A/N: Not exactly a Valentine's Day theme, but there's fluff and romance, so it totally counts. Happy Valentine's Day! (...although that technically ended an hour ago but who's really counting)
After he finished nursing, Rey set Ben in his crib and sank down onto her bed, scrubbing a hand across her face. She had forgotten how exhausting a newborn was, and while Han, Leia, Finn, and Poe were being immensely helpful to the point of hovering constantly, without Ben at her side, it was an exhaustion that sleep couldn't fix pressing down on her at the end of the day. That, and having a child at forty-one had possibly taken a toll on her, but she wasn't ready to admit she was getting old just yet.
She sighed, tracing a loving, longing finger along the edge of the frame of their wedding photo. They looked so happy, all dressed up and wrapped in each other's arms, their whole future ahead of them and shining bright as the sun. "I miss you, Ben."
It had been three weeks. Three long, silent weeks. No news was good news, the saying went, but Ben had never gone this long without writing. She had never gone this long without reading about random bits of his day, what the weather had been like, what had reminded him of her and the kids, how much he missed them and couldn't wait to meet the baby. She missed those letters, those little reassurances that he was alive and well. To her, no news felt exactly like bad news.
Someone knocked on the door, followed by Leia leaning in before Rey could answer. "Oh, good, you're done," she said, tossing Rey's coat and shoes to her. "Put those on. I'll get Ben ready."
"What? Wait, when did you get home? Where did you even go?"
Leia gestured for her to hurry. "You'll see."
"I don't want to-"
"Rey." Leia cupped her cheeks in her hands, cutting her off. "Get dressed."
There was no arguing with that insistent motherly stare. "Ok."
Leia patted her cheek and went back to Ben. "Good girl."
Han was waiting for them in the car. Still very confused, Rey settled in the back with Ben, resting her head against the window and just watching him suck his thumb. Part of her wanted to figure out where his grandparents were taking them, but the larger part just wanted to savor every moment of his childhood. All of her children were precious miracles to her, but Ben felt… different. And it was all too painful to imagine why.
They pulled up to the hospital. "I'll take Junior," Han offered. Rey nearly refused, reluctant to let go of her son, but a look from Leia quelled that protest. She handed him over and followed them inside, crossing her arms as she took in the eerily sterile surroundings. Hospitals had unnerved her ever since she watched her mother die in one, and she hadn't had reason to be in one since Roxxy broke her hand punching an older boy bullying Bradley.
"Why are we here?" she asked.
Leia finished signing them in and led Rey deeper into the hospital, guiding her with an arm around her back. "You may have noticed we haven't been letting you check the mail."
"I did notice."
"We didn't want to get your hopes up," Leia explained. "We didn't know if he would make it, or where he would be treated, but… it all worked out perfectly."
Rey's heartbeat quickened, shaking off her exhaustion for the first time in three weeks. "You mean… Is he…?"
Leia stopped outside a ward and pointed inside. "See for yourself."
She hardly dared look into the room, and when she did, she found him almost immediately: Ben, at the very end of the ward, propped up on a pile of pillows and dozing. His right leg was elevated, swathed almost entirely in bandages, and he was too pale, but he was alive. He was here. Rey found herself rooted to the spot, terrified that if she blinked or twitched, he would disappear, that she would wake up and this would all just be a dream, and she was actually still alone in bed, waiting for a homecoming that might never happen.
Upon seeing them, Ben's neighbor tossed a crumpled paper at him, startling him awake, and pointed at the door. Ben looked up, and for the first time in nearly ten months, she was looking into her husband's eyes.
His name tore from her throat as a scream, shattering the silent stillness, and when nothing changed, when he didn't vanish before her eyes, she was running. "Ben!" she cried, choked and raw. "Ben!"
She was sprinting, sprinting down the ward as tears blurred her vision, skidding the last few feet so she didn't completely crush him when she crashed into him, throwing her arms around him. He threw his arms out to catch her, pulling her onto the bed with him, pulling her as close as he possibly could. He buried his face in her shoulder while she buried hers in the crook of his neck, breathing in his familiar scent. "Rey," he rasped.
"I missed you," she sobbed, running her fingers through his hair. It was short, too short, but she could touch it, and in this moment, that was all she cared about. "I missed you so much."
He clung to fistfuls of her dress. "I thought I would never see you again," he mumbled shakily.
"Shh," she soothed instinctively, lifting her head to nuzzle into him, kissing his cheek. "Shh. You're home now. Whatever happens, we'll deal with it together. Ok? We're together. That's all that matters now."
He nodded, slowly lifting his head until their foreheads touched, never breaking contact with her. "I missed you," he whispered against her cheek.
Rey cupped his cheek, stroking away his tears. Their eyes met, and his had a new depth of fear, traumatized by whatever he had seen over there, but they were still soft, still warm, still the eyes of the man she had married and raised her children with. Her hand drifted down, brushing the corner of his lips, and he glanced down at her lips, and then they were kissing.
They kissed with the passion of youth, like it was the first time all over again, when he had been held hostage and she had rescued him and that kiss had conveyed everything they thought they'd never be able to say. Now, though, it held nearly two decades of history, of love and survival, of marriage and parenthood, and the promise that it wasn't over, that there was more love and healing to come, that they would never let go. "Marry me," Rey whispered into the kiss.
"I thought I already did that."
"I meant renew our vows, goof," she chuckled. "For our fifteenth anniversary. I've heard of a few couples who have done it. The kids could be there, and-"
She froze, the realization hitting her and Ben at the same time. "I was wondering when you would remember," Leia teased. "Come get your son."
Rey slid off the bed to get him from Han. "Ben," she said, turning around with a smile, "meet Ben."
Ben's entire being softened as he laid eyes on his son for the first time. "Hi, kiddo," he greeted, gathering him into his arms with all the tenderness in the world. Despite his usual habit of crying the first time someone new held him, Ben snuggled into his arms immediately. Rey choked up, all of her fears that Ben would never know his father melting away. "I'm your dad."
Rey perched on the edge of the bed again, wrapping her arms around her husband. "He knows," she said, tears of joy slipping down her cheeks. "He knows."
Ben laid his head on her shoulder, and Rey nearly burst into tears all over again at the warm weight of it, a simple bit of comfort she had been so long denied. "I thought we agreed not to do the Ben Junior thing," Ben joked in his own choked voice.
She swallowed. "I didn't know if it would matter."
He tilted his head to look up at her. "I'm sorry," he murmured, voice laden with guilt, haunted by his long ago promise to her that he would never enlist after the destruction her father's wartime death had wrought on her life.
"I was never mad at you," she reassured him quietly, kissing his forehead until his eyes drifted shut. "It's not your fault. But, ah, maybe we should give him a nickname. Now that mix-ups are a consideration."
"What about his middle name?" he asked drowsily.
"Somehow, I don't think he'd appreciate going by Hope for the rest of his life."
He cracked one eye open. "His middle name is Hope?"
She pursed her lips. "When you give birth right after learning your husband might die thousands of miles away, then you can mock my name choices."
"I like it, actually. Hope," he said, looking back at their son. "Ben Hope." He paused, savoring the name. "Yeah. It's a good name."
"Good." She nestled her chin atop his head, more relieved than she cared to admit. "Nicknames?"
"We could call him Junior," Ben suggested.
She frowned. "No."
"Hey, what's wrong with Junior?" Han protested. "I call him that all the time."
Leia smacked him. "Not now, Han."
Rey and Ben paid them no mind, their world just then consisting only of each other and their youngest child, who chose that moment to hiccup with enough force to make his whole body jump. Ben chuckled, tracing one of his adorably big ears. "What about Hopper? That's kind of like Hope."
Rey's breath caught in her throat – there it was. That little dip. The one that had named their other children. The one she had thought she would never hear again."Yes," she agreed instantly. "Let's call him Hopper."
"Hopper," he repeated, smiling. "Hello, Hopper."
Hopper let out a happy babble, flailing for something to grab. Ben offered up his finger, his smile stretching to a grin when Hopper grabbed it. "Shouldn't it be the other way around?" he asked. "Shouldn't I be the one asking you to marry me?"
"Well, you're currently the one lying in bed while I hand you the new baby," Rey pointed out. "It's a day for doing things backwards."
"Fair enough," he said, pausing to smother a yawn. "Yes, Rey. I'll marry you."
Rey beamed, reaching to rest her hand over Ben's where he cradled Hopper's head, vaguely aware of Han and Leia finally drawing the curtains shut around them, making this moment theirs and theirs alone. "I love you."
Ben nestled into the crook of her neck, his voice slowing as exhaustion overtook him. "I know."
"Prick," she said fondly. He offered a sleepy smile in response, and she rubbed his arm, tucking him beneath her cheek. "Get some sleep," she murmured. "I'll be here when you wake up."
"I know," he said again. "I love you, too."
His sleepy smile lingering, he gradually drifted off. Rey closed her eyes, one arm around each of her Bens, and savored every single second of being able to hold them together.
A/N: (Yes, I am aware that - according to Wikipedia at least - vow renewals weren't really a thing in the US until the 50s, but the idea was already written down and it's too soft to lose sO historical accuracy be damned)
Anyways! That brings an end to this fic, but it made me start thinking about wartime Ben, so... maybe look out for a fic or two about that eventually