As a young cadet, Hux's first foray into kissing had left him with nothing but saliva smeared down his chin and the lingering suspicion that his partner was part Quarren. Surely the slimy, wriggling appendage trying to push its way into Hux's mouth was more tentacle than tongue. Hux wrote it off as a fluke. Mythos and holodrama alike agreed that a kiss was meant to be the ultimate expression of love. Yet no matter who Hux's partner was, nor what techniques they employed, Hux wasn't able to find any appeal in the act. He would go so far as to call it unnecessary.
That was that. Hux was a decisive man who would not waste his time on that which did not please him. As a hungry young General with his will to rule gaining momentum and the Master of the Knights of Ren in the palm of his hand, Hux even toyed with the idea that he would one day have the power to outlaw the act entirely from his Empire.
The realities of rule meant that Hux had more important matters to concern himself with, but he imparted his preferences in small ways. As planet after planet swore their fealty, Hux took their oaths with a bow, doing away with the traditional kiss to the foot of his throne. After all, a personal guard capable of reading minds was far better assurance against treason than a symbolic transfer of bacteria.
A personal guard capable of reading minds had its drawbacks, however, particularly when the Knights of Ren were wrapped up in a mental conversation that Hux was not aware of. Something pressing consumed them today. An excited flutter of energy rippled around them, strong enough that even Hux could sense it. Kylo had vanished to parts unknown around midday, and the remaining Knights around the palace dwindled from six, to five, to four, and so on until Hux was taking his evening meal with only one Knight standing guard.
Hux did not require more than one guard to accompany him in his private dining chamber, but he was growing annoyed. He turned to the Knight, who appeared to be almost vibrating with the thrill of whatever entranced the Knights of Ren today.
"Where are your brothers?" Hux asked of him.
The Knight jumped, startled out of the conversation in his mind, but he turned to face Hux at once. "They are preparing Master Kylo, Your Grace," he answered.
"Preparing him for what?"
"For the ritual."
The Knights of Ren had rituals for everything. Rituals to prepare for battle, rituals to honor their victory, rituals because the stars were in a certain alignment, rituals because one of them woke up on the wrong side of the bed. Hux didn't pretend to understand it, nor did he particularly care. The Knights had never failed in their service so Hux allowed their superstitions.
Hux could hazard a guess at what caused their frenzy today. The planet's moons would both be full tonight, a rare occurrence that only happened once every few decades. Ancient laws probably called for a full day and night of ceremony, led by the Master of the Knights of Ren.
"Go join your brothers," Hux said to the Knight.
"Are you certain, Your Grace?" the Knight asked. Hux waved a hand to dismiss him. He didn't intend to do anything more than retire to his own quarters for the evening, and the palace guards were sufficient protection for that.
Once he was finished with his meal, Hux made his way through the halls, not allowing his posture to show any of the exhaustion he felt. A droid relieved him of his coat and regalia when he reached his quarters, and Hux remained on his feet only long enough to retrieve a datapad from his office.
As Hux settled back against the headboard, he spared a glance at the empty space beside him in the bed. It was for the best if Kylo was wrapped up in some ritual tonight. Hux had a great deal of work to finish, and it would be much easier without any of Kylo's usual distractions.
A small number of the necessary communiques had been sent when Hux's eyelids started to droop. He cursed to himself and pressed his fingers to his temples, willing the words on the screen back into focus. He couldn't nod off yet. There was far too much to do.
Moments later, the words started to blur again.
Hux had finished his day's work like this for years, ever since he was a cadet. Surely he'd been more exhausted and still managed to complete what was required of him. There was no reason why he should have any trouble with it now.
Perhaps there was a reason, though Hux didn't want to acknowledge it.
It was Kylo's fault. For as long as Hux had known him, Kylo always found a way to worm his way in where he didn't belong, riddling Hux's carefully ordered life with chaos. Now, how had it become that Hux was so accustomed to ignoring Kylo's niggling that it was impossible to concentrate without the distraction?
It was unfitting for an Emperor to have such a weakness, but Hux couldn't deny it. He also couldn't deny that his rapidly deteriorating mood wasn't due to the realization of the weakness - it was because Kylo was not here.
Hux could call for him. Pathetic as it might be, it was Hux's right. Kylo's duties to his Emperor were more important than any ritual he was involved in with his Knights. Yes, Hux would send the request, as soon as he finished the next communique.
The words blurred together. Hux blinked to bring them into focus.
The next time Hux opened his eyes, the room was dark. The datapad had been removed from his hands and set aside, and there was a figure sitting at the edge of the bed. Kylo turned towards him, face illuminated in the moonlight. Hux's breath caught in his throat.
"This isn't a dream," Kylo said, an answer to the unspoken question. Hux wasn't sure if he believed it. Kylo's face was exactly as Hux knew it, scarred and creased with the ravages of the dark side, but there was some strange radiance to it that made Kylo look almost like the young Knight who Hux met for the first time all those years ago. Hux lifted a hand, disbelieving when the cheek he touched was warm and solid.
"You are exquisite," Hux breathed.
Kylo smiled. "Come join me in the garden."
Still questioning if this was a dream, Hux took Kylo's arm and allowed himself to be led out onto the terrace and into the Emperor's Garden. It was quiet and still, with the blooms closed against the evening chill, though Hux paid no attention to the garden around him. Whatever preparations the Knights of Ren had undertaken seemed to have readied Kylo for Hux's eyes in this exact moment. His hair fell around his face in soft waves, and he glowed in the moonlight, even more beautiful out here than he was when he took Hux's breath away moments ago. What was it about him, what spell had been cast to make Hux feel as if he was looking back through time to the day when they first met?
The moons reflected on a small pond at the center of the garden, and Kylo led them to a bench beside it. Hux did not release Kylo's arm even as they sat. Stars, he was pathetic, clinging to Kylo like some love-struck fool, but Hux couldn't bring himself to care how he looked. Barefooted, dressed in nothing but sleep clothes, Hux just leaned closer into Kylo's shoulder. All he wanted to do was stay at Kylo's side and breathe in the heady scent of ceremonial oils and Kylo's skin.
Kylo's fingertips touched Hux's chin, rough and calloused, but warm. Hux allowed his face to be lifted until he was staring into Kylo's eyes. Kylo moved closer until his lips touched Hux's for barely a heart's beat.
"With apologies to my Emperor," Kylo said as he drew back.
Hux blinked. "Apologies for what?"
"You don't like to be kissed."
That was true, but Hux had not minded this one. With all he'd endured with Kylo at his side, a brief touch of lips hardly bothered him.
"It was necessary," Kylo explained. "A Knight of Ren may present a token of himself with his first kiss, and I wanted to give you this." Kylo reached into his robes to draw out the token. He held it out, but Hux did not take it, because ‘first kiss' could not mean what he thought it meant.
"Your first kiss since joining your order?" Hux clarified, because the Knights of Ren kept a divide between their current and past lives. "Or your first kiss with a new partner?"
"My first kiss."
Hux stared at him in disbelief. "You've never kissed anyone else?"
"No, which means I can present you with this." Kylo pushed the token towards Hux again, and Hux finally drew his gaze away from Kylo's face to look down at the object. A carved japor snippet lay in the palm of Kylo's hand. Hux picked it up to examine it. A symbol was carved on the face of the snippet, a strange mark that Hux did not recognize. Still, he knew what he was meant to do with it. There was a leather cord threaded through the token, and Hux lifted it to let it hang around his neck, with the japor snippet resting against his chest.
Kylo adjusted the token to center it on Hux's chest. "Like a kiss, the token is a thing that, once given, cannot be taken back. It will always be yours," he explained. Considering how much of himself Kylo had given in pursuit of Hux's cause - his body, his order, a title claimed in haste - the token seemed like such a small thing, but Kylo's smile glowed all the brighter to see it on Hux.
"Why now?" Hux asked.
"I've wanted to do it for some time. I always hesitated, knowing that you did not want to be kissed. But tonight..." Kylo's gaze turned upwards towards the night sky. "If it were to be any night, it had to be tonight."
"Of course," Hux agreed, a hint of drollery in his voice as Kylo gazed up at the moons. "It must be done when the moons are full, because- no, don't tell me, I want to guess." Hux considered the themes of celestial alignment that shot through many of rituals of the Knights of Ren. What significance would the twin full moons hold? "'The Law proclaims that a Knight's first kiss must be granted when the moons are full, as moonlight unites the two souls in the darkness'," he guessed.
Kylo looked like he was resisting the urge to roll his eyes, but there was unmistakable fondness in the expression. "No," he said, "it's because kissing in the moonlight is romantic."
Hux disagreed, but he was willing to make allowances for Kylo's sake.