The Finalizer’s bridge was a bustling hub of quiet activity. It was Hux’s favorite ambiance: the sound of individuals working their hardest toward a shared goal. He clasped his hands behind his back, comfortable in parade rest, and took in the scene with a sense of pride. They truly were a resilient organization, and the scent of progress was in the air. Even Kylo Ren seemed placated, looking out at the expanse of stars through the great transparisteel viewport with a half-calm expression.
Colonel Datoo approached cautiously from the command station and dipped his head before he spoke. “Supreme Leader, we have located the last surviving members of the Resistance. We move on your command.”
“Good. Prepare for a ground invasion, and ready my shuttle. I want to be there when the last man falls.”
“Yes, Supreme Leader.” Datoo saluted smartly, his heels clicking together. “We will do so at once.”
“And what of the girl? Is she with them?” Kylo Ren added in a snarl.
“It makes no matter,” said Hux. He waved a dismissive hand. “We will stamp out the last of the rebels with her among them.”
Ren’s face twitched. Hux had yet to grow accustomed to him without his mask. He watched Kylo Ren’s hand clench at his side and stroked the Ysalamir sitting on his shoulder with the self-satisfied smirk of impunity. Millicent II was by far his best acquisition of late.
Ren made a sound, low in his throat. A frustrated growl.
“Did you have something to add?” Hux tilted his head. “Some important strategic suggestion, or?”
“I hate that thing,” Ren said. He glared at Millie. “And you.”
“Now, now.” Hux smiled, close mouthed and smug. “That’s no way to speak to your Supreme Leader…”
General Hux startled awake with the genuine, horrifying sense that he’d been physically pulled directly from a dream. Another one of those dreams. He was coming to truly loathe his subconscious. His quarters on the Finalizer were as he’d last seen them before bed, but something felt off, a kind of prickly feeling in the air around him. He blinked away the blurry-eyed remnants of sleep and tried to peer more confidently into the dark around his berth, casting around for anything amiss.
Then a hand clamped down over his blanket-covered ankle and Hux nearly leapt out of his skin.
“What treasonous dreams,” said Kylo Ren, soft and lilting.
Hux resisted the urge to tug the blankets up to his chin like a frightened child fearful of the monster under his bed. This monster was not under his bed, but rather crouched beside it, eyes glinting eerily in the dim. His hand tightened and Hux felt his bones shift.
“Only dreams, Lord Ren,” he said. “That’s all.”
Ren tilted his head to the side. His thumb began rubbing at Hux’s joint in a strange parody of comfort. “Only dreams,” he repeated. “You’re a shitty liar.”
“Stop that.” Hux attempted to tug his leg out of Ren’s grip. Ren only bore down harder, trapping him in place.
“Do you know what happens to traitors?” Ren asked. “I think you do. I think you wrote the rules yourself.”
“Code of conduct.”
“It’s.” Hux coughed. His face scrunched up of its own accord. “It’s called a code of conduct. That’s—that’s where the articles of treason are listed. Section 2-37A. You should actually familiarize—”
“—yourself with our entire human capital management process. In fact, I would be happy to introduce you to our records system and I know Ensign Bart would thrill at the opportunity to work with the Supreme Leader. Maybe spending time with our—with your people…” It was as though he could see himself and felt mounting horror when his mouth simply refused to close. He gripped the blankets, voice rising in pitch as the words continued to come until he sounded vaguely hysterical.
The pressure on Hux’s throat was actually welcome this time. He gasped. Struggled. And after a moment, Ren let up and Hux’s shoulders slumped in relief, his back sagging against his pillows. “Thank you,” he croaked.
Ren sighed deeply and released Hux’s ankle. He rubbed his hands over his eyes and when they came away his expression was perturbed but not angry. “They’re your people, too,” he said. “Probably more yours than mine.”
“Anyway,” Ren blustered. “You dream really loudly and you should stop.”
Despite knowing better, Hux had every intention of asking how, exactly, one just stopped dreaming considering that dreams were part of one’s subconscious expression of self, and it wasn’t exactly his fault what flitted through his sleeping mind, and maybe the Supreme Leader should just stop listening.
But then Ren was gone. As though he were never there at all. As if it had all been a dream.
Perhaps it had been.
“Fire the ventral cannons! Keep all fighters focused on that one Corellian freighter. Mitaka, status report?”
Mitaka’s flustered little voice rang out, “Supreme Leader! Fifteen enemy craft have been disabled. We are in process of boarding the Resistance cruiser, and the Republic outpost will soon be raided. Boots are on the ground.”
“And our casualties?”
“No more than 12 TIEs have gone down, sir.”
Hux glared. “That’s ‘my lord.’”
“M-m-my lord,” Mitaka corrected.
“And the girl?” asked Kylo Ren. “Is she there?”
“Enough about the kriffing girl,” Hux spat. “This does not concern your petty interests. As Supreme Leader I demand an end to this obsession with that scavenger scum.”
Ren rounded on him with a furious expression on his strange yet comely face, and…
Hux couldn’t breathe. His hands went to his neck. His body writhed. Millicent jumped from the bed in alarm. He was going to suffocate, he was going to die in his nightclothes like some old maid, he was… he was...
Kylo Ren stood over him, arm outstretched, a look of pure murderous intent clouding his stare.
“Please,” Hux tried. “Please. Supreme Leader, I—”
Ren heaved a great, miserable sigh, like an old balloon letting out air, and Hux’s windpipe was freed. “You’re keeping me up with your… ” His fat upper lip lifted into a sneer. “Fantasies.”
Hux scrambled up the bed and drew his knees toward to his chest. He clutched at them with both arms and knew he looked like a child. He couldn’t catch his breath. He was pathetic, a scolded pet. “So much has changed,” he said, helpless. “I wasn’t prepared, I’ve always—” Hux bit at his mouth. “I’ll try. I’ll take a sedative. I’ll do something.”
“Stop dreaming, or I’ll make you stop dreaming,” Ren said. And it was... menacing. It really was.
“How?” Hux frowned. “You’ll kill me? Is that it?”
“No.” Ren looked at him like he had three heads and maybe a set of additional eyes on top of that. “With the Force? Or like, meditation? I’m not an expert.”
Hux’s lip curled in sudden disgust. His subconscious was right: Kylo Ren was a woefully inadequate leader. He pointed an appropriately imperious finger at the exit and sat up straight. “For Force’s sake, Ren. Get the bloody hells out of my rooms.”
“I could kill you,” Ren amended on a half-hearted snarl. “Then I’d have a little peace.”
“Get out. Out!”
Shockingly, Ren did as he was told.
“And this, my lord, is a 35-year aged Nabooian brandy. Bottled before the fall of the Empire. They say Emperor Palpatine himself had a private collection of this very pressing. In fact, rumor has it this establishment was able to purchase most of it.”
“Is that so?”
“Indeed,” the waiter purred. “Perhaps the emperor’s own vintage will be enjoyed by your illustrious self this evening.”
“How very quaint,” Hux said. He took a small sip of brandy and savored its warmth on his tongue. He rolled the amber liquid around in his glass to more fully release its bouquet and took another delicate taste.
Kylo Ren scoffed. “Leave the bottle.”
“And will the young lady be joining you this evening?”
“Know your place,” said Hux, just as Kylo Ren grumbled, “She’s with my mother,” like he’d rather eat a bowl of tauntaun guts than say exactly that.
“Do leave the bottle though,” Hux said. He offered a pleasant smile.
“Very good,” said the waiter before he backed graciously away with his eyes downcast.
“Can’t we just have dinner?” Hux asked. “For once? Just a nice dinner. None of this revolting rubbish with the girl.”
“She’s my betrothed.”
“Please,” said Hux. “Spare me your nonsense. I’m your commander and Supreme Leader. You’re as likely to wed that sand-covered brat as I am a radar technician.”
“Don’t talk about her—”
“And besides.” Hux put his hand on Ren’s leather clad knee beneath the table. “Isn’t our little arrangement to your satisfaction?” He felt Ren shiver and was gratified. His hand crept ever so slightly higher, anticipating the firm, fat line of Ren’s erection, and when he reached it his mouth watered. “Aren’t I very, very good to you?”
“Yes,” said Ren, sounding strangled himself for once…
Hux woke of his own accord, sweaty and trapped in his sheets. His breath was short through no fault but his own and he was horribly, undeniably hard in his sleep pants. His arousal was accompanied by rough waves of nausea. It had been a very long since Kylo Ren had haunted his dreams in this particular sense. There had been a time, back before their mutual antagonism had solidified, what felt like lifetimes ago, when he’d given Ren a passing glance. Ren, training in nothing but high-waisted trousers, his hair loose around his face, his eyes filled with concentrated fire.
Maybe more than a passing glance.
Hux had seen possibilities there. He had, perhaps, indulged himself in thoughts of making Ren his. Reality was quite different from his nascent, foolish musings way back when.
Snoke was to blame for that; Hux could see as much now. Snoke had taken great care to sow discontent between them, pitted them against one another until they were both ready to lunge for the throat. Years ago, Hux had imagined an entirely different kind of lunging, an entirely more erotic combination of teeth and vulnerable skin.
He was not the kind of man who gave in to regret; but recent events had left him helplessly wondering what his life might be like now if he had taken Kylo Ren as a lover before hate had settled in their hearts. Most troubling of all, he didn’t hate Ren. Would his life be easier if Ren were dead? If power were his alone? Surely. Did he see the value in Ren as a weapon? Absolutely. Did he, in a pure painful way, wish that Ren were his to wield?
Snoke had left them tangled up in a fine net, reliant on one another and half-formed, and with Snoke gone and Ren attempting to assert himself in ways beyond brute violence, Hux found himself more than unsettled, his place uncertain. It invaded his dreams, and Ren was suffering the effects of it, despite all his power. Hux had never put much stock in dreams, but there was an odd, curdling satisfaction in knowing that his own had disrupted Ren so entirely that he felt the need to burst into Hux’s rooms and attempt to put a halt to his dreaming altogether.
And where was he tonight after the most tantalizing dream thus far? It would seem this particular subconscious fancy hadn’t bothered Ren at all. Hux checked his chronometer and was pleased to find he had several hours before he was expected anywhere. Before he was expected to join the Supreme Leader for a breakfast meeting of all things. Ren had, against all odds, become something of an early riser.
Hux snuck one hand beneath his covers and took his prick in hand. If Ren hadn’t shown up to disturb him yet, Hux figured he was safe to do as he wished.
Unfortunately, an absence of Ren didn’t keep him from invading Hux’s thoughts.
The air was stifling and thick; Hux could feel it like a physical thing blanketing him. There was condensation building on the inside of the shuttle’s windows, and the transparisteel had fogged up from the humidity growing inside the cockpit. Hux’s damp, bared chest slid on the control console before he drew up one knee to stop himself from slipping further forward. He couldn’t find purchase on the window, his palms skidding uselessly. He wasn’t sure where his trousers and briefs had gotten to, and his hard prick was rubbing up against the shuttle throttle in a bizarre parody of sexual congress.
He was so incredibly warm. He loathed being warm. Space was cold, it suited him. If they hadn’t been stranded on this horrible, sweltering planet attempting to conserve energy he’d be much cooler. Kylo Ren’s naked, glistening chest hovering behind him wasn’t exactly helping the situation, nor was his mouth, breathing more hot air over Hux’s neck.
“Hold still,” Ren grit out. “You’re alway moving.”
“It’s harder to pin down a moving target.”
“Clearly. You’re squirming.” Ren groped at him. At his ass and then lower, slipping a hand between his thighs. He grazed Hux’s balls with his fingertips before pushing apart his thighs with his big knees. His other hand landed between Hux’s shoulder blades and shoved him down, held him in place flush to the plastic and metal beneath him. “This is what happens,” he said. “When you won’t do as I say.”
“It’s not your worst.”
“You don’t,” Ren bit out. “Want. My worst.”
“Aren’t you tele-telepath—a mind reader?” Hux felt giddy; it was clearly the hot weather. It was this karking planet. “You know I do. You know I’ve never expected anything less. Anything less would be beneath me.”
“You’re still alive,” Ren said. “You like being alive.” He prodded at Hux’s asshole with two fingers; they were slick and when Ren rubbed more firmly at him Hux felt himself attempting to draw them inside, clenching and releasing at his touch. “You like this. You really like this: getting touched like you want to be, not having to ask for it.”
Hux made a series of unintelligible sounds as Ren pushed his two fingers inside. He keened when Ren pulled them out to plunge back in again, setting a slow rhythm of deep, penetrating strokes.
“You’re a very lucky general,” Ren said. “Your Supreme Leader likes this too. He likes how easy you are. It’s a nice change. You might be a mouthy, insolent, insubordinate, treasonous—” Ren trailed off, licked the sweat from the nape his neck, chewed on him a little.
“What—am I? Oh, kriff—my lord?” Hux couldn’t help his own tongue.
“A slut.” Ren’s hard, shockingly sizable prick bumped against his thigh. “A mouthy, insolent, insubordinate, treasonous little slut. I’m the best thing that’s ever happened to you. You’ve been waiting your whole miserable life for someone to put you on your back when you can’t say no.”
“Yes,” Hux said, so aspirated it was barely more than a hiss.
“You wouldn’t have let—that old fool fuck you. You’re too vain.”
He meant Snoke, Hux realized and almost laughed at the idea. Sexless and terrifying—and yes, hideous, that was Snoke. Ren had the capacity to be terrifying, but if he’d ever been sexless he’d long given up that aspect of his mysticism. And he was light years away from hideous.
“No,” Ren went on. He kept on stretching Hux open, preparing him with more work than was strictly necessary. He was enjoying himself. “You need brute, physical power. You need to be taken. You crave it.” His fingers bore down on Hux’s prostate and his voice went distant. Hux could feel a strange tickle at the back of his mind and knew Ren was violating him in a different way. “You spent your youth waiting for someone like me, someone who could tear into you the way you’ve always wanted. Someone worthy,” Ren growled.
“Stop—“ Hux licked his lips. He reached back and grabbed Ren’s thigh. “Monologuing and do it then. Sir.”
“Cheeky,” Ren said. He swatted at Hux’s ass with his other hand, but its departure didn’t allow Hux more range of movement. Clearly the Force was being employed as well. “Ask nicely.”
Hux huffed an annoyed sigh through his nose. Ren could never just get on with it. He needed his little games, his call and response. “Please, Supreme Leader.”
Ren’s cock pressed between his ass cheeks and nudged at him. Teased at him. He was so loose thanks to Ren’s ministrations that the head of it easily caught on his rim. He wanted it, he longed for the breach. “Please, Supreme Leader. Give me your cock. I need it, my lord.”
“Why?” Ren petted at his hair until he slid his hand down to hold Hux by the nape. His cock pushed inside just so, torturous and so good, before popping back out again.
“Because,” Hux dragged the word out of himself. “I’m desperate. And lonely. And you’re the only one. Who can give me what I need. I want you, Ren.”
“Nnngh, Hux.” Ren shoved into him with one seemingly endless push. It made Hux see stars; it always did: that gritty slide before Ren was fully sheathed. And the way Ren said his name, pulling it out into a long hiss, like a comet’s tail until it trailed off into a moan and he began to thrust.
“Give it all to me,” Hux whined. He sounded crazed. “Don’t hold back now. Give it to me.”
The hand on his neck tightened; he could feel each of Ren’s fingers digging into his flesh. He was being practically hammered into the control console—bless the flat, touchscreen designs they employed—and Ren’s other hand was gripping his hip hard enough to bruise. He would take these bruises, he would keep them close, admire them later. He was happy to let the Supreme Leader hurt him in this way. He wanted—he wanted Ren inside him whenever he was allowed a taste. Ren was right: he was a slut for it, but solely for him, for the power he wielded, and because, though he claimed not to be, Hux knew Ren’s hunger for him was equal to his own. They were bound together, and in this one way, they could make the most of it. At least until Ren tired of him.
It was elegant in its depravity. Hux loved it. Snoke had been right, to keep them apart. He must have known they would end up coupling like rabid dogs had he not.
“You were made for this,” Ren grunted. He bit at Hux’s ear. “Made for me to use as I see fit. My own bitch. My birthright—”
“Kriff, Ren. That’s enough.” Ren lifted Hux’s thigh from its hitch on the console and somehow went deeper, dragging against his prostate. “Stars,” Hux gasped. “Do that again.”
He could feel Ren’s uneven grin on his neck. He felt split open and…
“Is that how it is? Is that how the General shows his loyalty?”
Hux bolted upright. Ren: crouched beside his bed in his now customary place to ruin Hux’s night. “What?” He made the conscious choice to lie, then decided to simply obfuscate. “What I mean to say, is we… ah, all grow accustomed to change in our own ways, Supreme Leader.”
“Supreme Leader,” Ren repeated his own title slowly. “It sounds better when you’re begging.”
“I’m sure I don’t know what you mean.”
“I’ve failed you,” Ren said. He had some of that false humility about him that Hux had seen him use with Snoke. Ren was manipulative. “You’ve been suffering and I had no idea. That’s no way to treat your most competent general.”
Hux preened under the praise in spite of himself. “Go on.”
“Snoke kept you tame with compliments rationed out like sweets. Here and there, and only when you were very good. I know. He did the same to me. I’m not—” Ren swallowed. Hux could see his throat bob. “I’m not like that. I don’t have to be like him.”
Hux’s brow furrowed, unsure. “No,” he said. “You don’t—”
“Silence,” Ren barked, then looked cowed himself. “You talk too much. Once you get going.” Ren touched his ankle, then clutched it like the first time. “You dream about me a lot. Snoke made me dream about the girl. But he’s gone now. And so is she.”
The vulnerability was an act. Or at least partially an act. Ren wasn’t a model of foresight, but Hux knew what he was capable of; he could tell when Ren thought he had the upper hand. Which he did now. He’d had the upper hand since he’d flung Hux aside like an annoying insect in the shuttle. No wonder his mind wanted to give him something more pleasantly vicious to latch on to, to replace that moment with passion of a different sort. If Ren were to stop showing up in the middle of his rest cycle, maybe Ren would also stop showing up in his dreams. But the truth, the blasted hopeless truth, was that without Phasma, he had very little in the way of peers beyond Ren. And now—now he was just another pawn for Ren to play. He felt that discomforting mental scratch that meant Ren was sorting through his thoughts. Before he would have had something cutting to say about it. Now he let Ren take his fill.
He’d been raised to put up a fight; he’d learned on his own that some fights were not worth it.
“I never sensed it, before.” Ren sounded thoughtful. The pressure in Hux’s head dissipated slightly. “He kept you from me. He kept so much from me. Kept it for himself. He was greedy.”
Hux was beginning to see Snoke’s death as more than just the gaping chasm between his old life and the one he was attempting to live currently. He’d always had vivid dreams; it might have been a side effect of a downtrodden, drab childhood, but only now—with Snoke gone—did his dreams call to Kylo Ren. He wondered, not for the first time, just how much space Snoke had taken up in his apprentice’s head. Was he grateful to the girl? Had she freed him from Snoke?
“I’m free now,” Ren said. “To do as I’d like. Free to know what I want. He kept that from me too.” Ren stood and placed himself on the edge of Hux’s bed. He looked as much like a monster as he did a helpless child. His size had always intimidated Hux no matter how he tried not to let it, but his face was worse somehow: his expressive eyes and full lips. The way he chose to hide nothing. He used emotion like a battering ram, and Hux could do little to shield himself from the assault.
“What do you want?” He had been herded toward the question. Hux knew it and chose not to care.
Ren’s attention, his interest, felt like a living, pulsing thing between them on the bed. It almost felt like Hux could squint and actually see it, the Force energy or whatever mumbo jumbo Ren might call it. He’d once been told that the Force surrounded and connected all things; it was a harrowing comfort to think it connected him to Kylo Ren.
“Can you feel it?” Ren asked him. He had always been incapable of a straight answer; he was like Snoke in that way.
“I’m not Force-sensitive. I’m not—” Hux sneered. “Your scavenger girl.”
He watched Ren’s face do several things at once. It was fascinating enough that he didn’t have time to react to Ren jolting forward and physically wrapping a big, ungloved hand around his throat. His palm was damp against Hux’s windpipe and his voice was low, and angry when he said, “I know you feel it. You’re dreaming for both of us. You’re—” he groaned. “Filling up the void.”
Hux very nearly sputtered out a laugh. Filling up the void. Ren was the most over-dramatic person he had ever had the misfortune of meeting and yet—he knew what Ren meant. He was also being intimately suffocated and it made his eyes roll back. He wanted to command Ren to stop. He wanted to tell Ren there were more productive ways to make him feel it, but he settled on making a futile, strangled sound.
“Never mind,” Ren said. He pulled away and stood as Hux massaged his throat and felt the room spin. “You don’t understand.”
“Ren, I—” Hux tried, but Ren was gone in a few long steps and Hux felt too weak, winded, and strange to make an effort to explain himself.
The sky was streaked with red. Five points of light taking the full might of the Order’s wrath, of his wrath, with them through the galaxy. A righteous fist in the face of the New Republic and it was all his doing: his genius at work, his plans come to fruition in a surge of pure, unmitigated glory. Hux felt made raw by it, every atom of his person felt born anew and surging with purpose. Today marked his true becoming…
Hux woke alone at the intended hour.
He kept his rest cycles short; he always had. After the events on Crait, after they sent the paltry remains of the Resistance limping off in a single battered freighter, he had struggled to correct the sleep deficit the Starkiller disaster had gifted him. There had been speeches to give. Kylo Ren required a shocking amount of attention in his ascendancy and it was Hux’s responsibility to give it. They settled into a wary routine interrupted by Ren’s tantrums and now frequent nightly visitations. He’d taken sedatives as Ren suggested and still dreamed regardless. It was hard to control something that insisted on revealing itself.
They never spoke of it outside of Hux’s bedchamber. All of their on-cycle conversations were pointed and driven. Ren pushed and Hux attempted to pull back and continue the work of the Order. Ren still allowed him to give his daily announcements. He’d announced Ren as Supreme Leader himself. It was fitting. It was appropriate. And aside from their dire nocturnal interactions, Ren hadn’t hurt him again in front of his men.
Now, when Ren looked at him, Hux wished he still wore the mask. His eyes left little to the imagination. They asked the question Ren had yet to pose again: can you feel it?
Feel what? Hux wanted to shout. But he did. He felt it.
“I’m not sure about red.” Ren adjusted his cape in the mirror. He pulled some of it over his shoulder like a cowl then pushed it back again. He tugged on his hair and huffed like a child frustrated by his shoelaces.
“It’s too red.”
“You wanted to be different,” Hux said, going for gentle. “Black is maybe more your speed, and you’re certainly not going to wear gold, but the red is fitting. Majestic, even.”
Ren turned so he could see Hux before he rolled his eyes. “Don’t—do that. Don’t put on that simpering tone with me. You’re forbidden.”
Hux bit his lower lip and lowered his gaze in an approximation of respect. “Apologies, Supreme Leader.”
“Don’t do that either.” Ren went to him, tilted his chin up with one finger. His glove leather was soft and smelled clean for once. “You picked it out. That’s why you’re pouting. You made me trust you.”
“Do you? Trust me?” Ren’s other hand landed on his hip, where his blaster might have been. Where his blaster hadn’t been for quite some time.
Hux moved to pull away.
“But I believe you. When you tell me things. Isn’t that enough? For your Supreme Leader to believe you?”
Hux considered this. He was, as far as he knew, the only person Ren spoke to privately aside from his knights. He was the only person who influenced the way the Supreme Leader dressed or how he spoke. And he was certainly the only person who shared his bed from time to time. Ren was wise not to trust him, even though it stung to hear it said so plainly. When had he started to think anything Kylo Ren did was wise? It dawned on him quickly: perhaps when he began heed your counsel.
“I suppose,” Hux said. “It could be enough.”
“I’ll wear the red at your suggestion, Grand Marshal...”
There was a warm body beside him, curled around him, and it was snoring. Hux shifted and found it difficult to move, thanks to the bared arm thrown over his waist. Knees were tucked up behind his own, and a face was dangerously close to being pressed into the crook of his neck. Hair scented with cinder brushed his cheek.
He couldn’t be sure he wasn’t dreaming.
Ren snuffled against his skin, nosed at his throat. His breath was soft and even. His embrace had the heavy, inescapable quality of weighted restraints.
Hux let himself fall back asleep.