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Bohemian Rhapsody

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Kylo’s childhood memories are in parlando rubato; he keeps altering the details every time he replays them in his head. The beginning is always the same: a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. He hears it in his grandfather’s voice, filtered through the throat microphone.

As for the here and now, he’s twenty-one, and he’s stuck in Prague. There are worse places to be stuck in. It’s fall. The city has melted into liquid gold, and it rains quite a lot. He used to love rain, grandfather didn’t even make him put rubber boots on, he could just jump into the puddles in the grand garden and feel the chilly water seeping into his sneakers. He felt free. Powerful, even.

Now, rain means no work, and no work means ketchup spread on stale bread and not being able to take tram 22 to Národní třída.

“Cats and dogs, eh?” he remarks, confusing poor Ramóna who doesn’t speak much English. She still smiles at him, companionable. They’re watching the rain washing most of the dirt off the hostel’s small windows.

His stay in Prague is defined by these long periods of silence, thrumming with understanding,  and music, loud, booming, pressed under his fingertips. He’s drumming the rhythm of the rain on his knees, pa-pa-para-pa-tah, and Ramóna hums along, then Rodion joins in, singing in his own language, singing his grandmother’s songs.

The next day, when the skies are clear and translucent, he’s trying to play the rain again, C-F, C-F, coupled with Dva Kolori. Occasionally, coins are dropped with a tinkle into the service cap he put on the ground with a thank you note. The clamour of the tourists is white noise. They pour in to see the Powder Tower, and when he first came here some three months ago, he tried to appease them; he played Chopin preludes and The Blue Danube, and they’d laugh in delight and clap and fill the cap with korunas.

But none of them stopped.

The music he used to play was easy to understand, it fitted the scene like a movie score. It magnified the gothic grandeur of the tower, the serpentine of the streets, it was praising a majestic city he knew nothing about. The Powder Tower was right next to the Municipal House, an art noveau complex which housed classical concerts. It was easy to make the Mozart-maniacs toss some coins in his general direction.

He’s done being a servant of the tone-deaf masses. He’s experimenting more. He’s practicing his free hand with Rachmaninov and Mendelssohn, the music eerie and intense. It makes the tourists uncomfortable. He doesn’t care - he plays for the worthy ones, luring them close with odd siren-songs.

Tonight’s audience is a tall, slender figure, lingering in the shadows. Kylo spots him from the corner of his eye, the rich glow of the streetlamps doesn’t touch him. The night is blue, and the Powder Tower a striking yellow. Kylo focuses on that contrast and tries to interpret it in Liszt’s terms, attempting to vex and provoke the stranger. He’s almost offended when some couple passing by drops a koruna in the cap. He’s playing the fucking Mephisto Waltz, it isn’t for them. It’s the part when the devil seduces Faustus to dance.

The listener inches closer.

“What are you doing?” he demands.

“My job.”

“If it’s a job, who’s paying you?”

“Anyone’s welcome,” Kylo says, and glances up. His heart misses a beat; his hands don’t. The stranger looks like an apparition, like Kylo summoned him with the song. His hair is slicked back, and he’s smartly dressed, posh and proper. He’s clutching something. Kylo can only focus on his face. He looks offended, soft lips twisted and eyes narrowed.

“Listen,” Kylo begins, “if you’re a concerned citizen, I’ll let you know that I’m free to play till nine pm. My piano classifies as an acoustic instrument.”

The man’s frown deepens.

“That’s a Bechstein you got there.”

“Yeah.”

“In the middle of the street.”

“Technically, it’s by the gate.”

The stranger bites back a remark, and searches the pockets of his Burberry trench furiously. It’s just draped over his shoulders, like a kingly cloak. Kylo notices that he’s got a violin case with him. He grins.

“I see we’re colleagues.”

The man drops fifty in the helmet. It’s gold and copper, like his hair.

“La Campanella,” he requests.

“Liszt?”

“Liszt. And no chatting. Play.”

Kylo scoffs. It’s a relatively easy piece, one of his early favourites. He can’t help making a face while playing it with well-mastered arrogance and an air of flair. The clink of coins interrupt him before it’d get really interesting.

“Balakirev. Islamey.”

That’s more like it. He puts his shoulders into it, and tilts himself on the seat. It’s quick and mischievous, and he makes it coquettish . He can’t wait to get to the andantino espressivo, but the man interrupts him again.

“Alkan, Comme le Vent.”

“I’d need a sheet. How about the Scherzo Diabolico?”

“Forget it. Stravinsky?”

“Stravinsky or death,” Kylo agrees, and starts playing the Firebird, a disturbing and nightmarish composition.  Whatever happens, he’ll play the Danse Infernale from beginning to end. The sound rains down like so many meteorites, burning up everything, and Kylo is there to master the chaos with the melodies he unleashes. The power of the piece surges through him, makes his breathing labored, and he glances at the stranger. Oh, yes. He’s shaken. They lock gazes.

“Ravel.”

“Let me-”

“Play me Ravel,” he says, and lets a two-hundred koruna note fall into the service cap. Kylo almost whimpers, fingers sliding down the keys. He needs the money, he needs it, he tells himself, but more than anything else, he needs to impress.

“I know the Gibet part from Gaspard de la Nuit. You want that?”

The stranger arches an eyebrow, and Kylo turns back to the piano, fuming. He’s in the mindset of Stravinsky, and making the feather-light notes of Ravel float through the air is certainly a challenge with the winds of the apocalypse wuthering in his ears still. The stranger makes him play on and on and on. Kylo shifts in his seat. He’s not surprised to discover that he’s aroused. It’s nothing to worry about. Once he’s finished, he hunches over, just to be safe.

The stranger regards him, head tilted.

“Bravo,” he says, and with that, he walks away. Kylo looks after him, and he has the absurd idea to plead him to stay, to look up the Alkan or start the Ravel again or return to the Liszt, but it’s easier to let him go in silence. He marches with confident steps, his trenchcoat floating gracefully. He reaches the Powder Tower’s gate. There’s a golden flash, and then he’s gone.

Kylo turns back to the piano, but doesn’t dare touch it. He dreads the music he’d play now. The clamour of the city returns to him, traffic and buzz and hubbub. He blinks, dazed.

“Right,” he mutters.

---

His roommates are attempting booze alchemy when he gets home, making milk and vodka cocktails. As soon as he steps over the threshold, he’s got two plastic cups in his hands.

“Chug, chug, chug!” Rashad yells, and he throws the drinks back. They taste remotely horrible.

He’s in desperate need of a good wank, but it’s impossible. All six of his roommates are present and the youth hostel only has communal showers. He hadn’t been able to jack off  since he got here, basically. Once, he spent his hard-earned money on a frappuccino in Starbucks just so he could have a go at it in their restroom. He has an inkling that the Knights would be understanding if he asked them for some peace and quiet, but of course, there’s the language problem. Rodion, the Ukrainian, and Rashad, the Jewish local have some basic grasp on English, but then there is Jadranko from Croatia, who can’t do much but introduce himself and swear.

All of them pronounce Knights with a K.

As far as Kylo understands, they’re an international dance group that met online. They’re supposed to be touring in Prague but Kylo is yet to see any evidence of a performance apart from the so-called practice nights, which come and pass without any established choreography.

“Another?” Rodion asks, and he accepts. He needs to get rid of the nervous energy buzzing in him. He makes his way through the lined-up bunkbeds, stepping over suitcases. Nobody uses the closet, they believe it’s haunted. Kylo gets to the windowsill, where they store their hard-earned drinks. He grabs the Becherovka, and glances at the apartment complexes. A radio tower glints in the distance. This part of the city doesn’t have any characteristics. He could be anywhere.

That was the plan. Get away and never look back.

The stranger was British. Kylo finds himself yearning for somebody who understands more than emojis and a hundred words vocabulary. He feels ungrateful, but he’s got the urge to recite poetry or talk dirty and have somebody listening.  

Luke used to tell him that that’s the best part of music - being able to communicate. No borders, no differences. Humanity, bared.

Fucking bullshit.

---

He’s playing Ravel. He can’t help it. He got the sheets printed in Copy General and everything. The tourists like it, grinning at him with some childish glee. It’s nice music. Kylo tries to understand his stranger’s request, and plays the night’s repertoire over and over again, chasing the man with the copper hair.

He arrives with the ink-blue gloaming. Kylo is surprised to see him there again, leaning to the streetlamp, watching Kylo with eyes narrowed. He’s staying back, and Kylo plays coaxing notes, not sure why he bothers, not sure whether he’s giving in. He loses it at the Scrabo.

“Hey,” he says, and stops playing. The man stirs.

“Don’t mind me.”  

“Are you listening?”

“I was.”

“Come closer, then.”

“I can hear you perfectly well,” He scowls at the piano, “It’s a loud instrument.”  

“You’re a violinist, eh?”

The man meets his eyes.

“Do I look like I carry an oboe?” he asks coolly. Kylo chuckles, and runs his fingers across the keys, teasing. “Where do you keep it?”

“My oboe?”

“Your piano. It wasn’t here in the morning. I was afraid you just leave it on the street, unguarded.”

“I’ve got a deal with the storage guys in the Municipal House. I wheel it in once I’m finished.”

“Is it their property?”

“No, no, it was my grandfather’s,” Kylo says, and his voice falters. He swallows, and rubs his nose. “Anyway. What’s your name?”  

“Hux. I’m not here for chatting.”

“Why are you here?”

Hux looks confused.

“I… stopped.”

Kylo rewards him by resuming the Ravel. The music twists, halts, spins around in the vertigo of crumbling ballrooms.

“I’m Kylo Ren. Pleasure. You here for a concert?”

“Rehearsals, as of yet.”

“What are you playing?”

“Mozart.”

Kylo chuckles. Hux makes a displeased grimace.

“What’s so funny about that?” he asks.

“Nothing. Didn’t take you for a Mozart guy.”

He makes the Ravel flow into Piano Sonata sixteen, the silly little notes jumping and trilling. Hux must sense the irony.

“What’s wrong with Mozart?”

“I don’t know. He’s pretty basic, right? It’s like Clair the Lune or the Ode of Joy, except all of his works are overused. You hear it and you just know it’s fucking Mozart.”

“What the hell are you talking about?” Hux says. His voice is very even.

“He was a genius, I’ll give him that, but can’t we just move on? Same goes for Vivaldi. Well, I guess it’s more rewarding if you’re a violinist. But the Mozart concertos, just… stop. No. Don’t tell me you don’t hate it. You could be playing Paganini. Tartini. You should be.” Silence. “That’s the shit.” Silence. “Not fucking Mozart. Sorry.” Silence. “Don’t you think? Wouldn’t you rather play-”

“That’s quite enough talk,” Hux remarks. He looks perfectly composed, but Kylo is positive he’ll be strangled with violin strings within the next couple of minutes. Hux doesn’t stay long enough to murder him, he just heads off, and Kylo spins on the stool.

“Sorry if I offended you?”  

He gets no response. Hux is clutching his violin case, coat swirling behind him as he hurries away.

“He’s dead!” Kylo calls after him. “It’s not like he can hear me- Fuck, just admit it, you must hate him!”

Hux turns on his heels, and spreading his arms, screams:

“He’s the reason I’ve never stopped!”

---

"I need to brush up my Mozart," Kylo announces, dropping his sheets on the hostel’s lousy little upright piano. He looks around in the dining room. “Apologies in advance,” he mutters, taking his seat.  

His choice is Piano Sonata Eight. The allegro maestoso is not half bad, if he’s being honest. The Knights gather close to him. The air smells of macaroni, plastic covers the tables. Some other guests of the youth hostel are hanging out here, but they don’t pay them any mind. They never do.

“It’s gonna be shitty,” Kylo warns Rodion, who frowns.

“Pardon?” Radojka asks, and thus the translation circle begins with that little common language they have, chunks of German and French and Russian, and then all of them assure him that he’s going to be wunderbar, izvanredan, nádherný, dývnyy, csodás.

Kylo smiles.

This is where he first met them, on the second night he arrived. He emerged from his lone little room like impending doom, and roamed through the hostel only to discover that the dining area had a Young Chang piano rotting away in the corner.

He never played with such urgency. He can’t remember what the piece was. Probably a Wagner fantasia, one of his grandfather’s favourites. He wanted to summon him. Instead, the Knights came. They surrounded him by the time he was finished, by the time he was trembling and gasping for air, and Rashad said:

“We waited. It is you. Come.”

It sounded oddly ceremonial, but in reality, the Knights were just looking for a seventh roommate. Kylo moved in with them, and within a week, he was the semi-official leader of their artistic ensemble, because was the only one who could play an instrument. They were a dancing company without music.

He plays the Mozart, and he can see them considering the piece, humming and whispering.

“Piripiripirir- tap-tap,” Roxána suggests, so Kylo plays softer, his touch lighter, and the girl grins.

--

He’s playing the sonata over and over again, nagging, insistent, and true to form, Hux shows up.

He hurries past.

--

Next day, it’s the same. Kylo is playing the piece - a serenade of begrudging apologies, or maybe he’s proving a point. Hux appears around eight pm, mouth pressed to a thin line, and pretends not hearing him.

“Hey!” Kylo shouts over the allegro, and Hux has the audacity to turn away. Kylo slams his fingers on the keys, and Hux flinches. Kylo is butchering the piece, and he tells himself he won’t show any mercy, only if Hux asks him.

He doesn’t.

--

The day after, it’s his best performance yet. He’s not enamored with the piece, but he plays it with the silent surrender of a long marriage, easing into it, a well-practiced harmony. He spots Hux in the distance. As always, he’s chic, composed and Vogue-perfect.

He hurries his steps.

“Would you just listen?” Kylo pleads, right in the middle of the presto, and he plays on as Hux stops.

“What?”

Kylo just plays the sonata.

“What do you have to say for yourself?” Hux demands, and Kylo has to swallow back a tiny moan. Not now.

“Listen to the music, please?” he manages with telltale raspiness. Hux huffs, but he stays.

Kylo closes his eyes, confident in the knowledge that he has Hux exactly where he needs him (here, here, here, finally) and shuts out the traffic, the glow of the evening, and lets the notes spark up under his fingertips as he touches the keys. He’s challenging Hux, but he’s not insulting him, which certainly improves their relationship. He gives him his best Mozart - he shows him it’s not enough. He lets the fireworks of the piece flare up and twinkle out of existence.

The silence is sobering. The tapping of rain on a parade.

“I guess we’re just vastly different people,” Hux says softly, and nods to him. He looks like he’s ready to leave, so Kylo jumps to his feet.

“I think that we are- What?”

“God, you’re tall.”

“Thanks?”

They look at each other. Hux steps closer. He’s dressed to kill in a greenish coat with fur collar. Kylo feels like he’s in the crosshairs.

“You’ve been practicing this piece just for me?” Hux asks.

“No, I uhm.”

“Just to say sorry? You could’ve just said sorry.”

“I said I was sorry.”

“Oh, but then you went on. It’s alright.” His lips curl up. “I forgive you.”

“I have every right to despise Mozart.”  

“That’s only fair. He wouldn’t like you either.” That no-smile reaches his eyes, and he has an impish glint in them as he walks past. He ventures closer than ever: Kylo could just reach out and grab him, but he doesn’t.

“See you?” he mutters.  

--

And then it’s raining. Kylo is super pissed. He feels like he’s been stood up, and the rational part of his mind knows that it’s not so, but the disappointment is persistent. He’s standing by the Powder Tower, fists in his pockets. He’s squinting at the Municipal House, accusing, like it’s keeping Hux away from him. It’s a Sunday. The beer garden is closed, and there’s less movement than usual, no tours, no visitors, no artists, but still Hux should be here, they had a date. They could have had one, anyway.

Kylo presses his back to the wet, black bricks, and sniffs. He should head home. He’ll catch a cold. Right now, it seems appealing: lying in his bunk for a few days, wallowing in misery.

A memory comes to him, unbidden, sudden, crying of a broken heart when he was hardly six. Dad was holding him, and he clinged on with too long limbs, too old to be held like a baby.

“What’s the matter, Ben?” grandfather asked, and as it often happened, mum replied for him:

“The boy he likes got himself a girlfriend,” mum said, putting down the groceries and the paper bags containing grandfather’s pills. She used to run errands for grandfather, and Ben could come with her if he behaved himself, so he always behaved himself, back then.

“Oh, it hurts, doesn’t it?” grandfather asked, and reached out for him. There was a strange moment when dad was still holding him and he already had his arms around grandfather’s neck, and both of them tugged. He ended up in grandfather’s hug.

“He’ll get over it,” dad said, “he’s a tough cookie. He’ll get himself another heartbreaker whenever he damn pleases, isn’t that right, kiddo? Little douche didn’t deserve you.”

He chuckled, but he remembers that it sounded weak and unconvincing.

“My poor boo,” mum remarked. He buried his face into grandfather’s shoulder. He was embarrassed. He didn’t want sympathy, he wanted to break something.

Grandfather brought him to the piano. Luke was there, Luke was always there, and he started asking mum about the medicine, something about the Tofranil, and grandfather mumbled while the other adults were conversing and arguing:

“A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, there was a mighty knight called Kylo Ren. Something horrible happened. He’s been betrayed. How did he feel then?”

Ben reached out for the keys. He needed an F in the first octave. He pressed it down, and pressed it down again, bamm-bamm-bamm-BAMM (anger, anger, anger).

--

He’s playing the shitty piano in the dining room. He’s relishing in the cacophony of it, the barbaric, rhapsodic slam of his fingers. Grandfather believed that harmony could only be understood once one embraced chaos.

The tables are shoved into the corners.  It’s practice night. It’s okay, Rashad’s second cousin owns the place. The Knights are all clad in black, dressed in the nu goth style Kylo himself proudly represents. His clothes are still soaked through, but he likes the chill on his skin.

The Knights are dancing with long pieces of silk, creating a black sea Jadranko has to swim through. He’s tangled in the make-believe waves, drowning, reciting a piece of poetry none of them understands, except maybe for Radojka, who’ll deny the fact, because she maintains that Croatian and Serbian are not the same . Kylo watches Jadranko’s struggle, and makes the piano follow his laboured breathing, heaving, heaving. The silks are encircling his limbs: there’s no escape. Entrapped, he screams.

Kylo feels incredibly powerful. With the right notes, he can make Jadranko ascend, or doom his soul to hell. The ending of the story is up to him. He aims for ambiguity, purgatory, light and dark and the in-between.

Afterwards, they’re sharing Becherovka and lazing around on the floor, too overcome with emotion to move. They’re huddled close, and the bottle goes around and around. By the tenth bitter sip, Kylo is determined to simply move on. It’s ridiculous to let Hux have so much power over him. He’s an artist, he should be above this. He is, he is, he is.

--

The clouds wander off, and he’s playing Chopin. He needs to make up for the lost day. A group of tourists stop by to take pictures in turns. He knows that a grand piano on the streets is somewhat… unusual, but all the fussing and laughing is just awkward and unnecessary. At least they pay. The service cap fills steadily enough that he can venture to the Mazurkas.  His audience wanes. For the unpracticed ears, it must sound like he’s merely tuning.

So of course Hux fucking adores it. Kylo doesn’t expect him to show up. He considers it to be over, whatever bizarre flirting they had, but then Hux is there, and he listens, and he looks perfect in his bespoke tweed suit and damn trenchie. He keeps his initial distance, but his eyes are blazing and he’s drinking up the music.

“Hey,” Kylo manages between Op 41 two and three. “Fancy some Chopin?” He makes a serious face, and overdoes the trills, the music almost hopping and bouncing. It earns him a dry chuckle.

“Your interpretation is certainly original.”  

“How you’ve been? How was Sunday?”

“Sunday?” Hux repeats.

“Yesterday?”

“Ah.” He licks his lips, and glances at the Powder Tower, head tilted back. His bare throat flashes. Kylo has the urge to sink his teeth into that sensitive flesh. “Have you ever been in there?”

“Wait, you were there yesterday? You were here?”

“Passed by.”

Kylo almost misses a beat, silently cursing. Hux goes on, measuring the building:

“It was quite interesting, I must say. It has an exhibition of Ladislav Sitensky’s photos. I never knew.”

“Never heard of him.”

“He documented World War Two, among other things. The view is quite nice as well if you go upstairs. You can see the Old Town.” He clears his throat. “Anyway, I shouldn’t be babbling while you’re performing.”

“I’m hardly performing,” Kylo objects. “I’m just messing around, I know you can tell. Tell me about your Sunday.”

They lock gazes. Hux wets his lips again, and starts talking. His voice is the most curious thing, soft and sharp at the same time. Kylo wonders what it’s like when he sings. When he whimpers in pleasure. Hearing him screaming was certainly a spiritual experience. He never knew a man so serious was capable of such wounded passion.

“I went to the Old Town Square. There was a huge crowd in front of the Astronomical Clock, so I didn’t see it. Maybe another day. Did some shopping. I had lunch at Francouzska, visited the Chocolate Museum, the Museum of Communism, and the Sex Machines Museum.”

“Are those an accurate representation of your interests?”

Hux narrows his eyes. He seems amused.

“Why, yes.”

“It was a pleasant day, then,” Kylo concludes, feeling like an idiot. The tips of his ears are burning.

“It was. Have you had the time to look around?”   

“I’m here by accident.”

“How come?”

“I should be in Amsterdam,” he confesses, the music trembling. “I was heading there with uh, with the piano, but it got damaged, because - because they’re fucking assholes, and I had to have it repaired, and I sorta ran out of money, and I was in Frankfurt. And there’re all sorts of regulations for street musicians in Germany, and I was like, I can’t do anything else, I don’t have papers, so… so I came here, broke, transferring a piano is expensive, you see, so now I’m staying here and saving for a safe trip to Amsterdam.”

Hux looks at the imposing Municipal House, then back at Kylo. He scowls.

“You said you were paying them to store the piano.”

“Yeah. But don’t tell anyone. I don’t think they’re supposed to-”

“And I assume you’re staying at a hotel.”

“Hostel. Yeah.”

“You didn’t plan for a long trip, so you had to buy a few things. You’re also paying for public transport. Not to mention-”

“I’m well aware of my expenses,” Kylo interrupts.

“What I’m saying is, you’re wasting money. Surely-”

“I don’t really need advice. I just, argh.”

“What do you need?”

He looks down at his hands. He needs, he needs-

“I need to make grandfather proud,” he blurts out. “He’s, he was Dutch. I wanted to take the piano back where it all started. Make it alright.”

Hux sighs. Somehow, it’s not judgemental. He comes closer while Kylo is blinking away tears, and leans to the piano.

“You’re so sentimental,” he notes. “Enough of Chopin. Let’s have some Bach.”

Kylo swallows, and after brief consideration goes for a transcription of violin sonata one, G minor, which makes Hux chuckle. The music is fluid and clean. He needs it more than Hux, he needs Bach’s single-minded focus, but still, Hux pays for it. Kylo is relieved to see that it’s not more than his last tip, two-hundred korunas, more than one would give to a street musician, but less than he deserves and they both know it.

“Very good, Ren,” Hux says, and he feels warmness spreading in his chest.

“You can call me Kylo.”

“Is that Dutch? It doesn’t sound Dutch.”

“No, it’s uh, it’s made up. My name was Ben Solo, but now I go by Kylo, so. Yeah.”

“Hah.” Hux turns it over in his mind. “Was Ben short for Benjamin or Benedict?”

“Benevolent,” Kylo mutters. Hux’s eyebrows arch up. It makes him look rather comical.

“Beg your pardon?”

“I was named after Benevolent Kenobi, he was um, my grandfather’s guardian.”

“Who names their kid Benevolent Kenobi?”

“A monk named Qui-Gon Jinn.”

“That explains it.” Hux turns his attention to the piano’s strings, and very carefully, he touches the F in the last octave. He runs a delicate finger over it, and Kylo is transfixed by the elegance of it. He isn’t sure whether he noticed before how beautiful Hux’s hands were, but suddenly, he can’t see anything else.

“It’s Armitage Hux.”

“Huh?”

“My full name.”

“Armitage?” He beams. “We were made for each other.”

Hux looks at him beneath his golden lashes. In that moment, Kylo wants to kiss him. He wants to pepper his face with butterfly-soft little kisses and then claim his mouth, steal his breath and eat him up. The urge is gut-wrenching and dangerous. He drops his hands to his knees to still himself.

“Such silly names,” Hux purrs, and silly never sounded so dirty . He straightens up, and Kylo watches him rolling his shoulders back. “Anyhow. I should get going. See you tomorrow; big day.”

“Yeah,” Kylo says, “I’ll be here. As always.”

Hux walks past him, and touches his shoulders. It’s just a brush of his knuckles, but Kylo shudders, and his cock twitches. God, it’s been a while. And it’s never been Armitage Hux.

--

“Can I borrow your laptop?”

Roxána looks at him. She’s curled up on the checkered couch in the lounge. It’s the only place in the hotel with a wi-fi signal. It’s stuffed.

“What is ‘barrow’?”

“Can I use it for a few minutes? I’d like to look something up. If that’s okay.”

“Okay, that is okay. Don’t sniff around between my bookmarks.”

“Okay.”

Roxána hands over the Asus and Kylo sits on the ground, cross-legged. He left his phone in the States so his family can’t  reach him. He brought his Macbook, but he didn’t bring the charger. He was in a hurry, he still regrets it.

“What are you searching for?” Roxána peeks over his shoulder.  

“I’ve met somebody.”

“He is handsome, yes?”

“Very.”

Roxána smirks, and yells something. Ramóna drops everything and Rodion joins in, and soon, they’re all sitting around Kylo.

“Show us the boyfriend!” Roxána demands.

“Hush, there might be police around,” Rodion warns, and she rolls her eyes.

“We are in Prága! We are free.”

“He’s not really my boyfriend,” Kylo confesses, and Rodion gives him a meaningful look.

“Do you want him to be?”

Kylo considers it as he types in Hux’s name. Sure, why not - it’d be, well, it’d be amazing, but for some reason, he never entertained the possibility. He’s been thinking about Hux in terms of a one-night stand, or an affair at best, although he sucks at both. He’s got trust issues.  

“You are seeing Armitage Hux!” Rodion exclaims, then clasps his hand over his mouth.

“What? Is he famous or…” He trails off. Well, there are a number of hits. A quick glance at the Wikipedia trivia tells him that Hux is a Grammy-winning and Naumburg-nominated artist and former wunderkind.

“Pictures,” Ramóna asks. There are thousands. They’re all very professional and dramatically lit, and Hux has his violin on all of them. Apparently, he’s walking around with a Stradivarius.

“What the hell,” Kylo whispers. It’s no wonder he never heard of him, he doesn’t give a shit about other artists, but God, Hux is really somebody. He regrets Google-checking him; it makes him feel small and weird.

“He is attractive, yes?”

“Yeah, that’s the problem,” Kylo mumbles.

“Videos!” Ramóna grabs the laptop and goes to YouTube. Of course Hux is all over it. She scrolls down, and Kylo’s stomach churns. Seeing Hux performing without his knowledge would be somehow inappropriate. He reminds himself that he was more than ready to jerk off to him without his consent, but that’s different.

“I don’t want to watch,” he announces, and stands. Still, he lingers. The sisters get headphones from Rodion, and lean close to the screen. Kylo is shooting nervous glances at them. Ramóna’s jaw literally drops within half a minute.

“He’s, how do you put this, he’s excellent,” Rodion says.

“Well, he’s kind of a jerk.”

Rodion shrugs.

“Artists. We’re not polite. We’re jealous and we’re self-obsessive.”

“Self-obsessed.”

“Yes, yes, like that.”

When the video is over, Roxána pulls the headphones off, and looks at Kylo. Her eyes are wide and glistening.

“Marry him,” she begs. “You’re American, you can.”

--

Kylo is being overwhelmed and timid and generally ill-tempered the next day. He’s playing Ives, not giving a shit about the money he’s losing by choosing such a divisive composer. He knows he’s good at it, Ives suits him. He lets the sonata take over, decomposing his thoughts, reducing him to jarring tempo. It feels like the city is pulsing with the music, expanding and collapsing.

He’s so into it by the time Hux arrives that he hardly notices him. It’s like he’s seeing him through a broken looking-glass. The night has shattered to so many pieces; Hux seems to be the only thing which is real. He’s hugging a bouquet of cream-coloured roses to his chest. He looks radiant, the gilting light of the street lamp casting a halo over his head.

“Hi,” Kylo says. He hates him. He wants him. He adores him.

“It’s nice to see you.”

Don’t, don’t, don’t.

“You, eh. Flowers.”

“Ah.” Hux hugs the bouquet closer. He’s got his violin case and a garment bag in his other hand; it’s a balancing act. “It was really nice of them. It was our opening night, you see.”

“You need a hand?”

“I’d appreciate it, thank you.”

Well, shit. He didn’t mean it.

“I’ll need to wheel in the piano first.”

“It’s fine. I can wait. Finish the piece, please.”

--

It’s not fair. Hux is more beautiful than ever. They’re walking through Králodvorská street, and Kylo is carrying Hux’s bouquet. Everything is oppressively romantic. Kylo keeps glancing at Hux: his steps lack the usual determination, he’s just sort of promenading, enjoying the chilly breeze on his upturned face. They’re in this jewel-box of a city, they’re young, they have this infiltrating connection, and Kylo is ready to scream.

Hux is lodging in the Grand Hotel Bohemia. They walk through glass doors into a white hall with gold-gilded columns and too many mirrors. It’s surprisingly modern yet flamboyantly elegant.

“I would’ve preferred the Augustine,” Hux confides him as they head to the elevator. Kylo catches a glimpse of their reflection. He realises what’s going on. They’ll be in Hux’s room, soon. Alone. Hux presses the button and steps back, and he’s so close, and he smells of expensive cologne. Kylo wants to bury his face into his neck. Kiss it. Bite and lick and nibble. He has to lower the bouquet over his crotch-area to conceal his forming erection.

“So how was your day?” he asks, pretending to be a civilised person.

“Exhausting,” Hux says, which is not very promising. “Yours?”

“Confusing.”

Hux opens his mouth to say something, but the elevator pings as they reach the first floor.

They make their way through narrow corridors, and Hux keys into the room. He hangs up the garment bag and takes off his trenchcoat. He’s wearing a button-down and a waistcoat underneath. He’s got slim hips and a skinny frame and the cutests ass Kylo ever laid eyes on.

He blinks. Fuck, he’s weak. He’s weak, he’s weak, he’s weak.

“How about a drink?”

“Yes, please.”

God, he needs it. Hux’s legs go on for days. He takes the bouquet from Kylo’s hands.

“Thank you. Make yourself comfortable. Shoes off, please.”

Kylo complies hurriedly. He feels like he’s in the first ten minutes of a porn video. The room has a white and chocolate brown colour scheme, which make it look warm and bright and airy. The plush carpet with the swirly design is a bit much, but he’s not complaining. There’s an armchair, but it’s facing the bed, and the huge bed makes Kylo uncomfortable because he keeps picturing Hux in it, grasping the sheets. He needs to chill.

“Sit,” Hux tells him, returning with a vase. Kylo collapses on the armchair. He slides his hands into his pockets, very casual, and presses his erection down to his thigh. Not yet. The contact makes his cock swell.

Hux puts the roses on a small glass table, arranges them, then heads to the minibar. It’s across the room, and Hux chooses to just sort of bend down as he opens it, perfect little ass in the air. It’s so small, it’d feel snug around Kylo’s dick.

“Riesling or Pinot noir?”

“Are those wine?”

Hux glances at him over his shoulder.

“Yes.”

Kylo averts his gaze. Drums with his thumbs.

“Wine stops being wine North to Krakow. My roommates warned me.”

“I’ve got Kozel.”

“I don’t drink beer.”

“Me neither.”

“Is there anything to eat?” he asks, feeling stupid. Hux grabs a bottle and a paper plate.

“Well, there’s cinnamon trdelnik.”

“You shouldn’t keep that in the fridge.”

“Where else was I supposed to put it?” He brings the plate with the pastry to Kylo. It’s even got some vanilla ice cream on it. “I’ve already had two,” Hux confesses as he hands it over. Kylo lowers the plate into his lap.

“Is it that good?”

“Hah, it’s the reason I’ve met you.”

“Is that so?” Kylo asks on autopilot, then his head shoots up. “Wait, how come?”

“You see, the hotel is a five minutes walk. ” Hux starts uncorking the wine. “Seven, if I go in your direction, but then I can swing by the pastry shop at Králodvorská. Dopheld told me about it. Oh, bother.” He puts the bottle between his slender thighs and redoubles his efforts. Kylo concentrates on his plate and stuffs his mouth full of pastry so he won’t moan out loud. “I’ve heard you playing, but I thought I was overhearing a concert, or a bar pianist in the restaurant, or something like that.”

“You’vve heavvd me plavving?”

“Please don’t speak with your mouth full.”

“Sovvy.”

Hux tsks.

“Disgusting.”

Kylo thinks he’ll pass out soon. He’s dizzy with want. The bottle pops open, and Hux walks back to the minibar to get himself a glass. He tilts his hips as he pours out the pinot noir.

“I’m sorry,” he says after taking a long sip, “you’ve found me in a strange mood today.”

Kylo makes a show of chewing and swallowing. He does a double-take. There’re purple shadows around Hux’s eyes, and his grip on the glass is unnaturally rigid. Oh yes, he looks amazing. He also looks like he’s ready to collapse, and Kylo feels shitty for not noticing it earlier.

“You okay?” he asks, sheepish even for his own ears.

“I’m fine,” Hux says, running his free hand through his hair.

“But?”

“But Don Giovanni is not very rewarding.”

“You’re playing Don Giovanni?”

“Hold your tongue, hater.” Hux takes another sip, leaning against the counter, and makes a face. “You were right, the wine is vile.”

Kylo blinks.

“That’s an opera.”

“I’m well aware.”

“What are you doing in an opera? I thought you were on a solo tour or something.” Fuck. Now, he’s getting angry, because whatever Hux is doing, it wears him thin. His fingers curl into fists, protective.

“I’m touring with the First Order Orchestra,” Hux says. “Don Giovanni is a much anticipated collaboration with the artists of the Municipal House.”

“But you’re, like. They can’t even see you.”

“I’m the concertmaster. They still got me roses.” Hux clinks the glass against his teeth, and huffs. Then he throws back the drink.

“You’re wasting away your talent,” Kylo says, and puts the trdelnik aside. He plans to stand up, to jump to his feet and - then what? Gather Hux in his arms? Fix him? How?

Hux regards him, head tilted. He remains seated.

“You’re one to talk. You’re a street musician.”

“You’ve heard me playing. Tell me it wasn’t the best music you’ve heard in years.”

“I’ve looked you up. There’s barely anything. You never had a concert.”

Kylo shrugs it off. Hux is being a petty prick again, but it’s hard being mad at him now.

“I never wanted to have a concert.”

“Why not?”

“For me, music is intimate. I didn’t want to pursue a… career.”

“You’re odd,” Hux notes. “Such an odd man.”

“And you’re not enjoying what you’re doing, so there’s that.”

“I certainly enjoy making a living,” Hux retorts. “I enjoy the applause. I enjoy a great many things.”

“But not the music.”

“Not the music. Not like this, anyway. I’ll get over it.”

“Maybe you shouldn’t. Maybe…” He makes himself stop. Licks his lips. What could he possibly say. Hux glances at the plate.

“Are you finished?”

“Yes. It was delicious.”

Hux squeezes his eyes shut for a moment, and Kylo is worried he will just go out like a light, having fulfilled his duty as a host.

“I’m sorry,” Hux sighs. “I’m not really in the mood for company. I think you should leave.”

“Oh.” Kylo makes to stand up. He wipes his hands on his pant. Fidgets. “Will you be okay?”

“Don’t pamper me,” Hux mutters. It’s without venom. Kylo sets his chin, and walks to him. Hux is pressed to the counter, gripping its edge to balance himself. Kylo searches his gaze, eyes darting between his tired eyes, his chapped lips. Then he leans in.

It’s the softest kiss.

Hux’s mouth opens for him. His tongue is cold from the wine, and their noses bump together.

“Will you be okay?” Kylo whispers when he pulls back.

“Yes.”

“Promise.”

“You’re ridiculous.”

“Promise me.”

“I promise you I’ll be okay. Go.”

Kylo runs his thumbs over Hux’s cheekbones, and steps back.

“Will you come tomorrow?”

“Maybe. If you’re playing Debussy.”

“I will.”

“Promise?” Hux mocks him, and Kylo wants to kiss him again, and he wants to undress him, unmake him, fuck him until he feels like himself again, and he can’t.

“Promise.”

With that, he leaves.

--

He needs to think it through, Kylo muses as he’s doing pull-ups. He’s hanging on the doorframe, blocking the way, sweaty and shirtless. His roommates are playing cards. They have it easy.

Kylo lost some weight. His Warrior’s Workout Diet™ had gone to hell. Now he’s eating what he gets, and he doesn’t get complex carbohydrates and lean proteins every day. Not to mention fruits. He never realised how expensive fruits were.

He wishes he’d met Hux back in LA. He would’ve been sun-kissed and carefree. He wonders whether Hux would’ve given two shits about him if they just bumped into each other on the beach.

There are two possible explanations for Hux’s interest in him. One is the false intimacy of being strangers in a strange land. Kylo doesn’t like to think about that. He doesn’t like the idea that Hux might open his heart and his legs just because he thinks it’s all temporary, that both of them will leave soon and never see each other again.

Explanation two: there’s a chance it’s like how grandfather and grandmother met, when Benevolent got busy with the school and had to send his protegé to the charity ball to play. Ani was barely eighteen, a refugee from the Netherlands, and he locked gazes with the hostess and thought he was witnessing a miracle.

There’s a chance it’s like how dad and mum met, when Han fancied himself a hero for dragging Leia out of a visibly heated conversation in a bar. Turned out Leia was having a political argument with a friend, and that she was actually enjoying herself. She was very pissed at Han, and didn’t give a damn that she got saved by the lead singer of Millennium Falcon, a rock legend and notorious adventurer.

He sacrificed his ill macho fame and fell for a rebellious ballerina, and they got married, and the press was going crazy about it, the lovestory of the age. Nobody cared that she was nineteen, that she got pregnant, that she lost her career and lost her mother a few months after, and eventually, lost her father to depression. Kylo doesn’t remember the glamour. He remembers mum studying law and then working her ass off, and dad never being around and how the arguments got cold and heated and then cold again, and he remembers the dramatic divorce and the weekends with dad in Melbourne and Berlin and New York City, the homeless wandering.

His parents tell him that they still love each other. And yet... and yet.

And there’s a chance that it’s like the story of Luke and Wedge, missed flights and sweet coffee, dull and very romantic.  

There's a chance that it's a chance. That it’s whatever he makes of it. A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, there was a fearless knight called Kylo Ren. Choose your own adventure. What did he do next?

--

He’s saving the Debussy for Hux. He’s waiting for him with so much anticipation that he can hardly breathe. He makes Beethoven sound excited.

The night deepens and fog descends, transforming Prague into a fairytale-land. The lights are so many spiderwebs and the buildings glow orange. Kylo keeps glancing up, although he double-checked, fucking Don Giovanni ends at eight fifteen, and then Hux still has to say goodbye to his colleagues and change.  

The minute finally comes, and - well, it certainly worth the wait.

“Wow.”

Hux got skin-tight riding pants on with matching boots, a button down, a light blazer and a silk ascot to top it all. Kylo can’t wait to get him naked. He makes to stand up, and Hux frowns.

“I was promised a show.”

“C’mhere.”

“I really need that Debussy.”

“I know. C’mhere.”

Hux approaches him, cautiously. Kylo leans in for a kiss. It’s just a peck.

“Stay here. How about Jardins sous la Pluie?”

“Your French leaves much to be desired.”

Kylo opens his mouth to make a pun, but Hux raises a warning finger. “Don’t.”

Kylo smirks and sits. He begins to play without much ceremony: a drizzle washing over a colourful garden.

“I want you to put your hand above the strings. Feel it.”

Hux shoots him a glance, and reaches out. He blinks a few times, then closes his eyes, just when the music is the loudest. He gasps. Kylo watches him, transfixed, making the sounds vibrate through him, touch him. Just like the rain.

Hux is standing there, palm over the piano, like he was blessing the dissected insides. Kylo can see the tension leaving him,  he can see him giving himself over to the music. Letting it pour into him. He pictures himself doing the same, cumming right up inside him, filling his beautiful muse.

He hits the final note with such force it startles both of them. Hux looks at him, and Kylo has half the mind to have him there and then.

“Your turn,” he manages.

“I never agreed to that.”

“Indulge me.”

Hux makes a displeased face.

“I can’t feel my wrists. Besides, the good people of Prague had purchased thousand koruna tickets for Don Giovanni - how’d they feel if they saw me performing for free?”

“I’d let you borrow my cap.”

“You can’t be serious.” Hux steps closer, and regards him. “How long have you been here?”

“People start coming around five on a Tuesday.”

“We’ve both worked hard, you see. Have you eaten?” He guides Kylo’s hands to his waist. Maybe it’s his way of expressing that he wants a hug, or a public blowjob. Kylo pulls him into his lap. Hux doesn’t protest. Kylo bites his neck just above the ascot. His skin is warm and tender. Kylo bites down again; Hux grabs his hair, and pulls him back. “Have you eaten?” he demands.

“Yes. Did you want to wine and dine me, or what?”

Hux’s grip loosens, smoothens into a caress.

“I have other plans.”

Kylo licks at his lips, just with the tip of his tongue. Hux’s mouth is so elegant and obscene and it tastes so sweet he can hardly stand it.

“Play for me first.”

“No.”

“C’mon. It’d be like foreplay. Can you play the piano?”

“Does Chopsticks turn you on?”

“Play me Chopsticks,” Kylo breathes, and kisses him, this time properly. Hux fists his jacket, and Kylo wants so much more, he wants him to tear and claw, and he wants him all for himself, he wants him honest, so he asks again: “Play me anything.”

“Out of the question.”

“Can I see your violin?”

“What’s gotten into you?”

“Can I?”

“It’s too humid outside. Come to my place.” He leans to his ear. “I’ll show you my violin, you depraved wanker.”

--

Kylo is sitting on the bed, fully dressed and a bit disoriented. Hux walks up to him; he’s lost the boots and the ascot, but he made up for it by borrowing the service cap. Just seeing him like this is overpowering.

“Hold it,” Hux tells him, handing over the case. Kylo touches it like it was a relic, and watches Hux unclasp it. Their eyes meet. “It’s not the weirdest thing I’ve ever done in a bedroom situation,” Hux confesses, “but it’s certainly up there. Why are you so eager to see it?”

Kylo averts his gaze.

“It’s part of you.”

“Huh.” Hux furrows his brows. “This is me, then.”

He picks it up. The low light catches on the polished wood. Kylo doesn’t know shit about violins. He knows that this one is more than a hundred years old; that it was a gift to reward Hux’s talent. It must be really important to him. He’s holding it with great care. The piny scent of rosin fills the air.

“Play for me?”

“We’d wake the hotel.” He sounds regretful. It makes Kylo dare to hope.

“What would you play for me?”

“Something special.”

“How?”

“I’d play you a song no one has ever heard before.”

They look at each other.

“Kiss me,” Kylo pleads. He’ll die if Hux won’t do it. He’s never felt anything with such intensity since he was a teenager. Hux puts away the violin, and hisses. His hands must be killing him. He gets the bow, and sets the case aside. Finally he bends over, and Kylo can capture his lips with his. It’s intoxicating. He’s getting drunk on Hux’s kiss, and sighs:

“Fuck.”

“A fine idea.” Hux straightens up, and Kylo tilts his head back.

“What are you planning with that bow? Spank me?”

Spank you?” Hux asks, outraged. “These are delicate things, you brute. Spanking must be done with proper-”

“Then what are- What?”

“I need to clean it. I was in a hurry, I haven’t done it. I’ll clean it and then we’ll get back at it.” He looks around, and walks to his desk. Kylo follows the swing of his hips with his gaze.

“You were saying something about spanking?”

“I won’t spank you,” Hux mutters, resigned. “We can’t get into anything kinky tonight.”

“What gets you going? Normally.”

“These days? Nothing.” He wipes the bow with a piece of cloth, and glances at Kylo. “Then you came along.”

“Can I take my clothes off?”

“I was about to ask you.”

Kylo grins, and starts pulling off his socks as Hux loosens the hair. He feels giddy, all of his anxiety lifted. He can’t wait to throw himself at Hux, to roll around and kiss him silly. He should probably not do that. He should probably calm down and control his emotions, or he’ll get into trouble. Happened before.

But Hux is different. He can be himself. Let go of everything else.

“So I’m like, your big adventure, huh?” he asks, only half-joking. “You saw me, you heard me and you couldn’t stop thinking about me.”

“You intrigue me,” Hux confesses.  “You’re a curious man.”

“And I can tell you that you’re gorgeous,” he says, pulling his shirt off, “and it’s super fun to rile you up, and you’re probably very talented, although you won’t show me.” He kicks off his pants and his underwear. Hux turns to him, finally, and looks him up and down, scrutinizing. He smirks. He walks to him, bow in hand; stops within arms length, and touches it to the tip of Kylo’s erect cock.

“Already.”

“Whha-”

“You’re what, twenty-two, twenty-one?”

“Twenty-one.”

“Tonight’s going to be pleasant.” He puts the bow down, laying it over the top of the case. He straightens up, and puts the service cap on Kylo’s head. He begins to unbuckle his belt.

“That thing you did,” Kylo finds his words, “with the bow, that was. Hot.”

“I’ll need to clean it again. Such a filthy boy, look at you. You won’t get offended if I call you filthy?”

“No, sir.”

Hux unzips his fly.

“Or boy.”

“No. Say it again?”

“Greedy little brat. Do you prefer topping or bottoming?”  

“I’d very much like to fuck you.”

“Thought so. Pull me out.”

Kylo swallows, and hooks his fingers into the waistband of Hux’s briefs. His heart is hammering, and he’s having tunnel vision as he pulls it down. Hux is half-hard, and his pink cock looks delicious. Kylo decides to sample. Hux presses his palm to his forehead, and very gently pushes him back.

“Patience. I don’t have a condom on, it’s under the pillow. Fetch the lube from the drawer as well, and get us some wet wipes.”

Kylo whimpers, but complies. Hux undresses in the meantime; Kylo keeps stealing glances. His skin is smooth and pale, and he’ got a soft tummy and some freckles here and there, and Kylo wants to discover all of them. Hux lies down to his stomach, stretching out in a graceful motion. He peeks at Kylo.

“Do you mind?”

“Should I…?”

“Work for it. My hands hurt a bit. Finger me open.”

Kylo glances at Hux’s ass. He’s allowed to touch it. He’s allowed. He pours lube over his fingers, and slides one in, carefully; with his free hand, he grabs the left cheek and starts kneading it. Hux hums his pleasure. He looks like he’s receiving a nice but ordinary massage. Kylo is determined to make him scream yet.

“God, you’re so hot inside. So wet. So ready for me.”

“I may or may not have fooled around with a plug this morning.”

Kylo looks at him, although Hux can’t see him, not really.

“You brought your toys?”

“I’ve purchased souvenirs, so to speak. Bringing my own is always too much fuss. Do you like to play with yourself?”

Kylo curls his finger, testing.

“I uh, left some stuff at home. The police has probably found them by now.”

“The police?”

“Uh-huh.”

He adds another finger. Hux tenses.

“Kylo,” he says, “is there something you’re not telling me?”

“Like what? Does it feel good, by the way?”

“It’s very nice, thank you. Why is the police searching your private things?”

“I’m sort of missing. And I took my uncle’s fundraising money with me. And the piano. I don’t think he’ll press charges, though, but you never know.”

“Ah. I see.”

“Clench again. Please. Fuck, you’re going to feel amazing.”

Hux is silent for a while, save for his measured breaths. He takes three fingers easily, and Kylo decides that next time, if there’ll be a next time, he’ll fuck him with his tongue.

“Do you plan to go back?” Hux inquires.

“Hm?”

“To the US.”

“Ah? No.”    

“And you’re not a serial killer.”

“A serial killer would never tell you that he wants to serial kill you.”

“Save your sense of humour. I think we’re finished with this part. Wipe your hand and sit on the edge of the bed.”

Kylo follows the instructions. He’s a bit hurt to notice that Hux had gone almost completely flaccid. Hux doesn’t try to hide it: he stands before him.

“Did I do something wrong?”

“No. You’re doing really good. I mean it, Kylo. I’m just exhausted and stressed.”

“That’s… understandable.”

“Touch me.”

Kylo nods, and wraps his hand around Hux’s cock; the angle makes it sort of awkward, but it’s still amazing, even more so since Hux disposes of the cap, and buries his fingers in his hair. He’s petting him, and Kylo practically melts. He feels honored when Hux hardens in his palm after a couple of firm strokes.

“Can I suck you off now?”

“I don’t know, can you?”

“Seriously?”

Hux arches an eyebrow, and Kylo huffs.

“May I suck your cock?” He can feel his own precome dribbling down his shaft as he says that. Hux must have noticed something, because he notes:

“Sounds much better, doesn’t it? You may.”

Kylo bites his lips, and fumbles with the condom wrapping. He hopes he won’t come all over himself as soon as he gets to put his tongue on Hux.

“What flavour?”

“No idea.”  

Kylo rolls the condom over him, regretting that he’s never learnt the mouth-only trick, although he’s not sure it’d impress Hux. He swallows him down, too hungry for it to bother with teasing or proper techniques. Hux is heavy on his tongue, he fills his throat, and it’s such a beautiful friction. Kylo breathes in through his nose, inhaling the heady scent of sex, and begins to bob his head. There’s something calming in it, serving Hux this way. Savouring the taste, he pulls back. With the tip still touching his lips, he looks up, and  announces:

“I think it’s Piña Colada.”

Hux looks mortified for a moment, then he laughs. Kylo giggles like an idiot as he watches Hux cover his mouth and his eyes wrinkle up. In that moment, Kylo is certain that he’s in love.

“I’m so sorry,” Hux shakes his head, composing himself. He clears his throat, and adds, “I never wanted to put you through this.”

“No, it’s fine, I mean hey, cocktails.”

“No, I can’t do this to you. I just- Just put a Piña Colada coated cock in me, and- It wasn’t even funny, was it?”

“Not really,” Kylo agrees, and presses a goodbye kiss to the tip. He looks around for the other condom. “If you like Piña Coladas, and getting caught in the rain... ” he hums as he unwraps it.

“Stop murdering my erection, you serial killer.”

Kylo winks as he coats himself with lube. Hux watches his hand move up and down.

“See anything you like?” Kylo asks.

“I see a challenge. So, yes. Hands on the mattress.” He kneels over him, taking hold of his shoulders. They lock gazes. “It’s like you were sitting in front of your piano.”

“Fuck,” Kylo sighs. “Would you do it? Would you take my dick as I sat there?”

“It’s just a fantasy.” He positions Kylo’s cock; the digits of his fingers are hard and calloused. Kylo can feel himself leak, and Hux chuckles. “So eager.”

“Have you been thinking about this? Us?”  

Hux teases the head, circling it around his rim.

“Never thought you’d be so big.”

“You like them big?” Kylo asks, not sure whether he wants to know the answer. Hux sinks down, just a few inches, and gasps, head thrown back. He’s so pretty Kylo determines he won’t let anyone else have him ever again. “Will you be mine tonight? Just mine?”

Hux is warm and tight around him, and his eyes flutter shut. It just feels right, having him there, as close as they can get. Kylo presses an open-mouthed kiss to a freckled shoulder. Every part of Hux is perfect.

“Say please.”

“Please, please, please,” he whispers against the velvety skin. It’s so pale and sensitive. It reddens so easily.

“Well, if you work for it, you may stay with me.”

Kylo tilts his hips up, earning another gasp. He thrusts into him, and Hux all but collapses, hugging his neck.

“Should I go slower?”

“Don’t you dare.” Hux is holding him tightly as he begins to move. The position is slightly weird, but it helps Kylo picturing that they’re really at the Powder Tower, rocking together, bared to the whole world. The service cap would fill with coins for their exquisite collaboration. He’d fuck Hux in front of a circle of onlookers, claiming him his own forever.

They fall back. Hux is riding him in earnest, long thighs bracketing his snapping hips. Kylo loses himself, becoming undone. It’s too much; he panics at the intensity of his building pleasure, but he’s unable to stop.

“Are you close?”

“Yeah, oh f-”

“Now, we can’t have that, can we?” Hux pulls back, and Kylo sobs.

“No, no, no, don’t go, I need to come, please let me come-”

He’s heaving raspy breaths as Hux leans over him and pins his wrists to the mattress. They’re not touching anywhere else. Kylo’s cock twitches with painful arousal. Hux searches his gaze; his eyes are glassy, pupils fat.

“Not yet. You’re so good for me, Kylo. Make it last.”

“I can’t, I-”

“Do as I say.”

“How-”

Hux leans closer. Strands of hair fall over.

“You’re in control,” he says, and kisses him. His calloused fingers curl around Kylo’s cock; he’s afraid he’ll spill, come so hard he blacks out, but Hux squeezes just at the right place. Kylo moans into the kiss.    

He can do this.

They roll over. There’s a few minutes of silence and calming kisses. Hux’s skin is strikingly pale against the sheets, and his hair is like flames. Kylo sinks into him again on a bed of fire, holding him, and Hux grips his shoulder blades. His touch is soothing, urging.

Moderato.”

“Fuck you,” Kylo mutters, affectionate. He finds a rhythm, pleasuring Hux with long drags of his cock and rolling thrusts. He’s no longer overcome. Hux keeps him in balance with every touch, every little moan, showing him what he wants.  It’s so easy to follow his lead; it’s a duet, and they’re creating heavenly music together. He just needs to mind the tempo, that’s all.

“That’s a good boy,” Hux praises. “Look at you. You can go faster.”

Prestissimo?”

Tempo gusto.”  

Kylo grins. Hux touches himself, adjusting to Kylo’s movements. They’re in perfect harmony now, and Kylo lets himself ease into it completely. Even when the pace is punishing, his mind remains clear. He’s conscious of every inhale they take, the tremble of muscles, the warmth of skin and the wet heat of flesh. He’s pounding Hux rough and hard, relishing in the brutality of it - the honesty. The bed creaks, the headboard slamming against the wall. Hux looks at him, and there’s a confidential smirk on his full lips.

“That’s it, that’s it.”

Kylo comes at that, the pleasure spreading over him in unfurling waves, and it leaves him shaking and blissfully empty, at peace. Hux is still smirking.

He pulls out, and Hux’s breath hitches. Kylo gets rid of the condom, and slides two fingers into him. His back arches off the mattress. Kylo takes his rigid cock into his mouth, and sucks at it as he fingers him, coaxing his orgasm out of him. Hux comes with a wet gasp, thighs pulling Kylo closer.

“Yes,” he pants. “This is what I had in mind, yeah.”

--

Kylo is ready to cry with relief. It’d be embarrassing but kinda justified. A freshly showered Hux is draped all over him, resting his head on Kylo’s chest. He’s wearing nothing but a pair of tiny briefs, his warm skin bright in the moonlight. His hair is incredibly soft: Kylo is running his fingers through it, messing up the silky strands. Hux doesn’t seem to mind, he’s hugging Kylo with long limbs, gently breathing.

Kylo has half the mind to suggest round two, but Hux would probably fall asleep halfway through. Pleasant as their current state is, Kylo is restless and fidgety. He can hardly contain himself, he wants to touch Hux all over, he wants to fuck him again and again, never stop doing that. He keeps shifting, worried that Hux will kick him out.

“Can I ask you something?” Hux mumbles, and Kylo tenses.

“Yes.”

“Sort of intimate.”

“Okay.”

Hux glances at him, lashes heavy.

“Why did you run away?”

“It’s a long story,” Kylo says automatically, but then he realizes he wants to tell it. He wants Hux to know. He wants to give him everything, the good, the bad, the whole package. It’s dangerous and infatuating. “I guess it starts with me being an unwanted kid,” he begins, hesitant. “Unplanned, anyway. A backstage… thing. And grandfather wasn’t really happy about it. He was in a bad place. His wife just died. The love of his life. It was an accident. And then his teenage daughter got pregnant with a rockstar’s kid.”

“I got the impression that he loved you,” Hux yawns. He presses closer. Kylo swallows against the tightness in his throat.

“He did,” he says. It’s not easy to talk about it, even as a bedtime story. Even if he pretends it happened a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. “He used to tell me stories, he taught me everything, he allowed me to fool around on the piano when I could hardly walk. Mum hated leaving me with him, but there was no other way. She was busy with college and then with work. Officially, my uncle was the one babysitting me, but he chose to stay with grandfather, to take care of him. So I’ve spent half of my life there. That was my happy place. At home, I was lonely and bored. Anyway. It was taken away.”

He stops, briefly, to check whether Hux is sleeping. He peers at Kylo. He doesn’t look sleepy anymore, and Kylo doesn’t know whether that’s reassuring or worrying.

“My uh, my parents divorced when I was fifteen,” he goes on, his voice somewhat monotonous. “It was… all over the press in the US, and my teachers and everyone and their mother asked me if I was okay. I wasn’t. And there were other changes.” He wets his lips. “Mum just went crazy. She started saying that grandfather needed professional help for his own good, and stuff like that. He was depressed. Luke was there for him, but mum said he couldn’t expect Luke to sacrifice his own life. That he was young and talented and he should be out there, not locked up with an unstable old man in a house full of bad memories. Grandfather refused to take his medicine, he told me he hated the side-effects, the grogginess and how it changed him, how it dulled the pain he thought he deserved. Mum said hypocritical shit; the illness wasn’t grandfather’s fault, but not taking care of it was his responsibility, and that when you’re really sick, you go to a hospital, and let people help. And she managed to lock him up in a residential treatment center.”

“Could you go visit him?” Hux asks, and Kylo is thankful for the interruption. He shouldn’t focus on the arguments, he shouldn’t relive them again. He should forget how scared he was when he heard grandfather yell at mum. He never raised his voice when he was with Ben. He never hurt him.

“I visited him every day. Winter, summer, didn’t matter. It was three hours to get there on bicycle. Then I got my driver’s licence. My parents didn’t like it, but what could they do? They said I should focus on school and at least try to have friends, but somebody had to be there for grandfather. I was so mad at Luke for letting him down. I’ll never forgive him, I think. I had to help grandfather. The psychiatrist weren’t doing shit. He hated it there. He didn’t have his piano or grandmother’s stuff or the garden, or anything. He had this very white room and they’d take him for walks. Then his health was failing and he wasn’t allowed to go to walks anymore.”

He lets out a shaky breath. This is the hard part. This is the part he never told anyone out loud.

“It was my nineteenth birthday. I wanted to spend it with him. I helped him escape. It wasn’t anything serious. Just a little getaway, you see. An adventure. I lent him some clothes, some of my stuff, and he looked like himself again. We just hit the road. He loved to drive. He could do some really cool stuff. He was so happy, he was the happiest I’ve ever seen him. We just talked and sang the songs on the radio, it was really funny, he had a throat microphone. He cut his own throat when grandmother died. We were singing American Pie. It was the only popsong he could stand. It was his song with grandmother. It was playing when they first danced. I remember him singing “this'll be the day that I die” so clearly, and the part about the music dying and Satan laughing. It’s eerie. But it was such a good day. We grabbed some burgers. Went to the beach. Watched the ocean. He told me he was proud of me. He told me the world was mine and that my talent would take me anywhere I wanted to go. That no one could stand in my way.”

“What happened?” Hux asks. His voice is very soft, but he doesn’t sound condoling or patronizing. Kylo hugs him closer, inhaling the scent of his hair. He’s here now. He’s twenty-one, and he’s stuck in Prague. There are worse places to be stuck in. It’s fall. Hux is here with him. He’s safe.

“You see… all the excitement and the greasy hamburger and… and having to come back after. It would’ve been okay if we just escaped. I told him I’d get a job and we’d go to Amsterdam. I gave my word. I wanted to fix everything. I think it was my fault. That he died. I kept thinking about it, and. It must have been the trip. He died the next day. But it must have been it. And I just… I snapped. And then it was me who needed professional help. I never finished school. Mum sent me to work with Luke. She was told it’d do me good. A change of scenery. Something to do. Luke has this music therapy charity thing for people with neurological disorders, amnesia, dementia, aphasia, the like, who can’t afford treatment. It’s about the joy of music. I couldn’t fucking stand it. I couldn’t do it. Luke had grandfather’s piano and he was playing Old McDonald Had a Farm on it.”

“So two years later, you stole the piano,” Hux finishes the story, “and you stole the fundraising money, and you came here.”

“I also chopped a standing piano in half with an axe and set another one on fire, but it pretty much sums it up, yeah.”

“You set a piano on fire,” Hux groans.

“I have anger management issues. Just so you now.”

“You seem pretty laid back, considering.”

Kylo caresses Hux’s back with timid fingers. His hands feel huge on him.

“I guess I’m in a good place.”

“Yes. Prague is very nice.”

“Considering.”

“Sod off.”

Kylo snorts, and buries his face in the softness of Hux’s hair. Silence surrounds them, the sort which hangs in the air after the last notes of a nocturne. Hux’s breaths are becoming very even, and Kylo tries to calm the hammering of his heart, lest it wake Hux. He’s expecting the panic of his past to catch up with him any minute, but maybe for the first time ever, he feels ready to face it. With every inhale, Hux breathes bravery into him, and Kylo is becoming invincible on his lips as he steals a midnight kiss.

--

He’s weightless as he’s taking the steps upstairs to his room, two at a time. It’s like walking on air. It’s like he was a Skywalker. He’s beginning to grasp the real inheritance of grandfather, not the tragedies and the mistakes and the shame, but a promise. It’s not too late to make things right. It’s not too late.

He can’t stop grinning; his face hurts by the time he kicks the door open and startles Rashad.

“Where have you been?” he demands. “Oh, we’ve been worrying much!”

Kylo shrugs with his hands in his pockets. He walks to the middle of the narrow room, enjoying the suspense. All eyes are on him, books and cards abandoned. He knows he looks ruffled, well-fucked, lips kissed swollen.

“No biggie,” he says, dramatically staring into mid-distance. “I got laid.”

“What did you got?” Roxána asks, and Rashad hollers:

“You lucky piggy!”

“I had sex with Armitage Hux,” he paraphrases, louder than needed. The room explodes. Everyone is cheering and throwing pillows, and Rodion gives him three big kisses on his cheeks:

“Congratulations!”

“Thanks, man,” Kylo says, patting his shoulder, as is the proper way to show affection. The Romani sisters rush to him to hug him, Jadranko and Radojka embrace, and Rashad fistpumps the air.

“I need to take a shower,” he announces, and Rashad yells:

“To the showers!”

They try to lift him up and carry him on their shoulders; the attempt is quickly abandoned once they realise how much he weights. It still feels like a parade, with Rodion chanting “Kyloshka got laid!” and everyone clapping, escorting him through the linoleum-covered corridors.  He tries to keep his cool, but he’s damn sure he’s blushing. He wonders if this is what college would have been like.

No, he realizes. It’s like I had siblings.

He’s ushered inside while the Knights stand guard. He undresses, leaving his clothes lying around on a wooden bench, and puts on flip-flops. It’s common practice. No one dares touching the shower trays with their bare feet. There are no curtains, so he just steps inside, and hopes that there’s some hot water left.

“When will you see him again?” Rodion yells over the closed door and the growl of the boiler.

“He’s taking me out to dinner,” Kylo brags, and the happy screams of his roommates earn some shouted kurwas from the other residents. Kylo smirks, pouring a fair amount of shower gel into his palm. He’s earned it.

Hux will take him to a honest-to-god date. He promised. He was in his bathrobe when Kylo woke up. He asked him whether he wanted him to take care of his morning wood. When Kylo said yes, he went down on him like he meant business. The memory alone makes him half-hard, which is kinda unfortunate, since a hostel guest is currently trying to break through the barricade of the Knights, and he’s being really loud.

Enjoying his last seconds of privacy, Kylo closes his eyes and re-lives Hux taking him to the pastry shop and treating him to the first decent cup of coffee Kylo had here and a delicious apricot buchta. He joked about Hux being his sugar daddy, which made the man oddly serious. Hux was in a pensive mood all morning. He talked little, but he couldn’t keep his hands to himself, he kept touching Kylo, even on the streets. How bewildering it was. How sweet.  

The guest enters the shower with a towel around his hips. He’s six foot tall, but Kylo could probably knock him out. He turns his back instead.

They said their goodbyes in the stop of tram 22. Hux called after him when he got on; he grabbed his scarf and pulled him back into a bruising kiss. The driver rang the warning bell, and Hux was still kissing him, hungry, possessive.

Kylo is fairly certain that Hux has ulterior, selfish motives by taking things to the next level. But the same goes for him, so all is well.

--       

He wheels in the piano after a long afternoon of playing Gershwin on loop. A chilly breeze follows him to the storage hall. The lights are dim. He looks around for a free place, squinting. The hall is somewhere between an abandoned antique’s shop and a café. The smell of sweet dust and wood polish fills the air. He’s got half an hour to waste before his date with Hux. He’s so excited he couldn’t just sit in one place.

He parks the piano, and pats it, apologetic. Sidestepping a scenery flat, he ventures deeper. He gets a faux velvet drape, smells it, frowns; it’ll have to do. As he walks back to the piano to cover it, coins jiggle in the pockets of his long coat. He’s meant to pay the storage guys their share tonight, and once that’s done, he wants to buy Hux something nice. He’s thinking flowers, or an Erhart cake, or some Mozartkugel, not like he has the money for any of that. Maybe a pretzel.

Someone huffs, and he jumps, startled.

“Skittish, are we?”

He turns on his heels. Hux is sitting on a leather puff near a dressing screen, wearing tailcoats, bowtie undone. He’s got a mug and a smug smirk. He crosses his legs, and Kylo is just staring at him. His heart leaps; he’s suckerpunched by sudden joy. He just wants to throw himself at Hux, to gather him up and squeeze.

“Hey,” he manages, taking hold of himself. “What are you doing there all by yourself?”

“I’m hiding, you see. I was wondering whether I’d run into you here.” He looks him up and down, head tilted. “Sort of toying with the idea. Which reminds me, I don’t have your number.”

“Um, I don’t have a phone,” Kylo says, stepping closer. “I thought we agreed on nine thirty?”

Hux arches an eyebrow as he looks up at him.

“Should we wait in separate corners till then?”

Kylo scoffs, and bends down to kiss him. Hux tastes spicy and delicious. It’s just an appetizer. Kylo’s stomach churns.

“Why are you hiding?” he asks, looking him in the eyes. He’s afraid that once again, they’ll be red-rimmed and tired, but Hux meets his gaze with a mischievous glint. He looks like he’s planning something, something big.

“Unexpected press,” he says. “Hence my rude intrusion. Please excuse me, I couldn’t think of a better place to lay low than your lair.”

“It’s fine. You look fine. By the way. Very fine.”

Hux waves it away.

“I wanted to change before meeting you. Make some arrangements.”

Kylo hums, but doesn’t inquire further. He doesn’t want to spoil the surprise.   

“What are you having?”

“Mulled wine.”

“You haven’t given up on the wine, have you?”

“I’m not a quitter, Kylo.”

Kylo scoffs, and having had enough of being apart from Hux, climbs into his lap.

“Careful,” Hux hisses. The wine spills.

“Sorry,” he says without much regret. Hux rolls his eyes, but doesn’t chide him. He pulls him close with his free hand, stroking his nape idly. Kylo lets out a pleased sound as his fingers slide through his hair, combing it back. He tries to find his balance, worried that his weight might crush Hux.

“Stop squirming.”

“Sorry. God, I’ve missed you.”

“You saw me this morning.”

“That was this morning.”

“You’re being ridiculous,” Hux notes without venom, and throws the wine back. Kylo watches his throat work, and he doesn’t even wait until Hux is quite finished with drinking, he kisses him again. He grinds down; they’re both just starting to get hard, but it’s still nice. It’s so nice. He pants into Hux’s open mouth.

“Been thinking about you. Couldn’t fucking concentrate.”

“Neither could I, which is… new. At least.”

“How was the performance?”

“General applause. Idiots.”

“How’s your hand?”

“Don’t worry about it.”

“Your beautiful hands,” Kylo says, getting distracted. He arches into Hux’s touch on his neck, and shivers. Hux chuckles, and tugs at his hair.

“Want them on you?”

“Yeah.”

Hux sets the mug aside, and gets a fistful of Kylo’s ass. He sighs, satisfied.

“Fuck, it’s been…”

“It’s been this morning. So needy.” He pinches him. “All mine for tonight. Aren’t you, love?”

He watches Hux cupping his swelling cock. It’s still not a hard on, but fuck, he’s getting there. Hux presses down, and he almost whimpers. He still can’t quite believe that it’s happening, that they’re doing this. He spreads his thighs, he needs more, he needs friction, he needs Hux.

Their foreheads touch, and they look each other in the eyes.

“Fuck,” Kylo pants. “We should just take a few days off. Make your stay in Prague a total fuckfest. We shouldn’t come out of bed. Ever.”

Something crosses over Hux’s features. For a moment, he looks sad, and Kylo wants to ask what is it, but a firm twist steals his breath.

“Fucking-- hell!”

Hux is rubbing him through his ragged jeans, on the verge of painful bliss. He looks like himself again.

“Are you okay?” Kylo asks nevertheless.

“I got us something. Do you prefer Tropical Delight or Strawberry Cheesecake?”

“Are those condoms?”

“They’re in my dressing room. We should get there.”

“We should.”

“You don’t look dignified enough to wander through the building, though. I’d say you’re quite ready to come into your jeans within a couple of minutes. People would notice.”

“Well I’m sorry.” He shifts, and grins as he feels Hux’s erection pressing up against his ass. “Pot, kettle, black, eh?”

“Should I make you sit in the pool of your own come the whole night?” Hux muses and presses his wrist against the shaft. Kylo’s eyes roll back. “No, I wouldn’t dine with such a filthy creature,” Hux decides, and his hand slides up to Kylo’s trembling abdomen. “Take a few breaths. That’s it. Calm down for me.”

“Say something unsexy,” Kylo mutters as he presses his forehead to Hux’s shoulder. His cock strains against the fly of his pants; it’s painful, and he can feel a wet spot spreading on his briefs. Hux starts playing with his hair again, which isn’t helping.

“Well, let me think of… Mm. How about defenestration? Push your enemies out of the window. Nothing racy. They might not even die. Interestingly, such a simple act sparked two wars: the Thirty Years War, one of my personal favourites, and the Hussite War, which was kind of silly. And definitely not sexy. Did you know that Albrecht von Wallenstein-”

Kylo sighs, squeezing his eyes shut.

“Fuck, it’s not working,” he confesses. “Your voice is turning me on.”

Hux chuckles, sliding his calloused fingers under Kylo’s chin. He tilts it up, so Kylo is forced to look him in the eyes. They’re an indescribable colour, and they seem to be gleaming in the low light. Kylo is fucking lost.

“My voice?” Hux asks, his breath ghosting over Kylo’s lips. “Of all things?”

“It’s probably the fucking accent.”

“It’s not even my original one.”

A slow grin spreads on Kylo’s face.

“You’re faking it,” he whispers. “I knew it.”

“No, I don’t.”

“Mum used to do that to mess with people.”

Hux scoffs.

“So mocking me is a better topic than major European wars, I see. You’re depriving yourself of Wallenstein fun facts.” He makes to stand. Kylo slips from his lap, pouting. Hux shakes his numb legs, and then starts wandering around the creaking hall. Kylo trails behind him.

“What was your original accent like?” he asks. Hux doesn’t turn back as he answers:

“Belfast.”

“Say potato.”

“Belfast is not the potato one, you knob. You’re thinking of the Republic of Ireland. Northern-Ireland belongs to the Commonwealth.”

“The Commonwealth,” Kylo repeats, pleased. Hux stops to inspect a clothes rack. Specks of dust soar up as he strokes a moth-eaten fur coat. They look like so many glistening stars; Kylo follows their way with his gaze. “Say something,” he pleads, “in the way you used to speak.”

“I can’t do it anymore. My father had seen to that.”

“Why?”

“Why, he didn’t think it proper. It was my mother’s accent. Foreign. Lowly. Unseemly.” He steps back from the clothes rack, hands behind his back. “I’m surprised I kept it for so long. I came to my father’s custody when I was three. The damage has been done, you see. I think I was proud of the way I talked. Must have thought it was normal. Everyone else was talking funny. It’s been bullied out of me by the time I got into Eton, though.”

“Did your parents divorce?” Kylo asks, because he doesn’t dare to ask whether Hux’s mother is dead, but he wants to know. An air of tragedy seems to surround him, a gothic mystique, and it draws Kylo in unlike anything.

“They never got married to begin with,” Hux says, resuming his walking. “Mother was one of his students, an aspiring musician. Things escalated. She’s Catholic, she didn’t want an abortion. Father begged. He had a wife. Emphasis on had. Mother went back to Belfast, and Maratelle divorced father. It was around the same time his Academy got closed down. Father felt he had lost everything I presume, and then he remembered that he still had a boy.”

“So he fought for your custody,” Kylo chimes in, and the interruption makes Hux furrow his brows.

“Yes."

Kylo inclines his head, urging him on, but Hux remains silent for a while. He looks lost, out of place in the crowded storage hall. Kylo wants to touch him. To do something. Hux is staring into nothing.

“Don’t you get to see your mum now that you’re… older?”

Hux blinks a few times.

“We’re on good terms. Friendly. She’s, um. I can’t remember what was it like when she was my mum.”

“How come?”

“For most of my life, she was just this kind lady who’d come visit me at my birthday and maybe cry a little while holding me. Some years, she couldn’t even make it. And then it all changed. Even that little I...” He trails off. Clears his throat.

“What happened?” Kylo coaxes him.

“I, well, I was ten. I just got back from Rugby for the summer.” Hux averts his gaze, lost in memories or maybe just too embarrassed to face them. His cheeks are an angry pink.  “Endless days lay ahead of me with my father, who was particularly a stranger by then. I’d see him three months a year, not counting the odd visits.” He looks up, briefly. “Mother called me. Told me I should come spend some time with my extended family. And I thought, this is it. This is my chance to escape. You should have seen the look on father’s face when I asked him for permission.”

“He didn’t let you go?” Kylo guesses, and Hux chuckles, leaning against a carved writing table. With his tailcoats and everything, he looks like a gentleman posing for a painting.

“On the contrary, he couldn’t wait for me to leave. ‘You’ll come back crawling on your hands and knees,’ he told me.”

“What the hell.”

“We all knew it was more than a vacation. That if I liked there, I’d stay there forever, and all the king’s horses couldn’t do shit about it. So I wanted to like it; I wanted to like it so much.”

“Why couldn’t you?” Kylo asks, realizing that he half-dreads the answer. Hux crosses his hands in front of his hollow chest, and inclines his head.

“It was… nice,” he says, hesitant. “They had a nice little flat. Mother had a nice husband, a potter. She worked retail, having abandoned her musical career. They had two daughters. They went out of their way to make me feel welcome and keep me entertained.”

“And then?”

“And that was that,” Hux shrugs. “They just couldn’t stop fussing. I say it was a nice flat, but for ten-year old me, it was a nightmare. None of the chairs were comfortable. The mattress they provided for me was lumpy and it smelled faintly dingy. Everything did. The broken glass in the bathroom’s door was fixed with duct tape, for Christ’s sake. I was obsessing over these details. I couldn’t touch anything. Nothing looked clean. I saw them cleaning every second day, but when they were finished, it looked just the same. The food was strange, frozen vegetables and deep fried fish and mayonnaise.”

“Ah,” Kylo comments. He can’t think of anything else. He can only imagine what would Hux say about the youth hostel. It shouldn’t matter.

“I called father and begged him to come and rescue me. He didn’t do it; I was left there for one more week, and then… Yes, I crawled back on my hands and knees to my father’s huge and white and barren apartment in Kensington. I’ve got this theory that the richer you get, the less stuff you have. So. This is the story of my big adventure.”

“I’m sorry,” Kylo says, but he’s not sure what he means.

“I know I sound snobbish. I was a kid. Now I’m a grown up upper-cruster.” He smiles, but it doesn’t reach his eyes. Kylo wants to hug him, but it’d look like he pities him. He’s still figuring out what to do when the door creaks, and they both shudder.

“Shit,” Kylo mutters, biting his lips. He stands on tiptoes to peek around. “It’s probs Bala with the storage guys. I’m due.”

“Don’t worry about it,” Hux says, and crosses his arms in front of his chest again as he heads back to the piano. Kylo glances toward the exit, confused, then tails behind Hux through the maze of mishmash.

“What do you mean?”

“They found me hanging around here, asked me if I knew you. Paid them upfront. Added a little bonus. They won’t be bothering you.”

Kylo watches him retrieving the mug of mulled wine, mouth hanging open. He can’t imagine Hux doing something like that out of the goodness of his heart, so he asks:

“Why?”

Hux takes a careful sip, and peers at him over the rim. He licks his lips, does a double-take.

“You’re immensely talented, and should be provided with everything you need to develop said talent.” He grimaces. “Are you blushing?”

“Maybe,” Kylo admits, feeling the heat creep up his neck, flush his face and redden his ears. He looks down at his boots. He blinks, and catches a glimpse of Hux’s oxfords. He meets his eyes; Hux is standing in front of him, rolling the wine around in the mug. It smells amazing.

“Look at you,” Hux says, and his voice drops, it’s obscenely soft. “Such a big, beautiful man, blushing at a simple compliment.”

“Sorry.”

Hux cups his burning face, running his thumbs over a cheekbone. He leans in, whispers into his ears: “What if I told you that the first time I saw you, I was in awe? You are so much more than an artist. You’re an artwork yourself. That’s what I thought.” A slow exhale, and he bites down on the delicate lobe. As Kylo’s breath hitches, he licks at his jawline, just with the tip of his tongue. “Who wouldn't want to own you?” he asks, claiming him with another long lick.

“You’re cruel,” Kylo whispers. Hux’s teeth flash. He steps back, gaze sweeping over Kylo’s figure. He feels naked.

“Come,” he says, and Kylo would follow him to the end of the world. Obey his commands forever.

--

Kylo passes through the halls in a kind of haze. He catches glimpses of  some golden glow, stained glass windows, colourful columns and abstract forms, but he keeps his eyes on Hux. They walk up wide stairs, and everything looks frozen in time and at the same time modern. Jazz is playing somewhere. Hux fits the geometric elegance of the place, with his sharp lines and tall figure, delicate and dangerous. He keeps glancing back at Kylo, and something like mischief plays on his lips. The curves of your lips could rewrite history, Kylo thinks. It’s Oscar Wilde or something. Hux looks like a hero of a homoerotic novel from the turn of the century. He still can’t quite believe that last night happened.

“I want to show you something,” Hux announces. “But first, we’ll go to my dressing room.”

The condoms, Kylo remembers. Fuck, fuck, fuck. He’ll die tonight. He’ll die buried in Hux.

Hux opens a door, shazam, and Kylo finds himself in a cozy little room, well furnished. Somebody is already there. There’s a woman lying on the couch, dressed in silver. Her heels are abandoned on the floor, and her arms are thrown over her face, so only her metallic mouth is visible and a shock of platinum hair.

“This is my esteemed colleague, Miss Phasma, alias Donna Elvira,” Hux says, passing her. “Kylo here is a brilliant pianist.”

“So I hear.” Phasma peeks up at him. Her eyes are cold, but her voice is warm. “ Enchanté. Our fearless leader is looking for you, Huxroy.”

“I’m not here,” Hux says, vanishing behind a modesty screen. Phasma scoffs, and looks at Kylo, who tries his best to turn invisible. Phasma watches him with reserved curiosity, but what she’s saying is addressed to Hux:

“He wanted you to be in the photo.”

“I bet he did.”

“I’m sick of him. I’m sick of everything.”

“Three more days.”

“I love Prague,” Phasma objects, sitting up. Kylo wants to ask, three more days of what, but he’s afraid he knows. A lump closes off his throat, and Phasma’s words sound from far away as she turns towards the modesty screen. “I love the people here. I’m not entirely fond of being bollocked and overtaxed because Snoke has ideas. I can’t wait to get back to London. You know what I’ll do?”

“What will you do?”

“I’ll be working. This is bullshit.” She rubs her nose. Kylo is still thinking, three more days. He’s going to be sick. He sees his reflection from the corner of his eyes: he’s white as a sheet. “What about you? Still up for the Albert Hall thing?”

“No, I’ve cancelled.”

“Pity. What are you gonna do?”

“I’m not sure. I think I’ll go down to Widecombe. Figure things out.”

“I thought you lived in London,” Kylo croaks. He must play it cool. Hux steps out from behind the screen, dressed for dinner, elegant and casual in a waistcoat, silk tie and a crisp shirt, jacket thrown over his shoulders. He’s got his violin. He looks ready to leave. Kylo won’t let him. Not for forever. He can’t.

“I’ve got a summerhouse in Widecombe-in-the-Moor.”

“It’s fall,” Kylo says slowly, voice deep. They look at each other. The air is charged.

“The house is still there.”

“You spend your summers in a swamp.”

“It’s a moor.”

“I’m happy for you,” Phasma interrupts. Kylo’s eyes flash as he looks at her; he wants to yell, I’m happy too, happier than I’ve been in years if ever, and all I get is three more fucking--

“Cheers.” Hux steps beside Kylo, putting his hand around his waist. “Will you be a darling and fetch my coat, please?”

Fuck your coat, Kylo thinks.

“With pleasure,” he grits.

He drapes it over his arm, carefully. He wants to tear it in half. It looks incredibly expensive, he could probably buy a villa in Amsterdam with it. He’s going away as well. He’ not being fair. But to hell with fairness. When were you going to tell me, he’s chanting inside his head as they leave the dressing room.

“After my little surprise, we’re heading to Svatá Klára,” Hux announces. He’s walking with hurried steps, the jacket fanning out. Kylo tries to keep up; he’s half mad. He’s Alice following the white rabbit to a Wonderland which will soon be denied from him. “I’ll get us an uber, it’s worth the trip,” Hux chats, and every word is a punch to Kylo’s gut. “I think you’ll love it, I chose it especially for us. It’s located in a marvellous little cave and the food is supposed to be excellent. I’ve rented a private boat, we’ll drink responsibly and marvel at the beauty of the nocturne city. There were hints that the captain would respect our privacy, but I’d rather go back to the hotel afterwards and let you fuck me within an inch of my life. I trust you’re prepared to spend the night. I’ve seen to a change of clothes and bathroom necessities. Now, will you tell me what’s the matter?”

Kylo halts as Hux turns to face him. He looks pretty pissed, but then again, when doesn’t he. He’s keeping his cool as Kylo breaks, he’s ready to lash out, he’s ready to burn the city to the ground. Prague will be nothing after Hux leaves: the colours will drain, the lights will dim and even the darkness will be dull and murky. Kylo will be reminded of him in places they’ve never even been to, he’ll chase his ghost and listen to the Vltava murmur memories and could-have-beens.

“I,” he starts, and then he has to take a deep breath. “I was just hoping you could stay a little longer.”

There. He’s said it, and now he’s getting bold, he looks at Hux and dares him to - what? What else could he possibly say than “it was never supposed to last?” They should just make the most of it without making each other feel like shit, but making each other feel like shit is part of the game, only Hux went too far, he’s won, he’s lost.

He smiles at Kylo.

“I was hoping that, too,” he says, and the faint smile quivers then vanishes like it’s never been there.

“Fuck,” Kylo mumbles, and Hux kisses him. He’s not going to fucking cry. This is not goodbye. That comes tomorrow, and tomorrow. And after all, Europe is small. Maybe he’ll get to see Hux from time to time if he’s on his best behaviour now and doesn’t crash his fucking violin over his knees to make Hux hurt the same way he hurts.

“Come,” Hux says, the second time that night, and Kylo wants him to mean come with me.

--

Hux leads him to the concert hall. It’s dark and silent. Kylo can hear his own wet breaths. The floor creaks under their heavy steps. They’ll go through this, and they’ll go through the evening, the candlelit dinner, the boat ride, they’ll count a thousand stars, and then they’ll head back to the hotel and Kylo will cling to him, sink his nails and his teeth into him, leech on Hux and poison his blood. He’s so angry at him for preparing these beautiful memories, it’s petty, but he’ll take whatever he can get, he’ll lick up the crumbs from Hux’s hands. He already seems far away. When did it start to matter whether he’s here?

Hux climbs the stairs to the stage. Kylo lingers in the shadows. Moonlight pours in through the glass cupola, the space is vast, swallowing them both up.

“Come,” Hux says. The third time’s the charm. “You don’t belong down there.”

Kylo hangs his head, slides his hands in his pockets, and mounts the stage. He can’t just stand there, he sits down cross-legged like a teenager, hugging Hux’s fucking coat closer. He inhales his scent. What if he just stole something from him? For keepsakes. Hux will probably take the music with him; if he ever had a muse, Hux was it, and now the piano will sound off-key, now every note will be meaningless, because Hux won’t be there to hear them.

Please take my heart but don’t take the music, he thinks. It’ll go away, it’ll all go away. The pain will go away. Hux will go away. Three more days.

Bye, bye, Miss American Pie. Mister English Scone. Despite himself, he chuckles. It sounds choked off.

He just wanted to get to know him. He just wanted a chance. He didn’t want it to be perfect or to last forever.

He’s so lost in his thoughts that he doesn’t notice at first when Hux starts playing. The bow barely touches the strings: the song starts out low and droning, a staccato heartbeat. The first sharp note is like the clear sound of a blade slicing through the air. Kylo’s head shoots up.

Hux has closed his eyes. He’s swaying with the music, like he can’t help it. His silhouette is painted by the glow of the blue moon, and he’s radiant with some otherworldly energy shining through his skin. The tempo has changed. It sounds like something approaching, something big, bigger than both of them.

Hux looks up. He’s a man possessed.

Then the countdown is over. There’s an explosion of sounds. The music Hux is playing could destroy worlds and rearrange constellations. It evokes some primal terror in Kylo, it’s sublime and beautiful and it’s theirs, the musician’s, the listener’s. He feels it in his chest, in his stomach, and it throbs and tears and hurts.

Hux is holding his gaze and it’s just too much. Kylo stands up, like a sleepwalker, and it’s like a strange dance, bending in the solar wind of Hux’s music. They find a rhythm like they did in bed. The rite of spring. Of nothingness.

Hux then plays the silence. Whatever’s left of the world. Plucks. Shimmering dust. Snow falling. Triumph.

And silence again.

They look at each other as Hux lowers the violin, gasping for air. Kylo is dizzy. He’s trembling.

“What was that?” he whispers.

“I haven’t named it yet.”

“It was yours.”

“Yes. I told you I’d show it to you. It’s the, it’s the prelude.”

Kylo swallows.

“How many pieces have you composed?”

“A dozen,” Hux confesses. He looks horrified and proud. “No one has ever heard them.”

“Shit,” Kylo says. He faintly remembers that he’s supposed to be angry. “Fuck,” he adds. “Hux, what the hell.”

Hux is holding the violin like he’s a bit afraid of it.

“I know.”

“It was…”

“Uh-huh”

“Fuck.”

Hux wets his lips. He’s sobering up; somehow, he solidifies, finding the boundaries of his body again, his unleashed spirit ushered back behind the confinements of his skull. He seems normal, but the alien music is still reverberating around him. Kylo has to remind himself that Hux is a flesh and blood human, not raw power itself.

“Is this what you hear in your mind?” he asks.

“On some days.” He looks around for the violins case. “It’s what I heard inside your music. Our talents are vastly different. You’re able to express something, everything which I can’t myself. You can find yourself in other people’s mind. I need my own thing. So I, uh, wanted to show you what I’ve got.” He clears his throat. “I’d be glad to play for you more some other time, if you return the favour.”

Kylo watches him putting away the violin. He can’t say anything. Hux is babbling. He wants to remind himself that it’s just yet another thing he’s losing with every passing minute, but Hux’s words don’t sound like empty promises.

I’d be glad to play for you some other time.

That’s enough. That’s what he wants.

--

They’re waiting for the uber outside. It’s a cold night. They’re holding hands inside Kylo’s pocket. He’s rubbing Hux’s knuckles, staring at the frontispiece of the Hybernia theatre on the other side of the road. Every time he hears a car passing by, he’s afraid it’s their ride. He doesn’t want this moment to end. The sweet clamour of the city fills him up. Let us go then, you and I. He wants to steal Hux away, cross the Štefánikův bridge, go wherever their feet take them.

“What is it?” Hux demands, clutching his hand. Kylo grins, squeezing back.

“Just thinking.”

Hux wrinkles up his nose.

“What about?”

You, I can’t stop thinking about you, even when you’re here with me, my mind wanders to you only to return and-

“Nothing,” he says.

“Sounds like an awful waste of your mental capacities.”

“I’m thinking about your music.”

It’s partly true. It’s still under his skin, chilling him. Hux averts his gaze and turns to the theatre, head tilted. They’re advertising some ballett.

“Why don’t you leave the orchestra?” Kylo asks.

“It’s not me who should leave.” Hux leans against him. He doesn’t put his head on Kylo’s shoulders, he’s just stubbornly supporting his weight on him. Kylo swallows back a smile. “Maybe you should join us,” Hux ponders.

“I… No, fuck tours, I… No. No concerts. I don’t want to end up like dad.”

“Imagine the force of an orchestra behind you,” Hux purrs. “Seventy-five exceptionally trained musicians, cultivated from birth.”

“I’m sure they’re very good,” Kylo says. A bus passes. He turns to Hux. He’s so fucking pretty. He’s also the most powerful man Kylo has ever met. “Would you want to work with me? Honestly.”

“It’d be a nightmare.”

“Cut the crap.”

“Never said I was a sound sleeper. I’m used to having nightmares.” He glances at Kylo’s lips. “I have a certain fondness of them, to be honest.”

They lock gazes. Okay, Hux is going to kiss him, and the uber might arrive any minute. If he doesn’t say it now, he’ll never say it.

“Armitage...”

“How dare you call me that,” Hux mumbles, leaning in. Kylo recoils. He gets hold of Hux’s shoulders, and looks at him, serious, imposing. This is it. This is his chance to tell him how he feels and make him stay.

Hux smiles at him in his peculiar way, which makes him look bemused and pleasantly appalled by life in general. Fuck shit oh fuck fuck. There are no words which could do justice for how his heart leaps seeing him even slightly happy. Kylo squeezes his eyes shut and kisses him on the forehead. Hux chuckles.

“Idiot.”

“I wish I could go with you,” Kylo confesses, pulling back. He rubs his shoulders, feeling the soft material of the cashmere coat. Hux looks confused.

“What, to Widecombe?”

“Anywhere.” He drops his hands, and then he frowns, baffled. “Wait. Is Widecombe an uhm, option?”  

“Depends,” Hux says, almost defiant. Kylo blinks at him. Slowly.

“On what?” he asks, voice trembling. The world seems to come to a halt. There’s nothing else left in the universe but the voice of Hux.

“Are you allergic to cats?”

He’s going to lose his mind.

“No?”

“Very well, then.”

A battered little Skoda pulls up, and Hux waves to it. Kylo just stands there stock-still as Hux jogs to the car. He’s kinda adorable when he runs. Fucking fuck. He greets the driver in broken Czech, and opens the door for Kylo.

“Hop in.”

“You want me to come with you?” He doesn’t move. He can’t. Hux confirms:

“That’s the idea.”

“To Widecombe.”

“I can’t see why not.” When Kylo just keeps staring at him, he adds: “I’d be much obliged if you could keep me company for a month or so. Then I’m expected at Moscow, but we’ll cross that bridge when we… Are you crying?”

--

It’s the morning after. Kylo is wretched. He drags himself out of the queen sized bed of Grand Hotel Bohemia around ten, following the path of soft light on the carpet. He finds Hux in the bathroom, smoking and shaving, the embodiment of multitasking. His bathrobe hangs open, allowing Kylo to admire his reflection. His little pink nipples are very much abused, and a collar of bruises adorns his neck.

“Morning,” Kylo mumbles, leaning against the doorframe. Hux grimaces at him.

“Finally, you lazy thing.”  His voice is like honey.

“Can I use your phone?”

“Of course. Lockscreen sixteen-eighteen.”

“Thanks, daddy.”

Hux scoffs, but doesn’t scold him. Kylo smirks, watching him clean the brush. He wonders whether Hux would enjoy shaving him. His pretentious ass uses a straight razor; Kylo wants to feel it pressed to his quickening pulse, he wants Hux’s sure hand keeping him still as the blade traces his veins. But first things first.

He fetches Hux’s Blackberry from the nightstand. He looks around for his coat, gathers it up from the ground, and buttons up for modesty’s sake. He steps into his boots without socks and walks to the tiny balcony. A biting whiff hits him as he opens the door. Doesn’t matter. He won’t stay long.

The clouds hang low, and the air has the crisp, cold smell of impending winter. Summer is probably still at full swing in LA. He takes a deep breath, and makes the call. There’s ringing and weird noises, and Kylo half-wishes nobody will pick it up.

“Hello, this is Leia Organa.”

He closes his eyes. She-- she doesn’t sound okay.

“Hi.”

“Ben!” mum screams. He flinches, briefly. That’s a dead name, but what else could she call him?

Let’s pretend I’m some kind of knight. Let’s pretend I don’t exist. Let’s pretend I’m not your son.

“How are you, Benny? Are you okay? Do you need something?”  

He can hear dad in the background:

“Is it Ben?”

“What is dad doing there?”

“Ben!” dad yells, and his throat closes. He wants to say something, but he can’t, and mother keeps talking, what do you need, are you safe.

He expects them to say that they’ve been worried sick and that he’s a selfish little shit. What dad says is:

“Are you alright, kid?”

“I’m fine,” he blurts, and he has to take hold of the railing. It’s hard to speak. He can hear Hux humming inside. He turns to the glass door with a quivering smile. Hux is just a silhouette, but if he pulled the curtains aside, he’d be there. It gives him strength to finish the sentence. “I just wanted to let you know that I’m fine.”

“That’s so wonderful to hear,” mum says, and she sounds relieved, and Kylo won’t be able to take it much longer.

“I’ve got friends, and I’ve recently met somebody who’s taking care of me.” His voice is small. He follows Hux around with his gaze. “I don’t know, I’m happy.”

“If you need anything-” dad starts, but Kylo shakes his head.

“No, I don’t. I. I won’t be coming home.”

Home is not even there anymore. It’s not in the youth hostel either. It’s not waiting for him in Amsterdam. It’s just a step away; so he steps inside. Hux turns to him, still humming. It’s the Mephisto Waltz, the first song he played for him.

“We love you very, very, very much.”

“I know. I love you too.” He ends the call. Lowers the phone. He looks at Hux. “I love you.”