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Political War Masks

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As he stepped outside of his rooms, he took a deep breath and held it for a good moment. He quieted his inner thoughts, centered himself. He needed complete control if he were to do this right. He tilted his head to the side, letting his breath out quietly as his neck cracks and releases tension.

He walks down the hall, feeling rather than seeing his current guard fall into step behind him.

Together, they were the Seven of Light who usually had their own Force related tasks to deal with, but today the other six trailed after him in perfect form. Luke or his mother must have gathered them in anticipation of this day. The air was thick with energy.

They wore all white, silver masks obscuring their faces from public view.

It was a stark contrast to his own black and gold ensemble, his face always in plain view. It had been so long since he'd been able to be open in his emotions. Nowadays, the cosmetics that adorned his face were his own mask. He hid in plain sight.

Ben had never had the freedom to have mystery and anonymity. Everyone had known his name when he was born, and from then on he’d had to blossom under scrutiny just like his grandmother. He related to her in more ways than he’d ever thought, and he often wished she was still alive to give her guidance. Instead, he questioned his mother when the doubts became too strong. Though she’d never known her mother, she had grown up under other royalty and knew how to conduct herself. Her wisdom had taught Ben what he couldn’t learn alone, and had eventually rounded him out from his rougher teenage years when his battle with the dark had been its strongest.

Until his visions of Kylo Ren had put that to a swift end, anyway.

He took a deep breath, stopping just before pushing open the doors to the de facto meeting room where he sometimes had tea with some of his many advisers. It had been decided that yes, here he would meet General Hux before they were to be wed. Even if they hated each other, it was not something either of them could avoid if they wanted to put a true peaceful end to the war between the New Republic and the First Order.

Something told him they didn’t want an end to the war, that eventually it would all lead to many deaths he couldn’t bear to feel. Maybe this was a ploy for something they wanted but couldn’t reach without marriage. He was no fool, and he knew that Hux was a dangerous man and someone to be reckoned with. But he had a duty to his people to try and bring about peace in any way that he could, and prevent more war and destruction. He’d do it, or he’d die trying.

A presence somewhere in the back of his mind nudged him, internally startling him at the fact he hadn’t noticed the intrusion.


I apologize, you were thinking loudly.

Ben nearly raised an eyebrow, but stopped. He’d grown accustomed to keeping his expressions still and neutral.

Then it is I who should apologize.

No, I’m glad you did. I don’t say this often, but I feel it should be said. You have grown so much. Once, I thought we would lose you to the darkness inside of you. Instead, you became a true leader.

Ben allowed himself a small smile at his Master’s words.

Thank you. It means a lot to me.

I know you dislike your father, and you’ve had problems. But you persevered. I’m proud. So is your mother.

Enough, you’ll make my makeup run.

He heard Luke’s laugh and brief brush of affection before it faded to nothing. He held the warmth in his chest, fanning the flames of the light deep inside of him. It kept the dark at bay.

He lifted his hands and pushed open the doors. The meeting room had enormous windows that made up most of the room. His mother often came here with her own guests, when Ben wasn't using it. Yet no matter how often he’d been there it always made him feel like he could walk right over the edge, through the glass and fall off the edge of the planet into deep space. He'd float forever, body blown to shreds.

It was eerily silent. One of the six behind him touched his mind briefly, wordlessly. Conveying support. He was their leader merely because he had been the strongest Padawan Luke had trained. When he had become Senator, they had chosen to follow him. Luke just seemed happy to have all of his former students in one place, cooperating harmoniously. Thank you. He sent to the unraveling thread of nonverbal support. None of the six returned the mind touch.

As he approached, they all stood. A tall red haired man, though shorter than him had a fire burning in his eyes and stood with his posture straight. A picture perfect representation of polite indifference. To either side of him stood a man and a woman in First Order uniform, the man with black hair and brown eyes like a doe’s. The woman had platinum blond hair, and eyes blue and sharp.  His mother gives him a sweet smile, goes to him and kisses both of his cheeks quickly. “Senator.” She said professionally as she stepped away, a stark difference between the affection she displayed to him.

I heard you and Luke. She sends him a warm feeling like love and affection and the wordless swell of something like pride.

Later, mother.

“General.” He said, inclining his head to her. In this room, at this moment she was one of his people. She was not the woman who had raised him, and he took the reigns. This was his show, as Senator, and he was ready to run it.

The six behind him spread out silently, taking their places like they had done a hundred times before. He was protected beyond his own abilities now. He knew that absolutely.

General Hux had a look in his eyes that Ben didn't completely understand. There was some interest, some surprise, but also a kind of deep pull of attraction. Ben felt it too, deep in his bones. He had expected a kind of deep connection with his soulmate, electricity in his veins and a fire in his chest. Something supernatural that he would just know as his soulmate. Instead it was just him meeting another handsome stranger. Only this one was to be his husband, to prevent this war between them all from destroying the known planetary systems.

He didn't need to ask. With his underlings on either side of him, his posture, and the fact this was undoubtedly the man he'd seen briefly in his dreams he knew that this had to be General Hux. Yet he noted he'd been wrong in his vision, this man’s eyes were blue. Not green.

“General Hux.” He said, solemnly. He lifted his hand, and the man met his eyes directly. He bent down, lips about to touch the back of Ben’s hand as he turned it lightly in his own fingertips.

“That is unnecessary, General. I was attempting to shake your hand. I apologize for my lack of clarity.” Ben said, achingly politely.

He kissed Ben’s hand anyway. It was solid, a seal of both challenge and quiet refusal to back down from anything once he'd started. His lips were warm against the fabric of the glove. Unbidden, a thought that wasn't his own pressed to the forefront of his mind. Surprising, their Prince is as beautiful as they said he was. To think they’re all so foolish, and yet they got this one thing right. I’m shocked they didn’t send some toad in pretty clothing. Or is this some kind of trick?

Ben eyed him, decided not to answer that. He had a feeling the man had no idea he'd heard it, had basically whispered it into Ben’s ear with how clear and loud it had been.

He straightened, giving Ben a handshake. “Prince Organa-Solo. Or is it Senator?” He said, a perfect picture of politeness. Ben knew that there was a current in this man, deep down that he could drown in. It was screaming, loud and angry. Separate from his collected exterior. He could feel it even when they weren't touching.

Ben leaned forward, giving the General a chaste kiss on the cheek. Hux barely tensed, like he expected some kind of bite instead. Ben's lips left a light mark of red on his pale skin. He moved and kissed the other cheek in the same way before stepping back.  

“Thank you for asking. I am not a true Prince. It is an honorary title. I am the Senator, here. If you're to marry me, however, you ought to get used to calling me--”

“Kylo Ren, Master of the Knights of Ren. You ought to remember that, General.”

“--Ben.” He finished, ignoring the cutting headache that followed the brief flash of the Force.

Hux raised an eyebrow. “I see. I would still prefer to be called Hux.” Ben nearly rubbed his wrist where Hux’s name scrawled on his skin, but stopped himself to fold his hands neatly instead.

“Then that's what you will be called.” He said, simply. “My mother has already introduced herself to you, I'm sure.”

“She has.” Hux said, glancing at her briefly. “She obviously clued you in on what this meeting is about.”

“Yes.” Ben said, motioning once vaguely at the girl in the back of the room and moving to sit at the couches that faced toward the windows. The thick black and gold fabric of his outfit fell around him, melting around his form. It felt like a form of armor on its own. As requested, she moved forward and placed a tea tray in front of them before vanishing. “We’re to be married as an alliance, solidifying the ceasefire between the New Republic and the First Order.”

“And the Resistance.” Hux looked less than pleased.

“As the leader’s son, yes it will also presumably solidify that alliance as well. Unless, for whatever reason I become useless to them and they decide to murder their General’s son. Then you're out of luck.”

Hux’s surprise is damn near priceless. He looks over, his blue eyes vivid against the light from the windows. Ben decides he likes it.

“Ben!” His mother frowns. “There's no chance of that ever happening.” She says hastily.

Ben takes a drink from his tea.

“Yes, you're correct.” Hux says, eying him for a moment. “I didn't expect you to joke about something so important.”

“I'm full of surprises.” Ben says, neutrally. “I thought it would be better appreciated. Alas. I assure you I take this very seriously. This breaks the rules of my Jedi training, as I'm sure you're aware. It's not something I can take lightly, even if I wanted to.”

“I don't know, actually. The Jedi aren't forthcoming with their information.” Hux says simply, taking his own cup of tea. He eyes it in a way that is vaguely suspicious, though Ben doubts he intended to be so open about it.

“I suppose that’s true. The Jedi are not allowed to have relationships, traditionally. Obviously, I am more than a Jedi and my duty to my people comes above all else. I take it very seriously.”

Passion and love, even of the purest kind easily could lead someone to the dark side. It was the fall of his own grandfather, and not one he was eager to repeat. There was little else to do in this situation though, and he knew it.

Hux glanced at him, met his eyes directly and held them.

“Since you're aware, it appears there's nothing else to discuss then.” Hux said.

Ben held his gaze, “Are you disappointed, General? Have I met your expectations?” It was very direct, but Ben didn’t play games. He didn’t have time to toy with that kind of thing, and he wanted to see what General Hux would do with a question like that.

Hux was good at schooling his emotions. Good. If he were to serve a political role at Ben’s side he'd have to be good at putting on a facade just like everyone else. “I don't know you,” he answered, “but am I surprised? Yes.” He sipped his tea, “I expected someone far uglier.”

How dare he. His mother’s fierce protectiveness was like a lash, and Ben fought his amusement.

I asked him a very blatant question. This is what I expected. Ben let her feel that he wasn't hurt, soothing that immediate anger on his behalf. People have said far worse.

He insinuated you were ugly, and you are certainly not.

Yet earlier, he thought I was beautiful. He has no idea that I know that.

That doesn’t give him permission to be so rude to my child, a Senator to the New Republic.

Ben blinked, tilted his head a little in a show of innocence. “I can look uglier.”

Hux pressed his lips together. “I hadn't meant that I find you unattractive.” It was grudging. “Just that I expected someone ugly. I expected to be married to some fat dithering moron who rose to the top through someone’s curtails. You’re not that.”

How interesting. He considered Hux’s words, repeated them in his mind. His mother was internally furious.

“Well I’m glad you know that there is no insult to the First Order intended. Thank you.” Ben said instead, deciding not to push it further. “If I’m honest, I'm rather surprised as well. You're far more handsome than I’d dared hoped, General Hux.”

Hux looked half embarrassed, half pleased. “Well. Thank you, Senator.” He said, finally.

“Ben.” He reminded Hux, putting his teacup down. “I accept this alliance, for what it's worth. It is my hope that you and I can learn to accept each other. Even have a friendship, if nothing else.”

Hux licks his lips, briefly. Ben wants to touch his thoughts, but knows better than to do so. It would only spell out disaster. “I agree.” He said, finally. He's one of the New Republic, we can't get close. Is he kidding? His thoughts spilled between them. He was projecting. Ben wondered if one day he would have to teach the General to close his thoughts, or if it would be a better play to let him spill his thoughts between them.

Ben is too well trained to let his annoyance show on his face. Liars. He’s dealt with too many, too often. “I'm glad we’re on the same page.” He said, though there was an edge that hadn't been there previously.

“Careful Ren, that your personal interests don't get in the way of Snoke’s orders.”

Cold clawed its way down Ben’s spine. Hux's voice had sounded so cold, so hateful. He stood without fully planning on it. Hux glanced up at the sudden movement, seemingly calculating. “Do you like to dance, General Hux?” He questioned.

“I'm not fond of it.”

“That's too bad, there's an event coming up that I was going to invite you to. I'll have to find another date then.” Ben goes to the window, ignores the edge where the window and paneling meet. Ignores his heart pounding hard in his chest.

“Just because I'm not fond of it doesn't mean I wouldn't go. I'll have to make time for a lot of things I hadn't anticipated previous to this marriage proposal.” Hux still sounds reluctant anyway.

“Then, will you be my date?” Ben allows himself an eyebrow raise as he looks back at Hux.

“I'll let the Supreme Leader know. He wishes to meet you, before the alliance and marriage are complete.”

Ben feels it, the crushing blow to his side and chest. Pain in his face, pressure around his ribs like a vice grip. His heart beats frantically in his chest against an invisible grip that holds it. Kill that which binds you to the light, Kylo Ren. My sweet conflicted child, embrace the dark. Let your hate empower you to everything you can accomplish. He fights to keep upright, and regain his breath without slumping and showing weakness. Everything within him hurts, feels strained. He’d never felt such a heavy vision that made him feel such deep anger and pain.

Senator? One of the six.

I'm fine.

Ben. His mother sounded both shocked and slightly horrified. What was that?

Another vision of Kylo Ren’s life. He let his disdain soak into the thought, pushing it away from him.

He turned, putting on a cheerful look. “Excellent. Let's discuss it. How much time do you have, General?”

Hux watches him carefully. His thoughts are carefully sealed shut. “Are you well?”

“Absolutely.” Ben gives him a polite smile.

He feels an unexpected pull of attraction from Hux, who glanced at his lips for a moment before looking back into his eyes. “I have some time. I am a very busy man though, as I’m sure you can imagine. What did you have in mind, Senator?”

Ben returns to his teacup and drains it before putting it back down on the tray. There’s red where his lips had rested on the cup.

“We need to appear as a united front. My people are mistrustful of the First Order, as I’m sure yours are of the New Republic. Seeing us together and having a good time will make it seem less abrupt. Less political.”

“Sentimental.” Hux practically spat the word. “Yes, that’s true.”

“Disdainful as you may be, you know the importance of bonds appearing true to the outside world. If anyone doubts you and I are going to be truly married-- in a way that counts, or doubts we are truly doing this out of a want for peace, then it would be too easy to plan against us. I’m not interested in such a thing. We both have too much at stake to be stabbed in the back by some political upstart.”

General Hux inclined his head, agreeing. “It would prevent future problems, yes. But it’s impossible to hide the fact this is in fact only a political marriage.”

“I don’t intend to hide it General, I intend to get along with you and publicly show that we don’t hate each other. If we appear as a united front and even seem to like each other, it will go a long way to bridge the anger between the New Republic and the First Order.” Ben tucked a piece of his hair back behind his ear from which it had escaped from.

“I see. There’s some logic in that. However I will say that you’re ruled by your emotions, Senator. Compassion is a flaw, and I won’t pretend to have it to be liked. I don’t need your people to like me.”

“Being emotional is not a bad thing.” Ben said, sharply. “And you do need my people to like you if you don’t want to be stabbed in some back alleyway. I can only protect you so much, General. And before you say that you don’t need my protection, I will politely remind you just this once that this is my planetary system. They chose me to be their leader, not your First Order. If you turn against me, you turn against every living being on this system and will be treated as an enemy.”

So he does have bite to him, deep down under all of that fabric and makeup. Hux's thoughts are loud, again. 

“Don’t test me General.” He snapped, ignoring the surprised expression and slight confusion that briefly cross his features. “If you don’t want to be nice to me, fine. I have my fair share of enemies, I know what it’s like to be teased and taunted. But I would think you would at least have the human decency to give me a chance and at least pretend to like me for one fucking night. Two, including our wedding night.”

Calm down, Ben. Leia sounded slightly concerned.

He resisted the instant urge to turn and glare at her, instead standing abruptly and turning away from them.

“I don’t owe you an apology.” Hux said, sounding forced. “Or an explanation. But, as I said, you have a point. Appearances are important. We'll do what we must with this alliance.”

“Why thank you , General Hux. I’m so pleased you agree with me.” Ben stopped himself from rolling his eyes just in time. It was childish, this overwhelming anger to not be liked by someone who was supposed to be his soulmate. All of that was stupid anyway, and you knew it going in. Idiot. There’s no such thing as a soulmate. We are bound by circumstance. That’s it.

You’re projecting, Ben. Luke sounded amused. Give it some time. You just met each other.

And he’s already a steaming pile of bantha shit.

Yet, even in your Kylo Ren visions he is at your side. That has to count for something.

The fact he’s at the side of that weak-minded traitorous murderer is what does concern me, frankly. If he could tolerate what Kylo Ren would do, had done, how can I trust him to help rule over my people? I don’t. And every relationship is built off of trust.

People can change, Ben. Your grandfather was capable of love, and it was what redeemed him. Allow Hux a chance to truly get to know him before you judge him.

“--as I said, the Supreme Leader will want to meet you. I suppose that could be after your… party. Unless you wished to extend an invitation to him and wait for a response.” Hux finished, watching him intently. 

He took a deep breath, in through his nose and out slowly through slightly parted lips. “No. Just you and I. We can get to know each other. It’s a political event, so there will be a lot of people watching. And they will watch.”

“Guessing from that outfit, I’m not surprised if they stare.” Hux said, eyeing him. "I'm assuming this is something you do often." 

“Pettiness is unbecoming of you, General.” He put his hands on his hips, narrowing his eyes at the ginger haired man. “I won’t even bother taking offense, with the way you looked at me when I came into the room.”

“Don’t flatter yourself, Senator.” Hux growled, “You’re every bit as ridiculous as I thought you would be, and you run your mouth on top of it.”

“If I longed for your approval, I’d be hurt. As it stands, I don’t care what you think about me.” Ben said, giving him a sharp little smile.

I could get used to this. Hux thinks, with some bizarre level of attraction. He can go from a normal human being to a volatile mess within the span of a conversation. How fascinating.

You two already bicker like a long married couple. Leia informs him, in a long-suffering kind of way. I can only imagine how often this is going to occur. 

You never proposed this with the intention to like your in-laws, mother. 

“Enjoy your flight back, General. ” Ben slurs the word, like it should be an insult. Hux smirks, just slightly.

“Enjoy your day, Prince Organa.” He says with the same level of thinly veiled distaste hidden below politeness.

“I will. You won’t be here.” Ben says, flicking his hair as he turns and lets the fabric of his outfit billow after him. He feels the laugh Hux doesn’t let out. He’s not sure if it’s at him, or at the show of dramatic flair. “Just make sure you’re well dressed for the political dance. And do send your measurements for my tailors to make something for you. I won’t be embarrassed by your lack of finesse.”

The black haired man behind Hux flinches. The motion is so sudden it disrupts the still atmosphere of the room, and Ben can feel it. 

That does get a rise out of Hux. Ben feels it, pulling in a way that sort of is like a tide under the light of the moons that control it. “Oh? ” He asks, but Ben steps outside of the doors and continues on without looking behind him.

He hears Leia apologize to Hux distantly. He has to fight the urge to laugh as his Six fall into place behind him. He can’t quite prevent the smirk that tugs at his lips.

Maybe attraction can come from antagonism. Maybe.