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Returning Order

Chapter Text

“I can’t tell if it’s disturbing or a relief to know that General Hux is as human as the rest of us,” Mandetat said, yawning into his hand. It was the second hour, well into the dead of the night shift as the two of them traveled down the empty corridor. “You know what I mean?”

“No,” Dopheld answered, holding a closed case under his arm. He fought the yawn himself. Dopheld still had not adjusted to his new schedule. “What do you mean?”

“I mean that even the General wants to get laid,” Mandetat said, snorting. He tapped his own case against his thigh as he walked. “Why else do you think he’s got his special guest all comfy and cozy two doors down from his quarters?”

“I don’t think they’re sleeping together any more,” Dopheld said, lowering his voice and looking over his shoulder. General Hux had made it quite clear that Lord Ren’s presence on the ship was total secrecy. He’d been dead serious when he said he’d shoot either Dopheld or Mandetat in the head if he even thought for a second they were going to tell. “Or at least not willingly, and the General isn’t that sort of man.”

“Sure,” Mandetat said, lifting his eyebrows.

“And you know as well as I do that the General used Lord Ren’s old quarters because no one goes in there and it’s got better security than General Hux’s room,” Dopheld added, feeling the need to defend Hux.

It was rather smart in a way to put Lord Ren where he’d been before. The other officers and stormtroopers on the ship had always been terrified of his quarters, afraid of whatever Force magic he might have enchanted the place with. There were rumors the man kept the ashes of his fallen foes in there (And Dopheld was sure he’d seen the thing in the corner!). If it wasn’t Force protected, it was haunted.

Dopheld cleared his throat. “Either way, we shouldn’t gossip about a superior officer.”

“Fine, but I’m just saying you don’t keep a traitor like that around unless you’re getting something out of it,” Mandetat said. His eyes narrowed, breathing in harshly through his nose. “And since Lord Ren isn’t swinging his lightsaber on the front lines for us anymore, that seems like the next logical conclusion considering how often those two went at it before Starkiller base fell.”

Dopheld pressed his lips together. How could he have been one of the only people to not notice the General’s little affair with their resident Force user?

Mandetat stopped in front of Lord Ren’s door, glancing both ways down the hall to make sure it was clear before entering the code. Dopheld shuffled closer, clutching his case, controlling his heart rate. He still wasn’t used to this. The door opened and they stepped inside Lord Ren’s quarters quickly before the door shut behind them again.

“I swear, these things eat better than the crew,” Mandetat muttered under his breath as he dropped his case on a side table. He opened it, pulling out the sweet, sugar-syrup mixture they’d been using to feed the General’s pets. He dumped it into the bowls, and refilled the automatic dispenser latched on the side of the case. “It’s ridiculous.”

“You really ought to be nicer to the only thing that’s keeping me in here,” Lord Ren said from his bunk. His eyes were dark, and the expression on his face was as unwelcome as ever. “Don’t you think?”

“I’m sure we would have managed,” Mandetat said, glaring right back.

Dopheld swallowed as he clutched his own case. At one point, Dopheld had always wondered what Lord Ren had looked like under that mask, but now that he’d seen, he desperately wished he hadn’t. Those eyes of his were terrifying, and the way he looked at people was like he was staring straight into their souls.

Lord Ren was scarier without the mask.

He didn’t know how the General could stand to visit the man as often as he did. Dopheld opened his own case and pulled out the ration bars and food they had smuggled in for Lord Ren. To keep suspicion down, they hoarded about a week’s worth of meals and delivered them at once to both Lord Ren and the Ysalamiri. The kitchen droids didn’t ask questions that way, and it cut down the number of trips they had to make to the room.

Dopheld approached the cell door and hesitated his usual three seconds to collect himself before tapping in the code to open the screen and give Lord Ren his food.

The man didn’t move off the bunk, but he did watch Dopheld all five steps to his table to put the food down, and the five very quick steps back out.

Mandetat put the cell door field back up and gave a lazy wave before leaving, with Dopheld fast on his heel. His back burned from the glare of Lord Ren watching. The door slammed shut behind them and Dopheld exhaled.

“The man’s chained to the wall and without his powers. You don’t have to have a panic attack every time you go in the room,” Mandetat said.

“You’ve never been choked with the Force before,” Mitaka hissed right back, a very vivid memory of delivering bad news to Lord Ren having gone very wrong. Lord Ren hadn’t killed him, but he had left one hell of a bruise. “It’s not something you easily forget.”

“Right,” Mandetat said again. He rubbed the back of his neck and sighed. “Come on, Lieutenant. Let’s get some sleep.”

“I agree,” Dopheld said, tapping after the Technician (not that ranks meant as much as they did with their numbers so decreased) Mandetat was working the bridge of the Finalizer now with his old control panel post dust in space. “Let’s hope tomorrow General Hux manages to convince our Sister Destroyer to return to the fleet.”

“If anyone can, he can,” Mandetat said.

Dopheld couldn’t agree more.

Hux stalked down the hallway, his greatcoat bundled under his arm to hide Eudora from prying eyes. She squirmed under the material, but it was a short trip so he didn’t feel the need to adjust his grip and risk giving her away.

Two stormtroopers saluted as he passed and Hux nodded in turn, otherwise, the Officer’s hall was fairly empty.

He couldn’t wait to drop Eudora off, say hello to Ren, and then go back to his room and pass out. The only good thing about traveling around with Ren was discovering the benefits of sleep, and now he craved it. After a day like today, sleep was more than a welcome way to end it. Hux had spent the better part of the day arguing with Colonel Datoo that he should return at once to his position in the First Order and to bring the Star Destroyer he’d absconded with when the High Command split with him.

Colonel Datoo had always been so loyal; Hux wasn’t sure where it all went wrong.

But all was not lost, he was certain the man was close to breaking after a few more talks, and when he returned, they’d be one ship richer and have an extra 3,000 men at their disposal. It wasn’t anything that would conquer a planet, but it would certainly help.

Hux typed in the code to Ren’s door and let himself in. It was around the sixteenth hour, and usually Ren was either awake or napping. The man didn’t bother to look up when Hux entered, lounging on his bed, but awake. Ren’s empty plates waited by his bunk on the floor, which was a good sign. The man only avoided eating when he was feeling particularly petulant about the situation.

“I have company for you,” Hux said, unwrapping his coat. He hoisted the Ysalamir more comfortably in his arm and rubbed under its chin. He almost cooed at her, but caught himself in time. That wasn’t fitting behavior for a General. Hux held the Ysalamir up toward the cell forcefield. “This is Eudora, and she’ll be joining the others today.”

“One Ysalamir was enough for this tiny room by itself to suppress my powers,” Ren said, rolling over to put his feet on the ground. His hair stuck up, ruffled from sleeping on the stiff pillows. “Don’t you think three is overkill?”

“It would be if that was the intention,” Hux admitted. He set Eudora down gently into the case with Gertrude and Hester. She immediately went for the deep bowl of syrup, eating greedily. Hux patted them before closing their case again. “Millicent was picking on her, so I had no choice but to separate them.”

“She must take after you,” Ren said, almost amused.

“I did raise her from an egg,” Hux said, holding his hand to his chest. “She should take after me.”

“Are you going to come to your senses and let me go today?” Ren asked, as he usually did after a bit of banter. He rattled his chain for good measure. “This was fun maybe the first two nights, but it’s gotten really old after two weeks and I’m in a good mood today. I might actually let everyone live and just leave if you open these cuffs right now.”

“You ask that every time and every time the answer is no,” Hux said, opening the cell door. “And don’t change the topic, we were discussing parenting skills. Speaking of which, this is for you.”

Hux handed over the datapad from his inner pocket holding it out for Ren to take.

A flash in his eyes showed he recognized it, but he didn’t reach for it. Hux nudged it closer. “I didn’t mess with it, Ben. Just take it.”

“That’s my datapad,” Ren said, taking it from Hux’s outstretched hand. He clicked the screen on, immediately scrolling through the waiting messages. Hux took a seat across from him on the chair he’d brought in on day five (when Ren finally stopped throwing things). Ren glared up at Hux. “The connection is still active and all the messages are still here. What did you do to it?”

“Nothing,” Hux said, leaning back in his chair. “I have not tampered with it, read anything on it, nor have I messed with it’s secure lines.”

“What’s the catch?” Ren asked, clutching it tighter to his chest.

“I had wanted to give some thought to the pros and cons of giving that back to you, and only recently had a chance to do so,” Hux said. He crossed one leg over the other and slumped in his chair, already exhausted after today. Hux almost sat next to Ren on the bed to lean against him, missing their closeness after all that time, but knew it was unwanted at the moment. He resisted. “The pros of giving it back won. There’s nothing else to it.”

“This is a direct line to my mother, Leia Organa,” Ren said. “And you’re just, giving it back, knowing that I’m going to tell her everything.”

“You don’t know where we are in space, and she can’t sense where you are thanks to those lovely ladies,” Hux said, waving his hand at the Ysalamiri enclosure. He reached up to smooth his hair back down. Hux shifted his legs back down to sit flat on the floor. “And as of tonight, I plan to carry Millicent around with me, so your mother can’t go looking for me in the Force, either.”

“She’ll still know what you did, and she’ll start looking the hard way,” Ren said. Hux rolled his eyes back and wondered why a man who’d been condemning the First Order to hell and back the past week would argue this so much. He should just take the gift and be glad for it! Hux inhaled slowly to calm himself. “How do you expect me to not suspect this is a trap?”

“I haven’t read those messages, but from the number of them that was indicated on the main screen when opened it to double check it was the right datapad, she already suspects I’ve done something horrid to you,” Hux said. “So whether she realizes you’re gone from your lack of a response, or if you tell her directly, it’s all the same. I have you in here because it’s necessary, not because I want you to be miserable. If getting to chat with your mother makes it more bearable, than I’ll put up with it.”

“Do your minions know you’re giving me this?” Ren asked, shoving the datapad under his pillow.

Gift accepted.

“No, and I wouldn’t recommend advertising it.” Hux relaxed, smiling a bit more openly. “Technician Mandetat is already at his limit of tolerance concerning you, and Lieutenant Mitaka can’t do this job alone if he decides to do something stupid.”

“Because he’s terrified of me.”

“You tried to strangle him.”

“One time, and I wasn’t actually going to do it.”

“He didn’t know that.”


Hux chuckled, and stood from his chair. He tapped the back of it twice before heading to the door. “Have fun catching up with your mother.”

“Goodnight, Armitage.”

Hux stumbled on the code to turn the cell forcefield. He hadn’t heard Ren say his name since he had the man chained to the floor. He swallowed, his throat thick. Hux managed to get the shield up after a second try. He managed to keep his voice even as he said, “Goodnight, Ben.”

Dopheld was absolutely certain that General Hux had one of those lizards in his greatcoat’s inner pocket.

From what he had observed of the ones in Lord Ren’s room, the Ysalamir were rather lazy things. They mostly slept or sat quietly when they weren’t eating. That was probably why no one had noticed the Ysalamir (Millicent? Dopheld could have sworn that was the favorite’s name.) yet. But if you watched closely, you’d catch the General be very careful of his right side, and every so often he’d reach inside his coat.

That was new behavior.

“Is something the matter, Lieutenant?” the General asked, staring at Dopheld. The man looked exhausted, having just finished another failed attempt to get Colonel Datoo to return. “You look distracted.”

“No, sir,” Dopheld answered, standing up straighter. He’d have to be careful with his observations in the future. “A little tired, that’s all.”

“So are we all,” the General said, looking over the skeleton crew running the bridge. He straightened his back, moving into a proper parade rest. “Stay strong, Lieutenant. We’ll all make it through this yet.”

“Yes, sir,” Dopheld said. He could see the postures of the men at their posts straightening, inspired by their leader’s words. His commanding presence did wonders for morale, just by being present.

Though Dopheld still had to wonder why the man had one of the Ysalamir with him now, when before he was content to leave it behind in his room.

Had something happened with Lord Ren?

Whether or not the General was sleeping with the man still, there had been something fragile in his voice when he’d asked they kept the man’s imprisonment a secret. Dopheld turned his eyes to his work, mind whirling. Fragility and weakness were not becoming of the cold General. Dopheld tapped open the next line of paperwork on his todo list. He might have to keep an eye on things.

It wouldn’t do for anything to happen to the General after they just got him back.

Armitage had been right.

About ten messages after Ben’s last answer, his mother’s tone had turned from “How are you doing? What did that man get up to now?” straight to “If that bastard has done something to you, I’ll kill him.” They only proceeded to get progressively more violent in their threats, and substantially more worried as they continued to stack in Ben’s absent replies.

He was half impressed she gave him at least a week of no responses before jumping to the conclusion Armitage had done something.

Ben looked over his rather lengthy update letter on the past few weeks, making sure he had all the important parts included: Armitage had gotten the Ysalamir eggs from Han’s Ysalamir (He almost didn’t include that, scared of what his mother would do to his father for getting the thing in the first place), told how Armitage had met up with his old crew on a planet Ben had been led to by the Force, and well, a brief summary of Ben letting his guard down to be captured.

“It’s not going to get less embarrassing, just send it,” Ben muttered.

He clicked the transmission button and dropped back onto his bed. He clutched the pad closer to his chest. Armitage didn’t usually drop the ball this badly when it came to his plans, but then Ben wondered if maybe the man had something else going on to have it covered. For all Ben knew he’d just helped the man set his mother up for a trap. Armitage might do something that convoluted if he were getting desperate. Ben covered his eyes; he was overthinking.

This was a kind gesture to ease Armitage’s guilty conscious and nothing more.

Leia replied, her answer breaking Ben out of his thoughts. He held the datapad up over his eyes, reading the response. She started with relief at hearing from Ben, and then she went straight into business. There was a good chance she was bottling her anger up for when she actually found Ben and Armitage, because her response sounded far too calm for having just heard Ben was shackled in a First Order ship prison cell (even if it used to be his quarters).

She listed everything they knew right now about where the First Order had last been spotted, though none of the sightings had been of the flagship Finalizer. Ben replied that if anyone slipped even the slightest hint of their location, he’d let them know.

In the meantime, Leia assured Ben that they were looking for him and that they’d contacted Lowbacca to have him start searching around Kashyyyk’s system. She assured Ben that the Resistance had made the First Order their top priority again with the word that Armitage had reestablished control.

Ben set the pad on his chest, covering his eyes.

“I’m returning order to the universe, Ben,” Armitage had said on his third visit, back when he still thought he could convince Ben that working for the First Order was in his best interest. “Why won’t you help me?”

“Because you’re trying to take over the galaxy and restore the tyranny of the Empire!” Ben yelled back.

“You’ve been brainwashed by that Resistance,” Armitage had said, huffing. He paced back and forth and repeated the same old propaganda that had been fed to him since he was a child. “But don’t worry. You’ll see that this is the way things need to be if the Universe has any hope of peace.”

“If you take a close look at your Order!” Ben had shouted, throwing his food tray across the room. “Maybe you’ll notice that what you’re aiming for isn’t peace.”

Armitage had left after that, stomping hard enough that he scared his lizards in their case. He didn’t stop by for two days after that, before he eventually showed up again for a few minutes. They hadn’t brought up the Order in any serious discussion, aside from asking to be released, and Ben wasn’t sure if he was grateful or not that at least they’d stopped yelling.

Ben rolled on his side, looking at the newest message on the datapad: “Stay strong Ben, and may the Force be with you. We’ll be there soon.”

He clicked off the datapad, replacing it back under his pillow. Ben covered his eyes again with the crook of his elbow, and breathed. He would get some sleep, and go back to planning with his mother in the morning. She’d come. Ben had full faith that she would, and bring everyone else with her.

He had to have faith.

The Ysalamiri behind him hissed as they woke to eat, clattering the bowl against the side of the glass tank as they ate. Ben groaned, rolling over onto his stomach and covering his head with his arms.

He really hated those things.

Chapter Text

If getting Colonel Datoo and his men back into the First Order wasn’t so important to making future plans work, Hux would stab the man in the throat with Ren’s lightsaber himself.

He growled at his desk, staring at the plans he’d laid out in all the spaces he could with Millicent napping on the edge of his desk. He pet her back, calming himself as he breathed to control his temper. Hux was drowning paperwork and he hadn’t even gotten to the difficult portions of this entire ordeal.

Working with a skeleton crew certainly wasn’t helping.

He had Technicians on the bridge (though Mandetat was reliable and knew what he was doing), Petty Officers getting used to new stations (Poor Unamo had her hands full training Thanisson to work the main controls over his normal position in in the hanger bay), and a troublesome Lieutenant who kept thinking he deserved a promotion (Rodinon had another thing coming if he thought he would get promoted before Mitaka did).

At least Phasma was reliable and keeping the stormtroopers in line.

Millicent yawned, flipping her tail like a lazy house cat. Hux rubbed her head, before picking her up. He set her down in her glass case hidden in his refresher, letting her eat her fill from her dish. Hux refilled it for good measure before returning to his mass of paperwork.

Hux sat at his desk, staring at the work and covered his eyes with his fingers. He didn’t want to look at this any more.

He wanted his army back, and his ships back where they belonged, and he missed his super weapon. The First Order had been built from scratch, but having to do it all over again a second time was exhausting. How had his father and the others managed when this started?

He might have to actually give the old man some credit.

Hux pushed the papers concerning Datoo aside and pulled up the bank slips. Money was scarce and harder to come by, but it was far more straight forward than dealing with stubborn people would ever be. Besides, he hadn’t had a chance to look at the actual numbers yet and see just how far in the hole they were after Starkiller base’s loss.

More importantly, the tedium of math might actually distract Hux from how much he missed having Ren asleep in his bed.

“I think he’s lying,” Rodinon said, stabbing his finger across the table at Thanisson. Dopheld scowled as he stared next to the man, ashamed they shared a rank. Rodinon shoved a mouthful of food into his mouth at the dining hall table. “I don’t buy this whole got kidnapped and escaped thing. He jumped ship and came crawling back when it got too tough. I’d bet money on it.”

Dopheld stabbed his nutrient bar slice with more force than necessary. General Hux had to have some way to explain his absence a week before Kylo Ren showed up with the Resistance, so he had gone with the easiest answer: The Truth.

“We’ll tell them Ren kidnapped me to keep me out of the way and from foiling his sabotage plans,” Hux had said as he met with Dopheld and Mandetat moments after securing their prisoner. “And I escaped after catching him off guard. It’s true enough and as long as we don’t mention Ren is here, there shouldn’t be a problem.”

Dopheld and Mandetat helped polish out the details, but the end story Hux presented to High Command to explain where he’d been and why he had the right to resume control was delivered mostly unchanged. It was accepted, though doubt still plagued many officers minds to Dopheld’s dismay.

“Does it matter?” Unamo said, cutting her square into smaller bites. She sat with her back straight as if she were at full attention, like she always did. The woman was the epitome of professionalism, and Dopheld continued to be envious. She huffed at Rodinon, moving to the next piece of food with her knife. “We were a disaster without the General, and now he’s back. Does it really matter where he was?”

Rodinon scooped another helping of food into his mouth. “It does if he jumps ship again.”

“The General wouldn’t do that,” Dopheld said, sneering at the other man. The dining hall chatter echoed around them, ruining the effect of his declaration. “You should have more faith in him after how hard he’s working to save us.”

“We were doing fine,” Rodinon said. “Right, Thanisson?”

The Petty Officer flinched, sitting up. He glanced between the two and swallowed. “I’d rather just finish dinner.”

“Smart man,” Mandetat said, walking up with his tray. Dopheld held in his smile at backup arriving; Mandetat knew the truth as much as he did. The Technician dropped his tray on the table, taking a seat next to Unamo on the bench. “Gossip is for troopers.”

“Says a Technician,” Rodinon said. “You’re like one step above them.”

“Yeah, but I won’t be working for Colonel Datoo when he comes back to the ship,” Mandetat said, smiling around the next bite of food. “But you will be, and I can’t imagine he’ll be a pleasant boss after all this trouble he’s making.”

“Excuse me? I’m sure Datoo will stay with his own ship,” Rodinon said.

“And I’m sure the good General will make sure some of his own men are on it to watch him,” Mandetat said. He pointed his fork at Rodinon. “Which means you, as the highest ranking officer on the bridge.”

“How are you so sure it’ll be me? What makes you think it won’t be Mitaka?” Rodinon asked, nearly slamming his fist on the table.

“He likes Lieutenant Mitaka more than you,” Mandetat said, smiling.

Unamo covered her lower lip to hide the laugh, and Thanisson outright giggled. Dopheld resisted the urge to scoot over from his spot next to Rodinon, but couldn’t help the small smile tugging on the edge of his cheeks while the other man sputtered.

“Laugh it up,” Rodinon said. He grabbed his tray and stood. “But when I get my promotion, we’ll all see who can say a damn word more.”

“He seems sort of mad,” Thanisson said, shrinking in his seat. “Is that okay?”

“If we still had our full crew of 10,000 on the ship, we might have a problem,” Unamo said, finishing her meal. “But reduced to a bare minimum crew that’s a little over a thousand, any sort of punishment he does to a crew member based on his rank will be noticed by the General, and I don’t think he wants to face that sort of backlash when we’re this short handed.”

“Which means his rank doesn’t mean anything until later,” Mandetat said, laughing. “And by the time we’re secure enough to have to worry about it again, I can promise you it’ll be Mitaka sporting the promotion, so it won’t be a problem.”

“Right,” Thanisson said.

Dopheld couldn’t say he was as confident as Mandetat was about receiving a promotion, but he could for sure say that as long as he kept the General’s secret concerning Lord Ren, that he wouldn’t be transferred any time soon.

And that was good enough for now.

Ben missed Armitage.

Even if they were fighting, he’d rather be around to pace and glare at him in the same room, than down the hall in his own quarters with that damn lizard or wherever he was with is lackeys.

Ben hated being alone, and he’d never been this alone in his life.

Without the Force, it was like a great silence had washed over him and all he could hear at any given point was his own heartbeat and the Ysalamir gobbling food in their case. He couldn’t feel the other people around him. Ben couldn’t feel the greater life that clung to everything in the galaxy. He couldn’t sense Armitage. He couldn’t sense his family. He could barely sense himself.

It was as if all of his limbs had been cut off, and half of his five senses had been severed. Ben wasn’t sure how normal people lived like this, trapped with nothing but their own mind for company.

He desperately missed Armitage, if only for the comfort of something familiar and to listen to the man’s chatter as he filled the silence with words.

Ben would have sex with Armitage right now if it meant he’d fill the room with his pillow talk, distracting Ben from his own heartbeat and heavy breathing. Losing his contact with the Force for this long was practically a form of torture.

And yet he hid this fact from Armitage.

He really should tell the other man just how much more unbearable this situation really was. Being trapped in a cell wasn’t nearly as bad as being trapped in a cell with the Ysalamiri that Armitage had become so taken with. It would make the General feel guilty to know he was causing Ben this sort of agony (or he hoped it would; the man already seemed guilty over all this). That was a button Ben could press.

If he made Armitage guilty enough, he might actually do something to alleviate it the same way he’d tried when he gave Ben his datapad back.

But it was also a really manipulative tactic, playing specifically off of Armitage’s affections.

Ben rolled off his bunk, making his way to the refresher. He stripped his shirt over his head and dropped it on the floor, knowing no one would be visiting any time soon. Armitage was still on his day shift, and the other two never came until well after midnight. Ben dropped his trousers and underwear, stepping into the sonic shower.

Armitage loving Ben was one of the only good things about that man, and Ben didn’t want to poison it.

The hum of the shower soothed as the sweat and salt vibrated off his body. He scratched his hands through his hair, getting to the base of his scalp as the machine continued to hum, sucking away the filth. Clean, Ben stepped out of the shower, grabbing fresh clothes to tug on.

By the time he made it back into his room, the small domestic droid had already changed the sheets on his bunk, and disappeared back into the wall. Ben had played with the idea of hot wiring the thing as a means of escape, but it didn’t look like the thing was capable of getting through the forcefield trapping him in his room. It wouldn’t do to get rid of the thing that cleaned his room on a hunch it might work.

Ben sat on his bunk, hands on the back of his neck. He needed a way to break through to Armitage, and convince the man what he was doing was wrong without guilting him or shaming him. Armitage needed to understand, and Ben could only do that by talking.

Which required him to be here.

He fell on his side, hugging his arms around his chest. If he could get Armitage to stay the night, they could have a real discussion and have a chance to say more than the short, repeated propaganda lines they defaulted to whenever they discussed the First Order versus the Republic. They might finally have that conversation they’d both been avoided, both terrified they might actually start to see the other’s side as better.

It had nothing at all to do with how much Ben missed Armitage, not at all.

Dopheld had one last item on his list for the day, and he could turn into his quarters for a brief nap before attending to Lord Ren with Mandetat. With the General back, his days were busier than ever, and Dopheld was exhausted, but content. He’d rather be busy with the hope that the First Order would reach it’s true glory, than idle and wondering what the next day would bring.

He slipped his datapad under his arm as he entered the lower half of the Destroyer, headed toward the soldier’s area. A few of the men saluted him as he walked past, but a disturbing number did not. Instead they continued on as if they hadn’t seen a superior officer, and Dopheld shoved down the bit of worry that caused. It was true he was a single rank lower than Captain Phasma, but he was still owed respect among the soldiers.

The lack of discipline and lax standards was one thing among the officers of the ship, but in the soldiers, that was a more frightening proposition: They were greater in number, and had the guns.

“Stop scaring yourself,” Dopheld said under his breath as he rounded the corner. He tapped down the hallway head high, reminding himself that he was a Lieutenant. “Get it together.”

Arriving at his destination, Dopheld knocked twice on the Captain’s office and waited for the door to open before letting himself in.

Captain Phasma’s helmet was on her desk as the woman looked over the datapad in her hand, sorting paperwork. Dopheld approached her, tugging the new datapad out from under his arm. “Captain.”

“Lieutenant,” she said. She took the datapad from Dopheld’s hand and looked it over. “New orders from the General?”

“Yes,” Dopheld said. “He suspects the confrontation with Colonel Datoo has a sixty percent chance of turning violent, and wants you and a handful of your best men to be present at their meeting.”

“I’ll arrange it,” Phasma said. She nodded. “Is that all? It seems like a short message for something you had to come down here and deliver in person.”

“To emphasize the importance of the request, I believe,” Dopheld said. “And not something he wanted to be overheard over a comm.”

“Fair enough,” Phasma said. She set the pad aside, looking back over her original documents. Dopheld caught a glance at the title, noting that they were soldier listings with their backgrounds and disciplinary records. Phasma nodded her head at the door. “You’re dismissed.”

Dopheld nodded and strode out the room, ignoring the bad feeling he had about why the good Captain would be sorting disciplinary records.

Chapter Text

Hux was meeting with Colonel Datoo in exactly three hours, but first, he had something he needed to take care of.

The meeting with the Colonel was likely to go long into the night, so if Hux wanted to deliver his present to Ren at a reasonable time, then he’d have to do it before he met the man. Thankfully, Mitaka was an understanding Lieutenant and was more than happy to watch the bridge while Hux escaped to see Ren.

Hux really ought to promote that man, but that was a thought for another day.

If Hux felt lonely with Millicent by his side and a crew at his beck and call, how much worse must it be for Ren down there in his room? Hux would have offered to spend more time there after his shifts, but he still felt it might not be appreciated. Ren wasn’t exactly welcoming, even though he had warmed up a fraction since being able to contact his mother.

It didn’t change the fact that Hux had yet to win him over, nor had he earned any true good graces.

He patted his inner coat pocket before checking the hallway and entering Ren’s quarters. At least this ought to earn him some conversation and maybe extended visits in the future with something they could both talk about. The man looked up from his datapad, and flipped it off to put it under his pillow. Hux nearly rolled his eyes; he hadn’t once tried to look at that blasted thing and he’d been honest when he said he hadn’t read Ren’s mother’s wretched letters.

“You’re early,” Ren said, holding up his wrist and shaking the chain as per his usual habit. “Decided to see the light and let me out?”

“There’s been a slight shift in the schedule that allowed for an early visit, and no, but nice try,” Hux said. He reached into his coat, pulling out the small, circular holoprojector. He tossed it to Ren with a smile. “It doesn’t have a comlink, so don’t get your hopes up too much, but I thought you might like some entertainment to distract you from your mother’s endless prattle.”

Ren clicked on the menu option and scanned down the list. “They’re all First Order channels.”

“We don’t exactly get Republic reception out here,” Hux said. He crossed his arms. “And they’re all public channels, which means the Resistance can watch them, too, so don’t expect to get information out of them.”

“Isn’t channel six the one where you do all those morning announcements?” Ren asked, rolling the holoprojector over in his hands. “The ones everyone hated?”

“I have it on good authority that they were uplifting and motivational.” Hux sat down in his seat with a huff, freezing after a moment to make sure he hadn’t jostled Millicent in his coat pocket too much. He glanced and saw her still napping, so he turned back to Ren. “So you can stuff it.”

“What is this, Armitage?” Ren asked. He dropped the holoprojector on his pillow and leaned his elbows on his knees. His eyes were too big and too pleading; they made Hux want to squirm in his chair. “You can’t win me over with gifts.”

“Believe me,” Hux said, crossing one leg over the other and looking away from that accusing gaze. “If I thought that were possible, I would have bought you a planet already.”

“You can’t afford that.”

“That is not the point and you know it.”

Ren tugged at his cuff. “It’s really not too late to stop all this.”

“It is far, far too late,” Hux said. And it was. The Order. The First Order was everything and Ren needed to understand that. Hux had worked too hard for this. Given too much for this. Had been promised too much to let it go. Hux stood and walked back to the door. He straightened his coat and hair. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a Colonel to meet with, and I have a feeling it’ll run long into the night.”

Ren said nothing, watching Hux’s back with a thoughtful look, mouth pressed and eyes half-lidded.

“Enjoy the holoprojector,” Hux said, excusing himself.

Stepping out into the hallway he exhaled and went back at full pace into the corridor with his coat flapping behind him. He had two and a half hours to make the final preparations for when Colonel Datoo’s stolen Destroyer entered their space.

Dopheld and Rodinon stood side by side behind the General as they waited at the docking bay for Colonel Datoo and his party to descend. He smothered the embarrassment he felt that aside from Captain Phasma and the General, that Lieutenants were the highest ranking officers on the Finalizer.

Oh, how their Order had suffered.

Captain Phasma and a select squad of troopers stood to the left, arms at parade rest. They were dressed up like they were for show, but Dopheld knew they were the best of the best in case things turned sour. Phasma herself had her armor shining brightly, looking much better than it had in ages.

She’d really brought her A game today.

The General himself looked nonplussed, but Dopheld could tell even he was nervous by the way he completely avoided the pet in his pocket; it was restless enough that someone might actually notice it shivering under his coat if they paid too much attention. Dopheld couldn’t blame him; they had too much riding on Colonel Datoo’s cooperation and the return of his Destroyer to the First Order.

Dopheld closed his eyes, counted to ten, and opened them again. His face was straight, his head held high, and he puffed his chest. He was the third highest ranking officer on this ship, and he would look and act the part. General Hux nodded at him, and he felt proud to stand here.

Colonel Datoo’s shuttle entered the bay, landing close to the assembled party. He exited the ship peacefully enough, with a hat on his head and his nose in the air, and Dopheld started breathing again. That was normal behavior for the Colonel; he was always so uptight.

“Colonel,” General Hux said. He approached, but did not offer a hand. “It’s good to see you well.”

“Hux,” Colonel Datoo replied. “I’d say the same, but I still feel there’s too much at stake. You must forgive me, but you disappeared with a man revealed to be working for the New Republic, and then Starkiller base was destroyed. You must admit your return continues to be suspicious.”

“I can promise you, that I will alleviate any suspicions you might have during our meeting today,” General Hux said. He placed his fist over his heart in a proper salute and spoke clearly, and with no hesitation. “The Order is my first, top, and only priority. I have worked very hard to return to her, and nothing short of death is going to get me to leave her again.”

“We shall see,” Colonel Datoo said, sniffing. “But I will remind you, that the Order is split and the men on that Destroyer are loyal to me and my branch. If you can’t sway me, than you won’t sway them.”

“Then I’d best get started,” General Hux said. He held out his arm and took a step back. “Shall we to the meeting room?”

“Let’s,” Colonel Datoo said. He waved his hand, and a small platoon of soldiers followed him. “I hope you don’t mind I brought some insurance for my well being.”

“As I brought the same, it’d be untoward of me to allow you your men to be there,” General Hux said, smiling. Dopheld fell in step behind both men and in front of the troopers as they made their way back into the main part of the ship. General Hux had his hands behind his back. “But I doubt either of us will need them.”

“That has yet to be seen.”

Dopheld and Rodinon shared a glance before stepping into the lift with the General and Colonel. They both noticed how Phasma’s grip on her weapon had tightened.

Ben made it about six hours before he caved and clicked on the holoprojector.

He had had a standard issue one from when he was undercover before as Kylo Ren, but he’d cut the thing in two with his lightsaber when he realized it turned on automatically every morning to wake the crew with morning announcements from General Hux. He hadn’t even let the man finish his greetings before smashing it. The thought of waking up to General Hux giving speeches every morning nearly made Ben quit and go home on the spot.

(He was still grateful they took the hint and stopped sending him new holoprojectors after he smashed the third one.)

But it wasn’t morning, and he’d already checked to make sure this thing didn’t have an alarm, and Ben was bored. His mother was quiet while she organized troops and gathered information, leaving Ben with no replies until the morning.

So a soap opera kept him company.

He’d found a radio drama on one of the stations that was worth listening to for a bit. It was certainly better than the bland news stations that had “Death to the New Republic!” on repeat. It wasn’t a classic by any means, but it was just the sort of trashy, hopeless romance that was perfect for distracting someone from their problems (like the too loud Ysalamiri in the tank behind him).

Ben leaned forward on his bunk to get closer to the holoprojector, just as the Officer from the bridge was about to confess her love for the Prison Guard of an Imperial Barge when the holoprojector image flickered.

A red light beeped on the side, and Ben stared at it. With every beep, the projector image flickered. He wasn’t sure what that was, but he was curious enough to click it.

“Attention,” a man in uniform said over the projector. “This is an emergency broadcast to update you on the status of our General.”

Ben stared at the small hologram, fist tightening in the blankets.

“There are a million rumors flooding across the troops at this very moment and they will cease and desist immediately,” the officer repeated. Ben squinted, trying to figure out if he knew this man or not, but he wasn’t familiar. “Here is the official report, so that you may rest easy tonight.”

“What have you done now, Armitage?” Ben muttered.

“Thirty minutes ago during the meeting with Colonel Datoo and his men, the General was shot when negotiations turned hostile. The Colonel has been detained and will be interrogated shortly.”

“No, no,” Ben said, shaking the holoprojector. He had to grab his hand to keep from crushing the thing before it could finish its broadcast, but the officer was still rambling about justice and how Captain Phasma vowed to handle it personally. “Go back to the important part! Who cares what you did to the shooter? What happened to Armitage?”

“The General’s condition is stable,” the officer finally said after Ben was sure his heart was going to fall out of his chest. “And is in the medbay. We will keep you informed of his recovery.”

The announcement clicked off, and Ben’s heart fell into his gut.

Chapter Text

Millicent hissed under the fabric of the General’s greatcoat, and Dopheld wasn’t quite sure what to do with it. The General, bleeding from a blaster wound to the chest had shoved it at Dopheld when the man dropped at his side, hissing “Don’t let them take Millicent” before he doubled over from the pain in the middle of the meeting room.

Dopheld had severely underestimated how much that man loved his stupid lizards.

The bundle squirmed as he walked down the hallway, happy no one gave Dopheld too many looks. Everyone knew he’d been in the room when the shooting started, and they could clearly see the blood soaking the coat. It was times like this, Dopheld was almost glad most of the crew saw him as a boot-licking, yes-man. It worked as a wonderful explanation for why he was still clutching General Hux’s bloodied coat to his chest.

But it still didn’t help him figure out what to do with the Ysalamir.

He couldn’t drop the Ysalamir off in General Hux’s quarters, because to start, he didn’t have access, and second, it’d be noticeable if he kept going in and out to feed the thing. Dopheld didn’t have room in his own quarters for it, and he had no where to put her. Dopheld couldn’t hide her under his own uniform coat (she wasn’t that small), and if he left Millicent unattended then General Hux would have his head whenever he got out of the medical bay.

“There’s only one place to go,” Dopheld sighed to himself: Lord Ren’s quarters.

The glass tank holding the other Ysalamir was more than big enough to hold one more, even with three already taking up space.

He braced himself as he approached the quarters, looking both ways down the hallway. The ship was in a brief state of panic with the General down and the other Destroyer being seized by Captain Phasma and Rodinon in Datoo’s absence. The last thing Dopheld needed was to add one more trouble on top of all that by revealing Lord Ren was back on the ship.

Coast clear, he typed in the code quickly and slipped into the room, dropping his back against the door when it shut. He clutched the coat and Ysalamir to his chest, staring as he looked up.

Lord Ren stood in the center of the room, hair a mess and eyes narrowed as he zeroed in on Dopheld. That tray of ashes had been knocked over in the corner, as well as the sitting chair General Hux had Mandetat bring in.

“This thing say Arm—Hux was shot and is in the medbay,” Lord Ren said, holding up a holoprojector. Lord Ren stalked right up to the force field, looking like he was going to jump through it, consequences be damned if he didn’t answers. “We both know they never tell the whole truth on these things. What happened?”

Dopheld steeled himself, squeezing the coat. He heard Millicent yip in protest and he had to loosen his hold. He swallowed, straightening his back the same way he would before when he had to tell Lord Ren a message. “General Hux was shot during the meeting with Colonel Datoo and is in the medbay recovering. The report you heard was accurate.”

“Details, Mitaka,” Lord Ren growled. He tossed the holoprojector (where had he even gotten it?) on the bed. “Who shot him? Where did he get shot? What happened afterwards?”

“Colonel Datoo’s stormtrooper, in the ribs, and he was immediately rushed to medical,” Dopheld blurted, shrinking in on himself under the man’s gaze.

On cue (at the most inopportune time), Millicent wiggled her way out of the coat, scratching Dopheld's wrist between his sleeve and glove in her attempt to flee. He dropped the bloodied coat as he quickly caught the Ysalamir before she could hit the floor.

“No, no,” Dopheld said, holding the thing carefully. His terror at dropping Millicent outweighed the Force user beyond the cell forcefield. “He’ll kill me if you get hurt.”

“I will kill you if you don’t start being more detailed,” Lord Ren said. “Why do you even have that thing?”

“She was in General Hux’s coat and he did not want her to be found,” Dopheld said, tapping over to the case. He opened the lid, dropping the smaller Ysalamir in with her siblings. He shut the case top and sighed, moving back to retrieve the bloodied coat. Lord Ren’s eyes were glued to the stains. He folded it over his arm. “General Hux will be fine.”

Dopheld said that as much to reassure himself as Lord Ren.

“How long until he gets out?” Lord Ren asked, changing tactics. The man looked concerned, and that seemed out of place somehow. Between the chains and the prison cell, he ought to hate the General now, shouldn’t he? Lord Ren bit the side of his thumb. “Today? Tomorrow? How bad was it?”

“He’s got the night in a bacta tank and he’ll be on bed rest for two days afterwards for adjustment after the bath,” Dopheld said, clearing his throat. General Hux never took well to Bacta tanks, so much so he avoided them on principle if he could. If the man had been conscious when he’d been taken to the Medbay, they never would have gotten him in that tank. “If you don’t mind, I need to check on him.”

“Hey!” Lord Ren yelled, but Dopheld fled.

Out into the hallway, he put a hand over his chest and breathed. There were thankfully no officers around to see his panic. Dopheld held tight to Hux’s greatcoat, quickly making his way back to medical. As soon as he checked on General Hux, he could check in with Phasma and get an update on the other Destroyer and its crew.

General Hux would want an update the second he came around.

Hux dreamed.

Hux was awake.

Somewhere in between, he felt the sedatives and bacta seeping into every inch of his body, dragging him down into the thick of it. It made every thought slow. Every thought too bright. The medical staff blinked in and out of the world with each open and shut of his eyes. Replaced by familiar figures on his death planet.

The bacta was warm, but Hux still felt the chill.

He saw trees on a snowy planet and a caped man standing beside him.

Oh, how cruel this dream could be.

Snow past through dark hair. A medical light blinked. Dark eyes were warmer than his coat. A person walked by again in a white smock. A dark hood. A lovely planet. All the real things of the world drifted away into the background.

There was snow outside the window and a killer in his bed once again.

Hux didn’t want to wake up.

Ben covered his eyes with his hand, breathing in and out.

That little Ysalamir that Mitaka had dragged in was nipping at the others, causing a semi-fight in the tank. They weren’t wounding each other but they were loud and distracting and Ben would have given anything to have the Force at his disposal so he could throw them across the room with it.

It’d already been two and a half days since he last saw Armitage, and aside from stony silence from Mandetat when he fed the Ysalamiri and the same blurted “He got shot and he’s fine!” from Mitaka when he brought food, Ben had no real information about what had happened. Hux getting shot in the ribs could have been anywhere. Theoretically, he knew it couldn’t have been too bad if Armitage only needed one night in a bacta tank, but he’d still like to know more.

Who caused the shots? Did Armitage do something or was it a trap from the start? Ben could barely remember anything about Colonel Datoo aside from the fact the man was competent and as much of a stickler for the rulebook as Armitage. What could make him shoot his General? Or defect?

“Listen to me,” Ben growled to himself, shoving his pillow over his face. “Worrying about First Order politics.”

Ben still hadn’t told his mother what happened. Their communication had slowed with little change on the situation from both ends, but he had debated on this one. She could have an easier time locating Armitage in the Force when he was finally apart from his Ysalamir, but it also felt like he was kicking a puppy by tattling. The man had just been shot. It was only fair Armitage at least be healthy when his mother and the Resistance stormed the First Order Destroyer.

“I’m sabotaging myself now,” Ben muttered. He pulled his pillow down and slammed it on the side of his bed. He rolled over onto his stomach and pushed up until he was sitting. He leaned against the back wall. “What are you doing, Ben?”

He picked up his datapad, tapping on the screen to his last message he sent his mother. He really should tell her.

The door opened.

“Armitage?” Ben asked, staring at the man in his doorway. He dropped the datapad, standing from the bed to walk closer. Armitage swayed on his feet, dressed in an oversized shirt and a pair of loose trousers. He looked like he stole someone else’s clothes. “Are you alright?”

“Ren!” Armitage said looking up. His face lit up upon seeing Ben, and he pointed with a grin. “There you are.”

He stumbled into the room, giggling under his breath. “In your room. I should have known.”

“Stop!” Ben yelled, darting forward closer to the cell forcefield. Armitage was a foot from walking straight into it, like he didn’t notice it was there. Ben pointed at it, making sure Armitage looked at it when it flickered. “The field.”

“Oh, right,” Armitage said, squinting at it. He continued to sway before huffing. He shuffled to the control pad and tapped in a few numbers. It beeped at him and he typed in another set. Armitage looked at Ben. “I’ve forgotten the code. What is it?”

“What makes you think I know it?”

“Ren,” Armitage said, giving him a knowing look even though the drunken-like haze he was under.

He rattled the code back at Armitage and the man smirked as he typed it in. The field dropped and Armitage tackled Ben’s chest with a hug. He nuzzled the man’s chest and mumbled straight into his shirt. “You ruined me.”

Ben steadied Armitage by the shoulders. “What?”

“Ruined,” Armitage said, squeezing. “I used to be able to sleep alone just fine but now it’s awful. So awful. Let’s go to bed.”

“Are you okay?” Ben asked, pushing at Armitage’s arms. He had an unnaturally strong grip, and he was latched onto Ben like a vice. Armitage giggled and pushed forward until they both collapsed on the bed. “You were shot.”

“I was,” Armitage said. He tapped Ben’s chest under his ribs, poking it hard with his finger. “Hurt, but I’m fine now. Everything is fine because I escaped.”

“Escaped,” Ben said, rubbing Armitage’s back. The man was drugged out of his mind. There was no other explanation for his giddy, half-coordinated state. Ben wracked his mind for reasons Armitage would have to be sedated after a bacta tank. “Are you still hurt?”

“No,” Armitage said. He drew a heart on Ben’s chest with his thumb, tracing it over and over. “Bacta does wonders, even if it’s horrible. Always makes me…makes me…”

Armitage trailed off, squinting like he was thinking very hard about something. Ben suggested, “Loopy?”

“Inebriated!” Armitage replied, before bursting into giggles. He buried himself into Ben’s side and tangled their limbs together. Ben shoved down the urge to check under his ribs in case the wound was still there and Armitage hadn’t done something stupid like broke out of a bacta tank. “This is so nice. I missed this. Why don’t we do this anymore?”

“You locked me in a prison cell?” Ben asked, wondering if the drugs were messing with Armitage’s memories. The man certainly didn’t seem all there.

“That shouldn’t have anything to do with sleeping, Ren,” Armitage muttered. “It’s just sleeping. Nothing to do with politics. Just nice and warm and good, so stop squirming and go to bed.”

Ben carefully lifted the oversized shirt and glanced at the bare chest. There was no sign of any scarring, which relieved him, but he did see a small patch of skin that looked pink and fresh, like it had just regrown. It was about the size of his fist.

“If you’re in the mood for that, Ren, you need to tell me,” Armitage said, kissing Ben’s neck. “Everything’s a little fuzzy.”

“I was making sure you weren’t hiding a wound,” Ben said. He rolled them over, petting the back of Armitage’s head. His past three days were a whirlwind of worry and concern, and now that the man was here he couldn’t bring himself to shove him away. “We’re not doing anything.”

“I didn’t think so,” Armitage said. He kept tracing the pattern in the middle of Ben’s chest. He muttered, voice half-slurred. “I’m not your favorite person right now, am I, Ren?”

“You keep calling me ‘Ren’, Armitage,” Ben said, not sure why it bothered him so much now. It was probably the place they were in that made it all that much worse.

“Am I?” Armitage asked, blinking. “Oh. Sorry. That’s what I call you in my head and I guess I’m not there enough to translate it to that other name. If that makes sense. I might be rambling. Maker, I’m tired.”

“You did get shot a couple days ago,” Ben said, tempted to check the other man’s pupils to see if he could focus.

“So you should be nice to me and hug me back already,” Armitage said.

“I am.”


Armitage passed out on his chest, breathing heavily but softly. Ben petted the back of his head with hand hand, and dropped his other arm off the side of his bunk. The Ysalamiri behind him chittered loudly and one of them was scratching on the glass. He focused on Armitage instead, warm in his arms and pliable in his sleep. With Armitage so close and so quiet, Ben could block out everything else and pretend for a few hours that nothing bad had happened.

It was almost a perfect moment.

Up until a panicked Mitaka burst into the room, breathing heavily and loud enough that Armitage jerked up and awake. Mitaka searched around the room until he zeroed in on Armitage on the bunk with Ben. He clutched his chest and sighed, sagging into the room as the door slammed shut behind him. “Oh, thank goodness.”

“Mitaka!” Armitage said, pointing. He patted Ben’s chest with his other hand like he was remembering something. “You’re. You get a promotion. For service or something. Remind me later.”

“You’re drugged, sir,” Mitaka said, sounding very tired. “You can’t make decisions like that while you’re inebriated.”

“Look at that,” Armitage said, looking at Ben. He pointed at Mitaka. “You see that? Offered a promotion and he doesn’t take it. Good man. He’s definitely getting one. Later. Right now, I’m going to sleep.”

Armitage passed out again on Ben’s chest and for once, he felt a sort of exasperated bond with Mitaka as they both dropped their shoulders, staring at the sleeping General.

Chapter Text

“Hux and bacta doesn’t mix,” Ben said, rubbing his temple as Armitage used his thigh as a pillow. He drooled on his pants-leg, mouth wide open in his drugged state. Ben rubbed between his eyes. “Noted.”

“I should clarify that his current state is due to the pain killers and sedatives he was placed under after being removed from the tank to combat the symptoms from the bacta, and not his time in the tank itself,” Mitaka said, sitting in the guest chair. His earlier fear of “Lord Ren” seemed to be absent in place of his exhaustion and frustrations after chasing down a General who’d escaped the medical bay. There were bags under his eyes and Ben wondered when he’d last slept since Armitage was shot. “Bacta gives him horrible headaches and nausea to the point he can barely work, so they always dose him up to let him ride out the worst of it in the medical bay.”

Ben put his hand over Armitage’s shoulder and leaned back. “But today he escaped.”

“Can’t imagine why,” Mitaka said, glaring straight at Ben.

The bravery was almost cute.

“I’m impressed he kept that hidden,” Ben admitted. Thinking back, he could only recall Armitage taking a day off was for an illness. The man didn’t see enough open combat to get injured. How would he even know what Bacta felt like? “I don’t think I’ve ever seen him injured enough to need bacta before.”

“It was in his file, logged from events prior to becoming General,” Mitaka answered. He fidgeted, rubbing his hands together. “He might have also complained about it once or twice as well during medbay inspections. The General can be quite vocal when he disapproves of something.”

“Don’t I know that one,” Ben muttered. He looked at Armitage sleeping and back up at Mitaka. “You don’t have to sit here and babysit. He’s clearly not going anywhere.”

“With all due respect, he’s drugged and I don’t trust you,” Mitaka said, swallowing. “I’ll wait.’

Ben almost laughed. He’d spent near two months having people refuse to trust Armitage, and now it was Ben under scrutiny. Mitaka had stopped fidgeting, resolve falling over him. The guy was protective over Armitage, and wasn’t that something? Ben wondered where this loyalty came from—it couldn’t possibly just be dedication to the Order.

“Fine,” Ben said, leaving it alone for now. He shifted to lie down, switching Armitage’s pillow from his thigh to his stomach. Mitaka frowned, and Ben yanked up a blanket, tucking it around Armitage’s shoulder. “You can do whatever you like, but I’m going to sleep.”

Armitage shifted further into his side, breathing heavily. He squeezed Ben’s side in his sleep, getting comfortable. Ben closed his eyes, pretending that they were alone, and not being watched by a Lieutenant and four wretched lizards.

Hux didn’t have personal experience with being run over by a bantha, but he was sure this is what it felt like.

He groaned, shoving his face into warm skin and stilled. Hux opened his eyes and met a familiar belly, the shirt tugged up on the side where Hux had shoved it about in sleep. He sat up and looked down at Ren, who slept on soundly, half on his side as he curled up with Hux.

“General Sir, you’re awake,” Mitaka called from the side. Hux turned his head, seeing the Lieutenant with bags under his eyes sitting in Ren’s guest chair. “How are you feeling?”

“Lieutenant?” Hux asked, blinking. He looked at his shirt, tugging out the loose garment. This wasn’t his, and it didn’t look like one of Ren’s shirts either. He rubbed his face. Hux had a feeling that was the least of his concerns at the moment. “I feel as though I missed something.”

“What’s the last thing you remember?” Mitaka asked.

“Colonel Datoo yelling and one of his men standing,” Hux stopped and fell back onto the bed with a slump. The memories showed up in a blur, but they showed all the same. Hux groaned to himself, “I got shot.”

“Yes, sir.”

Hux covered his eyes with his hand, itching for one of his cigarettes left behind in his own quarters. “Lieutenant, recap a short summary of events from when I was shot to when I apparently crawled into Ren’s bed.”

Because of course that was a thing Hux would do when uninhibited.

“Yes, sir,” Mitaka said. He stood up, standing at a proper attention just like he would at any other time or meeting for a report. Mitaka cleared his throat. “After Colonel Datoo’s man fired and you went down, Phasma and her troops contained the situation. You entrusted me with your coat and Millicent in secret before you were rushed to the medical bay where you spent twenty four hours in a bacta tank.”

“That explains the headache,” Hux said, interrupting. It also explained why his memories were so fuzzy and confirmed his suspicions he hadn’t been in his right mind when he snuggled up with Ren. Mitaka paused and Hux waved his hand. “Keep going.”

“Upon exit, you were administered a pain killer and a sedative, however when combined with the aftereffects of the bacta tank it left you in an inebriated state. You escaped your bunk, stole a uniform from another patient, and proceeded to escape into the hallway,” Mitaka said. He cleared his throat. “Upon hearing you had left, I searched for you in every place I could think of, until eventually trying Lord Ren’s quarters where I found you asleep. I can not tell you what happened in my absence, however you have slept soundly for about six hours.”

“And what did you tell the people looking for me?” Hux asked.

“I reported you had retreated to your quarters and did not want to be disturbed,” Mitaka said. “As you were on bed rest regardless, and sleeping as far as they knew, they did not bother to retrieve you.”

“Good man,” Hux said. He shifted, noting the slight change in Ren’s breathing. Hux would make a bet the man was awake. “And did Lord Ren cause trouble?”

“No,” Mitaka said, avoiding eye contact.

“I suppose I don’t need to inform you this is all confidential?” Hux asked, sitting up.

“Of course, sir,” Mitaka said. “I wouldn’t dream of gossiping. And to my knowledge, no one reported seeing you in the hallways in the stolen uniform.”

“Good,” Hux said. He rubbed his temple. “You’re dismissed. I’ll be on the bridge tomorrow for regular duty.”

“Sir,” Mitaka said. He saluted before walking out the door, though Hux caught the slightly worried over the shoulder stare before he left the room.

“You can stop pretending to be asleep now, Ben,” Hux said, pushing the man’s shoulder. The man opened his eyes and rolled fully on his back, tugging his shirt back down. “How bad was I?”

“You stumbled about like you were drunk, very clingy, and rambled,” Ren said. He licked his lips. “Kept going on about how sleeping alone was awful.”

“I bet you enjoyed that,” Hux muttered.

“It would have been more enjoyable if I wasn’t trying to check for a wound,” Ren said, touching Hux’s near his ribs.

Hux pushed his hand away, lingering with skin to skin for a moment too long. “That’s fair.”

He crawled over Ren, getting out of the bed. The other man watched him, but didn’t move or say anything, which was for the better. If Hux was even a fraction as embarrassing a she was envisioning, he had no desire to talk about it. Hux took inventory of what clothing he was wearing (and dismayed to see he was barefoot), when he heard the scratching.

“Oh, Millicent!” Hux said. He tapped over to the Ysalamiri case and opened it. The little one tapped up against the side of the tank, separate from the other three. He plucked her out, holding her to his chest. “Have they been picking on you?”

“Other way around,” Ren said, turning on his stomach and sitting up on his elbows. “That little brat has been terrorizing the other three the entire time she’s been in there.”

“Don’t call her a brat,” Hux said, turning on his heel. Ren glared at Millicent and he turned to save her his jealous glare. He scratched under her chin until she turned her head up with a pleased yawn. “She’s very well behaved for me.”

“What are you going to do now?” Ren asked. “I can’t imagine things are going to go well after that meeting.”

“I will deal with it,” Hux said, petting Millicent’s back. “Don’t you worry about that.”

“Don’t get yourself shot again,” Ren said, staring hard.

“Don’t worry about that either,” Hux said. He picked up one of Ren’s shirts from his drawer and wrapped Millicent in it. Hux moved to the front of the room and set the cell forcefield back up, glad the controls were only on one side of the bars. He had a strong feeling Ren had already memorized the code. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”

Hux left, ignoring the pounding headache and the feel of Ren’s skin.

Captain Phasma stood in the control room overlooking the training areas of the Finalizer. Dopheld stood behind her at attention, waiting to be addressed after she finished her observations.

“Report, Lieutenant,” she said after a moment.

“The General is resting in his quarters and expects to be back on the bridge tomorrow for first shift,” Dopheld said. He tugged out his datapad, rechecking his notes for the report. “Colonel Datoo and his men are still in the brig and refusing to talk, as your men reported. I believe the General will be having words with them tomorrow if the schedule permits.”

“I’ll make sure the prisoners are ready for him,” Phasma said. She turned away from the observation window, stalking toward the main door. She stopped near Dopheld's side. “I’ll be on our sister ship the rest of today, making sure the other crew members are behaving themselves in their leader’s absence.”

“Yes, ma’am,” Mitaka said.

“Dismissed,” Captain Phasma said. She left the room, her half-cape swishing and Mitaka relaxed.

He left the room, checking the time before realizing it was an hour into the second shift. Dopheld rubbed his neck and his stomach growled. Between worrying about the General and his over-night watch, he hadn’t had time to get food or sleep. Making his mind up to visit the dining hall to see if he could sneak a meal between serving times, he ducked into the nearest turbolift.

Stepping out, he ran into Petty Officer Unamo, who had just tugged off her headset. Dopheld guessed she had just finished up her shift on the bridge, considering the time. Unamo looked him over and said, “You look like you had a rough night, sir.”

“You could say that,” Dopheld said, she followed him down the hallway. The casual conversation was rather welcome after everything, especially since he’d missed dinner. “How is everyone else?”

“Rodinon is liking being in charge of a Destroyer too much, and Thanisson can’t handle a bridge by himself. It’ll be good to know you will be back tomorrow,” Unamo said. She looked at him, gaze stern as ever. “Correct?”

“Myself and the General both,” Dopheld confirmed.

“Thank goodness,” Unamo said, though it came out with the same tone as if she’d said “the weather is pleasant today.” She pocketed her headset. “Are you headed to the dining hall? You weren’t there at dinner.”

“Yes,” Dopheld said. “If I don’t eat something, I’m afraid I won’t make it to shift tomorrow.”

“Good luck getting a meal from the droids,” Unamo said. She held her hand up at the fork in the hallway and turned. “I’ll see you tomorrow, sir.”

“Good evening, officer,” Dopheld said.

He continued on to the dining hall, already making plans for what he’d do after dinner. He would shower, rest up, and make sure he met the General at his quarters before the man arrived to his shift (just in case).

Hux met Mitaka at his door when he left for the morning, and the man accompanied him to the bridge. He said nothing about the previous evening’s embarrassments, and claimed he was only there to ensure the General was well enough to attend the bridge with his own eyes (You pass out on the bridge once from illness and they never let you live it down).

Millicent, of course, rode along as well, snug in his coat once more.

He was received warmly upon arriving at the bridge, with both head Petty Officers Unamo and Thanisson expressing their relief that General Hux had returned to his post. Nothing too catastrophic seemed to have occurred during Hux’s absence, but there was a notable back log of paperwork that had piled up.

It would stay that way, because Hux had no intention of looking at it either.

“Has Captain Phasma readied Colonel Datoo for questioning?” Hux asked. It was times like these he wished Ren had his head in the game. But then again, they only used Lord Ren for interrogations when all other methods failed, and Hux hadn’t had a shot yet.

“Yes, sir,” Mitaka said. “He’s ready whenever you see fit to begin.”

“Then let’s get that out of the way now, shall we?” Hux said. He tightened his gloves, turning on his heel. “I take it you have things under control here, Lieutenant?”

“Yes, sir,” Mitaka said.

“Message me if anything happens,” Hux said.

He strode out of the deck without another word. Hux still had a pounding headache running around like a marching band, but he would make due. He needed to figure out why Colonel Datoo fired during the meeting, and then figure out if he couldn’t salvage this somehow.

Hux had the problem of something getting Colonel Datoo to cooperate, without looking weak or that he simply had let this matter go. Traditionally, Datoo would have just been killed for treason and the matter would be finished.

But these weren’t traditional circumstances.

Colonel Datoo’s men were loyal to him, and their cooperation was not guaranteed without him. Hux couldn’t afford to lose those troops. He didn’t have Lord Ren. He didn’t have the Supreme Leader. All he had was a fraction of his old forces and a skeleton crew. The addition of the second Destroyer, and the crew to run said ship, were vital to any hopes of getting the First Order back into a formidable position.

Hopefully depending on what Datoo said, Hux could spin this into his favor. If not, he’d have to pray that fear worked as a tactic into scaring Datoo’s men into switching loyalties.

“It’s going to be a busy day, Millie,” Hux said under his breath, patting his coat pocket. He tapped open the key to the interrogation room, Phasma waiting already. Colonel Datoo was strapped to the table, and an interrogation droid floated to his left that he glanced at every so often. If he was already scared, this might go better than Hux had planned. “Good to see you again, Colonel. How about we pick up our conversation were we last left it a few days ago?”

“Why? Nothing will change,” Colonel Datoo said. “You abandoned the Order, and now you think you can walk right back in and take it. It doesn’t need men like you.”

“It’s a shame you continue to lie to me.” Hux waved over the droid. It’s side port opened, revealing long arms with both needles and pins. “Let’s find out what you really think.”

Hux was sure that if Kylo Ren had been real, that he would have been proud at how quickly he got Colonel Datoo to talk.

Chapter Text

Hux bit the edge of his thumb; he had a lead.

Colonel Datoo knew the location of the Supreme Leader. Hux stared at the coordinates listed on his datapad. He knew that he’d need to hunt for that man sooner or later, but he had wanted the First Order to be more established first. He’d need coordinated men and efforts to fight the Knights of Ren and Snoke. Even after that, Hux had figured he’d have trouble locating the man after he slunk into the shadows.

He didn’t expect to stumble over that information while interrogating someone for a completely different purpose.

“Ren had been half right,” Hux said to himself, petting Millicent’s back as she lounged on his thigh.

The man had been wrong about the First Order wanting Hux’s head on a pike for the Starkiller base disaster. On the contrary, the majority of officers and soldiers were elated General Hux was back and could take control in the Supreme Leader’s absence and the split of forces. A few were suspicious, but Hux couldn’t blame them. He’d win them over in time.

But Ren had been right about Snoke.

When word had gotten around about Hux’s return, the good Supreme Leader had contacted the largest split branch, Colonel Datoo’s Destroyer, and informed him that killing General Hux would net him the Supreme Leader’s approval.

Hux ought to be flattered the Supreme Leader considered him a threat (of some kind).

He had yet to figure out what threat he posed, aside from possibly the Supreme Leader knowing about his relationship with Ren and realizing he was a threat. Hux covered his eyes. Of course he did. Snoke had the Force as much as Ren did, and was probably paying more attention to his traitor of an apprentice.

At least he’d convinced Phasma to keep this information confidential until otherwise told.

Millicent yawned, swishing her tail back and forth. Hux picked her up and walked her over to her case as her sleepy form woke up. He checked to make sure she had food before putting her in and looked in the mirror of his refresher. He flattened his hair down, frowned heavily, and stripped off his shirt for a quick shower.

He decided to indulge with water over a sonic, flipping the switch to turn off the sonic and let the water flow. It began to heat while Hux dropped out of his trousers and put them in the laundry shoot. He stepped into the stall, chest heavy. The dump of warm water hit his head and he groaned at how nice it felt. Hux ran his hands through his hair and breathed out. He turned up the heat a few notches, hoping the scald of the shower would help clear his head.

He needed to figure out what to do with his new information. Did he make a move against the Supreme Leader while he knew where the man was, or did he ignore it for now? It was possible the man would move once he discovered his plans were revealed, but he was also proud, so he might sit and wait.

But more importantly, Hux had to wonder if he should tell Ren.

Theoretically, he should keep the man informed. Hux was only going to kill Snoke for Ren’s benefit anyway, so the man should know about the progress. Hux turned off the shower, water dripping down his hair. He pressed his lips together, reaching for a towel. But then again, knowing Snoke’s location might give Ren the push he needed to put more effort into escaping.

Hux had no misconceptions about the fact that Ren was biding his time. Even with his Force powers strangled, the man was physically intimidating. He could overpower Mitaka, Mandetat, or even Hux himself, easily. The fact that he hadn’t yet, was something Hux appreciated.

He didn’t want to deal with the headache of working out even stronger bonds.

“I’ll keep it secret,” Hux said, tugging his sleep shirt over his head. He rubbed the back of his neck and frowned. “At least for now.”

If he gathered more information, he would tell Ren. Until then, Hux would start working harder on giving Ren incentives to stick around on his own.

“Ruined,” Ben mumbled to himself, hugging his pillow to his chest. His bed had always been cold and lonely, but now more than ever after he’d had a night spoiled with Armitage all night. He groaned, rolling over. There were other things he was starting to miss, and he hated he was thinking about it again. With all the secrets out in the open, he didn’t feel his moral obligation to keep his hands to himself. But it also wasn’t something he wanted to bring up with Armitage either. Ben smashed his pillow into his face, sighing into it. “I should be saying that about you.”

It was worse that Ben was already half justifying it; Armitage couldn’t commit horrific acts of evil if he was otherwise occupied with Ben, now could he?

“Though if anyone who could figure out how, it’d be him,” Ben muttered. He dropped the pillow on his mattress and sat up. He hadn’t seen Armitage since the man had spent the night on accident, which amplified the loneliness. Ben pulled his legs up into a meditation pose. “He has to be planning something.”

Ben had nothing but his gut instinct telling him that without the Force (he was going to kill those Ysalamir the first chance he got), but he trusted it.

Ben would bet good credits that things had gone wrong with Colonel Datoo. If Armitage’s interrogation went well, he would have visited to brag. Armitage wouldn’t have been able to help himself. The addition of the second Destroyer would have been huge for the First Order in their current state. His lack of an appearance meant it had either gone horribly wrong, or was taking longer than he wanted. Either way, that meant Armitage would be planning to make up for the loss.

Which meant nothing good.

“He’ll have to get the forces from somewhere else,” Ben said to himself, breathing out and closing his eyes. He pictured the First Order expanding its forces in the past, and their slow rise in power. Armitage would repeat what he had known. “The last thing we need is him invading another planet.”

Ben breathed in and out, slowly. He did his best to clear his mind, focusing on the sound of the ship itself over the scratching on glass in his own room. As soon as he finished his meditation, he’d let his mother know what was going on.

A stir like this had to be making rounds in the gossip mills.

Dopheld walked onto the sister Destroyer, head high and nerves on full alert. Rodinon was in charge of this vessel at the moment, and it wasn’t that he didn’t trust his coworker, but he honestly didn’t trust his coworker to keep things under control. Rodinon was a bit short tempered and quick to jump to conclusions, which didn’t always make for the best results.

And there were a lot of angry stormtroopers on this vessel.

He was glad Mandetat was with him, following close with his usual stroll and not an ounce of worry in sight. Mitaka licked the side of his lip. Mandetat only had to check the control panels and check in with supplies to make sure everything was running properly. No one got angry at Technicians. It was leaders who took the brunt of unhappy voices. Dopheld picked at his ranking indicator, torn between wishing it was higher and that he was in a different position.

“You keep looking tense like that and they’re going to get the idea they can take you,” Mandetat whispered, nudging Dopheld in the back discreetly. “Relax, Lieutenant.”

“I can’t help it,” Dopheld said. He took a step back so that they were shoulder to shoulder, and that he could speak quietly but still be heard. Stormtroopers watched them pass, but none made a move. Dopheld has no idea which ship they were from, not knowing the exact number of their own men that were sent to the sister ship. “I’m one of the highest ranking officers, but I’m still a Lieutenant. I’m not that high in the food chain, and everyone knows it. The lack of officers doesn’t magically make me a bigger authority than I am.”

“You’re still an officer, and the same rank as Rodinon,” Mandetat said. He side-eyed Dopheld and clutched his tool case harder in his fist. “And General Hux trusts you, where I’m betting money he doesn’t trust Lieutenant Rodinon. So keep that in mind.”

The General’s words about offering Dopheld a promotion rang in his ears, but it was hard to know if he actually meant that or not. People said odd things when they were drugged. He shouldn’t get his hopes up, even if that increase in rank might make him more imposing.

Besides, he was terrified of what Rodinon might do if Dopheld actually got the promotion over him.

“Let’s just get this visit over with and make sure Rodinon hasn’t gone power happy,” Mandetat said. He tapped his case against his side and rolled his shoulder. “I want a nap before we take care of Hux’s pet tonight.”

“Right,” Dopheld said. He took a steadying breath and patted his thigh. They stepped into the turbolift headed to the bridge and Mitaka exhaled. “We’ll be fine.”

Rodinon greeted them when they stepped out of the lift, and gave his report easily enough. The man was in good spirits, loving his moment in the spotlight as he took charge of the other ship in the traitorous Colonel’s absence. Dopheld felt himself relaxing, looking over the other officers maintaining the bridge. He recognized a few of them, and it was honestly good to see them.

He kept track of the ones who glared, however, just in case General Hux needed a list of questionable loyalties.

Hux finished up the last of his paperwork for the day, setting aside his datapad. Millicent was asleep in her tank, and he decided to leave her there. Between Millicent and the close proximity to Ren’s quarters, the four Ysalamir had him well hidden from Organa and Snoke. It wouldn’t do to wake her up for a late night visit.

Mandetat and Mitaka should have just finished their own visit, meaning Ren would be awake, and he had neglected to see the man in the past couple of days. He’d been so busy with Colonel Datoo it had been unavoidable.

Hux missed the man; he could admit that now.

Their last encounter hadn’t ended on the best note, but it did prove that Ren was not totally opposed to being a bit more physical. Maybe they could have their chat sitting on the same bed once again; just touching shoulders might be enough. Hux hadn’t thought he’d be one to miss physical intimacy so much, but he did.

If Hux got lucky, he might even get a bittersweet hug out of the deal.

A knock hit his door, and he looked up. He made sure his refresher door was closed and approached it. Hux took a step back from the open door. “Captain Phasma, to what do I owe this visit at this hour?”

“Forgive the intrusion but I’d like to discuss a matter with you,” Captain Phasma said. “I had a feeling you’d be awake, and I’d prefer to keep this discussion off the books for the moment.”

“Alright,” Hux said. He took a step back and nodded. “Come inside.”

She entered, and took the seat Hux offered. Captain Phasma sat straight, setting her blaster on the floor near her feet. She waited for Hux to take a seat back at his desk before she began speaking.

“The troops are restless,” Captain Phasma said, she braced her hands on her knees and shook her head. “In addition to worries about the future of the Order as a whole, there are rumors circulating that most of our troops were kidnapped as children, and that our reconditioning is brainwashing. It’s making them question their purpose in the Order.”

Hux tapped his fingers on the desk. Of course that was something else he’d have to deal with today. He was being tested. The Force gave him a blessing in the form of Ysalamiri and a return to the First Order and now incompetence reigned.

“Are you asking for advice and critique on plans you’ve already created to address the issue, or for me to handle it?” Hux asked.

“Soldiers caught spreading the rumors are being reprimanded, however this situation is requiring more delicacy than my usual disciplinary methods allow,” Captain Phasma said. She shifted, rubbing her thumb against her hand. “I fear as though smothering the issue by the book will only make it worse in the long run.”

“Which is something we can not afford,” Hux said. He sat back and pressed his lips together. He could handle this. Hux had to; the First Order could not fall. It couldn’t. Not after everything he was risking to get it back. “Get a list of their direct complaints. Every rumor, fear, and issue they have. Have it on my desk by tomorrow.”

“Yes, sir,” Phasma said.

“At the end of the week, I’ll address them in an morning announcement,” Hux said. He stood from his desk, and nodded at Phasma to do the same. “We’ll bring them all out into the open, crush their worries, and get this show back on the road.”

Phasma nodded.

“And make sure Colonel Datoo’s men are there, too,” Hux said, almost as an after thought. “We might be able to get two birds with one stone.”

“Of course,” Captain Phasma said. She saluted and nodded. “Until then, Sir.”


Captain Phasma excused herself and Hux waited for the door to close before he sat at his desk. He held his head in his hands. Hux would not let it all collapse.

He wouldn’t.

“Calm down, and think rationally,” Hux told himself. The answers would come to him in time, he just had to think about what he needed to do, and then how to do it. It didn’t matter how daunting his task seemed; it would get done. Hux pulled his datapad over and opened a fresh document to begin writing. He was good at speeches. The words he needed would come. Hux repeated that aloud to reinforce it: “It will come.”

He made it through a quarter of a draft before he gave up and went to see Ren.

Ben clicked his datapad off. His mother hadn’t heard anything new about the First Order. Their latest split in division with Colonel Datoo was being kept under wraps for the time being, meaning she didn’t have any outside input.

He felt bitter Armitage had been mostly right that being able to talk freely with his mother wasn’t doing much good.

At least he was being kept informed about her efforts. Poe, Finn, and Rey were working closely with Luke to search manually for more information and sightings of the Finalizer while Leia stayed with the Resistance too coordinate their efforts. His father and Uncle Chewie were doing the same as Luke and his crew, only they were looking in more seedier areas and in smuggler’s dens (to his mother’s regret).

Ben smiled, picturing everyone working so hard on his behalf. It made the time he was trapped here more bearable.

The door opened, and Ben looked up to see Armitage. He had bags under his eyes that were an inch thick and he looked exhausted.

“Have you slept at all?” Ben asked, knowing the man had a tendency to overwork back when he was in the First Order, but this seemed too much. “You look exhausted.”

“The ship doesn’t get put on hold when it’s General is in the medical bay,” Armitage answered, dropping the field and walking into the room. Ben grabbed the edge of his chain, clacking it as he wrapped it around his fingers. Armitage sat in the guest chair and watched Ben thoughtfully. “How have you been?”

“About the same,” Ben said, picking up a end of the chain farther down. He tugged it straight and showed it off. “Not much to do, you might remember.”

“I’d say I was envious after this past week, but it’d be in poor taste,” Armitage said, chuckling. He dragged his hand down the bottom half of his face and leaned his head back. He dropped his arms on his thighs, relaxing into the chair, eyes half lidded, looking like he’d fall asleep any moment. “If I said I felt like I needed a hug, would you say I didn’t deserve it?”

“You definitely don’t deserve one,” Ben said. He dropped the chain, shoving it out of the way. Armitage’s tired expression continued, and Ben opened his arms. “But I might give you one anyway.”

“I’ll take it,” Armitage said. He stood up and sat on the side of the bed, right on top of the loose chain, falling into Ben’s arm with a firm embrace. He grunted, squeezing Ben and sighing. “I do miss this.”

“Do I even need to say it at this point?” Ben said, dropping his head onto Armitage’s hair. “We can still walk away from this.”

“It doesn’t work that way,” Armitage said. “Either you get what you want, or I get what I want. I’m sorry, but I have to be selfish. The universe needs order, Ben.”

“It needs freedom,” Ben said.

“I don’t want to argue this with you right now,” Armitage said. He slipped his hand under the outer flap of Ben’s tunic. He leaned harder on Ben and tensed. “We’re going in circles with the same answers. You’re stubborn, I’m stubborn, and we could both use the break from talking about it.”

“I won’t argue with that,” Ben said. He slipped his arm around Armitage’s side and tugged him closer. He was tempted to fall back on the bed, but wasn’t sure if he should or not. Armitage stayed tense, and he could hear his mind working a thousand miles per hour. Ben rubbed his back. “Did something happen?”

“In two days, I have to convince an entire army of stormtroopers they’re fighting for the right cause,” Armitage whispered. He squeezed the front of Ben’s tunic, wringing the fabric. “How can I do that when I can’t even convince you?”

Ben had a thousand different ways to say “Take that as a sign that you shouldn’t,” but none of them seemed appropriate when Armitage was this tired, and being this honest.

“What’s meant to happen will happen,” Ben said, rubbing a circle on the back of Armitage’s neck.

“Fate and destiny,” Armitage said. He loosened his grip on Ben’s tunic and sighed. “I guess that’ll decide who’s right in the end, won’t it?”

“Not always,” Ben said. “But it comes close.”

“Then it doesn’t matter what we do, does it?” Armitage asked. He shut his eyes, relaxing into the hold.

Ben grunted as they both tumbled over, not letting go over each other. Armitage would have to leave soon, probably to go write a speech that would be heard by thousands. But for right now, he could pretend they were back on their ship with nothing but each other, and hopes for a better future.

Because right now, fate seemed to have nothing but heartache in store for the both of them.

Chapter Text

Dopheld waited by the side of the stage, overlooking the crowd as Phasma marched in the troops in their uniformed rows. He spied Mandetat on the middle stage, checking that the mic and cameras were set, ready to record the speech. Rodinon was on the Finalizer once again, working the bridge while the General finalized his address.

He knew somewhere up on the bridge that Unamo and Thanisson had their holoprojectors on, listening intently with the rest of the officers, everyone awaiting the speech that had put their General out of sight.

Dopheld placed a hand over his chest to steady himself.

General Hux had locked himself in his room the past two days, working tirelessly on his speech. It had been the biggest gossip of the entire ship from troopers to technicians: This was it. The big speech, and all of them knew how seriously General Hux was taking it. The man had been at wit’s end every time Dopheld or Mandetat appeared with food, and they had both noticed the man hadn’t visited Lord Ren once since they caught the man sneaking out just before Hux locked himself away.

When Dopheld dropped off Lord Ren’s meal packets earlier this morning, he noticed the man staring hard at his holoprojector, so supposedly he knew that an address was going to be made.

He wondered if the man would be listening (or if the General would even want Lord Ren to).

“Is everything ready?” General Hux asked, stepping up beside Dopheld. A banner hid them from view, and the man tugged on his gloves. Dopheld noted the make up hiding the bags under his eyes and giving him a healthier appearance. It would be unnoticeable to anyone on the ground, but if you looked close enough it was easy enough to spot. General Hux cleared his throat. “Everything looks to still be on schedule.”

“Final checks are being made now,” Dopheld said. He nodded and placed his hands behind his back. “As soon as Captain Phasma files the rest of the troops into the hall, we will be ready to begin.”

“How has the crowd looked?” Hux asked, almost nervous.

Dopheld took another glance over the crowd, noting the soldiers continued to hold their arms as they normally would. He looked back at the General and a sudden realization settled in his gut like a bad ration bar: If this speech went bad, they were going to fire, weren’t they?

And General Hux had just gotten out of the medical bay for being shot.

“We haven’t had anyone particularly restless according to Captain Phasma’s checks,” Dopheld said, shoving those awful thoughts far back into his head. That sort of negativity wouldn’t get them anywhere. All the same, he scanned the crowd again, but hidden behind their masks it was hard to gauge what the troops were feeling. “They seem willing to hear you out at least, sir.”

“That’s all we can hope for,” the General muttered to himself. Dopheld shifted from one foot to the other. There was something so casual about this conversation; it made his stomach squirm in a way he couldn’t tell was pleased or concerned. General Hux touched his hat and pulled it off. He hesitated one moment longer before slipping off his greatcoat. He handed it to Dopheld. “Hold that for me.”


“I wear that coat to look bigger, Lieutenant,” Hux said, voice low as if he were confessing. Dopheld eyed the General’s slim shoulders, almost naked now without the padding. He sucked in a breath, straightening his back. “And today, I need to appear humble.”

“Of course, sir,” Dopheld said.

Captain Phasma rounded the corner at the end of the conversation, her rifle in her hands. She saluted as she approached. “All troops are awaiting your words, General.”

“Very good, Captain,” General Hux said. He nodded and stretched his fingers, rolling them at his side. “Let’s not keep them waiting.”

“Make it good, sir,” Phasma said.

Dopheld and Phasma lingered behind the curtain as Hux walked out into the center stage, alone and vulnerable. Dopheld clutched the General’s coat tighter, uncaring at how Millicent squirmed beneath his grip.

Ben watched the holoprojector from the floor, the small projector on the end of the bed, displaying the footage on the wall. The large, flat picture showed Armitage at the end of the stage, and the masses of stormtroopers watching.

He leaned on the edge of the mattress with one elbow. He hadn’t seen Armitage in two days.

The man had left after his confession that he had to write a speech with wary eyes and downtrodden shoulders. He looked tiny, even with his height. The greatcoat was missing, and it was more apparent than ever how much bulk it had added now that it was gone. Ben wanted to reach into the projection and smack Armitage, driving some sense into him. Staying with the First Order was folly. Ben had no idea what Armitage could say to a group of questioning stormtroopers to make them stick around.

Not when they knew what was really out there for them.

Ben’s mother had sent him a report on that, after he confessed what Armitage was up to. With the help of Finn and a few of the other troopers who had left, they had the truth circulating through the rumor mills: Over radios, on flyers, and anywhere else it could reach the ears of a trooper on patrol that he could bring back to spread. The soldiers knew where they came from; they knew what families they’d been stolen from.

Nothing converted like truth.

Armitage braced his hands on the stand; Ben leaned forward to watch the picture. The man held his head high and spoke into the mic, clear and in control.

“I am here to address concerns that have been brought to my attention, and the rumors that have been spreading among your ranks,” Armitage said. He gripped the edge of the podium, and Ben could see him inhale from here. “It has been said, that the stormtroopers of the First Order were stolen as children, and brainwashed into servitude. That your choice to be here was not your own.”

There was a rumbling among the crowds, and Ben got to his knees, both arms on the bunk now as he leaned toward the projection.

Armitage gripped the stand, licking his lip for a moment. He steeled himself, looking as cold as his lost Starkiller base. “These rumors are true.”

Ben dropped his jaw.

“In order to make you the best soldiers that you could be, training had to begin at birth. This is something that we believed was necessary, and you can not deny the results. You know the process. You lived through it. You are standing proof that the First Order’s conditioning and training programs did exactly as they intended,” Armitage said. The murmuring in the crowd continued, but Armitage spoke above it. “The First Order meant everything to its founders, just as it means everything to me. It means returning order to a universe that was lost to the Republic, and my father and the original high command were willing to do anything to see it rise. Even if it meant stealing children from the uncooperative, we would do so, because we could not have gotten to where we are without you.”

Armitage paused, stepping to the side of the podium, one hand on the side. He was out in the open; Ben held his breath.

“And that has not changed!” Armitage said. He threw out his hand, voice strong and every inch as commanding as his title of General gave. “You are the backbone and strength of the First Order. You are elite, superior soldiers that have been trained from birth to be the best. In the literal truth, you were stolen as children, but in the bigger picture, we liberated you from the New Republic where you would have been doomed to rot under the worse fate of their failed government.

“The First Order was built from nothing to fight their evil. From children, you grew into this army! The army that is still standing here in front of me! You survived the betrayal at Starkiller base! You are the ones who stayed by the cause.”

A creeping cold feeling slithered up Ben’s spine; the crowd was silent as they listened. Armitage was shouting now, his face near red.

“You did not choose to join the First Order, but you have a choice now! You know the truth! You have seen how the New Republic operates! How they infiltrated us! They took the forces we believed in most and turned them on us!” Armitage released the podium, stepping out to the front of the stage. “We built a weapon that would destroy stars and end billions of lives, but they cut us deep from within our own hearts! Which is worse, I ask you?

“The New Republic is a disease and a blight on this universe that needs to be eradicated at any cost! We built the First Order from nothing in order to combat them, and we can do it again,” Armitage said. He lowered his shoulders and started his voice low again. “You have a choice now, just as I did when I decided to follow my father’s footsteps in the First Order. I ask you to dedicate yourselves to the First Order as I did, from the bottom of your hearts and join me. Together we will succeed in returning order to a galaxy that has lost its way.”

“Together we will make the New Republic cower before us! They will no longer be a threat and they will join us or they will fall to their knees!” Armitage raised his voice again, saluting. “The New Republic shall bow to the First Order!”

Ben sat, folding his legs to the side. The troopers on screen remained silent; it was too quiet. Anything could happen. His heart pounded in his chest; he knew that line. It was from the Starkiller base speech Armitage used to practice. Ben stared at the holoprojection of Hux hard, gazing over the slim line of his shoulders.

He was missing his coat.

Trembling fingers tapped in the message on the datapad to his mother. He hadn’t put it together earlier when he noticed but he was missing his coat! That meant his greatest defense against Leia was gone. If there was a chance Armitage was far enough away from the Ysalamir to be found with the Force it was right now.

“I’m looking,” his mother responded nearly as fast as he’d clicked “send.”

Ben covered his face with his hands as Armitage continued, feeling like he’d stabbed Armitage in the back all over again, even though this had been a chance he could not pass up.

“I will sacrifice anything that is required of me to keep this Order,” Armitage said. He sounded tired, and sad, but so determined it cut through the rest of it like a knife. “Whether it is my humanity, my life, or even my soul because I know this is the right path. This is the right choice. The universe deserves better than the New Republic, and by the Force that weaves through every inch of this universe I will make sure that it gets it!

“But if you don’t agree with me, I suppose I can’t force you to be here,” Armitage continued, voice lowering. “I am one man against an army, and I don’t have that power. You’re not children any longer. You’re grown adults who can make your own decisions. If you want to choose the New Republic, than go to her.”

Ben watched Armitage throw his hand out.

“You are welcome to leave right now, no consequence,” Armitage said. “If you all truly believe you have been fighting for the First Order against your will, than leaving now would hardly make you a traitor would it? So there’s no punishment. But if you stay…”

Not a soul moved as Armitage paused.

“Then know that you know this is your choice,” Armitage said. He dropped his hand over his heart, fingers spread wide over his chest. “That you believe in what the First Order is trying to do, and what we will be. You will stand by the First Order’s side as her rightful children and together we will return order to our galaxy, and it will have been your choice to do so.

“I have always expected the best of all you, because you were the best.” Armitage placed a hand on the podium again. “You still are the best, and I hope that you will continue to stand by me. We truly can not do this without you, but if you must leave, I ask you do it now.

“Starting tomorrow, we will begin rebuilding the First Order to her former glory at full effort, and there will be no room for half-hearted devotion from anyone, be it a stormtrooper, a technician, or even an officer on the bridge.

“The First Order will rise, with or without you. The destruction of Starkiller base did not stop us, and neither will this. It’s up to you if you want to join us, or be left behind in the dust.”

Armitage finished his speech with a well placed, “Choose wisely.”

He left the stage, and Ben shut off the holoprojector the second he saw his mother’s newest message: “We found them.”

Hux collapsed in his chair in his office, Millicent curled in his lap under his coat. He would have let her out, but Captain Phasma was present alongside Lieutenant Mitaka. Two hours had passed since his speech, and the final count had been finished after they opened the channels to allow soldiers to leave if they so chose. The good Captain had just arrived to give him the news herself.

“How many left?” Hux asked straight out, not bothering to beat around the bush.

Captain Phasma reached up, grabbing the base of her helmet. She took it off and smacked it down on the desk, wearing the smuggest grin Hux had ever seen on a woman. “Not a single one.”

“No one?” Hux asked. He didn’t believe her. Hux leaned up, hand gripping in his coat. “Not a single person decided to leave?”

“They are behind you one hundred percent, General,” Phasma said. She held up two fingers and shrugged. “On one condition.”

“Of course there was a catch,” Hux said, sitting straighter. Lieutenant Mitaka pressed his lips together, hiding his amusement at the casual atmosphere. “Out with it. What do they want?”

“The assurance that you will also be chasing down the Supreme Leader and his Knights that abandoned us in addition to destroying the New Republic,” Phasma said.

“That was a given, Captain.” Hux shook his head. “Of course they’ll be punished like the traitors they are. It was always part of the plan.”

“Then as I said,” she picked up her helmet and put it back on. “We’re all behind you, General. They look forward to your morning announcements.”

Captain Phasma left without another word and Hux slipped down in his chair, dropping his coat to pet Millicent properly. He looked at Mitaka and scratched under Millicent’s chin with a finger. “You know, I didn’t always give any thought to the Force in the past, but I’m starting to truly believe it supports our cause, Mitaka.”

“If it does,” Mitaka said, “it’s doing so through you. The men have always looked up to you, sir, and I think being truthful with them has only solidified it.”

“I decided that I had had enough of being lied to,” Hux said, leaning his head back. Millicent settled in his lap, breathing softly as a warm bundle. He petted her back, still disbelieving that this was all turning out so well. He closed his eyes, breathing in. “I owed them the same courtesy.”

“It worked,” Mitaka said.

The man continued to stand at near attention, not taking advantage of Hux’s casual demeanor. He was respectable, dependable, and Hux could count on him. Stormtroopers weren’t the only thing that needed work in the First Order if they wanted to continue. Management was in desperate need of restaffing as well.

“Starting tomorrow a lot is going to change around here,” Hux said. He sat up and carried Millicent to her tank before she fell asleep. He placed her inside and closed the lid before returning to his room. Hux opened a drawer, pulling out a new stripe. “I was hoping to do this a bit more formally, but you’ll have to forgive the circumstances.”

“Congratulations, Dopheld Mitaka,” Hux said, handing Mitaka his new ranking stripes. “As of right now, you are a Major.”

“Sir,” Mitaka gaped, fingers clutching around the stripes. He caught himself, snapping his jaw shut. “That’s skipping a rank.”

Hux snorted. “I was going to promote you to Colonel, but that seemed a bit too high to get away with. Take the promotion, Mitaka.”

“Yes, sir,” Mitaka said, snapping at attention. He saluted, ranking bars still clutched in his hands. “Thank you, sir. I will do my best to live up to it.”

“I know you will,” Hux said. He slapped Mitaka on the back and nodded toward the door. “Turn in for the night, Major. Tomorrow’s going to be very busy.”

“Goodnight, sir,” Mitaka said. He saluted and walked out the door, staring at his new stripes with a bit of awe.

The door shut behind him and Hux stared at his bed. It took all of two seconds for him to collapse face fist into it and sleep.

Chapter Text

“Major Mitaka,” Mandetat said, scooping a spoonful of gruel into his mouth from the dinner plate. He stirred the rest in a lazy circle, almost smiling (which was so weird on the normally serious man). Mandetat pointed his spoon at Dopheld. “Bit of a mouthful, but it suits you.”

“It’s a shame you were unable to have a formal promotion,” Unamo said. Her empty dish sat in front of her, and she folded her hands on the table. “But I suppose I can see the necessity of skipping it, considering what our finances and time tables are like at the moment.”

“I don’t mind,” Dopheld said. He tapped the edge of the new stripe settled next to the commemorative name band, and picked at his slice of dessert. “I still can’t believe it happened.”

“Why not?” Thanisson asked. He munched on the end of a ration bar. “Someone needed to move up with all the positions empty, and you’re good at your job. Plus, you’re sleeping with the General, so it’s not that big of a surprise he picked you.”

Unamo whacked Thanisson in the arm and he flinched.

“I’m what?” Dopheld asked, paling slightly.

“Sorry,” Thanisson said, shrinking. He rubbed his arm where Unamo had hit it, frowning. “I keep forgetting we weren’t going to tell you we noticed.”

“It’s fine, Mitaka,” Unamo said. She cleared her throat and pinched Thanisson harder on the arm without looking away from Mitaka. “None of us actually believe that’s why you got the promotion. You’re a qualified officer and we see that daily in your work.”

“What, what exactly makes you think I’m s-sleeping with the General?” Dopheld asked, hating the stutter in his voice. Mandetat was looking at his dish with a tiny amused smirk. Thanisson and Unamo were giving him a disbelieving look and he tapped his fingers on the desk. “It’s a fair question!”

“You’re always sneaking out of your room at night, and walking to the bridge with him in the morning,” Thanisson said, shrugging. He shoved the last of his ration bar in his mouth and dodged Unamo’s next swipe. “And people catch you waiting outside his room really early in the mornings. Don’t take this the wrong way, but you’re about as subtle as Lord Ren used to be.”

“Oh,” Dopheld said, shoulders dropping.

“We knew you’re shy about that sort of thing, so we decided not to give you a hard time about it,” Mandetat said, lightly kicking Dopheld in the leg under the table. He glared a bit, sending a mental message with his eyes to “Shut up” before shrugging. “Don’t worry about it.”

“Yeah,” Dopheld said, shoulders shrinking.

Unamo patted Dopheld on the shoulder. “Just be glad Rodinon hasn’t figured it out yet.”

“Seriously,” Thanisson added. “That guy already wants to murder you over the promotion. It’d be like a hundred times worse if he tried to sleep with the General, too.”

“Don’t put that thought in our heads,” Mandetat said, shuttering.

Unamo checked her datapad and picked up her tray. “Come on, Thanisson. We need to get back early to help with registration of the second Destroyer and its crew.”

“Coming!” Thanisson said. He scrambled up and patted Dopheld on the shoulder. “Congrats on the promotion!”

Alone at the table with Mandetat he leaned over and hissed. “They think I’m sleeping with the General!”

“As long as they’re thinking that, they’re not suspicious about anything else are they?” Mandetat said, finishing off his gruel. He dropped his spoon on the tray and shrugged. “I figured it was best to let them keep thinking that, and if they never told you, it wasn’t a problem.”

“I suppose that’s true,” Dopheld said. They did have a rather large secret to keep, and Mitaka did need to keep continuing to sneak out after dark. Mandetat didn’t have this problem. He was a technician! They were expected to be up and about at all odd hours. Dopheld covered his face and groaned. “It’s still embarrassing, though.”

“Why?” Mandetat said. He picked up his tray and smacked Dopheld on the back. “They’re all jealous. Who doesn’t want to sleep with the General?”

“Mandetat!” Dopheld hissed, but the man just laughed and walked away.

Why couldn’t Dopheld have been as out of the loop on these rumors as he had been when everyone was gossiping about Lord Ren and the General sleeping together?

Ben had a countdown: One week.

Poe and Finn were trailing the Finalizer in a small, discrete ship that had been sent off at the coordinates Leia and Luke had pinpointed through the Force during Armitage’s speech. They had found the ship, but were only tracking it for now. The Resistance had decided that taking down the First Order would be final this time, and they weren’t going to risk anything by rushing in unprepared.

In one week, the Finalizer and the sister Destroyer that they found floating next to her, would be taken down by the Resistance at their absolute strongest. He didn’t need verbal communication from Armitage to know that the First Order was in a bad way, and this one last push from the opposing army would shatter it for good.

All Ben had to do was bide his time, make sure Armitage didn’t make any large, grand scale moves during the upcoming week, and of course, he had to keep Armitage from getting wind an attack was coming. The First Order was wounded, but they were still fighters. A cornered animal could do a lot of damage, and Ben had learned his lesson about underestimating the General.

At least Armitage kept his word about never bothering to even remotely look at, or attempt to read, Ben’s datapad or all of this planning would have been given away in a heartbeat.

Ben touched the edge of his lip. He’d managed to give his mother instructions on how to reach his room, and the access codes to the cell portion of his room (he had no idea what Armitage had changed his outer door too, however). He hoped that someone would come get him as soon as possible.

It might be his only chance to grab Armitage and run before things got too dire.

He’d be starting back over again at the starting line, stealing an uncooperative General away from the First Order, but it was preferred to the man being executed or arrested when the Resistance got to him first (if Han or Chewbacca didn’t flat out shoot him on sight).

Ben checked the schedule on the datapad again, looking at the time. He wasn’t sure if Armitage would actually come to visit or not. He’d been a no-show since the speech, and Ben wasn’t sure what had happened to him.

“I swear the first thing I’m doing when I get out of here is go running,” Ben said, sighing into the mattress. “Having nothing to do is torture.”

At least he’d somewhat acclimated to having the Force cut off. It still felt like someone had ripped out a piece of his soul, but now it was a dull, constant ache instead of a loud, angry loss. Ben rolled over and shoved his datapad back under the pillow. The Ysalamiri chittered in their glass cage, reminding him of their presence every chance they could get.

“You three are the first to go,” Ben said. He wouldn’t even feel bad when he shoved them out of an airlock.

One of them yawned and Ben covered his eyes. He wouldn’t shove them out of an airlock. It wasn’t their fault they’d been chosen to make him miserable (and that Armitage was horribly fond of them outside of their original purpose had no impact on that decision whatsoever). But he would definitely send them to some far corner where he never had to see them again.

He sat up and scolded himself, “Focus, Ben.”

Ben had work to do. He needed to stall Armitage from any grand plans, and that meant he had to start him over from scratch with something. Anything. Ben needed to think about what he could say, or imply, that would throw a wrench in all of Armitage’s First Order domination plans.

He sat up, shifting into a meditation pose. He couldn’t reach the Force, but he could center himself and think.

Ben would come up with something.

Hux woke up, slamming his hand into his alarm. He sat up, and glared at the clock. Despite sleeping solid through the night for the first time in three days, he still felt exhausted. That speech had taken everything out of him, and even the relief that his troops were every bit as loyal as they were raised to be wasn’t enough to break through the tired ache.

He got ready as he did every morning, taking care to make sure Millicent was fed even as he yawned into his hand.

Ready to go, he greeted Mitaka in the hallway, his greatcoat back where it belonged about his shoulders. “Major.”

“Sir,” Mitaka said, taking a step by his side. The man looked straight ahead, and avoided looking at him. It was odd, but Hux figured they were all having an off morning.

Despite the speech the other night, and the second thoughts he was sure was coming, it was a quite day on the bridge (aside from Mitaka fidgeting more than usual, though Hux couldn’t quite work up the energy to figure that one out today).

He left the bridge feeling somewhat optimistic for the first time in awhile.

Hux made it to his own room to drop off his paperwork, before he put Millicent away (with a pat and extra helping of honey, of course). Everything settled, he made his way to Ren’s room on near autopilot. He really did miss that man when he wasn’t around. Hux almost felt the tension leave his shoulders as he entered.

“Who’s going to lead them?” Ren asked. There was no greeting, no comment on the speech; just a simple question and piercing eyes. “You left that part out of your address concerning the rise of the First Order.”

“Come again?” Hux asked, removing his coat. He draped it over the back of his chair, looking Ren over. He sat cross-legged on his bunk, hair in his face and eyes glued to Hux. “I’m afraid I missed the question.”

“The Supreme Leader is gone, and the First Order technically is without a leader,” Ren said. “You can’t rule as a group or committee, because then you’d just be the Republic that you hate so much. Your group has always craved a monarchy, so who’s going to lead? Who’s going to be the new Emperor to rule your recreated Empire?”

Hux took pause. He sat in the chair, considering the question. He supposed that the Order would be led by the military, which would mean—

“You can’t possibly be thinking of doing it yourself,” Ren said, as serious as he’d ever been. “Tell me that replacing the Supreme Leader isn’t a thought that’s rattling around in your brain.”

“You don’t think I could be a good leader?” Hux asked, sitting back. Ruling the universe as the First Order had been the dream since he was young. It was owed to Hux and the others as the remains of the old Empire. They’d put things right. Being Emperor had been a childhood fantasy, and perhaps even something he wanted a go at as an adult. He had been too caught up in restoring and fixing things to realize that without Snoke, that role may indeed fall to Hux as the highest ranking member of the Order. “My staff might disagree with you.”

“Your military staff,” Ren said. He didn’t sound angry, nor condescending, but there was a fierceness there that reminded Hux of Ren on the battlefield. Ren had total confidence in what he was saying. “You’re a great military leader, Armitage, but you don’t know anything about leading and ruling Civilians. Declaring yourself emperor would be nothing more than a power grab. Is that really what you want? Is that what you call bringing order to the universe? Giving all the power to yourself?”

“No,” Hux said. Ren blinked, a slight look of surprise over his face. Hux smiled and sat back. Ruling the empire was a dream, and maybe something that he wanted, but Hux had to concede to Ren on this point. Being the head of the army was more than enough. Ren was right in his own way, really. Hux really did have no idea how to manage civilian affairs the way he would need to if he wanted to be a good Emperor. Hux chuckled to himself. “I suppose that is something I had grossly overlooked, isn’t it? I was so busy trying to kill our Supreme Leader, I had forgotten he’ll need replacing.”

“Seems like something rather important to be that low on the list,” Ren said. “Unless you really had thought you’d just step in yourself.”

“It may have crossed my mind,” Hux admitted. Ren smirked in that knowing way, and Hux double checked his girls were still in their case. Gertrude, Hester and Eudora lazed about, confirming Ren hadn’t suddenly regained his Force abilities to read minds. Hux rubbed between his eyes. He was too tired for this discussion. “But you’re not wrong. A military leader does not necessarily make a good all around one.”

“Don’t imagine you’ve even given thought to who you’ll be declaring your everlasting loyalties to?” Ren asked, mouth quirking.

A vision of “Emperor Ren” dressed in rich robes and a gold crowned past by his eyes in a blink, and stole his breath.

Hux covered his mouth, thankful that Ren couldn’t read his mind and see such an embarrassing thought. He smiled behind his palm, thinking of once more, against his better judgement. It was a look that suited him; and Ren did so love to be in charge, didn’t he? Hux dropped his hand and got up from his chair.

If he thought for even a second Ren would have any interest in the position, Hux may have asked.

“I’ll have to think on it,” Hux said, dropping into Ren’s lap. He cupped the man’s faced and kissed him, distracting him from the topic. “I’ll come by with a list of names, and you can help me pick. I’m sure I could use the second opinion.”

“That’s not going to happen,” Ren muttered back. He touched the side of Hux’s face, shaking his head slowly. “I don’t want anything to do with your Order.”

“Such a shame, that,” Hux said. He shoved Ren backwards and settled onto his side. Hux breathed out, more than ready to pass out. “Go to sleep, Ben.”

Warm arms wrapped around him, and Hux snuggled closer. He had to go back to work the next day, with yet another task on his plate, but somehow staying here like this, nothing seemed impossible. He’d kill Snoke, find an Emperor, and after all of that, maybe getting Ren to see the light wouldn’t be such a far off task after all.

Hux fell asleep once again in his uniform, but this time he might have had dreams of Ren dressed in white.

Dopheld made it to his room, ready to go to sleep. His promotion to Major came with the appropriate updated responsibilities and additional paperwork. Dopheld shoved his datapad under his arm and held in a yawn. He could do the work, but readjusting his schedule and time tables to fit it had yet to happen. Mitaka was proud he was trusted with the job, though. It made all of the extra responsibility worth it.

He smiled to himself, about to type in the code to his room.

“Thinking about the General?” Rodinon said, breathing heavy in Dopheld's ear. He shoved Dopheld into his door, his grip tight on Dopheld's arm. Rodinon hissed, breath too hot. “I thought about it long and hard about how you could have got that promotion over me, and then I remembered you like to sneak out of your room at night.”

Dopheld had been so careful. How did everyone know he was leaving in the middle of the night? No one was ever out in the hallway! He grunted as Rodinon’s grip on his arm tightened, drawing his attention back to the present.

“I thought you were sneaking out to share a dark corner with that technician buddy of yours, but that isn’t the case, is it?” Rodinon growled.

Dopheld elbowed Rodinon hard in the ribs, forcing him off. He turned and shoved him farther away with both palms flat against Rodinon’s chest. The stockier man stumbled, not expecting Dopheld to fight back. Rodinon opened his mouth, but Dopheld cut him off. “What I’m doing is my own business, and right now you’re assaulting a superior officer.”

“Don’t get full of yourself,” Rodinon said, poking Dopheld in the chest. He had his chest puffed, trying to be intimidating, but Dopheld found he wasn’t scared. Rodinon near spit in his face, as he leaned forward. “We both know how you got that promotion.”

“I earned it,” Dopheld said, standing straight.

He’d been Force choked and spent regular time in the company of the most terrifying Force User they’d ever seen. Rodinon was nothing.

Dopheld opened his door, and matched Rodinon’s glare. “I’ll let this pass once because the First Order is in need of every officer it has, but if you do it again, then maybe I will use that influence I have to get rid of you.”

Rodinon gaped and Dopheld stepped inside his room, shutting the door after.

He covered his face with his hands and groaned. It’d been so long since Dopheld had gone up in a rank, he forgot all the bloodsport that went with it. He shoved off the door, and opened up his coat as he headed for his bunk. Hopefully he’d intimidated Rodinon enough to keep the man from causing trouble.

General Hux didn’t need more on his plate.

Dopheld touched his new Major stripe one more time before heading for bed, setting his alarm for the morning. He’d deal with it after he slept.

Chapter Text

Hux had been having a good couple of days.

He woke up next to Ren, got a good morning kiss, and made it to the bridge to see everything was running as it should two mornings in a row (the unspoken agreement that Hux could start staying the night was rather welcome and doing wonders for Hux’s sleep schedule again). They still argued, of course, and Ren kept his hands to himself (though Hux had gotten used to that), but it was something.

In addition to his personal life looking up, Rodinon was back on the other Destroyer with Captain Phasma making sure they were running smoothly before Hux gave them a proper assignment. Rodinon had been odd lately, trying to suck up more than usual and he kept dropping slight hints of flirting that had to have come about because of Mitaka’s promotion. He should have foreseen that (though trying to sleep his way to the top wasn’t something Hux had pegged on Rodinon). Hopefully some distance between Mitaka and the Lieutenant would settle that before things turned ugly and he had to personally intervene.

Other than that, productivity was at an all time high with the additional staff he’d acquired from the other Destroyer (which was now the one with the skeleton crew instead of his flagship).

Hux even finally got around to executing Colonel Datoo, and was happy to note his old crew took it rather well after their renewed devotion to the cause.

However, it was time for lunch and Ren’s wretched question concerning the Supreme Leader was still stuck in the forefront of his mind, and Hux just did not have an answer for it.

“If you had to pick a new Supreme Leader, who would it be?” Hux asked Mitaka. The man sat across from Hux in his office, both of their lunches on the desk. He had joined Hux for lunch after a mandatory invite (Hux had to talk to someone about this or he would go mad and Ren was not an option). Hux twirled his fork around. “Hypothetically speaking?”

“A new Supreme Leader, sir?” Mitaka asked, staring blankly.

“Yes, Major,” Hux said. “I’m going to kill our old one, so he needs replacing. I was wondering if you had a thought about it.”

“Wouldn’t it be you, Sir?” Mitaka asked, tilting his head. He looked like a confused dog and Hux’s shoulders shrunk. “I was already under the impression you’d taken the role on when you returned to the Order.”

“This isn’t a trick question, you’re allowed to say anyone else,” Hux said, hoping this was some misguided attempt at flattery. He’d seen other officers play that trick before, and he should have realized before he spoke. Reassuring Mitaka, Hux promised, “I won’t take it personally.”

The newly dubbed Major pressed his lips together. “I think I’d still pick you, Sir.”

This wasn’t working.

“Let’s say I died tomorrow from a freak accident and you had to appoint someone else.” Hux put his fork down, lacing his fingers on the table. “Who would it be? And to remind you, you’re picking the Supreme Leader, not just the new head of the Military. A new Emperor, if you would.”

“May I speak freely, sir?” Mitaka asked.

“Of course,” Hux said. He tapped his finger against his hand. “There’s no wrong answer, really. I’m just curious who you would pick.”

“When the you and the Supreme Leader went missing, the First Order started to fall apart. We were a wreck, but the truth is, we weren’t missing the Supreme Leader,” Mitaka said. He put his hands in his lap, looking at the table. “We were missing our real leadership, which was you. Your return, was the most welcome thing that could have happened, and I was sincerely relieved that you would be the new head with Supreme Leader Snoke abandoned and marked for dead.

“You’re intelligent, ruthless, productive, organized, and commanding in a way no one else has been,” Mitaka said, swallowing. He pressed his lips together, sitting up straighter, with admiration in his eyes that made Hux want to sink into his chair. “You have actually managed to be both terrifying and worthy of respect and admiration at the same time, and there’s really no one else I would rather be following as the leader of the First Order.”

Hux had no words.

Mitaka seemed to catch himself, clearing his throat and turning his face away for a moment. He caught Hux’s glance again and asked, “May I ask why you’re so determined not to take the position yourself, even though for all intents and purposes you already have it?”

“It was brought to my attention that a good military leader may not necessarily also make a good all around leader toward the entire population,” Hux said, speaking the words slowly. “I found I agreed, somewhat, and have been attempting to find someone I would like to appoint to the position for the best good of the First Order and the galaxy.”

Mitaka asked, “Was that Lord Ren’s comment, by any chance?”

“Does that matter?” Hux asked in return. “A point is a point, no matter who it comes from.”

“I don’t disagree, sir,” Mitaka said. He cleaned up his tray and stood, glancing at the clock. Hux joined him; more time had passed than he thought. Mitaka took a few steps closer to Hux and said softly, “But while I can understand that you care for Lord Ren, please don’t forget that man has his own agendas and his advice may not be in your best interests, or even the rest of ours, when it comes to the First Order.”

“You’re saying I shouldn’t let my personal interests cloud my judgement?” Hux asked.

“If I may be so bold,” Mitaka said.

“You’ve been very bold already,” Hux said. He shook his head, looking at the determined man next to him. The promotion to Major did Mitaka some good, it looked like. Hux picked his tray up from the table. “I half wonder where it came from all of a sudden.”

“I can be bold when it matters,” Mitaka said, before tagging on a, “Sir.”

Hux huffed, dropping his tray in the hand of the waiting domestic droid in the hallway. He fixed his coat over his shoulders and headed back toward the bridge, the Major in tow. “I appreciate your input, Major.”

“Any time, sir,” Mitaka said.

Four more days. Ben had four more days until his mother and the Resistance arrived to rain hell down on the Finalizer.

He’d thought his imprisonment had been bad before, but the past four months of cabin fever were nothing compared to what he felt now, knowing that he would be getting out so soon. He hadn’t even been this restless the first week he’d been locked in here, when his chain was just long enough that he could stand up (Armitage didn’t appreciate Ben breaking his room, as it turned out). Ben paced from one corner to the next, counting to ten to calm himself. He hadn’t been this restless in ages, and if someone caught him like this, they’d know something was up.

“You made it four months, Ben,” he said to himself. “Four more days. That’s it.”

He stalked into the refresher, dropping his hands on the sink to look in the mirror. He tugged at his long hair, and ran his fingers through it as he pulled it back. The curled strands slipped through, bouncing around his head. He should ask Armitage for a pair of scissors to give himself a trim before his mother and the rest showed up. Just because he’d been kept like a caged pet this long, didn’t meant he wanted to look like it when they arrived.

Armitage of all people should appreciate wanting to look better.

Ben rubbed his eyes and tugged off his shirt. He would shower, clear his head with hot water, and get back to acting “normal.”

He made it two minutes into checking his datapad for an update for his mother after the shower before Ben was pacing again. He had too much to think about, and too much to hide. Armitage had started staying over, warm smile on his face even as they argued. The man believed he was getting through to Ben; he didn’t even suspect that Ben was lying to him. Armitage was almost happy, which wasn’t a big surprise since he let it slip that their sister Destroyer had surrendered and joined the Order again.

Ben had been done with lying, but he was hiding behind lies all over again. He wasn’t looking forward to the betrayal crossing Armitage’s face a second time.

“The last time,” Ben said to himself. This was a necessary evil to prevent evil, and Ben hated how he was justifying it all over again. It wasn’t blood on his hands, but he was definitely hurting someone in the name of the greater good. Ben collapsed on his bunk, covering his eyes. “This comes to easy for me. How do I keep getting stuck here?”

One of the Ysalamiri (he refused to acknowledge that Armitage named them), chirped and yelled, scratching at the side of the tank. Ben stretched his neck back to look at the restless creatures, knocking over their empty bowl. They’d grown in size, and were eating more than Mandetat and Mitaka could bring. He half wondered if Armitage’s little pet was getting fatter, too, and harder to hide in his coat.

Ben cracked a smile at the thought of Armitage with back troubles from hauling that thing around. He pressed his fingers to his lips and huffed. “Would serve him right.”

His datapad beeped with a new message, the screen popping to life. Ben dug it out from under his pillow, reading the message that flashed across the screen.

His mother wrote, “Finn and Poe reported lots of shuttles back and forth between Destroyers. Suspect they’re changing up the staff.”

“It’s likely clean up after assimilating the other crew. If I were Hux, I’d be filling the staff of the Finalizer. I got the impression he’s short handed, though I can’t confirm it,” Ben wrote back.

“That’ll work in our favor if one ship is a skeleton crew,” Leia replied. “How are you holding up?”

“Good,” Ben replied.

“Do you remember any of the officer schedules from before when you were undercover? How likely are they to mimic that same schedule now? It might be best to attack when Hux isn’t on the bridge,” Leia wrote.

Ben bit the edge of his thumb. He honestly wasn’t sure. If they were short staffed, schedules were probably rearranged to fit. Armitage could be working any number of hours, but then again, he did appear in Ben’s room during the third shift and always made sure to leave before first shift started, so it couldn’t have been too different. Ben decided on a safe answer. “Hux usually visits a few hours into third shift. He’s definitely not on the bridge if he’s with me.”

There was a long pause after that last message. Ben rolled on his side, tugging up a blanket as he stared at the datapad, his face to the door in case he needed to shove it under a pillow quickly. It wasn’t the hour for a visit, but it paid to be cautious.

“Hux isn’t hurting you, is he?” Leia asked, the type blinking at Ben with the worry evident, even without intonation.

“We just talk, and aside from being locked up he hasn’t done anything,” Ben replied. He kept the fact they’d started sharing a bed again, even if it was just to sleep, to himself. “I’m fine, like I told you before. I’m bored and anxious to get out, but I’m not being treated badly.”

“Soon, Ben. Hold in there.”

“That’s what I’m doing,” Ben said aloud. He clicked off the datapad and put it under his pillow again. He snuggled under the blankets and closed his eyes. He might as well get a nap in before someone showed up.

And it would keep him from pacing.

“You look on edge,” Mandetat said, working hard on a diagnostic check on the panel in the small office. Dopheld sat in the chair at the desk, arms crossed in the dim light. Mandetat said he liked networking in from the offices, because he could get more done without people on the bridge nagging him. Dopheld wasn’t even sure why he’d followed the man in when he caught him in the hallway. He was clearly busy. Mandetat asked, “What’s wrong, Major?”

“I have concerns,” Dopheld said. “But I also don’t want to be a gossip.”

“What did the General do this time?” Mandetat asked, typing into the panel. Numbers flew across the screen, back checking and confirming all systems were green one at a time. “Or was it Rodinon?”

“No, he’s been quiet since I threatened him,” Dopheld said. Rodinon had become the least of his worries, even though Dopheld knew the man hadn’t given up on his attempts to usurp Dopheld’s promotion. He took off his hat and sat it on the table. He wanted to be regular Dopheld right now talking with regular Mandetat, not a Major and a Technician. “My concern is with the General.”

“I’m already keeping secrets, what’s one more?” Mandetat said. Dopheld smiled a bit and the other man shook his head in response. He stood up and locked the office door before going back to his screens. Mandetat kept working as he asked, “What’s on your mind?”

“I think I may have underestimated the General’s relationship with Lord Ren,” Dopheld said, starting.

“So you walked in on them sleeping together?” Mandetat asked, typing with a big more vigor in his amused state. “And you’re embarrassed?”

“They have slept together, but that was it,” Dopheld said, thinking back to the way the General had cuddled up into Lord Ren’s side like he belonged there, fitting as neat as a puzzle piece. Dopheld twisted his hands into fists. “Originally I thought General Hux was keeping Lord Ren prisoner to keep him from harming the First Order, or perhaps to turn him back into our weapon. Worst case it was as you suggested, and General Hux was keeping Lord Ren as a trophy of some kind he could use to release tension.”

“That’s one way to put it,” Mandetat said. He stopped typing and turned in his seat to face Dopheld. “Something happen to disprove all of those theories?”

“I had a conversation with the General, where words from Lord Ren had an effect I was not expecting,” Dopheld said. He bit the edge of his lip and pulled his foot back as he sat in the chair. “He truly takes the things Lord Ren tells him to heart.”

Mandetat nodded, letting Dopheld continue.

“And when he was drugged, the way he clung to Lord Ren was not totally carnal in nature. It was genuine fondness, like Lord Ren was something precious to him,” Dopheld said. Mandetat leaned back and Dopheld got to the point: “I am worried that General Hux’s affections for Lord Ren may interfere or hinder the General’s work with the First Order.”

“You think he’ll pick Lord Ren over us if push comes to shove,” Mandetat said.

“I think he might,” Dopheld whispered.

General Hux was thinking of replacements for himself as the Supreme Leader. What did that mean? Was he going to set up the First Order, and then run away with his captive Jedi? Was it a guilt-inspired move because he was thinking of leaving and wanted to leave something behind to the Order? Why would the General possibly want to step down from his position? Didn’t he know how they all looked up to him?

What poison was Lord Ren telling him to have him doubt himself?

“Hey,” Mandetat said, grabbing Dopheld’s arm. “Breathe.”

Dopheld exhaled and leaned back. “Sorry. I just. The Order needs General Hux if we want to accomplish our goals, and I’m concerned about the doubts Lord Ren is putting in his head about himself. I think his attempts at convincing General Hux the Republic is worth his time is sticking.”

“Mitaka,” Mandetat said. He patted Dopheld’s arm and sat back on his haunches. “Look, even if it turns out General Hux is in love with that traitor, he’s not going to abandon the First Order. I have faith in that, even if it means a few decisions may get delayed here or there while he makes a bad choice based on an emotion or two.”

“You’re right,” Dopheld replied. He grabbed his hat, twisting it between his hands. “I have to believe in our General.”

“Right,” Mandetat said. He got up and went back to the control panel and sat back down again. He started typing at twice the pace, eyes on his work. “But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t keep watch. You and I can forgive a slip here or there, but he’s in the center of attention right now, if you know what I mean.”

“Right,” Dopheld said. He put his hat on and stood up. “Damage control is all part of the job at this point. Don’t you think?”

“To be expected,” Mandetat said.

“Thank you for the talk,” Dopheld said.

“Anytime, Major,” Mandetat said. “We helped bring that monster onto the ship, and we feed it, so we should probably make sure the General’s pet doesn’t cause too much trouble while we’re at it.”

“Agreed,” Dopheld said.

Hux made his way back to Ren’s room, his pace slow. He had thought on what Mitaka had said, and he found himself giving merit to both. Ren was right in the long run, but for now, Hux was fine where he was as the head of the First Order. Ren would just have to deal with it until he had the genuine free time to shop around for a proper puppet figure head that Hux could delegate civilian matters to.

He could compromise when he needed to.

His boots tapped in the hallway as he made his way to Ren, his coat light on his shoulders with Millicent once again tucked away in her case. The empty halls of the third shift were welcome, and he listened to the hum of his Finalizer in the background.

Hux had been home for four months now, and he still refused to take that sound for granted ever again.

Ren’s quarters waited for him, and Hux smiled as he approached the door. Inside, he found Ren asleep on his bunk, snuggled in his blankets. Hux entered the cell, sitting on the edge of the bed. He brushed Ren’s hair back behind his ears and admired his relaxed face. The man shifted in his sleep, more dead to the world than usual without the Force to help it out with warnings. Hux leaned over and kissed Ren on the head, right in the middle of soft waves.

The attention was enough to disturb the man’s sleep, but not wake him. Ren’s arm went under the pillow as he shifted, knocking his datapad into the wall.

Hux shook his head reaching over to grab the thing. Ren really shouldn’t leave that lying about. He was going to knock it off the bed and break it if he kept shifting that way, and he had no way to replace it. Hux leaned against Ren’s back, loving the warmth as he looked for a better place to put the datapad.

The screen beeped with a new message.

Chapter Text

“Wake up.”

Ben tugged his blanket harder against his side, attempting to make his bunk more comfortable. He missed his new mattress in the Silver Wing, and he cursed himself for not suggested Armitage relocate it. He was warm though, with heat at his back and sleep tugged at him still. Ben grunted into his pillow when something else called at him to “wake up.” It couldn’t be time to get up yet. He had only just started his nap, hadn’t he?

“Come on, Ben. You need to wake up.”

There was a push on his shoulder, and the voice speaking to him sounded familiar. It sounded like Armitage trying to nudge him awake. Ben snorted and snuggled further into the pillow. He may have been a captive, but he didn’t have to answer to Armitage’s every beck and call on command.

“Your mother keeps sending messages,” Armitage said, whacking him in the side with something flat and hard. “Get up and answer her already before I do it.”

Ben shot up in bed, almost knocking his head against Armitage’s. His heart raced a thousand miles a minute seeing his datapad in Armitage’s hand with the screen flashing the latest message for all to read and see.

“You’re lucky I only caught the most recent two.” Armitage glared at him, shoving the beeping datapad into his hands. He pouted, and Ben prayed to the Force with all of his might his mother hadn’t sent any incriminating messages. “Both of which called me some rather unflattering names that you can tell her I don’t appreciate. I hate to think what else she’s saying about me in there. Just what are you telling her?”

Ben snatched the datapad back and held it to her chest. He needed to think quick and decided to take a risk. “Mostly good things, but she doesn’t believe me.”

“To be fair, I wouldn’t either,” Armitage said. He crossed his arms and huffed. “But really. What sort of message is ‘If that man did anything to you I’ll kill him.’ Does she not know you sleep? Does she really think the only reason you wouldn’t answer immediately is because I’ve slit your throat?”

“I’m usually pretty prompt,” Ben said, glancing at the datapad. There were six new messages, but only the most recent one was shown on the screen at a time. It was a good thing the Force still existed to look out for him, even if he couldn’t access it. “And maybe she forgot we ran on ship standard time. She’s busy and planets don’t follow ship hours.”

Armitage watched him closely for a second before he leaned closer. “Are you alright? You woke up pretty fast.”

“I wasn’t planning on falling asleep, either,” Ben said, muttering. That was a lie, but it would make more sense to wake with a jerk like that if he’d been caught off guard. Though it was true he slept longer than he had planned. “How long have you been here?”

“A few minutes,” Armitage said. He tapped on the front of the datapad when another message beeped. “Aren’t you going to answer her?”

“Yeah,” Ben said, looking down at the pad. He kept the screen angled toward himself and tapped open the message log. Armitage smirked at him, leaning down to take off his boots. He typed quickly, asking, “You want to say hello?”

“Might as well,” Armitage said. He crawled onto the bed, dropping next to Ben on the wall side of the bunk. He curled into Ben’s side, but didn’t make an effort to look at the screen. If he was reading, he was doing it discretely. “Let her know we’re snuggling. I’m sure it’ll make her livid.”

“I know you live for that,” Ben said, tapping out an abbreviated version of “Hux is here and read your last two messages.” Ben sent it, and huffed at the “We’ll talk later” his mother shot back. Ben turned his datapad off and put it under his pillow. “You scared her off.”

“Good,” Armitage said. He patted Ben’s chest and huffed. “Stop putting that there. I found it because you smacked it into the wall in your sleep. It’ll break at this rate, and you obviously can’t get a second one since I don’t know your mother’s private channels.”

“Right,” Ben said. He pulled it out and put it under the bunk on the floor, with the screen side of the pad toward the floor. He held his breath and slipped back into bed and Armitage’s arms. “Long day?”

“No, actually,” Armitage said. He sounded amused at least, and hugged Ben’s side harder as he relaxed. “You think I only come here to see you when I’m having a bad day to make myself feel better? I’m hurt.”

“I’m sure you’re torn up about it,” Ben mumbled. He slid back under the covers and dropped his head on the pillow. “Good night, Armitage.”

“Good night, Ben.”

Armitage fell asleep a few moments later, his breath even and body completely relaxed. Ben petted the back of his hair, and reached a hand down to grab his datapad. While Armitage slept, Ben continued to plan against him with Leia and the Resistance.

He reminded himself it was necessary, and his guilt was unavoidable.

Dopheld had gotten used to everyone thinking he was sleeping with the General. Once word got around that “Mitaka knows that we know” they’d been much more open asking him about it. He didn’t tell them any details of course, citing privacy and to discourage gossip (which always got a frown and a hit to his arm regardless of his new rank), but he had gotten used to it.

Finding the General sleeping over night in Lord Ren’s cell, on the other hand, he never got used to.

It was the fifth morning in a row he’d found the General coming out of Lord Ren’s quarters before dipping into his own to get ready. Dopheld waited outside the General’s quarters, pressing his lips together. It was odd this change had come about so close to the General questioning his own leadership (among other things).

Lord Ren must have said something big to have upset him this badly, despite everything he was doing to try and take the First Order from General Hux.

“Major,” the General said, coming out of his room. He patted his pocket, and Dopheld saw a little head poke out of his inner pocket. Millicent seemed in good spirits, despite being abandoned every night. “You don’t have to walk me to the bridge every morning, you know.”

“I know how much you want to keep our guest secret,” Dopheld said, feeling bold. The General had grown too relaxed over the months, and it was bound to get him caught. If people had noticed Dopheld sneaking out, it was only a matter of time. “I like to make sure the hallways are clear when you switch rooms in the mornings.”

The General faltered a step and looked toward Dopheld with a look. He pressed his lips together and cleared his throat. “I suppose I owe you a bit of thanks in that case.”

“Don’t think of it, sir,” Dopheld answered. “Your business is your own.”

“All the same, it seems a bit above and beyond,” General Hux said.

“If anyone were to know about your companion, it would jeopardize everything you’re doing for the First Order.” Dopheld lowered his voice. “At the same time, I’m also aware that without you there is no First Order. Protecting your privacy in this matter is the best way I can serve the Order, so it’s not a problem.”

“Of course,” said the General. His voice was low, and his fingers twitched. “I do appreciate it, Mitaka.”

“Any time, sir,” Dopheld answered.

“Very good,” General Hux said. He stood straighter and straightened his greatcoat lapels on his shoulders. He held his head higher, and strode onto the bridge looking his usual, confident self. “Unamo, read me the third shift’s status report, and give me an update on the sister ship.”

“Yes sir,” Unamo said.

Dopheld took his place at his own station and went to work. He kept an eye on the General however, just in case the man let his mask slip. The poor man had a lot on his mind, and that wasn’t good considering what day it was.

General Hux braced himself on the front railing of the bridge. “Have the preparations been made, Major?”

Yes, sir,” Dopheld said. “We’re at the ready.”

“Perfect,” General Hux said, looking more like himself than he had in the past week.

Armitage spent the rest of the week with Ben, and he kissed him goodbye the same way he did every morning.

Today, however, when Armitage left, Ben opened the datapad and sucked in a breath: It was time.

Despite Ben’s suggestions that the attack happen during third shift when Armitage was in the room with Ben, his mother had vetoed it. They decided to make the attack an hour into first shift, when everyone was settling into routine. It would be early enough to catch them off guard, but not late enough in the day that the crew would be in full swing.

Ben sat dressed on the bed, staring at the time on the edge of his datapad. Ten minutes. He had ten minutes before the first shots would be fired.

“Everyone is prepped and ready for the jump to lightspeed,” his mother said, a message flashing across the screen. “The countdown has started. We’re almost there, Ben.”

“I’m ready,” Ben replied back. As an afterthought he typed in a quick message. “Don’t forget to remind them not to hit my ship. It’s the white Upsilon model. I’m sure it’s in the hanger bay with the other ties and ships.”

“If it hasn’t been painted black again.”

“It hasn’t,” Ben said. He’d asked that one night when he and Armitage were chatting about nothing. Ben had asked what happened to his ship and Armitage had replied, “Don’t worry about your ship, Ben. I’ve got it all nice and ready for you when you finally declare your loyalties to the First Order genuinely. Only good boys get to fly space ships.”

“Don’t let them hurt my ship,” Ben typed back. Not only because he liked that ship, but also because it was how he was planning to escape in the middle of the chaos.

“Solo men and their ships,” his mother replied. “Nothing ever changes.”

Ben snorted and watched the door, tapping a foot on the floor.

Five minutes.

“Is dad flying in?” Ben asked.

The reply came a minute later. “Of course. The Falcon’s all ready to go with the first group in. Though the plan is still for Rey to come get you.”

Four minutes.

“Understood,” Ben said. He stood from the bed and walked back and forth. “I’ll be waiting.”

He heard his own pulse in the back of his brain, and the Ysalamiri wandered about their cage, agitated. They were sensitive to the Force, and had to have natural instincts letting them know what was coming.

One minute.

Ben closed his eyes and breathed in, counting to ten. He opened his eyes in time to see “Plan is go” as it flashed across his datapad screen

The Finalizer shook as the first of the explosions smacked into the side from the gun fire. The lights above him flickered, but the cell door remained active. Armitage had a spare power supply for it, ever prepared, but Ben wasn’t worried.

Rey would come.

He heard the warning sirens flash to life, and his holoprojector emergency warning broadcast button blinked. He didn’t click it; he knew what was out there.

Ben cut off the datapad and put it in his tunic for safekeeping. From this point on, his mother would be concentrating on the battle at hand. Ben just had to wait. They’d come to get him. He’d find his lightsaber. He’d save Armitage. They’d run.

He had a plan.

The ship continued to rattle around him and Ben waited.

“Report, Unamo,” Hux said, watching the monitors. The ships continued to batter against his ship, but most of the fire was concentrated on the Finalizer, which meant the Resistance was falling right into his plan. “Is the sister ship ready?”

“The numbers are more than we predicted but we should be good to go,” Unamo reported. “Ready to fire on command.”

“Then let’s end this,” Hux said, twisting his hands into fists. He had to give Ben credit, he had almost gotten away with it. Organa’s little plan had almost worked, but the Force didn’t favor them. It was on Hux’s side. He yelled, “Release the Ties from the second ship and fire at will!”

Hux smirked as the fighters screamed out of their bay, firing on the back of the ships that had just arrived and fired. They thought they could get off a surprise attack did they? They weren’t the only ones with a plan up their sleeves. If they were going to be cowardly and attack straight out of lightspeed, he felt no guilt shooting them in the back with the ship they believed to be mostly abandoned.

He couldn’t wait to win this battle and go back to Ren and tell him of the defeated Resistance. The look on his face would be more than worth it when he realized it wasn’t Hux who had been fooled with the behind-the-back planning.

Hux had told him it wouldn’t matter what Ren told his mother. This plan of his had only sped up the inevitable defeat of the Resistance.

Nothing more.

“Two x-wings down,” Mitaka reported, eyes on the report screen. “Four more. Your plan is working.”

“Keep on it,” Hux said. He kept his eyes on the monitors and sucked in a breath. “There can be no mistakes. We don’t have numbers on our side, and we can’t forget it.”

“Yes, sir!”

Hux thought of Ren in his cell, listening to the shots firing around him and the shake of the ship. He probably thought help was coming. How devastated the poor man would be when he realized his carefully thought out plan had come crashing down around them. His mother would fall in this battle, and it would be made very clear just where Lord Ren belonged.

It was Ren’s own fault for actually believing Hux hadn’t read his datapad after seeing Organa write “Poe and Finn reported no change in ship location.”

The Force was on Hux’s side, and the proof was in the insulting messages that came soon after, giving Hux the perfect way to fool Ben into thinking he hadn’t seen anything else.

There was no way he could lose.

Chapter Text

Ben’s datapad beeped wildly in his inner pocket in the front of his tunic. He yanked it out and gaped at the first message: “They knew we were coming. We’re not giving in, but somehow they knew.”

“That nerf herder,” Ben muttered under his breath.

He took back every second he felt guilty about keeping this a secret from Armitage. Ben squeezed the edges of his datapad, growling. He’d been too trusting; Armitage had him totally fooled, hadn’t he? Armitage could have been sneaking a read at any time during all those nights he slept over. Ben really couldn’t afford to keep forgetting his boyfriend was evil.

It’d cost him too much already.

The ship continued to rattle around him, but Ben’s eyes were locked to the datapad and the string of messages talking about a changed plan. They’d been ambushed from the sister ship, which had been hiding the bulk of the Tie Fighters. They had no idea how they’d hidden the switch from Poe and Finn, but he’d done it somehow. Ben’s mother had to leave to concentrate on the battle changes, and Ben had to sit and wait.

Though he preferred to pace.

He felt more like a caged animal than he ever had before, listening to the sounds around him and not being able to tell where anyone was. All he could do was walk back and forth, attempting to rid himself of his built up energy. A Ysalamir hissed in its cage and Ben turned on his heel, yelling, “Shut up!”

Ben stalked back and forth between the two walls of his room, his fingers itching to do anything.

He hoped his mother and the Resistance broke through Armitage’s line sooner than later. Ben had a bone to pick with him.

“How are things looking, Captain?” Hux asked. They were outgunned by a mile, but his surprise attack had gained them enough ground to keep the advantage. If they pressed it harder, they might actually at least win the battle and force the Resistance to retreat and regroup. “Tell me good news.”

“The troopers and our fighters are holding their own, but the losses aren’t ideal,” Phasma replied. She gave a list of numbers and Hux frowned. They really could be doing better, but he’d work with what he had. “Your orders, sir?”

“Tell the troops to hold the course,” Hux said. “They have greater numbers, but we’re better trained. Tell the troops to keep moving and fire at anything that moves. We need to weed them down while we’ve still got the first shots.”

“Shields are holding,” Mitaka said. He kept his eyes on the monitors, flipping through screens. “The sister ship reports excessive damage, but guns are still online and firing.”

“The crew is what’s important, and there’s more than enough room for them on this ship,” Hux said. “Tell them to keep the shields on the guns and to keep firing. We’ll lose that second destroyer if we have to, but make sure we take down as many of those Resistance scum as possible until it falls.”

“Message sent,” Mitaka said. “Escape pods are standing by to transport the remainder of the crew in the worst case. Everyone else is in a fighter or manning a gun.”

“Good.” Hux took a step back. Looking over the field, he kept his eyes open for one ship in particular. He looked over his shoulder and huffed. “And if anyone sees a Corellian freighter, tell them to hit it first.”

“How are they winning?” Ben asked, staring at the reports that filtered through his datapad. His mother wasn’t sending point by points, but she was sending enough numbers for him to get the picture. “It doesn’t make sense!”

The screaming Ties outside his window continued to hit the ship, rattling the lights and walls around him. Ben checked the time again. They’d been fighting for at least two hours now, and somehow Armitage had managed to hold the advantage. Even Poe was reporting trouble with three extra ties focusing on him from what Leia was reporting.

Ben tugged at his hair and resisted the urge to scream as he wore a hole in the floor pacing back and forth. He had to be able to do something.

Standing here doing nothing was torture.

His datapad blinked again with another update. He clicked the screen on and cursed when the message from his mother read: “I’m going to handle this myself.”

“The Resistance forces are retreating,” Dopheld said. He clicked through the screens, and looked through it. “Your orders, sir?”

“Have half the troops keep firing, chasing them,” General Hux said. The man leaned on the front railing and breathed slowly. His determined look never left his face, but his hands squeezed the railing. “But be careful that this isn’t a trap to draw us away. Keep your eyes on them. We can’t afford to lose.”

“Sir,” Dopheld said.

He felt a swell of pride in his chest, even though the fight wasn’t over just yet. Their General had everything under control, and he was keeping his cool despite the odds. His precious Jedi had betrayed him, but Hux continued to stay strong. Once this battle was over, things could go back to normal.

“They’re up to something, General,” Phasma said, walking up to the man’s side. She pointed at the line of X-Wings that fell back toward the Resistance’s larger ships. “They shouldn’t be retreating.”

“I agree.” General Hux pulled up a chart with the fighters and wings blazing about outside. The ship’s shields continued to take a pummeling from the Resistance’s own massive vessels. “What are you up to, Organa?”

Dopheld kept his eyes on the charts and swallowed. They had to be ready for anything. There was too much to lose today if they lost. A warning light blinked in the corner of his screen and Dopheld turned to yell, “General!”

Ben didn’t have the Force to sense his mother, but the explosion that rocked the entire ship hard enough to tilt his room a full five inches was a pretty good hint.

Hux shouted over his shoulder, “Phasma! You have the bridge. I’m going to take care of that blasted woman myself.”

“Yes, sir,” she said, taking over the main communication hub.

He should have known. Hux should have known she was holding that sort of fire power in reserve! A small attack ship had come out of nowhere, with fire power concentrated enough to cut right through one of his weaker shields. And all of that just to cover up a boarding party. How stupid did Organa think Hux was? He knew she was in that party. He felt it in the deepest part of his gut. And if it wasn’t her, it was Solo and at the moment, Hux would be more than happy to shoot either of them in the face.

“Stay in your pocket, Millicent,” Hux said, sticking his arms thorough his coat sleeves to keep it from coming off. He made sure the inner button was done, keeping her snug in the little nook. Hux patted the side, mumbling to himself. “I’m going to need you.”

Stormtroopers flew by him as they ran toward the breech on the end of the ship near the hanger bays, on the opposite end from where the Officer’s quarters were. Hux knew exactly what was going on. Organa or Solo or whoever was on that ship was using the Resistance fighters as a decoy while the family member of choice went for Ren.

But no one knew this ship better than Hux; it was his own and his ship.

Which is why he was able to cut Organa off two hallways down from Ren’s quarters.

“Stop right where you are,” Hux said, drawing his blaster. He put the old woman in his sights and snarled. “I should have known you’d come in person.”

“If you want a job done right you do it yourself,” Organa said. She had her own blaster out and fired. Hux dodged, and grinned that his theory had proven true. Organa had a strong bond with the Force, so it probably did her aiming for her subconsciously. If she was missing shots, it meant Millicent was doing her job. She fired again, though, ever persistent. “I see you believe the same since you crawled out of your den, worm.”

“It seems even we can agree on something,” Hux said. He kept his blaster pointed, walking closer. “Not that it matters much.”

“Someone seems confident,” Organa said. She kept her blaster up and eyes fierce. Hux almost respected her; almost. “I’m not leaving here without Ben.”

“Another thing we agree on,” Hux said. He fired his blaster, and missed. Hux tightened his grip on the blaster and calmed himself. He had time. She couldn’t dodge forever. “You’re not leaving here at all.”

“We’ll see about that,” Organa said.

She fired again but Hux made a run forward. She kept shooting, but her aim failed, only glancing the edge of his greatcoat sleeve. He rammed into her smacking her into the wall. She elbowed him in the face, and he fell back, but he backhanded her across the face with the hilt of his blaster and she went down.

“You seem surprised.” Hux went to kick her but she caught his foot. He yanked it back and and kicked her again, faster this time and landing a hit to her hip. “When the playing field is level, it’s not so easy, now is it? Tell me, Organa? How many times have you fought without the Force behind you?”

“I don’t need it to beat you,” Organa said. She was too fast, and fired again, this time hitting Hux in the shoulder. He yelled and she kicked him back again. He hit the ground with a grunt and she stood over him. Organa stomped him in the ribs, kicking him in the chin. “You took my son, and you’re going to pay for it.”

“I took him,” Hux said, growling. He pushed back and kicked as hard into her inner thigh as he could until she stumbled back. Hux rolled onto his knees and hit her again with his pistol, hard across the face as he swung up as far as his arm would reach. She spit a mouthful of blood at him, right across the cheek. Hux vowed, “I’m going to keep him!”

Anger clouded his vision, and everything turned into a blur as the two of them struck at each other, firing their weapons when able and hitting them with it when they couldn’t. Without the Force, Organa was still formidable, but Hux was younger, stronger, and trained. She got in her licks, and every inch of him burned (and he was sure poor Millicent had taken a blow here or there in his haze), but he would not stop.

There was too much on the line.

“I will kill you!” Hux yelled, driving his elbow into her collarbone hard enough that she hit the wall. She stumbled and Hux tackled, hitting her as hard as he could until the woman had trouble breathing, bracing on the wall. Hux pointed the gun at her head, finally getting her on her damn knees. “And I certainly won’t miss you.”

“You go right ahead,” Organa said, blood on her chin. Her hair fell out of her braids, and her eyes burned with hatred. She hissed, “You’re always trying to see just how much of a monster you can be and still have Ben forgive you. When I’m one with the Force, it’ll be great to have a front row seat to the one time when he can’t.”

“Please,” Hux sneered. He kept the blaster pointed steady at her forehead. Hux had seen this a thousand times in his dreams: Organa on her knees, her life in Hux’s hands. It was perfect. Things were finally going Hux’s way! He put his finger on the trigger. “Ben has always known this was what would happen. I have never hidden, nor denied that I was going to kill you if I ever got the chance. It certainly didn’t stop him from sleeping with me then, so I think my chances are pretty high that he’ll get over this, too.”

“You keep believing that,” Organa said, raising her blaster with a shaking hand. Hux kicked it away and it skirted down the hallway. She smirked and held her bleeding arm. “It’s almost sad how good you are at lying to yourself.”

“The opinions of a dead woman don’t mean much,” Hux said. He kept the end of his gun pointed at her head and she stared at him, fearless. He should have known that was the one part of his fantasies that would never come true; a cowering Organa was too much to ask for. Hux would be so glad to be rid of her. “Goodbye, General. I’ll take good care of your son.”

He moved to squeeze the trigger; she continued to stare him down, a challenging smile on her face.

Hux’s hand trembled, and he kept trying to put pressure on the trigger to end it all but his hand wouldn’t cooperate. He knew that damn look she was giving him. He knew it. Hux had seen it too many times on another set of brown eyes and—

“Kriff!” Hux yelled, knocking her hard in the temple with his gun. Her head smacked into the wall and she hit the ground unconscious, still breathing (and hopefully with a concussion), but alive. Hux dropped his gun at his side and yelled, “Damn you!”

She was right. Ren. Ben. He. He would never. Hux stood over the unconscious body of the Resistance leader. Of Princess Leia Organa, the General. Ben Solo’s mother. Hux turned away, dropping his blaster back into his holster.

“He’d never forgive me,” Hux whispered to himself.

The next few moments passed in a blur, not unlike his blinding rage earlier, but as more of a fog. He threw Organa over his shoulders and carried her across the next couple of hallways until he reached the escape pods on the Officer’s wing. He typed in his key, opening the door of one and dropped her inside.

“Get off my ship,” Hux said, dropping his shoulders. He slammed the door shut and stepped back, slamming his hand onto the launch button. “And stay off it.”

He watched her small pod fly off into the distance, and heard a gasp of feet to his left. He turned to see a lone, shaking Resistance officer in the hall, gaping at his bloodied face and ruffled uniform. Hux huffed at him and nodded his head toward the door. “Your General just flew off in that escape pod. I suggest you pick her up.”

The trembling foot soldier yelped and ran off, but Hux saw him grabbing for his comm. They’d pick her up and she’d be saved. Her blood wasn’t on Hux’s hands and Ren had nothing to complain about.

The General of the Resistance would be saved. Hux stopped in the hallway, his insides growing cold. He’d let her get away. He’d. Hux had. He’d done that. He’d.

Hux sucked in a heavy breath. “What did I do?”

“Betrayed the First Order, from what we saw,” Rodinon said, a blaster aimed toward Hux’s head with Captain Phasma and a group of Troopers behind them.

Dopheld ran, the General’s coat clutched tightly in his arms. Millicent yelled in his grip as he ran, his feet aching in his boots and his heart pounding so hard he was sure his ribs would break.

He skidded to a stop outside of Ren’s door, throwing Millicent, coat and all into the glass tank as he scrambled into the room.

“Mitaka?” Lord Ren asked. He looked at the coat and the tank and came up to the bars. “What’s going on? Is the battle over?”

“You have to help him!” Dopheld yelled, dropping the field barrier of the makeshift cell. He pulled the key to the cuffs out of his pocket, but his fumbling fingers dropped it. It clattered against the metal floor with an ominous metallic ring. Dopheld hit the ground grabbing it before yanking over Lord Ren’s hands in a single swoop, inserting the key and twisting. “Please, please help him.”

“Help who?” Lord Ren asked, eyes wide and taking two steps back when the cuffs dropped off and he was freed. “What happened?”

“We don’t have time!” Dopheld shouted, grabbing the front of Lord Ren’s tunic. He shook it once, yelling, “They’re going to execute General Hux!”

Chapter Text

“What do you mean they’re going to execute him?” Ben asked, his wrists free for the first time in months. He rubbed them to get the blood flowing again, and wanted nothing more than to run out of the room, but Mitaka was in a panic and he had no idea what was going on. “The Resistance? They caught him?”

“No, no!” Mitaka shouted, his fist still in the front of Ben’s tunic. His knuckles were white and the man looked more furious than Ben had ever seen him. Mitaka hissed, “The First Order!”

“What?” Ben stared. The First Order practically worshiped Hux. Mitaka wasn’t making any sense. Ben noted his datapad had been rather silent, too, which was even a worse sign. But one problem at a time. Ben asked, “What are you talking about?”

“We don’t have time for this,” Mitaka said. He tugged on Ben’s tunic attempting to drag him. “Rodinon’s going to kill the General any minute if we don’t hurry! I barely got Hux’s coat away when the group arrested him. I had to make up some lie about not letting him look so big and tough when he was executed and I still can’t believe they believed me. But that’s not important! I got his coat him off so you could do your Jedi thing when you get there, but it won’t matter at all if you don’t leave now!”

“You’re rambling!” Ben grabbed Mitaka’s arms and held him in place. The panicked man was out of breath and wasn’t helping. Ben hadn’t even caught half of the words Mitaka had just spit out. “Slow down and start from the beginning. Why does Rodinon want to kill Hux?”

“The battle took a turn for the worst when the Resistance blew a hole in the Finalizer. Rodinon and Phasma went to look for General Hux because he wasn’t answering his comlink, and they found him just as he helped the Resistance leader escape the Finalizer in an escape pod,” Mitaka said, breathing heavily. He glared, punching Ren’s chest with the hand holding his tunic “General Hux has been accused of treason and collaborating with the enemy. They’re going to kill him if you don’t move now.”

Ben grabbed Mitaka’s wrist and pulled his hand off his tunic and moved for the door, dragging Mitaka behind him. It wasn’t his mother, father, or Rey who got him out of this cell, but he was out. This wasn’t how he wanted things to go down, but all in all, Ben’s plan’s hadn’t changed: Grab Armitage and run.

“Listen very closely,” Ben said as he got to the hallway. He stopped there shoving Mitaka back toward the other direction. He loomed over the smaller man, holding his hand up like he aimed to choke him with the Force.“Go to the hanger bay and ready my ship. I’m grabbing Hux, and we’re leaving. Do you understand me?”

Mitaka opened and closed his mouth twice before shutting it with a snap. He took a step back and pointed as he readied to jog. “You better save him.”

“I will.”

Ben turned and tapped down the hallway. He wasn’t out of the Ysalamir’s radius yet, but he knew it was close.

“Where are you going?” Mitaka shouted. He pointed and called out, “They gathered in the training grounds for this!”

“I need something first!” Ben called out. He stopped in front of Armitage’s quarters and opened the door with a code he knew long well. He was just at the edge of the Ysalamir radius, and he should have known it reached as far as Armitage’s quarters. But he had a sliver of the Force returning, just on this edge. It was more than enough to find what he was looking for. “There you are.”

He cracked open the panel under Armitage’s bunk, dragging out the hidden box. His lightsaber sat neatly on top of a small pile of cleaning cloths. He grabbed it, touching the hilt to his forehead before standing and striding out of the room and falling into a run once he entered the hallway.

The Force hit him like a wall of water the second he passed the end of the hallway; Ben almost cried.

Everything that had been cut off returned; his sixth sense had come back and painted his entire world back into color. He could feel all the life around him, and could sense every ship outside still engaged in smaller battles. His body felt more his own, and his speed picked up as each individual cell improved its performance.

But more importantly, he could see Armitage again.

Hux kneeled, his shoulder aching from where the blaster shot had hit. The burned skin had sealed, but he could feel the scream of pain each time it moved from the torn muscles underneath. His adrenaline from the fight had long worn off, leaving him tired, aching, and stiff.

At least his hands were bound behind his back so he couldn’t move his arm much on accident.

“He set us up! It was always a trap! We should have known the second his traitorous partner was revealed!” Rodinon shouted above his head. Phasma’s men kept their guns on him, and the rest roared in an angry crowd. Their advantage against the Resistance had been lost it seemed. Hux tried to care, but he couldn’t bring himself to. Rodinon yelled. “He brought the Resistance here to finish what his pet monster started!”

Rodinon kicked Hux in the thigh and he grunted. He wished the bitter Lieutenant would just get this over with already.

“That speech of his! His promises! All of them lies!” Rodinon continued to shout. He pulled out his blaster, waving it at Hux’s head. “Proven true when he let the General of the Resistance walk out of here! He’s a traitor to the First Order!”

“What do you have to say, General?” Phasma asked, voice cold.

“I deny everything but letting the General of the Resistance go,” Hux said. Though one offense or many, it was all the same: Hux had betrayed the Order. He’d done it twice now by sparing Ren in the first place, so he had little argument against the punishment they were suggesting. Hux kept his eyes on the ground. “Do with that information what you will.”

“He doesn’t even deny it!” Rodinon yelled. He growled, eyes full of anger and hurt that Hux would bet had more to do with being overlooked for promotion than any real fury at a betrayal, but again, what did it matter? “Even now, the Resistance is regrouping to wipe us out! Are we going to let them sweep in and take him? Or are we going to show everyone what happens to traitors?”

The roar of the crowd for blood was rather thrilling in a way. Hux leaned back, head dizzy just to see them. Those were his men out there; the best. The best of the best. He’d let them down. Hux sunk lower on his knees. He closed his eyes and breathed out.

At least Ren didn’t hate him.

“That’s what I thought.” Rodinon’s boots shifted on the open stage. Hux listened to every creak of their leather. He sucked in a breath as the man’s finger clicked the trigger.

A hum buzzed near Hux’s ear, loud and angry like a roar. It was deafening over the silence in the rest of the room.

Hux opened his eyes, squinting in the face of the red glow. He turned just enough to see a flash of blue and an outstretched hand in a black glove. Hux fell back on his side, looking up at the blaster bolt stilled in mid-air like someone had stopped time. He breathed heavy, gaping as openly as everyone else as Ben Solo walked into the center stage, his blue lightsaber lit at his side.

Ren spun it once in a circle, the bright glow humming soft and loud with the swing, and Hux wondered if he was dreaming.

Ben had never wished for his red lightsaber more in his life.

How dare they? He’d never seen Armitage this broken and defeated, and Ben had literally betrayed him from a shared bed. That cowering Lieutenant stayed bug eyed and scared next to Armitage, blaster still in his hands. Ben flicked his fingers, sending the bolt toward Rodinon’s legs on the stage. The man jumped, backpedaling until he fell on his backside. Phasma threw her gun up, but didn’t move.

No one did.

Ben stalked forward, lightsaber lit until he was next to Armitage. The man stared at Ben like he wasn’t real, and Ben almost hugged him right then and there on the spot. Dressed down to only his tank top undershirt, his shoulder was exposed. The burn wound from a blaster shot was dark and ugly, and Ben saw red. Armitage’s face was bruised like he’d been beaten, and blood speckled his face. Ben needed to get them both out of there.

“We are leaving,” Ben shouted. He snapped his fingers, breaking Armitage’s restraints. The man’s arms fell to the front and he continued to stare, confused and half dazed. Ben needed to get him back to the ship, and he prayed that the medical supplies were still in their cabinets. Ben roared into the room, projecting his rage to induce fear. “And anyone who so much as moves, is going to die. Am I understood?”

“You’ve killed us all anyway, so what does it matter!” A particularly angry stormtrooper yelled from the crowd. “Traitor!”

“He’s not wrong,” Phasma said, gun still pointed at Ben, and her body tense. “You set us all on a path of destruction the second you betrayed us. Do you really think we’re just going to lie down when you come back to finish us off?”

“I’m taking Hux, and we’re leaving,” Ben repeated.

“No, you’re not.” Phasma said again. “Weapon’s up!”

Phasma fired and Ben blocked the shot with his lightsaber. The group behind her did the same and Ben counted to ten in his head to calm down. He welcomed the Force as it guided his hand, blocking every shot. He took a few steps forward to stand in front of Armitage and better defend the dazed man while he searched the room for an exit.

The rest of the troopers were firing now, and Ben threw his hand out toward the crowd to shove them back. Blocking fire, and keeping the troops away from the platform had become a full time job, taking up most of his senses. A body came up from his left and Ben barely looked as he turned and sliced the man’s arm off.

Rodinon yelled, grabbing at his side, and tumbling to the stage. Ben snorted and went back to blocking laser fire.

A loud explosion toward the back of the room distracted everyone, and Ben cursed seeing the swarm of Resistance soldiers filtering in. Whatever lead the First Order had had earlier, it was gone now.

“We need to go,” Ben said. He reached back to grab Armitage and his hand hit air.

Ben looked and blinked at the empty spot on the stage. Armitage was gone, the only sign of him a small smudge of blood on the floor.

“Armitage!” Ben shouted, looking around the crowd. He repelled a blaster bolt back at Phasma before running. He closed his eyes, feeling in the Force for where the man could have gone. It took a moment, but he found the man—and Armitage wasn’t alone.


Hux stumbled from the platform, nearly falling on his face as he tapped away from the battle, seemingly forgotten as everyone attacked the Jedi. It was easy enough to slip away with his tail between his legs, hand pressed into the wound on his shoulder. The compression increased the pain, enough to keep Hux focused and moving.

He had lost everything. His plans had failed. He’d betrayed his Order. Hux had lost. He’d lost and he was going to go back to square one, trapped in some shuttle with no purpose as a best case scenario. The Order was dying, and this time, no pretty words were going to resurrect it. Building from scratch was one thing, but resurrecting cinders and ashes was impossible. His home burned in space, and everything he had done was for nothing.

Hux had kept Ren locked away as a prisoner for nothing.

He leaned against a wall to catch his breath, his legs shaking. Hux needed to be anywhere but here. He didn’t want to see Ren. Hux already felt miserable that he had been seen like this, bleeding and bruised. Ren looked so relieved to see him, but only because Ren didn’t know. He didn’t know what his "Armitage" had done to his mother. He didn’t know how badly Hux had failed.

Hux wanted nothing more but to hide. Facing Ren was something that terrified him, and he was not sure where that burst of feeling came from.
This must be what shame felt like.

Hux pushed off the wall, turning the corner toward where the bridge was. He should at least see what was left and be there when it all came crashing down. It was the least Hux could do.

A hum of a lightsaber sounded behind him; Hux felt the whimper build up, but he shoved it down. He really wasn’t ready to face Ren.

“Where do you think you’re going?”

Hux stilled; that wasn’t Ren.

Chapter Text

The Jedi girl held her green lightsaber blade extended toward Hux, her face determined and angry. The stormtrooper traitor she called a friend stood at her side, armed as well with a blaster more than happy to be aimed toward Hux’s face. Neither of them looked like they’d been through a rough battle, which considering the environment, meant they had won all their encounters.

Hux took a half-turn step to face them, a delirious giggle bubbling up in his chest. Of course this was how his day ended. Why wouldn’t it end this way?

He wished Rodinon had just shot him in the head.

“You aren’t going to get away,” she said, her lightsaber trained on Hux. The soldier kept his weapon pointed at Hux as well, face cold and unforgiving. It seemed a bit of overkill considering Hux could barely stand up straight right now. The girl demanded, “Surrender now.”

“The formality isn’t necessary.” Hux pointed with his good arm down the hall. “If you’re looking for Ren, he’s that way in the training grounds. I believe if you go now, there might be a stormtrooper or two left after he’s done for you to fight.”

“I know exactly where Ben is,” the girl said, emphasizing the “B” in “Ben.” She walked closer, moving the lightsaber blade closer to Hux’s neck. The heat from it sizzled and he felt himself leaning away from it. “I felt him in the Force the second he escaped.”

“Good for you,” Hux said. He pressed his fingers harder into the wound on his shoulder and slumped against the wall. “If you’re going to kill me, just get it over with. I’m tired of talking. It’s over. You won.”

“We’re not killing you,” the ex-trooper said, gun still pointed. Hux recognized his stance from the stormtrooper training regiments; he wondered if the other man even knew he was falling back on training the First Order had granted him. The soldier continued, “The General instructed us to bring you in after we let Ben out. Somebody has to surrender formally to the New Republic.”

“Then you’d better kill me,” Hux said, “and let the next in line do it, because I refuse.”

He’d betrayed his beloved Order enough already for one lifetime.

“You don’t really have a choice in the matter,” the girl said. “You have a lot to answer for, starting with the First Order and ending with what you did to Ben.”

Hux stared past the glowing blade. She kept waving the lightsaber in Hux’s face like it was a threat. Didn’t she know how many times he’d been on the end of Kylo Ren’s threats with a far more unstable blade? And that was when he actually cared what happened to his life. How laughable it was the girl honestly thought she was threatening.

“I’m not going with you,” Hux said.

“You will,” she said again. She changed her stance ever so much, readying to make a move. “And you’re going to be locked away where you can’t hurt anyone ever again.”

“My, you’re young,” Hux said, almost wistful. He leaned on the wall, pressing his head against the warming metal. “I don’t know if you noticed, but my Order is aflame, I’ve been shot in the arm, and I’ve lost pretty much everything near and dear to me. I can’t really hurt anyone right now, can I?”

“With all due respect,” the ex-trooper said. His grip tightened on the weapon, and he refused to let down his guard. It was half-flattering, Hux supposed. The man shook his head. “It’s not worth the risk, considering what we’ve seen you do when everyone was sure you were harmless.”

“There’s a difference between thinking I’m harmless because Ren’s convinced himself he’s got everything under control, and actually being beaten down,” Hux said. He turned away, not caring what they did. His bridge was waiting for him. “If you don’t mind, I’m leaving now.”

“You’re not,” the girl made a swing for Hux with the blunt end of her lightsaber, looking to knock him out and he ducked. “Stop making this difficult!”

“I refuse that, too,” Hux said. He rolled away from the girl. He got to his feet and backed away, hissing at the heat of the saber. She hadn’t turned it off, and he wondered if she wasn’t trying to ‘kill’ him on accident. “Go away!”

“You don’t get to slink off and pretend none of this happened!” the girl shouted. She made a real swing, aiming for his legs and Hux scrambled back. Millicent would be wonderful to have around right now. He hoped Mitaka took good care of her wherever he put her. The girl swung her sword again, this time glancing it against the wall with a flash of sparks. “Do you have any idea how many deaths are on your hands?”

“Yes,” Hux said, dodging to the side. His shoulder sent spikes of pain down his arm and he breathed heavily through his nose. “Do you? It’s a war! The Resistance aren’t exactly spotless, now are they?”

“Defending people from evil men like you is a different matter and you know it,” the trooper said. “Don’t even try that game.”

“It really isn’t that different,” Hux said. He could admit he took more joy in it, perhaps, but whether you enjoyed killing someone or did it reluctantly, someone still died. Hux backed up another step, hitting the wall. He turned his head and that delirious desire to giggle appeared again. Hux had backed himself into a corner. “I’m not going with you.”

“You are, but you don’t need to be conscious for it,” the girl said. She spun her lightsaber around again, hilt toward Hux and raised her arm. She swung it down hard and it stopped an inch from Hux’s face.

A tremble ran up the girl’s arm and Hux got the oddest feeling of déjà vu.

“Rey!” Ben breathed heavily, his arm shaking as he struggled to keep Rey still. Luke hadn’t been kidding when he said she was strong in the Force. Even with so little training, she was fighting Ben off rather well. “Back away from him.”

“Let me go, Ben,” Rey said. “I need to finish this.”

“No, you need to step away from him,” Ben said. Armitage looked more coherent than he had earlier, but he was bleeding from the shoulder now, the wound stretched and open through the burn. “I’m taking Hux and leaving. That’s the only thing that’s going to happen.”

“What are you doing?” Finn asked. “The General said we had to take Hux in! She said you agreed to the plan.”

“I lied,” Ben said. He strode closer, hand still extended as he concentrated on keeping Rey still. He prayed Finn didn’t do anything rash because Armitage was so very close to that blade, and the last thing he needed was to get him hurt with an accidental jerk. “My plan was to always grab him and run. Now if you don’t mind, I’d like to do just that.”

“Why do you keep protecting him?” Rey asked, increasing her struggle. She jerked her arm an inch, and Armitage flinched away from the movement. “Hasn’t he hurt you enough already? He’s a monster, Ben!”

“I know,” Ben said. He couldn’t help the small smile. Rey and Finn stared, but he could only look at Armitage. He caught the other man’s gaze and there was something vulnerable there that Ben both loved being able to see, and hated that it was even there. Ben said, “He was a monster when I met him, he was still a monster when I started sleeping with him, and he was a monster when I ran away with him. That argument isn’t going to do much to deter me from taking him home.”

“You are making a mistake, Ben,” Rey said. “He’s just going to betray you again.”

“He might,” Ben said. He turned on his lightsaber and let it hum at his side. “But I’m still taking him with me.”

“You’re just going to leave your mother again?” Rey asked. Armitage twitched at the word “mother” and looked away from Ben. He clutched his arm harder, digging into the wound. Rey jerked her arm in Ben’s hold. “After everything she’s done to come get you?”

“You should stay with them,” Armitage whispered, fingers digging into his arm. He wouldn’t look at Ben. “I don’t want to leave the Finalizer, so don’t bother picking me over them.”

Something wasn’t right.

Ben gritted his teeth, struggling to focus on Armitage while also holding Rey in place. “We should talk before making big decisions, and this ship is not a safe place to do it.”

Armitage slid to the floor, his back against the wall. He shook his head. “Go away, and go home!”

“If I release you, would you mind stepping back, Rey?” Ben asked. She nodded and he dropped her. Ben breathed easily as he could focus entirely on Armitage once again. Sensing the atmosphere, she backed up until she was side by side with Finn, who had been graciously quiet during this exchange. Rey clicked off her lightsaber and Ben said, “Thank you.”

Ben turned off his own saber and set it on his belt out of the way. He crouched in front of Armitage and pushed his hair back. The man kept looking at the floor. “Armitage?”

He didn’t answer.

Why wouldn’t Ren just go away?

Hadn’t he learned anything from all of this? Hux had chosen Ren over the Order and lost everything. So why was he still here trying to pick Hux? It would cost him his Resistance and his family. Ren would lose it all too and Hux couldn’t take that. It hurt too much, and he couldn’t keep lying to himself about it (Hux had always known this, he had, he had).

Ren didn’t move away, so Hux ignored him. He’d take the hint sooner or later and realize what the broken thing he was sitting in front of wasn’t worth it.

No matter how much Hux still wanted to keep Ren.

Neither of them said anything. Hux pulled his legs up and put his knees between them like a childish barrier. He dropped his head on them and counted. Anything to clear his mind and stop thinking about his ship crashing around him, and the Ren that he couldn’t keep, and his dead Order.

Ren kissed him.

Hard and rough and warm with long fingers on either side of face. Hux melted into it just in time for Ren to stop and pull him into a crushing hug. Ren buried his nose into Hux’s neck and sighed.

“If you go with Rey and Finn, they’re going to lock you up and I’ll never see you again, which is not an option,” Ren said, squeezing harder. Hux’s shoulder burned from the hold, but Ren refused to let go. “If you stay here, you’re going to die, which is even worse. Please come with me.”

“You’re making a mistake,” Hux whispered. “I’m a mistake.”

“You’re my mistake, that I happen to love very much,” Ren said. He rubbed Hux’s back and kissed his shoulder. “Please let me save you.”

“Okay,” Hux said. He felt small; so very small in Ren’s big arms and crushing grip. He repeated himself, “Okay.”

“Good,” Ren answered, voice hoarse. “Good. Thank you.”

He tugged Hux up from the ground and kept his hand on him. The man turned to the girl and her partner and huffed. “I’m taking him, and if you want to stop me, I’ll fight you for it.”

“Yeah, we got that impression,” the soldier answered, gun lowered. He looked down the hallway, his nose scrunched at the sounds of battle that slowly came back into focus as Hux looked around. “Not that I have any idea how you’re going to get out of here. It’s a bit of a mess outside.”

“Trust me,” Ren said, hand on Hux’s back. “Once I’m in the Silver Wing, nothing is going to stop me from flying out of here.”

An explosion rocked the entire hallway, drawing everyone’s attention. Hux grabbed Ren’s side to keep from falling over, his legs weak and arm aching. It felt like it was going to fall off as it kept pulsing with pain.

“The whole front end of the ship is gone,” the soldier said, looking up from a message pad. He huffed and rolled his eyes. He turned to the girl and handed his datapad to her. “Poe said our shuttle went with it. That’s what we get for coming in on the opposite side of the rest of the team.”

The girl shoved the datapad in her bag, dropping her head back. She looked at Ren and shrugged, almost sheepish. “Don’t suppose we could get a ride out at least?”

Ren glanced at Hux, almost asking permission. Hux snorted, “What do I care? It’s your ship.”

“We are definitely having a long talk later,” Ren said. He tugged on Hux’s arm, dragging him down the hallway back toward the hanger bay. “Come on, you two. I’ll drop you off where Poe can pick you up.”

Hux followed the group, but only after he took Ren’s hand and squeezed.

Steps one and two, get out of his cell and grab Armitage, were complete. Ben kept that mantra repeating in his head as the small group raced through the burning, broken corridors of the once proud Finalizer. The hanger bay was fast approaching and if that bootlicker Mitaka had done what he was supposed to, they would have a guaranteed exit.

“Destroyers are too big,” Finn yelled, knocking his gun into a stormtrooper’s chest to knock him away as they ran. “I want everyone to know that.”

“For real,” Rey said, her lightsaber out. She carried herself well, and Ben was almost impressed at how well she and Finn worked together to cover each other’s blind spots. Rey kicked someone in the chest, smashing them into the wall with a thud. “They’re unnecessarily big!”

“Less chatter, more running,” Ben said, silently cursing the Resistance for being efficient and taking out the turbolifts. He tugged on Armitage’s good arm to make sure he was keeping up with the group. The man was being unusually quiet, but Ben couldn’t afford to worry about him too much just yet. As soon as they got in the ship and dropped off Rey and Finn, they could work some things out. “We’re almost there.”

They made it down two more hallways when the hanger bay burst into view. The majority of ships had been deployed, and there were signs of a fight from the ones that didn’t quite make it out. In the far corner though, protected by an active shield, was his very own Silver Wing.

Ben couldn’t remember the last time he saw something so beautiful.

He squeezed Armitage’s hand, eyes focused on the ship. The ramp lowered as they approached, which meant Mitaka did something useful. The engines lit a few seconds later, and Ben thanked the Force that someone was paying attention. The small group reached the ramp just as it hit the ground, and Ben did not want to waste any more time.

The Finalizer was going down for good.

Ben tugged Armitage forward, pushing him ahead and up onto the ramp. They had been noticed by stragglers, and soldiers fired on them. Rey blocked shots with her lightsaber, and Finn fired back covering them.

Ben and Armitage were halfway up the ramp when someone appeared at the top; someone who was definitely not Mitaka.

“It’s about time you got here,” Mandetat said, blaster raised. “We were getting really tired of waiting.”

Chapter Text

Hux stared at Mandetat, looming over all of them from the high ground at the top of the ramp. Ren squeezed Hux’s hand hard, near growling as he glared. Mandetat glared back, but fired his weapon over their heads, hitting a stormtrooper in the leg as he came up behind them.

Ren kept looking at Mandetat like he was a worm that didn’t belong, and everyone else was wary, but no one openly attacked him.

“Come on! We don’t have all day!” Mandetat shouted at the motley group. He threw a thumb over his shoulder. “We need to leave!”

“Right,” Ren said. He dragged Hux up the ramp with him, glaring at Mandetat before ushering in his two friends. Hux stumbled a bit as he tripped on the ramp hatch, but managed to stay up right as they gathered in the small entrance way. Mandetat slammed the ramp control button, recalling it back into the ship. Ren grabbed the front of Mandetat’s uniform. “What are you doing here?”

“Helping the General and Mitaka,” Mandetat said, sneering at Ren. The Technician had never liked Ren much, Hux remembered. Mandetat remained on edge, but broke his glare enough to nod his head toward the cockpit. “Are you going to fly this thing or what?”

“I don’t trust this,” the soldier said. The Jedi girl nodded in agreement. Hux had almost forgotten about them. The ex-trooper pointed at Mandetat and looked at Ren. “Are they supposed to be here?”

“Is that the General?” A voice called from up top. A head poked out of the staircase, and Hux staring, seeing that it was Thanisson of all people. The young man dropped his head with an exaggerated sigh of relief. “Oh! Good! Mitaka’s got the bacta patches ready to go in the kitchen, sir!”

“We’ll be up in a second,” Mandetat said. He shoved off Ren’s grip on his uniform and sneered. “Just as soon as a certain someone goes to fly the shuttle.”

“How many of you are on my ship?” Ren asked as he backed up toward the cockpit entrance. He kept hold on Hux’s arm, almost protectively. “This was not the deal.”

“Just go fly the ship,” Mandetat said. “Unamo’s already up there to copilot.”

“I don’t need one!” Ren growled. He poked Mandetat in the shoulder, rage rolling off him. “How do I know you guys didn’t sabotage my ship?”

“Ben,” Hux said, tugging his arm. He turned to look at Hux, eyes wide but body still tense. “If they wanted to do something, they would have been in Rodinon’s mob. Go fly the ship and just get us out of here before the rest of the Finalizer explodes.”

“Fine,” Ren said. He pointed at Mandetat and hissed, “You do anything other than treat his wounds, and I’ll kill all of you.”

“Fair enough,” Mandetat said. “Just hurry up before the hanger explodes and we can’t get out.”

Ren disappeared up to the cockpit (but not before squeezing Hux’s hand one last time), leaving Mandetat alone with Hux and the two tagalongs. The awkward quiet was covered up by the sound of the engines roaring and the ship shaking as it started to lift.

Mandetat spared the Jedi girl and her friend a look before ignoring them. He gently touched Hux’s injured arm arm and asked, “Do you think you can make it up the ladder?”

“No,” Hux said. He stared at the floor, something tight in his chest. His shoulder burned, and his vision clouded. “I think I’ll just stay here.”

He shuffled to the side wall and sat, quietly ignoring the others as Mandetat cursed and headed up the ladder shouting at someone.

Ben dropped the wings of his shuttle and glared at the woman next to him with her headset. She spared him a glance before going back to the readings on the control panel like she belonged there. Ben had told Mitaka to get his ship ready, not gather a crew to drag along with them. Truth be told, Ben wasn’t even going to let Mitaka come along when he left with Armitage, but now he was stuck with them.

Leaving them all to die in a burning hanger bay on a ship about to explode wasn’t the greatest Jedi thing to do, First Order officers or not.

“I’m kicking all of you out the second we’re in clear space,” Ben said, flipping up the next few switches as the craft hovered. A beam crashed down behind them and Ben double checked the shields. They remained holding and he double checked the engine readings and made sure all of the docking clamps were released. “So don’t get used to it in here.”

“I believe that will be up to the General,” Unamo said, adjusting her headset. She pulled up the scanning controls, typing without a care. “You’ll be clear to leave the hanger in three.”

“You don’t need to tell me,” Ben said.

He gunned it at two seconds, heading straight past the screaming Tie-Fighters just outside the hanger door. His ship met open space and he searched around the sea of ships firing on the last few stragglers, looking for a good place to make a jump to lightspeed. The second destroyer was burning as badly as the Finalizer, and he saw a few of the bigger Resistance ships hovering just beyond.

Ben clicked on the comm, and typed in the Resistance open channel he’d been given.

“You’re not going to contact them, are you?” Unamo asked. The lack of emotion in her voice embodied everything the First Order stood for and it gave Ben shivers. He was reminded of all those days he hated being on the bridge. She tapped her finger on the edge of the panel. “That might not be wise with General Hux on board and the entire Resistance out for his blood.”

“I’m contacting one of them,” Ben said, growling through his teeth. She wasn’t wrong, but he needed to let his mother know what was going on, and let Poe know where he could pick up Rey and Finn. He clicked on the comm, deciding to get two birds with one stone. “This is Silver Wing contacting Black One. You there, Poe?”

“Reading you loud and clear, Ben,” Poe replied back over the radio. Ben felt out with the Force, spotting the Black One in the distance chasing down a Tie-Fighter. “Glad to see you escaped in the chaos.”

“I wanted to let you know that I’ve got Finn and Rey on board, and we’re about to make a jump out of here,” Ben said. He kept his finger on the comm panel, keeping an eye on Poe’s ship in case he did something stupid like turn around to chase him. “Tell my mom I’ll contact her later on the private channel with a place you can pick them up.”

“Ben, wait!” Poe said.

Ben typed in the coordinates for the lightspeed jump for the place he’d chosen to hide out during his many hours stuck in his room. He’d hover somewhere around Arkanis. it was far enough away that he’d have a good bit of distance between himself and the Resistance, but still in the Outer Rim under New Republic control.

“Sorry, but I really need to go, Poe,” Ben said when the monitor showed his ship being targeted by a few pilots.

“No, seriously, I need to tell you something!” Poe yelled.

Ben almost waited for him to finish, but he knew if he kept talking, he might get talked into staying. He couldn’t afford that with a ship full of First Order refugees. “Tell me later.”

He snapped off the comm and punched the jump.

Dopheld crouched next to General Hux, the medical kit in his lap. The man had curled up on the ground next to the wall in the entrance bay, and looked half-dead and very small despite his height. He was thankful Mandetat had herded the two Resistance soldiers upstairs with Thanisson so they couldn’t see the General this way.

“May I clean your shoulder?” Dopheld asked. He knelt there, eyes taking in the General’s bruised face and bloodied clothes. The blaster wound on his shoulder was the worst of it, though. The rest would heal in time, but that was where real, permanent damage could happen if it wasn’t taken care of. “It needs to be treated.”

“Do as you like,” General Hux said. He laughed and slumped further down. “All considered, I don’t have much authority right now.”

Dopheld nodded, biting the edge of his lip. He opened the kit, pulling out cleaning rag. He opened the sterile plastic, and doused it in disinfectant before holding it over Hux’s shoulder. “This might sting.”

Hux nodded, wincing when the rag made contact, but he gave no other complaints.

Dopheld cleaned the wound in quiet, wiping away the worst of the burnt skin with the rag. The raw skin pulled tightly, and Dopheld had to hold his breath to avoid the smell of cooked flesh. Once it was clean, he gently nudged Hux to lift his arms so he could pull off his tank top. The man held his rolled shirt in his lap as Dopheld pulled out the sealed bacta patches and applied them generously.

“I’m sorry I couldn’t do more,” Dopheld said, wrapping gauze around the bacta patches to hold them in place. He pulled it around Hux’s chest, securing it before helping the man get his shirt back on. “Running away to get Lord Ren was the only thing I could think of.”

“It was the right choice,” Hux said, staring at the far wall and the closed ramp. “We were going to lose the battle whether Rodinon and Phasma overthrew me or not. At least with this, you and the others got away.”

“And you, sir,” Dopheld said. He opened a fresh disinfectant wipe and hesitated before applying it to Hux’s face. He wiped off the blood, and exhaled seeing that most if it wasn’t the General’s. “I’m glad you’re safe, too.”

Hux stared at him and dropped his head back, allowing Dopheld to finish tending the rest of his wounds. “Who else is on the shuttle?”

“Mandetat, Thanisson, and Unamo,” Dopheld said. “It’s just the four of us.”

“Ren looked surprised you were all here,” Hux said.

“After I let him out of his room, he only told me to get the shuttle ready, so I guess he would be. I hadn’t really planned on getting anyone else either until Mandetat caught me in the hallway when I was heading for the shuttle, and he suggested we might need more help keeping soldiers away while we readied the ship,” Dopheld said. He sat on the floor, picking up the used rags. “Thanisson and Unamo were the only ones we trusted, so we asked for help, and they said yes.”

“I see.”

Dopheld twisted the used rag in his hand. He wanted to ask the General what they were going to do next. He wanted to ask if the man was alright (even though it was so obvious he wasn’t.) Dopheld wanted to know if Hux had any idea what Lord Ren was going to do with all of them, and he wanted to ask who the two strangers upstairs were.

He had so many questions, but one look at the General’s broken form sealed his lips. It was too soon, and he had a feeling Hux didn’t have any answers to give right now.

“You don’t have to sit here with me,” Hux said. He put a hand over his wrapped shoulder, still staring at nothing. “I’m not going to disappear after all the work you and everyone else did to get me here.”

Despite what he said, Dopheld was fairly certain the man looked like he wanted to fade away. Wasn’t there anything Dopheld could do to make him feel better?

He sat up, dropping the rags and grabbing the medical kid. “Wait one minute. I have something upstairs I think you’ll like.”

Dopheld felt the General’s eyes on his back as he scrambled up the ladder.

Ben put the shuttle into a hover in Arkanis’ orbit, leaning back in his seat. Unamo continued to monitor the ship from the co-pilot seat, her headset tuned to local broadcasts.

“I believe we’re in the clear,” she said.

“For now,” Ben said. He closed his eyes, concentrating on the others in the ship. Finn and Rey were in his kitchen with Mandetat and that kid officer he’d seen on the bridge. Thanisson? That might have been his name. Everyone checked for, he looked for the most important one and— Ben shot up. “No.”

He leapt out of the seat and headed down to the entrance of the ship.

Ben skidded into the area and dropped his jaw, seeing Armitage on the ground smiling. Mitaka sat next to him, his arms on his knees. In Armitage’s lap was something Ben had hoped died on the Finalizer.

He couldn’t stop his jaw from dropping horror.

“Ben!” Armitage said, looking up with a bright smile and wet eyes. His shoulder was freshly wrapped in white gauze, and picking at it was a very small Ysalamir. “Look! Mitaka saved Millicent! She’s okay!”

“Great,” Ben said. He walked over and collapsed on the floor next to Armitage and dropped his head on the uninjured shoulder.

At least Armitage was smiling.

Chapter Text

Hux petted Millicent in his lap as he sat at the kitchen table. Ren’s command shuttle hovered in the orbit of the rainy planet below (Arkanis, it had to be Arkanis), and there was a bit of a standstill with its inhabitants.

They’d gathered in the kitchen area near the table, though not many were using it. The two Jedi were standing, as well as the other First Order officers. They appeared to be following protocol, even though no one was there to enforce it at the moment (or they were trying to appear intimidating; it could be either). The ex-stormtrooper, however, had rolled his eyes at the lot of them and sat at the table when no one else moved to.

Hux appreciated that, as it meant he wasn’t the only one sitting.

The group had a rather big issue on their hands, that would have been easier to deal with if anyone was willing to be cooperative.

“What do you mean you’re not leaving?” Ren asked, throwing his hand up. He gave up his standing pose to pace back and forth. “There is not enough room on this ship for you all.”

“There will be when your Jedi friend and her companion leave,” Mandetat said, arms crossed. He stared Ren down, sneering. “This ship is made to house five comfortably, and up to six or seven if people share bunks. We’re not going anywhere.”

“This is my ship and my home and I don’t want you here,” Ren said, figuratively putting his foot down on the subject. “You either tell me somewhere to drop you, or I’m going to hand you over to the Resistance with Rey and Finn!”

“Until General Hux says he doesn’t want us here, we’re not leaving,” Mitaka said, standing by Thanisson. He looked puffed up, despite having opened the front zipper of his uniform jacket. “We go where he does.”

“Considering the First Order just burned to the ground, he’s not exactly a General any more,” the girl said. She leaned on the sink counter, munching on a package of crackers she’d dug out of the pantry. “There’s not much reason for you to keep following him around.”

“Why you,” Mitaka growled. He took a step forward and Thanisson grabbed his arm to pull him back.

“Why are you still following me?” Hux asked, curious. He squeezed Millicent closer and stared at the table top. “I put my personal matters above the Order’s best interests. I betrayed you.”

“With all due respect, words such as ‘I’d give up my humanity’ are frequently symbolic more than literal,” Unamo said. She pulled off her headset, dropping it on the counter behind her. “We do acknowledge that you are human, and as such, have weaknesses that accompany it. Your betrayal was one such moment of weakness, and a minor offense in the long run of things. Considering the circumstances surrounding it and your ranking, we have found it a forgivable action.”

“In other words, we’re not holding it against you,” Mandetat added. He dropped his arms and took a seat at the table next to the ex-trooper. “Hope you don’t mind we’re following the unwritten ‘look the other way’ policy.”

“Plus, it’s not like we have anywhere else to go,” Thanisson said, snorting. Unamo hit him in the arm and he hissed. “Hey! It’s true!”

“What did Hux do?” the ex-trooper asked. He waved his hand across the table, leaning back in his seat. “We heard a big ruckus on the comms about the First Order going crazy, but no one ever explained what was going on.”

“I intercepted General Organa as she went to rescue Ben, and we fought,” Hux said, saving his men the trouble. He squeezed Millicent to his chest, breathing out. “Despite coming out of the fight the victor, I chose to send her off the Finalizer in an escape pod instead of executing her, and my moment of weakness was discovered.”

Ren looked over at Hux, and he couldn’t meet the man’s eyes.

“So you had compassion on someone, and they considered that treason?” The girl asked.

“Rey, that was roughly the equivalent of us letting General Hux go because we felt bad we beat him up,” the soldier said. And once again, it was the old First Order soldier who made the most sense. It almost made Hux proud. He leaned over the edge of his chair as he looked at his friend. “Can you imagine what would happen if we told the Resistance ‘Yeah! We found the General you sent us to capture, but we let him go because we won the fight and felt bad for him.’ They’d have strung us up. I mean, at least now our excuse is the super-powerful Jedi stopped us from getting him.”

“Oh,” the girl said. She winced and ate another cracker. “Good point.”

“Okay, you know what? We’re all tired and I would like to talk with Hux alone,” Ren said. He rubbed between his eyes across the bridge of his nose and dropped his hand. “Can you guys avoid fighting for an hour or so?”

There was a variety of nods and grunts from the various parties and Ren sighed. He tapped Hux on the back and nodded toward their quarters in the back. “Come on.”

“Right,” Hux said, swallowing. So much for letting everyone argue it out instead. He handed Millicent to Mitaka, following Ren into the back room.

Ben wanted nothing more than to collapse on his (very soft, oh how he missed this thing) bed with Armitage to have their conversation, but he was blocked by a large box sitting on the blankets.

He opened the top lid, and tugged out his black hood and cape. Underneath were a bunch of objects he didn’t recognize. A book that read “Imperial Academy” was shoved in the side, and there were some small journals. A small box of medals was in between and Ben had a good guess about who’s things these were.

“I guess Mitaka collected your things when he got Millicent,” Ben said. He dropped his cape back on the top of the box. “How did he have time for all of that? It didn’t take that long for me to go get you.”

“There isn’t a lot of room in officer quarters for personal effects,” Armitage said. He pushed it to one end of the bed and sat next to the box as looked inside. “There’s one shelf in a cabinet in the same spot in every room. I’m sure it took less than a second to shove everything in a box and leave.”

He touched the edge of the box and sighed. “I should thank him later.”

“Yeah,” Ben said. He sat next to Armitage and braced his hands on his knees. “Is your shoulder feeling any better?”

Armitage nodded, and leaned against Ben. “Your mother had good aim, even with Millicent blocking the Force.”

Ben dragged his hand through his hair, shaking it out. At least now he had a pretty good idea about what Poe was trying to tell him over the radio. Leia getting beaten and thrown into an escape pod was something Ben really ought to know. He closed his eyes, feeling for her in the Force, glad the lizard was just far enough away in the kitchen that he could still do so from his room. It was easy enough to find Leia, and it was good to see his father with her. She was weak, but stable. His mother would be fine, but the man standing sitting next to him, perhaps not so much.

“You let her go,” Ben said.

Armitage gripped his hand into a fist and nodded, jaw clenched.

Ben kissed him on the top of Armitage’s red hair and mumbled, “But you wish you didn’t.”

“Would you hate me if I said yes?” Armitage asked. He folded his shoulders in and licked his lip. “I wanted to kill her and I almost did. She was on her knees and beaten and bleeding and it would have been so easy.”

“What stopped you?”

“She did that thing you do when you’re mad,” Armitage mumbled. He dug his thumb into the back of his other hand, and he choked out a short laugh. Armitage reached up and tugged on the end of Ben’s curls. “It was the same smug ‘I’m right and you know it’ expression you get, and I couldn’t stop thinking about how much you’d hate me if I actually killed her.”

“I know you have a lot of regrets right now, but if it is a consolation,” Ben said, “I’m glad and thankful you didn’t kill her.”

“At least you’re happy,” Armitage snorted. He hugged Ben’s side and pushed them both over. He squeezed Ben’s side, sounding very tired. Ben didn’t blame him; he could use a nap himself after their day. Armitage asked, “Now what do we do?”

“We call Poe and give him a place to pick up Rey and Finn, and then I guess we figure out what to do with Mitaka and the others,” Ben said. He rubbed Armitage’s back in slow, soothing circles. “I guess we could get them new clothes and drop them off on Arkanis. It’s safe enough, I suppose.”

“I’m not subjecting Mitaka and everyone else to a planet where it rains three days of the week and has cloudy, misting days the rest of the time.” Armitage snorted into Ben’s side. “It’s miserable. Believe it or not, even people who spend most of their lives on Star Destroyers appreciate sunlight once in a while.”

Ben turned on his side. “You sound like you have experience with that.”

“Ah, so you didn’t know,” Armitage said. He patted Ben on the cheek and dropped his head on Ben’s shoulder. “I had wondered about that when you told me where we were.”

“Didn’t know what?”

“That I was born here,” Armitage said. Ben shifted to hug Armitage closer, sinking both of them into the mattress. Armitage said, “My father founded the Imperial Academy that used to be here, remember? I spent about five years here before the planet was taken over by the New Republic and my family and the other old Imperials fled to space.”

“Does it bother you we stopped her?” Ben asked. He knew how Armitage felt about his father, but he never really gave thought to the fact the man might have a home outside of his Finalizer. “We can go somewhere else.”

“It’s fine that we’re here,” Armitage said. He played with the front of Ben’s tunic, shifting again to move his shoulder into a more comfortable position. “It was a miserable little planet, but I didn’t mind so much when it was all I knew. I just would rather not leave Mitaka and the others for dead on a New Republic planet that was covered in rain.”

“Then where can we stick them?” Ben asked. He patted Armitage’s back twice. “They can’t stay here.”

“Why not?” Armitage asked, hand digging into Ben’s tunic. “There’s room.”

“It’ll be crowded.”

“They’ll pull their weight.”

“I don’t want them here.”

“I do.”

Ben suggested, “We can drop them off somewhere and get you a datapad to keep in contact?”

Armitage hit Ben in the ribs.

Dopheld had put Millicent in the tank with the others to free up his hands (that and she kept nipping him). Mandetat had helped Dopheld shove the entire glass tank as far from the living quarters and cockpit as they could in case Lord Ren used the Force to steer, but he was now regretting it as he sat across from a Jedi girl and an armed ex-trooper.

Having something that could block the Force would have been good insurance right about now.

“They’ve been in there a while,” Finn said, crossing his arms. He was the first to break the tension in the room with conversation, and his Jedi friend tapped her foot on the ground. Finn pointed toward the back quarters. “So help me they better not be doing what I think they are while the rest of us are out here waiting.”

“I’m sure Ben has more tact than that,” Rey said. She pulled herself up to sit on the counter and scrunched her nose. “But then again, they were sort of shameless when we were on Kashyyyk, weren’t they?”

Mandetat rubbed under his nose. He kicked the side of Mitaka’s chair and chuckled under his breath. “Some things don’t change, do they?”

“I don’t think that’s what they’re doing,” Dopheld said, shrinking in his seat. He couldn’t say the same for Lord Ren, but he knew that General Hux had plenty of tact. If he wasn’t sleeping with Lord Ren on the Finalizer during the past few months, he certainly had the willpower to wait a little longer until the current matters were settled. Dopheld tapped his fingers on the table. “They have a lot to talk about, that’s all.”

“I don’t think I like them talking alone,” Finn said. “Nothing good is going to come out of them plotting together.”

“They’re deciding our fate, not yours,” Mandetat said. “So what do you have to worry about?”

“Plenty, I’m sure,” Finn said.

Unamo placed a cup of coffee next to Dopheld’s arm and sat next to him. She looked over the group and sipped from her own cup. “We’ll all cooperate with what the General decides. You can rest easy knowing that much.”

Dopheld nodded, sipping from his cup. “Yes.”

“Even if you don’t like what he decides?” Rey asked. She rubbed her arm and pulled her leg up. “Just like that?”

“He hasn’t led us astray before,” Mandetat said. “I don’t see why we shouldn’t trust him now.”

Dopheld was impressed Mandetat could say that, considering how much he hated harboring Lord Ren on the Finalizer. He spun his cup. “We’ve followed the General this far, so I can’t see why we’d stop now.”

“Yeah,” Thanisson added, looking up from where he had sat in the corner.

Finn rolled his eyes and got up to get a cup of coffee for himself, and the girl continued to shake her head. They could think what they liked, the rest of them knew where they stood. And the General would have the final say; Dopheld was sure of it. Lord Ren had picked him too, so he was sure to make the right choice.

(Or at least he hoped that Lord Ren did.)

But until then, he could only wait and see what was in the future for them next. General Hux would say “Go” and they would leave, or he’d say “Stay” and they would follow. He didn’t need to think much past that.

Dopheld smiled at Unamo sighing at her younger coworker, and Thanisson rambling about something or another. Mandetat sat next to Dopheld and nudged his elbow with a reassuring smile before he closed his eyes and settled in to wait for the General’s decision, same as the rest of them. Dopheld felt warm inside, knowing that they were all on the same page.

Whatever Hux decided, they could stand on a unified front, and that was all that mattered, no matter what happened in the future.

“Come on, Armitage,” Ren said, shaking his head. They were sitting up now, side by side though they still sunk into the too-soft mattress. Hux had dragged Ren’s cloak out of his box of belongings and had draped it across his lap at some point, tired but too restless to sleep. Ren dropped his head against the wall, digging his fingers into his eyes. “We really can’t carry them around with us forever. It’s not feasible.”

“Why not?” Hux asked, twisting the coarse fabric. It wasn’t like their privacy would be destroyed with others on the shuttle. Mitaka and the others knew how to keep their heads down and keep quiet, and there were other rooms they could sleep in. Hux huffed, snuggling into the cloak. “It’s not like we were doing anything in particular while we floated in space looking for clues for Snoke.”

Ren dragged his hands down his face and slumped over to use Armitage’s lap as a pillow. “I know it seemed like we were aimless, but we were doing a job. We needed to be able to move quickly and we can’t do that…”

Hux stopped listening as Ren continued to speak. He repeated what he had said over again, and their original mission came back to his mind. The original goal before he tried to save the First Order: He had forgotten. Hux smacked himself in the eye with the base of his palm. In the heat of everything that had been going on, he’d forgotten! Hux leaned over and groaned into his hands.

“What? What’s wrong?” Ren asked, nudging Hux’s shoulder.

“We should keep Mitaka and the others around,” Hux said. He gritted his teeth and looked up through his fingers. He hated himself for saying it, but he added, “As well as your Jedi friend and her soldier.”

Ren sat up from Hux’s lap, brows narrowed together. “Why?”

Hux said, “Because I know where Snoke is.”