The ground still shakes, or maybe it's his legs, even after Snoke's body hits the ground. He's gone, truly gone, Kylo can feel it in the Force, and from the loss of his presence at the back of Kylo's mind. It’s like the removal of a cyst, painful but necessary and with the phantom feeling that it should still be there.
He sways, suddenly dizzy. Yes, it’s definitely his legs shaking. Everything else is suddenly eerily quiet and still, inside and out. As the adrenaline fades the pain comes into sharper focus. He's bleeding from so many places he's lost track and he's sore all over and his head pounds and his lungs struggle to pull in air properly. Something is probably broken, maybe multiple somethings, it's so hard to tell, every inch of him is on fire. His robes are blood soaked and torn, his helmet across the room, wrecked beyond repair. Like him, he thinks with a sharp laugh that turns into a wet cough.
There's shouting from out in the hall, then blaster fire, and then the doors slide open. He wants to turn to see who it is but is afraid any movement will be all it takes to send him to the ground.
When he hears who it is he turns anyway.
"Kylo!" Hux's breathless voice sounds through the empty chamber. His quick footsteps slow as he takes in the sight before him. "You did it. You actually did it!"
Kylo moves one leg enough to turn slightly so he can look at Hux. Hux, who's disheveled and panting and still gripping his blaster like he might need to fire it again at any second, but he won't. It's over. They won.
Kylo smiles. He can't help it. He knows it’s probably a gruesome sight, with his wild eyes and bloodied mouth, but they won, and Hux is here looking at him like he's done something miraculous, and maybe he has.
Hux smiles in return, and finally Kylo's legs give and he collapses.
There's a shout. His name, he thinks, though everything sounds like a distant echo. As his eyes close he sees Hux's feet moving quickly towards him.
He knows what happens next.
It was the only outcome, really. He'd accepted that almost as soon as this began. Quick fucks in empty conference rooms that turned into late night trysts that turned into whispered secrets under the covers at night. Months of hushed planning under the guise of an affair, months spent living in fear that they'd be found out, all culminating in this moment, this victory.
Hux wanted to rule. And he'd be good at it, of that Kylo was certain. And Kylo...had lost a great deal of faith in Snoke's teachings after the colossal failure at Starkiller and subsequent "training". He'd returned more conflicted than ever, and desperate for a way out in more ways than one.
He'd found it in Hux who, shaken by the defeat and his own punishment, was looking for something as well, and whatever it was he found it in Kylo. Over time he let Kylo into both his bed and his plans and they were surprisingly compatible at both.
But Kylo knew he was never meant to make it past this point. He was simply the means to an end and it just so happened that the end was what he sought as well: Snoke's demise, for all he'd done to them.
With that finished, he has nowhere to go, no place. He can't return home now after everything. He thought about running away to some far off system, but...after nights spent in a bed curled up next to Hux, after the feeling of lips and hands and a warm body pressed to his, that sort of lonely existence seems unbearable and finding another like Hux, impossible. There was no one like Hux in the entire galaxy.
And Hux has no use for him anymore. So there is only one thing left. Hux will kill him, and Kylo will let him, trusting Hux to keep his word and work for the order they both sought.
He wonders if Hux will tell people about Kylo's part in the coup, if he'll even mention him at all or if he'll take all the credit and Kylo will be forgotten.
He wonders how Hux will do it. With his blaster? A knife? Kylo's own lightsaber? He doubts that last one, Hux never liked the thing and won't start now.
He only hopes it will be quick. He thinks, if nothing else, Hux will grant him that.
Suddenly, to his surprise, he feels his head being lifted and set onto something soft. Someone is speaking, no, not just someone, Hux...quietly but frantically, and Kylo catches his name a few times but can't quite make out what else he's saying. He feels Hux fumble for something. His comlink, he realizes, when Hux speaks into it. Then the device clatters to the ground, and then...
And then cold, trembling but also soft, careful hands stroke his hair and touch his face. It's like the times he'd fallen asleep in Hux's bed and woke later to ghosts of touches which were gone as soon as he opened his eyes. He'd have thought they were dreams except that once, only once, he caught Hux pulling his hand away and pretending to adjust the pillow rather than a stray lock of hair. They never spoke of it.
The stroking slows and Hux's voice calms and the words that reach Kylo through the pounding in his head sound like "good" and "proud" and "together."
Kylo manages a shaky half-smile for him. This small kindness is…unexpected. He’s grateful. Dying like this, close to Hux, with his praise and gentle touches, this isn't so bad at all.
He slips away with Hux's name on his lips.
A soft beeping at regular intervals. A low hum. Something tapping at first, then it stops.
At first he can't feel anything. Then he feels heavy and numb, like he's made of lead. Either he can't move, or there's nothing to move, maybe he's become some shapeless entity within the Force. But then why does he feel so heavy? This is nothing like he expected. He wishes he could open his eyes, if he still has eyes, but they feel glued shut.
Gradually he begins to register more sensations. He's lying on something. Something is wrapped around him. Something else is draped over him. He feels a surge of panic; has he somehow survived and woken on his own funeral pyre?
The beeping speeds up a little and he feels something that pulls him from the horrible thought.
Something is clamped around his left hand, around the palm and wound through his fingers. A restraint of some kind? But his right one is free, though he can barely wiggle his fingers, let alone lift it.
He hears a shift of fabric and the thing begins to move, up and down over the back of his hand. The beeping slows again. Whatever is holding him isn't metal, it's soft, and almost familiar, almost...
He wishes any of this made sense. He wishes he could move. He wishes he could see. He wishes he could hear something other than the hum and that kriffing beeping, and...
Hux's voice reaches him through the fog like a rope thrown to a drowning man and he holds on to the comfort of it, hopes desperately to hear it again.
But why is Hux here? He thinks with another flash of panic. Is he dead too? He wasn't injured in the takeover, barely scratched, Kylo made sure of it, so how...
His breathing becomes erratic and the soft brush of something against his hand resumes, slow and steady.
"Shh," he hears, "shh, it's okay, I'm here."
But why? He wants to ask.
He fights the leaden feeling of his eyelids and cracks them half-open. He's greeted by nothing but blurry white. He stares ahead and waits until things come into focus. It's a room, he realizes. And he's on a bed, propped up slightly, with a sheet draped over the lower half of his body.
There's a sound and it takes a moment to register that he himself made it, a soft groan. The numbness is becoming sore stiffness and the discomfort makes the reality sink in at last.
"Kylo?" He hears again.
Slowly he turns his head to one side and his eyes land on the familiar figure. Hux is still in the same uniform he was wearing in the chamber. His hair is a mess and he has shadows under his eyes and stubble on his pale cheeks but seems unharmed, to Kylo's relief.
Then confusion sets in. Why is he still alive? Did Hux change his mind? Did something happen and he needs Kylo to keep fighting? He doesn't even know if he can sit up, let alone fight, but for Hux he'd try...
A wave of pain hits him and he groans again, squeezing his eyes shut. The thing around his hand leaves and he hears Hux fiddling with something. When the grasp returns, he realizes it was Hux's hand holding his, stroking it with his thumb.
He breathes slowly until the pain eases and then he forces his eyes open again. He focuses on Hux, his bright hair and brighter eyes, until he can think clearly.
"Wh-" he begins, but the word turns into a cough. Something is held to his lips and he drinks greedily. The liquid in his parched throat and the soft hand in his are the only good feelings in the haze of discomfort.
When he's finished drinking he tries again.
"Why am I here," he rasps.
It's perhaps not the most important question, considering what they've just done, but he needs to know.
"You were injured," Hux replies, eyes skimming over Kylo's bandaged torso before returning to his face. "Badly. I commed immediately for some troopers to bring you here. I thought..." he stops to take a deep breath. It's then that Kylo notices his eyes are red rimmed. He wonders what time it is. "I thought you might not make it, for a while."
It's not what Kylo meant. If anything he's more confused, especially by Hux’s concern.
"No, I mean...why am I still here?"
"Still...in the medbay?"
Kylo has never, in over five years, seen Hux look so bewildered. He shakes his head.
"Still on the planet? Because we aren't, we're back on the Finalizer," Hux tries, clearly growing frustrated.
Kylo is frustrated too, feeling the spark of irritation with Hux that colored their interactions for years as rivals and led to frequent bickering even after they were "together".
Is Hux really going to make him say it? Or does he really not know what Kylo means?
"Hux, why am I still alive?" he mumbles, unable to meet Hux's eyes.
Even so, he can feel that sharp gaze on him in the silence that follows.
"Kylo," Hux says, sounding so uncertain, so unlike himself that Kylo wonders if he did die after all and none of this is real. "We won. You won. You killed him, not the other way around. You passed out, but you didn't die. Hells, you must have hit your head in the fall, no wonder you're so disoriented. That and the pain medication, I made sure it's the best we have, so you..."
"Hux," Kylo cuts him off, feeling on the verge of a breakdown, he's just so confused, "You could easily have disposed of me. I- I thought that was-"
"Disposed of you?" Hux interrupts right back. "What the hell are you talking about?"
Kylo stares at him, trembling. The words because you don't need me any more dance on the tip of his tongue but they're too painful to say aloud.
Then he realizes something, a reason Hux may need him yet. His heart sinks.
"You'll need a protector," he says, "That's why, isn't it? Just because we won doesn't mean it'll be safe, and you'll need someone to...to defend you..."
He wavers dangerously between hope and despair. He knows deep down that Hux will treat him better than Snoke ever did. Maybe they'll even continue their not-relationship, maybe he’ll be kissed and touched and held.
On the other hand, he's so tired. Of going from one battle to the next, of being a weapon. A life of being used until his usefulness is up and then cast aside.
But he'll be with Hux. Maybe he’ll even have some freedom to hone his skills on his own. Maybe it will be okay, he tries to convince himself in spite of the anxious churning in his stomach, maybe it will be different this time.
Whatever his face is doing it must not be good because Hux looks concerned again. Kylo can tell from the pinch of his brow and the clench of his jaw that he’s contemplating Kylo’s words.
“That’s…not what I had in mind, exactly, but it’s not a bad idea, if you’re willing…” Hux shakes his head. “No, back up. What’s this nonsense about disposing of you? You…wait…you didn’t think I was just using you to kill Snoke…did you?”
Kylo swallows hard. His eyes flick away to anything but Hux’s questioning gaze. He wants to tell him no, no that’s not it, except it is, and what’s the use in lying now?
His silence is telling enough. Hux pulls back as if stung. Kylo already misses the feel of Hux’s hand in his.
“Oh, stars, you did. Kylo, how…”
He’s blinking rapidly and for one terrible moment Kylo thinks he might cry. Then his stricken face takes on the much more familiar expression of rage.
“How could you think that?” he hisses, “that I would - after everything we…we did together, after everything we talked about? I let you into my bed, I told you my secrets! You’re the one with – with powers! If anything I should have been afraid you would betray me! For kriff’s sake why would you even agree to this if you thought it would end with-“
Hux stops abruptly and his eyes go wide. His hand finds Kylo’s again, only this time his grip is painfully tight.
“Kylo, did you want to die?”
“No,” Kylo’s voice trembles and he can feel the sting of tears. He needs Hux to understand. “I wanted to be rid of Snoke. Whatever it took. That’s all.”
Hux relaxes his grip a little but he still looks upset. Kylo wants to say more but he’s still wrapping his head around the notion that getting rid of him was never part of the plan.
The bed shifts as Hux carefully moves to sit at the edge, facing Kylo. He reaches out with both hands and smooths Kylo’s hair back from his face. The gentleness of it is overwhelming and tears begin to slip down his cheeks. Hux strokes them away with his thumbs but that only makes more follow. Hux has never touched him like this outside of their quarters, and never while Kylo was awake.
“This is my fault,” Hux whispers, “I’ve never been good at this, and now I’ve hurt you. Kylo, you’re right that I needed your power to defeat Snoke. But I thought that we would rule together, or at least that you’d play a part in ruling. I hoped you’d stay. Because…fuck, this is hard…because I want you with me. Because I’d be unhappy without you. Because I care for you. I thought you knew.”
His thumbs continue stroking, but it’s no use, Kylo couldn’t stop the tears now if he tried. His breath comes out in short, gasping sobs and Hux cups his face firmly between his palms.
“What’s wrong? Don’t you want that too?”
Don’t you want me too?
“More than anything,” Kylo manages, his voice thick. “I just didn’t think…”
“I should have told you. Oh, hells…”
Hux scoots closer and carefully pulls Kylo to him, supporting him with an arm around his shoulders. With the other hand he strokes his fingers through Kylo’s hair over and over.
“My Kylo,” Hux soothes, “my brave, strong Kylo. Stay with me. I need you.”
Kylo presses his face into Hux’s neck and nods, no longer trusting his voice. Hux holds him until the tears stop and the shudders ease and Kylo feels wrung out. He loops an arm around Hux’s waist and kisses softly at the skin above Hux’s collar, hoping it conveys his relief and gratitude. Hux holds him a little closer.
In Hux’s embrace he begins to feel pleasantly warm and drowsy. Hux helps him lie back down, adjusting the pillows and covers and fussing over him in a way that Kylo wouldn’t have thought him capable of months ago. But then, he thinks, maybe it shouldn’t come as a surprise. Hux is committed and attentive to anything of importance to him. Kylo just never realized that meant him, too.
Once he’s settled, Hux gently turns his head to look out the viewport to the right of the bed. Outside they can see a stunning array of stars and planets. Hux fits himself beside Kylo, lying on his side, careful not to jostle him.
“That’s ours now,” he whispers, presses a kiss to the shell of Kylo’s ear, his jaw, his cheek, “because of you. And we’ll make it better, together. How does that sound?”
“Wonderful,” Kylo breathes. He feels Hux’s smile against the side of his face. “As long as…it’s with you.”
Hux’s hand comes up to Kylo’s chest and Kylo clasps it in his. He can barely keep his eyes open, but he’s smiling. For the first time he can remember, he feels safe and at peace. He drifts off, knowing that when he wakes Hux will be there, and their reign will begin.