been better off left in the system.
With her grandfather now in a nursing home back in Jakku, as she was unable to further care for him as his health was deteriorating and with some convincing from her college friend, she decided to move from her small, unremarkable “hometown” to a world filled with fast cars, colors other than muted browns, crowds of people, buildings built right next to each other, a number of store selections, and the different varieties of flavored sparkling water, which was her favorite.
It wasn’t as if the city was new to her. She would come into the city about twice a week for her college courses. They were a combination of online and hybrid, which made it easier for her to stay in Jakku while caring for her grandfather. But she always anticipated the drive that granted her some of the alone time—and peace—she desperately seeked. And when she began her clinical practicum in psychology at one of the local community health clinics, she would be able to stay overnight, wandering around to try different cuisines that teased her palette and stock up on things she couldn’t get back in Jakku, making for a full trunk on her way back.
But now she lived there with her friend, Rose.
Rose invited her to stay in her spare room. This gave Rey a chance to find a job now that she had completed her masters degree in the spring. In the meantime, she stayed on at the clinic as a volunteer, while keeping her savings on hand that she accumulated over the years. She had been doing odd jobs since she was 13, until she was able to get a more stable position working at the town’s only grocery store, the Niima Outpost.
As celebration of their new living arrangement and, as Rose would declare, of Rey’s newfound sense of freedom, they decided to walk down to the local bar near their apartment complex for a few drinks and possibly for some of the best hamburgers in town.
The place was packed when they entered. It was after all a Saturday night, and The Cantina was one of the best reviewed bars in the city. It was especially known for its selection of sour beers.
The two women found a table tucked away in the corner near the bar. It was adjacent to the wide window that looked out over the sidewalk, leading to the entrance. On their table was a lit candle inside a decorative, glass jar, giving the atmosphere a more elegant and relaxed vibe. A local band played on a small stage on the opposite end of the establishment. Their mellow take on current pop hits added to the vibe.
“That bartender is cute,” Rose motioned towards him. “You should totally give him your number.”
Rey scoffed with a smile, “I think I’ll pass.”
She stuffed her nose into the menu, but her gaze flicked to the man with chestnut hair tending to customers from behind the bar. Her eyes lingered on him until she felt Rose kick her from under the table.
“Ouch! What was that for?” Rey dropped her menu to the table and reached down to rub her shin.
“You don’t have to be coy with me, Rey. I caught you in the act.” Rose clasped her hands together and rested her chin on top of them, smiling conspiratorially at her friend whose face now glowed a bright pink.
“Well, he is kinda cute, but—”
“But what?” Rose cut her off.
“I’m not interested in a relationship right now. I need to find a job and… stuff.”
Rose sighed in disappointment. “Rey, you don’t have to marry the guy. Sometimes two consenting adults can just have a fun night together.”
Rose noticed Rey’s face turn a full on shade of red as she lifted her menu up to hide.
“His nights may be preoccupied,” Rey muttered from behind the menu.
“Well, Finn’s best friend is single. I could introduce you to him and we could all go on a double date,” Rose suggested, as she pulled out her phone and scrolled through photos on her Instagram. “See. Here.” She turned her phone with the screen facing Rey, who by now had lowered the menu. But she only peeked out from behind it, her eyes the only thing visible to her friend.
The photo was of the three of them: Rose, Finn, and Finn’s friend Poe. Finn was in the middle, his arm outstretched as he was the one obviously taking the group selfie. Rose and Poe were on either side of him, each kissing his cheek. The description read The Three Musketeers.
“So this is Poe? Finn’s ex, right?” Rey asked, pointing to him in the photo.
“Yeah. They’ve remained the best of friends.” Rose looked at the photo fondly.
“His beard is pretty sexy, but I don’t know.” Rey put her menu down and leaned forward against the table with some added confidence. “How could I possibly take away your D’Artagnan?”
Rose responded with a high-pitched laugh, which she tried to stifle by clasping her hand over her mouth. “Well, there were really four of them. Why not join the team?”
Rey just shook her head in amusement and grabbed her wallet. “Anyway, I’m going to go order us some drinks and hamburgers. Wanna share fries?”
“Sure. I’ll hold down the fort here. Get me a peach sour and extra pickles on the burger.” Rose grabbed Rey’s arm. “At least give that smoking hot bartender your number. Something, please.”
“Uh huh,” Rey uttered before walking away, not taking Rose’s urging seriously.
Rey waded through the crowd until she reached the bar, waiting for an open space until one became available. There were two people working behind it, the handsome man she was still eyeing and a middle-aged woman who could have been Angela Bassett’s doppelgänger. There was a part of her that had hoped she would be served by the man, who had deep, attractive dimples when he smiled. Perhaps she should take Rose’s insistent suggestion seriously after all.
Rey began to reconsider as she eyed the stack of napkins in front of her. How hard would it be to write down her number on it and slip it to him?
She hadn’t been on a date in a while, and even when she did, it wasn’t often. In fact, she didn’t have much experience with men even though she was in her mid-twenties. But when she did go out, she enjoyed the conversations. To a point. She never saw the man again after a first date because nothing ever clicked for her. She felt no one understood her and never would. Who would want to be with an orphaned girl from Jakku who struggled with finding her place in the world?
She honestly didn’t know where she truly belonged, and that made her a bit hesitant in dating in general.
But it didn’t matter. The male bartender had moved to customers on the other end of the bar. It was the woman who took her order, which made Rey forget her simple but unfounded attraction. The woman quickly gave her the drinks and, for the food, a stainless steel number card that read 65.
While Rey waited for the woman to swipe her card, she turned towards the band, bobbing her head to the slow beat while taking a sip of her apple sour.
Ben’s 24-hour shift was finally over. His plans for his time off for the next two days were running through his mind, though he knew more than likely that he would get called in for something. It was inevitable and a routine he had gotten used to over the years.
He’d only lived in Phoenix for about a year, but it really was not of his decision. He transferred to this city for a potential job opportunity that was recommended to him.
He’d been a firefighter ever since he decided to volunteer in high school, which led to taking part in the junior firefighter program, to being the top in his class in the Fire Academy, and to earning his degree in Fire Science. He was ambitious to the point where he had become lieutenant in only four years, blowing out even the more veteran competition, and becoming the youngest lieutenant of any fire station in Phoenix.
But there was an unspoken need for him to prove himself to his estranged parents. Perhaps if he had accomplished something meaningful, he would finally garner their attention and love. But he hadn’t spoken to them in years, not after they sent him away to live with his hermit of an uncle. Ben was a bit of a troublemaker growing up, and his parents felt his Uncle Luke could help him give some guidance.
But with a mother in the Senate and a father who was a cargo-carrier-turned-pilot-for-government-officials, his parents weren’t around much, especially during his formative years. Ben equated them to religious zealots, who cared more about their own causes than their own child. He resented his parents for it, and it only isolated him more from them, leaving nothing but doubts and inner conflict in regards to his own purpose in life and self-worth. It also created a deep loneliness that he just came to accept. It’s why he excelled at everything he did. It’s why he spent much of his downtime in his books and training. He was trying to find his own path in life and perhaps distract himself from his own insecurities that his parents fostered in him due to their negligence.
His grandfather was the one person he looked up to. He was the type of man who was commanding, intelligent, resourceful, and powerful. His power came from all of the knowledge and experience he had accumulated in his twenties, and he became to be the most renown man in his vocation. Ben felt that he was following in his footsteps as he was now nearing his thirties, and hoped his grandfather was looking down on him with pride.
But he didn’t need to slip away into those thoughts right now. It was a Saturday night and a nice cold beer with a slice of pizza seemed to be right up his alley. He felt his mouth begin to water at just the thought of the taste of saltiness from a slice with pepperoni.
He entered the busy Cantina, and searched around for his gang, which he affectionately nicknamed his Knights. They were his family down at the station, as they were the ones he worked with closely on his shifts and led them on their calls. They had decided to reserve a table for the evening, correctly predicting the overcrowdedness. Victoria, waved him over when she saw him searching for them at the door. He made his way to her, including the other five: Carlos, Kirk, Trevor, Uma, and Amal.
“‘Bout time you showed up,” Amal teased and slid a glass of beer towards Ben as he sat down.
“Well, someone had to stay behind to finish some of the paperwork,” Ben responded, smirking.
“Cheers to that,” Victoria raised her glass and clinked it against Ben’s.
Everyone laughed, all except Kirk, who was the more quiet one of the group. Uma hooked her arm around Kirk’s neck and pulled him into her. He was unphased, holding his beer.
“Don’t make me work to get you to have fun tonight,” she whispered seductively into his ear.
“I am,” Kirk simply stated, undeterred. He took a sip.
“You know your charms only work on the simple-minded folk,” Trevor interjected.
“Is that a challenge?” Uma unhooked her grip from her friend, leaving him to enjoy his beer, and glared with intensity at Trevor from across the table.
“Why don’t you two just fuck already? We know you want to,” Victoria added.
“How do you know they haven’t already?” Carlos asked, seriously. He then felt Trevor smack him upside his head.
Ben just sat there watching the usual dynamic between them. It was worse when there wasn’t a possible audience. Some of the banter turned physical. Sometimes it was nothing more than comical, but there were a few instances where someone left the fight with a bruised rib. That’s when his family saw his temper and how he would scold them for their idiocy. But tonight, he just wanted to turn it all off for at least the next hour. He wasn’t in charge.
He glanced over at Victoria. Perhaps they could unwind together tonight.
Ben never had planned to get personally involved with anyone on his team, but sometimes he had needs. She did too. Victoria had become his friend with benefits, as they would say, and it had never gotten in the middle of their work. He could easily separate their intimate moments from everything else. He didn’t love her or hold any romantic feelings for her. He knew she didn’t either. It was just sex. But it was something they had kept to themselves, as the current teasing gave them an obvious reason for their secrecy.
Ben rolled his eyes and noticed their pitchers were empty. “While you all play your childish games, I’ll go get some refills.”
He waited until a woman left from the bar, leaving an opening for him to take. Albeit a narrow opening, it was at least a point of access. He turned his body sideways to fit between the two people on his opposite sides, placed the empty pitchers on the counter, and waited to grab the attention from one of the bartenders.
She didn’t notice the tall man who came to stand next to her. She also didn’t notice that he was turned sideways, his back to her as he tried to fit into the space at the congested bar. She also didn’t notice him when he turned forward, his elbow knocking over Rose’s drink that Rey left on the bar top next to her. She finally noticed when the beer spilled, and she felt the cold sensation of liquid splash against her bare forearm.
“Shit,” Rey exclaimed. She immediately reached for the stack of napkins across from her and began patting at the spill on both the bar top and on her arm.
“Fuck! I’m sorry, sweetheart,” the man began to apologize with clear sincerity. He too grabbed some napkins and began to help her with the mess.
Rey’s gaze darted up high to reach the tall stranger’s eyes, giving him an unfriendly scowl.
“Don’t call me that. And while you’re at it, you can remove ‘toots’ and ‘babe’ and ‘doll’ and any other of those unflattering, degrading names you have for women from your vocabulary,” she spoke sharply, her eyes burning with anger.
The man held his hands up. “Wow.” He stared at her in shock for a moment. “So I take it you’re not a fan of ‘darling’ either?”
Rey just rolled her eyes at him before they roamed up and down his body and stopped on his face, her unamused gaze boring into him. She’d met men like him before. The fake kindness masked with the obnoxious pet names. And his attire. Really? He couldn’t have been any more obvious.
“And I take it you’re trying to be some wanna-be bad boy with all this black. A leather jacket in Phoenix? And how much does it cost you to dye your hair on a regular basis? You’re definitely trying too hard.”
“Look here, sweetheart, I don’t know what your deal is, but I was only trying to help. And from the looks of it, I can assume you would reject my offer of buying you another drink.” The stranger’s attitude had shifted.
The way he emphasized “sweetheart” made Rey grimace and eager to knee him in a place her knee could easily reach. But instead her posture straightened, she drew herself closer to him, and then tilted her chin up to meet him eye to eye.
“You’re the last person I’d ever accept a drink from.” She poked her finger into his chest.
“You don’t even know me,” the man stated, swatting her finger away like an annoying gnat hovering around in his personal space.
“And I’d like to keep it that way, so back off.” Rey continued staring him down.
“Not a problem. It was a bit too stuffy here anyway, you judgmental…” She didn’t hear the last part, which he muttered under his breath.
The man in black didn’t respond. He grabbed his pitchers and stepped back, but didn’t leave. Instead, she felt him standing behind her.
“I said, back off,” she threatened over her shoulder.
“I’m just waiting for my turn. You can’t blame me for the lack of space.”
Rey tried to ignore him and continued wiping up the spilt beer. The bartender finally returned with her card.
“It’s OK, hon, I’ll take care of it. I’ll get you another.”
Once Rey received her replacement beer, she grabbed both and her number and turned around, meeting him once again.
“So I guess she could get away with calling you ‘hon’,” he commented, a smirk playing on his lips.
“Oh, fuck off.” Rey pushed him away with her shoulder as she made her way past him and through the crowd back to her friend.
“What was all that?” Rose asked as Rey returned, plopping into her seat.
“With the really tall man?”
“Nothing. Just another typical asshole.”
Rose pouted. “That’s too bad. He’s pretty hot, too.”
“Can we just talk about something else besides men? Please?”
Before Rose could respond, a server came by to drop off two beers. “From the man over there.” Both women looked over at the bar. That same man in all black was looking over at them. He then raised one of his full pitchers at them with a simple nod.
It was a reaction he had expected, but not for the reason he had believed. He had thought the woman would have been angry at him for the accident he had caused, not because of some name he had used. It’s not like he even knew her real name to address her by. But there was something about her that not only frustrated him but also intrigued him. There was something about the way her hazel eyes sparked when looking at him. How familiar they looked.
After handing off the pitchers, he decided to step outside for a smoke. He walked around to the side of the building and into an alleyway, leaning against the wall. His phone buzzed in his pocket. Not his personal phone. His other one.
He took one last long inhale before he filled the surrounding air with smoke. He flicked the cigarette butt to the ground, stomped on it, and read the file sent to him. There was a picture of a woman and a white Ford Focus. But he was left focusing on the image of the woman with long brown hair in a half-up style and bright hazel eyes. Even if the picture was just a cropped image of the woman’s eyes, he would have recognized her without question.
It was the same woman whose breath smelled like apples. The same woman who earlier tried berating him, and who was not too amused by even his presence. What are the odds? But the difference was that she was smiling in the photo. She was definitely photogenic. He couldn’t help but chuckle and wonder what it would have been like if he had met that woman tonight.
He went back inside and sat down. His team had received the same information, based on his their silence at his return. They all looked to him. He eyed each of them individually before settling on Kirk and nodding. Kirk flicked his wrist and his phone appeared like a magician doing a card trick. His thumbs tapped quickly against his screen. When he was finished, he gave Ben a nod. Ben then turned to nod at Trevor. Trevor got up, straightened his shirt and walked out of the bar.
Ben poured himself a beer, leaned back into his seat, and waited.
The glasses were empty. Most of the fries were eaten. The burgers were left to nothing but crumbs. The bill was paid. Rey and Rose decided to call it a night.
As they were leaving, Rey glanced over to see the man in black sitting with a group. They were all quietly drinking beers with a few words being exchanged. Thankfully, his back was to her, so she wouldn’t be embarrassingly caught staring at him as she left.
Once they reached outside, the hot air hit them, which made Rey eager to return inside to the air conditioning.
“I’m going to go over to Finn’s for the night. I’ll catch you in the morning.” Rose waved goodbye, disappearing down the sidewalk.
Rey walked in the opposite direction towards her car. Even though their apartment was close by, she had decided to drive because she had a few errands to run. But the moment she entered and closed the door, her phone rang. She immediately recognized the number and answered.
“Hello? Yes, this is she.” Rey paused as she listened to the person on the other end relay some information. “What? Is he alright?” The answer calmed her down a bit. “Um, yes, I can be there in a little over an hour. Thank you for calling.” She hung up but just stared at her phone with a conflicted expression.
She took an unsteady sigh and then turned on the ignition. She tried again by turning the key. The car just made a choking sound, like a person coughing because they couldn’t breath.
She got out to look under the hood. One thing about living in Jakku and not having much in terms of money and civilization meant that she became good at taking care of herself and fixing things. She could fix anything. Her grandfather’s coffee machine. The TV. Holes in still wearable clothing. Fences for their chickens. A burnt dinner. She fixed her own car too. She never had to go to a mechanic. All she needed were the parts, which she could find in the scrap yard or had to purchase from the local mechanic.
But now, as she looked under the hood using the flashlight from her phone, she noticed nothing out of the ordinary. Her battery wasn’t corroded. But as she looked closer, she saw the problem.
The cable to the starter was cut.
Ben and his team made their way outside, walking in the direction of Rey’s car.
“See ya,” he said as they all walked away. He stopped to light a cigarette, but paused midlight when he saw that same woman bending over looking inside the hood of a car, a white Ford Focus. “Need some help?”
She peered from the side of the lifted hood top, and let out a raspberry. “I’m fine. Good night.” She waved him away, but that didn’t deter him from walking up next to her.
“So what are we looking for?” Ben asked, puffing on his cigarette.
“Do you mind?” Rey asked annoyed, eyeing him and then the cancer stick he held between his pointer and middle fingers.
“Yeah. Yeah. Sorry.” He dropped it at his foot and twisted his foot against it. “So?” He motioned to the car.
“My starter cable’s been cut. It’s so weird,” she conceded, finally telling him. She placed her hands on her hips and bit her lower lip. “How could something like this even happen?”
“Maybe it got caught on something?”
Rey turned to look at him questionably. “You don’t know much about cars, do you?”
“Ya, you got me.” He shrugged.
“I can’t fix this now. I have to buy a new cable. All of the places are closed by now.” She slammed the hood down. “Just my luck.” She leaned back against the hood of the car and kneaded her forehead as she tried to think of a solution. A bus? None ran out there. Lyft? Uber? She didn’t have the money for the distance, plus they wouldn’t go all that way either. She then turned to the man, the most frustrating man she had ever met. But what other option did she have left? Even if she asked, he probably didn’t even own a car. He probably rode a motorcycle. It would fit with his bad-boy look.
But she couldn’t help but notice how his eyes never left her. His brow was furrowed in some obvious concern for a complete stranger who was nothing but rude to him the entire night. Their first interaction raced through her mind, and she began to wonder if she had overreacted.
“Hey, um, I kinda have an emergency,” she asked timidly.
“Everything OK?” He leaned against the hood beside her. She felt the leather from his jacket rub up against her arm. Instinctively, she pulled her arm closer against her side.
“Not really. I need to get to Jakku tonight, but as you can see, my car is shot.”
“Jakku? What could possibly be out there? That place is literally nowhere.”
His description of Jakku was apt, but it really made her realize that she truly was from nowhere. No parents. A grandfather she—her grandfather.
“I gotta go see my grandfather. He got hurt. I need to get him from the hospital and back to the nursing home.”
Ben’s eyes widened and his body turned slightly towards her. “What happened?”
“He fell. He’s old. It happens. But he apparently fractured his arm. It’s why I gotta go tonight.”
“Well, I can drive you if you wouldn’t mind my help. But as I recall, you were pretty resistant to it earlier.” He gave her an amused smile.
His smile really was a thing of beauty when she finally took the time to notice. It was a bit crooked, going up a little more on the right, but his full lips just enhanced the attractiveness. But attractiveness didn’t mean trustworthy. Could she trust to be alone with him in a car out in the middle of nowhere? Was going to her grandfather now even worth the risk?
“If you don’t mind,” Rey finally replied.
“I’ve got no plans tonight.” His smile never waivered.
“Thanks, I appreciate it. Really.” She returned a smile of her own, while she was mentally hoping she wasn’t making a huge mistake. But she was desperate, and she couldn’t leave her grandfather there overnight.
“I’m Ben Solo by the way.”
“Oh, uh, Rey.”
She paused, feeling ashamed of her name.
Author’s Note: The Knight’s names are based off of the original Knights of Ren: Ap’lek=Amal, Cardo=Carlos, Kuruk=Kirk, Trudgen=Trevor, Ushar=Uma, and Vicrul=Victoria.