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Ten Months of May

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In the grand scheme of things, Hux's senior year was marked as one doomed to catastrophe before he even set foot in his dorm room. Had he known what to look for, he might have caught the warning signs.

The first was a voicemail from his father the morning of. It was a cursory sort of message asking him how his summer internship had gone, and if he had bought his ticket back to Boston for the coming winter break. Of course, Hux had not attended the internship Brendol Hux the senior was inquiring after. In fact, despite his own wishes, he had not attended any internship at all. Instead he had spent the summer working as a secretary in a Dentist’s office—the only job he’d been able to get short notice. Neither of his parents knew this, and if Hux had his way, they never were to know. 

The second was a call from his mother, the former Mrs. Hux, reminding him of the ballet he had agreed to see with her in December. As he had three times prior, he told her he didn’t know his schedule yet, but promised to alert her as soon as he did. In truth, Hux would gladly never attend another ballet in his life, but as it was his very birth that had ended his mother’s own promising dancing career, he felt rather obligated, and had never once complained.

The third thing was the easiest to miss, but perhaps the biggest omen of them all. It was the shred of paper hanging by a tack next to his name on the door of his dorm room. If he had taken a moment to appreciate his RA’s handiwork in the door decoration, (on which she’d written, “Hux,” as he had requested,) he might have intuited that someone else had arrived before him, and, seeing their name written incorrectly, removed it. 

Unfortunately, Hux does not know he should be looking for warning signs. 

In fact, he does even begin to understand that something is amiss until he opens the aforementioned door and finds a dark haired figure struggling to unzip an overstuffed suitcase on top of his bed. 

He watches the person tussle with the suitcase for a moment. When they don’t take any notice of him he clears his throat and says, “Excuse me. What are you doing in my room?”

The gawky mass of hair finishes unzipping its bag and then turns to look at him. “This is my room too,” it says, and dumps the contents of the suitcase on the floor.

                                                               

- - -

The hair’s name is Kylo Ren. Hux doesn’t learn this through introduction, as Kylo, after dumping his clothes on the floor, kicks them over into a corner and stalks out. Hux puts his suitcase on the unoccupied bed and follows suit. Not to chase him down, but to head straight to the housing office.

The housing coordinator runs him through a string of useless, repetitive questions. Yes, he knows that as a senior he isn’t guaranteed housing. No, he does not have a note from the Disability Resource Center detailing why he needs a single room. Yes, he does think having a roommate will affect his studies. No, he isn’t interested in looking into off campus housing. He’s just moved out of a studio apartment downtown, and his scholarship won’t cover it for the rest of the year. Eventually he’s let out of the housing office with the verbal equivalent of a pat on the back: an assurance that living with someone else will be good for him, and that he should talk to his RA if he runs into any problems.

When he returns to his room, indignation simmering low under his skin, it’s to see that someone has tacked up a new name on his door. He stops to look at his roommate’s name for the first time. It’s messy next to his, sloppily done in the RA’s haste to correct whatever their mistake had been.

To Hux’s misfortune, this is also a sort of warning sign, but like the others, it’s the kind he won’t understand until much, much later.

- - -

On Wednesday’s Hux’s first class is at one in the afternoon. Fortunately, this is the only time this is true, and so for the rest of the week he’s up and out of bed before Kylo has even begun to stir. Unfortunately, it means that if he wants to sleep in he’ll have to interact with the one aberration in his routine: His silent, dull-eyed beast of a roommate.

It’s incredible how little Hux has gotten to know the man who sleeps not three feet away from him. He doesn’t know what year he is, or even what he studies. They sometimes run into each other in the communal showers, and they spit in the same sink in the mornings, but that's the limit of their interaction. On weekends Hux makes a point of waking up early and going to the library, and by the time he gets back Kylo is usually gone.

No, Hux doesn’t know much about Kylo Ren, but he does know this: He hates him. He hates his untidiness and his greasy hair. He hates his stupid way of walking: the slouched over, loping gait that he no doubt developed from years of cave dwelling. He hates the cow-eyed look in his dark eyes, the way he will stare off into space for long periods of time. Or worse, will turn his eyes on Hux. It’s not even a flattering sort of attention; He looks at Hux like an anthropologist observing some barbaric tribal culture. As if when Hux is doing something normal like studying he is actually preforming a ritual for his God, while Kylo with all his superior knowledge smirks on and takes notes. It’s infuriating, especially since Hux has no idea where this superiority is coming from; Kylo sleeps through all his classes, and never does any homework.

In the end, Hux has nothing to gain from calling out his roommate on his bad habits. Even if Hux asked him to keep his stuff on his side of the room, or to stop putting his food in Hux’s minifridge without asking, he doubts that Kylo would stop, or even care. The housing office has already made it clear that they have no interest in helping him, and antagonizing his roommate only to have to live with a pissed off version of him for the rest of the year sounds tedious. With this in mind, Hux decides it will be best for all parties if they ignore each other’s existence. In any case he’s sure that Kylo has no inkling of the deep-seated hatred Hux has for him. Most people aren’t.

Aside from Kylo, the first few weeks of his year proceed as they always have in years previous: he goes to class on time, makes acquaintance with his professors, does well on his assignments, takes his meals alone.

The only real difference in his senior year is that he no longer receives emails from the Dean, Alistair Snoke. Of course, he hadn’t expected to; Snoke hasn’t emailed him since the last semester of his junior year, and hasn’t spoken to him in longer. Hux isn’t sure if this silent treatment is something the rest of the students Snoke had mentored are also experiencing, but he can picture nothing more excruciating than finding out that he’s been ostracized alone. 

In the last email Hux ever received from him, Snoke had said he'd decided to focus his time on one student whom he found particularly promising, but there's no real reason to trust these words. He’d watched Snoke tell pleasant lies to his mentees before. It was admittedly much more satisfying to be on the other end of the process, helping Snoke compose an email informing a student that they hadn’t been interesting enough to keep around. Hux supposes the way he was dismissed is karmic payback for the dark pleasure he’d gotten from this process. In the end, he hadn’t had the luxury of an email first.

Dean Snoke’s house is still on school property, but only just. It’s up a winding path through the thin woods that ring campus, out of the way and seldom visited. And yet somehow Hux manages to pass by it every Tuesday on the way to his Advanced Finance class. It’s pragmatism, and not sentiment, he tells himself, which brings him by the house. It cuts his travel time in half if he walks it quickly.

On this Tuesday in particular he’s only just approaching the path when Phasma steps out of the tree line. She’s in a sports bra and athletic shorts, chest heaving, and he pauses at the sight of her, still a few paces away. For an unsettling moment he thinks Snoke might have sent her to tell him to stop coming around. 

“Hey,” she says, pulling her arms over her head.

“Hello. Were you--?” He nods toward Snoke’s house and the corners of Phasma’s mouth lift, almost smirking.

“No, he hasn’t invited me back since last year.”

“…I see.”

Hux had met Phasma his sophomore year of college, when they’d taken an introductory business law class together. At the time he hadn’t known her as anything but a classmate, but the following semester Snoke had invited her to one of his dinners, and he’d grown to respect her as something more. Phasma was a nickname of course, one she’d picked up as the captain of the wrestling team. Hux had once heard Snoke call her ‘Elizabeth,’ but he had an inkling that the only reason he’d gotten away with it was because if she punched the Dean she’d lose her athletics scholarship. That said, with all her skill in sports, she was also a woman of terrifying intellect. She was studying law, and Hux had the feeling that underneath her silent power she had a cold, cutting sense of humor, though he’d never experienced it first hand.

“This is just the halfway point of my jogging route,” she says when he does not continue. “I’m guessing he hasn’t invited you back either.”

“He hasn’t.” Hux is sure his face gives nothing away, but Phasma’s mouth curls.

“Hmm.” She pulls her other arm across her body, “Guess that new kid is something. The one in the email?”

“I suppose.” Hux echoes, tone pointedly light. She blinks at him in lazy amusement, a moment passing between them. Finally he says, allowing himself to feel just a slimmer of indignation, “Does it not bother you? He could have helped you get into law school.”

Her pale eyes fix on his. She might be frowning; it’s hard to tell. “I don’t need Snoke to get me where I want to be, and you don’t either.” She drops her arms and drags a hand through her sweaty hairline, sufficiently stretched. “I have class in an hour. See you around.”

There’s something he could say to this, but she’s already moving past him, a fluid current he finds himself caught in the wake of, turning to watch her leave. In the sunlight her hair seems to glow and bounce like the golden beam of a lighthouse, warning him away from this place.

Hux drags his eyes from her. He’s not in the habit of making such ridiculous metaphors, not even internally, and he doesn’t want to start. With a neat straightening of his spine he adjusts his bag, turns around, and hurries to class. 

- - -

The thing about Snoke’s rejection isn’t so much that it’s impossible to come back from; he knows he’s talented enough to get a job without Snoke’s help. It’s that he had been so proud he’d blinded himself to the possibility Snoke would ever treat him as he had treated others. He’d been foolish enough to put his fate in someone else’s hands. If perhaps he had done more somehow--. But no, he’s understood his lesson, and he doesn’t think about it anymore. He makes connections with other professors. He does well in his classes. He doesn’t think about it anymore.

- - -

Four weeks into the semester Hux is torn from sleep by a thunderous bang. He rockets upward in bed, staring in wild alarm at the source of the noise. There’s a figure looming in his doorway, backlit by the florescent hallway lighting. It’s a bleary, horrifying moment before Hux realizes it’s only Kylo, and by that point the man has crashed into the room, slamming the door behind him with as much force as he had opened it. He carves a violent path towards his bed, where he sweeps several of the books lying there to the floor with a half-vocalized cry of anger.  

“What the hell are you doing?” Hux demands, louder and rawer than he intends to be. The alarm clock on his desk reads 1:32 am. Kylo collapses backwards onto his bed.

“Fuck off,” he snaps back, pulling off one of his boots and lobbing it across the room. It bangs over Hux’s desk and leaves a noticeable dent in the plaster. Hux recoils.

“What the--. You’re going to have to pay for that!”

Kylo grunts in response and starts angrily unlacing the other boot. Hux leaps from the bed, his sheets falling away from him, “Hey--!” Kylo raises the second shoe with intent and Hux crosses to him in a single step, snatching it out of his hand. “Control yourself,” he snarls. He feels like he’s left part of his body in bed, jarred halfway into dreaming, halfway into violence; too vibrant.

Kylo is staring back up at him wrathfully. His dark brown eyes are burning, molten. Hux can’t quite believe this is the same person who he’s seen vegetate in bed for the past four weeks, but he isn’t going to step down.

“I don’t know what kind of tantrum you’re throwing,” he hisses, still holding the boot up and away from Kylo, like he might strike him with it. “But you need to go throw it somewhere else.”

Kylo’s face screws up in indignation. “Coach wants to suspend me from the team!” He barks, like suddenly Hux is the source of his troubles. “It’s bullshit, if that girl can’t handle me she shouldn’t be fencing!”

Hux’s mouth falls open. “That’s what this is about? Sports? You think your sword waving is in any way my fucking problem?” Kylo glowers up at him but Hux just shakes his head. Incredulity has jarred something lose in him, and he can feel it rattling around in the pit of his stomach. “I don’t give a rats arse. If you want to go have a cry because you can’t hit someone with a stick like a bloody Neanderthal be my guest, but for god’s sake do it when I’m not trying to sleep. Some of us actually go to our fucking classes.”

His voice bounces off the wall and ricochets back at him, sounding like someone else when it hits his ears. It makes him falter for a moment, and the shoe slips out of his hand. Kylo doesn’t look nearly as startled as Hux feels, so maybe he’s sensed Hux’s dislike for him more keenly than Hux had assumed. Or maybe he’s just used to people swearing at him. Either way his face shuts down with something bitter and murderous.

“Whatever,” he grunts, and then collapses on his side. He reaches down and pulls his duvet over him, still clothed.

Hux stands over him for a moment, staring down at the lump of him under the blanket. Then, with a final shake of his head, he turns back to his bed and does the same. His pulse, which had leapt to an alarming speed with Kylo’s entrance, is still thundering in his ears. Across from him, Kylo keeps sighing and rustling around in his sheets, broadcasting his anger for, apparently, Hux’s benefit. When he quiets down Hux’s heart stops pounding long enough for him to wonder how he has been living three feet from a powder keg and not noticed. More than this, he wants to know if this is a one off show of emotion, or the warning signs for a bigger explosion he has somehow ended up in the blast radius of. It’s just his luck that the one year he shares a dorm room it’s with a greasy, anti-social loose canon. 

However, to Hux’s surprise, Kylo seems to have gotten over the whole thing by the next morning. He rolls out of bed while Hux is getting ready for class, still wearing his clothes from the night before. Hux pauses to watch him lumber over to his drawer and extract a wrinkled t-shirt from his dresser, but all Kylo does when he catches Hux looking is grunt, “Hey,” and then start to strip.

Hux takes this to mean that Kylo has expelled whatever childish demon had possessed him during the night, and feeling somewhat relieved, endeavors to return to pretending the man does not exist.

And yet, in the weeks that follow, this attitude proves more difficult than it had been in the past. Kylo, who had been a present but inconsequential bother before, a fly buzzing in Hux’s metaphorical ear, now seems to occupy the room like a black hole. His clothes keep finding their way under Hux’s sheets; He buys a crate of sports drinks and leaves them in front of the door for Hux to trip over; The horrible music he listens to is always just loud enough to be heard through his earphones. It’s awful; and what’s worse is that Hux has somehow lost his ability to tune it out. He keeps returning to that feeling he had the night Kylo had lobbed a shoe at him—that untethered anger, jangling in his body like loose change. Now that he’s picked it up he can’t seem to put it back down-- or more than that. No, it’s like it’s been hidden in him for years now and Kylo has managed to pry it out.

Hux tries not to dwell too much on this. It’s maudlin; Not his style.

What isn’t helping is Kylo’s newfound comfort in throwing tantrums while Hux is in the room. Despite Hux’s suggestion he take his theatrics elsewhere, Kylo continues to have semi-frequent outbursts of anger and despair. They would be terrifying if Hux wasn’t so completely unimpressed. During midterms, he completes an entire project while Kylo throws things around the room like he’s the Incredible Hulk. It’s pathetic, honestly. Embarrassing; so childish that the only way Hux knows how to deal with it is ignore it. And even then he can only just contain the biting comments that want to fly from his mouth when Kylo does so much as breath near him.

He’s never met anyone so irritating in his life, basically.

This uncharacteristic lapse of control besides, it’s not until almost the last month of the academic quarter that they have another full conversation.

Before moving to California, Hux hadn’t quite understood the native population’s fascination with rain. In most ways he still doesn’t. In Boston rain had been anything but hard to come by, and if acknowledged was hardly celebrated. It was for this reason that he’d been underwhelmed when faced with his fellow student body’s annual tradition of stripping down to their underwear and running a lap around campus during the first rainfall of the year. Even as a freshman he’d considered the whole thing a little ridiculous, and like most things he felt were beneath him, worth ignoring.

This year had been so hot, and the rain had come so late, that Hux had almost forgotten about the whole thing. It isn’t until a late Friday evening, after an entire day of rain, that he begins to hear the giggles and pounding of feet down the hallway, and remembers it at all.

He looks up from his operations management textbook when the shouting starts happening outside his window. It seems that this year he has front row seats to the event. A throng of barely clothed students has already begun to collect in the courtyard his dorm is built around, all whooping and cheering.

It’s all so trivial, Hux thinks, almost tiring to watch. Humans never look so much like mindless animals as when they’re naked and packed together, braying. He’s startled when this sentiment is echoed from across the room.

“Animals.”

Hux looks over and realizes Kylo has followed his gaze. Before he’d been turned on his side, reading, but now he’s sitting up cross-legged, leaning forward to get a better look through the window. He’s watching the undulating mass of bodies darkly. (This is an adverb, Hux notes, Kylo seems to have perfected his execution of.) He can’t help but retort--.

“I would have thought you’d liked the chaos.”

Kylo grunts and picks his book back up. Hux can see now that it’s some tattered old sci-fi novel, not homework at all. “It’s not about chaos, it’s pack behavior. They’ve all chosen their best underwear because they want to be seen running around in it. If it was about losing yourself it would be something different.” Hux is coasting on a combination of mild surprise and fascination at this strangely insightful response when Kylo adds, “Only Californians could turn rain into a ritual about being seen. It’s not like they aren’t irreverent about everything else.”

Hux is startled into a laugh. Kylo looks up at him from his book.

“Where are you from?” He’s curious suddenly, realizing he still doesn’t know.

Kylo looks back down. Hux wonders if that glower on his face is discomfort or something else. “DC. Originally Oregon.”

“That’s basically California.”

Kylo’s eyebrows fly upwards. When he looks back at Hux his face is incredulous, which is satisfying. “No.”

“Hmm,” Hux says, knowing the dismissal will strike a nerve. He’s rewarded when he turns back to the rioting outside and can still see Kylo staring at him furiously from the corner of his eye. He knows this sort of smug satisfaction should be juvenile and beneath him but somehow when Kylo is involved it’s really not.

When Kylo opens his mouth about thirty seconds later Hux is expecting a petulant demand of where he comes from, and why he’s so sure it’s better than Oregon. What he isn’t expecting is for Kylo to lean forward and ask, “Have you ever studied literature?”

“Have I--?”

Hux can’t get the acerbic remark burning on the back of his tongue out fast enough—Kylo cuts him off. “The Greek Classics? Antigone?”

Antigone? Hadn’t she killed herself or something? “Perhaps in high school, yes.” He raises an eyebrow, hoping his sheer disinterest cuts through. “What of it?”

Kylo looks smug now, which is irritating. “They say that the beauty of tragedy is that it is restful. There’s no expectation, because we understand that, for the characters, there is no hope.”

“Wow.” Hux finds that Kylo’s newfound eloquence has quickly moved from intriguing to obnoxious. “Thank you for the lesson. Very interesting.” He turns back to his reading.

“I just thought you might relate.”

He doesn’t do as good a job masking the face he makes this time. “Excuse me?”

“Knowing you’re stuck on a singular path on which you have no control. Seems like something you’d understand.” Kylo’s smirk is wider than it has any right to be. Thankfully, this makes it easier for Hux to ignore everything he’s just said in favor of rolling his eyes.

“You don’t even know my first name, let alone who I am. But yes, by all means feel free to psychoanalyze me.”

Kylo seems genuinely put off by this. Maybe he hadn’t realized he wasn’t actually living with someone whose first name was ‘Hux’. With a name like Kylo Ren anything must seem possible. Regardless he recovers, “Why would I need to? All you business drones are the same.”

“You wound me.” The dull-eyed look he gives Kylo feels a little like victory, “And I’m guessing you do? Study Literature.”

“Philosophy.”

“Hmm. Enlightening. Pardon the pun.”

Kylo grunts. “You wouldn’t understand.”

“Clearly. A ’business drone’ like me never would.”

Outside, the sound of revelry peaks with a collective, resounding cheer, and then starts to fade as the students surge away, off to do their loop around campus. Hux goes back to his textbook. They must be freezing out there, all those naked bodies, slick with rain. And for what purpose? What gain? Kylo is still staring at him.

“Can I help you with something?”

The way his hair falls when he tips his head back is in some ways more infuriating than the imperious look he’s giving Hux, which is saying quite a lot.

“I thought you were boring before, all routine. But there’s more to you than that.”

A thread of anger tightens around Hux’s stomach. This is a mind game he could play easily, and he’s burning to join in. What makes you so sure you know me? Why do you think you have the right to even speak to me? He could lob insults at Kylo all day, if that’s what he wanted. He wouldn’t get tired; he’s certainly thought up quite a few.

In the end, he says nothing. When Kylo grows bored and turns away, he has to count it as a win.

- -- -

Coming up on finals week his schoolwork begins to compound on itself in that charming way it loves to, and the Sunday he’s promised to his mother rolls up on him quite suddenly. He wakes up early and spends the morning working on homework for his operations management class, accompanied, quite unusually, by Kylo, who is working on an essay judging by the listless way he flips through his textbooks and keeps tapping his pen loudly against his laptop. Hux, though he prefers not to listen to music while working, is tuned in to a stream of NPR to drown out this unwelcome disturbance, and so doesn’t hear the knock on the door. It isn’t until Kylo lopes across the room and opens it that he looks up and realizes his error.

His mother is standing in the doorway, her red-blond hair ever lightening with age backlit by the florescent lighting as she smiles up at Kylo. “Hello,” he hears her say, muffled through the low voice Robert Siegel, who’s introducing a new segment.

“Uh, hey.”

Hux blinks. It hadn’t manifested as a conscious desire before this moment, but seeing the two of them together Hux realizes he desperately did not want his mother and Kylo Ren to ever meet. Kylo is more than a head taller than her; sloping shoulders pulled downwards as he peers down at her pleasant expression. It’s been several months since he last saw his mother, and watching his dark behemoth of a roommate tower over her like some nightmare specter sets off alarm bells in his head. He feels first horribly protective, and then deeply and irrationally mortified; the two emotions strangling him for a moment before he rips his headphones out and is sane again.

“I told you to text me and I’d meet you in the parking lot,” he says, standing. His mother looks past Kylo and her smile widens into something more genuine at the sight of him.

“I wanted to see your room!” She says, breezing past the young man looming over her like it’s nothing and crossing the room with her arms open for a hug. He gives her one, squashing his rising feelings of aggravation. “You didn’t tell me you had a roommate.”

Hux looks over her head at Kylo, who is still standing with the door open, boggling at them both with bold-faced curiosity. Hux’s irritation flares again. He wishes Kylo would take a hint and fuck off somewhere else. “Yes. Well. This is Kylo.”

“Hey,” Kylo says again. Rather stupidly, in Hux’s opinion.

His mother smiles, and Hux forces himself to drop his protective arms from around her shoulders when she tries to pull away. “Nice to meet you. I’m Miranda. I’m sorry, if I knew Jay had a friend I’d have invited you along.”

“Uh.” Kylo shifts and wipes his hands on the front of his filthy jeans. His dark eyes jump between the two of them again, now lingering on Hux. If Hux thought Kylo was actually capable of processing human emotion he might assume he was uncomfortable. As it is he just sort of looks like he’s on methamphetamines. “…Where are you going?”

And just like that it’s Hux’s life mission to make sure Kylo Ren does not know he’s going to see a ballet with his mother. “Kylo’s busy studying.” He says, pressing a guiding hand to her back in an attempt to urge her away from his roommate’s probing gaze. “We have to go now or we’ll be late.”

“Oh, alright,” his mother allows him to corral her towards the door, smiling at Kylo like they’re sharing some sort of inside joke. “He’s embarrassed of me,” she says with a confidential air, and the corners of Kylo’s mouth tick up. Hux finds this intensely disturbing and refuses to acknowledge the comment, finally extracting his mother from the room when she throws her head over her shoulder and says, “Bye, Kylo! Nice to meet you!”

Hux can feel Kylo’s curious eyes following them down the hall but refuses to turn around. It isn’t until he’s safely in his mother’s car that he allows himself to let out the breath he’s been holding, air whistling between his gritted teeth.

He’s irrationally agitated, equal parts ire and embarrassment simmering just below the surface of his skin. He thinks of Kylo’s eyes, blatant in their surprise as they flicked between the two of them. He can’t help but wonder what that expression meant; what he must have seen, looking at them like that. Hux is used to people being surprised by his mother. It’s always been easy to look at Hux’s studious reserve and fixation with order and invent some sort of fictitious childhood tragedy. His mother in the role of distant socialite. His father a cruel punisher. And maybe at some point in his life this assessment would have been close to the truth. Certainly Hux can remember the drawn look ever-present on his mother’s face in the years leading up to her and his father’s inevitable divorce. And it’s true his father was prone to losing his temper in a blaze of cursing and shouting, but it had always been his acute disinterest in a subject that spoke his distaste, rather than any show of violence.

His parents had divorced when Hux was thirteen, while he was in his third year of secondary school in England. Before the divorce his father had actually been resistant to Hux spending so much time away from Boston, but his mother had insisted. She’d wanted him to grow up like she did, amongst her many shockingly red-haired relatives at Cambridge. It was by her will that he lived with his Aunt Libba and her two daughters from ages nine to thirteen. His cousins were both older than him, and teased him for his flat Bostonian accent until he managed to eradicate it completely with bits of Received Pronunciation he stole off reporters on the BBC.

At the time this emancipation from his mother had seemed the cruelest rejection. He’d refused to talk to her when she called, or to even return home for the holidays. It wasn’t until long after the divorce, and his father had called him back to Boston to finish his middle and high school career, that it occurred to him the reason he’d been sent away in the first place might have been his mother’s attempt at keeping him from what she must have seen as an inevitable fallout. 

If their communication had been sparse in his youth, after the divorce it had ended completely. Hux’s dedicated radio silence as a child had sent a rather clear message, to which his mother was anxiously, guiltily receptive. She’d assumed he must hate her, or at the very least blame her for the separation of his family. It wasn’t until his freshman year of college, after his Aunt Libba had let slip that he was attending a university in California, that she’d reached out another tentative hand. By this time Hux was wildly more receptive. He’d lived almost five years alone with his father, and had since grown respect for anyone who’d had the presence of mind to leave him. He’d moved to California, a whopping 3,000 miles away from Boston, for that exact reason.

Upon their reconnection he’d been surprised to learn how much his mother’s life had changed without him or his father in it. (Though that was not to say that she had switched the conservative lifestyle she had lived in Boston for one of running barefoot through the fields.) After her divorce and the following move to Sacramento she’d attended an adult school and started working for a government sector that bought land and turned it into hiking trails. She’d met her current partner whilst working there, and they’d been living together for two years by the time Hux came back into the picture. It was strange, and sometimes impossible, to fit the images he had of his mother from his childhood against this sunburned, smiling woman. Sometimes it seemed he didn’t know her at all. But then Hux would see her twist her hair or bite her lip anxiously the way he’d often seen her do when he was younger, and it would hit him again that this was the same woman he’d known all his life, just made unrecognizable by a happiness she’d never had before. It was this, if nothing else, that ensured he’d never resent her for leaving, and in the years since they’d only grown closer.

“Your roommate’s quite handsome,” his mother says, interrupting his meandering thoughts. Hux scoffs, caught off guard.

“In what world?”

She smiles and it goes all the way up to her eyes, crow’s feet crinkling. “You don’t think so? He has such bold features and then that beautiful mouth. And gorgeous hair. It’s all a bit dashing, isn’t it?”

Hux grunts, horrified to hear his mother thinking about Kylo’s mouth of all things. “If by gorgeous you mean greasy I see where you’d get that impression, yes.”

She laughs now, stopping at a red light and turning to look at him, “Why don’t you like him? Is he a bad roommate?”

He grimaces. Despite the time and distance his mother has always been the one person he can’t bullshit; perhaps because they make the same face when they lie. “He’s fine,” he says shortly, and then at her skeptical look continues, “He… might actually be the most irritating person I have ever encountered.”

The light turns green again, and his mother turns away. “Why’s that?”

“He…” Hux purses his lips. He’s spent more time considering this than he would like. “He acts as if everyone is so beneath him, but he behaves like a child. I can’t believe anyone like him exists. He almost reminds me of father- the way he can’t deal with things like a normal person, just throws a tantrum when things don’t go his way.” It’s shameful, the lack of control, Hux thinks. Neither man had apparently ever learned the delicate maneuvering of social graces, just expected obstacles to be blown out of their way through sheer intimidation. It was embarrassing too, the stupidity of it. Like watching a caveman try to bully a computer into working by shouting at it.

His mother hums, a long considering note. “In my experience people are like that because they’re insecure. Or they just never learned to cope. But most anger comes from ego. That was certainly true with your father.” She scoffs, “That man… the moods he would get into if he thought you were speaking down to him. Did I tell you about the time I mentioned Chaucer on our honeymoon?”

“Yes,” Hux says. He doesn’t really want to talk about his father. He doesn’t really want to talk about Kylo either. “It doesn’t matter. I’ll graduate soon anyway, and I won’t have to deal with him anymore.”

“Well if you ever feel unsafe with him you should tell someone. Or you can call me. You can always call, you know.” She says this a bit indignantly. It’s been a point of contention in their reconciliation, him not asking her for help. As if he thinks she can’t do her job as a mother now that they’ve spent so much time apart. Of course, Hux doesn’t contact anyone in times of trouble, he solves problems himself, but this is something his mother refuses to believe.

“I know.”

She lets him sit in chastised silence for a moment, and then says, “Have you talked to him lately?” He understands by now that by him she means his father. She asks this every time they see each other, but Hux has never understood if it’s from genuine curiosity or some lingering guilt over the potential nuclear family she had robbed him of.

He’s actually heard more from his father than he would like, but usually in the form of passive aggressive text messages, rather than calls. Hux nods anyway, turning his attention out the window. “He called awhile ago to confirm I was going to spend a week with him over the winter break.”

“Will you?”

“I was planning on it.”

He doesn’t turn to look at his mother’s expression because he knows what she will offer next. This too is a set of lines they’ve run before. As expected only a moment passes before she says, “You could always stay with me and Liz the whole three weeks. I know she loves it when you’re around. And the babies miss you when you’re gone.”

Hux snorts. The babies are what his mother calls the two cats she and Liz had adopted shortly after moving in together. In truth, he would gladly stay the three weeks of his winter break with them, but past experiences have taught him that he can’t stay much longer than one or two before becoming bitter and unsettled. Too long in his mother’s warm house with her loving girlfriend and he begins to feel as if he’s fallen into some parallel universe where he might have been raised differently. At least his father’s house in Boston is the devil he knows, and the way they navigate around each other with respectful disinterest, like two scientists of vastly different fields, though not pleasant, is at least something familiar.

“I get more work done at his house,” he says, as he always says, in order to end this conversation. “It’s quieter there.”

His mother hums. She’ll let it go, or maybe has also picked up on this game they play and was expecting his answer. In what is maybe a last ditch effort she says, “I’m sorry we haven’t been able to go see Libba and the girls in so long. I talked to her on the phone yesterday and she wanted me to tell you that they miss you. Have you… considered asking your father about funding a trip back to Cambridge this summer?”

Hux thinks of the email he had received last night. It contained no words, but had been simply been an attachment of his own monthly expenditures, sent from his father. The subject line was a row of question marks, each one an accusatory jab sent by a man who was too proud to see he was caught his own landslide. As if Hux’s grocery bill was the thing sending him into financial ruin.

“No.” Hux says shortly, and they don’t talk for the rest of the ride.

- -- -

The ballet is uneventful. His mother is infinitely more critical than him on the subject, and spends most of their ride home talking about the dancers. Hux doesn’t really mind; he’d expected this, and it allows him to ignore the headache that’s been building over his left eye since intermission. They get dinner, a meal he mostly picks through, and then his mother drops him back off in front of his dorm, parting with a kiss on the cheek and a reminder that she’ll leave a key under the mat for him when he arrives next week.

It’s coming on eleven when he walks through his door, and he’s looking forward to squeezing out another hour of work and then sleeping his headache off. When he enters, he’s surprised to see that Kylo isn’t in bed. Unfortunately, that’s not the most surprising thing he sees.

Their room, which had been, if not immaculate, at least neat when Hux left, is now completely trashed. Kylo’s dresser seems to have exploded; clothes draped on his desk, strewn haphazardly on the ground. Several binders sit open on Kylo’s bed, one of them having slipped off in his absence and scattered papers all over the floor. Struck dumb by the wash of outrage that had rolled over him at the sight, Hux bends to pick the nearest pile up, the one by his feet. He moves to put them on Kylo’s bed, but is repelled by the idea of adding to the mess. He goes to the desk and feels more of the same. He looks down at the papers in his hands.

The paper on top is a letter, addressed to a Mr. Benjamin Solo. It’s thick card stock with an official university seal on the bottom, clearly a letter of rec for a grad school program. Hux’s eyes move over it, not really taking anything in until he gets to the signature at the bottom. Neat and hand-signed in pen, the letter that details Mr. Ben Solo’s many positive attributes in such glowing detail is signed by no other than Dr. Alistair Snoke.

Hux’s brain turns back on. He re-reads the recommendation quickly, taking note of the recent date it had been written: Just a few weeks ago. But then who the hell is Ben Solo?

On top of a pile of books on Kylo’s desk is his wallet, an ugly checkered, velcroed thing. Hux, almost numb with an emotion he cannot name, but which must be the thing deadening his mind to the information he on some level already understands, reaches over and rips it open. Inside are gift cards, a couple of wrinkled dollar bills, an unreasonable amount of change, and a District of Columbia driver’s license with Kylo’s face on it, signed by Benjamin Organa-Solo.

It’s at that moment that the door opens behind him. Hux turns, the letter in one hand, Kylo’s wallet in the other. Kylo pauses in the doorway. He’s in his pajamas, sweats and a slouchy white t-shirt, and is clearly just out of the shower, a towel slung over his shoulders. He nods his head a little bit in acknowledgement of Hux’s presence, averting his eyes before apparently realizing what Hux has in his hands. His brow furrows, mouth parting to say something-- but Hux beats him to it.

“You’re the student?” He demands, brandishing Kylo’s wallet. “You’re Snoke’s new protégée?”

Kylo blinks, mouth working silently for a moment, lips twitching clumsy over whatever he’s deciding not to say before he draws himself up to his full height. “Yeah,” he answers finally, giving Hux that challenging, holier than thou look he’s grown so used to. “So what?”

But Hux isn’t having it today. “So what?” He drops the wallet. It hits the floor heavy, and Hux takes a step towards Kylo, who has started to smirk. Hux is completely out of his body; something furious in him is singing hot and bright. “You? What could Snoke possibly see in you? You hardly fucking speak, let alone do any of your work. Do you honestly think you deserve Snoke’s attention?”

A flash of hot darkness sweeps Kylo’s features. Hux can see it come perfectly because they’re almost chest-to-chest; the way his lips lift back in a snarl and he stands impossible taller.

“Fuck off,” he says lowly, chest heaving. “What, you think you do? You wanna suck his dick or something?”

Hux laughs. It’s high, mocking. “Yes. Thank you. For demonstrating my point so vividly. You think you’re clever? You’re a child. A child who’s still playing pretend, apparently. Tell me, what kind of name is Kylo Ren? You come up with that one yourself? Or did you take it from one of those stupid books you’re always reading.”

Kylo’s hand flies outward, and Hux thinks he means to strike him. For an insane moment he thinks, do it, you coward, but Kylo merely grabs Hux by the shoulder and pushes him away, moving past him through the room and throwing his towel on his bed.

“You don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Hux advances back toward him, somehow all the more furious at being cast off; Kylo’s ruined his life and now he isn’t even good for a fight? “What? You’re all out of things to say now? Don’t feel like throwing anything around the room this time?”

“You would love that, wouldn’t you?” In a remarkable feat of speed Kylo rounds on him, turning and knocking him into the strip of bare wall between their beds. All air clears Hux’s chest in a rush, leaving him gasping when Kylo leans into him and snarls, “I know you want to lose control. You think you’re so much smarter- so much better. But I’ve figured you out. You keep it locked up tight but I can tell you want to give into it.” His forearm, which he’s pressed across Hux’s neck to keep him pinned, pushes harder as he leans his weight in, “That anger.”

“I know who you are now,” Hux wheezes. It had taken him longer than it should have, but something about being asphyxiated has gotten his synapsis firing again. “I recognize your name.” Kylo’s face clouds over with what Hux can only describe as a bitter dismay. He drops his arm and turns away, his back towards Hux, who sucks in a full breath and continues, “Your mother’s the Senator from Oregon isn’t she? Organa. It isn’t common. Is that why you’ve changed your name? You think people would care you’re a senator’s son?”

“I know they’d care!” Kylo snaps, hunched over himself, head barely turned over his shoulder. “You would have treated me differently too, if you had known. I know you would, don’t even fucking lie.”

Hux smiles, he can’t help it. It’s ridiculous. “Look at you,” he croons. “Your head’s so far up your arse I don’t know how you’re still breathing. Do you honestly think anyone would give a fuck? Are you so committed to living your life in fucking misery that you’ve made up some tragic story to hold on to? No one cares who your parents are, but I’m glad you’ve actually convinced yourself the world revolves around you. It’s incredible. Honestly. I’ve never seen anything quite like it.” He give’s the back of Kylo’s head a smirk and it feels better than every A he’s ever received in his life.

                                                                

Kylo spins around and slugs the shit out of him.

Hux has been punched only twice before in his life. The first time had been in primary school and on accident. Some other child he’d been roughhousing with had taken the word a bit too seriously. The second had been in high school, when a couple of boys on his track team had thought it would be funny to try and stuff him into a locker. Technically they had started it, but he had still punched first. His coach had dragged him into his office and, after handing him a towel to staunch the bleeding from his split lip, given him a valuable piece of advice: if you’re planning on punching someone, make sure you punch hard enough to stop them from hitting back.

Unluckily for Hux, at some point in his no doubt troubled childhood, Kylo Ren had apparently learned the same lesson.

The shock of being struck is remarkable. Hux feels a bone in his cheek crunch and lets out a howl of pain. Kylo, whose face has transitioned from a mindless rage to something more like numb surprise, takes a step backward. Hux throws an arm out, wanting to throttle his fucking neck, but all he sees is white white white, and ends up digging his fingers into the meat of Kylo’s shoulder instead.

Fuck!” Hux shouts, and Kylo tries to take another step away from him but Hux has made it his mission to end Kylo Ren’s fucking life, and if it means holding onto him like a barnacle until he gets enough strength to do so then so be it. He digs his nails in harder, hoping to draw blood, and Kylo swears.

“Fuck, Jesus--.” He makes to shove Hux away from him, but just as he’s placed his hands there’s a loud knock at the door and he freezes, holding onto Hux’s shoulders like he’s a teenager at his first school dance.

RA on duty!” Shouts the source of the knock.

Hux, now bent almost double, but still hanging onto Kylo, feels a sudden rush of euphoria. While intellectually he realizes this is adrenaline from the fight, the less rational part of his brain understands it as divine inspiration. There’s another series of beating knocks against the door, and in the following silence Hux winds time forward, able to see how the future is about to unfold:

The RA has clearly heard them shouting, and probably heard the following sounds of violence, and so has cause to open the door to their room. Once she does, she will see the situation and come to the quite simple conclusion that Kylo and Hux have gotten into an altercation. Kylo will be punished more severely, but the evidence of Hux’s reciprocation is currently staining Kylo’s shirt, and is unlikely to be ignored, especially if Kylo calls it into question. (Which of course he will.) Note of the confrontation will go on Hux’s permanent record, visible to anyone who wants to see it and fairly damning on his otherwise spotless credentials. This is unacceptable; it simply will not do.

“Alright, I’m coming in.” Says the RA, muffled through the door. The sound of the key turning in the lock sweeps Hux’s mind clean, leaving only a sort of shining uniform clarity with the knowledge of what he must do.

He straightens quickly, and then with great control and efficiency, grabs Kylo by the neck and drags their mouths together. Kylo resists desperately for a moment, surely afraid that Hux is about to make good on his previous attempt to strangle him, and then just freezes, still and cold as marble.

The door slams open. Hux shoves his tongue in Kylo’s mouth, which is parted in shock or maybe some sort of aborted scream. I hope you fucking choke on it.

“Oh, shit!” The RA says. As he’d expected it’s Jessika Pava, the RA for their floor, rather than someone who was just patrolling. This is good, because they’ve interacted a couple of times and he’s pretty sure she sees him as a normal, functional human being, and not someone with the tendency to get into casual brawls with his peers. Hux pulls away from Kylo.

“Oh. Shit,” he echoes, ducking his head against Kylo’s shoulder, feigning embarrassment in an attempt to hide the crater he’s sure Kylo has made in his face. Kylo; whose facial expression Hux doesn’t care to look at but whose hands are still grasping his shoulders in what hopefully appears to be a passionate embrace. If he says absolutely anything, Hux thinks, Hux will smother him in his sleep. “Oh, sorry.”

Jessika looks mortified, and then maybe a bit delighted, and then maybe mortified again. Whatever she may be feeling internally, she quickly clamps down on it and smoothes her expression into one of cool professionalism. “I’ve just heard some shouting coming from this room.”

“Oh,” Hux says, trying not to pay attention to the words coming out of his mouth. “I’m sorry, we didn’t realize we were being loud.”

Jessika’s facial expression fluctuates again. “Yes. Well. I’m going to have to document this as a noise complaint. So if you guys could just… keep it down during quiet hours that would be great. …Your room is right next to mine, so.”

Hux exhales. “Okay.”

Jessika gives the room a once over, possibly suspicious, but she seems eager to flee. She’s already half turned away when she pauses in the doorway and looks back.

“You alright, Kylo?”

This is it, Hux thinks, figuring how conspicuous it would be to slap a hand over Kylo’s mouth before he can speak. He can’t bring himself to look at Kylo’s face, instead training his eyes on Jessika, who is staring at the back of his head. A moment passes; just the span of a few breaths, and then Kylo slouches forward, curling his shoulders in on himself. He doesn’t turn around.

“Yeah,” he says.

Jessika digests this, frowning like she might press him for more. “Alright,” she finally allows, “I’ll check in with you guys tomorrow, if you don’t mind.”

Hux nods at her, trying not to grimace. With a final cursory glance at the room Jessika excuses herself and leaves, closing the door behind her.

Hux takes a breath. “Get the fuck away from me,” he says, throwing his elbow out to catch Kylo in the sternum. It must hurt, but Kylo goes as if he’s weightless. Hux can see now that his face is almost spectacularly blank, but he couldn’t care less. Now that the adrenaline is leaving him his cheek has started to radiate a nauseating pain. He reaches up to touch the bone he’s sure is broken and stops when he realizes his hands are shaking.

He stares at them in disbelief. A sudden, sweeping rage turns over in his stomach, wiping out any sense of calm. Sending him somewhere he’s never been before: a place where he is thoughtless, rabid. “Christ, you crazy prick. You crazy fucking arsehole.” He can’t even look at Kylo; his heart is juddering around in his teeth. “Do me a favor and get the fuck out of this room before I do something I regret.”

The words sound stupid coming out of his mouth, like they’ve been rehearsed. Like he’s saying something he’s heard powerful men say in movies. It makes his anger feel abruptly clumsy, tearing him down instead of bolstering him, and a snide voice in him jeers. Oh good, now you sound just like father. Like Kylo, having a tantrum. Look at you. How embarrassing— how pathetic you seem.

Behind him, the door to the room closes, and Hux spins around. Kylo is gone.

“No.” He says to the empty room, striding to the door, still shaking, all frenetic energy. He’s not sure what he’s denying. He pulls the door open and sticks his head into the hall. Kylo’s halfway to the end of it, trudging slowly.

“Kylo.” Hux hisses, not wanting Jessika to hear and open her door again. “Get back here.” The hulking form of his roommate pauses, not turning around. If he keeps walking, Hux won’t run after him. He’s already proving his point like this, he tells himself. He’s already being the bigger person. “I’m sorry, alright? Now come back here before someone opens their door.”

Slowly, either to punish Hux for ordering him around, or out of genuine wariness, Kylo turns and makes his way back down the hall. Hux watches him impatiently; white knuckling the door handle until Kylo passes through it, and then closing the door behind them both.

“Alright.” He says, when Kylo has turned back to him. “Alright, just. Stay here. Or go, if you want. But whatever you do it’s nothing to do with me. Because this is how adults settle arguments.” He takes a deep breath. “They don’t punch each other. They settle their problems, or at least fucking ignore them, and they move on. Alright? We don’t—I don’t. Do this.”

Kylo just stares at him, cow-eyed. Another wave of anger flushes through Hux, but he pushes it down, down, deep inside where he won’t feel it any more.

“Right.” He says measuredly. “I’m going to take a shower. You can do whatever you want, but I’m doing this.” He grabs his towel off the rack that hangs by the door. “Have a good night.”

It isn’t until he’s in the communal bathroom, blessedly empty this time of night, with the shower already running that he realizes he’s forgotten his toiletries and pyjamas. He’ll have to go back and grab them if he seriously wants to wash off, but he can’t seem to move from where he stands half naked in the stall, aching face leaned up against the slowly warming tile. He stands there until his uneven breath begins to condense in the heat, until the water times out and stops running. He thinks he’ll continue to stand there until someone walks in and kicks him out. Until then, he watches the water drip into the drain and tries not to think of the ugly, artless thing he had been, or the anger that’s still rattling like a chain around his neck, or how Kylo, this person he hardly knows, had managed to turn him into the thing he hates most in himself.