A/N: So this is a multi-part one shot. A short story, so to say. Not sure how many chapters it will have, but I couldn't get the idea out of my head. It's a modern/college AU. :) Enjoy!
02 - The Rebel and the Knight Part 1
"Stop worrying," Rey scolded her friend as they walked through the crowded cafeteria. "You're going to do fine."
"I'm not worrying," said Finn, his voice up an octave that made her give him a look. "Okay, maybe I'm a little nervous. It's opening game tomorrow and it's against Empire."
Empire University was close to Republic, less than thirty miles, which resulted in an odd mixture of rivalries and allies between students. It was all everyone had been talking about for weeks.
"No offense, but if you do even get in, it will only be on special teams."
He looked entirely offended as they stepped outside onto the unusually chilly, fall grounds to go their separate ways. "Hey! Coach said I could see some RB minutes."
She laughed and didn't point out that as a freshman the only chance he had for minutes was if there was a blow out, which was unlikely. As good as Dameron was as their star quarterback, Empire had an even more talented senior that was likely going into the NFL draft. She heard that name about as much as Dameron's.
"Well, good luck. I'll be the one scarfing down nachos with a face painted in blue and white."
Finn grinned and halted, gripping his book bag by the straps. He wore sweatpants and a tight-fitted Nike Rebel t-shirt. He was stocky and muscular, even for a freshman. Despite having different majors, they met in speech class, a requirement for many students. It was an embarrassing story she hated telling, one that Finn thought hilarious now that his lip had healed.
"Rose coming with you?" he asked.
Rose Tico, her roommate that spent most of her time with her nose in a book and earbuds in her ears. She worked in maintenance part-time at the library, had unyielding concentration that often led to Rey literally having to throw something at her to get her attention, and usually fell asleep studying at her desk. She hated football, but for some reason had expressed an interest in the game. Rey thought she had a pretty good idea exactly what that interest was.
"Possibly," said Rey. She pulled out her beat up cell phone that was several models old to send her friend a text. "I've gotta go or I'm going to be late."
"Working at Plutt's?"
Rey huffed and nodded. She worked a handful of temp jobs, with one being the most consistent. She didn't exactly working at her previous foster parent's garage, but it was grimier more than it was difficult, and sometimes Plutt gave her an extra twenty or something if he was feeling generous after a successful scam. It wasn't often.
Finn started to walk backwards toward his next class. "Text me after, all right?"
Rey didn't actually paint her face, but she did buy nachos. Loaded with cheese, jalapenos, sour cream—all of it. Rose did decide to come, and the two of them stood in the back of one of the student sections with the rest of the freshman.
"Get off your phone," said Rey, elbowing her friend as she sucked cheese from her fingers.
"Why? Nothing's happening."
With ten minutes before kickoff, the players were warming up on the field. It was an evening game, the lights bright and glaring against the green turf. Rey had chosen a thin Rebel sweatshirt over holey skinny jeans and the old converse sneakers Finn constantly reminded her to throw out. He didn't know these sneakers had been with her since the 8th grade, through a handful of families as she bounced around foster homes.
Rey searched for the cornflower blue #21 and found Finn running through some warm up drills with a handful of other players. Poe Dameron was throwing the football to the backup quarterback, a hard snap to his throws. Republic's campus was huge, and Rey was only a freshman, so she had only actually seen Poe on social media. She followed him on Instagram like the rest of the student body and didn't want to admit it, but he was as dreamy and attractive as his reputation preceded him. She'd never have the nerve to actually talk to him, but it was nice to follow his life. She followed tons of people she didn't know, but felt like she did. It gave her a sense of…belonging, of sorts. As if she was somehow part of their lives just by watching it pass by.
Loud cheers erupted suddenly and Rey was elbowed in the side by the screaming man to her left who looked too old to be standing in this section. Beer spilled onto her arm as he swayed. She scowled at him and shouted over the noise, "Watch it!"
He just ignored her. Rey thought about throwing her soda in his face but decided better off. She didn't splurge on soda often. Not when ice water was free.
Rose finally hefted a heavy sigh and stuck her phone in her back pocket. She didn't bother wearing school spirit and chose a worn-in brown jacket that looked like something a pilot might wear. Her black hair was tied back in a ponytail, pieces falling out and her thick bangs slightly disheveled. "All right, let's see what the fuss is about."
Rey had just finished her nachos when the captains took the field for the coin toss. Dameron of course was out there in his shining #8. She finally looked at Empire as they stopped centerfield, her eyes immediately drawn to the captain in the middle. He was tall, broad shouldered—muscular but not too bulky. He held himself as though he owned the field, towering over Dameron as they stood close, opposing each other. He sported the #1 white jersey for the Knights and Rey thought you had to be very confident to wear that number.
At the end of the first quarter, she understood why he had chosen it.
Ben Solo was good. As good as the stories and rumors she had heard.
Rey wasn't an expert in football per say, but she understood the game enough. Solo was a wide receiver and connected with almost every pass thrown his way, his height and agility to his advantage. He already had one touchdown, making the score 7-0 at the end of the first.
The biggest surprise, however, wasn't on the field at all. Next to her, Rose screamed in excitement and cheered as loudly as any proud Rebel. She'd have her face painted next game, no doubt.
"I'm going to go get a hot dog!" Rey called over the cheers. Mid second quarter, and the Rebels were finally on the board.
"You already had nachos!"
"So?" The word came out more defensively than she intended. Rey didn't want to admit to her friend that she had seen the sign that hot dogs were half price for students today. And this was her dinner.
Rose laughed and pulled out a couple of one's from her jacket. "Bring me some candy."
Rey pushed her way to the end of the row, then up the stairs. The crowd was a blur of blue and white, with large posters and flags waving in the chilly night. There were even some fans sporting the red, black and white of Empire. She found the nearest concession stand, relieved the line wasn't too long, and pulled out her phone to text Rose.
What kind of candy?
A minute went by. She moved forward in line. Two minutes. She texted Rose again.
No response. Rey could hardly believe the irony: Rose was always glued to her phone.
Rey stepped forward without looking up, her eyes still on the screen, when she bumped into the person in front of her. "Oh!" she said, startled. "I'm so—" She halted midsentence as the man in a black and red Knights sweatshirt pulled down his hood and turned to her. "Professor Skywalker?"
"Rey," he greeted pleasantly. Or as pleasantly as her sarcastic and bitter professor was capable of. His graying beard was as patchy as always, his hair a wild mess as though he didn't bother to shower but once or twice a week.
She looked at the knight on his sweatshirt. "I didn't take you as a traitor, Professor."
He snorted. "Yes, well. I'm supporting my nephew tonight, even if he does not appreciate it."
"Your nephew plays for Empire?"
At that moment, the announcer's voice rang out: "Touchdown for the Knights! Calrissian connects with Solo for his second touchdown of the night. The Knights now…"
Her professor muttered something under his breath as he turned and stepped up to the counter. When it was Rey's turn, he took his hot dog and saluted her in farewell. "Don't forget your essay is due Monday. I won't accept another piss-poor excuse for a late paper."
Her excuses were anything but piss-poor, thank you.
"Still don't agree with it," she called after him.
"Still have to write it," he said without looking back.
Rey sighed. She chose Introduction to Psychology as an elective, not realizing how much work it was going to be. She had to write four pages on how failure was the best teacher and had yet to start it.
Today was Saturday, and she had to work tomorrow.
She sighed again and ordered.
"Did you see…"
Rey just kept shaking her head. Yes, yes, yes…she did see. She had watched the entire game, just like Rose. Apparently Rose was a closet sports lover. Or maybe she just never bothered to give it a try, too busy either working or studying. Rey knew all about that. But now Rose was animated, more passionate than she had ever seen, and her eyes lit up when Rey said Finn's name.
"Poor Finn didn't see the field at all."
"Well, maybe they'll need a catcher next game," said Rose thoughtfully.
Wrong sport, Rey thought. "So you'll go next time?"
Rose shrugged and pulled her jacket tighter as they walked back to their dorm. The campus was lively and crowded, many fans still complaining about the loss. The Knights had won 42-21. Solo had all the touchdowns apart from two and who knows how many yards. It was an impressive show, Rey reluctantly had to admit.
"I had only watched it on TV, which was so boring. It's totally different in person. My sister never had time to take me, and our parents certainly didn't."
Rose had told Rey that her sister had chosen to join the military after a few years at college, wanting to become a pilot.
Rey had texted Finn on their way back to the dorm, but it wasn't until they were back inside, a good thirty minutes or so later that he responded:
Party at Alpha Phi Niima tonight. Want to come?
Rey nearly laughed out loud. APN, really? We're freshman, remember?
They're letting in everyone tonight because of the game.
But you lost…
Yeah, but game days equal lots of free beer.
Rey sighed. She really should start on her essay. She also didn't…really go to parties. She never had time for them and there were only so many times she could be the new girl before she found isolation to be the best company.
She glanced at the time on the cracked screen of her phone.
I can't, Rey wrote back. I have to start a paper and I work tomorrow.
A few minutes went by when Finn texted back, You work too much. You deserve a break!
Finn had no idea how much she had worked—for years. She looked at her fingers curling her phone, at the dirt that never seemed to clear from under her nails, the callouses on her hands. Between being a full time student and Plutt's, her catering gig, serving every other weekend at Lanai's Café, and cleaning old Mr. Yoda's house…she barely had much free time. Plutt hadn't been happy when she left her shift early for the game.
Rose was sitting cross-legged on her bed with her laptop, buds in ears, when Rey shook her shoulder. "Want to go to a party we're probably not invited to?"
Rey and Rose stood across the street to the giant white house that was Alpha Phi Niima, the lawn crowded with students holding red solo cups and music booming from inside—loud, but not loud enough for the cops to show up.
Rose had been reluctant. A relief for Rey, who had subconsciously been looking for an excuse not to go. But then Finn had called, insisting…and here they were.
There was a large boy standing at the door, like a bouncer. Rey suddenly felt sick with nerves. How embarrassing if he didn't let them inside? Finn had already text her again, that he was inside the house. But he was also on the football team and that came with some privileges, freshman or not.
Lawn chairs were scattered on the grass and a fire pit was roaring, students huddled around it as they laughed and talked. Even from a distance everyone looked so much…older. More so, they looked like they belonged here. Whereas Rey and Rose…
"They're totally going to toss us out, you know that right?" said Rose, squinting through her thick rimmed glasses.
A group of loud girls came up the street. One of them, a pretty blonde wearing Dameron's jersey tied tight, exposing her stomach that was painted with his number, came up to them. "You coming?"
Rey and Rose glanced at each other uneasily. "Well—" Rey started.
"Come on," said the girl, throwing her arms around both Rey and Rose. "Don't be scared, little fresh."
Before they could protest, Rey and Rose were swept across the street and up the crowded lawn, stopping in front of the large boy wearing a tight polo that was far from practical for this chilly night. The boy smirked at the girls. "Ladies." His eye caught on Rey and Rose, both of which probably wore terrified, awed expressions.
Rule number one of being a freshman: don't look like a freshman.
They were both breaking that rule right now.
"They're with me," said the girl happily.
The boy shook his head. "Whatever you say, Kay."
He let them inside and Rey was overwhelmed instantly by the sounds and smells, of the people dancing and mingling. The girl—Kay—grabbed two red plastic cups and handed them to Rey and Rose. "Only drink this cup and nothing else. Don't look so scared, don't leave alone, and try to have some fun," she told them with a bright smile. Then she and her friends were lost in the crowd.
Rey and Rose looked at each other and instantly broke into laughter. They were at a party—their first real college party. And hadn't been thrown out yet! Rey suddenly felt a little giddy, but in awe more than anything. She sent a text to Finn and sniffed her drink.
She made a face. It smelled awful.
"Paige would disapprove," Rose said over the music. Then she shrugged and took a drink. She nearly cringed from the taste. "Argh, that's gross."
They stood in the large foyer, the house separated into sectional rooms of leather couches, study tables, and what looked like a game room. There was an intense battle of what Rey learned was called beer pong going on and loud cheers from what appeared to be the kitchen. Most of the people still in their blue and white, but there were even some Empire students here as well. No one seemed to care.
"I have to pee," said Rose suddenly, in that blunt manner of hers.
"I'll find Finn." Rey had to shout to be heard over the music. Rose nodded and they parted ways.
This time, Rey tried calling, since Finn never texted back. Still no answer. He was probably here somewhere, unable to hear his phone.
Someone stumbled into Rey, nearly knocking her over. She scowled at the girl's blubbered apology and shoved her back. The girl had no sense of balance and fell to the ground, spilling her drink all over the floor, laughing. Rey instantly regretted her impulsiveness, especially as a few onlookers stared at her with a mixture of drunken laughter and confusion.
She darted away, annoyed at herself. Her quick temper had earned her too many detentions in her younger years. Her scowl quickly melted as she caught sight of Poe Dameron in the flesh, surrounded by a large group, laughing at some story he was telling. Rey watched as Dameron's eyes followed a group of girls—in particularly one girl—that walked by, even as he continued his story. Heard him shout, "Didn't know you stayed up this late, sweetheart."
To which Kay yelled over her shoulder, without looking at him, "There's a lot of things you don't know, Flyboy."
"Where's your calculator?"
"Same place as your win tonight. Nowhere to be found."
This earned a loud round of ohhh's from the group. But Dameron just grinned like a cat, somehow looking boyish and handsome all at the same time.
Rey realized she was still standing alone and finally moved from the foyer, deciding to not look like a complete loser. She explored the house, relieved that being alone in here wasn't so bad. Most of the people were too drunk, or just blissfully happy, to notice or care about a lone freshman. One guy had even hugged her for no reason other than he liked her "funny looking bun" on her head.
She moved into another hallway, a little less crowded than the rest of the house. She checked her phone again. Still no Finn, even though she had wandered through the house; though she certainly didn't check the bedrooms upstairs. Rose had somehow been roped into a game of beer pong. She was shockingly competitive, partnered with who Rey thought was the very, very tall captain of the girls volleyball team, Bri Phasma. Rey had watched for a few minutes, laughing, before wanting to break away from the crowd.
She was finding, with complete disappointment, that maybe these types of parties weren't for her. Or maybe she just didn't have very many friends and that impacted her experience. Which was…kind of sad. Even for her.
Rey pressed up against the wall so she wasn't trampled by a group of guys carrying what looked like a keg. She looked down at her still-full drink, the clear liquid looking less and less appealing by the minute. This was part of the college experience, right? She tried to push away the guilt of being underage, of the sense of dread and anxiousness at losing control over herself. Somehow that was the most frightening part.
A group of loud, laughing guys staggered her way—Empire and Republic alike, drunkenly arguing over the game. One of them caught sight of Rey as he passed and reached out for her with a slurred, "Go Rebels!"
Rey managed to dodge him, ducking out of the way. "Yeah, go Rebels," she said with forced enthusiasm, saluting him with her cup.
"Drink up, buttercup." He tapped her cup with a single finger, grinning.
"Yeah, sure. I will. Thanks."
For some reason he found her hilarious, patting her shoulder as he laughed and followed his friends. She watched them go, the music blaring in her ears. She checked her phone for what felt like the thousandth time and—Finn was calling her right now.
Relieved, Rey quickly answered, "Hello? Finn?" It was so loud she heard sounds more than words. "What? I can't hear you. Just text—I'll call you back!"
Annoyed and frustrated, she pushed her way through the crowd, away from the music, to find a quiet part of the house where she could actually think. Staring more at her phone than where she was going, she moved through the hallway, the music dying in the distance. She saw a door and yanked it open, finally able to escape. The room was nothing more than a study room, filled with cheap wooden desks and chairs, a bookcase and tall grandfather clock. There was a single red velvet armchair that looked plush and comfy, facing a fireplace that appeared like it was never used.
Rey sank into the chair that seemed to swallow her up and set her cup on the floor. She pulled her knees to her chest, sinking further into the cushions. She had just started to call Finn when she heard a scuffle—and a panicked, nasally voice saying over and over, "Okay, okay, okay."
The door slammed, causing Rey to jump. She turned and peaked over the top of the chair.
She immediately wished she hadn't.
A guy with bright reddish-orange hair was pinned to the wall by a hand at his throat, by someone so much taller and wider he seemed to eclipse the smaller, frightened man.
He gripped the hand at his throat, pushing out words. "A…mistake…I…I assure you."
"A potentially costly one." The taller guy's voice was deep and flat, disinterest concealing something darker. He wore all black, partially shrouded in shadow.
The redhead nodded profusely. He looked like he just stepped off a golf course with his long khaki pants and white polo shirt, a navy cotton sweater draped over his shoulders. His narrow face cowered in fear as he said, "Yes, yes. But…but not unfixable. I just need—"
"What? What could you possibly need?"
"I'll fix it. I…I assure you."
"Yes, you will."
The taller guy released him and the redhead nearly crumpled to the ground. He gasped, clutching his throat. It took him a long moment to regain his dignity as he straightened, lifting his chin. He was about to speak when Rey's phone rang.
She jerked—their heads snapped to her. She shrank into the chair, declining Finn's call so abruptly she thought she might shatter her screen further. The door opened and nicked shut.
Hesitantly, Rey turned around and peaked again—
And shot out of the chair so fast at the figure that loomed over her, that she slammed into the ledge of the fireplace and almost toppled into it. She would have, if not for the hand that shot out and steadied her. He let go nearly as quickly as he had grabbed her and she flattened herself against the brick wall, clutching her phone to her chest.
"Sorry," she managed, her throat dry. "I thought—I thought I was alone."
"You're not alone."
"Neither are you," she said weakly, realizing a second too late how stupid it sounded.
The guy tilted his head at her like she was something worth picking apart. With eyes that were cold and dark, his striking face was the picture of indifference and boredom. His black hair fell to his shoulders, wavy and messy, and looked freshly washed, still a little wet. There was an intensity to his stare that made look away. He was impossibly tall and somehow both big and lithe, standing close enough that she realized he was trying to intimidate her.
She lifted her chin defiantly. "I didn't see anything," she said, her voice surprisingly steady.
"No?" He leaned closer. She forced herself not to cower beneath his intimidation. His voice lowered, almost sensually as he murmured, "Ah, no."
Her phone rang again, but her eyes never left the stranger's face. They held each other's stare through the entire ringing. He broke contact first, his eyes sliding to her lower left and narrowing slightly. She followed his gaze, surprised to find her hand clutched around a metal poker she didn't remember grabbing.
His eyes flicked back to hers, his full mouth quirked almost in bemusement. As though he were challenging her to try to strike him.
She let go of the poker—and could have sworn disappointment flashed in his eyes. There and gone in a blink, so quickly she likely imagined it.
He blinked and seemed to realize himself, looking momentarily surprised at some internal conflict. Then he stepped back, giving her room to leave.
She took a tentative step, then a hastier one, nearly running. Only once her hand was on the doorknob did she look back and say, "I would have, just so you know."
"No," he drawled in that deep voice of his, "you wouldn't have. You considered it, but you hesitated. Then you lost your nerve"
She stared at him, shocked at the audacity of his words, at the confidence that he read her well enough to predict her thoughts and actions. Darkness clung to his dark jeans and fitted black sweatshirt, exposing his biceps and muscled arms. If she had swung, it would have done her little good.
"A good thing for you, then," she said finally, leaving the mysterious enigma behind.
A/N: Thank you so much for reading! I'm always a little hesitant about modern AU's but I really wanted to write this. I have to say Kylo Ren might be the most difficult character I've ever had to write. He's TOUGH. But it's fun writing him in a modern setting. Again, there will be more chapters for this short story, so stay tuned. :) Also, thank you to everyone that read and reviewed chapter 1. I'm outside my comfort zone with this fandom so I appreciate your feedback greatly!