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Standing inside a thick blanket of steam, Hux washes away the grime of his day. The heat relaxes his muscles, unlocking the ladder of his spine, and eases the headache that’s been brewing behind his eyes. He scrubs away oil and residue, working over his tired frame. It’s been a productive week, but exhausting, and between finishing commissions and testing his latest upgrades, there’s been little time for rest. Hux leans against the wall, his shoulders drooping. Almost thoughtlessly, he runs a hand over himself, bringing his cock to hardness with lazy strokes. He craves the sleepy satisfaction of release, and the pleasant haze that follows. Slowly, he ebbs towards his goal, rolling his hips into a slippery fist. Despite his worn out body, it doesn’t take long to push himself to the edge, chasing neglected pleasure with his head thrown back.

As he gasps through a toe-curling orgasm, if the image that gets him there involves a certain Knight, well. That’s nobody’s business but his own.

 

Ren is waiting for him when he steps from the refresher.

Startled, Hux jerks back automatically, clutching his towel like a lifeline. He’s painfully aware of his own nakedness, and that the cloth around his hips is the only thing preserving his modesty. To his own chagrin, the redhead finds himself flushing guiltily, and trying not to think about what he had just been doing on the other side of the door.

“Is this going to be a habit?”

Embarrassment makes the words sharp, and it’s only the desire to maintain what little dignity he has left that keeps him from folding his arms. Across from him, Ren leers, giving him a pointed once over. His gaze feels like a caress, igniting Hux’s veins with a banked heat that slowly invades his stomach. Suddenly, he’s all too aware of just how small his quarters are, and of just how little separates them.

“Hux.”

Water slides down from where his hair is plastered to his neck, running in rivulets that Ren visibly tracks. Hux doesn’t know if he’s more annoyed by the Knight’s attention, or at his own response to it.

He sees the exact moment Kylo notices the implant. The Knight’s eyes trail over his chest, freezing on his left pectoral, and the smirk slowly fades from his mouth. Suddenly nauseous, Hux tightens the fist holding up his towel, his shoulders lifting defiantly. With an expression that tells Ren he isn’t willing to discuss the matter, Hux turns stiffly, reaching for a pair of discarded pants.

To his credit, the other recovers quickly, speaking with bland professionalism, “I’m here to collect my order.”

Scoffing, Hux slides into his trousers, keeping the towel in place as he does. With relief, he finds the Knight has moved away, and marches over to his dresser for a clean shirt.

“It’s crated for shipment. Which you would know if you’d done as we agreed upon and gone to cargo.”

A whisper soft touch brushes over his back, where the skin is raised in thick, faded lines. The scars are old, the pink of them worn down to a pallid echo. Their pattern reveals a history of disobedience, each lash a silent tally of lessons learned. Hux tenses at the contact, chills breaking over his torso. When he glances behind himself, Ren is still across the room.

Standing with his back to the Knight, he feels exposed. Vulnerable. His hindbrain scrambles to remind him of the predator in the room, and of the foolishness to be had by leaving himself open for attack.

Rigidly, the readhead pulls on his shirt.

“How old were you?” It’s a soft question, but it stings on impact anyway. Hux’s shoulders tense, his hands curling into fists atop the dresser. Despite the intimacy of the question, there is no pity in Ren’s murmur - no well meaning outrage or sad knowing. He speaks in the same monotone he always does, and that, more than anything, is what lets the admittance slip out before Hux can stop it.

“Fourteen.” Posture drooping, he runs a hand through his hair, suddenly bone weary. Behind him, Ren hums in acknowledgement.

“That’s young.”

He had been young - young and scared and alone, the perfect target for slavers looking for chattel. In his first months at the mines, he had survived by telling himself it was still better than before. That even if he hadn’t been kicked out and disowned, he would have left anyway, and that it was better to forge his own path. He had been a fool.

Snorting, Hux reaches for his flight jacket, desperate for armor against the bitterness, “There were younger.”

Even as a teenager, he had known it was better to have had a life before the mines than to be one of the hapless children who were born and raised there. Despite his lowest moments, Hux had never lost sight of what had been taken from him - had never forgotten the world beyond. He’d hated his peers for not understanding that, and for the way they never seemed to suffer the same restlessness. (He had hated even more that, instead, they had had parents who cared, and who tried to shield them from the greater horrors of the mine.)

Again, Ren is silent, his lack of words more nerve wracking than any quip or comment. Agitated, Hux zips up his coat, keeping his attention trained on his boots as he shoves them on. He isn’t sure he wants to see the other’s expression, or know where it is his gaze has roamed. His body is a private topography, spilling out secrets for any to see. Regardless of his clothes, the feeling of exposure lingers, settling like an ache he can’t shake off.

“I thought the Droid Colonies were excavation planets.”

“They are.”

The question is enough to finally make him glance over, curious about the direction of Ren’s query. He finds himself on the receiving end of raised brows.

“Yet it’s where you learned how to work with weapons?”

His smile feels too tight on his face, his motions jerky as he ties his laces, “In a way.”

On paper, his progress through the ranks had been simple. When his skill with mechanics had become apparent, they had transferred him from labor to repair, hoping to utilize every tool to its fullest. Eventually, he had made the climb to engineering, where a whole new world had opened to him. It had been a bloodthirsty ascent, made through hard work and cunning.

Hux is the first to break the silence. Straightening up, he clears his throat, shaking away the threads of his memory, “I’m assuming you have my payment.”

He can’t quite meet Ren’s eyes, and loathes that his weakness should be so obvious. For a tense moment, the other doesn’t reply, choosing instead to watch him. His jaw clenches, and with stubborn determination, the redhead drags his full attention onto the Knight. Relief rushes through him when Ren tips his head towards the dresser, where a stack of credits is waiting to be counted. Busying himself with the task, Hux manages to put himself to rights by the time he’s done. To his surprise, there’s a tip included in the final sum. Lips pursing, he pockets the money, briskly businesslike once more.

“Right, let’s head to cargo.”

“Hm.” Pushing off the wall, Kylo closes in on him, the doorway left behind him in the opposite direction. It takes the better part of Hux’s willpower to keep from stepping back, his pulse hammering as his space is invaded. It only increases further when he realizes dark eyes are trained below his collar bone.

“Ren-” A large hand settles over his chest, fanning warmly above the spot where he’s marked. The metal plate is embedded into his skin, a crass half-moon that follows the curve of his muscle and bares his serial number. Breath hitching, the redhead tenses, unable to read the expression shadowing the other’s face. Lightly, Ren presses the heel of his palm against the implant. A shock goes through Hux, the touch warm through his clothes.

“You continue to surprise me.”

Unable to reply, Hux is sure the other can feel his heart beating against his ribs, the soft murmur doing strange things to his insides. Shuddering when a calloused thumb sweeps across the curve of the plate, he’s grateful when Ren drops his hand again. The moment is broken then, the strange mood Kylo had been in dissipating as he strides towards the door.

“Well?" He sneers, waiting for Hux, "Are we going to cargo or not?”

Scowling, the redhead latches on to his annoyance to help propel himself forward.

Next time, he decides, shouldering past Kylo to reach the lift, he’s going to charge the bastard double.