Shopping had been a good idea.
Ben pressed his tunic flat, the dark color and straight lines worlds above what he had been wearing before with the long, torn robes of Kylo Ren. The new outfit reminded him a little of an old v-neck wrap Luke used to wear when he was younger, but Ben was confident he’d made the look his own after buying something that wasn’t made out of such coarse cloth and an undershirt with a high, closed collar. Between the new look and a fresh haircut, Ben felt far more prepared to meet his mother next week on Kashyyyk than he had before.
More importantly: Armitage was happy with the wardrobe update, too.
Ben felt slightly ashamed he hadn’t thought to get Armitage better clothes before now. Armitage had clung to Ben’s old cowl so much, it hadn’t occurred to Ben that was probably because he didn’t have much else to wear that felt comfortable. Ben and Armitage had grabbed some quick outfits from market stands, but there was nothing formal, and certainly nothing reminiscent of the position Hux used to hold.
After shopping around the large mall plaza, Armitage ended up with an outfit similar to his old First Order ensemble, but casual enough to not be mistaken for a military uniform. The simple black tunic went down to his knees, covering black leggings, and his belt had a decorative silver buckle that hung on the side. The knee high boots were sturdier than his old uniform boots, and much better for handling outdoor terrain.
Ben tried not to smile when Armitage picked out an overcoat with shoulder pads to finish off his outfit.
But even more so than the benefit of new clothes, after spending a week trapped on the Falcon with his father, Uncle Chewie, and Armitage, Ben really appreciated getting to walk around in the open in a market on a lovely afternoon.
“What has you smiling?” Ben asked, handing over his money to a snack stand. He pulled over the bag of pastries before taking the two cups of coffee. He handed one to Armitage, and the man helped himself to one of the croissants in the bag. “I know it can’t be the coffee when this is your second cup this morning.”
“One needs energy when dealing with this many merchants,” Armitage said. He bit into the edge of his treat and licked a bit of the dripping butter away. “But if you must know, I was appreciating how good you look dressed in black. The short tunic doesn’t hurt either when it shows off your legs like that.”
Ben looked between himself and Armitage, noting they were both dressed head to toe in black, and found himself laughing under his breath. “I guess some things never change. You know I mostly wore black even before I went undercover?”
“I can believe that,” Armitage said. He nodded in agreement. “It’s a classic, earthy color. I’ve never been fond of flashy fashion myself.”
“Never would have guessed,” Ben said. He finished off his own croissant and crumpled the bag to throw it away. They walked through the streets without any trouble, though they did get a look here or there for being so tall. Thankfully, though, no one seemed to recognize them, which was good. He liked seeing Armitage in his cowl, but the man shouldn’t have to wear it everywhere to avoid being recognized. “Is there anything else we need? This might be our last trip before we head out to Kashyyyk in a couple days.”
“None that I can think of,” Armitage said. His eyes half-lidded in thought, and Ben could almost see the checklists as they formed. A moment later, Armitage sipped his coffee. “Presentable clothing and basic living necessities were all we needed, unless you wanted to pick up a few extra holo films or books for downtime?”
“That might not be a bad idea,” Ben said. “But there’s also plenty to do on Kashyyyk, you know. There’s a lot of great tourist sights I can show you around from when I used to visit with Uncle Chewie.”
“Wandering around in the trees with a bunch of Wookies,” Armitage said, shaking his head. “I think I’ll pass.”
“Those lessons in Shyriiwook are still on the table if you’d like them,” Ben said. He clapped a hand down on Armitage’s shoulder and squeezed. “Just so you know.”
“No need,” Armitage said. He continued sipping his coffee, before stopping at a small book stand. He browsed titles, smilingly lightly. “Unless Kashyyyk is planning to trade their loyalties from the New Republic to the First Order, I have little interest.”
Ben nearly rolled his eyes, but decided not to comment. When you got Armitage started talking, he rarely stopped. It was easier to avoid the conversation altogether than try and argue about the pros and cons of the New Republic versus the First Order. That was a topic for lengthy discussion, and not one they would be having with their visit with his mother coming up so quickly.
There would be plenty of time afterwards, though, and they would be having that conversation.
Armitage picked out three novels and a few Holo films to add to Ben’s small stack. Having a bit of entertainment to distract everyone might be a good idea, even if the original intent was to keep busy and put boredom at bay.
“Shall we head back?” Armitage asked, straightening his gloves. “It’s getting dark, and I’ve decided your clothes look good enough on you that I’d very much like to remove them.”
“That seems contradictory,” Ben said, but headed back toward the shuttle all the same. Armitage must be in a good mood if he was flirting. “If they look so flattering, wouldn’t you want to keep them on me as long as possible?”
“So you’d rather not remove them?” Armitage asked, smirking. He shrugged and picked up his pace. “I can work with that, too. I do so love a challenge.”
Ben might have picked up his pace as they neared home.
Hux shoved Ren on his back on their shared bed, sitting between his thighs.
The belt under his fingers was easy enough to undo, and Hux shoved the open tunic to either side of Ren’s waist. The man laughed under him, eyes daring Hux to keep up with his declaration in the market. If Ren wanted to keep his clothes on, than so be it.
A challenge was a challenge, and Hux had no intention of losing it.
“Shame we’ll be getting these filthy after all that effort to pick them up and look nice for your mother,” Hux said, pushing up on the tunic to reveal Ren’s stomach. The clothes were still on, and it counted. He kissed Ren’s belly and smirked. “But you insisted, so at the very least, we should make getting these dirty fun, don’t you think?”
“I will never understand why you always want to talk when we do this,” Ren said, shifting his hips forward. His hand found Hux’s hair and he smiled as he ruffled the slicked back hair. “You really don’t need to narrate.”
“I had figured you created the ‘No Talking’ rule as a way to keep our relations impersonal.” Hux palmed Ren through the front of his trousers, a delightful memory of the first time Ren told him to shut up before they had sex played in his mind. The man wasn’t quite so forward with his insistence that talking during sex be kept to a minimum as of late, but Ren still seemed to stress that was important they were quiet. Hux leaned against Ren’s thigh and shook his head, smile growing. “But now I see the truth: You can’t handle dirty talk at all, can you? You get so flustered I can’t tell if it’s adorable or embarrassing.”
“Giving head doesn’t require taking clothes off or talking,” Ren said. He turned on his side, sitting up on his arms as he curled in toward Hux. “Maybe if I get on my knees, you can win your clothes-on challenge and we can both be quiet, since you’ll be too distracted to talk.”
Hux laughed, ugly and hard enough he had to press his forehead into Ren’s stomach. He patted Ren’s side. “Most people would have ended your first sentence with a demand that I shut up by giving you head, not offering it yourself.”
“Normally,” Ren said, falling on his back. He continued running his hands through Hux’s hair, determined to put every strand out of place with his long fingers. “But you like it when I do it more than doing it yourself. I’m trying to compromise with something you like.”
“Trading my love of teasing you for my love of seeing you on your knees,” Hux said. He tugged Ren’s trousers down, exposing him to the air. Hux wrapped his fingers around the waiting flesh, tugging lightly. “Should I call you a good boy for being so thoughtful, or a naughty boy for trying to be tricky?”
“Hux!” Ren shouted and Hux was impressed how the man had managed to sound exasperated, amused, and horrified all in the same exclamation.
The poor man had even forgotten to call him “Armitage.”
“No talking,” Hux said.
Ren certainly did not complain when Hux proceeded to give Ren the best hand job of his life (Ren hadn’t been wrong; Hux never really was fond of that particular use of his mouth). Warm massage oil that smelled like evergreens that Hux found in Ren’s shopping bag proved even more effective. The man’s back arched and his grip in Hux’s hair was on the verge of being painful. Best of all, was Ren’s free hand covering his mouth to keep the worst of the moans from escaping.
The favor was returned, of course, with Ren on his knees and Hux biting his knuckles to keep from saying an assortment of lewd phrases he’d picked up here or there that were guaranteed to make Ren blush (or physically shut Hux up with the Force).
Unfortunately, their focus on hands and mouths meant they ended rather quickly with Ren’s unfortunate stamina.
“You can talk now,” Ren said, rolling over and burying his face into the side of Hux’s chest, already well on his way to sleep. His clothes were ruffled and stained, but he didn’t seem to care or notice. Too sated, and too sleepy. “Pillow talk is okay.”
“Because you’re half asleep and barely can hear it,” Hux said, whispering back. “I see exactly how this works, Ben Solo. You’re not fooling anyone.”
Ren grunted in agreement, not bothering to argue. He squeezed Hux once and relaxed. “Goodnight, Armitage.”
Hux patted Ren’s back in response, falling into a short monologue about nothing in particular. He talked about the ship’s new paint color, and how he wasn’t looking forward to the trip to Kashyyyk at all, and how he really was grateful for new clothes even though they almost ruined them moments before.
Ren was out like a light in a matter of moments.
“Now that you’re taken care of,” Hux said, kissing the side of Ren’s cheek. He crawled out of the bed, pulling Ren’s blankets up around him. He pushed the pillow toward his arms when the man reached and patted his side. “You have a good sleep, while I take care of the other ones.”
Hux tapped out of the room, confident Ren would sleep solidly for at least an hour, heading for the left outer wall of the ship. He pulled over a crate of nonperishable supplies, using it as a step as he pulled himself up the wall. At the top, there was a grate that appeared to be solidly connected to the wall, but was in truth loose.
A rather lovely disguise, if Hux had anything to say about it.
He pulled it free from the wall, revealing the open area of the vent he’d cleared out for his Ysalamiri eggs he’d smuggled from the Millennium Falcon, right under Han Solo’s nose. Hux put his hand around the nearest one, feeling for the pulse of warmth that confirmed life still grew. “Hello, little ones.”
Hux checked each one carefully, holding them up to a light to see their forms wriggle and grow. Seeing them all growing nicely, he placed them back where they belonged in their nest of old clothes and replaced the grate. He slipped back into Ren’s arms in bed, confident that no matter how the next few days went, his other plans were proceeding on schedule.
Kashyyyk was a beautiful sight when the shuttle exited the jump, warming Ben’s heart. After all the stress and arguments of the past month, the warm green planet was a soothing sight. Even Armitage leaned forward in the co-pilot seat to get a better look out the viewport.
“You ready for this?” Ben asked, pushing his hair back. His new outfit was clean, and he’d gotten a hair cut just before they left planet. Armitage had done the same, and his hair was perfectly styled and looked much the same as it would have if he were still on the Finalizer. “We’re landing in a private loading dock near the village we’re staying in. I believe mom already arrived if the message I received earlier is correct.”
“I’m as ready as I’ll ever be,” Armitage said. He sat back in his chair, adjusting the greatcoat on his shoulders. “Let’s just get this over with.”
Ben clicked on the comm as they approached the atmosphere. A few seconds later, the flight controller responded in Shyriiwook. Ben shook his head at Armitage’s scowl, amused at his stubbornness at refusing to learn even the basics. “This is Upsilon-class, Silver Wing requesting permission to land.”
Armitage rolled his eyes. Personalized call signs were for civilian ships, he had said. Ben had to remind him that it was no longer a Command shuttle, and that a ship name was more than appropriate.
“The First Order designed this ship specifically for transporting high ranking officials with superior scanning technology,” Armitage had said when Ben officially registered the name into the ship’s computer banks. “And you named it after a bird.”
“Your suggestion of ‘Lord Kylo Ren’s Command Shuttle’ was rejected, sorry,” Ben had said right back. He looked over his shoulder and shrugged, “It’s Ben Solo’s personal shuttle now, and he can name it anything he wants.”
Armitage had scoffed, but relented.
“You are cleared to land,” the controller responded, breaking Ben from the memory. “Head to the lit area upon approach.”
Clearance given, Ben wasted no time navigating the shuttle below to the planet’s surface. The wroshyr trees grew tall around them, and Ben smiled seeing them. Visits to Kashyyyk were rare even when he was a child, but those trees never failed to steal his breath.
“The trees are nice,” Armitage said, sitting up in his seat as Ben landed the shuttle on a small beach landing sight near a village. He rubbed the back of his neck, glaring outside at the Wookies that had stopped at the edge of the platform to greet them. “That’s the only nice thing I’m saying about this entire planet and the people who live on it, so don’t expect anything more.”
With that, Armitage got out of his seat, coat flaring out behind him as he stomped toward the ramp.
“Force be with me,” Ben mumbled under his breath to catch up with Armitage.
They were going to need it.
Ben took the lead as they walked down the ramp, holding up his hand in greeting when he saw a familiar face waiting for them. “Long time no see, Lowie!”
“Only a Solo could get away with flying a First Order ship he stole around so blatantly,” Lowbacca said in Shyriiwook, holding his arm out to hug Ben into a tight hug. He squeezed Ben tight into his ginger fur and took a step back. “It’s good to have you home after all that time away.”
“It’s good to be back,” Ben confirmed. He turned to his scowling companion, and figured introductions were in order. “Armitage, this is Lowbacca. He’s Chewie’s nephew, and a fellow Jedi. Lowie, this is Hux.”
“Pleasure,” Armitage said, but made no effort to move closer or even really look in Lowbacca’s direction.
“Yeah, I’ve heard about him,” Lowbacca said, picking up on the rude greeting with a better temper than Ben expected. Lowbacca leaned in to whisper. “Your father was very vocal about him while we were waiting for Leia to land.”
“That sounds about right,” Ben said, sighing. “I take it my mom arrived safely then?”
“Yeah, everyone’s settled in fine,” Lowbacca said. He nodded toward the nearest staircase up to a house and walked toward it. Ben and Armitage followed suit walking across the grassy clearing, and they kept talking as they started on their way to the house they’d be staying at. “It’s been good to see my Uncle again, and Han and Leia are always at home here.”
“I’m glad,” Ben said. They were close to the house now, the door in sight a few more steps up. Ben could not wait to get inside and into an actual living room with a welcoming couch with thick cushions. He loved his shuttle, but even a First Order head officer’s “plush” quarters were fairly spartan compared to the rest of the universe. “I’m looking forward to seeing her.”
“She already said as much about you. But really, it’s her guests that are really livening up the place,” Lowbacca said, laughing. He shook his head and waved a hand in the air. “I didn’t think Rey and her friends would ever stop gaping and pointing at the trees, and you should have seen their faces when they found out about the tree houses.”
“What?” Ben stopped so suddenly in the middle of the staircase that Armitage bumped into his back. Ben reached out to steady him, ignoring the scowl sent his way to get more information out of Lowbacca. “Did you say Rey was here? With friends?”
“Yes?” Lowbacca said, turning over his shoulder.
“Ben!” Poe said, opening the door and answering part of Ben’s next question of “Who else is here?” The pilot, and Ben’s sort-of childhood friend, waved with a smile as he skipped down a couple steps. “About time you got here! You’re late!”
“Poe?” Ben gaped. He turned to Armitage who was looking between Ben and the X-Wing pilot with a confused expression. Ben couldn’t blame him. “What are you doing here?”
“I’m here to see you,” Poe said, still smiling. He shrugged, crossing his arms. “When Leia said she was coming to see you and needed an escort, how could I not volunteer?”
“Is that him?” A voice called from behind Poe. Ben recognized him as one of the stormtroopers who had defected, named Finn if he recalled correctly. He was wearing one of Poe’s old jackets and smiling. “Man, I still find it hard to believe your friend was the same Kylo Ren who terrorized—”
Finn froze, cutting himself off. The smile falling off his face so quick it could have given one of Poe’s X-Wing flights a run for it’s money.
“That is General Hux,” Finn said, pointing straight at Armitage. He looked back at Poe, and then to Armitage, and back to Poe again. The anger was hard to miss when he asked, “Did you know he was going to be here?”
“Well, Leia did say Ben was bringing a guest,” Poe said. His own smile slowly dropped into something more neutral and calculating. “But she didn’t say who.”
“But I did tell you to wait inside while I greeted Ben first,” Leia said, stepping out onto the porch with the rest of them. Poe and Finn each took a step back, letting her come forward. She hugged Ben and squeezed him tight. “I am so glad to see you.”
For the moment, Ben let himself fall into the hug, taking in the comfort and warmth while he could get it. “Missed you.”
“Not that this isn’t touching,” Poe said. He pointed at Armitage and looked over at Finn. The ex-stormtrooper was glaring enough for the both of them (and Ben really couldn’t blame him either). Poe held a finger up and waved it in Armitage’s direction. “But if I have just been informed correctly, your guest is the guy that designed Starkiller base and pretty much ran the First Order. So maybe instead of asking us why we’re here, we should be asking you what the hell that monster is doing here.”
“I know you said I couldn’t shoot your mother, Ben,” Armitage said, smiling politely. It did nothing to hide the murder his gaze was suggesting. “But what are the chances you’ll let me shoot him instead as a consolation prize?”
Leia laughed, smirking. “Oh, I like him.”
Ben had a feeling she didn’t mean that the way he wanted her to.