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He fucked up. He fucked up. He fucked up really fucking badly. He messed up the mission, and he ruined months of planning. He doesn’t - he can’t even work out what it was he did wrong, he just knows he did. He did. And he’s let everyone down.

(He let Hux down.)

Back in their rooms he claws off the helmet, his fingers catching on the clasps until he can break it open. The plate over his mouth and nose is stifling his breathing, his chest suddenly caving like his heart is the core of a neutron star and the rest of him is pulled towards that nasty, whirling core. Every pulse of blood through him has his anxiety edging higher, and he hurls the mask into the wall (gaining, no doubt, more notches to its imperfect protection). 

He wants to - he needs to - his hand finds the saber’s hilt, and he slides his thumb down the shaft to feel for the biting point of the ignition switch. His saber will blaze so beautifully, so broken and still deadly…

…but he’s promised. He’s promised. He tries not to damage things, and in here it’s even more important. 

He unhooks the blade, and throws it onto the couch.

There.

(He could still summon it, with the Force.)

The gloves come off next, because if he’s shamed, he needs to be naked. He doesn’t deserve the raiment of fear and darkness, because he’s a pathetic, useless thing. Kylo starts by ripping the gloves off, and then choking himself by pulling at his cowl. He needs these layers in public, but now he doesn’t deserve them. He’s no real Knight. He’s not a Day, either. He’s a fucked up Twilight, the kind of light that is too dim to focus by, but too bright to illuminate. 

His fingers sink into the fleshy parts of his thighs, and he pushes in and in and in. The skin doesn’t give way, even under his bitten-ragged nails. It just aches and stings, and it isn’t enough.

He can’t think through the fog in his mind, the voice that echoes (his? not his? Snoke?) over and over at him. Weak. Pathetic. Foolish. Childish. Undisciplined. Unlovable. He needs to get the build up of energy out, and he’s promised he won’t act out any more. He grew out of it, or so he thought. He did, until - until - until… they thought they were going to find him again, and everything had crashed down to those early days all over again.

Now his anger and rage and passion don’t always work to fuel him, and that’s a weakness, too. He’s supposed to use them, not be ruled by them, but it’s another example of how useless he is.

His fingers scratch upwards, and he grabs at clumps of hair. Pulls, and pulls whole strands out from his scalp. Don’t render yourself even more useless, boy. He has visions of smashing his face through transparisteel, but he knows it wouldn’t crack. He’d just be left with a face-print on the slick surface, and his pride would never return.

The ‘fresher? Water on hot? Hot enough to burn?

He turns the dials, getting it ready. He has to step into it when it’s already too hot. He wants to flood the thoughts out of his head, make himself a being of pure sensation so he doesn’t have to deal with that non-stop thread of yes you are a failure you will always be a failure you will never be good enough–

He doesn’t notice Hux entering, too locked into the hands behind his skull and the knees up in his chest and the rocking on the toilet-seat as the heated water steams the room up. 

Useless useless useless useless useless…

“Kylo?”

USELESS USELESS USELESS…

A hand on his knee, and he squawks something, non-verbal and horrified. He tries to leap backwards, and only settles when the hand lets go of him again.

Now Hux has seen. Now Hux will realise he’s just as bad as he always was. Now Hux will leave him, or send him away. Everyone always does. Why did he think he could be enough? Why did he think he could ever–

Hux’s coat-tails are pushed back, and the man is crouching in front of him.

Go. Away. 

“I’m here, now. I got here as soon as I could.”

Go. Away. 

“I’m sorry things went poorly.”

My fault, he thinks, loud enough that Hux has to hear.

“It wasn’t your fault. It was unfortunate. It was a mistake.”

You wouldn’t have made it.

“Maybe,” Hux says. 

He used to hate these one-way conversations. Used to berate Kylo for not using his mouth, until he’d worked out that this was an easier, less painful, and more honest way to get the truth out of him when he’s feeling too… ‘bad’ to speak.

Go away.

“I’m not going to leave, but I will…” Hux turns off the shower, or tries to. 

Kylo makes a noise of distress, a hand reaching out. I need the sound.

Hux pauses, then nods. He pulls off his coat, and sits himself down in front of Kylo on top of it. It’ll be cold on his ass, and Kylo feels guilty. 

“…’m’okay,” he mutters.

“What have you tried?”

Kylo doesn’t want to admit to it, because it shows how… flawed his way of handling the world is. He’s trying, but there’s times when it just gets too much. With great effort he pushes his hands out, showing the trails of dark hair and slightly bloodied fingernails. He nods down at his thighs, where tiny scrapes of skin leave little dotted lines of red in his pain’s wake. 

“D-didn’t… destroy anything. T-threw my helmet.”

Talking is getting a little easier, though he still hates himself absolutely.

“You did much better,” Hux says, his voice not condescending or insulting. It should be. He should see how Kylo’s…

“Punish me?” he begs, his disgrace complete.

“Is that what you need?”

Kylo wants to break his bones and slide metal struts into the marrow to hold himself up. He wants to rip his skin out and replace it with one that doesn’t feel the air, or the cloth upon it. He wants to bite his tongue out and spit it down so it never asks for something again. He wants… a lot of things that aren’t very good for him.

(It’s probably terrible to admit he needs this, but Hux… offered… and he does deserve it, and…) He nods, minutely. It might help. Sometimes it helps. He’s not normally this far into unhappiness when he’s punished, though. This is further than he’s been in a long while.

“I’ll do it, but you have to promise me you’ll accept my judgement, my punishment, and - when I think you deserve it - my forgiveness.”

Why is he so good to him? Kylo does not deserve it. Ever. Ever.

You should go. He doesn’t want Hux to see him like this. It’s shameful, and pathetic. Who could ever love someone who needs this? He’s like a petulant child, and he’s demanding, and he’s weak, and… and…

“Stand up.” Hux’s voice is slightly hurt, there.

Good. Bad. Both.

“Stand up. I’m going to punish you, and you’re going to take it, Kylo.”

Still his first name. He does not deserve that, either, and he gets up, wiping his snotty nose on the back of his hand. “I’m sorry.”

“I know. Over the bed. Hold onto the ropes.”

He’s light-headed on the walk over, and he reaches up to grab the ropes. He twists the lengths around his wrists, between finger and thumb. Braces his hands, and offers his bare ass. 

Kylo doesn’t entirely understand what Hux gets out of this relationship, but he assures him it’s equal. Reciprocal. Maybe it’s the unfettered control Kylo offers: the true promise of obedience and fealty. He’d do anything for him, or at least try to. He’d do anything he asked, if his body would let him. Perhaps the angry need to punish takes itself out on him, and gives him release of his own?

Either way, he hears the belt removed from loops. It’s going to hurt, but he’s so high-key and wound right now that he needs it to, to cut through the existing sensation. 

Hux will do it safely. Hux will stop when his body needs him to. Hux will stop before he’s ready, likely, and Kylo will hate him for it. 

“You lasted forty-seven minutes before I got home,” Hux says. “So that’s how many lashes you’ll get.”

It’s low, it’s high, it’s both. He nods, and breathes as evenly as he can.

The first crack of the belt catches the outside of his thigh, where the scratch marks are. Kylo nearly howls, but he’s supposed to behave, now. He pants, and then the second and third blows hit. It’s agony perfect and complete, and for long moments it’s all he can think of. It’s just physical distraction, and it isn’t even pain. It just is. He rolls under the blows, his mind edging out of his body as he’s beaten.

Slap. Slap. Slap. A blaze through his body, starting in his ass, making everything itch, twitch, and sparkle. He doesn’t remember the numbers, and when Hux stops… he’s surprised.

Surprised, but… he’s not about to fight for more. If he’s done, he’s done. He feels legs pressed against him, the heat of tanned skin radiating out. A hand across his throat, and he breathes slowly and shakily. His eyes are shut, his senses all Force, now: the lines between them, the absence of hurt. 

“Thank you,” he whispers. “I’m sorry.”

“I forgive you,” Hux whispers, kissing at his ear. “You did something wrong, but I forgive you. I love you. Remember that: remember that I love you.”

Kylo cries, and he doesn’t stop until the last bit of liquid is gone. It’s messy, and he wants to wipe his face, but he can’t. He just cries out the tension, and sinks deeper into the dark.

At some point he’s pulled up onto the bed properly. He doesn’t really understand that, just that there’s a half-dressed Hux against him, and a blanket over him, and his hands are playing with the rope distantly. He’s not restrained, but the sensation of the threads is satisfying on his sensitive skin. He shudders once, and is held tighter.

“…sorry,” he mutters, again.

“I forgive you,” Hux reminds him, kissing all over his neck and making his body bright.

Kylo isn’t sure he forgives himself, not yet. But Hux does, and his opinion matters more than any other ever could. He uncurls one hand from the rope to touch the back of Hux’s hand. 

He didn’t destroy anything. He didn’t harm himself seriously. The fresher is still loud in the next room, and he reaches out with the Force to turn it off. It would have hurt, but not done real damage. It would have worked, but this is better.

Hux kisses him again. Kylo burrows in deep. This is better.