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When Hux had told Ren to leave, he hadn’t actually expected him to oblige. At first, the peace had been nice; the relief on base palpable, because without Kylo Ren around to upset it, there’s complete and total order. Hux runs a tight ship, after all, and there isn’t a single person that isn’t happy to obey - besides Ren.

But when several cycles pass without word, something like worry starts to settle in his gut. Hux doesn’t have time for this, and he certainly doesn’t have anything to feel guilty for, and yet there it is, nevertheless. Even when he’s not around to physically make a nuisance of himself, Ren still seems to be with Hux, like a bad omen or a shadow; like predator stalking prey.

Hux does not appreciate feeling like prey.

***

They find him on some backwater planet via the tracker in his belt. Not for the first time, Hux congratulates himself on this measure. It may have looked like paranoia, but it has certainly served him well, even if it’s something he’s kept quietly secret from Ren himself and Supreme Leader Snoke. They don’t need to be privy to every trick up his sleeve.

Ren isn’t just injured, but actively bleeding out into the ground, and Hux can practically feel the migraine coming on. If this is because of him, because of what he’d said -

“I love you,” Ren had murmured, soft and half-asleep. He’d had his arms wrapped around Hux’s back, holding him close, nose buried in his hair.

Hux at the time had known that Ren thought he was asleep, and in any other situation he might have continued the charade. But the confession had come as too much of a surprise, a shock of icy water trickling down his spine, and Hux had wrenched himself away in defence.

Ren’s eyes had widened, his mistake immediately becoming apparent, and then he’d held out his hands like he was allowed to touch Hux, and Hux could dimly hear himself hissing, “Don’t fucking touch me,” in order to get him to back off.

Wisely, Ren had. “I didn’t mean -” he’d tried, withering beneath Hux’s hard stare; suddenly young and so, so vulnerable.

Hux had barely heard him, only able to concentrate on the rushing in his ears, the feelings of betrayal and panic welling up in him. For fuck’s sake, what had he done? What would Snoke do to him, to them both, if he found out that Hux had broken his fucking protegee?

Worse, was Hux to become a fucking pawn in his quest for power when he inevitably found out? He could see Snoke using him as artfully as he did Ren, forcing the pair of them to do his bidding.

Snoke was a necessary evil. Hux had been prepared to tolerate him, to bide his time under him as General. But he would not be able to do so if Snoke stripped him of his autonomy in order to control Ren.

He knew that the expression on his face must have been ugly, because Ren had looked at him with such naked hurt that it had caught against the back of Hux’s throat. For a moment, he’d thought his resolve would falter, that perhaps he would let Ren off the hook for something so inconsequential as feelings, and doom them both.

But then he’d found himself standing, acutely aware of his nakedness. “You’re a good fuck, Ren,” he’d drawled, expression shuttering, voice calm and cold in equal measure.

He’d pretended he didn’t see Ren flinch out of the corner of his eye.

“But this has clearly gone too far.” He’d foregone his socks and underwear, opting instead for the bare minimum to make him presentable so he could leave Ren’s room.

He’d focused very, very carefully on getting dressed.

“Hux, for fuck’s sake,” Ren had snapped, as though he knew that Hux was on the edge of a precipice, about to tumble down into the darkness at any moment.

He knew, he had to know, and Hux had found himself closing his eyes against it, inhaling deeply.

“It doesn’t have to mean anything,” Ren had said, voice hard. “Clearly it doesn’t mean anything to you. That’s fine. I didn’t expect -”

“Didn’t expect what?!” Hux had found himself exploding. He could feel the ugly red splotches rising into his cheeks as he whirled around to look at Ren. “Didn’t expect me to hear you? You stupid, stupid boy.”

Ren hadn’t flinched that time, eyes hard, steeling himself against Hux’s tirade.

“It means something to you, doesn’t it? You think this doesn’t change everything? You think this won’t - fuck,” Hux had run a hand down his face, “You think this won’t ruin us both?”

“I think you’re scared.”

It had hit Hux like a punch to the gut, winding him. He was scared, he’d realised. “Don’t flatter yourself,” he’d sneered instead of admitting as much.

Ren had sneered back at him, half-feral. “Funny, you seemed pretty happy to let me flatter myself before.”

“What the fuck is that supposed to mean?” He’d risen to the bait so easily.

“It means I fucking know you, Hux. It means you know me. It means you care about me, I know you do.”

Hux had reached the door at that point, smoothing his fingers over his uniform and through his hair; he no longer looked like he’d just been fucked senseless and half-asleep mere moments before.

“I’m ending this nonetheless,” he’d said, voice miraculously still steady.

Somehow, Ren’s hurt had been palpable, filling the space between them and making the room feel small and stifling. Hux had wanted nothing more than to leave, opening the door.

“Is that it?” Ren had asked, stopping him. “What do you want me to do, Hux? What do you want from me?”

Hux had turned, and said with all the cruelty he could muster, “I want you to fuck off.”

- and now he’s here, bleeding out, the kriffing fool. Hux might kill him himself if it turns out that he’s not here on a mission from Snoke. Hux has to hold on very, very tightly to the idea that he is on a mission from Snoke.

They bring Ren in and take him straight to the med bay and it’s not long before the medic shows up on the bridge to report back to Hux.

“Lord Ren is stable,” the medic says. Hux’s heart skips a beat in his chest. “He lost a lot of blood, and he may have a nasty scar, but he should otherwise recover fully and without incident.”

His heart traitorously skips another beat. “That will be all, thank you,” he says, voice miraculously steady. The medic goes quickly, leaving Hux alone with his thoughts.

Ren is alive and he’ll recover, and Hux is not in love with him back, but that knowledge still somehow makes it remarkably easier to breathe.