<My father’s on the warpath tonight>
<It’s fucking cold out>
<Wear a jacket>
There’s not much snow, but the small amount that there is has accumulated in perfect little horizontal lines on the step ladder outside Ben’s window and Armie nearly kills himself sliding it off with his boot because he hadn’t kept his back foot properly planted. That’s on him. The sudden rearrangement of the furniture in the bedroom is on Ben, so it is his name that Armie curses when instead of stepping gently onto the dresser that’s been under the window since roughly forever, he tumbles inelegantly to the floor instead. There’s no way that Han and Leia hadn’t heard that.
“What the fuck, you idiot?”
Ben’s on the bed, amused face illuminated by his open laptop in the otherwise dark room. “Oh, I forgot to mention. I moved some shit.”
He could kill him. One of these days he’s going to. But when he does it, it’s going to have to be on a night when Ben’s entire house doesn’t know that he’s come over, and he’s going to need a strong alibi because it would be all too easy to prove motive. “You’re a dickhead.” He kicks the snow from his boot at Ben and though there isn’t much, the trajectory is effective.
“Ack! That’s cold.”
“Wear a jacket,” says Hux, deadpan.
He strips off his boots, hat, and jacket and joins Ben in bed, above the blankets and with his back against the wall. He peeks at the screen. “No. I will stop being your friend.”
“I wouldn’t use it on you!”
It’s a decorative sword anyway, probably not that sharp, the type of shit that idiots buy from malls. Well, Ben is such an idiot but he’s also introverted so here he is online shopping for a weapon. Men with Ben’s IQ should not own weapons. Armie tells him as much.
“I’m smarter than you. I just don’t give a shit about grades.”
“That’s because your father won’t take a belt to your ass if you bring home a B.”
“Mom would throw a party if I got a B. Don’t think Dad would care either way.” Ben’s petulance about his father’s lack of parenting skills is maddening to Armie who feels he has much more to complain about. If he had Han and Leia as parents, he’d start believing in a god and worship it. He has no gratitude for the parents he got stuck with.
“You’re not smarter than me. Even if your grades were perfect, your intellect would still be far behind mine.”
It just makes Ben smile, just rolls off of him. If anyone else had tossed such an insult his way, he’d have busted their lip open. Armie can get away with almost anything because he’s been his best friend since they were playground age. “Yeah, you looked real smart falling in the window.”
Armie scowls. “Why did you move the furniture?” He looks around the dimly-lit room and sees that everything is out of place - the TV, the bookshelves, the previously helpful dresser. He doesn’t like it. He’s not a fan of change, even when it isn’t directly involved in him plummeting to his knees. “It looks weird now.”
“I like it. It seems roomier.”
“You’re the one with almost no stuff,” says Ben. He’s not saying that to be mean, but it kind of hurts anyway. His father isn’t the “allowance” type and it’s not like he’s going to buy Armie a bunch of decorations or toys.
“Have you been watching one of those home decorating shows?”
Guiltily, Ben shrugs. “Mom does. They’ve got good ideas.”
“I think you still need good grades to become an interior decorator.” He reaches over and tilts the screen down until it hits Ben’s fingers. “If you get a sword, I’m never sleeping over again.”
Without the light of the screen, it’s just the outline of big ears and nose, just a silhouette he knows way better than his own and not just because Armie avoids mirrors like a vampire afraid of getting caught. “Keep messing with my computer and I might not let you.” But he closes it the rest of the way, anyway, and sets it much further down the bed by his knees. “What happened?”
Sometimes Ben’s voice goes really low, and Armie wonders how much more it’s going to drop by the time that he’s finished. He’ll be like James Earl Jones by their 20s at this rate. They’re both tall and a bit scraggly, but there’s so much potential in their forms that he’s not sure what they’re going to turn out like. Messed up, if their history has anything to say about it.
“Oh, does it really matter?”
A good day with Brendol is one in which he’s absent. A bad day… well that can be demeaning or physically painful. It’s hard to say which he prefers. The blemishes to his body (backside, cheek, or, memorably, wrist bones) or the ones to his psyche. He was never going to be a nice guy, but he can watch as the man slowly twists his soul and yet be unable to prevent it.
“I guess not. Did he hit you this time?” asks Ben. It’s still super dark, just the light reflecting off the snow.
“Just with words.”
Ben’s shoulder nudges at his own, a supportive gesture. Armie sighs and rests his head back against the hard wall behind him. “I was about to go to sleep.”
“You can sleep now. I’ll be up a little while longer, but you don’t have to worry about getting the sleeping bag if you don’t want to.”
He likes the sleeping bag. No, he likes that there is a sleeping bag here waiting for him, like a second home. The bag itself smells like mothballs and closet. “Where will you sleep?” he asks with a yawn.
Ben scoffs. “I’ll be sleeping in my own bed. Where do you think?”
He’s still confused. “You mean sleep in the same bed?”
“Dude, if you want to go downstairs and get the sleeping bag you can. It’s not like mom and dad don’t know you’re here, twinkle toes.”
“You moved the frickin’ dresser!” He flips Ben the bird but he probably doesn’t see it in the dark. “No, you’re right. I don’t want to go get it. You sure it’s okay?”
“Yeah, just don’t fart on me.”
Armie shakes his head. “Huxes don’t fart. We’re of far too aristocratic breeding.”
He can’t identify the noise from Ben, but the laptop screen is back up, and he uses the light to find where he can slip under the covers. They smell like old sweat, hypermasculine body wash, and coconut shampoo. Ben can only sleep with one blanket even on a cold night like tonight because he overheats so easily, all the rage turning his body into a boiler. Still, it’s a soft blanket, and knowing that Ben’s awake, able to keep nighttime vigil over both of them, Armie feels very safe and cozy. His eyelids drag down immediately. The soft clicks of Ben’s fingers on the keyboard as he scrolls and searches are like a lullaby.
He wakes who knows how much later when Ben’s ready for sleep and jostling his pillow and blanket to get comfortable. “You didn’t buy it, did you?” whispers Armie.
“What if I used it on your dad?”
Armie flinches when he feels a hand in his hair, but it’s just Ben brushing aside the small bangs he’s been growing. It looks awful, but he wants to look less studious and he’s waiting to see how long he can grow it before Brendol forces him to visit the barber. Only, once the fringe is out of his eyelashes, Ben’s hand stays, the fingertips softly petting. “I could, you know. I wouldn’t even feel bad about it.”
Few would mourn Brendol Hux and Armie isn’t one of them. “They’d put you in jail and then I couldn’t sleep over.”
The gentle head massage is unlike anything he can remember ever feeling. It’s so soothing. He could fall asleep like that, might if it keeps on. His own hands are tucked up under his chin, which is good because Ben’s spread out, used to having the full dimensions of his bed all to himself.
“No,” Ben’s voice is soft and deep. “I didn’t buy it.”
It almost tickles, the way that the bite-short nails dance on his scalp. It makes everything feel lighter.
“Things are changing.”
It might just be the foggy state of his head but the words don’t make any sense. Still, it sounds profound, and he doesn’t feel like he should let it slip by without understanding it. “What things?”
“Everything,” sighs Ben. The hand stops and it goes back under the blankets with the rest of his body. Armie didn’t want it to ever stop. He suddenly wants very much to have Ben touch his face too, and his scrawny shoulders. He wants to keep getting petted, to feel the affection as a touch like happy people do. Before Armie can push further, he says, “Go to sleep. It’s really late.”
It takes longer than earlier without the electronic clacking and following the strangely portentous remark but Armie does slip back into sleep. His body shifts away from Ben’s heat throughout the night and it isn’t long before half his body is outside the blanket in an attempt to find balance. It’s a light sleep, and throughout the night, he feels parts of their bodies touch and move away, hears the soft rumble of Ben’s deep breathing and then hears nothing at all, not even the soft wind outside.
Things are changing he hears in his dreams which shift and tilt like a wooden labyrinth box. He can’t hold onto them. He wants to, to make things hold still, to stop changing. He’s uneasy. Like the empty space beneath the window, he can’t find his footing.