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Bonds

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What did people do on crisp spring evenings in new cities? Laying on a too stiff couch, fresh from it’s warehouse home, didn’t seem like an optimal answer. It would be ages before the damn thing became comfortable enough to sleep on. He hoped his bed wouldn’t be the same.

A heavy sigh hissed out from between Hux’s lips as the sounds of passing cars filtered through the screen of an open window, chilling the floor of his living room. It helped get rid of the lingering smell of plastic and wood, and made the thick mahogany curtains twitch, rather than flutter.

Hux let his head loll to the side and looked over at the sliver of skyline he could make out from his place upon a decorative pillow. He could just barely see the top floors of the building he’d started to call a second home. Getting hired on as a senior architect with such a prestigious company was a blessing, yes, but a burden as well. He had the discipline for it, and the skill, but the possibility of his past transgressions coming back to pilfer another future from him was more than a little worrying. Truly, it was a fear. But everyone had needs, and Armitage was not going to completely deny himself of them. He would just have to be careful.

Meeting his co-workers had gone fine, and his superiors seemed adequately adept at what they did. The company itself was big enough that there was a constant stream of projects, meaning teams shifted and people were given jobs best suited to their talents. That was exactly how Hux liked it. The seniority structure was in place for a reason, and he could focus on tasks appropriate for his expertise without being dragged into more menial assignments.

He’d been told about a few of the most promising interns and designers by Phasma, a strong looking blond woman who was another senior architect in the firm. Hux had liked the atmosphere of authority she exuded, and lunch together hadn’t been the least bit awkward. It helped that she was comfortable giving him details about the more and less desirable traits of his soon to be teammates. She’d pointed out that Ben Solo, a tall and dark haired man he remembered from introductions, was a bit of a handful. Apparently, he’d once slammed a pencil into a drawing table so hard it shattered. His intern said he’d just started picking the splinters out like it was some lint on a lapel. What a sight that would have been.

It had been a few days now, since his story time over sandwiches with Phasma, and he was growing bored with lonely evenings. Friday nights were not meant to be spent alone with his cat as often as they were.

Sitting up, he leaned forward and opened up his laptop. It was perched prettily on a glass coffee table with gold edging and matched the apartment well. The decorations were simple and sparse, yet clearly of quality. Hux had little patience for cheap clutter when it came to his living space. Though he had a secret love of the extravagant, which liked to hide amongst the fine leather of his boots and the thread count of his bedsheets.

A few minutes of googling was all it took to land him on the homepage of a group who hosted Munches in the area. He hadn’t been to one since his last move, but the itch for a play partner had returned and he refused to ever utilize a dating app. Those things were heinous.

Thankfully, they were organized enough to have a calendar, and a quick click brought up everything they were planning that month. Hux’s eyes flicked immediately to the date he was interested in and followed the syllables across the page:

 

Monthly Munch!

For newcomers and vets.

18-35 Only.

7pm-11pm.

 

Bellow it was the address for what Hux assumed was a bar, given the time of evening. He nibbled on his lip and glanced up at the steady and sparkling lights of the city as the sun descended into the horizon. The clock in the corner of his laptop screen read 6:23pm.

His stomach rolled a bit, tightening up and creating the sensation of an empty gut as his heart rate rose. This happened every time he considered going to a new event. There was a thrill to it, and a certain amount of trepidation, as he made the choice with each move on whether or not to get into the local kink scene. But vanilla just wasn’t for him, and meeting potential partners without any concept of their openness was exhausting.

There was always an awkward portion of the interactions where he’d have to make subtle pushes towards the topic and gage their interest. The most disappointing incidents were always those where the person took the conversational bait, and then whispered conspiratorially about how they’d tried handcuffs once, and it was wild .  His reactions were usually a subdued version of patronizing after that, and an unanswered string of text messages tended to follow. He didn’t have the patience for true beginners.

With a huff of resignation, he stood up and made for the closet as Millicent wove around his legs in an attempt to make him stay. He supposed it couldn’t hurt to check out just one event at least.

 

***

 

A backlit sign sported a black panel with the words “The Bond” in blocky text across its center. When Hux stepped inside, the place was clean and colour coordinated in blacks and reds and golds. They’d also chosen a top 40 radio station to back the ambient chatter. He tried not to grimace.

A third of the bar was pool tables, while another third was separated by a chest high wall. The smattering of name tags across multicoloured shirts was a clear enough indicator that they were there for the Munch. The other patrons appeared to be mostly older and seemed to keep to themselves, with beers and pool cues in hand. A bouncer was stationed at the opening of the wall to prevent unsavory mixing. Good, he wasn’t interested in some drunk old man coming into the social and making things unbearably awkward.

Hux glided through the small crowd of about thirty people to where a table with markers and name tags sat. He scrawled his last name and stuck one on. Nobody was getting his first name if he could help it. If not because he wanted a level of anonymity, then for the fact his name would quickly become peoples icebreaker, and he hated that. Armitage was a strange name, he’d discussed it more times than he’d ever wanted to.

As he hung his coat up, a small Asian woman appeared at his shoulder. Her smile was bright enough to disarm even the most angry of middle aged women, even those screaming about return policies.

His eyebrows quirked upward at her sudden appearance as she stuck out her hand.

“Hi, my name’s Rose. I’m one of the organizers.”

Hux took her hand and gave it a firm shake. She seemed the bubbly sort.

“It’s nice to meet you. You can call me Hux.”

“Oh! That’s a really interesting name.”

Hux couldn’t help a grimace from peeking out at the inescapable topic. He’d tried. Hux cleared his throat in an attempt to cover it and pulled together a tight, but polite, smile.

“Have you ever been to a Munch before?”

“Yes. I’m new to the area, but not the scene.”

“That’s great!”

He supposed he shouldn’t begrudge Rose her over abundance of enthusiasm. Her job here was to make new people feel welcome, and Hux knew most people responded better to her approach than he did.

“Yes, is there any particular method to your Munch?”

“Nope,” she looked out around the room and gestured to the array of people already mingling happily, “most people just try pulling up a chair and introducing themselves. You know, chat for a few minutes and see how it goes, then move on if you want to. No pressure.” She beamed up at him as he nodded along.

“Would you recommend anyone as a starting point? ”

Rose let out a thoughtful little noise as she looked over the crowd, just before her whole form perked up. It was like watching a puppy get excited at the sound of their owners car pulling into the yard. Hux had a passing suspicion she was into acting like that on a more intimate level as well.

“Oh! Come with me." 

She waved for him to follow, and he did, heading for a man who seemed to have just arrived. His back was to them as he hung a long black coat on the back of his chair.  He was massive, with broad shoulders and thick biceps, and his wavy black hair was half pulled up into a messy loop at the crown of his head. Hux could already tell this man was to his tastes. Very much so.

“Kylo!” Rose chirped, a hand lifting towards Hux as if she were presenting him as some kind of class pet.

“This is Hux, he’s new to the event. Do you think you could have a chat with him?”

When Kylo looked up from digging in a coat pocket, Hux’s stomach dropped through the floor of the bar and descended into the rings of hell he would one day call home. He’d only seen that face once before, during introductions at work a week earlier, but he didn’t have to see it any more than that to realize he was looking at Ben Solo.

To Ben’s credit, he froze too. Dark, very surprised eyes met Hux’s own grey-green and petrified ones. But, where as Hux’s mouth pinched itself into a terrified line, Ben’s hung open with a dumbfounded, “Uuh…”

He slowly straightened and glanced between Hux and Rose, as if deciding whether this was some sort of prank or not, then stuck out his hand.

“Hey…”

He didn’t sound enthused.

Hux couldn’t bring himself to pull his gaze away from the horror of his circumstance. Of everyone that could have been right there at that moment in time, out of the millions of people in the city, it had to be a coworker. His literal worst nightmare. Hux’s posture mimicked a two by four as he shook Ben’s obscenely warm hand with his suddenly very clammy one.

“Hello.” He said, with a tone that matched his rigged back.

Rose’s smile faltered as she observed the stilted exchange and a cloud of concern started to eek across her features.

“Um, do you two know each other or something?”

Before Ben could say anything, Hux jumped in to answer.

“No. Sorry. Thank you for helping.” He gave her a small nod as she reclaimed what he expected was a near constant smile.

“No problem! Let me know if you need anything.”

The moment she was gone, Hux slowly looked back at the looming man before him. There was an undeniably awkward moment as they both waited to see who would either bolt or take a seat. It was Ben who made the first move, and claimed the seat he’d placed his things on. After another moment, Hux did the same and watched as Ben crossed his arms over an impossibly wide chest. The way his pectorals stretched the fabric of his nearly threadbare shirt did not go unmissed by Hux, despite how inappropriate this entire thing had very suddenly become.

“So,” Ben said, his voice carrying a depth Hux rarely heard, “what do we do now?”

Hux took in a deep breath and exhaled slowly through his nose, trying to calm the pounding of his heart before he had a panic attack. The smell of deep fried air and too much cologne felt oppressively thick.

“Now, I go home and we pretend we never saw each other here.”

Hux prayed Ben would just agree and that would be the end of it. Kylo Ren, as his nametag stated, was clearly comfortable here, and that was all Hux needed to know. He would go home and take this as a very clear sign that the universe did not want him getting into the scene here. He’d try celibacy for a while. That would certainly be better than this.

Ben shrugged, eyes closing momentarily. The noncommittal gesture made Hux bristle.

“Why? You’re already here. It’s not like we can unsee each other.”

That was exactly the opposite of what he’d wanted to hear. Hux’s heart was in his throat, along with the bile of his stomach. Eating no longer seemed appealing.

“Look, this is literally a worst case scenario for me.” Hux jabbed a finger at the surface of the table to accentuate his point, along with a hushed voice. He didn’t like the way Ben’s lips twitched up into a small grin, or how he leaned forward on the table, arms still crossed. He began to speak and reach for the coasters kept in a little holder next to the salt.

“I’m not going to tell anyone you’re a kinky motherfucker. Calm down. I’d have to out myself then too, wouldn’t I?”

Ben looked him straight in the eyes as he said it and Hux felt a cold wash of goosebumps tickle his skin. He didn’t say anything in response, but he knew his face was ashen enough to express his discomfort. Ben’s grin only grew in return to the silent response.

“Right, now what do you want to drink?”

A few minutes later, Hux had a glass of merlot between his fingers and a beer rested on a coaster to the left of Ben’s elbow. Hux had never wanted to chug wine before, but the urge was now most certainly there.

“So, are you actually new to the scene?”

Hux’s eyes flicked up from his glass, where he’d been watching the sway of the liquid as he turned it in nervous circles on the coaster. His eyes didn’t stay on Ben for long. He looked too curious.

“No…” There was hesitation, then he glanced at Ben for just a second more, “you?”

“No, I’m not new, but I’m definitely not the most experienced person here either. How’d you get into it?”

Hux’s jaw tightened before he took a sip of wine, desperate for the calm and confidence it might give him. The pause was too drawn out, and Ben nodded slowly as if he was coming to understand something, despite no words being said. He leaned back in his chair and folded his arms again. The look he gave Hux felt as if it were stripping him down, layer by layer, all the while prodding his inner workings with an electrified rod. Though there was a bit of awkwardness to Ben, as if he wasn’t entirely sure how to approach whatever puzzle Hux seemed to be.

“Okay... you’re uncomfortable. So, I’ll share a story.” Apparently Ben had figured something out, because there was no questioning inflection to his words. “It’s a good one.”

Hux could see his reasoning. Pull out his own skeletons to ease the way for Hux’s. Maybe if it was significant enough he’d decide to actually support a proper conversation. At the very least, it would let Hux leave the bar with something in his back pocket if blackmail were to come his way. He nodded and watched as Ben seemed to settle in for a literal story time.

“Alright. I was at a house party one night and my friend, Rey, was there with her fiance, Finn. It was just a big hanging out with friends thing, until Rey decided it should be a pantless party.”

Hux raised his brow, wondering where this was going. Ben’s eyebrows rose in response as if to tell him to be patient. He did so as best he could, stomach still aching with nerves, and sipped at his drink.

“She ended up sitting in my lap and playing with my hair for a while, clearly flirting. And she started talking about how her and Finn had met and started dating and that they’d never been with anyone but each other. Now, I don’t remember how we got to this part, but somehow she started talking about how they were both bi and part of the kink scene. Earlier in the night she was talking about unicorns and how much she loved them, so somehow that jumped into my head and I asked her if she knew what a unicorn was, in terms of like...a partner.” Ben wound his hand in circles, trying to think of the right word.

Hux was admittedly intrigued by the oddity of the painted picture, though he still couldn’t figure out where it was going.

“You mean a woman who likes having threesomes with couples?”

“Exactly, but I was drunk so the woman part didn’t matter.” He waved to the side as if shooing that detail away. “Anyway, I told her I was a unicorn.”

Hux couldn’t help the small laugh that burst out of him. He quickly covered his mouth and put his elbow on the table, looking Ben over with a critical gaze, attempting to hide the momentary mirth.

“Are you saying you got into a threesome by using the pick up line: I’m a unicorn? Is that where this is going?” It sounded as if he were trying to clarify whether someone truly believed they’d just seen an alien or not.

“Yep, but Rey got bummed out because they were staying with friends that night and couldn’t bring me back. But then I remembered we were at my friends place and his sister had gone to college, so there was a spare room.”

“Oh no.” Hux’s eyes widened in spite of himself.

Ben gave a fully toothed grin and raised a single finger. Hux got the impression he might be a particularly juicy fish Ben had just caught.

“Oh, just wait. I looked at my friend and asked if I could rent a room for the night. He was smashed so he just stuck his thumb up and said, ‘Goooo for it.’” Ben put his thumb up and drew out the words in a way that indicated he was impersonating a very vivid memory. A small smile tugged at Hux’s lips.

“Then, Rey and Finn start looking at each other, and it hits me that I’ve somehow just engineered my first threesome by telling someone I’m a unicorn and hijacking my friend’s sister’s bedroom.”

Hux was trying to deny that he was on the edge of his seat now. There were so many scandalous bits to the story, and he worried his expression of interest may have brightened too much.

“Rey grabs my hand, jumps over the coffee table, and hauls me up stairs. And I remember,” He pointed behind himself, “running up the stairs and hearing someone shout, ‘Well follow them!’ at Finn, because he was just sitting there in shock.”

Hux chuckled at the ridiculousness of the described scene. He then realized that they’d both started leaning towards each other over the table, as if that would greater immerse them in the story.

“I should definitely tell you that none of this is the best part.”

“What?” Hux jerked back a little in surprise.

Ben looked absolutely chuffed.

“We get upstairs, and honestly, things get a little blurry here. About fifteen minutes later, I think, Rey and I are naked and Finn is kind of just watching us and laying there. And it’s at this point I have a moment of clarity and straight up ask them to tell me if there’s anything they don’t want me to do.”

Ben inched closer on the table and lowered his voice. It was difficult not to get drawn in by such a rich bass.

“And then,” He paused, and Hux almost gave him an incredulous look for the dramatics, but he was enjoying it too much now, “Finn opens his mouth,” Ben’s arms crossed his chest, “and throws up everywhere.” He swung his arms out to emphasize the range of mess as Hux gasped.

“Disgusting!” The horror was so abundantly clear on his face that Ben started laughing.

“The idiot drank like two whole quarts of rum! It took them a week to get the smell of vomit out of that room.”

Hux slid a hand over his mouth as he felt his stomach rolling at the thought of it. He noted that he’d actually stopped feeling the tightness in his gut somewhere around the unicorn pickup line.

Ben was grinning widely and shaking his head, his back to the chair and large hands spanning his thighs. Hux took a moment just then to actually look Ben over properly, disguising it with his reaction to the story. He was wide chested, well freckled, and it was rare to find a man with long hair as lucious and well taken care of as his looked.

“I’m not done yet.”

Hux’s eyes widened as Ben scooted back onto the table again.

“I jumped off of Rey and the bed and I’m standing there, naked and too drunk to figure out what to do. All I think, is that I have to find my friend, the guy hosting the party, because it’s his house and he’ll know where the mop is or whatever. So I grab my boxers off the floor, or what I think are my boxers, and start yanking them on. I didn’t realize until after everything else that happens, that I was wearing Finn’s boxers, and they were inside out. Just keep that in mind.”

Hux gave a little snort, finding that particular tidbit somehow charming.

“I run down stairs, start shouting for my friend, and take him upstairs. And this is where time gets a bit wonky for me, because I remember telling him they were in his sister’s room, and then the next memory I have is him shouting ‘Rey! I’m so sorry!’ because I’d forgotten she was naked. He just looks back at me in the hall and goes, ‘How could you do this to me!’”

The way Ben mimicked his distraught friend finally broke Hux and he actually started laughing. Both hands covered his face as he felt the heat of humiliation. Just the thought of being present during any of this was horrifying.

“How does this keep going?” Parting his hands, he looks at Ben in awe, as if he’d weathered a war zone.

Ben’s smile was grand and Hux couldn’t help the twinge of attraction that tugged at his psyche. A sensation that was compounded by Ben reaching out and gently guiding his hands away from his face.

“Come on, this is the last part, and it’s the worst. While my friend is standing there with the door open to Rey naked and Finn throwing up, I hear something behind me. And when I turn around, standing there, is my friend’s grandmother.

Hux gasped and a choked huff of laughter left him involuntarily at the pinnacle moment.

“What I thought was a closet, was actually the door to her bedroom and she’d heard us having sex. She woke up thinking someone was fucking wounded and came to see what was going on.”

“This cannot be a real story!” Hux almost shouted, more excited than he could remember being in ages.

“It is! She started yelling about calling the cops on us if we didn’t stop being hooligans and shit.”

“What ended up happening?”

Ben waved towards the ceiling, smile broad. It seemed strange that a man who’s anger had left him infamously picking pencil shards from his hands could feel so welcoming. But Hux supposed he usually felt calmer at a Munch than with a massive deadline looming over him at work, so maybe it had to do with the atmosphere.

“My friend put his grandma back to bed and Rey took Finn home. But they invited me along to these things after that. Finn’s a little off, but Rey and I talk a lot.” He twisted in his seat and pointed to the girl who had introduced them.

“Rose is one of their partners actually. They have a poly thing going on with another guy too.”

Hux gave a small sound of acknowledgement as he looked at Ben. The man had made quite the effort to calm him, and he’d revealed a lot about himself amongst the details of the story. Hux could ascertain that he was likely bi, or maybe pansexual, but at the very least queer in some way. He was open to the thought of multiple partners, and conscientious of others boundaries.  The fact he was into kink was already clear, but how far that went wasn’t. Hux had to admit, Ben was intriguing and exhibited the beginnings of what Hux internally called his ‘criteria’ for a partner.

When Ben looked back at him, there was a short moment of quiet deliberation as Hux considered returning the gesture of information. Ben eyed him in a way that begged the explanation for his introduction to kink it return.

“Alright, I suppose I can share something, but it’s a bit of a downswing from your story.” He swirled his wine and took a drink as Ben shrugged.

“That’s fine, not everyone has stories as good as mine.” The grin Ben gave was flirtatious and superior, and Hux returned it with a sarcastic huff of amusement.

“Right, well I didn’t date through most of school, but in university I ended up with a guy who was already in the scene. He taught me about it and I got introduced to a lot of my more fundamental interests by him. It didn’t pan out in the long run though. He had a lot of self worth issues and ended up cheating on me with his roommates.”

Ben frowned, and Hux hated when that pitying look came over peoples faces. It certainly didn’t make him want to talk about his past relationships more .

Ben placed his crossed arms on the table again and picked up his untouched beer, taking a drink.

“That’s rough.”

“Yeah,” Hux sobered a bit, not finding these memories a fun road to walk down, “it was all a mess. I thought he was just depressed and anxious, but it turned out he was wallowing in guilt. I spent a whole year trying to help him through problems that weren’t the actual source. It didn’t help we were trying a poly dynamic, which is how most of my relationships have been, but at the time it was the worst possible decision.” He paused to take a drink, wondering if he felt like saying anymore, and then Ben spoke up.

“Me too usually, but it doesn’t work for everyone. I find it really just depends on the person you’re with. Sometimes monogamy is the best option, sometimes poly is.”

Hux was a bit surprised, though he knew he shouldn’t be with this crowd. It did make him feel better about opening up though, to know Ben had some experience with what he’d been trying to achieve.

“I agree, and honestly…I wasn’t faultless either. I was so mad about it I ended up sleeping with his best friend, because it was college and that seemed like the most spiteful thing to do.” Hux gave a heavy sigh and finished off the last of his wine with a steep tilt of his glass. It’s bitter after effects only served to further punctuate his feelings on the matter.

“I think we’ve all done something like that at least once.”

“I like to think so.”

The atmosphere had dropped into a more melancholy mood, and Hux knew it was his fault. He probably should have used a shorter version of the story that stopped at learning about kink. Ben seemed to notice his self directed frustration, and broke into his train of thought.

“Hey, do you want another story? This one’s about college too.”

Hux found himself feeling surprisingly thankful in that moment. Ben seemed to be able to read his emotional state fairly well, though he supposed he was being a bit more open than usual after such a rambunctious tale.

“Sure.”

Before Ben could start, the waitress asked if they wanted refills, and another glass of wine found its way into Hux’s hand.

“This one’s about how I found out I wasn’t straight, but it’s definitely not as good as a threesome ending in vomit and grandmas.” Hux chuckled and nodded, his cheeks warm as he placed a little mental checkmark next to his earlier assessment of Ben’s sexuality.

“I got really, really, drunk with some friends at the dorms one night and we ended up getting into the ‘who’s dick is bigger’ competition. So of course we all whipped them out to compare. And that was fine and all, but then the guy with the smallest dick started whining about how he was a grower not a shower.”

Hux’s eyebrows shot up towards his hairline as he drank more freely and placed his chin into the palm of his hand, elbow pressing into his coaster. Ben was striking up an undeniably intriguing mental image and he hoped his body language didn’t broadcast his interest too liberally.

“So we keep drinking, and I don’t fucking know how we didn’t all just black out, but then the small dick guy starts jerking off because he’s still pissed about it and wants to prove something. The other guys are acting all offended and shit, before they start making excuses about comparing hard then. I’m just sitting there kind of shocked, but I joined in, and I fucking kid you not, it turned into a circle jerk.”

Hux’s brows were in a tight knot at the bridge of his nose, a look of open mouthed incredulity consuming his expression.

“You can’t be serious. That’s a porn you’ve watched.”

“It actually happened. Most of the guys sort of hid themselves or disappeared into the bathroom near the end. I already thought one guy was gay, but I probably should have figured it out for sure earlier.” He gave a vaguely annoyed shrug at his own adolescent stupidity. “He ended up watching me, but I chickened out at the end too and kicked one of the other guys out of the bathroom.”

Hux leaned all the way back in his chair, and noticed from the movement that he was getting a bit more than tipsy himself. He’d meant to get something to eat before drinking, but the initial anxiety had turned him off of food and now here he was. Red wine on an empty stomach.

“How do you wind up in these situations?”

“I guess I’m a risk taker?”

A huff of laughter left Hux as he drank from his glass, but when he pulled it away, he was struck by Ben’s expression. Suddenly, the statement of the other man’s penchant for rash decisions didn’t seem as innocuous as Hux had thought. Ben’s eyes were faintly heated, his lips having settled into a soft grin. What a brave implication he was making with his pointed silence.

“Well,” there was a subtle drawl to the word as it left Hux’s lips, one he chose to blame on the alcohol, “lets hope this conversation isn’t a risk we both come to regret.”

He wasn’t sure if he was implying anything himself now.

“Mhmm.” Ben nodded slowly, eyes trained on the older man in front of him.

Hux didn’t want to feel this, not with a man he knew he’d see Monday morning. But there it was. The spark of attraction flickering to life in a way that made his chest tighten with delicious warmth and terrifying possibility.

Ben broke the moment first, having left it just long enough to make Hux squirm. Ben looked out at the rest of the party and wrapped his hand around his glass as the cold condensation dripped over his fingers.

“I shouldn’t hog you the whole night though. I’m going to go say hi to some folks.” He looked back at Hux, who was having difficulty reconciling the mess of his feelings, and worried it was blatantly on his face.

“Alright, have a good evening.” Hux said, a little too flatly.

It felt like he was waking up from some sort of hazy dream as Ben stood from his seat. Whatever mistake had just been made with this conversation, it was already done and Hux could change none of it. He was painfully aware of that fact.

“You too. Hope I’ll see you around.”

The moment he turned away, Hux let out a shaky breath and quickly swallowed the remainder of his wine, letting the rich tang of it drown his self-criticisms for just a moment.  

He knew Ben didn’t mean seeing him at work.