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It begins with your family but soon it comes around to your soul

Chapter Text

Phasma is the one who insists they go to Pride. She's also the one who gets steadily, viciously drunk at a club the night before and is consequently far too busy vomiting and declaring her own death to actually attend the parade itself. Hux had been at the same party, but had stopped drinking when a boy who looked far too young wearing far too much leather had convinced him to do shots of root beer schnapps. He had no desire to see what further pits of drunken shame his dignity could plunge to, and it had been pretty evident by that point that Phasma was anger drinking instead of fun drinking, which never led to anything good. She'd spent the afternoon in a meeting with Snoke, who had flown in from LA that morning. She refused to talk about it, but it's the only trigger Hux can identify for her shift in mood.

Hux is supposed to meet Kylo at the bus stop near his flat, but winds up sitting on Kylo's sagging sofa for two hours while Kylo stumbles sleepily around trying to get ready and drink his bodyweight in green tea and check his email every two minutes. At one point Hux is fairly sure he falls asleep in the shower. By the time they get out of the apartment Hux is ready to shove Kylo down the nearest sewer grate and go home to his cat and his book and his whisky. They've missed the parade, and the "festival" is bound to be a crowded mess of over-priced plastic jewelry and pamphlets for groups he has no interest in and drag queens stepping on his feet with sharp heels. He has never actually gone to Pride, but he's got a general idea of what it entails.

Kylo is insistent, however, and Hux finds himself trailing along through the dust and gasoline heat of downtown until they are swallowed by the colourful crowds. Kylo buys a string of translucent glass beads --rainbow, of course-- and drapes it around Hux's neck before he can duck away. The smile on his face is thoughtful, if a smile can be such a thing, and Hux can't tell if he's making fun of him or genuinely trying to be kind, so he leaves the beads where they are.

Kylo buys an ice-cream shaped like a dick, because of fucking course he does. They sit on the edge of a fountain so he can appropriately torture Hux with the visuals. He drags his tongue down the length of the treat and Hux realizes, quite suddenly, that he wants to fuck Kylo Ren. What a fucking awful thought. Naturally, that's when someone's ninety-year-old gran pops up in front of them to expound upon the wonders of PFLAG and send Hux’s eternal soul to hell with the power of her warm smile and hand-knitted cardigan.

"I'm going to die here," he says, under his breath, as soon as she leaves. Kylo doesn't hear him.

"My mom went to a PFLAG meeting the week after I came out to her," Kylo says, licking a drop of ice-cream off his wrist.

"Truly," Hux says, "your childhood sounds more and more terrible every time you open your mouth. It's no wonder you left."

Kylo clenches his teeth. "There was a news van outside when we came out at the end of the meeting. Mom wound up doing an interview. All the kids at school new the next day. They'd already been saying it, but it made their day to have the local paper offer front page proof. My mom sort of distanced herself after that. I guess having a gay son doesn't look so great even if you're a Democrat."

Hux presses his nails into his palms. Somewhere behind them a group of children are splashing through the fountains, and he can hear the faint thumping of bass from one of the performance stages.

"It's one of the reasons I had to change my whole name when I left," Kylo continues. "Before then nobody really cared about Leia's son, but after-- well."

"Far better to name yourself after a magical space wizard you invented when you were ten, clearly," Hux says, instead of the fucking thesis in his head on Snoke taking in a fifteen-year-old child and making him change his name.

Kylo shrugs. "My parents named me after an old man my uncle met in the desert, so it's not like the bar was high."

"Of course they did."

"He was literally the entire reason my uncle found religion and moved to France, so I suppose there's that."

"Where he slept with a gang enforcer and off-loaded the resultant child on the government so he could get inappropriately passionate about fencing."

"It's not fencing."

Hux doesn't actually care to have this argument again. Kylo finishes his ice-cream in silence, snapping the stick into pieces when he's done.

"It was... important," he says finally. "To change it." There's something vulnerable in his voice, and when Hux glances over at him he's slumped so far forward he's practically folded himself in half. Hux is not going to say he understands, and yet leaving the statement with no response feels unnecessarily unkind.

Silently Hux reaches over and pulls Kylo's water bottle out of his backpack, downing a few gulps. The vodka is cheap and awful and God, he really hates Kylo, he has never hated any one human being this desperately or purely as he does in this exact moment.

"My father would have been pleased," he says, staring straight ahead across the plaza at the back of a tent. "If I'd told him when I was younger, when he could still hide that sort of thing the way he hid my birth mother. He wanted a son, but not at the cost of his reputation. He sent me off to an all-girls public school in Wales to keep me out of the way, and when I hadn't come to my senses by the time I turned eighteen he ensured I was entirely disinherited."

"But Durham--"

"Scholarships and a lot of caffeine." It had been more than caffeine at the time, but he's already shared enough personal vulnerabilities with Kylo for one decade.

Kylo takes the water bottle back but doesn't drink, just lets it dangle between his fingers. Hux feels suddenly ridiculous. Kylo has no reason to have an interest in his past, nor has Hux gotten anything out of speaking about it. Though it is, he realizes, the first time he's said a lot of it out loud. He's ominously close to thirty-years-old. Things that happened over a decade ago should not still be at the forefront of his thoughts.

"You ever talk to him?"

Hux huffs out a short laugh. "Not once. I'm quite sure he has no idea where I am. Probably assumes I've died in a gutter by now."

Kylo's shoulders hunch even further, and he glances down, letting his hair hide his face. He's just washed it earlier that day, and it looks very shiny and soft. "I wouldn't be so sure," he says.

"Meaning?"

Kylo pushes himself up. "Meaning it is definitely time to try the lineup for the beer gardens again."

Hux shakes his head. "As... charming as that sounds, I think I'll pass."

Kylo turns back, looks down at him. Hux stands up in automatic reaction. It's already unfortunate enough that Kylo is taller than him.

"What do you want to do instead?"

Hux frowns. "Don't let me keep you, Ren. I'm quite certain I'll be able to entertain myself."

Kylo shakes his head. Spray from the fountain and his own perspiration have made his tank top practically transparent. No one should have that many muscles. It's obnoxious. Kylo says, "We came together, I'm not going to just abandon you."

Hux bristles. "You should hardly feel obligated--"

"That's not what I meant," Kylo says over top of him, holding up his hands like he's expecting Hux to attack him. "That came out wrong. Look, I don't-- know anybody else here."

"here as in Pride or here as in the city?" Hux asks, a little meanly.

"I know Phasma," Kylo says immediately. "And Snoke. And Millicent. And sometimes I talk to the admins from the fourth floor on the elevator."

"You've never met Millicent."

"I feel like I've seen enough pictures that I may as well have."

"You're avoiding the question."

"I'm not. I told you who I know."

"Well, here's your chance to meet new people. Spread your wax wings. Fly drunkenly away into sociability."

"Is there literally anything you think I'm actually capable of doing without fucking up?"

"I imagine you'd be handy in a bar fight." Truthfully, Kylo wouldn't be working on their team if his artistic skills weren't noteworthy, but it's not Hux's job to stroke his ego. Or. Other things. Hux is going to drown himself in the fountain and it will be too good a death for him.

"I mean, that's true," Kylo says, shrugging. "Do you want to go watch the drag show?"

"No," says Hux. "Let's go."

He does not manage to lose Kylo in the crowd on his way to the giant tent where the stages have been set up. Kylo sticks almost inappropriately close behind him, yet somehow manages to bump against someone else for long enough that he gets glitter smeared across his collarbones and down the front of his shirt.

Kylo's arm presses against his own, and Hux can feel his heat radiating through the sleeve of his shirt. The music is too loud, eighties pop filtered through awful speakers and bouncing off the nearby buildings. Kylo is bouncing a little to the beat, but his face keeps twitching like he's reminding himself to smile every ten seconds, and his hands are shoved in the pockets of his too-tight jeans. Christ, if he's this terrible at pretending to enjoy himself it's no wonder his mother had kept him out of the public eye as a child.

Hux forces them to stay through three songs. Kylo deserves the discomfort for suggesting it in the first place, and Hux still can't think of anything to do beyond returning home and to his bed with or without Kylo.

Lucky for him, he doesn't have to come up with anything. He sees Phasma at the edge of the crowd at the same time he feels his phone vibrate in his pocket. She waves to him like some sort of angel come to rescue him, almost too bright to look at in a metallic silver dress, white leather boots, and with her hair freshly bleached and striped with pastel colours. Grabbing Kylo's wrist, Hux tugs him along, pushing through the people who seem utterly oblivious to common courtesy.

"Phasma," he says, as soon as they're free of the crowd. Her sunglasses are large enough that they practically cover half her face, but he can tell by the quirk of her lips that she's silently mocking him.

"You look like you're having fun," she says, dryly. "All right, Ren. How did you convince him to wear that necklace?"

Hux brings a hand up to the beads, having almost forgotten about them. The very tips of Kylo's ears are turning red. Honestly, Hux had told him to apply sunblock before they left the flat.

"I bought it for him," Kylo says. Hux gets distracted by the quite frankly massive paper coffee cup in Phasma's right hand. She follows his gaze, and pulls it closer to herself.

"I will break your toothpick arms," she says, warningly.

Hux does some quick cost/benefit analysis in his head and lunges, managing to get the cup and duck behind Kylo before she can react.

"Did you know this one doesn't even keep coffee in his flat?" he demands.

"It's not good for you," Kylo grumbles. "Stop using me as a shield, I like my internal organs."

Hux, who has seen Kylo eat six McDonalds hamburgers in one sitting, attempt to roast a marshmallow with a barbecue lighter in his office, and go off his meds sporadically to "open himself to artistic inspiration", laughs out loud. "You are possibly the most unwell person I know."

"I work out," Kylo says. "And I never drank alcohol before I met you two."

"Oops," Phasma says, expressionlessly. "Hux, there is no possible way you need that coffee as much as I do."

"How do you know?"

"Do you remember getting home last night?"

"Of course."

"That's how I know."

Hux pulls the coffee closer. "It's hardly my fault if you chose to over-indulge."

"Firstly, you know damn well I had a good reason and you haven't got a leg to stand on--"

"I did learn coping through high-functioning alcoholism from *both* of you," Kylo offers blithely.

"And," Phasma continues, "you really need to start smoking again, you're fucking insufferable when you're trying to quit."

Kylo says, "But lung cancer--"

And Phasma says, "But my blood pressure, Ren."

Hux drinks the coffee fast. It's black with sugar, which is everything he does not want his coffee to be, but now it's the fucking principle of the thing. It's been two months since his last cigarette. He regularly actively wants to murder everyone for simply existing near him, but he also feels a deep sort of satisfaction from regaining this control over his body. It had taken him an alarmingly long time to realize he'd gone from enjoying cigarettes to needing them, but as soon as he had become aware of it he had forced himself to quit. He assumes one day the cravings will go away.

"And you say I'm immature," Kylo mutters, taking a step to the side, which is when Hux notices he's been sort of pressed up against Kylo's shoulder, his free hand braced on the back of Kylo's neck to hold him in place as makeshift shield. Kylo's conditioner smells like satsuma, which Hux can only identify because he, too, lived through the winter of 2014, and had been forced to walk past a Body Shop on his way to and from work every day. The smell creates a weird sense memory of perpetually damp jumpers and black tea out of a vending machine and writing suicide notes in his head with no intent of follow-through to distract himself from the near daily panic attacks on his kitchen floor. So that's. Jarring.

The memory is years and a continent away, but he gives Phasma her coffee back and straightens the string of beads so it lies in line with his shirt collar.

"I need to eat something terrible for me," Phasma says, sipping the coffee slowly. "And preferably do so far away from this music."

"There are food trucks in the Northeast corner," Hux says, jerking his head. "The mayor is scheduled to give a speech over in that direction in six minutes, I'm sure a good round of tearing a politician to shreds will help your hangover just as much as any fried food poisoning that is available."

"Sometimes I'm reminded how fucking posh you are and I want to throw up," Phasma informs him.

"I could eat, actually," Kylo says. Hux restrains himself from making a comment. Kylo and Phasma may insist he doesn't eat enough, but they've just increased their metabolisms so much with their ridiculous gym routines that they've forgotten what a normal person eats.

Half way to the food trucks they're accosted by a teenager offering what Hux at first thinks are stickers. Hux and Kylo refuse, but Phasma snatches a handful with a frighteningly delighted smile.

"Oh no," Kylo says, but he's smirking.

"Oh yes," Phasma replies, riffling through her messenger bag and pulling out a bottle of water.

"I'll only do it if I get the sparkly one," Kylo says. "Some asshole got glitter all over me so now I have to maintain the aesthetic."

"Your dedication is noted and commendable," Phasma inclines her head briskly. Hux has a very bad feeling about this.

It's not until Kylo's tipping some water onto the slip of plastic and paper and pressing it against his bicep that Hux realizes what they are.

"Absolutely not," he says, as soon as Phasma waves her handful at him.

"Absolutely yes. We will hold you down."

"I am an adult. Which, incidentally, means one should not feel the desire to plaster oneself in temporary tattoos meant for children."

"You're always saying I'm a child," Kylo says, shrugging.

"You can't show up to Pride in black jeans and a grey shirt and expect us to just stand by," Phasma points out. Hux bites back his automatic correction -- the shirt is old silver, with a subtle shimmer in the fabric. It's also silk and incredibly soft and every time he wears it it feels like an indulgence. Also, these jeans were very expensive and he has it on good, if rather dubious, authority that they do nothing but favours for his arse and legs.

"Look, I'll do one too," Phasma says.

"And that's supposed to encourage me?"

"No, I'm just offering you more time to give in gracefully. Is a unicorn too much, Ren?"

"Never," Kylo says, immediately.

Kylo's tattoo is a sparkly purple heart. It looks ridiculous.

"Look," Phasma says, riffling through the remaining options. "There's a plain old rainbow, very boring, it suits you. Or some very nice flowers if you're feeling more whimsical."

"Absolutely not," Kylo interjects. "I'm not letting him put those on his body, those are the ugliest thing I have ever seen."

"So the flowers offend your delicate artist sensibilities but the giant heart is fine? You look like an advertisement for a line of children's toys," Hux snaps.

"There's also the trans flag, if you want," Kylo says, clearly trying to be casual but Hux catches the flick of his gaze checking for a reaction.

Hux snatches the tattoos from Phasma's hand and flicks through them. If he wants, he can simply throw them in the nearest bin, or tear them up before Kylo or Phasma can stop him. But standing here in the sunlight with these people who have become friends through forced constant exposure, there is a part of him that doesn't want to. He pulls the trans flag out of the pile and takes the water bottle when Phasma holds it out.

"You could put it on your chest," Kylo suggests. Phasma coughs on a laugh, and Kylo glares at her. "You know. So you can button your shirt over it. If you want. Or not. Obviously."

"Please stop," Phasma says, pained. Hux unbuttons his cuff and rolls up his sleeve.

"Oh," Kylo says. "Yeah. That works, too."

Kylo takes the tattoo from him once he's dampened it and carefully presses it down over the inside of his wrist, bottom lip caught between his teeth as he concentrates. Hux doesn't object-- it's never worth putting up with Kylo's judgemental grumbling if he's not allowed to control every aspect of how something is designed. Kylo leaves his own hand pressing over the tattoo to keep it in place instead of backing off like a normal person, and he's close enough that Hux can see the tiny indentations his teeth have left in his lip. Hux wants to leave marks of his own, because he clearly did something terrible in a past life and the universe is punishing him. Kylo's hand is very warm.

As soon as his tattoo has set Hux makes a strategic retreat to the grassy area in front of the microphone where the politicians and "community leaders" and corporate sponsors have been making their speeches throughout the afternoon. Phasma and Kylo vanish into the crowds around the food trucks, and Hux tries to take the opportunity to re-centre himself.

He's been working with Kylo for nine months, and not once has he experienced any sort of sexual desire towards him. And yet today it's as if a switch has been flipped. A very rude, very inconsiderate switch. That morning he'd seen Kylo pad across the hall from the shower to his bedroom in nothing more than a towel and at the time he had only experienced a faint flicker of second hand embarrassment. Now he finds himself studying the image in finer detail, hard planes of muscle and dark hair, the odd discolouration of beauty marks scattered carelessly all over his skin. Objectively he's not even that attractive.

Hux hadn't liked Kylo when they'd first met. He'd found his lack of social skills uncomfortable, his cologne too strong and too cheap, his family background one that spoke of a pampered childhood. Kylo's work as an artist had struck Hux as selfish, labour with no tangible product of any worth to society (ask him about Smith's LTV, fucking do it); he ignored his father's voice in the back of his head declaring artistry a frivolous career with no financial stability. Hux tells himself his own politics have evolved past the utilitarian because of his own developing understanding and maturity, but mostly it's because the idea of sharing any opinion, even if differently reasoned, with his father feels like biting into a lemon. Also, he and Kylo had gotten into a screaming match their third week working together, and Phasma had threatened them both with bodily harm if they didn't at least attempt to understand the other's position. Hux is fairly certain Phasma's been trained in interrogation (though if you ask her she'd not done more than paperwork interspersed by occasional drills during her seven years in the army).

Now that they've all learned to tolerate each other and are apparently useless enough at human connection that they'll voluntarily spend time together outside of work, Hux is willing to admit Kylo has his charms. They're very small, and infrequent, but they're there. Apparently wanting to fuck him is just the next logical step in the process.

Standing in the sun, what is a mild day has turned sweltering, and he can feel a head ache creeping behind his eyes. He should have actually drunk the water that Phasma brought instead of using it for a ridiculous tattoo.

Phasma comes up beside him eating some sort of pasta from a paper bowl.

"Did you murder Kylo?" Hux asks absently. The mayor is coming up to the microphone and a small crowd is starting to form around them.

"He's off having a sulk because apparently he's allergic to politicians and we should have realized this."

Hux waves a dismissive hand. "Fine then, he wants to act like he's still fifteen that's fine."

"So," Phasma says, only lowering her voice slightly in deference to the mayor's introduction. "Is wanting to fuck him more or less humiliating than the semicolon incident?"

Hux stares at her. "We agreed never to speak of that."

"You were under a conference table for five hours."

"And why the hell would you think I want to sleep with him?"

She blinks. "You've been flirting with him for the past month. And he's been pining in your general direction for twice that."

"I absolutely have not."

"You have. I thought you were doing it deliberately, but I suppose I credited you with too much self-awareness."

"I've not been bloody flirting with Kylo Ren," Hux snaps. "Believe me. This is very new."

"Only to you," she says, shrugging. "If it helps, I'm pretty sure Ren thinks you're doing it just to torture him."

"Kylo knows?!" Hux demands, horrified.

"He watches you like a hawk, doesn't he? Of course he noticed. And he may have ranted about it at the gym on occasion."

"My life is a fucking mockery," Hux snarls.

"It isn't as bad as all that."

"It absolutely is. What if he realizes I wasn't doing it intentionally? Kylo can absolutely not know that I want to sleep with him, Christ."

"So what if he does? We've all seen the worst of each other already, sex isn't any more intimate than Ren carrying you half way across the office after you passed out, or that time you had to go buy him a new jacket after he punched the mirror and got blood all over his just before the meeting with Snoke."

Hux exhales. "I'll take your point under advisement," he says, digging his nails into his palms. "I can't decide on the lesser of two evils-- should we go find Kylo or stay and listen to this... whatever this is?"

"It's not his fault no one's listening. Did you see the girl with the rainbows on her nipples?"

Hux twitches. "It's entirely his fault. If he knew how to give a speech he would make people want to listen."

"And you could do better?"

"You know I could."

"Let's go find Ren," Phasma sighs. "I can already tell you're going to be insufferable if we stay here."

When they find Kylo he is not sulking. He's on the pavement outside the Starbucks, standing with a cluster of unfamiliar people wearing identical tee-shirts. Hux can't see the logos, but the shirts are hot pink and one of the girls is holding a cardboard box of candy, so he feels rather confident guessing they're from one of the non-profits.

Kylo's got an equally pink pamphlet jammed in his back pocket. He's got one foot braced on the base of a decorative flower pot, thumbs of his left hand tucked in his belt loop. Hux is pretty sure he knows the film Kylo got the pose from, but he can't quite place it. The man Kylo's speaking to is tall, with neatly combed back hair and a suit jacket tossed over his tee-shirt like it's the fucking nineties. He's holding a cigarette, gesturing sharply with it, and Kylo's tilted in towards him, attention focused in that unnerving way he gets sometimes.

"Looks like you've got competition," Phasma smirks. Hux scoffs.

"I hardly care if he's interested in other people."

Kylo says something to his conversation partner, following it up with a quick little laugh that he hides behind the sheet of his hair. The man waves his free hand, then holds out his cigarette between two fingers, offering it to Kylo. Kylo, who had spent actual hours of his life judging Hux for smoking and outlining all of the various health hazards associated with it, Kylo who coughs over-exaggeratedly whenever they walk past a group of people smoking, Kylo the giant fucking hypocrite, takes the cigarette. Hux wants to punch him in the face. Well, ok, correction, Hux wants to put the cigarette out on Kylo's chest and watch the way his eye lashes would flutter shut, wants to feel those muscles strain under his hand to pull away, wants a lot of things that aren't at all appropriate to want from a co-worker.

Kylo coughs on his first inhale, allowing Hux a fleeting sense of vindication before he goes right back at it, glaring at the cigarette like it's personally maligned his honour. His new friend chuckles. Hux clenches his hands together behind his back.

"You can't actually set him on fire with your brain," Phasma points out helpfully.

Kylo must sense his imminent demise. He looks over and catches Hux's gaze, eyes going wide and hand coming up to attempt to hide the cigarette. It serves him right if he winds up burning himself. Sighing resignedly, Hux walks closer.

"I don't even know where to begin," Hux says, as soon as he's within speaking distance.

"I mean, you could just.... not," Kylo offers. The tips of his ears are still red. Hux is going to buy him a hat.

"Oh no," Hux says, staring at Kylo's fingers where he's letting the cigarette burn away. "I'm quite sure this little indulgence of yours earns me at least a month of payback."

"I just wanted to see what all the fuss is about," Kylo grumbles. "I don't see the appeal."

"You just wanted to get into that guy's trousers, you mean," Phasma comments dryly. Kylo's eyes go huge but his erstwhile companion has already fled at Hux's glare.

Kylo tosses the cigarette to the concrete and crushes it under his shoe. He's drawn skulls on his trainers in sharpie. Hux can't figure out what distresses him more.

Hux is about to reply, but his gaze is caught by a large cluster of helium balloons walking down the pavement behind Kylo. By the time he can get a close enough look at the person beneath them, he's only got a limited window to react. His mind flicks through potential courses of action frantically, considering and discarding possibilities until there's only one option that doesn't guarantee a negative outcome. It's Kylo's fault, really, for pulling from a film as a guide for reality.

Hux takes a few steps until he's standing directly in front of Kylo. Out of the corner of his eye he notes Phasma watching him, which is going to be an added benefit, if his predictions are correct.

"Kylo," Hux says, crisply. "Do you have any objection to me kissing you?"

Phasma tips her head a bit, which is as good as a shocked gasp on anyone else. Kylo's mouth is kind of hanging open, blowing little puffs of air against the bridge of Hux's nose. Over Kylo's shoulder Hux can see the balloons coming closer, and he can hear the laughter of the person carrying them as he speaks with the two people trailing in his wake.

"Uh," Kylo says. "No? I mean, yes. Yes as in you can, uh, you know--"

"Oh good," says Hux, because Kylo's breath smells like cigarettes and Poe Dameron is about five feet away from them and also, probably, because he's going to kiss Kylo, but that's really a tertiary perk of his plan at this point.

Hux takes the initiative, resting a hand along Kylo's cheek (mostly to block his sightline as Dameron walks past with his balloons and Phasma's former intern and a girl he doesn't recognize). He tips Kylo's face down because he refuses to stretch up to reach his mouth.

Kylo's lips are just as soft as they look. Hux licks into his mouth confidently, taste of stale nicotine familiar in the best way and Kylo eagerly responsive like he's been waiting for this moment for months. Which, if Phasma is to be believed, he very well may have been.

When he draws back one of Kylo's hands has found its way to the small of his back, and Kylo's eyes are half shut like kissing Hux is an experience he wants to savour. More importantly, Dameron is far out-of-sight. Hux really hadn't wanted the day ruined by the dramatics that would predictably occur if Kylo were to actually interact with his grammar school ex, now political aid to his estranged mother. The lengths that Hux will go to avoid one of Kylo's tantrums amaze even himself, some days.

"I'm almost scared to ask where that came from," Kylo says, quietly. His tone is amused but there's real fear in his eyes.

Hux can't tuck his hands behind him with Kylo's arm in the way, so he settles for clenching his fists hard at his sides. Automatically Kylo wraps his free hand around Hux's left hand, prying his fingers open like it's a perfectly natural action, like it's old habit. Hux... can't say for sure that this is the first time he's done it.

"I should think it's fairly self-explanatory," Hux says casually.

Kylo's eyebrows go up. "Really?" he asks, like Hux is offering him something amazing and he can't yet believe it.

"Not if you're going to be ridiculous about it," Hux mutters.

Kylo drops his hand from Hux's back, letting him put a bit of distance between them, but he keeps a hold of Hux's hand. "I'm pretty sure our definitions of ridiculous are really different."

"This conversation," Hux says.

Kylo swings their hands a bit. Hux has the ominous feeling he's not getting that hand back any time soon.

"Phasma's gone," Kylo observes. Hux winces.

"I'm sure she'll... show up." He hopes the intern has his affairs in order.

"So," says Kylo, after an uncomfortable moment of silence where he continues to hold Hux's hand. "Is it just going to be really awkward if we go find a pub?"

"No," Hux says, immediately. "Alternatively, we could simply go back to my flat."

Kylo grins a bit. "I don't put out on the first date."

"Really?" Hux says, before he can stop himself.

Kylo looks momentarily offended. "Not unless that's all I plan to get out of the relationship."

"Oh," says Hux, numbly. "Good. Great. That's..."

"Are you having a feeling?" Kylo asks, smirking widely now. "Remember what we talked about last week, don't panic, it's perfectly natural."

"The only feeling I'm having is regret," Hux says, but he squeezes Kylo's hand, just a bit.

Chapter Text

Ren had dragged Hux to the courthouse with him when he was finally ready to take the important emotional leap of changing his name officially (read: Hux and Phasma had bullied him into it because Christ, there're only so many times one can listen to an overgrown manchild's family angst and uncertainty before they snap). Hux had protested his inclusion in this venture, but Ren had given him the widest, saddest eyes and "but Hux, you've had experience with this, you know the ropes, I'm terrible at legal bullshit". It apparently didn't matter that Hux's experience was 13 years ago on a different continent. Hux had gone just to shut him up.

"Armitage?" Ren had said, standing in the lobby playing Bejeweled on his phone while Hux gulped icy water from a paper cone like it was vodka. "I mean, there's respecting your dead mother's wishes and then there's straight up masochism."

"I'm sorry," Hux had said, "I don't take advice from space wizards. Or was it a space knight. I know it's probably difficult to remember, being that you were ten-years-old when you came up with it."

"That just means it's been my name for most of my life anyway. It has meaning. Longevity. Armitage just sounds like a company that makes uncomfortable chesterfields. You know, the kind your great aunt keeps in her living room and that you always feel about ten seconds away from spilling juice on."

"Why did no one ever tell your parents that Ben is historically a diminutive?"

"I'm pretty sure I'm named after the man who killed my real grandfather, not that anyone will admit it. Everybody loves crazy Uncle Ben, obviously. Never mind that I know for a fact he slept with my fake grandparents before they adopted my mom. I mean, probably after, too, but if I think about it to much I wind up breaking chairs."

"And I thought my father hated me," Hux had said, dryly, choosing to ignore that oddly specific comment on Ren's wide variety of unoriginal anger issues. "Was your namesake part of the cult, too?"

"Oh shit, you have no idea," Ren had said, snorting a laugh. "Yeah. You could say that. He's dead. I didn't go to the funeral." He had sounded so proud of himself at that last that Hux had almost groaned out loud.

"We're all very proud of you for running away from the cult, Ren. If only your parents had been equally proud."

"Listen, only one of us has physical scars from their upbringing and it's not me, so you can stop trying to throw me under the bus."

Hux had laughed aloud at that point, because nobody wins this game but Ren is frankly setup to lose by default. "You went to live with Snoke when you were what, fifteen? I'll gladly take a few cigarette burns and a bruised rib or two over the alternative, thank you."

"Jesus Christ, we weren't fucking," Ren had said, too loud. Lawyers glanced up from their tablets and coffees and one of the security guards near the door straightened up.

"Well," Hux had said, flatly. "I'm definitely convinced."

They hadn't shared a cab back.

*

"Phasma, Phasma, did you get my email?" Ren says, as soon as Phasma enters the conference room.

"Hello, Ren. Hello, Hux. Do you live under that table now?"

"I do," Hux says, not looking up from his laptop.

"If he can't see his inbox his inbox can't see him," Ren explains. "Hey, speaking of inboxes--"

"Yes, I got your email. And then I deleted it. We're trying to appeal to mid-ranking soldiers and the suits who fund them, not a Hot Topic mailing list."

"And here I thought they were the same thing," Hux says, absently.

Ren slams something down on the table right above his head. "I read an entire marketing textbook yesterday."

"That probably explains why the login screen looked like something drawn by a surrealist bat on acid," Phasma retorts. "Get some fucking sleep and try again in the morning."

"Hux hasn't slept either," Ren says, petulant like no 26-year-old should be.

"That's fine," Phasma says. "He gets more productive without sleep, not less."

Hux can perfectly picture Ren's pout and he hates himself for it. "I get more creative. When you haven't slept for a long time your inhibitions are lower so you're willing to try things you might subconsciously be holding back."

"It's a supply tracking program, Ren, not the fucking Mona Lisa. Nobody's asking you to be creative."

"My job description is, actually. Very specifically."

"You wrote your job description," Hux calls out, helpfully.

"My point still stands."

"Look. Maybe our next contract will involve designing for the Air Force. You can draw as many sparkly murder fairies as you want."

"They aren't fairies." Ren paces around the table, and kicks one of the chairs hard with his almost comically large trainer. The chair slides across the carpet and one of the spindles jabs into Hux's thigh. His hand twitches, scrolling down eight extra lines. He's on line 777, and has yet to find what he is morbidly certain is a stray semicolon.

"Ren," Hux says, sharply.

"If you sat in a chair like a normal person these things wouldn't happen to you," Phasma points out.

"They don't look anything like fairies, what the fuck, Phasma?" Light from the projector at the far end of the room creeps over Hux's screen, making him squint. Kylo is still talking. "Look at this."

"I already have, making it bigger isn't going to help your case."

Hux wonders if running the debugger for a fourth time will somehow yield different results.

"The traditional office environment creates a culture of apathy, resentment, and a lack of ownership over one's labour output. Bright colours create positive associations in your brain simply by virtue of being unfamiliar in the bureaucratic sphere."

"We're designing for the military. Any colours that aren't red, white, or blue are going to be a bug, not a feature." Phasma sits down, rolling her chair further away from the projector screen.

"Fuck that," Ren says. "Shake up the misogyny in the military industrial complex."

"Maybe next year," Phasma says. Hux tips his head back against one of the metal braces under the table and squeezes his eyes shut tightly enough that light sparkle across his vision.