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the death of a three-hearted man

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Hux is in his bed again. The curve of his shoulder glints its paleness in the low light that comes from nothing but the viewport. Gooseflesh crowns his exposed skin that rises from the sheets: his ribs, the shoulder-blades, and the curve of his neck. His head is bowed, but only to sleep. Hux’s chest expands with each slow breath, and collapses with each exhale, creating a hypnotizing pattern. It’s the only time Hux is peaceful.

Unlike Hux, Kylo cannot sleep. There’s been too much noise in his mind. Finally, it seems, there’s only his own voice that he hears. Rey is absent, Palpatine waiting on progress, and Snoke dead. The hive in his mind is of his own making but he does not want to think about what he must do. Not now. No, this feels like the last time he will get to rest, and the last moments he will have to be himself. So he studies Hux, entertaining himself.

The imagine remains static. Hux’s slow breathing fills his ears, and he finds himself mimicking the rhythm.

Kylo has known him for five years. Three of those he spent fucking the man and hating him in tandem. However, in his sleep, Hux doesn’t hate him, and it’s the one time Kylo doesn’t feel like he needs to bare his teeth to the man, returning the hate two-fold.

Perhaps that’s the reason why he doesn’t leave immediately. Instead, he reaches out, fingertips tracing his shoulder. The skin there is a fading yellow color of old bruises. Kylo did that to him on Crait, when he slammed him into the wall of their command shuttle. Afterwards, when Kylo came to him, Hux was purple and obviously hurting. Still, he did not turn Kylo away.

Hux, Kylo decides, is a strange beast. One, he isn’t sure he can understand. He does and doesn’t fit. Rather, he should fit with the First Order, and he shouldn’t fit within the Force. Yet here, if only by association, he has interacted with the Force, and his place in the First Order has been usurped by Allegiant General Pryde.

Kylo leans over him only to note how his face is slack from sleep, red lips open. His hair is out of place, out of order, creating a soft halo around his head, and Kylo has made it so with his hands.

Once, not so long ago, they were equal under Snoke. But Hux hadn’t feared him then, and he doesn’t fear him now, even after everything. The feeling instead is sour, a cousin to betrayal. Kylo doesn’t understand where it comes from.

Hux’s blue eyes blink open. Confusion colors them for a long moment, before they turn towards him, and Kylo realises he’s cupped Hux’s cheek, and has been caressing his cheekbone.

How stupid , Kylo tells himself. He doesn’t lift his hand. Hux doesn’t protest.

“What is it?” Hux asks, his words slurred with sleep and voice hoarse from sex. He sounds so ordinary, so earnest, so honest, and for once, he sounds as if he trusts Kylo. If he told him there’s been an attack, Hux would not hesitate to leap for his clothes.

The hate hasn’t filtered in yet. Perhaps, reality hasn’t either. That’s the only reason Kylo sees why Hux doesn’t bite him when he leans down and presses their lips together. Hux always bites, and licks his blood, and pushes him, even though he knows that it’s a losing fight. It’s always a losing fight. They surrender, if not to each other, than to momentary pleasure.

But no, Hux does not fight him now, nor does he bite him. The kiss remains soft, and Hux exhales, relaxing into the pillow. Kylo’s hand strays from Hux’s cheek, down his neck, to his chest, where his heart beats a wild pattern against his palm. But thought his heart might, Hux’s mind has not awakened yet.

Surely , Kylo tells himself, that’s the reason why this softness lingers . It’s the same reason why his own softness takes precedent.

Hux challenges him, disbalances him, questions him. Now, he lays, and watches him like a rabbit caught in a trap. For the first time since he has known Hux , Kylo feels calm in his presence.

The kiss breaks and Hux takes the chance to turn completely towards him. “Ren?” he asks, eyebrows gathering. He does not swat Kylo’s hand away when he goes for his hair.

It’s always been eye-catching, Hux’s hair. It’s a break in the dullness of durasteel walls and black-and-white uniforms. It should have been stiff from product, but Kylo has managed to remove most of it during their earlier coupling. Now, the strands are soft and pleasant to his worn hands.

“You hate me, and yet you continue to allow this to happen. Why?”

Hux’s breath catches, and the sigh that follows is derisive, as most of them are. “I did not think you needed to be praised when it comes to the bedroom.”

“You know that’s not why I asked.”

“Fine,” Hux replies, but it does not carry its usual forcefulness. Hux just sounds resigned. “Because it feels good. Because we have realised we’re compatible. Because it's a familiar after so long and, I suppose, because you asked.”

Because , he hears through the Force a whisper of a thought, here I get to call you Ren .

That doesn’t surprise Kylo. What does surprise him is that the thought doesn’t carry the malice he thought it would. By calling him Ren and not Supreme Leader Hux doesn’t seem to want to degrade him, to offend him, or put him in his place. No, that too is a memory of another time. Ren is simply familiar.

“You never do everything I asked for.”

“No, you demand and sometimes I am disinclined to listen to demands. But you asked, and so.” Hux trails off in an unfamiliar manner which, no doubt, comes from his discomfort with the topic.

“And why do you hate me?”

Hux’s face twists, and he barks out a sharp laugh. “Do you really have to ask? You hurt me.”

“It’s not just what happened during this war with the Resistance. You have hated me since you met me.”

He sees Hux’s swallow. His eyes shifting away from Kylo’s to dance around the room in a desperate but useless search for an exit. Urgency which Kylo usually feels is absent from him now, and so he is satisfied to let Hux find his words and continues touching his hair.

Eventually, Hux says, “I did not believe in the Force, and I thought it was a waste of time for Supreme Leader Snoke--”

“Hux,” Kylo cuts him off, and he feels the man start trembling. “Don’t lie to me.”

Hux sucks in a shuddery breath. Kylo continues, “Don’t lie to me, and I won’t ask you questions I do not want answers to.”

Like, for example, the question of the spy in the First Order. He knows it was Hux who gave the Resistance the information. He read it from his mind, just as he read that Hux knew he could not hide it from Kylo. His blue eyes glint now, but not with fear, nor with hate. They look at him, with something. Acknowledgment, Kylo supposes.

“I always knew where it would lead,” Hux admits, sounding like a wounded animal. It’s a disconcerting sound. Kylo revels in it. But could have Hux foreseen that he would kill Snoke? Was it that obvious?

“I saw your face,” Hux continues, “and I knew that we’d end up in bed, one way or the other.”

“And you hate me for that?” Kylo asks, unsure if to feel affronted. Anger, strangely, is distant from him.

Hux shakes his head. He licks his lips, hesitant, but he does not lie when he says, “I hate you because I’m not allowed to do anything else.”

There is no choice , Kylo hears.

Shame flushes Hux’s cheeks, regret chasing after his words the moment he let the fly free. Hux’s emotions have always been so easy to feel.

Five years, Kylo thinks, and three of those spent like this and he’s just realised that he should have had this conversation a very long time ago.

Kylo wants to ask: not allowed by whom? He wants to poke holes in Hux’s motivations, his determination on the topic, his sheer conviction that he’s correct, but he can’t. Hux, like all other soldiers in service to the First Order, has also been trained to follow rules he was taught since he was a child. Love for the military, belief in the Order, and hate for everything classified as other .

He should leave Hux be. These questions do not become him, and they don’t solve anything anymore. It’s too late. However, Kylo’s never been a good man.

Carefully, he turns Hux’s face towards him so their eyes can meet again. They are so telling. Too telling. They reflect what little light there is in the room. Perhaps, Kylo considers, they reflect what they see in his own.

It’s too late, and still, his hand lingers on Hux’s face.

“I understand,” Kylo says, because he does. He too has hated Hux just for being different. “Can you do something for me?”

Hux’s eyebrow quirks. “What?”

“I want you to close your eyes and let yourself imagine what it would be like if you were allowed.”

“Ren,” Hux says, as if he were a child in need of scolding. However, the look in his eye betrays him. Though Hux has never begged, it’s the look in his eyes that pleads with Kylo not to do this.

Kylo is not a good man, but neither is Hux. Having him vulnerable like this makes Kylo want to dig his thumbs into his softest spots and watch him bleed.

“You don’t have to say anything, just let yourself imagine.”

Hux looks at him for a long moment, and his face crumbles in defeat. He hears a damn you, and how foolish, and he’ll ruin me . Then Hux’s blue eyes disappear behind his eyelids, and he takes a deep breath.

Kylo closes his eyes as well. He won’t be in Hux’s head. That is not what he wants. Instead, he focuses on him in a different way -- in a more telling way. He senses his emotions.

Hate welcomes him, familiar and a jumping point. It’s as if Hux is standing near a deceptively calm pool. The surface shimmers, hiding what is underneath. When he finally dives, it’s not into a pool but a roaring ocean. Kylo takes a sharp breath, bracing himself, shocked at the force with which Hux’s emotions swell and overwhelm his senses. He’s standing in a maelstrom, in the eye of a tornado, far from the eye of the storm yet too close to see the shape. He senses Hux losing himself in them as well.

“Hux,” he says in a half-whisper. He brushes his thumb over Hux’s cheek. His skin has grown so warm in such a quick time.

Something flares in Hux’s emotions, and the tide does not pull away as much as Kylo follows a wave to the shore. There, he takes a step back, and looks at what he just escaped.

Hux’s emotions feel like the oceans of Arkanis look in his memory, with leviathans and monsters hiding in their depths: patricide, extortion, betrayal. And something else too. The rain on Kylo’s face feels warm. It feels like Hux’s arms when he holds onto Kylo during sex when he loses himself to the pleasure. It feels like that soft kiss they shared only minutes ago. It feels like a maybe. Like an almost.

Kylo blinks his eyes open, feeling wetness on his hand, and realises Hux is crying. It’s such a shock, Kylo does not think to let him be, and instead simply wipes his tears away. However, more come, crowding each other, forcing Hux to opens his eyes.

It’s too late, and they both know it.

“Are you satisfied? Look at me, I’m acting like a child.” Bitterness pours from him like spoiled wine.

Hux tries to disengage, roll away with shame, and get up, but Kylo doesn’t let him. He holds him there, in his grip, in his bed, not knowing how to process this. There is, after all, nothing to be done.

Unnerved by the silence and Kylo’s staring, Hux blinks away the rest of his tears, and says, “You’re familiar. It’s only sentiment, Ren.”

In his head, Kylo hears, ‘ Let it only be sentiment.’

Kylo is not a good man. He has been, if nothing else, always cruel. It’s why he still kisses him, despite everything.

In the next cycle, Hux will be in his uniform, and he will hate him. But now he doesn’t. He whimpers into the kiss, hands going to Kylo’s sides, and when Kylo rips the sheet away from his body, he opens his legs for him.

It never took them long to get going before. Hux, if nothing else, was right: they are compatible.

This is his last moment to be himself, Kylo thinks, a sense of foreboding pressing against his mind heavy and unwelcome. He spends it kissing down Hux’s chest, sucking his cock into his mouth until Hux’s thighs are quivering around his ears, and spreading him on his fingers until Hux is clawing at his shoulders and tugging his hair. He spends it watching Hux’s face twist in pleasure as he sinks his cock into him, shivers rocking down his narrow body.

Kylo has always found Hux’s features pleasing, but it’s his face -- uncontrolled and messy -- that has always made Kylo fuck him harder. This time, however, Kylo resists. He leans down on top of him until their chests are very nearly touching, and he can feel the staccato of his breath, movement arrested by their position and hardly allowing the usual brutality.

Hux’s cock is trapped between their bellies, leaking and twitching each time Kylo rolls his hips into Hux, so deep Hux has to gasp.

“Ren,” Hux says, now truly pleading. “Come on. Come on .”

Usually it’s quick and rough, Hux’s nails drawing blood, Kylo’s fingers leaving bruises. Pain is a spectator, there however, only to enchance their pleasure. They have gotten used to that as well. Now, however, Kylo does not want pain.

“No,” Kylo replies, and untagles Hux’s hand from his hair, takes the other from his shoulder, and pushes them into the sheets, holding them, fingers intertwined.

Hux seems to know where this is headed. He curses. “Damn you, Kylo. Damn you, damn--”

Kylo kisses him then, mouth still so soft, and it doesn’t matter anymore. He feels wetness against his cheeks again, he hears Hux’s mind screaming at him, and senses his body tightening, muscles coiling, pleasure building to a summit. He doesn’t realise he’s in Hux’s head until he’s looking at that ocean again only now, Hux is with him.

Pleasure wipes out all negative emotions, and there, in the depths, he sees what Hux has been hiding, sees what he should he should have never seen. Vulnerable himself, Kylo pulls back, and when he looks at Hux, his eyes are mirrors to his own. In them, he sees the same.

How pathetic , he thinks, how weak . This is not meant for him. He cannot have it.

Hux’s eyes shift upwards. Around his waist, Hux’s thighs press warm reassurance, his fingers white from the death grip they have on Kylo’s. His body arches, whimpers piercing the silence. He’s near the edge. He’s there with Kylo. He’s with him. How strange. Kylo always felt alone.

“Beautiful,” he says to Hux. Then, pleasure overwhelms him, and Kylo stops thinking.

-

Kylo is not there to watch how Hux pulls himself together. Hux has his pride, even though lately it feels the only thing that’s left of him, and Kylo has encroached enough as is. He contents himself with the memory of holding his trembling body, after, and kissing him until they both drifted to sleep.

Hux had let Kylo hold him. He had let himself be held.

Kylo does not think he can bear to feel Hux hate him again.

-

A feeling, intense and volatile, travels through the Force and courses through him like lightning. Pain blooms sharp in his chest, and Kylo cannot draw breath. For a moment, he thinks he might find a blaster shot there, an arrow, a knife, but there’s nothing. It’s not his blood that he feels on his hand.

Bracing himself against a wall, Kylo rips off his mask, and feels as if he might retch.

Hux had cried. Now, he feels the tears in his own eyes.

His commlink beeps. On it, Pryde’s message says, “Spy captured and eliminated.”

-

Kylo knows the funeral procedure. However, he thinks cremation does not become Hux and sending him out into the void simply doesn’t fit. Death doesn’t become him either. In his words, Hux was familiar.

Sentiment , he thinks, and type back an order. “Put the body on ice.”

He will see him, one last time, before he decides what to do with him.

-

Pain. It blurs his vision, and what of it is left is tinted red -- the color of his sabor that has pierced his lung. Rey has bested him again. This time, anger doesn’t come to him. Instead it flees from him, scurrying back into the recesses of his mind to hide from Rey’s fury it cannot match. All that’s left is the ocean tempest which sprays him with salt water. The scene is familiar. It’s funeral and stiff.

This is not Hux’s mind. There, he will never go again. The swell of his emotions now he can only see in these turbulent waters, and pretend the salt on his mouth is not from the water but the taste of his tears.

Regret settles in, and he feels warmth streaming down his face.

You’ll die here , he thinks to himself. You’ll die here, without even seeing his face. They will burn him, destroy him, and you’re leagues away.

With only one lung working, it’s difficult to suck in breath. He looks at Rey, and she too seems glassy eyed. She must feel his pain. His whole head is screaming with it.

Then, she reaches out her hand, and lays it on his wound. Slowly, he feels his breath return to him, until the wound from his own saber is nothing but a memory, flesh knitted together without leaving a scar.

“I wanted to take your hand,” she says, “but I wanted to take Ben’s hand.”

He watches her leave in his TIE Silencer. He could not bring himself to stop her.

The ship had been a gift from Hux, he realises only now. Hux doesn’t-- didn’t-- do anything without a purpose, and this gift, silent and innocuous, must have been that that sentiment clawing to the surface of his mind. But if it did so once, he wonders then what else Hux did for him that he failed to notice?

Kylo sits there, defeated, until he’s numb. There are things he must do, the first of which is contacting the Knights or the Order to bring a shuttle to him. However, he does not want to leave yet. Regret makes him watch the waves, and suffer the beating of the ice-cold sea water.

It wasn’t real , he tells himself. It was only a thought. An experiment. It doesn’t change anything. It doesn’t change the past five years. It doesn’t change the past three.

True, it doesn’t change them, but it colors them in a different light. Sentiment . If Hux wished to call it that, then Kylo will call it so as well. And so, it’s sentiment that he now searches for in his memory. He finds it in a lingering gaze on the Finalizer, the sharpness of his voice spewing orders as he holds Kylo’s face in his hands and Kylo’s bleeding all over him, half-frozen from Starkiller’s tundra. It’s in the way he presses bacta to his wounds, in the way he says something -- Kylo does not remember what. Perhaps empty reassurances. But his fingers were shaking. Now, colored in sentiment, that means more than it did then.

Kylo finds the same feeling in Hux’s amused smile, in their command shuttle when they were both present and he tried to calm him, and in Hux’s relief to see him without his helmet. Sentiment colors the regret when he noticing it present.

Eventually, he drags himself up. Standing is difficult, but he manages nonetheless. There are things he must do. Those things, Hux would hate him for, and he would hate himself for, and he does not know if he gives up one, what will happen with the other. But Hux is dead, and he doesn’t even know why he’s considering this. It’s too late.

Naturally, that’s why when he turns, he sees Han Solo.

It’s a memory, nothing more. Memory of another meeting. “Ben,” he calls him.

“Ben is dead.”

“No,” Han says, with his smirk, and his eyes that have always spoken the truth. “Kylo Ren is.”

He trembles. He doesn’t want to let Kylo Ren go. After all, it’s Kylo who has experienced Hux’s sentiment. He does not want that gone. Even, he thinks, if it would rid him of this pain.

“I know what I must do. But I don’t know if I have the strength to do it.”

He can never be Ben again. He’s tarnished that. It’s too late. But perhaps, he can be something else. Someone in the middle, someone who knows both who Ben is and who Kylo is, and can merge them together.

“Dad,” he says, calling out to him for the last time as Han touches his cheek and his scar. His father, who has always loved his mother so much. Who would have done anything for her.

“It’s too late. She is gone.” Only her spirit remains in the Force, lingering, but for what he does not know. She’s with him, however, even if it’s too late.

Despite everything Kylo’s always loved her, and he’s always loved his father.

Han’s smirk is knowing. “I know. It’s never too late.”

Ren grips his saber and, with as much strength as he can manage, hurls it into the tumultuous ocean. When he turns Han Solo is gone.

-

A shuttle comes for him eventually, and delivers him back to the Finalizer. Pryde waits for him, ready to report.

“Sir,” he starts, “the Resistance--”

Kylo halts him with a raised hand. “The spy,” he instructs and begins walking.

Keeping pace, Pryde explains, “It was General Hux, sir. He allowed prisoners to escape, and tried to cover it up with a shot to his leg and a terrible excuse. We...kept his body on ice, as you asked.”

“Dismissed,” Kylo says and gets into an elevator that takes him down to the crematorium.

Nobody wants to deal with dead bodies. It’s droids that collect information such as status, reason of death, number, before proceeding with incineration.

Kylo has seen his fair share of death, yet his stomach flips when he turns and sees Hux’s body, kept in one of the cooling examination pods. He takes a deep breath, and tries not to think about his hands shaking.

His legs want to run the other direction, but he forces one in front of the other until he’s looking down at Hux’s face. All color has bled from him, and in the pale light, it seems even his hair has lost its vibrant intensity. His face is twisted in pain. Below, the droids have stripped him, and Kylo can see the blaster wound, still red and fresh.

There are things he must do.

Kylo opens the pod, and lays his hand on the wound, just underneath Hux’s heart.

-

Kylo is not a good person. Ben isn’t either, but Ben has always followed his feelings. Ben refused to be constricted.

It’s Ben who goes to Palpatine’s lair, who finds Rey, who fights beside her. It’s Ben who cradles her in his arms, and who gives his life for her. She killed Kylo, and now, Ben sacrifices himself. This has always been his end.

She kisses him, and he laughs, exhilarated, because he succeeded, because, for a moment, they’re both alive and the plague of Palpatine is gone forever.

No sooner than he feels victory, does he sense himself fading.

Rey catches him, laying him down on the ground. She says, “You’re still in pain.”

They’re still connected. In spite of everything, they're a diad, no matter who is Light or who’s Dark.

“There are things--” he tries to say, and thinks of Hux and his red hair, and blue eyes, and his tear streaked face, and the feeling raining on him, the first warmth he’d felt since he became Kylo Ren. “--I must do.”

Hux knew that would happen since the first moment he saw him. They’d both wasted so much time.

He looks at her, vision blurring. He wonders now if Hux felt like this when he’d gone. Regret, pain and then, nothing.

-

Stars dance above him, laughing at him. There are hands on his cheeks, and a warm press of lips on his forehead. “I’ve always loved you,” he hears, and it’s his mother’s voice.

-

The darkness vibrates. Now both of him are dead, Kylo and Ben. Who is he now?

‘Ren ’, he hears someone calling him in a familiar voice. ‘Ren’ .

Hux.

-

With a deep breath, Ren opens his eyes. Above him, the sky is grey and blue, and filled with explosions. The feeling of cold, and he feels so cold, filters in first, followed by stench of rot and sweat. Finally, sound follows, and he realises Rey’s above him, his head nested in her lap, and she’s calling for him.

He takes another breath, and hears her loud, “Ben!”

He doesn’t feel keen on correcting her. Instead, he looks at her, for a long moment, and realises he’s breathing. He’s alive. He did not think he’d survive it.

“Rey,” he replies. He wants to say more, but the ground shakes from Star Destroyers streaking across the sky like comets.

“Come on,” she says, helping him sit up, “We have to leave, quickly.”

A wave of nausea hits him when he gets to his legs, and he doubles over, dry heaving. It’s only Rey’s strong hands which keep him up, and her coaxing voice that gets him to take another step. His muscles can’t stop spasming, his breath uneven. He feels as if he’s in the worst hours of a fever. He’s weak, weaker than ever before.

Still, Rey holds him, and they get to her ship. It’s a ghost from the past, familiar, and too old.

“Luke’s X-Wing.” He considers it. “It won’t fit both of us.”

“It will,” Rey says with conviction, and he does not have the strength to spar words with her. She helps him climb into what used to be R2D2’s spot though it’s cramped and he has to fold in on himself. It doesn’t matter. They take off, and soon find themselves in space, and then in the blue light of hyperspeed.

Rey disengages and turns to look at him. Her smile falters, and she says, “You don’t feel like Ben anymore.”

“I am,” he admits, finally, after so long of denying it. “I am both him and Kylo. I cannot deny what I did as Ben any more than I can deny what I did as Kylo. I am...not a good man.”

She nods in agreement. Still, she’s curious when she asks, “What should I call you now?”

Through the Force, he hears a ghost, a whisper, Ren .

“Ren,” he says.

She raises an eyebrow in question. “Are you sure?”

He is. Both he and Hux have always been last-name’s-preffered type of people.

“Yes. Ren. Ren Skywalker.”

She smiles and offers him her hand. He takes it. “Well, it’s good to finally meet you Ren.”

He barks a soft bout of laughter. Brushing his hair out of his face, he says, “Likewise.”

Their handshakes breaks, but his connection to Rey remains. It was their forecebond that restored Palpatine from death’s grip, and yet it’s still there, strong. Still a possibility.

“You said there is something you needed to finish,” Rey says. “Something connected to your pain.”

“Rey,” he says, feeling vulnerable as he has never felt before. “I have a favor to ask of you.”

-

The upsilon-class command shuttle is a multi-purpose transport vehicle, equipped to carry dignitaries and high ranking military officials. It has space to house five crew members, and capacity to hold ten occupants. Naturally, Hux had designed it as well. But far from it being a pleasure cruise, though it can operate in such capacity, it offers shield projectors, sensor jammers, and enough fire-power to raise a city by itself.

It’s why, when Rey and he jump out of hyperspace, they barely have time to realise they’re in the ship’s sights before its canons start warming up.

It’s only Rey’s speed connecting to the comms, and his quick, “It’s me,” that don’t get them blasted into smithereens.

“Supreme Leader?” Mitaka sputters from the other side of the comms.

Ren growls. “Who else would know your location, lieutenant? Now lower the cords so I can exit this helling x-wing.”

“Right away, sir,” the man replies.

Rey looks at him from the corner of his eye, and it’s in judgment. He raises an eyebrow to challenge her, and she simply says, “You could be nicer, you know.”

“I have no patience to be nice now,” Ren replies.

Rey shrugs and flies under the command shuttle. The cords connect to it, and Rey shuts off the engine. It takes only a few minutes before the system forms a tunnel, through which both Ren and Rey climb up into the hull of the shuttle.

Mitaka is there to help them out. “I...never thought I’d actually see you again, sir.”

He’s still dressed in his uniform. After all, Kylo could not risk losing time.

“The First Order, and the Last Order are gone, lieutenant. You don’t have to address me as ‘sir’ any longer.”

The man’s face twists in something akin to mourning. “Oh,” he says.

It’s only then that Kylo remembers that the lieutenant and the rest of the crew on board probably only knew the First Order. Adjusting after so long spent in a monotone system will be difficult.

Rey, always the one who is compassionate, touches his shoulder and says, “You’ll be alright. Take your time to grieve.”

“If I may...what happened?”

Ren looks at Rey. “It will take too long to explain now. Later, I will tell all of you. Now, I’m going to see him.”

“Yes, sir,” the man says, reflexively. Ren doesn’t correct him, and instead passes into the bowels of the shuttle.

In place of the usual cargo and ten occupants, the ship contacts a medbay capsule, a med droid, and a life support system. Ren takes a deep breath, steeling himself. His nails bite into his gloveless hands as he takes a seat next to the medbay capsule. The sight of Hux has not changed much since Ren has last seen him. He would think him still dead, if it weren’t for the beeping of the heart monitor -- Ren’s one reassurance.

Rey, curious, walks over the other side and peers in. She gasps, and says, “Him? He was the spy!”

“I know,” Ren replies. “I knew from the start.”

“You let him?”

“He let himself. He knew that I would read it from his mind. He did it anyway.”

Rey’s confusion is evident on her face. “Finn told me he asked him why he would betray the First Order. He said it was because he wanted you to lose. Why would you still want to save someone like that?”

Ren considers Rey’s words. He supposes he should feel contempt but he doesn’t. The only thing he feels is the ghost of Hux’s bitterness on his lips. Cornered, hopeless, betrayed, alone -- Ren understands all of these feelings from which the bitterness came; everything Hux does is for a reason, and even sentiment, such as is the one between them, has it’s sharp teeth. Hux is loyal to himself, and to those he sees as the extension of himself. They have been nothing but different sides of the same coin.

“He was still General yet his rank was in question, the command passed from him to Pryde, his significance dimmed. He wanted to feel control again even if it was over himself. Even if it was to get back at me.”

Ren presses a button, and the pod opens with a hiss. When he reaches out Hux’s skin is cold and clammy, and unresponsive, and Ren’s hand shakes as he traces his trembling fingers across his brow and temple. If he didn’t know better, he’d think he’d swallowed poison, and it was eating him up from the inside, making him sick with worry, distress, and grief.

“I don’t understand how you can forgive this.”

“The same way he could forgive me slamming him into a wall, and forgive the mottling bruises on his side.” He looks up at her. “We’re not good men, Rey.”

He thought he was too late. After all, Hux was dead for hours. Yet, the flesh had knitted together, and his heart started beating once again. It was the most he could manage without completely draining himself. Then, the lieutenant walked in on him, and Kylo made him choose.

He remembered him from the Finalizer, and after Mitaka laid his choice, he told him to pick a few others loyal to the General. Then, drained from healing him, exhausted from his fight with Rey, he managed to get Hux into medbay, and from medbay to the shuttle, using the Force to avert unwanted attention. He told Mitaka to run, and for other loyalists to disperse. Mutiny didn’t sound so bad when it was your Supreme Leader telling you to do it.

How many of them are out there, he doesn’t know. Right now, it’s not important anyway.

The only thing keeping Hux alive is what life-force he could transfer to him, and the medical assistance. He needs him awake.

“You love him,” Rey whispers, a certain sort of awe mixed with disbelief. As if love is something sacred.

“Rey,” he replies, feeling two hairs away from losing his mind. Hux is still so pale, still twisted in pain. “Please.”

Both he and Hux spent so long pretending that what they felt wasn’t there, enshrouding it with sex and pain, hiding it from the light and away from food so it would not grow. Yet it had still grown.

Ren will not call it love because Hux didn’t call it love. They’re hard men, disillusioned, and jaded. He cannot put words to the turmoil of emotions within him, each word too weak to hold it.

“This could be dangerous,” she warns him, even as she walks over to his side. “We’re both exhausted.”

“Palpatine used our connection to heal himself.”

“Are you willing to give that up? To be alone, again?”

Ren looks at Hux’s sleeping form, and looks up at Rey with a reluctant smirk. “I won’t be alone.”

Rey smiles. “No, I suppose not.” She offers him her hand, and Ren takes it.

“Ready?” Rey asks, her hand on Hux’s wrist.

“Yeah.”

Ren takes a deep breath, feeling the Force course through him. It tangles with Rey’s. It’s not their life-force, but the strength of their bond which fuels the healing. Ren can’t look away from Hux’s face which, painstakingly-slowly, grows warmer, color returning to it. Then the heart monitor beeps, Hux’s lungs heave, demanding more breath, and his blue eyes blink open, confused, and scared.

Rey steps away just in time for Ren to lean forward, taking the oxygen-mask from Hux’s face.

“Ren,” Hux croaks, blinking. “Where?”

Kylo takes his face into his hands, and kisses him. The tears come then, relief flooding his system so strongly he doesn’t know how to handle it. Hux lifts a hand, and rests it around his neck, and sighs into the kiss.

-

After Ren’s collected himself, he helps Hux sit up and offers him water which he sips slowly, trying, in the meantime, to organise himself.

“Are we in your command shuttle?”

“Yes,” Kylo replies. He’s still sitting in the chair next to the pod, and Rey stands behind him, a hand on his shoulder, as if she’s trying to keep control of his emotions for him.

Hux takes a breath, and Kylo knows he wants to ask a hundred more questions. It’s in Hux’s nature to seek knowledge. He needs to know everything to feel comfortable. Whether it’s tiredness, or something else, Ren watches Hux deflate before his very eyes. He hands Ren back the glass, and Ren puts it on the table.

“I died,” Hux says, slowly, as if he doesn’t understand it himself. “Pryde didn’t buy my bullshit, and he shot me. “It was quick, at least. I didn’t have time to consider all time wasted I spent, just to be a puppet for--”

He cuts himself off. “It doesn’t matter,” he says. “What happened? Why is the scavenger doing here ?”

“She helped me heal you,” Ren replies.

Hux considers this then his face screws up and he frowns at Rey. “Why the hell would you do that?”

“It’s a favor,” Rey replies. “He saved my life.”

“You did?”

His eyes grow alight, and they burn Ren when they turn on him. He knows then, what Hux sees: Ren saved Rey’s life, Rey’s hand on his shoulder, standing close behind him. He knows what conclusion can be drawn.

“Pryde is gone, as is the First Order. Palpatine is dead. The Resistance will be disbanding.”

Hux’s shock is palpable, and it seems that he leans more into his cushions then before.

“Did...did they kill everyone?” he asks Ren.

“I saved your men. Mitaka is here, and a few others. I’m sure the troopers will decide their own fate. Rebellion, probably, before nativizing to the local planets.”

“So. It all has been for naught?”

His grief floors Ren, wretchedness and anxiety mixing together in a sickening twist. With the negative emotions just from before, just from having Rey there, Ren cannot breathe. He takes Hux’s hand in his own, in a desperate attempt to soothe him.

“I know,” Ren tells him. “I feel the same way. But it has led us to this point No rules, no fate. We can do what we want.”

Hux seems to become aware of their clasped hands. It sends a bolt of something through Kylo, tightening in his chest, when Hux’s squeezes back.

“Ren,” Hux says, feelings flooding the shimmering pool of hate, geysers bursting through the water. Like this, stripped bare of his uniform, his rank, his fate, Hux is nothing else but his genuine self. “What have you done, you fool?”

“You said you didn’t have a choice. I wanted to give you one.”

Hux’s expression breaks. He has never been a weak man, but he’s been holding a weight on his shoulders which has finally been alleviated, and like all victims of abuse, he mourns its loss as much as he celebrates its relief.

Rey squeezes Ren’s shoulder, then turns and walks out of the area. Kylo leans onto the bed, and kisses Hux’s knuckles that clutching his own in a strong, lively grip.

He sits on the bed, and leans over so he can hug Hux to his chest, wrap his arms around him and hold him. All the grief and fear pour out of Hux like a torrent, his frame shaking, and he coaxes him to let that poison out. Grieving is like bloodletting; after it’s done it allows space for something new to grow.

Eventually Hux calms down enough to wrap his hands around Ren, and breathe deeply with him. The storm, it seems, has passed, and the only evidence of it is the wetness on Kylo’s shirt. Hux’s mind is quiet and peaceful. With the illusion of hate shattered, there is nothing in his emotions but the truth -- fondness and tentative hope.

“What will we do?” Hux asks. Perhaps for the first time, he doesn’t have a plan.

“Whatever we want,” Kylo says. “There’s a whole life ahead of us. If you want it.”

“Ren,” Hux says, looking up at him. “You’re such a fool. Kiss me.”

Ren does.