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“This is a mercy,” his father tells him as he kicks and screams. In the confusion which follows the battle of Jakku, he’s dragged to a life pod, away from feral children with too-sharp teeth but into the jaws of a different kind of danger. As Brendol pushes him inside, he feels like he’s being sacrificed to a hungry god, to space and its yawning blackness. He’s hitting the transparisteel with curled fists, ba-dang, ba-dang, ba-dang. He hiccups ragged, wet gasps between pointless pleas. 

“Papa, please papa don’t, don’t, don’t, don’t please sir please—

Brendol looks like an after-image of himself, like he’s barely there. Maybe he should show his composure, show what a good little soldier he can be, but it’s not one of his father’s many tests - it’s something new, and something real; the decision Brendol has made is infinitely final.

“Papa,” he cries, and extends his arms, as if he was begging to be picked up; it’s been denied of him since he was able to walk on his own, but for a moment Brendol looks like he’s ready to haul him up, up and up, to put him in the sky like a shining star. He mouths something Armitage can’t make out; then he pulls the level.

The force of the launch shoves Armitage up against the wall, and the air is knocked out of his lungs. The pod shoots through the vacuum. There’s no planet nearby, no gravitational pull to slow it down. It’s freefalling, Armitage curled up inside, with no gravity, hugging his skinny knees to his chest, wishing it to be over. The air supply is just enough to last him seventy-two standard hours, provided he won’t collide with an asteroid in the meanwhile. He memorised this data with a firm belief that he’ll never need to know this, that if the ship goes down, it’ll go down with him. Life pods are for cowards, and here he is, his tears wobbly pools of misery and his ears ringing.

Maybe there was a way to prevent this, maybe he should’ve marched to the pod silently, chin up, keeping a brave face. If only Brendol’s ultimate rejection didn’t feel like his heart froze up, if only Brendol hadn’t torn off the Imperial insignia from the jacket of his uniform.

Here, spinning in space, he’s disowned, unmarked and empty.

 

*  

 

He has no memory what happened when he lost count of his breaths. He knows that at one point, the vertigo of a thousand unreachable planets slowed down and stilled, and he was gazing into something blazing. It was the ion drive of a spaceship.

It must have been a formative moment - him being saved - but he has no recollection of it. When he thinks of his memories from before, all he has in a ringing echo of his own screams and then the oppressive, unanswering silence of the galaxy.

Then there is the memory of his new life under Ubrikkia’s sun. It shines until the middle of the night in the long months; it gives off a peculiar light, tainting the polluted sky with a bright yellow. The dry earth drinks up its heat and radiates it back. It’s making the metal of the droids and the buildings cling and clang. Noise and light. He was five.

Pa-Ma says they found him. It might be a lie.

Pa-Ma says they always wanted a kid. It is certainly a lie, or an obstruction of reality, in any case. Pa-Ma is a KX-series security droid: an enforcer, not a nanny. They started taking care of Armitage with an experimental curiosity, like they found an exotic pet and wanted to see whether it’d survive their care.

Armitage did.

He spent the first few days curled up on a pile of cushions which Pa-Ma scavenged from who-knows-where, and he was given food (instabread and overripe fruits) and water (sulphurous and slightly salty). Pa-Ma seemed to take delight in providing for him; they’d even watch him sleep with lifeless, bright white eyes, which should have been disheartening, to say the least. Armitage found comfort in it. Pa-Ma was tall and robust, and there was something reassuring in hiding in their shadow, keeping close when Armitage first started walking around in their featureless hut, his curiosity finally overcoming his apathy. There was no furniture, save from the cushions and the box of sand which Pa-Ma nominated as the toilet.

Armitage’s first words to them were “I’m not a cat, you know.”

Pa-Ma put their hand on his head and said, “No. You’re my human.”

 

*

 

Armitage is twenty-eight now, and he suspects that having a droid as a guardian (as a parent, if he’s being honest) might have made him a bit weird. He prefers the word eccentric. He’s one of the few humans on the planet: they pop up here and there, but they rarely stay. The air is hardly breathable, and there are no jobs for them in the repulsorlift manufactures or in the crowded steamworks; it’s a mechanical planet, and droids always exceeded the human race when it came to manual labour.

Armitage is convinced that they exceeded them in many other aspects as well.

Pa-Ma waits for him outside their home, as always, their cape fluttering in the wind. It was a gift from Armitage, meant to be a tablecloth, but Pa-Ma liked it so much they decided to keep it on their person. They delight in colours, although they can only see six of them. They interpret the cape as blue. Their favourite colour.

“A job well done?” they ask with a peeping tilt in their voice.

“A job well done,” Armitage confirms, patting their shoulder as he passes them. He hangs his blaster rifle on the wall, and steps out of his heavy boots. Pa-Ma follows, lingering close.

“Are you injured?” they inquire, and when Armitage shakes his head, they apparently lose interest, and go to the living room. Armitage smirks to himself, and takes off his helmet. He tilts his head back, and draws a deep breath from the cool, filtered air. His shoulders sag.

“Have you managed to feed yourself?” Pa-Ma calls from the living room.

“Yes, I’m good. Thank you.” He reaches back and unties his hair, his locks falling to his neck. He enjoys feeling their weight again after long hours spent in the bloody helmet. He hates the thing, but it saved his life on a number of occasions, including the hunt today.

Pa-Ma returns with a bottled water, and hands it over. “Rehydrate yourself.”

“Thanks.” He takes a short sip, and walks to the kitchen. It’s spacious and cozy, considering; they built it together with Pa-Ma, like the rest of the house. If pressed, Armitage might admit that it’s overly eclectic, a half-remembered recollection of Outer Rim interior design. The polite people from his former life would be appalled, but they’re no longer here to cast judgement.

Armitage tosses a dirty bag of credits to their dinner table, formerly a dissection bench, and announces, “let’s buy you an olfactory sensor update.”

Pa-Ma tilts their head as they lower themselves on a stool. “Aren’t you still saving your extra credits for that HH-87?”

“I am, but take it anyway.” He nudges the bag towards them. Pa-Ma just looks at it, so Armitage has to explain: “It’s a kindness.”

“You’re prioritising my concerns over yours to show your appreciation.” With that, Pa-Ma takes the credits, and Armitage feels oddly relieved. He takes a seat, nursing his water as Pa-Ma counts the chips. He’s still somehow in combat mode, skittish, sore muscles trembling. He starts rubbing his thighs and knees with his free hand, trying to massage away the strain.

“35 000,” Pa-Ma announces. Armitage glances at the chips, and licks his lips.

“There were two guys.”

Pa-Ma arranges the credits into neat little piles, and hums. “I think I have a kindness in return.”

“Ah, you do?”

“I know for a fact that Aria Joyriak hired Kylo Ren,” Pa-Ma explains, building their little towers. “She won’t send him on a mission alone, though. Needs backup. Someone quick and sharp. Like you.”

Armitage frowns, but the matter-of-fact compliment makes his lips tug up nevertheless. “Who’s this Kylo figure?”

“He told Joyriak he is a Force-user, and a bounty hunter.”

“She believed him?”

“After a little demonstration.”  Pa-Ma knocks over the piles of credits, and looks directly at Armitage. They seem excited. “He choked her bodyguards.”

“I could’ve done that as well.”

“From the other end of the room.”

“Maybe not that,” Armitage admits. “If he’s such a mighty Force-user, why does he want backup?”

“He doesn’t, but Joyriak insists. He’s too valuable to get hurt on the mission. He’s new to the trade.”

Armitage wrinkles up his nose, but refrains from expressing outright contempt. “She contacted you?”

“Yes. If you agree to join him, you get fifty percent of the bounty.” They lean over the table. “That is good news; and good news is a kindness.”  

When Armitage agrees to the deal, he does it so he won’t hurt Pa-Ma’s feelings. Also, 60 000 credits are none too shabby.

 

*

 

Kylo is late from the rendez-vous, which is exactly what Armitage would expect from a renegade Jedi. By the time his shuttle descends from the gleaming golden clouds, Armitage has thought of a string of profanities to greet him with. He’s also vaguely considering stealing the Lambda T-4a; it’s a thing of beauty, and whomever Kylo had to kill to have it lost more than their life.

Armitage is waiting by an abandoned shipwright east of the city, as agreed. The factories here are emitting a thick vermillion smoke which makes the scattered skeletons of watercrafts and hoverbikes look especially uncanny, dark shadows in the poisoned the air. Armitage is wearing his full armour, helmet included, and he hopes that Kylo has the wits to do the same. He sees a hulking black figure disembark and look around; he waves to him, and the man approaches. His steps are heavy, and his shoulders are hunched; maybe he’s not accustomed to the strong gravity, maybe he always walks like this.

“What a kriffing wasteland,” he says through a vocoder, louder than needed, as if he’s trying to outshout the howling wind.

“I live here,” Armitage says, icy.

“Come on, we’re late.”

“I wonder whose fault is that.”

He’s not impressed. Kylo is massive and intimidating, he’ll give that to him, but his clothing choices include a leather jumpsuit with too many straps and a good-for-nothing assymetrical cape, which makes Armitage doubt that he’s up for the job. He looks too cool, like he’s just pretending to be a bounty hunter, no, pretending to be himself; all of it feels tacky and crafted. Armitage follows, nevertheless; he had worse partners, on cheaper missions, and he won’t moan about fashion. Climbing the ramp he decides that there’s something to be said about how those pants cling to Kylo’s ass, but he dismisses the thought on the spot.

Once they’re inside, Kylo turns to him, and grits: “Next time you want to talk back, just don’t.”

“I won’t, if you don’t say anything to compromise yourself,” Armitage promises. He reaches for the clasps of his helmet and heads to the cockpit. Everything is a nondescript grey, surprisingly clean, although the ship doesn’t smell new. He shakes out his hair, and runs a finger over the control panel. The buttons are battered.

“Where did you get this?”

“Doesn’t matter. Can you fly?”

Armitage touches the speed brake handle. “I’d rather co-pilot.”

“I have an autopilot for that. Where’s your droid?” Kylo walks up to him, helmet in place. He’s giving off a curious scent, which sweetens the air. Something clenches in Armitage’s stomach, but he stands his ground.

“They’re at home. Why?”

“Could use some actual help,” Kylo grumbles, and collapses to the pilot’s chair, legs leisurely spread. “Make yourself useful and check the shields, we’ll talk business once we’re in hyperspace.”

“You have a uniquely unpleasant personality,” Armitage notes, and squints at the display. He can feel Kylo staring.

“I have a uniquely unpleasant life,” he says, voice weirdly soft. Armitage shudders, and decides not to pay him any attention.

They break atmo in relative silence, Armitage keeping an eye on the velocity indicator and the acceleration compensator, more than ready to voice some critique regarding Kylo’s piloting, but infuriatingly, they jump into hyperspace without any problem. The stars twist into even lines of white, and Armitage closes his eyes.

He hears the hiss of Kylo’s helmet releasing. The scent he smelled earlier gets heavier, muskier, and his eyes fly open. When he turns to Kylo, he sees his horror reflected on his face. He’s young; he must be in his early twenties - he has a kriffing fringe and awkward ears, and he’s—

“You’re an alpha,” Armitage asserts, sounding admirably composed while his heart batters his chest. Kylo’s grip visibly tightens on the control yoke.

“I’m turning this ship around,” he says, eyes huge and round with panic.

“No, you’re not.”

It’s too late; they’re yanked out of hyperspace, and Kylo starts making a U-turn in the middle of an asteroid field. “I wasn’t notified,” he growls. “How could she just neglect to mention that I’ll be putting up with—”

“For fuck’s sake,” Armitage snaps, and reaches out to grab the control yoke. The result is that he’s lying in Kylo’s lap, who freezes.

“Please avoid bodily contact,” he hisses.

“You’re overreacting. I won’t throw myself at your dick. I’m not even in heat. I’ll be in two standard days, but we’ll be over and done with this shit by then.” He manages to angle the ship towards the general direction of the galaxy’s core.

“This shit is my chance to prove myself,” Kylo spits, “and I’m not blowing it up, not for you.”

Armitage crawls back to his seat, trying to look as dignified as he can manage. He crosses his legs, and looks at Kylo, defiant.

“What are you so bloody afraid of?”

“I was promised protection, not distraction,” he complains, not looking at Armitage. He drums his fingers on the control yoke, but doesn’t show any sign of willingness to fly on. They’re just floating through the asteroid field, wasting time and fuel.

“I assume,” Armitage says, “that you’re familiar with the concept of self-control, and can exercise it at will.”

Kylo has the audacity to roll his eyes. “Kriff off.”

“Are you a virgin?” Hells. He can feel a headache coming. “Is that it?”

“No.”

“Right.”

No,” Kylo says, a bit more convincingly. Armitage turns away, notices a giant rock dancing towards them, and turns back.

“What is it, then?”

“I don’t know how to say it without sounding like an idiot—”

“Oh, so you do have such a consideration.”

“I have enough experience” Kylo raises his voice, “to know how hard it is to fight when you have someone around you you want to protect at whatever cost. It’s not about rutting, but you know what, thank you for degrading me.” He pushes his chair back, and jumps to his feet, looming above Armitage as he calls his helmet to hand. “So I’m just an alpha, a mindless beast, unable to resist a good fuck, on the prowl to ravish you—”

“I never said or thought any of that,” Armitage replies, looking at him calmly. His fury is rather exhausting, but Armitage gets it. He just wishes Kylo could get over himself, because he never had the patience for emotions, and because the rock coming directly at them casts a shadow over Kylo’s face as he’s watching him, which is worrying, to say the least. Armitage tears away his gaze, and grabs the control yoke again. He twists the ship out of the way with enough force that he hopes Kylo will fall over, but it doesn’t happen. Instead, there’s a low humming noise, and he starts feeling an ugly pressure on his forehead; then the noise drops low and there’s a piercing sting, like he’s going through mental lobotomy. He cries out, and feels his brain flare up; he tries to shout stop it, but the words won’t come - and then it’s over, abruptly, leaving him panting for air. Dizzy, he spins in his chair, and yells at Kylo: “What the hell!?”

He’s just standing there, dumbfounded, and looks at Armitage with something like wonder. He opens his mouth, but then something hits the ship with a nauseating clang, and the lights flicker. Armitage turns to the distress beacon and hears Kylo mumbling “no, no, no.”

“What was that?” Armitage asks, scanning the lines appearing on the display monitor. Unidentified damage, error ZH-562. Helpful as ever. The metal of the ship roars and groans, as if something is pressing against it. Armitage meets Kylo’s eyes.

“Neebray,” they say at the same time. Kylo walks a few steps back while Armitage tries to tell the shields to co-operate.

“What are you doing?” he asks, not quite knowing what kind of answer he’s hoping for. Certainly not the almost inaudible sigh as Kylo closes his eyes and raises his arm. He wants to tell him to get his ass over there and help, and then he realises he’s doing just that.

He’s seen some strange stuff during his years, but a neebray gently floating away from a spaceship while still holding some pieces of metal in its claws is certainly up there. It seems confused and a bit offended. Armitage is grateful that Kylo didn’t feel it necessary to tear it to shreds with the Force or something. That would’ve been gruesome.

“Right,” he mutters, and runs a quick scan for potential damage. From the corner of his eyes, he can see Kylo dropping his hand. His fingers flex and relax, and he looks at Armitage with an uncertain expression.

“Everything’s okay?” he asks on that dumb, deep voice.

“Something’s up with the deflector shields.”

“I mean, with you. Personally. I didn’t—”

“Shit,” Armitage curses. “Guess what the little monster messed with.”

“I’m guessing the deflector shields,” Kylo says, flatly. Armitage jumps to his feet, heading out. He gets a whiff of Kylo’s scent as he passes him, and feels some wetness between his legs, but ignores it swiftly, and wills his forming erection away. He rummages the reinforced supply closet for a repair kit, finds it, and smirks. Kylo looms behind him, keeping a respectful distance, huge arms crossed over his chest. “What are you doing?” he inquires.

“Fixing the shields seems like a good idea.”

“We have an R-unit,” Kylo says, “somewhere.”

“Somewhere,” Armitage repeats, shakes his head, and walks to the airlock.  Kylo closes in on him, flattening his palms on the door with a thud. Armitage is trapped between him and escape.

“Wait a second,” Kylo breathes down his neck, “and let me find the droid for you.”

Armitage scoffs. “Sure, let's send out the droid. They're expendable.” A part of him wants nothing more than to arch back into the heat of Kylo's body, but that's not happening; not now, anyway. He grabs the lock wheel. “Stand back, please.”

Kylo obeys; whether because he’s learning to respect Armitage’s wishes or because he doesn’t want to be sucked out into deep space remains a mystery.

“We should discuss the mission,” Kylo says, “and our... personal issues, and the Force. I didn’t—”

“When I get back, you’ll have five minutes for all of that,” Armitage interrupts, and puts on his helmet. He opens the airlock, feeling a bit odd for looking behind his shoulder first, checking whether Kylo is holding the safety bar. But it’s not like he wants to kill him; if his little power demonstration is anything to go by, he’s a valuable asset, and if his plush lips are anything to go by, he could do a very decent job with Armitage’s nipples. They always get so sensitive. He’d have Kylo suckle on them, teasing, pleasing, and then he’d let him fill his need, fuck him full and maybe even knot him with his big alpha dick, but first things first— complete the mission and then see whether they throttle each other before they get a chance to roll on the floor and ride out their frustrations.

As he activates his jetpack and flies to check out the damage he’s telling himself that suggesting for Kylo to just fuck him would be logical and cost-effective. If he manages to keep him around until his heat starts, then he doesn’t need to get into a seedy hotel on a kriffing pleasure moon and hire an escort or lure in a willing alpha. It’s the bane of his existence; sure, he enjoys himself while it lasts, but he enjoys himself a bit less when the cost of monthly fuckscapades add up.

He finds the wrecked shield generator, and tsks at it. He flies closer, and focuses his attention on the task at hand. Anything so he doesn’t have to look at space. He’s aware of big forms shifting in the field of his vision and the purple glow of the nebula, and more than anything, he’s aware of the vast blackness and the oppressive silence. He only hears his own breathing, a bit ragged and quick. His pulse is skyrocketing. It doesn’t matter. This bounty will get him closer to owning a beautiful HH-series starhopper, which will be the safest starhopper in the galaxy, and he (unlike certain people) won’t ever venture close to asteroid fields, he’ll lay low like he always did, murder some people on the way, but well, he never associated that with danger—

He can’t pretend any longer that he hasn’t noticed how bloody close a neebray swam to him. He’s not able to tell if it’s the same one which wrecked the ship for fun; it seems to be interested in his jetpack, all of its yellow eyes fixed on it. The bastard is bigger than the ship.

“Oi,” Armitage says, although it can’t hear him. “Oi, fetch.” He throws a servodriver away, hoping he won’t ever need it. The neebray doesn’t even turn towards it. It opens its mouth wide, a thousand pointy teeth glinting. “No,” Armitage tells it. “No, you’re not carnivorous. I’m organic. You feed on solar light. Go bother a sun.”

The neebray only opens its mouth bigger. Armitage briefly regrets not taking his blaster with him, and races his brain for a plan B when something invisible shoves at the beast; Kylo, it crosses Armitage’s mind, just when he realises that the push was too violent - the neebray stretches its wing with a silent scream, and knocks Armitage over. He spins and smashes into the ship, his activated jetpack dragging him over the surface. He tries to grab something, anything, but to no avail; his hands slip and he hits the top wing helmet-first. The power of the collusion makes his head spin; then, with horror, he notices a tiny crack on the shitty, cheap plexi of his visor.

“Oh no, please, no,” he mouths, calmer than the last time he begged for his life, more than two decades ago. He’s watching the crack expanding and he realises he would’ve preferred to be eaten by accident to what’s coming next.

Knock-knock,” he hears, loud and clear. He looks around, bewildered, trying to locate himself; the jetpack is pressing him to the wing, he’s seconds away from dying, and Kylo is standing on top of the spaceship firmly. He has no idea how he’s doing it. He has his helmet on. Of course, of course. Magic. The Force. “Knock-knock,” he hears again in his head as Kylo starts walking towards him, as leisurely as if he was strolling by the seaside; if it wasn’t for the way his cape is floating around, Armitage would lose his belief in reality.

“Who says ‘knock-knock’ telepathically,” he whispers, weak breath fogging up the visor. He’s not going out like this. He’s not.

After the earlier accident, I didn’t want to intrude. Please calm down. You’re safe.

“I sincerely doubt that,” Armitage says, not sure whether Kylo and his mind-powers catch it. He feels the jetpack giving out, no longer crushing him to an unyielding metal surface, so that’s something; and the crack on his helmet doesn’t seem to expand any further, which is a miracle. Another miracle is that he stays pinned to the ship, like it had gravity. Kylo stops a step short of him, and reaches out. Armitage wets his lips. “Would you kindly not levitate me, please, I’d appreciate that.”

Kylo nods, and crouches down. Armitage doesn’t know what to think as Kylo gathers him up to his arms. It’s just an illusion of the laws of physics still operating, which are just obeying Kylo’s whims. It shouldn’t be happening, yet here they are, walking to the airlock, and he wants to ask Kylo to put him down, but he knows he wouldn’t be able to do it on his own. He lacks ability and more importantly, belief, while Kylo’s idea of reality is able to bend it into something he needs it to be. There’s a darkness to it, something achingly unnatural.   

Once they’re safely inside, Kylo lowers Armitage to his feet. His knees almost give up, but he refuses to fall, and gets a hold of the safety bar, holding on for dear life. He wants to tear off the treacherous helmet and the heavy suit with the jetpack, but it’d be undignified and silly.

“Can we get going?” he pants. Kylo pulls off his helmet. Armitage can’t meet his eyes, so he’s watching his neck instead.

“I think we should talk first.”

“I think we should get out of this cursed place as fast as we can,” Armitage recommends, and squeezes his eyes shut for a moment. When he opens them again, he straightens up and walks to the cockpit with a gait. Kylo follows him. His smell gets more enticing by the minute, but Armitage can’t allow himself to enjoy it. He drops to the co-pilot chair, and checks the deflector shields. They’re mostly operational. Hurrah.

Kylo takes a seat, and they go through the motions of restarting the ship wordlessly while Armitage’s heart is still racing. Kylo seems to radiate some sort of calm, which doesn’t feel like his own. He’s probably trying to project it to soothe Armitage, but he’s having none of it. They’re back into hyperspace, which means that they’re back on track, which is reassuring in and on itself.

Armitage leans back in the leather chair, and starts massaging his temples. “Let’s discuss the mission,” he mumbles.

“Let’s discuss the mission first,” Kylo nods, and Armitage suppresses a groan. He’s watching his faint reflection on the viewport, and he’s watching Kylo watching him, framed by the flashing blue vortex.

“Once we are on Hosnian Prime,” Kylo sums up, “we head to the Crimson Royal cloudcutter. Fancy building. Being seen won’t be an issue, I’ll cloud us with the Force. I’ll locate General Kaplan’s life signal; he should be at the topmost storey of the building, heavily guarded by a platoon of stormtroopers, possibly including the ones with flamethrowers.”

“They’re called flametroopers,” Armitage corrects on instinct.

“Having slaughtered them, flametroopers or not, we execute the General on the spot, and leave without taking anything.”

“She told me to take pictures.” Armitage looks directly at Kylo, who seems like he’s a thousand thoughts away.

“Did she?”

“Yes.”

“You wonder why she wants to see him dead so bad,” Kylo ponders.

“It’s not your job to wonder.”

“You think she’s with the Resistance?”

“Crime-boss like her? Ugh. Never.” He rubs his nose. “I wager somebody at the First Order is not exactly pleased with Kaplan commanding the Finalizer. Smells like an insider job. Hire the Hutt’s boot-licker from the netherworlds to hire some B-list bounty hunters—”

“It’s not your job to speculate,” Kylo grins. Armitage pulls a face at him. “Would you take the job, if she was with the Resistance?”

“I’d take any job,” Armitage says. It’s not true.

“I wouldn’t,” Kylo says. “I have to make a name for myself. Wouldn’t want to be remembered like that. Doesn’t it feel weird, by the way? For you. Killing someone from the Order. I mean, your accent.”

“Mm?”

It’s hard to concentrate while Kylo’s eyes are so warm and while he continues to be a bundle of some foreign energy which pulls Armitage in, just as much as the whole alpha-business.

“There’s a Mid-Rim drawl to it, but it’s Imperial still.”

“I know what I sound like,” Armitage mumbles, staring directly at Kylo’s lips, who licks them; just a quick flicker; might have been a coincidence. This whole meet-before-heat business might just be a coincidence; or they might make the most of it.

“I like your voice.”

“My voice has nothing to do with my accent.”

Kylo shrugs. “It has to do with you, still. And I think I appreciate your um, company, so there’s that.”

“What do you base your appreciation on?” Armitage scorns. Kylo looks at him directly, so he turns to watch the hyperspace-tunnel, pretending, trying to be unaffected.

“I base it on your personality,” Kylo offers. “I’m interested in you based on… you.”

“You think you know me, because you’ve read my mind.” His lips twist into a grimace he doesn’t have to fake. Kylo leans closer, and for a second, a heartbeat, he thinks he’s going to kiss him, but Kylo just puts a hand over his left knee. Earnest, awkward, friendly. It’s also sending tingles up Armitage’s spine, and he arches into the touch involuntarily, but remains like that even after he snatches back his senses, which is evidence enough that he is fucked, fucked, fucked, and would like to be fucked.

“I know you through the Force, I know you by your words and your actions, I know you because your body keeps yielding secrets, and I know you because I saw you on the verge of death and I saw you conquer your worst fears.”

“It was just a minor accident, and you helped me come out of it unscratched, so don’t wax poetics just yet.” He leans back in his seat, like he can’t be bothered, but the change in his position only means that Kylo’s hand slides up further. Armitage closes his legs, keeping it there. It’s just a caress shy from where he needs to feel it, huge and rough and leather-clad. Kylo looks at his trapped hand.

“Do I feel like a stranger?”

“Technically, you are one.”

“And yet you know precisely how to push my buttons, and which buttons to push and when.” He teases his thumb over a thigh; Armitage can’t feel shit through the armour, but once again, he shivers. “You can play me like an instrument.”

“Make up your mind whether you’re a bloody control panel in this allegory or a flute or I don’t know.”

“Which one do you like to play with more?” He eases his other hand in, spreading Armitage’s legs and leaning in closer, closer. Armitage glances at his lips again, eyes hooded.

“Control panels are for work.”

“Work can be fun,” Kylo purrs. Armitage fully expects a kiss now, but Kylo just pins him with his stare. He feels naked, found-out, oh-so-fucking-desired. “Do you want to make it fun?”

“Let’s not fuck up the mission.” He meets Kylo’s gaze. “Let’s fuck after.”

Kylo pulls him closer by his legs with a strong yank. Armitage slides halfway down his chair, lying there as Kylo looms above him, looks at him and says precisely what he needs to say to absolutely fucking ruin the moment.

“Do you have pups?”

“No,” Armitage snaps, “did your parents ever catch you masturbating?”

“W-what?”

“It’s a rather personal question, isn’t it?” He grabs the chair’s armrests, and pulls himself up, but he can’t bring himself to shake off Kylo’s hands. He’s gripping him tightly. He still can’t feel it.

“If it’s having pups you’re after,” Armitage says, “you’re barking up at the wrong tree.”

“No, okay, understood, no kids. It’s your choice, after all—”

“It’s not my choice,” Armitage interrupts. “I’m infertile.”

Kylo blinks. Oh, there it is. The same expression on fifty-plus different faces, alphas realising the extent of it - no family, never - nothing their instincts are after.

“What happened?” Kylo asks; at least there’s no pity in it, but there’s a softness Armitage hates.

“My mum was exposed to space radiation during her pregnancy, probably.” Don’t know, he adds to himself, never knew her either, but the full story is not to be shared. He never even told it to Pa-Ma. Leaving things unsaid means they can become distorted, unremembered, scratched from the record. A good example would be Brendol Hux dragging his son through a corridor not long after the boy’s medical. He has omega genes, sir.

“How does it affect you?” Kylo asks, then his face twists, and he adds: “I mean— I can’t assume how you feel about it, and you’d probably prefer not to have a mental assault again, so whether you’re actually relieved because of it or if you’re um, shattered, I’d like to know so I can—”

“I’m indifferent,” Armitage says. He kept saying this over the years, mostly to himself, like a pledge. “It’s not like I’m in any way less, you see. It just makes me a less desirable mate.”

“I beg to fucking disagree,” Kylo murmurs, almost to himself. Armitage is eyeing him with his head tilted. He’s not the first alpha who says he doesn’t care, not even the first he believes. He wonders whether Kylo thinks of his infertility in the same terms as all the others, as a lack, a tragedy. That’s the hell of it. They all treat it as their own loss and thus fucking becomes a sacrifice, a fruitless copulation.

“Your turn,” Armitage says, and Kylo blinks at him, slowly, like they weren’t speaking the same language. His hands remain on his thighs: that’s understanding enough, a perfect comprehension of a mutual attraction which doesn’t dare to fully reveal itself, not yet. Armitage feels like it’s a peep show, like they can only catch teasing glimpses of their desire, both of them afraid to shed the final layers. “Chop chop,” he says, “you owe me your sob story.”

A self-conscious smile tugs at Kylo’s lips at the expression. His brows are furrowed, like he’s still deep in thought, his own or someone else’s. “Being an alpha and a Force-user is terrible, I can tell you that,” he says, pensive, then immediately corrects himself: “the Force is a great gift. I fully appreciate… You can’t help but be humbled, faced with the immensity of it, the possibilities, which are wonderful and crushing, all the persons you could be.” He clears his throat, and his rambling becomes a bit more cohesive. “The person I am is an alpha, for a start; it was discovered when I was very little, four, maybe? That that’s what I’ll become. And when I had these fits of rage, my parents would just smile knowingly. Like one biological aspect could determine the entire range of my emotions. And it was also decided that this aspect is bad for me. That I needed to learn how to treat it, and they thought, oh, the best person for the job would be someone who is a kriffing beta, like every fucking body in this galaxy.” He glances at Armitage. “That’d be my uncle. He wanted me to be… mindful, and— Like I could just will it away. And for a long while I believed I could. Like I was training for adulthood. But then I came of age, and I thought that I was prepared, I got it all. I was… It was painful and humiliating, my first rut, I was quarantined and everything, and when the worst of it was over and I was allowed human interaction again they looked at me— And the things they thought. The teasing. And I had this voice - I always had it - it was not my own voice, and it told me to, it wanted me to rage and to well, commit mass-murder. But I just wanted out, fast. Told myself I could return anytime to take vengeance. I went to the Voice, it lured me in, it promised me everything, but then it was singing the same song. That being an alpha was impure. That it was a distraction from the Force. Told me I should let my bodily needs go— his suggestion was not to suppress them but to let them out of my system, so that was different. There were six other disciplines, four of them omegas. We tried, and it was— good, of course it was good, but we felt like shit after. We weren’t allowed to knot, and... you get the picture. So I left.”

There’s some silence which rings with the echo of a fabric falling softly to the ground, at least in Armitage’s mind. There: undressing is not about sex. It’s about revealing vulnerability. Kylo, covered in leather to his neck, dressed like a killer, looks frightened and naked.

“How did you become a bounty hunter?” Armitage asks, not sure what’s he supposed to say. He asked for a piece of Kylo’s hurt heart; he wasn’t expecting the whole bloody thing, offered on his palms.

Kylo growls, “Like everything else, it’s connected to the kind of genitals I possess. Y’know, being with an omega, it gives you this… power? The sense of being invincible, untamable, and— that's handy when you go on a killing spree.”

“Did you ever go back to your uncle?”

“Nah. I might.” He sounds unconvinced. “I’m well off. I’m doing a sort of disappearing act. People are looking for me, my family wants a piece of me, and this thing, being a criminal, that is, it helps you vanish while you’re still remembered, by certain people, people you choose and who matter. I’m tired of being discovered or dismissed, I want my name to be either somebody’s last words or a calling card.”

Armitage chuckles, but it’s not ill-humoured. “This life helps you vanish all right.”

“Who are you running from?”

“It doesn’t feel like running anymore. I have arrived.” He knew this within the first year of Pa-Ma’s care, but it still takes him by surprise when he voices it. There’s a planet in a great distance, which he calls home, and it has a droid on it who gives a shit about him, and it’s unbelievably comforting. Home and family filled an emptiness his father left there when he turned his son inside-out once he was old enough to understand words of disappointment, and never bothered to sew him back together. He might just be a stuffed animal for Pa-Ma, but he’s a cherished one, and that’s enough.

He also wants to be the best bounty hunter in the galaxy, if not the most famous; but that’s a different thing. He always felt he was destined for something great; he's just not sure what it is.

“I hope,” Kylo says, “that one day I’ll meet you there.”

“It’s up to you.” Armitage squeezes Kylo’s unmoving hands with his legs. “There’s no one left to hold you back.”

Kylo looks up at him, eyes depthless. “I really want to kiss you now,” he says with a certainty.

“So do it,” Armitage tells him. Kylo gets a hold of the chair’s armrest, and leans in.

 

*

 

Shooting through hyperspace, Armitage discovers a few things about Kylo Ren, and just as many about himself: Kylo uses too much tongue, and he loves it; he weighs as much as a neutron star, and it’s maddeningly amazing; his lips are as plush as they look, and even more luscious. As they’re eating each other up and panting together, Kylo straddling his legs and crushing him, hands curled in each other’s hair, tugging, tearing, Armitage is overcome with the feeling that this is the finest idea anyone has ever had, and he also has a certainty that this is a mistake.

“Damn you,” Kylo grunts, and licks into his mouth. Armitage moans, shocked at how keen he sounds. “Damn you and your flavour, your expressions, your ones and zeroes,” Kylo goes on, a lecherous litany between kisses, “the way you think and the way you think you think, your bipolar brilliance, your sexy little suit—”

“Are you quite done yet,” Armitage breaks away for air, and darts his tongue out over his tingling lips, tasting Kylo there. “What do you mean,” he pants, “by sexy suit, it’s a practical armour—”

“Shielding you from me,” Kylo breathes. He kisses his jawline, and Armitage grunts, tilting his head back, giving him access to his neck. “I don’t even know what your hands look like,” Kylo says, bewildered. “I don’t even know the shape of your body, but I want you wholly. Can I have you?”

“Later,” Armitage forces out, but he fumbles with his gloves behind Kylo’s back nevertheless. He wants to get entirely naked, to grant Kylo’s wishes, bare his chest, lift the skin like a curtain, show the ugliness caged between his ribs, do you want to see it, let him taste it.   

He cups Kylo’s face, imagining his blood smeared on his lips, and brushes his thumb over his mouth, then pulls down the lower lip, making Kylo show his teeth. He slips two of his fingers inside, and feels Kylo lap at them and then bite. His breath hitches, and he gasps again as Kylo’s eyelashes flutter and he bites down harder.

“Fuck,” Armitage whispers, and his hips buck. Kylo grinds down in answer, and Armitage moans again, fucking Kylo’s gorgeous mouth with his fingers as they rock together, the chair creaking and the galaxy twirling away. Hazy thoughts race through Armitage’s mind, they need to get to the floor, they need to get naked, he must take and take what’s offered, he must - he’s so fucking wet.

Kylo pulls back, Armitage’s fingers sliding out of his mouth. He grabs his hips, gently, forcing him to still. “Are you going into heat early,” he asks, raspy. He looks at Armitage with the mania of worship, but also with worry. Armitage blinks at him, slowly.

“I don’t think that’s likely.”

“It’s very likely,” Kylo says. “And you’re projecting and—”

“Do I need a hormone rush to fancy a fuck?” Armitage retorts. Kylo shakes his head, his grip tightening around Armitage. He says, almost softly:

“You do need it to get wet.”

Armitage squirms. He can feel slick coating his thighs. What a bloody betrayal. He looks at Kylo with what he hopes to be a controlled expression, although he knows that his face is flushed and his pupils must be the size of supermassive black holes.

“I didn’t lie to you,” he says. “My cycle is usually perfectly regular.”

Kylo caresses his torso. I know. “You’ve met an alpha,” he explains, “you’ve been aided by an alpha, you made out with an alpha—”

Armitage straightens up and squares his shoulders. So this is defeat. It’ll kill him to tear himself away from Kylo, but that’s what is necessary. “I admit I might have gotten a hit of testosterone and epinephrine thanks our shared experiences,” he declares. “I apologise.”

For whatever reason, Kylo chukles. He touches his forehead to Armitage’s, who stiffens. Kylo pulls back. “Do you want a change of plan?” he asks.

“No, we’re going through the established order of events,” Armitage says, staring at Kylo’s lips. They’re red and kiss-swollen. He looks away. “Promise me you won’t try to make me reassess this,” he asks, placing a hand over Kylo’s chest without thinking about it.“We both need the mission to be a success. We need that more than we need, well, sex.”

“I disagree,” Kylo says, his voice almost making Armitage change his mind, fuck it, fuck me, fuck me, need you need you need you in me please please please. “I disagree, but I promise.”

“Thank you,” Armitage nods. If you started fucking me, I’d want you to fuck me through my heat. I’d want to keep you around. I’d—  “Please stand back and I’ll go to the bunk room and deal with the situation.”

“How?”

Armitage collects his dignity, puts his chin up, and looking Kylo straight in his eyes he announces, “I’ll shove something up my arse.”

 

*

 

It’s clear what needs to be done, and Armitage is nothing if not prepared, but still, he’s staring at his emergency plug with disdain, sitting on one of the four nondescript beds. The plug is as bland and uninspiring as the rest of his surroundings, everything a dull military grey. A soft light buzzes above his head at 25% percent. The shadows seem to be eyeing him.

It’s such a bloody shame. Kylo is only a plea away, with his stupid, wonderful dick, probably still hard (he felt it), happy and willing but unable to assist him, to fill him up and fuck away the itch.

Armitage sets the plug aside and starts undressing, head hanging low. He pretends that Kylo could walk in any minute, just by accident, maybe with something he forgot to mention, and then his doe-eyes would widen with surprise, and then. Then.

The armour comes off piece by piece, then his underthings, revealing a pasty-pale, lean body with a map of injuries. Armitage stares at his skinny knees. He was taught to scorn his form, to aspire to be like Kylo, strong and bulky, but Pa-Ma taught him another thing when Armitage despaired after a growing spurt. “We don’t get to choose how we’re assembled,” they said, matter-of-fact, and the logic in it was comforting - why would the organic be any different than the inorganic? He used to want to be a droid (he liked how his armour made him look like one) even though it was an insensitive wish - it’d mean a life of slavery and existential crisis. He’d walk like Pa-Ma and talk like Pa-Ma and Kylo was right, even his thoughts tended to be binary, his innermost programming of YESes and NOs and zero morality.

He runs a hand over his hollow chest, his skin burning up. Coming to appreciate and respect the pleasures his flesh allowed him was entirely selfish; and there is a selfishness in sticking to logic and denying his desire now; humans are emotional beings, and pretending that rationality has anything to do with his decisions is a fallacy, yet he does it anyways, always. He tells himself, what is he supposed to say to Aria Joyriak, queen of crime on Sleheyron, “sorry, ‘was busy mating, call me next time maybe?” He could absolutely do it; the only laws withholding him are the laws of a human society he doesn’t fully belong to, an outcast both by nature and nurture. But those are just variables, while his blueprint is straightforward - his father and the Empire planted a single idea in his head, serve, and that’s been his guideline ever since.  

He gets on all fours. By denying himself immediate satisfaction he’s serving the progress of his career and his materialistic well-being, which all boil down to survival, the first lesson he learnt for himself. Thighs trembling, cock leaking, he pushes the plug in. Its primary function is to keep the flow of slick in and to provide just enough pressure to take the edge off his fervor, but in his experience, it’s only good for about four hours before he goes wild and ends up committing public indecency.

He sinks back to his ankles, kneeling, back bent. This is it, then. He just has to isolate himself from Kylo for now, then join the hunt, having the thrill of the kill distract his lizard brain, and then get some well-deserved dicking. Good plan. Manageable. Regrettably, thinking about said dicking proves to be counter-effective. He clenches around the plug as he envisions Kylo’s desperation, how he’d hammer inside, fucking his poor hole raw, whispering angry accusations to him, selfish bitch, cocktease, then he’d pull out, keeping just the tip in, making Armitage beg for it, show that he really fucking wants it—

Problem is, he already really fucking wants it. He reaches back, and jiggles the plug a little. Whimpers. He sees tiny sparkles when he squeezes his eyes shut. Alright, then. How many parsecs till Hosnian Prime? Does he have the time to fool around a little? Just to make it easier; the first orgasm always takes the longest, and then the next forty-fifty comes almost too soon.

He pulls the plug out, shoves it back in. Pathetic; the length and girth is nothing like an alpha dick. He’s so ready to drool over Kylo’s, to take it into his mouth and suck him to fullness before Kylo could even catch his breath. He intends to be a menace, greedy and needy, exploiting Kylo to his fullest capacity, and if all goes well, maybe they could do it again on his next cycle. (He thinks about Kylo’s mouth closing around his windpipe as they’re joined by his knot; of teeth grazing over it, and himself moaning mark me/don’t mark me, one/zero, fifty/fifty, it’ll turn out, but when he cries out he’s thinking of a YES.)

Well,” he hears Kylo’s voice in his head as he fists his cock, grip tight and dry, “I suppose that you’re not under distress.”

“No,” Amirage huffs.

Good.” A pause. Armitage swallows back a moan. “Just wanted to check.” The pace fastens. “Okay. Do let me know if I can give you a hand.

“Shit,” Armitage grits, face scrunching up. “Can you ah, can you feel me?”

The silence is a beat too long, making him consider the witless act of getting up and just walking to the cockpit like this, baring himself to the infinity behind the viewport and Kylo’s unbounded gaze.

I can feel you,” Kylo says then, sounding oddly afar. Armitage reaches for the plug and pulls at it, out, in, out, in.

“You feel that?”

I could feel how it makes you feel,” Kylo’s voice echoes. “If you wanted me to.”

“I do,” Armitage says, not sure what’s his goal is with this, how it lines up with his schemes. There’s the terrifying possibility that he’s doing it because he bloody feels like it. “It turns you on, right?” he asks. “How badly I need to get this arse stuffed, how I’m stroking myself.”

Doesn’t seem like much ,” Kylo’s words reverberate from below. “I could make it so much better, even without trying. Wouldn’t even have to touch you.”

“You’re just all talk,” Armitage snorts, just when the plug slides out on its own accord. He reaches for it, frantically, and finds out he can’t move. All he can do is feel something bodiless and blunt fill him up, inch by inch, spreading. His mouth falls open, and his cock twitches, almost painful.

How is this for all talk,” he hears Kylo as if he’s whispering directly into his ear, and then, from the ceiling, “are you alright?

“I’m going to come,” Armitage mouths, unbelieving, terrified, thrilled. Wetness drips down his inner thighs, slick and clean, and his cock throbs again. The fullness inside of him pulses.

Only if you want to,” Kylo says. A deep pulse again, and then again. Armitage falls down to his elbows, unable to support himself; he’s not immobilised any longer, and he circles his ass in the air, unashamed, and rocks back, tearing at the sheets. “I’ve started palming myself, ” Kylo announces.

“I’ve started losing my fucking mind,” Armitage mumbles, and hisses as he feels Kylo going deeper, and feels like he’s - fuck, he’s himself, fornicating with the Force, but he’s also Kylo, stroking his straining dick through his clothes, toying with it, and it’s much too soon but he cries out, “make me come,” because he just can’t—

His orgasm hits him and he doubles over. It’s like Kylo found a direct access to the pleasure centre of his brain and just went for it, uncaring of how much the human body is able to handle. Armitage is coming, aching and shaking with it, eyes rolling back and he’s panting, drool dripping down his chin.

When he comes back to himself, he’s only aware of his the high-pitched hitches of his breath, and then he registers that he’s got a mouthful of his hair. He spits it out, and tries to get up. His arms feel boneless and he’s lying in a pool of slick and come. He looks down at himself, a bit disbelieving, his spent cock hanging shyly, like it had nothing to do with the whole business.

“Right,” Armitage mutters, and doesn’t ask are you still there or did we fuck up royally, he just gets to his feet, dazed but determined, and walks out of the room, naked and cum-covered. The cool air feels like a caress and his skin prickles, he’s still so sensitive all over.

He marches to the cockpit like he’s out for blood.  

Kylo, the idiot, is sitting in the pilot’s chair, legs spread but trousers still done up, expression overcome, and Armitage can feel him reaching for him with his senses, but somehow, he’s able to deflect his attempts. He’s invincible and unyielding. Kylo turns to him with the chair like a mere mortal, and his eyes widen with wonder. Armitage comes up to him, cloaked in adoration, and grabs his chin.

“Do you think you were being helpful by literally fucking my brains out?” he asks. Kylo smiles with a glint in his eyes.

“Don’t beat yourself up. We didn’t break the rules of our agreement.” His smile broadens. “I didn’t lay a hand on you.”

Armitage steps up to the chair, left leg between Kylo’s thigh, feet over his crotch. He can feel how hard and hot it is; he steps on it, carefully - the point is not to hurt him. Kylo yelps, more pleased than pained. Armitage presses down again.

“You may hump my leg,” he announces, “you cheat. No touching.”

 

*

 

When Kylo gets his dick out, Armitage deeply regrets not offering up a different body part for humping purposes (his arse, for example) because Kylo’s dick is simply glorious. Yes, it’s big. It’s also smooth and thick and so hard for him.

Kylo lays him out on the control panel, which is a horrible idea, but it seems that horrible ideas are kind of their thing. The subspace radio is jabbing his left shoulder, threatening to broadcast his needy moans to the entire galaxy. Bracketed between two bulky sensors, he wonders what is the evolutionary benefit behind how good it feels to get his leg fucked, not even his thighs, not even his kneecap - Kylo is rubbing his dick over his shin, still mostly dressed, and Armitage is crazy for it. It probably has to do with how Kylo’s hair falls over, making him look feral, disheveled, the low noises he’s making, almost snarling, and his closeness. Armitage can just hold onto his shoulders and feel the massive muscles shift beneath his palm, and he’s making drunken noises praising Kylo’s strength, his power. Having this divine being bent over him tastes of victory and he’s intoxicated by it.

He still wants to slap him. But fair is fair, an orgasm for an orgasm. At least, that’s what he’s telling himself.

“I love your skin,” Kylo heaves. Armitage frowns at him.

“That sounds weird. Sounds like you want to make a wallet out of me.”

Kylo laughs, low in his chest, and Armitage trembles with it. Kylo pushes his dick down with his palm, rolling it over a faint pink wound. It’s getting more ridiculous by the minute, and yet it’s working.   

“I’m almost there,” Kylo says, looking at Armitage like he’s actively contributing to it and deserves credit.

“Can’t you just make yourself come?” Armitage asks. “The way you made me come. Maybe less intense. I suppose you can do that.”

“Where’s the fun in that,” Kylo mutters, and his eyes flutter shut. There’s an openness to his expression which Armitage tries to swipe away, caressing his too-weird-to-be-pretty and too-pretty-to-be-weird face, and Kylo leans into his touch.

He comes.

He comes hard.

We’re going to die, Armitage thinks as the massive load hits him and the acceleration compensator, but then he imagines what will it be like to take it, to make Kylo knot him and— No no no, he can’t come, he can’t add to the mess.

He’s fully hard, soaking wet and sticky all over when Kylo pulls back and stands.

“Look at you,” he breathes. Armitage is staring at the ceiling. It’s spinning.

“If you don’t have a sonic,” he announces, “I’m bathing in your blood.”

Kylo lets out a slightly alarmed laugh. “I do have a sonic.”

“Take me there,” Armitage requests, spreading his arms and lying limbless. Kylo hauls him up, and he clings on, getting him as dirty as he deserves to be, good luck scrubbing that off, you nerf. Kylo brings him to the miniscule ‘fresher, and, to Armitage’s great disappointment, gets himself a clean outfit.

It’s still ninety percent leather.

 

*

 

Armitage emerges drying his hair off with a towel, in full armour minus the jetpack and the broken helmet, plug snugly in place, keeping him nice and dry up until the very minute he lays eyes on Kylo again. The jerk is talking to ground control, spread out, on display, and Armitage thinks, why can’t you just give me a break . His new jumpsuit is even tighter, and it also leaves his neck uncovered, which is not fair, not by any measure. Armitage is so busy being angry about the sprinkle of beauty marks on fair skin that he almost misses Kylo finishing the call with a cheery bye-bye. They jump out of hyperspace.

“We’re clear,” Kylo announces as Hosnian Prime bobs up behind the viewport. “We’re also two nice Toydarian ladies here on a shopping trip.”

Armitage wrinkles up his nose. “Couldn’t you come up with something more palpable?”

“Sure, if we wanna get caught,” Kylo waves it away. “If you want to plant an idea in someone’s head, you must be careful about associations. If they have the impression of two human males, the illusion of anything else might dissolve after direct confrontation.”

“I’ll keep that in mind next time I brainwash someone.” Armitage drops to the co-pilot’s chair, towel thrown over his shoulder. He narrows his eyes at the planet, the circular lightwebs and the darkness. He hates - no, he despises this sodden place.

“Technically, it’s called a mind-trick,” Kylo says, and for a second Armitage has no idea what he’s talking about. He frowns at Kylo, who goes on, “it’s not really a trick though, not how I do it. I prefer a deeper approach. Penetrating the person’s mind.”

“Are you giving subtle hints that you’re horny again?” Armitage deadpans.

Kylo’s lips tug to a lopsided smile. “What gave it away?” He eyes him up and down. “You’re still wet.”

“Guess what, I’m still in—”

“Your hair,” Kylo clarifies, grin acquiring a positively shit-eating quality, and reaches over to ruffle up the damp strands. Armitage doesn’t protest, so he gets the towel, and starts scrubbing him, like they had time for this.

“Shouldn’t you be piloting us,” Armitage voices his concerns. Kylo hums, content.

“I am piloting us.”

Armitage glances at the control yoke. It’s moving on its own accord. Right. He’s about had it with the Force. “Show-off.”

“I’m not showing off, I’m seducing you. There’s a difference.”

“Please consider me seduced and focus on your job, we’re about to break atmo.”

Kylo pouts. “Are you saying that I should show my affection by not crash landing?”

“As much as Hosnian Prime would deserve to be hit by flaming space trash, or alternatively, a hundred meteoroids, I’d rather not be the debris that hits it, yes.”

Kylo makes a face which is equal amount stunned and impressed, and sets to wrap the towel around Armitage’s head. “What’s your issue?”

“I hate everything this planet represents,” Armitage says as the ship dives into heavy clouds. “I hate its willful ignorance. All its grandeur is a monument of harmful illusions. When you look around here, you expect that the whole galaxy must reflect this exact sort of civilisation. They’ll brand anyone a barbarian who doesn’t keep to the refined rules of the Core Worlds; they turn a blind eye to slavery, to poverty, to droid rights—” His voice hitches, and the speech falters. “Anyhow. You must know what they’re like. How they treat you if you’re... out.”

“I consider myself apolitical,” Kylo hums, and pulls back a bit to admire his work. Armitage tugs at the hem of the towel, self-conscious.

“Being apolitical is the most zealous political stance of all.”

“I envy your passion and conviction which you have the freedom to think of as clarity,” Kylo says with a strange edge of yearning. He turns his full attention back to the control panel, finally, and tips the ship down. The clouds clear up, and here it is: Hosnian Prime, boastful, blinking, the cloud-cutters racing for the sky. All the lanes are clogged by heavy airborne traffic. The ship descends, making its way around freighters and cruisers with a preternatural swiftness, dancing like it weighs nothing. Armitage wonders whether Kylo is cheating.

“You’re a gifted pilot,” he notes, in lieu of anything else to say. Kylo makes a sharp dive, and glistening billboards flow past, flashing pink and yellow and green at them. The cockpit burns with the colours, and they even catch in Kylo’s dark hair.

“There’s only one trick to flying, really,” Kylo tells him. “My dad taught me, worst dad and best pilot in the galaxy: always make corrections to the right.”

“That’s actually helpful,” Armitage admits. Worst dad my ass, he thinks. If Kylo’s uncle is a Jedi master, it’s pretty obvious who’s his father.

“I could teach you.”

“I can fly, I’m just not comfortable with shuttles, the navigation system is bonkers.”

He’s not sure why he’s objecting. Kylo might be an arrogant prick (emphasis on prick - beautiful, massive prick), but he’s kind of fun to have around, and Armitage can very well envision private flying lessons. Kylo’s big hands on his, correcting his maneuvers. Soft praise whispered into his neck. Rewards and punishments. He worries his lips, absentmindedly, and leans back in his chair.

“If you want me to, I can open the airlock so you can spit on the planet,” Kylo offers. Armitage shakes himself out of his daydreams, and tries to look as professional as he can manage with a towel over his head and his cheeks burning a hundred degrees.

“I’ll consider it.”

Kylo’s eyes are drawn to his lips. Armitage licks at them. His mouth feels so dry, and his heart is beating much too fast.

“We’re almost there,” Kylo says. “It’s almost over. You’ll get your bounty, and a little bonus thrown in.” He meets his eyes. “I think you’ll like it. I think you’ll like it very much.”

 

*

 

If there’s one thing Armitage appreciates about Hosnian Prime (and there’s exactly one thing) it’s that he can openly carry his blasters in full armour without anyone interpreting it as a challenge. It feels reassuring to have his weapons at the ready, especially since he has half a mind to murder anyone who crosses his path.

Marching up to the Crimson Royal, they pass casinos, clubs and elite restaurants, and are inevitably met with the people pouring out of them, of all species, united in spiteful snobbery. There’s a zabrak beggar, who doesn’t even bother anymore to raise her hand or plea for help, she just sits with her spiked head hanging low, and Armitage also counts five droids, trailing their masters anxiously, carrying bags or (in a notable instance) the mile-long cape of some grand dame. The stench is unbearable, the smell of exhaust gas and dry ice overlaid with vulgar perfumes. He has to cover his nose and avert his gaze, minding his own business, doing the exact same shit the New Republic is doing.

Kylo and him discussed their strategy back on the ship, followed by some polite groping. He’s going through it again, step by step, as the Crimson Royal grows and devours the dark horizon. Kylo’s defensive attachment to him is a disadvantage; it forces them to reverse roles, the guardian and the attack dog, and Armitage is mildly anxious about it. His strength is stealth and strategy, not direct combat. Kylo walks like a shadow, and Armitage walks in the shadow’s shade, not sure what that makes him. He feels safe with him, despite the tenseness of his muscles and the waves of uneasy thoughts. He knows that they’ll fight for each other viciously, which is terrifying, and throws them off their goal; it should be enough to reach General Kaplan, assassinate him posthaste and escape, but now they’ll tear everyone from limb to limb who dares threaten the other, and there’ll be quite a few of them.

They reach the cloud cutter.

Armitage is a bit embarrassed to see that the door is not guarded from the outside. A First Order general who doesn’t even put on a show deserves what’s coming for him. Sure, Kaplan is laying low, but two commonplace thugs would’ve done the job, keep the stormtroopers a surprise. He tries not to be thrown off by this, or how it means that he could fuck Kylo right here, unobserved. Just a quicky. Maybe a handy. Anything. Something.

“Is anybody even in there?” Armitage whispers as Kylo punches in an override code. He’s wearing the helmet, so Armitage cannot read his expression. It helps with the heat situation, though. A bit. A tiny bit.

I can sense them,” Kylo’s voice echoes in him, and what a voice, he wants it to narrate his dreams, his thoughts. He’s becoming progressively obsessed with it. “Luckily for us, they’re mostly spread out on different levels.”

“Cheers,” Armitage breathes. The door hisses open. He leaps inside, impatient, feeling like his time is limited, like he only has so long he can outrun his passions. The infinity of a corridor unfolds as cyanide lights flare up, illuminating a vast blackness with too many reflective surfaces. Hells. What was Kaplan thinking. This is not a hideout; this is a mirror trap - for everybody involved, he’ll give him that.

He takes a step, only to be pulled back by the elbow, not with the urgency of need but with a tenderness which is so much harder to stomach.

“Why did you become a bounty hunter?” Kylo asks, making Armitage grimace.

“What?”

“Why did you become a bounty hunter,” Kylo repeats, insistent. Armitage pulls his arm back, and misses Kylo's touch instantly.

“It was Pa-Ma's idea,” he says, eyebrows knitted. “They thought it was a good job opportunity. Fast money. They don't really have a moral consideration when it comes to murder, you see.” The helmet doesn't show anything, but somehow he can still sense that Kylo is confused, or that he wasn't expecting this answer, or— “Oh. Pa-Ma is... both papa and mama and neither. You've talked with them.”

"Yes, but—” Kylo swallows back whatever he was going to say, which is probably wise. “Why did you stay a bounty hunter, then. To make them proud?”

“Partly,” Armitage admits. It was such a foreign feeling, you see . “Mostly, because I’m good at this.”

Kylo reaches out again, tentative. Armitage sways towards him. Kylo puts a hand on his shoulder.

“You’re good,” he assures him, “and you’re going to be fantastic.”

Armitage chuckles, dryly, coyly.

“The Force told you that?” he teases. Kylo’s hand drops lower, stroking his arm.

“I just know it. Whenever you’re ready.”

“I’m ready,” Armitage smiles at him, heart heavy. He turns, fingers hovering over the triggers of his twin blasters. Earning his living by daring death somehow always made sense. It was not just about the credits, but proving his right to exist.

The corridor is eerily calm. Their steps hardly echo, and only the dim ghosts of their reflection follow them around. Armitage outlines the blueprint of the building in his head, guessing schematics and possible exists; architecture only has a limited set of possibilities.

“What now?” Kylo asks. “Do we just take the elevator?”

“Can you stop it if it starts falling?”

“Probably. Yeah.”

“We need to get as high up as we can,” Armitage gesticulates at the ceiling with a blaster. “About five stories below Kaplan’s suite, if we can make it. Wouldn’t want to get ambushed. We must eliminate some of the troopers, but we shan’t engage in a lengthy fight lest Kaplan escapes in the meanwhile; we must also locate the fire escape and the vents, and use them to our advantage if necessary.”

“Got it,” Kylo nods to him. They march to the fluorescent tube of the elevator with its open doors. It looks like a trap, but it’s also the quickest way up. It’s a narrow design, and Armitage is keenly aware of Kylo’s closeness as he punches in floor 333.

“Here goes nothing,” he mutters. The doors snap shut, and he jumps when faint music starts playing - a commercialised love song, just the tune. It gets very awkward very soon, with Kylo standing so near. Armitage presses back to him. He can’t help it. He’s thinking how he’s never been on a date, how that’s a privilege of people with more fortunate genetic makeups, while the back of his mind screams focus, focus and Kylo speaks:

“What’s your favourite position in bed?”

He stills. “Please. I’m trying my hardest not to think about sex at the moment.”

“No shit, me too,” Kylo says through the vocoder. He rubs up to him. “Gonna spoil you. After the first round, I’m taking you out for dinner, how about that. They sell firaxan shark fillet around here. It’s divine. I’ll treat you to some, with fleek eel cream and lipana berry and honey wine. Eat your sweet ass for dessert.”

“Let’s keep the conversation focused on food,” Armitage croaks. He tips his head back, resting it on Kylo’s shoulder, who circles an arm around his belly. He squeezes.

“Gonna fill you up so good,” he whispers. Armitage whimpers softly.

“I love it on all fours,” he mouths.

“Yeah?”

“Yeah, so I can really push back. Take that alpha cock just how I like it.”

“Fuck, Armitage,” Kylo groans, his hand running lower. He doesn’t touch him, his hand hovering over Armitage’s forming erection, a brush shy from bliss.

Ahh,” Armitage pants. “Ah, Kylo, d’you think you could, could you please touch it, touch and finger me, just a little, just with the pinkie—”

“I’m sorry, I’m so sorry, I don’t think we should—”

Then stop fucking teasing,” Armitage yells, and spins so he can face him. Dropping the act, he pokes a very confused Kylo with a blaster, between the ribs, where it hurts. “Get the job done first,” he grits. The mask looks particularly stupid as Kylo tilts it.

“You’re scary,” he says.

“I’m paid for scary.”

“It’s hot.”

“Shut up,” Armitage scoffs, but runs the tip of the blaster up his torso with a motion which could be considered a caress. “I’m gonna destroy that cock in due time. Ruin it for everybody else.”

“Looking forward to the demolition of my genitals,” Kylo forces out, earning a chuckle from Armitage. He leans in, planning to plant a kiss on the faceplate, but just then the lights flicker and the music twists into screeches and static.

“Shit,” Armitage hisses as the elevator comes to a halt halfway between two stories. They’re frozen in place, muscles taut, listening.

“Shit,” Kylo agrees. The lights flare up one last time, a bright azure, then darkness falls, filled with the white noise of the radio. Armitage is quick to evaluate the situation, and he plans out four different ways to escape in a span of mere second, his current of thoughts rudely interrupted by Kylo activating his lightsaber. It spits out purple plasma with a low hum, and a sharp, peculiar scent fills the air. It’s mostly pleasant.

Identify yourself, intruder,” the radio crackles. A clipped accent, but not Kaplan’s - good - a stormtrooper, then; not a very bright one, giving away that he thinks of the trespasser as a singular person and showing an undercurrent of emotional reaction, not to mention that the order is nonsense. Armitage and Kylo remain silent, and just by looking at each other they seem to agree on a plan. Kylo thrusts his lightsaber up, and it goes through the steel ceiling easily, sparkles flying, and Armitage swears he can hear a surprised intake of breath on air. He stands back and adjusts the settings of his blaster; when the ceiling drops with a loud thud, he immediately shoots out a rope.

“Hold on,” he commands Kylo, who shakes his head.

“They’ll be waiting for you,” he announces, and jumps up. It looks like he’s being sucked up by gravity, and Armitage’s jaw quite literally drops as he watches him bloody flying. Kylo lands easily and impossibly on a jut by the door which was not previously there, commands the door open with a wave of his hand, and goes in. Armitage barely has time to blink. He hears screaming.

“Alright,” he mutters, and sets to climb. It’s not so much fun without the Force; his arms strain from supporting his weight, and his feet threaten to slip on the smooth steel surface. Somebody up there is getting throttled, judging by the voices. They’re between floor 276 and 277; that’s not so bad, but they must be quick to cut Kaplan’s way off to the hangar. If he’s clever, he’ll barricade himself. If he’s wise, he won’t think it below himself to save his skin as soon as possible and escape through the vents, leaving his men behind to deal with the mess. Dead men tell no tales, and all that.

Armitage reaches the door, pulls himself up, legs dangling above the yawning abyss, and scrambles to his feet. He spins around for a target; about eight stormtroopers lie on the shiny ground, scrambled, visibly dead.

“Nice,” he comments. Kylo grabs his elbow, and pulls him through the tiny lounge.

“C’mon, there’s an escalator.”

They arrive at a corridor identical to the one down below. There’s only one way to go, yet Kylo still deems it necessary to guide Armitage by the elbow. He can’t see much with Kylo shielding him with the bulk of his body, lightsaber at the ready, and, well, there’s something very arousing about it, because of course there is. He notices that some of Kylo’s hair curls out from the helmet, and he wants to touch it. He wants to touch it so bad. Feel that ridiculous softness.

“Were you serious about that date?” he hears himself asking.

“Absolutely, why?”

Must it be on Hosnian Prime?”

“Well, I don’t think we’d be able to get very far in your uhm, condition.”

Armitage frowns. “I don’t want it to be on Hosnian Prime.”

“There’re other planets in the Hosnian system.”

“I hate all of them.”

They arrive to the end, and take a turn. The escalators form a double spiral, reminding Armitage of a DNA structure; he can’t decide whether it’s kitschy or clever.

“How about Eufornis?” Kylo suggests as they start taking the steps. They light up when they come in contact with their feet. That’s kitschy.

“Major or Minor?”

“Eufornis Major is much closer.”

“Less attractive, though. How about Tinnel IV?”

“I’m game.”

“Good. We can fuck five to eight times on the way there.” He looks up when he hears a muffled gasp at that. It’s not coming from Kylo. “Company waiting.”

They take their positions, Kylo a few steps ahead of him, ready to deflect the laser beams as Armitage aims his blasters. There’s something nightmarish about this staircase, how it twists and moves and seems to breathe.

“Can you locate them?” he whispers.

I need to focus hard to do that,” Kylo answers in his head. “When it’s a fight, I need to concentrate on the present. And on not bending you over this railing and, y’know. While they watch.”

“It’s not my fault you can’t,” Armitage snaps back. The troopers open fire: red beams rain down on them, and Armitage immediately shoots back while chanting profanities silently and thinking, it’s a slaughterhouse, that’s what it is; it brings him no relief that judging by the pained cry and a soft clunk he managed to hit one of his targets. He blinks, and realises that the enemy fire never reached them. The beams are just hovering in the air. “Oh,” he says, and the stunned troopers shoot again, with the same result. Armitage grins, and starts bringing them down one by one, the frozen shots betraying their exact locations.

There are several problems, however. One: the escalator is bringing them closer to the beams. Two: Kylo is shaking with the effort to keep them in place.  He’s also standing in Armitage’s way.

“It’s okay,” Armitage tells him, “I’ve got this. Let go.”

“They can’t hurt you,” Kylo growls. His energy is menacing; Armitage fancies he can feel it on his skin, like a palpable Force-field was surrounding him, thick as darkness.

“Trust me,” he asks, and with that, he jumps to the railing. Kylo screams, and reverts the beams; back to the sender, with too much power. They explode, a shock of electric fire and smoke, and the escalator creaks with a wail. Armitage feels it trembling beneath his feet, but it doesn’t stop him. He marches forward, crossing his legs, raising his blasters and picking out the flaming figures. He hears the thump thump thump of a backup platoon hurrying down the steps, and he’s ready to have them meet the Maker.

Kylo’s lightsaber cuts through the air and it deflects the first shots aimed at Armitage. The stormtroopers come to view, at the high end of the spiral, running towards them. The escalator groans and squeals as they gain on them, and just as they’re in shooting range, it starts to collapse.

Armitage registers the chaos as a minor disadvantage, walking up the railing like a tooka cat and focusing on the precision of his shots, gunning down the mass of troopers almost mechanically. He’s aware of Kylo working the Force around him, pushing troopers away, taking away firearm, breath, life, and Armitage watches them writhe with an odd sense of detachment.

His father probably trained them. He did a poor job.

The escalator tilts to its side, the spiral spinning around, and Armitage jumps to the left and the right, always to the point when there’s still a momentary stable ground. Kylo follows him closely, his lightsaber dancing, and without a warning, he throws Armitage over a shoulder. He cannot be bothered: he aims his blasters and fires at a trooper falling to his death anyway, just to be sure.

“Vent,” Kylo grits, and that’s all the explanation Armitage gets before they’re pulled up by the Force, jumping up two stories as he’s watching the escalator breaking into pieces, just when he decided he kind of liked the design. Kylo curls around him as they slam into the wall, and kicks in the grills of the vent. He pushes Armitage in first. There’s a spectacular blast shaking the whole building if not the whole galaxy, and Armitage reaches for him, blindly, pulling him to safety.

They crawl away from the roaring inferno without much grace, on all fours, Armitage’s arse practically pressed against Kylo’s helmet. He’s sure it gives both of them ideas, but he’s unable to think of a more inappropiate moment, even though he’s high on adrenaline and he’s almost post-coitally pliant with relief. They lived.

“What now?” he pants. He’s seeing stars and sparkles, and hears the screams of dead men.

“Let’s catch a breather,” Kylo suggests. “Just a second, huh?”

“Yeah.” He gives in to the wish of his trembling limbs and collapses flat on his stomach. Kylo climbs atop him.

“I’m so hard,” he announces.

“You know what’s harder? Finding a way up now.”

“There’s a… Huh. Kriff, I can’t breathe.” Armitage hears him fumbling with the helmet, and readies himself for the sweaty post-battle alpha smell. The first sniff of it makes him squeal. “Anyway,” Kylo goes on like he didn’t notice, “we can either climb up through these vents, which is doable with the Force but not very safe, or there’s a secret passageway—”

“Fuck me,” Armitage moans, then changes his tone to mildly curious, “fuck me, what secret passageway?”

“The iron stairs in the— Shit, you’re so hot lying under me like this. You were so hot back there. Like a warrior god.”

“There are no gods,” Armitage pants. “The Jedi had killed them.”

Kylo growls, and buries his face in Armitage’s tousled hair, lips pressed to his neck. When he starts rocking his hips, Armitage meets him gladly, making deprived little noises at every thrust. It’s the driest dry hump he ever had, but it’s also the best, with how his hardening cock rubs against the armour and how the plug threatens to just slip out any minute.

“Gonna fuck my victor so good,” Kylo whispers into his ear, making him squirm beneath him, seeking friction he cannot get, wanting to feel Kylo’s dick. “That’s right,” Kylo purrs. “Good boys deserve a good fuck. I’m gonna lick his hole clean, and push my big dick right in, gonna give it to him, he wanted it so bad, y’know, he wanted my cock so much, the poor thing, and he’s been so patient and well-behaved, he’s gonna get it, he’ll get to do whatever he wants with it. I’ll be his little fucktoy, because he’s that special, that boy—”  

Rapid blaster fire interrupts him, some troopers shooting at the ceiling. Armitage grunts, “Now, this is just plain rude,” and Kylo rolls them around so it’s his back against the bolts he stops mid-air. Armitage is straddling his hips, back curled, and fires back through the most recent holes. He hears a trooper cry out and collapse, but that’s not nearly enough - he climbs to the grills nearby, and kicks it in, trusting Kylo to watch out for him. He leaps down, finishing his drop with a somersault, and gets a trooper right in the leg.

“Cockblocker,” he mumbles. He throws himself into the fight with a vengeance, finishes off the wounded trooper and breaks into their formation. The key is not to fight them individually; they’re trained to think as a group, and that’s all too easy to exploit. He gets into the middle, which is not something they’d expect and therefore not something they’re trained to deal with, and shoots the corporal point-blank.  He hears the hum of Kylo’s lightsaber, and notices how the troopers start to retreat on instinct. He moves around and blocks their way. Kylo chops them down nice and clean.  

He left his helmet in the vent, and Armitage is enthralled by the beauty of how his hair flies about, the raw emotions flashing on his face - anger, eagerness; his heavy blows and easy steps and the obvious way he’s toying with his targets. He’s in his element, and there’s something heart-wrenching in the smile he flashes to Armitage once he’s ready and stands in the circle of dead bodies, chest heaving and hair sticking to his forehead, and eyes asking, so was I any good or what.

“Come here,” Armitage curls his fingers, and Kylo goes as if pulled by a rope. He swoons into the kiss he knows he’s getting, and Armitage tastes a defiant triumph on his lips. “I love having you on my side,” he tells him.

“You’ll love having me inside,” Kylo promises. Armitage forgives the juvenile joke with an eyeroll, and crouches down to a trooper who’s no longer in possession of most of his limbs. “Shouldn’t we get going?”

“I want to check his blackbox, might give us some useful information.”

Kylo snorts. “Stormtroopers don’t have blackboxes.”

“Yes they do,” Armitage answers back, and removes the small chip from the smoke-smeared helmet. He puts it on his palm, and taps in it thrice, in quick succession, waits a beat and repeats. The last log starts playing, with Kaplan’s voice saying, “what the hell is going on down there? Over.

The intruders, sir,” reports the corporal, “they’re hiding out in the vent system and we suspect they’re about to, uh, copulate. Over ?”

“It was reported that one of them is a Jedi; Jedi are celibate, are they not? Finish them before they make a mess, and don’t forget to get the Jedi’s saber. What an embarrassment.  Over.”  

“This is good news,” Armitage concludes, although he haven’t felt this mortified in years. Kylo merely looks disgusted. “If they think that you’re a Jedi, they’ll suspect that the Resistance is behind this. Which means that Kaplan won’t try to leave; he’ll call for backup, and wait us out.”

“So I shouldn’t write ‘I’m no Jedi’ on the walls with the troopers’ blood, is that what you’re saying,” Kylo mumbles, and heads away, sulking. Armitage follows him at a hurried pace.

“You could, I suppose, once we’re finished.”  

“Doesn’t matter,” Kylo says, and turns to face the wall; it’s made of the same black, glossy material which covers the majority of the building. Armitage worries that they’re about to have a moment of angst with Kylo staring at his reflection and lamenting his mistaken identity, but Kylo just reaches out, and pulls . “I should really make a red one,” he babbles morosefully as the wall rearranges itself, “or get myself a darksaber, or something. You’d think that the helmet is a hint, but nah. What is he even planning to do with my saber, anyway? Sell it?” Blocks of black move over, and a secret passageway reveals itself. “Luke would be at him in a snap. Or the Knights, for that matter. Provided they’re still out there. I wonder what might have happened to them after I left. There’s a shapelessness to the Force when I reach out.” He steps into the staircase he just pulled out of nothingness. “It’s sort of, liquid, but not like water, more like— quicksilver, maybe, and— What’s the matter?”

“Is this real?” Armitage asks, indicating the narrow staircase, feeling stupid. Kylo’s features soften, and he offers his hand.

“Trust me.”

Armitage steps onto an iron step without any fuss, and glances up. There’s a green light-source above, and a long line of vaulted doors. Kylo pulls him closer as he’s counting the storeys. There’s not a great many left.

“It’s just a secret,” Kylo explains. “I’ve revealed it.”

That doesn’t help much, but Armitage will take it. He squeezes Kylo’s hand, and they start climbing the steps, which are solid enough, and Armitage concludes that they were always here, because they had to be.

“So,” he asks, “what are you, if you’re neither a Sith nor a Jedi?”

“I’m not a Sith, I’m not a Jedi, I’m not Snoke’s little bitch; I’m me.” Kylo furrows his brows, and adds: “Little old fucked-up me.”

Armitage thinks I’m good at fixing things, maybe I could fix you, but doesn’t say it out loud. They climb up and up inside the wall, the echo of their steps strangely hollow. Armitage readies himself for an ambush which never comes, and after they get suspiciously close to their end goal, he dares to ask: “Is there any troopers left?”

“A few. They’re regrouping on the floor-level, but a quick peek into their leader’s mind tells me they are planning to evacuate, and are trying to convince the General to get out.”

“He won’t,”  he says with a confidence which surprises even himself. “It was quite easy,” he tries to explain it away, “with you here, and. My missions usually include shooting somebody and their lovers in the head from a great distance, or to capture them, which is even easier. So. This was new.”

Kylo brushes a thumb over his glove-covered knuckles in answer, and Armitage shivers. The present is missing and the future is void: he can only see as far as killing the General and taking Kylo’s dick, and then, darkness. He can’t picture himself getting back to Ubrikkia after this, but he doesn’t know why. That’s where his life is. Also, Kylo and him agreed on a date. He should be able to see that, at least.

They stop by a door which looks like all the others, heavily secured, circular. Kylo helps him climb over the ramp, and gets his saber in hand. Armitage can hear Kaplan shouting down his comm, and he can just about make out that he’s probably not in communication with his men downstairs. Kylo starts cutting through the unyielding iron, and Kaplan is yelling:

“...describe the Jedi… seen him… could I? Told me… dark. His companion is… red hair. I don’t know… matter? They’re gaining on… why… like the Resistance, it’s something else… have a price… As good as dead! Wait. Wait. Oh. Oh they are here, I repeat, they are here—”

Kylo turns to Armitage. “There’re three,” he says, and pushes in the part of the door he carved out. Armitage goes in, momentarily blinded by bright white lights. The room looks more like a hotel suite than a secret military hideout with the transparisteel walls, the spacious bed and an abundance of decorative vases. He snaps his attention to Kaplan, who is surrounded by three flametroopers. Well. Trust the Force to gloss over that.  

“Fire,” the General cries, and flames erupt violently, rushing for Armitage. Kylo pushes his arms out: he’s standing behind Armitage, struggling to stop the blaze. It flares up and flashes as Kylo forces it into a globe, a red dwarf captured by his will. Kaplan gapes at it with horror, and Armitage uses the opportunity to shoot down one flametrooper and then the next, almost apologetically. The last one remains standing, facing his fate with admirable dignity, lowering his weapon and looking at the angry sun as if to admit, I can’t fucking fight this. Armitage shoots him through the head, good call, soldier, and points his blaster at Kaplan’s guts. That’s a slow death. A painful one, as well.

Kylo releases his grip on the flames, and they rush through the room, climbing to the ceiling and vanishing. What remains is a thick smell of smoke; the walls are covered with a black sheen of charcoal, smudging the stellar skyline view of the city. It’s just them, veiled in shades.

Kaplan starts retreating. Ashes fall, thick like snow, and he withdraws into the untouched whiteness of the centre, gripping his comm tightly.

“Intruders identified,” he sputters as Armitage takes a step toward him, with Kylo following. “It’s our lost boy.” A hysterical snicker. “Armitage Hux; and their lost boy, Ben S—” He clutches his throat. The comm unit falls out of his twitching fingers, and hits the soft fur carpet.

“Is it my eyes?” Armitage asks as he walks up to him. “You used to tell me I have my mother’s eyes: blue and green and all the shades in between. But you wouldn’t tell me who she was.”

“Leave it,” Kylo says. “He’s just trying to distract you.”  

Armitage tilts his head, and looks Kaplan over. A shivering mess with a rank insignia he doesn’t deserve. He touches the two stripes on the greatcoat’s sleeve as Kaplan is still gripping his throat, choking.

“You were nice to me,” he tells him. “You showed me the same amused civility everybody else did. I was a kid, and you took pride in the children of the Empire. You never minded how I winced when you patted my shoulder, you never remarked on how I stumbled. I was the property of the Empire, and you didn’t care how your property was treated, all that mattered was that you had it.” He wrinkles up his nose in disgust. “You could’ve been great. You, and the whole lot. You had the right ideas. You just ceased to be human to achieve them.” He pats his face, feeling Kylo’s gaze bore into him. “It’s not a personal vendetta,” he announces. “I forgive you; I did, long ago, because I could understand you. Do you know why I’m doing this?” Kaplan’s pale eyes bulge out as he meets his gaze, and shakes his head. Armitage points his blaster at his forehead. “I’m doing this for money,” he says, and pulls the trigger.

Kaplan drops to the ground, insignificantly. Armitage steps over him, mind empty. It feels like a part of him was just ripped out; it’s both liberating and infinitely terrifying. Surrounded by the ruined luxury of the suite, he stands tall, shoulders shaking.

 

*

 

The people on the street part for him as he leaves the subtly smoking building behind, eyes ablaze. Kylo follows shortly, cracking his wrists and then hooking his lightsaber to his belt.

Armitage knows he looks like a man possessed, his hair the dark red of blood in the moonlight, teeth gritted; he’s unstoppable, driven by a singular goal.

That singular goal is to get fucked in the ass, hard.  

It doesn’t diminish the glory of his victory march. He zeros in on the hangar’s building, the ugly arena towering over the bars and the hotels, transforming into a temple of pleasure in his mind. He pounds the pavement and hardly notices the twi’lek girl rubbing up to him.

“I have what you need,” she murmurs, and without turning to her, he asks:

“Do you have a very big dick?”

There’s a beat. The girl is trying to keep up, her see-through veils floating and flapping.

“I think we have your type at Celestial Bodies.”

“He’s with me,” Kylo snarls at her, “Back off.” He grabs Armitage’s shoulder, protective, and he can’t help but purr in pleasure. Kylo’s hand is on him, finally—

“We have very nice leisure suits for couples,” the girl offers, still running along. “Hot tubs, giant beds, all the toys you could require—”

“They have giant beds,” Armitage says, craning his neck to look at Kylo whose hold is like iron.

“Keep moving,” he grits.

“I want to go where the beds are, it’s probably closer, I can’t—”

“You’ll never forgive yourself if you jump into a bed on Hosnian Prime,” Kylo says, and flashes his eyes to the twi’lek, who pulls back, but doesn’t cower. Armitage sees her curling her fists. She’s probably used to knocking out bigger guys than Kylo. “Do you have sexbots?”

“Well, of course!”

“And you don’t pay them,” Kylo nods, pulling Armitage along who twists in his grip so he can gape at the girl in offended dismay.

“How could you,” he screams, “How is that not illegal on this joke of a planet, they have consciousness, they have intelligence, they’re more intelligent than any bloody species—”

“He’s in heat,” Kylo explains. “He’s been holding himself back.” The twi’lek mouths a knowing “oh boy” and disappears in the mass of undisturbed citizens who couldn’t care less about a fretting omega until he shrieks:

“The Emperor wouldn’t stand for it!”

“Ah, great,” Kylo sighs, and tugs at his arm. “Run.”

 

*  

 

“I think we can ask extra for the street fight,” Armitage muses once they’re sitting aboard the ship, which Kylo tries to get off the planet whose habitants want to personally murder them.

“Somehow, I doubt that,” he says. The hyperdrive kicks in, and the ship takes off in a mist of exhaust gas. Armitage swipes some blue blood off his face.

“Doubt is the greatest enemy,” he mutters, and scrambles to his feet. “Anyway, I’m going to be in the bunkroom, should you need me.”

Kylo blinks up at him with feign innocence. “And what will you be doing there, exactly?”

“Fucking myself, as suggested by the good people of Hosnian Prime in recent memory.” He grabs the headrest of Kylo’s chair, and looms over him. His hair tickles Kylo’s face. “I suggest you join me promptly.”

Kylo’s eyes flick over his features, settling on his lips. “Can you wait until I get us out of here safely?”

“Mm,” Armitage hums, “I’m not sure.”

Kylo leans in for a brief, upside-down kiss, then snaps his attention back to traffic, and manages to avoid an ugly collision with a cruiser in the last minute. Armitage scoffs as they spin up uncontrollably. “I’m convinced. You do you.” He pats Kylo’s shoulder, who gets them back on track, and shouts after Armitage as he starts to walk away:

“Don’t start getting funky without me!”

“Funky,” Armitage repeats in distaste. It’s torture to let Kylo out of his sight, but he shall get naked, now, and get the plug out and shove his fingers in, spread himself out, wait for Kylo’s dick, and he has enough of his senses left to know that the cockpit is not a decent place to do all that.

He gets to the bunkroom on wobbly legs, head spinning, feeling like he needs to throw up, but that probably wouldn’t be very attractive, would it. He takes heaving, deep breaths as he undresses, disassembling the armour with the ease of practice and then peeling off his tank top and cardio pants,  then the fucking underwear, and he could weep with relief as his aching cock is freed. He grasps it, standing there with his pants pooling around his ankles, and gives it a few rough yanks. He throws his head back, mouth hanging open.

This is ridiculous, he thinks, and brushes his left hand over a perked nipple. He whimpers, and doubles over. He doesn’t know where he needs to be touched - everywhere - his skin is burning up and even the vented air flowing past feels like a teasing caress. He crouches down, curling over himself, and clenches around the plug. It’s already halfway out, thanks to his position,  and he should— probably he should get it out, but he wants to be filled, but then again— And he probably needs a sonic, that’s a basic courtesy, but he can’t just crawl there on his stomach and he knows he can’t stand.

I’ll be with you soon,” he hears Kylo’s voice. He sobs, and rocks back on his ankles, burying his face between his trembling knees. Is this humiliating? No natural process should be regarded as— weakness, it’s not the worst he ever—

He reaches back, and fumbles for the plug. Slowly, slowly, he pulls it out, and his face contorts as he feels the slick flowing down and dripping, what a mess, will be a bitch to clean up, right. His consciousness is fleeing, and he sets himself objectives, wipe off the plug and put it away, let’s lie on the bed, wait for Kylo like that, look respectable, but the fucking thing just slips out of his hand.

The door hisses open, and he looks up, crouched over the pool of his slick, shivering, sweaty, and dares Kylo with his gaze to be disgusted or make fun of him. Kylo looks down, and his expression is that of utter adoration.

“I’m sorry you had to wait,” he says. “Look at you, gorgeous.”

Armitage turns away and swallows, his throat gripped by some foreign emotion. Kylo walks up to him, gets to his knees, pulls Armitage into his lap.

“Your clothes,” he protests, but it’s swallowed by Kylo’s kiss. It’s perfect and too brief.

“Let’s get you into bed,” Kylo whispers. He lifts him up like he weighs nothing, and carries him to bed like he was some sort of relic or prize who deserves a procession. Kylo has a delicious smell and such a broad, comfortable chest, made specifically so Armitage can curl up against it. He’s laid out and Kylo climbs over him. They look at each other. Kylo’s gaze is clouded over, and his features are soft and warm.

“Hey,” Armitage says.

“Hey,” Kylo smiles at him, and dips down between his thighs like nobody’s business. Armitage gasps, and gets two fistfuls of the lumpy pillow under his head.

“What are you doing?” he demands, and there’s a very obvious slurping sound. Right. Kylo is licking his ass clean. That’s happening.

Are you comfortable with this ?” he hears him as if he was still standing in the doorway, because the lazy jerk can’t even pull away for a fucking minute, but Armitage doesn’t really mind it because it feels— electric, somehow. He melts against it. Kylo is lapping at his crack and his hole, with quick flicks of his hot tongue, and Armitage dares to look down, with just one eye, the other squeezed shut.

Well. If this is not the most beautiful thing he’s ever seen, Kylo’s lashes fluttering and his big nose digging into him; he looks at peace , strong fingers gripping Armitage’s thighs. He only wishes he was naked.

“Can you get naked?” he suggests, and Kylo makes a noncommittal sound which reverberates through Armitage, who cries out. Ah fuck. Is this it? Is he coming? What is this witchcraft, they’re not even fucking and he’s already edging, how will they—

Kylo pulls back, and presses a sloppy kiss to his inner thigh. “Can you get me naked?”

“Spoilt little—” Armitage grunts, but sits up swiftly. He bangs his head against the bunk above them. “Shit!”

“Yeah, watch out for that,” Kylo says. “Your poor head. Let me—”

Armitage slaps his hand away, and starts at the straps. There are really too many of them. Kylo buries his face into Armitage’s shoulder, and kisses it contently.

“You’re so beautiful,” he babbles. “So elegant and fierce, and your skin is the softest and your ass is the cutest, and I love your teeth and your navel and the wounds you have, I’m going to kiss every inch of you and come all over you, you’re a perfect fucking gift, you’re my lover-in-arms, my prizewinner—”  

“You know you would’ve gotten the whole bounty if I didn’t come along, right?” Armitage asks. It’s really hard to undress somebody with his hands shaking so, when all he wants is rip the leather off with his teeth, to mount Kylo and take that fucking dick.

“I wouldn’t have survived if you didn’t come along,” Kylo says, and reaches for his fly. Yes! Yes! Yes!

“What are you talking about,” Armitage mutters, ogling Kylo’s crotch, “You're basically indestructible.”

“I’m far from that,” Kylo says, and gets himself in hand. Armitage sighs happily at the sight of his hard dick, and climbs over him. “What—” Kylo coughs as he’s tipped off-balance, head hanging off the edge of the bed. “Armitage—”

“Say my name,” Armitage orders him, grabbing his cock. Kylo moans; he’s still mostly dressed, but the front is open, allowing a lovely view on his heaving chest.

“Armitage,” Kylo repeats as Armitage gets him lined up.

“My full name.”

“Armitage Hux,” Kylo says with a desperate yearning. Armitage sinks down on him, and Kylo cries out. The Force pours off him, and Armitage hears furniture slamming against the walls; the whole room tips and moves, and they’re the only stable point.

Kylo’s cock feels glorious. Such a big, fat dick, and it slides inside so easily, like it belongs there. Armitage can’t even clench around it, it stretches him so wide, so he just luxuriates in how it feels, how hot and heavy. He looks down at Kylo, the line of his neck, his hair falling back and his overwhelmed expression, ecstatic already. Seated atop him, Armitage presses his hands down on Kylo’s hard stomach, running his hands up to his pecs, rubbing a nipple.

“Should I start moving?”

“I hate you,”  Kylo moans, overcome with emotion. Armitage lifts his ass, just a little, letting a few inches slip out with a wet sound. They both gasp.

“Come on, alpha,” Armitage whispers, “don’t you want to start fucking this arse?”

“I think I’m going to pass out,” Kylo says.

“Don’t you dare.” Armitage circles his hand around Kylo’s neck, and squeezes, experimentally. He wants to map out his body, wants to know every possible reaction to his touches, wants to see Kylo squirm. Kylo gets a hold of the bed’s legs, and pulls himself up to a sitting position. The angle inside Armitage shifts, the rigidity of Kylo’s dick digging deeper, and he whimpers. Kylo grabs his hips, keeping him in place.

“How do you want it?” he asks, looking down to where they’re joined. Armitage doesn’t dare to follow his gaze. He’d come at the sight.

“This is nice, for example,” he manages. Kylo grinds his hips up, earning another whimper.

“You said something about being on your hands and knees.”

“I’d like to see your face,” Armitage admits, burying his fingers into Kylo’s thick curls. “While we’re doing this.”

“Not on any other occasion?” Kylo grins. Armitage pulls at his hair, then pulls harder. “Ow! What?”

“Fucking move, smartass,” he hisses. Kylo chuckles, and manhandles him to his back. Armitage clings on with his legs, pulled up high, so he’s almost bent in half.

“How about this,” Kylo asks him. “A classic.” He slams into him, and Armitage moans at how right it feels, the long drag of Kylo’s twitching cock rutting in and out. He rakes his eyes over him, unbelieving, this man is a miracle, a curse, and he doesn’t even have to say where he wants him, Kylo just bows down and starts sucking on a nipple like it was his idea and not the croaked scream of Armitage’s need.

He claws at his back, digging his nails into the leather, welcoming a new kink into his life, he’ll never look at leather-clad chaps in the same way again, although it’s entirely possible he’ll never look at leather-clad chaps at all ever again, why would he want to do that if Kylo is there to be looked at. Will he be there, he wonders as Kylo builds up a punishing pace and he just holds on, unable to let go.  

“You’re so fucking wet you’re swimming in it,” Kylo whispers against his chest, and peers up at him. “Your juicy little marzipan ass.”

“Beg your pardon,” Armitage scoffs, “it’s not made of marzipan, I can assure you.”

Kylo grinds inside hard, and pinches his poor arse.

“It’s smooth and delicious and blushy pink,” he says, pleased. Armitage groans, and throws his arm over his eyes. “It’s adorable,” Kylo adds.

“Hurrah, I’m the proud owner of an adorable arse,” Armitage mutters. Kylo kisses his elbow, then kisses his way down to his wrist.

“Every part of you is precious.”

“I liked it better when I was a warrior-god.”

“You can be both. You are both. You’re so many things.”

“I’m so many things,” Armitage repeats with phony, giddy glee.

“Above all, you’re a sarcastic little prick,” Kylo says, and pinches his twitching ass again. Armitage moans, smugly pleased with the epithet. Kylo kisses him on the mouth, and he pulls his arm back from his face to give him better access. “Does my sarcastic little prick want to cum?”

“I don’t know, ask your sarcastic little prick.”

“Hey,” Kylo grunts with a sharp jab, and Armitage laughs at that. Kylo rolls over, his shoulder hitting the steel wall, and gets Armitage on top, who holds onto the frame of the bunk above. “Work for it,” Kylo barks at him. He grabs his hips, and pulls him down to the base of his cock. Armitage moans, curled over, and grinds down harder, to show Kylo what the fuck he’s made of. It’s not marzipan.

He’s pushing himself up and down, bobbing on that meaty cock, very thankful for his rigorous workout routine which resulted in a point zero muscle mass but allows him to have this. Looking at Kylo’s face, it was worth it, his hard effort and every single decision which led to this point, so he’s right here, fucking, getting fucked. The Force creates that blissed dichotomy again, he’s Kylo, he’s himself, and they’re mutually united.

He rolls his hips, downright delirious, and bends back, letting go of the bed’s frame. It’s a dance, rhythmic and ethereal. Kylo entwines their fingers, holding him as he moves with languid motions, feeling his orgasm build up. He whimpers with it softly, gripping Kylo’s hand as his cock twitches and spills on his stomach. He collapses on Kylo’s chest, but he keeps the pace up, keeps moving, urging Kylo, “come on, come on now, fill me with your come, please fill me—”

Kylo grabs his ass. Fuck, he’s so close. He hammers into Armitage’s used hole. Armitage feels every inch of it and feels his own twitching wetness around Kylo’s cock, and he feels Kylo’s devotion like his own. He shows his neck to him, offering it to his lips and teeth.

“Mark me,” he pleads. He thought he’d be more conflicted making this decision, but it’s so crystal-clear that he must propose this to Kylo, and propose it now.

“Are you sure?” Kylo asks, and he wants to yell at him, don’t you get it, my whole being is screaming for it. He presses closer.

“I want you to,” he says, and that seems to be enough for Kylo, seems to be everything he needs. He bites down, closing his teeth around Armitage’s windpipe. He comes.

He’s spilling load after load into him while his teeth threaten to crush his throat, but Armitage knows with a conviction that Kylo will never hurt him. He combs Kylo’s hair with his fingers and pulls him closer as Kylo’s knot swells. He lets out a choked-off moan, and feels himself returning to his body, the Force gently easing him back to the boundaries of his own flesh, but he can still sense Kylo in a way he can’t quite explain, but he knows it to be their bond.

He sighs as Kylo pulls back from his neck. They’re still connected, in more ways than one, and Armitage is drunk on the power of it. Kylo licks at his closed lips.

“Mine,” he announces.

Armitage pulls at his hair. “Mine.”

“I promise you, you won’t regret this.”

“If I do, I can always just get you killed by a stronger alpha and move on.”

“That’s it, I’ve changed my mind,” Kylo says, pretending like he’s about to pull out. Armitage punches his shoulder.

“Stay right there.”

“I can’t not stay there. Stars, you feel amazing.” He tips Armitage’s chin up and inspects his neck. He runs a careful finger over the bite mark, and it throbs and tingles. “Seems like I got a bit carried away. Sorry.”

“Oh no, you were excited about our bond, what will I do?”

“Stop being a sarcastic menace,” Kylo suggests. Armitage pokes him.

“You like it.”

“No.” He flashes a big, stupid smile. “I love it.”

 

*

 

Everything seems too nice to have. Armitage is lying in the nest he’s built while Kylo grabbed him some food from the icebox. It’s just so lovely to spread out on a pile of pillows and munch on a sweet protein bar while Kylo leisurely fingers his come back inside him, then towels him off. He’s blissed out and at ease, mind drifting. When he regains his strength, he plans to take Kylo’s cock pressed to the sonic’s wall, then in the pilot’s chair, and then on every flat surface in no particular order, until they reach Tinnel IV.

Kylo caresses his face, and he leans into his touch, demanding more of it. Kylo rubs his chin.

“You’re so cute like this,” he whispers.

“It’s an evolutionary thing,” Armitage enlightens him, mouth full. “So you don’t kill me after we’ve mated. This whole alpha-omega rubbish used to be about territory and submission. To an extent, still is.”

“Where did you read that?” Kylo furrows his brows. Armitage swallows the last crumbs of the protein bar, and wipes his mouth. He wiggles closer to Kylo, and lays his head over his lap. He has half a mind to nuzzle to his crotch, but he still has some dignity left.

“I’ve read everything on the topic, I think. I can’t recall which article it was. I was trying to find a cure.” He peers up at Kylo. “We could adopt droids, I suppose. They don’t stay in a child-like state for long, though, but once your pup always your pup, and I like the idea of providing for them. Also, I always wanted a cat.”

“Thinking about the future?” Kylo asks, which is a very diplomatic way out of a possible argument of whether rescue droids can be considered offsprings; it’s an argument Armitage expects to win, but he lets it drop for the time being.

“I believe Hosnian Prime changed me,” he confesses, because if he can’t be honest with his mate, then what’s the whole point of bonding? “It felt like facing something I’ve been avoiding. I think I’ve been drifting all this time, without noticing; it feels like I’ve been in survival mode all along. I want to do things which amount to something. I want to build, to create, to have a legacy. Do you get what I mean? I want to be—”

“Someone,” Kylo finishes for him, softly. Armitage nods, a bit lost.

“Yes. I want to be someone.”

Kylo pets his hair, but it doesn’t feel patronizing. He lets him comb his fingers through the tangled strands.

“I firmly believe that everybody has the power to build their identity,” Kylo tells him. “Life is all about creating yourself, not finding yourself or like, following the path you’ve been told leads to a revelation, it’s not about blood or—”

He’s interrupted by a metallic clang, and then the all too familiar voice of a hyperdrive giving out. Armitage’s head shoots up.

“What the shit?”

“We dropped out of hyperspace,” Kylo says, disbelieving, and scrambles to his feet. He heads to the cockpit. Armitage stays behind to wrap the cover around himself, not because of modesty but because he really needs to feel warm. He should be resting in his nest, damnit. He hears the radio crackling online, and a slightly bored nasal voice:

Lambda-T4a 758969YAO, do you copy ?” Then after a few beats, repeated on the same tone: “Lambda-T4a 758969YAO, do you copy?”

“What happened,” he mouths, and goes to the cockpit in his makeshift toga. Kylo stands by the control panel, gloriously naked; Armitage vaguely hopes their caller doesn’t have a visual. He glances at the viewport, and he’s faced with a tractor beam projector and the grey mass of a star destroyer. It completely blocks out the view.

“Do I copy?” Kylo asks him.

“It’s a Resurgent-class, it has over a thousand ion cannons, yes, you copy.”

Lambda-T4a 75—”

Kylo pushes a button. “I copy,” he says, a bit sullen as Armitage measures the star destroyer and tries to come up with a plan. To surrender is the best of them.

Lambda-T4a 758969YAO, this is the Finalizer. We wish to make contact with Armitage Hux and Ben Solo. Who am I talking to ?”

“You’re talking to Kylo Ren.”

Also known as Ben Solo,” the Finalizer replies. Kylo gets them off-air for a minute, and turns to Armitage.

“I don’t like it,” he says. Armitage licks his lips, gaze flicking back to the star destroyer.

“Tell them I’m also here. We won’t mind-trick our way out of this.”

“I’m here with Armitage Hux,” Kylo replies as he’s told. Armitage heads out, looking for his clothes. He knows what’s about to come.

The Supreme Leader wishes to speak with you in person. It is firmly advised that you accept the invitation.”

Armitage squeezes his eyes shut for a moment, then collects his discarded pants from the floor. He can feel Kylo’s irritation bordering on bloodlust, how he’s ready to tear that ship apart and fight teeth and nails to protect him. But that might not be necessary, if they’re clever about it. The worse course of action is to resist. He gets his tank top on and Kylo’s cape, draping it over himself, finding reassurance in the warmth and the scent. They’re inseparable. Whatever happens, they’ll go through it together, braving destiny as a unit. If escape means that time rewinds and he’ll find himself in a life pod shooting through empty space, so be it.  He won’t be alone this time around, and Pa-Ma will be still waiting for him at the other side, opening their arms to their son who dropped out of the sky.

He marches back to the cockpit, shiny boots creaking, and finds Kylo getting a fresh pair of leather jumpsuit on. He frowns.

“Just how many change of clothes you’ve brought with you?”

“I practically live on this ship,” Kylo confesses. Armitage scoffs, and tosses his lightsaber to him. Kylo catches it without looking. Fine. They’ll be alright.

 

*

 

Being led through the Finalizer feels oddly nostalgic; the Resurgent-class models were made after his time, but the layout is very similar to the Praetor-class’s, which means he would know his way around in a blindfold. They leave the main landing bay and are escorted to the bridge. Their weapons were taken away, but he knows Kylo can call them back in case of an emergency, and he also knows for a fact that they can take out the stormtroopers who guard them in a flash.

The monotonicity of the grey corridors blur into childhood memories, and even the smells recall a life long past, which from this distance seems confusingly pleasant. He feels at ease here, probably because of the familiarity and Kylo’s close proximity. He projects everything he knows to him, we’ve just crossed the security foyer, there must be a turbolift here, it needs a cylinder to start but we might get around that with a security override you can get from any officer’s mind.

The foyer’s gate opens up to the bridge. The crew is at work, and nobody even spares a glance at them. Armitage can see the great expanse of space through the viewport, and he scowls at it, challenging.

“The Supreme Leader is on duty, you will be given a ten minute audience,” one of the troopers tells them as they stand back.

“We won’t waste his time,” Kylo says darkly, and the trooper corrects:

“Her.”

“Huh?”

“Her time.” The trooper points a finger forward.

Armitage expected to be faced with Snoke’s grimy figure; he’s heard whispers about his takeover, which Kylo’s experience seemed to reinforce further. He expected a throne and an abundance of guards, thunderous accusations and an attempt at public humiliation, closely followed by a death sentence for their betrayal.

Instead all of this, Rae Sloane marches towards them on the command walkway. She’s aged, her hair the colour of smoke and her skin wrinkled. She’s dressed smartly, not in the admiral’s uniform Armitage remembers her wearing, but in a black uniform of a similar cut.

“Walk with me, gents,” she says as she passes them. Kylo and Armitage look at each other.

So that’s why I didn’t feel His presence.” Even Kylo’s mental voice sounds relieved. Armitage is just gobsmacked. He follows Sloane, unsure on his legs. They never knew each other, per se; Armitage got the impression that Sloane despised his father. She was a level-headed leader, a true professional, and Armitage used to admire her from afar. He planned to seek her out and politely request her mentorship when he got older, to distance himself from Brendol’s spoiled heritage and have someone train him who actually knew their shit.

“First and foremost,” Sloane says, keeping a quick pace, “I must congratulate you on a job well done. Let us just say that Kaplan was inadequate at his job, and I never tolerated career officers.” She turns to them sharply, and Kylo flinches back. Armitage can understand why he’s scared. Sloane looks them over, and much to Armitage’s relief, doesn’t show visible contempt over his state of undress or Kylo’s fashion choices. “I’ve been looking for you,” she tells Armitage, clipped voice a shade softer. “As you can see, I was busy with other projects as well, but I did look for you. When I heard about a bounty hunter matching your description I wanted to see whether it’s you, and I wanted to see what you’re worth. And you,” she points at Kylo, who straightens up immediately, “I think you can guess what my business with you is.”

“Where’s Snoke?” Kylo blurts out, almost pleading. Sloane smiles a private little smile, and starts walking again. They hurry after her like lost children.

“You don’t need to worry about him. As far as I’m concerned, he’s dead. His Knights have joined my ranks, and wanted to find their lost companion; the one who got away, the one who made them realise it was possible to escape.” She gives him a hard glare. “They call you their Master. They refuse to operate without you. I understand they’ve been mistreated, but I still find their behaviour irrational, and, pardon me, irritating.”

“You want me to take command of them?”

“Not so fast.” She stops by a door, and punches in a code. Armitage tries to catch his breath and put his astounded thought back in order, but it’s a lot of information to stomach, followed by a lot of who, why, what, when, and he’s too overwhelmed to try to make a sense of all of this. They are led into a room with two beds and a ‘fresher; Armitage notices that there is no workstation in sight: it’s a cell. “Make no mistake,” Sloane says, stopping in the middle within two short steps. “You’re my prisoners. Your positions are negotiable. I won’t put you on a mock trial for something you’ve done on my covert command. However, you two are now in possession of dangerous and compromising intelligence, and then there’s the problem of your respective heritage.” She cocks her hand. Armitage notices he’s standing at attention, and that Kylo is doing the same. Sloane does have that effect on people. “To return to your question, Ren: if I find that you are to be trusted and if you are willing to co-operate, I will consider utilizing your talents and reuniting you with the other Knights in due time. You will find that they are healthy, and volunteered to be under my command, with the request that you join them. I will revisit that request once I have enough information to do so. Being the son of General Organa and General Solo, you are in a peculiar position. You must understand that.”

“I understand,” Kylo says, and Armitage senses a guilty sort of satisfaction flare up in him, because Sloane didn’t call his mother Princess. Armitage squeezes his hand, a short reassurance just as Sloane looks at him.

“And you,” she sighs, soft again but definitely exasperated, “what am I to do with you?”

“Is Brendol—?”

“Condolences.”

A moment passes between them. Armitage’s mind races. Free at last. Free at last. What will he do with that freedom? He feels like tearing up; it has nothing to do with grief. He’s devastatingly grateful to an almighty power he never believed in, to the sort of cosmic justice which was always an illusion, and still he wants to sing, thank you, thank you, until his throat dries out. He swallows around the lump in his throat, and squeezes Kylo’s hand again, unashamed. He looks up at Sloane, taking a deep breath. She must’ve read something from his expression which makes her pleased.

“Hux is dead; long live Hux,” she says. “I will have an offer for you. I could use a man like you on the field, guerilla warfare seems to be right up your alley.” She turns to the door, and they allow way for her. They might be at advantage, but she still overpowers them, and they’re all aware of that. She takes a hold of the door’s frame, and looks back over her shoulder. “Notice that a high-ranking position just became vacant. I nominated General Phasma to fill it, but she hates me for it; I expect she’ll step down in a couple of years if I don’t do something about it. That gives us enough time to see what your potential is, doesn’t it?” She steps out of the room, and turns towards them. “I will see you again at the end of my shift. You have a lot to discuss. I’ll expect to find both of you decent.” She glances at the mark on Armitage’s neck, then meets his eyes. Her expression is unreadable. Armitage salutes her, and she bows her head in return.

The door closes, and Kylo lets out a long breath. “A lot to discuss, yeah.”

Armitage walks to the bed on the right, head swimming, and drops to it. He’s staring at nothing. Kylo says something he doesn’t quite catch. He’s thinking about everything that’s been said, he’s thinking about Brendol and Pa-Ma and how the entire universe turned around while he wasn’t paying attention. That’s in its nature, he supposes. Particles with endless possibilities floating away from a terrible explosion which started it all. Any second can bring immense changes. The smallest, the most miserable atom, a mistake, a collusion, a union. And then. Bang.

“I mean, the one thing that's clear is that I’ll go wherever you go,” Kylo says, “become whatever you need me to become, because — Now it’s an interaction, we’re not giving up our—”

Armitage strokes the pillow absent-mindedly, and pulls it into his lap.  He hugs it to his chest, then puts it away, and puts the cover on top of it.

“We’re not giving up,” Kylo repeats.

He takes off the cape, and adds it to the pile. Kylo mutters something under his breath, and sits down next to him. Kisses his shoulder. Sweet, wonderful Kylo asks in his dumb voice

“What are you doing? I’m trying to come up with a plan.”

“I’m building a nest.”