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Zero Hour

Chapter Text

‘Fifteen minutes, Hux.’

“I know.”

‘Hux-’

“I know!”

His feet slam into the ground, propelling him across the desert at breakneck speed. On the other end of the comm, Ben curses, but doesn’t push again, a feat Hux would savor if he wasn’t so busy running for his life.

Around him, the red terrain stretches on for miles, baking beneath a trio of suns. The planet is artificial, created by the First Order in an attempt to disguise their latest weapon. There is no natural life on it, only a control tower and a network of bunkers buried beneath the sand. Seeing the entrance to one looming up ahead, Hux forces himself to move a little faster, even as his muscles scream at him for the strain.

Their mission had been simple and direct: get on the ground, set the bombs, and leave. By the time the detonations were to occur, destabilizing the planet and destroying the tech, their ships would already be breaking the atmosphere.

Naturally, everything has gone straight to hell.

Truth be told, Hux can't remember a single field assignment with the Resistance that hasn't gone belly up in some way or another. It’s almost surreal, and sometimes Hux wonders if he made the right decision all those years ago, switching teams. The First Order may be a bloodless, genocidal machine, but at least they had never sent him into a freighter full of rathtars armed with nothing more than a pat on the back and his standard issue blaster.

This time it's the detonators.

Trying not to fall as he scrambles down the ladder, the redhead curses, his voice lost in the skirmish taking place in the sky above him. His hands are slippery with blood – his own, though he tries to keep any indications of this from his voice, “At the last panel.”

By the terseness of Ben’s reply, he can tell he wasn’t entirely successful, ‘Copy.’

A few quick shots from his blaster takes out the armed security cameras, allowing him the leeway to hack into the mainframe mounted on the wall. With inborn finesse, the redhead maneuvers through the cyberspace, inserting a slicer chip to bypass encryption. He’s done the same at the other bunkers, removing the shield that had blocked the remote detonation they had planted. His movements are slower than he wants them to be, bogged down by the gash in his side from where a trooper had gotten lucky with a vibrosaw. The pain grounds him, even as it ricochets throughout his nerves. Relief sweeps over him when he finally plugs in the jammer, programming last of the bombs.

“Last one in.”

‘Good, now get out of there!’

Rolling his eyes as he jogs back towards the ladder, Hux huffs, “Gladly.”

He can't stop the harsh cry that escapes him when the droid impacts with his side. It takes him down in a frenzy of limbs and pain, the solid mass ripping the air from his lungs. Dazed, his struggle is automatic, and over the comm he’s vaguely aware of Ben’s shouting. For a moment, the world swims before his eyes.

Snapping back to awareness at the sound of Ben yelling his name, the high note of panic in it kicks him into motion, his whole body protesting as he throws himself to the side. He does so just in time for a blaster to blacken the spot he had just been laying in, scorching the floor with a hiss and buzz. Scrambling onto his hands and knees, Hux dives for his blaster, returning fire and taking down the droid as quickly as possible.

“It’s fine, I’m fine, it’s neutralized-” He can barely get the words out around his panting, but he pushes on anyway. Despite the agony in his side, he doesn’t have the luxury of catching his breath. By the time he resurfaces, his face is bleached of color, a fine sheen of sweat plastering his bangs.

Just around the outcropping a few yards out, his flier is parked and waiting.

His legs feel like water, his head leaden. He keeps running anyway, unsure if the roaring in his ears is from the aerial fight above him or his own pulse.

He takes the bend too hard, nearly stumbling, and his stomach screams as his insides threaten to make an appearance. None of that matters though, not when he can finally see the hull of his ship gleaming in the desert sun. With a bolt of terror, he realizes that despite his best effort, his body is slowing down, unable to keep his pace.

Shit.

He's not going to make it.

Just as the realization lurches through him, a sudden surge of energy slams into him, allowing him to push his muscles harder, to run faster, even with his body pressed to its limits.

A burst of blaster fire skims his shoulder, and Hux curses, fumbling for his own gun. His fingers are numb and slick, nearly dropping the weapon as he yanks it from his belt. Without looking, he shoots behind himself, trying to scatter the oncoming soldiers long enough to make it to the safety of his flier.

In two minutes and thirty-one seconds, the planet is going to implode.

Another burst of energy goes through him, a pillar strength that keeps him on his feet. At this point, the borrowed stamina is the only thing preventing him from collapse. A streak of laser clips his shoulder.

Son of a -

A new round of shots slams past him, this time from just ahead. Behind him, the scuffle of bodies hitting the ground is a testament to the shooter’s aim.

Ben.

For a single, surreal moment, everything fades away. The world goes silent and a thousand memories war for the chance to spill out with his blood. Two boys with torn up knuckles, exchanging punches in a dingy hanger; late night conversations in the cockpit and drinking competitions at the cantina. It all blurs together in a decade-long history of teamwork and bonding.

Something terrifyingly close to relief floods through him followed quickly by abject panic.

Just behind Ben, the Millennium Falcon idles loudly, her walkway hanging out like a panting tongue. It’s closer than his own ship, closer even than the bombs about to explode. Before it, Ben continues to pick off his pursuers, his face cold and furious.

If Hux wasn't so outraged, he'd probably be alarmed.

Time and again, he forgets how terrifying Ben can be. His aim is steady, ripping through the droids with ruthless precision, the calm around him heavy with violence. He’s a sight to behold, and Hux doesn’t know if he wants to punch the man for his recklessness or kiss him.

He doesn’t get a chance for either. Instead, he tries not to trip as Ben springs into action, rushing towards him to meet him halfway. His arm is nearly wrenched from its socket as they run, Ben throwing them into a mad dash towards the ship. Hux is exhausted, barely conscious, but the other forces him to keep up, hauling him by the wrist.

In a blink, they’re stumbling up the walkway of the Falcon, with Ben’s frantic shouts to Poe muffled by the growl of the hyperdrive. Before Hux can process it, they’re falling against the newly closed door, thrown back as Poe shoots for the atmosphere. His nerves scream in protest as he's slammed between his co-pilot and a wall of unyielding parasteel.

They’ve just broken free of the planet, entering a tell-tale warp, when his eternal countdown reaches zero. Behind them, its calamity rendered silent by space, the planet erupts into a molten burst. The weapon goes with it.

They've done it.

Standing safely inside the walkway, Hux almost can't believe it. He also can’t seem to catch his breath.

“- idiot-” He chokes, his words muffled by Ben's chest.

He's so angry he could yell, except his body won't stop shaking and his vision keeps going in and out. An entirely new frenzy begins to fill him at the notion that Ben might have been stuck on the planet with him - that he could still be there right now, turning into ash and fire. Bile rushes up his throat.

A breathless snort breaks through the roar of his own blood, bringing him back to the present, “You’re welcome.”

Scowling, Hux opens his mouth to retort. His knees buckle before he can, all of the adrenaline burned from his system.

“Oh.” He says, surprised, and promptly collapses. The last thing he sees before everything goes black is a flash of Ben’s frantic face, his lips shaping a word that might be Hux’s name.

 

###

Hux comes to with a headache worse than any hangover he’s had to suffer, and a full body ache. Groaning, he forces his eyes open and immediately regrets it. Everything hurts, from the muscles in his thighs to the top of his skull. Gingerly, he tries to shift, his hip numb from where he’s been laying on it.

Bit by bit, his memory returns. The planet and the weapon. Exhaustion and the taste of blood. Hux groans.

Next time, someone else can save the damn galaxy.

For a few minutes, Hux drifts in and out, listening to the beep of his own pulse on a monitor. The room smells sterile and looks like any other medbay he’s ever been in. Rousing himself into a more alert state, the redhead peers around.

Warmth blooms through him at the figure hunched in one of the plastic chairs against the wall. Ben is dozing with a frown on his face, his chin tucked on his chest and his arms folded. The position seems anything but comfortable, the pilot’s large frame cramped in the seat, but his breath is even. Amused by the snack wrappers littering the empty spots next to him, and filled with a rush of calm at the familiar mess, Hux finds himself drifting again, something in him eased by the sight of his field partner.

When he wakes again, Ben is flipping through a holomag. Unerringly, he looks up just as Hux blinks away his sleep. Relief washes starkly onto the other man’s expression, followed quickly by a wince as he stands.

“Hey.” Coming up to the side of the bed, he reaches down, rubbing a soft greeting against the top of the redhead’s hand. Gently, he slides his fingers into Hux’s palm, “How are you feeling?”

“Bad,” He croaks, forced to swallow around the dry-glass feeling of his throat, “How long-”

“Three days.” Sensing his dilemma, the other offers him water in a styrofoam cup, “They just took you out of the bacta this morning.”

“Mm.” He tries to nod, but it’s too much energy, so he settles instead for drinking from the straw. Grinning, Ben nods towards a pile of get-well gifts on the tray near his bed, trying to lift the mood, “Poe brought you biscuits. The chocolate kind.”

Huffing out a tired laugh, Hux sinks back into his pillow. His brows furrow when he finally sees the state of his copilot up close, his eyes bloodshot and ringed with shadows, his clothing mussed and stained with blood.

“Have you been here the whole time?”

Shrugging, Ben rubs the back of his neck. His expression is unreadable, but his gaze is soft, flicking over Hux’s face as if trying to confirm the redhead isn’t just a dream. A heavy silence falls over them, weighted with emotion. Without warning, a burn begins to build behind Hux’s eyes.

Ben looks older, the boyish mirth of his usual candor eclipsed by the intensity of his stare. It makes the faint lines at the corner of his eyes stand out, exposing the churn of his thoughts. After a moment, Hux manages to shift to the side, grateful they’re both on the same wavelength when Ben moves in tandem to clamber into bed.

Sore, Hux tenses for the inevitable discomfort that will come from being moved, but the other is surprisingly careful, maneuvering him gently to avoid tugging on his IV. After a few moments spent shuffling wires and sliding back blankets, Ben is lying down, a comforting weight pressed all along his flank. For the first time since waking, Hux relaxes.

The warm, familiar scent he’s come to think of as Ben washes over him, beneath the notes of hospital cafe and antiseptic. It lulls him into repose, the large palm rubbing his back soothing him into sleep.

Ben is still there when he wakes, his heartbeat steady from where Hux has pressed into his chest. Stirring, he manages to pull back enough to find the other watching him, his body curled protectively into Hux’s.

“How long was I out?”

“About an hour.”

Humming, the redhead tries to rearrange his stiff muscles, wincing at the tug in his side. Eventually, he settles down, only slightly surprised by the fingers in his hair and the earnest attention from his bedmate. Ben’s expression is somber, his gaze dark with emotion. In the hush between them, he brushes his thumb over Hux’s cheekbone, his murmur soft.

“I thought we lost you.”

The confession is quiet, and Ben has to swallow twice before continuing, “I’ve never been so scared.”

With a knot in his chest, Hux manages to bring his own hand up over the one cradling his face, “You didn’t, though. It’s okay, I’m okay.”

He isn’t sure who moves first, or when they got so close, but when they kiss, it feels like coming home. They’ve never done this before, have never addressed the intimacy that’s grown between them over the years, but lying there, their kiss shifting from gentle to needy, it feels as natural as everything else. After a moment, he can feel Ben’s grin bleeding into their kiss, “You taste like bacta.”

Snorting, Hux gives him a playful shove, his own smile growing despite his best efforts to stop it. With their foreheads pressed together, Ben breaks the kiss, his eyes glinting with familiar mirth.

“You’re a shitty damsel.”

Even through his startled laugh, Hux is reminded of his previous anger, the leftover fear surging back to life. Glaring, he struggles onto his elbow to deliver an unforgiving punch to Ben’s chest.

“You idiot! You could have died! Poe could have died. What the hell were you thinking, taking a risk like that!”

“Ow! Hey!” Feigning hurt, Ben rubs at the spot where knuckles had landed, his expression stubborn and sulky, “You should be thanking me! I saved your life.”

Growing quiet, Hux considers the other.

He thinks about the burst of energy back on the planet, and how it was the only thing keeping his overtaxed body in motion - thinks of the twenty-two-year-old kid, angry and scared, who showed up on the Resistance's doorstep with a chip on his shoulder and stolen intel in his pocket.

“Yeah,” He says, embarrassed by how tight his throat has gotten, “You did.”

That unerring ability to communicate without speaking once more rears its head, Ben’s own expression softening. He leans over, reconnecting their mouths in a gentle, searing exchange. For a long moment, they occupy themselves as such, languidly exploring each other with deepening kisses. When they finally pull back, they’re both breathless.

Blinking, Hux quirks a brow, “...have you been eating my biscuits??”

The smile he receives is sheepish and amused, “I'm a stress eater.”

It's so obnoxiously, endearingly true that Hux has no choice but to pull Ben back over with a scoff, his fingers curling in dark hair.

“Brat,” He murmurs, nipping at the other’s lower lip.

The grin against his mouth is almost as large as his own.