Emperor Hux had been looking forward to this moment for years. Since the death of Supreme Leader Snoke six months ago (orchestrated by Hux, of course), the Knights of Ren had been a singular headache, wreaking havoc throughout several systems. He’d had to keep Kylo Ren sedated, in a cell, to prevent him from using his Force powers to escape and join them. What a waste of a fine resource.
But now the other Knights were all dead, their ships destroyed and their temple a ruin in embers.
Hux sent for Kylo.
The Knight was more alert than Hux had thought he might be as they brought him into the central hall. The throne sat at the rear of the room, on a raised dias, overlooking a vast space. It was frequently filled with people, ambassadors and lieutenants and courtesans, arranged with fine furniture or supplied with luxurious feasts. Today, the hall was empty, except for Hux and his enforcers. He watched as Kylo was brought before him, shackled, his clothes even more ragged than Hux remembered, his skin pale and his eyes hollow. He was … diminished, somehow. Still, he met Hux’s eyes calmly.
“Kylo Ren. Your Supreme Leader is dead. The Knights of Ren are dead.”
“I know,” Kylo said, a soft, deep rumble of a statement, surprisingly lacking in spite and venom. For a passing moment, Hux pitied him.
“You have been my prisoner while your comrades railed against me, but you yourself have not raised a hand against me.” Hux hadn't given him the chance. Taking out Kylo had been step one. A syringe full of sedative administered by a droid in a dart and he was out of the game. All too easy. “Therefore, I am prepared to accept your service, should you offer it.” He held up a white-gloved hand. “Should you choose not to, you may return to your cell, of course.”
A flicker of something - rage, or disdain, or hurt - crossed Kylo’s face and was gone. Just a twitch of his lip, a flare of his nostrils. He swallowed. “You are the emperor of the First Order,” he said. “You have brought peace at last to the Galaxy. I am … I am yours to command.” At Hux’s raised eyebrows, he dropped his eyes and added, “Your majesty.”
“Remove his shackles,” Hux said. The guards did so. “Come forward.”
Kylo climbed the few stairs to the dias. Even in tattered robes, he was an imposing figure, perhaps more so with his hair down past his shoulders, and the petulant, spoiled-child expression gone from his eyes.
“Kneel,” Hux said, with a curl of his lip.
Kylo’s entire body went stiff with tension; the resentment radiated from him. Hux was nearly Force blind, but even he could feel it. Still, Kylo went down on one knee, shaking, then folded the other under him as well. He looked up at Hux, keeping his face carefully blank.
Hux leaned forward, grasped his jaw and turned his head left, then right, as if inspecting him. “You’re not a Knight of Ren anymore.You may keep the name Kylo, but the name Ren is gone. And you will no longer wear the robes of a Knight.” He released him.
“Yes, your majesty.” He stayed motionless, but the hopelessness returned to his eyes, staring off past Hux into nothing.
Hux waited a few beats, then motioned impatiently. “Well? Take them off.”
Kylo’s dark eyes shot back to Hux, widened, then he drew a long, shaky breath and undid the fastenings of his cloak, his wide belt, his tunic. He folded each piece and set them aside. It was cold in the room; Hux watched with pleasure as goosebumps raised on Kylo’s arms. He was surprised by the extent of his scars - the nasty one on his lower side that had almost killed him, scars on his shoulders, his arms, matching horizontal scars right beneath his pectoral muscles. And of course, the one across his face. He left his pants on, still kneeling.
“I did not say you could stop there. Remove your pants.”
Kylo’s eyes went from cold and defiant to desperate. He bowed low, his hair falling forward, his scarred back arched. “Your Majesty, I -”
“You will do as I desire.”
“Yes,” he replied, more easily than Hux anticipated, “I will serve you, at your pleasure. And I will do as you ask if you insist. But please, Emperor - have mercy. I beg you.”
Hux thought a moment. Kylo Ren, begging. He leaned down a bit to card his fingers through Kylo’s hair, and was pleased when Kylo did not so much as flinch.
“Your plea was respectful. I am a generous and fair master. You may keep them on. Today.”
Kylo let out a huffing sigh of relief and leaned into Hux’s touch. “Thank you, your majesty.”
“As for your role in my court … For now you may sit beside me and observe.” He pulled a curious device and a chain from a box beside the throne. “You will wear this. It is a collar that disrupts a Force practitioner’s concentration so they cannot attack with it. A step up from sedation, hm? When you have been consistently good, you may go off leash. When you have pleased me enough, you may have a shirt, a bed.” He chucked Kylo under the chin with the chain. “What say you to that?”
He expected defiance, with the news that Kylo would once again be denied access to the Force, his best weapon. That he’d be on display - a trophy, a pet. He expected spite, the juvenile vitriol he’d known before, even violence. Indeed, the old rage seemed to flare in his eyes for a few long moments. Instead, Kylo’s voice nearly choked as he managed to say, “As my Emperor desires.”
Hux couldn’t help his shock at the ease of Kylo’s obedience and said, “Really?” before he could catch himself.
Kylo lowered his head in a bow, hands pressed to the floor. “I have no exterior loyalties to maintain. My first loyalty was always to the vision of the Order, to bring peace and organization to the scattered tribes of the Galaxy. You have done it. I am your faithful servant.”
So, Kylo was smarter than he looked. Or was really that much of a fanatic that his fellow Knights’ deaths did not move him. Hux wondered if Kylo had shown this kind of self-control with Snoke, or if he was just so physically drained by his imprisonment that he did not have enough fight left in him. Hux leaned over him, hooked him below his jaw again, and pulled him upright. He rubbed his uncalloused thumb over Kylo’s cheek.
“You’re lovely, you know. I would enjoy using your body for my own pleasure.”
His eyes dropped away again. “Your taste is unusual. I am … glad I … please you, your Majesty.” But Hux could nearly taste his discomfort.
“Oh, are you?” He smiled crookedly, wondering what it had cost Kylo to choke out that compliance, and moved the pad of his thumb to brush over Kylo’s lower lip instead.
“Y-yes I am,” he said, his voice cracking just a tad. Just enough to show his uncertainty, maybe even … fear. Hux reveled in it. “You spared my life when you could have taken it. So I am yours.” He hesitated a moment, then added, “I submit my will to yours.”
Hux was taken aback. That was one of the few lines he knew from the Knights’ oath to Snoke, and perhaps more noteworthy, Kylo knew that Hux would recognize that line, and its significance. For the first time, he considered that Kylo’s loyalty might be genuine, even if he was currently furious about having to give it in such a humiliating manner.
Hux opened the collar, laid it open across his knees and motioned to Kylo to move forward, until Kylo’s head was practically in his lap. He looked forward to the day he had another reason for Kylo to be positioned so. He brushed Kylo’s hair out of the way with gentle strokes of his fingers, and closed the collar on his throat. He clicked the chain onto the collar and picked up the other end.
“There,” he purred. He smiled, brushing the backs of his fingers over Kylo’s shoulders. “I like you like this.” He hooked the chain onto a latch on the throne made for just this purpose. He gestured to the side of the throne. “Have a seat, Kylo. I have business to attend to.” When Kylo was settled beside the throne on the metal step, Hux said to him, “You are not to speak unless I address you and tell you to speak.” Kylo tipped his head in acknowledgment. Hux stroked his hair a moment more, then turned away from him. He took up a data pad and began hearing debriefings from his lieutenants, ignoring the stirring in his groin that revelled in having so completely dominated his former rival.
This was the real business of running the Empire - the dull mechanics, tactics, allocations of resources. Most minor decisions were delegated to his lieutenants, but the big picture always came back to the Emperor. They worked for hours, receiving news, giving orders, making decisions. Hux ignored Kylo, to outward appearance, but he enjoyed watching out of the corner of his eye as Kyko shifted uncomfortably, and rubbed his arms and hands at the cold. Kylo gave the world unhappy glares when everyone else broke for dinner, and Hux’s cooks and servants brought in roasted meats, sautéed vegetables, and freshly baked bread. Nothing like the cafeteria fare they’d choked down on the Finalizer. Hux ate at leisure, and when he was finished, put some remains of food on a plate - not enough to satisfy the hunger of a man Kylo’s size - and set it on the floor by the throne, together with a bowl of water. Kylo looked at it, then looked suspiciously at Hux, like an animal accustomed to having food snatched away from him.
Hux motioned to the food. “Eat,” he said. “No hands.”
Kylo’s eyes flashed dangerously, and he clenched his jaw. He managed to mostly suppress the growl that clearly wanted to gurgle up in his throat. With a glare, he bent and ate off the plate with as much care and haughty dignity as he could muster, which wasn't much. He emptied the bowl of water without slurping, somehow. He at least managed to be neat and all but silent about it. Hux looked over to see he’d finished, and stroked his hair fondly. “You may thank me,” he said.
“Thank you, your Majesty,” Kylo said, and almost managed to sounded like he meant it.
“Good boy.” He stood, stretched, and unhooked the chain from the throne. He handed it to an (alarmed) subordinate. Most of the other lieutenants had already retired; Hux was always the last to leave. His attendants waited by the doors to the rear. “Take him to the wash rooms, and get him a clean set of pants. Kylo, you will sleep here tonight. If you continue to do as well as you have today, I will make you more comfortable.” He cupped Kylo’s cheek in one hand, and Kylo looked momentarily like he wanted to bite it off. “I am impressed with your self-control. Why so different? Six months ago you practically frothed at the mouth in a constant rage.”
Kylo’s expression softened. “The Dark Side of the Force relies on powerful emotions. Rage, hatred, fear. In years past I intentionally kept myself in a state of emotional turmoil, even pain, so the power would be there when I needed it.” He touched the collar. “Six months in sedation, unable to even feel the Force? Each day the same as the last? It’s impossible to keep it up.”
Hux studied him. “So … this calmer person before me now, is more like who you naturally are?”
A smile curled at the edges of Kylo’s lips. “Take the collar off and find out.”
Hux backhanded him. Kylo staggered a step back. Hux would reflect later that Kylo could have stopped him if he’d wanted; martial reflexes don’t fade so fast. He chose not to.
Hux gripped the chain next to the collar and gave it a rough shake. “You swore loyalty to me. I have been generous; I have spared your life. Never forget it. You will never threaten me again.”
Kylo dropped his eyes and lowered his head. “I beg your forgiveness for my lapse.”
Hux let go of him. “You have it. Good night, Kylo.” He turned and strode away.
“Thank you, your majesty,” he heard from behind him. He couldn't be sure how much venom and how much sincerity was in that statement. More than zero, on both counts.