He can’t ever really remember a time when it was just them. Back in the day, there was always a full cast and crew around. Adam and Ben and Rachel and Mischa, their own public version of the core-four, all eyes on them, all together. And if they weren’t with Adam or Mischa, Kelly or Peter or Melinda were around. That was okay, it was easier that way anyway. That was the life.
Still, they found time to goof off- Rachel was easy to make laugh and Ben was funny when you really listened to him. Any time they had a scene together, they would break. If that was why they weren’t written together, he wouldn’t have been surprised.
Of course, the years passed and things changed, the two of them losing touch and going on their separate careers. He tried to separate himself from the character he had grown famous because, because they were very different people, going into some grittier and darker roles when given the chance. Rachel could be a serious actor, but she always seemed to be cast in a lighter feel-good sort of thing. Maybe that was just the type of person she was - light and sweet.
She’s the one who approaches him first. After years and years of not speaking, she gets his number through a mutual connection. (Was it Brody? He doubted it. Brody avoided Bilson like the plague. Peter? Any of their former cast members, minus Mischa, were game.)
He’s early into caring for kid number two with his wife, so the podcast comes at an inconvenient time. He didn’t really believe in full-time nannies, always wanting to be a little more hands-on than the majority of Hollywood. When they ask him to come on for the first episode, he quickly declines.
“We’d love to have you on.” Rachel had said, hesitating afterward. “If you ever want to be.”
They meet after the first season of the podcast finishes filming, he agrees that before the holidays are in full swing, he’ll jump on an episode for the second season. His wife had done some convincing, pointing out that it would be good to get some press again. Work had been slow over the past two years.
So with Hollywood slowly coming back into focus, he agrees to meet Rachel in person. She didn’t age a bit, smiling widely as he approaches her outside the coffee shop. “Ben!” They hug, maybe a little tighter than either expected. In an instant, before he could think about it, they both hear it - the sound of a camera shutter.
He could picture the articles now “BEN AND RACHEL REUNITE, the former “The OC” co-stars were spotted meeting at a coffee shop outside of LA” and the dozen photos plastered across social media.
They go inside and order and neither of them point it out, the fact that they’ve been photographed together. This is what being a ‘celebrity’ was, living your normal life and everyone having a front-row seat to it.
To his surprise, the conversation doesn’t immediately go to the show. It actually is a lot more personal than that - about their kids. Their daughters are close in age and Rachel congratulates him on the birth of his son. She had already done that through text, but there was something nicer about it in person. The conversation drifts, flows, and ebbs as it had all those years before. It was nice, this time without others listening in or sharing.
It started like that. Friends, coffee, catching up. Their on and off texting continued up until they get together to record his episode of the podcast. It’s in-person now, they have a small studio with recording equipment and producers. So he meets up with them, and just like it was with no cameras around, the conversation is easy. He may not admit it very often, but he did love the show, the character. Without it, he wouldn’t have the life he did now. So no matter how much he had fought against becoming typecast and be an individual, he did owe a lot to Schwartz and the early crew of the show.
When they’re done, they go out for dinner. It’s the three of them, Mindy included, and then Schwartz pops up. The paparazzi would have a field day if they were tipped off. He’s had a few glasses of wine, not exactly paying attention to how much he’s had but he’s trying to have water in between. They’re all laughing, at one point he’s nearly gasping for air at something Rachel said. Was she always that funny or was it the wine talking?
Melinda presses Schwartz about his Summer and Ryan comment all those years ago, saying he had wanted to get them together if the show had run for longer. “The chemistry between them was there!”
“Mindy!” Rachel gasps, giggling after. “We could barely have a scene together!” Ben joins in as Schwartz waves it all off.
The two of them share a cab back to his hotel. Rachel lives in the area, but in a foggy haze, partying with Ben for a little while seemed like more fun. They drink the tiny liquor bottles out of the mini-fridge, talking until the sun comes up. At one point, she flops on the bed beside him, resting her head on the pillow.
“I haven’t drank like this since before B was born.” She admits, a goofy smile on her face.
“I think we’re getting a little old for it.” A sideways sort of smile forms on his lips, letting out a chuckle as Rachel’s hair falls into her face. He leans over and pushes it back, his nails just scratching her scalp.
“Mmhm.” She agrees, looking up at him curiously. “Maybe you’re right.”
They’re closer than people who are just friends should be, practically curled up in bed beside each other. It’s hard to tell who makes the first move because really, they were both aiming for it. He pulls her into his lap, her legs resting on either side as she straddles him. In the heat of the moment, his hands go up behind her shirt, touching the smooth skin of her back before he pulls the fabric over her head.
She’s loud - gasping and moaning before he even puts his mouth on somewhere other than her lips. It’s just his hands, palming her breast and squeezing her ass. It’s her tantalizingly slow hips just bumping against his, the fabric of her leggings against the rough denim of his jeans.
She’s got him straining against his pants, waiting to be freed from constriction. But he was a gentleman, he could wait. Right now he wanted to taste her. He braces her arms with his hands as he pushes her over, onto her back. Bare-chested and heaving, she watches with wide eyes as he pulls her leggings down to her ankles.
“Is this,” He pauses, placing open-mouthed kisses down her chest, down her torso. “Is this okay?” The way her hips her bucking up underneath him almost involuntarily promise him yes, this is okay, now get to work, please.
“Ben.” She gasps. His name never sounded better.
“Rach.” He responds, just inches from the satin waistband before the holy-grail of lace hiding her womanhood. He runs his hand up her hip bone, thumb getting caught in the leg-hole of her pretty little thong.
“Ben.” She repeats. It’s tempting to have her beg. But he pushes the fabric aside instead, fingers just brushing over the bundle of nerves. “Please.” She gasps. It’s all he needs to hear before taking the plunge, moving momentarily to get the flimsy fabric out of the way and devour Rachel Bilson’s pussy like it was his job.
She comes twice before he even gets inside her. She gives him head skillfully, keeping him right on the edge before she sits on his cock. It nearly sends them both overboard. Despite how badly he wants to fuck her until she can’t walk, he wants to savor the moment. He rests his hands on the small of her back, steadying her movements. He initiates the slow and passionate kisses to delay the ending.
When they finish, she curls into his chest. No words spoken, just the two of them trying to catch their breath. He can’t help but wonder: why the fuck didn’t they do this years ago?
When he wakes up the next morning she’s gone. His wedding ring mocks him on the bedside table.
When he returns home, it’s like his wife was notified. The moment she saw him, she knew. He wore the guilt all over his face. Not the guilt that he slept with Rachel - because he physically couldn’t feel bad about it. It was phenomenal. He felt guilty that he did it now. While he was married. He felt guilty that he did that to his wife - the mother of his children.
And yet? He’s relieved. His wife is angry, which is no surprise, but she’s a reasonable woman. This was not her first trip down the marriage lane. She asks him, straight up, and he appreciates her bluntness.
“Do you want to work this out? Or do you want to go our separate ways?”
Ultimately they decide on the latter.
“Was it worth it?” His brother asks over the phone.
“Shut up, dude.” He laughs, grabbing his bag from the return carousel in the airport.
“I’m taking that as a yes.”
It was. Which was amazing to say. He’s got on the Classic Celebrity Disguise - comfortable airport clothing (sweatpants and a t-shirt), a baseball cap, and a pair of big sunglasses. He shoulders his bag and pushes through until he finds her - the small pale brunette in sunglasses, her hair piled up on top of her head in a messy ponytail and sporting a long grey t-shirt dress.
“Hey.” He breaks out into a smile. “Hey.” She returns it before she stands on her toes and gives him a soft kiss.
“Hey.” He repeats when they pull away.
“Hey.” She giggles and grabs onto his hand. “I missed you.”
“I’m touched, really.” He jokes, pulling her along so they could get out of the baggage claim area.
“God, Mindy’s going to kill us. Mostly me.” Rachel sighs, though she has a smile on her face. It’s worth it. The looks on their faces change into stony expressions as they leave LAX, hands intertwined. This was going to happen for a while, public attention as they explored their new relationship. He just hadn’t expected it to be so soon.
Over the months, life changes drastically. He quickly purchases a house in the area, a modest home, unlike some mansions he’d looked at. He needs a nice house if he’s going to be with his kids for half of the month. They split it by weeks, two weeks with mom, two weeks with dad. Nannies became necessary, despite his distaste for them.
His relationship with Rachel is hush-hush. Neither of them talks about it to the press. Rachel didn’t mention it on the podcast, Ben never spoke about it in interviews. They were obviously together, spotted together more than not, often seen with their kids together. They were both family-oriented people, of course, they were going to get their kids together too.
It’s their first Christmas together, just over a year since their hook-up. They’re in his bed, and though he had been a little disappointed since he wouldn’t be with his kids Christmas morning. It was the first time and it stung more than he imagined it would. He did however let them open their gifts from him and Santa the week prior.
Her daughter is in the next room, definitely sleeping soundly. He had woken up an hour or so ago by Rachel shaking his shoulder gently after she had nervously paced back and forth on ‘her’ side of the bedroom for nearly a half-hour.
“It came back positive. Ben, we’re having a baby.” She announced to him, tears brimming her eyes. She had mentioned it the night before that she had a funny feeling, an inkling that maybe she was carrying a child. They hadn’t been trying, but it wasn’t like they were really having safe sex either. If it happened, it happened.
He had taken her in his arms and held her to him, smiling before he kissed the side of her face.
“This is the best Christmas gift I could ask for.” He admitted, watching her weakly smile.
“Are you sure?” She sniffled. Not crying, but on the verge.
“Yes, baby. This is great.” He assured her, thumb rubbing just underneath her navel. In a few months her skin would be stretched like a balloon. Carrying their baby, their child. Just theirs. Something that belonged to just them.
“I love you, Ben.” She lets a few tears escape, which he quickly wipes away. “I know it’s not super romantic or how I originally wanted to tell you, but it’s true. I love you.”
“You’re such a sap.” He kisses her on the nose. “I love you. And I love this baby, too.”
Yeah. Maybe it was all worth it.