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“How was America?” his father asked, and Hux waited a beat to figure out whether the question was aimed at him. It was just the two of them in the hospital's cozy little room, but with Brendol, one couldn't be sure.

“It was nice,” he said, and since it sounded too much like smalltalk, he added, “Didn't see much of it. Went to New York, got the job done, got home.”

“New York City,” Brendol corrected, and Hux repeated:

“New York City.”

Brendol was fading away, like watercolour stirred up in a bowl. The redness in his cheeks was no more than patchy blotches, and even the colour of his hair gave way to some washy grey. Looking at him in stiff silence, Hux couldn’t quite grasp how he felt. There was a numb sort of pity in his chest, and something far more fragile and fierce.

“You didn't miss anything,” Brendol said, clearing his throat. Hux considered offering him the glass of water on the nightstand. He decided against it. “Awfully dull country,” Brendol went on, voice hoarse. “No culture, no—no spirit .”

“The scenery is quite nice,” Hux supplied.

“Don’t give me that crap, I wasn’t talking about— nature, I don’t—” Brendol stopped for a heaving breath. Hux glanced at the water, right next to the box of chocolates he bought. He kept his hands clasped over his knee, legs crossed. Brendol hated when he sat like that. Like a woman . “I went there,” Brendol coughed. “I went there when they still knew how to do business, and—” Coughing again.

Hux closed his eyes for a moment. When he opened them, he was smiling.

“They remember you,” he said.

Brendol spit out, “I bet.”

No they fucking didn’t. Ren was twenty-nine; he probably never even heard about Brendol and his admittedly revolutionary ideas about development and employee training programmes, and how Hux had perfected them, or he was well aware that he was shitting on Hux’s life’s work during their cursed meeting, which was an unfortunate possibility.

Hux shifted in his seat.

“It’s better like this,” Brendol noted, and Hux had to stop thinking about a certain American and his godawful manners.

Tilting his head, he asked, “What’s better?”

“Now that we’re strangers,” Brendol said, not looking at him, or anywhere; the thousand yard stare.

“You and whom?”

“You,” Brendol frowned, and Hux chuckled, the sound more pained than pleasant.

“You consider us strangers?” he asked with a teasing, impatient edge, and Brendol’s pale eyes were on him then. He wished they weren’t.

“I like to think of you as one,” Brendol insisted. “Just some benefactor, ah, interested in keeping me alive.”

“The reason why I’m interested in keeping you alive is because we’re not fucking strangers,” Hux raised his voice, and Brendol yelled:

“Language, Armitage!”

For a moment, they glared at each other.

“Fine,” Hux said. “I’m sorry, sir.”

“I said it was better. No reason to shout at your—”

“I’m sorry,” Hux repeated. Brendol looked hurt, or maybe scared, eyes glassy and wet. “I’m sorry, Papa.”

 

*

 

The cab ride home was horrible. He kept chewing on his thumb without realising, mind drifting to could-have-beens. He overreacted, he should’ve—

Thin as a slip of paper…

A soulless workaholic with no human connections…

*

 

Ren was leaning to the table, watching him with that half-amused eyebrow tilt he shouldn’t have found endearing.

“What?” Hux asked, powering on his tablet. The black screen reflected his ashen face. His lips were twisted into a painful grimace.

“I just can’t fucking believe our bad luck,” Ren said. “Can you?”

“Why is it bad luck?” Hux asked, and added, “Please get your laptop ready.”

“Don’t need to.” Ren shrugged, and Hux fixed his disapproving glance slightly above his shoulders, not quite ready to meet his eyes yet.

“I’ll expect you to remember everything I said in impeccable detail.”

Ren dropped into a chair; the red leather squeaked. “Will do. I have an excellent memory and a very good eye for detail.”

“Is that so?” Hux smirked, and turned away from him, looking at the abstract painting covering most of the wall. “What colour are my eyes?” he asked.

“What?”

“Come on, Mr. Oh-So-Observant.”

“Trick question,” Ren grunted. “They change colour.”

Hux blinked.

“I’m told they’re green.”

“In natural lighting, yes, but they were slightly silver on the—The other day. And almost blue just a moment ago. They even have some golden dots, very remarkable. Also, your watch was set to London time yesterday. Didn’t bother to change it. Now it’s okay.” Ren nodded to his wrist as Hux turned back toward him. “I guess you check the time on your phone anyway. Also, your lock screen code is 20120315. Weird date.”

“Why do you—”

“I wasn’t paying attention”, Ren assured him, getting more and more flustered. “I just saw you punch it in when you gave me your number.”

“Do you remember my number?”

Ren looked at his lips, and told him. Hux cleared his throat.

“You’re excused from your…note-taking duties,” he announced. His cheeks were burning. It didn’t help that Ren was sitting with legs spread, hands in his pockets. Hux very much wanted to climb into his lap.

“To answer your question,” Ren said with an easy air. “The bad luck is that I can’t fuck you anymore. Both of us wanted anonymous sex, and it’s no longer possible. Too bad; I really, really wanted to fuck you, you know? I wanted to—”

“How about we discuss our personal matters later,” Hux interrupted, talking over Ren who calmly finished:

“—right up your pert little ass. Sure, you’ll find that I can be professional.”

“Evidently not.”

Ren turned away, slightly pouting. He crossed his arms over his chest, and Hux wished he could just bite into his biceps without it being weird. Just sorta…casually bite into them. As a friend. A colleague.

“How about brunch?” Ren asked, addressing the general landscape of New York City. “I’m paying.”

“I’m not going on a date with you,” Hux said softly.

Ren swallowed, Adam’s apple bobbing.  “No, not as a date. Just, um. We should discuss our personal matters in a more fitting setting. Let’s grab a fucking waffle later or whatever.”

“Later.”

“All right then.” Ren closed his eyes, and tilted his head back. He seemed pained. “Brief me on your in situ recovery enhancement plan.”

Hux looked at his tablet. He didn’t see it, his vision swimming. He counted to one, two, three.

“Our partners propose the usage of nanoparticle technology for heavy oil in situ upgrading and recovery enhancement,” he began, voice surprisingly controlled. “Using multimetallic nanoparticle catalysts would be a cost-effective solution, but it is not without its challenges, of course.”

He went on, and on, and on.

 

*

 

Hux spared a glance at his faithful dildo attached to the shower wall, and deciding that he was much too fatigued ran a lonesome bubble bath instead. He lit some candles which were supposed to calm his nerves, and then stretched out in the oval tub which stood in the middle of his vast bathroom. He had the newest ROCE reports at hand and a half-empty pack of Sobranie cigarettes. His glasses fogged up from the warm water, but it was still better than leaving the contact lenses in for the evening.

He knew exactly how the following few hours would play out: he would read until the water got cold, and then some more. He would put on a robe, brush his teeth, wash his face, and head to bed only to continue revising reports there on his Macbook. Millicent would join him eventually, and fall asleep curled up over his chest. He would have to wake her up around midnight to put away the laptop and put on his pressed pajamas; and then he’d lie on his stomach, wide awake, thinking about meetings and deals, plotting, planning, worrying, and then he’d think about nothing; and then, because even his feelings seemed to be scheduled, he would think about his father and wish he would just die already; and then he would feel bad about it, but only slightly. He was bound to relive some embarrassing adolescent memories, fantasize about food and success and sex, and after that, he’ll treat himself to thoughts about politics and sociology, have some epiphanies, and at some point, he would fall asleep. He wouldn’t dream. 

Except he did.

He was in a hotel room which was a mixture of every hotel room he’d ever been to. He was wearing bunny ears; his subconscious didn’t bother to explain why, and at the time, it didn’t seem weird. He had a dress shirt on, which was not his own; it kept sliding down his shoulders. And Ren was there, and he was eating Hux’s ass like he promised. It was all very realistic, if one overlooked the bunny ears and how the bed seemed to be floating; he even felt Ren’s big nose pressing into the delicate flesh, and his rough fist curling around Hux’s rigid length. He kept lapping at his entrance; his tongue was hot and wet. Hux was crying with pleasure, and Ren whispered “I got you, I got you,” his free hand holding Hux’s trembling thigh. He sobbed and wriggled, and Ren slowly transformed into this huge, warm presence, maybe bliss itself, this gentle and overwhelming force which lifted Hux up and held him there, just on the edge. Hux screamed, head lolling back, and he was coming and coming and coming.

He woke to discover that he had not, in fact, had metaphysical sex with Kylo Ren, but that he was achingly hard. He ignored his erection and fumbled for his phone, squinting at the dickpic Ren had sent him before things got awkward, just to remind himself that Ren was simply a man and that he was far, far away, his perfectly toned abs out of reach, the most beautiful cock Hux ever laid eyes on never to be touched or tasted, not by him, anyway. He was looking at the picture with eyes burning and whispered: “Bastard.”

It was the worst insult he could think of.

 

*

 

“Are you sure?” Ren asked him at the waffle place which had this ‘50s diner vibe: checkered floor and mint colours. Ren looked very out of place, the cutlery like children’s toys in his huge hands. Hux wished he could stop staring at his hands.

“Yes,” he said, and at least he sounded convincing. “It’d be inappropriate. We’re likely to collaborate in the future.” He turned his attention back to his waffle. It was soaked in maple syrup, butter melting on the top. Everything in the US was too sweet, even his tea, which he regretted ordering.

“We could just do it again, then,” Ren proposed. “Next time you’re here.”

“You don’t want it to be a regular thing,” Hux reminded him. “You told me you don’t, that all you wanted was an anonymous hookup.”

“You’re not here often, are you? And I don’t know you very well,” Ren noted, and Hux hissed:

“I won’t be your bloody fuckbuddy—”

Ren bit his lips. He did a puppy eyes thing, and Hux wanted to kick him. He was falling in love with him. No, that was a strong expression. Still, Ren was clever and gorgeous, and he was practically begging himself into Hux’s pants again now that their meeting was over, his reservations seemingly forgotten.

That’s why Hux said no.

“You can’t keep changing your mind like that,” Hux explained. “I’m getting the impression that you’re talking yourself into something you don’t actually want.”

“Oh, I do want it,” Ren snorted. “It’s just wouldn’t be good for me.”

“See?” Hux punctuated his words with his fork. “It wouldn’t be good for you.”  

Ren dropped his gaze, looking at his blueberry pancakes like they personally offended him, and then back to Hux. His eyes were the warmest colour, gleaming brown in the soft sunlight.  “It’s dangerous when I get emotionally attached.”

“Then don’t,” Hux suggested, and Ren chuckled. He leant back in his chair, balancing it on its back legs.

“It’s so strange. Like you were, or weren’t a multitude of persons: you’re not my pretty ginger  in a pretty suit from the night before, and you’re not Armitage Hux, not as I know him, anyway, you’re not the same person I just had a meeting with, and yet you’re all three; you keep changing and I can’t keep up. It freaks me out.” He raked his fingers through his hair, the tease. “On the other hand, I want to find out who you would  be with me inside you. I’m just scared that I’d look you in the eyes and he’d look back.”

“Who?”

“Fucking Armitage Hux.”

“I have a similar problem,” Hux confessed. “I’d look at you and see that Ren and slap you.”

“I’m actually kinda into that.”

Hux reached for his too-sweet tea.

“It doesn’t matter.”

“This is it, then?”

“I suppose, yes. Feel free to finish your pancakes.”

“Wow, thanks for allowing me,” Ren huffed. He let the chair fall back to its rightful place, and got his fork, holding it like a weapon. He started to methodically murder his pancakes, and asked, “Are you this bossy in bed?”

“It’d be advisable not to ponder too much upon my intimate habits, seeing that it’d be best if you just forgot about me.”

For a moment, Ren looked sad. He shoveled some pancakes into his mouth, and said, “I won’t be able to do that.”

 

*

 

Hux missed him, and that was the end of it. It was bound to happen; he had a habit of getting attached to certain people who were unattainable in this way or that. He was deeply impressed by Ren, and he still had some animal desire curled in his stomach, the need to just mindlessly rut. It was easier to focus on that, and not to give too much mind to the moments he wondered how could he amaze Ren, how could he make him absolutely obsessed with nothing but the right words. Giving thirty-minute talks to him in his head was fruitless.

He still did that.

He constructed dialogues while answering highly classified messages and attending conferences, and nobody on his team noticed anything amiss. In the following weeks, he felt like he was faking being himself, going through his routine, managing tasks and projects as usual, but a part of him was still in New York City. He imagined walking side-by-side with Ren in Central Park as he was riding the dick of a Scottish human resources officer in reverse, wondering what he and Ren might say to each other as the Scottish hammered into him, hips jerking. He told Hux he had a wife and two kids. Hux liked the married type, especially if they were closeted; they tended not to ask for his number, which made matters easier.  He pretended it was Ren fucking him with such relentless impatience.

“Hold me,” he asked.

 

*

 

Ren kissed him in front of the diner. It was just to say goodbye. Hux parted his lips for him, tasting the sticky sweetness of blueberry syrup. Ren deepened the kiss and cupped his face in both hands; Hux held onto his wrists and trembled. He nipped on Ren’s full lips when he tried to pull back, and the man huffed, amused.

“Feisty,” Ren whispered, pressing a peck on the corner of Hux’s mouth. “I can taste you,” he said. “I can taste who you really are.” It sounded cryptic, but still nice.

“Well, that’s too bad,” Hux muttered, eyes still closed, foreheads touching. “And too late.”

“Let’s try again. Next time.”

Hux shook his head, and Ren kissed his eyelids. It didn’t feel real, none of it.

“You’ll miss me,” he told Hux, who frowned.

“Don’t you mean—”

“I mean that you’ll miss me,” Ren said. “And when it becomes unbearable, you should call me.”

“That’s not what we agreed on. Use your perfect memory; it was five minutes ago.”

Ren brushed his thumb over Hux’s wet lips. “Can’t you feel that we were wrong?”

Hux shook his head again.

 

*

 

I might have been wrong, he texted Ren about a month later. No reply came; it was probably ass o’clock in the US anyway. He put away his phone, made himself stop looking at the X-ray scans of his father’s lungs the doctor sent him, and went on with his day.

Thirteen hours later he was putting on Sloane’s new curtains when his phone chimed. He didn’t dare check it; Sloane and her maid were watching him performing a balancing act atop the rusty ladder, one of them very much entertained and the other mumbling a prayer to the Holy Virgin.

“Told you you could reach it,” Sloane shouted from her wheelchair, and murmured to the maid, “He’s like a beanstalk. Used to be tiny, now look at him.”

“He’s going to die,” the maid announced.

Half an hour later Hux was on ground level again, adjusting his rolled-up sleeves and feeling very accomplished, but definitely nauseated. He had forty minutes to get to a meeting. He checked his texts as he shrugged his waistcoat back on, and his heart leapt.

*aubergine* wrong about what????

*aubergine* is this about the employee training

He smirked at his screen, and texted back ‘ guess again .’

“Uh,” Sloane commented with a grimace. “I know that look too well. Who is he?”

“That’s the exciting part, isn’t it?” Hux asked, pocketing the phone. “Finding out.”

 

*

 

*aubergine* in situ recovery

*aubergine* no?

*aubergine* superior shareholder returns

*aubergine* global energy demand

*aubergine* the moral character of my mother

*aubergine* no I got it

*aubergine* non-aqueous extraction

*aubergine* told you the current bitumen-extraction thing was bullshit don’t cry on my shoulder if snoke yelled at you for it or sg

Own Nr : I might have been wrong about taking risks. I should have taken a risk with you. Even if it ended badly, I wouldn’t feel so much regret as I do now.

 

Ren didn’t reply.

 

*

 

Hux kept checking his emotions the same way one might conduct a psychological experiment: measuring the varying degrees of despair and indifference. He discovered long ago that rejection suited him; it just made him step up his game. The only problem with Ren was that there wasn’t a next level.

Hux could live with that. Live with that hollow feeling inside his stomach.

He could even force on a pleasant expression and put his silent phone aside when their American intern, Finn Something, entered, clutching an envelope in unsure hands.

“Are you lost?” Hux asked, and Finn flinched.

“No, I uh— Got this for you? And we gotta talk.”

“You don’t have an appointment,” Hux said, but nodded to the chair facing his desk nevertheless. “Make sure it never happens again.”

“It won’t,” Finn told him. “I’m resigning.”  

Hux arched an eyebrow and measured the kid, who remained standing. He had a cheap suit on and wore a brave expression, temples glistening with cold sweat.

“How is that my concern?” Hux asked in that singsong voice which made everyone who knew him begin to look for an exit. Finn didn’t know him.

“I work for you.”

“You work for my company,” Hux corrected. “You don’t report directly to me. If you wish to resign, get in touch with your lawyer and contact Miss Phasma.”

“I want you to know why I’m resigning,” Finn forced out.

Hux vaguely hoped he won’t throw up on his carpet. It was a one-of-a-kind design. Hux touched his fingertips to each other. “You’ve been contacted by the Resistance,” he said. “You have ethical concerns.”

“How— no. No. I’m not with the, the Resistance. What’s that?”

“Get out,” Hux told him very calmly, and turned back to his Macbook.

Finn just stood there, fingers curling into a fist.  “You won’t get away with it. We won’t let you. I’m coming for you, Hux. I’m coming for you.”

“Put that on my desk and leave before I call security,” Hux said, not looking at him. Finn huffed out an angry breath of air, and slammed the envelope on the desk, upsetting the solar system-themed Newton’s cradle Hux had there. The sun came off and started rolling towards him; he stopped it with a fingertip and glared at Finn. He walked himself out. Hux glared some more at his back, then let the sun fall into his open palm.

Finn’s pitiful alabi was a crumpled, crimson envelope addressed to Hux. He probably just grabbed it from the pigeon hole. Hux’s name was written on it in angular cursive, and his heart skipped a beat when he noticed the air mail stamp. It was probably false alarm, and yet. He put the sun in his pocket, and got a letter opener from the top right drawer. He sliced the envelope open. It contained a plane ticket and a short note.


We have much to discuss - Kylo