"Speak to me. Pull on my heart.
Pour your love in the broken parts."
It started with a phone call. Or maybe, by some accounts, the phone call is what ended it. To be fair, it was never anything all that solid in the first place. It was akin to a high school romance that started with, “I hate you,” and ended about the same. It continued through their adult lives, when Hux’s law firm decided to host their Friday night get-togethers at the bar Kylo tended. It became subtle glances across the bar, and tips that were a bit too high despite the snide remarks Hux made as he paid his bill.
There was nothing particularly malicious about their interactions, more curiosity than anything. When Kylo asked, “So, defense attorney, huh?” one night as he poured Hux’s gin and tonic, he masked his genuine interest. Hux had never cared about legal matters in high school. He’d wanted to be an engineer. Hux only shrugged and said, “I make good money, Ren.”
For Hux, the money really was the only reason he stayed. He found his coworkers dull, the cases tedious, and his office was far less spacious than he would have liked. On more than one occasion, Hux decided to share this information with Kylo, and the two snickered over the horrid secrets Hux spilled about his higher-ups. Hux didn’t join his co-workers on their outing every week, but when he did, he usually escaped their rambunctious table long enough to exchange a few scathing words with Kylo. Over time, the insults weren’t directed solely at the bartender, and grew to encompass anyone unfortunate enough to cross their paths.
(High school really hadn’t really been much different for the two of them. There was a similar amount of alcohol now as there was then, and the their tongues had become no less caustic.)
It evolved into something baring teeth and ending in bruised lips after Hux had two more drinks than usual, and waited around the exit until Kylo’s shift ended. There wasn’t a lot of discussion beyond Hux saying, “I always hated your hair. Your fashion sense is okay, though,” which sounded far too much like a compliment for Kylo’s comfort. In any case, Kylo took that comment to mean there was something leftover from their high school days, and they fucked in Kylo’s car just like they used to.
They met a handful of times over the next few months, sometimes in Kylo’s car, sometimes they made it back to Hux’s high-rise apartment first. Kylo never stayed the night, and Hux never asked.
Whatever it was they had, it all changed when Kylo’s phone rang as he locked up the bar just after 3:00 a.m. on a Wednesday.
“What?” Kylo said into the receiver, recognizing Hux’s contact ID from the limited amount of phone interaction they’d had.
“I need you to come pick me up.”
Kylo paused, freezing with his phone pinned to his ear by his shoulder, his hand still in his pocket as he fished for his car keys. Hux was a calm person, often unlike Kylo in this way. His voice rarely displayed any emotion at all. Whatever had caused the slight tremor in his words, whatever possessed him to call Kylo in the first place, wasn’t something Kylo wanted to imagine.
“Where are you?”
“Okay,” Kylo said, dropping into the driver’s seat and slamming his keys into the ignition. “Did something happen?”
“Kylo,” Hux said. That in alone was unexpected. Hux rarely called him by anything but ‘Ren’. Even more off putting was the pleading tone the single word held. “I know this is unusual, but please don’t ask any questions.”
“I’m on my way,” Kylo said, nervous now. “Just tell me you’re not hurt.”
“I’m safe. Just get here quickly.”
Kylo didn’t miss Hux avoiding the question, he knew full well that ‘safe’ was different than ‘uninjured’, but Kylo dismissed that fact and hung up the phone. He didn’t go lower than the speed limit the rest of the drive.
The first thing Kylo noticed about Hux’s apartment was the fact that he could hardly see the apartment at all, as it was marred by the flashing of sirens. There was a fire truck and three police vehicles crowding Hux’s street, blaring their lights but making no sound. Kylo parked his car as close as he could, wondering for a moment if he would get a ticket for parking illegally in a permit zone, before ducking from the car and jogging toward the building.
Kylo’s anxious advancement was halted by an officer stepping in his path, hand on his holster. “Sir,” the officer began. “You can’t go passed here. This is a crime scene.”
“I can see that,” Kylo growled. “I was asked to come.”
“I’m sorry but--”
“Where’s Hux?” Kylo interrupted. “Is he the one who called the police?”
“He… Hux? Is he the one who asked you to come?” The officer eyed Kylo with hesitation, as if to judge if he was lying.
“Obviously. Look, go and ask him, tell him Kylo Ren is here to pick him up. He asked me to come, he knows I’m--”
The officer wasn’t watching Kylo anymore. He was focused on holding his walkie talkie close to his mouth and saying, “The victim’s... friend is here. I’m bringing him in.”
“ Victim ?” Kylo repeated, following haughtily behind the officer as he was lead between two squad cars and toward the lobby of Hux’s building. “What happened? Is he okay?”
Kylo gave up on trying to weasel an answer out of the officer as soon as he saw Hux, hunched on the bumper of the fire truck, a scowl on his face. His features were tainted by more than just a sour expression though, and Kylo immediately scanned the dark bruising around his swollen eye, the dried blood on his split bottom lip. There was a superficial gash just below his black eye, and his hair was twisted into disarray Kylo was not accustomed to seeing.
“Hux,” Kylo breathed as he came to a stop before the other man, who looked both relieved and disappointed to see Kylo standing before him. “What the fuck happened?”
Hux huffed out a breath, shrugging his shoulders closer to his ears and making himself even smaller than before. He didn’t offer an explanation though, just continued frowning up at the taller man. Kylo made a sound of annoyance and dropped down into a squat, eye level with Hux.
“You need to go to the hospital.”
“No,” Hux’s voice had the same uncertainty it had on the phone. He didn’t sound scared exactly, but decidedly shaken. “I’m fine.”
“Can you even see out of that eye?” Kylo prodded, waving a hand in Hux’s peripheral vision, freezing when pale fingers latched around his wrist, Hux moving surprisingly fast for someone looking so miserable.
“You’re going to shut up, and take me out of here,” Hux hissed, leaning forward slightly and pulling Kylo close by his trapped wrist. “You’re going to lie to the police and say you’re here to take me to the hospital.”
“Lie?” Kylo choked.
“Yes,” Hux’s eyes alight and violent, focused singularly on Kylo before they drifted to a spot behind Kylo’s shoulder. Hux straightened up, and Kylo whipped around, coming face to face to the officer from earlier.
“Sir,” the officer greeted, speaking only to Kylo. “It would be best if you left soon. We can finish collecting evidence here, but his injuries could be life threatening--”
“Yes, yes, we’re about to leave. Thank you officer,” Kylo waved the man away, turning back around to hook an arm around Hux’s waist and pull him to his feet. Hux let out a noise of protest, stumbling at the abrupt movement and falling against Kylo. Kylo kept a hand on the small of Hux’s back, guiding him passed the cop cars and blinding lights. Hux moved slowly, one hand pressed to his ribs as he walked. Kylo didn’t say a word as he directed Hux toward his car, opening the passenger door for the injured man and letting him climb in gingerly.
“Okay,” Kylo said as he climbed in opposite Hux. “I got you out of there, but I’m not going to let you get away with not going to the hospital. I don’t even know what happened to you, but I know just from looking at you that you could have a concussion, maybe even broken ribs, and--”
“You’re right,” Hux interrupted, voice small.
“You’re right. I need to go to the hospital.”
“Oh,” Kylo hesitated. “Okay. Yeah.”
Kylo started the car and pulled away from the curb. He itched to ask what had happened, but knew it wouldn’t be welcomed. Kylo was a private person, but he knew how to read people. The hunch in Hux’s shoulders and the shallow breaths that filled the silence of the car was already more weakness than Hux was willing to display. Anymore and Hux would lose it all together.
Hux walked close to Kylo as they entered the Emergency Room, and Kylo placed a guiding hand on his back just as he had at the apartment. Hux didn’t push him away. He leaned in ever so slightly to the touch, which was all the reassurance Kylo needed that he was doing the right thing. If Hux was seeking comfort from Kylo, however small, he was truly in bad form.
Despite (or maybe because of) the late hour, there was a wait to be treated. The receptionist assured that the wait would be less than an hour, but Kylo still shot her dirty looks as he returned to the seat beside Hux.
“An hour max,” Kylo said as settled into the stiff chair. Hux let out a soft noise of displeasure, something akin to a whine, and hunched forward in his seat. Kylo watched as Hux dropped his head into his hands. The first two knuckles of his left hand were swollen and scraped. Kylo wondered if he had tried to fight back against whoever did this to him. Knowing Hux, Kylo guessed he tried everything he could.
“Do you want me to see if they can give you some painkillers?” Kylo asked, still studying Hux’s prone form. There was blood caked on the collar of his black suit jacket. It looked as though he was still in work clothes.
“No,” Hux said, voice weak. “I just want to get out of here.”
“Okay.” Kylo was unsure of what to do. He was leagues out of his comfort zone, but knowing that Hux was as well made things a little easier. Neither of them knew how to handle the situation, so Kylo could hardly be blamed if it was uncharacteristic of him to reach out a gentle hand and place it between Hux’s shoulder blades, running his thumb back and forth methodically.
(In truth, Kylo offering comfort to another person really wasn’t all that uncharacteristic of him at all. Beneath his rough facade, Kylo was a gentle person, and he cared very deeply for people. People just didn’t usually include Hux .)
Hux tensed beneath Kylo’s touch and considered shaking him off. Just as he stiffened to push Kylo away, Kylo dropped his hand lower on Hux’s back, rubbing along his spine and back up to his shoulders. The movement was soothing, and despite Hux’s better judgement he let Kylo continue.
They stayed that way until Hux’s name was called, and Kylo helped him up from his chair. Outside the examination room, Kylo quickly asked, “Do you want me to come with?”
Hux hesitated a moment before giving a jerky nod. Kylo nodded as well and ducked into the room after Hux.
After several x-rays, a series of unwelcome questions, and more than one sarcastic quip from Hux, the doctor released him. The final tally was two broken ribs, a cracked knuckle, a mild concussion, and a prescription a mile long. Kylo was careful to get copies of the diagnosis from the doctor, folding them neatly into the inner pocket of his long coat so they wouldn’t get rumpled. The police were going to need a copy, and Kylo was sure Hux would want one for his own records. Hux would have asked for them himself if he weren’t drowsy from the pain medication and exhausted from the day.
Kylo considered for a moment that he still didn’t know exactly what had happened. Hux had told the doctor that the injuries were caused by a person -- more than one, actually -- and that he had filed all the appropriate charges already. Kylo hadn’t asked for more information beyond that.
“Did you have somewhere specific you wanted me to take you?” Kylo asked, glancing at Hux in the passenger seat. He was slumped in his seat, and eyes drooping as he turned to look at Kylo.
“Any hotel is fine with me. My wallet is… somewhere. My coat, I think,” Hux waved a hand at Kylo dismissively.
“I’m not taking you to a hotel,” Kylo said. “Is your mother still living here? Or any other family I could call for you?”
“No,” Hux said. “No one.”
“Okay,” Kylo said, switching lanes on the empty highway and taking the exit toward his apartment. Hux may have thought he was fine on his own, but the doctor had been explicit about him not being left alone, and had taken special care to make sure Kylo knew how to treat Hux’s concussion and rewrap his ribs. Kylo wasn’t going to let Hux injure himself further because he was too proud to accept help.
Hux made a noise of abjection when he caught sight of Kylo’s building, but Kylo ignored it. He helped Hux from the car, and neither said much as Kylo went through the motions of calling the elevator, and unlocking his front door. It was nearly sunrise now, the sky changing to a soft pink, visible through Kylo’s kitchen windows as they entered the oddly familiar space. Hux had been in Kylo’s apartment before, of course, but there were generally less clothes involved and much more physical contact than the light touches Kylo offered as he steered Hux toward the bedroom.
“I’m not going to offer to take the couch,” Hux huffed, collapsing on Kylo’s bed, instantly grateful for the excess of pillows and feather soft comforters.
“I know,” Kylo said, unlacing Hux’s dress shoes and tugging them from his feet. “Sit up a bit.”
Hux struggled to prop himself up on his elbows, his ribs protesting painfully. Kylo placed a large hand on Hux’s back, helping him sit up and getting to work on the small buttons on his rumpled work shirt.
“Good thing you’ve done this before,” Hux slurred, voice heavy with fatigue and hazy from the drugs. Kylo allowed himself a tiny smirk.
“Practice makes perfect,” Kylo agreed, stripping Hux’s shirt from his pale, bruised chest. Kylo moved deftly to Hux’s pants, leaving him bare except for his dark boxers. He folded the comforter over Hux, covering him entirely before crouching beside the bed, eye level with Hux who blinked slowly to stay awake.
“I’m going to wake you up in two hours, okay?”
Hux nodded slowly, struggling to focus on Kylo.
“And I’m going to be on the couch, right outside, okay? If you need me, come get me. Or yell, I’ll hear you.”
“Okay,” Hux whispered. Kylo gave a small smile and straightened up, flicking off the lamp and leaving the door open as he left the room. Very rarely did Kylo sleep on his couch, but he didn’t mind all that much as he laid out a blanket and set an alarm to go off in two hours. Before drifting to sleep, Kylo sent a text to his manager, claiming a family emergency and informing him that he wouldn’t be into work that afternoon.
Hux awoke disoriented and bitter on Kylo’s first round, but his condition hadn’t worsened, and Kylo let him go back to sleep without much trouble. The second time Kylo woke Hux was much the same. It was on the third round, as the clock rounded 1:00 pm, that he found Hux sleeping fitfully, an expression of distress painting his bruised face.
“Hux,” Kylo nudged, hand on Hux’s shoulder. His frown deepened, and Kylo tried again. When Hux opened his pale eyes they flittered around the room before focusing on Kylo. “Feeling okay?”
“My ribs hurt,” Hux grumbled, sliding one hand toward his side under the covers. He pressed his palm to the afflicted area, letting out a soft sigh. Kylo disappeared into the kitchen, grabbing a bottle of water and the pills the doctor had given him. There was only three doses inside the tiny bottle. Any more and Kylo would need to fill the prescription sitting on the counter. The pharmacy was likely open now. He would go once Hux was settled.
Kylo helped Hux sit up and passed him the pills. Hux downed them quickly and leaned against the headboard, watching Kylo with questioning look. Kylo stood still, letting Hux analyze him as he desired.
“You still haven’t asked me what happened,” Hux said finally.
“You told me not to ask,” Kylo answered. “And besides, it doesn’t really matter to me what happened. What happens next is all I care about.”
“I’m going to fill your prescription. Do you need anything from the store while I’m out?”
“No.” Hux sounded annoyed, and turned his face away from Kylo. Kylo brushed it off and turned away, grabbing his car keys and making his way to the store without another word.
Hux slept for most of the day. Kylo provided him with pain medication when he asked for it, and brought him food and drink occasionally, but they didn’t speak much. Kylo wasn’t sure what to say, or if he had a right to say anything at all. Hux felt about the same, and the end result was a separate, yet shared afternoon.
Kylo took care of many of the legal matters (a bit ironic since the man in his bed was in fact a lawyer ) by relaying the injury list to the officer working Hux’s case, whose card he found in Hux’s wallet. Kylo also kept track of the receipts and bills accumulated over the past 24 hours, in case they became relevant to the case.
It wasn’t until the late afternoon that Hux emerged from Kylo’s bedroom, looking exhausted despite having done nothing but slept for hours. Kylo twisted around on the couch, watching Hux from over the back rest. He raised an eyebrow at the rumpled man, who had a thin blanket wrapped around his shoulders, still only dressed in his boxers.
“I’m bored,” Hux huffed.
“Find something to do, then.”
“I’m trying.” Hux shuffled around the arm of the couch, depositing himself gently on the end opposite Kylo. “I hate this channel.”
“You hate the National Geographic channel? How ?”
Hux only shrugged and wrapped his blanket tighter around his shoulders. Kylo didn’t offer to change the channel and Hux didn’t say anything else about it.
“I need to send in a diagnostic report to the police,” Hux said after a while.
“ What ?”
“I got your case number from your wallet and called them already. They have the doctor’s report already. They said they’d call back on my number with any updates since I don’t know where your phone is.”
“Well, I see you’ve effectively become my personal secretary.” Hux sounded bitter, staring blankly at the television as he spoke. Kylo had read up on concussions. Mood swings were a common occurrence. Not to mention Hux’s overall displeasure with the situation was bound to bring about some unnecessary hostility.
“Try friend who became involved when you called him at 3:00 am from the bumper of a fire truck .”
“We’re not friends,” Hux hissed. Kylo looked at him then, eyes dark.
“Oh really? Do you usually call your -- what? Acquaintances? Fuck buddies? -- to take you to the hospital?”
“I called you because I knew you’d be awake. Everyone else I know is asleep at such an awful hour.”
“You had no one else to call, and you know it. You hate your coworkers, and you don’t have any friends,” Kylo bit, rising to his feet. He held Hux’s glare for a moment before turning on his heels and exiting the apartment, slamming the door behind him.
Kylo trudged the stairs the lead to the roof of his building, finding solace in pacing along the ledge surrounded by cool evening air. Hux was a liar, and Kylo knew it. There was something there, something between them. It may not have been strong, may not have been affectionate, but it was more than nothing. They were more than ‘ because you were awake ’.
(It had always been this way, always been Kylo pacing empty spaces resentful of Hux’s cruel tongue.)
(Hux paced just as often for the same reasons.)
It was well after dark when Kylo returned to his own apartment, blood still simmering, but not half as volatile as before. Hux was still there, curled on the couch, his knees pulled to his chest. The television was still on, still displaying the National Geographic channel despite Hux’s earlier comment. Hux didn’t say anything as Kylo entered the room, just watched him with hollow eyes.
“We’re friends,” Kylo said, sounding like a petulant child but not particularly caring. It wasn’t a question, it was a statement. It bordered on a command.
“We shouldn’t be,” Hux replied. It was close to an agreement, not quite admitting the truth, but not objecting it either.
“What should we be then?” Kylo asked. He kept his voice delicately level, hoping to get an honest answer out of the other man.
“We shouldn’t be anything at all. We aren’t good for each other, and I’m not interested in just being a way for you to waste time.” Hux turned away from Kylo, staring at the muted television. Kylo watched him for a long moment before speaking.
“Wasn’t ‘wasting time’ all this was ever about?”
“This was never about anything.”
“Yes it was,” Kylo walked around the sofa, forcing Hux to look at him. “You waited around my bar for a reason -- you called me for a reason. Then you turn around and say that I’ve never been worth anything to you. Your actions don’t match your words, Hux. And I’m done trying to guess what you mean. If anyone is done wasting time, it’s me.”
Hux didn’t meet Kylo’s gaze. His eyes were downcast, his bottom lip between his teeth. It was still raw and blood seeped through the ruined skin, but he ignored it, too focused on the man standing above him. Kylo was waiting for an answer, but the one Hux wanted to give was desperately at odds with the apathy he was accustomed to displaying.
“You’re not wasting your time,” Hux said finally. Kylo watched him, watched the soft hesitation in the slope of his shoulders, the way his hands trembled where they clutched the blanket at the blanket around his shoulders.
“Really? I’m not? Pray tell me what I am doing then.”
“You’re helping me. And I’m not very good at showing how much I appreciate it.”
“No,” Kylo huffed. “You’re not.”
“Look, I’m sorry, Kylo. You’re right, I did call you. It had to be you. I… need you.”
Kylo watched Hux. He tried to catch his eyes, but Hux’s gaze fluttered around the room, his voice feather soft just as it had been on the phone.
“Do you need me, or do you just like having someone to push away when they get too close?”
The broken look in Hux’s eyes was enough of an answer that Kylo’s heart shattered before Hux even opened his mouth.
(They were sixteen the first time Kylo saw Hux cry. His eye was bruised much the same as it was now, but he hadn’t been struck by a stranger. His father’s fist did more damage to Hux’s fragile sense of self worth than it did to his bone structure. Kylo hadn’t known how to comfort the other boy -- his boyfriend, he supposed -- but he tugged him close anyway. They sat silently on Kylo’s front porch for hours that night, watching cars pass and wishing they were anywhere else in the universe.)
(They didn’t ever talk about that moment again. They buried it the way they buried everything else.)
“I don’t want to push you away,” Hux whispered.
Kylo stepped easily around Hux, dropping into the empty space beside him on the couch and catching Hux’s shoulder in his large palm. Kylo pulled Hux close, and the disheartened man went willingly. He fit easily against Kylo’s side.
(He always had.)
“Okay,” Kylo said gently. “Okay. I won’t push you away either.”
Hux nodded against Kylo’s chest, and Kylo tightened his arms around skinny shoulders. He thought about the fury he felt when he saw the bruises Hux’s father left on his pale skin, thought about the bubbling in his chest when Hux first abandoned his table of boring co-workers to tease Kylo about the towel on his shoulder or his awful haircut.
Kylo thought about the fear he felt -- but didn’t know he knew how to feel -- when he heard Hux’s voice crackle over the phone.
(Kylo cared, oh god he cared, and no matter how he lied he knew he always had.)
Kylo didn’t sleep on the couch that night. He stretched out tiredly beside Hux in his soft bed, wrapped in the comforter and sharing warmth with Hux’s scrawny frame.
“I think I like having you as my personal secretary,” Hux said, because he’d never known how to let a beautiful moment stay beautiful.
(Though that in itself had it’s own kindred beauty.)
“I’m so glad,” Kylo snorted. He traced Hux’s hipbone with his index finger. The skin there was bruised, but Kylo’s touch was light enough that it left no pain.
“There was four of them, did you know?” Hux’s voice was distant. Kylo guessed that was his painkillers talking.
“They were in my apartment when I got home. I couldn’t do anything about it.”
“Did you know them?”
“Nope,” Hux sighed. “But I keep criminals out of jail for a living. I’m sure they knew me.”
“I’m sorry that happened to you,” Kylo whispered, pressing his nose into Hux’s soft hair.
“I’m sorry, too,” Hux said. “And I’m sorry I said I only called because you were awake.”
“I know.” Kylo paused. “I would have called you, you know?”
“You’re the only person I would have trusted to come pick me up.”
“I would have ignored the call,” Hux said, but there was a hint of humor in his cool voice and Kylo smiled.
“Wish I would have had the good sense to do the same.”
Hux turned in Kylo’s arms, ignoring the spike of pain in his ribs, and brushed his nose against his bedmate’s. They kissed softly, without tongues or teeth, and so differently than either was used to. It was a pleasant change though, and while neither man was particularly affectionate, affection would not go amiss between them -- something they had struggled to learn their whole lives.
(This time, their romance started with a phone call and there was no end in sight.)