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frozen in that hopeful moment

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If Armitage Hux weren’t so abhorrent a human being Rose thinks she might find him pleasant to look at. He’s tall, slim, and pale, mannered and almost elegant. She doesn’t know much about his parentage or upbringing, beyond the snatches of fevered, breathless gossip she’s overheard in the Resistance mess hall, cantinas, and watering holes.

Kaydel Ko had told her she heard Hux’s mother was a witch who’d enchanted his father into marriage. C’ai had relayed to Rose that Hux had killed his mother from the womb. Jessika told Rose, while they repaired Jessika’s damaged X-wing together, that Hux kept orphans as pets.

“Or,” Jessika had said, deliberately, eyes darting about before finally landing back on Rose, “that’s just what I’ve heard.”

Rose hides a dagger in the pleats of her wedding gown. 

***

It turns out that Hux—she refused to think of him as an Armitage—hadn’t been any more eager to marry than Rose was. She’s almost offended by that; if she’d cared what Hux thought of her, she’d feel hurt, rejected.

The marriage hadn't been her idea; far from it, in fact. She'd been given a choice, though.

A union between the Resistance and the shambles of the First Order would provide stability for a galaxy wracked by decades of strife. Why this particular honor has fallen upon Rose’s shoulders and not someone like Rey’s currently escapes her. She'd have to make the best of the situation for however long it lasted.

“Our first order of business,” Hux tells her, “is laying out the ground rules.”

After he’d surrendered himself to the Resistance, Hux had been given a suite of rooms near the Resistance bunker as an esteemed guest. In any other situation, Rose thinks he’d be considered a prisoner of war. The Resistance fancies themselves more civilized and agreeable, seeking to make allies of those who were once enemies.

The morning after their first night as husband and wife, Rose and Hux sit at the kitchen table, avoid eye contact, and fuss over breakfast. Rose pretends to be hungry and turns her attention to stirring a bowl of steaming porridge with her spoon. Hux dips torn bits of bread in jam and pushes them around on his plate.

“Ground rules,” Rose echoes, distastefully. She cinches the sash of her robe around herself and lifts her head. “What kind of rules are we talking about?”

Hux finally meets her gaze. “For this marriage,” he says, flatly. “I hope you weren’t expecting a love match.” 

Rose clenches her hands into fists in her lap. “Oh, no. My dreams are shattered,” Rose retorts, feigning shock. She presses a hand to her chest. “Whatever shall I do?”

Hux gives her an unamused look, his lips flattening into a thin line. “Separate beds are a must,” he says, drumming his fingers on his knee. “I will take lovers as I please. I’ll be discreet, respectful. The last thing the Resistance needs is a scandal.”

“And what about me?” Rose asks, frowning slightly. 

“You’re free to take as many lovers as you want,” he says, waving a hand at her, dismissively. “As long as you don’t flaunt them.”

Rose rubs at her temples, her skull throbbing with the beginnings of a headache. Why had she agreed to this? General Leia had given her an out, another mission—a recruiting trip in the Outer Rim—but Rose had picked this one. She hadn’t wanted to go too far from base, from Finn. It seemed perfect at the time; she could stay on base and play at marriage, while admiring Finn from afar. 

But the Gods had a funny way of granting one’s wishes. Rongke, the trickster god, delighted in offering you everything you thought you wanted only to perform some sleight of hand at the very last moment. 

Rose drops her hands back into her lap. “I know why I agreed to this sham. Why did you?” she asks.

Hux lifts his eyebrows at her. “Am I not a prisoner of war?” he sneers. “I didn’t have a say in the matter.” 

Rose presses her lips together, suppressing a sigh. “Right,” she mutters. “So where does that leave us?”

“I believe this can be quite advantageous for both of us,” Hux says, after a few long seconds of thoughtful consideration.

Hux shifts in his seat then, and his plasteel ankle-monitor cracks against the leg of his chair, another reminder of his lack of say in the matter. Rose feels uneasy, like she’s staring into the jaws of a predator and rather than fleeing, like any right-minded young woman might, she’s offered herself up to him like a tasty morsel.

***

That second night together, as husband and wife in name only, Rose finds it difficult to get to sleep. Hux has claimed the main bedchamber for himself while Rose finds herself relegated—by her own choice, admittedly—to a smaller guest room. The mattress is stiff and hard, and the sheets are rough against her skin. The pillows feel like rocks under her lightly aching head.

Try as she might, Rose can’t stop tossing and turning, her mind spinning like captured satellites ensnared by the gravitational pull of some distant planet.

She wonders if Hux is having trouble getting to sleep too. Actually, knowing Hux, he’s probably sleeping as soundly as a baby. He’s certainly getting more out of this arrangement than Rose is, she thinks. 

Rose stares up blankly at the ceiling. The shadows that usually cling to the corners like drapes seem to come to life on the canvas of Rose’s troubled mind. No longer shadows, they dance and cavort and taunt, refusing to let Rose rest her weary head or close her eyes.

As Rose starts counting the shadows that flicker across the charcoal-gray walls, there comes a gentle knock on the door to her chambers. 

“Door, open,” Rose calls out, and the door slides open.

Hux shuffles in, his robes dragging behind him. The monitor jangles around his ankle noisily. If Rose had been sleeping, he would have dragged her out of a deep slumber.  

Rose sits up slowly, pulling her itchy blanket to her chest. “What is it?” she asks.

“I’ve been unable to sleep,” he admits, standing in the doorway.

“And what do you expect me to do about it?” Rose asks, her tone a little sharp.

“Would you mind if I joined you for tonight?” he asks.

“Already breaking your rules, General?” Rose can’t help but smile, in spite of herself.

“I won’t be touching you, if that’s what you’re worrying about,” Hux snaps, a line creasing between his red-gold brows. “It’s just that this place is unfamiliar. And drafty.”

Rose snorts out a laugh. “All right,” she says, feigning a beleaguered sigh. She pulls the blanket back and pats the empty space next to her. “I’ll share. But you stay on your side and I’ll stay on mine.” 

“Agreed.” Hux joins Rose in bed and scoots nearly to the edge, putting enough space between them that they could squeeze a third person into bed. “How is that?”

“You don’t have to scoot that far away,” Rose says, rolling her eyes. “You’re going to fall off the edge.” 

“I won’t fall,” Hux mumbles, a pinch of irritation drawing his voice taut.

“Suit yourself,” Rose says. She tugs the blanket back up and punches her hard, lumpy pillow into shape.

Rose settles back down and closes her eyes. She drifts off to sleep a little while later.

*** 

“I can’t believe you agreed.” Finn shakes his head in disbelief. “Hux is a monster. Aren’t you afraid?”

A few days later, Rose and Finn take lunch together in the mess hall. Finn’s already dressed in his flight suit; he and Poe are being sent on that mission to the Outer Rim. Rose tries to tamp down the jealousy she feels at not being able to go with them, and mostly succeeds. She should have figured Finn would get first crack at that mission to the Outer Rim when Rose passed it up. Rongke had struck again.

“It’s for the good of the Resistance,” Rose replies, repeating something General Leia had told her. “Bringing the two warring factions together in marriage will only serve to strengthen our cause.” 

“Now you sound like one of those propaganda holos,” Finn points out, with a wry smile. 

He’d know all about it, too. The Resistance slapped his handsome, grinning face on recruitment ads and posted them all over the Outer Rim. Who could resist Finn, the instigator of the Glorious Stormtrooper rebellion, imploring them to join the good fight? 

Rose pokes at a piece of fruit listlessly. “It’s fine,” she says. “He’s behaved. I think that ankle-monitor would zap him if he so much stepped out of line.” 

“Well, good,” Finn says. “I worry.”

“Don’t,” Rose says, offering Finn a smile. “I’ve got it covered.”

Finn smiles back and reaches out, giving Rose’s hand a reassuring squeeze. “I’m not worried for you,” he says, with a laugh.

*** 

Hux is waiting for her when she returns to his suite later that evening. He’s impeccably dressed in a plain white shirt and black trousers with red piping. If Rose didn’t know any better, she’d think he was dressing to impress her. Her eyes slip down his slim frame, coming to rest on the bulge in his pant leg where the monitor is strapped to his ankle. She glances back up at him.

“What is it?” she asks, turning and waving a hand to shut the door behind her. 

“You had lunch with FN-2187?” Hux asks, his calm voice devoid of any feeling.

Rose frowns and crosses her arms over her chest. “Yeah. He’s my friend. So?”

Hux mirrors her, folding his arms over his own chest and glowering. “He and I have a bad history.”

“I’m well aware,” Rose snaps. She hadn’t forgotten how Hux treated Finn aboard the Supremacy. “I was there, you remember.” 

“Well, I don’t like you meeting with him behind my back,” he snaps. 

Rose can’t help but laugh. “Are you serious?”

“Deadly so,” Hux sneers.

“First of all,” Rose fires back, striding up to him and jabbing a finger in his chest, “we’re not husband and wife. Not in any way that counts. You have no say over who I spend my time with.  Secondly—”

“But we are to give the appearance of husband and wife,” Hux interrupts her, leaning in, almost daring her to do more than just point at him. “Everyone on the base knows he and I despise each other. If they saw you out in the open, cavorting—”

Cavorting!” Rose scoffs.

“Yes, cavorting,” Hux continues. “If they saw you cavorting with FN-2187—”

“His name is Finn.” Rose jabs her finger at Hux again. “Stop calling him that.”

“Sorry,” Hux says, clearly not sorry at all. He brushes Rose’s finger away with a flick of his wrist. “If one were to see you spending your free time with my sworn enemy, they might get the wrong ideas.”

Rose huffs an indignant sigh. “No one cares. Finn and I were friends long before either of us agreed to this sham marriage. And we’ll be friends long after you’re gone.”

Hux’s lips thin until they nearly disappear off his pale face. “As long as we’re playing at being married, then, we should make more of an effort to be seen together.” 

“Oh, that’s a wonderful idea,” Rose says, rolling her eyes. “Going out in public together, putting on a show. That’ll go over terrifically. Half the people on this base want you dead and the other half want me dead for marrying you.” 

“We’ll have to convince them of our marital joy, then,” Hux says.

Rose realizes then that they’re standing very close to one another. Too close, her brain supplies. So close that she can feel the heat—anger—radiating off of him. There’s color on his face now, slashes of red across his cheeks giving him a rosy glow.

“I’m not much of an actor,” Rose says, quietly.

Hux apparently decides to take pity on her. “Here. Follow me.” 

Hux takes her hand in his gloved one—Rose makes a mental note to rib him over wearing gloves in their living quarters—and draws her close, until they’re flush against one another. Hux slips his free hand to her waist and leans in, inclining his head almost as if he means to kiss her.

“What are you doing?” Rose asks. 

She should push him away. She should slip her hand out of his and plant it in the center of his chest.

“I’m trying to teach you. You’d do well to listen,” Hux says, but the fire has gone out of his voice.

Or, rather, the angry fire of before has been replaced by a different sort of fire.

“We won’t fool anyone,” she says, as Hux finally lets go of her and steps back.

“We only just need to fake it until the Resistance is done using me as a bargaining chip,” he says.

Rose tilts her head, regarding him with curiosity. “What do you mean?” she asks. “What are they going to do with you?”

“Once I’ve outlived my usefulness, I reckon they’ll execute me. Most likely in public, as to send a message,” he says, brightly.

“They’re going to execute you?” she gasps, a wave of shock rushing overhead. Rose isn't sure if she's more shocked to hear Hux has resigned himself to a public execution or how cavalierly he's talking about it.

“I’d certainly assume so,” he says.

“I thought the Resistance didn’t believe in executing prisoners of war,” Rose says.

“My execution would send a message to those who remain in the First Order that the Resistance is not to be trifled with,” he points out. He offers his gloved hand to her. “Shall we continue practicing?”

“And what will happen with me once you’re dead?” Rose asks, slipping her hand back into his.

“You’ll be free.” Hux grips her hand tightly. 

Rose squeezes back. "Free," she echoes. 

She hasn't been free in some time. Ogitungku had taken her parents and sister, and Sonrupun had taken her home. This man—this monster—before her was a living, breathing embodiment of the gods of death and war. 

Rose should be very happy that she'll one day soon be free of him. 

"Now, let us dance," Hux says. He pulls Rose back in and lets his hand rest low on her hip. "We'll have to look like a convincing couple when the Resistance trots us out for that fundraising gala."

Rose had forgotten about that. "I've never danced before," she admits, placing her hand back in Hux's. 

"I'll show you the moves." He kicks at her ankles, widening her stance. "Just follow after me."

When he starts to dance them around their—his quarters, Rose follows him. She's a quick study because she's always had to be, and she picks up the moves quickly, timing them to a beat in her head. She thinks it's her nervous heart. 

"How am I doing?" she asks.

Hux lets go of her to twirl her, then pulls her back in, against his chest. "Not terribly," he says. 

Rose swats at him. "If they're to believe I'm your wife, you'll have to be more effusive in your praise," she says, cracking a smile.

Hux offers a small, cautious smile back. "My apologies, wife."

"Don't call me 'wife' either," she says, the smile morphing into a full-fledged grin.

It's then that Rose feels the sharp stab of guilt slip in between her ribs. She's actually enjoying herself right now, in the company of this man. This monster. Just for a moment Rose let herself be fooled. Rose viciously shoves away the lingering warmth and when Hux tries to pull her closer, she stiffens before jerking her hand out of his grip. 

"What is it?" he asks, sounding as if he actually cares to know. 

"I should go," Rose says, hastily. 

Hux gives her an unimpressed look. "Go where, exactly?" he asks, pausing to glance about his suite. "This is your home."

"It's not mine. None of this is mine," Rose says, tucking her arms across her chest. She shies away from him when he reaches a hand out to her. "It's yours. But it's not even yours, is it? You said so yourself. The Resistance will execute you."

Hux drags a hand down his face. "Yes. And? What's the point of this interrogation?" he barks at her, drawing his hand away from his face. 

"The point," Rose says through gritted teeth and clenched jaw, "is that none of this is real."

"You're trying my patience," he says.

"What a pity," Rose spits out.

Hux reaches for her again, grasping her small hand in his. Rose glances down at the large, gloved hand covering hers, then lifts her eyes up to his. 

"What troubles you?" he asks. 

Rose tries to jerk her hand out of Hux's, but he tightens his grip. Rose knows she should be frightened of him; Finn is right, Hux is a monster. He's done horrible, despicable things. He's beyond forgiveness, beyond redemption. And he's not anyone's wayward, misguided son. He's simply a bad person who made bad choices and feels not a lick of remorse for them. The only reason he's being kind to her is because he's after something. Rose is sure of it. She should not confide in him as if he's a friend, much less as a husband. A partner. An equal.

"Why do you care?" Rose gently twists her hand away from his and he lets her go. 

"We both have a stake in seeing this ruse play out successfully," Hux says. "If something is weighing on your mind, you'd best spit it out."

Rose turns away from him and scans his spare living quarters for shadows. There are none; the lights have chased them away. 

"I've lost everything I've ever loved," Rose finally admits, still with her back to Hux. If he wanted, he could come up from behind, attack her. He'd probably be able to get one or two blows in before the ankle-monitor sent a pulse of electricity into his body that would paralyze him from the neck down. "My home, my parents, my sister. Everything. Right now, all I have are my friends and my mission."

Hux hms thoughtfully, close enough now that she can feel his heat against her back. Rose tenses, wondering if she'd make a mistake turning her back on him. 

"You think if you allow the barrier to slip down you'll get too close to me," he finishes for her. "And when I'm executed you'll once again be left with nothing."

Rose turns, giving him a curt nod. "It should be easy for me to hate you. To despise you."

"Would you believe I've had similar thoughts?" he asks, quirking his lips in the implication of a smile. "I've never had any friends. And yet in another time, another place... I think we could have been very good friends."

Rose's heart throbs painfully in her chest, pressing against her ribcage. She acquiesces. "Maybe."

"Maybe," he agrees, his hands landing on her waist.

Hux pulls her closer and leans down, stooping low, until his lips press lightly against Rose's. Instinctively, her arm wraps around his neck and between one breath and the next, he scoops her up in his arms. And then he's carrying her, laying her out on his bed and hovering over her, their lips still tasting of one another.

The harsh little voice that's been whispering in the back of Rose's mind since they began this charade has finally fallen silent. Rose welcomes the temporary respite. She'll save the self-recrimination for the harsh light of morning.

The first night they spent together had been nothing more than a formality, a performance to convince the others that their marriage was real. Rose had curled up in the bed and Hux had been relegated to a rug on the floor, next to the bed. This night feels different. It feels real.

Hux sits back for a moment and Rose reaches out, grasping him gently by the wrist. He looks down at her as she slowly slides the glove off his hand, before she moves on to the other one.

"Touch me," she orders, looking up at him as she slips her medallion from around her neck and slips it into the pocket of her trousers. 

Hux reaches out with nimble fingers and begins to unbutton her blouse, sliding it from her shoulders to expose her pale skin to artificial lights. He ghosts his fingers over her bare shoulder before pulling back. Rose unbuttons her pants and steps out of them, kicking them aside with her shirt. 

Rose undoes Hux's belt, yanking his pants and undergarments down his hips. His skin is pale, marked with old scars. There's a yellowing bruise on his hip that Rose traces the shape of with her fingertip.

He holds himself rigidly still, like he's doing everything in his power not to reach for her. 

"Touch yourself," Rose says, gently, drawing her hand away from his skin. 

Hux reaches down, doing as she says, and wraps a fist around his cock. "And what would you have me do?" He sounds amused.

"I think you can figure it out for yourself." Rose leans in, smirks when he goes stock-still like he thinks she means to put her mouth on him. Instead, she presses gentle kisses over the bruise on his hip. 

Hux warms up in degrees, moving his hand over himself in an almost detached way, as if watching himself from above. He starts getting more and more into it, settling into a groove, moving his hand faster. Rose sucks little red marks on his skin, until the bruise is completely covered in them. You wouldn't even know it was there. 

Rose sits back on her heels to watch him for a moment, his hand slipping and sliding over his cock. Just because she'd told him to. A little coal burns in her chest at the knowledge. 

"Is this enough for you?" Hux asks, sounding curious. "Just to watch?"

Rose considers that, for a moment. "Yes. For now."

"We're learning so much about each other," he says, his tone curling at the edges. He sounds almost fond. 

Maybe he had been telling the truth, that in another time and place they could have actually been friends. More than friends, even. It doesn't do to think about all the maybes and what ifs, though. Not with the life Rose has been given. And Hux has made his own path. He has blood—of enemies, of innocents—on his hands that no amount of time in the 'fresher will wash clean. But for now, in Hux's dimly lit bedchamber, they're husband and wife. 

Rose watches him move his hand over himself, his movements growing jerky, still putting on a show for her. There's a light sheen of sweat that clings to his brow. Rose reaches out and brushes it away with the pad of her thumb.

"Are you close?" she asks.

"Yes," Hux says.

Rose laces her fingers with Hux's, pressing her small hand over his slick, fevered flesh. Her other hand skims down her torso, over her belly. "Let's finish together."

They move as one, their fingers locked, Hux rutting into their palms. Rose slides her hand between her legs, stroking her fingers over her damp folds before she parts herself open. Hux's breath comes in warm gusts on her neck. He's close enough to her now that his sweaty skin sticks to hers when he moves against her, thrusting into the ring of their hands. 

Rose tilts her head back, against his shoulder, lifting her hips, rubbing against her questing fingers and her palm. She feels Hux's mouth open on her shoulder, pressing a wet kiss against the bare skin, before biting down with just the barest edge of pain. Rose gasps and jerks against him, tightening her finger involuntarily around his cock. He lets out a pained hiss between his teeth, into her shoulder. 

Rose is as wet at she's ever been. She tells herself it's not because of the sting of his teeth. 

"I'm close," he warns her, knocking her hand off of him. "You?"

"A little more," Rose mutters, rubbing frantically between her legs.

"Do you trust me?" Hux asks. 

Rose goes still beside him, her fingers poised over her swollen clit. She can hear her heartbeat pulsing in her ears. "What's that supposed to mean?" she asks.

"It means, 'do you trust me?' " Hux says.

Rose forces her eyes open and stares up at the ceiling. "No."

"All right, then." Hux brushes his fingers over her belly in light circles. "We wouldn't want that. Anything but that."

"You're mocking me," Rose huffs.

"I am," Hux replies agreeably. He pulls his hand away from her and throws a leg over her hips, settling between her thighs. Rose feels his cock brush against her stomach, leaving a trail of wetness. "Use me in any way you'd like."

Rose rests a hand on his shoulder, squeezing. "Get on your back. Let me ride you," Rose demands. 

Hux lets her push him on his back and she reaches down, wraps her hand back around his cock and presses it against his belly. She drags a fingernail over one of the veins, tracing its length. Then she looks down at him, spread out underneath her, completely at her mercy. Or so she'd like to think.

"I don't have any...any preventative measures," Hux chokes out.

"I know. It's fine." 

Still bracing herself over Hux with one hand, Rose uses the other to keep his cock pinned against his belly. Slowly, slowly she lowers herself onto him, sliding his cock between her folds. It doesn't quite reach the ache inside her, but it feels good. He feels solid against her, solid and firm, like someone she could rely on if Kintun had cast her a different lot. Rose will make do with what she has, she always has. 

Hux sucks a harsh breath in between his teeth as she slides over him, using him as he'd offered. One of his hands flutters, landing on her hip, guiding her as she moves against him. 

When Rose glances down at their bodies, it almost looks like they've fused and become one. It's a strange thought. She finds it doesn't upset her, though. Not entirely. Not tonight.

Rose grows more and more frantic, the hotter the coal burns inside her. She feels like she's chasing something, something just beyond her reach. She starts moving more frantically, desperately against Hux, and he starts rising to meet her, gripping her by the hips and holding her down. When her arms and legs grow stiff and tired, Hux moves her himself, lifting his hips, dragging her against his cock. Rose clings onto his shoulder, nails digging in, unable to lift her head and look at him as their bodies swell against one another like the rising of the tides. 

A warm wave crests within Rose, rising, threatening to sweep her under. Rose is afraid to lose herself to it, doesn't know if she'll get herself back after. 

"Come on," Hux urges her. "You're holding back."

Rose wants to give in and doesn't want to give in, in equal measure. Giving in to the feeling that's swelling within her, letting it take her under is surrender. Holding it back is a kind of surrender too. 

Rose trembles on top of him, thighs quivering, and her nails are still digging deep into his shoulder but he hasn't complained. "I don't know if I can."

"Come," Hux insists, gripping her heavily by the hip. 

Rose squeezes her eyes shut tight. The voice that would harangue her for losing herself in this moment, with this—inside this—man is silent. The only one holding her back is Rose herself. 

Rose loosens her grip on his shoulder and he hisses out a long, soft breath. She reaches down between their waists, presses her fingers against her clit and starts rocking against Hux again. It isn't long before her movements grow erratic, lack control, the feeling surging inside her in electric waves. Rose goes rigidly still over Hux as an invisible hand catches her in its fist and twists and twists her like she's a wet dish rag. She shudders violently, grips him by the arm to steady herself, as she starts to unwind. Hux's hands grip her by the hips, holding onto her, fingers digging into her skin.

The heat that flares inside her and rises into a wave explodes with bolts of heat, sizzling through every nerve ending. Rose opens her mouth in a silent cry, trembling still as it scorches her from the inside out. 

And then, almost in the blink of an eye, it coalesces between her legs in the final burst of a dying star. Rose falls against Hux's chest, panting, shivering as aftershocks spark through her with every movement of her body against his. 

Hux lets her rest against his chest for a bit before he gently rolls Rose off of him and onto her back. He's slick with the evidence of her pleasure and Rose is embarrassed, cheeks heating with a sudden flood of shame like someone's slapped her. He's still hard, his cock heavy and flushed. Rose crawls over to him and lifts her head, meeting his eyes as she reaches for him and parts her lips. Hux says nothing, just watches her as she tongues at the head of his cock and strokes her fist down his shaft. 

It doesn't take much before it's his turn to shake against her, his fingers curled loosely in her damp hair as he spills down her throat. When he's finished, Hux rolls away from her, his cock now limp and dangling. Rose thinks about the dagger she slid into the pleats of her wedding gown, how it would be so easy to slip it between his ribs or use it to slice off that dangling part of him.

When she'd agreed to this plan, the thought had crossed her mind. She surely would have been imprisoned herself, but it was tempting. She'd imagined avenging the death of her sister, the loss of her parents by spilling this man's blood on her sheets. Instead, she finds herself lying shoulder-to-shoulder with him, sweaty bedsheets clinging to her back. 

She pushes thoughts of the dagger out of her mind. 

"That was..." Rose trails off, unable to find the words. 

"Yes," Hux agrees. "It was."

Rose sits up and peels the sheets off her back, then turns to look at him. He lounges beside her, seemingly without a care in the world, his cock flopped over his thigh. If he knew what she'd been thinking just a few minutes earlier, would he be so relaxed? So calm? 

"I should go to my bedchamber," Rose says, with a soft sigh. She pushes her sweat-damp hair off her face, tucking it behind her ears. She feels Hux's hand land on her bare back, rub in slow circles. 

"You could stay if you wanted," he says. 

"You wouldn't mind? What about the rules?" Rose asks. 

"Kriff the rules," Hux mutters. 

"All right." Rose settles back down beside him and rolls onto her side. 

A few minutes later, the mattress creaks and dips as Hux turns, curls into her back and wraps himself around her.

Rose stares at the wall, listening to his steady, even breaths until sleep claims her some time later.

***

The next morning, Rose wakes up alone, to an empty bed. She yawns and stretches, rolling her shoulders and working the kinks out of her neck. She crawls out of bed and fumbles in the dark until her fingers collide with a robe of Hux's that she throws her her shoulders. It's far too long for her and drags after her, but it'll do in a pinch. Rose tightens the sash around her waist and strides out of their—Hux's room to find General Leia and Finn waiting for her.

Rose startles, then spends a few long moments trying to cover. General Leia doesn't so much as blink, while Finn looks on in concern. 

"What're you guys doing here? It's early," Rose stammers, before remembering herself. She clicks her heels together and gives the General her customary salute. "General, Finn."

General Leia leans heavily on her wooden cane. "We came to inform you that your mission has been completed."

"Completed?" Rose questions, glancing from Leia's wizened, craggy face to Finn's smooth, unlined one. "What do you mean?"

"You won't have to keep playing house with a murderer," is Leia's snappy reply. "The tribunal fast-tracked his case. It's decided to bring him up on charges."

"You mean..." Rose trails off.

"He'll be put on trial," General Leia says, lifting herself off Hux's couch with a weary sigh. "And he'll likely be convicted."

"I thought you needed us to... You know. Keep the charade going a while longer," Rose says, reaching up to tame and smooth down the flyaway bits of her hair. 

"I thought so too. The tribunal felt otherwise," Leia says, narrowing her eyes at Rose. "They were going to charge you as an accessory, as his wife. We had to inform them of the ruse."

"Oh," Rose says. A quiet ache opens up in her chest that she pushes down, stamps down on until it disappears. "Well, I guess we got what we needed."

General Leia nods, drawing her shoulders back, making herself appear ten feet tall. "Yes, we did. You'll be debriefed by leadership, but that's nothing more than a formality. Counseling is available if you need it. You're free to go."

After sharing a pointed look with Finn, the General lets herself out of Hux's suite, leaving the two of them behind. 

"I brought you a change of clothes," Finn offers, holding out a folded pile that consists of Rose's coveralls and a plain brown blouse. 

"Thanks, Finn," Rose says, taking the clothes from him. "Do you—do you know where they're keeping Hux?"

Finn's eyes widen, his eyebrows lifting nearly into his hairline. "You want to see him?"

"I want to say goodbye," Rose says. 

"Why? He doesn't deserve your sympathy," Finn says. 

Rose wishes she could explain this to him, but he'll never understand. And just as well, Rose thinks. It's not something she can ask of him, after everything he's gone through at the hands of the First Order. Maybe if Finn knew what had transpired between Rose and Hux, he'd look on her with cold, hateful eyes. She can never tell him why. 

"I don't expect you to understand, Finn. I don't understand it myself," Rose says, apologetically. 

"I don't," he says, shaking his head. "You're my friend. I just... Did he do something to you? Brainwash you? Hurt you?"

"No," Rose insists, reaching out and snagging Finn's hand in her own, squeezing gently. "It's hard to explain."

Finn gazes at her, the doubt and uncertainty creeping into his warm, usually friendly and open eyes. "I won't stop you from going to see him," Finn says. "It's not my place. But I won't go with you. I can't."

"I understand," Rose says, letting go of his hand. "And I wouldn't dream of asking you to do that."

Finn gives her a stiff nod. "I just don't understand it, Rose."

"I know," Rose says, holding her pile of clothes against her chest. She leans in, gives Finn a peck on the cheek. "I'll see you later."

Finn lets himself out and Rose goes to change. She retrieves her medallion and slips it around her neck. It thumps against her chest, over her heart, reminding Rose of who she is. Who she's been fighting for the whole time. Rose curls her fingers around it, squeezing tightly, imagining herself holding Paige's hand just as tightly. Resolve steels her spine. She mustn't lose sight of herself. 

Then she goes to find Hux and say her goodbyes. 

*** 

A droid leads Rose to his cell, then rolls back a few feet to wait for her. There's no door, no visible seams in the wall, just a small opening with durasteel bars like long, sharp teeth. Rose inches closer and closer, until she can peer into the prison cell. 

Hux is sitting on a cot, his hands clasped under his chin, staring blankly at the wall opposite him. Rose clears her throat gently and he lifts his head.

"Who is it?" he calls out.

"It's me," she says, then pauses. "Rose."

Hux gets up and ambles over to the opening, wrapping his fingers around one of the bars separating them. "Rose Tico," he says, overly formal. "What a surprise."

"You left without saying goodbye," she quips. "Are they treating you well?"

"As well as can be expected," he says, with a sigh. "And you?"

"My mission is over and I'm free," Rose says. "They're sending me for a debriefing in the morning. And I'll probably have to see a counselor after. I suppose it could be worse."

"You could be in this cell with me, waiting to get your head chopped off," Hux offers, with an incongruous smile.

"I can think of worse places to be with far worse company," Rose jokes. It feels strange to be joking with Hux's inevitable end lingering over both their heads, but it also feels a bit like relief. 

"As can I," Hux says, seriously, brows knit together. "You shouldn't be here, Rose Tico."

"I know. But I wanted to say goodbye," she says, standing up on the tips of her toes and reaching out, wrapping her fingers loosely over Hux's around the durasteel bar. "I can't say that I'll miss you. We hardly know each other. But..." Rose trails off, uncertain. 

"It's fine," Hux says. "You were doing your duty."

"No," Rose says, shaking her head, dismissing the very idea. "I might tell myself that later, to feel better about all of...all of this. But it was more than that. I don't know what, yet. I might never know. But it wasn't just that."

Hux falls silent. Rose doesn't know what to say either. So she leaves her fingers pressed against his until the droid rolls up to her and tells her it's time for her to go.