“What’s wrong with him?”
Everyone in the room startles and whirls toward the sound of Kylo Ren’s voice, except Hux, who only laughs under his breath. Hux is still seated on the examining table, his shoulders uncharacteristically slumped.
“Oh, good,” Hux says, blinking heavily at the sight of Ren, who has crept into med bay without warning and is now lurking in the shadows of a tall medicart in the back corner. “Ren is here. This should go well.”
“What’s wrong with him?” Ren asks again. He’s speaking through his mask, and walking closer.
Mitaka braces himself. He’s been practicing not cowering in Ren’s presence since the choking incident, with mixed results. The members of medical who are present don’t bother to hide their own trepidation, all of them backing away as Ren approaches.
“I fell,” Hux says. “Weren’t you there? Did I imagine that?”
“General Hux was suffering from a planet-borne virus--” the head doctor begins, his words trailing off as Ren looms into his personal space.
“I know what happened,” Ren says. “I mean now.” He points at Hux. “What’s wrong with him? Why does his hair look like that?”
“My hair?” Hux says, touching it. He’s still moving slowly, drowsy and heavy-lidded.
“That’s just discoloration from the bacta,” one of the nurses says. “It’ll wash out in a few days.”
Everyone stares at Hux, who goes on patting at his hair, looking concerned for the first time since he came out of the tank. His hair does look discolored, paler than usual and almost blond. Mitaka noticed, too, but didn’t feel it was his place to ask, despite the fact that he’s been assigned as Hux’s minder until he regains his strength. The order came directly from Commander Pavk, who is in charge of the entire Finalizer until Hux is fully back to himself. Mitaka was honored to be selected, even a little giddy, but he’s regretting the assignment now. He did not consider the potential involvement of Kylo Ren.
“General Hux will need monitoring for the remainder of the cycle,” the assistant doctor says, speaking to Mitaka while Ren continues to loom silently, staring at Hux now.
“I’m fine,” Hux says, waving this instruction away. He seems drunk; he’s swaying a bit on the table and smiling slightly. “I feel great. You’re all dismissed.”
“Shut up,” Ren says, before the doctor can object. “You’re on sedatives. You don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“You don’t know what you’re talking about,” Hux says to Ren, and he snorts. “Why are you even here?”
Ren doesn’t respond, but also doesn’t leave.
“I understand you’ll be watching over him?” the head doctor says to Mitaka, who attempts to nod confidently. He can feel Ren’s eyes upon him, and a phantom tightening in his throat that he’s probably only imagining.
“That’s unnecessary,” Hux says, most of the second word lost in a yawn. Something about the sight of his commanding officer yawning makes Mitaka’s chest tighten. He wants to protect poor General Hux, who caught that awful virus when he was scrambling to fix things in the wake of the Starkiller disaster. He also wants to keep Kylo Ren away from Hux, but he’s aware of his limitations in that area.
“I’m afraid it is necessary, sir,” the doctor says. “You’re still somewhat sedated, and bacta leaves behind certain side effects-- and because of the injury to your head, you’re not to sleep until the end of this cycle.”
“Oh, I’m good at that,” Hux says. He looks like he’s going to pass out at any moment, his eyes nearly closed. “Sleep efficiency, I-- I can do that.”
“Lack of sleep is why you passed out on the bridge and almost brained yourself on a console,” Ren says.
Mitaka tenses. He wants to object to Ren’s frank language. The General doesn’t need a rebuke right now. He overworked himself, perhaps, but that’s hardly something that should be mocked or judged. It’s admirable.
“Lieutenant,” the head doctor says, snapping Mitaka’s attention back to the task at hand. “Please escort the General to his rooms. See to it that he takes some fluids every hour, does not sleep, and does not exhibit any signs of bacta poisoning. You have been briefed on what those are?”
“Good. General, it’s been a pleasure to be part of your care team. All signs indicate a full recovery, sir.”
“Of course,” Hux says, sliding off the exam table. “I’m much heartier than I look.”
Hux is wearing soft, medbay-issue pajamas, pale blue with short sleeves. The pants are baggy on him, and his feet are in slippers. The sight tugs at Mitaka’s heart, and he hurries forward to catch the General’s arm when he wobbles on his feet, but Ren gets there first. Hux pushes Ren away and stumbles into Mitaka.
“Oh, Dopheld,” Hux says, blinking at Mitaka as if he’s just noticed his presence. “Good, that’s right. You’re my emergency contact, you know?”
Mitaka can only stare, his mouth hanging open. Ren is glaring at him: Mitaka can feel it like a blaster sighted on his forehead.
“That’s true, actually,” a nurse says, coming to take Hux’s other elbow and help him across the medbay. “We were-- Surprised, sir,” she says, smiling at Hux when he glances at her.
“I trust Dopheld!” Hux says, cheerfully. “His heart is pure.”
The nurse stares at Mitaka. He can feel his face getting very hot, and he’s beginning to worry that he’s not just imagining the tightness in his throat. Ren is trailing behind them.
“Thank you, sir,” Mitaka manages to say. Hux gives him a drowsy smile and reaches over to pat his chest.
“That’s a good boy,” Hux says.
Mitaka feels like he’ll drop through the floor. Behind them, Ren makes a choked, disapproving noise.
“He’ll be a little loopy for a few hours,” the nurse says, winking at Mitaka when he gives her a desperate look at the door that leads out to the hallway.
Mitaka helps Hux walk to his rooms, pretending not to be hyper-aware of Kylo Ren stomping behind them the whole way there. Ren keeps a few feet back, but when Mitaka helps Hux lift his hand to authorize entry, Ren is upon them. He seems to expect to be allowed inside as well.
“I’ll take over from here,” Ren says, speaking to Mitaka, who feels a kind of pressure at his temples and fights it off, for Hux’s sake. “Get lost, Lieutenant.”
“I think I should stay,” Mitaka says, proud of himself for keeping his voice steady even as he very literally shakes in his boots. “I-- I’ve been assigned, and the General--”
“Ignore Ren,” Hux says, loudly, as he saunters into his front room. “He thinks he owns my body just because we fucked a few times.”
Mitaka stays planted in place, the flush that bloomed on his face back in medbay turning into something near-catastrophic that he’s tempted to blame on Kylo Ren, who is also standing in place outside Hux’s door, also seemingly stunned.
“Great,” Ren says, shoving Mitaka into the front room. “Now I have to wipe his mind.”
“Don’t you dare!” Hux says, turning around so quickly that he almost falls over. Both Ren and Mitaka hurry forward to steady him, but Ren gets there first. The door to Hux’s rooms slides shut, and Mitaka’s sense of being trapped in this situation skyrockets. Hux bats Ren away and crashes into the wall near his bedroom door. “If you touch my lieutenant again,” Hux says, pointing his finger at Ren. “I’ll kill you.”
“I’m terrified,” Ren says, deadpan. But there is something dejected in his posture as Hux moves around him and into the bedroom.
“Dopheld!” Hux calls. “Be a good boy and get me something to drink. I think I’ll have a brandy, seeing as I’ve been forced to skip my shift anyway.”
“No,” Ren says. “Water.”
“Pfff,” Hux says, but he accepts a glass of water when Mitaka brings it to him. Ren fills the bedroom doorway completely, and Mitaka isn’t sure what to do next when Hux hands him the half empty glass of water. He isn’t even sure where to look. Hux cocks his head and gives Mitaka a mild, curious stare. “Sit down, Dopheld,” he says, patting the bed. “You look nervous.”
“Yes, sir. I mean-- I’m not, sir, I’m fine, I’m just concerned for you, we all are--”
Mitaka makes himself stop talking and sits, trying very hard not to look at Ren, who remains in the bedroom doorway. When he gives in and glances at Ren, he instantly regrets it. Though the helmet is still in place, Mitaka imagines he can feel Ren’s cruel eyes narrowing on him, and Ren’s Force powers trying to weasel their way in to wipe his mind. Whatever that means.
“I assure you, I’m fine,” Hux says, slumping back onto his pillows. “Tell me, Dopheld-- Am I imagining things, or, when I collapsed on the bridge, did Lord Ren race toward me and shout my name in a panic?”
Ren shifts, breathing more heavily through that mask.
“I-- I believe that’s what happened, sir,” Mitaka says, more unwilling to be dishonest with his General than he’s afraid of what Ren might do to him for confirming this information.
“I sensed that you were near death,” Ren says, shouting. “From the opposite side of the ship. You wanted me to-- What? Shrug it off? Celebrate?”
“Oh, Ren,” Hux says, tilting his head. “You’re still here?”
“I knew you were an obnoxious drunk,” Ren says. “But this is actually worse.”
“I’m just teasing,” Hux says, and he snorts. His eyes shift to Mitaka, who is still seated on the bed, straight-backed. “Ren is very sensitive,” Hux says. “The perils of a childhood spent in the New Republic. Not like you and I, eh, Dopheld? Tell me, was your father an Imperial officer?”
“He was-- He was a stormtrooper, sir. A volunteer,” Mitaka adds, hurriedly, so that Hux won’t think he means that he was fathered by one of the old clones. Hux doesn’t care for clones.
“That’s fascinating,” Hux says, leaning up off his pillows. He grabs Mitaka’s hand. “Forgive me for asking, but when did a stormtrooper find occasion to father a child?”
“I only ask because I’m a bastard, too,” Hux says, patting Mitaka’s hand. “So you can talk to me. I won’t look down on you. We came from modest means, you and I, and look where we are now. Don’t ever be ashamed of your origins, Dopheld. It’s impressive, what we’ve done with what we had. Remember that.”
“That’s it,” Ren says, wrenching into motion. “The General is not himself, and you’re out of here.”
“Oi!” Hux says when Ren grabs Mitaka’s shoulder. Hux swats at Ren, glowering. “What are you doing? We’re having an important conversation!”
“You’re stoned out of your mind and babbling your life story to a fucking lieutenant!”
“There’s nothing wrong with being a lieutenant! I was one, once! What would you know about it, you fucking ex-padawan?”
Frozen in place, Mitaka’s sweat goes cold when he realizes he’s literally in the middle of a lover’s quarrel.
“Fine,” Ren says, holding up his hands. “Good, continue. You deserve to wake up tomorrow and realize you spilled all your secrets to some deckhand.”
“Well, maybe they shouldn’t be secrets,” Hux says, still glaring at Ren. He slides his arm around Mitaka’s shoulders, bracing himself against Mitaka’s very rigid posture. “Why should I be ashamed? My father was married to an older woman who helped him fund the rebuilt Academy, you see,” Hux says, mumbling this into Mitaka’s ear as if it is still a secret after all. “It was a political marriage. There were plenty of those at that time. Meanwhile, the Empire needs children!” he roars, suddenly at full volume. Mitaka flinches.
Ren is pacing near the door of the refresher, his arms crossed over his chest and his breathing still audibly agitated.
“So whatever, whatever,” Hux says, waving his free hand through the air. His eyelids have gotten heavy again. “Don’t let anyone make you feel bad about having a stormtrooper for a father. Least of all Ren. His father is a bloody pirate, for fuck’s sake.”
“That’s enough!” Ren shouts, turning back toward the bed. His hand flexes at his side, as if in mid-reach for that lightsaber.
“Oh, sorry.” Hux’s face goes white. He looks not afraid but sincerely remorseful, his eyes softening. “I forgot.” Hux leans against Mitaka again. “We ought not talk about fathers in front of Ren right now,” he says, whispering this rather loudly.
“We’re done here,” Ren says, coming at Mitaka again. This time he successfully rips him from Hux’s grip and up off the bed. Mitaka’s feet scrabble uselessly against the floor as he’s dragged from the room, and his heart slams in his chest. He remembers this part vividly: being dragged by Ren, helpless to resist. He’s not being yanked through the air by his neck this time, but Ren is holding the collar of Mitaka’s uniform jacket, pulling it flush against his throat, and it’s enough to make Mitaka’s mental processes go offline with pure, reloaded terror.
“Thank you for your services,” Ren says, slamming his fist against the door panel. “We no longer require them,” he adds as he tosses Mitaka out into the hallway. “And if you repeat a word of what he said to anyone, you’re going out an airlock.”
Then Mitaka is out in the hallway, trying to breathe.
His vision tunnels, but he doesn’t pass out. He steadies himself against the wall and takes a few tentative steps, wanting to flee back to his room and hide in his bed until his next shift. Or better yet, in Thanisson’s bed, preferably if Thanisson is in it, too.
But Mitaka is not a weak, sensitive, New Republic-bred man ruled by emotions. He straightens himself, takes several deep breaths, and touches his neck. He has been given an assignment. He will not be intimidated by the likes of Kylo Ren, even if Ren is physically capable of holding poor Hux hostage.
He goes directly to Commander Pavk, reports that Kylo Ren has forcibly evicted him from his post, and asks Pavk to please advise about how to proceed, hoping that she will order a full interior attack on Ren for the General’s sake.
Commander Pavk pinches the bridge of her nose and exhales slowly.
“There is a highly classified security feed for the General’s rooms,” Pavk says, still holding the bridge of her nose. “I will grant you access for the purpose of making sure that the General has not been compromised by Lord Ren. Alert me at once if you witness anything-- Alarming.”
“Do not question my recommendation, Lieutenant. The situation is sensitive, but not as dire as you might think. Follow me.”
“Yes, sir. Sorry, sir.”
Pavk takes Mitaka to a small room not far from the bridge, adjacent to the regular security monitoring station. It’s windowless, about the size of a closet, and there are only three monitors on the wall. Pavk uses a key to turn the middle one on, and a three-paneled view of Hux’s rooms pops onto the screen. The left panel shows Hux’s empty front room, the middle one shows Hux sitting in bed, and the one on the right offers a view of Kylo Ren refilling a glass of water in Hux’s wet bar area.
“Do me a favor,” Pavk says, turning to leave as Mitaka takes a seat at the monitoring desk. “Don’t flick the audio on until I’m gone. And don’t contact me unless you see something going really wrong in there.”
She exits the room, and Mitaka observes the controls available on the monitoring desk. His hand trembles as he reaches for the audio switch, and he steadies himself for his updated assignment. He’s doing this for the General, who trusts him. Mitaka doesn’t trust Kylo Ren, meanwhile.
“Hey!” Ren barks as soon as the audio flicks on. He’s entering Hux’s bedroom with the glass of water. “What are you doing? Sit up!”
“I’m tired,” Hux mumbles, crawling onto the pillows. “You’re always telling me to sleep, so let me fucking get on with it.”
Ren walks to the bed and dumps the entire glass of water onto Hux’s head.
Mitaka leaps out of his chair, ready to report this assault. Hux is cursing and kicking at Ren.
“What the fuck!” Hux shouts, snarling.
“You can’t sleep for another four hours. The doctor said so.”
Ren slams the empty glass onto the bedside table and sits on the bed. He’s still wearing his helmet, gloves, everything. Mitaka gasps when Ren jerks Hux upright and gives him a sharp little slap to the cheek.
“Stop!” Hux says, but he doesn’t put up much of a struggle when Ren slaps him again.
“Stay awake,” Ren says. Another slap. Mitaka reaches for the console’s comm, his heart thudding wildly. Ren can’t do that to the General. This is no way to keep him from sleeping; Mitaka would have been gentler and more creative.
“Ren,” Hux says, his voice wobbling in a way that stops Mitaka before he can press the bridge-call button. “I’m so tired.”
“I know. Idiot. You got yourself into this situation because you wouldn’t rest after you got sick. You had a fever. Still wouldn’t fucking sleep.”
“And I passed out on the bridge. Oh, fuck. It’s over, Ren. Everyone saw. What they must think.”
“They think you were working hard to right the ship after Starkiller. And they know you got a virus because of a personal visit to Boonma that netted us some needed allies. Did you not see that pissant Mitaka falling all over himself to please you before I threw him out on his ass? Your staff still worships you.”
“I don’t know, I don’t know. I can’t think. I need to sleep.”
“Later.” Ren slaps him again.
Mitaka resumes his seat, his heart still beating fast. Ren has his arm around Hux’s back. He’s stroking Hux’s bicep with his thumb.
“Take this off,” Hux says, grabbing the mouthpiece of Ren’s mask. “I have something I need to say to you.”
Ren groans as if he doesn’t want to find out what that might be, but he takes off the helmet. Mitaka leans closer. The camera is mounted on the wall facing the bed, and Ren is turned away from it, toward Hux. Ren has long, dark hair and a big nose, but Mitaka can’t make out much else yet. Thanisson owes him some credits, anyway, because Ren is certainly human.
“I’m sorry I spoke about-- Pirates,” Hux says, mumbling. He’s palming Ren’s cheek, swooning toward him. “And-- I said something idiotic to Mitaka, didn’t I?”
Ren hesitates to respond, but only for a moment. “Yes,” he says. His voice is still strange, even without the vocoder. It’s too deep, or too openly expressive, or something. Hux groans and leans against Ren, trying to put his head on Ren’s shoulder. Ren pulls Hux upright and slaps his cheek again, more softly this time.
“C’mon,” Ren says. “Be good for me.”
Mitaka is riveted, wide-eyed. The look on Hux’s face is pleading and pitiable, desperate for comfort. Probably only because he’s not well.
“I thought I finally had a foothold,” Hux says. “And then I was just-- Falling. Smacking my head on a console on the way down.”
“I tried to catch you. I ran.”
“I probably have brain damage. They probably told you and not me.”
“Then why are you being so--” Hux leans away from Ren and gives him a scrutinizing look. “Why didn’t you just let Mitaka look after me? Surely you have better things to do.”
“He’s an incompetent child. You’re a valuable asset.”
“He’s not-- I am?”
Mitaka fumes, watching Ren remove his gloves before he resumes stroking the underside of Hux’s forearm, his other arm tucked around Hux’s waist. By the looks of it, Ren isn’t much older than Mitaka. Nowhere near old enough to call Mitaka a child, anyway, and when has Mitaka ever been incompetent in Ren’s presence? When he failed to block a brutal Force attack and lost a completely stacked, entirely unfair fight?
Hux is peering at Ren with a kind of sad curiosity, as if he can’t quite make sense of what’s happening but doesn’t have the presence of mind to untangle himself from the situation.
“That feels good,” Hux says, almost too softly for the audio to pick it up.
Mitaka shivers. Perhaps he should look away. But he can’t even force himself to blink.
“I know,” Ren mumbles, still stroking Hux’s arm.
“I can-- When you. I feel it.”
“Oh. When I like something you’re doing to me. Right. Don’t make me think about the Force right now, please. My brains will leak out my ears. They’re already scrambled.”
“They fucked up your hair,” Ren says, reaching up to disorder it even further.
“To hell with my stupid hair. I fucked up my life.”
“No. When? You didn’t. Mistakes were made. By-- Some people. Not necessarily by you. Supreme Leader is wise. He will lead us to victory. I’ve foreseen it.”
“Us! Since when? Never mind, never mind. I don’t want to talk about that either.”
Hux tries to put his head on Ren’s shoulder. Ren allows it this time, but only for a few seconds. Then he lifts Hux up again and slaps his cheek, just lightly. Hux moans and closes his eyes.
“You’re cruel,” Hux says. For a moment it looks like he might kiss Ren for it. “What did you do with my lieutenant?” he asks instead.
“He’s not your lieutenant.”
“Yes, he is. They’re all mine, in a sense. All the ones on this ship, anyway. Where is he? You’d better not have choked him, Ren-- Not him, not again. He’s my favorite one.”
“He’s fine.” Ren stands and grabs the glass of water from the bedside table. “Don’t put your head down,” he says, pointing at Hux. “I’ll be right back.”
Mitaka gasps when Ren turns toward the camera. He’s not especially handsome or ugly, but there is a scar splitting his face, diagonal and rather grisly. Ren is scowling on the way toward the wet bar, and Mitaka feels exposed, as if Ren is going to look up into his eyes with accusation at any moment.
Ren returns with the water and stands by the bed while Hux gulps from it. Hux puts the glass aside and stares up at Ren. Mitaka wonders if anyone else has ever seen the General look so sheepish.
“I meant he’s my favorite of the lieutenants,” Hux says. “Maybe of the bridge staff. But not my favorite-- Person.”
“What?” Ren snaps. “I know-- I-- What are you even talking about? No-- Don’t answer that. You’re still high from the tank. This is no time for conversation.”
Hux snorts. “How else am I supposed to stay awake?” he asks.
Then he opens his legs and tucks his arms behind his head, flexing toward Ren.
A bead of sweat rolls from the back of Mitaka’s right knee and down his leg, into his boot. He wipes his face with his hand. On the monitor, Hux moves his hand to the inside of his thigh, his legs sliding apart a bit more widely.
“I’m not fucking you,” Ren says. “You have a head injury.”
“So?” Hux laughs. “You were slapping me a moment ago. And there is a type of fucking that wouldn’t aggravate a head injury, you know. It doesn’t always have to be the bunk-breaking kind.”
“I don’t know about that kind of fucking. Something tells me you don’t know much about it yourself.”
“You think I’ve never been fucked slowly? With care?” Hux sighs and lets his head tip back onto the pillows, his eyes falling shut. “Maybe you’re right about that,” he says, muttering.
“Hey!” Ren straddles Hux and yanks him up by his arms. “Don’t. Sleep.”
“I’m not,” Hux says, frowning. His face is very close to Ren’s now.
Something about the way they’re looking at each other makes Mitaka wonder if they’ve ever kissed before.
“There was blood everywhere,” Ren says. “Two of your officers screamed.”
“What--” Hux pulls back a bit, frowning again. “When?”
“When you hit your head. Head wounds bleed a lot.”
“Oh. All I remember is you running in. I thought someone had shot me in the head, actually. Because of the look on your face.”
“The look-- What? You couldn’t see my face. I had my helmet on. And you were passing out right when I got to the bridge, so. How do you remember me being there at all?”
“I-- Maybe I’m imagining things,” Hux says. “Did you really run for me?”
Ren puts his hand on Hux’s face. His hand is so big, and Hux seems to appreciate this, turning his cheek against Ren’s palm, pale eyelashes fluttering. Mitaka can hear Ren breathing.
“I ran,” Ren says, and then he kisses Hux: carefully, slowly, as if he’s keeping the head injury in mind. Hux leaves his eyes closed and tugs Ren closer, pulling at the front of his tunic.
Mitaka feels uncomfortably aroused by the sight of the General’s little pink tongue slipping into Ren’s mouth, and then there’s the sound of it, soft and wet. Hux moans. Ren’s hand slips under Hux’s pajama top and moves up over his chest, toward his nipples, which are visibly aroused against the thin fabric. Mitaka looks away, and manages to keep his eyes off the screen for a roughly five seconds.
“Are you going to do this to me for three more hours?” Hux asks, his lips moving against Ren’s. His eyes look suddenly bright, wide-awake. “Because I’m such a valuable asset?”
“I could,” Ren says. “I have endurance skills.”
Hux laughs, and this seems to ruin the moment. Ren pushes him away and leaves the bed. Mitaka is relieved, mostly. His cock is not entirely soft, and he’s much too hot inside his uniform.
“What if I threatened to sleep if you don’t fuck me?” Hux asks, watching as Ren rummages around on his desk.
“I won’t let you,” Ren says.
“And how else do you propose to keep me awake? Are you going to slap me for three hours? You’ll dislodge my brains yourself if you do that.”
“I’m sorry I slapped you, fuck!” Ren says, suddenly so loud that Mitaka rears backward. “I didn’t know what else to do.”
“Ren, I was joking, it didn’t even hurt--”
“We’re going to read this,” Ren says, holding up a holorecord. “Or-- I am. And you’re going to listen. That’s how you’ll stay awake.”
“Which one is that?” Hux asks, squinting.
“It’s Tarkin: A Life.”
“Oh, Ren.” Hux flexes as if he’s in mind of sex again. “My favorite book.”
Mitaka stares, unflinching. He watches Kylo Ren remove his cloak, boots, pants and then his tunic. In only a black undershirt and black briefs, he sits on the bed and arranges General Hux between his absurdly long legs and massive arms, holding the holorecord in front of him.
“Wilhuff Tarkin often remarked that his earliest memory was of his mother’s frequent reminders that the grand estate where he had been born was once an--”
“Untamed wilderness,” Hux says. He looks especially high again, grinning and letting his head slump back onto Ren’s shoulder, his eyes closed. “I love this part.”
“Sit up,” Ren says, nudging Hux upright again. Hux groans but obeys. “An untamed wilderness,” Ren continues. “Full of--” He pauses, and Hux visibly stiffens. “Pirates and marauders.”
Hux reaches back to stroke Ren’s cheek, still looking at the holorecord. When Ren takes a deep breath, Hux’s whole body sinks back against his chest, then rises with his exhale.
“The Tarkin family won peace on their home planet the hard way,” Ren says, his voice steady as he reads on, Hux’s fingers still moving on his cheek. “Through constant vigilance and an uncompromising commitment to instilling order where there had once been none.”
For over three hours, Ren reads from the Tarkin book, poking and shifting Hux to keep him awake. Mitaka’s eyelids begin to get heavy, and when Hux begs Ren to let him sleep, Mitaka wants to sob in sympathy and put his own head down on the console. He remains upright, however, forcing his eyes to stay open.
“Please, Ren,” Hux says, sounding as if he’s close to weeping himself. He turns in Ren’s arms and presses his face to Ren’s throat. “Can’t you just-- Use the Force to-- To determine it’s fine for me to sleep? Please, can’t you?”
“There are twenty-two more minutes until the end of the cycle. The doctor said--”
“Fuck the bloody doctor! Are you a mind reading wizard or aren’t you?”
“Mind reading is different from a medical diagnosis.”
“Well, read my body then,” Hux says, slurring his words. Mitaka can see him slipping into sleep, his shoulders slackening and his lips parting, eyes closed. Ren sighs.
“It seems safe enough,” Ren says. “As far as I can tell. And I presume you trust me with your life, at least at present, even though--”
“Don’t leave me,” Hux says, and then he’s silent, sleeping.
Ren is very still for a few minutes. Mitaka stares, leaning against the console. He watches in what he can no longer consider disbelief as Ren tightens his grip on Hux and smooths Hux’s hair, kisses his forehead. Ren pinches his eyes shut as if doing this is causing some kind of pain.
The door to the monitoring station opens, and Mitaka shoots out his chair before he’s even realized that it’s Commander Pavk entering.
“At ease,” Pavk says, frowning at Mitaka. Her eyes shift to the monitors. “Oh,” she says. “Right, well.” She looks at Mitaka again, sternly. “The General has needs,” she says.
“Of course, sir.”
“I take it there was nothing-- Exceptional, to report?”
“No, sir-- They. No.”
“Good. You’re dismissed. You’re overdue for off-duty, so I want you to go straight to your quarters for rest.”
“Yes, sir. Thank you, sir.”
“And I put you on this detail because I trust that you’re not a gossip, Lieutenant?”
“Of course not, sir. You can trust me.”
All the way back to his quarters, he thinks of Hux saying, Be a good boy for me. Or was it Ren who said that to Hux? Mitaka is delirious by the time he crosses the threshold, and so worn down that he doesn’t even care that Thanisson hears him whimper in exhaustion and relief at the sight of a friendly face.
“Fuck, Doph,” Thanisson says, rising from his desk. He must have been off shift for a while; he’s in his undershirt and sweatpants. “What happened? Where were you?”
“Classified,” Mitaka says. He goes to his bunk and begins stripping off his uniform, his hands shaking. Thanisson hovers, staring at him. “Please,” Mitaka says, glancing at him from just the corner of his eye. “I don’t want to talk about it. I can’t.”
“Did someone hurt you?” Thanisson asks, so sharply that Mitaka feels it like an embrace that he wishes he could sink into while confessing everything. “Was it Kylo Ren?” Thanisson asks, and Mitaka can hear his gritted teeth. “That fucking freak--”
“No, please, I’m fine.” Mitaka turns to show Thanisson his face, to prove it. He can tell by Thanisson’s expression that his attempt to look fine has failed. Suddenly Thanisson reminds him a lot of Hux: without the uniform, post-refresher, no gel in his hair, he looks so much softer and warmer and more human.
“What do you need?” Thanisson asks.
Mitaka tries to vocalize it, but he can’t. He’s fooled around with Thanisson plenty of times since they were assigned a room together; the First Order-approved pornography that they’re allowed to access during rec time is woefully inadequate, forcing most roommates to supplement with the real thing. Thanisson has a fiancée back home, some girl he barely knows and doesn’t ever talk about. His family is very wealthy; there’s a rumor that he’s a not-too-distant relation of Tarkin. Like most First Order personnel who finally tell the truth when drinking, Thanisson has confessed that he’s attracted to a pantheon of genders and species, but only a human woman can give him a healthy heir. The Empire needs children.
“You’re swaying on your feet,” Thanisson says, touching Mitaka’s shoulder and laughing under his breath. “C’mere, sit down.”
Mitaka slumps onto his bed and stretches out on his front. Thanisson sits beside him, close. Though they’ve never kissed and have only spooned each other five times-- five consecutive nights following the Kylo Ren attack, Mitaka always the little spoon --other types of affection have recently become more common. Mitaka has tried not to notice or keep track, but he can’t help reveling in the feeling of Thanisson’s short fingernails scratching over his bare back, pushed up under his tank, not just because it feels so good but because it’s starting to feel more familiar and comforting than exciting and new.
“Thank you,” Mitaka says, drooling onto his pillow and close to sleep.
“Doph, what did they do to you this time?”
“Nothing,” Mitaka says. It’s true-- Mostly? He doesn’t protest when Thanisson sighs as if he doubts this information and slides into bed behind him, draping himself onto Mitaka’s back.
“Is the General okay?” Thanisson asks, muttering this against Mitaka’s neck. “Did you see him?”
“I did, and yes. He’s fine.”
Mitaka drifts to sleep still wondering if it’s true that he’s the General’s emergency contact. It can’t be, simply can’t be true, but he’s seen so many strange things today, with his own eyes, and the warmth of Thanisson all around him also feels too good to be true-- but here it is, yet again, real enough for now.