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The moment Hux threw himself in front of the blaster shot meant for Kylo Ren was the moment he realised that he had well and truly gone out of his mind.

The fact that he had just risked his own life to save his rival was not even as important as the understanding that the action had been born out of instinct. For Hux, a man whose entire life’s worth of decisions had been made from the utmost forethought and deliberation, this was nothing short of insanity. Even the pain (and, by God, it hurt) felt insignificant compared to the realisation that somewhere along the line, his priorities had been unconsciously reshuffled in favour of a fool wearing a metal bucket.

He hit the ground hard, and the force of his landing sent pain shuddering throughout his body. Hux was left gasping for air, clawing at the dirt as he tried to reorient his thoughts and bring his body back under control. His clothes were growing wet. He couldn’t seem to breathe. It hurt, everything hurt. Hux’s eyes, wild, searched desperately through the chaos of the battlefield for that familiar, damning figure.

In the near distance, Kylo Ren stood frozen, his lightsaber angled downward. His helmet was pointed at Hux, his eyes and expression invisible behind the mask of metal.

At least the idiot was unharmed, Hux thought, for reasons he didn’t dare acknowledge. What was the point of being able to freeze blaster shots if he didn’t actually bother to pay attention to his surroundings?

Delirious, Hux tried to reach out, and he didn’t know if he wanted to bring Kylo closer or just make him disappear. The pain flared, leaving Hux choking on blood, on air. The shot caught him in the chest, Hux realised between gasping breaths, as his vision began to blur. Kylo’s figure was now nothing but a hazy black blob, a single solid point, frozen in a twisting landscape. Hux was probably going to die here, die saving Kylo Ren’s life.

Of course. If he still had the strength for it he would have laughed. Of course this is how it ends.

 

-

 

The first time Hux kissed Kylo, it was because if he didn’t kiss him, he would have punched him.

The very existence of Kylo Ren in Hux’s life was vexing. The damned knight seemed to exist purely to be a never-ending source of frustration. He questioned Hux’s authority at every turn, challenging the capabilities of Hux’s troops, his decisions, and by extension, Hux himself. The irritation might have been easier to accept if Kylo actually had a place within the formal hierarchy of the First Order. Instead, he existed at some level outside of Hux’s understanding yet parallel to him, as Supreme Leader Snoke’s personal attack dog. Kylo Ren was a rabid, unstable creature who insisted on voicing his opinions on things he had no understanding of. He had no appreciation for respect, for decorum, and it wasn’t until meeting him that Hux knew it was possible to loathe another being so wholly and utterly.

Before the instant when Hux’s self-restraint crumbled, Kylo Ren’s helmet had been abandoned, and his full qualities as an awkward, indefinite young man fully revealed. Hux’s most hated adversary had a face that was odd yet unfairly appealing, and his eyes hid nothing that they should have, not his misery nor his vulnerability. His lips were not thin nor cold as they should have been, but plump and enticing. They looked gentle somehow, soft. Kissing him felt like as fitting a punishment as a fist to the jaw.

The way Kylo Ren reacted, you’d have thought Hux had punched him after all. He recoiled bodily, his hand flying up to grip Hux’s shoulders before violently shoving him away. Hux stumbled back, but the glare he levelled against Kylo never wavered.

The challenge sat between them, unspoken, yet clear. Kylo watched him, wariness in his eyes alongside poorly wielded calculation. Hux waited, already certain of his victory, even as the air between them hung heavy with what he almost dared to call the Force.

Then, Kylo stalked forward, and Hux barely had time to register the rapidly shrinking distance between them before he was grabbed and their lips met again. This time, Hux was eager, vicious, and Kylo kissed him back with all the passion and fury of a natural disaster that had finally been unleashed.

That was the second time they kissed.

 

-

 

At the best of times they existed in parallel, with Kylo doing whatever it was that the Supreme Leader needed done and Hux dedicating the entirety of his time and energy to making sure the ship or the base or the planet he was in charge of ran smoothly according to the grand design.

Going days or even weeks without hearing from Kylo was the expected reality. Yet it didn’t stop Hux from thinking about Kylo Ren once in a while, if only to have some sort of distraction from the endless stream of reports and plans and meetings that justified the decisions which punctuated his life. Most of the time he considered Kylo’s absurd force powers. Imagining its grip around the throats of the lesser beings who displeased or inconvenienced Hux with their incompetence was a guilty indulgence.

At other times he remembered the texture of Kylo’s lips, the marks on his skin, or the bottomless dark of his eyes that threatened to drown Hux if he didn’t remember to look away.

It made sense, Hux thought, when he found release in the memories of bruising touches and rough, painful pleasures, that Kylo Ren would be the one he chose to hold onto. No other conquest would be half as fulfilling or as thoroughly exhausting. Hux didn’t need to, and he didn’t want to let go, because nothing would compare to the satisfaction of being the reason that Kylo Ren came undone.

His thrill came from dominance. That was all.

 

-

 

Objectively speaking, Hux never had reason to doubt their dalliances were ever born of anything but the need for stress relief. If Hux played his cards right, it meant fewer consoles would be sacrificed after something inevitably went against Kylo’s expectations. If he played his cards properly it meant getting some of the greatest fucks of his life. And physical compatibility of their level wasn’t something he would easily squander.

The unfortunate times that they did meet, they went through the usual steps of a dance that invariably led to a bed, or sometimes, to the nearest flat surface. Kylo sulked, Hux disapproved, and building frustration culminated in smirks and baiting words spoken with just enough superiority to push Kylo over the edge.

Hux would never admit it, but it was fun, pushing Kylo’s buttons just to understand what made him break.

 

-

 

Calling him Ben, Hux learned when he was thrown into the durasteel walls of his own quarters, was most definitely off limits.

 

-

 

When Supreme Leader Snoke finally made his comment on his subordinates’ new habits, he chose:

“I notice you’ve been less critical of Kylo Ren’s performance as of lately, General.”

The remark came with no pretext and no warning, taking Hux by complete surprise. He never imagined their arrangement would be secret from their leader. But with each meeting that passed with no recognition of what was happening, it had been easier to pretend that they were getting away with the impossible, until almost Hux himself forgot that their actions bore no permission. Snoke’s words struck Hux with the force of an accusation, pointing at flaws and inconsistencies in his behaviour that he should have remembered to conceal.

“His performance has stabilized, Supreme Leader.” Hux revealed none of his turmoil and responded with a deferential bow. “He has been less destructive to our equipment and no longer causes disruption among the ranks.”

“Yes.” Snoke’s voice bore no inflection, and yet Hux seemed to detect a trace of approval in his tone. “He has finally found something to anchor him to the force, and with his training complete, he has found true passion that maintains his link to the dark side.”

At last, he was a worthy pupil of the Supreme Leader, Hux thought. “I look forward to witnessing the glory he will bring for the First Order.”

“You have done well, my General,” Snoke states. “You may continue as you were.”

It took three hours before Hux fully grasped Snoke's implications.

 

-

 

Hux felt oddly used, outsmarted, like a victory he had carefully cultivated for himself had been ripped from his grasp and handed to another. The next time he laid eyes on Kylo, and took in his tall frame and heavy cloak, the lightsaber at his belt that marked him as Snoke’s favourite knight, he felt sticky with something bitter and stubborn. The anger inside him came from more than just the sting of prolonged separation.

Kylo seemed to sense something that night, and Hux felt a touch against his mind, feather-light, concerned. Hux grit his teeth against the intrusion, communicating get out not so much with thought but with feeling. The presence faded, and Hux relished the hollow spaces it left behind.

After, Kylo pulled Hux into his arms, pressing his nose to the back of Hux’s neck in another transparent attempt to stay in Hux’s bed.

Hux’s eyes stayed open as he remembered Snoke’s words, anchor, passion, continue as you were. He still had half a mind to kick Kylo out regardless. But something, something more than expectation, more than authority, blocked the words from leaving his throat. The comfort perhaps, because few things made Hux feel more secure than having the heavy weight of Kylo against his body, than knowing the strongest Knight of Ren was helpless under his influence. Or maybe it was the warmth, because the mere fact of Kylo’s presence seemed to thaw parts of Hux he never knew were frozen, the heat too pleasant to abandon on a ship that was always too cold.

Before, distance had been mandatory, an expectation, lest someone, anyone, began to see these night time dalliances as anything more than what they were. Now, Snoke’s tacit acknowledgement (for Hux never wanted to think of it as approval) made countless improbabilities suddenly possible.

For the first time, Kylo didn’t have to leave.

So for the first time, Kylo stayed the night.

 

-

 

“There’s a fish there.”

They were alone on the observation decks. When Hux found Kylo's quarters empty he had gone hunting, and found the man standing by himself in front of the floor-to-ceiling viewports, a black hole amidst the starlight. Kylo carried his own gravity about himself, one that drew Hux in until they stood shoulder to shoulder before the endless void.

Hux stared at Kylo, speechless in response to the complete non sequitur Kylo had opened with.

Then he found his words. “What?”

“A fish,” Kylo repeated as though it was Hux’s hearing that was the problem. He pressed one gloved hand against the transparisteel, with curiosity on his face that belonged better on a young child. Not for the first time, Hux wondered just how much younger Kylo was when compared to him. His original estimate had been three to four years, though he could, arguably, stretch that to ten.

“Has your sanity finally shattered? Should I send for a medic?”

Kylo Ren actually rolled his eyes. “Don’t take it out on others when you’re the one with no sense of imagination.”

The physical effort of swallowing back an accusation of pot versus kettle choked Hux a little. He could only grasp at the distraction the stars offered, right there in front of him, so he stared at the pinprick points of light, and tried to make some sense of the man standing at his side.

“What are you even doing?”

Hux could feel the sidelong glance Kylo cast his way. “You’ve never stared at the stars or the clouds when you were a child?”

“Of course not.” Hux bit back, feeling oddly humiliated by the admission. Why would he ever do something as time-wasting as that? There had always been work to do, books to study, training to complete.

“Tragic.”

With immaculate self-control, Hux resisted falling for the bait. Weirdly enough, he could sort of see it, now that he was looking, a handful of bright stars linking in a pattern that looked exactly like a fish from their angle.

It was the most pointless exercise Hux had ever taken in his life.

So it made no sense why they spent two hours there on the observation deck, pointing at the stars.

Hux was almost certain that Kylo lied when he said he couldn’t see the shape of a TIE fighter as a constellation in the east.

 

-

 

In the dark, when sensation was reduced to taste and touch, Hux traced the distance between each long-memorized mark on Kylo’s skin, and drew secret constellations of his own.

 

-

 

Things were sometimes odd when Kylo Ren was around. The troopers, for one, seemed oddly relaxed, as well as his officers. And this made minimal sense to Hux considering the sheer destructive potential Kylo’s presence symbolized. Usually it meant there was more work to do – Kylo’s messes to clean up and new consoles to requisition.

In the end it was Phasma, endlessly diligent and reliable, who explained it to a perplexed General Hux.

“You always go easier on them when Kylo Ren is around, sir.”

And that made even less sense to him. In fact, it made no sense at all.

 

-

 

When Kylo returned from his mission on Kalcor, he brought Hux a gift. A decorative model of a TIE Advanced X1 starfighter from the bygone era of the Galactic Empire. It was childish, hideous, something an adolescent boy may have liked. It was a model Kylo Ren would have liked. Hux almost wished he wasn’t well-versed enough in Empire history to know it was the same prototype fighter that Lord Darth Vader once flew. God knows where Kylo Ren had found a vendor daring enough to sell something like this.

He stared at it for a whole ten seconds before putting it back into Kylo’s hands.

“You don’t have to use me as an excuse if you want something for yourself,” Hux said wryly, his face impassive.

Kylo’s head snapped up, his chest puffing out in indignant anger. He still had his stupid helmet on, and Hux couldn’t see his face. “I got this for you.”

“Alright.” Hux said, wondering in which universe he would be interested in Darth Vader memorabilia. “And now I gift it to you.”

Kylo looked down at the model, then back to Hux. “Are you sure?”

“Yes,” Hux said, amused by the sliver of delight he heard even through that damned vocoder.

“This isn’t what you’re supposed to do with gifts.”

“Then go complain to the Supreme Leader,” Hux replied, and then he walked away.

 

-

 

“What are you eating?”

Hux usually never disturbed people at mealtimes if it could be avoided, for the simple fact that it was discourteous. But this time, the news he was ordered to deliver had been urgent, and so he found himself inside Kylo Ren’s room, involuntarily staring at the contents of the man’s bowl.

The only word that adequately described Kylo’s meal in Hux’s mind was gruel.

“Energy paste, it’s a special formula suited to my needs.”

Hux had seen field rations that looked more appetising than the grey slop in Kylo’s bowl. Was this also part of his training? Deprivation from basic sustenance? Forcibly lowered quality-of-life? Did the formula improve his connection to the Force? Was hatred for his own meals something that fuelled his power?

He asked, and Kylo regarded him with an odd stare. “No.”

That made up Hux’s mind. “Come with me, we’re having dinner together.”

Judging by the way Kylo stared at him blankly, it took the man a long time to process Hux’s request. Then he looked down at his food and picked up his bowl.

Leave it.

Kylo left it, and trailed after him as Hux stalked through the hallways toward his own quarters. He didn’t question the need to feed Kylo with actual food instead of that offensive grey mush. It was a matter of principle, of hospitality, this was his ship and he had standards for what his people were fed.

Which was why he sat Kylo at his table, and laid down his own plate of food in front of him.

Kylo stared at the food, a healthy and delicious mix of protein and greens, food that was hand-cooked, and pleasingly flavoured. He gripped the cutlery in his hands.

“What about you?”

“I’ve already eaten,” Hux lied, pulling up screens on his console. Then, he proceeded to watch Kylo devour the meal through the gaps of the transparent interface, not questioning the pleasant warmth that filled his chest at the sight.

The next evening, Kylo Ren was at his door again. Hux opened the door and let him in.

This time, there were two plates waiting.

 

-

 

Kylo didn’t understand him. That much was apparent in the spontaneous interrogations that always seemed to occur when they were laid bare to each other in the ways that didn’t matter. Kylo tried to push into places he did not belong, as though a familiarity with Hux’s naked flesh entitled him to more than what he was given. Why do you not fear me? He asked with the petulant confusion Hux remembered in adolescent officers from the academy. Why do you not respect me? He interrogated Hux as if he held the secrets of Kylo’s universe, and the most absurd thing was, Kylo asked like he truly craved Hux’s honesty.

A kiss, Hux found, was usually enough to shut him up.

 

-

 

At times, as Hux teetered on the edge of sleep, of comfort, Kylo’s consciousness skimmed the surface of Hux’s mind in a frighteningly gentle caress. Yet he never once probed deeper.

Hux thought it must mean that Kylo didn’t really need the answer.

 

-

 

Answer: Hux wasn’t afraid of Kylo Ren because he truly didn’t care if he was murdered in the next second.

Answer: Kylo Ren didn’t know how to recognise respect that didn’t come with laudation or fear.

Observation: Kylo Ren was an idiot.

 

-

 

To Hux, Kylo Ren was just as much of a puzzle, and one that was likely to cut you open and pull you apart if you dared to try and make sense of all his pieces.

It was a good thing that Hux had no desire to solve him.

Or, perhaps more accurately, Hux knew better than to try. Kylo set off every warning siren in Hux’s mind with every too-tender touch and too-reverent kiss. His claws could not be allowed to sink deeper than skin, and putting more than just his body on the line was a risk Hux refused to take.

 

-

 

Every once in a while, usually, just when things were going smoothly, there would be a disaster, one which kick-started a domino effect of crises that left almost every crew member on board scrambling to minimise their losses. As a result, Hux learned at least eight years ago, that going into his fiftieth hour with no sleep also meant passing the point where analgesics stop working.

This time, he was in his quarters, one hand holding up his head and rubbing at his temples as he tried to make sense of the words on his datapad through the blinding haze of a migraine. The pain was ever-present, burning through his consciousness and shooting down his neck, and the text was swirling together into one incoherent mess.

Hux blinked, trying to clear the black spots from his vision. The door to his quarters opened with a quiet whoosh and he did not hear it. What did make it to Hux’s ears was the quiet tread of boots against the floor, the gait familiar and strangely reassuring.

“If you track mud on my carpet again I will airlock you,” he promised softly, not bothering to look up. Was Kylo back already? Hux was supposed to be at the hangar to see him arrive.

“You’re in pain,” was the sentence Kylo chose to greet Hux with after an eighteen day absence. A hand settled in Hux’s hair, and he leaned into it without thinking, letting out a breath.

“It happens,” he said, too exhausted to question his instincts. “They managed to break the hyperdrive,” he volunteered before he realised it sounded like he was sulking. “We’re stuck here for a while.”

Kylo hummed softly, and then, something warm trickled into Hux mind. The pain began to dissolve, little by little, melted away into tranquillity. Hux felt his head tip back with a rough exhale. Kylo caught him in his hands, and a moan slipped out of Hux as Kylo's fingers moved lower in a delicate massage, draining the tension first from his neck and then from his shoulders.

Much later, Hux opened his eyes, to find his head resting against Kylo’s chest. Kylo was staring down at him, the mask missing to reveal something terrifyingly soft and tender behind his eyes. It made Hux’s breath catch.

“Thank you,” Hux said in a quiet mumble.

Kylo’s answering smile was almost shy.

 

-

 

Then, one day, Hux caught himself thinking that all of it was comfortable.

Nothing had really changed, at least not with any significance enough to be noticeable. Their belligerent back-and-forths had little bite behind them now. The insults were almost a fond habit. Somewhere along the line, they’d lost the intention to hurt, or perhaps the ability to be hurt, by each other’s jibes and baiting comments. By some unspoken understanding, they'd abandoned the words in their arsenals capable of true damage, opting instead for safer territories, and banter so familiar they had begun to include jokes.

It wasn’t such a bad change, Hux thought during private times. There was no true point in attempts to sabotage Kylo Ren, as the man’s position in Supreme Leader Snoke’s eyes was all but unshakeable compared to those who posed a true threat to Hux’s career. He was a good bedmate, came with force healing powers, and he offered surprisingly tolerable conversation when he wasn’t being ridiculously melodramatic or in one of his moods.

It was almost like he had a friend.

 

-

 

Too many times, Kylo went and got himself almost killed. It was as though he liked to tempt fate, or was hiding a suicidal streak. Most likely, he was just too arrogant in his own powers to give serious thought to any tactic but brute force.

Reckless. Hux threw that thought at Kylo like a live grenade, wishing it could blow up in his face and take the man with it. On the bed, Kylo winced, though it could just be his injuries being aggravated by the medical droid’s less than delicate ministrations. Hux’s heart pounded in his chest, still haunted by the sight of Kylo, crumpled, unresponsive. There had been too much red against black, staining the snow, spreading further still. Terror sparked inside of him that refused to go away.

Hux stared down at Kylo’s form, frozen, judging. Idiot, he thought. Stop throwing yourself against overwhelming odds.

Kylo’s eyes opened, barely a sliver. For a moment, they watched Hux, and then closed, taking away the rest of Hux’s composure.

He swept out of the room, leaving behind the harried droids and the sight of too much blood where it didn’t belong. His hands were fists, nails digging into flesh. He stalked through the corridors, intent on returning to his work, to distraction, to not thinking about the pale form of Kylo. Yet everywhere, there was red against black against white, and it was impossible to escape his memories.

If Kylo died, then that was simply his destiny.

Hux held onto the thought, stubborn, even if it didn’t make him feel any better at all.

 

-

 

Then came the attack, the moment where things went from bad to terribly, terribly wrong, and the rest was as unknown and inevitable as the future, hurtling toward him at an unstoppable pace.

 

-

 

The bolt didn’t kill Hux. But he was captured alongside the Master of the Knights of Ren, and that, objectively speaking, was even worse. What was unforgivable was the fact that Ren let himself be captured. On the battlefield, he had stood over Hux, lightsaber thrust forward, teeth bared in a snarl as the Resistance advanced upon them.

It was the last thing Hux saw, until he woke up restrained to a bed in a Resistance medcenter. His relief barely lasted ten minutes before a nurse righted his mistaken belief that Kylo had escaped to safety.

 

-

 

Hux may have been constructed as an idealist, one willing to live and die for the Order, but he had survived on a cocktail of ruthless pragmatism and private insights. He understood, for instance, the fragility of his own existence. How he was only ever one failure, one misfortune away from utter annihilation. He had watched countless candidates, some with more talent than he, become crippled by poor odds and probable consequences. They fought, they struggled against inevitabilities, and set themselves on a course of self-sabotage that didn’t even need outside help to end in blood or disgrace.

Unlike others, Hux never saw himself as an exception to the capricious nature of fortune. He understood with objective clarity that his own fate was as pre-written as that of the lowest stormtrooper. The soldiers may be the pawns, but Hux himself was little more than a piece of higher value, easily sacrificed in favour of the grand victory.

There was no other future for him, no other option for him, but to believe in the victory of the First Order and the glory it would bring. Hux had been prepared to die, expected to even, just as it was expected of him. In death he may have found redemption, found peace, whatever that even meant for a man like him, a man who carried the death of billions on his shoulders.

But then Kylo Ren had come and he had taken it all away.

 

-

 

He didn’t believe it when he heard it for the first time. Kylo Ren betrayed the First Order. Ben Solo had returned.

Then they showed him recordings. Kylo in new robes, murdering the very troops who had been dedicated to protecting him, destroying the ideology he once fought to protect.

The Resistance attempted to interrogate him, and he greeted them with silence.

Kylo, the coward, the traitor, could not even face him.

 

-

 

When he healed, they put him in a cell, and then, it wasn’t long before the door to that cell was opened.

For the first time since his capture, Hux laid eyes on Kylo. The man stood stiffly outside, staring at him with big eyes, his shoulders hunched, and lips curved with a tiny frown. He looked good, too good, hale and healthy in a way that sent red hot rage surging through Hux’s head.

“Is it true?”

Kylo’s eyes darted to the wall, and there was a beat of silence before the confession came. “Yes.”

Hux threw himself forward and punched Kylo – Ben Solo – across the face. It landed with a solid smack, and Hux was too furious to fully register his surprise that Kylo had allowed it. Hux met the barely repressed anger in Kylo’s eyes with a burning glare. There, he also recognised hurt, and the sight of it was not nearly as satisfying Hux had hoped. It only made the empty chasm inside him grow.

Someone was bound to be listening, they always were, waiting for a slip of the tongue to reveal to them the intel they wanted to know. The Resistance thought themselves too good for torture while wishing they could deliver justice through violence. If Hux was less furious he might have taken a moment to consider the consequences of this confrontation. Even then it may not have mattered, because he had nothing to return to, a lifetime’s worth of dedication and sacrifice ending with him at the mercy of the same people he should have died to sabotage.

All because of Kylo Ren.

“You just surrendered? Just like that?” Hux was shouting, and vindication was the best thing he had felt in a week. Hux had been ready to die just to give him the chance to return unscathed, and Kylo had gone and thrown everything back in his face.

“I did what was necessary.”

“You were a coward,” Hux spat, finding twisted pleasure in the way Kylo’s expression transformed with anger.

“You would have died!”

A thousand accusations and insults were wiped blank in an instant. Hux stood there, stunned, unprepared for the impossible words that had just came out of Kylo’s mouth. He must have misheard. He had to have.

“They would have let you die,” Kylo continued, and there was a tremor in his voice Hux hated. “I knew it, I looked into their minds. So I made them change it.”

“By promising to help them?”

“Yes.”

This idiot, this selfish, entitled fool. Hux was merely a cog in the machine, an important piece perhaps, but not irreplaceable, not in the way Kylo was. What could he possibly have to gain out of keeping Hux around? He was hardly thrilling company. Did Kylo need someone around to fuck whenever he got bored?

“What's the purpose of keeping me alive?” Hux didn’t want to believe it, that Kylo would really fall into the trappings of sentiment. There were bigger, greater things at stake, most important of them all the future of the First Order. If Hux lived they would force him to spill every secret he knew. Hux was expendable, had always been expendable. “Why couldn’t you just let me die?”

Kylo growled, and then he was surging forward, both hands grabbing at Hux’s head as their bodies pressed together. When their lips met, Hux’s eyes were wide, and Kylo kissed him, despair and longing driving every indelicate movement. Hux felt open, felt raw, transformed into something wholly new, neither life-giving nor destructive, yet with endless power for both.

A kiss, he learned, could be even more revealing than the most eloquent speech. Yet he didn’t know what it meant when he couldn’t find it in himself to kiss back.

It lasted barely a second, or perhaps it lasted for hours. The next thing Hux knew, he was free again, and Kylo’s hands were dropping to his sides. Kylo’s breaths came harshly as he backed away, then he was pushing his way out of the cell.

Hux winced when the door slammed shut.

 

-

 

Afterward, they moved him from the cell into a room. The door was always locked, but the bed came with sheets and enough room for two. There were appliances, furniture, and most importantly, a proper refresher. The first thing Hux did was take a long shower, washing himself free of days’ worth of sweat and grime. The second thing he did was crawl onto the bed and sleep.

When he woke up, he stared across the empty bed. Despite falling asleep in the middle, he'd somehow ended up curled at one side.

Hux stretched out his hand, and felt the coldness of the empty space beside him.

 

-

 

Hux, from the moment he was born, had only a single path to walk. He had only one future, and one possible ending that didn’t end in blood. He had a list of things he was meant to be, and another list of that which he was to avoid at all cost.

Elite, but not exceptional.

Revered, but not loved.

Important, but not irreplaceable.

Kylo made Hux feel like he was everything he shouldn’t be.

The worst thing was, Hux didn’t mind it, not like he should.

The worst thing was, he wanted it, wanted Kylo, with every fibre of his being.

There was a word for this feeling.

And Hux decided to call it hope.

 

-

 

Two days, and Hux was standing at the cell door, staring at the guard.

“I want to see Kylo Ren,” he said.

“He’s away,” she replied, her voice colder than a winter storm.

 

-

 

Hux was no good at sitting and doing nothing. He overthought, he plotted, he started taking apart his meagre supplies, toothbrushes and datapads turned into parts, display disks shattered into pieces. He found a pair of scissors and used it both as a screwdriver and a saw. Then, he put the things back together to fit the new configuration in his head.

When Kylo visited him next, it was a week later, and this time he was too pale and clearly favouring his left arm over his right. Hux took in the sight of him, and said nothing as he let Kylo in through the door.

Kylo walked two steps before he caught sight of the object sitting on the desk, and froze in place.

The craftsmanship was crude, but to someone like Kylo, there was no mistaking what it was. A model of a TIE Advanced X1 starfighter, pieced together from a jigsaw of display disc pieces. It was nothing spectacular, and would probably have fallen apart if someone so much as touched it in the wrong place.

Hux reached for the model, and carefully slid it a few inches across the table, closer to Kylo.

Kylo’s gaze turned to him, haunted, lost. Hux felt an uncertain touch at the edge of his mind, gentle, probing, full of a million questions neither of them knew how to ask aloud.

Hux closed his eyes, and opened his mind.

 

-

 

Kylo didn’t leave.

And with him, came warmth, came comfort.

With Kylo, Hux felt like he belonged.

 

-

 

The Resistance interrogated Hux again, but this time, there was something more behind the weight of General Organa’s considering gaze. Hux sat and allowed her scrutiny, indulging in silence for as long it was possible.

Perhaps someone important to her died, perhaps the First Order was doing better despite losing its most destructive agent and more productive of generals. There was a hint of urgency behind her eyes, and her patience ran thinner today than Hux had learned to expect. She didn’t wait as long before she asked the question she needed the answer to.

Hux gave his usual reply.

“I’m afraid there’s nothing I can tell you.”

The expected outcome earned him a moment of silence. Organa cast her gaze downward, doubtlessly considering a new strategy to break this established pattern between them. There was only one practical solution to her dilemma, yet even now, the Resistance remained too 'noble’ to use it.

“Do you have a conscience, Hux?” Organa asked, her interest genuine as far as Hux could tell. “Or did you truly think that destroying an entire system was the right thing to do?”

“Kylo didn’t tell you?” Hux said with a growing smile. “It was my idea from the start.”

Fury flashed behind Organa’s eyes. For a moment she seemed at a loss for words, surprised by the depth of depravity that existed inside Hux. Perhaps she was remembering Alderaan, reminded of the ease with which billions of lives had been snuffed out in a single moment. Perhaps she wished for the same weapon, one that could destroy the First Order with as much ease as they had crippled the Republic. God knows they could use it, after thirty years of achieving next to nothing.

“I understand that you hate me, General Organa,” Hux said. And everything he represented, no doubt.

“You murdered billions of lives, Hux. If your words are true, I’d be hard pressed to find anyone here who could stop hating you.”

“Perhaps, but that is far from the only reason, isn’t it?”

Organa’s eyes narrowed. But she did not speak, and Hux took the opening it offered.

“Of course, you also hate that you can’t give me the punishment I deserve,” he continued, his voice smooth, giving no hint of the strike he planned to deliver. “But most of all, you hate the fact that I am the only reason your son ever returned to you.”

Rage burst behind Organa’s eyes, hidden as quickly as it was revealed. Hux hid the curve of a smile, knowing that it had been a perfect hit.

“You could try to rile me, Hux, but it won’t change a single thing for you.”

“No. But the same could be said for you, General.” Hux said, watching the woman’s reaction. He’d never had any personal experience with the blind dedication of a mother, but he’d heard enough understand all the ways it could be used against someone. “I won’t tell you what you want to know, and if you hurt or kill me, you lose your son forever.”

“I could still hurt you if I wanted, you would do well to remember that,” Organa said. “We could pull the secrets from your mind using the Force, if you leave me with no other choice.”

“And then you’d be no different from the wretched First Order.” Hux almost laughed.

“This is war, Hux. You’d be surprised just how far we’re prepared to go if it means ending it.”

Ending. Not winning. Hux filed away the observation in the back of his mind. A lifetime of rebellion made the general weary after all. “Yes. But are you willing to risk losing this final, fragile connection with your beloved Ben? Oh, but no. No, your son is already dead, Organa. The man you have slaving away for your little Resistance is and will only ever be Kylo Ren. And he is mine.”

He returned to his cell with a blossoming bruise on his cheek, and a smirk on his face that refused to go away.

 

-

 

Kylo’s eyes grew dark when he saw the mark left on Hux’s face. A surge of wild, destructive rage burned hot on the fringes of Hux's mind.

He heard, later, that it broke the silence between Kylo and his mother. There were accusations, yelling, heartbroken tears falling down an old, wrinkled face.

When Kylo returned to him, Hux soothed away Kylo’s anger with murmured endearments and tender kisses, delighting in the way Kylo eagerly, desperately, reached for him. And yet it was he who found comfort in the moment, understanding curling at the back of his mind, satisfaction settling beside something some may have called possession, and others, love.

 

-

 

Hux never had any illusions that their actions were bad, that calling themselves saviours while destroying people body and soul carried within it a certain hypocrisy. Perhaps if it had been his call to make, he would never have destroyed all five planets when just the Republic capital would have sufficed. Yet he had never once doubted that their actions had been necessary. The violence was temporary, and the destruction made room for the creation that would follow, a new order to rise from the ashes of the Republic. No utopia could be maintained without first stamping the blood and bones of the oppressors into the dirt to be built upon. It was an understanding he knew the ‘Resistance’ shared. In their pursuit for anarchy, the Resistance had destroyed the Empire, sacrificing to their vision countless simple lives whose greatest sin had been their indifference.

But where Hux recognised the truth of his own actions, the hypocrisy of the Resistance lay in the fact that they stubbornly clung to the illusion that they were somehow still ‘good’, as though they would be free from the fact of their destruction if they simply believed hard enough.

They called them the misguided ones. At night, Hux's amusement overflowed into laughter, muffled against Kylo’s skin.

 

-

 

I was supposed to rule the galaxy. Hux thought, on a particularly dreary day, knowing Kylo was listening.

It had been a good dream, a nice dream, the only dream he was truly allowed to have when he was the son of Brendol Hux. He’d even enjoyed it. He was meant to be perfect. The perfect officer, the perfect conqueror, someone with the capacity to rule worlds.

That dream was now impossible to achieve. Perhaps, it was time for a new dream, one of his own.

If only his father could see him now.

 

-

 

Hux was sitting on the bed when Kylo returned from his mission, surrounded by display disks with a holopad in his hand. The disks were full of Resistance propaganda, supplied to Hux with the purpose of showing him the ‘truth’. In fact, it was simply another side of the same stories, bolstered with different ideals which led to predictably opposite conclusions.

Kylo collapsed onto the bed next to him, crushing several disks with his melodrama. Hux scanned him once and found him hale and whole, so he turned his attention back to the heartfelt arguments against the old Empire’s justice system currently defacing the display of his holopad. Kylo curled up beside him in a ball of misery.

Hux frowned, glancing at him. “What is it?”

“I’m tired.” Kylo grumbled, squeezing his eyes shut. “The light, it pulls at me still. It won’t stop.

“Then stop fighting it,” Hux said dismissively, scrolling through the text.

They were close, and Kylo’s grey robes spilled over into Hux’s lap. Hux had never thought he’d miss the black, and yet he did. Kylo didn’t look like himself like this, wearing someone else’s idea of who he ought to be.

Kylo’s eyes snapped open. “What are you talking about?”

“You clearly have the capacity for both in you. So embrace it, find a balance.”

Hux didn’t so much see the stubborn frown as he heard it.

“That’s not how it works.”

“Isn’t it?”

Kylo blinked once, stricken, and didn’t reply.

 

-

 

Those who said Hux took after his father had no understanding of the sheer delusion that existed in that man, a man who thought something as inherently tumultuous as humanity could be fully suppressed in one generation, that imprinted identities could not be easily reshaped in the presence of the right triggers. If that man had wanted vessels for his ideology he should have invested in an army of droids, programmed to order, immune to reason, limited in their defective potential. Hux never took over the reins of his father’s designs because he believed in it, but because to refuse would have been the equivalent of suicide. He was as proud of it as anyone could be of being forced to propagate another man’s mistakes.

Hux himself was a walking example of his father’s failure.

Hux came so far only because he understood one thing – that people would forever be at the mercy of their own dissatisfaction. Manipulating weakness was what earned him his position as a General, and transforming them into strengths was what made him excel in his role. Troopers with acceptable inclinations toward benevolence had as much of a place in roles of torture and interrogation as the sadistic types had a role in patient care. To suppress the parts of you others may call flaws through shame and rejection was to throw away the same parts that had the potential to become your greatest assets. Weakness and strength, they were one and the same, all that mattered was how smart you remembered to be about it. Unlike others, Hux’s arrogance never went so far to think that he would be made immune to his human trappings.

Deprivation of the more unpopular needs left you just as open to manipulation as a man starved of sleep or sustenance. True discipline didn’t come from self-denial, but from the ability to manage every aspect of your personhood to move you in the right direction.

Kylo, out of every human in existence, needed to have learnt that by now.

 

-

 

Time, inevitably, passed, and so grew the number of days he spent trapped as a prisoner of the Resistance.

 

-

 

The rumour came to him, eventually, of FN-2187, or Finn, as they referred to him now. The rumour spoke of how he had broken down when he first learned that his new acquaintances wished him to go up against the First Order. It was impossible, he had argued, they could not be defeated.

It was what he was thinking about when he sat at Kylo’s bedside in the medcenter, tracing the line of Kylo’s long fingers, feeling the delicate bone that hid beneath skin and flesh. He studied the curve of the lashes pressed against Kylo’s cheek, and thought about FN-2187, who had somehow survived every probability of death when he found that one thing worth giving up his existence for.

This was the third time Kylo had returned with wounds on his body that Hux had not prevented. The Knights of Ren were ruthless against their old master, bolstered by the righteous anger of betrayal. Kylo was stumbling, his power fluctuating in unpredictable ways as he attempted to figure out where he stood in the battle between light and dark. He was more unstable than ever. Hux didn’t know how many more of the Resistance’s missions Kylo would survive, and the thought nurtured a tiny seed of terror that grew steadily inside him with each new day that dawned.

Hux thought about finding balance, between fear and courage, responsibility and freedom, indifference and devotion. He thought about Kylo, his wide, lost eyes, his careful hands, the sweetness of his lips, and the delicate way he touched him, as though nothing else mattered when Hux was there at his side.

Hux knew what he had to do.

 

-

 

The Resistance’s decisive victories against the First Order, historians would later write, came after critical intelligence was finally revealed to them by their captive, General Hux. It was with the coordinates of the First Order’s major centres revealed, that the Resistance’s star pilot was able to plan and lead the surgical strikes which crippled enemy supply centres and weapons. The destruction of the First Order came not long after. As stormtrooper defection reached epidemic levels, the forces of the Resistance, bolstered by the fleets of local Republic governments outraged by the destruction of the Hosnian System, closed in upon its very heart.

Hux himself would be transformed into a contentious figure, painted by some as a ruthless monster of pure evil, and by others as a tragic figure who recognised too late the extent of his errors. Acquiring the truth, however, was an impossibility, for Hux was killed in a First Order attack against the Resistance Base where he was being held. He, just like Kylo Ren, the prodigal son of the Resistance who sacrificed his life to bring down the Supreme Leader of the First Order, was another figure lost to time.

 

-

 

If the odd theorist cast doubt over established truths by pointing to the subsequent rise of one of the galaxy’s greatest mercenary forces, highlighting the way it had absorbed defected First Order stormtroopers in the years that followed, it was fanciful thinking at best. If the occasional amateur raised suspicions as to the identity of the mysterious force-sensitive knight who walked among its ranks, most knew to call them crazy.

 

-

 

The details no one would ever know, is this.

Later, when everything is over, Hux wakes as light from a distant star breaks across the surface of the planet below, spilling beams orange across the floor of his room. His hair is black now, for the sake of anonymity, though his eyes, Kylo tells him, are still as green as ever.

Behind him, Kylo stirs, then nudges closer, the arms around Hux’s waist and chest growing tight. A soft huff of warm air tickles the hair on the back of his neck, and for a long while, Hux merely breathes.

He stares at the light, taken back to a moment, lifetimes ago, when the power of a star like this one had been channelled deep into the bowels of a weaponised planet. Somehow, the light then had seemed a little less bright, even if it had been blinding, and less warm, though it had been burning his skin.

Stop thinking, a familiar voice murmurs at the back of his mind. Go back to sleep.

Am I thinking too loud? Hux thinks back, amused.

Sleep, comes the barely coherent mumble.

Hux turns around, and shuts his lover up with a soft, lingering, kiss.

Then, he lets go, and falls back into the embrace of sleep.

When he wakes, an old identity will be forever left behind.

The new one, however, will have the most coveted treasures in the entire galaxy.

He will have freedom.

He will have happiness.

He will have Ben.

 

-

 

This, is how it ends.