Donal had not had a good night. They'd spent the previous day on the beach and despite three decades of life as a ginger Hux had somehow totally forgotten about sunscreen. He was burnt, hot,itchy, and worst of all- the inflammation from his sunburn seemed to have triggered swelling in his joints.
He'd barely slept. His knees were killing him and even a long soak with the hotel bath half filled with ice hadn't helped.
There was three days left to this vacation, and he absolutely understood Kylo’s desire to fit as much into their days as possible, but after breakfast he was so exhausted he already wanted to go back to bed. He did not want to be driving through the streets of Honolulu towards what appeared to be a miniature mountain.
He was just about to open his mouth to complain when they turned the corner and he realised it was actually a volcanic crater. There was a sign.
[National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific]
Hux shut his jaw with an audible click.
Why hadn't he thought to question the fact that Kylo was wearing a button down shirt that barely contained his muscles and plain black jeans rather than the boardshorts and wifebeater combo he'd been wearing for that last two weeks?
Being so covered up was totally out of character for him. On the beach Kylo had stuck to a thong, coconut oil and a total lack of shame, but Hux had insisted on trousers in the car for the sake of their security deposit. So why hadn't he noticed that his boyfriend was now covered wrist to ankle?
He had noticed that his side shave was braided back in five neat braids over one side of his head, but he'd assumed it was just a fashion choice. He should have realised it was something else.
He knew why he hadn't realised all these things of course, but he hated that pain clouded his reality so much. It had been nearly two years since they’d met and he probably wasn't ever going to get any better than he was now. On good days he didn't mind so much, but on the really bad ones- when he struggled to get out of bed or even dress himself- it was easy to sink into darker thought patterns. On the really bad days he didn’t know why Kylo put up with him.
He wasn't sure he wanted to be in a military graveyard when he felt this bad. If it hadn't been for that one bit of supernatural good fortune he might have ended up in a place like this.
“Hey,” Kylo said softly, fingertips brushing the underside of Hux’ jaw for a moment, making the stubble there rasp against his skin. “No drifting off okay? I just have two jobs to do and then- if you need to leave, we can leave.”
Hux nodded as they pulled into a parking space.
After a minute or so of struggling Kylo had to help Hux out of the passenger seat, hooking his thick arms under the redhead’s linen jacket to support his weight where his legs refused to do so. Part of him just wanted to keep clinging to larger man and forget the world around them. But he'd clearly brought them here for a reason and it'd be rude not to let him complete his mission.
The cemetery was huge and, unlikely the ones back home all the tombstones were laid flat to the ground, so the space looked like a well mowed meadow with a grid pattern across it. Combined with the tropical weather it was a surprisingly peaceful place.
They'd driven far around the driveway that circled the crater, almost to monument climbing the tallest wall of the natural structure, rather than parking at the entrance like most people did. Hux had to assume that was to reduce the distance they needed to walk and he was grateful for it.
He leaned heavily against the car, smoothing out his pale linen suit and the turquoise shirt Kylo had bought him to match his eyes. The vehicle rocked as Kylo opened the trunk to pull out his crutches and a bouquet of flowers.
“The cane will be fine.” Hux said, a little embarrassed to be using the aids he didn't usually need. He hadn't even wanted to bring them on the flight, despite how humidity and air travel tended to make him feel.
“No, it won't.”
“You're not braving this out to save face, Donal!” Kylo snapped, clearly agitated about something. “…Please?”
With a sigh Hux accepted the devices, and the straw hat Kylo dropped unceremoniously onto his hair.
They didn't need to walk far from the car to find the grave marker they were looking for, though Hux was surprised Kylo could locate it so easily amongst the uniform rows. It made a lot more sense when he saw the text and instantly recognised the name from Kylo's forearm tattoo.
[General Anakin Skywalker 1/7/38 - 5/25/83]
“Hello, grandfather.” Kylo's tone was deep and quiet as he knelt in the grass. While he set about the task of removing the sunken flower vase below the stone and cleaning out the detritus that had fallen into the base he spoke quietly to the grave, introducing Donal and explaining about the scar across his face.
Behind him Hux stood awkwardly, trying not to stare at him too much as he spoke so earnestly. He could do the maths and Anakin had clearly died a year before Kylo was born.
The legendary General had been such a huge influence on his partner's life that he'd always assumed they'd known each. It seemed odd that they hadn't. Hux had known so many famous military people he couldn't really comprehend anyone in Kylo’s social position being influenced by a dead man instead of his immediate family. Though, given what had happened to him as a child, perhaps the dead were a safer option.
After a few minutes it's became clear that this was going to be a long conversation so Hux began to wander down the row of stones.
Sheev used to walk him through the local churchyard during the two years his stepmother insisted on going to church. All four of them would walk down there every Sunday and then he and his grandfather, who never set foot in a church except for military services, would wander the graveyard until the service was over. It had been an education to say the least. Sheev had a way of talking about the occupants of the graves as if they were still alive, or as if he'd known them personally despite the dates on the tombstones going back centuries.
The old man had been odd then, and he had long since bypassed strange and gone straight to bizarre, but sometimes he said things that made sense. He'd once told Donal to read every name, and say the worn down ones out loud, because people are only really gone when their names were forgotten. Given all the things he'd seen since then it seemed like a tradition worth continuing.
It was a massive cemetery and he moved slowly on his crutches, but he had still walked the length of four rows by the time Kylo caught up with him.
The huge man was wiping his hands on the paper wrapper from the bouquet with a look of concern when he finally drew level. “What are you doing?”
“Paying my respects to fellow warriors, I guess,” Hux said with a shrug, “did you do everything you wanted to do?”
“The other job involves going up to the columbarium over there,” he pointed to a series of buildings behind their car, “do you want to join me?”
Hux nodded and the fell into step together, Kylo adjusting his long stride with practiced ease.
“You should have told me your grandfather was here.” Hux said after a moment or two.
Hux didn’t really know why he’d said it. “So you could visit him earlier?”
“I wanted to see him today. It’s important.”
Silence dragged between them as they walked and swung over the short grass.
“Why is your grandfather here? I thought you were from the East Coast?”
Kylo went to run his hands back through his hair, his go-to gesture when he was agitated, then sighed as his fingers encountered the braids instead of his usual messy locks.
“It’s… complicated. Padme, my grandmother, was out here visiting family while my grandfather was deployed doing… something. No one knows what. Something went wrong. He’d already lost an arm during some other mission but that hadn’t stopped him but this... I think it was an experimental plane or something. They thought he was dead. Almost the same hour Padme went into early labour and died having the twins- Leia and uncle Luke. Apparently someone told her that Anakin was dead and that killed her. I don’t buy it. It was the 60s. They had no idea what they were doing.”
Kylo shifted his pace to place a hand on Donal’s back. The gesture confused him until the taller man continued, “Anakin lived but he suffered terrible burns and lost the rest of his limbs. They took custody of the children from him. Said he’d scare them. But they were newborns, they wouldn’t have known anything different. It broke him.”
Despite the tropical sunshine Donal shivered. Wasn’t that his worst nightmare? That someone would convince Kylo to leave because he was broken?
“He didn’t meet Luke til he was 18 and he only ever met Leia once.” Kylo went on. “Padme was buried at sea somewhere near here. I don’t know why.”
They entered the rows of the columbarium, Kylo boots and Donal’s crutches clicking quietly across the paving. The air was cool here and the niches seemed to absorb all the sound.
“Anakin continued to serve, that’s what most people think was amazing about him. He’d lost all his limbs and he struggled to breath but he kept on working. I’m not sure he had a choice- I think so much had been taken from him that it was all he had left. I’ll tell you a secret though, I think he was like me. Everyone always said he seemed to be able to do things he shouldn’t have been able to do, and some people thought he had secret experimental army limbs fitted, like some kind of cyborg. But I think he just had powers like I do. He still did a lot for the progress of prosthetics though. He was always willing to volunteer for any new procedure or trial. No one ever found out what happened to injury him so badly. I think this guy knew though.”
They’d stopped in front of a plaque midway down the row. After patting his pockets Kylo added some crumpled paper flowers to the floral display surrounding it. There were so many live flowers Hux could only make out [Obi- Wa- Kenobi].
“I think Obi caused the accident. I have Anakin’s journals, they’re heavily self censored but I think they were fucking.” Kylo was hissing now and Hux could feel the disapproving eyes of the other visitors on them. He touched one rock like bicep and Kylo instantlydropped his volume. “And I think Obi made a mistake and it cost Anakin everything. They never spoke again until 18 years later, and whatever than conversation was about, it ended with Obi at the bottom of a staircase with a broken neck. “
“So why are we here? Putting flowers on his grave?”
“Because Anakin wanted it. It was in his diary that today we should do this. Luke pays to keep these other flowers here all year round. But this is for Anakin. I think he had him buried here and then got the plot for himself down there so he was close to Obi but he could still see the sea where Padme was put to rest. I guess that’s kind of sweet in a way.”
The conversation fizzled out. They stood there staring at the flower bedecked plaque for a few more seconds until the silence became uncomfortable.
“So… is that it? Everything done?”
Kylo nodded. “Yeah. Do you want to go back…”
“Can we go up to the memorial?” Hux asked, not entirely sure why but suddenly determined the read all the names on the bronze plaques there. “I can manage on the crutches.” He added when Kylo looked concerned.
“You tell me if you can’t, yeah?” Kylo said, falling into step with him again. “I’ll bring the car around if you need it. Hell, I’ll carry you if you need it.”
Hux smiled softly but didn’t reply.
It took hours. Hux had shuffled slowly from section to section, diligently reading each name in turn until they’d finally reached the top of the memorial. The sun was just starting to set.
Without a word Kylo gripped his elbow and urged him down onto one of the stairs so they could sit and look out at the shifting colours of the sky.
“You never did tell me what was important about today.” Hux said quietly.
“It’s the day we came here.”
Hux snorted. “That makes no sense. Why do you never make any sense Kylo?”
Kylo shrugged. They watched the sky as the pale blue drained away.
“Hey,” Kylo said softly, his hand held out just under Donal’s nose, “do you want to go to Vegas next?”
Hux frowned looked down at the sparkling object in the middle of Kylo’s massive palm. It was a ring. There was dirt on it.
“Only I heard they had a Sci Fi wedding chapel… Might be haunted.” Kylo continued.
From the corner of his eye Hux could see the man was grinning as Hux fought to keep his expression under control.
“Are you really doing this?” He asked, his eyes fixed on the sunset while his mouth twisted against the urge to either laugh or shout.
“What?” Kylo asked, all forged innocence.
“We're on holiday on a tropical island, surrounded by gorgeous beaches and romantic venues, and you're asking me to marry you in a cemetery? With a ring I strongly suspect was hidden in your grandfather's headstone.”
“Ok firstly, it was in the base of the flower urn for precisely this purpose, but also.... all that other stuff isn't exactly us , is it?” Kylo said a little sulkily, his face starting to fall for a moment before Hux closed his own hand over the ring and leaned heavily against his side.
“They aren't, you're right.” Hux said, turning his own face to breathe deeply against Kylo’s neck. “Might get a free drink though, if you asked me in a bar.”
“A consolation prize for when you say ‘no’?”
“Don't be a stupid bastard.” Hux muttered.
“Is that a yes?”
“Of course it's bloody is, what other answer could i possibly give?”
“You could have just said it!”
“And you could have asked me to spend the rest of my life with you in a location that didn't implicitly remind me of how short a time that might be.” Hux said grumpily. “Besides, look at me, I look like a damn tomato, that's not going to make a cute just-engaged photo is it?”
Kylo ruffled his hair with his free hand, then turned to press a kiss to his forehead. “It's not that bad.”
“Yeeaaah, maybe a bit.”
Hux shook his head in disgust.
“How about I book us a table somewhere and ask you again on Friday?”
“Okay, but can you dress… a bit… more like you? This whole outfit is making me nervous, I'm worried someone will lose an eye when that shirt inevitably gives way and bursts open.”
Kylo laughed, the sound still muted against Donal's hair. The man was uncharacteristically conscientious here in this space. It felt odd.
“Sure, but... let me take a selfie now too? I'll do my best to hide the sunburn with Hipstamatic filters before I put it on Instagram.”
Shifting closer Hux dutifully looked up from his place against Kylo’s shoulder. They looked a little strange, a little formal, but they also looked happy. The warm light of the sunset hid his burns and softened Kylo’s scars while emphasising their smiles.
It also highlighted the oddly intense couple standing on the steps behind them- she smiled sweetly while the man at her side's own facial scar and missing arm made him seem austere yet secretly pleased about something.
The photograph was stuck to their fridge for three more years before Hux noticed they were both transparent.
He never pointed it out to Kylo, he would never have heard the end of it.