He doesn’t know what awful planet this is, or why they’re here, but General Hux is absolutely adamant that this is important and cannot be ignored. Kylo Ren sits, annoyed, in the co-pilot seat of the little shuttle, watching as Hux maneuvers their little shuttle down gracefully to a dreary world of rain and hills.
“Can I have a hint, yet?” Ren murmurs through the mask, and Hux sighs.
“For the last time, you’ll know it when we get there,” the General snaps back at him, flipping a switch here and there. “Be patient.”
“You said this was important.”
“It is,” and there’s something under his voice that gives Ren pause.
“Then wouldn’t it be wiser to warn me what you’re getting me into beforehand?”
“That isn’t necessary,” and there it is again. Annoyance, certainly, but what else? Disappointment? Regret, at bringing Ren here, at bothering at all? He looks at Hux, trying to place the emotion, but it’s quickly swallowed into the pointed numbness that Hux tries to give off at every waking moment. He’ll have to pry. He wonders if it’s worth it.
Before they’d left, Hux had made him promise not to ruin the surprise with his damn mind tricks, to follow the orders given to him. It was important to him that Ren experience this exactly as Hux shows it to him. Is this a test, my illustrious Master? Ren had joked, sneering, but Hux hadn’t smiled.
Of a sort.
“You’ll just have to trust me,” Hux hisses, and Ren decides it isn’t worth breaking his promise.
The shuttle comes down easily to the little landing strip, and Hux puts it through its post-landing scans and protocols, gloved hand flying over the buttons and switches with practiced ease. Outside, the mood is even drearier than it had looked before: gray, dull, wet. It isn’t properly raining, yet; the light mist falling coats the invisisteel in little droplets, and though they haven’t yet left the shuttle Ren can already feel its chill.
“Let’s go,” Hux murmurs, turning and standing from the pilot’s chair in one swift motion. “And take that damn mask off,” he adds as Ren turns to join him.
“You know my orders. I’m not to be seen,” Ren starts, but Hux cuts him off with a sharp look.
“No one here cares who we are, Ren. No one is going to see you anyways.” The unspoken you promised is what ultimately seals Ren’s lips, and he removes the mask without another word, dropping it onto the co-pilot’s seat. “Come on.”
Never before has he been so grateful for the hood around his shoulders. The moment the mist hits Ren’s skin he pulls it over his head, shivering silently behind Hux as he peers up into the craggy mountains around them. A quick consultation of some little holo gives Hux the answer, and without another word he sets off, confidently striding amongst the chunks of rock strewn across the ground. As they walk, Ren realizes Hux is dressed in his absolute best, boots shined and clothing pressed, the hat on his head as pristine as possible. Wherever they’re going, whatever this is, it’s truly important.
Time crawls as they climb in silence. The mist only seems to get thicker as Hux leads him up a winding stone path cut into the slick green mountain, and even though Ren is grateful he has so many layers on he can’t help but wish for more. The cold doesn’t seem to bother or slow Hux at all, aside from the flush his cold-chapped cheeks sport. They pause only once, at the windy and bitterly cold top of the mountain, so Hux can regain his bearings.
At the top of the mountain, the path leads them across it and down, into a crevice between two smaller hills on the other side. The wind from the top is thankfully gone once they’re hidden in the rocks, but the mist persists, slowly soaking Ren’s armor through. For the fifth time since leaving the shuttle, he regrets leaving the mask behind; hard as it may be to see and hear anything through, it keeps his face warm.
He’s almost too cold to feel even rage or regret by the time Hux finally begins to slow his pace. Ahead, Ren can see the shape of two pillars nestled away in the rock of the wall. As they get closer, he realizes it’s almost marbled, the rock polished so thoroughly he almost doesn’t recognize it as the same rock it’s built into. They stop in front of two dark doors, entirely out of place for the locale surrounding them, and Hux finally turns to face Ren, his face closed and pensive.
“This is…” he begins, and pauses, not sure how best to phrase his thoughts. Ren waits patiently, eyes roaming over every inch of the doors. “As you know, there is very little in my life I cling to or care for so much to be a detriment,” Hux says, watching Ren carefully. “This place is secret for that very reason. It is incredibly important to me, and I will not have it come between me and my goals, or brought against me.”
“What is this place?” Ren asks, his voice hushed by Hux’s mood. This feels like hallowed ground to the General, and it begins to dawn on him that he doesn’t feel he belongs. This is almost too personal. Something akin to panic seats itself in his stomach.
“Our situation is unique,” Hux responds, clearly ignoring the question. “We are… trapped, in cages largely of our own design, and even in the best case scenario our lives will not end painlessly. That is an end I’ve committed to, and..” Hux lets out a slow breath, swearing under his breath and glancing away. It takes him a moment to decide to carry on. “And as… uncomfortable, as I am to admit it, that is an end I’m willing to meet with you at my side.”
Ren’s attention snaps to the General. He stares, watching every movement of Hux’s face, listening to his emotions. There’s something soft showing itself to him. The panic gets louder. “Hux,” he murmurs.
“Ren, hush. Let me speak.” Ren doesn’t take the snapped response personally, feeling the same unease in Hux, underlined with a frustration. “We’ve agreed never to discuss this, in not so many terms, and I am unwilling to break that rule. But there is something here, much to my dismay, and it has recently become important to me that I… show you this. I cannot explain it, I don’t wish to discuss it, but suffice to know that you are the only person I have ever brought to this place and will likely ever bring here.”
So much between them is always unspoken conversation. The chill of the mist is nothing to the cold dread in his stomach as he realizes the full extent of Hux’s words. This is their version of –that word, that thing that has threatened to undermine his work with Supreme Leader Snoke before, something born of hatred that became something else. Something warmer, something closer, something sweet. He can feel them both standing on a precipice, and Hux is practically holding out his hand and asking Ren to make the jump with him.
Hux seems to sense the panicked thought processes in Ren’s mind and hisses out a frustrated sigh. “Relax,” he murmurs, “we will walk back, if ..you would rather.” There’s a severe disappointment behind his words, and he doesn’t seem to believe he could have been so wrong.
“No,” Ren responds forcefully, the push behind his own words shocking him. Hux looks equally shocked, raising an unamused eyebrow. Ren can feel this slipping through his fingers, refusing to lose this feeling, this closeness. “No, no. Show me.”
Hux looks Ren over, slowly inspecting every inch of him, searching for any hesitation, as if he’s unsure he can trust Ren’s words. In Ren’s mind, on that cliff, they’ve taken hands. “All right,” Hux sighs, his voice annoyed. “If you insist.” He steps forward, pulling his gloves off and stuffing them in his pocket. “The doors are coded to my fingerprint,” he explains, reaching out for the handles.
The doors certainly look as if they should open with difficulty and loud creaking, but they slide forward silently, easily, in Hux’s hands. There’s nothing but darkness inside, and Ren peers at it, trying to see anything.
“Come,” Hux says, stepping in. After a moment’s hesitation, Ren follows.
As they move further inside, small lights set into the walls turn themselves on. The light is soft but lacking any warmth, the sharp angles of the room seeming to forbid it. Everything is that polished stone, smooth and cold walls and ceiling and floor, and the small curved alcoves the lights are set in the only soft form in the room. Something is set into the wall at the end of the room, and Hux strides towards it as quietly as he can manage.
Brendol Hux, reads the inscription, with a title, dates and a short quote beneath it. Ren peers at it curiously.
“This is a tomb,” he finally says, breaking the silence with his deep echo.
“Yes,” Hux replies quietly. “Ren, I would like you to meet my father.”
The gravity of the situation is finally made clear to him, and he’s awed. This is a dangerously personal mission, after all. He understands the test, understands he’s passed. He feels almost woozy from the triumph of it, and the realization that he is somehow so much more to the General than he’d realized. He stares at the inscription for a long moment.
“You were close?”
“As much as we could be, I’m sure,” Hux sniffs, staring at the inscription. “Before the Empire fell, he was a commandant at the Academy on Arkanis. It was his vision that guided me through the Order, of troopers raised from birth to be the perfect army. He believed in survival of the fittest, and tirelessly drove me to the position I hold today, without mercy.” He reaches out, just barely running his fingertips over the carved name.
“I see,” Ren murmurs.
“This mausoleum was my design; with the fall of the Empire, it no longer became safe for supporters such as my father to be open with their beliefs, and I have no doubt displaying such a respectful marker would leave it open to vandals, at best.” He pulls his hand away again, replacing his gloves. Ren watches him carefully. “I may not have loved my father,” Hux says with a hint of displeasure at the word, “and I certainly wouldn’t say we cared for one another, but his contributions to the Empire and certainly to the First Order deserved something more than becoming a distant memory.”
Such attachment, such reverence. It’s somewhat shocking, but not quite out of place for the General, Ren decides. To honor his father in his own way seems to fit exactly with what Ren knows about him, even if he seems terribly embarrassed to share it with anyone.
They linger for only a few minutes more. The tomb is wonderfully built, sturdy and clean. He wanders away from the inscription to inspect one of the lights, and behind him Hux speaks softly to the marker, voice hushed in hopes Ren would not hear. He doesn’t bother listening; it feels too personal, even considering what he’s been shown today, and instead he wanders further away to give Hux the space.
Once finished, Hux strides for the door. Ren falls in step behind him effortlessly, careful to keep his boots from displacing too much of the silence. The lights extinguish the moment they cross the threshold back into the frigid mist, and the doors close without assistance. Hux glances down the way with a grim face, letting out a slow breath.
“He never would have approved of my attachment,” he says into the air, and Ren understands the unspoken to you. “Not while the Order is still so young, with so many battles yet to win. But, if I followed every word my father said, I likely would never had made it so far quite so fast.”
“This is where we lived, after the fall. There’s a city some distance from here,” and Hux points at it, unseen through the rock, “not that it’s worth revisiting, I assure you.” He’s quiet for a moment, considering. “We were always safe here, and I have no fear of intruders disturbing him.” He looks at Ren. “What little is left of him. A name, in a wall whose existence he would have considered weakness in physical form.” This bores Hux, and he decides it’s time to leave. He begins walking without looking back. “Come on.”
The walk back up the mountain is much easier now that Ren knows where he’s going, if more exhausting for all the uphill. He doesn’t mind; the extra exertion doesn’t bother him, and in fact helps warm him. When they’ve returned to the shuttle, Hux removes his cap and throws it onto the bench meant for passengers with an annoyed sigh, as if this entire exercise was an unfortunate chore. His soaked overcoat joins it on the bench, and he takes his place in the captain’s chair again, not looking at Ren following close behind.
“When I asked for leave, I asked for the entire day,” Hux mutters, putting the shuttle through the pre-flight cycles. “We have time to visit a nearby station for lunch.” There’s a long, awkward pause as Ren takes his place in the co-pilot’s seat, considering his words. Finally: “..If you would like.”
Hux looks at Ren. His face is guarded, but an uneasy gentleness hides behind his eyes, and he stares at Ren as if his face will yield all the answers, will stop him from making this mistake, will convince him he’s either right or wrong. Ren stares back, sensing all of this. He can practically hear the fear in Hux grow with each uncomfortable second of silence.
Leaning forward, Ren places one soft kiss on Hux’s lips, trying to quell that maelstrom. He pulls back, shifting in his seat and dropping the mask to the floor beside him. “I would,” Ren finally says, “I would like that.”
“Good,” Hux snaps, though Ren can feel a small amount of pleasure from him, and is pleased in return. “I’m starving.”
“Thank you for bringing me here,” Ren says, quietly, as they begin their ascent. “For this.”
Hux’s only response is a short, tight nod.