Ren is being punished. There is nothing more that he hates than being ignored. If he could relive his appendix bursting just to never have to feel ignored again, he would. His boyfriend knows this. Therefore, Hux, whose attention refuses to focus on him, must be punishing him. He glares at the back of his annoyingly studious boyfriend’s head. He wills Hux to look up from his textbook. No luck, because Ren doesn’t actually have magical powers. It may feel, on occasion, like he does, like when he’s sparring in Kendo and he anticipates his opponent’s moves or when he predicts what Hux is about to say before he gets out a single word, knowing just by the expression on his face. But sitting on the small green loveseat in their little one bedroom on-campus apartment staring impatiently at his boyfriend, he doesn’t feel magical, just impotent and small.
“It’s been six hours,” Ren repeats. He stands up, angry energy needing to go somewhere and into his legs is good enough a place as any. “It’s 9pm! No one else in this whole building is still studying.”
Hux’s continued silence rings like a buzzer in Ren’s head. He paces now, back and forth from the kitchen counter where a stack of old mail, mostly coupons, sits dangerously close to one of the stove burners over to the bookcase with its halfway hammered nails, converting it into a coat rack near the front door. They’re short trips and he’s not bothering to look around at the art on the walls like the poster that memorializes Hux’s short-lived attempt to be cool by joining a band (leave it to Hux to think that an act of rebellion should still have “Order” in its name). He’s still trying to mentally inflict his will or maybe now just trying not to explode as he sometimes does. He does an okay job, not great, not awful, at not taking out his temper on his boyfriend. He has his good days and bad days.
“Hux, goddammit!” he yells. This will be one of the not great days.
Slowly, Hux lifts his head and sighs a tremendously put out sigh. He doesn’t make eye contact, just stares off in front of himself as though even that is a huge inconvenience. “Ren, might I suggest that you take this opportunity to work on your midterms as well?”
Ren folds his arms across himself. “Not at 9 on a Saturday; you may not.”
Hux’s red head tilts a bit and looks at him. From the angle, with Ren up so much higher and to the side of him, it looks as though he’s rolling his eyes at him; he may, in fact, be doing just that. “Does that time somehow negate deadlines? Does it somehow just put the knowledge that I’ll need Monday directly into my head?”
Ren approaches him and it speaks volumes about the trust that they share that Hux doesn’t look disturbed at all by all his angry energy and his broad shoulders and height, especially given Hux’s childhood, the reason why Ren tries very hard to not explode. He leans down. “It’s been...six hours!” Not quite a yell, but pretty much a yell. It makes him feel smaller than the ignoring had, but he doesn’t apologize, because they both know that he’s overstepped. They both know he’s being childish again and he really doesn’t want to be called out for it.
They look at each other, Ren with the trepidation of awaiting Hux’s response, but still some exasperation at having been so completely neglected all day, and Hux with annoyance, mild surprise, and consideration; he obviously doesn’t know what his reaction will be to Ren’s outburst either. Finally, Hux reaches over to his cellphone and types in the suspiciously long unlock code that Ren has spied nearly all the required digits of. He spins the chair around. It’s a small computer chair with arms that can fold in for space conservation that Ren’s mother had picked out for them once she’d seen the size of her son’s new place. With the lack of eye contact, Ren chooses again to squint/glare at the back of Hux’s head.
“Hello. It’s Hux. I need you to babysit Ren. How fast can you get here and take him off my hands? Great. I’ll offer you $20 for the effort. Okay, $25, but you must keep him out past midnight.” When Hux swivels back around, it’s to a much redder faced boyfriend. Hux, on the other hand, emanates calmness, growing increasingly more resigned in the face of Ren’s rage and now utter humiliation. “Gwen will be here in ten minutes. I suggest not pulling any displays of physical intimidation with her.”
When Hux returns to that fucking textbook after saying those fucking words after making that fucking phone call, Ren’s anger just sort of short circuits. He’s crossed over into a new realm of mad that loops back around to a null state. Instead of reacting, he just sort of gapes at Hux, watches him take notes, highlight, flip between pages, all of those things that he always does.
Ren doesn’t really study. He goes to classes and he listens. He’s tried re-reading the texts but the words on the page just look dead; they contain little of the meaning of the words spoken aloud by the teachers. But, Hux finds boring things interesting. He’s the only 22-year old that Ren has ever met that “balances the budget” on a monthly basis. He even looks over Ren’s, which makes sense as their finances are, for all intents and purposes, shared, and he takes pleasure from it, Ren knows that he does. He adds up the amounts and, honest Injun (Ren’s dad’s phrase), pulls out a red pen for when things go under zero. That’s how boring Ren’s boyfriend is.
But that’s not it really. Hux himself isn’t boring, only his interests. Hux is angry too, but he uses the anger differently, in a way that Ren can’t. He prefers sabotage to battle. He’s passionate, not in a poet shirt, Shakespeare-reciting way, but in a not half-ass way. When he pulls Ren into the bedroom, it’s lucky if either makes it out alive. He doesn’t like much, complains about nearly everything, but those things he likes, he does so without repentance or restraint; it’s how he likes Ren, when Ren’s not being a whiny dick.
“She’ll be here in a minute,” mutters Hux, misinterpreting the stare that Ren’s been directing his way. There’s no way for him to know that he’s suddenly lost himself in a reverie of those things that he loves about this condescending, anal-retentive villain.
“You see me as a burden,” Ren accuses, softly.
“You are a burden.”
Generally, he hears these complaints as nothing more than masked love confessions, or at their worst, simply more things that Hux is unhappy with. Now, it hurts, because it feels like the truth. Ren wouldn’t even be able to deny the accusation if he tried. He relies so heavily on Hux for so many things. From the little things like making sure the fridge contains more than just lemonade and packs of deli meat to the big things like keeping Ren from crying after his parents have visited. He does nothing like that for Hux, because he doesn’t need it, is more self-reliant than Ren will ever be. “Why do you stay then?”
“Because it’s my lot in life to be saddled with you.”
“You could leave.”
Green eyes flick up to his, scanning the face and the words for signs that it’s something that Ren might want. “Not an option,” he says sternly.
Now Ren’s confused. Does Hux want to go? Does he actually feel trapped by their relationship? Yeah, Ren wouldn’t make it easy but he would never force that on Hux. He doesn’t want anything to ever truly make Hux unhappy, especially their relationship. He’s tried to make changes so that Hux wouldn’t be unhappy. He started hanging his wet towels up instead of leaving them around the apartment. He often finds a Kendo or yoga class or goes down to the swimming pool when he gets angry, so that he doesn’t take it out on Hux. He has scooped Millicent’s cat litter when Hux was sick. He tries to be a good boyfriend and somehow he always ends up falling short.
Hux reaches out, takes his hand. The writing and flipping pages have left Hux’s hands dry and warm. “I’m not leaving you, Ren. I’m studying.”
Ren pulls back his hand. “You’re always studying!” He flounces off to their room, landing face down into the bed in a huff. He waits in vain for Hux to follow him in. Instead, he eventually has to turn his neck which is starting to hurt, and he hears the knock of Gwen on their door.
He continues sulking as Hux lets her in, offers up a word or two of gratitude, and points her in the direction of his motionless mass. The thud of a jacket over his head is a surprising weight and movement.
“Take your jacket, moron, we’re gonna get wasted,” Gwen says.
He wonders about his taste in friends, that they’re always tossing insults and clothing items at him. It isn’t that going out doesn’t sound good, because it really does; he just wanted to do it with Hux. Everything is better with Hux. When he doesn’t move quickly enough, she hits him, a hard slap on his socked foot. He cries out, but it works, he’s up.
“Drinks are on Headmaster Hux,” she says with a smile.
Ren smirks. “He hates when you call him that.”
“Really?” she asks with mock surprise. “Headmaster Hux doesn’t like his nickname?” She’s saying this loudly from the doorway between the two rooms, clearly attending to ruffle feathers. “Guess we shouldn’t tell him about some of his other ones.”
He puts on his coat, mood already improving. Okay, so maybe calling Gwen hadn’t been such a terrible idea. He follows her out, deliberately not saying goodbye. He’s going to take her advice: he’ll get wasted and stop worrying about how his own boyfriend is too busy to give him a lick of attention. He pauses in the hallway, just for a moment, wondering if maybe he isn’t being too mean. He ignores it, and follows the sashay of the incredibly tall woman taking him to the bar. It’s dangerous to poke this particular bear.
He’s drunk when he crawls in next to his beloved boyfriend and whispers, or thinks that he whispers but mostly just speaks. “Will you love me again after midterms?”
Hux should be mad about being woken up, but instead, he hugs at Ren’s arms. “I’m not nearly as mercurial as you are.” Ren doesn’t know what that means. He doesn’t have to wait long for more words, though, probably because Hux knows the limitations of his vocabulary, near-college graduate or not. “My affections do not waver when I’m busy or mad .
“Ren, I know that you’re drunk, but there’s something you have to understand. I have things that I want to do with my life, goals that I want to accomplish, and I want to do those things with you, not in spite of you.”
Hux’s fingers are trailing over his hand. He can’t smell Hux’s shampoo, because they share one bottle and he’s too used to the scent, but he can smell the pomade that he uses, just a touch to keep flyaways from happening, because Hux has to control even the individual hairs on his head. It’s not just the liquor in his system; he really really loves this man. He would never have thought a bossy partner would work for him after so many years of chafing under his parents’ rule, but there’s something soothing about the order he creates, something safe. And, though Hux would never admit it, he needs Ren, needs him to be the scar tissue on his old wounds. Ren has the opportunity and the responsibility for the first time to help fix something he didn’t break.
“I need you,” says Ren. It’s not as big of an admission for him. He’s said it many times, some of those times outside of this room, even.
“And I’m here.”
“They ignored me,” he says. He’s not even sure how true it is anymore. They were just always so busy or maybe he just needed more attention than they could give. He didn’t want his parents to have lives of their own, and now he doesn’t want Hux to have one either. He knows that. He hugs tightly, wanting to absorb his boyfriend into himself.
“Well, I’ll be sticking around longer than they did. You’ll get plenty of attention over the next 70 years.”
Ren laughs a drunken laugh, too loud and sharp and it makes Hux flinch. “70 years? How old do you plan on getting?”
“Oh, didn’t I tell you? We Huxes can live well into our 90s, sometimes hitting the triple digits.”
“Mmm, good. I want all of those.”
Hux takes Ren’s hand, nibbles the back of his hand. “Greedy.” It’s not a complaint.
At 2am, Ren finally gets some personal time with his boyfriend, and he looks forward to all the rest of it he’s been promised.