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He could’ve remained hidden. He could easily have kept to the shadows of the cargo hold, gently Force-swaying any grunt who happened by to forget he was ever there. Hux would never have known, and the flight to the planet’s surface would have been smooth and uneventful.

Of course, this isn’t how it goes at all because a nagging voice at the back of Kylo Ren’s mind hisses things like betrayal and deception until he can’t stand it anymore. He mutters a few choice curses to (and at) himself and then stomps into full view of a half-dozen very confused stormtroopers, who cautiously lead him to the front of the shuttle where General Hux is sitting with his nose in a datapad. The cold glow of its screen does nothing to neutralize the fire in his eyes when he glances up and sees Kylo in the doorway.

“General,” he says.

The datapad clatters to the floor as Hux stands and crosses the cabin in three long strides. The stormtroopers retreat. Hux steps right into Kylo’s space, their chests an inch apart. Kylo holds his gaze, taking in the various symptoms of his anger by sense only -- the way his gloved fingers dig into his palms as he fists his hands at his sides; the way his knees lock as he stiffens to his fullest height; the way he’s counting out his breaths to keep from shaking with rage. Kylo usually feels a smug sense of satisfaction at getting such a rise out of Hux, but -- all recent events considered -- he actually has a strong and very foreign desire to calm him. “General,” he starts again, “I apologize for--”

“Shut up,” Hux snaps. His voice is low and uneven.

They continue to stare at each other. Kylo can’t get a clear sense of what he’s thinking, just a mess of static and confusion. The troopers guarding the cockpit haven’t budged. They don’t seem especially concerned for the general. Somewhere in the back of his cluttered mind Kylo is struck by the realization that these troopers are no longer afraid of him, standing there visibly injured and unmasked. Hux seems to notice that his thoughts are wandering now. He steps back and makes to turn away.

Then whirls on his heel and punches Kylo hard in the jaw.

They both shout in equal parts pain and surprise. Now the guards are interested, rushing forward as the two men stagger apart, but Hux holds up a hand before doubling over and they hesitate, stop, and finally return to their posts. Hux inspects his knuckles, as if he can see the extent of the damage through thick black leather.

Kylo hopes he’s bruised himself, at least, because the pain shooting through his skull is incredible. He touches his jaw with his fingertips, probing gently for split skin. He’s relieved to find that the lightsaber wound hasn’t reopened. He should be furious, but mostly he’s just shocked and confused. Hux has never gotten the upper hand on him before. “Feel better?” he asks with a weak scowl.

“No,” Hux says, cradling his fist. “Maybe. What are you doing here, Ren? You shouldn’t even be out of medbay yet.”

“You know exactly what I’m doing here,” he growls. “And don’t pretend you’re suddenly concerned for my wellbeing.”

“I’m concerned for my own, actually.” Hux straightens and continues to massage the soreness from his hand. “Returning you to Leader Snoke is still my mission. Once I return from--”

“You won’t , you fool. That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you.”

“Right. Yes. You had a bad dream about Snoke and you want me to drop everything and run, to -- what? To humor you?”

“It wasn’t a dream,” Kylo grounds out through clenched teeth.

“Okay, a vision . Hells, ren, you can’t expect me to actually believe this nonsense. Not after you’ve managed so many spectacular failures in a row.”

Kylo’s jaw tightens, sending another bolt of pain through his head. He knows Hux blames him for what happened to Starkiller Base. Kylo had blamed himself, at first. For the first few days after their return to the Finalizer Kylo thought of nothing else. He recounted it all, moment by moment, deep in his meditations. Every event between Han Solo arriving on the planet and Hux and Phasma hauling him off of it during its collapse -- he revisited everything , dissecting each action until he could pinpoint where everything went wrong. It had been exhausting. It slowed his recovery and led to the unfortunate destruction of at least one innocent medical droid. But, it worked. Not only is he confident he can provide Hux with the exact names of the exact engineers responsible for the oscillator design flaw, he is also confident that Snoke’s instruction put him on the path to defeat, intentional or not.

And this is where his current fears stem from. Hux may be difficult, but he is an extraordinary leader, and also all that stands between Snoke and hundreds of thousands of First Order officers and stormtroopers, doing the jobs they were trained to do. If Snoke has truly decided to rid himself of Hux and take direct control, this is how he’ll do it and not raise suspicion among the ranks.

Kylo has been silent for too long. Hux sighs, assumes he’s hurt the knight's feelings or some such. “Well, if you’ll excuse me,” he says as he turns.

He watches Hux crouch to pick up his datapad, then settle back down onto the bench. He’s running out of time. Up to this point, Kylo has spent all of his efforts either keeping himself hidden or checking on Hux. Now, for the first time, he reaches out cautiously, searching for a status update. He thinks it’s odd that the same troopers who seemed so indifferent toward him just minutes ago are now projecting anxiety in waves. He frowns, brows knitting together in concentration. He presses further toward the cockpit. He just wants an ETA from the pilot, but instead he gets--

Shit.

Shit shit shit.

Kylo flexes his fingers. His eyes flit around the deck as he weighs his options. Close quarters, but not impossible. He squeezes his eyes shut with a sigh of his own and moves to sit at the far end of Hux’s bench. The general’s gaze slides sideways to him for a second, then returns to his screen. The hum of the ship is deafening. There’s no time. He lets his head drop forward and taps Hux’s thoughts.

<Don’t speak, don’t react -- just, listen.>

Hux’s head snaps up defiantly, his eyes wide. Kylo waits. He never turns toward him, to Kylo’s great relief, but it takes a few seconds for him to smooth his expression back to a brooding neutral. He looks down at the feed in front of him. 

<Kriff, Ren. You swore . What is it? I feel violated.>

<And you should, but not by me. How well do you know Kaplan?>

He doesn’t see Hux’s scowl but he senses it, loud and clear. <Colonel Kaplan? We’ve worked together for years. Why? What does he have to do with-->

<You’ve been set up. Kaplan is taking direct orders from Snoke.>

Hux’s heart begins to race. <Impossible,> he throws in Ren’s direction, even though his mind isn’t so certain. The doubt is good. The doubt gives Ren a chance.

<The pilot knows. At least four of the stormtroopers are in on it. They’re worried that I’ve tipped you off, but not worried enough to turn the shuttle around. You have to let me kill them.>

Hux coughs, shifts in his seat. <No. No, Ren. On a hunch? Absolutely not.>

<This isn’t a hunch . It’s not a vision anymore, or a feeling. It’s a fact. They are going to kill you, Hux.> He wonders if the desperation edging into his thoughts will carry telepathically. Even if it doesn’t, Hux seems somewhat shaken by the dropping of his title. It’s been awhile since things were that friendly between them.

Hux isn’t thinking directly at him anymore, but Kylo can read him all the same. He’s not scared. He’s angry, and insulted, but there’s no fear. For as much as he fought Kylo on this, back in the Finalizer ’s medbay, he must have known deep down that he didn’t have long. He didn’t think it would be so staged, though -- so fake. And he’d hoped it would happen on the ship. His ship. There’s sadness now, mingled in with the anger. Kylo knows how potent that combination can be.

<Let me kill them,> he insists. Pleads.

Hux glances his way once more, quick and subtle, then stares forward again. He squeezes his eyes shut and pinches the bridge of his nose. “Report,” he barks loudly. Startled, Kylo finally chances a look at him.

“ETA 52 minutes,” the taller guard supplies.

Hux nods and slips the datapad into his coat as he stands. Its massive, empty sleeves flutter behind him when he walks past Kylo and exits the deck. He watches him go. Waits. The general’s heartbeat still thunders in his mind. He senses him at the storage lockers now, rummaging and unfocused. He considers going after him for half a moment, but quickly dismisses the idea. He’s about to probe the guards again when Hux reaches out to him, tentatively, just grazing the surface of his thoughts.

<Can you hear me?> he wonders.

<Yes. Are you okay?>

<I’m fine.> Kylo reads only jumbled emotion again for a few long moments, and then: <Ren, can you fight?>

<What kind of question is that?> he demands, bristling.

<A valid one.> He can sense Hux’s annoyance from across the shuttle. <You were bleeding out in the snow not even a week ago. Now you’re here, claiming you’re ready to take on a dozen men. So, tell me: if it does come to that, can you fight?>

<Yes.>

<Good.>

Hux closes himself off and Kylo frowns.

He doesn’t recognize the general when he sits down across from him, not immediately. He’s shed the formal officer’s uniform, the greatcoat, even the gloves. Every detail Kylo has come to associate with Hux, he realizes -- aside from the shocking red hair. This Hux isn’t concerned with sitting ramrod straight. He’s not frantically smoothing the stray locks of hair that hang down into his eyes, or pressing his lips into a painfully thin line. In fact, this Hux has an unlit cigarette  between his parted lips. A second is tucked behind one ear. Kylo’s gaze travels down. His snowy fatigues -- fabric a muddled white and grey, obviously intended for Starkiller -- haven’t even been buttoned up yet. He has a clear view of his black undershirt contrasting stark against pale pink skin. Hux bends forward to finish lacing a tall grey boot and his sleeves pull up, exposing delicate wrists. He wears a holster at his hip that contains a blaster -- his blaster, Kylo knows, coded to his fingerprints. Kylo has never seen him fire it.

<So,> Hux thinks, sitting back to button his shirt. Kylo watches his fingers work their way up his chest. He leaves the top button open. The pause drags, as if he’s waiting for a sign that Kylo is still listening in. He rests his elbows on his knees, hunching forward, and looks up at Kylo through golden lashes. Their eyes lock. <What’s the plan?>

Kylo shares what he knows. It’s not much, and the stormtroopers feel more distant the closer they get to the planet’s surface. He tries to get a read on them individually, to prod them for weaknesses, and he passes that information along too, but it’s fuzzy. Incomplete. To his absolute horror Kylo finds himself thoroughly distracted by Hux’s appearance. Even his mannerisms are captivating. He stares when Hux runs long fingers through his hair, and a stretch of those lean legs causes a particularly noticeable gap in his transfer of thoughts. 

And then the pilot announces that they’ve entered the planet’s orbit. The stormtroopers ready themselves and head toward the back of the shuttle. Kylo and Hux stand at the same time, each looking the other up and down appraisingly. But, while Kylo is shamelessly admiring this combat-ready version of the general, he knows Hux is sizing him up for battle, wondering if he can manage in his current state. The reality of the situation jumps back into focus.

“General,” he says, dipping his head. Hux passes quietly.

 

The ramp is already down when they rejoin the landing party. A dreary wasteland stretches out before them. Kylo sees a single rocky outcrop to the east and patches of sad, brown shrubbery dotting the ground. The sky is equally bleak and grey, making the horizon difficult to discern. And it’s cold. The air moves quick, gusts traveling up into the hold to bite at his cheeks and expose his ears. A separate, unrelated chill shoots up his spine. If Hux could tame Starkiller, this planet should be child’s play. And yet.

Hux steps up beside him. He waves the stormtroopers past. They spread out over the dusty surface and make a show of scanning the area. Hux simply raises a cupped hand to shield his lighter. The tip of the cigarette catches and flares and he takes a long drag. <This could still be legitimate,> he’s thinking, mostly to himself. He exhales silvery smoke and takes in their surroundings. <This might not be the end.> Kylo catches his eye then. Whatever expression he’s wearing tells Hux otherwise. Rather than deflating, Hux’s resolve actually strengthens, which causes a strange swell of pride somewhere in Kylo’s chest, and suddenly he’s quite sure that Hux will leave here today with both his life and control of this hideous frozen rock, if he wants it.

The stormtroopers are in formation, waiting. Kylo leads Hux down the ramp. He lifts the lightsaber hilt from his belt mid-stride, gripping it tightly in one outstretched hand. He searches, pushing past the unit. Starkiller was a brutal place, but it still supported life long before the First Order arrived. This place, however…

Hux stops to speak with the guards and Kylo continues forward. It’s quiet. The wind howls, of course, but there’s a distinct lack of buzzing insects and shrieking birds. This is a sense of oppression rather than calm. Kylo had assumed, up to this point, that Snoke had assigned their own stormtroopers the dirty work. Maybe he was wrong.

<We might have company,> he warns Hux when they catch up with him. Externally, Hux acknowledges this by nodding and subtlely popping the holster’s retention strap. Internally, he works to swallow the faint taste of panic.

<If someone else is here we can’t wait. We need to dispatch the troopers now -- keep close to the ship.>

Kylo wonders if the guards let slip an incriminating detail, because Hux is borderline enthusiastic now. <Agreed.>

He surveys the area once more. Nine fully-armored stormtroopers stand in formation behind them. The guards remain at the ship, one on either side of the ramp. The pilot is still onboard. Kylo knows he won’t be able to move fast. He’ll have to incapacitate the nine nearest them first and bank on the guards having typically shoddy aim. He passes the suggestion to Hux, doesn’t receive any complaints. Good. They’re out of time.

Kylo whirls and lifts one hand. The three front-line stormtroopers jerk forward, the toe-ends of their boots just barely scraping the dirt as they’re dragged within reach. He activates his lightsaber and drops them back to their feet, one wide swing of the beam slicing neatly through white armor and the soft flesh beneath. All three bodies hit the ground, lifeless. Steam rises from exposed entrails and blood quickly starts to pool around them. The others register what’s happening.

It’s quick. Hux pulls his blaster and takes out the far row of stormtroopers with two neat headshots and one to the heart. The center line scrambles. One stormtrooper stumbles backward, directly onto the end of Kylo’s lightsaber. Angry red light bursts from his chest. They can hear gurgling as the man chokes on blood inside his helmet. Another takes off toward the shuttle. Hux aims and fires but the shot misses, glancing off an arm plate, and then the last stormtrooper is on him. He hasn’t had time to draw his weapon yet but he’s rushing Hux anyway, maybe hoping to tackle him. Hux jumps to the side at the last second and then spins, putting sizzling holes through his neck and shoulder. The stormtrooper falls forward, helmet cracking against stone when it meets the ground.

Kylo storms after the runner, each stomp of his heavy boots kicking up dust. The retreating stormtrooper has fallen in with the guards. For a moment he thinks they might just take the shuttle and leave them stranded. Instead, they appear to be steeling themselves. Waiting. All three have blasters raised, aimed at him, but no one fires.

They do have backup.

Hux jogs to his side. He keeps his weapon raised, trained on the runner, watching him down the barrel. “What’s going on?” he asks, winded. His heart is beating dangerously fast. It’s definitely from excitement now, not fear.

Kylo smiles wickedly. “It was never going to be them,” he says, and a bitter laugh slips out. “They were just chauffeurs. Couriers.”

“Sorry?”

Kylo swings his lightsaber in a lazy arc, lets it spark across the ground. “Snoke knew. Of course he did.” He shifts his weight as his injured hip starts to burn. “He counted on me being here. I’m his scapegoat.”

“What makes you so sure?”

He tilts his head toward the shuttle and the line of nervous troopers. “They weren’t ready. They’re still not ready.”

Hux is glancing rapidly back and forth from Kylo to the men. He hasn’t lowered his blaster. “Ren…”

“You’ll have to be more specific,” a distorted voice calls from the far end of the clearing. Kylo throws up a Force barrier between them and the stormtroopers -- just in case -- and then turns, following Hux’s gaze. 

ACTION KYLUX

The Rogue is perched atop the rocks they spotted from the ship. Kylo has no doubt she has been there the entire time. He wonders where her own ship is hidden. She’s masked, completely covered from head to toe, effortlessly twirling a vibrodagger in one hand.

“Ren,” Hux says again, voice rising.

“Clever,” he muses under his breath. He switches off the lightsaber and holds the hilt up over his head where she can see. Hux relaxes his arms but still refuses to completely lower his weapon.

The knight hops down and saunters their way, her cloak billowing. “So, what?” he shouts as she approaches. “Kaplan gets the First Order and you get the Knights -- is that the deal?”

The wind picks up, whipping his hair into his eyes. He misses his helmet.

“That’s the deal,” she responds flatly.

“And the others?”

She stops a few years away, flips the vibrodagger and catches it with the other hand. “This isn’t a coup, Kylo. They don’t know, nor will they. They’ll hear the official story, thanks to our brave witnesses over there,” she gestures toward the shuttle with the tip of the blade. “And then they will follow me, because Leader Snoke will command it.” She laughs, a hollow sound through the modulator. “You had to know this was coming,” she jeers. “Starkiller was a massive step backward, and Leader Snoke is hardly one for second chances.”

“Why the plotting, then?” Hux interjects. “Why the tricks and the secrecy when Snoke could be making an example of us?”

The Rogue tilts her head, regarding him from behind her mask. “Because your people like you,” she says, as if it should be perfectly obvious. “Because you are a competent general, when all is said and done. But, you made each other weak.” Her head snaps to Kylo now. “There’s no coming back from that. You’re just liabilities now.”

Hux is stunned.

Kylo strikes first. He closes half the distance in one leap, shoving the Rogue back with a Force push. His lightsaber screams to life as he lands. “Hux, the barrier!”

Hux bolts in the opposite direction, and Kylo can hear yelling and blaster fire. He crouches low and charges. The Rogue is still steadying herself. She reaches for her second vibrodagger but is too slow, yanking her hand back at the last second and slashing with the first as she spins away from the downward arc of his lightsaber. He extends his hand again and throws her off balance with an invisible push. She tucks her head and rolls twice before hopping back to her feet, now with both vibrodaggers bared.

They circle each other. Kylo is breathing heavily now, trying to ignore the pain from his reopened wound even as an alarmingly wet heat spreads down his side. He knows she senses it, knows she can see the slight limp as he swerves around a crack in the stone under his feet.

He wants to see Hux. His heart is still beating -- he can hear it, fast and strong -- but he needs visual confirmation that he’s okay, and the fact that this is suddenly a priority for him, in these circumstances, is jarring.

The Rogue takes the opening. She sidesteps once and then lunges at him. He twists away, grazing her chest with a high swing of his lightsaber, but he’s too slow to actually stop the vibrodaggers. They slice through the heavy fabric of his tunic as if through butter. Kylo hisses sharply through gritted teeth as a fresh, searing pain blossoms in his thigh. He staggers, then flings his hand out, fingers spread. She hasn’t cleared his reach quickly enough, had probably intended to follow up with the plunge of a vibrodagger into his heart. Instead she’s stopped in her tracks by invisible tendrils wrapping around her throat. Both vibrodaggers slip from her grasp as she’s brought to her knees. Kylo cries out with the effort of his concentration, knuckles white from clutching the lightsaber.

She laughs at him, a harsh, croaking sound. Her hands are clawing at her neck, trying to get beneath the helmet. “It’s over,” she gasps, even as Kylo tightens his grip.

“You’re right,” Kylo hears from over his shoulder, and then Hux shoots her twice in the chest.

Kylo’s knees buckle and he collapses, hitting the ground hard. His lightsaber powers down as it rolls from his hand. He watches it come to a stop against a small mound of pebbles a few feet away, but can’t seem to move to retrieve it. He closes his eyes and presses his cheek to the cold earth.

He can hear Hux step around him, hear him groan as he bends to pick up the weapon. He cracks one eye and watches Hux lower himself to sit beside him. There’s blood on the general’s sleeve and a deep gash under one eye. He tries to push himself up, a choked sob catching in his throat.

“Don’t,” Hux says, just loud enough to be heard over the wind.

No other sounds remain, Kylo realizes. No more weapons fire. No more muffled voices or ship engines. “You did it,” he says.

“Some of it,” Hux replies. His heartbeat is still so loud.

It feels like ages before they move. Hux has to haul Kylo to his feet, hooking his good arm around the knight’s waist. He took a shot to the shoulder, Kylo notices. It’s a shallow wound, but his sleeve is flapping open and the bleeding still hasn’t stopped. The cut on his face might scar if there’s no bacta aboard the shuttle. Kylo doesn’t think he’ll mind much. He puts his weight on Hux and half-limps, half-drags himself across the surface of the ugly grey planet. The wind is icy now and the sky is growing dark. He finds it soothing.

At the base of the ramp are Hux’s last casualties. The runner is face down in the dirt, blaster holes in his back. Kylo isn’t surprised to see that he never did stand and fight. The guards must have tried to protect the pilot and the shuttle itself -- twin trails of smeared blood show the paths their bodies took after being shot at the top of the ramp and sliding over the sides. Kylo wonders for a moment whether the pilot was spared before spotting a glimpse of his uniform in the shadows. Hux did him execution style, he notes. Probably dragged him all the way from the cockpit to the hatch to avoid cleanup. He feels another sick stab of affection for this savage efficiency.

“Hux,” Kylo says, voice thin.

“Hm?”

Hux dumps him unceremoniously onto the nearest bench and then walks back to the control panel, punching in commands. The ramp retracts and the hatch slams shut.

Kylo doesn’t remember lying down but the next thing he knows he’s horizontal, stretched out on the cold titanium floor instead of the bench. He blinks, and Hux’s face comes into focus. He has a bacta bandage over his cheek. Good. He’s also removed the bloody jacket and wound gauze around his arm.

“Don’t move,” Hux says. Kylo isn’t sure he could if he tried. “I’m sorry,” he continues, voice softening. “I know this isn’t ideal. I’ll get you off the floor as quickly as I can.”

Kylo lifts his head just an inch. Hux has already applied bacta bandages to his leg. There’s no sign of his trousers. The general is sitting cross-legged beside him now, hovering over his stomach and squinting as he patches up the reopened lightsaber wound on his side.

“Do you believe her?” Hux asks after another long silence. “Have we made each other weak?” he clarifies.

Kylo closes his eyes and smiles, despite everything. “Weak is the absolute last word I would use to describe you today.”

And there’s that heartbeat again, in his thoughts and in his ears, speeding up ever so slightly.

“Well.” Hux clears his throat. “I had help, today. So.”

“Are you thanking me while I bleed out in front of you a second time?”

“If dragging your ass into shuttles and stitching you up is the price I have to pay to survive conspiracies and ambushes, then I will happily continue to drag your ass into shuttles and stitch you up.”

Kylo shakes his head, slowly. He wants to open his eyes and see that annoyed look on Hux’s face, but it’s too much work and he’s so, so tired.

“Where will we go?” he asks.

“Back to the Finalizer , of course,” he scoffs. “It’s still my ship. I’m still General.”

Kylo tenses. “You mean to take him on, then. Leader Snoke.”

He feels Hux shrug. His fingers stop working as he ponders this. “Maybe. I don’t know. I suppose that’s up to him. You know him better than I do, anyway -- think our victory here will prove anything?”

Kylo frowns. It hardly feels like a victory at the moment. “Doubtful.”

“Ah. Great. In that case.” But Hux never finishes the thought, just goes back to mending him in silence.

 

Kylo drifts back down into unconsciousness. The next time he wakes he’s been moved to the shuttle’s crew compartment. It’s small, temporary. Nothing at all like any of their quarters aboard the Finalizer . But it does have a proper bed, which is unexpected, and Hux has somehow placed him in it, which is equally unexpected. A soft, thick blanket is pulled up to his shoulders. Kylo can’t remember the last time he felt so safe, an observation which makes him laugh because the circumstances are completely absurd.

There’s a soft moan, and the bed shifts. Kylo stills, not sure how he missed Hux’s presence beside him. The general’s breathing evens back out after a moment. Kylo curls against him.

 

They don’t take off the following day, or the day after that. Hux’s injuries are minor enough but Kylo’s require time and attention, and both of them require more sleep than they’ve had in weeks. The shuttle is lightly stocked, enough for them to eat sparingly and even share a small bottle of Corellian whiskey when they light one of Hux’s cigarettes and pass it back and forth, staring quietly through the large transparisteel viewport. Kylo wonders, morbidly, whether their late party members had brought it along for a post-mission celebration.

Neither of them leaves the shuttle. Neither of them is ready to revisit the planet’s cold, dead surface or the cold, dead bodies they left scattered over it.

 

When Hux climbs into their shared bed on the second evening, Kylo kisses him hard. It’s breathless and overdue. They came close, once before. Before Hux destroyed an entire star system instead of trusting Kylo to complete his mission. That rift had been deep. Kylo thinks it’s fitting, now, that the two of them could construct a bridge out of treachery and massacre. Hux tangles his fingers in the knight’s hair and bites his bottom lip a little too enthusiastically. He doesn’t seem to feel especially bad when Kylo winces. A low purr builds to a snarl and Hux commands him to lie still as he slides down past the bruises and bandages and takes him in his mouth. He learns that Kylo is actually quite good at following orders, when he wants to be.

 

Hux pilots the shuttle back to the Finalizer on the third day. Kylo joins him in the cockpit. He’s still not moving quickly but the bacta and the unusually restful sleep has gotten him past the worst of it. He’ll expects they’ll try to put him in a tank again. Hux’s arm is healed enough to be functional, and only the faintest scar remains on his right cheek. Kylo finds himself drawn to it, tracing the silvery tissue with the tip of his finger, or with a soft brush of his lips when he can. Hux smacks him away each time, to no avail.

They’re sharing another smoke when they catch up with the ship. Hux immediately contacts Phasma, who agrees to meet them in the hangar with only Colonel Kaplan and four of her most trusted men. Kylo even agrees to return to medbay afterward, but only after Hux whispers some choice filth against his ear. It makes pulling his trousers and tunic back on nearly unbearable for reasons beyond just the stench of crusted blood and dirt.

Hux, back at ease in his officer’s uniform, tugs each glove on slowly and purposefully and then adjusts his hat. At Kylo’s insistence he secures a holster to his belt as well, blaster fit snugly inside, retention strap left undone. When he drapes his greatcoat over his shoulders it becomes invisible.

They stand side by side as the shuttle is tractored in, and lift their heads as the ramp descends.