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The hangar bay is a coalescence of grey durasteel. The walls are matted for better sound absorption, the floor polished for easier takeoff, and the cocoon of its practical but uneventful dullness now pierces a drop of blinding white.

Miniscule in comparison to Kylo’s TIE Fighter, and soon overshadowed by him, Rey still stands defiant.

There is no escape for either of them, whether it be this contraption of steel or their Force connection. Still, exchanging blows is a simple matter and a dance they’ve been practicing for a while. The physicality is packed away, the enormity of their collision hidden within the transparent walls of the Force. It’s a battle of wills, endurance, and strength. They don’t need lightsabers when words can cut at the marrow. If either of their focus wanes, or their belief falters, they lose.

Kylo learned that lesson from Snoke. He has been cut, exploited, abused, and shamed enough times to know where to dig in his fingers to split a mind and feed on the sap, his opponent’s weakness becoming Kylo’s strength. He uses it now, just as he used his words to manipulate Rey on the Supremacy .

Rey doesn’t understand the power she holds. It’s not that she was turned to the Light by Skywalker. Rather than belonging to the Light, she has embodied it in a fantastic explosive manner.

In the Force, her presence throbs with restrained power, and like a particularly effective pulsar, calls others to her, and traps them in her gravity. In that manner, they are not dissimilar. However, where she holds those she has close, feeding them the Light, Kylo is in turn the gluttonous gaping maw, hungry for the emotions of those who surround him.

Sustaining himself in the Dark is a struggle, has always been a struggle, made worse by Han Solo’s death and growing unmanageable with Snoke’s. He has nothing to give. He is an inverted picture of Rey. Kylo’s a refraction of light, a reflection in a distant mirror of that which surrounds him. A parasite, as much as he is the host, promoting the same feelings in those around him that he saps on: possessiveness, selfish desire, greed. He requires obedience but louds self-interest. Nothing matters to him more than himself, and he has known it since the moment he became Snoke’s disciple. That freedom allowed him to try and control his fate, and that control has been named self-absorption by Hux enough times for Kylo to admit to it.

From them all, that accusation carries the smallest sting. After all, Hux has been the focal-point of Kylo’s connection to the Dark since their ill-fate made them cross each other’s paths. Underneath the surface of Hux’s clean and strict thoughts and wretched plans, lay an infection pus of desire and inadequacy, ambition and anger, so potent and concentrated, it has become his most plentiful grazing grounds. In return to Kylo’s presence, the breeding grounds only spread, from contempt to Hux’s unfortunate proprietorial claim on everything he considered the extension of himself.

Hux himself has a certain gravity, under which even Kylo has found himself at times. In those moments, Kylo forgets about his struggle and feels, in patches and badly sewn scraps of borrowed time, as if he could sink into the Dark and finally grasp its full potential.

Kylo wonders, as he speaks to Rey, if she has ever felt similar. She must have -- he doesn’t understand where she finds her hope, her joy, her power to fight him unless its in someone else.

Lies drips from his mouth, poison sweet and disarming, telling her the worst fate she could have imagined, the weight of which even her shoulders buckle under -- the granddaughter of Palpatine, destined for Darkness.

Kylo pushes, tasting blood in the air. “We can kill Palpatine together . We can rule together.”

Though wells of the juxtaposing energy of the Force, the two of them are imperfect. In that imperfection lies their weakness. There is something Dark in Rey which can be pushed to the surface if she only let him; there were wiser Jedi than her once, and even Luke gave in to his fear which instructed him to raise his saber against Ben. Fear, Kylo thinks, and envy at his power.

“We’re a dyad,” he continues, offering his hand to her again. He will keep doing it until she takes it or cuts it off.

Kylo knows there is something Light in him as well, and if he can convince Rey to join him, there will be noone left who could push him to the other side. After all, she is just as strong as him. Because Rey, despite what he’s told her, has never been a Palpatine. He knows her, just as he knows the shapes of Han Solo’s eyes which now look at him from her face, and Organa’s mouth which twists in refusal where it could never before.

But Rey doesn’t want to listen to him any longer. Her misery does not show defeat. She’s absolutely disinterested in power he has to offer, which confuses Kylo as much as it angers him. Who doesn’t wish for power?

Instead of taking his hand, she inches away until she’s at the edge of the platform, behind her only the expanse of the universe.

“Join me, Rey,” he says. “You know what we have to do. You know--”

Kylo’s words falter when he feels a strange tug in the Force. It isn’t unlike a child tugging at his sleeve, which is even stranger still -- Kylo does not inspire enough confidence in children so they approach him, and he cannot think of a time when one did.

In the back of his mind, Hux’s presence within the Force wavers, a plucked string vibrating. A strange taste floods his mouth, like a premonition. Then, Hux’s panic lances through the Force, so strong Kylo almost chokes on it. Without giving him time to process, the vibrating escalates until it’s a noise in his ears, a silent scream. Pain blossoms through him with such intensity, it’s as if he’s been kicked in the solar plexus.

Kylo very nearly doubles over, and unwittingly, gasps out a weak, “No.”

He has Rey pinned . He has her. There is nobody here who can subdue her instead of him, and she has nowhere left to go. He should not look away from her stern face to the durasteel walls. He should not push through the ranks of troopers behind him. He should not run. Yet, he does all three. He turns away, and in his blind panic moves through the troops, and runs up the stairs, tasting blood in his mouth.

Behind him he hears the engine of the Millenium Falcon, always a distinct noise, and understands the connotations of it. But Kylo doesn’t heed the warning and pays no mind to another defeat as he slips into the Stadfast’s sprawling hallways. The string has been cut. He can’t feel Hux anymore, and the gaping wound created from his absence fills him with dread.

He knows he looks manic as he rushes past the officers in the hallways, but something happened to Hux, and he can’t feel him anymore, can’t tune into his mind, can’t do anything except look for him, and recount the terrible feeling pooling at the bottom of his stomach.

The phantom pain, ghosts of the broken connection, lead him to the Command Bridge. The doors open just in time for Kylo to see a stormtrooper kneeling over, he realises with a sinking feeling, Hux. His red hair draws the eye, but he isn’t moving.

He isn’t moving .

Before he can even think of it, before he can even raise his hand to direct the Force, the stormtrooper has already been slammed into the ceiling, far away from Hux.

He isn’t breathing , Kylo thinks once he approaches. He can’t see his chest moving. No, there’s only a gaping wound, just like the one in his mind, raw and fresh. The air stinks of burnt hair and Kylo can’t breathe from it either. He can’t think. He looks at Hux, on the floor, and can’t do anything at all but feel the ground under his feet turn to water, drenching him in despair.

“Supreme Leader,” Pryde says, drawing his attention. “We’ve identified the spy and dealt with him. It was General Hux all along.”

The spy . Kylo knew the first time the thought of leaking information entered Hux’s mind. Hux, in turn, knew that Kylo could read it from his mind. But it wasn’t important, not at least enough to have a conversation about it. He postponed it, like he postponed saying a lot of things to Hux when bravery failed him and he needed to be truthful. And now, Hux is dead, and Kylo can’t say anything to him anymore.

“He freed the Resistance prisoners--”

The fact of the matter is that Hux was supposed to be safe on the Steadfast . With the Finalizer severely damaged after Batuu, he brought Hux with him to this new flagship because Hux was familiar, and grounding, and Kylo needed him. Because Hux needed rest, loathe as he would have been to admit it, after days spent working with cyber crystals and weaponry. In this vessel, with Kylo on it, Hux should have been impervious to everything.

As he clenches Pryde’s larynx with the Force, Kylo knows he’s made a mistake. He thought the spy business only Hux’s petiness but he freed the prisoners. It means there was something more to it, something deeper, something Kylo can no longer find out.

Finally, looking up from Hux, he sees Pryde in mid air, struggling for breath. He senses anger in him, and something else -- dread in face of Kylo’s irrationality. Yes, men like Pryde value structure and rules that protect them. But Kylo, stupidly unbalanced, moved by his emotions, toying with madness and teasing the precipice with his toes ever since he cut Snoke down, now feels as if Pryde has just pushed him off the cliff.

The tearing starts at Pryde’s arms. He twists them, the popping of joins foreshadowing the breaking bones that pierce through skin and uniform. Blood drips in a hurried tempo, pooling underneath Pryde, accompanied by the man’s wails. The stench of death is in the air. It’s the killing hour. Kylo has killed many men. Those deaths were swift and he will not allow Pryde that luxury. As he twists Pryde’s ankles, his knees, his legs until more joints pop with a sink and chilling sound, he doesn’t even feel the strain within the Force. It feels like doing nothing at all.

Kylo feels powerful enough to tear the man apart just with his abilities alone and so he does it. Flesh should not pull apart like torn paper, but it does. The skin hangs from being overstretched, the bones protrude from their maroon cushioning. Entrails smack against the floor with nothing to hold them in. Then, finally, the screaming stops. In the air, what used to be Pryde floats for a moment, before it drops with a wet and loud thud. The silence following it smells of terror.

Eyes are on him, but everybody seems arrested in the moment. Kylo pays them no notice when he finally bends down to scoop Hux’s lifeless body in his hands. His dead weight is nothing to him. It’s far more difficult fighting down the cry trying to climb up his throat. He presses his lips together in a tight line, so he doesn’t let it escape. If it slips loose, he doesn’t know if he’ll be able to catch it again.

Kylo turns on his heel and the doors to the Command Bridge open for him to pass through. Behind him, the stormtrooper clatters to the floor, finally released from Kylo’s clutches.

Somehow, without even thinking, Kylo ends up in his rooms. There is nothing the medbay can do for Hux now. Life has fled from him. He’s pale, and not from his life-long presence aboard starships. No, his paleness is the death pallor. Blood has stopped pumping through his veins.

He was supposed to be safe, Kylo laments as he lays him amongst his sheets.

He doesn’t know what he’s doing. There is no plan here. There is nothing else he can do but sit next to Hux’s stiff body and bury his face in his hands.

The tears come then, unbidden. The rage has left him, anger fled in the face of misery. Agony blooms thorns through his capillaries until he can’t draw breath without hurting.

To call what leaves Kylo’s mouth a scream is to say too little. The absence in his mind frightens him, and his fear only magnifies his heartbreak. Hux has left him. He’s been taken from him. Finally, for the first time since he’s become Ren , Kylo is truly alone.

The howling stops only when his voice gives up, and his ears ring with from the silence. His head hurts, mind splitting just like he split Pryde.

He’s known Hux for six years. For six years he’s been hated, loathed, despised, but also wanted, needed, and desired. Hux was never afraid of him. He’s never been afraid to show it either. If there was one person who managed to truly know Kylo from his terrible bed-side manner, his nightmares, his dry humor, who spent time with him during his long meditations while working, who shared drinks, meals, and beds with him, who tried --now Kylo realises-- so hard to make him see reason, it was Hux. Hux, who he managed, in this last year, to drive away somehow. Perhaps it was the Finalizer . Perhaps it was ruining Hux’s favor -- the Silencer was exactly that, a gift, though Hux would never admit it. Perhaps it was just Kylo being blinded with everything else: looking for Palpatine, his striving for power, his need to find the Resistance and Rey, and stop the wheels of his destiny. In face of those circumstances, where once Hux and he stood together on even ground, Hux slipped into the background. He was left in the dark. Kylo left him there.

The Force vibrates, and he senses Rey. He doesn’t have the energy, nor the willpower to face her; she could strike him down and he thinks, now weak as he is, he’d even let her.

“Leave,” he tells her, with his ruined voice. If she wasn’t there, if Kylo ran just a bit quicker, if he left just a bit sooner, he could have stopped this. It’s another almost-- a drop in the bucket of his failures.

Hux called him childish, impetuous, and uncertain, and it meant that he wasn’t good enough. Not a good enough co-commander, at least, and not good enough lover to keep on the constant. Not good enough apprentice either, not strong enough to hold onto the Dark properly, yet turning away from the Light by choice because he wasn’t strong enough to remain in it.

To be Kylo Ren is to suffer, but to be Ben is to die, and he can’t be both anymore either. With the legacy of his whole bloodline on his shoulders, grandchild to Darth Vader, son to Princess Leia Organa, nephew to Luke Skywalker, it’s frightening to realise he is nothing, nothing at all.

“You ran,” she tells him, as if that’s somehow important. “I never saw you like that before.”

His gloves are soft against his face. He unpeals them, and sees traces of his tears, and is disgusted. Hux would hate to see him this way as well. He tears them off and turns, not towards Rey, but to look at Hux once again.

The wave of pain hits him, drawing him under the surface once again, intent on drowning him. Hux’s hand is cold when he wraps his fingers around it.

“I tell you the truth of your existence, and instead you focus on this?” he murmurs, brushing his thumb across Hux’s knuckles in a familiar fashion.

He wishes he would not think of the nights they’d spent together, Hux asleep, peaceful, and Kylo, plagued by nightmares, watching his countenance to calm his racing mind. He wishes Hux’s hand was unfamiliar, the softness foreign, the weight strange, but it’s not; his body knows Hux’s hands and it keeps the score of all their summits. Above all he wishes, for the first time, that he did not feel this pain.

“I’m interested because what I feel from you, now, is the truth and what you said is a lie.”

Kylo won’t admit it but it seems that Rey has already made up her mind. He cannot sway her anymore. He’s lost his chance. Perhaps he’d only been deluding himself into thinking he had one to begin with.

He senses Rey shifting around, and when she stops in front of him, he looks up at her. Belatedly, he realises she cannot see Hux.

Kylo doesn’t have the strength to pull the connection shut. What strength he had, has fled him. He’s left now, to her knowing gaze. Already he can feel her inside his mind, rifling through the disorder.

He closes his eyes, letting himself fall victim, and bows his head until he’s kissing Hux’s hand. He won’t feel his knuckles against his skin ever again.

“Oh,” falls from Rey’s mouth, surprised and soft. “You’re grieving. You were in love with him.”

“Get out of my head ,” Kylo growls.

That doesn’t deter her. No, this is finally payback for what he did to her, aboard the Finalizer , the first time they met. Only Rey is infinitely gentler as she draws memories of their conflicts, arguments and debates, and infinitely more cruel when she finds the soft bits underneath: memories of pressing his forehead between Hux’s shoulder-blades when he curled around him, Hux’s hand in his hair, gentle and careful, memory of Hux laughing, eyes crinkling with amusement.

“Do you want to save him?” she asks. He did not think her cruel, but he should have known better.

He can’t listen to this any longer. “Stop,” he begs, the word breaking on his grief.

“I can show you,” Rey persists, “If you’d like.”

“You lie.”

“I don’t. I’m not like you.”

Finally, Kylo looks up at her, and her intense and cruel eyes that seem to mock him. Had his mother ever looked at him this way? She must have, after everything.

But just like his mother’s gaze, Rey’s holds promises, and in them, just like every other unfortunate man to be regarded by her, he feels hope strike sparks within him, his despair providing flint and tinder.

He swallows it all down. “What do you want in return?”

Her lips tug down at the corners when she says, “You know.”

Ben. Kylo shuts his eyes. For him to turn to the Light is a death sentence. The prophecy his mother saw when he was a child has plagued him his entire life. It always seemed unfair that he should know how he dies young, without ever reaching his true potential. The injustice smelted into contempt, whose stench drew Snoke to him. So long ago now, Snoke promised him freedom of that fate and young Ben Solo became Kylo Ren.

It seems that by running away, by trying to trick the fates, Kylo has only brought his demise closer to him. His struggle has been useless. His pain, suffering, tolerating Snoke, the deaths of all those under his hand which he sacrificed for power, have been all for naught. And now, the choice is to continue life as Kylo, without Hux, or to sentence himself to death by saving him.

How interesting, to not only learn he has a sister, but that she demands of him what the rest of his family demanded without even knowing it -- for him to lay down on the track of his fate and die.

If it were Hux, Kylo knows, he would not hesitate. He’d put a blaster to Kylo’s temple and pull the trigger. But Kylo cannot do that. He doesn’t even allow himself the grace to hesitate when he says, “Do it.”

-

Drained from the effort of feeding their life-energy to Hux, the Force-connection between Kylo and Rey breaks just a moment before Hux takes his first sharp breath. Color has returned to his face, his lungs expanding with the breath of life, and his pale-blue eyes open to gaze at the world once again.

Exhausted now, more than ever before in his life, Kylo still finds strength in him to help Hux sit up. Back bowed, his forehead settles on Kylo’s shoulder as Hux coughs, air rattling within his lungs until his sides expand with uniform and deep breaths.

Even half-dead, blurry eyed and nearing unconsciousness, Kylo feels the sharp relief in his veins. It’s so potent that it arrests his breath, chokes his words, and aborts any other thought beside the one which has him putting his hand on the back of Hux’s neck, bringing them into a tired embrace.

Hux’s face, against his neck, is warm. His hand, which Kylo still holds, twitches ever so slightly until he feels their fingers intertwining. Hux’s other hand lands on his chest, touching him as if only to feel that Kylo’s heartbeat is there, that he is alive, before it winds around his neck.

The silence in the room, now, is broken only by Hux’s breath and Kylo wouldn’t have it any other way.

The evidence of the time passing while they stay pressed together, is exposed in the fact that Hux, eventually, unwinds his hand from Kylo’s neck, and lifts himself from Kylo’s shoulder to look at him. Rattled even with such small distance, Kylo doesn’t expect the reward. But it is a reward, it’s a miracle when Hux’s blue eyes focus on him, wide and confused, and clear.

“Ren?” Hux asks, soft, softer than ever before. He reaches for Kylo’s face. “You’re-- crying what--”

His thumb is gentle on the purplish bruises under Kylo’s eyes, and gentler still as he brushes over his scar. Kylo closes his eyes, letting tears of relief fall, sullying the warmth of Hux’s hand. He could spend hours held like this. He’s a fool to realise it so late, now that he has no time left at all.

Suddenly remembering himself, Hux stiffens and pulls away, much to Kylo’s distress.

“Pryde shot me,” Hux recalls, and with his words his face twists with further confusion. He touches his chest where only a scar remains, open to the air where the blaster shot burnt away his uniform. Hux looks at him with something just left of fear, and just right of awe, when he asks, “What have you done?”

In his hand, Hux’s fingers grip his. It’s a reassurance. It’s something Kylo’s desperately needed to feel.

“Killed him,” Kylo replies, the words muddy and incoherent. His fatigue slurs his words as if he’s drunk.

“I died,” Hux says as if he didn’t hear him. “I was dead. I felt the bolt right in my heart. I felt--”

Kylo surges and kisses Hux, stopping his panic and the clawing need of his mind for explanations. The press of his lips on Hux’s is too desperate, too ugly and raw, but he was so afraid, and the fear hasn’t left him yet. A part of his mind where relief has yet to reach thinks this is all a trick of the Force, a vision, a dream, and that Hux might dissipate in his hands if he lets go of his hand. However, Hux’s hand cups his it in a forgiving hold, and Kylo realises that no, this is real.

When his despair, his fear, and his pain run their course, the kiss’ harshness mellows and Hux pulls away only to kiss him again, tender enough to break his heart. Kylo can’t do anything else but surrender to it. It’s an unspoken but candid apology, a plea, a desperate: ‘ I missed you ’, and ‘ I watched you die’, and ‘ Please, please don’t leave me again ’. But it wasn’t Hux who left, at least not voluntarily. It’s Kylo who left him.

The uncomfortable truth settles in Kylo’s gut and it seems, once the kiss is over, reality filters into Hux’s mind as well.

“You brought me back,” Hux notes, voice not as harsh or as firm as usual. He looks, for the first time, afraid.

Hux has been with him, Kylo remembers, long enough to understand that nothing is free when it comes to the Force. He isn’t afraid of Kylo, or the fact that he died. No, he’s afraid of what Kylo sacrificed to get this.

“The price was worth it,” he says. Kylo doesn’t know how to say ‘ I love you ’, but he knows Hux will understand.

“You fool,” Hux says, anger and relief battling with grief, and kisses Kylo again. “You knew I was the spy. You knew why I did it. I betrayed you.”

“I don’t know why,” Kylo replies.

“Pryde brought me before Palpatine. At once, I knew that we needed to correct course. My mentor, Sloane, had told me enough times what a man the Emperor was to know whatever was happening would have all of us dead. But...I couldn’t reach you,” Hux admits, as if it’s a personal failure. Defeat dances on his shoulders, and Kylo wishes he could drive it away. However, he can do nothing more than hold himself upright. “You had found him yourself, you were doing his bidding. You wouldn’t even look at me.”

“You tried to stop me,” Kylo realises aloud. Strangely, his anger is still absent. He can’t feel it anymore at all.

“The true First Order, the one Sloane made, was crumbling, abused under Pryde’s direction which only served Palpatine, and you were off chasing after his ghost. I had to stop it somehow. I needed to take care of my people.”

“You thought Rey would stop me,” he says, “and you could stop Pryde. The First Order would survive for a while longer.”

His voice betrays his pain from that betrayal. Hux’s face twists as if he can feel it.

“You acted like a man possessed. Ever since Snoke’s demise, as if--”

“I killed him,” Kylo admits.

After a sigh, Hux says, “I know.”

“Snoke was under Plapatine’s control. You were right to distrust him. He has been every voice in my head that I ever heard.” He glances down at Hux’s scarred chest. “It would have been easier if your plan worked and Rey killed me.”

Hux’s hand shoots out, wrapping around Kylo’s chin and bringing it forward, as if he’s a dog in need of correction. His eyes glimmer in the half-light, finally angry. The familiarity of such a gaze is comforting.

“You misunderstand.” Hux’s voice is pitched low, and he speaks slowly as if he wishes to imprint his words into Kylo’s mind. “I wanted her to stop you not to kill you. Don’t think for one moment that I would have let it happen.”

Kylo knows Hux is not omnipotent. His knowledge of the Force is morbidly small, his strength satisfactory but typical of a soldier. Yet, there is something in Hux’s eyes that tells him what he says is the truth, and for a moment Kylo allows himself to believe Hux can save him from his fate.

He huffs a soft laugh, amazed. “You don’t own the future, Hux.”

“No,” Hux agrees. His touch eases before he presses a kiss into Kylo’s awaiting mouth. “It seems I can’t even own my death, but I’ll be damned if I don’t own yours.”

That, finally, makes Kylo grin. Hux cursed, hissed, and threatened his death so many times over the six years that it’s become a strange sort of comfort for him. After all, he can’t die prematurely, he can’t vanish as Ben Solo, if Hux is the one to decide when his life ends.

But that too is an illusion, even if a comfortable one. It falters in the face of his promise to Rey, and the evidence of that promise that’s now in front of him in the form of Hux, alive again, and breathing.

His amusement is short lived, quickly overtaken by his sense of foreboding. After a deep sigh, Kylo admits, “I’m tired, Hux.”

Half-slumped as he already is, it doesn’t take much effort to follow Hux down to the pillows.

“Let me see you,” Hux says, tugging him up, and Kylo listens, settling on the pillow, face to face with Hux. They can’t be so close without their legs touching, breaths mingling, hands still clasped together. Kylo thinks he couldn’t bear it if Hux let go of him now.

“Why were you searching so hard for him?” he asks.

Kylo takes a deep breath and releases it. “It doesn’t matter anymore.”

He’s made his choice. There is no more struggle for him. He knows what he has to do-- he must finish what his grandfather started. Kylo thought it was gaining the complete power of the Dark, ruling the Galaxy, and being the second coming of the Chosen One. Now, he knows it’s none of those. The only incomplete thing, it seems, Vader left behind is killing Palpatine. Kylo will finish it, and once his purpose has been fulfilled, his life will end too.

Hux’s hand shakes in his own. “It has to matter,” Hux tells him. “Otherwise, what’s the point?”

There is none. Kylo’s life has been one big cosmic joke. He’s just been wasting time, fighting the currents that have pushed him back to the shore. If there must be a point, it is that this was always going to happen. His life has been predetermined by his grandfather's failure. He has just been a receptacle for all of his line’s misery. Perhaps it will die with him as well.

“I thought I could fight it,” he finally breaks, his lips wobbling. He fights tears. How pathetic must he look now. “I thought being greater than Vader would give me a better fate than his, but I was wrong.”

Hux must realise what that means. His face falls, and his eyes seem to grow larger somehow, and fill with tears. But his anger is there, burning, at the injustice of it all.

It’s flame that has burned down for Kylo, the embers extinguished by the sheer gravity of what’s going to happen to him now staring him in the face. He can’t take back what he promised. He can’t risk Hux’s life again.

He brushes his thumb over Hux’s cheekbone. “I left you behind. In my stupid madness, I left you. I put you here and I thought you’d be safe.”

“You were wrong,” Hux tells him. It’s an acknowledgement, not an accusation. They’ve hurt each other spectacularly, even when they tried to help the other.

“I was. I was wrong about everything,” Kylo replies.

The admission doesn’t settle on his mind as much as it alleviates his burden. Looking at Hux, he understands what the man feels about his own betrayal. They are usually not men of many words. Apologies are far beyond their abilities even now, close as they are. Neither will say it, because apologising means regretting what they’ve done, and they both know that they did what they thought would be best at the time. Further, apologising would mean dismissing it, and the hurt is too big to have been for nothing.

He huffs, wiping his tears, and sits up. His hand finally leaves Hux’s. “But I can’t change the past. The First Order is yours, if you wish to have it. Do with what remains as you like. I won’t force you to go to Exagol.”

Something in Hux’s expression shifts to raw hurt.

“Kylo,” he says, voice stuck. His hand returns to Kylo’s, elegant fingers shaking.

Hux was never the ones for emotions. Never at least, the one to confront them head on. However, he has unleashed them now. Faced with that, and the fact Hux is reaching for him, Kylo crumbles. He lays back down, wrapping his hands around Hux, nestling his head on his shoulder. Hux’s hands grip him tightly, and that too is a relief.

He whispers in Hux’s ear a promise and a curse. “You will live, and when I’m gone you will make a new life for yourself. That is the only thing I have left to give you.”

In time, Hux will forget his touch, his voice, his face, until even his name is a fuzzy recollection. If he has any luck at all, Hux will forget he ever shared his bed with a wretched creature like Kylo.

-

The turn to the Light itself doesn’t hurt as much as Hux’s expression when he boards the TIE Fighter headed for Exagol. He doesn’t think he ever saw Hux’s face waver before, and there, with a send-off party of one, he kisses Hux so the last memory of his face isn’t of the General crying In that way, Kylo at least knows that Hux loves him.

In the end, it’s nothing like he thought it would be. He stands shoulder to shoulder with Rey, gripping his grandfather’s lightsaber, but he doesn’t feel empowered by destiny. He only feels resigned.

He forgets that he isn’t Vader’s only successor. It isn’t him who lands the killing blow against Palpatine. It’s Rey, whose Light tugs onto his so harshly, he knows she will succeed, while he simply struggles to get to the level ground, determined to, at least, rise from the ditch Palpatine threw him into.

As he climbs from the dark, he thinks he hears a voice in his mind. It’s someone just as determined, someone who knows he will never real his goal but is just as willing to go through the motions, in on the Universe’s joke. His senses are overwhelmed by the output in the Force from Rey so he cannot determine who it is before the presence dissipates.

When he finally drags himself up the ledge to the cracked floor, Palpatine is gone, and Rey lays dead. There, staring at her lifeless body, he understands what he has to do. Rey has taught him one thing, and it’s the one thing that has turned him to the Light -- healing.

He hasn’t really known Rey as his sister. He has known her as the enemy first, and as a tool later. If she were his sister, he assumes he would have turned against her as well. He is not the family she is looking for, and he isn’t acting as her brother when he nestles her head in the crook of his elbow.

Kylo takes a deep breath before he begins to draw out his energy and pass it on to her. No, he has refused his birth family at every turn. What he’s doing now is what he must to keep Hux alive -- die, just like Vader died, because he gave his word because Hux has yet to fulfill his own destiny.

Selfish, he thinks to himself. Perhaps Hux will grow to hate him for taking the easier way out. He won’t have to live with the consequences of Rey and the Resistance surviving, the death of the Emperor and the First Order’s collapse, and he will go unpunished for patricide, and the hundreds of deaths he’s caused before then, though the blood on his hands has never bothered him before. It was all for a cause, at the time. For a purpose.

And still, he thinks as his view begins to narrow and his new-found strength seeps from his abused body, he would face it all and more if he could spend the rest of his ill-fated time with Hux. He knows, or perhaps he hopes, that without Snoke, Pryde, Palpatine, or Kylo’s ego in the way, they could have a chance to make something good for both of them.

For a moment his will wavers. If he wanted to, he could push Rey off of him, return to his TIE Fighter and find Hux. Already, he senses himself shifting back from the Light, the line muddling and blurring. Yes, he admits to being selfish. But he also admits to not knowing how this ability functions, or if it will hold if Rey is gone.

Kylo redoubles his efforts, gritting his teeth. If he must do this, then let be a gift to Leia; she will finally have a child to love, who will love her back without compromise. She has had enough grief as it is, between him taking her son and her husband. It’s easy to admit now that he’s never hated her, even though she has sentenced him to this fate.

Color returns to Rey’s skin gradually, until she blinks her eyes open. She twitches, then sits up quickly, her dark eyes holding his in surprise.

‘I don’t want to die ,’ he wants to say. ‘ I’m afraid . ‘ This is unfair . I never even had a chance .’

But he doesn’t get a moment to say any of that. He feels the Light leaving him, and with the Light goes the rest of his strength. Rey catches him, but his back still collides with the cool ground. Kylo turns his eyes heavenwards to the battle streaking across the sky, coloring the dull grey with orange explosions. The ground trembles as the star-destroyers fall, as if plucked from the sky, but he can’t even hear it anymore. He focuses inwards, instead, and senses Hux just beyond the reach of his mind. He’s taken the Steadfast and the rest of the First Order ships far away from Exagol. He will know what to do to survive.

Satisfied, Kylo closes his eyes. Hux will be just fine.

-

Lights dance in front of his eyes. Stars rush past him, as if he’s been caught in a planet’s gravity, and he’s falling. The dome of darkness covers his vision -- he’s finally back home.

Blurs of red and grey, black and white, and sickly greenish blue crowd his vision. Eventually, the picture sharpens, but it’s a broken holo-recording. Hux is in the distance, hair shining in the artificial light, and in the next moment he’s above Kylo, gripping his hand. His eyes are red-rimmed but hard and determined. He’s saying something.

A sense of deja-vu washes over Kylo, and he realises this is just an old memory from the day the Starkiller imploded. That day, when Hux came for him, and Kylo truly believed, if only for a moment, that his life rested in Hux’s hands.

Nothing hurts now. There’s not even the numbness from the frigid cold or from his scar. He wonders why the Force is pushing these memories now to him, why it needs to twist the knife.

He tries reaching for Hux, but he can’t. He’s not strong enough. Kylo blinks and Hux has stopped shouting, and is instead clutching his hand, kissing his knuckles. ‘Please,’ he reads from his lips.

Love is a difficult word. It’s too light, too hopeful, and too simple for everything that has happened in the six years they shared. There is no way to describe the feeling that rises in your gut when you watch the sky awash with the light of a hypernova, you can only tremble with its might, and accept that you have been blessed to be alive to see it. Such is what Hux inspires in him. It’s what Hux gives him each time his blue eyes turn to him, and they understand him. They understand each other , where the rest of the world doesn’t even try.

He supposes this vision is fitting. It’s the day Kylo realised that, despite the slights against each other, Hux also felt what he felt. They were just two lonely men facing terrible odds, petrified by the weight of expectation.

His hearing rings, patchy, but he hears, “-- fix the meddroid--”

Shouting cuts through it. “We can fly clear, General, the Finalizer--”

Hux touches his face, before leaning down to press their foreheads together. In the distance between them, measured only by breath, Hux promises, “You’re going to live, you miserable bastard. You’re not leaving me again.”

The kiss is sweet. Kylo chooses to put his faith in Hux, and believe him.