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Hiding Secrets

Chapter Text

“Millicent, if you don’t stop eating more than your share, I’m throwing you out the airlock,” Hux lied blatantly as he shoved the overflowing plate of honey and sugar into the ducts. The lizards, now fully grown and squeezed into the too-small space, lapped at it with greedy tongues and wide mouths. Millicent was the smallest of the lot (only half the size of her siblings), and Hux’s favorite. He’d never shove her out of an airlock. He rubbed his finger over her head and she hissed. “How such a small thing eats so much, I’ll never know.”

Hux dropped down from the open duct cover, and counted the time in his head as he put it back into place. He usually had about an hour before Ren started to come around again into a lighter sleep (the Force waking the man up, he assumed) and that was barely enough time to get everything done that he needed to. He knew keeping four finicky Ysalamiri alive in secret would be difficult, but he hadn’t expected it to be stressful, too.

All in all, though, Hux had been lucky: Ren never came to this corner of the ship, so he never noticed the gap in his Force abilities. And somehow, Hux had managed to hide the missing food he’d been shoving through the vents from the man for nearly two weeks. More importantly, Hux thanked the stars every day for Ren’s ability to pass out like a dead man after sex so he had any time at all to feed them with Ren keeping tabs on Hux with the Force near constantly after the debacle of meeting his parents on Kashyyyk.

Hux ran his fingers through his hair as he made sure the kitchen was clean and exactly as it was after dinner. Luck wasn’t the right word. Miracle. It was nothing short of a miracle and a sign from Ren’s Force that he’d kept those lizards a secret. Clearly, Hux was meant to have these Ysalamiri under his service.

He yawned into his hand, checking the time on the clock. He still had a good night’s sleep ahead of him before he and Ren went into town the next day, at least. They were on Messert, the financial hub of the sector, and Ren was certain they could get information here concerning the First Order.

Ren had seen it in a vision.

Hux felt they weren’t far enough away from Kashyyyk if they were still dealing with that planet’s banking buddy, but if Ren believed he’d find something here than so be it. Finding the First Order meant finding Snoke. The sooner that man was dead, the sooner Hux could go back to destroying the New Republic.

With his little ones taken care of, Hux returned to their room and found Ren asleep in their bed, right where Hux left him. Ren’s eyes fluttered as he dreamed, and his fingers twitched into the pillow. Hux breathed out softly and climbed into bed. While he stayed asleep, Ren had been waking up when Hux crawled back into bed for a few nights, and eventually the man was going to come up with a pattern in his half-awake state.

But tonight, Hux was safe.

“I wonder what you’re dreaming about,” Hux said, slipping under the covers and into Ren’s arms. He brushed his thumb against Ren’s temple, leaning forward to kiss the back of his eyelid. “I hope it’s something good.”

Ben finished tapping out the end of his letter to his mother, letting her know what things were like on Messert while he was there. There had been talk of some big financial decisions coming up with the fall of the Order and working around their lost finances his Mother would like to know. She hadn’t asked for the recon, but Ben figured she could use the update. He knew that a few planets, especially the ones as self interested as a banking planet, weren’t great in sending the New Republic updates.

“Writing your mother again?” Armitage asked, dropping a spoonful of honey into his tea. The jar looked near empty, and Ben could have sworn that had been full the other day. He was starting to wonder if Armitage was sneaking snacks at night, though he couldn’t fathom why he’d start that habit now. Maybe he was still upset over the fight with Poe? Armitage sat across from Ben, sipping his tea as he tapped the front of the datapad. “I’d think you’d have run out of things to tell her at the rate you two chat.”

“We don’t talk that much,” Ben said. He proofread his letter, fixing a few things he’d missed in his typing. “Once every few days is not a lot.”

“As someone who speaks to his father once a year, it still seems clingy,” Armitage said, picking up a spoon to stir his tea further. “Especially since you just saw the woman a month ago.”

Ben chose wisely not to comment on the subject of Armitage’s father, and instead changed the subject. “You ready to go into town? I’m hoping to leave as soon as I finish this letter.”

“Yes,” Armitage said. He sipped his tea, relaxing his shoulders. “Are we wandering around while you sense for something again, or do we have an actual purpose?”

“Both,” Ben said, clicking the send button. He set his pad on the table and leaned back. His lightsaber on his built clicked against his hip as he crossed one leg over the other. “I’m going to check out an area on the far side of town for information, and you get some spending money to pick up supplies.”

“I can do that,” Armitage said, smiling into his tea. Ben mentally patted himself on the back. Armitage had seemed tense and on edge the past couple of weeks (Ben had been hovering a bit since he lost track of him on Kashyyyk, he was ashamed to say), so some space to himself would probably do him good. “Any requests?”

“Enough for a few weeks,” Ben said. He crossed his arms on the table. “If I can’t find what the Force wanted me to accomplish here tomorrow, then I’m assuming this was just a good pitstop and I’ll get a hint at our next location. However it turns out, I’m hoping to leave the day after tomorrow.”

“Alright,” Armitage said. He pushed his empty glass away and stood. “I’ll get my coat.”

Ben put his datapad away in his coat and stood, stretching his arms over the shoulder. He was positive from a week of meditation that this planet was important for some reason. The Force had something planned, but it didn’t want to show him what.

Armitage smiled as him as he passed, coat on his shoulders and Ben followed him to the ramp. He’d worry about it later, but for now, he needed to concentrate on the city.

Hux double checked the math of the items in his bag. Through haggling, good deals, and a bit of swapped price tags, he managed to buy six extra jars of honey, two extra jars of syrup, and an extra bag of sugar while still managing to get the required supplies without it looking like Hux spent extra money.

As long as Ren left him alone to put away the groceries (which he always did after Hux said it was “Relaxing” that one time), he’d never be the wiser to the extra groceries. They’d been divided among the bags equally, so that Ren would never notice the extra jars if he just peeked into the bags.

It seemed Hux’s miracle would continue.

In the meantime, he had thirty extra credits and another hour before he was supposed to meet Ren. Hux browsed the stands, looking for some little trinket or treat to spend his last credits on. It was petty, but after Ren had revealed that he had more money than Hux knew about buying that better mattress, Hux had been determined to spend every single credit he was given on each shopping run.

And if it amused Ren to see what Hux came back with extra, that was just a bonus.

Hux came to a small stand on the corner, debating between getting a bag of sweets or picking up a more savory treat to bring Ren when he heard the loud, audible gasp to his left followed by the clatter of something being dropped.

He turned his head toward the clumsy idiot who’d dropped the jar and froze in place, looking into the eyes of a far too familiar face. Hux sucked in a breath and dared to ask, “Lieutenant?”

“General Hux,” Mitaka whispered, voice so low it was almost spoken in awe. He looked around his shoulder and smacked himself lightly on the cheek. “You. It’s you.”

Hux looked around him, seeing the people mill about as usual. This was big. This was bigger than finding the Ysalamir eggs from under Solo’s nose. Hux took a step back from the stand, looking around the market. He needed to talk to Mitaka right now and someplace private.

Finding the perfect location, he grabbed Mitaka by the arm, putting on a polite smile to throw off his stern tone to any onlookers. “I haven’t see you in ages! What a coincidence. Let me buy that for you, and we can catch up down the street at a lovely cafe I saw.”

Mitaka winced as Hux’s grip tightened, but the man nodded in agreement and picked up his dropped item. Hux paid and the two of them walked to the cafe to take a table up in the corner.

Hux felt like his heart was beating a million miles an hour in his chest as he manhandled a stumbling Mitaka into the cafe. Hux needed this. This was perfect. Finding Mitaka was better than anything Hux could have wished for on this planet.

“Oh, we have so much to talk about,” Hux said, as he shoved Mitaka into a seat. Perhaps Hux was getting ahead of himself, but time was short and he had to make the best of this while Mitaka was still in shock. Hux sat military straight in his chair, leaning over the desk like he would in old officer’s meetings. Mitaka automatically straightened his posture. “Starting with why are you here and what happened to my ship?”

“We thought you were dead,” Mitaka said, ignoring Hux’s question. His reflex move to attention calmed as he dropped his elbows on the table. He tugged at the side of his too large clothes (Borrowed? A disguise? Hux could only guess what happened to the man’s uniform.) Mitaka pushed his hair behind his ear. “You. The Starkiller base exploded and you weren’t in the reported group of people who surrendered. How are you here?”

Hux almost felt flattered everyone assumed he had gone down valiantly with his base.

“Ren kidnapped me,” Hux said, snapping his finger in Mitaka’s face. “Focus and answer the questions. Are you still with the First Order and where is my damn ship?”

“You were kidnapped?” Mitaka asked, staring at the table. “By Lord Ren? But he was a traitor, and he hated you. Why wouldn’t he have killed you?”

“He wasn’t done sleeping with me, apparently,” Hux said, not quite ready to admit that Ren loved him yet.

He still didn’t know if he could trust Mitaka with anything other than common knowledge just yet. Speaking, said man had his eyes open as wide as saucers, and the biggest look of shock on his face Hux had ever seen. That could only mean one thing: The man hadn’t known.

Lieutenant Mitaka was one of his most trusted officers. The man always got the job done. Despite a cowardly personality, he never faltered. Mitaka was around Hux as much as Phasma.

Hux felt his jaw drop. “You didn’t know Ren and I were sleeping together. How did you not know that?”

“I didn’t want to assume,” Mitaka hissed under his breath, cheeks turning red. He caught himself and sat back, resuming the military posture. Mitaka held his hand up, shoulders hunched up. “And you two hated each other!”

“You don’t have to like someone to sleep with them!” Hux said right back.

“So did you escape him?” Mitaka asked, clearly attempting to change the topic.

“We’ll get to that,” Hux said, holding up his hand. “I’m asking one more time: Where’s my ship?”

Mitaka swallowed and sunk into his chair. He fidgeted with the menu. “The Finalizer is a system away in hiding. Myself and a small group came here on a shuttle looking for money and support to help rebuild the Order’s funds.”

Hux felt his shoulders relax, sinking into his seat. Their numbers were clearly diminished if Mitaka was running this sort of diplomatic mission, but the Order was there. Hux also noted again that his official status as far as the First Order was concerned was declared “Dead” not “Wanted.”

Ren had been wrong about Snoke having Hux’s head on a chopping block.

“Here’s what’s going to happen,” Hux said. He got up from his seat, moving across the table to sit directly next to Mitaka. He put his arm around the man’s shoulder, cuddling up to make them look less suspicious to anyone looking over at them in the small booth. Mitaka flushed, and Hux smirked. “My time is short, because Ren is here—”

“Lord Ren is on the planet,” Mitaka said, leaning in until their noses nearly bumped as he lowered his voice, body trembling. His flush was replaced with white as Mitaka paled. “Are you serious?”

“Yes, he keeps tabs on me with the Force and I’m stuck on his ship, pay attention,” Hux said. “I’m meeting him in fifteen minutes, so we need to make an arrangement to talk more in private. I’ll meet you here after dark at twenty-two hundred. You will be here, is that understood?”

“Of, of course,” Mitaka said.

“And bring someone else with you,” Hux said. “I want to make sure they believe you when you return to the ship with my instructions.”

“Yes, sir,” Mitaka said. He nodded, shifting under Hux’s arm. He swallowed, gathering himself. “Sir?”

“Yes?” Hux said, leaning back. His mind was racing with the possibilities. He had Ysalamiri that could block the Force, and an opening back into the Order. It was far ahead of scheduled but he had it. He had it! Mitaka hadn’t spoken again, and Hux looked at him. “What?”

“I’m glad you’re alive, sir,” Mitaka said. He rubbed under his eye and wrung his hands together. “It hasn’t been the same without you.”

“Good,” Hux said. He patted Mitaka on the back and stood, checking the time. “I’ll see you tonight.”

He left in a rush, trusting Mitaka would be waiting for him.

Ben scowled, his arms crossed as he leaned against the pole at the designated meeting place. His eyes were closed and he felt Hux moving toward him from across the market, on time as always. Feeling his presence in the Force had become a method of relaxation in itself, just knowing he was there. Ben rubbed the back of his neck as he opened his eyes, looking around the market.

The Force had led him to this planet, but now the feeling was completely gone, like whatever was meant to happen already had.

But Ben didn’t have the slightest clue what that could have been. He must have missed something, because Ben didn’t run into anything in particular that he could pinpoint, and aside from Armitage being slightly restless from cabin fever, there was nothing too out of the ordinary. The shopping wasn’t any better than any other planet, and aside from getting some intel for his mother, they hadn’t accomplished much during their week stay on planet.

“Maybe it was just the info I sent mom,” Ben mumbled to himself. It was possible that small bit of information was more important than he realized. “Always possible.”

A nagging feeling in the back of his mind told him otherwise, but Ben wasn’t sure what else to do about it. The Force worked the way the Force wanted, and it looked like in this case what the Force wanted was just out of Ben’s reach.

Ben closed his eyes and waited a few more minutes, smiling as he looked up to see Hux approaching. The greatcoat around his shoulders floated behind him as a cape, and the shopping bags hung off his arms. No one could say Hux hadn’t picked up some muscle during all of his added domestic shopping trips. Hux smiled when he saw Ren, picking up his pace to meet him.

“You’re early,” Armitage said, almost proud. He handed Ren a small pastry wrapped in tissue paper that smelled amazing, dripping with glaze. Hux took a bite of his own, a bit of the cream sticking to his lip before he licked it away. “Find what you were looking for?”

“No.” Ben pulled down the paper, smiling at his favorite flavor of pastry. Armitage always knew what he liked. He took a large bite, pushing off the pole and starting his walk down the street. When he finished the pastry, he reached down to grab a few of the shopping bags to help carry. “I’m going to spend tomorrow meditating for our next location, and I hope I don’t miss what the Force was trying to show me a second time. It was here, I swear it. But I didn’t find it in time.”

“It’d be nice if your Force could be more specific,” Armitage said, swapping the bags over to his other hand. He tossed his wrappings into a bin as they passed, walking around someone to get closer to Ben in the crowded street. “I feel like it would save you some trouble.”

“That’s not quite how the Force works,” Ben said, looking up at the sky. “Regretfully.”

“Shame,” Armitage said. He took Ben’s hand, lacing their fingers together to hold his hand. The man squeezed and leaned on Ben’s arm. He must have had a good day in the market if Armitage was being this affectionate out in public. Ben couldn’t help the warm feeling that bubbled in his chest as they walked together (he was so smitten, and proud he could finally admit it). Armitage drew a circle with his thumb on the back of Ben’s hand. “But at least you don’t have to worry about it tonight.”

“Planning on distracting me?” Ben asked, tugging them both toward the spaceport where their Silver Wing was docked.

Armitage licked the top of his lip, tugging Ben down into a kiss with their linked hands. He nipped Ben’s lower lip. “Always.”

Ben kissed him back; it looked like he was going to have a good evening to match Armitage’s good afternoon.

Hux typically had gotten over the guilt of using Ren’s exhausted state to hide things from the man some time ago. It was only natural. If you do something often enough, you become desensitized to it. On top of that, it was typically just a beneficial side effect to something they were going to be doing anyway.

He didn’t intentionally initiate sex to get his free time after all the time, just when it was important. Even then, he’d still climb back into bed with a clear conscious knowing what he was doing was for the better good (whether Ren realized it or not).

But this particular night had guilt squirming in his gut worse than usual.

Probably because Hux slipped the man a sedative in the glass of water Hux brought Ren before bed to make sure the Jedi stayed asleep all night this time. It was a breech of trust Hux hadn’t crossed yet, but he had no choice this time.

This was so important.

“Have to be quick,” Hux muttered to himself dragging an old bag over to the vent that hid away his Ysalamiri. He shoved the plate of syrup in front of Millicent and Eudora to appease them. Gertrude and Hester he yanked out of the ducts and shoved into the bag where a small bowl of syrup waited for them. “This bag will be useless afterwards with the mess you two make.”

He shoved the cover back into place (but not before giving Millicent her nightly pet on the head) and jumped off the box he used as a step.

Covering his eyes, Hux held his breath and mentally ran through his plans again. Handing over these two Ysalamiri was a risk, but one he needed to make. Their Force blocking bubble increased when they were in contact with each other, and it was already getting difficult to feed them. If he split it into two groups, it would be easier to take care of the two, and easier to hide them.

He had to trust that his men would do as instructed with the precious things he would be handing over tonight.

Mind made up, Hux made sure the Ysalamiri were distracted with the mess of food leaking into the bottom of the bag before he zipped it up to secure them. He grabbed Ren’s cloak and threw it over his shoulders as proof that Ren was on planet, and went for the ramp of the shuttle, already having wasted too much time. He counted to ten before pressing the open button, hoping the noise wouldn’t make the man upstairs.

He waited for five minutes after leaving the ship to make sure Ren wasn’t dashing after him, before Hux hurried into the city.

If all went well, he and Ren would be on their way home when they took off next.

Chapter Text

Hux found Mitaka waiting outside of the small cafe, the lights dim as the night crowds flooded the streets. He was joined by a second brunette, whose arms were crossed and face turned down. They both wore black, but their clothes were casual and mean to blend in. He did hope their uniforms were still back at the ship. Hux didn’t recognize Mitaka’s companion, but he was sure he’d find out who it was soon enough.

He straightened his back, tugging the hood of Ren’s cowl back enough to show his face. Hux approached the two, tilting his head forward in acknowledgement. “It’s nice to know you’re still as reliable as always, Lieutenant.”

Mitaka straightened his posture, almost saluting. He nodded in its place, gripping his fingers into a fist. “Sir.”

“And you are?” Hux asked the second man.

“Technician Mandetat, sir.” He kept his low posture, eyes unsure. “No one believed Mitaka when he said he found you in the market, but I guess it was true.”

“And now he’s got a second witness,” Hux said. He waved his hand to the side. “Come on, let’s have this chat somewhere less open.”

“Of course, sir,” Mitaka said. He cleared his throat and asked to speak freely, only answering when Hux gave his approving nod. “I thought that might be the case, so I found a spot earlier. It’s a small picnic ground just outside of town.”

“Good job,” Hux said. He adjusted his bag when Gertrude and Hester fidgeted and patted it to calm them down. Both Mitaka and Mandetat gave him an odd look, but he ignored them for the moment. “Let’s go.”

The walk was long and in the opposite direction of the shuttle bay, but not so far that Hux had to worry about getting back in time before the sedative he’d slipped Ren wore off. Mitaka led, while Mandetat hung to the back of Hux’s shoulder. He kept glancing at the caped cowl he wore, obviously recognizing it. Hux had to shift his bag with his cargo to his front, so he could rub the side of the bag and calm them down.

Arriving at the small picnic area, Mitaka waited for Hux to sit before he joined him at the table while Mandetat remained standing and keeping watch over the area. Mitaka cleared his throat, waited for Hux to begin speaking.

“Let’s get all the cards out in the open first. I’ll tell you where I’ve been since Starkiller base fell, and then you let me know what happened to the Order,” Hux said. Mitaka nodded, and Hux took that as his cue to fill in the gaps, starting with his abduction by Ren from Starkiller base, and ending with them floating in space looking for Snoke. Hux tactfully avoided mentioning that he’d met with Ren’s parents. Hux nodded toward Mitaka when he finished. “Your turn. What happened to the First Order?”

“It’s a mess, sir,” Mitaka said. He looked at the table and sighed. “Those who didn’t defect or surrender to the Resistance returned to the fleet, however without your leadership the High Command was conflicted. They argued so much that the First Order splintered, and many left. Only two of the original High Command staff remain, and they’re a bit power happy. Worse yet, the Supreme Leader cut off contact with us, and no one knows what happened to him.”

Hux folded his arms on the table, rubbing the side of his face. “What forces do we have left out of our original numbers?”

“Around ten percent,” Mitaka said.

“Would those ten percent be opposed to my return to power?” Hux asked. “Or would the High Command fight it now that they’ve taken over?”

“I believe if you showed up to challenge them, that around nine percent would be behind you,” Mitaka said, voice firm and eyes determined.

“Would you second that?” Hux asked Mandetat. He thought of Ren’s predictions, and went ahead and asked for clarification. “Or would you believe that they’d blame me for Starkiller base’s failure?”

“Kylo Ren sold us out,” Mandetat said, glaring hard. His hands clenched into fists, his arms shaking. “That’s the only failure of our Starkiller base. I agree with Mitaka. The First Order needs leadership and they know you.”

“And if all else fails, your speeches tend to turn people around,” Mitaka added. Hux turned to stare at him, and he shrugged. “They’re very inspirational. I listened to every single one on the holoprojectors when they played in the mornings at wake up.”

“Then I had best start writing one,” Hux said. He put his bag on the table, and put his hand over the zipper. He breathed in, held his breath to calm himself, and exhaled slowly. It was now or never, and there was no going back. Hux tightened his grip on the bag. “But before I am able to return to the First Order, I have something very important I need you two to do.”

“Of course, sir,” Mitaka said.

“As I mentioned, Kylo Ren is with me, and he’ll need to be detained until I can get him to rethink his loyalties,” Hux said. He lowered his voice and patted the bag. “What’s in here will give us the means to do just that, if you follow my instructions to the letter.”

“It’ll be done,” Mitaka said without question. Hux always did appreciate the loyalty of his men. “Tell us what to do.”

Hux pulled a datapad out of the side pocket of the bag, and typed while he listed instructions. Mitaka and Mandetat listened intently to every word as Hux told them how to build a cell for Ren, and what needed to be in it. A dreadful feeling tugged at his gut as he opened the bag to give Mitaka and Mandetat a peek at the Ysalamiri licking up the last remaining scraps of syrup (both pairs of eyes widened as he explained they were capable of blocking the Force). Hux gave them feeding instructions and the digging feeling in his chest continued to grow as he sold out his lover, exposing the man’s weakness.

“We’ll put this into construction as soon as we get back to the Finalizer, sir,” Mitaka said.

“Shouldn’t take more than two days to put together,” Mandetat said, looking over the datapad Hux handed over. “And then we’ll come back to pick you up.”

“Do you think you can distract Lord Ren that long?” Mitaka asked. He wrung his fingers together, digging his thumb into his palm. “You said he wanted to leave planet soon.”

“I’ll get him to stick around,” Hux said, already thinking up a way to keep Ren grounded. “Don’t worry.”

“Of course, sir. Then we’ll see you in two days,” Mitaka said. He straightened in his seat, putting his hands flat on the table. “We’ll meet you in the shuttle bay with a powerful sedative for him as planned to make the journey to the Finalizer smoothly.”

“Good,” Hux said. He petted his Ysalamiri through the bag, confident Mitaka would take care of them. “I’ll meet you at the eighteenth hour.”

“Sir,” Mitaka said, standing as he readied to leave. Mandetat picked up the bag with Gertrude and Hester, rocking it gently to ease the agitated beasts. Mitaka saluted before he left. “We await your return.”

As Mitaka and Mandetat walked away, Hux thought of Ren drugged to sleep in their bed; unaware of anything that was happening. He covered his eyes for two seconds before he shouted, “Wait.”

Mitaka turned over his shoulder, tapping back to Hux’s side. “Is there something else, sir?”

“Lord Ren is to be kept confidential,” Hux said. Mandetat’s words of how everyone knew Ren was a traitor echoed in his ears. Hux knew what happened to traitors in the First Order. He licked his lips and swallowed. “That he’s here, that he was with me, that we’ll be imprisoning him on the Finalizer. All of it is to be kept strictly confidential between the three of us. Don’t even tell the people who help build the cell who it is for, or that you have the Ysalamiri. Keep them hidden and secret as well.”

Mitaka watched Hux’s face carefully, his expression hardening. Hux waited for the accusations, but found none as Mitaka remained silent and thinking for a full minute.

“Am I understood?” Hux repeated, hating the desperation in his voice.

It was bad enough he was stabbing Ren in the back himself, he didn’t need anyone else in the First Order to do worse.

“Lord Ren’s status shall be kept a secret,” Mitaka said eventually, taking a step back. He pressed his lips together and saluted again. “We’ll see you in two days.”

Hux pushed back Ren’s cowl to drag his fingers through his own hair as his men disappeared back into the city.

Armitage had drugged him.

Ben sat up in his bed, staring at the seemingly harmless glass of water on their nightstand. He breathed out and closed his eyes. When he woke ten minutes ago, the bed was empty and he felt groggy. Every inch of him felt sluggish and wrong. Ben knew that feeling from when he’d tried to use sleep aids to combat nightmares once. They’d put him to sleep, but the awful feeling he had in the morning had been a thousand times worse than the nightmares themselves.

Drugs and a connection to the Force didn’t mesh well, and there was no way for Armitage to have known that.

Ben lifted up the water glass, and saw bits of powder floating in the bottom, having settled over time.

When Ben sought out Armitage in the Force, he’d found the man in the city walking toward the shuttle bay. Whatever he’d needed to do so badly that it required drugging Ben into sleep, he had already finished and was sneaking back.

Which gave Ben two options: He could either fake sleep, and pretend he hadn’t noticed Armitage had drugged him, or he could confront the man.

If he did the first, it might be possible that Armitage would give himself away by being careless. He wouldn’t know that Ben was onto him, and was looking for clues, which meant he might let his guard down. It might also make it possible to avoid getting drugged a second time if he were looking for it, and Ben could follow the man if he snuck out again. It’d be a bit of undercover work, but Ben was no stranger to that now.

Or he could flat out confront Armitage, which would result in a fight. That would be ugly, but at least everything would be out in the open.

“What should I do?” Ben asked the Force, closing his eyes. Armitage was fast approaching the shuttle and his time to decide was growing slim. Ben breathed. He needed time; he needed patience. Patience meant waiting, which meant watching. Ben laid back down, covering himself with the blanket. “Undercover it is.”

Ben closed his eyes, listening as the ramp to their shuttle lowered and on the level below. It closed a moment later, and he heard Armitage’s boots tapping on the ladder to the upper level.

The door to their quarters opened, and Ben evened his breathing. The fake sleep came as easy as it ever did back when he was undercover on the Finalizer when he tried to block out Armitage’s pillow talk. Ben listened, focusing. Armitage picked up the water glass, swishing the water around a few times. He sighed heavily, and the guilt poured off him as Ben reached out to sense Armitage through the Force. That was promising at least. Armitage set the glass back on the table and there was rustling as the man removed his clothing.

Armitage slipped back into bed, pausing as he leaned over Ben. His fingers pushed back Ben’s bangs, brushing his skin. Armitage cupped the side of Ben’s cheek and kissed his eyelid before relaxing into the bed against his side.

“I won’t let anyone else hurt you,” Armitage whispered. He snuggled into Ren’s arms and kissed Ren’s shoulder. “Promise.”

Ben waited until Armitage was asleep to open his eyes. He squeezed the man tighter, hoping tomorrow might bring answers to the thousand questions running through his mind.

Hux waited until after breakfast to put his plan into action.

“I don’t want to leave tomorrow,” Hux said, tugging on the edge of Ren’s cowl. He hadn’t worn it in awhile since they bought better clothes, but after wearing it last night, he had forgotten it was warm. Hux was above comfort things, but he was positive it made him see more endearing to wear it. Like when you wore a token from a lover (which is almost what it was at this point). “We should take a couple nights in the city instead.”

“In the city?” Ren asked, looking up from his datapad. He was writing another letter to his mother. “Like what?”

“Like in a hotel,” Hux said. He forced himself to scowl, and threw a hand out around the room. “Before we got floating in space for another month in this tiny shuttle, I think it would be good if we took time to ourselves and spent it in a place that had more room.”

“A hotel in the city,” Ren repeated.

“Yes, Ben,” Hux said. He dragged both of his hands through his hair, and walked to the side to fix it in a mirror. He missed his product, but had yet to buy replacements. “Like a day off to freshen ourselves before we go out looking for Snoke again.”

“In the five years you were on the Finalizer, you took one day off,” Ren pointed out. He clicked his datapad off and set it on the table. “And that was only because you were so sick you were unable to get out of bed.”

“Because I had work to do,” Hux snapped. This wasn’t going as easily as he had hoped. Hux had convinced himself Ren would be enamored with the idea of him and Hux taking a small getaway in a city hotel like newly weds, immediately agreeing. Hux had been wrong, if the dead stare in his direction was any indication. Hux pouted. “Now I have nothing but free time. Is it so hard to picture I might want to spend some of it in a nicer location now that I have the option?”

Ren tilted his head. “We did just spend a week in a very nice cabin on Kashyyyk.”

“Surrounded by those wretched Wookies and people who hate me,” Hux said. He almost stomped his foot. Hux probably should have; it might have helped his case if Ren thought he was that upset. Switching gears, Hux played up the “I’m hurt and angry” angle as best he could. “You had a good time. I was miserable. It’s my turn to pick what we do, and I want to check into a fancy hotel and order room service like some spoiled Senator.”

Hux held his ground, biting the edge of his lip as Ren stared, long and hard. The man narrowed his eyes, almost suspicious, as if he could sense Hux’s true intentions to stall for time while Mitaka and Mandetat worked (which he could; damn that Force). Hux stared right back, focusing his thoughts on a plush hotel room and restaurant meals.

“Okay,” Ren said. He got up from the table and opened his arms, drawing Hux into a hug. He squeezed and huffed, his breath hot on the side of Hux’s head. “We’ll check out a room in the city for a couple nights before we leave.”

“Yes, good,” Hux said, squeezing back. He dropped his forehead onto Ren’s shoulder and breathed out slowly. “Thank you.”

“It’ll be a good chance to clear our heads,” Ren said. He let go of the hug and patted Hux’s shoulder before heading back into their room. “Some new scenery might do us good.”

“I’m positive it will,” Hux said.

As Ren disappeared behind the door, Hux hoped he’d have enough time to feed Millicent and Eudora before he left, knowing he wouldn’t be able to do it for two days. Yet another secret he was keeping from Ren. Hux tugged the hood of the cowl up over his head. Ren already suspected something was wrong, it was in his body language and his short answers.

Hiding secrets from Ren was going to be more difficult than he thought (but Hux expected that).

It was a good thing Hux was always up for a challenge, especially now that everything was on the line.

Chapter Text

Ben was at a loss as to what Armitage might be hiding that would require them staying at a hotel overnight.

It wasn’t possible that Armitage had drugged Ben to scope out hotels in they city. It didn’t make any sense. He could have just asked for the two of them to go if that was what he wanted. Ben couldn’t think of anything he might have done that would make Armitage believe he’d say “No.”

So there had to be something else going on.

“They have a pool,” Armitage said, reading through the hotel brochure. He and Ben had entered the city after locking up the Silver Wing, and booked a room in the first hotel they saw that looked like something Ben’s mother would stay in when she was visiting the Senate. Armitage walked back and forth, smiling at the booklet like it was his Starkiller base plans. “And a massage parlor, though I’m thinking we get lunch first in the in-house restaurant. What do you think?”

“No room service?” Ben asked, remembering their conversation last night. “That was on your wish list, wasn’t it?”

“That’s for later,” Armitage said, sending a flirty smile Ben’s way. He flipped through a few other pages, unaware of Ben’s discomfort. Somehow sleeping with Hux while Ben was trying to figure out his secrets didn’t feel like a good idea. It would feel too much like Ben was distracting the man to get him to slip up, and while he wanted answers, that wasn’t the way Ben wanted to get them. Hux continued, brushing back Ben’s hair with his fingers. “That’s the sort of thing you order right before turning in. Like a late dinner or a bottle of wine.”

“Is it now?” Ben asked.

Armitage pushed Ben’s head back by the forehead, scowling at him. “Are you saying there’s a better time?”

Ben leaned back on the couch in the sitting room of their rather spacious suite. It was probably more expensive than he should have been spending money on, but Ben had to do something with that First Order salary he had been squirreling away for five years. “No, I’m just amused at you playing tourist.”

“I’ve never done it before,” Armitage said, sounding convincing that running around like a tourist was his true goal. He shoved the brochure into Ben’s face, leaning over. “Since you’re the expert, you pick: Pool, massage, or lunch first?”

“Lunch,” Ben said, taking the pad and throwing it back on the bed. He tugged Armitage closer by the waist and kissed his chest through his tunic. He probably wouldn’t sleep with Armitage tonight, but he didn’t want to make the man think he was being cold, either. A little affection was fine. “I’m the jealous type, so I’m not sure I want people to see you without your clothes that aren’t me.”

“And what if part of the tourist experience is wanting to see you get jealous?” Armitage asked, wrapping his arms around Ben’s shoulders. “That might be rather nice.”

“For you.”

“Exactly,” Armitage said, kissing the top of Ben’s head. “Now pick something before we get distracted.”

“Maybe I want to be distracted,” Ben said, the words coming despite himself (it was too easy to flirt with Armitage; Ben blamed his father’s genes).

“We’re going to lunch,” Armitage said. He ducked out of Ben’s arms and smiled over his shoulder as he threw his greatcoat over his shoulder and pocketed their room key. “Hurry up.”

Ben got off the bed, dusting off his vest when he stopped: Distraction.

The hotel trip was a distraction.

He locked the door behind him as he joined Armitage in the hallway. The man was calmer than he was earlier, making it easy to assume he got what he wanted. Ben could only come to the conclusion that it wasn’t the hotel trip so much that he wanted, but rather to get Ben out of the Silver Wing.

But he still had no idea of why.

“Stop dawdling, Ben,” Armitage shouted over his shoulder. “I’m actually hungry now that you were talking about it.”

“I’m coming,” Ben said, tapping after Hux faster. He still had time to figure it out (he hoped).

The hotel had been a brilliant plan.

Hux had an itinerary of things to do that would keep Ren busy and focused for the full day and a half he had left of stalling. Playing up the “tourist” aspect had helped immensely, giving Hux the opportunities to add luxury shopping (just browsing, no spending), and going to see local sights into the mix of activities.

Their first day out and about had been a success, and Hux had the next day planned. Which meant it was time to actually open the tray they’d ordered from room service. Hux pulled it over toward the bed, lifting the cover tray.

“I told you we should have eaten that first before you went on your planning spree,” Ren said, poking the melted dessert. “It’s too warm in here.”

“I like my ice cream soft,” Hux said, sticking a spoon into the creamy dessert. It was only a third melted, but the rest was still solid. “You don’t have to eat yours if you don’t like it.”

“That’d be a waste,” Ren said. He picked up the small dish and stirred it with his spoon. “I’ll pretend it’s a milkshake.”

Hux chuckled and kicked off his boots. He climbed onto the side of the bed with his dish, helping himself to a space at Ren’s side. Hux leaned into the man’s waist and took a bite of his dessert. “What flavor did you pick?”

“Mint,” Ren said. He dipped out a spoonful and held it out. “Want a taste?”

Hux ate the bite straight from the spoon, licking his lip to catch it before it could drip. He caught the expansion of Ren’s pupils from the corner of his eyes and smirked. Hux held up his dish. “It’s good. Want a taste of mine? Vanilla’s plain, but it’s very good.”

“Sure,” Ren said. He leaned closer to Hux’s bowl, waiting for a spoonful. Hux stuck the bite in his own mouth, and kissed Ren open mouthed to share the taste of the sweet cream. Ren grinned into the kiss, backing away with a laugh. “That is good.”

“Isn’t it?” Hux said. He set his bowl on the tray again and captured Ren’s lips again. The wine could wait until tomorrow. it was dark outside and he had time for this. It was the original distraction, after all. He nipped Ren’s lower lip. “You taste better.”

Ren took hold of both of Hux’s wrists and gently pulled them down. His gaze was soft, but there was something else there that made Hux’s stomach twist. “I think I’d rather just sleep tonight.”

“Don’t tell me all that running around exhausted you,” Hux said, twisting his wrist in Ren’s hold. “Normally you’re rather eager.”

“Normally,” Ren said. He paused, squeezing Hux’s wrists as he glanced at the ground. Ren blew out a soft breath, looking up through half-lidded eyes. “Normally you’re not hiding secrets from me.”

“What makes you think that?” Hux asked. He tugged his wrist back, but Ren didn’t let him go. He steadied himself. Nothing had changed. Mitaka and the others would be there tomorrow. “Aren’t I always keeping secrets from you? Like my little plots to kill your mother?”

“This time’s different,” Ren said. He pressed their foreheads together. Hux didn’t need the Force to know Ren was thinking very hard about his next words. “You’ve never had to drug me before to do it.”

“So you figured that out,” Hux said, stilling. He ran through every possibility that could have given it away, but stopped himself. It didn’t matter; nothing had changed. Hux had delayed the trip, and Mitaka would be there tomorrow. This was fine. As long as Ben didn’t try to leave tonight, everything was still on plan. Hux could still stall this. “What are you going to do about it?”

Ren rubbed his thumb along Hux’s bruised wrists, apologetic. “Would you tell me why if I asked?”

“Don’t be stupid, Ben,” Hux said. He yanked his wrist out of Ren’s hold and fell back against the pillows. The mood was dead. “Of course I won’t.”

“What did you do, Armitage?” Ren asked.

“Nothing I’m going to tell you,” Hux said. He glared up at Ren from the mattress. Why’d the man have to get wise now? Couldn’t he have waited for the morning? Hux felt the anger growing and he embraced it. He hissed, “It’s my secret to keep, and if you want to know so badly, you’ll have to take it. I do hope these rooms are soundproof though, because I will fight it and I’m sure the neighbors don’t want to be bothered by screaming.”

“I’d rather you just tell me,” Ren said through gritted teeth.

“Then we have nothing more to talk about,” Hux said. He rolled off the bed and sat on the edge. “I’m taking a bath.”

He felt Ren’s eyes on his back the entire walk to the large, exorbitant refresher. Hux locked the door and filled the tub to the brim with scolding water. He needed to think, so he might as well soak while he did it. Hux shed his clothes, dumping them on the floor. He grabbed a handful of bath salts, tossing them in. He watched the clear water cloud, and stepped inside.

Everything was fine. Hux sunk into the water, ignoring the way Ren’s hurt expression had burned itself into his brain. It would all be fine.

Ben covered his eyes with his hand. That night hadn’t gone quite as planned, though it was good to know his earlier prediction that if he confronted Armitage about the drugs a fight would occur was correct.

The man gave him the cold shoulder the rest of the night after he came back from his bath, smelling like lavender from the bath salts he’d soaked in. He had refused to say another word to Ben the rest of the night, but at least he’d slept in the same bed.

Not that he would let Ben touch him. He was close by, but Armitage might as well have been back in the Silver Wing with the full foot of space he’d maintained between himself and Ben.

Needless to say, it had been a long night.

When the morning came and they dragged themselves out of bed, there was an unspoken understanding that the itinerary Armitage had planned for the day was canceled. Ben had pointed out quite clearly that he knew that Armitage was using the hotel as a distraction from something else, and that they were going back to the Silver Wing.

“If you won’t tell me what you did, I’ll just have to look for it,” Ben had said.

“It’ll be a waste of time, but suit yourself,” Armitage had said right back, shoving his datapad into his bag. “You’ll find nothing.”

Ben packed up the last of their things from the hotel suite, shoving a few of the complimentary toiletries into his bag with it. A part of his brain was screaming that he should just use a mind trick and find out what Armitage did. It’d be quick, and he knew how to make it less painful.

But that was also be a breach of trust Ben couldn’t take back. No matter what Armitage was hiding, Ben had to be better. Mind tricks and mind reading were for enemies and strangers who were none the wiser, not family who’d take it very personally Ben was rooting around in their heads.

It was what Kylo Ren would have done.

On the other hand, Armitage was dangerous when he put his mind to it. Ben might not have any other choice depending what he did. It had to be something big if the man was hiding it this fiercely. Even his pride wasn’t so high that he’d go the extra effort to hide something pointless like a book he’d bought or that he found a play he wanted to see.

Ben would take one day to try and figure it out the old fashioned way, and if he couldn’t find what Armitage hid on that ship, he’d ask one more time before he took the information. Ben couldn’t risk the safety of his friends and family, no matter how much he loved Armitage.

He told the man as much as they walked up the ramp of their ship.

“Fine,” Armitage said. He climbed to the top section of their ship, lips pressed. He dropped his bag in their quarters. He picked up his pack of cigarettes and a datapad, shoving them under his arm. “I hope you don’t mind if I smoke outside and read while you stomp about. I certainly wouldn’t want to hover while you looked around.”

“Don’t leave the docking bay,” Ben said, grabbing the back of their kitchen table chair. “I’ll be checking.”

“Wouldn’t dream of it,” Armitage said, walking down the ramp, coat flapping behind him.

Hux smoked, leaning against the side of the ship’s landing gear.

Almost time.

Ben dragged his hands through his hair. He sat in the cockpit, his legs stretched out in front of him. It was dark out, and he had found nothing. Ben had meditated, sensing for areas of the ship that had been out of place or were important, but he only came up with extra jars of syrup and honey.

Armitage’s sweet tooth was not worth drugging Ben over.

So all that effort he had went to with the drugs and getting Ben in a hotel for a night had to be for something else. Their quarters were as they normally were, and save for a pack of sedatives that he already knew about, that too turned out to be a dead end. After walking the ship one more time, Ben gave up and headed to the ship’s computer.

Armitage might have messed with the controls, though Ben couldn’t figure out why he’d do that either.

Ben brought up the controls of the ship, checking the time. As soon as he gave one last scan of the systems, he’d go grab Armitage from outside. The man was still out there last time he checked about twenty minutes ago. Ben closed his eyes and reached out with the Force to see if Armitage was still pacing.

And he couldn’t see him.

Ben opened his eyes and sat up straight; he couldn’t sense Armitage in the Force. Where had he had this problem bef—

A sharp pain stabbed into Ben’s neck; a needle broke straight through the skin and the flood of chemicals was unmistakable.

“I am sorry,” Armitage said, hugging Ben from behind. His hand trembled around the syringe lodged in Ben’s throat. “So, so, sorry it had to be this way.”

Armitage covered Ben’s eyes with his gloved hand, and tugged out the syringe with his other. It clattered against the metal floor of their shuttle, rolling away with a tinny sound. Ben lurched forward to grab the front console as the wave of nausea hit him. There was a hiss near his ear and Ben knew what Hux had.

He breathed heavily, fighting the drugs trying to drag him under. “You have a Ysalamir.”

“I have four,” Armitage said. He pressed his forehead into Ben’s shoulder, squeezing as he waited for the man to pass out. Ben wanted to move, but his limbs felt like lead. It was all he could do to stay awake out of sheer will without the Force to aid him. Armitage kissed the side of Ben’s head, quiet. “Stop fighting it and go to sleep, Ben. It’ll be better when you wake up.”

“What did you do?” Ben asked, head dropping forward. Armitage shifted his hold, keeping his hand over Ben’s eyes. The Ysalamir dropped into Ben’s lap, crawling about and hissing with sharp claws. Ben twitched, wishing he had enough strength to shove the unnatural beast off. “Don’t do this.”

“I know that this looks bad,” Armitage said. He picked the Ysalamir up out of his lap. He heard it clink against the copilots seat. Armitage kept his hand over Ben’s eyes, tugging his face toward him by the chin. He kissed him once. “But I do love you, Ben Solo.”

Ben’s breath hitched.

“Everything will be alright,” Armitage said. He nuzzled the side of Ben’s face. “Go to sleep, Ben.”

It seemed he didn’t have much of a choice.

Chapter Text

Ben woke with a headache.

He groaned, rolling on his side and his face pressed against the cold, metal floor. Ben cracked his eyes open, blinking through the sleep stuck to his eyelids. He shifted, tugging on his arms. Ben’s eyes opened further when he rolled on his stomach, confirming that his hands were shackled behind his back. He looked closer, seeing that the shackles were tied to the ground by a short chain.

“Focus,” Ben said to himself. He closed his eyes and reached out for the Force, but couldn’t find it. He sat up as far as the chain holding his wrists would allow. He made it to his knees before it pulled taut. Looking around, Ben caught sight of the two Ysalamiri sitting in a small glass case just beyond a cell door forcefield. He slumped forward. “Kriff.”

Ben stared at the walls beyond the cell forcefield and squinted; he recognized that wall. He turned his head around and noted his surroundings better: the cell force field door had been welded into the walls of what looked like an officer’s quarters. It was about three feet in from the regular door.

A familiar stand full of ashes to the left had Ben blinking: He was in his old quarters on the Finalizer.

“Armitage retrofitted my quarters into a cell,” Ben said, half in awe to himself. He turned on his knees looking at the back of the room. His refresher door had been removed, but it was still there. His bed was the same as always, though it looked like all his personal effects had been removed. A suspicious crate that was by the door likely held them. “Okay, Ben. You can get out of this.”

He was in the middle of figuring out how to get his arms around to the front to get a better look at his shackles when the main door to his old quarters swished open.

“Oh, for goodness sake,” Armitage said, strolling into the room. He wore his First Order uniform, General bands still on his sleeves. He pinched his nose before sighing. “Of course this is the one time you wake up before I get back.”

“Armitage,” Ben said. He shook his hands in his restraints. “I don’t know how you did this, but you are going to let me go.”

“Nonsense,” Armitage said. “After all this work I did to bring us home? No, no. We’re not going anywhere.”

“This isn’t home!” Ben shouted.

“It was, it is, and it will always be,” Armitage said, clicking in a quick code to the force field door. He strolled into the room and shook his head. “I apologize for you having to wake up on the floor. Mandetat helped Mitaka move you into the room while I attended to the High Command, and well, he’s still rather cross you had Starkiller base destroyed.”

“All in all though, I should be happy all he did was leave you on the floor.” Armitage strolled across the room, looking into the refresher, eyes darting over everything as if he were checking it over. Afterwards, he did a sweep of the room. He glanced over his shoulder. “Unless you feel a pain somewhere that isn’t related to the sedative?”

“Armitage,” Ben repeated. Armitage stopped his once over of the room, and finding it acceptable, walked back toward Ben stuck in the center of the room. Ben shook the chain, putting as much command into his voice as he could muster. “Undo this chain, and let me go. You can end this right now, and we can pretend it didn’t happen.”

“But I’m just getting started,” Armitage said. He clapped his hands together and nodded. “The room checks out. It looks like Mandetat and Mitaka did exactly as instructed. That means we can lengthen that chain of yours so you can actually move around, assuming you don’t try to strangle me immediately.”

“I don’t think you’re listening,” Ben growled. Without the Force, and without his center, Ben could feel his short temper coming to life with a new vengeance; red filled his vision. “I’m not your prisoner!”

“No, you’re not,” Armitage said. He tapped closer to Ben, cupping his face between his hands. He had to lean over, fingers digging into the sides of Ben’s cheeks. Armitage tapped his index finger twice, almost mockingly as he held the upper hand. “But you are under house arrest until I know you won’t do something stupid like trying to destroy the First Order again.”

“I’m going to kill everyone on this ship if you don’t release me right now!” Ben shouted.

“Oh, it is good to hear you sound like yourself again,” Armitage whispered, shivering all the way down to his fingertips. He kissed Ben on the mouth hard enough to bruise, and pulled back with a satisfied smile. “Welcome home, Ren.”