“The superweapon will be, without a doubt, the First Order’s greatest triumph. A powerful evolution of the Death Star, it will allow us to harness the full power of the sun. Now, as it nears completion, we have almost succeeded paving the path to-”
“It won’t be strong enough.”
“Excuse me,” said Hux, in a tone that was the verbal equivalent of a middle finger.
And all the other officers in the room thought, here we go.
Colonel Drax realized she’d never looked closely at the stitching on her uniform’s sleeve and should definitely do that right now. Colonel Garret pulled his holoscreen under the table and began composing a reply to his mother-in-law’s latest messages. Everyone else suddenly found themselves very fascinated with various pieces of furniture-anything that would distract them from the horror that was their two bosses flirting.
“It is too weak to accomplish our goals.”
“The sun. The sun is too weak.”
Hux didn’t physically roll his eyes, but he thought really hard about it. He hoped Kylo Ren could sense that sort of thing.
“Are you implying that you, yourself, are stronger than an entire sun?”
“Your weapon is vulnerable. It will depend strongly on forces we can’t control.”
“Oh, I’m sorry Kylo Ren. Tell me more about forces we can’t control.”
Kylo Ren didn’t say anything for a moment. Hux imagined he was glaring.
“I am in control of myself.”
“Tell that to targeting console number three. May it rest in peace.”
The room tensed, as if everyone was collectively preparing to duck under the table. Colonel Garret turned off his holoscreen and was now just staring at his pant leg, sweating and wide-eyed.
“Watch yourself, General.”
Kylo Ren swept out of the room. Once the door had shut behind him, everyone relaxed. They met each other’s eyes and smiled, brought closer together by this near-death experience.
Hux glared at the door before returning to his blueprints, but couldn’t shake feeling deflated. The grandeur had rather left the room.
“Tell Kylo Ren my weapon is fully functional, and he has exactly four cycles to retrieve the map.”
Hux had already moved on to cataloguing expense reports when he realized that the Stormtrooper was still there.
“Didn’t you hear me?” he asked, annoyed. People like this guy were the reason they were over-budget. That, and one other reason.
Once he’d left, Colonel Yarlix, who had been standing at attention, approached his desk.
“Sir, are you punishing him?”
“Punishing?” They were going to have to raise taxes somewhere, there was nothing for it. You can’t just pull thirty-trillion credits out of thin air. “No, Colonel. Nobody likes dealing with Kylo Ren, but we have orders to bus him around the universe so we all just have to put up with it until his deranged tendencies or possibly his flair for the dramatic get him killed.
There was a pause, as if Colonel Yarlix was trying to figure out how to word something delicately.
“Sir, may I speak freely?”
“As long as you’re smart about it.”
He took a deep breath. “I think you do not fear Kylo Ren as the rest of us do because you hold his favor.”
Hux looked up, halfway through a sentence about Coruscant’s trading potential. “His favor?”
“Yes sir.” The Colonel looked like he regretted his decision immensely but was in too deep to back out now. “He would kill us all twice over if we spoke to him the way do you.”
Hux took a moment to consider this. Mostly he was grateful for his poker face.
“Kylo Ren wants nothing more than to run me through with his lightsaber, and the moment I become unnecessary to the success of the First Order, I’m sure he fully intends to. Fortunately that will never happen. You’re dismissed, Colonel.”
Hux pondered this new concept over a glass of Hayrrlax’s Distilled Vodka.
The First Order didn’t have parties, but there was a celebratory, pre-scheduled, group event going on in the Finalizer’s bar to commemorate the superweapon going live. Hux generally skipped these sorts of things but felt that skipping this one would be a bit like skipping your child’s first birthday.
“Another,” he said, waving at the bartender, who was too intimidated to cut him off.
Kylo Ren didn’t like him. Kylo Ren put up with him. There’s a difference.
But maybe Kylo Ren put up with him a little more than he should, the way Hux sometimes hid equipment replacement costs resulting from Kylo’s “incidents” in his own Personal Expenses budget.
Now that he thought about it, Hux didn’t really know why he did that.
He drank until he didn’t care anymore.
Hux was invincible.
His second glass made him consider it. His third glass made it true. It goes without saying that he was well and truly smashed by the time he noticed a tall, black figure stalk past the entrance to the bar.
Hux ran to him, jumping up the stairs.
“Hey,” he repeated.
He and Kylo Ren faced each other for a moment. Then Hux smiled.
“Come on then.”
And Kylo Ren, terror to man and machine, allowed himself to be pulled into the bar.
The room hushed as he entered. After a moment the noise started up again but it was a different kind of noise, as everyone collectively agreed to fake conversation so that they could watch the show.
And it was this way that everyone saw Hux lead Kylo Ren by the hand to the bar counter. Hux held a glass up to him and then frowned, set it back down, and reached for the mask.
There was a sound like several people gasping and then trying to disguise it with a cough.
Kylo Ren grabbed Hux’s wrists, but Hux rolled his eyes and said something (the bartender would later swear that it was, “Kylo, darling, do it for me,” while Hux would swear that it absolutely wasn’t) and Kylo let him go.
And nobody even tried to pretend they weren’t staring as Hux tossed back his hood, felt for the releases on either side of the helmet, and lifted it off.
The entire room leaned to the right.
It was the first time most of the people there had seen Kylo Ren’s face. The general consensus, which would be determined later in hallways and at dining tables and even at the weekly officer’s meeting, was that he looked younger than expected. Some would point out that this may have been because he was staring, wide-eyed, at his own shoes. Others would just express surprise that he was not even slightly disfigured, not even bald.
Because they were all looking at Kylo, almost nobody noticed that Hux was staring as blatantly as the rest of them, or that he smiled faintly, as if he wasn’t quite sober enough to understand what he’d accomplished but was very proud of himself regardless.
Kylo refused to turn his head, even as Hux pushed him down onto a bar stool and forced a drink into his hand. He was clearly aware that he was being stared at and was very uncomfortable with it, but was also distracted by Hux, who was a bit friendlier and more flushed than usual.
Feeling especially brave, Stormtrooper GD-6242 moved two seats closer to Hux and was able to hear the rest of their conversation.
“-for this, d’you know? And you’re always brooding about something. I can’t even see your face most of the time but I can just tell. Why do you have to do that in public? Do I need to greenlight ‘Project: Kylo’s Sulk Room’? We’ll put it right next to the new recycling room we’re getting to make your tantrums more economically efficient.”
“I don’t brood.”
“You do. And then you get short with me when I try to talk to you.”
“Maybe if you talked more and insulted my outfit less,” Kylo said, but he didn’t look annoyed. In fact, anyone watching him right then would say that he looked utterly charmed.
“I will insult your outfit exactly as much as it deserves to be insulted. Which is so much. Which is-” Hux frowned into his glass. “Kylo, I’m so drunk right now.”
“Sorry about that.”
“I don’t mind.” And then, after a moment, “Your mind is a mess.”
“My mind? My mind is a mess?”
The helmet slipped out of Hux’s arms and thudded to the ground, and Hux nearly followed it. Kylo caught him before he fell.
And then everyone saw General Hux, Commander of the First Order, smile helplessly and lean into his chest, while Kylo Ren, master of the Knights of Ren and Slayer of Jedi, blushed and let him.
It was only then that Kylo did a 90' sweeping glare of the room over Hux's shoulder, daring anyone to say something.
No one did.