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.
I like the main trio of The Force Awakens a lot, but you’d never know since I basically just squee about Kylux all the time & Ren all the time. Ha ha ha. If Hux has to suffer, so does Ben. Meddling friends forever!
And as a side note, I kinda like DarkPilot & the head canons that go along with it where Poe & Ben grew up knowing each other. Which means you guessed it: I’m gonna’ use it! There won’t be a past relationship or anything here, but I will steal that childhood backstory. ;D
Last but not least, only two scenes for this chapter (though they are longer ones). Typically I like to have at least three, but scene two ended so well I didn’t want to ruin the moment with a scene transition. It required a proper chapter break. Thanks for reading! :D
“You’re lucky I believe you when you said you had no idea they’d be here,” Hux said under his breath as he and Ren sat around the rather large, circular table in the dining room. The Wookie (he hadn’t bothered to look and see which one) was too his other side. Leia Organa herself sat on Ren’s other side, and the rest of the seats were filled with Solo, the other Wookie, a girl he didn’t know, some pilot named Poe (that Ren apparently knew as a child if the way he talked was any indication), and a traitor from Hux’s own personal ship. There were far too many people here. “Or I’d already be back in the shuttle.”
“It’s not that much of a problem is it?” Organa asked, hands on the table. She looked at her son and set a knowing gaze his way that was probably a “mother” look more than a General’s look (not that Hux would know; he hadn’t seen his mother since he was a child). “Ben, you didn’t really think the Resistance was going to let me go off alone, even if the matter was personal did you? You should be lucky that I brought friends who knew you and not some random guards.”
“Forgive me, but I did believe that since this was a personal matter and because you can more than handle yourself, that yes, you could be coming to meet us alone,” Ren said. There was anger simmering under the surface, welcome and familiar. It’d been a while since Hux got to see Ren really angry, and he’d missed it more than he realized. Ren leaned forward, “Friends or not, I really was hoping to discuss this alone with you and dad.”
“I know this feels like a personal matter to you, Ben,” Organa said. She glanced in Hux’s direction, disapproving. “But that does not change the fact that this man was a high ranking official in the First Order, and responsible for Starkiller base. Your personal relationship doesn’t excuse those facts.”
“I am aware of that,” Ren said, “which is why I wanted to come here as your son and not as your undercover agent.”
“You were Luke’s undercover agent,” Organa snapped back. “Not mine.”
A heated glare passed between mother and son, and neither Hux nor anyone else at the table felt like breaking the smothering silence. At least Solo had the decency to look guilty at this mess. He probably didn’t want his family’s business spread across the entire Resistance any more than his son did. Poe and the traitor were too busy glaring to add to the conversation, and the brunette was still a mystery outside of finding out she was a Jedi. Hux sat up a bit straighter and looked around the room. There were four Force users here aside from Ren: Organa, one of the Wookies, and now this girl.
They had certainly come prepared for a fight if Ren chose to be uncooperative, didn’t they?
Hux thanked the Force for the foresight to steal those eggs from Solo once again. He’d originally thought the good fortune was just for handling Snoke (and maybe Ren if it came to that), but he had lost sight of the big picture: All of the universe’s Jedi weren’t dead.
Ren had faked that massacre, and Hux was almost ashamed he kept forgetting. Luckily, he was brought out of the humiliating self reflection when someone finally saw fit to break the silence.
“You two are sleeping together,” the traitor said out of the blue, pointing at Ren and Hux. The man looked like this revelation had popped into his head against his will, which would explain the blurted exclamation. He looked around the table, understanding dawning on his face. “That’s what this is about, right?”
“In a sense,” Solo said, tapping his finger on the table. He leaned back in his seat, crossing his legs. “How’d you figure that out?”
“There were rumors on the Finalizer that Lord Ren and General Hux were sleeping together,” the traitor said. Hux supposed that was fair. He and Ren never shouted their relationship to the rooftops, but they weren’t exactly discrete about it either. The traitor flexed his fingers and crossed his arms. “If it was true, that would be a big reason for Ben Solo to have personal issues with the General that he doesn’t want anyone to know about, right? The son of the Resistance General sleeping with the a General of the First Order has Galactic Scandal written all over it.”
“From the New Republic’s side,” Hux said, unable to help himself. Everyone turned to stare at him, with varying glances of disbelief that he’d bother to speak at all. Hux tapped a finger on his cheek. “From the perspective of the First Order, it would be a celebration of gaining an irreplaceable ally through the powerful bond of love. It’d be quite the fairy tale.”
Ren dropped his head in his hand and sighed warmly. “Hux.”
“I said what it would look like from the media reports, not what it actually is,” Hux said, happy Ren remembered to use his last name in public. Hux tugged on a bit of Ren’s hair. “No one wants to hear about how I literally seduced a Jedi to the Dark Side. That sounds crass.”
“You did not seduce a Jedi to the Dark Side,” Ren said, smiling fondly at Hux despite himself.
“Not yet,” Hux said, patting Ren’s thigh under the table.
“They’re flirting,” Poe said. He looked between his two friends for confirmation, his crooked smile coming out. He leaned his elbow on the table, oddly amused. “I’m not seeing things right? Those two are flirting right here and right now, when we should be arresting one of them. It’s almost funny.”
“I think you mean surreal,” the traitor said. He waved in Hux and Ren’s direction. “You weren’t on that ship, so you don’t get the weirdness that is Kylo Ren and General Hux flirting, but this is surreal.”
“He’s not Kylo Ren,” Solo spoke up from the other side of the table. “So let’s stop calling him that.”
“I understand what you’re saying,” the traitor continued, face serious. He pressed his lips together and looked at Ren. “But even if it was all fake, he was still very much the Lord Ren that stalked around the Finalizer and flew into fits of rage that scared half the ship. All of us wondered when the next time he cut down something, if it’d be a person instead of a control panel. He scared the First Order as much as the rest of the universe, so it’s going to take some time to really wrap my head around the fact he was a good guy the whole time.”
It pained Hux that the person he had the most in common with at the table was a traitor, but it was nice to know he wasn’t the only one who still saw Ren as Ren.
“Let’s calm down,” Organa said, holding up her hands. She looked pained and Hux had to wonder if it was because they were inadvertently accusing her son of being a monster. Organa kept everyone’s attention as she spoke with authority. “This conversation isn’t going anywhere, and we have a lot to discuss over the next week. I suggest we all turn in for the night, think about the things we want to say, and then make a list tomorrow so we stay on topic.”
“I agree with Leia,” the girl said, speaking up for the first time. “And it might be good for Finn to talk with me and Poe alone first. I think it was unfair of you to hide who Ben’s guest was from him when you said he could come.”
“That’s fair,” Organa said. She put her hands on the table and looked around the room. “With that, everyone to your rooms.”
One of the Wookies growled at Ren, and he nodded. “Thanks, Lowie. Come on, Hux. Lowbacca said we can use the guest room upstairs.”
Hux looked at Organa who had turned toward Ben the moment she’d dismissed everyone. “You’re not going to speak with your mother first?”
“Not tonight,” Ren said, pushing away from the table. His mother frowned and the boy stalked off.
Hux followed, biting his lip to hold in the smile.
“I can not believe she didn’t at least tell me she was bringing them in her messages,” Ben said, pacing back and forth in the large room. It was the same guest room he typically stayed in whenever they’d visit Lowbacca and his family, and it was welcome and familiar. But still not enough to calm him down; his insides were boiling over. Ben glared at the door with his hands up. “Some warning would have been nice!”
“You wouldn’t have shown up if you knew,” Armitage said, lounging in one of the wicker chairs. It was odd seeing the man sunk half-deep in a cushion, when the majority of his preferred furniture choices were barely better than sitting on solid wood. Armitage opened his thighs a little as he got comfortable. “Even I know that much.”
“I’m half tempted to leave now,” Ben said, crossing his arms. “This feels more like an intervention than a family discussion.”
“I certainly wouldn’t say no to leaving,” Armitage said.
“You say that until my mother decides this is important enough to chase you down, and I get labeled an accomplice,” Ben huffed. He didn’t think his mother would do that, but if this really was an intervention to split Ben and Armitage up, followed by arresting him, then maybe she might. “I can’t really be free to hunt down Snoke if I have to worry about being a wanted man.”
“Again, I’m more than up for leaving,” Armitage said. He patted the side of his thigh. “You were already a wanted man when you were Kylo Ren, and if the New Republic turns it’s back on you, all the more reason to come home, don’t you think?”
“The First Order was not home,” Ben said.
“It was for five years,” Armitage said. He stared long and hard at Ben, like he was trying to see right through him. “I still refuse to believe that everything Kylo Ren was, had been an act.”
“The only truth to Kylo Ren was my anger,” Ben said. He didn’t want to have this conversation. Ben gripped his fists tightly and stared at the wall. “And it was directed at the First Order. If I go back, the only thing I’m doing is finishing the rest of that awful group off.”
“Come sit with me,” Armitage said, sounding too congenial when Ben was talking about destroying his beloved Order. “This chair is big enough for two, and your pacing is tiring to look at. You’re reminding me of a caged animal.”
“I’m not,” Ben stopped. He had been pacing still. He rubbed his hands down his face and wandered over to the chair. Armitage scooted over just enough for Ben to collapse next to him in the oversized chair. He looked at Armitage and breathed out. “I’m not Kylo Ren. I’m never going to be that monster again.”
“That is a shame,” Armitage said. He kissed the side of Ben’s lip and rested his head on Ben’s shoulder. He laced their fingers together, squeezing Ben’s hand as he moved to cuddle. Armitage whispered, “Because I still rather miss him. You were such a wonderful monster, Ben. I sometimes still get shivers thinking about it.”
“Everyone was terrified of me,” Ben said, thinking of the way Finn looked at him at the table. “It’s just like he said. I even scared the First Order, but not in the way I wanted to.”
His voice came out hoarse and wet as buried emotions bubbled their way to the surface. Ben wasn’t ready for the onslaught of emotions that came over him. He still had yet to come to terms with the things he’d done as Kylo Ren, and the sealed box of guilt in the back of his mind cracked open without warning or giving him a chance to prepare for it. Even the small trickle that fell from it now drowned Ben, and the words came before he could stop them.
“I slaughtered people over nothing,” Ben said. Armitage stilled, listening very closely. Ben’s chest ached. “I sold out my family and friends every time I aided the First Order in their quest for universal conquest. Every interrogation was like killing myself as I abused my power to hurt those people and open their minds. I told myself time and time again it was all for the greater good. The sacrifices of those lives had to be worth it to take out Snoke.
“And then I started to fall for you, and my decisions became more and more selfish.
“Do you know how many times I should have let you die to deal a blow to the First Order? How many times I saved you instead of letting the Resistance get their shot in?” Ben confessed. He stared at the floor, breath heavy. “I remember the first time, back when we were on that ship for an inspection and it was attacked. I was caught in an explosion, and you were there, and we ran into a group of Resistance fighters in the hallway.”
“I remember that, too,” Armitage said, voice even. “It was the first time I’d ever seen you unconscious.”
“I was going to let them shoot you,” Ben said, something inside his chest opening up. He had never told Armitage these things. He’d said he was in denial during the time before they had their first night together, but he never mentioned how bad it had been. “It would have been easy. The First Order would have been in a panic to lose you. But you were so scared and I felt it. I felt your trembling and how badly you wanted to take a few steps behind me because I was the warrior and you were so happy you were next to someone who could kill all those men with ease.
“And then I did exactly what you wanted. I was your comfort, and your protector. I killed those men for you,” Ben said. Armitage reached up, wiping the tears off his cheek. He didn’t even know he’d been crying. “It wasn’t for my assignment. It wasn’t because it was necessary to maintain my cover. I killed them, because I chose you over them.”
Armitage laughed, harsh and cruel. He tugged Ben’s face down and his eyes were vicious. He turned, crawling up in the seat to face Ben. “Oh, you dear man. How sad is it that the one thing that wasn’t monstrous about you, is the one you feel most guilty over.”
Ben didn’t move as Armitage shifted to sit in his lap. The man kissed him, hard and rough and Ben had to grab his hips to keep from tumbling over in the too soft-cushion.
“You once said I was a monster, because I felt the end justified the means. My belief that the sacrifice of the Hosnian system for the good of the First Order was horrific to you, so much so that you threw everything you had away to destroy my Starkiller base. But did you hear yourself just now?” Armitage wrapped his arms around Ben’s shoulders. He pressed the sides of their heads together, whispering into Ben’s ear. “In the name of the greater good of eliminating Snoke from the universe, you became Kylo Ren and sacrificed how many lives and tortured how many people, all for the sake of keeping your cover while you moved in close to a man you planned to assassinate? How is that any different from what I was doing, but on a slightly smaller scale?”
“The scale makes a big difference,” Ben whispered, his heart beating too fast. His ribs felt like they were going to burst from his chest. The light on the desk next to them rattled, and Ben shut down his emotions before the Force acted on its own. He allowed his hands to tremble, instead of letting his emotions channel it into something more destructive. Ben gritted his teeth. “It was no where near the same thing.”
“Don’t lie to yourself,” Armitage whispered, kissing Ben on the temple. “It’s ugly.”
Ben squeezed Armitage’s waist; his head clouded with unwanted thoughts.
“You know, compared to all of that, choosing to save the man you love over following your orders sounds much more heroic, doesn’t it? I called it a fairy tale earlier, and that seems more apt than ever now that I think about it. You were my prince coming to the rescue; a real knight in dark armor,” Armitage whispered, kissing the side of his head again. Ben rested his head on Armitage’s shoulder, squeezing his waist into a hug. He wanted to respond, but he could only manage a choked whimper. Armitage petted Ben’s hair, stroking it softly. “But I can see you have a lot to think about, so I’ll let you be.”
Armitage slipped off his lap, and picked up a blanket and a pillow from the bed. He looked over his shoulder and smiled. “I’ll sleep on the couch in the living room.”
The door shut before Ben could protest, leaving him alone in the dark with too many thoughts he didn’t want.
Hux never stopped being evil, hoping that’s still very clear. He’s a monster and I love him as much as Ben does. Poor, poor, Ben. Sadly, Hux is going to have to suffer for being a monster, and Ben’s going to have to watch. So even worse for Ben.
Also I can’t remember what the canon is on Leia and her Force abilities outside of feeling people’s life forces, so I’m playing a little loose with that. That’s your heads up.
“Trouble in paradise already?” Solo said, his voice waking Hux. The man loomed over him, grey hair in his face and wrinkles stretched as he smiled. “Man, even I wouldn’t have guessed you’d be kicked to the couch this quick after meeting Leia.”
Solo’s Wookie growled from behind the man, saying something incomprehensible (like always). Hux sat up and stared at the man, wondering how it had come to this. He was positive he’d be the first person awake in the morning when he had made the decision to camp out on the couch to give Ren time to stew over his thoughts. But no, there stood Solo with a cup of coffee in hand, grinning.
“Please,” Hux said. He pushed his hair down, hoping it wasn’t too disarrayed after a night on the couch. “If Ren kicked me out, you all would have heard it. He needed time alone, and I gave it to him.”
“Sure you did,” Solo said, sipping his coffee.
Hux got up, glad he went to sleep in his clothing, and folded the blankets on the couch. If Solo was awake, who knew who else was? It was bad enough Ren’s Father had seen him asleep, but at least Solo was the least of Hux’s worries. Hux and Ren had had sex a hallway down from the man, so it’s not like Hux could do anything more to embarrass himself in front of him.
The others, well, Hux still had second impressions to make.
“May I ask the time?” Hux asked, dropping the folded blankets on the edge of the couch. “My datapad is in my room.”
“Early,” Solo said. He shrugged and continued sipping his coffee. “We’re the only ones up and about, if that’s what you’re asking.”
Hux nodded and gathered his things. “I guess I’ll check on Ben, then.”
He made it halfway to the guest room door when Solo spoke up again. “You know things aren’t going to go well for you, right?”
“I could say the same for you,” Hux said.
He opened the bedroom door without another thought to the elder Solo and grinned to himself. If the rest of the week went like last night, than for all intents and purposes, Ren’s parents might as well have gift-wrapped the boy as a present.
Hux looked forward to it.
But for now, he had to check on the man. Ren was curled on one end of the bed, blanket tucked around him neatly. He breathed softly, but it was difficult to tell if he was awake or not from this side of the room with hair in his face.
Hux dropped his folded blanket on the end of the bed, and dragged his fingers along the edge of the sheets as he walked around to Ren’s side. He sat on the corner of the mattress and leaned over. Ren looked at him with wary eyes, puffy and tired.
“Did you get any sleep?” Hux asked, pushing Ren’s hair behind his ears.
“A little,” Ren admitted. He tugged on the side of Hux’s tunic, smiling softly. “You slept in these.”
“I was hardly going to sleep naked on the couch where anyone could walk in,” Hux said. He leaned over and kissed Ren on the side of the head. “I’m going to change, and you need to get up.”
Ren sat up, his hair a rat’s nest of tangled curls. It was adorable, and Hux straightened it with his fingers before heading to his bag. He tugged out a new outfit and changed, not bothering to leave the room. Ren’s eyes were steady on him, watching, but not moving to interfere or do anything himself.
“You were right last night,” Ren said, putting his legs over the side of the bed. He watched Hux, standing with a grunt. Hux’s eyes fell on the man’ bare chest, and his pants loose on his waist. Ren crossed around the bed and put his hand against the side of Hux’s face. “Sacrificing those lives while undercover, was exactly the same sort of thing you were trying to do with Starkiller base.”
“I’m glad we see eye to eye on it,” Hux whispered, leaning into Ren’s hand.
Gift-wrapped with a bow. He almost wanted to write Leia Organa a thank you card.
“Which is why I’ve made up my mind.” Ren kissed the top of Hux’s head, and lingered. His fingers tightened against Hux’s face, and he could feel the man’s heart beating. “I will not make that mistake again, and I’m very thankful I stopped you from making the same one, Armitage.”
Ren kissed him once on the lips and went to his own bags, tugging out his clothes.
Hux stared at his back, mouth open. That wasn’t how this was supposed to go. Ren was supposed realize Hux had been right and they were on the same page. Hux fastened his belt glaring at the bed. Ren smiled at him, looking far too serene and at peace with himself.
That damn idiot had made up his mind already and it was the wrong decision!
Hux twisted his hands in his shirt, forcing his breathing to calm. So fine, his gift wrapped package had been opened early and spoiled. Hux watched Ren’s back as it disappeared behind fabric. Hux could still have this. Ren would see reason.
He had to.
Ben held in the smile best he was able. Armitage was full on pouting at the breakfast table, glaring at his coffee and eggs. The others hadn’t joined them yet, but his father had insisted they get breakfast now while they could before everyone else showed up. Ben couldn’t argue with that when he knew what sorts of appetites everyone else had.
Besides, Armitage could probably use the time to cool down.
He loved Armitage Hux, he really did, but even he could admit that man could be an absolute nerf herder when he wanted to be. After Armitage had left him alone, Ben took a shower and spent an hour in deep meditation. The Force was a guide that Ben really should consult more often, because with it, he had cleared his mind enough to see the bigger picture. Armitage saw weakness when Ben broke down, and he went for it like a proper predator.
But it backfired.
Ben came to his own conclusions concerning his undercover mission, and they certainly weren’t what Armitage was hoping to hear after his exit. Ben supposed he should have been angry after Armitage’s malicious attempts to manipulate him, but it was hard to blame Armitage for being himself. Ben had always known the good General was a bit of a monster, and this didn’t change much.
That and it was hard to stay mad at someone who’s end goal was to stay together, even if he was going about it a really awful way.
“Noticed you two lovebirds had a fight last night,” Ben’s father said, smiling around a bite of sausage. “Even if Hux says otherwise, I know when someone’s been kicked to the doghouse.”
“From personal experience, I imagine?” Armitage asked, slicing his eggs in half. “I noticed you woke up without your wife this morning, so perhaps you had a similar fate.”
“Why you little punk,” Han said, leaning forward. He almost got up, but Uncle Chewie grabbed his shoulder to pull him back. “Let go, Chewie. I need to sock him one.”
“Dad, it’s too early for fighting already,” Ben said. “And I didn’t kick Hux out. I had a lot on my mind and wanted some time alone, that’s all.”
Han frowned and glared at Armitage, who was smiling rather brightly (and smugly, for some reason).
“Did I miss something?” Ben asked.
“Nothing that matters,” Armitage said, mood better already.
“Where is mom?” Ben asked, finishing off his coffee. He sighed and rubbed the back of his neck through the fabric of his collar. “I owe her an apology.”
“Yeah, you do,” Han said. He shrugged and sipped his coffee. “But she understands, so I think you’re fine. She’s talking with Rey and the others. Finn’s a little shook up about Hux being here, and that was a big miss on our parts.”
“I’m surprised she let him come,” Ben said. Armitage said nothing, continuing to eat in silence, though he was a slight bit tenser. “All considering.”
“From my understanding, she didn’t want to say who your guest was within earshot of anyone on base, and that boy is joined at the hip with Rey and Poe these days,” Han said. He stretched, lounging on the table. “So she didn’t even think about it when he asked to come with those two.”
Ben nodded. Armitage by his side was frowning, but it wasn’t quite as angry as earlier. It was more contemplative, which was fair. The odds of someone from their ship being the one to befriend Rey and Poe were low. Most of the Finalizer hadn’t even surrendered, which made Finn even more of an outlier on that front.
“I see you guys started eating without us,” Poe said, walking into the kitchen. The others were behind him, including his mother. He grabbed a piece of fruit from the middle of the table and bit into it, still grinning. “But I’d be doing the same, so I can’t blame you.”
“Ben,” his mother said, stopping by his chair. “How are you feeling this morning?”
“Sorry about last night,” Ben said, taking her hand and holding it. “I lost my temper.”
“It’s fine,” Leia said. She squeezed his fingers and sat down next to him. “You got it from me, so I can’t hold too much of a grudge.”
“I want to say for the record, this is still weird,” Finn said, sitting next to Rey. He felt calmer than he did last night, more reserved to the situation. The wariness was still there, but he wasn’t scared any longer. Finn took the plate of food from Poe as he sat down at the bar counter. “Really, really weird.”
“At least it’s better now that you know, right?” Rey said, filling her plate full. Ben wasn’t caught up on the details, but apparently Luke had picked her up on a desert planet where food was heavily rationed. Rey still ate every meal like it might be her only one, and it was as charming as it was sad. “And it’s not like he has the power to make you go back, not with all of us here.”
“I know,” Finn said, smiling at Rey. “I’m not scared any more, but still.”
“The big bad general’s not so scary when he doesn’t have an army behind him,” Poe said. He bit into his fruit again, leaning one elbow on the bar counter. “Are you, tough guy?”
“I’m going to kill him,” Armitage said, looking at Ben while waving his fork at Poe. The fact he as serious as Ben had ever seen him was not a comfort. “You’ve been warned, so you can’t hold it against me.”
“I’m fairly certain that’s not how it works,” Ben said.
Armitage shrugged and finished off his coffee.
“He is a real catch, Ben,” Poe said, feeling distinctly unthreatened. Ben should probably warn him later that Armitage wasn’t joking when he said he was going to kill Poe. “If that’s your type, I’m starting to see why you didn’t date much. Monsters are a bit hard to find these days.”
“Poe,” Ben said, trying to sound threatening but not too much. “Enough jokes, alright?”
“I’m not joking,” Poe said. He hopped off the stool counter and put his hands on the table between Rey and Finn. “On top of Starkiller, which in and of itself should have been enough, that man is responsible for the Stormtrooper reconditioning programs. He’s the reason Finn was kidnapped from his home, stripped of his name for a number, and forced to be a killer for that Order of his. He’s a monster, Ben, and I’m not going to stop reminding you of it.”
Ben gripped his fist on the table. Poe wasn’t wrong, but he wasn’t. He wasn’t entirely right either. There was more to him than that, and Ben wanted to find that other half and embrace it. Armitage could be better than the horrible man he kept trying to be, and Ben wanted to see it. But that couldn’t happen if no one gave him a chance. “Poe—”
“It’s fine,” Armitage said, cutting Ben off. He patted Ben’s arm and stood from the table. “Dead men can say anything they like, and I can tell when I’m not wanted. I’ll be reading in the back if the conversation decides to turn civil.”
He kissed the top of Ben’s head and walked out of the kitchen toward the back bedroom.
Ben glared at Poe, ignoring the way his mother was smiling behind her hand.
Hux was halfway through a thriller novel and sixteen different ways to torture the pilot Poe when Leia Organa herself entered the room. Not one to be intimidated, Hux turned off his datapad and sat up in the chair, gaining his military posture. “General.”
“I’d say the same, but I don’t think you have that title any more, Mr. Hux,” Organa said. She pulled over a chair and sat it across from Hux, taking a seat. She laced her hands together in her lap, looking as regal as her princess title would suggest. “I had a rather lengthy chat with my son after you locked yourself in here, and I don’t know what you did to gain my son’s loyalties, but you got it.”
“That’s fairly typical when someone falls in love isn’t it?” Hux asked, crossing one leg over the other. “Or am I mistaken?”
“So you love him?” Organa asked.
“I’d like to keep him, yes,” Hux said. The answer was yes. He loved his terrifying Kylo Ren, and he’d come to love the smiling and adoring Ben Solo (if he absolutely had to admit it), but Hux hated where the man had chosen to align his loyalties. But that didn’t matter right now. If Hux hadn’t said it to Ren yet, he certainly wasn’t letting the man’s mother hear it first. “Not that it’s your business. I have no need for your blessing.”
“That wasn’t the question I asked,” Organa said. She leaned forward and Hux felt a tug in the back of his mind and heart. “Do you love Ben?”
Hux felt compelled to answer; his insides squirmed. He felt almost relaxed, and the words were on the tip of his tongue when Hux leaned forward with a flinch. That wasn’t what he wanted to do. Why did he almost? Hux frozen in his chair.
She was using the Force.
Hux sucked a breath in through his teeth. That blasted woman was using the Force to make him talk! Hux snarled, biting down on the compulsion to confess. “Does Ben know you’re using your mind tricks?”
“I know that you had no issue making Ben use them on prisoners and interrogations,” Organa said, pushing harder in the back of Hux’s mind. She smiled, voice almost pleasant as she kept up the conversation and her attempts to root around Hux’s brain at the same time. “Can’t take what you dish out, Hux?”
Hux gritted his teeth, steeling himself. He would not bend to this woman. Mind tricks could be fought, and he was going to do it. He refused to let her have the upper hand. Hux nearly chipped a tooth, clamping his jaw so tightly shut, focusing hard on getting rid of the intrusive feeling that felt like fingers digging into his skull.
“I heard a lot about you from Han,” Organa said, leaning back. The pull increased and she narrowed her eyes. “Who heard it from a very drunk Ben. He’s so in love with you Han is almost scared for him. So not as a General, but as a mother, I want to know if it’s returned.”
“I’m going to kill you,” Hux said. It was what first came to mind whenever he thought of Organa. It was easy to get the words out as he fought answering her question. “That is a promise.”
“Are we at threats already? You certainly move quick.” She leaned forward again, almost smiling. “Come on now. This should be business as usual, Mr. Hux. You have information that I want, and I have the means to get it. Shouldn’t I use them? That’s what you’re always telling Ben, isn’t it? You love it when he interrogates people.”
Because Ren was doing it for Hux, not to him. Didn’t that blasted woman know the difference? Hux turned his head away, refusing to look at her.
“No, we’re still talking,” Organa said. She pulled her hand toward her, snapping Hux’s face back to the front. Organa kept her hand up, keeping Hux from moving again. The pressure on his mind and chest increased and it was a pain he’d never felt before. It felt like she was crushing his chest, and pain laced through the back of his head. Hux felt a new appreciation for Ren at the same time he feared breaking. Organa spoke softy, but it echoed in Hux’s brain. “Do you love Ben Solo, yes or not?”
“Yes,” Hux said, the words spilling out against his will. Organa dropped the Force hold, sitting back in her chair with a contemplative, but victorious look. Hux’s hand twisted into a fist and he stood from the chair. His voice was his own again, and he reveled in it. He felt like he was standing on Starkiller base again, anger fueling him. “Yes, I do. I love him.”
Organa said nothing when Hux approached and slammed his hands on the arms of the chair on her either side. He’d had a million daydreams about killing this woman and now none of them seemed worthy enough. “That’s why I’m going to take him from you.”
“You can try,” Organa said, unmoved. She didn’t so much as flinch from his gaze, or move away. “But Ben’s stronger than you, and he won’t go with you back to that Order. You aren’t going to get your way, Hux.”
“Did I say Ben had a choice?” Hux said. He narrowed his own eyes to match Organa’s and smirked. Hux twisted his fingers into the wicker of the chair, breaking a few of the strands in his grip. “I’ll drag him back to the First Order kicking and screaming if I have to. I don’t care if he hates me for it, it won’t change a thing, Organa. That man is mine now, and I’m never giving him back.”
“It’s sad your delusions of power extend to every part of your life,” Organa said, voice full of pity. Hux nearly slapped her. Organa leaned back in her chair, voice stern. “Walk away from him, Hux. He deserves better than you, and we both know it.”
“I’ve always known Lord Ren could do better,” Hux said. He backed away from the chair and walked to the door. He looked over his shoulder at the woman in the chair and declared, “That’s why I’ll fight ten times harder than anyone else to keep him.”
Hux slammed the door behind him.
“I told you using the Force would only make him angry,” Ben said, sitting on the porch of the treehouse. He closed his eyes, able to feel Armitage all the way back in the shuttle at the landing bay. He looked at his mother as she sat beside him, resigned. Ben hadn’t wanted her to do that to Armitage, but he also knew she was as stubborn as he was, and nothing Ben could say would get her to go easy on him. “How bad was it?”
“That man is dangerous,” Leia said. She reached over and put her hand on Ben’s arm, squeezing it. She sounded tired. “And has a warped view of what love is.”
“That’s not hard to believe,” Ben said. He looked at his mother and felt thankful for her. She loved Ben with all her heart, and so did his father. Armitage never had that. The first words his father had ever said to him was that he was as thin and useless as a slip of paper. Armitage didn’t know that Ben knew that, a memory stolen before they had gotten to know each other when Brendol Hux visited the Finalizer. “He hasn’t exactly been on the receiving end of it much.”
Leia rubbed her thumb on Ben’s arm. “Be that as it may, I’m starting to think it would have been kinder if you left that man to die with his super-weapon.”
“I almost did,” Ben said. He watched the wind through the trees, closing his eyes. He could still sense Armitage angry in the shuttle, and it wasn’t too different from that first time he’d caught him there waiting. Ben exhaled. “I was going to leave without him. That was the original plan, and I hated myself for it even after I’d made up my mind.”
“What changed?” Leia asked.
“He was there,” Ben said, turning his head to face his mother. Her eyes were warm and understanding, but still questioning. Ben took her hand and held it. “I had set the bombs in the shield generator, and when I got to my shuttle to take off, Hux was sitting in it. He was furious and demanding to know why I’d been in the shield generator room.
“But he was also alone, and terrified for me,” Ben said, closing his eyes. He could still see it, so easily. Armitage desperately clinging to his cowl and begging “Ren” to see reason before he got himself killed. Ben squeezed his mother’s hand. “He was going to look the other way for me. Did you know that?”
His mother tilted her head, “Oh?”
“No one loved the First Order more than Hux, and no one was more loyal. He’d rat me out to Snoke whenever he could the first couple of years we knew each other. We were like siblings tattling to our parents whenever something went wrong,” Ben said, thinking of it. “It was always over little things, nothing with real consequence, but the precedent was there. And of course, I’d already seen what happened to actual traitors.”
That was something Ben would not be repeating for his mother, and he knew she already had a good idea of how bad it was.
“So there I was, committing high treason of the worst sort against our ‘Supreme Leader’ and Hux’s precious weapon, and he,” Ben paused. He tightened his hold on his mother’s hand, and she held it just as strong. “And he said if I came back with him, he’d pretend it never happened. Hux was completely willing to cover for me, breaking the rules he loved so dearly without the slightest hesitation. He was going to pick me over his Order. I’d always suspected it, but that was when it really sunk in that he loved me.
“After that, I don’t think I could have left him to die on that planet if I wanted to,” Ben said. He swallowed, resting his head back against the chair seat. “Hux loved me long before I loved him, and even if that’s the only Light in his entire being, it’s still there. I don’t want to give up on him.”
“That’s because you feel everything deeply, including love,” Leia said. She smiled wryly and lifted their joined hands to tap them against the arm rest. “And that you got from both of your grandparents.”
“Not you or dad?” Ben asked.
“Maybe a little from us, too,” Leia said. She leaned over and kissed Ben on the head. “But don’t tell him I said that.”
They sat in silence a little longer, Ben kept his eyes closed. He felt the people around him; his mother close and his father arguing with Chewie and Lowie on the other side of the wall. Rey was doing lightsaber drills slowly for Finn, and Poe was working on dinner. Ben breathed slowly. Armitage had calmed down, but he was too far away to get more specific.
“You know if I look the other way this time Ben, that I can’t do it again,” Leia said, voice tired. “That man is never going to stop trying to destroy the Republic, and he’s one of the few who’s a real threat. I can’t let him do as he likes, and you’re too close to the situation to have reliable judgement.”
Ben grunted. He didn’t want to hear it, but it was probably true. He was starting to think Armitage could have actually gone through with pressing that button and Ben would still want to steal him away where it was safe.
“But you’d look the other way this time?” Ben asked.
“For this trip, I’ll let him go home with you,” Leia said. She kept his gaze, even and serious. “He gets a one time pass for offering it you first, and as an unspoken apology for taking something so personal from his head. After that, the next time I see him, I’m taking him into custody.”
“I understand,” Ben said, swallowing and licking the edge of his lip. He could work with that. If after this, they both put their best efforts into hunting down Snoke and killing him, the First Order would crumble and Armitage would be forgotten as a threat with nothing to back him up. “Thank you.”
“I do have one condition on top of that, though,” Leia said, giving Ben that smile that said she had the upper hand.
Ben squeezed her hand, smiling in turn back at her. “And that is?”
“You actually stay the rest of the week,” Leia said. She laughed and let go of his hand to push Ben’s hair behind his ear. “I’ve got a week off, and I’d really like to spend it with my son.”
“I think we can do that.”
“Good,” Leia said. She gave Ben a hug and nodded her head toward his shuttle. “Go drag him back into the house before he takes off without you.”
“Yes, ma’am,” Ben said. He jumped over the railing of the porch, landing on the spiral stairwell below.
Hux checked on his Ysalamiri eggs after he was calm enough to see straight again. He had needed the distraction. If he kept thinking of how badly he wanted to murder Leia Organa, he might actually try to do it, and that would be foolish with three Jedi there to stop him. So he focused on the eggs, that would grow up into beautiful lizards that would make those Jedi and their mystic powers useless.
Then he’d kill Leia Organa.
“Look at you all growing up,” Hux whispered, placing his hand over him. Each little warm body pulsed and he could tell how much larger they were getting inside by the day. Hux pet each one a final time, before stowing them away again in the grate, making sure they wouldn’t move around in flight. “I can’t wait to see you all soon.”
As much as he’d like to check on them more, he honestly had no idea when Ren would come looking for him.
(Because the man had to; he had to.)
Hux had fixed himself a small bowl of oatmeal when Ren came up the steps of the ramp about twenty minutes later. He had Hux’s greatcoat over his arm and a small bag at his side that smelled rather good.
“I know you don’t like Poe, but I hope that won’t stop you from eating his cooking,” Ren said, setting the bag on the table. He laid Hux’s coat across the back of the chair, opening the bag. “He makes the best factryn meat pie you’ve ever had, and he’s not even a Wookie.”
“It is a shame to waste food,” Hux said, looking over Ren’s shoulder. It did look amazing, damn that pilot. “I’m still going to kill him, though.”
“I’m sure you’ll try, but at least hold it off for a few more days,” Ren said, shaking his head. He went for the plates in the cabinet, bringing over Hux’s oatmeal with it. “Mom has allowed a truce for this week. When it’s up, we go one way and they go the other.”
“After that we’re enemies again, I take it?” Hux asked.
“She won’t be actively hunting you down, but if she sees you, she’s going to arrest you,” Ren said. He divided up the meal between the two plates and sat down, breathing heavy. “Would be the short of it.”
They ate in silence, the food warm and delicious, but not enough to completely calm the nerves burning under Hux’s skin.
“Did you know she was going to read my mind?” Hux asked, though it was against his better judgement.
“I advised against it,” Ren said, shoving the meat around his plate. “But I had a feeling she was going to do it anyway.”
“Did she tell you what she saw?” Hux asked, voice quiet. Ren knew of course already (how could he not?), but Hux hadn’t had a chance to say it yet. He didn’t. It mattered that he got to say it aloud first, and he’d never forgive that woman if she stole this moment from him. “Anything?”
“No,” Ren said, watching him carefully. “Just that you’re dangerous, and she doesn’t approve.”
“Good,” Hux said, cutting into the food. “To both accounts.”
“How bad was it?” Ren asked, something softer in his voice. He had turned to look at the table, shoulders dropped.
“Not as bad as it could have been, I’m sure,” Hux said. He scraped the bottom of his plate, getting the last of the pie. “I wasn’t screaming by the end of it, so apparently I broke fairly quickly.”
“It’s typically more complicated than that,” Ren said. He pushed his plate away and crossed his arms on the table. “And mother is very strong in certain elements of the Force, particularly the ones dealing with emotions. So I wouldn’t be hard on yourself if she got the upper hand.”
“Surprisingly,” Hux said, “that doesn’t make me feel better.”
Ren cleared the plates from the table, putting them away into the washer. He looked over his shoulder, attempting large, puppy dog eyes. “She did say she was sorry.”
Hux scoffed, “No she didn’t.”
“She strongly implied it, which is close enough,” Ren said. He walked back to the table, crossing his arms on the back of the chair with Hux’s greatcoat. “Everyone promised to play nice if we came back to the treehouse, and I don’t know about you, but I’m going to sleep in that guest bed for as long as I can before we have to go back to that rock pretending to be a mattress in our quarters.”
“If you like it that much, why don’t we just steal it?” Hux asked.
“It won’t fit in the room,” Ren answered, grinning. “Or I just might.”
“Maybe we should mattress shop while we’re here,” Hux said, standing up from the table. He grabbed his coat and shrugged it on. Ren hadn’t said it outright, but the implied “We’re not being allowed to hide in the shuttle” was loud and clear. “We’ve got a week to kill, and I feel like shopping is the only common ground we’ll all have.”
“I’ll be happy to bring it up,” Ren said. He checked the dishes were clean from the washer before putting them away. Afterwards, he joined Hux at the ramp to walk back out to the tree. Ren took Hux’s hand and held it, letting it sway between them as they walked. “Maybe we should look into other decorations while we’re at it. We could really make the Silver Wing home.”
“What happened to wanting to settle down and run a repair shop?” Hux asked.
“Still on the table after we get rid of Snoke.”
“I like that it’s still a ‘we’,” Hux said, squeezing Ren’s hand. He leaned on Ren as they walked, smiling up at the dark sky. “Let’s hope it stays that way after I kill that pilot friend of yours.”
Ren laughed, dropping Hux’s hand to throw his arm around Hux’s shoulder. He shook his head, shaking his hair loose. “How about we compromise and just have really loud sex to annoy him, since our room is next to his?”
“You’d lift the no talking rule?” Hux asked, pleased Ren was willing to play along this much.
“I’ll already be embarrassed, what’s a little more on top of it?”
“Fine,” Hux said. He put his arm around Ren’s waist and took a step up on the stairs. “I’ll accept your deal, but you had best not renege halfway in.”
“I’ll endeavor not to,” Ren said, still smiling. “But we’re not making a trend of it.”
“Oh, certainly not,” Hux said. He let go of Ren, tapping up the last few steps on his own. He smoothed down his coat and opened the door. “Because as of next week, he’s free game again and I’m definitely going to shoot him.”
“You know I can stop blaster bolts with the Force, right?” Ren called after him as they crossed the living room.
“You’ll have to tell me all about it when I’m taking your pants off,” Hux said, opening the back bedroom door. “Won’t you, Ben?”
“You’re horrible.” Ren followed him through the door, kissing Hux soundly. “You really are.”
“But you love it,” Hux said, nipping his bottom lip as the door closed behind them.
“I love you,” Ren said. He worked them back toward the back of the bed until his knees hit the mattress, pushing them both over. “I know that much.”
“Close enough,” Hux said, dragging Ren down.
“I was going to yell at you for making me listen to you two go at it last night, but you look worse than I do,” Poe said, sitting across from Ben. “You look rough for a guy who got lucky.”
“I don’t know why he’s upset either,” Hux (he didn’t get to be Armitage today; not after last night) said, sipping his coffee like the demon he was. He pet Ben’s hair, using the exact same tone of voice he did last night, with equal parts praise and mockery. “Ben was such a good boy last night, weren’t you?”
Ben looked up at Poe, hair falling in the middle of his eyes, and stared hard. “Kill me.”
Poe looked between Ben and Hux and laughed. “Nope, you made that bed now you get to live in it.”
“He’s not as bad when he’s making fun of you instead of me,” Hux said, patting Ben on the back.
Ben buried his head under his arms and sighed.
Part of me wants to tack a “Hux is not Nice” tag on here, just for kicks. Anyway, let’s get onto the family bonding. Ha ha. Gotta’ get some happiness in while I can before Hux gets to do his thing in future parts (because it’s not going to be pretty). So, fluffy domestic chapter it is!
In other news, I have a better picture of where this story is going as a whole, with the entire AU ending with the confrontation with Snoke. So, yay. That means this won’t linger on forever and eventually fade into forgetfulness like the rest of my unfinished ongoing fanfics. Score.
“I know I said seeing General Hux and Not-Ren over there flirting was weird,” Finn said, picking up a desk lamp. Ben rolled his eyes at the nickname, but it had been created in good fun, so it wasn’t too bad. Finn put the lamp back down and shook his head as he adjusted his coat. “But furniture shopping with them, is like ten times past that on the list of things I never thought I’d see in my lifetime.”
“Life’s all about new experiences,” Poe said, throwing his arm around Finn. He squeezed the man’s shoulder and laughed. “Even if they’re the sort of things you’d only imagine in your worst domestic nightmares.”
Ben shook his head as he stood next to his mother near the mattresses. Armitage and he had gone back to the shuttle with his father to take measurements of the Silver Wing’s crew quarters for the mattress that morning, but his mother suggested they get room measurements too in case they wanted to buy extra furniture.
“If you’re going to be living there,” Leia had said, “you might as well make it a home.”
With that, the entire group (including Uncle Chewie’s family, his wife Mallatobuck and son Lumpawaroo) were shopping. The group of humans made for a weird sight walking around in the midst of the Wookie city, but it worked (and helped the Solo family wasn’t an entirely uncommon sight).
“I still can’t believe we’re mattress shopping,” Rey said, scrunching her nose. She sent a glare Ben’s way before crossing her arms. “Especially after the past few nights.”
Ben had the sense to duck his head sheepishly. That first night had been louder than he realized, and no one had forgiven him for it. The second night reinstated the “No Talking” rule (to Armitage’s disappointment, and doubly so when Ben used the Force to enforce the rule), but it was still obvious to anyone who walked by the door what was going on. Needless to say, he’d had a hard time looking a few people in the eye since then.
“Ben was spoiled by the extravagance of the guest bed and wants to upgrade,” Armitage said, as if he wasn’t the one who suggested they just steal the mattress (and also the one who suggested shopping for one). Armitage waved his hand behind him. “Believe it or not, his intentions are entirely sleep focused.”
“Hey Finn,” Ben called out, hoping to put speculation to rest as to why they were doing this.
“Yeah?” The man said, turning his head.
“You remember your stormtrooper barracks and bunk?” Ben asked, pushing his hand into a mattress. It was too big for their bed frame, but he might be able to adjust it if they got something close and his hand on some tools.
Finn shivered and shook his head. “Boy do I, and man am I glad I never have to see it again.”
“First Order officers have the same bed as you guys,” Ben said, smiling a little at Finn’s startled look. He’d had a similar reaction when he’d found out, though it was much later. Even the hard mattress he had gotten on the Finalizer was a step above the mat he had been sleeping on during Snoke’s training. Ben held a hand up to the side of his face and whispered. “The only difference between an officer’s ‘plush’ quarters and a stormtrooper barrack is they get a single room and like two extra square feet.”
Finn gaped. “You’re kidding.”
“I’m really not,” Ben said, speaking up again. Armitage rolled his eyes at him, but continued looking down the line of mattresses. Ben went to the next one himself, looking at the bed frame. “I’m still shocked they didn’t advertise that as a sign of unity or something to influence the troops.”
“Because it was a budget constraint,” Armitage said, stopping next to one of the firmer mattresses. He pressed his hands in and it went farther down than in their own, but still not far enough for what Ben wanted. “There’s limited room on a cruiser, and in case you forgot, the First Order wasn’t exactly rolling in credits.”
“Might be because you spent all your money on kidnapping soldiers and building a death planet,” Poe said.
“It was an incredibly cost efficient death planet, thank you,” Armitage said. He flipped up a price tag and scowled like like when people turned in their reports late. “Unlike anything in here. Are these normal prices?”
“They expect you to haggle, so they’re marked up a bit,” Ben said, flipping one tag over. He winced and glanced at Lowbacca. “Though we might need a local to do it for us.”
“Tourist prices,” Rey said, nodding as she held up a table decoration that looked like a cross between a plant and a lamp shade. “They’ll always get you.”
Armitage shook his head, muttering about inefficiency under his breath as he moved onto the less expensive mattresses. Ben trotted forward and intervened, taking Armitage by the arm and leading him back to the midrange (and softer) ones. “We can afford it.”
“With what credits?” Armitage asked. “I certainly don’t have any money, and you’re on a budget.”
“Don’t worry about it,” Ben said. He patted Armitage on the back, looking at another one. “I’ve got everything handled, and we are walking out of here with a new mattress to replace that wood block we’ve been calling a bed.”
“He means his mother is paying for it,” Han said, grinning as he sat down on the edge of a mattress. “Or that’s what he’s assuming, I’d bet.”
“I should make you pay for it as compensation for helping with Ysalamir fiasco,” Ben said over his shoulder. “You kept the money, didn’t you?”
“I did, but I’m not using it to pay for something that guy is benefiting from,” Han said, pointing at Armitage.
“Boys,” Leia said, interrupting. Ben’s mother held her hand up in the well known “Knock it off” gesture and frowned. “If Ben says he can pay for it, I’m sure Ben can pay for it.”
Armitage looked at him for three beats before asking, he could see the gears turning as he made an attempt to figure out where Ben was going to magically make money appear from. Then Armitage settled on the easiest solution: “Are you going to use a mind trick to make them think you paid for it?”
“No,” Ben said, laughing. He’d considered it for five seconds (he’d done it before when he was in a hurry on missions), but knew better than to try that with his mother, Rey, and Lowbacca around to call him out on it. “I’m just breaking the budget for this one important item.”
“I see,” Armitage said. He looked at another price tag. “It occurs to me I don’t know what your total money pool is, just the budget you give me when we do supply shopping.”
“That’s our cue to leave them alone,” Han said, getting up. He grabbed Leia by the arm and tugged her. “Let’s go pick out some ugly bedding sets and give it to them as a present.”
Leia giggled, and Ben winced as Armitage continued glaring at him.
Hux supervised as Ren and his father manhandled the new mattress into place, paid for with the First Order funds Ren had squirreled away without telling him. “You never asked what the total budget was!” he had claimed, and had taken his licks when Hux didn’t talk to him for an hour. But when that hour was up, they all agreed to go ahead and install the new furniture and get it over with. Well, most of the group. The man’s mother had returned back to the main house with the Wookies to share tea or stories or something else Hux didn’t care about.
“So this is the ship the highest of the high get to use in the First Order,” the pilot said, wandering around Ren and Hux’s ship. He had his hands on his back, his two friends with him. “It’s certainly utilitarian.”
“Nicer than some of the other transport ships,” the traitor said, looking around. He was tense (as he should be) and probably reliving memories if he’d been on any of Ren’s missions in the past. “They definitely got the best stuff, even if it’s not that great.”
“I’ll have you know this ship is excellent,” Ren said, dropping the new (too soft, too plush, too comfortable) mattress into the frame. “I’ve done a lot of work on it, and she’s the best flying Upsilon model they’ve got.”
“Never insult a Solo’s ship,” Poe said, smirking. “It always ends bad.”
“Damn right,” the elder Solo said, picking up the old mattress. He patted the thing on the side and huffed. “I know I said I didn’t want to do anything nice for the ex-General over there, but this mattress really is a crime. I think the Falcon has better sleeping arrangements.”
“It’s perfectly functional,” Hux said, crossing his arms. He was honestly getting tired of this constant comparison, and for the record his mattress was far cleaner than anything on that wretched cargo ship. “It’s nicer than the one my personal quarters on the Finalizer.”
“That’s not saying much,” Ren muttered under his breath. He brushed both his hands off and looked at the mattress snug within the frame bolted to the wall. It stuck up too high, but it wasn’t going to move anywhere. Ren patted the mattress.“I think we’re done, because Hux and I can add sheets and bedding later on our own.”
“I put your new dishes in the kitchenette, Ben,” the girl said, coming in. She stretched her arms over her head and dropped them. “I don’t know how you two spend so much time in here, though. It’s so small. I mean, it’s big for a shuttle, but overall it’s a little cramped.”
“It’s better with just two of us,” Ren said. “Though technically it can hold up to five comfortably.”
“First Order comfortable, you mean,” Poe said.
“Which means not at all,” the traitor added, laughing.
Hux leaned against the wall. “If you’re finished making fun of our ship, may I ask what else we have planned for this week?”
“Oh!” the girl said, holding her hand up. “Leia was talking about some of the sights here on Kashyyyk we could see. She said there was a local festival taking place nearby. We should go.”
“That sounds like it could be fun,” the traitor said. “If Rey wants to go, I’m up for it.”
Poe grinned. “Same.”
“It’ll make Hux miserable, so I’m certainly on board,” Solo said, lifting his eyebrows and heading out the bedroom door. “Besides, Chewie loves showing people around, and the only people who know how to throw a better party than Wookies are Ewoks.”
“I’m sure mom and the others would be up for it,” Ren said, biting the edge of his lip. He brushed off his hands and placed them on his lower back. “And I haven’t been in a while, myself.”
“It seems the decision has been made,” Hux said, breathing out slowly as everyone left his room.
Ren leaned over and whispered in his ear. “We’ll sneak out early, okay?”
“I’ll hold you to that.” Hux smiled, rather liking the sound of that.
It was loud enough at the festival that no one heard when Ben slammed Armitage into the bark of the wroshyr tree serving as the center of the celebrations. He couldn’t remember what the party was for, but everyone was out eating, drinking, and being loud. Armitage’s legs were around his upper thighs, pressing their waists together.
True to promise, they’d stayed long enough at the Festival to share drinks with his parents, and by the time Rey, Finn and Poe joined Lowbacca and Lumpawaroo dancing, it was easy enough to sneak off to a hidden corner behind a few storage crates.
“Ben,” Armitage said, kissing him hard. He rolled his hips, fingers digging into Ben’s back. He groaned into his next open mouthed kiss. “You are the only good thing on this planet. You and the trees.”
“We can always go back to the party,” Ben mumbled into the next kiss. He grabbed Hux’s lower thigh, lifting him higher. “That is an option.”
“Yes, yes. No talking.” Armitage dropped his head on Ben’s shoulder and laughed.
With that he went back to kissing Ben, and with the music in the background and the fire crackling near their heads from the torches near the trees, it was more than pleasant. They couldn’t really have sex against the tree for a lot of reasons, but making out like teenagers was more than enough for Ben.
Or it was until Armitage dropped to his knees and shoved Ben’s back into the tree.
The man reached under Ben’s tunic and tugged down the belt line of his pants, looking over his shoulder to make sure no one had wandered in on them. Ben covered his mouth to cover the whine when Armitage’s tongue met skin, helping himself faster than Ben could ask what he was doing.
Armitage’s mouth was hot and wet, almost hurried as he swallowed. Ben bit his finger, dropping his other hand into Armitage’s hair. He tried not to ruin the style too much (they did have to wander back to the group), but he needed the support while his knees turned weak. Armitage’s hands grabbed his waist as the man sucked, fingers digging in.
Ben’s boot slid forward on the ground as he sunk into the bark of the tree. He had trouble thinking, everything focused on the way Armitage’s eyes looked when they glazed over. He didn’t hate getting on his knees for Ben, but Armitage almost always went somewhere else when he gave head, acting almost on autopilot. Ben wasn’t too fond of it, which is why he never bothered to ask Armitage to do this (even if it felt amazing).
Armitage only volunteered when he wanted something.
It usually worked, Ben thought as he moaned through his fingers and tightened his grip in Armitage’s hair. He could think of many a favor he’d traded after Armitage decided he’d do Ben the “extra service” as he’d put it. Anything from changing his shift on the Finalizer, to getting to pick what planet they made pit stops on. Armitage changed his grip, one hand moving to the back of Ben’s thigh and the other on the front of Ben’s thigh. Armitage moved up to take Ben deeper; his muscles tensed and Ben dropped his head, arching forward.
Ben lost himself in the heat and sound of the busy streets a few rows down. The people were laughing and talking to the music, and the smell of food in the air covered the smell of his own musk. Armitage’s knees knocked into the bark of the tree from his crouch (of course he wouldn’t actually put his knees in the dirt), and Ben dragged his back down as his hips jerked forward.
Between Armitage’s fingers and tongues, it didn’t take long. Ben tugged on the side of the red head’s hair twice, breath heavy.
“I always appreciate the warning.” Armitage hummed, kissing the top of Ben’s hip. He tugged a handkerchief out of his pocket, and wrapped it around Ben’s cock as he rose to his feet. He kissed Ben soundly as his hand finished what his mouth had started. “Don’t fall asleep, Ben. We still have to go back to the party.”
Ben grunted, dropping his head onto Armitage’s shoulder as his body cooled and he caught his breath. “What was that for?”
“Felt like it,” Armitage said, petting the back of Ben’s head. He shoved the wadded handkerchief back into his pocket without a care, and leaned against Ben. “Is that not allowed?”
“When ten out of ten times you want something for it,” Ben said, raising his head and kissing Armitage on the side of the cheek. “Not really.”
“I suppose I set myself up for that answer,” Armitage sighed, fixing the front of Ben’s tunic. He pressed it down flat, and wiped the bark clinging to the sides of his clothes off with a brush of his hand. “But just this once, I really was just in a good mood.”
“I guess I can believe that,” Ben said, smiling. He pushed of the tree and straightened Armitage’s greatcoat on his shoulders. “Should I return the favor at least?”
“Later,” Armitage said. He patted Ben’s chest and shrugged. He pulled his hands up, pressing his hair down into place, a move so practiced he didn’t need a mirror for it. “I’m sure we’re missed already. Perhaps we should grab snacks and make it look like we were eating.”
Ben yawned into his hand. “I can work with that.”
“And we’re getting you some coffee,” Armitage said, tugging on the front of Ben’s tunic.
As they wandered back into the thrall of yelling and celebrating Wookies, Ben’s whole world could be summed up by one smiling red head, looking too smug for his own good. They found snacks fit for human consumption, and made their way back to the main group.
His father gave him a knowing (disapproving look), but at least his mother was amused, rolling her eyes.
“You are your father’s son,” Leia said, shaking her head.
Ben grinned into his coffee, arm around Hux’s shoulder. It was definitely the best Wookie Festival he could ever remember going to.
Hux sat up in bed, hours after they returned from the noise and awful crowd of the Wookie’s gathering. Ren’s head rested on his thigh, fast asleep and breathing softly. Hux petted his fingers through Ren’s hair, a soothing motion as he thought, biting the edge of his lip.
“You’re going to hate me so much,” he whispered, moving his hand down to rub Ren’s back. Hux closed his eyes, picturing the way Ren had smiled at his parents and those wretched Resistance lackeys he called friends. Hux bent over Ren, hugging him as he fell on his side on the pillows. “So, so much.”
Ren slept on, of course, getting his much needed rest after such an active evening. They had turned in early, with plans to spend time with Organa alone tomorrow. Hux wasn’t completely sure of what their plans were, but he had a feeling that he would be reading alone in the room for most of the day. Ren nuzzled Hux’s thigh, adjusting his position.
Sometimes Hux wondered if he was being fooled again, and the man were awake and listening to Hux’s tired whispers. Ren had admitted as much before, that he was very good at faking sleep. Though, it didn’t change much whether he was or he wasn’t awake, as all of it wasn’t anything he hadn’t heard before. Hux had been very straightforward with informing the man of his end goals.
Hux just didn’t share how he was going to do it.
“It’ll be alright though,” Hux said, fingers in Ren’s hair again. He reached down, tugging the blanket up to wrap around them, even though the position was awkward. But he was too lazy and too content to move. “You chose me before when you hated me, so maybe it’ll happen again.”
Hux could only hope.
Oh, fun times are coming with Hux. *evil laughter* But I will clarify - while things are going to get bad, I promise this thing ends happy. Individual parts of the series may not, but the overall series will end happy, so help me. This ain’t a tragedy, ladies and gents.
(Still on the fence about killing anyone or not, though. Hux really wants to, but I don’t think I’ll let him.)
But as for this part, we only have one chapter to go (almost stopped it here considering how this ends, but it needed one more parent scene). Our week with Leia and Han is almost up. Thanks so much for reading!
Ben nearly dropped his empty plate when Leia asked him if Armitage would come on their walk as he cleaned up from breakfast.
“I could ask,” Ben said, setting his dishes down on the counter. “But he was under the impression it was just you and me today.”
“It is, but it occurred to me that I wanted to talk about you and your time in the First Order,” Leia said, resting her hands on the breakfast bar. She dropped her shoulders, like a weight was on her back. “That might be a good thing for him to hear.”
“I have talked to him about it,” Ben said. He leaned on the counter next to his mother and laughed under his breath. He drummed his fingers on the counter, thinking of every bit of late night pillow talk where Armitage hunted for any remains of Kylo Ren. “More than you or Luke.”
“Why does that not surprise me?” Leia chuckled, crossing her arms. Her wry smile stretched wider as she shook her head. “I guess that spoils my plans for the day.”
“Sorry. I did sort of owe Hux an explanation after essentially stabbing him in the back, blowing up his life’s work, and making it near impossible for him to go home.” Ben winced, rubbing a circle in the back of his neck. Leia nudged him with her elbow. “Which were often accompanied with ‘Kylo Ren was an act this is how I really felt’ style confessions.”
“At least you told someone,” Leia said. She pushed a piece of loose hair from her braid back into place, looking older than she should. “Luke gave me the impression you hadn’t had a chance to talk about it at all.”
“I’m still not entirely okay,” Ben said, “but I’m getting there. I’m still processing the things I’ve worked through, but I will call you at the next step.”
“I know you will,” Leia said. She hugged Ben close by the shoulder and squeezed. “The original plan about talking about your time in the Order still might not be so bad of an idea. We’ll just change the topic I wanted to address.”
“I’ve heard about all the horrible things concerning Kylo Ren,” Leia said. She pushed off the counter patted it twice near Ben’s elbow. She leaned on his arm and shook it, winking. “But nothing about day to day life.”
It took about thirty solid minutes for Ben to convince Armitage to come along. He’d had a good argument claiming the last time Armitage and Leia had been alone that it’d been a disaster, but Ben said there were promises that no mind tricks would happen and Leia just wanted to have a friendly chat.
Armitage hadn’t believed him, but he allowed himself to be bribed with being permitted to pick the holo film they’d be watching that night.
It was another hour of walking on the back path behind the village after that for Leia and Armitage to start gossiping like they’d known each other their entire lives, and Ben remembered that Armitage knew a lot more about him than he ever wanted the man to tell his mother.
“Four years in command of a ship, and he had no idea what facilities it offered,” Armitage said, looking at a leaf off to the side as they took a break in the middle of the path. “I even had to walk him to the door of the gym, which was on the same floor as his quarters. After he kicked me out to cover up his embarrassment, the man proceeded to use that gym at least twice a week. Think how much calmer he would have been if he’d found it earlier.”
“You camped out in a gym?” Leia asked.
“It was private and painted a lighter color than my room,” Ben said, juggling a small set of rocks with the Force as he leaned against a tree. He looked pointedly at Armitage and raised an eyebrow. “Mostly private.”
“Getting to annoy you was the highlight of my week, and I impressed Captain Phasma with my increased dedication to my physical performance,” Armitage said, crossing one ankle over the other. “You could have kicked me out any time if it really bothered you.”
“I thought it’d be too suspicious,” Ben said, laughing. “You’d already seen my face, so I had no excuse to throw you out aside from flat out telling you I wanted to meditate, which isn’t something Kylo Ren did.”
“No, he took out his frustrations on my control panels,” Armitage said. A familiar look flashed across his face: that angry, blank stare he’d always get when he was particularly angry but had to maintain his professional image. Ben didn’t need to check wit the Force to know someone was having flashbacks. “Always with that lightsaber of his. We had to replace the entire wall most times since the damage went so deep.”
“Well, there is something to be said for a weapon that can cut through a blast door,” Leia said.
“As long as it’s pointed at the enemy and not your own side,” Armitage huffed.
Ben started, “Technically—”
“You knew what I meant,” Armitage said, cutting him off. He held up a finger and glared. “If you were going to sabotage things, you could have at least done it to someone else’s ship and not the one you lived on!”
“I had appearances to keep up. I can’t only lose my temper on other ships and keep my spic and span.”
“Of course you can,” Armitage said, laughing. “It’s called playing favorites, and as a Force user not technically within the file and rank, you could have done anything you wanted.”
Ben dropped the rocks and pushed off the tree. He started back on the path, wanting to get further before they headed back to the house. He held up a hand and did his best impression of a Han Solo grin. “Again, if we’re getting technical.”
“Does he act this way with you all the time?” Armitage said, turning to Leia. “Because that lip is only cute in the bedroom, and it’s the one place he won’t use it.”
Ben choked and Leia laughed.
“Are we really letting the sociopath pick the holo film?” Solo asked, putting his feet up on the coffee table. “Because that seems like a poor decision.”
“It’s his payment for taking a walk with me,” Organa said, putting a tray of snacks down, and shoving Solo’s boots off the table. “We made it an hour and a half before threatening to kill each other, so I still feel obligated to honor the agreement.”
“Yeah, but there’s no rule we can’t talk during the movie,” Poe said, making himself comfortable on the love seat with the traitor. The Jedi girl covered her mouth to hide the smile from where she sat on the floor, leaning on the traitor’s legs.“Just that we have to watch it. Could be fun mocking his choice.”
Hux calmed himself with thoughts of murder and cherished memories of Ren killing things. He had been hoping that movie night would just be him and Ren, but he had been vetoed. At least all of the Wookies had relocated to the Solo’s Wookie’s home for a proper visit alone with his own Wookie family. Hux could work with the human annoyances; they were irritating, but at least they were quiet (and Hux knew what they were saying).
Ren had the holo disc in his hand, reading the back cover summary. It had been one of the more interesting holo film choices when Hux had seen it in the stack at the market, and one of the few film names he’d recognized. Honestly, he’d been looking forward to watching it. He was half curious if Ren had seen it before, but whether or not that was the case, Hux had at least heard in passing the title was good.
At the very least, Ren should appreciate it.
“A deal’s a deal, Ben,” Hux said, crossing his arms. “Put in the film and let’s get this over with.”
“I have no idea how you found this on a New Republic planet, but okay,” Ren said. He shook his head and clicked the disc into the slot. “Don’t expect everyone to sit back and stay quiet though.”
“This isn’t First Order propaganda is it?” Poe said, holding his hand up. “Because that does not count as a movie.”
“No, it’s a legitimate fictional film,” Ren said, sighing. “But you did call the setting. The back cover says it takes place in the Empire and stars an Imperial soldier.”
“Start the movie, Ben,” Hux said.
Ren clicked the start button and took a seat next to Hux on the couch, throwing his arm over his shoulder. Hux smiled as the opening credits started to play.
About thirty minutes in, Poe was the first to speak up. “Are we actually watching a movie about an Imperial Officer seducing a Rebellion allied Jedi into a romantic relationship on the Dark Side?”
“You would be amazed at the rumors that Admiral Tarkin and Darth Vader had a secret affair that have been floating around the gossip mills since even I was a child,” Hux said, smiling as he leaned into Ren’s side. “It’s only natural a few films were inspired by the idea, don’t you think?”
“Had you seen this movie before?” Ren asked, still transfixed by the screen. They were at a part where the Admiral and the Jedi had their first meeting where they had to fight side by side to confront a third enemy. They bickered back and forth, but it was oddly fond and very clearly a form of flirting. “Because I don’t want to point out the obvious, but it’s staring at me in movie form.”
“No,” Hux said, admitting the truth. He patted Ren’s thigh and hummed. “I’d heard of it, but never had time for these things. I had forgotten all about it up until I saw in the store, and then it was too funny not to pick up.”
“I’m not crazy but that pilot guy is supposed to be me, isn’t he?” Solo said, pointing at the screen. Hux looked up and it had changed back to the Jedi’s home base, where he consulted the wretched Republic antagonists of the film. “I think that’s supposed to be me.”
Ren said, “You are sort of famous, and the publication date on this thing is right after the first Death Star blew up.”
“Probably a love letter to Tarkin,” Hux said, crossing one leg over the other. “He was rather popular, and he did die with the first Death Star.”
“Who cares about Tarkin. They made me look scruffy,” Solo said. He pointed at the screen. “They got me all wrong.”
“You are scruffy,” Organa said, knocking him in the side with her elbow. “Stop denying it.”
Ren snickered into his hand leaning against Hux as the movie continued to play. Aside from Ren being a Jedi and Hux being an officer, that was where the similarities stopped. The two in the movie knew they were on opposite sides from the start, they were far more dramatic about it all, and Hux was getting the distinct impression this would end in tragedy with the Jedi dying. Comparatively speaking, he and Ren’s relationship was picture perfect.
It was romantic in its own way, though. Hux glanced around, despite earlier mocking, most of the room seemed invested. So much so, that they were all paying attention when the Death Star fired and the Planet Alderaan exploded on screen as part of a background setting to give the film a timeframe.
Ren’s hand flexed on his shoulder, and Hux noted Organa had gone very still.
Hux focused on the screen, hoping the film would hurry up and switch scenes before anyone dared to say anything, but the sound of the film echoed in the utter silence that had covered the room. At least half the eyes were on Organa, who was still staring very hard at the screen, though she clearly wasn’t watching it.
“You did that on purpose,” Poe said, standing. He grabbed the front of Hux’s tunic with both hands and yanked him off the couch. “Did you think that was funny?”
“Unhand me,” Hux said, grabbing Poe’s wrist.
“Poe, it’s a movie he’s never seen before,” Ren said, standing from the couch. The traitor and the Jedi girl both moved to stand, but neither moved to intervene. “If he was making fun of anyone, it was me. He had no way of knowing that scene was there.”
“You don’t actually believe him when he says he’s never seen it before, do you? Or that he didn’t know?” Poe shook Hux once by the front.
“I can tell when he’s lying to me, Poe, and he wasn’t lying about this being the first time he’s seen that movie,” Ren said again. His fingers flexed at his side. “Let him go, Poe.”
“No,” Poe said. Hux counted to ten in his head. He could not make a scene. He could not murder this man in the middle of the living room. Poe outright growled. “She’s your mother, Ben! You should be the one getting angry!”
“For once, it was an honest mistake,” Ren said, fingers still spread and flexed. It looked like Hux wasn’t the only one holding himself back. “Now put him down.”
“Listen to you,” Poe said. “I’m starting to think—”
“Dameron,” Organa said, turning her head just enough to address them. Her knuckles were white on her lap, and her anger was palpable. “I felt the destruction of Alderaan first hand. A movie’s recreation is nothing in comparison. Put Hux down.”
Poe dropped Hux, shoving him onto the couch cushion. He shook his head and ran his hand through his hair. “I’ve had enough of this movie.”
He stomped out of the room, frustrated and angry. The Jedi girl and her traitor friend waited for half a beat before chasing after him into the back rooms of the tree house. Solo shifted uncomfortably in his seat, but didn’t move.
“Are you okay?” Ren asked, voice quiet.
Hux brushed off his tunic and pulled him up straight in his seat. “Fine.”
Ren nodded and collapsed into the seat next to Hux, pressing their shoulders together. “Good.”
The movie continued playing, though no one was watching at that point.
“That was one way to end the week,” Ben said, drying his hair off with a towel. He collapsed on the bed next to Armitage, groaning. “And the day was going so well earlier today.”
“Your friends are rather overprotective aren’t they?” Armitage said, covering his eyes. He breathed slowly, rolling on his side to bury his face in Ben’s side, throwing an arm over his back. “How do you even know them, anyway?”
“Poe’s family was friends with my mother’s, so I saw him a lot when I was younger,” Ben said. He tugged his towel off his head and let it fall to the floor. “When I went to train with Luke, we kept in touch, but I didn’t see him often.”
“I already know the traitor is someone you just met,” Armitage muttered. Ben was too tired to correct him with Finn’s name. He huffed, breath warm on Ben’s back. “But what about the girl?”
“Rey?” Ben asked. He tugged his pillow over, crossing his arms over it. “Luke picked her up a few months after I started training with Snoke. I heard how she was doing on the few times I was able to check in with Luke, but I didn’t meet her formally until I returned to the Resistance.”
“So when your mother said she brought your friends, she actually meant she brought a childhood friend you haven’t spoken to in years, and what are essentially two strangers,” Armitage said. He kissed Ben’s shoulder blade, pressing his nose into Ben’s back. “Good to know.”
Ben hugged his pillow to his cheek. “Poe’s a family friend, and he got close with Finn who got close with Rey. That’s why they’re here.”
“I know,” Armitage said. He drew circles with the tips of his fingers against Ben’s ribs. “Are we leaving tomorrow or the day after?”
“Tomorrow is the end of the week, so it could be either,” Ben said.
“The day after is fine,” Armitage said. He dragged his hand down Ben’s side, shifting to kiss the dip of Ben’s back. “It’s only fair to give you once last chance to have a good day with your parents.”
“That’s generous of you,” Ben said, mumbling into the pillow. “Should I be proud or suspicious?”
“You’re the one who can always tell if I’m lying.” Armitage pushed up and fell alongside Ben on his back. His hair fanned on the pillow and he closed his eyes. “You tell me.”
Ben rolled toward Armitage, spooning against his side. He closed his eyes, dropping his forehead against the side of Armitage’s hair. “Too tired.”
“Then sleep,” Armitage said. “And do something nice with your mother tomorrow while you can.”
Ben ignored the unspoken threat afterwards.
“I can not believe i’m stuck making sure you kids play nice,” Solo said, glaring at the room at large. His Wookie growled something in response, though it was more of a yell. “What he said. Any of you cause trouble, and I’m going to be ticked.”
Ren and his mother had gone off to spend the day alone in town as planned. They were shopping to replenish their travel supplies and to have a peaceful day without anyone fighting over the First Order officer stuck with them. It was what Hux had told Ren to do, so he didn’t blame him, but he could definitely blame Organa for demanding that Hux not be left alone.
“I’m reading,” Hux answered, holding up his datapad. He turned it around to point at the novel on the screen. “You should direct that anger toward the three glaring.”
“Makes me feel better yelling at you,” Solo said. He got up from the couch and wandered into the back room. “Come on, Chewie. Let’s go make sure the ship’s good to leave tomorrow. And you guys, don’t kill each other.”
Solo left the room with his pet Wookie in tow. Hux sunk into the couch, awaiting his inevitable fate of confrontation.
“I still don’t know what Ben sees in you,” Poe said, shuffling a deck of cards at the table. The traitor and the Jedi girl sat across from him, waiting for their cards. “It’s mind boggling.”
“When there’s only one person a ship full of people willing to talk to you,” Hux said, flipping a page on his holo. “Your standards drop, and you find yourself not so picky when it comes to company.”
“Being a Jedi is all about non-attachment,” Poe said. “He should have been fine alone.”
“Ben is a horrible Jedi.” Hux leaned back in the couch as the girl glared at him. He put the datapad down. “What? He admitted that himself, and it’s not like he’s continuing the Jedi path. The man wants to settle down and be a mechanic.”
“Because of you,” the girl said, glaring. “If he hadn’t gotten involved with you, he would have gone back to Luke.”
“I’m not sure of that,” Hux said, turning back to his book. He could tell them that dear Ren was struggling with his failures, so desperate to avoid his failing mission that he was sleeping with the enemy. Hux could even point out that because of that, Ren was likely to have broken from the Jedi path with or without Hux. They didn’t deserve it, though, so he smiled to himself instead of sharing. “But believe what you like.”
“Finn?” The girl asked. “Are you okay?”
“I’m fine,” the traitor said. He tapped his stack of cards and turned them on their side. “With all this talk of Gen—Hux and Ben, I was just thinking about life on the Finalizer.”
“Sorry to bring up bad memories,” Poe said. He played a card. “But it’s hard not to talk about the bantha in the room when he’s right there.”
“To counter,” Hux said, looking over the top of his datapad. “I’m still impressed you’ve managed to accept a traitor into your midst without a care.”
“Finn is a brave man who did what was right by leaving your miserable Order,” Poe said, narrowing his eyes. “It’s not even remotely the same thing as accepting the man willing to give the orders to destroy five planets.”
“Regardless, he still changed sides and turned his back on his own Order,” Hux said. He had plans for that, too. Poe certainly wasn’t the only man on Hux’s list of people that needed to be taken care of. “Therefore, a traitor.”
“You kidnapped me as a child and forced me into an army,” the traitor said. “If anything, I’d say I escaped.”
“That does sound more accurate,” the girl said. She leaned back in her seat, intentionally knocking into the lightsaber on her belt to show it off. “Don’t you think so, Poe?”
“Absolutely,” Poe said, smiling. “Just like all the other soldiers who jumped ship the second the chance was available.”
“All of which will be dealt with accordingly when I return to the Order,” Hux said. He flipped to the next page of his datapad, itching to get back to his shuttle and check on his eggs. He had been looking forward to their hatching, but he really hoped they were still nuzzled safe inside their shells and not crawling around the ship. “You can trust that.”
“You keep saying that, but your Order barely exists anymore,” Poe said. The cocky man held his hands up, turning his head toward Hux with that lazy, handsome smile Hux longed to beat off his face. “More and more are collected and arrested every day. By the time you escape Ben, there won’t be anything to escape to. You’re all talk, Hux.”
“The First Order was built from scraps of the dying remains of the Empire,” Hux said. He placed his datapad on the couch, standing. “If I have to rebuild it again, I will. The New Republic will fall, mark my words, even if I have to take it down by myself.”
“I’m starting to see why they had you doing all the speeches,” Poe said. He collected the cards from the table and drew them into himself to reshuffle. “Very motivational.”
The girl giggled, covering her face with her and and the traitor had the sense to look at the table, pressing his lips together to stop laughing. Hux stood in the center of the room, playing out his options. He couldn’t kill anyone, because both men had blasters and the Jedi girl had a lightsaber. Talking didn’t seem to do any good (there was only so much yelling you could do at fools). The three of the returned to their card game, feeling confident they’d had the last word.
Hux would be the first to claim he had exhibited extraordinary self control over the past few months after his life had been uprooted, and forced to tolerate Ren’s wretched family.
So he felt little guilt when he picked up the glass bottle from the side of the table and broke it across the back of Poe’s head.
Armitage had a black eye, a split lip, and he suspected a broken rib. Ben dropped his bag on the floor, staring while his mother scolded his father for letting a fight break out in the first place. Ben sat on the chair next to Armitage and covered his eyes.
“In my defense,” Armitage said. He sunk down in the chair he’d been tied to, arms behind his back. “I was only told not to kill him.”
“Poe said you glassed him with a liquor bottle,” Ben mumbled into his hands. “In the head.”
“The intent was to maim,” Armitage said. He licked his split lip and turned his head. “How was your day with your mother?”
“Very pleasant,” Ben said. “We had a nice time getting all the shopping done and making plans to catch up later over private messaging channels.”
“I’m glad to hear it,” Armitage said. He scooted the chair over with a couple awkward hops and kissed Ben on the cheek. Armitage returned to his slump in the chair, his shoulder pressed against Ben’s. “This has been a delightful week, hasn’t it?”
“You’re lucky you’re worth it,” Ben said, repeating Armitage’s own words back at him from before this trip started. He leaned over and kissed the man on the lips before using the Force to break the cuffs holding Armitage’s hands hostage. “Come on, let’s get some bacta on those.”
Armitage rubbed his wrists as got up, licking the side of his teeth. “After you.”
Ben shoved Armitage’s head down as they walked back into the bedroom for the first aid kit, ruffling his hair.
Last chapter! I sort of wanted this to end with the last chapter, but I realized I hadn’t titled dropped yet and by gosh I’m not going to let this one falter. In fact, I’ll get it out of the way in the first sentence. *evil laughter*
Moving on, the next part in the series will have our boys getting more serious about hunting down Snoke, and a certain Armitage Hux will have some new little charges to take care of (One will be named Millicent, in honor of Hux’s fanon cat). And yes, I know I’m playing really loose with Ysalamir & canon. Because in canon their eggs are like bubbles and those things need to be attached to nutrient frames to and/or their trees to live (like their adult counterparts), but that doesn’t work with this, so I’m taking liberties. Shamelessly. :D
Even more importantly, I’ve planned out/outlined the next three parts of the series (which is something I never do), so I hope you stick around for the exciting finale. ;D Thanks for reading!
“There have been unfair numbers stacked against me since I arrived on this planet,” Hux said, folding his things into the bag. Ren cleaned the last of his own things from the guest room, still sulking after he’d been yelled at for untying Hux last night. “You should have seen this coming.”
“I saw a lot of things coming,” Ren said, looking around one last time. He drew a handful of sweets from the counter to himself with the Force, collecting them in his palm. He popped one in his mouth as he looked through drawers for anything left behind. “The fist fight was not one of them.”
“Oh? What had you been expecting?” Hux asked, zipping his bag. “Enlighten me.”
“I figured if you were going to snap and actually attack someone, you’d shoot them,” Ren said, shrugging. “Hitting someone with a bottle seems like something a bar crawler would do, and you’ve always struck me as too uptight for that.”
“I am,” Hux said. He grabbed his bag from the bed, hauling it over his shoulders. “I’m also too good to be on this awful planet with lovely trees and roughing it by living on a shuttle, but I guess I’ll make due.”
Ren snatched up his own bag, with just his hands, and carried it out into the living room where everyone else waited to depart. Hux threw a smirk at Poe, who still sported a bacta patch over the cut to the side of his head Hux had inflicted. His own black eye still smarted, but all was fair.
“I’m telling you right now that it’s a mistake letting that man walk out of here free,” Poe said, arms crossed and eyes intense. “i want that stated here and now for when it bites us all.”
“Noted,” Organa said, her eyes saying Poe wasn’t wrong. But she was a woman of her word, even if the rest of her was abhorrent, and Hux was free to leave with Ren. “But overruled for now.”
“Thank you,” Ren said, shifting awkwardly in the doorway.
“I’ll let you say goodbye properly,” Hux said, tightening his grip on his bag. If his plans worked, this would be the last time Ren saw his parents. Hux owed the man at least this much, didn’t he? Guilt nagging, but mind still set, Hux patted Ren on the arm. “I’ll be in the shuttle. There are no goodbyes here meant for me.”
“Okay,” Ren said. He nodded and squeezed Hux’s hand quickly before letting go. “I won’t be long.”
“Take your time,” Hux said.
He felt eyes on his back as he headed to the door by himself, passing the Wookies as he went. The long walk down the wooden stairs gave him time to clear his head. The long walk across the field, even more so.
The shuttle was welcome as he stepped up the ramp and deposited his bag on the floor. Believing he had about ten or so minutes ahead of Ren, he decided to quickly check and make sure that there were still eggs in the vent, and not little lizards yet.
Ben’s goodbyes were simple: “Take care of yourself, and I’ll keep in touch.”
If he said any more than that, he might actually feel like he’d never see them again. This was a normal goodbye. Like any other time he’d run off on a normal mission, or head off with dad on a trip when he was younger. He wasn’t going on another five year journey. Ben wasn’t leaving for good.
So a quick hug, an “I love you” to both parents, and he was back on his way to the shuttle, breathing hard. The small, handheld datapad knocked against his side in the pack under his outer tunic, close to his chest. His mother had given it to him to keep in touch, able to send private messages on a secure channel. They could chat as much or as little as they wanted, as time permitted.
It certainly helped Ben walk away easier.
Ben trotted up the ramp into a quiet ship, seeing Armitage’s belongings left in the small bay. He lifted the bags with the Force and carried them into the upper level where the quarters were located.
“Armitage?” Ben asked, setting the bags down on their new side table, bolted into the side of the wall. He checked the back bedroom, and found it empty. Ben called louder, “Armitage?”
Ben paused; he couldn’t sense Armitage on the ship.
“Armitage!” Ben called a little louder, tapping toward the cockpit. “Are you here?”
He reached the front of the ship, standing near the controls. The ship was on, engines warming. Armitage had been here at least. He swallowed and closed his eyes. He had to be somewhere. Maybe he was outside and Ben missed him? He reached out in the Force and—
“Was all that yelling necessary?” Armitage said, hugging Ben from behind. He jerked and stared. He looked concerned, working his way around to hug Ben from the front. “Did something happen?”
“No, I just,” Ben paused. He squeezed Armitage, hugging the man to his chest. “I couldn’t sense you for a moment, and I guess I got scared.”
“That’s odd,” Armitage said, frowning. He straightened the front of Ben’s tunic, pressing his fingers into the fabric. “Maybe you’re stressed? I’m sure leaving your family behind like this can’t be easy.”
“Maybe,” Ben said. He squeezed one more time and kissed Armitage’s head. “Did you set the coordinates when you started the ship?”
“No,” Armitage said. He pulled away and sat in the co-pilot seat. “I wasn’t sure where you wanted to go.”
“I’m not sure either,” Ben said. He started inputting the launch sequences and contacted the tower to let them know he was leaving. “We have supplies for about two weeks, so I figured we could float for a while. I’ll meditate and see where the Force wants us to go.”
“Not the most efficient route, but it could be worse,” Armitage said, leaning his head back. “But let’s not spend all two weeks floating aimlessly. If you don’t get a vision by the end of a week, we should just land somewhere and plan for real.”
“That’s fair,” Ben said. He dropped the wings and pulled in the landing gears as their shuttle took off from the planet. “I can work with that.”
Armitage nodded and leaned back in his seat, closing his eyes. Ben smiled watching him nap. He left Kashyyyk with a soft smile and hope things were going to turn out okay.
Hux drew a circle on Ren’s chest, fingers hovering over the ribcage as he breathed softly. The man’s hair fell wet against his forehead and his body was lax with sated sleep. He kissed the side of Ren’s temple, smiling as he crawled out of bed, tugging on a robe.
Leaving Ren dead to the world in sleep, Hux went to the kitchen. He helped himself to a small plate of thick honey and syrup. He dumped a spoonful of sugar into the mix for good measure, carrying the plate to the loose grate.
Imagine his surprise when he checked on his eggs and found four tiny lizards in their place. The Ysalamiri infants cried loudly, and Hux was lucky they couldn’t move very well in their hunger. He had to work quickly, but found they liked the liquid, syrupy treats. While they ate, he managed to work a proper netting around them so they couldn’t wander into the ducts.
He’d barely managed to finish by the time Ren returned to the ship.
Hux had almost been found out, when he found Ren panicking. The man couldn’t sense him, which meant these small lizards were already doing their job. Hux thanked his thoughts for having the sense to keep them so far away from the living quarters. He’d have to be careful when he checked on them.
He hadn’t come this far to be found out now.
Hux rubbed one of the little ones on the back of the head, smiling as it hissed. They were cute when they were young. Hux put the plate of food among them and crawled down again.
“Sleep tight,” Hux whispered.
Wrapping his robe around him tighter, Hux helped himself to a small glass of brandy in the kitchen. The warm liquid felt good and warmed Hux. He put the glass down, returning to Ren in their bed.
The man hugged Hux, mumbling softly. “Where did you go?”
“Got a drink,” Hux said, kissing Ren. “Cup of water and a bit of brandy.”
“Can taste it,” Ren murmured. He kissed Hux again and laid his head on Hux’s shoulder. “Night. Love you, Armitage.”
“Good night, Ben,” Hux said.
He closed his eyes, dreaming of empires and knights, knowing they were in his very near future.