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Come of Age

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Hux has technically been off shift for two hours when Ren storms into his office and gives him a long, helmeted stare that is probably supposed to be threatening. Hux doesn’t dignify this with a look. He’s only halfway through the backlog of data checks that he intended to get done earlier today, prior to the gas leak on Echo deck and the emergency evacuation and bunk reassignments that took up most of his workday. The entire potentially disastrous incident resulted in only two stormtroopers being sent to med bay for minor exposure issues. No one has thanked Hux for managing the crisis seamlessly, but they never do.

“Not now,” Hux says, cutting Ren off when he attempts to utter the first syllable of some demand through that vocoder.

“There are only three hours left in this cycle,” Ren says.

This statement is just inane enough to get Hux to look up from his work.

“Thank you for bursting in here to interrupt me with that astute observation,” Hux says. “The timekeeper on my data pad just wasn’t doing the trick. It’s so much more exciting to hear the time of day stated in a spontaneous personal address. Now, if you don’t mind--”

“I do mind,” Ren says. He’s still got the helmet on, so he probably hasn’t come here for some kind of sex romp, though there have been times when the helmet stays on during those. “It’s your birthday,” Ren says.

Hearing this through the mask makes it all the more ridiculous. Hux stares at Ren and waits for the rest of whatever joke he’s trying to tell.

“I suppose that’s accurate,” Hux says when Ren just stands there and seethes as if Hux has forgotten his birthday. As if Hux even knows when that occurs. “In your culture, I guess that means-- Sweets? Fireworks? I don’t know, Ren, but my people don’t celebrate the underwhelming fact that we were once born and that we have spent another year managing not to die, so. I’m kind of at a loss for what you want from me at the moment.”

“I prepared something,” Ren says, still angry. “In your rooms.”

“Something?” Hux says, with dread. “You didn’t-- Ren, please tell me there aren’t people waiting to fete me in my rooms.”

“Waiting to-- What?” Ren says. He pulls the helmet off at last, revealing the exact expression Hux anticipated: petulant, scowling, wounded. “Of course there aren’t people,” Ren says. “I don’t like people, you don’t like people. Why would there be people?”

“My cursory knowledge of birthday celebrations includes something about parties.”

“It’s not a party. It’s something you’ll like.”

Hux is tempted to refute this assumption that Ren knows him well enough to be able to judge what he likes, beyond what he likes to do in bed, but he supposes it would disingenuous to pretend they don’t know each other dangerously well at this point. Ren knows that Hux has certain weaknesses: a stiff drink when he’s off duty, a tendency to avoid sleep until he’s mentally malfunctioning, the inability to keep quiet when Ren shoves his dick into him at a particular, perfect angle. Hux, meanwhile, knows that Ren was Ben Solo, and that in some small ways he still is. Related, perhaps, is the fact that Hux also knows Ren has a secret fondness for affectionate gestures such as being held after sex, explicitly hearing that he’s wanted even when it should be obvious enough to go without saying, and celebrating birthdays, apparently.

“We’ve been fucking since I was twenty-nine,” Hux says. “Why is thirty-four the magic number that suddenly spurs you to ‘prepare something’ in my rooms?”

“I don’t know,” Ren says. He seems earnestly taken off guard, as if he hadn’t considered that yet himself. “I just thought of something you might like, and I made it for you, so you need to come and get it before it’s not your birthday anymore.”

“What difference would a few hours--”

“It matters!” Ren says, bellowing this. “Come with me. At once. This data check shit can wait until your next shift.”

Hux opens his mouth to tell Ren that it absolutely cannot wait, but Ren is not entirely wrong in insisting that it can, and Hux’s eyes had already begun to glaze over before Ren burst in here with a birthday directive. Also, Hux is curious now about just what sort of thing Ren has ‘made,’ though not without a measure of persisting dread.

“Have you destroyed my rooms in the process of making this thing?” Hux asks, rising from his chair.

Ren gives him a humorless stare, then puts the helmet back on.

“Just come with me,” he says, his needy, spoiled cadence only partially obscured by the vocoder.

Ren tries to lead the way, as if Hux doesn’t know how to reach his own rooms. Hux hurries to keep in step with him, which requires some effort in his present overworked and overtired state. Ren has an almost comically long stride, and though Hux’s legs are approximately as long as Ren’s-- their miniscule height discrepancy mostly arising from Ren’s longer torso, according to Hux’s crude calculations --it’s always been hard to match Ren’s pace. He walks with a sloping, animal urgency that Hux doesn’t like to imitate, for one thing.

“Wait here,” Ren says, turning abruptly and putting his hand against Hux’s chest when they’ve nearly reached his door. “I need to make sure it’s all still-- Right.”

“Ren,” Hux says pronouncing it like a warning. All he really wants to find on the other side of that door is his bed, plus maybe a drink and a fuck before his head hits the pillow. Still, he waits in the hallway, feeling like an idiot and glad that few have reason to pass through this particular hallway during the graveyard shift.

After an annoying stretch of minutes, Ren opens Hux’s door just enough to poke his head out. He’s taken the helmet off again.

“I’m ready for you,” Ren says, and Hux has to hold in a laugh, as this makes him think of the evening when he fucked Ren for the first time. Ren had been vocal and clingy and so overcome with satiation that Hux forgave both of those traits and found the whole thing very enjoyable, though he still prefers to be the one who goes boneless and receives attentions in bed. It’s only fair. Hux works much harder than Ren, elsewhere on the ship, and Ren has the Force to assist him when he exerts himself.

By the time Hux passes through the doorway and into his front sitting room, he’s expecting Ren to present him with some kind of embarrassing arts and crafts mess that Hux will have to feign some amount of enthusiasm for. When he finds his rooms looking as they usually do, not even festooned with streamers or whatever other birthday detritus Ren might have scraped up for him, he begins to fear that a trembling lieutenant is going to step out from the bedchamber, nude, hypnotized or otherwise coerced. Hux and Ren have talked, while fucking, about what it would be like to spit roast someone who drooled over their combined power, but Hux doesn’t actually want that outside of the realm of heated dirty talk, and he hopes like hell that Ren doesn’t.

“Can you see it yet?” Ren asks. He has removed not only his helmet but also his cloak, tunic, and boots. He’s standing barefoot in his tight pants and thick belt, watching Hux’s expression with childlike expectancy.

“See what?” Hux asks, raking his eyes over Ren’s naked chest again. “You look-- Very well, this evening. Have you trimmed your hair a bit? Is that the gift?” Hux has been getting after him to do that. He’s grown to like the long hair, and maybe he even sort of loves it, but too long and it becomes unseemly. Ren is scowling.

“Come here,” Ren says. “Let me help.”

“Help-- What?”

“You’re too closed off. You’re still thinking about work.”

“I wasn’t, actually.” Hux is always relieved when Ren is unable to read his thoughts. He tries not to be smug about it, because Ren interprets gloating as a challenge.

“Just-- fuck! Hux! I’m trying to give you a present!”

Ren is suddenly furious, which isn’t uncommon and doesn’t manage to rile Hux. He imagines Ren waiting here for hours, pacing, checking Hux’s location with the Force and trying-- then failing --to resist the urge to go and collect him. Hux is smirking when Ren stomps across the room, grabs Hux’s face and exhales a hot breath against his upper lip.

“Close your eyes,” Ren says, his voice low and rough, something desperate trembling beneath it.

“Why?” Hux asks, but he complies when Ren kisses him.

Ren is a good kisser, because Hux taught him how. Hux taught Ren everything he knows about sex, though Ren won’t admit it in so many words. He was some kind of teenage monk before Hux, and even in his early twenties he seemed to do nothing but skulk around sexlessly and obey Snoke’s wishes. By twenty-five Ren was manhandling Hux during their fights, holding him by his lapels and barely keeping his face an inch away from Hux’s when he snarled at him, helmet or not. Hux saw through the raw energy of it easily enough. All he’d had to do was gasp a certain way, once, when Ren pinned him to a wall. Ren’s pupils got so fat. Hux had never thought it would be thrilling to be looked at like prey, like a thing about to be consumed.

Something happens while they’re kissing. Hux feels a kind of breeze against his cheek, and it can’t be Ren’s breath, because he’s breathing into Hux’s wet mouth, kissing him as if he’s afraid to stop. Ren holds Hux in place when he tries to pull free, and Hux opens his eyes with an angry grunt, smelling something floral and hearing something that sounds alarmingly like lapping water.

“What!” Hux shouts, and he turns from the view of a fucking lake that they’re suddenly standing beside and shows Ren the unmasked horror on his face.

“It’s okay!” Ren says. “Hux, it’s--”

“Where have you-- What have you--”

“Shh, we’re still in your rooms. It’s just a vivid, uh. Fantasy. I’ve been working on how to do this, using the Force. It’s not easy, okay, it took-- Some time. Like, years. This is-- Look, don’t you recognize it?”

“No!” Hux is nearly hyperventilating as he peers up at what should be the ceiling of his sitting room. Instead, there’s a clear blue sky, cut through with a few soaring white birds and lit by mild mid-afternoon sunshine. Hux grabs for Ren’s arm and clings, turning to look for the flickering edges of this hologram, but there don’t seem to be any.

“It’s Naboo,” Ren says, speaking softly now, as if Hux is a frightened child. “Remember? I told you about how I vacationed here as a kid. You said it sounded like paradise.”

“Palpatine’s planet?” Hux says, looking down to see that they’re standing on the sandy lakeshore.

“My grandmother’s planet,” Ren says, defensively. He doesn’t admire Palpatine. Nor does Hux, but he does regard the former Emperor as at least more successful than pathetic Vader, whom Ren valorizes for purely genetic reasons, Hux has gathered.

“How real is it?” Hux asks, digging the tip of his boot into the sand. He already feels hot in his greatcoat, and he allows Ren to remove his command cap.

“It’s only real in my head,” Ren says. “And in yours.” He studies Hux’s face, maybe waiting for some indication that Hux is impressed. “But it feels real, right? We could even swim. And you won’t get sunburned,” Ren adds, hurriedly. “If you want to undress, uh. And no one will see us-- Well, obviously. It’s like our own little world.”

“Are you straining yourself?” Hux asks, still holding Ren’s arm. “This seems like it could be-- Taxing.”

“I’m fine. It’s actually not that hard, once you get the hang of it. Getting the hang of it in the first place is the tricky part. I figured out that accessing my own memories was the way to go. Here, take these off.”

Ren starts working on removing Hux’s clothes. Hux allows this, dumbfounded and nervous, peeking at the beautiful surroundings and not quite trusting them yet, even as a fantasy for two. He and Ren have been unreserved in their shared fantasies in recent years, now that they at least trust each other in the bedroom, but this is another level entirely.

“How long did it take you to prepare this?” Hux asks when Ren has everything above Hux’s waist stripped away and lying in sand that would be a nuisance to get off of his uniform, were it real.

“Just a few hours,” Ren says, avoiding Hux’s eyes in a way that makes him suspect that preparations for an illusion this elaborate may have begun days ago. The breeze alone is amazing: sweet-scented and soft, ruffling Hux’s hair gently. It’s almost affectionate, like an extension of Ren’s more literal touches. Hux leans up to kiss Ren’s cheek when Ren works on unfastening his belt.

“It’s very impressive,” Hux says. “I mean it,” he says when Ren peeks at his face to check for signs of sarcasm. “Ren, I. I’ve never been to a place like this.”

“I know you haven’t.”

“Where I grew up-- It always rained. Always.”

“I know,” Ren says.

Hux looks down, watching Ren pull his belt free from its loops. He’s embarrassed to recall that he did tell Ren about his rainy childhood once, along with quite a few other things about his time on Arkanis. This was after a drink or two and at least one orgasm, when they were dozing in bed together. Another of Hux’s weaknesses is allowing his eyes to fall shut in Ren’s company, and then allowing Ren’s fingers to soothe over his arm and up along his neck, into his hair, then back down again. It’s some kind of Force-related trick, probably. It makes Hux confess the damnedest things.

“I have to take my pants off, too?” Hux says, though he doesn’t really mind, and in fact his cock twitches in his briefs as Ren unbuttons his breeches.

“For swimming,” Ren says. He leaves Hux’s fly hanging open and pulls off his own belt. It fastens in back like a woman’s garment, which Hux has always found funny.

“I don’t know how to swim,” Hux says, glancing at the lake.

“You don’t have to swim, exactly,” Ren says. “You can just kind of walk around in the water. Or sit. It’s shallow, near the shore.”

Hux sits in the sand to take off his boots, which always require removal before his pants have any hope of clearing his ankles. He’s been fucked with his boots on more often than not, for this reason.

“What would happen if I went under?” Hux asks. “Is this illusion powerful enough to drown me?”

“I won’t let you die in your birthday present,” Ren says, so gravely that Hux laughs.

“I’m not afraid that you will,” Hux says. “Just curious, just wondering if it’s possible.”

“Of course not. And stop thinking about it as an illusion. The more you let yourself go, the more real it will feel.”

Hux snorts and imagines Ren saying this about sex. It’s true that it’s always felt more real with Ren than it had with anyone who preceded him. Most of Hux’s other partners had felt more like co-masturbators than people who were experiencing something with him in true simultaneous bliss. None of them had come close to feeling like people who were the experience, wholly and uniquely. Ren certainly is that, for Hux, and Hux sits on the shore of Ren’s fantasy-memory lake, watching the sunlight glitter on the surface of the water and trying to lose himself as instructed. It seems like very bad advice in general, to lose oneself to anything, but Hux allows his reservations to evaporate when Ren sits behind him and pulls him back against his chest, Ren’s legs seeming somehow much longer than Hux’s when they clamp around him. They’re both stripped down to their underwear now, and Ren’s cock is half-hard against the small of Hux’s back.

“You’re aroused by memories of your childhood lake?” Hux asks, reaching back to cup Ren’s cheek.

“No,” Ren says, and he rubs the rough pad of his thumb over Hux’s left nipple, squeezing Hux closer when he flexes into the touch. “It’s just-- You, it’s-- Do you like it?”

“Of course I do. It’s really remarkable. Thank you.”

“I might have been royalty on this planet,” Ren says, as if they’re really looking out at a pristine Naboo vista and not sitting on the floor in Hux’s rooms, cuddling inside a charming delusion. “If things had been different for my mother.”

“Well, if things had been different for my father I might already be Emperor, or I might be working a janitorial shift on a remote base, but here we are. Should we get in the water, or are you going to fuck me on this sand first?”

“Fucking in sand wouldn’t be very good,” Ren says, looking very serious about this assessment when Hux turns back to him. “It gets everywhere.”

“I am familiar with the properties of sand,” Hux says. “I have been to desert planets. It was a joke. Let’s get in, okay?”

Hux laughs when what feels like real water laps against his ankles, warm and clean. Ren splashes in like an idiot, dives. Hux hangs back and sinks in more slowly, brings a handful of water to his face and is a little disappointed when it feels wet but doesn’t cling to him the way real water would. Ren’s hair is dry when he surfaces, and Hux has to wonder if Ren designed things this way on purpose, to suit his own vanity. Ren’s hair is far more fetching when it’s dry, bouncy and shiny. When it’s wet, Ren’s big ears stick out from beneath limp strands. Hux secretly likes Ren’s ears, though not really for aesthetic reasons. He likes them as a sort of symbol of Ren’s general unruliness, and all the parts of him that shouldn’t fit together so well but do anyway.

“Don’t,” Ren mutters when he’s holding Hux in the water, Hux’s legs wrapped around Ren’s waist while he seems to float in Ren’s grip, weightless. Hux ignores this protest and tucks Ren’s hair behind his ears again when Ren tries to shake it over them.

“It’s my birthday,” Hux says. “You’re really going to deny me the chance to fondle your ears?”

“You’re not fondling them,” Ren says, flushing. Hux laughs and leans forward to pull the lobe of Ren’s left ear between his teeth, carefully. He uses his tongue there next, and notes the way Ren’s hands tighten on his ass, under the simulated water.

“Is this magically lubricated water?” Hux asks, pulling back. “The kind you can comfortably fuck in?”

“No,” Ren says, and his face actually falls, as if he’s afraid Hux has found a real flaw in his gift. “I don’t know how to do that. This is based in my actual memories--”

“Ren, I was joking,” Hux says, though he kind of wasn’t. “You don’t have to fuck me here,” he says, pressing his lips to Ren’s ear again. “So long as I have you inside me before the end of the cycle. I deserve that, for my birthday, don’t I?”

“Suddenly you’re so into the idea of celebrating your birthday,” Ren says. He smirks when Hux leans back and huffs. “Whatever you want,” Ren says, more softly. Something about this promise is startlingly sincere, and Hux wonders how far it might stretch.

There’s a sound that startles both of them out of the moment that follows, which was heavy and effervescent at the same time. Voices from the shore. They both turn, Hux’s legs unwinding from Ren’s waist.

“Oh no,” Ren says, shaking his head. “No, no, no--”

On the shore, a boy with black hair runs toward the water. Behind him, a woman with very long brown hair follows in an airy beach dress, carrying a heavy bag and calling out to the boy. A third person takes a more leisurely route toward the lake: a man whose open shirt flaps in the breeze.

“Fuck!” Ren says, so furiously that Hux moves away from him. “No, fuck-- I messed it up. I’m sorry. This is-- This is the actual memory. This isn’t supposed to be here.”

“Is that Leia Organa?” Hux asks when he begins to understand. He moves away from Ren, toward this memory of Hux’s current major military rival as she laughs and beckons for the man Hux presumes is Ren’s father, little Ben diving into the water the same way that big Ren had.

“Stop!” Ren shouts. He’s talking to Hux. “Don’t get near them!”

“Why not?” Hux asks, unable to peel his eyes away. If Ren could modify this ability to include more significant memories, Hux could learn so much about his enemy’s weaknesses. There she is: roughly Hux’s age, standing unguarded at the edge of a lake, watching her son with mild concern as he shows off like a younger child might. Ben is maybe thirteen here, gangly, his ears poking out when he surfaces with authentically wet hair.

“Hux!” Ren shouts, and the scene begins to crumble. First the sky turns gray, morphing back into the ceiling of Hux’s sitting room and ruining the sense of perspective, then the breeze dies off, and the grand scale of the illusion shrinks until it’s telescoped around Ben’s memory of his own appearance on this day, his pale shoulders bobbing in the water as he waits for his parents to take notice of him in some way that he seems to need. They’re turning toward each other on the shore, smaller now and farther away somehow: Leia sweeping her ridiculously long hair over her shoulder, Solo reaching to put his hand on her waist. Hux blinks and it’s all gone. He’s left with only a dull headache that seems to tighten against his temples. He turns and sees Ren glowering at the place where the memory had seemed to exist, now just a blank spot on the wall near the doorway to Hux’s bedchamber.

“Well,” Hux says, scooting across the floor. He is actually undressed, that part apparently having been real enough, and Ren is also seated in his underwear. “You’ll get better at this as you practice it more--”

“No,” Ren says sharply, and he scrambles to his feet. “No-- Never mind. I’m never doing that again.”

“Why? Because-- oh, Ren--” Hux swallows the urge to ask Ren not to launch into a tantrum over this. Accusing him of being a in pre-tantrum state usually makes the oncoming meltdown inevitable.

Ren leaves the room and goes into Hux’s bedchamber. When he returns, he’s holding some kind of blue frosted confection, which he throws on the table at the center of the sitting room, causing the top layer of the thing to jump away from the bottom half, yellow crumbs exploding out from the middle.

“I made you a fucking cake, too,” Ren says, launching this information at Hux as if it’s a weapon. He stares at Hux, still looking as if he’s ready to somehow blame Hux for his parents showing up in that Naboo lake fantasy-memory. “You can’t use my memories to spy on my-- You can’t use them for anything. Fuck, I’m sorry I tried to do something nice!”

Ren storms into the bedroom rather than dressing and leaving, and Hux is left staring at the half-smashed cake. Since when can Ren cook anything? He walks to the table and picks up a crumb, tentatively places it on his tongue. When it tastes the way he expects it to, he pinches a piece of cake from the top half and pops it into his mouth. Even the frosting, a foodstuff Hux normally abhors, tastes good.

Ren has thrown himself onto Hux’s bed. He’s lying on his side, curled in on himself a bit, breathing heavily. Hux thinks this is overdramatic verging on pathological, but if he points that out there will be shouting, possibly tears, and at best he’ll spend the remainder of his off-shift hours comforting Ren, whereas he’d prefer to have whatever sort of sex he can salvage and sleep, with Ren huddled in his arms if necessary.

“Your cake turned out well,” Hux says. He strips off his underwear and hops onto the bed, enjoying the way that the mattress bounces, Ren’s melodramatic posture bouncing along with it. Hux crawls over to Ren and drapes himself around him, his chin resting on Ren’s shoulder. “Who knew that one of your many talents is baking?” Hux says, sweeping Ren’s hair away from his face.

“A droid made it,” Ren says, his eyes still closed. Hux is pretty sure this is a lie, but he allows it.

“I really liked what you did,” Hux says. “With your memory. Sorry it got spoiled by your parents showing up, but you must understand why I’m fascinated.”

“Because she’s your nemesis and you’d like to gather intelligence about her past that you can use against her. I felt it, when you moved toward them.”

“Well, also because it was your past,” Hux says, still stroking Ren’s hair. There’s a part of him that resents having to coddle anybody, but when Ren turns to give him a pleading, open look that Hux is fairly sure no one since Leia Organa has seen, he doesn’t mind so much. “You were a cute kid,” Hux says. “Eager to please. I was like that, too. Maybe in a different way, but I can relate.”

“I don’t want to talk about it,” Ren says, his eyes darkening.

“Fine. Look, what if we turned it into something else? Pulled it away from your real memory. The place could still be real, for us.”

“What do you mean?”

“Like-- Hmm.” Hux tucks himself more snugly around Ren, pressing his face to Ren’s neck. “You were saying things might have been different for you there if-- Well, if actual history hadn’t happened. So let’s say they were different, and you were there as a--Prince, I guess? A Prince of Naboo. Eighteen or so, wandering the shore by the lake, having some fantasy about running away from it all.”

Hux had those as a teenager, even as a mere Commandant’s son. Not frequently, but occasionally. There was enough of a mantle to pass down from Brendol to him that he’d vividly fled it all in his daydreams, once or twice.

“Then what?” Ren asks. He’s mumbling, but there’s clear interest in his voice. Hux grins and licks his neck.

“Then I come along,” Hux says. “An older man-- Only four years older, but obviously galaxy-weary.”

“I’m galaxy-weary, too,” Ren says. “I’m a fucking Prince. I’ve seen shit.”

“Right,” Hux says, writhing against Ren with a kind of shiver of pleasure. He’d once never dreamed he would find someone else like him, let alone a powerful and uniquely fascinating man with a big cock who indulges in this kind of thing, beyond the basic fantasies that most people can relate to. Ren even outdoes Hux when it comes to obsessing over the details. “But you’re quite sheltered,” Hux says, and he licks Ren’s neck again, slowly this time. “Aren’t you?”

“I’m inexperienced. That’s what you think?”

“I think so.” Hux turns Ren onto his back. “I think you’re a poor little rich prince who can’t relate to most people, even to the other people at court, and you’re wandering the lakeshore all alone when you come across a stranger with red hair.”

“You’re just some tourist?”

“No, no. I’m posing as a tourist. I’m actually a very high level assassin.”

This was Hux’s boyhood fantasy. He didn’t want to be a leader so much as he wanted to be a deadly shadow, a sharp-shooter who crept from target to target. He was drawn to Ren for that reason-- First in resentful, jealous hatred, of course. Ren was still a teenager when Hux met him, and already growing infamous for his ability to wipe out an enemy.

“And you’re here on Naboo to assassinate me?” Ren says.

“I am,” Hux says. “But I need to get close to you first.” To get information-- Or would that too closely resemble what Hux wanted from that memory of Leia? “Or maybe I just want to. Because you’re so untouched. Maybe I want to be the one man who has known you that way before I end your young life.”

“Little do you know,” Ren says, “I’m secretly a Force-user. I know you’re an assassin. I’ve seen your mind. I’m just toying with you, making you think I’m your innocent victim.”

“Mhmm, and what do you do to show me that you’re not?”

“Well,” Ren says, sitting up on his elbows. He brings his mouth to Hux’s ear, whispers hotly, “I make you fall obsessively in love with me, of course.”

Hux snorts and resists the urge to pull back, not wanting to flinch at this, maybe the dirtiest talk they’ve passed between each other.

“And you do that in one night?” Hux says. “During one walk along the lake?”

“One night,” Ren says, and it’s more like a taunt than a promise in a fantasy. That first night-- Well. Hux hadn’t been in love, but he’d been calculating, before he’d even pulled himself out of Ren’s bed, how soon everything they’d done could be done again without risking much. Without risking getting so attached that they’d still be doing it five years later, maybe.

“So show me,” Hux says, pulling back to look Ren in the eyes. “Show me how a sad little prince convinces a heartless assassin not to kill him.”

“That depends,” Ren says. “When I read the assassin’s mind, what do I find him wanting more? Does he want to sink his cock into this untouched prince? Or does he want to spread his legs and get filled with the come of royalty?”

“The come of royalty?” Hux says, convulsing with a full-body cackle when Ren flips him onto his back and mounts him. “Well,” he says when Ren pins his hands, looking like he’s either furious again or withholding violent laughter. “You sound like you’re eighteen, so good job.”

“Lift your legs,” Ren says. “Hold them up.”

“How do I know you’re not using the Force on me?” Hux asks, just to hear what Ren will say. Hux pulls his knees up to his shoulders, comfortably aware that he’s showing himself to Ren for no reason beyond the fact that he likes the way it feels to be looked at like this. Ren exhales as his eyes move from Hux’s flushed throat and down to his shamelessly exposed hole, then back up to his face.

“Does it feel like the Force?” Ren asks. “Or just what you want?”

“Have you been waiting all day to hear me beg you for a birthday fuck?” Hux asks.

“I know you came here to kill me,” Ren says, dropping back into their fantasy. He teases his fingertip over Hux’s hole, keeps his eyes locked on Hux’s face when his eyelashes flutter. “And now you’re just where I want you.”

“Joke’s on you,” Hux says, huffing. He’s not sure how his assassin character would actually respond. Some boring assassin might have actually picked off his target from afar and missed this part. “Maybe you’re just where I want you.”

“Yeah?” Ren rubs his finger in circles, watches Hux’s mouth fall open. “This is as deep as you want me?”

“Would I be holding myself open for you if I didn’t want you deeper?”

“Have you ever noticed that you always answer a difficult question with another question?” Ren asks.

“I didn’t realize ‘how deep do you want me’ was a difficult question according to your metric, but no, Ren, you hadn’t shared that wonderful insight about me yet.”

The bedside drawer shoots open, which always means the same thing: speedy lube delivery, compliments of the Force. When Ren slides in, Hux tries to channel his inner assassin again: breathing through his nose, keeping his eyes open when Ren’s gaze drills down into his. He does groan when Ren is fully seated, but only because there is some part of him that still can’t believe, even after five years of being filled like this, that anyone could actually be so deep inside him.

“I know who you are,” Ren says, after a few slow thrusts.

Hux blinks up at him, feeling suddenly like Ren is a net he’s been caught in.

“What?” Hux says, hoping this inquiry sounds authoritative, possibly also threatening. He braces his hands on Ren’s biceps, his ass clenching around the inward slide of Ren’s dick.

“You came here to kill me,” Ren says.

“Oh-- Right.” The fantasy: Naboo, the prince, the sharp-shooter. Hux’s heart is racing, maybe just because he’s having sex. “So, uh. What are you going to do about it? Kill me first? You’ve got the upper hand.”

“Do I?” Ren says. He pulls out, slides in with a sharp snap of his hips. Hux groans. “You feel so good,” Ren says.

“You could find another ass to fuck,” Hux says. “Prince Ren. It would feel just as good.”

“I don’t know,” Ren says. He presses his face to Hux’s left temple and inhales deeply, then does the same on the other side of his head. “There’s something different about you,” Ren says.

“Different from what?” Hux asks, clenching up around him again. He’s well aware that the Master of the Knights of Ren, also known as ‘Ren,’ has never fucked another person. Hux would smell it on him, or Ren would confess in tears, or something.

“You could kill me,” Ren says, leaning in to mutter this against Hux’s ear. “But you won’t.”

“You’re so sure? Why? Why not, I mean? Why won’t I kill you?”

“Because you see me.” Ren pulls back and fucks Hux harder, as if he’s mad about being made to confess this. Hux rocks up against it, tips himself open as widely as he can. “You see me,” Ren says again. “Nobody else ever has.”

“Ren,” Hux says, without meaning to. He’s going to pick up the fantasy narrative again, but Ren kisses him before he can, and it goes on and on, Ren’s mouth a panting, wet mess over his as they fuck, both of them doing the active part somehow: Hux straining upward, Ren downward, both of them coated in sweat by the time Hux throws his head back and comes all over Ren’s chest, Ren following him fast and hard. Ren gets so heavy over Hux once he’s finished, and it should be frightening, but Hux clutches at Ren like he wants more weight, more slick skin, more come leaking from his ass, even while Ren is still shoved so deep into him, even when Hux is already overflowing in every way possible.

It doesn’t make any sense, but in his post-orgasmic delirium, before he’s fully himself again, Hux thinks he understands his stupid assassin character and Ren’s even stupider Prince of Naboo, and how they could end up sand-coated and fucked out together by a picturesque lake, giving up everything for the thought that they could just have this again.

Ren sucks at the soft skin between Hux’s jaw and neck, a little pillow that he’s bitten at softly since the first few times Hux let him linger like this, still inside him and so heavy. Hux grunts as if in protest, but Ren knows by now that’s just for show. He licks Hux there and sighs before he pulls out, which has also become a kind of ritual, and why shouldn’t it be? They’re both outlaws in somebody’s book. It could always be the last time.

“I’m gonna get some cake,” Ren says, standing at the end of the bed and throwing his hair back, pretending not to know how mythically beautiful he looks in this light. “You want some?”

“Yes,” Hux says. “Did a droid really make it?” he asks when Ren turns for the doorway.

“Yeah,” Ren says, keeping his back to Hux, certainly lying. “I mean-- A droid helped.”

They eat in cake in bed, carelessly scattering crumbs as if they’re stoned or drunk, and then Ren gets Hux’s reserve bottle of brandy and they kind of are drunk, passing the bottle and rolling over crumbs. Ren’s mouth tastes incredibly, impossibly good: sweet, but not too sweet, tempered with the quality booze and with something that Hux couldn’t even quantify as tasting good, objectively, except that it tastes like Ren.

“Look what you’ve done to me,” Hux says, muttering this against Ren’s mouth when the lights in his room are powered down and the bottle of brandy is on the bedside table, the cake sort of scattered all over. “This isn’t me,” Hux says, already half asleep.

“I’d say the same thing,” Ren says. “If it was that prince, and you were that assassin.”

“I’ll need time in the morning,” Hux says, trying to be angry about it. “To recover from this.”

“I know. I’ve accounted for that. I’ve made arrangements. The General’s birthday has been recognized. Sleep.”

“You’re spoiled,” Hux says. It comes out sounding grateful.

Ren kisses Hux’s neck, his ear, his hair. They both smell like sex and sugar and something else. Lake water? Surely not.

Hux falls asleep within the final hour of the cycle that roughly marks his thirty-fourth birthday. It’s an imprecise calculation, based on where they are in the galaxy as opposed to where he was born. Perhaps what matters more is the proximity of the people who wish to mark the occasion.