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“Hey, Rey! Rey!”

Rey did her best not to cringe as she turned from talking with Finn and Poe in the seat behind her. Kylo was easy to spot amongst the incoming mass of sleepy highschoolers staggering on to the bus — for starters, he was a head taller than everyone else, and on the way to becoming twice as wide in the shoulders. While his anger management programme didn’t seem to be helping with the, well, anger, the exercise was obviously doing him good. She was still pretty sure her brown belt in jiu jitsu meant she could kick his arse if he deserved it. And she had a feeling he was about to.

“Hey Rey, do you wanna go to the formal with— Ow!

“Get lost, Kylo. I’m not changing my mind.”

“But Uncle Luke said— hey, stop it!

Their morning routine had stopped being a spectacle about two weeks in, when Rey had kicked Kylo in the nuts and he’d hit his face on the top of a bus seat and got a nosebleed. Anything after that was pretty boring, so no one paid any mind when Rey gave him a slap across the face. Kylo, dejected, slumped into his usual seat at the back of the bus and gave her a hurt look. It was only a very light slap, but Kylo was dramatic like that. When his puppy-dog look didn’t get him what he wanted from her, he turned to glare at his sworn enemy.

Poe, who unlike Rey had not lived since childhood with Kylo’s bizarre tantrums and vendettas, did his best not to acknowledge him. They did not talk about The Incident, think about The Incident, or acknowledge The Incident in any way. He’d promised Rey he’d never get into a fight with Kylo, and he intended to keep that promise no matter how hard Kylo tried to start one.

When no one paid Kylo’s performance any attention he took out his headphones and stared dramatically out the window. Gerard Way understood his pain.

Poe was glad when that red-headed twink friend of Kylo’s finally showed up. Despite the fact that he always looked like someone had shoved mouldy cheese under his nose, and that one time he’d called him an insufferable miscreant, Poe couldn’t help but kind of like him. He was a good babysitter, at any rate.

“Hux.”

“Ren.”

Hux sat down next to Kylo, who pulled out an earbud and offered it to him.

“No, thank you. You know I don’t like your noise.”

“It’s not noise, it’s music. I promise you’ll like this one.”

Hux accepted the earbud with a sigh and sat straight-backed and emotionless as Gerard Way screamed something about death into his ear. These were the sacrifices he made.

“Hey, Rey? Does everyone at your school call you by your last name too, or is that just a St. Alberts thing?” Finn asked, eyeing the pair sitting across from them in silence. Hux had taken out a textbook and Kylo was now scowling at the seat in front of him.

Rey shrugged, “God, no. They don’t do it at St Alberts either. They’re just… like that.”

Neither Finn nor Poe knew what to make of this.

The rest of the ride was uneventful, except for when Rey caught two boys from the local public school pushing a third boy and yelled at them. It was in these moments that the many, many badges of achievement on her blazer seemed more like military medals. Every teacher since preschool had called her ‘a delight to have in class’, but no one who had crossed her survived unscathed.

“Boys, honestly. They’re more trouble than they’re worth.”

Finn and Poe were polite enough to say nothing to this. They waved and laughed when Rey hopped off at her snotty private school, giving Kylo the finger through the window. He sulked until Hux dragged him from his seat at their stop and Finn and Poe could finally breathe again.

“I think we’re the only normal people in this town,” said Poe. Finn nodded fervently.

 

***

 

Kylo’s day had started badly. First he’d been assaulted by Rey, then he’d been late to first-period Maths, then he’d gotten in trouble for painting his nails black, narrowly escaping another detention.

(“That’s another uniform violation. Detention, Mr Solo, this Friday.”

“I already have detention this Friday, sir.”

“How about Monday?”

“Also detention.”

“Tuesday?”

“Detention.”

“Wednesday?”

“I have detention every afternoon until next month, sir.”)

Things were okay until fifth period, when Jacob Spencer called him a freak and he threw his chair through the window. It chipped his nail polish and Mr Collins nearly fainted. He had to go to the Principal’s office and was almost late for detention when he was greeted by a most miraculous sight.

Hux, sitting at the back of the classroom, looking severely pissed off and glaring at no one in particular, was in detention.

Kylo walked past his usual seat and threw his bag down next to Hux.

“Okay, spill.”

Unlike everyone else, who sat slumped over their desks asleep or busied themselves carving obscenities into their desks, Hux was already halfway through his Science homework. He was still wearing his blazer and tie like a fucking nerd. He didn’t belong here.

“It’s not an interesting story. I didn’t even misbehave.”

“What happened? Was it a setup?” Kylo leant over the side of his desk and whispered conspiratorially, “Was it that guy you ‘accidentally’ electrocuted in Science for calling you a ranga? Or that guy who ‘accidentally’ fell down the stairs after he pushed you in Sport? Or that guy you got expelled for—”

Hux interrupted this litany of his enemies with a scowl, “It wasn’t a student. It was Sister Maria.”

What did you do to Sister Maria?” Rather than being scandalised, Kylo’s eyes shone with a kind of unholy joy.

“I didn’t do anything to her! I was merely participating in class discussion.”

Kylo shared half his classes with Hux. He had seen him verbally destroy too many of their peers to count, as well as a handful of teachers. He had a particular flair for implying that his opponent was not only wrong but a deplorable waste of space and an embarrassment to the human species on multiple levels, which tended to have the desired effect of him winning the argument in question. He could easily have done this without resorting to personal attacks, but that was more than half the fun.

When Kylo kept looking at him expectantly, Hux had no choice but to elaborate.

“We were encouraged to bring a quote to class which expressed our religious beliefs in order to have an ‘open discussion’ about faith,” Hux didn’t need to use air-quotes to convey his disdain, “Mine was considered… inappropriate.”

“She got angry at you?”

“No, she cried.”

Kylo nearly fell out of his chair with laughter.

“This is the best thing you’ve ever done, and I mean ever. Even better than when you nearly blew up the Science building with one of your crazy experiments.”

Hux did not seem to share Kylo’s amusement if his death-stare was anything to go by.

“I was hoping to instigate a thoughtful discussion about the effects of the Western Enlightenment on religious belief, but naturally I overestimated the intellectual capacities of both my peers and our so-called ‘teachers’.”

Hux was constantly lamenting the state of the Australian education system as though it had been created specifically to torment him. And while Kylo agreed in principle with anything that involved trashing their school, he needed to know the juicy details of the best thing that had happened this week, possibly ever.

“Yeah, everyone’s stupid, blah blah blah. But what did you say?!  Don’t hold out on me like this, you bastard.”

In response, Hux took out a piece of paper and handed it to Kylo. Written in Hux’s impeccable handwriting was the offending passage:

God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? What was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives: who will wipe this blood off us? What water is there for us to clean ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we have to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it? — The Gay Science, Friedrich Nietzsche, 1882.

“What the fuck,” was Kylo’s only response.

“His style can be a little overwrought, but his conclusions are sound. The Enlightenment fundamentally changed how we perceive the possibility of the existence of a God, and lead to a fundamental questioning of our moral—”

“I can’t believe it. You told a nun she’d killed God.”

“I didn’t! Just because she’s too stupid to understand what Nietzsche meant—” Hux threw his hands up in frustration, “I don’t know what I expected. People, honestly.”

Resigned to this eternal suffering, he turned back to his Science homework. Kylo took out his Science book and tried to subtly copy Hux’s answers. Hux hit him with his textbook and told him to do his own work for once.

When they were finally free and on their way to the late bus, Kylo turned to Hux with what he desperately hoped was a calm nonchalance and enacted part one of his contingency plan.

“You going to the formal?”

Hux narrowed his eyes, “You know I have no interest in that kind of nonsense. Why do you ask?”

“I was thinking… I mean, it’s a stupid idea, but maybe we could go together? As friends, obviously,” Kylo looked everywhere but at Hux, his hands shoved deep into the pockets of his blazer. He nearly walked into a tree when Hux said:

“Alright.”

Kylo stopped and turned to look at Hux to make sure he hadn’t been replaced with a cybernetic replica without him noticing. He looked stiff and cold, but that wasn’t unusual for Hux. Kylo punched him in the arm to see if this imposter could feel it.

“Ow! What the hell was that for, you idiot?”

“The real Hux would never want to go to a school formal. Who are you and what have you done with him?”

Hux rolled his eyes, “Since there seems to be no way for me to talk you out of this ludicrous affair, and Rey doesn’t want to supervise you — which I can only empathise with — I suppose it’s up to me to keep you in line. Meeting students from the girls’ school might be a good networking opportunity.”

“Networking, hey?” Kylo wiggled his eyebrows.

“For future political purposes, Ren! For God’s sake. Some of us actually have goals and ambitions, you know.”

Despite Hux’s continued complaints and insults, Kylo smiled the whole way home.

 

***

 

They were sitting in the park under the shade of their favourite tree when Rey turned to Poe and Finn and informed them that they would both be accompanying her to her school formal.

Finn looked at her with an earnest expression that suggested he did not know that he was currently sporting a glorious ice-cream moustache.

“Are you serious? I thought you weren’t allowed to—”

“They said we couldn’t take more than one guest, but you’re both my boyfriend so you both have to come”, she shrugged, “Besides, I asked Maryanne if one of you could be her date and she said yes. I think she has a thing for you, Poe.”

Poe blushed as she winked and fished around in the pockets of their jacket for some gum. It was Poe’s jacket, technically, but he only wore it once or twice a week. Rey had it on Mondays and Tuesdays, Finn Wednesday and Thursday, and Poe for the three remaining days unless someone else wanted it for one. It had begun to sag as it accumulated their collective bits and bobs — Rey’s old hairties, Finn’s tissues (unused), and Poe’s hair gel (frequently used), along with assorted paperclips and USB sticks they used to lend each other movies. It was too hot to wear it today, so Rey had it tied around her waist. Both Poe and Finn felt that this was a very good look on her, and she could only modestly agree.

“In that case, she’s going with Finn.”

“No, Poe! I couldn’t deny her of your lovely company!”

Rey clutched herself in laughter as Poe chased Finn through the playground, hell-bent on revenge, narrowly managing to avoid plowing over a nearby toddler. Poe may have been the athlete, but Finn’s legs were longer. It was only when he finally ran out of breath and had to stop that Poe tackled him to the ground.

“Come on! Admit defeat!”

Finn rolled his eyes, “Fine, I’ll go with her. But you’re buying the flowers.”

“And we’re getting pizza beforehand!” Rey yelled from the other end of the park.

 

***

 

The Organa-Solo household was always busy on the weekend. Either Leia’s charity group or Han’s highly questionable work friends would make an appearance, and Luke would always respect the family tradition of Sunday lunch. He dragged Rey along whenever she couldn’t come up with a good enough excuse to avoid it. This was often, as any excuse not involving the imminent destruction of the universe — or at least something approximate, like a threat to Rey’s perfect grades — was usually deemed invalid.

Finn and Poe would occasionally tag along, and Kylo would sulk in the corner while they chatted with his parents and uncle. Hux sometimes came over and offer emotional support in these trying times by subtly insulting anyone who upset Kylo. No one else enjoyed his presence, but as he decreased the chance of Kylo causing a scene by up to sixty percent, they tolerated it. Leia was sick of washing gravy off the ceiling.

Kylo was in the backyard practicing his right hook on a sad-looking old punching bag when Luke, Rey and her boyfriends arrived. He ignored his mother’s calls for him to come inside and put his headphones on. Patrick Stump understood his suffering.

Hux narrowly avoided a blow to the side of the head when he tapped Kylo on the shoulder and he swung around, fist still raised.

“Christ, Kylo. Could you keep control of your limbs in my vicinity, please? I rather like my head attached to my neck.”

Kylo grumbled and threw his boxing gloves on the grass, “I thought your father was having a fancy political thing today?”

Hux rolled his eyes, “Nothing interesting, just some local interest groups. When I’m Prime Minister, I’ll delegate that kind of thing to someone with nothing better to do with their time.”

It was understood between them that by ‘Prime Minister’ Hux meant something more along the lines of supreme ruler and/or dictator. Hux was always talking about what he’d do when he finally ruled the world. Usually this involved an explanation in exquisite detail of how he would punish anyone who’d ever inconvenienced him or offended his delicate sensibilities. While at present he was mostly limited to small acts of retribution and sabotage, he was more than willing to store his grievances for future use. And while Kylo liked the sound of this approach, it unfortunately tended to get lost in translation some point between when someone annoyed him and the moment his fist met their face or a nearby object.

They finally headed inside when Leia sent out Rey and her devoted followers out to fetch them. They followed reluctantly, Kylo glaring at the back of Poe’s head as he disappeared through the back door.

“You chose to ask out the only girl you know who has not one, but two boyfriends, you absolute idiot.”

Kylo pouted, “I didn’t ask her out! She’s my cousin. that’d be weird. I just wanted someone to go with so I didn’t look like a loser.”

Hux said nothing out loud but gave him a very eloquent look that Kylo decided he did not understand.

Luke was sitting with Han at the table while Leia bustled about the kitchen, occasionally swearing under her breath. Sundays were Special Family Time, and the only occasion Leia took to the kitchen for. Monday to Saturday they mostly survived on takeaways and sandwiches. It wasn’t that she couldn’t cook — she was no Nigella, and her offerings were limited to breakfast foods for the most part, but everyone enjoyed her food. Like Han, she was just too busy most of the time. Kylo had always thought this would be an excellent chance to host some crazy parties since they were both out so often, but this was complicated by the fact that no one other than Hux would spend more than five minutes with him out of class.

Kylo sat with Hux at the corner of the table, as far away from his father and uncle as possible.

“Hello Kylo,” Luke smiled beatifically, radiating a level of calm that made Kylo’s hands twitch in his lap, “You look a bit tense. Have you been practicing your mindfulness exercises?”

Kylo grunted and stared at his knife and fork. He hated being patronised, especially by some stupid New-Age hippy who pretended to understand him.

Rey, Finn, and Poe sat along their side of the table across from the adults as Leia brought in the salad. Poe avoided Kylo’s gaze. Hear no Incident, see no Incident, speak no Incident, he told himself.

Han started heaping egg and bacon muffins onto his plate, “How’s the footy season going, Poe? Still giving them a run for their money, ‘ey?”

“So far so good, Mr. Solo. We’ve only got two games left and our chances look good.”

Poe’s modest smile made Kylo stab his toast a little too roughly. It glanced off his fork and flew across the table onto Rey’s plate. She gave him a sympathetic look that only made him angrier.

“Call me Han, son,” he said with a wave of his hand, “You know, when I used to coach I always told my boys the same thing….”

Kylo decided the best way to get through this was to ignore everyone at the table and cut his toast into as many tiny pieces as possible before eating them. Soon he would be able to go back outside and punch out his feelings. Hux would sit in the shade with his book and pretend to ignore him and everything would be okay again.

“… and hey presto! The kid got right up and won himself the game. And I told him—”

“This salad is lovely, Ms. Organa,” Hux cut in in a frosty voice, as though he could not hear the animated conversation going on less than a metre from him.

There was an uncomfortable silence as he stared down Han, who looked as if he’d been slapped in the face. Kylo was smiling at his toast. Hux took a loud sip of his coffee, his eyes never leaving Han’s. As the silence continued to stretch, Kylo saw Poe and Finn exchange worried glances. Good.

Eventually, Leia cleared her throat in Han’s direction.

“Yeah?” He asked, obviously relieved.

“I have a surprise for you — and you, Kylo.” She looked pleased with herself, and for a moment Kylo and his father were united in a moment of shared dread.

“The formal is next Friday, and since you’re going now, Kylo, I thought your father and I should go as chaperones.”

You what?” Kylo finally looked up from the disaster on his plate to stare at his mother in absolute shock. He was dreaming. This was a horrible, horrible nightmare and at any moment he’d wake up.

Han was too busy choking on his eggs to speak. He gulped down the rest of his beer and finally heaved a huge breath, “I’m with the kid on this one. You want us to be chaperones?

“I thought we could make it a family thing,” she said, ignoring the mutinous look on her husband’s face.

Unfortunately, none of them could ignore the sound Kylo’s knife made as he thrust it into the table next to his plate.

Leia sighed, “Not the table, Kylo. I can clean the walls, but that’ll leave a mark.”

“Good,” Kylo relished the look of shock on Finn and Poe’s faces. So far neither of them had experienced any of Kylo’s tantrums other than The Incident, and it was pleasing to see that his performances were still appreciated by some people. Hux pulled the knife from the table nonchalantly and buttered another roll with it, also looking pleased.

“Who are you going with, Kylo?” Rey asked with a knowing glint in her eye as she spooned more salad onto her plate.

“Yeah, who’s the lucky girl, kiddo?”

Kylo and Hux exchanged a furtive glance. Hux’s pale face was turning a red to match his hair.

Leia took pity on them, “Kylo is going with Hux. As friends,” a lesser man might have withered at the warning look she aimed at her husband, but he was a man afraid only of two things: responsibility and running out of beer. To all else he was immune.

“He’ll have Hux to supervise him, then. That’s three people. You can go with them, and I can just—”

“You will come with us, and we will have a good time together as a family.”

Leia’s favourite form of a fun was compulsory fun, usually involving family activities that no one enjoyed and usually ended in either a tantrum (usually Kylo but occasionally Han) or everyone agreeing to call it a day and stopping at Macca’s son the way home for a ‘family meal’ (Leia’s words).

“And Poe and Finn are going to be there too! It’ll be lovely,” somehow she managed to make this sound like a threat. Han got himself another beer and Kylo went back to cutting his toast.

 

***

 

After they’d washed the dishes and tidied the kitchen, Kylo dragged Hux out into the backyard. Hux assumed his usual position under the gumtree in the corner, carefully laying out his jacket before sitting on the grass. He waved away flies as Kylo threw himself down next to him and took out his phone.

@ghosts-in-the-snow: u think three cheers is their best album lol??? REAL FANS know they peaked with bullets. ur just a stupid stan go kys.

“People are being wrong on the internet again, aren’t they?” said Hux from behind his biography of Alexander the Great.

“Yes.”

“And you’re going to argue with them?”

“Yes.”

Hux sighed.

They were quiet for a moment as Kylo tapped out a furious reply while Hux took out his notebook and jotted down a few notes on the Battle of Gaugamela, the battle that made Alexander king of all Asia.

But their reprieve was short-lived. Rey and her cronies spilled out into the backyard, laughing and making a distracting amount of noise. Hux glared and shuffled his papers pointedly, but they were too busy passing around a football to care. Kylo, finally torn away from his phone by the distraction, took up his boxing gloves again and proceeded to take the last hour and a half of rage out on the punching bag while staring with unerring intensity at Poe. Hux rolled his eyes and went back to his book.

Poe wasn’t going to crack. Hear no Incident, see no Incident, speak no Incident. It was only when Kylo took the punching bag off its hook and threw it at him that he finally took the bait.

“Rey, I know promised you I wouldn’t start anything with your cousin, but this is the final straw. I’m not bringing you into this — it’s between him and me.”

Poe rolled up his sleeves and assumed what he must have felt was a battle stance. Hux snorted.

“How’s that neck of yours, Dameron? It must be feeling better if you’re looking for another fight.”

Poe had the distinct feeling he was being goaded into something he’d regret, but he’d never let that stop him before. Kylo was going to get what was coming to him, and his little geek friend too if he could get to him.

“You stay out of this, you stuck-up git! You don’t know anything about what happened.”

Hux shrugged, “I was there. I saw Kylo kick you to the ground and throttle you. You cried. It was certainly much more interesting than a football match,” he smiled serenely at the memory.

“He attacked me because he was losing! No wonder they threw him off the team, he’s crazy!”

Kylo, looking pleased for the first time that day, threw off his gloves and all but charged towards Poe as he was busy yelling at Hux. The force of the collision threw them both to the ground, but they barely paused in their struggle.

The scuffle only lasted a minute, in which it became clear that rather than helping Kylo manage his anger, the exercise programme prescribed by his therapist had only served to help him channel it more effectively into beating the everliving shit out of people. When Rey managed to pull him off and hold him down long enough for Poe to get up they both sported a constellation of bruises. Kylo was satisfied to see that while he might be sore tomorrow, Poe’s black eye and split lip would need medical attention. He was slightly less pleased when Rey twisted his arm behind his back and forced him to his knees.

“Say sorry!”

“But—”

Say it!

“…. Sorry,” It was barely a mumble, but Rey let go. He fell face-first into the grass as Finn and Rey rushed to fuss over Poe. Hux walked over to where Kylo lay panting, a slightly feral grin on his face.

“I’m so glad I chose to skip my father’s party. I would never miss a chance to watch you make an idiot of yourself in such a dramatic fashion.”

Kylo returned his smile, “I won. Again. Did I do any permanent damage?”

Hux rolled his eyes and helped him up, “I don’t think so.”

“Damnit.”

 

***

 

On the day of the formal, Kylo had rushed home from detention (day four of six for setting fire to Tom O’Connor’s backpack) to get ready. Wading through the pile of black band shirts that constituted his carpet, he picked up his phone from his bed and called Hux, who picked up immediately.

“What do you want?”

“What are you wearing?” He held up two ripped t-shirts and sniffed them. Clean enough. He threw the Paramore one back under his desk.

“Excuse me?” Hux’s voice was hushed and slightly breathless. Kylo could hear someone talking in the background, probably Hux’s father.

“Tonight. What are you wearing?”

“… Oh. Of course. Nothing special, just slacks and a black turtleneck.”

“Black. Good. We’ll match.”

He could almost hear Hux rolling his eyes, “You always wear black, Kylo.”

“I’ll stop wearing black when they make a darker colour.”

“… I know you’re quoting something stupid, and I want you to stop.”

 

***

 

Leia had insisted they arrive as a family, and since Kylo had to look like a nerd in front of everyone he kindly asked his mother if she could give Hux a lift so he would also have to suffer. Hopefully that would lessen the embarrassment of the situation. He also hoped that his father wouldn’t keep asking him if he and Hux were “close friends” in that weird voice if they had an audience.

Hux was waiting for them outside his house. He flash Leia his best innocent, adult-friendly smile, “Hello, Ms Organa.”

“Armitage! See Kylo, some boys dress nicely for these occasions,” Leia turned to glare at Kylo’s ripped jeans and unruly hair.

“Oh my god, Mum! You’re so embarrassing.”

Hux smirked, so Kylo ruffled his perfectly-styled hair.

“There! Now we match.”

Hux scowled and smoothed out the mess as best he could without a mirror, “You’re a heathen, Kylo. An uncultured swine.”

The heathen in the backseat only laughed.

Han was studying them from the front seat, “Nice of you to go with Kylo. I know it sucks going to things like this by yourself.”

Hux made a noncommittal noise.

“D’you have a girlfriend?”

“No.”

“Are you…. seeing anyone?”

Hux avoided his eyes and made a strangled sort of noise that might have been “No”, but could also have been because Kylo had taken his father’s wallet and was holding it by two fingers out the window in the middle of a highway.

“Drop it, or I drop it.”

Han was under no illusion that his son wouldn’t do it. If there was anything his son was good at, it was following through on whatever insane idea popped into his head at any moment. He raised his hands in defeat.

“Alright, kiddo. You got me.”

Leia was laughing, “I shouldn’t encourage this kind of behaviour, but he really did obliterate you, Han.” Traitor.

The carpark was nearly full by the time they arrived because Kylo insisted on being fashionably late. Hux, who was pathologically punctual, actually found himself glad that they weren’t the first ones there. He wasn’t quite sure what one did at a young people’s party, having never really been to one, but he was sure it didn’t involve canapés and polite conversation like his father’s events.

Sister Bridget and Sister Maria-Theresa were stationed at the entrance to the school hall to check off names. When Sister Bridget spotted Kylo walking towards them she crossed herself and found and excuse to help Mr Richards at the drinks table.

Leia gave her son a look.

“She thinks I’m possessed by Satan,” Kylo said proudly.

“Of course.”

Sister Maria-Theresa did her best to look pleased to see them, “Mr Solo, these must be your parents?”

“I’m Leia, and this is Han. And you know Armitage, of course.”

The sister pursed her lips, “Of course,” Then with a brittle smile, “Have a lovely evening.”

The usual neat lines of chairs had been put away, opening up a space in the middle of the hall now filled with teenagers dressed to the nines in outfits Hux found personally offensive. On the stage stood a very bored-looking man who looked to be in his mid forties. He occasionally looked away from his phone to press a button at random on his laptop, oblivious to the orgy of adolescent exuberance unfolding below him. The lights were already giving Hux a headache; he hoped Kylo was exceedingly grateful he’d agreed to come.

“For God’s sake, what were you thinking?”

Behind him Leia had snatched a small metal flask out of Han’s jacket pocket, opened and sniffed it.

“This definitely isn’t water.”

“It’s Bundy’s. Only the best for family events.”

Leia rolled her eyes and stuffed the flask inside her bag, “This is confiscated. Now behave yourself, you great big lout, or I’ll take you home.”

Han wiggled his eyebrows suggestively and Leia hit him. Hux and Kylo shared a look. Time to lose the adults.

Kylo led Hux over to an empty stretch of wall near the furthest window, stopping to grab a can of coke for each of them from the drinks table. Sister Bridget crossed herself again and said a Hail Mary as they passed. When Kylo smiled at her she dropped a jug on the floor, drenching herself in sticky cordial.

Their new vantage point offered them a view of Sister Anne skulking through the crush of bodies on the dance floor with a torch, searching for misbehaving children to yell at. She pounced upon a boy and a girl near the front who were gyrating in close proximity to each other, wrenching them apart and hitting the boy with her torch.

“Outrageous! Leave room for the Holy Spirit, children!”

Leave room for the Holy Spirit!” said Kylo in a squeaky voice that sounded nothing like Sister Anne but was still very funny. Hux nearly choked on his drink.

They’d been leaning against the back wall for over fifteen minutes before it occurred to Hux that despite his pretensions of coolness, to his knowledge Kylo had never been to a party either — unless you counted the time he’d crashed Rey’s sixteenth birthday party and she’d thrown him into the pool after he tried to change the music to “something less shitty and preppy” and got into a fight with Liam the DJ. Hux felt this was not a representative sample and decided dismissed it.

“Kylo?”

“Mhmm?”

“Shouldn’t we be….. doing something?”

Kylo shrugged, “I guess? I dunno. D’you wanna dance?”

“Not really,” said Hux, but he followed Kylo into the throng anyway.

Rey, Poe, Finn, and a girl Hux didn’t recognise were dancing in a kind of circle near the middle of the crowd. They each had a rose — F inn had his in his buttonhole, and Rey and the girl had them in their hair. Poe’s was in his mouth, and he was doing a lot of hip-swaying and gesticulating. Apparently this was very funny, because Rey was nearly on the floor with laughter when he scooped her up and spun her around. Her dress, a cloud of baby-blue ruffles, billowed about her in a perfect circle and her hair floated about her head like a halo. The moment was ruined immediately when he set her down and she trod on Finn’s foot.

Ouch!

“Sorry!”

Kylo was banging his head like he wanted give himself a concussion and swinging his arms about. Hux settled for moving vaguely from side to side and sipping his drink, trying not to make eye contact with anyone. He could see Kylo’s parents taking sips from Han’s flask in a dark corner and giggling like teenagers.

Things were going well until one of Kylo’s fists collided with a nearby dancer’s shoulder. For once it was a genuine accident, but since that shoulder happened to belong to a member of the St Alberts rugby team, once Kylo’s peers and now his greatest nemeses, they decided immediate escape was necessary.

Come back, you crazy fuck!

Kylo leant against the back of the door to the boys’ toilets, panting. There was no lock, but if he tried to follow them hopefully he’d give up when he couldn’t immediately storm in. Hux washed his hands and smoothed his hair — the humidity had made a mess of it.

“That went about as well as I’d expected.”

There was no humour in his tone, but Kylo burst out in a fit of laughter, sliding down the dirty concrete wall onto the floor. Despite his better instincts, Hux found himself chuckling too.

“Clearly you’re not doing a very good job of supervising me.”

“No, you’re just unsupervisable. Your parents seem to be having a good time; I hope they’re not too drunk to drive us home.”

“She didn’t?!”

Hux smirked, “I think you’ll find she did.”

When they deemed it safe to leave their sanctuary, Hux pointed to the corner where Han and Leia were now dancing the Macarena and cackling like drunk idiots.

“Oh my god.”

“I know. Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

The lights faded as the song came to a close, and the bored DJ took up the microphone.

“Now begins the request section of the evening,” he said in a haunting monotone, “Our first  song comes from a St Alberts student. Kylo, where are you?”

“I’M HERE! I’M HERE!” Kylo yelled, running pell-mell through the crowd as the opening bars of his favourite song rang through the hall. Sister Bridget looked like she might faint, and several of the teachers looked as if they regretted ever choosing their line of employment. Hux decided decided there was nothing he could do but let the situation play out to its inevitable and catastrophic conclusion and quietly resigned himself to his inevitable suffering.

Kylo, now in full swing, had ascended the steps to the stage. The DJ was powerless to stop him as he took the microphone and began his “performance”, which consisted of more of his hazardous dancing combined with screaming at the top of his lungs:

WHAT’S THE WORST THAT I CAN SAYYYYYYY?

THINGS ARE BETTER IF I STAY

SO LONG AND GOODNIGHT

SO LONG AND GOODNIIIIIGHTT!!!”

No one else was singing along. In fact, the crowd had begun to disperse, and when Kylo plunged himself from the stage into what was left of it he fell straight to the hard wooden floor as his peers looked on in amusement.

“Oh, Fuck,”

Leia, still tipsy, ran over to where her son lay on the floor, staring at the ceiling in shock.

“Sweetheart? Sweetheart, are you okay?”

Hux found his legs were moving of their own accord. He fell to his knees by Kylo’s side and pushed Leia out of the way, too preoccupied with his search for wounds to notice the look she gave him. Kylo winced when Hux’s hand brushed his arm.

“It’s broken. He needs to go to casualty,” he could hear the note of panic in his voice, but it felt as if somebody else were speaking, and besides he didn’t care. The minute expressions of pain on Kylo’s face as he sat up and rubbed his head were the only focus of his attention.

“You alright kiddo? That was a pretty bad fall,” Han chuckled as he knelt down by his wife’s side. Kylo made a pained noise that Hux was certain had more to do with Han’s attempt at humour than his arm.

“Let’s get you up — Careful of that arm! Lucky for you, one of your parents is a responsible adult and didn’t get rip-roaring drunk,” Han lifted Kylo from the floor as if he weighed nothing and set him down next to Hux, who was quickly becoming aware of the countless staring students and teachers surrounding them. None of the nuns came to help; so much for Christian charity. Hux glared at them all as they passed and made a point of steering them close to Sister Bridget as they left. She stood trapped against the wall as they passed with a look of pure horror. Hux was pleased to see Kylo smile at that.

 

***

 

In a stroke of rare good luck, Casualty was half empty when they arrived. Hux sat down with Kylo while Han and Leia went over to bother the nurse until she let them skip to the front of the line.

“You’re a complete and utter idiot, Kylo, you know that?”

Hux had decided that in this moment of pain and fear Kylo needed something familiar and comforting. Since Hux’s voice hissing insults into his ear was what passed as normal for them, and had the added benefit of stopping him from asking Kylo if he was okay, he decided this was his best course of action.

“What kind of blithering, rationally incontinent buffoon tries to crowd surf at a year ten formal? You’re huge, no one would’ve been able to hold you up — not to mention you’ve threatened or terrified every student, teacher, sister and their godforsaken mother in the last three and a half years! You’re not exactly popular, you imbecilic excuse for a human being. Did you trade your brains for muscles, or have you just always been this—”

“I’m fine, Hux. Stop worrying,” Despite the broken arm, grazed elbows, and possible concussion, Kylo looked perfectly at ease slumped over a hospital chair, his head on Hux’s shoulder. His eyes were closed, but his lips were turned up in the ghost of a smile. Hux made a noncommittal noise and patted him awkwardly on the head.

Of course the universe conspired to ruin this moment for him.

“Oh, how sweet! Aren’t you two just the cutest?”

Hux did not dignify this with a response. The woman was clearly sent by God as punishment for his impiety. And probably that time he tried to throw Martin Cooley into the campfire at year seven camp. Whatever she was punishment for, he would make sure God understood he was messing with the wrong man.

“Are you going to stand there and coo at us like an idiot, or are you going to be a professional and help your patient?”

It was quite likely that the nurse had never been spoken to like this by anyone under the age of forty before, let alone a skinny little runt of a teenage boy who was currently being used as a human pillow. As such, her shock at this outburst was so great that she simply turned and led them wordlessly into a consultation room. Leia and Han shared a look behind the boys’ back as Hux half-carried Kylo and set him down on the examination table. He wasn’t exactly their first choice for their son, but considering that Kylo was, well, Kylo, he could probably do much worse.

Hux hovered threateningly at Kylo’s side while the nurse poked and prodded at Kylo’s arms and head, occasionally yelling at her when he felt her work wasn’t up to scratch. Kylo seemed to enjoy the spectacle, even when she reset his arm and Hux held onto his other wrist for dear life and nearly gave him a fracture.

Leia seemed to find the whole thing hilarious.

“Are you alright, Armitage? You look pale. Do you need a glass of water?” She didn’t bother hiding the mischievous glint in her eye.

Hux glared at her, “I’m perfectly fine, thank you.”

They were nearly out the door and on their way home when Leia turned to her son with a suspicious look in her eye.

“What have you got in your pocket, Kylo?”

“Nothing,” he said much too quickly, looking at his shoes.

“Give it to me.”

Kylo pulled a scalpel from the pocket of his hoodie, looking sheepish.

“I’m returning this right now. Honestly, Kylo, what were you even going to use this for?”

He shrugged, “I dunno. Thought it might come in handy.”

“We’re talking to your therapist about this.”

Hux felt it was a credit to her iron will that she managed to do all this with complete composure, having consumed several shots of rum not an hour ago. While she explained to the receptionist about the scalpel, Kylo leant to whisper in Hux’s ear:

“Don’t worry, I took two.”

 

***

 

Hux was ensconced with a book in his favourite corner of the school library, enjoying a rare moment of calm, when Kylo flung himself around the corner of a bookshelf and nearly fell on him. He was panting as though he’d run for his life.

“Hux, you have to help me hide—”

“What did you do this time?” Hux barely looked up from his book.

“I didn’t do anything! Well, I punched someone, but they started it.”

Hux threw a blanket at him, “put this over your head and crouch down beside the chair. They won’t see you if you keep still.”

Five minutes later, during which Hux kept hitting Kylo over the head for breathing too loudly, a group of boys in their year came crashing through into Hux’s personal sanctuary. Lovely.

“Can I help you?” Hux asked.

The leader of the group — Sean, Hux thought — gave him an assessing look, “You’re the one Kylo’s always following around.”

“… And?”

It looked to Hux as though this conversation was taking him a great deal of effort, “So you’ll know where he is.”

Hux sighed, “Actually, considering he follows me around you’re better off asking him where I am.”

He suddenly had Sean’s face much closer to his than he’d ever wanted. Hands braced on either side of Hux on the chair, he stared into Hux’s eyes mere millimetres from his face. His breath smelt awful.

“You’re going tell us where your freaky little boyfriend is, or me and my mates are going make you regret it.”

Hux didn’t move an inch from the boy poised above him. In short moment of silence, during which both of them refused to blink, he carefully pulled something out of the pocket of his school trousers.

Less than a second later Sean doubled over, clutching his left thigh with both hands. A thin trickle of blood was beginning to leak through his fingers and down his leg.

“What the fuck?”

None of his followers had moved to help him, all frozen in shock. Hux eyed each of them in turn, bloodstained scalpel still in his hand.

“It would be a mistake for you to try and threaten me again. I can assure you that people who inconvenience me always live to regret it, and this has been more than inconvenient.”

He took a handkerchief from his pocket and wiped the blade clean, still staring at his aggressors.

“It would also be in convenient,” he continued, “if any of you were to bother Kylo again.”

He returned the scalpel and the handkerchief to his pocket and went back to his book. It took a moment for the dismissal to register, but eventually they all shuffled (in Sean’s case, limped) away into the rows of shelves, looking dejected. Hux allowed himself a small self-congratulatory smile.

Much too soon for his liking, Kylo burst out from beneath the blanket and engulfed Hux in a bone-crushing hug.

“Thank you, Hux, that was… that was…”

For a moment he stood there breathlessly, staring at Hux as though he’d never seen him properly before. Then, as quickly and unexpectedly as Hux had thrust the scalpel into Sean’s leg, Kylo leant down and seized Hux’s lips in a kiss.

It was clumsy and a bit wet and neither of them knew what they were doing, but Hux liked it all the same. Like everything Kylo did, he attacked kissing with unrestrained fervour and a complete lack of finesse. Things after that were a bit of a blur. At some point Kylo ended up straddled in Hux’s lap and he had to be the sensible one and put a stop to things.

“Kyl0! Kylo! Stop it! We’re at school for Christ’s sake. Anyone could walk in on us,” Hux would rather not have their moment of passion infringed upon by a nun. The thought made him feel sick.

“I don’t care,” Kylo moved to continue his assault on Hux’s mouth.

Hux all but threw Kylo from his lap. He landed on the floor in a rumpled heap, still panting and looking up at Hux adoringly in a way that made his stomach lurch pleasantly. He forced himself to look away.

“Try that again and I’ll pull out the scalpel, you beast.”

Kylo gulped, not out of fear. Hux stored this information for later use as they sat there getting their breath back.

“You didn’t say I wasn’t your boyfriend.”

“Hmm?” He’d been staring at the little bit of hair curling around Kylo’s ear and had lost track of things for a moment.

“When they said they were looking for me, you didn’t say I wasn’t your boyfriend. Does that mean I’m— that you’re—”

“I suppose it does,” Hux tried to sound put-upon and bored, but he had a distinct feeling Kylo saw right through it, the bastard.

They were busy smiling at each other like idiots when Hux remembered what had gotten them into this ridiculous position.

“What did you hit him for, anyway?”

Kylo laughed, “While I wasn’t looking he wrote on my cast.”

He turned his arm to show Hux the underside of his elbow, on which had been written in black marker, MRC SUX.

It’s MCR, not, MRC, and they don’t suck.”

Hux sighed and helped Kylo to his feet. With a frankly embarrassing amount of fondness, he smiled and said, “You’re are a colossal idiot and I don’t know why I put up with you.”