Ben and Armitage settled on Arkanis in a small place of their own located in the busy Scaparus Spaceport.
It wasn’t Ben’s first choice, but it was only fair that Armitage was allowed to pick the planet they’d be staying on when he agreed to let Ben open a repair shop in order to make their living since he stepped away from the Jedi for a break.
“How is this planet not an ocean with the amount of rain it gets?” Ben asked, staring out the window. He tapped his diagnostic datapad against his shoulder and huffed. “It pours down rain every two to three days like clockwork, and drizzles the rest of the time. I’m surprised everyone isn’t waterlogged.”
“You’ve said something along the same lines nearly every day for the past three months that we’ve been living here,” Armitage said, kicking the back of Ben’s leg with his heel as he passed by. A streak of oil smeared on his cheek transferred to his fingers when he rubbed away a loose strand of hair. “Now stop complaining and help me with this stupid hyperdrive you said we’d finish in a week.”
“We can finish it in a week,” Ben said. He abandoned the window and returned to the work table in the middle of the hanger. A compact shuttle sat to the left, waiting for the return of its internal components. “Easy.”
“I beg to differ,” Armitage said. He tapped the side of the drive and put a hand on his hip. “We’re missing four major replacement parts, and you’re new which means no one wants to trade with you yet. How are we going to get what we need in time?”
“I’ll use the Force,” Ben said, raising his eyebrows. “Instant trust.”
“While I do love it when you’re devious, what would your Uncle say about such an abuse?” Armitage said, shaking his head.
“Probably nothing,” Ben said. “As long as I don’t steal anything and pay them what they ask, I don’t think they’ll care I influenced a few merchants into selling me products.”
“As long as I don’t have to answer the comm when he wants to lecture you about the proper uses of the Force and this client pays us, then do as you like.” Armitage picked up a rag and wiped off his face. He tossed it into a bucket and tapped across the room. “But speaking of trade, we’re short on a few things so I think I’m going to step into the market.”
“Can you pick up some Jogan fruit while you’re out?” Ben asked. “I was thinking of making a cake like we used to have on Coruscant. I saw some in the market the other day and forgot it was native to here.”
There had to be something good on this planet to offset the awful weather.
“I can do that,” Armitage said. He walked over and kissed Ben on the cheek before he grabbed his coat at the hanger door. “Play nice with Mitaka and the others.”
“Yes, dear,” Ben said, snorting.
He could play nice by avoiding them. How on earth Mitaka, Mandetat, Unamo and Thanisson managed to purchase a house down the street from Ben and Armitage’s home, he’d never know. Someone got money somehow, and while he suspected Armitage helped them, though the man in question claimed he had no hand in it.
What Armitage did help with though, was securing Mitaka and Unamo jobs working the front desk and keeping the small repair shop’s books straight, while Mandetat and Thanisson did odd jobs around the port. When they weren’t working, they were loitering around the shop, thus requiring Ben to “play nice” as it were.
Ben yawned and stretched before licking the side of his teeth. He lifted the hyperdrive with the Force and spun it lightly. Armitage wasn’t wrong; they’d done all they could without those last few parts. Putting it back down, he tapped across the hanger and entered the front welcome area.
Mitaka read a magazine at the front counter, while Unamo typed notes at the main console, cross-referencing her datapad. Mandetat and Thanisson weren’t in sight, which meant they must have been working at the docks.
“Any new customers?” Ben asked.
Mitaka looked up and shook his head. “Not today.”
Unamo didn’t pause in her typing. “I imagine we won’t have regular customers until word of mouth spreads further among the regulars who live in the port.”
“Fair enough,” Ben said. They weren’t wrong, either. Scaparus Spaceport wasn’t the same level as Mos Eisley, but trust was still hard to earn and it took a while for businesses to gain traction in places with such a transient population coming in and out through ships. He reached back and pulled his hair out of its ponytail. “Hux went out to the market, and I’m finished with everything we’ve got on the table. I’ll be upstairs if you need me.”
“Yes, sir,” Unamo said.
Leaving the two of them to man the desk for the next couple of hours they were open, Ben pushed through the side door of the lobby and into the stairwell that ran up the side of the building. Tapping up the steps, Ben was happy to retire to their small, but humble home.
Their place was an open air loft with a space for their bed and personal effects on the upper floor. It was small but airy and more than enough room for just the two of them. But more importantly, it had a skylight and a spacious roof with a large shed.
No one had been happier than Ben when he won the rock-paper-scissors match for whether or not Armitage's ysalamiri would stay on the roof or in the house. Ben had won fair and square (without using the Force!), and Armitage had relented in agreeing to keep the Force-blocking animal upstairs most of the time.
Together with Mitaka, Mandetat and Ben, Armitage had built a secure little house for Millicent and her sisters on the roof, tucked away and out of sight in the shed. He fed them twice a day, and thankfully, they were just far enough away that their Force blocking bubble didn’t reach into their home above the hanger.
Plucking a cup off the rack on his kitchen counter, Ben fixed himself a cup of coffee and sipped it. He watched out the window at the rain that continued to pour and smiled.
The weather was awful, but he could learn to like it here.
Hux adjusted his hood as he tapped through the puddles collecting on the main street in the center of the port. A bag of Jogan fruit tapped against his side, as he hurried along. He still needed to pick up a few other things for baking (he appreciated Ben made plans, but he never prepared—they did not have enough ingredients around the house for a cake) before he could get to his own errands.
Hopefully the local drugstore still had a few packs of the painkillers he preferred. The daily migraines were just manageable with medication, and Hux shuttered to think what they’d be like if he missed a dose. Down to his last few pills, he didn’t dare risk running out.
If the pain from his head didn’t kill him, Ren surely would when he found out Hux was still suffering from headaches and had kept it a secret.
Hux stepped into the nearest market door and nodded at the man behind the counter. He received a grunt and a raised eyebrow in response, which was as good a greeting as he was going to get still so new to the neighborhood.
That first week after the death of Snoke had been rough. Hux’s memories played on loop in his mind, the events swapping back and forth between what really happened and the play-like script Snoke had written. Getting them confused was the least of Hux’s worries as he battled the pounding headache that lingered over it all like a hammer constantly beating his brain. Ren had done something with the Force to make the migraines go away, which worked for a short spell, but they returned soon enough about a week later.
Instead of bothering the man again with the weakness, Hux hid it with drugs. He was dependent enough on Ren for enough things that adding his personal comfort to the list turned Hux’s stomach the wrong way. He thanked the stars Ren wasn’t observant with domestic tasks, which made hiding the extra pills he popped rather easy.
Though Mitaka had noticed, and had been rather adamant about Hux doing something about it.
“If it’s still hurting you, maybe you should tell Ben,” Mitaka had said. He looked over his shoulder, just in case the Force user was around, and whispered. “What if something is wrong?”
“Of course something is wrong,” Hux said right back. “Snoke took my brain and rewrote it. The only way I can see Ben fixing that is him going in to do the same thing, and frankly, I’d rather not go through it again even if I do trust Ben.”
“But what if it gets worse?”
“Then I’ll tell him,” Hux said.
And he’d kept his word. The pain had stayed constant, but it hadn’t worsened. As long as the painkillers kept it at bay, Hux was more than happy to keep it to himself until it left on its own (surely it had to).
The cashier gave Hux his total and he collected his bag of cooking supplies and made sure the top of the plastic was secure before stepping back out into the rain. It pattered against his hood in a relaxing pattern and Hux breathed in the moist air.
Arkanis was so relaxing; he had no idea how Ben could hate this rain. The steady beat grounded everything in white noise that Hux dearly missed in space.
The water splashed around his boots, wetting the fabric of his leggings and the bottom of his tunic as he turned the next corner toward the drugstore. People milled about and talked as he passed by, most of them minding their own business. Hux appreciated that about Arkanis. This whole planet had been through so much over the years, people learned to keep to themselves.
Hux did a bit of mental math in his head to juggle his expenses and to make sure that Ben wouldn’t notice the drugs taking a bite out of their budget, which is why he wasn’t paying complete attention when he knocked into another gentleman.
“Excuse me,” Hux said absently.
In another life, he would have had the man thrown in the brig for daring to be in his way, but here on Arkanis, he was nothing more than a civilian. So he played the part, even if it killed him inside.
“Watch where you’re going.”
Hux stopped dead in the street, eyes wide. He knew that voice. That gruff, awful voice that haunted his worst nightmares and made him feel like a scared ten year old with every syllable.
“Father?” Hux asked, turning his head and staring straight into a matching pair of blue eyes.
I will never get tired of ending a chapter with a cliffhanger. Never.
Back to the story! You’ll notice a very special guest this chapter. More notes on this guy in the next one, since I don’t want to spoil anything just yet. ;D
Hux lit a cigarette, shaking fingers catching on the cheap lighter he’d stolen from the table along with the pack of smokes when he ran through the inside of the bar to escape. He sucked in a mouthful of smoke and dropped his head hard on the back wall of the seedy bar, jostling his thoughts back into place. The smoke covered the stench of the alley.
Like a literal child, Hux had taken one good look at his father and the second that recognition lit up the older man’s eyes, Hux sprinted in the opposite direction.
His boot kicked against the bag of groceries he’d held onto by some miracle and knocked it over. Hux cursed and put it right side up, making sure no water snuck in from the puddle.
“What the hell is he doing here?” Hux hissed to himself. He should have been dead. So many members of the First Order had turned on each other, that someone (surely someone!) had to have bumped off his father in the power change. But no, Brendol Hux was apparently right as rain and settled on a planet known for it. “Of all the places he could be hiding out.”
It made sense in a way; Arkanis was his home planet, where he’d created that damned school of his. It was such an obvious place for him to return to, that no one would think the old man would actually do it.
Hux groaned and dug the base of his palm into his forehead. The smoke wafted up, dispersing into the rain just beyond the overhang he’d taken shelter under.
“I should have confronted him,” Hux said. He closed his eyes and slumped against the wall. “Or at least figured out where he was staying so I could avoid it like the plague.”
Worst of all, Hux never looked over his shoulder to see if his father had followed him, or made any attempt to keep up with where Hux was going.
“Shit.” Hux smashed his cigarette out on the wall behind him. All his father had to do to find Hux was ask around for a redheaded man in the area. That would lead him right to Ben’s little repair shop and then he’d have to deal with the man. Running away had been entirely pointless. Hux glared at the blaster under his coat. “I should have just shot him.”
Hux picked up his bag of groceries and pulled his rain hood back over his head. He left the alley and tapped back toward home. He needed to tell Ren what was going on. There was no telling why Hux’s father was on planet, and who knows what that man could do.
Even if he was in hiding, the man was still dangerous. He was ruthless, devious, and there was no question that he was armed to the teeth. Because above everything else, he was cowardly—which meant he’d always shoot first. If he made his way back to the shop, there was no telling who he’d hurt.
Hux’s steps slowed until he returned to a thoughtful walk. His father was dangerous, but so was Ren. The man may have “retired” from his Uncle’s service, but the man was still (more or less) a Jedi and had the Force under his command and a lightsaber.
Brendol Hux wouldn’t be able to touch Ren.
“I bet Ben would kill him if I asked,” Hux said, halfway to himself.
And wasn’t that a pretty picture: Kylo Ren in his full glory, slicing down Brendol Hux with the same ferocity as he used to tear apart rebels. True, his lightsaber was now blue and the man no longer used his warrior name, but all the same, Hux’s lover could still fight with the best of them. He’d taken down the Knights of Ren with barely any effort.
Hux could adjust his daydream if need be.
He almost smiled, steps picking up. Maybe he should look forward to Brendol Hux arriving and causing trouble. The second he lifted a blaster, Ren would make short work of him.
Hux pushed his hood back as the rain returned to a light drizzle. Perhaps he ought to show off his hair a bit more, and let the bait be set further. If he was lucky, Ren would kill his old man and Hux wouldn’t even have to see him. Wouldn’t that be delightful?
Then Ren would really have a reason to make cake. Who wouldn’t want to celebrate if Brendol Hux kicked the bucket?
“Most wanted men with hair that bright would hide it,” a voice said alongside the hum of a lightsaber. Hux felt the heat burn at his cheek, and he turned his eyes to see the bright yellow glow. The voice laughed. “I can’t tell if I admire your boldness, or if you’re just stupid.”
If Ben had remembered that it was almost the ysalamiri’s feeding time, he wouldn’t have asked Armitage to pick up sweets so the man could have gotten home sooner and do it himself. Ben had checked on Armitage a bit ago, and the man was still in the market to his regret, and the little monsters were already reaching their limit for waiting on a late dinner.
He trudged up the stairs with the bucket of the syrupy mixture Armitage had taken to mixing up every night, careful not to slosh the contents over the edge and onto his floor. As part of the agreement of those monsters living on the roof, Ben promised that he’d take care of them when Armitage wasn’t home, so there was no avoiding it. The sticky goo smelled too sweet, almost like something rotting, but the little brats lapped it up like they couldn’t get enough so Armitage must have done something right when he mixed it.
Ben stomped onto the roof, wincing into the spitting water as it drizzled over his hair. He grunted, letting it wet his hair as he opened the door to the shed.
He shivered as he walked into the door, still not used to his sixth sense being cut off with such a firm finality whenever he was in the presence of those lizards. The sensory deprivation reminded Ben of his time in that cell on Armitage’s ship, slowly going mad from the lack of his most important senses.
Ben still had yet to admit to Armitage how awful that entire ordeal had been; a literal torture that extended over four months.
He shook his head. There wasn’t time to linger on that when Armitage’s little brats were yelping and screaming, waiting for their bucket. Ben set it on the edge of their small cage and dumped it over, spilling it over the open air top and into the large trough that ran along the length of the cage.
Millicent hit it first, shoving the others out of the way as they waddled to munch the goo. Ben blew his hair out of his face, before dropping the empty bucket on the side wall. Armitage would collect it when he brought the third batch up right before bed.
“You guys eat better than emperors,” Ben muttered under his breath. He closed the shed door behind him and headed back into the apartment downstairs.
His comm buzzed as he hit the kitchen and Ben tapped it. “Uncle Luke?”
“Hello Ben,” Luke said from the hologram. “I tried to contact you and you weren’t there.”
“I was feeding the ysalamiri,” Ben said, crossing his arms on the counter. Whatever his uncle wanted, it must have been urgent if he was using the Force to contact Ben. “Bad timing, I guess. Is there something wrong?”
“I wanted to give you a head’s up, because while I’d like for your companion to be arrested and taken out,” Luke said with a crooked smile, “I had a feeling if you found out later I knew this and didn’t tell you, that you’d be angry.”
“Get to the point, Uncle,” Ben said. “Is Hux in danger?”
“Maybe,” Luke said. He adjusted over on his end and straightened up. “Kyp Durron has sent his his followers out to clean up the last remaining dredges of the First Order to prevent them from turning into yet another Imperial imposter down the lines.
“With Hux running around freely with his hair exposed and not even attempting to hide his name, there’s a chance rumors might spread,” Luke said. “I’d keep an eye out for Jedi out for blood.”
“I will,” Ben said, crossing his arms. Durron’s group were pretty notorious for being aggressive about justice, so he wasn’t surprised by this, but it was still concerning. Ben tapped his fingers on the counter. “Thank you for letting me know.”
“Take care, Ben,” Luke said. The feed cut off and Ben blew out a breath. He’d have to let Hux know about that the second he got home.
“I think there has been some mistake,” Hux said, clearly and slowly over the buzzing of the saber. He clutched his grocery bag, squeezing the plastic. The people milling about the marketplace backed away from the display, and Hux calmed himself by focusing on the sound of the rain vaporizing into mist against the lightsaber blade. “Have we met?”
“Not personally, but that red hair of yours is pretty famous, Hux,” the man said. He stepped forward, turning his wrist to keep the saber burning near Hux’s neck. Blue and black robes flowed forward, and Hux followed them up to a handsome face. A scar ran across one half of his face, but it took nothing away from the defined cheeks and bright blue eyes. Scruffy black hair finished it off and he grinned. “But I suppose I can introduce myself. I’m the Jedi responsible for cleaning up the last of the First Order filth, Ganner Rhysode.”
“A Jedi,” Hux said. He narrowed his eyes and clutched his bag harder. Weren’t all the Jedi supposed to be rare? First there was a Wookie with a lightsaber and now this man. Where were they popping out of the woodwork from? He hoped this one wasn’t good with mind reading and tried for a calm argument. “I’m not sure what you’re talking about. I think there’s been a mistake.”
“No mistake,” Ganner said. He flicked his lightsaber up an inch and it singed the edge of Hux’s bangs. He licked the side of his teeth and grinned. “Been hearing rumors for a few weeks that a red head named Hux was around the area, and there aren’t many of those around.”
“Are you sure about that?” Hux asked, testing the waters. “I believe I saw an older gentleman with red hair earlier. I’m hardly the only red head on the planet. I feel as though you should be sure of you’re threatening.”
“The fact you’re as calm as you are tells me more than I need to know,” Rhysode replied. “Not many people handle having a lightsaber in their face this well, save for perhaps maybe someone who used to work with the fierce some Kylo Ren. I bet watching that lunatic thrash around starships will numb even the lowliest grunt to a Force User until they start getting serious.”
Hux turned his head and pursed his lips. He hadn’t heard someone other than himself referring to Ren by that name any longer. It had Hux curious despite himself. “Kylo Ren?”
“Yeah, big scary knight with a red lightsaber,” Rhysode said. “Hard to miss him, even if he has decided to lie low with your little order disbanding.”
“Do you not know Kylo Ren is Ben Solo?” Hux asked, raising an eyebrow. Wishing Kylo Ren had been sincere didn’t make it so, and Ben would probably be hurt if he knew people were still calling him that after they killed Snoke. Hux swallowed his pride and shared. “I thought that made it through the Jedi grapevine when he helped take down Starkiller base.”
Rhysode raised an eyebrow, in an almost exaggerated gesture and lowered his lightsaber just enough that Hux no longer felt the heat. “Repeat that.”
“Kylo Ren was an act by Ben Solo in order to infiltrate the First Order and sabotage it from the inside,” Hux said. He shifted his hold on his groceries even as his insides threatened to eat him alive in old aches. “He betrayed the First Order. It was rather big news.”
“I think you’re lying to save yourself, Commandant,” Rhysode said. “By distracting me.”
“Commandant?” Hux asked, insulted. He stared openly at Rhysode, insulted that the man dare call him such a low rank when he—oh. Oh, he was he was here for Hux’s father. Getting Ren to kill Brendol Hux was the dream, but Hux wouldn’t be picky if another Jedi wanted to do it. Hux could work with this, so he lied. “I see what has happened here and you have definitely made a mistake, Lord Jedi.”
“Yes,” Hux said. He swallowed. “I’ll come out with the truth, I did used to serve the First Order, but I’m not the man you’re looking for. You’re looking for Commandant Brendol Hux. He also has red hair and is much older. I can see how you’d make that mistake, going after a man less than half his age.”
“Well, the job is to clean up all the First Order scum, so even if I made a mistake, I still got lucky since you so kindly admitted your affiliation,” Rhysode said. “Works for me.”
“But not for me,” Hux said.
He mentally apologized to Ben for letting his plans for cake go to waste and whipped his grocery bag to the side, throwing it into the sizzling blade. The fruit and plastic distracted enough for Hux to duck and run, abandoning the bags.
“Hey!” Rhysode shouted. If he was a Jedi, he had the Force which meant Hux needed distance and good dodging skills. His time with Kylo Ren and Ben had to have prepared him for a bit of this! Hux grabbed the side of a wall and slung himself into an alley just as a box flew by him. Rhysode’s boots sounded on the ground as people scattered out of the way. “Get back here!”
“Not a chance of that,” Hux muttered under his breath. He kept sprinting toward his house. He had his own Jedi that could come to his defense, and if he got close enough, there was no way Ren wouldn’t notice his distress. Unless something was blocking the Force. Hux whined to himself, hating his babies for once in his life. “Oh, please don’t be feeding the girls, Ben.”
Thankfully, the man didn’t seem too skilled at human manipulation, as Hux had yet to feel his limbs or running hindered with the Force. But there were plenty of items and chunks of ground thrown his way to make it clear Rhysode meant business.
Hux had nearly made it to his home street when he tripped in a puddle deeper than it first appeared. He fell face first into the water, the splash drenching his face.
A boot dug into his back and the lightsaber was back at his neck. Rhysode hissed, “Don’t move, First Order scum. You’re going to tell me everything about your other comrades before I cut your head off.”
Hux closed his eyes and screamed Ben’s name as loud as he could in his head.
I’m sure you guys have noticed our special guest! For this chapter, I wanted Ben to have to work a little for Hux’s affection, and competition is great for that. And since I’m a big fan of using existing characters over original ones when they’re there, I dove into the wiki and the Legends universe and have decided to use a character from the books, much like when I brought Lowbacca into this.
Ganner Rhysode seemed like a great choice. He’s handsome, flirty, and works for a group of Jedi that are more aggressive. I haven’t read any books with him in it, so I’m taking liberties, but since this is an AU and he’d be a different character in this universe anyway, I feel pretty okay just writing him as I feel he would be after reading his Wiki page. Fun times and creative liberties all around! :D But I will admit I’m already taking liberties, as I’m keeping his early-series personality, but letting him keep the scar that gave him a more humble outlook on life…because it looks good.
But enough of that. He’s a fun character and if you get a chance to pick up the books he’s in, I recommend it so you can tell me how much I changed him (or if I got lucky and nailed it).
Ben dropped his plate and grabbed his lightsaber with the Force. He threw open the balcony door with a whip of his hand, diving over the side and hitting the street with a heavy thud and the flutter of his tunic behind him.
The Force led him to where he wanted, two streets down and zeroing in on a man with a yellow lightsaber and familiar red hair in the puddle at the Jedi’s feet.
“Back away from him!” Ben yelled, splashing through the water slamming his saber on.
The other Jedi yanked his head and lightsaber up to catch Ben’s saber as it swung down. Ben pushed him away from Armitage and the other man hissed, “Hey! What are you doing?”
“I said to back away,” Ben said, shoving the other man back even farther. He kept pushing until his legs were completely in front of Armitage, already crawling up from the ground. The other man growled, but Ben stayed firm. “Who are you?”
“A Jedi doing my job,” the man said. He stepped back and swung his saber once downward, and Ben held his position in front of Armitage. “Who are you?”
“Ben Solo,” he answered. He lowered his weapon an inch but stayed at the ready. The other man looked well kept and had rich robes. Ben ran through his mental list of the Jedi he’d seen on his brief visits to the other faction, but he couldn’t place this man. Ben squared his shoulders and held his ground. “I take it you’re one of Durron’s followers.”
“Do you know him?” Armitage asked, shaking out his raincoat. “Because he’s been rather rude.”
“Not personally,” Ben said. “But I know of his Master and Luke told me that there were a few of Durron’s followers in the area, so it wasn’t hard to put two and two together.”
“I’m still right here, you know,” the other Jedi said. He pointed his lightsaber at Ben’s face and tilted his head, knocking damp hair into his eyes. “And if you’re really Ben Solo, what are you doing defending this First Order trash?”
“That’s a long story that I don’t think you have a right to,” Ben said. He could practically feel Armitage roll his eyes behind him. “But I can say if you try and hurt him again, I’m not going to go easy on you.”
“My job is to collect and dispose of the remaining First Order officers and followers that got away and I don’t even care if you are related to the great Skywalker and General Leia’s son, but you aren’t getting in my way,” the man said. “Step aside.”
“I think he’s a bit out of the loop,” Armitage added, crossing his arms. The rain plastered his red hair to his forehead, but he looked less shaken than he had before. Mud stuck to his cheek from the puddle. “He didn’t know Kylo Ren was you.”
“I guess that makes sense,” Ben said. It was rather inconvenient, however and Ben made a mental note to get all of this straight with Durron the second they were all in the clear. “Luke didn’t really have a lot of reason to tell anyone not directly related to the situation.”
“That seems like need to know considering people would still be hunting the fake you down otherwise,” Armitage said. He waved his hand toward the stranger. “Case in point would be him.”
“You two seem awfully cozy,” the man said. He looked between the two of them and returned his saber to an attack position. “Don’t want to believe the golden child of the Resistance is a traitor, but it’s not completely out of bounds now is it?”
Ben snorted. “If you think you can take me, you go right ahead and try but two things are absolute: I’m no traitor and you’re not hurting him.”
“We’ll see about that,” the man said. He swung his lightsaber in a circle once and charged.
Dopheld looked up from his magazine, and at the clock. “Did Hux come back yet? Wasn’t he just out on a quick trip for groceries?”
“I don’t believe so,” Unamo said. “He normally stops by through the office before he goes upstairs.”
“It’s not like him to be this late,” Dopheld said. He put his magazine down and got up from the desk. I heard Ben stomping up the stairs earlier to feed Millicent and the others, so he can’t have snuck in through the back, either.”
“You could go upstairs and see if he told Ben something?” Unamo said. She started the log out process on the computer and got up to put the closed sign on the door. “Maybe they had a mental conversation and he’s staying out late. He’s been known to do it on occasion.”
“And it would be just like Ben to not tell us,” Dopheld said. He huffed and headed to the side door. “I’m going to go check.”
Dopheld helped himself up the stairs, only giving a polite knock before he opened the door without waiting for an invite. Hux didn’t mind if Dopheld dropped by, and Ben could deal. He stepped into the room and found it empty, however.
“Ben?” Dopheld asked. He called out again, but it was easy to tell the man wasn’t there in such an open space. Dopheld checked on the roof again, but didn’t find the man with the Ysalamiri either. Dopheld called out again, “Ben!”
“Where did he go?” Dopheld asked, closing the door to the shed. The girls still had food, which meant he had to have fed them recently. Dopheld walked to the edge of the roof, and looked out over the streets. “Did we miss something?”
When Dopheld looked down, however, he noticed the mass of people running in the street. A few were decidedly running away from something, while others looked curious and headed in the direction others ran from.
Looking down the street, Dopheld saw small flashes of light in blue and yellow in the distance, that rather resembled small straight lines swinging. In other words, a lightsaber battle.
Dopheld ran back to the hatch into the house cursing under his breath. “Well, that explains where Ben went!”
Rhysode was a match for Ren.
Hux stayed pressed against the wall, avoiding the worst of the fight. Onlookers and gawkers had gathered around, giving the two men in the center of the street an arena of sorts. They cheered and made bets of all kinds with various people cheering for “that one mechanic who just moved in” and the “mysterious stranger.”
The only real benefit of this is when Ren won, business was sure to pick up when they all came to get a peek at the local Jedi.
Hux touched the side of his head as his painkillers started to wear off. He slipped his hand into his pocket and popped a pill dry without taking his eyes off Ren and Rhysode as they threw each other around with the Force, but both careful to keep damage to the surrounding buildings minimal.
Rhysode threw his hand up, throwing Ren back and into the nearest wall. So much for the collateral damage theory.
Ren returned in kind, jumping back into the fray with his lightsaber swinging. Rhysode ducked out of the way, moving so smoothly not even his flowing robes were singed by Ren’s swings. Hux had seen Ren go up against the Jedi girl and the Jedi Wookie, but Ren had always seemed so far above them.
Seeing someone match each of his hits, and to prolong the fight for near twenty minutes now was disconcerting.
The thought of Ren losing a fight to anyone who wasn’t on the level of Snoke was nearly unthinkable.
“At least you live up to your reputation!” Rhysode yelled, smiling as he backflipped away from Ben’s next swing. “For a few seconds I thought you were lying, but an imposter wouldn’t be able to keep up with me.”
“Certainly humble that one,” Hux muttered under his breath.This was going on far too long, and this man had to go. Hux could convince Ren to kill his father later; he didn’t need some random Jedi to do it. Hux cupped his hands around his mouth and yelled, “Hurry up and kill him, Ben! You’re drawing this out far too long!”
“I’m not killing him!” Ren yelled back, half over his shoulder. His blue blade sparked against the yellow one that crashed into his. “So stop suggesting it!”
“This would go a lot faster if you did!” Hux called back.
“Why are you protecting him again?” Rhysode asked, mouth quirking into a smile. “He doesn’t quite seem to suit your goody-two-shoes roots.”
“Have you ever actually met my parents?” Ren responded, grabbing a rock with the Force and slamming it into Rhysode’s side, sending him flying into a group of bystanders. They responded by scrambling out of the way and Ren smirked. “My dad’s a smuggler, remember?”
“I suppose you’ve got a point there,” Rhysode said. He hopped to his feet and brushed off his rope. “Easy to forget when you grow up with all those lovely hero bedtime stories.”
“You don’t have to tell me,” Ren said. “I heard them, too!”
“This fight is never going to end,” Hux said under his breath. He reached up and wiped the mud off his cheek, shaking his fist off in the rain water. Hux’s father was still out there and this Jedi was doing nothing to help that problem if he was bothering Hux. And if he did give up on Hux, he’d go after Mitaka and the others. More convinced than ever that this needed to end, Hux tried yelling again: “If you two can chat, you can wrap this up!”
“You sure you’re not the commandant?” Rhysode yelled in Hux’s direction. “You sure like throwing around orders like one!”
Hux was starting to think Rhysode wasn’t aware of the other rather famous First Order man with red hair, and frankly, it was insulting.
Ben snorted, his mouth cracking into a smile and Hux gaped. “That wasn’t funny, Ben Solo!”
“I’m laughing at him, not you!” Ren said. He darted in front of Hux when Rhysode made a few steps in that direction. Ren licked his lips and attempted to look apologetic. “I’m just amused he knows who your washed up father is, but doesn’t recognize the head General of the First Order.”
“Don’t laugh at me! You’re the idiots!” Rhysode shouted back. He pointed at Hux and huffed. “He can’t be the General! General Hux is dead! The man went down with Starkiller base!”
“I forgot about that,” Hux said, mostly to himself. After he had returned to the Finalizer and reclaimed his position, it had slipped his mind that they had declared him dead after Starkiller base fell in order to avoid accusations that Hux was a traitor who’d ran off with Kylo Ren (What a moral drop that would have caused…and did when Hux actually did backstab them all—no, he had to focus on the now). “I suppose we were lying low there for a bit after I returned, so maybe the news I was alive hadn’t spread.”
Hux touched the back of his neck and looked to the side. “I suppose that explains why no one has come after my head sooner.”
Rhysode stood up straighter, dropping his weapon. He looked Hux over from head to toe before pointing his lightsaber straight at Hux, but he looked at Ren. “Are you telling me that’s the General of the First Order?”
“Whether he is or isn’t doesn’t matter if you’re still planning to try and kill him,” Ren said, stepping in front of the blade and cutting off Rhysode’s view. “He’s under my watch, and you are leaving this planet without touching him.”
“Part of me wants to go back and report to Durron and let him know the universe’s most wanted criminal is back from the dead,” Rhysode said. He turned his gaze toward Hux and smiled halfway. “The other half is wondering what the hell happened to make the Solo boy defend said most wanted criminal.”
Ren lowered his shoulders, one hand gripping into a fist. “I don’t think that’s any of your concern.”
Hux decided to nip this in the bud and shouted, “We’re sleeping together. It’s not that complicated.”
Ren turned to look at Hux, slightly irritated, but it was Rhysode’s response that really got their attention: He started laughing.
I was also trying to get this chapter up in time for May 4th, but I missed it by a couple days. Oh well. Happy Belated May the 4th be with you!!
“No, no, wait and go back,” Ganner said, holding his hand up. The man’s face was split into a smile from his near constant stupid grinning as Ren explained things. Hux wondered if his face hurt from being stretched so. Ganner pointed between Hux and Ren, still smiling. “You mean the son of the Rebellion heroes ran off to shack up with the First Order poster boy? That’s the most hilarious thing I’ve ever heard! It’s like straight out of one of those cheesy romance novels!”
Ganner continued to laugh, half doubled over as he sat at Ren’s dining room table. He slapped his hand against his leggings and snorted. He lifted his head and scrunched his nose before chuckling. “No! It’s worse! You’re like that stupid movie about the Jedi and that Empire stooge! The idiots who hooked up after the Death Star exploded and hid out on Tatooine until the Empire hunted them down and killed both of them. Only you two are still in the hide out phase, aren’t you?”
Hux had wondered how that movie ended. After the Alderaan explosion scene, he hadn’t really been watching the screen and they left the disc on Kashyyyk. Shame it ended poorly (though Hux wasn’t surprised).
Ren seemed less amused by the comparison.
“Are you done?” Ren asked, rubbing between his eyes. His shoulders drooped low, and his hair slipped out from his ponytail.
“Not in a million years, but you can talk,” Ganner said, leaning back in his chair. He looked over his shoulder at Mitaka, holding Gertrude up on his shoulder. Ganner shrugged and crossed his ankles under the table. “Not like we can do much else with that hanging around.”
“Keeps things fair,” Ren said. He reached across the table and picked up a piece of fruit. He snapped it open with his thumb and ate half a slice. “Not like I enjoy it any more than you do.”
“Let’s get back to the point,” Hux said. He folded his arms on the table and glared at Ganner. Pleasantries aside, there was only room on this planet for one Jedi, and Hux already had one. “You’re here to kill First Order officers and runaways?”
“Or take them in if they surrender,” Ganner said, glancing at Mitaka. Hux drew his hands into fists on the desk. That man would not be leaving this planet with a captive if Hux could help it, and he was glad that he’d sent Unamo away to keep an eye on Mandetat and Thanisson in their apartment during all of this. The less in range, the better. Ganner licked the side of his teeth, and straightened his hair. “But considering I’m hunting down high level threats, I doubt they have that option.”
“And who did you come here for?” Ren asked. He tossed the rind of his fruit into the center of the table. He wiped the leftover juice off his fingers on a napkin. “Specifically.”
“Commandant Brendol Hux,” Ganner said, confirming what Hux already knew thanks to the earlier mix up. He held a hand up and waved his finger around in a small circle. “I was told he was an angry redhead, and not much else.”
“Surprised they didn’t give you a picture,” Hux said, but that would have been too convenient. “He had enough portraits commissioned, there had to be one somewhere for you.”
“You would be surprised how much First Order stuff got destroyed,” Ganner said, shrugging lightly. He snatched the second half of Ren’s fruit and ate it. “But I was assured I couldn’t miss him.”
“And yet here we are,” Hux said, glancing at Ren. The man had his hands under the table and a slight twitch in the corner of his eye, but he was behaving. “Thanks to your mistake because you jumped to assumptions.”
Ganner sucked on the edge of the fruit. “To be fair, you are a high ranking First Order officer.”
“Was,” Ren said. “Hux was a First Order officer. Now he’s a civilian.”
Hux barely contained the hurt flinch at the declaration.
“He’s still accountable for all the atrocities he committed,” Ganner said. He ate the last of it and threw his rind over his shoulder at Mitaka. Gertrude snapped her head out and caught the rind, eating it greedily. Mitaka barely kept her in his arms as he stumbled to catch it. Ganner continued as if the chaos in the background hadn’t happened and stared Hux in the eyes. “Every bit as guilty as his father is.”
“I am aware and he’s under my jurisdiction and as far as I’m concerned, he’s suffered enough,” Ren said, leaning forward to shove himself into Ganner’s line of sight. “The red head who was spotted around here is not the one you were sent to find, so you can leave with a clear conscious.”
“Actually,” Hux said, clearing his throat. “My father is on planet.”
Both Ganner and Ren turned to stare at Hux and he wondered if he spoke too soon.
Maratelle knocked back the last of her wine from her third glass and slumped in her chair. Brendol dear paced across the room, wearing a hole in their nice carpet with his thick boots, the last of the mud from outside long since knocked off. Maratelle tsk’ed to herself. It’d be an awful shame if even after the Hux estate remaining untouched from vandalism all these years went to waste because its owner was careless with it.
“Are you going to say what’s bothering you, are you going to continue to stew in silence?” she asked, reaching for the wine bottle. She refilled her glass and sipped from the fresh cup. “The market couldn’t have been that bad.”
Brendol dear stopped in his tracks and turned to Maratelle. He stared at her for a moment, as if he’d forgotten she was even in the room (fair enough; she hadn’t exactly said hello when he walked in). He shook his head and huffed. “I saw. I thought I saw Armitage in the market.”
“Armitage?” Maratelle said, pulling her glass away from her face. A flash of cold eyes worse than Brendol dear’s entered her memories and she swallowed. She tapped her finger on the edge of the glass. “I thought he was dead?”
“I did, too,” Brendol dear said. He licked his lips, an odd look on his face appeared: Like he was attempting to feel some emotion like grief or remorse, but didn’t know how to process it. “But I know who I saw.”
“Did he say hello?” Maratelle asked, swirling the wine around her cup. The thick of it stuck to the edges of the glass.
It was hard to picture little Armitage willingly exchanging pleasantries, but who knew what could happen in this fallen age after the death of their precious Order?
“He ran,” Brendol dear said, ending his pacing. The man ran his hand through greyed hair, breathing in and out slowly as he usually did to calm his temper. He sniffed and straightened the edge of his lapel, staring at the wall. “Sprinted in the other direction like he’d never been more scared in his life.”
Maratelle snorted into her next sip. She could just picture that: Tiny Armitage with wide eyes he hadn’t had in ages, sprinting away to his room and locking the door. She licked the side of her lip where it had spilled. “Lucky you, dear.”
“Is it?” Brendol dear collapsed in his chair across from her. He slumped and rubbed the side of his face. “He’ll come to his senses eventually and be embarrassed he ran, then he’ll get angry, and eventually he’ll figure out that he’s got the upper hand. That boy’ll be back, I can feel it.”
“Or he’ll pretend it never happened,” Maratelle said. She refilled her glass yet again. The room wasn’t swaying enough for this conversation. Not when Brendol dear’s tiny spawn was involved. “I wouldn’t put that past him either.”
“Then I guess there’s nothing we can do about it but wait,” Brendol dear said. He waved his finger at the wine bottle. “Pour me one of those.”
“As you wish,” Maratelle said. She filled a second goblet and handed it across. He took it and swallowed deeply. Maratelle sipped her own and closed her eyes.
If little Armitage did decide to pay a visit, she wanted to be well rested for it.
“Look, I didn’t stick around, alright?” Armitage said, arms crossed and face to the side. He huffed and a light dusting of pink showed on his ears and upper cheeks. “I saw him, I turned around and left. I hardly ever wanted to see him while I was in the First Order, so why would I want to see him now that I’m out?
“Besides,” Armitage added, “I was on my way back to tell you I saw him when this brute decided to attack me, so don’t you dare say I was hiding it.”
The slight flare of his nostril and the way he tilted his head up told Ben Armitage had at least considered hiding this information if he hadn’t run into Rhysode, but he put that aside for now.
“Alright, so now that we know, you and I can take care of that,” Ben said. He turned to Rhysode and tapped his finger on the table twice before pointing at the other Jedi’s chest. “You can leave now and go find someone else on your list.”
“Or I can stay and do my job and go kill the Commandant, and then take this guy and his groupies into custody like a good Jedi,” Rhysode said. He leaned forward on his elbow and raised an eyebrow, stretching his scar. “Not that you’d know much about that, lately, would you?”
Ben bit back his first reply and counted to ten. The statement wasn’t wrong, but he sure didn’t need to say it. “Regardless, I’ve got everything here handled, and you can leave.”
“And if I decide I don’t want to? If I think you’ve been compromised beyond reason and decide to go above you?” Rhysode asked. He darted a glance at Armitage and Mitaka before tapping his fingers along the table. “Then what? You going to take me on and stand in the way?”
“If I have to,” Ben said.
“I’m sure the rest of the Jedi community would love to hear you’ve turned traitor for real,” Rhysode said. He leaned back in his seat, and threw one leg over the other, crossing them as relaxed as he could. “Ran away from your Uncle to hide away protecting a bunch of First Order leftovers. Sounds almost traitorous if you ask me.”
“What’s your point?” Armitage asked, holding his head up.
Rhysode turned to look at Armitage at the same time as Ben. He tilted his head. “Excuse me?”
“Ben betrayed the First Order, and then he betrayed his parents to keep me, and now he’s betraying his roots by becoming a mechanic,” Armitage said. He crossed his arms on the table and shrugged. “I think at this point he’s rather used to being a traitor, and considering the only people whose opinion of him matters are those of myself and his parents and we don’t care, than what does it matter what you think of him or what you tell your little Jedi friends?
“Ben’s stronger than all you lot,” Armitage said. “So if you’d like a genuine extinction of the Jedi, go ahead. Send your attack dogs and see what happens.”
“You seem confident Ben can take on every Jedi by himself,” Rhysode said, clicking his tongue. “You mean that, or are you saying it out of obligation? Bragging about your lover, maybe?”
“I mean it and it’s not bragging if it’s true,” Armitage said. He leaned forward and tilted his hair to the side, a few loose strands falling in his face. “I’ve seen it first hand and honestly, I’d love to be able to call him the Jedi Killer again.”
Ben flinched, digging his hand into a fist.
“You certainly aren’t winning any brownie points for yourself for why I should go easy on you,” Rhysode said. “Or why he has any reason to be trying to save you from justice.”
“I hardly need either,” Armitage said, before pulling out a blaster and shooting Rhysode in the chest.