Ben and Armitage settled on Arkanis in a small place of their own located in the busy Scaparus Spaceport.
It wasn’t Ben’s first choice, but it was only fair that Armitage was allowed to pick the planet they’d be staying on when he agreed to let Ben open a repair shop in order to make their living since he stepped away from the Jedi for a break.
“How is this planet not an ocean with the amount of rain it gets?” Ben asked, staring out the window. He tapped his diagnostic datapad against his shoulder and huffed. “It pours down rain every two to three days like clockwork, and drizzles the rest of the time. I’m surprised everyone isn’t waterlogged.”
“You’ve said something along the same lines nearly every day for the past three months that we’ve been living here,” Armitage said, kicking the back of Ben’s leg with his heel as he passed by. A streak of oil smeared on his cheek transferred to his fingers when he rubbed away a loose strand of hair. “Now stop complaining and help me with this stupid hyperdrive you said we’d finish in a week.”
“We can finish it in a week,” Ben said. He abandoned the window and returned to the work table in the middle of the hanger. A compact shuttle sat to the left, waiting for the return of its internal components. “Easy.”
“I beg to differ,” Armitage said. He tapped the side of the drive and put a hand on his hip. “We’re missing four major replacement parts, and you’re new which means no one wants to trade with you yet. How are we going to get what we need in time?”
“I’ll use the Force,” Ben said, raising his eyebrows. “Instant trust.”
“While I do love it when you’re devious, what would your Uncle say about such an abuse?” Armitage said, shaking his head.
“Probably nothing,” Ben said. “As long as I don’t steal anything and pay them what they ask, I don’t think they’ll care I influenced a few merchants into selling me products.”
“As long as I don’t have to answer the comm when he wants to lecture you about the proper uses of the Force and this client pays us, then do as you like.” Armitage picked up a rag and wiped off his face. He tossed it into a bucket and tapped across the room. “But speaking of trade, we’re short on a few things so I think I’m going to step into the market.”
“Can you pick up some Jogan fruit while you’re out?” Ben asked. “I was thinking of making a cake like we used to have on Coruscant. I saw some in the market the other day and forgot it was native to here.”
There had to be something good on this planet to offset the awful weather.
“I can do that,” Armitage said. He walked over and kissed Ben on the cheek before he grabbed his coat at the hanger door. “Play nice with Mitaka and the others.”
“Yes, dear,” Ben said, snorting.
He could play nice by avoiding them. How on earth Mitaka, Mandetat, Unamo and Thanisson managed to purchase a house down the street from Ben and Armitage’s home, he’d never know. Someone got money somehow, and while he suspected Armitage helped them, though the man in question claimed he had no hand in it.
What Armitage did help with though, was securing Mitaka and Unamo jobs working the front desk and keeping the small repair shop’s books straight, while Mandetat and Thanisson did odd jobs around the port. When they weren’t working, they were loitering around the shop, thus requiring Ben to “play nice” as it were.
Ben yawned and stretched before licking the side of his teeth. He lifted the hyperdrive with the Force and spun it lightly. Armitage wasn’t wrong; they’d done all they could without those last few parts. Putting it back down, he tapped across the hanger and entered the front welcome area.
Mitaka read a magazine at the front counter, while Unamo typed notes at the main console, cross-referencing her datapad. Mandetat and Thanisson weren’t in sight, which meant they must have been working at the docks.
“Any new customers?” Ben asked.
Mitaka looked up and shook his head. “Not today.”
Unamo didn’t pause in her typing. “I imagine we won’t have regular customers until word of mouth spreads further among the regulars who live in the port.”
“Fair enough,” Ben said. They weren’t wrong, either. Scaparus Spaceport wasn’t the same level as Mos Eisley, but trust was still hard to earn and it took a while for businesses to gain traction in places with such a transient population coming in and out through ships. He reached back and pulled his hair out of its ponytail. “Hux went out to the market, and I’m finished with everything we’ve got on the table. I’ll be upstairs if you need me.”
“Yes, sir,” Unamo said.
Leaving the two of them to man the desk for the next couple of hours they were open, Ben pushed through the side door of the lobby and into the stairwell that ran up the side of the building. Tapping up the steps, Ben was happy to retire to their small, but humble home.
Their place was an open air loft with a space for their bed and personal effects on the upper floor. It was small but airy and more than enough room for just the two of them. But more importantly, it had a skylight and a spacious roof with a large shed.
No one had been happier than Ben when he won the rock-paper-scissors match for whether or not Armitage's ysalamiri would stay on the roof or in the house. Ben had won fair and square (without using the Force!), and Armitage had relented in agreeing to keep the Force-blocking animal upstairs most of the time.
Together with Mitaka, Mandetat and Ben, Armitage had built a secure little house for Millicent and her sisters on the roof, tucked away and out of sight in the shed. He fed them twice a day, and thankfully, they were just far enough away that their Force blocking bubble didn’t reach into their home above the hanger.
Plucking a cup off the rack on his kitchen counter, Ben fixed himself a cup of coffee and sipped it. He watched out the window at the rain that continued to pour and smiled.
The weather was awful, but he could learn to like it here.
Hux adjusted his hood as he tapped through the puddles collecting on the main street in the center of the port. A bag of Jogan fruit tapped against his side, as he hurried along. He still needed to pick up a few other things for baking (he appreciated Ben made plans, but he never prepared—they did not have enough ingredients around the house for a cake) before he could get to his own errands.
Hopefully the local drugstore still had a few packs of the painkillers he preferred. The daily migraines were just manageable with medication, and Hux shuddered to think what they’d be like if he missed a dose. Down to his last few pills, he didn’t dare risk running out.
If the pain from his head didn’t kill him, Ren surely would when he found out Hux was still suffering from headaches and had kept it a secret.
Hux stepped into the nearest market door and nodded at the man behind the counter. He received a grunt and a raised eyebrow in response, which was as good a greeting as he was going to get still so new to the neighborhood.
That first week after the death of Snoke had been rough. Hux’s memories played on loop in his mind, the events swapping back and forth between what really happened and the play-like script Snoke had written. Getting them confused was the least of Hux’s worries as he battled the pounding headache that lingered over it all like a hammer constantly beating his brain. Ren had done something with the Force to make the migraines go away, which worked for a short spell, but they returned soon enough about a week later.
Instead of bothering the man again with the weakness, Hux hid it with drugs. He was dependent enough on Ren for enough things that adding his personal comfort to the list turned Hux’s stomach the wrong way. He thanked the stars Ren wasn’t observant with domestic tasks, which made hiding the extra pills he popped rather easy.
Though Mitaka had noticed, and had been rather adamant about Hux doing something about it.
“If it’s still hurting you, maybe you should tell Ben,” Mitaka had said. He looked over his shoulder, just in case the Force user was around, and whispered. “What if something is wrong?”
“Of course something is wrong,” Hux said right back. “Snoke took my brain and rewrote it. The only way I can see Ben fixing that is him going in to do the same thing, and frankly, I’d rather not go through it again even if I do trust Ben.”
“But what if it gets worse?”
“Then I’ll tell him,” Hux said.
And he’d kept his word. The pain had stayed constant, but it hadn’t worsened. As long as the painkillers kept it at bay, Hux was more than happy to keep it to himself until it left on its own (surely it had to).
The cashier gave Hux his total and he collected his bag of cooking supplies and made sure the top of the plastic was secure before stepping back out into the rain. It pattered against his hood in a relaxing pattern and Hux breathed in the moist air.
Arkanis was so relaxing; he had no idea how Ben could hate this rain. The steady beat grounded everything in white noise that Hux dearly missed in space.
The water splashed around his boots, wetting the fabric of his leggings and the bottom of his tunic as he turned the next corner toward the drugstore. People milled about and talked as he passed by, most of them minding their own business. Hux appreciated that about Arkanis. This whole planet had been through so much over the years, people learned to keep to themselves.
Hux did a bit of mental math in his head to juggle his expenses and to make sure that Ben wouldn’t notice the drugs taking a bite out of their budget, which is why he wasn’t paying complete attention when he knocked into another gentleman.
“Excuse me,” Hux said absently.
In another life, he would have had the man thrown in the brig for daring to be in his way, but here on Arkanis, he was nothing more than a civilian. So he played the part, even if it killed him inside.
“Watch where you’re going.”
Hux stopped dead in the street, eyes wide. He knew that voice. That gruff, awful voice that haunted his worst nightmares and made him feel like a scared ten year old with every syllable.
“Father?” Hux asked, turning his head and staring straight into a matching pair of blue eyes.