Chapter 1: we'll pass it on to you
"I really don't understand why you called me," Hux says, for perhaps the third time that day.
The troopers that stand before him exchange a look and behind them, Captain Phasma sniggers. They hadn't even called her; she'd just sort of turned up to watch him flounder, probably.
"Well, we thought if anyone knew how to deal with the situation, it would be you, sir," UT - 489 says.
Hux rolls his eyes. It's not the trooper's fault that he's the only competent officer on this ship, he supposes.
Between them stands a child.
By Hux's estimation she's no more than four, perhaps younger. A scrawny whip of a thing covered head to toe in dirt and engine oil. Her hair is mad tangle of indeterminate colour and she appears to be wearing a threadbare jumper that might have been colourful once. She's barefoot and for a young child in such a situation, she's remarkably calm.
"Has anyone been able to ascertain where she came from?"
"No, sir," Phasma answers shortly. "She's clearly not the child of any of the officers and stormtroopers no longer have the ability to bare children. She must have snuck aboard at some point, in one of the shuttles perhaps."
"Really?" comes a drawling voice from behind them, "If that were the case I'd say your troops could do with being a little more observant, Captain." Kylo Ren says.
Hux glares at him. For a brief, mad moment, he is certain this is Ren's doing. Ren has picked up some random orphan from a desolate world and placed her here just to further torment Hux but no, if Ren wanted to drive him mad he need only be continually present. Besides, he looks just as bemused by the whole situation as they all do.
Phasma ducks her head, "I am sorry, sir. I will find the names of every trooper who has been deployed recently."
Hux shakes his head, "Don't bother. Has anyone tried asking it where it came from?"
"She doesn't appear to understand the common tongue, sir," the other trooper explains. "That or she's a mute."
"And none of you speak any other languages?" Hux asks.
The troopers exchange a look and Phasma coughs rather embarrassedly, "It's never been considered a necessary part of the training except for platoon leaders, sir."
Hux sighs, "Of course not," he mutters. "Why would that ever be useful?"
He kneels carefully, trying not to crease his uniform too much, so that he is at eye-level with the child. He tries asking it's name in a few of local languages from the planets they've most recently deployed to and then in a few more that are widely spoken but he gets no response.
"Perhaps she's touched in the head, General," Ren suggests, from his relatively safe distance.
"Indeed," Hux finds himself agreeing. He is just about to stand when the child smiles and reaches out with one grubby hand to touch his cheek.
"Papa," she says, happily.
Hux jerks back, "Excuse me?"
"Papa!" the child insists, shuffling closer to him. Hux tries to move away but the child is deceptively fast and before he can manage it, it has attached itself to Hux's midriff. Hux splutters, the child is filthy and now it's touching him.
Of course, Ren finds the whole thing hysterical.
The troopers have both averted their eyes politely and Phasma is doing a fairly decent job of masking her laughter with little coughs and throat clears but Ren is almost doubled over. Hux has never heard him laugh, not outside of mirthful chuckles here and there or harsh little barks. Ren does not have an attractive laugh, Hux decides, but then, Ren does not have an attractive anything.
Hux glares at the troopers, "Get out of my sight!" he snarls and the pair don't need telling twice. As soon as they're out of earshot he rounds on Kylo. "Is this some sort of joke, Ren?"
"No," Ren manages, between wheezed breaths. "No, but I wish it was!"
Blushing angrily, Hux (with surprising difficulty) dislodges the child and stands up. "Phasma, you can have it for the program."
"With all due respect, sir, she's too young. We take children at the age of five. Means we have to spend less time on the basics, sir."
"So what are we supposed to do with it?" Hux snaps. "Put it in an airlock? Let it loose?"
"You could keep it," Ren suggests but this apparently is also hilarious and he has to lean against the wall to keep himself upright. "Imagine it!"
Phasma doesn't do a good job of hiding her laughter this time. She snorts a few times and then lets out a startlingly girlish giggle, "I'm sorry, sir," she says. "I really am but - "
"What?" Hux growls. "You don't think I can do it?"
"Well, I mean," Phasma says, between laughs. "Could you? Could you really?"
"Of course I could!" Hux snaps. How hard could it be, really?
Ren has recovered somewhat by this point and is standing mostly unaided, "Well, now's your chance to prove it, General," he taunts.
The child looks up at him, "Papa?" it says again, questioningly.
"You know what?" Hux snarls. "Fine, I will." He takes the child's hand with perhaps a little more force than is necessary. "I'll look after it until it's old enough to enter the program."
"Sir, I really don't think - " Phasma begins.
But Ren, considerably more serious now, has stood to meet Hux, "I don't think you'll last more than a day, General. I doubt dealing with children is part of your natural skill set."
Hux smirks, "I deal with you on a day to day basis just fine."
Ren's expression is hidden behind his mask but Hux has known how to read the Knight through other means for a very long time. Ren stiffens and after a few moments he turns and stomps down the corridor.
Hux watches him go proudly.
"Sir?" Phasma begins cautiously, "Do you really mean to take care of her?"
And kriff, he supposes he has to now, doesn't he? He looks down at the child who is gazing back at him, part curiosity, part trust. Still no fear. How interesting.
Phasma seems to take that for her answer and she nods shortly, "Right. I'll see about procuring her some clothes and I'll let the bridge know you're otherwise occupied at present."
Hux nods to her, "Thank you, Captain."
She reaches out and hesitantly claps him on the shoulder and then she's gone, leaving Hux and the child alone. He looks back down at it, "Well, this is not how I thought my day would go," he says quietly. "I'm guessing you feel the same way."
The child, it appears, does not because all she does is beam, "Papa!" she says happily.
The Officer's quarters are mostly located in one section of the ship: a small network of rooms joined by a small lounge and kitchen area. Only Ren's quarters are located elsewhere, on the other side of the ship, closer to the Supreme Leader's audience chamber.
And that's a thought, how by the Order is he going to explain this to Snoke? He'll have enough difficulty explaining it to his underlings. Mercifully, the officer's lounge is empty when he leads the child through so he's spared that indignity for now, at least.
"So," he says, when they reach his quarters, "I suppose the first order of business is a bath."
She looks up at him.
"You're right," he agrees. "I can't possibly be the one to do that. We'll have to wait for Phasma."
He glances around his rooms awkwardly. There's nothing here that could occupy a child, he knows that for sure. He tries to think back to his own childhood, to how he spent his own free time. Reading mostly, he thinks. Or being drilled by his father. He did like to draw once upon a time though. He must have some spare paper somewhere and some pens. Most of them will be in black but he's certain he's a few red ones somewhere....
He looks down at her, "Don't move." he commands and then, as he makes to let go of her hand. "And don't touch anything." (He is unspeakably glad that he's wearing gloves.) But as soon as he tries to let go she wails.
No, not wails. Screams.
"Alright! Alright, alright!" Hux yells, "Look, I'm not letting go, see?" He gives her hand a reassuring squeeze and just as suddenly as the noise began it stops.
Palpatine, what has he gotten himself into?
"Captain Phasma?" he says, into his comms device. "You're needed."
Phasma sighs, "I'll be there soon, sir. Didn't last very long on your own, did you?"
"I'm still your superior officer, you know."
Phasma laughs, "Be there in ten, sir."
"I suppose we better get that bath ready then," Hux says glumly to the child. He leads her into the bathroom and, experimentally, loosens his grip on her hand. Now they're in a smaller space she seems less worried he'll leave so he risks letting go. She gives him a worried look but when he doesn't immediately leave she seems to calm some. Thank everything in the Galaxy.
He leans over the tub to begin running the water, checking it's not too hot before he does so. The last thing he needs is to give the poor thing third degree burns with the Finalizer's ridiculously hot water.
She seems to like the water, leaning up against the edge of the tub to watch it flow. She claps her hands and points, "Bubbles!"
"No," Hux says, "I've got no bubbles." The First Order didn't go in for such indulgences.
She frowns, "Bubbles," she insists.
"Demanding little thing, aren't you?" Hux remarks. "But I'm afraid you'll have to make do without."
She doesn't appear to like that, she begins stomping her feet, "Bubbles! Bubbles, bubbles, bubbles!"
Hux closes his eyes. He's beginning to develop a monster of a headache. "Phasma," he says to the comms device. "Stop by the contraband locker and see if you can find any bath bubbles."
"Uh, what, Sir?"
"Just do it."
When Phasma finally arrives, bath bubbles thankfully in hand, Hux takes a much needed break and flops rather indignantly down onto the couch in his living room. He has only been up four hours but it feels more like forty.
This is definitely a mistake. Stuff Ren and his stupid taunts, Hux cannot take care of a child and run a ship at the same time, it's simply not doable. He will have the child taken elsewhere, abandoned on the next planet they come to. And Ren will just have to -
Ren will be so smug about it though.
The thought makes Hux's blood boil.
Of course he can do this. Of course he can. He can and Ren will see that and the child will grow to be the most loyal stormtrooper they have ever had.
Ren won't win this one.
So when Phasma leads the child out of his bathroom, fresh and washed and looking a good deal less like a pile of sentient dirt he does not sigh or roll his eyes, instead he nods, businesslike.
"Thank you, Captain."
Phasma's eyes glint with amusement, "You're welcome, General. Anything else before I leave?"
"Inform the bridge that I am using today to catch up on paperwork and that they should only send for me if they have dire need."
She raises an eyebrow but says nothing in protest, "As you say, General." Phasma lets go of the child's hand and she bounds towards Hux, enveloping him in a tight hug once more. Hux does not let this phase him, Phasma looks a little impressed.
"I'll take my leave then," Phasma says, crossing the room to retrieve her helmet. She pauses then and doubles back, "Oh, I forgot sir, I picked this up in the contraband locker, thought it might be of use."
She hands him a hairbrush and Hux stares at it.
"It won't bite, General," Phasma says with a smirk.
Hux gives her a warning glare and snatches it from her.
Phasma crosses back to the door, "Try to only call me if you really need to," she says. "I'll have twice as much to do with you on unexpected paternity leave."
She slips through the door just before the hairbrush sails through the space her head had been just seconds before. Hux swears colourfully and then, remembering his audience he looks down to find the child watching him, looking rather unimpressed.
"I don't want to hear you speak like that, understand?" he says, firmly.
The child gives a short nod and then wanders across the room to retrieve the hairbrush. Now that it's clean Hux can tell her hair is a shade similar to his own which is odd, really. It's not that common in the galaxy these days.
He supposes, as he absentmindedly brushes out the tangles in her hair, that he should name her. It feels odd to refer to her mentally as 'child.' "I don't suppose you're going to tell me your name, are you?" he asks.
Unsurprisingly, she does not answer.
"How about Eilis then?" It's his mother's name, as good a name as any and besides, it's not like she's using it anymore. She doesn't respond either way so Hux shrugs, "Eilis it is then. Do they not believe in haircuts where you're from, Eilis?" he grumbles.
When he's brushed out all the tangles he sets her up with some pens and papers and she seems content to sit and draw in silence while Hux catches up on his paper work. She only interrupts here and there to tug on his trouser leg and show him some unintelligible scribble. She doesn't explain any of them to him, only shoves the page under his nose until he nods his approval before scampering back to her corner.
Hux finishes all his work surprisingly quickly and even manages to do some budgeting and expense reports (all the while surreptitiously reading through a manual on child rearing.)
All in all, his day ends rather well.
He and Eilis take their meals in his rooms and Phasma joins them for a time. They make Eilis up a little bed in the unused room off Hux's own bed chamber and Hux goes to bed safe in the knowledge that he is, if nothing else, proving Ren wrong.
The next day, Ren joins them in the officer's lounge for breakfast. Normally, it's just he and Phasma as everyone else prefers to take their meals in their rooms or in the canteen with their colleagues. For Ren to make the journey across the ship just for breakfast is unheard of but he is there when Hux emerges, having gotten much less sleep than he would have liked (Eilis, he has found, has the kind of nightmares he's always dreaded having to deal with so he spent much of the night sitting beside her makeshift bed and willing her back to sleep. It would pass, he hoped. If not, he could always see about soundproofing.)
"Good morning, General," Ren smirks.
"Ren," Hux mutters, bending to lift Eilis into a chair between his own and Phasma's. Phasma, who is certainly not a morning person, grunts what Hux assumes is a greeting and goes back to sipping her coffee and rubbing her temples.
The cooks always make far too much for he and Phasma, but at least there is a wide variety of food for them to choose from and Eilis is bound to find something she'll like. He looks at her, "What do you want?"
She points to a few items and he piles them onto a plate for her before helping himself to toast and coffee. Ren's food sits untouched and he watches Hux and Eilis closely. Hux ignores him and busies himself with catching up on the night-shifts reports and his daily itinerary. He won't be able to skip out on his duties again, there is too much to do today, too much planning, too many meetings.
He has no idea what he'll do with Eilis though, it's not as if there's a nursery on board. He looks over at her to find her busily digging grooves into the table top with a spoon. "Eilis," Hux scolds, snatching the it from her. Surprisingly, she doesn't protest much and instead, leans over to prod Phasma.
Ren looks perplexed, "You named it?"
Hux stares at him, "Well, yes. What was I supposed to do? Keep calling it it?"
Ren raises his eyebrows but says nothing and after a few moments he leaves.
Hux shakes his head, looking back at his holo with a frown. He looks up at Phasma who seems to know exactly what he's about to say and shakes her head, fending off Eilis with one hand, "No, I won't be watching her today. You decided to do this, General, not me."
Hux scowls, "Well, what am I supposed to do with her?"
"Take her with you?" Phasma suggests. "I'm sure she'll be well behaved, won't you, Eilis?" Phasma prods her gently in the stomach and Eilis giggles. "See, she said yes."
Hux sighs. It's not like he's got much choice. He narrows his eyes at the child, "If you embarrass me I'll throw you out of an airlock, alright?"
Eilis smiles innocently back at him.
No one dares comment when Hux steps onto the bridge with Eilis in tow and he doesn't bother introducing her, it's going to breed rumours like wildfire anyway. She's miraculously well behaved and even proves rather adept at pointing out anyone who seems to be slacking slightly (with a gentle tug at Hux's trouser leg and finger pointed with conspirital smile.)
Phasma comes and whisks her away at about midday and Hux doesn't ask. He has a few Eilis free hours (during which Ren corners him in an empty corridor and backs him into a supply closet of all places. It's disappointingly unimaginative.
"Fatherhood suits you," he mutters, nipping at Hux ear. "Perhaps you should put in for permanent paternity leave."
He has Hux pinned against a wall, face first. Hux growls and twists in his grip to face him.
"You could go back home, buy a nice little house," Ren continues, pressing hot, wet kisses along Hux's jaw line. "Even acquire some more little bundles of joy if you wanted to."
"Mm, and leave the Finalizer in your capable hands? There'd be anarchy. You'd execute everyone for looking at you wrong," he swallows a breathy moan as Ren starts nipping at his throat.
"Snoke would replace you easily enough," Ren purrs.
Hux tucks at Ren's hair, "And you'd kill them within twenty-four hours. You don't play well with others," Hux reminds him.
Ren rumbles out a laugh against Hux's collarbone.)
When Eilis is returned to him, some hours later and rather unceremoniously her hair has been braided. It's an odd style, one Hux isn't familiar with though, a single braid, running atop her head at the back. Hux stares incredulously at Phasma.
"Not me, General," she says and Hux can hear the smirk through her helmet. "Though I've been sworn to secrecy as to who it actually was. And so has she."
One of the girls in the medbay probably, Phasma had mentioned taking her down there to ensure she was healthy. Eilis seems happy enough with it so Hux is content to ignore it and focus on the reports in front of him.
"You know," Ren, who has inexplicably decided to join them for breakfast again, says conversationally. "It's really not safe to keep a child on a war ship."
Hux continues scrolling through the night's reports on his holo and does not look up.
"What if we're attacked?"
"If we're attacked, Ren, Captain Phasma will ensure Eilis's safety and get her to an escape pod," Hux replies.
"She will, General?" Phasma asks, looking bemused. "Because she doesn't have troops to oversee?"
Hux glances up at her, "I'm sure your troops can handle themselves. Eilis however can't."
Eilis won't be around long enough for them to be attacked, but Ren doesn't need to know that. Ren scowls at his breakfast and Hux decides that it'll be a great day.
It's slightly frightening how effortlessly Eilis assimilates into Hux's routine. Phasma still takes her every now and again throughout the day and Supreme Leader Snoke has not made any comments about her presence either way, much to Ren's annoyance. Speaking of Ren, he's growing more and more frustrated about the apparent lack of difficulty Hux is having raising a child.
Presents keep appearing for Eilis at his door, toys, books, clothes. It's bizarre and slightly worrying that apparently half his ship has children's belongings stashed away somewhere. He doesn't think on it too much. It's one of the few things he's comfortable with not knowing about his crew and Eilis delights in her gifts anyway.
The only trouble Hux has is at night.
No matter what he does Eilis continues to scream and cry all through it. He's taken her to the medbay and they've found nothing wrong, he's tried unloading her on Phasma (which didn't work and only resulted in Phasma shirking her babysitting duties for a few days afterwards), he's even tried telling her bedtime stories. Nothing works.
At first, he doesn't let it affect his work, there are pills that can make up for the lack of sleep he's been getting but eventually, it starts to wear on him. There are dark circles under his eyes, he is becoming more irritable, more liable to snap and Ren knows it.
"You're slipping," Ren hisses into his ear, the next time Hux finds himself shoved unceremoniously into an empty room. He should probably be glad that it's not a closet this time, that at least there's a couch but all he can focus on is the fact that someone - Ren, definitely Ren - has ruined the ship's scheduling system so Hux has to redo the whole thing. By hand. Because there's no one else he can trust to do it sensibly.
"Meanwhile you have slipped so far down you're practically a nonentity," Hux mutters, shoving Ren off him. "I don't have time for this today."
Ren smirks at him, "Family problems?"
"Work actually," Hux snaps. He tries to leave but Ren blocks the door, arms stretched across it like the idiot child he truly is under all the pomp. "Excuse me, Lord Ren, some of us have duties outside of being an aimless menace."
For whatever reason, his usual jabs aren't working and Hux can only think of two reasons for this. Either Ren has matured over night (ludicrous) or this is all part of some scheme that Ren hopes will end in Hux throwing himself out of an air lock. Either way, Hux wants no part in it.
"Ren, move," he says plainly.
Ren actually looks disappointed for a split second before his face returns to it's more natural, murderous expression. "Fine," he spits, ever the child. "Go back to your spreadsheets."
Hux smiles politely and does.
"Please, Eilis," he says, later that evening. "By Palpatine's ghost, please go to sleep."
Eilis does not. Instead, she continues to wail in a manner that absolutely destroys him. He doesn't want her to stop crying so he can sleep, he just wants her to stop crying because it pains him and Eilis is not a delicate crier. She is a snotty, raspy-throat, red face, balled fists kind of crier and that makes it even worse.
Still, the crying is at least better than the screams that accompany her rare bouts of sleep. Honestly, Hux has no idea how she's still functioning, she must have had an hours sleep for the two weeks she's been on board the Finalizer.
He gives up, gathers her into his arms and carries her across the hallway to Phasma's room. He can hear music drifting out from behind her door which abruptly stops when he begins to knock.
"Phasma, open up, I know you're in there," he says, as he continues to pound. "Captain, open this door."
There is a loud sigh from Phasma's room and then the door slides open, "Sorry, sir, I didn't hear you at first."
Hux sighs, "Indeed." Then he holds out Eilis, "Please, do something."
Phasma looks alarmed, "Do what?"
"What? No! I meant do something to make her calm down!"
"Oh." Phasma frowns, "General, I'm not really sure I'm qualified to - "
Hux is so tired. So, so tired. He looks to the ancient piano Phasma has in the corner of her room. She is insistent she learnt as part of her trooper training, to better help her timing and self-control but Hux has never heard of such a practise and neither have any of his other Captains. "Play her something."
To his relief, Phasma doesn't argue. She moves away from the door and Hux steps into the room, crossing to Phasma's couch and all but collapsing, Eilis in his lap. Phasma shoots him a few concerned looks before she settles herself down, "Erm, what should I play, sir."
"Anything," Hux mumbles, running a hand through Eilis' damp hair. "There, see, she's going to play something for you," he says, to the child. "Won't that be nice?"
Eilis hiccups and continues sobbing.
Hux feels the same way to be honest. "Phasma, just play something."
After a few moments she does. Eilis quiets a little, still sniffing occasionally and Hux sighs with relief, letting his head lean back on the couch and closing his eyes. It worked, it worked!
When he opens his eyes again Eilis isn't in his lap anymore and he jerks, an absurd surge of fear gripping his chest - what if she's wandered off and gotten hurt? What if she's stumbled off a walkway or into the engine rooms? There are so many ways she could get hurt -
Phasma is standing in front of him, hair damp, towel slung across her shoulders. She's got this odd sort of fond look in her eyes that makes Hux's cheeks heat up, "What time is it?" he snaps, trying to sound as menacing as possible.
"Don't worry, you didn't miss breakfast. You've got plenty of time to get yourself in order," she says.
Phasma points and Hux looks over to find Eilis bundled in blankets, sound asleep on Phasma's armchair. "She woke up a few times," Phasma says. "Crying both but I didn't think I should wake you." She smirks, "You looked so peaceful."
Hux glares at her and stands up, stifling a yawn. He runs a hand through his hair, he must look a state. Phasma is looking at him expectantly. "Um, thank you," he says, as sincerely as possible. "I - um - appreciate your fine work."
Phasma snorts, "Let's just not make a habit of this, General."
Hux ducks his head, "Yes, lets." Then he narrows his eyes and looks up at her once more, "And don't tell Ren."
"Wouldn't dream of it, sir."
Phasma makes him promise only to come to her room when he really, really needs the rest and of course, there comes a time when Phasma is not there and Hux has not slept for three days. He is halfway to her rooms, Eilis clinging to him and howling when he remembers.
Kriff, what is he to do now?
Eilis continues to scream.
"I know, I know," he tells her gently.
That is when he becomes aware of Kylo Ren watching him from the shared officer's quarters. Of course. That's all he needs now.
"What in the galaxy have you done to her?" Ren asks, reaching up to pull off his helmet.
"Nothing," Hux spits. "She's just - She won't..." He trails off, bouncing Eilis in his arms in a futile attempt to get her to stop screaming. "What are you doing here, Ren?" he growls.
Ren shrugs, "Snoke wants to see us. Didn't you see his message?"
Hux closes his eyes and swears under his breath. No, he hadn't seen the message. He'd been too distracted.
"Good thing I came to tell you then," Ren says with a smirk. Then he frowns at Eilis, "Will you please shut her up? We have to go."
"Well if you've any bright ideas I'd love to hear them!" Hux snaps.
Ren rolls his eyes, actually rolls his damn eyes like it's the easiest thing in the world. He takes a few steps towards Hux and Eilis, "Here," he says, "Let me..." And it's a testament to how completely exhausted Hux is that he doesn't immediately jerk his - the child away from Ren's outstretched hands.
Ren pauses to remove his gloves and looks up at Hux, eyes softer than Hux has ever seen them, "I won't hurt her," he says and for some reason, Hux believes him. He cradles Eilis' head gently, in the same manner as Hux has seen him do to prisoners.
Hux bristles, "What are you doing?"
"Nothing bad," Ren replies then, to Eilis, he says, "There, see? All better." And when he stands back up it is. Eilis takes a few steadying breaths and then slumps forwards on Hux's chest, still and quiet.
For one, horrified moment Hux is certain Ren has killed her, then he feels the rise and fall of her chest and lets out a long, shuddering breath.
Ren is watching him with an odd sort of half-smile, "Did you think I killed her?" he asks, sounding far more amused than he has any right to be.
"What did you do, Ren?" Hux asks, looking down at the sleeping child in amazement.
"Chased away the bad memories," Ren answers. "Now come on, the Supreme Leader is waiting and much as I would love to see him execute you for your tardiness it might not be in your best interest right now."
Hux hesitates, he can't leave Eilis alone, can he? No. No, he can't. He takes a few steps and Ren stares at him, "You're bringing her?"
"Well, I can't leave her here on her own, can I?"
By the Order why did Phasma have to be out on a training exercise?
Ren shakes his head but says nothing.
"So," the Supreme Leader rumbles, when they finally stand before him. "This is the child you are raising, General?"
"Only until she's old enough to join the stormtrooper program, sir," Ren answers for him.
Both Hux and the Supreme Leader give him an odd look and Snoke says, "Is this true, General?"
Eilis is warm in his arms. No, Hux wants to say. No, she's too good for that, she deserves more, but those thoughts are not his own - they can't be his own. He is only doing this to spite Ren after all so he squashes them, meets the Supreme Leader's gaze and nods.
The Supreme Leader seems satisfied with this and sits back in his chair, "Luke Skywalker has come out of hiding," he begins.
When the Supreme Leader releases them it is all Hux can do to keep walking. Skywalker is back in the picture, it seems. Snoke has received intelligence that the girl that bested Ren on Starkiller base has been trained by him, that she is calling herself a jedi. Ren is fuming but at least he is fuming quietly.
He also appears to be walking Hux back to his quarters. Hux doesn't question it, he wants to avoid arguing until he's more functional.
It's only when he actually reaches his door that he pauses, frowning across at Ren, "If you leave will she wake up?"
Ren blinks, drawn out of whatever murderous scenario he's dreaming up for his uncle and his new apprentice. "I don't know. Maybe," he says, distractedly. Then he frowns, "Why? Do you want me to stay?"
No. No. Hux never wants that. That is the opposite of what Hux wants.
"Never, Ren," he says, keying in his code. The door slides open and in his arms, Eilis stirs. Hux freezes, holding his breath. Please don't, he thinks. Please, please, please.
He glances over his shoulder to find Ren still watching him.
"Oh fine," Hux mutters.
Ren crosses his arms, "That's not a very polite way to ask a man to spend the night with you, General."
"Say it louder, Ren, I don't think they heard you up on the navigation deck," Hux mutters. He shakes his head, "Fine. Ren, will you please stay?"
For a moment he's sure Ren will say no. Why wouldn't he, after all? He has no reason to stay but then Ren is brushing past him and stepping into Hux quarters, tossing his mask and gloves carelessly onto the couch.
"I hope you don't snore," he says, glancing about the place.
Hux glares at him, "I certainly do not!"
Hux wakes up to Ren leaning over him and for one, brief, horrifying moment he thinks this is the end for him; that Ren has come to strangle him in his sleep. Then he remembers and rather oddly, feels worse about the whole thing.
"Must you stare?" he mutters, scrubbing at his face.
Ren smirks, "You snore."
Hux thumps him with a pillow, "I do not," and Ren smirks and leans down to press a rough kiss to Hux's throat. Hux shoves him off and sits up, looking towards Eilis' bed in the adjoining room.
"She slept through the night," Ren says, sounding rather proud. Hux should probably thank him but he doesn't. Instead, he holds Ren's gaze for a fraction longer than is necessary and stands up, "I'm going for a shower," he mutters.
Happily (or perhaps, disappointingly - Hux has not decided which) Ren does not join him in the shower and when Hux emerges, Ren is gone and Eilis has taken the initiative to move from her bed to his, somehow managing to take up most of the space with her tiny body.
He bends down to brush back a few locks from her forehead and she cracks open an eye and grins up at him, soft and sleepy. The room still smells faintly of Ren, hot and musky and burnt and Hux feels pleasantly warm.
So it goes.
Eilis grows, Eilis talks me, Eilis grasps concepts that Hux struggled to grasp at that age and Hux stops pretending the swell of pride and warmth and protectiveness in his breast is anything less than parental. She walks beside him on his rounds and he is proud that she is at his side. He teaches her everything he can and it is only when Ren remarks casually over breakfast one day that Hux remembers that Eilis was intended to be temporary.
She was only supposed to be in his life briefly. To prove a point before being shipped off to storm trooper training and he feels unspeakably guilty. He looks at the little scrap of a girl that sits beside him, surreptitiously stealing griddle cakes off his plate, and he tries to picture her in a faceless mask, marching in time to someone else's beat, point and shoot and die for the cause. His gaze flicks to Phasma. Phasma's eyes are downcast.
Ren smirks. Then frowns.
They do not speak of it again but Hux worries.
There is no one aboard the ship who questions Eilis' presence, it is not their place, after all, but there are those who would. Those of an equal standing with him, those of higher rank who would see her as a weakness. Of course, he could argue he is simply doing his duty for the Order, training the next generation of officers as Snoke as jokingly remarked on the few occasions he has asked about Eilis.
And there is the Supreme Leader to consider. Thus far he has seemed unconcerned about Eilis presence, perhaps even amused. Hux has never been able to read him well enough to pick up on anything but the emotions that swirl on the surface. He has seen inklings here and there that Snoke has an interest in Eilis but to what end, Hux could not say.
Of course, Snoke could order him to be rid of her and Hux would be unable to refuse. Perhaps that is his plan, to use her for punishment if Hux displeases him.
Perhaps, it would be easier to send Eilis off to become a storm trooper but Hux will not.
Hux only considers giving her up again once:
She has been with them for what feels like forever and in that time their skirmishes with the rebels have remained small, a dog fight here, a small shoot out there. Both sides are biding their time, rebuilding their strength before the next big collision when the rebel spy is found.
She is part of their weaponry department, has been using squirreling blueprints and whatever snippets of information she picks up in the Finalizer's corridors and relaying them under the pretence of arms deals. Hux discovers her himself, follows a rather sloppy paper trail that several people have missed (which costs them dearly.) The spy panics, tries to escape and detonates an explosive in one of the hangars.
Hux is on the bridge when the explosion occurs. The whole ship rocks, alarms blare, across the comms come cries for medics. Eilis clings to him and whimpers.
Later, much later, when he has punished all those who deserve it and he and Ren have presented their reports to Snoke, he sits at Eilis' bedside as she twists and whines her way through dreams and worries. He has always known that a warship is no place for a child but now that she is here, now that she is his he sees no other options. The only family he has to speak of planet-side are distant relatives whom he may have met once or twice as a small child and his father is certainly not an option. He's not even certain his father knows about Eilis though he supposes it has probably filtered its way across the Order by now.
There are only two people he trusts with Eilis (however begrudgingly) and they are both on the ship with him.
He settles for having Phasma instruct Eilis in basic combat, with Ren offering insights here and there, but they are all clear with her, firm and clear: if there is an attack she is to get to an escape pod and she is to wait. One of them will come for her. They run drills and though it scares her, Hux knows it is for the best.
"Do you know where she's from?" he asks Ren one night as Eilis whimpers in her bed.
They are both by her side, Hux leaning heavily against Ren, face mostly pressed into Ren's warm, sweat-damp neck because he is tired, tired, tired. It has been a trying few days, he has turned the entire Finalizer upside down searching for more rats and Eilis nightmares haven't been helping.
Ren gently strokes Eilis' forehead, jostles Hux lightly, "Yes," he answers softly, as Eilis stills.
He spends the night more and more now and Hux has stopped pretending to hate it, trying to fight it.
Ren turns his head so that his lips brush Hux's forehead, "Would you like to know?" he presses an all too soft kiss there, a kiss they will not acknowledge come morning and Hux realises he is genuinely asking.
He looks up at Ren in the dim light of his quarters, fighting the urge to give in the sleep's clawing hands dragging him down and says, "I don't know. Do I?"
Ren swallows, "I don't think you do, really."
Hux is incensed, "No, I do," he protests sleepily.
Kylo makes a soft noise, halfway between a snort and an affectionate little laugh, "No. You really don't."
Hux bats at him weakly, "Why offer if you're not going to tell me?"
"Well I can't have people thinking I like you, can I?" Ren smirks, running a hand through Hux's hair. As he does so Hux feels something unfurl, something soothing and gentling, something that makes him feel warm and heavy. His eyes flutter shut as Ren works whatever magic he's been using on Eilis all this time and he has just enough time to sincerely regret allowing Ren into his quarters.
Hux is on one of his all too rare trips off the Finalizer when Ren's voice booms loud in the back of his mind: come at once.
He is meeting with the president of a small, independent planet with rather handsome ore deposits and First Order sympathies and usually, he would send an envoy or conduct this meeting via holo but since Starkiller base he has been taking no chances. Ren has been left in charge of Eilis because Phasma refuses to allow Hux to leave the ship without her.
Of course, Hux could have brought Eilis with them, but he has not yet discounted the possibility that they are walking into a rebel trap. The deal is a very good one, after all.
Not that it matters because as soon as he hears Ren's voice he is on the fastest shuttle back to the ship.
He dashes through the corridors, with as much dignity as he can muster, cursing Ren's ominous message and ensuing ominous silence. There are horrific scenarios playing out in full colour in his mind, overlaying each other, one upping each other. Something horrific has happened, Hux is certain.
He is in such a rush that he keys in the wrong code to his quarters twice before Ren takes pity on him and opens the door from the inside.
His face is pale and grim.
"If you've hurt her - " Hux begins, raggedly. "If you've let her get hurt - "
Ren shakes his head calmly, "Look." He steps back so that Hux can see into the room and points.
Eilis is sat with her painted blocks, concentrating hard on rearranging them into as many words as she can. It is a game Hux taught her to improve her vocabulary but she is playing it differently now.
The blocks float before her, suspended in midair, twisting as she flicks her wrist.
For a moment, Hux stares, uncomprehending. His gaze flickers to Ren, full of suspicion, this must be a trick, a joke Ren is playing at his expense but he knows immediately that it is not.
"She - " Hux begins, and his voice cracks. "She is strong with the Force?"
Ren nods, mouth a tight line, "Strong indeed." There is a heaviness to Ren's words that conveys Hux should feel something other than elation. Here is his reason to keep her, his reason to throw in the face of anyone who calls her a weakness. She is a strength. She will be the best soldier the Order has ever seen, the best Commander, Ren's abilities, Hux's mind.
She will rule the galaxy one day, Hux is certain of it. How silly he was to dream of that glory for himself once when it has always been her who will attain that. When she has always been the galaxy's chosen one. And he was the one who found her, who rescued her, who raised her.
History will look back on him fondly.
"We must tell the Supreme Leader at once," Hux says, all in a rush. He has not felt this excited in - in his entire existence. He beams at Eilis who smiles back blithely. She has no idea what a miracle she is, what a gift she has been. He turns to go but Ren catches his sleeve.
"No! What are you doing? Don't you understand what this means?"
Hux yanks his arm out of Ren's grip, "I certainly do, Ren. Now, move."
Ren does not move and then, Hux understands. He smirks, crosses his arms, "You're worried the Supreme Leader will not need you if he has her. You're worried you'll be disposable."
Ren actually looks offended at that, "What? No - Hux, listen - "
Hux does not listen, he dodges Ren's attempts to grasp at him and tries once more to get past him and out of the door, "Move, Ren, before I make you." Hux growls.
Still, he refuses to budge.
Hux shoves at him roughly, "MOVE."
Ren sends him reeling backwards easily and Hux stumbles as the Force slams into him. Behind them, Eilis lets out a frightened sound. Hux turns to her, "Everything is fine, Eilis. Go and wait in your room, okay?"
The child obeys and Hux rounds on Ren, "You frightened her!" he snaps, keeping his voice low.
"I frightened her?" Ren hisses back. "You were the one making a scene!"
"Only because you refused to move! The Supreme Leader deserves to know! Really, Ren, green just isn't your colour - "
Ren cuts him off, clamping a hand across his mouth, "It isn't about that, you laser-brained fool! Here, I'll show you."
He has had Ren in his head before unwillingly, during the worst of their fights but that was nothing like this. That was Ren dredging up the past, long buried memories that made Hux recoil and tremble as he relieved them plain as day, but this time, it is not his own fear he is choking on.
There is a boy, a boy alone while a voice whispers to him in the dark. A voice that tells him of horror and glory and power. There is a boy that cries with fear and begs his parents to save him. There is a boy that is failed and then there is pain, pain, pain.
White hot and bright and bone-deep and dull all at once, all consuming, everywhere.
Pain will make you stronger, the voice promises. Pain will bring you closer to the darkness.
He is being wrenched in two, coming apart at the seams and if something doesn't give - if something doesn't give he will shatter into a million pieces and there will be no repairing him -
There is a boy on a bridge cutting his father down.
There is silence.
When Ren releases him he falls backwards and hits the ground hard, gasping for air. He can't quite convince his limbs to stop shaking, his heart races, the fear is still present, creeping up his throat, making it hard to draw breath.
Ren drops to his knees beside him, a worried frown on his face, "I am sorry. I didn't mean to - " he murmurs, he reaches out and Hux flinches back. Ren's hands fall limply to his side. "Just breath, Hux," he says, gruffly.
Hux wants to fire back some clever insult but he can't form the words.
"I should have warned you," Ren says. "The Force can be too much for people unconnected to it... But I had to show you." He reaches out again and Hux is too slow to move away. He grasps Hux's shoulder, "You see now? You see why he can never know?"
Hux sees. Hux sees and sees and sees.
Eilis will never go through that.
He wills himself to nod weakly, heart still hammering, breath still coming in short, sharp, pants.
Ren rubs his shoulder, "Breath, Hux." He says again.
"He will know," Hux says, quietly, when he has regained the power of speech. "He must. Why else would he allow her to remain with me this long?"
Ren shakes his head, "I do not know but there is a chance he does not know..." He doesn't sound convinced and Hux snaps, "Don't be so naive."
Ren shoots him a sharp look, "I'm not being naive. There is a chance he knows, yes, there is a chance he sensed something within her but he may not - " he breaks off, looks towards the closed door to the sleeping quarters. "She is strong, she may have somehow shielded herself from him."
"And what exactly are the chances of that?" Hux asks wryly.
Ren glares hotly but does not reply.
Hux sighs, "It doesn't matter now, anyway. If he knows, he knows and if he doesn't he'll know soon enough. The question is: what do we do about it?"
Hux's mind is already half forming plans, cack-handed and fantastical, all guaranteed to end in disaster, Ren is quiet for a moment before he says: "There's only one thing we can do to ensure her safety."
Hux is not going to like this, he knows.
"The rebels can hide her," Ren finishes.
Hux snorts, "Oh? They did such a stellar job of protecting you, I don't know why I didn't think of that sooner."
Ren scowls, "They know more now. They will not allow her to be harmed."
"And what makes you so sure of that?"
Ren shrugs, one shouldered and Hux sighs again. Unspoken between them is that the rebellion do not kill children, that the rebellion are a slight more moral than the Order.
"No," Hux decides. "Even if we can get her to them, they'll train her as a weapon their way. That won't be any better."
"So what do you suggest?" Ren snaps. "Make your escape with her in a First Order vessel? The Supreme Leader would find you in a matter of hours. At least the rebellion has Skywalker. He can hide her."
Like he hid you? Hux wants to bite back but that is a wound still raw, he knows, so he doesn't. Instead he shakes his head. He does not want to send Eilis away, least of all to their rivals for the galaxy. Maybe Snoke will go easy on Eilis, he did not take Ren until he was far older, after all and Eilis does not have the pull of the light to contend with - Hux thinks, anyway - perhaps he will be kinder, gentler.
But perhaps, is not a risk Hux is willing to take.
He looks at Ren, fists clenched at his sides. It is a wonder Ren has not destroyed the room in his anger by now; no doubt he would have were Eilis not so close by to hear.
"Suppose I were to agree to this nonsense," Hux ventures. "How exactly would you get Eilis to them?"
Ren looks up and there is a glint of hope in his eyes, "It would be easy enough to contact them," he says. "I have my ways."
Hux raises an eyebrow but Ren does not elaborate, "And then what? You'd smuggle her to them?"
"It would never work," Hux says, with a shake of his head. "Think about it: Snoke would know one of us had a hand in her disappearance in that scenario. She can't very well have run off on her own. Snoke would deploy everyone to find her."
Ren flushes angrily, "What do you suggest then?"
Hux sighs, "We make it look like a kidnapping."
Ren laughs at that, "And Snoke wouldn't deploy everyone to find her in that scenario?"
"Oh, he would. But think about it, if you had disappeared with her he would panic, he would not only be losing his greatest potential weapon, but his greatest current weapon. Think of what a disaster that could be to morale, Lord Ren, the Supreme Leader's right hand, defecting to the rebels. Your Knights would follow you, Snoke would send everyone after you and he would know of my involvement. You might get away, of course, but you also might be captured." Hux shudders at the thought.
"Now, if we stage it as a kidnapping, there will be less panic. It won't be a betrayal, it will be an act of war."
"An act of war that he will retaliate brutally for!" Ren points out. "An act that he will expect you to retaliate brutally for!"
"And we would," Hux agrees. "And we'd know precisely where to strike and where not to."
Ren considers this and Hux knows he's turning it over and over in his mind, looking for errors, for all the ways it could go wrong and there are a lot. Snoke could remove Hux from command, declare him unfit. Snoke could intercept Eilis somehow. Snoke could already know everything they're planning to do here.
Snoke might not know anything about Eilis, they might be panicking.
Hux sighs, but it comes out more as a dry sob. "I don't want to do this," he says quietly.
Ren reaches out, fingers just brushing Hux's. "She'll be safer if we do."
They could wait, Hux knows. They could wait until they know Snoke knows for sure but he thinks of Eilis' smile and Eilis' laugh and Eilis' copper hair and can't risk it. Won't risk it.
"You're sure she'll be safe?" he asks, again.
Ren nods. "I'll make sure of it."
"Do it then," Hux grits out. "Don't tell me any details."
Ren nods again and sweeps out of the room.
Hux calls Eilis out of her room and holds her as tight as he can.
It happens a week or so later, a rebel attack on the Finalizer. They come armed and ready and it honestly takes Hux by surprise.
They send the girl for Eilis, the girl from Jakku with fire in her dark eyes and a lightsaber at her belt and Eilis cries out when she appears before them. Hux sets his jaw, grits his teeth, he's told Eilis what will happen when they come for her, he knows it's a risk but he can't let her go through this without knowing he'll come back for her and he will come back for her. After all of this. After the war.
He wonders now and again if her real parents thought that once too.
The girl's eyes narrow when she sees him, the storm trooper-traitor at her side. He looks surprised to see Hux with a small child cowering behind him and he wonders if the rebels have kept people blind to this missions true purpose as well.
(They have not told Phasma, as much as it pains him, it was too risky, she would talk him out of it and Hux would listen.)
"Make it look convincing," Hux growls.
The girl smirks, "Don't worry. I will."
Hux looks back at Eilis, bends down to press a kiss to her forehead, "Hurt her," he snarls. "And there is nowhere in the galaxy I won't find you."
The girl holds his gaze and nods once before raising her lightsaber.
i haven't written in like a week, which is a long time for me so im sorry if this is a little rusty
this is kind of short because originally it was meant to be part of the last chapter and i never really planned on this story being particularly long.
thanks a bunch for all your comments and kudos <3
Hux comes to in the med-bay and for a few, glorious moments; he doesn't remember what has transpired. When he does, he groans.
"Sir?" comes a voice, gruff with concern, from his left. He turns to find Phasma watching him, pale-faced and grim. She doesn't know, Hux recalls dimly. She is not aware of their plan, she thinks Eilis has been kidnapped for real.
And he must make her believe he does to.
He licks his lips, "Report," he barks, voice rough with disuse.
Phasma takes a deep, steadying breath, watching him carefully, "They have taken her, sir." She speaks with the kind of heavy finality that suggests she is fully expecting him to order her execution on the spot. She takes another breath before continuing, "Ren and a platoon of TIE-fighters are in pursuit but the outlook looks bleak."
Hux closes his eyes, lets the words sink in, trying not to imagine Eilis being shot out of the sky by some idiot with poor aim. Ren will not let that happen, he reminds himself. Ren will not let that happen.
When he opens his eyes again he gives a good show of looking furious, "And why are you not out there with them? Why is my best Captain here babysitting me when she should be out there finding my - "
"General," she cuts him off, teeth gritted. "I was ordered to stay behind by Lord Ren," she spits every word, as though they have each individually offended her. "If I had my way..." she mutters.
Hux sits up and then, moves to get out of the bed.
"Sir, no," Phasma pushes him back down with ease.
"Let me go," Hux snaps. "I have to - "
"Your leg is broken," Phasma says. "Badly. It will take a few hours to heal. You are to remain here until then."
"Is that an order?"
Phasma meets his gaze, "It is, General."
Hux glowers at her, he would not give up so easily if this were real so he pushes against her, continues to struggle, "Let. Me. Go," he repeats. "Before I have you court-martialed!"
Phasma is looking at him with such pity, such sorrow that he wants to blurt out their whole scheme. Phasma cares for Eilis just as much as he and Ren do but he can't. "Sir," she says, very slowly and very carefully. "You have been very seriously injured, they have more than a day's head start and I know that this is trying for you but you have never been the kind of man to let your emotions cloud your judgement. You are needed here, General."
Hux allows himself to go limp, allows himself to be pressed back on to the bed by her. "Bring me whomever is responsible for letting this happen," he spits.
Phasma nods, grim-faced and stands to go, "I am so sorry, Hux." She says, quietly before she goes.
The medbay is quiet when she leaves and Hux lies against the soft sheets and closes his eyes. He will have to compile a report for Supreme Leader Snoke, he realises. He will have to explain that once again the Resistance has bested him. Once again the Resistance has snuck in and sabotaged his operations. Snoke has not expressed an interest in Eilis yet but Hux knows he will be enraged by her disappearance.
Even if Snoke buys it, even if he believes that this is all just bad luck and sloppy guards and radar-monitors, Hux is at risk. This is his second grand failure in a year, there is a chance Snoke will simply snap his neck and be done with it.
Snoke is livid, though he hides it well.
Hux stands before him alone, half expecting to be struck down before he can finish saying his piece. He explains carefully their fabricated sequence of events, gives Snoke the names of the those who failed to pick up on the attack (he has had them imprisoned, in another life he would have had them shot but Eilis has changed him in ways he does not completely understand.)
Snoke believes him, or at least, he pretends to believe him. There is part of Hux of that cannot believe Snoke is ignorant to their scheming; it is incomprehensible that their Supreme Leader is not all knowing.
When Snoke dismisses him, Hux's knees are weak from standing for so long but he is alive. He goes back to his quarters and stands for a long time over Eilis' empty bed.
He might never see her again, he realises. He might not make it through this war.
He's trying not to picture her, alone in some Rebel base, alone and confused and frightened.
He wishes he had never taken her in.
He wishes he had allowed her to go straight to the trooper program.
Ren does not return for almost two weeks and when he does he looks about as rough as Hux feels. He marches onto the bridge one day, a trail of staggering Knights at his heels and comes to a halt before Hux, "I have failed," he says, slowly, carefully. "They got away."
Hux flicks the holo he is holding off. "Everybody out," he says quietly. He does not need to repeat himself, the room empties almost immediately. Hux keeps up the act anyway, you never can be too sure who's listening. "This is your fault," he spits.
Ren lets out a hollow laugh, "My fault? Who's idea was it to keep a child on a warship?"
"You do not get to speak to me in that manner," Hux growls. "Your failure is unacceptable."
Ren snorts, "My failure? Was it not your men who allowed the resistance to slip past them onto your ship?"
He rages at Ren and there is part of him that is being genuine, part of him that blames Ren for this. After all, if it had not been for Ren Hux would never have taken Eilis in, would never have grown attached. He should have known better.
Eventually, he ceases and Ren storms off the bridge to destroy a side room. Snoke has made it clear that Eilis is not their priority anymore; he has other forces working on that, something that introduces a growing feeling of dread to Hux's mind. He remembers in Ren's little snatches of memory, Snoke's voice in his head, whispering over and over and over and he wonders if Snoke is doing that to Eilis.
Hux and the Finalizer has been regulated to patrols and raids and the occasional combat. He has lost Snoke's favour, no longer the man behind Starkiller base, the man who destroyed the Hosnian system, now he's just the man who failed.
His father must be mortified.
Ren is waiting for him in his quarters when he returns that night and he wastes no time in crashing his lips to Hux's. Hux allows himself to be swallowed up in the feelings, bites at Ren's lips and digs his nails in. Draws blood. "I hate you," he growls, pushing Ren down onto the bed.
"Yes," Ren breathes.
Later, he lies sprawled across Ren's chest, boneless, sated, tired beyond belief. Ren's hands hold him steady and still.
"Is she safe?" he asks, against Ren's throat.
"If I wasn't, I wouldn't have come back," Ren says.
Hux is quiet for a moment and then, "So what happens now?"
Ren tilts his head up, "What would you like to happen?" he asks, sounding genuinely curious for once.
"I would like," Hux mutters. "To see Eilis again. That is why we did this, yes? So that she would be safe?"
Kylo cocks his head, "Will she ever be safe with us?" his tone is softer than Hux has ever heard it. Hux swats at him and sits up. Ren sighs, "The Resistance would like to know if we will help them bring Snoke down."
The heaviness of those words hang between them, the weight of them and for a moment, Hux cannot believe Ren is suggesting such a thing. Snoke's word is law, Snoke's word is what is was raised by, what he has always lived by. It has never occurred to him that taking him down may be a solution.
Hux's mouth is dry, "What did you say to them?"
Ren's expression is obscured by the dim light, "I didn't give them a firm answer."
"So you're considering it?"
Ren shifts, turns away from Hux. "She won't be safe - really safe - until he's gone. None of us will be."
"I didn't know you were so sentimental," Hux mutters. "Or that you feared Snoke so much."
"It would be stupid not to fear him," Ren counters and Hux knows that now, or maybe he's always known it and simply never acknowledged it.
He runs a hand through his hair, "Are we seriously considering this?"
Ren reaches out, rests a hand on Hux's thigh, "You don't have to agree to this." His tone is annoyingly soft, like Hux is delicate. Hux bristles.
"Do they have a plan?" he asks, in barely more than a whisper.
He misses Eilis in the quiet moments. The nights he spends working at his desk, the early mornings before breakfasts. He finds himself waking in the night, expecting to hear her crying out, whining and whimpering. There are times when he stands on the bridge and looks up expecting to see Phasma walking her around the corner.
Now he uses those quiet moments to consider his current course of action. He is working with the Resistance. He is a traitor. He is throwing away his entire life, his career, his beliefs for a child he has known for a handful of months. A child that will most likely be raised by rebels, will grow to hate him when she is older because of that.
He is throwing his life away, the only chance the galaxy has at peace and prosperity under the First Order for some orphan.
And even he succeeds, even if they succeed, he will still likely never see her again.
Yet he is still intent on following through.
(In his weaker moments Ren's voice echoes through his thoughts, telling him Eilis is more powerful with the Force than anyone he has ever met and Hux wonders. Was Eilis sent to him for this express purpose? If so by whom? He has studied General Organa's tactics in detail and he knows she is ruthless. Not as ruthless as Snoke but ruthless.
"Stop," Ren says, trailing a hand down Hux's spine. "Stop thinking like that."
"Stop listening to my thoughts," Hux mutters back.
"Stop thinking so loudly," Ren counters. "If I can hear you, Snoke can."
"Don't," Hux snaps, but he is too tired to push Ren away from him.
"Are you certain you can do this?" Ren asks softly.
Hux rolls away from him.
Afterwards, everything takes on a sort of dreamlike quality.
He stands over Snoke's body, blaster raised. Ren is writhing on the floor.
Hux still can't quite believe it.
There is blood but Hux is not sure whom it belongs to. There are alarms wailing. Across the room, the girl from Jakku, the girl who took Eilis is yelling something. He has to concentrate very hard to understand what she is saying, "We have to go! The base is going to explode!"
Hux takes a few steps forwards.
There are others in the room now, others rushing forwards, some grab Ren, hauling him up and hefting him bodily out and Hux wants to tell them to stop but his mouth won't obey.
Then the girl is in front of him, gripping him tightly by the wrist and dragging him along with her as they run.
("We should have just run," Ren tells him in the medbay, later. "We should have taken her and run."
"He would have found us," Hux says. They have had this argument before, this conversation, over and over again incessantly.
"I can't believe you killed him," Ren mumbles. "I can't believe he's gone."
Neither can I, Hux thinks.)
They are separated when they reach the Resistance's base of operations and in the cell that the girl from Jakku leads him to, he begins to feel more like himself again.
It has taken them almost a year to get to this point.
Their deal was simple: he and Ren were to provide the Resistance the location of Snoke's base, find them a way in, help them take Snoke down if necessary. Once they did that he and Ren would be free to leave with Eilis. He is still not certain at which point he began thinking in terms of he and Ren but he supposes there is always safety in numbers.
He feels oddly free now that Snoke is gone, oddly light. It is strange to think of this shadow that has loomed across his entire existence suddenly being gone. Snoke has always hung over his head, has always hung over the heads of the entire First Order, whether they realised it or not as an implicit threat.
Perhaps in another life his life would have followed this path without the help of Eilis and the Resistance. Perhaps he would have ended Snoke anyway, taken up the mantle of Supreme Leader with Ren and Phasma at his side. It would have been glorious, he could have brought peace and order to the galaxy, ruled it as he always felt he was meant to.
But those are merely dreams now.
He has made his deal.
He will leave with Eilis and Ren and, if he can sway them, Phasma too. And he will sway them.
He looks up as the door opens and the girl from Jakku walks in. Hux is not surprised, General Organa is probably with her wayward son but he still feels insulted that he apparently does not merit an audience from her.
The girl - Rey, he reminds himself - still has a gash on her cheek from the final fight, still has her lightsaber at her belt. She sits down in front of him slowly.
"I must say," Hux drawls. "This is certainly not the way we treat war heroes in the Order."
Rey does not humour him, "Killing Snoke doesn't make you a war hero."
"I ended the war," Hux points out. "On your terms, for your side and at considerable risk to my own personal safety."
"You always destroyed the Hosnian system and countless lives before and after that," the girl growls.
Hux does not feel guilty for that. For any of his prior actions. At the time, he felt he was doing the right thing. At the time, it was the right thing. His deal includes being pardoned for his crimes, pardoned by way of being publically declared dead which he feels is a far trade off.
"And how many died on Starkiller?" he asks her. "How many stormtroopers like your friend?"
Rey closes her eyes briefly, when she opens them they are carefully blank. "Look, if it were up to me you and Ren would pay for your crimes. You would stand trial and you'd both be executed and you certainly wouldn't be allowed to take Eilis anywhere."
"Good thing it's not up to you, then," Hux says, then adds, "How is she?"
"Fine." Rey snaps.
There's a long silence then and Hux only barely resists the urge to goad Rey in to more arguments. As it stands though, he would rather just get out of here. "Well," he sniffs, eventually. "If that's all..."
Rey sets her jaw, looks away from him, "Do you know where she's from?" she asks. "Eilis, I mean."
Hux does not. Ren cannot or will not tell him and honestly, Hux has stopped wondering. Of course, he does not want to appear ignorant in front of Rey so he remains silent.
Rey continues anyway, "I'm assuming you don't so I'm going to tell you." She takes a deep breath and looks up, holding his gaze steadily. "There's a small mining planet near the outer rims," she begins.
There are, of course, lots of small mining planets out there but Hux does not bother pointing this out.
"Nothing special," Rey continues. "Mines ores and metals. Quiet little place, small population, inhospitable, you know the kind, I'm sure. Anyway, about a year ago there was a raid by the First Order on one of the larger settlements."
Oh, Hux thinks.
"Not sure what they were looking for or whether they were punishing someone for something or maybe if they just got bored. Either way, they razed the town to the ground. Left no survivors except one."
Hux wants to look away but he doesn't.
"Eilis' parents always told her to hide if there was trouble. That someone would come and find her if it was safe again so she ran and hid somewhere that turned out to be a stormtrooper shuttle. Took her up to the ship that ordered her parents slaughter and her homes destruction but I guess you know it from there."
"Does she remember all of that?" Hux asks, quietly.
Rey shakes her head, "Not knowingly."
Her nightmares, Hux thinks and he does not know how to feel. He was simply doing his duty. He does not regret it but there is something -
"Why did you tell me that?" he snaps.
"Because you needed to know," Rey says. "Because I don't understand how you think you're somehow absolved of all your crimes just because of her."
"And you don't think I can take care of her?"
Rey shakes her head again, "You have taken care of her," she says. "You have done a lot of good for her sake."
He has destroyed his entire way of life, remade his belief system for her. The psychology classes he took in his youth at the academy tell him that these are normal, rational thoughts and feelings for parents, that parents will do almost anything for their children (of course, all his teachers were careful to point out that this was a weakness to be exploited and that above all, the good of the Order should come first.) Somehow though, Hux cannot imagine his father doing anything like this for him.
"So let me see her," Hux says.
Rey doesn't move.
"We had a deal," Hux reminds her.
Finally, Rey stands, "Come on then," she says.
Eilis is on her knees, crouched over something Hux can't see in the grass. An old, grey-haired, bearded man is beside her, talking to her softly.
"There she is," Rey says glumly.
There's a moment before Hux calls out, before Eilis has noticed them that he realises Eilis might not want to come back with him. She attached herself to him quickly before, choosing him as her Papa within a few short minutes, who's to say she won't do it again? And if she doesn't want to come with him is he supposed to take her anyway?
Could he bring himself to?
He is so caught up in his musing that he almost doesn't notice that the grey-haired man is staring at him. The man gets up slowly, leaving Eilis to whatever it is Eilis is doing and approaches him cautiously, "You must be General Hux," the man says.
"And you are?"
"Luke Skywalker," the man says. He looks Hux up and down. "Eilis is a special little girl," he says.
"Don't try and talk me in to leaving her," Hux says, pre-emptively.
Luke spreads his hands, "I already know there's no point in arguing. You want to take her and she'll want to go."
Hux frowns, "She will?"
Luke quirks an eyebrow at that, "You doubted it?"
Hux is slowly realising how very much he doubted it.
"She hasn't stopped speaking about her Papa since she got here," Luke says. He smiles fondly, "At first she wouldn't let us near her, she kept telling us that her Papa would come for her and kill us all. Didn't matter what we told her."
Hux is smiling without really knowing why. He is going to respond, going to say something but Eilis is turning and Eilis is standing up and Eilis is looking at him.
Hux tries to picture her as he first saw her in that moment: ratty hair, dirt and sand and engine grease all over her, torn clothes, smaller, scrawnier. He tries to imagine her fleeing stormtroopers, her parent's voices ringing in her ears, clambering into a shuttle because it was dark and quiet. Scrambling out on the Finalizer, she must have been terrified.
If he hadn't ordered that raid what then? She would have grown up with a mother and father, the Order and the Resistance would likely still be at war. Snoke would have found her eventually.
He runs a hand through his hair. It's rumpled, beginning to get long. Before Eilis he would never have allowed to get in to such a state.
Eilis' little face cracks wide in a grin and she is running towards him. He bends to catch her and holds her tight as he can without hurting her, "Papa," she's saying. "Papa, Papa, Papa." And Hux finds himself mumbling things back, things like, I've got you, and I'm sorry and I'll never leave you again.
And as he holds his little surrogate daughter, surrounded by Resistance soldiers, he realises that he is not a good man. He is not a good man and he has never - will never - be one. He has done good things and he has done bad things and lately, everything he has done has been for the little person in his arms.
He lets her go, eventually and reluctantly, she clambers down and takes his hand. "Come on," he says to her. "Let's go and find Ren."
"Daddy?" she asks him.
It takes Hux a few moments to catch on. "Certainly not," he tells her.