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Heartless Machine

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Hux stood in front of a mirror, synthskin pulled back and chest open so that he could fix a problem with his hydraulics; his arm wasn’t functioning right, it’s movement stilted and the joint sometimes locking. If he didn’t get it fixed soon, it would be obvious that something wasn’t right with him. Of course, there were a lot of things not right with him, but one thing in particular was important that no one found out about. No one knew that in place of blood and veins he had wires. Durasteel in place of bone. A kyber crystal in place of a brain. The only other person that knew about him, the Sith lord he’d manipulated into helping him so many years ago, now dead. No one knew he wasn’t the human he pretended to be, and he would like to keep it that way. He just hoped no one, especially that damned Ren, found out about him. Hux had no doubt Ren would report him to Snoke, and that would be an immediate ticket to getting melted down. Or dissected. He saw his disgust looking back at him in the mirror. No, he would never go through that again. He would never be left at someone else’s mercy, even if it meant spilling rivers of blood to continue keeping his secret.

The door slid open with the soft sound of metal moving through air as Ren barged into Hux's quarters, helmet tucked under his arm and pinned to his hip, shouting about some perceived slight to his reputation by one of the bridge crew. He held his activated lightsaber in hand; not noticing, or not caring, as it flickered and crackled madly, casting eerie shadows in the room. From the angle at which he entered, Hux's slim figure blocked the entire mirror and concealed his true nature, but Ren stopped short at the sight of the general in so little clothing. "Hux, your officers need to learn some respect for the Force," he snapped.

Hux swore under his breath before snapping, "Light's zero percent." The room immediately went dark and he snapped his chest plate shut with a soft click. He had to remind himself to not let his eyes glow as he folded the mesh back into place over the plate quickly, then the synthskin. Seams were left in the skin, some more noticeable than others, as he attempted to fold it down quickly with just his one functioning arm. He wasn’t able to be as meticulous about it as he would normally be, but it was better that than let Ren see his true nature. "Get out, Ren," he all but hissed at the knight, looking for his undershirt, which he realized he'd left on the bed. A terrible judgement call, really; he would have to walk past Ren to get it. "I don't have time for your wounded pride."

Ren held his lightsaber out to illuminate the room, creating the illusion of flickering firelight on the general's quarters. "And I don't have time for your games, General," he retorted. "Control your crew or I'll reprimand them with my own methods." It really was a pity the general had set his voice-activated commands so carefully that Ren couldn't make them respond, or he'd turn the lights on just to aggravate the man. He watched as the unstable red light washed over Hux's body, over pale skin that seemed unmarred except for what looked to be a raised, severe looking scare down his sternum that he saw in the mirror. "Your chest--" Ren blurted out, lips turning down in a frown, before sneering.

Hux immediately crossed his arms. Or tried to, rather. His one arm just hung limply at his side, so he dropped the other and let it do the same. "What about it?" He looked over his shoulder to glare coldly at Ren. He figured he could just go along with whatever it was Ren thought caused the raised skin. Hopefully he wouldn't notice the other smaller seams, though. He didn't exactly do battle, so it wouldn't make sense for him to be riddled with scars. Not ones so prominent, anyway. He did used to have to fight and battle, but it was something others didn't know about. Yet another thing he would prefer to himself.

"I thought all your training came from simulations, someone as gutless as you would have never survived battle. Or... are they medical scars?" Ren hadn't seen scars like that from surgery before, but maybe Hux's training had taken him to some backwoods moon with less than ideal medical care; he’d heard rumors about the less that pleasant conditions of the Academy’s batten training grounds. The glow from his lightsaber made a few other small scars stand out, and he couldn't help but notice that one of Hux's arms didn't move when he jumped. The muscles didn’t even tense. How strange, Hux had full use of his arm the other day. Ren lifted his hand slightly and prodded at Hux's unmoving arm with the Force to see if he could feel anything.

"What does it matter?" He didn't react to his arm being prodded, having turned off the sensors in it so he couldn’t feel a thing, instead walking towards his bedroom, brushing past Ren. He smoothed his hand down the seam, trying to make it less prominent, before jerking on the tank top, with some difficulty due to his arm. He glared down at the damaged limb that had completely stopped functioning. "Traitor," he huffed at it. With a sigh, he raked a hand through his hair, before walking back out to Ren, he couldn't exactly hide in his bedroom and hope the aggravating man would leave.

"Maybe you should go to the med bay," Ren said when Hux reappeared. "It's typically not a good sign if you lose the ability to move your arm." He prodded at it again and gently lifted it out to the side with the Force, being careful not to injure the disheveled-looking general. "I don't particularly want the responsibility of running this base on my own. It would cut into my training and meditation."

Hux glared at him, using his working arm to pull his other one back down to side. "Stop that, I'm not some toy for you to practice your magic tricks on.” He had to consciously keep himself from rolling his eyes. Of course Ren would only worry about himself. “My arm is perfectly fine, don't concern yourself with it." He walked back over to his desk to pick up his necklace; a small, faintly glowing, turquoise crystal on a simple black leather lace. Rather than put it on, he wrapped the chord around his wrist and closed his hand around the crystal, as if to protect it. He had no doubt the kyber crystal would call out to Ren with the force, so he wanted to make sure he had it if Ren decided to try to take it. He knew it was unlikely he could compete with the Force, but he would at least put up a fight. If nothing else, he would be able to lock his fingers, and his durasteel bones would put up much more resistance than the bones Ren was used to dealing with.

Ren watched Hux walk away, half concerned at Hux’s injury, half angry at being brushed off as nothing more than a simple pest or a child wanting attention. But that’s exactly what he was to Hux, wasn’t it? What sort of madman was Hux if he could ignore such severe symptoms? Then, Hux picked up a glowing crystal and held it tightly; Ren knew instinctively what it was, and his lightsaber even seemed to glow brighter. How did Hux have a kyber crystal? What use did he have for one? And perhaps most importantly, how had he never felt the strange draw of the Force-sensitive stone before? "Hux, where did you get that?" he asked, his voice coming out with a strangely distressed note.

He turned back to face Ren, hands crossed behind him as he stood purposefully at parade rest. "Where did I get what?" Playing coy was always the best course of action with Ren, since he couldn't get into his head. He didn't have a mind to read, after all. He hadn't been thankful for that little perk until he'd met Ren, and realized the knight wouldn’t be able to pluck his thoughts from him like he did with everyone else. Of course, Hux also had to make himself completely uninteresting to the knight to keep him from trying to read thoughts that weren't there.

"That's a Force-sensitive stone you have there," he said, wrinkling his nose in distaste at Hux's calm rejection and impenetrable defenses. He hated that he couldn't tap into Hux's mind, and maybe this kyber crystal had something to do with it. Ren felt a bit childish as he tried to scramble around Hux and catch a glimpse of the black cord around his wrist, but he was determined one way or another to figure out why Hux had that crystal.

"Is it now? I hadn't noticed," he said evenly, keeping his features stoic. As Ren went around him, he clenched his fingers tighter around the crystal. He didn't need to be touching it to access his body, obviously, but he didn't want Ren to take it from him. Whether he knew the purpose for it or not, having it would give Ren power over Hux that he didn't want him to have.

"It's a very rare kind, too. The same kind in my lightsaber. Look," Ren said, holding his lightsaber up so Hux could see how the blade flickered and jumped from its proximity to an uncontained crystal of the same origin. Obviously, Hux didn't want him touching it, but where was the fun in that. He gave the cord around Hux's wrist a little tug with the Force, not really expecting the general's slender wrists to offer much resistance.

Hux glared at him, holding onto his crystal tighter but careful not to shatter it. His bones wouldn't break that easily, being made of the same metal as lightsabers, but he was worried about his skin tearing if Ren pulled the cord too hard. It was delicate, not much stronger there than normal skin, and if it tore the metal structure of his hand would be revealed. "Get out, Ren. I have more important things than you to deal with right now," he said firmly, easily masking the agitation in his voice with annoyance.

"My arm is simply numb because I was leaning on it at my desk, nothing to concern yourself with. It simply needs blood to circulate to it again. As for what I am, I am obviously human. What else would I be?" He praised himself on his ability to lie so convincingly, even though he was becoming more agitated, seeing the connections being made in Ren's mind. His eyes really were too expressive, no wonder he always wore the helmet, he was an open book without it.

"Numb and immobile are two very different things, General. It seems to be completely paralyzed." Ren bit his lip, unsure if he should tell Hux his theory. What if he was entirely human, or simply had a prosthetic arm? He had vague memories of his uncle having a very realistic prosthetic hand, just as sensitive and mobile as the one he was born with. "Hux, are you..." He paused again, not sure how to ask. "Is your arm a prosthetic?"

Hux weighed his options, running the statistics of how believable it would be to say he was fully human or the he just had a prosthetic. It was a much better chance to say he had a prosthetic and was embarrassed about it, than to come up with a better lie. "... Yes, it’s a prosthetic." Considering his situation, it was more of creative truth telling then lying, anyway.

"I could help." Ren mentally cursed himself as soon as the words tumbled from his mouth, but he kept going. Damn the Skywalker impulsiveness! "My uncle had one just like it, and he taught me how to do maintenance and repairs. Apparently, missing limbs are a recurring problem in my family." He couldn't gauge Hux's reaction--not that he ever really could--and it unsettled him to the point of rambling.

"I have no need of your help, thank you. I'd rather not have you touch the mechanics; you would probably break something so delicate." He felt the urge to cover his arm protectively, but that would give Ren a chance to see--and possibly take--his kyber crystal, so he stayed in the position he was in.

Perhaps a bit too defensively, Ren held out his deactivated lightsaber hilt. "I built this when I was barely a teenager," he snapped. "I can handle delicate mechanical things." He didn't miss how Hux glanced toward his arm as though he was afraid, but he didn't want to grab at Hux and alarm him. "Would you rather trust your arm to the technicians here and risk revealing your secret?"

"Forgive me, but that broken toy of yours is hardly reassuring, since it doesn't even function properly," he said, obviously unimpressed. "I am not going to trust anyone with my arm. Since I'm the one that designed and built it, I can fix it just fine myself. Which I was trying to do when you barged in uninvited, I might add."

The jab at his lightsaber's construction hurt Ren a good deal--probably more than Hux intended. Then again, maybe not; Hux seemed to live for making little jabs at him like that. He pulled back the hilt protectively and glared at Hux. "The Force presented me with a cracked kyber crystal. I wasn't allowed to use it because it was too unstable, so I had to dig up ancient schematics and work in secret without guidance to find something that could accommodate it," he snarled. "I'm sorry it's not perfect, but I made it work."

Hux almost said that if he could find an unbroken kyber crystal without the force, Ren should be able to do the same with its assistance, but that would bring up questions he had no intention of answering. Maybe if he pushed the right buttons, Ren would storm off and leave Hux in peace. "It works for now. I've heard broken kyber crystals have a tendency to blow up. I'm sure the same will happen to your pathetic excuse of a glow stick sooner or later."  He knew it was equally as likely that Ren would have a tantrum and destroy the room or, quite possibly, Hux. Even if by accident.

"It's not going to blow up," Ren insisted. "That's what the cross guard is for. It's stabilized. And of course you wouldn't understand why I used it. When a Jedi comes of age, they journey to find a crystal that calls to them through the Force. It's an extension of the soul, an organic heart for a lifeless piece of machinery. And mine was cracked. What would I be if I tossed it aside and grabbed a more functional one? This one is mine, and it works perfectly fine." So maybe he was a little defensive. Maybe he wasn't even a Jedi anymore. But Ben Solo had cried himself to sleep, cradling that cracked piece of stone to his chest, hating the way a secondhand lightsaber felt because nothing about him was ever good enough.

"That thing is hardly stabilized." He scoffed rolling his eyes. "Please, what do you think you are, little failed Jedi? You were tossed aside. Tossed aside for someone better in the Force; that little scavenger girl, wasn't it? Your father practically adopted her the second he saw her." He felt a twinge of guilt at his words, but there were far worse things than trading ones family for power. Hux knew first hand, having done that and worse, himself.

"Shut up, Hux." The words came out with an eerie sort of calm that usually signaled a berserk episode, but Ren hissed and tightened his grip on the weapon. "You would know exactly how to use my family against me, wouldn't you? You know, I've heard about the things old Commandant Brendol did, and it's no wonder you're a heartless machine." He only meant the insult as a metaphor, but he had no idea how true the rumors were. Brendol Hux had a reputation for cruelty, and Ren wouldn’t be surprised if that cruelty had been shown to his students at the Academy. Or, at the very least, Hux while he was growing up.

Hux tensed as his father was brought up, that hitting a particular chord with him. Ren had no right to bring up Hux’s past. Ren had a good life growing up with a loving family; he was to blame for what happened after that. But Hux had never known such things as family growing up. His features went completely stoic and cold, almost stony, and would have likely tried to hit Ren for bringing up his father, if it weren't for his damaged arm. "You know nothing about my father and what he did." Especially at the Academy on Arkanis. He gritted his teeth, having to physically hold himself back from trembling in rage. He could keep himself controlled; lashing out uncontrollably was something Ren did, and Hux would not lower himself to Ren’s level, no matter how much he wished to.

Ren's insult clearly cut deep, the way Hux went rigid and blank-faced. "Accept it, I'm not the son my parents wanted and you're not the soldier your father wanted, no matter how many young hopefuls you slaughtered to claw your way up to your current rank. Everyone's heard the whispers, Hux. Everyone knows about the blood spilled in your father's name, even if nothing can be proved."

"No, unlike you, I am exactly what my father made me." He gave Ren a cold, predatory smile, all teeth. Teeth that looked almost sharpened, as if they could easily tear through flesh. "And, as always happens to those that create something they can’t control, I destroyed him. Who do you think started those whispers, Ren? There's no one left but me that knows what happened, after all." He ensured that he would be feared, that way no one would ever try to make him a victim again.

This was certainly a new side of Hux. A terrifying--yet somehow coldly beautiful--side. Ren could see how this alarmingly young man became General. "The two of us, we're monsters," Ren murmured. He felt the ghosts of younglings and padawans clawing at his robes as he stepped closer to Hux again, pressing into his space and looking deep into those calculating eyes.

"No. You are. Like you said, I'm just a heartless machine," he sneered. He had been human, once, and it became clear quite quickly that he wouldn't survive unless he gave up everything that made him human and even that hadn't worked. He’d let his father, the other students, his time at the Academy, turn him into an animal hiding behind the mask of a child’s tainted, broken body.

Slowly, so as not to alarm the sharp-tongued creature before him who might rip his throat out, and take too much pleasure while doing it, Ren raised his hand and pressed two fingers to Hux's throat. No pulse. No breath. "You're a droid," Ren said, hollow and ragged.

Hux kept his eyes on Ren’s, his cold, emotionless stare putting the knight even more on edge. "Please, don’t insult me. I'm far more advanced than a simple droid, but yes. There is nothing human left in me."

"Beyond the level of General Grievous?" Ren's heart pounded in his chest. If there was nothing human left in Hux, who was the red-haired monster? "That crystal is your heart," he guessed. That would explain why Hux was so protective of it, and a kyber crystal was certainly powerful enough.

 "He was pathetic. Barely more than a droid." He unwound the necklace and put it on, seeing no reason to try and protect it, hide it, now. "Hardly. I have no use for a heart." He looked down at it, his features seeming to soften and the harsh edge melting away. "It's all that's left of me."

"Then it's your soul." Hux looked so much softer, more contemplative, with the crystal sitting against his chest. Ren wanted to reach out and wrap his fingers around it, to feel the thing that held Hux's fragments of humanity thrumming with life in his hand. Hux might rip his arm off for it, he knew, but Ren lowered his hand and brushed his fingertips over the crystal.

"You could call it that, I suppose. It holds my memories, thoughts. Emotions. Every bit of who I was from the time I was fifteen and started tearing my mind into little bits of myself to force into it." He said nothing about Ren touching the crystal. He supposed he could put up with him touching it, so long as he didn't try to take it. The second Ren tried to close his hand around the crystal and pull it away, though, Hux would sink his teeth into the outstretched arm, and he would positively relish every pained scream he would wring from Ren.

Ren carefully ran his fingers over the crystal, exploring the faces and chips and smoothed planes. As long as Hux permitted it, he was fascinated by the fragments of a younger Hux that leaked into his Force-fueled perception. He was careful not to tug at the cord around the general's neck as he mapped out the crystal with nothing more to aid his vision than the faint illumination of clock faces and small objects around the room, now including the crystal itself. It was only by a combination of the Force and proximity that he could discern Hux's expression. He supposed Hux probably had night vision. "Beautiful," he whispered, more to the crystal. "Completely revolutionary."

He realized that Ren probably couldn't see well, so he turned the lights up to twenty percent, his eyes casting a glow that illuminated the sharpness of his features. In the darkness, it was easy to see the LEDs blinking in his chest, shining faintly through his skin and tank top. "And there will never be anything like me again. The only other person that knew of this, the Sith that helped me, is now dead. There's no telling what my father would have done to other's to recreate creatures like me. It's... not an easy process."

Even in the slightly brighter light, Ren could see that Hux's eyes were glowing, and he gently pressed his fingertips to the colorful points of light beneath Hux's shirt. Hux felt human, if a bit cool. Ren wondered if Hux was laced through with artificial nerves--if he could feel the pressure against his LEDs. "There could never be another you anyway," Ren said reverently. He clipped his lightsaber to his belt and brought his other hand to Hux's waist, pressing lightly into what felt like human strength, but that Ren now knew was all machinery.

The crystal pulsed as Hux remembered the painful process of having to tear his consciousness into pieces over the course of a year, and all the physical effects that came with it. Often fainting at random times after a session, his body wracked with exhaustion at the mental strain that he had to fight hard to hide. To tear apart one’s mind, ripping their consciousness to shreds that could be forced bit by bit into a small crystal… Hux had almost gone mad from it. Those with weaker minds probably would have in Hux’s place.

He looked down at Ren's hand, able to feel the pressure since he had sensors spread throughout his synthskin, but didn't react other than tilting his head curiously. He frowned a bit at the hand that was placed on his waist, before looking up at Ren. "Please, don't go soft on me now, Ren." He needed what they had between them. The cutting, barbed words and adversarial relationship, their constant striving to get a hand up over the other. It made Hux feel something again.

Even without meaning to, Ren picked up on Hux's pain. The crystal still rested against the back of his hand where he'd spread out his reach to cover multiple lights, and he could feel something excruciating coming from it. It made his throat feel tight and his chest constrict, but he couldn't bring himself to jerk away from the sensation. Instead, he very carefully closed his hand around the crystal and tried to send some of his more soothing memories to the android through the gem's Force current. He gave Hux's hip a squeeze and said, "Human heart, human weakness."

Hux's eyes widened a bit as he felt rather than saw the memories from Ren. He didn't know what they were of, just that they felt soothing. Calming. He put his hand over his own chest, looking down where his heart would be. "Even when I was human, I had no heart. In the Academy, those with hearts didn't live long if they didn't lock it away and burry it deep. So I cut mine out and threw it at my father’s feet, and even that couldn't keep me alive." He drummed his fingers on his chest for a moment, not knowing why he was bothering to tell Ren any this, before dropping it back to his side. "I didn't become this… creature just because I could. I did it out of necessity. I wasn’t ready to die, so when I was told the exact day it would happen, I got to work building this body.”

So Hux could sense things that Ren projected--useful to know. He seemed tranquilized. Softened again. Almost human. It made Ren ache to see the way Hux raised his hand to his chest, resting it over the heart that wasn’t there. Reminiscing about the time it once beat in a different body, not the durasteel shell he wore now. Ren tried to comfort Hux, projecting feelings of warmth. Of belonging and caring. He didn’t know where he managed to conjure up something so strong, so realistic--it certainly wasn’t from his own memories--but it seemed to help Hux. It helped them both. “Who told you?" Ren wasn't sure he wanted to know, but the small part of him that clung to Ben Solo, that poor ritual sacrifice, wanted desperately to confide in the closest thing he had to a kindred spirit.

"One of the other boys in the academy. He was about a year younger than me, I think, and Force sensitive. Not that anyone knew, not even him, until he got a vision of my death. Naturally, he didn't foresee his own, and the fool died a month later in one of the death matches my father put us through. 'Meant to weed out the weak ones' he said." He tried to sound indifferent, but it was obvious the boy’s death had hurt him greatly. It was likely the only one he regretted among the seemingly endless trail of corpses he’d left in his wake. "The sadistic bastard made me kill him, too. Whether it was to make it worse for the boy, or because he thought I cared about him, I don't know. It may have been both, we weren’t allowed to have attachments at the Academy. He wasn't afraid to die though, said he was glad it was me that did it." He scoffed at the thought, trying to ignore the memories that came flooding back to him.

Memories of harsh winds and cold rain that tore at his skin like glass. Of mud caked underneath his blunt fingernails, and matted hair, mixed with blood that stained the strands an even deeper shade of red-orange. Of blue lips and shaking hands. A warmth on his cheeks that could have been more blood, even though it wasn’t as thick, instead burning the cuts on his cheek with its salt. Salt from the harshest of seas as Hux buried his blunt dagger in a young boy’s chest. The harsh seas that blurred his vision, but not enough to miss the relieved smile. The cold numbed his body, but not enough to numb him to the small, steady hand that cupped his cheek. Not enough to numb him to the sticky warmth flowing from the boy’s chest, coating his hands and mixing in the mud around him. The boy barely a year younger than himself. The boy who saved his life. The boy he had killed. The boy whose name he couldn’t even remember, even though he owed him everything. “I’m glad… it was you… Brell,” he choked out, his smile turning pained but not disappearing as he used that nickname Hux hated. It didn’t go away even as it became stained with his blood.  After all of this, he couldn’t be numb to the way the light faded from youthful eyes and the tense body below him went limp.

What was there to say to someone who had been through the psychological torment Hux endured? Ren had always thought he was all kriffed up to the unknown regions and back, what with Anakin's mistakes looming over his head and Snoke whispering in his ear, but this was beyond his comprehension. He moved before he could think, pulling Hux to his chest and holding him tightly, afraid to speak for fear of shattering Hux's fragile trust.

Hux didn't know how to respond to suddenly being held, having never had that happen to him. He kind of just stood there, arms hanging limply at his sides. After a few moments he leaned into Ren, slowly lifting his arm to wrap loosely around him. He closed his eyes, resting his head on Ren's shoulder, for once glad he'd decided to put the sensors in his skin that allowed him to feel Ren’s strong arms around him.

As soon as Ren felt Hux relax against him, he knew he'd done something right. Even more reassuring was when Hux's good arm slipped around him with an almost shy quality of motion. It felt nice, having Hux lean on him like this. Much better than their usual fighting. It had been a long time since Ren touched anyone outside of a fight, and he couldn't resist the urge to rub his cheek against Hux's hair. He certainly felt human... Did androids normally have such soft, clean-smelling hair?

"No," he said, thinking Ren had spoken out loud. "It's specially made, not common.'' He pulled back a bit, lifting his hand to lightly touch Ren's hair. He couldn't feel it the same way he would if he had human hands, but it felt smooth, and by just looking at it he could tell it was silky. Almost, if not as much, silky as his own synthetic hair.

"Like a high-quality wig, then?" It didn't alarm him that Hux seemed to have sensed his thoughts, seeing as there was a kyber crystal pressing into his sternum. Ren practically purred as he leaned into Hux's touch and chased after the pleasant sensation of having his hair stroked. He loved when Hux's fingers caught briefly on loose curls, and he loved the gentle pressure against his scalp. He felt electrified, alive again for the first time in so long, and he knew that some of his feelings had to be pouring into that Force-sensitive necklace. Let Hux feel, he decided. He was human once. He probably missed being touched, too.

He scoffed, rolling his eyes. "I suppose you could call it that. It's spider-silk. Not the easiest thing to get but the most convincing." The corners of his mouth twitched a bit, as if he would smile at the way Ren reacted to his touch, so he sank his hand into the soft strands, delighting in playing with it. When he was human, physical contact wasn't something he'd had. Not non-violent contact, anyway, and craving something tender like this was viewed as weakness. He didn't really miss being touched--he couldn’t miss something he’d never had--but he did like it now. From Ren, anyway. It was a nice change from what he was used to.

Ren let himself melt under Hux's touch, curling his fingers into the thin fabric of Hux's tank top. He'd never been able to disconnect his emotions and attachments like a proper Jedi, even when he had honestly wanted to be one. He didn't know what to call these tender, fledgling feelings Hux ignited in him, a chaotic jumble of protectiveness and wanting and sympathy, but Hux's half-smile made those feelings burn all the brighter.

Hux lowered his hand to Ren's neck, brushing his thumb over his jugular. Any other time, he would have gladly torn out the throat of anyone who dared to touch him like this with his teeth. Would have delighted in the way warm blood would pulse into his mouth with every beat of his victims heart. He pushed on Ren's jaw with his thumb, tilting Ren's head away a bit as he let that thought go through the crystal to him. He brushed his nails, slightly sharpened like his teeth, over Ren's neck, his touch feather-light.

Ren shuddered at the thought of Hux's teeth sinking into him, quickly replacing the image with much less ferocious kinds of biting to soothe the flare of panic in his chest. Hux wouldn't do that to him. Not now, not in the safety of this moment. Even if they never had another encounter like this, as long as his arms stayed circled around Hux's slender little waist for the time being, the spell would last. He moved compliantly with Hux's touch and arched into him, willingly baring his neck for the same creature who teased him with such bloody thoughts. He wanted those light touches in more places, wanted to feel the breath-stopping scratch of dangerously pointed nails over fragile human skin, and he didn't care if Hux heard his thoughts.

Hux chuckled softly, leaning forward just enough to graze his teeth over Ren's neck, letting him feel just how sharp they were. They weren't filed on the sides to form points like fangs, that would be to obvious, but rather the back was filed towards the front so that it would be almost unnoticeable. He lifted his hand back into Ren's hair, nails scraping over his scalp lightly. Despite his previous fantasies of tearing out Ren's throat and bathing in his blood, he knew Ren was right. He wouldn't hurt him, not now, at least, and he let him feel those thoughts.

In spite of the sensible part of his mind screaming at the danger, Ren found that he liked the feeling of Hux's teeth on his neck. It reminded him of razors, of how they were harmless enough until mishandled. But stars, did it feel good when Hux stroked his hair and scratched at him like that. Ren allowed himself a very un-Ren-like whimper and a shuddering sigh as he swept his palms over Hux's back and beneath his shirt. He sensed through the crystal that Hux was feeling docile, and he dared to break away from the teasing drag of those sharp teeth and bring his mouth to Hux's throat in return.

Hux closed his eyes again as he felt the man’s teeth. He had half a mind to bite into his neck. There was nothing like the feeling of someone's blood in his mouth, even if he couldn't taste it. He could feel it’s warmth against his sensors, the stickiness of it clinging to teeth and tongue, the satisfaction of feeling skin part around his teeth, letting them sink in, the pained cries and screams of his victims. But he didn't, instead just nipping him, not wanting to discourage him. He was curious to see where this would go. How far they would both be willing to take this. He rubbed at the back of Ren's neck encouragingly, tugging lightly at his hair.

Ren shuddered again and groaned as he picked up a vivid image from Hux, so horrifying, but so easily converted to filthier things. Hux seemed to be urging him on, so he nipped and sucked at the ridges of Hux's collarbones, tracing paths between light freckles with his tongue. Finally, his hands made contact with skin--synthskin, he corrected himself, even as he stroked his fingertips over it--and he let Hux into his mind again. It was a mess of images; broad, warm palms over a pale abdomen, exploring Hux's body with his mouth, wondering if Hux's darling semi-transparent eyelashes would flutter.

Hux shuddered softly at the images he got from Ren, tilting his head up to brush his soft lips over Ren's jaw, lightly brushing his velvet tongue along his skin. He tilted his head back a little as he felt Ren move down to his collar bones, fisting his hand in the hair at the nape of his neck, tugging gently. He looked down at Ren, before letting go of his hair to slowly pull off the tank top and reveal more of himself, not even noticing that his skin was still creased, not yet properly put into place.

Hux certainly felt like an organic being, the way his tongue painted a warm path up the curve of Ren's jaw. Sparks of pleasure shot through him--little fragments of pleading, of yes, there, that spot right there--as Hux kissed him, curled his hands tighter around silky black hair, and then Ren was left blinking in awe as Hux's shirt came off. The very first thing he did was to smooth out the scar-like seams of Hux's hurried attempts to conceal his mechanical body. He laced his fingers through those of Hux's immobile hand, just to even the playing field, and sank onto his knees as he mouthed at the flickering lights beneath Hux's skin and down to the ridges of his hipbones. Hux didn't have the same definition that he did--didn't need to, being a general--but Ren found that he liked the willowy grace of Hux's body, the thin layer of softer synthskin over firm mesh and cybernetics. He made sure to think so very clearly, just so Hux would know.

Hux looked down at their joined hands, using a bit of power to lace his fingers with Ren's as well and lock them loosely, so that they wouldn’t just hand limply, but Ren would still be able to pull his hand away. He looked down at Ren, pulling at his cowl and dropping it to the floor, before brushing his fingers through his hair again. He didn't know why, but he liked the way it felt sliding through his fingers. Like he was running them through water. He sighed softly, a strange thing for a creature with no lungs to do, as he felt Ren kiss at his skin. He was again grateful for the sensors in his skin. One of those 'just in case' decisions. His lips twitched again into that smile that wasn't a smile as he caught Ren's thoughts, brushing his hair back from his face.

 As soon as Hux's fingers twitched, Ren broke into a grin and squeezed his hand in return, nuzzling Hux's stomach in his excitement. He let Hux strip away the cowl and murmured a wordless string of contented noises as the android kept stroking his hair. When Hux sighed, his breath hitched. Hux didn't need to breathe, so he must have done something right. He sucked lightly at the spot right below a green LED and swiped his tongue over it to soothe it, just in case Hux could still feel the sting. He thought he could sense Hux smiling, and as those skilled fingers passed through his hair again, Ren briefly arched back for him and sighed out, "Stars, Hux," as though he could convey every feeling the android awoke in him in those two broken words.

Hux rubbed Ren's temple softly, sharpened nail lightly scraping his scalp. Hux couldn't feel what Ren was thinking now that their brief connection was lost, Ren no longer touching the crystal. So, he took off the necklace, completely trusting Ren as he put the crystal between their joined hands, wanting to feel him again. He bit his lip as he felt the light pressure from Ren's lips and tongue, sinking down to his own knees as he heard Ren sigh his name. He'd never really liked it, and even thought about changing it, but he undoubtedly loved the way it sounded now as Ren said it. He traced Ren's lips with his fingertip, before leaning forward to capture them with his own with little more than a barely there pressure.

The trust Hux gave him by placing the kyber crystal between their hands was like nothing Ren had ever known. He was only ever expected to break, to ruin, to destroy. Yet Hux trusted him with the most important thing in his possession. He rusted Ren with his very self. His consciousness, his soul. He trusted that Ren wouldn’t break that small, delicate crystal and, in turn, completely destroy Hux. Even after everything that had happened between, all of the manipulation, the threats, constantly trying to undermine the other. After all that, he still believed Ren wouldn’t betray his fragile trust. Not now, at least, and he was right. Ren wouldn’t shatter this moment between them. He wouldn’t shatter that crystal, wouldn’t shatter Hux.

He didn’t know what would happen after the spell was broken, if this would change things or if they would go back to waring with each other, but until whatever this was disappeared away, fading like a dream, Ren wouldn’t break Hux apart.

He tried to guide Hux down with his free hand when he noticed the sudden shift in motion, and he didn't hesitate to part his knees and give Hux a place to settle. Though he was too slow to give Hux's finger a teasing nip, Ren was more than content to push back against Hux and lick into his mouth, pulling him closer by pressing his hand into the dip of Hux's back. He was always loud, but the way Hux affected him, the steadily pulsing current of some fond emotion coursing through him from the crystal, it all had him groaning against Hux's lips and leaning steeply into him in unrestrained enthusiasm.

Hux rested his hand back on Ren's neck, nails brushing over the back of it lightly. He had lubricant in his mouth to keep it working, simulating saliva, and it had a light mint flavor that didn't quite cover the metal tang underneath it. He leaned into Ren willingly, not having to worry about being broken from sheer strength, or the chance that Ren would use too much of the force on him, like he would if he were human. If he got broken, he could easily be fixed. It gave him a sort of rush that he knew Ren could feel, feeling the crystal pulse between them, harder than before.

If Ren had the capacity at this point to think in depth about anything other than the next place on Hux that he wanted to put his mouth, he might have worried about overloading Hux with his onslaught of thoughts. Mint, metal, the unexpected heat and softness of Hux's tongue, unsteady puffs of air that Hux didn't truly need, nails on his neck, an ache deep down that he would be grinding the heel of his hand down on if he wasn't using it to map the tops of Hux's still-clothed thighs. He caught Hux's thoughts and followed up with an unplanned burst of enthusiasm for robotic aftercare, of gently tightening bolts knocked loose or fixing minor dents from being pushed into walls. Something powerful was building in the crystal, he knew, and as it grew, his thoughts became wilder, less restrained, and his motions became more frantic and hungry.

 He felt Ren's thoughts and lowered his hand to feel him through his pants, groaning softly. He pushed against Ren's tongue with his own, gripping him harder at the thought of Ren fixing and fine-tuning him. Of having Ren's hands in him, getting to know his inner working, getting to know him, more intimately than anyone else ever had. He'd never had anyone touch any part of his mechanics before, both from not wanting anyone to know what he was, but also because he didn't like the thought of being touched in general. He found that he didn't mind the thought of Ren's hands all over him, though, inside of him, getting familiarized with his mechanics, finding it quite erotic. He let the thought flow back to Ren, letting him know he wouldn't mind a little damage to his pristine body as well if it meant Ren would fix him, put him back together.

Ren rocked his hips up toward Hux's touch with a desperately needy sound, letting Hux's tongue in deeper. With his mind set on the track of Hux's mechanics, Ren jumped from thought to thought, flooding the crystal with images of carefully rewiring Hux to spike his sensitivity levels for the evening, of using the Force to link circuits that would make Hux's whole body buzz with energy. He wanted to feel the heat put off by those internal mechanisms, hear the soft whirring of complex systems in place of a pulse. At Hux's encouragement, Ren tipped both of them over onto the floor, straddling Hux's hips and pressing their conjoined hands down against the metal flooring.

Hux gasped softly, eyes widening a bit at the thoughts he received, He'd never thought of doing something like that before, and it sounded exciting. He looked up at Ren, his hair a bit messy now and splayed around him like a halo. He shifted away as he was straddled, feeling trapped, until he was able to have his legs on either side of Ren's. As long as he could move his legs, he was fine, but being so completely pinned brought back memories of his father’s experiments. He liked the way Ren fit between his legs though, like matching puzzle pieces. He looked away at that thought, and would have likely blushed if he could as he felt it go through the crystal.

Hux was breathtaking on his back, his hair fanned out like a fiery bloom, and Ren shuddered with the desire to keep this moment forever. His split-second pang of hurt as Hux wriggled away received its follow-up explanation in a burst of Hux's past, and suddenly, Ren understood.

Memories of being restrained, held down on a cold, unforgiving examination table as his father sought out how much pain he could take before passing out. How long he could handle an electrical current before his heart stopped. Being subjected to flashing, pulsing lights until he couldn’t tell when they’d stopped because his vision was still repeating the pattern. Of being injected with adrenaline and hallucinogens, forced to face the worst monsters his mind could dream up while unable to escape, his body’s need to run away fueled by the adrenaline pumping through him. There were some days when the lights would be blaring nonstop and every time he tried to sleep, a high pitched screeching would start, making Hux feel as if his ears were bleeding, to keep him from sleep. It would go on and on and on, driving him mad. Eventually it would stop, only for the process to repeat for days on end every time he tried to sleep. Then there was the gnawing hunger and dehydration. The times when his lips would crack and his throat bleed.

Hux felt soft lips on his own, a broad hand carding through his hair. He felt rather than heard Ren murmuring to him, trying to drag him back from the horrors that threatened to consume him, to drag him back to his hell. A broken sound wrenched itself from Hux’s chest, almost a sob, as he receded from his memories. He let Ren hold him to his chest, murmuring comfortingly against his lips and through the crystal. He reached down to coax Hux's legs up and around him, to anchor him and keep him close, urging Hux to take those metaphorical puzzle pieces and press them together.

Hux kissed back like his life depended on it, tangling his hand in Ren’s hair. He kept his legs wrapped around Ren’s waist, holding him close. Ren buried his face in the crook of Hux's neck as he began shifting his hips down against the android's, biting at Hux's shoulder and trying to stroke him from the inside out with the Force, letting the crystal amplify his intentions.

Hux kept his legs around Ren's tightly, the heels of his boots digging into Ren's lower back. He tilted his head back to expose more of his neck to Ren, pressing his own hips up, rolling them into Ren's slowly but firmly. He groaned softly as he felt the presence of the Force inside him, his mouth falling open slightly. It was strange to feel as if something was there, while at the same time his sensors were telling him there was nothing but his mechanics. He subconsciously rubbed Ren's neck encouragingly, before lowering his hand to grip at his bicep. He realized Ren was still fully dressed, and wanted that to change, sooner rather than later.

Ren let out a shuddering moan as Hux pressed his heels down. He wouldn't normally call himself masochistic, but for Hux? Maybe. He kept working along Hux's neck, grazing his teeth over tendons and along Hux's jaw, searching for any bit of wiring inside of Hux that would let him feel the same spikes of arousal that were surging through Ren's body, not just from the motion of his hips, but the kyber crystal biting into his palm. Hux looked so good with his lips parted like that, so blissed-out, and the way his fingers worked against Ren's neck--absolutely wonderful. Ren was reluctant to part from Hux, but as he shifted away to strip himself of all those layers of clothing and fumbled with buckles and zippers, he kept reaching out with the Force, tracing the paths of Hux's circuits until he found just the right wires to touch.

Hux dropped his hand to the ground, his nails scraping against the metal flooring as he shuddered. As Ren touched the different wires it made his vision go blank for a few moments periodically. He looked up at him, watching him undress with slightly dazed eyes. He traced Ren's form with his eyes, lifting his hand back up to trace the definition of his abdomen with his nails. He was careful not to scratch and leave bloody grooves or raised welts in the firm flesh as he touched him, before pressing his palm flat and running it all over Ren's torso. When he was younger, he'd wanted a form like that, and as he got older he found that he more admired people that had it, rather than wanting it himself. It's been a long time since he'd desired anyone, though, regardless of their appearance, but he felt that spark of desire now as he looked at Ren. A quite literal spark in the nape of his neck where his sensory wires met.

Without the kyber crystal linking him to Hux, Ren felt stranded. He could tell that Hux was enjoying the view--and the internal fiddling, based on his jerky motions and glazed expression--but he missed the deeper link he'd experienced. He blushed as Hux looked him over and stroked him. Intimacy was somewhat foreign to him as a Jedi dropout, but he wasn't about to let that slow him down. Ren slotted himself back between Hux's legs and tugged clumsily at his pants, all the while using his powers to skim the planes of Hux's body and keep track of his reactions. As soon as he got those boots and uniform trousers out of the way, he told himself, he'd link his hand back up with Hux's and find that spot to make his power surge... or whatever the equivalent of an android climax was.

Hux worked on toeing off his boots, leaning up and reaching behind Ren to unzip them before kicking them off. He kept his legs propped up on either side of Ren as he pushed his pants down, sliding them off his legs and tossing them aside so that he was bare before Ren, wanting the link between them now more than ever. He wrapped his legs back around him, delighting in the feel of him pressed so close. It felt so strange to be laid bare like this, especially in front of Ren, without his uniform. His armor. He didn't let it get to him, displaying himself for Ren's eyes alone even as he wanted to reach down and cover his hardened length at the very least.

"Don't be shy," Ren murmured against Hux's lips. "I feel it too." He slid back into place effortlessly, laying himself out against Hux and rolling his hips. As soon as he joined hands with Hux again, he felt complete, like some part of him had been restored. Hux's shyness was more obvious now, but also a rush of confidence as Ren felt the android shift and pose for him. Now he knew what Hux wanted. A spot at the   nape of his neck, right where he'd been scratching at Ren's hair, and a well-placed application of the Force to link up a circuit. "You're beautiful," he said, dragging his hand down Hux's side. "So beautiful. Will you let me watch you come undone?"

Hux leaned up into Ren just enough to kiss him softly, sliding his hand up rest back on Ren's neck, massaging it lightly and tugging gently at his hair. He welcomed the link between them, sighing softly as he felt that connection to Ren again. At Ren's question he nodded, laying himself back down fully on the ground. Pulling Ren down to kiss him again, he draped his arm around his neck, tangling his hand in the soft black strands of his hair. Right now, he didn't know if there was anything he could, or would, deny Ren. Due to the crystal, he felt a deeper connection to Ren than he ever had with anyone else in his life. It was a deep, almost indescribable sensation of belonging. Of being wanted and welcomed. He didn’t want to lose it. Didn’t want to go back to his hollow shell, alone in his thoughts without Ren to dull the sharpness, the pain, that they brought.

Ren let himself be pulled down, entranced by Hux's careful touches and abundantly clear satisfaction. Hux's arm felt wonderfully heavy and solid around him, and Ren hardly had to rely on the crystal to feel the waves of want, need, please come here, rolling off of the figure beneath him. Even sliding his hips against Hux's felt right, just enough friction. He searched out that cluster of wires within Hux as they kissed, as their bodies continued their slow rhythm of push and pull, until finally, he was sure he had the right place. The Force guided him to it, aided by the kyber crystal, and it took very little effort to spark the wires in a cluster at the nape of Hux's neck.

Hux gasped, eyes widening and tensing up for a moment like he'd been electrocuted as his wires were sparked. It felt like someone striking rocks to ignite a flame, and it made him groan against Ren's lips, kissing him deeper. He pushed and ground up into Ren harder, dragging his nails carefully across Ren's back. While Ren didn't have to be careful with him due to his body being easily fixable, he was concerned about wounding Ren. His very body had been turned into a weapon, and he didn't want to injure Ren in his carelessness. If he was going to make Ren bleed, it would be intentional so he could take proper satisfaction from it.

The way Hux gasped had Ren moaning the android's name in a series of fragmented cries. He kept teasing those wires, simultaneously seeking out those other spots within Hux that he found before. The Force wasn't limited in the number of points it could brush up against at once, and what Ren was seeking was an undiscovered completeness, a circuit of points within and outside--hipbones bumping together, lengths aligned, hands joined, Ren's tongue in Hux's mouth. He sensed Hux's concern and sent him thoughts of reassurance. ‘You haven't hurt me yet,’ he thought, ‘Even when you probably wanted to.’

Ren had Hux all but writhing beneath him as he managed to manipulate so many wires, all of the electrical impulses building and syncing up into a heavy pulse of pleasure throughout Hux’s body. He sucked lightly on Ren's tongue, delicately, teasingly, scraping his sharpened teeth over it. Ren's thoughts made him smile softly, a real, genuine smile this time. He was still careful to not hurt him too much as he let his nailes dig into Ren's back, dragging them down along his spine, and leaving small raised welts in their wake. He was still careful to listen as much as he could to Ren's thoughts to see if that was alright.

If Ren's thoughts weren't assurance enough, the way he quivered against Hux and pumped his hips faster was a clear indication of just how appealing he found the feeling of Hux's nails dragging down his back. Hux's squirming added to the heat, the friction, and that smile--that smile alone was enough to make Ren fall apart into a spent, sobbing mess. He clung on by sheer force of will, pushing himself to last longer, work Hux's wiring just a little harder. He made no attempt to hide it from Hux. Let him see, Ren thought. Let him see what he's done with that beautiful smile and those clever hands.

Hux reached down to rest his hand on Ren's hip to make him still, before gripping his length lightly. He stroked it teasingly a few times, before shifting, lining the tip up with his entrance. His body was built based on that of a pleasure droid his father owned, he thought with embarrassment. It had been the only kind of droid he'd had access to, to learn from. He let Ren see the memories of his teenage self shyly learning how one worked, exploring its body carefully, it in turn doing the same to him--the closest thing to a kind touch he could remember being given to him-- and using the knowledge to build this body. Let him know that if he wanted, all he had to do was thrust inside and Hux's body would eagerly accept him.

As Ren drew back to get a better view, he bit down on his lower lip and he picked through Hux's memories. Young cadet Hux was nothing like the Hux before him. Shy and unsure, nervous as he let the droid undress him. Let it touch him and show him things his body could do that he’d never known about. Then again, the Hux of this morning was nothing like the one he was with now.

Ordinarily, he knew he was supposed to use his fingers, to work his lover open, but Hux wasn't built like that. Hux was ready, and Ren could give him the same satisfaction by flipping those internal switches. He groaned as he pushed into Hux, going slower than he strictly needed to for the sake of his own dignity, so as not to shatter and come with a shout right there, and at the same time, tried to light up every artificial nerve he could find in Hux.

Hux cried out softly as his all of his sensors were stimulated, dragging his nails down Ren's back again as he tossed his head back to rest on the floor. He squeezed his thighs around Ren's waist, pulling him close as he felt him slowly push into him. He'd never thought he would share his body with anyone else or use it this way at any point in his life, but he was so glad he had decided to now. It felt like nothing he'd ever experienced-and nothing like how a human would experience it- and he felt the crystal pulse with the thrill and excitement and desire caused by Ren.

Hux's soft cries were quite possibly the greatest thing that Ren had ever heard. General Hux--reduced to breathy moans? It still surprised him. As Hux's thighs tensed around him, he began a steady rhythm, trying to activate Hux's sensors in time with his thrusts, slowly moving up from his hips to his chest and peaking at the nape of his neck when Ren was as deep as he could go. Then down, down, grind, repeat. He couldn't part from Hux long enough to speak, but his increasingly scattered thoughts were enough of a testament to just how amazing Hux felt around him. He was close, so close, hair falling his face and motions becoming uncoordinated. All he needed was to know that Hux felt it too.

Hux moved his hips in time with Ren's, smirking a bit as he sent a teasing thought to Ren, wondering if he would be dented by the time they were done. He shivered and writhed, groaning as he felt the impulses again from his sensors being stimulated. He'd never thought there could be such a good, pleasurable use for the Force, and he had never been so glad to be wrong. Ren managed to use the Force to make him feel things he knew nobody else would be able to make him feel. He brushed Ren's hair back, holding it out of his face as he looked up at him. He was so close to tipping over into his climax, not knowing what to expect since he'd never had one in this body, never knowing it would be possible, or even how it would be possible. "Fuck, Ren," he murmured expression vulnerable and open as he looked up at his temporary lover.

Immediately, Ren sent back a promise of gentle, apologetic kisses and working out the dents. He felt pretty bruised himself, but in the way that would leave him thinking about Hux for days, remembering, treasuring, what had happened here. Hux looked like he was close, and the second Ren delved into their bond, he felt it slam into him with no restraint. And then Hux was pushing his hair back, looking at him like he was the whole world. Ren knew he was probably looking at Hux just the same, as though the two of them existed in their own supernova, and one single word tumbled from Ren's lips in a hoarse whisper pulled from Hux's shared thoughts. "Come."

Hux smiled softly, shaking his head a bit. Gentleness was not something he wanted. He liked Ren the way he was, sharp attitude and uncontrollable, like a bursting star waiting to consume everything around him. At the order, Hux allowec all of the built up impulses to be released, firing through his body. The air around them seemed to audibly crackle with electricity, going so far as to travel though the crystal into Ren, as he cried out, arching up into him. He was seeing stars, supernovas, his eyes glowing brighter--now the brightest source of light in the dimmed room--as his power surged through him.

Hux... liked him wild and sharp, waiting to burst and take Hux into the heart of the explosion with him so that they could burn together. Ren's head was spinning from the revelation to the point where he nearly missed the beginnings of Hux's climax. He was sure that the fine hairs on the back of his neck were standing straight up as Hux cried out and the energy traveled into his own body. He caught Hux just in time to lose himself, slipping under and giving in to the burning pressure. Release flooded through him so quickly that he was sure he blacked out for a moment, though his hips kept thrusting as he spilled into Hux, and somehow, in between all the times he moaned Hux's name, he managed to sneak in a few sloppy kisses along the arch of his neck. The power coursing through the crystal kept him on a high he didn't know how to come down from, even as his motions slowed and the universe faded back in and distilled to one red-haired, bright-eyed point.

It took a little while for Hux to come down from his high, even longer than that for the energy to stop pulsing around his wires and sensors, causing him to occasionally twitch. A finger here, a thigh there, occasionally the corner of his lip. He laid limply, feeling the warmth from Ren's release in him. He looked up at him, still dazed as his eyes went back to normal, trying to regain function of his limbs that seemed to be momentarily paralyzed. He smiled a bit up at Ren, a soft laugh bubbling up from his chest. 'Fuck', he thought, letting it echo back to Ren, not trusting his voice at the moment. 'That was....' he didn't even know how to describe it. Extraordinary. Exhilarating.

Once Hux seemed to come back to himself, Ren was surprised to see the normally stoic general laughing and smiling. Had he brought that out of Hux? His throat felt too sore to reply out loud, so he pressed his forehead to Hux's in complete agreement and stroked Hux's hair. 'Mind-blowing? Life-altering?' And then, a true testament to his temporary lack of filter, 'Stars, Hux, don't ever leave me,'

'I think I need to recharge now.' His eyes glowed with mirth as he brushed Ren's hair back again, before kissing him softly. 'Don't go soft on me,' he reminded. Then, softer, barely a whisper of a thought that tickled the back of Ren’s mind, 'I won't.' He didn't know if their words had any real meaning behind them, or if they were just empty, hollow like himself, but at the moment they meant the world to him. It was an amazing feeling to have someone that he trusted with himself, however temporary that trust may be.

'Oh? And who's the one treating me like I'm made of glass?' He chuckled softly and kissed Hux again, brimming with promises he was eager to keep. He hoped their words weren't hollow. He'd carry Hux's reply in his heart as long as he lived. He knew right then that things were forever changed between them. Even if Hux went back to acting normal, Ren would hold this memory sacred in his heart. 'Come on, let me help you.' He disentangled himself from Hux and tried to help him stand.

"Compared to me, you may as well be glass," he murmured against Ren's lips. He let Ren help him to his feet, legs slightly unsteady and hands still joined, the chord dangling between them. They would possibly have to see about another way to keep their connection, since Hux didn't want to lose it, not yet at least –he could sense Ren didn’t want to either-- and they couldn't exactly walk around the ship holding hands.

"That's it, here, just lean on me." He pressed a kiss into Hux's ruffled hair. "Where do you recharge?" Ren didn't want to let go of Hux and lose their fragile Force bond, but he'd never complete his training if he followed Hux around like a lost puppy. He'd look into the bonds later, once he was well-rested and not quite so preoccupied with the general's voice still echoing in his head.

Hux pulled Ren towards his bedroom. "My bed usually, since it's more comfortable." He actually yawned a bit, before shaking his head. "You're welcome to stay and look at my mechanics while I do so, if you would like." He fell to the bed as soon as he was in range, lying flat on his back.

If Ren thought Hux's trusting expression was heart-stopping, he wasn't prepared at all for the adorable sight of Hux yawning. "I'm flattered," he said honestly, beaming with delight, "but I'd much rather sleep. You've worn me out, you know." He climbed onto the bed beside Hux, curling around him protectively and reaching for his hand.

Hux gladly let Ren take his hand, closing his eyes. "Then I'm powering down for a while. Do what you like when you wake up if I'm still recharging.” With that, he powered down with a soft buzz. The connection to Ren was not lost, though, and Ren could still feel the crystal pulsing in his hand. Almost like the pulse that Hux didn’t have, or like the gentle crash and recede of calm ocean waves.

Hux looked so peaceful when he was powered down--asleep, Ren still wanted to say. He propped up just enough to kiss Hux's forehead and whispered through their connection, 'Good night, Hux.”

The only response came in the form of a pulse through the crystal.