Phasma leaned against the wall as Hux approached, cigarette dangling loosely from her fingers. She raised the hand holding it in greeting. Hux nodded in response. She squared her shoulders, throwing the bar's logo on her t-shirt into sharp relief: SNOKE'S in big, bold font across her chest, the address in smaller letters underneath it. She'd cut the sleeves of the shirt off, and without much care, leaving the distinct impression that her biceps alone had left the edges ragged.
Hux leaned against the wall next to her, brick scratchy against his back through the thin fabric of his shirt. She passed him the cigarette. He took a long drag, sighed deeply, and handed it back. He tilted his head back against the wall, felt his hair catch on the brick, and sighed again.
"Long day?" Phasma asked after a moment.
Hux huffed out a laugh. "You could say that."
Phasma nodded. She smoked her cigarette. She didn't say anything else; he liked that about her, her willingness toward silence. It was a nice change from the incessant chatter of the office, from his noisy neighbors; a nice oasis of quiet even in the middle of the loud Wrigleyville night.
And it had been a long fucking day. There was an incident with the copy machine that was straight out of a bad 90s movie, an email thread of absolute bullshit that lasted all day, and — worst — the new kid was still bugging Hux every five minutes to explain things no one should possibly need explained. Hux was convinced he was just captivated by Hux's accent — which wasn't even that strong; Hux had lived in Chicago nearly his whole life — like he'd never seen an Irish person outside of a movie before.
Phasma dropped her cigarette to the sidewalk, crushed the butt with the toe of one heeled boot, and moved to stand more fully in the doorway.
Hux watched as a quartet of laughing girls approached, all in miniskirts despite the bite in the air, and rifled through their purses for their IDs. Phasma examined each card in turn, handing them back and watching as the girls filed inside. She watched them go, eyebrow raised as she turned back toward Hux.
"Green dress," she said after a moment, and pulled another cigarette out of her pack. "I'd card her hard."
"That simultaneously makes no sense and is utterly disgusting."
"Hard," Phasma said again, and lit her cigarette. She ran the hand not holding the cigarette through her hair, pushing her bangs back off her face.
"Ky's working," she offered after a moment.
"Mmm," Hux said, a noncommittal sound. Ky, of course, was Kylo Ren: the head bartender at Snoke's, and the object of Hux's less than subtle affections.
Hux had come here once, months ago, with Keith: a coworker of his, an unfortunately fratty type with a preference for craft beers and 90s R&B. The jukebox at Snoke's, a fancy digital affair, afforded plenty of the latter; the bar itself prided itself on the former. Keith lived in the neighborhood, something Hux couldn't fathom. There was no possible way he could live somewhere where people were routinely out on the streets until three in the morning, where they were apt to puke on his doorstep.
But Keith had promised "someplace chill," and Hux was still making misguided attempts to be social at the time: he was still relatively new to the job, but well-versed enough to know that the occasional outside interaction was good for his social standing. The promise of someplace chill was enough of a draw, even if Hux had his doubts about Keith's ability to produce on that promise.
Kylo had been bartending that night, and Hux had found him very attentive. He was knowledgeable about his product and quick with his service, friendly without being overly chatty.
"Dude," Keith had said as the night had drawn to a close, Hux surprised to find it rapidly approaching two am, "don't freak out? But I think the bartender's hitting on you."
Hux had looked up sharply, taking in the sight of Kylo down at the other end of the bar. The bartender's arms were muscular, stretching the sleeves of his Snoke's t-shirt; his eyes were large and dark, lips quirking as he talked to a customer. As Hux had watched, he'd thrown back a shot, the shot glass almost disappearing in his huge hand, which then came up to tuck a lock of hair back behind one of his equally large ears. There was a dusting of stubble across his chin. As if he'd known Keith was talking about him, he'd looked over at them and smiled.
He wasn't Hux's type at all. Hux hadn't told Keith he was gay, didn't suspect Keith had any idea.
"Mmm," Hux had said, and shrugged, and knocked back the rest of his beer. "Let's settle up, shall we?"
Kylo had handed Hux the bill, and before he could even open it asked if they wanted a shot. "For the road," he'd said. "On the house." Keith had agreed, and before Hux knew it he was knocking back some alarmingly red concoction Kylo had called a Starkiller.
"That was appalling," he'd said honestly, and Kylo had smiled at him almost bashfully.
Hux barely looked at the bill before adding a large tip and signing off on it, but it had seemed lower than it should be.
He'd gone back the next Friday, Keithless. He'd shared a cigarette break with Phasma, which would become a ritual. For no particular reason Hux could fathom, Kylo always gave him a discount. Starkillers, as it turned out, grew on you.
And now it had been months, and somehow Hux had become a regular.
Hux shifted his weight from foot to foot. He looked longingly at Phasma's cigarette, but he was quitting, goddammit; that one drag would have to last him.
After a moment, he pushed himself away from the wall. "I'm going in," he said pointlessly, and Phasma gave him a cheery little wave as he walked past her into the bar.
It was pretty early still, for a Friday, and the bar was mostly empty. The hi-top tables were abandoned, and only one of the booths toward the back was occupied, the giggly, miniskirted girls from earlier; it wasn't even busy enough for there to be a server, just Kylo wiping glasses down behind the bar. The long bar itself was fairly full, a butt on nearly every stool.
Hux leaned against the bar, elbows on the cool lacquered wood. The three people nearest him were all strange to him, but beyond them was Lenny, who'd worked here once; next to Lenny were Pris and Shan, who'd tried to get Hux to join their Monday night trivia team. He'd declined; Mondays at a bar were too much for him. Every Friday was bad enough.
"Bell's Oberon?" Kylo asked.
"Please," Hux said gratefully.
He watched as Kylo selected a glass, as his large hand swallowed up the tap handle, as the foam overflowed the top of the glass and dripped down its side. There was an art to the perfect pour, and Kylo seemed like an artist, but truth be told it was all beer to Hux. Kylo had promised to make a beer snob of him, but it hadn't happened yet.
"Long day?" Kylo asked, and Hux winced; was it so obvious?
"Quite," was all he replied, and took a long sip of his beer.
It was pleasantly dark inside Snoke's, full of murmurs of conversation and muted jazz — Kylo's selection, which had been much to Hux's surprise. "It's just a Spotify playlist," he'd confessed, and Hux had laughed. When it started to pick up later in the evening it would be all Drake and Kesha and whatever was gracing the Top 40, but earlier on Kylo kept it fairly chill.
The men sitting next to him were having an animated conversation about, Hux was fairly certain, basketball. Hux yawned.
Kylo frowned at him. "You can't be tired already. It's not even 9."
Hux tapped absently at the side of his glass. "I may turn in after this one."
"You can't! Phasma and I are going out after close, and you're coming with us."
"That's not for hours," Hux protested. Kylo put a shot glass in front of him. Not a Starkiller, fortunately; it was something amber, likely whiskey.
"Shot," Kylo said pointedly, at the same time Hux tried to protest: "Kylo, no."
"Shot," Kylo said again. He picked up another shot glass and twisted it deftly in his fingers before picking up a bottle of well whiskey and filling it. "Shot, Hux."
"Shot," Hux agreed. They clinked shot glasses; Hux tapped his gently against the edge of the bar before knocking it back. He winced at the taste: despite the assumptions people drew from his fiery hair and the lilt to his voice, he was never a whiskey drinker. He could feel it burning, on his tongue and down his throat. Despite himself, he shuddered.
He lifted his hand to wipe at a stray droplet clinging to the corner of his mouth.
When he looked up at Kylo, the bartender was smiling down at him. "Good," he said. "Stay."
"Kylo —" Hux attempted to protest, but Kylo was already walking down toward the other end of the bar. Hux sighed, and took a sip of his beer. It washed down the taste of the whiskey, at least.
His phone chimed in his back pocket, and he shifted on the barstool as he fished it out. It was an email from his boss; he shifted the phone from hand to hand as he debated opening it. It was, after all, nearly nine pm: quite outside of work hours. He had no obligation to be doing anything work-related at all.
With a sigh, he shoved the phone back in his pocket. He'd look at it later. He'd look at it tomorrow.
"Work?" Kylo asked. Hux started; he hadn't even realized Kylo had come back to his end of the bar.
"Work," he said, nodding. Kylo smiled at him sympathetically. The bartender's eyes were stupidly large, stupidly expressive; Hux was stupidly gone on him. Still. He'd never made an advance on Hux, not once, despite whatever Keith may have thought that first night, and Hux was hardly about to make a move on someone at their place of employ. Besides, he liked being a regular somewhere; he didn't want to ruin that for what would certainly, with Hux's luck, be a one night stand.
Admittedly, he thought, watching Kylo's shoulder muscles shift beneath the thin, stretched fabric of his t-shirt, it would probably be an excellent one night stand.
Kylo wasn't Hux's type, was the worst of it. Hux dated rarely, but when he did at all it was men who looked like him: tall and slim, often fair, well put together. Once he'd seen someone with long hair, but it hadn't worked out. There was an element of narcissism to it, certainly, but it wasn't anything too overt — he'd never dated another redhead, at least. (Although he had fucked one, once.) He just … knew what he liked, and what he liked in others he also liked in himself.
Kylo was something else. Even taller than Hux, and twice as broad, dark hair to his shoulders — he was like some sort of rock star wet dream, of the sort Hux had never entertained even as a teenager. But he had a sweet, shy smile, and those damned expressive eyes, and he always gave Hux a discount. No, no, Hux wouldn't be finding another bar.
"Hux," Kylo said, "can I ask you something?"
It was a Friday and Hux was already on his third drink — or he would be, if Kyo would relinquish it; the bartender held Hux's glass hostage in one massive hand, condensation dripping from his fingertips.
Hux paused, just long enough to betray his hesitation. Kylo seemed so … sincere. A trait not entirely unusual to him, but there was something in his eyes that gave Hux pause.
"You already have," he said finally, allowing the lightest smirk to grace his features. Kylo rolled his eyes, which was more than he deserved.
"Touche. Can I — I have a question for you. Well. A favor?"
Hux gestured come here, crooking two fingers toward Kylo, who leaned over the bar obligingly, pushing Hux's glass closer in doing so. Hux's fingers barely brushed against Kylo's as he pulled the glass out of the bartender's grasp.
Kylo didn't say anything as Hux took a long pull of his beer, just watched him; Hux imagined he could feel Kylo's eyes on the purse of his lips, on the line of his throat.
Hux set his glass carefully down on a coaster and looked up at Kylo.
"A favor?" he prompted.
Kylo sighed, a touch harshly.
"My parents," he said after a moment. "They're — hang on." At the other end of the bar, someone else was gesturing for Kylo's attention; he smiled apologetically at Hux and slipped away.
Kylo's parents. Hux couldn't fathom what he himself would have to do with them. Did they need insurance?
What were Kylo's parents like? It was hard to imagine what parentage would produce the likes of Kylo Ren. They were tall, surely; they must be. With a start, Hux realized he didn't know all that much about Kylo: he was from California, Hux knew vaguely, but whether it was the glitz of LA or the hazy bays of San Francisco, or something else entirely, he had no idea; maybe Kylo hailed from some tiny desert town, or from the sort of suburb that could be anywhere. Maybe California wasn't even his birthplace, but merely the last place he'd lived before Chicago.
Hux had never been to California. He had no frame of reference, really.
Kylo's elbows thumped down on the bar. Hux looked up at him.
"Stay," Kylo said, tone dangerously close to pleading. "Close down the bar tonight. It's too busy to talk right now."
"Do you a favor," Hux said slowly, "and wait around so you can ask me a favor."
It was too dark to see, but Hux could almost swear he could see the tips of Kylo's ears turning red, the faintest points of color rising in his cheeks. It was probably just the reflection of the jukebox, flashing red and then green and then blue.
"I'll buy your beers," Kylo said, and Hux smiled despite himself.
"I'm not doing anything else," he allowed, and Kylo flashed a grin at him before running down to the other end of the bar again.
Snoke's certainly wasn't the biggest bar on Clark Street, nor the busiest, but it attracted an interesting enough clientele, and it wasn't too much of a hardship for Hux to while away a few hours.
By ten o'clock it was busy enough for a second bartender to have come on. Hux wanted to like Poe — he was amiable, with an easy grin, excellent hair, and a knack for terrible jokes. Amiable with everyone else, anyway: for some reason Hux had never been able to determine, Poe seemed to have it in for him. His jokes when directed toward Hux became pointed barbs; his smile turned fake and frosty.
When Hux had asked Kylo about it, ages ago, Kylo had just shrugged. "Poe's great," he'd said, "but," and smiled apologetically as he'd gone to help another patron. He never did finish the sentence.
Poe stayed mostly away from Hux's end of the bar, which suited Hux just fine. Kylo did an admirable job of keeping Hux's glass full, and even passed him a water with a barely-contained roll of his eyes when Hux asked for it.
"Hey," Hux called over the din around eleven. His elbows were propped up on the bar as he leaned over to talk to Kylo. "I'm going to get pizza. Do you want anything?"
Snoke's didn't have a kitchen, so they let people bring in food as long as they weren't obnoxious about it, and it wasn't uncommon to see patrons with boxes from Dimo's: a place down the block that did a brisk business serving New York-sized slices with a variety of exciting toppings. It was popular with the drunks of Wrigleyville, and Hux supposed he was no exception.
"Oh!" Kylo said. "Do they have that elotes thing right now? Otherwise, pepperoni — here, let me grab you some ca —"
Hux was waving his offer away before he'd even finished the sentence. "You've got my beers, remember?"
The smile Kylo sent his way was — crooked, almost a little anxious, but still entirely genuine. Hux nearly recoiled under the force of it. God, he was gone; it was terrible.
He thumbed at the worn edge of a cardboard coaster and debated putting it on top of his half-empty glass, then abandoned the notion; Kylo would assuredly have a fresh one waiting for him once he got through the line at the pizza place.
The line wasn't too bad, as it happened — one of the guys in front of him was verging on sloppy drunk, but fortunately had a slightly more sober friend to keep him roughly in check — and the pizzas behind the glass were piping hot. They did have the elotes thing, as it turned out; he also picked up a mac'n'cheese for Phasma and a florentine for himself.
It was only a block and a half back to the bar, but the street had somehow gotten crowded in the meantime, people wandering aimlessly from bar to bar and in the middle of the street, and he had three take-out boxes to juggle now.
He wove his way up the sidewalk, dodging some young gentlemen — he was loathe to use the term "bros," but if the shoe fits — in perhaps more Cubs gear than was strictly necessary for any individual person to be wearing. A girl in an oversized Hawks jersey listed in his direction, a flirtatious smile plastered to her face, and Hux nearly tripped over the curb trying to avoid her. A tired-looking police officer leaning against a cruiser gave him a flat look as he jaywalked across Clark, but apparently couldn't be bothered to do anything about it.
Phasma ruffled his hair as she took one of the pizza boxes from him and Hux ducked away, scowling, which just made her laugh harder.
"It takes effort to get my hair in place, you know," he sniped.
She raised an eyebrow at him. "Bitch, bitch," she said. "Thanks for the pizza."
Hux grumbled, but tightened his grip on the remaining boxes and headed back inside. The look on Kylo's face when he saw Hux — or when he saw the pizza, anyway; Hux wasn't entirely naive — was worth all the effort.
"I love you," Kylo said effusively, and Hux couldn't keep from blanching. Which was, he supposed, better than blushing; either way, Kylo didn't seem to notice as he exchanged the pizza for a fresh pint of beer.
Hux tucked into his own pizza and nursed his drink. It was, he was fairly certain, his fifth of the night, and there were still a couple hours until close. Hopefully Kylo would be content to just hang out at Snoke's in the after-hours dark, and didn't want to drag Hux to some terrible (they were all, in his blessedly limited experience, terrible) four am bar.
The couple of hours went quickly. Shan and Pris — Hux still hadn't ascertained if they were just roommates or actually dating, but he rarely saw one without the other — showed up, freshly drunk from a Boystown bar with bits of confetti still stuck in their hair, and bought a round of shots. Hux grimaced around the whiskey as it made its way down his throat, and took a long swig of his beer to wipe it away.
Soon enough the bar started to clear out a bit; not long after that, Poe shouted out last call. It wasn't long till the lights were on and the grumbling patrons made their way out into the chill of the Wrigleyville darkness.
"Hux, don't go yet," Kylo said, unncessarily; Hux was rarely the last to leave but he was never the first, either, and Kylo had already asked him to hang around, after all.
He sat and nursed his — hopefully final — beer as Kylo and Poe cleaned up around him. He'd offered to help before, the first time he'd been locked into the bar when the rabble had been locked out, but had been chastised so thoroughly that he didn't even mention it now. ("You're my guest," Kylo had insisted, clearly affronted.) Phasma came and sat next to him for a bit, but eventually even she peeled off. Hux never even saw Poe go; he must have left out the back.
And then it was just Hux and Kylo.
Kylo flipped the lights back off, one at a time, until only the faint track lighting over the bar itself remained.
It felt oddly intimate, and Hux had to school himself back into composure.
Kylo poured them both fresh drinks, sliding one across the bar and draining half his own in one gulp. "It's kind of a big favor," he said without further preamble.
Hux stayed silent, opting to raise an eyebrow over the rim of his pint glass, and waited for Kylo to continue.
It took a moment.
"My parents are coming into town," Kylo said finally. "It's — they're — our relationship is. Strained. They don't … approve of my choices: living here, working here. They want something … steadier for me. A career." Disdain dripped off the word.
"What, like an office job?" Hux said, unable to keep a smile off his face. Kylo had despaired often enough of how boring Hux's job must be, how Hux should quit the proper workforce and come work in industry, despite any protest Hux might put forth that he quite liked his job.
Even at the joking suggestion, Kylo pulled a face. "Exactly like an office job," he said.
There was a pause, Kylo swirling the liquid in his glass morosely.
"So you … need me to put in a good word for you with HR?"
Kylo looked up sharply, horror writ across his face. "No! I'm not quitting Snoke's." He took a deep breath. "I'm hoping that I can convince them that I'm … steady … if I'm dating someone."
"So you … need me to find you a … date?" Hux stumbled over the last word; he'd almost said boyfriend, but held himself back at the last minute. Girlfriend, more likely, after all.
Kylo looked at him, finally meeting his eyes. God but he had nice eyes, and Hux had to fight to keep from losing himself in them.
"I need you to pretend to be my boyfriend."
The words came out all in a rush, fast enough that Hux was quite certain he'd misheard. There was no way that — Kylo wouldn't —
"It's just," Kylo said, a note of desperation creeping into his voice, "if I'm dating a girl my parents will start in with the marriage and the babies and — I'm not ready for that, not even close."
Hux looked down at the napkin he hadn't realized he'd been systemically shredding, a tiny pile of white fibers at his fingertips. He made himself stop.
"Kylo," he said carefully, not looking up from the tabletop, "are you — are you even gay?"
"Yeah!" The response came so quickly that Hux was very nearly startled. "I mean — bi. But like, my parents know; I've been out to them since I was a kid, I just — I'm not trying to freak them out or anything! It's not like that. I wouldn't —"
"Kylo," Hux said again, quietly. "Do you even know if I'm gay?"
Kylo didn't say anything. Hux looked up, finally. Kylo was stock-still, eyes wide, the color nearly drained from his face.
"Shit," Kylo said finally. "I just …" He trailed off.
Hux raised an eyebrow, and waited.
"Not that you seem gay," Kylo said after a moment, too quickly. "What does that even mean, anyway, seem gay. I mean …" He bit his lip.
Hux kept waiting. His fingers drummed against the tabletop, once. He watched Kylo's lip go white where his teeth indented it, and then watched as it filled up again, impossibly red. If Kylo really had any lingering doubts about Hux's sexuality, the way Hux was looking at his mouth should have erased them.
"Are you?" Kylo said, voice small.
"I am, actually," Hux said. He kept his voice as nonchalant as he could manage: he wasn't in the habit of coming out to people, and there was still a small part of him that screamed that this was a mistake. But Kylo had come out first, after all, and so casually.
Kylo exhaled deeply, his eyes closing, his shoulders shaking with it. "Thank god."
He shook himself, straightened his massive shoulders, stood up straight. "Look," he said. "I'll try to keep you from even having to meet them. I just — if we could take a couple cute selfies for me to show them, if you could just … text me all weekend, that's all I need. Just to get them off my back. It would be a massive favor."
"Your parents wouldn't want to meet your — boyfriend?" Hux barely tripped over the word. He didn't mean to pry, but it seemed odd for Kylo to want to go halfway with this charade and no further.
"Oh, they will," Kylo said, a touch darkly. "But if I tell them it's too new, we've only been together a few weeks, they'll … well, they might respect that."
"And a relationship of a few weeks will convince them you've settled down?" Hux couldn't fathom it: his own father barely found it adequate that Hux had worked in the same field for the better part of a decade, that headhunters had actually sought him out for his current position; trying to impress him with anything of a few weeks' duration would be fatuous at best.
Kylo shrugged. "It'll … help. It shows them I'm trying, at least."
Hux looked across the counter. Kylo stared back at him beseechingly, eyes wide and reflecting the glow of the neon over the bar. A lock of hair, escaped from his bun, lay against his cheekbone, and Hux resisted the urge to reach out and tuck it behind Kylo's ear; instead, he took a long swallow of his beer. When he set the glass back on the table, Kylo was still gazing at him.
"All right," he said slowly. "I'll do it. If it's — just a few selfies."
Kylo grinned at him. No — beamed at him. His eyes crinkled at the corners. "Thanks, Hux. You're a lifesaver."
"Oh, well," Hux said modestly. "Anything for my favorite bartender."
Hux woke up twenty minutes before the blaring of his alarm. It wasn't uncommon; he rarely slept until the thing went off, usually getting up even earlier than today.
It was uncomfortably hot under his blanket, even if he'd half-kicked it off during the night; his apartment retained heat well into the autumn, and it was barely September now. Soon enough the baseball season would be over — the Cubs were already knocked out of playoff contention — and Wrigleyville would be a ghost town.
"Ugh," he groaned. Awake for barely a minute, and he was already thinking about Wrigleyville. His Old Town apartment was, he'd thought, far enough away, but it seemed he couldn't quite escape.
He propped himself up in bed and leaned over to look at his phone, which was flashing at him. One unread text, from Kylo (Snoke's). He'd gotten Kylo's number ages ago, before he'd found out Kylo's surname, programming it agreeably into his phone one drunken night.
Their text thread wasn't long: a couple WHERE R Us from Kylo on the occasional Friday when Hux wasn't at Snoke's promptly enough for his liking, or mid-afternoon what are you up tos; photos from Hux in response, of traffic out the window of a bus or a Lyft, or of the white walls of his office, a faded picture of his mum tacked to a corkboard over his desk. One shot of a goldendoodle puppy walking down North Avenue, which had genuinely distracted Hux to the point of nearly being late to work. For some reason Kylo seemed charmed when Hux responded with images rather than words, so he'd kept it up.
This morning there was only one new addition: a 3:17 am sweet dreams from Kylo, followed by an emoji of a winking face blowing a kiss.
Oh. Oh right. Because Hux had — Kylo had asked him to — and Hux had agreed.
He gripped his phone tightly, thumbs poised in the air over the keypad. He had absolutely no idea how to respond. Were they texting in character? Was Hux expected to be some sort of method actor? Were Kylo's parents going to go through his phone, as if he were some sort of errant teenager? (Although Hux hadn't been particularly errant, and that hadn't stopped his father. Hux had learned the importance of frequent password changes early in life.)
Not so sweet. You weren't in them, he typed, then frowned at the screen and promptly backspaced the whole thing. He selected a winky face emoji of his own, then deleted that too.
Finally he snapped a picture of his alarm clock — an actual clock, since he'd had his phone die in the night on more than one occasion — and the bold, red 7:12 AM it displayed. Hopefully the numbers would manage to convey how bloody miserable Hux was, waking up barely four hours after he'd stumbled home and into bed.
It was only then that Hux realized it was Saturday. His alarm wasn't going off after all; he didn't have to go to work today. He groaned, thunked his cell phone back onto his nightstand, and pulled the covers up over his eyes.
It was nearly noon when Hux woke up again. This time there was a series of texts from Kylo, a string of emoji (a skull and crossbones; two beer steins clinking; a peach; some ramen) whose meanings Hux was unable to decipher, although he didn't spend too much time thinking about it.
He sent back another wordless picture: the trees outside his window, the snap angled somewhat awkwardly since he wasn't quite feeling up to the task of getting out of bed, or even sitting all the way up.
It was a few minutes before he mustered the strength to get out of bed, to pour a bowl of Cheerios and milk for himself and a bowl of kibble for Millicent, who slunk out from wherever she'd been hiding in the bedroom with a loud meow at the sound of the food hitting the bowl. She twined around his ankles appreciatively, but ran off when he leaned down to pet her.
He had absolutely nothing to do today, which was good news for his hangover. He flipped the TV on, muted it as quickly as he could manage, and scrolled idly through the channels. There was nothing he particularly wanted to watch, and finally he settled on a news channel, the weatherman mouthing silently about the humidity.
come out tonight, Kylo said. Hux squeezed his eyes shut and locked his phone. He'd reply later, when his head wasn't quite so opposed to looking at screens.
Millicent jumped on the couch next to him and permitted him to pet her, fingers stroking through her soft fur.
"Millie," he said, eyes still closed, "what have I gotten myself into?"
Millicent purred loudly, and Hux sighed.
Hux wasn't prone to going to Snoke's on Saturdays. Fridays were bad enough, in his opinion; Saturdays were even louder, even more crowded. There was rarely a spot at the bar, and honestly, if he couldn't sit and talk to Kylo, what was even the point of going?
The mere thought had him wincing: maybe this wasn't going to be as easy as he'd initially thought. He would never, ever have agreed to this sober. Not with his … inclination toward Kylo.
Still. He'd said he would go to the bar — well, he'd texted Kylo a thumbs-up emoji, which amounted to the same thing — so go he would.
He'd gotten sucked into a Netflix spiral, so it was nearly ten by the time he got to the bar. It was, as he'd predicted, too busy for his tastes, full of people he didn't even recognize as regulars. As horrifying as it was that he knew all the regulars.
"Hux!" Kylo shouted across the room, and Hux barely kept from hunching in on himself as what felt like half the bar swiveled in his direction. He lifted his chin again, and his hand in a sort of wave. Even in the dim, he could see Kylo's smile.
It occurred to him suddenly how unprepared he was for the night. Was it to be just a few selfies taken after hours, or was he meant to act as if he and Kylo were dating while he was at the bar? Was there to be physical contact? They certainly weren't going to kiss, were they?
Hux hoped not. He wasn't sure his heart could take it.
And even if they were to play pretend in front of everyone, would anyone buy it? Would he want them to? It was bad enough that Phasma knew about his little crush — not that he'd told her, but she was annoyingly perceptive — but for everyone to think they were dating was another story entirely.
When he finally got to the bar proper, having had to push his way through a veritable throng of inebriated people, he was quite surprised to find a stool waiting for him.
"Saved you a spot," Kylo said, and pushed a shot glass toward Hux. It was red: a Starkiller, then, and Hux groaned.
"Must we start like this?" he asked.
"Yes," Kylo said, a hint of a smirk on his full lips. "We must."
Hux frowned at him. "Where's yours, then?"
Kylo rolled his eyes — fondly, if such a thing was possible — and said something Hux couldn't quite hear over the noise of the bar before walking away.
Hux contemplated the contents of the shot glass in front of him. He tilted it back and forth, watching the slightly sluggish movement of the liquid inside; he still had no idea what, exactly, composed a Starkiller, though he'd watched Kylo make them several times. He did know, though, that they tasted even worse sipped slowly. Best to just knock it back.
He grimaced as it slid down his throat, wishing dearly that Kylo had at least had the decency to leave him a beer to wash away the taste. Instead, the sickly-sweet of it lingered on his tongue. He looked down toward where Kylo was leaning on the bar, joking with another customer, and tried not to feel a pang of jealousy.
This fake boyfriend business was a terrible idea.
He pulled his phone out of his pocket and flipped though a few social media apps: the Facebook account he rarely used, the Twitter he barely remembered the password to. Kylo was on him to get an Instagram account, to upload all the pictures he took, but Hux hadn't gotten around to it yet. Besides, Kylo already got the pictures; did he need to click a little "like" button for them as well?
Hux adjusted the settings on his phone for low light and angled himself in close, snapping a picture of Kylo propped up on the bar. It wasn't his best shot ever, but it would do: with a few more clicks he'd sent it to Kylo, no accompanying text.
It was a few more idle minutes before Kylo made his way back to Hux's end of the bar. Poe had passed a couple of times but made no effort to get Hux anything, which was well enough.
"Hi," Kylo said. The glass in his hand was topped with a foamy head, which spilled slightly down the sides of the glass as he passed it off to Hux. "Thanks for coming. I know you hate Saturdays."
"I do hate Saturdays," Hux said agreeably.
Kylo didn't say anything in response, just stood there with a slightly nervous grin on his face. Hux gestured him closer and leaned in himself.
"How are we playing this?" he asked quietly. "Do we need to pretend around everyone else, or just your parents?"
Kylo hesitated, his face drawn tight. "I figure — maybe we can keep it subtle, but. If a few people knew, or — suspected. It wouldn't be the worst thing?"
"Subtle," Hux echoed. The word hung in the air between them, a pocket of silence in the clamor of the bar. Hux became suddenly, uncomfortably aware of how close their faces were. He didn't move.
"Kylo!" Poe's voice rang out from down the bar, and Kylo's face shifted into an apologetic smile.
"I'll be back," he said, "I promise." He reached out, the very tips of his fingers barely grazing against Hux's where they rested on the wooden bartop, and then he was gone.
Hux took a sip of his beer, and then another. He could feel the Starkiller starting to settle, the light buzz in his veins that meant the alcohol was taking effect. He watched Kylo as he bustled around behind the bar — or, to be entirely fair, he watched the shift of Kylo's biceps, the flex of his forearms, the shape of his ass inside his black jeans. Kylo's hair was down tonight, and he kept reaching up to tuck it behind his ears.
God, but Kylo had the largest hands. Hux exhaled harshly, trying not to picture those hands on his body. He wasn't even drunk yet.
He pulled his phone out again, and after a moment he thumbed over to the App Store. It was the work of a moment to download Instagram, and it took even less time to come up with a username; it wasn't terribly long to figure out the interface, either.
Before long he'd uploaded a few pictures, not bothering with captions, hoping against hope that the bar's terrible lighting wasn't doing a number on his filter choices. He sent a link to the page to Kylo: now he'd have something to show his parents, to prove that Hux existed.
He was eyeing the picture he'd taken of Kylo just minutes earlier, debating on uploading it, when the man himself walked back over.
"I hate people," Kylo said, and Hux laughed.
"You work in the industry for it."
Kylo made a noncommittal noise and eyed up Hux's beer. "You've barely touched that. Is it okay?"
"Oh —" Hux looked up from his phone. "I've been — did you check your texts?"
Kylo fished his phone out of his pocket, and his eyes lit up almost as soon as he'd unlocked it. "Finally," he said, and Hux's phone flashed where it sat on the bar: a notification that Kylo had followed him, and a few likes in quick succession.
"No pictures of me, though?" Kylo's pout was exaggerated enough that Hux had to close his eyes.
"Give me time," Hux said, and when he opened his eyes again Kylo looked properly chastised. His large eyes were downcast, despite the amusement flashing in them, and he worried at his lower lip with his teeth.
Hux took a long swallow of his beer.
"Before next weekend," Kylo said, and Hux nearly choked.
"That's — Kylo, your parents will be in town when?"
Hux blinked rapidly at him. "That's not even a week. We have to fake — in a week?"
"They'll love you," Kylo assured him. "Or the pictures of you. They'll — parents always love you, I bet. You look like the type. It'll be fine! Do you need another drink?"
Hux looked down at his glass, surprised to find it mostly empty.
"Yes," he said decisively. "Yes, I do."
Parents did love him, was the worst of it. He was well-groomed and had a respectable job and was scrupulously polite; certainly this was why Kylo had picked him. He wasn't foolish enough to believe that it was because of any particular affection on Kylo's part: if it were, surely he could have asked Hux on a real date, rather than involve him in this charade.
He nursed his next beer.
It was, to be fair, an even more depressing concept, that of Kylo asking him out on a date so that he could impress his parents, without even alerting Hux as to the deception. Hux's heart — and his ego — would never have recovered.
He was so involved in this turn of thoughts that he didn't even notice when Phasma leaned against the bar next to him.
"So," she said, and he startled. "I hear you and Kylo finally got it together."
"What? That's — what?"
She smirked at him. "I hear," she said again, "that you and Kylo finally got it together."
"I'm certain I don't know what you mean," Hux said stiffly.
"I overheard him on the phone to his mom earlier today, before we opened. It sounds an awful lot like they're meeting someone when they get into town, and —"
"He told me I didn't have to meet them!" Hux was halfway through his protest when he realized his mistake. Phasma's smirk turned positively vicious.
"So you're not meeting his parents, but you are dating?"
Hux could feel his eyes widening, the desperate cast to his mouth. "No — that's not —"
Hux looked up sharply at the new voice: it was Lenny, of all people; Hux hadn't seen him yesterday, but of course he was here on a Saturday. And if Lenny knew, soon enough everyone would know. He could hold his drink, but he couldn't hold his tongue.
"No one is dating!" He could hear his voice getting a little shrill, and he winced.
Lenny raised an eyebrow at him, and gestured meaningfully with his beer bottle. "Sounds to me like someone's dating. Who're you dating, Hux? Is it someone —" He paused meaningfully, but then ruined the effect by taking a sip of his beer. "Someone we know?"
Hux hadn't realized Kylo was even there until he heard him say Lenny's name.
"Len," Kylo snapped. "Leave it."
Lenny made a dismissive noise, grumbling into his beer. Phasma mouthed something Hux didn't catch, and Lenny laughed. Hux frowned at Phasma, who just shrugged. She ducked behind the bar and grabbed a bottle of something, then headed back up toward the door without saying anything else.
"Sorry," Kylo said. He leaned in over the bar, one hand propping him up. It took everything in Hux's power not to lay his own hand over it.
"It's nothing," he said instead.
"I didn't mean —"
Hux cut him off. "It's fine, Kylo. But look, I ought to go."
"It's so early," Kylo protested.
"Errands to run tomorrow," Hux lied. "Early."
Kylo frowned slightly but he leaned back, allowing Hux his space. "Text me when you get home."
Hux forced a smile. "Of course. What do I owe you?"
Kylo shook his head. "Nothing."
Hux sighed and pulled out his wallet, dropping a twenty on the bar as soon as Kylo had turned his back. He pocketed the wallet and his phone, shrugged his jacket back on, and went outside. Phasma smiled knowingly at him as he brushed past her.
The air had a bite to it, and his jacket was a light one; he shivered at the bus stop. Much to his surprise, it was only a few minutes until the bus showed up. He tapped his fare card and nodded at the bus driver and settled down for the ride to Old Town.
He opened up Instagram again, intent on uploading a picture of Millie that he'd taken a few days ago. His tumb hovered over the picture of Kylo he'd taken earlier that night: the line of Kylo's back as he leaned forward, the light barely glinting off the shot glass held delicately in his massive fingers. The slight curl of Kylo's hair against his shoulders. The quirk of his lips as he talked to a customer just out of frame.
In for a penny, he thought, and clicked the "Next" button. It wasn't as decisive an action as he'd hoped for — he still had to select a filter (he didn't) and type a caption (he didn't) before he finally was able to upload it, so it didn't feel quite as impulsive as he'd like.
Kylo was the only person who followed him on Instagram, and he hadn't used any hashtags or tagged his location; likely no one would see that he'd uploaded the picture at all.
It wasn't long before the bus arrived at his stop, and not much longer before he was feeling exhausted — it was only a few blocks from the bus stop to his building, but somehow it felt like miles.
When he opened the door to his bedroom, Millie was curled up on the foot of the bed. She blinked one eye open at him, ears twitching slightly.
"Hullo, love," he crooned, and her eye closed again. Quickly, before he disturbed her any further, Hux pulled out his phone and took a picture.
Home, he typed under the picture, but deleted it before he hit send. Surely Kylo would be able to figure that one out on his own.
He hadn't even brushed his teeth yet when his phone chimed at him: a smiley face emoticon from Kylo.
It was a few minutes later when Hux was sliding into bed, Millie still curled at the foot of it, when his phone chimed again.
sweet dreams!!! it said, and Hux couldn't quite fight off a smile.
You too., he sent back. He locked his phone, plugged it in, and went almost immediately to sleep.
Hux would almost be able to forget he'd even agreed to help Kylo out — "help him out," what a pointed euphemism — if it weren't for the regularity with which Kylo had begun texting him.
Good morning texts, usually in the early afternoon; complaints of boredom or of having to go into work early or about the sorts of people who showed up to Snoke's at 4pm on a Tuesday. A couple of selfies, which Hux assumed were for verisimilitude should Kylo's parents, for some reason, actually be looking at his phone.
The selfies were — tame, certainly, and very much in line with what Hux knew of Kylo: slightly out of focus, a crooked smile, the faintest trace of embarrassment gracing his features. One of them was the sort of mirror selfie that from someone else could have been lewd — Kylo's shirt was, thankfully, still on, but his muscles were clearly defined beneath it. In that one his head was ducked down, long hair mostly covering his face.
In response Hux sent pictures of his own: Millie sleeping on her back with her paws in the air, the view from his office window, his own face reflected blurrily in the window of the train.
parents incoming, Kylo texted on Thursday morning, shortly after Hux had arrived at work, accompanied by a series of unimpressed-looking emoji faces.
Hux's breath caught in his throat when he opened the message. He realized, abruptly, that they'd never taken any of the couple selfies he'd promised Kylo could show his parents.
What time do you work tonight?
don't. poe's covering the whole weekend
Come downtown around noon and meet me for lunch?
Kylo's only response was a couple of happy faces, which Hux took as a yes.
He spent the rest of the morning immersed in paperwork, eyes blurring as he scrolled through document after endless document. He barely looked up from his laptop until his phone chimed at him.
it's noon! where r u? i'm downstairs they won't fuckin let me up
Hux carefully minimized all his documents, and angled his laptop and his phone just so as he snapped a picture. Sorry! Be right down. he added as an afterthought.
The elevator ride down from the twenty-third floor was interminable. Hux found himself jittery, tapping his foot impatiently against the tile floor.
When he finally reached to the first floor he found Kylo almost immediately: slouched against the security desk, a surly look on his face that almost exactly matched the expression of the security officer behind said desk.
"They wouldn't let me up!" Kylo said, affronted.
Hux couldn't quite stifle his laugh. Kylo made quite the picture, in jeans and a ratty hoodie, worn-out Vans skate shoes, his hair up in a messy top knot: quite the counterpoint to the businesspeople walking through the lobby of the building.
"No," he said. "I imagine not. Come on, then." He inclined his head toward the door of the building.
Hux found himself listing against Kylo's side as they walked down the shady street. He was tempted, almost, to link their hands together — but Kylo's parents weren't there; no one was looking. No one to impress. Still, when the backs of their hands brushed, Hux didn't shy away.
They wound up at, of all places, a Starbucks. It wasn't a particularly dignified choice but it was a mere three blocks away from Hux's office, and Kylo admitted to a secret fondness for their paninis. Besides which, it was dearly time for Hux to re-up on his coffee intake.
He sipped his americano and watched Kylo as he ate, nibbling at the fruit and cheese plate he'd ordered for himself. He'd bought Kylo's food over his protest, and his drink: a quad shot of espresso that Kylo had downed with alarming swiftness.
"So," Hux said quietly. "They're in town tonight?"
Kylo scowled. "Their flight gets in at seven. They're staying at a hotel up by O'Hare, which I told them was stupid, but —"
"At least they're not staying with you?" Hux interjected lightly. He'd never seen Kylo's apartment (obviously), but from what he'd been able to glean from conversation and/or the little he saw reflected in Kylo's bathroom mirror, it wasn't particularly large.
"Thank god," Kylo said, and slumped forward in his chair. "Ugh, Hux, it's going to be terrible. They hate everything I do, and — at least my dad doesn't really care; my mom is just. Ugh. She's so fuckin' judgemental."
"I'm sure they just want what's best for you." It was the most diplomatic answer Hux could muster, but it didn't seem to do much to appease Kylo, who kept scowling.
Before he could stop himself, Hux reached across the table and tapped the tip of Kylo's nose. "Come on then," he said, and laughed at the surprised look on Kylo's face. "Let's take that cute picture for you to show them. That's going to get them on your side, remember?"
Kylo stuttered out something not quite a word, and Hux laughed again. Kylo appeared to steel himself, straightening his shoulders and lifting his chin. "Yeah," he said. "Let's do that."
Without another word, Kylo stood up and made his way over to Hux's side of the table, squeezing onto the bench seat next to him. Hux could feel the warmth of Kylo pressed up against his side, the slight shiver of Kylo's leg where it pressed against his own.
Kylo grabbed his phone from where he'd set it on the small, circular table, then promptly put it down again.
"You take it," he insisted. "You're better at it than I am."
Hux laughed. "You always treat me like I'm some sort of photographer," he said. "I'm really not any good, you know." But he pulled his phone out obligingly, opening up the camera and holding his arm out, angling the screen so as to get them both in the shot. He watched himself stiffen up as Kylo slung an arm around his shoulders and pulled him close.
"Sorry," he muttered, and forced himself to relax, forget they were in public, and smile for the camera. He clicked it once, twice, a few more times for good measure as he tipped his head back onto Kylo's shoulder.
He pulled his hand back in and scrolled through the pictures. There were a couple decent ones; his framing wasn't so bad, and the light in the Starbucks was pretty good. There was one unfortunate shot where another patron could be seen in the background glancing in their direction — probably not actually looking at them, but still, Hux deleted the photo quickly.
"Here," he said, and tilted the phone so Kylo could see one of the better shots. "How about this one?"
In the picture, Hux's head was slightly inclined toward Kylo but his eyes were still firmly fixed on the camera. Kylo, on the other hand, was looking at Hux with what, somehow, looked on the screen like affection, lips in a soft smile.
"You look so serious," Kylo said quietly.
"Too serious?" Hux asked with a frown. He tilted his head toward Kylo, which was when he noticed he was still wrapped in Kylo's arm. He should move, but — it was tempting to indulge in the pretense for just a moment longer.
"Hmm," Kylo said. "I don't know. Let's try some more."
Hux chuckled. "Well, all right." He angled his phone out again.
A few selfies later, Hux realized the look in Kylo's eyes had changed. His eyes were no longer soft and fond; in fact, he looked so serious that Hux pulled away, setting his phone down on the table and turning in Kylo's arm to face him.
"Are you alright? I promise that you look good in these." He tried for levity, but Kylo's expression didn't change, except possibly to grow more concerned.
Hux pulled away, not too sharply, but decisively enough that Kylo's arm fell from his shoulder.
"Um —" Kylo hesitated. "This is embarrassing, we've known each other so long now, but …" He trailed off.
Hux fixed him with an inquisitive look, letting his arched eyebrow ask the question.
"I've seen it on your credit card, but … I'm going to have to say it in front of my parents, and … how do you pronounce your first name? You introduced yourself as Hux, and I just never … Is it just like the street?"
Hux burst out laughing. "Just like the street," he assured him.
Kylo's face finally changed then, morphing into a grin that bordered on a smirk. "What about Armie? Do people call you Armie?"
"People call me Hux," Hux said. He narrowed his eyes. "Absolutely no one has ever called me Armie."
"But I'm your boyfriend," Kylo protested.
Hux ignored the twinge in his heart, and shook his head firmly. "And if you want me to keep playing boyfriend …" He let the threat hang, with perhaps a little more force on playing than necessary.
There was a flash of something in Kylo's eyes, an almost wounded look. Hux sighed, a little offended; he wasn't going to drop the ball now, so close to actually meeting Kylo's parents. He had no interest in ruining things.
Kylo sighed, too; a put-upon, dramatic affair. "Alright," he huffed. "No pet names."
"Thank you," Hux said primly. "So, are you happy with the pictures, or should we take more?"
It wasn't until Kylo leaned in even closer than Hux realized how close they were still sitting. "Let me see again?" Kylo asked, and Hux handed over his phone obligingly.
Kylo flipped through the pictures, and Hux took a moment to thank providence that there was nothing risque on there should Kylo scroll too far; mostly it was pictures of Millie.
"This one's good," Kylo said finally, inclining the phone so Hux could see.
And it was good: Kylo's arm around Hux's shoulder, their faces turned toward each other, Kylo's eyes crinkled in laughter.
"Perfect," Hux said.
"Perfect," Kylo echoed. Hux couldn't quite place the look in his eyes. "My parents will love it."
"That's the goal," Hux said quietly. He took another sip of his americano and tried to ignore the warmth of Kylo's body pressed up against his.
The moment Hux stepped up to the door of the bar, Phasma raised an eyebrow at him.
"You know Ky's not here," she said.
Hux sneered at her, an expression that hopefully disguised the truth: he had, in fact, forgotten that Kylo wouldn't be at Snoke's tonight. Logically, of course — but this was months' worth of habit, essentially muscle memory at this point that had brought him here. Months of getting off work on Fridays and making himself a quick dinner, changing from his work clothes into a more comfortable jeans and t-shirt set, and heading to the bar. Heading, if he were to be entirely honest with himself, to see Kylo.
"Of course I know," he said. Phasma didn't seem impressed, but then, Phasma had never been impressed by him. He stood with her by the door for a few minutes, listening quietly as she passed judgement on the masses that passed by their door.
"I'm going to get a drink," he said, and she rolled her eyes at him.
"Have fun, kid," she said with a wry grin. Whatever; it was a bar, of course he was there to get a drink. That's what one did at a bar, whether or not one's favorite bartender was in attendance.
The bar was unusually crowded, and Hux had to push his way up to the counter. Poe was there, of course, which was almost enough of a deterrent as to make Hux go home. But — he blinked in surprise. There, behind the bar, was Lenny, who'd quit working at Snoke's ages ago, before Hux had even started hanging out there.
"Hux!" Lenny called. "C'mon, c'mon, make room," he said, and gestured at some people who were occupying stools at the bar. Hux didn't recognize them, but they must have known Lenny; they obligingly scooted their chairs, leaving enough room for Hux to stand at the very end of the bar.
"What are you doing here?" Hux asked, surprised.
Lenny grinned at him. "Helpin'! Kylo's off, so Poe needed someone else to work bar, and —" He flexed his arm, as if he had muscle to show off there. "— I know how to do it."
Hux laughed. "Well, welcome back."
"Thanks a lot," Lenny said, and he sounded like he meant it. "Can I get you somethin'?"
"Bell's Oberon, please."
It was honestly a bit of a shock, to have to order; he was very, very used to Kylo knowing his order, half the time having his beer waiting for him when he got to the bar.
"I've gotten spoiled!" he called to Lenny, who laughed at him.
"Kylo'll be back before y'know it," he said.
Hux hid his smile behind a sip of his beer. Kylo would be back soon, and — oh, probably he should be texting him. That was part of the arrangement, after all.
He took a quick picture of Lenny behind the bar, laughing as he poured a beer from the tap, Poe slightly out of focus in the background, and sent it to Kylo.
It was barely a minute before he got a text back. miss you, it said, and Hux took a long sip of his beer.
Method acting, he reminded himself.
wait hang on. Hux's phone chimed again, a few times in quick succession. is that len? working? wtf is poe doing
This place falls apart without you Hux sent, and added a winking face for good measure. Tone was so terribly hard to convey via text.
mom and dad say hi
Hux had absolutely no idea how to respond to that. Mom and Dad say hi. What had Kylo told them about him? Anything? Everything? Had he shown them the pictures they'd taken? Hux's selfies? What did they think of him?
Not, of course, that it mattered. They hadn't discussed it, but Hux supposed that he and Kylo would be "breaking up" shortly after Kylo's parents went back to California. After all, Hux couldn't expect this lie would last long.
He kept staring down at his phone, thumbs hovering over the digital keyboard.
Hello! he typed, then deleted the exclamation mark, then deleted the whole thing. Tell them I say hello. he tried, then deleted that too. He didn't send Hope you're having a good night. or I miss you, too.
Lenny leaned over the bar, trying to peer at Hux's phone; Hux locked the screen immediately, pulling it close to his chest.
"Who ya textin'?" Lenny asked.
"No one," Hux snapped, and scowled when Lenny just raised an eyebrow in response. "Kylo," Hux admitted, slightly under his breath.
Lenny lit up. "Tell 'im I say hi!"
Hux laughed, unable to stay upset with him. "Hold on," he said, and opened his phone back up, clicking into the camera. He sent Kylo another picture of Lenny, smiling cheerily at the camera this time, giving a thumbs-up.
Kylo's response came almost immediately: a picture of his own, a handsome middle-aged couple who presumably were Kylo's parents. He looked almost nothing like either of them, although his father wore a rakish grin that matched Kylo's own. His mother looked slightly more distant, or possibly just disinclined toward having her picture taken.
Hux had even less of an idea how to respond to this than to the earlier greeting. He was saved from it by Lenny, who plunked a shot glass down in front of Hux. A few more shot glasses followed, and a steady stream of Makers quickly filled them. Lenny pushed one toward Hux and two toward the people Hux had, however slightly, displaced; he took one for himself, and Hux couldn't help but miss watching Kylo take shots instead: his huge hands, the line of his throat as he tipped his head back.
"To Kylo's parents," Lenny said with a laugh. Hux echoed it, as did the people next to him, who — Hux had no idea if they even knew who Kylo was. He honestly didn't recognize them, but that didn't mean they weren't regulars on some night that wasn't Friday, or old bar-goers who'd moved out of town and were back on vacation.
He slammed the shot back, wincing only slightly, and followed it with a long chug of beer.
"'Nother one?" Lenny asked, and winked at Hux.
"Oh," Hux said after a moment. He pocketed his phone. "Sure, why not."
He stumbled into his apartment just before two. Lenny hadn't been able to convince him to close the bar down, but he'd given it a good shot. Hux was … trashed, frankly; he'd barely managed to get into the Lyft home, and was pretty sure his driver had hated him. He hadn't been sick, fortunately, but it had come close.
Your bar got me drunk he sent Kylo, once he was nestled comfortably in bed. He'd stripped down to his briefs and crawled under the topsheet, blanket kicked unceremoniously down to the end of the bed.
He'd tried to convince Millie to come snuggle him, but she'd taken a swipe at his nose (without her claws extended, thankfully) and jumped off the bed and out the bedroom door. He curled up around himself instead, tucked onto his side.
Dimly, he wondered if Kylo was sleeping. Probably, since he wasn't responding to Hux's text. It was unusual, a strange role-reversal; usually Hux was the one waking up to texts from Kylo, missives from a night that had long since ended for Hux.
He wondered what Kylo slept in. He didn't seem like the sort for matching pajama sets. A collection of old, faded t-shirts probably, bands he'd listened to in college or promotional items from liquor companies.
Maybe Kylo slept in his underwear, like Hux was doing now. Maybe Kylo slept naked.
Hux moaned softly, surprisingly loud in the darkness. He could feel his cock beginning to fill out in his briefs, just at the suggestion of a thought of Kylo in the nude. His hand slipped under the sheet and he cupped himself gently through his underwear.
He tried not to fantasize about Kylo. It was a difficult promise to keep sometimes, and an easy one to break, but — they were friends, after all, and Hux tried to keep it to that. But now, with the memory of Kylo's arm around him, with the texts on his phone of greetings from Kylo's parents — the greetings intended for Kylo's boyfriend —
"Fuck," he hissed into the dark. He rolled onto his back and let his hand slide under the elastic of his underwear, teasing at the head of his dick, rubbing his thumb through the precome already starting to bead there.
With his eyes closed, he could almost imagine it was Kylo touching him. Kylo's hands were larger than his own, rougher, but if Hux just kept his eyes squeezed tight …
He fisted his cock, pretending the slim fingers wrapped around it were wider. He gasped quietly into the dark air of his bedroom. His hips jerked up of their own accord, and his cock slipped through his grip.
"Kylo," he whispered, testing the sound of it in his own voice. He tried not to think about Kylo at all, never let himself vocalize it when he did, but. Tonight, he was drunk enough to let himself break all the rules. "Kylo, Kylo —!"
He didn't take long.
He felt drunk, still — dizzy with it, dazed, with drink and with the high of coming all over himself. Because he had: he could feel his come tacky on his stomach, drying on his hand.
With his clean hand he reached for his phone. It was a little tricky; he fumbled it slightly, and the light coming in through the windows wasn't ideal, but he managed after a moment to take a picture down the long line of his body, come glistening on his stomach in the dim light, his hand curled low on his belly, the bulge of his softening dick still clearly visible through his underwear.
Click. Click. And then before he could think better of it, he sent it to Kylo.
Miss you he said, and dropped his phone back on the nightstand. Without bothering to do more than wipe his hand off on the sheets, he dropped into sleep.
He woke up promptly at 7:20, blinking back at the blink of his digital clock. His alarm wasn't set to go off — it was Saturday, he realized immediately. No reason not to sleep in. No reason at all, except for his damn internal alarm clock.
With a groan, he rolled over onto his back. He could feel the hangover building in his head, a faint pressure behind his eyes that he knew would just get worse as the day progressed. His throat felt dry. His hands felt … sticky?
It came back to him in a rush. Falling into bed, jerking off, taking a picture, sending it … no. No, no, no. He couldn't have. He would never —
He rolled back onto his side and grabbed for his phone, but it wasn't on his nightstand. Millie must have knocked it off in the night, she did that sometimes; if only she'd done it before he —
It took some twisting and leaning off the bed that his head was not a fan of, but he managed to pick his phone up off the ground. He was dangerously low on battery, and he had a new text from Kylo.
He could only imagine the contents: fuck off, Kylo might have said, or you're disgusting, or already told my parents we broke up never come to snokes again.
He'd look at it in a moment. First, he had to go brush his teeth.
By the time he'd brushed his teeth, taken a shower, and gotten dressed in some fresh boxers and a sleep shirt that hung just too wide on his thin frame, he'd almost managed to forget about the unread text. He made himself some toast and ate it dry over the sink and almost didn't think about the unread text. He collapsed on the sofa, turned on the television, muted it, flipped blindly through endless channels and tried to forget about the unread text.
Millie jumped up on his lap and he carded his fingers through her fur. He could feel the light rumble of her purr against his legs. He curled forward to bury his face in her side as well as he could; it was a terribly uncomfortable position, but she was soft against his cheek and her purr was louder up close.
"Fuck," he said quietly. "Millie, what have I done?"
Millie trilled softly in response.
"I should probably —" He sat up, and promptly regretted it. "Christ, I'm miserable. I'm never drinking again, Mill."
Millie chirruped again and jumped down off his lap, rubbing up against his ankles for a moment before meandering out of the living room.
He cooed her name as he managed to prop his body upright and followed her back into his bedroom, where she sat on his nightstand as if to make a point.
"Ugh," he grumbled. She darted back onto his bed, and then onto the floor the moment he got close, but by then it was too late and he could see his phone flashing at him. He thumbed it on and was confronted immediately with a low-battery warning; he fumbled with his charger until he was able to plug it in and sank down to the bed with a long sigh.
"Oh, Millicent," he said again."What have I done?"
She didn't respond; honestly, he wasn't even sure she was still in the room. Either way, he was going to have to face it on his own. He clicked into his text messages.
hey, read Kylo's first message, and then a string followed, long enough that Hux's last missive was scrolled off the screen: what are u doing tomorrow (like sunday)
my parents want to meet you
pls come save me from brunch hell
To his own surprise, Hux found himself laughing. Had — had his message not gone through? Had some stroke of providence favored him?
Or perhaps — worse, and a sobering thought — was Kylo so used to getting sexted that he could ignore Hux's actions completely? Hux had no idea what Kylo's relationship life was like — other than not comprised of anything serious or long-term, apparently — much less his sex life. Maybe he received pictures of people's dicks all the time. He was fit, after all, incredibly so, and nice, and charming, and …
Hux dropped his phone to the bedspread and buried his head in his hands. He took a few deep breaths and tried to ignore the incessant pounding in the back of his skull.
Of course. he sent back. Just tell me where and when.
A minute passed, then two; no reply. Not that he'd expected him to reply immediately, not that he thought Kylo should be at his beck and call, not that Kylo owed him anything.
He set his phone back on the nightstand and closed his eyes.
meet me early?
Hux blinked down at his phone. It was 9 AM — far, far earlier than he would ever expect to hear from Kylo, even with the fact that they were meeting at noon for brunch.
Brunch. With Kylo's parents. With his … faux-boyfriend's parents.
Of course. When?
not too early it's ok
like 11:30? starbucks?
See you then.
Hux still couldn't believe he was going through with this. Couldn't believe this was happening at all, that Kylo had asked him or that Kylo had forgiven — ignored? never seen? — Hux's thoroughly inappropriate text message, that today was the day. He wasn't an actor. This was all going to go terribly.
Well. If all he had to do was act besotted with Kylo Ren …He could practically hear Phasma making fun of him.
He brushed his teeth; he showered; he fed Millicent. He stood in front of his closet in a black terrycloth bathrobe, frowning sincerely at the contents of his wardrobe.
He had to look — nice. Nice. Not work nice, but meet-the-parents nice. It had been an awfully long time since Hux had needed to meet anyone's parents; his love life wasn't so different from what Kylo's seemed to be. Brief affairs were more Hux's style.
Trousers? Jeans? They were just going to Ann Sather — nothing fancy or even particularly formal. He didn't want to overdo it, but at the same time, respectability was key.
He threw a pair of black jeans on his bed eventually, then turned his attention to his shirts with an even deeper frown. A button-front, to be sure, but not a dress shirt as such. He ran his fingers across the sleeve of a blue plaid shirt, then disregarded it as far too casual. This pale green one always lent his eyes a sort of striking hazel air; maybe with some sort of sweater over it …?
He slipped on a pair of underwear (black) and a pair of socks (also black) and squeezed himself into the slim fit jeans. He paused in front of the mirror, still shirtless, the top button of his jeans undone, the waistband of his briefs barely visible. He looked … good, if he dared to say so himself.
For just a moment, he was tempted to snap a picture of himself and send it to Kylo. If they were actually dating, he would have, but. But.
With a sigh, he fastened up his jeans. He turned back to the pile of shirts on his bed, trying on one after the other and gazing critically at himself in the mirror. In the end, it was the pale green shirt after all, with a grey blazer that tied the whole thing together surprisingly well. He looked decent. Nice, even. Proper without being prissy. The kind of guy that parents would like.
Millie padded softly into his room and wound about his ankles, and Hux cursed under his breath; she didn't shed terribly, but he'd still have to remember to lint roll himself before he left the house. Which would be … he turned to look at his alarm clock.
10:30. He still had an hour until he had to meet Kylo, and it was only about fifteen minutes if he took the el. Plenty of time to kill: too much, honestly.
He ended up taking a picture of himself in the mirror after all, camera angled so that Kylo could see his shoes but none of his face above the nervous quirk of his lips. He hadn't styled his hair yet, after all. Do I look alright?
Will they like me, he meant, but he couldn't quite bring himself to type the words.
Kylo's response was almost instantaneous: a fire emoji, and a thumbs up.
Another text came after a moment: better than me but i'm already a disappointment
I'm sure you look wonderful.
say that when you've seen me
Hux laughed out loud. He genuinely could not imagine Kylo looking anything other than — well, frankly, anything other than wildly attractive. He'd once seen Kylo in a faded, undoubtedly thrifted, Bulls t-shirt with a hole in the armpit, and Hux had actually ordered a series of Starkillers in an effort to tamp down his arousal.
He fussed in the mirror some more, fixed his hair, went to feed Millicent before realizing he'd already done it. She meowed pitifully at him, and he clucked his tongue at her — "Like you've never been fed, hmm, girl?" — but gave her some treats anyway to make up for it.
He checked the time again and again, fully expecting time to have passed; it was rarely five full minutes between glances at the clock. Eventually it was just past 11, late enough that he'd allow himself to leave. He grabbed his phone and wallet and keys and was almost out the door before he remembered he had to de-Millie his jeans; it was the work of just a moment to lint roll himself, and then he was finally on his way.
The sun was bright and warm in the sky, and the walk to the el was a pleasant one. It was much darker down in the train stop itself, and Hux shivered slightly, but it was fortunately the wait for the next train was only a few minutes
Before long the train pulled out of the subway and back into the light of day. Hux looked out the window at the trees and the DePaul campus as they sped by, at the lovely houses of Lincoln Park, at the slightly unsettling rock of a Brown Line train on the next track over. It seemed like only seconds before the train pulled into Belmont.
The Starbucks on the next corner was tiny; it sat maybe thirty people and not every seat was taken, so it was immediately obvious that he'd beaten Kylo there. He ordered a single shot of espresso — not his normal americano, but he was feeling a bit jittery already and didn't really need any extra caffeine. He was just taking a seat at one of the counters that lined the windows when Kylo burst through the door.
"Hey," Kylo said, sounding slightly breathless. "Sorry I'm late."
Hux checked his phone: 11:32. "Not at all," he assured Kylo. "Unless you've got exactly thirty minutes worth of prepping me to meet your parents."
Kylo grinned at him, but it was slightly shaky; Hux couldn't tell if it was nerves or just the fact that he'd, apparently, speedwalked here.
"Look," Kylo said. He took a seat next to Hux, the slide of the stool squeaky across the tile floor. "There's — before you meet them, there's something you ought to know."
Hux tilted his head to look at him, schooling his expression into something quietly inquisitive.
"A few years ago — well, a while ago now — I changed my name. My folks are … usually pretty good about calling me Kylo, but they might slip up. So just … don't look too surprised if they call me. Uh."
He stopped short, and Hux looked at him expectantly. Dimly, a part of him registered that this might be the moment when Kylo came out to him again, and he wasn't quite sure how to take it. He'd never dated a trans man before — not that he and Kylo were actually dating, for real, but well.
"Ben," Kylo muttered.
Hux blinked, distracted from his musings on how incredibly well testosterone had treated Kylo. "Ben?"
"My old name," Kylo clarified.
"Oh," Hux said. "So you're not — I mean, you weren't — "
Kylo squinted at him.
"Nevermind," Hux said quickly. He frowned, thinking about it. "Ben … Ren? That's —" He cut himself off again. He was going to get through this conversation without saying something impolite if it killed him.
To his surprise, Kylo laughed. "No, no, I picked Ren. Ben, uh, Solo. You might be the only person in Chicago who knows this."
"Ben Solo," Hux repeated. He rolled the name around on his tongue. "I like Kylo," he said finally. "It suits you."
Kylo grinned at him, charmingly crooked. "Thanks," he said. "I think so too."
"So." Hux paused. "I shouldn't greet them as Mr and Mrs Ren, then?"
Kylo's face contorted itself into a grimace so extreme that it made Hux laugh. "Please, no. Don't — don't do that."
"Thanks for the warning." Hux's tone was dry, bordering on sarcastic, but he meant it; that sort of faux pas would have been his undoing. He would have never gotten over the humiliation, and it certainly wouldn't have been a great start to meeting his faux-boyfriend's parents.
He checked his phone again, looking at the time. "It's ten to noon. Should we go? I'm sure we've got to put our name in.”
Kylo sighed somewhat dramatically, and Hux raised an eyebrow at him.
"Come on now," he said. "It won't be that bad. And —" Feeling bold, he reached out and took Kylo's hand, squeezing it just slightly before dropping it again. "I'll be there."
The smile Kylo cast his way looked very genuine, although Hux didn't miss the way his eyes had flitted down to his hand, to where their hands had so briefly been joined. He held his breath for just a moment.
It felt like hours, but it was just seconds before Kylo inclined his head toward the door. "Let's go put our name in. If my mother hasn't already beaten us there."
The line for the restaurant spilled outside, pairs and small groups clustered on the Belmont sidewalk. It was still pleasantly warm out, but Hux tucked himself up against Kylo's side anyway — method acting, he reminded himself, and there was no denying the pleasure of Kylo's arm wrapped around his shoulders.
"I'm sure they'll be here any minute," Kylo said dourly.
The sooner the better, as far as Hux was concerned; the restaurant wouldn't seat them until their entire party was present. Every time the door opened the fragrant scent of the restaurant's famous cinnamon rolls wafted onto the sidewalk, and Hux was ready for a taste.
"Oh shit," Kylo muttered. Hux could feel him stiffen up where they were pressed together. "Here they come."
"I'm ready," Hux said in what he could only hope was a reassuring tone. He could see them coming down the sidewalk now — Mr and Mrs Solo, just like he'd seen them in the picture that Kylo had sent the other night.
Even without looking straight at them — he didn't want to be caught staring — he could see the precise moment when, from a few yards away, Kylo's parents recognized them.
"Kylo," he said quietly, and when Kylo turned his face toward him, Hux leaned up. Kylo's eyes widened just slightly. "Kylo," he said again, the barest murmur, and then he brushed his lips against Kylo's.
Their lips caught, Kylo's mouth open just a fraction. Hux made himself pull away.
"Hux," Kylo said. He sounded strangled, breathless.
Kylo's mother cleared her throat.
Hux leaned back from Kylo, nodding toward his mother instead. He took a half step away from Kylo's side — not quite enough to dislodge Kylo's arm from around his shoulders, but close.
"Mr and Mrs Solo?" he said brightly. "So pleased to meet you. I'm Armitage Hux."
"A pleasure," Mrs Solo said. She sounded — well, like she meant it, but Hux could barely keep from squinting at her in suspicion. It took a moment for Hux to remember that, of course, she didn't know about their arrangement, that Hux was, to her knowledge, the man her son loved. Of course she'd be pleased.
"Call me Han," Mr Solo said. He stuck out a hand to shake, and Hux took it, moving just slightly further from Kylo's side. Kylo's arm dropped from his shoulders, and Hux missed the warmth of its presence immediately. Han's handshake was unsurprisingly firm, a solid pump before he let go just as decisively.
"Call me Hux," Hux said, "please. Everyone does."
"Leia," said Mrs Solo. Her handshake was more delicate, her hand small and soft, but no less firm for all that; she squeezed Hux's fingers tightly.
Hux inclined his head toward the restaurant: "I've put our name in; it shouldn't be much longer until we're seated."
The minutes passed in relative comfort, full of the sort of small talk Hux found blessedly, blank-mindedly simple: How was your flight, are you enjoying Chicago, have you been here before? And them, back at him: What do you do, where do you live, how long have you lived in Chicago? Back and forth, neat and clean and polite.
They sat at a four top, Hux and Kylo with their backs to the window, Mr and Mrs Solo — Han and Leia — facing the street. Prime people watching, Kylo had assured them; he wouldn't want them to miss it. Hux felt the people watching had significantly decreased in quality with the increasing gentrification of the neighborhood — far fewer of the dirty punks who had hung out on the street corners in years past — but he didn't say anything.
"So, Armitage," Leia said, and Hux barely schooled his face away from wincing, plastering a genteel smile on instead. If this was some sort of game she was playing, he was determined to win it.
It wasn't even as though he felt he was in trouble when he heard his first name; his father hadn't bothered to speak to him much when he was being disciplined, and besides which, it had been years since he'd worried about his father's wrath. Rather, it was just — impersonal. His boss called him Armitage, as did some of his less friendly coworkers. Everyone else just called him Hux, and he vastly preferred it: it was clipped and efficient, qualities he liked to think he embodied, with none of the frivolities his first name afforded.
"Kylo says you work in technology?"
Hux fixed Leia with a steady look. "More or less. I'm in SEO — search engine optimization," he clarified. "I also do a fair bit of copywriting for the website. Basically, I do the propaganda."
"He's very good at it," Kylo said, which was quite polite of him given that, as far as Hux knew, Kylo had never even seen the company website. Nonetheless, Hux smiled gratefully at him.
"Propaganda," Leia echoed. There was a smile on her face, still, but it looked — forced? tired? Hux didn't know her nearly well enough to say for sure. Either way, that had probably been the wrong word choice.
, he thought. Off on the right foot already.
"He's also a photographer," Kylo said.
Hux was grateful for the topic change, but still, his laugh was more shocked than amused. "I'm really not," he protested. "A hobbyist at best. I don't even have a real camera."
Han leaned across the table toward his son and stage-whispered, "Gift idea. Take notes." Leia rolled her eyes at her husband, but she looked fond.
"You are not buying me a camera," Hux said quickly.
"I might." Kylo leaned into Hux's side, tipping his head briefly onto Hux's shoulder. It took everything Hux had not to flinch. He had to remember to keep his composure, to act like Kylo touching him was normal, an everyday occurance.
It wasn't that he didn't like it, of course. Quite the opposite. But …
"Don't you dare," Hux warned, and from this close he could easily see the crinkles around Kylo's eyes when he smiled.
"So," Han said. "You met at Ben's bar?"
Beside him, Hux could feel Kylo tense.
"Dad," Kylo said, voice low and intense. He sounded — Hux wasn't sure. Embarrassed? Angry? Some strange combination thereof?
Han looked confused for a moment, before realization crossed his features.
"Sorry, shit. Kylo, I'm sorry."
"It's fine," Kylo grumbled. It didn't sound fine. Hux laid a hand on Kylo's thigh for a fraction of a second, but it was enough to make Kylo exhale slowly.
"So you met at Kylo's bar?"
"I'm afraid so," Hux said with a smile. "I wish I had a better story for you —"
"Like Grindr?" Kylo muttered, and Hux kicked him under the table. He was grateful that at least Kylo was recovering quickly from Han's misstep, but that was no call for that kind of behavior. Grindr, honestly.
"— But it was quite that mundane," Hux continued smoothly, ignoring Kylo's pout. "Your son has wonderful customer service skills, and I was charmed immediately."
This time, Leia's smile seemed genuine as she turned it on Kylo. "You see?" she said. "I always said you were a people person under that mopey exterior."
"Oh my god, Mom," Kylo said, sounding exasperated. "I'm not mopey."
"Mopey," she repeated firmly.
Their server reappeared then, blessedly saving Hux from what sounded like a long-standing argument as the Ren-Solo family paused to place their orders.
Fortunately, their cinnamon rolls arrived almost immediately; even more fortunately, everyone was so busy eating them that the discussion died almost completely. Hux mentally crossed his fingers that everyone would be similarly distracted by their main course, and he could continue avoiding his faux-boyfriend's parents cross-examination.
There was a thick murmur of conversation around them, the restaurant full to capacity. Their own table existed in a pleasant enough silence, filled only with the clinking of forks and knives; it was even more pleasant with Kylo sitting so close to him, his thigh pressed against Hux's.
Even as busy as the restaurant was, the service was exceptional and their food came out before they'd even finished their cinnamon rolls (well, mostly — Kylo had demolished his). Everyone tucked in enthusiastically.
"This place is real good," Han said. "You come here a lot?"
Hux paused, unsure to whom the question was directed, but when Kylo didn't respond he took it upon himself. "Occasionally," he said. "It's not terribly local for me; usually when I'm in this neighborhood it's a bit later in the day. They close early," he added as an afterthought.
"You said you live in … Old Town?" Leia asked. Hux got the distinct impression that she remembered very well, and was phrasing it as a question to be polite. He nodded. "Is that far from here?"
"Not really," he said, and shrugged. He could feel Kylo's arm against his own with the movement. "It's only a few stops on the el. I probably could walk, but —" He paused, considering. "It would probably take the better part of an hour. I would definitely have been late."
"You've never been late for anything in your life," Kylo protested.
Hux couldn't repress a smile. "I do try to be punctual. But you're the one always texting asking why I'm not at the bar yet; what do you mean I'm never late?"
"That's different. I just want to spend more time with you."
Kylo sounded completely earnest, and Hux ducked his head in an attempt to hide the blush that was threatening to rise in his cheeks. He quickly shoveled another bite of eggs benedict into his mouth to avoid responding.
He didn't quite miss the look Han and Leia gave each other, but he wasn't quite sure what it meant. He wasn't very familiar with parental expressions beyond either disapproval or the reluctant acknowledgement of accomplishments, so Leia's small smile, Han's raised eyebrow, were foreign to him.
The check came — "No rush," their server assured them, but with the line outside, Hux suspected the sentiment wasn't entirely genuine — and Kylo made a grab for it over his parents' protest.
"Let us treat you," Leia said.
Kylo scowled at her. "I'm an adult, Mom. Let me treat you."
When their server came back, Kylo all but threw his credit card at him, and Hux barely managed to stifle a laugh.
The sun was still bright in the sky overhead as they left the restaurant. Hux and Kylo stood opposite Kylo's parents on the sidewalk, in the bare shade of the thin trees, and when Kylo took Hux's hand, Hux squeezed it gratefully. He'd done well — he knew he'd done well — but it was nice to have the reassurance.
"Will you be joining us at Cloud Gate?" Leia asked him.
"Cloud Gate?" Hux repeated, not quite certain he'd heard their destination correctly. "Oh —"
"The Bean," Han said.
"No, I know what Cloud Gate is," Hux said quickly. He almost asked if they were going to Willis Tower after that, but contained himself. "I'm just — "
"Too good for it," Kylo said teasingly, and Hux used his free hand to swat gently at him.
"I'm not too good for it! I've just, ah, been."
Leia smiled indulgently at him. "Oh, we've been too, but it's so lovely. I love public art."
Hux swallowed hard, keeping the smile firmly affixed to his face. This was certainly some sort of test.
"It was so wonderful to meet you two," he said finally, "but I do have to get going. I have some work I unfortunately had to take home this weekend, and —"
Kylo leaned in, his nose brushing Hux's hair. "You just don't want to go to the Bean."
"I also don't want to go to the Bean," Hux admitted with a laugh. "But I do have work to do. Han, Leia —" He stepped away from Kylo's side and held out a hand; Han shook it, but then to his surprise, Leia moved in to hug him.
Her hug was as brief but firm as her handshake had been, and Hux hadn't quite contained the shocked expression on his face by the time she'd pulled away to look at him.
"Oh, don't look so surprised, Armitage," she said with a smile that reminded him, very suddenly, of Kylo. "This was wonderful. It was so good to meet you."
"It was my pleasure," he said, and wasn't entirely surprised to find he meant it. "But I really should go."
They said a few more polite farewells while Han called an Uber, and when Hux started to walk back toward the el he felt Kylo's hand grip his arm.
"Hey," Kylo said, voice low. "You didn't say goodbye to me."
"I did. Several times."
Kylo smiled softly. "Did not," he said, and kissed him.
The entire world went dim around him. Hux had brushed their lips together earlier, but this was a kiss. It lingered. Kylo's fingers cupped his jaw. His lips were impossibly soft against Hux's, and his tongue edged just briefly along the seam of Hux's mouth before he pulled away.
"Goodbye," Kylo said, and grabbed Hux's hand again, squeezing it once before taking a step away.
Hux's eyes fluttered open. He hadn't even realized he'd closed them.
"I'll text you later," he said after a moment. Kylo grinned at him and shot him a thumbs up, then moved back toward his parents; Leia said something too quietly for Hux to hear, but whatever it was didn't wipe the smile off of Kylo's face.
The Uber pulled up, and suddenly Hux was alone on the sidewalk.
The 7-Eleven on Racine was a few blocks out of the way of the el, but its parking lot was a perfect spot to pace and chain-smoke his way through a pack of cigarettes. The nearly $14 was a hit to his ego more than his wallet; he had the cash, but the first drag of the first cigarette out of the pack tasted more like weakness than tobacco. He was quitting, dammit, he was. But this — this was —
Kylo had kissed him. Kylo had kissed him, in front of God and country and his parents. Hux could still feel the gentle imprint of Kylo's fingers on his cheek.
Fuck. This had been a terrible idea.
To be fair, he'd kissed Kylo first. But that had been — that was a farce, a play. A demonstration for Kylo's parents. They'd kissed and they'd sat next to each other all through brunch and surely when they parted ways a hug would have been enough? But Kylo had — and Hux had kissed him back.
He couldn't forget this, now; he would always remember the way Kylo's lips formed against his, the feel of his touch and the taste of him, and —
Hux lit a second cigarette and took a long drag before he'd even finished crushing the butt of the first.
Everything was fine. He'd throw away these cigarettes and go home and play with Millicent, and maybe read a book, and then he would go to sleep. Tomorrow he would go to work and he wouldn't think about Kylo Ren, not at all. Tuesday he would go to work and not think about Kylo Ren. He wouldn't think about Kylo at all. Not until —
He'd go to Snoke's on Friday, of course. No reason to change his routine. That would be ridiculous. It was just a kiss. Just brunch. Just Kylo's parents!
Hux could hear his interior monologue veering into a higher pitch. These cigarettes were not doing a damn thing to calm him down.
He took another drag and dropped the half-finished cigarette onto the pavement, crushing it decisively, then crossed the lot to the trash can and threw the rest of the pack in before he could regret it.
"Fuck," he said, softly but with feeling.
The first step from the parking lot onto the sidewalk proper felt oddly momentous, but by the time he got back to the station he was feeling mostly normal: his steps even, his breathing consistent. He paid his fare, waited for the train, and let the noise of it lull him into a sense of complacency as he rode the three stops home.
Millie was waiting for him when he walked into his apartment, chirruping at him as she rubbed against his ankles. He took off his jacket and threw it onto the sofa, then collapsed onto it to untie his shoes.
It was unlike him to leave his shoes in front of the sofa,, much less to leave his jacket strewn about, much less to put himself to bed at 3pm, but honestly, right now, he needed a fucking nap.
He blinked his way consciousness in the dark. He hadn't even bothered to set an alarm, had half-assumed he wouldn't be able to sleep at all, but he woke up to Millie curled in the crook of his knees and his alarm clock reading 8:14 — he had to stare at it for a moment before the glow of the PM resolved itself. It seemed wrong: like it had to be morning already. For a moment panic gripped him; perhaps he'd slept for an entire day? But no: he'd slept for hours, but only hours.
In the darkness of his room he could see his phone's notification light flashing at him. He reached over as carefully as he could, trying not to disturb Millicent, and grabbed it from his bedside table.
Missed texts from Kylo. Several missed texts from Kylo.
Hux's thumbs stilled over his screen. He took a deep breath. Surely, it wouldn't be anything he couldn't handle; surely —
thanks for coming 2 brunch my parents loved you
more than they love me i think (jk) (or am i)
hey come get drinks tonight let's go somewhere i don't work
The last had come a couple hours after the rest of them: were my parents so terrible that you're cutting all ties with me
Hux laughed out loud at that, which was apparently enough to finally disturb the cat; Millie made a low noise at him and slunk off the bed.
Sorry, he sent back, I took a nap. Is it too late to go out? I assume you're still up, but you know what they say about assumptions.
Kylo's reply was almost immediate, Hux's phone buzzing under his fingertips.
makes an ass out of u and mptions
i'm definitely up come out with me please
Hux found himself grinning fondly at his phone. With Kylo back in form, it was easy enough for Hux to forget that — well, easy enough to pretend things were back to normal.
Give me a bit to get ready and I can meet you wherever you'd like.
The bar Kylo had chosen was one Hux had never been to before, but it was a quick enough trek on the #36. The doorway was round, incredibly distinctive, clearly meant to evoke a wooden keg or a whiskey barrel; the signage posted outside it promised karaoke several nights a week, but not, Hux noted with a sigh of relief, Sundays.
He'd just pulled out his phone to make sure he wasn't too terribly early when he heard his name.
Hux spun around to see Kylo jogging down Broadway. He wasn't even out of breath when he slowed down at Hux's side, although there was a light sheen of sweat on his brow; had he walked here from Wrigleyville?
"You found the place okay," Kylo said.
Hux gestured vaguely with his phone. "Google Maps," he said by way of explanation, which made Kylo laugh.
Kylo inclined his head toward the door and then held it open, waving Hux inside. "After you," he said.
It was fairly dark inside, lit by neon signs and the Christmas lights draped across the ceiling, and it smelled of fresh-popped popcorn. From the looks of it, he'd expected the smell of stale beer, so the popcorn was a pleasant surprise. A fireplace crackled cheerfully against one wall despite the warmth of the night.
The bartender greeted them with a jaunty wave as they took seats at the bar. "Howsitgoin, guys?"
"Great!" Kylo said, his voice clearly overtaking Hux's more muted, "Fine, thank you."
"The usual?" the bartender asked.
Kylo nodded, holding up two fingers. "Please," he said, and the bartender laughed.
Hux wasn't entirely surprised by the shots of Jameson that appeared in front of them; he was significantly more surprised by the bottles of beer that accompanied them.
"Miller High Life?" He spoke quietly, through gritted teeth, but the amused look on Kylo's face indicated that he'd heard him just fine.
"Suddenly you're a beer snob," Kylo said wryly. He put his bottle to his lips, taking a long pull. Hux grabbed his own beer off the bar, trying to pretend like he wasn't watching Kylo swallow.
Kylo nudged him — gently, not enough for Hux to choke on his beer, but enough to get his attention. When Hux looked at him questioningly, Kylo picked up both shot glasses and pressed one into Hux's hand.
"To your parents," Hux said with a smile, lifting his shot glass.
Kylo groaned, but he raised his own anyway. "To my parents loving you," he said, and clinked their shot glasses together before Hux could raise a proper protest.
"Oh, I suppose," he demurred, tapping his shot glass on the counter and swallowing his shot with barely a wince.
He could feel Kylo's eyes on him as he drank, and inclined his head in his direction, lifting his brows in an expression of what he hoped was fond exasperation. Kylo just shook his head, sipping on his own bottle.
"What?" Hux asked finally. "You've been so quiet all night."
"I just —" Kylo took a deep breath. "Wanted to apologize."
Hux squinted at him in confusion. "For what? Your parents were lovely. If anything, I should apologize; I shouldn't have —" Kissed you, he was about to say, but Kylo interrupted.
"I kissed you! Fuck, Hux, I'm sorry; I asked this huge favor of you and you helped me out so much and then —"
"I kissed you first," Hux said. He couldn't keep the shock from his tone. He also couldn't shake the feeling that the bartender was listening to them, even from some distance away, and kept his voice low. "It was so terribly inappropriate of me; I just wanted to show your parents it was serious, but I didn't ask you first. I should have. It was — inexcusable. You merely took your cue from me."
Kylo laughed, but it sounded strained. "It's fine. Hux, it's —" He cut himself off, clearly frustrated. "I just want to do this right, Hux. I think — brunch was fine, it was great, but I think we should. We should probably just. Would you …"
Hux exhaled sharply. "Kylo. Of course."
Kylo looked up at him, eyes bright. "Of course?"
"Of course," Hux assured him. "We can forget this ever happened. I know it was uncomfortable for you to pretend to date me, and we can just … go back to normal."
Kylo slouched back in his seat. "Go back to normal," he echoed.
Hux shrugged. "I'm an adult. You're an adult. We could probably even get past it if we'd gone on a disastrous real date; I'm quite certain we'll move past an excellent fictitious one."
"It wouldn't be disastrous," Kylo said quickly.
Hux laughed. "It's fine; you don't have to reassure me. I'm not offended. In fact, it might be best if you pretend we did have a disastrous date when you tell your parents we've broken up."
Kylo's eyes went large and dark, beseeching, his mouth downturned. Hux couldn't pretend to understand; his own father would never be interested enough in Hux's love life to feel one way or another about the men he dated. He'd never actually introduced anyone to his father, much less worried about the man's approval.
"Back to normal," Kylo said again.
"Exactly," Hux said. He nudged Kylo's shoulder with his own. "Which usually involves you making me do way more shots. Should we get to it?"
Kylo's answering grin was a little shaky, but it was good enough for Hux.
"You're buying," Kylo said, and ordered another round before Hux could so much as protest.
"As long as I'm getting sloshed," Hux said, a couple shots later, "that reminds me that I should really apologize for Friday."
Kylo frowned at him. "Friday?"
"I was —" Hux took a deep breath. He could feel his phone burning a hole in his pocket, damning evidence pressed warm against his thigh. "Completely inappropriate. Very, very drunk, but that's no excuse, and —"
To Hux's great surprise, Kylo laughed. "Oh my god, Hux, never get that drunk without me again. I wish I'd been there to see it. You texted me a picture of the foot of your bed! I had to yell at Lenny for giving you too many shots."
Hux blinked back a response. After a moment, he ventured, "a picture of … my bed?"
Kylo shrugged, pulled out his own phone and scrolled through it before turning the screen to face Hux. "I'm sure it looked like great art at the time, but uh …"
Hux peered at the picture as it displayed on Kylo's phone: a series of muted shapes in the darkness. He could make out a glimmer of come on his chest, the outline of his dick visible through his underwear — all clear to Hux but maybe, apparently, not so clear to an outside observer. Not to Kylo.
"Oh," he said faintly. "That's awful."
"Not your best work," Kylo said agreeably.
"I'll have to send you something better," he said after a moment, keeping his voice measured and even. "To make up for it."
"You'll have to," Kylo said, and smiled at him. Hux tried not to imagine he could see some desire lingering in Kylo's eyes. It was probably just the Christmas lights.
Hux woke up to an unsurprising headache and a very surprising, very loud sound that it took his aching brain a moment to parse as his alarm.
"Ugh," he said succinctly, rolling over enough to slap at his alarm clock a few times before it shut off. He dug the heels of his hands into his eyes hard enough that he saw stars and blinked up through their after-image at the ceiling above him. After a moment, he dragged himself out of bed.
Brushing his teeth helped immeasurably; a shower helped more. By the time he padded back to his bedroom with a towel around his waist, the fog in his brain had cleared almost completely.
Millicent trilled at him and he patted her absently on the head as he perched on the end of his bed, buttoning his shirt.
"Come on, cat," he said, "let's get you fed." He grabbed his phone off the nightstand and walked to the kitchen, Millicent close on his heels.
He didn't look at his phone until he was walking to the el, but when he did it was to see several texts from Kylo.
haha thanks, the first one read, not apparently in response to anything, then great 2 hang out with you followed by a few smiley face emoji, then see you soon! sweet dreams
Hux tucked his phone back in his pocket, not bothering to hide the grin that crept across his face. Apparently the normal they were settling back into still included Kylo constantly texting him, which was —
Hux's train arrived, thick with morning commuters, before he had too much of a chance to think about it.
Friday afternoon rolled around soft and lazy. All his deadlines had been mid-week and the weekend came into view slowly, like the crest of a wave, like the sun coming out from behind a cloud: everyone in his office seemed to notice it one after the other, people checking their phones or posting a little more frequently in the off-topic Slack channel.
Hux wouldn't have been the only person to take off early, but he stuck it out. At 5:08, he was out the door, home before 6.
The trees outside Hux's window were beginning to change colors, lighting up the sky a brilliant yellow. He sent Kylo a few pictures, made him choose which one Hux would upload to Instagram.
It was — nice, texting Kylo. Now that there were no expectations attached to it, no parents to impress, not even trying to impress one another; now that they were just friends …
u coming out tonight?
Of course. It's Friday, isn't it?
Hux could feel, sometimes, the him of even a year ago judging his present self harshly. He'd never thought of himself as a barfly. The only establishment he'd ever been a regular at was a sandwich joint near his old apartment. (Well, and the Starbucks by work, but that hardly counted; they didn't know his name there.)
But he couldn't deny the upswing in his feelings when he thought about going to Snoke's tonight. When it came to seeing Kylo, he was a little more anxious.
can't wait to see u it feels like it's been weeks haha
Hux frowned at himself in the mirror. Was a v-neck t-shirt showing too much skin? Certainly he'd worn one to Snoke's before; he only owned so many casual shirts. Why was he even worried about this? It was only Snoke's. It was only Kylo. They were friends. That was all.
Except now he knew how Kylo tasted.
He dropped onto his bed with a groan, head in his hands. He needed to stop thinking about it. He needed to stop thinking. He needed to put on a shirt, make himself some pasta, and then go grab a beer.
Dinner was a quick enough affair. The pasta was leftovers, which he ate standing at the sink, Millicent pawing at his ankles and meowing sadly even though she hated people food whenever she was actually given any.
He pulled a cardigan on over his v-neck — a reasonable compromise, he thought; black on black was classy enough. Not that he needed to look classy. Not that he needed to look good.
"Get it together," he muttered, then pulled a face: great, he was talking to himself now. A wonderful sign.
He grabbed his keys and wallet and shrugged on a light jacket (also black), kissed Millie on the head, and headed out to the train. The air felt heavy, almost as though it was about to rain. Hux debated heading back to his apartment for an umbrella but decided against it; he'd lost his last good one to a thunderstorm in July, and the cheap one he'd bought since wouldn't stand up to a strong gust of wind. It was just a few minutes to the train, anyway, and even less of a walk on the other end.
It was almost nine by the time the train pulled into Addison, and despite the chill in the air Hux could see the Wrigleyville nightlife beginning to coalesce.
Phasma was standing outside Snoke's, cigarette in hand, the flannel over her work shirt her only concession to the changing weather. When Hux walked up, she was deep in conversation with someone Hux faintly recognized as working at a neighboring bar; deep enough that she almost asked Hux for his ID before she realized who he was.
"How was brunch?" she asked with a knowing grin.
Hux fixed her with an unimpressed stare. "I'm sure you've heard all about it," he said.
"Yeah," she said, her grin widening. "But I want to hear it from you."
Hux shrugged, hoping desperately that he was projecting an air of nonchalance. "Brunch was good — you've been to Ann Sather. It's always good. His parents are nice."
"Nice," Phasma repeated, dubious. She turned back to the guy she'd been speaking to and leaned in, stage-whispering in a manner that somehow managed to lay emphasis on every word in the sentence, "Hux met Kylo's parents."
"That's … good?" Her fellow bouncer didn't seem to know what to make of this. To be fair, neither did Hux.
Hux rolled his eyes. "I'm going inside," he said.
"Tell Kylo hi for me," she said, just a touch smugly.
"Oh, tell him yourself," Hux muttered as he brushed past her and through the door. Honestly.
There was an empty stool at the bar, at the end nearest the door, and Hux claimed it quickly. He tried not to look immediately for Kylo, but — Kylo was his friend, and also the bartender; it wasn't like he was doing anything odd.
At any rate, Kylo was at the other end of the bar, making a drink. He set it in front of the person there — Hux couldn't see who it was from here — and leaned in toward them, tucking a lock of hair that had escaped his bun behind his ear and laughing. It was — Kylo was nice, he was personable; he probably wasn't flirting.
Not that Hux cared if he was.
This was terrible. Hux was regretting come here already. He needed a beer.
He didn't even realize he was staring at Kylo until Kylo looked over at him. His smile widened, and he waved at Hux. Hux, inexplicably, blushed. He lifted his hand in a half-hearted wave of his own.
Kylo stopped at the tap on his way down the bar and poured a glass of Oberon; Hux couldn't quite help the assumption that the beer was for him, and he couldn't quite help his smile when his assumption turned out to be correct.
"Hey," Kylo said as he pushed the beer toward Hux. He leaned in over the bar, just slightly, and Hux had to take a moment to keep from leaning in to meet him. It would have been so easy, just to kiss him, just to —
Hux took a sharp breath.
"Thank you," he said. He lifted his beer, inclining it toward Kylo in a sort of toast before taking a long sip.
Kylo made himself comfortable, his elbows on the bar sort of boxing Hux in as he rested his chin on his hands. "How was work?"
Hux made a face. "Slow. Terribly slow."
"You should have texted me. I was bored."
"I was working."
"Still." The lock of hair Kylo had tucked behind his ear came loose again and he moved one of his hands to fuss with it, tugging on the curl in what would look, if Hux hadn't known better, like a display of nerves. Hux's fingers twitched on the bartop as he resisted the urge to reach for Kylo's hair himself.
"Still," Hux echoed, teasing. The smile on his face was genuine enough, but still, this was just … awkward. Somehow, even after texting Kylo all week, this first encounter face-to-face was awkward. Hux tried, very hard, not to look at Kylo's lips; he busied himself with another sip of his beer.
"Hux —" Kylo started, but then someone down the bar called his name, loud and laughing. He wrinkled his nose and shot Hux an apologetic look before disappearing. Hux couldn't help the sigh of relief that shook his shoulders.
It wasn't long later that Shan and Pris showed up, which was more than welcome. Shan caught Hux up on the girlfriend drama he hadn't realized she'd been having (so, just roommates? He still wasn't sure) and Pris bought a round of Starkillers. Hux found himself laughing. This, he remembered, was why he came to this bar. The cheap drinks, sure, and the hot bartender, but also the sense of community he'd found here.
The hot bartender. Ugh.
"Hux!" Kylo said. There was an extreme lack of wooden barrier between them, and Hux blinked in surprise: when had Kylo wound up on this side of the bar? "Come out with me. I'm taking a break."
He inclined his head toward the back door, to Hux's surprise; usually Kylo's breaks were spent out front with Phasma. But if he was going out back, Hux would go out back with him.
"Who's working bar?" Hux asked.
Kylo shrugged grandly. "Everyone'll be fine for a couple minutes. Come on, I need some air."
It was a little stuffy in the bar, Hux couldn't deny it. "I'll be back," he said with a nod toward Pris and Shan, and followed Kylo toward the emergency exit in back. He'd never been through this door before, but he wasn't surprised when an alarm failed to sound despite the posted warning.
They exited into an alley. It was fairly well-lit; it seemed like every bar on the block had a light over their back door, a pleasant surprise. There was a faint mist in the air, cool and crisp on Hux's face. He hunched in on himself slightly, hands in his jacket pockets.
Kylo leaned against the brick wall, tipping his head back slightly, breathing deeply. His eyes were shut.
"We should have gone out front," Hux said after a moment, when Kylo didn't say anything. "I could have bummed a cigarette off Phasma."
Kylo cracked an eye open at that. "You quit, remember?"
"Yes, but —" Hux came terribly close to confessing his nerves, biting his tongue at the last moment. "I want one," he finished lamely.
Kylo frowned. He shifted away from the wall, which brought him into terribly close proximity to Hux. "You seem nervous," he said, and Hux's eyes widened. "Why?"
Hux took a deep breath. Fuck it, he figured, and spoke quickly. "Because of you. I'm worried that I — that I've upset you. Or that we've ruined something somehow, that I've ruined something, and we won't be able to get back to the way things were before."
"Do we have to?"
Hux blinked at Kylo, puzzled. "Do we — have to go back? I mean —"
"Maybe." Kylo paused. "Maybe we don't have to go back to how things were. Maybe we could go back to how things were on Sunday."
"On Sunday?" Hux echoed dumbly.
Kylo shrugged. "You know. Maybe we could —"
Hux's voice was so low when he said Kylo's name that he couldn't even be sure he'd heard it.
"If you don't want to," Kylo said quickly, "that's fine. I don't want to pressure you. But if you're interested … at all …" He bit his lip, shifted his weight from foot to foot. "Fuck, Hux, just put me out of my misery here."
"Are you …" Hux took a deep breath. "Are you saying what I think you're saying? Because I — I also … enjoyed Sunday."
Kylo's eyes lit up. "Yeah?"
"Hux," Kylo whispered. He didn't have to reach far to press his shaking fingertips to Hux's cheek. Hux hadn't even realized how close they'd gotten. He closed his eyes and turned his head into Kylo's touch. "Can I —"
"Please," Hux said. He'd barely gotten the word out before Kylo fastened their mouths together. Kylo's lips were so soft against his, even softer than he'd remembered, and he moaned at the touch. He could feel Kylo smile.
"Don't laugh at me," he said, and laughed himself at how muffled the words came out pressed against Kylo's lips.
"I'm not laughing," Kylo promised. "I wouldn't laugh." He captured Hux's mouth again, nipping at Hux's lower lip until his mouth opened for him. Hux shivered as Kylo's tongue darted out to meet his own, as Kylo's fingers tightened on his face, large hand gripping Hux's chin and angling him just so.
Kylo tasted like cola and his hand was so, so warm on Hux's face. Hux slid a hand around the back of Kylo's neck, Kylo's hair soft beneath his fingers.
He couldn't say how long it was until they finally pulled apart, Kylo tipping his head in to rest their foreheads together. "I've wanted to do that for so long," he murmured, and Hux felt his heart skip.
"Me, too," he confessed.
"We should probably go back inside," Kylo said.
"You do have a job to do," Hux agreed.
They didn't move, and when they did it was to kiss again, long and slow.
"This is better than I'd imagined," Kylo said. His mouth was still pressed against Hux's, and Hux shivered.
"You imagined this?"
Kylo laughed, low and quiet. His hand dropped from Hux's face as he took a step back, but he reached for Hux's hand, their fingers tangling between them.
"Lots. When you sent me that picture of your bed the other night, when you were drunk — I imagined I could see you in it. Naked, maybe, or almost. I thought —" He cut himself off, a sheepish grin on his face.
Hux barely stifled a cough. "I, ah. You wouldn't have been wrong, necessarily."
Kylo's eyes widened. "Hux, did you — did you sext me?"
"Not very well," he muttered. Kylo's laugh was louder this time; it coaxed a small, embarrassed smile out of Hux.
Kylo leaned in and kissed him quickly. "I should go back to work," he said, and Hux nodded. Kylo squeezed Hux's hand in both of his, bringing it up so he could kiss his knuckles. "Stay after close. Please."
Hux smiled. "Buy my beers?"
Kylo wrapped an arm around Hux's waist and pulled him in tight, and together they walked back into the bar.