“So are you going to spend the rest of my last night in town pouting in the corner, or are you going to have a drink with me?”
Hux peered up from the book he was currently hunched over to regard his (soon-to-be-ex) roommate. With one hand at her hip and the other holding two beers between her fingers, she stared at him with an expectant look that said she knew exactly what his answer would be before he had even opened his mouth. If he knew Phasma at all, and he knew Phasma very well, she probably did.
With the knowledge that putting up a fight would be useless he sighed and stood from his desk, putting a placeholder in the legal text in front of him, before walking past her and grabbing one of the dangling drinks from her hand. “That’s the spirit!” she chimed, slapping him on the back hard enough that he took an extra half-step forward. Phasma had two inches on him and was built like a brick house, but that was expected for the woman who just landed a position training new military recruits in Georgia. By contrast, Hux was just above six feet tall and all limbs, his body lithe and his face thin, framed by the copper colored hair he kept at just past chin length. If she wanted to, Phasma could probably toss him across the apartment, something that Hux was grateful she’d never done.
His feet felt heavy as he ascended the stairs leading to the roof they technically shouldn’t have had access to. Within the first week of living in the building Hux had gotten curious and walked upstairs to find the door to the roof unlocked, something that pleased him because he was far too old to be climbing onto fire escapes to smoke cigarettes like a teenager, and he detested loitering in front of the building. None of that mattered in the end, as Phasma had thrown his carton out as soon as she found out he smoked and promised to kick his ass if she found anymore. Regardless, the roof had become a regular spot for he and Phasma to go whenever they wanted to relax, or drink, or sit together in silence listening to the sounds of the neighborhood.
(Or anytime Hux wanted to smoke the rare cigarette, but Phasma didn’t need to know about that.)
The view wasn’t much. The building they lived in was only three stories tall not including the basement, and the somewhat taller buildings around them and down the street blocked any paltry view of Manhattan they could have managed. There wasn’t much to see at night either, the light pollution of the city erasing all but the brightest stars out of the sky. Sunset, however, was a bursting technicolor of pinks, oranges, and yellows, and was personally Hux’s favorite time to be outside. That time was now, he observed as he walked through the door, glancing up at the sky. The air was cool and breezy, but the last chills of winter had left, making way for spring. Glancing at the position of the sun, Hux figured they had less than an hour of light left.
Phasma let out a satisfied hum as she passed him to sit on one of the two cheap lawn chairs they had hauled up one day when they had decided they were on the roof a little too much to pretend it wasn’t ‘a spot’ for them. The chair sank more than it should, letting out a plastic squeak, its age finally beginning to show. “I’m gonna miss this the most I think,” she said, patting the chair next to her without looking back.
“Really, the roof is what you’ll miss? And here I thought it would have been my sparkling personality,” Hux deadpanned, sitting next to her and taking a swig of his beer. Phasma let out one of her loud barks of a laugh, grin splitting her face with more ease than that of anyone Hux had ever known.
“You know I’ll miss you too, Carrot-Top, you and your moods,” she retorted, eyes sparkling with the remnants of her laughter when she called Hux by his most hated nickname, and he flipped her off in response. She had coined ‘Carrot-Top’ for him two years prior, near when they had first moved in together. A particularly humid and rainy day combined with being soaked by a puddle and a passing bus had made his hair frizz to hell by the time he got home. He walked through the door frustrated and just wanting a shower, and Phasma had laughed so hard at the sight of him she almost fell off the couch.
They had a lot of good memories like that. It was a combination of luck and perfect timing that they had ended up living together. Phasma was the daughter of an old connection of his father’s, and his old man put them in contact when Hux decided to move to the city to pursue his career as a defense attorney away from his father’s firm. It just so happened that she was tired of living in Queens and was looking for a roommate at the same time that Hux was. They were instant friends, and had lived together in the same small two-bedroom in Park Slope they currently occupied for two and a half years since then.
Glancing over at Phasma, Hux thought about how much he would miss her when she was gone. He hadn’t been able to hide his melancholy for the last few weeks, and every time she tried to pull him out of it he seemed to only feel worse, which frustrated them both. She was solid in a lot of ways that Hux simply wasn’t, and not just in physique. She always had this way of making him feel like everything would be all right, even when she was telling him a hard truth he didn’t want to hear, or when things were, very decidedly, not actually going to be all right. Military background or not, she was a good leader, not only because she could command respect, but because she had a way of making everyone under her command know she was there for them regardless of if she said it out loud. She ran a hand through her hair absentmindedly, and in the light of the sunset her blonde locks looked almost golden, her blue eyes reflecting every color in the sky.
If they both weren’t gay as sin Hux imagined he would probably be head over heels for her.
He apparently stared for longer that he intended to, because Phasma looked over and regarded him with a softer look than before.
“I’m not dying.”
“Great!” she exclaimed, raising her free hand in the air before slapping it on her thigh for emphasis, “now that we’ve established that, can you stop looking like you’re attending my fucking funeral?”
Hux let out a loud, gurgling groan and sank down in his chair with his beer held between his legs. His bony fingers reached up to drag down his face in an exaggerated gesture, which did its job of making Phasma giggle and him finally snort out a short laugh. A small smile graced his lips, peeking out from between his fingers. He stayed slumped instead of straightening up, his long legs bending up and his back arched just short of uncomfortable. Phasma was the only person he’d ever been comfortable letting himself be discomposed around, yet another reason her departure was so distressing.
“You’re not exactly making it easy, what with the short notice and all,” he retorted, plucking his beer from between his legs and drinking it in earnest this time. The news that she had been chosen for the position had come at the very end of the previous month, leaving her only a few weeks to pack her things, arrange her transportation, and place everything else she owned in storage. It was a temporary assignment of nine months, after which they could decide if she would stay full time.
She sighed next to him and slunk lower in her own chair, somewhat out of guilt and somewhat out of exhaustion from the last few whirlwind weeks, cradling her drink and staring up at the sky. “I know, but the last person to have the job left very suddenly, and you know how much it means to me. I’ve been trying to get in a leadership role like that for years.”
“I know, and I’m happy for you,” Hux replied in earnest, feeling guilty for making her apologize. It was her dream, after all.
“I know you are, Hux, and it means a lot,” she responded, matching his tone. They sat in silence for a few moments, sipping their drinks, staring out at nothing in particular, and letting the light wash over them as it faded across the city. This, this was Hux’s favorite time. Sitting on the roof with Phasma, drinking whatever beer was on sale that week, saying nothing. Listening to the wind, the noises of the people on the street below, the laughter from the bar at the corner. Hux spent so much of his time at work talking to people that it was nice to be able to sit with someone and simply exist.
Phasma was the one to finally break the silence after a couple of moments. “So,” she started, turning towards him with a mischievous look on her face and an eyebrow wiggle, “have you found my replacement yet?”
Hux’s hand moved to squeeze the bridge of his nose as he let out a small groan, knowing exactly where her inquiry was going. Finding a new roommate was something he knew he was going to have to do soon, but the idea of it was something he was admittedly trying to avoid. He wasn’t necessarily picky, but he knew no one would be as compatible with him as Phasma was, and the idea of coming home to someone who wasn’t her was still too depressing to think about. “No, I haven’t, and honestly I haven’t even started looking.”
Phasma stared at him with the same grin as before, and it filled Hux with apprehension. There was one more reason that he hadn’t been looking for a roommate, and it was the exact thing he was sure Phasma was about to bring up. “The first of the month is in two weeks,” she stated simply.
“I’m aware,” he replied, cautious.
“You know, there are Facebook groups-“
Hux threw his head back and made a loud, frustrated noise at the sky, but Phasma didn’t stop talking.
“-specifically for gay people looking for housing. Cute gay men! And women! But a lot of men! I used it when I first moved here, found a really nice girl-“
“Phasma,” Hux tried to cut her off.
“-she always paid her rent on time, plus she was super cute-“
“-she was a gymnast, couldn’t clean worth a damn but wow, did she make up for it in other ways-“
The third time was the charm. She (blessedly, Hux thought to himself) stopped talking and turned to him with an innocent look on her face, which he returned with a scowl.
“I’m not looking for a boyfriend, I’m looking for a roommate,” he stated, matter-of-fact, before tipping his bottle up a little more than he should. Phasma was well-intentioned, probably because she knew Hux’s relationship history could be described as lackluster at best, and sordid at worst. He had never had an interest in girls, and despite successfully staying single and in the closet for most of his youth, was outed by his classmates in his junior year of high school. One of them had pretended to be interested just long enough to get Hux in a closet at a party where someone could bust in with a camera, forever damaging his reputation and his trust. The images circulated online for about a week before his father found out about them, used his pull as one of the private school’s biggest patrons to punish the students who did it, and had the photo removed with a stern warning on what would happen to those students if it surfaced again. Surprising, Hux had thought at the time, the way you can get something off the internet if you threaten people outside of it enough.
He had imagined his father would be furious with him for the entire ordeal, but it seemed being gay and being gullible were on equal measure with each other and of all the other disappointing things he turned out to be in Brendol Hux the First’s eyes. His sexuality never even came up in conversation. That night his mother made him his favorite supper to make him feel better, gave him a pat and kiss on the head before bed, and the subject was never approached again. It never had to be, as all through college and law school Hux had never had a successful enough relationship to bring anyone home, and as an adult his partners’ complaints were the same as they were when he was in school.
You work too much, you care too little, you’re never home, you’re not ‘emotionally available.’
Whatever the hell that meant.
“So,” Phasma chimed, breaking Hux out of his momentary trip down shit memory lane, “if no Facebook, how are you going to go about finding a new roommate?”
Hux shrugged, nonchalant. He had a couple ideas tossing around in his head, overall he was just looking for someone who could move in the next two weeks, had the money for the rent, and didn’t get in his way. He wasn’t looking for a connection. “I don’t know,” he said finally, “I was thinking Craigslist?”
Phasma stared at him like he had grown a second head, and Hux squirmed under her gaze. “What?” he asked, defensive.
“Have you ever even made a Craigslist ad?”
Hux shot her an insulted look. “Well, no, but it can’t be hard, I do have a law degree. Besides, it’s probably where most people are looking for a short sublet, right?”
“Or a murder victim.”
“Well then maybe you should stay, you know, so I don’t end up on one of those true crime dramas you like to think I don’t hear you watching at 2 AM,” Hux shot back, smiling and taking the last swig of his beer in victory as Phasma lifted a hand to her chest in mock-offense. Her face held such a stark contrast between her wide open mouth and the smile in her eyes that Hux couldn’t help but start laughing, and Phasma followed suit.
Their bottles were empty and discarded by the time the last of the sun’s rays had disappeared over the horizon.
He was going to miss this.
After two hours of staring at his computer, Hux was really starting to regret waiting until Phasma was gone and there were only a few days left in the month to write the ad for subletting her room. She had been right to look surprised when he mentioned Craigslist, as it was becoming increasingly clear to him that the website had a status-quo of grammar and rhetoric that didn’t exactly match up with his own. He had attempted to look at the other listings to use as an outline, but most were written in all-caps, covered in stock photos and clearly posted by brokers in the area. No matter how much he erased and re-wrote, he couldn’t help but feel it was still too…formal.
Glancing at the clock, Hux saw there were only ten minutes left before he needed to leave in order to catch the train that would deposit him outside his office with enough time to grab an egg sandwich at the bodega next door. He let out a small huff and put his fingers on the keys again, reviewing what he had thus far.
ROOM IN PARK SLOPE 2BDRM FOR SUBLET - $1100/mo
I am looking for a subletter to fill the second bedroom in my apartment until the end of the lease in five months, ideally moving in before the 1st. The unit is a two bedroom, one bath second floor walk up in a three story building and located 2 avenue and 3 street blocks from the 9th St/4th Ave F/G/R stop. It has a comfortable kitchen/living room, the bedroom for rent is sizable and has a street-facing window. The heat and hot water are included in the rent, utilities are generally $120 a month for electric and internet. I am looking for someone who will keep mainly to themselves, pay rent in a timely manner, and will not smoke in the unit.
For more information or to view the room, please contact me.
Reading it over, Hux felt it still sounded off, but it covered all the needed information, and perhaps formality would work in his favor for getting a level-headed roommate. He had almost clicked the link to post it when Millicent, his orange tabby, woke from her slumber and padded over to weave between his legs, letting out a soft meow. Hux smiled before reaching down with one hand to affectionately scratch her head. “Sorry, Milly, can’t forget about you,” he crooned before typing a quick ‘Must not have any cat allergies’ at the end, double checking that the address was right, hitting post, and closing his computer.
As he placed the laptop in his brown briefcase, double checking he had all the papers he would need for the day, another glance at the clock told him it was 6:25 AM. He would hopefully have some answers to his ad by the time he got back home, and could arrange some showings before bed. If he was lucky, he could get someone moved in just in time for the next months rent to be due.
With one last affectionate pat for Millicent, who gave him a small chirp in response between bites of the breakfast she was now focused on, Hux was out the door.
It was 9:38 PM. Hux had gotten home from work, showered, made his dinner, fed Millicent, set aside his papers for the next day, replied to the two people who had e-mailed him interested in the room, and completed all of his other nightly rituals. He was relaxing on the couch with his nose in a book that came as close to leisure reading as he could manage (a nonfiction retelling of a Supreme Court case in 1992), with Millicent purring contently in his lap.
Or he would be, if his eyes weren’t glued to the clock on the far wall. He blinked, readjusting his gaze to see if he was mistaken, but he wasn’t.
It was 9:38 at night.
So who the hell was knocking on his door?
The first knock had been peculiar, but easy to ignore. It wouldn’t be the first time a delivery boy had knocked on the wrong apartment before realizing his mistake. It was the second knock, ten seconds later, more forceful, that had caused Hux to look up from his book and regard the time. He waited a moment, hoping whoever was there would simply leave when he didn’t answer. Upon hearing no footsteps walking away, he marked his page, put his book down, lifted Millicent from his lap and walked over to the door, fully intent on telling off whoever had the gall of showing up uninvited at this time of night.
He swung open the door with more force than proper, but the quip he had in his head died in his throat. Standing in front of him was a man only slightly taller than himself, but broader, the tight doorframe doing nothing to diminish how large he looked. He was dressed in dark but loose clothing and, aside from his pale face, everything about him reminded Hux ridiculously of a shadow. From his dark wash jeans and charcoal grey v-neck to the black hair just tickling the bottom of his face and the bags under his eyes. He looked about Hux’s age, maybe a few years younger. His eyes were dark, just the faintest hint of brown, and they were…staring.
Right at Hux.
“Can I- Can I help you?” Hux managed to get out upon that realization, only a few seconds later than proper. He hated himself for stuttering, but figured the circumstances could warrant an excuse.
The expression on the pale face in front of him changed to one of mild confusion and annoyance, regarding Hux like he should know already. “You posted about a room for rent?” the stranger asked. His voice was deep, gruff, almost raspy, but still somehow quieter than Hux had expected it to be. He only had a moment to contemplate the stranger’s voice and wonder what exactly he had expected, however, until what the man had said registered.
“I’m sorry, but how exactly did you know which apartment I was?” Hux asked, standing up a little straighter and letting the initial shock out of his system. He had included the address in the listing of course, but there were nine units in the building, and he had specifically left his apartment number off to avoid exactly this. “And on top of that, how did you even get in the building?”
The dark haired stranger shifted on his feet and let out a huff, like he was irritated at the situation and the questions being asked of him. It was astonishing to Hux, who didn’t even have shoes on, that this stranger would be irritated at him when he was the one to show up uninvited on Hux’s doorstep. The absolute gall.
“The guy from 1B was coming home when I showed up and I followed him in. And if you really don’t want people to know your unit, don’t sign your name at the end of the ad next time Einstein, considering it’s also on your mailbox.”
The answer was probable, and almost excusable, but Hux still made a mental note to talk to his neighbor about letting people into the building who he didn’t recognize. In reality Hux was one to talk, in his time here he still only barely knew what half the people in his building looked like and probably would have made the same mistake, but his current lingering irritation clouded out his potential sympathy for his downstairs neighbor.
The stranger stared at him, waiting for a reply, and upon receiving none spoke up again. “Are you going to let me see the room or not?”
Now, if you asked him, Hux would say he had no idea why he felt compelled to step aside and let the dark haired man walk past him into the open space of his living room. The obvious answer would be that more people looking at the room would get it filled faster, or that the entire situation caught Hux so off-guard that he wasn’t thinking properly. The less obvious answer was the nagging part of Hux’s gut that for some reason had to see where this encounter was going to go.
Taking long strides through the entranceway, the stranger passed a hand over the countertop to his left before making his way to the living room. The apartment was sizable by New York standards, certainly bigger than anything you could find in Manhattan for the price. The kitchen consisted of two countertops parallel to each other with enough space for two people in the middle, the one closest to the door stood bare aside from a coffee maker and a stack of unread mail, the other housing the stove, sink, microwave, and a refrigerator to the far right. Past the kitchen was the sizable living room (the perk that had made Hux and Phasma choose the apartment in the first place) which fit a full couch against the far left wall and a coffee table in front of it while still having enough space to move comfortably around. There was a small, basic desk and chair set up underneath the street-facing window on the far wall, which mostly housed Hux’s papers and current projects. Next to it stood a tall but thin bookshelf, filled largely with legal text, the three bottom shelves empty where Phasma’s things had been.
Brown eyes took in everything, the stranger’s face giving no indication on his reaction to the apartment. Hux noted that he took everything in evenly, however his eyes lingered on the mostly bare walls, the only thing hanging in the room being a somewhat ornate looking clock to his right. The stark white walls reflected the light in the room back onto the stranger, who seemed much less intimidating standing in the open expanse of the living room. “No TV?” he asked, finally breaking the silence.
“No cable,” came Hux’s reply, “we have high speed internet, if you want to watch anything you can stream it.” He startled himself a little, talking to this odd person in his living room as if he was actually considering letting him live here, until Hux realized that, well, he hadn’t exactly decided he wasn’t. Hux could see him a little better now that he was out of the dimmer light of the hallway, the man’s face was soft aside from the sharp angle of his nose, and despite his large amount of hair Hux could see the very tips of his ears poking out from the black mess. His neck and face were accentuated by small black spots, freckles or moles he couldn’t tell. Even from where Hux was standing at the end of the kitchen counter he could see that the man’s eyelashes were long and dark, the contrast probably the only reason you could see the brown in his eyes at all. He was tall, lean, and admittedly handsome in his own ridiculous way.
More than anything though, he carried himself in a way that Hux was so fundamentally unfamiliar with he found himself staring for longer than probably appropriate. The same nagging in his stomach that let the stranger in wanted desperately to know what kind of person could possibly feel so at ease with himself that he shows up to a stranger’s apartment at almost ten at night and walks in like he’s been there for years.
Hux had become a lawyer to find answers, after all.
Seemingly finished with his initial look around the apartment, the stranger turned to regard the small hallway to his right. It had two doors on either side, the left leading to Phasma’s old room, the right to Hux’s. At the end of the hall was the door to the unit’s basic shared bathroom. Hux anticipated what the man’s next question would be and stepped forward, walking down the hall and opening the door to the empty bedroom before he could ask. The stranger followed, stepping through the doorway and into the room. He took a cursory look around, peeking out the window and then opening the door to the small closet in the corner, the floors creaking slightly under his weight, his face once again giving no indication of how he felt about what he was seeing.
Finally, after a minute of silent inspection (the stranger looking at the room, Hux looking at the stranger) he came to stop in front of Hux. “I’ll take it,” he said simply, not breaking eye contact with the shorter man in front of him.
Once again, Hux found himself taken aback by the stranger’s startling confidence and slight audacity. “You assume I’ll give it to you,” he responded bluntly, for some reason determined not to let the shadow of a man have what he thought he could take so easily, “I don’t know anything about you. Do you have a job to pay rent? Do you cook? Clean? Do you even have a name?”
Hux watched the stranger’s expression shift from neutral to analyzing. Clearly he wasn’t incredibly experienced in people not handing him whatever he wanted, or he at least didn’t expect Hux to actually try to deny him what he came there for. The man regarded Hux like it was the first time he was actually seeing him, looking him up and down, taking him in, his dark eyes leaving a slightly uncomfortable feeling of being laid bare in their wake. Finally his eyes made their way back up to Hux’s own, bearing into him. He smirked, and Hux swore he saw a mischievous gleam in his eye when he did it. Reaching into his back pocket the stranger fished around for a moment before producing a thick, white, unmarked envelope that had been folded in half, handing it to Hux who took it without breaking eye contact. Hux made sure to give him a pointed, suspicious look before averting his eyes to open the envelope, and he almost fell over after peeking inside.
It was cash. By the looks of the thick stack of one hundred dollar bills, a decent amount of it.
“Five months, fifty-five hundred dollars, according to the ad. I can pay it up front. After that, I figure what I do doesn’t matter. I’m a fair cook, and I clean the messes I make,” the stranger said, speaking to the top of Hux’s head as he counted out the cash to double check the amount. Five thousand five hundred dollars, exactly. Of all the things he expected, being handed an envelope of money wasn’t at the top of it, but Hux had held more in his life, so he was able to keep his composure over the surprise of it all. He began to stuff the money back into it’s packaging, mentally considering his options.
“And it’s Kylo Ren.”
That made Hux look up.
“That’s your name? Really? Kylo Ren?”
“Yes. I’d ask yours, Brendol, but we already established that you signed it at the bottom of a Craigslist ad.”
Fresh irritation sparked in the back of Hux’s mind, and for a moment he considered turning the offer away and kicking the stranger - no, Kylo Ren, what a ridiculous name - out on his ass. It wouldn’t be hard, perhaps even called for, and he did have a couple of other people interested in the room. He could easily shove the envelope back in his hand, tell him to leave, to get the hell out of his home, and be done with this entire surreal experience and this ridiculous man.
He told himself it was the rapidly encroaching first of the month, and the security of knowing he wouldn’t have to worry about someone potentially unreliable skipping out on rent. He told himself it was not the curiosity beginning to claw at him about the man in front of him. He told himself it wasn’t how begrudgingly handsome he found him, regardless of if he would admit it. He told himself a lot of things, but when he opened his mouth, he didn’t quite know which it was that rang true.
“Alright, you know what, fine. You have no tact, or sense of timing, considering you decided it appropriate to show up at my door this late at night, but I care more about filling this room than any of that, and as far as I can tell you aren’t an axe murderer.” As he said it he exited the bedroom, Kylo Ren following close behind. As they re-entered the living room, Hux turned his head. “I’ll call you this week to set up moving in. How soon can you do it?”
“Tomorrow,” Kylo replied, “I don’t have a lot, it’ll only take a few trips.”
Hux nodded and grabbed a spare pen and paper from his desk, turning to Kylo. “Great. Write your number on this paper and I’ll call you when I get home from work, which is generally around six. If you don’t have a lot it shouldn’t be a problem to start that late.”
Kylo took the paper without a word, scribbled his number on it and handed it back. His penmanship was sloppy, but legible, and Hux could see how Kylo’s handwriting took care to make sure the four and nine looked different to avoid confusion. He took it and walked towards the apartment entrance, setting the pen and paper on the kitchen counter as he passed. Hux opened the door, standing next to it, and Kylo walked past him without a word, turning around only once he passed the threshold. “I’ll be here around six, then,” he said simply.
“You will,” Hux agreed, “I’ll see you then.”
He watched as Kylo turned away, heading to the stairs at the end of the hall. His long strides put him there in only a few steps, and Hux couldn’t help but relish the view, just a little, before he remembered something.
“Oh, and Ren,” Hux called after him, deciding that ‘Kylo’ is was little too ridiculous of a name to actually use out loud. Kylo turned and looked up right before he reached the stairs and locked eyes with Hux, expectant. His gaze bore into him again, like he could see straight into the older man’s core, see all his secrets, but Hux stared back, unafraid.
“Don’t call me Brendol.”
For the briefest flash of a moment, Kylo’s lips turned up into a smile that split his face and made his dark eyes brighten, but in a second it was gone, along with the small huff he let out before turning back around.
“See you tomorrow, Hux,” he called as he descends the stairs, one arm up in a lazy, haphazard wave goodbye.
Hux kind of hated him.