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Close Quarters

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Hux bit into a piece of fruit as he watched the workers paint Ren’s shuttle.

The classic black slowly disappeared into a tacky looking shade of silver. The Upsilon-class vessel already had its First Order numbers and signs removed, but it wasn’t like the paint was hiding anything. It still very clearly looked like an old Imperial ship, even if the new color was less threatening by a slim margin. But it was still “perfectly functional” as Ren had put it, so it was their home for now and that was that.

Hux read between the lines, of course, and heard the “I like this ship, it’s mine, and I’m keeping it” that dear Ren chose not to vocalize. Part of Hux wondered if he should be jealous, but then again, the ship wasn’t the only thing from the First Order Ren had decided he’d liked and was keeping, now was it?

He finished off his fruit, and tossed it in a bin behind him. Ren’s cowl was heavy around his shoulders, the black fabric warm in the chilly air. Mygeeto wasn’t exactly his first choice for a stop to refuel and gather themselves, but he supposed it was functional enough. Hux walked through the hanger, glancing at the other ships that were docked as their pilots and crew visited the urban planet.

Ren had another hour before he was due back with supplies, which gave Hux time to himself. Not that he had much to do aside from look at shuttles and ships parked next to his own.

Hux rubbed the side of his head. Their entire mission was drowning in aimless wandering because they had no leads on where Snoke had buried himself in the universe. Even the remainder of the Knights of Ren were laying low. It was hard to plan to kill someone when you didn’t know a thing about where they were, or how to get there. Ren himself wasn’t helping either, because he was enjoying his “vacation.”

“I spent five years working undercover, hating myself because I wasn’t making any progress, stuck thinking about all the awful things I had to do in the name of the First Order,” Ren had said one night while they were lying together. He had squeezed Hux and breathed deeply. “I think I’m entitled to a few months off to recuperate, don’t you think?”

Hux had agreed, on the condition he was still allowed to plan all he wanted. Ren had agreed, the awful man, because he knew Hux couldn’t get anywhere without his ability to track with the Force. So instead, Hux was stuck helping Ren with domestic things like getting his ship painted and gathering up a new set of belongings to replace what he’d thrown out, or that Hux needed to flat out replace (having all of it being left behind).

It’d only been two weeks since they’d left the Resistance base and Hux was already tired of having nothing to do.

“Now there’s a relic if I’ve ever seen one,” Hux said, stopping in his walk. He crossed his arms looking at the large, plate-shaped freighter sitting in the hanger. It was a tad smaller than their own Shuttle (when the wings were expanded, anyway), but still fairly large. Everything on it looked like it was falling apart, and the lack of maintenance was appauling. “I wonder if it can even fly.”

“You better believe it can,” a stern voice said from Hux’s side. He turned and met the eyes of a smug looking man in a heavy, brown leather jacket and a pistol on his hip. There was a small cage at his feet, holding one of the oddest looking lizards Hux had ever seen. The man waved at his ship with a finger raised. “She is perfectly functional.”

Hux blinked at the familiar statement, before pressing his lips together tightly. The man looked as old as his decrepit ship, but he knew better than to say it when the man’s hand was on his blaster. Not that it stopped Hux from getting in a dig; he was that bored. “I suppose there’s something to be said for all maintenance going to function over appearance.”

“I would,” the man said, looking up at his freighter.

There was love and affection in that gaze, and it was (oddly enough) very familiar. Hux had time to kill, so he investigated a tad further. “Are you a cargo pilot?”

“Something like that,” the stranger said. He looked over Hux and glanced around. “You looking to hire one?”

“No. Forgive me if the question was misleading,” Hux said. He straightened Ren’s cowl around his neck, once more. He liked the thing, but it never fell right where he wanted it to. “I’m a very bored tourist waiting for my companion to come back with supplies for our trip, and conversation seemed like a good way to pass the time.”

“I can understand that,” the man said, looking down the row of ships. “Which bird is yours?”

“His,” Hux corrected. His ship was the Finalizer and it was somewhere far away at the moment. “The ship belongs to my companion, I’m just riding in it.”

He did not point out which one it was. Hux wasn’t too worried about First Order spies in this area of space, but you couldn’t be too careful. At least barely anyone in the Republic knew what he looked like. It made traveling easier, and if all else failed, Ren could use a mind trick.

“Just the two of you?” The man asked.

“Yes, and we can handle ourselves just fine,” Hux said. The man kept staring at him, with that “I’m onto you look” Hux also recognized from somewhere. The similarities were unnerving, and Hux couldn’t quite put his finger on who they reminded him of. His comm link pinged, distracting him from his thoughts. “Speaking of, that would be my companion now.”

Typically, Ren didn’t bother with the comms. They were more of a formality than anything. Ren always knew where Hux was with the Force, so he’d come hunt him down when the man needed something. Maybe he was delayed and wanted to let Hux know? “What is it, Ren?”

“Hux! Thank the stars,” Ren said, sounding relieved on the other end of the mic. “You just disappeared all of a sudden, and you’re not at the ship. Where are you?”

“I’m not even twenty yards away from the shuttle,” Hux said, looking up. He could see Ben in front of their ship, his hand in his hair and body leaning its weight on one leg in a nervous gesture. Hux frowned. “For goodness sake, I can see you right now. What are you talking about?”

“You can see me?”

“Look left.”

Ren turned and Hux could see the gape from here. The man jogged across the shuttle bay, his hair whipping across his face as he shoved his comm in his pocket. Hux did the same, sighing heavily. Just what had gotten into him now?

“Is that Ben?” The man behind Hux asked. As Ren approached, the man grinned and put his hand son his hips. “Well I’ll be damned. It is!”

Ren came to a sliding halt next to Hux before whipping his head to the side. HIs eyes widened to a comical degree. “Dad?”

Hux felt very strongly that he had missed something.

“I can not believe you’re shipping Ysalamiri,” Ben said, pointing his finger toward the cargo hold where they’d shoved it as far away from the main deck as possible. Ten meters. They eliminated the Force’s ability to influence for ten entire meters. No wonder Hux had blinked out of existence; he’d been standing within one of their bubbles. “There is a reason we try so hard to keep them limited to their native planet.”

“Look, someone wanted one, so I got one,” Han said, holding his hands up. “You know how this business works.”

“And what if your client is working for the First Order and they got that thing to fight me?” Ben asked, crossing his arms. What his dad got up to on his own time was one thing, but when it came to matters of the Force he’d promised to let Luke and Ben handle it. This counted. Ben leaned toward his dad. “Then what?”

“Oh, please. That’s not what this is about. You were panicking because you couldn’t sense your buddy here any more,” Han said, pointing at Hux at his seat at their table next to Chewbacca. Hux had a distinct look of irritation that said he hated everything about this situation, which was only furthering Han’s suspicions that something was up. “Which by the way, raises a whole lot of new questions, staring with: Who is he that’s so important you’re keeping constant tabs on him with the Force?”

“I’m not keeping constant tabs on him,” Ren said, lying. Hux and his dad both raised an eyebrow at him, but he owned his lie. “I was just checking up because a lot of people are looking for us, and it’s nice to know he’s fine.”

“You still didn’t answer the ‘Who is he?’ part of my question,” Han said.

“You can’t tell mom,” Ben said, standing up straight. He hadn’t even thought about that part. Dad was never around, but that didn’t mean he didn’t call. Ben’s hand formed a fist. “I mean it. I need you to swear on your smuggler’s profession that you won’t tell her.”

“Is this something your mom is going to want to know?” Han asked.

“Maybe,” Ben said.

Han turned on his “You’re in trouble young man” voice when he said, “Ben.”

“Okay, this has gone on long enough.” Hux got up from his seat, and walked across the room. He grabbed Han’s hand and shook it. “Hello there, my name is Armitage Hux and I’m sleeping with your son. Forgive him, but he’s embarrassed about it and doesn’t want his dear mother to know he’s in a relationship with an Imperial brat.”

Ben didn’t know if he wanted to throttle Hux or kiss him, because that was one brilliant lie that was still half-true. Just replace “Imperial descendant” with “First Order High Officer Ben was harboring from the New Republic” and it amounted to the same thing. But at least the part about Hux being a descendent of the old Empire was also true.

“I see,” Han said. He kept holding Hux’s hand, but pointed at Ben with the other. “Weren’t you undercover for five years? When’d you have time to meet anybody?”

“While undercover, obviously,” Hux said, answering yet again. He seemed more than content to take charge of the conversation and get this over with. Hux even smiled, turning on the social charm he’d use in meetings with his crew. “Trust me when I say no one was more surprised than I was to find out that my Ben was the Ben Solo.”

“Then why’d you call him ‘Ren’ earlier?” Han asked.

“Well, habits are hard to break when that’s the name you know a person by for that long,” Hux said. He yanked his hand out of Han’s hold and took a few steps back toward Ben. He crossed his arms and held his chin high. “So as far as I’m concerned, that’s his name.”

“Sure,” Han said. He looked at Ben for a second before looking Chewie in the eyes. Ben knew that look. It was the same one his dad got every time he was about to say something to intentionally make mom bicker with him. Han did not disappoint.“Starting to see why you’d want to hide this one from your mom.”

“He’s sort of like Leia isn’t he? He likes taking charge.” Uncle Chewie said in Shyriiwook, adding in his two cents. “I bet they wouldn’t last ten minutes in a room together without fighting.”

“Tell me about it,” Ben muttered to himself.

“If I’m being insulted, I do hope you’ll tell me about it,” Hux said, glaring at Ben.

“Oh, man. He’s even got Leia’s angry glare.” Han laughed. He slapped his hand on his thigh, still snickering. “You miss your mom that much undercover?”

“Excuse me?” Hux asked.

The insults about Ben’s mother were on the tip of his tongue, festering from years of hatred and Ben knew immediately he had to shut Hux up before he blew his own entire made up cover out of the water with First Order propaganda level declarations of hatred about the Resistance leader, all because of the sheer level of offense he felt at being compared to her.

(That his mother would be equally outraged to be compared to General Hux was an irony not lost on Ben, either.)

“Dad, come on,” Ben said, taking a step in front of to cut him off. He smacked the back of his knuckles on the table. “The only thing he shares in common with mom is the same thing he shares with me, and you for that matter: a short temper. So you can give it a rest.”

“Fine, no more teasing the boyfriend,” Han said. He took Hux’s abandoned seat next to Chewie and crossed his arms on the table. Ben stood next to Hux across from the two of them, and it felt like he was on trial with his father and uncle both giving him a “look.” Han nodded toward Hux. “Though I am sort of impressed you had the time to fool around in between everything he had you doing as Kylo Ren.”

“As I told mom, who I know told you, part of my problem was that Snoke gave missions sporadically, which meant I had a lot of downtime too far away to do anything,” Ben said. He dragged his fingers through the back of his hair, straightening it. “Is it that crazy that I might have met someone when I had nothing else to do?”

Hux played with the edge of Ben’s cape, a tiny smile tugging at the edge of his lips.

“No,” Han said. He crossed his arms on the table and rubbed the side of his chin. “But I do want to know the real reason you don’t want your mother to know, because you two are horrible liars.”

“We could just leave,” Hux said, turning to Ben with an aloof look. He straightened his shoulders into a parade rest on instinct. “I mean, your mother already knows you ran off with some stranger, so at the moment he knows exactly what she does, so it’s not like he can tell her anything more useful unless we tell him more.”

“That answers a question I hadn’t gotten to yet,” Han said. He leaned heavily on the table, dropping his shoulders. He looked tired, and Ben’s gut squirmed. He could feel his dad’s concerns building up in the Force. “Your mother said you showed up after five years, helped take down that First Order monstrosity, and then you split out of there almost immediately.”

“She’s worried,” Chewie added.

“I know,” Ben said. He dragged a hand down his face, and Hux had decided that something on the wall was very interesting. “There are things I need to do, and I’m not sure she’d understand.”

“I know she can be intimidating, but she’s still your mother, Ben,” Han said. His father’s face softened and he dragged his hand through his hair. “She missed you like crazy these past five years, and I can promise you she’s still angry at Luke for keeping that whole undercover thing a secret. I am, too. So whatever is bothering you, she’ll understand, especially if it gets you to come back home.”

“It looks like you two need to talk,” Hux said, breaking into the conversation. He looked tense and was clutching tight to Ben’s old cape. He held a hand up and nodded. “It was a pleasure to meet you, but I think I’ll just wait for Ren in our shuttle while you two catch up. If you’ll excuse me.”

Hux left the cabin without another word, escaping back into the main shuttle bay.

“You sure know how to pick them,” Han said.

Ben sat on Chewie’s other side and buried his face in his hands. “Shut up, dad.”

Hux entered the small quarters of the shuttle and collapsed on the bed. He yanked the cape off and tossed it on the chair, rolling on his side in the same motion. Hux kicked off his boots and contemplated changing into his night clothes or getting a light dinner first before he locked himself in the room. Hux had no intentions of leaving the sleeping quarters for the rest of the night, even if Ren dragged his father and the wookie back for a tour.

Of all the people they could have run into while restocking and refueling.

“Han Solo, hero of the rebellion,” Hux said to himself.

He knew all about the famous smuggler pilot who married a Princess and “saved the galaxy.” The fall of the Empire was a large part of Hux’s studies under his father’s tutelage. One must learn from the past to rise above it, and that meant knowing the key points.

“Ren’s father,” Hux said.

He hadn’t put much thought into Ren’s parents outside of sheer disbelief that the man was who he said he was. It was hard enough to comprehend that Hux had been sleeping with his greatest enemy’s son, let alone process that Ren had parents at all. Lord Ren, at first, had seemed like this monster that had spawned from nothing in the darkness. He was dangerous and aloof as though he were above them all. And then later, Ren was simply a man that stayed by Hux’s side. Where he had come from before didn’t matter when he was such a reliable and comforting figure.

But now it rather did.

As much as he hated to admit, Hux sympathized a bit with Ren’s wretched mother. When Lord Ren revealed his betrayal, Hux had felt like his heart was ripped out. He’d never felt such pain in his life, and even the past cruelty of his father hadn’t come close to the ache he’d felt. If it had hurt that badly to Hux, a man who had only come to care for Ren recently, how much worse had it been for his mother when Ben Solo “killed” all those Jedi and joined the First Order?

It had been a lie, but Leia Organa and Han Solo hadn’t known that. To them, it had simply been a betrayal of the worst sort.

And now that Ren could go home, he had chosen to leave again to stay with Hux instead. It was roughy the equivalent of what Ren had tried to do when he hoped to escape from the First Order alone in his shuttle, an act that had he actually done, Hux would have never forgiven him for it. And now the man had gone and done much the same to his mother.

Hux rolled over and covered his head with his arms. It wasn’t like he wanted to be turned over to the Resistance, but all the same. Ren really should have stayed home with his parents. But then Hux wouldn’t have him all to himself. And that was the end goal now, wasn’t it? Convert Ren back over to the First Order for good?

He hated how hard it was to keep that mindset with the knowledge that Ren’s father was sitting with the man now, probably begging the boy to come home.

“I refuse to feel guilty over Ren’s choices,” Hux said under his breath. “He chose me, and that’s all there is to it.”

But the look in Han Solo’s eyes when he said that Ben’s mother was worried haunted him all the same.

Ben was drunk.

He wasn’t sure how his dad talked him into drinking, but he did. And Uncle Chewie had not helped things at all. That laughing wookie was refiling his glass even now with his fifth or sixth shot. Ben drank it down, tossing it back like he was drowning.

Ben hated being drunk; he couldn’t stop talking and there was only one person on his mind.

“He’s like,” Ben said. He slammed his glass on the table and threw his hands up. “Hux is like. A genius, okay? The man’s brilliant. A total workaholic, but brilliant. And he’s really good with his crew, and he fixes problems, and somehow Hux is always on time. I’ve never seen him be late to anything in the five years I’ve known him. He’s really, really good at his job. Made me want to strangle him some days when he’d fix one of my sabotages almost as soon as I’d done them. It was impressive. He’s impressive.”

“You’ve mentioned,” his father said, drinking much slower. He was smiling though, which was nice. Ben hadn’t seen that in years and he missed it. He sniffed a bit and stared into the bottom of his glass. Ben really missed it. Han reached over and patted Ben on the arm. “I keep hearing a ‘but’ coming up, though.”

“He’s got a nice butt, too,” Ben said, holding a finger up. His dad laughed and Ben frowned, running the sentence through his mind a second time. “Oh, you meant the other kind.”

“Yeah, the part where you explain why you don’t want to invite him home to dinner,” Han said.

“He’s evil,” Ben said, staring straight ahead. The liquor felt like it was exaggerating his words, but it seemed like the most appropriate way to sum it up. “Like actually evil.”

“Evil’s a strong word, kiddo,” Han said, sinking down into seat. He stole a glance with Uncle Chewie that Ben didn’t like.

But he should probably know this if Ben was coming clean over Hux.

He leaned forward across the table. Ben put his arms on the table, knocking into his cup. He used the Force to catch it and the alcohol before it hit the floor. Ben let it hover there and whispered when his dad leaned in closer. “He designed Starkiller base. That thing was his idea. He really, really wanted to fire it.”

“The weapon that was going to blow up five planets?”

“That one.” Ben put the cup on the table with a wave of his fingers, and pushed it into the middle of the table. “He really hates the New Republic. He used to talk about the ways he’d kill mom if he ever met her. His favorite daydream was killing mom execution style and I’m upset that I know that. That was his idea of pillow talk when he wasn’t practicing speeches about the fall of the Republic.”

Or telling Ben genuine sweet nothings when he thought Ben was asleep.

“Sounds like a catch,” Han said, grimacing and pouring himself a refill.

“What do you see in him again?” Chewie asked.

“I saw Hux,” Ben said. He slumped in his chair, cradling his glass. “The real Hux. The man who was so lonely his only choice for company was another man who hated him. The Hux who was still terrified of his father, even when he held all the power as General. I saw someone so incredibly proud and trusting of his troops, that he had total faith in them in a way that I barely see on our own side in this war.

“I saw a man who wanted to save me from myself, even though he wasn’t sure he was actually helping. But he tired so hard,” Ben licked his lips. He remembered every worried thought and how they tugged at his heart. Hux had cared so much and Ben had taken advantage of it and he still felt guilty some nights. Ben leaned his head back, staring at the ceiling. He closed his eyes. “Hux is the same man who loved it when I tortured people, but he liked it just as much when I smiled. He’s a man who’d watch billions die without a second thought, but worried like crazy when I punched a wall and busted my knuckles. He’s horrible and amazing at the same time and I don’t know what to do about him.”

“You really love this guy, huh?” Han said.

“Yeah,” Ben said. He squeezed his cup. He loved Hux. Had he ever really said that before? He didn’t know, but his heart told him it was true. “I really do and I don’t want mom to throw him in jail forever or worse.”

“How about this,” Han said. He brushed his hair back and breathed out. “Let’s make a deal.”

“A deal?”

“I won’t tell your mother,” Han said, “on the condition you two let me tag along to wherever you’re going. I want to decide for myself if this guy is worth all the trouble you’re putting into him.”

“What if you don’t like him?” Ben asked.

“Then I tell your mother everything, and then she’ll put the fear of the Force into the guy, scaring him into a path of righteousness,” Han said, smiling.

Ben snorted and filled up his cup one last time. “Don’t you have a delivery to make?”

“I do!” Han said. He got up and ruffled Ben’s hair, kissing the top of his son’s head. “And you technically don’t have to be anywhere, so you can tag along. It’ll be a regular family trip, don’t you think Chewie?”

Chewie got up from the table and waved his hand as he headed for the sleeping quarters. “Can’t wait.”

“You ought to turn in too, Ben,” Han said. “Though you’ll probably be sleeping on the couch after all that if he really is anything like your mother.”

“Nah,” Ben said. He stood up from the table, grabbing the side when he wobbled a bit too much. He was definitely drunk. Ben sucked in a breath. “Hux likes to cuddle.”

“Too much information,” Han said. He held Ben by the arm, and rubbed it a few times. “Can you get back to your shuttle?”

“I’ll be fine. I’ll see you tomorrow, dad,” Ben said. He stumbled over and hugged his father, squeezing tight. He bumped their heads together. “I missed you.”

“Missed you too, son,” Han said. He squeezed Ben back and slapped him hard on the back. “I am calling your mother to let her know you’re with me, though. I can do that at least, can’t I?”

“I’m sure she’ll be glad to hear it,” Ben said. He raised his hand and headed for the ramp.

Now, Ben had to go back to Hux and hope he wasn’t angry.

Ren slipped into bed late into the night, wrapping his arms around Hux and burying his face into his back.

“You smell like liquor,” Hux said, rolling over. He would have scolded the man for waking Hux up, but that would have been a lie. They both knew Hux had stayed awake waiting for Ren to come back. Ren moved with him, snuggling up with a wide yawn. Hux petted his hair and sighed. “You’re very drunk, Ren.”

“Blame dad,” Ren muttered. He pulled the covers up with the Force and tangled their legs together. “And Uncle Chewie.”

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen you drunk,” Hux said thoughtfully. It hadn’t even crossed his mind, considering he wasn’t exactly a heavy drinker himself. Ren was certainly more clingy this way though. The man was attached around Hux like a leech.

“Couldn’t afford to be before,” Ren said. He kissed Hux’s neck, but it was gentle and sleepy. A token of affection more than a wish for something more; a motion becoming more and more often lately on Ren’s part. Hux squeezed him closer and Ren smiled. “This is nice.”

“I suppose it is,” Hux said, fingers still tangled in Ren’s hair. They breathed together for a while, and Hux broke the silence with a stupid question. “Did you have a good time with your father?”

“Was good to see him, though I don’t think he likes you very much,” Ren said.

Hux drew circles on Ren’s scalp. “I’m sure the bad first impression didn’t help.”

“Good thing we’ve got time to change his mind,” Ren mumbled. He rubbed Hux’s back through his night shirt, digging his fingers in. “He wants us to go with him on his Ysalamiri delivery to get to know you.”

“Joy,” Hux said. He brushed out Ren’s hair with his fingers and scowled into the pillow. He didn’t want to trail around with Ren’s parents in the slightest, but it’d be good for Ren to see the man. Not everyone hated their fathers, after all. The things Hux did for Ren. “I’m sure that’ll be a delight.”

“Just admit you’re going to hate it.”

Hux kissed the side of Ren’s head. “I’m going to hate every second of family bonding time.”

“Knew it.” Ren laughed, shoulders shaking. He scooted up and kissed Hux, pressing their noses together. “I really love you.”

“Oh,” Hux said.

“Night,” Ren said. He dropped his head onto Hux’s shoulder and exhaled deeply before dropping out like a light into a drunken sleep.

Hux clutched the back of Ren’s head, fingers tight in his hair as he held the man close. His heart wasn’t ready for that, and it was beating far too loudly.

The morning couldn’t come soon enough.