The smell is what first alerts Hux to trouble. It hits him as soon as he enters the control hub, greeting him in a thick wall that makes him recoil. The space station is a leftover relic from the Wars, abandoned and forgotten on the outskirts of the Outer Rim. Floating among other debris, it’s the perfect refuge for an illegal arms dealer, especially one of Hux’s caliber and demand. Despite its rundown facade, and the numerous corridors and levels that have remained dilapidated, a large portion of the station has been refurbished, its lower holds converted into testing facilities and storage. He’s just come back from the labs, where he and K-2SO have spent the greater part of the day upgrading blasters. That neither the Droid nor Hux himself were alerted to a trespasser is alarming, and Hux’s pulse skips as he tries to think of who could possibly get past their security.
From further in the room, a squelching sound brings his attention back to the intruder. Carefully, Hux drops his hand to the holster on his hip. The overhead light is off, but the glow from the inner compartment indicates someone has prodded around enough to find the lamps. Steeling himself, the redhead creeps forward. Saliva rushes into his mouth as the odor intensifies, closing his throat on a gag.
To his own dismay, the smell is one he’s well acquainted with. Sharp and putrid. Metallic and raw. There’s a dense undertone that coats the inside of his mouth, embedding itself in his senses.
His boot lands in something slick.
Blood. Blood everywhere. It’s puddled on the floor and sprayed across the viewport. Gathered in pools and streaked over glass. The entire room is covered in gore, as if a person had been turned inside out, emptying their cells into the air.
Hux reels, the grip on his blaster tightening to the point of pain. On the ground just before him lays a severed arm, the flesh jagged where it’s been ripped from the shoulder. The scent of brain and viscera is overwhelming.
Staring in shock, the weaponsmith tries to swallow, suspended in a moment of incomprehension. A drop of wetness breaks the spell, landing on his cheek, and numbly, Hux glances up, unsurprised to find blood weeping from splatters on the ceiling. At the center of the chaos, a large figure is standing over a console, his back to the entrance.
If possible, Hux grows even tenser.
One of the most terrifying men in the Galaxy is loitering in his station, slinking around like a stray cat looking for food. Not for the first time, Hux curses ever agreeing to do business with the Order. The faction itself is comprised of violent extremists hell-bent on resurrecting the Empire, with a reputation for brutality that spans all the way to the Core. It’s an infamy that exists in no small part because of the man in front of him, who seems to have taken it upon himself to wreck Hux's property.
As if sensing his thoughts, Kylo finally turns, his attention still locked on the components scattered across the console. His mouth is smeared with blood, his hands and forearms soaked to the elbows. The Knight hums, and even as he addresses Hux, brings the end of a small intestine up for a bite.
“Your security system could use some work,” He greets, “I caught this skel lurking around just outside.”
Stamping down the bile that rises at the sight, Hux scowls at the insult to his programming, as well as the way Ren prods the delicate pieces of his latest project. The annoyance helps him gather his wits.
“How did you get in here?”
Ren cocks a brow, blatantly condescending, and doesn’t respond. Quickly reorienting, Hux steps further into the room, assessing the extent of the damage. A mangled torso is oozing on the navigation panel, and organs in various states of ruin are strewn around. On a set of blueprints, a severed head is puddling blood, its skull caved in and its face twisted in terror. Hux is stunned to realize it’s been physically wrenched from the neck.
His attention hones in on a small piece of coverall near his foot.
“Oh Christ, you’ve killed the postman.”
Incensed, Hux bends to retrieve the patch of fabric, where Hyperspeed Express is sewn on in bright letters. Mournfully, he thinks about the shipment of dedlanite he was supposed to receive, and of all the credits he’d blown on fast delivery.
Ren shrugs, nonplussed.
“What are you doing here, Ren?”
It’s not the first time Hux has worked with the Order, nor with Ren as a liaison, and bitterly he wonders what sins he committed in his past life to deserve such a farce. The only upside to the mess is that Tusso stayed behind to run more tests, sparing them the scorn of his commentary.
Even covered in gore, Ren is unfairly handsome. He cuts an impressive figure looming there in the carnage, with a black tank top stretched tight across his chest. As he shifts, yanking more intestines free, his biceps flex, the motion echoed in a ripple of shoulder. Against his better judgment, Hux finds himself admiring the tendons of the other man’s neck, revealed by the way the dark strands of Ren’s hair are gathered into a top knot.
“Checking on our order. It’s been a month since we agreed to terms and my patience only goes so far.”
Hux forces himself from his daze, a hot flash of irritation bringing his brows down. The nerve of Ren, questioning his professionalism. Growling, the redhead stomps forward, snatching away the energy cell the other is toying with. Rather than grow annoyed, Ren’s lips twitch, his gaze bright with callous amusement.
“Three hundred carbines takes time, Ren. Even a barbarian like you should be able to understand that. In volume alone -”
Hux continues to rant, moving to retrieve his datapad with sharp, jerky motions. He’s grateful for the pique that helps keep his hands from shaking as he pulls up the proper schematics, his scowl moody and unimpressed. With a few swift motions, he has the information transferred to a holostick, and thrusts it at the man watching him with thinly veiled mirth.
“That should be everything. I’ve included the upgrades to the powerpacks, as well as the improved scopes. You said you wanted the best, and that’s what you’re getting - the design is better than anything currently on the market, both in and out of the Core.”
He can’t quite help the smugness that creeps into his voice at the declaration or the smirk that forms as he crosses his arms. Of all the things he may question about himself, his weapon work isn’t one of them. Hux is damn good at what he does, and he knows it.
Ren studies him for a moment, silent and contemplative, “Very well. When will they be done?”
“As I said, excellence takes time. You’re not my only client, and I have other commissions that need attention.”
Refusing to balk at the narrowed eyed look this gets him, Hux raises a brow. “Come back in a month. Your rifles should be ready then.”
Lip curling in disdain, Ren pins him with a sneer but is finally forced to relent. “See that they are.” Hux can tell by his tension that he’s just barely refrained from getting in his face.
Snorting, the redhead turns back to the mess, dismissing Ren as he marches toward his ruined blueprints, “Fine. Now get out. I have work to do and you’re trespassing.”
He’s not sure what alerts him - there’s no sound, no indication that anything has changed, but all at once Hux goes rigid, breath stalling in his chest. Suddenly, Ren is right in front of him, crossing the space between them in a blink. His pulse throbs in alarm.
He forgets, sometimes, just how terrifying Ren is. Forgets how unnatural and dangerous the predator in him can be until the other man displaces physics as if it were nothing, destroying Hux’s anchor of math and science in a concrete world.
Tensing, Hux waits with baited breath as Kylo leans into his space, grabbing his chin. This close, the other feels like an inferno, his body heat swallowing Hux in the scent of blood and slaughter. Ren tilts his face, his smirk like a sickle, and the redhead braces himself for the worst.
Instead, all the air leaves his lungs at the rasp of a warm tongue wetting a stripe along his cheek. Every instinct screams at him, his nerves in a frenzy, and with a jolt, Hux realizes he’s licking away the blood that's dripped from the ceiling. For his own sake, he chooses not to examine the flush of heat that blooms in response, or the way the tension in the air thickens into something heady.
“ - shower.”
“What?” It’s more breathy than he wants to admit, and Ren’s chuckle rumbles through his chest.
“Your shower,” He repeats, releasing Hux, “Where is it?”
The redhead swallows thickly, chancing a glance at the other’s face. Kylo’s eyes are dark, filled with a savage heat and satisfaction that makes his mouth dry. Clearing his throat, Hux steps back. His lips press into a thin line.
“Down the hall, first door on the left.” It’s his own quarters, and the only working shower in the station, but loathe as he is to let the other use it, the quicker he can rid himself of the man the better.
Smirking, Ren crowds close, engulfing the redhead in his presence, before stepping to the side to make his way. “I’ll see myself out.”
The sound of the door sliding shut is the only sign Hux gets of the Knight’s departure, and all at once the tension whooshes from his body.
It’s a long time before Hux can breathe again.