Looks like we're continuing. And the Knights of Ren have returned! I'm rather fond of them, and I'm curious at how much I can write without having to actually name any of them. *nervous laughter*

More importantly though, I can't wait to write about the Knights of Ren and horribly date my fic because my explorations are likely to be completely thrown out the window by the upcoming canon.

In other news, don't forget I'm taking creative liberties with some of the universe canon (aka the stuff I'm making up about holocrons & the planet Aleena), but more importantly: I updated the summary because we've finally got a plot! *throws confetti*

Chapter 4

Hux could feel his brain dissolving in the boredom.

For a while, he'd considered being Ren's advisor at worst, embarrassing and humiliating, but still a far better fate than death would be. Hux smashed his pillow over his face and resisted the urge to scream in to it. He had been wrong. So, very very wrong because this boredom was a worse fate. Had to be. He threw the pillow against the wall.

Hux rolled over on his side from the bed, pulling a leg up and crumpling his tunic. Kylo Ren was across the room, still fiddling with that blasted Sith Holocron like he'd been doing for the past week. A week that was in addition to the time they'd spent here prior to Ren running off and spending two days mediating on an outdoor bench.

With nothing to do, Hux was going to literally go mad if he had to put up with this boredom any longer. Even the limitless supply of candy from the market didn't make him feel better.

"That's it," Hux said, rolling off the bed. His boots clomped to the floor and he stomped across the room. "I'm going to open that stupid thing and we are leaving this blasted hotel room and this awful planet."

Ren sighed heavily, his fingers twitching. "It doesn't count if—"

"The hell it doesn't," Hux said, interrupting him. "I'm your advisor, that means I can act in your stead, which means it counts. Give that to me."

"Suit yourself." Ren floated the little box across the room and into Hux's waiting hand. He placed his chin in his hand and raised an eyebrow. "Good luck with that."

"I can't be any worse than your attempts," Hux said.

He turned on his heel and walked out of the room, plan already in mind. Even if it didn't work, he should at least escape from the boredom for a few minutes. Ren scrambled off the floor to follow him, amusingly enough. His plan was already working! Hux's tunic flapped about his legs as his stride widened, still far too loose. Once he'd reached the back of the hotel, Hux helped himself to opening the tool shed.

Standing in the middle, he addressed the Holocron.

"Alright now, you've made it clear that you won't open for Ren and I've got the Force sensitivity of a rock, which means you're going to have to open all on your own." Hux set the holocron on the ground and walked around the room. Ren was watching from the door of the shed, arms crossed and eyebrow raised. Hux paused only to pick up a rather sturdy iron bar. He smacked it against his palm. "Which you are going to do."

Hux stood in front of the holocron and summoned his "Speech" voice. "You will open in the next five minutes, or I'm going to smash you."

"Hux," Ren said, growling a little. "You can't smash it."

"Oh, yes I can," Hux said, turning to look at Ren. He struck the end of the pole on the ground near the holocron. It didn't crack the concrete floor, the but the sound still echoed in the small space. "And I've even found a way to justify it to our Supreme Leader, if you care to listen to your advisor."

"Go on," Ren said, carefully.

"Thank you," Hux said. He smiled and motioned at the holocron. "It's a defective little trinket that doesn't deserve anyone's time of day."

He turned to the holocron. "Do you hear that? You're a worthless, forgotten text book that probably has nothing more important in it than doodles in a margin. You weren't looked away, you were forgotten with a few worthless Jedi texts. No one looked for you. No one wants you. So my conclusion is you have nothing of importance to share, so if I destroy you, who cares?"

The holocron glowed once but stopped.

"All the pity, really." Hux smiled and walked around it, tapping the stick on the ground in time with his steps. "I'm sure the person who wrote you really did think that you had value once upon a time. Though personally, I think you're fighting us so very hard because you're blank. You don't want us to know your dirty little secret is that there's nothing there. And ah well, a holocron with nothing on it is only good for target practice, isn't it?"

The holocron didn't move.

"One minute little box." Hux lifted the bar over his head. "It really is a shame. Books are meant to be archives to be read and shared. It's the entire point of documenting them in the first place, which I'm sure your author knew when he made you. I'm hoping you really are blank, because in about two seconds whatever he might have wanted to archive is about to be eradicated."

The holocron still didn't move.

Hux smiled to himself. Whether it opened or not, he was about to have some real fun for the first time in weeks smashing the wretched thing wide open and into a billion little pieces.

He half wondered if Ren would intervene.

Hux swung the bar down and as it turned out, Ren didn't have to: The holocron opened with a burst of light, the pieces reconfiguring until it was open. The holocron's gatekeeper hologram hovered over it, scowling and fierce with clenched fists.

"You did it," Ren said, staring as if Hux had just ripped apart a planet with his bare hands. "I don't believe that worked."

"Piece of advise," the holocron's gatekeeper said, mouth twisting in disgust. He nodded his head toward Hux. "Take some tips from that guy if you really want to go Dark Side."

Hux did his best not to chuckle at Ren's pout as he floated the open box into his hand.

Hux and Ren had returned to the room to pack up their things, and prepare to leave the next morning. They'd had a quiet dinner (Ren wasn't talking to him), which didn't bother Hux in the slightest. They turned in shortly after, and Ren was still sulking that Hux had been the one to open the holocron, but that hardly sullied Hux's good mood: They were leaving this planet in the morning.

That was call for celebration in and of itself.

"What was written on that thing, anyway?" Hux asked, taking a bite of a piece of confectionary cake. The rich frosting melted in his mouth, and the intricate decorations crumbled. Hux caught the flakes and bits of extra frosting with his hand before they could hit the ground. "Did it have anything entertaining, at least?"

Ren had been reading the holocron for the better part of an hour now, so surely it had something interesting on it.

Hux frowned when Ren didn't answer. He prompted again, debating the effectiveness of throwing a piece of cake at the man's face. "Ren."

The knight jerked his head up, blinking owlishly as if he hadn't noticed Hux was there. He shook his head and asked, "Sorry, what was that?"

"What's on the holocron that has you so interested?" Hux asked. He shoved the last bit of the cake in his mouth, licking the frosting off his lip. "Something good must have caught your attention."

"It has a star map," Ren said, eyes darting to Hux's lip for a second (which Hux chose to ignore). Ren tapped the side of the box, bringing the hologram off the small viewing screen and projecting it into the room. He pointed at a small glowing planet in the heart of New Republic space in the same system as Naboo. "According to the records, there's a hidden cave on this planet full of growing kyber crystals that could rival the ice planet Illum."

"I hear hesitation in that sentence," Hux said, staring at the map. That sort of treasure trove would be worth billions if it was real. Kyber crystals were hard to come by and extraordinarily valuable even now. "Do you think the little box is lying?"

"No," Ren said. He spun the map, frowning. "I've studied the notes and texts for the past couple of hours and they seem legitimate. But I have a bad feeling about it."

"Well, it is in the middle of New Republic space," Hux said. He looked at the planet Naboo, frowning at the familiar planet. He really wished his Starkiller could have hit more systems than one at a time. It was a shame he never got around to the old Republic planets. Ren flinched and Hux cleared his throat, smothering his anger at clearly having his mind read again. "Do you think they know it's there? This holocron is awfully old."

"And was left behind for some reason," Ren said, looking away from Hux. He closed the holocron and held it in his palm. "It doesn't make any sense why this would be forgotten in some dilapidated Jedi temple."

"So what are you going to do about it?"

"Let our Supreme Leader decide," Ren said. He stood and put the holocron on the table with the others. His fingertips hesitated on the edge of the box and licked his lip (Hux pretended that he didn't stare). Ren turned to the bed and turned down the blankets. "We'd need his approval to go after it or leave it, either way."

Hux nodded, and ran a hand through his hair. He turned away from Ren quickly, and stared at his own bed. "Of course."

"Get your rest, Hux," Ren said. "I feel like we'll both be needing it."

Hux couldn't sleep.

At first he'd been rather proud of his little trick. How many non-sensitive people could claim to have cracked open a holocron? Hux doubted there were many others, likely none. And hardly anyone else with his credentials that could impress a Sith user.

It was even better considering the information on the disc was useful. Even if it was in enemy space, just knowing where it was gave them an advantage over their enemies.

However, Hux was the one who opened the box, when it was supposed to have been Ren.

Sure, he'd gone on and on about how he'd found a loophole by being Ren's advisor, but most of that was fast talking meant to fool the holocron gatekeeper. It worked, but he had a feeling the Supreme Leader would not be so easily swayed, even if Ren was his beloved apprentice.

Would the Supreme Leader be upset with Ren because he technically failed? If what the knight said was correct, the Supreme Leader would know everything when he read the man's mind. There'd be no way to hide the fact that Ren failed while powerless Hux managed to open it.

It couldn't be a good thing when a mere mortal was more powerful in the Dark Side than your Force-Sensitive apprentice, could it?

What if Ren was punished?

Hux rubbed his eyes with his hands. He shouldn't be worrying about this. It wasn't even of his business and since when did he worry about Ren?

Apparently since he'd picked Ren up out of the snow. That's when it all started. Hux had invested himself in keeping the man alive, and now as his advisor, he'd just plain old invested himself in the man himself.

Even the bag of candy mocked Hux from his pack, reminding him that it was a present of thanks for doing just that—worrying over Ren.

Hux rubbed his lips and sucked in slow breaths. He'd sat awake like this the other week when Ren had gone missing, too. Worrying. It wasn't like him.

He didn't like this.

He didn't want to feel like this.

Hux stood from the bed and walked to the other side of the room. He stared down at the sleeping man. Ren's hair fell in his face, much like Hux's own was doing at the moment. Hux gripped a fist and breathed in and out. The knight looked so peaceful asleep. As if the possibility of a suicide mission into New Republic space didn't bother the man at all.

Ren was a menace even when he was asleep.

As if summoned by the mere thought, Ren's eyes cracked open and stared at Hux. He looked lucid enough, but said nothing. Clearly, he was waiting for Hux to make the first move and explain why he was looming over the Knight as he slept like a stalker. Embarrassed at being caught, Hux did the same and held his tongue. He turned back toward his own bed without a word and buried himself under the covers.

He prayed Ren wasn't reading his mind; Heaven forbid the man ever know Hux was worried about him.

Silence was the modus operandi of the next morning and day. Hux and Ren finished packing the shuttle quietly while their pilot got the shuttle in motion. The trip back to Snoke's planet was too quiet and he and Ren internally contemplated what it might mean to have a map to such a valuable resource at their disposal.

The landing gate of their shuttle hadn't been open for more than a minute before one of Ren's knights came stalking into the hanger, his heavy coat flapping behind him wildly. It was a different knight than the girl who had attacked Hux when he first arrived on planet with the wounded Ren, but looked just as dangerous.

"My master," the knight said, stopping before Ren. His hood draped over his shoulders like a heavy robe, making him look rather like a monk. The skull-like black mask, however, ruined the effect a bit. "The Supreme Leader has asked for you."

"I'm on my way now," Ren said. He nodded and turned to Hux. "Did he say I was to go alone?"

"Yes," the knight said, bowing slightly. "I'll be escorting your, advisor, to his room."

"Very well," Ren said. He snatched up the satchel of holocrons from the seat of the shuttle and was on his way across the hanger.

Hux stood on the platform, steeling himself for time alone with one of Ren's knights. His last experience had been rather unpleasant, and he was in no mood for a repeat. And heaven help him if they all shared their master's temperament.

The new knight did not move, keeping his head tilted toward Ren as the man walked down the hanger. The mask was an annoyance, keeping Hux from even guessing what the man was thinking. But he also did not make a move toward Hux, nor do anything else.

Not wanting to stay stuck in the hanger all night, Hux found himself making the first move.

"Shall we?" Hux asked, finishing his walk down the steps. "I'd hate to keep you from your normal tasks."

"Serving my master is my only task," the knight said, his vocoder covering a lightly pitched voice. "And if he deems you worthy enough to keep around, then you could hardly be too much of a burden."

Hux made a mental note that in that context, Ren would be the master he served. Odd that he wouldn't be referring to Snoke. Wasn't their Supreme Leader the head of all the Knights? Or had Hux been mistaken in his understanding, and they only belonged to Snoke by proxy through Kylo Ren?

"This way," the knight said, turning his head toward the platform.

Picking up his personal bag and shifting his tunic, Hux followed the knight and made a mental map of their path to their quarters. Before they left, Hux had more or less been sharing a room with Ren. He wondered if that has changed since, or if he'd be stuck bunking with the knight again.

"I must admit you have me curious," the knight said, holding his hands in front of him. He cupped them together and tilted his head, shifting the long, cape-like robes. "After years of hearing nothing but complaints and insults about you from our master, it has us all wondering what you did to bewitch him so quickly at the last moment to have your life spared. My colleague was most disappointed she didn't get to kill you before. She had so been looking forward to it."

"Well, when I figure that out, I'll be sure to let you know," Hux said. He still hadn't the foggiest idea of why Ren bothered to save him from Snoke. For a while he figured it was petty revenge. Even the advisor position could have been a jab and a joke, but so far Ren had been taking it seriously. Hux didn't know what to do with that. "Who knows what goes on in his head?"

"More than you can imagine, I'm sure," the monkish knight replied, huffing at the end of his statement. Wonderful. Hux had ticked off another one of Ren's loyal lackeys. Wasn't his day going swimmingly? The knight stopped them before a room and opened the door with the panel. "You'll be staying here while the master is on planet."

"Thank you," Hux said, minding his manners. He stepped into the room, and dropped his bag on the floor.

"Until later," the knight said. He nodded his head and left, the door swooshing shut behind him.

The room was rather small for something found in a planet size fortress. Perhaps half the size of his room on the Finalizer. Hux sat on the edge of his bunk, stretching his legs out. The tips of his boots hit the other wall and he sighed.

Maybe sleeping on Ren's couch wasn't that bad after all.

Hux was thankfully awake when Ren invited himself into the cramped room without so much as a knock. He'd taken a nap earlier, but for the most part had nothing to do but sit on the bunk reading. He put the datapad down and stretched out his legs on the mattress.

"Did things go well?" Hux asked, crossing his ankles.

Ren glanced around the room, scrunching his nose at the quarters as if he didn't approve. He shook his head a moment later, clearing those thoughts. Ren said, "The Supreme Leader has asked us to verify and secure the cave."

"In the middle of New Republic space," Hux asked, raising an eyebrow. "Even with their senate destroyed, that's still quite a few enemy forces we'll have to face."

"The mission will be covert," Ren said. His mouth quirked into a smile and shrugged. "Or as convert as you can be with all seven Knights of Ren in action."

"So we're going to be spotted immediately and you lot are going to slaughter them," Hux translated.

Ren laughed, cover his mouth to stifle the sound, long fingers bent as they turned in toward his palm. He collected himself and ran his hand through his hair. "Though we will make every attempt to go undetected for as long as possible."

"Should be easy with seven Force users," Hux commented. He waved his fingers and shrugged. "With your mind tricks and all?"

"Seven?" Ren asked.

"Yes, you and six knights." Hux pulled his legs back and over, setting them on the floor. Ren took up the spot where they were, sitting on the edge of the bed. Hux licked the side of his teeth. "Or are there more? I could have sworn there were six under you."

"There are seven Knights of Ren including myself, yes." Ren smiled a bit. "But I'm the only one who's Force Sensitive."

"Well that's a well kept secret," Hux said. He leaned back against the wall, crossing his legs. He wondered if Ren was messing with him. It would be a fun trick to make Hux let his guard down around the six other mind readers. Hux inquired a little further, just to be sure. "Everyone assumes since they work for you and the Supreme Leader that they share your abilities."

"Not surprising," Ren said. He shifted his leg, his foot close to the other wall. He stretched it out farther, kicking it. "It's hard for most people to believe that Jedi Killers can be anything other than able to tap into the Force. They are highly skilled killers and are more than capable of holding their own, but they are about as force sensitive as you are."

"I don't know if that should be a comfort or a concern," Hux said.

"Take it as both," Ren said. He pressed his hands on his knees and shrugged. "Your concern is admirable because they are quite dangerous, but take comfort in that those dangerous individuals are on your side."

"I will keep that in mind," Hux said. He picked up his datapad and tapped open the calendar. "When are we leaving?"

"In the morning," Ren said. He stood, brushing off the bottom of his robes. "You might as well bring everything. We won't be returning until the cave and the kyber crystals have been secured, which will likely take longer than a week."

"Which is the extent of my clothes at the moment," Hux said, snorting.

"I'll collect you in the morning," Ren said. He left the room as easily as he entered it, without proper hellos or goodbyes.

Hux rubbed his eyes before turning to his bag on the ground. He'd yet to unpack anything from their last trip, so for all intents and purposes, Hux was already good to go for the morning.

He leaned over the bed, digging his hand into the side pocket. He tugged out a few pieces of candy and tossed them up and down in his hand. Hux popped them in his mouth and closed his eyes. Might as well get some sleep before dealing with the Knights in the morning.

Ren's mask was back.

Hux hated that was the first thing he noticed when Ren entered the room, his cowl up. He picked up his bag and threw it over his shoulder, following the knight into the hallway. "I take it we're ready to leave?"

"Good guess," Ren replied, the vocoder once again changing his voice into that unearthly tone.

"How far away is this planet? I wasn't paying that much attention when I last saw the map and didn't catch its name, too distracted by noting it was in New Republic space at all," Hux said, admitting his loss. It wasn't like him to let such details slip through his fingers. Some tactician, let alone advisor.

"We're going to Aleena in the Mid Rim," Ren said. "If you're unfamiliar, it's a rocky, desert planet. Supposedly it's hollow, but if this map is to be believed, it's also hiding secrets not even the locals are aware of."

Hux plucked at his tunic, and turned to look at Ren in his heavy robes and cowl. For once, he was glad to have the lighter colored outfit if they were going to a world of heat and sun. Hux dropped his tunic. "And the locals?"

"The Aleena are basically short, lizard people." Ren opened the door to the hanger with a swipe of his hand and the Force. "It should be easy to avoid them."

"Good," Hux said.

The six other knights waited for them next to the shuttle. Hux recognized the Monk from yesterday, and the girl with the blade was now armed with guns and bombs across her chest. There was a third knight in a heavy coat, and another with a large sniper rifle. A slim man with a half-cape draped across his shoulder and a checked-mask sat on a crate, a knife at his side. The last knight had a buzzsaw on the end of a stick.

All of them were in black, and all wore masks.

Hux felt subconscious in his eggshell tunic and navy overcoat as he stood among them. At least his boots were black.

"Are we ready to depart?" Ren asked, sweeping up the ramp. Hux followed, not sure what else to do. "The Supreme Leader made it clear we were not to delay."

"Yes, Master," the woman answered. The six followed Ren inside and took their seats, with the half-cape knight sitting in the pilot's seat. The woman stood next to Ren, bowing at the waist. "We've already programmed the course. We only had to wait for you."

"Good work. Take off when ready," Ren said. The knights dismissed themselves and began to put away their luggage in compartments. Ren oversaw this for a moment before he took a seat on the side wall, tugging down the harness over his chest.

Hux sat next to him, and did his best not to sigh in relief when no one sat directly next to either of them. Though he did notice a few glares in his direction (or what he assumed would be glares if their masks were off). Noticing the distance the knights put between themselves and Ren, perhaps they were jealous.

Or Hux was breaking some code of conduct.

Not that it mattered. He'd shared a bed with the man, so sitting next to him could hardly be any crime. Hux crossed his arms under the harness and stopped as he replayed that sentence in his mind combined with the word "Jealous Knights."

He should probably keep the fact he and Ren had slept in the same bed to himself with this crowd.

"Probably wise, yes," Ren said, leaning toward Hux.

Hux turned his head with a glare. "Stop reading my mind."

"I will when you stop thinking so loudly," Ren said. He leaned back in his seat as the engines started. Hux was about to reply when he was cut off by Ren. "And I meant that figuratively. You've been making faces for the past minute, so how could I not take a peek? You're losing your touch, Hux."

"Oh, shut up," Hux said, kicking Ren lightly in the leg.

Hux chose to ignore the weapons that were now pointed an inch closer to his location. As if the Knights or Ren weren't boogie man stories before, now he had to deal with possessive Knights.

As if Hux was any threat.