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Memory Makes All This

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Kylo Ren had never been able to resist the temptation to look. In his defence, Hux had made it far too easy, had been far too trusting by half. Only moments after the general rose from the bed, Ren rolled over at the sound of water in the refresher. It was one of the few luxuries the man permitted himself on a regular basis.

But he did not permit it long enough – not for Ren’s tastes, at least. Having popped the lock on a hidden drawer, he had only just began to comprehend its contents when the sharp voice took him hard from behind.

“And what do you think you are you doing?”

And Ren turned, found the other man damp of hair and slim of limb, wrapped tightly in only a bland grey robe. “Why, General,” he drawled, and withdrew the treasure he had found to dangle it between bare thumb and forefinger. “I would not have picked you for a traitor.”

Hux snorted, eyes glacial – but that tenseness in him, stiffening and strange, held an unusual bent that Ren had not felt before. Still the man’s voice remained even, almost conversational, as if they stood together upon the bridge and not in post-coital tangle in his own quarters.

“Give me that.”

Ren did not. Instead he withdrew it to himself, cradled it curiously between his own great palms, uncaring of his nakedness. “What did they offer you, General?” he asked, tilting his head at the crumpled piece of material; though faded and worn, its embroidered shape remained telling and true. “Freedom? Peace? Justice? Love?”

Give it to me.”

The hissed words had him looking up, almost surprised, for all his own voice remained languid and low. “No.”

Though Hux did not move, his entire body grew tenser still. It was all too obvious in the flare of nostrils, the tightening of fists, the sharpened narrow of his cold eyes. Ren could not look away. It fascinated him, always, to see Hux this way: an ordered man, a stiff and upright one, suddenly surrendering to the feral viciousness that lurked beneath the soft skin, the charming tone, the aristocratic features.

Ren had never seen Hux kill so much as a single individual. But in this, he knew that the general had done so. And he knew also that he would again – and not just from within the armoured and hidden firing chamber of his beloved Starkiller. Before him now stood a man who could close hands about a vulnerable throat and cheerfully choke the life from it even as he stared straight into the dying desperate eyes of his victim.

But Hux was no fool. For all Ren could sense the intense desire of Hux to throw a fist to his face, the man knew enough of the Force to rethink his options. Lips twisted, Hux turned away, knuckles still very white. “If you truly thought me a traitor,” he gritted out, “I would not even be alive.”

Ren smiled, crooked and careless. “Perhaps I want to keep you. For myself.” One hand rose, pushed back through the sweaty tangle of his hair. “You’re a good fuck, after all.”

Hux scowled, deep and dark. “I’m your only fuck.” One hand extended between them, sharp clear demand. “Ren.”

The urge to keep it burned so hot he almost laughed out loud – how he wished to see what monster he could awaken from slumber deep in the darkest recesses of Hux’s psyche, just by the power of petty refusal alone. But Ren did no such thing. Instead, he held out to Hux the tattered patch: the brilliant crimson of the Rebellion, rising firebird ascendant against a field of greying faded black.

Hux took it: too quick, as if he feared Ren might otherwise change his mind. He did not look to meet Ren’s curious gaze, not once, as he moved back to panels set into the wall and the storage recesses tucked neatly behind. And yet there he lingered, perhaps a moment too long. When he turned, his spine held him ramrod straight, his voice as clipped as it might be upon the great frozen parade ground of Starkiller base.

“Why are you still here?”

Ren only shrugged, met his eyes with easy nonchalance. “Perhaps I wanted another fuck.”

Hux’s nose scrunched up beneath the curl of his lip; Ren never had quite gotten around to telling him that it was, quite frankly, adorable. “I’ve just showered.”

“You can always shower again.” This grin had turned rakish, rendering uncomfortably close to ghosts of people Ren had no care to think of again. At least he could not see it for himself, even as he said with light mockery, “You’re the general. You can waste as much water as you want.”

“It is precisely because I am the general that I cannot.” And one hand rose, fingers pinching his nose precisely at the pale slope of the bridge. “Go back to your own rooms, Ren. You can have yourself a nice little wank there if you’re that desperate to get off again. Surely you got enough practice, before I finally took pity on you and showed you how someone else would do it.”

He might have been insulted, had the man actually looked at him while he’d said any of that. “Hux.”

And he still looked away – towards his datapad, resting on its charging cradle, far too close to where he’d lay his head to sleep. Even his name alone dripped with exaggerated patience, false congeniality. “Ren?”

“Why do you have that crest?”

He’d expected an argument – craved one, even, for so many of his disagreements with Hux had pleasant endings, and they already stood so very close to a perfectly serviceable bed. And yet, Hux only shook his head, words taking on a weary tone both unexpected and unpleasant. “Go tell the Supreme Leader, if it worries you so.” When he glanced up now, his expression had turned hard, strange. “It’s his place to order the execution of members of the high command. Not yours.”

“But I’d carry out the sentence.”

“Yes.” He blinked those pale eyes, just once, and did not look away. “Yes, you would.”

And Ren was the first to break that fraught gaze, turning to the place where Hux had so reverently locked the crest away. “You’re not a traitor,” he said, low, almost and suddenly bitter. And Hux snorted, drew his attention back on the turn of a second.

“Then why do you care?” His clear frustration, though rising, found itself checked but a moment later; Hux spoke only after shoving it deep behind a forced sneering curve of lips. “Perhaps I killed a Rebel, took it from him.”

Ren pursed his lips. “You were a child when the Empire fell.”

“Children can kill.”

A shudder moved through him before he could catch it, cold and harsh and cutting. But the memory that fought to bubble up beside it – Ren cast aside with fierce snarl, one which turned to a sneer as he thought of Hux alone. “You didn’t kill someone over that scrappy thing.”

And the man, his false calm turning more real by the moment, met Ren’s blazing eyes with his head held high. “But I will.”

Hux felt no fear. Ren had in fact never known what that actually felt like – and certainly had never once felt it directed at him. But something odd and uneven moved in his aura now, an unsettled eddying current about the still centre of his mind. And Ren tilted his head, gaze narrowed, even though such things were never seen with his eyes. “We don’t need to fight about this,” he said, very slow, and Hux’s scowl deepened even as his aura blazed brighter still, pulsing in time with a quickening heartbeat.

“We wouldn’t be fighting,” he said, very slow, deliberate in a way his traitorous heart was not, “if you would simply stop talking about it.”

“Your mother.” The answer came to him in a moment, sudden and so unexpected Ren could not help but speak it aloud. “Your mother gave this to you.”

Hux turned dangerously still. And yet Ren blundered forward all the same, pushing against the scarlet gleam of his thoughts like an insect drawn to burning bright flame.

“She called you Matisha,” he said, wondering, careless – and a hand struck between them, fingers closing around his throat. For all it was but a light squeeze, Ren’s breath caught and tangled upon itself as he met Hux’s eyes: so very pale, to match the death pallor of his skin.

“I won’t say this twice.” And Hux spat the words out, imperial accent thick and harsh and absolutely furious. “Get out of my head.”

Ren swallowed, half-choked on it. “Why did your mother have that?”

The warning curl of his nails matched the curious downward curve of his lips. “Ren.”

His own hands remained at his side, eyes fixed on Hux alone. The general had always thought that the knight knew how to win his battles only through brute strength and Force alone. If only he knew whose son he had been born as. And Ren smiled, even as he struggled still to draw a breath. “You can tell me.” Ren’s smile grew wider, turned stranger. “If you can fuck me, you can tell me.”

His thumb pressed up beneath the hard line of his jaw, forced his head further back. “What do you think this is?” Hux asked, vicious fierce demand. Ren only blinked.

“An alliance.”

His hand dropped away as if Ren’s words had held the power of electric shock. Then Hux stepped back, mouth twisted. Ren’s throat still burned with the heat of his grip even as the man shook his head with disgust, limned though it was with faint wonder. “It’s just a way to pass the time.”

Before Ren could reply, Hux turned away. For all they already stood within his own room, the man retreated to the outer chamber. Ren followed as if summoned, found Hux standing alone before the expanse of stars beyond the great viewport.

But he did not make any motion to leave. And Hux did not look around, hands now loosely held at the small of his slim back. “Put some bloody clothes on, Ren. You’re not a wild animal.”

But Ren knew that Hux believed otherwise; it came to him as clearly as the other thought he’d so easily heard as if spoken aloud. “I didn’t take it from your head,” he said, and if they had been any other kind of people, it might even had sounded like an apology. “You were thinking it. Loud enough for me to hear.”

“But you didn’t have to listen.” And Hux’s face remained in cold profile as he looked out upon the great harsh beauty of his ship, his mighty weapon below. “It’s not as if you don’t choose to ignore least half of what I tell you, anyway.”

 Ren came to his side in silence, held it for what seemed too long before he asked the inevitable. “Is your mother dead?”

“Is yours?”

He had never been entirely sure what Hux did and did not know about his past. Certainly it had never before come up as a subject for their pillowtalk. “She is alive,” he answered, calculated in its carelessness.

And Hux’s own snort covered genuine hurt – and badly, at that. “I have no idea where mine is.”

“But you suspect she is dead.”

Clear dislike cast Hux’s features in an ugly light. “It would seem likely,” he said with flat distaste. And Ren’s brow furrowed, hand gesturing towards the room behind them.

“Why did she give that to you?”

An accusation would have held venom, the warning of a death beneath the hard arc of a singing plasma blade. But Ren still sensed no fear in him as Hux closed his eyes, pressed his lips together. There a decision had been made: one unseen, and unheard.

“What do you know about me?”

A thousand things could be said. Ren chose only what he could see in Hux’s cold gaze. “You are the only son of Brendol Hux.”

“But not of his wife, Maratelle.”

“Still he claimed you.”

His chuckle crunched under his harsh words like broken glass. “He had to,” Hux said, lips twisted. “The Empire needed children.” And he looked away, something close to grief leaving his words hooded and half-muttered. “Even when it was falling.”

Ren could hear faint flashes of thought, though this time Hux made no effort to conceal them. Taking a half step forward, Ren frowned, paused even as his mind still moved steadily towards Hux himself.

Arkanis: its drear dour skies, grey and heavy with rain not yet fallen. Shouts and screams rise from what seems all directions, the cacophonous chorus of mounting panic and disorder. And here, at the centre: a small boy in short pants. A lovely young woman kneels before him, thick red-gold hair tied in braids around her head. Ren’s own heart tightened; he had his own memory of dark hair, smooth and sleek in similar style. But this woman’s hands are rough, work-hardened, strong and sure. And her simple dress is but the garb of a houseservant’s, for all she moves more like predator rather than prey.

Matisha, she whispers, and her eyes are all dark sure purpose, even as they smooth over the small jacket she has cocooned her smaller son in. Matisha, they are coming for you. You must go with them, now.

But what about you? he cries – and for all his eyes are wide, still they are not enough to contain the tears that spill down flushed cheeks. Mama, I won’t leave you!

And she wipes them away, quick and efficient. I cannot look after you here. Not now. And her arms are around him, his damp face pressed to her breast. The scent of her fills his lungs, warm and familiar: rich spice, underlain with something suspiciously close to gun oil. Her next words resonate between them, perfect harmonic to the beat of her heart. But I will come for you, again. When I can. I will always come for you. You are mine.

And that sent a tremor through Ren, a stab of possessive jealousy that might have made him gasp aloud. He knew it was as foolish as it was pointless. But it did not matter. He felt it all the same, as the woman’s kiss falls quick and sure upon her son’s bowed head.

Go, Matisha. A hand closes around his, and something presses into small palm. This is yours. This is your future. The shouts grow louder; the soldiers are come, and she rises, turns to meet them. In profile her jaw is set, dark eyes looking forward even as she speaks only to him.

Remember it. Remember me.

And Ren turned away from the memory, voice strange and tight. “She gave it to you.”

Hux’s face remained in shadow, his voice little more than a whisper. “Yes.”

In the silence between them now, Ren might have reached out for more. Hux’s mind had already opened to him as a flower, heady in its alien shape and scent, and yet: he could not. And Hux chuckled, as if sensing the way Ren shied away from him now.

“The academy was razed later that same day.” He gave the words as a boy about some forced lesson, their recital dull and flat and utterly inflectionless. “They said they did not realise those left behind were mostly domestic staff, auxiliary family members. The old, the unworthy, the useless.” Something queerly close to cheerfulness gave his words almost a sing-song tone now, the change abrupt and breathtakingly terrible. “They don’t mention it in the New Republic archives.”

“You’ve looked.”

And one hand rose, struck palm-flat against the frame of the viewport. “They killed her,” he snarled. “And she knew they would – but then, she also knew I would not forget.” Now his nails scraped along the durasteel, discordant and aching. “That I would never forgive.” A bitter laugh, and now his head rested against the cool metal, his body a taut bow as yet unfired. “He always thought I did this for him.”

“Did what?”

Rearing back, Hux thrust out one hand like a demagogue upon his stage; its arc encompassed Starkiller below, the Finalizer around him. Even dressed in the bland robe, his stance radiated the same fierce dignity he wore as armour, when he stood clothed within the strict lines and planes of his general’s uniform. “All of this,” he said, and his laughter came as short and sharp as a knife pressed between ribs and into lung. “I never cared what he thought.” His eyes closed, arms held tight against that narrow heaving chest. “I did it for her.”

Ren had not recognised the woman. There was no way to know for certain. But: the braids. They had been so like his own mother’s. So many girls, so many women, had chosen to wear their hair that way in the days, months, years after the fall of Endor. “Hux—”

“I don’t want to talk about this with you.”

It would be but the work of one brutal moment to tear into Hux’s mind – to draw out his mother’s name and have it for his own. Ren suspected it would not matter. She would not have infiltrated the home of Brendol Hux under her birth name. From what little Ren knew of her from Hux’s childish memory, he could see that she had been the one to gift her son the quick mind and fierce determination that had carried him to general at the age of thirty-four.

An odd ache settled low in his chest, just beneath his heart – just where he might feel it with every beat, with every breath drawn. It felt so terribly unfair. It was only faint suspicion, casual conjecture. And yet: the faint joy of it, the sudden fierce delight…he could not deny either of those things. This could be something they shared. A past they together could not outrun.

But Ren did not need to turn to know the truth. He could feel the thrum and terrible presence of it, always in his thoughts. Starkiller lurked below, and to the Force she could be nothing but great and powerful change. And the general at his side had wrought that change, both with his own hands and with the many many others Snoke had laid before his command. Hux ran away from nothing. Hux would face it head on – and then tear it free of reality itself.

Without word, without thought, Ren drew close. Only when he had closed his arms around him, great chest pressed close to slender back, did he stop. Hux hated such displays of the physical disparity between them. Ren knew that. But it did not matter. And Hux only sighed when Ren mouthed at his throat, already tilting his head to offer better access. A moment later Hux turned in the circle of his arms; one quick hand had already pushed down between them. And Ren’s lips unsheathed to teeth, his tongue tasting salt and iron both as Hux’s hand closed tight around his cock.

Even when he raised his eyes, locked them upon Hux’s own, Ren said not a word. His breath grew hard, hips moving in gentle thrust; his own hand moved to the tight knot of the robe’s belt, found it impossible when blind and single-handed. A thrust, a yank on the Force: and it gaped open, Hux’s slim body still shadow beneath even as Ren reached in, began a quickened echo of the way Hux’s hand moved upon him.

Nothing passed between them – no sound, not even thought. And then, for the second time that night Hux was gasping, coming, hot in his hand even as his head lay heavy upon his shoulder.

“You can’t stand in my way.” Eerie, and so very odd: his voice sounded as the distant echo of an empire long fallen to dust and false memory. “This is my destiny.”

“Why would I stop you?”

And in the silence Hux offered, Ren only sighed, and closed his eyes, and then never ever remembered if he’d even said it out loud.

“We share the same destiny, Hux.”

But he thought on it again, later. When he watched Han Solo fall, his old fool heart lurched to a final stop by the hot cauterisation of an unleashed saber blade. It had been brilliant, crimson death. Had the mother of Armitage Hux seen the same coming for her, standing upon a planet in the Hosnian system? Had she still been alive? For surely a mother such as she would never have stopped looking for her beloved son. Or – if she had, what had it been that made her believe he was gone? What had made her finally understand that her son had gone beyond her reach?

In the snow, Ren closed his own eyes – and there, thought of dark hair, and darker eyes. The laboured descent of his own Upsilon came to him as from a distance. He did not care, too weak to move both in spirit and in body. Instead, he closed his eyes, listened to its approach, and wished for something else. How much easier it would be, to believe her already dead. To not look into a mirror, and see the face of the one who would be her death.

And when he opened his eyes now, he saw only crimson fire, deep cold ice, and the stark black uniform of a general forced to an underling’s fieldwork. Even as the battleground fell all to pieces beneath their very feet.

“Ren, you idiot.”

And he smiled, and did not disagree. They were both idiots. But he supposed that was what happened, when small boys didn’t learn to listen to their mothers, much less each other.

One arm rose from the cradle of bloodied snow, and Ren reached out to Hux. They would never outrun such shared destiny. But they were together.

He had every intention that they stay that way.