It’s always night in space, but it’s always day for someone too, on a spaceship.
Alternating schedules are fundamental to keep a ship running, but they also make it very difficult to find someone if you don’t know where they are at a certain time, as there’s not just one single work and sleep time for everyone.
For this reason, Kylo Ren had had to check General Hux's schedules few times to make sure he’d find him in his quarters when he arrived. Which, as he was quick to find out, isn’t that hard when you are the Supreme Leader and have access to all of the First Order's files; that kind of information was organized in detail and easy to access to make for extremely efficient research, the kind of organizational precision that was necessary on a ship of that size. It wasn’t as if he could feels surprised by that, considering the man behind that, of course the very man he was going to see.
And so the former apprentice to Snoke, now master of himself, found himself walking along the maze of the well-known corridors of the Finalizer until he reached the door to Armitage Hux’s quarters, requesting entrance, intent on apologizing for his actions of the previous day.
He wasn’t exactly surprised that the general had resumed his duties while the wounds of defeat - and of the knight’s own wrath - were still fresh on his mind and body, but nonetheless was feeling both resentful and worried for the other man as well as what was going to happen between them next.
The relationship they shared was, and had been since it began a few months after they were assigned co-command of the star destroyer a few years before, a double faced one, as cold and hateful in public as it was intimate and loving in private; it had always been characterized by some kind of respect for one other though, be it personal or just strictly professional, and now he felt like that had been lost in the tumult that Rey's betrayal and Skywalker's mockery had caused in the knight’s already fragile temper. He had hurt the only person who wasn't emotionally involved with him in a negative way, and as hard as it was going to be on the stubborn man, he was going to make amends and hopefully gain forgiveness, or at least acceptance of his sincere regret.
His words had obviously hurt the proud but surprisingly insecure general, words of power that had led to acts that established dominance and power; facts would heal, actions that spoke of loyalty, submission, care would tell the man the right side of the story, the one Kylo hoped Hux hadn’t forgotten and the one he wished he could explain in honest detail at a later time. It was not the time to talk, though that would come too soon enough, if he could find a way to be forgiven.
As soon as Hux appeared in the doorway, Kylo fell to his knees and leant his head against the other man's legs, wordlessly asking for the permission to apologise in a single yet infinitely powerful act of surrender.
He felt the other man tense up, most likely glancing about the narrow corridor as if looking for any witnesses to the extremely unusual event; Kylo felt a hand moving slowly through his hair, caressing his scalp, and he knew he had been accepted, that his bold action had been understood.
He moved his head to express his thankfulness by pressing a swift but meaningful kiss to the general's hand.
He then stood and took that hand in both of his, closing the door and leading the man across the room, bringing him to sit on his bed. He focused on the man through the Force, incapable and unwilling to read the strong willed man’s thoughts but still intent on making him the focus of his attention; feeling his confusion and suspiciousness at his stillness the knight started to put his plan into action.
He knelt at Hux’s feet, caressing every finger with his own and tracing over them with his lips, pressing soft kisses, allowing himself to worship what had been allowed for him to touch for the first time since his betrayal - which felt like it had happened a much longer time before than the few hours it had been, such was the weight it held on Kylo’s guilty heart. He couldn’t believe he’d been allowed this such a short time after his violent actions.
Slowly, reassuring himself with the feeling of quiet contentment emanated by Hux, of the fact that his presence was both accepted and wanted, Kylo started a trail of soft kisses that from the back of the man’s hand up his arm, moving above the fabric of the uniform's sleeves around his wrist and up until his elbow, following the feeling of his covered bicep until he reached the clothed joint of his shoulder, then proceeding along the protruding line of the collarbone up to the uniform's collar, underneath which he knew he would find the first -and most painful in more than one way- of the bruises he had inflicted.
Looking up into Hux's eyes, Kylo waited for the nervous but firm nod that gave him permission to be confronted with his actions and to try to make up to them. He gave thanks for that with a kiss underneath the other man's chin, then started to open the uniform's front, undoing the first few fastenings in slow reverence, uncovering the bruises on his neck.
He felt Hux tensing up underneath his fingers, the action reminding him of the place where less physical but more violent fingers had been, voices in his head scolding him for allowing himself to continue trusting such an irritable and unstable man. Feeling guilt rising from his gut, as a gesture of reverence and reassurance to the increasingly tense man in front of him, Kylo started caressing around Hux's throat with his forehead and nose, keeping his hands well away and his lips turned away from the man’s neck, feeling as though his mouth had been too filthy and harmful to the man, as if it had too much part in his previous actions to act as the means to his worship.
Kylo felt tears at the corner of his eyes, distracting him from the job at hand as those realized before he did just how close he'd been at making another huge mistake like the one that had left him fatherless not that long ago, how close he'd been to becoming the monster Rey had considered him to be. He couldn't bear to become that, couldn’t allow himself to act that way again, if not for himself then for the thought of being the cause of more of Hux’s pain, of seeing that awful look of betrayal cross his eyes once more, especially now that he was fully in control of his own powers and not under the rule of anyone (he wasn’t when he hurt Hux either, sure, but he was still feeling the strength of Snoke’s abusive orders compelling him to hurt whoever questioned his authority and power).
Hands in his hair pulled him out of his thoughts, back to the bittersweet reality, the man people called a monster almost as much as they did him (even if for other reasons) offering him gentle reassurance even in the face of his guilt. Looking up, he saw a gentle and understanding smile, as if Hux had understood his thoughts, as though he was the supposed mind reader and not himself. The youngest general in the First Order knew very well himself what it was like to be constantly called a monster, accused of having got to his position alternatively through murder and deception of sexual promiscuity, of being completely detached from his emotions or even incapable of feeling anything but ambition and lust for power. They both had believed that of the other when they first met, and understanding that those were only rumors spread by jealous officers and supported by Snoke in his effort to keep them apart from each other had been one of the first and most significant steps in the development of their relationship.
Reinvigorated by the reassertion of their connection, of their reciprocal feelings, the knight went on with his mission, taking apart another piece of the general's physical armour by taking off the padded jacket and the undershirt underneath. This revealed the worse of the physical harm Hux had been subject to, yet the result of an act he knew hadn’t hurt Hux as much as the less extensive but more emotionally disturbing one had; for this reason the sight of it didn’t fill Kylo with shame and regret as much as the previous one had, although he knew it definitely still had an effect on the general’s self esteem, making him question his command and bringing him back to a time where he was powerless to act on situations he knew could be fixed in the efficient way he preferred, a feeling so deeply forced into the general’s subconscious mind since his youth that Kylo had never been able to heal and barely to comfort when it relapsed into his mind.
Of course now he perceived more confusion than anger or fear from Hux: the man had been witness numerous times before to the violence Kylo's wrath could cause, even if he had never before experienced it physically on himself, but he'd never felt his hunger for power use such violent means as it did in the throne room, and even that hunger he hadn't seen much of since they'd left their rivalry behind in their private conversations.
As he started moving his knuckles soothingly alone his unharmed side, as if helping him rationalize the events, Kylo could feel just how much more comfortable Hux felt now despite the more vulnerable situation, slowly becoming once again more confident in himself and trusting in Kylo; could feel how relaxed the other man was now as he now carefully moved his hand across the expansive and intensely coloured nebulae of bruises that ran along the other side of the his body, could see that medication had already been applied to that part of his body, where he had left his no doubt painful (especially for someone who had to speak frequently during shift hours, like the general had to) neck and throat without care, a painful reminder never to let his guard down to both other people and himself, as he had too lost his rational mind after seeing his chance in Snoke’s dead body and Kylo’s unconscious form near that. It had been both a blessing and a curse for them both that Kylo had woken up as soon as he had.
Having now both seen and felt the consequences of his actions, and feeling how Hux was feeling exhausted by the intense working cycle and by his own conflicting emotions, perceiving his hidden need for comfort more than anything else, Kylo took off Hux's boots and socks, then slowly sat on the bed, pulled the man’s feet on his lap and started to massage the toes and the soles of his feet, relieving them of the tension of long hours spent standing and walking around the ship, delighting in the man’s relieved sighs, then going on to repeat the process on his without doubt equally hurting calves, moved by genuine care and need to comfort now that he knew the first steps toward his forgiveness had been taken.
Once he felt that Hux’s feet were sufficiently relaxed, he gently placed them back on the ground and went back to kneeling in front of the other man, putting his head on his lap, letting him play with his hair as he had many times before, only this time is was not as comfort to an irritated, tantrum ready Kylo, as it had often been after Hux found out it was an effective method of cutting the worst of the maintenance budget of the Finalizer, but rather as a distraction to himself while he tried to relax and move on, let himself trust again, if only for a night, to let himself have someone to comfort him through the nightmares that would surely come in his sleep, let himself be cared for after the physical and emotional exhaustion of the previous days.
The irony of the situation wasn’t lost on them both, but since their relationship was contradictory at its core they had learned not to give that contradiction much importance during the times where similar things happened, which happened semi-regularly whenever Kylo damaged something. Giving Hux trouble and more work. They had had to learn to prioritize. Now though, it was the general who needed a break from the difficulties of running a ship, who needed to forget how his lover had become both his boss and his enemy in so little time, and how those changes were already being ignored in favour of comfort, of “emotional weakness” as his father would say.
Kylo knew Hux had found himself centered again when his hand pulled at his hair urging him to stand up, having had enough of losing time that could be spent sleeping; the man obliged, not questioning the general’s well known need for time efficiency and practicality, instead standing and taking off his clothes, readying himself to go to sleep while Hux removed his already half opened uniform in slow movements that showed just how much weight the day had put onto the general’s delicate body.
Once they were both ready for the night and definitely ready to sleep, Kylo moved himself and Hux so that they were lying in bed, under the covers, in each other's arms, following movements of a well established routine that now felt so reassuringly yet so frighteningly familiar to them. Only now they realized just how much they had got into each other’s life, how much they depended on the other for everyday things like sleep and emotional stability.
The knight knew that the other man didn’t trust himself with words at the moment, not ready to forgive yet and afraid that he would say something he wasn’t ready to, and he wasn’t going to force him to speak, to hurt more than necessary; he thought about healing Hux’s neck, medicating the bruises so that they wouldn’t hurt him during work and afterwards, but then he realized he had no say in how Hux should react to what happened, he knew his pain was deliberate and chosen and while it was hard to leave him to suffer, he knew it would be worse to take that choice from him, to force his superior rank into their personal relationship, bringing back all the memories of the abuse they both suffered by Snoke’s hand by controlling his life as the former Supreme Leader had.
The only thing he could do now was help the man he loved as much as he could, show him in any way he was allowed to his care and to let himself be cared for again, slowly try to gain his trust once more.
As he drifted off to sleep, hearing Hux’s soft breathing, the man fast asleep in newly safe arms, Kylo made sure to promise to himself never to hurt someone he loved again; he knew that he would have to eventually confront his mother sometime in the future, and dreaded the actions that he was probably going to be forced to take by his position, the choices he would have to make; and he wasn’t sure he could ever stop himself from being hurtful to Hux in any way due to Snoke’s impressive manipulation of his mind, which he knew was going to be a problem sometime in the future; nonetheless, the excruciating aftermath of any time he had hurt someone, the pain and the struggle that had and would always follow any such action was enough for him to know he would do his best to avoid it, even if it led him towards the light side. It didn’t matter to him anymore, he was exhausted by all that talk of extremes in the force, all he was going to do now was care for himself, for Hux, for their First Order.
When Hux inevitably woke up from a nightmare, Kylo realized that maybe things were not back to normal; he was used to holding Hux through bad dreams, as that happened quite often due to the rough times they both had faced as kids and growing up.
This time though he couldn’t find a way to calm him down, as he tried to hold him Hux tensed up even more and started kicking, making small sounds of agony,as if him just being there was causing his suffering. He would have to investigate at a later time for latent force-sensitivity, but now he had to find a way to calm him down. Entering his thoughts probably wasn’t a good idea, his previous reaction obviously a sign of mistrust, at least at an instinctive level, and such an abuse on his mind wouldn’t have been welcome before, so it certainly wasn’t now.
The only solution was to wake him up, and while he knew that was almost never a good idea, he couldn’t just let Hux sleep through it, keep on suffering in his dreams only to wake up without feeling Kylo caring for him, which would probably lead him to think he had just stood there instead of helping, probably enjoying his pain.
He had to wake him up: he started gently dragging his knuckles along the man’s face, then when that didn’t week he gently shook him until suddenly his eyes flew open, lighting up with shock and then rage after the few moments it must have taken him to focus on Kylo’s face. The knight started regretting his actions as his head was turned by a slap before he could even see the hand moving, too focused on the expression on the man’s face (one he had never seen before) to keep track of his movements. He could only understand that the previous night hadn’t been enough to gain Hux’s trust back, and he could only blame himself for being so naive as to think that everything was forgiven and left behind for less busy times when they could talk about that. He could only wonder as to what the general was thinking, as he had completely closed his mind off to him.
“I see now, Supreme Leader” Hux couldn’t keep the mocking tone out of his voice when he referred to him by his rank even if he tried, Kylo thought, “What it was all about. Here I thought you sincerely wanted to apologize but of course you just wanted to get back into my bed. Here I thought you had an ounce of respect but apparently I was mistaken. Come on, now, let’s not embarrass ourselves any longer, get out of here or get rid of me, it seems I serve no purpose to you anymore, unless you want an unwilling partner. It’s not as if you could understand my value to the First Order anyways, so just stop bothering yourself with conflicting feelings and do what you want to do with me”. That was a deliberately low hit that Hux’s misunderstandment of the situation had carried and the general knew it; Kylo also knew that there was a sincerity to it, not in the taunt itself but on the subject, that his insecurities were showing in his defensiveness of the moment: their relationship had strayed into the sexual field a few times and the knight had always been the one to make the first move, as the other had explained to him that he felt the need but not the specific interest. Despite being many times reassured that his lack of attraction was general and not related in any way to him or to anything that happened to him in his past, sex was still one Kylo’s greatest insecurities in regards to their relationship, and to the fact that he didn’t want to abuse of Hux had been the primary focus of many a conversation, to the point of annoying Hux who obviously wasn’t as concerned as Kylo was; to hear him saying that even after having being reassured many times made him realize just how much the general, who was clearly too exhausted to argue the previous day, now that he was well rested and back to his senses didn’t want to see him and needed to avoid him at least temporarily, rightfully feeling betrayed and shocked at how quickly he had tried to make everything go back to how it had previously been, in an unusual moment of vulnerability.
He muttered a “sorry” almost under his breath as all his certainty left him and all he could do was turn and flee in a desperate attempt to save his dignity. He definitely didn’t get to see the surprise that struck Hux’s face immediately afterwards as he ran along the corridors back to his quarters, or the outstretched arm that just barely missed him as the man started to wake up and realize what he had just said.
It had been a few days since Hux had thrown him out of his quarters and his personal life (they still had to communicate in a professional manner of course) and Supreme Leader Kylo Ren didn’t know what to do to save their relationship. He didn’t even know if it was possible at all, he felt as though he had showed Hux his most vulnerable side only to be rejected like he hadn’t done anything to save their relationship.
He knew that it was completely his fault and that he was definitely overreacting, yet he couldn’t stop himself from feeling hurt and resigned by the impossibility of resolution of this situation. All he wanted to do was explain his actions and hope that Hux had reflected on the events of that night and was willing to listen, yet he knew the general couldn’t be forced into forgiving him and that even if he could be, they would never trust each other the same way and trust was one of the most important thing both of them needed from this relationship.
He couldn’t even bring himself to feel angry, his usual passion lost in a situation that couldn’t be solved by using the Force or his own physical strength(not like that had stopped him before, but in this case he just couldn’t bring himself to feel anything but hopelessness). All he could do now was go on and try to find another solution to a seemingly impossible problem, every day making him more and more desperate as nothing happened and the reality of the situation sinked in.
It was a shame that Rey had cut off their connection, she could have probably been helpful to him with these matters as she was more empathic than him, and she would have probably been willing to help him in an attempt to bring him to the Light side; she wouldn’t have approved of his affections for Hux, of course, had she known, but he had a feeling she would have at least offered a listening ear even if she didn’t want to help him, which she probably would have done hoping to get to more useful information to the Resistance or to his possible (impossible) redemption. But Rey had abandoned him, his mother had given up on him enough to let her brother fight him, and now he had pushed Hux away, with little to no chance of getting him back.
He was wallowing in sad, resigned thoughts when he heard the notification alert of an access request to his quarters. Could it be that Hux had come to talk to him, to forgive him? No, by any means it was too soon for forgiveness and there was a lot to do and no time for talks of feelings. It was probably some officer or another bringing him paperwork to sign as had happened a lot of times this week. This rebuilding business was going to be bad on his heart if it kept on jumping every time someone wanted him to sign something. Or he could just leave his quarters and go brood somewhere that didn’t have an access door. But then again he could meet Hux that way, and he was pretty sure the man wouldn’t want to see him around.
He rushed to compose himself -he was still the Supreme Leader, after all, even if he forgot to see who it was in his rush- and opened the door to be greeted by the general’s as usual expressionless face. He knew there would be no time to pretend formality now, as Hux was incredibly busy with trying to restore their resources these days (which he sometimes though was also an excuse not to see him), so he started to get closer to the man and understand where they were standing, only to be stopped in his tracks when Hux started retreating. Kylo had forgotten in his excitement to see him that he probably wasn’t over what happened yet, so he moved to the side to let the general get inside his quarters and explain why he was there.
“Don’t bother yourself, I won’t be here for long” he had stopped worrying about rank, which Kylo hoped was a good sign. It had been at the beginning of their relationship, at least.
“I just wanted to say that I appreciate your gesture. I did misunderstand at first, and I feel like I owe you an apology for that slap, but then I wanted you to hurt for a while so I didn’t say anything at all. I think I can at least trust your feelings for me to be honest for now, so I decided to let it go. I don’t know if things will ever get back to normal-”
“-It’s alright if you don’t want to see me anymore than you have to from now on-”Kylo interrupted, suddenly worried Hux was going to go against his wishes just to restore the status quo and keep him calm.
“That’s not the problem. I didn’t think I could be broken anymore than I already was, but apparently you did that. I don’t know if I will be able to mend myself, but don’t think this is over yet. I know I don’t want it to be over,even if I can’t stand to be in the same room as you right now. I know things will go back to normal someday, even if it might not be the same normal as before, but we both know we can’t possibly keep on living and working on the same ship without being together.”
It had actually happened a few times, them trying to stay away from each other or Snoke trying to pull them apart, but it never fully worked and only succeeded in bringing them closer to each other. Kylo could only hope that would be the case this time.
“I just need you not to freak out in any way, know that I just need time and when I’m ready I’ll come back to you. Just try not to hurt too much, this time the damage expenses are on you, and all that excessive paperwork surely isn’t going to make me more inclined to forgive you.”
And with that he was gone back to duty, still hurt in more than one way but strong enough not to give up on his life. Kylo didn’t know if he could do that in his place, just go on and not hurt himself or others, but at least he had the reassurance that it wasn’t over for him and Hux. He could try to be a more stable person in the meantime. A feeling was worming his way into his chest, one he hadn’t felt in quite a while and one he too closely associated with the Light.
Hope wasn’t going to make Hux come back to him any quicker, but it was going to make the wait more bearable, and he wasn’t anyone’s apprentice anymore anyways, having killed both of the masters that had tried to tell him how to feel, how to understand himself.
He was going to try and let himself feel things in a more natural and hopefully healthy manner, trying to become a better partner to Hux and a better leader to the First Order, give everyone a better chance of realizing the change it wanted to bring to the galaxy.
Supreme Leader Kylo Ren didn’t know what the future would bring -force visions, along with being extremely rare even among the strongest of users, were always vague images of a possible future- but he knew he would try his best to have Hux in it, hopefully in a situation of peace between them and in the world they live in.
For now, all he could was wait and try to make that dream a reality. Hard times were coming ahead, and he would have plenty of struggles, literal and metaphorical,to busy himself with, plenty of occasions to avoid Hux, to let them both reflect on where they stood. He could only hope that wouldn’t bring them apart in the end, that another huge conflict like the ones that already happened wouldn’t make for a repeat of the situation that had divided them just then. He would have to face his mother and Rey eventually, and he didn’t know what that would mean for himself and for everyone and everything around him.
But until then, he had an Order to run and a Grand Marshall to nominate. He was Supreme Leader, after all, and it was about damn time Hux got a promotion -and if that got him to spend more time with him, then it would only be a gladly accepted coincidence.