This was inevitable. With as much as I've been obsessing over Kylo Ren and that stupid (I love him) General Hux, this was inevitable.
So let's get on with it (I swear, I write the best stuff when I'm supposed to be asleep…). Not sure if I'll add another chapter or not. Guess it'll depend on how I'm feeling later.
"What a mess you are," Hux said. Kylo could feel him, unable to see with his eyelids glued shut with exhaustion. He felt the man's pulse from his chest as Kylo's head rested in his lap. "But at least you're breathing."
Hux's hands cradled Kylo's head as the ship rocked, keeping it still like a brace. The entire room rumbled, trembling from a struggling engine. Kylo felt the other two crew members panic as they try to keep the broken shuttle on course in the strained lightspeed trip. Hux's gloves were missing, and bare fingers were on his cheeks.
"Which I really need you to keep doing," Hux said again, voice strained. His index finger dug into the thickest band of the burn scar on Kylo's lower jaw. It circled there, a nervous, painful tick as the man breathed heavily. Hux whispered, unaware Kylo was awake enough to hear him. "I really can not afford to show up to Snoke with a dead man. So do your best to stay alive, would you? I'd make it an order but we both know you wouldn't listen to that. You never listen to my advice."
The Knight of Ren snorted; Hux must be tired, too if he was this casual with conversation.
It's painful and sluggish, but Kylo reached out enough with the Force to lick at Hux's memories to find out what was going on. The last he remembered was the ground splitting and that girl with his rightful lightsaber on the other side. Then there was snow and the burning sky and then Hux. Kylo sees Hux's last orders from Snoke, and his hurried trip to follow a tracking beacon with a terrified crew wondering why their General had lost his mind wanting to go back into the woods when they should be leaving the doomed planet.
Kylo made it up to the point where Hux fell on his knees in the snow, shouting for people to drag Kylo to the shuttle before exhaustion hits too hard for Kylo to keep up his focus.
He'd have to find out more the hard way then.
"Where are we?" Kylo asked, dragging his eyes open. Hux's hair was a mess, bits of it plastered to his forehead. His greatcoat was bunched behind him, having fallen off his shoulders and nested around the two of them as they sprawled out on the bench mounted to the wall. "Why are we in a shuttle?"
"Look at that," Hux said, near sighing in relief. Contrary to his relaxed tone, the General's fingers continued to dig painfully in the scar on Kylo's cheek. "He lives. You can follow a simple task, Ren."
"Hux," Kylo pressed when his question went unanswered.
"We're in a shuttle because Starkiller turned into a star," Hux said, sucking in a breath. His hands tightened and the bags under his eyes were deep purple. "Caught nearly everything in orbit with it. Half of the Finalizer was decimated. She's dead in space."
"Shame," Kylo said, and he meant that. It was his favorite ship to stalk in all of the First Order. The only ship with a General stupid enough to bicker with Kylo as an equal and expect no consequence. Where else in the First Order would he find that sort of a challenge? Kylo swallowed, mouth dry. "We are going to Snoke?"
"Good guess," Hux said. He licked his lips and leaned over, voice still low. "Speaking of which, I'd appreciate it if you didn't die before we got there. Technically, you're still bleeding from that wound on your side. There were only so many bandages on the shuttle and there was no chance to dock with the larger ship before we made the jump. Those damn resistance fighters were hunting around for survivors and we had to leave."
The half, rushed explanation spoke more of Hux's exhaustion than the bags under his eyes or the casual mumblings. Kylo couldn't help it as he asked, "Have you slept?"
"Can't," Hux said. "I can't afford to sleep, not when your breathing keeps stopping every so often. I've had to hit you to get you back at it a few times now."
Kylo wondered at that. He certainly didn't feel like he'd stopped breathing for any period of time.
Hux paused heavily before he started speaking again. "It'd be nice if you stayed awake to stop that."
"You're terrified," Kylo said, noting the trembling as the man continued to ramble. The fingers on his face squeezed and the other man's brow furrowed. Kylo held in the wince as the tender flesh squeezed. "Of Snoke?"
"Starkiller failed, Ren," Hux said. "Whether or not I'll avoid punishment may or may not depend on whether or not I can do this final task. So if you would please cooperate and not die before we get there, again, I'd appreciate it."
Kylo hummed and shut his eyes again. He fell back asleep to the lullaby of Hux's cursing.
The second time Kylo awoke, Hux was asleep. He would take bets it was against Hux's fierce will that it had occurred. Kylo found himself amused that even the cold General fell to basic human needs and weakness. More awake than before, Kylo found the strength to shift, body stiff and aching with each movement. The sticky blood squished as his soaked robes moved near his waist.
Kylo was still half in Hux's lap. Eyes open, he could now see how the man's coat had been wrapped around his waist, his sleeves used as impromptu pillows. Hux's head was tilted at an awkward angle against the wall of the shuttle, his shoulders stiff and arms limp. One hand still clung to a few strands of Kylo's hair; it had probably been buried in his scalp before Kylo moved.
At the front of the shuttle, he could see a trooper at the controls, helmet off and eyes forward. He paid no mind to the occupants on at the back, all of his attention occupied by making sure the shuttle stayed on course. Kylo could not see the second person, but he felt his presence below the floor, likely in the hold watching the engines. Kylo didn't need the Force to know the shuttle had been damaged in its escape; barely holding together.
"You," Kylo asked, sitting up on the elbow on his burned side. The lightsaber wound dug into his entire shoulder and neck, still burning against the oxygen in the shuttle. "Pilot."
The trooper jerked and turned, eyes wide. His eyes darted between the status lights on the console and Kylo. "Lord Ren. You're awake!"
"How long until our destination?" Kylo asked, ignoring the way a new trickle of blood escaped the hasty bandages against his side. It was warm, almost welcoming when compared to the burn on his face and opposite side, even if it hurt far more.
The trooper swallowed. "Another ten hours."
"As you were," Kylo said. The trooper took the dismissal as it was and quickly returned to staring at his controls.
Kylo slid back down and returned to his earlier position with his head in Hux's lap. The man had barely stirred, breathing heavy and deep. His hair curled near the wall, unwilling to decide where the sweat-soaked strands wanted to stick. He closed his eyes and breathed in, moving a hand to cover his side wound.
The burns hurt, but it was the escaping blood that worried him.
The third time Kylo woke, was to a shout. He jerked, unable to move with Hux's hands pressed on his shoulders. The man's eyes were wild and he shook, lips bruised and chest heavy with his hurried breaths. Kylo's ribs ached; a new pain lurking just under his skin.
Hux and Kylo's eyes met and the General dropped his head, letting it rest on Kylo's shoulder. "Oh, thank you. Thank the stars."
Kylo touched at his ribs, fingers brushing against Hux's shoulders and the white sleeves of his dress shirt. His uniform jacket abandoned. He pressed and winced, finding the broken rib after a few exploratory touches.
Hux lifted his head and rubbed under his nose. "Sorry. Your heart." The man paused, half delirious in his panic and exhaustion. He likely didn't get as much sleep as Kylo. Hux was still leaning on Kylo, pressing on both his wound and newly broken rib. "It stopped. Your heart stopped and then your lungs followed. You weren't breathing and I had to…"
The General trailed off, waving his fingers in the air. His face was flushed with exertion more so than embarrassment, even if he struggled to say the words "resuscitated you." Hux shifted to sit more upright on the corner edge of the bunk. "I might have broken a rib getting it to start again. I hope that's not a problem."
"Better than the alternative," Kylo said, voice dry. He felt tired and pale. The blood loss must have been even worse than he knew. "How much longer?"
"Ten minutes," Hux said. He glared at Kylo with all the hatred he could muster. "If you had died ten minutes before I could have delivered you, I would have never forgiven you. I want you to know that."
"Noted, General," Kylo said. He closed his eyes and popped them right back open with Hux smacked his fist into the side of his chest, sending a wave of fresh pain across his body. "What?"
"No more going to sleep," Hux said. "It's ten minutes. Stay awake."
"Fine," Kylo said. He kept his eyes open and watched out the front window of the shuttle.
If he glanced at the disheveled red head every so often, he could hardly be blamed.
One of Kylo's Knights greeted their shuttle when it landed at the gifted coordinates. Kylo had managed to lean up on his side in time to watch the woman stalk into the ship and kill the two troopers with barely a second glance.
The General's breath hitched and the fear that radiated off him was unbecoming, though not unwarranted when the woman stalked toward the two of them, her mask barely hiding the intentions her body gave away far more than her face ever would. Her weapon raised over her head and Hux flinched, bracing for the blow.
Blood gushed from Kylo's side as he threw his hand up, barely stopping the weapon with the Force. Every inch of him wanted to collapse in a heap, but he held it and took in her shock at Kylo's intervention. The blade was an inch from Hux's face, the space widening as the man sunk into the bench, backing into Kylo's legs.
"Master," his Knight said, dropping the weapon at her side. "Our Supreme Leader was quite explicit with his instructions."
"The good General will be accompanying me," Kylo said, broken rib digging into his side. "This is not open to negotiation."
"The Supreme Leader will not be pleased, Master," his Knight replied.
"I'll deal with that," Kylo said. When the hostile intent left his Knight, he lowered his arm and knocked his knee into the General's back. He sucked in a heavy breath. "Now if you don't mind, I'd appreciate a bacta tank."
"Of course, Master," his Knight answered.
Two servants entered the shuttle shortly with a gurney. They aided Kylo shift from the bench to the medical bed, all of them ignoring the slips of blood that fell to the floor after being freed from his robes. They rushed him out of the shuttle, a few already taking numbers on his vitals as they went down the halls toward the medical facilities.
Kylo kept his eyes on the Knight that grabbed Hux by the arm and dragged him out of the shuttle in the opposite direction.
"I hear you spared Hux's life," Snoke said from his chair. He looked unimpressed, though not angry. More amused than anything, and Kylo did not miss the intentional drop of Hux's title. "Interesting."
Kylo stood before him, no longer under threat of death after two days in a Bacta tank. His face remained scarred, the wound long soaked into his skin before the bacta could affect it. The wound on his side from the bowcaster, however, had healed much cleaner—the only true benefit perhaps of it never having fully closing in the first place.
"Personal opinions aside, it seemed like a waste," Kylo said, standing straighter as he reported. And ungrateful, Kylo said to himself. After all that personal effort in keeping Kylo alive, even if it was driven entirely by self-serving fear, it would hardly be thanks to kill the man for it. "He's loyal and capable even now, failure at Starkiller aside."
Besides, Kylo had no desire to work with the man's other peers. He'd spent over five years working with Hux and he was finally at a place of understanding with the man, even if they did work each other's last nerves at the best of times.
"Hux has already been stripped of his rank and replaced," Snoke continued. Ever wise, he continued still. "While I will concede the loss of Starkiller was not on his shoulders, it was still his project and he was in charge. Whether or not the weapon worked means nothing when someone must be held accountable for its loss."
Kylo gritted his teeth and breathed. The unspoken alternative of Kylo taking the fall was implied enough that he almost kept his mouth shut. But the lingering memory of wide eyes surrounded by purple bags and a desperate need to keep Kylo alive refused to go away. "Master, I ask that you reconsider his execution all the same."
"I suppose you have a point," Snoke said. He shrugged and leaned back. "His demotion and exile from the First Order may indeed be punishment enough, though I doubt he'll forgive you for denying him a quick death in the future. I certainly doubt that whatever the resistance has planned to execute the man behind the death of the Hosnian system would hardly be as kind as a quick death from your Knight."
"Hux is resourceful," Kylo said. "I doubt it will come to that."
Kylo wouldn't let it come to that. It shouldn't be too hard to hide a single man away while Kylo and the Order took revenge for Starkiller and wiped the rest of those wretched Resistance fighters out of existence.
"So certain," Snoke said. He waved his hand. "Fine, keep your pet if you must, but do not be distracted. Your final training begins in the coming days."
"Of course, Master," Kylo said, bowing at the waist and refusing to squirm as he considered the reasons why Snoke would have called Hux a "pet."
Just what did he see about Kylo that he himself had yet to notice?
The only thing recognizable from the shivering creature sitting with his legs splayed out on the floor of the small cell were the eyes. The uncombed hair, the stubble, the torn clothes and bare hands all belonged to a poorly kept stranger.
The glaring eyes, though, those were undoubtedly the property of a certain General.
"Come to get on with it then?" Hux asked, glaring all the while. "I assume you were corrected by your dear Master, yes?"
"You're not going to die Hux," Kylo said. He punched in the code to lower the cell door energy shield and lingered in the entranceway. Disbelief was easy enough to pick up now that he had his senses about him, and the Force was much more eager to tell Kylo all he wanted to know about the man who hadn't moved an inch since he was greeted. "Or at least no one here is going to kill you."
"Oh?" Hux asked.
"I argued your case," Kylo said. He shrugged, blowing a bit of hair out of his face. He missed his mask already. "Your execution is off the block, though I couldn't save your rank. Regretfully, your dishonorable discharge could not be avoided."
"Wonderful," Hux huffed. He dropped his eyes and rubbed his face, long fingers digging into his eye sockets as he massaged the skin there. Kylo's cheek twitched, remembering the feel of those same fingers digging into his own burnt skin. Hux dragged them down his face and glared again. "Do I at least get a ride off this planet?"
"I suppose that's up to you," Kylo said. "Dropping you off wherever you'd like to go is the least I could do for your efforts to save my life."
"I was under orders, you know," Hux said. "It was hardly sentimental enough for you to owe me anything."
"Considering the outcome would have been the same whether you saved my life or not, I'll consider it a favor," Kylo said, a smile tugging at the corner of his lips. Either way, he ought to thank the Gen—Hux for the very at least giving a glimpse under the man's icy exterior. He'd gotten quite the display of emotions on that short shuttle ride. "I hardly see why you'd complain about that."
"I'm not," Hux said. He stood, refusing to meet Kylo's eyes. "I just wanted to be clear."
"Fair enough," Kylo said.
They stood awkward and quiet with each other after a moment. Both still separated by the walls of the cell, even with the door open. Hux looked thinner than before, gaunt in a way that confirmed Kylo's suspicions he hadn't been fed during his own recovery time.
"Come on," Kylo said. "You can think about where you'd like to be dropped off over some supper. I'm sure when you take into account all the people who want you dead outside of the First Order, it's going to require some thought."
"I suppose it will," Hux said. He sounded tired again, though not in the same way he had on the shuttle. It was more defeated.
Kylo found he didn't appreciate it. The man who destroyed an entire system ought to be more proud, even now in defeat. Kylo hadn't even wanted to fire the weapon in the first place and he still felt an inch of respect for the man willing to give that order. Hux needed to sound like himself again. He was never going to do that hiding out in the wild, running from authority like a common smuggler.
Hux left the cell, waiting at Kylo's side for which direction they should go, shoulder's rounded and a strand of red in between his eyes where it hung loose.
Kylo hated himself even as he opened his mouth. "Though, you could always consider an alternative."
"And what might that be?" Hux asked as they began walking down the hallway.
"You could always work for me," Kylo said, proud that he managed to say it so evenly without wincing. "Technically speaking, the Knights of Ren work outside of the Order, so it'd be a loophole to your discharge."
It took Kylo an embarrassing six more steps before he noticed Hux had stopped following him. He turned, taking in the confused look split between embarrassed anger and an odd desperate relief. It was a bit more like his old self, and Kylo supposed that was enough for the moment.
The rest could come later.
"Work for you?" Hux repeated, the question clear. "In what sense? I'm hardly going to be one of your Knights."
He stomped forward holding his hands up, dashing right past Kylo a few steps ahead. Hux shook his head. "Never mind. It doesn't even matter. I'd rather take my chances with the Resistance than put up with you as a legitimate superior."
Kylo fought the laugh that bubbled up in his chest. That had been one-hundred percent the General who used to go toe to toe with him on the Finalizer. Kylo caught up with the red head's hurried steps and used his inch of height and longer legs to keep stride easily.
"I was thinking an advisor position," Kylo said. He waved his hand in the air, tempted to tug at Hux's unkept hair. It refused to stay put where it belonged. "You do so love to tell me what I'm doing wrong."
"Like you'd even listen," Hux muttered.
"You'd still get to say it."
Hux stopped again, turning around to stand face to face with Kylo. His eyes glanced over Kylo's face, stopping for the slightest few moments over the scar on his face. Hux looked away before settling into a staring contest.
"What's in it for you?" Hux asked, eyebrow raised. He tilted his head, knocking even more hair into his eyes. Whatever he'd used to style it back on the ship had long sweated out of his hair and the grease failed to keep the same hold. Kylo's fingers itched to push it back and out of his face. The disheveled look didn't suit the prim and proper ex-General at all. Hux pressed again when Kylo didn't answer immediately. "What reason could you possibly have to want me around?"
"A gut feeling you'll be useful in the future," Kylo said, settling on the simplest answer. However that would reveal itself, had yet to be seen. "Do I need another reason?"
Sadly, Hux was smart and a little better at reading people than he'd ever give away in normal conversation. He strode closer until he was in Kylo's personal space, a mere breath away. "What game are you really playing at Ren?"
Kylo gave into temptation and pushed Hux's hair out of his face, and walked away without answering.
He wasn't sure he had a better one just yet.
Hux wouldn't have admitted it even under threat of death, but he was deeply grateful for the bath and meal he'd been given after awkwardly yelling at Kylo for answers as they continued down the hall to the Knight's quarters.
But Kylo knew better: Not only did he have the Force that allowed him to straight up read the thoughts from the man's head, but he also had eyes. The relieved smile and increased pep were hard to miss.
It made lending Hux his shower and allowing him to share his living space at Snoke's castle all the more worth it.
"Are you done sulking now or are you going to be straight with me?" Hux asked, straightening the collar on his borrowed shirt. Ren's Knight hadn't been happy to lend Hux his clothes, but Kylo's would have been too big. "Because I don't buy that advisor thing for a minute."
"Maybe I just enjoy your company?" Kylo threw out there. It was true enough in an odd way. Hux had always balanced him out one way or another. And it was really hard not to at least become fond of a man who'd been your pillow after a planet exploded. "Five years is more than enough time to get used to someone being around."
"You'd miss me?" Hux asked, like the words tasted sour on his mouth. "You must have hit your head in addition to everything else that tried to kill you on that damned planet."
"Maybe," Kylo said. "But unless you have a better suggestion, I'm failing to see why it's such a bad offer."
"Perhaps I'm skittish working so close with you and Snoke again," Hux admitted. "He could change his mind about whatever little pardon he gave at any time, and we both know you won't disobey a direct order to kill me a second time."
"He won't," Kylo said.
"And how do you know that?"
"He keeps his word," Kylo said. He stood from his chair and walked around the table in the small sitting area. Their evening meal dishes still littered the surface. He pressed his hands on the surface leaning over toward Hux. "But more importantly, as long as you don't prove a detrimental distraction, I can do whatever I like with you. Let you live. Kill You. Keep you. Let you go. None of it matters because he doesn't care."
"What exactly would count as being a detrimental distraction?" Hux asked. He crossed his arms and held his nose up. Kylo could practically feel him shove down the notion that Ren had any sort of real power over his life. The denial was palpable. Hux covered it up with bravado. "That might be something that needs to be clarified."
"Do you plan to stop me from finding Luke Skywalker or destroying the Resistance?" Kylo asked.
"No," Hux said, scrunching his nose.
"Then you won't be a detrimental distraction." Kylo tugged on the edge of Hux's collar, fingers brushing near his neck. He loved how Hux's pulse skipped a beat for reasons he couldn't even begin to fully fathom just yet. Kylo tapped Hux's neck. "Do yourself a favor and accept a good thing when it's handed to you."
"I still don't like the idea of answering to you in any way shape or form."
"It's better than the alternative, I'd imagine."
"You said that on the shuttle, too." Hux took a seat at the table, away from Kylo's fingers, and smoothed down his hair. He stared at the table, conflicted and proud. "Sometimes I wonder."
Kylo sat across from him and tugged over an empty plate. He spun it on the table slowly with the Force. Hux watched it, annoyed at the abuse of power for such a silly thing. It made Kylo want to smile. "You do know, you could just leave any time if you didn't like it. It's not like I'm going to imprison you if you choose to stay for a while."
"I'm still trying to figure out what the logistics of the position would even be." Hux reached over and slammed the plate into the table to stop Kylo's play. "What would I even be advising you about?"
"Plans, social necessities, whatever else have you," Kylo said. He waved his hand, throwing Hux's fingers off the plate. "Snoke gives me tasks, but very rarely any specifics on how to complete them. You'd be helping with that sort of thing, much the same as you used to do, only now we'd have the same task to complete instead of parallel objectives."
"So what? I'd follow you around like a pet and occasionally whisper in your ear when I think you're going to do something stupid?
Kylo couldn't stop the laugh this time. Hux using the same term to describe himself as Snoke had was too funny, all implications aside.
"What?" Hux asked, face flushing at the laughter. "What's so funny?"
"Nothing, that's just," Kylo paused and shook his head. He leaned his head into the palm of his hand and stared at the other man with a smirk. "That's exactly what you'd be doing."
Hux failed to share Kylo's good humor, but the wheels were already turning as he considered Kylo's offer.
The second time Kylo and Hux shared a bench on a shuttle, it was far more pleasant. For starters, they could both sit upright and neither was injured or exhausted beyond the point of reason. The extra pillows on the seat cushions certainly didn't hurt either.
"I don't know how you talked me into this," Hux said, arms crossed and back straight. He continued to wear the borrowed clothes from one of Kylo's Knights, but they would remedy that once they got back into First Order space. Hux glared at nothing and everything. "I must have lost my mind agreeing to this. I can already tell it's going to be a disaster."
"We've barely begun the next mission from Snoke," Kylo pointed out, smiling to himself. "It can't be that bad already."
"So you say." Hux turned his head. "And why a mission? Weren't you supposed to finish your training or something?"
"I am," Kylo said. "This is part of that training."
"Again my point, how am I supposed to advise you when I don't even know what you're doing?"
"You're taking a fake job far too seriously, Hux." Kylo closed his eyes and leaned back in the seat. "Learn to relax. Consider this a vacation."
"Oh no," Hux said. He turned in the seat and Kylo reached out with the Force to feel every inch of Hux's indignation. The man burned with it. Hux grabbed the side of Kylo's cloak and shook it. "I refuse to sit around and be useless twiddling my thumbs. You wanted an advisor, you're going to get one. So I highly suggest you start being a bit more forthcoming with the information I need to know to do my job."
"You changed your mind awfully quick," Kylo said, cracking one eye open to look at Hux. "What happened to this being a disaster?"
"Oh, it'll still be that for sure," Hux said. He let go of Kylo's cloak and patted the fabric down before sitting back in his seat where he had been. "I'd just rather be an active participant than a spectator."
"Fair enough." Kylo judged the distance between the two of them and shrugged. He fell on his side, once again using Hux's thigh as a pillow. "Wake me when we arrive."
"Ren?" Hux nudged his shoulder. "Ren! Get off. Stop this nonsense."
"You didn't mind before," Kylo said, smiling to himself. Hux's fingers pressed into his shoulders as he shoved, but Kylo weighed far more and the Force at his disposal. He wasn't moving. "You were quite accommodating."
"I was making sure you weren't going to die," Hux said. Kylo closed his eyes, not needing them to know Hux was turning red in anger. It heated his entire body; feeling warm and comfortable in a way Kylo could have hardly appreciated before. Hux continued shoving to no avail. "It's hardly the same circumstances. Stop this and remove yourself immediately."
"I think not," Kylo said. "Get some sleep while you can, Hux. We'll be arriving sooner than you think."
"I can't believe your shuttle doesn't have a bunk if you're just going to sleep through it all," Hux said. He gave up and leaned back, crossing his arms. He leaned against the wall and his breathing slowed. "So here's your first bit of advice: invest in a personal shuttle that has beds."
"Noted." Kylo laced his fingers and felt more than comfortable enough to fall asleep once again to Hux's cursing.