At first she thinks he is dead, and despair is tainted by some poetic justice. Killed with his own weapon, never to hurt anyone again… But then, she decides, there is no way a man like her general, as she still refers him as, would die so easily.
She takes on mourning, so very little difference with her usual black Imperial clothing, just because it is the right thing to do, and because she doubts that he will come back now. Could one mourn a marriage?
She should be relieved, there won't be any more victims. And she is rid of a husband she never chose. But she thinks of the good things, his lips, his eyes, his rare smiles, and how he manages to make her feel when they are in bed, and she hopes he is going to come back. Selfishly. Insanely. She has heard that officers and soldiers who made it, and have a family, are now getting in touch if only to recoup. Against her best judgment, again, she studies the viral holos displaying the tragedy. She learns nothing of interest. The last image of her husband is so fleeting she hardly recognizes the man near him; Kylo Ren. She has heard of him, her husband complaining endlessly. Strange that they would stand together then, and strange that it makes her wonder if this is what Hux considers family.
So she is surprised when she gets a message, hardly personal, that he will be coming home. She has enough time to prepare and give orders to the household maids. She greets him in the great hall, everyone standing at attention when he arrives. He vaguely sends them off from his sight with a lazy hand gesture, not quite as controlled and martial as usual. She is ready for anything, anger, numbness, tears even but not this lack of concern.
"General, how do you do…", she begins, stopping neatly when his frozen gaze darts toward her.
"I do not think you need to call me that way anymore", he begins, and she is suddenly frightened. He must be in extremely deep shock to say that, even more potentially in public. This is not defecting, but it smacks of it. He removes one glove, then another, and throws them on a chair, he who detests lack of order. She stares incredulous as the great coat follows.
"And how do you think I am 'doing', the work of my life up in flames, dear wife?". The last is spat like an insult and she reminds herself of what he has gone through.
This cannot be allowed to play in the open.
"Please come and have a rest…". It seems strange not to call him anything. "Sir", she tacks on, because it isn't general, but it was always his second favorite. She goes and reaches for him, aiming to delicately link their arms, but he dramatically removes his.
"No touching your superiors". He doesn't say soldier, but she hears it all right. The whole thing is a slap and she feels her eyes react despite her best conviction. At least he isn't likely to insist on his marital right. She doesn't know why she even thought of this. She stares up so unshed tears remain so. Still she indicates the way to their chambers, not that he doesn't know - they have shared some time together after all - but she feels much more like a hostess or a governess than a wife. He strangely obeys and they ascend the stairs. He doesn't look at her once and somehow she wonders if Ren is a superior. She doesn't seem to remember that, and something churns inside her.
She opens the door for the two of them. Normally she could trust her general to behave as a gentleman in the public eye and when in a decent mood, but neither are happening. He lets himself in and she follows, sighing.
"You should go to bed", she offers. He frowns as if she was propositioning him. Her cheeks burn at his idea of her. "You must be tired", she adds, just so he is sure she is not. He hums without answering. She hates his ego, his assumption that this is what she constantly wants, and the fact that she needs it more than him.
"I can help you undress, Sir, or I can fetch a butler". This time she is careful not to look at him or allow for any unneeded innuendo. Anything that would be constructed as such.
"I am not a child", he chides, but he doesn't protest when she steps toward him and attacks the buttons. Her head is slightly lowered, her face away from him, though she can feel his breath on her cheek and it troubles her more than she would expect. She struggles with the straps and various parts of the uniform. He normally would appreciate it as a sign that she certainly didn't have a tryst with some randy officer but just now he is floating seemingly very far from anyone.
"Don't think the work of your life is over. Your career is just budding, you are so young, you...". He snarls and interrupts.
"It is all over". She shouldn't rejoice over hearing this. Could he be staying for longer? forever?
"You are young", she insists, "The youngest, most gifted general". Her tone is airy and soft. She isn't exactly sure about that but she wants to please him. "Were you twice as old I may agree that it is too late but you can rebuild".
"No!", he spits, "Don't speak about what you don't know. We men start off our careers when you are still playing doll".
She ponders replying or not. She unbuttons once again and shrieks because her fingers came back red.
He looks down and doesn't flinch.
"This isn't mine", he precises. She still steps back, staring at her hand, then at his face and his uniform, looking for more blood, or an explanation. He sees it in her gaze, judgment, despair, fear. I can't, it reads, I tried but I can't.
"Such a perfect wife", he sneers. "You were unable to rejoice with me, for me, when I was victorious. You hate me, you said. And now, you can't share my… concern…". Concern. That's a good one. A Hux doesn't do strong emotions except anger and ambition. "You probably think this is well deserved". She is close to panic because this is uncannily true. He realizes that. He remembers it all. How he had to take her as she pretended not to want it. The venom in her insult. How this little harlot thinks she is better than him. Instants before he was nauseated at the idea of touching her, but now that she is recoiling and afraid and yet haughty, he wants her.
He cannot stop speaking because he is afraid he will lash out in another way.
"Useless, dumb little idiot. I am working endlessly for the galaxy, for you, while you…". He finds no word and nods toward her. "You already put on mourning, probably praying for me not to come back". She stares in horror and doesn't know how to appease him. "I wouldn't have lasted. Your maids and butlers would have worn black longer than you", he adds, disgust plain on is face now.
"Please, general", she says, forgetting about the new instruction. "You must be exhausted. Would you… eat? Something to drink?". She looks around for anything, even a water pitcher. "When is the last time you ate?".
He laughs darkly. "You think I had time for this? I am not some lady in waiting gorging on candies".
"You should sleep then…". Her voice falters. "No one can go without sleep". She won't ask, but he probably didn't sleep since Starkiller was destructed.
"Stims? I assume?", she dares, and he doesn't scold her, nods curtly. Well, this is oddly comforting, because it means he's not above the laws of nature, and it explains the mood swings too.
"You know the after effects…", she pleads, and he nods again, seeming to considering it. He can't let her off the hook so easy, though.
"I have to teach you a lesson. This is for your own sake. A soldier's wife has to get acquainted with this. With blood, and pain, and… War is a bloody business. Your father probably was too lax on you before he married you away to me". He grabbed her arm as he was talking and his other hand is up, not moving, not yet, as if deliberating. A husband has to protect, yet he has to lead and teach. He wishes he wasn't so revved up on stims. Hux senior would have no problem correcting his wife, or his son. Didn't it make him the man he was now?.. The young proud general, the military genius, the man who had lost everything and whose wife was shaking in fear.
This is for your good, son.
"This is for your good, wife".
"But what if I am pregnant", she tries. Not much conviction there, she doesn't think he will change his mind, she is rather certain he will hurt her, and that's why he can't bring himself to complete the gesture. His hand falls down.
He is almost thankful for being provided with such an excuse. He doesn't want to beat her up, not really. If he did, he would have done so when perfectly in control. There is something disgraceful to beating up a woman. He is of a mind that only a commoner would hit his wife with a closed fist. Whatever that makes Brendol Hux. And only a brute would endanger one's heir. He remembers a fascinating history lesson about a tribe of Ancient Earth. He hadn’t been thinking about it for decades now… They had this concept of pater familias, an all powerful head of the family who could choose life or death to his children, slaves and wives. He had no obligation to care for them, but could decide that such son was too much of a disappointment… He had instinctively envisioned his father. This was wrong. Surely a lacking heir was better than none at all ? As for a wife, barring adultery or a murder attempt, he saw no reason to act so rashly. Only death could free the grown up children of this authority, and indeed it had been a relief. So no, the general would not endanger a child of his.
His heir… What can he offer a child? A life running from the rebels? No, he would rather end it than being humiliated in front of his own family. He would use his blaster, or slip something into everyone's food, and it would be over. He immediately corrects this thought. The First Order will prevail. This is a mere delay, and an opportunity to seize to utterly run the Resistance into the ground.
"Thank you general. I will be a good wife to you now", she swears, still expecting something even worse. He feels queasy that she is thanking him for not hitting her.
"Let's get to bed now", he states, not looking at her, and the statement is unclear enough for both of them to feel flush. She knows that he often wants her in such conditions, and she knows he knows she knows. She is frozen, unable to move to help him disrobe, because she fears it would look like a proposition or be one.
He turns his back to her and takes off his jacket and shirt, remaining in his undershirt and pants. He hesitates. The situation is embarrassing, because he is not indifferent to their interaction, to this feeling of power over someone, especially when he craves remaining in control so deeply. It is troubling to undress himself in front of her, fully dressed, to hear her saying she will be good to him - a good wife, he reminds himself. But still. He wants to tell her to either leave or undress but doesn't want the first option and doesn't dare the second.
Mrs Hux tried hard not to watch as finally the boots and pants go too and her husband is wearing his underwear and undershirt. She looks away evidently.
"Right. Now go to sleep", she says, biting the inside of her cheek.
He hops into bed, but still looks toward her, barely able to rest his head on the pillow. It does feel like putting a child to sleep, or what she imagines it would feel like. She does wonder if he got her pregnant. He seemed more petrified than excited at the notion when she brought it up, but the idea of how this baby would have been conceived doesn't only bring up negative memories for her. Now is not the moment to ponder how she could enjoy being taken like that, an onlooker would certainly have deemed this close to rape, but...
"Just relax", she says outloud, for herself, but he thinks this is for him.
"I can't. I cannot". Even in his deepest despair he corrects people's speech, even his own. She feels some pull, some strange sadness. "I cannot stop thinking". He scratches his head and pushes back a red strand.
She knows what he means.
She sits on the bed and touches his gelled up hair. He doesn't tell her to not touch him. But he looks away almost in panic and she realizes she may give him a view when she bends toward him.
"Do you want me to lie with you? Next to you?". Oh gosh what did she say? He will think this is on purpose. He still doesn't look at her but he squirms under the covers.
"How did you sleep on board?", she asks, toeing off her shoes. They fall noisily on the floor. He has to know she is doing it. There is no way he didn't hear it.
"Not well. Not much". He replies, after awhile. "There are… ways". Oh, so that was it. Sleeping potion or pill at night, and stim in the morning. No, this is not possible. Now he can stop…
She frees down her hair on a whim, its length cascading down her shoulders. Her tongue darts out to wet at her lips. He looks up just at that moment and they both freeze, then turn away. This is unsettling, lying down next to a man in her widow garb, untying her strict widow hairdo. He is almost another man, didn't he say not to call him general? She shivers and doesn't know why.
She is close enough to spoon him, but there is no way she would dare. Still she pets his hair as he is turned the other way. "Now just… no thinking. No memories. No… ship". This is as close as she dares to mention Starkiller. No Kylo, she wants to say, and she doesn't. His way of accepting this quasi order is empowering and scary.
She feels years older. He breathes more deeply. Whatever this is, this stroking, this hypnotic speaking, it's working. This is a second chance. When she got married, she was a terrified girl, barely of age, sheltered and innocent. She had been afraid of leaving her parents, afraid of that man, older and colder. His inexperience on the wedding night had been reassuring, more human, and yet his mask was soon back on. They didn't have many occasions to live together and had been together even more rarely. She had hoped… and been left disappointed. But now, she wouldn't.
"I know you are angry. I know you are sad". He mumbles at this one. "I know you are… scared", she whispers. He turns toward her so quick she expects he would lash out but he doesn't. "This cannot go on. I want to help you. The stims have to go. The shutting me out has to go". It is more difficult to speak face to face. She doesn't allow his burning eyes to shut her up. "You also need to stop treating me as you do. Treating yourself as you do". He frowns. Yes, this will be the hardest one.
She pushes back on his forehead until he is lying down on the pillow. His skin is frighteningly pale and cold. He needs to sleep, to eat, to rest under the blanket she pulls over his chest. It is inappropriate-feeling to see him in short sleeves anyway.
"You must be cold", she says for no reason, except subconsciously as an excuse to run her hand over his shoulders and the top of his chest through the blanket. "You will be fine. If you only could see yourself as others see you, as I see you". He peeks toward her and she doesn't mean a monster. She keeps touching him, enjoying the feeling, not caring if he does, not caring if for some reason her hand is under the blanket now, and it ends up pushed away.
She is so close now he can feel her bosom on his chest. It is odd, gives him some sweet and sick feeling. This is the closest she has ever been to being on top of him, he thinks, and the idea makes him squirm and wet his lips. She doesn't climb on. No, simply her hands continue running over his chest, circles of warmth through his clothes, and don't stop when they reach his stomach. He tenses. Her hand is somehow steadied with his fear. Because she can indeed read fear on his face, more when she dips lower. That settles it.
"No", he refuses, just as if she was asking him again to eat or drink.
"What if I want", she counters.
"You shouldn't, this is… filthy, debasing". For both of them. He doesn't think locking her up in their bedroom or applying some strength when she won't cooperate is such a problem, but one doesn't ask one's wife for more than basic services in bed. This reminds him more of the academy, of trysts with young, eager officers, and he is even more out of breath. Why does his noble wife want to do this?
"My general", she whispers as she finds her way inside his underwear, so low it is almost impossible to tell if the voice is female or male. He gasps at the feeling and the sound. It is uncanny that she would know instinctively.. He hopes he didn't give her the feeling that he doesn't enjoy women. He did say she would not have to worry about a mistress or random encounters, that he hated womanizers… Perhaps he should have been more thorough, but again why make her think of that possibility at all...
She caresses him now and it works for him, he tries not to wonder where she gets that from, his energy is mostly used to bite his lip so he doesn't make any noise.
"I did hear Lord Ren survived", she states. Not sure if she means to tease him, hurt him, or check on his reaction. She sees naked horror in his eyes and she smirks. It hurts but she likes that he knows why she brought that up during such an intimate time. "He must be far away after such a catastrophe. Maybe I dare say this is all a good thing... Now you can concentrate on a personal project". She isn't talking about Starkiller only.
She would not ask, but he must have at least thought of some guilty situations. She could destroy him with those, if she played it right, but she won't.
"I am loyal only to you… My emperor", she breathes against his mouth, a hair breadth from a kiss, and he gasps. It takes all his self control not to come. This is treason, this is extremely dangerous, this is exhilarating.
"Stop at once", he orders, almost his command voice. "This isn't… this is wasting…". Ah, the Empire's obsession with reproduction… She ignores it.
"What if I am pregnant", she says again, this time teasing and tempting.
"It is so warm, so nice, and you're so wet now", she praises. She likes the firm hotness of it, and they both look down to where they touch. It is not worth debasing himself, he tries to convince himself. He cringes in disgust at the way he twitches. He puts his hand on her arm but it is shaking. Kriff the stims. He would never have envisioned his wife using those words. He does his best not to mention those functions. Hearing them from her, about himself? He could retch, or come on the spot. She massages the head and he is certain she enjoys the growing stain.
Whatever they share, this cannot erase the past. She really could, should hate him, and she did wish he died even though it would break her - they both know it, but she picks up and rubs him so quick they both cannot care.
"You can let go, Armitage". This is all wrong, her use of his name, the way she is stimulating him there, the mess that would make on the bed, the way she looks turned on as if she was getting pleased, as if she was delighting in his expression. He is so handsome like that, head falling back in slack pleasure, his eyes peering up to see her above him, his swollen lips, she wants to grab his hair and pull on it with her other hand so she does. She has nothing to lose. He whimpers.
"So beautiful… Let go…", she coos. His hips start thrusting into her hand. It feels like giving himself to her, showing himself. It is scary.
"I can't", he pants, "It's not working".
She chuckles. "Yes it is, yes it is". She isn't naive enough to think this will purge him of his anger and hatred. But she can set up new rules, she has already.
Armitage knows that she won't stop. In fact since he is too tense and bone tired for the real thing, this may be the best way to find sleep. He wouldn't do this to himself, much less ask for it, but since she may well be pregnant and he needed unwinding so much...
"What do you need? How can I help?", she asks, and his cheeks burn even more because his wife is currently asking how she can make him finish in her hand. "I want to help. I want… it", she pleads. He bucks. "Or maybe you don't know?". There's a slight worry on her face. She isn't that far off. He thinks for a second. She tugs at him harder. "You are forgetting yourself", he growls, grabbing her harsh suddenly. She resists for the record, to turn him on, unfortunately he lets go.
He is reluctant to express it outloud, but he wants to find his pleasure. "If you could…". She nods as if she would say yes to anything. This is heady. "Kiss me like… you mean it". This is strangely tame and tender. She dips towards his lips and she takes possession of them. It makes her moan. He finally reaches for her, one hand balling into her dress and another in her hair. He sighs and gasps against her lips. She feels wet warmth on her hand but she doesn't move, waiting for him to send her away, disengage and turn away. He doesn't. She very softly lets go and assesses the situation. He is always ashamed after anything too personal, any display of pleasure. She can see on his face that this is an umpteenth loss of control for him, something he would blame on her, on stims, on exhaustion, on shock.
The white semen cooling on her skin catches her interest. Making sure to not lose his gaze, she brings it to her mouth and she licks. Tentative at once, then she cleans off her hand, licking her lips when it is over. He stares at her with disgust as if she was turning into a gungan, but his dick jumps, spent as it is. This is horrible and yet it makes him feel wanted, desired… loved? She smiles. So Ren didn't do that, she tells herself. Maybe he did nothing at all. No matter. "Mine", she declares, casually tucking him in. He never allowed her to use his name or touch him so. Now that she has started getting him used to these touches, she isn't going to stop.
She slides next to him, both of them covered, and she turns to keep petting his hair as she did before the situation happened. "It was interesting", she smiles softly, more tender than sensual now. He looks sleepily at her, energy levels finally crashing. He understands she doesn't consider this a mistake. She is not feeling debased and defiled for having swallowed his seed. And might act on this strange impulsion again. He would certainly appear weakened, unmanly, if his officers ever found out about his wife not taking no for an answer but he actually feels slightly better. He vaguely wonders what would be worse for his career, this… event, or being caught with a young starry-eyed recruit on his knees for him. Maybe he is simply too tired. He clings to her, and closes his eyes.