Actions

Work Header

Unpretty

Chapter Text

Kylo Ren walks into the refresher with a package tucked under his arm, takes a deep breath, and looks at his reflection.

His eyes, he supposes, are okay. Well, the color is okay; they’re slightly more interesting than common brown eyes. His eye shape has always bothered him, how they droop at the edges and are too narrow on his face and when he smiles they disappear into tiny creases. They often look slightly swollen, and his chronic dark circles don’t do him any favors. And his eyebrows are short and uneven. Still, his eyes are the least of his problems.

His nose…that might be the biggest problem. It’s always been too big for his face, too long, slightly bumpy. It was the first part of his body that changed when he was barely a teenager and has been a source of shame for him ever since. When he first designed his helmet he hadn’t created enough room for his nose and the bridge chafed and blistered against the poorly-lined interior.

His mouth is similarly too big for his face. Kylo has, on occasion, caught himself with his mouth slightly open, his large crooked teeth visible. In those moments he knows he looks extra ugly, common and backwater and entirely at odds with the First Order’s standards of symmetry. He’s glad that on the rare occasions when he smiles his face is covered up so no one can see how distorted his face looks, how he bizarrely has dimples along his jawline.

Kylo wonders if having more of a jawline would help balance out his nose and mouth. As it is, his face sort of descends from a very sharp chin to a neck that wrinkles, another element of his body he’s gone through great pains to hide.

Kylo leans against the mirror and closes his eyes. He’s never been at peace with his face, probably never will be, but at least he has the ability to hide it every day. No one in the First Order, save the Supreme Leader, knows what he looks like. No one ever asks or seems to care.

Until General Hux asks one day after bending Kylo over a table in an empty conference room and fucking him. They’ve been meeting like this for over two month-cycles: both keep their clothes on when they fuck, removing only what’s necessary.

“I’m curious about your face, you know,” said Hux. “You might try to look like a machine, but I know you’re human.” The hand resting on his shoulder could pass for an affectionate gesture.

“You don’t want to know,” Kylo had replied reflexively, breaking away from Hux’s hands and pulling up his leggings. He turned to face Hux, putting as much of the Force as he could into his words. “General. You don’t need to know what I look like.”

There was a moment where he thought Hux had absorbed the command, but then he blinked and looked at him disdainfully. “Ren, I know I’m not Force sensitive, but you know better than to try and mind-trick me.”

Back in the refresher, Kylo opens the parcel. It’s filled with small, discreet brushed duraluminum vials, tubes, and sticks, along with a palette, sponges, and an assortment of synth-hair brushes. All the products enclosed are designed to correct, tone, and sculpt his face in what the cosmetics manufacturer promises is a naturally polished look. Part of him can’t believe he’s resorting to wearing cosmetics and wishes he’d scrapped this idea—along with the difficult process of ordering the products without having them connected to him—in favor of black-market surgery. The other part knows Hux will find him completely disgusting and will end what little relationship they have should he ever see Kylo’s bare face.

The parcel includes a tutorial, designed to be played on a datapad or portable holoprojector, demonstrating how to apply the cosmetics. Kylo loads it, and a digital rendering of his face appears, one he’d uploaded while ordering the products. The image slowly morphs into the finished look, the skin becoming clear and unblemished, cheekbones and jawline softly defined. His eyes look larger, clearer and brighter, and in combination with fuller eyebrows they soften his mouth and nose, pulling them into proportion with the rest of his face. Kylo finds himself smiling despite himself. The tutorial gives him the hope of appearing attractive, at least while the cosmetics are on his face.

An hour later, after dutifully following the steps, he looks in the mirror and wants to cry.

His skin certainly looks healthier, the dark circles beneath his eyes erased and the large moles and pockmarks which mar his face smoothed with primer and covered in opaque foundation. Everything else is a disaster. Kylo’s eyes and brows look garish, far too defined to appear natural, and his attempt at correcting his deep-set eyes has resulted in a strange cat-eye effect. He supposes the contouring on his jaw and nose are passable if he only faces forward, but it’s painfully obvious that his jaw and nose aren’t really shaped. His lips still appear too large and are now too pink and shiny.

The only thing worse than Hux seeing his bare face, Kylo decides, is the abuse he’ll receive if the makeup is plainly obvious. He can hear Hux sneering: really Ren, you expect me to believe you were born with pink lips and smoky eyes? No, Hux will be crueler than that. I asked you to take your kriffing mask off, not come to me wearing another one. Do you wear this every day, or just when you think you’re going to get fucked? You look like a pleasure droid made by a species that had no concept of what humans deem attractive.

Kylo snarls angrily, tears in his eyes, and throws his datapad to the ground. (Through some miracle, or perhaps just the Force, it doesn’t crack.) He leans his head into his hands. He has to get better at applying the cosmetics, if not tonight than by tomorrow morning. What if Hux wants to fuck him tomorrow? Wouldn’t refusing to remove his helmet count as an admission of his own ugliness?

Never mind that he still has to worry about making his hair look good after he removes his helmet. Typically, Kylo braids it back so it stays out of his face, but that only makes his ears look larger. He sighs and wishes he’d gotten them pinned when he had the opportunity. He’ll have to wear his hair down and hope it doesn’t get in the way. At least it’s decently full.

Hux doesn’t proposition Kylo the next day, which he decides is good because he still isn’t happy with is ability to properly use the makeup. He goes lighter on the eye makeup, though his brows still look cartoonishly strong for his face. He avoids wearing anything on his lips, and thinks they look better for it. Hux doesn’t say anything the following day, and then Kylo’s off-ship for a week recovering Dark artifacts for Snoke. In his spare time, he continues practicing applying the cosmetics, refining his technique. By the time he’s en route to the Finalizer, it’s a routine he can cycle through like a kata.

He opens with a clean face, then applies toner followed by a matte primer. Next, he covers his face and the underside of his chin in opaque foundation with a sponge, concentrating on covering the dark circles around his eyes and the moles and freckles everywhere else. He rubs primer onto his eyelids, blending it into the creases. After loosely dusting his face in translucent powder, he slides a cream contouring stick underneath his cheekbones and at his temples, followed by a cream highlighter across his cheeks, forehead, and down the bridge of his nose. He blends both until they flawlessly fade into this face before working on his eyes and brows.

The eyes are tricky, but Kylo feels more confident doing them now than he did when he first got the cosmetics kit. Using his thinnest brush with a neutral cream shadow, he angles the brush from the bottom of his eyelid near his lash line to the edge of his eye, then outlines the crease. A lighter eyeshadow goes across his lids and under his brows, and he finishes by setting with a powder and defining his lashes with a light coat of mascara. He fills in his eyebrows, putting most of the pencil on the underside, then steps away from the mirror in his onboard refresher, examining his face and making minor adjustments. He covers his lips in a thin layer of balm, having decided that changing their shape is out of the question, and sprays the cosmetics in place to keep them from smudging.

After working a texturizer through his hair and making sure it looks attractively tousled, Kylo sets his helmet on top of his head, locks it in place, and covers it with his cowl before exiting the refresher onboard his shuttle.

General Hux is waiting for him when the shuttle lands.

“Welcome back, Commander. I trust your mission was a success?”

“I was able to recover the Dathomirian artifacts requested by Leader Snoke without an issue,” Kylo replies. As they walk toward the command bridge, the conversation easily transitions into a report on the mission. At some point, Hux gently rubs his shoulder against Kylo’s, causing him to flinch.

“We have to stop meeting like this, Ren,” he says under his breath, keeping his eyes focused on the hallway ahead.

“Where would you take me?” Kylo replies. It’s the boldest he’s ever been in public, and he can feel the shock reverberating off of Hux.

“My quarters. 2100. Preferably without,” and Hux shoots a glance at him, appraising the helmet, “anything on.”

For once, Kylo feels something close to confidence.

It’s fleeting, though. By the time 2100 rolls around and Kylo makes his way over to Hux’s quarters, he's having a hard time keeping his nerves in check. He’s spent the day checking his face to ensure none of the makeup smudged, making sure his hair looks alright, destroying a weapons droid in the armory out of anxiety, checking to make sure his hair doesn't smell strange. Kylo is certain Hux will be put off by his voice and decides at the last moment, as the blasteel doors to his room begin to open, that he will speak as little as possible.

But when he gets to Hux’s quarters and unlocks his helmet, Hux’s response is merely “You are unfairly lovely, Ren,” before he seizes upon him and furiously kisses his lips, dragging him toward the bedroom. He barely has time to worry about Hux noticing the foundation caked onto his face, never mind anything besides getting his clothes off and getting close to Hux.

Now that Hux knows what he looks like, he seems to be insatiable. Barely a day goes by when Hux doesn’t want to see his face, and Kylo finds himself getting better and faster at applying the cosmetics. He’s still anxious and shy whenever Hux kisses him, worried that one day he’ll rub up against his cheek and half the foundation and contouring creams will have transferred over. But the days pass, Hux says nothing, and Kylo suspects that Hux doesn't even realize he could wear cosmetics.

It’s only after two weeks, when he’s lying in Hux’s bed on evening feeling exhausted and overstimulated and content, that his sense of security shatters.

“I’m hopping in the sonic,” says Hux, pulling himself up from the bed. “Join me?” It’s an invitation he’s extended before, one Kylo always declines.

“What if I like smelling like you?” he replies, rolling over in bed.

“What if I like my sheets staying fresh?”

“I just don’t want to shower.” Kylo frowns, trying to come up with a better excuse.

Hux tuts. “Ren, it’s okay. I know you wear cosmetics, just take a shower with me—”

Hux knows. Kylo’s breath hitches, his stomach drops, and he’s suddenly hit with a wave of shame.

“You don’t want to see me without them,” he mutters. “Just…just trust me.” He’s not sure whether he wants to scream or cry.

“Ren—Kylo—I’m not attracted to you because of what you look like.” There it is, thinks Kylo, he thinks I’m horrible. Hux frowns, bites his lip, and continues. “No, no, it’s not that, I meant to say I was attracted to you before I knew what you looked like! And you look,” his eyes dart up at the ceiling, and Kylo is certain he’s trying to think of some tactful way to tell him what he looks like. “You’re handsome,” Hux finally says. “Kylo Ren, I think you’re really handsome.”

“You’re lying,” Kylo says reflexively, because of course Hux is lying.

“Read my thoughts if you want. I promise you I’m not.”

“You’re…you’re only showing me what I want to see,” says Kylo. He can feel the tears starting in his eyes, and although all the cosmetics are waterproof and he always makes sure to use a sealer, he doesn’t trust that they won’t smudge. Appearing in front of Hux with smearing makeup He flings the sheets away, pushing himself out of bed and bending down to pick up his clothes from the floor.

“You’re being a child, Ren.”

“Stop talking,” snaps Kylo, “or so help me I will shut you up.” He throws on his robes blindly, not caring whether he looks rumpled, and closes his ears to Hux’s protests. “I shouldn’t have ever agreed to show you my face,” he adds as he locks his helmet onto his head and turns to leave.

Behind him, Hux calls out feebly.

Chapter Text

When Kylo wakes up the next day, his head aches, his chest aches, and there’s an uncomfortable stinging in his sore eyes. He sits up on his bed and thanks the Maker that his robes are coated with a material that makes them both liquid and wrinkle-resistant. He rubs at his eyes and curses himself as stares down at his now brown and taupe-smudged fingers. He didn’t even wash his face last night.

With a sigh, he heads toward the refresher. His skin is a wreck, splotches around his cheeks, his eyes still red and swollen from crying. The smudges of eyeshadow and eyeliner around his eyes only serve to make the bags and circles under them look deeper, and even his moles seem larger and uglier than before as they peek through layers of caked-on makeup. The filled-in space between his eyebrows has smudged off in the night, whether on his clothes or on his linens.

He’s so ugly. Kylo knows this, has known it for longer than he cares to admit. His tantrums, his insecurities, his inability to be honest -- all those things can’t be hidden under foundation and contour. It was only a matter of time before Hux realized it, and Kylo wouldn’t have accepted his offer to fuck if he thought he was dense. Stars, he was dense to have thought he could pass as anything other than ugly.

The cleanser foams up in the palm of his hand as he runs the taps in his ‘fresher’s sink. He scrubs it into his skin, sighing as his fingers scrape against stubble and bumpy spots. He squints as he scrubs across his eyelids and brows, splashes water onto his face and opens his eyes just in time to watch the water change from pink-tan to clear. It’s not until Kylo has toweled off his face that he dares to look at himself again.

He’s rubbed his skin raw and his eyebrows are disheveled, his lips large and his eyes small. For a moment he considers pulling his hair back with a tie and sealing himself into his helmet for the rest of the day, but the thought of Hux talking to him, convincing him to take it off, causes  him to reach for his cosmetics kit, to pull out the pigments and sponges and brushes.

Kylo has barely been on the command bridge when Hux approaches him, pristine as always, not a hair out of place or any sign of emotional turmoil written across his face. “General,” he says, glad that his helmet filters out most of the uncertainty in his voice.

“Ren, a word.” 

Despite the fact that he could incapacitate Hux, Kylo feels his heart sinking. He inhales, straightens up, prepares for the inevitable.

Hux remains impassive and emotionless. “I read through your report on the artifacts you recovered. You’ve really improved in your ability to write a thorough report, and I commend you both for your scholarly research and for your quick turnaround. Don’t be so stupefied, Ren,” says Hux, clearly picking up on Kylo’s shock. "You did a good job.”

After what feels like an uncomfortably long period, Kylo finds his voice again. “Thank you.” The words feel foreign on his tongue, the first time in what seems like forever he’s received praise from someone he considers a superior who isn’t the Supreme Leader himself. He turns his back on Hux before he can say anything else and throws himself into the holorecords for reconstructing a map of the Unknown Regions.

It’s isn’t hard for Kylo to fall back into the routine he had before he and Hux began fucking. He wakes up alone in his small bedroom, washes his face haphazardly and bathes when he needs to, dresses in the cleanest clothes he has before taking his turn on the command bridge. If he is lucky enough to have a mission (and he schedules several missions off the Finalizer), he finds himself alone on his shuttle and dozes when and where he can. When he isn’t researching and executing missions or sleeping, he trains, exerts himself as hard as he possibly can whether through physical or Force-based training. And if Hux chooses to remark on any of his behavior to him, he’s as emotionless as he strives to be.

He keeps wearing the cosmetics, though not as heavily as when he and Hux were…together. Kylo hides his spots, covers his circles, draws in thicker brows. He doesn’t want to think about why he does this, how wearing makeup without an occasion to show his face makes no sense. He does this whenever he’s on the Finalizer, even if his day means nothing more than research, meetings, training until his knuckles are red and his abdomen aches. It’s very easy to slip into the self-contained state he knew for most of his life. This might be why Kylo, as he trudges back to his quarters one night after spending three hours locked in a private training room, doesn’t register that the officer he’s bumped into in the hall is Hux. 

There’s something off about him. He looks exhausted, washed-out, the circles underneath his eyes stronger and deeper. His cheeks look splotchy, his lashes not as dark as Kylo remembers them, the contours of his face less rigid. The dark orange stubble, though unfamiliar, is to be expected at this hour. The faint brown and pink freckles that cover Hux’s cheeks and sprinkle across his forehead and jawline are a surprise.

The words are out of Kylo’s mouth before he realizes what he’s saying. “General, are you ill?”

Hux looks at him sharply, and in that moment, as Kylo watches his face flush, he knows he’s said the wrong thing. “I, I’m sorry, General. I just—”

“No, Ren,” replies Hux. His gaze is direct, his eyes narrowed, and yet the most apparent thing on his face isn’t anger, but embarrassment. “You’re just seeing me without cosmetics.”

Oh, thinks Kylo, which is immediately followed by the shock of Hux wearing cosmetics and a wave of shame at his own loose tongue. He’s sure he can’t cark up the situation even more. “You wear cosmetics?”

Hux really looks pained, and Kylo feels his stomach drop. “Must you be so loud, now the entire kriffing ship knows,” Hux hisses, and yanks him into his room.

There’s an uncomfortable silence in which Kylo looks at Hux, looks down at his feet, and looks back at Hux before finally unlocking his helmet and removing it, even though he knows it’s likely smudged from training. He sighs. “I….I’m sorry. I misspoke.” 

Hux shrugs. “You were surprised.”

“I shouldn’t have said anything.”

“Ren, stop self-flagellating.”

Kylo stares down at his helmet. “You didn’t tell me.”

“I tried, but you stormed out of my bedroom before I could get a word in edgewise, and you’ve been impossible to speak to for the last standard month.”

“But why? You’re…” and Kylo trails off. True, Hux looks tired without the cosmetics, but his cheeks are ruddy and the faint traces of freckles make him gentler, younger.

“Imperfect,” offers Hux.

“That’s not what I was going to say.”

“It was on the tip of your tongue,” says Hux. He folds his arms against his chest. “I don’t know how your home world regarded freckles, but among the echelon on Arkanis they were an anomaly, a genetic mutation which by all rights should have been controlled for and removed from my code before I was born.” Hux sits down on the bed and gestures to his face. “These spots, I was told, were the mark of an Outer Rim peasant. Another weakness my mother passed on to me,” he adds quietly. He looks up for a moment, closes his eyes, and sighs. “Who would take a military officer seriously if they had freckles? My father didn’t have them, and I couldn’t have them, either.

“I spent my days covering as much of my body as I could and avoiding the sun as much as possible—not terribly hard on Arkanis, though even cloudy light provoked the spots. To make matters worse, in my teens I suffered from hormonal blemishes, spent a fortune on topicals and internal medication before turning to low-grade chemical peels to keep my face from looking tumorous. My father finally intervened when I graduated the academy, and paid for me to go to a derma-med and get a full-body pigment correction.” Kylo frowns. He’s heard of the procedure, has even looked into it as a way to remove or lighten his own dark spots. He can imagine a teenage Hux lying on a med table, lasers pulsing against every inch of his skin, the pain of being burned and burned for hours. He knows what the recovery period looks like too, how Hux must have endured weeks of dark scabs sloughing off his body and tender skin taking its place. 

His words again slip from his mouth. “How long did it take?"

Hux smiles, not unkindly. “About five procedures, over the course of a standard month. The first complete pigment correction took care of my freckles for nearly seven years. It was an expensive series of procedures, though aside from going for an annual touch-up I’ve all but eliminated them. Radiation screening creams are helpful for preventing the freckles, but going planet-side to Starkiller Base makes them worse.” Hux’s eyes flicker toward the refresher. “Hence the cosmetics, at least until I can schedule another laser pigment correction. They help me to always look rested, polished, in authority." 

“I had no idea,” is all Kylo manages to say. 

“It’s not something most people talk about,” says Hux, closing his eyes. “Really, do you think you’re so unique for hating your face? Do you think you’re the first person to wear makeup to feel more confident? Or that others don’t have similar insecurities?”

“I—” he starts to say, but changes his mind, “—Supreme Leader would be disgusted by my vanity.” 

Hux rolls his eyes. “Snoke doesn’t need to know about this, nor should he care.”

“But you care,” says Kylo, and he feels the sick shame welling up inside of his chest. He’s angry with himself for even caring about personal appearance; he should be above that altogether. He hates himself for thinking he could fool Hux, that Hux would have ever believed he was as attractive as he tried to be with the cosmetics.

“I care because,” Hux pauses, blinks. “I care because it affects this relationship.” There’s a long pause where neither of them says anything. Hux’s brows twitch. "Let me remove your makeup for you.”

“No,” says Kylo.

“Look, if nothing else, let me show you how to properly remove your cosmetics. There’s no use keeping them on now that they’ve smudged.” He frowns. “And the cleanser you’re using isn’t strong enough and there are traces on your face that taking a sonic can’t remove. It’s only going to…to irritate your skin.” Hux’s fingertips dance across the inside of his palm, as though he’s trying to restrain himself from reaching out toward Kylo’s face. “Let me, please. I’ve laid myself bare for you."

Kylo nods and looks down.

Hux returns from the refresher with a package of thin cloths. They're moist against Kylo's face and have a clean, soapy scent.

“I’m going to remove your makeup now. While I do so, I want you to pay attention to my thoughts and emotions.”

“You don’t have to do this,” Kylo hears himself grumble.

“I do. If it’s the only way to show you that I honestly couldn’t care if I rub off all the cosmetics and you aren’t even human underneath.”

“Fine,” he says shortly. He squeezes his eyes shut and holds his breath as Hux gently passes a cloth, beginning on his jawline. Soft, he hears in Hux’s mind, elegant. His nose twitches. The cloth circles up toward his cheeks, and as he pulls away Kylo blushes at Hux thinking blush, how endearing. He wants to dismiss it as sarcasm, as mockery, but he’s not reading any malice from it. Hux tuts, and then a moment later Kylo feels a soft peck on his cheek.

“What—”

“You have beauty marks. I never knew.”

“Don’t call them that,” Kylo mumbles. He can feel his eyes watering. “They’re just spots." 

“Then they’re the nicest spots I’ve ever seen,” says Hux. When that cloth is saturated with the remnants of foundation and powder he picks up a new one, this time rubbing around his eyes. Kylo tries not to think about how different they must look without the contour, how small and hooded they must seem.

“Open your eyes, look up,” commands Hux, and Kylo does, letting Hux swipe away the smudged eyeliner and mascara. He purposefully avoids looking at him, flinches when Hux traces a fingertip over his brows and he registers expressive, affectionate.

Kylo pushes Hux away as soon as he feels his eyes begin to sting. “Stop.”

“What?”

“I….I need to use the refresher,” he mumbles. “I think I’m allergic to something on the cloths, my eyes keep twitching, they’re watering—” He pushes himself up from the bed. Hux’s hand falls to his shoulder.

“Get a hold of yourself, Ren.”

Kylo pulls the arm away. “Let go of me,” he snarls as he stands. There’s a moment when neither speaks before Hux exhales loudly and throws his makeup-soaked cloths to the ground.

“You are a child and a self-absorbed idiot,” he says evenly. “You must think you’re the first person in the galaxy to hate their face. Did you even listen to a word I said? Do I need to spell out that I wasn’t taken seriously by my peers or professors, shunned by my own father, because of the way I looked?” Hux’s voice rises, and Kylo can hear it tremble. “Ren…Kylo, I know you don’t like your face. I don’t like my face, never mind the rest of how I look. Everyone pfassking hates the way they look and it would do you well to get used to that and to get over yourself.”  

Kylo wishes he were powerful enough at Force manipulation to cause Hux’s room to cave in around both of them and crush them. As it is, he manages to channel his rage into shattering the lights overhead. The hyperfluor lights brighten before they blow out, plunging them into the darkness for a moment before the auxiliary lights flicker on.

“I swear—”

“It’s not that.” Kylo’s eyes dart to the ceiling, the refresher door, the floor, anywhere but Hux’s face. “It’s not that I hate my face. It’s…you’re the — the first to say.” He looks up and sees Hux is frowning.

“I don’t believe you.”

It’s not entirely true. There were his parents, of course, though for every compliment there was a snipe about his hair, the circles under his eyes, his poor hygiene, subtle critiques of how he wasn’t groomed enough, had no presence. They’d been said with the intent of care, though Kylo didn’t believe his parents’ opinion on anything held much weight, let alone the way he looked. And there had been a boy a lifetime ago, a padawan he dwarfed by six inches or more, a boy who was stocky with a heavy brow and crooked teeth. He’d been the only boy to overlook his teenage awkwardness, if only because it offset his own.  

“You’re the first who’s mattered.” Kylo looks up at Hux quickly before his eyes dart over to one flickering light, hoping to distract himself from the sudden ache spreading across his palms and up his arms. Hux is the most intelligent, most high-ranking, most attractive person to compliment him. He's the one who deserves to be called elegant, endearing, affectionate.

Kylo’s face must truly be transparent, because in the next moment Hux’s arms are pulling him close, one hand rubbing circles into his back. It’s hesitant — reflective of a lack of practice, not malice or disgust, he reminds himself. Hux’s voice echoes against his chest. 

“You really have no idea. You, of all people. When you first arrived on the Finalizer I had no idea who or even what you were, if you’d ever consider wanting me. But I wanted you from the start.” Hux draws in a breath and exhales shakily. “Your strength, your command, your…your understanding of how people behave. I don’t know how to tell you. I thought complimenting you would do it, or baring myself.” There’s wetness on the back of Kylo’s neck, and that scares him. 

“I’m sorry,” he hears himself say. He’s ashamed by how small he sounds.

“About what?”

“That I don’t,” he starts, before realizing his doubts go beyond whether or not he has a good face, or whether Hux thinks he’s desirable. In Hux’s arms, he feels too warm, his clothes too tight, and he’s not sure whether he wants to destroy something or destroy himself. This isn’t how it’s supposed to happen — Hux can’t possibly be this tender, and he shouldn’t find himself so affected.

Hux’s hands run down his back. “You don’t have to apologize.”

“I do. I…I—” 

“Ren. Kylo. You are enough. You are more than enough. And whatever you wish people called you, that’s what I’d like to call you, too.”

Kylo squeezes his eyes closed and sighs. If any tears fall out of his eyes, Hux chooses not to mention them.

“I should go,” Kylo says, rubbing the back of his hand against his face roughly. He’s not even sure how long he’s been in Hux’s quarters — perhaps minutes, perhaps hours.

“You can, if you want to,” Hux replies, his hands continuing to work on the muscles in his shoulders.

“I’m tired. Haven’t been sleeping well." 

“Me neither."

Kylo knows how he ought to reply. Hux has given him control in this conversation. He sighs into the nape of Hux’s neck. “What happens now?”

“What do you want to happen?”

“I miss you.” Kylo is unprepared when Hux tilts his head toward his, and more unprepared when he kisses him on the jaw.

“I did, too.” Hux’s eyes meet his. “You know — and you can take it for what it’s worth, if you choose — I wouldn’t even notice half the imperfections you’ve catalogued. If you want to wear makeup because it makes you feel better about yourself, I accept that. I won’t judge.” He smiles, and Kylo briefly puts away his doubt and cynicism and realizes it’s earnest, empathetic, gentle, countless qualities he would have never ascribed to Hux before tonight. 

“So we…”

“If you want to, of course.”

“I do,” says Kylo, and he kisses Hux, working over his mouth, pulling gently on his lips until they part. It’s impulsive and tender and foreign, and Kylo’s not entirely sure he knows what he’s doing, but Hux is indulgent and kind. His eyelashes fan out against his skin, translucent against the lights in his quarters, and his freckles remind Kylo of speckled stones, of the warm summer days from his youth. Hux starts, looks at Kylo, and he’s suddenly aware how green his eyes are.

“You think my freckles are…beautiful?”

Kylo swallows, pulls back. He hadn’t counted on revealing it through unconscious projections.

“I do,” he says quietly. “They make you look youthful. And…alive,” he says, even as his face flushes.

Hux laughs. Kylo realizes it’s the first time he’s heard Hux laugh, wasn’t even sure before this moment that he could laugh. “You’ll learn how to give compliments in time, Kylo.” He cups his hand around the back of Kylo’s head, gently pulls him forward. “And how to take them, too. Stars, I missed you, you gorgeous man. Gorgeous and clever and strong.” He pauses, smiles. "Mine.”

Kylo looks at Hux, remembers a trick his mother once taught him of finding your reflection in the dark pupils of someone else’s eyes. He stares into them, sees himself reflected in miniature, his hair loose around his face, his nose and mouth and ears at the forefront, his eyes looking doubtful — or is it hopeful? He pulls back from that view, looking at Hux, whose face seems to hold all the beauty and validation he’d always thought was out of reach. It’s here, if you want it, Hux seems to say. 

So Kylo leans in, putting his doubts momentarily aside as he meets Hux’s kiss, and accepts it.