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Political War Rituals

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The room is crowded with people already. Politicians, people aiming to sink their claws in and make connections for one reason or another. The air is thick with emotion, too many thoughts and pressure on the forefront of Ben’s mind. He licks his lips, wonders why he ever agreed to this and stands at the top of the stairwell leading into the crowd.

Like stepping into a snakepit.

His long dress robes are silver, soft and silky under his touch. It is accented with a red under robe in much the same style as the jedi tunic he’d worn up until he left the Jedi academy to get to where he is, in that present moment.

 His heeled boots are the same crimson as the undershirt, obscured by the layers of fabric that meet the floor and make a short train behind him. His hair is pinned up, a crown of silver intricately weaved branches that mix through his hair in some points. He’d made a point of wearing dark makeup, bringing out the green in his eyes. He wanted to stand out tonight, if he were to meet the person who had tried to tempt him into the dark.

 “Had to be dramatic, did you?” Hux asks, looking over him with some measure of disdain. Ben resists the urge to roll his eyes, instead taking Hux’s arm as it’s offered to him albeit reluctantly.

 “There’s a difference between drama and making a statement.” Ben informs him, like he’s speaking to a child. “I see they heeded my advice and put you in something other than that hideous uniform.”

 It’s an abject lie, the uniform looks good on Hux, but it’s worth it to see the annoyance that clearly shows in Hux’s expression for a moment. “I dressed myself, I’m not an insolent manchild like you. And I also chose the outfit, Prince.

 “I’m impressed.” Ben says nonchalantly, “You’re a quicker learner than I expected. With this crowd, you’ll have to be. Something tells me you’re not personable by nature.”

 Hux huffs, “I’m aware of how political parties work. I’m surprised you’re not falling over yourself in excitement, this seems exactly the sort of event that you could pander for all the attention you so obviously crave.” He lifts his upper lip in a sneer.

 “I love my people. I would do anything for them,” Ben says, “But I don’t agree with a lot of the backdoor politics that happen in these sort of events.”

 “You’re smarter than you look then.” Hux says, stepping down the stairs with him. They look closer than they are, a magnificent mental distance between them even with Ben’s hand tucked into the crook of Hux’s skinny arm.

 Ben can’t help to wonder if his grandmother felt that painful unhappy gulf within her, having to pretend that he is happy, having to comply to something so lonely for the sake of peace. He’d known that a normal marriage was out of the question for him long ago, but still somehow he laments the fact that he’ll never have someone to talk to at the end of the hard day. That he’ll never be married to someone he trusts.

 Why bother with such a trivial thing? You could just as easily force him to submit to your will. You know you’re capable of it.

 He feels like he’s been shoved out into space, vacuumed up into a set of bones simultaneously too big to fill and too small to contain him. He slams his mental walls into place like he should have done to begin with, turning his head to see an enormous pale man sitting in one of the heavily decorated chairs. His face was scarred, deformed in some spots. Scarring decorated the corners of his lips. His eyes were utterly inhuman, horrifying in some abstract way Ben couldn’t pin down.

 Kylo Ren had submitted himself to this person, allowed himself to become a slave to this person. Why?

 “Senator!” Hux snaps, and he looks over in surprise. Hux is at the very bottom of the staircase, arm back in an awkward way toward Ben who was still one step up. “It’s about time.” He says, giving a gentle tug to Ben’s hand with his elbow.

 He follows the guidance, allowing Hux to pull him away from the staircase and toward the very man who both fascinated and disgusted Ben so much.

 “Supreme Leader Snoke.” Ben says, smoothly. “How wonderful it is to see you in person.”

 “And you, Prince Solo-Organa.” He smiles, taking Ben’s free hand and giving it a squeeze that makes Ben want to be sick.

 “Senator.” Ben corrects, easily. “I have never been a prince.”

 “Perhaps not officially.” Snoke says, in a lilting tone of voice. “You are the closest thing they have to a ruler currently.”

 “It’s my pleasure to serve.” Ben says, firmly. “I do hope you enjoy yourself, Supreme Leader. If you’ll forgive me, I have others to greet and attend to.”

 “Do take your time, Senator. You’ll always come back to me.” He says it simply, like a stated fact. Hux looks impassive, but Ben can feel the spike of thinly veiled contempt through Hux resounding in his mind. For once, it seems he and his husband are on the same page at least.

 Ben doesn’t bother responding, turning to lead Hux away toward the rest of the party-goers. Somewhere in his mind, he can’t eliminate the image of Kylo Ren lying in the snow soaked in his own blood.  

 The room is enormous, crystal chandeliers cascading from the ceiling and radiating light over all of the party-goers. He clenches his hand tighter in Hux’s elbow, silently begging him not to let go without using the Force. Hux glances at him, but says nothing.

 “The fairest Prince in the galaxy,” some politician from Hosnian Prime Ben recognized all too well drawled, coming close enough that Ben could smell the alcohol on him from a pace away. “Aren’t we lucky you showed up?” He winks with one large eye, the other three staying wide open.

 “Wug’Jeendi.” Ben slips into absolute professionalism, smiling with his teeth. “It is a pleasure.”

 He brings Ben’s free hand to what presumably were his lips. “You should meet some of my friends. Make a few deals, hmm?”

 Ben expected Hux to split immediately, leaving him to deal with the poorly disguised slimefest of politics Wug offered. Instead, Hux slips his elbow away from Ben’s hand and pulls him closer by his waist instead, encircling an arm around him. “We’re quite busy actually.” He says, “Perhaps another time.”

 A wave of gratitude washes over Ben so strongly that he’s afraid it will spill over into Hux, but if it has Hux shows no sign of it. Ben puts his hand on Hux’s lower back and circles once, a thank you. Hux doesn’t look at him.

 He hadn’t really expected Hux to acknowledge it.

 “What will you do, when they make you their Queen?” Hux asks, casually picking a glass of something vibrant blue off of a tray a long legged woman with blue skin carries past them. She smiles sweetly at Hux. Hux makes a face at the drink, but drinks it down in one sip anyway.

 “They won’t.” Ben says, “They already asked me.”

 Hux turns, eyes a fraction wider before he catches himself. “You said no? Why?”

 "Because I was freshly out of the Jedi Academy, where I lived on an island in a Jedi temple  for many years of my life. I’m not a Queen, or a Prince. I was not raised to be.” He says, sharper than he intended. “This isn’t about the power for me. This is about ensuring the safety and comfort of my people. They will find and elect another Queen. Someone young and kind who can adapt, someone who I can help grow.”

 Hux watches him for a moment, expression neutral. “I hadn’t expected such a thoughtful answer from someone who looks about as intelligent as a durasteel wall.”

 “You don’t know me, General.” Ben says, and it sounds like a threat. He isn’t even sure if he intended for it to be.

 “Clearly.” Hux says, picking up another drink. “I don’t particularly want to either.”

 “Sad for you,” Ben says, “We’re stuck together.”

 Hux knocks the drink back in one swift go, “Let’s pray that I die a glorious swift death sooner rather than later.”

 Ben closes his eyes, thinks again about Kylo Ren bleeding in the snow. His eyes wide, wound across his face and shoulder open and dripping blood. His lips parted, skin the same white as the snow unstained by the dark red that is spreading around him.

 “Maybe it won’t be you that dies first, General.” He says, darkly. “You give me more credit than you probably should.”

 “I don’t,” Hux says, bitterly. “The most insufferable people always live longest.”

 “No wonder you’ve started drinking already,” Ben gives him a disgusted look, “Even you can’t stand yourself.”

 “Welcome to marriage.” Hux says, smirking.


“Do you enjoy being in General Hux’s company?” Ben glanced up in the mirror at the black haired man Hux had once again brought with him. He was assuming the man was there to keep an eye on him, watchful of any attack plans under the guise of ‘helping the Senator’. He’d let the insult slide. A paranoid man was a weak man, and if Hux gave in to the temptation to be weak then it was all the more gain for him.

 “He’s a good general, Senator.” The man said quietly, frowning at the question.

 “Hm. What is your name?”

 “Lieutenant Mitaka, Senator.”

 Ben tilted his head, examining him in the mirror. “Alright then, Mitaka. Can I call you that?”

 He looked rather confused, but nodded. He had pretty eyes, Ben decided. It would be a shame if Hux turned on him. He’d have to end up killing something so sweet and innocent looking. Ben kept that thought tight and secure, tucking it away somewhere deep in his mind so his mother and uncle wouldn’t hear it.

 “Okay, Grab that panel of fabric at my waist and button it all the way up, will you? I assure you it will fit around the boning just fine.” He lowered his lashes, smiling sweetly at Mitaka through the mirror.

 Mitaka actually blushed, the color rising high in his cheeks as he skittishly moved forward to do as Ben had asked. “You didn’t answer my question.” Ben said softly, brushing his hands over the fabric. “About the General.”

 “I suppose I do, sir. We don’t really fraternize in the First Order other than necessary little events. I don’t know him personally, but he’s a good General and looks out for his people. That’s all we can ask for.”

 Ben nodded as Mitaka finished the last button and stepped away from him. “Thank you, Mitaka.”

 Mitaka was good at hiding his thoughts, something that was somewhat surprising considering the General’s thoughts were so wide and open at times. He considered it, and dismissed it as interesting fact. He knew the man wasn’t Force-sensitive himself and sometimes in positions like Mitaka’s it was better to have mental defences rather than physical.

 “Do you have a wife or husband?” He asked, sitting to put on delicate partial heeled boots. Deceitfully dangerous if kicked in just the right way, just how he liked them. Mitaka blinked, looking rather surprised at the question before he glanced away from Ben’s legs.

 “No. I uh, I didn’t want to get married. Senator.” He added awkwardly.

 “Neither did I.” Ben said, smiling tightly at him and standing when both boots had been laced. If his height was to his advantage before, it was even more of one with the boots. “Sometimes, the Force has a funny way of making things happen unexpectedly.”

 And it’s of no coincidence that the man I was destined to marry is a puppet of a man who tried to lure me to the dark side as a child.

 Be careful, Ben. His uncle touched minds with him, concerned. Ben brushed it away. If their Supreme Leader were to try the same tactics again, they would fail just as miserably as they had the first time. He’d grown stronger, and he’d learned far more about who he was since then.

 "I think you two are terrifying.” Mitaka mumbles, so quietly that Ben thought he imagined it.

 “Terrifying?” He asked, and there was a spike of fear previously hidden behind the durasteel of walls that Mitaka hid his mind behind. Then nothingness. He slammed himself shut like someone would close windows against the howling of the wind outside.

 “I just mean… you both are passionate people. I’ve seen the General’s speeches. I’ve heard the way your people talk about you. Adoringly, even. If you two got along, you could do a lot with that strength. Even rule the galaxy.” He bites his bottom lip, glancing away. “Forget I said anything… Senator.”

 Ben smiles, and it’s genuine. “Thank you. I take that as a compliment.”

 Even if he is still a pile of bantha shit.

 He led the way out, Mitaka and other attendees trailing after him as he started walking toward the agreed upon area in which they were set to be married. His blood feels like it’s boiling as he spots his father next to his mother, grinning wildly as he approached. This kind of feeling is dark, eats away at him from the inside out. His hate is like a disease, wearing away at the light he’s worked so diligently to build. Of course the bastard would come, he always ruins everything in Ben’s life. Shocking, since he tried so hard to not be a part of it.

 He gave his father what could only be described as a glacial look as he passed, turning his face away before he could see the look on his mother’s face.

 “Ben.” Han calls out to him.

 He can feel his father’s hand reaching toward him, all too intent on pressing onto his shoulder. Too much familiarity. He draws himself to full towering height, forcibly pushing Han’s hand back and away from him with his mind.

 Stay away . He doesn’t care if the thought is rough and jagged with his anguish, that he’s pushed the thought hard into his father’s mind without care of what it touches or how he feels. It doesn’t matter that his father his hurt and shocked at that kind of dismissal. It doesn’t. None of that childhood abandonment mattered anymore.

 He refuses to remember crying in Luke’s temple as the Falcon flew away. “Sorry kid, I’m not here to pick you up.” He’d said, an awkward smile and fear in his eyes. He refuses to remember thinking that maybe he was already becoming evil, if his father was so willing to walk out of his life.

 No, none of it mattered.

 Ben. His mother touches his mind, softly. Sadly.

 I don’t want him to be here.

 He’s your father, Ben. He should be here.

 He is not . He abandoned me. He didn’t want me. He blamed me for all the things he should have shielded me from. He should have been a real father. Then, maybe, I would have respected him. As it stands, he’s nothing to me.

 But the pang in his heart as he remembered his dream vision of Kylo Ren stabbing Han through the chest still hurt in a way that proved to him that wasn’t true. Not completely. The only thing that concerned him was that the anger was all too real, and all too dark. If anything could have ever pushed him to the dark, it was his unresolved feelings about his parents letting him go when he’d needed them the most. His mother, as dear as she was to his heart, had been so set on warfare and anger that she too had left him to his own devices. He still didn’t know how to find it in his heart to completely forgive her, though some days it was easier than others. But he found it impossible to look his father in the eyes after he’d walked away and left Ben with his Uncle.  

 The image of his grandmother, the young lost Queen Amidala capturing his attention had saved him. As had his Uncle’s intervention on steering him down the right path, meditating, talking him through his visions and fears. Queen Amidala’s quiet strength and genuine love for her people had swept Ben’s heart from his chest, and he found he’d never wanted to follow in anyone’s footsteps like he’d wanted to be like her. She’d deserved so much, and died with so much grief in her heart.

 He would not make the same mistake.

 Without his admiration and steadfast resolve to be like Queen Amidala, and without Luke intervening and trying to keep the light in him alive, Ben and Kylo Ren would have been one. They had very nearly become one.

 Shaking himself out of the memories and feelings, he glanced up.

 It was a circular platform above the crowd, built on top of the solid marble it was created from where General Hux stood, waiting for him. The marble reflected the sun from the sky, giving the impression the entire thing was glowing. Overwhelming light, an imitation of the sun touching the sky from where he stood. He should feel relieved to see it, a beacon of possible futures. A crossroad in his life, where a future of peace was possible.

 And yet his nightmares-- visions of a life that wasn’t his-- plagued him too much to try and see much hope in symbolism at the moment.

 Their officiant stood next to the General, unease rolling off of him from being so close to the First Order officer. The Six already waited, lined up on the edges of the steps leading to the top of the platform.

 He wore white with gold trim, though his stony expression took away from the handsomeness of the overall look.

 “Don't look so enthused, General.” He muttered as he reached the top, intending Hux to be the only one to hear it as he passed to stand in front of him. His attendees followed, the long train of fabric in their hands. It glittered, a thousand suns in his dress reflected from the true sun of the sky shining above him.

 Hux gave him a very unimpressed look. Ben wore the inverse of Hux, gold fabric adorned with white lace and trim. He wore a gold circlet around his head and his hair was braided and neatly pinned at the back of his head. He'd wanted to just throw it in a messy bun, but his mother wouldn't stand for it. His upper lip was painted a dark red, matching the color around his eyes.

 His mother had called it somewhat haunting. But Ben felt like it brought out the color of his eyes, so he had stayed with it. Hux didn't seem bothered, with the way his eyes lingered on Ben’s lips for just a moment too long.

 “You look like the sun.” Hux said, looking him over. His gaze lingered on Ben’s lips.

 “That’s the nicest thing you’ve ever said to me.” Ben raised his eyebrows.

 “I’ve always wanted to destroy the sun.” Hux said, expression deadpan.

 Ben resists the urge to roll his eyes.

 “Are you ready?” The officiant asked, his voice booming over the crowd. For a moment, Ben felt like he had gone deaf as the noise of the crowd melted away into utter silence. There were thousands, staring up at them. Hux’s eyes narrowed again. He wasn’t staring at Ben’s lips anymore.

 Ben gave a nod, reaching forward to take Hux’s hands into his own. Hux complied, but his feelings about it were oddly muddled. Ben often wondered if the feeling of being surrounded so completely muted out his ability to share the feelings of individuals, or if this was just Hux being indecisive about how to feel.

 "Senator Ben Organa-Solo, General…” He hesitated.

 “Hux.” He says, tightly. His eyes dare Ben to try and demand his first name from him.

 “As he says.” Ben commands boredly as the officiant looks at him instead.

 “General Hux.” He acquiesces, folding his hands in front of him, “You stand here before this crowd to be married, officially creating an alliance between the New Republic and the First Order.”

 “Yes.” Ben confirms, Hux’s agreement echoing his own.

 “You make a commitment to your people, binding you together to protect not only each other but the factions you represent in long lasting peace and happiness?”

 General Hux glanced at him, an eyebrow raised.

 "Non-typical weddings call for non-typical vows, my dear.” Ben sneers, glancing back the the officiant. “Yes. I make this commitment on behalf of the New Republic. I pledge to you, General Hux, my dedication, commitment and my intent for peace. One day, I hope to see our factions as one. No longer a ceasefire, no longer two nations on the precipice of war, but one combined.”

 We don’t have to fight each other like this. You can rule everything here, with me. He hadn’t meant to push the thought forward. Touching minds with people who weren’t Force-Sensitive usually was difficult and tedious. It alarmed him that his thought seamlessly drifted to Hux, without resistance. Hux was not Force-sensitive in the slightest, but he was entirely susceptible to Ben’s Force abilities.

 He had a growing sense of dread in his stomach of how much power that realization wielded.

 Hux nearly jumps out of his skin, jerking his hands away in surprise. He stares for a long moment, narrowing his eyes as he slowly moves forward again to take Ben’s hands.

 “Don’t do that.” He says, his voice strained. “Whatever that was.”

 “I apologize.” Ben said, genuinely. Hux hadn't been prepared for that kind of contact, clearly. Neither of them had. His confusion stood out starkly over the rest of his muddled feelings. How the hell…?

 Hux recovers quicker than Ben does. “I, General Hux of the First Order, vow to you that we intend to keep the peace between our factions. I too pledge my commitment and dedication to you, as I have to the First Order. With this alliance, we can focus on peace rather than war.”

 “We stand as equals, not enemies.” Ben agreed. “Something that pleases me greatly to say, and feared I wouldn't be able to.”

 Hux wanted to roll his eyes, he was absolutely sure. “Exactly.” He said, instead.

 “With that, do you promise to stay together through sickness and health? Do you promise the rest of your lives together?”

 Until this moron gives me a stress related heart attack because of his flagrant stupidity. Hux thought, rather savagely as he said “I do.”

 “Senator Ben Organa-Solo?” The officiant asked. Ben’s upper lip twitched almost into a snarl, but he caught it before the motion fully made it.

 “I do.” He said, probably harsher than he needed to.

 “Good. You may now… Uh. Kiss, if you would like to.”

 Ben moved forward without hesitating, intending it as a challenge and not knowing exactly what to expect as Hux learned forward to meet him halfway. It was a short kiss, but definitely a direct one. As he moved to pull away, Ben bit down on his bottom lip. Hux jumps as Ben tastes blood and lets go of him.

 Ben smirked. He isn’t sure if the red on his lips is because of the bite or his lip paint.

 “You are now husbands.” The officiant says, giving a grandiose little wave.

 “You mean I’m now chained to a useless delusional madman who wears dresses and thinks he’s got enough grace to be a prince. But he doesn’t.” Hux lifts his upper lip in a sneer.

 Ben wants to be offended, wants to rise to the bait, but instead he gives an innocent look and shrugs. “You didn’t seem to mind too much when you kissed me, General.”

 He’s angry , and it feels soothing in a way. It makes him feel less guilty about being angry himself, about the wedding, about his father, about everything. More than ever before, he wishes he had his grandmother to stand beside him and tell him what to do.

 But she’s long dead, and he stands alone at the altar as Hux storms away from him down the steps. Marriage feels exactly like he always thought it would feel.  

 Lonely.

 The cheering of the crowd and smiles drowns out into white noise and sea of faceless bodies, and Ben thinks it’s probably okay to feel devastated for a little while although he’s not completely sure why he feels that way.


 

“Grandmother.” Ben knelt before her tomb, his hands clasped together as if he prayed hard enough she might appear to him. He knew it was impossible, no matter how hard he wished. His grandmother hadn’t been Force sensitive, had lost too much in this world to even want to come back even if she could. He wouldn’t blame her.

 “Forgive me. I feel it, the burden of so many lives relying on my guidance. I’m scared to let them down. I’m scared that the dark part of me… that Kylo Ren still might have a chance of becoming a reality.” It felt relieving somehow, to whisper it out loud. “I’m trying so hard for my people, I’m trying so hard to be what I was meant to be. Someone you would be proud of.”

 He sighed, sinking to sit on his knees before the tomb, putting his hands on the stone lightly. “I married someone, Grandmother. He’s… a General of the First Order. It was arranged to end the war between our factions. I was happy to do that, happy to give whatever it takes to keep my people safe… but I fear the worst. I also fear that we’ll always hate each other. I know I didn’t marry for love, but it would be nice to not feel so alone all the time.” He feels ashamed the minute the words are out.

 He shouldn’t feel guilty when his uncle and mother consistently provide advice when he needs it. When he has a room of advisors from different planets, when he has any number of people on his planetary systems. When his Six are ever devotedly at his side if he asks them to be. And yet it made it so much more obvious when he had all of that, that his long lasting friendships were few and far between and that he’d never truly allowed himself to love anyone completely.

 Maybe he’d lost the chance of true romance altogether when he’d agreed to the arranged marriage.

 He bit his bottom lip hard, forcing back the sharp little sob that threatened to break through all of his mental walls and crumble them. “I just want to be happy too, Padmé. I want my people to be safe, to sleep soundly. I would do anything for them, I swear it. But I want to really be happy. I want someone I could tell everything to and not be afraid. Of myself, of scaring them away… of any number of things. I know you would understand. You married my grandfather.”

 He forces himself to take a deep breath, to focus on his heart erratically beating in his chest and calm the frantic, ridiculous thing. Grounding himself through the Force and balancing his emotions is what causes him to become aware of someone standing behind him.

 He jolted to his feet, heart hammering in his throat and his lightsaber in hand as he whipped around to face the intruder. He very nearly dropped it as he met the man’s eyes. He’d been pretty in life, wavy dark blond locks around his face and a scar over one eye.

 “Hey Ben.” He said, the edges of him fading into the area behind him. He was slightly translucent, and he almost looked sheepish. “Or, I suppose, grandson.”

 “Anakin?” He asked, his voice pitching upward in surprise. “I mean… grandfather. Or… Lord Vader?”

 His eyes narrowed, and he shook his head sharply. “No. You were right the first time, just call me Anakin. Grandfather makes me feel old.”

 Ben smiled, brushing a strand of hair that had escaped his bun back over his ear. “Okay then. I… Why are you here? I don’t intend to sound rude. I just… didn’t expect to find you here. You became one with the Force.”

 Anakin inclined his head in agreement, moved to lean against his grandmother’s tomb. “Same as you, I suppose. I miss her often, you know. I ruined everything I had with her.” He frowned, looking down at the stone. “You remind me a lot of her, actually.”

 Ben felt his eyes widen, and he smiled again. “Really?”

 "Yes. The way you spoke to her tomb, the way you’re dressed… you have a lot of her spirit. The same love that she had of her people.” He glanced over at Ben, then back down at the tomb. “I’m sure you’re a wonderful leader. I’m not good at giving advice, I’m afraid. Obi-Wan was always better at that sort of thing.”

 Ben gave a soft laugh, “The one I’m named after?”

 “Yes.” Anakin said, “But I can give you one bit of advice.”

 Ben nodded, watching Anakin’s face.

 “I don’t believe that I was the Chosen One.” Anakin dragged his attention away from the tomb, meeting his eyes. “I think that you are. There’s dark and light in you both, so much so that I don’t know if you truly ever could commit to one side or the other. I was the same. As much as I wanted to turn to that hatred… as much as I wanted to let the darkness consume me, it was impossible. Even when I lost so much. But love saved me, Ben. My son needed me, and he was worth sacrificing myself for. Don’t give in to the dark. Hold those you love close to you, and never let go. Give people chances. Let yourself love, not hate.” He put his hands on Ben’s shoulders. It was an odd feeling, like someone was there and not at the same time. The Force presence though, it was there at the front of his mind. Strong.

 “I know it sounds ridiculous. Sometimes impossible. But that’s the hardest thing I had to learn in my lifetime. I want to do this one thing right, I want to pass that on to you.” Anakin says firmly, “Trust your instincts. If you want to care for someone, if you feel that you can trust them then do. If your gut tells you to run, then run far away. But never allow them to take anything from you.”

 Ben nodded, not trusting his voice if he tried to say anything out loud. He swallowed once, twice.

 “Anakin.”

 “Yes?”

 “Would Grandmother Padmé have accepted me?”

 Anakin smiled, “She would have been so proud. And she certainly would have accepted you. Who am I kidding, she’d parade you in front of everyone and never cease to tell all kinds of stories to everyone she knows. She would have been an amazing grandmother. And… for the record, though I’m not sure it means much,  I’m proud of you too.”

 Ben reached a hand hesitantly, patted his grandfather’s shoulder as much as he could with Anakin not having a solid corporeal form. “Thank you. It does mean a lot to me.”

 “Of course. Now, I must go. May the force be with you, and my children.” He gave an awkward squeeze of Ben’s shoulders, fading further into the day until there was nothing left but the residual feeling of the hands that had touched his shoulders.

 He let out a breath he didn’t realize he was holding.

 Nothing will stand in our way. I will finish what you started, Grandfather.

 Ben clenched his hands into fists, closing his eyes to the modulated voice of someone who would never exist. You didn’t even know what you were talking about, you foolish child.

 He bent over, pressed a kiss to the stone of his grandmother’s tomb and stepped away. “Sleep well, Grandmother. I hope it is peaceful, wherever you are.”

 Vaguely, he felt a memory not his own of a beautiful woman with flowers in her hair. Her hands crossed over her heart. The sweet smell of flowers and the soft sound of laughter. It was there and gone in a moment’s notice.

 It made his heart ache.


 

Hux lounged in the chair of the guest room he was staying in. Lieutenant Mitaka and the woman he learned to be Captain Phasma sat in their own chairs, discussing something that made her laugh loudly. It was a pleasant noise.

 He turned away to his own rooms opposite Hux’s and shut the doors behind him.

 Are you unwell, Senator? I sense a disturbance in your energy.

 One of the Six, he discerned. I am alright, I just prefer to be alone right now. Can you do that for me?

 I’ll come stand outside your door myself.

 Thank you Tanaris.

 Any time, Ben.

 For a moment, Ben wondered what it would have been like to be born without the Force. Without well known parents, allowed to just have friends and exist in a planetary system that didn’t rely on him to make the right decisions. That wouldn’t care if he made mistakes or wanted time to himself. He wondered what it would feel like to be with someone who actually loved him, to want so badly to marry them and spend the rest of his life with them.

 It was a waste of time to hurt about something he couldn’t change.

 “It’s not a crime to have feelings.” He muttered, echoing the exact sentiment he’d told Hux when he’d met him. “It’s not wrong to fantasize about things I can never have.”

 He pinched the bridge of his nose hard, hoping the pain would distract him from everything. Ben went to his window, looking out over the city and the darkness touching the lands as night crept in.

 "So do you like him?” Phasma asked, her arms resting on the plush fabric padding her chair. “He seems rather interesting, anyway.”

 “He was nice to me when I talked to him.” Mitaka answered, shrugging. “He wanted to know more about the General.”

 “Gossiping.” Hux said, with some distaste. “Not surprised the leader of the New Republic is just as useless and vain as everyone else on this kriffhole of a planet.”

 “It wasn’t like that, sir. He wanted to know how I felt about you. If you were nice, I guess.” Mitaka fidgeted, suddenly uncomfortable. “He didn’t ask how you feel about him or anything. I think he’s just… concerned. He doesn’t know any of us.”

 “He’s lonely.” Phasma said, “I’m not surprised, honestly. It seems like it’s every man for himself in these kinds of politics.”

 “He chose it.” Hux snapped, “Don’t go pitying the enemy. Of course he’s lonely, do you see the kind of shit he wears?”

 “Do you see the way you look at him when he’s wearing it? Please Hux, you can fool an entire army of stormtroopers if you like. But you don’t fool me.”

 Ben slammed his hands down on the windowsill so hard that his hands temporarily numbed completely before pain prickled at his skin. Anger coursed through him so fully that for a moment, maybe he understood the absolute maelstrom that Kylo Ren represented in all of his dreams. If he’d had no restraint maybe, maybe…

 But he wasn’t that easily unseated from himself anymore. He had more control, more training than that version of himself had. He had more choices than Kylo Ren had. Letting Hux win was unacceptable, inconceivable.

 But then again, maybe I shouldn’t have eavesdropped.

 He crossed the room to his bed, dropped into it unceremoniously. “I don’t want to be in my own head right now.” He muttered into the pillow. “Just take my feelings. All of this useless turmoil.”

 Whatever emptiness occupied the room didn’t answer him, but Ben felt himself fall away into exhaustion anyway.


 

Don’t hurt them. Don’t let me hurt them. Don’t let me become him . Please. He’s right, I can’t do this. He’s right . He’s right. Just let me die .

 His entire body feels like it doesn’t belong to him, clawing and twisting in some concrete unchanging form. It was painful trying to break outside of unyielding walls, screaming to be free of the hell imprisoned inside of it.

 “Senator!” Someone yelled into his ear, and he felt the air rip through his lungs and an uncomfortably strong pang of relief as he panted heavy breaths. Hux kneeled over him, face close as he focused his eyes finally on Hux's face. “How often does that happen?” Hux asked, tone subdued.

 “Does what?” Ben asked, voice ragged. It hurt to speak.

 “When you start screaming to the point you stop breathing.” Hux said, staring at him in a way he couldn’t comprehend. He was guarding his thoughts again. It frustrated Ben more than it really should. “I thought you were going to strangle yourself.” He tugged at Ben’s hands, still pressed against his neck.

 Ben let him pull them away. He wondered how much of a wreck he looked, all tangled hair with so much pain and fear haunting him in his sleep. He’d never been safe, even in his dreams. “It happens sometimes.” Ben said, forcing nonchalance into his voice. He was still shaking. Lack of air, that was it.

 Hux looked over at him again, frowning. “That’s not normal.”

 “ No, you don’t say.” Ben said, somewhat angrily as he sat up and ran a hand through his hair. “When did you come in here?”

 “When you started screaming bloody murder. I thought that…” He made a vague motion, “It took a while to wake you up.”

 “That kind of dream is hard to break out of.” Ben hated that Hux had seen him so weak, had been there to see it. And the odd gentleness he was displaying, like Hux pitied him. “It’s nothing.”

 “Not when you’re screaming ‘ no, please ’ and ‘ don’t hurt them, just let me die ’.” Hux narrows his eyes, and Ben grabs him and pulls him closer to kiss him. It’s a rough kiss and Hux hisses against his lips but allows him to get closer into his lap with thighs on either side of his hips. Hux’s hands press hard into Ben’s hips and hold them there. Close.

 “What do you dream about?” Hux asked, quietly.

 “Things worse than death.” Ben said, tightly, pressing his lips against Hux’s jawline and neck.  

 “There’s nothing worse than death.” Hux told him, his voice heavy in Ben’s ear. “You can’t rule over anything when you’re a rotting corpse.”

 Ben laughed, the noise hysterical and wholly not his own. “I am not afraid of death. I’d embrace it over becoming a monster. I will never betray my people that way.”

 “Okay,” Hux says with that strange tone of voice again, “Okay.”

 Instead of trying to pull Ben’s shift over his head, he only keeps his hands pressed against the warm skin of Ben’s hips and holds. It’s slightly maddening, a little disappointing but also oddly soothing. His heart is still pounding in his head, but it’s slowing.

 “Are you going to stay?” Ben asks quietly.

 Ben? Tanaris said you were screaming but you stopped when Hux went in. His mother's worry colors her thoughts. 

 I’m alright. He helped a lot.

 Really? Her surprise echoes his own that the statement is, in fact, true.

 Yes. Go back to sleep, mother.

 Alright. If you need me, call for me.

 He gently closes his mind to her, and anyone else. Hux doesn’t say anything as Ben puts his head in the dip where Hux’s neck meets the slope of his shoulder.

 "Like this, you almost seem like someone I could tolerate.” He says finally, and the snarky comment makes Ben smile and laugh.

 He feels the slightest touch of warmth from Hux soothe him, unintentional as it was. “I was going to say the same,” He lied, “but then you had to ruin it. Like everything else.”

 Hux mumbles something indiscernible. Then, “Fine. I’ll stay. Someone has to babysit you and make sure you don’t do something stupid. You useless nerfherder.”

 Ben smirked, “My mother used to call my dad that affectionately.”

 He can practically feel the scorn roll off of Hux, “Your entire family is dysfunctional.”

 "Well, obviously.” Ben rolls his eyes.

 “Go back to sleep.” Hux sighed, “If you don’t scream at least I don’t have to hear you.”

 He’s surprised Hux is still there when he wakes up, sprawled half on top of him with his leg still hooked around Hux’s hip. His whole body aches, unused to curling around someone else but at the same time he’s surprised at how nice of a feeling it is. Hux almost looks peaceful when he’s asleep.

 He’s dreaming about some blueprints, some woman standing behind him with a mask and clipped modulated tones. She shouldn’t be there, but she is anyway. Ben blocks his mind from the dream, pulls away from Hux and goes to get ready for the day.

 I heard Hux didn’t leave. His mother’s tone is almost conspiratorial.

 Mother! He tries to fend off his amusement for disgust. Even if it were that, and it wasn’t, why would you want to know??

 I don’t! I just wanted to make sure you were safe, honey.

 Ughhh don’t even talk to me.  


Hux doesn’t mention the nightmare to him, like Ben thought he would. Hux finds him already in an audience with his advisors discussing the implications of marriage, whether Ben would sometimes have to stay on the Finalizer and if so how to conduct his business from there.

 He didn’t want to go there, be in the same room with Snoke again. Last time had been unbearable.

 “So you’re not going to bother inviting me to these things?” Hux asked, sounding irritated.

 Ben tilts his head back, looking over his shoulder at the look on Hux’s face. It looks like someone just spilled a fine glass of wine down his front. At the sight of Ben’s outfit, he stops completely. For half a moment his eyes widen and his mouth drops. The dress is shorter than anything he’d worn in years, stopping just underneath the curve of his rear. It also has lace down the majority of his back, though the rest of it is a solid dark velvety green.

 “Yes?” Ben asks, resisting the urge to smirk.

 Hux makes a disgusted noise, rolling his eyes. “Fantastic, first you just dressed like a woman and now you’re dressing like a tart. Have it your way then. No one respects you anyway.”

 His advisors had the common decency to not directly stare at him, but the tension in the air was thick. Ben could feel it roll off of them in waves, mixed anxiety, some anger and a slight tinge of incredulity.

 “Whatever you say, darling .” Ben says acidly, lip curling in a snarl. “And no, I didn’t invite you. So you can kindly leave whenever you like.”

 Hux snorts, “The point of the alliance was to work together, was it not? Your business is my business now. Dear .”

 “How cute.” Ben drums his fingertips on the fabric of his chair, “Did you have to learn endearments from the nanny droid like everything else? It’s not like your parents loved you enough to give you the time of day.”

 Too far, he knew abruptly when Hux snaps into rigid military stance and his mind freezes Ben completely out. “Oh so now you of all people are resorting into digging into family? Do you really want to play that game? May I remind you that your grandfather is a genocidal terrorist, your grandmother was a useless prat--”

 “She was not.” Ben stands, the heels he’s wearing placing him a good few inches taller than Hux than he already is. “She was brave, and kind--”

 “She died of a broken heart. How kriffing hopeless do you have to be? No one is worth that much,” Hux growls, eyes narrowed.

 “She was a noble woman who stood for her people when no one else would. She opposed war. She opposed my grandfather’s fall into the darkness. She chose to let go, something not many of us get to choose. Don’t you dare talk about her like that in front of me.” Ben hissed.

 “Why? Because you know you’re the ugly, trashier version of her? Because you’ll never have half the respect that she did? Because you look like an absolute moron wanting to imitate her so badly that you can’t even see how badly you’re humiliating yourself? You’re a joke, Senator.”  

 Ben hates himself for the deep hurt that welled in his chest. The quiet that follows is so profound that a pin could probably be heard dropping from any point in the room. “You’re all dismissed.” Ben says, his voice so deep with anger that he can feel it reverberating in his chest.

 Ben? His uncle questions, but Ben shoves out anyone and everyone and reinforces the walls on his mind.

 He was always meant to hurt me. He only wants to destroy me.

 Ben walks past him without looking into his face or allowing Hux’s emotions to touch him. His grandfather is wrong, this he knows suddenly and certainly. Love is not always the answer. Giving people the ability to destroy you is never a smart thing to do. After all, handing his trust over to Snoke is what had created Kylo Ren in all of his dreams.

 His marriage would always be lonely, so long as the man married to him hated him so much and found him so unattractive.

 “Ben.” Hux says, behind him. He’s following after him, and somehow that makes him absurdly angrier until he can feel it boil in his veins. He doesn’t even notice that Hux has used his first name and not his title.

 “Go away.” He says, so tightly that his throat strains.

 “Listen to me.” Hux starts, doing that stupid quick military prance like walk that makes Ben want to break off a table leg and beat Hux with it until everything is shattered pulp. He wants to tear Hux apart, feel gushing and splintering and-- the darkness is so strong when he allows himself to think like that. It whispers to him, calls to him. Fills his veins with poison he never wants to admit that he’s created all on his own.

 Only Hux can set him on such a verge he hasn’t felt since he was a teenager. It’s such a fine line, but such a cliff that once he drops off the edge of it, it will burn him forever. He refuses to make his grandfather’s mistakes. He refuses to let Hux win, to let Snoke win. To let Kylo Ren win.

 "You listen to me.” Ben rounds on him, crowds so close into his face that he can feel Hux’s breath on his lips. Some of his madness must show in his expression, because Hux for once doesn’t say a word to interrupt. “I don’t know what your Supreme Leader put you up to, but it won’t work. You won’t destroy me. You won’t break me. You may have hurt my feelings, but you won’t get that close again.” He narrows his eyes, anger still roiling in his chance. “Trust me when I say that you don’t want to see me at my worst anyway.”

 He had a feeling he couldn’t survive reaching that point in his life again.

 He walks away while Hux is still taking a deep breath in like he’s going to argue. Ben doesn’t care. He needs to get out of these walls and meditate. He refuses to accept the deep wound in his heart where Hux had cut him the deepest.

 Fine, okay. Hux didn’t have to find him attractive. Maybe the bizarre pulls within him had been a fleeting temporary thing. Maybe Hux had just said it to hurt him and didn’t mean it. He didn’t care. From somewhere two of the Six fell in beside him wordlessly, trailing after him as he went to his favorite spot to meditate.

 Poe had given it to him, a little seedling from the Force-sensitive tree planted near Poe’s family home.  It had been a gift from Ben’s uncle. They were preciously rare, and uniquely special. The little tree radiated peace and calmness, and in some obscure painful way reminded him of Rey. It had centered him through many of his struggles, grounded him while he meditated. It, to him, was a gift he cherished above nearly anything else. It also gave him a pang of nostalgia for the past, and made him wish that he had more opportunities to lay underneath it and talk about everything and nothing with his friend.

 But that had been before he was a Jedi and Senator, and before Poe was a Commander and pilot. This is one of the times he could have used Poe’s gentle jokes and willingness to listen to anything and everything.

 “I was going to say I was sorry.” Hux said from behind him, sharply. “I went too far, I realize that. So did you.”

 Ben blatantly ignored the statement, only walking slightly faster.

 “Such a drama queen.” He heard Hux mutter before he said louder, “Senator--”

 “What?” Ben threw his hands wide to nothing in particular, “So what? You think I’m stupid, vain and ugly. Good for you.”

 Hux makes a frustrated noise, grabbing Ben’s arm and pulling him back toward him. One of the Six moved forward immediately, but Ben touches their mind with a no. He feels the reluctant acceptance, the readiness to strike if Hux dared to lay a threatening hand on him.

 “I know you aren’t stupid, although you certainly act like it if it gets you your way. And you’re…” He sighed, “You’re not ugly. You’re a vain little shit, though. That much is true.”

 Hux is aware that he hurt Ben deeply, in some odd sense. Even without the Force, they’re connected in a way Ben can’t deny or plausibly explain away other than… Ben stares at him for a moment, reaches for Hux’s wrist and pulls up his sleeve. Ben Solo-Organa. It said on one wrist, a vivid color almost like blood. Hux presses his lips hard together. Ben reaches for the other sleeve, pauses for Hux’s acceptance and pulls it upward.

 Maero Ren it says on the other. He feels like his insides have been compacted tightly together. “Maero Ren?” He asks, his voice a little too nonchalant.

 "Lady Ren.” Hux says, pulling his wrist hard from Ben’s hand. “Snoke’s pet, as it were. She’s a psychopath, completely corrupt. I admire her mental prowess, but she oversteps her boundaries.”

 He should have known Snoke would find someone else, if he couldn’t own Ben. It still didn’t make the thought any less chilling. Instead he said, “I am your soulmate.”

 “If you believe in that drivel.” Hux crosses his arms. “That isn’t the point.”

 “I know.” Ben says, “I accept your not-apology.”

 “I did apologize, if you remember. You’re the one who didn’t.” Hux glowers at him. “I was explaining myself.”

 “Yes, yes. Whatever you say.” Ben sighs exasperatedly. “And you said I was a drama queen. You are an absolute child.”

 “Says the person with the temper of a short circuit time bomb. Look, I already admitted I went too far.” Hux sighed.

 “I did as well. But if you ever speak to me like that in front of my council again, I will not forgive you next time. What I choose to wear has no effect on my sexual status, which by the way is none of your business, and your comments about my grandmother were uncalled for.” Ben turns away from him. “I know how you feel, believe it or not.” He interrupts Hux’s that’s what I already apologized for before it leaves his lips, already knowing what he’d say.

 “What?” Hux asks, startled.

 “You won’t believe me, but I know what it is like to grow up feeling like you can depend on no one but yourself. I know what it’s like to have to raise yourself because everyone else can’t accept their responsibilities. My parents weren’t ready to have a child when they had me. They nearly lost me, more than once.”

 Hux switches through emotions like he’s looking for the perfect one for the moment. “Oh? The New Republic gives the impression otherwise.” He decides on disbelief. He doesn’t want to accept similarities between them.

 “Most don’t know a lot of my story. As a teenager, I went to the Jedi temple to be raised by my Uncle. My parents didn’t want me, or at least couldn’t handle me. They didn’t know how to… fix me, I suppose. My father was gone all the time anyway. My mother wanted to be a General more than she wanted to be a mother. The New Republic didn’t know anything about that.”

 “Why are you telling me this?” Hux frowned, “So I’ll feel sorry for you?”

 “No. Because it was low of me to say something like that to you when my own family is just as messed up. You weren’t wrong about that. But the problem wasn’t my grandmother. In all of this, she was probably the one who was the most innocent and had the worst downfall. She didn’t deserve it.”

 “So we both have families that failed us. And?” Hux snaps, obviously irritated.

 “And so maybe we should resort to other insults rather than family, considering we both lack in that way.” Ben sighed.

 “Okay, great. Now stop crying about it. Apologies were accepted, it’s done. No need to drag it out.” Hux gestures vaguely. These damn diplomats and their need to talk about absolutely every unnecessary thing.

 “Excuse me for trying to make a connection with you. You’re right, it’s pointless.” Ben huffs, turning on his heel and walking away for a step, two, until Hux grips his wrist again.

 “How did you know about the wrist markings?” Hux asks, expression hard.

 “Because, General. We have more in common than you want to believe.”

 Hux stays where Ben has left him. He’s relieved when he finally sits in front of his Force-tree and is able to let himself connect with it and let his mind go blissfully blank.


Snow whirled on the ground, dancing in the howling winds that rip at Ben’s clothing. Thick flakes tangle in his hair, the sky is grey and purple with thick clouds and fog that overtakes the edges of his peripheral vision.

 “I have waited so long for you,” A modulated voice calls, lilted and gratingly static. “Kylo Ren. Thou shall not die.”

 "I came here for you.” Ben says, reaching his hand in the direction of the voice. “I was willing to give up everything to be here.”  

 “I know.” The voice said, a sharp exhale of breath crackling through the mask. “I wish…”

 “What?” Ben asks, desperately.

 “I wish that I didn’t have to kill you.” Through the snow and fog, a black figure steps out. The mask is silver and black, dented in on one side. There’s a hood over the head, thick fabric falling around their slight figure.

 “You don’t have to.” Ben felt his voice on the verge of cracking. “Please, once you turn to murder you can’t turn back--”

 "No.” They said, coming closer. “You’re mine now Kylo Ren.”

 He jolted, a ragged gasp escaping him as Hux jerked back in surprise. “Senator,” He said, “You were thrashing. And muttering.”

 “How did you know?” Ben grumbled, rubbing his eyes. “You wouldn’t have heard that from your rooms.”

 Hux is silent for so long that Ben glances up at him. “What?”

 Hux shrugs, not meeting his eyes. “Just be grateful that I woke you. You could have smashed your hand into the wall. Or fallen off the bed.”

 “Wouldn’t be the first time.” Ben snorted, pulling the sheets around him. “But thank you for your deep concern, General.”

 Hux glances into his eyes, then away. “Is it always like that? The screaming thing the night before? And then the thrashing now?”

 “No offense, but I honestly don’t know why you would care. You hate me.” Ben forced a laugh.

 “You’re a mind reader, you know that’s not true.” Hux glared.

 “I don’t actively read your mind.” Ben brushed a hand through his hair, “Sometimes you… I don’t know how to explain it to someone who isn’t Force-sensitive. Sometimes people project their thoughts, and it’s louder than just thinking it. Usually when someone is feeling strong emotion. Or when I’m touching them. And I’ve always been sensitive to people’s emotions. I don’t know why. Probably because I have a strong connection to my own emotions.” He groaned, “That’s not the point. The point is I don’t just read your mind intentionally. Out of respect. And I’d appreciate if you didn’t mention that particular ability publically, please.”

 Hux looked lost for words for once. Ben glanced over at the window. It was still mostly dark, with tinges of light on the horizon. It would be morning in a few standard hours.

 Hello? He called outward, searching for the person in his dream. They’d seemed so vivid, so familiar somehow.

 They didn’t answer. But Hux turned to look at him with his eyes narrowed. “That is what you did, the day of the wedding?”

 “Yes.”

 Hux sat beside him, closer than Ben had expected. “Why can you talk to me like that? I don’t have your magic.”

 “It’s not magic. The Force is not light or dark inherently, it just is. Some people are born tuned to it, others are not. It does tend to be genetic. My grandfather had it, my mother has it, I have it. And so did my sister.”

 Hux turned his head slowly, “Your sister?”

 "She’s dead.” Ben said shortly, “We had a strong connection when she was still alive, and when she was kidnapped I could no longer communicate with her. I can’t feel her presence. I didn’t feel her death, but there is no other explanation. She was even stronger than I was. She was still just a padawan…” He shook his head, “To answer your question? I don’t know. It’s difficult to communicate with people who aren’t Force sensitive in that way. And yet, you hear me clearly without me trying.”

 Hux watches his face for a moment, glancing between his eyes and his lips. Finally he turns away and looks out the window. “That is unfortunate about your sister. I never had siblings. At least that I knew of. I never saw my parents again when I went to the Academy.”

 “Even when you got out?” Ben asked, leaning closer.

 “There was no point in trying to contact them then. I had my own life, my position within the Order. I didn’t need that, and I didn’t want it.” He stared forward resolutely. Ben stayed still for a moment before shifting closer and putting his head on Hux’s shoulder.

 “I understand.” He said quietly, tentatively reaching with his mind and letting his sympathy color the touch.

 Hux tensed slightly, and Ben retracted the mental touch. “I honestly don’t understand you.” Hux said, glancing over at him. “You’re a provocative person. And then sometimes you have these moments… I feel like maybe you aren’t so entirely terrible.”

 “I feel the same.” Ben grumbled. “Sometimes you’re insufferable and I want to hate you. And then sometimes I feel like you would be a good husband. Maybe this whole thing isn’t entirely a bad thing. Maybe I won’t always be lonely.” He hadn’t intended to say it, but it felt safe against the warm curve of Hux’s shoulder and his scent in Ben’s nose.

 “Maybe.” Hux said, but it felt more like agreement than another argument stirring.

 “Can I ask you for something?” Ben asked quietly.

 “What?” Hux sounded somewhat resigned.

 “Give me a try. A real one.”

 Hux turned his head, looking into Ben’s eyes. “I am trying. Just don’t piss me off.”

 Ben smiled, his laugh genuine that time.

 You look better when you’re not faking it.

 He felt his heart beat harder in his chest, the projected thought intended for him to hear. “So do you.” He told Hux, stealing a kiss from his lips.

 "Go back to sleep.” Hux said, almost fondly. “I’ll wake you if you start having nightmares.”

 Somehow it was reassuring.