The ringing noise had started when he had been half way through his door. Since no one ever called him on the landline anymore it took him a moment to recognize it as his own. He would later blame everything on that noise and the perplexed state which had caused him to pick up the damn thing without second thought.
The continuous high-pitched ring had died down and after his own voice awkwardly broke through the resulting silence of the room, one might’ve heard it replaced by the tensing of his muscles, the unwilling straightening of his back. Something in Kylo Ren’s shoulder flexed as he stood there with wide eyes and an expression that stood in vast contrast to his imposing figure. The chipper voice at the other end finished its teasing greeting, waiting for a reply.
Why he didn’t just hang up on his mother would be beyond him for years.
“Told you that dumb hipster phone would cause trouble.” Armitage Hux informed him, the word hipster spat out like it was the most disgusting insult in the man’s vocabulary. Kylo knew for a fact that it really wasn’t, but then again, the ginger pest could pronounce bumblebee and make it sound vile somehow.
However, he had truly warned him about the stupidity of buying a phone that did not show caller ID. Not that it helped his situation. Or his mood. The two of them barely got along on a good day and this was not one of those days.
“I suggest you go back to work…” Kylo ground out without looking up from the sheet of paper he was holding.
Hux scoffed, but went his way anyway, aggravating Kylo by leaving the door to his office open just a crack.
Today he would not yell! He would just count to ten, take a few deep breaths and then get up –calmly– and close the door himself. The shiny doorknob would not be grabbed too hard and neither would he practically slam the door shut.
Except that he very much did, to no one’s surprise. He was known for his temper and he’d probably worry people so much more if he had not just banged the door without so much as touching the doorknob.
Stalking back towards his large desk, he continued to formulate a reason, which would be sufficient to get out of the mess he had somehow gotten himself into. Because when his mother had greeted him he had been too dumbfounded to answer with anything but an awkward and terribly shaky; hello, Mom.
It must’ve been a reflex, some leftover from his childhood that had caused him not to tell her that she had the wrong number and never to call again. Instead he had suffered her insistence on calling him that name, had registered her own expertly veiled nervousness. He still knew what signs to listen and look for with her. Being a diplomat, Leia Organa knew how to disguise doubt as confidence and her political role had taught her how to spin half-truths out of utter and complete lies. Her son had never bothered to ask whether she enjoyed it or not, because he assumed to know the answer.
Everyone enjoyed doing what they are good at, didn’t they?
Showcasing the extent of her abilities, his mother had done the impossible.
She had him agree to visiting on Christmas.
And now he had to get out if it.
There was no way out of it.
Not after his boss had visited, having heard the news. The old man had been beside himself with glee, which at first had surprised Kylo. There was no love lost between his mother and Nicholas Snoke. She had fought him back when he had first attempted to become a member of the Supreme Court and had cost the man his victory. All while Kylo had been shadowing the man. That had been a fun time in the Organa Solo household!
The surprise at his mentor’s joy ebbed away when he was told in no uncertain terms that this would be the perfect opportunity to gain inside knowledge. To find something to discredit his mother and while he was certain that he would not find anything –all the dirt had been brought to light 6 years ago and it had barely slowed her progress in the world– he still refused. Snoke’s whithering smile as he leaned towards the significantly taller man sent cold waves up and down Kylo’s spine.
“Are your loyalties not with me? Do I have to be concerned?” he sounded deeply disappointed. “I understand it to be a hard task, my boy. But think about it. She lied to you before. Would’ve chosen her misguided path over your success… While your qualms are noble, don’t you think them misplaced?”
He had thought on it. What he said wasn’t wrong and yet… he didn’t want to. And anyway, everything had been uncovered years ago. Surely, even if he did go looking, he’d find nothing. Would it hurt to agree to this when truely there was nothing to find? Snoke would know that he was loyal to him.
With a heavy feeling in his gut, he nodded his consent.
“Very good, my boy. I would have hated to remove you from the firm.” He old man had purred. “Take someone with you!” Snoke had told him with a shrug, changing the subject. “Someone nice. They’ll be too busy asking questions about her to bother you much while you’re there.”
This would have been a wonderful suggestion if it hadn’t been for the tiny, insignificant detail that he was short on female company at the moment. At least the kind he could take along on a trip to the snowed in mountainside of Aspen where his parents owned a house. To meet his parents. During Christmas. The implications and gravity of it would send half of the women he did know running and the other half would jump to the ridiculous conclusion that this meant something.
Only one came to mind who would neither run –it wasn’t in her nature– nor would she get any romantic notions into her head. However, the mere thought of Phasma sitting down at his mother’s mahogany table while sporting an expression which would even have his father reconsider addressing her just seemed wrong. He knew from experience that he could take her on, yet he sometimes wondered whether the tall blonde from time to time entertained thoughts of how she could make people’s death look like an accident. No. Phasma was out of the question.
Which meant that he was truly and hopelessly fucked!
Two days of considering, planning and dismissing any of the considerations and plans he might’ve come up with. Two days of deteriorating mood and the exhausting work-out routine it resulted in. Two days of almost calling several women –including his mother to cancel, Snoke be damned!– only to stop himself before calling. Kylo Ren was at his wits end.
He’d have to go alone. Three weeks until Christmas and the damn season was ruined for him. Usually, the holidays didn’t bother him too much. It had been 6 years since he had seen or spoken to any family member, yet he had made it work. At 24, back when he had broken it off with them, he had been pretty sick of the fake smiles for Christmas Cards, the forced bliss at the table, the barely contained disputes and clashing personalities under the Christmas Tree. It had all been wrapped up in ribbons and tinsel. Making nice.
It had all felt so dishonest, so he didn’t miss it in the years to follow. Now, just having turned 30, he had developed a routine which suited him and if he didn’t feel the Christmas spirit that year, well why force it? He enjoyed the decoration as long as it wasn’t too modern –he preferred traditional reds and greens to the horror that were pink and sparkly themes. In fact, he enjoyed them so much more because there was no pressure whatsoever to put up a single Christmas candle in his own home. Had he wanted to, he’d have someone decorate his place. But he found it so much nicer to be surrounded by Christmas but having a sanctuary where he’d be left alone with it.
In the office, Snoke had allowed for a few tasteful but discreet decorations to keep people’s spirit up. The man himself couldn’t care less and probably would’ve had them work through the holidays if only he could’ve.
When an intern had referred to him as Scrooge a few years ago, he had not found it in him to tell on her.
All this however, did not bring him one step closer to finding someone to accompany him to Colorado.
There had to be a solution.
Something or someone he had not considered yet.
It was a Friday night and he did not feel like leaving the apartment. The merry lights in the streets had seemed to taunt him. Alas, he had to suffer them as well as a decorated room full of business partners and their wives, husbands, girlfriends and boyfriends. Since he had been wrecking his head with who to bring as a date to his mother’s Christmas get-together, he elected not to have someone attend alongside him. He could bear not suffering the possibility of awkwardness should Snoke ask a mere acquaintance whether she had already packed for the trip to Aspen.
Hux being Hux, did not pass the opportunity to comment on his lack of a partner, a very pretty Asian girl accompanying him as he made his way over to where Kylo was standing.
“Don’t tell me you couldn’t find someone to attend this gala with you. I find your manners so much improved since last Christmas.”
He was really beginning to develop a strong dislike for the English accent thanks to his co-worker. The man’s date frowned up at Hux, but quickly schooled her expression into one of passiveness.
“Paige, dear, this is Kylo Ren, Snoke’s little stand-in when a case isn’t important enough. Ren, this is Paige Tico, one of this year’s finest graduates of Harvard Law.”
To her credit, she smiled at him, her embarrassment well hidden.
“Good evening, Mr. Ren.” She offered with a friendly nod.
“Miss Tico.” He replied. “How much does he pay you to suffer his company? Not enough, I assume.”
The effect that the angry blush which crept up Hux’ neck improved the whole exchange. The girl grinned before leaning her head to the side until it came to rest on her date’s shoulder.
“I’ve known this one for such a long time. Money could not buy it, isn’t that so, Armitage?”
He shook her off and almost dragged her away from him. Kylo chuckled as he reached for a glass of champagne. Riling up Hux always improved his mood.
An hour of the polite small talk he hated so much later, he found himself ordering a scotch, calculating that he could probably leave in about 20 minutes without seeming rude, when a good humoured voice startled him.
“150$ an hour and as many drinks as I like as long as I am not making a fool out of myself.”
Turning his head to the side, he saw as Rose Tico beamed at the bartender, ordering a Cosmopolitan.
“So, are you…?”
He had read about female students prostituting themselves in order to pay for their studies. It should not shock him to find out that she apparently was one of them, but he was. Kylo admittedly had ideas of how prostitutes looked and pretty Miss Tico in her classy grey cocktail-dress and simple yet elegant topknot did not fit the picture. Getting his meaning she giggled.
“Goodness, no. There isn’t enough money in the world for me to even consider sleeping with him.” she thanked the bartender for the drink. He just stared at her in bewilderment and as she took the first sip from her magenta coloured drink, she caught his gaze, making a sound in the back of her throat. “Don’t tell me you’ve never heard of escorts.”
Of course he had! Excuse him for having assumed that it was just the fancy term for hooker. He felt himself blush and hated himself for it.
“What made you think it’d be a good idea of telling me this? If you haven’t noticed, your… Hux does not exactly like me.” He told her in a voice he hoped sounded bored and unfazed.
“Oh no, he’ terrified of you, is what he is. Also; he just left and I decided I’d stay to socialize.”
At the surprised expression he gave her, she rolled her eyes. “I am indeed the finest Harvard Law graduate. You don’t become that by simply reading books. Reading people tells you so much more at times.”
“Is that even allowed?” he heard himself ask without thinking and at her puzzled expression, he clarified. “Your… job? Isn’t there a codex in Harvard against that?” There was a codex for and against everything at the old and prestigious collages and he was certain Harvard was no exception.
“I work for a law firm. Why would that hurt any propriety codex?” she asked sweetly and lifted her drink again. When he continued to stare at her like she had three heads, Paige grinned. “One some weekends and this close to the holidays I accompany men to parties where they cannot go alone without it looking awkward. For my time as well as my charming conversation skills I receive a thank you in form of a few green notes. Nothing wrong with that, is it? I have a student loan to repay.”
“So, what’s wrong with you? And I don’t mean your temper. Hux wouldn’t shut up about it.” she asked suddenly.
“Tall guy, broad shoulders, good fashion sense, acceptable manners when not provoked. So why exactly are you alone, Mr Ren?”
This might be a ruse. A scheme initiated by Hux to embarrass him. She only shrugged when he growled that this was none of her business. Paige Tico, unfazed by his answer took her glass in hand, wished him a pleasant evening and made to leave. Suddenly however, it came to him. The solution to all his problems. The house in Aspen had enough bedrooms. He could hire someone to pose as his girlfriend for a few days! They’d sleep in separate rooms. Kylo had never been one to flaunt affection openly, so if he did not kiss her either, it would not look weird.
This could work!
“Miss Tico… Are you… What will you…. Are you free for Christmas?” he asked loud enough so she could hear. With a surprised look back at him and a slight, apologetic smile, she walked back to him.
“Sorry, but Christmas itself will be spent with my family.”
He sighed. Of course it wouldn’t be this easy. How did you get an escort? Were there agencies? He couldn’t ask Hux how he met his ‘girlfriend’! The idea of ordering some woman on the internet appeared in his head and he felt sick by the very notion.
“However, I have an absolutely lovely friend who I know happens to be free this Christmas. I’ll talk to her.” She fished a card out of her purse and offered it to him. “Call me tomorrow. If Rey is up to it, I’m sure she’d love to go to Aspen.”
“How do you…?”
“Hux really, really hates your guts.” She paused. “Or has a crush on you. It is hard to say.”
Flustered, a bit angry and definitely intending to strangle Hux, he grabbed her card, shoved it into the inside of his jacket and hurried away.
As soon as he got home he hauled the old-fashioned phone against a wall. The damn thing had had it coming!