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Can you feel it? It’s almost time.

He felt his heart hammering in his chest, but managed to lay absolutely still upon waking. Hux’s hand lay splayed over his heart, face peaceful as he slept. Ben wants to reach up and touch his face, trace the smooth skin unmarred by his usual scowl but he doesn’t.

Something is different, somehow. Something has happened.


She acknowledges it, curiosity melded in wordlessly. She’s likely working on something, distracted.

There’s an awakening.

Her surprise is sharp, sudden. Who?

If you don’t know, then I certainly don’t.

Go about your day normally, be cautious. Hux wouldn’t have--

No. Ben confirms, more pointed than he means to. He wouldn’t have. He’s here with me anyway.

Oh. His mother is amused. You’ve gotten along better than we’d all hoped.

Hmph. He closes his mind to her, but he knows that she felt the brief laugh that welled in his chest and didn’t quite escape.

Uncle. He tries instead.

I know. Luke confirms, though it isn’t quite reassuring. Whatever is happening, it’s going to be big.

What should we do, Master?

What you have been doing. You are a Senator, and your people need you where you are now. If I have need of you, I will call to you and your six. For now, no need to panic.

As you wish.

He still felt unsettled. He slowly shifted under Hux’s arm, pressing his face against his collarbone. Hux mumbled something incomprehensible and quiet, his arm giving a slight twitch before settling around him.

“I’m glad you’re here.” He whispers into Hux’s chest, and wonders if somewhere deep in his dreams he can hear it. He doesn’t press to find out.

When he next wakes, Hux is dressed and drinking tea while typing on his datapad. He’s sitting on the side of the bed he’d slept in, and doesn’t say anything when Ben lifts his head to look at him.

“You stayed.” Ben said, with some surprise.

“I did.” He confirms, though there’s something awkward about the way he says it. Ben doesn’t try to figure out what the emotion is.

“Thank you.” Ben forces himself to say, even though he doesn’t feel like he should have to. It’s still rewarding when Hux’s lips give the slightest twitch upward, like he would have smiled if he hadn’t caught himself.

Hux leaves when he brushes his hair out, weaving little strands of gold through the curls as he brushes out the tangles. He shouldn’t be disappointed that Hux hadn’t stayed longer.

The morning is slow, and uneventful compared to the powerful weight of the feeling he’d woken up with. He didn’t know what he’d been expecting, but the day pressed onward like any normal day would.

A small meeting was called with advisors to go over an agreement of mining rights on the planet, fueled by two parties that wanted to mine but didn’t have the New Republic’s orders to do so. Knowing that the First Order would know have something to do with it, Ben requested his husband’s company to “assist” him in the matters that would be debated. Hux had settled beside him-- already an improvement to their previous arrangements, and shared tea with him. What Ben feared would be a debate turned more into informal chatter. Hux hadn’t been lying, he was good at negotiating the political scene with charm and dignity. Snoke had chosen well in his General.

He ignored the niggling of suspicion that lingered still.

Kylo Ren will never be. There’s no reason to fear him. He reminded himself. And yet, it was all too easy to slip into that darkness. It would be all too easy to give in. His uncle and mother had warned him.

The tall blond lady who had come with Hux-- Captain Phasma if he’d remembered hearing it correctly-- knocked on the door, accompanied by one of the Six who radiated a kind of smugness.

“Sir.” She said, saluting Hux. “Senator.” She said politely, and Ben smiled at her. “Pardon the interruption.” She added, noticing the others who watched with undisguised curiosity.

“Yes Captain, what is it?” Hux questioned, looking over at her from where he’d been watching… him? Ben hadn’t noticed Hux’s attention on him, but he didn’t question it.

“The Supreme Leader requested you, and the Senator.” She said, expression weary. “Not himself, of course. A vague message was sent, but I know who it is when I see it.”

“And me?” Ben raised his eyebrows. His stomach felt weighted, suddenly.

A holochamber, where he appeared as a terrifying enormous figure. He and Hux stood, side by side before him. “The two people who could destroy the world,” The Supreme Leader smiled, all teeth. Feral. “At my fingertips.”

Kylo Ren bowed. General Hux stood, face impassive but filled with bottomless hate.

“Yes, specifically.” She seemed to share his confusion, pulling him out of his reverie. He cleared his throat, taking a sip of his tea.

“I see.” He said, ignoring the flatness of his tone.  

“Probably a diplomacy matter then, if it involves us both.” Hux frowned. “Or he’s… acquiescing to the alliance, wanting you to attend meetings with him. In any case, it’s unwise to keep him waiting.”

He had no plausible excuse to not attend, or any obvious reason to deny the request. This was what the marriage had tried to guarantee, wasn’t it? That they would work together for the sake of peace. That he’d always be within an arms-length of Snoke, without giving in to him. So was his curse, so he knew when he accepted it.

“It seems we should finish this another time.” Ben said, solemnly as he stood from his chair. The advisors gave him small polite smiles and nods to he and Hux before leaving the room. Phasma glanced between them and gave a small smirk as the room cleared.

“It’s nice to see you happy, General.” She said, and Hux’s answering scowl was enough to make Ben smile a little.

“Go.” He told her, waving toward the door.

There was a long silence after the door had shut. Hux stared resolutely out the window away from him, Ben glanced over at him, watching his expression for a moment. “Isn’t this… strange to you?” Ben questioned, finally.

“I don’t put stock in superstition.” Hux said, glancing over at him. “But for the record, this is pretty sudden even for the Supreme Leader. I would… suggest that you don’t bring your masked friends in with you to this meeting. I don’t bring my subordinates either. Just you and I.”

Versus him. Ben thought, folding his hands together over his lower stomach. “They aren’t my subordinates. I will request the Six don’t come to this meeting with us or observe, however.” He relayed the same message to them, allowing some urgency to blend in with it.

“Right.” Hux said, gaze flicking toward the doorway and back toward Ben. “Are they like you then? They have your magic?”

Ben raised an eyebrow, “Yes. They are Force-sensitive, and they trained with me at the temple. They chose to follow me when I became Senator, a… different kind of protection than most people would think to expect. This is actually the first time we’ve all been around at the same time since we all became Jedi-Knights.”

Hux shrugged, “Because of the marriage?”

“Yes.” Ben offered a hand out, “Shall we go?”

Hux stared at him for a moment, the thought holding hands is so juvenile unintentionally projecting outward from him. He didn’t voice it, so Ben chose not to react to it. Hux took Ben’s hand in his own, anyway. “Yes.” He echoed Ben’s previous affirmation, “Let’s go.”

“General Hux, Senator Solo-Organa.” He emphasized Solo in a way that made Ben want to shake, but he clamped down hard on the feeling before the shiver fully passed.

Kylo Ren had heard that name once, passed with the same emphasis. A time passed, another place in which he did exist. Not this world, but still disconcerting.

“Supreme Leader.” Hux said, though his eyes narrowed.

“Supreme Leader.” Ben echoed, flatly. Snoke seemed pleased, somehow. Hux glanced at him from the side, but didn’t turn his head toward him.

“Ah, now there is the fire that I knew existed in you. Long buried, but still able to be reached and polished.” Snoke drummed his fingertips on what appeared to be some kind of throne. “You would have made a wonderful apprentice.” He leaned forward, “You still could. However, now you’d have to share my attentions with my current apprentice.”

“You’re kind to offer.” Ben pressed his lips together, crossing his arms over his chest. “The answer is still no.”

Snoke smiled in a way that frankly set Ben on edge, “Ah, but you may yet change your mind Senator, don’t be so quick to give out an answer. You could teach my other apprentice a thing or two.” He smiled, a slow thing that Ben hated, “You still have a deep darkness inside of you that you will never be able to tame.”

“I can live with the darkness.” Ben narrowed his eyes, “My uncle did a good job of teaching me of it’s dangers. I don’t need what you have to offer.”

“We’ll see.” Snoke said, the smugness in his voice raising Ben’s anger another notch.

“Forgive my interruption. What is this meeting for, if not an attempt to bring Senator Solo-Organa to train with Lady Ren?” Hux asked, glancing over at Ben with an indiscernible expression before looking back up at Snoke.

“To speak about the alliance, naturally.” Snoke drawled, “It is what you married your pretty little Senator for, isn’t it?”  

Ben was surprised to feel the spike of disdain toward Snoke from Hux, but probably shouldn’t have been.

“Yes, though he has been an interesting ally so far.” Hux said dryly.

“Pardon, but what is there to talk about?” Ben asked, sharply. “It was an agreement of peace between our people. I won’t agree to anything that could put your or my people at risk, and vice versa. It was very clear.”

“Wars are trivial, child.” Snoke turned his gaze back onto Ben. “I care about the Force, the future of all Force-sensitive people. The same way your grandfather did. You understand, I’m sure.”

“My grandfather made a mistake,” Ben dropped his arms to his sides, fists clenched. “You don’t want to help anyone, Force or otherwise.”

“And you do? Do you think Hux does, as well?” Snoke asks, in a horribly pitying sort of way.

Ben feels a rising sense of dread, that bone-deep feeling of wrongness seeping into him from all sides. Abruptly, it felt like a bad idea to have gone in and faced Snoke at all.

“Yes.” Ben says, softly. Hux feels empty to him. The entire room feels empty to him, like he doesn’t exist at all. He feels weightless, boneless, detached from himself and the Force that flows around them.

“There’s an awakening, Ben Solo-Organa.” Snoke says, the words harsh. “Listen to what it tells you.”

His vision narrows to a focus point, everything around it going fuzzy. His heart is pounding in his ears, all of the feeling he has within him seeping away from him. “Ben!” Hux calls, but everything mutes and he is alone in the darkness.

I’m being torn apart.

His body refuses to obey him. Like a locked chest, metal bashed in around the keyhole so that the sanctuary it offers inside is inaccessible. He’s trapped out of his own head, the agony immeasurable. Seconds or hours don’t matter here. He doesn’t know how long he feels like his blood vessels are bursting within him, flooding him white-hot with pain. It burns. Nowhere is safe.

His mind pulls away, seeking somewhere to hide from the warzone that rages within himself.

Traitor, her lips are blue tinged, eyes angry. You had a choice to keep your family, to save the Republic. You had everything. And you threw it away.

No, that’s what she would have said had he become Kylo Ren. That’s what Rey would have said if things had been different. If she had lived, if she had the chance to become a woman. If she could have tried to save him.

You stole that from her, Snoke says, viciously, she would still be alive if you just had come to me like a good boy. Instead, you turned your back on me. You condemned her to this.

Why? Ben asks, clutching weakly at his vision of her. She would have been so strong. She would have been far stronger than him, if she’d just had the chance.

Ask yourself why you chose to be weak, instead of giving in to the power that belongs to you. You always were a stubborn child.

But Kylo was far weaker than he is.

Rey wouldn’t have wanted that for him. She believed in love, kindness, and everything that would have made her a good Queen. She would have wanted him to choose the light.

You let her die.

I’m sorry, Rey.

A slight figure, wearing a mask advances toward him. “At last,” a modulated voice says, “You have come.” The stark white of the snow surrounds them, their dark clothing standing out against it.

He feels his heart pounding hard in his chest. “Why wouldn’t I? You know I wouldn’t back down from a challenge. You know I’d do anything to save you.”

The mask tilts, the person inside hesitating. They shake their head. “You try to fool me, with the Light. It will not work. This is where you die, Kylo Ren.”

“Kylo Ren is already dead.” He tells them solemnly. “But if I could go back in time and become him so that you would never feel this pain, I would.”  

They laugh, the noise distorted. “Oh you will be a treat to break.” They grip the lightsaber hard, and lunge for him. His own lightsaber is in his hand, but he doesn’t activate it. He’ll defend himself, but he won’t kill them.


Maero Ren, who has grace in her steps just like he’d taught her when she was young. Who still fights with too much emphasis on damage and not so much on guarding herself. Who never had a chance to grow with her loving family as she should have.

Rey, he calls with all of the sorrow in his heart. Please come home.

Someone recoils as if it burns, blocking him out completely.

Ben. His uncle tries, but everything is falling away from him. There’s no sanctuary from the dark or the light, it twists around him and pulls at him frantically.

The awakening. The awakening. Can you feel it?

“No!” He yells, twisting away from the hands holding him.

Hux looks alarmed, but continues holding on to him as awareness crawls back into his body. Snoke is gone, Hux is kneeling and holding Ben to his chest. He’s on the floor, shaking so hard he can hear the faint jingling of the jewelry in his hair. He tastes blood in his mouth.

“What happened?” Ben asks, using the Force to ground himself and stop the shaking. It works, mostly.

“I should ask you that. You and the Supreme Leader were talking and then you just-- fell. I’ve never seen anything like that. You just… convulsed. The Supreme Leader spoke of something having to do with a previous mission of mine and left. Your nose is bleeding.” He adds the last part in a disapproving tone closer to his normal voice.

“I see.” Ben says, pressing the back of his hand to his nose. Hux is right, it comes away dark with blood that’s already congealing.

Hux frowns, pulls a soft black piece of cloth from a pocket and hands it to him.

He is used to the mental pain of toeing the line between the light and the dark, but this had been something different. Something dangerous. Something he too easily could have lost himself in.

His sister. He has to come up with a plan to save her, now that he knows that Snoke has stolen her. He’s fully aware that Snoke has the advantage, but he won’t let Snoke destroy her the way that he’d foreseen Kylo Ren laying in the snow. He has to bring her home, no matter the cost.

Even if it means giving in to the dark.

Rey? He tries, tentatively. No one answers him. The edges of his mind still feel thick and fuzzy, like someone shoved fabric into his skull and left it there.

“Come on.” Hux says, getting to his feet and dragging Ben with him. His legs feel like they’re not his own, and he sways dangerously but stays on his feet. Vertigo tilts the world one way, then another before orienting itself.

“You’re hurting me.” Ben says, tiredly. Hux loosens his hold on Ben’s arm, still giving him a look that Ben doesn’t know how to decipher and doesn’t want to use the Force to figure out. “Thank you.” Ben says, because he doesn’t know what else to say.

Helplessness is not a new feeling, but it’s not a pretty one. He’ll have to consult with his mother, the Six, his uncle, and possibly even Hux to find her and bring her home. His head is pounding. His body still aches like he’d been physically beaten. All of it is too much, all at once. Hux seems to comprehend it, in some way, as he slips an arm around Ben’s waist and allows Ben to lean heavily onto him as they make their way back to Ben’s rooms.

The Six are aware, and very unhappy that something has happened to their leader. He can feel someone who feels like Tanaris gently pressing against his mind and requesting his status. Vaguely, he presses the feeling of exhaustion back. He takes the hint and leaves, no words needed.

“Does this happen a lot?” Hux asks, letting go of Ben somewhat reluctantly as he limps toward the bed and falls into it fully clothed.

“No.” Ben answers, honestly. “I don’t know if I can take something like that again.” He mutters, mostly to himself and lets his eyes fall closed.

He can hear Hux walk over to him, sigh, and reach around him to unbutton his outer robes. He gently pulls it off of Ben, puts it aside and undoes the ties to Ben’s heeled boots, pulling them away too. Ben gives a gentle hum of gratitude.

“I would prefer if you didn’t do something like that again.” Hux says, surprising Ben by sitting beside him. Ben turns his head to see Hux open a holopad and start typing onto it, comfortably on the bed like it was something they did every day. He can’t come up with a good quip, and some part of him thinks it might scare Hux off if he mentions it out loud anyway.

Instead, he falls into the heaviness that exhaustion provides, and allows rest carry him away.

Visions don’t pursue him this time.

Hux is sitting cross-legged in the bed still when Ben wakes up, eyebrows furrowed as he reads something on the holopad screen. A lazy read of Hux tells him that Hux is tired, irritated with something going on within his ship, some frustration of not being there at the moment. Overall, the tiredness is likely what is winning out. Ben watches him for a moment, then moves to shift and settle his head on the very edge of one of Hux’s legs.

He tenses, moving the holopad to look down at him. “What are you doing?” He asks, sharply.

“Relaxing.” Ben informs him, taking his lack of resistance as an invitation to shift closer and put his head on the point where one leg rests over the other.

“This bed is enormous and you decide you have to relax on me . Typical childish behavior coming from you.”

Ben is shocked the comment actually resonates with a sharp pang of hurt deep in his chest, Hux hasn’t been particularly rude toward him in a while. The comment was entirely unexpected especially given how concerned he’d been about Ben’s well-being when he helped Ben walk back to his rooms. It's only worse when Hux flinches like Ben had lashed out at him personally. He'd projected his hurt onto Hux, completely accidentally and at full strength. It’s one thing for another Force user to feel it, it’s another for Hux who is already sensitive to it because of their connection.

Ben immediately moves to sit up and away from Hux, but Hux’s hand jolts forward and rests on the top of his head. After a moment, he gently presses for Ben to lay his head back down. When Ben complies, he smooths a hand over Ben’s hair and starts slowly unweaving the jewelry from Ben’s hair. His scalp aches where his hair has been pulled back for so long. The relief washes over him, melts the tension from him without his permission.

“Why do you keep it long?” Hux asks, his voice too casual to be normal. There's a tension there, but Ben has no idea how to even begin trying to figure out what it means.

He shrugs instead, moving closer to rest his head fully on Hux’s lap this time. Ben closes his eyes, because he doesn't-- can't-- look up into his face. Hux’s hand smooths over his hair a few times as the jewelry is released before he lets his fingers card through Ben’s hair.

It’s intimate and gentle in a way that Hux is certainly not. And yet, he's still trying because he hurt Ben and felt it acutely. Had it blasted at him, even with his mind barriers intact.

“I used to have my hair short when I was in training, as is the tradition. Only had one piece long enough to braid.” Ben says, finally. “When my time at the academy ended and the braid was cut off, my hair was the same length again. Finally. I forgot to cut it for a while, I guess. My father complained. So I grew it out, probably out of spite. It never occurred to me to cut it short again, just to make sure it didn't get too long.”

“Really? You strike me as the person who would have your hair to your rear given half a chance.” Hux snorts.

“No, if it gets too long it gets too curly and it's a pain to deal with. This is a good length.” It falls just past his shoulders. Enough to style if he needs to, easy to throw into a bun when he didn't.

“I suppose so.” Hux says instead, his hand resting just over Ben’s ear. It somehow still feels nice, and Ben keeps still hoping that if he doesn't bring more attention to it that Hux will allow him to stay there.

Hux’s hand moves to rest on his wrist settled next to Hux’s leg instead. He keeps his head in Hux’s lap and presses his face to the top of Hux’s thigh. Hux’s fingertip moves over his name on the soft skin of Ben’s wrist, forever marked into his skin.

“Come here.” Hux says, quietly. He put the holopad fully aside and held his hand out, open. Ben moves over him until he can sit in Hux’s lap, so close to Hux’s face that he can see the very faint freckles on his skin. If Hux spent time in the sun, they might show darker.

He can feel the apology that Hux refuses to say out loud. Part of him wants to hold on to his anger, but the other bigger part is so tired of being angry all the time. So instead he presses his lips to Hux’s forehead and lingers there.

If Hux is uncomfortable with it, he doesn’t say anything. His hands rest gently on Ben’s waist, and he waits. They both wait. Ben doesn’t know for what, or for why.

Hux sighs, leaning forward to press flush with him. “Are you going to kiss me, or not?”

Ben can’t help the wicked smirk that spreads at the question. “Why don’t you--”

Hux kisses him mid-question, licking into his mouth and stealing the breath out of Ben’s lungs in the process. It feels right in a way that he hadn’t expected it to, being close like this. Surrendering to someone else like he doesn’t in any other aspect of life.

He cups Hux’s cheek with one hand, keeping him close and returning his kisses. Hux’s hands shift to Ben’s rear, pulling him closer and squeezing in a way that makes heat burn down his spine.

Tanaris said you were hurt earlier? His mother pushed the question abruptly with both irritation from finding out secondhand and concern.

Not now. He closed his mental walls to everyone, but not before feeling her sudden burst of embarrassment. He was going to be hearing about it for weeks. He couldn’t find it in himself to care.  

Hux shifted forward, still holding him close to lay him back onto the bed while still giving room to push away or object. Instead, Ben squeezed his thighs around Hux’s hips and placed a hand on the back of Hux’s neck to encourage Hux’s mouth on his own and the searing heat of the closeness between them.

The lingering lipstick that had survived Snoke’s disastrous meeting and his nap colored Hux’s lips in a way that would have made Ben smirk if he wasn’t being kissed so thoroughly. He caught glimpses of it as Hux pulled away to breathe, pressing Ben back into the bed by his shoulders when he chased the kiss.

“You’ve been kissed before,” Hux says in a way that would have sounded accusatory if he didn’t look amused. “Isn’t this against your Jedi code?”

“I don’t always follow the rules,” Ben knows he shouldn’t sound so smug about it, “No, but the ideas are outdated anyway and my Uncle didn’t teach us like that. Now shut up about the Jedi and come back to kissing me.”

“Or,” Hux says, his accent dipping toward something the right side of sinful, “I could do worse to you.”

Ben tilts his head back coquettishly against the pillow, “Oh? Like what?”

Hux smiles, in a way that's borderline predatory but sends a different kind of shiver through him. “I could devour you.”

“Before or after we fuck?” Ben asks, and is all too pleased with himself when Hux jerks his head back in surprise.

“And here I was offering to give you oral.” Hux says, but his voice is rough from the effort of not laughing. It's beautiful and it makes Ben’s heart ache.

Rather than answer, Ben leans up to kiss Hux instead. Surrendering to the warmth it provides is too easy. Letting Hux in is far too easy. Part of him thinks he should be weary, should hold Hux at arm’s length. It wasn’t long ago that Hux had acted like he absolutely hated him and insulted him in front of his council.

And yet, he couldn’t forget the look on Hux’s face as he kneeled over him and held him close. The many times Hux had stared at his mouth. The way he had apologized for going too far even when Ben could tell he never apologized for anything.

Hux cared, whether he admitted it or not. Ben had let his guard down like he said he wouldn’t. He couldn’t, and wouldn’t turn back now.

“Stop thinking so much.” Hux muttered against his neck, “Just relax.”  

“Give me a rea-- ah!” Hux grinned, kissing the spot he’d bitten like an apology.

“I will.” Hux says, kissing down his neck and undoing the ties to his inner robes. “Is this alright?”

“Yes,” Ben says impatiently, gripping the bottom of his robes and pulling them up. Lifting his hips only brings him closer to Hux, but he ignores it to sit up slightly and finish pulling his robes up over his head and off the side of the bed.

Hux runs his hands over the new expanse of skin, touching over his nipples and down his stomach to his hips and gripping them to give a gentle squeeze. Ben tilts his head back, giving Hux more room to press kisses to his neck as he slides his thumbs into the fabric of Ben’s underwear. “Can I?” He asks, his breath hot against Ben’s sensitive skin.

Ben gives a playful tug of the collar of Hux’s uniform pointedly, “Yes. But only if you’ll take everything off.”

“That was the plan, eventually.” Hux says, sliding his underwear down his thighs and letting Ben shift to kick them off somewhere to the side.

“Eventually is not fast enough.” Ben smirks, tracing the edge of his collar to find the clasp. Taking a leaf out of Hux’s book he leaned up to kiss Hux and asked, “Can I?”

Hux gives his bottom lip a soft bite, kissing him back before answering in the affirmative. Ben unclasps the collar, following the edge of it down to his belt and unclasping that too.

“Are you going to make me fold it and set it aside?” Ben teases, and gives a small yelp as Hux gives his side a light pinch.

“There’s nothing wrong with being tidy. Not everyone can be an utter mess of a human being.” Hux says, rolling his eyes. Ben can feel through the Force that he’s not actually annoyed at all, but he certainly doesn’t show it on the outside.

Ben pouts, and defiantly tosses his uniform shirt aside. Hux watches it crumple on the floor, then catches Ben’s wrists and pins them above his head. “That’s it. You’ve asked for it, now.”

“Asked for what, General?” Ben asks coyly, giving his best ‘senator smile’.

“Punishment, you heathen. You’ve lost your stripping privileges.”

“Good thing I’m already naked, then.” Ben arched his back lifting a leg to brush Hux’s side with his thigh.

“So you are.” Hux agrees, pressing his hips down onto Ben’s and thrusting up against him. The friction of Hux’s pants against his skin ripped a gasp from him, heat ricocheting like a blaster beam into his stomach and spreading in all directions. “You’re all exposed,” Hux leans closer to whisper into his ear, “all open for me.”

“Shit.” Ben hisses, “Please just take off your pants.”

“Just my pants?” Hux asks, smugly.

“Everything! I want you all bared. All mine.” The heat of his blush from the admission probably turns his entire face and ears red, but he can’t bring himself to care too much about it. Hux so easily is finding the strings that bind him so tightly, his bounds that hold everything close and locked away. And Hux is pulling them apart, unleashing all of these pent up feelings on himself in a completely different way than he’d felt torn apart before. This felt like being set free.

“So demanding.” Hux says, pleased. Blessedly, he also decides to cooperate and lets go of Ben’s wrists to unbutton his trousers. Ben reaches forward but Hux tsks and pushes his hands back down. “No.” He says, and smirks as he unbuttons his own trousers and shifts to pull them off. “I told you, you lost your privileges.”

“So cruel.” Ben sighs, fighting the laugh that presses warmly in his chest. Hux hesitates, watching him for a moment long enough to make Ben give a questioning noise.

“Nothing.” Hux says. Then, “Do you at least have lube?”

Ben raises an eyebrow, “Well, I was gifted some. A wedding gift.” He grumbles, “It was supposed to be a joke gift I think, but obviously it was the most useful. Given the current circumstance I mean.”

Hux snorts, “Well, where is it then?”

Ben gives him a look, reaches out his hand and pulls the lube to him through the Force. Hux jolts backward slightly, frowning for a moment before taking it from him. “You get used to it, eventually.” Ben offers, predicting the annoyed sigh that Hux gives him.

“It does have its uses, I suppose.” He acquiesces.

“So it does,” Ben agrees, letting his thighs fall wider open in invitation. Hux ignores it, coating his fingers and rubbing them together before looking back into his face.

“Have you ever stretched yourself before?” He asks, a finger brushing over the rim of his entrance and pressing just slightly.

Ben smirks, even as the heat rises in his face into a dark blush. “Myself? No. I didn’t necessarily need to, there was… someone else. I hadn’t expected to marry someone, to want someone enough to prepare so. No. I haven’t even-- no. That’s my final answer. I haven’t.”

Hux doesn't laugh at the halted explanation, like Ben expected. Instead he nods and says, “Good, then we’re on the same proverbial page.” Ben relaxes at the words, but gives a short huff of a laugh.

“Only you would use the word ‘proverbial’ in bed.” He says, and Hux rolls his eyes. It would be entirely unattractive on anyone else. But, Ben supposes, Hux isn’t anyone but himself. He respects that about the general.

Hux lubes his fingers and warms it on his fingertips before circling once and pressing lightly with a finger. “You’ll need to relax.” Hux says, lifting his eyes to meet Ben’s.

“I know how this works.” Ben grumbles, tilting his head back and closing his eyes. “You don’t need to sweet-talk me. Just do it.”

“Still demanding.” Hux says, though he sounds amused. His mind is less jagged and methodical than it usually is. He’s open, allowing Ben in, and he doesn’t even realize it. It’s an act of trust to try and not block Ben away from his thoughts. He won’t overstep that respect.

Hux distracts him away from the sensation with kisses to his neck and collarbone, gentle bites against his jaw to his earlobe.

Trust me. Hux’s thought is loud, uncertain. Maybe he’s trying to catch Ben’s attention to it, or maybe he isn’t. In any case, Ben tucks his chin down to meet Hux’s lips instead and mutters, “I do.” I against his lips. If he didn’t, Hux would never have gotten this close. No point in denying it, he supposed.

He let all of the worry about Rey, about the political situation, about the rest of the world fall away to focus on Hux. It felt good to surrender.

By the time Hux has reached three fingers, Ben is impatient. “Will you stop?” Hux asks, annoyed.

“Stop what?” Ben asks, distracting himself with a gentle fistful of Hux’s soft hair.

“Saying ‘come on’ over and over into my head. Hold on to your control. Or do they not teach you control in the Jedi academy?” Hux asks, his tone not-quite teasing but still not harsh. It should have been annoying, but somehow in their bed it seemed almost forbidden in a way that made him feel that shiver down his spine.

“Fuck you.” Ben says, without anger.

“You’re the one with my fingers in your ass.” Hux sounds all too smug.

“If you’d hurry up, I’d  have more than just fingers. Or are you having performance anxiety?” Ben asks, maybe a little cruelly. It has it’s intended effect when Hux narrows his eyes and leans in to bite Ben’s bottom lip hard.

“Fine then, have it your way.” Hux pulls him closer by his hips and aligns himself, but presses in slowly. Ben wants to laugh in an absurd kind of way, at the contradictory actions. He won’t complain. Hux is sparing him pain, and he’ll take that consideration.

Especially since Hux isn’t particularly considerate when it comes to agreeing on political decisions, or generally anything else. This is something special.

Anything beyond that thought is lost to him when Hux bottoms out, holding Ben’s hips still in his hands and raises an eyebrow. “Are you in pain?” He asks.

“No.” Ben says, “You would know if I were.”

“Stop me if you are.” Hux says, and fucks into him. He tightens his grip on Hux’s hair slightly, but curls his legs tighter around Hux’s hips bringing him closer. He feels Hux’s hands pressing into his skin and it all feels impossibly close and yet something he never knew that he needed all at once. Containing his mind within his mental barriers takes more focus than he’s sure he can entirely dedicate to it.

Too quick to fully comprehend, he can see a flash of red hair, a gold crown. So much white fabric--

“Ben,” Hux says into his ear, one hand sliding up his slick back to hold him steady. He’s shaking, and yet he doesn’t want to stop. Doesn’t want any of it to stop.

“I’m close.” He says, just as softly as Hux had spoken into his ear. It had been too long, Hux was moving at just the right pace and he couldn’t--

“Then let go.” Hux says, letting Ben take his face into his hands as Ben kissed him. The entire world felt like it was crumbling away, starting with the burn of all the heat in his body outward. He felt his back arch upward to press flush to Hux’s chest, all of the breath leaving him.

Hux keeps kissing him through it, fucking him through all of the sensitivity until he too released. It was simultaneously too warm, too sticky, and all too relaxing all at once. Hux pulls away from him, sighing as he lays on his back beside Ben.

Ben brushes some of his hair back, wincing at the wet strands sliding through his fingertips. “We should probably change the sheets.” He says, halfheartedly and not really wanting to leave the bed.

“You’re a prince, have someone change them for you.” Hux grumbles.

“I’m a senator.” Ben says, turning onto his side to gently shove Hux where he lay. “So you have no excuse for laziness.”

“Me? Lazy? I knew you were delusional, but honestly Senator .” Hux grasps Ben’s wrist, giving the inside of his wrist a lazy nip of his teeth. The use of his title feels less impersonal, more like an affectionate nickname when he says it while he sounds so calm.

“Yes well, you married me so you’ll just have to put up with it.” Ben says, far more warmly than the words would suggest.

“A political marriage.” Hux says, but his mind is mellow. Brushing against it feels almost serene.  

“It doesn’t have to be.” Ben says, yawning and resting his head onto Hux’s shoulder. If Hux is bothered by Ben’s sweaty hair and forehead, he says nothing about it.

Hux makes a noise that sounds like one of agreement, and Ben closes his eyes.

“Wouldn’t it be something to rule the galaxy together?” Hux asks, staring out the viewport of a ship deep in space.

“We could certainly change things.” Ben agrees, moving to stand beside him. “If we ever actually agree on any politics. If we convince both sides to finally stand down, completely.”

“Isn’t that what our marriage was meant for? We could argue that.” Hux says, turning toward him.

As Ben turns to look back at Hux, he catches his reflection in the viewport.

His right eye is milky white, a large scar from jaw to his forehead cutting across his face.

He freezes mid-jolt, an odd half paralysis that melts away as he takes in his surroundings. Hux is still fast asleep, breathing deep but not enough to be snoring. Ben touches his face, feeling along the right side of his face. The skin there is smooth, unscarred.

He shakes his head, carefully getting out of bed to clean himself off and relieve himself before getting back into bed feeling slightly better. Seeing himself half blind was disconcerting.

It was also the first vision unrelated to Kylo Ren he’d had in awhile.

Ben watches Hux for a moment, laying back onto one of the pillows. The afterglow had faded, and the resolve to have to make a decision had somehow set in. Rey was depending on him. It was possible that the fate of the New Republic depended on what happened with her, considering she was Snoke’s apprentice.

It was his duty to figure this out with or without the Resistance, his family, or his Six. If he were lucky, he wouldn’t have to involve anyone else. The only one who should have to face paying the ultimate price was he, and he alone. It was during his speech that she’d been stolen, it was his sister that had taken his place becoming a Ren, and he had the feeling only he would be able to stop it.

Surrendering anyone or anything but himself was beyond consideration, and he knew Snoke would be uninterested. There was only one that he wanted.

Ben himself, from childhood when Snoke had whispered lies into his head and caused his most terrible nightmares. Anakin’s curse had been his to bear, and now he could use it as a bargaining tool.

Give me strength, please. He asked silently of his ancestors somewhere in the void of space. I have to do this alone. I have to.

He slipped yet again from the bed, bending over to smooth Hux’s hair from his forehead and kiss there. “I’m sorry.” He whispered, stroking his hair one more time before going to his wardrobe and dressing warmly. It hadn’t made sense to him when he’d had them tailored before, as his planet was so temperate. He’d used an excuse that it may be for traveling somewhere, at some point. Now he knew what the Force had been trying to tell him, back then. He took Hux’s holopad from the nightstand and carefully opened the door to his chambers. He glanced back just once before shutting the doors behind him.

He used the Force to bypass the passcode, and found the messaging system for the First Order. Finding the Supreme Leader’s code, he sent “I have a compromise for you, if you want to hear it. -Senator O-S.”

Almost instantly, as if he’d been waiting-- he’s always waiting, always has been , he received. “Come to the holochamber where we spoke previously. I will hear what you have to say, child.”

He takes a deep breath, glances back at his bedroom and turns on his heel to the holochamber.

Ben?   Luke questions, sounding concerned.

Everything is alright, Uncle. There is business I must attend to. He tries to make it feel comforting, but he isn’t sure that it comes across that way.

Let me know if you need anything. Luke says, and doesn’t prod further.

He lets himself into the holochamber, standing stock still as Snoke’s projection fills part of the room. He smiles, darkly. “Senator. I have waited for this moment for a long time.”

Ben feels sick, the way he always does when he’s around something so dark. So evil. Everything in him screams to back away, to fight, something other than stand and give the slight bow that he does.

“Thank you for seeing me, Supreme Leader Snoke.” He straightens up, looking the projection in the eye. “It has… come to my attention that you have something I have searched for. Something I would give anything for.”

Snoke smirks, tapping his fingers against his throne. “I presume you speak of Maero. She’s a good apprentice. Follows directions quite well. Not as headstrong as her brother.”

He frowns, heart clenching in his chest. “You once told me that I was special. That I could be the key to everything because of the light and darkness inside of me. You once told me I could rival Darth Vader in power.”

“Are you jealous, Senator?” Snoke laughs, cruelly. “Oh dear boy, I have many uses for you if you’re seeking my guidance.”

“I will give you whatever you want, as long as you let her go.” Ben says, sharply. “I will give my entire life to your apprenticeship if I must. I will burn down the entire galaxy. But only if she is free. Only if she can remember who she is, how much her family loves her. How dearly I would pay to have her back.”

Snoke stares at him, seemingly not having expected this outcome. “She is here of her own free will, child. I have not forced her to stay. She has had her own private missions on many different planets where she easily could have escaped. Even with the General’s tracking device on her.”

What? He frowns, shaking his head. “You know that you have hold over her. Give her the life she deserves, and let her go free. And I will become Kylo Ren.”

Snoke laughs, the noise dark and wretched. It pulls at the darkness buried within him, coming alive eagerly as it searches to devour. The light, as always is reactive. A constant war, a consistent struggle to stay balanced and not explode the way Snoke wanted him to when he was young. “That is for her to decide. But if you want to convince her, you know where you must come. Fulfill your destiny.”

He watches Ben, an almost hungry glint in his inhuman eyes. “If you succeed, I will be most impressed. Maero is a dedicated woman. And you are the one she hates the most.”

He suddenly vanishes, the projector clicking quietly as he leaves without saying anything further. Still, the coordinates are in his mind as if he’d always known them.

It’s his only chance to see her again, and the only chance he may ever have to convince her that the light is where she belongs. That she could have love and acceptance from a family that had searched for her for so long. Something that sounds too much like Hux tells him that he’s far too late to change anything now. It’s been too long, there’s been too much distance.

She’s not the woman he knew.

But he has to try.

Go now. A voice tells him, and he turns without questioning it. His personal shuttle is waiting, unprepped but it doesn’t take long to get it ready. He remembers everything from when he was young and his father taught him how to pilot. Before he’d gotten distant. Before he’d been afraid, and they’d shipped him off to be taught by his uncle.

He’s trembling, but sits in the pilot seat and buckles himself in. He closes his eyes tightly for a moment, as tight as he can shut them and takes deep breaths before opening them and sitting up completely straight. As soon as he leaves the atmosphere, his mother and uncle will know. He has to make it, and he has to succeed to make this worth it.

They will never trust him again, probably. But it’s worth it for Rey.

He powers on his shuttle, doing a final full systems check before lifting off from his landing pad and allowing the utter calm to sink into him. It’s cathartic, flying, for some unknown reason and he doesn’t do it nearly often enough. He sets the coordinates implanted so firmly in his mind, and launches toward the atmosphere out of his planet.

“Forgive me.” He mutters, though his mother and uncle can’t hear him without him using the Force to project it out to them. He doesn’t.

He closes his mind completely, and lets the enormity and blackness of space steal his attention away as he breaks the atmosphere into space. He has too far to go, it will take far too long.

This is his only chance.

He still has Hux’s holopad, and he holds it close to his chest as if he tries hard enough the real Hux will be with him, there in the shuttle. For a moment he wishes he has Hux’s mental strength. But he probably wouldn’t support Ben going after his biggest enemy and trying to turn her back to his side. He certainly wouldn’t approve of what Ben has offered to give.

He doesn’t truly intend to become Kylo Ren. He can find a way to bring down Snoke when his sister is free, but he will willing trap himself in the meantime for her safety. He can buy her time, in the very least. That is what she needs most.

“What is it like to be a Jedi, Ben?” She’d asked, big eyed and smiling at him. She’d always been so happy, as a child. She had so much light in her that sometimes, back then, it had scalded to be around her.

“I’m not a Jedi yet. Just a padawan.” He says, sitting at the edge of the fountain. It had a garden on one side, flowers his grandmother had loved once. He’d planted them, himself. His mother had probably gotten someone to take care of them when he’d gone to train with Luke.

She certainly hadn’t taken care of them herself.

“Okay.” She says, putting her small hand on his. “But what is it like to be a padawan?” She pronounces the word very carefully. It makes him smile.

“You’ll see soon.” He tells her, poking one of the buns on her head. She squeals and frowns at him as she smooths it with her hand.

“No!” She tells him.

“You can’t tell me what to do, you’re not my real dad.” Ben tells her, receiving a very confused look in return. He splashes her with water from the fountain.

It had been so simple back then. He had just been a padawan, not a Senator. She’d been a child, carefree and free to roam their childhood home. She should have been safe. He was ten years older. He’d always figured, previous to her kidnapping, that if anything were ever to happen to the family it would be anyone but her.

Instead, she was used because she was too young to avoid the manipulation Snoke had undoubtedly clouded her mind with. If she’d survived all this time, it had been because Snoke had hidden her from him as he looked for her night after night.

“Shit.” He slammed the palm of his hand against one of the durasteel walls. “Why?”

The planet-- if it could be called that-- is a blueish white hue. He feels his stomach sink as he sees part of the planet has been gutted, construction holding the planet together into some kind of massive weapon. Rey comes first, then the rest of his concern for his planet and the people residing there.

He lands on a part of land that looks relatively flat compared to a large wall of trees that loom dark and threatening.

This is where Kylo Ren fell. He suddenly realizes with painful clarity, this is where his vision of Rey calling him a traitor came from. This is the place he has been warned about.

“There’s no turning back.” He says to himself as he opens the latch and steps down into the snow. It’s frigid, and the frost from the wind burns his face. The clothes he had chosen were warm, but he still felt like the heat was being leached from him, from his bones. Like the ice would slip into his marrow and make a home for itself there, and he would never be warm again.  

He keeps walking, knowing somehow that he’s going in the right direction. Snoke and Maero wait for him.

The sky is grey and purple, heavy with clouds.

“The great and mighty Kylo Ren.” A modulated voice says, “I have heard so much about you. It was kind of you to give advanced warning that you were coming.”

He turns to her, seeing her in dark robes. Her face is obscured by a mask, nothing indicating that she was once his beloved baby sister. “Yes, well. I’m nothing if not polite.” He says, sarcastically.

She inclines her head, hands curling into fists and uncurling again. “Sarcasm? How surprising, coming from a New Republic senator. Despite the warnings, I wasn’t sure if you were clever enough. However, I’m still going to kill you.” She says, sweeping her hand in the air as if it were some kind of grand gesture.

“You don’t need to.” He says, narrowing his eyes. “Listen to me. Killing me will not make you stronger, and it won’t give you back what Snoke stole from you. You were not meant for the dark side. I was. This is all my fault.”

“What do you know of the Dark Side?” She asks, voice accented in a way that it hadn’t been, once. “You don’t. You’re a cushy Senator pretending to be someone that you aren’t. You can’t escape the Dark Side, once it is within you. It is passion, it is power.” She steps to the side, lightsaber flaring a brilliant red as it glows against the white of the snow.

“Maero isn’t even your name, Rey don’t you remember?” Ben snaps, desperate. He pushes memories toward her, all of the sadness that comes with it. “Don’t you remember your family? I am your family. I want you to come home. Please.

She steps back, seemingly stunned momentarily. “That isn’t me.” She says, voice confused and angry even through the modulator. “That girl looks like me, but she isn’t me.”

“You’re wrong.” Ben says, “Rey, please. You don’t know how long I looked for you. How many times I tried to find you, how much I would give to bring you home. I don’t want to fight you. I didn’t come here for that.”

“Then you’re a fool that came for the wrong reasons. I know why you are truly here. You are here to fight for the Supreme Leader’s apprenticeship. You only seek to undermine me, and make up stories to try and find a weakness. What an odd tactic.” She grips her lightsaber harder, “But you will not win, nor deter me.”

“You can do what you want. I will not hurt you.” Ben says, holding his hands outward toward her. “My memories are real. You are a Solo-Organa. You were meant to be so much more than Snoke’s puppet.”

“I am not!” She shouts, the static nearly distorting her words. “The Supreme Leader is the only family I have and need. You are nothing.”

“You hesitate in killing me, anyway.” Ben says, bitterly. “Why?”

“You’ll make it too easy.” She says, “Show me what you learned in the academy, Jedi-Knight. Make it worth killing you.” She swings at him, and he dodges back on instinct. A moment too long, and he’d have been missing his head. He unclips his lightsaber from his belt and powers it, the white plasma blade nearly the same color of the snow. The crossguards flare to life a moment later.

“An ancient design. How interesting . Are you waiting for it to blow up on me, or on yourself I wonder?” Maero asks, lunging for him again.

Only defensive moves. Control yourself. He tells himself, circling as she does. The tension is thick enough to cut, her anger nearly palpable. “You could still come back.” He says, “It doesn’t matter what you’ve done now. I will protect you. You can be with us again-- your real family.”

He tries to give her the sad call he’d given all of this time, trying to find her somewhere out there in the world. She’s blocked herself off to him, blocking her mind. “I don’t have time for your games.” She growls, swinging the lightsaber impatiently. “Come here so I can make this quick.”

“I won’t let him win this, Rey. I’m not leaving here without you.”

Through her mask she lets out a guttural modulated growl and swings hard, her swings getting increasingly harder against his defensive stance. She turns to the side, letting her lightsaber flick like a jab of a durasteel sword instead of a plasma blade. If she was going for the element of surprise, it worked. He felt the sting as the blade clipped his leg, burning through the cloth and skin.

He clenches his jaw, counts to five and pushes through the pain. In the Jedi temple, he had been taught breathing techniques to go to when times were hard and he had to have a focus. Pain, in it’s own way, was also a great motivator to stay strong but also dipped too easily into the darkness waiting eagerly for his resolve to slip.

He won’t give in to it, and he won’t give in to Snoke’s games either. Sending his sister against him was something he should have expected, considering the old creature had about as much honor as a hungry bantha. He could still win this, still bring her home even if he has to knock her out and drag her there.

She lunges for him, letting out a shout of anger as she does so.

He counters her, swings his lightsaber into hers and locks them, leaning closer to the heat.

“You don’t understand how long all of us looked. Do you know he kidnapped you? Literally stole you from a ceremony I was speaking at? Do you know that I spent hours off planet on my vacations searching any planet I could land on to try and look for you?” He questioned, teeth gritted. “I thought you were dead, somehow. I couldn’t feel your presence. I couldn’t speak to you. It was like having part of me cut out. You’re my sister .”

“You’re nothing to me.” She snapped, “You’re disgusting, trying to get into my head so you can manipulate me against my master. It won’t work. He is wise, he has warned me of you. About the madness of Kylo Ren . The Supreme Leader will rebuild this universe as it should be. The Jedi will not survive. Not you, not any of your minions. You will all fall.”

“Do you really believe he isn’t using you?” Ben laughed, albeit cruelly. “He’ll use you and toss you aside without a second thought. He will destroy you. He doesn’t care about you, Rey. You know what I’m saying is true.”

For a brief flutter of the Force, he can feel her mental resolve weaken. For a moment he glimpses fear, uncertainty and a flash of something resembling the sister he knew and loved. Just as soon as the crack appeared, it vanished leaving something as faceless as the mask she wore.

“Why do you believe that he would use me?” She asks, sharply.

“Because, Rey. In another time in place, I would be in your position. Had I made different choices… and I would have made them if I knew that I was putting you in danger by avoiding him. He tried so hard to turn me against everyone I loved, Rey. And he succeeded with you.”

“He wanted you.” She states, the grip on her attack against him weakening. “He thought you could change things. You have a gift no one else does.” She sounded bitter. “I am too dark. He wanted someone with a balance.”

“You had so much light within you though, Rey. You were always the brightest person I could feel in the Force. Like a sun. You can still have that. You can still be free. Don’t let the Dark take that from you. Not now, not ever.”

“It’s too late.” She glances behind herself, then forward towards him. The mask is black and silver, unexpressive. Empty. The opposite of her true personality.

Maybe that isn’t who she is anymore. Maybe she has changed so completely, you can never take that part of her back.

No. He tells Snoke, angrily. She is still my sister. I will not give up on her.

Ah, sentimental are we? Good. The light will cease to exist in you, when this is over. Grief is such a powerful tool, boy. You will learn.

Grief didn’t change me before, and it won’t now.

Your sister was stubborn too. But everyone can be broken, provided the right tools.

Ice cascades down his spine at the threat, the arms on his hair and neck on end.

“Kylo.” She says, softly. The modulator crackles around the word, bringing him back to the physical realm. He’d been so lost in pushing Snoke out of his head that he’d forgotten, temporarily, where he was.  

“Ben.” He corrects, not wanting to let his guard down but also wanting to give her a chance to stand down and let go. She steps back, and he disengages with her as she tilts the mask at him.

“I know what I must do, but I don’t think I’m strong enough.” She says, just as quietly as before. A burst of static hits the vocoder, like she’d sighed into it. “Will you help me?”

“If you remember me at all, you know I would do anything for you.” Ben says, though his heart tells him he shouldn’t trust in this sudden change of heart.

She steps closer, disengaging her lightsaber and holding it out toward him. He lets his own lightsaber fall, the blade cutting through the snow with a loud hiss. He reaches out for it, almost touching his fingertips to it when he hears her say, “Thank you.”

Searing heat burns through his face and shoulder, so intense that he instantly falls backward into the snow. He can’t blink without liquid falling into his eyes, wet and clinging to his skin and clothes. His heartbeat pounds in his head, loud and insistent.

Hux. He calls out, though he left Hux in his bed hours away on his planet and will likely never see him alive again. I’m so sorry. I had to try to save her. Please forgive me.

“This is where it ends, Kylo Ren.” She says, above him. Her voice is oddly solemn. “I will make it quick.”

Ben. Hux somehow responds to him through their bond, you’re not getting out of this easily. You’re not allowed to die on me. Ben is still reaching for him then, mentally.  

His pain must have bled into his plea then, at least slightly.

I’m sorry. He repeats, because it’s the only truth he can offer.

She lifts the lightsaber into the air. He could pull her legs out from under her with the Force, if he can focus it on anything but Hux. He could grab the lightsaber beside him and attempt to block it. He could, but he instead feels an odd sense of acceptance and calm wash over him. He tilts his head back into the snow behind him and closes his eyes.

It should be biting and frigid against his skin, but he feels nothing.

Grandson. A voice whispers, somewhere. Don’t give in to the Force, not yet, you still have--

A loud screech of a noise blasts above him, and he hears a harsh shout of pain. “No,” he whispers to no one in particular, opening his eyes to see Maero fall backward. Her lightsaber falls next to him, fizzing in the snow. His right eye stings harshly, sensitive against the cold.

He hisses as he tries to sit up, his right shoulder unable to support his weight as he scrambles to try and get up. But the snow is too light, too slick and he can’t get traction. “Rey.” He whispers to her, “Please. Rey. Say something.”

Nothing comes from the mass of black robes.

“Son!” He hears, and then all at once his father is beside him and lifting him from the snow. “Ben, seriously? You really scared your mother and I,” he says disapprovingly, “Coming to this place by yourself, are you crazy? You could have destroyed this alliance.”

“That’s Rey.” Ben snaps, because he can’t focus on what the repercussions of anything else might be when he failed this one thing so spectacularly. “You shot her.”

Han stares for a long moment, still cradling Ben between his chest and the snow midway through the action of picking him up. “Kid, Rey has been gone for quite some time. That head injury is worse--”

“Take off her mask.” He says, sharply. Rey please answer me. “How did you even find me?”

“Because I have a tracker in my holopad.” Another voice says, angrily. “And you stole it.”

Han silently grips under Ben’s knees to haul him upward out of the snow. “Which for the record, I didn’t think you had it in you. You never seemed to be interested in being a smuggler.” He’s still staring at the mass of black questioningly though. She is so still against the snow, probably so cold by now even with her robes.

I couldn’t even prevent what happened to him from happening to you, Rey. Shit, I’m so sorry. Please, please say something. Anything.

“Can you stand?” Hux asks, reaching for him.

“I don’t know.” Ben frowns, “Yes. I think.”

“Give me him.” Hux says, icily. “I can handle this.”

“Check on Rey, father. Please.” Ben asks quietly, “That is her. I know it’s her. Even if she doesn’t remember.”

Han nods, setting Ben upright as Hux puts an arm around his waist. Immediately he feels like buckling under his own weight, but he puts his left arm around Hux’s shoulders and grips hard. To his credit, Hux doesn’t budge. Only watches as Han kneels beside Maero and touches her shoulder.

When that gets no reaction, Han gently moves her head and searches along the mask until he finds the clasps to unlatch the material free from her face. Her lips are a pale blue, eyes closed against her pale skin. The light freckles she once had were long gone, her brunette hair that she’d always wore in three buns loose and wet with sweat, clinging to her neck.

“Kriff.” Han says, in a broken sort of way that pains Ben’s heart. “It really is her.”

“We need to get both her and Ben help immediately.” Hux says, “They both could very well bleed out.” He turns, pulling Ben tighter against him as he half-walks, half-drags Ben back to the Falcon sitting and waiting for them. Chewbacca waits idly at the bottom of the ship, bellowing in Shyriiwook at them as they approached.

“I’m okay.” He responds in Shyriiwook, getting an odd glance from Hux as he brings him inside and sits him down in the passenger seat.

“What the pfassk were you thinking?” Hux growls, turning to him. “Did you think I would stop you if I knew you were coming here? Did you think I wouldn’t side with you? You didn’t even think to tell me your sister was still alive and, oh let’s see, my enemy . Do you ever think of anyone but yourself? Or think at all, honestly?” He turns away and looks at Chewbacca with some annoyance, “Do you have any bacta pads on this piece of flying trash?”

Chewie gives a vocalization of offense, but glances at Ben and walks away. Presumably to find some.

“I didn’t want to put you in a position of choosing between me and Snoke.” Ben says, frowning at the roughness of his voice. “And I didn’t know Maero was my sister at first. It became clear to me later, and we were… otherwise occupied for a while. I had to go, Hux.”

“And now you’ve put me in a worse position. I am the General of the First Order, and you came here and got Snoke’s apprentice killed.”

“We don’t know if she’s dead.” Ben snaps, “She’s my sister, have some respect.”

“I really don’t have much for you right now.” Hux sighs, “This is entirely within the realm of an act of war.”

“Except that Snoke invited me here. I was going to give myself to get her back. You wouldn’t have ever had to worry about it if he hadn’t sent her to kill me instead.” He kicks one of the control panels and immediately regrets it as his body protests under the strain of moving. “He intended for this to happen, that lying old--”

“You let him win.” Hux says, darkly. “And now he’s down one apprentice, whether she’s dead or not, and you did not hand yourself over. So what do you think is his next course of action? Do you know what this place is? What he will order me to do, given half a chance? This planet will blow up your entire planetary system to galaxy dust.”

Ben sinks deeper into the chair, resting his head on the back of it. “I don’t believe you’d make that order.”

Hux smiles, bitterly. “Your best chance is probably going to be to kill him first. He will replace me as General if he thinks I will turn against him. Then this alliance is… nothing, anyway.”

Ben sighs as he hears footsteps onto the ship, and the thumps of Chewie’s steps as he comes back with whatever he’s managed to scavenge. Everything fades away, in increments. His face burns, his fingertips burn, his body aches, until there’s nothing at all.

“--but we have to bring him down while he still lacks an apprentice.” Hux’s voice finished, “If he can find another, or even turn Ben…”

“Ben wouldn’t give in to him. He’s proved it over and over, I won’t doubt him now.” His mother says, with finality. “But I agree with you General, time is of the utmost importance.”

“Where--” Ben’s voice falters, and he sighs.

“You’re home, Ben.” His mother says, her voice softer than before. However, she is angry with him. He knows that for a fact. It festers in their shared Force bond, but is tinged with something more pure. Concern. Something to that relative effect. “General Hux, Han and Chewie managed to get you here for the medics to finish patching you up.”

“And Rey?” He asks, voice rough.

“She’s in the critical unit. I’m not sure yet.” Through the Force he feels a deep sorrow follow that confession. He reaches for her with the Force, offering sympathy and comfort. She grips one of his hands and gives a gentle squeeze. “When did you know she was still alive?” His mother asked, tiredly.

“Not long before I left.” Ben sighs, trying to blink the jagged blurriness from his right eye. “Snoke was seeking to kill me, using her. Or at least somehow trick me into killing her, and join him out of remorse for what I’ve done. I don’t know, it doesn’t make sense to me. He may have just wanted us to fight for his amusement. To show his hold over her.”

The blurriness didn’t fade away. Closing it is a profound relief that concerns him.

“Why would she even--” Leia sighs, “I don’t understand. Why didn’t you come to Luke or I? Your Six were nearly rioting when they realized you were gone.”

“She was brainwashed. I believe her memories were stolen from her.” Ben says, voice hard. “And this was between Snoke and I. I…” He opens his eyes to glance at Hux, who looks as icy as he had the first time they’d met. All angular lines and roughness, none of the surrender and softness he’d offered Ben the night they’d slept together. “I offered to become his apprentice for Rey’s freedom.”

Honestly was probably the best policy at that point, anyway. Still the shock and brief anger flaring inside his mother was a supernova against the weak barriers he held around his mind at this point. “Ben!” She hisses, but silences for a moment. “You both got away from him. I suppose I should be grateful. He didn’t do any sort of… ritual on you?”

“He didn’t see me. He sent Rey out to kill me.” Ben confirms, turning his face away from her. “So no, I am still myself. She will need a lot of help coming out of this. His mental hold may not ever completely break.”

It probably never would have for Kylo Ren, if he had survived bleeding out on the ice.

“How is father?” Ben asks, quietly.

“He’s pretending that he isn’t shocked. He feels guilty of course. That he hurt your sister, and that he wasn’t there in time to prevent you from getting seriously injured.”

“None of which is his fault.” Ben hisses in pain as his frown pulls at the newly healed skin. “How bad is the scarring?”

“Well. There will always be a mark. We didn’t get the bacta to it fast enough, I think.” She sounds sad, “And I fear you will likely always be mostly blind in that eye now. The heat of her lightsaber…”

He remembered, the agonizing burning sensation across his face. It had come so dangerously close to his eye, he wasn’t surprised that it had caused damage. “I thought so.” He said, not wanting her pity that rose dangerously close to the surface. He’d chosen to go to her, knowing that the consequences may even be worse than death.

“You’re still my handsome son.” She says, quietly. It somehow burns somewhere in his chest, makes his eyes burn too.

He looks over at Hux instead, who frowns.

“So what happens next?” Ben asks, even though he doesn’t want to truly know the answer. “Is this the end of our alliance? Are you… going to leave? You married someone who looked different, under different circumstances.”

Hux’s face gives a rather severe twitch of his nose and mouth into a snarl momentarily. “How dare you imply Senator , that I would leave you over a facial scar. I ensure you I’ve seen much worse than your petty battle scar. I don’t give up on my commitments. Snoke’s actions are an act of war. This can not be tolerated, by the Resistance or the First Order.”

Ben can’t help but to give a half smile, “I think you just want to be Emperor, my dear.”

“I think you can shove your assumptions up your--” He sighs, nostrils flaring, “Your mother and I will move against Snoke while he’s still without an apprentice.”  

“And what should I do?” Ben asks, moving to sit up.

“Rest.” Hux says, sharply. “You think that you’re perfectly fine, but you had enough sedative in your system to knock out a Stormtrooper squadron. You need to recover.”

You can’t tell me how to live my life. Ben sighs, the tone of the thought gentle.

“I can and I will, because I know what’s best for you. Now shut up and go to sleep.” Hux says, “Or I’ll smother you with a pillow.”

Ben laughs, then groans at the pulling on his scar. It would take getting used to, probably.

“Exactly.” Hux says, smugly.

He can feel his mother’s exasperation and amusement coming off her in waves, with an odd fondness for Hux as well as her concern for him. If his mother and Hux are working together, bringing what seems like the entire galaxy’s troops together against one man… then he can rest easy for a little while. His sister’s trauma and the resulting political mess that would come from explaining it to the public however, he was not looking forward to.

“Sleep.” His mother says softly, brushing her hand through his hair like she’d done when he was a child and Snoke had chased him from his dreams, tainting them with darkness sharp like blades.

You’ll come back to me? He asks Hux, sleepily.

With Snoke’s head, if you want it. Hux says, with a kind of viciousness that is only comforting coming from him.

I do. Ben confirms, too warm to pull away from the lull of sleep.

This time, no dreams plagued him.