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Kylo wakes to the soft chiming of Hux’s phone. It’s still dark outside. He groans, and curls up, safe in the nest of crisp white blankets. He hears Hux snort, and a kiss is pressed to his shoulder. He turns to his back, eyes still closed, chest exposed. He makes a low, keen sound in his throat.

“Go back to sleep,” Hux whispers, and he has half a mind to say no, to get up and accompany Hux wherever he needs to be at this early hour, but his tired bones pull him down. He sinks into the kingly mattress, and the dawn dissolves into darkness.

The second time, he wakes with a start as a lorry passes by. He rolls to Hux’s side of the bed, buries his face into his pillow and inhales his smell, which warms him all over, easing the curling panic in his stomach. The sun caresses his shoulders; it’s London’s sun, and it feels like it was a different star than the one which used to shine on him in LA. This one feels like it could go out any minute; like God accidentally left the light on before he deserted the universe.

He gets to his feet. He doesn’t dare make a sound as he stumbles forward. When he’s alone, the room feels vast, the black walls arching too high. There are grey-scale pictures of Hux’s dead heroes and some obscure flowers and odd animals, all of them framed and neatly arranged in a geometrical pattern. This helps Kylo find his focus, helps him balance on the white-washed hardwood floor.

He gets to the bathroom, and brushes his teeth as the copper tub fills with scented water. He contemplates whether he should masturbate. He’d probably feel too exposed to do it here: the tub is in the middle of the room, for whatever reason, and there’s a chair turned towards it, which is anything but subtle. When he touches himself, he prefers Hux to sit there and observe it, to instruct, praise, evaluate, and then to join him. The tub is too small for the both of them, but that’s actually what Kylo likes about it best. He likes how the water spills from the edges when Hux is riding him, how he can’t move much, just lie back and watch.

He presses his hard cock to the marble counter, rubs it over it, thinking how low he sank, fucking furniture just because Hux had to leave early again and couldn’t take care of his morning erection.

--

The kitchen is familiar territory, the same minimalistic black and white design as the rest of the flat, but the too-high walls are lined with shelves full of spices and kitchen devices. There’s a rolling ladder, which shouldn’t be as exciting as it is. Climbing it for Hux’s favourite genmaicha leaves feels like an adventure.  

He’s making tea in sweatpants and a tanktop, hair tousled. He drops the infuser when he hears Hux fumbling with his keys outside; he’s so excited to have him here, to have Hux come home. It’s just so bizarrely wonderful. He turns towards the door casually, like his heart wasn’t soaring. Hux still has his round shades on when he enters carrying a tote bag and a bouquet of gladioli.

“Hullo, Mrs. Dalloway.”

“Oh, shut up,” Hux grins. “She would’ve preferred delphiniums.”

He drops the tote bag on the dining table, groceries spilling out. Kylo goes to fetch them as Hux searches the cupboard. He’s stealing glances at him. Hux reaches for a vase on the topmost shelf, stretching. He’s wearing a dress shirt with a waistcoat, which Kylo doesn’t think to be an appropriate fashion choice for the farmer’s market, but then again, he never quite grasped the snobbery of Knightsbridge. He can’t deny that Hux looks magnificent, the grey wool complimenting his copper hair, the tarnished silver of his eyes, and even the golden gleam of his wedding ring, which catches Kylo’s eye and makes him smile in smug delight.

He passes Kylo as he goes to fill the vase with water, and leans in for a brief kiss, close-mouthed. “How are you today?”

“Uhh.”

“Maybe express it with conventional phonemes.”

“I’m fine, I guess. You?”

“Mm, I’ve ordered the cow heads; got a good deal.”

“Which one of these go into the fridge?” Kylo asks, lifting the bag. Hux glances at him, taking off the sunglasses.

“Nothing but the jam. I’ve opened it.”

Kylo glances at the handwritten label: vanilla, lavender, and plum. The usual.

“Ah, you almost made me tea,” Hux notices, and Kylo hisses:

“Shit, the tea!”

“It’s fine, it’s the thought what counts.”

Kylo grunts, and puts the jar of jam into the fridge, then walks to the dining table, somewhat defeated. He needs to focus. Tonight is a big night. He drops to the chair. Hux doesn’t need his help, not now. Watching him fuss about calms him, how he arranges the flowers, turns on the radio, washes his hands, prepares the ingredients for breakfast. He puts on an apron, and Kylo swallows.

He’s been lusting after Hux since day one, and it was all the fault of that fucking apron: how he fastens it on his slim hips and then goes about his business with a neat little bow bouncing above the curve of his delicious ass. Kylo used to think that if he’d tie the bow too tight, Hux would just break in half.

Hux cuts out the top of a sea urchin, and starts piercing the bottom, carefully. It’s probably still alive. It has to die because it makes scrambled eggs smoother. It’s funny, how Kylo used to think he had any chance against this man. The BBC news is on, and Hux starts melting butter in a cast iron pan, humming softly, like the alarming reports were just background music. Kylo is lulled by the off-key melodies, slipping into soothing memories. The first time Hux made him breakfast was one of the happiest experiences of his miserable life, not just because Hux’s ricotta pancakes could make a grown man cry, but because it meant that he wanted Kylo to stay; he didn’t just forget to kick him out. He was listening to the news, just like now, humming and whisking lemon curd. When Kylo stepped into the kitchen, sore and hungover, it felt like the most natural thing to watch his co-worker make breakfast. They’d been fucking for three months nonstop, so it was high time they stopped pretending that they didn’t particularly care about each other.

“So it’s Tête de Veau for tonight?” Kylo asks.

“There’s nothing quite like it, is there?” Hux muses, tossing the teatowel over his skinny shoulders. “I’m thinking gherkin slices, capers, and red potatoes for the side dish, maybe with sauce verte.”

“Sauce verte,” Kylo nods. “Good decision. They’ll love it. Add red onions and thyme for the plat d'accompagnement.”

“What should  the dessert be?”

“How about panna cotta framboises?”

Hux point the knife at him. “You’re a genius.”

--

They eat mostly in silence, Hux preferring to read the morning paper with his breakfast and not to be bothered. Their feet touch under the table, Hux caressing Kylo’s calf absentmindedly with his socked toes while Kylo enjoys every bite of the breakfast he made for him. He’s spoiled rotten.

Hux glances at him over the paper, and then his gaze lingers, watching Kylo with quiet appraisal and a half-amused smile.

“What?” Kylo says through a mouthful of food.

“Nothing,” Hux replies, eyes glinting. Kylo feels pinned by his eyes, in a good way, their sharp focus keeping him in place. There were times when he used to feel invisible, but then Hux came along and noticed him. Once he noticed him, he wouldn’t stop watching. “I thought I’d grow tired of it, staring at the same face every morning over my breakfast table,” Hux says in a conversational tone. “Guess I was wrong.”

“My face is many things; it’s not boring,” Kylo admits, half-joking. Hux tilts his head and looks him over.

“No,” he says so softly. Something tightens in Kylo’s chest. He shoves a forkful of eggs into his mouth.

--

When he came to London, he didn’t have anything but a fake passport in Kylo Ren’s name and some cash. He didn’t even have a toothbrush. He was homeless and wretched, but at least he wasn’t Ben Solo any longer.

He didn’t know shit about the city. That was the point of it. London seemed like those folded fortune tellers he used to make at school: his destiny kept changing by the counting of one, two, three, and the city wrapped up and then flattened. It seemed like a cheap trick. He was probably in the wrong district, with palaces and tourists and the streets looking like they belonged in a movie.  He followed the Thames, turned up the washed-up remains. His memories are not very clear. He remembers Hyde park, standing in the pond with the swans and the rotting leaves, and disassociating so bad it made him laugh. And he laughed and laughed and laughed.

He found little Rey when he was looking for shelter. It was raining, that pisspoor excuse of a drizzle London tended to produce while the sun was still shining. The weather just never made up its fucking mind, and Kylo was sick of it. He was sick of seeing the ever-changing sky. He needed meds and food which was not second-hand, and he needed a place to sleep without waking up every twenty minutes. The house seemed abandoned. It had broken windows and everything. It also had an occupant, which Kylo learnt the hard way when Rey greeted him by poking his ribs with a cricket bat.

“Oi, burglar! Freeze!”

She didn’t look very threatening. She was small and dirty and about nineteen.

“I won’t hurt you,” Kylo promised. He didn’t plan to, anyway.

--

“Did you get those from Poe’s?” Kylo asks, eyeing the gladioli. Hux shifts in his chair. He doesn’t even care about flowers. He just think it’s polite to have them.

“Yes. Rey says hi.”

“Rey said hi?”

“I think so, yes. Can’t remember. She talks so much; I never pay attention.” Hux rubs his temples. Kylo resists the urge to touch the scar running over his eye. It’s mostly healed. Hux likes it.

He got it shortly after Rey and Finn started dating and they all moved to Finn’s place, where the wallpapers were still, no insects crawling under it like in Rey’s old home. Kylo accepted his fate as the family stray, so to say, lagging behind Rey once he became bodyguard from burglar, scaring people off as they collected and sorted trash. Rey called it scavenging.

When Finn invited both of them to live there, Kylo got the impression that Finn and Rey were his friends, and they were to be trusted. So one evening, when he got home late from his shift, and they had too many ciders and were half asleep on the couch, the telly playing static, Kylo asked:

“Have any of you ever killed a man?”

Finn laughed.

He wasn’t laughing for long.

When Kylo told them everything in detail, he was expecting sympathy. He wanted to trust them with his deepest, darkest secrets. His past was apparently too heavy to stomach.

“I don’t know what kind of sick joke it is,” he remembers Finn saying, “but I’m not having it, mate, I’m calling you a cab and you gotta get out of here, okay?” He was standing up on the couch, waving his phone around, holding it like a weapon. Kylo just wanted him to listen. He tried to wrestle the Samsung out of his hand. Finn just wouldn’t fucking let go. Rey screamed when there was that sickening sound of something cracking.

“Let him go, you monster! Let him go, let him go, let him go!”

Finn whimpered in pain as Kylo twisted his arm into an unnatural angle, staring at Rey from behind his hair. She didn’t look scared when she looked back, tearing her gaze from Finn’s face. She looked disgusted. She grabbed a half-empty bottle of Strongbow, and smashed it against the coffee table, drops of liquid flying everywhere, synthetic apple smell filling the air. Kylo snarled at her.

“Try it,” he said. His voice was very calm. He was at peace, with Finn writhing in his deadlock. He felt invincible, untouchable, so much bigger than himself.

“You will let him go now,” Rey told him with such force he almost, almost obeyed, and then she was at him with the broken bottle, quick like a desert snake.

Kylo looks at the blood-red gladioli, fingers still itching to scratch the scar, to peel off the skin and let out the colour.

“They look like a wound,” he notes.

“Ever the poet,” Hux says fondly.  “You don’t like them?”

“They’re beautiful.” He drops his gaze to his empty plate.

“What are your plans for today?”

“Can you drive me to the gym?”

“Whatever happened to your Oyster card?” Hux frowns, and folds the paper.

“I hate the underground.”

“I never knew that.”

“Well, now you know,” Kylo snaps. “Strangely enough, I hate being crammed in a crowd with all my kendo stuff and crouching over because the tube was designed for dwarves or whatever—”

“It’s high time I bought you a car,” Hux interrupts, sounding like he just found the solution to stop world hunger, and Kylo raises his voice:

“I’m not driving on the wrong side!”

“Then what do you want me to do?”

“I asked whether you could drive me!”

“Of course I can drive you.  Geez, don’t get your knickers in a twist.”

“Thank you,” Kylo grits, and pushes the chair out with more force than necessary, the legs screeching on the hardwood floor. He all but slams the plates into the sink. They’re from a Minton set, made of delicate porcelain with gold accents. They cannot be put in the dishwasher, so Kylo gets a sponge and the soapnuts and sets to work, scrubbing the plates down with all his boiling anger. He waits for Hux to speak first; he wants to scream at him for not understanding: I want you to drive me, to spend that extra twenty minutes with you, I want to listen to your pretentious music and talk about nothing, I can’t breathe when you’re not with me, and I don’t care if that’s not healthy.

Hux walks to him, steps light, and brushes Kylo’s hair aside, slowly sinking his teeth into his neck. Kylo closes his eyes. “Leave a mark,” he asks.

Hux hums, and grabs Kylo’s hair, pulling him closer. “Before we go,” he whispers against his bruising skin, “I’m fucking the anger out of you, how about that?”

“Yes please,” Kylo mouths. Hux nudges his legs apart as Kylo holds onto the sink’s edges.

“Pass me the olive oil.”

Kylo does as he’s told, heart hammering in his chest. He loves this part. Hux pulls off his sweatpants but leaves the tank, and strips himself naked. Kylo is stealing glances over his shoulder, still mad, which makes him more impatient and desperate. Hux pours the oil over his elegant fingers, and slips one right in, the smell of olive heavy in the air. Kylo feels like he’s being prepared to be devoured, and the thought alone makes him moan. Hux nibbles on his neck, licking, tasting. He pushes another two fingers in, and Kylo needs so much more, not just being filled but the thrill of being powerless, and it’s not enough for that, the deep caresses and Hux’s tongue hot on his throat.

“Drown me as you fuck me,” he pleads, and Hux slows the pace.

“How do you want it?”

“I don’t want you to follow instructions,” Kylo pants. “I want you to take control.” Their eyes meet. Hux’s pupils are blown wide, and Kylo pushes back, taking his fingers to the last knuckle, waiting and oh-so-ready.

“Here’s how it goes, then,” Hux says. “I’ll hold you under the water as I push in, counting to ten. You shall slam your hand on the counter if you need me to stop. We’ll repeat it three times, and then discuss whether you want to go on.”

“Good, sounds good,” Kylo nods, and grins as Hux bends him over. He squeezes his eyes shut; the tip of his nose is touching the surface. He takes a deep breath, and Hux pushes him under the water just as he penetrates him. It’s beautiful and overwhelming, all of his senses surrending to the pleasure as he can’t see, can’t hear, can’t breathe; all he feels is Hux inside him. He’s almost giddy with it, gratitude overwhelming him, their silly argument suddenly meaningless as he silently chants: I trust you with my life, I’d die for you, it feels so right.

Hux pulls him to the surface and Kylo takes a heaving breath.

--

The person he was after Ben but before Hux used to drift on the streets like trash, carried by the wind, until little Rey had mercy on him. Her rotting home once belonged to her parents. She was waiting for them to come back. She showed a picture to Kylo; he recognised the figures, but didn’t say anything.

He was allowed to sleep on the damp couch. The house hadn’t had gas, water, or electricity for more than a decade. They used to break into other apartments in the general area of Barking and Dagenham; Rey insisted they didn’t take anything, just wash their clothes and themselves, warm up a bit, then leave. Kylo always scavenged the fridge while Rey took a shower. They kept returning to Finn’s apartment; it had a tumble dryer, and Finn’s late shifts allowed them to hang out there as long as they wanted. He always left the living room’s window open, the idiot. They didn’t know his name, and they didn’t expect him to come home as early as eight PM, but then he was there, watching in horror as Kylo gulped down his Tesco mango smoothie straight from the bottle.

“Gotcha!” he exclaimed. Kylo was ready to attack him or vanish, leaving Rey in the hands of destiny. “My mystery burglar!”

“Don’t call the cops, I’ll just fuck off,” Kylo assured him, putting the empty bottle back into the fridge, and starting to retreat.

“Who’s in the shower?” Finn asked, indicating the bathroom; the water cut off, and Rey shouted:

“Did you say something, Ky’?”

“It’s me, the owner, hi!” Finn laughed, and that was the first time Kylo heard Rey swear. There was some clamour, and then she stepped out from the bathroom, hair dripping wet, in unwashed activewear, and Finn and her locked gazes for a moment longer than necessary. “I started to think I was being haunted,” Finn confessed.

“I’m so, so sorry, we’ll pay you back—”

“Now wait a minute,” Kylo interrupted, one leg already dangling out of the window. Finn just waved them off.

“It’s fine. You obviously need my flat’s comforts more than I do. Well. Ugh. I just quit my job, so maybe there’ll be some lean years, but yeah, still, you’re welcome to my stuff. I have so much stuff.”

It turned out he used to be a garçon de cuisine in the First Order restaurant, and he quit his job because Chef Hux was a maniac. His friend Poe just opened a flower shop, and Finn insisted they could all get jobs there. Kylo had another idea.

Maybe the homely little restaurant Ben used to work for was nothing like the prestigious First Order with its Michelin-stars and one-month waiting lists, but he would rather be a kitchen boy there and be in the close proximity of well-prepared food than live another month on stolen sandwiches and arrange boring bouquets.

They didn’t even look at his fake ID twice. They were anxious to find a fill-in for Finn, and Kylo was the only applicant who could carry five-plus boxes without a push cart. From then on, he washed the dishes, kept the storage room tidy, and peeled a dozen fucking potatoes. Every night he got home exhausted, hands calloused, knees hurting like a bitch and happy, happy, happy. Finn used to ask him “How you holding up? Did Hux kick your ass yet?” and Kylo didn’t dare tell him that he wanted Hux to do entirely different things to his ass.

The man was utterly ridiculous, of course. He gave inspiring speeches at the beginning of every shift, and he was a perfectionist to the point of absurdity. Worse still, his cooks were utterly devoted to him. He was in the habit of punishing the entire kitchen if a single person messed up, turning off the AC or throwing in an extra hour, and they just took it.  Probably because he invited the staff member of the month to a big luncheon where they could rub shoulders with esteemed guests, and Hux cooked for them himself. Rumour had it a single bite could redeem a man and send them straight to seventh heaven. Hux’s most perplexing habit was sending every member a detailed evaluation sheet at the end of each week; two times in a row, Kylo’s said: undermotivated, disorganised, has room for improvement.

It was not his fault.

Hux made him very, very distracted. Hux was the only one who had Doc Martens on instead of crocs, and who didn’t put the silly winged cap on, because he didn’t actually touch the food; his hair shone bright in the fluorescent light, the fitted black and red uniform leaving little to imagination. For the sake of his sanity, Kylo tried to ignore him the best he could, but he was not very successful. After three weeks of pained pining, he had an epiphany on how to drone Hux’s silky voice out, not to mention his piercing shouts, which always made him wonder whether he was that loud in bed. He sneaked his phone in, hiding the earbuds under his heavy hair, the cap sitting on his head lopsided. He was twenty-three and very stupid.

Hux caught him merely three songs into his playlist, creeping up to him and yanking the earphones out. Kylo jumped, startled, and his fist tightened around the knife he was cleaning. The pain was sharp and paralysing.

“Idiot,” Hux hissed, and grabbed his wrist. He eyed the damage, a gaping wound on two of Kylo’s fingers, which Hux put into his mouth after a split second. He looked at him, cheeks hollow, eyes cutting deeper than the blade. Kylo’s ears were ringing and he was dizzy. He could feel Hux lick at his fingers, letting the lysozyme in his saliva seep in. Then Hux pulled off, and wrapped Kylo’s fingers into his clean apron, placing his hand over them, pressing down as he yelled: “I need cornstarch or cayenne pepper!”

“I’m on it, chef!” Unamo answered, and Kylo watched her run to the pantry.

“Please not the pepper,” Kylo begged, and Hux’s attention snapped back to him. He leant in close, so close that only Kylo would hear him.

“You’ll accept whatever stops the bleeding. You were incredibly careless, Ren. This is why we don’t listen to music here; you must be vigilant in my kitchen. It’s a very dangerous place.”

Ren wanted to say something to that, but he couldn’t. He was taking wheezing breaths, the sight of his own blood bringing back memories he couldn’t bare to relive again.

“Can you sit?” Hux asked.

“I’m fine, I just— It doesn’t hurt.”

“Yet you’re starting to have a panic attack,” Hux said, ever so observant. He cupped Kylo’s face with his free hand. “I need you to count your breaths for me, okay?”

That was the moment Snoke entered.

--

Hux is toweling off Kylo’s hair in the sun-soaked bathroom. Kylo is pleasantly sore and boneless, enjoying Hux’s closeness, sitting between his bony legs on the checkered floor.

“How are you feeling?” Hux asks.

“Like one of those gold repaired potteries,” Kylo mumbles.

“Oh?” Hux sets the towel aside, and wraps his arms around Kylo’s chest. Kylo lets his head loll back, resting it on a soft shoulder. It feels like they’re both floating. Like they don’t weigh anything. “Is it nice, being pottery?” Hux teases.

“I mean it’s like fragments coming together. Being renewed. You were always good at that, making me feel like—”

“Pottery,” Hux finishes, and kisses his neck.

“Shut up,” Kylo smirks as Hux giggles. He brushes his fingers over Kylo’s ribs, playfully ticklish, caressing him like he could never get tired of it. His adoring touches so often feel like worship, like he’s praising Kylo for merely existing.

One year of marriage, and counting.

Kylo never thought it’d come to this. Never thought he deserved it. It still feels like a stolen gift, like he snatched away goody Ben’s future or something, but he’s keeping it, he’s keeping every minute.

--

Snoke was pale, bald and tall, an animated skeleton. Still, there was something regal in the way he marched in, and caught Hux holding Kylo’s face, breathing in rhythm, half of the kitchen shooting nervous glances at them.

“What’s the meaning of this?” he demanded. Unamo just got back, holding a small vial of cayenne pepper like it was the Holy Grail.

“The casserolier got injured,” she reported.

“I wasn’t asking you,” Snoke said, not even looking into her direction, fixing his dim eyes on Hux, who kept counting for Kylo, seven, eight, nine. “Hux!” he bellowed.

“Ren needs my attention,” Hux told him, turning, and Kylo felt he might collapse if Hux didn’t look back.

“Let me decide what he needs,” Snoke said, and raised his hand, signalling Kylo to come closer. He couldn’t move. He lost command over his body. “Do you realise what you’ve done?” Snoke asked. “The kitchen cannot run without a casserolier. We’ll have to close down in twenty minutes.” He glanced at Hux. “Unless you take his place.”

Hux recoiled, dropping his hands. “Sir—”

A terrible smile tugged at Snoke’s lips. “I trust you still remember how to do it.” He turned to Kylo, and put a cold hand between his shoulderblades. He nudged him forward, and Kylo stumbled, then straightened up and fell in step with Snoke. They left a humiliated Hux behind. Kylo wanted to speak up for him as Snoke led them to his office— he was just doing his job —but that’s why he didn’t say anything. It wasn’t personal. Hux didn’t care about him.

“What’s your name?” Snoke asked him, and Kylo bit his lips. He felt confused and small, he was about to get fired, he was injured; that wasn’t Kylo Ren, that was somebody else.

“Ben Solo,” he said. Snoke stopped dead on his tracks, and turned to him.

“Vader’s grandson?” he asked, and Kylo just nodded. His grandfather used to be the chef of the infamous Imperial Restaurant. His mother told him not to brag about it. She never explained why not. There must have been some ugly business which Kylo couldn’t even imagine, grandfather was always so kind and charming, up until the very last minute. Snoke loomed over him. “What is Vader’s grandson doing at a sink?” he demanded, outraged. Kylo looked up at him.

“He’s washing dishes,” he said, and suddenly, he was unafraid.

--

The kitchen emptied out for the night, the neon lights casting an eerie green hue over the deserted stations. Hux was leaning to the sink, his rolled up sleeves soaked, and Kylo stood in front of him, smug, his fingers nicely wrapped up.

“I don’t believe in fairytales, Mr. Ren,” Hux told him, voice bitter. His disarranged hair fell over one of his eyes. He almost looked vulnerable. “Kitchen boys don’t become sous chefs overnight.”

“Except for you?” Kylo shot back. An angry sneer twisted Hux’s beautiful face, making Kylo almost sorry for him.

“I’ve worked hard for years to be where I am today. You can’t imagine everything I’ve sacrificed for this position. My father didn’t want me to use his name like a magic spell.”

“I didn’t use Vader’s name like that,” Kylo assured him, trying to sound so convincing that even he’d believe himself. “I used his legacy.”

“Talent is not hereditary, sadly.”

“He taught me everything I need to know.”

“Oh, everything?” Hux blinked the same time as the neons above their head. “This is what you need to know: Dopheld Mitaka was an excellent sous chef, and Snoke will very soon regret replacing him.” He leant closer; he reeked of washing liquid. “I’m warning you, Ren: your fairytale doesn’t have a happy ending.”

“You don’t even know yet what I’m capable of,” Kylo snapped. “Aren’t you a bit quick to judge me?”

Hux arched an elegant eyebrow. “I presume you’re a cook par excellence. That’s considered to be the barest minimum in a restaurant like the First Order; I won’t be impressed by your dishes . What I need are disciplined team-players, and you’re not that. What are you expecting from me? An opportunity to amaze me?”

“To prove you wrong,” Kylo said, stepping closer. He grabbed the sink’s edge on each side of Hux’s skinny little hips. They were at eye level, but Kylo stared at Hux’s lips. “I’m ready to exceed your expectations.”

He made to pull back, but Hux grabbed his wrists. He pressed Kylo’s hand down to the metal surface, and he felt his wound reopening. It wouldn’t have hurt so much if it wasn’t Hux who did it.

“Don’t get cocky,” Hux mouthed, then released his hands.

-- 

“What are you doing?” Hux asked him, and Kylo couldn’t exactly tell him I’m wrecking shit, as one does. He didn’t mean to break the round mirror in the bathroom. He was standing there with a broom and a dustpan in the middle of the night, bare-assed. He got up to take a piss, and things escalated.

“I didn’t want to wake you,” he said. Hux was leaning to the doorframe in a silk dressing gown, skin bright in the moonlight and eyes dark.

“I’m awake, so tell me what is it,” Hux yawned, and covered his mouth with the back of his slim hand.  

“I’m sorry,” Kylo said. He glanced at the fragments sparkling around on the ground. His reflection was splintered in them. He looked horrible. “I got mad.”

“Why were you mad?”

Kylo shook his head. It was three weeks after he semi-officially moved in, after Rey kicked  his ass out of Finn’s flat and he had nowhere to stay; it wasn’t exactly how he wanted things to go with Hux. Hux didn’t look like he was very concerned about his live-in boyfriend going berserk in his bathroom, but he was still half asleep. Maybe things would be different in the morning.

“I was just thinking too much,” Kylo said. “I always overthink stuff.”

“And the conclusion upset you,” Hux noted. Kylo nodded, and crouched down to sweep up the fragments.

“I was thinking about us. What we have.”

“Ugh. I wasn’t aware it was that bad?”

“No no, it’s perfect. That’s why it won’t last. Good things never do, not in my experience.” The dustpan was filled. Kylo got up, and looked around for the trashcan. He noticed that Hux was very silent. He glanced at him, and smiled a sad little smile. “I was being stupid. There’s no point in thinking so far ahead when we could just enjoy what we—”

“Do you want it to last?” Hux interrupted weakly. Kylo stepped on the trashcan’s pedal, and emptied the dustpan.

“Of course I do. I want nothing more. That’s why I got so mad, okay? The thought of losing you, it’s unbearable. I can’t— shouldn’t think about that. Look what happens.” It felt like he was making it worse with every word. He was terribly calm, and Hux looked like he was crumbling apart. Kylo wanted to explain that these were just thoughts, that his mind was not a pleasant place and he didn’t want to drag Hux there, that they should go back to bed and forget about the suggestions of his dismayed brain. Hux looked at him as Kylo put the dustpan away.

“You should marry me.”

Kylo went still, the air rushing out of his lungs. “What?”

“Marry me,” Hux repeated, all too serious, almost annoyed. Kylo slammed the cleaning cabinet and kept holding onto the handle.

“I can’t.”

“Why?”

“I can’t,” he hissed, and straightened up. Hux looked at him chin up, defiant. “I don’t have a legal identity, and we’re hardly even dating —”

“I don’t care,” Hux raised his voice.

Kylo yelled: “Well, maybe you should!”

It ended like most of their arguments ended.

It also ended in a wedding.

--

The first time they fucked it was in the pantry; they were frotting frantically, gasping silent curses, unable to take their eyes off each other.

The second time Kylo bent Hux over the counter and slammed into him, the pots and bowls clinkering with every hard thrust. Hux was moaning so sweetly, overwhelmed by pleasure.

When it was his turn, he laid Kylo out over a table. There was flour everywhere, flying in the air, sticking to sweaty skin, colouring their hair.

Soon they realised a simple truth: they could work well together. When they joined forces, nobody could stop them.

--

“While I don’t want to intrude, I must warn you for my conscience’s sake,” Rey said to Hux, hugging herself. Kylo was eavesdropping from the ivy-covered staircase, hiding in the shadows of Poe’s flower shop, crouched up like a gargoyle. He and Hux were selecting flowers for their wedding: lilacs and astilbes and calla lilies. Kylo felt like braving destiny when he suggested they come here.

He was surprised that Finn let them in.

“I’ve known Kylo for some time. We didn’t exactly…part as friends. I want to think that he was joking when he told us that he killed eight people.”

“Nine,” Hux corrected as he inspected some English roses with the thoroughness of a trained botanist. “I know the story. There were six people in the warehouse; the seventh and the eighth were standing guard. They rushed in when they heard the screams. Kylo’s father arrived last.” Hux glanced up at Kylo, and smiled. He turned back to Rey, speaking in a tender voice as one would talk to children. “You needn’t worry for me, ma’am. I know my fiancé quite well.”

“He has a sick sense of humour,” Rey said, almost hopeful.

--

There were six people in the warehouse and Ben Solo, tied to a chair with rough ropes.

Ben Solo was a fool and a coward like his father. The Guavian Death Gang drugged and kidnapped him with the help of Tasu Leech from Kanjiklub, and they were so proud for having managed to held him hostage, like it was hard. He might have been six feet tall and two hundred pounds of muscle, but his rebel years were over; he tried to live a peaceful life as the cook of his father’s restaurant. He was stupid to think he could have such a simple destiny. The restaurant was a front for Han’s smuggling business. All Tasu had to do was drop a rohypnol in Ben’s protein shake while he pretended he was there to talk with Han.

He’s been tied down for more than fifty hours. They gave him no food and nothing to drink, and he was accompanied to the filthy restroom whenever he needed to go. They stood around and laughed when he took a shit, like it was fucking entertaining. The tap was leaking, and he could always hear it, the tap-tap-tapping of water, which might’ve been part of his torture. Whenever he tried to sleep, someone slapped him awake.

He didn’t know whether they had asked for ransom yet, but he was certain that Han wouldn’t pay them. Han would come up with a bombastic and catastrophic rescue mission, trusting his son’s life and the integrity of his mind to the trademark Solo luck. He wouldn’t call the cops, because he had too much to hide.

Bala-Tik hated waiting. He got bored of hitting a bruised Ben, who couldn’t put up a fight. Ben’s face was bloody and swollen, his lips split, a few of his ribs fractured, cuts crisscrossing his torso. He was an easy target, a worn toy.  

Bala-Tik was drunk, and he thought it incredibly funny to kick Ben’s chair over. The chair broke. Ben’s hands were free.

--

Han kicked the door open, gun in hand. He dropped it when he saw Ben standing there in the middle, chest heaving, still clutching Bala-Tik’s slimy Bowie knife.

Han made a sound like he was going to throw up. The concrete floor was black with blood. There was so much of it it hardly looked real anymore.

Ben felt empty. Something snapped inside him and his soul escaped, no longer bound to his body. He was at peace.

“You let it happen,” he told Han. “Take a good look, because it’s on you.”

Han had to get hold of the doorframe, pale and ready to collapse, the hypocrite. Ben had seen him pulling the trigger without blinking an eye. If that was self-defence, this was self-defence.

“We gotta get out,” he told Ben. “We gotta— Shit, kid, what have you done?”

“I did what was necessary,” Ben said, stepping closer. Han didn’t cower or recoil. That was a mistake. “You’re not going anywhere. You’ll stay here.”

He’d stay there forever.

--

Kylo moves with the silent confidence of a killer in kendo practice.

--

Ben didn’t see his father die. Sometimes he told himself that Han had time to call an ambulance; that the wound wasn’t that deep; that Han escaped death with a roguish smile on his face. Kylo had the same smile and a similar swagger; sometimes he’d catch a glimpse of himself in shop windows and see Han or he’d say something in the way his father used to speak.

He expected remorse to catch up with him, and he told himself: any day now, any minute. But it never happened. Maybe there were eight victims, maybe there were nine. After the very first, it didn’t really matter. It didn’t make a difference whether Han lived or died, because he wanted to kill him. As far as he was concerned, he did it, and sometimes he did it again, in his sleep.

He didn’t feel guilty, but he was grieving. He felt hollow and dazed, and sometimes he wanted to go back to the warehouse, to start over and die instead of his father, tied to a chair.

--

Kylo is counting Hux’s fingers, seven, eight, nine, kissing each of them as they’re sitting on the Bentley’s hood in the gym’s parking lot. Hux’s hand looks so small in his, yet it holds the same power.

“Tell me whenever you’re good to go,” Hux says, then adds: “You have until four.”

Kylo grins, impish, and leans in for a kiss.

“Let’s stay a while,” he asks, whispering it against Hux’s parted lips.

He’s safe here.

They’re safe.

--

Arriving to the kitchen feels like coming home.

He pulls his hair back into a bun, and puts on the black-red uniform. His apprentices are waiting for him in battle formation, looking ready to take on the world. They set to work, and soon he hears Hux’s measured steps. He comes up to Kylo, putting his hand on the small of his back as he leans over his shoulder. He nods approvingly, and a smile tugs at Kylo’s lips.

He’s come to love the clamour of the kitchen, Hux yelling orders and everybody shouting “Yes, Chef,” how they come to Kylo’s station offering up what they made for evaluation, adjustments, decorations. It’s easy to command when he knows what’s he’s doing. It’s in his blood. The smell of oregano calls his mind to his mother’s mediterranean kitchen, the rich salads she’d pack for him and the heavenly pastas she used to make before the divorce; spinach reminds him of Uncle Luke’s biofarm, and tarragon will always bring him back to his father’s barbecues, the flickering flame and the vast night sky. He remembers grandfather dripping lemon juice into bread dough, winking at him. “This is the secret.” He grabs a knife and makes something novel out of his legacy. People come to the First Order like they’d go on a pilgrimage, because there’s a miracle happening here.

Once the desserts are served he and Hux are requested by table nine.

“Do you think we did something wrong?” Hux asks as they head through the lowly-lit corridors, steps in sync.

“Maybe the soup was cold,” Kylo jokes.

“In my kitchen!” Hux gasps in mock-horror. “How dare you!”

Kylo pulls him close by his waist, and whispers into his ear: “Cold soup-maker.”

Hux swats at him, smirking. They come into full view of the table, and Hux’s step falter. Kylo glances at the guests; he doesn’t care much about politics, but he realises that they’re not supposed to dine together. Snoke is at the upper end of the table, and he beckons them, smiling but impatient.

“Sometimes you wonder what he’s up to,” Hux says under his breath.

“It’s best not to.”

They put on their most pleasant expressions, and go.