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Candy Bars & Knives

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Hux is already in the air when his brain catches up with the present situation. 

His datapad lands before he does and so when he hits the ground, he hears an echo of cracking glass. He reaches forward and his finger brushes the device that surely won't turn on and as he expected, upon a closer inspection he notices that his datapad is now good only for one thing. To be thrown away.

It hurts to move his wrist but the pain is very dull and frankly speaking, it's the least of his problems now. So he stands up and promptly decides that it's probably nothing. His knees buckle, which is another unfortunate thing and the officer next to him clearly blames it on Hux's clumsiness. Someone helps him to stabilize his balance and Hux doesn't recognize the face but he does recognize the words.

Absolutely useless. He shouldn't even be here.

He holds his datapad pressed against his chest. The door on the side of the corridor opens and Hux hears as someone steps closer. “What's the meaning of this?” a snarky voice demands an answer and his body reacts instinctively. He straightens his back and looks Allegiant General Pryde into eyes before he speaks.

“Nothing,” Hux claims. “It was just a minor accident.” Pryde inspects him closely. The only thing that keeps Hux standing is the thought that one day he might be able to gouge his eyes out. He quickly starts thinking of the star systems when Ren appears by Pryde's side but Hux knows it's already too late. Despite hearing his thoughts, Ren's attention is focused on something else.

“What happened?” he asks and it's very clear that he is not addressing Hux even though he is looking at him. He can't remember the last time Ren questioned him directly. Hux has now his title but holds no real rank at all. It's humiliating that years of hard work earned him the position of a secretary. 

Hux knows what Pryde is going to say even before he says it. He would never miss an opportunity to humiliate Hux further. “General here clearly can't hold his balance.” He highlights those words by staring at Hux's uniform, usually pressed but because of his fall it's wrinkled, his sleeves are rolled up a bit, showing off his wrists. Even Hux hair is out of place, messily curling around his ears. It makes him look younger, it makes him look like a cadet and not like the Starkiller

“Supreme Leader,” Hux utters. “I assure you that it was just a small inconvenience.”

“Is that so?” Pryde questions further. “You look tired. Perhaps you have too much work on your plate. We should go easier on you otherwise it might affect your well-being.” 

Hux grits his teeth when he hears that. A few officers that observe their conversation snicker. It's a low blow, especially coming from someone like Pryde who simply assumed that Hux's never had to work hard in his life. He didn't become the General because of his father and yet it seems like all of Hux's successes are credited to Brendol. 

Still, it's not Pryde who hits the bull's eye. Like always, he just starts the game but it's Ren who delivers the killing blow. He has changed, for worse. In the past, he used to be a childish brute with anger issues but he seems to be holding himself back now. Ren is dangerous when he puts his mind to something and it's clear that he is not as incompetent at ruling as Hux thought he would be. He used to be terrifying but now he is so much more. Looking at him, in his pressed uniform and brushed hair, Hux wonders how he could not see it earlier. 

It seems to be his fatal flaw. Underestimating his enemy.

“If you can't stand on your feet,” Ren tells him, “you should be relieved of your duty. I see that your yesterday visit to medbay was of no help.”

Hux hears even more snickers. The officers are not even trying to hide that they are making fun of him. He is too tired to care about that. 

“It seems not, sir,” Hux tells Ren. He is startled when the Supreme Leader reaches towards him and he stupidly jumps back. Ren's lips slowly part and he smirks. He doesn't stop the movement and takes Hux's datapad. He stares at the broken screen and the entire room holds its breath. Hux curses himself for being too skittish. He knows that Ren thinks that he has him pushed into the corner with no way out. A week ago Hux would argue that it's not entirely true but he is starting to think that perhaps, along the way, he miscalculated.

“Just get out,” Ren tells him. His voice is quiet and light. It's a command but his tone is not vicious, he is no longer treating Hux as an enemy. He is just another officer. That thought leaves a bitter taste inside Hux's mouth. He hands him the broken device back. “If you are too tired to properly stand then I doubt you will be any help in the meeting.”

He doesn't even wait for Hux's usual, “Yes, sir!”, uttered through clenched teeth. He leaves without sparing Hux a second glance. Pryde does the same except he looks at Hux with disdain and perhaps it's just the play of light but it seems to Hux that the corners of his lips are rising. That old bastard is properly enjoying this and Hux is afraid that he might never get a chance to pay him back.

Left alone, he does the only thing he can think of and starts walking in the direction of his quarters. His steps are heavy and his eyes are even heavier. He is furious that Ren knows that he was in medbay yesterday, somehow he hoped that people won't be paying attention. He should have known that eyes are now glued on him, the officers are making bets when Ren finally gets tired of him and executes him. 

Hux still holds the rank of General but it means nothing now. His decisions have no longer an impact on many and his commands are now obeyed out of pity rather than real respect. 

And he can't sleep.

It started shortly after Ren crowned himself the Supreme Leader. While in medbay, Hux was informed that his body is growing weaker and after the medics collected the data and found out that the only thing that kept him functioning for past weeks was medication and caffeine, they strictly forbade him from consuming any of that. It wouldn't have been a problem, Hux is not in the state where he exactly values his own life. But his files were sent to the Supreme Leader and Ren decided to take the medics' side just to humor himself and banned Hux from getting any caf or shots to keep him going without sleep for longer periods of time. 

Logically, it should have helped him. But it didn't.

Because Hux can't fall asleep.

Even though he is exhausted, even though he can barely move his limbs, once he falls on his bed, he finds himself thinking rather than sleeping. It used to be a problem before too but back then he had his ways how to keep himself going even with lack of sleep. Now he is just tired. When he can't sleep, he keeps working on the paperwork or finishing small tasks. But his insomnia has recently been bothering him to such a degree where he started to lose focus at work. He went to medbay yesterday to seek help but the solution was not acceptable. One of the medics, Park Ho, explained the situation to him and informed him that Hux would be required to eat medication. The medication itself doesn't pose such a problem - it's the side effect of it. Hux doesn't really seek a way to make himself relax or stop feeling anxiety… even though he does wish for a night of peace.

He fears that such loss of control would lead to his utter and total demotion. Perhaps he is growing paranoid but it seems to him that almost everyone on this ship holds a knife behind their back and is waiting just for the right moment… to stab him.

Hux stumbles before he reaches the door leading to his quarters. He has to lean against the wall and take a deep breath before he opens it and steps inside. His knees buckle beneath him the second time that day and he falls down. He hears a crack but when he moves his legs, he doesn't feel anything except for a bit of pain but he is sure that nothing is broken. 

There aren't many moments when he allows himself to be this vulnerable. But he is too tired to care, too humiliated to even try that fact. So he presses his knees against his chest and wraps his hands around them. The air in his quarters is chilly and the ground he is lying on is close to freezing. 

Hux allows himself to lie still for a few moments and then he finally forces himself to move. His steps are slow and on his way to the bedroom he takes off his jacket. He brushes his throat. The bruises have almost faded by now but even the simplest touch makes him nauseous. 

He throws the broken datapad on the bed and takes a new one he keeps on the bedside table. He scrolls through the messages. People don't contact him that much now when his position and rank depends on the Supreme Leader's mood. Pryde often sends him paperwork but apart from that he is only informed of meetings he should attend.  Even Ren has been quiet so far. Apart from stopping Hux in the middle of the corridor they don't see each other very often.

The reason might be that Ren no longer sees him as dangerous. Hux lost his worth in Ren's eyes and he keeps him around for amusement. It angers Hux because in the past he used to think that despite their differences they are on the same boat and beneath all that hate was hidden mutual respect. But that was before Hux made a foolish mistake and pointed his blaster at Ren. He has no idea what he was trying to prove back then - he certainly didn't plan to shoot Ren like a dog. Yet Ren interpreted the situation differently and Hux ended with bruises on his neck and a warning not to stand in Ren's way ever again. Shortly after that, Ren promoted Pryde and pushed Hux aside.

He notices a message from the medic, Park Ho. Hux hesitates and decides not to open it. If that man is trying to persuade him to start taking medicine, then he clearly has no idea just how stubborn Hux can be. He moves to the fresher and slides into the shower. His knees are shaking and he notices bruises on his knees and an ugly cut on the side of his thigh. Hux strokes it gently and then shakes his head. It makes him feel dizzy. He starts the shower and relaxes against the wall. He doesn't move at all, only lets the water wash him. It reminds him of rain. Hux finds no solace in that. He brushes his hair and opens his eyes. And then screams.

His hands are covered in blood. The water falling on him is red too. Hux violently moves away and his back hits the wall. The blood pools around his feet, it enters his mouth and tastes so bitter… 

“That can't be true,” Hux utters and tries to step out of the shower but he slips and falls down. He bangs his head against the floor. There is no part of him that is now not covered in blood. Hux's breathing quickens and he closes his eyes and covers his face with his palms. Tears gather in the corners of his eyes. He keeps them tightly squeezed to the point of hurting. When he finally regains strength in his legs, he tries to stand up. The wall is slippery and he is just moments from a panic attack. Hux realizes he must open his eyes. His stomach clenches and then turns upside-down. 

He opens his eyes quickly and breath catches in his throat. The water is clear once again. He checks his body and finds out that he is not covered in blood. Hux blinks in confusion and then, after a longer pause, he starts laughing loudly. His body is painfully shaking and tears are rolling down his cheeks.

“There is no blood,” he mumbles and then keeps repeating those words. “I am mad. Completely mad!”