Hux watched Kylo in the holovid, included in a recent package of communiques from the Stable. It hurt to watch, to hold both his idea of Kylo and his knowledge of Kylo’s betrayal in his mind at once. Still, he had been looking at old holovids most of the trip to the Stable.
He sparred with their oldest daughter, Astaran, now 5’10” at 15 years old and built like a tank. Astaran was close to being Kylo’s equal in combat; he was slowing down as she was getting faster and stronger. Kylo was heavier now than he had been 16 years ago; 3 pregnancies and 4 children would do that to a body. He knew Kylo frowned in front of the mirror at the stretch marks and extra padding over his stomach and hips, even if in public he declared them to be a badge of honor. There was gray in his hair now, mostly at his temples; more salt in his peppery hair every year. He mostly wore it in a ponytail, or with half of it gathered at the crown of his skull, the rest hanging loose, reaching almost to the middle of his back. Sometimes he’d still braid it, but he spent more time braiding his children’s hair. So many pictures had the three girls and the one boy with their hair in some kind of braids. Kylo didn’t limp as much as he used to - physical therapy had mostly healed the leg he’d broken (shattered was a more accurate term) a few years back. His body, and Hux’s, healed more slowly now. There were wrinkles at the corners of his eyes, stronger lines around his mouth. His scars had faded. It was hard to see it happening day by day, but Kylo was beginning to get old. And so was Hux. Neither of them could afford to delay action.
“Emperor, we’re nearing the Stable landing platform,” the pilot called.
Hux switched off the vid. He buckled into his seat and endured the inelegant landing of the enormous fighter. When he descended the ramp, it wasn't the droid he expected, nor was it Kylo who met him. It wasn't even one of his twenty-something courtesans. It was Astaran and Armada, his two oldest children.
He was taken aback (as he often was) by how much Astaran looked like Kylo. The only thing she’d gotten from Hux were his blue eyes and his mother’s wide hips. Armada, on the other hand, was built like Hux, slender and pale with bright orange hair, with an unruly texture from Kylo and hazel eyes from … someone. Normally they were quite fond of him. But right now, they were furious, and he found himself slightly afraid.
“Why did you send a droid to drug Dama?” Armada said.
“Hello to you too, daughter.”
“Kriff,” Astaran said, “you call us daughters, while you attack our dam without so much as a word of explanation?”
Hux held up a hand. “This is not how you greet your Emperor.”
“The hell it isn't,” Armada said, chin held high, with an air that announced she had just found a nice hill she’d like to die on. “A just ruler is not exempt from the law of the land. They must EMBODY the law, and are therefore more bound to it than even judge or citizen.”
“I see you’ve been reading your textbooks,” he said with a sigh. “And listening to Kylo’s cursing.”
“Do not mock me, Emperor,” she said, a growl entering her still-cute 13-year-old voice. “My patience is out. Explain.”
Hux was impressed. All of Kylo’s rage with all of Hux’s control and intelligence. She’d make a magnificent empress one day. For now, he decided he’d best play by the rules, as he was on thin ice already. “I discovered that Kylo has betrayed me. He manipulated me into choosing courtesans with Force sensitivity so that my children could be influential with the Force.”
Armada seemed to be waiting. Finally she said, “That’s it?”
Astaran said, “You just now figured that out?”
“There were reasons I didn't,” Hux snapped. “THE POINT is that I cannot trust your dam. He is not obedient to my will.”
Astaran made a rude noise. “Of course he isn't. Your will has been selfish and narrow in scope for years. It was up to him and the other Stable-mothers to take up the slack. They have been making the hard calls, shoring up your crumbling alliances - ”
“That’s enough of that!” Hux said, though he could feel his face burning. Had he been negligent? A man could not be everywhere. He would need to review. But for now - “Have the droids bring Kylo to me.”
“I’m here,” Kylo said, and stepped into the open from the alcove behind the bay door. “Don't look so surprised; you’re not the only one who can reprogram droids.”
“You should have been sedated -” Hux sputtered. “They reported -”
“When I reviewed the medical inventory and discovered you stocked a supply of the same sedative you used on me before, I reprogrammed the droids so that if they received a command to use that sedative, they’d go for the penicillin instead. Imagine my surprise to one day receive a shot of penicillin to the back of my thigh.”
Hux sighed. This was going to be difficult. “Our children don’t need to be involved here. I’m only here for you, Kylo Ren.”
The silence that followed was at immense odds with the deafening surge of emotions pouring off Kylo’s mind. Horror, fear, rage. Hux forced himself to look at his collar - kriff, it was a battle with himself, with the subconscious commands Kylo had planted so long ago - and saw it was lit up. Kylo’s lip pulled back from his teeth, and with a guttural snarl, Hux felt the weight of his mind, the sheer PRESENCE of him, force its way into Hux’s mind. His mental defences fell like a child’s block tower, breached with a single swipe of Kylo’s power. He knew, distantly, that he’d fallen to his knees on the concrete, that Armada was yelping in distress, and Astaran was yelling in turn at Armada. What burned most was how very familiar Kylo’s attack felt, like a remembered dream. The inside of Kylo’s mind felt like home.
“He hasn’t known long,” Kylo said to their daughters after he released Hux’s mind.
“Known what?” Hux said. “That you recreated your order with children? Bred and raised them all to be drones in your army?”
“That’s an astoundingly simplistic way to put it. But since you’re so keen on feeling betrayed …” He walked up next to Hux. The troopers behind Hux, who had heretofore been useless, raised their weapons. Kylo absently swept his hand through the air, and they collapsed. He refocused on Hux and knelt in front of him so he could drop his voice. “You murdered my closest allies and my master, and enslaved me. My honor depended upon avenging them and bringing the Knights of Ren back to existence. If there was betrayal between us, it began with you.”
Hux raised his eyes. He put every ounce of venom he could muster into his words. “You enjoyed it. You responded to it. You spread your legs for me as soon as you could.”
“I didn't say I didn't enjoy the sex. And I did let you continue as Emperor. A generous move on my part. Turns out you did a halfway decent job. Too bad, really. I had almost convinced myself it could last.” Kylo stood up.
Hux felt a presence close on his throat. His breath cut off, and a wave of panic crashed over him. He reached for his blaster.
“STOP! Stop it now!”
It was Armada’s voice, but not quite her voice. There was an echo behind it, a chorus. Her eyes went unfocused, and her body stood rigid. Astaran had her hands on Armada’s shoulders, supporting her from behind, eyes closed and brow knit in concentration.
“I will not allow you to destroy each other. You each had a hand in our creation. Neither have been pure of intent or action. But there WILL be peace in my house.”
Her lips didn't move. It wasn't an echo of voices, Hux realized; it was a combination of many minds speaking as one. Their presence was overwhelming, like a cacophony of bells. He might have recognized them individually, but coalesced into this mix of minds, he could not tell one from the other. Astaran and Armada alone had voices that were distinguishable from the melting pot of minds.
So many of them. Linked together. Young. How many children lived in the Stable? How many were Force adept? How many -
“Emperor Hux, you will step down from the throne, and we shall take it. You shall retire to this planet, under our supervision, in the western quarter of our homeland. You will be looked after. Do not attempt escape, you cannot hide from a telepath our magnitude. You will not be alone, we shall provide.” She turned her gaze, with a reptilian snap. “Kylo Ren … You have much to do in training us, but one day you shall join him in exile, as shall most of the Stable-mothers. All of you are too powerful to be allowed to stay and unbalance us.”
Kylo’s eyes flew wide; he looked like he’d been punched in the gut. “What?! No - I can’t leave! I - you need me! Don't separate me from my children! From you!”
“Yes, we do need you. But you are one of the elements of our creation; you are not part of the creation itself. The decision has been made. We will alert you when you are to depart from us.” Her expression softened. “We will not ever be far, Dama.”
“And … Who are you, exactly?” Hux asked as Kylo choked back a strangled sob.
“We are the Empress Ren. This one, Armada, is our mouthpiece. We would have been content to let you rule longer, but you two have forced our hand. We shall ascend early.”
“Why - why keep me alive?” Hux demanded.
A hurt look came over Armada’s face. “Because we love you, Poppa.”
Hux’s mind turned off like a switch.
Hux had been watching for Kylo for some time, but the sight of his long-legged once-consort turning the bend in the road and heading towards Hux’s home still made Hux’s chest ache with nostalgia. Kylo walked unhurried. He came to the bottom of the stairs and looked up at Hux, seated on a creaky bench on the front porch of his home.
Hux finally let a crack of a smile show. “Hello, Ren.”
Kylo looked back over his shoulder. “This place … it’s not too bad. The people in town seemed happy enough. I hadn’t realized the Empress Ren had exiled so many of their mothers and other caretakers here. I suppose it makes sense, in their fashion.”
Hux nodded. “They can keep an eye on us here. Like pets in a large, elaborate terrarium.” He glanced at the sky, as if his terrifying children were watching from above.
“You live kind of far out from everyone else.”
“I was here first. They live far out from me.” He gestured with his hand. “Come on up, then.”
Kylo undid the burden of the shaggy creature who carried his bags and took off its halter; it immediately dropped its head and began cropping grass. Kylo sat on the bench on the opposite side of Hux.
“So,” Hux said, “they’re finally done with you too.”
“For now. They want to keep me conveniently stashed nearby. They tell me they have absorbed all the knowledge that is contained in my mind, as they have most everyone they’ve met, but applying that knowledge can take some cognitive skill they don’t have yet. They’re still children, mostly. Especially when you get someone alone.”
“How are they?” he asked.
Kylo thought for a minute. “Well enough, I think. Two years of not keeping their hive mind a secret seems to have been good for them; they’re developing skills with the Force that I’ve never even heard of. Strangely enough, I think they’ll make an incredible leader. Individually … I think they’re afraid to be alone.”
“As are we all,” Hux said quietly. He patted the cushion beside him. “Come over here, pet.” As Kylo scooted next to him, he said, “Can I still call you that? Even though I was never the master I thought I was? So many things to reprocess, even now.”
Kylo picked up Hux’s hand and brought it to the base of his skull. Hux’s fingers found the circular divot where he had once pressed a death stick, to erase the Ren brand. “I wasn't always playing you. In fact, most of the time my emotional reactions were real, to some extent or another.”
“To some extent?”
He shrugged. “Sometimes you wanted me to feel something I didn't. So I pretended, to please you. Remember when I first told you I was intersex?”
“And I made you strip, and fondled you, then declined to fuck you.”
Kylo nodded. “You wanted me to be uncomfortable. You wanted to go traipsing merrily over my boundaries and watch me obey anyway, because you were my master.” Kylo laughed. “It was so difficult to keep up a pretense of discomfort, because I already wanted you so badly. If I’d followed my own emotions, I’d have flung myself spread-eagled on your bed and begged!”
Hux chuckled. “I’m actually glad to know I did not violate you that morning. Come closer.” He gestured to Kylo to lean up against his side, but Kylo slid down onto the porch floor instead, and leaned heavily on Hux’s leg, like he used to do in the throne room. He heaved a great sigh, like a large animal, and the tension ran out of his body. He flopped his arms over Hux’s lap and looked up at him with an expression of contentment and adoration.
“I don't know what to make of you,” Hux admitted. “You and I have been wretched to each other.”
“Under the circumstances, I think I was breathtakingly pleasant.”
“Well THAT is up for debate.” He tangled his fingers in Kylo’s hair, and watched Kylo lean into the touch. “I did horrible things to you, treated you abominably, especially in the beginning. You had your revenge upon me in spades. I tried to remove you from the game. In a shockingly poorly planned maneuver, as it turned out.” He tightened his grip, pulling Kylo’s hair, and watched him take a tiny gasp, watched those long lashes flutter. “We should be mortal enemies. Yet you wrote to me so often these last two years - for which I thank you - and now, here you are at my feet, still treating me like I am your master. Why? Why this dichotomy?”
“The same reason the Empress Ren exiled us instead of killing us. They love us. I love you. I never meant to, but it happened. So I was torn between my honor, what I believed was right, responsibility to my order, and my love for you. It is … I was going to say a relief, but it is more than that. I can lay down my burdens. Lies wear on the soul. I can be myself, truly honest for the first time.” A doubt came into his mind and across his eyes when Hux did not immediately answer. “If you’ll have me,” he amended.
Hux gave in and smiled. “If I am to be honest, it is a relief to me as well. I did not know until my exile how stressed I had become. I think my sanity was at its breaking point by the end. Now that I have adjusted, and have heard my heirs - heir - is in place and functioning, I am content. I had my round. I did good work. There is peace and order in the galaxy. Mostly. And now I shall be here.” He stroked Kylo’s face, touched the old scar, now white, the moles on his cheeks, the line of his nose, all so familiar they felt like home. “Yes, I’ll have you.”
Kylo leaned into his hand and closed his eyes. Hux felt a presence in his mind, at once surprising and familiar. “Thank you for knocking. What do you want to see in my mind, pet?”
Kylo shook his head. “It’s not a request, it’s an invitation.”
Hux’s eyes opened wide. “OH. I see. How do I accept?”
Kylo’s eyes fluttered closed. Hux felt a truly bizarre sensation, like falling asleep, except he was falling somewhere else, not into a dreaming state but a communicative plane. He could feel Kylo’s mind like it was his own, and it was so familiar he wanted to weep, to collapse into him, like coming home after a long time when you didn't ever expect to return. He knew Kylo’s mind without having ever consciously explored him - where the closed doors were, where the shrines were, what big red buttons not to push, where his demons slept. He knew where Kylo kept his heart.
Their children were present in Kylo’s heart, of course, different versions of them throughout their lives. The infants and toddlers they had been, their mannerisms and habits, funny things they’d said or done as they learned how to be human. Young children, half grown children, schooled from the beginning to be galactic leaders and warriors. He felt the shapes of their minds like double exposures - of course Kylo had taught them to be telepaths. He felt the crushing heartbreak as Kylo had struggled with Hunter, trying to get him to talk, to make eye contact; finally accepting the person he was, instead of the person they had wanted him to be.
And Hux himself was in Kylo’s heart too. Worshipped and wanted and sought like a dog seeks its master. Somehow at the same time, he was hated too, bound to the shades of the old Knights Hux had killed. There were well worn paths of vengeance and manipulation there. But those were all fading, as Kylo let them go. They didn't matter anymore; his role was complete. Hux was happy to close the door on that part of Kylo’s mind.
He showed Kylo how much he loved him, even after everything they had done to each other. There simply wasn't anyone who could possibly compete. He showed him the adoration for his body, both its appearance and what he’d accomplished with it. He showed him his near-obsession with how Kylo could be so dangerous and ferocious, yet submit to Hux. His fondness for Kylo’s quirks and habits and spirit. He hadn't just found forgiveness in him for Kylo; he was grateful for what he’d accomplished.
He realized he felt something physical, outside their joined minds. He couldn't quite puzzle it out, until Kylo said - thought - “You can feel what I feel, when we are linked this way.” Kylo nuzzled Hux’s hand, and Hux could feel the brush of fingers against his cheekbone. He nudged Kylo’s nose, and felt it on his own nose. Kylo chuckled, and Hux felt the rumble deep in his chest.
He pulled Kylo into his lap, and Kylo came, unresisting. They kissed, and Hux was lost in a sea of sensation. Their hands roamed on each other, feeling familiar bodies beneath unfamiliar clothes. He hadn't touched Kylo in two years - more than two years - but their bodies remembered the steps to their dance perfectly well. Kylo straddled him, working to unbutton his shirt, then helping Hux pull the shirt off Kylo’s thick arms. So much muscle - he never could get over being impressed with the sheer mass of his consort’s muscles. Kylo might have grumbled he’d acquired some mass that was NOT muscle, but so had Hux. It had been a long time since either of them could boast a slender waist, and Kylo certainly had more excuse for a soft stomach and love handles than Hux.
Hux drew a shuddering breath and bit down on Kylo’s bare shoulder. “Oh fuuuuck,” he said, shuddering, “I can feel what it’s like for you to be aroused. You’re wet already.”
Kylo smiled against Hux’s hair. “Always an eager receptacle for my master,” he murmured. Hux was moved by the sincerity he could now feel behind the words. He meant it, completely.
Hux tried to stand up, picking Kylo up with him, and immediately realized this would not work. Kylo yelped and grabbed the bench’s arm to steady themselves. “But my master should not try to pick me up!”
“Sorry,” Hux said, wincing at the slight pull in his back he knew he’d be feeling for a week at least. “I think I mixed up whose bodies were whose.”
“Keep that in mind,” Kylo said as he slid off Hux’s lap and drew Hux along with him.
They went into Hux’s house, through the front foyer to the main living area, and Hux pushed Kylo up against the wall. He held him there while they kissed, rough and wet; Hux slotted a knee between Kylo’s legs, and pulled off his belt.
“You know what I still love,” Kylo said in his mind, “is the feeling of vulnerability when you first get between my legs.”
“I know,” Hux thought back. “From the look on your face. Your dilated pupils, the draw of your breath. You like me claiming you, using you.” He pushed his thigh hard against Kylo’s crotch, and watched him moan. Hux gasped - the feedback loop of sensation between them was dizzying. He grabbed Kylo by the waist of his pants and dragged him into the adjoining bedroom. “There’s no one else now to slake my libido, you know. And I have little other occupation. I could fuck you every day and not get enough of you.”
Kylo moaned against his mouth. “My body is yours. Use me. You may no longer rule the galaxy, but you may rule me. Truly.”
Hux had Kylo’s pants and boots and socks off before his knees hit the mattress. Hux attended to removing the rest of his own clothes while Kylo scooted farther up, and Hux climbed after him. Hux pushed Kylo’s legs apart, watching Kylo’s face, feeling the excitement in his mind and body. For a moment he resisted, and Hux pushed hard, as if he were being forceful. A bratty smile touched Kylo’s mouth, and Hux could feel the extra stir of excitement in him.
“I want you,” Hux said as he ran his hands up Kylo’s ridiculously long and muscular thighs. His hands slipped under to grip Kylo’s ass. “I will possess you.” He laid down, and found the enlarged nub that was neither masculine nor feminine, or both, at the top of Kylo’s hole, and sucked like it was a cock, his tongue sliding up and down, sucking in the folds of skin around it, then dipping his tongue inside him. Kylo laid back, moaning, his legs trembling. It was easy to do, now that he knew how Kylo’s sensations went. He almost envied Kylo; the man was absurdly sensitive.
He sucked and licked and lapped and rubbed with fingers and tongue until Kylo was on the verge of orgasm. Then he stopped, and watched Kylo whimper and shake until he was eased down, then Hux would work to build him up again. Hux waited until his own body was screaming for release even though he was untouched, to move over Kylo and enter him roughly, pushing his cock between wet folds into the welcoming heat. Kylo cried out in pleasure, and bucked his hips upwards to get a good angle as Hux fucked him.
“Oh stars,” Kylo said, “I was starting to think you weren't going to.”
“Tell me you want it,” Hux said as he worked hard inside Kylo’s hole.
“I want you inside me,” Kylo gasped. “Please, just keep going, just keep fucking me, I’ve longed for this for years!”
“You didn't take any lovers in that time?”
“Of course not,” Kylo said, looking up at Hux in adoration. “My body isn't mine to give. It’s yours.”
“Oh kriff,” Hux said, as his arousal heightened, and he had to stop for a moment to keep from coming immediately. That is how it went for some time; Hux would fuck him in passionate thrusts for a few minutes, reveling in the friction between them, then pull out and make Kylo wait a few beats, just to have the pleasure of penetrating him again and again.
“Do you want me to turn over? Or get on top?” Kylo asked, as fucking Kylo from behind was one of Hux’s favorite positions.
“No, Hux said, drawing Kylo’s legs up to hook over his shoulders. He pressed down, so Kylo’s legs were nearly against his chest. Hux could get balls deep into him this way, and hit exactly the place Kylo liked. “No, I want you just like this. Underneath me. Accepting my dominance. Taking my cock into your body.” He pressed down harder on Kylo, really using his weight. He thrust harder. He sped up. He made full use of his length and the deeper penetration he could get with this position.
Kylo could no longer form coherent thoughts. It was all a wash of pleasure long delayed, and joy at being mastered. Hux tuned in to how his orgasm built in him, and changed angles to really rub him hard just where he wanted. Kylo cried out loud as he came, scratching nails down Hux’s back. His climax put Hux over the edge - a feminine orgasm was a mind-blowing sensation for him - and he came, pumping his cum into Kylo, continuing to fuck him through their orgasms. When it finally subsided, he leg Kylo’s legs go and collapsed on top of him.
After a few long, sweaty beats he said, “I am not 25 years old anymore.”
Kylo chuckled. Their mind connection was still present, but much faded, like an old photograph. “Neither of us are.” He wrapped his legs around Hux’s. “Stars, it feels good to have you inside me again.”
“Happy to be there,” Hux said absently. He was reluctant to pull out, even as he softened; he loved being inside his consort. Well, his lover, now. Woodland hermits did not have consorts.
After a long few minutes in breathy stillness, Kylo said, “So I can move in?”
“Of course you can.”
“I’m a slob.”
“I am aware.” He could feel Kylo smiling; he didn't need to look.
“I love you.”
Hux sighed happily, sat up, and pressed his mouth to Kylo’s. “Against all odds and sense, I love you too, Ren.”
Bits that didn't quite make it in but are worth noting:
Kylo finds Leia, very elderly and at the end of her life. He sets her up somewhere quiet and comfortable, to be well taken care of until she dies. He sends her lots of pictures of the kids. She is so happy to have grand children; she has lost most of her memory, and sometimes forgets that Kylo carried them and will ask who their mother is. Sometimes she calls him Kylo, sometimes Ben, sometimes Han or Luke in a particularly delirious state. It doesn't matter anymore that Kylo is an integral part of the Empire. She doesn't remember.
Hunter advocates for the preservation of the arts on other worlds. He will never forgive Vader for the destruction of Alderaan’s chief library, one of the most complete in the galaxy until it was incinerated.
The Empress Ren, and Armada in particular, sets up all kinds of governmental systems that are self-sustaining and amazingly well thought out. They/she truly do have a genius for legislation, organization and diplomacy. Their/her systems and treaties become Hux’s true legacy. That and the 100 or so Knights of Ren who live in the Stable of Ren at any one time and share a sort of hive mind. They are individuals, and they are the Empress Ren. True peace comes to the galaxy at last.
Phasma has many piratical adventures.
And the boys get to live happily ever after, which is most unexpected, especially to me.