Armitage Hux woke suddenly, heart beating wildly, something edging on his consciousness, he wasn’t sure what. His dreams drifted from him swiftly, leaving him empty and wanting. He rolled over, half expecting to see someone else by his side, but there wasn’t. There never was. Frustrated, he sat up and ran a hand through hair that felt too short. After a minute, he checked the chrono and decided that laying around mulling over lost dreams would do him no good.
The bed was soon made with the military precision expected of everyone in the First Order. It gave him a certain satisfaction to see things put in order. It made everything less confusing. This feeling was magnified as he took his time dressing with the same precision. His uniform was neatly pressed, his boots were shined immaculately, his red hair was combed neatly, and that feeling of perfect order lasted until he looked into the mirror; at which point, he felt the urge to smash his reflection. For half a second, he didn’t even recognize himself, and it bothered him. Immensely. Inexplicable anger suffused him. He pulled a fist back at the last second and sneered at himself. “Ridiculous.”
Sitting down for breakfast he picked up his tea. Stark white and utilitarian, the cup radiated warmth to his fingers. Closing his eyes, he took a deep breath. He ducked his head, suddenly wishing for hair long enough to cover his eyes, and his heart clenched in guilt. He felt guilty for perhaps not doing enough. He felt guilty for his own grief. He fought the urge to scoff at himself. There was no reason at all for him to feel guilty about anything. It was all total nonsense.
Fred was dead.
The words filled his head unbidden, though he hadn’t a clue as to what they meant. He thought that perhaps he should, as it was his own inner voice saying it, after all. Silently cursing himself, Armitage couldn’t help but feel on edge. This feeling of being out of control was unacceptable and he craved normalcy. Opening dull eyes, the first thing he saw was the table, and instead of the worn wood he irrationally expected, he was staring back at a stark reflection of himself in a shiny modern surface. Quickly straightening his posture, he took a sip of tea. It tasted off. Bitter. He grimaced in distaste and set the cup back down gingerly.
Molly suddenly stood, her voice shaky. “The tea’s gone cold. I’ll just—“
A ruckus erupted. Vaguely he was aware of everyone around him jumping at the unexpected noise.
Arthur sighed, looking older than he had ever recalled. “It’s just the ghoul.”
Armitage figured that he must have still been half asleep. He had heard that some were plagued by such things as waking dreams. Personally, he had no room in his life for such nonsense and held the idea briefly before discarding it and moving on. Whatever it was, it was best to ignore it. He picked up his tea again and took a deliberate sip. He liked bitter teas.
This time the sound of shattering glass reverberated throughout the house. It was not the ghoul, he knew.
He didn’t flinch as Kylo Ren flew into the room, with his anger and his energy and his general chaotic demeanor. He had never liked the idea of Kylo Ren and his Knights. The other man embodied everything someone like Armitage disliked on principle.
Plate of food in hand, Ren proceeded to throw himself into the chair across from Hux. Soon after, black-gloved hands lifted the dark helm from his head, only to place it on the table with a decisive thump.
Ren had managed to put him off breakfast entirely, the smell of the other man’s food causing bile to form in his throat. Sitting his cup down calmly, Armitage fixed Ren with a gaze that conveyed his annoyance and disdain. His voice was curt. “There are other tables around. Empty ones.”
Dark eyes looked at him as if attempting to pick him apart. In part offense and part contemplation, Ren informed him, “You’re like a void in the Force—“
Armitage felt like rolling his eyes. His tone was even. “And I care because?”
Ren continued on as if he had said nothing, jaw mulishly set. “If you were Force sensitive, I’d say that you were quite adept at hiding your signature, but it’s like you’re—not really there—I can’t get a read on you—“
He must have been more tired than he thought, because his mind had just supplied him with more ridiculous words that meant nothing to him.
Armitage gave a sharp exhale to punctuate his ire. “Well, then. I’ll tell you what’s on my mind and save you the trouble. You had the girl, Ren. Now she’s gone, and the Supreme Leader—“
Ren’s darkness increased exponentially. The other man reached a hand out towards him, as if wanting to curl his hand into a fist to cut off his circulation. Remarkably, Kylo Ren held himself off at the last second. “And Starkiller was your fiasco, General. I’ve always said that clones—“
Despite himself, Armitage felt nervous. Unlike Ren, he did curl his right hand into a fist, but he had the mad feeling of wanting a bit of wood to dangle between his fingers.
He was on his feet with his wand drawn before he knew what he was about. Curse breaking had well prepared him for walking into the unexpected.
These flights of fancy really needed to stop. His thoughts were foolish.
He pursed his lips in disagreement. “Not this again. My men are well trained.” Conditioned. Reconditioned. He saw that Ren wanted to argue the point, so he cut it off at the head. His voice was earnest. “Regardless, we can’t fail at this, Ren—“
At that statement, Ren sat back, contemplating him. Dark eyes searched his face before nodding in a satisfied way. “Agreed.”
Armitage had subordinates. He had a superior in the Supreme Leader. He had coconspirators, others that believed in their cause. What Hux didn’t have were friends. Kylo Ren, for all his faults, may have been the closest thing—and he stopped that line of thought definitively right there. He despised Kylo Ren. Ren didn’t have any friends either. They were simply two men with goals that currently coincided. They both knew it. Neither could forget it.
Uncurling his clenched fist, Armitage curled it around the teacup instead. It was cold. He had the random thought that cold tea was something of an abomination. In spite of this thought, in spite of himself, he lifted the cup to his lips. He drank it anyway.
He found himself staring at Ren eating, and Armitage found himself suddenly curious. He raised a brow at the other man, and before he could stop himself, the question was asked. “Why are you here?”
Placing his utensil down, Ren narrowed his eyes at him. It was obvious that he knew Hux wasn’t asking about why he was at the table. His gaze was challenging. “Why are you here?”
Armitage’s lips took on a life or their own. His response was immediate, unplanned, not thought out. It was horrifying in its own way. “Family.”
He barely contained a flinch at his own foolish utterance. It was entirely beneath him.
If Ren thought it odd, he didn’t comment. Instead, the other man also gave an immediate response before going back to his meal. “Same.”
Jaw suddenly tense, he barely contained a growl. Leaving Ren to his own devices, he stood woodenly, his posture too unnatural even for a military man. With what he knew of Ren— No, it wasn’t the same. It wasn’t the same at all.
As he was leaving, he noticed a blonde woman seated in his peripheral with her back to him, and Armitage found himself momentarily arrested at the sight.
A small hand grabbed his own and he looked down at his wife, Fleur. She looked at him, gorgeous eyes pleading. “You don’t have to be the one to go—“
As if feeling his eyes on her, the woman turned around and gave him a questioning look. “General?”
The visage Armitage had expected to see morphed into Captain Phasma. He ignored her. He could hardly tell the woman to put her helmet on whilst she was eating, but it took great effort to restrain himself from ordering her to do so anyway. Disgust suffused him and he hastily continued on his way.
For the first time, in a long time, Hux felt utterly alone.
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The dark skinned human before him glared at him balefully. His tone dripped sarcasm. “Any last requests?”
The Resistance scum obviously thought himself hilarious, Armitage thought. A glib answer readily fell from his lips, tone as dry as the deserts of Jakku. “Yes, actually. A rare bantha steak and something alcoholic. Arkanis summer wine, if you have it.”
After Greyback, it wasn’t simply a case of having to contend with a craving for raw meat, as he’d led his family to believe; he was at war within himself every month and he was weary.
These waking dreams had only increased of late. If he didn’t know better, he’d say Ren had done something—
The other man sneered at Armitage. “As if I would do anything for the likes of—“
The man’s other companion had been quiet up to now. He placed a steady hand on his friend’s shoulder. “Hey, Finn. Come on. He’s just trying to rile you up—“
Allowing an expression of haughty amusement into his eyes, Armitage responded promptly. “It seems it required no effort at all.”
That weariness assured he was not on his game that evening; and as he looked down at the Patented Daydream Charm in his hands with slight trepidation and a lot of wistfulness, he could sense something innately wrong with it. The couple on the pirate ship hammed it up with the girl swooning into the boy’s arms. He almost set it back down again.
This zoning out was simply unacceptable. However, Armitage came to with FN-2187 screaming from the other side of the barrier of his cell, with the other man, that pilot, still attempting to calm him down. Apparently, Armitage had managed to send the other man into a fury and had almost missed it entirely.
FN-2187 jerked his head to the side in anger and beat a fist against the wall. “You don’t care at all, do you? All the lives you ruined! Everyone you killed!”
Armitage narrowed his eyes at the other man before giving a shrug. “On the contrary, I care quite a bit. Have you not bothered to ever listen to one of my speeches, FN-2187?”
If what they told him was true, then a lot of things were occurring while he was sitting there in the cell. The girl that he and the Supreme Leader had warned Ren about was on the loose with her Jedi Master. He’d been told they were going to end the threat of the Dark Side for good. He found the very idea laughable. Good luck to them.
“Have you felt it? There’s been an awakening—“ a deep voice echoed chillingly from the box.
Though the waking dreams were more frequent, he was either getting better at ignoring them or he was going mad. He wasn’t sure. Either was a distinct possibility at this point. He was fairly certain he didn’t even care anymore. Currently, he felt useless, and he wasn’t used to being idle. What was there for him to do in this situation? He fixed his stare on the pilot. He seemed more sane than the traitorous Stormtrooper. “Have you any substances on your person that one could smoke?”
The pilot despised him as much as the defector did. However, after giving him a murderous glare, the other man sighed and took a pack out of his jacket and held one of the sticks out to Armitage.
With deft fingers, he plucked the item from the enemy’s hands and put it between his lips. Bending his head over at an angle, Armitage let the little white and orange droid he had once been after roll up to him to light it. He mumbled even as he took his first drag. “Cheers.”
He sat down and leaned back against the wall, sprawled lazily, and contemplated the two men before him. It didn’t look like they were going to leave anytime soon. They were arguing with each other.
FN-2187 lowered his brows in an expression of disgust. “Are you crazy, Poe? You know he wouldn’t do the same for you if you were in his place. And—“ the Traitor turned back to look Hux directly in the eyes. “The First Order doesn’t allow smoking anyway.”
Armitage smirked. He blew out smoke and, holding the stick of dubious substance between two fingers, rested his hand on top of a bent knee. “Right on all counts.”
As if it just dawned on the Turncoat, he gaped at Armitage, taken in by the incongruous picture he represented. General Hux would never look so relaxed, so human, so supremely unconcerned.
His hands became clammy and his heart jumped into his throat. The darkness emanating from within was more vile than anything he’d ever encountered, not even Voldemort. This could not be a—
“I’m no Horcrux- boy. I’m so much more than that and- now- you’re going to help me—“
FN-2187 ran a hand over his head in frustration. “I can’t believe we’re just going to let him sit here—being all—all smug! He’s not repentant—look at him!”
Hands held up in a placating gesture, the pilot attempted to calm his friend down again. “Finn—you heard General Organa. He’s gonna stand trial—“
A guttural sound of repugnance came from FN-2187’s lips. “He doesn’t deserve a trial! We all know he’s guilty.”
Armitage lazily pointed his smoking stick at the ex-Stormtrooper. “It’s a cornerstone of democracy. The right to a trial—“
FN-2187 turned very red in the face. He shouted quite loudly. “Like you know anything about democracy!”
Armitage gave the other man a look of sincere pity. “More than you, FN-2187.”
With clenched fists and dry heaves of anger, the other man stomped off. There were, perhaps, other emotions involved, but Hux didn’t care to consider them.
With arms crossed, the dark haired pilot, Poe Dameron, answered for his friend. “You made sure of that, didn’t you?”
Armitage gave a noncommittal hum and looked at the wall.
Casting a containment charm, he left it there and went to tell everyone of his encounter. Upon return, it was gone, and glances were exchanged.
Harry put a hand on his shoulder. “Hey, mate, we’ve all had a rough go of it—“
He stayed there alone long after everyone had left.
When Armitage next looked up, they were both gone. He took another drag.
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This type of evil was powerless without a willing participant, he thought. However, a dead friend and additional threats to family had him thinking that, perhaps, this was a different type of evil altogether.
Was it his imagination or were the dreams more vivid and memorable when he slept now? No longer did they plague him with their ephemeral quality. They were practically tangible now. He wasn’t sure it was an improvement. Whereas before, their fleeting nature frustrated him, now the ability to remember them simply infuriated him. He did not want these dreams.
He had, once again, fallen into old habits. Even cooped up in a prison cell, courtesy of the Resistance, Armitage found himself grooming himself in his usual immaculate manner. He wore the First Order uniform well.
Fucking Space Nazi—
These nonsense thoughts were a constant thing now. They meant nothing. He knew nothing about these words, these dreams, these waking visions and what they meant. Nothing.
He had briefly heard that Ren had survived and would also have his own trial. Armitage found himself not giving a Wookie’s ass about the other man though. Ren had always been an annoyance.
Instead, he had ignored any and all comments about Kylo Ren, and pointedly changed the subject by asking about the Finalizer. He adored that ship. Dameron had given no definitive answers, but his face had given away a pilot’s commiseration at the destruction of a fine vessel. Armitage had mentioned that it was a pity and left it at that.
“You weren’t lying—“ Harry Potter had said as he was flung against the wall in an invisible chokehold. He had called the boy out of desperation, but the younger man had no solutions either, and those green eyes had suffered enough already. It was then that he knew he couldn't allow the younger man to shoulder this burden for him.
Dameron’s voice rang out. It was obviously not the first time. “General Hux.”
Armitage focused his gaze on the group of Resistance soldiers at the door of his cell, each holding a blaster trained unerringly on him. How long had he been sitting there and how long had they been staring? He could honestly say he hadn’t been paying attention. He straightened himself, looking every part the feared First Order General they all held in contempt, and stood. Raising a disdainful eyebrow, he looked at his captors dismissively. “Well? Lead the way—“
The trial was tedious, though he could silently admit to having been slightly thrilled with the general abhorrence his entrance caused. If this is what Ren felt like every time he encountered his unfortunate victims, then Armitage could see how that sort of power would be heady. He immediately put it from his mind, half disgusted with himself. He had done none of this for power and it did him no credit to entertain such notions.
Currently, he was listening to General Organa blather on about a new day for the New Republic, rebuilding from the ashes of despair, and evil not being allowed to triumph. She was, objectively, very good at public speaking. However, it was the feeling of an assessing gaze that drew his attention. The older Jedi and his damned serenity! Those knowing eyes reminded Armitage of another, even older man— Or not. He gave himself a mental shake.
General Organa turned hard eyes on him, so now Armitage had two assessing gazes on his person. Her voice was hard and final. “Snoke is dead.”
Armitage gave the woman a bland smile. Her eyes, despite their hard glint, looked as sad as the redheaded woman in his dreams, and it momentarily threw him off. His hands felt clammy, but he steadied on. “You sound so certain—but, General—I can’t share your certainty—“
The Jedi answered for her, his voice soft, but it carried through the chamber. “What do you mean?”
His heart rate accelerated and his shoulders tightened. His voice sounded tense. “They have their ways of coming back, Dark Lords—“
The Jedi’s calmness was the direct antithesis to Armitage’s reaction. His voice even had that mesmerizing sound down pat. “Nothing can bring back the dead—“
His palms were sweaty even thinking about this and he angled his body away slightly, refusing to even look at the other man any longer. “Not in any way most of us would want—but there are ways, Jedi—“
The rest treated him as if he was in denial of the facts, desperately holding on to a failed ploy for power. However, the Jedi still looked at him appraisingly. They quickly moved to show him the error of his ways- providing their evidence. The Resistance had obtained a recording of his speech; the one he gave before giving the order to annihilate the Hosnian system. He had no need to watch it again. He knew it was damning.
He had watched a movie once; the kind that sticks with you long after you watch it.
That was more kriffing nonsense, right there. These random thoughts of things that had never happened- when would they end?
Watching himself was something of an odd occurrence, Armitage thought. It was even more jarring than seeing himself in a mirror of late. He closed his eyes, picturing himself up there on the platform again. He didn’t want to see it from any other perspective.
Emphatic, determined, methodical and hateful, Hux heard himself clearly give voice to everything that was wrong in this galaxy. It was everything he had to believe. “Today is the end of the Republic; the end of a regime that acquiesces to disorder. At this very moment, in a system far from here, the New Republic lies to the galaxy while secretly supporting the treachery of the loathsome Resistance.”
‘We’ll tell you any shit you want to hear. We deal in illusions, man. We’re all you know. You’re beginning to believe the illusions we’re spinning here.’
His voice continued, the direct antithesis to the counterpoint of what came to mind from this alleged movie. “This fierce machine which you have built, upon which we stand, will bring an end to the Senate, to their cherished fleet. All remaining systems will bow to the First Order and will remember this as the last day of the Republic!”
‘It’s every single one of you out there that’s finished. Because this is no longer a nation of independent individuals. The whole world’s people are becoming mass-produced, programmed, numbered, insensate things.’
He had had to resist the urge to cover his ears, but one couldn’t quite block out the ramblings of one’s out of control inner voice. This was exactly the sort of thing Ren would do to him if given half the chance, but he somehow knew Ren was not responsible for this. Armitage thought that he looked and sounded so fanatical. He was, he supposed. Fanatical to a cause and desperate to see its completion, even now, because he simply wasn’t certain that the Supreme Leader was dead- and one must be certain about these things. Besides, what he had done was justified. The chaos in this galaxy, even in one’s own mind, needed to be put in order.
A voice, righteous in its search for justice, rang out. It was a voice of a General wanting someone to atone for their sins against the natural order of things. There was irony in that. “Tell me one thing—do you regret it?”
Eyes snapping open, Armitage fixed the woman with an intense stare. He suddenly felt invigorated. “Indulge me and tell me one thing, General Organa. If it was your world in the balance—if you could have saved Alderaan—would you?” Despite the angry rumblings of those around him, despite the stricken expression on her face, he continued on doggedly. “Even if it meant another world instead—“ Suddenly, he decided that he didn’t care to hear her answer after all. Raising his chin in defiance, his eyes fanatical, limned in tears, his voice eerily emulating the tone they’d all just heard on the footage, he leaned forward, fists tightly clenched. “No—I regret nothing—and I would do it all again with alacrity if presented with the same choice. It was no choice at all, really—“
“I’ll make you a bargain, little wizard. Your help for your galaxy. One galaxy for another. Either way- one will be subjugated. None have delved further into the Dark Side than I have—I know you sense this—“
Leia Organa looked insensate. She whispered. “How dare you—“
In for a knut, whatever that was. Armitage curled his lip in distaste—at himself, the situation, or the enemy— he was no longer even sure. His red hair wasn’t quite so immaculately combed anymore, with one strand askew. He swallowed thickly. “It’s nothing personal—well—actually it is. I did it for family, you see—the same as your son—if he’s to be believed—“
Bill Weasley opened the box.
General Hux ensured the box would stay closed, dreams be damned.